“Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume…”

“If God were our one and only desire we would not be so easily upset when our opinions
do not find outside acceptance.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving,
but know that it is the bounty of God, not thy merit.
Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume,
but rather be the more humble for this gift and the more cautious and fearful
in all thine actions; for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.
When comfort shall be taken away from thee, do not presently despair;
but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit,
for God is able to restore thee a greater consolation.
This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the
ways of God: for the great saints and ancient prophets have often felt
this kind of variety.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

senses put in order

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”

John Burroughs


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

That quote by John Burroughs is so true is it not?
After any walk outside, out in nature…be it in the woods, through a meadow,
a ragged shoreline or a challenging mountain top…I always find myself at peace…
All worry and fret subsides…as that which is so much bigger, so much grander
than my mere self, has an enormous way of healing that which currently ailes my soul.

God is good like that.
Offering me the vast glory of His creation…

So it is no surprise that I love wandering in the woods especially this time of year…
It’s a time when I am not bothered by such things as spiders, snakes, or ticks.

No fears, no immediate worry as I can walk unimpeded—not fretting about where
I put my foot, as long as I avoid any and all stump holes—
those rotted out places in the ground, holes left gaping which are the remains of a dead tree…
such holes can be readily covered by the freshly fallen leaves and not immediately detected
by a mere glance downward.

Many a sprained ankle or even a break can happen when falling into such a hole.
I should know…thankful nothing ever broken…just usually sore and bruised.

And so I can hunt for those small wonders that still wait to be uncovered…
wonders that are not hibernating or buried deep within the ground waiting for Spring.

Shelf fungus and mushrooms are always a favorite to find as their shape, size, and colors
are usually most eye-catching.

Here are just a few from the other day…


(mildewed shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(mushrooms, mushrooming out from under the crevis of a wooden bridge/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully,
he can learn more than what is in books,
for they speak with the voice of God.

George Washington Carver

God cannot be confined by our narcissistic ways

Man wounded by original sin often proves to be egocentric, individualistic, and selfish.
Inspired by Christ, he serves his neighbor.
Without Christ, he knows only his own interest.

Cardinal Sarah


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

Slowly, as the time for a page or two is afforded, I continue making my
way through Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Day is Now Far Spent.

Each page is a new nugget of wisdom to be digested.

That’s another reason why this book takes so much time to read…
Each page gives its reader pause…making the reader stop, ponder, think and
inwardly digest what is being said.

I was waiting on my car to be serviced two weeks ago and was lucky to take in a few pages.
Sitting in the lobby on a rainy afternoon, I would read, highlight, re-read
and then sit and deeply reflect on what I had just read.

I felt my self lucky just to be able to take in a mere single page last night
before going to bed.

The following is what I managed to read last night…

Even if man wanted to, he would never succeed in confining God.

He must instead love, listen to, and adore God and follow Christ.

In our materialistic civilization, man thinks almost exclusively of his own narrow interests.
He sees God as the one who ought to provide him with what consumption does not give him.

God is utilized to satisfy selfish demands.
If he does not answer prayer, they abandon him.
Some even go so far as to blaspheme his holy name.
The religion that ought to connect heaven and earth then runs the risk of becoming a
purely narcissistic space.

Some Evangelical sects excel in this commerce.
They transform God into a pagan idol that is supposed to assure them of health,
happiness, and prosperity and to grant every human whim.
They command miracles, and he is supposed to shower us with then immediately.
This is how the sects ridicule God and mock the credulous persons who have neither
intelligence nor faith.

…the prayer of petition is based on trust in God’s will;
the rest will be given to us in addition.
If we love God, if we are careful to carry out his holy will joyfully,
if we first and most importantly desire his light,
that is, the law of God in the depth of our hearts so as to enlighten our paths (Ps 40:8; Heb 10:5-9),
then he will naturally help us in our difficulties.

“wash your spirit clean”

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

John Muir


(a close up of a persimmon / Julie Cook / 2019)

Every now and then, we all need to go take a walk in the woods.

Walking away from the crowds, the city, the traffic, the noise, the stress…
Sometimes we even need to take a brief walk away from life…
and the best place to go to…is to the woods.

Allowing ourselves to marvel in the tiniest details of the Master’s hand…


(a small fallen dogwood seed / Julie Cook/ 2019)


(the last blooming “weeds” /Julie Cook / 2019)


(a lovely shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(deer moss /Julie Cook / 2019)


(more deer moss / Julie Cook / 2019)


(hidden shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)


(a fallen acorn / Julie Cook / 2019)

“I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land
so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.

