when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

all roads…do not lead to Heaven

I want to be a more serious-minded Christian, more detached from this world,
more ready for heaven than I have ever been in my whole life.
I want an ear that is sharp to know the voice of the enemy,
whether it comes from religion, politics, or philosophy…
I would rather stand and have everybody my enemy than to go along with the
crowd to destruction.
Do you feel that way?

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(massive trees fall across a dirt road / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2017)

About a month back, following Hurricane Irma, this is what my husband and I found
on a piece of property located in the western Georgia area.

It’s a piece of property he’s enjoyed and maintained for the past 30 years for hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.

Nearly 400 acres of woods and former pasture land with a criss crossing maze of
trails and dirt roads…
Irma saw to it that one of the main roads to the backside of the property should be
blocked by downed trees.

The trees fell across the road from the adjoining neighbor’s land.

Removing the massive oaks would require some major equipment of which we didn’t have,
so the only option was to cut a new road.

Where I saw an impossible passage, my husband saw a brand new opening…
but one that was not readily available.

A new passage that would require some time and hard work on our parts….
Not to mention destroying a large yellow jacket’s nest underneath a massive rock
as well as battling ticks, mosquitoes and watching carefully for snakes.

Yet it was all part and parcel of a massive undertaking if we wanted to
reach the other side.

It took the two of us the better part of the day to first clear a path using
clopping shears, and a chainsaw…
eventually allowing for the tractor and bush hog to make a clear path.

I was reminded of this recent road cutting adventure yesterday after reading
the words offered by a dear friend from Ireland…

A wise friend who admonished me…warning me to be wary of words now being offered
in the name of God…
As in not all words that are currently being claimed by some seemingly knowledgeable individuals are words, as given in scripture, being that of God’s…
Words that are not God’s word to man….but are rather words man is taking as God’s
and twisting them to his own.

He reminded me that the world has a new gospel…
and with its new gospel the world has decreed that any and all roads will lead
to Heaven..it matters not.

My friend noted that it would behoove me, as it would behoove all the faithful,
to see and to understand that the world is now claiming its gospel path as
the road of inclusion…which is a very dangerous gospel at that…”

He encouraged me to trust no one with God’s word.
For the amount of false teachers is growing at such a fast and alarming rate with
this current new notion of the gospel of inclusion…
such that scripture and prayer are to be our only true guide…

Because these false teachers are each readily claiming that any and all roads lead to God..which is a very dangerous gospel thought.

As I am reminded that Jesus, not man, clearly taught us to…
“Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
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.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:13-22

Flown the coop

“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery”
Anne Frank

Amazement awaits us at every corner.
James Broughton

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(the house wren’s empty nest on the tractor, under the tarp / Julie Cook / 2016)

Amazing…
on so many different levels…
simply amazing…

Let’s take a small diversion from the current reign of havoc, or is that rain of havoc, or merely both….anywhooo….

Away from the havoc which has been beset upon us in these most recent of days..diverting ourselves away in which to wander…

Wandering away ever so slightly from that which is directly in front of our eyes…to that which is somewhat removed…
Blessedly and amazingly removed.

Yet, we must take note, it is to be no less, simply amazing.

And maybe since it is somewhat removed, tucked away and elusive in nature…
it is all of that, and so much more, which adds to the sheer amazingness of it all…

Let us now wander away to the world of the amazing…

On Sunday, 3 days ago, this empty jumble of leaves, with the giant hollowed out hole in the middle, was a dizzying beehive of activity.

RSCN3121

The stakes were high.
For there were five hungry mouthes which had to be fed.
We were all made keenly aware of this one important fact.
Life was suddenly all a flutter, literally.

Squawking and screeching two very busy parents hunted, pecked, chirped, sung, guarded, protected and fiercely chased away any friend or foe from the home of their 5 tiny offspring.

Not only had they labored to construct, dare we say craft, this amazing conglomeration of sticks,
leaves, feathers and fuzz…
they had selected a most safe, protected and hidden site in which to set up house.

Birds are amazing that way.

They worked tirelessly almost undetected…all but for the presence of a busy bee bird who could be seen darting, scurrying ad flitting here and there.
Eggs were silently laid and kept warm…unbeknownst to the unsuspecting nearby humans.

Yet all of that changed at hatching time.

