Hopeful anticipation

Our thoughts determine our whole life.
If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace.
If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same,
and we will have peace within us.
It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.”

Elder Thaddeus


(two cousins, Peaches and Alice, anxiously wait for a handout / Julie Cook / 2017)

My son had warned me about this.
We were to “babysit” our granddog for about 9 days while her parents were out of town.
He had told me that Alice would seek out the “weak” one.

Huh?

The begging.
Her biggest fault is that she is a beggar.

Alice, an 85 pound black lab mix, is a smart and mindful dog…but
she is a tad lazy and a big baby who loves food…hers, ours and everyones.

My son told me that when it’d come time for us to sit down for supper, Alice would
be right there in the mix, hovering near the one she felt she could coax into
offering a few free morsels…breaking down the resolve of the one most likely
to offer a free handout….in other words…the weak one.

Tag!
My husband was it….
the obvious weak one…or perhaps the sucker for those wanting big brown
eyes is more like it….

And not only did Alice zero in on my husband’s weakness, but cousin Peaches
was not to miss out on any free snacks.

Needless to say, trying to eat supper while four eyes were intently and relentlessly staring
us down….
and to compound the matter….two of those four eyes also had a drooling mouth attached,
was just a tad bit unnerving.

The laser focused attention, the palatable anxiousness, the anticipation of hopefulness…
filled the entire room with a buoyant sense of both yearning and waiting.

How absolutely amazing would it be if we had that same sense of longing, desire,
hopefulness and focus as we anxiously anticipated the presence of God….

And here’s the kicker to that notion…
God doesn’t merely toss us a morsel or a piece of unwanted or discarded leftover…
He offers each one of us His entire being…
as He is ours for the asking…
For with God,
there is absolutely no begging required…..

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman,
born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

fertile ground

“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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(a lone viola emerges out of nowhere, nestled between the rocks/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Spring is wanting to come early this year…
But Winter refuses to relinquish his time…
It’s an age old battle for the right to reign.

The surrounding landscape is still bathed in shades of grey, brown and
all things bare…
While the deer have nipped and eaten any and all remaining winterized vegetation…
As the armadillos have rooted out any hiding grub or tender waiting bulbs.

This is the time for transition.
It is a time waited upon anxiously…
As it is a time that has been manically hoped for and painfully longed for.

A time of turning the page from nothingness into a hint of newness.

All the while a cold wind blows and
Freeze warnings remain.
And pale white dry skin yearns for the flush of warm and radiant supple pink…

Yet hidden amongst the nooks of crags…
found in the hollowed-out crannies, wedged between the cold barren rocks..
a small and easily missed prophesy of growth takes a stand…

As we are left asking—
is fertile ground to be found anywhere within our hearts…

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‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it;
I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and
lofty mountain.
On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it;
it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.
Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.
All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree
and make the low tree grow tall.
I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.

Ezekiel 17:22-24

the pace now quickens

Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold…

Provers 8:10

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
1 Timothy 1:7

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(St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anxious, hurried and apprehensive they race along with nervous urgency
as the pace to the journey suddenly quickens.
The moment has drawn nigh and there is no more time to tarry.
The waiting and watching is over.
The benign prosaic observation is no longer available for causal inspection–
As the air is now heavy with the seriousness of what is soon to take place.

The collision of two opposing forces is eminent.
They had seen it foretold in the star.
Only a few will truly understand the overwhelming magnitude of what is to transpire…
For gravity is laced within the expectation.
Two cosmic energies will collide with such tremendous force that the powerful reverberations will spiral outward, affecting all generations across the chasm of time…

There will be a time for joy to be had…as well as heartfelt offerings, homage and gifts.
The time for merrymaking will be at hand as the celebration and toasting will commence.
Yet the excited announcement of these glad tidings brings with it both joy and heavy consequence…

There will be a time of thankfulness, reverence and tenderness
as Hopefulness joyously arrives.
All the while as radiant Light fiercely pierces the blackened veil.
Yet there will also be lingering repercussions for each and everyone,
as the Prince of Darkness will no longer rest,
not while the baby slumbers sweetly unaware.

So hurry on we all must go with urgency in each and every step.
We travel far and wide this day in haste to meet a King.
Yet with this yearly marking of such a grand and festive event,
as mankind is blindly busy making merry within the merriment,
young and old are naively unaware that Time is almost spent.

So sing your glad tidings this grand and hopeful December day…
hurry your way to the manger bare laying down your peace and praise,
for unto you is born this day a child, a Savior and a King
Yet mindful we must all remain…
for there is one who chooses curses rather than to sing

For he waits in the shadows knowing his time is drawing nigh…
as he plots and he schemes for a “A voice was heard in Ramah
of painful crying and deep sadness:
Rachel crying for her children.
She refused to be comforted,
because her children are dead.”

Jeremiah 31:15

For within the innocence of our heartfelt joy lies a fight for every soul…
as the pace for Mankind’s salvation has quickened as one is now born to carry our load.

