beloved seeking beloved

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God,
his beloved is seeking him much more.”

— St. John of the Cross


(just some of the blueberries picked the other day / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day I shared a tale about a lesson gleaned from within a blueberry bush.

I spoke of going full on honey badger after the abundance of plump berries.

An expression which means going after whatever it is one is going after with an exuberant
and high velocity of gusto and tenacity.

I likened such a fierce hyperfocus over the act of berry picking,
as small as it is in comparison,
to how God is to be viewed in His quest for and over us…
That He will go full on honey badger for the object of His affection.

A simplistic comparison but an earthly one that is readily understood in its
scope and depth.
A no backing down, no relenting, no walking away sort of approach to attaining the
quest.

And so yesterday morning, when reading the daily offering, the words of St. John of the Cross,
words echoing that same sentiment, I clearly began to see a trend of thought.

So since we’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence…
only the Holy Spirit…
we know that this “thought” is being revealed for a reason…
A reminder, timely that it is, that we are being sought to such a depth of desire that it
far surpasses our own comprehension of what intent and reason actually mean.

If we seek our earthly desires with such a tunneled visioned steely wanting and precision…
what then of God for us?

So here is a reminder, an offering in the need in knowing, that God will not nor has not,
abandoned us…
A reminder from past to present that God remains steadfast in His pursuit
of both you and me.

A pursuit that has been gravely costly to Him but a pursuit that has never lost its momentum
nor waned nor diminished.

If we stop, just stop doing what it is we are doing, allowing our minds to grasp the very thought
of such a driven quest for such a desire…it is more than we can digest or phantom…
to grasp that we are the end focus of such a quest, such a goal…that we are
the end of His desire, His wants…

If we allow ourselves to ponder and ruminate over such a thought we find that such knowledge
is so very necessary and even crucial in this day and time of ours…

Yes there is a beloved…
and He his seeking His beloved…

and that beloved is both you and me…

amazing really…

“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude.
For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence.
Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude.
For God has this beatitude by His very nature,
whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 119
An Excerpt from
Aquinas’s Shorter Summa

seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

Truth

We shall advance when we have learned humility;
when we have learned to seek truth, to reveal it and publish it;
when we care more for that than for the privilege of arguing about ideas in a fog of uncertainty.

Walter Lippmann, c.1917

We do not err because truth is difficult to see.
It is visible at a glance.
We err because this is more comfortable.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

DSCN0504
(Rock of Cashel, the Rock of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is truth?

It is man’s most eternal quest…

We have often wondered if it was buried somewhere in the mix of stone and mortar,
those tangible breadcrumbs to man’s exhausting pursuit at leaving his mark.

Yet stone and mortar, as now wire and cable, each with time, are eventually left to erode and rust.

Truth is not found in the rusting or rotting of decay.

We have wondered if it is found in the intellect of thought and speech.
The defiance and defense of man’s existence…

Yet there is no truth to be found in fighting and fretting.

However for a certain percentage of humankind, those oft looked upon as foolhardy souls,
those who have openly accepted a fateful day as the hallmark of Truth,
Truth is found beyond the building blocks of civilizations,
beyond the liables and legalities…
and far from the might and power of man.

Truth, rather, is found in a most odd place…
A place no one had thought to look…

For Truth is found not in the vibrancy of life and in the yearnings of mere mortals….
but rather in the loss and darkness of the seemingly emptiness of death.

Albeit so sad and empty as this quest may all but seem,
This is not just any death in which Truth plays hide and seek…

For this Truth, this elusive wisp of shadows, is not found in our death…not yours and mine…
but rather in just one single death…

A single death experienced only once…not at all repeatedly…
Only singularly experienced for all of mankind.

“Our old man was crucified with him,
that the body of sin right be done away,
that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin”
(Romans 6:6)
That is not an exhortation to struggle.
That is history: our history, written in Christ before we were born.
Do you believe this?
It is true!

For the secret of deliverance from sin is not to do something but to rest on what God has done.
When you cease doing, then God will begin

Watchman Nee

So truth, it seems, is found in a single deed on a single day…
long ago and seemingly far away.

