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, July 28, 2011

Golden Days

“Nina Mae knew Elvis!” Tara winked at her younger sister in the back seat and resumed her sing-song chant.  She drew out the long “i” in Nina mimicking the Mississippi twang of the tour guide at Elvis’ boyhood home during a road trip the three of us made to Tupelo, Mississippi earlier in the summer. 

“Coulda see’d  ‘im any time I wanted to,” Brynnan took up the refrain. 

“But I didn’t wanna see ‘im!” they said in unison before dissolving into laughter, “He wadn’t that big back then."

The girls weren’t making fun of Nina Mae, they mocked my fifty-year crush on Elvis Presley, thinking it hilariously incomprehensible their mother could have amorous fantasies at all, much less for the King of Rock and Roll.  I feigned offense, but in truth the camaraderie between my daughters brought me joy. I knew their teasing was an initiation of sorts for Brynnan. Over the summer, Brynnan, nineteen years her sister’s junior, had graduated from little sister to sustaining member of the sisterhood.

We were on our way to the beach. It was our last opportunity for a girl's trip before Brynnan returned to college. I remember thinking I really didn't have the time to be gone for a whole week. I wouldn't have resisted  had I known it would be the last time the three of us, my two daughters Tara, Brynnan and I, would be together. 

We traveled two-lane blacktops that wind through the prairies of west Alabama before continuing south over the Mobile-Tensaw river delta and on to sand and scrubs oaks of the coastal plain.  Brynnan taught us sorority songs.  Tara told stories that began, “Hey, Mom! Remember when we. . .” 

“Let’s go by the red church!” Brynnan interjected. 

“Yeah, but this time, let’s forego the artistry,” Tara laughed. 

Tara referred to the photo stop she and I made one summer at the wood-frame Episcopal church that was built by slaves and stained red with tobacco juice near the small Alabama town of Gallion. In the name of creativity, we sat on the grass between the cemetery tombstones and balanced cameras on our knees. We rolled to our stomachs, leaned on our elbows, and even lay on our backs. Unfortunately, shots from interesting angles were not all we captured.  For days, both of us suffered itching misery from head-to-toe red bug bites, commonly known in other parts of the world as chiggers.  Brynnan loved to hear the story, thinking our self-imposed suffering humorous.  She wanted to see the church. I suspect she wanted become part of the memories.

An impromptu lunch at Brynnan’s request at a “cute” restaurant in Tuscaloosa and Tara’s more-frequent-than-usual stops necessitated by her pregnancy had seriously undermined my intended travel schedule. Determined to arrive in Gulf Shores before dark and thinking it best to stay on the road and take the shortest route possible, I refused.   At Tara's continued urging, I relented. I’m glad I did, even if I did have to drive two miles before I found a place to turn around. 

Back on the road after our detour, as we approached the Baldwin County line, Tara asked, “Mom, would it be alright if we drove over the Bay?”  She wanted to take the long way around over Mobile Bay, through Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, and down well-remembered, much loved country back roads to the beach.   It had been years since she visited the places of her childhood.

I formulated all the reasons to decline. Foremost was the fact our four hour trip had stretched to seven, and nightfall was approaching. Instead of saying no, I heard myself answer, “Sure, why not.” I still wonder where those words came from. Maybe it was something in Tara’s voice that made me acquiesce, or maybe it was a moment of grace.  An inner sense said, “Something important is happening."

We drove onto the bridge that spans Mobile Bay. Golden rays washed haze from the heat of the day and played on the emerald green shoreline.  I turned off the radio and slowed the car to the minimum allowable speed.  No one spoke. Quiet permeated the air. Time slowed and assumed a poignant quality. Each color, intensified by the glow of day’s end, competed for admiration. Silver-blue floated on the surface of the water and pushed green away until morning. A shaft of light from the setting sun kissed the peaks of tiny waves, making them sparkle, each in its own time. Pink brushed the horizon where waters from the river delta mingle to meander their way to the Gulf of Mexico.  I knew Tara reminisced about growing up on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.  Neither of us could go back without wondering why we ever left. I felt a twinge of sadness, the kind you feel at the edge of evening when summer is coming to an end.

