The answer is as plain as black and white—Persecutions? Yes.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Pope Francis (L) prays as a Jewish Rabbi looks on at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 26, 2014. Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Late last evening, while watching Clemson finishing out on top over Ohio State
in a battle in the Fiesta Bowl, a breaking news alert popped up on my phone…

The initial report was that there had been a stabbing outside of a synagogue
in New York.

“Oh Lord,” I thought out loud, “not again!”

As the facts started to come in more clearly, the attack had actually happened
inside the home of a Rabbi who lived next door to a Synagogue in Monsey, New York.

Reports were that a man had entered the home, where Hasidic members of a synagogue
had gathered prior to going to celebrate the 7th night of Hanukkah,
and began hacking people with a machete.

The news headline read:
New York Jews continue Hanukkah celebrations after stabbing at
rabbi’s home that left 5 wounded

The story explained that
Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in New York during a Hanukkah celebration
on Saturday night —
but that didn’t stop worshippers from continuing their prayers at a synagogue next door.

Soon after the attack in the suburb of Monsey, located just 35 miles north of New York City
in Rockland County, Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his followers gathered at the adjacent synagogue,
which the rabbi leads, and sang together in prayer.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley tweeted a video of Rottenberg
and his followers continuing their celebration of the seventh night of Hannukah.
“The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us,”
they sang, according to a translation of their song posted online.

Here’s a link to the initial story
https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-hanukkah-stabbings-five-wounded-synagogue-celebrations

The following day, I ran across a post shared by a fellow blogger…
The post seemed more than ironically timely as it addressed an alarming concern…

The concern being that there is a troubling rise in growing antisemitism while being
mirrored by a simultaneous decline in Holocaust memory.

Meaning—attacks on Jews is on the rise while the history of the Holocaust
is fading.

Fading as many young people have little to no grasp of the darker side of
20th-century history.
Just considering the almost rabid fascination by youthful generations with socialism
then this should not be terribly surprising—but terrible it is.

Here is the post along with a link to the full article.

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a
decline in Holocaust memory [1].
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the
Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].
A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about
rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.
There is a monster growing in Europe. Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since
the 2015 immigration crisis [8].
France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe,
from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent…
Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.
This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1] CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/.

[2] France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19, https://www.france24.com/en/20190213-anti-semitism-hate-crime-jews-germany-afd.

[3] New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos,
5/21/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html.

[4] Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18, https://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-holocaust-memorial-vandalized-for-4th-time-this-year/.

[5] The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by
Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,
https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Synagogue-in-Bulgarian-capital-of-Sofia-vandalized-by-stone-throwing-incident-578217.

[6] Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7),
“Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264735.

[7] CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/europe/antisemitism-incidents-rising-gbr-intl/index.html.

[8] The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe,
figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/15/antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

A Growing Monster

Then if things weren’t troubling enough, a story broke Sunday morning about a
gunman walking into a church outside of Fort Worth, Texas and killing parishioners.
The gunman entered the church during communion and opened fire with a shotgun,
killing two and critically wounding another before being fatally shot by
quick-acting parishioners.

Texas church shooting leaves 2 dead, witness says gunman opened fire during communion

https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-church-shooting-texas-injured-active

When Evil attacks our Spiritual foundation, we have always struggled to understand.

Yet here’s the thing, Evil is not something to be analyzed or neatly understood.
It does not play by the rules.
The fallen light-bearer is now the father of darkness.
Rules do not apply to Satan or to the Evils he relishes upon this realm we call home.

And yet the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, went on a news talk show Sunday
morning and tried to blame life in Washington and the hate that is seemingly
generated there, on the latest spate of attacks on Jews in his city and state.

Because we all know that when we have no answers, we blame Trump.

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

Persecution against both Christians and Jews has been with us throughout the ages,
yet there is an alarming uptick taking place across the globe.
Physical persecution to emotional and psychological persecution.

