I can’t see St Franics!!!

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
― Francis of Assisi


(the unruly bushes covering poor St Francis / Julie Cook / 2017)

I am the keeper of the shrubbery.

Add to that, I’m really too old for shrubbery.

Meaning I plant it…I prune it, I sheer it, I chop it…
and somedays, I’d just like to burn it to the ground.
Think 5 acres that need tending to….as I’m knocking on the door of 60.

Usually I do a complete maintenance overhaul of the yard each spring…
But this past spring saw me serving vigil with Dad…
Then following his death it was a matter of sorrow and picking up the pieces.
There wasn’t much energy for bushes.

I’m still picking up the pieces, still dealing with his dealings…and some days,
I just can’t do much but still just be sad…
Throw in losing Aunt Maaaathaa in July and well…the yard…
well it went to the wayside….to the way way way side….
kind of like my get up and go.

Too much sadness has a way of stealing that get up and go.

I usually trim the shrubbery twice a year…first in the spring—
then I like to tidy up things come fall, readying everything for the winter.
Think Martha Stewart sans all the helpers….

In order to put out some fresh pinestraw, the bushes need to be trimmed.
Did I mention those two pesky blown out discs from last year…
well, they’re still blown and they make getting up and going none too easy.

And oh, and did I mention another hurricane is coming?

The fresh pinestraw is to be delivered mid week, the hurricane is coming Sunday and Monday… a two day event of winds and rain, rain and rain…of which the rain
is most needed this time of year.

All of which meant today was the day in which the trimming and cutting
had to get done…
otherwise the bushes would take over the house and no amount of fresh pinestraw
could hide that little fact.

You know it’s bad when St Francis has been consumed by the bushes.

Throw in one electric hedger….

and St Francis is now free…..

Which reminds me, the feast day of St Francis was Wednesday, Oct 4th.

Most folks, those of the faith as well as those not, think kindly of Francis.
He loved the animals don’t you know.
And who doesn’t like someone who loves the animals?

Yet there was much more to Francis than a love of animals.

I’ve written about Francis before.

And since I’m now past exhausted and very sore from my pruning and freeing Francis
from the bushes, I’ll keep this short and sweet….

Francis wasn’t always about loving animals.

No, Francis wasn’t always the peaceful loving monk with the funky haircut
(tonsure) that we know and love today…

Rather Francis was all about loving the world.

He was a spoiled rich kid who loved to party.
He was what we might call a bit of a ’rounder’…
meaning a wild young man given to a wanton life of drinking too much,
chasing women too much and working way too little.

Sounds very familiar…much like a modern day millennial….

Yet Francis found this sort of life of his…lacking.
As in empty.

Despite being very popular, a hearty partier and a well dressed dandy,
Francis felt less than.

There was a heaviness to his being…one he just couldn’t understand.
An emptiness that no amount of parties, or money or friends could fill.

And then God literally called his name….

Isn’t that great…???!!!

That God can see into the wantoness of the worldly something actually redeeming…???!!
Something more than and something He wants!!!

Meaning…there is truly hope for us all!!!

“I have been all things unholy.
If God can work through me,
He can work through anyone.”

Francis of Assisi

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

Isaiah 44:22

Party like it’s….

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’, could’ve sworn it was judgment day
The sky was all purple, there were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from the destruction, you know I didn’t even care
Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine

Lyrics to the song 1999 by Prince

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(a retired copper pot (still) on the grounds of the Jameson Distillery, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, Julie Cook / 2015)

You know the song…
That turn of the century, energy popping, everyone up on their feet, dancing fever crazy song that we shouted out with reckless abandon on New Year’s Eve 1999…

You know how us humans get on the eve on any sort of major potential earth altering event….
What with the turning of the century, and even better yet, the turn of the millennium…
Some of us were carrying the plackets “Repent the End is near”
while others of us were, well, throwing caution to the wind and partying hardy…
like it was 999, 1999…
you get the picture.

With the mindset having been that if this is indeed the proverbial “it,” as in the end of life as we know it, we might as well let out all the stoppers, no hold’s barred and live, literally, like there’s no tomorrow….

Well, guess what…?
Tomorrow came.
We actually survived the turn of the century, the turn of the millennium and even Y2K…
Yet some of us are still carrying on like it’s still 1999…

Our culture seems to be obsessed with the mindset of living and living large in the moment.
As each and every minute we spend waking should be pleasure absorbing—and if it’s not, life is simply less than.

Get, gather, have, possess, and enjoy.

