a little update, in pieces…

“But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay.”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno


(a wedding day in 1983)

We’ve been talking recently about prayer…
but I thought we’d take a little break while I continue working on putting something uninformed for
us to use as our “prayer” tool
Heather, Salvageable and IB all added some great words yesterday, so I’ll compile our composite…
and throw something out to us next week.

I did want to offer an update on a few other sundries but first, a little back story as this
will be a two-part post–in part to keep things relatively brief.

You see that grainy picture up above?
Well, that picture is from a very hot late summer’s day back in 1983.

My mom is happily looking on as my godfather, the priest who was to conduct that day’s wedding,
came to the “brides” room, in the basement of the church, where all the girls were getting ready
for that day’s big event…

A 23-year-old me had stayed up late the night prior in order to write a long letter.
A letter of gratitude and love between a goddaughter to her godpoppa…

I had slipped the letter under his office door early that morning, long before the
big day’s event was to unfold.

He had read it and came to find me.

Ours is a long convoluted story of a relationship that began when I was barely 15.

It was a relationship between a father and daughter who were neither to the other…

He had 4 children and I had a father…yet we both knew God had a hand in this
mismatched union of two unlikely individuals—as I was considered a 5th child and he was
a surrogate father…a true God-parent.

It was a relationship that began perhaps as happenstance but was actually Divinely conceived.

I know that God knew I would need a guide…much like Dante with his guide Virgil—
Virgil leading Dante through his journey through hell—while The Dean guided me through my own
tumultuous life….that of adolescents, adoption, and dysfunction.

Something you should know…we were both adopted individuals.

And whereas that may seem coincidental, the relationship was God-given as there is a great
deal buried in the heart of an adopted individual….the Dean had lived that and knew
I was just in the middle of mine.

I needed not only guiding but I needed healing.
A literal laying on of hands with an anointing of oil and serious prayer.

Dean Collins had had his time of living with those holes in his life…and he helped
me to see, soothe and heal my own.

Shortly following my leap into blogdom 6 years ago…
I wrote a post about that very adoption.

I reread the post yesterday and went back in to clean it up a tad as I have hopefully
gotten a bit better at this thing called blogging and perhaps it flows a bit more easily …

It is a post that explains some of my life growing up adopted…with a nod to the story
(a different early post) of my adopted younger brother’s spiral into darkness and our family’s
sad dysfunction from that darkness.
He could never come to terms with having been given up for adoption despite having been
an infant at the time and yes, eventually committed suicide despite my parent’s desperation
to find every sort of help available—- up to granting him an annulment—
the first annuled adoption ever in the state of Georgia.

In the post, I also explain how I reached out to Georgia’s Adoption Reunion Registry
in order to receive nonidentifying information regarding my “case”…

Yet when the papers arrived, I received only a copious amount of bewildering questions.
More painful questions rather than fulfiling answers.

Here is the link to that previous post:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

And so now we fast forward to the present day.

DNA.

Something that wasn’t available nearly 10 years ago to the general populace wishing to glean
information regarding ancestry and or unknown medical issues.

And so I took the two tests that are available for the curious.
Ancestry and 23 and Me.

The latter’s results came in this week.

The genealogy is on the money…English / Scotch / Irish….nearly through and through.

The results also provide a list of those individuals in their pool of testers whose DNA
links to your own…
be it parents, siblings, cousins…on down the line…
meaning that there are relatives…relatives either known or unknown…

And here is where we will end Part I of this long and odd individual’s tale…

Oh—
the man in that picture up above, that man with that mischievous
twinkle in his eye…
well, he passed away two years ago and that young girl is now knocking
on the door of 60.

When I went to bed the other night carrying the burden of what
I should or should not do…
wrestling with the idea of initiating a search for my biological parents…
in large part because I want some solid information about my past to
give to my son and now my grandchildren…
I lamented how I wished my godpoppa was here to continue with his guidance…

And so the following morning when I pulled out those now 9-year-old papers
from my initial non-identifying adoption case packet,
out fell a printed copy of a 9-year-old email.
It was a letter written to my Godfather from a biological cousin
he had found when, in his mid 80’s, he discovered while searching for his
biological family.

The letter spoke of his long-deceased mother and the difficult decision she,
as a young unwed woman bore in the 1920s in having to “give” her infant son “away” —
but as to how one day…they would again meet…and she would embrace him with a lifetime of
love that had been stored away in her heart.

Seems my “Virgil” continues guiding me during this roller coaster journey of mine…
out of the Inferno and Purgatorio, as I work my way to the light of Paradiso…
always pointing me back to the place I truly belong–in the arms of
my loving Heavenly father—our Omnipotent Father…Abba

“God writes straight with crooked lines…”

If I were worthy of such a favor from my God,
I would ask that he grant me this one miracle:
that by His grace He would make of me a good man.

Saint Ansgar

What a marvelous desire—simply that God would make me good.

And oh what a miracle that would be.

For in this wish, is the knowledge that said goodness will not come by my own hands nor
by my own works…
but rather, only by the hand of God’s Grace and God’s Grace alone…
and thus a miracle beyond my mortal bounds

That such a goal should be my sole aim, my sole prayer…in this life…
that God would work to make me good…

Nothing grand, nothing special, nothing newsworthy, nothing glamorous…
neither rich, nor beautiful, nor thin, nor even particularly healthy…
nor powerful, nor smart, nor gifted…
but simply…good.

For the past couple of days, a few of the saints from day’s gone by,
have crossed my 21st-century path.
The other day it was St Boniface, today it’s St Ansgar.

And not that any of those brave men and women,
those who helped to forge our faith into what it is today,
are ever very far from me— my thoughts, my observations or my recollections…
it’s just that when God throws a few of those stalwart souls before the steps of my path,
that obviously, I must stop and pay attention…
for with God, there are no accidents.

Saints, mind you, are not individuals who would have ever claimed, nor claim today,
themselves to be such…
More realistically they were, as the familiar expression goes, ordinary people,
doing extraordinary things…

Many were actually sickly and feeble of body, others, such as our dear St Peter, had moments
that were less than stellar, in fact, moments that screamed of deep character flaws.

But whoever said God wasn’t able to make those silk purses from the ears of swine?

He’s good that way…and I am most grateful!

For it seems that there are days, that I am more often than not,
content to spend my time lounging in the pigstye.

Yet this loving Father continues reaching into that nasty pit in order to pull me from the
odious mud, working to clean me off as He nudges me forward…

Only to watch me, bewildered I would imagine, time and time again running back to
the comfort of the mudstye…as I readily put off once again His agenda at hand.

But I don’t think God is ever bewildered as He already knows my choices and my decisions…
just as He persistently continues cleaning and nudging.

So today I must confess that St Boniface is much more recognizable to me than St Ansgar.

In fact, I had never heard of St Ansgar before today.
But it seems that he is known as “the apostle of the North”
North being Scandinavia.

He is also known as the patron saint of Denmark.

Now when I think of Scandinavia, I think of Vikings…and if we know anything about Vikings,
it’s that they were not the most peace-filled, warm and fuzzy, full embracing sort of individuals
one would want to actually encounter.

Theirs was a deeply rich and entrenched culture immersed in the notion of the Norse gods
and Valhalla.
The raging sea and the cold of their lands.
Throw in some plundering, pillaging and raping and you had the warrior clans of the North.

I can only imagine the trepidation about having to head into their territory to spread the Gospel
of the One Omnipotent God and the saving Grace found in His resurrected Son.

There were language barriers, cultural barriers, a climate barrier, a customs barrier,
a physical appearance barrier, and most importantly, an end-goal barrier—as in a Viking’s
end goal in life was not that of a Chrisitan missionary’s end goal.

Mongering and surviving vs converting.

Ansgar (801-865) who lived about 200 years following St Boniface, was much like Boniface
in that neither man lived long enough to see the fruits of their labors come to fruition.

Neither of the groups of soul’s hearts who they had been instructed to go forth and turn,
had their hearts turned during the lifetime of either of these Godly men.

Oh, there were the brief time periods of peace, hope and redemption…but nothing
permanent and long lasting…not until others followed in the footsteps of
these determined men many years later. Along a path that these men had bravely cut.

Yet neither man saw their life’s work as a waste of time.
The key was that they were doing what God had sent them to do.
God did not tell either man there would be success and glory in the end…
they each simply prayed that God would lead and they, in turn, would follow.

They had prayed to do God’s will…not their will, not their desires, but rather God’s…
and so they lived their lives doing just that.
One being martyred at the hands of those he wished to turn and the other dying after
seeing his life’s work destroyed by the very souls he yearned to turn.

