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

the direction of bricks and mortar

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good,
and melt at other’s woe.

Homer

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(Julie Cook / 2015)

Currently feeling most grieved over the latest madness sweeping across this
great nation of ours…
what with the divisiveness and hateful discourse bombarding our daily lives…
Of the recent marches and demonstrations…
with now high school kids adding to the mix…

My thoughts shift to relationships…
meaningful and significant relationships…
To those components of mortar and to the building blocks…
to all that builds and creates a base
a community…

to those footings…
to the foundations…
and to the resulting communions we build…

Thoughts shift to those who have crossed my own life…
to those who imprinted and imparted upon me…
a betterment,
a lastingness,
an endurance..

where would I be without such…

Today I ran across a post I’d written 2 years ago…
oddly it was just sitting out there on the internet…
under a particular search word…

It seemed rather timely so I decided to borrow a portion it for today’s post…
because it recounts the importance of a life that helped to form my own life.

For I now see that our youth currently need individuals in their lives who are strong…
those who don’t mind taking time…
those who aren’t afraid of taking a risk …
Those who want to help…
to mould,
to shape,
and to guide.

For our kids need to hear the words “don’t” and “no”…
as well as “good” and “job well done”
they need to be loved and nurtured…
not ignored or simply turned out…
they need to be disciplined and held accountable
not left unbridled or excused…
they need to be given directions…
but not carried…

Because they will seek out those individuals…
that communion and community..

the concern will be to whom and to what….

excerpt–original date Jan 12, 2015…

Being able to express myself was always important.
I most often found that freedom in the process of simply writing.
First, as a young girl, in the form of a journal / diary,
then as I grew older,
it came through the writing of letters.

It was in the writing of letters where I allowed myself to fully express my thoughts.
It was the one place my often frustrated brain could and would be allowed to soar.

In the days before computers, emails and word documents…
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–
especially the letters I’d write that bordered more along the lines of epistles,
those lengthy and meaty tome like lettes to my godfather–a long retired Episcopal priest.
He passed away late December at the age 94.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in many a previous post.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words,
despite the large dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought… as I would think much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without a judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement or warning,
lessons or simply the “if I were you”…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman,
where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.

He would never say “yes” or “no” but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance,
of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

And so as I currently find myself surveying a sea of rising national angst..
My thoughts now wander to those meaningful and significant relationships that we form…
those unique and timely bonds offered by the mentors and the role models amongst us…

To what direction are they now pointing…
To what sort of guidance do they long to impart…
To what sort of mortar and foundation do they wish to use…
and does anybody really still care…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23

(The Very Reverend David Browning Collins 1922-2016)

how shall you be known?

“A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion of the will.
The sign by which one is distinguished from the other is the judgement of God Himself…
that which He teaches a man is the truth;
that which He leads a man to will is the good.
But whatever contradicts this is entirely false, entirely evil.”

St. Nicholas Cabasilas

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“Watch out for false prophets.

They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
(Matthew 7:15-20)

Where it is important that we should be able to recognize what is true, real and pure…
that which is not a falsehood, a lie, an evil…

Is it not equally as important that others should be able to look at us,
both you and me,
and recognize what drives us, guides us, leads us…?

What do they see?

Can they see what we stand for, what directs us, what motivates us…

Are we a mirror, reflecting the Grace, Mercy and determination of Christ

Or do we cast shadows of obscured light…

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(persimmons / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 1:18

Authority vs Power

“Another time of testing has come.
Another day of reckoning is here.
This is a testing and a reckoning…
that could prove even more decisive than earlier trials.”

Os Guinness

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(statue of St Peter stands looking over St Peter’s Square, The Vatican/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“The Kingdom of God is the realm of true authority; the kingdom of Satan is seen in the tyranny of raw power.”
(God and Churchill/ Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley

In his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence, written long before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the then former Chancellor of the Exchequer penned his bleak yet precautionary predictions for the future of not only Western Civilization, but the world at large.

Churchill’s essay was written post WWI, while the destructive images of a devastated Europe raged fresh in his mind just as the rumors of new wars festered along the horizon….

“Without an equal growth of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, Science herself may destroy all that makes human life majestic and tolerable. There never was a time when the inherent virtue of human beings required more strong and confident expression in daily life; there never was a time when the hope of immortality and the disdain of earthly power and achievement were more necessary for the safety of the children of men.”

Churchill’s opining of predictions were but a stone cast into a pond whose ripples were to reach to what he saw to be 1981…
however his words and thoughts, those ripples, continue to be relevant to our own day and time these 85 years later…well past the initial envisioned fifty years.
In fact his words ring more true today than they did in 1981.

I think we’d all agree that our times are exceedingly precarious.
Many an observer notes the almost tangible and even palpable fear that is presently running as an electric current throughout the world.
Radical Islamic Extremists,
global terrorism,
coups,
civil wars,
our own racial divide and unrest…
all of which has rocked this 21st century world.

There are many, myself included, who can’t help but to see the mirrored comparisons of a rising Adolph Hitler and his Nazi death machine compared to today’s current menacing death machine of Islamic fanaticism and its declared war or caliphate against the West and the Judeao / Christian foundation…of which has stood since the days of Constantine…

“We are confronted with another theme. It is not a new theme;
it leaps out upon us from the Dark Ages–
racial persecution, religious intolerance, deprivation of free speech,
the conception of the citizen as a mere soulless fraction of the State.
To this has been added the cult of war.
Children are to be taught in their earliest schooling the delights and profits of conquest
and aggression.
A whole mighty community has been drawn painfully, by severe privations,
into a warlike frame.”

(except of speech broadcast to Britain and the United States October 16, 1938)

Reading these words, not knowing they were spoken 78 years ago, in a different time and place, one would imagine them to be easily written today…
If we listen carefully we hear the ominous warnings…
warnings concerning the madrassas of today with their radical teachings to the youth of Islam…
we hear of the ongoing global teachings of intolerance for Western society…
we hear of the hate for the Christian and Jewish communities throughout the world…
warnings and reminders being echoed of the soulless citizens having lived or who are currently living under the blankets of communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships and the growing rise of socialism….
anything but democracy….

It would behoove us, as we stand on the cusp of the dire decisions and votes being cast…
with their often ominous results–
not only on a national level, but to the choices, votes and decisions being made globally,
to understand the difference between what is true authority verses what is power merely cloaked in a false authoritative shawl.

Authority shows itself in constructive power, whereas raw power is inevitably destructive, as Hitler and the Nazis amply demonstrated. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, but power is seized.
Authority is given to the humble, those under authority; power is snatched by the proud, who acknowledge no authority over themselves. Authority is sustained through relationship, which is why Churchill devoted so much time to communicating and to being among the people. Raw power, on the other hand, is sustained through four control mechanisms: manipulation, condemnation, intimidation, and domination, skills that Hitler and the Nazis honed to a sharp point”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Again, words written regarding a past time yet even more relevant today…

May we open our ears to the past as we open our eyes to the future as we currently wrestle with seeking
new governing leadership…
May we be mindful to look to those individuals who seek not to grab power but rather to those who seek to lead under the authority that has been granted from the only One who can truly grant authority to those who seek His counsel for those who which they are charged to lead….

The whole world is upborne and sustained by God’s Love, and each person was created as an act of love. This is truly incomprehensible to us because we can’t see clearly the breath, and depth, and enormous scope of such great love. God looked at each stage of Creation and said clearly that it was good: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish, and the plants. All is good, all is blessed, and all is an outpouring of Trinitarian love. When we were created, then God said that this was more than good, but very good. Very good! When will we live up to such a great calling, to such a great love: personal, intense, and giving the power to also create around us an expression of God’s goodness and love. Help us, O Lord, to fulfill Thy precious love in us and in all we touch and see.
Amen.
(offering prayer from the monks at St Isaac’s Orthodox Skete)
(http://www.skete.com/index.cfm)

desensitized

Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.
For the Strength of Youth

These data suggest very strongly that participating in the playing of violent video games by children and youth increase aggressive thought and behavior; increase antisocial behavior and delinquency; engender poor school performance; desensitize the game player to violence.
Leland Yee
former California Senator

