a little update, in pieces…

“But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay.”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno


(a wedding day in 1983)

We’ve been talking recently about prayer…
but I thought we’d take a little break while I continue working on putting something uninformed for
us to use as our “prayer” tool
Heather, Salvageable and IB all added some great words yesterday, so I’ll compile our composite…
and throw something out to us next week.

I did want to offer an update on a few other sundries but first, a little back story as this
will be a two-part post–in part to keep things relatively brief.

You see that grainy picture up above?
Well, that picture is from a very hot late summer’s day back in 1983.

My mom is happily looking on as my godfather, the priest who was to conduct that day’s wedding,
came to the “brides” room, in the basement of the church, where all the girls were getting ready
for that day’s big event…

A 23-year-old me had stayed up late the night prior in order to write a long letter.
A letter of gratitude and love between a goddaughter to her godpoppa…

I had slipped the letter under his office door early that morning, long before the
big day’s event was to unfold.

He had read it and came to find me.

Ours is a long convoluted story of a relationship that began when I was barely 15.

It was a relationship between a father and daughter who were neither to the other…

He had 4 children and I had a father…yet we both knew God had a hand in this
mismatched union of two unlikely individuals—as I was considered a 5th child and he was
a surrogate father…a true God-parent.

It was a relationship that began perhaps as happenstance but was actually Divinely conceived.

I know that God knew I would need a guide…much like Dante with his guide Virgil—
Virgil leading Dante through his journey through hell—while The Dean guided me through my own
tumultuous life….that of adolescents, adoption, and dysfunction.

Something you should know…we were both adopted individuals.

And whereas that may seem coincidental, the relationship was God-given as there is a great
deal buried in the heart of an adopted individual….the Dean had lived that and knew
I was just in the middle of mine.

I needed not only guiding but I needed healing.
A literal laying on of hands with an anointing of oil and serious prayer.

Dean Collins had had his time of living with those holes in his life…and he helped
me to see, soothe and heal my own.

Shortly following my leap into blogdom 6 years ago…
I wrote a post about that very adoption.

I reread the post yesterday and went back in to clean it up a tad as I have hopefully
gotten a bit better at this thing called blogging and perhaps it flows a bit more easily …

It is a post that explains some of my life growing up adopted…with a nod to the story
(a different early post) of my adopted younger brother’s spiral into darkness and our family’s
sad dysfunction from that darkness.
He could never come to terms with having been given up for adoption despite having been
an infant at the time and yes, eventually committed suicide despite my parent’s desperation
to find every sort of help available—- up to granting him an annulment—
the first annuled adoption ever in the state of Georgia.

In the post, I also explain how I reached out to Georgia’s Adoption Reunion Registry
in order to receive nonidentifying information regarding my “case”…

Yet when the papers arrived, I received only a copious amount of bewildering questions.
More painful questions rather than fulfiling answers.

Here is the link to that previous post:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

And so now we fast forward to the present day.

DNA.

Something that wasn’t available nearly 10 years ago to the general populace wishing to glean
information regarding ancestry and or unknown medical issues.

And so I took the two tests that are available for the curious.
Ancestry and 23 and Me.

The latter’s results came in this week.

The genealogy is on the money…English / Scotch / Irish….nearly through and through.

The results also provide a list of those individuals in their pool of testers whose DNA
links to your own…
be it parents, siblings, cousins…on down the line…
meaning that there are relatives…relatives either known or unknown…

And here is where we will end Part I of this long and odd individual’s tale…

Oh—
the man in that picture up above, that man with that mischievous
twinkle in his eye…
well, he passed away two years ago and that young girl is now knocking
on the door of 60.

When I went to bed the other night carrying the burden of what
I should or should not do…
wrestling with the idea of initiating a search for my biological parents…
in large part because I want some solid information about my past to
give to my son and now my grandchildren…
I lamented how I wished my godpoppa was here to continue with his guidance…

And so the following morning when I pulled out those now 9-year-old papers
from my initial non-identifying adoption case packet,
out fell a printed copy of a 9-year-old email.
It was a letter written to my Godfather from a biological cousin
he had found when, in his mid 80’s, he discovered while searching for his
biological family.

The letter spoke of his long-deceased mother and the difficult decision she,
as a young unwed woman bore in the 1920s in having to “give” her infant son “away” —
but as to how one day…they would again meet…and she would embrace him with a lifetime of
love that had been stored away in her heart.

Seems my “Virgil” continues guiding me during this roller coaster journey of mine…
out of the Inferno and Purgatorio, as I work my way to the light of Paradiso…
always pointing me back to the place I truly belong–in the arms of
my loving Heavenly father—our Omnipotent Father…Abba

changing hell into paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Dante Alighieri


(Georgios Klontzas, 16th Century icon)

No matter one’s concept of hell, I think most Believers would agree…
Hell is the total absence of God.

An endless, as in never ending, void of the Divine…
ergo no hope, light, joy, love, compassion….
you get the idea…

So leave it to an Orthodox monk to offer an interesting thought concerning
how the demons handle the desire of a condemned’s longing for God….

And yet what an interesting thought it is…that even in hell the demons quake
at the notion of one reaching upward to the Almighty…

One day we met on the site where the construction of the new church had begun,
and the Elder said, “It is a difficult thing today to build a church.
All the demons will rise up.”
And he told me an anecdote that he had heard in Russia:

“Someone went to hell, but he wanted there to be a church there too so that
he could pray. Despite his sinfulness, he loved God and wanted to pray.
He began to measure the site in order to lay foundations.
A devil asked him what he was doing.
He replied: Ί want to build a church so that I can pray.’
The devil was uneasy, because it was impossible for a church to be built in hell,
and he tried to stop him. He did not manage.
He summoned other demons. They could not do anything either.
They reported it to their leader.
Then many demons gathered and they threw him out of hell,
to prevent a church being built.”

And he continued:
“So we build churches to change hell into Paradise,
and if we do not manage to do that,
we will succeed in not being accepted by the devil in hell.”
And he laughed wholeheartedly.

—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. I Know a Man in Christ:
Elder Sophrony the Hesychast and Theologian

As seen on Discerning Thoughts:
(https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/someone-went-to-hell-but-he-wanted-there-to-be-a-church/)

Prayers for Italy

“Love, which quickly arrests the gentle heart,
Seized him with my beautiful form
That was taken from me, in a manner which still grieves me.

Love, which pardons no beloved from loving,
took me so strongly with delight in him
That, as you see, it still abandons me not…”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno

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(Santa Maria Nuova / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers reach across the oceans and lands to the people of Italy…
especially those hardest hit by Wednesday’s early morning quakes centered in the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche.

Italy is an ancient land with a rich and storied past that is clearly evident today—
For all one must do is to look at the land, the ancient architecture and to the
warm faces of her loving people.

From its varied geography—
from the hilltop fortified towns to the colorful villas by the sea…
Italy is both mountainous, think Alps and Apennine, as well as coastal as it is surround by
the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian, and the Ionian seas.

The villages, towns and cities are a rich mix of the centuries of man’s very existence.
From the Caesars to the Fashion runways,
from the birth of Christianity to her decadent gastronomic delights…
Italy herself is so much a part of the history of mankind.

We rejoice when Italy is at her best and we mourn when tragedy strikes….

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(one of the many alley ways, nook and crannies filling this country of mazes / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

With the past weaving itself into the present, upon observation, it is not difficult for the casual observer to understand how easy it is for a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, to have devastating results…

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(part of the roof line of Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Looking across Rome / Julie Cook / 2007)

As Italy percolates upwards from her past, with layers upon layers, being built upon itself….
Even the clay tiles from region to region offer a glimpse to the volcanic soil composition…
as some area tiles offer rich red colors while other regions are full lot more earthy brown tones….

Italy is home to both dormant and active volcanoes…
Just more evidence of the constantly changing and ever evolving ground beneath the feet of both
her myriad sea of tourists and her enchanting residents….

Here is a small offering from the BBC explaining why Italy is so prone to earthquakes…

Why is Italy at risk of earthquakes?
By Jonathan Amos
Quakes are an ever-present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy.
Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than,
the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday.
The modern response, thankfully, has been more robust building and better preparation.
Mediterranean seismicity is driven by the great collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates; but when it comes down to the specifics of this latest quake, the details are far more complicated.
The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy,
between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up.
Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or “pull-apart”, along the Apennines.
This stress is compounded by movement in the east, in the Adriatic.
The result is a major fault system that runs the length of the mountain range with
a series of smaller faults that fan off to the sides.
The foundations of cities like Perugia and L’Aquila stand on top of it all.

(excerpt from the BBC)

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(images of and beyond Assisi / Julie Cook / 2007)

May we pray for those who now find themselves without home, without city, without family,
without hope….may we be their hope….

From one man he made all the nations,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history
and the boundaries of their lands.

Acts 17:26

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8-9

Morality

“Compassion is the basis of morality.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,
in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri

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(an empty sarcophagi deep within the bowels of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But evil does not die, just as history does not end. Like a weed, evil can be cut back but never entirely uprooted. It waits for its chance to spread through the cracks in our vigilance. It can take root in the fertile soil of our complacency, or even the rocky rubble of the fallen Berlin Wall”

In his book, Winter is Coming
(Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped)
Garry Kasparov makes a compelling argument as to why it is dire that those of us in the West should be on our guard…as he truly believes the harsh reality of a very cold unbearable winter is soon to be falling upon our fragile democracy.

The single raised rampart of defense is to be morality.

“We need new, morality-based frameworks to confront the dictatorships in Russia and China now that they have so thoroughly become a part of our globalized world…
These frameworks and alliances must be based on moral principles, the only weapon the enemies of democracy cannot match.”

Yet, as I look around our western societies, I look very hard for what remains of a morale society.

