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

going full on honey badger

“Honey Badger don’t care”
Randall

Honey Badger.

Two words, one animal.

Honey sounds all, well, nice and sweet.

Badger sounds somewhat cute but perhaps not so nice.

But put the two together and you really have a situation on your hands.

Whereas a honey badger resembles an Amercian badger or perhaps even a wolverine in
its build, think short, flat, stocky and low,
they are actually more akin to the weasel family.

Thick, compact and mean, as in a polecat, and you have a honey badger.

A honey badger is tenacious, determined, fearless and relentless.
Thick skinned and thick-skulled while highly intelligent.

They will not back down from a fight and most other animals…
think poisonous snakes, lions, hyenas, even Africanized bees don’t deter a honey badger
as no animal is too keen to have to deal with a honey badger.

A honey badger takes no crap.

So if you’ve ever watched an episode of the American Pickers on the History Channel,
you may have heard the chief picker himself, Mike Wolfe,
exclaim right before he dives into someone’s barn full of old junk,
that he’s going “full on honey badger.”

And you’d probably be correct in your assumption that that meant he wasn’t about to
let anything get in his way on his quest to find a treasure amongst the junk.

Also if you’re any sort of football fan, you may recall hearing of the former LSU player
and current Houston Texan’s Safety, Tyrann Mathieu, referred to by his nickname,
‘the honey badger.’
Meaning that the guy is a relentless type of player who can take a licking but keep on ticking.

I’ve watched a couple of clips on honey badgers and they do not let anything stop
them or get in their way, especially if it comes to a meal.

I doubt there is a meaner animal on the planet..well maybe the hippo but at least they
don’t look all that mean.
Honey badgers are the epitome of ill-tempered on a chronic bad day binge.

When your diet snacks consist of scorpions, it’s a safe bet you aren’t the sweetest
thing out there.

So if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that each June is the time to
pluck the blueberries.

Each year as the bushes grow, their output of berries grows…
it is becoming a scope and size sort of issue.
The sort of thing that is getting almost too much for one person.
That one person being me.

Last year I was coming off my role as caregiver for Dad, followed with picking up life’s
pieces following his subsequent death, time was limited for much of anything, let
alone picking fruit.

I almost let the season of picking get past me so I had to work like mad
to unburden the bushes or simply let the fruit rot on the bush.

The birds help, but they still leave plenty behind.

This year since I’ve been a caregiver of a different capacity…
more like a traveling babysitter,
I’m finding that once again, the bushes have almost gotten away from me.

I have learned that if you can start picking a little each day as the berries begin
to ripen, you’re way ahead of the game…
But if you let them ripen and keep ripening without picking nary
a berry, well you’ve got an overwhelming disaster on your hands.

And so it was this morning that I was determined to go take care of business…
or more aptly go take care of berries.

I plucked in the hot humid June sun for nearly 4 hours, loading up 3 large containers.

As fast as I kept picking the berries kept multiplying.
Odd how they can do that.

Yet I was determined and relentless in my quest.

I had to go full on honey badger in that I had to make my way up, under and into the
interior of the bushes.
I had to push my way past spider webs, past spiders, past wasps, past Japanese beetles,
past unsuspecting birds, past things with weird bodies and multiple legs, just to get
at some of the better, larger and plumper berries.

As I continued reaching, pushing, pulling, swatting and peeling a wary eye out for snakes…
did I mention that they’re telling us that this is the worst copperhead season in ages?
I got to thinking…is this not what the Father does for me,
what He does for each of us?

Does God not go full on honey badger for us?

Is He not tenacious, persistent and always fighting tooth and nail for us?
Never backing down, never afraid, never willing to give up, fighting literally unto death
for us…
us, the focus of His love and affection?!

That there is One who is so relentless just for me…
such a thought is, well, terribly humbling.
Who goes after me, or anyone for that matter, fighting tooth and nail while I’m
simply going after mere blueberries???

Perhaps it’s time to shift the focus a bit…going after the One
who is going after me…with an equal sense of tenacity and gusto…

It’s time for a full-on Honey Badger!!!

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

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good fruit, bad fruit

“Beautiful, enticing, forbidden fruit will be offered to you when your “hunger” is greatest.
If you are foolish enough to reach for it,
your fingers will sink into the rotten mush on the back side.
That’s the way sin operates in our lives. It promises everything.
It delivers nothing but disgust and heartache.”

James C. Dobson

It never seems to fail that at this time, each year, I offer up some thoughts
on the gathering of the harvest.

