looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….

May love and joy come to you…

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

1st stanza to a traditional English carol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My little tale began this weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our reservations were for 11:30.

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

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

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

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

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

However, the horn blowing proceeded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May love and joy come to you…

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

Luke 6:35

shhhhhhh

“Let me love you a little more before you’re not little anymore.”
Unknown


(the Mayor sleeping/ Julie Cook / 2018)

Shhhh…be back soon…

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

Psalm 8:1-2

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

tis the season or just one of those days…

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought,
doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Dr. Seuss


(sterilizing The Mayor’s things in the wake of her departure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Let’s face it…we all have those days when we feel like a giraffe with our heads
stuck in a pot of boiling water.

Perhaps you’ve never looked at it that way before, but admit it, it makes perfect sense.

Maybe you’re not exactly frazzled.
Maybe you’re not terribly overwhelmed.
Maybe you’re not running behind.
Maybe you’re not stressed.
Maybe you’re not tired.
Maybe you’re not a bit melancholy.
Maybe you’re not a bit stretched.
Maybe you’re not a bit depressed.
Maybe you’re not overly busy.
Maybe you’re not apprehensive or anxious.

Maybe you’re none of those…

Maybe it’s because you’re totally overflowing with the love and joy that has come to you
from this season…as in you’ve had one too many cups of the bourbon-laced eggnog
and now you’re delusional…
or you actually managed to grab a-hold of the true meaning of Advent and this Christmas to be.

Or if the truth is told…maybe… just maybe…
you’ll admit that you’re really feeling a few of those heavier things…
Actually, maybe, you’re feeling more than a few.
Maybe you’ll admit to the truth…
you’re feeling all of those and then some!

Hence a giraffe with its head stuck in a pot of boiling water.

So good, we are now on the same page.

I was tackling the laundry yesterday in the wake of The Mayor and her two closest aides
recent visit…

When I thought that I really wanted to cook some little something that seemed
holidayish and festive.

But time…
Where was the time?

Now I’ll happily tip my hat, any day of the week,
to all those women out there who have superpowers in that they
can work outside of the home, clean their house, wash all the clothes, run all
the errands, shuttle the kids, finish the presentations and reports,
cook festive holiday goodies, complete all the shopping, decorating and wrapping
while still making time to go to the gym, write greeting cards, read a book, and post
the latest decorative things they’ve accomplished to Pinterest or Instagram.

And if your name is not Martha Stewert, you probably haven’t done half of those things,
let alone two or simply even one to the utmost of your ability.
And no fair if you have a maid, a nanny, or a small army of assistants following you around.

I actually do think that I was once able to accomplish much more when I was a
younger woman who was working outside of the house while tending to all things of the house
and raising a husband and a child.

I have no idea as to what has happened except that I simply got old.

But by George, I was determined to make something festive today if it killed me.

Every winter, I have to haul the citrus trees, that I keep in large pots
outside throughout the late Spring to early Fall, to the basement when freezing
temperatures arrive.

One tree that I’ve had now for many years has gotten so big,
that I was left with no choice other than to sacrifice it…
I can no longer move it, even with the hand trucks,
so it will be the guinea pig.

As the question remains, can a citrus tree survive a winter in Georgia?
I’ll let you know.

But the Meyer lemon tree that is now happily safe and sound in the basement,
is loaded with ripening lemons. It’s not looking too good as they don’t like
an abrupt change in climate but the looming question…
what am I to do now with all those lemons??

I opted for a tried and true southern favorite recipe…something that makes me always think
of my mom…
That being lemon squares.

Not the most festive perhaps but they are relatively easy and certainly tasty.

And as I do tend to gravitate to the melancholy this time of year as I find myself
missing those who are now no longer present in my small world…
mother’s lemon squares were calling.

Mother wasn’t known for her cooking or baking prowess, but those things she did
manage to succeed with while being in the kitchen are now treasured.

So the lemons squares it would be….

But where was her recipe…


(just one small pile of old cards and notes)

It’s amazing how over the years I’ve amassed such a plethora of old, spotted and stained
envelopes, note cards, papers, and even old receipts all covered with the scribblings
both of myself, family and friends.
A myriad of recipes which have been meant to be tried, tested and savored…
and yet with the advent of all things internet…it’s almost too easy to click
a button rather than dig through the drawers, books, and cabinets seeking that one
lost recipe.

Finally, I found what I had written down from my mom’s recipe…
but as to where her original handwritten card currently rests eludes me…
but this would have to do. Yet I had already moved to a different recipe as I couldn’t
find this one in time.

So as this is the time of year for gifts and gift giving…and since I use to share a lot more
about cooking and recipes when I first started this thing called a blog—
here is a copy of mother’s recipe along with the one I mismashed for today’s
Lemon’s squares…

Merry Christmas!!


