when your child is not your child

It is more than tragic that a dying child should be used as an ideological
football in a court presided over by a gay activist judge whose impartiality
was not publicly evident;
and that the critical issues of the rights of parents v the state should be lost,
in what appears to be a residual antipathy to Christian teaching and values.

But there will be more of this.
Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(the chives are a bloom / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve tried not jumping into this mess.
I’ve even tried not to read much about it.
I didn’t want to hear one more, read one more, feel one more sorrow.
For you see this is a story that breaks my heart in a million different ways.

Maybe it’s because I am a mother, an educator, a new grandmother.
Kids have been my business most of my life.

Maybe it’s because I believe that the bond between a parent and child is
the greatest bond–apart from our bond with the Father.

Or maybe it’s because I believe all life to be sacred…
Aged, new, healthy, infirmed, joyful, dying or ailing.

Life is precious and sacred…all life, everyone’s life…end of sentence.

His name was Alfie.
He was 23 months old.
I say was because Alfie lost his fight against an illness this past week.

His story is a mess.

He became sick over a year ago…

In a nutshell:

A baby boy named Alfie Evans died early this morning at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
in Liverpool, England, in the pediatric intensive care unit that had been his home
for the last 18 months. The life he lived for close to 24 months was mercilessly short,
yet full of meaning. He didn’t know it, but he was at the center of a heart-wrenching debate
about who should have final authority over children’s medical care: Parents, or the state?

Evans was born on May 9, 2016,
the healthy child of two young parents, Tom Evans and Kate James.
But as early as July 2016, Alfie’s health began to deteriorate.
He was brought into the pediatric unit at Alder Hey in December 2016,
where, over the course of a year, he suffered seizures,
bi-lateral pneumonia, and cardiac complications that put him in a coma by January 2018.

Alfie’s doctors decided that continuing to keep the boy on ventilatory support was
not in his best interest, concluding that he had an untreatable,
progressive neuro-degenerative disease of unknown origin.
Typically, in the UK, doctors in a similar position use private mediation (pdf)
to agree upon a course of action with family members.
But Alfie’s parents did not accept the doctors’ conclusion, arguing that the hospital had
rushed to judgment.
In later court hearings, they said they felt the hospital had “given up” on Alfie.
And so the hospital turned to the family division of the UK’s High Court for a ruling.

Justice Anthony Hayden ruled in favor of the hospital in February 2018,
saying that while it was
“entirely right that every reasonable option should be explored for Alfie,”
continuing to keep him on life support “compromises Alfie’s future dignity and fails to
respect his autonomy.”
The family then filed an appeal request before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,
which was denied in March 2018. After having exhausted all legal options in the UK,
the Evans took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, where their appeal was ruled inadmissible.

…The case of Alfie Evans has resonated with Catholic and Christian communities
around the world.
They see in his case a fundamental conflict between the actions of the British legal
system and their religious belief in both the right to life and the right of parents to
determine a child’s medical care.

Some religious activists have banded together in support of the Evans family,
calling themselves “Alfie’s Army,” and regularly protest outside the hospital where Alfie
is being treated.
In response to the outcry from the Catholic community,
the Italian government offered young Alfie citizenship,
arranging for him to travel to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Italy.
Even Pope Francis, who met with Tom Evans in Rome earlier this month,
has weighed in on the case.

Quartz

The Pope, who took a personal interest in the case, tweeted:
“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie.”
He added: “Today I pray especially for his parents,
as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”

(BBC)

Alfie Evans is not the first baby whose medical condition sparked similar debates.
Last year, Charlie Gard, a terminally ill British baby,
died in July 2017 a day after the British High Court ruled that his life support
could be withdrawn. Charlie’s case had attracted the attention of world leaders from
Pope Francis to US president Donald Trump.

Quartz

Even our favorite former prelate to the Queen, Gavin Ashenden, has had a few choice
words of his own regarding the case of Alfie.

