The conductor and his time

Christianity is not a system of ethics; it is a life.
It is not good advice; it is Divine adoption.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from his book Remade for Happiness


(Conductor Harry Renshaw consults his pocket watch just prior to the departure of a
Boonton branch suburban commuter local on the Delaware,
Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the mid 1920s/ Pintrest)

I intended to continue our little thoughts about trains today but the Mayor and Sheriff
are set to come visit tomorrow so once again, time is pressing…
However, I’ve got time enough to throw out a quick thought.

My great-grandfather, a man I never knew, for reasons I’ve never learned,
brought his family all the way from New York to a rural area just north of Atlanta.
He went to work with the railroad and I still have his Hamilton pocket watch, a watch he
used as an integral part of his job of keeping trains on time.

Whenever I’ve traveled throughout Europe, I have always utilized the various train systems…
The trains are always clean, crowded yet punctual, as well as efficient, to a fault.

The one thing Italians will always credit Il Duce, aka the infamous Benito Mussolini, with is
his pre WWII promise that Italian trains will always run on time..and by gosh
they run on time to the minute to this very day.

If you a running late, say, due to a slow taxi, a traffic jam or a typical miscommunication
over a ticket, you can forget the train waiting…Italian trains wait for no man.

Thus I tend to think of God as this master sort of train conductor.
He’s sets both the date and the time.
He stands at the steps of our designated car with a watch in His hand.
He looks both left and right… yet doesn’t see us.
The second hand spins, the minute hand advances without hesitation.
He continues to look both left and right.
The engine begins to rumble…
The “All Abroad” is announced…time is of the essence…
yet we are absent from the platform.
God checks the clock one last time…
Time for the train to depart.

Did we think He’d wait on us?
Time, my friend, is fleeting.
Don’t be late.

“The saints flinch as instinctively as others when the cross comes along,
but they do not allow their flinching to upset their perspectives.
As soon as it becomes clear to them that this particular suffering is what God
evidently wants suffered, they stop flinching.
Their habitual state of surrender to God’s will has a steadying effect:
they do not get stampeded into panic or despair or rebellion or defeat.”

Dom Hubert van Zeller, The Mystery of Suffering
An Excerpt From
The Mystery of Suffering

sharing the right things???

“It is a lesson we all need—to let alone the things that do not concern us.
He has other ways for others to follow Him; all do not go by the same path.
It is for each of us to learn the path by which He requires us to follow Him,
and to follow Him in that path.”

St. Katharine Drexel


(the sun, clouds and sky / Julie Cook / 2021)

Time may one day be back on my side…
and so with no further ado, while I try my best to
jump back on this blog train….
let’s get on with the meat and potatoes…the substance and sustenance
of what really matters.

Picture the hobo train jumper running alongside a moving train full
of open boxcars…
He’s running as fast as he can in order to keep up with the
rapidly accelerating train…his outstretched arm straining to grab hold of a
hand rail that is just out of reach.
Does he dare leap, hoping to grab hold while pulling himself up into the open car
or does he slow his pace and let the train move on without him??

The risk?

Getting crushed and run over or missing the train???
Which is the greater loss??

I’m the train hopper, straining to grab hold—still running to
stay up with the moving train….that moving train is life itself!
And it will not be slowing down and it will not wait on us.

So I’m taking the chance, I’m leaping.
The hour is dire.
We need to speak up and out during these scary and very dark days.

As I was getting all my little computer ‘windows’ open, ready to start a post,
I was pulling up my email…and while doing so, I was quickly scanning the Yahoo
cover page of “news” snippets…a wealth of the headlines and the ‘dead’lines.

And suddenly one word came into clear focus in my brain…SHARING

The entire notion of sharing…

Sharing is caring right???
Isn’t that what we tell kids??

But is it???
Is it caring or is it careless??

One look at any electronic outlet (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, etc)
and it’s clear as rain, sharing is the name of the game.
That whole notion of TMI (too much information) has gone out the window.
Folks now want to air all sorts of laundry…the good, the bad and the ugly.
Boasting and Bragging
Shaming and degrading.

And so what is the benefit of such mindless, idol sharing?

The majority of what is being shared is more sordid, vile, foul, gossipy
false and inflammatory rather than it could ever be edifying, gracious and glorious.

There is so much we, the followers of Christ, need to be sharing throughout these most
precarious days as time is of the essence.

So let’s ask ourselves…are we sharing that which is truly worth chasing
a moving train over or is is more dribble than substance??

