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

Really???

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot,
and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

George Carlin


(as seen while I was driving to the grocery store / Julie Cook / 2017)

People crack me up…
well….
let me correct that….
I admit… I’ve actually been known to also crack myself up…

But today it wasn’t me, it was people…as in the random people out on the road.

If you’re anything like me,
especially now during the start of this season known more for
its madness than for anything truly Holy, religious, spiritual or even grateful….
you’re in your car a lot—driving.

Driving to visit, driving to work, driving to shop—
driving wherever it is you drive.
As in you just seem to be driving more than perhaps you normally would…
In part because during “this” season it’s when we seem to need to go more places,
do more things and see more sights than we normally would or do…
it’s just what we do.

So early this morning as I made a dash to the store, I was stopped at a red light,
behind the car whose image is inserted above.

I usually enjoy reading the stickers folks put on their cars.
Entertaining mindlessness as one sits held captive.

Of course if the stickers are foul or profane,
of which I have seen plenty of stickers that are offensive in one way or another….
I’m none too amused…
and actually if the truth be told,
offended by the thoughtlessness of the more selfish among us….

Yet generally speaking, the stickers provide a bit of cheap entertainment, idle mind filler, thought-provoking wonderment, contemplation or even an audible “amen” …
this as I waste the 4 to 5 minutes of life sitting at red lights or hours stuck
in stop and go traffic.

I’ve always said you could tell almost everything about a driver
from the stickers on their car—-

Whether or not they are young or old,
male or female,
Southern or not,
a fan of a particular college,
a veteran,
a republican,
a democrat,
a member of the green party,
a member of PETA,
a music fan,
a former POW,
a Purple Heart recipient,
a school supporter,
a proud parent or grandparent,
a Christian,
an Atheist,
a Gay,
a dog lover,
a cat lover,
an adopting parent,
a Humane Society supporter,
a relative of or an actual cancer survivor…
whether or not they are athletic,
whether they are into sports,
whether they love electrical linemen,
whether they live on a farm,
whether they drink beer–and usually which brand….
whether they love adventure,
love to hike,
love to bike,
simply love,
simply hate,
whether they are a doctor,
a nurse,
a teacher,
a boy scout,
a girl scout,
an Eagle scout,
a Starwars fan,
and even a guess as to their name as their initials are actually monogramed on
their car’s window—-kind of like a throwback sweater but not.

It gives a good bit of insight into who it is driving the nearly 4000 pound vehicle
in front of you….a friend or foe sort of vibe.

So imagine my curiosity when I actually focused and read the sticker on the car
in front of me this morning.

Now I’ve seen stickers that warn that ‘in case of rapture this car will be driving
dangerously and erratically, all by itself,
so everyone left in their cars need to watch out’—
or what about those stickers that state that God is the driver’s co-pilot…
I think I’d rather prefer that to read, ‘God is the pilot,
I’m just along for the ride’….

But Zombie Response Squad??? Really???

Was I to assume that there was an actual zombie rescue person in the car
in front of me?
What exactly does that mean their responsibility will be in case of an attack?
Was I to find some sort of comfort in knowing that little fact of their
expertise in all things zombie?

This as I remember there’s actually a truck here in town, riding around with
some sort of machine gun, real or not I do not know,
mounted in the bed of the truck with signs posted on either side of the truck–
“Zombie Assault Vehicle”.
As I begin to wonder what sort of town do I actually live in……

Nervously I look up and down the road…left then right…
They eat brains right???

As in do people really think Zombies are going to attack?
That Zombies are actually real?
That Senoia, Georgia’s claim to fame…The Walking Dead are actually alive and…ummm…dead and questionably well down in that small southern town?

Is that why we hear tales of preppers?
Is that why we hear tales of those militia who are hiding out in the mountains
and woods?

Is there something going on that I don’t know about during this season of
all things mad and crazy??
Maybe that’s why it’s called “black Friday”…
it’s a Government coverup because it’s really about some sort of Zombie apocalypse…

This as I just read another story that someone out there is certain the whole moon
landing was faked….

Well, it tis the season…. or so they say…
and remember…I think I read that Zombies like fruit cake…
So best to leave those ubiquitous seasonal goodies now hitting the grocery store shelves
out on the lawn….just to be on the safe side….

May you and your family have a joyful, grateful and even a bit of the humorous
Thanksgiving eve—- 🙂

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11

directions

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.
We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

DSCN0412
(path up the mountain side, Glendalough National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m not the best with directions.
I tend to get turned around and a bit confused as to
the lefts and rights, the norths and souths….