Nonstop, two parents labored in order to gather enough food to raise up their alienesque brood.
Five oversized beaks flapped open, as 10 bulbous closed orbs protruding from wobbly heads,
continued to develop.

There would be silence…then as soon as a parent neared,
the inharmonic din of chatter began.
It was as if the sound translated into a clamoring repetitiveness of
“feed me, feed me, feed me…feed us… NOW”)

Then this past Sunday the nervous frenzy reached a crescendo.
As the tiny aliens mysteriously sprouted feathers as heads began to match bodies as wings took shape.
The parents were now worked into a fevered pitch as babies, turned fledglings, were soon to spread their wings. Mom and Dad were keen to create a safe zone, free of humans, cats and others
as their children would need some room to roam…safe yet free.

And just like that, it is…..now over.

“Did they fly away??” you pensively ask.

Well… I truthfully can’t say.

It’s as if one day they were there and the next day they just weren’t…

We’re they ready?

I’d like to think so.

As birds and their Divine Creator are each amazing that way….

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3:17

Skill, Intuition, or just plain ol luck

“In sandy soil, when deep you delve, you reach the springs below; The more you learn, the freer streams of wisdom flow.”
Thiruvalluvar

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(your’s truly with the luck of the cast / Wedowee, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Those with skill. . .
Who have spent their years immersed deeply in laborious study and arduous practice, . .
Those who have invested time and energy while honing their patience amongst the coy sirens of empty promises. . .
Are they then more likely to glean the prize before all others. . .

Those with intuition. . .
Those more mystical seekers who are gifted with the intrinsic sense of time and placement. . .
Those who just “know” where and when, how and why.
Those whose vision of the quest comes naturally. . .
Those who just know the hows, the wheres, the whys by the given gift of the 6th sense are they more apt to zero in on prize before all others. . .

Those with luck. . .
Those unsuspecting naive souls who just happen upon the right place at the right time. . .
Those who have invested neither time nor blood nor sweat. . .
Those who merely show up, stepping into the elusive prize without ever realizing the pure dumb luck of it all. . .are they then worthy of the prize. . .

Then suddenly, as if out of the blue, while catching everyone by dumbstruck surprise, enters Hope. . .

Those with Hope. . .
Those with Hope know that regardless of skill, intuition or luck their’s is the one true constant.
Despite the hardships and the emptiness of the those that got away, the better luck next time, the day in and day out of coming up empty handed, the sting of defeat and loss. . .
The Hopeful know that regardless of the negative, theirs is the positive.
The Hopeful do not know defeat.
The Hopeful face every challenge, win or lose
They realize and openly admit that they may lose a battle, perhaps a string of battles. . .
They accept that they may not be the most skilled or the one filled with the depths of intuition. . . yet the Hopeful rest in the knowledge, not of luck nor chance, but rather in the knowledge that the war has long since been won and that they have indeed followed the only true Victor to the one true prize Eternal. . .

For in this hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:24-26

Make hay while the sun shines

Sweat cleanses from the inside.
It comes from places a shower will never reach.

George Sheehan

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

― Francis of Assisi

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(my grandmother’s old pitchfork / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe it was the brilliant bright sun.
The endless deep blue sky.
The tender vibrant new green leaves.
The deafening serenade of the cacophony of birds. . .

Outside was calling. . .
And I had no choice but to heed the call. . .
As I just couldn’t drive, one more day, over to Dad’s.

Yet this was not a day for leisure.
No idyllic lounging under a welcoming shade tree
No whiling away the hours. . .
Sitting idly by, just taking in the day. . .
Nope, there’d none of that. . .
As there was work to be done.

Balancing a hectic life,
Taking care of two households in two different cities. . .
Dreading the three letter name that constantly pops up on my phone,
“DAD”
As in Dad = a crisis. . .
Small or large, a crisis will be brewing

Running here, there and yon
Darting in and out
Dashing from here to there and back again,
4 times a week if not more
Rushing to and from frantic traffic. . .
To and from the unhappy confused
The frustrated caregivers. . .
Loons who loom. . .

Which all leads to a weary, frazzled, beaten mind, body and soul

The best curative you ask,
Other than running away, or something illegal or illicit?
Well for me, it’s always been to head outside. . .
To work in the yard.
Even when I was teaching and raising a family. . .
Having a day, maybe even two, to be outside. . .
Working with my hands. . .