“Now there’s no one who approaches God with a true and upright heart who isn’t
tested by hardships and temptations.
So in all these temptations see to it that even if you feel them,
you don’t consent to them.
Instead, bear them patiently and calmly with humility and long-suffering.”

St. Albert the Great, p. 164
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

who turns sorrow to joy?

“My prayer is that the good God may establish His absolute reign
in your heart and in the hearts of all.”

St. Julie Billiart


(the clouds above a still sea / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Jesus will turn your sorrow into joy.
One can only imagine the shock and bewilderment the Apostles felt when
the Lord told them he must go away.
Though they could not understand it at the time, his departure was for their benefit.
The same is true of the unexpected setbacks and tragedies we experience in this life . . .
When I consider the times when I have been confounded by events that seemed so contrary
to what I thought God wanted for me, I should be mindful that they were permitted
by the Lord’s inscrutable providence for my own good, as difficult as that might be to fathom.”

Patrick Madrid, p. 251
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

How could one Julie not highlight another Julie??

Julie Billiart (12 July 1751 — 8 April 1816) was a French religious leader,
social worker, educator of poor children, and Catholic saint,
who founded and was the first Superior General of the Congregation of the
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
(Wikipedia)

ladies who lunch in the South

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered,
it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

Flannery O’Connor


(one of the many blue plates at Rachel’s in Watkinsville, Ga )

I’m not certain what exactly Ms O’Conner meant about us here in the South
being ‘Christ haunted’, but I suppose it has something to do with just another
thread woven into our long and at times, tragically sad past as Southerners.

But that past has much more happy than sad…it’s just that the sad gets more coverage

May it be known that I have always had a deep respect and affinity for the older residents
of our beautiful South.
And it probably should be known that possessing manners and respect seems to be just an innate
quality we Southerns seemed to born with…or maybe it was something that simply came from our grandmothers.

Today, I finally felt like I might live from the first dose of that blasted Pfizer vaccine.
The jury has been out since Saturday afternoon.

And since I did feel as if I might actually survive today, we went to visit a new dentist.

New doctors of every shape, size and description now seem to be filling our dance card.

Ode too moving.

And so since we now live in a place that is a bit “out”…
we’re within about 10 to 15 minutes to several nice little cities and towns.
One being the home to my alma mater.
But that once small city I knew 40 years ago, is now a massive teeming sea of humanity
all with a massive sea of speeding reckless cars.

The dentist, gratefully was in the opposite direction…located in a
delightfully charming small southern town.

When the hygienist was almost finished, I asked if she could recommend
a nice little place for lunch.

She asked if we liked southern cooking.
You know, those blue plate special places of yore.

“Well, yeah”, was my snappy response…as if my southern drawl didn’t give that away.

She recommended a place that was in a small shopping strip on our way back home.

When we pulled into the parking lot, it was full.
As in packed.

We spied the restaurant across the parking lot as there was even a line of cars
pulled up alongside the drive through window.

We made our way inside behind a line of the hungry myriad of lunch folks.

The young lady at the door took our name but shortly directed us to a long table
of about 8 chairs with two older women sitting at the opposite end
as we saddled up on the other end.

The place was packed and folks just kept pouring in.
Social distancing, I suppose, was in the best effect it could be.
There were plastic separators between booths and folks at the long tables
were spread out…

They had a dry erase board boasting the day’s delectables.
Fried chicken with white gravy
Patti melts
Meatloaf
Country fried steak
Grilled flounder
Grilled salmon
Chicken tenders
along with every vegetable and casserole imaginable.

One of the older women sitting at the end of our table asked if we were new visitors to
the restaurant.
We explained that we were new to the area so she immediately called over our waitress, Susan,
explaining that we were new and she needed to be nice to us.

Susan looked at us and winked, noting that her name was actually Suzanne.

Susan/ Suzanne immediately reappeared with a basket of hot, melt in your mouth, corn bread.
She then took our order.

The older lady at the end of the table asked if we liked banana pudding.
I told her that I was not a fan but my husband loved it.
She explained that this place had the best banana pudding out there.
It must, because I had overheard her when she ordered three to go.

The ladies proceeded to get Susan / Suzanne to come give us the run down
of hours of operation and the days with the best offerings.

After we had eaten all that we could manage to eat, a banana pudding magically
appeared in front of my husband.

We both turned and looked at the ladies.

They each immediately raised their hands in the air as if they had no clue as to
how a banana pudding could miraculously show up.

From the oohs and ahhhs, I think the whole place knew my husband loved his
banana pudding.

