free and self-determined…such is God

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


(hawthorn berries / Julie Cook / 2017)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly,
the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Beauty found in the lowly

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
― Confucius

“The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”
Job 5:11

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A walk in the woods on a damp rainy day holds a wealth of often overlooked wonders. . .

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(all photos taken from a trip to the woods / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)

What do you see?

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

C. S. Lewis

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(a camouflaged praying mantis on the rubber plant / Julie Cook / 2015)

Marginalized,
lambasted,
ridiculed,
disrespected,
and ignored.

Considered. . .
foolish,
out of touch,
ignorant,
and old fashioned.

Silenced and hushed.
Mocked and scorned.
Altered and changed.
Disproven. . .or so they say. . .

I am supposedly alone in my thinking,
cast aside as one who is mad for believing.
I am told that I cannot believe nor proclaim.
There is no room for such nonsense in our culture.
It has now been cut from every corner of what ever was.
Never mind that our laws and our very government is rooted in Its Word.
The spoken Word of Law and Order
Of right and wrong. . .
Of consequence and cost. . .

It has been stricken from walls and books,
from playing fields, events and meetings.
It has been ripped from ceremonies and pledges.
Mere mention brings an assault of legalism, reprimand and anger. . .

You are correct, I have never seen nor heard nor touched. . .

And yet I continue to believe. . .

Despite your objections to the contrary,
or your attempts to call my hand. . .
or your incessant pursuits to silence my thoughts.

I believe because I have seen It all too clearly. . .

In the stars and in the moon. . .

I have heard it in the coyote’s cry and in the whippoorwill’s sad song.

I have found It in the sun that has warmed my face–
As I have found It in the mighty winds and tumultuous seas of any given storm. . .

And I have found It in the silence of loneliness and despair. . .

It is found in the face of every new born child
And It is in the bird which takes flight on the winds.
It rests in the gentle touch of the elderly.
And it sits upon the shoulders of the innocent. . .

So despite your objections and your vehement desire to erase It from my life,
as well as every other’s life. . .
I will continue to believe,
to proclaim,
to worship,
to pray,
to observe,
and to witness

You may think you can make It all go away by simply taking it all away and
pretending It just isn’t there. . .

yet His Wonders never cease. . .

May your wonders never cease
may your spirit never leave
may we ever long to see your face
and when we turn from you again
oh how quickly we forget
may we be reminded of your grace
May Your Wonders Never Cease

Lyrics by Third Day
May Your Wonders Never Cease

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

small wonders amongst the heather

“I never saw a moor, I never saw the sea; Yet know I how the heather looks, And what a wave must be. I never spoke with God, Nor visited in Heaven; Yet certain am I of the spot, As if a chart were given.”
Emily Dickinson

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(cobweb skipper feeding on the heather–Mexican Heather as Scottish Heather cannot tolerate Georgia’s heat / Julie Cook / 2014)

Flowers of the Moorland
Wild flowers of the moorland, ye are very dear to me;
Ye lure my dreaming memory as clover does the bee;
Ye bring back all my childhood loved, when freedom, joy and health
Had never thought of wearing chains to fetter fame and wealth.

Wild blossoms of the common land, brave tenants of the earth,
Your breathings were among the first that helped my spirit’s birth;
For how my busy brain would dream and how my heart would burn,
Where gorse and heather flung their arms above the forest fern.

Eliza Cook
(English poet 1818-1889)

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(cobweb skipper and bumble bee feeding on the heather / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(cobweb skipper feeding on the heather / Julie Cook / 2014)

Surprise Guests

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(photograph: Julie Cook/2013)

“Nature is the art of God.”
Dante Alighieri

Whenever I work in the yard, tend to the garden or have an opportunity of being out in the woods, there are no limits to the sights and sounds that so often bring me a sense of Divine Joy. I don’t know how anyone can stand outside, in the middle of “nature”, be it woods, ocean, mountains, field, garden–large or small, and definitely proclaim there is no Creator.

I have stood at the base of massive jagged mountains, ominous clouds capping the space above my head, as an angry, churning, black sea roared at my back–all the while feeling suddenly finite and small. I have stood waste high in brush, scanning the field for the infamous resident grizzles that called the very place I stood, home–all the while knowing that I was suddenly back in the food chain… and not necessarily on the top of that chain. I have paddled lazily on an inflatable raft on a turquoise clear sea, only to spy an ominous fin rise silently up then silently down right besides me– knowing all the while that I remained untouched, on my raft, not by my own accord.

It is at these certain moments when I, as the egocentric all powerful human, find myself knocked off my pedestal of arrogance, left but to quickly discover that I am merely a small piece of this place we call earth. We do not control this place, even though we so smugly think differently… it, in the end, will indeed control us.

It is at these moments, the moments of fierce and unpredictable adventures out of doors, when I know I am less and there is indeed More….yet there does not necessarily need to be extreme conditions or moments of fear for me to experience the often elusive glimpse of Divine Wonder—I can do so when I water a container of flowers or even clean out the garage….just as I did the other day and found a surprise guest hiding in a corner.

Mr. Toad had obviously wandered in our garage thinking he could or should hide-out behind the trash bin. I thought it best that he should be returned to the yard–as I gently scooped him up, depositing him near the plants in the garden. I would think the food “pickings” of a better variety and much more tasty in the yard verses the garage.

Even when I have the chance meeting with a toad, I am beautifully reminded that there is a Creator whose handiwork is constantly all around me. I am most thankful for these brief surprise encounters with nature, particularly when they are most unexpected,—these moments draw me out of my finite world, allowing me to see, sense, feel and touch the infinite Wonders which surround and thankfully engulf me.

I hope you have such opportunities on this Monday morning in June. What Wonders will you discover today?