the highest form of liberty

Every moment comes to you pregnant with a divine purpose;
time being so precious that God deals it out only second by second.
Once it leaves your hands and your power to do with it as you please,
it plunges into eternity, to remain forever whatever you made it.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from Go to Heaven


(The Butterfly House / Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“To the extent that we abandon our personality to Him,
He will take possession of our will and work in us.
We are no longer ruled by commands coming from the outside, as from a cruel master,
but by almost imperceptible suggestions that rise up from within.
We feel as if we had wanted all along to do those things He suggests to us;
we are never conscious of being under command.
Thus our service to Him becomes the highest form of liberty,
for it is always easy to do something for the one we love.”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 182
An Excerpt From
Peace of Soul

waiting on transformation

The call of death is a call of love.
Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative,
if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation.

Hermann Hesse

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(a typical Georgia winter’s day / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Evil is real
and powerful.
It has to be fought, not explained away, not fled.
And God is against evil all the way.
So each of us has to decide where WE stand, how we’re going to live OUR lives.
We can try to persuade ourselves that evil doesn’t exist; live for ourselves and wink at evil.
We can say that it isn’t so bad after all,
maybe even try to call it fun by clothing it in silks and velvets.
We can compromise with it, keep quiet about it and say it’s none of our business.
Or we can work on God’s side, listen for His orders on strategy against the evil,
no matter how horrible it is, and know that He can transform it.”

Catherine Marshall

Changing in the constant state of flux

To improve is to change;
to be perfect is to change often.

Winston Churchill

When we are no longer able to change a situation–
we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor E. Frankl

“So do flux and reflux–the rhythm of change–
alternate and persist in everything under the sky.”

Thomas Hardy

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(chrysalis for a tiger swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

The parsley is almost all gone…
Decimated nearly overnight by the ravenous feeding frenzy
of the caterpillars.

I wondered about 22 caterpillars and where they might all go
once they finished gorging themselves…

and so now I see…

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All rather amazing really.

See how it’s tied itself to the stem…
All wrapped up nice and neat…
and ready for a quick change sort of performance…

Butterflies, caterpillars, cocoons, or rather chrysalis, are perhaps the most
magically odd developments to transpire within the world of living creatures…

Yet this cycle of change is in a state of constant flux.

A butterfly spends it’s very short life feeding…
A caterpillar spends it’s very short life feeding…
A chrysalis spends it’s very short life in a constant state of change…
albeit it hidden from observation.

We don’t know exactly what or how things go on in that sack of theirs…
all we know is that a long worm-like thing goes in…
and then a brightly colored, light and fragile winged thing comes out…

Something so tiny, so minuscule, so fragile so odd and even oh so mysterious
can give me such great comfort and even needed solace…

That no matter the change that comes about in my life, in all our lives…
for we are ourselves also in a constant state of flux…
that in this most tiny creature and it’s miraculous cycles
lies the full mystery and depth of
a loving Father,
an Omnipotent Creator
and an overwhelming God…

that despite all that changes in my life…
for good and for bad
He is the One true Constant that I can hold onto with all great certainty…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 3:16

Transforming freedom

“…your tranquil yes to the changing over into the formless void of the unlimited.”
Hermann Hesse

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(a St John’s Wort blossom / Julie Cook / 2016)

“No longer is the universe subjected to the law of death out of birth.
It is subjected to a higher law,
to the law of life out of death by the death of him who represented eternal life.
Tombs were opened and bodies were raised when one man in whom God was present without limit committed his spirit into his Father’s hands.
Since this moment the universe is no longer what it was;
nature has received another meaning;
history is transformed and you and I are no more,
and should not be anymore, what we were before.”

Paul Tillich, excerpt from A Cosmic Cross

One of the central themes in Christianity, as well as for being a Christian, is that of transformation.
Of being one thing…one type of entity…then transitioning,
changing, progressing and becoming something else entirely.

It is the death of the old man which in turn gives way to the birth of the new man (or woman)

It is….
death / life
dark / light
that / this
no / yes
was / is

And within it all is found the blessing of true freedom…

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

The work in becoming

I have but shadowed forth my intense longing to lose myself in the Eternal and become merely a lump of clay in the Potter’s divine hands so that my service may become more certain because uninterrupted by the baser self in me.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“I want to help you to grow as beautiful as God
meant you to be when He thought of you first.”

