can’t go back…lessons from the road

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had
,
Lyrics, The Isley Brothers


(the main stairwell in the Biltmore House / Ashville, NC / Julie Cook / 2020)

About a week or so ago,
I wrote a post bemoaning the fact that I had cared for sick grandkids who in turn,
unintentionally, gave me their sickness.

It seems that germs just love to travel and share themselves.
Just like the song by the Isley Brothers, you gotta love the ones you’re with…
germs will love any and all… whoever they are with or even near.

But this is NOT another post chattering on about coronavirus or the flu or any other bug.

This post is rather about adventure…
Or better yet…this is a post about lessons.

In that previous post, I had made mention that we had had a little impromptu adventure
while trying to escape all this unrelenting rain…

About two weeks ago, we were sitting in the house… sick and tired of sitting in the house.
It had rained for almost the entire month of February.
It was our wettest February on record.

Let’s get away” I proclaimed
My husband agreed.

We threw some things in a bag and headed north.
About a 4-hour drive north.

It had been years since we’d visited the Biltmore House
and thus that would be our destination.

We opted to stay at the Inn on the property,
spending the following day visiting the house,
then we would drive around the mountains before heading home.
Short and sweet.

And most importantly, it was minus the rain.

But then there was the snow.

However, let’s back up 40 years.

Back in 1980, I was a college student who had no real feel for what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought I knew.
I thought I had known.
I wanted to work with kids.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to work in advertising.
I wanted to meet a nice boy.
I wanted to get married and I wanted to be a mom.

I bounced back and forth between each different course and college major that were
more or less, a flavor of the day regime.

I have written about this journey when I first started blogging.
It was about how I finally made my way into teaching.

It was the summer of 1980 when my angst and turmoil finally came into focus in the
middle of the mountains of North Carolina.
Specifically, Black Mt., NC.

I had taken a job at a Christian summer camp for girls as a camp counselor—
Riflery Director oddly enough.

I spent my summers working at the camp until I graduated and made my
way to my first teaching post.
It was a position that would last 31 years.

So before we set out on this little adventure,
I asked my husband if we could drive over to Black Mt,
find a little inn for a night and spend an afternoon
wandering the little town before going to see the camp.

Knowing how important this place once was to me,
he knew he was now simply along for the ride.

When we started out from home on this northward drive,
we took an off-the-beaten-path route.
Many two and four-lane roads avoiding much of the interstate.
Crossing over into NC from Georgia, just before entering the Nantahala forest,
I caught sight of a homemade sign perched along the side of the road…
sitting boldly in plain sight.

It was a conversation bubble sign.
One conversation bubble read: “God, why won’t you send us someone who will help us?
The response bubble read: “I did, but you aborted them”

A powerful thought to chew on and get lost in while driving.

Our visit to the Biltmore was brief but enjoyable.
It had been meant to be our diversion,
a brief respite from our temperate rainy winter.

But then…it snowed.

The snow was pretty as it gently covered the mountains.
It was a gift from the relentless rain we had left back home.
Soft and silent.
White and muting.
A fitting and tender offering.

The small town of Black Mt. is about a 15-minute drive east from Ashville on I-40 or about
20 minutes via Hwy 70.

It was my home for several summers…a place that had left
and indelible mark upon my heart, soul and on the person who I would grow to be.

My former boss and dear friend, the camp’s director, had passed away several years away,
leaving the camp to now be run by two of his sons.

I had been very close to the older of the two boys.

At the time, he was instrumental in the growth of my Christian faith.

He was one of those individuals who you knew had a relationship with
Christ that transcended both time and space.
There was a depth not normally seen in “normal” Christians.
There was a mysticism.
There was a sense that He was privy to something that was not experienced by many others.
It was so much greater than…

There was a diligence to his faith.
A detachment from the world, yet done so graciously and most willingly.
It was a relationship that had been tried in a furnace…
a furnace so hot that it had burned away all the dross.

It was a relationship that I marveled over from afar.
A relationship that I wanted yet always felt as if it was just beyond my reach.

During that time, I had also become close friends with another counselor.
She and I both were attending the same college,
however, we had not met until our summers working at camp.

