what is love?

We do not understand the Cross if we do not understand sin.
If we deny there is sin, the Cross loses its meaning.
That is why it is difficult in our time to speak about the Cross.
One no longer knows what sin is.

Fr. Wilfred Stinissen, OCD
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love

What is love?
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
What is love? Yeah

lyrics by Hadaway

This past weekend my husband and I had the privilege of attending not one but actually two
different weddings.

There was one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening.

The one on Saturday took place at a lovely and tranquil farm, turned wedding venue, located
out in the rural countryside of West Georgia where both bobwhite and songbird joined
cheerfully in with the festivities.

The second wedding was on Sunday evening and it was also at an outdoor venue tucked deep in the
West Georgia woods which overlooked the soft rolling green hills…this while rumbles of
distant thunder gently reverberated between the “I dos”.
The vows were stated in what was a state of the art horse paddock perched high above a peaceful
lake where we had all gathered due to the threat of rain.

Both officiants/ministers spoke a familiar theme…that being the theme of the day, love.

Saturday’s officiant, a college minister, actually called up Michael Curry by name, the now
“infamous” Episcopal cleric who was invited to speak at the Royal wedding.
This college minister invoked much of the same line of thinking as the Bishop’s
during the Royal wedding yet giving the obvious nod to the fact that this current
wedding was between a Kentucky boy and Georgia peach.

I found myself shifting a bit uncomfortably in my chair as the mockingbird
overhead began, as if on cue, to sing.
“Really?!” I was thinking to myself.
“Did he just really head in that direction right here, right now, in this
peaceful meadow setting!?”
The words I heard grousing from that little-unamused voice inside my head.

This college minister, who had been the minister of this young couple throughout their college
tenure, echoed much of what Bishop Curry had said to both Prince Harry and Megan Markle…
with that being the pure unbridled all-encompassing power of love…

And his take was very much the same as that of the bishop’s in that his offering was
the same notion of an idealized jumble of both romantic and erotic love which seems to be
able to carry one and all through a married life….but the thing is it won’t.

It is a type of love that is in actuality very fleeting.

His was the notion being that joy and celebration which is found in romantic love,
could carry a couple throughout a lifetime together while
forgetting that once the shine and glitter fade,
a couple would be left staring at one another wondering what’s next.

It is a current cultural notion of love that Bishop Gavin Ashenden notes as
“the more it glitters, the more it’s good.”

The second officiant at Sunday’s wedding also spoke of love.
Because what else brings us to a wedding but what we hope is indeed love?!

But rather than going on about all that glitters being gold, the officiant was rather more
matter of fact.
He noted that marriage is not the end but rather the beginning of the journey…
and it is not always going to be the smoothest or clearest of travels.

He reminded this couple, along with the rest of us,
that there will be times that things will be hard.
Times when that romantic love and erotic love will have long since faded.
Because of time, life and even the separation of distance due to life’s varying circumstances
will each interfere with that initial love of romance which had brought them
to this spot on this particular day in the first place…
he reminded all of us that it is at this point that love
usually has to roll up its sleeves.

He then had the couple do something I’ve never seen before and was unfamiliar with.

Obviously, days before the ceremony he had previously told both bride and groom to sit down
and write a letter to one another.
A letter about what their relationship meant to them and how and why it had brought them
to this particular place…the place of marriage and a day in which they would commit
themselves one to another.

There was a wooden box on the makeshift altar along with a bottle of wine.
He explained to all of us gathered how he had asked them to write the letters but that
the letters were sealed and they had not yet shared them with one another.
In front of all of us he asked them to take the sealed envelopes and place them into the box.
He then placed the bottle of wine in the box and sealed it all up.

He told us that tradition dictated that they were to,
in a year’s time on the day of their first anniversary, open the box,
read the letters and then make a toast to themselves.

But…

Should they, at any point before the year’s time had passed,
find themselves in a place of darkness, they were to open the box and read the letters.

I rather liked that idea.

Looking back…recalling my younger self, my very immature younger self, I know full well that
what I had was an idealized vision of what both marriage and love were all about.

