May love and joy come to you…

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you our wassail, too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

1st stanza to a traditional English carol

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign that
the Spirit was guiding their actions.
We can use that same test with our own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

Love and joy…
two sentiments found in an old English carol which are, if the truth be told,
actually so much more than mere holiday fodder sung during just a particular time of year
but rather they are two paramount fruits of the Spirit.

We sing about them.
We think about them.
We might even find ourselves with wistful thoughts yearning over
along with hoping over…
Yet sadly I fear that we have become so jaded as a culture that we have
allowed the caustic wave that is blanketing our society to corrode our yearnings
leaving us more than simply longing but rather coming up woefully short.

Love and Joy, for and with our fellow man, woman, and child, are not only difficult
to find but are more and more difficult for us to actually feel.

It’s certainly easy enough to say all of this after turning on a television and
catching any news program, talk show, or late night comedy show…
as they are rife with everything that has nothing to do
with Love or Joy or any gift having anything to do with the Spirit…
but I say this more from a little incident Sunday morning that left me
scratching my head while questioning the notion of both Love and Joy.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent.
It is known as Gaudete Sunday or Gaudete Domino Semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”).

The word ‘rejoice’ is found in the Latin lyrics of the traditional and ancient Advent Hymn–
Veni Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio,
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

We are to rejoice with a spirit of Love and Joy…
over the Spirit of Love and Joy

My little tale began this weekend.

We had spent the night Saturday evening babysitting the Mayor as her dad had taken her mom
to see the Nutcracker—both of them will be celebrating their 30th birthdays this week
so our son surprised our daughter-n-law with tickets to the play at the historic
Atlanta Fox Theater.

And because we wouldn’t be able to celebrate with them during the week due to
work schedules, we thought we could go enjoy a late Sunday morning brunch
for a little low key family celebration before we were to head back home.

We opted to go to a lovely little French restaurant that we have loved and enjoyed
throughout the years which happens to be located in what was once a quaint
old neighborhood home.

These particular neighborhood homes, in this particular area of town,
came into existence beginning in the early 1920s and were lived in
until about late 1960’s—right when the city was hitting a stride of a boom,
turning the entire area into the trendy shopping and dining mecca it’s known for today
that being Buckhead.

In fact, the high school my parents attended is just around the corner…which is now
some sort of new learning center.
Many of the homes in this neighborhood were once the homes of their friends yet have
since been turned into haute couture boutiques or trendy restaurants.

The street where this restaurant is located is as it was decades ago…
shaded by old oaks with cars parked on either side of
the street making it a tight squeeze when two cars meet that are driving either
up and down the street simultaneously, narrowly missing one another let alone those
parked along the curb.

Our reservations were for 11:30.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and the valet fellow
was setting out his sign but there was a large truck delivering fresh fruit currently
blocking the driveway.
I had my blinker on to turn as we were waiting for the delivery guy to move his truck.

At this point, my daughter-n-law hopped out of the front seat to help me maneuver my car
into the driveway between the truck and a parked car as the valet told us to try and
squeeze in if we could.
She was going to check the distance between the car parked on the curb right by the
driveway and the truck.

Thankfully the delivery guy came out at this crucial moment to get in his truck and move.
Leaving us without having to hold our breath squeezing in between unmovable objects.

However, it was also at the same moment that suddenly a jeep drove up right up behind me
and proceeded to blow their horn.

My daughter-n-law motioned to the jeep to please wait for just a minute.
Because obvioulsy they could see that we were waiting on a delivery truck
to pull out of the driveway we were waiting to turn into.

However, the horn blowing proceeded.

My husband and son, sitting in the back seat with the baby, both reached for the door
so fast, practically falling out of the car over one another, to see what was up with
the jeep.

At this point, my daughter-n-law tells the lady in the jeep that we’re just about
to pull in if she could just hold on a minute, we’d be out of her way,
since obviously, we were having to wait on the delivery truck to move.

The lady in the jeep tells my daughter-n-law that we are being rude sitting in the
road and that she needed to hurry to take her daughter to her riding lessons.

Late for a horse riding lesson in the middle of the urban city??…hummm

She obviously wanted me out of her way come hell or high water or both.

