Beautify the place of my Sanctuary

DSCN1111
(Photograph: The Pacific Rim Trail, a spruce’s pinecones/ Julie Cook/2013)


The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary;
and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

Isaiah 60:13
Revised Standard Version

I hope that at some point this summer, you will be able to get outside, enjoying the wonders of Nature–it is restorative and soothing to whatever ails the spirit…..even if it’s just out around the yard–or sitting on the front porch…. If only to enjoy watching the birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window or the hummingbirds darting about.

I marvel at our almost seemingly dire need for Nature… as is noted by the rising numbers of urban gardens–the abandoned city lots transformed into agricultural wonders complete with raised beds of vegetables galore, the rooftops of apartment and business buildings transformed into urban oasis, the growing surge in chefs desire to produce garden to table meals providing patrons with that oh so fresh experience—which indeed does make a dramatic palate difference.

It seems to be something almost innate, a prewired component—is that why we see such an insurgence in the number of urban pet owners—the pets that require us to get out for a walk, as we decide to take them with us everywhere we go…are they perhaps a small excuse to head to the dog park, the city park, a drive out of town for some “exercise”… 🙂

No matter—the woods, the park, the shore, the mountains, the pasture, the backyard…are all calling—quit reading this and get going….just I must quite writing in order to get going myself 🙂
Happy Trials to you………

Under the Sea–and a marvel to behold

DSCN1089
(Photograph: small portion of a hand blown glass wall mural/ Overleaf Lodge/ Yachats, Oregon/ Julie Cook/2013)

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
Vincent Van Gogh

Isn’t this glass mural beautiful? I saw it, during our trip to Oregon,on a wall overlooking the Overleaf Lodge’s lobby —but only noticing it once I had made my way up to the second floor, never having noticed it when I was downstairs at the front desk. I think the colors, the images, the composition all very pretty. You’ve got to remember, this is the “old” art teacher talking.

Glass art, the blowing of such, has always amazed me. Having seen Dale Chihuly’s sculptural luminous and most often undulating glass creations as well as watching the documentaries on his studio and works in progress, plus having visited the island of Moreno in Italy where those famed “venetian” glass objects originate— I have just always marveled at this type of art….as well as having been a bit weary of it all. The whole molten liquid glass thing, working with furnaces, pipes, tongs, all that terribly unforgiving heat. Notice that Mr. Chihuly is minus an eye…….

I think it may go back to grade school and having watched the 1957 movie Johnny Tremain–based on events during the Revolutionary war. There was a scene when young Johnny was attempting to melt silver, as he was apprenticed to a silversmith (yes the one and only Paul Revere)–there was an accident and the molten silver severely burnt his hand. Ever since seeing that little scene, when I was most young and impressionable, has left me really nervous around “molten” anything….scratching volcanology off the career list early on.

The whole chemistry thing would be another kicker as science and math were never my forte, but with the knowledge of knowing what, which and how much of various chemical compounds must be mixed and heated in order to create the various colors in glass also amazes me. If you haven’t read the post of Vanilla or is Cookie a Lush, may I recommend that to you as it touches on my fascination with pretty shinny glass bottles.

I have two very old glass “goblets”/ canisters that were may grandmothers sitting on my coffee table. One is a combination of red and clear glass–very venetian… that I suspect she picked up in the 50′ or 60’s during a jaunt “across the pond”. The other one is larger, red glass but has a woodland forest scene “etched” around it’s surface that is an opaque white color of glass—I marvel over it several times a day when sitting on the couch—the whole “how in the world did they do that” running through my head.

So when I look at something such a this glass “mural”, I, once again, marvel. Marvel at the skill and craftsmanship—the patience and painstaking time spent making certain everything is just so….

