To all those who won’t be making it home this Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick —
even when you’re home.

Carol Nelson

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time;
a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of,
in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open
their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

Charles Dickens


(an odd site here at home / Julie Cook / 2018

Driving home yesterday after visiting the dentist, I was cutting through an area of town
full of some of our communities older homes, when I found myself driving behind a
vintage WWII Army ambulance.

An odd sight but suddenly I felt strangely transported to a different time and era.

The vehicle, the homes, the time of year.

If you didn’t happen to notice the small security company sign out front of this house,
you might just think it was 1943.

My thoughts drifted across time and space to places that were far away from
my own current little corner here in Georgia.

Despite there being such a heightened sense of urgency wafting through the air
this time of year…
What with the odd increase in mid-day traffic and the massive number of folks hustling
here and there…along with that unseen force that was moving the masses of folks
to go out and buy, buy, buy with a frantic frenzy…

And despite the current pull I was personally feeling to race from the dentist to some
local den of commercialism, seeking out those last minute items to fill in the blanks…
I felt a tinge of warming nostalgia instead.

I heard Bing Crosby’s crooning…his rich melodious voice echoing deep in my head.

A small smile spread across my face for no one in particular to see.

A simpler time, yet a precarious time.
A warmer time of humanity, yet a violent time for our world.

No matter that it was an ominous time,
we knew what our collective civilization was fighting for.
We were a united civilization standing against a giant monster of tyranny and an invasive evil.

There was a decisive and determined collective willingness to sacrifice.
Rations, victory gardens, sharing and giving when there wasn’t ever much to give nor share.

There was a joint desire for unity.
A shared experience of apprehension blanketed by a blessed sense of thankfulness.

I found myself gently humming a familiar yet comforting tune.

My gift to you today…

“In 1943, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” joined “White Christmas” to become one of
America’s most popular homegrown holiday songs.
Recorded in a rich baritone by Bing Crosby,
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” shot to the top ten of the record charts
(as “White Christmas” had for Crosby the previous year)
and became a holiday musical tradition in the United States.”
Library of Congress

smoke gets in your eyes

“There may be a great fire in our soul,
yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it,
and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”

― Vincent van Gogh


(image The Smokey Mountians, credit Pixabay)

A hundred moons ago, my cousin and I…
a cousin who was more brother than cousin,
…well we’d spend the better part of our latter teens and early 20’s perched at a British Pub
in Atlanta listening to such classics as Waltzing Matilda and Over There…

Despite this being the late 70’s and the early 80’s, one would think it was actually the early
part of the 20th century during a First World War.

Of course, that was on the weekends when the lovely older woman would come in to play
the piano, while we’d all gather around said piano, singing such classic songs of days gone by…
songs such as those sung while our boys were indeed still “over there”…
in a different lifetime, far removed from our own but one we still knew.

Yet on other nights, the bar would play the songs of such groups as the Platters…
my cousin’s favorite group.

My cousin was killed in a car wreck in 1980…
he was 23 and I was 21…

There were a handful of tapes found in his car at the time of his accident,
I kept two of the tapes–one being the Platter’s tape.

‘Smoke gets in your eyes.’

Oddly this wee granddaughter of mine seems to love riding in the car while listening to
such golden oldies…

“Joy belongs to those who understand that
earth is but a rehearsal
for heaven. Nothing in life is wasted
that remembers this.”

-Calvin Miller

won’t let nobody hurt you….

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me.
Of course we will hurt each other.
But this is the very condition of existence.
To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter.
To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


(two plovers wandering for a meal / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Songs always seem to just pop into our heads do they not?
Current songs, past songs, songs from childhood…
Songs for singing, humming, shouting…
As it seems that songs, as well as music in general,
is a very real emotional part of what makes us…us.

Walk into any grocery store and there is music being piped in throughout the store.
Elevators, restaurants, stores all serenade us with background music and song.
As there is some really powerful psychological magic taking place with those
songs and music choices…what they say about us as consumers and what they say
about us simply as people..is perhaps that they showcase how we are actually wired.

So for whatever reason, the Pretenders song, “I’ll Stand By You” popped
into my head as I was just getting my first cup of morning coffee.
I was having to travel over to Atlanta to met with the nice gal at the cemetery
as it seems that in my overwhelming and chaotic time since Dad’s death—
I forgot one little detail.

I forgot to pick out, and of course pay for, a grave marker.
Or actually I thought I had just told her that I’d take something matching
the other family members already there waiting on dad….
but it seems it does’t work that way.

So there I was grabbing a quick cup of coffee before jumping in the shower,
I was focused on Atlanta…
why suddenly the song?
I was dreading the mind numbing morning commute to a city paralyzed by a closed interstate
when this song just suddenly rings out in my head.
“I’ll stand by you…won’t let no body hurt you…I’ll stand by you”

Sometimes, for whatever reason, it is very clear that God directs what I’m to
write about for a post.
He can be very specific that way.
And no, I don’t buy into the notion of coincidence or happenstance.
I believe things are connected and there are reasons beyond my understanding
and I believe in the nudging of the Holy Spirit…

So back to the song.

