see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

astrological phenomenon?

The artist, like the God of the creation,
remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork,
invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent,
paring his fingernails.

James Joyce


(shadows of the river birch trees, dappling onto the driveway, during the eclipse /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Did you get to “see” yesterday’s eclipse?
If so, did you simply dismiss the eclipse as just an astrological phenomenon?
Something kind of cool but just one of those moon, sun, star, planet
kind of events?

It was definitely more than….
indeed much more than.

It was not my intention to write a post about the eclipse as I had other
things to “discuss”….but the experience of the moment was something
I felt called to share….

First, there was truly an odd look to the whole of outside when all of this began…
It was a subtle but noticeable softening of intenstiy.
It was as if the glaring August sun was calming herself down…
for just a moment’s reprieve…and I liked it.

The day began like any other August dog day in the deep South….
The sky was a brilliant blue, speckled with only an occasional puff ball of a cloud.
The neighbor’s bulls across the street were in the midst of a rather loud and
raucous serenade of who could bellow the loudest…
And it was hot.
Near 90 degrees while an overhead sun was blazing down in all her glory.
No rain and only sun and heat.
The type of day one prefers to stay indoors verses out,
especially during the heat of the day.

Shortly after 1 PM the yard…the trees, grass, plants…all began to take on
an odd coloring or better yet, tone.
Almost as if twilight was approaching, yet the sun was still
fully overhead, as there were no clouds crossing her path.
Surreal and dreamlike all rolled into one, it was as if you were standing somewhere familiar yet foreign at the same exact moment.

The sky was still brilliantly blue with a sun still glaring above…
and had I not had the pair of solar glasses that my cousin had overnighted to me
when she discovered the ones I originally had were in fact imposters, I would have
found the strange tint to the whole outdoors disconcertingly odd.
Knowing something was happening but wouldn’t have been able to understand what–
or realizing that something was now terribly wrong with my vision or presence of mind.

By looking through the glasses I could see the moon’s shadow making it’s unyielding
journey across the path of an undaunted sun.

By 2:30, just shy of the 94% fullness that we were going to be privy to, the shadows
cast on the driveway were greatly softened and arced, creating what appeared to
be not the shadow of leaves cast upon the cement, but rather that of a gauzy sheer oriental pastel painting spread out ever so lovingly at my feet.
Plus I noticed I was no longer sweating profusely…
As there was a soothing stillness in the air while even the bulls became silent.

Had I not had the glasses I still would have marveled over the welcomed
embrace of stillness,
the temporary dip in temperature and the oddly shaped shadows cast filtering through
the leaves.

Being awake in the midst of a dream is the best description I can think of–
Strange and odd while being peculiarly soothing.
I’m sure that part of my experience is because I happened to be home alone
during this event and not standing in the midst of a crowd…so I can’t
write about what it was like with the masses but rather just me by myself.

There was, for the briefest of moments, a marvelous emptiness,
as well as an all encompassing fullness…
taking place at exactly the very same moment…
no planes were flying over head, no cars whizzing up or down the road,
the bulls were quiet and all bees and buzzing critters had momentarily disappeared.
It was the silence within what seemed to be a different dimension.

Allowing me to marvel in the mastery of our Awesome Creator…

Astrological phenomenon?
Nahhhhhh…….


(images taken with my camera as I put a pair of the solar glasses over the lens)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Psalm 19:1

a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

parched

I am the vessel.
The draft is God’s.
And God is the thirsty one.

Dag Hammarskjold

dscn4640
(It is so dangerously dry as we have had no rain since the first of June that even the springs and creek beds, deep in the woods which are always full of flowing waters, are dry and empty / Julie Cook / 2016)

Dry and dusty are the muffled cries of the earth…
which now aches and groans.

The Creator has spoken and yet man’s ears have grown deaf
All the while the faithful are left to wonder…

Man readily dismisses any sign, any reminder of God’s sacred word..

Are the waters now dry?
Do the rocks quiver and shake?
Have the seas overtaken the land?
Are the stars falling from the sky?
Have the storms blotted out the sun…
As man turns away from his God?

May my longing and my thirst,
that only seems to increase during these waning days,
be quenched by You and You alone oh Lord…

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up
from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

A.W. Tozer

harmony

“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves,
words that other men could not hear,
and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.”

Gustave Flaubert

DSCN3458
(evening Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2016)

The debate will rage on no doubt until the end of time…
that Science and Religion cannot and will not ever mix…
particularly with the religion of the Christian faith.

As there are indeed many entrenched and ardent supporters in both camps, on both sides of the fence, who cautiously eye their enemy—that enemy being one another.

There are those who say that there is neither room nor space for one another.
As some have gone so far as to attempt to disprove and discount each opposing team.
Calling one another names and simply dismissing the other as being less than.

Pity that…
for was it not God who gave both the heavens and the earth to His created…
As well as the stars and the sea?
Did He not provide for man the beasts of the field, the fowl of the sky and the fish in the vast oceans deep?