Not only was baby Alfie kept as a prisoner of the state, and the rights of the parents
set aside in favour of the state, but this was accompanied by personal vitriol directed
at the parents’ Christian advisors.
And further, this morning,
the Times placed its weight behind the learned gay judicial campaigner’s
personal disgust with Christian orthodoxy.

Bishop Ashenden is speaking of the magistrate, Anthony Hayden, who ruled in this case against the
wishes and rights of the parents of this child as well as against the child himself.
Going so far as to offer snarkiness toward those Christian groups rallying around the defense of parents and child.

The danger of the judiciary, the malice of the media, the perniciousness of progressive policies – and how Alfie paid the price.

Progressive secularism…
The wedge that will continue to divide and divide and divide.
How far will you allow it to divide your own decisions and your own life and
your own family and the life of your own child?

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through
him and for him.
And he is before all things,
and in him, all things hold together.

Colossians 1:16-17

Divine Mercy

“Great love can change small things into great ones,
and it is only love which lends value to our actions.
And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames
of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will cease to be a suffering for us;
it will become a delight! By the grace of God,
I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus,
whom I love with every beat of my heart.”

(303, page 140) St Faustina


(the chives are blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday, and this week actually, marked the day of Divine Mercy for our Catholic
brothers and sisters.
A timely marking given our continued celebration with Easter and the
most notable and tangible gift of our Salvation…

According to Wikipedia…
The Divine Mercy of Jesus, also known as the Divine Mercy, is a Roman Catholic devotion
to Jesus Christ associated with the reputed apparitions of Jesus revealed
to Saint Faustina Kowalska.
The Roman Catholic devotion and venerated image under this Christological title refers
to the unlimited merciful love of God towards all people

The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and
the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those in need of it.
As he dedicated the Shrine of Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II referred to this when he said:
“Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind”.

For a woman whose writings were once banned by the Vatican, the fact that the Catholic world
now recognizes this Polish nun is really quite amazing.

“Twenty-five years ago, her writings were banned by the Vatican and her legacy —
a special devotion to the divine mercy of God — seemed in doubt.

Today she is a saint,
her diary has been translated into more than a dozen languages and her Divine Mercy movement
has attracted millions of Catholics around the world.”

Catholic News Service

For a more in-depth look into St Faustina Kowalska…here is a link:
https://cssfinternational.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/backstory-st-faustina-and-the-divine-mercy-devotion-cns-top-stories/

According to Merriam Webster–Divine is defined as of, from, or like God or a god
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone
whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

Put the two together and we have Compassion and/ or forgiveness,
shown by God who actually has the power to
punish or harm if so desired…and yet, He desires Compassion and forgiveness…
the same compassion and forgiveness afforded to each of us on Easter
as witnessed through His resurrected Son…

Now, this is not to be some sort of theological debate about our Catholic,
a word that also means Universal, brothers, and sisters in Christ.
Nor is this a debate about saints or the notion of God playing judge, jury and
executioner…this is about the call for all Christians to come together and remember the gift
we’ve each been given and as a Divine gift, it is in turn to be extended to others…

Divine Mercy…may we each pass it on…

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

who will find the prize egg…

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
We are like eggs at present.
And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.
We must be hatched or go bad.

C. S. Lewis


(colorful eggs hidden amongst the chives / Julie Cook / 2018)

Way back when…many many blue moons ago…when my husband and I first married…
I was introduced to a long-standing family tradition–the annual Easter egg hunt.

Colorful plastic eggs were either scattered about, hidden throughout the yard and shrubs
or they were hung by ribbons from an ornamental tree.

All the grandkids and even the adults, as the grandkids became teenagers, would seek
out the eggs with everyone’s sight on one egg in particular.

My husband’s dad would hide money in the eggs—sometimes just change, other eggs would hold
a dollar or even a 5 dollar bill…but the grand prize egg…well,
it usually had a brand new crisp $100 dollar bill tucked inside.

As bad of a dad as he had been to them growing up, he was usually generous at
odd times such as Easter Egg hunts and Trick or treating…

No wonder the family about killed one another racing around the yard.