Tara honored the twilight performance with her attention and her silence. She gazed over the water with a reverence reserved for the sacred.  It was as if she wanted to capture the moment to savor for eternity.  I think our souls know things our minds don’t.

That week at the beach, we played.  We ate anything and everything we wanted.  Most of all we talked of the fun we would have with a new baby girl.  The doctors first said the child was male. Later tests proved them mistaken.  I thanked God that Tara would know the blessing of a daughter.

Powerful forces were at work that day on the way to the beach. When I resented interruptions to my agenda, something whispered, “Don’t miss this.” 

I have come to realize--spontaneity is the mother of memories. Had I not released control of the day to receive the gifts of the moment, I would have only regret. After Tara died, when I thought of how perilously close I had come to denying those last graced moments, I couldn't help but wonder--how many times have I been so focused on the task at hand that I missed the blessing of the day?  How many times have angels come near while I looked the other way? 


"Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons.” ~Ruth Ann Schabacker 

Psalm 18:24 This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”~Mary Jean Iron

--Do I have a treasured memory that I wouldn’t have had I not stopped to savor the moment?

--Am I living in the present? Or am I putting off "living," waiting for the "right" time?

--How do I feel about interruptions that encroach upon my day? Am I open to the possibility they may be blessed moments from God?

--Have I felt a quiet urge to do something I wasn't planning to do?  Where did it come from? How did I respond? What happened?    



Thursday, July 21, 2011

River of Prayer

"At this very moment, no matter the time of day or night, someone is praying.  The river of prayer is flowing."~Bunny Cox

I don’t understand the power of prayer.  I don’t know if anyone does, but I know prayer is the thread that connects us to one another and to God.  It is the basis of our relationship with the Holy and the means by which we live in the Spirit.

The language of prayer is deep and silent. Its power is steeped in mystery, and it moves in the world in ways we cannot fathom.  Our trust is that, through prayer, mighty forces are unleashed.

Prayer Practice: The imagination can be a pathway to prayer and experience of God. Read each stanza slowly. Allow time between each line to breathe and imagine:  
Sitting still, quiet your body. With gentleness begin to breathe deeply. Try to sink into a place of calm--quiet– the God place within you—sacred, holy space. Be present with God’s desire for you. Deep calling deep.  Love answering love. Breathe.

Imagine: A sense of prayer begins to swell within you. Soaked in God’s love, saturated in mercy, it fills you.   

Unable to be contained, it pours into the room. As if an invisible floodgate has been opened, your prayer fills the room and overflows into the world.

Across fields… nearby cities…beyond the horizon itself.

Your prayer intermingles with prayers from brothers and sisters around the world--tributaries of love.

A mighty river of prayer is formed. 

It meanders over the face of the earth, depositing sediments of love.

Healing. . . mercy. . . forgiveness. . .all that has been prayed for. Living water. Healing water.

It flows over the ones we love. . . over the ones we struggle to love. It washes every place of woundedness.

Sorrow. . .pain. . . all that needs healing.

The river of prayer can’t be stopped by pebbles, rocks, boulders--barriers of any kind. It circles the globe.

It returns to flow over you.  

Our tiny trickle of prayer released into the world, returns to each of us--a mighty river of love. 

Cleansing. . . healing. . . with love. . . compassion. . .grace.

Sit quietly and feel the river of prayer, the river of love flowing over you.


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

John 7:38-39a "Rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit."

--What was this prayer like for me?
--What are my thoughts about the imagination being a pathway to prayer?
--What are my thoughts about the power of prayer?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Callings - Part 2

. . .Continued from Part 1: "If I was wrong about my call to ordained ministry, what else have I been wrong about? Confusion spiraled deeper into doubt. When I recall the darkest, most desperate moment of my life, it wasn't the day I lost Tara, it was the day I lost God." ~Bunny Cox  

Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, Alabama 

“Let me tell you a story about a man who came to our monastery," said Sister Kathleen when she visited me in the guest room the morning after my arrival. “The man was in agony because he too longed to serve the Lord. He was called to be a monk. But there was a problem," she said. "He had a wife and five children!  How could he reconcile a call to the monastery?  He knew God would not ask him to abandon his family to live the monastic life, but of his call to become a monk, he was certain."