We had only been waiting maybe 3 minutes max when she had pulled up
and we were just about to turn in.

And so with the continued honking horn and the selfish escalating words from the
lady in the jeep fussing about me not moving out of her way,
my oh so pregnant and out of patience daughter-n-law had had her fill…
she proceeded to tell this woman that she could kindly wait just one minute or take those
riding lessons and shove them into a dark, tight and painful place.

At this point the truck moved, the valet motioned me in while the jeep zoomed
past me, narrowly missing my car’s back end.

The valet guy, who had felt helpless, was beside himself telling us that that lady in
the jeep was “a rude looser” and that “this is the season for love and joy”,
as well as a time for little bit of patience. Where was her giving spirit??!!

Did I mention it was a chilly, grey, misty, foggy yucky kind of day…
of which cast a somber veil over the day?
Did I mention that this is a section of town known for being a bit upper crust?
Something my aunt use to laugh over whenever she came back to Atlanta
to visit as she remembered this neighborhood when…

All of us adults in the car, with the Mayor oblivious, were now frazzled with raw nerves.
The Mayor was just ready to be set free from the restraints of a car seat…
restraint is not something the Mayor is fond of as of late.

Grousing as we made our way inside, I had to remind everyone, myself included,
not to let this ruin our day or our time together.

But those sorts of occurrences tend to linger in one’s craw.

Especially when considering yourself to be a mild-mannered, patient
law-abiding citizen of the world whose thought process is live and let live.

I was glad my husband and son could not maneuver seatbelts and a car door both fast
enough to get out of the car, having to leave the dirty work to a pregnant lady who
teaches jr high school right here before a major holiday and was well past putting
up with anyone’s selfish nonsense.

And so now I am pulled back to the notion of Love and Joy.

As in where is the Love and Joy?
Where is the patience, the kindness, the peace?
The fruits?

Finally seated at the table, with the Mayor now opting to go wild,
my husband reminded us that 99% of folks are nice and kind and of whom want to
do the right thing…but it’s always that one person out there who can simply ruin
it all in one fell swoop and think nothing of it.
Leaving us to forget all the good while the bad glaringly taunts our thoughts
and emotions.

And so I was quickly reminded of the one who rejoices in the negative, the bad and
the wrong all found in the tiny percentage versus the good found in the
large percent. Much the opposite of the One who leaves the whole in order to seek
out the one who is lost.

From all of this, the one thing I do know is that Satan, who much like Santa
(note, Satan is real…Santa is, well, in the North Pole)
goes into to overdrive, particularly this time of year, working very hard to rob us all
of any sentiment of a Holy season while he joyously strives
to rob us of those life-giving fruits of the Spirit.

Because if we lose those Fruits we lose ourselves and in turn, a wedge is driven between us
and the very Spirit of God and in turn, Satan claims a tiny victory.

And so yes–whereas we, those of us in my car, needed to be mindful of that very
thought when confronted with a sudden difficult situation, we, as in humankind,
all need to be mindful of how we treat one another—
as holidays seem to bring out both the very best and the very worst in humanity.

So as this is the season of gift giving…
We must remember that we have each been given Spirit-filled gifts.
Life-giving gifts.
We have also been given the gift of Salvation.

Life-giving gifts which are meant to be lived and shared.

The remembrance of this particular holiday season blessedly remains as not merely a reminder
but rather as a wake-up call…
A call not so much of nostalgia or of the fact that we struggle with consumerism…
but rather the call that we are to strive to be gracious gift givers…
gracious in giving gifts that are neither bought nor wrapped…
but rather gifts that we as Believers have each been endowed with…giving
way to the best gift given to all mankind.

May we then be quick to share our Fruitful gifts while at the same time rejoicing
in the most precious gift of all…our very Salvation.

May love and joy come to you…

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

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

all full up

Never trust anyone completely but God. Love people,
but put your full trust only in God.

Lawrence Welk


(doorway in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

As I’ve shared before, I was city born and bred, but moved west and met a country boy.
35 years ago in fact.

And so I am certainly old enough to remember things like meat and three and blue plate specials.
This is long before cutting-edge chefs found it chic to offer such on their menus.

Recently, on our little jaunt to Nashville, I overheard someone trying to explain the
concept of a meat and three to an out-of-towner.

