gifts, speaking, demonstrations

“You must speak to Jesus, not only with your lips,
but also with your heart; actually, on certain occasions,
you should speak with only your heart.”

— St. Padre Pio


(Jules, black sheep and skellybegs…a collection of sheep / Julie Cook / 2018)

I collect sheep.

No, not real live sheep…but I kind of wish I did.

Think rather more like sheep/lamb figurines, prints, paintings…
And no, it’s not excessive or of the kitschy or silly…think more unique and even antique.

However, the latest acquiring is a bit silly but since we shared the same name, I really
had no choice.

I’ve got several of these sheep sitting on my kitchen counter above my sink.
They sit or stand, depending on the sheep, perched amongst various Icons that also
occupy this now apparently sacred space…the space above the kitchen sink.

And so it just seems natural that this particular space should be scared as it is
a space where I spend a good bit of my time…
in the kitchen and at the sink.

In some regards, I have these things here to help keep my mind on that which is greater than
as well as beyond.
Helping me to redirect my thoughts…
And it was especially important when I was still teaching and was in definite
need of redirecting.

My love of sheep goes back to the line in the confessional prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent;
According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake;
That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name.
Amen.

(BCP 1928)

For you see, I am that straying and erring sheep in need of a Shepherd.

And so, sheep have spoken to my heart ever since I first learned of our similarities.

And I keep an eye out for the unique and special during my jaunts.

So when visiting the gift shop at Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage, I recently added to the
collection when I picked up a ceramic sheep made by artisans at the Colonial Folk Art guild
in Virginia.
The sheep was named “Jules”…a name that many have called me throughout my
entire life.
So it was a no-brainer.

Jules the sheep now sits by another ceramic sheep.
A black sheep that is more reminiscent of soot than wool.
He is quite round with nails acting as his legs.

A sheep that I suspect is from a raku firing where the pieces are fired to a certain temp then
removed from the kiln and placed into a metal can (metal trash can) that is usually filled with straw.
The ultra hot ceramic piece causes the straw to burn and naturally darkens the clay piece.
This black sheep is stained much like a raku piece.

My aunt picked him up from an artist in North Carolina and it was actually the last gift she
ever gave me.
It was a Christmas gift a year ago this past Christmas.

My thoughts are gravitating to this little black sheep because it was a year ago this month,
on the 12th actually, that my aunt died—dying suddenly while undergoing treatment
for cancer.

Now granted my aunt has “gifted” me with a few other things since her death…”gifts”
that her daughter had given me following my aunt’s death.
Gifts such as a few antique wooden duck decoys, a few of my aunt’s beloved turkey collection
(think me and sheep…well she was that way with turkeys…go figure)
as well as an ancient armless rocking chair that was my grandmothers.
My aunt’s daughter, this cousin of mine, actually passed away 6 months following my aunt’s
death…so we have closed a door on that small bit of family.

All of these thoughts of sheep and gifts came to mind when I read the words offered today
by Padre Pio…

The good friar admonishes us to remember to speak not always with only words but at times,
more importantly, we are to speak with our hearts…of which I suspect is more ‘actionary’…
demonstrative in the actions of a living embodiment of the Spirit within.

A thought which actually makes me think of the importance of what it is that we leave behind…
that which we leave behind to those who follow us…

Do we leave behind merely things..things that sit around collecting dust or simply conjuring
up forlorn memories…
or do we leave behind an example of that which is so much greater than ourselves…
a polestar that points others to the One who is so much greater and everlasting…

Sometimes the heart speaks louder than the mouth…

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26

Silly old bear…

“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.”
A.A. Milne

The most splendiferous day spent together at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art
viewing the Winnie the Pooh exhibition.

A marvelous adventure indeed…

Next was supper with a cooling smackeral of Raspberry sorbet


(Autumn trying Moppie’s raspberry sorbet / 2018)

And finally, back home with a new Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear…

silly old bear, Pooh…..

