perspective

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:
it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

C.S. Lewis

(the Mayor Christmas eve / Julie Cook / 2018)

If you’re anything like me, then the past month has been more or less a blur.
December is just that kind of month.

And now we’ll spend the next few weeks in what I call a December hangover.

That heavy odd sense of bluesyness bordering on depression which falls sometime following
the New Year’s celebration. It’s a heaviness that seems to blanket us
following the high that lead us up to Christmas to those quiet doldrums of a
grey, wet, cold January.

And that’s pretty much because we’ve made Christmas so much more than what Christmas
really should be.
But then we already knew that right?

On my end, the culmination for us was, of course, the Mayor.
Because Christmas is all about children is it not?


(Moppie with the exhuausted one / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa brought the Mayor an extesnion to Woobooville…a Wooboo teepee)


(and a new Mayorial ride)

And whereas I think of our cultural Christmas being basically, more or less, a magical
time for Children that has sadly morphed over the years becoming something so much more…
with that notion of ‘more’ not necessarily being a good thing.

The contrast that our children are living with is what we’ve turned Christmas into…
that being, on the one hand, wonder, excitement, anticipation, the magical, the giving
and the getting but also being the chaotic, the frantic, the merchandising,
with the getting notion being the ultimate part…

A shift from what Christmas was…that being the celebration of a single birth…
to the Christmas that is… a month of mania followed by the doldrums.


But this first Christmas morning was more than this little Mayor could handle

May we be mindful to keep our focus on the one Ture gift we’ve each just received.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would
believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17

the anticipation, the meeting, the victory…Santa

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

(The Mayor proclaiming the day was a success/ Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor is proclaiming the day a true success…

First, there was the preparation…

Next, there was the anticipation…

Then there was ‘the meeting’

and then there was the victory supper…

A good meeting and a great day…

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves,
as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—
in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.

Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

the Mayor is coming, the Mayor is coming…actually, she’s already here

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings
of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud.
But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…
it’s like soaring through a sunset.
I think it almost pays for the thud.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea


(woobooville’s satellite office awaits her arrival / Julie Cook / 2108)

Not many constituents or aides can get as excited over a mayoral visit as perhaps this
satellite Woobooville office does… as all the aides gathered here become
practically giddy with anticipation!

The Mayor would like all to know that she is showing her support to all law enforcement
members and to anyone who has an affinity for doughnuts by sporting a seasonal set of PJ’s.

Plus she is demonstrating her support for the notion of goodie gathering for all little people.

As she will be attending a cul-de-sac pizza party for the neighborhood children on Halloween
dressed as a pumpkin— a sentimental nod to her dad who was also a pumpkin 30 years ago
for his first trick or treating adventure.
The Mayor is sentimental in those regards.

The Mayor is here for only a quick weekend visit before returning to her main office in Atlanta.
But her aides and constituents are making the most of the joyous time spent together…
even poor Moe the moose who is having his brains shaken loose.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16: 9-11

there be varmints

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap,
baits it, then steps in it.”

John Steinbeck

“Say your prayers varmint…dead rabbits tell no tales”
Yosemite Sam


(this is all that remians/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Remember this image from early Spring?


(my spring crop looking ever so hopeful / Julie Cook / 2018)

This was just one of the four apple trees burgeoning with the hoped-for abundance
of a season that was not quite yet to be.

There was excitement, as well as anticipation, both abounding as thoughts of pies, stews
and all sorts of baked treats swirled around our thoughts.

The air just seemed heavy with sweetness and cinnamon…

That is until this week…

Out of all of those hoped for beautiful apples from those four fully ladened trees,
only 7 measly apples have been salvageable.

There is a culprit…or perhaps even multiple culprits.

But the question remains…Whom?

Deer?
Raccoons?
Birds?

I suspect all three…but the teeth marks are telling.

This tale is to be continued as I go about my stealthy sleuth work…

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today,
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Deuteronomy 28:1

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..

a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

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(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)

Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.

Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…

Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent
(or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
*(parentheses mine)

And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.

For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.

Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…

We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…

Life anew and everlasting…

As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…

MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
Matthew 3:3

Trembling joy

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

(Hymn Imortal, Ivisible
Welsh Melody 1839 John Roberts / Lyrics Walter C. Smith 1876

1460francesco_di_giorgio_martini_illumination
(Birth of Jesus, Francesco di Giorgio Martini 1460)

So far we have been reminded that we have entered a new season.
A season of waiting and watching.

