lessons from a difficult sister

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
for myself, I have chosen your altars,
my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3


(Léonie Martin, known as Sister Françoise-Thérèse)

Since I was adopted as a baby I’ve never known whether I had a sister or not.
I did not have a sister in my adoptive family.
However, I do know what it means to have been a bit of a difficult child.

I was rather headstrong growing up.

I wouldn’t say I was difficult, but that label might need to be addressed by my mom and dad,
and since neither of them is here to add to or refute such a claim, we’ll just keep it as headstrong.

I was often willful, somewhat defiant and had a mind of my own.

I knew what I liked and what I wanted despite those wants and ideas not always being the
wisest of thoughts.

After reading the following story about a rather obscure woman and nun,
I found that I could actually relate to her story.

She is what I call a shadow dweller—a person who lives in the shadows of a more prominent sibling.
A girl who wrestled with her own standing in life and what hand she had been dealt.

That’s the thing…isn’t life just merely a matter of what we make of it…
or on the other hand, it’s what Life makes of us?

Either of which makes us, in turn, who we will become

Will we choose to rise above or will we simply succumb?

Will we allow all of the negative to swallow us whole or will we learn to stand up and out
of the negative, rising up to our true potential?

We can either give in and up or we can purposely and willfully fight our demons in order
to be who we are truly called to be.

And who we are called to be might just be a person who is content living in the shadow
of a more famous sibling…

“Léonie Martin is arguably the least known and admired member of her entire family,
but I doubt she minds.
She’s used to being in that position.”

I’ve written often about one of her sisters.
A now well know sister, who despite having lived a very short life, dying from TB at the age of 24,
made a tremendous impact on the world.

Her parents were just recently recognized by the Pope as exceptional.

All of her sisters sought the vocation of serving Christ.

One sister, however, had a more difficult path to walk than that of her siblings.

And the thing is that once she found her way…Grace prevailed over a lifetime of trial,
willfulness, and difficulty.

Here is the link to Léonie Martin’s story…the sister of The Little Flower.

What We Can Learn From the Forgotten Sister of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

can you read between the lines or do I need to loan you my glasses?

Others have commented that it was such a powerful message and it should
get people to reading the bible.
Still others that even if it wasn’t spot on we should take the Philippians 1:18
attitude “But what does it matter?
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
Christ is preached.” –
But that is the key question – was Christ preached?
Was the love of Christ preached?

It wasn’t.
David Robertson


(what will be/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

I suppose I should clarify a few things.

I do not describe myself as an evangelical, a charismatic, a reformist, a progressive,
a liberal, a right winger, a holy roller, a Calvinist, a Wesleyan, a Lutheran,
or even a Henry the VIII follower for that matter…although I was raised in his brand of
the church…

Rather simply put, I claim that of being orthodox—-
Meaning that which is “sound or correct in opinion or doctrine,
especially theological or religious doctrine.
Conforming to the Christian faith as represented in the creeds of the early church.”

As in God said it…therefore it is.

It’s quite simple really as there are no mincing of words.
As the mincing of words, God’s word to be exact, is a practice that so many Believers,
as well as nonbelievers alike, deeply enjoy engaging in these days.

It’s a cut and paste sort of mindset.

Meaning we cut out that which we don’t like while pasting in the parts we do like.

We embrace words such as love, inclusive, wide, happy, feel-good, acceptance, united,
renewal and even embrace itself…
all the while rejecting words such as truth, covenant, tenant, consequence, choose,
narrow, difficult, hard, fact…

My orthodoxy is a very far cry from today’s post-Christian, post-modern, anything goes,
feel good ideology that’s currently spreading like wildfire throughout Western Civilization.

And you should know that I’ve tried it my way, the world’s way, other’s way, no way…
but the only way, of which I’ve always learned the hard way, is that in the end,…
it can only be God’s way.

And so when I hear, see and read so much heightened excitement over a sermon delivered
during a wedding that has been passed off as some sort of faith grounded Christian
new age theology, I am perplexed.

In oh so many weeks I have uttered the same words over and over again…words steeped all
within the same and similar vein…
that of false prophets, false doctrine, cultural shifts, culture gods…
as I remind all of us that the Devil’s minions can recite Scripture with the most
sound theologian.

