returning to you

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.”

St. Augustine


(fallen leaves of color /Julie Cook / 2021

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place
where you want to be.
And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward
does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn
and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back
soonest is the most progressive man.
There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed
and refusing to admit a mistake.
And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain
that humanity has been making some big mistake.
We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back.
Going back is the quickest way on.”

C.S. Lewis

proceeding from love

Since love completes all, makes all hard things soft,
and the difficult easy,
let us strive to make all our acts proceed from love.”

St. Arnold Janssen


(a small fallen maple leaf rests in the pickets / Julie Cook /2021

I absolutely love today’s opening quote…all because I like the very notion
that all things proceed from love.

As in…isn’t that what we are to be about…love?
And is that not because we, the created, were created out of Love…all because
The Creator loved us first…??

Love has been a recurring thought crossing my path as of late..
and to be quite honest, I am very grateful, thankful and most humbled.
I do not necessarily deserve the Love that continues to cross my
path…but what human does deserve such?
For were we not bought for a price?
A most costly price.

A price of unconditional Love.

I am grateful to be reminded that I am created because of love…
and that Love is not necessarily based on
human love, but more importantly it all spirals out from Spiritual love.

I’ve used this C.S. Lewis quote before…even most recently…
yet the quote keeps running across my path—
and as I don’t believe in coincidence but rather the urging of the Holy Spirit—
I feel compelled to repeat it:

Of love, C.S Lewis says it this way…

“There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken;
it will become
unbreakable,
impenetrable,
irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is…
Hell.”

I am more than willing to be vulnerable, wrung, exposed and yes broken
if it means that love will be a viable part of my existence.

All I know is that I never want to be outside of the confines of Love…
may all I do proceed from Love…

There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

Just around the bend—a pilgrimage

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless.
If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)…
Continue seeking Him with seriousness.
Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”

C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
Vincent van Gogh


(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

(I thought this was a good post to pull out of the archives from 2015
please enjoy)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives,
there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are
no clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers,
no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain is that there is a path with the choice
of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around—
heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward?
Continuing onward yet all the while feeling as if he or she
is blinded by the loss of direction?

It is as if this journeyman, nay pilgrim, is feeling his or her way
along in the dark— thinking that after every curve,
after every bend along the path…
surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be
something familiar or something offered as some sort of
informational directional compass…
that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this
particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed physically, mentally
and emotionally.

It is as if we are wandering lost within some massive forest with no end in sight.
There is no welcoming safe haven…there is no one who is to act as guide…
only those who wait hidden in the shadows hoping to inflict some sort of harm
as we journey onward.

Yet as all who journey, those who opt to take such journeys in life,
realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey
ever taken.
Every journey and every path is left to the chance and the whims
of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey?

How does one prepare when even the very path, the journey,
the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked,
definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice
to the one setting out on the trek?

What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies-in wait..
those unseen snares and traps, each vying to catch the innocent
trekker who is perhaps ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah… but there is indeed One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort,
direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely
and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

intertwined with affection

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid
and durable happiness there is in our lives.
C. S. Lewis


(Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2015)

“We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself.
Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions
they are linked together.
No one lives alone.
No one sins alone.
No one is saved alone.
The lives of others continually spill over into mine:
in what I think, say, and do, and achieve.
And conversely, my life spills over into that of others:
for better or for worse.
So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person,
something external, not even after death.”

Pope Benedict XVI
An Excerpt From
Pope Benedict XVI

such is our human love

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly
until He has hurt him deeply.”

A.W. Tozer


(a early morning sky in late October / Julie Cook / 2021)

Love.

A joyous yet difficult word…
but an even more difficult emotion…or it that feeling?

Love is uplifting as well as dejecting.
Warm yet equally cold.
Elusive yet beautiful.
Embracing while devilishly full of rejection.

Is it easy to love?
Easy to feel?
Easy to know?
Easy to hold?

Love, we know, offers security, protection and comfort
while also offering hurt, pain and misery…

So is love effortless?
Or is love futile?

Yet what of being loved?

Is receiving easier than offering?

Can we open ourselves to being vulnerable, fragile or perhaps
even foolish?

Will we feel worthy, deserving or capable?

