finding peace…in and with the world

Be at peace with your own soul,
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Saint Jerome

Who except God can give you peace?
Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?

St. Gerard Majella


(an apple gourd—who knew??? / Julie Cook / 2022)

Ten some odd years ago when I started this little blog…when I began taking up
a tiny bit of residence in this endless space known as the blogosphere,
my desire was to share my personal ramblings of that of both journey
and transition…I was a teacher for heaven’s sake…we share by the sheer
nature of our trade!

And at that time, it just so happened that my life was one big journey
of transition…

There was the new transition and journey into retirement.

While at the same time there was the sorrowful transition of walking
from that of life to that of death’s door with both my dad and my aunt.

There was the journey of handing a child’s hand, turned that of a
man, to that of another woman’s hand…the passing of a torch so to speak
from one to another.

There was the discovery of a real biological past…complete with names and faces.
Yet there was the renewed rejection of a birth mother to that of her adopted child.
Again.

There was the eventual addition of two new joyous lives into my own.
The filling up of one’s heart…a heart that had just shortly before felt so
sorrowfully full of loss.

There was a pandemic.

There was a new retirement.
There was moving.
There was divorce.
There was loss.
There was unfamiliar.

And so now, as I stop for a bit of introspection and reflection,
I think my thoughts have shifted just a tad.
As in my axis has tilted just a wee bit off from its normal rotation.

I’m finding the notion of Peace…be that peace within, as well as peace outward,
to be a more immediate focus.

I think that’s why the following observation by Thomas á Kempis
has resonated so deeply within this restless soul of mine this evening.

I don’t believe that our dear brethren Thomas is inferring, as so many observers
quickly and most falsely assume of our Christian faith….
that being that we must suffer in order to eventually acquire peace…
but rather I find it all to be quite to the contrary…

It is the notion that we should seek peace amidst the chaos of
this life…a feat short of the miraculous given our current day and times..

We mere mortals will all eventually endure some sort of suffering in this
life—some, more it may appear, than most.
Fair or unfair as it may be….yet suffering, be it just or unjust, there
it will be.

And so therefore, it should be our task to seek peace within such times
and within such circumstances as we may be currently finding ourselves.

For it will only be in that Peace…that we may find rest amidst the storm.
For if we do not seek we will never find nor know that there is indeed a
Peace far greater than any turmoil life can throw at us…

And so now we begin a new journey of transition…that of Peace…

Will you come walk this path with me?

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make
peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and
readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good
and are suspicious of no one….
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those
who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live
at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us,
for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing
of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves,
lords of the world, with Christ for their friend,
and heaven as their reward.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73

a cry of recognition…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart;
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)

When pulling up to any seasonal farm or farmers market, as I first climb out of the car..
I find myself transfixed at it were…. standing in awe over that very first sight…
that sudden initial glimpse of the bounty of a season’s harvest.

It’s that first immediate exhilarating imagery…
imagery which is often accompanied by a variety of smells, coupled with the notion
of eventual inviting tastes, that is simply overwhelmingly mesmerizing,
and dare I say– intoxicating as all senses come to a heightened alert.

One is suddenly struck by the kaleidoscope of color…
colors that seem to be innately followed by the desire to touch…
there is a vast array of textures that call to be felt, caressed and held.

Next, be it the sheer magnitude of the numbers of trees or be it the boxes,
bushels and barrels that stretch out as far as the eye can see, there comes
an engulfing longing to offer some semblance of thanks or gratitude.

And so my thoughts turn to St. Therese’s words…
words reflected upon at the start of this post…
words that St. Therese shares with us today….
the thought that prayer is a surge of the heart…and oh how often do our hearts feel
those most powerful surges??!!

“a look toward heaven…a cry of recognition and of love…”

So maybe, just maybe, such a ‘cry’—such a deep and profound longing,
can readily be found in the abundance of a new season’s harvest…


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)


(seasonal offerings at the Asheville Farmers Market / Julie Cook / 2022)


(SkyTop Orchard, NC / Julie Cook / 2022)

Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

Thank you

Grief is the price we pay for love.
Queen Elizabeth II


(Town and Country)

Indulge me please, if you will, as I look backwards a bit—to a different year,
a different day, a different funeral…but yet…a funeral that harkens forward
to today’s global family’s funeral.