They explained that a meat and three was just what it said.
A customer would have a choice of a meat, usually fried chicken, country steak or meatloaf
and then they had a choice to add three vegetables…choosing from a host of options…
vegetables such as fried okra (may I just say yum?!), collard greens, squash casserole,
green beans, mac-n-cheese…

At which time this fellow offering the explanation stopped to further explain that in the South,
mac-n-cheese (aka macaroni and cheese) actually passes as a vegetable.
At which point, some other woman overhearing the conversation hollered
“CAN I GET AN AMEN?!”

I suppose that’s one of those quirky little things about us Southerners

I’m also old enough to remember when Atlanta was closely surrounded by cows and chickens
as well as open pasture land.
In fact, not a mile from my elementary school folks still had horses idyllically grazing
in open fields…

However today, long gone are the horses and fields…
they’ve all been replaced by multimillion-dollar homes, multimillion-dollar subdivisions,
an Orthodox Jewish Temple, a state of the art Jewish school, an Episcopal Community
Center–and yet my circa 1958 elementary school keeps on keeping on.

Nowadays it’s few and far between that one can find a cow within 50 miles of the city…
not unless it is one of those grammatically challenged Chick-Fil-A cows…
but I digress.

Now my dad’s parents had a nice home in Atlanta on a nice quiet street.
My grandfather, who had graduated from GA Tech in 1919 with an Electrical Engineering degree,
started his own electrical business that consistently grew with the times.

Yet my grandmother had been a country girl….proper none the less, but country all the same.
Country as in open land, horses, farm to table food long before such was trending…

She had however graduated from what was LaGrange Women’s College down in LaGrange, Georgia
and did a bold thing for a woman in 1917…
She moved nothrward to the big city…striking out on her own.

And it was in the big city where she met my grandfather…riding on a trolly.

I’ve shared this story before but it’s simply just too funny not to offer it again.

There was my grandmother, dressed to the nines for a Victorian type young woman standing on the
cusp of those roaring 20’s, riding the trolly bound for work when my grandfather and his brother
jumped on the same trolly bound for who knows where.

My grandfather spied my grandmother sitting a few rows away and brazenly jumped up from his
seat making his way over to the empty seat beside her and plops down.

He boldly and most likely rather cheekily introduced himself.
An introduction complete with a large wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.

My grandmother (a girl from the country who no doubt was accustomed to those chewing tobacco)
indignantly turned her head away from him remarking that she did not talk to boys who
chewed tobacco.

Well, desperate times call for desperate measures…
and so he had no other option…he swallowed the tobacco wad in one hard gulp.

He then proceeded to correct her, explaining that he never had tobacco in his mouth and would
she then be interested in getting a Coca-Cola…

The rest of the story is history for my family tree.

Yet the love of country always remained in my grandmother and so at some point long before
I ever came along, they bought a farm with some land and horses north of the city.
A place they could go to escape the madness of city life on weekends and holidays…
and it was later the place where us city grandkids would run and play till our heart’s content.

I say all of this as I recall during one of the elections when Barak Obama was campaigning
that he made mention that people were now, more than ever before, living in cities.
I don’t remember if it was his first or second run.
But he made the point that it would be the urbanites who would become the determining
factors charting the course of election outcomes….in turn determining our red vs blue states.

Inwardly I took issue with this.

I felt that he was basically dismissing those Americans who were living across this
Nation in places other than metro cities. Those who lived, filling in the spaces between all
the major metropolitan cities.

And whereas I’ve not studied any recent census numbers or polls…I suppose there is some truth
to his words.
That our cities are filling up…and are… well, as those here in the South are often heard
to say…they are simply all full.

And so therefore, obviously on the flip side, that sadly means our suburbs and rural areas must be shrinking in population.

Yet here I am, in a rural west Georgia city…
a place where the cows, goats, horses, and sheep continue spilling over into the multi-million
dollar golf courses, homes, and subdivisions as the luxury equally continues spilling
over on while gobbling up the remaining farmland…
we reamin a hodgepodge of rural and urban all rolled into one…

And folks around these parts…just as with their city counterparts —
are equally diligent when it comes to concern for the Nation and voting …
As in we all have a voice…

And whereas our cities may be full and our rural areas perhaps less full…
the true matter in all of this urban, city vs rural, suburban is not really where we live,
or even to what level we live but what matters most is actually what exists within our hearts—-
what is it that fills these hearts of ours.

