Resurrections

“God is what he is;
Yahweh is who he is.”

Alec Motyer

The first thing the Cross does is cross out the world’s word by a Wholly-Other Word,
a Word that the world does not want to hear at any price.
For the world wants to live and rise again before it dies,
while the love of Christ wants to die in order to rise again in the form of God on the
other side of death, indeed, IN death.”

― Hans Urs von Balthasar


(a surprise resurrection blooming peony / Julie Cook /2017)

Late last Spring, early summer, I found myself wandering through the garden center of Lowes.
Whenever I’m feeling ‘less then’, blah or downright sad I often find myself wandering
the garden center.
Rows and rows of color, vibrancy and simply life…
abundant in the scents and sights of fullness, always seems to lift my spirits.

I either wander aimlessly, seeking some hidden sense of solace…
or I wander with a purpose…as in I come with the intent of purchasing something
to plant…
as in, there is a reason and a need for the wandering.

Last planting season I was seeking a few shrubs that were deer resistant but plants
that had more umph than some sort of boxwood or holly.
Something that could survive the full relentless Georgia sun.
A summer either baking and dry or sticky and humid…
Last summer it was hot and dry with a long lasting and oh so deadly drought.

I am a fan of the old fashioned sort of plants found in gardens that harken
to another time…a lovely sort of English cottage garden…
Those gardens that call to mind the thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

So imagine my piqued interest when I spied a potted peony.
Peonies remind me of old world stateliness…soft while elegant.
Not flashy, not cutting edge, not loud nor garish.
A very southern old-time staple.

I am not a green thumb queen like our friend Natalie over on Sacred Touches
(https://sacredtouches.com)
I do however enjoy planting and working in the yard,
as it is extremely therapeutic for me…
It’s just that I don’t always have success and I don’t always know what I’m doing.

After checking out the price tag on the peony, I had a bit of sticker shock.
It was very expensive.
I asked one of the garden center folks if the peony could survive full sun.
She told me yes and that that was the last peony for the season…that she had already bought
one of the others despite it being a big splurge…she was just excited to get one.

Seeing that I was in the midst of the growing difficult life with Dad’s declining health
and the beginnings of his increasing needs as the life I had known had ceased…
I wanted, no I needed, something to bring me a bit of joy…
I figured a blooming peony could do just that.
So I too splurged and bought the potted peony.

Long story short.
I planted it.
I cared for it.
But we had a deadly drought.
Baking heat and a drought…

This is what the peony looked like come early Fall…

Dejected and sad I text Natalie the pictures.
Knowing her to be the queen of flowers, I shared my loss with her.
Natalie does indeed know a thing or two about flowers and plants
as well as a thing or two about heat and drought as she hails from Texas…
She told me not to dig up the plant…
“Just leave it, because come Spring, you might just be surprised.”
“Peonies are of a hardy stock.”
I suppose a Texas southerner knows a thing or two about hardy stock.

So as the winter came and my life grew more grey and difficult, I forgot all about the peony.

Fast forward to now…as I wander about in the wake of losing Dad,
going through the motions these last couple of weeks while trying to pick up the pieces of
what all he’s left behind,
I’ve been working slowly to bring some semblance of order back into my world.

Wandering about the yard, seeking newness and fullness, I caught my breath when I noticed
a little tuft of fresh greenery emerging from the recently replaced pine straw.
Cautiously over the past week, I’ve watched the little tuft get fuller and taller.
Then Sunday afternoon I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a bloom.

A real resurrection of sorts….

And how timely that this garden resurrection should manifest itself during this most
Holy of weeks…

The weightiness and heaviness of this world…with its pain and overwhelming sorrow…
It is both frightening while at the same time complacent as it lulls us into feeling
that it is our home, our only home.
Dirty and broken, hot and dry…it clutches us, smothering us as it holds our
face in it’s grip convincing us that this world is all we could ever want or need.

Yet in that brokeness and loneliness of our empty hearts and souls…we yearn
for more.
While we shrink in the dryness…
we are spent…

So on that hot dry day of loss…
as a head drops to the chest and the last breath is released…
while the sky darkens and all hope leaves with that drying…

A promise is not forgotten…
and soon our world will change forever…
for the better…..

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:44

Holy discontent

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
― Ray Bradbury

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Spring has sprung a bit early…so it seems
Temperatures are running 15 to 20 degrees above the average for this time of year…
Early March is feeling a lot like late May…
It is an unexpected delight…yet troubling just the same.

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(shots of the blooming cherry trees complete with bees and ladybugs / Julie Cook / 2016)

We aren’t much for being the creatures of the unexpected…we humans…
we grow alarmed and anxious when things, especially in nature, step out of sync.
We prefer the expected…
The tried and true…
that of the habitual habit…
We know our times, our seasons, our rhythms of life,
and we like for them to be, well, predictable.