There were, no doubt, countless numbers of funerals today around our world.
Hearts that are broken.
Lives that are now turned upside down…all as good-byes have been somberly said.
Good-byes that we mere mortals find most difficult to comprehend.

Death.

We as a collective group of humankind do not “do” death very well.
We find it very difficult to wrap our heads, let alone our hearts, around
such a notion.

We often feel anger, resentment, unbearable sorrow and for some, yet for a
fortunate few, we might even feel a sense of relief and yes,
eventually if we are fortunate…we feel that ping of hope.

There has been lots of global news as of late…sorrows, tragedies,
storms, pain, suffering…
yet the majority of the news, along with a good bit of the the world, stopped
today to say their farewells to a well known woman.

All as a family grieves and a nation grieves and as a global world family
grieves…

Yet in all the well televised grief, one thought came galloping into my mind—
the simple thought of gratitude.
That of a simple, “thank you.”

For I believe a soul’s example of simply living out one’s life day to day,
is the best example, the best teacher, any of us will ever or can ever receive.

And so we look back to April 2021….
knowing in our now hindsight that the gentleman in the photograph at the
end of the post who is tipping his hat, undoubtedly extended his hand to
the lady we bid farewell to today…

more and more alone…
but we all know we are never alone…and she knows too!

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.”
George Bernard Shaw

“The strongest men are the most alone.”
Ibsen


(BBC)

Anyone who might have watched the funeral Saturday for Prince Philip,
or even caught a passing news story regarding his service,
undoubtedly saw the painful image of an elderly woman clad in black, stooped
with age, sitting alone in a cavernous and seemingly empty sanctuary.

Donning a black mask–attempting to breath, shedding tears, mouthing
the ancient words to an ancient faith…muffled and hindered–all adding
to the heaviness of grief.

It matters not that she just happens to be the current sitting Queen
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland along with
other realms, as well as head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith…

On Saturday, Elizabeth that elderly woman, was very much alone.

Elizabeth is the only ruling leader, from around this great big world of ours,
who is a part of that Greatest Generation…
She is the only remaining active leader who can personally remember the
time when a world was torn a part and a time when she,
along with the rest of her generation rolled up their sleeves,
doing what it took to fight tyranny and defend Western Civilization’s
democratic freedom.

I was deeply struck by that thought…
the only remaining currently active leader…

Awed by such a thought and yet I also was left feeling rather empty.

We are losing members of our Greatest Generation daily…
actually quite rapidly.

“According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574
of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.”
nationalww2museum.org

Those who I have known and loved, those who served either in war or
at home, are now gone…all but my one remaining aunt who will be 96
later this year.

Before they were wed, Prince Philip served active duty in HMRN
(His Majesty’s Royal Navy) and while as a young princess, Elizabeth,
upon turning 18 in 1944, insisted on joining the women’s branch
of the Royal Army–the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

Despite royal lineage, they each chose the path of service.
It mattered not that their service would be precarious and even dangerous…
doing one’s part for the betterment of the whole was the only thing
that mattered.

And that is what troubles me.

Elizabeth is now alone—as in having lost those who lived that
previous time with her.
Those who knew peril yet persevered none the less.
They were stalwart.
They didn’t complain, they simply pressed on…ever forward.

No limelight, no self seeking attention, no apology tours, no
tell all books, no interviews of self complaints…
no “look, woe is me” placards worn around one’s neck…
there was nothing about self because there was no time to
think about self–there were too many others to worry over.

More or less, it was a stoic approach to a foreboding and
unrelenting storm.

And by the way, you and I, and all the generations behind us,
are the better for their generation.

But the thing that truly saddens me is that the following generations
don’t get it…they have no idea as to the sacrifice or lessons that
are to be gleaned.

I can only imagine the grief this woman feels in her heart.
Her family are all a rather fractured lot and now she has lost her
only remaining stalwart companion–
a man who had been by her side for 73 years.
That companion, that husband, that “stay” is now gone–leaving
a woman lost in her solitude.

Her grief, as witnessed in that picture of a lone figure bidding
her husband good-bye, is palpable…but I also know that Elizabeth
has a strong faith.

She and Billy Graham had a chance encounter decades ago.
A documented encounter that appears to have had a lasting effect
on Elizabeth’s faith.
So whereas Elizabeth is certainly feeling most alone today,
she actually knows that she really is not alone…not ever really.

She knows who her Savior is.

