A new saint with an old soul

When it comes upon me how late I am trying to serve the Church,
the obvious answer is, even saints, such as St. Augustine, St. Ignatius,
did not begin in earnest till a late age.

Blessed John Henry Newman


(courtesy AP)

Today Pope Francis will canonize a new saint.

To those of you who are non-Catholics, this news is no more than a blip from some
religious news feed, but to me, I find it quite interesting.

As many of you reading this already know, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church—
which is, in a nutshell, the American branch of the global Anglican communion.

Anglican being the Chruch of England.

A denomination I once loved, but for many years have found myself at a crossroads of odds.
I have found that I cannot remain in a fold that disregards the Word of God while
preferring to re-write God’s tenants to suit a disgruntled liberal culture.

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest, writer and intellectual who was considered
‘an evangelical Oxford University academic.’

He too felt at odds with his “church.”

And so I offer you a little background from a few periodicals who offer us a bit of background
to this new saint with an old soul…

According to Wikipedia,
He [Newman] became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for the Oxford Movement,
an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the
Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals
from before the English Reformation.

In this, the movement had some success.

In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers,
officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University
and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and
continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham.
In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services
to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854,
although he had left Dublin by 1859.
CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

Newman came to his faith at an early age.

At the age of 15, during his last year at school,
Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was
“more certain than that I have hands or feet”.
Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed,
though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery.
Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814,
lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition.
It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman “fell under the influence of a definite creed”
and received into his intellect “impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured”.
He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the
Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton,
as well as his reading of Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ.
Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist,
and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature.
He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.

Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to
evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul,
he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism.
As Eamon Duffy puts it, “He came to see Evangelicalism,
with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism
that ignored the Church’s role in the transmission of revealed truth,
and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism.”

According to a news article on the Washington Post,
Pope Francis on Sunday will canonize John Henry Newman,
a Victorian-era intellectual, Catholic convert and cardinal.
A self-described “controversialist,” Newman was an early leader in the Oxford Movement,
an attempt to reinstate ancient forms of faith and worship in the Church of England.
After converting to Catholicism at age 44,
Newman went on to found a Catholic university and a religious community,
as well as a school, and he clashed with authoritarian,
or “Ultramontane,” Catholics over the issue of papal infallibility.

Newman called liberalism “false liberty of thought,”
or the attempt to find truth through reason alone independent of faith and devotion.
He characterized his life as one long campaign against this view in his spiritual autobiography.

The Wall Street Journal continues Cardinal Newman’s story…
noting that he could well be known as the patron saint of the lonely…

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the
British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90).
Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers
incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England,
Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a
Catholic priest in his 40s.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

Cigna, a global health service company,
surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans.
It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population.
Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness.
People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job,
and the results don’t surprise me.
I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other.
I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby.
Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames.
The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of
solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone;
we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes,
noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship.
Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people,
but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship.
The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic,
someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality.
Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial,
thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble.
Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful.
Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that
we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness.
He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism,
at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence,
some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist,
Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved
one man more than another.
It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings,
because friendship is a deep human desire.
And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy:
“to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits”
than independence.
People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety”
are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as
“the very bond of peace and of all virtues.”
He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from
an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto
Cor ad cor loquitur.
He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales,
her spiritual adviser:
“I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said.
Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters.
Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel.
Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad;
not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder,
but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

John Henry Newman

one woman, legislation, obedience…life and love

“to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to
sweetness and consolations;
it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter,
because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love,
the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering”

St. Thérèse de Lisieux,

“God never inspires a wish that cannot be fulfilled”
St. John of the Cross

We can say,
‘It is what it is—now Lord, show me how to deal with it.’
St. Therese said she had no peace in her soul until she started her day with that orientation.
Then, trusting God to walk beside her,
she finished her journey as the woman four popes called the greatest saint of modern times.

Doug Lorig

In 1937, a pamphleteering psychiatrist claimed that the “Glorious Hurricane” (Pius XI)
unleashed by Thérèse was an infallible sign that the Catholic Church was in its death throes.
The universal exaltation of an insignificant “neurotic” was proof that a masochistic religion
was on the way out at last.
Fifty years on, today’s psychologists and religious writers know a great deal more about
Thérèse Martin and her world, and are quick to acknowledge the wonders wrought by grace
in the mind and heart of a child stricken by the loss of her mother when she herself was
only four and a half years old. Indeed, Thérèse’s path to sainthood is a source of
comfort and inspiration to countless victims of emotional or other crises today.
Sainthood is not reserved for “normal” people.

The “Little Way” is not some sleight of hand for getting to heaven on the cheap.
It is the modern realization of the Gospel injunction,
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into
the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18, 3).

On June 2, 1980, Pope John Paul II, the first Pope to make the pilgrimage
to Lisieux, put it strongly: “The `Little Way’ is the way of `Holy Childhood’.
It is a way which both confirms and renews the most fundamental and universal truth.
After all, which of the Gospel’s truths is more fundamental and more universal than this,
God is our Father and we are His children?”.
thelittleflower.org

“Sainthood is not reserved for ‘normal’ people.”
No, I would suspect it is not.

Nor is it for the faint of heart.
But for a young frail Thérèse, to serve, while in turn drawing as one with God,
was her sole goal…sainthood would merely become a by-product.

I’ve written about Thérèse before.
She is a bit of an anomaly really.

Nothing about this young girl should be the hallmarks of becoming not only a saint
but that of a Doctor of the Chruch.

Giants among theological and spiritual giants.

And yet here is a young girl.

Words that described her in life…

Obscure.
Sickly.
Frail.
Unassuming.
Quiet.
Young.
Almost shy and even quite childlike.

Childlike not in a sense of her maturity but rather in her approach to God.

A simple childlike faith.

One that consisted of love and love alone.

She was only 24 when she died a painful death from the ravages of tuberculosis.
And yet 4 separate popes have stated that she is the greatest saint of modern times.

High praise for a young girl who lived a simple life of a cloistered nun

“Conscious of her own weakness, but willingly trusting in God’s merciful love,
which finds its way even to the humble, she came to love her poverty.
Her offering of herself to merciful love begins with these words;
“God is asking me to do something, I cannot do it on my own, so He will do it for me”
(June 9, 1895). From this moment on Thérèse lived the daring surrender of herself.
A totally dependent child has no choice but to surrender itself completely
to its father’s merciful love.”

Again, Thérèse discovered the truth of Jesus’ words,
“If you do not become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).
The way of “spiritual infancy” is Jesus’ own way as a son, the supreme son,
living only for his Father. Who is more fully an adult but Jesus or more fully a child?
From this point on Thérèse lost her fear of sin, of falling asleep during prayer
or any other imperfection; love had burned everything away.

Pope John Paul II reminds us when speaking of St Thérèse of Lisieux
That “God is our Father and we are His Children.”

The notion of God as father and we as children is not new.
It is something Jesus often reminded those who listened to him speak…
the importance of being like little children.

And it is the way in which Thérèse lived…

To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like little children.

So the importance of children is not lost on me when I read about
House Bill 481, the Heartbeat bill.

Nor is it lost on those who hunker down quietly yet steadfastly to hear God’s word.

This is a controversial bill which actually passed the Georgia Senate this past week.
It will now travel to the House for a yay or nay…. and if the yays have it,
it’s off to the Governor’s desk for final approval and signature.

This is a state bill that if passed, will limit when an abortion can be performed in
the state of Georgia.
The bill reads that six weeks is the “magic” number and time when a doctor can hear a heartbeat…
the telltale sign of an entity living separately from the mother…
meaning that there are two hearts now beating in a woman’s body.
Her heart and that of the child she carries in her womb.

I see this bill as a victory for those who have no voice of their own.
A victory for unborn children.

Others see it very differently.

Many protestors outside of the State Capital this past week have dressed up as characters from
the Hulu show and popular book The Handmaid’s Tale.

These women march in an odd macabre mass of unity protesting a baby’s right to live
while somehow viewing the notion of life rather than murder as abhorrent.
The Salem Witch trials seem to come to mind when I see their images.

Various female members of Georgia’s House Democrats have been very vocal in their dismay
of the passing of this bill.
They argue that this bill is a setback for women at the hands of male legislators.

While on the other hand, many female Republican legislators are ardent supporters of the bill.

Kind of like me…a woman, who just so happens to be in favor of this bill.

Allysa Milano, a very outspoken hashtag sort of Hollywood actress, in light of this bill,
is now calling for filmmakers to boycott Georgia.
She just so happens to be shooting a film here in Georgia.
Lucky us.

The movie industry has become big business for Georgia.

This is not the first time a controversial piece of legislature has brought out those who
attempt to tighten the screws on Georgia’s economy…that is if Georgia opts to go in an opposite
direction from that of what Hollywood or other giant business marketers think…
if the state steps out of line with a progressive liberal culture’s mindset,
then it’s lookout Georgia.

There is the “religious liberty” bill that was recently re-introduced…having been
previously introduced and reading much like a similar national bill that happened
to have been signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

This more recent bill is a rift on a 2016 bill that was nixed by then Gov. Nathan Deal
when the LGBTQ communities sounded a very loud and very vocal alarm that they sensed some sort
of potential discrimination—never mind that such a national bill passed in 1993.

Yet even the owner of the Atlanta’s Falcons and Atlanta’s Soccer United teams, Arthur Blank
chimed in—he told a reporter that he disagreed with the Governor and thought
that such a bill would be bad for Georgia—as he saw the potential for dollar bills to
quickly disappear from state coffers if advertisers and others pulled out over such a bill.
He didn’t word his disapproval as such, but that was his bottom line unspoken reasoning.

The NFL, NBA, etc had already threatened to exclude Georgia from consideration as a
potential host city should such a bill come into effect.

Advertisers and the entertainment industry were also making their loud grumbles

How ever would dear Coca-Cola, aka Coke, make it if her home state
took a step backward, or so thought all of these big shakers and shifters?

And so now with The Heartbeat bill set to become a possible law, the same loud and
money ladened voices are beginning to sound.

And thus it is that I am reminded of a demure St Thérèse of Lisieux—

Despite such giants of opposition…be they physical or institutional,
Thérèse never wavered or backed down from her faith or of her desire to love.

She was simply obedient to God…to His commandments and to His will.

She fixed her eyes on God and God alone…allowing for all things to fall into place.

And so now we the faithful must also be obedient.

We can get behind a bill that protects the lives of unborn children…who indeed
have their own heartbeat by 6 weeks, or we can allow Hollywood, a plethora of
‘communities’, and those who throw their money around as their weight
to determine what is best for Georgia and its unborn children.

Sadly we continue seeing how these things play out.

However, we remain—
Obedient in prayer and to what we know to be God’s will…

Life and Love.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

accommodating whom?

“If you accommodate others, you will be accommodating yourself”
Chinese Proverbs


(The Mayor helping emptying the dishwasher / Julie Cook / 2019)

Ok…so I’m still struggling between feeling better and being zapped of all energy…but that
didn’t seem to keep my mind from racing from thought to thought during the course of the
past week.

I’d see this or that irony or idiocy and would make a mental note that a
future post would be in order.

Then I’d feel the fervery chills again or the Mayor would be racing off willy nilly toward
something alluring, putting her life at risk, and those thoughts would quickly dissipate.

But the passing of a rural church’s sign last evening helped to jog my memory.

However, let’s back up a tad.

Let’s consider a word.
The word being–
Accommodating

A word that means a willingness to please: that of being helpful, obliging.

Obliging, in turn, meaning indulgent.

Indulgent then in turn meaning a willingness to allow excessive leniency.

I think we see where this is going…

It is going to the notion of making life, or that of another’s existence, as easy peasy as possible.

It is something our culture is honing to a high art form…

Making everything easy peasy…while offering leniency for all as we indulge everyone and anyone.
Matters not your desires nor choices…

Oh, no wait….it does matter…
It matters only if you are a Chrisitan, a Jew, a conservative or a moralistic individual…
because we simply cannot accommodate those who hold such mindsets…
But if you want anything outside the circle of a Judaeo /Christian mindset, we’ll accommodate you til
the cows come home.

And this thinking came from a drive last night when I passed by a sign outside of a church
that proclaimed “We Now Have Saturday Church”

At first look and read, that little advert seems great.
Saturday Church for those who can’t “make” Sunday Church.

But this seemingly benign offering got me thinking.

How much has The Church—each and every denomination of the Christian Church,
gone in order to accommodate the masses?

Praise rock bands to draw in the young.
Coffee house settings to draw in the casual laid back.
Video theatrics to show our cutting edge use of technology.
Gay clergy to make the fringe members feel accepted.
Preaching openness and love to show our all-embracing nature.
Removing the ideas of sin, hell or consequence from our actions because we are love and love only.
Gay marriages to express our inclusion.
Petitions to change the wording of the Bible to show we are progressive…
God as the God-dess.

On and on we go because the numbers show that the Church is losing.

It is losing to a deeply divisive yet progressive secular culture that
has no room for what Christianity has stood for over the past two thousand years.

It hasn’t helped that the clergy has almost singlehandedly cast a heavy
veil of mistrust…with many heinous acts of predation, across denominational lines,
leaving many of the faithful with deep wounds and now disgust for the Church as a whole.

So in desperation, The Church lets out all the stops.
Desperate to accommodate any and all…
just please don’t go…
please just come…
back…

And yet it is The Bridegroom who has never changed.

He, the Godhead, has remained the same since the creation of our existence…

He was before such and He will be long after such…

He will never change, be changed, bend, beg, accommodate or oblige.

He gave everything He could give on a fateful day of betrayal and death…
He offered redemption.
He offered hope.
But He will not bend nor will He be changed…
despite our bending over backward for anything and everything other than God.

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?

Numbers 23:19

it’s that time of year again….

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, ‘It will be happier.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson


(Nany’s plant is blooming again….)

