gee, haw…

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.
And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your
heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away
every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales


(a pair of Belgium working horses on Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

My husband and I hopped in the car the other evening, as we were getting ready to
head over to Atlanta to see our son and daughter-n-law…
and I don’t know what brought it up, but we got off on a small technology tangent.

Most likely what got us started was my wanting to turn on the seat warmers.
Temps had not reached above the freezing point all day, and now the sun was quickly
setting sending temperatures plummeting.
Needless to say, I’ve been mostly cold for the last two months.

My husband said, for no one in particular, “technology left me years ago…
it left me back with gee and haw…”

“GEE, HAW???!!!!” I practically shout before bursting out into full laughter.

For those of you unfamiliar with such words, Gee and Haw are the two words used with
working animals such as mules, draft horses, and even sled dogs.
Gee means for the mule, horse or dog to turn right
Shout ‘Haw,’ and the animal turns left.

My husband can remember as a little boy visiting his grandparents up in north
Georgia with his grandfather using mules to plow the fields.
He’d shout “Gee” then “Haw,” and those mules knew exactly which way to turn.
That was probably in the early 1950’s as rural Georgia was just that, still very rural.

We had actually heard the same terms used recently, this past summer when visiting
Mackinac Island as there are no vehicles on the island—only draft horses doing
everything from acting as the taxis to delivering UPS.
Gee.
Haw

Low tech.
And I must say, I for one, found it somewhat comforting.
It was actually really refreshing.

I know it, being technology, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but instead will only be advancing…
And sadly so…
for technology has, if it hasn’t already, gotten entirely out of hand as well as a disaster
just waiting to happen…

This insatiable need of ours to see, to know, to hear, to tell everything instantaneously is a very dangerous false need.

It has created a very dangerous sense of profound falsehoods that most of us don’t even
realize.
For we are a people who are greatly dependent upon our technology—for even life
and death issues…

But let’s look at a couple non-life-threatening examples of when technology goes
awry…or perhaps just more of an irksome trouble.

During the busy Christmas shopping mayhem season, my husband’s internet randomly went out at his store. His is a busy retail
business, so when there’s a technology issue and his register goes out, or his credit card machine goes out, he loses money as people will walk out the door.

We spent hours on the phone with AT&T trying to find a person who was actually
“stateside” as we continued narrowing help down to Georgia, then down to our individual town.
That took hours of waiting and frustration. All the while the store is full of people
who want to be waited on and checked out.
We were told it would be days before they could get someone out to check out our problem.
Days was not an option.

In the meantime, we had to pull out the old-timey credit card swiper….remember
those low tech little machines?

A customer would lay their card down on top of a triple carbon copy slip
while the clerk swiped the little lever over the card and carbon paper. The
customer’s card info would be swiped and imprinted onto the carbon ticket.
The customer would then sign the swiped carbon slip as the clerk would then pull off
the customer copy while keeping the store copy…
then off went the happy customer with their purchase.

The old-timey swiping machine worked perfectly fine as we waited for the AT&T technician
to eventually make the trip to the store.
Turns out the internet was out for unknown reasons randomly in the shopping center…
the next time it went out, a week later, the technician sent us out get a new cable…

sigh…

Last evening we went to neighboring town for supper at a Craker Barrel.
I often crave Cracker Barrel’s simple homey fare offering of
good ol’ southern prepared food.
Chicken and dumplings, fried okra, spicy collard greens, southern style green beans…
or even their offering of breakfast for supper.
Plus they had a roaring fire going and we were fortunate to snag
a table by the fire.

When we’d finished our meal we took the bill out to the register to pay.
The line snaked all the way back into the dining area.
We figured they were low of help at the registers…
but that was not the issue.
Their card machines weren’t working probably and weren’t reading folks
debit or credit cards correctly.

Finally, as we made our way to a cashier, we told the manager we were going
to pay with something very novel…real money.

The manager was grateful and said he wished he had one of the old-timey
credit card swiper machines but since he was the oldest one on staff, he was the only
one who even knew what such a machine was…

Low tech.

Those are just a couple examples of small technological issues
of when things don’t work or go wrong.

Now let’s consider a bit larger trouble.

Saturday, a statewide alert went out in Hawaii, alerting the public that a ballistic missile was on its way to the Islands.
It was one of those Amber style alerts that went out on everyone’s phones.
It was not a drill and everyone needed to seek immediate shelter.
For those in Hawaii, it was the end of life as they had known it.

