lost sheep seeking the Good Shepherd

Sinners have a spiritual vision that Pharisees do not have.
They look at Christ, and their humility allows them to perceive
in him their only hope of salvation.
The Pharisee sees merely the man, whereas the lost sheep sees the Good Shepherd!

Fr. Sean Davidson
From his book Saint Mary Magdalene:
Prophetess of Eucharistic Love


(My most favorite sheep, ever / Co Donegal, Ireland / Gleann Cholm Cille /
Julie Cook / 2015)

Growing up a city girl, I always assumed that there was but one type of sheep;
White and fluffy.

And for reasons that escape me, I have always had a deep affinity for sheep.

I’ve shared this notion before but I think this affinity was born from a prayer.
It is derived from the prayer of the penitent…a prayer I grew up praying
since childhood– found in The Book of Common Prayer.

The prayer begins…Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep…”

A prayer that speaks straight to the root of my heart…erring and straying.
I think I’ve always identified with both that whole straying and lost
sheep business.

So bah bah I go…

I have been known to vow that one day I would escape to someplace obscure,
becoming a shepherd…
or if should I need to be more PC, that would that be shepherdess…
but I’ll just stick with shepherd since I don’t care for the interchangeability
of pronouns and monikers.

A shepherd of sheep.
The shepherd calls and sheep know his name….

Over the years, my various moves from city to rural life, along
with various travels, taught me otherwise…sheep come in many sizes,
shapes and colors…but it wasn’t until a trip to Ireland that the whole sheep
variety thing played out in real life.


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)


(Julie Cook / 2015)

And so knowing human beings as I do…I know that we seek that often
elusive shepherd…
We seek the voice of the one who will guide us and care for us…
We seek it in our relationships.
We seek it in our jobs.
We seek it in our leaders—
for we are innately seeking one who will care and lead.

The trouble is that we most often seek the wrong voices, the wrong
lights, the wrong directions, the wrong glitz…
We seek temporary satisfaction in our shepherds.
We seek more of the immediate gratification and quick easy fit.

Yet sadly, those that we seek are limited, short-lived,
or most often then not, fleeting.

There is only One who is consistent and constant…never changing.
He knows each of his sheep…both lost and found.
He will leave the found 99 in order to go find, rescue and fetch that 1
who is lost.

How fortunate we are those who have erred and strayed!


(one of a kind / Julie Cook /2015)

“There is another reason also why the soul has traveled safely
in this obscurity; it has suffered:
for the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable,
than that of rejoicing and of action.
In suffering God gives strength,
but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own weakness
and imperfections.
And in suffering, the soul practices and acquires virtue,
and becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Dark Night of the Soul

indissoluble bond

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this:
it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government
with the principles of Christianity.

John Quincy Adams


(detail from a triptych I created before retiring,
based on the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald)

I found this followup article to yesterday’s post…an article that actually preempted
my post from yesterday by a couple of day’s…a penultimate of sorts from
the Washingtonexaminer.com

With a similar observation, the article by Kimberly Ross, notes that
“For the first time in 80 years,
the number of Americans with dedicated church attendance has fallen below 50%.
According to a Gallup poll released Monday, only 47% of those polled confirmed that they
are members of a religious body.
This is quite a decline from previous years of polling,
which saw the number hover around the 70% mark for several decades.
Unsurprisingly, the downward trend began around the dawn of the new century.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/what-does-declining-church-attendance-mean-for-our-society?utm_source=deployer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Beltway+Confidential&utm_term=Post+Up+Opens+2020&utm_content=20210401154409

And whereas I do fret and truly worry about how and where our liberally woke , Antifa laced and
oh so socialist minded society seems to be racing…gunning for our Judaeo Christian foundation,
I continue to find hope—glimpses of light that remind me that no one on Earth can nor will silence
the Resurrection of Life eternal.

I have read that God will not, cannot, ever be silenced…
yet in that proclamation however,
there is not a guarantee that the United States is destined for the ride.
The ride that connects the dots from Resurrection to Return.

And yet that very question remains in the minds of many of the faithful in our Nation.
Can we, will we be able to work toward remaining in that time line…or will we not.
Maybe we shouldn’t care.
Maybe we should.

Seek while He still may be found…

“Our national discourse is fraught with anger and tension.
There has been great struggle, sacrifice, and sadness over the past year.
There is uncertainty surrounding both economic and public health.
With challenges still remaining, there is no better time to seek spiritual guidance
and hope at places that foster relationships and fellowship.”

think and seek the things of God…

“O man, when the world hates you and is faithless toward you, think of your God,
how he was struck and spat upon.
You should not accuse your neighbor of guilt,
but pray to God that he be merciful to you both.”