She was a hungry and joyous Christian..strong and uncompromising in her faith.

The three of us became quite the trio.
I earned the name slugly…the questioning one who always seemed to be
lagging a step behind.
The one who still had the one foot in the world.

Despite my now almost manic positive spin on life,
I carried a heavy black cloud.

Most often my friend and I both felt like students sitting at
the feet of a master teacher as we learned so very much from our older and wiser friend.

His had once been a hard and rough life.
We were fortunate to have met him long after the darkness.
We were the grateful recipients of the light now shining through him.

Yet as life would have it, we remained as close as we could,
as our lives simply took us each on different journeys.
I married first, followed by our friend then finally my fellow counselor friend,
found her true love.

Three different states, jobs, children, and life, made the years race past with less and less contact.

What might I find after 40 years?

I felt a sense of heaviness and nervousness…a journey of trepidation.
The excitement of what might be was shadowed by both what was and what
had passed.

I knew that the camp had grown and even changed.
A boys camp and also a climbing adventure camp has become spin-offs of the
original girls camp. Things were much larger and not as intimate.

Billy Graham was the camp’s neighbor, living on the neighboring mountain top
and Montreat College was less than a mile up the road.

Graham was now gone but the college was still there having, like everything else,
grown and expanded.

We drove up from the what was once a sleepy mountain town that has since boomed
into a buzzing home to artists, breweries and eclectic eateries–
a top NC mountain must-see travel destination crowned by all things southern
and travel, Southern Living…crowned as one of America’s most charming small towns.

I pulled into the familiar hemlock lined gravel drive leading up to the main house…
and that’s when I stopped the car for the briefest of moments before quickly deciding to turn around…
simply driving back to town.

Just like that.

With all that growing anticipation and wonderment I felt during our drive from home…
in the end, I knew that the girl who had spent her summers in this small part of the world
had, in the end, moved on.

I decided to drive back leaving what was.. simply to be.

Later that evening, once back in town,
we started walking the couple of blocks from our Inn to the trendy new restaurant
that had been recommended to us.

While walking rather briskly, shielding ourselves against the bitter cold,
a group of college-age young folks fell in line behind us on the sidewalk.

All we could hear was ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that as they weren’t but
a few steps behind.
There were no filters, no restraints, no consideration for our obvious older ears,
that was for sure

They were loud and raucous, cursing as if uttering simple words in conversation.
I turned and smiled while giving that knowing look of
“hey, consider the other folks in your surroundings
as your language just might not be suitable let alone appreciated
by those in such close earshot.”

The loudest gal in the group just looked at me, not missing a beat
with her profanity-laced chatter.

Thankfully they veered off to head into one of the local watering holes
while we kept walking.

Aggravated by the thought that the one place I had always held somewhat sacred
and somewhat protected,
as it had been just that for me all these years ago, was now just like any other place invaded by
a youthful, progressive left-leaning, mindset as I saw many a Bernie, pro-choice, coexist, and all
things feminist stickers stuck on the cars parked along the sidewalks.

With the crisp mountain air now laced with cigarette smoke, the sweet scent of weed and stale beer,
I could feel my shoulders slump just a tad.

There was now a heavy dose of melancholy and irony found in being just the other side of
Ashville…the home to the great writer, Thomas Wolfe…

Wolfe was right you know…we can’t go home again.
Home is never the same.
The then is no longer as it is simply the now.

I was clearly reminded that our home is truly not of this earth.
Our peace will not ever be found here despite our constant searching.

For we are indeed strangers in a strange land…
We seek a home where we know our hearts will finally be at rest…
it is our life’s innate quest really.
Seeking a home that is beyond that which we have known…a home
that is eternal and somewhere just beyond those mountains I once
considered my haven of peace.

I think that’s what my friend had known all those years ago…it just took
me forty years to figure it out.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,
so that when they speak against you as evildoers,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

the realities of our irreligious times…

“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


(detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling)

Tis the season that the collective thoughts of Western Civilization turn to all things
Christmas…and for many others, all things Hanukkah.