The same holds true for our spiritual nature…
Our need to have a relationship with that which is Greater than ourselves.
As created beings we long, most often subconsciously, for our Creator…
For it seems that the need to have a relationship with that God of all Creation is truly hardwired within.

There are those who would argue that point…
As they do not see the correlation between man’s constant discontent and to his quest, nay need, to be made whole…

Those who eschew God for God’s sake, those who defiantly say…
“there is no God”
or
“I have no need for a God” …
Try in vain to fill the void, the empty abyss, with any and all sorts of need filling balms and placebos…

Be it addictions…
Those maddening and seemingly uncontrollable urges which gobble up all manner of ill in a frantic, albeit vain, need to stave the endless hunger of the spiritual void…

Or it might be the endless, yet empty, quest of searching and seeking after any and all things to worship…the longing to put something, anything, at the center of validation and justification of simply… being…
From demons to fatted calves, from nature to man himself…
humankind yearns to put something at the center of its very existence…

As man seeks, yearns, needs to hold something, anything, at the heart of his existence…
his insatiable need goes back to that very moment when God first breathed life into the lungs of the dust created Adam…

And it is to this day…
That we, me, you, us, long to breathe, once again, in rhythm with our Creator…
Seeking, longing, aching to fill the discontent with the rhythmic beating as one…
Restored within the relationship to…
God the Almighty…
The Father…
And Maker of both Heaven and Earth…

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Well seasoned

“Accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

― Kahlil Gibran

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.”
― Christoph Christian Sturm

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(bits of the remains of a farm in Teileann, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is a rhythm and certain cadence to life,
as well as to living that life.
Divided amongst the four seasons…
A time to reap and a time to sow
A time to make merry and a time to grow…

In December, the weather is to be cold.
The trees, both twiggy and dormant, are to stand as Winter’s lone sentinels.
Yet what an odd sight when those sleeping trees, which are to wake up and bud in March, are alarmingly budding now.
Odder still…a single remaining tomato plant continues to persevere offering up small ripening fruit.

Where are the freezing temps, the chilly days and colder nights?
Forthcoming they say…
Why do the crickets still sing at dusk,
when they should be fast asleep for the winter?
Ode to our seasons being out of sync and out of step.

For we are rhythmic beings.
Our bodies
Our seasons
Our time
Our earth
Our universe

We have been created to live a seasonal and rhythmic life.
Our very breath rises and falls as our heart beats rhythmically along—both in sync
Any glitch, such as an illness or accident, creates havoc to life’s ebb and flow.
And when one component of our being falls out of tempo with the rest, everything within and without, seems to follow suit.

Disruption
Distraction
Disjunction
Disconnection
Disorder…

We are also spiritual beings.
Who are inextricably linked to the One who set all that is into motion…
Linked endlessly to the One who has given us our being, our rhythm, our life.
Yet long ago, having chosen disobedience over obedience, chaos over order, darkness over light, we placed into jeopardy the very essence of that rhythmic relationship.
The harmony of Life’s seasons was turned upside down and despite our best efforts, remains hopelessly out of sync and out of balance to this day.

So as we find ourselves in the waning days of yet another year,
in the midst the final season of a time which was…
A time of transition…
from cool to cold,
from colorful to bland,
from bright to bleak,
from life to death,
from light to dark….
a time and a season of longing and expectation…
A time that has us wondering, watching, waiting…

A time that is to offer renewing Light…
As in a living Light.
A Light which will bring life giving warmth as it banishes the darkness of colorless death…

There will be those who we will long for this light…
as there will be others who will remain unaware, dismissive and stubbornly unaccepting.
Yet this living Light thankfully comes regardless of the wants and whims of man…
It comes despite the poor choices and refusals…
It comes to offer both Hope and Redemption for any and all…as it will finally set the captives free, as the blind will finally see and those who have been silenced will find their long awaited song.
The Light which will restore the very cadence and rhythm…
to our relationship of One…

Reminders and Remembrance

“There are moments when we have real fun because, just for the moment, we don’t think about things and then–we remember–and the remembering is worse than thinking of it all the time would have been.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“What you remember saves you.”
― W.S. Merwin

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(a collection of shells found at Orange Beach, Al / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have two small, rather faded and mostly brittle, sea shells riding
along on the console of my dash—actually along the outcropping for my car’s navigation screen.
The shells slide from one side to the other should I ever make a sudden turn or swerve.
They bother my husband.
He’s afraid they’re going to scratch the Nav’s screen.
They aren’t.
Every time he gets in my car to ride with me, he always asks the same question:
“Why do you have those shells up there?”
Followed by “They’re going to scratch the glass.”

