the unbreakable appointment

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

It is because of death that life is so precious.
It is because life is so precious that death is such an evil

David Robertson


(cemetary at St Kevin’s Monastary / Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland /
Julie Cook/ 2015)

Maybe it’s because I’ve read and written a good bit recently concerning the life and death
of the young child Alfie.
Maybe it’s because the shadowed dark veil still occasionally longs to blow across my heart,
or maybe…
it’s just because I’m tired…

I saw a really sad story yesterday about an elderly Chinese man who is afraid of dying
alone…so he’s put himself up for adoption.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/05/04/lonely-chinese-old-man-puts-himself-up-for-adoption.html

Being adopted myself, this story caught my attention for all sorts of reasons.

Our Asian brothers and sisters have always done such a fine job with their elderly.
They don’t neglect them.
They don’t ship them off to homes as we do here in the West.
They don’t turn their backs on them when they become infirmed, sick or simply
too old.
And they don’t decide to simply kill them because they’ve apparently run their course of
contribution and no longer serve a viable purpose.
Nor have they ever been viewed as a burden to society.

Our Asian kin have always taken their elderly into their homes,
caring for them as these now old ones once cared for the
younger others.

Yet sadly, that might be changing.

It seems that this particular man was a widower and was estranged from his sons.
The story noted that there is a growing shift in Asian culture these days
that the idea of a family caring for the elderly is not the given as it once was.

So this gentleman, who posted he is a retired scientist and is still in good
physical condition, just wants a family to spend his final years with.
He wants to contribute to the family by helping to shop, cook, pay bills…
but when the time comes, he wants to be cared for then properly buried by those who
in turn care for him.

He is doing this as he is gravely opposed to having to go to “a home.”

So all this talk of death and dying, life and living…the juxtaposition of
the whole bloody lot just keeps falling flat and heavy in front of my feet.

There’s just no getting around either one.
Because you can’t have one without the other.
There must be life if there is to be death…
That’s just the way it is.

I am not a morse person.
Not obsessive.
Not negative.
Not a fatalist.
I do however believe I am very much realist mixed in with a hardy dose of pragmatism.

When reading David Robertson’s latest post, which was actually an article written
for Christian Today, there I was again meeting death, or actually the notion of death
was meeting me at my door….or actually in my kitchen on my computer screen.

David was writing about death and life and destiny all based on the writings of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes.

But it was really the one line that jumped off the page, or shall we say screen, that
hit me squarely between the eyes…

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

Like most folks, I don’t much care for the whole death and dying business.
I don’t like much to talk about it.
I don’t like to acknowledge it…because that way, maybe it will just go away and leave
me alone.
And I certainly don’t like to think about it.
Not many of us living do.
Because the whole death thing really just tears me out of the frame.

Yes I will say it…despite being a Christian and despite knowing my Redeemer lives and
despite the knowledge that there is life after death…death still bothers me.

Life is for the living is it not?
Not for the dying…

Yet I think it is really a fear of the unknown that is what troubles us most.
Or at least it is for me.

As a planner, a teacher…I kind of like things all neatly mapped out.
Whereas spontaneity sounds glamourous…I’m not one for throwing caution to the wind.
I’m pretty set on point A to point B with no deviations in between.

However, I think it is that big black hole in our lives..the hole of separation
that’s the real kicker.
We are not a separating lot.

It’s the being cut off from and away from those we love that makes death so hard.
Going on living… without…
That is the burden…the burden of the living without.

So maybe that’s why our society is so fixated on trying to control both…
We want to be the masters of our own destinies…our entrances and our exits.
We want to call the shots.
And so we wrap it up in a fancy word and call it euthanasia.
A fancy way for us to call the shots…not God.
Nothing random there..no loss of control.
We, in essence, become our own god.

But it was that line of David’s that’s kept nagging at me…
“it’s not an accident–it’s an appointment which only God can change or cancel.”

David notes in his reflection from King Solomon’s words that
“He is saying that death comes to all, indiscriminately, good or bad:
‘Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…
‘(Hebrews 9:27). Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.
He is not saying that we are to live passively or that we are not to prepare.
But he is saying that it is only God who knows the future.

So there is both power and assurance in that statement.
An appointment that only God and change or cancel.

Not me, not you, no man…only God.

