Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

“Sin is the distance between us and God”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden

(this poor cherub or putti’s feet have frozen off / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve used the above quote before…
However, it doesn’t seem any less important or any less relevant than say, the other day…

The other day when listening to Bishop Ashenden’s rather reflective homily,
as well as the latest installment of Anglican Unscripted,
the good Bishop was reflecting on having been asked in an interview
“what is sin?”
or it may have been more along the lines of “what is your understanding of sin?”

Either way, the Bishop was about to be taken to a very public task, or so thought the
interviewer of all things cultural…

The very secular interviewer, after asking the Bishop the question regarding his take on
what sin actually was, in turn, told the bishop that he did not feel at all “sinful”
and so the notion of what a sin was, was totally irrelevant to him and therefore obviously
anyone else who wasn’t feeling the least bit sinful.

Well, this is where the good Bishop clearly demonstrates that he knows his ‘stuff’…

He tells the interviewer that “coming to God is not something that one can do cerebrally
or rationally”

He then goes on to explain, as I shared in my post the other day, that there are actually
two types of sin—
there is the sin that the Christian recognizes—
that being the distance between himself and God.
And then that of secular sin which is anything that runs counter to the current culture’s
perception of the normative.

Bishop Ashenden goes on to note that all the recent hashtag business, the #metoo etc,
frenzy is, plain and simple, nothing more than secular sin.

The Bishop watched the Golden Globes, I did not.

He has some choice words for those who, draped in black, captured the stage in an attempt
to make a pitch to their “dewy-eyed acolytes.”

Bishop Ashenden explains that as our society has become besotted by sex,
it has become simply our very present focus.
For it surrounds us in almost every aspect of our daily lives—
through advertising, entertainment, books, music…it is an obsession.
An obsession, that many have gotten quite good at ignoring.

Society has created a secular apocalypse with women like Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep
rising to the occasion of rounding up the feminist troops while intimidating and
crushing any questioning, or opposition or competing intentions…
a frenetic feeding frenzy of destructive shaming.
There is no room for remorse, healing, redemption or hope.

Yet oddly there are years of images with both of these women in cozy photos with the likes
of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and Roman Polansky…
women who had chosen to ignore truly bad boy and even illegal behavior.

And so we are now left wondering…
What is it now that makes things different from then…?

Is it now somewhat advantageous?
Has the time of championing feminism come into its own as it is now the popular
cultural bandwagon.
Is #metoo putting the ‘me’ in all of us dangerously closer at the center of our own universe
at the expense of common sense, grace and mercy?

Or is it simply the bravado of self-deception found in a society steeped in the notion of
its own sense of self-righteousness?
Found in its notion of the importance of the ‘we ourselves’…
Never mind answering to an authority greater than ourselves…for there is none…
because we are the demigods who have no need of anything or anyone greater.

The Bishop notes that in this secular societal self-righteousness, there lies a deeper problem.

Pure hypocrisy.

And the thing is…none of the rallying cries or the saber rattling or the
rabble-rousing allows for or has room for the utter forgiveness and redemption
found only in Jesus Christ.
For found in the sinfulness of the secular, there is no way back for the sinner.
No hope for the fallen.
And no hope equates to immediate death.

A stark contrast to the mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and life found only in the hope
of Jesus…

And thus he leaves us not with the damnation found in the current culture’s angst but
rather with the hopeful words of William Blake

“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.”

William Blake

Talking to LBC (London Radio) about sin, sex and God -(as captured by an Australian website.)

‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.

Hardened hearts

They are darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them,
due to their hardness of heart.

Ephesians 4:18


(a late season skipper clings to a leaf / Julie Cook / 2017)

Fragility now clings to a precarious and soon forgotten leaf.
The tattered and worn wings only possess a fading splash of the colors that once were.
The winds are shifting signaling a change is imminent.
Time is of the essence.

And yet the nations have hardened their hearts.

They stubbornly ignore the signs, the warnings, the words.
They are too busy caught up in the pettiness of their times..
drunk on an illusion yet fully digested.

Their ears have turned deaf.
While smug arrogance replaces the wonderment of awe.
Fearful amazement discarded for the bravado of self.

The hand was offered.
The blood long shed
The Hope clearly promised
And still they turn away.

And the faithful cry…Come Lord Jesus, Come

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.
On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and
tossing of the sea.
People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world,
for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and
great glory. When these things begin to take place,
stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21:25-28

diluted

“The holy hour for Germans will be at hand when the symbol of their reawakening–
the flag with the swastika—
has become the only true confession of faith in the Reich.”

Alfred Rosenberg


(a sanderling drips water from his bill / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

Always with the passing of time, words and thoughts that once had been pointed, hard, difficult and even monstrous…take on a softening, a smoothing and even entirely
different meanings then their original intent.

