why he’ll go to Heaven and I won’t…

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.
This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…
Come further up, come further in!”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle


Salut St Marie, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

Ok, so that’s probably not the most logical, theological or rational assessment
of who is and who isn’t Heaven bound…

But it’s how I often feel about my husband…

He’s a shoe-in…and well, the jury is still out with me…
or at least that’s how I often feel.

He’s good like that.

As in a much better person than I am.

He’s very generous.
He yields to others willingly.
He’s tender-hearted.
He can be emotional..unafraid to shed a tear.
He’s kind when others are not.
He defers willingly and graciously to others who don’t deserve it.
He will always step aside for those rushing past despite his falling back in line
or missing out.
He gives freely of his time to those who take it readily for granted.
He’s old school.
He’s modest.
He’s polite.
He’s content being last despite having always been a stellar All American athlete who
knew what it took to win…which he did back in the day.
He’s a gentleman.
He doesn’t begrudge.
He doesn’t disparage.
He has a simple and humble faith…

I on the other hand..well I attribute my more aggressive, bossy, helter-skelter demeanor to
being born and raised in the city verses his more country lineage.

Take today for example…

We’d gone over to Atlanta to help take the baby out for her first dining experience at a
real restaurant for what we hoped would be an enjoyable lunch for all in attendance…
ie. the exhausted set of new parents.

I grew up in this city and I can honestly say that I don’t recognize it anymore!

One of the past mayors once coined the phrase, “Atlanta, a city too busy to hate…”
I wonder if that mayor had ever driven himself around town,
say during the height of rush hour?

Not only has the landscape drastically changed with landmarks being mowed
down making way for bigger, better and glitzy…very few true Atlantans exist.
It has become a city of transplants.
No one even has a southern accent anymore…except maybe just me.

Driving in town is now much like driving in Rome, Italy.
Chaos living on the edge.
Lanes don’t seem to matter…
signals, lights, signs are all just adornments with the unspoken knowledge that they simply
are not to be followed.
Speed limits are merely numbers and considered totally optional as they are actually more
of a hindrance.

I was naturally driving today.

I always drive when we go to Atlanta because traversing the infamous Perimeter, aka 285,
is not for the faint of heart.
It takes a daredevil with an overtly aggressive mindset…
something my husband is not and has not.

Also, DOT illuminated roadsigns constantly alert drivers as to issues further down the road,
making the need of having a Plan B always essential.
Of which we had to do this past Sunday afternoon when the notice was flashing that
police activity had all lanes shut down near where our exit was located…
so I had to exit long before the impending backup and find an alternative route.

Think roller derby except with cars…
Cars that are driving a good 20 to 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit…
yet we are reminded that speed limits here are optional.
Everyone is jockeying for position.
Cars going 90 mph on a 70 max mph interstate are as common as the name Peachtree on
every other street while each one prefers driving unbridled and uninhibited…
having no one near to block their progress.
Throw in a few carjackers also fleeing on the interstate as they don’t care who they
hit or cut off.
There is indeed a reason for those DOT signs always posting the number of roadway
fatalities…

Since we’ve installed a car seat base in my car, I opted to drive us all to lunch.
The baby, my son, and husband were all piled in the back seat while my daughter-n-law
and I commandeered the front.

As we approached the main thoroughfare, we stopped at the red light.
As any normal driver would do when seeing a red light, I stopped.
Isn’t that what a red light means…stop??

The opposite traffic had a turning arrow.
Arrow lights in Atlanta are really fun.
Even when they end and turn back red, cars continue turning…
as if the red light is non-existent.

These moments make my husband nervous as he begins grousing and loudly complaining as
to why anyone would want to live in this city.

Cars will turn in front of oncoming traffic until the mass of oncoming cars
dares to simply run them over…then they’ll stop….like they should have
when the light actually turned red.
This is a reason as to why the city has red light cameras now in place.