The notion of fruit and or vegetables–be they good or be they bad…

This as I muse over the idea of the labor of one’s hands as well as the required patience
and persistence of both watching and waiting for that labor to come to fruition.

And that’s because I am usually in the beginning stages of harvesting something
this same time of each and every year…

A few years back I posted a great deal about our vegetable garden.

From the tiling of the soil, to the planting of the seeds, to the nurturing of those
tiny first shoots, to the building of a scarecrow in order to keep pesky critters
from eating me out of house and home.


(our scarecrow 2014/ Julie Cook)

We had actually named the scarecrow Tom… after one of my husband’s lifelong friends.
They did favor just a tad.

There was even the tale of the cutting off of slivers of Irish Spring soap and scattering
said slivers around the outer edges, along the periphery of the garden,
as an “old timer” had told us it was an excellent critter deterrent.

Of which seemed to work…for a while.


(the soap and deterents from 2014 / Julie Cook)

But then my dad got sick and needed me.

And I couldn’t tend to Dad and a garden at the same time.
The garden was big and demanded a great deal of attention and time…two things
I had suddenly found myself without as the time and attention needed for Dad far
outweighed the time and attention needed by the corn and squash.

So the garden was abandoned.
Filled in and covered up about 4 years ago.

Yet happily, I still manage to find a few things in the yard of which I must
gather and harvest.

Be it those first deep purple blueberries fresh off the 4 ever growing blueberry bushes…
or those first blushing shades of color coming from the tomatoes I’ve managed to plant
in a few containers perched in the flower beds,
Or simply the monitoring of the growing apples…
I still find a deep sense of satisfaction when gathering and harvesting.

Those of you who have been with me for a while most likely recall that every year,
around this same time, we have trouble with our apple trees and the peach trees.

You may recall the tales of when the sun goes down in our neck of the woods
and we go off to bed, that there’s a magic signal which goes out to all the deer in the area…
a dinner bell so to speak, clanging in the night, for one and all to come and get it…
come on over to Julie’s house and nibble on her fruit trees.

And let’s not bring up my husband’s pecan orchard that he planted about 3 years back…
those 50 “trees” I lovingly refer to as our green Q-tips planted in long rows out in the yard…

Their plight has been equally perilous.

With our resident deer, it’s more of a mindset of eat, kill and destroy any
and all of Julie’s trees.

Their idea is not to merely eat the fruit but rather to eat all the leaves as well as
the entire tree, limbs and all.

And so it’s a bit of a chess match…
waiting ever so patiently to see who makes the first move—
me or the deer.

So as it was today, with the sun was shining and it being most pleasant out,
I went to inspect the remaining 3 out of the 4 apple trees.
Sadly the deer simply ate up the 4th tree.

That victimized apple tree, plus the nearby equally destroyed peach tree,
are what I refer to as the sacrificial trees…as in the hope is that by eating up two of
my trees…that will be enough—
leaving me with 6 out of the original 8.

And whereas I see plenty of signs of snapped limbs and a few unripened fruit spent
on the ground…blessedly, I also see trees full of goodness.


(a fallen apple without the opportunity to rippen is now food for the ants / Julie Cook / 2018)

And so as I go about my yearly task of surveying, harvesting,
and finally gathering what there is to gather,
I am reminded, once again, about the importance of being known by our fruits.

Good healthy fruit or bad, diseased, soured, unripened and spent fruit?

What do I have to offer to those who come with a need or to those who are in search of
something thoughtful, fulfilling and full of ripened Grace?

Well if the deer don’t get involved, then may it be an offering which is good, plentiful,
abundant and more than filling.

By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:16-20

seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

plucking time

“Today one may pluck out one’s very heart and not find it.”
― Franz Kafka


(the first of the season / Julie Cook / 2017)

Simplistic seasonal changes give way to the reaping of small harvests…
As the western world reels from another chaotic and senseless attack.

Caustic comedians are wallowing in sanctimonious apologies
while casting wide nets of blame blanketing the very ones they mock.
As a fallen candidate joins the fray with the same empty mantra…
“Not my fault….”

Madness and hatred are the offerings on tap
while unsuspecting berries ripen on the bush

There’s an old nemesis who seems to be enjoying renewed friction
while the media and press proclaim the sky is falling.
As the dividing line between right and left becomes impossible to bridge.

There’s something comforting in the mindless gathering of ripening fruit
Something seemingly mundane yet blessedly sane…
as the world spins wildly out of control….

