an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.
Plotting.
Planning.
Calculating.
Arranging.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…


(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

Yeah…
it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Somebody needs to eat them….

“Nature alone is antique,
and the oldest art a mushroom.”

Thomas Carlyle

Toadstools and mushrooms…the prevalent fungus among us…
With all those fungi surely someone out there has to be a beneficiary…
as this squirrel is doing his best to make the most of a free meal…

One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak,
eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt
the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does,
for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?
To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand,
for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Romans 14:2-4

live to see another day

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire


(a young bear scales the tip top of the trees in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

We’ve come up to Tennessee, to Cades Cove for a couple of days.
It is by far one of my most favorite places on earth…as I have seen some mighty grand and
lovely places on this planet. But Cades Cove is special.

I’ve written about Cades Cove before so I won’t go into all of that all over again
but just know that it remains a small remnant of who and what settled this great
land of ours.

Today in the Cove (an 11-mile one-way loop around what was once an early 19th-century
mountain valley settlement and centuries-old Indian territory)
we actually came upon two bears climbing like nimble footed acrobats
to the tip-top branches of the trees…
there were berries.

Cars had stopped as everyone got out, careening necks upward while staring in amazement,
watching these two big black bears acting more like squirrels.

As the day waned, we made our way back to the cabin where we were staying and
decided to go hike some of the nearby trails.
We had been told upon check-in that there was a bear on the property so just be
vigilant when out and about.

Making our way up a narrow trail, my husband leading the way with his long spider stick
waving precariously in front of him like some sort of crazy conductor’s baton
(a stick or twig used to knock down all the webs that are prolific this time of year)
all the while as I lagged slightly behind with my camera snapping pictures of the various
mushrooms and toadstools and yes, spider webs…

Suddenly my husband stops dead in his tracks and urgently announces BEAR.

I freeze.

About 20 feet in front of us, at the bend in the trail, lumbers a very large mother
black bear with two tiny cubs in tow.

I threw my camera up as fast as I thought I had life left to do so in order to snap a shot,
a shot I didn’t even have time to focus, when mom and babies nonchalantly kept
walking around the curve in the path….
all the while as we prayed she wouldn’t turn and charge at us.

We just stood there as she rounded the turn and disappeared.
Then boldly, or brazenly I’m not sure which, we opted to take a few steps forward just
to see which way they were headed when suddenly one of the cubs pops back around
the corner to take a gander at us before he circles back to mom.

At which point we turned and took another trail.

Once back down to the main road we spied a maintenance worker who we decided should
hear our report of seeing a mama bear with cubs on the retreat’s property.

He casually replies “yeah…they’ve been around awhile, best to keep your distance
but that’s nothing…
two weeks ago I was standing right over there when a mountain lion came
out of nowhere and crossed the path right in front of me…
but these darn spiders…now they’re what really bothers me”

We opted to leave him our spider stick for protection.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20

nothing more to give…

“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds,
his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications,
by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what
belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will,
by obedience, gives to Him all that he has,
and can say:
Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori


(city mural /Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

The ins and out in and out of a city…as seen in the lives of the fortunate and unfortunate.


(sign posted within a doorway near an area known for the homeless/ Julie Cook / Nashville/ 2018)


(two images of a bird with a broken wing just off the park where the homeless congrugate
in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a very sick dove sits out amongst the throng of 4th of July revalers, over looked and
basicaly ingnored by the enormous crowd / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a couple of wild turkeys and a squirrel resting during a heatwave on the grounds of
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a squirrel pays no attention to the tourists gathered by it’s side at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“But there must be a real giving up of the self.
You must throw it away
“blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.
The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.
Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)
will not come as long as you are looking for it.
It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.
Even in social life,
you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort
of impression you are making.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:
whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
(without caring twopence how often it has been told before)
you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self,
and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death
of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and
you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred,
loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.
But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Going home…as it should be

Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.
Madeleine L’Engle


(mom’s roses / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well…
for both happy and sad, today (yesterday in case you’re reading this today) has finally come.