The stakes were high…
a lot higher than the stakes had been with my family’s egg hunts—
My dad just hid candy eggs in the yard and then my brother and I would
scurry about with baskets trailing in the wind as it was a race for colorful sugared eggs.

With my husband’s family, there was a lot of running, grabbing, shrieking…
plus a few hard feelings for our son who was the smallest of all the grandkids…
so I was usually his wingman…or is that wingmom??

If the eggs had been hung, creating an egg tree…then each family member took turns taking
off one egg at a time…hoping each plucked egg contained the big prize.

This was a bit more orderly of a pursuit as Easter should not be about aggression.
Or….if the truth be told, it shouldn’t be about prize eggs either…

So on this Easter morning, all these many years later,
as I think back over those early days of our marriage and how I joined in on such a haphazard
pursuit and tradition…
it dawned on me that I had already possessed the true prize egg…
it was something I had actually “collected” many years prior…

That being the real knowledge of the true Easter prize…

Victory over Death!

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!

He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

infestation

…but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.

Hosea 7:2

“Some day the soft Ideal that we wooed confronts us fiercely, foe-beset, pursued, and cries reproachful: ‘Was it then my praise, and not myself was loved? Prove now thy truth; I claim of thee the promise of thy youth.’”
James Russell Lowell

RSCN3032
(chives infested with black aphids / Julie Cook / 2016)

The innocent chive is laid claim by a myriad of tiny pests,
far too many for the eye to number…
Which is all but too similar to the same dark irksomeness which befalls man’s very soul.

They cover the poor buds and blooms…
feasting on the very life juices which coarse through the plant…
All the while an insidious darkness, which vies to blanket man’s soul,
leaches forth all that is decent and good.

The ants have arrived in order to protect the mindless aphids, farming them as it were,
all for their own selfish pleasures and symbiotic delight…
Just as the master of darkness soothingly whispers that it shall all be well…
longing to hold on to one more soul in his ever collusive world…

Spray as one must, vainly attempting to rid the plant of these pests,
the seemingly endless siege momentarily abates…
only to return, growing exponentially more fierce.
As our own trials of the will dip in and out of sight.

With the chives survival ever insight…
A total ridding and annihilation of each tiny black pest is the only true solution…
While man, in turn, labors to waylay his own invasive scourge

It may seem drastic at best, if the chive is to live,
but total eradication is the only option should the plant be spared…
just as the total yielding of the will of man is the one and only hope…
for the eternal life free from sin’s deadly infestation

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;

Job 22:21-23

le dernier quart d’ heure

“Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me; I am such a great sinner that I must have infinite merit to wash my sin away;” but we have had our sin removed, and found that there was merit to spare; we have had our hunger relieved at the feast of sacred love”
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

RSCN2868
(the bloom of the humble chive / Julie Cook / 2016)

There always comes, I think, a sort of peak in suffering at which either you win over your pain or your pain wins over you, according as to whether you can, or cannot, call up that extra ounce of endurance that helps you to break through the circle of yourself and do the hitherto impossible. That extra ounce carries you through ‘le dernier quart d’heure.’ Psychologists have a name for it, I believe. Christians call it the Grace of God.”
― Elizabeth Goudge

That last lap,
that last breath,
that last push,
that last….

That last bit of strength, of hope, of muster…
That last bit of whatever it is that sees you through…

Through the…
race
job
exam
test
journey
illness…
…the day…
Your life…

What is your le dernier quart d’heure?
What carries you though, and even past, those last,
final and most difficult trying moments of your task at hand?

Sheer will?
Sheer strength?
Sheer power?
Sheer luck?

or is it…
sheer Grace….?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Where it begins

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

Edgar Allan Poe

RSCN2878
(chives / Julie Cook / 2016)

Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end.
Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about everything that exists!
Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality;
it must be born of nothingness,
it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way
that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.

H. J. Iwand

It has its beginning in the depths of despair…
for it is not to be found in the rapture of joy.