Like a camera will get these people to actually stop…yeah right….

So as I had the green light to go straight, I wanted to do just that…go straight.
But the opposite on-coming cars just kept turning on their red light arrow.
Finally, I had no choice but to lead my line of cars straight…
right into those trying to turn against us.
I laid on my horn.
At this point, my husband wanted to open the car door, discreetly exit and walk home.

The driver of the fourth car that continued turning through a red arrow looked right
at me and proceeded to throw the F word my way.
Really???

Here I was going, as I should, on a green light, having even allotted these idiots
free time to cut me and an entire line of green light cars off and I get cursed.

I hit the horn again.

By now my husband is having apoplexy and my son is ready to fight someone as he’s had to cut
his teeth in this city.

Long story short—we finally got through the intersection in one piece.

Lunch was delightfully uneventful.

And everyone in the car was more than ready to get the heck out of the city and head back
to the country…

So the next time when you hear the news or our politicians tout that those who live in the
more rural areas of our states are ignorant, backwards, deplorable, limited…think again…
they are actually the smarter ones amongst us.

And driving in the city is enough to make anyone lose their religion, even my poor husband…

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23

what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Illumination

We find it so difficult to serve God in our daily life,
but this is because we don’t really want to know what is true.
We live in a mass of wrongs and untruths,
and they surround us as a dark, dark night.

Christoph Blumhardt

This cluster of stars is known as Messier 15, and is located some 35 000 light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse). It is one of the oldest globular clusters known, with an age of around 12 billion years. Both very hot blue stars and cooler golden stars can be seen swarming together in the image, becoming more concentrated towards the cluster's bright centre. Messier 15 is one of the densest globular clusters known, with most of its mass concentrated at its core. As well as stars, Messier 15 was the first cluster known to host a planetary nebula, and it has been found to have a rare type of black hole at its centre. This new image is made up of observations from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys in the ultraviolet, infrared, and optical parts of the spectrum.
(This cluster of stars is known as Messier 15, and is located some 35 000 light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse). It is one of the oldest globular clusters known, with an age of around 12 billion years.
Courtesy NASA)

“Throughout almost every sphere of life there is an enslaving force.
It characterizes even the highest human undertakings of nations or of individuals;
it is egoism.”

Anyone whose attention is fixed on the coming reign of God and who wants to see things change
will become more and more aware that there is something universally wrong with our existence,
something that is pulled over us like a choking, suffocating blanket.
He will know what to do: take hold of God’s hand.
That will help disperse this night—-

But to do this work we have to have a light.
With this light we can then illuminate every corner
where we have some work to do.

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:5

Burn, Burning, Burned. . .out!

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Jack London

RSCN8779
(one of the culprits on the strands of light / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN8782
(the burned out strands in the trash / Julie Cook / 2014)

The presents are wrapped, finally, and the stockings are hung—meaning— what you see is it. . .as in the decorations you see are as far as it goes–So just tell me it looks nice and lets move on. . .
The store is still busy as both time and people seem to keep coming as I’m running on fumes.
So imagine my chagrin when I came home one evening from working the holiday madness, aka retail, plugged in the tree and. . . nothing.
As in no lights.
As in a dark tree.

WHAT?

Too tired to scream, I could be heard mumbling to myself, “it figures”
Yet the girl scout in me knew there had to be some sort of remedy I could rig.
Grabbing two extension cords I began digging ever so gently through a well decorated 10 foot tree in search of the ends of the light cords I had pushed back in the branches to hide their unsightliness during the decoration ritual.
Finding the ends I began unplugging and replugging in an effort to see which cord would light and which would not.

As miracles would have it, I didn’t have to climb around all over the tree, discovering which cord was the culprit with very little wasted time or effort. . . ahhhh.
All I needed to do was to thread one extension cord up through the tree in order to plug in the good cords and run the other extension cords up to the other working cords.

Voila, a mostly lit tree with a dark mid-section—but at this point, I’ll take what I can get.