Is it any wonder then that I too should marvel over something equally as exquisitely “hand” made?—“My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;” (New American Standard Version Psalm 139:15)

I think about a loving creator, our loving Creator, gently and tenderly assembling, crafting, securing…especially when things get out of whack with my body, I really think about the “assemblage” known as this body of mine and really marvel over how in the world, or why in the world are things in and about me, about anyone, the way they actually are??!! Think about food that goes in the mouth, then the transformation, the various needs it serves within the body, the nutrients, the fats, the sugars, the fiber that is all distributed, the grinding the pulverizing the breaking down, and finally—the elimination of what isn’t needed—-simply amazing!!

and trust me, when that particular system gets out of whack…it’s a bad bad thing…but let’s not go there shall we…..

I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the making of any living thing—the complexity, the depth–not merely with what goes into the physical but to the emotional, the mental, the psyche itself—the depth of such is endless and incomprehensible!!!!

How can the skeptics say there is no God?!—did this intricacy that is known as me, even though all parts are no longer working as originally intended, just pop into being??? The whole breathing and processing oxygen? The whole blood thing– the pumping, flowing and coursing through my veins?? The mere fact that all of these “systems” converge in order to function harmoniously, simultaneously and relatively silently is, simply put, amazing.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
(RSV Jeremiah 1:5)

Not that I’m to be any sort of prophet mind you, but just the mere knowledge that He knew me when—that He knew me before–that He knew me, that He knows me, and that He will always know me—that He will always claim me—even though others “down” here may not claim me—-oh to rest in that sweet comfort.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 New International Version)

After the way this week has traversed—I am clinging to that promise—

My soul is in deep anguish

DSCN1097
(photograph: Julie Cook/ Yachats, Oregon/ 2013)

Psalm 6
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

New International Version

this is my prayer–hear me oh Lord……………

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary

DSCN1286

Psalm 63: 1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
(Revised Standard Version)

Here is the aside lesson based on the photograph:
The above photograph is a picture of deer moss, Cladonia Evanii, (or so I think identified properly) which is not so much a moss or plant but rather a lichen…it is also known as Reindeer Lichen. It’s a bit between a cross of a fungus and an algae. Lichens are known to grow from woodland areas to the tundra areas of arctic regions and are found on all 7 continents. This particular lichen grows in pillow-like mats and is an indicator of a healthy environment. They are edible, with proper preparation, and have been used as the catalyst for distilled spirits in Scandinavian countries as well as in Russia.

These types of lichen have been the go to nutrient for those lost in the wilderness and yield themselves to being great tinder for starting a fire—a wonderful little survival gem which may be eaten (do prepare with soakings and cooking as I read it can cause terrible gastric distress if consumed raw) or made into a nutrient rich tea. If you’ve ever watched a Bear Grylls show, this stuff is right up his alley!

In the photograph you may be able to note some red little specks dotted about–these are the tops of another member of the lichen family known as redcoat lichen, matchstick lichen or British moss—as the little red tops “liken” 😉 themselves to the coats of the Revolutionary British soldiers. I’ve remembered the story about these little guys ever since I was in girl scouts.

We had gone to Callaway Gardens, a 65,000 acre resort complex first envisioned in the 30’s by the Callaway family, and opened to the public in the 50’s—it is a vast tribute to nature, horticulture and agriculture—a wooded respite about 1.5 hours south west of Atlanta founded by the wealthy Callaway family–and is today a living legacy to their vision of protecting native plants, in particular a specific species of azalea–our girl scout troop had made the journey to Callaway Gardens for a weekend campout. We were escorted through the nature trails by a guide who pointed out all sorts of native plants, moss and trees….it was just one of those little tidbit pieces of information that just seems to stick in one’s memory.

One of my favorite pastimes is to traverse local woods–escaping the “cityesque” urban life, albeit momentarily, to wander aimlessly through the woods. I can still marvel at the various plants and trees—often finding antler sheds from the deer, feathers from birds—with the owl, turkey or hawk feathers being of great significance. I suppose I often yearn to leave my world and enter into what I consider to be “God’s” world—as nature is truly His creation—certainly not ours.

