May we all remember…

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

“All we have of freedom, all we use or know –
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”

Rudyard Kipling


(BBC)


(News.com.au)

I know what you’ll say.
I know you’ll shake your head.
I know your pride will cloud your agreement.
You’ll disagree…
You’ll say I’m wrong…
Or you’ll simply be dismissive…subjecting me to a land of ignorance and deplorables.

But never the less… there are just some things that I believe our cousins from across
the pond get right…so much more so then we do ourselves.

And one of those things is the pausing of the day in order to remember…

A Queen, clad in black, sporting the tri bloom of the red poppy.
A stalwart and determined 93-year-old monarch flanked by wreaths of red poppies.
A usually stiff upper lipped emotionless woman who stops to wipe away a single tear.
All because she remembers.

She remembers.

But the question is, do we?

Perhaps she remembers more clearly because she has lived on the soil where
wars have been fought.
Or that her family has borne the brunt of carrying an ancient Nation during those wars.

Our soil has, on the other hand, been spared.
Other than our own war of division and now a new odd war of terror, our land has remained
basically untainted by world wars.

However, we cannot say the same about our people.

We have sent countless numbers of young men and young women toward the sound of gunfire rather
then holding them tightly in our arms, safely back home.

Some of them returned, some did not.
Some returned…different.

For those who did and have returned, they have done so changed…
both physically as well as emotionally.
And as long as humans have wars…this sad reality will continue.


(Dailymail)


(US wounded at Omaha Beach / US Army file)


(image courtesy American Grit)

Remembrance Day
Armistice Day
Veteran’s Day

Call it what you will.

It is a specified day in November, always the 11th, in which the British Commonwealth,
Canada, the European Nations, Australia, New Zealand, The US…
each pause to mark the recalling of the sacrifices made…
sacrifices that were readily and freely offered so that our collective nations might remain free.

Originally it was a day to mark the end of WWI—it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day
of the 11th month that the war ended when the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles.

Sadly and most ominously little did the world know then that that treaty would actually usher
in a new and even larger horror—only to follow suit not long after…
A more terrible horror than the first…

And so thus the UK, who marked Remembrance Day yesterday on Sunday with the laying of
poppy clad wreaths on tombs, monuments, and graves, now remember two world wars.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments during yesterday’s ceremony in London was when
the Queen’s wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb and monument in London that is a physical and tangible reminder that
not all soldiers come home…as many physical remains still lie elsewhere…
on foreign soil, long forgotten.
Buried or merely lost to the decay of time.


(The Telegraph)

And so we Americans will pause today, on this Monday, November the 11th, to offer our
own remembrance.
Banks and the Postal services will be closed.
Some schools and businesses will close.
Some communities will have parades.
As a president lays a wreath in Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


(courtesy Conservative Daily News)

But I fear that this nation of ours will not unite in its remembrance.
It will rather remain divided.

Say what they will about their monarchy, seeing their Queen shed tears during her public
remembrance of those who gave their all will draw the British closer, not further apart.

Our Nation will continue to throw caustic jabs at her President.
Her governmental leadership will continue insulting and publically hating one another.
Some in leadership will continue to cry out, hoping to drown out the somber markings
with their own shouts for socialism and that of antisemitism and progressive liberalism…
All of which are the makings of the unforgiving black hole that only aids to usher in the very
thing we now pause to remember…
that of broken nations, wars and eventual loss.

Her people will continue attacking one another over perceived political wrongs.
There will be little in the way of a national coming together in order to remember.
The bias will be heard and seen throughout the newsfeeds.

And so yes, I believe the United Kingdom, who has her own wealth of woe, as Brexit comes to mind,
does a far better job standing united in order to recall and to remember those that
they have loved and lost.

There are a few lessons this proud nation of ours still needs to learn…
A humbling remembering is one of them…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Major John McCrae, May 1915

Aiding and abetting…

We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge,
but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life.
The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.

Franz Kafka


(a helter-skelter feeding frenzy in the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Our dear favorite ‘across the pond’ rouge Anglican bishop is at it again…
showcasing the egregious acts of The Chruch, not being the Church.

And how might the Church not be the Church you ask…

Well the good Bishop is explaining such through various means…
such as taking part in interviews, writing a plethora of posts as well as contributing to
various printed articles.

Below is the most recent pitch from an interview with the BBC…

The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen,
has criticised the Cathedral for making a “mockery” of God.

“Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence,
instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people,”

Next, in a recent article, as well as posting, the good bishop offers the following as a
lead-in to such observations…

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and
to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini-golf course over the flagstones
where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter-skelter
at the heart of the building.

