God shed His grace on thee…

For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean
themselves as good citizens…
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,
continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants.”

(excerpt is taken from a letter written by George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation
in Newport, Rhode Island)


(Washington before Yorktown / Rembrandt Peale 1824)

Okay—long story short…
I began this post day’s ago…when I caught a news story about a letter from,
a soon to be President Washington, expressing his belief in God…
or who Washington so often referred to as “Providence” (’twas the times).

It coincided with the news story regarding Representative Ilhan Omar’s disparaging remarks
concerning Israel and Jews.
Shame on you Ms. Omar….but more to you later.

I have many other choice words to say to our new dear darlings of the House,
as well as some not so new senators and congress folks, those who are jumping on the intolerant bandwagon
of antisemitism, anger, and ignorance all while hiding under a Mr. Rogers-like engulfing sweater of all
things equitable, fair and tolerant…those who flock to the altar of Socialism while pretending to
be all things welcoming, inviting and dare I say, American.

They do not ask “would you like to be my neighbor?”… preferring rather to eradicate any and all who
continue to cling to and adhere to the tenants of a Judaeo/ Christian culture—that which our
Nation was actually built upon.

I will save those choice words for another day.

However, with all the current talk and a seemingly nefarious push to eliminate our
Judaeo / Christian foundation by an uber progressive radical culture, finding
a letter by a soon to be President Washington praising God for the ratification of our constitution
was uplifting.

Wednesday evening I sat down to finish the original post.
I wrote all evening until it was time for bed.
I saved everything and thought I was good to go.

The following day there was no finished post but rather only the original post…
sitting there as if I’d never touched it since I started it.

It wasn’t in my history on the computer or in WP.
Odd…to say the least.
So I’ll try to recall what I had to say…maybe it will be better.

Plus this is not to be an in depth thesis on the “faith of our fathers” but rather
a tantalizing morsel to whet your whistle.

There has been a growing debate for years concerning the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers…
A debate now rapidly growing and gaining in interest as many folks now wish to expunge all
references to God from our founding documents, our pledge, our historical architecture,
our books, and even our currency.

It appears that many non-believers and progressive provocateurs look to Thomas Jefferson when they wish
to begin an argument about God’s presence, or lack thereof, in this Nation of ours…
as Jefferson’s personal beliefs have always been a bit grey and convoluted given his keen interest in science
as well as theism and deism.

Jefferson was a devout theist, believing in a benevolent creator God to whom humans owed praise.
In an early political text, he wrote that “The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;…”
He often referred to his or “our” God but did so in the language of an eighteenth-century natural
philosophy: “our creator,” the “Infinite Power, which rules the destinies of the universe,”
“overruling providence,” “benevolent governor,” etc.
In 1823, he wrote to John Adams referring to
“the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore” while denouncing atheism.

Jefferson said that Christianity would be the best religion in a republic,
especially one like the United States with a broad diversity of ethnicities and religions.
“[T]he Christian religion when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have
inveloped it, and brought to the original purity &; simplicity of its benevolent institutor,
is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, & the freest expression of the human mind,”
he explained. It was a “benign religion…
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and love of man,
acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence.”
Based on these understandings, Jefferson demonstrated a deep, even devout, admiration of Jesus,
“the purity & sublimity of his moral precepts, the eloquence of his inculcations,
the beauty of the apologues in which he conveys them…

It was in this context that Jefferson said that
“I am a Christian,” a quote which is often repeated or referred to without context.
What he said was “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Jesus] wished anyone to be;…”

Monticello Organization

And speaking of John Adams…probably my favorite president as well as favorite Founding Father,
it seems we glean much of our knowledge of both Adams and Jefferson, along with their feelings and thoughts
regarding the Christian faith, from their correspondence between one another.