That is not necessarily a good thing but rather a result of time….
because time has a way of diluting truth and clouding the mind.

We see a lot of this sort of thing happening today in our own current time.
We hear words that once meant one thing now meaning something else entirely as
new generations decode a past into something else totally other than what was an
original intent.

We hear a lot of folks today throwing around words such as fascism, Nazi, swastika, tolerant, intolerant, socialist, ideology…to name but a few now oddly shapened words.
And chances are most of the folks throwing around these odd words aren’t old enough to
remember the time in which such words first came into being.

So with the passage of time these previous words, now oddly shapened, have become diluted…their meanings today are entirely different to a new generation who has added them to their current caustic vocabulary.

Our current history lessons, having grossly failed the original context of each word,
as well as the generations of the up and coming who are grasping blindly
and wildly at said words, risk being rewritten forever if those of us who know better and who know the Truth fail to tell it.

Ignorance has mingled with ego and bravado creating a toxic ill informed cocktail.
As sadly these current times do not seem to notice their mirrored image to that
of an equally caustic, angry and bravado laced time…

In his book The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell does an excellent job of laying out the historical facts more succinctly than any current US High School history book that
covers the rise of the NSDAP, or what is commonly
referred to as the Nazi party, in Germany pre WWII.

His numerical facts, while overwhelming and staggering, are painfully precise.
His timeline of events is pinpoint accurate.
Such precision, as is found in his tale, is both a wonder and a stalk reminder of the darkest days of the twentieth century yet is purely a tale recounting the
plundering of books.

With the very word plundered / plundering being far from today’s current vocabulary.

For in our current minds, it is hard to phantom the complete wiping out of
libraries or collections of books when we have grown accustomed to cheap paperback
romance novels being picked up at the corner drug store to the more recent vanguard of electronic books….

To our modern minds, books are basically an endless commodity…
for they are as far as the internet may reach.
Meaning that to this current generation, the notion of an entire book collection
being wiped from the planet, rendering various texts more or less extinct, is incomprehensible.

Because surely you can find it on the internet right?

Yet there was a time when books were investments, sacred, and treasured.
Numbers of various writings limited.
There was no endless supply.

It is difficult for our modern minds to comprehend authorities entering into our homes while carrying away our books.
Important papers, valuables…yes…but our books? No.

What if the books by your bedside table were suddenly gone, considered
contraband against the State?
Your family Bible being considered dangerous or even insubordinate against the State.
Impossible you say…but there was a time when that was more fact than fiction.
As it would behoove us to remember it is continuing to this very day…

“Until 1939 the Nazis had devoted themselves to fighting their internal enemies,
such as German Jews, socialists, Communists, liberal, Freemasons and Catholics.
This ideological war was now to fan out across Europe in the wake of the Wehrmacht’s
victorious armies.”

(p.104)

So we see that Nazi Germany was two things.

It was a military force as well as an ideological force.
There were generals and soldiers who fought with guns, plans and tanks
and there were those who fought with thoughts and ideas…

“The Nazis waged their war on two levels: first, by conventional means, with their
armies pitched against other in military conflict, and second, by war against the ideological opposition.
The latter was not a conflict that took place on the battlefield;
it was rather a silent war of disappearances, terror, torture, murder and
deportation, whose frontline soldiers were the Gestapo, the SD, and other parts of
the regime’s terror machine.
It was a war in which the intention was not to vanquish but to liquidate.”

(P 104)

“To form the generation that would lead the Third Reich into the future, the
traditional school system was not enough.
In order to create a fundamentally new human being, a new kind of school would be required.”

(p. 88)

“Under the Nazis, the classroom became a microcosm of the totalitarian state.”
(p. 88)

As I read Rydell’s meticulous tale I understood that the Nazi war machine was more than
Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler or Herman Goering and their insatiable appetites for apparently world domination, but rather there was a even a more sinister
individual involved.

One may even speculate that Alfred Rosenberg was just as instrumental in the
rise of the Nazi’s mania machine as much as Adolph Hiter.
Rosenberg was the father of the ideology and philosophy behind the National Socialist movement, whereas Hitler was the outward visionary.
It was Rosenberg who laid the structural foundation.
Yet with each man being equally as deranged in their desires for a new Germany.

However we of the modern world scratch our heads as we wonder as to how a Nation that
was considered to be the most culturally developed and brilliant of nations could
succumb to the grandiose vision of madmen.

“When the Nazis came to power, the German school and university system
was considered the best in the world.
No other school system had produced more Nobel Prize winners.
By 1933 Germany had won thirty three Nobel Prizes, while the United States had won
only eight”

(p.86)

I am reminded of the words of The Reverend Gavin Ashenden when he was recently
asked about the rising issue of transgenderism now seen taking place
in primary schools across Great Britain.
He noted that many people ask what is the big deal.
So what if a girl of 8 decides she shall be a boy…?
What is the big deal if a 6 year old boy decides he wants to be a girl?

Rev Ashenden quickly warns us that the big deal is when the human imagination
begins to be distorted.
When we create a world based on our narcissism and idolatry of self
we challenge what God has given us…challenging the Godly as being utterly wrong.
We are telling the God of all creation that what He created was a mistake and wrong.

So as we are left balancing the chasm of time,
keeping one foot in the past with one foot in the future,
wondering what the past has to do with the now, Rydell reminds us that
those who wish to dominate do so by convincing others what it is they are to
both think and believe to be truth….

But we must always remember from whence comes our Truth….

“The danger of taking a one-sided perspective on the Nazi’s relationship to
knowledge is that it risks obscuring something even more dangerous:
The desire of totalitarian ideology to rule not only over people but also their
thoughts.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

fragility

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it,
that we discover the possibility of true joy.”

Desmond Tutu


(a spent monarch butterfly lifeless in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

You may remember that I once wrote a post about the life expectancy of butterflies…
and surprisingly, it is very brief.
Often times just a matter of a few short weeks.

Which is a bit hard to wrap one’s thoughts around when this yard of mine
is awash with the comings and goings of what seems to be hundreds of
butterflies in every size, shape and description.

I also know that some butterflies even migrate from life here in the south down
even further south to Mexico and as far as even South America.
I don’t know much about the life expectancies of those particular travelers
but for such a southerly jaunt, I’d imagine stamina is key.

Yet despite their brief lives, it is always sad finding one having given up
the ghost…

I don’t think I really need any more reminding on the fragility of
life…
however, having spotted this dead Monarch in the grass,
that’s exactly what I got when I was out watering the plants…

It is amazing to me how I can look at a dead butterfly and feel such a sharp pang
of sadness.

For despite my own spate of life’s current sadness, which is currently running
amuck in this little world of mine,
seeing a butterfly lifeless, in a fading clump on the ground, sends a rush of
melancholy washing over my heart.

Life, be it a butterfly’s or our own, is oh so fragile…
And yet we rarely think of it as such.

Our own ego and bravado coupled by the current run of angst and anger…
all run counter to any notion of life being fragile…

Life which is actually something to be savored caressed and
counted as a joyous gift not merely taken for granted or even worse,
purposely attacked.

I wonder what it might take for the majority of this angry Nation of ours,
what could move the hearts and minds of those filled with such hate
and intolerance…
what could possibly stir in the hearts of the gang members, those who
choose to relish in causing pain and suffering …
what could open the eyes of man to his fleeing fragile nature as he races
forward toward his own death and demise….


(a daredevil Tiger Swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 39:4

Practicing the presence of God

“I must first have the sense of God’s possession of me
before I can have the sense of His presence with me.”

Watchman Nee

DSCN0335
(remains of St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A.W. Tozer tells us that to the convinced Christian, “the practice of the presence of God” consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declare to be already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any apprehension of Him on the part of His creatures.
The resultant experience is not visionary but real.

The world would have us all believe otherwise…

It is however our faith, our belief, our experience, our relationship that teaches us, tells us, assures us that His presence is indeed real…without doubt….
yet…we are left with a nagging…
what then…?

The question begs….
What then are we do with and in this realness that is a distinct part of our God?
What of the intimacy of the relationship?
The going deeper?
The nurturing?
The growth?
The sharing?

Is merely accepting, believing and moving forward enough?
Is that all there is or all there should be…
to believe in, pray to, to worship…
the Great I AM, Elohim, YHVH, Jehovah, Yahweh..
The name that truly, we the created, are not worthy, not equal to, not “friends” with…to utter.

To approach with reverence and awe
To be silent and still
To empty ourselves of everything…
of the distractions
the preoccupations
the materialism
the worry
the fear
the fretting
the lamenting
the sorrowfulness

To become wholly empty…
making a space within a space that is open and vast
Hungry and yearning
Desiring, wanting, needing…
Needing so desperately that it hurts…
Just as a wound would cause pain…then ache…so does the empty heart…

Oh to be filled with the only thing that can soothe, refresh, renew and heal
The One who yearns to fill that space
Yet will not reveal Himself, unless we come before Him, in total submisson.
No bravado, no ego, no toughness, no holier than thou, no anger, no resentment,
no bitterness, no pride, no self….
Only humble emptiness…longing to be filled by the One who longs for communion
with the created….


And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Gentle Humility

The voice of beauty speaks softly; it creeps only into the most fully awakened souls”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

IMG_0478
(soft downy feathers of a hawk found on a walk in the woods / Julie Cook / 2014)

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.

To mind one’s own business.

Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.

To avoid curiosity.

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Never to stand on one’s dignity.

To choose always the hardest.”

― Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

Each morning, as I begin my prayers, the very first thing I do is to ask for forgiveness of my sins, of those things known and of those things unknown–sins of self–especially that of ego and pride. And it is often those very type of sins, those of self which are the ones that I am most unconscious of as they tend to be a bit insidious, seeping in through the chinks in the armor.

Our western culture tends to embrace bravado–we like winners, we like confidence, we like fighters–we also like glitz and glamor and the notion that bigger is better, more is best. All of which runs counter to the concept of gentleness and humility. It should be noted that even our reputation in other countries is often of being loud and obnoxious. Not exactly a virtuous sort of moniker.

As I read these wise words of Mother Teresa, I am convicted of heart–as is usually the case under Mother Teresa’s gentle reprimands. Oh I can rationalize that, as an American, we / me are curious people who tend to be all over the place as far as managing our lives as well as the managing of other’s lives. We / me, tend to bristle at insults. We / me do not do well with slights or complaints, and heavens knows we / me do not tolerate provocation very well at all and we / me relish waving our dignity here, there and yon. Our Media / Entertainment worlds do not help with these nasty little habits of ours, but they seem to rather enjoy instigating such and adding fuel to the fire. Makes for better ratings I’m sure.

On this new day to this new week, in the wee hours of this new year, may we all be mindful that it is gentleness that is truly the greater virtue. That humility is stronger than bravado and hype. And that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth. . .for:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“come closer my dear….”

The Praying Mantis
From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

Ogden Nash

DSCN1848
(Photograph: a different Praying Mantis from the other day, different bush/ Julie’s yard / 2013)

As I was pruning the bushes yesterday, chopping away and keeping one eye open for any wasp who decided I was a little too close for comfort, something suddenly came shooting out of the bush. It was low to the ground, scooting right for my legs, which in turn sent me lurching backwards waving the clippers precariously in defense of whatever was on the attack.

It, whatever it was, half flew half ran along the sidewalk right for my feet. “What in the heck is this!!!” my panicked brain attempts to sort out working on hyper speed to identify this eminent threat. It stops short of jumping on my foot. Thank the Lord!

Upon inspection I am somewhat relieved—a praying mantis, the boss of the yard bugs–his bravado is worse than his bite, that is for someone of my size, it would be a different story if we were of equal stature. I have a healthy respect for the mantis. No matter how small a praying mantis may be, it never backs down. They raise those little arms of theirs in defense—ready to “box” a larger opponent, or more effectively will simply bite the head off of an opponent closer to their own size. They police the yard pretty well.

After this one worked to chase me away from the bush, I in turn, worked to chase after him for a picture, sending him eventually scurrying for another bush. A mutual healthy respect. I know a mantis is good for the yard as it keeps the riffraff out of the neighborhood. I leave him alone, he’ll leave me alone. He causes no harm to my world, he’s not destructive, he’s not invasive. We can coexist. I’m good with that.

What did we, as human beings, miss about that concept–be not invasive nor destructive to your neighbor. Be beneficial, coexist. Sounds so simple, so easy. What can we learn, what haven’t we learned from how and from the way we deal with insects and animals—maintain a healthy respect….whatever happened to respecting our neighbor, our fellow man, our global community?

Be it opposing cultures, races, religions—whatever happened to the concept of coexisting? Mutual respect, harmony, live and let live?

I think a lot about this concept of living and let live, about harmony, about coexisting– given the news of the week and the situation in Syria. Very very troubling that all is…troubling for the Syrians indeed, troubling to their immediate neighboring countries, troubling for the global body of worldly neighbors. Oh to know the answers of such, how to handle the ones who don’t get the concept of be not destructive, be not invasive— coexist, live and let live.

And what about the bigger ones, the ones like me as compared to the mantis–I could have easily flattened him but I didn’t—why should I use my being the one “in charge”– the bigger of the two, the stronger more advanced of the two to simply kill him when he did nothing to hamper my life? Why do governments decide not to take their role as the body of those entrusted to care for those under their authority? Why do leaders decide some under their care are expendable while others are not?

Issues as old as time I suppose, you’d think that after the history of “us”– of us as people, we’d learn something from our past–long past and more recent past… obviously, sadly, we are not quick learners…all this thought from the mere encounter with a praying mantis……

I’ll leave my mantis alone, I’ll let him do his thing in my yard and he’ll let me do mine. He won’t eat the wood of my house, he won’t ruin my plants, he won’t bite me or bite off my head, thank goodness…I could kill him, simply removing him from my world as he is expendable, he is just a “bug” you know—but what good would that do….No, we will coexist, we will maintain a healthy respect.

Let us pray for the Syrians….