a passing might just be moving on

“He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.
Dostoevsky said once,
‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings’.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It was just little over a week ago that I shared the latest news on our
friend Nabeel Qureshi and his fight against the aggressive form of stomach
cancer that was gaining an upper hand.

Sadly Nabeel’s battle ended Saturday.

Nabeel was only 34 years old.
A loving husband and father, a Christian convert from Islam,
as well as an ardent Christian Apologist.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I first stumbled upon Nabeel and his no holds
barred, unapologetic, unwavering proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.

At the time I found Nabeel, I was writing a brief post about the Trinity, and during my gathering of information, I found a video clip of a presentation Nabeel had delivered at Wayne St. University about the Oneness, or Tawhid, of God.

Our friend the good Scottish pastor David Robertson offered this about Nabeel
in his Monday posting of the Wee Flea…

LED 9 – Nabeel Quershi – Death of the Church in UK? – Scottish Parliament ‘debates’ Christianity – Jacob Rees-Mogg – George Osbourne and the Death of Thersea May – The Other Side of the Rainbow – The McCain version of “Family”

Death of Nabeel Qureshi –

Possibly the most well known Muslim convert to Christianity, Nabeel Quershi has died aged 34 after a long battle with cancer. You can read his story here – with some wonderful interviews – https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2017/09/16/nabeel-qureshi-1983-2017/

“In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God. . . .”

I have been nearly consumed these last few months with my own small world’s
battle with both passings and death…all up close and quite personal.
And I doubt that any of us ever grow immune to our own body’s and
spirit’s reactions to such traumatic events.
As countless numbers of books have long been written regarding the
stages and emotions associated with both loss and grief.

Even watching last night’s airing of America’s Got Talent (no football was on),
I was reminded of our constant living balance with grief.

The 13 year old singing contestant Evie Clair, from a tiny town in Arizona,
whose father had been battling stomach cancer throughout most the show’s season….
He was a dad who had been in attendance throughout his daughter’s performances and
was noticeably absent the past two weeks.
Her dad actually lost his battle about the same time Nabeel had lost his.

Yet this brave little girl continued on with her final performance Tuesday night,
as I’m certain her father had encouraged her to do no matter what his
outcome may be.

So when I saw Nabeel’s final video posting from his hospital bed, as he shared
that his doctors had finally called off all treatment as now palliative care
was being called in, Nabeel still spoke of healing and miracles.

Now the smug and jaded among us, those non believers,
those cynical ones who would see and hear a dying man
speaking of miracles and healing from his death bed…
or who would watch a grieving 13 year old young girl sing a song of hope while
standing in the face of death all in front of millions of viewers, would write such
off as merely being pitiful, misguided, lost or even foolish.

Yet as I mulled over Nabeel’s last video clip…
as I wrestled with the sorrow and sadness of his image in his hospital bed…
as I heard him wrestle with a battle now seemingly ending despite
his best efforts to battle on….
as I turned it and his words over and over in my mind—
those words of a continued and constant prayer and belief in healings and miracles…
I had a shift of thinking.

We earthbound pray for earthly miracles.
We long for these miracles.
We don’t want those we know and love to hurt, to suffer or to leave us here–alone.
We can’t bear imagining a life without those we love and cherish.
Our roles no longer being what they were.
Our earthly identities now shifted and skewed.
It is often more than any of us can bear….

And so we pray, we pray earnestly and fervently…
we implore, we plead, we cry and we beg….
Yet when all of that energy and hopefulness is still met by suffering and or Death,
we do one of two things…
we accept or we reject…

And if we opt for rejecting…we are most often consumed by anger and rage at
this unseen God who we have been imploring and pleading with…..

But what if, what if the prayers of the healing and of the miracles are actually
more than asking for a loved one to remain earth bound…
What if our prayers are really for the healing and the miracle of being Heaven bound?
That our prayers for miraculous healing are really not for remaining here but rather
for those we love to be prayed Homeward…..
in that the passing away on Earth is really the miracle of moving forward?

I think they call that a paradigm shift….