****It’s that time of year again…or so that’s what they keep telling us.
When you’re husband runs a local retail business, time and life ‘this
time of year’, is not your own….those of you who know me, know this….
And so my posting may be a bit more “lite” verses hefty and plentiful….
But I’ll do my best…..

This Christmas lily, which just so happens to be currently in bloom,
the one in the above photo, was my grandmother’s… Nany.
I’ve written about Nany’s lily before.

There is a tale of tenacity in this lily.

Nany died in 1986 and therefore I inherited the plant.
How and why I was the recipient, I don’t recall…
perhaps it was because mother had just died three months prior and poor ol dad
had no idea as to what he’d do with a plant…only to throw it out….
Having none of that, I “volunteered” to take the lily.

It was early on in our marriage and I was young…
more like stupid now that I look back on my younger self…
but I suppose we all were back then…..

I had left the plant out one night when there was a frost.
The plant died….
or so I thought.
Oh well.

Yet my husband brought the pot back inside the house, despite it being just now
a pot with a frozen brown mass of mess drooped within.

I pruned away all the dead parts and just kept the pot with it’s dirt.
Then a few weeks went by with little to no thought of the plant…that was until I walked past it one day and low and behold…a green shoot had begun to make it’s way upward…
the rest is history.

Nany probably had the plant 10 or more years before I inherited it—
making the plant…roughly somewhere between 40 to 50 years old….

Yet the plant had never bloomed.

I just thought it was a big green leafed plant that was until one year
right around Christmas.
Our son was little and we were still living in our first home,
the house before this house.
A shoot in between the midst of the large green floppy leaves magically appeared
bearing one cluster of three blooms.
It was like some kind of miracle to me.
Who knew this was a flowering plant?!

Probably everyone other than my dumb younger self.

Talk about fragrant.

So now every year since, this plant sends up a lone shoot,
during sometime each December…making it a Christmas Lily.
A small miracle taking place each year in my kitchen, where the plant now lives.

Except this year…..

This year, for the first time since I’ve had the plant, two shoots have emerged.
I don’t know if it’s some sort of sign or some sort of fluke—
I’d like to think Nany is looking down and is happy knowing she will have a great
great granddaughter in February.

I was named after both of my grandmothers…and my son and daughter-n-law are now
using my maiden name for our soon to be granddaughter’s middle name—-

Both Nany and Dad would be pleased…..

My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favor.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.
I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:1-14

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

On my honor…

On my honor, I will try:
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people at all times,
To obey the Girl Scout Laws.

Girl Scout Oath from 1912-1972


(yes, I once could fit into this little dress at the age of 6 )

Growing up, once upon a time, I was a member of the Brownies.
I was in the first grade, around the age of 6, when I first joined up.
I would continue as a member of the various levels of Girl Scouts, ending my time as a Cadet, by the time I entered high school.

The Brownies are an international organization for little girls who eventually hope
to follow the path to being a Girl Scout.
Being a member of the Brownies is a precursor of sorts for little girls hoping to
move up in the ranks so to speak.

The Brownie Organization was started in 1914 following the founding,
in Savannah, Georgia, of the Girl Scouts in 1912.

Here we see that there was a well organized international group for young girls
flourishing 8 years before women even got the right to vote in the US!
A group obviously well ahead of it’s time…or so it seems.

The Brownies sprung forth from the Girl Scouts which in turn sprung forth from
a desire of young girls wanting to keep up with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts…
with the US Boy Scouts being founded in 1910.

And so just when I thought we as a society had sunk about as low as we could go…
just when I thought I’d heard it all from our moralistically terminally ill society…
leave it to the Boy Scouts to pave the way for a fresh new descent into cultural appeasement….

Have we not, within the past year, witnessed disputes brewing over openly
gay scoutmasters, openly gay scouts, openly transgenders scouts….???
As the list grows daily with the ever morphing confusion of self identity of the
youngest of the young???

Today I read in the news that the Boy Scouts have announced that they will now open
their membership to girls.

Wait…

I thought girls had the Brownies and the Girl Scouts…?
Why do they need or even want to be a Boy Scout??

And not only will they open membership up for girls, they will have a variety of troops
of choice…more like the flavor of the day.

There will be troops for heterosexual boys only;
larger troops consisting of a mix of straight boys, gay boys and transgender boys;
(don’t get me started on young boys, or girls, who now think they are gay or transgender and exactly whose fault such thinking should be attributed to….)
as well as troops now with both boys and girls….
as in a mixed bag of nuts…

I’m 58 years old, and this is leaving even me confused—

I wonder how the kids will figure it all out…

Oh wait, they don’t have to figure it out because all they have to do is
eeny, meeny, miny, moe as to how they’re feeling on any particular day….

Don’t ask if things can get worse or more confusing…because they can.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
2 Timothy 2:21

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8