Much of what we know of Thomas Jefferson’s religion comes from letters he wrote from 1811 to 1826
to John Adams. Much more of what we know about John Adams’ views on religion comes from
his letters to Jefferson.
Religion was important to John Adams

“From early entries in his diary to letters written late in life,
Adams composed variations on a single theme:
God is so great, I am so small.
Adams never doubted who was in charge of the universe,
never viewed himself as master of his, or anyone’s destiny.”

There was a strong Puritan strain to Adams’ morality even when he strayed from Puritans’
religious precepts:
Adams wrote at 21 “that this World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State,
but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity
and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence,
after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety.
And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire,
and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune,
against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

Like Jefferson, Adams was a child of the Enlightenment.
The future president brought to religion a lively interest in science that he developed at Harvard.
Steven Waldman wrote: “Like [John] Locke, Adams believed that since God created the laws of the universe,
the scientific study of nature would help us understand His mind and conform to His wishes.

Like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams believed in the utility of religion even when he had doubts
about religious beliefs themselves:
“Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.

Lehrmaninstitue.org

So as we turn our sights to Washington and his personal views…
We know that the General and future President remains a bit of an enigma when it comes
to our understanding anything truly personal within Washington’s true beliefs.

Washington remains a larger than life figure in our Nation’s history
and yet he was a very private man…
probably more so than his fellow fraternity of Founding Fathers.
The Lehrmaninstitue offers this: George Washington worked hard to keep separate his public and
private views on religion.

History tells us that Washington’s life-long love was his dear Mt Vernon, farming and family…
Following his departure from office, disappearing into obscurity at Mt Vernon was most welcomed.

In most later paintings of Washington, we see an often dour man…particularly emotionless.
Some historians credit chronic mouth pain due to, yes, wooden dentures, to Washington’s pained and
stoic portraits.
At the same time, we know that Washington had been raised an Anglican.
Anglicans by nature, both then and now, are characteristically reserved when it comes to their faith.
They are not as demonstrative nor vocal regarding their belief in God or that of their faith.
I know because I was raised under a similar umbrella.

The Mount Vernon Organization shares a private insight with us…
Looking at Washington’s theological beliefs,
it is clear that he believed in a Creator God of some manner,
and seemingly one that was also active in the universe.
This God had three main traits; he was wise, inscrutable, and irresistible.

Washington referred to this God by many names, but most often by the name of “Providence.”

Washington also referred to this being by other titles to infer that this God was
the Creator God.

This aspect of his belief system is central to the argument about whether or not
Washington was a Deist.
His belief in God’s action in the world seems to preclude traditional deism.
Washington believed that humans were not passive actors in this world.
However, for Washington, it was also improper to question Providence.
This caused Washington to accept whatever happened as being the will of Providence.

Notably, Washington did see God as guiding the creation of the United States.

It is also possible that Washington felt he needed to discern the will of Providence.
These facts point to belief in a God who is hidden from humanity,
yet continually influencing the events of the universe.

This does not illustrate conclusively that he was a devout Christian, however.
Washington never explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in
private correspondence.
The only mentions of Christ are in public papers, and those references are scarce.
However, Washington’s lack of usage may be due to the accepted practice of his day;
Jesus was not typically referenced by Anglicans or Episcopalians of Washington’s generation.

Mount Vernon Organization

And whereas each man had his own personal and private thoughts and feelings regarding a Divine
Omnipotent Creator…each man, however, was very much convinced that this Creator was pivotal
to laying the foundation of the new fledgling nation.
He was intertwined within her birth, invited to play a key role and intentionally injected into
each part of her birthing fibers.

History teaches us that each man agreed that God and the Christian faith were vital
to the birth of the young nation. A unifying base.
And each man demonstrated a unique humility with regard to that which was greater than themselves.

These Founding Fathers provided us with a foundation as well as a guidepost.
It is my hope that we will not depart from the very foundation that our earliest architects
found necessary to our survival as a viable and functioning nation.

May we continue to humble ourselves to the one true Creator who is far greater than ourselves
and may He continue to shed his Grace on us all.

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/

https://www.foxnews.com/science/george-washington-letter-on-god-and-the-constitution-surfaces

Now I lay me down to sleep…

“now I lay me down to sleep…”


(The Mayor on a recent visit to the statalite office of Woobooville / Julie Cook / 2019)

Feeling rather discouraged last evening…as I readied myself for bed, I had hurriedly read the post
of a dear blogger friend in Colorado who was sharing her feelings about adoption,
abortion, Woe v Wade, life, death…
and of course, with my having been adopted, it hit a strong chord.

I have really not felt very well as of late and that has had a great deal to do with how I
filter what it is that I take in from the world around me, around us…
all of which has been at best– abysmal.

The Covington Catholic Shcool debacle has really shaken my feelings about this country of ours.

Add to that a sitting president being told by the speaker of the house that he cannot deliver
a state of the union address…
yes all lower case letters because it is such a true all-time low that this
Nation of ours has hit.

Here is Shara’s post from Tuesday:
Unhappy Birthday Roe v. Wade!

As I was putting down my phone for the evening, having tucked my laptop in for the night…
I told my husband, as I turned out the bedside light, “you know, despite all the bad, all the
negative, all the hurtful and distressing…
I still feel a tremendous sense of hope.
There are folks all over out there…
out in Colorado, California, Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas,
England, Wales, Scotland, Africa…
posts I read that offer me a tremendous sense of hope and well being.

Christians who maintain a sound position of Truth.

I am comforted in knowing that all is not lost.
And so I thank each of you who continue to offer me, as well as all of us, the hope everlasting that
is found simply in your words…
You offer the eternal Truth that God remains…no matter what, He remains eternal and Omnipotent.

For all that is bad…
For all that is negative…
For all that is disparaging…
there remains…
Hope…

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
May the angels watch me through the night,
and keep me in their blessed sight.
Amen

life’s blood

“It is not sin as we see it that was laid on Christ but sin as God sees it,
not sin as our conscience feebly reveals it to us but sin as God beholds it in all its unmitigated
malignity and unconcealed loathsomeness.
Sin, in its exceeding sinfulness, Jesus has put away.
But when we perceive sin, then we are to trust the blood.”

Charles Spurgeon


(detail from Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim altarpiece, 1512-1516, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar)

Every 3 months or so, I have to go in for blood work.
I go in primarily for the checking of my thyroid levels.
I have a roller coaster for a thyroid.
Up and down…never just one or the other.

They call that not hypo or hyperthyroidism but rather Hashimoto’s Disease…meaning my thyroid levels
fluctuate both up and or down with no specific rhyme or reason.

A thyroid is a gland in the neck, near the larynx, that regulates the body’s metabolic rate…
It helps to regulate the heart, the digestive system, muscle control, bone growth, and even one’s moods.
It’s a small gland but hugely important.

So I must take a synthetic thyroid hormone to help keep mine working as it should.
The bloodwork lets the doctors know if they need to change the strength either up or down.

Since I go in to see my doctor next week, I needed to go in for the bloodwork today, a week prior.

I’m not afraid of needles nor am I afraid of seeing blood–that being the blood of others
not so much keen on seeing my own—

As an Art teacher, my kids were accidentally yet constantly, as in all the time,
cutting their hands with either razor blades or the gouges we used in printmaking—
in turn, leading them to freak out.
And so my girl scout and first-aid training would kick into action–
direct pressure and hold above the heart, call the school nurse.

So whereas I don’t enjoy being stuck and drained as if a vampire had gotten a hold of me,
being stuck doesn’t really bother me.

So there I was sitting with my sleeve rolled up, tourniquet tied tight, fist clenched
while my head turned elsewhere looking away lest I might possibly faint…
other’s blood, no problem— my blood, small problem.

But I mindlessly chattered with the phlebotomist, praying she’ll take off that blasted tourniquet that
was squeezing the life from my arm, and before I knew it, we were done.