With North Korea’s 24/7 threats, threatening to send a nuclear warhead
in the direction of Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, or Alaska…well its all had everyone
a tad bit nervous…so Saturday, it seemed that the unthinkable was actually happening.

However…

The issued warning alert was in actuality incorrect.
It had been issued by mistake.
There was no missile, no need to duck and cover.
No need for immediate Last Rites.

I wonder how busy the ER’s were following the correction with those feigning a
possible heart attack?

So it should come as no surprise that we’ve gotten really good these days at lamenting,
“technology, it’s great when it works…not so much when it doesn’t…”

And yet I rather miss our low tech dealings during these waning days of ours…

Gee
Haw

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psalm 146:3

the tale of a tetovierer

Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us Jews different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?
It is God that has made us as we are,
but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.
If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left,
when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed,
will be held up as an example.

Anne Frank


(image of some of the children in Auschwitz holding up their arms to a cameraman,
showing the tattooed number on their arms / BBC)

I am not a fan of tattoos.

I’m just not nor have I ever been.

And this coming from a retired art teacher who had many an aspiring tattoo artist
in class.

I truly believe that what one finds grand, fascinating, bold as well as defining
at say age 18, will not hold the same sense of fascination, boldness nor still
be defining at say age 58…

Plus I can’t help but see a good bit of an underlying psychology underneath a
need to permanently “ink” ones’ body…..

But hey, that’s just me.

It’s obviously not the rest of our culture’s or society’s mindset….
I’m just a one hole pierced earring sort of girl….

I like things understated and simple really…elegant, ageless and timeless.
I blame my grandmother…thankfully.

I grew up with many Jewish friends.
I attended Synagogue with them as they came to church with me.
I feel a deep connection to our Jewish brethren as I happen to
claim one of their own as my Savior.

Yet in all my years, I never knew nor had met anyone who had been a survivor
of the Death Camps.

I knew many a WWII veteran but never an individual who lived to tell the
horrific nightmare of having lived when one was expected to die…

I knew Vietnam Veterans and even POWs of that war, but none from
those infamous Death Camps of a previous war.

So I have never seen an aged wrinkled arm that bears the fading yet distinct
numbers of one’s time spent surviving death.

I did a pencil drawing once of a portion of a forearm and hand…
It was a man’s arm and hand.
There was a number scrawled on the inner wrist running about an inch and a half
lengthwise up the forearm–along with an inch wide hole piercing all the way through
the palm of the hand…
the backdrop was what one would assume to be a rough hewn piece of wood….

His death, the death of the man whose arm I had drawn, had not been in vain and
had not been for but a select few…it had been for all…
as He had been there, in their midst, with all those who had those numbers
inked onto their arms, despite many Jews to this day truly believing that God
had abandoned them during the Shoah …

The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean “destruction” since
the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry
as early as the early 1940s. The word Holocaust,
which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term,
originally meant a sacrifice burnt entirely on the altar.
The selection of these two words with religious origins reflects recognition
of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events.
Many understand Holocaust as a general term for the crimes and horrors
perpetrated by the Nazis;
others go even farther and use it to encompass other acts of mass murder as well. Consequently, we consider it important to use the Hebrew word Shoah with
regard to the murder of and persecution of
European Jewry in other languages as well.

Yad Vashem

And so I never gave much thought as to those tattooed numbers on those forearms.
I never thought about who was charged with having to “write” them…
I never thought about when exactly it was, during the ordeal,
that they had received them…
And how odd that I had never known anyone who had endured what it meant to have one.

The other day I caught a story with a rather interesting title….
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–and his secret love

Visions of today’s tattoo artists in my mind is of an individual who
themselves is covered in various images and colors, electric pen in hand…
a master of a cultural craft.

Throw in the notion of a secret love and all manner of clandestine activities
suface in one’s imagination.

Clicking on the story, I am met with the tale of a man and of the life
he lived and of an age-long sense of heaviness for having betrayed the
millions who did not survive.
I believe that is called survivors guilt.

And yet in this tale there is found love, loss, rediscovering, life, hope….
and finally a sense of understanding that there was no culpability for
simply having survived.

The story is set in Melbourne, Australia…
a far cry from a Death Camp in 1940’s Poland.
And the hero of this tale actually died in 2006.
It took him until he was well into his 80’s to even be able to share his story…
much of which his now grown son had not known. Not many who survived liked to
talk about their stay.

The story is of Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg who later changed his name to
Lale Sakolov.