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:6-8

God doesn’t blink

Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
But don’t worry;
God never blinks.

Regina Brett


(Coach Tim and Dawn Criswell at one of the three son’s graduations)

You may recall that a couple of weeks back I asked for prayers for
an old friend and former colleague.

Tim Criswell is the Basketball coach at Carrollton High School.
I had worked with Tim ever since he was hired, nearly 30 years ago, to come back
to his old alma mater to be the head boys basketball coach…

Fast forwarding to August 5th…

Tim and his wife Dawn were involved in a serious bike accident on
Carrollton’s Greenbelt…the 17 mile recreational path that circles around the city.
Tim sustained traumtic injury and was life flighted to Atlanta’s Grady Hospital’s
Trauma Unit where he remains to this day.

Tim suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe head trauma…
while quickly developing pneumonia and various infections along with
increased oozing and swelling of the brain upon arriving at the hospital.

I had promised you that I would offer updates as time and Tim progressed…..

This past week, as the brain swelling finally leveled off and reached the
magic number,
doctors were able to perform the necessary surgeries to
put a trach tube in place to better assist with breathing
(still on a ventilator but is being weaned off) as well as inserting
a feeding tube directly into the stomach to help eliminate issues with
aspiration and further infection.

Since Tim has been in the hospital his middle son has had to leave for college,
with his oldest son soon to follow suit…
plus Tim’s mother passed away this past week.
The comings and goings of life while husband, father, son has remained heavily
sedated…hanging in the balance of life and death.

Dawn, Tim’s wife, has been good to offer a daily update on their CaringBridge page
(caringbridge.org)
If you’ve ever spent anytime in an ICU watching over a loved one whose very
life hangs in the balance, then you can understand the roller coaster of emotions,
the fatigue and heavy weariness that eats away at ones mind and body…
Yet Dawn has spent most of every hour of every day with Tim,
spending each night at the hospital.

Her sharing on Caringbride comes each evening, usually between 10 or 10:30, as
she offers a recap of the day’s ups and downs.
These updates come with her own observations and feelings…usually about life
in the ICU unit and of the other families and staff she shares her time with—
She recounts the small acts of kindness that she soaks in like a sponge…
acts offered, or actually preformed, by staff members who are merely doing their job,
yet to Dawn, these acts are more than just a job…
they create an actual continuum and life line.

The other evening I was touched by Dawn recounting the fact that as she was finally settling down for the night, the movie The Notebook was showing.
A movie she just wasn’t emotionally up to watching but yet was a visceral reminder
that love is a verb….

Dawn offered these words:

“My dad is flying in from Chicago to spend the next 3 nights with me in the ICU.
I am actually laying down and the movie, The Notebook, came on the TV (not sure I can watch it tonight:). It is one of my favorite love stories of all times. The first time I read the book over 20 years ago, I knew that story was the type of love I wanted in my marriage – love as a verb. I am lucky that it has been the kind of love I have now and for the last 27 years with Tim. The kind of love Tim’s mom and dad had for each other for over 50 years.”

Yesterday she reported that Tim is beginning to open and close his eyes.
This comes as they are backing off from the heavy sedation while still administering
some very strong pain meds.

Tim is not yet responding to commands…but Dawn did ask yesterday for Tim to give her
a kiss and she noted that Tim did attempt to pucker his lips.

Here is the closing of Tuesday night’s post….

“I feel God’s presence all over this hospital – especially in the trauma and ICU.
It reminds me of a quote Larry Patton sent me –
“Everything can change in a blink of an eye. But don’t worry;
God never blinks.”
Love ya all!!!”

May we all be reminded,
God never blinks…never misses a single thing in our lives…

Please join me as prayers continue for Tim and his family…

You go to pray; to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving light and heat.
St Josemaria Escriva

prayers for Coach


(Coach Tim Criswell /courtesy Joe Garrett’s blog / 2014)

Spending a 30 plus career in one place, in one school,
affords a teacher the opportunity of sitting back and watching as a lot of
folks come and go…
An endless sea of students who come in in the 9th grade in order to “serve”
their four years only to then pass through and on come graduation.
Some students will stay all four years while some will not…for a myriad of reasons.

