pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

I know our problem


(sun coming up /Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve been chatting a great deal, as of late, about the current state of events
taking place around this Nation of ours.

Not a great deal of positives to report–or so say the news outlets…
or so say many of us average observers.

Because according to anything newsy, the sky is falling, the Russians are coming,
the White Supremacists are already here, everyone is a racist and if you support the
President of the United States of America, you are to be immediately outed via all things social media,
shamed, tarred, feathered and branded a deplorable, annihilated and readily destroyed…
plain and simple.
Heck, they wanted to make a movie about that very thing.

100 years ago such news would have been met with shrieks of laughter or the
hushed tones of berating to never say such heresy.

Sigh.

The other thing I’ve been chatting on and off about is the state of the Chruch
(be it the Chruch on either side of the pond)—
As in there’s been a big sell-out by denominations and clergy…all opting to follow the culture
gods and not the God of all Creation.

Happy happy is the key.
Abortions are okayed.
Same-sex marriages are approved, as well as happily conducted in sanctuary after sanctuary.
Gay clergy are a-okay.
Transgenderism is embraced.
The biological concept of male and female is now passe as gender is a fluid notion.
The traditional family is a cumbersome dinosaur and considered obsolete.
Males are to be neutered all because we no longer like strong male figures in the world.
Intolerance is the new tolerance.
Violence is the end to whatever means…
all the while the Chruch turns a blind eye or jumps in willing, into the thick of it all.

Yep, things seem all topsy turvy if you ask me.

And so I think I’ve finally figured out the problem.

At first, I thought the problem was simply that we had become an angry people.

Think Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Neo-Nazis…or even the angry progressive liberal news…
However, I think I’ve actually narrowed things down beyond the mere angry component.

Yes, we are indeed an angry people but that is just a result of our real problem.

The real problem is that we have lost The Sacred.

We have lost our understanding of The Sacred.

We have lost our longing for The Sacred.

We have lost the reality of our very need for The Sacred.

But here’s the thing, The Sacred has not lost us.
Never has.
Never will.

But for us, on the other hand…well…we lost The Sacred like we lose our keys.

We put Him down and can’t seem to remember where we put Him.

And if the truth be told, we don’t care if we find Him or not.

We’ve become so consumed by ourselves that we’ve squeezed the space The Sacred occupied
till there is no space left.

We are smug and arrogant, powered by tremendous appetites and egos…and yes, anger.

And yet I dare must ask… exactly how happy are you?
How content?
How at peace?

And so here’s the thing…it’s not too late to make room in that overly crowded
discontented space.

It will take, however, a little humbling,
a little letting go of that ego and of course that anger…and a simple,
“Dear Father, please hear me…”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy,
and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

What say you my friends?

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first
line of defense.
We pray when there’s nothing else we can do,
but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that
will get immediate results.
We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because
His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”
Oswald Chambers


(Praying hands by Albrecht Dürer 1508)

Back on February 1st, I wrote a post concerning the dire story canvasing the headlines…
that story being the notion of third term abortions—or what some folks have labeled as
4th term abortions.

The idea being that full-term delivered babies, followed by a discussion between parents and doctors,
could be left to simply die.
Personally, I call that murder but hey, what do I know.

Here is the post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/third-term-abortions-absolutely-not/comment-page-1/#comment-23198

It was on that post that I received the following comment by a fellow blogger, “Mother Hen”:
(mother hen’s site: https://mamahenprays.wordpress.com/about/)

Mother Hen:
“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God,
he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.
Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling,
deception, malicious behavior and gossip.
All of Romans 1
I would like to join you and others for a set time to pray.
What do you think”

My response:
I think that would be a very good idea!

Mother Hen:
If there is a certain day of the week..
when we could begin to individually lift up our prayers for this specific request or any other
that might come our way. But agreeing together as buddies here at wordpress..
would surely be a blessing.. and much needed.
If you are led you might consider opening it up to others here.
You are excellent with words. But I take into consideration that the mayor needs you right now,
so maybe easing into it might be best for you.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

my response:
I agree and I do believe prayer is a powerful tool.
I’m here in Atlanta with the Mayor until Saturday…and when I say I’m here with the Mayor…
it is 24/7 unitl mom and dad finally get home in the evening…
to say I’m tired is an understatement…but in a good way!
So this weekend I’ll write a post about our praying together—-
I figure we need to be specific—but in which direction?
For the Nation’s leadership?
For Christians in an ever increasing socialistic society?
Maybe I’ll just ask for a consensus….
but I think specific prayer and time will be key!