Susan /Suzanne came by and thanked us for visiting, telling us to please come again.
A little confused, we asked for our ticket so we could pay our bill.
Susan / Suzanne explained that our bill had been taken care of.

Again, we turned and looked at the ladies, who again, threw their hands in the air.

We profusely thanked them, offering to at least pay the tip, but they
happily chirped that that had been covered.

“Just come back” they joyously responded.

Southern charm and hospitality…our heritage.
And I for one, am thankful.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

on the move

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand,
as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven,
we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it–
but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


(a plethora of piping plovers / Julie Cook / 2021)

Since the notion of moving has been my current train of thought, I certainly appreciated
seeing these little guys doing much the same…
They always make me smile.
Smiles are good!


(piping plovers / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2021

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

when the crud is not the crud and other odd phenomenons

“There is no such thing as moral phenomena,
but only a moral interpretation of phenomena”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil


(Dr. Seuss’s Sneeches)

There was a time when we would catch a cold, or more accurately the crud, as those sorts of symptoms
are lovingly referred to a catch all crud…you know the symptoms…
that of a sore scratchy throat,
a runny or stuffy nose, a post nasal drip
with a hacking or phlegmy sort of cough…
at times, it’s even accompanied by aches and / or light chills.

A typical winter visitor.

Nowadays however…those sorts of symptoms have folks looking at you a bit sideways.
Leary and skeptical as they step an extra 6 feet away.

“Did you just cough???” an alarmed voice practically shrieks.
Fever, do you have a fever???
Can you smell??—

Well if your nose is all clogged up and your sinuses are giving you fits, breathing,
let alone smelling, are both difficult at best.

Suddenly you feel the need to tie a bell around your neck.
You feel you’re living in Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter…
although your letter is not a giant red A but rather the mark of the Covid beast.

Colds, sinus infections, even the flu are now all considered Covid unless otherwise noted
by a medical professional— and then people are still skeptical.
You saying you’ve gotten a cold or suffering from allergies is no longer good enough.

Folks want to tie you down and slam a giant swap up your nose.

I’ve had Covid and I’ve had a bad cold.
I know the difference.
And right now, it’s a bad cold.

But try letting the general population know the difference and
‘them become fighting words.’

No one believes you anymore.
Your word is no good.

I ran into the grocery store the other day and almost had to laugh out loud.

Naturally we were all wearing our masks like good stewards,
but one young lady had also added a pair of ski goggles.

I looked for a biohazard suit but she just had on a major mask with some
serious goggles.

I thought to myself…”you know, I would hate to live with that much fear…”

So before you mark me as some capitol rioter or uber conspiracy theorist…
just know that I realize that we’ve been hit with half a million deaths in this country.
And yes I’ve known those who have succumbed and died from the virus.
And I have even known some who took the vaccine and died two weeks later.
So yes, I do know it is real, but I also know hysteria when I see it.

So while we’re talking about hysteria, let’s take a look at, for instance, Dr. Seuss.

That almost mystical and rhythmical child’s author of yore.

Seems that our dear Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, is rapidly becoming persona non gratis.

A pariah of sorts.

The once beloved children’s author, who was the epitome of tolerance,
had he still been living, would have turned 117 yesterday.

Yesterday, as in “Read across America Day”, as in my grandkids went to daycare
in their Dr. Seuss pj’s all for Dr. Seuss PJ reading day…as in we all love Dr. Seuss…
or so I thought—we loved him last week.
This week, obviously, not so much.

As in my beloved The Grinch Who Stole Christmas book that I still have these 61 years later…
is now looked at sideways.


(1957)

Sadly it seems that our current Woke folks out there have decided that Sneeches and Whoos and
red fish, blue fish are currently out of step with our suddenly perfect society.

Isn’t it just grand knowing we live in a perfect society?
However, I fear that in that perfect society, it might just be filled with
imperfect residents.

Woe be unto us all.

For these days will pass by like a puff of wind.

And all those who are perfect among us will be caught up in the wind…

Grab the hand of a Sneech because we’re all about to be blown away.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy,
and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,
because the time is near.

Revelation 1:3

our journey

“Who except God can give you peace?
Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”

St. Gerard Majella


(two little cousins on their own little journey / Savannah, Ga, 2020)

“This is the difference between a journey on earth, and that which leads to Heaven.
For in the former, not only may we stop without fear of going backward,
but rest is necessary that we may sustain our strength to the journey’s end;
however, in the latter journey which leads to perfection,
our growth in strength is proportionate to our advance,
inasmuch as the inferior appetites which throw all possible obstacles in our path to Heaven,
grow gradually weaker while our good inclinations acquire new strength.
Thus as we advance in piety, our early difficulties fade into the background,
and a certain delight, with which God sweetens the bitterness of this life,
increases in our souls.
Going cheerfully on from virtue to virtue,
we finally reach the summit of the mountain.”

Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, pp. 117-18
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Combat

gifts

“What you are is God’s gift to you,
what you become is your gift to God.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer


(Michael Davenport, a handicapped Athens street artist)

It was almost a year ago…
We were still living on the western side of Georgia when I caught a news story that was
taking place on the eastern side of our state, in the city of my alma mater.

There was a street artist in the Classic City of Athens, Ga. named Michael Davenport.

Street artists in Athens are nothing new.
I was an Art Ed. major in Athens 40 years ago…artists in any college town tend to
prevail upon the streets.

This story however is not a typical artsy story.

Rather this is the story about a handicapped middle aged man who had lost
both of his arms as a teen.
There was some sort of electrical accident.
Michael lost both of his arms at the age of 13.

Eventually Michael taught himself to write and draw by using his mouth.

I learned about this talented young man about a year ago when there was a news story about
Michael being attacked and robbed.

It seems that some low life thug cold-cocked Michael while he was in a Athens
parking lot doing his art.
Michael was knocked unconscious and robbed of both his earnings and art supplies.

I made a mental note– I wanted to support this young man–I wanted to eventually buy
one of his UGA bulldogs drawings.

Fast forward to yesterday.

My husband and I make almost daily runs to the Lowes and Home Depot in Athens as we continue working
on our new “home” project.
This new home of ours is about 10 minutes outside of Athens.

And as life would have it, it just so happens that Michael stands in front of
the Athens Lowes where he is set up out in the parking, drawing his UGA art.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my husband noted that “‘my artist’ was over there
making his pictures.”

WHAT??

I practically leapt out of the car racing across the parking lot toward Michael.

“Michael, Michael, my name is Julie, I saw you on the news…”

Michael began to tell me his story.

He explained how he was still healing from the brutal attack almost 11 months ago.
Still going to doctors.

He was just finishing up a bulldog that he drew using various Sharpies on a white canvas.

“Michael”, I began, “I don’t have much cash on me, but I would be honored if I could
buy one of your drawings…could I come back tomorrow or would
you be willing to take a check?”

Michael thought for a minute and eventually told me that he would indeed accept my check.

All the while various shoppers were stopping and patting Michael on the shoulder.
Cars would pull up, arms stretched out of windows, each offering cash in hand.

Michael told me to undo the the canvas from the easel and take the pictures he had just finished.

People like Michael remind us all what it means to persevere.
He shares a gift.
A gift that emerged from tragedy.
A gift that has been tested and tried but a gift none the less.

How blessed I was today.

Thank you Michael.
Thank you God.

https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/athens-artist-without-hands-inspires-national-audience

https://www.fox5atlanta.com/video/858408

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10

nuggets

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
“Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget,
that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man,
all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas

(image from the series Oak Island on the History Channel)

Nuggets, and no, I’m not talking about chicken nuggets.

Rather I am talking about those tiny morsels of wisdom that often
push their way up to the surface along our life’s path…
just like a tiny treasured object emerging from the scattered debris underfoot.

Something shiny catching our eye… something that magically captures a ray of sun,
redirecting that glimmer upward which grabs us by the shoulders and shouts
“hey, look…I’m here!!”

I have to admit that for the past couple of months, I have been consumed by this move
of ours.
The culling, the packing, the schlepping, the hauling, the unpacking, the cleaning, the painting,
the repairing…on and on it’s been going—so much so that my senses have been void of
almost all and any news as well as being rather barren here in blogland.

Sparse on news is not a bad thing.
Sparse on blogland is more frustrating as I so enjoy reading posts.
I learn when I do so.
However unfortunately, skimming has been my recent MO.

So there have been a couple of things that have stuck with me throughout this
recent journey I’m currently traversing.

The first little nugget was the advice “trust the process”

Sounds simple enough…but is it really??

This was said to me when we first began toying with the notion of selling
and buying homes.
I had no idea whether the selling and buying process was truly the right thing
for us to do.

Remember, we were taking this on in full pandemic stride.

There were pros and cons on both sides of the aisle.

The cons often stood tall against the pros.
Then suddenly, that would all flip.