I think the glitter wore off on the honeymoon when we were at the beach for a week…a place
I now know my husband of 35 years was none too keen to be.
But we were there because his sister told him that’s where we needed to go.
He had actually wanted to go out west.
If he had thought to ask me, I would have voted on out west.

But here’s the thing.
Relationships, loving, growing…
they all take learning.

It takes learning to know…learning in knowing to ask, learning how to ask, learning when to ask,
learning how to speak up, learning when to speak up, learning when to be quiet,
learning when to share and learning when to listen.

It is a journey of growth.

Relationships are hard.
Love is even harder.

I think of those song lyrics listed above…“baby don’t hurt me”
But the thing is Love does often hurt…
Just ask anyone who has ever lost a loved one and whose heart now aches.

Love is not glamorous nor is it that of a fairytale.
There is a reason we are asked “for richer and for pooer…in sickness and in health”

Poorer and sickness are both hard and painful.
They are not pleasant, fun nor easy.
They aren’t pretty to see, pleasant to hear nor are they, at times, easy to even smell.

Love can appear to be very ugly at times because life can be ugly…

But here’s the thing…
Love, that day on Golgotha, was not pretty.
It was painful, it was lonely, it was bloody and it was dying.
And yet that dying Love actually went to Hell in order to do battle.
It was love in its most pure and rawest form.

And the thing is, it won.

And so what we now know is that because of that Love, that battered and bruised Love,
our love today, when battered and beaten, can actually be cleaned up,
repolished and made anew.

It will not be easy.
Nor will it always be pretty…but in the end, it is well worth it.

Here’s to the happy couples!

Below is a link to a 5-minute interview between Rod Liddle, a jounalist for the Sunday Times,
and Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the Bishop’s concern from
the wedding speech now heard round the world.

Rod Liddle Interviews Gavin Ashenden in the Sunday Times – on the Wedding Sermon.

And also here is a link to the latest offering by our friend the Wee Flea as he provides us
with a breakdown of the same sermon and how it is now dividing Evangelical Christians.

How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

trouble

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world, you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33


(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2018)

As sure as the sun rises every morning, we are each guaranteed, at some point or other,
an encounter with trouble.

Some trouble will be gut-wrenching.
Some trouble will be fleeting.
Some trouble will knock us down.
Some trouble will take us to our knees.
While other trouble will simply be bluesy and lowdown…
soulfully woeful, gritty and dirty.

We are told that yes, there will be trouble.
Not a question of if… but rather a matter of when…there will indeed be trouble.

We don’t know the type nor kind of our troubles, but we know
that troubles will eventually come.

The test of the matter will be how we decide to respond.

How we, if we, opt to get back up.

Hope is found in knowing that we have a Redeemer, a Savior who has overcome
each and every trouble that was, is or will ever be…
We overcome because He has already overcome…

So get behind us trouble…

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:4-5

the darkness shall not overcome….

“In order for the light to shine so brightly,
the darkness must be present.”

Francis Bacon

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism,
but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.

Francis Bacon


(a partial solar eclipse caught in mid eclipse courtesy the web)

See this image of an eclipse?
Even when the moon passes completely between the sun and the Earth,
creating a total solar eclipse…as the day turns into an eerie twilight…the
sun is still seen as if glowing from behind the moon…

It’s as if the moon cannot hide nor contain the Sun’s radiating light
for the sun and all of her all encompassing power and might will not be denied

It is such that her light cannot and will not be hidden, contained, nor denied….

I think of Jesus and of his victory over Death—
His far reaching and everlasting Light, like that of the sun, cannot and will not
be hidden, contained nor denied …nor will the light that shines
upon the heirs of his Glory….for His Light will perpetually shine upon
all those who confess His name….

Epiphany—a shining forth….

Our good friend Bishop Ashenden offered a lovely homily for the Feast of the
Epiphany which was this past Sunday—
And as I keep explaining….my time is not, nor has it been, my own as of late
as it continues getting further and further away from me–
Hence why a past Sunday’s homily is being presently posted on a following Wednesday….

Yet no matter—I’ve added the video clip—it is all of about 15 minutes—
and well worth the time spent as the good Bishop offers a thought provoking look at the Epiphany as he asks us each the question,
‘what gift is it that we will lay before
Jesus as homage to his birth?”

