cancel Christmas, bah humbug!

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’
on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of
holly through his heart. He should!”

Ebeneezer Scrooge


(Alistair Sim as Scrooge)

So I’m currently up to my elbows in bubble wrap…as we continue the overwhelming task of
packing up the house for a move in mid-January.

But despite my current state of distraction, I have managed to hear, read and see the growing
crescendo of rumblings being offered up by various governmental leadership, on both sides of the pond,
all talking about “canceling” Christmas.

Canceling Christmas?

Hummmmm…

Well it seems that I am not the only one who has heard of these latest
COVID restrictions being mulled over by the various politicians both far and near.

Mandated—-

There shall be no collective gatherings—or so they say.

No family get-togethers.
No Midnight mass.
No live nativities.
No shared meals.
No singing.
No caroling.
No parties.
No worship.

So instead of mistletoe and Christmas pageants, there are to be fines, warrants,
and arrests for anyone choosing to defy the Draconian proclamations.
Woe be unto anyone who wants to live out a life full of the depth of holiday cheer
and Christian Joy.

It seems that our friend the Wee Flea, the Pastor David Roberston, hailing
these days from the land down under, has written his latest post about this very notion–
the idea of canceling Christmas.

David even offered up a bit of a history lesson—
Did you know that Christmas was once actually illegal in England?…

“After all was it not Cromwell who banned Christmas?
Not quite…

On 19 December 1643, the English Parliament passed a law encouraging its citizens to treat
the mid-winter period ‘with the more solemn humiliation because it may call to
remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast,
pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him,
by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights’.
From then until 1660, Christmas was actually illegal in England.
In Scotland we banned it from 1640 until 1686.
In fact Christmas was not a public holiday in Scotland until 1958 (unlike New Year) –
Boxing Day in 1974.
We can’t blame Cromwell for that.

I have grown to love Christmas as a great time to reflect upon the incarnation
and to communicate the Gospel.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see –
hail the incarnate Deity.
Yet I also loathe the commercialism, excess and
‘carnal and sensual delights’. Excessive drunkenness,
as well as the declining popularity of the church,
meant that the tradition of midnight Christmas carols, was already becoming less.
Who knows, but Covid may have killed it off?
In St Peter’s in Dundee I introduced a carol service and a Christmas day service –
both were great opportunities for outreach and fellowship.
I suspect McCheyne would not have approved.

But what about this year?
In Sydney, we are debating about whether we can go ahead with outdoor carol services
and get over the ridiculous ban on singing.
In the UK and the US, I suspect the Covid hysteria will be ongoing and
just when they need some Christmas cheer they will be reduced to what
the Scottish Government is calling a ‘digital Christmas’.
It won’t be long before the daily message from politicians includes the
sickly message that Santa is not banned.

But perhaps we can give a different message?
Perhaps churches can ‘reset’ so that we turn Christmas to what it should be –
a celebration of the incarnate God. At a time when churches are being urged
to be less incarnational we can proclaim the one who did not come ‘digitally’,
nor did he die or rise ‘spiritually’.
He came in the flesh.
Pleased as man with man to dwell.
A real baby, with real tears (crying he did make),
in a real world where an unknown number of baby boys were killed in an attempt to get him.
Real angels…real shepherds….a real star…and real glory.
In a world that is governed by misery and fear, we can bring
‘good news of great joy for all the people’.

We should be singing like the angels in the public square…
we should be proclaiming Christ from the rooftops, in our pulpits
and on our digital platforms.
We should be looking at creative ways to engage church,
children and community with the Gospel.
Perhaps some will not be permitted to bring people to church –
but is there any reason why we cannot go out –
by whatever means possible – and, like the angels, take the good news of
‘glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men on whom his favour rests’?
Instead of churches seeing Christmas as an exhausting burden of endless services,
perhaps we can find a more sustainable way to use this
time to proclaim and glorify Christ.
Maybe even Cromwell would approve of that.

Have Yourself A Merry Cromwellian Christmas – AP

And so I now think about Christmas.

I think about the secular vs the spiritual of Christmas.

I think about what it means to keep Christmas in our hearts.

And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all;
God bless us, every one!”

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience
as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever.
Amen.

Timothy 1:15-17

Yes, God bless us each and everyone!!!

conspiracy musings

“All that happens is as habitual and familiar as roses
in spring and fruit in the summer.
True too of disease, death, defamation, and conspiracy—and
all that delights or gives pain to fools.”

Marcus Aurelius


(apple blossoms /Julie Cook/ 2020)

Now you should know I don’t believe in aliens.

No area 51…no code blue book.

And I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts…

But… I do believe in spiritual warfare…
meaning…demons/evil and angels/heavenly are defintily real.

However…

The jury remains out on this whole virus business.

Where are the real power players during all of this?
Have we heard from George Soros?
Hillary or Bill?

Where are those who believe they wield world power and domination?

It does make for intriguing thoughts while one is confined to quarters going on
now nearly 5 weeks, with a houseful of demanding family.

China seems now almost giddy.
Free and ready to rally en masse.

All the while our stock market rides a daily roller coaster and our
fellow Americans “screw” one another to the wall over essentials such as toilet paper
and Lysol.

To mask or not to mask…that is the question.

How does such a virus make such rounds in such a short and narrow window?

There is a southern county in our state that has experienced some of the highest
numbers of cases and deaths.
It is not near a metropolitan area, yet it has maintained a consistency with Fulton County,
home to Atlanta…

It is all so strange and surreal.

And is it not odd that we may readily go to and from various stores and businesses
albeit at qued distances…yet our houses of worships, are deemed by law, forbidden?

If ever we needed a church to open its doors to those who might wish to pray
or simply sit and ponder…it is now!

Yet faith and the observance of such is suddenly deemed non-essential.

Oh the irony in such thinking…

And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart,
but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:22-24

won by One who makes imperfection perfect

Satan has a kingdom here on earth.
It’s called the culture of death, but his kingdom has an expiration date.
That’s good news.
Jesus has a kingdom as well.
There is no expiration date.
It will last forever.
Remember, Church, we have been won by One.
The next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

Jesse Romero
from The Devil in the City of Angels


(deer moss / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Do they desire to join me in thanksgiving when they hear how, by your gift,
I have come close to you, and do they pray for me when they hear
how I am held back by my own weight?

A brotherly mind will love in me what you teach to be lovable,
and will regret in me what you teach to be regrettable.

This is a mark of a Christian brother’s mind, not an outsider’s—
not that of ‘the sons of aliens whose mouth speaks vanity,
and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity’ (Ps. 143:7 f.).

A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me,
but when he disapproves, he is loving me.

To such people I will reveal myself.
They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones.
My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts.
My bad points are my faults and your judgments on them.
Let them take heart from the one and regret the other.
Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts,
your censers. …
But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

my weekend

[Our] love of neighbor is genuine love (instead of common interest) only if it includes the
love of God and leaves the other free for God.
Love of neighbor finds its fulfillment in the love of God, love of God its concretization
in love of neighbor.

Adrienne von Speyr
from The Passion from Within


(The Mayor and Sheriff sleeping until time for me to crawl in / Julie Cook / 2019)

I just got home from spending the weekend with the Mayor and Sheriff.

Leaving is always so hard.

When I’m up visiting and since there are now two babies…
there are now no spare bedrooms and thus my “bedroom” is in the den on
a sofa sleeper.

That means that I have officially turned into my aunt Martha as that
is how it worked years ago in our little world when our son was a baby.

So now when I visit, the Mayor usually sleeps with me, Moppie…
but last night the Sherrif had fallen asleep before his mom has everything situated,
so the two of them “rested” until everyone got to the right bed!!!

The chaos from the outings of the day is quickly forgotten when everyone is sleeping like
little angels…

Yet we all know that all of this peacefulness will quickly change once the sun rises
and the day is afoot as the energy of little people is recharged and renewed!

Reminds me somewhat of werewolves and vampires—but in this case, things are reversed.
Angels at sleep—whirling dervishes with tempers and demands by day…

But it’s all actually really quite grand—despite the exhaustion of adults!

Time for a soothing cup of tea for Moppie!