It’s not so much a matter of where we live but rather it’s a matter of how we opt to fill up
our hearts…or in some case…how we choose to empty them.

St John of the Cross reminds us of this very fact.

“God does not fit in an occupied heart.”
St. John of the Cross

And so as we continue to fix our sights on our political mayhem, our elections, our government
our contention, our divisions, our Supreme Court…our cities and our dwindling rural
forgotten towns, it would behoove all of us to recall St John’s words…

God cannot fit into a space that is already all full up.

the oddity of the necessity

God wills that I be an active secondary instrument in moving myself toward him.
God is always the primary mover, but he so ordains that we be active,
secondary instruments with him in moving oneself towards grace.
And so the necessity of the spiritual life.

FR. Wade Menezes


(the yard pond with crazy duck / Julie Cook / 2018)

So just around the corner from where I grew up, in a then 1950’s newly sprawling
northern Atlanta suburb…a place where the houses were all built by a single builder
and were all made as look-a-like cookie-cutter houses, there did remain one small
glimpse into of what was here long before urban mania hit the scene…
a peaceful meandering creek and a small hidden pond just behind this boomtown of houses.

It was a small remnant of what once was here in what was once considered “the country”
long before the boom of post-war urban sprawl had taken over.

Growing up, the extent of the “wildlife” that we got to see up close and personal consisted
of the random tadpole and crawfish that lived in the creek,
along with the occasional box turtle that I so desperately wanted to catch and put in a
shoe box while feeding it lettuce all in hopes of carrying it to show and tell…
and of course, there was an endless abundance of helter sketler gray squirrels.

In the past 4 months, having spent more time at my childhood home then I have in the
past 35 years since last calling this house home, I have been floored by the amount of
“wildlife” I’ve actually been privy seeing up close and personal.

Now this area where I grew up is a quickly shrinking quiet tiny blip of peacefulness
in the heart of a booming city.
All childhood landmarks have been long since been torn town making way for the
skyrocketing skyscrapers that have created a new type of tree to this
overgrowing modern-day forest.

Plus many of the cookie cutter homes have been bulldozed away making room for the
desired up and comers choice of mini McMansions….all of which actually are simply
giving way to a new cookie-cutter look of the haves and have-nots of money…
or more accurately that of all things debt, just depending on how one looks at it.

There is a deafening din of planes and helicopters all making their way across the sky
which only blends in with the shrieking sirens echoing off the main arteries
and thoroughfares.

And yet this small shrinking peaceful oasis of a neighborhood is nearly lost in a now
ever-expanding city that has an oddly amazing array of “wilderness”.

I have seen more “wildlife” in this city in the past four months than I have here at my
current more rural, out in the country home, in the past 20 years.

One early morning back in February, I watched a group of 5 deer meandering up the street.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched one of the largest snapping turtles, that
I’ve seen in quite a while, making a slow and laborious trek up a driveway.

Last week, while taking my son’s dog out to walk in the yard, she and I both spied a
red fox trotting in a neighbors yard…

And now there is this odd group of crazy looking ducks acting equally as crazy.

There is a corner lot on a neighboring street that has a low spot in the yard that
when it rains, fills with water…water that is slow to be absorbed or evaporate…
especially given with the amount of rain Atlanta has been receiving.

So to drive by, in the big city, watching a group of “city” ducks think that this
small spot of water in a yard is some type of pond is…in a word, hysterical.

These ducks make their way up and down the neighboring streets, waddling along the
busy main thoroughfare, digging along the curb turning up the collected leaves and debris,
in search of bugs.

Neighbors have taken to putting up “Duck Crossing” or “Caution, ducks at play” signs
all along the roadways.

And now I’ve actually witnessed these ducks taking to the “yard pond”—
tails up in the air as they dig with breaks down, in the shallows, looking for,
not the typical fish as they would in a real pond,
but rather it is a literally swallow quest for what I’d imagine being worms and grubs.