And of course that gift is to be our entire being…especially
that of our complete and uncompromised time….
While at the same time we must remain mindful that our ancient Enemy will do
everything in his power to keep us from offering Jesus much of anything,
especially our time….

The good Bishop explains that what we know of the Magi, who were most likely
kings and if not kings of earthly kingdoms…they were certainly kings of
the realms of theology and science….
And it is clear that they were certainly not Jews….

Yet they came from far away places, converging simultaneously, in order to
see for themselves this baby that the heavens foretold…
A baby that was certainly no ordinary Jewish baby…
but rather a great and mighty future king…

And as they were not Jews, we have the first nod to the fact that this king-to-be
had actually come for all men and not just for the Jews.
As we actually see the leading thinkers and scientists of the day,
kneeling before the Christ.

Men of great, knowledge, thinking and wisdom…
yet humbled by the birth of a seemingly random Jewish child…
in what was considered a far flung dessert outcropping in the middle of
a barren land.
Men of great study and stature being humbled by the birth of a mere foreign child.

An event and scenario that would be highly unlikely to be acknowledged by our
current day’s community of academics and scientists.

For our dear Bishop explains that over time, the age of Enlightenment brought with
it a tremendous sense of hubris. With the current intellectual high priests
of all things scientific and academic possessing their fair share of self importance.

As our current age’s thinkers have been wounded by apostasy, unbelief,
schism and capitulation…
all the while as society is currently being sold a progressive theology
and the selling out to the spirit of the age…

And yet we are reminded of not merely a single birth of a small child
far away and long ago, we are reminded of the emergence of a Great Light…
A Light that called out the brightest and the greatest as well as the smallest
and the least….
for in this Light, not even the darkness itself can nor will contain it….

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

We all have them…

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot

images
(Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II / image borrowed from the web)

Elizabeth has had them….
She’s actually had what she referenced as an annus horribilis
An entire bad year…

Churchill had them…
just mention the word Gallipoli

Eddison had them…
think electric chair

David had them…
think plotting to have someone killed just to cover up your own bad choices…
As it just seems to get worse and worse…..

Joseph had them…
think betrayal by your own brothers…

Paul had them…
as it took three days of blindness to figure it out that raging murderous ways were not
the best use of ones talents.

Peter had them…
something about crowing roosters

Einstein had them…
A Nobel Prize winner actually failed his college entrance exam

Louis Zamperini had them…
think plane crash, 47 days in a life raft and over 2 years as a POW

FDR had them…
one word…polio

Indeed, we’ve all had them…
bad days,
bad weeks,
bad months,
bad years,
bad turns,
bad runs,
bad lives…

Times we would just rather forget.
Times we wish we could ask for the re-do or the re-start
Times we found unbearable, insurmountable and devastating…
Times we thought we’d not survive…

The thing is we will all face them…
bad times,
hard days,
difficult periods in our lives.

Some will seem endless as others will seem to be the end of us…

It will not be a matter of when they come…
because they will come whether or not we are ready, prepared or armed…

The important thing will not be what they do to us,
But rather what we do in spite of them…

Will we be beaten?
Giving up,
Lying down,
Rolling over,
Giving in…
growing bitter
resentful
resigned
hateful…

Or will we come out of it…
better,
stronger,
wiser,
kinder
even more courageous than before….

Unknown

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Rejoice

“That like as Christ was raised from the dead…
so we also might walk in newness of life”

Watchman Nee as taken from Romans 6:4

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done

Psalm 118:17

RSCN2728
(cloudless sulphur butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Rejoice this day…again, I say Rejoice
For you who were captive of both sin and death, have been set free….
forevermore…..

RSCN2725

Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Acts 13:38-39

The Journey

“Sometimes it’s the journey that is more important than the end result—“
quote by Julie Cook and countless others who have voiced a similar observation

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

DSCN0828
(McKenzie Pass Lava flow Oregon / Julie Cook / 2012)

(I’ve written about our son before and of his struggles in school.
Today my thoughts are of him as well as with him on this particular Saturday and of a potentially life changing test.
Today I am transported back to a life, many years ago, and to what it has taken to get us all to this particular day. . .)