So whereas I am not worried that Elizabeth will succumb
to her grief–because she is a woman of duty and service who knows where
her true Hope lies—rather—I worry for us…
I worry for both you and I.

We are rapidly losing the leadership who understood what it meant to serve.
To put others ahead of self…putting others before their own self-centered
wants or needs.

No talk of self or selfish agendas…
No dalliance in to false ideologies.

Simply the defenders of both freedom and faith.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct,
rebuke and encourage—-
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

Busy as a….

“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love,
for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Jesus

We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly
to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make
them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.

Father Jaques Philippe


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before, I am certain that it would have discouraged me..
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything, not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(busy bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)

the resolute found in super powers

Love is the selfless communication of what is mine and the
selfless welcoming of the other in myself.

Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar
from the book The Meaning of the World Is Love


(a little thought my cousin sent me)

Today I found the quote in the above image to be most appropriate for my
current journey.
My cousin sent it to me this morning.

And well, it just seems to be one more “sign” in a long line of what some would consider
to be merely coincidental signposts seen along my current life’s travels—
but since I believe in the timing of the Holy Spirit and not in the coincidences
of life…well….there you go.

It’s all about appropriate timing vs coincidental timing.

And so speaking of super powers…
oh what a super power it would be to be able to keep one’s cool,
hold one’s tongue, and maintain one’s emotions when there are those who desire
nothing more than to spread falsehoods, half truths, and drag you down the
gravel rutted pig trail of life while throwing you from the bus,
and gleefully hoping to run you over in the process.

So it does seem that in order to take the higher road in
this thing we call life…we need all the super powers we can get—or more aptly,
we need to have some other-worldly powers!
And I have a hunch that we believers have more than a few good examples to follow.

When I read the following quote offered by Pope Benedict XVI regarding Mary
and her reaction to the news presented to her by Gabriel, the Heavenly messenger,
well, I thought of super powers.
The very super power Mary found buried deep within her being.

I’ve often thought of how she bore up under that one word, as well as how she then
chose to live her life…all as a result found in her saying “Yes” to God.

The weight of the world suddenly rested on her tender shoulders as her
young fiancé was thrown for a terrible loop by her unbelievable admission that
she was pregnant all the while professing vehemently
that her virginity was indeed intact.
How could he believe her incomprehensible story?
What of her small village?
Would they not love nothing more then to trash and vilify this young
unwed mother to be along with her family?
And what of her family??
What of the sudden received, albeit false, sense of shame?

Yet Mary was resolute in her yes.

She bore that resolute yes her entire life….
even as she watched her dear son
mocked, ridiculed, tortured and killed.
Her heart pierced just as her son’s side was pierced.

Resolute even unto sacrifice and death.

So yep…when the world manages to say all manner of ill against you…
call upon your super power—the power God placed long ago within your heart.
The power to both love and forgive…
as hard as it will certainly be…

“[Mary] does not remain locked in her initial troubled state
at the proximity of God in his angel,
but she seeks to understand.
So Mary appears as a fearless woman,
one who remains composed even in the presence of something utterly unprecedented.
At the same time she stands before us as a woman of great interiority,
who holds heart and mind in harmony and seeks to understand the context,
the overall significance of God’s message.
In this way, she becomes an image of the Church as she considers
the word of God, tries to understand it in its entirety and
guards in her memory the things that have been given to her.”

Pope Benedict XVI, p. 33

neither abstract nor random

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a rogue dahlia / Julie Cook / 2022)

Reading the following quote by Cardinal, now saint, Newman I must admit that I
was pieced by his words.
My heart was pricked as my thoughts now raced.

The quote took on more than just mere words once uttered by a now deceased man.
These words were suddenly very pointed and direct—not abstract nor random.

I found myself overwhelmed…
however, I must admit, I find myself rather overwhelmed as of late most days…
both in positive and negative ways…
yet this time the sense of being overwhelmed was different.

For these particular words, on this particular day, left me overwhelmed in a
most welcomed way.

I found myself amazed, awed and greatly humbled by the fact that everything
within my life—
every big and every minute thing…
those intentional and unintentional movements of all my comings and goings…
that of the time being ticked off of my day’s ins and outs,
those of all my years in and years out…
That of my birth, my in between and that of my death…
all seen and long known by One and only One…

Yet “sin excepted”

The sin is mine, not His.