A burden becomes lifted.
It’s not my call.
Not my responsibility to say yay or nay…it’s there when God says its there.
It’s no longer my worry, our worry…my call, our call or truly my schedule or our schedule.
It’s God’s schedule.

And I need to be reminded, I was with that one line that I am small and He is not…

God’s power over death…so much greater than anything man could ever attempt to counter.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-9 – Death, Life and Destiny

“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

A place where everybody knows your name

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart,
and all they can do is stare blankly.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


( the wall inside the Bull and Finch Pub in Boston that was the inspriation to the television
hit series Cheers / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve always considered myself a rather independent individual,
as well as one who relishes in the quiet of being”alone”…
yet for the notion of loneliness, I am, like most folks, not a fan.

I’ve spent most of my married life on my own—not so much because I wanted to
or because my husband was always traveling or in the military but rather because he’s
owned and run a smalltown family retail business for right at 50 years.

He has worked 6 days a week, often 12 or more hours a day, for most of his life…
and he was working in the family business long before I came along.
The Christmas holiday season saw that time of working up to 7 days a week
at 14 or more hours a day.

At first, this wasn’t an easy adjustment.

My dad, for most of my growing up, worked for the County–a 9 to 5 sort of dad.
At one point early in his life, he had been a traveling salesman for my
Grandfather’s company, but Dad had hated it.
Dad was more lazy than not, so the idea of being on the road 24 /7 was less than appealing.
So as soon as my Grandfather died at the young age of 67 in 1967,
my dad and his brother sold the family business and dad went to work as an engineer
for the Fulton County Health Department.

So I was used to a dad who got home at a reasonable hour for supper
and who was always home on weekends.

That was not the case for the man I married.
For he has worked more than he’s been home.

He carries a great deal of regret with all of this as far as our son’s growing up was
concerned–but I continue to reassure him that he did the best he could and managed to
squeeze in good quality time with our son when it was most needed.

And I too have rendered my time to the store, especially during the holidays—
but as a career educator and eventually both teacher and a mom, my own time was
equally filled. Yet it seems that the two of us have, more or less,
been more apart then together…

So I was intrigued this morning when I caught the title of our friend the Wee Flea,
Pastor David Robertson’s title to his latest blog post—
Loneliness-the cord of three strands- Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Cure for Loneliness – the Cord of Three Strands – (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

It seems that the idea of loneliness, as a rife problem, was recently noted in
a commissioned report produced regarding life in the UK…
and it is now seen as such a real problem that the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May,
has just appointed a minister to be in charge of the UK’s problem of loneliness, having
named Tracey Crouch as the new Minister of Loneliness.

A rather interesting title…and I imagine there’s a song in there someplace…
such as the song ‘One is the Loneliest Number’ by the 70’s rock group, Three Dog Night,
which suddenly comes racing back into present-day focus.

Our Wee Flea friend notes that “according to the aforementioned Jo Cox report there are
9 million people in the UK who always, or mostly, feel lonely.
It’s a problem recognised in our media.
The long-running Australian soap reminds us of the importance of ‘good neighbours’
who become ‘good friends’.
Yet how many of us live in streets when we don’t even know the names of our neighbours
(other than when the Amazon parcel arrives),
never mind identify them as friends?
Likewise, Netflix has just introduced a new generation to the ever popular
Friends with its instantly recognisable theme tune, ‘I’ll be there for you’.
How many of us have friends who will be there for us?
How many of us have substituted the handful of friends that come from deep and
committed relationships, with the hundreds of online friends who mean virtually nothing?”

The long-running comedy series, Cheers was the show that first popped into
my mind when thinking of the notion of loneliness along with friends and family
being found is the some of the oddest of places.


(yours truly, along with the ever working husband who, on a business trip, found time
to go visit that place where everyone knows your name / 2014)

The story, if you recall, was set in Boston at a fictions pub named Cheers.
The actual real-life pub that was the inspiration for the TV show is named the
Bull and Finch; a Bostonian pub dating back merely to 1969.
The Bull and Finch is a much smaller place than the television version’s pub
known as Cheers–yet is set up in a rather similar fashion.

