the nagging issue of a name

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

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

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

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

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

A before name and an after name.

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

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

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

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

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

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

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

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

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

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

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

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 14:19-20

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

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

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

Genesis 17:1-7

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

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

A covenant being an agreement.

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

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

Yes, big or small, names matter.

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

What’s in a Name

God consciousness

Paul believed that in the whole field of Christian experience the first
step is with, and remains with God.
Thought, feeling and endeavor must find their basis and inspiration in,
the sovereign mercy of God.

Duncan Campbell


(image of Rodel Chruch, Lewis and Harris courtesy the web)

A couple of weeks back, my friend David, over on Ebbs and Flow, offered a couple of posts
regarding a bit of obscure history in his recounting of the tale of the
‘Revival in the Hebrides.’

This “revival” actually took place on the island of Lewis-and-Harris
during a time period running from 1940-1953.

I was not familiar with this “revival” but my curiosity was piqued–so I ordered the two books
David had recommended regarding this spiritual phenomenon.

The impetus…two elderly octogenarians, one blind, literally laid on the floor prostrate
before God immersed in a state of deep and earnest prayer…seeking a promise.
They did this for three nights each week until their prayers were fulfilled.

David offers a bit of background…
These ladies carried a burden so great that they prayed on their faces in front of the
peat fire in their crofter’s cottage three nights a week.
Three nights a week for months on end these two ladies persistently cried out to God in Gaelic
claiming a promise from Scripture:
I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground (Isaiah 44:3).
Their burden was for the folk of their parish, especially the young.
They had no idea of when God might answer their prayer,
or of how God might answer their prayer.

https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/clean-hands/
https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/a-distant-generation/

With my small corner of the world being currently consumed by all things new baby, I’ve
not had the time nor opportunity to delve further into the story of the Revival nor of the
Scottish minister, Duncan Campbell, who played a key instrumental part in the Revival.
Not until last evening when I finally managed to crack open the small blue book,
The Price and Power of Revival by Duncan Campbell, taking in a couple of pages before
closing my eyes from the weight of a month plus of pure exhaustion.

When I first read David’s initial post regarding this revival and of these two
elderly women who came before God entreating Him to fulfill a promise…
the promise of pouring water and floods upon a dry thirsty ground,
I was actually moved to tears.

Whereas their prayers were for their entire community, their focus was primarily
on the youth of their community.

These two humble elderly women believed God…without doubt…
and they believed in His promises…
so it was only natural that they went about imploring God to fulfill His promises.

The faith of a mustard seed…
a tiny smallness in which greatness is found.

Oh so simple and yet oh so profound.

They believed.
They prayed.
Their earnestness and honest heartfelt prayers, in turn, answered in miraculous fashion.

Duncan Campbell offers the following…

The Divine in the human:
In God’s creative plan, man holds a unique place,
distinct in this respect that he alone of God’s creation is capable of God-consciousness.
“This consciousness, or feeling,
is as much a verity as any other fact of human consciousness:

The notion of ‘God-consciousness’ is something that I think lies buried within the heart each
and every human being…be it dormant or not.

And it is the moving of the Spirit which awakens this sleeping giant.

I’ve recounted this little story before but it came flooding back when I
had read David’s post…

Years ago when I was a teenager, still in high school, I was running errands with
my “godmother” who was the wife of the dean of our Chruch. Ours was an Episcopal
Cathedral so the lead priest of an Episcopal Chruch is known as a dean.

They were a deeply spiritual couple who were actually actively involved in the current
spiritual revival taking place within the Catholic and Episcopal denominations known
as the Charismatic Movement.

This was during the mid 70’s…it was a time of cultural settling yet spiritual growth
following the contentious 60’s.

I don’t recall how our conversation got on the subject but my godmother commented
on the obvious curiosity behind my apparent draw to a deeper spirituality…
this given the fact that I was an angst-filled teenager whose family was not exactly
the most religious–
So how in the world I had stumbled upon my current path of a Spiritual journey,
all of which seemed more than a bit odd, was beyond her soul…

But she had a clue…

From first glance, I was not exactly one who others would imagine to be a deeply seeking person…
seeking deeply what Catherine Marshal called “Something More” —
which was the title of one of her numerous books and one that I just happened to be reading.

