things visible and invisible

From the creed, then, we learn that all creation is caught up in a drama that
sweeps from the beginning of time to its end.
There is a narrative arc to the history not only of humanity,
but of the cosmos—‘all things visible and invisible.’
The cast of this drama includes everyone alive, everyone who ever lived,
and everyone who will live.
All will rise and be judged for the actions and omissions,
small and great, of their everyday lives.

Dr. Scott Hahn
from The Creed


(a fungus among us at Cades Cove, The Great Smoky National Park, TN /Julie Cook / 2018)

“If human beings had really tried to invent a god,
we would never have invented the God of Christianity.
He’s just too terrifying.
Our God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy, and omnipresent.
There’s no place to run and hide from Him,
no place where we might secretly indulge a favorite vice.
We can’t even retreat into the dark corners of our minds to fantasize about
that vice without God knowing it right away.”

Scott Hahn

All images of mushrooms and toadstools–some edible, most not, found in Cades Cove, The
Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

to eat

“Eat without scruple whatever God has prepared for you at the common table…
whatever God provides for you, take that with simplicity of heart from his hand”

St. Philip Neri


(wile turkey gobbler / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mt National Park / Julie Cook / 2018)

“For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks
my blood abides in me, and I in him…this is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.

John 6:55-56,58

berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

taking the middle ground

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.
John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630)

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land,
they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven,
who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all
the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feete on the firme and stable earth…
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Fatih and Honor
of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony”

William Bradford: History of Plymouth Plantation c. 1650

According to History.com, William Bradford was a founder as well as a longtime governor
of the Plymouth Colony.

He was one of the original Mayflower passengers and signed the Mayflower Compact.
Bradford helped to draft the legal code ” and facilitated a community centered on
private subsistence agriculture and religious tolerance.
Around 1630, he began to compile his two-volume “Of Plymouth Plantation,”
one of the most important early chronicles of the settlement of New England.”

Bradford was a staunch member of the Separatist Chruch, a church body that was opposed
to the Chruch of England’s dominance over the lives of all English citizens.
The Church was (is) a state church overseen by the sitting monarch and so religious
groups such as the Separatists,
who were opposed to the Catholic influence over the Church,
felt an increasing need to find a place that was more open and tolerant to
varying sects of Christianity.

So as a young man, Bradford left England, moving to the Dutch Republic (Holland)
where religious freedoms were more widely permitted.

Bradford eventually married and began a family—
but as time went on, there was concern over the encroaching strong Dutch influence
upon the English Seperatirt’s children…
This was the impetus needed for the Separatists to seek a new life in a new land.
Thus joining the Mayflower pilgrims…pilgrims seeking a new land, a God-fearing land,
yet a God-fearing land accepting of a diverse Chrisitan faith, Bradford and his family
made the perilous journey across the Atlantic.

“Bradford’s history was singular in its tendency to separate religious from
secular concerns.
Unlike similar tracts from orthodox Massachusetts Bay,
Bradford did not interpret temporal affairs as the inevitable unfolding of
God’s providential plan.
Lacking the dogmatic temper and religious enthusiasm of the Puritans of the
Great Migration, Bradford steered a middle course for Plymouth Colony between the
Holy Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the tolerant secular community of Rhode Island.

A common sense sort of man…seeking the middle ground in a new world.
Which leaves me wondering, when I watch and hear what’s taking place around this
nation of ours, a nation that was once the hope of a people seeking to
worship the God of all Creation as that of His created while worshiping that of
His risen son…worshiping in the tolerance of varying denominations,
I wonder where that nation has gone…as that notion of worshiping the Creator…
a nation under God, is now fraught with grave contention.

David Fiorazo begins his book, The Cost of Our Silence,
with this look back to our founding as a God-fearing, Christian tolerant nation…
albeit when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the idea of a “nation” was something
far from their thinking.
Theirs was simply the thinking of survival while building a new life in a new world.

Survival, living, worshiping and finding a place of happiness and peace.

David notes that in the earliest days in this land, when Christians experienced
hard times, their desperation caused them to rely on God.