Acquire as many goodies and toys as possible.
Live the good life.
Materialism.
Extravagance.
Glamorous
Rubbing elbows
The who’s who….

Live on the edge, throw your head back, smile, laugh, eat, drink and be merry… and let loose.

Cause this here life is one big party and if you ain’t enjoying and having fun,
then you ani’t living….
…and if you’re not living large, then you’ve got problems…

Or that’s what the world of entertainment and the big marketers of all those goodies would have us believe.

And there are even those of faith who would add to all of that by reminding us that our days are indeed numbered. Because hadn’t God not said that we have been promised but the one day we open our eyes…and even the full day isn’t a guarantee…
So yes, live life to the fullest because you are not promised tomorrow…

Yet that, living life so large that we block everything else out, was never the intent…
despite what the world would have any of us to believe.

Life is not one big party—and I know many of you don’t want to hear that.
“Debbie downer” is such a current quip slapped on anyone attempting to rain on the parade of all things grand.

And Christians get a bum wrap as the deadbeats of any party.
Throughout history those glum and dire faces that seem to exude nothing but sacrifice, denial and misery have not done much to further the faith as it were.
The world standing on one side all festive and shiny, while Christians stand on the other looking all stiff in their hair shirts are viewed as terribly uninviting…

No wonder so many observers are flummoxed over the whole opposing polar opposites of the world vs Christianity.
Who doesn’t want to be happy and have fun?
And who wants to put on a less than fashionable hair shirt…?

But there’s more to it than all of that surface business.
It goes much much deeper.

For you see, this whole world, with all it’s fancy smancy trappings, is but an illusion–
an illusion of both space and time…and the master of this realm works very hard to make you
feel quite at home and “comfortable”…in the illusion.
This world as we know it, is passing all away before our very eyes.
However most of us have been deluded into thinking otherwise…

Yet at the mere mention of such there are those of you who bristle.
You’re in charge of your own thinking, your own observations, and you will think what you choose.
Who wants to hear mumbo jumbo of the what ifs, the stifling Christian dribble…
for you see nothing of merit to the words I speak…

Yet there is something much more serious at the root of all of this…
There are underlying reasons to your unabashedly intense drive and desire for all that glitters..

There’s that disturbing little matter of one’s soul.
The what happens when this little party is indeed finally all over worry…the thing you never want to spend much time fretting over…
It’s the “what then” that is often the missing piece to the puzzle….

Do you really think that when it’s all over, when your life is over, that you just simply cease to be?
That the dearly departed just fall into the abyss of some black hole—the void of pure nothingness?
Is that what bothers you?
As in there is no more and that’s that?
Is it those nagging questions that you prefer not thinking about, is that what this living fast and furious is all about?

Or perhaps you think that it’s ok because you rationalized that if you’re good, you haven’t killed any one, you haven’t really been all “that” bad, as you’ve just wanted to live happy and have certainly done such,
so you think that that’s all ok with God as He’ll obviously let all the good people go to heaven….

What then of Jesus…?
What of His words…“if you love me…”
What of that….?
That nagging question?
There was also a “you will keep my commandments” which followed….
As in “do as I have commanded you.”
“If you love me”

Just like when he said…
“I am going now, leaving you here. But don’t worry, I’m sending a helper.
The Holy Spirit.
He will help guide you.
Don’t fret, I’ve given you what you need…and now it’s your turn…
You’ve got to go forth and share my words…my commands…all to a hurting world.
It won’t be easy.
You will be ridiculed.
You will be beaten.
You will be isolated
You will be thrown out.
You will be separated…
You won’t be believed.
You won’t be welcomed.
You will meet obstacles.
You will face perils.
It won’t be easy…

Yet rich will be your reward…

As in the reward which will follow after this party hardy world is finally quiet and all said and done…

Rich, welcoming, loving, inviting, arms open wide, fall into this love, sort of reward…

So yeah…
When the party is over in this short lived realm, the next party is going to pretty unbelievable and certainly out of this world…
The question…
Will you be invited?
and should you care if you aren’t….?

There is indeed so much more…

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
Revelation 22:12

Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all

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(my son and his wife toast a first anniversary with a “bushwhacker” / FloraBama / Julie Cook / 2015

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(the infamous FloraBama sign / the state line / Julie Cook /2015

This is a tale of a little bit of bad leading to a whole lot of good.
And no, I’m not talking about anything scandalous, risqué, illegal, unlawful or even sinful—just barely on the negative side of the whole moral radar.

