Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Seeing Susan

We all have images chiseled into our consciousness—memories that are frozen in time. We close our eyes and see fragments of scenes or hear snippets of conversation that are as vivid as the moment they first transpired.  Most are no more than coincidences of recollection and have little bearing on the overall scheme of life and death.  Why we remember them at all is mystery. But occasionally an image is etched into our memory and imprinted onto our soul for the purpose of hope, healing and grace.

I remember little of the journey home from the hospital where my daughter Tara died. We left behind in neonatal intensive care her three-day-old daughter Alden.  Her twelve-year-old son Spencer traveled with us.  My spirit groaned under the burden of his pain and mine. I have no recollection of the familiar landmarks between Tara’s city and mine.  It is impossible to see when your sole focus is trying to breathe in and breathe out.

But God has a way of breaking through blindness.  

When I arrived home, the first sight to penetrate my misery was of Susan standing in the driveway. 

Susan must have realized her visit coincided with our return.  Perhaps she didn’t wish to intrude upon what she knew to be sacred time. Perhaps she was at a loss for words.  She lowered her head, averted her eyes, and stepped across the grass to the curb where her car was parked. Susan drove away before I had a chance to speak.  Inside, she had left a gift--a small, jeweled cross in a gold frame.  I keep it near to remind me of the power of presence and to never forget the promise of resurrection.

I doubt that Susan knows God spoke through her presence that morning.  When I saw Susan, gentle words-- soothing words—silent words-- settled into my heart.  It had to be God.  It felt like hope.

“Bunny, do you see Susan?  She is standing, and living, and breathing, and coming to see you! Do you remember the last time you were together?  Look at Susan, Bunny. You are going to be alright.” 

The last time I had been with Susan, her daughter had died.

On the days when I questioned the possibility of healing and doubted my ability to survive, I held tightly to that memory of grace. I would close my eyes, remember God’s voice, and once again, see Susan.  


"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:26

“They won’t remember what you said, and they won’t remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou

"Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it."~Henri Nouwen

"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito."~The Dalai Lama

-Do I have a memory that I perceive to be a moment of grace? What happened? What role did it play in my faith journey?
-Do I find it difficult to reach out to others who are "weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken?"  Why? Why not? 
-Is there someone who's presence was meaningful to me during a difficult time in my life?

Practice:  Reach out in compassion to someone who suffers. Remember the power of presence. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

God in the Coincidences - Part 2

"A year passed before I bumped full force into a coincidence that literally stopped me in my tracks and  changed the way I view the happenstances of life. Some would say it was an accidental happening. Others might suggest God tired of waiting for me to come around and decided to step in. "

. . .Continued from last week's post, God in the Coincidences-Part 1

A year later . . .

Life in Mobile, Alabama means Mardi Gras, men in tails, and women in floor-length gowns. It was eleven o'clock on Thursday morning when I conceded I would have to forgo food and head to the mall for an hour of power shopping if I were to purchase a new gown in time for the Order of the Inca ball the following evening. Sporting an already-worn dress to a second ball would never do, and I was dangerously close to committing a serious Mardi Gras faux pas if I procrastinated any longer. When the lunch hour arrived, I rushed to my car determined to implement my retail plan of attack and return to work in the allotted time.

I drove under the canopy of live oaks that line Dauphin Street, weaving in and out of the noon traffic.  I pushed through yellow lights, pretending not to see the red flash above me, when something on the side of the road broke into my laser-like focus and captured my attention. It was a sign: Dauphin Way Methodist Church. The name sounded vaguely familiar. I didn't know why.

And then the unexplainable happened.

My car slowed, turned left onto the street beside the church, and came to a stop at the curb near a side entrance. I sat there for several minutes wondering what had caused me to veer from my intended destination. I fought an inexplicable impulse to climb the steps. The door is probably locked, I countered. It wasn't.


My voice echoed through the cavernous foyer and bounced off the hard wood floors. No one answered. I descended a stairway to a basement corridor. I could hear the murmur of voices emanating from a room at the far end of the hall.  I followed the sound and read a handwritten note that was taped to the door. It said, “Al-Anon Meeting Today. Welcome!”