Lale’s story was coaxed out of his memory by Heather Morris
who has since written a book The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale was a Slovak Jew who, like the other Jews in Czechoslovakia, was sent
to Auschwitz.
He was 26 years old.
He did manual labor at the camp until he contracted typhoid.
He was cared for by a Frenchman who had actually been the one who had
tattooed Lale’s number on his arm 32407.
The man was known as in the camp as a tetovierer, or tattooist.
He was charged with “writing” the numbers onto the arms of those coming into
the camp who would be staying—those being sent immediately to the gas chambers.
did not receive numbers.

Eventually Lale became the tetovierer to the camp.

Yet in the middle of madness and death, love was actually kindled.

An 18 year old girl found herself standing before Lale…one in a myriad of women
waiting in the long line…
waiting their turn to exchange a life and a name for a number.

Lale did not like tattooing the women—there was always a sickening feeling in
the pit of his stomach, but he did as he was ordered.

Gazing up at this girl who stood before him, his heart was immediately taken
by this girl’s bright eyes.
Her name was Gita.

Gita and Lale’s life together actually began that fateful day in Auschwitz–
and the twists and turns are amazing…

There is a lovely video clip on Heather’s kickstarter page that she put together—
which I assume was created to help raise the necessary funds to write and publish
Lale and Gita’s story.
The book is now available on Amazon…I ordered mine today.

Below are two links—
the first is Heather’s story along with a brief video overview about her finding
and forging a relationship with Lale, who would eventually share his story with her.

The second link is about the story as written by the BBC.

For even in the midst of misery and death, remains hope…there is always Hope.

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

“provoke to love and good works”

Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth;
for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the
foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord,
when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all,
and men love each other in Him without dissimulation,
because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise
the real character of their love

St Augustine


(poor example of spontaneous note taking / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well….
it happened that before I could elaborate on last week’s video offering
by the Scottish pastor David Robertson..that being a video posting from his
Wee Flea Blog and the SOLAS conference talk given in 2010—
during the course of the weekend here came another posting.

It seems our Wee Flea friend is faster at offering tasty morsels than I am at
digesting them and then in turn sharing the nourishment of the morsel with you…..

This time the posting is from a 2013 SOLAS conference which focuses on education
and the poor.

Very powerful, sobering and collar grabbing kind of stuff.

And well, you didn’t think a retired educator, a Christian retired educator,
one who taught for 31 years in the secular public educational system of the
United States could actually pass over such a tempting morsel without stopping
to take it all in did you??

Despite this latest SOLAS (remember Gaelic for Light) offering running for
nearly an hour…I couldn’t let it pass without giving it my undivided attention.

During last week’s video offering, I wrote down two quotes of David’s…

“When you remove Christianity from a country, [its] education declines”

“Secularism doesn’t educate you—it dumbs you down.”

I was struck by both of those statements.

And as I am also a faithful reader of Citizen Tom’s blog (https://citizentom.com)
as Tom often points out the dire and dismal state of the educational system in the
United States, I knew these two statements were indeed onto something….

And before I could properly digest and share my copious note taking from the previous
posting, here came this latest posting over the weekend.

My weekend was such that I had to put off watching this particular video until
this Monday morning when I could carve out an hour’s time…
in order to properly sort things out.
Yet on top of just watching the video, came the sorting of the notes and then the
turning around and offering to you a proper post regarding David’s talk…

So now picture me holding my hands to my head in a bit of a tizzy while visions of the
National Football Championship dance dizzily around my head…
There are homemade cookies and homemade pizza preparations to get underway all
for this evening’s big game festivities…..GO DAWGS…while my head was still
swirling with what I’d gleaned from David’s talk.
(well, I wrote this before the big game obviously—now, we won’t talk about it)

But back to the SOLAS clip….

Do yourself another favor—carve out the time to watch this.
Especially if you are a teacher, have children or grandchildren who attend schools
or are simply worried about our youth and their future…..

You should note however when watching the video that there is one huge difference
between the educational system in Scotland verses the educational system
in the United States.
The educational system in Scotland is considered a state Christian System by law
verses our very separate and secular school system in the US.

But the message remains the same—as there is a growing gap between rich and poor
in educational opportunities in both of our nations.

David noted an example….
The more affluent families can easily afford after school and out of school tutors.
Whereas a finer tutor, say in London, might fetch 400 pounds an hour—
such a tutor in Dundee, Scotland might command only 15 pounds an hour—
but no matter, as both kids, be it from London or Dundee, those who can afford a
tutor already have a step up the ladder from those disadvantaged kids from lower
income families who can’t afford any sort of tutor….

