gifts, speaking, demonstrations

“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.
Amen.

(BCP 1928)

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
in Virginia.
The sheep was named “Jules”…a name that many have called me throughout my
entire life.
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
for cancer.

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.

Psalm 73:26

we beseech thee…

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa


(a lone sanderling surveys the tide at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie cook / 2017)

In your still silence we come before you oh Lord….hear our prayers…..

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us an heart to love and fear thee,
and diligently to live after thy commandments;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred,
and are deceived;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand;
and to comfort and help the weak-hearted;
and to raise up those who fall;
and finally to beat down Satan under our feet;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort, all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land,
by water, or by air, all women in child-birth, all sick persons,
and young children; and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children,
and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers,
and to turn their hearts;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth,
so that in due time we may enjoy them;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us true repentance;
to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances;
and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives
according to thy holy Word;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Grant us thy peace.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

(a potion of the Great Litany, prayers for General Supplications/
1928 Book of Common Prayer

Prayers for Belgium

When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and then themselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. The innocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed the king; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed somebody.”
― G.K. Chesterton

How to defeat terrorism?
Don’t be terrorized.
Don’t let fear rule your life.
Even if you are scared.”

― Salman Rushdie

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(Catching a train from the station in Brugge, to Brussels, then to Paris / Julie Cook / 2011)

Five years ago, my aunt and I decided it would be nice to take a trip to Paris..then to sweeten the adventure we thought that starting our trip to Paris in Brugge, Belgium…would make perfect sense.
And it did.
Brugge, the Venice of of the low country, is a marvelous city that luckily went unscathed during the trench warfare of WWI and the Nazi invasion during WWII.

The main canal and artery from Brugge to the sea, which first put Brugge on the map as a major seaport during the Middle Ages, eventually silted over, trapping this medieval city in time. That is lucky for today’s travelers because Brugge’s historic medieval city center is much the way it appeared 400 years ago…

My father does not share my sense of adventure nor my love for travel.
He’s a play it safe, keep your head down, stay inside kind of fellow.
I can remember when I told him of our plans for the trip.

“No, don’t do that…you can’t go…it’s way too dangerous…”
With my response being… “Dad, it’s Belgium… nothing happens in Belgium…”

Well something has happened sadly and tragically today in Belgium.

It is with a heavy heart that we, the collective global family, now offer our prayers to the people of Belgium and to the victims of today’s terror attacks, as well as to their families…

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(One of the beautiful canals lining Brugge / Julie Cook / 2011)

O GOD, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

O GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly, union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

God Comes

Almighty god, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal,through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen
(The Collect for the first Sunday in Advent, 1928 Book of Common Prayer and Administration Of The Sacraments, The Church of England)

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(the lighting of the candles for Advent–a Christian custom that originated in Germany which signifies the coming Light of Christ)

God Comes” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . First Sunday of Advent

Pope Benedict XVI in his homily celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent (Saturday, 2 December 2006) said, “At the beginning of a new yearly cycle, the liturgy invites the Church to renew her proclamation to all the peoples and sums it up in two words ‘God comes.’ These words, so concise, contain an ever new evocative power.

Let us pause a moment to reflect: it is not used in the past tense—God has come, nor in the future—God will come, but in the present—‘God comes.’ At a closer look, this is a continuous present, that is, an ever-continuous action: it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again. In whichever moment, ‘God comes.’ The verb ‘to come’ appears here as a theological verb, indeed theological, since it says something about God’s very nature. Proclaiming that ‘God comes’ is equivalent, therefore, to simply announcing God himself, through one of his essential and qualifying features: his being the God-who-comes.

Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly. It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat: Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now!

The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,’ is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes. He is a Father who never stops thinking of us and, in the extreme respect of our freedom, desires to meet us and visit us; he wants to come, to dwell among us, to stay with us. His ‘coming’ is motivated by the desire to free us from evil and death, from all that prevents our true happiness. God comes to save us.

The Fathers of the Church observe that the ‘coming’ of God—continuous and, as it were, co-natural with his very being—is centered in the two principal comings of Christ: his Incarnation and his glorious return at the end of time (cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 15,1: PG 33, 870). The Advent Season lives the whole of this polarity.

In the first days, the accent falls on the expectation of the Lord’s Final Coming, as the texts of this evening’s celebration demonstrate. With Christmas approaching, the dominant note instead is on the commemoration of the event at Bethlehem, so that we may recognize it as the ‘fullness of time.’ Between these two ‘manifested’ comings it is possible to identify a third, which St. Bernard calls ‘intermediate’ and ‘hidden,’ and which occurs in the souls of believers and, as it were, builds a ‘bridge’ between the first and the last coming.”

(Pope Benedict XIV 2006)

All Saints Day

REJOICE we in the Lord, keeping holy-day in honour of all the Saints: in whose solemnity the Angles rejoice and glorify the Son of God. (Ps. 33) Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for it becometh well the just to be thankful.
Glory be.

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–Text taken from the Common Book of Prayer, 1928
–The stained-glass window, images of Saint’s George and Michael, Church of Our Lady / Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk in Bruges, Belgium (Julie Cook / 2011)