Marked for life

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…
Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…
If any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

(Jn 10:1-11).

Without a shepherd, sheep are not a flock”
Russian Proverb

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

They dot the landscape en masse, like a springtime field erupting in a profusion of dandelions–an endless sea of white punctuated by a few black dots.
It is said that there are more sheep in Ireland than people and for anyone driving throughout this magnificent island country, such a casual observation seems to ring of pure truth.

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

These sheep reside inside the city limits, grazing contently on residential lawns.
They are on the rolling hills, the rocky crag topped plains and they oddly inhabit the myriad of tiny islands circling this mystical coast.

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

They rest in the roads, on the rocks and in the bogs.
They roam contently wandering endlessly this greenest of green island nations.

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

And yet it remains a bit of a wonder as to how any farmer, rancher, or dare we say shepherd, knows exactly where his or her sheep may be at any given time as it seems as if they aren’t really anywhere but actually are, simply put, everywhere constantly both day and night.

Yet any good farmer, rancher or shepherd, worth his or her salt, possesses what seems to be an innate knowledge or sixth sense when it comes to their animals…
They know…
They just know.
Their animals are a part of their very being.
The sheep are plainly put, their livelihood.
The sheep determine if a family can pay their bills or not.
It’s simply their business to know.
It is their life to know.

They know because their sheep are tagged, painted and tracked by dogs–as in sheep dogs

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

(a sheep farm somewhere in County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Blue denotes ownership or farm.
Red denotes time of shearing.
And tags denote location.

(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

It is as if these sheep are marked for life.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit

My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand.
(John 10:27-28)

(a sheep grazes somewhere in County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)


“If everyone gives one thread, the poor person will have a shirt”
Russian Proverb

“The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.”
St. John of the Cross

(just a few of my friend Charlotte’s tools of her trade / Julie Cook / 2015)

IMG_1519(just a few of my friend

The question we each eventually find ourselves asking,
at some point or other during our lifetime is. . .

“To what and or to whom am I bound?”

What is it that ties us, binds us, secures us to this thing we call life?

Is it family?
Is it work?
Is it that cadre of friends?
Is it the joy of hobbies?
Is it wealth?
Is it the pursuit of wealth?
Is it what we amass. . . our things, our toys, our possessions?
Is it a belief, a faith, a thought, a lifestyle, a life choice. . .?
Perhaps a combination of all of the above. . .?

The threads, those intricate strings, ropes, chains, cords, wires that tie us and bind us to this world, those that help to keep us grounded. . .but at the same time limited and tightly bound. . .
We must wonder. . . do they bind us, tether us just like the dog who is tethered to a chain run in the yard—affording a measured amount of space and length to run about, jump, sit, sleep. . .that is until we reach the end of the line– only to be rudely and abruptly yanked back into place. . .into our safety zone.

Are we tethered to these items and people just like the chained dog living in a limited world?
Do we look at these threads, these ropes, these chains as various life lines which offer security or rather do we need to be tied down and constantly connected, growing more and more tangled up the more we run about?

If we allow ourselves to be tied to this and that, to be bound to all the earthly goods in our lives, clinging to those things and people we allow to consume us, then what room do we allow for God and for what all God wants to be and to give within our lives–the offerings, the compassion, the Grace?
We can never soar upward, freely, toward the Creator if we are as a puppet—full of strings that bind and eventually knotting up and holding us to everything but Him.

The more we amass in this world, the heavier we become with more and more threads—hindered by the things that tie us up ever tighter to the world and to its life sucking needs. We become ensnared and entangled in each thread that leashes us to each and every thing and person–being unable to even lift a hand, reaching outward toward a God who wants so desperately to take our hand.

Maybe it’s time to untie, even cut, a few strings. . .to be willing to let go of a few things that we foolishly have thought to be too important. With our focus being so overtly grounded, we are unable to begin to look up and away to that sacred place where God longs for us to be.

Oddly we may believe that the threads that tie us to even our churches, to even certain relationships, too important to loosen—but we must realize, before we are so terribly knotted and tangled that when the threads are too many and too tight to the church or to anything or anyone other than the Omnipotent God of Creation, not allowing us to tie and tether ourselves to HIm and what He alone has to offer, then we are surely lost as we drown in a sea of colored threads.

God wants His thread to be the only thread we ever need or use.

It’s what St John of the Cross so eloquently surmises in today’s quote—it matters not what we are “tied to. . .for until the cord is broken [cut, severed], the bird cannot [be free] to fly [or soar]

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.

Psalm 118:26-27