Is our self image, self worth, self respect intact
enough to handle such a wild, yet calming gift given either so
freely or with much trepidation?

To love
To give
To offer
To receive
To accept
To grasp

Such is our human love…

“Love is not affectionate feeling,
but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far
as it can be obtained”

C. S. Lewis

the one difference between Heaven and Hell….only Love

“You have not chosen one another,
but I have chosen you for one another.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“There is no safe investment.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable,
irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

consequences of our choices (2014)

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended, will wreak its Vengeance on
Our SOULS.”

C.G Jung

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are
of such infinite importance.
The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you
never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger
today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which
the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis,

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Nelson Mandela


(one of my peaches / Julie Cook / 2014)

The third law of physics, as stated by Sir Isaac Newton,
proclaims that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I would say that this “law” is not only true for the physical actions in our lives,
but is equally true when it comes to our “mental actions”
better known as the choices we make in our lives—
For every choice made, there is a resulting consequence–be it good or bad.

Some of our choices not only bring ill effects to ourselves
but may have sweeping negative ramifications for others.
Therefore one may, in turn, conclude that our choices are accompanied
by grave responsibility.
Yet who really ponders the decision to change a lane while driving
as having potential grave consequence?
Who really ponders the decision of taking a flight for a business trip
as having possible lasting effects for our loved ones…
as our plane is blown from the sky?

I would imagine President Harry Truman understood the concept of
choices and consequences as he kept a small plaque on his desk
“The Buck Stops Here.”
Meaning the ultimate end of all decisions and choices regarding
the best interest of all the American people and that of those in
the free world, rested with him. It was ultimately President Truman’s
decision to go with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A choice to bomb or not to bomb—either way would have had consequences—
consequences effecting millions which would (and still) continue
reverberating far into our future.

Let’s look at this concept of choices and consequences within
the frame of a little scenario—

A man walks into a convenient store with a loaded gun pointed at the head
of the cashier, demanding all the money in the register.
Suddenly, for whatever reason, the robber chooses to pull the trigger.

Lives are immediately changed forever.

For the sake of our little story let’s say the cashier is killed.
The robber, now turned murderous gunman, runs.

In that single selfish instant, the cashier’s family is changed forever.
The gunman, let’s say, is eventually apprehended.

His family is forever changed.

There is lengthy legal haggling.
In and out before a judge and the Courts.

Suddenly a bunch of other people are now consumed with the
gunman’s selfish choice.
Years pass before there is a trial.
Now all of us as taxpayers are responsible for the
gunman’s upkeep.
More lives are effected.
Eventually the gunman is found guilty and is sentenced to death.

There are appeals.

Years continue to pass as he lives in prison on Death Row,
paid by taxpayers.
As other lives continue to be consumed with his own.
At some point, he turns to God.
He asks for forgiveness.
He is indeed forgiven.

God says to our gunman, “I forgive you and I love you,
but your actions have consequence in the life of your world as well
as in My World.
As I have forgiven you, you will now be welcomed Home,
but you must answer for your poor choices there in your world and
undergo the punishment given.
You must know that you will be with Me in and for Eternity
but you will have to first undergo the consequences of your actions.”

Depending on the courts, the state of the crime, and the lengthy appeals,
there will either be a sentence of death or life in prison.
Either way, the gunman clings to God’s Grace—
he accepts his earthly fate as a result of his initial choice of
walking in the convenient store, all those many years prior with
a gun in his hand, yet now instead of hate, greed, malice,
there is a Peace in his being as He knows he is now forever God’s child come home.
And there is a resolved acceptance to the punishment of his crime
as our gunman now knows that his punishment will not be a permanent ending.

Let’s say for the sake of our little scenario that our gunman
does not find God and does not seek forgiveness.
He chooses to live bitterly stewing over the one hiccup in his plan,
that he was caught.
If he had to do it over again, he’d make certain he was never caught.
There is no remorse—
just a seething internal hate and disdain for all creation.

Depending on your belief system, be that in a Heaven or Hell,
in a God of Grace and Justice or if you prefer to believe
in nothing at all–
either way, our gunman’s lack of remorse and choice of a selfish act
now sends him either to eternal damnation or into oblivion.
End of story.
And isn’t that all quite empty and sad?