St. Nicholas of Flue


(I think it’s called an Autumn cherry…despite it’s prolific blooms during early Spring / Julie Cook / 2021)

“This world is filled with many vulgar and dishonorable things that will claw and tear at your
Christian purity if you allow them to.
Don’t let them!
Seek instead the things of God.
He will purify you and free you from your slavery to profane and inconsequential things.”

Patrick Madrid, p.1
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

seek, praise, proclaim

God is truth, and whoever seeks the truth is seeking God,
whether he knows it or not.

St. Edith Stein
from “Edith Stein” by Waltraud Herbstrith


(a drive through Cades Cove, The Great Smokey MTs. National Park / Abby Cook / 2020)

“Let all creation help you to praise God.
Give yourself the rest you need.
When you are walking alone, listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers,
the trees, the shrubs, the sky, the sun, and the whole world.
Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God,
and how they invite you to proclaim the greatness of the one who has given them being.”

St. Paul of the Cross

timing is not mine

Truth has no special time of its own.
Its hour is now – always.

Albert Schweitzer


(a very fearful and shy visitor / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Time has never been my own.

It is not mine, nor is it yours.

Time is truly not any of ours to claim.
Time is beyond control.
It is beyond ‘our’ control.

And guess what…we humans don’t like that.

So what that all means is that “things” happen.
They happen whether we like it or not.

We have two cats.

Both cats were rescue cats.
Cats who found us to rescue them rather
than our finding them to rescue.

Now whereas most folks go to a shelter or have a friend who contacts them regarding
a found stray animal, we had two animals who actually found us.
Each about 7 years apart.

They sought us out.
We did not go looking for them.

Percy, who was in dire straits at just about a month old, was in the most desperate of shape.
Peaches, on the other hand, was about 8 months old, wandering alone in a back field,
and was very very hungry.

They were in need and each one had some innate drive which brought them to where they
each believed help would come.

Help came.
Love came.

Fast forward to present day.

Two days ago, I saw a dark blur dash across our front porch.
Huh?
What the heck??

I told my husband about seeing this odd blur and he told me that he meant to tell me
that he’d also seen a dark blur race across the back patio that he thought was certainly
a cat.

UGH! was my response.

We live on 5 acres in a mostly rural area with a few subdivisions nearby.
Stray animals, obviously, are not strangers to our area.

So I poked around the yard, bent over nearly on my head peeking through the lattice
covering our front porch, when low and behold, up under that front porch, first,
I heard a small mew and then I could make out two small ears.

UGH…agian
Oh, did I mention Percy has blown out his other back knee and really needs another
expensive and ardrous surgery??

This kitten, who appears to be part calico, is not like Peaches or Percy, whereas he, she, it
is not necessarily seeking us out–it has merely taken up residence in the dirt under my front porch.

I sumise that it is about 3 months old.

And yes, as you can see from the pictures, I have obviously offered free food and water.
Call me a softie but St. Francis is constantly whispering in my ear…

A friend of mine told me that her sister would take the kitten.
The problem is that I can’t “get” the kitten.

It is so skittish that I can’t get near it.

I tried yesterday…as it readily ate the food I offered, to pet its head after I coaxed it out
from under the porch…
.
I thought I had a perfect moment and tried to scoop it up, wraping it in a towel
as I hoped to move it to a cage that I’d set up with food, water, a litter box and cushion
until I could transport it to my friend’s sister.

And that’s when it bit me.

It then jumped and ran.

Great.

Rabis or cat scratch fever…maybe worms.
UGH!

So needless to say, the kitten ran and remains under our porch.
I continue to place dry food and water near the front porch in the evening
and by morning, each have disappeared.
Call me a sucker.
But like I say, St. Francis speaks loudly in my heart and soul.

So this story of three different cats, each needing and wanting, got me thinking about us
as humans both wanting and needing.

Sometimes we humans go forth needing…we seek because whe innately know we need.
Yet at other times we are needing but we dare not acknowledge such…I think we call that
hubris and pride.

Yet God, our Father, knows of both our needs and wants.

He is the consumate Gentleman.
He’ll place the food and water out by the porch..knowing we’ll come out
at some point, in the cover of darkness, in order to find our necessary sustenance…
but He will not force us out to take what He offers.