And yet His is still the knowledge…knowledge of even the sin…
Those known and unknown sins, those seen and those unseen sins…
those past, those present and those sins yet to be.

Even our very sins are known.

The actions and reactions…all known.
All seen by the one Omnipotent Creator.

Yet whereas everything is precisely ordained…the sin is not.

However He knows even of our poorer choices…the good and yes, even the bad
long before we choose. Long before we even have the choice.
He knows of those reactions…be they good or be they bad…long before
we even think to act or react.

And even in that most difficult notion of our fallen nature, I find peace.

Peace that He sees what was and that which is just as He knows what will be…
even when we ourselves have neither knowledge nor clue of what we will do
in the next 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years…

We think we know.
We think we have an inkling of our own comings and goings..
and yet truly, we do not.

But what I do know, and I know with all certainty, is that God will continue
to bring good from bad….inspite of me and that of which I know and do not know.
And it is in that one fact that I find much rest and assurance.

“O my God, you and you alone are all wise and all knowing!
You know, you have determined everything that will happen to us from first to last.
You have ordered things in the wisest way,
and you know what will be my lot year by year until I die.
You know how long I have to live.
You know how I shall die.
You have precisely ordained everything, sin excepted.
Every event of my life is the best for me that it could be,
for it comes from you.
You bring me on year by year, by your wonderful Providence,
from youth to age, with the most perfect wisdom,
and with the most perfect love.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 103

paying homage to the Creator

“Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself,
‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’
I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.”

St. Josephine Bakhita


(a northerly view of the Mt. Mitchell range/ Julie Cook / 2022)

The above image was taken from my deck.
A view that looks northerly toward Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Mitchell.

Some day’s are crystal clear, while others live true to the name of this
particular region of the country…the Great Smoky Mountains.

According to Wikipedia:
The Great Smoky Mountains (Cherokee: ᎡᏆ ᏚᏧᏍᏚ ᏙᏓᎸ, Equa Dutsusdu Dodalv)
are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border
in the southeastern United States.
They are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains,
and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province.
The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains and the name is commonly
shortened to the Smokies.
The Great Smokies are best known as the home of the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
which protects most of the range.

The park was established in 1934, and, with over 11 million visits per year,
it is the most visited national park in the United States.

The name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over
the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance.
This fog is caused by the vegetation emitting volatile organic compounds,
chemicals that have a high vapor pressure and easily form vapors at
normal temperature and pressure.

I have always felt God’s presence in these mountains and it is now, more
than ever that I long for that presence.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

God’s glorious sense of timing and humor

God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises,
leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I continue to walk this very new and most foreign life of mine, I find that
some days are easier than others…and as is the nature of life,
the ying and yang of it all, some days are much harder than others.

In reality and if I’m being honest, some days are really…simply put–
very dark and difficult.
And it is within those darker days, life can seem down right scary and dreadful.

I think major life transitions are like that.

I can tick off 4 of the top 5 major causes of stress very readily.
Those things found on the forms in doctor’s offices that ask
if you have had a significant life change regarding relationships,
finances, moving etc…
Check, check and check again.

So there are definitely days that include a lot more heavy lamentations versus
the desired uplifting jubilations.

Wednesday seemed to be such a day.

I found myself in the midst of my morning prayer time imploring God
to please draw ever near…as in I needed Him something fierce.
Tears streaked cheeks have become the norm..
And so ode to yearning to have that loving embrace offered by an ever loving Father…

Jolted back to the present, suddenly I heard the familiar whistle from
my phone indicating an incoming text message.

“Oh great” I heard myself muttering, “now even God is texting….”

I stopped mid imploring and reached for my phone.
I am more than accustomed to my days now seemingly being dictated by a simple text…
be it good or be it bad.
And that’s when I found the above little inspiration being offered by my cousin.

I felt new warm tears forming in my eyes as I read the words.

“Wow” I thought…”God’s timing really is something isn’t it?!”
A virtual otherworldly and most needed hug just as I prayed for Him
to please, oh please, draw near…and remember…despite the last 7 months
of hell, I still believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

So following my prayer time and my typical morning cry, I
remembered that I had already taken the trash and recycling out,
putting it all by my car as I was needing to head to the dump.

I quickly re-grouped and grabbed my purse and keys, heading out to the car.
I needed to hurry up and get everything loaded into the back of my car…
hurrying up before…before somebody else found the trash.

And that’s when I saw it.
I stopped dead in my tracks.

