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, April 26, 2012

New Beginnings

High school graduation ceremonies strike terror in my heart.  It happens every time I watch one of my children receive their “passport to the future,” as almost every graduation speaker has described that cherished piece of paper, representing twelve years of homework assignments that may or may not have been turned in. I listened as Spencer and his classmates were reminded in lofty words that it is their responsibility to build on the “firm foundation laid by teachers and parents.” The world was "now in their hands."

That was a scary thought. I don’t know how other parents felt hearing that declaration, but I broke into a cold sweat.  I wanted to shout, “Wait! He’s not ready.  I’m not ready! I haven’t done enough!”

"There is still time," I told myself.  

I still had the summer to bombard Spencer with warnings and inundate him with last minute words of wisdom.  I reviewed my mental checklist:
  • Warn him about overdrawing his checking account.
  • Tell him how important it will be for him to manage his time now that I won’t be there every day to help.              
  • Try not to get mad when he rolls his eyes when I say that.
  • Encourage him to eat healthy food and beware of the freshman fifteen.
  • Forget that--teach him to make potato soup instead so he won’t starve.
You would think the boy was trekking to the hinterlands, never again to be seen in civilized society, with only minutes to complete wilderness survival training, rather than going away to college. As long as there is frozen pizza, I consoled myself, I suppose he won’t have to forage for roots and berries. 

Calm down, girl, I thought. Breathe! He's going to be fine and so are you. You're just having “end-of-an-error” jitters. I reminded myself I had survived children leaving home before. I wondered what it would be like when Spencer left.

When Spencer’s mom Tara left for college, tears flowed every time I passed the door to her empty bedroom. When Nevin's turn came to fly the nest, I wasted no time lamenting his departure. I began crying over the kitchen sink when he was still a junior in high school. 

Brynnan was the last to leave. I dreaded the moment of separation. We gathered in the garden at Rhodes College with other parents and students for the culmination of a two-day, freshman orientation that I think was more to help the parents get used to the idea of college than the students. The college president knowing the potential for soggy parental meltdown, allowed no time for tearful good-byes. He not-unkindly, but briskly announced from the podium, “Parents, please go now. As the old saying goes, ‘How are we gonna miss you, if you won’t ever leave’?” 

I reached toward Brynnan for a last, poignant embrace with a lump in my throat and tears burning my eyes, but she had already turned. “See ya, Mom,” she called over her shoulder. “I've gotta go check on Mrs. Summerford.  She looks upset.” 

Sam smiled and put his arm around me, "Well, Mom. I guess that's it. It's just you and me now." And with that declaration, we entered the empty nest. 

Soon Spencer would leave for college and another season of child-rearing would end. We would send him off with our love and fervent prayers for God’s protection, and once again Sam and I would be together, alone in the house, just the two of us.  

The ceremony ended and hundreds of cheering teenagers tossed mortar boards into the air. I'm glad I remembered the empty-nest is not without its advantages, and being with Sam is a very good thing.  
I lay awake that night, listening for Spencer's footsteps on the stairs and his voice calling, "I'm home!" I added to my checklist:
  • Tell him every day while I still have him at home how much I love him.
  • Remind him--every day--Tara would be proud.      
Spencer ambled into the kitchen the following day for a post-Noon breakfast. Perhaps I should have waited until he was fully awake or at least until his head was out of the refrigerator before  initiating a moment of sentimentality.

"You know, I'm really going to miss you, Bud," I said.

"Yea, I know," he said with a poignant sigh as he retrieved a carton of chocolate ice cream from the freezer.

"I'm really gonna miss the cat."


“You are the bows from which your children as living arrow are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.  Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”~Kahlil Gibran

“For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”~Psalm 100:5

“For everything there is a season . . .”~Ecclesiastes 3:1

-Change is a constant part of life.  What changes have I experienced?
-How would I describe the seasons of my life? Are there some that have been more difficult than others? Why? Why not?
-Is there anything I have found to be helpful in negotiating transitions? What would I want to share?
-Have I found grace in new beginnings?
-What is my prayer for this season in my life?

