reflecting on love and beauty

Love does not make unnecessary the fulfillment of God’s commandments,
but is their deepest form of fulfillment.
The commandments are not external prescriptions,
which promise reward to those who fulfill them and threaten punishment to those who
fail to observe them.
Instead, they are the revelation of God’s salvific design,
indicating to us the way of his love.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller
from The Power of Truth


(a late November reflection offered by a creek—doesn’t it look as if the trees are
upsdie down reflected by the deep blue sky? / Julie Cook/ 2019)

Only a few colorful leaves remain dangling in the trees,
the majority of the multitudes have turned brown, or more aptly turned
loose, providing a freshly muted carpet covering the forest floor.

There is a vast quietness once the leaves fall and are damp underfoot.
No rustling of the wind through the trees and no crinkling underfoot.

But that doesn’t mean that beauty is now hidden…quite the contrary…
her reflection waits for the lucky ones who pass by…


(a late November reflection offerd by a creek/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(a late November reflection found in a creek / Julie Cook / 2019)

Who has not heard Dostoyevsky’s oft-quoted remark: ‘Beauty will save us’?
Usually people forget to mention, however, that by redeeming beauty Dostoyevsky
means Christ. He it is whom we must learn to see.
If we cease to know him only through words but are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty,
then we will truly come to know him and will no longer merely know about him secondhand.
Then we will have encountered the beauty of truth, of redeeming truth.
Nothing can bring us into contact with the beauty of Christ himself more than
the world of beauty created by faith and the light that shines upon
the faces of the saints, through which his own light becomes visible.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

arrow of beauty, the tiny spark of Love

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you,
do not expose it to the wind,
for it may get blown out…
Stay quiet with God.
Do not spend your time in useless chatter…
Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.”

St. Charles Borromeo


(a gull in unfazed by the crashing surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of beauty that wounds man: being touched by reality,
‘by the personal presence of Christ himself’, as [Nicholas Cabasilas] puts it.
Being overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction.
Of course we must not underestimate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and careful theological thought;
it is still absolutely necessary.
But to despise, on that account, the impact produced by the heart’s encounter with beauty,
or to reject it as a true form of knowledge would impoverish and dry up both faith and theology.
We must rediscover this form of knowledge—it is an urgent demand of the present hour.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
from On the Way to Jesus Christ

erring and snow

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness
in the proportion.”

Edgar Allan Poe


(a foot of snow blankets the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas this unexpected early December Southern Snow has blanketed us with a
deep white blanket of mystical silence and stillness…it has not come without
a wealth of woe….

The school systems in and around the Atlanta metro area…north and westward…
school systems who usually err on the side of caution actually decided to listen
to our meteorologists who glibly reported that,
whereas it looked as if there would be some snow….,
we’d been so warm up to now that any snow would be fleeting.
A lite dusting that wouldn’t stick to roadways or driveways as it had just been
simply too warm for any real need for worry.

In other words, a short lived event.

This was to be taking place on Friday.

So on Friday, everyone opted to go about life as normal…
This is the deep South you know….we don’t really worry about winter weather
this time of year.

And so right on que the rains came, turning eventually over to snow.

And then it snowed and it snowed, and it kept on snowing…..

The schools scrambled and quickly decided that perhaps they should release the hounds students…
And so we had everyone in a myriad of counties all starting to unleash madness
upon the roadways all at the same staggering times.
Staggered releases seemed to be the best option…yet it was still snowing…hard.
Snow and ice were beating the release times.

Buses found it impossible to deliver their tender cargo as the snow and ice
were blanketing roadways…making traveling up and down hills impossible.

Our very pregnant daughter-n-law, who teaches here in our county but lives in Atlanta,
opted to come to our house verses trying to navigate the snowy icy interstates back
home to Atlanta as the News was painting a terrible traffic picture.

A typical 15 minute drive to our house from her school actually took her 2 hours…
as cars were now slip sliding away.
In fact my husband had to go meet her a mile from our house as cars had simply stopped
in their tracks on the roads as others had landed in the ditches and she was stuck in
the middle. It took him 30 minutes to get to her…a drive that should have taken two minutes.

Meanwhile, limbs were falling left and right in Atlanta.
It is a city known for her plethora of beautiful trees…yet snow and ice are not
kind to trees.

A snow laden limb fell on our son and daughter-n-laws house,
literally ripping out the power lines from the house….lines now laying dangerously
across the lawn.

GA Power has come to access the issue and now needs one of their certified
electricians to come out and reconnect the lines into the house before
they can re-run the lines from the pole to the house…
lest all things blow up.

Our son, dad’s cat and the grand dog are hunkering down in the dark, without heat
as the temperatures plunge down into the teens….
waiting for word of this elections.

This as I watched today those who really suffer through these sorts
of weather events…the animals…
as well as those who have no shelter to call their own…

As God watches over both animal and man who remain without….


(notice to the left of the two bulls, the wee head peering out from the crack
in the dilapidated barn)


(the poor cold bulls / Julie Cook / 2017)

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11

traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

what was

“I have always believed, and I still believe,
that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it
meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse


(a once prized and regal chair now sits abandoned and discarded / Julie Cook / 2017)

this is a tale of that which once was….

