small joys

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
Arthur Conan Doyle

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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(a fawn licks his lips as mom nibbles the grass / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes it is the simplest and smallest moments which graciously offer abundant joy.

Lost in thought in the early morning hours,
sitting silently alone. . .or so it seemed. . .
Company arrives for breakfast. . .

Unbeknownst to my company, I sit out of sight, relishing in the gift of their presence.
In this snapshot of time, lives mix and mysteriously intertwine into one.
There is appreciation for the simple. . .
And happiness witnessed in the exuberance of youth.

Spirits lift and thanksgiving is offered to the Creator of all life. . .
both mine and theirs.
What appears as a random encounter is not missed by Omnipotence.
The crossing of paths is an offering of both tenderness and joy. . .
to one who is weary of body and spirit.

A silent and contented Amen is carried aloft in the morning light. . .

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Quick get the umbrellas. . .cause when it rains. . .it pours!

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.
I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

Mother Teresa

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Thomas Paine

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(buckeye butterfly wandered into the garage away from the scorching heat / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I was younger, I did not always bear up very well under the heavy stifling blanket of turmoil, tragedy, stress or disaster.
My reactions often immature, unbridled, angry, resentful, beaten and lost.
I have come to learn, albeit it often reluctantly, that it is from the exposure of such catastrophes, coupled with the passage of time, which all act as an abrasive agent to toughen the thin skin of youthful emotions and tender feelings.

Tenacity is forged in the fire of trial, tribulation and misfortune.

I don’t think any of us is ever immune from such.
Everyone, at some point or other during one’s lifetime, will find themselves faced with, what at first may seem insurmountable, yet once the dust settles and the options weighed, becomes one more link in the chainmail of life’s armor.

A personal world is turned upside down most often by forces unforeseeable and unpreventable and as random as they come.
We will find ourselves asking the angry and accusatory questions of “why” and “how” while a balled up fist waves defiantly at an unseen God.

I wish we could all just hide under a rock someplace. . .a place faraway and immune from tragedy and the often cruel events of life—yet sadly there is no such safe haven in which to run and hide.

And yet it is my faith in that unseen God, the God of all creation and time, the One who I know to be far bigger and greater than any trial or tragedy in my life, the One who bears my burdens and sustains me in the palm of His hand— It is through Him, coupled by my faith in Him, that allows me to put one foot in front of the other and continue trudging through this thing we call life. . .

And please note that I did not say that that faith and belief or even that God himself makes the pain, the sorrow, the struggle, the suffering any bit easier—it does however, make it bearable.

Therefore if you should see a woman walking down the street carrying an open umbrella overhead when there is nary a cloud in the sky with zero chance of rain in the forecast. . .and not one who carries such to avoid exposure to the sun—just know that it is most likely me–as I am well aware that when it rains it pours.

“If you’re going through hell, {by all means} keep going.”
Winston Churchill

Please continue in your prayers for my daughter-n-law and her family as they slowly begin to feel their way in the dark as they determine what to do in the aftermath of the devastation of the fire which took their home.
As her grandfather tearfully lamented. . . “over 70 years of my life is now completely gone”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

In the blink of an eye. . .it can all suddenly disappear

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.
I do not judge the universe.”

Dalai Lama

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Hermann Hesse

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(honey bee visits a purple cone flower in Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

We live our lives rhythmically, lulled into the complacency of the ebbs and flows of our routines-
Yet. . .in the blink of an eye, our lives can be altered forever. . .

I ask for your prayers. . .

My dear daughter-n-law’s childhood home, the home of her grandparents, was destroyed in an early morning fire yesterday.
The cause is still under investigation.
There was currently some renovations taking place and that construction is being eyed as a possible cause.

We do give thanks however that her grandparents and mother all escaped harm—yet they have lost everything.

It is to those cherished family heirlooms and photographs—those momentous and images from the birth of children and grandchildren, to the wedding albums, wedding dress, cherished children’s toys, to the tokens remaining from a parent taken far too soon. . .those sacred items of the past which help to shape a family. . .those things which are now suddenly lost, seem to be the hardest loss to bear during any sort of tragedy of this nature.

A home which seemingly offered strength and stability. . .the representation of ones family’s structure and unity, having now vanished in the blink of an eye, leaves a bewildering sense of the surreal gnawing deep within ones psyche.

My daughter-n-law began her nervous first day in her new school yesterday only have to suddenly leave in order to travel across the state back home, to see with her own eyes that her family is indeed thankfully intact—alive and well of body yet shaken of spirit.
She and my son will now join them to mourn the loss of what was. . .as my daughter-n-law now offers her piece of fabric to the quilt which has made them, and will continue to make them, a family. . .

As we now join in the prayer. . .Oh Lord, that all things shall be made new. . .

You make all things new
You make all things new
Yesterday and forever
Your love never changing
This hope never fading
Hallelujah

Hillsong Worship
All Things New Lyrics

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. . .”
Revelation 21:5

The Shadows of our Illusions

If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.
Herman Hesse

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.
George Orwell

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(a western setting sun reflected from one of the many skyscrapers on the Nashville skyline / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Nashville skyline at dusk / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Man creates, builds and constructs.
Why?
Because he can.
Always bigger, always taller, always grander. . .
Why?
Because he wants to be bigger, taller and grander than the next guy. . .
Endlessly seeking that which is exquisite, beautiful and spectacular. . .
Why?
Because he looks to fulfill a longing. . .
For what is it that man so longs. . .?
Man longs to fill a void. . .
An emptiness of that which is greater than man himself. . .
A void of that which is Divine
Why is that?
Could it because man longs for that part within his being that is open, unfulfilled and yearning for something which he simply cannot recognize as greater than himself. . .
and so he makes, he creates, he builds, he looks, he longs. . .