It’s almost pitiful watching a duck, beak down tail up, in a collected puddle of
rain water in a yard. The scene screams of lunacy, desperation or both.

Much like what it is we are currently witnessing around this country of ours.
Witnessing lunacy accented by a splash of desperation as the noose tightens around
the necks of those in opposition of the others…
others who cry for more and more diversity while at the same time they
cry out for zero tolerance toward anyone who is found to be in disagreement with
their often perverse take on life.

From the recent story of a restaurant kicking out a patron over the fact that the
owner and staff all happen not to like this particular patron’s boss to now a member
of the US House of Representatives crying for more of the same…as in threatening
the lives and safety of those who dare to think and or vote in what is perceived as
opposition…as in no longer a two party system…
but rather the system of one and one only…
as the shadows of both lunacy and desperation creep in from the past.

There is a madness now taking place in this country as those who are considered
conservative, or a supporter of the president or simply a Republican…
folks that are now each viewed as one who is to be publicly shunned, shamed,
removed, not served, harassed and now… whose very lives are to be threatened.

There is a sinisterness afoot in all of this that is so utterly un-American that it is
frightening.

We the people have always possessed the right to disagree with one another…
since way back in 1776…

And yet we are oddly and sadly finding ourselves living in an Orwellian trend…
a time of calling for a type of “open season” as the cry is sounding
“they’re all fair game” rings across this land which was once yours and mine…
meaning that half of this Nation of ours is fair game to be harangued, abused
as well as publicly lambasted for simply taking the other political path…
a time that is in a word, ludicrous.

Are those who beat their chests as drums for all things uber tolerance and
diversity actually so intolerable and divisive that they dare deem all other
belief systems to be a pariah but that of their own?

We the people know better than this.

Yet in the grand scheme of all that is…Father Menezes reminds us in our
day’s quote of that which is our true aim.

The necessity of a spiritual life as we actively work at seeking His Grace…

A grace that does not harass, harangue, threaten, abuse, hate, demean, ostracize…
but rather sees the necessity in seeking that which is beyond self, beyond man’s
small mindedness.
Putting away all malice, anger, and hate…setting oneself on the Spiritual path
of Truth and not the earthly lies of he who walks in the shadows pitting
mankind against itself…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”

Second Timothy 2:15-16

Go in peace

“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”

Mother Teresa


(statue outside the High Point Episcopal Community Center, Atlanta, GA / Julie Cook / 2018)

In a world like this, with conditions being what they are,
what should a serious-minded Christian do?
The answer is easy to give but hard to follow.

First, accept the truth concerning yourself.
You do not go to a doctor to seek consolation but to find out what is
wrong and what to do about it.
Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Seek through Jesus Christ a right relationship to your fellow man.
Set about reverently to amend your doings. Magnify God, mortify the flesh,
simplify your life. Take up your cross and learn of Jesus Christ to die to
this world that He may raise you up in due time.

If you will do these things in faith and love, you will know peace,
but it will be the peace of God that passes all understanding.
You will know joy, but it will be the joy of resurrection,
not the irresponsible happiness of men who insist on carnal enjoyments.
You will know the comfort of the indwelling Spirit which will often spring up
like a well of water in the desert,
not because you have sought it but have sought rather to do the will of God at any price.

As I have said before, we can afford to suffer now;
we’ll have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves.
And our enjoyment will be valid and pure,
for it will come in the right way at the right time.
A.W. Tozer

why he’ll go to Heaven and I won’t…

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.
This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…
Come further up, come further in!”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle


Salut St Marie, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ok, so that’s probably not the most logical, theological or rational assessment
of who is and who isn’t Heaven bound…

But it’s how I often feel about my husband…

He’s a shoe-in…and well, the jury is still out with me…
or at least that’s how I often feel.

He’s good like that.

As in a much better person than I am.

He’s very generous.
He yields to others willingly.
He’s tender-hearted.
He can be emotional..unafraid to shed a tear.
He’s kind when others are not.
He defers willingly and graciously to others who don’t deserve it.
He will always step aside for those rushing past despite his falling back in line
or missing out.
He gives freely of his time to those who take it readily for granted.
He’s old school.
He’s modest.
He’s polite.
He’s content being last despite having always been a stellar All American athlete who
knew what it took to win…which he did back in the day.
He’s a gentleman.
He doesn’t begrudge.
He doesn’t disparage.
He has a simple and humble faith…

I on the other hand..well I attribute my more aggressive, bossy, helter-skelter demeanor to
being born and raised in the city verses his more country lineage.