Now I do actually love a good map…
yet sadly maps are going the way of the 8 track tape cassette…
And anyway…the truth is that I’m not really that great at using maps.
I get turned around as to whether I’m heading east or west, up or down, or side to side…

However I have always found old antique maps to be beautiful pieces of art—
Especially really old ones that were once done by hand,
with cartographers doubling as artists.

It’s as if maps are the tangible pictures of our city’s, country’s, world’s inner workings…
almost like a scan image of a skeletal system is for the human body,
a map is the picture for our collective spacial lives.

And whereas I am thankful for the modern convenience of GPS…
What with the plugging in of an address, place or coordinates only to then be directed
to wherever it is that we wish to be headed…
turn by turn, step by step…

However I can be as equally ungrateful when said turn by turn step by step is incorrect,
outdated or simply wrong.

Ever thought you were headed to where it was you wanted to go,
with the nice GPS lady finally and triumphantly stating that you have “reached your destination”
as you find yourself in the middle of some desolate road in the middle of nowhere?!

So with all this map talk, I read a most marvelous little story today on the BBC about
a letter being mailed from Reykjavik, Iceland.

It seems that the sender was mailing a letter to a farm
where she had visited but was uncertain of the address—
so she did the only intelligent thing she knew to do…
that when all else fails sort of approach…

she drew a picture, actually a mini map, as to where the letter should be headed…
all the while adding a few little written directions on the envelope to accompany the tiny map…
Just a few small helpful cues to the postal person who would be delivering the letter.

The small remote town’s name was listed,
the fact that the letter was going to a couple with three children…
The fact that the intended recipient worked at a supermarket there in the small town
plus the fact that they lived on a horse farm with lots and lots of sheep…
it was all nicely included with a wonderful plotted picture of a route…

( you can read the story here by clicking on the link:
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37233913 )

The letter was actually delivered to the correct place.

Such a story does my heart good.

So…
Whereas the postal system here in the US is, in a nutshell, not often stellar.
Mail seems to get lost, delivered to the wrong address, or damaged so badly in the system
that it is “returned to sender” …
that is, if the return address is still legible.
Or there have even been times when things mailed may have taken weeks,
months or even years before randomly appearing…

Now that’s not to say that it’s all bad or always a lost cause in this
maddening bureaucratic system of US Postal Service…
but sadly it seems there are more horror stories than good these days…

So the fact that a map was drawn out by hand, then someone actually took the time to “study” it,
then correctly followed it…
in this ever technological world of ours…
is indeed a joyous event.

Add to that maddening bureaucracy that we are now all finding ourselves living in this
ever uber modern world of all things technological of ours…
what with our smart devices, our GPS, our self braking, self parking,
and soon to be, self driving cars…
so it seems as if we won’t have much use for our ol noggins
when we’re trying to make our way in this life…as it will actually be already done for us…
Yet the concern should be…will it be in the right direction that we are lead…?

And that’s the thing…
We all need to make our way in this life…
with that way being…
the right way,
the spiritual way,
the way of Life and not the way of death…
to which so many signs sadly point to these days…
We still so desperately need a play by play list of directions.

Yet, I think if I remember correctly, we already have a directional manual…
One that is thousands of years old….having stood the test of time…
One that has recorded the verbal commands of the only One who truly knew
and still knows…
the way…
the truth
and the life…

We just need to remember to always reach for that directional map,
actually taking the time to read it and actually follow it…
for it will never mislead or misdirect us…

Happy travels….

Jesus answered,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Beware the gators

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion”
Egyptian Proverb

Z-nmg4ohtaPTJzNtpVn_ABo5G7GItu8y
(image borrowed from web of a gator crossing an interstate near Naples, FL)

Maybe you’ve heard about them…
or
maybe you haven’t…

Interstate alligators…

And no, I’m not talking about actual alligators crossing the road as in the image above…
Rather I’m talking about something that is equally as dangerous and equally as deadly…
The only caveat is that it’s just not a living creature.

So now that your interest is piqued and you understand that we are not discussing reptiles…
I will explain what exactly an interstate alligator is all about.

An interstate alligator is the dubious moniker for the remnants of the shredded tires from tractor trailer trucks.

shredded_tire_roadside

More times than not, those big rigs, which are driving on very worn tires, will lose the most worn tires off their rigs to the rigors of constant wear and tear…all while driving on car infested roadways.
As they race up and down the highways, freeways and interstates across this grand country of ours, these worn steel belted tires will basically begin to disintegrate and shred while the truck is clocking 70 to 80 mph.

semi-tire-blowout
(image courtesy Real Truck Driver Blog)

Add to that the heat of summer, as the pavement reaches deadly hot temperatures…
With worn tires riding along an inferno of cement and asphalt, we’ve all got troubles!