The sentiment is wonderful and heartfelt.
Something we as parents, grandparents, guardians, friends all adopt
for the people and animals we care about and love.
We want to love, honor, protect and defend those in our care and those whom we cherish.

Any parent will tell you that they try their darnedest to protect and defend
their children….sometimes that means going way over the top…
But any parent who has been around the block once or twice will tell you—
accidents will happen, sickness will happen, bad things will happen
and no matter how much you, as defender, may protest…hurt will happen.

We cannot protect those we love from being hurt in life, no matter how hard we try.

Skinned knees, broken bones, broken hearts…all rites of passage.

The worst being the unforeseeable accidents, illnesses, tragedies that just happen.
The automobile accident, the freak accident, the cancer, the random act of violence.
They all sadly happen.

Does it mean we failed to do our jobs?
…that we could have somehow done something superhuman in order to prevent
the unthinkable?

99.9% of that answer is a resounding NO!
Nothing could have prevented the unavoidable hurt.

And so now, in that unpreventable hurt, we in turn now hurt.
As some of us will never get over that hurt.

Which in turn leads me to think about God—as Father.

That we have a God, who we are taught, loves us as His children.
And yet there has been many a soul who has raised a clinched angry fist heavenward
cursing and blaming this “loving Father” for the hurt…

Our hurt is indeed His hurt.

And to assuage our hurt, He offered the ultimate hurt…

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;
and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin,
but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28

“I’ll Stand By You”

Oh, why you look so sad?
Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now
Don’t be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through
’cause I’ve seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you
You don’t know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you

So if you’re mad, get mad
Don’t hold it all inside
Come on and talk to me now
Hey, what you got to hide?
I get angry too
Well I’m a lot like you
When you’re standing at the crossroads
And don’t know which path to choose
Let me come along
’cause even if you’re wrong

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you

And when…
When the night falls on you, baby
You’re feeling all alone
You won’t be on your own

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you

I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you

we didn’t start the fire

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Billy Joel


(image courtesy ABC News / Santa Clarita fire of 2016)

I agree we didn’t start the fire,
but…..
I’m not so certain that I agree with Billy Joel that we’ve really tried to fight it.

I see the current images of protesters, marchers, demonstrators…
full of contempt and vile discord.
I see the looting, the vandalism, the cars overturned,
the broken glass, the fires started…
once again, in the name of cause.

I hear the rhetoric of anti this and anti that…
the blaming, the finger pointing,the divisive dismissal of one human to another…

Maybe your mindset is that none of this is your fault.
You didn’t cause any of this to happen.
For better of worse you and me, we’ve merely inherited this mess….
right?

As each generation bemoans the generation before it while present generations
opine about the future…

Rather than igniting new fires, fueling fires or fanning fires…
all of which this country has gotten really good at doing,
perhaps it would behoove all of us to simply start extinguishing the fires…..

The one who sins is the one who will die.
The child will not share the guilt of the parent,
nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.
The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them,
and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Ezekiel 18:20

there must be something in the water…

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”

― Norman Maclean,

RSCN2830
(a thriving viola / Julie Cook / 2016)

Somedays we write our posts laced with happiness and smiles,
As other days we find our posts derived from the midsts of infectious laughter.

Some posts are written when deep in thought…
While others are written briefly, gliding across the screen…
with the lightness of a feather,
caught innocently on a Spring morning’s breeze.

There are reflective posts written as mirrors of the times…
While others are written in anticipation of our promised tomorrows.
As still there are those posts written forlornly…
remembering all that has ever been…

Some days posts are written through eyes filled with tears,
with tear streaked cheeks and the ache of breaking hearts.

They are written through the frustration of helplessness…
and at times, through the desperation of hopelessness….

Some days they are written selfishly for ourselves…
While other days they are written without our conscious knowledge,
only intended for those “others” out there in need…

Today is no different…

A post is composed.

Today it comes from the heaviness of a battered heart.
The tears have somewhat dried,
yet the wet streaked tracks remain etched on cheeks hiding a set jaw of clenched teeth.

A call, a text, is often all it takes to change the day.
As ongoing battles loom out of reach and out of control.

The story is the same, merely growing longer.
Harder to smooth out.

Lives long gone are keenly missed as their empty presence cuts through both space and time…
Their losses suddenly feeling as fresh today as they did so very long ago..
like a searing knife falling through cold butter.
Effortlessly the hurt floods back.

Having been left alone to deal with it all seems, today, almost monumental.
Resentment for all that was comes crashing to the forefront.