Yet is it really that far away….

“God is waiting for your store of strength to be utterly exhausted before He can deliver you.
Once you have ceased to struggle so hard, he will do everything.
God is waiting for you to despair.
He has done it all.”

Watchman Nee

Elusive

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.”
Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN6653
(female ruby throated hummingbird / Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Sitting in the oppressive 97 degree heat on the back deck, under the stifling black awning, listening, watching, waiting.
Poised and ready.
Sweat begins to bead along the temples.
Finger resting gently on the button, as the camera is already zoomed and focused.
The air is heavy.
A distant peal of thunder breaks concentration.
The reverberating rumble, ominous, teases the painfully dry ground.

Suddenly there is a rapid series of high pitched chirps immediately followed by an unseen and ever nearing deafening vibration.
It is heard long before the eye can locate and focus.

CLICK

Upon inspection, a mere blur is almost totally out of the frame.
UGH!

Again.
Situate,
Position.
Zoom in
Focus.
Listen.
Watch.
Wait.

DSCN6657

As I sit waiting endlessly on the tiny band of hummingbirds which call my yard home–waiting for them to stop long enough for me to capture a quick stop at the feeder, verses their usual dive-bombing ariel displays which transpire throughout the day. . . my thoughts wander, as I sit in my frustration, pondering those things in my life which remain elusive, hidden, evasive–that which is just beyond my grasp.

RSCN6650

We all carry within our being “things” that seem to constantly and sadistically elude our grasp.
Those things which remain hidden in the shadows, whispering seductively to us from the dark.
Only being seen as a darting image out of the corner of a weary eye.
Toying and teasing with tender raw emotions, we continue to wait, watch, hope, lament.

Perhaps it may be for that heart wrenching relationship to mend and heal.
Perhaps the much longed for sense of security and safety.
A much needed job.
A much needed better job.
The needed refreshing and life giving rains.
The ability to finally and miraculously have that long awaited baby.
The frustrating and fraught efforts for the recovery from catastrophic injury.
The soothing sense of Peace.
The satisfaction of the never-ending Truth.
The tangible realness of one’s Faith.

Always remaining just barely out of reach–despite the outstretched arm, fingers straining outward–If only we could stretch just a little farther. . .
muscles ache and cramp,
almost there, just a little more. . .
straining for just one much inch. . .
suddenly and frustratingly sadly, the resignation and finality of the elusive once again,
haughtily laughs at the limitations of self,
as “it” escapes once again.

Money cannot procure it.
Pleading will not produce it.
Agility cannot capture it
Ingenuity will never create it.
Yearning will only add torment.
Stealth will never surpass it.
This world will never claim it.

The “it”, the “thing”, the need, the want, the “elusive”. . . is not of this world and you and I
will never catch or capture it as it is more than the mere wants and needs of our hearts.
It is the insatiable thirst and hunger of the soul which no one of this earth and no one thing of this life can ever satisfy. A longing and insatiable longing to be reunited with the Creator of the Universe.

Kingdoms have risen and fallen.
Monuments and wonders have been built and destroyed.
Wars have been won and lost.
And yet we all remain
wanting,
needing,
searching,
seeking,
thirsty,
hungry of heart and soul.

And just so you know, I finally got my long awaited picture, as the ones that you are seeing are not those— as my dear hummingbirds finally lit within range.
I clicked then checked—a great shot–a perfect shot.
No shadows.
No blurs.
Focused.
Detailed.
And yet,
just as I began the process of transferring the images from the camera to computer, oddly, there is nothing there.
Nothing
No images.
NO IMAGES??!!
For what reason of which I know not, the disc suddenly failed, the past two weeks of images, gone.
Disappeared.
Erased.
UGH.
Elusive to the end.

RSCN6666

RSCN6665

DSCN6662

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:18-19

Hear the words of Paul, a prisoner of Rome, as he so beautifully and yet simply states the real quest of all of our souls—the meeting of all our needs and desires by the one true and only God through Christ, Jesus His son.
For it is here, in Him, in which all treasures lie—
and until you and I finally figure that out, we will continue spending a lifetime in the constant pursuit, the quest, of the Elusive.

