deeply rooted

Reading the Bible should be a form of prayer.
The Bible should be read in God’s presence and as the unfolding of His mind.
It is not just a book, but God’s love letter to you.
It is God’s revelation, God’s mind, operating through your mind and your reading,
so your reading is your response to His mind and will.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible


(Julie Cook / 2019)

We were out walking deep in some obscure woods when we came upon this precarious
tilting tree.
It’s a tree that has been obviously almost uprooted.

This area has seen its fair share of tornados, tropical storms, even category 2 hurricanes.
Throw in the life of a tree in the woods and things such as illness, rotting, strong winds,
and the sheer matter of time can each take a toll on a tree.

Yet I was amazed that this tree appears to continue to thrive albeit at an almost
45-degree angle as it literally hangs on by the tips of its roots—
but it matters not to the tree that it grows perhaps more laterally than vertically,
it still lives, and it grows.

I looked at this tree with amazement but then I thought of things such as tenacity and
that of being firmly rooted…rooted with deep roots rather than shallow roots.

I thought of my own life.

Those times that I have been nearly toppled.
Thoughts of the moments when life had thrown all it had at me and nearly
knocked me over…for good.

Yet through Grace, I persevered.

Had I not had my faith rooted deeply in that Grace, most likely, I would have
been knocked over and would not have been able to get back up…
Even if getting back up meant I might remain somewhat skewed, I would still
be rooted, I would still be growing.

So today’s quote about reading the Bible as a form of prayer was
enlightening…as in it added to the deepening of roots.

It’s not merely about reading for reading’s sake or to read in order to seek out
some sort of information or to add to one’s verse recall,
but rather it about reading as a simple desire to pray.

To come humbly to in order to communicate with rather than to simply digest.

I confess that I don’t read the Bible as much as I once did when I was younger.
Life has a way of consuming time just like a black hole consumes all the energy
in its path.

It also didn’t help that I was raised in the Episcopal Chruch as our Sunday Schools
and youth groups were not entirely based on Bible studies.

It wasn’t until I joined Young Life in High School that I finally began
to read and study.

And that reading and studying would ebb and flow over the years.

Bibles would be highlighted, underlined, filled with momentoes and so worn
that they were ‘retired’ while I’d seek out a new translation.

Over the years, in the midst of some crisis, I would often find myself reaching for
a Bible, almost as an afterthought, as I would sit empty and lost.
Oddly a random page would suddenly speak directly to the situation…
speaking directly to me.

Funny how that is.

And as Professor Kreeft reminds us that in both prayer, as well as in reading
the Bible, God speaks.

I am reminded of the practice of Lectio Divina…
the practice of reading a particular verse then ruminating over that verse.
Focusing on what word or words seem to reach out to us.
Repeating the words, praying over the words, listening to what the word or words
have to say to us…personally.

Going deeper.

As in growing deeper roots.

As life grows only more precarious…being deeply rooted in
the Word of God will prove instrumental in the survival of our souls.

May we be willing to go deeper.

Both prayer and Bible reading are ways of listening to God.
They should blend: our prayer should be biblical and our Bible reading prayerful.

Peter Kreeft
from You Can Understand the Bible

beloved seeking beloved

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God,
his beloved is seeking him much more.”

— St. John of the Cross


(just some of the blueberries picked the other day / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day I shared a tale about a lesson gleaned from within a blueberry bush.

I spoke of going full on honey badger after the abundance of plump berries.

An expression which means going after whatever it is one is going after with an exuberant
and high velocity of gusto and tenacity.

I likened such a fierce hyperfocus over the act of berry picking,
as small as it is in comparison,
to how God is to be viewed in His quest for and over us…
That He will go full on honey badger for the object of His affection.

A simplistic comparison but an earthly one that is readily understood in its
scope and depth.
A no backing down, no relenting, no walking away sort of approach to attaining the
quest.

And so yesterday morning, when reading the daily offering, the words of St. John of the Cross,
words echoing that same sentiment, I clearly began to see a trend of thought.

So since we’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence…
only the Holy Spirit…
we know that this “thought” is being revealed for a reason…
A reminder, timely that it is, that we are being sought to such a depth of desire that it
far surpasses our own comprehension of what intent and reason actually mean.

If we seek our earthly desires with such a tunneled visioned steely wanting and precision…
what then of God for us?

So here is a reminder, an offering in the need in knowing, that God will not nor has not,
abandoned us…
A reminder from past to present that God remains steadfast in His pursuit
of both you and me.

A pursuit that has been gravely costly to Him but a pursuit that has never lost its momentum
nor waned nor diminished.