So for those of us on this side of the pond who simply think of the Beatles or Charles Manson
when we hear or read the words ‘helter-skelter’…a helter-skelter is actually an amusement ride.

And yes you’ve read correctly…
three churches, Cathedrals for that matter,
(Cathedrals being churches that are homes to a bishop),
have literally placed an amusement ride inside the sanctuary,
while another has put in a putt-putt green down its center aisle and
still, another is offering a gin festival…
think Oktoberfest with gin rather than beer, inside of a church.

And so Bishop Ashenden makes a very hard and painfully truthful observation about
the collective Chruch…

In every generation, the Church faces a live or die challenge.
Convert or be converted.

He goes on…
Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven,
turned and transformed;
or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces,
other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin
covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

Yet Bishop Ashenden, however, does not sugarcoat those darker days in the Church’s history…
because the Chruch is not spotless nor free of her own egregious actions…

“There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous.
The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name
of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other
cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of elderly Catholic priests
guilty of nothing more than baptizing the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels
to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national,
political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory”.

He then explains why things that are so seemingly simple and silly as a liquor festival,
mini golf greens and amusement rides residing in the sanctuaries of a church is, in reality,
an affront, as well as a mockery, to all that is Holy…

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder,
but mockery.
The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the instrumentation of murder, but mockery
is no more acceptable just because it is not murder.
The trouble with the helter-skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone
with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence
of some gravity.

The good Bishop explains that we are surrounded by a world full of distractions.
Everything is now vying, very loudly, for our attention.
We are consumed and have allowed that ‘still small Voice’ to be drained
from our being…

However, it was always the Chruch, our refuge, which afforded us the necessary quietude
and stillness in order to reconnect and to truly hear and feel that Voice while being
allowed to fall at the feet of that very Voice both in our need and in our joy.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure-seeking.
The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God.
They are everywhere.
We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life.
It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in[to] sensory pleasure and distraction
is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.
It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still,
small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

And thus the dear Bishop reminds us that we are currently witnessing our own rapid
loss to what is in actuality our innate need for the Sacred.
As the very place where the Sacred could and should be found is in reality,
aiding and abetting in that very loss…

Please read and hear the good Bishop’s words in the following links…

Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Golf, ego and awe. An interview with Gavin Ashenden on BBC radio about cathedrals and pitch and putt. What ARE they for?

finding equality in our atrocities

The way we respond to ideas has morphed.
They work differently now.
We experience them more like a virus spreading a plague than they do building blocks
one can take and reshape and build concepts and patterns out of.

Gavin Ashenden


(a chilly January night in Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must admit my head has been a bit in the sand as of late—not due to hiding, but just due to life.
Be it the pollen or the crud I’ve been battling on and off for the past several weeks, or
a few personal diversions, or simply be it from the clanging din from all things media
of “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming….”

All of whom were never coming…
So we can all pull the vodka back out because I think we’re safe…

And so I say all of this because I have had precious little time to
read…. much…of anything…

Needless to say anything from our favorite across the ponds clerics.

It’s been months, sadly I must confess, that I’ve had the chance to watch an episode of
Anglican Unscripted…and rarely can I take in a full post by the Wee Flea, David Roberston.

And that’s really how Satan likes it—divert their eyes lest they see what’s truth
and what is actually coming…

So when you’re running at full tilt like I have been, you try to stop long enough just to
snag a bit of news….just to see if the planet is still spinning or whether we’ve simply
gone off tilt and are wildly spinning out of control…
of which it so often seems.

Yet I am reminded that…
today, trust in the media is at an all-time low,
and it is easy to understand why so many Americans are absolutely sick and tired of being
lied to by the big media companies.

Tyler Durden

And so like so many others who want to know the truth,
I work hard to sift out the truth from the spoils…

It is such a difficult task to find that truth…so much so that that is why I seek out those
who use Christian filters in order to sift through those spoils —
hence why I find the offerings of David Robertson and Gavin Ashenden
so keenly important…

They sift through the muck and find God’s light.

So I did stop long enough this morning to squeeze in the latest posting by our favorite rouge Anglican,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

Is it just me or did you hear, see or read anything about the mass murders of the Nigeran Christians???
Because I know I didn’t.

I did hear a great deal about the Christchurch mosque murders in
New Zealand which came by the hands of a madman.

But what of the madmen who massacred the Nigerian Christians??
I didn’t hear about that at all.