So when I recently read and later shared the story about our friend the Wee Flea’s testimony
and his near brush with death, my memory was quickly jarred back to my conversation with Mother Hen.

David’s health was rapidly failing so his church sent out an urgent email asking for
prayers for David’s healig at a set time daily.

David later responded…

“The churches responded.
You can call it coincidence.
But from that weekend on I began to get better.”

The power of a committed prayer.

What I call focused prayer.

God honors our petitions and cries.
Sometimes He answers us readily and directly…
Other times He answers in ways we do not always see nor understand.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,
it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:19-20

I think we all agree that we need to be praying for our Nation, our leaders,
as well as now for our unborn, or perhaps more correctly, our recently born children…

And so I ask you–
What say you?

What shall we pray for…percisely?

Shall we pray about this third term abortion debacle?
Shall we pray about our loss of morality?
Shall we pray about our oppressed Christian faith?
Shall we pray about our divided Nation?

What shall be our precise prayer?
When shall it be prayed?
And how often shall it be prayerd?

We all need to be in agreement on a specific prayer, a specific day and a specific time…
and then we need to join together in that prayer.

And so I ask each of your—what shall we, the faithful, be about?

Offer your thoughts and we’ll sort out our direction.

Christendom

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers.
We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand,
we are obliged to act accordingly.

Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard


(a hornets nest on the side of a house Blue Ridge, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

The world in which we live is the battleground of the Church.
I believe that we are now living at the end of Christendom.
It is the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity.

What is Christendom?

Christendom is the political, economic, moral, social, legal life of a nation as
inspired by the gospel ethic. That is finished.

Abortion, the breakdown of family life, dishonesty,
even the natural virtues upon which the supernatural virtues were based,
are being discredited.

Christianity is not at the end.
But we are at the end of Christendom.

And I believe that the sooner we wake up to this fact,
the sooner we will be able to solve many of our problems.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

the cost of silence as time is not our friend

“It is impossible to be a part-time Christian”
David Fiorazo, The Cost of our Silence


(image courtesy the web)

The very first paragraph of his introduction grabbed me:

America has over 300,000 churches, but few would contest that our Christian influence
is decreasing as the nation becomes more secularized.
Our biblical values are no longer being consistently demonstrated and promoted
and therefore, do not translate out from behind church walls and into culture.
Why are there so few speaking up for Jesus Christ and for righteousness in public anymore?
Hope for revival remains, and a remnant of committed leaders and believers are doing
their part, but because of the posers and pretenders,
American Christianity has almost become a joke.
People in the Middle East look at Hollywood, the Internet, and our government.
They see our education system, media and the people we elect.
They observe our greed, idolatry,
and society as a whole and refer to us as “The Great Satan.”

I mentioned the other day having seen the book The Cost of our Silence by David Fiorazo.
After reading the small snippet regarding the book, I was intrigued…
so much so that I ordered the book…
In part, because here was what I’ve been trying to say, in so many words, in the actual
print of a book…as in, this guy was saying what I’ve
known but have felt almost alone espousing from my small blog’s bully pulpit.

And here’s the odd thing.
As I’m not on social media, my little blog is indeed just that– little.
Not much exposure albeit for here in my small corner of the world of happy WP.
So my readership is not exactly grand in scope.

That is except when I write about certain topics…
topics just like what our friend David Fiorazo is addressing in his book.

I’ve never been much of a numbers person, as math was never my strong suit.
Yet when I was still in the classroom, schools were becoming big hunters of numbers,
percentages and stats…

We were inundated with keeping stats on all sorts of things with our students…
be it testing results, benchmark results, attendance, discipline…you name it.

This numbers notion was born from the thought that “numbers don’t lie”—
Numbers were now being equated with goals…
goals met or goals not yet met.
We were told that the numbers would tell us…
they would be the polestar pointing us in the right direction.

And we knew that a successful school that was meeting its goals and or standards was
seen as exceptional. If students were meeting their goals and standards, that would
in turn mirror the success of the school.

It became a vicious cycle of goals, stats, and results equaling glowing standards which were
being met with huge success…and we all know that if a school wants to be exceptional,
its students must be meeting and exceeding goals and stats.

These numbers became the backing behind the words.
Words such that “we are a school of excellence because our numbers don’t lie”
Schools could claim this or that as long as the numbers backed up the words.

Unfortunately, due to the pressure of meeting certain statewide or national criteria,
school systems found themselves fudging numbers in order to keep up the appearance of
being exceptional.
The pressure becomes so great that jobs were hanging in the balance of
student’s measuring up to the standard, goal, criteria numbers game.

