“Therefore, my brother,
scorned as you are by men, lashed as it were by God, do not despair.
Do not be depressed.
Do not let your weakness make you impatient.
Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.
Let the joy of your mind burst forth.
Let words of thanks break from your lips.”
St. Peter Damian
(tulip magnolia bloom / Julie Cook / 2020)
“Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man?
Today he is, and tomorrow he appears no more. Fear God,
and thou shalt have no need of being afraid of man.
What can anyone do against thee by his words or injuries?
He rather hurts himself than thee, nor can he escape the judgment of God whoever he be.
See thou have God before thine eyes and do not contend with complaining words.
And if at present thou seem to be overcome, and to suffer a confusion
which thou has not deserved,
do not repine at this and do not lessen thy crown by impatience.”
Thomas á Kempis, p.148
“What God says is best, indeed is best, though all men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loveth Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him: Shame, depart, thou art an enemy to my salvation.”
― John Bunyan
My trust in a higher power that wants me to survive and have love in my life,
is what keeps me moving forward.
(swan at Ross Castle /County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
On the cusp of a brand new year—be not afraid.
Go forward, being bold in your faith.
Pray for the faithful around the word who are persecuted.
Be the voice that stands up for those who have been silenced.
Gird yourself with the armor of God.
Be prepared to take, as well as make, a stand for righteousness and goodness.
Do not be swayed by the lies of this world.
You are God’s representative, as well as His ambassador, to an ailing world.
And be not afraid….
“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire,
and never become discouraged.
Be not afraid.”
― John Paul II
“For our path in life…is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and crush them!”
― Charles Dickens
“For the person who has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”
― Meister Eckhart
(sticker bushes, barbed wire and a bull / Julie Cook / 2015)
The barbed wire fence
The bull. . .
Three daunting obstacles. . .
One more focused than the other
Each one more formidable than the one before it.
Yet. . .I suppose it really doesn’t matter does it. . .
You’ve simply got to push through it all—regardless.
Fifty. . .
An obstacle is an obstacle. . .it matters not the number.
The only question remaining, do you tackle all three at once or one at a time?
Do you race through the first foe, then immediately on to the second, all willy nilly as you continue racing onward to the final hurdle, practically falling on your face in order to get there?
And by the time you do reach that final obstacle, you’re all busied and bloody. . .wounded and winded, you’re really no match for that final foe now are you?
First and foremost you must exercise a little restraint and caution as you make your way ever so carefully and delicately, picking your way through the lethal stickers.
Gingerly step up, over, around, gently pulling and pushing. . .slowly as not to become entangled.. you must call upon finesse.
Once past the stickers. . .
You must climb.
Lifting one leg up, being careful where and what you grab hold of. . .being very thoughtful where you place your other foot.
Balancing oh so carefully, as you push and pull yourself up and over making certain you clear the barbs. . . applying both skill and great concentration as you traverse this unsteady hurdle.
Eventually, in one piece, you feel somewhat triumphant as you now stand on solid ground on the opposite side, past the first set of troubling obstacles.
You finally come face to face with your greatest obstacle of them all.
A herculean giant to battle
A massive stone wall to scale
A seething ocean to cross
A terrible foe to defeat
The odds seem stacked against you.
You are tired and frustrated, battered and bruised,
as you’ve already journeyed so far and through so much just to reach this point. . .
this single point of now or never.
Exhausted and fearing defeat. . .
Part of you screams “give up!!”
Yet the other half screams fight on!!!
You stare your enemy in the eye
As it all now seems to come slowly into focus
And that’s when you hear, from some cavernous place within your head, a tiny voice that grows stronger with each beat of your heart. . . “Beloved, be not afraid”
When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
“Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development… Be not afraid!”
Pope John Paul II / taken from his address to the world following his election as pope 1978)
“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
(detail of the Martyrdom of Crispin and Crispinian /Aert van den Bossche / 1494
“Oh no, don’t come up. . .there’s danger out there. . .”
This always being the response from my Dad when I tell him I’m coming up for a visit.
I live an hour away from Atlanta, from where I grew up, but one would think after hearing Dad, I was traversing a long harrowing journey over enemy territory and dangerous minefields.
“There’s danger on the roads and Atlanta is a war zone. . .”
“Dad,I don’t think I’d call Atlanta a war zone. Not to worry, I’ll be careful and I’ll be fine.”
Now granted I’m no fan of driving along the Atlanta interstates, as not a day passes without some sort of catastrophic accident or wreck, but I’ve yet to notice that the moment I pass into the jurisdiction of the city I come under the hail of gunfire–thank goodness. . .
My 86 year old dad stays glued to the news and the news does have a way of painting life in Atlanta, or any large global city for that matter, as violent, dangerous and grim.
Locally there are robberies, shootings, killings, rapes, drug dealings, kidnappings and globally there is the grim visions of terrorism, all of which seems to greet any and all tuning in for the latest local and world update. You should have heard his response to my throwing out there the possibility of an adventure across the proverbial pond later in the year. . .there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
“Oh my gosh, noooo. . .can’t you just stay at home?!
Why do you have to insist on traveling.
It’s simply too dangerous to fly.
Don’t you know that terrorists are out there waiting!!???
It’s all so dangerous. . .just stay home. . .watch things on television . . .keep your head down”
This litany of the warnings of safety is usually said as he tucks his own head down between his shoulders as if we were hunkered down in a bunker in some long forgotten war zone as the enemy begun a round of shelling overhead.