History records what people do, rather than what they are.
Yet the courage and perseverance of men and women like Ansgar can only come from a
solid base of union with the original courageous and persevering Missionary.
Ansgar’s life is another reminder that God writes straight with crooked lines.
Christ takes care of the effects of the apostolate in his own way;
he is first concerned about the purity of the apostles themselves.

(excerpt from https://vitaesanctorum.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/saint-ansgar/ )

So we are reminded that no matter what He has to work with, God will always write straight…by that which will never seem straight in the eyes of the world— and it is there inwhich lies our prayer…that
by His Grace, He may make us good…

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

fall from Grace…

“Freedom has been elevated to a total eclipse of a person’s obligations,
to a freedom from any obligation.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

“After the Western ideal of unlimited freedom….
here is the true Christian definition of freedom.
Freedom is self-restriction!
Restriction of the self for the sake of others!”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

In his book A Pope and A President, Paul Kengor recalls the admonishment of a young senator from Massachusetts to a college audience….

“In 1955…Senator Kennedy told Assumption College that the Communists had a ‘fear’
of Christianity and allowed ‘no room for God.’

In a passage that could have been spoken by President Ronald Reagan thirty years later,
Kennedy said that Communists sought ‘to make the worship of the State the ultimate objective of life’ and could not ‘permit a higher loyalty, a faith in God,
a belief in a religion that elevates the individual, acknowledges his true value,
and teaches him devotion and responsibility to something beyond the here and now.

As president, Kennedy candidly warned America of its “atheistic foe,” the
fanaticism and fury” of communions, and the “communist conspiracy” that
“represents a final enslavement.”
“The enemy is the communist system itself—implacable, insatiable, unceasing
in its drive for world domination,” Declared Kennedy.
“This [is] a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies”
freedom under God versus ruthless, goddess tyranny.”

“Years later President Reagan went to the home of Senator Ted Kennedy…
where he spoke at an endowment fundraiser for the John F. Kennedy Presidential
Library. On hand were Jackie and her two grown children.
Reagan commended JFK for his shrewdness in recognizing the enemy:
“He understood the tension between good and evil in the history of man;
understood, indeed,
that much of the history of man can be seen in the constant working out
of that tension.”

Reagan noted that Kennedy knew that the United States had adversaries,
real adversaries,and they weren’t about to be put off by soft reason and
good intentions.
He tried always to be strong with them and shrewd.”

It’s hard for me, in this very surreal 21st century of ours, to imagine that there
were once two presidents serving roughly 20 years apart—
men from two very different parties,
who each understood who the nation’s collective enemy was.

These two very different men who, despite being decades apart in their service to
their nation as well as being nearly 30 years apart in age…men who were each of
different ideologies could actually collectively agree then on what today has
become a more satirical farce than serious consideration.

And not only did these two very different presidents understand who the
collective enemy was…they also deeply understood the connection between a nation
who rested under God’s dominion verses a nation resting under the dominion of man.

Imagine today the party of Kennedy speaking about an “atheistic foe”…
Or referring to an adversarial nation as having “no room for God”
as well as those who have a fear of a Christian nation—
Imagine that a leader of the party of Kennedy would actually claim the United States
to be a “God fearing, Christian nation”
That there would be those who would speak of godlessness when referring to
oppressive regimes.

Imagine the party of Reagan, in turn, speaking words of agreement…

Oh how far we have fallen from who we once were.

When did it happen?

When did we think it necessary to scorn and scoff the notion of being
collectively under the yoke of an Omnipotent Creator?
When did we decide that we were free of any obligations other than to our own
selfish individual whims?

When did we decide there was no real good nor evil…
rather just the altar of individual humanism?

And what is the irony that the words of a one time Soviet dissident
would remind us, those of us who have lived in and with “freedom” most of our
lives, that our’s is a precious gift…one that we have been entrusted with
to cherish and maintain…as blood has been spilled and lives have been lost
all in the name of this very “freedom.”

So on this Veterans day, it would behoove us as individuals as well as a Nation to
recall, as well as honor, the selfless sacrifices made by those men and women who,
since those early days when we were but a collection of bedraggled colonies,
who down through the decades understood exactly who the enemy always was and
that we as human beings have been called to a greater good…
These very men and these women who have often offered the utter sacrifice–
of both lives and limbs, for a Nation that now is at war with itself…
having lost her way.

May their service never have been in vain.

