thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

Hopeful anticipation

Our thoughts determine our whole life.
If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace.
If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same,
and we will have peace within us.
It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.”

Elder Thaddeus


(two cousins, Peaches and Alice, anxiously wait for a handout / Julie Cook / 2017)

My son had warned me about this.
We were to “babysit” our granddog for about 9 days while her parents were out of town.
He had told me that Alice would seek out the “weak” one.

Huh?

The begging.
Her biggest fault is that she is a beggar.

Alice, an 85 pound black lab mix, is a smart and mindful dog…but
she is a tad lazy and a big baby who loves food…hers, ours and everyones.

My son told me that when it’d come time for us to sit down for supper, Alice would
be right there in the mix, hovering near the one she felt she could coax into
offering a few free morsels…breaking down the resolve of the one most likely
to offer a free handout….in other words…the weak one.

Tag!
My husband was it….
the obvious weak one…or perhaps the sucker for those wanting big brown
eyes is more like it….

And not only did Alice zero in on my husband’s weakness, but cousin Peaches
was not to miss out on any free snacks.

Needless to say, trying to eat supper while four eyes were intently and relentlessly staring
us down….
and to compound the matter….two of those four eyes also had a drooling mouth attached,
was just a tad bit unnerving.

The laser focused attention, the palatable anxiousness, the anticipation of hopefulness…
filled the entire room with a buoyant sense of both yearning and waiting.

How absolutely amazing would it be if we had that same sense of longing, desire,
hopefulness and focus as we anxiously anticipated the presence of God….

And here’s the kicker to that notion…
God doesn’t merely toss us a morsel or a piece of unwanted or discarded leftover…
He offers each one of us His entire being…
as He is ours for the asking…
For with God,
there is absolutely no begging required…..

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman,
born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

unconditional

“God never hurries.
There are no deadlines against which he must work.
Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

A.W. Tozer

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa


(Alice our granddog when she was here for a visit while her “parents” were out of town /
Julie Cook / 2017)

I think it’d be a safe bet if I said that every pet owner out there would
attest to the fact that a pet’s love is unconditional.

Meaning that their love is not limited, judgmental and is soundly absolute.

Our four legged and winged friends care not how we look, how we smell, how much we weigh,
how many wrinkles we have or the status of our finances.

They only want…us.
Yearning simply to spend all their time with us…as they set their passions
upon us and us alone.
And we in turn rest the weight of our concerns in their endless acceptance and openness.
There is a sense of safety found in their welcoming and wanting eyes.

I like to imagine that God affords us this tangible glimpse into His
own complete desire and love for us through the love of these, our animals…

But God shows his love for us in that while we were
yet sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Adequate grasp

The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain
is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us.
In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell
in him and shine through him.
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility.
The holiest will be the humblest.

Andrew Murray


(the sea is His and He made it / psalm 95:5…Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

“lacking an adequate grasp on the holiness of God…”

As I was reading a fellow bloggers post yesterday morning, this particular line jumped out at me.
It was a profound notion……

adequate,
grasp,
holiness,
God…

Four seemingly simple words…yet when combined…massively powerful…

Chances are that if you’ve bought into the sweeping wash of secularism that is
currently blanketing most of the landscape….
then you do not have an adequate grasp on the holiness of God…
because chances are…
you don’t give much credence to the concept of either holiness or God.

We’ll assume that you certainly know and understand words like ‘adequate’…
and we’ll even wager that you probably don’t much like a word like adequate
because you actually prefer things like big, grand, plentiful, extra, great,
more, bar none, superior….
you don’t like just plain adequate.

You also, hopefully know the word grasp…as in…you get it, you understand it,
you comprehend it…
Yet because you’re a secularist and because secularists don’t like to do
the ‘grasping’ of anything too far and beyond…
preferring rather such notions of a mass acceptance of what is simply sitting right
in front of one’s face, words like grasp don’t go far in your limited view.

And as for matters of holiness and God…well…
those concepts are most likely not much on your radar either…
Because that’s how secularism is…
it separates…
it separates God from everything else…as in…
He’s over there and we and all our stuff are over here…
as in separate, as in secular…..

For secularism has no need of the notion of holiness nor of God because those things
speak of things and beings and places that are ‘other than’…
as in something or someone who is elsewhere and beyond….as in Greater than…

Secularism likes things that are here, now and readily available and easily grasped…
as in less than actually…simple and easy…
Not being bothered with that which is greater than….
because cutting out the greater than makes things easier to handle…

Yet you should know that you can’t cut God out of anything because
He is in and of everything…
As that my friend is more than of an adequate grasp of the holiness of God…

The knowledge that He is of and in absolutely everything…
as in there can be no separation…
no secularization where God is concerned…
because He and His being permeates absolutely everything and therefore
it is impossible to cut Him out of that which He belongs….

and thus…we now have an adequate grasp on the holiness of God……

For thus says the high and lofty One
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15

paradoxes

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement.
But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

Niels Bohr


(wild morning glory deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition
that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

My intent was to have written about something else today…
but as God often places something in
my way forcing my hand or forcing my change in direction,
there was no getting around the change
in thought.

