Change of plans

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

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(marker in the Methodist Cemetery, The Great Smokey Mts Natl. Park, Cades Cove, TN / quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson / Julie Cook / 2015)

Over this past weekend, while I was busying myself with my slight, albeit brief, change in directions, Life thought better of it all and decided a change of plans was more appropriately in order.

There is a small crisis of Life taking place…involving my dad and stepmother.
Such that my time here may be somewhat limited and or greatly impeded.

So forgive my dipping in and out as it were, demonstrating a true lack of consistency in blogland, while I try to deal with Life in Atlanta. Working on getting one out of the hospital while keeping the other one from going to pieces—

Greatly appreciating all good thoughts and prayers!!!

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(seeking the unknown path / The Great Smokey Mts Natl. Park, Cades Cove, TN/ Julie Cook / 2015)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Psalm 32:8

A prayer of the penitent, yet thankful, heart

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Mother Teresa

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Søren Kierkegaard

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(the opening of a tulip / Julie Cook / 2015)

O Lord, I beseech you, in your great compassion,
Hear my prayer and look upon me, having mercy. . .

I come before you Father, lowly and meek,
As I know that I am a sinner who is unworthy to stand in your presence. . .

Yet, Father, I know that you are a God of both Mercy and Grace
I know that you hear my cries,
I know that you see me and know of my needs,
even before I was given breath to utter the concerns of my heart. . .

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As the bud of a flower longs to open, stretching toward the light,
I too find myself longing to fully open my arms to you.

I first came to you Father in the exuberance of my youth
I was full of the often misguided energies of zeal and righteous indignation
I banished my sword and expected overwhelming compliance. . .
And yet, my heart ebbed and flowed.

There came a time when I cast myself adrift,
Relishing in the selfish satisfaction of ego and pride,
trusting in my own abilities to cut my own path.
I became what I thought to be my own savior.

My life tumbled and spiraled out of control
I couldn’t understand why things were all so wrong
You watched as I demanded to try it all on my own,
In my own time and in my own way.
Greedily I gobbled up the things I thought would make me complete

Yet you patiently waited and watched through your own tears,
As my chosen path of frustration grew more difficult and wearisome.
In spite of myself, hidden in my heart all these many years, remained a tiny piece of You.
Because of your Grace, somehow I found the strength to shed the falsehood of self,
removing the barriers I had built which separated me from You.

Today I stand before You, striped of pretense and bravado,
having thrown off the cloak of lies and deceit,
My heart is full within me, beating quickly and
welling up in my chest, yearning to love not me, not the world,
but You, just only You. . .
As Mercy and Grace have brought me home. . .
Alleluia,
Alleluia,
Alleluia. . .

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The straight and narrow

I know the path: it is straight and narrow. it is like the edge of a sword. I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip. God’s word is: “He who strives never perishes.” I have implicit faith in that promise. Though, therefore, from my weakness I fail a thousand times, I shall not lose faith —Mahatma Gandhi

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(interior shot of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

My life has woven a path often wide, at times directly straight, yet more curvy than not.
It has been laid out before me and I have often consciously chosen to ignore strategically placed mile markers.
Directions have been carefully plotted yet sadly, regrettably, purposefully ignored, as Self thought it knew best.

Easy is wide and many may join as the path has often been not my own.
Sometimes following, occasionally leading, Self and I have walked hand in hand.

Steep and rocky with views far and wide the path has lead me along jagged coastline as well as peaceful wooded glen, all the while as I travel forward, onward and upward.

On the occasion when I find myself in a familiar area, realizing that walking in circles has been my lot, bearings must be quickly taken while corrections are too often begrudgingly made.

And travel on I go, as Self constantly chatters “follow me, I know the way.”

As this life path continues on, the path more narrow does become–as congestion and jockeying for position is the constant battle. Quiet and solitude now replaced with noise of the masses, all seemingly traveling in my same direction.

Is this now how I know I am on the right path, as the myriad of travelers push and shuffle as one, carrying me along on their endless wave of self propulsion. Self has decided that to follow is the easiest way. Touting that the old adage is true, safety seems to lie in numbers.
Yet there is one I see who veers off in a different direction.
A few straggle behind him.
Over his shoulder he speaks to those who have chosen to follow on his journey–proclaiming that he knows the way Home.

Ahh home.

Has that what this journey has been all about. . .traveling far and wide, eventually making our way back home?
But why are the masses traveling along a different path?
Where do they think they go?
Their way does seem brighter, more alluring, as they mindlessly race toward a precipice no one seems to notice in the distance ahead.

All the while the lone traveler continues offering to any who linger behind a new and different path. He does not promise that it will be an easy journey, as darkness will descend from time to time, but He offers up his lantern as the beacon pointing Home.

This as I stand at the fork.
Self pulling me to follow after the masses. “There are more of them, they must know what they are doing” Self continues with the constant protest. Yet the lone traveler, who has now slowed up for me to come his way, seems to exude a calm and peace about his choice. . .his openness and confidence of his particular path of choice seems to reverberate from somewhere along the way.

I stand looking back and forth, as the sun slowly fades from the evening sky. Self takes off, following the others as I alone step forward along the path of the lone traveler. Come, he offers, my way is narrow but the reward is great.

And travel on I go, now hand in hand with this lone traveler, anxious to finally head for Home.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:14

Ever grateful to the gardeners of our soul

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

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(a happy orange poppy blossom, Julie Cook , 2014)

I pray that we have a least one person along the long and wending path we call our life, the one (or multiple) person or persons who has / have taken the time and interest to “garden” along our well traveled path—that rare individual or persons who cares enough that we are happy, healthy and that our souls are indeed ready for full bloom.

I also pray that we may, from time to time, offer our gratitude and thanks to that very individual or individuals who has / have bothered to take such care and time along our life’s path in order to prep the soil, weed the way, hedge the edge and trim the pathway, in order to make room for a long awaited blooming.

On this new morning to the new week, as we prepare to close out one month and transition towards the new month of May, may we be mindful of our life’s path and of the gracious gardeners along that very personal walkway. Here is my heartfelt thanks to those gardeners who have cared enough along my own path to make certain my soul was always ready for blooming.

I chose to take the journey

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And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

Today marks the beginning of the journey to the Cross. It is a journey that will take believers, the Christian, on a single lonely path as they re-live the time of a poignant last supper, a devastating betrayal, and a grievous passion. There is thankfully an ending, however, already in sight. This is as ending not of darkness, death and finality. There is Victory at the end of this path–and an offering of Light, Hope and Joy. It is a journey, however, not to be taken lightly, but rather with determined purpose. It is a bit of a solitary journey as each person who walks this path must examine, inwardly, their own life’s direction.

There is of course a choice–whether to start the journey at all and then whether to continue the journey to its end. It is a free choice. The choice is left for each of us to consider. I believe if you ask anyone who has already begun the journey, that the choice of the taking the journey, walking the path, is the only correct choice.

Here is to a the journey.

(photograph: Cortona, Italy :path to Santa Margherita and Medici Frotezza
Julie Cook 2007)