tis the season…to be giving

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

Tis the season of gifts…
buying, wrapping, giving…
Yet most of us know that not all gifts are those which can be bought nor wrapped.

By now I suppose most of the country, if not the world, is well aware of the major
power outage that afflicted the Atlanta airport this past Sunday—
an outage that caused a global and near catastrophic ripple effect.

There were hundreds of flights canceled in and out of Atlanta,
the airport touted as the world’s busiest, while other flights simply
had to be rerouted making final destinations more than complicated.
This lone power outage caused severe inconveniences for worldwide holiday and simply
regular travelers.

There were passengers stuck in planes on tarmacs as airport officials scrambled
what to do—deplane folks and shuttle them to the dark airport or what.

Thousands of folks were stuck in that dark and rather scary airport while others
braved walking miles along streets in an unfamiliar area in search of food, shelter or
a rent-a-car…of which there was nary a room to be had at any inn and no
transportation to be found.

The News did pan their camera over to a very busy Waffle House.

The individual stories were and are endless as now hundreds of pieces of luggage are
seen to be sitting in the Atlanta Airport hoping to find their way either
home or to the necessary point of destination…
all much to the chagrin and angst of their owners.

The news reporters were all on scene that night, in the dark, interviewing those
most inconvenienced passangers…with each person, each family,
having an individual tale….yet most of those interviewed seemed to be taking it all
in stride….thank goodness the snow storm had been the previous week.

Some reported that they had witnessed folks trying to “break into” vending machines
and food kiosks within the dark airport as it seems many folks were hungry….
I won’t even speculate about bathrooms.

There were the tales of exit doors being sealed due to no power.
There was a sense of being trapped or simply lost while thousands wrestled with
whether to stay put in the dark and wait, or venture boldly out,
if they could even get out, with or without luggage in tow,
in order to find some sort of plan B.

This is not to mention the thousands across the globe now finding themselves stuck
in airports or cities as their flights were being canceled or rescheduled by the droves.

Schedules and plans were now disastrous around the planet—
all because of a single power outage at a single airport, in a single city,
in a single state, on a single night…..
amazing how there is such a far reaching effect in such a single event…..

There are a lot of different directions a post could be written when something
like this happens…
notions that ‘we don’t need terrorists when we simply have ourselves….’
or perhaps a post about ‘how the tough get going when an inconvenience strikes
while the weaker among us crumble’

or maybe there are just the tales about human resiliency and resolve….

Yet despite the endless possibilities to write about,
I wanted to focus on the simple notion of giving….
wanting to keep our senses within the season of just that…giving.

I’m certain that there were a myriad of tales about the generosity of others during
this “crisis”….from the kind and gracious hotel and motel staffs,
to airport employees offering comfort to the panicked, to the average local citizen who drove toward to airport to see who they could help…..

But one tale in particular caught my eye.

Rather late on this particular Sunday night got, I received a local Atlanta news update
on my phone, alerting everyone that locally founded and headquartered Chick-fil-A was coming to the rescue by trucking in thousands of sandwiches, fries and drinks to those thousands of stranded passengers.

You might not think that such an alert was a big deal until you understand
that there is not a single Chick-fil-A store open nationwide on Sundays.

For you see, the late Truitt Cahty, the founder of Chick-fil-A who first began this
chicken sandwich business in Hapeville, Ga, right near this very airport
way back in 1946, was a very religious man.

Mr Cathy was often asked about his success and he always attributed it to God’s grace.
His go to manual of operation, he would explain, was simple his Bible.

He took God at His word.

If God said to rest and worship, keeping the Sabbath holy, then by gosh that was what
Mr. Cathy was going to do.

I myself am a firm believer that if you honor God,
God will in turn honor and bless you.
Mr. Cahty’s business success is testament to that very fact.

Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of flack in recent months, in part because of the
heavy Christian influence it holds as being a key part of its daily operations.
It has been picketed and protested because it does not condone same sex marriage.

Never mind that they will gladly and happily serve anyone, anytime despite a customer’s
beliefs or sexual orientation, it’s just that as a whole, the organization simply
does not condone the lifestyle choice…and that’s ok but….since we have become a
society that will not allow anyone to hold a view counter
to the madness of culture, places that choose to honor God and keep His word are
often maligned, sued and scorned into submission—but not Chick-fil-A—
it will honor God as it will continue to serve everyone and anyone,
albeit 6 days a week.