Getting home late again Thursday evening I scrambled out of the car to a darkened front porch in order to plug the lights in. . .the very ones I labored putting up around the front of the house on that blasted day known as “black friday”. As it was dark and cold, I was hurrying to get the show on the road so I could hurry up and make supper, I plugged in all the extension cords when I suddenly noticed an entire chunk of lights had burned out on the right side of the porch railing.
UGH!!!!
Great.
Now the house looks lopsided.
Clamoring around in the dark, I could be heard telling the dark of night, the lights that worked, the dead lights and anything else that was perhaps wandering around in the dark that “by God, I decorate this freaking house once a year, and I am bound and determined, as God is my witness, to light things up, and light I shall. . .”
Very Scarlet O’Hara you know—It’s a southern thing.

Fast forward to this morning.
As my oh so tired and exhausted husband headed out the door, making his way to the store to put in another solid day of making holiday cheer, aka our work in retail, I made my way to Home Depot. I had told him that I was going to go pick up some more lights before heading to the store to help (sell, wrap, greet, smile, and make merry, and curse my aching feet).
“Why in the world would you go buy new lights with only a few days left in Christmas?” he mumbled heading out the door.
“Because by gosh, as God is my witness, I decorated this house and I won’t have it half lit up as in half a&$. . .
He could be seen rolling his eyes as he got in his truck because at this point, he is so over Christmas. Plus I think he finds my Scarlet O’Hara impersonation a bit melodramatic.

Arriving at Home Depot, the place that saw my credit information stollen in the data breach they suffered earlier this year. . .as my bank account was accosted by some thieves in south Georgia, Illinois and Indiana that was luckily caught early enough before any real damage occured, I was ready to do business again, risking my bank account and identity all in the name of holiday lights.

Do you know how sad the shelves holding the holiday decor look right about now at a massive home improvement center? Kind of like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. . .empty and sparse with a few remaining boxes which look as if they’d been opened, pilfered through, stuffed back shut and left for any poor sucker who happened to come by at the 11th hour in need—such as myself.

There were twinkling warm mini lights, snowflakes, giant icicles, round colored balls, and the very retro looking giant colored lights. . .those monstrosity lights of my childhood—-the ones I hated—so tacky and garish.

I grabbed a couple of remaining boxes that had obviously been opened and hoped for the best.
Kind of the same mindset I felt when I handed the cashier my debit card–thinking here goes nothing, again, or maybe here goes everything I own again, sort of feeling.

Back home, I open up the boxes, yanking out a waded up tangled mess of lights. Just as I figured—someone either returned these puppies or either pulled them out taking a gander before stuffing them back in the box deciding they weren’t for them. Smoothing and pulling as best I could, I stretched the cord along the railing. I proceeded with 3 more boxes. As they all seemed to work, I felt a sense of relief—until the one strand filling in the area of my original area of contention began blinking.

WHAT?

The strand was also white, my other strands are green.
AGGGGHHHH!!!
Making the sound Homer Simpson makes, I see that I have all constant green wire shining lights except for a lone white wire strand that now “twinkles”—-
“REALLY?!” I am now heard shouting to all birds and any passing cars.
“Well, too bad!!!” I’m heard to exclaim to the squirrels.
I have lights, who but the raccoons and possums will notice the twinkling—any passing cars will be driving too fast but to merely briefly “ooooo” at the sight of lights as they move like a bat out of hell down the road past the house as no one drives up and down our road paying any attention to posted speed limits, yellow lines or much else for that matter, so who cares if one batch is now twinkling??!!

“By God”, I exclaim, I have lights and lights I shall!!
Makes no never mind anyway as the lights will just be coming down in less than a week.
“This is Christmas by George and we will make merry!!!”

