understanding what is true

“A soul which does not practise the exercise of prayer is very like a paralyzed body which,
though possessing feet and hands, makes no use of them.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(a group of female Tiger Swallowtails and one lone  skipper/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Flee from the crowd and dwell with truthfulness;
Suffice thee with thy goods, tho’ they be small:
To hoard brings hate, to climb brings giddiness;
The crowd has envy, and success blinds all;
Desire no more than to thy lot may fall;
Work well thyself to counsel others clear,
And Truth shall make thee free, there is no fear!
Torment thee not all crooked to redress,
Nor put thy trust in fortune’s turning ball;
Great peace is found in little busy-ness,
And war but kicks against a sharpened awl;
Strive not, thou earthen pot, to break the wall;
Subdue thyself, and others thee shall hear;
And Truth shall make thee free, there is no fear!
What God doth send, receive in gladsomeness;
To wrestle for this world foretells a fall.
Here is no home, here is but wilderness:
Forth, pilgrim, forth; up, beast, and leave thy stall!
Know thy country, look up, thank God for all:
Hold the high way, thy soul the pioneer,
And Truth shall make thee free, there is no fear!
Therefore, poor beast, forsake thy wretchedness;
No longer let the vain world be thy stall.
His mercy seek who in his mightiness
Made thee of naught, but not to be a thrall.
Pray freely for thyself and pray for all
Who long for larger life and heavenly cheer;
And Truth shall make thee free, there is no fear!

Geoffery Chaucer
‘Ballade de bon conseyl” (To Sir Philip de la Vache)

berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

the gift of paradise

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue,
where there is no virtue there is no good,
where there is no good there is no love,
where there is no love, there is no God,
and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


(sea oats along the beach at Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

Jesus could’ve put an end to this right now with Pilate, but he didn’t.
He let it go on because he was going to war. This was his victory march.
He was going to win and it would all be shown on Easter morning, the day of Ascension,
and when he is glorified in Heaven. And you want to know when the real end result will be?
When all of us, who this work paid for our sins,
stand cleansed in the blood of the Lamb before God’s throne on the end day and he says,
‘Welcome into my presence, you good and worthy servants.’

Steve Ray
from The Pain of the Crucifixion

resting in…

No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on
everything else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone.
As long as our expectation is from other things,
nothing but disappointment awaits us.

Hannah Whitall Smith


(Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.

Psalm 37:3-11

imports and exports

“Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be,
and becoming that person.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a lovely orange bell pepper / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here it is the height of the summer despite many school systems already heading back
for the start of the new school year.

Living down South, in a place where summer’s luscious produce is hitting its zenith, despite
the stores beginning to put out their fall and Thanksgiving goods, I happened to notice
an odd occurrence when stopping by the local grocery store.

I ran in the store in order to pick up a few things the other day and grabbed one
of the colorful bell peppers stacked ever so neatly on the grocery store’s produce shelf.

I usually prefer the red, yellow or orange varieties over the innocuous green ones as
they taste no different but add a splash of color to whatever one is preparing.

Once home, as I was putting away the groceries, I pulled out my bell pepper.
I looked at the tag stuck to the pepper, reading to see if my bell pepper came from
either Florida or California…all the while secretly hoping it would read Georgia.
It’s that time of the season you know here in Georgia—when gardens are now fully bearing
their long-anticipated fruits of a farmers labor.

Yet I am well aware that our Nation’s produce belts lie in our more temperate climate states…
States such as California and Florida…for various fruits and vegetables and places like
Nebraska or Iowa for corn.

However, imagine my surprise when I read that my beautiful bright colored pepper hailed from none
of the aforementioned states but was actually born and raised in Holland.

The last place I think of when I think of something like a bell pepper is Holland…as in this
low land, country is known for several other things besides bell peppers.
Beer yes, peppers no.

If I still had a garden, this is the time when my own peppers were coming into their own.
Would it not make more sense to have a pepper from right here in Georgia…
since this is our time of year for the likes of produce such as peppers???

Instead I picked a pepper, not a peck of peppers mind you, that had to actually come to me
via a cargo container…and yet despite an arduous journey from the land of canals and windmills
over the Atlantic Ocean, a beautiful orange pepper arrives at my grocery store…
looking pretty as the day it was most likely plucked.

Makes me wonder as to how this pepper has stood up so well during its travels from Holland
to my fridge here in Georgia.

