Thankful (a repeat)

As seen on a rural church sign:
It’s not happy people who are thankful…
It’s thankful people who are happy


(painting by Henry A. Bacon 1877 of Mary Chilton stepping onto “Plymouth Rock” /
Mary Chilton is my long ago relative)

(as I stated earlier in the week, ’tis a busy and or crazy time for so many…
So I thought this post from last year’s Thanksgiving was worth enjoying again…
of course it is, it was life before 2020…)

Back in the early 1950s my grandmother, my dad’s mother, did extensive genealogy work.
She had her reasons and I confess that I am so grateful she did

It is because of her exhausting work that both my family, my cousins and I,
have a valuable gift of our lineage.

Lineage, that being the line from whence we come.
Even the Bible offers us the extensive lineage of Jesus—
We are also all a part of that same extensive lineage, yet that story is for another day.
Today’s tale is about a single family’s lineage and the gratitude for that lineage.

Now if you’ve read my posts regarding my adoption,
you know I actually have two family trees.

I have a biological tree that I know very little about.
And I also have an adopted tree, a tree and a people that have each embraced me
as their own.
It is a most extensive tree.

What my grandmother started almost 70 ago was no easy task.

She had to do a lot of leg work on her own as well as seek the help of many others.
She had to write a myriad of letters and make many personal phone calls to various state
record departments as well as to state historians in order to enlist their help in
researching her family’s past.

This was long before there were computers, databases, DNA Genealogy companies—
as archaic landlines were the standard norm.
Most calls were considered long distance…meaning you paid extra for long-distance calls.
But my grandmother was determined.

What she didn’t realize then, in her seemingly very personal quest, was
that she was giving her lineage, her grandchildren
one of the greatest gifts she could give.

That of a collective uniting history.

In those days there were no immediate connections, so her quest took time.

She had to request birth, death and marriage certificates.
She had to scour family bibles and records.
She had to have documents notarized and verified.
She traveled to courthouses.
She had to get the assistance of others in other states to visit distant courthouses
and churches and cemeteries in order to do a large portion of the digging.

For you see, my grandmother knew she had come from a line of people who
were important to the founding of this now great nation and she needed the proper
validation to be able to be granted the acknowledgment by such organizations as
The Daughters of The American Revolution, The Daughters of the Mayflower, The Pilgrims Society,
The Colonist Society, The Huguenot Society, etc.

This woman, who was born in 1896 in a small country town in the middle of the state
of Georgia, had actually come to be there by way England.

But from England, it was first to Plymouth…and from Plymouth, Massachusettes it was
to various towns in the colony of Massachusetts then to the city of Bristol in the colony
of Rhode Island, next, it was to the city of Savannah in the colony of Georgia
and finally to the tiny town of Molena in the state of Georgia…
but the final resting place was to be Atlanta, Georgia.

Her 10th great grandmother was Pricilla Mullins of London, England.
Pricilla Mullins was married to John Alden of Essex, England.
John was a cooper aka, a barrell maker.
John had a dream and Pricilla shared her husband’s dream.

They were on that fateful ship that we tend to remember each Thanksgiving,
just as we remember that first colony of Plymouth and of that first
celebration of not only survival but the beginning of thriving in a new land.

The Alden’s first daughter born on this new mysterious land was named Elizabeth–
the purported first white European girl born to the Plymouth Colony.

So yes, Thanksgiving is important to me on a family’s historical level…
but it is more important to me as a grateful American.

For it matters not how we came…be it those who were first here on the continent,
or if we came via Plymouth, a slave ship, Ellis Island or came with a visa in our
hand seeking citizenship…we have come…
We also have come in various shades of color.
Red, White, Brown, Black, Yellow…

We fought and died creating a new nation just as we’ve fought and died keeping her free.

It troubles me terribly that our society has developed a tendency to gloss over Thanksgiving…
basically jumping from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop…
But we can blame that on our obsession with materialism…
which is in actuality a loss of thankfulness.