The Great Disturbance of Our Illusion
The idea that there is something eternal and infinite makes our souls anxious in their mortality.
They want to reach beyond themselves to immortality;
they themselves want to be immortal but know not where to begin. . .
Out of this disquiet of the soul have come the mighty works of philosophy and art:
The systems of Plato and Hegel, the Adam of Michelangelo,
the quartets and symphonies of Beethoven, the Gothic cathedrals,
the paintings of Rembrandt, and the Faust and Prometheus of Goethe.
They were all overpowered by the idea of something eternal and immortal. . .
At the same time, the most grandiose and delicate of all human
attempts to strive for the eternal out of the heart’s anxiety and restlessness is religion. . .
Human beings have found the way to light, to joy, to eternity.
The human race could proudly point to the flourishing of its spirit,
were it not for one thing namely, that God is God and grace is grace (Romans 11:6).
Here comes the great disturbance of our illusions and our blessed culture, the disturbance that God himself causes and that is made graphic in the old myth of the tower of Babel. Our way to the eternal was interrupted, and with our philosophy and art, our morality and religion, we fall into the depths from which we came. For another way had penned up, the way of God to humanity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1931
I Want to Live These Days with You

center stage

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”
Seán O’Casey

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(stage lights , Grand Ole Opry / Julie Cook / 2015)

There are no lights,
no cameras,
no backup singers,
no band,
no wardrobe staff,
no makeup artists,
no paying audience,
no practicing,
no rehearsals,
no experience. . .
Yet we all must climb up on a variety of stages each and every day. . .

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(Center stage, the Ryman Auditorium / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015

No role is rehearsed as it is always to be a live performance.
There are no cuts, no retakes, no adjustments, no alterations. . .
No sound crew who can adjust the volume or output
what happens, happens. . .good or bad.

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(a crowded Grand Ole Opry / Julie Cook / 2015)

We take center stage as
parent,
spouse,
child,
sibling,
friend,
employee,
employer,
teammate,
leader,
follower. . .

Our role is defined but our performance remains questionable.
Will we pull it off?
Will we be convincing,
engaging,
commanding,
believable. . . ?

Stage presence, confidence, passion, enthusiasm, knowledge, authority. . .
each laced with humility and sincerity are imperative for success.
For our audience is more or less captive and more often times than not, hostile

We may not always feel our best, look our best or be our best, but those watching are not concerned with such- – –
They’ve come to expect, yay demand, the very best.

Yet the question remains. . .what is to be our greatest role, our greatest performance
And will we be ready when we take the stage. . .

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(Carrie Underwood/ Grand Ole Opry / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.
Acts 22:15

The Word

The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times, sometimes one forgets which it is.
E. F. Schumacher

“I have ascended to the highest in me, and look, the Word is towering above that. I have descended to explore my lowest depths, and I found Him deeper still.”

― Bernard of Clairvaux

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(Images from the Hatch Show Print Shop / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Images from the Hatch Show Print Shop / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Images from the Hatch Show Print Shop / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook / 2015)

Johannes Gutenberg, in the early 15th century with his moveable metal printing press, pretty much changed the course of humankind and how the world would and could communicate. . .
. . .And we’ve never looked back.

With a greater availability and access to the number of books produced, which could be created readily as opposed to the laborious and painstakingly intensive process scribes and illuminators took who in turn could spend a lifetime producing a single book, the printing press opened up the written word to the masses.
Learning to both read and write became important to not only the nobility but now it was of greater importance to the common man as well, opening the doors to education for all rather than the few.

In 1455 Gutenberg printed 220 bibles that he would in turn take to the Frankfurt Book fair to sell–thus changing the course of history. . .

To date the number of bibles sold has far exceeded any other printed book in history with Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities as well as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings coming in second and third respectively

Often we foolishly think that without the Bible the word of God becomes mute.
We defend, as well as die, for our bibles.
We sneak them into to foreign lands which forbid any mention of the Christian’s God.
We take it to court. . .
We fuss and cuss anyone who disputes it.
Evil has seen it burned, banned and destroyed. . .
Yet the Word, both the spoken and living, will never be silenced.

The printed word of God is valuable but the actual spoken as well as the living demonstration of the Word is paramount. . .for it is by our words and our deeds that they will know we are Christians—by our love, by our love. . .

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

Choose Love

“All your life, you will be faced with a choice.
You can choose love or hate. . .
I choose love.”

― Johnny Cash

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(a wall of Johnny Cash’s 45’s single hits / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook/ 2015 )

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(just a few of the gold and platinum albums belonging to Johnny Cash / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook/ 2015)

We are all given the choice–love or hate.

Suspicion leads to suspicion
Resentment builds on resentment
Anger begets anger
Hate reciprocates hate

Hate. . .
kills
ends
dismembers
silences
ruins
separates
hurts
harms
destroys

Love. . .
offers
gives
lightens
eases
comforts
cares
generates
fosters
soothes
builds
continues
saves

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8