I have long stated that we are at war…

A deep and divisive Spiritual war.

I know that the battles will rage on but the actual war has already been long won…
I know this good news.
This while many of us are left here to continue the good fight.
As well as left to sound the clarion call into battle.

The sheep and goats are being separated.
There is no getting around that fact.

And that is not a gloom and doom prophesy but sound Scriptural fact.
One of those facts our post-Christian society hates to acknowledge.

So when an animated prelate delivers cut and paste words of which our culture
longs to hear is it a wonder we embrace them??
We say “see, he get’s it…”
He uses the right words…words of love, inclusiveness, union, Jesus, acceptance…

But what our itchy ears fail to hear is that the words don’t fit in sequence with one another.

Chunks of mandates are left out.
Entire tenants are ignored.
A whitewashing has taken place of the original facts.
All being passed off as an old Gospel that is actually quite new.

I could hear all of that in his sermon.
Why do so many others not hear?

Gavin Ashenden heard what I heard.
David Robertson heard what I heard.

“I don’t believe that 2 billion people heard the Gospel in this sermon.
The only people who heard the Gospel in it were Christians who already know Gospel.
Instead of rejoicing in the crumbs we get from heretics,
we should be seeking to learn more of Christ ourselves and get out there and tell the world
about the real Jesus – one person at a time!

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
David Robertson.

David has offered a reflection for Christian Today, here is a link to his thoughts with only
more to follow…

Bishop Michael Curry’s Sermon – A Distorted Gospel Divides the Church

the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

we are our own victims

We must take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel


( a ripening persimon / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a massive and unrelenting tidal wave descending over us..
It is the tsunami of all things news and the resulting title wave of
sensational headlines.
It’s exasperating just trying to keep up.
Especially if one works hard to shift through the facts searching in vain
for the truth.

However…in the end, I think we all really know what matters most…

That being…helping and assisting people to put their lives back together…
With just one example being down in Texas and Louisiana following the most
unwelcomed visit by Harvey as we all now find ourselves wearily eyeing the sky
as Irma makes her way to come calling…

That’s what’s important.

Yet we are inundated with and by the latest protests, demonstrations and clamorings
of the latest and not so greatest hoopla and brouhaha which stems from something
the sitting president has done or has not done.

Yesterday I read the recent posting by my friend Citizen Tom, ‘Left Holding the Bag’
LEFT HOLDING THE BAG

Tom was recounting the story of King Hezekiah’s response to the prophet Isaiah’s admonishment for a rather arrogant and prideful desire of which Hezekiah was granted.
And yet the king was going to have to live with the fallout from his selfish wants…
of which would now greatly impact those who had been entrusted to his governance and leadership.

Tom went on to relate the similarities of that time long ago to our own time today…
of the current situation we seem to be finding ourselves
in with North Korea and why it’s as bad as it is now.

Tom explained how previous leaders and administrations basically pushed the
ever growing knowledge of the DPRK’s advancing and expanding nuclear progress aside.
Particularly the Obama Administration.
For reasons that appear more selfish in nature than examples of selfless leadership.

Tom muses that King Hezekiah seemed to be more concerned about his own legacy,
to such an extent that he was willing to allow his “people,”
and their future generations, to suffer due in part to his selfish wants.

Just as it seems the former president was more interested in the stats of the moment
and what good things he could be remembered for doing while willfully ignoring
the looming facts and threats of a growing nuclear North Korea.
With the mindset seemingly being “let the next guy worry about it.”

And so now we turn our attentions to the more recent current event…
that being the ongoing immigration debacle and DACA.
Which has resulted in once again, more protests and demonstrations.

Yet as we’ve given such programs the names of our very essence…
names that have made us the nation we are…such as “Dreamers”…
And so we grow angry thinking about those who would dare want
to smash ‘the dream’….

When I was still in the classroom I taught a wealth of different kinds of kids.
Many of whom were here in this country illegally.
How do I know this you ask….
They told me.

I loved my ‘kids’, all of my kids, and the knowledge that many were living
in our community and in our state and in our nation illegally created a difficult situation in my heart.