The Relic, the Mystery and there’s just something about those eyes

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,
The labor of an age in pilèd stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?”

― John Milton

DSCN5585

“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.”
Emily Bronte

“Like Roman Catholics, they (Eastern Orthodox) believe that the grace of God present in the saints’ bodies during life remains active in their relics when they have died, and that God uses these relics as a channel of divine power and an instrument of healing.”
Timothy Ware (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware) (1993-04-29)

“Orthodox Christians respect and venerate the relics of the Saints (bodily remains) because the body along with the soul is redeemed and sanctified; one day it will rise from the grave to be with God forever.”
Anthony M.Coniaris (2010-12-29)

In yesterday’s post I had shared a little bit about my love and
fascination with history—
as it is all basically a lengthy story–and who doesn’t like a good story?
I also shared the tale of a chair and a love I have with and for antiques—
namely those things I’ve “inherited” along this life’s journey of mine–all from grandmothers and mother.

I left you with a bit of tantalizing intrigue asking you to stay tuned
as there was a quasi Part 2 to the story—

This is a story about a visit to the big monthly Antiques extravaganza known
as Scott’s Antique Market held at the old convention center located south of
the city near Atlanta’s massive airpot.
The show comes to town the second weekend of each month.
Two enormous “convention” centers are packed to the brim with every sort
of antique and dealer imaginable.
Even the outside areas are packed with a more flea market sort of vibe,
but equally interesting.

You want to find a matching plate to the set of dishes your
grandmother gave you years ago?
It’s here.

Looking for the perfect English corner cabinet for the living room?
It’s here.

Looking for the perfect old new rug for the family room?
It’s here.

You need a piece of silver or silverware?
It’s here.

Wanting to find a special gift for that impossible person to buy for?
It’s here—whatever it is, it’s here!

Old toys, jewelry, furniture–big and small, gadgets, cookware, figurines,
pottery, glassware, silver, trinkets and treasure–
it’s a fun way to spend a day hunting and rummaging.
And usually for the right price, it, whatever it is,
is going home with you.

As June’s show fell just after our big wedding event down in Savannah,
my aunt, who was staying with us throughout the big hoopla, wanted to take in Scott’s before she had to return back home to south Florida.

I also had two dear friends who wanted to tag along with us on this little antique adventure. Rummaging for treasure is always more fun with more eyes to take
it all in–
so off we all went looking for nothing in particular,
but thinking that we may stumble upon some little treasure we just couldn’t
live without.
Little did I know. . .

This show is a huge draw for the curious, the shopper and the dealer.
Buses come from all over the South.
There was a bus for the Junior League of Birmingham,
a group down from Nashville, folks from North Carolina,
Mississippi, etc—a regular “picker’s” paradise to be sure.

Once we found a parking spot, we made our way into the cavernous market.
We wandered up and down the aisles poking and prodding through the various booths,
tables and stalls when suddenly, out of no where,
a rather large and very worn crucifix catches me off guard.
I make a bee line for a closer inspection.

I stand.
I stare.
I marvel.

Remember, I am an art teacher who loves her art history and who possesses
a strong penchant for Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque time periods—
early Christian art.
The cross and figure of Christ had seen much better days, which was making me even
more curious as to its story–
yet there was just something in that face which held me in my place.

I took a peek at the price.
“Maybe she’ll take less” I muse in a silent attempt to reassure myself.
At which point the owner ambles over. . .“it’s French you know.”
“Yes, I thought so.”
“Plus it’s a relic”
“Really?
Where?
How?”

At which point she begins to explain the part of the story that she knows.
Located at the base of the cross, or what the cross is actually mounted on,
is a small wooden and glass enclosed box which holds an ancient nail.
She gently tilts the crucifix back so I can have a better view.

“When I found this, the glass was black with age and grime,
I didn’t realize it was a box”
she continued tilting the cross back
as she continued with her story.
“It seems that the monastery which originally possessed the cross,”
a monastery she now has no idea as to its identity,
“had a nail which they actually carried to Jerusalem,” or so she tells me,
“to be blessed and to be held to the purported nails of the True Cross.”