Might time be of the essence for both Light and Dark?

Faith, belief, God, Jesus, love, kindness, forgiveness, the family, honor,
righteousness…these are all components of our true essence…the piece
of the Divine which continues to reside in our souls.

And each and every one of those components is an enemy of the Darkness.

I read today that many Jews are now afraid to wear anything that
symbolizes their faith in fear of being attacked.

This while many Christians are being told that, at places such as work and
school, they are not allowed to have a Bible on their desk or to wear
a cross or other religious symbols.

As the shadows grow long, remain steadfast…
for your God will not be moved by man nor darkness.

You will be hated by everyone because of me,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

don’t mess with Texas….cheerleaders


(image courtesy Click 2 Houston News)

They say that everything is bigger in Texas…
and that also might mean badder…that is, if badder was an actually correct word.

Texas and Texans are known for being tenacious.
As in they can take a ‘licken’ and keep on ‘ticken’ sort of tenaciousness.

As in tumbleweed tenacious.

As in nothing much gets in their way to stop them from doing those Texas things
that they do.

I know this because I have a dear friend in Texas, a tumbleweed of sorts,
who has been fighting the good fight with cancer treatment.

It has not been an easy road, nor a peaceful road, but fight she has.

Unfortunately, life has been such that I have not been the active cheerleader for her as
I wish I could have been or really should have been.

Our ages are slightly different and we happen to currently find ourselves
at different life junctures.

Isn’t that always the way?

Just when she was getting bad news of diagnoses,
I found myself consumed in the care of a new grandbaby.

We were headed in opposite life directions…each going 90 to nothing…

Yet it never left my mind nor heart that she was in the throes of a battle.

I found that prayer was my best recourse because in the end, when all is said and done,
prayer was and is so much better than anything I could have or could continue to offer.

And at last word, she’s hanging tough…

Because that’s how they are in Texas, they are tough.

So just know that I’ve not forgotten you, Natalie.

And so as we speak of Texas and tenacity…I caught a story a few weeks back
about a group of real cheerleaders in Texas.
A group of high school cheerleaders to be exact from the small town of Kountze.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a high school football game but where I come
from, and obviously down in Texas, it is customary for the cheerleaders to paint
a giant run-through banner on a weekly basis as a pre-game ritual.

The banner is usually a sort of visual battle cry that is held aloft just prior to
the team running onto the field.
It’s a banner the cheerleaders hold up, standing on either side holding it taut,
so at just the right moment when the football team comes running onto the field,
they burst through the sign all to the sounds of a roaring enthusiastic crowd.

At this particular school in Texas, the cheerleaders decided they wanted to paint
words of encouragement for their team…Scripturally based words of encouragement…
as in words from the Bible.

The short of this 5-year long story is exactly as you’d think…
the cheerleaders were told by the principal and superintendent that they could not paint
those signs.
Maybe someone complained to the school authorities about a
violation of Church and state…as we all know public schools are state goods.
Or maybe the school administrators were fearful of complaints and they were the ones
to nix the signs.

And as a former teacher, I know first hand that if there is one thing that can strike fear
into a school administration, it is the fear of a lawsuit being filed…in particular
lawsuits that have the potential to be high profile.

And yet this school district’s administration actually decided to fight the girls and their
continued desire to make the Scripturally based run-throughs in court.

I’ve provided the link below to the story as the ending is not what I or you might have expected…
I was actually pleasantly surprised in this story’s end.

Five years have passed.

The girls have all since moved on…only to leave other cheerleaders to carry their torch.

There were filings and hearings in state courts which lead all the way to the Supreme Court,
who actually, just the other week, ruled in favor of the girls.

Ruling that yes the cheerleaders could continue painting Bible verses on the run-throughs
for the football team.

