listening

“Listen with the ear of your heart.”
St. Benedict of Nursia


(a coyote listening for his prey / Cades Cove / Great Smokey Mt. National Park?
Julie Cook / 2015)

Be slow to anger, quick to learn, also slow to speak,
as St. James says, equally quick to listen.

St. Columban.J

voices

“Only after all the noise has spent itself do we begin to hear
in the silence of our hearts, the voice of God.”

A.W. Tozer


(Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2021)

A man’s soul is as full of voices as a forest;
there are ten thousand tongues there like all the tongues of the trees:
fancies, follies, memories, madnesses, mysterious fears, and more mysterious hopes.
All sanity in life consists in coming to the conclusion that some of those
voices have authority and others do not.

G. K. Chesterton
quoted in Dale Ahlquist’s book The Complete Thinker

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

finding home

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs
and returns home to find it.”

George Augustus Moore

“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave,
but not our hearts.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Maybe it’s just this time year…
You know the time…
The time of year when the shadows grow long as the sun dips below
the trees…
long before you’re ready for this uninvited guest known as darkness to come
calling.

All the while that sweet summer warmth is all but forgotten as the coming
winds have replaced such with an unforgiving chill.
A chill which finds its way through every tiny crevasse,
traveling fast and straight like an arrow piercing into bone.
Bones that now ache for any sort of comfort or relief from this
most unwelcomed guest.

Hot embers glow as spent ashes swirl while the movies
of a past, which now seems so long ago, play out like a silent film
rambling through one’s mind…
as everything now seems to simply take us back to when we were
who we use to be.

Time is all but replaced by an odd perspective…
a perspective that emerges rather surreally out the most melancholy of seasons.
That which was and that which has been, now comes to us like an old friend—
poignant, soothing, warming, embracing and oh so healing.

And thus we sit, watching the shadows lengthen as the sun fades–
afraid to face fears and battle past demons.
The universe seems to have silently collided into both past and present
sending us spiraling out of control.
All the while a most weary soul yearns and now aches…but what is that ache?
What is that—that which this soul so yearns for and most painfully seeks?

It is the yearning for home—

Home—the very place that no one ever told me you’d actually still be..
be there waiting…all these many many years.
Waiting for me.
Patiently waiting…waiting for me to come back…all in order that I
finally find my most restful rightful place…
Falling exhausted into arms that have longed to hold me…
falling back in that very space of love and peace and all that
this long awaited homecoming entails.

Thank you for welcoming me home…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

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

hidden treasures in the middle of nowhere

“That’s the place to get to—nowhere.
One wants to wander away from the world’s somewheres, into our own nowhere.”

D.H. Lawrence

“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.”
William Goldman, The Princess Bride


(all pics from the middle of nowhere west Ga / Julie Cook / 2021)

Yesterday, I wrote a post, while offering a picture that I had labeled  “in the middle
of nowhere Georgia…
Karla over on Flannel in Faith (https://flannelwithfaith.com)
commented that she loved my “middle of nowhere” caption for the
photo used in the post…of which started me thinking…

Thinking that yes, I often need to go to ‘nowhere’ in order to find myself.
So here are a few of the hidden treasures I found while losing myself in the
middle of nowhere while looking for where I needed to be…


(****all pics from the middle of nowhere west GA , Julie Cook / 2021)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

I trust in you

“In this life our lot is not to enjoy God,
but to do his holy will.”

St. Teresa of Avila


(in the middle of the woods in nowhere west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2021)

“I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls,
and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion.
Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners;
I desire their salvation.
When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on
behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion.
This is the prayer: ‘O Blood and Water,
which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us,
I trust in You.’ “

St. Faustina Kowalska, p. 186-7
An Excerpt From
Diary of St. Faustina

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

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