In fact, I’m really upset I didn’t read, see or hear about it.

I may not get to always catch a lot of television but I do get breaking news alerts on
my phone, I read the headlines from local and national news sites and I do even
receive alerts from the BBC…

But nothing about 140 murdered Nigerian Christians.

Is it because it was in Nigeria?
Is it because they were Christians?

Bishop Ashenden wonders the same…

The Media lamented profoundly with the victims (those of the Christchurch mosque killing); rightly.
But so deep did its sympathies run, that it told only one side of a wider story.
49 people were killed by a callous white secular Australian murderer in the Christchurch Mosque.
But in the same week, 140 Nigerian Christians were butchered by their Muslim neighbours;
and the media were silent. Sometimes what you don’t say is as powerful
a way of distorting the truth as telling a lie.

https://ashenden.org/2019/03/28/we-need-new-universities-to-help-people-love-ideas-without-hating-people-jordan-peterson-islam-and-freedom-of-speech/

And so it is in the same vein of thinking that my cousin sent me a link to a story
that she recently read regarding the Nigerian massacres.

Knowing that I often write about those under the radar reported stories regarding the global attacks
on Christians, she thought I would find the article interesting if not actually telling.

And I did…

Now I don’t read Breitbart nor am I familiar with the Zero Hedge site of which she shares,
but I still found the reported story very telling.

Why didn’t I hear about this on a mainstream news site?
Have we been so consumed with all things “collusion” that we fail to hear or see the atrocities
that continue happening to the faithful worldwide?

I wonder if we have not become so utterly divided that we are now mindlessly
defining our collective human atrocities separately.

In Nigeria, more than 120 Christians have been gunned down or killed with machetes over the past
three weeks, but Breitbart was the only big media outlet to report on it…

As Breitbart News alone reported among major news outlets,
Fulani jihadists racked up a death toll of over 120 Christians over the past three weeks
in central Nigeria, employing machetes and gunfire to slaughter men, women, and children,
burning down over 140 houses, destroying property, and spreading terror.

The New York Times did not place this story on the front page;
in fact, they did not cover it at all.
Apparently, when assessing “all the news that’s fit to print,”
the massacre of African Christians did not measure up.
The same can be said for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune,
the Detroit Free Press, the LA Times, and every other major paper in the United States.

And of course, Breitbart is not exactly “mainstream” media.

So why won’t anyone else report on this?

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Last June,
twelve entire Christian villages in central Nigeria were completely wiped out…

In only days, a dozen villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state were wiped out.
The affected communities surround the city of Jos—known as the epicenter
of Christianity in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

As many as 200 Christians had been killed, however,
some residents fear the death toll may be even higher, as more bodies are yet to be recovered,
while others were burned beyond recognition. On Sunday,
75 of the victims were buried in a mass grave.

I’ll bet that most of you had not heard about that until now.

On the other side of the world, 20 innocent people were slaughtered
when Muslim radicals bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral in January…

On January 27, Muslim extremists bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral on the
Philippine island of Jolo, killing some 20 people and injuring dozens of others.

Once again, this is yet another mass killing that was almost
entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

Is the anti-Christian bias among the mainstream media so strong that
they can’t even bring themselves to report the basic facts to us?

People deserve to know what is happening.
Christian persecution is rising in almost every nation on the planet,
and this huge ongoing crisis should be on our front pages on a continual basis.

But instead, we never get to hear any of these stories unless
we seek out alternative sources of information.

Over in China, the persecution of Christians has reached a frightening crescendo.
Recently, officials have been going house to house and replacing pictures
of Jesus Christ “with pictures of dictator Mao Zedong and/or
China’s current authoritarian president, Xi Jinping”…

If you were to replace “Christians” with some other favored group in any of the examples
that I have just shared, you would instantly have front page news all over the planet.

The mainstream media is definitely not “independent”,
and they are not looking out for you.

They have their own agenda and anything that does not fit that
agenda does not get to be part of “the news”.

So far in 2019, there have been 453 Islamic terror attacks in which 1,956 people have been murdered.
But you will never hear those numbers from the mainstream media.

Instead, when the mainstream media talks about Bible-believing
Christians it is almost always an attack story.
As a recent Breitbart article aptly observed,
having “an anti-Christian bias” has become “the last acceptable prejudice”…

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-18/why-does-mainstream-media-purposely-ignore-mass-killings-christians-across-globe

Our news, our politicians, our very nation is so utterly divided and skewed that sifting
through the spoils has now become vastly important…
because if not—the truth will be hidden from plain sight.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; for you, I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

chains

A christian martyrdom is never an accident,
for Saints are not made by accident.”

