a perspective

“We pay more attention to dying than to death.
We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a gull takes flight at the onset of a wave / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

The past two weeks or so have felt like an all out assault.
On all fronts.
With both Dad and me, each dealing with all sorts of issues, stuck in the middle…
All the while I’m finding myself dealing more with Dad’s issues than Dad…
such is the lot that befalls one’s power of attorney and one’s legal healthcare advocate.

The irony is not lost that there was a time that he was all of that for me, his only daughter.

Hard issues, with hard conversations.

We went yesterday to see his primary care physician…
to have one of those hard discussions…and to get his flu shot.

When we got there, Dad’s blood pressure had bottomed out.
They took it three times…with him sitting, then standing…with help, then sitting again.

An immediate IV of fluids was ordered.

While Dad and the nurse were dealing with which vein might work,
as each attempted vein kept collapsing,
the doctor and I had one of two hard conversations of the day.

We went over the notes from last week’s visit to the radiologist, the one dad keeps
calling a screwball. The radiologist had sent Dad’s doctor his recommendation…
The hard 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments.

We talked— as we both pretty much reiterated earlier thoughts and our own takes on
the situation.
An eloquent perspective of living and dying I suppose….

I explained that, how the day following the initial visit last week and dad’s willy nilly
panic of impending death, once Dad had had a chance to think about it all…
that his desire to “do nothing” was met with a peace in my soul.

Not because I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to make the final call…
only to live with the guilt of was it or wasn’t it the right call…
and not that I’d no longer be taking him here, there and yon…
watching what 7 weeks of daily treatment would do to his already frail state,
but rather because there was simply a peace in the
midst of the madness that Dad seemed resolute.

At first I too shared that sense of impending disaster…
as I panicked wondering how I would manage two months of commuting and
transporting a heavy wheelchair and a sick man…
all with my own bad back and pinched nerves,
watching a man who would only be getting sicker daily with treatments…
treatments that would not cure, but only hopefully slow the inevitable.
Knowing I would be watching what would be a losing battle with only poor results.

After our conversation, the doctor then went into the the exam room…
with poor ol Dad flat on his back, hooked up like a car filling up…
where he proceeded to put it all out there for Dad.

Very frank and very honest.

What would most likely happen if treatment was sought…
What would most likely happen if no treatment was sought…
Both grim…
with neither being a victory.

But all rather an issue of quality.

He spoke of maintenance and dealing with things as they came.
Failing bodily functions…
And eventually that of pain, real, unrelenting pain.
He spoke of Hospice.

Dad listened….
and asked a few questions.

Why radiation verses chemo?
What would each most likely do to him?
What would the doctor himself recommend?

And finally being in agreement…

Life is ok right now…
so we do nothing…

And the doctor told him that when things begin to “change”
as we all know things will indeed change….
there will be conservative treatments of getting through…day by day…
all of which will suffice for now…

As we are scheduled to meet with the Hospice folks soon enough…

So it was not lost on me this morning when I just so happened upon this observation
of dying and death by Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
I’ve seen the quote before, and even used it a while back…but how timely it should find me
again…now…

Bonhoeffer was a man all too familiar with death and dying as he faced his own death
by hanging in a Nazi Death Camp….
He looked beyond his own dying…
and rather to the fact that his death
would give way to the release of joining the Resurrection of Christ,
The very one who overcame death…forever

As this is all a matter of perspective—dying and living…

Socrates masterd the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy.
There is a real difference between the two things; the one is with the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection. It’s not from ars mourned, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge: “Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal world be changed.
To live in the light of resurrection–that is what Easter means.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

fairness

Life is never fair,
and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.

Oscar Wilde

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(coquina clam shell / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / 2016)

It seems that from the time we’re old enough to talk, we’re complaining about life not being fair.
And we’re right…it isn’t fair.
But that’s just life…

Over the past 10 days or so, I had posted, in addition to my regular daily posts, an imploring of the faithful to please join my family in prayers for our niece Chrissy.
Her husband rushed her to the ER over a week ago in distress….difficulty breathing, vomiting, disoriented. She was immediately put into ICU.
During the next 10 days her body just fell apart.
Nothing could get regulated before something else went awry.
Breathing, potassium, blood…
She just couldn’t hold on any longer and lost her battle at 6:30 Sunday evening.
She was 43.

We had just settled down for our father’s day supper when my brother-n-law called us.
Earlier in the day they told us that she seemed to be doing better. Odd how that is…one minute things seem better and leveling off, then just as quickly it all turns around in an instant.

I have been gratified by the prayerful support—it has been humbling and a wonderful life line for my sister-n-law who was amazed I had asked people to pray.