“After a period of great struggle,” she continued. “The man concluded, he was indeed to be a monk.  He was to pray as a monk, live as a monk, act as a monk would, but without the walls of the monastery.”

“Perhaps, my dear,” she said gently, “You are to be a priest--but without the walls of the priesthood.”

In spite of her consolations, I lay on my bed and cried in a depth of misery previously unknown to me. The sun settled in the afternoon sky before I rose to wander the grounds. I sat on a bench beside a pond at the bottom of a grass-covered slope--watched clouds reflected upon the still water--and cried. I continued my tearful journey on a path that winds through the woods, up a hill, and beyond to a cemetery where identical white crosses mark the graves of sisters who lived and died in the faith. The thought crossed my mind as I gazed across the neatly laid rows, if faith were required, there would never be a cross for me.  

Near the cemetery on a knoll beside a massive oak, I discovered the rock-lined paths of a labyrinth with spiraling passageways leading to a center resting place, its twisting turns symbolizing life and the sacred inner journey.  The labyrinth is an ancient prayer practice, a type of body prayer, which has been used for centuries by seekers who pray as they walk. The earth between the stones of the monastery labyrinth was rutted by years of footsteps. I yielded to a sudden and unexpected urge to step onto the path. Tears flowed anew as I recalled the bishop's discernment that I should not go to seminary. I began to walk the labyrinth, begging for clarity. “You said you wanted me to be a priest. Do you want me to be a priest or not! Just tell me! Yes or no!”

Tears obscured my steps as I slowly wound my way towards the center. I cried. I railed. With clenched fists I spat, “You said you wanted me to be a priest!  Well, if you want me to be a priest, you’re going to have to zap me into one, because I quit! I have been faithful.  I have done everything you wanted me to do!  Do you want me to be a priest?  It probably doesn’t matter, because I quit!”

I never reached the center.  When I ran out of breath and “I quits,” I stopped too exhausted to continue. I raised my face to the sky. Light filtered through tiny vessels in my closed lids and began to glow red, as if a cloud had stepped aside to let the sun’s rays pass. Heat washed my face. I stood in a pool of warmth.

It is hard to explain how a person hears words that are not spoken or the answer to a question that hasn’t been asked, but I did.

“I am real.”

At first, I didn’t understand, but slowly it began to dawn. God had reached into my soul, pulled out the essence of my agony, and asked, “Isn’t this what you really want to know?”

I opened my eyes. Brilliant blue sparks flashed before me. Bluebirds filled the air and perched in every tree.  Bluebirds swirled around me and swooped in to land on each arm of every white cross in the cemetery.  I watched, mesmerized. 

Finally, it was time to leave, and I turned to begin my journey back down the hill. I was stunned to realize the warmth on my face had not come from the sun. The slanting rays of the setting sun were at my back.  

I left in the morning not knowing if I would ever become a priest, but not caring quite as much as when I arrived.

“What did you see yourself doing as a priest?” my mentor asked now that I stood at a fork in the road to ordination. The quickness and sureness of my reply surprised me.

“I am to share the journey with other people in an intimate way.” 

I entered the process for ordination expecting to find the priesthood, instead I found my purpose. And more importantly, I found bedrock.

There are times in life, difficult times, when we must ask ourselves, "What do I believe now that this has happened?" My daughter's death was one of those times.  I tumbled into the chasm of grief. I struggled to regain a foothold, crying, “Where were you, God? Why didn't you answer my prayer? Why didn't you save her,"  but I am grateful. When Tara died, I was spared the pain of wrestling with the ultimate question of faith. God had already told me. 

He is real!  


Psalm 62:1a "My soul finds rest in God alone." 