Shopping, Christmas fairs, parties, presents, food, candy, baking, traveling…
and perhaps less and less are the thoughts of manger scenes, candles, dreidels, caroling,
Christmas pageants, Advent wreaths, Menorahs, Midnight Mass, the lighting of candles
Christmas vigils…

I have written on and off, for the past near seven years, about the growing tide
of secularism—of which is rapidly eroding the Judeo-Christian foundation that
has been our chief founding cornerstone since its conglomerate inception during
the latter days of the Roman Caesars.

And in those seven years, the erosion has only grown exponentially.

Now we should know that the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is a relatively new term–
especially compared to the moral foundation that those same two words helped build.

Some even argue that such a principle is a falsehood—that Western Civilization and
Judeo-Christian do not go hand in hand.
Such principles are not the making of the chief cornerstone of the civilization
we call our own.

I for one, however, disagree…as I have written a myriad of posts as to why those two words
most certainly do matter in both the building and longevity of our Western Civilization,
but no need to rehash that now–because today’s thoughts deal with a couple of
articles that recently came across my radar.

The other day my eye caught a title to an article that caused me to stop, taking
the time to read what it had to say.

It’s an article about how millennials are leaving religion and not coming back.

The “not coming back” part was what I found to be troubling.

The article notes that over the decades many a generation of youth,
especially when going off to college, would, in the immortal words of R.E.M,
lose their religion…only to come back to the fold once they settled, married
and began having children.

It was a homecoming of sorts to the religious raising of one’s youth.
Returning to life’s moral compass.

But the millennial argument is that religion causes more trouble than it eases
and one can still be ‘moral’ without the guidance of religion…
and so, who needs it?!
They, nor their children, will be returning to the fold.
No desire, no need…

Hummmm—

Here is the article:

Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back

And so a few day’s later I caught another article about some sort of hybrid Baptist Church
in North Carolina that is pro-socialism, pro LGBTQ, and pro debt forgiveness—
as in not forgiving trespasses but actual debt (think AOC’s wants).

Rather than reading and studying, say, one of the various books of the Bible, they’re
reading Karl Marx…
That was about all I needed to read before X-ing out of the article…
but I went back in and read on.

The article is long and yes, intentions might be meant for what seems to be the good
and well-intended, but that’s the problem these days…
well-intended does not get one to Heaven….well-intended and Salvation do not go
hand in hand.

These types of up and coming morphing churches rewrite the whole narrative of God’s word to man.
They change the ‘what to do and the what not to do’, as stated by God, all in order to
assuage the feelings of those who threw the notion of sin out with the baby and the bathwater.

Add into the mix ours being a grossly materialistic commercialism driven society.

That’s also something I’ve written about over the years.

In fact, it all runs together…
The loss of our moral direction…along with our growing hunger for things,
the self-medicating found through sexual immorality, addictions, technology…
the demise of the traditional family…
the blurring of sexual identity…
ad infinitum…

Pope John Paul II noted in a mass at the Capital Mall in Washington, D.C.–

The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure,
comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.”

Meaning that our attentions have turned more and more to our own selfish wants
rather than our needs and the needs of our fellow man.

We simply cannot pick and choose what we do and do not like of God’s word.
And thus condoning the lifestyle of such communities like the LGBTQ communities as being
sanctioned by God is in a word, wrong.

Here’s the article:

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/jubilee-baptist-church-debt-forgiveness-lgbtq-socialism

Adding to these two articles, I read something rather telling on the Zwinglius Redivivus blog–

Millennials Were Failed By Churches When They Were Teens
So they’re leaving and not coming back.

So it looks like all those pizza parties and game sessions and all the other crap
they were given as teens in youth group didn’t pay off.
Maybe they should have been given the gospel instead…

Hummm…

https://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2019/12/13/millennials-were-failed-by-churches-when-they-were-teens/

However, this next story offers a bit of optimism…well for me at least.

And maybe having been raised under the umbrella of Anglicanism in the Episcopal Chruch,
I can perhaps see this little current event as a delightful positive.

It has to do with our favorite across the pond former Anglican cleric and his move to the
Catholic fold.
A move I actually saw long coming.
And a move that has great meaning to my own little spirit…
but well chat about that later…

The article gives a bit of background as to why Bishop Ashenden stepped down from his position as
Chaplin to the Queen which eventually lead to his parting with the Anglican denomination.