Choices made, always the choices made, effect more than ourselves,
Yet at the time, who thinks of others or future others affected?
Our choices are selfishly seen as our own…

Born a fixer,
I fix things.
It’s what I do.
Yet as life will always have its way,
we each quickly discover that fixing is not always possible…

So we, the fixer and the observers, are relegated to helplessly and hopelessly watching…

Expendable is what we quickly become when the lost look to holding on to what they have.
Desperation and panic trumps rationality and ties that bind.

It’s like the song that gets stuck in one’s head.
Over and over it plays, seemingly without any end.
Never seeming able to string all of the verses together…
in order for it to end.

And just when you think you are broken, be it for the day or for life,
dropped to your knees with the tears freely flowing,
A word, maybe two, maybe several…suddenly surface from somewhere deep within your head…

“couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees…
Saying, “God if you’re there, come and rescue me….”

“Something In The Water”
By Carrie Underwood

He said, “I’ve been where you’ve been before.
Down every hallway’s a slamming door.
No way out, no one to come and save me.
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me.

Then somebody said what I’m saying to you,
Opened my eyes and told me the truth.”
They said, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better.”
So I followed that preacher man down to the river and now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger

There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water

Well, I heard what he said and I went on my way
Didn’t think about it for a couple of days
Then it hit me like a lightning late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight

Couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, “God, if you’re there come and rescue me.”
Felt love pouring down from above
Got washed in the water, washed in the blood and now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger

There must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water

And now I’m singing along to amazing grace
Can’t nobody wipe this smile off my face
Got joy in my heart, angels on my side
Thank God almighty, I saw the light
Gonna look ahead, no turning back
Live every day, give it all that I have
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed I am changed
And now I’m stronger

There must be something in the water (amazing grace)
Oh, there must be something in the water (how sweet the sound)
Oh, there must be something in the water (that saved a wretch)
Oh, there must be something in the water (like me)
Oh, yeah

I am changed (I once was lost)
Stronger (but now I’m found)
(was blind but now I see)

DSC02289
(Carrie Underwood, The Grand Ole Opry / Julie Cook / 2015)

lowly

“Only in God is found safety
When my enemy pursues me
Only in God is found glory
When I am found meek and found lowly. . .”

Lyrics Only in God by John Michael Talbot
based on Psalm 62

DSC02507
(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

DSC02506
(tiny toadstools / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2015 )

How often do we as Christians, who are in this world yet not of the world, find ourselves in need of a source of strength, of a place of refuge or even a sanctuary of solace?
Most likely we have a church body, or a bible study, or a group of committed friends who are often our spiritual mainstay—the meat and potatoes of one’s faith.
Yet, for some of us, that is not the case and we may find that we are more alone than not, cast adrift as it were, floundering on the seas of the tempest of temptation and struggle.

No matter where we may find ourselves along our Christian journey, chances are we will find that there are those moments and times when we need, when we desperately long, to retreat inwards.
We yearn and need to seek a time of quiet—-a time for reflection, a time of prayer and a time of meditation.

For me it has been those stolen interludes, here and there over the years, of solitude when I could lose myself within the music of John Michael Talbot. Ever since I was a senior in high school, I have been drawn to the songs–to the lyrics of this rather unassuming musician.
A man whose soothing voice, as he is accompanied usually by only his guitar, would / could worshipfully sing the psalms.

There has always been a pinpoint accuracy to his simple songs of worship, adoration, imploring and lamentation. . .
Reverence, honor, genuineness and honesty.
Singing the psalms, as I imagine them to have been sung by a lone cloistered monk or nun in his or her cell, alone, lost in deep thought before both Savior and God.

I have written a previous post about John Michael Talbot and his music, as well as the impact it has had on my own spiritual journey.
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/o-divine-master/

John Michael Talbot, who is more monk than anything else, is a Third Order Franciscan who lives, along with his wife, in a Catholic Community– The Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, Arkansas.

http://littleportion.org

An odd place to find a cloistered community of both lay and religious folk alike who live in a place named for St Francis’s original cloistered community in Assisi, Italy—yet it is a comfort knowing that there are such places that exist in this ever maddening world of ours.

Psalm 62 has always been one of my favorite psalms as it speaks so rawly to my own inner struggles with the unseen God of my Salvation.
It is truly in Him where I find my rest.
It is to Him I run when the world has had its way with me–leaving me battered and bruised.
A stronghold and anchor in which I may tether myself as I wait out the storms of life.
He is always greater, while I am reminded that I am indeed, forever smaller.

Yet even in all of His greatness, He not only sees and notices, but He actually knows. . .me.
And it is during such times that I am often reminded, rightfully so, that I am indeed less than.
That I can separate myself from the world—a world that so often puffs up its inhabitants steeping them in arrogance and self-centeredness.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for those who feel their worldly importance to ever humble
themselves to the Creator of all of Creation.

John Michael Talbot’s simple yet powerful rendition of Psalm 62 has always helped to recenter me—as it has always had a way of bringing me back to the beautifully complicated relationship I have with the Creator of all of Creation. . .

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 62