If a house could….be a home

Children are not casual guests in our home.
They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and
instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.

James Dobson


(The home of past and present while Dad was still living inside / Julie Cook / 2017)

A very long time ago, my mom and I would often go on Saturday mornings to
Symphony Hall of which was adjacent to the then High Museum of Art…
Atlanta’s fledgling art museum.

Since I don’t actually recall what they called those music and brunch events,
I’ll just say it was pastries and music.

The Atlanta Symphony would provide a breakfast/brunch of various
pastries and beverages and then put on a small yet lovely concert.

My mother had joined the museum early on as my grandmother, her mother-n-law,
was one of the early promoters for Atlanta to get her own museum.

She and my grandfather were to have flown on that fateful flight in 1962 to and from
Orlay, France but opted not to go…
This is what Wikipedia has in a nutshell on that flight:
Air France Flight 007 crashed on 3 June 1962 while on take-off from Orly Airport.
Air France had just opened its new office in downtown Atlanta, and this was the inaugural flight.
Air France was doing its best to publicize the flight; hence,
it was filled with Atlanta’s elite.
The only survivors of the disaster were two flight attendants seated
in the back of the aircraft;
the rest of the flight crew, and all 122 passengers on board the Boeing 707,
were killed.
The crash was at the time the worst single-aircraft disaster and the first single
civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths.

The so-called “Atlanta elite” were the leading art patrons of the city.
They were hoping to forge a relationship between France and Atlanta as
the up and coming southern city was looking to develop an artistic and cultural footing.

But that is all another story for another day…
today’s thoughts are different.

When I was a young teacher, I found myself spending summers at the High Museum of Art
taking courses for art educators.
I’d spend weeks driving from Carrollton to Atlanta—back and forth daily
for the duration of each course.

During one particular course, our instructor had us keep a journal/ sketch pad
within arms reach at all times.
She would assign various tasks for the sketchpad and would also encourage us to reflect
in the journals about the assignments.

When I found myself at the Museum, wandering about,
I noted just how difficult it was for me not to think almost constantly about my mom.

I had lost her six years prior and so the Museum, along with Atlanta in general, still held
many shadows of my past.
It was often heavy shadows that I was very much aware of.

It was as if some specter was constantly walking by my side when I was in town.
It was often a very palpable sensation.

During one assignment, assignment 6 to be exact, the instructor had us wander off
and write about something…what that something was eludes me now but this
is what I wrote…along with a note I offered to the instructor who I knew would be
reading what we had written…included is also her comment back to me…


(the doodles of an old journal / Julie Cook / 2019)

“locked deep within my heart is someone I no longer know–
Forced back inside by anger and overwhelming pain.

Was it by choice or convenience that you left?

Your agony was short-lived, 6 weeks is what we counted but how long had you been counting?
Your presence lingers in the shadow of my daily life…and I often think I hear your voice
while my heart will skip a beat.

I don’t cry as much anymore.
Six years has brought healing or either a welcomed numbness.

I use to scream and yell at you for leaving me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven you or not.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to pray.

I’m not the same person that you left, you wouldn’t recognize me–
I often don’t recognize myself.

With your death, there cane a death within my soul.
A part of me went back inside, In life, you never thought you mattered much,
but in death, the impact of you and the lack of you has changed me forever.

(Note: my mother died 6 years ago from cancer.
The illness was very short-lived–
which was a blessing—but so fast it was like a blur.
As a teenager, she was my enemy.
As a ‘grown-up’, she was my best friend.
It’s just that I never told her that.

My mourning and dealing with the loss has been very much a private thing with me.
I didn’t have the opportunity at the time–because of taking care of my dad.
So–sometimes I can write down and express it.
She and I use to participate in a lot of museum/symphony activities—
so one of her shadows haunts me here–
but it is a part of the life long healing)

Response: Julie, I hope you don’t mind but I read this note to your mother–
it’s beautiful and universal-(love the reflection in the eye)

And so this incident and particular journal entry all came flooding back to the forefront
of my consciousness this past week when I found myself back in Atlanta.

While on my recent nursing duties, caring for our ailing Sheriff,
my daughter-n-law and I were chatting…and I think I made some off the cuff comment
about my hating the house…the same house they call home.

You hate the house?!,” she asked with alarm.
Yes” I nonchalantly replied.
You hate what we’ve done to it?” she fretted.
“OH…
No!!!
Not at all…
I love what you’ve all done…making it yours!
I just hate the past part of the house that was mine…

Many of you already know that the house our son and daughter-n-law call home
is actually the house I grew up in…having moved into when I was all of two years old.
Just about the Mayor’s same age.

It is the home of my childhood.
A childhood and growing up that consisted of tremendous dysfunction.

I often wonder what life would have been like had my parents not adopted my brother.
What if they had gotten a different baby?
Or no baby?
Would our lives have been different?
Happier?
More normal?
But what is normal?

There’s not a spot that I can’t stand inside, outside, in the basement,
out in the yard or even on the driveway that I can’t recall some sort of
melancholy or even dramatic event.

I even remember getting out of bed late one night, when I was still in high school,
stealing away to the sun porch where I closed off the door to the rest of the house
and knelt by a chair that had been my grandparents,
praying that God would bless me with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I thought if anything could fend off the madness inside this house,
it would be the Holy Spirit.

I also vividly remember when finishing my prayer…I felt no different.
Fruits, for me, have been a process of living.
I think God knows I need more time to ripen than most.

After having spent the past 8 days at the house, caring for the Sheriff
and the Mayor, I headed home late Friday evening…

It was a terrible sight to behold—A Friday evening, attempting to
merge onto the top-end of the Perimeter…

I found myself, once again, with tears streaming down my cheeks
as I made my way onto the interstate—
not because of the ridiculous traffic nightmare I was about to be entering into but
rather because of what I was leaving behind.

My two precious grandchildren.

I was to have stayed until Saturday night as we had plans to visit
Santa Saturday then have dinner out as a family to celebrate my upcoming
milestone birthday…but…I was headed home to die in bed.

Here it was, the height of rush hour, I was sick with the Sheriff’s crud and
I was headed home only to miss out on the Sherrif’s first Santa visit…
I felt as if I had let them down.
Let myself down.

But that part actually turned out ok…depending on who you ask.

The Sherrif was still too sick to venture out to the mall…
so it was just The Mayor and her father who went to see Santa.

In her pretty red, green and black plaid tafia dress
(I didn’t have a tafia dress until I was getting married),
black tights, black patterned leather shoes and matching hair bow…
The Mayor marched herself right down the aisle of the mall happily holding
her dad’s hand…up until…until she had to go boldly forth,
alone…

The video I later received let us all know that the visit was actually
on the disastrous side as the Mayor squawled non-stop upon Santa’s lap.
I couldn’t help but laugh.

But on that Friday night, feeling like crap and totally exhausted,
which more than likely lead to my melancholy mood, all the while tiptoeing
my way through a sea of red brake lights and cars,
I found myself asking…oddly asking an inanimate structure a question
or maybe it was more of a favor.

If a house could…if a house could actually offer, or perhaps afford,
those within its walls comfort, affection, protection, joy, happiness, peace and warmth…
would it please do so for this next continuum of my world?

The past will always be the past…for good or bad…
but for this newest generation…I ask for your kindness and love…

For what makes a house a home?

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true,
and you have promised this good thing to your servant.
Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you. For you,
O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your
servant be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29 ESV

four years following a loss…

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
Arthur Schopenhauer,


(engadget.com)

I caught the following story on a newsfeed Saturday afternoon.
It was a rainy afternoon and I was bouncing between watching college football games and
peeking in on the day’s news.

The following story is one of those types of stories that catches you from out of the blue
and in turn, leaves you speechless.

I tried to tell my husband about the story but the words wouldn’t come.
Finally, I sputtered that there was a story he’d need to read but that I was
unable to read it out to him nor could I even recap it as it was just “that” kind of story…
because the lump would not leave my throat and the tears were becoming heavy.

Maybe I had the reaction I did because I understood this story.
I understood it on a level that goes beyond simply reading the tale of another.
I knew, as I know, that this is due to my own experiences.

How many of us who have ever lost a loved one yet still had a recording of their voice
lingering on our answering machine or phone’s voice mail?

How many texts or letters do we continue to cling to…reading their words,
reliving conversations, tracing the letters of their individual personal script?

And how many of us have taken painstaking steps to ensure that those recordings
or writings reside in our lives forever…never wanting to lose the sound of the voice
or the written words of the one we have loved and lost….
because if we dare lose that recording or those words, we lose that person all
over again…as the sound of their voice or their written words and
their personal cadence slips aways forever from memory.

I know that when my sister-n-law’s phone fell off their boat this past summer, late one
afternoon when they were at the lake, she was frantic and beside herself with panic.
Her late daughter’s final voice mails were on that phone.
The laughter, the “I love yous”—that surreal sense that she wasn’t truly gone
from her life was dependant upon that phone.

She called us from her husband’s phone frantic to know if we knew how or if she could ever
retrieve those voicemails on a new phone.

We didn’t.

I was almost 26 when my mom died.
I mourned and grieved albeit very stoically on the outside…yet on the inside
I was a wreck.

I grew angry, as I still can find myself doing after all these many years later,
angry that she is not here…not here to listen, to help, to offer me her advice,
her love…

She missed the birth of her only grandchild.
She missed his growing.
She missed so much, as I missed her so much…

So the story about a 23-year-old Arkansas gal who would text her dad’s cell phone every
day after his death, just to text him her thoughts…
talking and texting into a phone with no voice or words responding back…
but a continued effort of reaching out to his phone,
as she desperately needed to connect to her dad…well, her story left me speechless.
She still yearned for her dad… his wisdom, his strength, his presence in her life.

I could understand that yearning.

She would text and share her ups and downs.
The milestones he was missing…

Little did she know that there was someone listening and reading on the other end of that phone.
For four years he read yet never responded with a word.
He let her just talk or write about her world without her dad.

This went on for four years.

And the twist to all of this turns out that the person on the other end of the phone
was a father who had lost his own daughter.

And so now here was a daughter reaching out to her dad…
and here was a dad who had lost his daughter…

who knew that one phone number was now another’s number.

A number of one grieving reaching out unknowingly to another who was grieving.

Below is a portion of the story along with a link to the full story at the bottom.

I text my dad every day to let him know how my day goes,
for the past Four years! Today was my sign that everything is okay and
I can let him rest!
❤️

A 23-year-old woman in Arkansas lost her father four years ago,
but she continued to text his phone every day to update him about his life.
She never got a response from the number, until this week.

Like she did every day, Chastity Patterson, of Newport, texted her father’s number on Thursday,
the night before the fourth anniversary of his death.

“Hey Dad it’s ME,” she said. “Tomorrow is going to be a tough day again!”

In her texts, Patterson recapped all of the highs and lows she had gone through over
the past four years without her father by her side.
She talked about how she beat cancer and has been taking better care of herself
like she promised her father she would.
She talked about how she finished college and graduated with honors and how she’d fallen
in love and had her heart broken,
“(you would have killed him),” she told her father.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me the most,
but one day we will [sic] our chance to watch that game!”
she wrote in her latest text.

This week, Patterson received a response from a man who had been receiving her
daily messages these past four years.

“My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages
have kept me alive,” the response read.
“When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”

“I have listened to you for years and I have watched you grow more than anyone,”
Brad said.
“I have wanted to text you back for years, but I didn’t want to break your heart.”

He said he wished his daughter would have become the woman Patterson is.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this but if it makes it any better,
I am very proud of you!
P.S. I think your father would be happy to know you bought another dog instead of having children.”

Patterson posted the exchange to Facebook.
“Today was my sign that everything is okay and I can let him rest!”
It has since gone viral.

In a later post, Patterson revealed that the loved one she’d lost,
Jason Ligons, was not her biological father, but she called him dad.

“Jason was not my ‘biological’ father, but blood could not make him any closer!”
she said.

“He never missed a school dance, prom, my games and YES he would give me long talks
about my mouth and attitude.
I had to introduce my boyfriends to him (If I was allowed to date)
and he would act like a normal dad and give us the long talk,” Patterson said.

“I shared my messages for my friends and family to see that there is a God
and it might take 4 years, but he shows up right on time!” she added.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/arkansas-woman-texting-father-every-day-response

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

beating still, the heartbeat bill…or the day the sky was falling in Georgia

The final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to a meaningless existence.
It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end.

James Dobson

Bill 481, the Georgia Heartbeat bill, has made it past both the Georgia House and Senate…it now
heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature to make it a law.

It is considered one of the most stringent abortion laws in the Nation.
The gist is that at 6 weeks, the heart of a fetus beats independently of the mothers…
thus the baby is a living human being…and therefore no abortion is to be performed…
not unless there is some dire outstanding circumstance.