A Prayer for changing times:
Beloved One, so quickly has this season come to an end.  As I prepare to conclude this season now grown old, may this time be alive with contentment, completion and rest. As the winds carry songs of harvest gratitude, may my heart join the chorus, singing praise for you.  May the growing presence of a new beginning speak of the bounty of your love, and may the fruits of your grace be stored in my heart. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Youth Sunday - Part 2

Rarely will an adolescent boy permit a glimpse of his view of God or the world, but if he does, pay attention, look carefully, he may show you the kingdom of heaven:   

Youth Sunday Service Honoring Graduating Seniors - Sermon by Spencer Cox:

Last year during spring break, I was able to take part in a truly incredible adventure. The Diocesan Youth Department had planned Spring Break Conference, which is always held at Camp McDowell, but this time it would be held at some place other than camp, some place called S.I.F.A.T. At the time, I viewed this to be borderline treachery. Spring Break Conference anywhere but camp was unthinkable!  I grudgingly signed on to attend and to stay the three extra days at this silly S.I.F.A.T. thing.

I soon found out that S.I. F.A.T was actually an acronym, and not just a very bizarre name. It stands for Servants in Faith and Technology, and the primary purpose of this organization is to educate missionaries to third-world countries in the wonders of appropriate technology. This “appropriate technology” term can be summarized in one sentence, “You don’t give someone a refrigerator if they don’t have electricity.” It sounds simple to remember, but you would be surprised, or so I am told, at the amount of woefully wasteful, unnecessary, and sometimes harmful tools missionaries bring into their villages.

But another thing that this place did was put on a little camp—a three-day event, complete with a 12-hour simulation of life in a third world country. We lost more than half of the people who came to the Spring Break Conference, so the total participants who stayed for S.I.F.A.T. numbered about thirty people. These thirty people, most of them friends, but not great friends, were in for a truly life-altering experience, equivalent to the first time you see the picture of a white candlestick surrounded by black, and it suddenly transforms into two black faces staring at each other with a white background behind them. You suddenly wonder if your eyes are broken, but you are in fact, just seeing the world a little clearer.

These thirty people arrive on day one, and nothing special happens. We learn how to make a stove out of two coffee cans, two bricks, sawdust, a piece of pvc pipe, and a lighter, and contrary to everyone’s expectations, it burned at about 400 degrees for three hours, and we cooked stew over it. We all go to bed that night a little confused as to what exactly we’re going to be doing the next day, but excited nonetheless.

The next day comes and we are asked to carry our pillows, toiletries, and sleeping bags with us and to follow Nate, our guide for the weekend. Not knowing what’s going on, we follow and are separated into groups called “families.” 

We walk about a mile and then we come to this ramshackle town that was built out of anything and everything, car hubcaps, plywood, chicken wire, with unpaved streets and jagged rocks underfoot. It was a frightening place, and it seemed there were no friends. 

We had arrived at the slum simulation.

Immediately, we are questioned harshly by a “border official” and asked what we were doing in the town that we were told belonged to “Bolivar.”  We mumbled something about camping.  He laughed and pushed my family on through. I was with four other people, all youth except for one adult.

As soon as we put our stuff down, we learn we have to buy our dinner that night or we won’t eat. A chicken breast costs $250, fish the same, a cup of rice was $300.  Fruit was $100 each. All the food was outrageously and unfairly expensive, and we began to complain. Nobody cared.  In fact we were laughed at openly. So I took my "family" aside, and I told them that obviously we weren’t going to be able to do things normally here.

One of the more memorable moments was about halfway through the simulation.  I was walking through the crowd, and a seedy looking man came up to me and offered to buy the women off of my hands for $5,000 dollars each. I immediately pushed him into a wall and told him, as I brought my fist up, to get lost before I made him regret it. I was genuinely furious. I forgot it was a simulation. This man was trying to hurt my family and to do that he was going to have to get through me. He cowered away, and I gradually went back to normal.

Earlier in the day something similar had happened, I was selling “drugs” to some people. I had to if my family was going to eat. I got caught and thrown in jail. When my family came to bail me out, I told them no, to go buy food and a house for themselves and only come to me if they had enough money. We were all shoeless at that point too, because we sold our shoes for money. But what mattered to me most was my family’s health and safety.  I would be fine for the time being.