And somehow, somewhere within our trepidation of the arrival of this unknown,
we sense that as we wait and watch, we are to remain hopeful…
Because curiously we are inwardly reassured that what we are waiting for
and watching for…
is good.

And not only is it to be good,
it is to be actually grand.
As in life changing, world altering…
GRAND.

And almost within the same breath of waiting and watching,
we are reminded that what we wait for and watch for
is actually something quite intimate.
Something dear and something even tenderly precious.

Perplexed we wonder, how can this trepidation, which is so full of anticipation
and perceived to be not only good but Grand,
how can it be sweetly intimate, tender and close…?

So many good Christians are dumbfounded or tremble in fear when something of Christ’s
future is told to them.

As Christoph Blumhardt notes in his essay The Wise Men’s Star…

If we would only look forward to the Last Day with a trembling joy, as the Savior said:
“When these things begin to take place,
stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption
is drawing near (Luke 21:28)

But now, when people hear of it, they are afraid and shake and tremble.
They fail to rejoice in the reality that redemption is drawing near.

And so we are left to we wait,
and watch…
Watching and waiting for a most intimate moment…
Yet we are now told to be ready…
Ready to rejoice…
While at the same time, being filled with
trembling joy…

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zachariah 9:9

Stormy Weather

“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can’t get at you.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do.
Golda Meir

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(ominous clouds as tornado sirens howl on a stormy Sunday Georgia morning / Julie Cook / 2015)

“. . .Life is bare
gloom and misery every where
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor self together
I’m weary all the time
The time
So weary all the time”

2nd stanza / Stormy Weather

DSC01039

There’s nothing like listening to that beautifully melodic and mesmerizing voice of the one and only Lena Horne.
I loved / love Lena. . .
Ms Horne was born to a generation of singers who sadly have come and gone.
Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James. . .
Soulful storytellers whose beauty and life’s trials, as well as their gift of song, could stir the deepest of emotions in even the most casual of listeners.

Lena Horne defined both class and grace.
Although being born in Brooklyn and spending most of her life in New York and Pennsylvania, Ms Horne spent a good bit of her childhood living in Fort Valley, Georgia—of which I suppose lead her to acquire that markedly distinct sultry southernesque drawl she’d call upon for wooing audiences and movie producers alike.

Today’s weather is a fitting tribute to the woeful lament Ms. Horne made famous, Stormy Weather.
First performed at the famous New York Cotton Club in 1933 yet a song made immortal when performed by Ms Horne in 1943 in the movie of the same name. . .

“. . .don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky. . .
Stormy Weather. . .”

I didn’t need Ms Horne however, to remind me of the current weather condition as the early morning wail of the tornado sirens was sign enough.
The sirens wailed, the phones buzzed with alerts and the television was rife with the warnings of impending doom. . .as in “SEEK SHELTER NOW!!!”

Luckily the “rotation” the doppler radar was indicating was remanning up in the clouds and thankfully had not descended to the ground.

It was to be on this tumultuous Sunday morning, as it is on many Sunday mornings, my husband was to treat me to breakfast out. As in I wasn’t going to have to cook it. It’s the only morning he’s not at work. As in he’s actually home. And of all the little treats in life. . . it’s breakfast out that I enjoy most. There’s just something special about heading out on a lazy stress free morning to some inviting little restaurant or tiny cafe, as the heady scent of bacon mingling with fresh coffee greets all at the door.

And so it was on this stormy, springtime morning I was to be treated to a nice breakfast out. The only problem was that an impending tornado was in the middle of my path to bacon and pancakes.
UGH!

The weatherman on the news was zooming in on a fierce looking storm hovering about 5 miles south down the road from our house. It’s amazing how they can pinpoint storms with such vivid accuracy. A Tornado Warning had been issued, the sirens were wailing and my stomach was growling.
We waited.
I peered out the windows.
The rain beat down.
No lightning thank goodness.
I hate lightning.
No winds.
Just black skies with torrential rains.

All of which got me thinking. . .
How often in life are we excited, full of anticipation, looking forward to something special, when suddenly, out of the blue, we get blindsided, we’re thrown a curve ball, we hit the proverbial bump in the road, we hit the wall? There’s a glitch that rears its ugly head in our best laid plans. Our assumptions for a complete follow-through are not what we had expected or anticipated.