Stripped of pretense and facade,
Its secret roots penetrate far and wide…

It resides deep within, hidden from plain sight…
Scattered across the dusty barren recesses of the heart.

It takes hold in the blackness of night,
During the empty isolation of the tortured soul.

It is during that bleakest and empty affair of abandonment…
the very moment the smug conclude that both it and we are finished…
As finally all our talk and foolishness will thankfully come to an end…

It is exactly within this bitter tasted instance of nothingness…
that our Grace explodes into existence…

The patience of assurance

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne

DSC01131
A chive bloom and small stinging fly / Julie Cook / 2015)

The phone rang 4 times Saturday.
It was Dad, all 4 times, wanting to tell me the things he had previously told me in the previous calls. Of which were reiterations and various renditions of what he’d told me throughout the week, throughout last week and the week before that.

So far today the phone has rung 3 times. . .all calls from Dad.

Today’s calls each consisted of different subject matters yet with familiar themes.
“When are you coming back?”
“Do I have new pills?”
“Well Dad, I was just there yesterday and I’ve got a few things I have to do here at home throughout the week, but if you need me I can come back today, tomorrow or when you’d like. . .”
And yes Dad, the Doctor gave you some new prescriptions but the nurse hasn’t brought them yet—so you don’t have to do anything yet.”
“Why do I need physical therapy?”
Do you remember your little fall last week?”
“I didn’t fall, I just kind of laid down on the floor”
Sigh
“A strange little green card came addressed to me in today’s mail, wonder what I’m suppose to do with it?”
“It’s the certified mail receipt from mailing in your tax payment Dad. . .and there’s nothing to do.”
Sigh
“Oh and what’s this paper that came today from the doctor about new pills?
“That sheet is from yesterday Dad and it’s just a recap of your visit with his notes about the new prescriptions which the nurse is going to pick up for you.
“I don’t have them here?”
No not yet Dad. . .”
Sigh

I found out a long long time ago to never pray or ask for patience.
Something about God having a sense of humor and the notion of being careful what one prays for. . .It seems that there are required, repetitive actions which are necessary in order to hone one’s patience. . .that being situations, often unpleasant, trying and tiring which in turn demand more and more of ones patience. Something about those repeated situations eventually helping to produce the requested end-result of patience.

Motherhood and teaching are both good places to practice the art of needing, requiring, polishing and honing patience. But be warned, neither are for the faint of heart.

My dad and his current world are working in tandem to polish and hone my skill of patience. I didn’t realize that I was in need of an update, a refresher course, an in-service or that I had inadvertently asked for some more patience in my life. I had rather thought that I was most full in that area. . .

Yet apparently not necessarily in the area of Dad’s current tremendous need for reassurance, with that coming from the one person he’s known the longest in his now ever shrinking world—-me.

I won’t talk about guilt or the associated guilt that is a often a by-product from ones need of assurance as this post is not about that. I do feel badly when he obviously has this need to have me as a constant presence in his world. Not that I’m not there with him in and out throughout each and every week, but when life and family here call upon me, it is never easy being in two places at once—but somehow motherhood was a good training ground for being stretched thin, the need for miraculous bilocation as well as the carrying of constant guilt. But as I say, all of that is for another post, another day. . .

This current need, resonating deeply in my dad, has my head and heart swirling with the thoughts and palpable feelings of my own need for reassurance.
Reassurance that reaches beyond my need from my family and friends. . .
It is to my constant need for that of my Heavenly Father, Abba, and of His endless reassurance.
For it is in Him that I find my resting place, my solace, my lifeline.

Just like a frightened child, who in the dark of night, continuously calls out to his / her parents for the reassurance of the parent’s protective presence, I too cry out to my Father in Heaven for the reassurance of His presence in my current uncertain world. . .

And just as sweet little piglet so eloquently expresses to Pooh, “I just wanted to be sure of you”, there is indeed something deep within us all that seeks the resting reassurance of presence.

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12:2