There is never coincidence, not even in the dark of night

“And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck,
but everything by God’s wise providence …
for matters that have been in God’s foreseeing wisdom,
since before time began, befall us suddenly,
all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck,
but to our Lord God it is not so.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(Pieta in The Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 20118)

“Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained ‘desolation’ or dryness
are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper
faith, hope, and love.
It is particularly important, they tell us,
not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful.
God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him,
and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices.”

Ralph Martin, p.174
An Except From
Fulfillment of all Desire

With God, there are no accidents.
Never.

Even when, in our thinking, a near-irreparable tragedy, of which is a true accident and is
nonetheless horrific and simply unbearable…leaves both our lives and bodies shattered…

We are reminded that God is still very much present.

Yet such a reminder, to those who are living in and with the aftermath,
rings often empty and even bitterly insulting.

Our pain and our anger are both agonizingly palpable.

Yet such moments, more often than not, send even the most staunch religious
and spiritual among us into the depths of deep darkness.
A wasteland of sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and yes, a gnawing and seething anger…

The wasteland can last, for what can seem, an eternity.

Or…on the other hand…perhaps there was no accident…no tragedy…

There was no particular impetus for a sudden wandering into the wasteland of an empty soul…

We simply find ourselves, our souls, suddenly and oddly empty and cold.

At best, our faith remains shallow…
At worst, our faith seems lost forever…

However, we are reminded to hold fast.

To hold on.

Words, which to the hurting, the lost, the lonely, more often than not,
echo of emptiness and even the trite.

It will take a conscious act of totally emptying oneself to all that is.
It will take a complete letting go of all that we know and hold dear.
It will take a blind leap of faith.
It will take a willingness to trust in that which we cannot see while we cling to
a promise given to each of us long ago.

We have a choice…
we can choose to remain lost, bitter or angry.
Or we can cling to the one promise we have…

Be not afraid…

The tragedy, the accident, the sorrow which could not, cannot be prevented…
nor that of the painful results, while one seems to remain caught in the vicious cycle
of pain both physical and spiritual, that results from such situations…
is ours to either keep and hold on to or to let go of while we figure out how to find our way back…home

That is our choice, our conscious decision.

There are no accidents with God, no coincidence.
And when in the desert, He remains steadfast despite a perceived silence.

I say all of this as I am in the midst of reading a book that is a tale
of the horrific, the unthinkable, the unimaginable and yet a tale
of the hope, the healing, and the Saving Grace…
of which far outweighs that of the Evil.

More on this story as time allows.

It does indeed seem empty to say to those who suffer the unimaginable that they must simply
hold on and hold tight…
but that is exactly what we all must be willing to do…
and to “will” ourselves takes a conscious act…

Something Beautiful Happened
A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil
by Yvette Manessis Corporon

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13

the bitter

“I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me.”
Carol Burnett’s reflection over having to put her daughter in rehab
for a third time)


(blooming spring /Julie Cook / 2018)

I recently caught a snippet of a transcript based on an interview with Carol Burnett—
an interview she had given regarding her life and relationship with her late daughter.

Carol Burnett, now age 85, was always known for her hilarious comedic performances and
her signature pulling of her ear at the end of each performance.
She lived, however, away from the laughter and the hijinks, a tenuous and even painful life
as a mother.

Her daughter Carrie died from cancer in 2002.
She was only 38 years old.

But before the cancer, before there was a reconciliation between mother and daughter,
as a teen, Carrie suffered from a variety of addictions.

Carol paid for rehab after rehab yet it was the third time Carrie was sent to rehab that
Carol came to the hardest realization for any parent…
“I put her in a third rehab place, and oh my God, she hated me.
I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a20135840/carol-burnett-daughter-death/

That one sentence speaks volumes.

To love enough, to be hated.

Loving someone enough only to realize that that love will not be met immediately in like kind—
but rather offering an open and abiding love which is to be met with vehemence,
resentment and even hate…
a love that is the epitome of the bitter reality of unconditional love…
is the most wrenching pain, for any parent, grandparent or guardian imaginable.

Painful and heartbreaking love offered freely, yet scornfully rejected.

We, as parents and grandparents, and even guardians, learn early on that we often have to love
our children and our grandchildren enough to watch them leave us for whatever reason…
be it simply due to moving away, growing up and away, illness or to the tough love as
they must be sent away to seek healing and help…

Watching them go, for whatever reason, knowing the pain and sorrow it wrecks upon our
own hearts, yet knowing that the going is the best solution or need for them is one of
the hardest acts a parent/grandparent must ever experience.

Imagine…a loving Father surrendering His only son to a known negative fate.

If you knew the outcome would be horrific, could you do it?

If you knew he would be hated, hounded, rejected, tortured and eventually murdered—
all for the sake of “other children” who had long severed all ties with
this loving Father….could you do it?

A consciously painful action that is truly quite unimaginable to grasp…

I know that my own heart has hurt.
Deeply and devastatingly so.
And so if my heart has nearly been broken, what of God’s…
What of God’s breaking heart?

What of Mary who knew that same pain of loving yet having to let go unto a fate
much greater than most could ever imagine or conceive?

And yet we will always choose love…
Love that is not met in like kind.

Because it is what love does.

Love, as the bitter taste of saline silently rolls down
our cheeks.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that
is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

luck of the draw

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealin’s done

The Gambler
Kenny Rogers

IMG_1058
(my husband trying the make the most of Tropical Storm Colin’s arrival when all others ran for cover/ Watercolor Resort, Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are many days that I am pretty certain that I’m married to Job.
You know, the Typhoid Mary of the Bible…
That lone figure everyone avoids like the plague as it seems God’s got it out for this poor lug.
He’s the Bible’s idea of a bullseyes,
while Satan enjoys a fun little game of darts…
As God’s watches silently in the distance…

Yet, one must wonder, is He all that distant…..?