He is patient, dilentgly waiting.

He’s been bitten more times than can be counted…yet He still puts out
the sustenance, that being His own Son, and continues to sit and wait on the steps…
waiting with open arms…
He knows His children and He waits until they can actually figure their needs and wants.

Sometimes they, we, will readily come out from under that porch.
Sometimes they, we, will never come out.
Sometimes they, we, know their needs.
Sometimes they, we, know their wants.
Sometimes they, we, are humble enough to seek out what we know we need.

He will never force us…
He just patiently waits.

I’m thankful He waits.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18

Think of and seek…God

“O man, when the world hates you and is faithless toward you,
think of your God, how he was struck and spat upon.
You should not accuse your neighbor of guilt,
but pray to God that he be merciful to you both.”

St. Nicholas of Flue


(tulips at The Biltmore House /Julie Cook / 2020)

“This world is filled with many vulgar and dishonorable things that will claw and tear
at your Christian purity if you allow them to.
Don’t let them!
Seek instead the things of God.
He will purify you and free you from your slavery to profane and inconsequential things.”

Patrick Madrid, p.1
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

Seek Him

Christmas tells a different story.
It tells us that a deeper moral change comes from encountering the
Presence who loves us, instead of threatening us;
Who comes to find us instead of shaming us;
who comes to change the human heart by offering it compassion and forgiveness
instead of forcing and humiliating us.
Christmas is ‘God with us’ rather than the ‘state over us.’

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(image courtesy the web)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”
Luke 2:14

“God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh.
His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human
understanding:
the Infinite has become a child,
has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI

A very Merry Christmas to all of my family, friends and dear blogging family,
each and everyone…be they near or far…

Pax

fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

Faith without content

“Don’t ask why, ask what—
What am I suppose to do?”

St Padre Pio


(a killdeer hunkers down on Mackinac Island, MI /Julie Cook / 2017)

In reading through the the tiny book that literally fell off the shelf
the other day, landing squarely at my feet,
There Are No Accidents / In All Things Trust God
by the late Fr. Benedict J Groeschel
with John Bishop

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/there-are-no-accidents/)

I have naturally circled and highlighted things that happen
to “speak” to me as I go.

The first half of the book is a running dialog between and interviewer
(John Bishop) and interviewee (Fr Benedict)

The book was published in 2004 but as I’m reading through
all comments, questions and responses,
I’m finding them to be ever most timely.
As in not much seems to have changed in 13 years time…
but perhaps only grown wider in both depth and scope.

Fr Benedict notes that “there is a decline in society in the western world.
Because, after all, sexual morality, among its many purposes,
is the protection of family life.
That is a very high, primary responsibility.
Family life is decaying everywhere.
The cause is a naïveté of the pro-abortion group,
and particularly Planned Parenthood.
They not only have done everything possible to undermine the sacredness of life,
but have done everything to undermine sexual morality.”

He goes on to explain how “the media” follows along these same lines of thought.
Fr. Benedict points to a study /survey that was conducted in California,
around the same time of the interview, of approx. 200,000 media folks.
The results showed that 92% of them favored abortion on demand…
and that 94% favored public acceptance of homosexual relationships.

Opinions that obviously ran/ run very counter to the teachings of the Church
(and I mean the universal Christian Church not only the Catholic Church).

Next Fr Benedict points out that there were also numbers showing,
once again numbers true to the time of the interview,
that 94% of folks in the US believed in a personal God.
92% believed in meeting God upon departing Earth and 86% believed that Jesus Christ
was the Son of God.

Yet Fr Benedict also points out that despite the high percentage numbers,
in actuality, he notes that most of those folks have no idea of what all any of
that really means—of which basically boils down to “faith without content.”

Which obviously made me think.

Faith is indeed a noun but I believe it also a verb…
as in Faith, our Christian Faith, is not merely something passive,
but rather active…as in it seeks, searches, serves…

Christianity is not a passive religion.
God is not a passive God.
He expects more from us than a lukewarm, quasi connected relationship.
He expects that we follow and live out His commands, His words.
There is no picking or choosing,
no this but none of that…
It is not easy and most everything He tells us runs counter to what
the world would have us say, think and do….
It’s all or nothing.

And it appears that more and more of those who profess to have faith,
are currently opting for nothing….

“Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways,
to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies,
according to what is written in the Law of Moses,
that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,
so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying,
‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in
truth with all their heart and with all their soul,
you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

1 Kings 2:3-4