T.S. Eliot

“What Saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it?”
St. Jerome


(The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli / the Basilica of St Peter in Chains / Rome, Ialy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,
bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.
He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.
“Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.”
And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him.
Peter followed him out of the prison,
but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city.
It opened for them by itself, and they went through it.
When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
(Acts 12:5-10)

The bonds, according to tradition, once held fast the limbs of St. Peter the Apostle
and have been cherished by Christians since the first century.

The story of their veneration first appears in the ancient Acts of Saint Alexander,
an early pope who died as a martyr in AD 115.
As he awaited his own execution, he received a visit from Quirinus,
the nobleman who oversaw the prisons in Rome.
The man’s daughter Balbina was desperately ill,
and he had heard that Pope Alexander had the power to heal her.
She was completely cured when the pope touched her with his chains.
Balbina wanted to kiss the chains in gratitude —
but Alexander instructed her to find the chains of St. Peter and honor them instead.

Balbina became a Christian–and, according to some accounts, a consecrated virgin–
and she arranged for the construction of a shrine for St. Peter’s fetters.
It would be rebuilt and moved and expanded through the centuries.

As Rome’s Christians honored Peter’s chains from the Mamertine,
so the Church in Jerusalem kept his chains from the Herodian prison.
In the fifth century, the Christian empress Eudocia, the wife of Theodosius II,
sent a length of Peter’s Jerusalem chains to St. Leo the Great.
According to tradition, Leo held it beside Peter’s chains from the Mamertine Prison,
and the two miraculously, inseparably fused together.

There are abundant testimonies to the presence of these chains in Rome.
St. Gregory the Great, who reigned as pope from 590 to 604,
was intensely devoted to the relic and often sent small filings as gifts to dignitaries–
to Constantina Augusta, the Byzantine empress; to a bishop named Columbus;
to King Childebert of the Franks; to King Rechared of the Visigoths; and to Theodore,
the court physician at Constantinople.
He would place the filing in a key-shaped reliquary–
the key representing Peter’s authority.
He sent each particle with a prayer
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

The chains are today exposed for veneration in a gold and glass reliquary in the
Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, on Rome’s Oppian Hill,
a church built in the fifth century during the reign of Leo the Great.
(Catholic Education Resource Center)

The Basilica of St Peter’s in Chains is what we consider, by Catholic Chruch standards,
as a minor basilica…meaning it is not one of the four Major Basilicas in Rome…
Rather it is a church of perhaps lesser significance but, in my opinion, it is still
significant none the less.

Say what you will about the Catholic Chruch, there is simply no denying that our roots,
our Christian roots, run deep in and through Rome.
That which had become known as the Latin West Chruch.

In the very dust of this city that is oozing with a vast array of sensory overloads,
rests the shadows of those who went long before us, all helping to create the history
we hold dear to this day.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, and eventual death, Rome was considered to be
the center of all that was and is.

A great and mighty empire who’s arms reached far and wide…even to the obscure
desert outpost of Judea.

The Roman Empire and the life of a Jewish carpenter were on a collision course.

Rome was considered the epicenter of this once mighty Empire…the seat of its government.

Scripture tells us that both Peter and Paul traveled to, preached throughout,
were each imprisoned in and were both eventually executed in this once important
center of all of humankind.

Yet today’s chaotic, trendy, chic and often very dirty city is a far cry from the city
that once “ruled the world.”

Just this past weekend there was a massive citywide protest as demonstrators took to
the streets showing their disdain for Rome’s crumbling infrastructure,
its overflowing trash and the fact that rats and even wild boar now roam this once
orderly city seeking out the overflowing trash.

Decades of inept and governmental corruption has taken its toll of what was once
Imperial Rome

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46003670

Yet Rome remains a rich treasure trove of our human history.
From art to architecture, from the sacred to the mysterious, Rome offers the curious a
fantastic feast.

The Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli is but one treat in this Roman feast.

Many people come here not so much to see a box of old chains but rather they wish
to see a masterpiece of marble and craftsmanship–
up close and personal, that of Michelangelo’s Moses.


(all images by Julie Cook, Rome, Italy / 2018)

The statue of Moses is only a part of what was to be the massive tomb for Pope Julius II—
the same pope who had a lifelong love-hate relationship with Michaelangelo

The Pope had charged Michaelangelo to construct a massive tomb to be used after his death.
Yet during the same time, the Pope had commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

As Michaelangelo never considered himself to be a painter but rather a sculptor only, he felt
a deep sense of angst over having to work on such a massive undertaking of painting.

