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

forgotten

“God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows that if we would forget to worship,
little by little, we would forget who he is,
and if we forget who God is we will forget who we are.”

Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi


(Andrew Jackson’s old spring house on the back of his property at The Hermitage /
Nasville, TN/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

What a revelation Archbishop Rodi has offered us this morning.
And I for one now find myself nodding my head in total agreement.

For it seems that the crux of the matter is that we have fallen out of step with our worship
and in doing so we have forgotten who we, the very creation of God, actually are.
And in that, we have forgotten who we are in general…
that being created in God’s image.
Fallen yet so loved…so much so that an only son was given as a substitution for the
death sentence that was ours and ours alone.

Archbishop Rodi’s words offer an ah-ha moment of our times.

And yet you protest.

You protest because you are either a non-believer and find all of this babbling
irrelevant to you and your life or you protest because you claim
to be in step and not to have a forgotten…a single thing.

And this is where I beg to disagree…disagreeing that we humans are very quick to forget.
We forget that we each need to carefully reconsider the focus of our relationship as the created
to Creator…as the child to the Father.

Yet there will be those who vehemently exclaim that they do go to church and that they do worship
and that they do pray…

Yet I fear, for many of us, we are merely walking a fine line.

We are balancing one foot in the world while trying to point the other toward Heaven.

For you see the world is a very demanding taskmaster.
It vies for you and all of you.
All of your focus.
All of your attention.
All of your energy.
Because it is very good at vying for everything we have to offer while demanding even more.
Never being satisfied in its voracious appetite.

And I say all of this because I know it all to be very true.

My life has been so utterly hectic these past couple of months that I’ve not been able
to afford the proper amount of time for much of anything let alone pouring over the offerings
from both our friend The Wee Flea, Scottish Pastor David Roberston as well that of our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, Gavin Ashenden.
And in turn, I feel as if something is certainly missing from my spiritual plate.

That’s what life does to us…
it clears everything off of our Spiritual plates replacing our much-needed sustenance with a mound
of fluff and nothingness.

Bishop Ashenden recently returned from the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem.

GAFCON is a conference intended for those professing to be “authentic Anglicans…
“The GAFCON movement is a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to
retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion.
Our mission is to guard the unchanging,
transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ and to proclaim Him to the world.
We are founded on the Bible, bound together by the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008,
and led by a Primates Council, which represents the majority of the world’s Anglicans.

David Roberston has returned after a three month long sabbatical in Australia where he was
very busy preaching, sharing and writing about God’s word.

In a recent article on his blog, David answered some questions and concerns regarding his sudden
departure with the Christian publican Chrisitan Today.
David answered those questions with a no he wasn’t fired and no he didn’t simply opt to quit…
He states that there are currently financial issues going on with the publication of which
he has ideas over as to why they are happening but that there were no secret or sinister reasons
or motives behind his being asked to no longer write his biweekly articles for the publication.

Yet David does recognize that our collective 21st-century Chrisitan media is walking a very
fine line…going so far as to wondering aloud whether or not Chrisitan Media isn’t actually
acting more like a Trojan horse…wondering if they have actually forgotten the Omnipotent God
of Creation and in turn forgotten themselves…

“I don’t believe that the Lord will prosper Christian organisations which
end up promoting anti-Christian teaching.
There is a warning in there for all of us.
The choice is not between being legalistic or liberal.
Christian media should not be the Trojan horse for heresy.
There is a better third way – the way of Christ.”

Is Christian Media a Trojan Horse for Heresy?

Only when we know Christ, when we accompany him on his paths,
when we have learned to recognize his voice, when he speaks to our life,
when we have encountered the risen Lord,
do we live out the mission to make the Resurrection present in this world.

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
from Teaching and Learning the Love of God:
Being a Priest Today

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

It’s all in the name

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
―W.C. Fields


(a glimpse of the facade of Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(the Greek revival tomb designed by Jackson for both he and his beloved wife Rachel /
Julie Cook / 2018)

If you’ve ever been through the state of Tennessee, particularly in the fall of the year…
thinking that you had come to take in the beautiful and picturesque Smokey Mountains
and perhaps an eyeful of the warm and golden hues of Fall’s magnificent splendor,
you will have no less certainly seen the giant orange or white T’s
that vie for dominance over the Tennessean landscape.

Or perhaps it’s an orange and white checkerboard painted door, orange, and white flags,
a myriad of stickers donning every Tennesse car, or even a checkerboard with a giant
T painted on many an old and seemingly dilapidated barn.
For in the fall, each and every Saturday hundreds of thousands of Tennessee fans will
be heard statewide singing a rousing rendition of Rocky Top as they cheer
on their Tennesee Vols.

So I suppose it’s only natural that most of us have either earned or been given the
dubious honor of a nickname…
Usually, a name attached to us during childhood that has an odd and often irritating
way of sticking with us throughout life…
and thus the same seems true for our 50 states.

We have states boasting themselves by their nicknames as the Show-Me State,
The Sunshine State,
The Peach State,
The Sooners state,
The Buckeye state…

Some of the nicknames are for obvious reasons while other nicknames are simply lost
in the annals of the history of our Nation.

Yet you may just find yourself asking…”what exactly is a Vol?”

A Vol is a Volunteer…as in Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State.