So when I read the update that Chick-fil-A would be providing food on this late
Sunday night—
meaning that folks would have to scramble to open restraunts, get employees on site,
fire up fryers and grills in order to quickly transport hot meals out to thousands of hungry and unhappy folks, I for one found tears of gratitude in my eyes.

Truly, it tis the time to be giving…

For the full story—click the attached link….

http://start.att.net/news/read/category/news/article/delish-chickfila_broke_tradition_and_opened_on_sunday_for-rhearst

the written word

“What is more frightening a totalitarian regime’s destruction of
knowledge or its hankering for it?”

Anders Rydell


(sunset over the Gulf, Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I’ve come across a most intriguing story.
It is a tale of war, ideologies, plundering, destroying, recovering…
with an eventual attempt to reunite as it were.
And very much a true story.

It is a tale as told in Andres Rydell’s book The Book Thieves
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries And the Race to Return A literary Inheritance

Rydell offers in the forward the idea that “In our time, the book has remained
a symbolic value that is almost spiritual.
Discarding books is still considered sacrilegious.
The burning of books is one of the strongest symbolic actions there is,
correlating with cultural destruction.
While mainly identified with the Nazi book pyres of 1933,
the symbolic destruction of literature is as old as the book itself.

The strong relationship between humans and books relates to the role of the written word in the dissemination of knowledge, feeling, and experience over
thousands of years.
Gradually the written word replaced the oral tradition. We could preserve more
and look further back in time.
We could satisfy our never quite satisfied hunger for more.
…Our simultaneously emotional and spiritual relationship to the book is
about how the book “speaks to us.”
It is a medium connection us to other people both living and dead.

A year before my godfather died, he had me come over in order to help him sort through
his belongings.
He and his wife were soon to move to a much smaller place as the issue of
each ones health, both physical and cognitive, was rapidly failing,
and he was under the clock to purge a lifetime of work and living.

To me this aging man was more than a symbolic godfather.
He had been a priest for over 50 years so he was actually more spiritual father than anything else.

While I was sitting sprawled out on the floor of his study, sorting through files,
DVDs and a mountain of papers, he offered me any of the books that I could carry
from his myriad of covered shelves.

Here was once a widely renowned man in his profession.
A long sought after lecturer and author.
His collection of books was both wide and diverse.
Yet it was to a small copy of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol that drew my eye.
“Jules, if you want it, take it” he nonchalantly told me.
I opened the book and inside the cover was written in fine fountain pen lettering
the follwing inscription:
“To David B. Collins
From Aunt Emma
Dec 25th 1930”

“But,” I stammered…. only for him to reassure me, “take it.”

The book is an illustrated version of the Dickens classic with this particular
edition being published in 1927.
And it had obviously been a Christmas gift to a nephew of 8 from a loving aunt.

Once home, I thumbed through the book.
There was a card, what I first thought was a yellowed notecard, placed between pages
222 and 223, the point in the story when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had taken Scrooge to the churchyard in order to see his own grave marker.

The card was however an altar card from the chapel of The University of the South,
Sewanee, TN—the school that Dean Collins had attended for seminary as well as where he
served as rector.

I imagine the card marked material once used in a sermon.

I share this little story with you because it is just one small fragmented
tale illustrating the importance of not just a story in a book but rather of the book itself… and of the line of people the little book has traversed—
It is really the story a continuum…the continuum from once a loving aunt to
her 8 year old little nephew…and later from aging old man to his equally aging
spiritual God daughter….

But the giving will not have stopped with me…that’s how it is with books.
It’s merely resting for a while before, at some point in the future,
it travels once again,
For we come to understand that books often have a life of their own…

And so what the world witnessed with the Nazis and their fervor to rid themselves
of a certain group of people, with their ultimate hope being to actually rid
the entire world of these people—it was not enough to merely take their belongings, especially their books, and to destroy them or hide them away.

Nor was it enough that they take these very people and burn them, hiding them away…
But the key rather for the Nazis was to take the very essence of these
‘loathsome people’—with that essence being these people’s actual written word.

And if the Nazis could erase their words, then these people would in turn,
cease to exist— or better yet in the minds of the Nazis, cease to have ever
existed at all…..as in a total wiping clean of the slate of the very existence.

Because as Rydell points out “whoever owns the word has the power to not only
interpret it, but also to write history.”