Ezekiel 34:25

guarding faith from assault

“When we attend to the needs of those in want,
we give them what is theirs, not ours.
More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

Pope Saint Gregory the Great


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

Some people who think themselves naturally gifted don’t want to touch either
philosophy or logic.
They don’t even want to learn natural science.
They demand bare faith alone—as if they wanted to harvest grapes right away without putting
any work into the vine.
We must prune, dig, trellis, and do all the other work.
I think you’ll agree the pruning knife, the pickaxe, and the farmer’s tools are necessary
for growing grapevines, so that they will produce edible fruit.
And as in farming, so in medicine: the one who has learned something is the one who has
practiced the various lessons, so that he can cultivate or heal.
And here, too, I say you’re truly educated if you bring everything to bear on the truth.
Taking what’s useful from geometry, music, grammar, and philosophy itself,
you guard the Faith from assault.”

St. Clement of Alexandria, p. 13
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

love vs change

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon


(beauty found in shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2018)

“I am sent not only to love God but to make Him loved.
It is not enough for me to love God, if my neighbor does not love Him.”

St. Vincent de Paul

living for what?

Everything in this world will pass away.
In eternity only Love will remain.

Pope Benedict XVI
from An Invitation to Faith


(detail of shelf fungs / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook/ 2018)


(shelf fungus circles a cut log / Cades Cove, TN,
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

“He who wishes for anything but Christ,
does not know what he wishes;
he who asks for anything but Christ,
does not know what he is asking;
he who works, and not for Christ,
does not know what he is doing.”

St. Philip Neri

sanity remains despite insanity’s fight for dominance

For at present we all tend to one mistake; we tend to make politics too important.
We tend to forget how huge a part of a man’s life is the same under a Sultan and a Senate,
under Nero or St. Louis.
Daybreak is a never-ending glory,
getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance;
food and friends will be welcomed;
work and strangers must be accepted and endured;
birds will go bedwards and children won’t,
to the end of the last evening.

—G.K. Chesterton
from the essay What’s Right with the World,
found in In Defense of Sanity

Two things…well maybe even more but two things first.

First…I saw this shelf fungus, or full blown mushroom, growing directly out of the side
of a tree…and at first glance, I asked my husband…
“is that thing real???”
with his woodsy savvy response, “of course it’s real”

“Huh….who knew?!” is all I could muster in reply.


(a fungus among us / The Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2018

Secondly…what about G.K.???

Is Mr. Chesterton not hitting the proverbial nail on the head with his very current
words???

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Chesterton…Gilbert Keith to be exact,
Mr. Chesterton came into this world in 1874 in London and died in 1936 at his home
in Buckinghamshire, England.

He was a prolific writer, being considered by many, the greatest writer of the 20th century.
He never attended college however but rather opted to attend art school,
earning a degree in illustration.
Yet it was after being asked to contribute an essay on art criticism to a magazine that
his lifelong passion for writing and his career as a writer, would not stop until
his death at age of 62…
and yet it never really has stopped as his words live on most enthusiastically
to this day.

And it is due to his prolific writing that Mr. Chesterton remains as current and
as relevant as he did at the turn of the century…that being the turn of the 19th
to the 20th century.

It was actually from the writings of Chesterton that lead a young atheist by the name
of C.S. Lewis to conversion to Christianity…
but Chesterton first would have to come to conversion himself.

Born of Unitarian parents, as a young man Chesterton and his brother veered toward a
fascination with the occult and that of Qujia Boards…as this was a time of a cultural
interest in such…a time when seances were all the rage and much in vogue with most of
cultured society.

Intellectualism and science were both coming into their own as Christianity was
being seen as the stuff of fables and fairy tales as well as too stringent for
those seeking to dabble in all things ‘other than’…
for this was an age of enlightenment.

Chesterton credits his wife Frances, who he married in 1901, with actually leading
him back to the fold of believers.
They became members of the Anglican Church…yet Chesterton would refer to
Anglicanism as a “pale imitation” and eventually joined the Catholic Church in 1922.

It was at this point that Chesterton became what many consider to be one of the
staunchest of all times apologists for the Christian Faith.

Chesterton was equally blessed with the gift of gab and debated the likes of
H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow and not only
lived to tell about it but was considered to be the victor of each debate leading
George Bernard Shaw to proclaim that “the world is not thankful enough for Chesterton.”

