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, March 29, 2012

Plan B

With his arms outstretched to counterbalance the occasional wobble, Spencer planted his feet on top of the cinder block wall that lined the sidewalk in front of the school on his first day of kindergarten. The knees of his freshly pressed jeans were not yet torn. His tennis shoes were not yet scuffed. Golden flecks in his tousled blond curls glinted in the morning sunlight. Heel-to-toe, heel-to-toe, he inched across the wall, until he toppled to the ground in front of his mother, causing her to stumble. In spite of his mother's repeated admonitions for him to walk beside her like a "normal person," Spencer hopped back on the wall and resumed his task with the determination of a five-year-old on a mission.

“For heaven’s sake, Spencer, what are you doing?” Tara asked.

“Practicing my tightrope walking,” he explained. “In case this school thing doesn’t work out, maybe I can join the circus.”

That’s Spencer.  He always has a Plan B. I suppose with the upheaval and disappointments he experienced when his parents divorced and after his mother died, it is not unexpected that he would  anticipate the worst and consider the next best option, thinking when, not if, he had to move on. 

“I guess if this doesn’t work out,” he said at the breakfast table one morning shortly after becoming our 'double-son'--a grandchild by birth, our son by adoption--“maybe I can go live with Uncle Nevin.”

Sam responded in his usual get-to-the-point-in-as-few-word-as-possible way. “Oh no.  This is your home, Buddy. You are not going anywhere.”

I recalled the words of my lawyer-friend on the day of Tara’s funeral when Spencer was taken away, “There comes a time,” he said, “when a boy needs to find out for himself what kind of man his father is.”*  

It didn’t take Spencer long to learn what kind of man Sam is. 

"I know sometimes we get on each other’s nerves a bit," Spencer said in a handwritten note to Sam. "But for every one of those times there are 100’s more that make those seem bearable.  I just want to thank you and say Happy Father’s Day. I want you to enjoy it and take pride in the fact that you’ve earned it in my book.  I love you so very much, and you are a pretty cool grandfather.  Spencer”

With humbleness and gratitude, I am pleased to report that with "cool" Sam as their father, and in spite of the fact that we do occasionally get on each other’s nerves, all of my children have apparently found life in our household to be, for the most part, “bearable.”  And thankfully, at least for now, no one has run away to the circus.


“Whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” ~Matthew 9:48

 “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” ~Sigmund Freud

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”~Clarence B. Kelland

“Often the only thing a child can remember about an adult in later years, when he or she is grown, is whether or not that person was kind. ~Billy Graham

-Is there someone who has modeled compassion and loyalty for me? What did I learned from them?
-What is my experience of “father?” Does that experience strengthen or hinder my relationship with God and my response to God as “father?”

A Prayer for Compassion by Mother Teresa:
Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in our brothers and sisters. Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts that we may love each other as you love us. Renew in us your spirit. Lord, free us and make us one. Amen

* From The Big Red Chair, Thin Boards, Sept. 21, 2011


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just This Once . . .

Here's the deal. God is sneaky. 

I’m not the only one who has come to that conclusion. Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking,”  says had she known a simple request to write a letter to a prisoner would lead to visiting him on death row, much less witnessing his execution, she would not have been so quick to agree. But Sister Helen did not know. One step led to another, events unfolded, and she found herself in a place where she would never have chosen to go, but in the end, was grateful to be. And, she found she had strength she didn't know she had.

In my case, rather than a slow unfolding, God went straight for the big guns, and like Sister Helen, I didn’t see it coming. I guess God knew it was time, as the saying goes, for me to get back on the horse I fell off of, and only one thing could help that happen.  

My minister called saying she was side-lined with the flu and asking if I would be willing to make a chaplain's visit to a parishioner, a young woman, who had been admitted to the hospital. I knew the honor and privilege she offered me, but I did not want to go. I had not been back in a hospital since I walked out of one the night my daughter Tara died and after I baptized her baby Alden in the neonatal intensive care unit. Years had passed, but memories were fresh. I asked myself, "How hard could it be?" In the end, I agreed, thinking I would go "just this once." 

Standing in the corridor by the door of the young woman’s room, I prayed for strength and silently repeated my long-neglected mantra for courage before entering a hospital room:

“I go because my Jesus goes with me.  I go because he is waiting for me there.” 

What are the chances I would walk right back in to what I walked out of—the same symptoms, the same problem, the same possible outcome? My minister failed to mention the young woman was pregnant and not doing well. 