Rydell’s story is rich in history as he gives an in-depth look into how Germany, a highly educated and culturally rich people, came to find themselves being lead blindly by
a madman.

Rydell’s story is a convoluted tale of madness, death, destruction leading to one of
hope and reuniting…linking a past with a future.

For there is a great lesson in his story for us today–especially now.
A lesson it would behoove our society to heed.

And a lesson I will be sharing in the next day or so….

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Construction in progress…

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this:
that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed;
but a thing created is loved before it exists.

Charles Dickens

work-in-progress-danger-sign-s-6313
(image borrowed from the web)

construction-progress-3
(image borrowed from the web)

Throughout history, man’s idea of advancement has been a familiar sequence…
conquest,
conquer,
construct.

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider.

And as it becomes passé and outdated,
the sequence begins again…

Reclaim,
Destruct,
Reconstruct…

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider….

A continuing cycle of:
claim, up, down…
reclaim, down, up…

God has a very different approach….

Give
Offer
Love
Hope
Life

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(Nativity / Bartolome Esteban Murillo / Adoration of the Shepherds 1657

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Mother’s Roses

“Even more than the time when she gave birth, a mother feels her greatest joy when she hears others refer to her son as a wise learned one.”
― Thiruvalluvar

“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues — faith and hope.”
― Charles Dickens

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(Mother’s tea roses / Julie Cook / 2015)

Mother was never much of a gardener.
She worked in the yard but it was more out of necessity rather than joy.
The mindset was, if you had a yard, you needed to keep it up.
Dad cut grass, mother cut the bushes and did everything else that needed doing. . .
Going through the motions of doing, merely for the sake of necessity.

I don’t remember exactly when or how mother first came about the small tiny tea rose bush.
I don’t know why she opted to plant it by the corner of the carport.
But I do know that she was proud of the tiny rose bush.

I think she planted the bush when I was away at college.
Most likely I acknowledged the little bush, during my comings and goings,
with nothing more than a half interested glance.

Upon graduating college, I immediately moved away, with little thought of the
small bush remaining behind, perched alone by the corner of the carport.

Within two years of my independence, Mother was sadly gone.

After mother’s death, the little rose bush faded.
Dad became gravely fretful over the health of the bush,
almost frantic that the little bush not die.
Each year upon year he watched, watered, waited.

29 years have since passed.

Now with each trip back home, Dad takes me to see the bush.
No longer do I have a mere casual interest in this little plant
but rather my interest is one of keen observance,
as I have become a silent cheerleader of the now lush vibrant bush. . .

Mother would be so happy to see so many blooms. . .
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. . .

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Which obstacle to tackle first?

“For our path in life…is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and crush them!”
― Charles Dickens

“For the person who has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”
― Meister Eckhart

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(sticker bushes, barbed wire and a bull / Julie Cook / 2015)

The brambles
The barbed wire fence
The bull. . .

Three daunting obstacles. . .
One more focused than the other
Each one more formidable than the one before it.
Yet. . .I suppose it really doesn’t matter does it. . .
You’ve simply got to push through it all—regardless.
One
Two
Fifty. . .
An obstacle is an obstacle. . .it matters not the number.
The only question remaining, do you tackle all three at once or one at a time?

Do you race through the first foe, then immediately on to the second, all willy nilly as you continue racing onward to the final hurdle, practically falling on your face in order to get there?
And by the time you do reach that final obstacle, you’re all busied and bloody. . .wounded and winded, you’re really no match for that final foe now are you?

Slowly
Deliberately
Thoughtfully

First and foremost you must exercise a little restraint and caution as you make your way ever so carefully and delicately, picking your way through the lethal stickers.
Gingerly step up, over, around, gently pulling and pushing. . .slowly as not to become entangled.. you must call upon finesse.

Once past the stickers. . .
You must climb.
Lifting one leg up, being careful where and what you grab hold of. . .being very thoughtful where you place your other foot.
Balancing oh so carefully, as you push and pull yourself up and over making certain you clear the barbs. . . applying both skill and great concentration as you traverse this unsteady hurdle.

Eventually, in one piece, you feel somewhat triumphant as you now stand on solid ground on the opposite side, past the first set of troubling obstacles.
Yet
here
You finally come face to face with your greatest obstacle of them all.

A herculean giant to battle
A massive stone wall to scale
A seething ocean to cross
A terrible foe to defeat

The odds seem stacked against you.
You are tired and frustrated, battered and bruised,
as you’ve already journeyed so far and through so much just to reach this point. . .
this single point of now or never.