Knowing my history…that I had been adopted, my godmother turned to look me in the
face and proceeded to tell me that she believed someone who had known of me and of
my existence had prayed…
that someone had prayed for me for all these years…
as those prayers had been directing my path all these years…

And so yes, we pray earnestly because we have been told to pray without ceasing…
God has made us a promise and He will not turn a deaf ear to that promise…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

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

Did the world stop spinning?

Stop the earth from spinning, I want to get off
anonymous


(big sister Alice does believe her world has indeed stopped spinning / Julie Cook/ 2018)

I think it was last Tuesday…
I started a new post and suddenly…life just spiralled away…

It has been spiralling since Friday, February 16th.

That Friday began with a frantic phone call followed by a frantic race to the big city…
racing 65 miles along a busy interstate to a busy metro hospital…
as a first-time pregnant mom felt no movement from her soon to be baby.

Was there a heartbeat…we did not yet know.

The doctors ordered them to the hospital immediately.
The dreaded word “stillborn” was quietly uttered and cautiously mentioned by a
somber doctor.

Tears, prayers and shouting flowed freely…while racing on a busy interstate.

Finally and thankfully the call came…there was a heartbeat.
But I kept racing none the less.
The voice of my own, now grown father-to-be, son was frightened.

And there was a call for urgency for a delivery.

4:15 PM, a week ago Saturday, a loud exhale could be heard rising up from a lone labour
and delivery room.

A week has since passed in what seems to be a gauze veiled haze of weary relief.

A new mom is now ill with fever…
A new dad is a walking zombie…
A new big sister dog is depressed
A new odd inherited aunt of a cat is still an independent nut job
A new tiny princess has been jaundiced and has had to visit the local Children’s hospital
all the while a new grandmother is still on ‘new-life’ duty while toothpicks prop
open her eyes…

So yes, it does feel as if the world has indeed stopped spinning for a myriad of reasons…
reasons which I haven’t even listed…reasons we’ve been living with but matter not much here…

For us, as exhausting as it all has been, it has been a privilege of wonderment to behold.

The post I attempted last week touched on the fact that the world was obviously still
churning onward without me.

All the current worldly worries and woes have not changed.
The News outlets are still rambling on about the same ol same ol.
Russia is still being Russia.
The Olympics have come and gone.
Politics are still a hot miserable mess.
And today is the first day I’ve looked at a computer.

Truth be told, I’ve not missed any of it!

Tending and caring for a new life seems so much more important than any and everything else.

Caring and tending—a focus of caring, nurturing, tending and servicing the needs of another.
What a novel concept.

No fussing and cussing of opposing sides.
No worries about fake news or animosity.
The self-centred world has been refreshingly removed.
The weight from this heavy and angry painfilled world lifts
as the reality of what is real settles in.

I have, however, missed reading and learning…
learning and sharing with and from all of you my learned friends…
yet there has been no time.
And there is very little if any energy.

I did, however, manage to briefly read snippets, in the wee hours,
of those posts offered by our clerical friends from across the pond
regarding the death of Billy Graham.

I am obviously of the age to clearly remember the televised Billy Graham crusades.
However, I never did attend one in person…
Being an Episcopalian and a committed Christian, I never felt called to
attend a crusade, but I did enjoy watching his televised “sermons.”

In college, I worked at a Christain girl’s summer camp.
The camp was the neighbour to Billy Graham’s North Carolina home.
We never saw him…but his presence was always felt.

Both our friend the Wee Flea, David Robertson,
the pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Dundee and our loving renegade
Anglican Bishop Gavin Ashenden each made note of the famous Evangelist’s passing.

Bishop Ashenden, in his post concerning Billy Graham,
noted the mixed reviews regarding the death of this 99-year-old soldier of Christ…
comments expressing both sorrow as well as sarcastic vehemence.

The good bishop actually cited a rather nasty comment by a contributing editor for Teen Vogue.

“The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time.
Anyway, have fun in hell, bitch.”

Lauren Duca

As a very exhausted new grandmother…
who has experienced some rather low lows and some soaring high highs in the past 10 days…
a grandmother who is marvelling in the life of this new granddaughter—
a little girl who will one day find herself exposed to such things as Teen Vogue…
I am left absolutely baffled by such a caustic comment.

