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)

the mayor is in…

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only
solution is love and that love comes with community.”

Dorothy Day

The above image is a photo of Woobooville.

Woobooville is a relatively small community.
A new gated community to be more exact.
It currently houses four constituents…Bobo Buzzard, Polly Possum, Lambie Pie Lamb
and Jeffery Girrafe.

There are 3 different Rec centers, with one being mobile when so desired.
The Rec centers are open whenever needed.

The road was paved (quilted) by Natalie and hasn’t a single pothole.
There is 24 hr security yet there is no crime to ever speak of.
There is even a single storage unit, open free of charge.

Plus the community actually has its own mayor…
and the mayor just happens to be in her office this weekend.

Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

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

live to see another day

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire


(a young bear scales the tip top of the trees in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

We’ve come up to Tennessee, to Cades Cove for a couple of days.
It is by far one of my most favorite places on earth…as I have seen some mighty grand and
lovely places on this planet. But Cades Cove is special.

I’ve written about Cades Cove before so I won’t go into all of that all over again
but just know that it remains a small remnant of who and what settled this great
land of ours.

Today in the Cove (an 11-mile one-way loop around what was once an early 19th-century
mountain valley settlement and centuries-old Indian territory)
we actually came upon two bears climbing like nimble footed acrobats
to the tip-top branches of the trees…
there were berries.

Cars had stopped as everyone got out, careening necks upward while staring in amazement,
watching these two big black bears acting more like squirrels.

As the day waned, we made our way back to the cabin where we were staying and
decided to go hike some of the nearby trails.
We had been told upon check-in that there was a bear on the property so just be
vigilant when out and about.

Making our way up a narrow trail, my husband leading the way with his long spider stick
waving precariously in front of him like some sort of crazy conductor’s baton
(a stick or twig used to knock down all the webs that are prolific this time of year)
all the while as I lagged slightly behind with my camera snapping pictures of the various
mushrooms and toadstools and yes, spider webs…

Suddenly my husband stops dead in his tracks and urgently announces BEAR.

I freeze.

About 20 feet in front of us, at the bend in the trail, lumbers a very large mother
black bear with two tiny cubs in tow.

I threw my camera up as fast as I thought I had life left to do so in order to snap a shot,
a shot I didn’t even have time to focus, when mom and babies nonchalantly kept
walking around the curve in the path….
all the while as we prayed she wouldn’t turn and charge at us.

We just stood there as she rounded the turn and disappeared.
Then boldly, or brazenly I’m not sure which, we opted to take a few steps forward just
to see which way they were headed when suddenly one of the cubs pops back around
the corner to take a gander at us before he circles back to mom.

At which point we turned and took another trail.

Once back down to the main road we spied a maintenance worker who we decided should
hear our report of seeing a mama bear with cubs on the retreat’s property.

He casually replies “yeah…they’ve been around awhile, best to keep your distance
but that’s nothing…
two weeks ago I was standing right over there when a mountain lion came
out of nowhere and crossed the path right in front of me…
but these darn spiders…now they’re what really bothers me”

We opted to leave him our spider stick for protection.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20

ailing?

“Sin separates us from the presence of God”
David Fiorazo, The Cost of Our Silence


(image of a WWII medic’s bag found on pintrest)

Slowly picking my way through David Fiorazo’s book The Cost of Our Silence,
picking as if I was walking ever so slowly and ever so carefully through a thicket of
freshly ripening blackberries…
eyeing the bushes just so as I closely look for the riper and juiciest berries…
so goes my reading.

And whereas time is also a contributing factor to my lack of speed, I seem able only to
take in a page here and a page there…

I’m jumping around a bit as yesterday I offered a look back to our nation’s backstory
as we took a peek back in time to examine the ideals that the pilgrims had brought with them
as they left family, friends, and home an entire ocean behind…
risking everything, including their lives, in search of a place where free worship of
the Creator would be paramount.

Today I’m going to skip ahead in our story, just a tad before I backup again another day
as there is still much that needs to be shared historically as to why we are the nation we are…
or perhaps that is,,, the nation we were…

However, today, as I was taking in a page here and there…
the following quote really jumped out at me…

“We can (and should) talk much about the love of God,
but we are doing the gospel and those who hear us a disservice if we do not also talk
about sin and the wrath of God.”

For you see this is a bit of a recurring theme of mine…
the theme that there is both sin and wrath…
God’s wrath to be precise.

But no one wants to hear about sin, sinful nature, repercussions, a wrathful God, consequences,
etc…
Because instead, we’ve turned all of that into political correctness and tolerance.

David goes on…
“There are many symptoms of the disease (sin), but God has provided a cure (Jesus Christ)
for the cause and has given us a written prescription (the Bible) to follow.
The Great Physician is always on call, so let us speak about the only remedy and
keep referring people to Him!”

Our culture has no idea that it is ailing…no idea that it is truly sick.
It ignores the symptoms, denies the disease, and discredits the Physician
more and more each day.

Any psychologist will tell you that it is human nature to run through some very basic
emotions when confronted with something really bad and or tragic…
with denial being right up there in the earliest stages.

Churchs today are so desperately wanting to cling to dwindling congregations or to a
youthful generation that is heeding the call of the world, so much so that the Churchs are
compromising the entire concept of sin and God’s wrath. Going so far as to offering a
desperately needy and thirsty people a watered down Gospel narrative…having turned it
into a feel good placebo.

No one ever really wants to hear that they are living wrong, immoral, sinful lives…
they’d rather be patted on the head, handed a sucker and told to go scoot off
and keep playing.

But that is not the reality of our world.
It is not the reality of the Chrisitan faith.

If we do not accept sin for what it is…
If we do not admit that we are in need of healing and saving…
then we will incur wrath…

So rather than deal with such, myriads of folks have opted to simply deny any such thing.
No God equals no sin, equals no illness, equals no need, equals blisful ignorance.

And so we, those remnants of the faithful, who understand that sin is sin, death is death,
Satan is real and that healing and saving are paramount… must speak.

We must speak up, out and loud.

David reminds us that opposition to such talk will be a given.
There will be pushback.
There will be ridicule.

But we must remember from whence comes that pushback and ridicule and to where it is actually
directed.

“Most of us understand in today’s culture that living our faith in public will attract
resistance, ridicule, and even hatred.
If we remember our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12),
we will not take it personally when people come against us.
Their problem is with Jesus Christ, not us.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces
of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12)

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.”