Eventually the ordeal ended, and it was like a blanket lifted from my eyes. There are people in this world who deal with this every day--places where right and wrong are a matter of necessity and perspective, and caring for those you love is your highest priority, next to surviving.

The gospel today preaches there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I can’t say I’ve ever faced a situation where someone pulled a gun on my friends or something, but I believe that without hesitation I would throw myself in the way. I didn’t believe this before S.I.F.A.T. though. I didn’t understand it. I thought that asking for that kind of commitment was a little insane. Loving one as someone else is easy to grasp, but actually sacrificing your life for another to live on is a little more complicated.

I realized though, that it doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your life. It may mean going hungry for a friend so they can eat, taking the blame for their mistake, staying in a filthy jail with no shoes and freezing so your friends can provide for themselves first, and almost punching a college student in a simulation who offers to buy your female friends from you.

God truly opened the doors for me on love. Before I knew God, I only thought I could love people. But when he guided me with his patience and his word and his trials and rewards, I began to understand what it is to truly love someone, to truly be there for someone. I couldn’t have done this without God’s help. To learn to be selfless, to treat others as you treat yourself, to sacrifice for them, that is what God’s love is about. If he sent his only son to die for the entire world’s sins, a little kindness and following his directions shouldn’t be too hard should it? But we still find it difficult, myself included.

At S.I.F.A.T, I got a small glimpse, a tiny taste, of some of the dilemmas Jesus faced. How do I lay down my happiness and my comfort for people I don’t know, and still love them? I found the answer there, because everybody has some valuable quality. I discovered that the members of my simulated family during S.I.F.A.T, who I had deemed as less than useful, had many talents. I grew to love and grew close to strangers in three short days, so it can be done. And I urge you all to try it. 

Next time you meet someone who you want to be friends with, make an unnecessary gift, a sacrifice for them without expecting anything back. Lay down, not necessarily your life, but your wall you have toward strangers. Lay down your hostility. Lay down your suspicion, and truly be open and honest with them. 

For I truly believe that there is no greater love than to sacrifice yourself, not just for a friend, but for a total stranger. And all in God’s name.  

The word of the Lord.

1 John 4:7~"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God."
"You don't need a college degree to serve. . .You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."~Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Prayer: Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Youth Sunday - Part 1


Some bright morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away

If anyone told the kids who planned the Youth Sunday service at Christ Church that “I’ll Fly Away” might be a bit primitive for Episcopal tastes, it must have flown right over their heads. Untethered by self-consciousness, and oblivious to the fact that some people in the congregation hadn’t flapped their wings in years, they sang with innocence and exuberance. 

I rather enjoyed singing “I’ll Fly Away” to begin the nine o-clock Youth Sunday service.  It made me think of Tara flying away to heaven, free from strife and with the assurance of reunion joy. She had been on my mind as I dressed for church. The high school seniors were being honored and Spencer was to deliver the sermon.  Tara’s absence during this rite of passage for her son stirred sneaky grief, the kind that lies dormant until a memory or event exposes its hiding place.

I wrapped myself in all things Tara. Her ring was on my right hand. A graduation gift from her grandparents, it’s free-form style reminded them of her free-spirited personality.  Her cross hung from my neck, and the bracelet she made for me circled my wrist.  I carefully removed a small, gold brooch that Tara purchased in Ireland from its place of safe-keeping.  The “Tara Brooch” is a replica of the larger one worn on the robe of the high king in the ancient kingdom of Tara. I pinned the brooch to my shoulder and checked the safety catch not once, but twice.  In my mind's eye, I could see Tara and her bother laughing and dancing together upon a peat bog.  I noticed the recollection brought pleasure, rather than pain as it had in the past.

“You’re just going to have to wait like everybody else,” Spencer had said refusing to reveal the topic of his sermon and rejecting my offer to assist. When a Cox man refuses to talk there is no point in pushing. 