Conversely, when things are going well, we (now) often choose to rely on ourselves.

Throughout history, the Lord often allowed persecution in order to turn people back to Him.

Men came to these shores hoping to establish a God-fearing settlement that would flourish
on faith and freedom.

So opens Chapter 1 “What’s Happening to Our Heritage?” in David Fiorazo’s book.

And so I will leave us today with this one thought offered by David…

“Has God removed His hand of protection and Providence from our nation?”

As William Bradford was near death, he reflected on life in the new land
by way of a journal entry.
He had been governer as well as a major designer in the community,
establishing the standard of living, the laws,
the judicial system as well as the economic system to be used
for that of Plymouth as well as the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Most importantly he helped to establish what was to be the spiritual life of
these early communities. A spiritual life based on the acknowledgment of God
and that of His Divine intent for His created in this new land…
along with an acceptance of how each man and woman would worship..
It was to be the basis for our religious tolerance today…

Bradford found himself opining the sentiment that this once dutiful Nation was
beginning to actually show the early signs, signs during Bradford’s own lifetime,
signs which seem to be coming into full fruition today,
that this nation was and is finding herself no longer willing to acknowledge the Creator
of all of the Universe…
nor is she willing to afford those who continue to call themselves Christians the
God given rights to do so.

And so we now ask ourselves…Has God removed His hand of protection and Providence
from our nation… because we first removed our faith and belief in Him…?

Shortly before his death, Governor Bradford wrote a journal entry:
“O sacred bond, whilst inviolably preserved?
How sweet and precious were the fruits that flowed from the same!
But when this fidelity decayed, then their ruin approached.
O that these ancient members had not died or been dissipated
(if it had been the will of God)
or else that this holy care and constant faithfulness had still lived,
and remained with those that survived…
But (alas) that subtle serpent hath slyly wound himself under fair pretenses of necessity
and the like, to untwist these sacred bonds and ties…
I have been happy, in my first times, to see, and with much comfort to enjoy,
the blessed fruits of this sweet communion, but it is now a part of my misery in old age,
to find and feel the decay and want thereof (in a great measure)
and with grief and sorrow of heart to lament and bewail the same.
And for others’ warning and admonition, and my own humiliation, do I here note the same.”

the cost of silence as time is not our friend

“It is impossible to be a part-time Christian”
David Fiorazo, The Cost of our Silence


(image courtesy the web)

The very first paragraph of his introduction grabbed me:

America has over 300,000 churches, but few would contest that our Christian influence
is decreasing as the nation becomes more secularized.
Our biblical values are no longer being consistently demonstrated and promoted
and therefore, do not translate out from behind church walls and into culture.
Why are there so few speaking up for Jesus Christ and for righteousness in public anymore?
Hope for revival remains, and a remnant of committed leaders and believers are doing
their part, but because of the posers and pretenders,
American Christianity has almost become a joke.
People in the Middle East look at Hollywood, the Internet, and our government.
They see our education system, media and the people we elect.
They observe our greed, idolatry,
and society as a whole and refer to us as “The Great Satan.”

I mentioned the other day having seen the book The Cost of our Silence by David Fiorazo.
After reading the small snippet regarding the book, I was intrigued…
so much so that I ordered the book…
In part, because here was what I’ve been trying to say, in so many words, in the actual
print of a book…as in, this guy was saying what I’ve
known but have felt almost alone espousing from my small blog’s bully pulpit.

And here’s the odd thing.
As I’m not on social media, my little blog is indeed just that– little.
Not much exposure albeit for here in my small corner of the world of happy WP.
So my readership is not exactly grand in scope.

That is except when I write about certain topics…
topics just like what our friend David Fiorazo is addressing in his book.

I’ve never been much of a numbers person, as math was never my strong suit.
Yet when I was still in the classroom, schools were becoming big hunters of numbers,
percentages and stats…

We were inundated with keeping stats on all sorts of things with our students…
be it testing results, benchmark results, attendance, discipline…you name it.