"When suddenly you seem to lose all you thought you had gained, do not despair. You must expect setbacks and regressions. Don't say to yourself, 'All is lost. I have to start all over again.' This is not true. What you have gained you have gained....When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started."~Henri J.M. Nouwen

"By doubting we come at truth."~Marcus Tillius Cicero

"Listen to your life. All moments are key moments."~ Frederick Buechner 

--What have been "key moments" in my spiritual journey?
--Do I have "questions of faith?" What are they?
--What are my thoughts about "unanswered prayer?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Callings -- Part 1 of 2

“Go and tell no one,” Jesus warned onlookers when he performed unexplainable acts.  Some say it was because “his time had not yet come.” I think it is because he knew people would think they were crazy! It was a long time before I summoned the courage to tell anyone what happened to me.  Was it a vision? A dream?  I don’t know.  I can’t explain it. All I know is that Jesus stood beside my chair moved to put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Now, I want you to consider the priesthood." Even I thought maybe I had slipped over the edge.   

As bizarre as it sounds, I was more concerned about what “now” meant than thinking I had just seen Jesus.  What did he mean “now?” Had I missed something? Had something been going on all along that I hadn’t noticed? And why did he seem almost apologetic, even sympathetic, like “Sorry about this, but here’s the deal. . .” Maybe he knew there were only two possible outcomes.  I would become a priest or I wouldn’t, and either way, the road would be rocky.  I told myself I had imagined it.

There is a reason callings are called “hounds of heaven.” Once they sink their teeth in, they don’t turn loose. I tried to ignore persistent thoughts of going to seminary, hoping if I didn’t feed the notion, it would go away.  It wouldn’t. I devised a plan. I would tell my husband Sam. He would insist I get a grip on reality, and that would be the end of it. My last excuse for resistance fell when Sam offered his full support. I entered the discernment process for the priesthood, began to work with an assigned mentor, and offered myself in service of the Lord.  

Discernment is a tricky word.  It implies decisions that are free to go either way, a non-emotional process intended only to determine the proper course of action and to listen for the will of God. By the time I struggled through the difficult inner work to say “yes,” my heart and soul could do nothing other than be a priest. I began to live into my call. 

The road was long. The way was not easy. It was especially difficult to see how seminary could be an appropriate path when Sam was diagnosed with cancer.  Many times during Sam’s grueling, but successful, treatment for cancer, I was tempted to turn back.  But I couldn’t.  Jesus had told me he wanted me to be a priest.  He apparently forgot to tell the Bishop.    
A letter from the bishop arrived, saying he had discerned I should stay in lay ministry. I didn’t see that coming. After years of my own discernment,  I questioned how our mutual prayer around the same subject could yield such different results. The road had taken a disastrous turn. Confusion spiraled deeper into doubt until I sank into a dark place where I wondered, “If I was wrong about my call to ordained ministry, what else have I been wrong about?”  I didn’t see that coming either.

I agonized, "Perhaps all is delusion. Maybe even the entire concept of God is no more than my overly active imagination." I was angry--angry at God--if there even was a God. I fell into a full-fledged crisis of faith.  The foundation had shifted. I felt as if my soul had been pushed from a 30-story building to shatter on the pavement below. I couldn’t function.  I couldn’t focus.  I couldn’t continue living my daily life.  All I could do was cry. 

In hopes the sisters could help me pick up the pieces and perhaps help me find a definitive answer to the question, “Am I supposed to be a priest?,” I presented myself on the doorstep of Sacred Heart Benedictine Monastery. The good sisters welcomed me. They didn’t seem at all rattled by my pitiful condition.  I guess they had seen it all before.

I always thought the worst day of my life would be if I lost one of my children.  It is true that when my daughter Tara died, the pain losing her was almost unbearable. But, when I recall the darkest, most desperate moment of my life, it wasn’t the day I lost Tara, it was the day I lost God.  

 . . .to be continued

Psalm 22:l  "My God, my God.  Why have you forsaken me?"

Mark 9:24 "Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief."

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother."~Kahlil Gibran

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith."~Paul Tillich

--What have been the greatest challenges in my spiritual journey?  What story would I tell?
--Do I believe that doubt is "one element of faith?" Why? Why not?