If we stop, just stop doing what it is we are doing, allowing our minds to grasp the very thought
of such a driven quest for such a desire…it is more than we can digest or phantom…
to grasp that we are the end focus of such a quest, such a goal…that we are
the end of His desire, His wants…

If we allow ourselves to ponder and ruminate over such a thought we find that such knowledge
is so very necessary and even crucial in this day and time of ours…

Yes there is a beloved…
and He his seeking His beloved…

and that beloved is both you and me…

amazing really…

“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude.
For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence.
Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude.
For God has this beatitude by His very nature,
whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 119
An Excerpt from
Aquinas’s Shorter Summa

a tenacious lot

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Harper Lee


(ice and snow encrusted Camilla / Julie Cook / 2017)

Remember the picture of the yard sign I shared on Friday??
That ‘Southern State of Mind’ Georgia Bulldog yard sign??
A yard sign that was quickly accumulating snow?
Well this is what it looked like once the snows ended Saturday…..

We Southerners do like our “weather.”
And we love to both fuss and cuss it….
Be it good or bad.

All kinds of weather.

We will complain about the heat.
We will lament about the humidity.
We will run and hide, with good reason, at the first sign of a tornado.
We will grumble about the lack or rain…
Just as we will grouse over its abundance.

But throw a little sleet, ice or snow our way and it’s all but
Katy bar the door..

We will get practically giddy at the first mention of anticipated snow…

As visions of serene images of Currier and Ives dance like magical
sugarplums round our anticipating heads.
Horse drawn carriages gliding effortlessly through the snow, as bells merrily jingle
while both adults and kids alike race joyously to build snowmen.

Children and teachers alike sit glued to weather reports, praying the Weatherman
will grant that ever so hoped for wish…the announcement of No School..
as everyone races for a homemade sled…mother’s favorite cookie pan….

However all of this wonderment quickly dissipates the minute the roads ice over,
the pine trees bend to the ground and snap under the heavy weight of all
the frozen precipitation…as the temperatures dip in to the teens, transformers blow
like popcorn, and the lights all go out…

as in out for days….

For suddenly there are no more fun and games as all things have
jumped to drastically frightfully serious in the twinkling of an eye…

Yet under all that frightfully messy winter…
Just like our much maligned yet prevalent Kudzu….
we remain…ever tenacious…

It’s what we do…
We might wilt a bit, panic a tad, slip slid into every ditch imaginable…
but we will always come back strong….
Just wait until April to see just who’s looking good!!!!

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for
you against your enemies to give you victory.

Deuteronomy 20:4

tenacity

“Courage is not having the strength to go on;
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt

gwtwset4
(Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing her mother’s curtains)

Think Scarlet O’Hara, Julia Sugarbaker and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one.
Who else would think to turn their mother’s prized curtains into
a matter of getting what they need…but a Southerner.

That’s because we in the South understand the significance of
desperate times requiring drastic measures…

For we are a resourceful lot when we need be,
especially during the thick of battle..
We are kudzu and honey all rolled into one..
Barbed wire and sugar spun together…

Because that’s just what we are down here in the South,
tenacious as a bulldog when needed,
soft as a cotton ball when called for….

We are also sweet and charming.
We are cordial.
We are warm.
We are hospitable.
We are not dumb, deplorable or rednecks…contrary to what some would have you believe.
We are educated.
Well educated.
We have great schools, colleges and universities.
People like our weather, well, maybe not in August…
I don’t like our weather in August, or even now, but I digress…

People like our food..think fired this or that, as in chicken and okra.
People like our drinks…think bourbon.
We are mannerly…for if we are not, our grandmothers are obviously not watching.
We believe in morality, decorum and being polite.

But none of that should never lead you to believe that we are
pushovers,
ignorant,
easy,
or lazy.

We are a strong kind people.

And I keep finding that I have to continually remind myself of such…

I have seen more of my poor father than any daughter should ever see of her father
and it is enough to last me a life time.
Bless him.
He can’t help it.
And sadly I can’t avoid it.

We got the water balloon dad unclogged today.
Mr nonchalant doctor was his typical rude, arrogant and non southern self during our visit…
He didn’t want to initially believe, let alone admit,
that there was any scar tissue from August’s surgery…
Well guess what…
there was.

No wonder poor dad was becoming a human water balloon,
a toxic human water balloon.
But mr nonchalant doctor assumed it was the tumor growing; the one we had opted not,
against his suggestion, to spend 8 weeks radiating on a daily basis.