A painting that millions of people now flock yearly to see.

He actually ran away at one point, attempting to escape the demands of the man who history
now attributes to be the pope who brought St Peter’s to the glory that we marvel over today.
The Pope actually sent his soldiers to Florence to retrieve Michaelangelo…
bringing him back to finish his commission, of which they did and Michaelangelo in turn
eventually did.

Fortunately or unfortunately, however, Pope Julius II died before Michaelangelo could finish
the massive tomb. Yet luckily today for both the curious and the tourist,
we may view this lesser monument here in the Basilica.

The statue of Moses is the central figure that draws all attention.
It is a single massive piece of Carrara marble.

Looking closely one sees that Moses has what appears to be horns protruding
from his head. But the horns are due to a mistranslation.

Michelangelo’s Moses is depicted with horns on his head.
He, like so many artists before him, was laboring under a misconception.
This is believed to be because of the mistranslation of the Hebrew Scriptures
into Latin by St Jerome.
Moses is actually described as having “rays of the skin of his face”,
which Jerome in the Vulgate had translated as “horns”.
The mistake in translation is possible because the word “keren”
in the Hebrew language can mean either “radiated (light)” or “grew horns”.

(Rome.Info)

And whereas I will always stand in awe and marvel anytime I have an opportunity to stand
and gaze on a massive piece of marble that a seemingly otherworldly gifted man managed to
coax out an unbelievable miracle of vision and craftsmanship,
it is to the box of chains that held my fascination on this most recent visit.

Those who are jaded or who scoff over the significance afforded to something, that may or
may not be what it claims to be, may certainly be that way and question.

And whereas I cannot say yay or nay as to the authenticity of these chains…
Were these the actual chains that held Peter?
I don’t know if any of us can ever say, and  yet to me,
it is not whether they are or are not what they claim to be which is important
but is to where they direct my thoughts.

They have been on display since the year 115,
roughly 47 years following Peter’s execution in Rome.

I have sat in the Mamertine prison.

Sitting in the dark, on a small ledge, contemplating the fate of those who
were once kept in this underground dungeon.
It is, as it was then, a dark enclosed dungeon..an outcropping that now sits at the
foot of Capitoline Hill. A Christian church now sits atop this prison.

Prisoners were lowered by ropes down into this pit of a prison.
It is the prison said to have once held both Saints, Peter and Paul.

Peter was bound in chains when he held as a prisoner in the Herodian prison
as well as the Mamertine prison.

So as to this miraculous union of two separate sets of chains binding together as one,
again, is beyond my ability to say…

But what I do know is that these mysterious chains draw me back to scripture,
they draw me back to a mighty God who uses simple men and women to do mighty works.

No chain, no boundary, no weight, no limitation exists that can hold our Mighty God.
Small things such as a box full of historical chains are but a physical reminder of this.

Sometimes we need, I need, those physical reminders because my mind, our minds,
are so limited whereas our God is so limitless.

And so as Pope Gregory the Great reminds us…
“that what bound [Peter’s] neck for martyrdom, may loose yours from all sins.”

Amen…

Either / Or..it’s mere Christianity

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money,
poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires,
slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.
But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?
A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.
What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

According to our friends at Wikipedia,
Mere Christianity is a theological book by
C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944,
while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War.
Considered a classic of Christian apologetics, the transcripts of the broadcasts
originally appeared in print as three separate pamphlets:
The Case for Christianity (Broadcast Talks in the UK) (1942),
Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944).
Lewis was invited to give the talks by the Reverend James Welch, the BBC Director of Religious Broadcasting, who had read his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain.

Growing up as an Episcopalian, under the umbrella of the Anglican Church, I was first
introduced to C.S.Lewis when I was in about the 8th or 9th grade or so…
Our Sunday School class was assigned a book to read as part
of our Sunday School “curriculum.”

The book was The Screwtape Letters.

A book first published in 1942.
A time when Great Britain was in the throes of some of her darkest days…the midst of WWII.

This was a paperback book we were given and the cover actually scared me.
I made a point of always putting the book facedown when reading it.
I was not a huge fan of devils nor Satan for that matter…no fan of demonic images…
and with The Exorcist movie making its debut just about the same time,
I wasn’t having anything affiliated with Satan too close for my sense of comfort.

For you see, even early on in my life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were
living in a fallen world.
And in that fallen world we were (are) actually living in the middle of a massive
spiritual war…a war that was, and is, raging all around us.

