To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

when do we know love becomes stronger than hurt?

“Dad’s genuine contrition took the fun out of holding offenses against him.
In choosing weakness, his love became stronger than my hurt.”

Joshua Rogers


(daddy’s idea of fun / Julie Cook / 2018)

When does one first know that they are a daddy’s girl?
Is it in the womb?
Is it in the delivery room?
Is it upon the very first face to face meeting?

Is it when he looks down and sees not only himself or his wife, but his own dad
in that tiny new face staring back up at him?

Is it during that first visit to the doctors when tears are first really shed?
That he reaches to hold you, comfort you, to protect you?

Is it during those early on sleepless nights?

Is it when daddy is left to babysit and dresses you in your first crazy outfit
unbeknownst to mom…are those Mardis Gras beads?

Or is it when daddy watches his own father who once cared for him when he was your age,
who is now taking on a new role in both of your lives?

Or is it when daddy shares the Mickey Mouse show with you,
just as his grandfather had done with him at that very same age?

No matter when it is…when that first moment registers that this is the man who is charged
with your care and protection…
the man who has been given the most important role of watching after you,
caring for you, providing for you, training you, teaching you, instructing you,
having fun with you, having to correct you…
exemplifying all this it means to be a father…
just as God is Father to us, in turn, entrusting our earthly fathers to be that
same living embodiment of God Himself…

We all know that living up to such a trememdous role and responsibility is a monumental task.
It is not for the faint at heart.
For there will be joy, but there will also be gut-wrenching heartache.
Because to love is just that…
an uncontainable joy matched with unrelenting pain…

There will be those who will fall and those who will, at times, fail.

It is with all of this in mind, my son’s first Father’s day, my husband’s first Father’s day
as a grandfather, that I came across a most sobering reminder of the power of both love
and forgiveness within the complicated role of parent and child.

How both love and forgiveness far outweigh anger and resentment.

Click on the following link to read one man’s story of his own relationship with a man
who had spent a lifetime letting him down, but in the end, taught him about the
most important lesson a father can offer…
that in forgiveness, there is power.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/06/16/my-dads-stunning-response-when-told-him-off.html

Happy Father’s day to the two most important men in my life….
from the one little girl whose hearts of yours, she has captured now forever.

who’s listening?

God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis

The Son of God suffered unto the death,
not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.

George MacDonald


(Percy surveys the rain / Julie Cook / 2017)

iF God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy,
and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.
But the creatures are not happy.
Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”
this is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

C.S Lewis’ opening sentence from the book The Problem Of Pain

When I initially read the quote about God shouting to us in our pain…
The sheer notion that God is indeed shouting when we are at our lowest,
most often at our most vulnerable and even most desperate…
I found it to be, well, oddly comforting.

For Mr Lewis reminds us that while God knows we are having trouble listening…
trouble hearing Him speak to us, wooing us, comforting us….
He has no problem in shouting at us, to us, in order to get our attention.
For He is steadfast that way….

For man, in his inestimable knowledge, has concluded that if humans are in pain,
hurting, tortured, agonizing and grossly unhappy…
man falsely concludes that any being that boasts to be an
Omnipotent God who can do all things…why would this God of supposed Love, Compassion and Grace
sadistically allow all the anguish and pain to not only continue, but
to exist in the first place?

The conclusion…there is no God…
or if there is…He is cold, calculating and menacing….

And that is very much like us is it not?

We find something to our disliking, our displeasure, and we expunge it from our world
or we label it as an enemy to our living…
For we believe we are a people of absolutes…but the truth of the matter is, we are not.
For we do not tolerate absolutes…we rebel against the notion of the definitive.

And in this world of absolute verse definitive,
we have hardened our hearts and chosen the side of the secular…
In part because we cannot tolerate the fact that we live in
a world full of pain and in that pain we actually find our need and helplessness…
And it is in that helplessness that we seem unable to allow our ego and pride to go…

For in our defiance against the Absolute Creator,
our hearts have grown cold as our eyes are now blind and our ears now deaf.
We are weak and vulnerable, yet we defiantly, as little children,
stomp our feet while displaying our anger and resentment within our proclaimed disbelief.

All the while our God shouts as we stand with our fingers jammed in our ears.

For God continues to speak louder and louder…
Patiently, steadily calling us one by one,
name by name… to His open arms, to His side…
because the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow,
no more anger, no more grief, no more pain…

And soon a senseless world begins to make sense to the believer…
Because the believer knows that he has never been a part of
this limited pain filled world….

There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my folly.

Psalm 38:3-5

casting light

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

Plato


(a misty moonlit evening in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Who among us, no matter where on the planet we may be, doesn’t glance
upward in the nighttime sky gazing almost longingly toward a full moon.

It’s as if that illuminated orb, in that vast inky night sky,
beckons hypnotically for our attention.
Calling all nighttime wanderers to cast their gaze heavenward as thoughts
hauntingly wonder, as well as wander, under the spell of melancholy mixed with awe.

For it is in the darkness that we innately yearn for the comfort of light.
Welcoming light
Guiding light
Directing light
Reassuring light

We have been called, each of us, to be that same comforting light cast outward,
illuminating a frighteningly dark world.
As we are left to ask ourselves…
are we casting only more darkness in an already darkened world,
or are we reflecting the welcoming light of Salvation…

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

comfort

“For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–
remembering my own sins and follies;
and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts,
and very seldom as bad as their words.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(the beach is calling at The Pearl Hotel / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Anyone who has ever been to the beach and mixed…
wet bathing suits + sticky salty ocean water + greasy lotions + red burning skin +
lots and lots of sand…
all know first hand that the idea of comfort is a relative concept.