And if you don’t quite know your history, you might think that is just a reference
to the fact that those state residents like to volunteer for things.

And in a way, you’d be partially right.

But the story, according to most historians, actually goes back to the War of 1812.

And whereas you may have only thought that the Colonies,
which gave way to these United States of America, had won their freedom from the
British in 1776…you would naturally think that that was the final end of the story…
and therefore you would need to be reminded that hard feelings die slow deaths and that
those who spent centuries vying for dominance always hate to lose.

“The War of 1812 was a defining period in the early history of Tennessee.
For the first time, Tennessee was thrust into the national
spotlight through its military and political prowess.
When war was declared on Great Britain in June 1812,
it was a Tennessean, Congressman Felix Grundy,
who was given the lion’s share of credit
(or blame) for steering Congress toward a declaration of war against one of the
mightiest military powers of the day.
Grundy, a Nashville lawyer, along with a group of Democratic-Republicans known as the War Hawks,
provided the rhetoric necessary to lead the nation into a conflict that many considered unpopular. Tennessee’s accomplishments on the battlefield during the Creek War (1813-1814)
gave the country something to cheer about in a period of otherwise dismal campaigns
against the British.
And, of course, Andrew Jackson’s stunning victory at New Orleans
showed the world that the United States was coming of age and could take its
place among the nations of the world.

New Orleans Campaign
(December 1814 – January 1815)
After leaving a sizable portion of his army to occupy the various garrisons
throughout the Mississippi Territory,
Jackson arrived in New Orleans in early December to conduct the defense of the city
that was to be the prize of Great Britain’s southern campaign.
Located above the mouth of the Mississippi River,
New Orleans’ strategic location and accumulated wealth offered a tempting reward
to a British army fresh from its victory over Napoleon in Europe.
Elite English forces faced Jackson’s polyglot army of militia,
frontier volunteers, U.S. regulars, pirates, free blacks, Creoles, and Choctaws.
Although the famous Battle of New Orleans has been noted in song and celebration,
the British assault on New Orleans was actually composed of several different engagements:

Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812
Prepared by Tom Kanon, Tennessee State Library, and Archives

Yet some historians argue that the nickname actually came later during the
Mexican American War.

According to Tennessee History, future President, General Zachary Taylor,
dispatched a report to President Polk saying ‘hostilities had begun.

The report reached President Polk while he was dining and the President
immediately called his cabinet into an emergency session.

The following week, a divided Congress agreed that a state of war existed with Mexico.

“U.S. Navy Ships immediately moved to blockade the Gulf of Mexico and others in
the Pacific moved towards California ports.
With a regular standing army of only 8,000 men and General Taylor screaming
for reinforcements, President Polk was forced to call upon the states to raise
2,600 men each to supply the American Army in Mexico,” stated Tennessee History.

The proclamation went out from Nashville that the federal government needed 2,600 volunteers
to assist in the war with Mexico…
Within a week’s time, more than 30,000 Tennesseans responded to the call to arms.
And it was from this overwhelming show of patriotism that the State of Tennessee not
only assisted in winning the outright sovereignty of the State of Texas,
but also in securing its lasting title as The Volunteer State.

Appalachian Magazine – May 24, 2016

During the war of 1812, this particular time in our young nation’s tenuous growth—
most of the political leaders of the day were the movers and shakers…
they were the voters and decision makers…
they did not think the general uneducated populace of the fledgling states should be
given the vote themselves…given the vote to pick and choose such positions
like presidents…
It was a more paternal form of leadership in that the leaders decided they knew
what was best “for the people”…

And yet it was a president who sent out a call for help…be it in 1812 or 1840,
a call went out to these same uneducated farmers, laborers, and shopkeepers
who just happened to be Tennesseans, during yet another devastating war…
a call for their help in defending their young Nation.
For this war was to be a final stamp to America’s true independence.

The request was for 2,600.
30,000 came.

There was such a strong sense to protect and maintain what so many had sacrificed
their lives over.

What a marvelous moniker…
The Volunteer State…
the state where the citizens realized the importance of what was at stake…
not only for their state but for their entire Nation.

All of this history is really something to ponder yet is easily glossed over when we glance
back.

It makes me wonder…
if our president today sent out the call for help in defending our Nation…would anyone answer
the call or would they be simply too busy disparaging him and those who support his leadership?

Are we so divided today that we would actually let who we are as a Nation, simply disovlve…

I wonder…

If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

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

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

Transcendent of time

“the Declaration of Independence was not a creation of the Gods,
but of living men, and, let us never forget, extremely brave men…”

David McCullough

“When he [Thomas Jefferson] wrote the Declaration of Independence,
he was speaking to the world then, but speaking to us also, across time.
The ideas are transcendent, as is so much else that is bedrock to what we believe as a people,
what we stand for, so many principles that have their origins here,
with the mind and spirit of Thomas Jefferson.”

David McCullough
July 4th 1994
Address at Monticello

“We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free.
It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years
it should be declared a day of prayer…

Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River,
and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery,
with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or
Stars of David.
They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been
paid for our freedom.

Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier.
Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach,
Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa,
Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir,
and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.

Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a
small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division.
There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message
between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We’re told that on his body was found a diary.
On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words:
“America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice,
I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost,
as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”

President Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration Address

May God bless America…