“…it would have seemed quite impossible, in America,
that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose,
simply for the satisfaction of his whims.
Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in in the west;
a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian
centuries with the great reserve of mercy and sacrifice.”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

the exchange for the lie….

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—
who is forever praised.
Amen.

Romans 1:25

When the truth of God is turned to a lie,
his glory is obliterated.

John Calvin


(a purple passion flower found blooming deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

When I frist read today’s quote by John Calvin regarding turing God’s truth to a lie…
which therefore obliterated His glory…
I thought “YES, that’s it!”
“That’s what’s going on here”…
“That’s exactly what they’re doing…”
“They’re taking God’s word and altering it to fit the skewed and warped desires of
these current times of ours.”

“Twisting and turning everything God has uttered into some sort of carnal, wanton
and depraved acknowledgement which in turn makes these current times of wants
and desires all really ok.”

It’s been done ever so slyly with a deletion of a word here, a new interpretation or
altered context or sentence there…
and magically it’s now POOF….!!!!!
What once was a “no, not a good idea,” is now a defiant and triumphant “Yes” equating
to everything and anything now being perfectly fine and acceptable…

And in so doing… the Truth has been turned into a lie, thus obliterating and smashing
the glory of God into smithereens….

And just so we’re clear, the said “they” in all of this is pretty much our current
culture and society…
So the “they” is really pretty much us….

Yet…after reading the sentence several times over and over, I sat for a bit pondering
the statement further.

Whereas man has taken God’s words and altered, rearranged and reworded them to fit
neatly into man’s desired wants….
nothing about God has been obliterated….
Because no matter what man does or says, he cannot, will not “obliterate” God.

Nietzsche’s famous proclamation of God being dead did not render God dead…
for man cannot “kill” the Omnipotent Creator…
despite his attempt to rid God from man’s own mind, heart and life….
man does not have that power.

It’s like the angry child who stomps a foot and proclaims to be now ignoring
whomever it is who has incurred his or her wrath….
in essence attempting to render said individual, null and void, dead and gone…
the epitome out of sight and out of mind.

Yet God being outside of both space and time does not conform nor fit into man’s limited
restraints of such.
He is greater than as well as beyond limitations.
And because of that, He is incapable of being obliterated or “killed”
or even contained for that matter.

It is the clarity of observation made by Lauren Green in her newly published book
Lighthouse Faith that sums this all up in once simple sentence…
“that we live in the reality of God’s world,
not He in ours.”

So whereas man may think that he’s being overtly cleaver in his smug superiority–
creating verse and word according to himself…
the Truth which is both inside and outside of both space and time, cannot
be rendered anything other than what it is…
that simply being the Truth….

Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.
Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate said to him,
“What is truth?”

John 18:37-38

Changing in the constant state of flux

To improve is to change;
to be perfect is to change often.

Winston Churchill

When we are no longer able to change a situation–
we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor E. Frankl

“So do flux and reflux–the rhythm of change–
alternate and persist in everything under the sky.”

Thomas Hardy

RSCN4266
(chrysalis for a tiger swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

The parsley is almost all gone…
Decimated nearly overnight by the ravenous feeding frenzy
of the caterpillars.

I wondered about 22 caterpillars and where they might all go
once they finished gorging themselves…

and so now I see…

RSCN4267

All rather amazing really.

See how it’s tied itself to the stem…
All wrapped up nice and neat…
and ready for a quick change sort of performance…

Butterflies, caterpillars, cocoons, or rather chrysalis, are perhaps the most
magically odd developments to transpire within the world of living creatures…

Yet this cycle of change is in a state of constant flux.

A butterfly spends it’s very short life feeding…
A caterpillar spends it’s very short life feeding…
A chrysalis spends it’s very short life in a constant state of change…
albeit it hidden from observation.

We don’t know exactly what or how things go on in that sack of theirs…
all we know is that a long worm-like thing goes in…
and then a brightly colored, light and fragile winged thing comes out…

Something so tiny, so minuscule, so fragile so odd and even oh so mysterious
can give me such great comfort and even needed solace…

That no matter the change that comes about in my life, in all our lives…
for we are ourselves also in a constant state of flux…
that in this most tiny creature and it’s miraculous cycles
lies the full mystery and depth of
a loving Father,
an Omnipotent Creator
and an overwhelming God…

that despite all that changes in my life…
for good and for bad
He is the One true Constant that I can hold onto with all great certainty…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 3:16

layers

“Wherever you come near the human race
there’s layers and layers of nonsense.”