― George MacDonald

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

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(an area of bog being dug…peat bogs, the spongy base which makes up so much of Ireland is dug up, cut or formed into bricks, dried and used for fuel, it is also becoming a medium for artists who sculpt and carve beautiful images from the intense black bog / somewhere along Gleann Cholm Cille / County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Any potter, ceramist, or sculptor will tell you that before there is a mug, a plate, a bowl, a vase, a statue, a figurine, a sculpture…
there is a lot of digging, mixing, processing, rolling, watering, wedging, pushing, shoving, beating, slapping, pinching, moulding, slamming, overlapping, smashing, smushing, forming, pulling, prying, poking, smoothing, burning, cooking, heating, coloring, glazing….

Clay…before it becomes something of beauty or of purpose, or even both, must first go through a complete overhaul–both physically as well as molecularly. It is considered to be a perfect medium in the minds of many an artist as it is forgiving, up to a point, and can be transformed into almost anything…

A naturally occurring raw product taken directly from the earth, add in a little refinement, then placed in just the right hands, a seemingly magical if not mystical transformation from mere dirt and a little water, emerges into something of both practical use and amazing beauty. A new creation emerging from something initially so simple, mostly overlooked and certainly taken for granted… with just the needed and necessary work, results in an amazing metamorphosis.

Is it then any wonder that man is so often compared to clay which has been given over the hands of the master Creator?
That which was formed from dust and ash…
In the heavenly eyes of the One True Creator, a raw natural product, incomplete and in great need of forming, shaping, prodding, moulding, firing and finishing…

That when eventually transformed, becomes a thing of beauty that is both strong and fragile all rolled into one.

We live our entire lives in the hands of the One who works tirelessly and lovingly forming, shaping, reshaping, heating and coaxing out that which is within.
Forever patient, as is any potter, He tenderly yet persistently works and reworks His clay into a thing of wonder.

It is however a life long process, one not always realized—this forming, moulding, making and becoming….
At times it is most painful and difficult, trying and even excruciating… yet when all is said and done, the final result is indeed a treasure to behold…

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:15-16

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands;
so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me.
He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
Jeremiah 8:2-6

“Baby it’s cold outside”

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

As the mercury in the old glass thermometer begins to make its steady descent, falling lower and lower in the tiny glass stem, reaching that crucial 32º F, magic begins to unfold in the ancient crumbling birdbath.
Liquid collides with frigid air as molecules slow.
Interlocking and spreading outward from itself as frenetic now becomes static. A surface oddly appears where moments before there was none.
Dripping, sloshing and evaporating, everyday miraculous occurrences taken for granted, are now trapped and caught in a single moment of time being transformed from the familiar to the foreign, as a season shifts and a cold stalk reality settles in making itself at home.

And as we are told that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” we must remember, know and claim that even in the simplest act of water changing from a liquid to a solid, from the overflow of rain water in an old birdbath to a thick sheet of ice, this act of the miraculous, does not pass or escape the knowledge of the Master Creator.
Something as commonplace as water freezing during the coming of the winter months, all takes place with the knowledge and observation of a Heavenly Father who has set the planets and the seasons in motion, who has cast light into the darkness, and who continues to offer hope in a world full of hopelessness.

Even in the insignificant discarded birdbath, God’s mastery is on display for any and all to take note. His fingerprints are present in the warmth of the sun as well as in the devoid nature of ice.
Who is this who has set forth the scientific laws of motion, gravity, combustion, transformation, energy. . .man may be able to replicate and create change, for good or bad, but he can only take from what he has been given—and much has been given.

Rejoice then shall we, in the light of day, the twinkling stars by night, the warmth of the sun, the blooming of the flowers, the abundance of the field and even in the barren, harsh frozen nothingness of the silence known as Winter. For there is no place on this planet where God is not—that we may learn to rejoice even as the earth transforms from the welcoming and enveloping seasons of warmth and abundant color to a time of lonely cold and unforgiving ice.
. . . As this amazing lesson and reminder now unfolds and is on full display in a lone and forgotten birdbath.

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)