All the sketches of the Winnie the Pooh characters are from the actual drawings on loan
to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta—
many from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London or from private collections.
Most sketches date from 1928 and are drawn by E.H. Shepard

And Autumn is, well…just Autumn…
A marvelous adventure indeed…

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

brave knights and heroic courage

“I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”
Andrew Jackson


(Autumn and Poppie or Papa, depending on who you ask / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Andrew Jackson and Autumn seem to have much in common / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sometimes life is more than simply chasing the proverbial dream…

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

C.S. Lewis

sacrifices and selfishness

There is nothing that I shudder at more than the idea of a separation of the Union.
Should such an event ever happen, which I fervently pray God to avert,
from that date I view our liberty gone.”

Andrew Jackson


(The Victory statue in Nashville’s War Memeorial / Julie Cook / 2018)

When one hears the word Nashville, I’m certain that trashy TV shows, country music,
as well as rowdiness is what most likely first comes to mind.

Add to that honky tonks, day drinking, The Grand Ol Opry, party destinations, country stars,
football, hot chicken, Bluebird cafes…yadda yadda…

I’ve visited this city once before, for a business convention, and we stayed close to the
country music hub. It was a short and sweet visit, yet such a visit that I told myself
I’d like to one day come back.
This city seemed to have so much more to offer other than that of her more rowdy reputation.

Plus being a big fan of our 7th president, I wanted to come back to visit his
homeplace just outside of the city.

Fast forward a couple of years…
we made the 4.5-hour trek northward earlier in the week.

On this particular trip, we opted to stay more northerly…
blocks above the crazy honky tonks and debauchery.
In a quieter area just opposite the State Capital.

Because who knew that Nashville was touted as holding the honor of having the Nations’
largest 4th of July Fireworks display?

Who knew that the city would swell with an additional 250,000 folks over the 4th?

Add in those coming for bridal parties…both gals and guys…
along with all those summer vacationers… so what we had anticipated as a fun yet
laid back trip was anything but laid back.

Oh did I mention the heatwave?

108 on July 4th in downtown?

Hotter in Nashville than the 4.5 hours south at our house.
Hotter than Nashville hot chicken.

Who knew?!

Hot, sticky, rowdy, scantily clad bodies adding in their own heat and it’s a wonder
everyone didn’t fall out with heat stroke.

Nashville has done a very nice job of providing a walking friendly and inviting feel to
the particular area of its burgeoning and growing city that we called “home” for 4 days.

We were told, on this last trip, that 95 to 100 new folks move into the city on a daily basis.
That’s why there are 7 massive building projects taking place downtown—
expansive condos, apartments, hotels and massive skyscrapers all with that live,
eat and shop sort of vibe.

But what drew me in on to this trip was not the glitz and rowdiness down on Broadway
but actually, the area leading up to the state’s capital building.

A marble lined promenade leading toward the capital building—a stately building perched
on a dominant promontory allowing for a sense of guardianship over the city she has been
tasked with governing since 1796.

This expansive marble lined avenue that leads up to the capital is known as the city’s
War Memorial…

It is an area that offers a very stately tribute to those Tennesseans who served
and willing gave the ultimate sacrifice for not only their fellow Tennesseans but to their
fellow Americans.

There are memorials to all who those who have served and yet never came home…

I was unable to capture each memorial before the rains began.
But I did get a shot at the Korean memorial

A memorial to those lives lost in submarines that were sunk while defending the North Atlantic and Mediterranian as well as the Pacific waters during WWII

There was a memorial to those having been awarded purple hearts as well as those
law enforcement members and first responders who have also sacrificed the ultimate
offering to their fellow statesmen.

But the most prominent memorial was the statue of Victory offered in memory of those who lost their
lives during the Great War…the Great War that was to end all wars…
World War I.

The statue was the product of a husband and wife duo—
Tennesse native Belle Kinney along with her Austrian born husband,
Leopold F. Scholz.

The massive statue sits within the open-air atrium of the War Memorial building and
was constructed in the late 1920’s shortly following the war.

Yet sadly the memorial has been defaced.