It is obviously not always for us to see justice.
Which can be terribly frustrating as well as painfully maddening.
Imagine the hearts of the parents of children who’s young lives have
been savagely taken from their parents arms by malice or illness…
which must lead us all eventually to the Cross for some semblance
of direction—but that is for another post.
However, the one thing we must take from this little story of ours
is that we are to be mindful of our own choices.

For the one thing we can and do have some manner of control over
is indeed our choices.

And granted not all of our choices are going to be as drastic or extreme
as an armed gunman’s…as that is but a mere example.
But it is an example which sums up the ripple effect of poor and
selfish choices.
The tentacles stretch outward casting a wide net that often stretches out
through the ages.
One’s negative choices can effect children, grandchildren–
oftentimes altering the entire dynamics of a family for generations.

Many of us today continue to pick up the pieces of our parent’s
or grandparent’s poor choices which have impacted our own lives
in ways that leave us bitter and resentful.

May we then be the cycle breakers.
May we be blessed with the vision to see the unhealthy and negative web
which may be consuming our lives.
May we rest in the knowledge that the cycle can be broken,
which is after all, a mere matter of a choice.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts And said to you,
‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Isaiah 41:9

prayer

“There is nothing the devil fears so much,
or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.”

St. Philip Neri


(George, our local black racer /Julie Cook / 2021)

So this morning, at breakfast, we had all gathered around the table and our 3 year old
granddaughter,The Mayor, demanded she say the morning prayer.

She God blessed everyone at the table, thankfully remembering all at the table..
she has been known to leave out one gathered at the table…
as in an immediate part of her family…

And so after covering all her bases, she continued…”and God bless the snakes (she
has a real love / hate relationship with snakes…don’t we all??)
and she proceeded to God bless the alligators…
I heard a chortle from her father as I raised an eyebrow…alligators??
She does have an alligator toy.

So later, after everyone had left, I recalled the moment of our morning
prayer to my husband…
“reckon where the snakes and alligators came from???” I mused,
“I don’t know but I bet God rather appreciated that prayer because I doubt
many people God Bless those particular creatures of his….”

And naturally that got me thinking…
Thinking about who and what it is that we pray for and pray over…

Our granddaughter was very sincere in her prayer for these particular critters.
And I’m certain God did appreciate it…

Snakes and alligators are not the first on the list of most folks prayers.
Personally I have an extreme aversion to those things that want to kill or eat me!

And so that got me thinking…
maybe that’s the point…
maybe we need to be praying for those things that are not exactly on the top
ten list of what we think we should be remembering–maybe, just maybe, we need
to pray for that which is not popular, warm, fuzzy or cute…praying for
that which is not always inviting or desirable…maybe…just maybe
that’s the point.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

C.S. Lewis

the various degrees of a world…safer or less safe…

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing.
It was here first.”

Mark Twain


(historyhit.com

You see this picture of Winston Churchill?

You can clearly see the Prime Mister, along with several commanding officers,
surveying some of the British troops.

Off to the far right of the photograph walks Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery,
the senior serving officer to the British army during WWII.
General Montgomery was crucial to the success of Allied forces
defeating Hitler and his mindless Nazi murder machine.

And here we see another picture…


(AP photo 1959)

It’s an actual photograph the was used by the AP Press and taken
the year I was born, 1959.

I’m fortunate to have several actual photographs of Churchill that were used
in both magazines and newspapers throughout his life.

I think they call these first edition or simply original photographs with documentation.

The picture I have was taken 19 years following the initial
photograph from 1940.

In the first photo, we see two leaders, along with their troops,
as they were all preparing to embark on a world war that would
determine the course of Western Civilization’s democracy.

An embarkation for the betterment of the free world.

The second picture shows two older, yet no less formidable,
men greeting one another before attending a meeting of Parliament regarding
the Suez Debate.

19 years had passed and they and their input were still considered viable
and even necessary.

Both of these men were from what we consider a first world country.
81 years ago they were preparing to do battle against men also from
first world countries. As well as second and even third world countries.

Today we hear a great deal about a first world and her “problems”—
spoiled problems really.

Problems that consist more of want rather than need.