The outspoken prelate became a global media celebrity after he objected to the
reading of the Koran at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Koranic chapter on Mary, read from the lectern at the service of Holy Communion,
on the Feast of the Epiphany 2017, explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus.

Under pressure from Buckingham Palace, Dr. Ashenden resigned his royal chaplaincy in order
to be free to challenge the rising tide of apostasy in the Church of England.

Later that year, Ashenden was consecrated a missionary bishop to the United Kingdom
and Europe by the Christian Episcopal Church to provide episcopal cover to traditionalist
Anglicans leaving the Church of England.

Hummm…

Here’s the article:

https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/anglican-bishop-and-queens-chaplain-converts-to-catholicism

So perhaps to sum all of this up, this post is actually a small look at the comings and goings
of the foundation of our faith…our moral compass, our religion, our Western Civilization,
our Judeo-Christian base, and the continued erosion and rewriting of it all…
for both bad and perhaps some good…

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous,
without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness,
but denying its power.
Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

in pursuit

“Among the strange things of this world,
nothing seems more strange than that men pursuing happiness should knowingly quit the right
and take a wrong road, and frequently do what their judgments neither approve nor prefer.”

John Jay


(some of norht Georgia’s finest…Arkansas Blacks and Winesaps / Julie Cook / 2019)

The rains had departed, the clouds were racing off, chasing the latest weather front,
and now the air was actually, delightfully, a bit chilled.

This was to be a short-lived moment as the weather folks were telling us that the
temperatures would be rising this week while the rains would be returning by Tuesday with a vengeance.
Bad weather in the South, no matter what the time of year, is something to be wary of…

So if we wanted to seek out a single colored leaf, now was our moment.

And thus we got into our vehicle Sunday morning and decided to point the truck following
the compass arrow pointing north…or so said the dashboard readings…north.

It’s just about a 2-hour drive from the house to reach North Georgia’s apple capital–
Elijay and her fellow communities of Blue Ridge, Cherry Log, etc…

We almost thought we’d move up this way about a year ago…
but that’s another story for another day.

As the truck’s compass continued pointing north, north-east, we drove on, passing
various polestars pointing towards various destinations…

I must confess, I’ve never been to, let alone seen, Rock City.
Have you?

It was always my understanding, since I was a little girl back in the day,
that farmers were paid to paint the famous “See Rock City” on the sides or roofs
of their barns but I can’t say for certain…
However I always did want a Rock City birdhouse…but I digress

Finally, just before noon, we found the ‘apple barns’ selling the fruits of their labors and harvest.

There were fried apple pies, preserves of every shape and description along with pumpkins for sale.
However, we had come for apples and apples it would be.

There were Grannysmiths, Jonagolds, Pink ladies, Honey crips, Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Ozark Gold, Romes,
Fujis…any variety you’d like to purchase is most likely found by the bag or bushel.

I opted for the tried and true Winesaps and a bag of Arkansas Blacks—
an apple variety that I’m told does best if it is stored chilled in a root cellar for a few months—
Since I don’t have a root cellar, I’ll opt for the fridge in the basement.

After gathering our apples, we continued northward toward a stop in the quaint mountain
town of Blue Ridge…the home of the North Georgia Railway offering train rides up through
the north Georgia mountains.

Blue Ridge is such a dog-friendly little town.
Some of the public parking lot’s proceeds go toward the local animal shelters.
We saw every kind of dog on holiday with “their people.”

We stopped for lunch at a lovely spot on the crowded downtown strip, Harvest on Main,
a place we’ve enjoyed on previous visits.
I had the tastiest drink sporting some local bee pollen…go figure!


(The Harvest / Julie Cook / 2019)

As the afternoon was beginning to wane, we opted to head back toward the more flatlands of home
rather than continuing eastward over the northern part of the state towards Blairsville, Helen
and Georgia’s gold capital of Dalonagha…

Sadly, however, we were more than aware that we had yet to really see any colorful foliage,
as our Fall is struggling from our having had one more extreme record hot and dry Summer.