My first thought was to talk a little about yesterdays’ brouhaha…
that current national obsession that was playing out on every television channel or news outlet
such that there was an actual news story, I believe it was true but who knows anymore, that
bars in D.C. opened up for a morning run providing a watering hole venue for folks to line up and come watch the hearing
(I should say the Comey hearing but’I’m actually sick and tired of hearing the fellow’s name…
as the nation’s obsession is not my own)

The news camera panned the bar—jam packed full with folks,
some who admittedly were ditching work, happily imbibing…
For others, who knows why hanging out watching television in a bar on a Thursday morning
seems productive…yet perhaps I should not be surprised to see so many youthful ones
who obviously have no where to be at 9:30 on a Thursday morning in the Nation’s capital
but I suppose I digress.

Then my second thought was to offer an observation also from yesterday.
The UK had a big election yesterday…an election for a possible new PM and new government.
I think that sort of thing ranks up there with our own election as these first cousin nations
are that important to one another…
However, when I went to read the BBC on-line the most front and center news story was not the
UK’s own election but what was happening in the US with the hearing.

I first clicked on the world news…the US shenanigans was the lead story
I then clicked on European news, again, the UK election was not the lead story
I next clicked on UK news…the lead story was not so much election outcome as it was
other matters which danced around what was to be the outcome….

How can the BBC put off their own election…
the story of a leading global power’s election while
opting to focus on the American hysteria?

Thirdly I thought I’d write about the story of the small Missouri town that has had a
60 foot cross donning the center of their town square since the 1930’s.
For the past 87 years this small Missouri town has held every Easter sunrise service
at the base of this cross, in this city’s central park, since
the time the cross was first erected.

The mayor recently received a letter from an out of town atheist and freethinking
organization that has threatened the town with legal action if the cross
is not removed.
Up until the arrival of this letter, the town has never had a single complaint
regarding the cross.

The group who sent the letter claim that this cross is in
direct violation with a separation of church and state and will sue the town
if it is not removed.

The mayor and city council has responded…the cross will stay.

So whereas I had a good bit I wanted to chat about and share…
there was another story that seemed to trump (there’s that word again)
all other stories as it is a story that should give every last one of us pause before
we continue with the important things that we seem to think are so utterly important….

Things such as watching hearings, standing in long lines in order to drink and indulge
while ditching work in order to sit and watch said hearing…
a hearing that was really much to do about nothing,
while others write threatening letters, while even others of us concern ourselves with
matters that truly pale in comparison to the bigger issues of life, living and dying.

Two day’s ago, a church bus was enroute from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta’s airport.
The bus was full of young people, high schoolers and their leaders, who were preparing
to fly out to Botswana in order to spend time working with children there in Africa.
A little more noble effort then hanging out drinking and watching TV…but who
am I to say…

It was mid day and the sun was shining…a low humidity Chamber of Commerce kind of
Georgia day.
The church bus was less then five miles from the airport when tragedy stuck.
There was a lane change with the bus having to overcorrect after striking a car in the
adjacent lane.
The overcorrection forced the bus into the medium, flipping it upside down while it
then fell in the path of the opposite lane’s traffic, where it was hit again.

Both directions of Camp Creek Parkway, the road leading directly into the airport,
were closed as a 17 year old young girl was killed and 21 other were injured,
some seriously.

“Life changes so rapidly on us, you know?
One moment, things are fine.
The next moment you’re dealing with things like this.
It’s just tough,” Fulton County Fire Chief Larry Few said.

The young girl’s family shared her picture with Atlanta’s Channel 2 news and offered a
few words about their daughter.

And she loved the Lord with a love that was tangible,” Harmening’s mother said.
“It’s what she lived and breathed for.”

Sarah’s mother read her last journal entry on the bus and said it gives her comfort.

“That God has called me here and he has done this for a reason,
so I know he’s going to do incredible things,” her mother read.

A friend shared some of the final words Harmening….

“This is such a great reminder; we are like a wisp of smoke.
We are only here for a moment and it’s not about us, life is not about us,
it’s about God,” said Harmening’s friend Claire.

So whereas I thought I had some things I wanted to share or discuss or focus on—
It seems as if they weren’t nearly as important as I had thought….

Because there is much wisdom found in the words of one’s friend who reflects on the
loss of a young life….

For none of this thing we call life is really about us now is it…..

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.
Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

the freedom to enjoy the simpler things…

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
George Washington

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today while we enjoy the marking of a season’s change,
May we remain ever mindful of the many lives that offered the ultimate sacrifice
in order that the rest of us have the freedom to enjoy the simpler things in life…

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

God’s perspective verses man’s

I never give God thanks for loving me, because he cannot help it;
whether he would or no it is his nature to.

Mester Eckhart


(a stormy surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

An aged man, whom Abraham hospitably invited to his tent,
refused to join him in prayers to the one spiritual God.
Learning that he was a fire-worshiper,
Abraham drove him from his door.
That night God appeared to Abraham in a vision and said:
“I have borne with that ignorant man for seventy years;
could you not have patiently suffered him one night?

The Talmud