Yet what is most troubling is that we now have many voices crying out that we rename this
day of thanks.
Some smugly stated that this is only a day of overindulgence and eating.
They claim Thanksgiving is not a day this Nation should recall let alone recognize.

One of our fellow bloggers, Citizen Tom, offered the following post regarding
our Nation’s Thanksgiving observation and celebration.

I highly recommend taking the time to read his post as it is a beautiful reminder
as to why Thanksgiving matters.

AN AMERICAN FIRST THANKSGIVING

This from President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is,
or that will be–
That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–
for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming
a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions
of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner,
in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–
for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;
and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath
been pleased to confer upon us

time keeps on slipping into the future…

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future

Lyrics by Steven Haworth Miller


(Fire in Rome by Hubert Robert, 1778 / MuMa – Musée d’art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre, France)

In 64 AD, Rome burned.
And supposedly the Emporer Nero fiddled with abandoned glee.

Now whether or not there was any fiddling on a fiddle taking place, there was no doubt
some fiddling of the facts taking place.

Once the fire had been contained and finally extinguished,
over two-thirds of the city lay in ruins.

The Emperor blamed the Christians.
That subversive religious “cult.”

However, historians actually believe that Nero himself had the fires set because he wanted
to create a grandiose “golden house” that would be a massive endeavor, a tribute
to his reign, and cover an expansive portion of Rome…
so long story short, Nero needed the space.

As the ever gracious Emperor, he immediately began offering food and aid to the
masses of his people whose lives were now decimated.

How kind.

Fast forward to Berlin, 1933.

The German Chancellory, The Reichstag…the home to the German Parliament, burns.
Hitler blames a known Communist sympathizer, however historians are in agreement,
Hitler had the Reichstag burned.


(Burning of the Reichstag 1933, Berlin, Germany)

The burning was the excuse Hitler needed in order to round up all the Communists,
allowing his Nazi party to finally fill in the gap;
the party could take the majority of seats in parliament, and in turn,
take control of the Nation.

How convenient.

Fast forward to 2020.

There is a pandemic along with a quarentine lockdown.

The Speaker of the House brags, while standing in front of her expensive subzero
refidgerators / freezers, that she is ‘enduring’ the lockdown with top shelf ice cream…
all the while small businesses are told they must shutter their livlihood or else.
Houses of worship are closed.

Civil unrest breaks out.

Cities are burned.

Businesses are destroyed.

Lives and livihoods are left in shambles.

Throw in a contentious election with a deeply divided Nation.

The conservative republicans, in particular those “MAGA” supporters,
those who support the President, are the ones who the progressive left
blame for all the woe…

Is there some sort of pattern here, or am I just imagining things…

Ode to the power of the power hungry…

“Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them,
They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it;
For I will bring calamity upon them,
The year of their punishment,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:12

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

do not allow your arrogance to convince you that there is nothing left to learn…

“So long as I am acting from duty and conviction,
I am indifferent to taunts and jeers.
I think they will probably do me more good than harm.”

Sir Winston Churchill

“One man with conviction will overwhelm a hundred who have only opinions.”
Winston Churchill


Sir Winston Churchill speaks at the Hall on Thanksgiving Day, 1944

“We have come here tonight to add our celebration to those which are going
forward all over the world, wherever allied troops are fighting in bivouacs and dugouts,
on battlefields, on the high seas, and the highest air.
Always this annual festival has been dear to the hearts of the American people.
Always there has been that desire for thanksgiving, and never,
I think, has there been more justification, more compulsive need than now.

It is your Day of Thanksgiving,
and when we feel the truth of the facts which are before us,
that in three or four years the peaceful, peace-loving people of the United States,
with all the variety and freedom of their life in such contrast to the iron discipline
which has governed many other communities –
when we see that in three or four years the United States has in sober fact become
the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world – that,
I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving.

We are moving forward in this struggle which spreads over all the lands and all the oceans;
we are moving forward surely steadily, irresistibly,
and perhaps with God’s aid, swiftly towards victorious peace.

There again is a fitting reason for thanksgiving, but I have spoken of American thanksgiving.
Tonight here, representatives of vaster audiences and greater forces moving outside this hall,
it is British and American thanksgiving that we may celebrate today.
And why is that? It is because under the compulsion of mysterious
and all-powerful destiny we are together.

We are joined together, shedding our blood side by side, struggling for the same ideals,
and joined together until the triumph of the great causes which we serve has been made manifest.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After the end of the Second World War,
Churchill spent six years as leader of the opposition to Clement Atlee’s Labour government of 1945-1951,
before being re-elected in 1951 for a second term as Prime Minister.

This rare video footage shows Churchill speaking at an event organised by
the Women’s National Advisory Committee (now known as the Conservative Women’s Organisation)
on 27 May 1954, discussing his government’s policy of
“peace through strength”:

(archives from the Royal Albert Hall)

“You have enemies? Good.
That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Winston Churchill

Lessons from the Blitz and four essential human freedoms

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is,
and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present,
and from the present, to live better in the future.

William Wordsworth


Blitz damage in Coventry, November 1940 (© IWM)

Throughout much of the past couple of months leading up to last week’s
debacle, I mean election,
I’ve been slowly making my way through my latest read…a book by Erik Larson.

I had read other books by Larson in years past, and I expected this current read to be right
on par with his previous books…books that look back to a past of darker days…
darker than the days of our current time…
As in yes, there have been darker times…if you can imagine such.

The book is titled The Splendid and The Vile:
A Saga of Chruchill, Family, And Defiance During the Blitz

I can’t even begin to do justice here, within my small reflections, as to what it was like
for the British people to live through the nightly bombings of their cities, towns
and villages by the German Luftwaffe.

For 8 long months, every single day—hundreds of German planes filled the skies
over the United Kingdom dropping tons upon tons of explosives and incendiary deceives
indiscriminately over an innocent people–only to leave destruction and death in their wake.

When the bombings stopped, over 32,000 civilians had been killed.
Over 87,000 had been maimed, burned, and injured.
Of those, 7,736 children were killed and 7,622 were seriously injured
while many were left orphaned.

London alone endured 57 straight nights and days of bombings.

The bombings took place predominantly at night but would, at times, happen both day and night.
As in a double whammy of insult and injury.

Sirens would sound, people would run for shelter as their world, bodies
and lives were literally shattered.

In just one single night, November 14, 1940, 16,000 bombs were dropped on the
city of Coventry.
The ancient 14th-century Cathedral in Coventry was just one of many churches
which would take a direct hit


(Death from the skies: An aerial view of the wrecked cathedral / The Mirror)


Winston Churchill and the Mayor Alfred Robert Grindlay visiting the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in September 1941
Horton (Capt)-War Office official photographer-This is photograph H 14250 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum

In London, the fickleness of war was clearly evident when after
London’s worst day of bombing, St. Pauls Cathedral appeared triumphantly and
miraculously to rise up from out of the smoke and ash.


St Paul’s Cathedral survives the Blitz, December 1940 (© IWM)

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33314462

Yet, as with all wars, the human toll is unimaginable.


(Upper Norwood, London, 1944 (© IWM) )

In early 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address.

In his speech, the President spoke of the lend-lease act that he was
going to be presenting to Congress…
a plan intended on assisting the British people without the US technically involving
herself in a war that the United States wasn’t keen on participating in.

“The future and the safety of our country and of our democracy
are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders…”
the President noted.
According to Larson, Roosevelt described a world to come that would be founded upon
“four essential human freedoms” :
speech, worship, and freedom from want and fear

It has been 79 years since Roosevelt’s speech.
Since that time, there have been other wars, police actions, along with a myriad of
perils that have each threatened both our democracy and that of the
pillars of Western Civilization.

And yet throughout it all, those four essential freedoms have stood the test of time…

They stand in part because of the foundation found buried deep in the fortitude
of the human spirit…along with that of determined and clear-minded leadership.

Those were dark and dire days and yet Western Civilization prevailed over the
chokehold of fascism, socialism, and communism.

My hope and prayer for our world today is that none of those past perils shall
be forgotten or tossed aside as today’s leadership and her people seem to be
giddily racing to embrace that which we once fought so hard to defeat.

‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this
world of sin and woe.
No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except
for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…’

Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

Everyone is in favor of free speech.
Hardly a day passes without its being extolled,
but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like,
but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston S. Churchill

Each man is good in His sight

I am a red man.
If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have
made me so in the first place.
He put in your heart certain wishes and plans,
in my heart he put other and different desires.
Each man is good in his sight.
It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows.

Sitting Bull


(A crow perches in a tree in Cades Cove, Great Smokey Mts National Park / Julie Cook / 2020)

Native American Indians always believed that spirits resided in the beings of
the creatures of the earth…all the way from the mighty bison and bear
to the majestic eagle, the stealthy wolf all the way down to the lowly turtle and snake.

Each animal and creature was aforded various human-like traits.
They protected or watched over the one who claimed them as a ‘spirit guide’
Imparting power to the one they protected or looked over.

One such spirit was that of the crow or raven.
The bird was known as a trickster or prankster,
the mischievous one.

Years ago we took our son, who was about 9 at the time, on a vacation that had us
heading west.
West to places like New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and then up towards
Montana and South Dakota.

Places that a Georgia born native son needed to see and experience.

We stopped at places like the Painted desert, the Badlands, Yellowstone,
the Grand Canyon—we went to cities and towns such as Taos, Sante Fe, Cody,
Salt Lake City, Logan, Cheyenne, Jackson Hole…
while visiting various Pueblos, Reservations, monuments, churches, museums
and national parks…

And yet in all that mighty and grand greatness, there was one small thing that caught
both our eyes.

It was something vastly different from the beautiful landscapes found around this
great nation of ours.

We were each drawn to something that was small yet skillful.
Tiny yet intriguing.

As the art teacher, I was drawn like a magnet to the inticracy…
As a young boy, my son was drawn, as most young boys would be, to all
things of imagination and of cowboys and indians.

The draw you ask…???
They were small tiny stone carvings by Zuni indians known as a fetish.

Tiny carvings of animals created in stone, fossils and shells.
Each held in the palm of one’s hand.

According to the Black Arrow Gallery:
Fetishes, charms, amulets, or simply good luck pieces, call them whatever you would like,
but virtually every culture has them. Fetishes are small carvings made from various materials
by many different Native American Tribes.
These carvings serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons
integral to their culture.
As a form of contemporary Native American Art they are sold with non-religious
intentions to collectors worldwide.

Origianal fetishes are no longer available for purchase as they are considered
museum worthy.
Yet there are some very well known tribal artists who continue to create these tiny
artistic treasures to sell.
And the better known artists and their art carvings fetch high prices.

During our trip, as a rememberance from this particular vacation,
my son and I each bought a few affordable carvings.
We were told that the fetish would choose the buyer.
Each fetish supposedly possessed certain characteristics and traits
which would draw the buyer.

Well, I was drawn to several.
A bear, a beaver and yes, a crow.

Crows and Ravens are birds of a feather…with ravens being of the larger feather.
So my crow was most likely a raven…but it was still a small marble black bird
with two turquoise eyes.

Again, according to the Black Arrow Gallery:
The raven is not a traditional fetish but he is carved often, and beautifully,
by a number of artists.
Some artisans will put a stone in the raven’s mouth.
He is generally carved of jet or black marble though he can appear in virtually
any stone of the artist’s choosing.
While considered somewhat of a prankster, he doesn’t have the negative characteristics
associated with the coyote.
The raven can help us work through failure and short-comings by reminding
us that anything we have the courage to face, we have the power to transform.