And so yes, it may not be convenient for me to trek out to the local farmer’s market–
getting grocery items at the grocery store and produce items at the produce market and then
butcher goods from a local butcher (of which we no longer have in our smaller community)
I just might want to rethink my shopping habits as I would prefer a fresh locally grown
pepper as to this lovely trans Atlantic pepper.

And nothing against Holland nor this beautiful pepper…but I do prefer local when I can find it.

There are things that each country does well—think Chocolate form Belgium, Beer and sausages from Germany, olive oil from Italy, Spain and Greece…along with olives…
think wines from France, Italy, Portugal and yes, California…

We all have something that is indicative to each of our home nations…
products that we do well…and it should be noted that some nations have been
doing what it is they do now for centuries…

But when it comes to summer produce…well, I kind of prefer mine to grown a bit closer to home…
because Heavens knows that here in the South, we are in the height of the season…

Makes me think about my own seasonal worth and productivity…
that of my own exports and imports…

What has God labored over within me that is now ready for harvest…

And once harvested, it’s time to share…

“However great our efforts, we cannot change ourselves.
Only God can get to the bottom of our defects, and our limitations in the field of love;
only he has sufficient mastery over our hearts for that.
If we realize that we will save ourselves a great deal of discouragement and fruitless struggle.
We do not have to become saints by our own power;
we have to learn how to let God make us into saints.
That does not mean, of course, that we don’t have to make any effort…
We should fight, not to attain holiness as a result of our own efforts,
but to let God act in us without our putting up any resistance against him;
we should fight to open ourselves as fully as possible to his grace, which sanctifies us.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 14-5
An Excerpt From
In the School of the Holy Spirit

pelicans

O loving Pelican!
O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt.

St. Thomas Aquinas
from the hymn, Adoro Te Devote


(a brown pelican bobs with the surf of the sea / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

More often than not, while sitting idly outside…
be it either early in the morning or even late in the evening, shrouded in silence but for the
chirping of a passing bird, my husband will often muse that if he could be anything other than a
human being, he’d like to be a bald eagle.

While I immediately counter that I’d like to be a pelican.

“A PELICAN?!”

He practically screams with incredulous disgust.

“Those are nasty birds!
They sit around with dead rotting fish in their gullets”

“Maybe so, but how resourceful is that to keep supper and the supper for their children
always ready and waiting?”

I’ll cheekily counter.

Pelicans and humans have often had a contentious relationship as fishermen have perceived
these gregarious birds as rivals to their livelihood.
But the truth is that pelicans don’t actually compete for a fisherman’s catch…
they’re just a bit more opportunist than adversary.

Yet for over a hundred years or so they have been culled and their eggs destroyed–
to such numbers that several species have become dangerously endangered.

And yet, to me, these awkwardly shaped birds are synonymous with all things of the ocean.
Despite making no beautiful song of their own other than the odd
clacking of their bill or ballooning of their throat pouch, they are my troubadours of the sea.

I always know when I’m finally getting close to the longed-for destination of the ocean
when I spy my gangly looking friends perched sublimely on a pier’s dock or gliding
in regimental formation along the currents of the wind.

But I was surprised to learn the Christian history behind my beachy feathered friends.
It seems that in Medieval times, pelicans were actually symbolic of Christ.
It was believed that during times of famine and shortages of food,
a mother pelican would actually peck open her breast offering her own blood to her
young brood in an attempt to help sustain them when hungry.

A selfless act which reflects the same selflessness of Christ’s offering his own life’s blood
for our own survival.

St Thomas Aquinas, in 1264, wrote a hymn noting the similarity… “Adoro te devote”
And so it appears that my desire of opting to choose a pelican as my alter ego,
my choice appears to be much deeper then I could have ever imagined…

0 loving Pelican! 0 Jesu Lord!
In Holy Communion, Our Lord does not offer us only spiri­tual nourishment,
but gives himself to us as Food.
The Ancients thought that when the chicks of a pelican died,
the pelican opened his breast and with his blood fed his dead young,
in this way bringing them back to life.
Christ with His own Blood gives us eternal life.
When we receive Holy Communion with the right dispositions,
it rouses in our soul fervent acts of love, transforms us, and identifies us with Christ.
The Master comes to each one of His disciples with His love,
which is at one and the same time effective, creative and redemptive.
He presents him­self to us as the Savior of our lives, offering us His friend­ship.
This Sacrament is the food of· all intimacy with Christ, for which there is no substitute.

Catholic Exchange

work or rest…a star seems to be born

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”
Mae West


(Autumn loving her first trip to the beach)

All work with a little play…a grandmother’s work is never done…

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7