the nagging issue of a name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve written a good bit
about my adoption…and that of a quest.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions with the exhilaration of discoveries–
all of which have been met by the slamming of doors, tightly shut…
all the way to the bewildering opening of different doors, much more welcoming.

In all of this is a name…
or more aptly, two names.

A before name and an after name.

The ‘now’ name of Julie and the ‘then’ name of Sylvia Kay…

Two names for one person that were exchanged after only three short months.

The Julie side of all of this has had the staying power of nearly 60 years while the
initial Sylvia Kay side was used but for a short time…

The whys and significance of Sylvia Kay remain unknown but to one.

Albeit a brief name, it none the less has most certainly remained in the recesses of the
conscience of a certain 83-year-old woman.
She has slammed shut the door but none the less has obviously allowed this name to fester…
just as it has festered in my own thoughts.

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

The name following, which was officially Mary Julia and shortened by Dad to ‘Julie’,
has been the ‘after’ name—a name that has remained for all these many years…
the name with the real staying power of identity.

And so it was this morning, as I was reading a verse from the Bible, that I noticed
the real importance of before and after names.

I read a verse in which Abraham was referred to as Abram.

I am obviously no Bible scholar.
I was raised an Episcopalian and we all know Episcoplains are not Old Testament,
let alone Bible, aficionados.

I noted that it seemed odd as I am more familiar with the name Abraham
but I figured it must indeed be a “before” name for Abraham.

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

And it seems that I was more correct than I realized.

You’ve often heard me quote and share the teachings of a simple
Benedictine monk from Australia who is currently living in a monastery in England.
He is best known as Father Hugh—Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The good Father’s post from yesterday opened with a picture of the
Jerusalem-version lectionary used throughout England and Wales.
Father Hugh asks all viewers if they can spot what it is that is the glaring mistake…
a mistake that is actually used twice.

The glaring mistake is found in a name.
The name Abraham.

Because of where this name falls in reference to the before and after encounter
of Abram with God, it is indeed, incorrect.
Instead of the after name Abraham, the Lectionary should use the before name of Abram.

Before Abram encounters God, he is known as “exalted Father”
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Genesis 14:19-20

After his encounter and ensuing covenant with God, Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
“As for me, this is my covenant with you:
You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your
descendants after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:1-7

Why does any of this matter?
What is the big deal about a before and after name?

Well, it matters a great deal…
For we see time and time again throughout the Bible, names matter.
Names have meaning…purposeful meanings.
And in this case, the case of Abram, it matters because of the implications
of a covenant.

A covenant being an agreement.

And this agreement between Yahewh and Abram has lasting implications for all
generations to come…of which include both you and me.

On the other hand, my little before and after names are much smaller in scope.
They matter really only to me…and perhaps one other.
Mine is a simple matter of why…
Abram’s before and after is a matter of the beginning of reconciliation which
in turn leads to the salvation of all mankind.

Yes, big or small, names matter.

Please see the link below for Father Hugh’s most excellent teaching post

What’s in a Name

disbelief and consequence

“But again He is equally present in sudden unexpected moments,
and it is the neglect of these moments that is the most fruitful source
of disbelief in Him.”

Charles Williams


(a hidden squirrel enjoys supper / Julie Cook / 2017)

the following is a question posed by a novice to his master teacher,
Elder St. Paisios the Athonite….

Q. Geronda (common name referring to a Greek Orthodox monk),
why was Moses deprived of the Promised Land for a minor fault?

A. It was not a minor fault; it was disbelief.

God had provided for the Israelites’ passage across the Red Sea [ Exodus 14:1-31],
and provided water for them at Sinai [Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-7],
nourished them with manna [Exodus 16:1-36].
He had shown them so many marvels.
And yet, when they were once again without water, they complained.
And when God told Moses to strike the rock to get water, he doubted Him:
‘Is it possible for water to come out from the rock’ [ Numbers 1-13]?

That is why God later gave him that rule:
‘As punishment, you will see the Promised Land only from a distance
[ Deuteronomy 32:48-52].

Now if God had not provided water for them before in such a miraculous manner,
then Moses could have been somewhat justified for his disbelief.
At this point, however, there was no justification for his disbelief,
which is why God did not permit him to enter the Promised Land.”

— From the book Passions and Virtues:
Counsels of Elder St. Paisios the Athonite, vol. 5.

“This is what the Lord says:
‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words,
who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods
to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
For as a belt is bound around the waist,
so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’
declares the Lord,
‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.
But they have not listened.’

Jeremiah 13:9-11

something is definitely brewing

“Hier stehe ich.
Ich kann nicht anders.
Gott helfe mir.
Amen.”

(Here I stand.
I can not do otherwise.
God help me.
Amen)
Martin Luther

“Our leaders don’t believe the values of the New Testament take
priority over everything else.”

The Rt Reverend Gavin Ashenden


(the old Methodist Church in Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday I shared a heartening tale about a modern day take on Martin Luther’s
500 year old defiance against an ailing Church.

It appears that these 500 years later on … we are again ailing….
or perhaps we are simply still ailing, never having actually been healed.
I’m not so certain as to which it actually is.

Over the past decade or so, we have witnessed leadership within many mainline
Christian denominations yielding, be it willingly or by duress, to the whims,
nay demands, of a growing egocentric hedonistic society that claims everything
in the name of acceptance and love.

But what society fails to understand is that whereas God is indeed Love,
He is also a God of Order…His Order.

I have watched in frustrating bewilderment,
for more years now than I care to recount, church doctrine and or policy being
twisted and contorted to fit an ever demanding culture’s idea of order.
As society works to claim a new oddly fitting human behavior.

Almost 6000 years have passed since God spoke very specifically to Moses.
He issued a set of “rules” for human orderly living.
God had spoken and literally laid down the law.

Then several millennia past and God saw fit to send a proxy,
a stand in for man…one who was to take man’s place in the inevitable
eternal damnation that man had claimed for himself by imposing his own order while
ignoring God’s…

….That so whomever would believe, would be saved and would have eternal life.

It was straight forward…even simple really.
Yet man insisted on making it complicated.

So while Western Civilization marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—
as it matters not on which side of the fence you find yourself,
the Reformation is being remembered none the less…

However…me thinks there might be something new brewing about?
As in, might we be witnessing perhaps a new bit of Reformation taking shape?

I for one hope so.

Twice during the course of this past week,
I have found myself both hearing and reading the thoughts and sharings of two
very different men of the cloth concerning this “change in the air”—

Yet neither man has cited any particular change as they are merely working to share
the current state of affairs—the health of each one’s collective church body.

One is a Catholic monk who I’ve mentioned here before…Father Hugh—
who happens to be an ardent keeper of the faith and an Australian monk serving in
a monastery in the UK who is not afraid to speak Gospel truth,
even if that truth runs counter to that of Rome.

The other being a former Anglican priest and Chaplin to the Queen, who now is a
missionary Bishop of The Christian Episcopal Church–a ‘renegade’ break away of
Orthodox Anglican and Episcopal laity and clergy.

Both men have noted that our collective Church leadership has capitulated.
As the leadership has accepted false doctrine as some sort of new doctrine.
A form of “soft socialism” so says Bishop Ashenden.

Father Hugh has shared a letter written by a well respected American Theologian and Capuchin monk, Fr. Thomas Weinandy, regarding the dangerous position Pope Francis
appears to be placing the Catholic faithful.

Bishop Ashenden on the other hand in a recent airing of Anglican Unscripted, also
addresses this dangerous direction the current leadership of the Anglican Church seems
to be taking its flock…

I offer you the links below to Father Hugh’s posts regarding Father Weinandy’s
very public letter to Pope Francis.

It should be noted that since writing and having published his letter to the Pope,
the good Capuchin Father has been asked to resign his post as executive
director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Doctrine.

Just as I suspect those clergy who have tacked the Southwark Declaration to the doors
of various Anglican Cathedrals or who vocally support the Declaration from their pulpits
will eventually suffer reprimand and or repercussion or something even worse.

Just as I would expect to receive such should I tack the Declaration to any door of
any Episcopal Church here in the states—- I would be accused of hate mongering….
because that’s how we handle those who hold fast to the solemn Word of God—
for if you opt to follow the word of God as stated in the Gospel,
particularly when it concerns same sex unions, you are accused of bigotry and hate….
never mind what God has said about such.

Let us offer our prayers for such brave individuals who are not afraid, despite
common thought and new cultural norms, to share God’s truth…

Here I stand; I can do no other.

L’Affaire Weinandy: A Watershed?

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures and by clear reason
(for I do not trust in the pope or councils alone, since it is well known
that they have often erred and contradicted themselves),
I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted.
My conscience is captive to the Word of God.
I cannot and I will not retract anything,
since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.
May God help me.
Amen.”

Martin Luther

thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

slow and determined

“To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to
go right in someone else’s.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

dscn3232
(box turtle / Julie Cook / 2016)

dscn3402
(brown rabbit / Watercolor Resort, Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

One thing I’ve never been accused of being is slow.

Determined,
stubborn,
even hell bent…

yes…

but slow….

never.

I’ve never been one to be still for very long.
If I’ve got to be somewhere, I prefer early.
If I’m driving someplace, I drive as if life depends on it…
none of this Sunday driver, leisure business for me.

And it’s not as if I made some conscious decision early on
to take the fast lane in life…
Rather it’s just that I’ve always been like that….like this…
Always seemingly in some sort of quickness or hurry.
Straight from point A to B…no distractions with C, D or E in between…

I have made a point of mostly making the most of my time.
Filling it with as much productiveness as I can….
Maybe that comes from being a teacher as teachers are conditioned
to do so much with so little…
squeezing everything possible into a short space of time…

So you should know that with this disc and nerve business…
slow and determined has oddly become the name of the game and my new normal…
Sigh…
It’s as if my world has suddenly been cast into a slow motion stop frame
of agonizingly slow movement and speed.

As I now have to think long and hard about each and every movement—
nothing herky jerky fast or quick,
lest some shooting, searing new pain emerges out of no where.

And speaking of—this nerve business…

Are you familiar with a cilice?
Something like a hairshirt but worse.

Did you ever see the Dan Brown movie…Angels and Demons?
You may remember the poor monk Silas who wore a metal spiked ban
around his thigh under his habit.
He would tighten the ban as a form of self mortification…
unto bleeding….

I’m all for piousness.
I am gratified and humbled by those Desert Fathers and Mothers
and various saintly ones who have sacrificed both comfort and self
for the union of soul to the Spirit….
but this nerve pain gives new meaning to mortification…

It’s kind of like shingles, without the shingle.
Angry nerves running from the left of the lower back to the top thigh to the groin.

Is it bad if I confess that I have cut the elastic out of my underwear?

And may I add that hasn’t helped?

And that the whole thought of just going naked is making perfect sense…

I had shingles once—long ago—and caught it relatively early enough…
Such that it was short lived.

This disc business however has not been short lived.
And being a modest individual, naked would not be my first choice,
but I am a firm believer in drastic measures for drastic times…

I received notice today in the mail that the insurance company has approved the doctor’s
request to perform a nerve block next week.

How kind of them—

Because I fear if they had not been in agreement,
I might just have found myself in their office holding a cattle prod
asking for the individual who decided I did not need the nerve block.
As perhaps being prodded with electrical pulses from a naked person
might just persuade them otherwise…

I have learned a lot from lying on the floor.
I call it the perspective of a cat.
Not so much that I now know all too clearly that the ceiling fans
need a ladder and dusting…
or that dust bunnies can show up just about anywhere out of nowhere….

but rather that things can look overwhelming when looking up…

Yet the cats are undeterred by their short stature…
It bothers them not that the majority of their world towers over their heads.
They confidently saunter about here and there,
even onto my stomach while I’m flat on my back…
which is not a positive when 17 pounds walks on your stomach
and you’re already in grave pain…

I have even found myself telling my husband that I fear I am no longer earning my keep…
seeing that I’m spending more time on the floor then off the floor.

Now before you feminists out there have a hissy fit,
you need to understand that my take
on marriage is that of a constant continuum of contribution.

Each spouse contributes to the relationship.
My part / his part sort of deal.

When one party feels as if he or she is contributing more and more
as the other gives less and less—-resentment builds.

Ours has always been pretty much unspoken as we each have worked hard at contributing.
Be it going to work to make money to pay the bills…
to actually paying those said bills.
From cooking to cleaning to laundry, to ferrying growing child, to ferrying sick pets,
to cutting the grass—

As there must be balance and an evenness to what is done in a marriage.

Yet there is that whole “in sickness and in health” business….
and sadly ours is a society not too keen on that “in sickness” part.
We can “do” colds but when it comes to catastrophes,
sadly we tend to want to run and hide.

My husband reassured me as he looked down at me on the heating pad on the floor,
that I was very much keepable….

Or I think he was looking at me and not the dust bunny I had found….

So whereas I am not so quick these days, I am gaining in wisdom and appreciation.

I appreciate that I am on the floor by choice and
not because I’ve had one too many drinks to deaden the pain…

I appreciate that I don’t think the ceilings needs repainting…
as that is what I stare at now most of the time…

I appreciate the fact that the cats are well fed and perhaps actually
over weight…
yet love their mommy enough to wonder why she’s on the floor…
obviously there for their enjoyment—
cats are self-centered that way…

I am wise enough now to know that slow and steady are ok and as is often such…
goes to the winner of any race.

I am wise enough to know that things could be worse…
as I think…Dad…

I am wise enough to know that I can cry, and have, but trying to find
something, anything funny, is better…

And I appreciate that I can drive to Dad’s today to met the Hospice Nurse..
thankful and appreciative for people who want to come into people’s lives when life is
looking pretty darn bad…

I think we call that running to the sound of battle rather than from it….

Here’s to not seeing me naked holding a cattle prod as I saunter down the street….

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly;
I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27