I imagine that the reason crows / ravens were afforded a place at the tribal table was
in part due the fact that these birds are actually very intelligent.

Those who study crows and ravens know that these birds have a language of calls all their own.
They can actually communicate with one another.
They also have keen memories and have been known to bring “gifts’– various sparkly
found objects to humans who interact with them.

I have had a long love-hate relationship with crows.

I find them irritating when they gang attack a hawk who flies
into their territory.
I’m not a fan of gang activity.
However, I imagine that there is some sort of perceived threat
when a bird of prey intercepts one’s private airspace…I digress.

And yet I love throwing out stale bread for the crows to come gather.
They will often wake me at dawn with their loud raucous caws as
they swoop into a tree outside our bedroom window where the
bread still sits from the prior evening.

So reading the wisdom of Sitting Bull in today’s quote, I am reminded of
that song sung in many a child’s church chapel…Jesus Loves the Little Children

Written by C. Herbert Woolston and George F. Root.

According to hymntime.com
Words: C. Her­bert Wool­ston (1856–1927).
Wool­ston was one of George Root’s fa­vo­rite lyr­i­cists.
Child­ren oft­en sing just the re­frain, which is a song all to itself!

Music: George F. Root, 1864, Root orig­in­al­ly wrote this tune for the Am­er­i­can ci­vil
war song Tramp, Tramp, Tramp.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to Me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,

All lives matter…both living and yet born.
All lives matter… each man, woman and child…no matter their color or race.
For all are not only good, but rather are most
precious to our God, our Father and Great Creator.

It just takes a crow to remind us of such.


(a camera friendly crow / Cades Cove, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2020)

the distortion of discernment—I think we call it fear

“. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil,
death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”.
We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the
midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it,
with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally
pro-life.”

(Evangelium Vitae)
Pope John Paul II


(detail of a painting I did 11 years ago/ Julie Cook)

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of distortion is:
the act of twisting or altering something out of its true, natural,
or original state

The definition of discernment is:
the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

After reading Oneta’s post yesterday over on Sweet Aroma, I was moved
in wanting to echo her thoughts regarding her topic Roe v Wade and the
near cataclysmic and apocalyptic affect the notion of a new Supreme Court justice,
who happens to be a practicing Catholic and mother to seven, is having on the
Democratic party and those who are ardent Pro-Choice supporters.

Here is the link to Oneta’s post
REVIEW NOT WANTED

The entire fiasco taking place in this very public and radically vicious and divisive
confirmation hearing over the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is not based
on the merit of her time spent in court nor of the legal training or arduous education
she labored over in order to become a lawyer and judge, but rather,
it is over one simple thing…that thing, being fear.

It is the fear that a legal precedent determined in a court case in 1973 will be
automatically reversed.
As in POOF…should she be appointed to the bench, the henny penny folks
are thinking that suddenly a ruling from 1973 becomes null and void.

It doesn’t work that way folks.

Yet it is fear that is driving this train.
Fear for and over both life and death.

I thought I’d google quotes for the phrase “the sanctity of life”

One would think that Goodreads or even brainyquote, two of the top sites when one
is searching for a quote, would have tons of good quotes…but oddly
both had a mere handful—mostly obscure, a smattering of the well known, and
several of those in favor of population control.

I did not see the quotes by those who I knew in the past had spoken out very strongly
on that very thought.
And if memory serves me well, I had found those quotes among those very sites in past years.

My number one thought being Pope John Paul II…Mother Teresa coming in second.
I had to go back and google quotes by JPII just to find his words
on the subject…and find them I did.

I am still baffled by those who call themselves Catholic in faith and yet defend and even
promote the very idea of abortion…
How can you call yourself a Catholic and voice support for things that
are totally opposed to the tenents of your faith?

Or how can you call yourself a Christian and support the things that are
totally opposed to the command of God?

Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are two that come to mind.
Catholic in name only—and if I recall, such a person is usually not
allowed to receive Holy Communion—for to oppose the doctrine of the Church
is to cut one’s self from the Chruch.