It appeared that numbers could lie if the number counters could alter the count.

Atlanta Public Schools was one such system that was “caught” fudging the numbers.
They were inflating the state and national test results of their students…
going so far as to actually changing student’s answers.

The fear being that a failing school would lose federal funding due to
Falling scores and stats would see administrators losing their jobs and teachers would lose
their jobs and in the end who wants their school to lose that precious federal funding?!

It was and continues to be a numbers mess to be sure.

But here in blogland, the stats and numbers aren’t as precarious or crucial.
No one loses a job over low blog stats…rather perhaps one’s sense of worth as a writer,
or of that of a cook, or a photographer, or a creative individual…

We all have on our admin page the stats section.
A chart showing the readership over a day, a week, a month, a year…
a gauge of success, or as some think, popularity.

Yet life does not hang in the balance over blog stats…not unless you’re the type
of person who keeps track of such and in turn stresses over the fluctuation and
the fickleness of blog readers.

My stats, when I write posts that are more benign, more about a grandbaby or just pretty
pictures, typically run relatively low.
Kind of like just idly flipping through a magazine…
just another eyes glazed over page-turner.

But when I write posts from the bully pulpit of Christian Apologetics such as
Christian apathy or that of abortion, or homosexuality and same-sex unions,
heresy or atheism, or the failings of The Chruch, or posts about Chrisitan morality,
God’s word, the Truth of our Faith—
my numbers soar…as does the “hate” mail.

And I’ll admit that I don’t always have the time to devote to this sort of evangelizing
posting as it demands true depth and justice.

Some days life requires the simple and glazed over page-turners all because time is
not our friend.
The true meat and potatoes type of posts need passion, time for research and even valid
documentation…all of which does the subject matter justice.

And so when I read the words of authors such as Mr. Fiorazo, I feel those fires igniting—
as in it’s time to get cooking with some really flavorful meat and potatoes.

Mr. Fiorazo continues in his introduction:

Just as Jesus wept for Jerusalem while acknowledging its judgment,
should we not weep for America as the signs clearly point to God’s impending judgment on
a once-mighty, blessed Nation?
So we expect God to stay His hand of judgment and continue blessing a rebellious and
narcissistic people with His protection and provision?

One might argue, “But God is still on the throne.”
Sue. I agree He is sovereign over all events and circumstances.
He remains all-powerful, but He does not control us or force people to love Him.
God was also on His throne when we legalized abortion,
and soon America will be closing in on 60 million babies murdered in the name of “choice.”
Chrisitan helped elect the most pro-abortion,
anti-Christian president in our history–twice.
Do you suppose God cares how we vote?

God is still on the throne–
and He is preparing to judge a complacent people who continue ducking the issue of sin.

So with all of this simply found in the first few pages from a book’s introduction,
I can only imagine what might be waiting inside the book itself.

And so as I begin the slow picking apart and digesting of what it is I will be reading,
I will certainly, time and life cooperating, be sharing some important words for all
of us who call ourselves Believers.

Hopefully offering up a hearty portion of delicious meat and potatoes.

Yet I am mindful that time is not our friend.
Our time is running nigh as God’s judgment will not remain at bay forever…

Wake up!
Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

Revelation 3:2

Costly Justification

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

RSCN2711
(flowering quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

‘It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”(1 Cor 6:20) and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship Vol 4 pp 45

We have honed our craft both you and I….
As we have become that which we justify…

For within each justification lies…
the crime,
the hating,
the sentence,
the lying,
the hurting,
the bombing,
the cheating,
the policy,
the stealing,
the taking,
the death,
and even the murder…

Echoed are the causal observations…
“Twas a crime of passion”
“It was a justifiable homicide”
“It was taken in order that they could eat”
“It was hidden for their own good…”
“It was stolen in order to pay…”

There are…
The interestingly tragic assisted suicides…
The abortions due to untimely pregnancies…
The surreal justifiable shootings…
The acceptable culture of death…
The wars to end all wars…
The nuclear deterrents….

Every human act can be justified into being correct…

It was…
the right decision…
a necessary evil…
the only option…

How quickly it rolls off the tongue, as it slips easily from consciousness.
There is no remorse, no guilt, no real sorrow…
because it was something that had to be…

The justification of and for every action and reaction of mankind…

And yet how does one justify the free offering of ones only child…
In order that others may live…

One word….

Grace….

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—-not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9