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they’ve all been replaced by multimillion-dollar homes, multimillion-dollar subdivisions,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.

nothing more to give…

“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds,
his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications,
by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what
belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will,
by obedience, gives to Him all that he has,
and can say:
Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori


(city mural /Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

The ins and out in and out of a city…as seen in the lives of the fortunate and unfortunate.


(sign posted within a doorway near an area known for the homeless/ Julie Cook / Nashville/ 2018)


(two images of a bird with a broken wing just off the park where the homeless congrugate
in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a very sick dove sits out amongst the throng of 4th of July revalers, over looked and
basicaly ingnored by the enormous crowd / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a couple of wild turkeys and a squirrel resting during a heatwave on the grounds of
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a squirrel pays no attention to the tourists gathered by it’s side at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“But there must be a real giving up of the self.
You must throw it away
“blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.
The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.
Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)
will not come as long as you are looking for it.
It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.
Even in social life,
you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort
of impression you are making.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:
whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
(without caring twopence how often it has been told before)
you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self,
and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death
of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and
you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred,
loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.
But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

purpose

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

img_0823
( a jar of Pickles from Pickles with a Purpose)

I suppose a jar of pickles and Christmas seem to have nothing much in common…
But as you may know, those of us predisposed to all things Southern, love a good pickle.
As we love the sheer notion of pickling.

We pickle everything from cucumbers to okra to quail eggs, to pigs feet.
And mind you whereas I prefer all things of the cucumber variety, I have been known to
venture out on a limb by trying a pickled green bean as well as an okra,
I simply draw the line however with the eggs and pig’s feet.

I live in a small Georgia town, a growing town, but considered small
none-the-less by the larger city dwellers…
And I should know having grown up in the big city…
we are indeed small, despite having a super Kroger and a Super Wal-Mart.

I don’t like super…super is too big, too generic, too impersonal.

I do like my small town as opposed to the big city.

Whereas the big city has more to offer such as great places to eat,
unique places to shop, and abundant things to do….
the small town is more homey.
And I like the feel of homey.

I was at the pharmacist’s the other day getting a prescription filled.
I like my pharmacy.
It is owned and operated by a local gal whose husband I once worked with at the high school.
I remember when they got married.
They now have boys in junior high.
Time flies in small towns.

Her dad works the counter, while she works at filling the bottles.
It’s nice as in it’s homey, as they know me by name.
They know my husband and they know my son and daughter-n-law.
They order things I need.

So the other day as I was waiting for my perscribtion to be filled, I wandered about
looking at the items she has in for Christmas.

Sitting amongst the ornaments and specialty soaps sat a jar of pickles.
Curious I picked up the jar.
The label simply read Pickles with a Purpose.
The side label gave a listing of ingredients and the fact that they came
from Marietta, Georgia…once a small town of its own,
but Marietta is now a part of the mega growing Cobb County, the
soon to be new home of the Atlanta Braves.
How an Atlanta baseball team can still be known as just that, Atlanta’s baseball team,
when moving out from Atlanta to a neighboring county still has me confused…
but that is not my worry, not today.

There was also a website listed on the back label of the pickles.
A website where one could learn more about the story behind the pickles.

I did however notice a small card propped up by the pickle jars…
so I pulled it out hoping to read a little further into the story.

It seems the idea of the pickles came from a 9 year old boy named Luke
from Marietta, Georgia who felt God wants him to help raise money for an older man
he knows who happens to be homeless.

The young man’s grandmother graciously offered her secret pickle recipe as a means
of having a product to sell in hopes of raising enough money to buy Luke’s
homeless friend a home.
The homeless friend, named Tim, is a middle aged black man whom Luke
had met while helping his mom at a business she manages…

At that point, with tears in my eye and my prescription being ready,
I grabbed up 4 jars… all I could carry, as made my way to the counter to pay.
I was told that the pickles were really great so I went back and grabbed the last jar.

It wasn’t the fact that the pickles were supposedly really good…
It wasn’t because I like pickles…
but rather it was the story behind the pickles that actually inspired me…
as I normally wouldn’t buy jars of pickles to give as Christmas gifts.

Later at home I got on the computer and looked up Pickles with a Purpose and found the
following You Tube video of the young man Luke sharing his plan of raising the money
to buy his friend Tim a home…

I hope Luke’s story will inspire as well bless you as much as it blessed me…
As Luke’s pickle story is really just another reminder of what Christmas is really all about…

I’ll be going back to pick up some more jars of pickles…
Small towns are nice that way….

I am no man’s man

“They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Ralph Ellison

DSCN4070
( Alamo Square / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am no man’s man

When I was born,
Hope was born,
Potential was born,
Possibilities were born.
The world was beautiful with vibrant color.
The stars above were endless and bright.

Was there love in my world?
Did my birth bring anyone joy?
Was I a happy child?
Did I coo as a baby?
Did I laugh easily?
Did I thrive and develop?

As my years increased, I think the stars grew dim.
Hope eerily languished.
Potential suffered slowly and painfully before dying.
Possibilities vanished.
Love was lost.
Color was no more
My world was black and white
I become no one.

When did I come to this park?
When did this bench become my bed?
When did I, as a person, no longer matter?
When did I become a non entity?
When did my light grow dull?

The throngs of tourists, the business people and the children
they all simply see through me, past me, beyond me.
I do not exist, yet I am here.
You who do see me, secretly wish I was invisible.
I am a trouble to your conscience.
I should simply cease being
I am no man’s man.

I am dirty
I smell
I am lost
I have nothing
I own nothing
I am not productive
I am your eyesore
Your burden
The being you wish would disappear

I do drink when I can
I do smoke when I can
I mostly beg
I am dishonest to you but more so to myself.

The days roll one into the next
The time matters not
I cough
Is that blood?
I smoke things to forget
I drink things to take me to different places
Days merge into night
the night will not stop
Is this all there is?

I close my eyes,
If they open again,
It is all the same
I am still the same empty specter you despise
I am the nothing which bothers you, irritates you
You wish I would vanish
You wish I did not exist, not like this
You blame me
You blame others
That would make all of this much neater
You wouldn’t have to be troubled

This is a messy situation
This is an uncomfortable issue
This is a troublesome thing
To you, I am:
unsightly
ugly
bad
I am a nobody
I am no man’s man

I am no man’s man.
and it all begins again. . .

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

Mother Teresa