The moral of the story you ask. . .besides being wary of using debit cards now a days anywhere or buying obviously previously opened boxes. . .
We need to be mindful that everyone gets a bit burned out this time of year, even the kids–from the constant going here, there and yon, to the constant shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, working, caroling– to the high expectations, the hopes, the dreams, the let downs and disappointments. . .

At first it’s just the burned out holiday lights, then the next thing you know you’re shooting the neighbors giant inflatable Frosty the snowman with a BB gun. . .
It won’t do any of us, or those around us, any good letting ourselves get all worked up in a tizzy. . .it’s best to simply let go and go on— moving forward and making “Merry” the best way we know how. . .

Now where in the h*!l is that pitcher of eggnog—you know the one. . .was that one cup of rum and one cup of bourbon per one quart of eggnog or was it two quarts of nog. . .I think I like the odds with one quart and equal ratios!!

Merry Christmas!!!

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Don’t keep your head in the sand

“How long am I gonna stand,
with my head stuck under the sand?
I’ll start before I can stop,
before I see things the right way up.”

lyrics by Coldplay

DSCN7470
(grazing sandpiper / Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I realize it’s been quite sometime since I last wrote a post regarding Dad.
Oh, not to worry, he’s fine—with fine of course being a relative term with Dad.

You should know that my dad loves college football, of which I figure is pretty much where and how I learned to love the sport as well, as countless Saturdays at home were spent with Dad glued in front of the TV watching every game imaginable. Remember, these were the days before Game Day, Hulu, Tivo, remotes, split screens, etc. It was not uncommon for my dad to haul every television in the house, the tiny black and white in my bedroom, the larger black and white in their bedroom, setting them up in the den in order to watch the games playing out on all three major networks- – -remember this was the time when there were only 3 stations of choice. . .no ESPN, no SEC network, no Sports South, no CBS Sports. . .well you get the point.

His favorite team of course is his alma mater, the GA TECH Yellowjackets.
I was singing “I’m a rambling wreck from GA Tech” before I could count.
I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t you go to UGA and are not Tech and UGA huge in-state rivals?”
The answer to your query is “yes, indeed” (slight smile forming at corner of mouth)
I can’t help that a Tech man sent his daughter to THE University of Georgia—I suppose he’s the one who has to live with that, but I digress.

So imagine my surprise Saturday when I called Dad following the exciting climax of Tech’s narrow victory over their conference rivals Va Tech and he seem clueless as to what I’m talking about:
a groggy warbley “heeellllooo”
Hi Dad
uh Hi. . .
Boy what a game, that was something wasn’t it!? (note enthusiasm)
Game, what game? (total confusion)
Dad, what do you mean “what game”??!! (aghast surprise)
Uh, who won? (again confusion)
What do you mean who won?? It went down to the wire. (frustration)
Did we win? (ugh)
What do you mean “did we win”???!! (aaaggghhhhh)
Were you not watching the game? (ditto that)
uh I guess I dozed off. (resignation)
Dad, are you kidding me??!! (grave concern)

That is not like Dad to miss Tech.
It’s not like Dad to miss a football game.
And whereas I have visited him throughout the summer months, popping up for lunch and short visits here and there, I have, however, backed off with my pursuit of his paper chase—the statements, the bills, the invoices, his insistence that “he’s got this and to leave him the hell alone.”

I’ve rationalized that if the lights are still on, the phone still works, they have hot water and air-conditioning, then things are good, right?!
I had grown weary of the weekly assaults by a feeble old mind that continues to slowly fade which imagined me as agitator over very real financial disasters, etc. His cursing at me which is so out of character, his childlike temper tantrums which really began when my mom died 28 year ago and his defiance and refusal to simply recognize that all I’m doing is trying to help.

And yet, it is time, I suppose, that I suck it up and get back to the task of putting his house in order by pulling my head out of the proverbial sand by actually taking an honest look and making certain that all is well rather than assuming such—as we know what happens with that business.

Here’s to a trip to Atlanta!
Here’s to Dad!
How ’bout them DAWGS