Satan is very much real and will very much do what he can to thwart his mortal Enemy
who just so happens to be the Creator of both dark and light and of life and even of death…
And yet death with this Creator of ours is not a permanent predicament—

So in all of this, that being Spiritual war, there will naturally be casualties.
Casualties of a fallenness, a brokenness, a darkness and a sinfulness…in turn marking those
casualties prisoners of war.

The problem in all of this is that once captured and the battle finally ends with the Victor
coming again in triumph…the prisoners who fall to the whims of the dark enemy are then at the
point of being forever lost.

There is a narrow window in which one can choose which side of the battle one wants to be…
and sadly many have, as well as continue, to choose the wrong side.

If you scoff at such a notion…that’s fine.
But don’t ever say you weren’t informed.

And no that’s not Christianity being all about the big, the bad and the scary with a skewed
psychological tactic of punishment as its basis…it’s actually a matter of that being
exactly what it is—-that being the facts behind the story.

And so our Wikipedia friends once again explain that…
“The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis and dedicated to
J. R. R. Tolkien.
It is written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format,
the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues,
primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it.”

First published in February 1942,
the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his
nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter.
The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a
British man known only as “the Patient”.

Funny that most young folks learn of Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia and with me,
I actually learn of him from the writings of devils.

There’s something to be said for that…and I think its because God always knew that I would
need to pass the allegorical early on, cutting straight to the chase.

Life has been that way for me.

However is wasn’t until when I was an adult that Lewis really came alive for me.
It was when I watched the 1993 movie Shadowlands…
a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
I’ve written about the movie before and if you’ve never seen it…
it is worth tracking down.

The movie is based on true events in Lewis’ life…such that I came away knowing that he totally
“got” this thing we call life.

Life with all of its curve balls…Curveballs that it loves to throw at those who call
themselves Christians as well as to the nonbelievers…it’s just that most folks scrutinize the
Christians when the bad things come—gauging their responses and reactions…
Nonbelievers like to mock and scoff Christians who suffer and hurt…sneering “where is your
God now?!”

But Life does not discriminate.
Life is hard.
It is not fair.
It often hurts and it can tempt us until we actually go practically mad.

And note that I say Life….not God, not Jesus…but rather simply Life…

For God nor Jesus torment.
Nor do they tempt or threaten or wreak havoc in our worlds…
That is merely the role Life plays in our lives.
Think back to what I said about living in a fallen world…

So when I read this latest quote by Lewis…I thought here is a man who despite speaking to us
from the depths of days long past…a man who spoke during a raging world war…
his observations are still very much current.

As this quote is particularly timely for our oh so modern 21st century smug
attitudes towards a no hold bar approach to sexuality.

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.

There is no getting away from it;
the Christian rule is,
‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner,
or else total abstinence.’

Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts,
that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.
One or the other.
Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong …
God knows our situation;
He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.
What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.
Those who really wish for help will get it;
but for many modern people, even the wish is difficult…
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained
by any merely human efforts.
You must ask for God’s help.
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help,
or less help than you need, is being given.
Never mind.
After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again.
Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this
power of always trying again.
For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be,
this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.
It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.
We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments,
and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.
The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

— C. S. Lewis, p. 95
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

when your child is not your child

It is more than tragic that a dying child should be used as an ideological
football in a court presided over by a gay activist judge whose impartiality
was not publicly evident;
and that the critical issues of the rights of parents v the state should be lost,
in what appears to be a residual antipathy to Christian teaching and values.

But there will be more of this.
Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(the chives are a bloom / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve tried not jumping into this mess.
I’ve even tried not to read much about it.
I didn’t want to hear one more, read one more, feel one more sorrow.
For you see this is a story that breaks my heart in a million different ways.

Maybe it’s because I am a mother, an educator, a new grandmother.
Kids have been my business most of my life.

Maybe it’s because I believe that the bond between a parent and child is
the greatest bond–apart from our bond with the Father.

Or maybe it’s because I believe all life to be sacred…
Aged, new, healthy, infirmed, joyful, dying or ailing.

Life is precious and sacred…all life, everyone’s life…end of sentence.

His name was Alfie.
He was 23 months old.
I say was because Alfie lost his fight against an illness this past week.

His story is a mess.

He became sick over a year ago…

In a nutshell:

A baby boy named Alfie Evans died early this morning at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
in Liverpool, England, in the pediatric intensive care unit that had been his home
for the last 18 months. The life he lived for close to 24 months was mercilessly short,
yet full of meaning. He didn’t know it, but he was at the center of a heart-wrenching debate
about who should have final authority over children’s medical care: Parents, or the state?