Rather than savoring the smooth sailing toward a treat, a reward, a trip, a special event, a magnanimous moment we’re faced with an impending storm, a train wreck, a disaster, a detour. Our attentions shift, our guard gets up, plan B must be implemented, and we hunker down.
We wait.

And as it so happens with the worst of storms–the rains fall, the clouds lighten, the winds shift, the energies exhaust and the dangers pass.
With or without repercussions.
At which time we emerge bleary eyed, nerves shaken, but resolve in tact.
We’re ready to proceed, to continue, forward.
Maybe we have to pick up a few pieces along the way, maybe our plans are delayed. . .
yet nevertheless our eyes remain fixed. . .fixed on our hopes and dreams which remain down the road where we had yearned to travel in the first place.

So on this new morning to this new week, may you keep your eyes on the prize. . .
whatever that prize may be for you. . .
May you remain prepared for what life may throw in the middle of your travels
And may you remember that we all have stormy weather at some point in our lives
but that the storms will always, eventually, pass. . .

Waiting in silence

The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord’s promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal rewards.
Charles Stanley

“Memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.”
H. Rider Haggard

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(busy carpenter bee / Julie Cook / 2015)

My soul, now in silence, waits. . .
As the earth joins in with a palpable anticipation.
ALL of Creation shutters in the deafening stillness.
Man hangs in the balance between the living and the dead
As both Life and Death vie for final control of all humankind

A tug and war ensues for each and every soul
those that were, those which are and those who are yet to be.
Yet it is only the keen of heart who take notice.
The majority of mankind races off in the opposite direction, lost and unaware.

The ground groans deep within as tiny ripples race across the surface of time
A battle fiercely rages out of site from all of humanity,
as man sits on the precipice of eternity.
We wait, watching, listening, wondering
Our fate is sealed,
yet the question remains. .
what will that fate be. . .

The Aftermath

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(the remnants–boxes, torn paper, ribbons and trash / Julie Cook / 2014)

Do you hear that?
It’s the loud collective release of breath from what has been the building up to and of a wealth of emotions. . .
Excitement
Anticipation
Joy
Frustration
Disappointment
Impatience
Elation
Melancholy
Exhaustion
Expectancy

As each emotion is somewhat dependent upon one’s age and stage of life, one may have more invested in the frenzies verses the weariness of this thing and time we call Christmas, coupled with what others call Hanukah.

It’s been a month long whirlwind of highs and lows and everything in between.
Visits to Santa
Elves on shelves
The lighting of candles, both Menorahs and Advent wreathes
Cooking
Cleaning
Shopping
Wrapping
Partying
Eating
Visiting
Traveling

And today, Boxing Day in both the UK and Canada, a day after, a day of leftovers and has beens, we enter the time known as the “aftermath”

It is a time when we find ourselves feeling. . .
blue,
sad,
letdown,
weary,
tired,
depressed,
thankful,
wistful,
and longing for something we can’t quite put our fingers on.

It is now time to decompress from the overload of being wound tight as a top for a solid month.
The window of merriment and break-neck speed living, which started in late November with Thanksgiving and will culminate, realistically, on January 2nd. When life as we know it, resumes and gets back under way.
Back to work
Back to home
Back to school
Back to the daily grind of life.

The giving and receiving is coming to a halt.
The hysteria of shopping lingers with the “after” sales.
The time of transition is once again at hand.

It’ll take some time.
Time to. . .
repack
unpack
move to storage
return to the stores
reclean the mess
reset the schedule
follow the new resolutions
settling back in to the routine. . .
finding a groove once again

Take time to be. . .
good to yourself,
good to others,
Continue to keep a spirit of. . .
gratitude,
anticipation,
expectancy,
peace,
joy,
giving,
kindness,
thoughtfulness. . .

Take a deep breath and move forward.
Slowly at first, then a quicker step will most certainly be soon to follow.
And just soon enough, before you even know it, all that now seems like a letdown, leftover, and somewhat sad will be coming untrue. . .as your heart will be full, happy, and content, as you continue as you have, to focus on others and of their wellbeing rather than your own. . .
Because isn’t that what this time is really all about—the joy of the giving of ourselves to others, just as the wee babe came into this world to give himself to us. . .