Problems about such things as to where we might wish to go out to eat?
“What do you mean the movie I wanted to see is sold out?”
“Why can’t I get my new appliances in when promised?…
You know the current ones I have are outdated!”
“Why can’t the dentist get me in this afternoon vs tomorrow?”

On the flip side, third would problems are based primarily on a basic need
of survival—
it is not so much based upon wants and whims but rather upon survival needs.

“We need to find clean drinking water.”
“The drought has destroyed our family’s only source of food.”
“We must walk 25 miles in order to find a doctor in the neighboring
town to help the baby get well.”

On my end, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about first world problems.

“A mother laments that her daughter can’t find a dress in her correct size
for the homecoming dance—
there seems to be a production and material shortage.”

“This house we’re building is taking much longer than we anticipated
because our builder can’t get the lumber.”

“I really wanted that new couch for the den but it would blow the budget.”

These are problems more of want and convenience rather than that
of need and survival.

So I got to thinking…

We know there are first world problems, if you can call them problems–
and we know there are third world problems—problems about basic needs…
shelter, protection, medicine, food, water…

But…wait…what of second world problems??
Is there even such a thing as a second world?

After a little investigating, I discovered that there is indeed a
category of a 2nd world…but we never really hear about it do we?

According to Investopedia.com

What is Second World?
The outdated term “second world” included countries that were
once controlled by the Soviet Union.
Second world countries were centrally planned economies and one-party states.
Notably, the use of the term “second world”
to refer to Soviet countries largely fell out of use in the early 1990s,
shortly after the end of the Cold War.

But the term second world has also been used to cover countries
that are more stable and more developed than offensive term
“third-world” countries but less-stable and less-developed
than first world countries.
Examples of second-world countries by this definition
include almost all of Latin and South America, Turkey, Thailand, South Africa,
and many others.
Investors sometimes refer to second world countries that appear to be
headed toward first world status as “emerging markets” instead.

By the first definition, some examples of second world countries
include: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania,
Russia, and China, among others.

With regard to the second definition, according to geo-strategist
and London School of Economics doctorate Parag Khanna,
approximately 100 countries exist that are neither first world (OECD)
nor third world (least-developed, or LDC) countries.
Khanna emphasizes that within the same country there can be a
coexistence of first and second; second and third;
or first and third world characteristics.[1]
A country’s major metropolitan areas may exhibit first world characteristics,
for example, while its rural areas exhibit third-world characteristics.
China displays extraordinary wealth in Beijing and Shanghai,
yet many of its non-urban regions are still deemed developing.

So I find it interesting that nations such as China and Russia, our
long hard fraught archnemeses, our adversaries, can be first,
second and even third worlds all within one…
whereas here in the US, Canada and much of Europe,
we consider ourselves first world.

Perhaps we should consider the land mass of each of these countries.
In Russia there are 11 different time zones compared to our 6..
yet oddly France claims 13 given their country proper along
with their sovereign lands.

It is an odd conundrum.
Land mass equating to first, second and third worlds.

So whereas there were once men who were determined to defend and protect
the freedoms of not only their first worlds but that of all worlds…
A globe where the chance for freedom for all worlds, no matter their “status”,
could be attainable.

Yet sadly we find very few who are now willing to defend and protect
those very freedoms…freedoms for all of our worlds…
freedoms that men, only 80 years ago and less, were readily willing to die for.

It appears that the agenda of both democracy and the freedom has gravely shifted.

So—let’s ask some of our older citizens or those now citizens who have immigrated
from the 2nd and 3rd world nations…
Are we more free, safer and secure under our current leadership than we were
80 yers ago?

I think I know the answer…

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;
rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Galatians 5:13

how will you carry out God’s purpose

“For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act,
but it makes a difference to you whether you serve
like Judas or like John.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


(nature’s little sunbrellas / Julie Cook / 2021)

By accepting the sufferings ‘offered’ by life and allowed by God for our progress
and purification, we spare ourselves much harder ones.
We need to develop this kind of realism and, once and for all,
stop dreaming of a life without suffering or conflict.
That is the life of heaven, not earth.
We must take up our cross and follow Christ courageously every day;
the bitterness of that cross will sooner or later be transformed into sweetness.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 49
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom