Sin and Confession

“No conflict is more pivotal to the heart and soul of America than the sin battle.”
David Fiorazo

“If forces of sexual deviancy prevail, every part of our culture will be corrupted
and contaminated beyond repair…
Religious principle, tolerance, and rights of conscience mean nothing to pro-sodomy advocates.
They will remorselessly crush anyone and anything that gets in their path…
In their quest for cultural domination,
they will relentlessly extinguish the light of sexual normalcy and morality,
as well as the light of Christianity.”

Bryan Fischer
former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association


(fungus growing on a fallen tree / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sin.

It’s a word that we take for granted yet it is a word whose actions are destroying us.
For we are its actions and we seem not to even care.

Our culture has opted to expunge the word from our vocabulary while blindly
embracing its very nuances.

And what of the Chruch?

She is either impotently silent or either she busies herself by embracing those
very nuances in order to appear more viable, more likable, more cultural.

And yet sadly, once again, we hear of the scandal and predation from those very
souls who are entrusted to represent this bride of Christ, the Church.

We are betrayed.
We are complicit.
We are quiet.
We are culpable.

The following quote by the martyred Confessing Church pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer could have
easily been stated today rather than 78 years ago.

Bonhoeffer was speaking of Nazi Germany and of the German Lutheran Chruch’s blood
it bore upon it hands… but his words could readily speak to us today…
speaking to the Catholic Chruch, the Anglican and Episcopal Church, the Methodist Chruch,
the Presbyterian Church…
his words could be directed to most of us who claim to be Christians of the 21st century.

We the church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough
the message of the One God who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus,
and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself.

She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions.

She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was
crying aloud to heaven.
The church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force,
the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people,
oppression, hatred, and murder.

And that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims.
And has not found a way to hasten to their aid.
The church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers
of Jesus Christ.
The church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet,
possession, and honor to which she has desired security and peace, quiet, possession,
and honor to which she has no right.
She has not born witness to the truth of God and by her silence,
she has rendered herself guilty,
because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1940

Bishop Gavin Ashenden has recently addressed the tragic issue of predation in the church
and of the current need for the Chruch to speak up while she owns up to her responsibility–
finally speaking the Truth while she gets busy with a much-needed Spring cleaning…

Gay predators, telling the truth and spring-cleaning the Church.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sine that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Hebrews 12:1

living for what?

Everything in this world will pass away.
In eternity only Love will remain.

Pope Benedict XVI
from An Invitation to Faith


(detail of shelf fungs / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook/ 2018)


(shelf fungus circles a cut log / Cades Cove, TN,
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park/ Julie Cook/ 2018)

“He who wishes for anything but Christ,
does not know what he wishes;
he who asks for anything but Christ,
does not know what he is asking;
he who works, and not for Christ,
does not know what he is doing.”

St. Philip Neri

glimpses of the rising

“For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes
to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.”

Brennan Manning,
Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging


(blooming clover / Cades Cove, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Think, dear friends,
how the Lord continually proves to us that there will be a resurrection to come,
of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising him from the dead.
Contemplate the resurrection that is always going on.
Day and night declare the resurrection to us.
The night sinks to sleep, and the day rises;
the day departs, and the night comes on.
Look at the crops, how the grain is sown:
the sower goes out and throws it on the ground, and the scattered seed,
dry and bare when it fell on the ground, is gradually dissolved.
Then out of its disintegration the mighty power of the Lord’s providence raises it up again,
and from one seed come many bearing fruit.”

St. Clement

we are your people

“Let all nations know that Thou art God alone,
and that Jesus Christ is Thy Son,
and that we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture.”

— St. Clement


(image in Cades Cove, The Great Smoky Mountians National Park, TN /
the lingering morning clouds and mist help give these mountians their name as smoky mountians)

**I’m currently in Atlanta for a few days visiting “The Mayor”…aka babysitting.
We took the show on the road and have a nice “new” Woobooville setup, complete with a new
constituency… Madomeillse Spindly Legs (aka a flamingo in a pink tutu), Piglet, Pooh bear
and Sophie the Giraffe. The office is full and things remain busy…as so it seems with most mayors.