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.
For it is better, if it is God’s will,
to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:13-17

burdens and berries

“Just as Christian came up to the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders,
fell from off his back, and began to tumble down the hill,
and so it continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre.
There it fell in, and I saw it no more!”

John Bunyan

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(ripe blueberries / Julie Cook / 2016)

There’s something otherworldly about losing oneself in the task of picking blueberries.
I suspect it may be found elsewhere…
probably while picking other such things…
or for some, found while engaging in those other, mostly mindless, rhythmic sorts of activities like ironing, digging, mowing grass…
however….
for me, it is found in reaching and bending under burgeoning spindly branches, dangerously drooping, under their heavy load…
as I labor to lighten their said load.

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I stood out in the sweltering afternoon heat today, thankful for the ever slight periodic breeze as I labored breathing under the oppressive humid blanket of stagnant air.
Words uttered earlier during this seemingly endless day, in what now seems to be a surreal glitch in time, came racing back to the forefront of thought as I strained to reach for the most ripened berries.

‘May we not allow our mere mortal thoughts and words to diminish the sheer magnitude of Heaven’
I ruminated over that sentence as it was uttered….
just as I do now, much later, while rummaging through the heavy ladened branches.

‘…And as we are in shock over the suddenness of this premature loss, God was and is fully aware, ready and very much waiting as nothing is sudden nor premature to Him.’
Again, another nugget of thought pushes its way to the surface of consciousness.

Such burdensome thoughts churned through my brain as I worked my way up and under a particularly heavy bush.

Filling my bowl with the black and blue jewel like orbs, my thoughts were full of the mysteries of both life and death and of the fact that there is both a burden to living as well as a burden in its guaranteed passage precipitated by death.

All of which plays out on a tiny stage within the seasons of these very bushes I now pick.
For there is a time of expectation and longing coupled with fruitfulness and waning…

Not only are we mere mortals weighted down by the burdens of life’s ebbs and flows…
those found within our immediate realm and arm’s reach…
but we must also bear up under the burdens found in the wider and greater world around us.

This as the thoughts of mass shootings,
the far reaching ramifications of tomorrow’s voting in Great Britain…
and of our own impending fall elections…
all of which now weighs heavily on each of us,
whether we care to admit it or not…

As believers we know all about this life and death paradox…yet such knowledge never makes any of it easier nor less difficult to bear.
As that is the pivotal key part of it all—
as in…
we bear it.
We bear our own burdens found in the living of life…the ups and downs, the highs and lows…
Just as we do, subsequently so, in the bearing of the reality of death.

Death is something that is impartial to both the religious and the non religious schools of thought.
It discriminates not.
Besides birth, it is the only other certainty for each living being.
It comes.
Ready or not, it comes.

Whereas there may be the exception in the expediting of death, there is, on the other hand, absolutely no avoidance…as it will come like it or not.

And whereas some deaths are seen as melancholy, while weighted by a bittersweet relief for those who have suffered…
it is, in turn, a burden to be bourn by those who remain behind—those left to carry on in life’s burden of picking up pieces and moving forward…
Albeit now with an unquenching loneliness coupled with a gaping wound within the heart.

Carrying on and moving forward is much more burdensome, much more of a hinderance and much more difficult than that of death itself.

The living are left with the burden, the heaviness, the weight, the strain, the aching and an endless sea of tears…

And today, amongst the blueberries, I am struck by the irony of this all as I realize in which lies the rub of life…that being the burden of carrying death.

Yet we are told and told again that “in a little while, we shall hurt, suffer and cry…no more…”
Death has indeed been beaten and overcome—and it is through the cross that that overcoming and victory is to be found.

Yet in our earthly bound and gravity ladened thoughts and limitations, weighted by the heaviness of our aching and longing hearts, we simply must carry on while shouldering those burdens…
the burden found in both living and the burden found in death…
that of our own and that of those we love…

All of this burden and weightiness as we are reminded that there are no surprises to the God Omnipotent…
For there is no burden, no sorrow, no pain too big, too great nor too much…
for it is in Him, and Him alone, that our burdens of both living and dying are truly lifted …

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Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything.
John 16:20-23

When blooms, butterflies, bees and bugs become blueberries…

God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works.
He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.

A. W. Tozer

“God has made all things that are in the world to be our teachers.”
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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Honey bees, wasps, hornets, ladybugs, Georgia Satyr Butterflies, Red spotted purple butterfly, Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Quince, blueberries