I have had, in the back of my mind, the intention of writing a certain post one day. . .a post in the not so distant future. . .a post that is to come most likely, hopefully, in a couple of months, a little later down the road. . .
. . .and yet. . .
It is today in which these thoughts seem to be percolating up to the surface and laying claim to both my thoughts and my heart.

One thing I’ve learned during the course of my life is that if you’re thinking and or feeling things–those internal nudgings, pushing’s and tiny alarms which sound deep in the recesses of heart and soul, it’s best not to put them off, not to push them aside until there seems to be sufficient “time” in which to address them—it is important, perhaps even dire, to address, examine, act and embrace such thoughts now, today. . .

Come December, our son will turn 26.
That in itself is difficult for my aging mind to comprehend.

He arrived in this world a week earlier than predicted—thankfully.
“They” had given me a due date of Christmas day. At the time the thought of having a baby born on Christmas was overwhelming for all sorts of reasons. I certainly didn’t want to be in a hospital on Christmas, I wanted to be home. My mom had passed away three years prior so I was a bit afraid of entering motherhood all on my own with little to no advice or direction. My husband owned a retail business. Christmas was his busiest time of the year. Would he even be able to enjoy the birth of his first born (and unbeknownst to us at the time, our only born). I certainly didn’t want our child’s birth to be overshadowed by business, nor by the madness known as the marketing of, by our consumer driven Society, of Christmas.

Our son was born with a slight case of jaundice which later was oddly attributed to being breast fed.
He also had a difficult time keeping any nourishment down without vomiting.
By 3 months he was admitted to Eggleston Children’s Hospital for extensive tests.
From the onslaught of constantly vomiting, he had developed internal bleeding and an ulcerated esophagus.
He was prescribed medication along with a specialized formula that was thickened with oatmeal in order to help “keep it all down”

His eating habits, to this day, are picky at best.
Other than those early struggles with nourishment and being on the low end of the growth chart, he appeared happy and relatively healthy.

By the time he was a year old, he had developed those growing life skills parents thankfully tick off on the long list of growing accomplishments.
He smiled.
He cooed.
He laughed.
He rolled over.
He sat up.
He cut teeth.
He uttered little words (“da da” was the first word—why that is, after all the work done by the mother, the first word is “da da” is beyond my soul, but I digress)
He crawled, fist on his belly, then up on all fours–
However those precarious teetering first steps to walking were yet to be seen.

We fretted when he didn’t walk until he was 15 months old.
Naturally we were concerned because all the other babies his age had been walking, many, for several months. Yet thankfully that skill eventually came to fruition much to our relief.

All seemed well.
He attended preschool seemingly happy to be with other children, as he was an only child.
He was sweet with a gentle spirit accented by a vivid imagination. I think children who have no siblings and do not live in a neighborhood alongside constant playmates tend to develop a wonderful sense of creativity and keen imagination.

It was’t until he entered kindergarten that a red flag was hoisted up the pole of a parent’s fear.
His teacher called us in for a meeting as she wanted to let us know that she had some concerns—
She had decided that there was one or two things going on. . .either our child was “gifted” as his vocabulary and verbal skills were off the charts— yet, he wasn’t reading, his writing was not on par with his peers nor was his ability to spell simple words— she therefore sensed something was a rye.
She recommended we have him tested.

We took our son to a child psychologist for a battery of tests. Time will not permit me to elaborate on the worries which clouded our world during this time. The short of this long story is that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in written expression, a slight case of dyslexia coupled by ADD with the area of contention being an inability to stay “focused”. Plus his fine motor skills were slightly impaired.

As the psychologist explained, she did not think our son would ever be able to participate successfully in team sports due to the trouble with his fine motor skills, my husband had tears streaming down his cheeks–not because he was disappointed that his only son would most likely not ever follow in the steps of his own athletic prowess, but rather that he felt his son would perhaps miss out on so much of what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself, that of a team working toward a unified and single goal.

Yet it was for our own small team, our small family of three, to work toward the goal of getting him reading plus finding a place of success in school.

