breaking through…

There is nothing in all creation that is able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:39

endeavour_silhouette_sts-130(Space shuttle Endeavor penetrates through the protective layers of Earth’s atmosphere / Wikipedia )

“An insulating layer formed by human thoughts and by mass impulses surrounds our planet earth.
God’s spirit, God’s love, must find an opening in this layer.
Somewhere, real love, genuine camaraderie and community, and complete clarity must break through.
Somewhere the readiness to fight against the surrounding forces of evil must break in.”

Whenever God’s is called uopn, this layer is broken and the spirit of peace
and of unity bursts forth.
This means that a fissure is made in the obstructing layer.

“…where Love breaks in, all other forces yield…
…as no human force is able to achieve anything in comparison to the power of Love”

Eberhard Arnold
Where Love Breaks In
When the Time Was Fulfilled
Christmas Meditations

Plough Publishing House

status quo

“One day everything will be well,
that is our hope.
Everything’s fine today,
that is our illusion”

Voltaire

edward_collier_-_letter_rack_-_google_art_project
(Edward Collier’s Letter Rack / 1698 / Oil on Canvas /Art Gallery of South Australia)

There are good days…
Days such as Christmas when things like Snoopy and Woodstock flannel sheets,
along with a handmade Georgia Tech teddy bear is all it takes to make
one happy and content.

img_0840
(dad and his grandson on Christmas day / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are bad days…
Days when the weight and heaviness of reality is coupled by the
frustratingly helplessness of a losing battle of body …

img_0829
(dad on a bad day / Julie Cook / 2016)

And yet the turning of the calendar page always brings renewed hopefulness.
A new year,
a new day,
a new month,
a new hope…

The hospice nurse told us yesterday that things with Dad are status quo…
could be worse, could be better, and yet he’s holding his own–so far this day…
On another day, perhaps tomorrow, something else may come our way, something different…
but as for today, we will take “status quo”

Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Psalm 3:2-6

work or witness

Too often, we give God only the tired remnants of our time.
A. W. Tozer

pieter_bruegel_the_elder-_the_corn_harvest_august
(The Harvesters / Pieter Bruegel the Elder /1565 / The Met)

We have to do worldly jobs, but if we do them with sanctified minds they
no longer are worldly, but are as much a part of our offering to God
as anything else we give them.

A. W. Tozer

Unless you’ve won the lottery or are the member of some royal family’s life of leisure,
you are working man or woman.

You have a job…
and you are working….
be it 9 to 5,
11 to 7,
8 to 4,
or 24/7

It’s a job you either love or a job you either hate.

As you either work for yourself or you work for someone else,
but either way,
you work.

You work at work and you work at home…
Spending the majority of your adult life working…

You often grouse that you hate your job as you hate your life…
You’re stuck in a dead end job,
a job where you’re under appreciated,
a job that barely sees you getting by…
A job where you spend the bulk of your time, your energy, your life….
working…
A job that sucks the very life out of your being.

Maybe you’re a lucky one…and you love your job.
Maybe it’s fulfilling.
Maybe it’s fun.
Maybe it’s satisfying
As in it’s all you ever wanted.

And yet…
still…
something is missing…
There is a struggle to find that balance between work and life.
Between work and family
Between work and God…

Maybe it’s time to reconsider how work is viewed…
That work and jobs are more than work and more than jobs…

Maybe, just maybe it is all meant as something more…

“To every true Christian these two things may be said:
You have need of Christ and Christ has need of you.”
The simple fact that a Christian is on earth and not in heaven,
is proof that there is something for him here to do;
and if he is not doing it, the neglect shows either that he is not
yet a Christian or that he is a Christian who grieves Christ.”

William Arnot

Atonement

God may not accept a person to forgive him his sins, without an atonement,
else he must give free license to sin both in angels and men,
and then sin were no sin, and our God were no God.