Yet the bottom line, which I knew and still know, was always the same…
the word illegal.

The word illegal as defined by the Oxford Dictionary :
Contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.

As in…the law.

We are a burdened society.

Our healthcare is a catastrophic nightmare with skyrocketing costs.
Our prisons are bursting at the seam while the monies can’t keep up.
Our public education budgets are stretched to the end.
Our public assistance programs are being pulled to their limits.
According to Forbes Magazine, “As of March 2016,
the U.S. government owes almost $19.8 trillion to creditors in both long and short
term debt.”
That was based on figures from a year ago, the numbers have only grown larger in that
year’s time.

But we are a people who are the victims of our own human nature.

By and large the majority of us are caring and compassionate people who want
both ourselves and others to be comfortable and happy.
We don’t like feeling uncomfortable and we don’t like seeing others uncomfortable
because their uncomfortableness makes us uncomfortable and we simply
don’t like being uncomfortable.

We like our friends…all of our friends..those who are citizens and those who
are not—those illegal ones amongst us.
We don’t like the idea of sending them away.
We see the tears and the torn families and our hearts become
empathetic and we just say “leave them alone and let them stay…”

But there are huge ramifications with such thinking.
And that is much of our trouble.
Staying only contributes to the already burgeoning burdens we’ve created.
There are simply not the funds, resources or abilities for such….

And so we have laws for a reason.
We try to have a lawful society.
It’s how order is kept.
It is how our society functions properly.

It may not always appear fair, but we have laws to protect ourselves
from ourselves.

People here illegally are just that, illegal.
No matter how much we love them or want them to stay they are illegal
and simply put,
there will always be repercussions for actions that are illegal.

There are laws and processes in place for those who wish to come here legally.
And for all those countless individuals who have done so, what a sham all of that
rigor now becomes as we are heard to now say
“let them all come and let them all stay.”

And what of our increasing burdens?
Those burdens that this stretched nation can no longer carry on under…
under the tremendous weight of resources that cannot and will not keep up…?

So whereas our hearts speak to the tears we see and the cries we hear…
our laws and our leaders, those who know that the laws are there for a reason…
laws which must be upheld despite all the seemingly unkind, unwelcoming,
uncompassionate byproducts and effects…they must be upheld for our own sakes.

And therefore we need leaders who can lead and who are willing to lead when
things become utterly difficult.
And right now, our times are just that, utterly difficult.

We don’t want nor do we need panderers.
We do not want nor do we need appeasers.
We do not want nor do we need those who care more about legacies,
numbers or even popularity…
Because being unpopular is often what is necessary.

But rather we want and need those who can say and do the more painful and unpopular aspects of leading despite the cost to self….
it’s what we need despite ourselves.

So whereas some leaders have been more preoccupied with self, others have not…
and yet how unkind it is that there are those who have had to pick up the pieces
left hiding by those who ignored the difficult and hard…

For truly good leaders understand the burden that is placed upon their shoulders.
Of which consists of protecting ourselves from ourselves…

So is our current president such a man?
At times it appears that he is…but only time will truly tell…
And what we can do in the meantime is to allow him his elected right to try.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 35:4

a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

the waiting found in unction

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’…
I am grateful that Jesus cried out those words, because it means that I need never fear to
cry them out myself.
I need never fear, nor feel any sense of guilt, during the inevitable moments of forsakenness.
They come to us all.
They are part of the soul’s growth.”

Madeleine L’Engle

dscn1087
((Killarney National Park / County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes it’s difficult seeing that which waits ahead…
or that which is just beyond our focus…

For the roadblocks, pitfalls, snarls and snares that seem to be directly blocking our path…
loom ever so large impeding our field of vision…
they are so demanding and are so draining that we lose sight of what will be
further down the road, beyond where we are now….

They vie for our full attention making us temporarily blind to everything and anything else.
Life is lived as if in a dark tunnel with only a tiny snippet of light which seems
so terribly far away.

Maybe it’s the heavy baggage from the past…
that which seems to frustratingly and relentlessly hold us prisoner….
Tied as a dead weight… hanging stubbornly from our necks.

Or maybe it’s something else….

