Alleluia

I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh, I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19:25-27


(home sky 2016 / Julie Cook / 2016)

A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis

digging deeper

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil,
and let us see what we are made of.

Charles Spurgeon


(piping plovers dig deep into the sand in search of tasty morsels / Julie Cook / 2018)

What is it about digging that leaves us uneasy?
Not the type of literal digging with a shovel, but rather the digging into one’s self.
A metaphorical digging.
Digging deep within in order to discover what makes us who we are.

Chances are most of us don’t much care–
Or don’t much really want to know…

We live day to day, doing our thing, whatever that thing might be…
so to uncover anything extra is not seen as a necessity for survival.
Something more trouble than its worth.

Yet these little plovers spend every waking daylight hour poking and prodding deep into the
wet sand in search of something to eat.
They never tire nor abandon their quest.

The lives of plovers obviously depend upon their digging, poking, and prodding.

Our lives…not so much.

Our sustenance is dependant upon the digging of others.
So we don’t much worry about real digging.
So introspective digging is not considered essential to life.
And therefore, obviously not needed.
And if the truth be told, we find it uncomfortable.
And who wants to be uncomfortable??

And yet we are living in a time of the self-help generation, the hashtag generation,
the generation of whatever the latest cause is that’s coming down the pike.
We jump on the latest bandwagon believing, whatever bandwagon it is, that it will make us happy,
make us complete, make us real… all the while making us content in our lives of
here and now.

All the while we are an angry people, a self-consumed people, a distrusting people,
a sallow people a divided people, a lost people…
who just so happen to find ourselves longing only to be happy and content…

And yet we join the movements.
We jump on the causes.
We play the parts.
We profess the earthly falsehoods as some sort of lasting truth.

However…

Bandwagons are fickled.
Hashtags will come and go.
Angst will fester.
Worldly happiness is fleeting.
and fulfillment comes at a cost to self-worth…

Dig deeper for the what is pure, what is lasting.
Dig for that which will not fade, will not leave, will not falter, will not leave
you longing…
When you dig, what do you find…

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe,
lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,
should shine on them

2 Corinthians 4:4

Pax et Bonum

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.
Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.
What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…
but only what you have given;
a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Francis of Assisi

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(Florentine bookmarks / Julie Cook )

Pax et Bonum

Latin for…
Peace and Good
or
Peace and Goodwill
or
Peace and Salvation

depends a bit on translation…
However it was the motto of St Francis…

And with all the vitriol rhetoric streaming constantly into our ears,
seeping deep into the psyche of our hearts…

With malcontents running rampant through the avenues of our lives,
casting the seeds of bitterness and hate…

With division drawing an ever widening perimeter,
separating those who once were oh so close…

How great would it be,
could it be,
if we all had such a motto….

Be very careful, then, how you live—
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil

Ephesians 5:15-16

the diversion of a feeding frenzy

“If our condition were truly happy,
we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

“The news media is in a feeding frenzy”
George Bush

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(the butterfly bushes are rife with those feeding / Julie Cook / 2016)

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Ok, so you thought you were going to see some images of ravenous sharks, wildly thrashing about,
tearing apart some poor fish…

Sorry, it’s not shark week.

However…
rest assured…
A feeding frenzy is indeed under way…
With both you and me front and center on the main menu.

For it is now open season on the average citizen.

We are currently under assault, you and me, by all the news media outlets, as well as all things political.
I hate to say it, but the season is open and in full swing until November.
And unfortunately it looks as if it won’t truly be over until most likely sometime after the
first of the new year…or so.
And depending on the results, it may never be over…

The thing is….
we are all currently dealing with our individual lives….

We don’t have time to spare for things other than our manic lives….
It is simply to the everyday nitty gritty of living that has us consummed.
Time is not ours to give away to those who are now chomping at the bit for pieces of it.

For me…it’s dad who has developed a gravely concerning malady…
that is proving troublesome to pinpoint, let alone resolve…
as a few grim scenarios are waiting in the wings.

I’m driving back and forth to this doctor and that, to this test and that, all the while reassuring Dad that he is a okay…despite the alarming physical symptoms.

Do I have the time or energy to be bothered every time I just want some quiet down time…???
Flipping on the telly, seeking some mindless light diversion, yearning for a little football,
yet instead I am met by the likes of every TV personality and new anchor bashing Trump, touting Hillary, telling me only one kind of life matters, yada yada yada…????!!!!

Do I want to see ad after ad about why I should vote this way or that—???
Ads both dark and ominous of what will happen if I vote this way or that????
Do I want to see ads filled with a whole lot of malarky and bull crap????
All the while finding myself sadly yearning for the days of those cheeky little toilet paper ads…

And it seems that I am not the only one needing a diversion from the feeding frenzy of this season.

The odd phenomena of the Pokemon craze has become a global obsession.
Even as poor dad frets and waits to see the latest doctor in a string of doctors,
look what my son spies sitting by his grandfather…sigh…

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And whereas I am actually gravely concerned over this current trend and need
by this ailing world of ours…
This ravenous desire of seeking such an obsessive diversion…
Wondering why we don’t or can’t actually see what our true need actually is…
What it is that we yearn for…
What it is that we ache for…

That being satiated by the balm of the Resurrected Christ…

Yet reluctantly I can understand the need of escape from all this misery,
mayhem and feeding frenzy that is currently besieging us…

For it is in this desperation that the masses now seek the diversion of a virtual game…
sigh….

So…
With that being said…
and that being that,
it’s time to put down the remote,
close the laptop,
turn off the freaking phone…
and head outside for a real life diversion…

One that is actually Heaven sent….

