a needed day in the woods–following the traces–the lowest, not the highest

“I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head and that
you are a member of his body.
He belongs to you as the head belongs to the body.
All that is his is yours: breath, heart, body, soul and all his faculties.
All of these you must use as if they belonged to you,
so that in serving him you may give him praise, love and glory.”

St. John Eudes


(fungi continue to sprout /Julie Cook / 2020)

“Since Jesus has gone to Heaven now,
I can only follow the traces He has left behind.
But how bright these traces are! How fragrant and divine!
I have only to glance at the Gospels;
at once this fragrance from the life of Jesus reaches me,
and I know which way to run:
to the lowest, not the highest place!”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 153-4
An Excerpt From
Story of a Soul

When in the woods, especially this time of year with falling leaves and treasures hidden underfoot,
I have learned to look for the lowest secrets rather than those of the highest and most soaring wonders.
I give thanks for being able to spend time in God’s creation!

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:8

glimpses

“Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in
old age than a knowledge of Holy Scripture?
In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck
and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting
bliss of the angels.”

St. Boniface


(the Gulf of Mexico / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Know that our faith is strengthened by the resurrection of Christ.
The passion of Christ represents the misery of our present life,
while the resurrection of Christ gives us a brilliant glimpse of the
happiness of the future life.
Let us apply ourselves energetically in the present life, and hope in the future.
Now is the time for painful struggle; then will come the recompense.
Those who are lazy about carrying out their work will be brazenly impudent
if they expect the recompense.”

St. Augustine, p. 61
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

be rich in the next life…

“Since love completes all, makes all hard things soft, and the difficult easy,
let us strive to make all our acts proceed from love.”

St. Arnold Janssen


(a dewy turkey feather /Julie Cook / 2020)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—-
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces,
in courts of justice.
He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do?
We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him, and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more…
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed.
We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give
them to us, but so that he may take away from us.
He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and
of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps,
so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

without measure

“The true measure of loving God is to love Him without measure.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux


(a spent mushroom in the depths of the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The Spirit of God teaches us how we can live our faith with great generosity of spirit.
There is a vertical dimension to our faith (praising and worshiping God),
but there is also a horizontal dimension to our faith in which we show our love to
our sisters and brothers, God’s beloved children.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, p. 8
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

Come to me…

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


(statue of Jesus, Parrot Mt. and Gardens, Pigeon Forge, TN / Julie Cook / 2020)

Always be busy in spiritual actions…no other action is nearly as important

“Persevere in labors that lead to salvation.
Always be busy in spiritual actions.
In this way, no matter how often the enemy of our souls approaches,
no matter how many times he may try to come near us,
he’ll find our hearts closed and armed against him.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage


(red indian pheasant / Parrot Mt. /Pigeon Forge, TN/ Julie Cook /2020)

“Christ Himself is our mouth through which we speak to the Father,
our eye through which we see the Father, our right hand through which we
offer to the Father.
Without His intercession neither we nor all the saints have anything with God.”

St. Ambrose

All sorts of things are running through our thoughts today.
Some of us are pleased yet hesitant.
Some of us are sad and resentful.

But what we need to remember is that there is One who is so much greater than
all of this mess.

If you’ve been a regular guest here,
then you already know that I am a big fan of the series The Chosen

https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen

It is solely a crowdfunded production.
Since I was afforded the opportunity to watch season 1 due to the giving of someone
who came before me…
I have opted to do the same, I have paid it forward, twice.

Here are just two of the “thank yous” I received…

So on election day…I have found that these types of words transcend the silliness of man…
words of anger, divisiveness, and bickering…all of which cast a pall over the
ways of this world.

So today, the day after, no matter how things turned out for you or me…be it good or bad …
remember, there is One who is so much greater than any of this mess…

Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Calm, cool, and collected…

Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes.
Watchman Nee


(a Lady Amherst pheasant / Parrot Mt and Gardens, Pigeon Forge, TN / Julie Cook / 2020)

I think we all wish we could be as calm, cool, and collected…as well as stunning
as this Lady Amherst Pheasant…

Well, we can!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

And with a tail like that…

without excuse

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20 NIV


(a wagon of days gone by / Cables Mill, Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2020)

“The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable.
It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief –
that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us
and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.

Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God.
The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him.
As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him.
We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

revelations

It’s hard for us who live in the West twenty centuries later to appreciate the
meaning of the Book of Revelation.
Our first tendency is to simply plug what we read into our own experiences
without rolling up our sleeves, getting down on our knees,
and trying to understand what it meant back then.

Dr. Scott Hahn
from The End: A Study of the Book of Revelation


(Cades Cove, Cable grist mill / Julie Cook / 20202)

The Book of Revelation has not only a past fulfillment but also an ongoing
fulfillment throughout Christian history.
The fulfillments can be multiple, ever-increasing, escalating, and enlarging.
At some point in the future there will be an even more magnificent
fulfillment of Revelation than there was back in 70 AD.

