beloved seeking beloved

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God,
his beloved is seeking him much more.”

— St. John of the Cross


(just some of the blueberries picked the other day / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day I shared a tale about a lesson gleaned from within a blueberry bush.

I spoke of going full on honey badger after the abundance of plump berries.

An expression which means going after whatever it is one is going after with an exuberant
and high velocity of gusto and tenacity.

I likened such a fierce hyperfocus over the act of berry picking,
as small as it is in comparison,
to how God is to be viewed in His quest for and over us…
That He will go full on honey badger for the object of His affection.

A simplistic comparison but an earthly one that is readily understood in its
scope and depth.
A no backing down, no relenting, no walking away sort of approach to attaining the
quest.

And so yesterday morning, when reading the daily offering, the words of St. John of the Cross,
words echoing that same sentiment, I clearly began to see a trend of thought.

So since we’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence…
only the Holy Spirit…
we know that this “thought” is being revealed for a reason…
A reminder, timely that it is, that we are being sought to such a depth of desire that it
far surpasses our own comprehension of what intent and reason actually mean.

If we seek our earthly desires with such a tunneled visioned steely wanting and precision…
what then of God for us?

So here is a reminder, an offering in the need in knowing, that God will not nor has not,
abandoned us…
A reminder from past to present that God remains steadfast in His pursuit
of both you and me.

A pursuit that has been gravely costly to Him but a pursuit that has never lost its momentum
nor waned nor diminished.

If we stop, just stop doing what it is we are doing, allowing our minds to grasp the very thought
of such a driven quest for such a desire…it is more than we can digest or phantom…
to grasp that we are the end focus of such a quest, such a goal…that we are
the end of His desire, His wants…

If we allow ourselves to ponder and ruminate over such a thought we find that such knowledge
is so very necessary and even crucial in this day and time of ours…

Yes there is a beloved…
and He his seeking His beloved…

and that beloved is both you and me…

amazing really…

“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude.
For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence.
Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude.
For God has this beatitude by His very nature,
whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 119
An Excerpt from
Aquinas’s Shorter Summa

Catching the scent

“In the aftermath of Gethsemane, we catch the fragrance of Eden”
Alister E. McGrath
excerpt from In Light of Victory

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(the beginning of the hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2016)

Not all things that bloom have a scent…
And some blooming plants and flowers actually have a repugnant smell.

Yet I think we may safely surmise that Eden, the birth place of all gardens, had what can only be imagined to be the most heavenly of scents.
An endless cascading array of flowers and blooms, given by the Creator to the created…
All to be savored and enjoyed…
Just as a Lover would shower his beloved with abundant bouquets of beautiful flowers…
equal only to the beauty of the one who holds his affections…so God bestowed upon man…

Yet the story does not end with the gift of the fragrant bouquet…

“Jesus was betrayed within the garden of Gethsemane, in order to undo the disobedience of human nature within the garden of Eden.
Alister E. McGrath
In Light of Victory

How appropriate that as it was a garden, which was the scene of the greatest blow to humankind, should in turn be the scene to the beginning of the greatest act of Love ever extended to humankind.

And so…
He comes once again…
bringing you the fragrant scent of the saving grace of Love Divine…

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing

2 Corinthians 2:15

The distance

“Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love!
But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says,
“Be,”
lovingly adjoins,
“Be something even in opposition to me”
Marvelous love, even his omnipotence is under the sway of love!”

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

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(the details of a hibiscus / Julie Cook / 2016)

“Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest…”

We so often speak of God as in the Heaven, somewhere up and above…
or that He is in the very air we breathe…as in all around us.
Yet we know, all too painfully well, that there is a divide, a division…
For He is there…wherever there may be…
and we are here…as in this present state of living and being.

The fellowship, the union, is in a constant state of flux…
With sin creating the friction that keeps the reunion from being complete.

“It [being love] is as great as the distance to be crossed.”

That fateful day in the garden,
the day that both man and woman chose to disconnect,
severing the binding tie,
a chasm deep and wide was torn across the dimensions of both space and time…

We created the difference and the distance between here and there.
And try as we must, there has been nor will there be a rejoining…not in this realm… now yet.

“So that the love may be as great as possible, the distance is as great as possible.”

That was to be our fate until the day complete Love could no longer bare to be torn from the beloved.
The cost, as great as it was, had to be paid…

“That is why evil can extend to the extreme limit beyond which the very possibly of good disappears. Evil is permitted to touch this limit.
It sometimes seems as though it overpassed it.”