Imagine huge chunks of tire being slung off a spinning rim, most often unbeknownst to the driver, as the driver isn’t about to be slowing down or moving over to the far right lane in order to exit or move to the emergency lane in order to stop…

Next imagine being the cars behind and beside these big truck as the tire is shredding.

Needless to say there have been many a damaged vehicle as there have been many a fatality as a result of these shredding tires.

The alligator part comes into play when the remnants of these tires are left where they fly then fall—that being the middle of lanes, along the shoulder of the road…just anywhere they finally lose the momentum of flight—as they now lay in wait, lurking and waiting for those poor unsuspecting drivers who are on top of them before being able to slow down or swerve safely out of the way while attempting not to ram into a fellow driver…

Today’s journey to Atlanta, on its infamous perimeter, was like navigating a backwater bayou at full speed while trying to dodge and miss a plethora of both big and small gators all before it being too late before an impending collision.

Cars were slamming on their brakes, erratically changing lanes, hoping the cars beside and behind could get stopped in time.

Holding on for dear life as I made my way through the cement minefield,
I smelled it before I saw it as the air was rife with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
Dodging debris big and small, I soon road past the culprit. A big rig’s second to the back tire was disintegrating faster than he could move over and slow down.
Tire was slinging left and right as cars did their darnedest to dodge the deadly shrapnel.

As I miraculously made my way past the truck and the sea of tire parts without being hit, without running over anything and without being hit by my fellow dodging drivers, I was struck (not literally thank God) by the sheer magnitude of how things can change in one’s life from good to disastrous in literally the blink of an eye.
A ‘now you don’t see it, yet now you suddenly do’ sort of life’s scenario..

Yet we don’t much like thinking of life in that regard.

We don’t like to dwell on the possible and potential negatives of life…
those ‘could be’s’ or those ‘what if’s’ in life…
but what of the sudden and sheer catastrophic…??

We don’t want to live life constantly fretting and worrying.

Yet we do need to always be ready…
Ready for those very instantaneous what if’s.

As in…what if I’m taken out by this interstate monster right here, right now—am I ready for that?
Am I ready if my life is snuffed out just like that?

There’s no time to think,
No time to suddenly and quickly introduce yourself to a God you’ve just kind of always kept in the back of your head…
Kind of like a Santa Claus—
calling on Him in a pinch or when you really need or want something….

This isn’t like the “oh please God don’t let me get caught by that red light again” sort of thing…
Rather this is…there’s a big black chunk of rubber and steal, that’s just come up out of nowhere, hurdling through both time and space with lightning speed right for your windshield and face sort of thing, leaving you nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, leaving you nowhere to duck and cover….

Your relationship with God cannot wait.
It’s that dire, that urgent.

Not because you need to be saved from flying projectiles or hungry debris alligators who are lurking and waiting for when you lest expect it…but because time will not always afford you the luxury of waiting, pondering and deciding, if you want your soul to be lost or to be found…

There is true comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in this life…no matter the dangerous and deadly perils that await us…the catastrophes, the accidents, the random horrible things …
that in and through it all…God is yours and you are His…forever and ever…Amen!!

May you travel in safety my friends…

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

oh it ain’t no thing…

“The Americans have found the healing of God in a variety of things,
the most pleasant of which is probably automobile drives.”

William Saroyan

DSCN3172
(my uncle Paul and my dad, the kid working the last drop of Coke, circa 1936 / on the steps of the state capital of Baton Rouge, Louisiana—road trip via Hwy 78 out of Atlanta)

Sitting for over two hours this morning on the interstate, not moving more than an inch every 15 minutes, I felt almost compelled to roll down my car window and personally shout an apology to all those license plates around me.
“On behalf of the Governor of the state of Georgia and the Mayor of Atlanta, I want to personally apologize to you Texas, to you South Carolina, to you Tennessee, to you Alabama, to you Mississippi, to you North Carolina and especially to you Connecticut…that your journey to your destination, wherever that may be, has found you sitting tangled in this jumbled mess of woven concrete known as the interstates that weave in and out of Atlanta….
I AM SORRY”

This country’s interstate system, which is mostly known as the Eisenhower Interstate System, is celebrating its 50th year of existence. Sitting as I was this morning, debating whether I should simply get out of the car and walk, I was not in any mood to put on a party hat and eat cake.

According to Norman Mineta, the US Transportation Secretary….
“The Interstate highway system is essential to America’s prosperity and way of life. Since its beginning 50 years ago, the Interstate network has provided a vital link for connecting goods to markets here and around the world and bringing together people from our nation’s cities, towns and rural communities.”