There are also a lot of personnel changes that take place within a school
as folks transfer, move or change careers…
With the front doors of the school becoming almost like a revolving door for change…
Because in a school, nothing stays the same for very long.
Which is just part and parcel of life, the cycle of learning, moving and growing.

I was fortunate in that I worked in a small city school system.
I was the art teacher for 30 plus years at the city system high school.
Our school system employs a lot of former students as well as community members who
have lived in Carrollton or in Carroll County all their lives.
I was actually the outsider all those many years ago.

I was afforded the gift of meeting and working with a wealth of varied individuals.
Some of whom came and went in due time while others stayed, as I did…
forging a lifetime of teaching on one single campus and within one single school.

Those who do such, staying in one place for so very long, find that they actually
become the extended family of their colleagues.
As one actually spends more waking hours with fellow educators than with
one’s own family.

I remember when a new wet behind the ears, fresh out of college, young man
was hired to coach basketball.

At our school football was a long established dynasty…a well known program
throughout not only the state but throughout the entire nation as state titles were collected like Easter eggs and players went on to the NFL…
while basketball was only a mere footnote.

His name was Tim Criswell..and like so many other employees, Tim was also a graduate
of his new employer.

I won’t go into the details of his now near 30 year career…
I won’t talk about the persevering and hard work that has garnered awards, titles
and a wealth of accolades all of which “Coach” has managed to bring to the house of Trojan.

Because accolades and titles mean nothing when you consider the countless number of
lives of an army of young men who have been made the better because they played
under and worked alongside “Coach”
For Tim is a man of great integrity and conviction.
A man who any parent would want as an influence as well as role model for their child.

Tim is now in the final years of a long successful career of both coaching and
teaching.
He and his wife Dawn are looking forward to his retirement.

Saturday morning Tim and Dawn were out riding bikes on the new Green Belt that
circles the city of Carrollton—a 17 mile loop providing a place for walking,
running and riding bikes.

What exactly happened is still a bit unclear but there was an accident.
A serious accident.

Tim had to be life flighted to Atlanta’s Grady Hospital’s trauma unit with
extensive injuries…
broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe head trauma.

He is currently heavily sedated as the medical team works to keep the pressure
in the brain from swelling beyond what is considered to be safe numbers
as the pressure is fluctuating like a see saw of up and down.

They are holding off on needed surgeries due to the fluctuating pressure.
They are debating putting a plate in for one of the ribs,
meshes to help stop blood clots from traveling from the legs to the lungs
as well as surgeries to alleviate the cranial pressure.

He has developed a fever and pneumonia and is currently being given antibiotics.

I am asking for you to please join me for prayers for Tim, Dawn and
their three sons.

Dawn reported last night on the CaringBridge update page that one of the doctors is apparently a strong Believer who told her that the specific prayer currently
needed is for the pressure in the brain to back off….

So I am in turn humbly asking that you all will join me by adding Tim to your list
of those for whom you pray.

I ask that we join together..in turn asking our Omnipotent Father to draw ever
closer to Dawn and the boys as He wraps His arms around Tim’s battered body.

I ask that there will be healing for Tim’s broken and bruised body
as well as for Dawn’s anxious heart.

I’ll will provide updates or you may visit the CaringBridge site to register in order
to read the updates.

https://www.caringbridge.org/

Wrestling and prayers

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(falls in the Agawa Canyon Park / Algoma District, Ontario, Canada / Julie Cook / 2017)

I mentioned the other day that I was blessed with friends who are very wise…
Well as good fortune would have it, I had another wise friend has come along,
offering her own insightful guidance…
by actually offering a bit of wisdom in sharing.

She has passed along a link to A Painted Prayerbook by Jan Richardson
with the day’s thoughts resting on “The Wrestling Is Where the Bessing Begins:
(excerpt Aug 2, 2017)

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place.
It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when,
fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that
assured him of God’s presence on his path.
Now, in this latest nighttime meeting,
Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness,
it makes us work for a blessing.
This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us,
knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those
strange comforts of the wilderness.
Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle,
to be stretched to our limits,
to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

(http://paintedprayerbook.com)

And like Jacob, I wrestle.