This numbers notion was born from the thought that “numbers don’t lie”—
Numbers were now being equated with goals…
goals met or goals not yet met.
We were told that the numbers would tell us…
they would be the polestar pointing us in the right direction.

And we knew that a successful school that was meeting its goals and or standards was
seen as exceptional. If students were meeting their goals and standards, that would
in turn mirror the success of the school.

It became a vicious cycle of goals, stats, and results equaling glowing standards which were
being met with huge success…and we all know that if a school wants to be exceptional,
its students must be meeting and exceeding goals and stats.

These numbers became the backing behind the words.
Words such that “we are a school of excellence because our numbers don’t lie”
Schools could claim this or that as long as the numbers backed up the words.

Unfortunately, due to the pressure of meeting certain statewide or national criteria,
school systems found themselves fudging numbers in order to keep up the appearance of
being exceptional.
The pressure becomes so great that jobs were hanging in the balance of
student’s measuring up to the standard, goal, criteria numbers game.

It appeared that numbers could lie if the number counters could alter the count.

Atlanta Public Schools was one such system that was “caught” fudging the numbers.
They were inflating the state and national test results of their students…
going so far as to actually changing student’s answers.

The fear being that a failing school would lose federal funding due to
Falling scores and stats would see administrators losing their jobs and teachers would lose
their jobs and in the end who wants their school to lose that precious federal funding?!

It was and continues to be a numbers mess to be sure.

But here in blogland, the stats and numbers aren’t as precarious or crucial.
No one loses a job over low blog stats…rather perhaps one’s sense of worth as a writer,
or of that of a cook, or a photographer, or a creative individual…

We all have on our admin page the stats section.
A chart showing the readership over a day, a week, a month, a year…
a gauge of success, or as some think, popularity.

Yet life does not hang in the balance over blog stats…not unless you’re the type
of person who keeps track of such and in turn stresses over the fluctuation and
the fickleness of blog readers.

My stats, when I write posts that are more benign, more about a grandbaby or just pretty
pictures, typically run relatively low.
Kind of like just idly flipping through a magazine…
just another eyes glazed over page-turner.

But when I write posts from the bully pulpit of Christian Apologetics such as
Christian apathy or that of abortion, or homosexuality and same-sex unions,
heresy or atheism, or the failings of The Chruch, or posts about Chrisitan morality,
God’s word, the Truth of our Faith—
my numbers soar…as does the “hate” mail.

And I’ll admit that I don’t always have the time to devote to this sort of evangelizing
posting as it demands true depth and justice.

Some days life requires the simple and glazed over page-turners all because time is
not our friend.
The true meat and potatoes type of posts need passion, time for research and even valid
documentation…all of which does the subject matter justice.

And so when I read the words of authors such as Mr. Fiorazo, I feel those fires igniting—
as in it’s time to get cooking with some really flavorful meat and potatoes.

Mr. Fiorazo continues in his introduction:

Just as Jesus wept for Jerusalem while acknowledging its judgment,
should we not weep for America as the signs clearly point to God’s impending judgment on
a once-mighty, blessed Nation?
So we expect God to stay His hand of judgment and continue blessing a rebellious and
narcissistic people with His protection and provision?

One might argue, “But God is still on the throne.”
Sue. I agree He is sovereign over all events and circumstances.
He remains all-powerful, but He does not control us or force people to love Him.
God was also on His throne when we legalized abortion,
and soon America will be closing in on 60 million babies murdered in the name of “choice.”
Chrisitan helped elect the most pro-abortion,
anti-Christian president in our history–twice.
Do you suppose God cares how we vote?

God is still on the throne–
and He is preparing to judge a complacent people who continue ducking the issue of sin.

So with all of this simply found in the first few pages from a book’s introduction,
I can only imagine what might be waiting inside the book itself.

And so as I begin the slow picking apart and digesting of what it is I will be reading,
I will certainly, time and life cooperating, be sharing some important words for all
of us who call ourselves Believers.

Hopefully offering up a hearty portion of delicious meat and potatoes.