I racked my brain over what I had or had not done when I was pregnant. What had I perhaps done inadvertently to our child? Lots of unfounded guilt coupled with lots of worry for an unknown future engulfed us for many years.

The struggle and climb were both long and arduous.
There was the summer spent driving back and forth daily to a special school in Atlanta that worked specially with kids who had dyslexia and learning disabilities.
There were the countless tutors, the endless meetings with teachers, the tears, the frustrations, the long nights working for tiny and minuscule gains, the isolation of working day after day, night after night, alone all under the worried and weary eyes of a mom and dad.

Our son had to pour all energies into his studies, there was little time for anything but school. No fun after school with friends, no time for sports, no time for leisure. . .there wasn’t much time for the building of close bonds and friendships.
He grew tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and burned out.
We too grew weary and frustrated, yet we continued working and pushing–often moving 2 steps forward and 5 steps back.
This all before entering high school.
Exhausting.

Yet he continued to have goals.
He had dreams.
He had aspirations.
Those things, thankfully, never waned.

Even though I was an educator who was realistic, I was also a parent who was determined that he should be given every opportunity, just like everyone else who dreams of a successful future, of being afforded the things necessary to make him successful.
Success to us was simply to pass.
We rejoiced over C’s.
We cried.
We often felt defeated.
We got angry.
We worried.
We made ourselves sick.
We grew tired.

In 2007 our son graduated high school.
That was a wonderful day.
He didn’t wear cords or medals around his neck.
He didn’t have stoles draped over his shoulders.
He wasn’t highly ranked nor did his name bear any honors.
Yet he was standing on a stage, receiving a piece of paper many thought he’d never hold.

College, which was indeed in his plans, would not be easy.
Nor has it been.
He is in his final semester–we hope.
Others his age have long since graduated, some with multiple degrees.
They are working, making their way in their careers and life.
Our son is weary.
He has felt discouraged.
He has suffered multiple setbacks.
At times he’s been his own worst enemy.
He is stubborn.
He is hard headed.
Sometimes I think unrealistic.

However I am not the one who has been told time and time again that I couldn’t do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. There is a certain determination in constantly being told “no” or “never”. . .
Our son, thankfully, has always possessed certain inner strengths which have worked to compensate and offset the heavy deficiencies.

Today, after several miscues, he finally took a long anticipated test.
He took the LSAT.
That in-depth lengthy test those aspiring to attend Law School must first successfully pass before moving forward.
There’s a lot riding on the results of this test.
He’s been in school for the majority of his life.
It has taken a grave toll on him physically.
We want / need for him to work toward financial independence.
His well being wants him to be finally independent.
His new wife worries.
The future is still uncertain.

And yet, the mere fact that my child has actually arrived at this very day, the day of simply taking a test, is monumental.
I know he will be most anxious over the results.
I, on the other hand, have no angst over results.
It is quite to the contrary— I have an odd sense of peaceful satisfaction.
There was a time when colleagues and friends thought we were unrealistic in our aspirations for our son. There was a time when we all wondered if we had not bitten off more than we or he could chew.
I’m sure we will still have those days.
But for today, I may exhale.
I think he may actually exhale.

So whether or not he does or does not eventually attend Law School. . .
Whether or not he clears this latest hurdle or stumbles. . .
Whether or not he puts this goal aside and works toward a different goal, a Plan B goal. . .
It is, to this one mom, the mere fact that her child has actually made it to this day—this actual day which has witnessed his carrying a single admittance ticket through a door, to finding his place once again at yet one more classroom desk, to the taking of one more test in the long list of tests, all taken during the course of a long hard fought career spent in school–it is to this day, a day of an amazing accomplishment, that I can finally see a glimmer of peace.

It is therefore my heartfelt belief that it is not so much the end of a journey which matters in this thing we call life but rather it is the path along the long and arduous journey which matters most. There will always be the bumps and curves, the mountains and cliffs which we will happen upon during the course of the journey which will work in tandem for and against us, all helping to form the “real” person which resides within each of us–as we are all tried by the fires and furnace of life.
My son is testament to such a journey.

“Success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
― Booker T. Washington