(an angelic Sheriff with wiley hair/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(let not the Mayor’s restful demeanor fool you for one minute—
aka hell on wheels! / Julie Cook/ 2019)

the contemplation found in nighttime shadows

“If then we have angels, let us be sober,
as though we were in the presence of tutors;
for there is a demon present also.”

St. John Chrysostom


(a little evening, pre-bath, walk with the mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)


(a screech owl watches our little evening walk / Julie Cook / 2019)

“I never found anyone so religious and devout as not to have sometimes a subtraction of grace,
or feel a diminution of fervor.
No saint was ever so highly rapt and illuminated as not to be tempted sooner or later.
For he is not worthy of the high contemplation of God who has not,
for God’s sake, been exercised with some tribulation.
For temptation going before is usually a sign of ensuing consolation.
For heavenly comfort is promised to such as have been proved by temptation.
To him that overcometh, saith our Lord, I will give to eat of the tree of life.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 65
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

making the invisible, visible…

Because God is love, and we are made in his image and likeness, our relationships should
reflect him in the world.
This, perhaps, is the greatest form of evangelization:
to make an invisible God visible to the world through our love.

Jason Evert
from Purity 365


(a butterfly at the Butterfly House, Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Indeed, the glory to which God raises the soul through grace is so great that even the
natural beauty of the Angels is as nothing compared with it.
The Angels themselves wonder how a soul that was sunk in the desert of this sinful earth
and robbed of all natural beauty can be clothed with such a wonderful splendor.
But this wonder of the Angels will not surprise us when we see and hear that God Himself
considers the beauty of grace with astonishment and rapture.
For how otherwise can we explain what He says in The Canticle of Canticles to the soul:
‘How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou!’

(Cant. 4:1).”
Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 133

Merry Christmas to one and all….

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

Holy Waiting

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

― J.I. Packer

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

Elisabeth Elliot

ahfykc6dl0rl3g5wqyxs
(The Holiness of God surrounded by Seraphim /Illuminated manuscript / Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

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

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

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

Eberhard Arnold
In Holy Waiting

When the Time Was Filled
Christmas Meditations
Plough House Publishing

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10

and the Angels rejoiced

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
― George MacDonald

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(the closeup of a gorgeous heirloom pumpkin, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)

And on the first day, when God went about the task of creating Creation,
The Angels rejoiced.
God waved His hand, suddenly appearing out of the nothingness, there shone a great Light.
The Angels rejoiced.
He raised His head both up and down establishing a vast sky above and an open landscape below.
The Angels rejoiced.
He shed a single tear and immediately vast oceans, seas and waterways filled the landscape.
The Angels rejoiced.
He blew the dust from His hand, which in turn set the stars and the planets in motion, sending them dancing across the heavens.
The Angels rejoiced.
He formed both sun for day and moon for night.
The Angels rejoiced.
He placed his hands on the landscape and pulled his fingers across the surface, all manner of plant and tree sprouted forth from His very touch.
The Angels rejoiced.
He opened up his hand and from his palm poured animals, reptiles, insects and birds of every size, shape and color.
The Angels rejoiced.
He took handfuls of the mud which covered the landscape. The mud was full of the water, bits of the land–it was full of the plants, leaves, pollen, seeds and straw, as well as the dung and droppings of all the animals, reptiles, birds and insects.
He began pushing and pulling the mud, mixed with all the bits and pieces of His new Creation, through His strong yet tender hands.
He smiled contently as He felt the warm, soft, wet mud move and squish through His fingers.
He worked steadily but thoughtfully.
He shaped the muddy mix and moulded it until it was just right.
And there in the palm of His massive hand rested אֲדָמָה, adamah, Adam.
and for now, the Angels Rejoiced.
But God was not finished.
There, in the center of the first Light, the true Light of Light, from the very God of the very God, lay a tiny piece of God’s heart. It beat in unison with God’s heartbeat yet is stayed perfectly suspended in the center of the true Light.
For God knew that Adam was a product of both light and dark.
There would be a time that Adam and his people would prefer life in the darkness.
God knew that in order to bring Adam and his people back to the true Light, He would have to provide Adam and his people with the small beating piece of God’s own heart.
And God proclaimed “I will be his father, and he will be my son (2 Samuel 7:14)
And the Angels Rejoiced.

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(closeup images of gorgeous heirloom pumpkins, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)