“Has he looked at dad in that wheelchair of his” I wonder…

Quickly and without fanfare or even words, Mr nonchalant doctor performs a little procedure
then quickly leaves the room with us eventually leaving
with now a new sort of water balloon,
a catheter.
And thankfully free-flowing once again!!
No spreading cancer as dad was fearing…
just a little scar tissue fouling up the works…

Dad was having to get up literally 18 times a day and 9 times throughout the night living
like a human water balloon…filling up, but not flowing out.

The doctor walked out with nary a word….
No words of kindness, no words of encouragement,
no words of care nor words of what we might need to do…

Kind of like a wham bam thank you mam sort of moment.

Leaving me with the young nurse to attach everything…
getting everything in, on, up and poor dad back into his chair.

Where I come from a gentleman assesses the situation and lends a hand where
he sees the need.
We call that being a man…patient, kind, gallant and thoughtful.

When we finally walked out, me walking, dad rolling…
Mr nonchalant doctor was sitting at his computer in his office, directly across from us,
as we exited the exam room.

I was sincere and gracious in my thanks and gratitude for helping dad.
As I was always taught to offer thanks for a service rendered and I was genuinely
grateful that dad would now be functioning and flowing.
Plus there I was wheeling my cancer ridden, feeble, 88 year old father
who has just bared everything to everyone…did he not deserve a word?

There was a very long pause of silence before acknowledging that I had spoken…
without glancing from the computer came an “ah huh”…
and with that, dad and I were on our way.

At the elevator dad leans his head back in my direction as I push the button for down…
“he doesn’t have much personality does he?”
“I think he’s a jerk dad.”
“I just think he doesn’t have a beside manner” dad counters…

And that my friends is the response of a gentleman.

A man who just bore his feeble sickly body for violation and he merely chalks up
being ignored to a lack of personality.
Where I see a sorry SOB…

Had I not been wheeling dad, who was now hurting and asked for something for pain,
as mr nonchalant non caring doctor quips over his shoulder, “take some tylenol'”…
I think I would have marched in that office of his, slaping my hands down on his desk,
asking or rather telling him to do the polite thing by
looking me in the face when I’m speaking
and to acknowledge my father as an elder as well as a hurting human being….

Because that’s what we do here in the South, we acknowledge our fellow human beings as
what they are, fellow human beings….

And don’t forget, we also came up with iced tea…..
thank you very much…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

Quick get the umbrellas. . .cause when it rains. . .it pours!

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.
I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

Mother Teresa

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Thomas Paine

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(buckeye butterfly wandered into the garage away from the scorching heat / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I was younger, I did not always bear up very well under the heavy stifling blanket of turmoil, tragedy, stress or disaster.
My reactions often immature, unbridled, angry, resentful, beaten and lost.
I have come to learn, albeit it often reluctantly, that it is from the exposure of such catastrophes, coupled with the passage of time, which all act as an abrasive agent to toughen the thin skin of youthful emotions and tender feelings.

Tenacity is forged in the fire of trial, tribulation and misfortune.

I don’t think any of us is ever immune from such.
Everyone, at some point or other during one’s lifetime, will find themselves faced with, what at first may seem insurmountable, yet once the dust settles and the options weighed, becomes one more link in the chainmail of life’s armor.

A personal world is turned upside down most often by forces unforeseeable and unpreventable and as random as they come.
We will find ourselves asking the angry and accusatory questions of “why” and “how” while a balled up fist waves defiantly at an unseen God.

I wish we could all just hide under a rock someplace. . .a place faraway and immune from tragedy and the often cruel events of life—yet sadly there is no such safe haven in which to run and hide.

And yet it is my faith in that unseen God, the God of all creation and time, the One who I know to be far bigger and greater than any trial or tragedy in my life, the One who bears my burdens and sustains me in the palm of His hand— It is through Him, coupled by my faith in Him, that allows me to put one foot in front of the other and continue trudging through this thing we call life. . .

And please note that I did not say that that faith and belief or even that God himself makes the pain, the sorrow, the struggle, the suffering any bit easier—it does however, make it bearable.

Therefore if you should see a woman walking down the street carrying an open umbrella overhead when there is nary a cloud in the sky with zero chance of rain in the forecast. . .and not one who carries such to avoid exposure to the sun—just know that it is most likely me–as I am well aware that when it rains it pours.