And as Todd Starnes, the author of the article so aptly notes…
“I reckon the Kountze cheerleaders have learned a very important lesson about perseverance
over the past five years. You really can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

Just as I know my friend Natalie is demonstrating better than most of us!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/31/todd-starnes-texas-cheerleaders-win-victory-for-freedom-religious-expression-praise-lord.html

Prayers for Santa Fe, Texas

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

Søren Kierkegaard


(Julie Cook / 2018)

I was a high school art teacher for 31 years.

I loved my kids and I struggled with my kids.

The gifted,
the complicated,
the defiant,
the quiet,
the creative,
the difficult,
the angry,
the arrogant,
the athletic,
the popular,
the shy,
the academic,
the immature,
the kind,
the thoughtful,
the thoughtless,
the selfish,
the forgotten,
the struggler,
the spoiled,
the average,
the happy,
the sad,
the hard to crack…

My heart aches for Santa Fe High School and her entire community.
For those who have loved ones who will not be coming home at the end
of this school year.

Once again we are a nation wrapped in our shock, our sorrow, and our grief.

There are no clear-cut answers or explanations.
Anger, resentment, hate, indifference, intolerance, evil…
these are not simple issues.
Issues with no apparent clear-cut single solution …

Yet before we point our fingers, rile in our righteous indignation,
demand change or drown in our own emotionalism…
let us remember the families who are hurting…
families who are going through the unimaginable weight of unspeakable loss.

Let us mourn with them and for them.
As their arms ache to hold those they love just one more time.

May we ask a God, who is far greater than ourselves, to help us find our way.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.
The Book of Common Prayer
Burial of the Dead, Rite I

bits and pieces

In designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.
Pope John Paul II

You can’t sacrifice truth because some people will suffer because of the truth.
Ben Shapiro


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Slowly a Nation is learning the bits and pieces of the unimaginable horrific puzzle that now makes up the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.

A town shattered…along with families shattered…
as a Nation shatters just a little bit more.

The stories of a madman now percolate to the surface as fact is sifted from fiction.

People have raced to conclusions—be they true or false, mainly because people
want to validate their own thoughts, fears and notions of the hows and whys.

But as I said yesterday, the real how and why is simple.

Satan.

Satan, Evil, demons exist and it is all very much real…
all because you and I live in a fallen world.

So believe and argue as you may, there is no other rationale or
understandable explanation but for where we fall into the world of
the Creator as His created.

Evil is evil and will perpetuate itself throughout the course of all of time
while human beings walk this planet…until Salvation returns….

Yet people will blame everything and anything else, the this and that of things
because they refuse to accept that the root of all the blame is simply Evil’s
product…with that being hate.

Hate for people…
Hate for self.
Hate for God.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson offered his own take yesterday in an article
written for Premiere Christianity:

In June 2015, when Dylan Roof, who was a militant racist, killed nine church members
in a church prayer meeting in Charleston South Carolina,
there was justified outrage which highlighted the continuing poison of racism in
US society and even led to the removal of several Confederate monuments throughout the nation.

So when a professed atheist goes into a church and kills 26 Christians,
why is that not even considered as a possible factor?
Where are the demands to remove all memorials of famous atheists?

….I have already seen several comments which mocked Christians who have prayed for the situation. “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”
Even the BBC news report on it this evening signed off with a snide gibe that Americans seem to think the answer is in guns and God.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-Texas-Christian-Massacre-and-the-man-who-committed-it

Hate.
It was a word growing up as children we were told never to use.
We were taught that ‘hate’ was not to be a part of our language,
let alone a thread in our fiber as a human being…
If you were good and decent, you didn’t hate…rather you cared for, you loved,
you were empathetic, you were compassionate…you were to be anything but ‘hate’

And yet we subconsciously saw and heard it in its nuanced guise hidden behind our
fears, phobias and our sense of both right and wrong…
and when those bad unimaginable things happened,
we allowed ourselves to finally speak and feel the full fury of the word..
as the full level of our hate was unleashed under our own sense of self righteous
indignation.