It is when I am out and about in the woods, or mountains, or by the sea….any place that is of Nature- that I can feel closer to God. I’ve often said that throughout my posts–how I feel closer to God when I’m out of and away from my manmade world. It’s as if a transformation takes place within my very being. Everything slows down. The looming troubles of life seem to dissipate. All that seems to matter is that very moment, me and my surroundings. The songs of the birds, the rustling of the leaves underfoot, the wind rushing through the tops of the trees, to spy a glimpse of a deer or wild turkey —all tiny gifts delivered to me from my Creator.

It is at these times I can almost hear God….”so I have looked upon you in the sanctuary….”–this is when I realize just how “my soul thirsts for you…” this is where I feel as if “I have been satisfied with a rich feast…”—a feast for my eyes and senses….it is here when I know that “I am sheltered under the protection of His wing….and I will sing praises of joy…”

Thank you for Your creation—the wonders that renew and refresh my weary soul.

lose not thy enthusiasm

DSCN1305

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of my all time favorite heroes—the one single voice in the wilderness, the only one who seemed to possess the clarity of reality, the discernment of reason– the single individual who publicly and loudly tried and tried to forewarn a free world of an impending and sinister descent into tyranny if all were caught napping–as it seemed was the precarious direction freedom were heading via appeasement or simple denial…all the while, little by little, European nations were devoured by madness….and yet “the powers that be” thought Winston daft.

He was an aristocrat whose life was not the type of life one might imagine for an aristocrat—a cold distant father who never expressed joy or pride in his son—an American mother who was the belle of every ball and an attraction for every man… and she knew it. His solace was his collection of toy soldiers, his “nanny” Woomie–the only adult to truly care for and show affection to a lonely little boy, as well as a life-long love of riding and of horses which eventually took him to military mastery in the Calvary, much to is father’s dismay.

He was not a good or successful student whose father had to twist arms and pad hands just to get him simply enrolled in a private school of much lesser prestige than desired. He had a pronounced speech impediment which later proved to only add intensity to his rallying cries to his nation. He was not good with money as he often teetered on financial ruin. He was ousted repeatedly from his position in Parliament, only to come back again, and again. He lost, at the time, his youngest child to a fatally brief illness, he was the ire of a rising dictator.

Yet he was never deterred. I think in some ways all the negatives and all of the seeming defeats and tragedies only feed into what became our freedom’s greatest crusader. Thankfully so….The stalwart commander who steadied a nation for 2 long lonely years of near destruction, death and constant fear. He stayed the course, never wavered even when the British people began to question the leadership as the bombs continued falling night after night, decisive battles constantly being lost, as the net grew ever tighter around the small island nation, the final bastion of freedom between the US and Hitler.

He is one of the greatest orators of modern time–despite the speech impediment. He commanded the English language like no other and has been hailed as a modern day Shakespeare. He was a profuse writer who supplemented his family’s income by writing volumes of historical tomes. He was an accomplished artist who sought much peace and solace in the hours he spent painting. He preferred to sleep only in silk, better on the skin you know. Cigars, champagne, brandy, whiskey being constant companions. He was childlike, always comfortable at play with his children yet compared constantly to a bulldog possessing great tenacity and of a lion projecting a terrible fierceness.

He never backed down, not even in the face of what appeared to be inevitable defeat. He knew what it was like to be taken as a prisoner of war during the Boer War and the risked all for a brazen escape. His was the battle cry …”Never, Never, Never give in/up……”

So it is to dear Winston, who I often turn to in times of “battle”—life’s battles—his rallying cries echoing in my heart. Be courageous even when things appear lost or hopeless. Never give up, keep going, continue fighting for the right thing despite the difficulties and of all those around you who would prefer taking the easy way out–press on….if you find yourself in “hell”, by all means keep going….

Humor, wit and determination were his trademarks in life—they helped him to be a most successful individual who battled, by himself for quite sometime, an evil empire. Those of us who live and enjoy free lives today owe much to this enigma of a man…who to most young Americans is now but a mere chapter in a history book. The epitome of a true scholar and a gentleman who harkened to a different time all together.

