You have no idea. . .or maybe, perhaps you do

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .

You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.

For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.

When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .

And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—

That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who loves,
who comforts,
who sees,
who knows,
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
unmoved,
unchanged,
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.

He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .

And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

a simple “thank you” note

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
“thank you,”
that would suffice.

Meister Eckhart

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

― Thomas Merton

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(beauties at the garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

Fussing
Cussing
Grousing
Whining
Complaining
Lamenting

Easily uttered, done and said

Wallowing
Groveling
Sniveling
Hating
Resenting

Self effacing, quick and easy

Negative grumbling
Self pitying
Wounded pride
As a deck stacks against life

Yet why not a sigh of relief?
A release of self?
Looking up, rather than down?
Out rather than in?

Thankful
Grateful
Appreciative
Lighter
Higher
Freer

Thank you. . .

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Song of Triumph

“We thank Him less by words than by the serene happiness of silent acceptance. It is our emptiness in the presence of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him.”
― Thomas Merton

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou – Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Eternal truth, eternal righteousness, eternal love; these only can triumph, for these only can endure.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot

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(the first butterfly of the new season, a Tiger swallowtail amongst the quince / Julie Cook / 2015)

We greet this brand new morning not as we normally would every other morning of every other day. . .
But rather, this new morning, this new day, is greeted with great expectancy. . .
We greet this morning not simply as a new day through old cloudily lenses but rather we greet this morning with the clarity of new sight.
For today marks the beginning of a day of transformation.

It is as if we, you and I, have emerged under the wing of the Victor from deep within the sealed dark and dusty tomb of Death
Eyes now clear, wide opened and focused are anxious to behold the brilliance of a new dawn.

And we greet this new morning with a song. . .
We sing our song in the face of all that was broken, damaged and dying.
For ours is the song of hope, of life and of Love

For what was fragmented, splintered, lost and laid in a tomb to rot has been found, recovered, repaired and made brilliantly whole.
For this new morning has been paved with wholeness. . .
Life indeed is now transformed
As we triumphantly sing this new morning’s song of a clear and brilliant Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The three sad days are quickly sped,
he rises glorious from the dead:
all glory to our risen Head!
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumphs tell!
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Lord! by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death’s dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia!

Words Symphonia Sirenum Selectarum, 1695
first three lines adapted from Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestria, 1525-1594
arranged by William Henry Monk, 1823-1889

concentric centers

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.”
Thomas Merton

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
Galileo Galilei

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(images of an amazing sunflower / Julie Cook / 2015)

concentric
kənˈsentrik
adjective: of or denoting circles, arcs, or other shapes that share the same center, the larger often completely surrounding the smaller. Late Middle English: from Old French concentrique or medieval Latin concentric us, from con- ‘together’ + centrum ‘center.’

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The sun sits in the middle of a solar system which sits in the middle of a galaxy. . .
While everything and everyone spins mindlessly around the center—that being the sun.
God. . .who sits at the center of the universe
God. . .who was before there was anything
God. . .by whose hand all things came in to being
God. . .who will be when all has come and gone
God. . .in whose breath we find life
God. . .who all living beings revolve around
God. . .who sits at the center of our very being
God. . .who sits at the center of it all. . .
Or
do you believe that this is all here merely by happenstance?
do you believe it all just fell in to place?
do you believe that you sit at the center of it all,
wielding your own power of what will or won’t be?
You who builds skyscrapers, roadways, planes and rockets?
You who charts the heavens, the seas, the entire planet?
You who makes medicine, who attempts to heal, to teach, to save?
You who makes guns, bombs, wars and takes lives.
You who kills, steals, rapes, murders, lies, cheats. . .
You who abuses drugs, alcohol, sex, money, people, animals

Who created the flower?
Did it just happen one day?
Did it evolve from something else?
How did it come to be perfectly and concentrically formed, fitting amazingly together petal by petal and seed by seed?
How does it “know” to follow the sun for its life giving rays?
Can you, did you, make this flower?
You can make a copy, “print” a 3D image, paint or draw a copy, take a picture but can you make, create, produce a flower?
The question remains. . .
Who sits at the center?
At the center of it all. . .
Is it man?
or
Is it God?

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Who is the Watchman

“For he hears the lambs innocent call.
And he hears the ewes tender reply.
He is watchful while they are in peace.
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.”