“an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.”
Matthew 2:13

Time to expect the unexpected

“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected:
the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”

Mary Renault

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes”
Mark Twain

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(premature fallen acorns / Troup Co. Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

This morning finds us turning the page once more, summoning forth yet another day and another month.
September has rather unceremoniously arrived.
No fanfare.
No gala.
No festive celebration.

Yet September, this 9th month out of 12, is truly a month of the unexpected,
the unpredictable, the unassuming. . .and albeit a bit of the unappreciated.

Obviously no one has told the tired old thermometer that Fall is all but a few short weeks away.
The mercury continues to hover at 90 as the humidity continues to cling to our very being like a sticky, hot, wet towel. . .yet the shift has secretly begun. . .
We sense ourselves sliding into something different, something changing
and something slightly new.

We are creatures of the season you and I.
Delightfully craving the ever changing and ever new which can only be found in the trading of one season for another.

We both yearn and long for what the coming change has in store for us.
We are as giddy as children on a bright Christmas morn as we’ve anxiously waited—waited to finally feast our eyes on what lies under the tree—
Our time has finally drawn nigh.

We find ourselves shifting gears as our likes and dislikes begin, once again, to ebb and flow.
Our taste palettes are now craving the savory as our surrounding palette will soon shift to warmer tones yet cooler nights and crisper days.

Our brains are screaming that the time is here yet the world arounds us seems to be stuck in place. It’s as if life is in slow motion as it appears Mother Nature may need a gentle nudge reminding her that we have had our fill of heat and humidity, bugs and pests.
Like a hungry child anxiously anticipating the hearty simmering fare on the stove, we hold our arms outwardly stretched ready to embrace cooler, crisper, softer.

Will today be the day?
Will it be a day which still thinks of itself as a child of the Summer
or. . .
will it be a day of change. . .
refreshingly clear, cool and full of the unexpected. . .

The planting season

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

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(a newly planted petunia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Many years ago when I was a mere wide-eyed impetuous young fire cracker,
I spent a great deal of energy wishing I was 10 years further down the road.
I believed I had much to do and I was chomping at the bit to do it.
Anxious,
Anticipatory,
Impatient.

Could God not see my energy, my enthusiasm, my willingness.
I was ready.
Why was He not?

College was frustrating me.
I didn’t know how best to direct my path.
I was more than willing to chuck it all out the window, if God would just point the way.
I knew I had much to do, it’s just that I wasn’t exactly sure that I actually knew what it was,
I was to be doing.
I was in a bit of a desert, or actually stuck on some lone island–languishing and unnoticed.

I wrote countless letters to my poor godpoppa, lamenting my seemingly unproductive position.
I was the anxious kid on the bench with hand jutting up and down,
waving wildly high, “put me in coach”
I was ready, willing and more than sick and tired of waiting.
What in the heck was the hold up??!!

As I’m sure all those letters upon letters from an angst ridden college freshman, sporting rose colored lenses, whose time truly had not yet come as the body may have been willing but, in blessed hindsight, the mind was truly not yet fully developed. . .must have driven him crazy.

He was a wise man.
He was a learned man.
He was a busy man.
He was an important man.
And yet, he would always take time from his most consuming day, stopping all his important things long enough to appease an unripe fruit whose mantra was over and over. . .
When
Where
Why. . .

Found within one of the loving letters written in return was a single key sentence. . .
“There is one thing you need to do, bloom where you are planted, do that one thing you don’t want to do—but do it for me.”

I can remember anxiously finding his letter sitting in my little mail box. I was so excited hurrying back to my dorm room clutching the most wonderfully official looking letter. I just knew within the envelope the key to my future was ready and waiting. His words were always truth personified in my book, if he said it, it was so.
Reading feverishly I came to that single sentence.
“Bloom where I was planted”. . .hummmmmm. . .
But as he added, “do this one thing you don’t much want to do, but do it for me”
I shrugged and resigned myself to holding tight.

And now all these many many years later. . .
an entire lifetime later, I still consider that simple little phrase. . .
Bloom where you are planted

God knows where we are.
He puts us where He wants us.
Often frustratingly to Him, we usually take it upon ourselves to move and relocate–most often prematurely.
However, no matter where we wend up, we must remember God originally planted the seed.
He planted the seed long before we were even born.
The seed has to be watered, fertilized, nurtured, and allowed to grow.
Sometimes the seedling is moved and transplanted. . .no matter, as He continues
Watching
Tending,
Pruning,
Warding off insects and disease.
Without warning and miraculously one magical day,
seemingly out of the blue, a bloom bursts forth.
Hopeful,
Beautiful,
Joyful,
Stately. . .
We are planted and we will in turn bloom—
It’s all just a matter of God’s good timing. . .

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.
1 Corinthians 7:17

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(forsythia / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(tulip magnolia blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)