So the Black Caucus is now sounding their alarm of shame shouted to the legislators who have
let down their constituents due to the passing of this bill.
“How dare they”—they clamor.
“How dare you let down those who voted you into office to defend their choices…”

Have those black caucus leaders forgotten about who’s supposed to be defending the babies?

The ACLU is promising to see “Georgia” in court.
They hope the higher courts will strike down this law as unconstitutional.

A letter containing 40 signatures from Hollywood’s ‘elitest’ actors and actresses has now been
posted declaring their boycott of Georgia…

Hollywood banks about 10 million bucks yearly for Georgia.

It will be nice to have fewer overinflated ego running around the state as we already have our
fair share of inflated egos without Hollywood’s help.

Yet our local newscasters have voiced near dire apoplexy over the economic impact that this
bill will have on Georgia’s economy.

Ohhhh, that Hollywood will leave us…

Or what of the other major businesses that will leave us or dare we say it…never come?!

Or what of the immigrants who will seek out Georgia since, if they are pregnant,
a baby delivered in Georgia might be fast-tracked to citizenship since abortion is
now a passe event??

The sky is definitely falling in Georgia Henny Penny.

Previously, a similar bill in Kentucky was struck down by the higher courts as unconstitutional.
The naysayer pundits are saying that the same will hold true for Georgia.

And despite the transgender bathroom bill being struck down in North Carolina, it, according to
our news broadcasters, has had a lasting economic impact on NC’s state economy.
Dare Georgia share the same fate.

Money vs the life of a baby.

What in the hell is wrong with our priorities????

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God
and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Third term abortions, Absolutely NOT!

‘Abortion’ “[the] anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born”
Tertullian

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people
are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries,
perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions,
has determined not to punish these practices against life,
and even to make them altogether legal,
is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995


(a puny pigeon sits at the breaking surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019

I am simply beside myself.

So gravely upset.

So much so that the words will not come.

And the words that do come, are not the right words…not for this…not right now.

Third. Term. Abortions.

I need to gather my thoughts, feelings, and words carefully before I can write
the type of post that is deserving of this latest issue of absolute madness.

My initial response is not only absolutely not, but more like, Hell NO, Absolutely NOT!!!

I have never believed in abortion.

It eludes me as to how a civilized society can somehow convince itself that abortion is ok.

The matter of simply a choice.
A yes or a no.
Somewhat reminiscent of a Ceaser offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Simple as that…life or death.

I consider abortion the taking of a life and I think when I last checked, the taking of a life
equated to murder…and murder is a capital offense, plain and simple.

I am adopted.
Not aborted.

In 1995 Pope John II wrote an encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life—
a treatise regarding the sanctity of human life…all human life…
as well as the responsibility that the Chruch has to protect that sanctity and that of life.

His words address the threats to human life— capital punishment, euthanasia, sterilization, murder,
and abortion.

He begins his encyclical with the scripture from Luke—reminding all of us about the importance of
birth and salvation…it is the proclaiming of the good news and that of great joy which is to
all people…’for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”

The Pope is reminding us that our hope comes in the form of a birth of a baby…

Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, is Catholic.
Yet she supports abortion.
She knows the teaching of the Chruch and yet her choice is to disregard this teaching
regarding the sanctity of human life.

And now we have the Governor of Virginia and several legislatures thinking full-term
pregnancies..that being the delivering of a living, breathing baby to not be tended to or
cared for but rather to be set aside, like a wet towel after a shower,
while the powers that be in the room decide whether or not the
baby may be “allowed” to live or simply die.

When I went to sleep in 1995 on a night when the Pope was putting his thoughts to paper,
I was a 36-year-old mother of a 6-year-old little boy.
I was also a wife and a teacher.

I had already lost my own mother (adopted) to cancer.
My brother (adopted) to suicide.

I was not a perfect mother or wife let alone a perfect teacher.

I was well aware of my own shortcomings and sinfulness.
I was also aware of the sanctity of life.
As well as the forgiveness of sin as found in a Savior who had come into the
world as an innocent child.

I knew other people who also believed in the sanctity of life.

My church, The Episcopal Chruch, at the time, believed in the sanctity of life.

That is not so much the case these 24 years later.

Politicians, clergy, educators, news personalities, entertainers and just average folks like wives,
husbands, college kids, high school kids…
all these 24 years later…more and more people think abortion is ok…

And now, we have the notion that a full term birth…an actual living and breathing baby may
in turn, be killed if those in that delivery room deem it so.

So until I can put my own thoughts together in some sort of coherent, common sense sort of order,
I will offer the following words from Pope John Paul II, taken from Evangelium Vitae,
with a link following the quote to the full encyclical.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news:
“I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
The source of this “great joy” is the Birth of the Saviour;
but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth,
and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment
of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion
with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the
Sanctifying Spirit.
It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life
achieve their full significance.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life…

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life,
procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.
The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an
“unspeakable crime”.54

But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become
progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour
and even in law itself,
is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense,
which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil,
even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation,
we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call
things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the
temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is
extremely straightforward:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20).
Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology,
such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to
attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a
symptom of an uneasiness of conscience.
But no word has the power to change the reality of things:
procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is
carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence,
extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize
that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved.
The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life.
No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be
considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!
He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence
consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.
The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman
carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother
herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated,
and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother,
insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for
purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain
important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the
other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live
in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place.
Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic,
can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the
death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame,
not only when he di- rectly pressures the woman to have an abortion,
but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone
to face the problems of pregnancy:
55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community
of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”.
Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family
circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure
that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case
moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged
her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible,
when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved
abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter,
on the administrators of the health-care centres where abortions are performed.
A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged
the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood,
and with those who should have ensured-but did not-effective family and social policies
in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial
and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which
reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations
which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.
In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the
harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension.
It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people
who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families,
“we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of
individuals but also to that of civilization itself”.
56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception,
at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life.
But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized,
a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother;
it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.
It would never be made human if it were not human already.
This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation.
It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme
of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic
aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins,
and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to
be in a position to act”.57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be
ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on
the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason
a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life:
how could a human individual not be a human person?”.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards
“a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1),
we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace”

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995

Have it your way..

“I’m part good,
I’m part bad,
But,
I’m redeemed”

Johnny Cash


(Burger King Whopper)

I made this confession sadly before but once again, I must confess that I’ve not had
the time that I have wanted, in these past many months to spend reading,
studying and sharing the most insightful thoughts and observations of two of my favorite
across the pond Chrisitan clerics…
those being the former Church of England Bishop Gavin Ashenden and Free Chruch
Presbyterian minister David Robertson.

Both of these men, to me, speak what I call the Gospel Truth.
No mincing the facts nor the words.
I liken it to a small spin on the Popeye mantra…
rather than “I am what I am and that’s all that I am”
they speak in terms of “It is what it is and that’s all that it is”

As in God said it…therefore it is.

They look at this world of ours through the lens of The Gospel.
They look at a post-Chrisitan, progressive left culture that is slowly dying unto
itself, as it is totally unaware of its own demise, while they each continue proclaiming
the saving Grace of Christ…

This as each man is met with the hate-filled rhetoric, the threats of decreased income,
the threats to the detriment to their own safety as well as threats against their
own well being…threats made by those within our oh so post Christian,
progressively liberal culture…
It is a very vocal form of public shaming…
As if such will actually shut up either man and his individual proclamation
of Christ risen.

I actually had some time yesterday morning to thankfully read David’s latest offering,
“Pray for the Nation – Why Should We Be Concerned About The Sins Of The Nation?”

(full link here: https://theweeflea.com/2018/11/27/pray-for-the-nation-why-should-we-be-concerned-about-the-sins-of-the-nation/ )

With the upcoming of St. Andrew’s Day…a day that the Chrisitan Chruch in Scotland remembers
her patron saint and in turn prays for the nation as a whole,
David offers a very telling reflection of life not only in Scotland or within the UK
but rather of our collective life in general in our own Western Civilization.

(oh and by the way, in case you were curious, it is Mary herself, the mother of Christ,
who holds the role of patron saint over The United States of America…
with her feast day being December 8th.
Seems that we most certainly need a nurturing and compassionate mother to care for our
oh so selfish and lost ways…but I digress)

David’s reflection is accompanied by a nod to the writings of John Owen…
a nod he’s shared before.
Owen being a 17th century English Nonconformist church leader,
academic administrator at the University of Oxford and a one-time member of the British Parliment,
was also a prolific writer, sharing his own observations for a wanton style of living that was
just as prevalent in his day as it is ours.

Despite the centuries time difference between Owen’s mid-1600’s and our own early 21st century,
Owen speaks of two distinct ills of society that are both alarming and destructive…
ills that are not only still prevalent but are rather rabidly rampant today.
That being irreligion, or what we define as atheism, and secondly the immorality of a nation.

So what say you?

I say those are the ills that have beset man and his various societies since the dawn of time.
Generation before generation has all bemoaned the same illness.
It is, in fact, a generational ailment.
That being disbelief and an arrogant turning of the back to the Sovereignty of God.

Yet it is vitally important that the clarion call is still to be sounded…
rung loudly for each generation to come as Hope must never be forgotten.

We continue to pray that the scales will fall from the eyes of the foolish and arrogant.

Here is what David had to say…

“Today I want to take a look at the deeper cause of this confusion –
of which Transmania is only a small part.
It is tied in with Romans 1.
The greatest punishment that God could ever inflict upon us is to leave us to what I call
the Burger King version of society ‘have it your way’.
You could call it the Sinatra version (I did it my way),
or the Fleetwood Mac (Go Your Own Way).
But whatever you call it – the assertion of human autonomy and sovereignty is disastrous.
God as man recreates.
Man as God destroys.
John Owen in his ‘Sermons to the Nation’ (Works vol 8) and
‘Sermons to the Church’ (vol 9) is insightful and helpful on this.

Owen asks the question:
“What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live?” (Discourse III, vol. 9 p.365)

Irreligion itself can be divided into atheism and false worship.
Atheism is found in the heart (it is not primarily a matter of the mind or intelligence).
Owen identifies four signs of atheism in the nation:

“By horrid, cursed, blasphemous swearing; which is a contempt of the name of God.
And when did it ever abound more in this nation?”.
The answer is today!
I cannot switch on the TV, walk down the street or speak in schools/universities without
hearing coarse, ugly and blasphemous language.

By reproaching of the Spirit of God.

By scoffing at all holy things; as at the Scriptures –
at everything that carries a reverence and fear of God;
so that a man who dares profess a fear of God in what he does, makes himself a scorn.

Contempt of all God’s providential warnings is another proof of atheism.
Never had a nation more warnings from God’s providence, nor ever were they more despised.
Owen speaks of a 17th Century England which is characterised by coarse language,
mockery of the Gospel and a refusal to listen to the warnings of God.
Sounds familiar?

Owen then goes on to speak of immorality in the nation:
“It would be an endless thing, to go over the sins that reign among us:
oppression, blood, uncleanness, sensuality, drunkenness –
all to the height, raging and reigning in the nation”.
But what really hit home to me was his description of the ‘security’ within the nation.

Occasionally there is a wake up call with some disaster and people wake as from a slumber
but soon close their eyes and go back to sleep again.
That is true in the nation – but then Owen asks why Christians should care about the sins of others.

The answer comes from Scripture – Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed. (Psalm 119:136).
Not only do we need to be free from these ‘abominations’ we need to be those who mourn for
them in our nation and communities.

“The name of God is blasphemed, the Spirit of God reproached,
a flood of iniquity spreads itself over the nation,
the land of our birth, over the inheritance of Christ,
over a nation professing the reformed religion;
all things go backward – every thing declines.

Indeed, brothers, if you will not, I do acknowledge here before you, and to my own shame,
I have great guilt upon me in this matter,
that I have not been sensible of the abominations of the nation,
so as to mourn for them and be humbled for them, as I ought to have been.
And you will do well to search your hearts, and consider how it is with you; –
whether indeed you have been affected with these things;
or whether you have not thought all is well,
while all has been well with yourselves and families, and,
it may be, with the church, that may have no trouble upon that account.”

Are we not too secure in our middle class churches, with our comfortable lives?
Have we become so comfortable in the midst of sin that we do not see it with the eyes of God?
Do we weep for the blood being shed (the slaughter of the unborn)?
the damage being done to our children in the name of ideology?
the destruction of the family?
the crass materialism and the gap between rich and poor?
the exploitation of the weak by the powerful?
the replacement of God by the State?
the destructiveness of vice and addictions?
the decline of education?
the culture of death? false religion?
misogyny?
racism?
injustice?
cruelty?
mockery and abuse of our precious Lord Jesus?

It’s a dangerous prayer but perhaps all Christians should pray that the Lord would open our eyes,
minds and hearts that we would see, understand and feel his grief….

Amen!

A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis