Mother’s Day–happy and nostalgic

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain


(me and mom circa 1980 )

The fact of life is that we all have two parents.
A mother and a father.

If life is as we would wish it to be, we will know both of these parents.
They will love us and we will love them.

We will all grow together through both ups and downs.

Yet if life opts for a different path, we may or may not know our parents…
or we may not love them and they may not love us.

However, the fact of the matter remains— we all have had two parents.

And we all had a mother who carried us for, give or take, nine months.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that those 9 months can be joyous, fretful, painful,
jolting, frightening and certainly changing.

Most of us have one mother…
I, on the other hand, had three.

My first mother, my original mother, my birth mother, is unknown to me.

In early 1959 a 23-year-old woman became pregnant.
Plans did not go as perhaps they should have and this young woman up and moved away
from her home…moving to a large city where she could blend in and become,
for the most part, anonymous.

She never traveled home for those many months as her pregnancy was her secret to keep.

She gave birth to a premature baby girl and left the hospital shortly thereafter.

Leaving behind…me.

I eventually went into foster care until I was adopted by the woman who would become my
second mother, or what is commonly known as an adoptive mom.


(me and mom on my wedding day, 1983)

When I was a teenager I was sent another mother…a God-mother.
I say ‘sent’ because I honestly believe God sent in a pinch hitter because He knew
the turns my life would take and that I would need someone to catch me when I’d fall.

And I fell many times.

This third mother was the wife of the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip.
Both she and her husband designated themselves as my God-parents.
They were keenly aware of the fact that I was in desperate need for Godly parental guidance…
and it was at such a pivotal age.

They offered stability, encouragement and a clear Spiritual direction.
This Godmother taught me the importance of what it was to be a Godly woman, wife and mother…
despite all evil attempts to disrupt such.

She also taught me about Spiritual healing…healing that was crucial to my very survival.


(a grainy photo of Ginny Collins from 1978 / Julie ‘Nichols’ Cook)

Tragically, due to my brother’s mental illness, my adopted family was a caustic and dysfunctional mess.
It was an illness that took a grave toll on all of us,
but perhaps none greater than upon our adopted mom.

My brother and I were both adopted, five years apart, and we each had different biological parents.

Mother died very unhappy and prematurely at the age of 53.

My Godmother then stepped deeper into the fray of acting as a surrogate guide.
Her support and guidance remained a key part of my life until up until the time she died.

She died two years ago at the age of 94.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of life and of the two women, I eventually lost,
is my biological mother.
She is now 83 and is still living–but where I truly cannot say nor of what path her life
eventually took.

Maybe one day we will meet and I can tell her something very important.

Maybe I will be able to say to her “thank you.”
Thanking her for the selfless gift she gave me…that being the gift life.

Had she been selfish, putting her life and plans first, you and I wouldn’t be currently sharing
this moment together.

And I wouldn’t have my son or his wife or their two children in my life.

The choices we make in this thing we call life all have far-reaching and lasting effects…
be they negative or positive.

Life is positive.
Abortion is not.
My biological mother chose life rather than my death.

So today I want to thank all three of these women…
these three mothers who were, unbeknownst to one another,
intertwined in a single life..that life being mine.
Be it either briefly or for far much longer, they each gave me various gifts of love.

A love that now lives on in two precious little grandchildren…

And so on this Mother’s Day 2019, I want to say thank you to three women.

Firstly, thank you to my biological mother for the choice of giving me life.
I miss not having known you.

Secondly, to Mary Ann my adoptive mother, thank you for taking me into your heart and raising me–
a role that was no easy task—I have missed you terribly.

And finally to Ginny, my adopted Godmother, thank you for instilling in me the
importance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…thank you for teaching me
what it means to live, to love, to confess, to repent, to forgive and to be forgiven…
I miss your wisdom.

And lastly, I want to thank a fourth woman.

Thank you, Abby, my dear daughter-n-law…

Thank you for loving our son.

Thank you for opening your heart to us and our family…
and thank you for the gift of two precious babies…The Mayor and her new Sheriff…

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things
your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

life’s separation

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends,
but let us not despair.
God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.
The more we are united to Him by love,
the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

chasing monsters

“We are each other’s harvest;
we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks


(the setting sun in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2017)

Like most folks I imagine, here on the east coast, I awoke yesterday to learn that a horrific tragedy had unfolded while I had slept..taking place out west.
In Las Vegas to be exact.