The cat was sitting on the front porch watching what she must have perceived to be
the regular neighborhood dog…
a big black 400 pound “dog” helping himself to his very own private lunch bag.

I felt my blood pressure rising as I grabbed two long piece of cardboard.

“THAT’S IT BEAR!!!!
“YOU GET YOUR LAZY A%& UP THIS MINUTE AND MOVE!!!!

I was so mad I couldn’t see straight.

Yet there he sat… resting quite comfortably licking clean the discarded cans of
cat food while savoring the past its prime watermelon.
Never mind the scooped up cat litter, the discarded egg shells, the dirty paper towels
etc, etc, etc….

I continued ranting…walking within arms length waving my cardboard.

“I SAID GET UP!!!!!!”

And just like a scolded dog…he sheepishly looked down and away…
cutting sorrowful eyes back and forth.

“I’M NOT GOING TO SAY IT AGAIN, GET UP AND MOVE!!!”

I began whacking two cardboard sticks together in his face as he reluctantly
got up and moved back a few feet.
I could tell he wanted the empty cans of cat food.

“MOVE IT BEAR!”

I got louder and stood taller whacking my cardboard sticks together.
Finally, yet very reluctantly, my lazy dinner guest, scooted down the bank and
sat where he could see me…as I could see him.

I was ranting the entire time as I picked up the remnants of trash trailing
the driveway..stepping in a torn bag of nasty cat litter and nearly slipping on a couple
of peach pits.

I was yelling and lecturing at this young hooligan just I would any juvenile delinquent
caught doing something that was wrong…
trouble with my particular hooligan was that he was being an opportunist–
a hungry lazy opportunist.

And so as I finally shoved all the trash into a new bag and pushed it into
the back of my car, all the while still lecturing a lazy bear, I thought
of how my mood was prior to this latest bear encounter.

I was sad.
Going from sad to mad.
And that’s when I thought of God and His humor.

First He reminds me He does hear me and He does still love me…
just as He certainly thinks a good diversion is often a much needed cure.

The best way to pull oneself up and out of one’s own self…

“Know, dearest daughter, how, by humble, continual, and faithful prayer,
the soul acquires, with time and perseverance, every virtue.
Wherefore should she persevere and never abandon prayer…
The soul should advance by degrees, and I know well that,
just as the soul is at first imperfect and afterwards perfect,
so also is it with her prayer.
She should nevertheless continue in vocal prayer,
while she is yet imperfect, so as not to fall into idleness.
But she should not say her vocal prayers without joining them to mental prayer,
that is to say, that while she is reciting,
she should endeavor to elevate her mind in My love,
with the consideration of her own defects and of the
Blood of My only-begotten Son,
wherein she finds the breadth of My charity and the
remission of her sins.”

—St. Catherine Of Siena, p. 92

a wise adage

“Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.”
Sun Tzu


(foe or friend? / Julie Cook / 2022)

According to Wikipedia: “Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist,
writer, and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China.
Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War,
an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western
and East Asian philosophy and military thinking.
His works focus much more on alternatives to battle, such as stratagem,
delay, the use of spies and alternatives to war itself,
the making and keeping of alliances, the uses of deceit,
and a willingness to submit, at least temporarily, to more powerful foes.”

In the past I have often quoted this wise Chinese General…

There is much wisdom in knowing how to deal with those who we find to be
confrontational or adversarial.

Frustratingly more often than not, many of us will immediately lead with
a knee-jerk response when faced with hostility—
be it a verbal or even physical assault.

We tend to act before we think.

We most often immediately lash out…fighting back with wrathful words and or fists.
Even the idea of revenge begins to percolate just below the surface

Sadly, over these past many months,
I’ve been learning a great deal more than I care to about the notions of
friend vs foe.

And even now, in my new environment, I find that it continues to behoove
me to know the difference between those who say they are friends vs those who
truly act as friends.

And it seems that I have a new curious friend…
who is not some wandering dog mind you…
And may I add, I use the term friend rather loosely.

He’s a juvenile black bear who is probably on his own for his first season without mom.

He’s cute enough.

And a bit too curious.

One morning I caught him lumbering off from my back patio carrying something
red and white in his mouth.

My knee jerk was to open the door, grab a broom and chase after him shouting
“you’d better not be dropping someone else’s trash in my yard bear”

Maybe some would think such a reaction on my part to be a bit foolish but you must
remember, I taught high school for 31 years…I’m not too frightened by
this latest hooligan.