Secularism has taken root and spread like a deadly poison weed…reaching deep within the fabric of society. Both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa each observed that western societies now live, as well as embrace, a culture of death.
Even mainstream media reports on the self-centeredness and perpetual quest of all things materialistic and self gratifying within our millennials.

Morality has never been trendy, convenient nor chic.

Excuses are made as to way morality is so passé and out of step with a modern society.
Abortions, Gay unions, declining traditional marriages, rising divorce rates… all work at whittling away at the traditional family unit…the once true anchor and underpinning of a society’s morale fiber.
As today’s society is just too busy with its focus and quest of self fulfillment to be bothered by something as cliche and outdated as morale fiber.

With the current trend of FaceBook, social media, smart phones and all things technological vying for top god position, the quest for this hoped for champion of democracy is growing ever more difficult and elusive. Self satisfaction is raising the victory flag of satiation instead.

Warnings have been issued before to a slumbering world more interested in appeasement and the total denial of Truth….ending every time with deadly and grave consequences…
Things such as Truth, Morality and even God have each become victims in the endless quest of self…

Time is of the essence to heed these current warnings, once again, before we all begin to feel the icy reach of winter….

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I Corinthians 6:9-11

Mediocrity

“And I — my head oppressed by horror — said:
“Master, what is it that I hear? Who are
those people so defeated by their pain?”
And he to me: “This miserable way
is taken by the sorry souls of those
who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels,
the company of those who were not rebels
nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened,
have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them —
even the wicked cannot glory in them.”

― Dante Alighieri

“The world would hate His followers, not because of evil in their lives, but precisely because of the absence of evil or rather their goodness. Goodness does not cause hatred, but it gives occasion for hatred to manifest itself. The holier and purer a life, the more it would attract malignity and hate. Mediocrity alone survives.”
Fulton J. Sheen

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(a lone warbler / Cades Cove, TN. / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park/ Julie Cook / 2015)

Do not hide yourself behind mediocrity,
while basking in the average of mundane.
Do not opt for the middle of the road while choosing
neither high nor low, fast nor slow.
Do not settle on simply blending in
nor being like all the rest…
For climbing the ladder, rung by rung, will lead you neither up nor down.

Dare rather to choose your side refusing to straddle the fence
Roll up your sleeves and sweat if you must, as the outcome is now dire
Be not afraid to make a stand for Darkness has chosen his
Time is no longer on your side with the stage having long been set
It’s life or death for you my friend yet ignore it if you so chose
For mediocrity loves a crowd for indifference is no stranger…

“either you’re with me or agin me”

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
Dante Alighieri

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu

The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.
Origen

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(the waning of summer’s bounty is found fading in a golden afternoon of Autumn / Cades Cove, TN, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Shades of a looming rivalry,a rift, a fight, a battle…a demand for decisions, choices, side choosing…

With or against
Either / Or

An expression that has found it’s way through literature, the movies, even political speeches.
A declaration of sides, choices and determination…

With or against

The end result, the outcome, the ultimate decision of choice…most often unbeknownst to the chooser… hinges precariously between life and death.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Matthew 12:30

Doing the right thing is never easy, but must be done. . .

“It is always darkest just before the day dawneth”
Thomas Fuller

“There are stars who’s light only reaches the earth long after they have fallen appart. There are people who’s remembrance gives light in this world, long after they have passed away. This light shines in our darkest nights on the road we must follow.”
The Talmud

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
Dante Alighieri

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(a tiger swallowtail visits the sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ever since we were young, we were always told to “do the right thing”. . .
It seemed to be so much easier when we were younger. . .

As we aged, growing older and it doesn’t appear much wiser, the right thing seemed to become a bit blurry, out of focus and at times, difficult to discern.
We became pressed with increasing dilemmas.
The “right thing” could at times be hurtful to ourselves or worse, to others. . .
It became too much and overwhelming, it turned out to be more than we could bear.
It often seemed as if our very lives could fall into jeopardy over this whole doing the right thing business.
What were we to do?
What were our choices?
Doing the right thing became harder as doing not the right thing became easier.
“What’s a little fudging here and there” we’d rationalize.
We found ourselves justifying what they don’t know won’t hurt them, or rather, we meant us, as in ourselves.
A blind eye, became key.
Turning the proverbial blind eye to the those trivial details known as facts became common place.
Got the ol head stuck down in the sand, looking the other way and ignoring it all, hoping it would all just go away, leaving us and everyone else alone.

Complacency became our safe and happy place, our easy way out.

Yet the stakes, while we were busy not watching, have snuck in under the wire, growing bigger and higher.

To ignore it would be criminal.
To wish it all away, impossible.
To pretend it doesn’t exist, damning.

The children are dying and the world is bleeding and we can no longer afford not doing the right thing. . .

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“A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of an unidentified migrant child, lifting it from the sea shore, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, Turkey, early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. A number of migrants are known to have died and some are still reported missing, after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized.
(both images courtesy AP)

Full story:
http://news.yahoo.com/distraught-father-of-drowned-syrian-boy-recounts-ill-fated-journey-191139707.html

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in you
Deuteronomy 15:11

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:17