And so as I read today’s quote, I found it amazingly instep and even quite timely.

In fact, reading the quote and not knowing it was from Chesterton,
I would have thought any ardent
Christian living today might have said such.

And so it was on our recent trip to the mountains–Cades Cove to be exact, that we
found ourselves wandering into an old creaking white clappered church…
This small mountain Methodist church’s original log hewn structure, built in 1820,
is long gone …leaving in its place the current surviving structure which dates to 1902.


(a pic of the church I took several years back during the fall of the year / Cades Cove /
Julie Cook)

I find that there is something not only peaceful about this long empty church but
actually inviting…

The setting which surrounds this bastion of faith beckons to my soul.


(a view looking back to the right of the Chruch / Julie Cook / 2018)

As we walked inside this glimpse of days gone by, breathing in the stale dusty old air,
feeling the ancient wooden planks gently give and squeak underfoot,
I immediately saw the same simple altar with the same simple wooden cross
hung on the wall…of which was still standing after 25 years when I first took a picture
of our son standing at that very same altar as he once thought seminary was in his future,
I felt an immediate sense of coming home.

Yet on this particular visit, splayed open in reverent fashion on the ancient plain
wooden altar, sat a Bible.
A worn open Bible…
And whenever I find a lonely open Bible,
I am always intrigued as to where might this bible be opened…
what passage did a previous visitor find important to leave for
those who followed after…

The Bible was opened to the Book of Lamentations…
with one section of verse shining like a blinding light…
Lamentations 3:20-24

My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

So given Mr. Chesterton’s words regarding our tendency to take politics
(and our current state of events) way too seriously,
of which is oh so easy to do with one click of a button, it is a deep comfort
to see those long-standing words still there, still consistant, still constant…
a reminder that despite our dire current state of affairs,
the Lord remains my portion as my hope rests only in Him…

wrestling and waiting

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”
Andrew Murray


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2017)

I must confess that I’ve been in a prayerful desert as of late.
Meaning I have been petitioning God long and hard…
yet it seems that my pleas just fall upon a vast emptiness….
as in…deaf ears.

However I know that I am not alone in my frustration or perplexity
of this seemingly one way spiritual conversation.

I am not the first nor will I be the last to beat upon the gates of Heaven
only to hear…what is perceived to be…..nothing.

Yet on and on I pray with little to show for my diligence.

Or so it seems…I go unanswered.

There are tears.
There is anger.
There is frustration.
There is indifference…
and there is a sense of hopelessness….
until….
It all begins all over again….
As a determined penitent rolls up her sleeves, continuing on, unabated.

It is because I will not be deterred…
not by the whispered doubts and naysaying….
not by the one who would like nothing more than for me to quit,
give up and walk away in disgust and frustrated anger.

And the truth is that somedays are indeed much harder then others…

And so today, as I was continuing to walk through the desert,
focused and imploring….
I actually stumbled upon a small respite of wisdom.

For I learn just how old my plight actually is….
As the wisdom of those who have trod this path before offer me a cup
of refreshing living water….

My child, hear about another delusion.
There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together,
and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God,
they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension,
as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them.
When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will,
they are troubled and greatly grieved.
Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance,
he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying,
“See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him,
and He doesn’t even listen to you!
So why do you work for Him?”
Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God,
so that he may enter inside him and possess him,
and then people bind him with chains….

But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient,
and confess everything openly, do not be afraid.

excerpt from Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
An Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit. Chapter XII.

For the full reflection see the post:
https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com

There are times when our prayers seem so one sided.
On and on we pray, beseeching and imploring and yet….we hear no movement..
we see no results.

We often expect, or if the truth be told… we actually demand,
that after we’ve demonstrated an unrelenting persistence of time, energy and focus…
then surely God will move Heaven and Earth in order to show us how much He cares
and just how well He listens and just how much He agrees with each
and every component of our prayer…never mind if there are others involved in
said prayer…

As it is all just so utterly frustrating when we believe that all we see and hear
is merely empty silence.

No movement, no shifting, no little glimmer that things are working in the direction
of our desire, need, hope, want….

And for many, it seems almost cruel…this silence.

Yet we are told that no prayer goes unheard.

I once heard it put that God answers prayers in one of three ways….
Yes
No
Not now….

And more often then not, it is the ‘not now’ that is most vexing.

And so we pray on…

Because He knows and He sees and He is listening…

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end,
so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Hebrews 6:11

traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10