My nerves for Spencer intensified as the service progressed. Voices rose to sing a second hymn, and a lump came to my throat

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you,
In the hollow of his hand

Brynnan prayed those words at the funeral home as a farewell to her sister. She heard them sung during a church service later that evening and said, “Tara was speaking to me, telling me that she was alright, letting me know she had heard my prayer, returning the blessing to me.”*

Coincidence?  I think not. I wanted to stand and announce to the congregation, “Ladies and gentlemen!  Tara is in the building!”

My spiritual director told me that sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks through scripture and the voice of another, whispering the words we need to hear in ways only we understand. She said her parishioners often say the sermon spoke directly to them, citing words she swore she never uttered. Maybe it was my mood.  Maybe it was my imagination, but the words of Jesus in the gospel reading sounded for all the world like Tara speaking to Spencer, telling him she loved him, that she loved God, was with God, and giving Spencer motherly advice.  I wondered if anyone noticed besides me:

“The father has loved me, and so I have loved you. Abide in my love. . .I’m telling you these things so my joy in you may be complete. This is what I want you to remember. Love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this--to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . . Now, go and bear fruit--fruit that will last!”

Spencer's voice interrupted my thoughts. 

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he began the sermon.

Instead of the little boy, beaten and defeated, unable to look anyone in the eye when he came to live in our home, I saw standing before me, in front of the entire congregation, and in front of God, a young man confident in his message with the courage to deliver it.  If ever I doubted God’s power to heal, to create beauty from ashes, to redeem even the most horrendous circumstance, it disappeared in that moment.

People in the congregation dabbed their eyes because Spencer's words touched them. I cried because I was witnessing a miracle--a resurrection miracle.

I didn’t want to leave the church, but when the announcement was made that the final hymn would be “J-E-S-U-S,” I knew I had to.

The throbbing beat of a lone guitar banged out a driving, bluesy rhythm. Spencer played his mother’s guitar. People bobbed their heads and tapped their feet. Some even swayed.  Spencer’s solo voice rose above the music, and he took us on a rollicking, good ride that only the terminally resistant could refuse. His body leaned into the rhythm as he sang a rambunctious, I’ll-go-first-you-go-next version of Jesus Loves Me.

And Christ Church praised God in a manner seldom, if ever, done before:

“I’m talkin’ ‘bout  “J!”

Congregation: “J!”


Congregation: “E!”. . .

. . .and on through S-U-S!

Everybody! “I’m talkin’ ‘bout JEEEEESSSSUUUUSSSSSssss!”

I saw the devilment in Spencer’s grin as his voice rose to a crescendo, and he slipped into an over-the-top, gravelly falsetto that on any other occasion might have triggered a walk out. 

Repeating the chorus, he screeched, “I’m talkin’ ‘bout J! . . .”

As it ended, applause and laughter rippled through the congregation. 

“That’s the first time I ever left church laughin',” said one woman after the service.  “My goodness!  Preachin’ and singin’, too!” said another.   One man took my hand, and shaking his head said, “When he got here that boy looked like a whipped puppy that had just been let out of a closet. Look at him today. What a journey, what a journey.”

My friend Nancy, who had never stopped praying for Spencer’s well-being, said, “Well, Bunny, I think it is safe to say. . .he is definitely alright."

The minister said, “I told him not to do that!” 

"Why did you do it if he said not to?" I asked Spencer on the way home from the church.

“Well, I know he told me not to do it like that, but then I thought, ‘What the heck. Why not shake ‘em up a bit’.”  

Like mother, like son. I swear I could hear laughter in heaven.


"I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord."~Jeremiah 30:17

"Sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things." ~Psalm 98:1

"Coincidences are God's way of getting our attention."~Frederick Buechner

"For me, music making is the most joyful activity possible, the most perfect expression of any emotion."~Luciano Pavarotti

-What place does play have in my spiritual life? What activities do I find joyful?
-Have I seen health restored and wounds healed? What happened?
-What are my thoughts about this statement? "Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks through scripture and the voice of another, whispering the words we need to hear in ways only we understand." 