Prisoner of sin…
Shrouded by a penetrating evil,
A sacrifice had to be offered…
Love sought the beloved with all that it had to offer.
A cross bridged the distance
And Love was reunited with its own…

(bold quotes by Simone Weil / excerpted from “The Distance”

But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord.
“My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you,
and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips,
on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—
from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 59:2 / 9 / 21

the honored created

“For reasons known only to Himself, God honored man above all other beings by creating him in His own image.”
A.W.Tozer

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

Imagine that—having been loved and wanted so deeply, so intensely, that the God of all of creation willed our, as in yours and mine, very being.
The making, the creating, the birthing of man

And yet sadly, it all broke His heart.
We, as in you and I, broke His heart.

Oh there are those who would argue that if He was a god, and or real for that matter, then He would have, should have known better…He should have known, would have known, that “his creation” would fall short, screw up, disobey, go in the wrong direction, and multiply without ceasing…
so therefore…
He should have stopped it all…
He should have turned it all around…made it all good…fixed it all…stopped it all…rewrote it all…
but…
Love doesn’t do that.
Love stands back, waiting in the wings…for it is not controlling, dictating, ruling…

“Man is a created being, a derived and contingent self, who of himself possesses nothing but is dependent each moment for his existence upon the One who created him after His own likeness. The fact of God is necessary to the fact man. Think God away and man has no ground of existence”

Dependent.
A word and concept we have always looked upon as a negative, a weakness an undesirable characteristic.
Babies and children are dependent, not grownup adults.
For it is our goal, from the moment we begin to crawl then walk, to become independent.
We vie to live a life of independence…
freedom to make our own way, our own choices…
the determining of our own destiny, charting our own course…
setting our own comings and our own goings….
We rue the day we have to give up our independence due to accidents, illness, age…

And yet our very being is just that, dependent upon the very being of God the Creator.
Left to our own devices, well, we’ve see how that has worked out down through the ages…

Imagine…
primordial goo slinks out of the waters, crawls ashore and eventually evolves into the human being you see today walking down the sidewalk.
Without God, what of it?
Who cares that something a million years ago slunk up out of the swamps and became a human being.
What’s the purpose?
What’s the point?
There is no point…
And along with that… all that is…is, in turn, equally pointless.

And yet it does matter,
it all matters,
because God matters,
and therefore…
we matter because of God.
It is a continuum…
our continuum

And so here we are this late December…waiting, watching, expecting…
We wait, once again, not for the emergence of primordial goo, but rather for a birth…
and not just any birth…
This is the birth of the created image of the Godhead and man…
The dependent existence of One to the other, of the other to the One.
Because Love seeks that which It loves.
The Lover seeks the beloved…
and the beloved longs for the Lover..
The Lover of Life and of all that was, all that is and all that will be..
So yes, Come Lord Jesus, come….

Which obstacle to tackle first?

“For our path in life…is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and crush them!”
― Charles Dickens

“For the person who has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”
― Meister Eckhart

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(sticker bushes, barbed wire and a bull / Julie Cook / 2015)

The brambles
The barbed wire fence
The bull. . .

Three daunting obstacles. . .
One more focused than the other
Each one more formidable than the one before it.
Yet. . .I suppose it really doesn’t matter does it. . .
You’ve simply got to push through it all—regardless.
One
Two
Fifty. . .
An obstacle is an obstacle. . .it matters not the number.
The only question remaining, do you tackle all three at once or one at a time?

Do you race through the first foe, then immediately on to the second, all willy nilly as you continue racing onward to the final hurdle, practically falling on your face in order to get there?
And by the time you do reach that final obstacle, you’re all busied and bloody. . .wounded and winded, you’re really no match for that final foe now are you?

Slowly
Deliberately
Thoughtfully

First and foremost you must exercise a little restraint and caution as you make your way ever so carefully and delicately, picking your way through the lethal stickers.
Gingerly step up, over, around, gently pulling and pushing. . .slowly as not to become entangled.. you must call upon finesse.

Once past the stickers. . .
You must climb.
Lifting one leg up, being careful where and what you grab hold of. . .being very thoughtful where you place your other foot.
Balancing oh so carefully, as you push and pull yourself up and over making certain you clear the barbs. . . applying both skill and great concentration as you traverse this unsteady hurdle.

Eventually, in one piece, you feel somewhat triumphant as you now stand on solid ground on the opposite side, past the first set of troubling obstacles.
Yet
here
You finally come face to face with your greatest obstacle of them all.