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Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:23-24

A storm is gathering…

You start out giving your hat, then you give your coat,
then your shirt,
then your skin and finally…
your soul.

Charles de Gaulle

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(the gathering storm on a southern summer’s night / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our prayers, once again, are offered up to our ally and friend…to the nation of France.
To the French people, especially the citizens of Nice, we offer our hearts in solidarity.

It is apparent that there is a war raging.
A war that is being waged and carried out by a hostile and ever morphing Islamic state.
A war that is apparently one-sided.

For you see, the Western World has yet to acknowledge it is being attacked, relentlessly.

Once upon a time…

In a different time and place…
there was a lone voice…
A lone voice that was relentless in sounding an alarm to the gathering storm clouds.

Yet no one wanted to listen.
No one wanted to hear the hard truth being offered by this lone voice…
And so the voice was ignored.

By the time the storm had come, raged and then passed…
Well over 60 million people had lost their lives.

It appears that today, we continue not to listen.

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

nothing…

Where you have nothing,
there you should want nothing.

Samuel Beckett

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(image of Sgt. Schultz from the 1960’s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes)

If you’re old enough to remember watching Hogan’s Heroes as a kid, then the irony of dear old Sgt. Schultz’s willingness of denial and dismissal of everything and anything taking place under his watch, and under the scrutiny of his “policing,” should not be lost on you today.

For you and I my friend now live in a land in which the people prefer the likes of a Sgt Schultz… complete with his “look the other way” style and lack of scrutiny or action.
“I know Nothing”
“I hear Nothing”
“I see Nothing…”
As in…
Nothing..
Nada…
Nilch…

A society where the old axiom rings true…that the prisoners are running the jail,
or the inmates are running the asylum—
whichever non politically correct version you prefer.

For in that beloved 1960’s childhood sitcom…the WWII prisoners of war were basically running the prison camp…despite always remaining prisoners.

And maybe, just maybe, we now have life imitating art…or rather, life imitating a sitcom–
which may be most apropos given our current mental state over the troubling times of today….

For you see… our youth have become angry.

As even a good many adults may be eagerly added to that list of angry.

Oh, don’t get me wrong…
we have had bad incidents, sad incidents and incredulous incidents.
Terrible lapses in judgement and over zealous actions, throughout our cities and towns,
where both police and governing leaders have made mistakes and even willfully committed crimes.
For there exists both bad and good.

And it is that very thing that many have forgetten—
For there is both good and bad, Evil and Good

But, as we need to be reminded, there remains, as it is most often overlooked, more good than bad….

Our youth, and many of our adults, have decided that choices and consequences no longer matter.
The lines have blurred so that many of them honestly can no longer discern between right or wrong.
Laws broken are to be argued, fussed, cussed, discussed and blatantly ignored and we will tie the hands of the police and authorities in knots.

Never mind respect…
Respect of…
property,
possessions,
position,
age,
stature…
or simply for authority.

As today’s youth will argue and shout “I give respect if I get respect”
Yet I was always taught that if you were younger or lesser or less experienced, or less knowledgeable, you still had to respect the one who was older, in authority or further along—even if they didn’t exactly deserve it—for that was how it was and in the long run, you were the better because of your ability to yield…it was because our day would eventually come…the day in which we would earn the respect of those behind us…in part because we were then older, wiser and had lived longer or were responsible for those “under” us.

That whole mindset got thrown out with the bath water when the baby went out the window…

Many of our youth have developed that “gangsta” loving mentality which is running rife and found in the music, the clothing, the swagger and the very lifestyle they dearly enjoy. As the detractors cry “that’s just cultural” or “you don’t get it, so just shut up and sit down…”

The musicians, the signers, the entertainers, whose feet they do fall prostrate, reflect that all that glitters is truly golden and that everyone wants what they have… and so what if the lyrics, the lifestyle demeans women, promotes violence, relishes all things sexual and touts the use of drugs and all things illegal….who cares?!
for all things legal is just so utterly passé and yesterday’s news…

I hear talk of all of this being this generation’s stance, the movement of their times…
Yet I watch the old guard scratching their heads as to how its all now playing out.
They, the older movers and shakers of a generation long past, are lamenting out loud that there is no real leadership, no cohesiveness, no central theme or message, no bonding in order to rewrite the current wrongs…

Rather there is giddy and glee found in the anarchy, the mayhem, the looting, the violence, the hooliganism, and the vehement anger so loosely directed helter skelter.
Dare we say, no responsibility…
No patience in which to see things through as they yearn to move now, then quickly move on…

The divide is a growing chasm and we, yes we, have let it cleave and fracture wider and wider apart and into pieces as we have opted to see and say nothing in the name of all things of tolerance.

We have swallowed too hard the pill of not rocking the boat lest we upset anyone…. to such an extent and height that the boat has taken on too much water and we are now in peril of drowning.

We’re screamed at that black lives matter, as though the others do not.

Yet the bottom line to that thought is simple…
All lives matter…
as it should never matter the color…
just the breath and beating of the heart.

As the churches all wonder why their pews are sparse come Sunday morning
while the streets are thick the many nights prior …

Yes, we have troubles my friends, that we cannot deny.
As resentment is the only thing everyone seems to agree on
The resentment of one another is growing and dangerously morphing.
All while we continue seeing, hearing and knowing nothing…
Yet as we are slowly opening our eyes and ears, at this too late an hour—
we are finding that we do not like what we are seeing or hearing…
Yet there is nothing we seem to be able to do to stop it.

All the while the mantra of another time and place is whispered on the wind…
“all we are saying is give peace a chance…”