We retraced our steps back towards Elijay, opting to take Hwy 52 / 2, a road that would carry us over
Fort Mountain back towards Chatsworth, Ga. and Hwy 411 South.

I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life, less than two hours away from Fort Mountian,
and yet I had never heard of this “mountain” nor of the state park of the same name.

“Mystery shrouds the ancient stone wall of Fort Mountain State Park,
located near the Cohutta Wilderness, offering you a look back in time to the previous inhabitants,
as you discover 60 miles of recreational trails and majestic overlooks.”
A scenic drive on Highway 52 near the Cohutta Wilderness leads visitors
to this mountain getaway.
Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will find some of the most beautiful trails in Georgia,
winding through hardwood forest and blueberry thickets,
crossing streams and circling a pretty lake.
Hikers can also explore a stone fire tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
and an ancient rock wall that stands on the highest point of the mountain.
The mysterious 855-foot-long wall is thought to have been built by early Indians
as fortification against more hostile Indians or for ancient ceremonies.

During summer, visitors can cool off on a lakeside beach.
Park guests may stay overnight in fully equipped cottages, a campground or backpacking campsites.

Fort Mountain State Park History

Fort Mountain State Park sits at the southwestern end of the Cohutta Mountains
near the Cohutta Wilderness. Sitting at 2,850 ft above sea level, Fort Mountain
is a great destination for hiking and history lessons alike.
The area in and around the park was home to the Cherokee Indians for hundreds of years,
and their legacy is still felt throughout North Georgia today.

We stopped at an overlook, just before reaching the state park, that was actually the pinnacle of this
“mountain”— hoping to catch a touch of color.
The vistas pointed toward both Tennessee and North Carolina.

There was a couple with their dog who had also climbed up to the outlook.
They asked where we were from… we told them and they told us that they were from
Jacksonville, Fl. They had driven up last year and had opted to come back this year.
They were just so impressed to know that Georgia had such splendor.
I inwardly smiled with a touch of pride as we all like hearing folks from other states
saying nice things about your own state.

But as you can see, there was little if any color for viewing.
A few yellows, a few reds but green is still reigning supreme.

Maybe in a few more weeks things will be turning more colorful…

Despite the lack of fall color—the deviation of a pursuit that was other than
the typical was most welcomed and most refreshing…plus I learned a thing or two
about my state that I didn’t know before…

How’s that little verse, or is it a poem, go??
‘The world is wide and wonderful, wherever we may roam…
but our thoughts return to precious things such as friends and love and home…

It’s not always the pursuit now, is it???…
It is, more or less, the journey itself that is what matters most…

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105
(as seen on a small country chruch’s sign during our drive northward)

beating still, the heartbeat bill…or the day the sky was falling in Georgia

The final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to a meaningless existence.
It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end.

James Dobson

Bill 481, the Georgia Heartbeat bill, has made it past both the Georgia House and Senate…it now
heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature to make it a law.

It is considered one of the most stringent abortion laws in the Nation.
The gist is that at 6 weeks, the heart of a fetus beats independently of the mothers…
thus the baby is a living human being…and therefore no abortion is to be performed…
not unless there is some dire outstanding circumstance.

So the Black Caucus is now sounding their alarm of shame shouted to the legislators who have
let down their constituents due to the passing of this bill.
“How dare they”—they clamor.
“How dare you let down those who voted you into office to defend their choices…”

Have those black caucus leaders forgotten about who’s supposed to be defending the babies?

The ACLU is promising to see “Georgia” in court.
They hope the higher courts will strike down this law as unconstitutional.

A letter containing 40 signatures from Hollywood’s ‘elitest’ actors and actresses has now been
posted declaring their boycott of Georgia…

Hollywood banks about 10 million bucks yearly for Georgia.

It will be nice to have fewer overinflated ego running around the state as we already have our
fair share of inflated egos without Hollywood’s help.

Yet our local newscasters have voiced near dire apoplexy over the economic impact that this
bill will have on Georgia’s economy.

Ohhhh, that Hollywood will leave us…

Or what of the other major businesses that will leave us or dare we say it…never come?!

Or what of the immigrants who will seek out Georgia since, if they are pregnant,
a baby delivered in Georgia might be fast-tracked to citizenship since abortion is
now a passe event??