My father-n-law, Chrissy’s grandfather, passed away exactly two months ago. I worry about my sister-n-law as it is a tremendous amount of loss in such a short time.

Chrissy started reading my blog right after her grandfather died as I’d written a piece in tribute to him. She made me laugh, which she did often… she had to text me when she couldn’t figure out how to read the post because she didn’t know how a blog worked. I told her it wasn’t difficult.
She was always a hoot.

Time is a healing force and I know that that will eventually be the case here as well…it won’t make any of this any easier, but it will help as that is how time is…healing.

The details of “where do we go from here” was all painfully raw last evening as my sister-n-law and Bill, Chrissy’s now devastated husband had to figure out the details of things that, at 43, folks don’t much think about—things such as where will she be buried, what should she wear, what about work, what about Eli’s summer ball…
all the things you don’t think about or simply take for granted as life is simply life…

I do want to express a sea of endless gratitude for all the support, prayers and friendship that you have each offered up on behalf of my family.

God remains in our midsts—this much I know for certain.
There will be sorrow and tears—but there is a confidence and strength as well.

Onward and upward we go….

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

wisdom then is wisdom now

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past,
but by the responsibility for our future.

George Bernard Shaw
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(seaweed / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Wisdom extolled in a different era is still offered to us today–sadly, it seems, we are not listening….

“Since the dawn of the Christian era a certain way of life has slowly been shaping itself among the Western peoples, and certain standards of conduct and government have come to be esteemed.
After many miseries and prolonged confusion, there arose into the broad light of day the conception of the right of the individual; his right to be consulted in the government of his country; his right to invoke the law even against the State itself…Now in this resides all that makes existence precious to man, and all that confers honour and health upon the State.”

In an age of mounting skepticism, Churchill proclaimed the cause of ‘Christian civilization,” notes Mansfield.
“Churchill saw external threats in the “barbarous paganism” of the Nazis, who embodied principles that were the polar opposites of “Christian ethics.”
Furthermore, Churchill was concerned about the internal threats form some of his own countrymen who had lost their Christian vision. Every Christian, thought Churchill, had a “duty to preserve the structure of humane, enlightened Christian society.”
To neglect this would send society spinning into chaos because, said Churchill, “once the downward steps are taken, once one’s moral intellectual feet slipped upon the slope of plausible indulgence, there would be found no halting-place short of general Paganism and Hedonism.

Stephen Mansfield, “the Hidden Calling” The Chrisitan Post, July 19, 2012
Excerpt taken from:
God & Churchill
How the Great Leaders’ Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World And Offers Hope for Ours
by Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley

life begets death, begets life

None but praying leaders can have praying followers. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. We do greatly need pastors and evangelists who will set the saints to this business of praying. We are not a generation of praying saints. Who will restore this breach? The greatest will he be of reformers who can set the Church to praying.
Edward McKendree Bounds

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(seaweed washed on shore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

To be born again…man’s age old conundrum…

Atop an open roof top, deep within a quiet summer’s evening,
two new friends chat late into the night.
The air was heavy yet dry as slight breeze aided in taking off the edge from the day’s remaining heat…
A dog can be heard barking in the distance.

One man is elderly yet a trusted and learned member of the local religious community.
The other man is new comer to the area and is known by the locals as a traveling young teacher.

The elder of this odd twosome knows that to be seen with this young teacher would cause unnecessary chatter amongst the established community, yet he also knows that there is just something otherworldly about his new young friend…something about the confidence in which he speaks that stirs the heart of the older gentleman.

The elder man shares his observation with the young teacher that he believes the young man is truly in the favor of God—for the things of which he speaks and the things of which he does could have no other authority but that of God’s.

Noting the intuitive perception of his elderly friend, the young teacher acknowledges his friend’s insightfulness adding that “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again”

Incredulous the older man asks how could such be possible…how can a man be born again as the only way would be to re-enter the womb…of which is a sheer impossibility.

But the young teacher responds…
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Again, mystified the elder man asks how this can be.
And again the young teacher explains to his friend the meaning behind his words…

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

It was in Jesus’s agonizing walk to his own death in which we were shown the door to our new birth.

The timeless words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer continue to remind us of such…

We pay more attention to dying than to death. We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death. Socrates mastered the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy. There is a real difference between the two things; the one is within the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection.
It’s not from ars mourned, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge:
“Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal world be changed. To live in the light of resurrection–that is what Easter means.

The conundrum lies within the choice…
the choice between living a life in this world complete with its ensuing death…
or the choice to live life outside of this world, in the victory over Death, with its ensuing life…
Each comes with a cost…eternal death, or a rebirth into eternal life
Seems easy enough….

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Deuteronomy 30:19

a need for prayer

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

― Søren Kierkegaard

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,
at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

― Mother Teresa

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(broken sand dollar/ Santa Rosa, Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

I’m a huge believer in prayer and the power found in this sacred and mystical transcending form of communication.

I’ve lived long enough to know that not all prayers are answered as we often hope or even expect.
But I know that there are indeed answers—
I know that there is a powerfully innate connection that takes place when we earnestly seek the presence of the Creator…

We are told …
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for,
it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:19-20

So I come before you this evening to ask for your payers…

Our niece, my husband’s younger sister’s middle child, was rushed to the ER yesterday morning and remains in ICU.
Her potassium levels are deathly bottoming out for reasons yet discovered.
She is not responding to the emergency treatments.

Her father, a physician, told us this morning that “they” were being cautiously optimistic but his face told us otherwise.

Her name is Chrissy…she’s a 44 year old wife and mom.

The obvious prayer is that Chrissy be made well…
but I know that there is more to just praying for a “miraculous healing”

I know that prayers must also be said over and for her husband Bill and 14 year old son Eli.
Prayers for her brother, sister and their respective families…
As well as for my sister-n-law and her husband…

Prayers are offered for the nursing staff and the doctors…those charged with solving the mysteries and saving lives.

I believe that many hearts and voices raised in unison create a powerful force.

I ask if you will please join me in this time of needed prayer….

Thank you….

the characters

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances.
There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly,
and even appreciate more clearly,
if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”

― G.K. Chesterton

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(a deceased crab on the beach / Santa Rosa, Fl / Julie Cook / 2015)

We all know who they are, right?
As every community has them…

You know….
It’s the guy who rides all over town on the bike that’s decked out as if it should be in a Mardi Gras parade…
Or the elderly lady who pushes the grocery cart into the hospital lobby, awkwardly chatting with everyone waiting.

There always seems to be those loner individuals within each of our towns and or communities.
Those quirky individuals who we consider simply as bizarre characters…
Those odd souls who we more or less claim as community mascots.
With each and every town and community seeming to have their own lot of unique and peculiar characters.

I know our small town certainly does…

There’s the Vietnam vet who runs all over town holding an American flag.
He runs rain or shine, hot or cold….
And he runs precariously close to the road, even out on the busy by-pass.
I use to think he was just some sort of patriotic marathon runner who was always in training.
I was informed otherwise.
He has been hit and run over on more than one occasion and left for dead.
He always seems to rebound, always coming back to pound the pavement with flag in hand.

There’s the young man who looks like an old man.
I know this because I taught him.
He dons a three piece suit, even in the sweltering summer heat, as he proceeds to walk all over town— talking out loud to himself in a high pitched falsetto voice. He is known to preach out loud to no one in particular or curse the cars that he feels infringe upon his walking space.

There is the man who started out as a young man, who has now progressed into being a middle aged man (I know this as well as I also taught him), who walks all over town carrying a tennis racket. He likes to engage in conversation with anyone who stops long enough to listen…he chatters on about this or that non relevant,random mumbo jumbo, asking all the girls if they’d please be his girlfriend.

There was (I’ve not seen him in quite sometime) the middle aged fellow with the mustache wearing a tank top and shorts who was alway carrying a throwback walkman, complete with head phones stuck on his head. He’d be singing at the top of his lungs, with fingers snapping to the beat, as he walked up and down the busy thoroughfares.

There was the young man with the long hair and his mother…or so we thought them to be mother and son.
Always together and having been know to hold hands…they had a tendency to worry and creep out those who saw them wandering all over town. I think the truancy folks once tracked them down because they enrolled the boy into the high school where I taught. That didn’t last long because the woman, his mother, waited at the front door of the school all day, very nervous and agitated.
He quit as quickly as he enrolled and they were seen walking again, carrying bags of this and that….

In addition to the regular characters, there are those individuals who seem to be merely passing through—drifting specters riding along the quiet breeze— those odder individuals who thankfully drift away as quickly as they came…as there’s just something unsettling about them.

So today, as I was driving to the post office, I saw her again.
A middle aged woman walking slowly up the sidewalk, on a less traveled road, carrying, or actually cradling, a white stuffed animal.

The first time I saw her, I thought she was holding a small dog.
I assumed she was walking to the discount grocery, perhaps to purchase some food for the animal…
but on closer inspection, when I was heading back in the direction I had come, I saw that the pet in question was actually stuffed.

I found myself wondering.

What in this woman’s life would prompt her to walk, very slowly yet very determined, up the sidewalk clutching a stuffed animal to her chest.
What has happened in this woman’s life that now finds her alone on a back sidewalk, walking towards a busy main arty leading to town, seemingly in a daze while holding something obviously very important to her.

