Totus Tuus / Entirely Yours

Totus Tuus…
The apostolic motto of Pope John Paul II
latin for
Entirely Yours


(a small creek and waterfall runs into a quiet lake cove / Julie Cook / 2017)

My cousin called me this afternoon, checking in on progress.
I ran down my list…with not much progress to report.
My monotone responses probably told him more than any unfinished laundry list could.
He told me to perk up.
Easier said then done when facing a seemingly unmovable wall.

Life right now is still overwhelming but in an entirely different
sort of fashion then from before.

For good or bad my stepmother’s estranged daughter has decided she wants to move
her mother to North Carolina, to be closer to her.
My stepmother’s son, who I have worked closely with over these past two years,
is reluctantly acquiescing to the option.
It’s complicated.
I think that was the title of a recent movie.
I can relate.

They move her next weekend.

They are packing up her little world.
What’s left and what remains of my dad’s world
will wait to be purged once my stepmother is moved.

It only seemed appropriate that she should move first before I “move” Dad.

When the dust settles with all of this,
our son and daughter-n-law will eventually move to the house…
With the house that I called home for 55 of my 57 years,
the place where I grew up, will soon be theirs.

Dad wanted that.

But I’m still jumping through hoops…
As I continue filing papers, waiting on lawyers, waiting to close then open
all sorts of accounts and continue paying exorbitant bills as none of that
goes away when one dies…
I am facing movings, re-movings, packing, repacking, good-byes, hellos…
shifting lives that are not mine but lives I am responsible for or a part of…

My stepmother claims no knowledge of who Dad was.
She told me again today she had no known remembrance of “that man”
“and isn’t that the craziest thing?”
“I can’t believe you all keep telling me I was married to him.”
On and on she goes remembering everything around him but not him.
She even told him this before he died, that she never remembers meeting him.
He stared at her as I had tried telling him this, but he didn’t want to hear it.

Yet she can point out a mirror hanging on the wall in my dad’s bedroom…
a mirror that she wants me now to take down so she can take it with her…
because that mirror has hung in every house she’s ever lived in.

Go figure.

So as I continue wrestling with life…mine and others…
I have found a new book…
or maybe I should say, the book found me.

The book is from the private diaries of Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II

Any of you who know me, know that the late pope has always been very important
to me—ever since I watched him walk out on that balcony overlooking St Peter’s square
in 1978, with arms raised, greeting the world as the first Polish pope.

The title of the book is
In God’s Hands
and it is the spiritual diary spanning approximately 41 years of his priesthood.

The diaries were to be burned upon the Pope’s death but his close aide and confidant
Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz defied that wish as he understood the spiritual
significance of sharing these private thoughts and writings.

They were just recently translated into English and made available to an audience other
than Polish or Italian readers.

The Pope reminded me of something very important, right on the very first page…

“At a certain point, however, one needs to abandon human calculations and
somehow grasp the Godly dimensions of every difficult issue.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the One who is always in control no matter how
out of control we may feel….

Thank you Fr. Wojtyla….

Oh Heavenly Father, may I learn to be…
entirely yours….

Totus Tuus…
Entirely yours

I need a hero

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens,
or half their greatness goes unnoticed.
It is all part of the fairy tale.”

Peter S. Beagle

“Even death is going to die!”
― Sally Lloyd-Jones

animalsweaters18_3
(a sweater wearing little goat jumps from a hay bale as seen on the Weather Channel from Farm Sanctuary image 2014)

Look up, in the sky…
It’s a bird…
It’s a plane…
No….
it’s Super…. goat??!!

Well… maybe that’s not exactly the hero you were hoping for….
albeit…it’s a pretty darn cute one…

For who among us hasn’t, at some time or other, longed for a cape crusader who would
come flying into our lives… ready to save the day…
Or perhaps even more aptly…
save us from ourselves…

“I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

Song lyrics by Bonnie Tyler most recently heard and seen used in the KIA car commercial
showcasing Melissa McCarthy being called in to come save the whales, then the rhinos, etc
…with all calls being met with dire consequences for the heroine McCarthy…

Yet who among us hasn’t at some point in life looked up hoping to see someone, anyone,
swooping in who would have all the answers…
all the solutions…
the one person who possessed that magic bullet…that remedy, that saving hope…

Someone who would come to the rescue and who could stop all the craziness…
stopping all the bad guys,
stopping all the hurting,
stopping all the madness….