It was a long weekend…which is now giving way to what will most likely be a long week,
for and with Dad….for me…for us all….

I go daily because he asks me to come.
Yet on the rare day that I stay behind in order to pick up my own life’s pieces,
my thoughts, worries, concerns are there…with him.

I stay later and later because he asks me why must I go so soon….
as if my sitting for hours on end by his bed should be so soon….

His wife no longer knows that she is his wife…
as dementia now erases that later part of her life.

Decisions, hard decisions, will soon be made.

I battle a long and often harrowing drive to and from…
Sitting and waiting…watching… Dad…
as all he can do is to lay there and wait.

Weakly and barely audible, I hear an odd question…
“Do people think I’m nice?”
Where did that come from I wonder….
“Of course people think you’re nice Dad, why wouldn’t they?”
“I don’t know”…as his words trail off as the heavy lids fight to stay open…

Yep, it’s going to be long…as it continues being hard…as it only seems to grow harder and more difficult with each passing day…

The priest came Sunday to anoint Dad and to pray the prayer of extreme unction…

And so now,
in the mystery of that prayer of transition,
we find ourselves now resting and waiting….
As Dad and God work things out….

“As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil,
so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering,
and restore you to wholeness and strength.
May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness,
and bring you to everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because
God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord”
Psalm 130:1

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(Pope Francis walks through the gate at Auschwitz. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock)

This past July,
July 29th to be exact,
Pope Francis journeyed to Oświęcim,
a small industrial town in southern Poland…
He next ventured a bit further to the small village of Brzezinka…

He had come to Poland to meet with an excited and joyful throng of young people
who had journeyed to Krakow in order to celebrate World Youth Day.

Yet it was to Oświęcim and Brzezinka that Francis made a solomon detour.
For in this once obscure and quiet area of Poland, 76 years ago,
the first of 23 concentration camps was opened to receive its first prisoners of war…
This was the beginning of Hitler’s incomprehensible final solution…
this was Auschwitz…

There were major camps…camps where exterminations took place,
of which were scattered throughout Poland,
And there were sub-camps…camps where hard manual labor was the focus.
But it was at Auschwitz that an estimated that 1.5 million people
died during the 5 years it operated.

Six million jews and an additional 11 million individuals
lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis, most of which died in the camps.

And it is estimated that 80 million people lost their
lives during the course of the war.

Pope Francis came to Auschwitz to reflect and to remember…
to remember what the world must never forget…

Yet like all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior,
that Savior who, when nailed to a cross, lifted
his face toward Heaven and asked His father to forgive…
to forgive those who knew not what they were doing…

to forgive us…all of us…
over and over and over…
for our egregious sins…
sins that are unfathomable,
sins that are horrid,
sins that are unspeakable,
sins that are unthinkable,
sins that are inhumane….

All of which leaves us…you, me, the Pope…
charged with that same living and dying example…
to forgive…to forgive those who have sinned against us,
just as we have sinned against others…

It is the most difficult and challenging action of the human ego…

Seventy-five years ago, when Francis was a four-year-old boy
called Jorge living in Buenos Aires,
this cell at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was occupied by prisoner number 16770,
Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar.

When 10 fellow inmates were selected to die in punishment for the escape of another prisoner,
Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered his life instead of that of Franciszek Gajowniczek,
who had cried out in anguish for his wife and children. Kolbe’s offer was accepted.
He was thrown into the starvation bunker for two weeks and finally given a
lethal injection on 14 August 1941.

The pope came to Auschwitz on Friday to pray in silent memory of Kolbe and the
other 1.1m people the Nazis exterminated there. Jews made up the vast majority-
960,000, including 185,000 children–
but thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were also put to death.

He had signaled his intention to visit the memorial “without speeches, without crowds”.
His simple plan was:
“Alone,
enter,
pray.
And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”

In the shadows of the cell, his long silence was an eloquent tribute to the suffering of so many and a profound condemnation of evil.
At the end of his prayers, he raised his head, crossed himself,
stood and left.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/29/no-words-as-pope-francis-visits-auschwitz-death-camp-in-silence

“Lord, have pity on your people.
Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

Pope Francis