All of which has me now wondering about all the characters who walk or ride or sit along each of our life’s journey.

So often we see them from afar… safely from a window of a car or business.
We either ignore what we see because something about them makes us feel uncomfortable,
or we smugly stare thinking how much better off we are than them.

As much as we try or would like, we cannot “unimagine” them into nothingness.
They are real, living, breathing individuals with a story…just like you and me.
Their lot in life may have once been what we’d consider normal…yet something tragically or simply oddly happened.

Or perhaps they have simply been less fortunate than you and me—having never had the support that we’ve received along the way.

We can often hear a voice within our heads repeating the mantra…
“there but for the grace of God go I…”
As we are thankful that we are not on the sidewalk talking to no one in particular,
or pushing a shopping cart full of plastics, or singing to everyone and yet to no one.
We are thankful we don’t have to clutch a stuffed animal as we walk alone up a lonely sidewalk.

Seeing these people does one of two things.

It either makes us feel uncomfortable as we try to ignore both them and how they make us feel…
Or, on the other hand, we allow their perceived misfortunes to oddly make us feel better about ourselves.

We allow the encounter to convince our inner selves that we’re not as crazy as we thought.
We’re not as bad off as we thought.
We aren’t as lonely as we thought.
As we now happily consider ourselves to be of the normal lot.
The good lot
The preferred lot.
The lucky lot…

We safely assume that we are better than.
Smarter than.
Happier than.
Safer than.

But the question should be… are we?
Are we better, safer, happier…or perhaps are they?

Have we as human beings not been charged with the care and concern of our fellow man…
even those who are the quirky characters walking through our lives….

Rather than allowing their quirkiness and oddity to make us feel uncomfortable…
or arrogantly even better about ourselves…
what have we ever done once to help them….?

And then suddenly, out of the blue and on any given day, we actually take notice that “they” haven’t been around in awhile, haven’t been seen or heard…
we find ourselves oddly missing them.
We find ourselves wondering what could have happened to them…
And we wonder…
what could we have done…
for them…

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

Be not dismayed

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!
Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated),
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

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(jellyfish on the beach / Santa Rosa, Fla / Julie Cook / 2016)

We are currently living in a boiling tempestuous sea.
A time of grave moral unrest.
A troubling time…

Some merely observe that it’s been bad before and it’ll be bad again…
Others note that it’s just a part of life…
an ebbing and flowing…
a swinging of the proverbial pendulum…

And it is true…
In my lifetime I have seen, as well as experienced first hand,
the upheaval of perilous unrest in this brave Nation of ours…

I have seen the continued growth and birthing pains of an ever evolving democracy.
I have seen the colliding of old verses new.
Young verses the elderly

I have lived under the dread and worry of nuclear annihilation for all my life…
beginning with the tuck and cover drills of elementary school…

I have sadly seen…
flags being burned
draft cards being burned
bras being burned
and politicians burned in effigy

I have seen protests…
sit ins
die ins
marches
hunger strikes
picket lines

I have seen clashes of ideologies, religions and beliefs…

Yet I cannot recall such a dangerously contemptuous time in my near 60 years.

We are perched on the precipice of what seems to be the death of life as we once knew it.
As a delusional group of “politicians” vie for control and power…of my life and of your life,
and of the life which we have known.

This Nation, united under the benevolent eye of the very God our pilgrim settlers and founding fathers each paid homage to,
is transforming and morphing under the cloak of a sinister shape shifting blanket,
that is barley detectable to the naked eye…

Some believe this is all for the good…
While other believe this is all for the bad.

Throwing the baby out with the bath water is never a good idea…
and yet that is what is slowing taking place.

Those of us of a certain age watch, as a deer in headlights, the daily news feeds…
wondering if there is anything left that is recognizable…
While others simply ignore the melee as they reach for another cocktail or numbing agent of choice.

The moral Judaeo/ Christian sector of this Nation has idly watched a slow yet deadly erosion…
an erosion of such catastrophic proportions, that shoring things up…is now nearly impossible…
As the very traditional family nucleus, the core center which has served as the lynchpin and underpinning of the history of humankind, is now ominously ready to cascade into a dark abyss.

So is it any wonder that so many of those who cleave to the belief in an Omnipotent God,
stand jumbled up and cast off to the side, in udder bewilderment and dismay….
as they are left wondering and shuddering at the strangeness now taking hold to all that they have known….

‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and have not rejected you
[even though you are exiled].

‘Do not fear [anything],
for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand
[a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’
Isaiah 41:9-10