Take today for example…

We’d gone over to Atlanta to help take the baby out for her first dining experience at a
real restaurant for what we hoped would be an enjoyable lunch for all in attendance…
ie. the exhausted set of new parents.

I grew up in this city and I can honestly say that I don’t recognize it anymore!

One of the past mayors once coined the phrase, “Atlanta, a city too busy to hate…”
I wonder if that mayor had ever driven himself around town,
say during the height of rush hour?

Not only has the landscape drastically changed with landmarks being mowed
down making way for bigger, better and glitzy…very few true Atlantans exist.
It has become a city of transplants.
No one even has a southern accent anymore…except maybe just me.

Driving in town is now much like driving in Rome, Italy.
Chaos living on the edge.
Lanes don’t seem to matter…
signals, lights, signs are all just adornments with the unspoken knowledge that they simply
are not to be followed.
Speed limits are merely numbers and considered totally optional as they are actually more
of a hindrance.

I was naturally driving today.

I always drive when we go to Atlanta because traversing the infamous Perimeter, aka 285,
is not for the faint of heart.
It takes a daredevil with an overtly aggressive mindset…
something my husband is not and has not.

Also, DOT illuminated roadsigns constantly alert drivers as to issues further down the road,
making the need of having a Plan B always essential.
Of which we had to do this past Sunday afternoon when the notice was flashing that
police activity had all lanes shut down near where our exit was located…
so I had to exit long before the impending backup and find an alternative route.

Think roller derby except with cars…
Cars that are driving a good 20 to 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit…
yet we are reminded that speed limits here are optional.
Everyone is jockeying for position.
Cars going 90 mph on a 70 max mph interstate are as common as the name Peachtree on
every other street while each one prefers driving unbridled and uninhibited…
having no one near to block their progress.
Throw in a few carjackers also fleeing on the interstate as they don’t care who they
hit or cut off.
There is indeed a reason for those DOT signs always posting the number of roadway
fatalities…

Since we’ve installed a car seat base in my car, I opted to drive us all to lunch.
The baby, my son, and husband were all piled in the back seat while my daughter-n-law
and I commandeered the front.

As we approached the main thoroughfare, we stopped at the red light.
As any normal driver would do when seeing a red light, I stopped.
Isn’t that what a red light means…stop??

The opposite traffic had a turning arrow.
Arrow lights in Atlanta are really fun.
Even when they end and turn back red, cars continue turning…
as if the red light is non-existent.

These moments make my husband nervous as he begins grousing and loudly complaining as
to why anyone would want to live in this city.

Cars will turn in front of oncoming traffic until the mass of oncoming cars
dares to simply run them over…then they’ll stop….like they should have
when the light actually turned red.
This is a reason as to why the city has red light cameras now in place.

Like a camera will get these people to actually stop…yeah right….

So as I had the green light to go straight, I wanted to do just that…go straight.
But the opposite on-coming cars just kept turning on their red light arrow.
Finally, I had no choice but to lead my line of cars straight…
right into those trying to turn against us.
I laid on my horn.
At this point, my husband wanted to open the car door, discreetly exit and walk home.

The driver of the fourth car that continued turning through a red arrow looked right
at me and proceeded to throw the F word my way.
Really???

Here I was going, as I should, on a green light, having even allotted these idiots
free time to cut me and an entire line of green light cars off and I get cursed.

I hit the horn again.

By now my husband is having apoplexy and my son is ready to fight someone as he’s had to cut
his teeth in this city.

Long story short—we finally got through the intersection in one piece.

Lunch was delightfully uneventful.

And everyone in the car was more than ready to get the heck out of the city and head back
to the country…

So the next time when you hear the news or our politicians tout that those who live in the
more rural areas of our states are ignorant, backwards, deplorable, limited…think again…
they are actually the smarter ones amongst us.

And driving in the city is enough to make anyone lose their religion, even my poor husband…

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23