If you’ve never heard of Thomas Guthrie, it’s worth clicking on the following link for
a bit of background on a man whose life has played a rich part of the
educational system in Scotland other than that of John Knox himself who boldly
stated that “wherever there is a church, there shall be a school.”

https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/reformer-thomas-guthrie-11630341.html

Guthrie (1803-1873), a man who studied to become a doctor but became, upon graduating college, a minister instead held as his mission statement…
regarding those he ministered to in Scotland, that education was essential to saving
the less fortunate from a life of ignorance, squalor, disease, idleness and poverty.

He saw that education and learning were the keys to opening doors and turning away
from the vicious cycles of hunger, alcoholism, crime and poverty that was rife
within the families of the poor and disadvantaged…
Guthrie therefore petitioned Parliament to make compulsory education mandatory
in order to help save the children and future children from an assumed destiny
of misery.

Yet Guthrie maintained that such an education had to have Christianity as its root.
How else would morality anchor itself within society.
As we bewildered watch the secular movement today creating its “social engineering”
of the masses.

The physical threshold of each school Guthrie founded was to be fashioned with the
carving of an open Bible with the motto written, “Search the Scriptures”

Yet David notes that there will always be secular resistance as the secular world
pushes ever closer to ultimately having a society without God.
However David holds firm to the notion that without Christianity,
we will destroy Education….
***and in turn destroy our civilization…
(*** my 2 cents)

And David presents this polestar thought with laser precision in this talk.

David admonishes us all…those of us who confess the Faith of Jesus Christ…
that as Christians it is our moral obligation that we should be making education
and our schools a top priority…be it here in the States or there in Scotland.

Yet I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.

He reminds each of us not to simply leave it to the schools to educate our kids
as to what is a Christian worldview—but it is up to us…us being the ones who need
to chiefly see to that responsibility.

And I dare say, that most of us have grown rather complacent here in the States.
The upper tier pay exorbitant yearly fees to upper crust schools for a
private education, that even though some of the private institutions claim a church denomination’s backing…as I dare ask is that a worldly looking denomination???

Leaving everyone else to the charge of the state and federally funded school
systems—schools, many of which, are woefully lacking and are stymied in
their ability to lay a moralistic foundation…due greatly in part to the fact that
we have erased our Christian heritage from the very system our founding fathers state
as being an important component to the fledgling new nation’s growth and development.

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

atheists ain’t got no songs…..

Do not be afraid.
Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.
Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

John Paul II


(Steve Martin appearing on David Lettermen singing Atheists ain’t got no song / 2011)

When I scanned my emails and saw that I had a notice of a new posting
from a blog I follow, I opted to investigate a bit further—

I realized there was actually a videoclip in the posting that was sitting at
roughly 42 minutes…
I wasn’t really certain I wanted to be contained for almost three quarters of an hour watching a videoclip in the middle of the day.

There were things to do.

How could I justify sitting at the kitchen table watching a video clip for nearly 45 minutes….what about the cleaning, the wash, the filing, the bills, the shrimp…
the shrimp that needed deveining for this evening’s supper….???

I am a person who isn’t one to sit around.
I am a doer and constantly moving about…as something always needs tending to.
Sitting in the middle of the day, listening and watching a videoclip is a little
hard for me to justify

45 minutes, really??!!

Yet I was curious.
And I also do quote this man all the time.

I am constantly offering this man’s teachings, his preachings, his defenses,
his proclamations…to you…and so do I not owe it to you to really
know a bit more about him????

Of course I do.
If one wants to be truly credible, one must invest time and understanding
before sharing.

Yet I’m not Scottish…well that is… not me exactly but in heritage, yes.
I’m certainly not a Presbyterian nor am I an Evangelical…
I’m still an Episcopalian by name…but just one who happens to no longer
agree with the direction of the Episcopal Church.

What I am is a conservative Christian who believes in the importance of
spreading the word about God, Jesus, sin, death, life and salvation….

So perhaps I needed to invest the time.
Something was nagging at me to give it a look.

I clicked on the video and after about 2 minutes in, I stopped it.
I knew I needed a pen and paper as there was much to be writing down.

David Robertson, the Reformed Presbyterian Minister who heads St. Peter’s Church
in Dundee, Scotland had posted his latest blog post in which he was offering
a videoclip from address given in 2010 for the Christian organization that he
is apart of, SOLAS.
And despite the videoclip being nearly 8 years old,
David had stated that if one really wanted to understand what he was about,
this was probably the best explanation.

The Christian group there in Dundee named SOLAS—was something I really had no idea
about or what it was, I just knew it was something he had his hand in…
but now know—
Solas is a Gaelic word meaning Light—and that Light is the Light of Jesus Christ….

If you visit my world here often, you hear much reference to David.
I found him via this little blog world of ours.
And when I read the things he was writing on his Wee Flea blog, I found myself
most often in total agreement, not all the time mind you, but most of the time as
I’d find myself nodding and offering a silent “Amen”

And as I don’t always agree with everything…
I’ve yet to meet a Christian who is usually 100% with another Christian—
heck most folks find something to disagree over with their own priests, pastors or minister. I don’t know any Christians who totally agree with
each and everyone’s doctrines or denominational background…but at the end of the day
if the bottom line is Jesus Christ for each of us then that is truly our common ground.

Doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Baptist, Pentecostal or Greek Orthodox…
if Jesus Christ…His birth, his life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection
is the chief cornerstone in your life—then we are all on the same page.

I had not read any of David’s books.
I hadn’t even heard of him before…but it seems he was pretty famous for
having debated and besting the avowed Atheist Richard Dawkins.

He even went on to write a book that acted as a Christian follow-up to
Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion.

So today’s videoclip, which I’ve attached below was indeed enlightening.

It made me think of Wally’s little meme and comment yesterday which was
“If somebody took a poll of 10 of your acquaintances and asked them the most
notable thing about you, how many of them would say:
“Oh they really love Jesus!?”

(https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com)

This really made me think.
I told Wally I’d probably get “good wife, good mom, good cook,
good teacher’…..but would anyone start with the fact that I do love Jesus,
proclaim Him as my Salvation…have I simply done that more inwardly and
just for self….??
I wasn’t sure I could answer that “thought” and even told Wally I
had been given much to ponder.

I will spend some time over the next couple of days focusing in on some of the key
thoughts I took away from watching David’s video.

He did offer something rather hilarious and that was a mention of Steve Martin singing
the song Atheists ain’t got no songs.
He said if you’d not heard it or seen it, google
it, it was worth the look….and it was!

It was a clip from a David Lettermen show and in true Steve Martin form,
it is hysterical while ringing of so much truth…

I don’t know about Steve Martin’s religious beliefs but I think he leans
toward agnosticism….but no matter, as I thoroughly enjoyed the song…
I think you will too

Plus—do yourself a favor, carve out the roughly 42 minutes to listen to David’s
address.

It matters not that his focus is the Church there in Scotland.
Scotland has a rich Christian history—and was once the loudest Evangelistic voices
in most of the world…but then something happened…just as it is happening here
in the US.

It matters not that you may be Lutheran, Anglican, Southern Baptist, Methodist,
etc…the message is the same.

And I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again…it was a quote from the
former Anglican Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
“It is the secular culture that is attracting many believers”—as more and more
people leave the Church, preferring the worship at the altar of the worldly….

There was a time when my mom, God rest her soul…my quiet, shy and very Episcopalian
mom would have warned me not to be talking about such…I wouldn’t want folks to think
I was some sort of nut, religious fanatic or “Jesus freak” or God forbid,
part of a cult…
but I would have to now say to mother, what better time then now Mom?
What better time than now….?

Give me Scotland or I die

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..

see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

St Stephens Day

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

Saint Stephen


(portion of the Demidoff Altarpiece 1476 / The National Gallery / London, England)

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke praises St. Stephen as
“a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who
“did great wonders and signs among the people”
during the earliest days of the Church.

Luke’s history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen’s death –
witnessed by St. Paul before his conversion –
at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus
during the Lord’s ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples
whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while traveling with almost no possessions.

This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church,
in which St. Luke says believers “had all things in common”
and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need.”

But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between
Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected
in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.

Stephen’s reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him,
along with six other men,
to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose.
Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ,
the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons,
and set them to work helping the widows.

As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the
Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message,
some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities,
charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions.

Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts
of the Apostles.
He described Israel’s resistance to God’s grace in the past,
and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit”
and rejecting the Messiah.

Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory.
“Look,” he told the court,
“I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death.

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’”
records St. Luke in Acts 7.
“Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’
When he had said this, he died.”

The first Christian martyrdom was overseen by a Pharisee named Saul –
later Paul, and still later St. Paul –
whose own experience of Christ would transform him into a believer,
and later a martyr himself.

—Catholic News Agency