Shock, disbelief, raw and numb…
were just a few of the words used to describe my initial bleary eyed
reaction.

Readying for the day I gravitated between the television and my phone just
trying to glean the latest news coming in as I tried making sense of what
I was hearing, reading and seeing.

My son and I had a day of traveling on our agenda so once in the car, with me driving,
he pulled up the local Atlanta Channel 2 Action New’s live feed so we’d be able to
see and hear the President address the nation.

All I could think about was here was one more president coming before a somber Nation,
once again, to offer words of solace and comfort in the face of madness.
How many times has Trump already done this?
How many times had President Obama done this?
How many times had President Bush……

Below the streaming live feed my son kept watching and reading the scrolling comments
coming into the station from its viewers. He read some of these to me….
and I was sickeningly appalled at the words he shared.

There were no words of bereavement, no words of sorrow but rather words and feelings
from viewers expressing disdain and mockery.

From disgusting, vile and derogatory remarks about the President and his family to the
notion that this latest massacre equated to mere payback to whites….
I was quickly reminded why I shun social media.

One viewer finally expressing what I was feeling—“is there a way in which I can turn
off these terribly offensive and insensitive comments and just listen to the President?”

My son turned his phone off as the comments were simply too distracting…
too inhumane really, too monstrous…so we continued our drive mostly in silence as our minds worked to absorb the enormity of these latest events.

Later in the afternoon, as I finally made my return journey home alone,
I did something I normally don’t do while driving…I turned on the radio to the news.
I usually prefer to drive in silence, lost in my own thoughts sans any music or chatter..
but today was different… I wanted to hear and feel what the Nation, my Nation,
was experiencing.

I caught the live press briefing from the White House.

There is a big difference when listening to something verses watching it—

With the visual imagery being non existent, the words take on more of their true
intended purpose.

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came to the podium and offered words of both sorrow and condolence.

She began the briefing by talking about Puerto Rico and The US Virgin Islands and of the ongoing efforts to offer the necessary aid and support to help in the recovery efforts
for these islands following the deadly assault by the hurricanes.

Next her voice began to waver and crack as she began to speak about our common bond
as Americans and the unity of our shared humanity.

She addressed the current unfolding events coming out of Las Vegas.
She shared the various stories of the heroic acts offered during the melee.
The selfless sacrifices freely offered from stranger to stranger throughout the
surreal shooting.
The stories of those who offered their own bodies as shields in an attempt to protect others.
Such acts she noted recalled the verse John 15:13….
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Once finished she turned the remaining time over to the gathered reporters fielding their questions.

I don’t know.

One would think that the heaviness felt from this emotional observation would have been enough to take the wind out of the sails of that most caustic room of reporters.
One would have thought the enormity of what had recently unfolded, just as it continued
to unfold, would have been enough to soften even the most callous and anti-Trump
reporter. One would think, that while our Nation was currently experiencing a tragedy
of epic proportion, it would be reason or should and would be reason enough to have a quieting effect…
but it didn’t.

They did wait until the second question however before falling into their typical
patterns.
The questions began immediately over gun control.

Ms Sanders quickly reminded those in the room that this was a time of National
reflection, National mourning, a time of coming together in our collective
sorrow all the while as the investigation was currently active—it was all too fresh,
too raw and it was NOT the time nor the place to begin the questioning of or for
revisiting policy decisions or for the attacking of a president….the tit for tat of typical partisan politics.

And yet question after question, reporter after reporter began the litany…
There were those who pushed Hillary Clinton to the forefront of conversation with her
less than sympathetic knee jerk tweets regarding the NRA, there were those who revisited the President’s comments from 12 years ago regarding gun control….
on and on they went.

It all reminded me of a friend of mine who just won’t ever take to hearing the word
“no” for an answer.
She’ll turn and twit her query ever so until she gets the answer she wants to hear…
and that’s what this Q & A reminded me of—-someone determined not to hear the word or words “no” or “not now” as they turned and twisted their words over and over,
again and again as they desperately worked to have their affirmative moment…

And yet time and time again, Ms Sanders stoically redirected the focus to the current moment—
to the pain we are all experiencing….not to the what ifs, not to the would haves,
nor to the should haves….

I think I would have just thrown my hands in the air and walked away.
They just didn’t get it—they didn’t get that this is not the time nor the place….