Add into the mix sitting in a wet sagging canvas “lounge” chair and the thought
of running naked through the surf becomes somewhat appealing….

Now don’t get me wrong—I love the whole notion of all of the above, as it is
part and parcel of a true “beach” experience…
as we throw in the sound of shrieking children bouncing in the surf,
alcohol induced howling conversations,
beach volleyball, football, bocce ball aficionados showing off the not so sculpted bodies,
music that is not a part of your personal iTunes…
and the whole concept of peaceful and soothing also becomes relative.

And yet there is comfort in the moment.

Comfort found in being elsewhere and other than.

As we are all creatures who truly love their comfort…
Both physical comfort as well as emotional…
We don’t much care for the idea of being deprived of anything in our neat little
comfortable worlds.

I suppose it would be well observed and easily noted that we humans may be known as
creatures who live for our comfort…
as well as for those things which make us such….

But the thing is….we were never promised comfort…
God made no promises in the area of all things comfortable.
And if truth be told, He had actually provided for such in the very beginning,
but there was that little issue over that apple and just as quickly,
any continuing promise of comfort vanished….

So it seems as if we, as in we human beings, have been in pursuit of all things
of comfort ever since that fateful day.

But now we see a little rub within said pursuit…

Enter one named Yeshua…

I prefer using the Aramaic translation of the latin name, Jesus,
as in it is more inline with what Jesus himself was familiar in hearing—
as in his name is what it is…and that is Yeshua ben Yosef…but I digress….

So Yeshua was asked where it was he stayed,
as those asking wanted to follow him.

But his response was not one of comfort.

For there was not a warm welcoming abode in which he resided.
There was no rest for the weary where He was concerned.
No creature comforts were to be offered, waiting nor ever to be found…
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

And again He offers anything but comfort in His admonition to his followers…

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels,
and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before
they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

And even later it was Paul who reminded those wishing to follow that
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”

So as Christians, a word which actually means little Christ…
the notion of comfort and a life that is comfortable,
is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Maybe it’s high time we venture from the safety of our comfort zones…

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

running around like a….

When you are at home,
even if the chicken is a little burnt,
what’s the big deal?
Relax.
Jacques Pepin

DSCN3178
(The Bunratty rooster, a copy of a photo from the property)

I was city born and bred…
yet I’ve been country ever since—-
or maybe we should just say more rural than urban,
as I wouldn’t exactly call my small Georgia town country.

We are quite modern actually.
Hospital, factories, plants, large grocery chains, shopping centers, a college, a technical college…
But we do have a sale barn where farmers head every Monday morning to buy and sell their animals.
We have farmland 5 minutes from the downtown square.
We have wild animals lurking about…
fox, deer, turkey, coyotes, snakes, rabbits, armadillos, possums,
raccoons, snakes…did I mention the snakes?
Rattlesnakes, copperheads, black racers, rat snakes, corn snakes, garden snakes…..

Growing up meat and chicken was something we purchased from a grocery store…
much like I still do today.
Nice and neat in its shrink wrapped packaging.
Same with eggs, milk, hamburgers…you name it—it came from the store.
I never thought much about the “before the store” aspect….

My grandmothers grew up on farms.
They were the original farm to table girls.
Tales of butchering hogs, cows, chickens, etc. rang throughout the stories I heard as a child.

I personally love animals too much to raise them only to turn around and kill butcher them for food.
But I get it.
Living off the land as it were.
I like the idea of living off the land.
Just as I like the idea of getting my meat from a store all nice, neat and shrink wrapped.
For even though I love animals, I am truly a meat and potato girl.

I do have a chicken coop however, all ready for the day when I will have my own girls offering up fresh eggs…
yet my time for chickens, let alone much of anything else, is terribly limited these days.
Hence why I often feel as if I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off…

They say that when a farmer butchers, slaughters, chops a chicken by first waking off its head, the body will jump up in the air and actually take off running—as if for dear life—
not exactly realizing dear life is sufficiently over.

Reflexes the experts tell us.

Shades of Tim Burton, Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette all rolled into one.

So maybe my willy nilly running about like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off–running wildly and madly here and there all helter skelter could be chalked up to mere reflexes—the reflexes of being overwhelmed and over stressed.

Time to slow down, regroup and refocus….
and most importantly, time to seek God’s words….
Words of comfort, teaching, instruction and assurance….

You are righteous, Lord,
and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
they are fully trustworthy.
My zeal wears me out,
for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me,
but your commands give me delight.
Your statutes are always righteous;
give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:137-144

Motivation

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
Fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Proverbs 1:7

RSCN2790 (1)
(Red Spotted Purple Butterfly and Blueberry blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

What is your motivation?
Your self help…
Your comfort…
Your reason to continue…

Family?
Friends?
Country?
Career?
Home?
Future?

Maybe faith…?

When you are lost, do you seek…
Guidance?
Books?
Speakers?
Music?
Entertainment?

Perhaps you pray…

When stripped away of everything…
When all that made you…you….is abruptly taken away
When you stand alone, vulnerable and lost…
What propels you forward?

Need?
Hunger?
Fear?
Hope?

Or is it a yearning for something…
Someone greater than yourself…?

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Psalm 34:17-20