John Wycliffe

agnus_dei_the_lamb_of_god_by_francisco_de_zurbaran_c-_1635-1640_-_san_diego_museum_of_art_-_dsc06627
(Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbaran 1635 / Sand Deigo Museum of Art)

“To be a Christian is…to be a man”;
But what makes a Christian a Christian and a man a man is
“participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”

In Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Cosmos, all created things have their origin, goal, and essence;
through the command of the cosmic Christ all creation is set free to fulfill its own laws:
that is, to be genuinely worldly.

However, it is the cross of atonement that sets men free for life before God
in the midst of the godless world:
[The cross] sets men free for life in genuine worldliness.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reality and Resistance
Larry L. Rasmussen

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 5:9

Now is the time

“Whoever does not have the courage to make history,
becomes its poor object.
Let’s do it.”

Alfred Delp

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(Fr. Alfred Delp defending himself in “The People’s Court…the Nazi monkey trial/
January 9, 1945)

“Therefore this year now ending leaves behind it a rich legacy of tasks
and we must seriously consider how to tackle them.
Above all else one thing is necessary…..

Religious minded people must become more devout;
their dedication must be extended and intensified.”

Alfred Delp
Prison Writing

St Stephen

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers,
but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.

Saint Stephen

lapidazione-di-santo-stefano
(The Stoning of St Stephen by Giorgio Vasari / Pisa, Italy / 1573)

“But he [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.”

(Acts of the Apostles, 7:55-60)

Saint Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church.
He was also the first Christian martyr.
The Greek word from which we derive the English word martyr literally means witness.
In that sense, every Christian is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ,
in both their words and their actions.
Not all are asked to shed their blood.

His behavior,
even forgiving those who were taking his life while he was being stoned to death,
was a beautiful reflection of how conformed he truly was to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Like most of the early Christian leaders, he was Jewish, but may have come came from among the Greek speaking or Hellenistic believers, the ones feeling slighted in the distribution of alms.

Great preaching and miracles were attributed to Stephen.
The Bible records that Stephen “full of grace and power,
did great wonders and signs among the people.”
Stephen s popularity created enemies among some Jews,
members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen. They debated with him,
to generate evidence against him in furtherance of their persecution of the early Church.

They accused him of blasphemy, of speaking against God and Moses.
The charges inflamed the local populace which demanded he be tried and punished.
When Stephen was put on trial,
several false witnesses were brought forward by the Sanhedrin to testify
that he was guilty of blasphemy.
He was charged with predicting that Jesus would destroy the Temple
and for preaching against Mosaic law.

Stephen was filled with wisdom from heaven.
He responded by detailing the history of Israel and outlining the blessings God had
bestowed upon his chosen people.
He also explained how disobedient Israel had become,
despite the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
Stephen explained that Jesus had come to fulfil the law of Moses,
not destroy it. He quoted extensively from the Hebrew scriptures to prove his case.

Finally, he admonished the Sanhedrin, saying,
“You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears.
You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.
Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted?
They killed those who foretold the coming of the Upright One,
and now you have become his betrayers,
his murderers. In spite of being given the Law through angels,
you have not kept it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

As Stephen concluded his defense,
he looked up and saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
He said,
“Look, I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
That vision was taken as the final proof of blasphemy to the Jews who did not believe
Jesus was the Messiah or Son of God.
For them, Jesus could not possibly be beside the Father in Heaven.
The crowd rushed upon Stephen and carried him outside of the city to stone him to death.

As Stephen was being brutally stoned,
he spoke his last words,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Words which echoed the very words of Jesus on the Cross.
Following those words, Stephen died, in the Lord.

Watching the trial and execution was a Rabbi named Saul of Tarsus,
a virulent persecutor of the early Church.
Shortly thereafter, that Rabbi would himself encounter the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus
and be dramatically converted.
His encounter is recorded in the 9th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
He took the name Paul as a sign of his new life in Jesus Christ and went on to
become the great apostle to the Gentiles.

Stephen was buried by Christians, but the location of his tomb is not specified in the
New Testament and may have been forgotten for a time.
In 415 a Christian priest claimed he had a vision of the tomb and located Stephen’s remains.
A name inside the tomb confirmed the find

St Stephens’ Day is remembered each year on December 26th

(information Catholic.org)

Merry Christmas to one and all….

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14