Have you ever wandered through an antique store, thrift shop, rummage sale or a rarely
visited basement or attic….
finding things that harken to a different space in time?

Have you ever sought a treasure where others only saw trash?
Finding something of beauty hiding underneath the layers of grime, damage, neglect
and even abuse?

Have you ever wondered how something that was once so special and treasured
now sits shredded and torn, broken and sad, ignored and now forgotten?

I think we are very much like this chair.

Once upon a time we were energetic, full of beauty and grace…
Some of us were even stately and certainly noteworthy.
We were taken care of, kept clean, neat and ever so tidy..
Often we were paraded about by those who loved us
during those special moments of life.

We were treasured, cherished and the pride of others…

Then time and life took their toll.
And like this forgotten beauty, now broken, worn, tired and dirty…
we were passed over for things newer and shinier…
we had lost our luster and therefore were simply discarded, making way for the new…
as society deems us now less than….

But that is never how we are seen through the loving eyes of our Omnipotent Father.
Despite what the years of decay and dirt have done to us,
despite the brokenness, the raggedness, the age and wear…
He sees what was…
What was special, what was lovely and that which He had always intended…
that which was, and still is, beautiful….

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

Beauty in difficulty

Out of difficulties grow miracles.
Jean de la Bruyere

DSCN2953
(thistle / Julie Cook / 2016)

Throughout our lives we will each encounter thorns…
Moments and experiences that are laced with those more troubling struggles which are simply unavoidable.

These encounters will obviously be uncomfortable, earth shattering and more often than not,
unbearably painful…

Such encounters will range from mildly irritating and bothersome,
to excruciatingly sharp, piercing and even most torturous.

Yet within each of these uncomfortable and painful encounters…
resides a mystery…

A mystery of rare, unexplainable and even unimaginable beauty…
Moments of pain and sorrow,
suffering and agony…
which are actually honed by the miraculous…

For from these enigmatic encounters…
those irritatingly painful experiences caused by the thorns scattered within our lives,
emerges a hidden majesty and beauty.

It is the blacksmith who must anneal his metals…
making them stronger by the raging fires of the furnace…
following each pass into the furnace, the metal’s trial by fire, comes the process of tempering the steel..
The hammering and beating of the heated and softened metal into a strong composition ready to withstand the rigors of use….

Within these difficult encounters of suffering, heartache and frustration, resides the mystery of our beauty and of our strength…

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

There are plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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(A lone sentinel sits watch along the outer wall along the Rock Of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I lose sight you know…

Losing that certain knowledge…

Lost in the day to day…

It’s truly…simply lost…

In fact, I think I, as in myself, my life, my very being, has gotten lost.

I didn’t quite realize it until just recently.

The din of madness from this chattering world of ours, with its dark vacuum and slick diversions, has sucked it all slowly away.

I am like those crumbling ruins of ages past…
Once great and grand, sure and solid…
Impressing both self as well as others…
Made to last forever. . .or so it seemed…
Yet over time and little by little, the beauty and loftiness has faded…
The glory is now forgotten…
I sit alone and abandoned left feeling more numb than sad.

DSCN0547
(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0495
(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0531
(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Then one day, when it is least expected, a single ray of light shines into the blurry, chilly grey abyss…there is a word, a touch, a feeling, a reminder…

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” says our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”
A.W. Tozer

The notion that I, as in me…who out of the billions of human beings on this planet, has been considered worthy enough for the most high Omnipotent God to have long ago, well before I came into being, placed a piece of His own Divinity within my very being…only to call out to that very tiny particle years later, is a thought that is more than difficult to wrap words, let alone thoughts, around.

It is as if two missing pieces, separated forever ago, now palpably yearn, nay ache, to be joined and bound together—at last…in order to finally become one, to be made whole.

Those who are adopted often come prewired with a sense of unwantedness.

It is a psychological hiccup in the cornerstone of formation sadly instilled in utero.
It is a hindrance that is carried beneath the conscious mind throughout life, only to rear its ugly head in the myriad of relationships held throughout the course of a lifetime.

It is that hidden sense of unwantedness that acts to repel the notion that one is deeply and passionately loved, wanted, savored…particularly so by the very Creator of all of Life Himself as it is He who instilled His loving “want” at the time the unwantedness was issued.

A contradiction in utero–the sacred and the carnal colliding in the creation of life.
Want and rejection become a stalemate of one.
Brokeness is pushed forever deeper as all manner of satiation is sought throughout the journey known as life–anything to fill the unrecognizable carnality subconscious ache.

Yet the Divine Want far surpasses any secular carnal unwantedness.
Grace, Redemption, Desire, Love, Acceptance each flows freely, coursing through veins which had narrowed in their ill perceived lack of want and years of temporal satiation.

It is as if someone has taken hold of both shoulders and shaken so hard that a revelation has actually, thankfully, finally been jared loose, knocking all falsehoods off balance. The ah ha moment of the very reality of Creation crushes down on the hardened ego of self and on the sheer act of survival– as joyfully selfless Love indeed trumps all…

…and so it is, the tiny wee particle, buried deep within, hears its long awaited missing half…a Voice speaking through the mist —
“You are indeed worthy…for you have always been mine…
There are plans…”

DSCN1466
Chapel window from Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)