Yet I am mindful that time is not our friend.
Our time is running nigh as God’s judgment will not remain at bay forever…

Wake up!
Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

Revelation 3:2

resting in…

No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on
everything else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone.
As long as our expectation is from other things,
nothing but disappointment awaits us.

Hannah Whitall Smith


(Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.

Psalm 37:3-11

incommunicado or detached by forgetfulness

“Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty,
put your heart into it. It helps.”

St. Josemaria Escriva


(Lily Tomlin from the One ringy dingy skit from Laugh-In)

Once upon a time, human beings came into this world with 4 appendages.
At some point in the latter part of the 20th century, human beings added an appendage…
the cell phone.

This new appendage became attached serendipitously.
It seemed to bring a sense of well-being and even wholeness to most.

It became so indispensable, so oddly necessary, that when there would be some sort
of separation, human beings would go into apoplexy.

For you see, we humans can’t seem to part with this relatively new appendage.

I confess that I’m sadly and equally guilty of living in this surreal false sense of need.

Take for example today.

My husband and I were in Atlanta babysitting, even having spent Wednesday night as
we all went out a few days early to celebrate my husband’s upcoming birthday.
A birthday that my husband has decided will be his last to actually recognize but
a first in that we had a new little granddaughter in attendance at dinner.

The following day, Thursday…there was a pouring monsoon. Due to our daughter-n-law
starting pre-planning with her new school system and having to attend a faculty retreat
and our son having to work late, we opted to take the wee one home with us for a few days.

Maybe not a wise decision as the wee one is teething, but I digress.

As we were packing up, our daughter-n-law called making certain all was well.
Mindlessly I handed my son the phone.
After a brief conversation, he put down my phone.
We all then worked a joint effort in order to get the wee one in the car
without getting soaked.

With great trepidation, we bid our son a farewell (but I’ll be heading back Saturday to redeliver
the wee one home) as we made our way to the interstate for the long wet drive home.

Driving on the interstate in the pouring down rain, sandwiched between
tractor-trailer trucks who were oblivious to the weather or other cars or
that of their own speed, I saw an interstate road sign flashing deep
within the foggy rainy misty air…
DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE

For you see, Georgia just passed a law forbidding the use of a cell phone
while driving.
A few too many lost lives too late yet long overdue.

This means no calling, dialing, talking or texting.
Bluetooth through the car is ok.
GPS is also ok…so there are still a few of those grey areas but this is finally
a step in the right direction.

But when I saw that flashing interstate sign working its magic in the pouring down rain,
I thought to myself…”cellphone???”
As in… where IS my cellphone?

I quickly ask my husband to reach to the back seat to check my purse.
“Nope” he annoyingly replies.
For you see he figured I’d probably have done a U-turn right then and there on this
precarious section of 285 sending tractor-trailer trucks scurrying for cover.

But I didn’t.

I calmly kept driving.

I didn’t even frantically make my way to the nearest exit in order to backtrack to our
son’s house because I now remembered that the phone was sitting on the coffee table.
Right where my son had put it down after finishing talking to his wife…
all while we were putting the wee one in her car seat.

So I’m now missing an appendage.

A friend later called on our fossilized landline when word got out I didn’t have
my phone.
“Oh my gosh…what are you going to do??!!” was her incredulous query.

“I’ll get it on Saturday when I take the wee one home” I nonchalantly replied.

So on this day without my extra appendage…I do feel small moments of panic forcing
themselves up to the surface as I involuntarily reach for something that is not there.
I wonder who has text me.
Who has tried calling me?
I can’t track my Fitbit steps.
I can’t readily look up some unnecessary thing as if my life depended on it.

And to be quite honest…it’s all rather liberating.

Maybe if we felt the same way about our relationship with our loving Father and
blessed Savior as much as we feel about our phones…
maybe our lives would right themselves back upright…upright as they should be.
I think it’s a matter of priorities and living in the moment really and not living
in some another moment of some other dimension of both space and time—that being
the dimension of the life on those phones of ours.

What a small piece of joy…as well as freedom…

What else are we allowing to vie for our attentions?
What else is distracting us from our true nature of created of the Creator?

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:2