And it just so happens that we may have to look no further than to a small mountain bald
outside of the gates of old Jerusalem…

looking no further to….
Gagultâ… in Aramaic
Golgotha… in Greek Γολγοθᾶς
Calvariæ Locus… in Latin
Calvary… in English…

Otherwise known as simply ‘the place of the skull’…

For it was here on this bare outcropping of desolate land,
known to locals as the cap of the skull,
that just a little over 2000 years ago, a real hero,
nay the only true hero who has ever lived,
was put to death.

But, as most would imagine,
our hero’s story was not merely finished with his being put to death.
Absolutely far from the end….
Because the story was truly only beginning…

For it was in the death of this hero that our own endings, our own loss of life,
our own deaths….
were defeated…

Meaning, death would be no more….

No longer would death be a forever closed ending…
of which we have all so imagined things to be…
A permanent ending of a black hole sucking in all life…into the aphotic void of total
impenetrable light or hope…

But rather…in this death of our hero…
was to be found…
a beginning….
our beginning…
and a beginning not just for our hero, but for all who so choose….

And so it is to the cross where we are look in order to find our hero…

crusifixion-669x470

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict.
In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands;
not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness;
not by force but by sacrifice.
Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win;
He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by
allowing death to conquer Him.”

― A.W. Tozer

black sheep

“America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.
That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in
the Declaration of Independence;
perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics
and also great literature.
It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice,
that governments exist to give them that justice,
and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism,
and it does also by inference condemn atheism,
since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom
these equal rights are derived.
Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of
such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally
God whose claim is taken more lightly.
The point is that there is a creed,
if not about divine, at least about human things.”

G.K. Chesterton

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(folkart ceramic black sheep my aunt found at a crafts show in North Carolina)

Bah, Bah, a black Sheep,
Have you any Wool?
Yes merry I Have,
Three Bags full,
One for my Master,
One for my Dame,
One for the Little Boy
That lives down the lane

(the original 1744 English Nursery Rhyme from the Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book)

Anyone who knows me….
knows I have a thing for sheep.
Why, I don’t know…I’ve just always been drawn to them….

And it must be noted that it is those with either a black face or those entirely black
that speak most sweetly to my heart.

Add to that…that it seems black sheep have always gotten a really bad rap…
so perhaps there’s a bit of ‘supporting the underdog’ in my affinity….

Outsiders and or outcasts of a family have always been referred to as a black sheep….

In ancient times black lambs were killed by the farmer or shepherd as they were associated
with being like the devil as both were black in color.
Even ancient Greeks associated black sheep with Hades, the ruler of the underworld,
and would in turn sacrifice black sheep in hopes of currying favor while hoping to ward
off any unforeseen visits by this keeper of Hell…

Consider even the seemingly benign old English Nursey Rhyme, Bah Bah Black Sheep

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(Edmund Caldwell illustration 1880)

What was first published in 1744 as part of the oldest recorded collection of children’s
Nursery Rhymes, Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book,
is included the sing song tale of a little black sheep along with his wool…

Yet it is thought that the rhyme’s original intent was actually more of a political comment
on the wool tax of that day’s time…

And then in the late 20th century it seems a darker and more sinister twist took place
with our little children’s rhyme as it was seen to possess negative racial connotations.
Hence leading it to become its own black sheep of the nursery world….

Pity really….and even quite ridiculous….

As this is a prime example of how far we’ve detached ourselves from reality…
it is a prime example as to how our crazy minds have been sadly evolving…
spiraling down into the depths of sheer lunacy and madness….
As we’ve allowed a sweet little children’s rhyme to become a poster child for all things
negative or racist…

Shame on us all for being so damned sensitive….

I say this because I continue hearing and seeing all sorts of references to our becoming a
fascist Nation.

Didn’t I just touch on this little observation last week??
Did I not try explaining as to why we are not???
And yet it seems as if no one is listening…

Sigh…

If anyone really wants to understand about fascist regimes…
any book ever written offering first hand accounts of life in a Nazi occupied nation or
of life lived and lost in a concentration camp…
well, that would be the best and most accurate description of what fascism,
along with its spiraling nature of uncontrolled brutality, is all about.

Our current life here in the US is not, and I repeat, IS NOT,
an example of living under a Fascist regime.

The very notion that people are able to yell and scream at, to or about the president
and the government…while not suddenly disappearing…
never being heard from again…
should be proof enough…

That people may be hateful to one another, intolerable of one another, that they may
defame their leaders or their fellow countrymen, that they can throw things through
windows, spray paint buildings, set fires to cars, and basically destroy everything
and anything in their wake that is neither owned nor possessed by them….

That people are actually allowed to go crazy and ballistic over various speakers wanting
to speak…as these certain groups of people have now decided who will be allowed to
experience the First Amendment and who will not…
while taunting law officials, while wearing masks, while causing all manner of chaos
and havoc… with little to no repercussions…should be proof enough.

That you aren’t having to poison your own pets as an attempt to end their lives in what you
consider to be an act of mercy because you live in fear that when the authorities come for
you, you won’t have to worry about what will be happening to your pets when you
are hauled off….

That you haven’t had to surrender your technology or communication devices because
the powers that be have deemed them to be a danger to the state.

That you have not had your business seized, your home seized, your family incarcerated
because you were considered anti nationalistic…

That you are not afraid when you lay your head down on your pillow at night that there
will be a knock on your door demanding your sons or daughters be handed over in order
to the do their duty for the State while knowing you may never see them again….

Rather instead we are all basically allowed to be selfish, hateful, intolerant, violent,
mean, vile, vulgar, dangerous, inflammatory…
as well as…
secretive, selective, extravagant, flamboyant, pompous…
All behaviors which have been not only tolerated but to a great deal, protected…

that IS NOT fascism nor is it living in a fascist nation…

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(little black sheep Co Kerry, Ireland sheep farm / Julie Cook / 2015)

Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the one true God;
whoever takes an oath in the land
will swear by the one true God.
For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.

Isaiah 65:16-17

It’s all relative

“No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived.
Our own culture, therefore, will either
(1) be the first, and disprove history’s clearest lesson,
or
(2) persist in its relativism and die,
or
(3) repent of its relativism and live.
There is no other option.”

Peter Kreeft

img_2314
(my stepmother is so proud of her pumpkin display…)

Relative or relative…
Hummmm…

They say that learning the english language is one of the hardest languages to learn…
and maybe that’s because of our penchant to use one word in multiple ways,
with each particular way having it’s own meaning and even distinct pronunciation…

Thankfully however we are not like the French what with all their le and la business…
I never could figure out why one thing had to masculine while something else had to be feminine…
why can’t it just be…neutral…as in just a word…..??

But I digress as I am too weary to rattle on about the English language,
or mes amis à travers l’étang,
or that of the Queen’s, the King’s,
or even the colonies now turned states, english….

And while I’m thinking about it, maybe we should have kept that whole colony notion,
having stayed with that crazy King George…
because that way we wouldn’t be living in the current land of sensory deprivation
with all things in life now being only Hillary or the Donald…

But then the fourth of July wouldn’t be nearly as festive and we’d be dealing
with Brexit…

sigh…

But I’m way too weary for all of that garbage today as well…

Today has just been one of those days…
you know the ones…
you wake up after an awful night of fitful sleep with ‘sleep’ being a relative term
as you only got one hour…
let alone the 7 or 8 or whatever is currently being required
for waking perky and refreshed.

I can’t remember when I last felt perky…
maybe its the inflamed nerves…

It was then a day for relatives…
as in Dad and my stepmother and the day’s current caregiver.

There are days I am strong…as I have to be strong for everybody right now…
especially Dad…
But then there are days like today when strength is a relative term…

My stepmother was in a good mood thankfully…but the caregiver was not…
And with my stepmother, each day is a mystery as to who will wake up…
Dr. Jekyll or Mr Hyde…

Upon my arrival, I was happy to see Dr. Jekyll,
who actually wanted me to go buy her a new trashcan…
the kind with the step-on latch to open the top…
And it had to be small and stainless…

After gathering the trashcan, which thankfully she loved…yet tomorrow that could change,
and gathering the groceries and their lunch…
it was time to schlepp things up from the basement all in order for her to
“decorate” for any trick or treaters that may come their way.

My dad is the sole remaining original resident of the cul-de-sac…
as all the other neighbors have sadly faded away.
The quaint neighborhood of 10 houses, that were built in the mid 1950’s, once overflowed with
the sounds of children…
Yet those children, of which I was once one, have all grown up and moved away…
leaving those once joyful sounds of play, sadly now silent.

I am happy however to report that young couples are currently moving back in
with their own band of gleeful little ones who will once again romp up and down
the relatively safe little street…claiming it, just as we had,
as their own tiny little realm of the mighty cul-de-sac.

So today, in giddy anticipation, my stepmother wanted to ready things for a few
hopeful customers for candy come Monday evening…

Yet as is often the case, dealing with those with dementia,
my stepmother was giddy and excited today,
wanting me to buy candy for Halloween….but come Monday,
which in Dad and my stepmom’s limited world, the passage of time is indeed relative,
she may completely forget, by tomorrow, what all the candy is for…

And then there was Dad…
still holding his own but gravely weak and now bleeding a great deal
as the doctors have told us the tumor would ebb and flow.
The tumor is now causing a good bit of pressure so dad feels the urgent urge
to urinate yet with little to nothing to show for the effort…
…and now there is more blood than anything else…
so the constant up and down is taking a toll.

He did however request, that when I went to buy their groceries, that I buy some ice-cream…
and I did…lots and lots of ice-cream.

By the time I was finally on my way home late afternoon,
the caregiver called me,
alarmed that dad is so weak that he almost fell getting in the bathroom…
She wanted to let me know that she was calling the hospice nurse,
who will be out tomorrow morning, sharing the latest worries.

So I will go see what she thinks…

Some days are good,
and some days are not so good…
and that, I suppose, is simply life…
Of which,
I believe,
is simply being relative…

So as I was driving home, with hot stinging tears welling up in my eyes…
wondering where my mom was when I needed her…
an old song I use to love a million years ago came flooding into
the forefront of my brain…
thankfully…
mercifully…
miraculously…
flooding…
and washing…
into my brain…

Reminding me…
swiftly,
quickly
and powerfully
that not all things in this life are merely relative…

That there is one thing and one thing only that is totally separate,
independent and irrespective of this innocuous life..

and that would be…
the Lamb of God…
the blessed lamb of God….

The song is The Lamb of God by Twila Paris
and this is a moving You Tube video clip I found reflecting her beautiful song…

No east nor west

Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West,
Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling “The Ballad of East and West

DSC02146
(a tiny skipper and honey bee share the same patch of sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSC02147
(a tiny skipper and honey bee share the same patch of sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

Having been raised in the Episcopal Church, attending a very large
southern gothic Cathedral, I relished in the rich hymns which would
echo off the seemingly cold limestone walls each Sunday morning.
Resoundingly joyous, as well as seriously solemn, proclamations
of faith carried aloft by both grand organ, choir and congregation would
ring out triumphantly each Sunday all those many years ago—
just as they do to this day.

It’s just that I no longer hear those hymns as I once did as I have long since moved away from my childhood home and church–having long since drifted away from the Episcopal Church.
Yet I know those hymns still ring true as that’s just a part of the strong tie that binds the faithful to the services of the various denominations of the Christian Church, most of which are steeped in rich traditional sacred music—despite the divisions and doctrinal changes, some things such as hymns, stand up to the rigorous test of time.

Every once in a while, for whatever reason, one of those beautiful melodies comes gently gliding back to the forefront of my thoughts and memories.
Oddly such was the case today.
I found myself mindlessly, or so it seemed, humming a vaguely familiar tune when it suddenly dawned on me what it was I was actually humming. . .In Christ there is no east or west, in Him no north or south, but one great fellowship throughout the whole wide earth. . .

A rather apt hymn given the current state of this overtly divided Nation, or rather make that World, of ours. . .

I did a bit of digging regarding the origin of the hymn—was there some sort of lesson God had to offer me as it seemed He graciously brought the tune and memory into focus this oh so average summer day.

The hymn was written in 1908 by William J. Dunkerly, aka John Oxenham, an English businessman turned poet, journalist and author. The poem / hymn was roughly based off of a story written by Rudyard Kipling nine years prior–The Ballad of East and West. A story steeped in the clashes and division of cultures found in Colonial India.

Oxenham’s hymn speaks not to the divisions and clashes of mankind and culture but rather to the unity—the unity of all humankind which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

And that’s the thing. . .there will be no unity of north and south nor east and west nor all that which falls within, not until man (and that word is a collective word which represents all humankind) can put himself (and yes that includes herself) under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Sadly ego, pride and that of personal agendas take precedence in the heart of man, and woman, as mankind decides to be his or her own god. Selfishly putting self, personal agendas and anything else for that matter ahead of a God who asks for a heart of submission–for all He asks is that we follow Him (Matthew 4:19)—yet as human beings stubbornly demonstrate time and time again they prefer to lead rather than follow.

The irony found in this need for submission is that so many folks view it as yielding to a state of being “less than” or of being held a prisoner by a grand puppet master. What they don’t understand is that within that submission, yielding, bending of self comes the gift of freedom and life eternal.
It is not a yielding to the dogmatic power of control exerted by some maniacal psychopath or deranged dictator, but rather to that of a benevolent and loving Creator who longs to gather His children close. Such following leads to the offering of self, not to self, but rather to the betterment of all mankind. . .

However I suppose the majority of this squabbling world of ours just prefers the agenda of self which simply leads to a twain that shall never meet and the inevitable silence of death. . .

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

(and for anyone who is interested in hymns, their origins, their history, their usage. . .there happens to be a fellow blogger, Robert Cottrill, who has a site dedicated to just that very thing–
http://wordwisehymns.com )

Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26