And you know that expression…
if it wasn’t for bad luck, there’d be no luck at all….?
Well that sums up my husband’s life in a nutshell.

And not only did I marry a very unlucky man,
I bore him a child who has followed suit to a T.
As my husband resignedly notes that our son’s luck is just as bad, just as unfortunate and just as typical as his—that being abysmal.

If it can go wrong, it will.
If it can get worse, it will.
In a 50 50 shot on calling it, theirs will always be the wrong call.
What are the odds?
What is the luck?

And yet…
I for one do not hold on to such a notion…
despite often feeling the sting of a mother’s and wife’s frustration…
I am constantly reminding any and all gloomy Gus’s in my path that in Christianity,
there is no such thing as luck!
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has been left to chance in God’s book concerning His children.

When I was young I never liked reading or hearing about the Book of Job or even Revelation.
I found in both of those books everything and anything other than that
“peace which passes all understanding.”
Rather I found heartache, trials, turmoil, death, loss and
even the final separation of those fateful sheep and goats.

Both Books, both stories, scared me.
I didn’t want to know that side of God.
For in my young immature understanding, God was simply love and merciful,
end of sentence—
None of this wrathful, cold, distant business.
He was not this exacting God who could, in my opinion, turn His back and allow pain,
suffering and calamity.
God was love, right?
And love doesn’t let bad things happen….right?

Lord knows, I have seen my share of heartache and calamity these near 57 years.
Any one who has ever lost a loved one to a ravenous and non discriminating illness,
which seems to gleefully and eagerly snatch away prematurely those we love,
understands all too often the anger that can follow suit against this so called “merciful” God…

I shamefully admit to having had one too many defiantly angry fists raised,
more times than I care to mention, to God when I, as mother, wife, daughter, friend…
witnessed the catastrophic unfairness, when indiscriminate illness and or death,
or any other of life’s unfairnesses, had come calling.

Yet the key piece to this unsettling and often unfair and ironic puzzle is actually to be found in that very odd tale of our poor friend Job…
That single key piece being human understanding.

It is easy and quite human to rile in anger when we witness unfairness, pain, suffering, heartache…
Especially when we know that there is a God, as Father, who loves His children…as we are even told that if we who are “evil” parents know how to give good things to our children, then how much more can the God of heaven who is pure goodness and love give…..
yet here is this loving Father demonstrating anything but love…
But what we don’t get, don’t understand…He’s not the doing these things…

As we live life in that role of helpless witness, time and time again, to the sadistic unfairness of this thing we call life….as our anger, resentment, frustration and even defiance continues to mount against an unseen God who we so wrongly blame for all of life’s tragedies, as the dust settles, we begin to see that our friend Job slowly, mysteriously and miraculously understood…
He understood that which we are currently blind to see…
for Job once stood where we stand now—in that place of helpless victim to the tragic luck of life.

We sit in our towers of self-righteous human knowledge presuming to see all and know all…
that is until something catastrophic throws us the guaranteed monkey wrench.
Tragedy strikes and more often then not, we wrestle with its presence and devastating aftermath.

But what we must know, must claim, is that it is God who sees and knows, not us.
He sees endlessly out before us, long into our futures.
Just as He has seen our past and our present.
He sees into the lives of all involved and into the lives of those who are to each be affected despite our having no knowledge of their involvement…yet.

His is the grander picture.
The greater and far reaching picture.
The vision that eclipses both time and space—of which we are permanent prisoners.

So no…there is no such thing such as luck….not with God.
Rather just Life lived in a fallen and broken world.
Just as there is also our hope, our grace and thankfully….
our salvation….

“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:2, 5-6

You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Job 11:18

Humble

Talent is God given.
Be humble.
Fame is man-given.
Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given.
Be careful.

John Wooden

“The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust.
The world crushes the dust under its feet,
but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him.
Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN1154
(a jackdaw / Adare, Irleand / Julie Cook / 2015)

There will be those times in life when we will be served up a hearty plate of crow or even an abundant dish of humble pie.
Often unpleasant, difficult to accepte and offensively unpalatable…
Such dishes will come unwanted, unordered, unrequested…but they will come.

The question will not be whether we asked for it, deserved it or should be served such…
the importance will rest in how we accept it.

Will we eat our share of ego crushing humility, allowing it to cleanse the palate, making room for a renewed and refreshed spirit…

Or will we simply allow the bitter taste of resentment and indignation to remain,
lingering on the tongue…

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Awaiting the harvest

Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.
James 5:7

DSCN7626
(wild pears / Julie Cook / 2014)

Some years the lone wild pear tree, perched deep in the woods, bears a bountiful crop. For what and for whom is uncertain as these are not the succulent pears of Anjou or Sekel. These are small hard bitter pears that neither deer nor raccoon will eat.

Other years this lone little tree yields but a single pear, perhaps two, maybe even three.
No matter whether there are baskets, or not, overflowing with fruit nor that the fruit is edible—the tree bears in both times that are lean and times that are plentiful.

The love of the masterful Creator, the omnipotent Father, equally bears a bountiful crop. At times it is a wonder as to what and for whom that bountiful love should be made available. Yet the crop is never exclusive nor sparse. The basket is open to any and all who may wish to reach in.

In times both lean and plentiful, the basket remains full. The harvest is always plentiful, yet those who choose to partake may often be few. The availability is never lacking. The basket overflows with a greater abundance than imaginable. The fruit is never bitter, always sweet.

However the time will come when the harvest and the season will draw to an end.
The abundance will wane.
The tree will be bare.
The basket will quickly empty.
Who will be left wanting
and
Who will remain full?