The marble base with words reading
“In memory of the sons of Tennessee who gave their lives in the Great War
1914-1918”
had been defaced with a black sharpie.
Anarchy symbols and derogatory words were scribbled all over the marble.

Graffiti say some, as they simply shrug their shoulders.
Vandalism say others.

Selfishness is what I say.

I thought this while on the same day I visited this War memorial, the Nation watched a woman being
arrested in New Youk for her stunt of attempting to scale the Statue of Liberty.

A protest they say.
Protesting ICE and the issue of immigration.

And is not protest a “right” of Americans argue the masses.?

Yet it was a dangerous protest.
And it was a selfish protest.
And so if there is an endangerment to others, is that then, in turn, more than a protest but
merely selfish attention seeking?

This woman put not only herself at risk but those first responders tasked with
getting her off the fragile copper veneered statue.

Let’s not forget the hundreds of tourists and vacationers who had planned a visit the statue
on the 4th during their trip to New York. A visit they would not be able to make due to the actions
of one selfish woman.

The area had to be shut down and secured for hours as authorities worked to get this woman down.

As I stand staring at a tribute erected to those lives lost 100 years ago in a world war fought in
hopes of ending all such wars, my thoughts turn to our selfish overpaid athletes who think their
kneeling protests to the National Anthem is some sort of brave act.
And I think of the countless supporters who think such protests are perfectly great.

Selfishness is not brave.

It’s easy to act a fool.
It’s easy to be disrespectful.

Bravery comes when one willingly lays down his or her life in hopes of protecting
his / her fellow man.

Those who have served and continue to serve this Nation and her citizens with not only
their time, their expertise, their skills but most importantly their lives,
are the true heroes who deserve our respect.

Be it 200 years ago, 100 years ago or simply last month in which a serviceman or woman
gave their all in order for us to be selfish…is…well…gravely lopsided in terms of worth.

And it is something we each should remember.

And so I am thankful that on this past July 4th,
I had the opportunity to be reminded of just that…that of sacrifices and selfishness.

I’m just saddened seeing that so many of our younger generations just don’t get it.

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment
that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives,
and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.”

Andrew Jackson

nothing more to give…

“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds,
his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications,
by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what
belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will,
by obedience, gives to Him all that he has,
and can say:
Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori


(city mural /Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

The ins and out in and out of a city…as seen in the lives of the fortunate and unfortunate.


(sign posted within a doorway near an area known for the homeless/ Julie Cook / Nashville/ 2018)


(two images of a bird with a broken wing just off the park where the homeless congrugate
in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a very sick dove sits out amongst the throng of 4th of July revalers, over looked and
basicaly ingnored by the enormous crowd / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a couple of wild turkeys and a squirrel resting during a heatwave on the grounds of
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a squirrel pays no attention to the tourists gathered by it’s side at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“But there must be a real giving up of the self.
You must throw it away
“blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.
The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.
Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)
will not come as long as you are looking for it.
It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.
Even in social life,
you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort
of impression you are making.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:
whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
(without caring twopence how often it has been told before)
you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self,
and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death
of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and
you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred,
loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.
But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

come in out of the wind

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day.
Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings;
coming in out of the wind.”

C.S. Lewis


(Papa, or Poppie as it depends on who you ask, and Autumn on the last day of
business/ Julie Cook 2018)

50 years is a long time to wait for that final day when you don’t have to unlock shop and carry
on the business of life in retail.

There will soon be, on this mile marker along life’s journey, more to this story
but there is still a good bit of moving, settling and simply exhaling after such a
very long haul.

We’re turning a page…for good or bad…


(anticipating being able to actually fish when they say the fish are biting rahter
than waiting for a stray day off when it’s windy and cold)


(it was such a cake filled day of celebration as well as tearful good-byes…
and thank you Melissa and Mark for all the added sweetness)

One very long and tiring chapter is now complete as we look forward to
the next chapter…
and that chapter’s name is Autumn…


(Autumn with mom Abby as they survey Papa’s cake / Julie Cook / 2018)

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