Just as we now see how easily it rolls out of our mouthes and emerges ever so freely
from our own actions.

As the one glaring fact remains…that hate indeed begets further hate.
As in a perpetual state of a hate filled continuum.
And it is a continuum that we have bought into and adopted as our own.

Yet our Faith constantly admonishes us…Do Not Hate.

But how hard, how difficult that all is when Evil kills children at point blank range.

My thoughts and tears are now there in Sutherland Springs for the Holcombe family
who lost 8 family members Sunday morning to Evil’s hate.

Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, unborn babies….all gone, all taken…
as prayers were being said and hymns had been sung.

In his book Lessons in Hope George Weigel shares the tale of his personal
time spent over the years with Pope John Paul II—
Weigel recounts the assassination attempt on the Pope’s life by the assasin Ali Agca.

“In salvation history—that inner core of world history in which God’s purposes are
worked out through the action of divine grace on individual lives—there are neither happenstance nor coincidences. Rather, what appears to be sheer happenstance or coincidence is an aspect of Providence we don’t yet grasp.”

So here we now are…feeling alone, vulnerable and reeling from what seems to be
an endless march of madness against humanity….
We are left grappling with our own emotions and fears and lack of security.
We are left struggling while sorting out our disbelief, denial, acceptance,
forgiveness and even our hate…

All the while we wrestle with what is to be our reaction to Satan

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,
cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love
their brother and sister.

1 John 4:20-21

Mortal enemy

“You remind us that how you treat somebody defines who we are”
Quote by Col William Percival regarding his meeting with Gunter Grawe
a former German POW who was interred in Washington St at what is now
Joint Base Lewis-McChord— who, some 70 odd years later, returned at age
91 to visit the camp)


(a spotted orb weaver just outside my closet window—too close / Julie Cook / 2017)

He was mad at his ex mother-n-law and that’s why he did it.
Makes sense right?

No, I didn’t think so either….

But more on that in a bit….first the spider…

Those of you who know me know that I am quite terrified of spiders.
And much to the chagrin of my husband and daughter-n-law, my son seems to
have inherited this fanatical fear.
Some call it a phobia, I call it a state of paralyzing terror ….

Dealing with any kind of snake, any sort of reptile…is a piece of cake…..
but let an arachnid show up— and it’s all over but the screaming!

So when I opened the shutters the other morning in my closet, I was greeted
with the sight of this orb weaver having set up camp right outside my window.
It was all I could do to take the picture without perishing.

Yet don’t they say facing one’s fear is how to best beat it??

Well personally I think stomping, swatting, smashing or simply running away
screaming works just as well.

So you would think that I consider the spider to be my mortal enemy right?

Well, yes and no.

Now whereas a spider can indeed kill a person, chances are that is not going
happen, not unless you live in say Australia where their spiders are truly lethal.

But here in Georgia we have just a couple of “deadly” spiders.
We have the Black widow, the brown widow and the brown recluse—
with each one causing terrible reactions when one is bitten…
and if bitten just in the right spot, a bite could actually lead to death—-
Yet those odds are not as great as just suffering form severe tissue loss
at the site of the wound.

And whereas I do “fear” spiders, they are not my true mortal enemy.

My true mortal enemy however does walk this earth.
He is very much, and for the loss of a better association of words,
alive and well.

I’m talking about that which comprises all evil…

Satan, a dark and sinister ironic bearer of light.

On Sunday our Nation witnessed another unimaginable horror.
The senseless and tragic mass shooting of a church congregation.

Just like most everyone else, a peaceful fall November Sunday was suddenly
punctuated by Breaking News…with word coming out of a tiny town in Texas that
a gunman had gone into an equally tiny Baptist Church shooting, killing and
wounding almost the entire congregation present during that morning’s service.

I sat glued to the television as I kept checking my phone and computer for the latest
updates. Like Newtown’s Sandy Hook…it seemed as if madness had once again,
crossed that imaginary uncrossable line.