Yet sadly man, in his exuberance and quest for all things knowledgable, has deemed that he and he alone is to have the final word and it is he who can now, and most certainly should, erase the very presence of the Creator.

We cannot say for certain what happened that fateful day that both Adam and Eve were cast forth from the Garden, as the gate to Eden was slammed shut behind them, sealing it from sight to this very day.

We cannot say what God’s concept of time was nor what it should be…for God is beyond space,
time as well as dimension.

God cannot be placed neatly under a microscope not contemplated by an equation.
For there is no litmus test for God’s being, His nature nor His presence…

for His being is without beginning or end.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know.
During the period when the principles of modern science were under development–revelation and reason were linked. Sir Isaac Newton grasped this connection and “explicitly stated that he was investigating God’s creation, which was a religious duty because nature reflects the creativity of its maker.”
Newton was reaching back into the Middle Ages, a time that has pilloried as anti-science but that actually represents a more highly integrated approach to philosophy, theology, and the study of the workings of nature. In fact it was the “natural philosophers” of the Middle Ages (the term scientist wasn’t coined until 1833) who made modern science possible. Without “their central belief that nature was created by God and so worthy of their attention,” writes James Hannam, “modern science would simply not have happened.”

Excerpt from God & Churchill
Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley
with footnotes from James Hannam, God’s Philosophers

May we as Christians never shut the door on the sciences for they allow us to explore the creation God has put before us….and may those of Science always remain open to that which is beyond their comprehension…not simply dismissing what cannot be seen or fully grasped…and therefore deciding that if it cannot be seen nor measured, it cannot nor does not exist….

Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:16-18

Lemony stars

For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years–
how man would marvel and stare.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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DSC01270
(bright yellow from the yard / Julie Cook / 2015

Twinkle twinkle little star
tell me, tell me what you are

Fiery ball up in the sky
or tiny flower oh so spry. . .

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny sparks;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
‘Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Twinkle Twinkle little star, the beloved children’s nursery rhyme, was an English poem first published in London in 1806. It was written by Jane Taylor, who along with her sister Ann, first published the rhyme in a periodical entitled Rhymes for the Nursery.
It wan’t until 1838 that the familiar tune was added which is actually based on the French melody Ah! vows dirai-je, maman, which was published in 1761. Several composers, including Mozart, had a hand at arranging the cheery melody.

Star of Wonder

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

(refrain from the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

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DSCN8711 3

DSCN8711 2
(three images of the same etched star on an antique weathervane / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:2

Men of science, astronomy, astrology, letters and words, who had studied the heavens, the alignment of the stars and the visible planets, as well as spending countless hours deciphering the venerable manuscripts of days gone by, knew that something seismic was soon set to take place. Something so epic, which was far greater than anything they or any living man had ever seen or studied before, was about to turn the world upside down.

Three very learnéd, dare we say, wise men, most likely from Persia or perhaps even the Far East, were the ancient equivalents of modern day storm chasers. They “saw” that something cosmic and life changing was soon to take place and they wanted more than anything to go directly to the source of this most significant event.
They plotted and planned.
They cross referenced information.
They eventually collaborated and corroborated one another’s findings.
They made educated conclusions.
And the only remaining option was to physically document their findings.

They set out in search of the phenomenon. . .
They most likely traveled individually at first, unaware that others were making the same journey of discovery. Then perhaps along their travels, they eventually meet one another, each in pursuit of the miraculous, welcoming a fellow scholar in search of history.
Each man was determined to “see” with their own eyes the predicted event which they knew, without a doubt, would change life as it was known forever.

They rode for hundreds of miles, day and night, continually looking skyward, checking the alignment of one particular star. It was the brightest of brightest of stars. They also read and reread new and old data, plotted and ciphered over their scrolls and maps, eventually making their way to a far-flung Roman outpost in the province of Judea. They sought out and introduced themselves to the region’s megalomaniac ruler, Herod the Great.

Herod, a man whose only allegiance was to himself, saw in these three foreign wealthy wise kings a potential boon to his greedy power-hungry appetite for they were carrying great wealth as gifts for this prophesied event of which they spoke. Yet as they spoke, it became clear that their vision, their predicted monumental life changing event, was to be but a mere birth.
A birth of a king they proclaimed.
But this was not to be just any king.
This was to be a king of all kings.
Suddenly Herod’s gracious yet sly welcome turned to the defensive as a new threat seemed to be appearing upon his kingdom’s landscape.

He bid these strange foreign kings farewell as they set out on the completion of their journey for they knew that their destination was close at hand. Yet Herod gave instructions for the wise kings to return to his court for a grand celebration following their adventure’s end, as he was anxious to hear all about this newly born king they were to soon meet.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:9-12

And so it was, just as predicted, that the heavens foretold and would lead and direct great men of wealth and wisdom to a desert village and a humble barn, in order to witness not a mere birth of a mere baby, but rather they were to witness a cataclysmic event which reverberated throughout the entire universe.

Wise men sought him.
Wise men who knew enough that it was to this King’s throne who they, great men of wealth and wisdom, were to yield and bow down.
As it takes a wise man to know when he has met one who is much greater than himself.