(mother’s recipe)

Ingredients:
For the base:
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
2 cups sifted flour (I like King Arthur’s unbleached)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
For the filling:
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
the juice from 4 lemons (1/3 cup but I actually used just shy of a 1/2 cup)
grated lemon peel from the four lemons you’ll juice
(grate them whole before cutting and juicing)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
(it is a nice rounding out of the often harshness of fresh lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 9×13 pan—I spray baker’s joy on the bottom and then line the bottom with
parchment paper that I cut to fit. I then spray the parchment paper
(you can use butter and flour if you prefer)

Set the prepared pan aside.

In a mixing bowl sift the 2 cups of flour and the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar—
using a pastry blender, cut in the softened stick of butter until the mixture looks
like grainy sand—and holds together when handling.

Press this mixture down into your prepared baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until lightly
browned and puffed.

Cool while you prepare the filling.

In a bowl stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar, the grated lemon peel, a dash of salt,
1/4 cup of flour add the lemon juice, extract and then the beaten eggs until all
is incorporated.

Pop in the oven and cook an additional 25 minutes.

The filling will puff and might slightly brown just a tad.

When it’s finished baking, remove the pan and place it on a cooling rack,
allowing the pan to cool down.

(here is where some suggest putting the pan in the fridge to cool for at least two
hours but I just let it rest on the counter)

When cool—I dust the top with powered sugar—
I use a small mesh sieve that I shake over the pan
which adds a nice light dusting.

Next I use a bench scraper to cut the bars or you can use a knife

So before you’re hung up to dry, have yourself a merry little lemon square…

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:7

hail to the chief, chieftain or is it chieftess???

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I long to accomplish a great and noble task,
but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

Helen Keller


(a visit from the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2018)

And you thought I was going to write about President Bush again didn’t you??
Eh???

Well, whereas I am sharing about a visit from a commander and chief…
this particular commander and chief is more like a chieftess…
or whatever the female equivalent would be for chief.

Here we see the Mayor delightfully happy to be visiting with her constituents here
in the satellite Woobooville office. She happily surprised her “people”…
that being Polly Possum, Moe the Moose, lambie pie the sheep along with Percy and Peaches,
the real live cats who oddly disappear whenever the Mayor makes a visit.

And one might notice that the Mayor is having a slight hair issue with a strand of bangs that
nearly reaches to her chin. Her aides are constantly having to bush the hair from her face
lest she have a bit of a fit while rubbing her eyes red.

So with that being said…the Mayor had her first visit to a salon…note, that is not a saloon…
little politicians must make certain things very clear…but we digress…
It was time to have a bit of a trim.

And I might just add that a for a 10 month old, a trim may not be the most even or
neatest of trims…

And thus I am sorry to report that one of her chief aides is very disappointed with the
new little dutch-girl-pageboy look…
that aide being her dad…
And so it begins…that slow progression of growing up
that seems to tugs at the daddy’s heart most of all…

the very apprehensive before image

The after dutch little girl look

“His mission was not his own”

“His mission was not his own”
Words shared by The Rev Russell J. Levenson Jr
during his eulogy of his friend and parishioner, President G.H.W.Bush


(18 year old Lt George H.W.Bush in naval uniform)

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you came out on the other side
wondering how in the world you made it through?
How you survived and made it out alive?
Or more likely that you fared better than those around you?

Have you ever found yourself wondering or even lamenting “why me?”

Why me Lord?
Why was I spared and they weren’t?
Why did I win when I shouldn’t have–
knowing that someone else should have won?
Why was I so fortunate, or so lucky, and why were “they” not?

These can be haunting questions for anyone.
They can be a life’s curse or a life’s blessing.

For there is a great responsibility to whom much is given.
(Luke 12:48)

And life, for those who have had near brushes with death, know all too well, that
life suddenly becomes a tremendous responsibility.

Yet such a question as ‘why me’ can be particularly haunting
for one so young. For one who actually stares at death and yet surprisingly,
is allowed to walk away when others were not.

We have seen this in wars and sadly in recent terror attacks and mass shootings.

And it just so happened that this very overwhelming life issue of ‘why me’ actually
happened for a newly turned 20-year-old boy who found
himself alone in a small rubber yellow life raft, bobbing up and down in the middle of
the Pacific Ocean after having baled out of a burning airplane…
coming to the stalk revelation that he’d been spared while his friends had not.

This same “why me” question came up three times Wednesday during the funeral of our
41st president, George H. W. Bush.