My immediate reaction was shock. My first inclination was to run, but something held me there. I opened  the door wide enough to peak through the crack. A young woman sat on a wooden stool at the front of the room. Intending to leave, I eased the door closed, hoping my presence had not been detected. Instead, I lingered in the hallway wondering what I was doing. The meeting had begun before I slipped into a seat in the back of the room. It felt like surrender. To what or to whom, I didn't know. I prayed no one would ask, "What brings you here?" I had no idea.

The woman on the stool at the front of the room fidgeted with the hem of her skirt. Her hands trembled. “I’m sorry,” she said.  “This is my first time to lead a meeting. All this week I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. I was getting really worried. It wasn't until eleven o'clock this morning that I knew. Today, I want to talk about how to withdraw with love.”

"How to withdraw with love." Those were the words spoken by my friend a year before when she suggested I attend Al-Anon -- when it was clear the relationship with my firstborn was broken. I was too weary--too stubborn--to respond to her recommendation. The probability that "how to withdraw with love" would be the topic a year later when I wandered into a meeting I had not planned to attend could only be described as infinitesimal. It was a chance occurrence that flew past improbable headed on towards impossible.

I was stunned when her words struck me. A lump rose in my throat. Tears burned my eyes.  I felt resistance melt away.  “I don’t know what just happened," I thought, "but something, someone out there is taking care of me.”

When I told Tara about the coincidence she said, “Mother, sometimes God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves.”

When I casually mentioned it to Father John at the church the following week, he commented,  "Bunny, sometimes it is in the coincidences of our lives that God is speaking to us." I couldn't help but wonder why  after all my years in the church no one had ever told me that. It seemed to be an important thing to know.

I've never forgotten the coincidence that day in the basement of  Dauphin Way Methodist Church. It was my spiritual birthday. For the first time I became aware that something greater than myself was pointing the way from woundedness to healing, from being lost to finding the way, and beyond that--to love. The heavens hadn't opened. A great light did not descended, but scales did fall from my eyes.  That was the day I discovered, if we are willing to look closely and open to the possibility, we can see the hand of God.

Expect that through the right lens, all our encounters will appear full of thunderbolts and instruction; every bush will be a burning bush.”  ~Gregg LeVoy 

It’s important to pay attention and to remember serendipitous moments. Sooner or later we may step onto a slippery slope in life and loose our footing. Remembering can help us regain a toe-hold and help us remember the faithfulness of God.—Bunny Cox

Deuteronomy 4:9-Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their chidren after them. 

-Do I think God touches us with "coincidences"?  
-Have I had an experience that seems to be more than coincidence? If so, what story would I tell?   

Be attentive to the coincidences of your life. How did they appear? Notice if they connect in some way to something you need?  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

God in the Coincidences - Part 1 of 2

Sometimes I think the universe is like a giant pinball machine, and we are the balls propelled by the hand of God releasing the spring. Straight on our way we speed, eventually to collide with an experience, a coincidence, a happening that modifies our trajectory forever. We bounce back and forth, crashing into pivotal moments that alter our path.  Some call those moments chance, others serendipity. But maybe just maybe, they aren't coincidence at all. Maybe they are experiences of God. ~Bunny Cox

I can’t say I loved my daughter Tara more than I love her younger brother and sister, but I can say I loved her the hardest. My struggle to keep her safe began when she walked at seven and a half months. From the moment Tara became mobile, her constant mode was motion. Her perpetual state of mind was curiosity.  I learned early that any hope of circumventing unwanted consequences or curbing her spontaneity would require lightening fast reflexes, unshakable endurance, and perhaps even an ability to predict the future. Trying to curtail Tara's adventurous spirit could push a perfectly sane mother over the edge. 

Tara frequently ignored my warnings, preferring to discover for herself if my words were worth heeding.  The time-out chair was merely the price she was willing to pay to satisfy her curiosity, and more than once her explorations required professional intervention.   