I listened to the young woman speak of rising blood pressure and blurred vision. Fear and sorrow returned as bitter as the night Tara died. I glanced at her mother who sat in the corner of the room near the window. I hoped my pounding heart would not betray my desire to flee.

“They are going to do a cesarean in a few minutes," her mother reported, almost cheerfully. "Then everything will be OK again. Everything is going to be fine.” I wondered if that were the doctor's prediction, or if she were trying to convince herself.  In spite of the mother's upbeat declaration, I knew on the inside she trembled.

“That is great news," I said, attempting to sound as if I believed my own words, "but you must be concerned for your daughter."  She lowered her eyes. We both knew that was the understatement of the century. 

I moved a plastic chair to sit beside the mother and held her hand until orderlies wheeled her daughter away to surgery. I dared not speak for fear of exposing my own struggle for composure. We waited in silence for what seemed an eternity until a doctor returned and pronounced everyone OK.

Retreating to the privacy of the hall outside of the room, I leaned against the wall to steady myself. My heart raced, my hands trembled, my breathing came in gasps, and I was angry. I doubted the experience had been a coincidence.

“God, that wasn’t funny!” I said. 

It definitely was not funny, but it was healing. 

I would not have gone to the hospital that day had I known what I would find when I arrived, but I did go, and for that I am grateful, because I discovered what I suspect God knew all along.  If I could endure what I had just experienced, I could survive anything I might encounter upon future visits to the hospital.

Prayers for strength and courage had been answered. The miracle of healing continued to unfold, and a day came that I thought would never be. I could be a chaplain again.

But. . .like I said. . .sneaky.


For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."~Martin Buber

"Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one's own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how."~Henri J.M. Nouwen 

We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it." ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

"Never worry about numbers, help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you."~Mother Teresa

-Am I called to be present with others?
-Have experiences in my life led to increased compassion for the suffering of others? If so, what are they?
-How might God want to use my brokenness?
-Am I being healed? If so, how? 


Spirit of God, water of life, you are the tears of God. Help me weep with those who weep, as well as rejoice with those who rejoice. Help me be less afraid to mourn what I have lost in my own life so that I can keep others company in theirs. In keeping company with them I will be with Christ. From him will come the comfort that he has promised when the time comes." Amen ~Martin L. Smith, A Season For the Spirit

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is That You, God?

I sank into my big red chair with my morning coffee. Why I recalled the minutiae of a day years before, I don't know. Maybe it was the quality of light beyond the window or the chill in the air on that fall morning. Whatever it was, it triggered memories of another autumn day when tears were fresh and hope had been trampled under the heel of sorrow. Or, maybe it was God saying, "Let's try this again."  

My mind wandered to a day shortly after Tara’s death, after we buried her daughter Alden, and before her son Spencer came to live with us. I remembered reading a sympathy card from a friend that included a hand written note, “Don’t let this make you lose your faith.” I recalled the numbness of new grief. I recalled my fear for Spencer who, moments after his mother's funeral, was taken to live in another state. Tortured thoughts of his plight had blocked healing and escalated my pain. At the time, I found my friend's words about losing faith shocking. In retrospect, I could see how dangerously close I had come to doing just that.

I remembered putting the sympathy card aside to turn on the television in an attempt to fill the room with mind-numbing sound until darkness gave me permission to escape to the mercy of sleep. I tuned in to the voice of a southern gentleman. To whom he spoke and about what I don’t remember, but I do remember his words.  
“Don’t give up, dahlin’,” he said to someone. “When these things ahcur, we just hafta hamma hamma hamma down the haaaahrd  hiiiway of liiiiife.”

Who knew God has a southern accent?

Twice in a matter of moments, I received encouragement--a card from a friend and the happenstance of words on a television program. Both reminded, “Don’t lose your faith. When these things happen, we just have to hammer, hammer, hammer down the hard highway of life.” But twice I did not hear. 

What hammers and highways have to do with each other I don't know, but in remembering the coincidences of a day long past, I could see. All along God had known the needs of my soul better than I. I recalled the words that had been given for strength and for courage. This time I listened. 

Keep the faith, hold on to hope, and always, always persevere.

It is said that God sometimes speaks through the mouths of people we encounter along the way, and if you think you are getting a message from God, pay attention. It might really be God, especially if you hear it more than once, and if it washes a wound in the hidden recesses of your soul.


Be strong and courageous; do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."~Author Unknown

It helps, I think, to consider ourselves on a very long journey; the main thing is to keep the faith, to help each other when we stumble or tire, to weep and press on. ~Mary Richards

--What are my thoughts about the possibility of God "speaking" through others? 

--Have I had an experience of someone's words seeming to be a message for me?  If so, what happened?