I think of Winston often being the David battling the great Goliath in many areas of his life–if it wasn’t his own government, it was other governments or governmental leaders—he simply eyed his opponent and hammered at the weak spot until victory was his—or his nation’s.

Yesterday’s visit with Dad, an ardent admirer of Churchill, as he lived as a young man during those dark days of war, death and destruction, was relatively successful—as successful as can be hoped for at this juncture. It helped that I had called in my backup troops (troop member). We had a list of “conditions” to present, that which if followed, meant all could maintain life in relative tranquility—mainly the timeliness of bill paying–the daily taking care of life’s business, the taking of one’s meds as directed, the bill accounts to be set up for automatic payments—there was the initial desire to balk, the wanting to run for the cover of passive aggressive behavior—but it was met head on with a smile and not the blinking of an eye.

There was a trip to the bank, a promised call to a lawyer, the promise of organization..it helped that good health had returned to all parties involved, minds seemed clearer, the realization that “these people mean business so I’d better straighten up” seemed to actually sink in…

The leak is dammed for now. I know what lies ahead but at least for today, the sun is shining. I feel better, he seems better. We made a small dent in cleaning out accumulated “junk” which simply made for a less daunting appearance to “the office” —

I will follow up with a call later today to see if he has made the calls he was to make—hopefully fulfilling his end of the bargain. No home health care for now, no talk of assisted living…but those options are looming—I will go back weekly or more often to help keep the ship balanced and afloat.

Thankfully for now—the seas have calmed and the enemy seems to have abated… for now. I know it, the sinister enemy of life, is still there, hiding in the shadows of a dimming mind, but for now, I can see a clearness in the eyes that I have not seen in quite sometime…….as Winston likes to remind us…
“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”

All is given by Grace

DSCN1289
(photograph: Julie Cook/ Troupe Co. GA/ 2013)

“Spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness, and complete detachment, while wisdom comes through humble meditation on Holy Scripture and above all, through grace given by God.”
St.Diadochos of Photiki

Happy Father’s Day part II

DSCN1303

The P.S. to last week’s post “Happy Father’s Day”
Backup to this time last week….

I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and made my way to the door. My stepmom unlocks everything ushering me inside. She looks terrible—hunched over and in obvious pain—the effects of a urinary tract infection whose meds have not kicked in. I’ve known that pain!

Dad, who normally shuffles into the kitchen whenever guests arrive, stayed seated in the den, apparently oblivious to my arrival—oblivious my foot, he could see me form the couch! He continued reading the paper.

Gloria and I chat a bit but we both know why I’m there—one more attempt at putting, or trying to put, Dale’s “house” in order—-sorting over bills, finance issues, etc.—pushing him to get his act together —If he doesn’t get things together something is going to have to change. He can’t continue allowing the phone, the gas, the electricity, etc. to be cut off—only to suddenly remember as to why they were cut off, attempting to pay the bills, but first finding the bills, then having the tacking on of the additional fees of re-activation,….. again and again—-not to mention the taxes…

“Dad your taxes were due in April”
“I’m working on it”
“Dad, you’ve been working on it—it’s now July”
“Quit harassing me”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you”
“Yes you are, I can’t get this done with you hovering over me”
“Dad, how “bout I start paying the bills and handling the finances?”
“NO, absolutely not!”

He’s also taken to overpaying the bills. I know that his rationale is “if I overpay, it’ll fix this little problem for a while and everyone can just leave me alone.” Why don’t I just open the back door and throw all of his savings out to the wind….because at the rate he’s going—there will be no more savings to overpay with…..

I make my way into the den.

“Hi Dad”
“Oh Hi, why are you here?”
“Dad you know why I’m here, were suppose to work in your office today.”

Silence

“Dad, would you like for me to show you the pictures from the vacation?”
“Oooo, yes.”
“Dad, where’s your handkerchief?”
“Why?”
“Cause your nose is dripping everywhere”
“Oh”

Once I finish with the pictures, I ask if we can head on back to the “office” which is actually my old bedroom. Had I known then what was in store, for my once safe haven, I’d have had a priest come bless it as I need all the blessings available now!