I always answer the same. . .
“Those were two shells I found in the car when I was cleaning it out, after our long weekend trip back in September, to the beach.”
Which means they have been riding in my car now for 8 months.
Back and forth during the change of seasons, in the depths of winter’s chill. . .Halloween, Christmas, Easter—over to Atlanta, to the airport, to the mall, to the grocery store, to meetings, to the lawyer’s office, to the hospital, to the doctor’s office, to the dentist’s office, to the church, to a myriad of places to eat, to the beach again, to the home of friends, to wedding’s, to funerals, to parties, to Dad’s–
For miles and miles, and even more miles. . . those little shells have been my tiny passengers. . .

I put them on the dash as a reminder. . .

Reminding me of those more peaceful carefree moments spent simply basking in the wonderment of creation, as in my case, at the ocean’s shores.
Reminders of treasured moments when one affords oneself the luxury of enjoyment, contentment and release.
When one slows down long enough, stoping while bending over,
to pick up a small piece of Creation. . . marveling in or at something that is intriguing,
eye catching, simple, plain, pretty, interesting, unusual—pocketing the minuscule as a treasured keepsake. . .a wee reminder that nothingness, and yet everything,
can be treasured, special, sacred. . .

Reminders of a time when nothing pulled at, called upon, pressed down on, worried, frightened or troubled mind, body or soul.

It’s important that I can hold on to the reminders and the memories of such. . .

We all have similar little mementoes tucked away someplace. . .those tiny scrapes of paper, pretty little rocks, bits of glass, old buttons, frayed ribbons, tattered photos, long forgotten keys all the tiny tangible pieces of our peace, our happiness, our treasured moments of time savored and found in a long forgotten little pieces of this or that. . .

For me, many of those tiny treasures are natural items that I pick up along my journeys outward. . .
Walks along the beach, a trek into the woods, a hike in the mountains, the precarious forging of a creek or stream. . .bits and pieces, tangible particles, of the natural wonders. . .the tiny parts offered to the created by the Master Creator Himself. . .

I pocket them, holding on to them, putting them where I can see them. . .in order to recall, to remember, to reclaim, to hold on to. . .the fact that God has given me a tiny token of Himself and His wonderment, in order for me to carry, to actually touch, to feel and to hold. . .reminding me that He is greater than myself and my various little journeys to here and there—I am reminded of the one significant fact—that when life is overwhelming and I’m feeling as if I’ve reached a breaking point. . .I’m sweetly, gently reminded that He is bigger, greater, grander. . .while at the same time and most poignantly reminded that He can be both gently thoughtful and touching. . .simply reminding me always of His presence in my often frantic and manic world. . .

Mountains, mole hills and this elusive Spring

It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive. Why should it exaggerate? There is that which should be destroyed and that which should be simply illuminated and studied. How great is the force of benevolent and searching examination! We must not resort to the flame where only light is required.
Victor Hugo

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

― W.B. Yeats

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(a spring rain drips down the soon to be budding maple tree / Julie Cook /2015)

Quick!
Did you see it?
Ohhh darn, you missed it.
It was right there in plain site. . .I promise!
Just as you turned your head, poof, it just disappeared.
What a shame. . . .

And so it is, ode to the ongoing elusive dance between Winter and Spring.
Warm, temperate and dry has been few and far between.
Frustratingly wet and chilly are proving to be more the norm.

Yet slowly and doggedly surely. . .
Little by little
a wee bit of color here
and a wee bit of life there,
each easing onto the scene.

And as with any time of transition,
there are to always be those herky jerky periods of stops and starts–
those glorious moments of wonder and those awkward spells of turmoil

Life certainly mirrors our seasons does it not?
At times there are the magical moments of marvelous ecstasies,
the slow dormant quiets of loss,
with each being traded for the tumultuous trials of transition.

Springtime, this spectacular time of passage, is certainly a time of clashing forces.
Warm air masses begin colliding with cold air masses.
Angry storms abound as a reluctant Winter battles to hold on to power.
Each season, each time passage, vies for control.

This time of yearly transition affords the random observer to be privy
to the passing of one realm to the next.
The proverbial passing of the torch from one reluctant monarch to the next.
Death and decay giving way to the expectancy of birth and renewal.

And as with any birth, as magical as it is,
birth exacts a certain amount of pain.
Marvelous, precious and delicious does not come without labor, toil and work.

And so it is with human nature.
We often see that the well intended can either deal with things honestly and straightforward,
tackling one thing at a time, or we can witness the misguided going off willy nilly,
making mountains out of molehills.

