expectation, seeking and knocking

We may despair at scandals we hear about in the Church.
True reform may seem impossible. Beware the tempter! Rather than succumbing
to the despair and apathy to which the tempter seeks to lead us,
let us instead embrace God’s call to share in Christ’s sonship and participate
in his work of redemption…
Transformation is possible, but only to those who trust in him.

Michael Patrick Barber
from Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know

“Mary remained with the donkey at the very entrance of the street while
Joseph sought a lodging in the nearest houses—in vain,
for Bethlehem was full of strangers, all running from place to place.
Joseph returned to Mary, saying that as no shelter was to be found there,
they would go on farther into the town. He led the donkey on by the bridle,
and the Blessed Virgin walked beside him. When they came to the beginning
of another street, Mary again stopped by the donkey,
and Joseph again went from house to house in vain seeking a lodging,
and again came sadly back. This happened several times, and the Blessed Virgin
often had long to wait.
Everywhere the houses were filled with people, everywhere he was turned away …
Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to [a] tree, and made her a comfortable seat
against its trunk with their bundles, so that she might rest while he
sought for shelter in the houses near. …
At first Mary stood upright, leaning against the tree.
Her ample white woollen dress had no girdle and hung around her in folds:
her head was covered with a white veil.
Many people passed by and looked at her, not knowing that the Redeemer
was so near to them.
She was so patient, so humble, so full of
hopeful expectation.
Ah, she had to wait a long, long time;
she sat down at last on the rug, crossing her feet under her.
She sat with her head bent and her hands crossed below her breast.
Joseph came back to her in great distress; he had found no shelter.
His friends, of whom he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin,
would hardly recognize him.
He was in tears and Mary comforted him.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, p.185
An Excerpt From
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary From the Visions of
Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich

up, down or through

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth
and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say
there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.
Helen Keller

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.
Charlotte Bronte


(view looking up a hollow tree that has a small hole on the way up / Julie Cook /2017)


(looking down the opening to a different hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(looking through a third hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

God looks down…
We look up…
He sees through…

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love
between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God….
On the whole,
God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.
Nobody can always have devout feelings:
and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.
If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment,
‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases.
We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right.
But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference;
and, therefore,
it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins,
at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 132-133.

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

why are any of us here…

“The fact of God is necessary for the fact of man.
Think God away and man has no ground of existence.”

A.W. Tozer

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(Sandpiper in the surf / Grayton Beach State Park / Julie Cook / 2016)

I doubt that there has ever been a single person who,
at some point or another during the course of a life time,
has not pondered the reason for their existence.

Most likely for much of their lives, there are countless numbers of forlorn souls
who have grappled, nay continue to grapple, with this quandary…
…with the very profound depth of such a nagging question…
Longing for some semblance of direction…

Seeking and craving to know what it is that is to be done…
how shall they, how shall any of us, make their mark?
Yearning to know purpose and course…

For some the question and elusive answer is but a fleeting passing of slight discomfort…

However for others, it is a lifetime quest…

To make a difference.
To change the world.
To find one’s place
One’s calling
One’s destiny…

Yet imagine finding yourself in a hopeless situation…
In the midst of misery and death…as life is slowing and agonizingly ebbing away…
Imagine feeling defeated while knowing your very existence is in grave jeopardy.
You are plagued by torment, illness and and evil beyond comprehension…

Do you now shrug your shoulders and concede that all is lost?
As a sickening realization settles over you
that this is simply the destitute lot for which you now reside …

or…

Do you know without doubt or question that no matter the bleakest, darkest circumstance…
there still remains both purpose and reason…

But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear.

And that was the reason the two of us were here.

Why others should suffer we were not shown.

As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call,
our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope.
Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire,
we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light.

The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned
the word of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

Corrie Ten Boom reflecting on her time in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp as
was written in her book The Hiding Place.

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

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(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

Get what you need…

No, you can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime, you find,
You get what you need

(Lyrics by Mick Jagger)

RSCN2909
(flowering hawthorn / Julie Cook / 2016)

Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined,
and a house divided against itself will fall.
If Satan is divided against himself,
how can his kingdom stand?

Luke 11:17-18

Looking left
Looking right
Running around in circles…
Looking endlessly,
Yearning voraciously
Wanting impatiently

Never seemingly satisfied.

Children out of control
Teens out of control
Parents out of control
Athletes out of control
Politicians out of control
Entertainers out of control
Musicians out of control
News folks out of control
Clergy out of control
Average folks out of control

Frustration
Dissatisfaction
Fragmented
And now fractured beyond repair

That is us
And it is now

Divided and divisive
Spiraling out of control
Crashing and burning
A world set adrift and endlessly burning

One need
One want
One remedy

One Hope
One Savior
One God

“The world is in flames.
Are you compelled to put them out?
Look at the cross.
From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior
This extinguishes the flames of hell.”

Edith Stein
Thy Will Be Done
Bread and Wine
Readings for Lent and Easter

Are you happy with what you seek

“There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.”
Blaise Pascal

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(St Kevin’s Monastery, Gleandalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is it that you go always looking to and fro?
Is your life filled with too much noise and a quest for grander toys?
Is it all simply too distracting, time consuming and soul extracting?
Are your days spent wasted while your heart lays empty,
As you whittle away your life with that which is small and petty?

Listen now my friends to the wisdom offered long ago….

Up now, slight man! Flee for a little while, thy occupations; hide thyself, for a time from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside now thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid thee in seeking him; close thy door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek (Psalms 27:8). And come thou now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek thee, where and how it may find thee.
St Anslem

May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”
Irish Blessings