Hopes would both rise and fall…
there was excitement, trepidation, exhilaration, remorse…over and over
this roller coaster would fly.

But yet the voice of a friend kept ringing in my head…“trust the process
Over the course of days, weeks, months…it became a sort of mantra.
A leaning onto and into something else other than myself,
something greater, grander and beyond my mere limitations.
Something without limits or boundaries.

Job had to trust his process.

He may not have had much peace throughout his process…but he knew that the source leading
him to the end of the process was the only thing he could trust—
Omnipotence laced within a process.

And so, in turn, we trusted.

The next little nugget that was offered…
“this may not have been the house you needed, but this house needed you”

meaning– we always tend to think that we are the ones needing and wanting—
it’s the typical egocentric approach to life.
We think that we are at the center of the universe while everything else gravitates
around or to us.

But in actuality, we might just be on the outskirts circling around
something greater than ourselves…something where we are an input and not
the recipient.

So as things continue to literally fall into some semblance of place…
God keeps speaking…the question is…am I listening…

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

troubling times…saved by wine? Hmmm

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not
show itself in protection from suffering….
The love of God did not protect His own Son….
He will not necessarily protect us–
not from anything it takes to make us like His Son.
A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go
into the process.”

Elisabeth Elliot


(Mom and the Sheriff keeping guard / Julie Cook / 2021)

I think we’d all agree that we are indeed living in some of the most troubling
and trying times.
And no, I am not suggesting that we should drink our woes away…
so just stay with me a bit and I’ll explain.

Friday, when we’d traveled to Atlanta for the Mayor’s big day on Saturday, I needed
to help my daughter-n-law shuttle the kids to the pediatrician’s office.
The Mayor was to have her 3 year old check up.

Due to the Pandemic still being at full throttle, the pediatrician’s office is not allowing
siblings to come into the office together.
It’s only a one child at a time policy.

The procedure now is that one is to text the office once arriving at the building.
The receptionist will text when they are ready for you to come in,
as well as texting which examination room you are to go directly to when you enter the office—
no more sitting in a waiting room.

In my mind, the trouble comes when you have more than one child in tow or that you
need for all your kids to be seen…so someone has to hang back in the car.
You’ll need a helper…another person who can sit in the car with the other kid(s)
while the parent takes the specified child in at the designated time.

Now, enter another conundrum.
Safety.

Given our idiotic defund the police movements mirrored by the rise in violent
crimes in our major cities…
sitting in a parking deck, even in broad daylight, is simply not wise.

I grew up in this city.
As kids, my mom and aunt walked these very sidewalks near this particular doctors office.
Back in the 30’s and 40’s, while they were growing up,
my mom and aunt would walk to school, to the homes of friends and
especially to the movies…
exactly right where the Sheriff and I were now to wait in the car.

We were parked in a single floor covered parking deck of which was a bit obscure.

Since it was cold, my daughter-n-law wanted to leave the car running, while leaving
me the keys.
She suggested that I move over to the driver’s seat incase I needed “to gun it” in order
to get away.

HUH??

Was it really that bad here I asked.

“Yes!”, she replied as there have been carjackings, armed robberies and various
violent crimes all within blocks of where we were…and not just in the cover
of darkness but now in the light of a sunny day.

She and the Mayor headed inside the building as I locked our doors.

The Sheriff did not appreciate being left behind, even while sitting with “mom”
and in turn, began to cry.

Needing a diversion, I quickly sought out his favorite things—two paint brushes.

While I’m on my knees, turned around in my seat trying to get him happy,
I vigilantly scope out our surroundings—looking left, right and in front.

Next I start looking around in the car for anything I could use to bap any would be
intruder on the head. I was determined to get the drop on any criminal
before they could get to us…gun or no gun.

Nothing like a threatened grandmama bear protecting her little grand cubs

“Why does your mommy have a bottle of wine in the back seat?” I ask the Sheriff
thinking he’d readily answer in his sweet gibberish way.

I decide to hold onto the bottle just incase.

After about 20 minutes, the Mayor and her mom are exiting the building, making their
way to the car as I quickly unlock the doors.

Since she didn’t need any shots, the Mayor was none the worse for the wear.

I proceed to tell their mom that I was going to use her unopened bottle of wine
as a weapon if needed…and by the way, why was there a random bottle of wine
in the car?

“Oh, it was Catholic Teacher Appreciation week and that’s what they gave us.”

Working on a wing, a prayer and a bottle of wine—and it all worked on
this fine Friday afternoon in Atlanta.

Now….may we each pray for God’s healing Grace

no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17