Exhausted and fearing defeat. . .
Part of you screams “give up!!
Yet the other half screams fight on!!!

You stare your enemy in the eye
Resolute
Determined
Relentless

As it all now seems to come slowly into focus
And that’s when you hear, from some cavernous place within your head, a tiny voice that grows stronger with each beat of your heart. . .
“Beloved, be not afraid”

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When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Deuteronomy 20:1-4

DON’T SING THAT SONG!!!!!!!

“The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”
― Charles Dickens

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(I had to go back a full year to find a sun shot for March / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Sunshine go away today
I don’t feel much like dancing. . .”

You remember that catchy little tune don’t you?
It was a late 60’s sounding folksy tune, written and sung by Jonathan Edwards, which actually came out in 1971. A catchy seemingly happy enough tune, yet with some dark angry undertones. . .

“Some man’s gone he’s tried to run my life
Don’t know what he’s asking

How much does it cost, I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it
But he can’t even run his own life
I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, Sunshine”

We should actually all take notice that during this particular time of waning, yet fiercely determined winter, which has a deep and angry hold over most of our lives, and which continues wrecking havoc on our lives by lashing out with snow, ice, rain, cold, winds, fog, mist, deep grey. . . all of which seems to be holding our dear sun not only at bay but more like hostage, I am passionately proclaiming that no one, I repeat, no one must be allowed to sing that song!!!

Sun, PPPPLLLLEEEEEAAAAASSSSSEEEE, don’t go away, but rather I’m begging, COME BACK and STAY!!!

I am afraid that we are soon to have a national epidemic on our hands—a paralyzing byproduct to these lingering wintertime blues known scientifically as S.A.D. . .Seasonal Affective Disorder–a widely recognized medical condition with symptoms such as depression, lethargy, fatigue, cravings for heavy carbs (hummmm), and an overall feeling of the icky, ehh, blahs.

And may I add that my husband seems to have a really bad case. . .for he is defiantly SAD, ill, mad, or in laymen’s terms. . .out of sorts and very, very grumpy.

His only day off throughout the long workweek is Sunday, as he owns and operates a small retail business in our community. . .which, may I add, is in itself enough to make anyone grumpy and ill of temperament. And I sadly must report that the past 4 Sundays in a row it has been rainy, wet, foggy icy, snowy, cold, grey, icky, ehh and blah. . .in other words, not days you want to exactly run around outside fishing, working in the yard or simply basking in the glories of the great outdoors. This for a man who loves nothing but being out in the wilds of nature especially after having been cooped up in retail 6 days a week, 14 hours a day.
“Of course it could be worse” he laments, “we could live in Boston.. .”

And speaking of Boston. . .
Our northern kinsmen have been unduly hammered by Mother Nature this winter, as well as our brethren in the Midwest, the central mid section, the Northwest, Canada, not to mention northern Europe. . . I fear we just may have a full fledged CDC 5 alarm epidemic on our hands. . .a malady of S.A.D. run amuck.
And lest we forget that a SAD, Ill, out of sorts husband makes for a frazzled, exasperated, and disturbed wife. . .I’ve we’ve defiantly got big troubles on my our hands. . .

Panic stricken, as we find ourselves scrambling for some sort of treatment or cure, we desperately seek out experts who can stop this spreading menace before it’s all too late.
And just when we thought all was lost, we actually discover that we have several options of choice.

The obvious, yet most impractical for the general populace, is to get the heck out of dodge. Get on a plane and fly away to some place full of sun and warmth—joining in with the throngs of the same minded and obviously overtly pale individuals seeking solace while flocking to more tropical environs—hence the abomination know to any true native southern Floridian, the ubiquitous snowbird

The other option is Vitamin D.
What???
Yes vitamin D.
But I thought vitamin D was all about milk and bones, right?
Well yes. . .as we must remember that the greatest source of Vitamin D produced in our bodies is taken in through our skin from sunlight with other secondary sources including the consumption of milk, oily fish, eggs. . .

So more often than not, our wintertime depressive sun deprived moods are due to just that, the deprivation of light and of our exposure to the sun.
We’ve discovered that those who suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency are most often those who have little to no exposure to the outdoors and daylight, no basking and frolicking in the sunshine. For when the sun hangs low on the horizon, as it does in our more northernly Northern Hemisphere skies, during the dark days of winter, a lack of Vitamin D is a very real and common occurrence.