“Dad, you ready?”
“No, I need to finish my Coke”

UGGHHH

Finally we make our way down the hall to the back room with Gloria in hot pursuit.

“See that stack of papers on his desk, what is that?” Gloria states rather than questions.

Dad sits down at his computer to “boot it up”

“Dad, that computer is over 20 years old, don’t you think it’s time for a new one?!”
“No”

I begin shifting through the stacks of papers and envelopes. He places a check on things he’s paid. I pull those all out of the stack.

“What are you doing!” He warbles
“You’re messing everything up!”
“Dale, if you’d file the old things away…where are those files Julie put together back in the fall?”

Silence

Gloria and I rummage through boxes and find some of the files we put together back in the fall, files he’s not touched since.

“Dad, if we could clean out your filing cabinets of all the old things, putting all these new files in, you could stay more organized”

—all this while I’m making stacks upon stacks on the floor, attempting to sort out every piece of paper…doctor bills, doctor appointment notices, pharmacy bills, exterminating bills, the yard man’s bill, taxes, phone bills, water bills, pension statements, insurance, some things dating to last year, most things current.

“What are you doing, you’re making a mess, how do you expect me to do anything with you messing everything up?!”
“Dad, all I’m doing is sorting over here quietly, you’re suppose to be getting that computer up and running to figure out what needs paying…”
“Well I could if you’d stop harassing me”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you”
“Dale, all of this can be thrown away”
“No, I’m shredding that”
“Well you don’t have to shred the newspaper…”

Exasperated, Gloria leaves for the kitchen.
Dad gets up with the paper.

“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to go recycle this”
“Oh no you’re not, you sit back down at the computer, I’ll go”

I spend the next 20 minutes in the kitchen with Gloria—the continued thought of a cute little bungalow assisted living running through her mind. I tell her I’ll start coming back once a week if she thinks it will help motivate him. I sadly know he won’t look forward to my coming, but rather dread it–which I hate, so as to why I tapered off earlier… however I know the tough conversation is inevitable.

I go back to Dad who is simply staring at his screen saver of the swimming fish—mesmerized.

“Dad, what are you doing?”
“Waiting for the computer to boot up”
“Dad that’s been almost 30 minutes”
“Well if you’d leave me alone, I might get something done!”

I make my way back to the kitchen to ask Gloria a question.
Dad hears me coming back.

“Dad, have you been watching those swimming fish on the screen saver and not doing the bills?”
“No” with a small chuckle.
“Dad, yes you have, you minimized it, you’re just watching cartoon dolphins Dad!!, you’re suppose to be working”…..more chuckles
“No” chuckle “no I’m not”

I cry most of the way home.

I wish my uncle was still alive. He was my dad’s older brother. The one who was there when my mom died and dad suddenly decided to stop being a grown up. My uncle helped me when I would be at my wits end with dad during those dark days. I think he must have been more like my grandfather—business like, jovial, sports minded, outgoing. Dad is withdrawn, quiet, preferring to be taken care of verses taking care of others—like a dad’s suppose to do. I imagine being the baby of the family, my grandmother did just that, babied him.

My uncle was almost 90 when he died a couple of years ago. His mind sharp as a tack but his body simply giving out. I miss him for lots of reasons.

I call my cousin, my uncle’s second oldest son and the closet thing I have to an older brother. There is a planned intervention set for tomorrow morning. I’m to go back to dad’s making certain he’s on track but my cousin will meet me. My dad will listen to him more so than me. I don’t think he’ll tell Jimmy to stop “harassing” him.

Dad told me again last week he’d not discuss assisted living.