Running out to Target, in order to pick up some baby necessities…
I actually caught a glimpse of the most recent cover of the latest edition of Teen Vogue…

Is this the type of message we want to offer our young girls???–
“resist we must”

Resist what?

The world?
Our society?
Our history?
Resist who we were meant to be?

Resist…
meaning…we must be rebellious vs peace giving,
we must be defiant vs compromising, yielding, giving, offering…
we must be obstinate vs diplomatic…
we must be hate-filled vs kind and loving…
we must be militant vs confident
we must be all that is opposing what God originally intended…

My son, during the course of these past 10 days we’ve spent together, has voiced his anguish
for this new daughter of his…
his anguish over the future of a young woman caught in the growing maelstrom of worldly confusion.
What is to be her future—
A world where Christianity is condemed while secularism rules?
A world where the word Conservative or Orthodox or Tradition is scorned, ridiculed and even
hunted down…???

I echo his concern…

May we continue to hold onto the promise we have been given…

So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

A study in the contrast between Political and Pneumatic Christianity in the light of the life and death of Billy Graham.

Resurrections

“God is what he is;
Yahweh is who he is.”

Alec Motyer

The first thing the Cross does is cross out the world’s word by a Wholly-Other Word,
a Word that the world does not want to hear at any price.
For the world wants to live and rise again before it dies,
while the love of Christ wants to die in order to rise again in the form of God on the
other side of death, indeed, IN death.”

― Hans Urs von Balthasar


(a surprise resurrection blooming peony / Julie Cook /2017)

Late last Spring, early summer, I found myself wandering through the garden center of Lowes.
Whenever I’m feeling ‘less then’, blah or downright sad I often find myself wandering
the garden center.
Rows and rows of color, vibrancy and simply life…
abundant in the scents and sights of fullness, always seems to lift my spirits.

I either wander aimlessly, seeking some hidden sense of solace…
or I wander with a purpose…as in I come with the intent of purchasing something
to plant…
as in, there is a reason and a need for the wandering.

Last planting season I was seeking a few shrubs that were deer resistant but plants
that had more umph than some sort of boxwood or holly.
Something that could survive the full relentless Georgia sun.
A summer either baking and dry or sticky and humid…
Last summer it was hot and dry with a long lasting and oh so deadly drought.

I am a fan of the old fashioned sort of plants found in gardens that harken
to another time…a lovely sort of English cottage garden…
Those gardens that call to mind the thoughts and memories of those who have gone before.

So imagine my piqued interest when I spied a potted peony.
Peonies remind me of old world stateliness…soft while elegant.
Not flashy, not cutting edge, not loud nor garish.
A very southern old-time staple.

I am not a green thumb queen like our friend Natalie over on Sacred Touches
(https://sacredtouches.com)
I do however enjoy planting and working in the yard,
as it is extremely therapeutic for me…
It’s just that I don’t always have success and I don’t always know what I’m doing.

After checking out the price tag on the peony, I had a bit of sticker shock.
It was very expensive.
I asked one of the garden center folks if the peony could survive full sun.
She told me yes and that that was the last peony for the season…that she had already bought
one of the others despite it being a big splurge…she was just excited to get one.

Seeing that I was in the midst of the growing difficult life with Dad’s declining health
and the beginnings of his increasing needs as the life I had known had ceased…
I wanted, no I needed, something to bring me a bit of joy…
I figured a blooming peony could do just that.
So I too splurged and bought the potted peony.

Long story short.
I planted it.
I cared for it.
But we had a deadly drought.
Baking heat and a drought…

This is what the peony looked like come early Fall…

Dejected and sad I text Natalie the pictures.
Knowing her to be the queen of flowers, I shared my loss with her.
Natalie does indeed know a thing or two about flowers and plants
as well as a thing or two about heat and drought as she hails from Texas…
She told me not to dig up the plant…
“Just leave it, because come Spring, you might just be surprised.”
“Peonies are of a hardy stock.”
I suppose a Texas southerner knows a thing or two about hardy stock.

So as the winter came and my life grew more grey and difficult, I forgot all about the peony.