First, the question was raised by Jon Meacham, the famed author, and presidential historian.
He painted the scene vividly as only such a gifted writer could.
A young naval pilot and his crew taking off from a Navy aircraft carrier with a bombing mission
on the docket.
They were to take out a Japanese radio tower on a tiny Pacific island.

“Shortly after dawn on Saturday, September 2, 1944, Lieutenant Junior Grade
George Herbert Walker Bush, joined by two crew mates,
took off from the USS San Jacinto to attack a radio tower on Chichijima.

As they approached the target, the air was heavy with flack.
The plane was hit.
Smoke filled the cockpit; flames raced across the wings.
“My god,” Lieutenant Bush thought,
“this thing’s gonna go down.”
Yet he kept the plane in its 35-degree dive, dropped his bombs, and then roared off out to sea,
telling his crew mates to hit the silk.
Following protocol, Lieutenant Bush turned the plane so they could bail out.

Only then did Bush parachute from the cockpit.
The wind propelled him backward, and he gashed his head on the tail of the plane
as he flew through the sky.
He plunged deep into the ocean, bobbed to the surface,
and flopped onto a tiny raft.
His head bleeding, his eyes burning, his mouth and throat raw from salt water,
the future 41st President of the United States was alone.

Sensing that his men had not made it, he was overcome.
He felt the weight of responsibility as a nearly physical burden.
And he wept.
Then, at four minutes shy of noon, a submarine emerged to rescue the downed pilot.
George Herbert Walker Bush was safe.
The story, his story and ours, would go on by God’s grace.

Through the ensuing decades, President Bush would frequently ask,
nearly daily— “why me?
Why was I spared?”

Next in line during this service, this looming question was raised by the former
Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney who also eulogized his former world leader compatriot
and more importantly, his dear friend.

Mulroney opened his verbal tribute to his friend by asking those in attendance if they could
remember what they were doing just after their 20th birthday.

Most should remember the joy and gaiety found in the passing a milestone—
that being the leaving behind of the tumultuous teenage years as they were
now standing on the great periphery of adulthood.

And yet I wonder as to how many of us know that at 20, one is more child than adult?

Mulroney shared that as he had just turned 20, he was working as a laborer in the outskirts
of Quebec while still living at home and thankfully enjoying his mother’s cooking.

All the while his one-day dear friend was bleeding and clinging to life in a liferaft
out in the middle of the Pacific ocean weeping “why me??”

For a third time this somber day of a State funeral, another speaker addressed the question…
“Why me?”

This time the speaker was President Bush 41’s parish priest,
The Rev. Bruce Levenson who once again raised the question but who rather matter of factly
gave us the answer.

Father Levenson explained that “his mission was not his own.”

His mission was not his own.

It was other than and much more than that liferaft bobbing up and down in the
ocean…

Yet that is not to say that the lives of his comrades at arms on that fateful day
were any less important.
Any less than, as some might think with such a response to such a question.
That somehow, they were simply “allowed” to die while young George was allowed to live.
The issue of allowance is not to be the issue here nor are we to be recipients of such
deep knowledge.

For God uses our lives and our deaths to extend far beyond our simple understanding.

It is the ripples that reverberate outward from the dropped stone in the pond.

The ‘why me’ questions that have been asked by countless individuals who have lived to tell of
another day all live with a tremendous burden of guilt and a tremendous burden of responsibility.

Father Levenson, James Baker, Al Simpson, Brian Mulroney and even son George H. Bush
each reminded us that a day did not pass in George Herbert Walker Bush’s life that he did
not ask that question…nor not feel the heavy responsibility.

He either asked the question audibly or silently…but he asked none the less each and every day.

I am reminded of the 1946 Christmas Classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

The entire premise of the movie, for Jimmy Stewart’s character George (so aptly named),
was what would life have been without him. How in turn would the lives of those who
were a part of his own life turn out without a George Bailey to interact with them?

One dark and lonely Christmas eve night so long ago, George was inches away from ending his
own life, by jumping into an icy cold river.
Yet God needed to give George a wake-up call.
He still needed George to do some important things.

Much like in the real-life story of a young George Bush…God still needed
for him to do some things.

Now I can’t say that all such stories have happy endings.
Nor can I say that all spared lives seem to turn out better than imagined.
So why George H. W. Bush?

That is the question remaining for all those lives that have been affected,
touched and even created because of him to ponder…as well as those of
us who have been directly or indirectly affected by his actions, choices,
legislation as well as leadership to ponder…

Yet the one thing that I do know…the same thing that President Bush knew…
is that God will have has His ways.

Ways that elude us.
Ways that often frustrate us, but they are His ways and His alone none the less.

What President Bush learned, one of life’s most important answers, was that his life,
his mission was indeed not his own…
it was God’s.

That we should all bend our ways to be His ways…

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23