There is however a time and a place…
but today, right now, was / is not that time nor that place for bickering over policies
failed or not. It is not the day to point the fingers.
It is not the day to be accusatory.
It is not a day of politics.
Not the time nor the place for right or left or anarchist…

For today is the day we sort through the shock as we allow ourselves to grieve.
Today is the day we mourn the lives lost and the lives forever changed.
We allow the pain and yes we even allow the anger…
As we mourn another lost piece to the puzzle of our American innocence.
As we digest that life once again, will never be the same as we knew it.

Yet as a Nation, we seem to have forgotten to allow ourselves our own grief.
The press leads the way, our politicians follow suit as now an angry and hate
filled Nation begins the ugly rhetoric.

Did we better grieve or mourn more honestly before this social media of ours—

Before the distractions and the million of tiny soap boxes we each now
climb upon offering up our hateful and accusatory 2 cents as if anyone is really listening…

When was it exactly that we became this way…?

I ponder these thoughts as I hear of the gut wrenching yet heroic tales of selflessness
offered from stranger to stanger—
sheltering, protecting, offering aid to strangers in the crowd… each
caught in the middle of a nightmare.

As a Nation we must allow ourselves time as well as permission for our collective
sorrow, for the shock, for the disbelief and for our own very humanness…
rather than heeding the call by those now jaded and who have forgotten that we are
more than right, more than left, more than anarchist…eschewing their cries in the meida or on social media to gather the pitchforks in pursuit of the monster—
because in our haste, we might just be chasing after the wrong monster…

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort
and relieve your sick servants, and give your power
of healing to those who minister to their needs,
that those for whom our prayers are offered may be
strengthened in their weakness and have confidence
in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

(Book of Common Prayer)

iustificatio / justification

“No creature can be in a position of
justice before its Creator”

Bishop Karol Wojtyla November 1962 (Pope John Paul II)


(a determined visiting box turtle / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is nothing I can add to this reflection by the then acting Bishop of Krakow.
It is a reflection of created and Creator,
man and God…
And that of man’s fallen nature which in turn precipitates the need for Grace
which is provided by and through Jesus Christ.

The dogmatic topic that requires a deeper spiritual reflection is the
mystery of justification (iustificatio).

Man cannot be ‘just’ before God: he can only be’justified’ before Him.

The former is proved by the fact that man is not equal to God, his Creator,
and the latter by Christ and the entire order of Grace.

No creature can be in a position of justice before its Creator.

Man is in a way a synthesis of creatures.

As a creature in general, he and his existence
are unconditionally dependent on his Creator;
he is dependent also by virtue of his nature and, consequently,
unequivocally subordinate.

As a being endowed with vegetative (sensual) life, he is subject to the laws of life
and death (generatio et corruptio) like other creatures.

As a ritual being – a person – he bears a more special resemblance to the Creator,
which obligates him to maintain the order of justice,
i.e. to give to everybody what rightly belongs to them (which also includes paying
religious worship to God).

The fact of personhood does not render invalid man’s vegetativeness and
animalitas (animal nature), which turns him into “ash and nothing” before his Creator.
As a person, man can enter into personal contact with the Creator;
this contact, however, has to be initiated by the Creator.

When He initiates it, it consists (like the act of creation) in an act of mercy,
because man as a creature is fully dependent and subordinate.
In particular, he needs to be justified because of his sin,
which, as an offense to God, does harm to the very essence of this personal
contact understood in the way it is understood and intended by the Creator –
and it is His prerogative to define the essence of the contact He establishes
with His rational creature.

Justification comes through Christ, the Son of God,
who initiates this essential contact and gives it,
to a certain extent, the qualities of His contact with the Father.

Therefore, justification is expressed in us as the new esse (being) –
‘esse ad Patrem’ (being towards the Father) (i.e. sanctifying grace),
and the continuation of this personal contact consists in faith, hope and love.

Bishop Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
Personal diaries November 1962
In God’s Hands

the observation of love by a wee flea

“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed
especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five
years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

Malcolm Muggeridge

Cartoon Flea Success

Cartoon Flea Success

Yesterday I found myself reading over the latest blog offering by the Scottish Pastor
David Robertson….
who once again, expresses so much more eloquently what I feel…

Thoughts and words I’ve been trying to convey here in my little corner of the blogosphere..
for quite sometime, but seem to fall a bit short of his more marvelous observations.

This latest post is entitled The Fallacy of the Fascist Revival–Hope Not Hate

I was barely through the first paragraph when I heard myself shouting “AMEN”

“My concern is not so much with fascism but with the dumbing down of our society,
including our media and political discourse and what that leads to.”