She gathered her needed vials—

Three vials of blood.

Vials that will tell my doctor where my current thyroid levels rest.
They will tell her that my cholesterol is most likely up.
They will tell her whether there are any vitamin deficiencies in my body.
They will tell her if there is any sort of infection in my body– as in high white blood cells.
They will tell her if my liver enzymes are still too high as in fatty.
They will tell her if the Hemochromatosis is out of sorts.
They will tell her if my hormones are awry.
They will tell her if there is inflammation.
They can tell her if there might be a cancer.
They can tell her if I have celiac disease or any other number of diseases.
And if I were a much younger woman, they could tell her whether or not I was pregnant.

All of that and more from three small vials of blood pulled directly from a vein.

Amazing really.

And whereas some of the results may not be necessarily pleasing, the results can, in turn,
be life-saving.

My thoughts quickly shifted from the notion of medical information to that of
the essential necessity of life’s sustaining blood.

The doctor can tell so much from just a couple of vials of blood–life or death things…
but the one thing she can’t tell is whether the blood in my veins is merely mine or that
of the blood of the lamb…

The Bible is rife with tales of the importance of blood.

The African Research Review offers this insight:
“From the earliest times, God had insisted on blood sacrifice as the ground upon which He was to be approached.
As God’s revelatory act and the corresponding relationship developed,
the Levitical sacrifices had to be systematized and made an integral part of the Hebrew religion.
Blood-related sacrifice to the Jew, therefore, was an ultimate demand from God resulting in a unique relationship.”

The significance of Blood sacrifice in the Old Testament could, therefore,
be seen in its union with God, from whom man distanced himself due to disobedience to set norms.
This union eventually culminates in substitution, for the fact that punishment for sin cannot be averted.
The concept of substitution has to do with taking the place of the actual culprit.
In citing Moraldi, Gabriel Abe (2004:26) said that the offerer is substituting his life with the victim
in order to undertake his deserved punishment as a result of his sins or wrong doing committed with Israel…
the blood sacrifice was obligatory in cleansing.
Blood is life (Lev. 17:11, 14) and to shed blood, a victim must be killed in place of the sacrificer.

According to Biblesprout.com

The blood of humans and animals is a high complex fluid which contains cells,
various forms of nourishment for tissues, oxygen, disease antibodies, hormones and other
substances which, when in balance, maintain health and well being.
Thus, the life of the flesh (i.e., the whole body) is indeed “in the blood.”
(THE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES — LEVITICUS, p. 181).

Blood is known to be a vital principle of the physical body.
The discovery of the circulation of the blood was revolutionary in the study of anatomy.
In more recent years it has been demonstrated that the health of the body depends on the
rapidity of the blood flow; and blood transfusions are an accepted means of prolonging life.
(THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS, C. R. Erdman, p. 81).

The Bible does say for the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11);
for it is the life of all flesh (Leviticus 17:14);…
for the blood is the life (Deuteronomy 12:23).

The blood represents life, and so sacred is life before God that the blood of animals was used
in all offerings for sin as man’s vicarious substitute (atonement)
under the Mosaic (Old Testament) law.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

Only as atonement is linked with death, the shedding of blood, and not life set free,
would it appear to become efficacious in the covering of human sin.

Enter the need for a substitute…
no amount of sacrifice or the letting of animal or human blood can expunge the sin of mankind.

Enter the Lamb.

“The regulations concerning the sacredness of blood are full of spiritual meaning for the Christian.
In addition to justification and forgiveness through the blood of Christ (see Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7),
the Christian gains access to God in faith (Hebrews 10:22),
experiences victory over evil (Revelation 12:11), and obtains eternal glory (Revelation 7:19).
The death of Christ has brought new life into being for mankind by atoning for us in a manner completely
beyond our own human abilities to perform.
(TYNDALE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES– LEVITICUS, pp. 182,183).

(Dr. Elmer Towns)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians1:7

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

for unto you…

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)