DSCN5641

“Ah, a third degree relic” I interject.
“Yes, how do you know that?”
“A third degree relic is an item that has been brought in contact with a purported original relic in order to receive various graces.”
“Are you Catholic?”
“No”
I lightly chuckle, “I just know these kind things”

I ask what she’d take for it as my aunt and friends now stand and stare
at me as in a ‘have you lost your freaking mind’ kind of stare.
One of them even asking
“is this something you would want to look at every day…all that blood and agony?!”
“Oh yes, very much so” I murmur as if in a trance.

She then tells me her bottom line price, which she explains is way down from the
original price— but she has had it a while and as she is receiving a new shipment
of items from France, she needs to “clean house”
I tell her I need to walk around a bit in order to think about it.

We walk around about 40 more minutes.
“Don’t you like this tureen” my aunt almost implores holding up a
Mulberry ware covered bowl, as in, ‘get this china pot instead of that dilapidated old cross, it’s cheaper and is not so ‘falling apart.’
“Yes, it’s nice but I don’t need more china” this as my mind is still churning over the crucifix.

I’m now mindlessly walking around, rationalizing and ruminating in my head
about having saved up for a new purse and wallet, something of a small treat.
Thinking to myself that perhaps I should forego something as trite as a new
purse for a treasured piece of history.
Something so terribly personal and immensely moving.

I haven’t had a new purse in several years…
but who needs a new purse when I can take home this ancient crucifix…
it certainly won’t go out of style I muse.
There’s nothing wrong with my old bag.
This will be an investment in history.
Plus there’s just something about those eyes…”

This battle waging in my mind as we continue wandering about the maze of booths and dealers.

“Ya’ll can look around here, I’m going back to that booth to ask about the cross.
Swing by when you finish here”
this as I practically call out over my shoulder as
hurriedly I make my way back to find the cross.

Once I re-find the booth and the owner, I tell her I’ll take the cross.
She warily studies me for a moment.
I think she originally thought I had intentions of reselling it.
Probably wondering why someone like me, not looking to be the overtly
religious type as in no collar or wimple,
would want such a piece for personal use.

“It’s beautiful” I sincerely tell her.
I proceed explaining that despite not being Catholic, I have a profound draw to the Catholic Faith and that I am, believe it or not, a very devout believer.
The cross, the lifelike plaster image, with it’s peeling paint and overtly dusty and fragile appearance, calls to my heart.
The face, his face, his eyes draw me inward, beckoning, calling.
“I am here, I suffer, I bleed, I do this for you. . .”

She then tells me that it’s her understanding that many of the churches in France,
just prior to the Nazi’s invasion,
took items such as this cross out of the churches,
hiding them in fear of looting or even worse, desecration and destruction.
It’s her understanding that this cross was moved and never made its way back home.
She proceeds to show me how to open the box, showing me the nail which is anchored to
a crumbling and faded burgundy velvet pad by a small piece of old wire.
Ever so gently she retrieves a yellowed folded piece of very fragile paper.
It is a certificate of authenticity–written in Latin and stamped,
proclaiming the nail to be a relic of the true nail of the true cross–
dated 1883.

DSCN5639

After I get the cross home, I immediately and precariously climb up on a stool,
perched on the counter, in order to place it high on top of the book case–
a perfect place for anyone coming in the house to see it.
It’s also a perfect place keeping it safe.
But just before placing it up and away,
I retrieve the fragile piece paper from the box, one final time,
in order to make a copy so I might do a little research of my own

DSCN5629

My current school of thought is that the monks only carried the nail to Rome,
to a church named for Jerusalem, but I could be wrong.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem—
Latin: Basilica Sanctae Crucis in Hierusalem.

Many more questions than answers to be sure.
I would love to somehow figure out where this cross came from–
what church or monastery.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous to be able to find its original home,
returning it to its rightful place of reverence and worship?!
My new goal and quest.

I’ll be keeping you posted to be sure—but for right now I need to go decipher a little bit of Latin. . .