reward

“True happiness is not found in any other reward than that of being united with God.
If I seek some other reward besides God Himself,
I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.”

Thomas Merton

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(changing colors / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 65:12-13

The advent of Advent

The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.
~ C.S. Lewis

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(a golden red carpet / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Advent—the season of waiting, watching and expectancy…

As in waiting and watching with expectant anticipation.

With the anticipation being so wonderful, so indescribable, so over the top…you can barely contain yourself.

This is not the worrisome dreading sort of waiting.
Not the “oh no we’ll never make it” gloom and doom of the negative waiting.
Not the looking constantly over your shoulder with fear rising up from the pit of your stomach while you fret waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of the anxious dreading type of waiting, watching, looking, fretting and worrying…

This is rather the so great and so grand magnificent, I can’t wait, I’m so excited, as this is going to be really really good and really really big…full of sheer giddiness that I’m about to explode sort of joyful waiting and watching…

As in I can’t wait because there is going to be such wonder, relief and good things that all thoughts of bad, negative, dread and woe are simply nonexistent…

Yet is this the season that you’re all excited and giddy over because of the getting and receiving of more stuff? The I can’t wait to go to the mall and bask in the holiday specialness and magic of mega retail savviness sort of excited…??
Is it because this is the season you’ve long waited for because of the gathering and the getting of those gifts and presents and all manner of things that you’ve decided you just can’t live without sort of season…??

Is it the season that you’ve been long waiting and watching for as your calendar will now be filling up with all manner of parties, gatherings, galas and events offering the excuse of buying shiny and sparkly outfits with the expectancy of seeing and being seen while you imagine all the goodies to be sampled and savored…??

Is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over those things of this planet, this world, this generation’s idea of a good time?

Or is your watchfulness, your waiting, your expectancy over something else?
Something that is much bigger, more awesome, more unimaginable and more over the top than any of things of this life…those things and events which pale in comparison as they are simply fleeting and merely passing by…

For there is something really big and really monumental that is soon to be taking place
and those of us who wait, who watch, who look, who anticipate, who are full of expectancy, wonder and awe…. are not to be disappointed…

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

God’s hand

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air,
and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?
Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”

Job 12: 7-13

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(Brillant Fall colors / Cades Cove, The Great Smokies National Park, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Such a spectacular display of seasonal beauty…
Is it to be written off as merely the waxing and waning of chlorophyll, pigmentation, seasonal changes, light diminishing, temperatures falling, moons risings, suns setting, dying, sloughing and the simple passage of time…
or…
Is there more to this pretty picture….

Falling comfortably back into place

“This is the place of places and and it is here.”
Gertrude Stein

“Therefore, the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as day-dreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.”
― Gaston Bachelard

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(the first “hummer” of the season is back home / Julie Cook / 2015)

When life has been demanding and there seems to be no time to self. . .
No time for. . .
noticing,
reflecting,
observing,
savoring. . .
No moments of a luxuriously exhaled Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. . .

It is at just that precise moment. . .that single moment between breaking apart and holding on. . .
when eyes have glazed over,
nerves are at their rawest
and stress is out the roof. .
At that very and utter almost unbearable, catastrophic, breaking moment,
it is then. . .that it happens. . .
The familiar, the comforting, the nostalgic slips gently back into place. . .

An old familiar friend returns.
You find that long forgotten item of fuzzy feelings and internal warmth.
Happy loving memories come flooding to the forefront of the heart.
It is at that single miraculously wonderful moment that suddenly. . .all is once again,
right with the world. . .and you find that you can hang on one more day. . .

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(foraging cardinal / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a tufted titmouse enrobed within the new spring foliage / Julie Cook /2105)

Falling into you

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
― William Blake

The Infinite Goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it.”
― Dante Alighieri

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(the canopy of a leafing river birch / Julie Cook / 2015)

Inviting arms reach to embrace
as delicious tenderness beckons to all who dare delve inward

The depth of Your fullness draws the wayward ever closer. . .
There is a heady yearning to fall into the open vastness

Rich, luscious and verdant envelop a longing so intense
that it is nearly unquenchable

Barren cold dryness has given way to an insatiable hunger. . .
Warmth seeps into each crevice of my soul

The spirit awakens to the lofty scent of heavenly perfume
As eyes open wide to behold the majesty of Your hand

Soothing whispers swirl underneath my feet
Lifting a longing heart up to the tree tops.

One heart burns for another
An extended hand aches to touch the hand of the other

Longing
Drawing
Pulling
Calling
Wooing

I open my being to Your sweet song
and fall thankfully into You

Leaving a mark

“Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”
― Bill Graham

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(the remaining remnants of leaves faded onto the concrete / Julie Cook / 2014)

When all is said and done, what will be said about you?
What will people remember?
Or the question may beg. . .will they remember?
Will it be . . .
“that old rebel rouser”
or
“that old stick in the mud”
or
“they were so very angry”
“they were so terribly lazy”
“they were so selfish”
“they were such a martyr”
“they were so very mean”
“they had the first dime they ever made”
“they were nothing but a workaholic”

Or. . .
Will they say that the world was a better place for having had you in it?

It’s never too late you know.
There’s still time.
Time to turn things around if need be.
Right a few wrongs.
Turn over that new leaf.
Make a few changes.
Nothing drastic.
Just a little tweaking here and there.
Letting go of a few bad habits.
Figuring out what’s really important,
what really matters. . .

Will your mark be negative, rebellious, selfish, destructive
or
will your mark be positive, compassionate, generous, constructive.

There’s still time, but how much. . .I have no idea.

Beauty in a bucket

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
Louisa May Alcott

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
John Donne

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(the fallen late blooms of the meyer lemon tree and an oak leaf float in a bucket of water / Julie Cook / 2014)

When might debris in a bucket deep,
take on such beauty doth to keep?
Which floats upon a surface sweet,
while wind and rain so strangely meet.
In Autumn’s late grey days of myth and lore,
as light doth fade forever more.
Be quick to see all who so chose,
for beauty hides just under your nose.

Blessings for a Tuesday full of surprising beauty and joy

For thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Isaiah 45:18