“If you’re going through hell, {by all means} keep going.”
Winston Churchill

Please continue in your prayers for my daughter-n-law and her family as they slowly begin to feel their way in the dark as they determine what to do in the aftermath of the devastation of the fire which took their home.
As her grandfather tearfully lamented. . . “over 70 years of my life is now completely gone”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Tenacious

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
― Harper Lee

RSCN8740

RSCN8742
(a couple of volunteer pansies popping up / Julie Cook / 2014)

The garden of Winter stands empty and bare.
Lush rich canopies, once towering overhead, are now all but forgotten
Only gnarly sticks and branches, jutting precariously helter skelter,
stand as the lonely sentinels of the yard.
Once an oasis of cool green grass offered a refreshing respite for hot tired toes,
now all that was, stands garishly transformed, stunted and brown
As a blanket of grey wraps its cold arms around everything in sight.

Yet just under the veil of freshly fallen snow
or perhaps it was just after the latest hard freeze,
a demure, yet tenacious wonder, appears.
Short and stocky, yet perky and hardy
joyful little face-like blooms emerge one by one.

No other color or tender blossom dares tread this time of year
as the frosty winter air is not for timid or faint of heart.
Nevertheless take courage you who are cold and weary–
as you who suffer, laying waste under the wiles of Old Man Winter’s wicked spite,
for there is one who stands valiantly at the ready to offer both
color and hope to your worn and bleary senses. . .
for behold the lowly pansy readies for a fight.

Resiliency

“The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed.
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged — though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

DSCN4340
(tiny little blooms emerging from beneath the leaves and debris of a forest floor / Julie Cook / 2014)

I think that I too know how the flowers felt—or better yet, how the flowers feel.
Who doesn’t seem to know that feeling after this never ending winter?
The winter of our true discontent?!
As I enjoy a sudden greening of the yard and trees, Spring’s warmth however is proving to be deceptively coy.

Today we received flooding rains, again, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. More indicative of a typical February day, not April 7th. The sweaters and coats have not gone very far.

The brave early blooms which were thwarted by our devastating snow and ice storms were the first casualties. Things have been brown, sickly brown, ever since. Fear and sorrow both griped my heart as I surveyed what remained of the yard. What would and would not show forth, once the weather finally cooperated, hung heavy in the back of my mind. We Southerners love our Spring. But then again, who doesn’t love Spring. . .besides those, such as my son, who suffer grievously from allergies, but I digress.

Thankfully the plants and shrubs, which I feared had given up the ghost, are now showing tiny glimpses of life. Ahh, hope does spring eternal—such a nice correlation.

Amazing.

The brown sticks, with dead crunchy blooms, which just a few short weeks ago were giving every indication of being dead and gone, are now showing signs of tiny hopeful little green shoots.

Resiliency.

Despite deep freezes, late ice, never-ending cold winds, life is, joyously, once again emerging from a frozen tomb.

I can remember, several years ago, being deeply distraught over the raging fires that decimated parts of Yellowstone National Park. Lightening being the devastating culprit. We had just visited the park weeks prior to the fires. I watched the news reports with tears in my eyes. The glorious forests and plains, which make Yellowstone the very special place that it is, were being consumed by an unquenchable fire and no man nor all of his technology and power could do anything to stop it . Even the wildlife, which calls the Park home, were often caught with no where to run. Fire’s devastating selfishness, proving so terribly unfair, once again.

And yet, almost miraculously, shortly after the fires were finally quenched, tiny green sprouts could be seen rising up from the burnt forest floor like a thousand tiny Phoenixes rising from the ashes. There is actually a certain tree, which needs the heat of a fire, to jump start its seedlings to the growing process. Nature making certain that she can rebound what had appeared to be total devastation—making certain of the continuation of life.

Again, amazing.

Nature has her healing ways. . .as does the human spirit.

We, as a people, also have a tenacity buried deep within our core which always seems to rise to the occasion. History teaches us this.
A quick lesson regarding the history of Poland, and that of her people, is a wonderful micro lesson to understanding the human spirit’s ability to rebound, reclaim and regrow—and in the case of Poland, a country that has been wiped off the map time and time again, that would be a lesson learned over and over and over again.

When we find ourselves, as we all will at some point during the course of our lives, in the places of loss. . .those places of the loss of hope, loss of life, loss of love, loss of possessions, loss of faith. . .may we be mindful of the lessons on resiliency found in Nature’s ability to rebound and regrow from what appears to be a nothingness—

Yet more importantly may we be mindful that it is from our own devastation that hope is born.
May we be mindful of the sheer determination and tenacity which is buried deep within each one of us.

As we prepare to enter the solemnity of the dark week of the Passion of Jesus, a man who carried all of our losses in his heart, may we deeply contemplate His example of loss and death both of which gave way to hope, resurrection and Life.

“Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon