a mayoral day and last words

“As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of
our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relationships
with this best and truest friend of mankind that death’s image is not only no longer
terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


(the mayor awaits Moppie’s arrival / Abby Cook / 2019)


The Mayor out to brunch with the fam /Julie Cook / 2019))

“This God of all goodness has made those things easy which are common and necessary
in the order of nature, such as breathing, eating, and sleeping.
No less necessary in the supernatural order are love and fidelity,
therefore it must needs be that the difficulty of acquiring them is by no means
so great as is generally represented. Review your life.
Is it not composed of innumerable actions of very little importance? Well,
God is quite satisfied with these.
They are the share that the soul must take in the work of its perfection.”

Jean-Pierre de Caussade, p.7
An Excerpt From
Abandonment to Divine Providence

A quick thought on this Monday morning that actually came about on the night prior—
Sunday had been a busy day for us—filled with driving and keeping up with a squirmy worm,
aka the Mayor.

Before the bad storms were to hit Sunday morning, we drove over to Atlanta.
We spent the day with the Mayor and her two close aides, along with the two assistants,
Auntie Sheba and Sister Alice (aka Dad’s cat and our son’s dog) as the storms rolled into
the Atlanta area.

They had actually gotten a new TV and wanted us to see it—
TVs were my Dad’s “thing”…not so much mine but my son seems to have inherited
that from his “Pops”—-so as a family, we watched the movie Hook…
…and that was not lost on my thoughts….once again as a family.

The last time, and the first time, we saw this movie was when our son was a very little boy…
— the tale, at that time, was a heartfelt reminder to my husband,
as well as to most adults—-
for the gist of the lesson of importance from this movie was that of being present
in our children’s lives—
It was a thought that both work and life be damned—for our children so very much needed
us to be “present”—-and that thought has not changed in the 28 years since that movie first
came out.
But that is a post for another day.

And yes, bless Robin Williams

Once the storms had finally past, it was late in the evening and sadly the time had
come for us to bid our farewells to this little family as we headed west—back home.
(I don’t cry nearly as badly as I use to when leaving my beloved Mayor)

Despite the heavy rains having moved out, it was still very misty and drizzling–
the roads were still very wet and coupled with very poor visibility.

My husband and I both remarked how badly the lane lines needed repainting on the interstate
as they were barely visible.

I noted that one car didn’t have their lights on.
Despite being 7:30, it was pitch dark.
The interstate was jam-packed full of both cars and tractor-trailer trucks…
much like a typical late afternoon…
and here was a totally dark car traversing the roadways on a very treacherous night.
Aiyyyiii Ayi!!

“Does anyone ever stay at home any more?!” my husband quips.

We kept driving.

I was amazed at the consistent speed of the traffic mass—
75 was the slow average…with 70 being the speed limit—
I was clocking between 78 and 80 trying to keep up, yet I was being
passed left and right—conditions were terribly poor and yet everyone was driving
like an Indy 500—
with several cars darting in, out and around…
I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.

At one point my husband commented just how trafficky it was.
Amazed that this was a Sunday night while the interstate was a sea of vehicles.

My response was a deadpan “yeah boy”

And that was when it hit me…”yeah boy”…
wonder if a car suddenly jerked over into my lane, wonder if someone slammed on their brakes,
wonder if one of the crazy cars darting in and out, darted without really looking…??

“yeah boy” could have easily been my final words.

Did I want “year boy” to be the last words I uttered to my husband?!

And so I spent the next serval dark wet miles pondering the notion of “last words”

Finally, thankfully, we made it home in one piece.

Tired after a long day…but thankful to be home while still sad that The Mayor was
now over an hour away…yet I was still left thinking about what it is we say…
that which we say so flippantly, so often, without thinking.

We are living in a time within a culture that takes words for granted.
A time in which we change and alter the meaning or the context of our words
to suit our current whims, wants and desires…with a usually costly
consequence for our fellow man…or woman.

We use our words against one another quickly, pointedly and profanely as we use them
to shame, offend, spread falsehoods and to deeply wound our neighbors.

We use them to spread maliciousness, lies, and accusations…most often the
fodder of that which is untrue.

Perhaps it’s time we start thinking about our words…those words offered to
others…offered with little to any real thought…or words offered with
calculating cunningness that are meant to not merely hurt but rather to destroy.

“Yeah boy”…not what I would like to know were the last words uttered to my husband…

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
Matthew 12:36

***once we got home Sunday night, I read where up to 14 (sadly now 23 and rising) folks had lost their lives
in the storms— a tornado, in Alabama.
May our prayers be for those families who lost their loved ones Sunday evening and for those whose
lives are now turned inside out…

ideologues verses heros

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.”

Czesław Miłosz


(image of Alejandro Villanueva, the lone Steeler player who opted to stand and
acknowledge the National Anthem prior to the Steeler / Bear game / courtesy Miami Herald)

This was not the post I intended to write today.
This was not the post I wanted to write today…
but this is the post that I felt necessary to write today.

Alejandro Villanueva is a professional football player who plays left tackle for
the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He is also a former US Army veteran.
Add to those facts that he was the only player…. the only player…
let that resonate in your head for a minute…the only player who emerged from
the shadows of the Steelers locker room to stand for Sunday’s pregame
National Anthem.

Coach Mike Tomlin had decided to keep his players in the locker during the National
Anthem so as not to join in the latest political ruckus.
But what message did Tomlin send by hiding in the locker room…?

And if you’re wondering why any of this is of any significance to a football game,
well then you have most likely missed out on the latest minutia brouhaha percolating
to the surface between America’s favorite pastime…
that being her sporting events, verses the President of the United States.

Now let that little notion sink in…slowly.
Professional sports verses, not an opposing team, but rather the
President of the United States of America.

Really.

For there seems to be a war of words escalating beyond average comprehension.

Yet tomorrow morning’s headlines won’t consist of Alejandro Villanueva’s image
and name…
And you most likely won’t be reading the columns of sportswriters touting the
story of a lone act of patriotism….

You won’t see the National news explaining what’s wrong with grown men being paid
millions of dollars to simply play games yet who insist on using their various playing
fields to make political commentary….
their choosing to be ideologues rather than what they’re paid to do, and that is to simply play ball.

No you won’t see or hear any of that.

What you will see are the images of player after player locked arm in arm, across the league, kneeling in disrespectful protest.
You will hear the angry defiant words spewed from the mouths of players, coaches
and even the Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell.

You will hear NBA greats like LaBron James calling the President of the
United States of America a “bum”.
You will read how Stephen Curry has said that it once was an honor to visit the
White House…that was until Trump got in……

All of this latest mess coming on the heels of a speech delivered Friday evening in Alabama, when President Trump responded to the the current trend of professional
football players who are opting not to stand for the National Anthem,
preferring rather to kneel or raise a defiant fist….
his comments were swiftly met with some rather harsh criticism.

A now never ending tit for tat stemming from the poor decision made last season by Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick opted to use his very public platform as the QB of the San Francisco 49ers
to express his thoughts that the National Anthem was not an anthem of equality.

Oh really?

Trump told the crowded arena Friday night that such behavior is a “total disrespect
of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”
He went on to say that those “Sons of a Bitch” who persist with such defiance
should be fired.

I happen to agree with the President.

However do I think the President of the United States needs to jump in this fray?

I don’t know.
But when we have blatant disrespect for our very National Anthem, who better then the
President to say, “hey wait a minute, something is wrong here….”

But at the same time I am now absolutely sick over our professional athletes using
their various sport as one more link in an increasingly brittle chain of
toxic politics.

I don’t watch football or any other sport because I want to deal with politics
or because I want to be reminded that our country is swirling down the tubes of
self absorption, ignorance and hate.

I watch sports to forget all of that.

I quit watching long ago any other sort of entertainment because it all had
become nothing but overtly violent, immoral and political while reeking of utter disrespect.

When I was still in the classroom, I can remember a growing sneering mantra offered
by one too many a defiant high school kid who butted heads with a teacher or administrator…
“I don’t give respect unless I get respect.”

Oh Really?

Here were kids claiming that if a teacher got on to them for their behavior
that they in turn could respond with vehemence and defiance.
A gross lack of respect for an adult who in the mind of the student had actually “disrespected” them and therefore deserved no respect–a twisted thought process.
And sadly many a parent and even a growing number of administrators
found themselves, albeit for some begrudgingly, in agreement.

The writing was then on the wall….the inmates were running the asylum.
And where might these inmates be getting their life examples….??

It takes little men to stay back in a locker room trying to avoid a glaring issue.
It takes little men, who make millions of dollars for simply playing games, to act like
disrespectful selfish and childish ideologues.
But it takes a real man who will go the journey alone in order to stand up for what
is right when no one else will….

—we call those kinds of men, heroes……

Honour all men.
Love the brotherhood.
Fear God.
Honour the king.

1 Peter 2:17

humble past

“You may delay, but time will not.”
Benjamin Franklin


(a bible sits open on an old pulpit in the Shoal Primative Baptist Church /
Talladega National Forest / Julie Cook / 2017)

A long time ago, before cotton was ever king…


(a rural cotton field, Rabbit Town, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2017)

Or 13 colonies fought to form a new and perfect union…
the Nation of the Creek Indians called the lands of what is now Georgia and
Alabama home.

It is estimated that these native Americans had lived and thrived in this region
before the year 800 AD, as they were descendants of an even earlier people, from
what is known as of the Mississippian period.

In 1733 Captain James Oglethorpe landed in the what is known today as
Savannah, Georgia.
He claimed the land south of the Carolinas and north of Spanish Florida,
in the name of King George…as the New Georgia.

In 1752 Georgia became officially the 13th colony.
However despite the British crown’s claim to this new land,
the Creek indians continued to be the majority inhabitants and land owners
of this young colony.


(James Ogelthorpe /Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016

However that all began to change in 1760 with the continued exploration
and expansion westward by the British, Spanish and French.
Native Americans were quickly being squeezed from their ancestral lands
by a deluge of European exploration and subsequent settlers.

By 1800 the Creek Nation ceded all of their lands to the state of Georgia
and were forced to move westward…

This time they moved deep into the lands of what is known today as
the state of Alabama.
But in 1819, with Alabama being recognized as the 22nd state
in the Union, once again the Creeks were forced to relocate.

In 1830, following the orders by President Andrew Jackson,
the once proud Nations of the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw
tribes were forced from their traditional lands,
and were relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi,
as Scotch/ Irish settlers made their way
south and west, down from the Carolinas, claiming these once tribal lands as
their new homesteads.

Around 1835 to 1840, deep in the back woods of the Alabama foothills of the
Appalachian Mountains, a small community of European settlers found a home
in a rugged area of Alabama.

These settlers were farmers, hunters, loggers and even moonshiners.

At the heart of their community these hardy settlers erected a log hewn church
to serve as an anchor for their community.
It was a building that would serve their community needs, their spiritual needs
as well as the educational needs of their children.


(Shoal Primitive Baptist Church, originally built in 1845 / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today both time and Mother Nature have each reclaimed this once small community.
Long forgotten are the voices of those first Native American inhabitants…
as well as the voices of those early European settlers.

Yet hidden deep within a mix of virgin forest and replanted pines,
resting at the end of a long forgotten rutted, single dirt lane road,
a lone wooden church remains ever vigilant…
standing the test of time.

She is a far cry from the great Cathedrals and Churches of big cities or
of far away lands.
She possess neither stained glass, gleaming silver or brass nor
ornately carved wooden fixtures.

For hers is a humble yet strong and determined example of faith.

Her small cemetery of unmarked graves whispers tales of those hardy souls
who once called these lands home…those individuals who worked the land
living and dying in the shadow of this church.


(the unmarked graves of Shoal Creek / Julie Cook / 2017)

The Shoal Primitive Baptist Church originally erected in 1845,
with the building we see today being rebuilt in 1895, is listed and recognized
as an important historic building on the National Registry.

It remains a lone sentinel of the early American pioneering spirit in an area
that is now known as the Talladega National Forrest.
This area was bought by the Federal Government and made a national park
by President Franklin Roosevelt in the early 1930’s.

The church is one of 6 remaining log hewn churches scattered throughout the state
of Alabama and still hosts special events such as Sacred Harp singings.

Inside this lovely and lonely darkened church, resting atop the single black pulpit,
sits a worn and tattered bible.

It is open to the book of Psalms….

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

paradoxes

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement.
But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

Niels Bohr


(wild morning glory deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition
that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

My intent was to have written about something else today…
but as God often places something in
my way forcing my hand or forcing my change in direction,
there was no getting around the change
in thought.

My first thought was to talk a little about yesterdays’ brouhaha…
that current national obsession that was playing out on every television channel or news outlet
such that there was an actual news story, I believe it was true but who knows anymore, that
bars in D.C. opened up for a morning run providing a watering hole venue for folks to line up and come watch the hearing
(I should say the Comey hearing but’I’m actually sick and tired of hearing the fellow’s name…
as the nation’s obsession is not my own)

The news camera panned the bar—jam packed full with folks,
some who admittedly were ditching work, happily imbibing…
For others, who knows why hanging out watching television in a bar on a Thursday morning
seems productive…yet perhaps I should not be surprised to see so many youthful ones
who obviously have no where to be at 9:30 on a Thursday morning in the Nation’s capital
but I suppose I digress.

Then my second thought was to offer an observation also from yesterday.
The UK had a big election yesterday…an election for a possible new PM and new government.
I think that sort of thing ranks up there with our own election as these first cousin nations
are that important to one another…
However, when I went to read the BBC on-line the most front and center news story was not the
UK’s own election but what was happening in the US with the hearing.

I first clicked on the world news…the US shenanigans was the lead story
I then clicked on European news, again, the UK election was not the lead story
I next clicked on UK news…the lead story was not so much election outcome as it was
other matters which danced around what was to be the outcome….

How can the BBC put off their own election…
the story of a leading global power’s election while
opting to focus on the American hysteria?

Thirdly I thought I’d write about the story of the small Missouri town that has had a
60 foot cross donning the center of their town square since the 1930’s.
For the past 87 years this small Missouri town has held every Easter sunrise service
at the base of this cross, in this city’s central park, since
the time the cross was first erected.

The mayor recently received a letter from an out of town atheist and freethinking
organization that has threatened the town with legal action if the cross
is not removed.
Up until the arrival of this letter, the town has never had a single complaint
regarding the cross.

The group who sent the letter claim that this cross is in
direct violation with a separation of church and state and will sue the town
if it is not removed.

The mayor and city council has responded…the cross will stay.

So whereas I had a good bit I wanted to chat about and share…
there was another story that seemed to trump (there’s that word again)
all other stories as it is a story that should give every last one of us pause before
we continue with the important things that we seem to think are so utterly important….

Things such as watching hearings, standing in long lines in order to drink and indulge
while ditching work in order to sit and watch said hearing…
a hearing that was really much to do about nothing,
while others write threatening letters, while even others of us concern ourselves with
matters that truly pale in comparison to the bigger issues of life, living and dying.

Two day’s ago, a church bus was enroute from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta’s airport.
The bus was full of young people, high schoolers and their leaders, who were preparing
to fly out to Botswana in order to spend time working with children there in Africa.
A little more noble effort then hanging out drinking and watching TV…but who
am I to say…

It was mid day and the sun was shining…a low humidity Chamber of Commerce kind of
Georgia day.
The church bus was less then five miles from the airport when tragedy stuck.
There was a lane change with the bus having to overcorrect after striking a car in the
adjacent lane.
The overcorrection forced the bus into the medium, flipping it upside down while it
then fell in the path of the opposite lane’s traffic, where it was hit again.

Both directions of Camp Creek Parkway, the road leading directly into the airport,
were closed as a 17 year old young girl was killed and 21 other were injured,
some seriously.

“Life changes so rapidly on us, you know?
One moment, things are fine.
The next moment you’re dealing with things like this.
It’s just tough,” Fulton County Fire Chief Larry Few said.

The young girl’s family shared her picture with Atlanta’s Channel 2 news and offered a
few words about their daughter.

And she loved the Lord with a love that was tangible,” Harmening’s mother said.
“It’s what she lived and breathed for.”

Sarah’s mother read her last journal entry on the bus and said it gives her comfort.

“That God has called me here and he has done this for a reason,
so I know he’s going to do incredible things,” her mother read.

A friend shared some of the final words Harmening….

“This is such a great reminder; we are like a wisp of smoke.
We are only here for a moment and it’s not about us, life is not about us,
it’s about God,” said Harmening’s friend Claire.

So whereas I thought I had some things I wanted to share or discuss or focus on—
It seems as if they weren’t nearly as important as I had thought….

Because there is much wisdom found in the words of one’s friend who reflects on the
loss of a young life….

For none of this thing we call life is really about us now is it…..

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.
Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

death, an expensive business…

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death.
I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

the-knight-death-and-the-devil(Albrecht Durer / Knight, Death and the Devil 1513)

Back around 1973, when I was more of a youngster than what I am now…
I remember finding a paperback book in a bookstore that I just had to have.

I think it was the cover that drew me in.
Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal sitting perched on a cutout of a crescent moon.

The book, Paper Moon, was actually the movie title based on the book
Addie Pray by Joe David Brown…it was simply renamed in 1973,
which is when Peter Bogdanovich directed the film.

The story, set in Depression era Alabama, is about an orphan named Addie
and a man named Moze who is a drifter and scam artist.
Moze who meets Addie following the burial of her mother, agrees for a fee,
to take Addie to relatives in Missouri.
With much of the underlining thought being that the drifter / conman
is actually the young girl’s biological father.
The story is about not only their actual journey to Missouri and the
myriad of scams they pull trying to make a fast buck,
but it is also a tale of the journey of self discovery.

I never did go see the movie but I imagine it was probably pretty funny as well as moving
as the storyline is one of humor as well as sorrow.

What I remember from the start of the book is that Moze had a particular scam
that would take him from town to town reading a local paper’s obituaries.
He would then make note of the names of those who were recently widowed, names
sounding as if they had money.
He’d next call upon the recently bereaved widows explaining that their recently
deceased husband had paid for a very expensive engraved bible but that the
deceased husband had only paid down a deposit on the bible and was
in turn to actually pay the balance when the bible was delivered.
Moze would then claim that he had come to deliver the bible as the widow
was now expected to pay the outstanding balance.

I think that was my first exposure to not only conmen,
but to the notion that death could
in turn equate to big business… as in a means of profit.

And I can now attest to the fact that, with both sound and knowledgable authority,
that there is not only big business running throughout all of life,
but that there is indeed big business to be found in death as well.

The Spector of death has certainly been hovering about my life as of late.
I think he hovers around all of us, that Spirit and Shadow of death,
but it’s just that we are more aware of his presence at certain times during our lives
more so than others.

If you had told me last Thursday that dad and I would have been chatting today
about Clemson’s big win over Alabama Monday night, I’d have told you that you were crazy.

From Tuesday, when Dad was sitting up eating chocolate covered doughnuts to Thursday,
when he was incoherent,
more out of it than not as his breathing was shallow and erratic at best…
I just knew our time had grown greatly limited.

(This is where I would insert a picture, but the picture is too sad to share)

The Hospice nurse had even come out to tell me those things they tell people
when Death is closer then we care for.

The idea of goodbyes was looming as it was a long hard day…
that is until late that evening when Dad seemed to come back to the present…
wanting a bowl of soup as he also wanted to know the times of Saturday’s NFL playoff games….

Go figure.

So my cousin, who is more brother than anything else, told me after our Thursday’s scare
that it would probably be a good idea if he and I made plans to met with those folks
whose jobs it is to deal with all things death.
Such as the funeral home, the cemetery, etc…..

Of which we did today.

Dying, death and burial is just as costly as living…if not even more so it seems.
And maybe that is because it comes in one huge lump at one single time as life and living is
spread out over time.
As in death, time becomes a bit of a moot point.

Yet during all of our planning and arranging…during all of the heavy decisions that we were wading through and deciding on…those sorts of things that one normally muses over briefly from time to time
preferring rather to linger only momentarily and casually…
I was struck by something other than the sheer costs behind funerals and burials…

Whereas we can prearrange, arrange and rearrange all we want here on this earth…
what with our lives and our dying…
It all pales in comparison when it comes to what is actually going on
once we take our last breath.

Maybe it’s because I have had Death’s presence so close to me these past several
months…such that I have found that the here and now is not nearly as important
as to what comes next.

There are so many folks who are concerned with living and living well,
that they run like hell,
far away from any thoughts of what comes after when the good living is all but over.

Maybe it’s because of a shallow and empty belief system,
maybe it’s due to fear of the unknown…
but no matter what the reason, as I am now all too aware,
the importance if found not in how we live…
but rather the importance is actually found in how we die.

That is not to say that our deaths are to be melodramatic or rehearsed…
as that is nearly impossible because for most, death is instantaneous…
both without time nor thought.

And it is for that very reason that the thought of death and dying must come long
before it is really all too late.

Because I know that when one takes one’s last breath…
something else entirely different begins.
And it is only up to each of us to decide what exactly that beginning is to be all about…

And if you think thoughts about God and Jesus,
Heaven and Hell,
life and living,
sin and death…
are all fodder for the superstitious or simply the mumbo jumbo of the sick and elderly…
you need to reconsider you thoughts….

Because there is something which is much more expensive waiting on you other than the cost
you will be leaving behind….for those who remain for when you die….

For it is truly a question of Life eternal
or
Death eternal

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

hanging on

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.
Jewish Proverb

DSCN3525
(weather worn pine hangs on the edge of Little River Canyon, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2016)

We’re barely holding on…you and I.
We are battered, bruised and feeling beaten.
Assaulted daily by both current events as well as ourselves.

We will not stand if our roots run shallow.
We will not,
we cannot,
withstand this tempest storm…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12