The sky is definitely falling in Georgia Henny Penny.

Previously, a similar bill in Kentucky was struck down by the higher courts as unconstitutional.
The naysayer pundits are saying that the same will hold true for Georgia.

And despite the transgender bathroom bill being struck down in North Carolina, it, according to
our news broadcasters, has had a lasting economic impact on NC’s state economy.
Dare Georgia share the same fate.

Money vs the life of a baby.

What in the hell is wrong with our priorities????

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God
and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

where will you be???

On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain:
either you will reach a point higher up today,
or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to
climb higher tomorrow.

Friedrich Nietzsche


(solar viewing glasses / Julie Cook / 2017)

Maybe you’ve heard,
maybe you haven’t….
there’s to be a really big event on August 21st.

I figured this out when a local realtor mailed out to the folks in our county
some funky little paper gasses advertising her reality business.

The glasses are paper things similar to what you use to get to view things in 3D.
These however have foggy looking lenses with the realtors name splashed on the sides.

I figured they were for viewing the fourth of July’s fireworks…
that is until I spotted the words “solar viewing glasses” on the inside of
the frames.

Curious I thought maybe there’s something going on I don’t know about.
A little search quickly informed me that yes, something big is to be going on…
on exactly August 21st.

A total solar eclipse will skirt across North America from Oregon to South Carolina.
It’s being dubbed “the Great American Total Solar Eclipse” as it’s isolated to
just North America, from sea to shining sea.

And you better believe the Atlanta news is already rife with the stories of where,
when and how to best view this rare occurrence.

My cousin who lives up in North Georgia, just this side of the South Carolina border, called asking if we wanted to drive up for the “show” as they are to be in
a great place for viewing.

Really?

I think those who will be in the path will be treated to about a 2 minute show
give or take.

“It brings people to tears,” Rick Fienberg, a spokesperson for the
American Astronomical Society (AAS), told Space.com of the experience.
“It makes people’s jaw drop.”

Really?

Now granted the last total such eclipse was in 1979.
Back then there weren’t fancy little viewing glasses—
just a piece of paper along with another piece of paper cardboard with a hole
cut in the middle… such that the cast shadow of the event would then show onto
the other paper…
all this for “safe” viewing lest you go blind staring at the sun.

Staring at the sun is never wise to those who treasure sight
as well as their eyes!

I think the glasses will make it all way cooler then our old school two
pieces of paper…just saying.

There will be about a 70 mile wide swarth flowing across Oregon,
Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
With reports that “Aug. 21, 2017, may be one of the worst traffic days in
national history, some NASA representatives predict”…
so they’re telling folks to plan accordingly.

Really?

Now granted I may sound a bit cynical.
And don’t get me wrong….
I love a “heavenly” occurrence just as much as the
next person.
I can get swept up in the hoopla just as easily as everybody else
when something really big is anticipated to happen.

Remember partying like it was 1999…
in 1999…
at the stroke of midnight when we went from one millennium to another???
What with all that Y2K pandemonium…
that whole ‘where will you be when the earth goes black’ frenzy???

I was on my couch….
with my husband sound asleep on one end, my son and I
watching the ball drop in Times Square on the other end…
Once the ball dropped and we still had power and the earth was still
in one piece and the 2nd coming had not come…
I sent my son to bed.

So yes, I can get just as excited.

So with all the history of eclipses now making the rounds…
Given how those in ancient times reacted to such astronomical occurrences…
as in the sky is falling Henny Penny…

Add in all the speculations from all the calculations as to what this is
now all to mean..what with this latest lining up in the heavens…
coupled by the coincidence of various dates and patterns…
What with those who are currently stock piling their prepper safe rooms…

And well….I’ve got my glasses.

And with all of this latest stirring over phenomenons that are out of our control…
I actually wonder….

What would happen if folks were to get this excited thinking about the coming of
our very final redemption?

What would everyone do that sudden moment the heavens parted,
and in that Eastern sky, Jesus made His presence known….

