when berries ferment, the squirrels, along with everything else, get brazen…

In this world of ours, every believer must be a spark of light,
a center of love, a vivifying ferment for the mass;
and it will be that all the more as, in the depths of his being,
he lives in communion with God.

Pope John XXIII


(Julie Cook / 2018)

This is what happens when both time and berry picking get out of hand…
One of the two starts to ferment…and everything seems to simply…
well, go to hell in a handbasket from there…

And it’s all because the alcohol starts flowing…

Frist the squirrels become brazen…

They stealthily emerge from the security of the woods and boldly skirt across the
large, very open, expanse of yard.

“Hawks be damned” is their day’s battle cry…as they raise their tiny glasses…
all because the bubbly is starting to flow…

Yet the mockingbird, king bird of the yard, is none too keen to share
his private stash of hooch…

Notice very carefully in the lower left of the bush and you’ll see the hidden usurper.
The culprit in which the mockingbird is loudly raising havoc over.

Too bad I didn’t video this melee allowing you to both hear and see the ruckus and the clamoring
taking place between the squawking bird and the barking squirrel…
one protecting while the other usurping…

Now throw in both cats who are merely, and might I add intensely curious, bystanders…
wondering why they have been excluded from this soiree.

But wait…
Is that a rabbit now making tracks across the wide open and dangerous field??
And is his tiny glass empty as well…

Too much of a good thing is really never a good thing…

strictly for the birds…as in, literally

“It takes a purely human courage to renounce the whole temporal realm in order to gain eternity,
but this I do gain and in all eternity can never renounce—it is a self-contradiction.
But it takes a paradoxical and humble courage to grasp the whole temporal realm now by
virtue of the absurd, and this is the courage of faith.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(the spent berries shriveling on the vine / Julie Cook / 2018)

Strictly for the birds…an American idiom coined just following WWII meaning worthless or something not really worth bothering with…

As in the blueberries…
they need to be literally left to the birds!

Both life and time have gotten the better of me so when I walked out this morning in
an attempt to unburden the blueberry bushes I was met with what Bourbon Street smells
like the morning following a Sugar Bowl game for the National title.

There’s that cloyingly and sickly sweet, very overpowering scent of fermentation…
as in the berries are simply overripened and now fermenting…
fermenting on the ground, on the bush…you name it, they’re fermenting…


(fermenting berries rotting on the ground / Julie Cook / 2018)

Those that are overly ripe have simply fallen to the ground which is now covered with
all manner of crawling, biting, stinging things searching for their share of a sweet
rotting juicy treat.

The birds are actually landing in the bushes, with me right there in plain sight, as they
are now so drunk from having gorged on fermented berries that they give me a no never mind.
I merely duck.

Me who is just trying to find the remaining salvageable berries.

Those berries that are not bursting at my mere touch due to being so swollen from the
copious amount of rain as of late have left me smelling like I’ve been on a three day
drunk.

The other berries are simply so small and hard that they are not worth the trouble since
they will never truly ripen.

The mercury was sitting right at 90 with the humidity being nearly the same…
And it was still well before the noonday hour.

I got what I could, overwhelmed by the rest so I simply threw my hands in the air and said
out loud for no one in particular…let them just go to the birds!!!

Much in the same way that I want to say to all those working ever so fast and furious at
creating our current state of hysteria…hysteria that is coming out of our oh so
post-Christian, uber progressive, rabid dog culture.

A couple of troubling things…

The first is obviously the recent fact that a person went into a restaurant to eat…
and because of who her boss just so happened to be, was asked to leave.

She didn’t go to push an agenda, she wasn’t on the clock, she wasn’t “representing” as so
many these days like to say…
She was just trying to enjoy a meal at a place I’m sure she has either visited before
and liked or was with someone who had previously eaten there and recommended it.

And so she left…along with those in her group.

They offered to pay for what they had ordered but were told that would not be necessary.

The owner claims that several on her staff are gay and that was why they wanted her to leave
because her boss made them feel uncomfortable and, I’m assuming, they, in turn, felt hostile
toward her simply for simply being associated with him.

Not that any of them actually even knew her or him…they’ve just assumed the worst.

And let’s remember, this gal’s boss wasn’t even there…
it was just a gal with a group of family and friends who wanted to eat
and enjoy, what I’m thinking, would have been a good meal.

That’s a troubling storm cloud upon our horizon.

As is the one big argument as to why it was ok to boot this lady out…

Many folks are comparing this incident to the bakery who, due to religious convictions,
declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Of which blew up into a nasty lawsuit which became the shot heard around the nation…
It was a lawsuit that, in the end, graciously went in the favor of the bakers.
Yay for being able to still have religious conviction in the good old US of A.

The gay couple had actually gone way out of their way to use this particular baker.
They knew upfront how things would most likely turn out when they actually could have
used many other nearby bakeries they would most likely have been more than willing
to accommodate their wishes.

The owner of the bakery is a Christian who views same-sex marriages as an affront to
a sacred God-ordained union.
I happen to agree, but I am digressing.

That incident was based on a religious conviction.

Getting booted from a restaurant because of one’s boss, well that is troubling in
a completely different direction which has nothing to do with one’s
religious convictions.

Next, there was a troubling mention made in yesterday’s post with the link to one of
David Robertson’s, aka The Wee Flea’s, post.

David was writing a post refuting a recently published book and now book tour, by a gay
Christian artist, Vicky Breeching.

In a nutshell, David tells us that Vicky’s book is about her coming out as openly gay
and how she is claiming to be actually a victim of the Christian Chruch…
so now her’s is a push for what is being dubbed as Gay Christianity.

So obviously gone now are the days of sinfulness or of upholding God’s word and tenants to man.
Because of all those sorts of things are now considered to be some sort of bullying
which produces a sense of victimization.

Yep, you read correctly…living life opposed to God’s commands is liberating because
living under those commands is to live a bullied life resulting in victimization.

Who makes this kind of thinking up???…really, I want to know….because I want
to avoid them at all costs.

A person in the UK had ticked the like button on David’s post and someway or other that simple
the action of “liking” David’s post put this person on a watchdog Governmental list…a list
of those who are being labeled as “homophobic” which, if I am not mistaken,
is now considered a hate crime in the UK.

So to disagree with homosexuality, believing that such a lifestyle runs counter to God’s word,
is to be homophobic and guilty of a hate crime.

This person wrote a comment to David explaining this sudden odd plight over merely
liking David’s post.

Let that sink in a minute.

You are a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim for that matter, who believes that because
of your religious convictions,
you believe homosexuality goes against the word of God and is perceived
as a sin…. and so now you are labeled homophobic and are guilty of a hate crime.

I would laugh but the fact of the matter is that that is pretty darn frightening.

This lunacy has got to stop!
Because it is absolutely ridiculous.
As in…. it is all strictly for the birds…

Yet the question remains….when and how…when and how will all of this madness end?

And those two questions are what should have each of us troubled…

But we know that in the end, come what may, we of Fatih know…
we know that yes these earthly battles will rage,
yet blessedly the Victory has already been secured.

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

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