The following are a few of Pope John Paul’s thoughts regarding the
sactity of life—both for the unborn as well as for the dying.

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members;
and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.”

(Address to the New Ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See May 25, 2000)

“As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
(Homily, Perth, Australia, Nov. 30, 1986)

“No country on earth, no political system can think of its own future otherwise
than through the image of these new generations that will receive from their parents
the manifold heritage of values, duties and aspirations of the nation to which they
belong and of the whole human family. Concern for the child, even before birth,
from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth,
is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another.”

(Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Oct. 2, 1979)

“Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God Who was
made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church.
Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the
Church’s very heart;
it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation
of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life
in all the world and to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15).”

(Evangelium Vitae)

“Not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to
be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing,
but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself,
darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning,
is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in
what concerns the basic value of human life.”

(Evangelium Vitae)

thin black line, 6th Ave Heartache

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

An odd thing happened two nights ago.

Now you need to remember that I was taken off my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
about 7 weeks ago.
Hormones, I’d been on nearly 30 years.

Sleep has never been great, but take away the hormones and things immediately went
from bad to really really bad in literally a single night’s time.

However two nights ago, despite battling the need to breathe while living
with a sinus infection along with poison ivy, I was actually asleep.

How do I know?
I was flat on my back.

I’m usually a side to stomach sleeper yet at some point or other,
when I’m really asleep, asleep—
I’m always mysteriously flat on my back.

At 1:30 in the morning, I became aware that I was itching.
Groggily I started scratching at my poison ivy now spreading across my torso.
Suddenly in my head, I was hearing a song that I know I had not heard playing that day
as some sort of background music in a store.

Clear as day, playing lyrically in my head.

It was a song I’ve always liked..a 90’s sort of song…Why I’ve always liked it,
I don’t know, but it has always made me feel a bit heavy-hearted and melancholy.
Again, I’m not sure as to why.
Although it’s an older song, it seems to still be quite relevant.

Rousing my brain to full awake mode, I opted to get up and head into the bathroom
in order to slather on some more anti-itch medicine— all the
while that song kept ringing in my head…

“And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in…”

I crawled back into bed now restless as my thoughts were racing.
All the while still itching and listening to non-existent music playing.

Why was this song stuck in my head—especially when I was good and asleep??

The following morning, after grabbing my coffee, I googled the song.

According to Wikipedia , The lyrics are based on Dylan’s (Jakob Dylan)
own experiences while living in New York City, in particular, the story of a homeless man
who would sit outside Dylan’s window and play the same songs every day.
One day, the man was gone, but his things were still there,
until gradually people started taking them.

Well, that seemed to make it all feel even worse…doubly more sad than before.

So I kept digging a bit further.

What did the Bible have to say about a black line??

As I kept looking, I was constantly being redirected to the mark of Cain.

Hummmm.

Remember, being raised a poor illiterate Episcoplain kid, the breadth and depth
of Bible study was never my forte.
But I was now intrigued.

I knew Cain and Abel…really the very first tale of humankind’s lowest moments.
Or actually, that might have been their parents…but either way, we humans weren’t off
to the best of starts.

Choice…we never seem to have mastered choice…but I digress.

Why would God want me to think about all of this at 1:30 in the morning?
I know, I know…time to God is irrelevant but to a woman who hardly ever has deep
sleep, as in REM, I was just a tad frustrated.

There were (are) a lot of articles on the web about the mark of Cain
and many of them have some sort of racist connotation.
Naturally…it always goes back to race.

It seems race has been with us since the beginning of time and we still don’t know how to
deal with it—- gees…!
But again, I digress.

So after reading, I managed to find an interesting article on Bibleodyssey.com
written by Eva Mroxzek, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University.

She hit on the whole good mark, bad mark thinking…
Cain killed his brother and God marked him for life.
The question…was or is…. was or is the mark a mark of shame or a mark of protection?

