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

99827001
(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

Christmas 1914

“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”

Pope Benedict XV

christmas-truce-wikicommons
(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News, January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)

War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.

Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…

And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…

As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.

Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….

Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…

That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley

Holy Waiting

“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms,
and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting.
He is not in such a hurry as we are,
and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need
for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time.
When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God.
When action is needed,
light will come.”

― J.I. Packer

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty,
to carry within oneself the unanswered question,
lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

Elisabeth Elliot

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(The Holiness of God surrounded by Seraphim /Illuminated manuscript / Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

“Our world is shaking, about to erupt.
Demonic powers are storming the church, like autumn storms sweeping through the woods.
We live in a tine when people everywhere are agitated;
the masses are confused as to what is true and what is false;
and yet they are waiting for what is ultimately to come.
And it shall come!

We live in the midst of tyranny, encircled on all sides, seemingly unfree.
But let us lift our heads high; the hour of our liberation is drawing near.
Now we must be strong in the hope that God will reveal his redemption;
he who is coming will take away everything that is part of our fallen nature.”

In holy waiting we’re at home,
The windows open to the sun,
Though shades are spreading o’er us.
With joy expectant hearts are fed;
Till now hope’s flaming light has led
And brightly burned before us.

Eberhard Arnold
In Holy Waiting

When the Time Was Filled
Christmas Meditations
Plough House Publishing

submission

It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence –
“Not unto us,
not unto us,
but unto Thy name be glory.”

– Charles Spurgeon

5a966797f14f6810dda6251e7cb4fe16
(image of Mary, Illuminated Manuscript)

Jesus.
The name of our Lord and of my Order [The Society of Jesus]
shall be the first word I write in the New Year.
The name stands for all the things I desire when I pray, believe and hope;
for inner and outer redemption;
for relaxation of all the selfish tensions and limitations I place
in the way of the free dialogue with God,
all the barriers to voluntary partnership and surrender without reserve:
and for a speedy release from these horrible fetters.
The whole situation is so palpably unjust;
things I have neither done nor even known about are keeping me here in prison. ”

The name Jesus stands also for all that I intended to do in the world,
and still hope to do among mankind. To save, to stand by ready to give immediate help,
to have goodwill towards all men, and to serve them. I still owe much to so many.

And in conclusion the Order, too, is embraced in my invocation of this name–
the Order which has admitted me to its membership.
May it be personified in me.
I have pledged myself to Jesus as his loving comrade and blood-brother.

The Name stands for passionate faith, submission, selfless effort and service.

Excerpt from Fr. Alfred Delp’s diary
January 1, 1945

In 1944, at the time of Father Delp’s arrest and subsequent trial for treason against the Nazi State,
the young Jesuit’s date for his profession of his final vows as a priest had been
indefinitely postponed.
And as Hitler had decreed that no priest was to study for the priesthood,
as he had shuttered all seminaries, Delp’s friends arranged to have a priest, a confrere
with full support of the German Catholic Church, visit Delp while in prison in Berlin.
He would hear Delp’s profession and receive him fully into his order.

The visiting priest, Father Tattenbach,
knew that he had to disguise his visit as merely a sympathetic gesture offered to
a condemned prisoner.
The visit could have no whiff of official Church business as such had been long outlawed.
Nor could he let it be known what the two men were actually doing.
He also feared that the prison guards would be suspicious especially as the vows
were to be made in Latin…
he worried the guards would think that they talking in code while passing secrets.

So Fr Tattenbach explained that he was going to be praying with Fr Delp in Latin
and actually wrote out what he would be saying in German…
yet the guards remained suspicious hovering about as the two men
entered into a sacred, holy and solemn moment in time…
and oddly allowed the two men to conduct their most important “prayer session”…

To be submissive.

It is a word that is growing ever more difficult to act upon as our
society deems the act of submission to be a serious and egregious act of weakness…
Something that is to be scorned, reviled and forbidden.

The negative connotations associated with acts of submission are endless.
Particularly as the militant feminist movement has cast the word into the realm of all things taboo.
As they claim that the very word seethes with all things vile and odious in nature.

Yet throughout this season of Advent,
we are constantly reminded of what complete and utter submission looks like.
It begins in the form of Mary’s selfless, obedient and submissive willingness to play a part in God’s grand plan…
spanning the chasm of time to the Springtime reminder of that same selfless,
obedient and submissive willingness offered freely by her son as he walks from
the start of his life in that obscure stable to his destiny on Golgotha.

And thankfully there remains those few souls among us who make wide their beings…
opening and allowing for the totally emptying of self.
They forgo all aspects of their own wellbeing…
in turn allowing for the betterment of all humankind… at the cost of their own existence.
They act as our polestar.

And just as Father Delp demonstrated,
with hands chained and a noose waiting to be placed around his neck,
submission to the service of God is an act so much greater than any fettered or
tethered limitation imposed by man.

So may we, this season of Advent, learn the importance of submission…
May we be both strong and courageous as we learn to yield our hearts, minds and our very beings
to the will of the One True God…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Romans 13:1