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have my own deeply rooted, irrational sense of fear, dread and foreboding, all of which raise their ugly heads from time to time–as all of this is come by rather honestly having been raised by a “henny penny the sky is falling” doomsday’s calling, overtly cautious, dread filled dad whose own sense of irrationality sadly has had a tendency of rubbing off.
I can remember when my son was born 26 years ago, of which sometimes feels like only yesterday. He came in to this world with an ulcerated esophagus. How and why he had this issue, I never gleaned— It wasn’t until he was 5 weeks old that we knew something terribly wrong was unfolding. He was prone to throwing up any and all sustenance that would go in and hopefully down. So much so that when he’d throw up, there would often times be blood. And any baby who throws up everything that goes in, does not tend to thrive, let alone gain weight, as he hung around the lower end of the growth charts.
In those early worried filled and sleep deprived days, I would wander back to bed in the wee hours after having unsuccessfully attempted to feed only to then spend forever cleaning up redelivered formula— exhausted, worried and delusional. In the place in between waking and sleep I would find my mind racing to dread filled visions of our new son and his precarious health. . .Of which in turn caused me great worry, dread and angst over a possible prognosis as my subconscious played out dire dreams.
Three months in, a litany of meds and finally one revealing endoscopy later, it was determined that he would need a specially formulated, and none too easily procured formula, thickened with powdered oatmeal. I often wonder if this was not the begining of his often eclectic and expensive tastes. . .
I was a wreck early on in motherhood as I constantly feared the worst. I think this was in part due to the fact that my dad and I had, 3 years earlier, watched my mom wage a fatal, albeit brief, battle with lung cancer. An incident that seemed to cement in him, as it also sucked me in, to if bad or worse can happen—then so it shall. . .
Any ache or ailment and my dad will have you good and ready for the undertaker. A cold will be Typhoid and God forbid you have a fever or cough–Consumption for sure. Your time drawing nigh.
This Eeyoreesque, the glass is always half empty approach to life of my dad has always driven me nuts. I, from all outward appearances, possess the demeanor of the perpetual positive.
No Pollyanna mind you, but positive nonetheless. As all the while the negative beats of the gloom and doom drums reverberate within my own head- —this as I cheer on any and all in need of predicted success and glorious hopeful outcomes.
All of this thought of fearfulness comes to mind as I find myself sadly being taken in by the frighteningly real warnings and calls for vigilance in light of the latest terror warnings regarding attacks on shopping centers in the US, the UK as well as Canada. Only as the world slowly regains some semblance of composure following the Charlie Hebdo attack as well as the attacks to Jewish sites of interests in Paris and throughout France as well as sadly in Denmark.
If it’s not due to the prospect that we will all eventually come down with some form of dreaded cancer, ebola, superbug or disease, we then will in turn fall victim no doubt to some crazed group of Islamic terrorists vowing to destroy any and all who stand in their way toward perceived world domination. Certainly not the most positive prospects greeting anyone turning into the nightly news or staring mindlessly into a daily newspaper.
I am, however, happily reminded and bolstered by the thoughts of those individuals who have gone before us in their own time of bleak outlooks, warnings and turmoil who, although they may have been afraid, as they stood before a massively numbered and heavily armed foe, as they set their jaw while squaring their shoulders, marching forward just the same.
And on those days I find myself feeling fearful and downtrodden, as I look out across the world’s perilous horizon, I recall the moving speech and rallying cry offered by King Henry V at the onset of the Battle of Agincourt, also known as the speech of the Battle of St Crispin’s Day.
Saints Crispin and Crispinian were 3rd century twin Roman brothers who were cobblers by trade and followers of Christ by devoted choice. Fleeing persecution in Rome, traveling northward, repairing shoes and preaching their faith, they were eventually martyred for their faith by the Gauls. Their feast day falls on October 25th. It was on this fateful feast day in 1451 that Henry V led his poorly outnumbered rag tag troops into battle against a heavily fortified French Army.
Miraculously Henry V and his men were the victors on this particular St Crispin’s day. . .
Now I’m not saying that I advocate fighting, taking to arms, wars or marching off willy nilly into any sort of battle, but I do find that at times I need a rallying cry.
I need to be reminded that, as some days it is indeed a life of battles and the enemy does most often appear so much larger than I. . .that I need to be reminded and prodded that I have been given my marching orders. . .
That I am to, as Pope John Paul II so boldly proclaimed. . .BE NOT AFRAID!!
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Henry V St Crispin Speech, William Shakespeare
If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength being small;
If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death,
those who go staggering to the slaughter;
If you say, “Look, we did not know this”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it?
And will he not repay all according to their deeds?
This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis. ”
― Pope John Paul II
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life”
This is one of my most favorite quotes from one of my favorite people. One day I will write a post about Sir Winston Churchill and why it is that I admire this larger than life figure. A man as eccentric as he was brilliant.
But for now, given some of the excruciating headlines of this new morning, I think it appropriate that we all be encouraged to take a stand for something positive in our lives–be it an issue that is big or small–public or personal—but positive none the less. This world of ours needs the “Positive” right now, today–with no more added to the negative.
Following in the words of blessed Pope John Paul II, we must “be not afraid”… as we must “rise up and be on our way”… to things that matter and to things that are positive.
Take the positive stand today!