Was it leprosy?
A ‘keep your distance’ sort of mark?
Did God turn his skin a darker color?
Did God have a horn grow out of Cain’s head?
Did it have to do with circumcision?
Did God give Cain a dog?
Huh???

Did God have mercy on Cain and forgive him for having killed his brother…the first
recorded murder in human history only to followed by the greatest act of forgiveness??

But wait…was that the greatest act of forgiveness or was that actually
during Good Friday…
digressing again…

So, was the mark a mark of forgiveness…

On and on the so-called wise ones have debated this issue for eons.

And yet oddly here it comes visiting me at 1:30 in the morning by way of a 1996 song.

Ms, Mroczek notes at the end of her article…
“But the most striking interpretations rely on a later meaning of the Hebrew word oth:
a letter of the alphabet.
A midrashic text suggests that God inscribed a letter on Cain’s arm as a mark of protection
(Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 21).
Thus, the mark of Cain becomes a sacred sign.
In another midrash (Tanhuma Genesis 10),
it is the word Sabbath that is inscribed on Cain’s face—after the personified Sabbath day
itself begged God to forgive Cain’s sin.
And a targum—an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—
identifies the mark as the holiest sign of all: God inscribes on Cain
“the great and honorable name of the LORD,” namely the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter name of God (YHWH).

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/mark-of-cain

So the jury is still out.

Why the song?
Why the direction toward Cain?
And is this a message of foreboding or passage of forgiveness.

I’ll let you know what happens when the next hot flash rouses me from
what little precious sleep there is…I’m sure God will have His say…
I just wish I was wise enough to figure out where He was taking me.
But if I knew that…there’d be so many answers to so many questions…

Heartbreak does seem to be happeing on all sorts of 6th Avenues across this Nation…

Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act
And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in
6th Avenue heartache
Below me was a homeless man
I’m singin’ songs I knew complete
On the steps alone, his guitar in hand
It’s fifty years, stood where he stands
Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams
Look out the window, down upon that street
And gone like a midnight was that man
But I see his six strings laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me just moved on

So I’m not alone..

The continued persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great
underreported stories of the 21st century.

Douglas Murray, in his insightful book The Strange Death of Europe,
warns us that there is a real danger of Europe losing its Christian roots,
values and freedoms, something which he as a gay atheist deplores.
I fear that the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a sign of more
troublesome times ahead.

David Robertson


(Interior of the great dome, Hagia Sophia /Paris Review)

The other day I offered a post regarding the news that the once-massive
Christian enclave of the East, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia,
had once again fallen to Muslim rule ( or perhaps ‘once again’ is not accurate as Muslim rule has shadowed the church since the 15th century–it just hasn’t been a practicing mosque but rather a museum in a Muslim nation)

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2020/07/17/the-future-of-hagia-sophia-should-be-very-troubling-to-christians/)

Hagia Sophia, constructed in 532, stood as a Christian beacon in the East, as well
for the West following the sack of Rome, until 1453–
the year when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.
She was desecrated and turned into a mosque.

Several hundreds of years passed when the mosque next became a museum.

And then change came once again last week when the church turned mosque,
turned museum returned to a Muslim Mosque.

For nearly a thousand years, she faithfully served her flock.

And so the question that sits like an elephant in the middle of the world’s living room…
what does this mean for the Faithful now…

Our friend the Wee Flea raises this same question in his most recent post…
“The Tale of Two Buildings–the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse

David begins his post by reflecting on the demise of Christianity
in the very place of her inception, the Middle East…

The Assyrians for example have shrunk from 1.3 million in Iraq to less than 250,000.
They have scattered over the world.
There are around 40,000 Assyrians in Sydney – one of whom is my barber!
In Turkey, Christians are systematically persecuted.
Foreign church workers are arrested and expelled;
evangelical churches are regularly attacked by extremists.
To even suggest that the killing of over one million Armenians by the Turks in 1914-1923
was genocide will result in you going to jail.
I recall in 2007 being in Ephesus just after three Christian leaders
had been brutally tortured and killed –
the fear amongst the Christians was palpable.