*"Hey, How's It Going," From The Big Red Chair, September 14, 2011

Thursday, April 5, 2012

You Never Know

I was not snooping!  Spencer’s essay was in Hplain view on the desk in his room, and sooner or later somebody had to change the linen. OK, so maybe I was snooping, but I’m not sorry.  How else would I have discovered we made a few good decisions along the potholed path of parenthood.  Children don’t divulge that kind of information readily lest they forfeit the power to keep you guessing.  

I’m glad I read Spencer’s college application essay. Otherwise, I might never have glimpsed his tender heart or known that the simple act of ensuring he got to camp in the summer created life-sustaining ripples of hope that washed upon distant shores and soothed a young man's struggling faith:

Please respond to the following question: What person or place has had the greatest influence on your life?

When I was in the third grade, I was living with my mother and father in Georgia before their divorce, and was, in general, getting pretty bored. Cartoons, hot wheels, games; all simply failed to alleviate my crushing sense of boredom. My grandparents noticed this, and recommended Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama to me. Cleverly, they didn’t tell me it was a church camp (knowing I would instantly balk), and I went along for the ride happily. When I got there, I instantly fell in love with every aspect of it that my brain could comprehend at that age. The people, environment, friends, and atmosphere were all idyllic. I didn’t realize how important Camp McDowell would be in my life. Camp McDowell and my experiences in the Episcopal Church have carried me through some difficult times and have helped heal wounds I have suffered.

When my mother died, I went to live with my father. I had not seen or heard from him in a long time, and I found him to be unpleasantly changed. In general, he was not the same man I remembered. I felt as if I were in a less than welcoming home with people who saw me as a burden to bear because I shared the same blood as my father. I had no family nearby, no friends or anyone else to talk to, no one I could depend on.

My faith was very weak at that point. More or less, the extent of it was that I believed God was real.

I was lying in my room one day, and I began to think about Camp. I thought about how crazy everyone was there. I thought about how much fun I had.  I thought about the wonderful staff who actually seemed to take an interest in the kids. I thought about this and much more lying on my bed that night, and I began to realize God was giving me hope.  

I had begun to fight my way back to becoming normal again, and remembering camp was giving me the strength to do it. Every time I slipped back into depression, I recalled the fever-pitched singing at camp, and how the songs sent waves of joy thundering down my veins, and I would regain a foothold and begin climbing again. It was a very slow and painful process, but eventually I succeeded. 

Before I knew it, I was sitting in my grandparent’s house, very much scared and very much lonely. My grandparents explained that my dad had given up his parental rights and was not my legal father anymore. They adopted me as their child and gave me the surname Cox.  I honestly didn’t know if I would ever be able to forgive my dad, and I looked to God and my experiences at Camp to help me.  
Camp McDowell truly brings out the best in people and helps you discover things about yourself that you did not know were there. It brought out my ability to talk with strangers about sensitive issues and problems in their life or in my own. It taught me to use my experiences to help others and to not dwell in the past, but to learn from it.

I realize now how easy it might have been for a child who has been through all of that to forsake God and become a hardcore atheist, but that isn’t what happened. It slowly dawned on me that God does love me.

My life has been an interesting one so far, with some very hard times, but I have met them full on and have come out a better, stronger person because of it. I do not regret anything that happened because there is no point in dwelling on the past and because there have been immeasurable amounts of good to come out of it. I am not bitter about what was taken from me because so much has been given back. I have made peace with God and Jesus, and consider them to be very good friends of mine. And, I have forgiven my father for disowning me.

Camp has been a major part of my life, and I know your school has the potential to equal or surpass that experience. Please consider me for admission.  I promise that I will not disappoint you.


"Even the youths shall faint and be weary. . .but those who wait for God; they shall mount up with wings as eagles."~ Isaiah 40:

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overflow you. . ."~Isaiah 40:

"You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.  You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls live in the house of tomorrow."~Kahlil Gibran, On Children

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."~Nelson Mandela

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."~Leo Buscaglia

-What person or place has had the greatest influence on my life?
-Have I been the recipient of an act of kindness that has played an important role in my life? What was it? What happened as a result?
-What lessons for living have I gleaned from the woes in my life?
-In what way might I demonstrate a "small act of caring" today?