The day for packing up and having to move from a temporary home back
to a real home has arrived…

This is the part of life’s story when being the adult, the grown-up, the parent,
the grandparent is one of the more difficult roles to play.
Life dictates that I’m supposed to be the one who knows what is best and
simply keep that stiff upper lip.

And so, reluctantly, I do.

We packed up and journeyed homeward.

A wreck, coupled by construction, on 285 had us sitting in traffic for over an hour.

Do you know what a screaming baby sounds like in a car stuck in the middle of
an interstate impasse?
A baby who is happy only as long as the car is moving??

I wanted to roll down the windows for all the truckers and cars alike—telling them this
is what I’m currently listening to so could everyone just please drive
like they’re supposed to!!!

Yet when we finally reached “home”, what a splendid greeting…
Mom’s little lone tea rose bush was in full bloom.

Blooms of anticipation for a great-granddaughter mom never meet here on earth but
who I know she has met long before I had even met my little one.

This wee one has finally come home…a home that was once mom’s home…
a home that was also once my own home.

What a most fitting welcome…

And so whereas I will miss these day to day moments of growth and change…

I know there’s just nothing like one’s own bed and one’s own space…
each providing a welcomed sense of peace

Sweet dreams my precious little wee one…

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

alligators and the capitulation of the church

“We need more public Christians, even though being a Christian in public is
getting tougher, says David Robertson, a Presbyterian pastor from Scotland –
a nation that has “secularised quicker than any other nation in history”

Excerpt from an interview with Eternity Magazine in Sydney, Australia


(Gulf coast alligator courtesy the Gaurdian)

The last time I visited the state of Louisiana was in 1982 for the Sugar Bowl.
My Dawgs were playing Pitt…we won’t talk about the outcome…it was such a long
time ago, I think I’ve forgotten.

However, Sugar Bowls or not, for some reason or another,
I’ve always been partial to Louisiana.
At one point I thought I wanted to attend for LSU for college…but then I wouldn’t have
been at the 1982 Sugar Bowl watching my Bulldogs play those Pitt Panthers.

But we’re still not ready to talk about that game so let’s just move on.

I’ve got cousins who call Monroe as well as Lake Charles home.
My dad took us on a visit when I was in the 7th grade.

Maybe it’s her history.
Maybe it’s her food.
Maybe it’s her beauty…
but I’ve just always been partial to Louisiana.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been known to tune into the History Channel’s Swamp People
show from time to time.
That quasi-reality show about those who make their living hunting alligators.

I mean who sits around at a boardroom table in either New York or LA and ruminate over
creating a show around the livelihood of folks whose families have hunted,
for generations mind you, alligators???

But there is just something about these people that I like.

They are real.

Well— relatively real.

If they were really real, I doubt they’d be doing television…but then you’ve
got to consider that a TV supplement is a nice added bonus to a diminishing payout for
alligator hides and meat.
I’m just saying.

These folks are not what most other folks would call refined, well to do, polished,
overly educated or even poised.

Some would call them backward, backwoods or dare we say, white trash.

And that’s why I like them.

They are what they are… a what you see is what you get sort of individual.
Some have had run-ins with the Law, the IRS, the History Channel…
even run-ins with one another…but in the end, they are what they are…
nothing more and nothing less.

Many of them are of Cajun descent.
There is a heavy French Louisiana accent that often prompts the television folks
to provide subtitles.
Really History Channel???
Maybe because I’m from the South, but I don’t need subtitles…

And so it was on a recent episode that one particular fellow was out hunting for wild hogs
(barefoot of course) when he came upon a couple of lost puppies out in the middle of the
nowhere woods.
Lost in the woods in Louisiana is not for the faint of heart.
There are poisonous snakes, wild hogs, coyotes, and yes alligators…
a place I would not be keen to get lost.

The short of this long tale boiled down to this fellow telling the cameraman that
“that’s why God made puppies, they’re just so cute you’ve got to want to take care of them.”

A gem of wisdom found in the backwoods of Louisiana.

A simple faith from a rather rough-hewn individual.

And so his words made me think.