I suspect that turning the Hagia Sofia into a mosque will only make things worse
as it will encourage the more radical Islamists to fulfil their dream of a society
where Sharia law is fully enacted, and the Christians and secularists are removed.
Another Hagia Sophia in Nicaea, where the Second Council of Nicaea was held in 787,
has already been turned into a mosque. It is a concerning development which
raises a number of questions.

Turkey has, like China, signed the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights,
which amongst other things, guarantees freedom of worship, expression and belief.
Like China, it appears that its signature is meaningless.

Another area of concern is the problem of the lack of freedom in many Islamic countries.
In the West, Muslims are rightly free to worship and build mosques –
something I have defended in the past and will defend again.

There is a bigger issue here.
I have no problem with there being different religions within a pluralistic and tolerant society.
But what if that religion itself is opposed to pluralism and tolerance,
which I argue Islam is, and seeks to impose its own Sharia law?

David continues his post with a more personal reflection regarding the Chruch manse that he
and his family called home for 27 years…a church manse turned Muslim home with the
entire neighborhood becoming Muslim…

A casual observer might think that David’s feelings are somewhat racist in that he is concerned
about a Scottish neighborhood becoming Muslim, but he clearly notes that Islam is
not a race but rather a religion…and it is one that has at its core the goal of
the decimation of Christianity…

And so yes, there are big questions that remain—
What is happening to the Chruch from both within and from with-out

See David’s full post here:

A Tale of Two Buildings – the Hagia Sophia and the Free Church Manse – CT

about as civilized as a baboon

“I know your race.
It is made up of sheep.
It is governed by minorities.
Seldom or never by majorities.
It suppresses its feelings and beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise.
Sometimes the noisy handful is right.
Sometimes wrong.
But no matter, the crowd follows it.
The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized are secretly kind-hearted,
and shrink from inflicting pain.
But in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority, they don’t
dare to assert themselves.”

Mark Twain

Baboons, despite having rather cute babies, are not known for possessing a
very civilized demeanor.
Baboons are indeed social creatures, just like we are…
They can be, at times, loud and raucous just like us…
Plus they are very territorial…what’s theirs, is indeed theirs…end of sentence.
They are physically strong and can oftentimes be temperamental and even quite mean.

Sounds familiar.
Think rush hour traffic and road rage.

And sadly, much like us, they even possess a darker side…
they are known to be cannibalistic…
meaning that they can kill and eat other primates…also killing and eating their own…

Yep, they eat their own.

Now, where have I heard that before???

‘They will eat their own’…??

Oh, I think it was in reference to our oh so “woke” world.
They are beginning to eat their own.
Think the cancel culture and it’s hearty appetite for those now
wishing to bow out of the culture club…J.K. Rowling comes to mind…

For better or worse I suppose, we and baboons don’t seem to be too far apart.

Besides that whole opposable thumb business, when it comes to primates,
mankind has always prided himself on the fact that he alone has achieved a
sense of civility as compared to the rest of the animal kingdom.

We were civil beings.

And it is in that smugness of civility that we have long touted being ‘greater than’
and far superior than the animal kingdom.
We have rules for heaven’s sake—we have laws, and we even have decorum…
therefore it just makes sense that we are truly a far higher and more intelligent being
than our animal kin—right???

According to the dictionary,

Civilized:

1.at an advanced stage of social and cultural development.
“a civilized society”

2. polite and well-mannered.
“I went to talk to them and we had a very civilized conversation”

Advanced, developed, polite, well mannered…
Certainly higher than baboons—right???
Given the past couple of months, I’m beginning to wonder…


(Woman defecating on an overturned police car/ Reddit)


(Minneapolis riots, The Globe Post)


(The Atlantic)

In the past God overlooked such ignorance,
but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.
He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:30-31
New International Version