William Blake

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
Thomas Merton

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( a threesome of crows / Julie Cook / 2015)

Chasing dreams or chasing demons
In the darkened night of silence we slumber

Are we cautious sleeping with one eye open
Or do we rest free of worry and dread

Who is charged with the midnight watch
Who stands ready to sound the warning

Danger bays at the gate
While Trouble lurks in the shadows

Wickedness waits ready to strike
Will the Watchman see the signs

When fatigue deadens the senses
Precarious security wraps up the weary

As the winds rustle through the tress
The enemy circles the camp

Remember the Master stands ready to return
Will the enemy route his arrival

Be mindful you who slumber
Be cautious of demons masquerading as dreams

Where is thy peace
How may we rest

Listen all you who have ears to hear. . .
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
Ezekiel 33:7

Within each cloud exists a thousand possibilities

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
― Thomas Merton

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(dot of clouds litter a mild January day / Julie Cook / 2015)

An endless sea of wispy white puffs dot an expansive sky. . .
Appearing as if from a thousand giant pipes. . .
The exhaled puffs of white smoke, all being released from hidden nostrils,
each at the same exact time.
As far as the eye can see, a continuous blanket of white cotton batting
rides a southeasterly wind streaming nowhere in particular.

It is the kind of day which finds idle heads turning upward,
beckoning the wistful to gaze wantonly into the azure blue sea of sky.
The deep baritone peal of the buoy bell bounces across the wind
As dried leaves scatter along the brown crunchy grass.
It is a day of gentle moods set to a symphony of gentle sounds.

It’s the type of day that asks for nothing in return.
There are no demands.
No one who must be seen.
Nothing must be done.
No places in particular to go.
Just a day to simply be. . .

These are the days of possibilities.
There are no expectations.
No agenda has been set.
And there are no lists of activities to be ticked off one by one.
These are the days of wonder.
Grab it fast, for these are the days of far and in between.

Today the shoulders soften.
The clothes are familiar and cozy
The air purifies the stale lungs of too much time indoors.
Cheeks gain a touch of color
There is simple adulation in breathing.

Grateful souls humbly receive the gift of such a day,
As it is a day when time is but one’s own.
A day when dreams mix with hope
A day when anything and everything is possible
A day when the sky is truly the limit. . .

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The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

Thought to be lost. . .

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Anais Nin

The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error.
Thomas Merton

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(current azalea bud and tiny new leaves after the devastating winter)

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(this is the azalea in bloom last spring)

The tiny buds and gently unfurling leaves of this native azalea are a most welcomed site! Currently this bush should be in full bloom. However so many of the shrubs and bushes in this area of our state suffered grievously during the unprecedented bitterly cold winter coupled by the devastating ice storm.

I was certain the azalea was lost.

As this is the time of year for Georgia to come into full flower, it is a bit unsettling that currently all things are actually quite behind schedule—with my yard being no exception. I had resigned myself to the fact that some of my beloved flowering plants would be total losses. That is until today.

Upon further inspection, those crunchy dry gray leaves are now giving way to, can it actually be true, new life.
That which was considered to be lost, is thankfully now found to be full of life. The first little buds and tiny leaves, those lost to cold and ice and having shriveled away, have given way to an entirely new set of tiny new leaves and buds.

An amazing recovery by dear ol Mother Nature.

The concept of loss, and then that of ultimately being found, is a most timely concept.

I do not believe it is mere coincidence that this Spring of ours, a season for new growth and new life, which follows the season of emptiness and void, mirrors the most sacred season of Christendom—the church’s Season of Easter.

Perhaps it is having the ability to actually visualize the concept, that of a seemingly certain death which miraculously gives way to life, as carried out within nature, is what helps to make the spiritual concept much more concrete. It’s one thing to read about this most unbelievable phenomenon, it is entirely something different to be able to actually witness it taking place.

I have witnessed this first hand in my unsuspecting azalea–a plant that I was pretty certain was dead and gone. I held the crumbling gray buds and leaves in my hands as proof to its loss of life. I had even decided to dig up the small tree-like shrub in order to move it on to the compost pile, yet opting to wait just a little longer— as I tend to be lean toward the hopeful side of life.

What was by all signs dead, is now offering new growth and new life.

A beaten and bruised man, bleeding profusely is nailed to a tree and left to suffer unto death. After a certain length of time, and by all intent purposes, he is clearly dead. No pulse, no breath, no movement, no warmth—now cold, stiff and certainly lifeless. The body taken from the tree, prepared for burial, anointed with oil and wrapped in a shroud.
Quite dead.
Very dead.
Only emptiness and nothingness remains.
He is buried and left to decay.

And yet. . .

The new creation, the new Adam, the new life is raised from the depths of hell and death to step forth in radiant light to a newness of Life. What was full of loss is suddenly found full of life.
Tiny miracles in Nature.
A tremendous miracle for man.

Where there was loss and death, now gives way to hope and life
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

(***may it be noted that during the season of Lent, which is a time of deep reflection, penitence and fasting, the Church is striped of the seasonal colors and non essential materials. It is as if the Church herself is spending the 40 days of Lent in deep mourning, veiled as a widow in mourning and loss. Words such as “alleluia” or “Hallelujah” are not spoken in service as Lent is not a time of joy—it is not until the triumph of Easter that she, the Church, is again clothed in Light and Triumphant Joy)