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(an image of beginning renovations and renewal of a worn torn yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(two different victims of some sort of foul play / Julie Cook / 2015)

As far back as the 16th century it seems people have been making mountains out of molehills.
The expression was actually recorded in 1660 in an English lexicon of idioms. A similar expression was recorded even earlier, in 1549, using a different visual reference but still with the same meaning.
Therefore marking our history with an age old conundrum. . .that mountains and molehills appear to be an ongoing human condition.

There is no doubt that you know the expression. . .
the whole taking of something seemingly small and insignificant and in turn blowing it up until it is almost an unsurmountable trouble.

Sadly it seems with some folks that such an undertaking is simply how they choose to operate on an ongoing basis. The taking of a simple task, situation or issue. . . turning it and everything around them into a disproportionate crises. Hopelessly preferring to stir up everyone and anyone in their wake. Leaving the likeminded and team-players mystified, frustrated and dazed.

It is during such times of battling, clashing and climbing that we must remember that good things can and do come from bad. That the obstacles placed before us, either by happenstance or by the misguided and malcontents, can either be approached and dealt with, depending on how we decide to proceed, or can fall victim to the perceived mountains produced by the lowly molehills.

I for one prefer to step, perhaps even stomp on the molehills, avoiding the ensuing mountains and make for the pretty flowers of Spring. . .that we could all be so like minded. . .

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(blooming tulip flower / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Continuum

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

“Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work”
Indian Proverb

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(Victorian Plant stand / Julie Cook / 2014)

A circle.
360º
No beginning.
No end.
Never stopping.
Never starting.
A continuum.

Very much like a cycle.
A repetition.
A loop.
A rhythm.
Over and over.
Constant.
Consistant.
Again and again and again.

Very much like the seasons.
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
One following always after the other.
Again and again.
Over and over.
A sequence.
Year after year.
Very much like life.

Yet. . .

In life, there is always a beginning,
as in birth.
And following, there is always an end,
as in death.
A beginning.
And eventually an end.
Birth
Life
Death
End of sentence.

Yet,

We know that God is more like the circle. . .
for God is a continuum.
as in. . .
He was.
He is.
He shall ever be.
As in forever.
As in forever was.
As in forever is.
As in forever will be.
The Alpha
The Omega

Not so however for our earth.
For the earth, and all that is in it,
shall pass away.
Because for the Earth,
there indeed was a beginning.
And therefore there will certainly be an end.
As in. . .
Decay
Demise
Destruction
Death

Yet

We know that with God there is no end.
Because with God there was never a beginning–
because He always was.
And therefore if there was no beginning,
there can be no end.
As in the perfect continuum.

He, in turn, offers us a place in the continuum.
A place with Him.
As in, the adopted children of Grace.
Who may join their Heavenly Father.
But as a loving Father,
He offers a free choice . . .

Beginning
Life
Death
as in it’s over and simply no more

Or

Beginning
Life
Earthly death
Heavenly Life. . .
as in eternity
as in forever and ever and ever

As in a perfect continuum

“Baby it’s cold outside”

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

As the mercury in the old glass thermometer begins to make its steady descent, falling lower and lower in the tiny glass stem, reaching that crucial 32º F, magic begins to unfold in the ancient crumbling birdbath.
Liquid collides with frigid air as molecules slow.
Interlocking and spreading outward from itself as frenetic now becomes static. A surface oddly appears where moments before there was none.
Dripping, sloshing and evaporating, everyday miraculous occurrences taken for granted, are now trapped and caught in a single moment of time being transformed from the familiar to the foreign, as a season shifts and a cold stalk reality settles in making itself at home.

And as we are told that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” we must remember, know and claim that even in the simplest act of water changing from a liquid to a solid, from the overflow of rain water in an old birdbath to a thick sheet of ice, this act of the miraculous, does not pass or escape the knowledge of the Master Creator.
Something as commonplace as water freezing during the coming of the winter months, all takes place with the knowledge and observation of a Heavenly Father who has set the planets and the seasons in motion, who has cast light into the darkness, and who continues to offer hope in a world full of hopelessness.

Even in the insignificant discarded birdbath, God’s mastery is on display for any and all to take note. His fingerprints are present in the warmth of the sun as well as in the devoid nature of ice.
Who is this who has set forth the scientific laws of motion, gravity, combustion, transformation, energy. . .man may be able to replicate and create change, for good or bad, but he can only take from what he has been given—and much has been given.

Rejoice then shall we, in the light of day, the twinkling stars by night, the warmth of the sun, the blooming of the flowers, the abundance of the field and even in the barren, harsh frozen nothingness of the silence known as Winter. For there is no place on this planet where God is not—that we may learn to rejoice even as the earth transforms from the welcoming and enveloping seasons of warmth and abundant color to a time of lonely cold and unforgiving ice.
. . . As this amazing lesson and reminder now unfolds and is on full display in a lone and forgotten birdbath.

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)