Heading back home Friday so I may be a bit in and out…
The Mayor tends to keep me very busy…

hope in the face of death and evil

As a result of Christ’s salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of
eternal life and holiness.
And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in His cross
and resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life,
nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence,
it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering;
the light of salvation.
Pope John Paul II (Salvifici Doloris)


(the grave of an infant, Hazel Ivaleen Garland born and died Dec 27, 1914, Cades Cove Methodist Chruch)

Today, I had tagged along with my husband as he went down to check on his deer property about
an hour south of home.
And you must note that this is deer property and not dear property…
but perhaps the deer are dear to him…

As I was perched on the back of a 30-year-old Honda four-wheeler, sitting on the “luggage bars”
hanging on for dear life, I felt each rock and downed limb while riding along
the rutted and washed out pig trails…

Bouncing up and down while holding on with one hand while swatting down the spider webs
with the other, webs we kept managing to run smack dab in to…webs strung across the paths
each filled with a giant brown spider sitting in the center hoping for passing insects and
not swatting humans…all the while dodging the saw-briars and
bramble vines readily tearing into any exposed skin…my mind started to wander.

My husband has had this land throughout most of our 35-year marriage…
So to say that I’m pretty familiar with its nuances…its creeks, streams,
woods, and fields would be an understatement.

I thoroughly enjoy traversing such areas…be they close to home or much further away.

Today I thought back to when I rode my aunt on these pig trails in my husband’s Polaris…
think glorified golf cart for hunters but with an engine.

Living in south Florida as she did, being afforded the adventure of riding the trails
on some woodsy and quite hilly property was a real treat.
She’d hold on, like a kid, as we scooted up and down in the middle of nowhere,
enjoying every minute.

I felt warm tears forming while I was still holding on for dear life thinking back over
the adventure I’d shared with her…here.

Obviously, I miss my aunt.
The only member I had left to mother’s branch of my life’s tree.

As there is just so much of what I mindlessly do day to day that my aunt had most often
been along doing with me…going through my mindless motions most often right by my side.

So when suddenly that person who just seemed to always be there is no longer there, well
every little reminder is like those briars…just ready to prick the flesh of the heart.

These thoughts circled through my head as I had just earlier seen a breaking news story
that authorities in Iowa believed they found the body of the young college girl Molly Tibbets
who has been missing now for a month.

And immediately following that breaking news came the news of a more local story
about a missing young college grad who’d gone kayaking on a family camping trip last week
at West Point Lake and whose body was recovered today from what authorities are now saying
was a suicide.

Families, friends, and entire communities now must deal with the haunting questions…
the what ifs, the would haves, should haves, could haves all of the unknown.

And so it seems that today I am reminded, be it for good or bad, of death and evil…
as they just so often seem to walk hand in hand.

Death, loss and the looming presence of evil, that is so often connected to such,
are often the game breakers of people’s faith.

Even the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrestled with the same quandary and seeming
madness over the death of his wife as he riled at God for the loss while famously
lamenting…
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms…
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain,
and what do you find?
A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”

Yet over time, Lewis came to realize that God’s love remains a constant whereas life
is what remains in a constant state of flux.

On our recent trip to the mountains and that of Cades Cove, I mentioned that we visited
the old Methodist Chruch that has existed in the cove since the early 1800’s.
The old cemetery still stands and I’ve learned that living relatives of those original
founding families may still be buried in the Chruch’s cemetery if they so wish.

Surveying the tiny little cemetery, whose markers date back to the turn of the century,
I was struck by the smallest of markers…markers I know that denote the graves of children.

For one family alone there were three little headstones all lined up in a row,
each with a little carved lamb sitting on top.


(two of the Sparks family’s infant markers)

This particular collective family lost three infants over an 18 year period.
Many of the infant’s dates denote the birth and death as being the same day.

Life was difficult, precarious and often short back in this lonesome and far removed cove.

I know the pain of loss…but not the same pain and loss of those whose loss has come from
violence and that of pure evil.
Yet what I do know is that all death, and that of the ensuing losses, are all associated
with evil…
because death, the permanent loss of life, is simply the absence of …
with evil being the void.