There’d be no time to get the special viewing glasses,
helping to keep eyes protected from His blinding Light…
there’d be no time to plot and plan where the best place would be for
viewing that true “Second Coming”…
There’d be no time for news stories,
not fees taken for prime viewing rights….
and of what time would there be to say “yes, Lord, I am indeed
a sinner who is in need of your saving Grace….”

So how much greater will that day be in comparison to a total eclipse
of the sun…..

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth
distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.
For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the
Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Now when these things begin to take place,
straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21:25-28

Here’s the link for information regarding the eclipse:

https://www.space.com/33797-total-solar-eclipse-2017-guide.html

altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

dscn0509
(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

I lift my eyes to the hills

DSC00135

I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121: 1-8

When I was in college, I worked for a girls camp up in the mountains of North Carolina (see Post Why teaching, or how God dropped my life on my head). I loved being in the mountains. I had grown up in Atlanta and even though this was about 35 years ago, Atlanta was much as it is today–crowded, noisy, terrible traffic, exhaust from a sea of cars and buses, a huge mass of urban sprawl. In the mountains there was peace, quiet, no confusion, no (obvious) pollution. Life was lived much slower as the “rat race” seemed to be “down in the valley” back in the big cities.

I felt so much closer to God. The very distractions, the things that vied for my attention, were not here. I can remember hiking to the top of a mountain outside of Black Mountain, the location of the camp, sitting down and surveying the beautiful view. There was nothing but hills/ mountains, green, trees, blue skies, a massive silence only broken by an occasional call of an unseen bird, as white popcorn clouds lazily floated overhead. I hated the very thought of ever leaving. I can remember specifically “talking” with God, or rather pleading and lamenting as to why I would ever have to go back “down there”—back to where I knew I would not be able to hear Him as well. I could be a “better” follower and listener up here. It just made sense that I should stay here. This would be my cloister, my convent. I would live a contemplative life here.

The dichotomy of my life, playing out once again. The frustration of the part of me that so desperately sought nature, a simpler, slower life, a call to serve God by sitting at His feet each day and simply listening, verses the part of me that was the “city girl”, the “get up and go” girl. I couldn’t see then what it was that God saw and knew was to be my life.

Back home, as I was student teaching and having to traverse the Atlanta expressways,— the deadly 285, better known as the Perimeter–the interstate lassoing this massive city– each day, making my way from my home to the school, I often found myself sitting in a traffic nightmare, sitting behind a Marta bus (Atlanta’s transit system) breathing in the heavy noxious fumes of a diesel engine…wondering why it was that I was sitting here and not in the mountains somewhere.

I wrote of my remorse to a friend who did live in the mountains, as he lived at the camp year round as a caretaker. One day a package arrived at my house from Black Mountain. Inside was a jar of water. Placed inside the jar of water were various stones, shells, and other “natural” objects. There was a note..the note read that whereas he, my friend, could not give me the mountains or the life I seemed to be yearning for, he could send me a part of that world–captured in this small jar. The clear water represented the mountain streams and the clear blue skies. The stones and shells represented just that, all things found in nature. Each time I felt lost, sad, or simply found myself yearning to be elsewhere, I was to look at the jar and remember that it was/is all still there, waiting for me to come back for a visit.

I have carried that jar with me all these many years since. It sat in my classroom for 31 years. Each new year would bring a group of new students, always asking as to why I had a glass jar of water, with rocks in it, sitting on my desk. And each time I would proceed telling them my story, again and again. The kids would be somewhat reflective upon hearing the story as I think they too understood yearning for something more, or something else–most often as a young person, naturally, does yearn for more to life. But my yearnings were deeper and of a most spiritual nature.

I still find myself yearning for more of God and maybe that equates to my yearning for more from God. Yearning to serve Him better, yearning to hear Him better. Wondering where my journey, this life of mine, will take me. And just as it was then, it is now, today, the same–He can see all of that well before I can even sense it. And so I must trust and continue trusting and I must listen and continue listening. As I serve others I sense I am always closer to Him, no matter where I may be–and I suppose that is the point of it all—serving others brings me closer to Him.

I will continue lifting my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help—my help, my solace, my encouragement, my peace. May you too find your help, your solace and your peace–wherever God may lead you. Amen

(photograph: Cades Cove, TN /Julie Cook 2011)