Dr. Scott Hahn
from The End: A Study of the Book of Revelation

Each man is good in His sight

I am a red man.
If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have
made me so in the first place.
He put in your heart certain wishes and plans,
in my heart he put other and different desires.
Each man is good in his sight.
It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows.

Sitting Bull


(A crow perches in a tree in Cades Cove, Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2020)

Native American Indians always believed that spirits resided in the beings of
the creatures of the earth…all the way from the mighty bison and bear
to the majestic eagle, the stealthy wolf all the way down to the lowly turtle and snake.

Each animal and creature was aforded various human-like traits.
They protected or watched over the one who claimed them as a ‘spirit guide’
Imparting power to the one they protected or looked over.

One such spirit was that of the crow or raven.
The bird was known as a trickster or prankster,
the mischievous one.

Years ago we took our son, who was about 9 at the time, on a vacation that had us
heading west.
West to places like New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and then up towards
Montana and South Dakota.

Places that a Georgia born native son needed to see and experience.

We stopped at places like the Painted desert, the Badlands, Yellowstone,
the Grand Canyon—we went to cities and towns such as Taos, Sante Fe, Cody,
Salt Lake City, Logan, Cheyenne, Jackson Hole…
while visiting various Pueblos, Reservations, monuments, churches, museums
and national parks…

And yet in all that mighty and grand greatness, there was one small thing that caught
both our eyes.

It was something vastly different from the beautiful landscapes found around this
great nation of ours.

We were each drawn to something that was small yet skillful.
Tiny yet intriguing.

As the art teacher, I was drawn like a magnet to the inticracy…
As a young boy, my son was drawn, as most young boys would be, to all
things of imagination and of cowboys and indians.

The draw you ask…???
They were small tiny stone carvings by Zuni indians known as a fetish.

Tiny carvings of animals created in stone, fossils and shells.
Each held in the palm of one’s hand.

According to the Black Arrow Gallery:
Fetishes, charms, amulets, or simply good luck pieces, call them whatever you would like,
but virtually every culture has them. Fetishes are small carvings made from various materials
by many different Native American Tribes.
These carvings serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons
integral to their culture.
As a form of contemporary Native American Art they are sold with non-religious
intentions to collectors worldwide.

Origianal fetishes are no longer available for purchase as they are considered
museum worthy.
Yet there are some very well known tribal artists who continue to create these tiny
artistic treasures to sell.
And the better known artists and their art carvings fetch high prices.

During our trip, as a rememberance from this particular vacation,
my son and I each bought a few affordable carvings.
We were told that the fetish would choose the buyer.
Each fetish supposedly possessed certain characteristics and traits
which would draw the buyer.

Well, I was drawn to several.
A bear, a beaver and yes, a crow.

Crows and Ravens are birds of a feather…with ravens being of the larger feather.
So my crow was most likely a raven…but it was still a small marble black bird
with two turquoise eyes.

Again, according to the Black Arrow Gallery:
The raven is not a traditional fetish but he is carved often, and beautifully,
by a number of artists.
Some artisans will put a stone in the raven’s mouth.
He is generally carved of jet or black marble though he can appear in virtually
any stone of the artist’s choosing.
While considered somewhat of a prankster, he doesn’t have the negative characteristics
associated with the coyote.
The raven can help us work through failure and short-comings by reminding
us that anything we have the courage to face, we have the power to transform.

I imagine that the reason crows / ravens were afforded a place at the tribal table was
in part due the fact that these birds are actually very intelligent.

Those who study crows and ravens know that these birds have a language of calls all their own.
They can actually communicate with one another.
They also have keen memories and have been known to bring “gifts’– various sparkly
found objects to humans who interact with them.

I have had a long love-hate relationship with crows.

I find them irritating when they gang attack a hawk who flies
into their territory.
I’m not a fan of gang activity.
However, I imagine that there is some sort of perceived threat
when a bird of prey intercepts one’s private airspace…I digress.

And yet I love throwing out stale bread for the crows to come gather.
They will often wake me at dawn with their loud raucous caws as
they swoop into a tree outside our bedroom window where the
bread still sits from the prior evening.

So reading the wisdom of Sitting Bull in today’s quote, I am reminded of
that song sung in many a child’s church chapel…Jesus Loves the Little Children

Written by C. Herbert Woolston and George F. Root.

According to hymntime.com
Words: C. Her­bert Wool­ston (1856–1927).
Wool­ston was one of George Root’s fa­vo­rite lyr­i­cists.
Child­ren oft­en sing just the re­frain, which is a song all to itself!

Music: George F. Root, 1864, Root orig­in­al­ly wrote this tune for the Am­er­i­can ci­vil
war song Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to Me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,

All lives matter…both living and yet born.
All lives matter… each man, woman and child…no matter their color or race.
For all are not only good, but rather are most
precious to our God, our Father and Great Creator.

It just takes a crow to remind us of such.


(a camera friendly crow / Cades Cove, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2020)