I wrestle with this thing I claim as life.
My life.

I wrestle with my perception, my wants and my presumed,
as well as intended, outcomes…
I then wrestle with God’s intention for my life…
for you see, those two thoughts are not always the same…
His verses mine.

And now I’m finding myself prematurely and uncomfortably pushed away from
resting undisturbed somewhere, while just hoping to sit under a shade tree.
I sit trying to avoid the heat of day…the prickly weight that pushes down on my
head from not only what is mine, but what is all around me.
I long to avoid the unbearable heat generated by my own life’s struggles,
as well as the heated percolation found in the greater world at large.

And here I now realize that I must wrest the blessing which is to be found in
all of this…
Because as you see, we sometimes actually have to work for a blessing.

And yet…
in that one little fact…
that being that I will often times be uncomfortable and even struggle while
becoming exasperated to the point of near failure….
yet still….
I find that within the wrestling…resides pieces of deep spiritual comfort….

We are traveling today the 10 plus hours down to West Palm Beach, to south Florida.
Martha’s memorial service is Saturday morning, at her beloved little Episcopal
Church.

I will greatly appreciate your prayers for our travels.
It’s a long drive in uncharted waters so knowing that a Heavenly host
travels with us is indeed a comfort and a blessing…
one not wrestled over I trust….

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

aunt maaathaaa

“The way you help heal the world is you
start with your own family.”

Mother Teresa


(look at that young Atlanta girl)

Spelled M – a – r – t – h – a
but it’s pronounced Maaaathaaa..
And yes, it’s a southern thing.

So I don’t think she’d mind my mentioning this….
but I think we might need to ramp up the prayers….again
As in calling on all you prayer warriors out there….

You may remember, my aunt.
My mother’s only, younger, sister and my only remaining link on that side of my family.
We have been family, partners in crime and grand adventurers since I could walk.
You may also remember that three years ago, out of the blue, Martha was diagnosed
with kidney cancer.

No problem said the doctors…just pop out that kidney and you’ll be good to go.

And so it was…the one kidney remaining was to step up to the plate,
becoming super kidney.
She barely missed a beat as major kidney surgery is now about as quick and easy
as a tooth extraction.
We were off to Ireland in less than a year.
Life was good.

That was until late last summer when a routine check revealed new spots on the
remaining super kidney, the pancreas and the liver.

No problem said the doctors…
you’ll take a pill everyday for the rest of your life and it’ll
keep the spots at bay.

So it was the first of January when she started the pill regime.

But the side effects seem to be more then what she was lead to understand.

Her energy level is now that of a weak newborn kitten.
Her appetite has been absolutely zero which is probably ok because her mouth
and tongue have become so utterly sensitive that she can’t tolerate anything going
in the mouth…so she’s now down 35 pounds—35 pounds she didn’t have to lose…

And now the last PET scan showed new spots—the type of spots she wasn’t suppose to get
because she’s taking the pills….

But not a problem says the doctors…
We’ll change up the pills….

But the mouth is still gravely unhappy, there is absolutely no desire to eat,
her hair is now white as snow, her energy level is non existent and
she is at a low low…

So I think its time we call on the prayer warriors…

And this is the confidence which we have in him,
that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask,
we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.

1 John 5:14-15

what is Grace

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices,
so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow,
just in order to become a child again and begin anew.
I had to experience despair,
I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide,
in order to experience grace.”

Hermann Hesse


(even the weeds provide sustenance to the bees / Julie Cook / 2017)

I do believe in a personal God, because I too have had revelations,
answers to my questions, to my prayers, and if the answer fails to come,
which is usually the case because God wants us to work out our own salvation,
I have that assurance God gave Saint Paul and he passed on to us,
“My Grace is sufficient for you.”

And what is grace?
Participation in the divine life.

Dorothy Day