Evans was born on May 9, 2016,
the healthy child of two young parents, Tom Evans and Kate James.
But as early as July 2016, Alfie’s health began to deteriorate.
He was brought into the pediatric unit at Alder Hey in December 2016,
where, over the course of a year, he suffered seizures,
bi-lateral pneumonia, and cardiac complications that put him in a coma by January 2018.

Alfie’s doctors decided that continuing to keep the boy on ventilatory support was
not in his best interest, concluding that he had an untreatable,
progressive neuro-degenerative disease of unknown origin.
Typically, in the UK, doctors in a similar position use private mediation (pdf)
to agree upon a course of action with family members.
But Alfie’s parents did not accept the doctors’ conclusion, arguing that the hospital had
rushed to judgment.
In later court hearings, they said they felt the hospital had “given up” on Alfie.
And so the hospital turned to the family division of the UK’s High Court for a ruling.

Justice Anthony Hayden ruled in favor of the hospital in February 2018,
saying that while it was
“entirely right that every reasonable option should be explored for Alfie,”
continuing to keep him on life support “compromises Alfie’s future dignity and fails to
respect his autonomy.”
The family then filed an appeal request before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,
which was denied in March 2018. After having exhausted all legal options in the UK,
the Evans took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, where their appeal was ruled inadmissible.

…The case of Alfie Evans has resonated with Catholic and Christian communities
around the world.
They see in his case a fundamental conflict between the actions of the British legal
system and their religious belief in both the right to life and the right of parents to
determine a child’s medical care.

Some religious activists have banded together in support of the Evans family,
calling themselves “Alfie’s Army,” and regularly protest outside the hospital where Alfie
is being treated.
In response to the outcry from the Catholic community,
the Italian government offered young Alfie citizenship,
arranging for him to travel to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Italy.
Even Pope Francis, who met with Tom Evans in Rome earlier this month,
has weighed in on the case.

Quartz

The Pope, who took a personal interest in the case, tweeted:
“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie.”
He added: “Today I pray especially for his parents,
as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”

(BBC)

Alfie Evans is not the first baby whose medical condition sparked similar debates.
Last year, Charlie Gard, a terminally ill British baby,
died in July 2017 a day after the British High Court ruled that his life support
could be withdrawn. Charlie’s case had attracted the attention of world leaders from
Pope Francis to US president Donald Trump.

Quartz

Even our favorite former prelate to the Queen, Gavin Ashenden, has had a few choice
words of his own regarding the case of Alfie.

Not only was baby Alfie kept as a prisoner of the state, and the rights of the parents
set aside in favour of the state, but this was accompanied by personal vitriol directed
at the parents’ Christian advisors.
And further, this morning,
the Times placed its weight behind the learned gay judicial campaigner’s
personal disgust with Christian orthodoxy.

Bishop Ashenden is speaking of the magistrate, Anthony Hayden, who ruled in this case against the
wishes and rights of the parents of this child as well as against the child himself.
Going so far as to offer snarkiness toward those Christian groups rallying around the defense of parents and child.

The danger of the judiciary, the malice of the media, the perniciousness of progressive policies – and how Alfie paid the price.

Progressive secularism…
The wedge that will continue to divide and divide and divide.
How far will you allow it to divide your own decisions and your own life and
your own family and the life of your own child?

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through
him and for him.
And he is before all things,
and in him, all things hold together.

Colossians 1:16-17

musings of a retired educator…

“The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different,
as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly—yes,
and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this,
that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always sounds like
foolishness to another person.”

Hermann Hesse


(a bunch of wilted and rotting swiss chard in the trash / Julie Cook / 2018)

Or so that was the impetus behind my wanting to start a blog 5…ish years ago..
I was a retired teacher who still had things to “teach”…
or so I figured.

But then ‘it’ happened.

It happened not all at once but rather it came upon gradually…slowly and almost undetected.

It was life and we all know life brings with it…change.

Life changed.
I changed.

It happens.

But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have musings or things I still felt compelled
I needed to “teach”…
I did and I do.

Take for example the above image of the spent swiss chard.

I like swiss chard.
I grew it myself once when I use to have a garden.

I had a garden when I first started blogging.
I blogged about my garden…
then ‘it’ happened.

Life happened and things changed and now I don’t have a garden to blog about.

So now I buy swiss chard at the grocery store.
I like to chop it and sautee it with bacon, onions, a little chicken broth and salt and pepper.

The swiss chard you’re looking at is in the trash.
As has been the last five or so bunches of swiss chard I’ve brought in oh so many weeks.
They’ve all been sent to the rubbish bin…because ‘it’ happened.
Life happened and my swiss chard wilted and got past its prime and I had to throw it out.

Life can be that way…wasteful as well as expensive.

Life can also grow and expand or it can shrink and shrivel.


(two cousins enjoying the human’s couch / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had two cats when I started my blog.

I still have the two cats, but I also have a granddog that has come to stay with us since her new
human baby sister arrived.

They’re all staying with us.

Because ‘it’ happened.

Life brought new life and old life had to go back to work so now older life is caring for the
new life and the two cats and the dog.

And since all these lives are currently living under our roof,
I find that I visit places like the grocery store and Target a lot more often then I use to.
And sadly waste more and more and more swiss chard as life keeps getting in the way.

Take for example yesterday when I had to go to Target for a few things for the new life currently
living under our roof.

Look what I saw for sale…

Politically Correct band-aids.
For when life gives us boo boos.

They are marketed as diverse band-aids.
Skintone correct.

Yeah, right.

Kind of like a Crayola crayon box—talk about diversity in a box.

Because even band-aids have now decided to be all about diversity and the politically correct.

“Genius” some would muse.
“Why didn’t I think of that” others would lament.

All the while I look at traditional band-aids while shaking my head as I know they match
my skin tone about as much as a strip of duct tape does.

Simply put, they don’t.
So let’s not pretend that cream colored band-aids are just for creamed colored folks…
Next, we’ll be changing the color of gauze or surgical tape…

I think the clear band-aids were more along the lines of correctness.

These stips of sticky color are just one more example of members of the bandwagon
jumping on that proverbial train ride while touting that diversity brings everyone together…
yet failing to understand that diversity is really all about splintering.

And then there were these desk signs…

I’m a girl.
I have a granddaughter.
I’m all for equal pay for equal work no matter who’s doing the work…
But if the furture is all about being female…where does that leave our male population?
And where will that leave the making of more males and yes, more females…???

Sigh…

Another example of all things marketing taking life to the same level of
the militant movements of activism…
Hurray for more militant activism…

Sigh…

But happily, I am pulled back to thinking about that new life currently,
yet temporarily, living under our roof.

She got very sick this past week.
Life threw us a tremendous curveball.
A frightening, scary, grab you by the collar, curveball.

When we got home from the second hospital, after a very frightening couple of days
of touch and go, her grandfather presented her with her first bouquet of flowers.

See…this is what life and new life can do to older life.

It can make older life think and do things it normally would not have thought about
or done before…
Like walk up the sidewalk to a store selling flowers in order to bring the sickly little
new life a pot of pretty purple flowers.

Which brings us to a hard part of new life.

Sleeping.

Some new life is all about, well, life…sleep is not an important factor…
because sleep precludes one from , well, taking it all in.
It gets in the way of eating, being held, having diapers changed and missing out
on the older lives scattered about.

And so we now introduce the Finnbin

A couple of years back, before I had this new life in my life, I read an article about
babies in Nordic countries who sleep outside—even in the dead of winter.
Parents make no never mind about meeting up at a cafe for a coffee while their babies hang out,
outside in the sub-zero temps, bundled up, yet happy as little snuggly clams.
They claim babies sleep better out in the fresh air versus inside…
makes sense as I have been known to go a bit stir crazy when I can’t get outside.

I thought the concept intriguing at the time and that perhaps our Nordic friends
were on to something.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21537988

And so when this new life came into my life and had a nice new crib, a functional pack and play
and two Mama Roos yet still found sleep elusive,
I recalled the story of our Nordic friends and the other stories I’d seen about
Finnish babies sleeping in boxes…
yep boxes.

A box seemed a bit safer then shoving the new life outside to fin for herself in a stroller.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22751415

And so, in desperation…I found the Finnbins.

Boxes for baby sleeping—albeit made in America, The Finnbin is a Finnish style sleeping
baby box.

The concept tips its hat to the Finnish Government providing all new parents-to-be with
a baby sleeping box full of all kinds of goodies for new parents to be.
Finnbins make great gifts for expectant parents.
We’re hoping it will provide a happy and much cheaper alternative spot to this new life’s
other more expensive sleeping devices.

Or maybe the stroller will just have to do….

Maybe I’ll go to the store tomorrow and pick up a new bunch of swiss chard…

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:20-27