Robert Velarde from Focus on the Family puts it this way:

Solving the seeming contradiction between a loving God and the reality of evil
is usually referred to as a theodicy.
A theodicy attempts to solve the apparent tensions in what is often termed the problem of evil.
But the problem of evil is really a series of problems.
Like many large problems, sometimes it is helpful to break them down into their components.
Evil, you see, actually extends not only to the moral world, but also to the natural world.
When human beings do bad things to one another, this is moral evil.
But so-called natural disasters are often considered evil as well because of all the
suffering they cause.
Earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, and so forth,
are all examples of what might be termed natural evil.

One helpful approach to solving the problem of evil has to do with defining evil.
Christian thinker Augustine defined evil not as a thing in and of itself,
but as a parasite on good.
Something that is lacking is not a thing in itself.
For instance, if you have a hole in your jacket,
the hole is not something, but rather is something that is lacking.
Similarly, Augustine considered evil something that is missing.
Indeed, it requires good to exist because it is a parasite.
In this sense, Augustine defined evil as a privation–
a lack of something–rather than a thing or substance.

This solves some important criticisms.
If evil is not an actual thing,
then God cannot be the author of evil.
God is the author of good, but we make moral choices that result in evil.

At some point in all of our lives,
we will be faced with walking through the lonely dark valley of death.
We will hurt and we will raise an angry fist to our unseen God…
some of us will walk away in bitterness and anger while some of us will hold onto the
One who persists in offering saving Grace…despite the pain, the sorrow, the tragedy
of loss, the violence, the accidents, and eventually death…

With the Fall of man…the consequence was not simply pain during childbirth or slithering
snakes or nakedness, nor knowledge…it was and is death.
And in death resides a void of separation…that void is the true consequence.

And in this void of separation precipitated by death, there resides evil…
because a void must be filled…and thus this void was filled by evil.

There was never supposed to be death because death was never God’s intent…
but by offering freewill to the created, the result, as He knew, was inevitable.
And therefore evil filled the void…
the void, created by isolation and separation,
separated the created from the Creator by means of a void.

Enter the necessity of a Savior to bridge the void.

Death and evil will remain on this earth as they fill the void created by a Fall…
yet through God’s Grace found in the sacrifice of Christ…we know death and evil
are not only conquered but actually vanquished…for all eternity.

In her book The Catholic Table–
Finding Joy Where Food and faith Meet
Emily Stimpson Champman sums it up best:

“God revealed to the Israelites why, for all his goodness and the goodness of creation,
things didn’t always seem good. Sickness, death, war, destruction–they didn’t belong to the
original plan. God created man to live in harmony with both him and creation.
But, because God wanted man to love him freely, he gave man free will, the capacity to choose
between God and self. Man chose self, and in doing so, he chose death”

And so we live earthly with our selves and our consequence while knowing there is,
in the end, a beautiful solution.

Special Grace (or a better term Salvific Grace) is the super grace by which God redeems,
sanctifies, and glorifies his people. Unlike ordinary grace, which is universally given,
special salvific grace is bestowed only on those whom God elects to eternal life through
faith in Jesus Christ. (Act 13:48)

excerpt from God’s Ordinary and Salvific Graces

things visible and invisible

From the creed, then, we learn that all creation is caught up in a drama that
sweeps from the beginning of time to its end.
There is a narrative arc to the history not only of humanity,
but of the cosmos—‘all things visible and invisible.’
The cast of this drama includes everyone alive, everyone who ever lived,
and everyone who will live.
All will rise and be judged for the actions and omissions,
small and great, of their everyday lives.

Dr. Scott Hahn
from The Creed


(a fungus among us at Cades Cove, The Great Smoky National Park, TN /Julie Cook / 2018)

“If human beings had really tried to invent a god,
we would never have invented the God of Christianity.
He’s just too terrifying.
Our God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy, and omnipresent.
There’s no place to run and hide from Him,
no place where we might secretly indulge a favorite vice.
We can’t even retreat into the dark corners of our minds to fantasize about
that vice without God knowing it right away.”

Scott Hahn

All images of mushrooms and toadstools–some edible, most not, found in Cades Cove, The
Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

to eat

“Eat without scruple whatever God has prepared for you at the common table…
whatever God provides for you, take that with simplicity of heart from his hand”

St. Philip Neri


(wile turkey gobbler / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mt National Park / Julie Cook / 2018)

“For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks
my blood abides in me, and I in him…this is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.

John 6:55-56,58