I thought how great that our God was so loving and so thoughtful that He saw fit
to prewire in us an inward drive to take care of those who are smaller,
younger and more vulnerable.

A role I often think of when I think of the Chruch.
For the Chruch, the collective body of Fatih is there to take care of the fold—
which is us. The Believing faithful.
And as we are akin to sheep in many respects, we tend to be sheep-like,
so we certainly need an earthly shepherd.

Enter the Chruch…our ministers, our pastors, our deacons, our priests…
our Spiritual guiding servants of Christ

They are to lead and guide the fold.
They are to offer God’s word to the lost, the wandering and to the hard of hearing.
They are to teach us, inform us and instruct us in the ways of the Master.

They are to set the standard, the bar, the benchmarks for living a “Godly” life.

And yet it is that very body, The Chruch, which is actually letting us down.

The Church is not standing up for God’s word but rather she is capitulating to the
strong-arm tactics of an ever-changing culture…
a culture who is holding her arm behind her back,
having her to bend down before the gods of all things of culture.
Acceptance of one and all regardless of God’s admonition.

“We were known as ‘the land of the people of the book’, the book being the Bible,”
he says about Scotland. “Even as late as the 1950s, you’d have 1.4 million out of
4.5 million people being members of the Church of Scotland,
as well as Catholics and other groups.”

Today the Church of Scotland’s membership is below 300,000.
Scotland is on a rapid slide downhill, both in church attendance numbers and in
“the quality of churches and the impact on society.
We are throwing overboard our Christian heritage right,
left and center and that will come back to bite us.”

Robertson does not blame secularists as the main cause for the decline in
Christianity in Scotland.
The church itself is “the primary reason” for the decline –
and he’s not just talking about liberal Christians, which, as a conservative,
he might have been expected to target.

He says denominations (church groups) such as his own Free Church of Scotland,
a small Presbyterian denomination, became afraid and inward looking with
a tendency towards legalism.
The Church of Scotland, a liberal denomination is also in freefall,
with fewer than 100,000 worshippers out of a population of 5.5 million.

Click the link to continue reading David’s interview…and then pray for our guiding force,
the bride of Christ, the Chruch…

“Don’t be like us” says a true Scotsman – Interview with Eternity magazine

take it on the road

“People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are
the critics, blaming or praising him.
What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage;
he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings,
reminding them of their lost lines.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(ready for the first road trip to visit Moppie and Poppie / 2018)

Often times, we are required to leave the shelter of our wombs…
the warmth and protectiveness of a familiarity we have grown accustomed to cherish.

Because we have been called…to go.


(Uncle Percy is a bit perplexed by this new visiting neice/ Julie Cook / 2018)

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners.
It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating.
A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching,
so we accepted their [the communists’ ] terms.
It was a deal; we preached and they beat us.
We were happy preaching.
They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ

Sometimes we are called to go to places we’d rather not go.
In order to share with those who have not heard or do not know
that which we do know…

And we must speak to them about that which we know and they do not know
because it is what we are called to do…

I learned about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand when I was early on in high school.
I ordered the book, Tortured for Christ.

I’ve written about Wurmbrand before…

“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909—2001) was an evangelical minister who endured 14 years
of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania.
He is widely recognized there as one of the country’s greatest Christian leaders,
authors and educators.”

The knowledge of the scourge of Communism, along with its anti-Christian hatred,
during the midst of the Cold War, only heightened my interest behind the story
of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand—-
his preaching, eventual arrest, tortures, rearrests, more tortures, solitary confinement…
all of which left a deep impression upon me.

I don’t know if I could go, live, share and do as those who have each suffered so grievously
at the hands of their tormentors—only to continue on, day after day..offering hope and love
to those very ones who tormented and tortured…all because of the calling and the love…

I think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who also knew to go and to share…
sharing all the way to Auschwitz…and who would continue sharing even unto his own death…

How many have gone and shared long before all of us, only to offer the ultimate offering?

Our prayer is that we might all have the courage to go, to do, to share and to say
when we are called to do so…
no matter how great the cost…

https://www.persecution.com/founders/

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12