Not that each time we have a mass tragedy it isn’t madness…it’s just that we,
as humans, seem to believe that some things are off limits when it comes to
that which is horrible….
yet sadly we are learning that nothing, absolutely nothing, remains “off limits” to
that which is Evil.

I was perplexed, as I was reading the updates, as they were laced with the personal observations of those who immediately began calling for the banning of guns or that
this had somehow been Trump’s fault…
on and on went the litany of blame.

Because that’s how we now seem to be as a people—it’s how we seem to deal with
things—
We don’t even wait for full details.
We don’t allow for shock which gives way to grief and sorrow…
Rather we immediately seek a reason, a rationale, an answer—
because, by God, there has to be an answer…otherwise we have no option but to
acknowledge that there are just some things totally beyond us and beyond our control…
and we just can’t handle that idea…

I posted a comment the other day on a fellow blogger’s site with much the same
sentiment—as person after person kept asking how and why…
I knew how and I knew why.

People were pointing accusatory fingers…”this is the fault of the NRA,
“it’s the fault of the Republicans”,
“this is the fault of those who support the President”
“this is the fault of white America”….on and on went the ugly banter….

Was it President Clinton’s fault for Columbine?
Was it President Obama’s fault for Sandy Hook?
No.
Just like this is not the fault of President Trump.

A man who claimed he had issues with his former in-law’s.
A man who had actually filed legally for the application to possess
a gun license despite having a criminal past.
A man who had been courtmartialed.
A man who had been held in Military detainment for a year.
A man who had beaten his wife and fractured his stepson’s skull.
A man who had assaulted his own dog…
A man who had been dishonorably discharged from the AirForce….
…this man walks into his former in-law’s church and destroyed as much life
as he possibly could….as the in-laws weren’t even present.

There are no reasons…
because anything remotely attempting to be a reason
would merely be an excuse—because simply put, there are no reasons for this.

It would not have mattered if all the guns were gone.

I heard last night some stats to the effect that if all the guns were banned right
this very moment, there would still be 5 million out there.
So then you’d have those folks going door to door collecting—

You can collect all the guns you want but when you have Evil intent on evil,
it matters not if there are guns, or trucks, or bombs, or hatchets, or
planes or poison—
Evil will destroy everything in its wake when it so desires…
that is what Evil does.

And so we now consider the opening quote I chose to use this morning…

I follow a terrific blog—Pacific Paratrooper—a great blog about the history
of WWII with the specifics being confined to the fighting on the Pacific front.
The history lessons are excellent as well as the stories of those brave men
and women who fought and served, yet are leaving us daily due to time and age…

Yesterday’s story was about a former German POW who was interred actually here in the States for three years until the War’s end.
It seems that 4000 or so German prisoners of war were actually held here in the
states…
Their experience here being a far cry from those prisoners who were held in the
Death Camps of Nazi Germany and even later, those held in the Gulags of the USSR.

Herr Grawe, at 91, wanted to come back to visit the US camp,
wanting to see one last time, the place that he has long admitted actually
saved him.

He declared his capture by the Americans at the age of 18 was “his luckiest day,”
“No guard called us nasty names. I had a better life as a prisoner than
my mother and sister back home in Germany.”

On the flip side we have seen those former surviving prisoners who have returned,
albeit reluctantly or be it defiantly, to view the German death camps…
camps they survived but places in which left them permanently damaged.

A contrast of human survival…survival at the hands of fellow human beings.

Col. Percival reminds us that we are defined by how we treat others.

So in the upcoming days, weeks and months we as a Nation will be judged by a world
who looks intently at how we will react to our latest sorrow.

But in all of this, it would behoove each of us to remember who the real enemy is….
and that is Satan…..
the master of all lies and deception, the creator of all hate and division.
Our mortal enemy…..

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.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/wwii-german-pow-returns-to-say-thanks-intermission-story-27/

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

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