Personally I have become so perplexed with this new global obsession with what seems
to be some sort of new age fascism….
that I am heart sick that so many Americans are now so deluded as to claim that the
other half of their countrymen are now practicing Nazis…
as they truly have no inkling as to what they are accussing
or claiming others to be practicing…..

I have become so incensed that there are actually so many seemingly educated,
yet truly misinformed individuals,
who are clamoring over such nonsense as to the country being overrun with goose-stepping
brown shirts and that a sitting US president is channeling the essence of an
evil demigod and führer.

I am infuriated that there are those who currently think that anyone with a differing opinion
should now be labeled as a fascist…
all without having a true depth of knowledge of what it is that they are labeling and accusing
others of being…..

All of what this has done, this current fanaticism, is but to cheapen the lives of those
who actually suffered and lived through the reality of all that was throughout the 1930’s-1940’s…

Our friend at the “Wee Flea” notes:

As usual Brendan O’Neill puts it far better than I can.

“The word is now used with an ahistoricism and thoughtlessness that are genuinely alarming.
And among the upper echelons of society, not merely by scruffy protesters or online blowhards.
The Archbishop of Canterbury says Trump is part of the ‘fascist tradition’.
Prince Charles has warned darkly of a return of the atmosphere of the 1930s,
and we all know what that means. ‘Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist’,
says New Republic, a magazine that once considered itself a voice of reason among
the paranoid style of American political life. But everyone’s paranoid now.
Everyone now sees fascists.”

Pastor Robertson continues:
“Dumbing down then enables people to become deluded by the delusions.”

“People who are either too lazy, too unthinking, or too self-obsessed with their own delusions,
can’t stand being challenged and so they hate. Even if, in their own eyes,
they are on the side of reason and love they will emote and hate.
In fact its worse than that – its BECAUSE they are on the side of love that they feel
they have the right to hate. And in the age of the internet and social media,
they find it much easier to do this online, than spray painting their neighbours
house.”

So not only are we witnessing this new age lunacy here in the US…
that of our modern day fascist witch hunt…
One that I liken to an ill perceived “War of the Worlds” mass pandemonium,
it just so happens that it is sadly more indicative to the growing hysteria
found across our entire Western Civilization…

“This demonisation has frightening consequences.
Someone from Edinburgh sent me this photo of a poster in Edinburgh he passed the
day after he read my article.”

img_20170214_135429553

Yet perhaps the most troubling aspect to be found in all of this
is to be found in the messages we are now sending
to our young people….
especially as we are hearing such hateful rhetoric spewing
form the mouths of educators…..

“One of the most disturbing series messages I got was from someone who said they were a
history teacher and described the UK government as a fascist government.
Now imagine you are a child who hears that, and hears about the evil of fascism,
and then reads a poster like this.
It’s beyond irony that those who want to use hate speech legislation to suppress all
views except their own, are so often full of hate.”

Pastor Robertson then poses the question that most sane and rational individuals
now find themselves asking, nay imploring….

“Where is the Hope in all of this?”

And in his question…in this search for some semblance of rationality, sanity…
it is our Hope in which we find our answer…..

“I don’t see it in politics.
And I don’t see it in groups like ‘Hope not Hate’, because they too demonise the other,
in order to justify themselves. It seems as though we are in an endless cycle of blame,
guilt and hatred.
But there is a solution.
There is somewhere where ‘the dividing walls of partition’ are broken down,
where people really do become one and where love, harmony, unity and diversity predominate.
I am of course talking about the church of Jesus Christ.”

“Its not an ideology that brings love and unity—
its Christ.
If you want Love not Hate, then you need to know the One who is Love.”

The Fallacy of the Fascist Revival – Hope Not Hate

how shall you be known?

“A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion of the will.
The sign by which one is distinguished from the other is the judgement of God Himself…
that which He teaches a man is the truth;
that which He leads a man to will is the good.
But whatever contradicts this is entirely false, entirely evil.”

St. Nicholas Cabasilas

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“Watch out for false prophets.

They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
(Matthew 7:15-20)

Where it is important that we should be able to recognize what is true, real and pure…
that which is not a falsehood, a lie, an evil…

Is it not equally as important that others should be able to look at us,
both you and me,
and recognize what drives us, guides us, leads us…?

What do they see?

Can they see what we stand for, what directs us, what motivates us…

Are we a mirror, reflecting the Grace, Mercy and determination of Christ

Or do we cast shadows of obscured light…

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(persimmons / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 1:18