--How do I respond to the thought that when I don't know how to pray the spirit searches my heart and prays for me?

--Have I experienced a time when I struggled with my faith? If so, what were the circumstances.  Has anything changed? If so, what?

--Am I struggling  now? What is my prayer?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


"Do I have to go back?" Spencer asked.  "Never," said Sam. (From The Big Red Chair, Amazing Grace, 2/25/12)

On an August morning almost a year after his mother's death, Spencer became our "Double Son"--a grandson by birth, a son by adoption.  At last, I would be able to care for him as I yearned to do, and as I promised my daughter Tara I would.  At last, there was hope for healing.  

We painted a bedroom and declared it his. We filled the space with books and games to replace the ones that had been lost. I hung his mother’s cross from a chain over the corner of a bulletin board in his new room to remind him of her love and her faith. But regardless of what we did, Spencer's heart wasn't with us. 

He spent hours alone in his room playing his mother's guitar, grieving for her and for his little sister Alden. Spencer rarely spoke of what transpired during the year after his mother's death when he lived elsewhere. He rarely mentioned the life he left behind on the day his mother went to the hospital while he stayed with friends to await her return, until one day he asked, "What happened to Cleo?" 

My heart broke to tell him I didn't know what happened to Cleo, his little gray, bob-tailed cat, or for that matter his belongings or other pets, but with his question, I knew what needed to happen.

The eight-week-old kitten marched into our lives with a swagger and frisky confidence--a tiny, tuft of terrifying-in-his-own-mind ball of orange fur.  His scrawny body and over-sized head gave no hint of the twenty-pound beauty he would become.  In his self-assured kitten heart, he was already there.

All bluff and fluff, he pounced on fuzzy balls that Spencer rolled across the floor. He stalked a stuffed mouse that Spencer pulled from a string. He leapt from a frozen crouch to a death-defying three feet in the air to capture imaginary birds on the end of plastic sticks. His tenacity and hunting skills would have brought pride to a mother lion’s heart. 

Affectionately named Mack O’Hara Cox, a nod to our family’s Irish roots and Southern heritage, the Maine Coon kitten brought new life into the house.

And Spencer came home.

Mack--the healing cat--came into our lives, replaced tears with laughter, and brought with him a love big enough to fill the hole in a boy’s broken heart.


"Where there is love, there is life."~Mahatma Gandhi

Psalm 23: "He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul."

"An animal's eyes, have the power to speak a great language."~Martin Buber

-Healing takes many forms--from physical cure to emotional recovery. When have I known healing? How did it begin?

-Have I found healing in unexpected places? Where were they?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who's to Say?

"Never place a period where God has placed a comma."~Gracie Allen

There is a story about a Chinese farmer who had one horse.  The horse helped the farmer plow. It helped the farmer harvest his fields, and it carried the farmer to market when it was time to sell his crop. The horse was important to the farmer. 

One day the horse ran away. For days, the old farmer searched for the horse, but alas, it could not be found. The farmer told his neighbors in the village that he had lost his beloved animal.

His neighbors said, "What bad luck!"

The old farmer shrugged and said, "Bad luck, good luck, who is to say?"

Two days later, the horse returned, bringing with him six wild horses. Six horses were added to the farmer's wealth.

The villagers said, "We heard about the animals you now have.  What good luck!"

The old farmer shrugged, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?"

The farmer's son realized if he could tame the wild horses, they could be sold as farm animals. He climbed upon a horse's back, but the horse bucked him off, and he broke his leg. 

The neighbors heard about the farmer's son breaking his leg. "Sorry to hear about your bad luck," they said.

"Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?" the farmer replied.

Not long after that, a war broke out among the city-states in the province of China. The government came through and conscripted every able-bodied man under the age of sixty to go and fight. Because the son had been injured, he was not required to go. That turned out to be something very good because every villager who was drafted into service was killed in the war. 

Once again the farmer said, "Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?"


"True hope dwells on the possible, even when life seems to be a plot written by someone who wants to see how much adversity we can overcome."~Walter Anderson

"What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise."~Oscar Wilde

When Joseph sat in a deep, dark hole, thrown there by his brothers, I doubt if he knew in a matter of time, he would go from the pit to the palace.~Bunny Cox (Reference: Genesis 41:1-57)

-Have I experienced adversity?  If so, how did it affect my prayer life?
-What role has perseverance played in my spiritual journey?
-Have I had an experience that turned out quite differently than I thought it would in the beginning?
-Has God ever surprised me? What happened?
-Have I experienced blessings in disguise?