A herculean giant to battle
A massive stone wall to scale
A seething ocean to cross
A terrible foe to defeat

The odds seem stacked against you.
You are tired and frustrated, battered and bruised,
as you’ve already journeyed so far and through so much just to reach this point. . .
this single point of now or never.

Exhausted and fearing defeat. . .
Part of you screams “give up!!
Yet the other half screams fight on!!!

You stare your enemy in the eye
Resolute
Determined
Relentless

As it all now seems to come slowly into focus
And that’s when you hear, from some cavernous place within your head, a tiny voice that grows stronger with each beat of your heart. . .
“Beloved, be not afraid”

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When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Beloved, my love

“Beloved, all that is harsh and difficult I want for myself, and all that is gentle and sweet for thee”
St. John of the Cross

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(premature blooms of the quicne / Julie Cook / 2015

The haunting words of St John of the Cross. . . isn’t that what really real true love is all about—the “lover” desiring to take all of the bad, the harsh, the difficult, the negative, the painful, if only that would and could guarantee that the beloved would receive only that which is good, the best?

Sacrifice of self for the beloved. . .

The majority of us fist experience such love from our parents and grandparents.
Sacrifices are made, struggles endured, burdens taken on. . . all in the name of love, care,
betterment and wellbeing of the child.

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.

(Song of Solomon 4:7)

A few years later we find a similar love in friends. . .yet friends don’t always seem to live up to the original parent’s efforts.

Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.

(Psalm 41:9)

Then a bit later, we find a similar love when we discover our “first love”—of which falls waaaay short of the parent’s original efforts.

She weeps bitterly in the night And her tears are on her cheeks; She has none to comfort her Among all her lovers All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; They have become her enemies
(Lamentations 1:2)

All anyone has to do is to ask any teenager who, as they roll their eyes, often riles against that very first love of the parents as said teen perceives such “love” to be nothing more than smothering, confining and suffocating. It takes many years and heartaches to figure out that the parents original love was actually pretty amazing. . .

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
(Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

Whoa maybe that example is more intense then what we’re going for. . .

However– much later we find something we think is the closet to the original love, as demonstrated by parents, when we find “the one” who hopefully exceeds the parent’s efforts as well as any and all efforts ever known before. . .

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorn

(Song of Solomon 8:6-9)

Yet sadly for reasons often beyond our control, that enduring love found in “the one” is not always the lasting and enduring love we imagined it to be. . .

There is a time to weep, to mourn, to die, to scatter stones, a time to throw away, a time to refrain from embracing (various portions of Ecclesiastes 3). . .

You get the point.

However in the end, when all earthly loves and lovers disappoint, hurt, vanish, depart, betray, fall short, die, fade away. . .there is but one who will always be consistent and constant. One who will never leave, no matter even if we decide to send Him away. . .

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

(Jeremiah 3)

“Beloved I have loved you before you were formed. I have loved you before the day you were born. I have loved you when you have not loved yourself. I have loved you when you were too busy for me and my love. I have loved you when you were heartbroken—always there, waiting. . .waiting to take you into my arms. . .to hold you, to embrace you, to dry your tears, to whisper to you once again. . .I am here my beloved, forever and always, never leaving you alone. . .for you and you alone my beloved are my most tender desire. . .I love you now and I will love you for eternity. . .
Happy Valentine’s Day my beloved. . .

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(tiny portion of a larger piece /watercolor/ Julie Cook / 2010)

contentment

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

― Lao Tzu

“Satiety depends not at all on how much we eat, but on how we eat. It’s the same with happiness, the very same…happiness doesn’t depend on how many external blessings we have snatched from life. It depends only on our attitude toward them. There’s a saying about it in the Taoist ethic: ‘Whoever is capable of contentment will always be satisfied.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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(Percy and Peaches enjoying life / Julie Cook / 2014-14)

Where is
your comfort
your peace
your happy place. . .

“Come to me my beloved. . .
My outstretched arms are longing waiting, aching, hoping to embrace you. . .
to hold you, to comfort you, to protect you, to warm you. . .
In my arms you may let go. . .
You may let go of all your worries, your excess, your burdens.
I want you to fall freely into my arms where you can finally exhale and rest. . .
Where you may finally find peace, warmth and contentment. . .
I am here my beloved, waiting. . .
Waiting for when you are ready. . .
Ready to let go of those things which separate us, which separate both you and I, keeping us apart. . .I am here, waiting, to offer you my warmth, my heart, my love. . .”