Another available option is the use of a specially designed light box
What??
A light box, a box fitted with special bulbs which are much brighter than the average indoor lightbulb. A light box mimics the full spectrum and intensity of light cast from the sun. Most experts recommend sitting by a light box for approximately 30 minutes each day, preferably shortly after waking, in order to get the full required amount of exposure.

Ok. . .so now having fully considered my options, I’m pretty certain I know the course of action I must take.

First, I’m going to buy my husband a bottle of Vitamin D supplements.
Secondly I’m going to buy a life sized light box that I’ll lock him in that he’ll be able to fully utilize reaping all the benefits while I in turn buy a one way ticket to some delightfully warm tropical locale such as, say, Bali or Fiji or Turks and Caicos or the Seychelles, or. . .well, you get the picture. . .some place with greenery and warmth, drinks with little umbrellas. . .a place where I can sit, basking in a beach chair singing “here comes the sun“. . .a place that has lots and lots of Vitamin D !!
So while I’m gone, don’t forget to take your vitamins. . .

Past, Present, Future

“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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(the remains of an old telegraph pole found rotting deep in the woods in rural west Georgia/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Have you ever been so consumed by something that has either happened in the past or is about to happen in the future that you really have no thought or concept of today–of the very moment in which you find yourself?

I fear I’ve spent most of my life in a bit of a dither fretting over the future while dragging around chains from the past. I most likely look like something akin to Jacob Marley in the Dickens Classic, Scrooge. An ethereal being wrapped in heavy chains with my vision cast forward, wondering why it is I’m not moving–forward. Oh I can hear him now bemoaning with those wails of his to a wide eyed Ebenezer.

Sadly I must confess that I’ve always been a bit of a worrier— When I was in high school, I can vividly recall a beloved priest once telling me, as I was fretting over something that I obviously had no control over, that my worries were truly all in vain because I could very easily walk out of church in the next five minutes, only to be run over by a dump truck. . . putting all further and future worries on permanent hiatus.

Always looking back or forward but oddly never looking at now—or at any rate, not very long at the now.

Today’s image is that of a very old and long forgotten row of wooden telegraph poles. The rotting remains being reclaimed by a deep thicket of woods in a very rural area located in the mid north western section of our state. Out in the middle of no where, with only acres and acres of deep dense woods– the debris of a different time and era now lying long forgotten. The glass insulator you see pictured is from the Hemingway company. The markings on these insulators, along with our knowledge of this particular area, date this communication line to late 19th century.

A most odd discovery to find in the midst of an old growth area of land in the middle of nowhere rural Georgia. The news, information and communications once carried over the now long gone wires, very much important during the time, now all but forgotten. The statements, observations and requests, that once sped across these lines, most likely carrying word of reconstruction, impending World conflict and news of sickness as well as joy, all but forgotten to the annuals of time.

For dust you are and to dust you shall return is the foreboding observation taken form the book of Genesis, used by the Book of Common Prayer at the service for burial—the ominous reminder that we are not permanent fixtures around this planet. Reminding us that what was, is no more, what will be is yet to be seen, if ever seen, therefore rendering all that there is, as simply now. The only guarantee we have is this exact moment of now.

Even as I type this post, on the afternoon prior to the morning I intend to send it out, there is no guarantee that it will go out—something, God forbid, may transpire curtailing my ability to send it out on its way–all thwarted despite my best intention of action. So there is no guarantee that you’ll even read any of this. Odd thoughts to ponder. Just one more example of how we spend so much of our today’s preparing for tomorrow. Not that planning is a bad thing, but maybe we plan a little too much.

I am reminded, as we all are reminded, that as we allow ourselves to be consumed by the what “weres” and the what are to “bes” that we have only to “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your (our) heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life or single cubit to your height? (Matthew 6:26-27 NIV)

Worrying and fretting and regretting, all very human characteristics, do absolutely nothing to and for our betterment nor to and for the betterment of our fellow man. So on this new day, this new morning, if you are indeed reading this– if it did actually get to make the rounds, may we all be mindful that what was, is just that—simply what was. What is to be is simply that, simply what is to be—and the only thing we can be certain of is right now.
May your right now be filled with peace as well as happiness and contentment. . .because it is all either you or I actually have.
Hopefully, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow 😉