“What happened?” a doctor asked four-year-old Tara as he stitched a nasty gash over her right eyebrow. Tears puddled in her blue eyes and splashed down her checks. “I was just tippy-toeing down the stairs,” she said, confessing her foray into forbidden territory.

“What were you doing this time?” asked the same doctor a year later while putting four stitches under her left eyebrow. “Just jumpin',” she replied, understating her death-defying leap when she heard me coming to put her in bed -- again -- and her subsequent collision with the metal headboard of her big girl bed.    

And her explanation as to why a button was barely visible up her six-year-old nose? She demonstrated by smelling her pinched thumb and forefinger while the doctor waited with six-inch long tweezers. “Just sniffin’,” she said.

There was no middle-of-the road with Tara. Life was either exhilarating and fun, or exhausting and sometimes heart-breaking. The only thing that changed as she got older was the price of her curiosity and experimentation.  At nineteen, Tara announced she was addicted to alcohol and thought it best she go to treatment. 

In typical Tara fashion, she did the unexpected, at least in the world of addiction and recovery.  She analyzed her problem, called the counselors for advice about how to get me on board to attend family week, and voluntarily entered a six-week, in-house recovery program.  It was not the first or the last time confidence in her inner compass and her courage would lead the rest of us in the right direction. That’s the way it was with Tara, you never knew where you were going to end up when she was driving. 

Oddly, the alcoholism diagnosis wasn’t all bad news. It shed light on Tara's thorny teenage behavior.  A counselor explained the smoldering wound of abandonment by her biological father had burst into flame. It helped in understanding the “whys,” but it didn’t make living with the “therefores” any easier. Perhaps only someone with firsthand experience can fully understand the physical, emotional, and spiritual energy required when loving someone who battles addiction, especially when that someone is a cherished child. Loving that hard can make a mother very, very tired.  

“Get thee to Al-Anon!” was the gist of advice I received from a friend, herself a recovering alcoholic, who told me of the program designed to help family members of alcoholics. I think Tara put her up to it.  My friend must have sensed my profound weariness in the silence that followed.  

“I can tell you need rest and would just like to withdraw for a little while. That’s understandable,” she said. “Go to Al-Anon. They can teach you how to withdraw with love.”

The phrase “withdraw with love” intrigued me for a while. It captured my attention long enough to check the newspaper for listings of Al-Anon meetings, but not long enough to override my resistance. Tara was my firstborn--the child of my youth.  I loved her beyond life itself. I was immensely proud of her recovery, but I was weary—too weary I thought to go to Al-Anon.

A year passed before I bumped full force into a coincidence that literally stopped me in my tracks and  changed the way I view the happenstances of life. Some would say it was an accidental happening. Others might suggest God tired of waiting for me to come around and decided to step in. Whatever the explanation, it had great power and forever changed my relationship with God.  It was the first time I accepted the possibility that perhaps we can see God working in coincidences of our lives. 

It is said every experience builds upon another and that nothing in life is wasted. I didn't know how important the lesson of that day would become.  It would be the lifeline I would cling to when Tara died.  

It was the day I learned--"I am not alone."  

. . .to be continued in next Thursday's post "God In the Coincidence - part 2". 


1 Corinthians 13: 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. . . 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4  Love is patient . . .

"There is always more that holds us together than what seeks to tear us apart"-- Bishop Kee Sloan

"Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past.  Rather, it is a spirit that bears things -- with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope." Corazon Aquino

--Is there someone who needs my love and patience?  What is my prayer for them? What is my prayer for me?

--Have there been happenings in my life that seem to be more than coincidence? What were they?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thin Places

There are places in this world where it seems we need only to raise an open palm if we wish to touch the face of God. They are called thin places.

In thin places, love, healing and redemption are near, and we experience a “knowing” about life and death that at other times eludes us. In thin places, the hand of the Holy lifts from our eyes the gossamer veil that separates us from those we love. 

Thin places break open our hearts, inspire us to write, sing, dance, or merely to be still with God. Some are marked with stones placed by previous pilgrims to proclaim the ground as holy. Some are on heaven-kissed hilltops or in the shadow of an ancient tree. One poet found a thin place on a moonlit dune by the sea where prayers are as numerous as grains of sand and sea oats sway on the breath of the spirit. 