As in really work.
Hard work.
Manual labor sort of work.
The blisters on the hands sort of work.
The nitty, gritty, down and dirty, sweaty sort of work..

Cut all the shrubbery
Weed the weeds
Spread out new pine straw
Cut limbs
Rake out beds
Dig up the overgrown
Haul rocks
You name it. . .

From sunup to sundown
As in doing it while there is time in the day
Making the most of the light of day, the time we have. . .
For it is good for the soul
Cleansing of the mind
Stretching muscles and joints to the breaking point
Strenuous work, which in the end, results in a visible difference.
A visible and tangible accomplishment

Toiling
Working
Laboring
On something with a beginning, perhaps a long forgotten beginning. . .
Maybe a monumental beginning which may appear almost impossible. . .
Something that could possibly take a while, as in ongoing. . .
Or maybe its something as simple as rearranging, replanting, repainting, replacing. . .
Something, that at the end, is going to be different, better, organized, improved. . .
All because I, me, we, you put our hands into it, our mind into it,
our backs into it, our hearts and soul into it. . .

Whereas I, we, me, you can’t always “fix” or solve the issues that come into our lives,
or into the lives of those we love, or even into the lives of those we don’t even know. . .
Those issues that challenge us, engage us, enrage us, frustrate us, try us. . .
And whereas we can’t always make things better for others or ourselves. . .
Because the issues are bigger than ourselves, our abilities, our control. . .
Being able to see, to feel, to experience something that we can change, or fix,
or make better, or make a difference with, or something we can finally meet head on, something that has been waiting for us, possibly for years. . .
It is to such laboring tasks that we can find healing and the need of being cleansed. . .
The clearing of a heavy heart, a cluttered mind, a confused world. . .

It is the satisfaction of knowing that [finally] we tackled it, brought a resolution, made a difference, made a change, made some small corner of our world. . .better.
Be it something seemingly insignificant, tiny and small. . .something not necessarily
Noticed by others, no one other than ourselves. . .
Nonetheless the change being there, is for the positive. . .

It is this sort of honest, simple, often repetitive, work. . .
which can make all the difference in the world in ones
perspective, well-being, thoughts, heart. . .
Providing the incentive to, in turn, meet the ever looming challenges or our lives with more focus,
a better determination, and with the hope we may have initially lost. . .
For in such we find ourselves feeling better about ourselves and in our lot in life in general. . .

So may we never shy from any work that calls for our hands, our backs, our minds and our hearts. . .
May we never look down upon those who make their livelihoods doing the sort of work with their hands and backs that many of us so often take for granted- – –
May we come to understand that the working of hands and backs, the manual labor sort of work, is more often than not some of the most honest, refreshing, rejuvenating, perspective changing, cathartic, satisfying and even edifying work that any of us, who may often lose our way in our journeys,
in this ever instant gratification,
touch of a button, sort of world we find ourselves living. . .
Here’s to the work of our hands. . .

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
Proverbs 14:23

The beauty of the harvest

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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(offerings from the yard–Yellow tomato, yellow bell pepper, thyme, basil / Julie Cook / 2014)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Oh how we marvel at the wonders that seem to literally sprout from out fingertips. We toil and labor—tilling, sowing, watering, watching, imagining. . .then triumphantly sit back in self righteous wonderment at the results and fruits of “our” doings. . .

When in actuality, with little to none of our input, buried in the cloak of darkened soil and hidden away from all to see, lies the true and marvelous mystery of Creation. As much as we boast about the results of our toil and labor, there is not much that we, from our hands and talents, will have done which can actually permit us to take full credit—-for we are merely the co-workers in this mystery of life and growth.

It is the Master of Creation, who with one single sweeping motion of His hand, has sent the seed in motion—germinating, sprouting, growing and unfurling into a fanfare of sustenance. Oh yes we may till and work the ground, we may gently lay the seed, we may weed, water and watch, but it is the Master who works in hidden silence.
Constantly, consistently and mysteriously providing for both you and I.

labor and strive wisely

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4:10 NIV

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(Photograph: old hand drills that were my grandfather’s on his work bench–Julie Cook/ 2013)

A strong positive thought on this day of rest before we all return to work and school tomorrow—remember that honest hard work is never labored in vain.