Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

DSC02774
(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

DSC02690
(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .

letting go

That old September feeling… of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air…. Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes and failures had been wiped clean by summer.
Wallace Stegner

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mahatma Gandhi

“Detachment, properly understood, means freedom, inner freedom. And, although it is not a word Jesus used, detachment expresses very well an important element in his spirituality: the ability to let go. In the Christian tradition this has been spoken of as “purity of heart” or as the process of becoming “poor in spirit.”
― Albert Nolan

DSC02676
(a persimmon ripens in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

Wandering recently on an off beaten path, I was sweetly reminded that my very soul was gently slipping into a quieting and calming pool of serenity.
I basked in the overwhelming stillness.
Lovingly engulfed, I was warmly embraced as I found myself caught up in the slowing down of one season as it began the transitioning and metamorphosing into something new, different and welcoming.
I exhaled.
And happily felt myself letting go. . .

DSC02674
(persimmons ripen in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

DSC02672
(persimmons ripen in a September sun / Julie cook / 2015)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

A little help here please. . .God

“This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand out of love,
and keep modest as a giver.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

DSC02701
(a lone black eyed susan wild flower in the middle of clear cut timber land / Julie Cook / 2015)

There are those days, you know those days, the days you wish you’d never gotten out of bed. . .
Those days that you knew before you even met the day head on that you’d be damned if you did, and damned if you didn’t.
As in it wouldn’t matter what you did, as in anything and everything will go against your very best effort.

These are the days that have you looking skyward with a deadpan “really God?”
Not that God has done anything to you, you know that, but you just feel as if nothing, as in absolutely nothing, nada, nilche, zero will work in your favor.

It’s the head banging against a brick wall day.
Its a hit the wall and fall off kind of day.
A deer in headlights kind of day.
A no knot at the end of your rope kind of day.

A day that finds you uttering but one word and one word only. . .

HELP!

And then somewhere, somewhere way down deep, somewhere in-between the anger, the tears, the frustration, the heartbreak. . .
you know,
as in you just know. . .

He hears. . .

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Storms may come and storms may go

But the Word of God remains firmly fixed. . .

DSC01801
(sunset Henderson St Park, Fl / Julie Cook / 2015)

When life becomes stressful. . .
When there is an unexpected turn of events. . .
When you feel overwhelmed. . .
When nothing seems to go your way. . .
When the frustrations mound. . .
When all manner of bad, wrong or evil is said to or about you. . .
When time seems to be running out. . .
When your elderly father and stepmother become impossible. . .
Out of the blue you get a text message:

“Don’t Let Your Storm Steal Your Faith—
“And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?
How is it that ye have no faith?”
(Mark 4:40)
The one thing we can be assured of is that storms will come.
It’s how we act and react to these storms that test our faith.
There is nothing we can do to stop the storms.
Some come with a warning, others don’t.
But through it all, our actions demonstrate our faith level.
It’s not the storm, but our actions in the storm that the Lord looks at.
Though the storms may come, we can still stand in faith as we are covered
under the umbrella of Christ Jesus!
So for Today “Don’t Let Your Storm Steal Your Faith”

Just do. . .

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee
makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season
without thinking of the grapes it has borne.

Marcus Aurelius

DSC02727
(a muscadine growing in the wild / Troup Co. Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just do. . .it. . .
As in “just do it”
That most famous marketing phrase for NIKE,
you know the one. . .
Where the folks at NIKE extoll the virtue of athleticism by “just doing it”

But I rather like the concept of “just do. . .”
As in simply doing because it’s the thing to do. . .
Not because you have to think about it, not because it focuses on yourself,
not because you were told to do it. . .
but rather doing, because it’s what’s as natural and as simple as a vine bearing a grape. . .
because it’s just what the vine does and it’s just what you do. . .
kind of like breathing but better. . .

As in just doing for others as you would have them do unto you. . .
As in just loving, because it is better than hating
As in just caring because it is better than indifference
As in just helping because it is better than turning one’s back
As in just being because sometimes those who hurt just need you there
As in just smiling because it may be the only smile the other person receives all day
As in just offering a hand because it is better than pulling away
As in just giving of yourself rather than holding on
As in just crying when others hurt because you feel empathy
As in just offering your time because it is often stronger than your money
As in just speaking kindness instead offering deserved hurtfulness because you know kindness
heals where hurtfulness only begets more hurtfulness
As in just listening because it is better than ignoring
As in just giving because it’s better than receiving. . .

So for today, and every day, remember. . .just do. . . .


“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Proverbs 19:17

Mastery

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

DSC02742
(evening clouds / Julie Cook / 2015)

A swarth of dry-brushed color is swept across a simple canvas
No hesitation
No forethought or plan
Just a joyous sweeping arc from an out stretched arm
A wealth of color and texture.
Soft yet profound
Vibrant yet subtle
Purposeful yet delightfully random
Mere dust particles, ice crystals and fading light. . .?
or. . .
Exuberance catapulted outward by a simple expression of love. . .?

DSC02745

DSC02746

DSC02749

DSC02750

DSC02754

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10

(a progression of late summer Georgia clouds / Julie cook / 2015)