Fast forward to now…as I wander about in the wake of losing Dad,
going through the motions these last couple of weeks while trying to pick up the pieces of
what all he’s left behind,
I’ve been working slowly to bring some semblance of order back into my world.

Wandering about the yard, seeking newness and fullness, I caught my breath when I noticed
a little tuft of fresh greenery emerging from the recently replaced pine straw.
Cautiously over the past week, I’ve watched the little tuft get fuller and taller.
Then Sunday afternoon I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a bloom.

A real resurrection of sorts….

And how timely that this garden resurrection should manifest itself during this most
Holy of weeks…

The weightiness and heaviness of this world…with its pain and overwhelming sorrow…
It is both frightening while at the same time complacent as it lulls us into feeling
that it is our home, our only home.
Dirty and broken, hot and dry…it clutches us, smothering us as it holds our
face in it’s grip convincing us that this world is all we could ever want or need.

Yet in that brokeness and loneliness of our empty hearts and souls…we yearn
for more.
While we shrink in the dryness…
we are spent…

So on that hot dry day of loss…
as a head drops to the chest and the last breath is released…
while the sky darkens and all hope leaves with that drying…

A promise is not forgotten…
and soon our world will change forever…
for the better…..

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:44

Content

Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit,
the core and the content, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking.

Henri Nouwen


(hidden color / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Where sin abounded, there did Grace more abound.
(Rom 5:20)
Resting in that promise,
I am content”

Dorothy Day

revolving

The force that keeps the planets revolving around the sun would
be glad to handle the circumstances of your life,
if only you would ask Him to.

Marianne Williamson

Hintergr_solo_122x80
(image courtesy GU door products and technology)

As a kid I was always mesmerized, as well as terrified, of revolving doors.
Upon visiting any sort of office, hotel or building, that had a revolving door as an entrance,
I would hurry scurry to enter my own little “chamber” or section.
Never wanting to hop in with a stranger and always afraid
I’d push too fast for the others entering and exiting…
All the while I prayed I could keep up without getting my foot stuck or
simply missing the cue for exiting…
otherwise hopelessly getting caught in a quick spin cycle.

All the rather paranoid and silly thoughts of a child.

However…
I still don’t particularly care for revolving doors.

Do I hop in with my companion?
Do I wait to hop into my own little section?
Do I walk and push quickly…or leisurely taking my time, leaving the pushing to another?
Is there revolving door etiquette?
Or worse, I am left to wonder if it’s an automatic door that swings at a set speed…
will I have to quickly or slowly keep up?

What’s wrong with simply pulling or pushing on a single door in or out?

Yet it is to the revolving door that my life is now set.

Spinning round and round with the busyness of comings and goings…

It’s like riding a merry go round—spinning and spinning, round and round in circles without
really going anywhere…
yet truly not being able to get off…
Certainly not in time enough to stop this current madness…

There’s now dad and this cancer business…
As if age, dementia and frailty just wasn’t enough…

There is now the constant driving from my small town into the big city, and back again…
over and over and over….
Constantly wondering how long I’ll get stuck in traffic…
while praying I’m not flattened by some crazy tractor trailer truck.

Then there’s my son taking a job in that same big city…
(which as far as dad is concerned, is actually a hidden blessing)
Of which means a quick hurry up and move situation for him….
while his wife, who teaches here, will be in a bit of limbo
….gravitating between their house, the new apartment and time with us…
It will be a year of transition for them with my husband and I right in the thick of it…

How many times have we moved him in a 10 year span?
Add now a wife and a dog and we just keep multiplying boxes and trips….
And once again, our small family will be separated…
and I will certainly be sad…

It can all be all so very overwhelming…
It is so very overwhelming…

But…

such is life….
such is my life…

A constant revolving, devolving and evolving…
spinning out of control…

It can get to be too much
too tiring…
too demanding…
too exhausting…

Which is just about where I am right about now.
Exhausted.

That’s when I know I need to stop…
taking a very long deep breath.

Breathing out and letting go…
Breathing in a healing…
…Spirit

The rhythmic breathing of…prayer…

Breathing in the Spirit of God…
Exhaling the burdens I can no longer bare…
alone…

Because I am not alone…
I, me, you, we, us…
were all given a promise…

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

And so we, me, you, us…must claim that promise…

And I am claiming that promise just as fast as I can…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3