The Federal Highway Administration states on its website that…“From the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the Interstate System has been a part of our culture as construction projects, as transportation in our daily lives, and as an integral part of the American way of life. Every citizen has been touched by it, if not directly as motorists, then indirectly because every item we buy has been on the Interstate System at some point. President Eisenhower considered it one of the most important achievements of his two terms in office, and historians agree.”

Please excuse my eyes rolling in my head, but I’ve just spent almost 6 hours in my car today traversing said networks of prosperity intended to link my rural world to my dad’s urban world—something that should have consumed all of 2 hours max of some of this time of mine remaining on this earth verses the 6 that I graciously offered up to Father Time with no chance of getting even a millisecond of it back.

I wonder how Ike would have felt sitting for 6 hours on one of these roadways of his when he could have been out playing a round or two of his beloved golf instead?!

Yeah, yeah, I know….the interstate system was touted as being the bees knees for linking our country together…on saving time, money and gas as now point A and point B would be seamlessly connected… smooth and easy sailing…
Those roadway founding fathers had no idea that the commuting public would multiply like rabbits and that the number of cars which would fill up those roadways would eventually become so numerous that the interstates would become obsolete faster than anyone would have cared to guess.

I was having to meet the installers at dad’s today as I had had to get Dad a new dishwasher. The dishwasher is a tale unto itself but today we must focus on one thing and that one thing is the interstate system…at my age, I can only handle one comedy of errors at a time.

The installers were lamenting their commute home from Dad’s this afternoon as there is just no easy way in or out of Atlanta….and I had to concur.

As luck would have it, the dishwasher was up and running just in time for me to hit rush hour traffic. Praying I would make it home before it was time for me to go to bed, plus praying I would make it out alive, I exhaled greatly as I merged into the standing still sea of cars and trucks.
As I precariously snaked my way along the serpentine interweaving of cars, I opted to exit while the getting was good, taking an “old” way home—

This “old way” was in use long before there was a President Eisenhower or a highway system named for him. It was my road home that, as a young man, my grandfather traversed during the early days of his up and coming company—P. H. Nichols and Company.
The road linked him with his clients and customers westward.

This old way, was indeed old.
It was tired and used up like a cheap bottle of wine which had turned to vinegar.
The luster having long faded with bitter notes around each bend in the road.

My aunt called me on my cell phone to check in on how things had been with dad and started the conversation by asking me where I was.
“I’ve just passed Hub Cap City” I unceremoniously replied.
“You got off the interstate?!!” She exclaimed more than asked.
“Why not???…I could either sit on the concrete and pray I wasn’t killed merging onto the next interstate, or I could go a little slower down memory lane….”
Memory lane was calling my name…

This “old highway” was / is very old.
The battered and bruised businesses of days of yore now stand as empty broken shells….
the cheap and tawdry strip malls whispering of grander days all gave new meaning to the word “seedy”.
It was a stretch of road that my mother would have reminded me to lock my doors as my husband would certainly have had a fit that I was even there in the first place.

But this old forgotten “highway” was the same road my dad had taken with his father on his very first grand American road trip.
The same road anyone would have taken prior to 1965 westward out of Atlanta.
It was the time my grandfather, in 1936, had taken his two sons on a grand road trip to Texas and back.
A working trip we would call it today.

As I drove over the great Chattahoochee river, twice, and past roads that whispered of that fateful war between both North and South, reminders of the crossings by those various brave generals and their rebel bands, the signs outside of the used up little cafes and diners boasting of such delectables as “ain’t no thang like a chicken wang”, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of things that once had been and those things that are trying, in vain, to remain.

Somewhere between the chop shops, the wrecker services, the long closed filling stations and the questionable BBQ joints, of which I make a mental note, I saw the shadows of dusty country roads that had once seen far more cattle crossings than cars.
Kudzu now engulfs and devours the once proud family owned motels offering many a tired traveler a welcoming respite while on the road. Ghosts and specters of the once proud and booming age of Americans and their automobiles.

The old way was no quick way as I ambled behind school buses, dump trucks and those who thought the “back way home” to be quicker than the interstate.
We all thought wrong.
Red lights, stop signs and those “Sunday drivers” on this Monday in no hurry clogged the road coming and going.
Yet I was met around each curve and each dip in the road by the thoughts of a grandfather I had hardly known.
There was something oddly comforting and familiar in this rotting, decaying and dying American artery.

Hours later after having left dad’s, I called letting him know that I had finally made it home in one piece—Dad thanks me for having come to oversee the installation of the dishwasher and worried over how long it took me to get home…
After recalling the cheeky sign for chicken wings, I offer a wearisome yet contented response…
“oh it ain’t no thing…