I visited the Rivera this past weekend.
And no, it wasn’t that Rivera.

It’s a long story which started out several months ago when my husband, the one who doesn’t seem to check calendars, schedules or much of anything else when he blindly accepts an invitation for an outdoorsman’s dream adventure. In this instance, it was a deep sea fishing adventure that was actually an invitation extended to both my husband and son.

Now such an invitation would naturally be quickly chomped at and swallowed by both these two outdoor loving enthusiasts. . .
Trouble was that the weekend scheduled for the trip out to sea was the same weekend that marked a huge milestone in our family—-it was to be my son and daughter-n-law’s first year wedding anniversary.

Being the sentimental one that I am, I just didn’t see any good coming from a One Year Anniversary being spent apart—especially when it was by choice for a pleasure fishing trip verses say, deployment overseas, work, or catastrophic illness.
The long and short of all of that is that my husband relented in the fact that the two woman of the clan “would have” to now tag along.
Not to fish mind you, but to tag along to say, the beach.

My life as of late, as you all well know, has not exactly been my own.
Stress and worry simply do not do justice when describing life with Dad these days.
Getting away did not seem prudent, practical nor wise.
Guilt and anxiety actually dug deep.
Yet something buried way down in my psyche screamed GO! For Heaven’s sake, by all means GO, and don’t look back!!!!

Now this fishing trip was to set sail from an area known as the “RR” or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney, “the Redneck Rivera”
Not being a fan of country music nor of things denoted “redneck,” this would not exactly be a place I’d jump to visit as I am one who prefers the subdued, the quiet, the classic and the serene.
When I think of Rivera, I think of sophistication, charm, elegance and “haute” this or that . . .
Throw the word “redneck” out front and suddenly the sound of dueling banjos streams through my brain.

Upon arrival, to our home away from home for the weekend–which by the way was a very nice and stylish condo perched on the beach with little to nothing having to do with “redneck”- the sound of some rather loud music, emanating obviously from a live band jamming out somewhere nearby, filled the air.

I had heard strange tales of a local establishment and of its most infamous concoction, a Bushwhacker, in the general vicinity of our stay.
A den of iniquity of sorts linked to all things college and debauchery is what I had imagined and as it turned out, my imagination wasn’t far off course. . .

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(a wooden clad honky tonk situated on the Alabama / Florida line–perched in-between high-rise condos and parking decks)

The FloraBama, circa 1975, is a mecca for that whole “party on the beach” mindset of the young and often dumb—With the clientele of this particular establishment being not all so young, yet all equally lacking in better judgement.

Never one to miss a famous local attraction, I was game for a little look see. . .as well as a sampling of the oh so famous beverage!
There is a reassuring picture of President Obama sipping a Bushwhacker when he once visited this “business” no doubt on some sort of campaign adventure—so my rationale being, what’s good for the President, must be good for me as well, right???”
What’s the harm in a little chocolate, coconut, frozen medley with a few other added ingredients, served up like soft serve in a disposable cup topped with a cherry? Harmless enough right??

Well I won’t bore you with the details.

I won’t belabor the exploits of the young men and middle to upper aged woman, I watched from afar, stumbling along the beach as I simply shook my head.
Nor shall I understand the site of the older woman dressed as purple and gold Mardi Gras bags of beads, hung over their shoulders by suspenders with feathery boas cascading from their heads, as they paraded along the beach–participating in some sort of odd contest. . .
I won’t bask in reliving the happy thoughts of spending countless hours simply bobbing up and down on my blue noodle just like a lost little cork adrift in the placid Gulf
(note—noodles are for kids and I’m not proud)
I mustn’t speak of my now extra crispy red skin despite having sprayed—yes it hurts.
I shan’t rattle on about all the lovely fish that were caught–very tasty.
I won’t relive the image of my jaw dropping and mouth hanging agape as I entered into this haven of indulgence as my two younger protégées were left wondering if I hadn’t just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck. My college days having long since passed.
I shan’t confess to going barefoot for two solid days, traipsing in and out of the ocean, the beach, the “entertainment establishment” for a few Royal Reds (aka the best shrimp on the Gulf) over and over.
I shan’t expound on how good a trip, albeit it quick, sans shoes, worries, cares, agendas. . .can be for the spirit and soul of the weary. . .

But I will gladly extol the tastiness of a bushwhacker. . .

And may we all remember that obviously what happens on the Redneck Rivera, stays on the Redneck Rivera. . .or so say the Mardi Gras ladies. . .