Thornton Wilder

DSCN3520 (1)
(cliff wall at Little River Canyon State Park / Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Upon first glance the casual observer is greeted by an unassuming rock cliff,
gently embraced by summer’s lush growth…
The rich sensuous greens of life enveloping the hard unmoving foundation of a planet.

But upon closer inspection one is met with the…
complexity of striation,
the melding of coloration,
the confusion of abstraction
and the frustration of complication.

DSCN3520

And then after scrutinizing what was initially the obvious,
which has now emerged into something more along the lines of the miraculous…
we see the wonderment of the unique individual fingerprints of an Omnipotent Creator…

And yet sadly…
some observers simply continue to see a bunch of rocks…..

DSCN3521

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other…
Isaiah 45:5-6

compartmentalized

“…what you don’t believe strongly enough to teach doesn’t do you any good.”
A.W. Tozer

DSCN2541
(Bonaventure Cemetery , Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Here’s the thing…
The thing about us…
Those of us who profess to be Christians…

We have a penchant for keeping our little worlds nice and tidy.

We lean our preferences to keeping things neat and overtly orderly.
We don’t like to mix things up too much.
And we really prefer keeping our church life, well, at church.

Oh we might give to that homeless beggar whose path we cross as we’re headed here and there.
We might reluctantly serve on this or that committee.
We’ll send in that monthly tithe check to the church…
a little tax write off you know guised in the form of a “donation”
We’ll take the kids to the Wednesday night pot luck or the occasional youth group gathering.

Chances are our daily conversations with colleagues and friends has us talking about what happened last night on…
The Batchelor…
What sort of Oscar shindig will we be putting together…
Or…that we actually can’t believe who got kicked off American Idol, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars or of that so called Island…

Sundays’ Gospel lesson or that killer line from the sermon most likely isn’t causing our tongues to wag as we simply don’t have that same sort of zeal to share those amazing moments as we do the more trival….for if the truth be known, we can’t much remember what last Sunday’s sermon was about, or what verse we even read this morning during our wee hour devotional or we can’t exactly really recall the last time we prayed…I’m talking really prayed.
Not the rote Lord’s prayer…not grace at a meal—I’m talking down on your knees, head bowed before an amazing Omnipotent Creator sort of prayed….

This is because we, those of us living in this western civilization of ours, tend to compartmentalize our lives.
Each and everything in our little world(s) has it’s place.
There is the social side of our lives, the school side, the business side, the serious side, the “religious” side, the fun side…
every aspect has it’s place…
and some of those aspects are only afford a limited amount of playing time.

That’s why when we read such news stories such as yesterday’s coverage that Iran is paying the families of its martyrs, those who have died while raging some sort of havoc (aka jihad) on Israel a nice $7000. equivalent for the “sacrifice” of their loved ones in the name of all things Iranian and Muslim…
as it seems that that recent US billions of dollars gift is now being put to good use….

Yet that sort of story just passes over our consciousness for the brief moment as our eyes quickly scan to the next headline…moving on to reading the more pressing latest weather updates.

We don’t see a correlation between our neat little compartmentalized worlds and the constant torment of Israel by the Muslim world as being relevant. We don’t recall God’s word about the Christian responsibility of honoring Israel.
We rationalize that’s over there.
That’s their business, not ours and if the truth be told,
we don’t really care for how they do their business.
We think “leave well enough alone…you live your life, let them live theirs as we live ours…”
simple as that.

We’ve forgotten that little parable that Jesus told of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46).
You remember…
You know that little story of the “bad” tenants who schemed to milk the landowner for all he was worth… eventually, after having beaten and killed the landowners representatives, they in turn thrashed, beat and killed the owners own son…thinking that would force the landowners hand in their favor…
And do you remember how Jesus then went on to explain that it, the land of inheritance (aka the vineyard), will all be taken away form the ungrateful ones (i.e. the ungrateful, unfruitful nation) and given to a different more grateful group (i.e.the grateful fruitful nation)—one that actually honors what it has been given—the nation that heeds to the word of God—

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:43-44)

Kind of like us today in the US…as we no longer heed God’s word as Sovereign…and the thing is, very few who call themselves Christians care to speak up…speaking up about our responsibilities as Christians…let alone taking on those very responsibilities and living them out with unabashed enthusiasm.

Compartmentalized verses the truth of Salvation…hummmmm

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Romans 1:16