Just around the bend—a pilgrimage

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless.
If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)…
Continue seeking Him with seriousness.
Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”

C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
Vincent van Gogh


(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

(I thought this was a good post to pull out of the archives from 2015
please enjoy)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives,
there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are
no clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers,
no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain is that there is a path with the choice
of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around—
heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward?
Continuing onward yet all the while feeling as if he or she
is blinded by the loss of direction?

It is as if this journeyman, nay pilgrim, is feeling his or her way
along in the dark— thinking that after every curve,
after every bend along the path…
surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be
something familiar or something offered as some sort of
informational directional compass…
that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this
particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed physically, mentally
and emotionally.

It is as if we are wandering lost within some massive forest with no end in sight.
There is no welcoming safe haven…there is no one who is to act as guide…
only those who wait hidden in the shadows hoping to inflict some sort of harm
as we journey onward.

Yet as all who journey, those who opt to take such journeys in life,
realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey
ever taken.
Every journey and every path is left to the chance and the whims
of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey?

How does one prepare when even the very path, the journey,
the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked,
definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice
to the one setting out on the trek?

What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies-in wait..
those unseen snares and traps, each vying to catch the innocent
trekker who is perhaps ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah… but there is indeed One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort,
direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely
and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

Getting ready for being actively receptive..

“Nothing, how little so ever it be,
if it is suffered for God’s sake,
can pass without merit in the sight of God.”

Thomas a Kempis


(Arizona)

There are resolutions made fresh and anew at the beginning of each new year…
those things we decide to give up or take on in hope of becoming better at simply being us.

Some are kept, most are not.

Then comes Lent…a time when there are also things to be given up and or taken on
all in order to recall one man’s journey in a desert for a period of 40 days, in hopes
of bettering our souls.

Some are kept, others are not.

Yet it is during Lent that the keeping and or the letting go seems to be more important,
sharper and keener…
The burden is better understood, the giving in and letting go pricks more sharply.

It matters not whether your church, your avenue of faith, carries you along the road
of participating in Lent or not.
It matters little whether or not you “practice” Lent.
All Christians can, however, come together in the reflection of this time of Jesus’
earthly journey while on His spiritual path.

The entire idea is simply to be present with Christ on this journey.

How you decide to do that, is well, how you decide to do that.
Simply being present to Him…as in just you and Him…on a journey, together,
in a barren wasteland with everything and anything that is a distraction
being stripped away…while there is one who does his darndest to thwart your efforts
of being focused and present with and for your companion.

If it’s giving up chocolate because you always give up chocolate,
and later finding yourself fudging here and there, then that’s not
really taking a part of the journey now, is it…
Thinking that chocolate or the lack thereof helps you to focus
more keenly on the journey and on your companion…well, I don’t know.

This journey is bigger than chocolate…just saying.

For this journey is not a surface sort of trek…
but rather it is a time of real darkness and trial.
It is an arduous journey taken not by the faint of heart.
For it is a journey to the recesses of your being.

And it is a journey we are afforded, or better yet offered, to take yearly…
As each year we are reminded and allowed to recall that first foray of determined boldness
into the desert so long ago.

Deserts are formidable places.
Desolate, dry, lonely, empty, hot places.
Places we don’t much wish to find ourselves.
As our shadowed nemesis delights in tempting us out and away from this
place of deep introspection.
And yet Jesus goes…willingly.

It is here where we first see the earthly glimpse of His willingness to go…
just as we will shortly see, His willingness to descend into hell
for three days in order to do battle for our souls.

Yet each year, we make the conscious decision to choose to go along.
We decide to accompany Jesus into this desert…both His and our own.

Some of us will try to muster on while others of us turn relatively quickly for a fast
retreat.

And yet year after year, we make a choice as to whether or not we want to take this
journey alongside Jesus, knowing we may or may not make it…
But the real fact of the matter is that Jesus always makes the same choice…
the choice to always go…

As Jesus becomes our lynchpin.
He is our support in and out of the desert.

Our friend over on the blog Thoughts from the Side of the House
reminds us of this notion…he explains that our choice boils down alone to the single
matter of desire…as well as our being open to that desire…receptive to that choice.

Receptive to the choice of wanting to actually go hand in hand with Jesus on his arduous
journey into the desert.

As his friend Monsignor Heintz reminds us that whatever we attach our attention to,
becomes us.
If our desires are worldly, then the desert is not to be our foray.

Therefore as we now stand in the shadow of Lent, standing before the Desert…
we each much ask, are we will willing to travel with Jesus with the focus and intent
such a journey requires.

It is not for the faint of heart.

When I was in grad school a couple of my professors introduced me to the concept
of “active receptivity,” an influential concept in the thought of a
Polish philosopher named Karol Wojtyla.
Roughly, it means willingly desiring to receive certain gifts and,
if necessary, actively doing things to make such reception possible.
For instance, when I was a student, if I truly wanted to learn, I had to desire to
learn, to actively listen, engage and study concepts to truly understand them.
This idea is key for me in my spiritual life.

“In the early Christian tradition of mystical theology,
there was an aphorism of anonymous origin and goes like this:
“you become the object of your contemplation.”
That is, whatever we fix our attention upon,
whatever becomes the focus of our energies and our imagination,
whatever it is that consumes our thoughts and desires,
has an imperceptible but genuine impact upon us, shaping our sensibilities,
molding our personality, and making us – far more than we often realize – who we are.
The standard objects of fallen human desire: power, pleasure, wealth, can subtly take
hold of us, and our desire for them changes who we are;
we stray farther and farther from God and find ourselves in a land of unlikeness.

Monsignor Mike Heintz

You Become What You Think About

Reminders and Remembrance

“There are moments when we have real fun because, just for the moment, we don’t think about things and then–we remember–and the remembering is worse than thinking of it all the time would have been.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“What you remember saves you.”
― W.S. Merwin

DSC01700
(a collection of shells found at Orange Beach, Al / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have two small, rather faded and mostly brittle, sea shells riding
along on the console of my dash—actually along the outcropping for my car’s navigation screen.
The shells slide from one side to the other should I ever make a sudden turn or swerve.
They bother my husband.
He’s afraid they’re going to scratch the Nav’s screen.
They aren’t.
Every time he gets in my car to ride with me, he always asks the same question:
“Why do you have those shells up there?”
Followed by “They’re going to scratch the glass.”

I always answer the same. . .
“Those were two shells I found in the car when I was cleaning it out, after our long weekend trip back in September, to the beach.”
Which means they have been riding in my car now for 8 months.
Back and forth during the change of seasons, in the depths of winter’s chill. . .Halloween, Christmas, Easter—over to Atlanta, to the airport, to the mall, to the grocery store, to meetings, to the lawyer’s office, to the hospital, to the doctor’s office, to the dentist’s office, to the church, to a myriad of places to eat, to the beach again, to the home of friends, to wedding’s, to funerals, to parties, to Dad’s–
For miles and miles, and even more miles. . . those little shells have been my tiny passengers. . .

I put them on the dash as a reminder. . .

Reminding me of those more peaceful carefree moments spent simply basking in the wonderment of creation, as in my case, at the ocean’s shores.
Reminders of treasured moments when one affords oneself the luxury of enjoyment, contentment and release.
When one slows down long enough, stoping while bending over,
to pick up a small piece of Creation. . . marveling in or at something that is intriguing,
eye catching, simple, plain, pretty, interesting, unusual—pocketing the minuscule as a treasured keepsake. . .a wee reminder that nothingness, and yet everything,
can be treasured, special, sacred. . .

Reminders of a time when nothing pulled at, called upon, pressed down on, worried, frightened or troubled mind, body or soul.

It’s important that I can hold on to the reminders and the memories of such. . .

We all have similar little mementoes tucked away someplace. . .those tiny scrapes of paper, pretty little rocks, bits of glass, old buttons, frayed ribbons, tattered photos, long forgotten keys all the tiny tangible pieces of our peace, our happiness, our treasured moments of time savored and found in a long forgotten little pieces of this or that. . .

For me, many of those tiny treasures are natural items that I pick up along my journeys outward. . .
Walks along the beach, a trek into the woods, a hike in the mountains, the precarious forging of a creek or stream. . .bits and pieces, tangible particles, of the natural wonders. . .the tiny parts offered to the created by the Master Creator Himself. . .

I pocket them, holding on to them, putting them where I can see them. . .in order to recall, to remember, to reclaim, to hold on to. . .the fact that God has given me a tiny token of Himself and His wonderment, in order for me to carry, to actually touch, to feel and to hold. . .reminding me that He is greater than myself and my various little journeys to here and there—I am reminded of the one significant fact—that when life is overwhelming and I’m feeling as if I’ve reached a breaking point. . .I’m sweetly, gently reminded that He is bigger, greater, grander. . .while at the same time and most poignantly reminded that He can be both gently thoughtful and touching. . .simply reminding me always of His presence in my often frantic and manic world. . .