coincidence or Spirit…

“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self.
It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome,
we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit,
that it is God, the indivisible.
And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world,
yet undisturbed by its multiplicity,
for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”

Hermann Hesse

One year ago yesterday on March 19th, my dad lost his battle with cancer.
At the time, the last thing I was thinking about was what all was going on around me
let alone the significance of dates on a calendar.
I was just doing good by planning a funeral and dealing with the remnants of a lost life…

I was simply oblivious to everything else.

Moments of such loss tend to do that to us…

We freeze as if caught in a glitch of both space and time…
we’re standing still but the world, and everything else around us is still
spinning and moving.

This year as March 19th arrived on the calendar, with me marking both it’s coming and going
with a bit of inward melancholy, I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the entire day
I had been subtly reminded that March 19th was not just a day marking a sad milestone in my
small corner of the world, it also just so happened to be the day that the Church remembers
St Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.
As in the feast day of St. Joseph

As in a ‘dad’ sort of day.

And like I’ve said before, I’m not one for the notion of coincidence as I am more about the moving
of the Spirit. Because with God, there is no such thing as coincidence…
just the guidance offered by the third member of the Trinity.

And so as I found myself fondly remembering my own dad, the man who adopted me when I was but
a few months old, for both good and bad, who stood watch over me most of my life while that role
was reversed during the last 5 years of his life…
I now recall the one who stood watch over a growing God made man-child …
a boy who needed the perfect earthly father to guide him as He prepared to lead us all
to our own Salvation…

So whereas I was feeling glum as I moved throughout my day, I found my thoughts being gently
teased outward as I have been reminded that God is always greater, ever mindful and deeply full
of thought for each and every one of us in our ups as well as downs…
no detail is too small, no event too insignificant that He is not everpresent.

what was

“I have always believed, and I still believe,
that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it
meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse


(a once prized and regal chair now sits abandoned and discarded / Julie Cook / 2017)

this is a tale of that which once was….

Have you ever wandered through an antique store, thrift shop, rummage sale or a rarely
visited basement or attic….
finding things that harken to a different space in time?

Have you ever sought a treasure where others only saw trash?
Finding something of beauty hiding underneath the layers of grime, damage, neglect
and even abuse?

Have you ever wondered how something that was once so special and treasured
now sits shredded and torn, broken and sad, ignored and now forgotten?

I think we are very much like this chair.

Once upon a time we were energetic, full of beauty and grace…
Some of us were even stately and certainly noteworthy.
We were taken care of, kept clean, neat and ever so tidy..
Often we were paraded about by those who loved us
during those special moments of life.

We were treasured, cherished and the pride of others…

Then time and life took their toll.
And like this forgotten beauty, now broken, worn, tired and dirty…
we were passed over for things newer and shinier…
we had lost our luster and therefore were simply discarded, making way for the new…
as society deems us now less than….

But that is never how we are seen through the loving eyes of our Omnipotent Father.
Despite what the years of decay and dirt have done to us,
despite the brokenness, the raggedness, the age and wear…
He sees what was…
What was special, what was lovely and that which He had always intended…
that which was, and still is, beautiful….

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

waiting on transformation

The call of death is a call of love.
Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative,
if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation.

Hermann Hesse

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(a typical Georgia winter’s day / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Evil is real
and powerful.
It has to be fought, not explained away, not fled.
And God is against evil all the way.
So each of us has to decide where WE stand, how we’re going to live OUR lives.
We can try to persuade ourselves that evil doesn’t exist; live for ourselves and wink at evil.
We can say that it isn’t so bad after all,
maybe even try to call it fun by clothing it in silks and velvets.
We can compromise with it, keep quiet about it and say it’s none of our business.
Or we can work on God’s side, listen for His orders on strategy against the evil,
no matter how horrible it is, and know that He can transform it.”

Catherine Marshall

Transforming freedom

“…your tranquil yes to the changing over into the formless void of the unlimited.”
Hermann Hesse

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(a St John’s Wort blossom / Julie Cook / 2016)

“No longer is the universe subjected to the law of death out of birth.
It is subjected to a higher law,
to the law of life out of death by the death of him who represented eternal life.
Tombs were opened and bodies were raised when one man in whom God was present without limit committed his spirit into his Father’s hands.
Since this moment the universe is no longer what it was;
nature has received another meaning;
history is transformed and you and I are no more,
and should not be anymore, what we were before.”

Paul Tillich, excerpt from A Cosmic Cross

One of the central themes in Christianity, as well as for being a Christian, is that of transformation.
Of being one thing…one type of entity…then transitioning,
changing, progressing and becoming something else entirely.

It is the death of the old man which in turn gives way to the birth of the new man (or woman)

It is….
death / life
dark / light
that / this
no / yes
was / is

And within it all is found the blessing of true freedom…

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

In the blink of an eye. . .it can all suddenly disappear

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.
I do not judge the universe.”

Dalai Lama

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Hermann Hesse

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(honey bee visits a purple cone flower in Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

We live our lives rhythmically, lulled into the complacency of the ebbs and flows of our routines-
Yet. . .in the blink of an eye, our lives can be altered forever. . .

I ask for your prayers. . .

My dear daughter-n-law’s childhood home, the home of her grandparents, was destroyed in an early morning fire yesterday.
The cause is still under investigation.
There was currently some renovations taking place and that construction is being eyed as a possible cause.

We do give thanks however that her grandparents and mother all escaped harm—yet they have lost everything.

It is to those cherished family heirlooms and photographs—those momentous and images from the birth of children and grandchildren, to the wedding albums, wedding dress, cherished children’s toys, to the tokens remaining from a parent taken far too soon. . .those sacred items of the past which help to shape a family. . .those things which are now suddenly lost, seem to be the hardest loss to bear during any sort of tragedy of this nature.

A home which seemingly offered strength and stability. . .the representation of ones family’s structure and unity, having now vanished in the blink of an eye, leaves a bewildering sense of the surreal gnawing deep within ones psyche.

My daughter-n-law began her nervous first day in her new school yesterday only have to suddenly leave in order to travel across the state back home, to see with her own eyes that her family is indeed thankfully intact—alive and well of body yet shaken of spirit.
She and my son will now join them to mourn the loss of what was. . .as my daughter-n-law now offers her piece of fabric to the quilt which has made them, and will continue to make them, a family. . .

As we now join in the prayer. . .Oh Lord, that all things shall be made new. . .

You make all things new
You make all things new
Yesterday and forever
Your love never changing
This hope never fading
Hallelujah

Hillsong Worship
All Things New Lyrics

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. . .”
Revelation 21:5

Melancholia

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.”
― Hermann Hesse

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(a visitor to the blackberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

Waiting for the burdens to lift,
growing familiarly uncomfortable,
we ripen like freshly picked fruit.

Tender to the touch yet apt to bruising far too easily,
Colors now slowly blend, as the sun continues to work her charms.
Time will not be kind.

Buried by inconsistencies while hiding in the dappled light,
We long for the miraculous of the Divine
Only to be transfigured and made all the more beautiful.

And so we hope and wait.

The magnolia tree

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone.
Hermann Hesse

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(magnolia bloom / Julie Cook / 2015)

Growing up, we all have a measuring stick.
A benchmark of growth.
A point of reference for progress.
A door frame, a yard stick, a section of wall ripe with the marks of hoped for and greatly anticipated advancement.

Even when I was still in the classroom, my kids marked their various heights along the doorframe of the classroom’s door.
Who was taller this year verses the heights from year’s past.
Ever onward and upward. . .

Today was not easy.
Another trying day.
Sweet Dad.
Yet Gloria is struggling.
Transition and growth, that was once exciting, is now painfully dreaded.

Funny how we are always in such a hurry to “grow up”
yet suddenly one day we wake up,
wanting nothing more to do with it, preferring simply to stop it all–
Racing frantically backwards to the blissful days of youthful abandon.
When nothing hurt, nothing mattered and everything worked as life was nothing but good.
Where did the time go. . .

Looking out the window from the sunporch, I noticed a lone bloom on the massive magnolia out back.
I know this massively tall tree.
I remember when 50 feet was just a tiny sapling.

I excuse myself to go out back to take a picture.

When do those things which once seemed so expansive and endless
become small and constrained?
Standing in the backyard, my presence fills the space that once seemed so vast.
Vegetation has moved closer to the house.
The monkey grass use to be further back. . .
I don’t remember that carpet of ivy. . .
Where did the pine straw islands disappear to?
And the magnolia tree. . .

For whatever reason, my grandmother who I had spent the weekend with, decided to bring
me back to mom with a magnolia sapling in tow.
The sapling was tiny and leggy.
At 7, I towered over the plant.
“And this was to become a tree,” I mused,
Not impressed I “humphed” away rather uninterested.

The tree now towers over the landscape.
It’s out of place.
Not harmonious with everything else in the yard or surrounding yards.
It dwarfs everything around it.
It’s far out lived both my grandmother and mother.
At this rate it might just outlive me.

I marked my life by this tree.
We played backyard football around this once tender plant,
Making certain we didn’t hit it with the ball.
It was a reference point or boundary during many a childhood game.
“Don’t go past the magnolia tree”. . .
“The base is the magnolia tree”. . .

It was mother’s tree.
A gift from one mother to another mother
As oddly I now seem to be a distant guardian.

So on this most difficult of days
Finding the lone bloom beckoning me out,
Out to the yard, to a place I’d not simply wandered through in years,
As it’s really no longer my space to wander. . .
I felt a deep sense of comfort.
As perhaps both Mimi and Mom were somehow still standing there,
Wondering where in the heck to plant a tiny little sapling in a vast backyard. . .
Which in turn would greet me these 50 years later in a now seemingly small backyard
With the gift of welcomed comfort from a single lone bloom.

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