“You must speak to Jesus, not only with your lips,
but also with your heart; actually, on certain occasions,
you should speak with only your heart.”
— St. Padre Pio
(Jules, black sheep and skellybegs…a collection of sheep / Julie Cook / 2018)
I collect sheep.
No, not real live sheep…but I kind of wish I did.
Think rather more like sheep/lamb figurines, prints, paintings…
And no, it’s not excessive or of the kitschy or silly…think more unique and even antique.
However, the latest acquiring is a bit silly but since we shared the same name, I really
had no choice.
I’ve got several of these sheep sitting on my kitchen counter above my sink.
They sit or stand, depending on the sheep, perched amongst various Icons that also
occupy this now apparently sacred space…the space above the kitchen sink.
And so it just seems natural that this particular space should be scared as it is
a space where I spend a good bit of my time…
in the kitchen and at the sink.
In some regards, I have these things here to help keep my mind on that which is greater than
as well as beyond.
Helping me to redirect my thoughts…
And it was especially important when I was still teaching and was in definite
need of redirecting.
My love of sheep goes back to the line in the confessional prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent;
According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake;
That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name.
For you see, I am that straying and erring sheep in need of a Shepherd.
And so, sheep have spoken to my heart ever since I first learned of our similarities.
And I keep an eye out for the unique and special during my jaunts.
So when visiting the gift shop at Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage, I recently added to the
collection when I picked up a ceramic sheep made by artisans at the Colonial Folk Art guild
The sheep was named “Jules”…a name that many have called me throughout my
So it was a no-brainer.
Jules the sheep now sits by another ceramic sheep.
A black sheep that is more reminiscent of soot than wool.
He is quite round with nails acting as his legs.
A sheep that I suspect is from a raku firing where the pieces are fired to a certain temp then
removed from the kiln and placed into a metal can (metal trash can) that is usually filled with straw.
The ultra hot ceramic piece causes the straw to burn and naturally darkens the clay piece.
This black sheep is stained much like a raku piece.
My aunt picked him up from an artist in North Carolina and it was actually the last gift she
ever gave me.
It was a Christmas gift a year ago this past Christmas.
My thoughts are gravitating to this little black sheep because it was a year ago this month,
on the 12th actually, that my aunt died—dying suddenly while undergoing treatment
Now granted my aunt has “gifted” me with a few other things since her death…”gifts”
that her daughter had given me following my aunt’s death.
Gifts such as a few antique wooden duck decoys, a few of my aunt’s beloved turkey collection
(think me and sheep…well she was that way with turkeys…go figure)
as well as an ancient armless rocking chair that was my grandmothers.
My aunt’s daughter, this cousin of mine, actually passed away 6 months following my aunt’s
death…so we have closed a door on that small bit of family.
All of these thoughts of sheep and gifts came to mind when I read the words offered today
by Padre Pio…
The good friar admonishes us to remember to speak not always with only words but at times,
more importantly, we are to speak with our hearts…of which I suspect is more ‘actionary’…
demonstrative in the actions of a living embodiment of the Spirit within.
A thought which actually makes me think of the importance of what it is that we leave behind…
that which we leave behind to those who follow us…
Do we leave behind merely things..things that sit around collecting dust or simply conjuring
up forlorn memories…
or do we leave behind an example of that which is so much greater than ourselves…
a polestar that points others to the One who is so much greater and everlasting…
Sometimes the heart speaks louder than the mouth…
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.