“Dad, Gloria is tired and doesn’t feel good”
“I Know”
“Don’t you think it’d be easier? You pay for yard service and you don’t even go outside. The roof is starting to leak, the termites on the porch, not to mention those stairs to the basement—ya’ll can’t keep going down to wash the clothes…”
“We have the maid, she helps”
“Dad, not enough……….”
“NO, I’m not leaving this house end of discussion”
“ Well I don’t know if it is Dad……”

I always thought he’d be there when my life fell apart. When that’s suppose to be, I’m not certain, but that I just always knew he’d be there. He would help me sort my messes. He’s always been the financial savvy one of the family—managing both of my grandmother’s estates…he should have been a banker and I think truly wishes he had been. But he has always been conservative—preferring to “sit on” something rather than taking chances and gambling…..organized where I was not so….

Funny how life is—I’m finding myself in a place I did not expect, not a place of comfort—please don’t think me not up to the task because I am—certainly so–it’s just that I’m not real happy about it—actually really quite sad about it all….but such is life………

…to be continued

the following quote by St. Bonaventure is taken from a lovely blog I follow…
http://teilhard.com
by William Ockham.
I had commented on Mr. Ockham’s latest posting about today being St Bonaventure’s feast day—and how Bonaventure was the brains, while Francis the heart of the birth of the Franciscan movement…..Mr. Ockham responded that whereas Bonaventure was a “doctor” of the Church and an immense theologian—he was also a mystic—the following quote came to me, just after I finished my writing about Dad, with tomorrow’s impending visit weighing heavily on mind and heart….providing that wonderful calm before the storm–giving me pause—and allowing me the opportunity of knowing that even though I may be sad and fretful, it’s all going to be okay!!!

“We must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination.”

thank you William for reminding me………….

Not quite ripe

DSCN1298

“Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will lift you for the work and give you strength.”
—Philip Neri

“STOP!!!” My husband slams on the brakes. “What is it??!!” “The blackberries, look at those!! I need to pick them…I can make a pie….I can make YOU a pie” I added that at the end to entice him into affording me some time to get out and pick the ripening blackberries.

“Do you realize we are in the middle of an overgrown section of this property that is infested with ticks, red bugs as well as snakes?? And you want to get out and trudge through that thicket picking berries?? You’re wearing sandals for heaven’s sake! I think not—plus do you know how many you’d need for a pie? More than are on that vine”…and he starts driving again.

He has some property in central west Georgia—an overgrown piece of land that is “recreational”–meaning it’s good to hunt, fish….and that’s about it. I do enjoy taking the Four wheeler or golf cart and simply riding over the trails—overgrown goat trails is more like it. This time of year can prove a bit hazardous if one dares to get off of the Four Wheeler….especially as I was not dressed to do so in the required long pants and boots. The whole snake thing gave me pause to reconsider the whole pie thing.

And anyway, the berries were not all ripe I reasoned with myself. As badly as I hate to admit it, it would take forever for me to forage for enough ripe berries. The place was just too overgrown for me to go rambling through the brambles…..at least things were “ripe” for picture taking….I had not come prepared nor dressed properly to pick blackberries–there would surly have been consequences had I stubbornly forged ahead with my impulsive and rather reckless desire.

Philip Neri, who today’s quote derives, was a man who lived life rather impulsively but with good results and a driven intent. He lived in Rome during the mid 1500’s. He had experienced a profound conversion when he was a teen, dedicating the remainder of his life to serving God. He did so, however, lightheartedly and always with joy. His teaching ways were often a bit unorthodox as he found humor to be the better teacher.

Brother Neri did not allow himself, or others, to take themselves too seriously. If one was overtly consumed by how he or she was perceived by others and was constantly concerned with the appearance of self, then how did that benefit God and the teaching of the Gospel? He constantly reminded his followers and fellow man that ones’ outward living of life should not be taken so seriously and if that focus remained on self and the empty worry of the perception of others, rather than offering humility before God, then the attempted virtuous life was all for naught. If one was too concerned with what others thought, then surly there was no room for what God thought.

Despite often taking the unorthodox road in his teachings and life examples, his faith and his relationship with God the Father, through prayer, was always taken seriously. He was known to often withdraw to the catacombs alone for prayer, having even lived life as a hermit for quite some time. His joy in living, he was convinced, was just one more way of praising God.

I am very guilty of often taking myself too seriously. It does me good to be reminded that humility, and the road to learning this virtue, is often by way of letting go of self and of the seriousness of self. To me, this can be a painful experience. Learning not to care so much about what others think or how my image may be perceived—a tough task. I need to focus more on my relationship with God, giving little to no regard as to how that may look to others because all that matters, in the long run, is what is between me and God—He has a great deal of work to do within me—sometimes that work is not easy and can be painful—but no matter—the end result will be most sweet—

So on this new morning to a brand new week—be not concerned nor consumed with what the world thinks of you but rather with the thoughts and concerns of your Heavenly Father—-how to best serve Him—because in the long run—His opinion and thoughts will be all that matters as all this other stuff will simply pass away…here is to humility!! Just know that I’m working my way there, stumbling along the way, with you!!

You knew me when……and you still claim me…

DSCN0782

Psalm 139
O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!
Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up;

thou discernest my thoughts from afar.
Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,

and art acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,

lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou dost beset me behind and before,

and layest thy hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high, I cannot attain it.
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?

Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven, thou art there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!
If I take the wings of the morning
 and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there thy hand shall lead me,

and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,

and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to thee,
the night is bright as the day;
for darkness is as light with thee.
For thou didst form my inward parts,

thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.
Wonderful are thy works!
Thou knowest me right well
my frame was not hidden from thee,
when I was being made in secret,

intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;

in thy book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

When I awake, I am still with thee.
O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God,

and that men of blood would depart from me,
men who maliciously defy thee,

who lift themselves up against thee for evil!
Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord?

And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee?
I hate them with perfect hatred;

I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Revised Standard Version

Psalm 139, this particular Psalm, is one of my favorite Psalms. I have several that I really like–and it usually depends on what’s going on in my life at the time. The Psalms address a wide range of human emotion—from lamentation to joy—always so aptly addressing some particular plight or triumph in my life….

But it is, I think, to the individualism of which Psalm 139 speaks, the intimate relationship between God and the individual….a one on one relationship…no one else, not a group, but the single individual….a direct connection just between me and God—as in He knew me when…He knew me before I came into being… that most clearly touches my heart.

Psalm 139 states that God knew me intimately at the time of my conception, even before that moment….He knows the words that will come out of my mouth before I even utter them…He knows wherever it is I go—it’s the I can run, but I cannot hide sort of knowledge….which is probably of the greatest comfort to me because it states that I am never ever lost. I may be lost to self…and that has truly been the case in this life of mine, but to Him, to God, never…I find that to be probably of the greatest comfort…

We, none of us, have such a relationship with any other human being that is on such a level—we may think we have such a bond, but given the limitations of being human—makes that quite impossible. He is the only one.
I may feel lonely but this Psalm reminds me that I am never alone..and believe me, it does well to be reminded of that from time to time. It is so easy often getting caught up in self, feeling isolated, as if I’m the only one by myself….but He is there.

Being adopted and not knowing anything about my beginnings on this planet, this Psalm brings me a peace—I was known and wanted by God at a time when I was not wanted by an earthly mother and father. He knew where I was all along and where it was I was going….even before I was placed in an adoption agency.

We may walk away…and many of us do–purposely or inadvertently, but He does not wander, never straying from our side despite our thinking we are so very far removed. What joy there is in that!
For some this sort of concept is rather difficult to wrap ones’ mind around—how can it be we wonder—but I have learned to simply rest in the knowledge—It is as if I may exhale and finally be at a Peace—and for which, I am forever grateful. May you find this same place of Peace.

Pretty little red thing

DSCN0778

“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”
unknown

No, this is not mine. I saw it parked on the side of the road in Bend, Oregon and thought secretly how I wished it was mine.

Now don’t get me wrong—I do not want a motorcycle. They scare me… or rather I should say that I’m scared for them…for all that unbridled lack of being surrounded by vehicle, there is that much more unprotected…and if you’ve been on any interstate within the limits of a major metropolitan city, those are not friendly roads…

My husband bought a motorcycle shortly after we were married. It was just one of those things I suppose. There was no dissuasion. No sign indicating he was even thinking about wanting one. He simply comes home from work one day, not in the vehicle he left in, but rather on the back of a black motorcycle. Thankfully he had not sold his truck, merely left it where he’d bought the bike. I wasn’t mad. It was his money, his choice…I was just a little disappointed that I had had no clue.

May it be known however, that we owned that motorcycle for all of one week. As his parents lived up the street from us, and he, even though in his mid 30’s, did not want them to know he’d bought a motorcycle, we would have to turn off the motor, coasting past their house—always trying to appear incognito. As I would sit behind him holding on for dear life, I would silently shake my head thinking how this charade was pretty stupid. Then there was the trip on the interstate to visit a friend in a neighboring state. After coming home late at night on the wide open interstate, in the dark, with the tractor trailer trucks zooming all around us, with me praying like nobody’s business, he sold the bike the following morning.

But I always wondered why he bought it. Was it an impulse? Are not most things like suddenly coming home one day from work with a motorcycle impulsive? Is it a guy thing? Women, for all the talk of being impulsive, women think about such purchases, they ruminate over such, courting the idea if you will…toying with it in their mind…imagining seeing themselves on and with a “bike”….decisions as to color and matching helmet and clothing are big…such a purchase with a woman is more premeditated as there are just simply too many determining factors to wade through….”will I use it for work or just for fun? Will it be bad for my hair? What will I do when it rains? Does it make me look fat?”…..on and on we go.

But this little beauty—she’s a real cutie. Perfect for maneuvering in and out of tight spots–or so I would imagine. After spending time in Italy a few years back, I saw so many woman on vespas of their own. Woman dressed to the nines, going to and from work, weaving and darting in and out of the horrendous chaos known as Rome’s traffic. If they can do it, why can’t I? Or is that a European gene that this southern United States girl simply does not possess? I’m not terribly coordinated. Would that be a problem?

Vespa does translate to wasp–as these little cuties do their fair share of darting and buzzing to and fro—and after sitting in a Taxi within Rome’s labyrinth of streets, I can see how a vespa can equate to being a wasp. Suddenly, out of no where, a vespa would appear right beside us where there was not another lane. The traffic light just turned red, we stop but the vespas shoot out like angry wasps in hot pursuit of an assumed assailant–just waiting to inflict a painful sting–just daring anyone to say..”hey that’s a red light back there….”

But my hair. I would have such a time with helmet hair. I wouldn’t be able to go somewhere, taking off the helmet and going about normal business, I’d look a fright. Short hair is not conducive to hats and helmets being removed…not like long hair that can still come across as flowing luxuriously in the wind—no, short hair is flattened and matted to one’s head….pleading to have the hat or helmet put immediately back on the now squashed hair. That would be a problem.

And then there’s the whole interstate thing—you know what a bug looks like on a windshield after being hit by a vehicle traveling 70 to 80 mph??? That is not something I would like to experience.
And what happens when it does rain or turns cold? I’d be a moving popsicle or a drowned rat….can’t get too much done looking like either a popsicle or a wet rat. And where in the world would I put my groceries or goodies from a shopping adventure?! Certainly not in some little basket on the front of the bike—-no, I need a trunk or at least a backseat.

All of this was running through my head that afternoon as I suddenly stopped on the street in Bend, Oregon to snap the picture of this cute little red thing….telling my husband “now, that’s what I want!!” He turns and looks at me, states, “yeah, and you’d get killed on it too” turns back and continues walking up the street. I linger a bit longer, imaging myself sitting on it and driving it—ooooo. Then I snap back to reality, tell myself, he’s right, and turn back to the sidewalk, only to go scooting off in order to catch up with him… leaving that cute little red thing behind me waiting for its rightful owner.