Well….my overtly curious friend dropped said white and red object
as he continued to scamper off.
Upon close inspection I realized I was seeing my new jug of bug-b-gone, minus the top,
gurgling all down the hillside.

I fretted he had ingested some before dropping it—but thankfully he did not.

On other occasions I have turned around in the kitchen only to suddenly
see my friend at the sliding glass door…
peering inside as if he wants to come in for a glass of lemonade and a chat.

So the other afternoon I thought a quick trip to a nearby garden center
was in order.

I shut all the sliding glass doors and locked everything up…or so I thought.

I wasn’t gone 40 minutes.
But that was 40 minutes just long enough for mayhem to come calling.

Upon returning home, I rounded the corner to the kitchen and that’s when I saw it…

The kitchen window, which I had forgotten to close, was now screenless as the
screen was in a mangled heap draping over the sink.

The items that I had rinsed out, so I could recycle them later, were
now missing from the sink.

From the screenless window I spied the empty creamer bottle out in the yard.

The milk carton and honey jar, yes honey jar, were scattered further down the back path.

But the most egregious….

The stained-glass Theotokos, the Greek Orthodox image of Mary and the infant Jesus, was
now shattered and broken to bits.

So.
Since I live in this bear’s neck of the woods…as in a mountain home…
I’m the one who is actually in his territory.

And thus the precarious dance of friend vs foe begins…

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written: “It is mine to avenge;
I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

fine lines

When were the saints at the height of their joy,
but when they were suffering for their God and Saviour?

St. Teresa of Avila,
In a letter to the Reverend Father Hohn de Jesu Roca,
Carmelite, at Pastrana


(Palmer Chapel Methodist Church / Cataloochee National / Cataloochee Valley in the
Smokey Mountains)

Something that I’ve long observed as a Christian is that we members
of the faithful flock often walk a fine line with our faith and following.

We do so because we have been programed by words like sin, guilt, suffering,
penance, punishment—words that have throughout time
become sentiments hammered into our heads—worn around our necks like a
an every growing weighted chain.
Sentiments that we must experience if we are to be true to our faith.
Simply put, the burden is part and parcel of life as a Christian.

Such teachings have been allowed to morph while getting tangled
and entwined in our mindset.
They become like a choking vine wrapped around a tender young sapling.
Eventually that choking vine outpaces and engulfs the poor sapling.

We are very much like that tender sapling…
striving to grow ever upward, seeking our place in the sun—or in our case
that is more like in and with the Son…but…sadly…
many of our Christian denominations have instilled in us a need to carry a
deep suffocating burden if we expect to be true followers of Christ…

And yes, we should note that that burden is in essence
our sinful nature and that of our sins…
of which I dare not wish to dismiss, diminish or make light of…
for as a sinner, I know all too well the deep and lasting effects sin
can have on our spiritual well being–especially
sin that is neither repented nor confessed let alone curtailed.

The fine line is found somewhere between redemption and that of the sin itself.

We should also note that not only do we bear the weight of our sins,
it’s as if we are expected to continue carrying the associated guilt and heaviness
of those sins and wrong doings despite our having confessed and having handed
them over to our Redeemer.
We are not allowed, nor do we allow ourselves, to truly feel the release,
the joy and the freedom that comes with redemption.

We are washed clean yet many of our denominations and religious teachings
have lead us to think, or better yet believe,
that we must constantly wear our hair shirts as a reminder
that we are never truly free.

And perhaps in many ways, we are not free.

We are tethered to this world and that of our own sinful nature.
Yet I honestly believe that Jesus wants to lighten our burdens
when we confess to him, yet in doing so, many of us, me included,
just can’t seem to shake the heaviness or associated guilt…guilt
the world and our ancient enemy would have us bear and claim despite
Jesus having claimed them for us in his death and resurrection.

It seems that I also have observed that we have been taught, again over time,
that we are to actually suffer for our faith.
And the question of this world then nags… if we are not heavy ladened and or suffering,
are we truly following as we should??

There are those who would say no.

And so we wrestle on…wrestling with our various doctrines as well as
ourselves.

Personally, I think Jesus has the better solution.
A solution I must embrace…I must listen for his call…
or perhaps that is more like I am yearning for his call…

Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28)

But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Matthew 9:13