Today the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer and tobacco.
David Grossman
Israeli author

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(gargoyle downspout Adare Manor / Adare, Coutny Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Desensitize–a transitive verb—meaning: to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically: to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it

Two recent articles about children and young people have each catapulted the word desensitization and its meaning to the forefront of my radar leaving me greatly troubled.

As a retired educator articles which showcase the current and various growing concerns for and of our youth certainly catch my eye as I spent a lifetime living out those very concerns on a daily basis. As any educator will tell you, teachers not only “teach” they also nurture, mentor, direct, guide, care for, comfort, coach, discipline, lead, encourage, help…etc.

Teaching is not a one subject fits all sort of job.
In fact teaching is not a job at all but rather a vocation or a calling. You have to care about kids and their well being in order to want to teach. Those in it for either a paycheck or some sort of job security need look elsewhere.

As a veteran classroom teacher, who spent my entire career working at the high school level, I am very much aware of the often fragile and tenuous tightrope our adolescents walk in their daily lives.

Any parent and educator alike can tell you that raising and educating kids is no easy task especially given today’s growing technological pull and social media draw that is blanketing our youth.

The first story I read yesterday.
It was an article examining a link between the alarming rise of teenage suicide and that of social media usage.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/02/11/is-social-media-fueling-national-epidemic-teen-suicide.html

I found the article both disturbing as well as telling— as I forwarded it to several teachers and counselors who are currently still working with various school systems.

It has often been noted that many in this generation of kids have a very difficult time actually talking to people. It is often observed that they do not make eye contact easily or readily nor are they capable of carrying on any sort of lengthy conversation with a free flowing dialog.

They can be in a room filled with their family or friends yet will be more engaged on their phones rather than those sitting by their side. They will actually opt to text a person in the very same room rather than ask a verbal question or make a verbal comment.

There is a frighting and rapidly growing disconnect between reality and virtual…with kids often preferring the virtual.
Maybe because its as if they feel they can control the virtual better than reality.

Yet the correlation between kids, their social media usage and an increase in the suicide rate is something that should have us all concerned…..

The second article, which includes a short video clip, I actually read today having spotted it on the BBC.
It was an interview conducted by a BBC reporter of two young Syrian boys aged 8 and 10.
The boys were only two out of hundreds who have been living in IS occupied areas of Syria.
Luckily for these two boys, they have made it out of Syria and hopefully out of harms way.

The interview begins with the 8 year old aptly demonstrating how to put on a sucicide vest with as much ease as he would have kicking a soccer ball.

He told the reporter how they had often witnessed beheadings. They would be called by loudspeaker to come witness what was taking place as IS members would behead, in the boy’s case, a neighbor.

It is reported that IS is actually rewritng the textbooks used in classrooms…changing dates as well as “current” geographical maps.

The children, yes young children, are put through a variety of physical military type training and obstacles courses while actually being shot at and yelled at as they maneuver the course.
Of which is probably the most disturbing clip in the video.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35552391

Between our own kids who are drowning in a sea of social media, violent video games and a huge Spiritual disconnect and then the children who fall under the harsh and brutal regimes of hate spreading their insidious indoctrination of hate and destruction all around the globe our future as a human race is looking neither hopeful nor promising…
We need, for their sake as well as our own, to take our children back….


All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

the tontine

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time.
And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.

Mahatma Gandhi

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(The Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A tontine…
A french word used during the 17th century to denote an investment created by several individuals…With the premise being that each member of the group agrees to initially pay a set sum…
The money is never touched, rather it is allowed to grow over time.
As the years pass and the members of the group eventually, one by one, die off, the remaining shares grow…with the last surviving member of the group amassing the lump of the sum plus all accrued interest.

The idea of a tontine played out on one of the episodes of the hit show M.A.S.H.

In this particular episode Colonel Potter, the patriarch of the cast, received a secretive and oddly strange package of which suddenly cast a grave pall over his entire demeanor. Naturally those closest to the beloved leader, Hawkeye, BJ, Margaret and Charles each grew terribly concerned seeing that the Colonel had grown almost inconsolably depressed after having received this most odd package.

The entire episode evolved around what was in the package, what was wrong with Colonel Potter and what could this rag tag group of friends do to help.

Finally Colonel explained…
The package was a bottle of fine French Brandy.

The story behind the bottle was that during World War I, when Colonel Potter was a young soldier, his regiment had found themselves dangerously deep behind enemy lines in German occupied France. His small group of comrades had come upon the bottle of brandy as they hunkered down in an abandoned shell of what was once an elegant home. Right then and there this little group of beleaguered soldiers made a pact, or more appropriately a tontine. Should they survive the war, they would save the bottle of brandy by placing it in a safety deposit box. The bottle would then remain under lock and key until there was but one lone survivor of the group–upon which time the bottle was to be delivered to the “last man standing” who would in turn drink a toast to what had been.

Colonel Potter, who now bitterly found himself still fighting, what seemed to be a lifetime of wars all these many years later, was the last living soul remaining from his once youthful regiment, as his own mortality now mockingly taunted him as it stared him in the face… all the while a lonely bottle of brandy begged to be consumed.

Life is indeed bittersweet.

If we are fortunate, we live a long life supported and surrounded by family and friends.
We journey together through both joy and sorrow, trepidation and gallantry.
We ride the waves of triumph both high and mighty then hold fast and tight during the calamity of storms.
We experience shared moments, good and bad, which become the mortar between the building blocks of our lives.

Then one strange day we suddenly realize, that while we weren’t paying attention or taking much notice, ever so slowly and one by one…our numbers mysteriously have decreased…

We find ourselves on the opposite side of happily ever after, looking back wondering where the time has gone. One by one we are left more and more isolated and alone, until finally we are the last man / woman standing out of a once large troupe of beloved comrades, family and life long companions.

Gone are those who were in our lives to protect, to cheer on, to share with, and to relish with….those who were the life-lines, the wise ones, the sages of our lives…
Leaving us in the unfamiliar position of now being those very things for a much younger lot than ourselves…
A lonely feeling.
A bittersweet feeling.
A very sad feeling.

And that was the very overwhelming realization for dear ol Colonel Potter…

The friends that had transitioned with him from boyhood to manhood, under cloak of war, we’re all now gone. Those who had lived through and understood a lifetime now long past had all but vanished, leaving him as the only remaining one who could recall and understand a time that was as he found himself now surrounded by a much younger group who had not been there nor done that…he was now the odd man out.

Yet through the heavy sense of loss with the weight of age suddenly bearing down and crushing his shoulders, our dear Colonel Potter understood that as he may be the last of his particular group to survive, he was still surrounded by companions, loved ones and friends… albeit of a different generation.
Life was still to be lived, relished and enjoyed.
Occasionally he could look back and recall all that was, but life was indeed for the living and it was time to say good-bye to the past while looking toward the future.

And so as he opened the bottle of bandy that had delightfully mellowed with time, offering a toast to those who once were and to a life that was well lived…he also offered a toast to those standing by his side and to the life that was yet to be…
toasting the memories of friends now gone and toasting the lives of those friends now standing by his side.

May those of us who now find ourselves standing closer to the end of our own life’s tontine remember, that as our numbers maybe decreasing, our importance in the lives of those who come behind us is greatly increasing.
Our experiences, our history, our life’s knowledge is all necessary in order to help light the path for those generations behind us as we continue moving toward an unknown future of the possibilities of what will be.
We stand as the mile markers and guideposts for future generations…may we, with God’s grace, direct them well…

And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
1John 2:17