For Tara by her grandmother

Floating painlessly above sand dunes
she picks a star from the heavens
places it in her hair.

She dances – arabesques, pirouettes, tour jetes.
Crabs click castanets.
Fish swish tails like bows
on a thousand violins.
Shells clang cymbals,
and sea oats wave batons.

She sees her family sleeping,
throws a kiss across the waves,
understands that the ribbon of love
connecting her heart with theirs
will one day erase tears.

The moon lay down
a golden path on a velvet sea.
To choirs of angels,
applaud of saints,
She dances with joy into eternity.

Estelle Darrow Rice


Celtic saying: Heaven and earth are only three feet apart. In thin places that distance is even smaller. 

Revelations 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

-Do I agree with this statement: "There are thin places in this world." 
-Have I experienced a thin place? If so, where was it? What was my experience? How did it affect me?
-Are there words of consolation that I have found helpful or meaningful during difficult times in my life? What are they?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inappropriately Appropriate

Episcopal traditions run long and deep, and the Church discourages alterations to the centuries old liturgy. (There have been a few minor changes recently, that is if you think of 1979 revisions to the Book of Common Prayer as recent, as do many Episcopalians.)  Designated colors adorn the altar according to church seasons, and specific hymns are appointed for specific days.  I was pleasantly surprised when Father Mike quickly gave blessing to my request for Tara’s service to begin with “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” a distinctly Easter hymn. I was crushed when he changed his mind. Father Mike called to say  it would instead be played before the service as an organ prelude .

“She said you wouldn’t let her do it,” I sobbed.

Father Mike was silent.    

“I didn’t know, Bunny," he responded softly. "I didn’t know it was that important. Please forget I called." With a gesture of compassion and mercy he added, "Just pretend this conversation never took place.”  

By coincidence, only a week before Tara died of complications following childbirth, we had discussed our favorite hymns.

“I’ve always thought ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’ would be perfect for a funeral,” Tara said. “But, I’ve never heard it sung except at Easter. I guess there is some kind of rule against it,” she laughed.

Neither of us knew how soon our conversation would become relevant. 

Tara's service began as has every Anglican funeral since 1549. The congregation stood. The clergy walked down the aisle solemnly reciting scripture:

     "I am the resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life even though he die. And everyone who has life, and has committed himself to me in faith, shall not die for ever." (John 11:25)      

Two-by-two, the robed choir entered the church, behind the gold cross lifted high before them—the same gold cross that has led similar processions down that aisle for over a hundred and fifty years.  Voices rose to sing every verse of “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.” Soaring harmony saturated the rafters. Tears could not prevent family members from joining in. Most of us have heard that hymn sung since birth. We didn't need hymnals to remember the words.

On that crisp September morning, we gave thanks for Tara’s life, and we acknowledged her faith. We broke from centuries of tradition and honored her rule-breaking, free spirit, by singing the-hymn-sung-only-at-Easter especially for her. I don’t know if anyone was confused or deemed it inappropriate.  It does not matter.  For Tara, and for me, that hymn was perfect--a much needed herald of hope, and a reminder that death is not the end.

In spite of the crushing sadness of the occasion, we celebrated the promise of life ever-lasting with the joyful refrain, “Alleluia!”   

It was indeed a “triumphant and holy day.”*

Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 

“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia! Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia! Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia! Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!”~14th century Latin hymn

--How do I respond to the words of this hymn?

--Are there passages of scripture or pieces of music that have special meaning to me? If so, what are they? Why are they meaningful?

--What role does tradition play in my spiritual life? Is tradition helpful in creating my open presence for God? Why? Why not?

--How do I define Hope? 

--Have I had an experience of receiving mercy?  Of giving mercy?  What happened?

*Note to those who have read previous blogs "A Lady at All Times" and "Thou Shalt Not Kill": I am pleased to report that no violence was done at Tara’s funeral. Everyone who attended lived to tell the tale, and my brother-in-law Cecil was able to remain seated for the duration of the service.