One does indeed descend down a small set of stairs from the street level while walking
into a more cramped, low ceilinged sort of tightly configured quasi-tavern.
The bar, however, is long and somewhat spacious. There is a bronze plaque screwed
to the end of the bar, commemorating the iconic seat reserved for the character Norm who
always appeared arriving at the bar after work.
He’d take his usual place at the end of the bar where he would receive his usual,
an icy cold mug of beer while he was often heard to lament about life with his wife who
was obviously home…alone.


(a plaque on the bar at the Bull and Finch Pub commemorating where Norm always
would sit / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is also a back set of stairs similar to the stairs in the TV show, that does lead up
to another restaurant, along with, of course, a Cheers gift shop.

This was a show about the lives of the hodgepodge mix of folks who were each connected
to the pub. From the bar owner, bartenders, barmaids down to the patrons–
and how they had all developed their own sort of close-knit family despite having lives
outside of the bar.

The bar was a place where regular patrons could come, having their very own seat…a place
where the bartenders knew what to serve without the patron ever having to say a word—
simply coming and sitting down said it all…as strangers each gravitated to
this nondescript little pub while eventually becoming most important one to another…
much like an extended family.

A place where everyone knew your name…your likes, your dislikes, your history,
your story, your ups, and your downs…

And whereas our friend the Wee Flee was drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes and the
pinning of a now wizened old king found in Solomon…

Ecclesiastes 4 deals with the oppressed having no comforter, a man without
the companionship of family and friends and a lonely king.
The early church had some quite fanciful interpretations of this passage.
Jerome, for example, saw in the three-fold cord the faith, hope, and love of 1 Corinthians.
Ambrose was more interesting – in speaking of Christ as the friend who sticks closer
than a brother he sees him as the one who lifts up the companion when he falls,
the one who warms, and the one who went from the prison to be a king.
He points us to the real solution for loneliness.

I myself seem to find much more comfort in those words and thoughts
offered by our friend St Ambrose rather than that wisdom uttered by the aging King Solomon.

That being the notion of Christ being closer to us than that of our very kin…

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.”
He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.

And thus we find that it is in our very relationship with Christ in which our loneliness
dissipates as He and His very essence of being seeps in turn, into our very being,
filling every void and crack within often lonely lives.
Thus being truly the One who knows our name, our ups, our downs, our dislikes, our likes,
our best and our worst—staying right by our side despite what He knows about us
and sees—because He is us and we are Him…

Abide in me, and I in you.
John 15:4

“Baby it’s cold outside”

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

DSCN8481
(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

As the mercury in the old glass thermometer begins to make its steady descent, falling lower and lower in the tiny glass stem, reaching that crucial 32º F, magic begins to unfold in the ancient crumbling birdbath.
Liquid collides with frigid air as molecules slow.
Interlocking and spreading outward from itself as frenetic now becomes static. A surface oddly appears where moments before there was none.
Dripping, sloshing and evaporating, everyday miraculous occurrences taken for granted, are now trapped and caught in a single moment of time being transformed from the familiar to the foreign, as a season shifts and a cold stalk reality settles in making itself at home.

And as we are told that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” we must remember, know and claim that even in the simplest act of water changing from a liquid to a solid, from the overflow of rain water in an old birdbath to a thick sheet of ice, this act of the miraculous, does not pass or escape the knowledge of the Master Creator.
Something as commonplace as water freezing during the coming of the winter months, all takes place with the knowledge and observation of a Heavenly Father who has set the planets and the seasons in motion, who has cast light into the darkness, and who continues to offer hope in a world full of hopelessness.

Even in the insignificant discarded birdbath, God’s mastery is on display for any and all to take note. His fingerprints are present in the warmth of the sun as well as in the devoid nature of ice.
Who is this who has set forth the scientific laws of motion, gravity, combustion, transformation, energy. . .man may be able to replicate and create change, for good or bad, but he can only take from what he has been given—and much has been given.

Rejoice then shall we, in the light of day, the twinkling stars by night, the warmth of the sun, the blooming of the flowers, the abundance of the field and even in the barren, harsh frozen nothingness of the silence known as Winter. For there is no place on this planet where God is not—that we may learn to rejoice even as the earth transforms from the welcoming and enveloping seasons of warmth and abundant color to a time of lonely cold and unforgiving ice.
. . . As this amazing lesson and reminder now unfolds and is on full display in a lone and forgotten birdbath.

DSCN8483
(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN8485
(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)