Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

In war, there are no real winners

“Older men declare war.
But it is youth that must fight and die.”

Herbert Hoover


(The Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux circa 1077 / Bayeux France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Backing up a bit from yesterday, I should have actually started our story here—
here in the historical town of Bayeux, France.

We had journeyed by train from Paris to Bayeux where we would be staying for three days.
Bayeux is most notably known for being the home to the Bayeux Tapestry…

I spent a good bit of one Art History class in college studying the Bayeux Tapestry…
seeing it up close and personal was a treasured treat.

According to Wikipedia, the tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters (230 ft)
long and 50 centimeters (20 in) tall,
which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William,
Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex,
later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle.
It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans,
but is now agreed to have been made in England.

And so it was becoming apparent that battle and conquest have each been a part of
this Norman coast’s history…
As our purpose for being in Normandy was to visit the sites from a different generation’s conquest…
those areas of the northwestern coast of France which have become seared into human history
for simply being the right place and the right location on an infamous June day in 1944.

It was to be a key and pivotal location in order to guarantee Western Civilization’s
freedom from tyranny…security from tyranny that came at such a tremendous cost to
human life…
a cost that many of our current society’s cultural left demigods have long since
forgotten.

We began our quest with a visit to the German Cemetary.

Normandy is not just the home to the American war dead but to
the British, French, Canadian, and yes, the Germans as well.


(The German cemetery, Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Mike, our guide, explained that the American Government made the promise to bring home
the body of any serviceman whose family requested such in order that they could bury their
loved ones on US soil— otherwise, the burial would be near to where they had died—
in a cemetery that would become known as the American D-day Cemetery—

On the other hand, the German Government following their defeat and division of
East and West, could make no such promise and therefore their dead remained in France…
with often two bodies per grave.

The ages of the German dead are young…many being in their teens or early 20’s
as this was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign and desperation was
now very apparent…as the ages of those who are resting in these graves
will forever remind us of the face of desperation…children dying
on the battlefield.

The American cemetery is currently maintained by the US Government…
The German cemetery, on the other hand, is maintained by the German Military.
To this day it is part of every German soldier’s responsibility to journey to Normandy to help
“keep up” the cemetery.

We were told that there was a letter found at the cemetery written by a local
middle school student.
In his letter, a letter that was written to the young men not much older than himself
and long since dead, stated that he had no ill will or bad feelings toward
these young German soldiers who had once occupied his own homeland
as they were doing what they thought was right…that being the defense of their homeland.

And so what we learned as we solemnly looked out over a sea of black crosses,
was that there are no real winners when man battles man.

Perhaps it would behoove our Nation to remember this little fact as our courntry is
so busy marking its hateful divide over both left or right.

We can see this mystical equation of joy and suffering in all the events of Christ’s life,
culminating in His Passion and death, which are neither an accident nor a postscript,
appendix, or addition, but the very consummation, the fruit and flower,
of His life. He lived backward, for he lived in order to die;
and we can understand His life only if we follow his life with our thought and think backward,
as we can understand a rose only if we look backward from the flower to the plant.

Peter Kreeft
from Doors in the Walls of the World

(all pictures by Julie Cook)

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

the unbreakable appointment

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

It is because of death that life is so precious.
It is because life is so precious that death is such an evil

David Robertson


(cemetary at St Kevin’s Monastary / Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland /
Julie Cook/ 2015)

Maybe it’s because I’ve read and written a good bit recently concerning the life and death
of the young child Alfie.
Maybe it’s because the shadowed dark veil still occasionally longs to blow across my heart,
or maybe…
it’s just because I’m tired…

I saw a really sad story yesterday about an elderly Chinese man who is afraid of dying
alone…so he’s put himself up for adoption.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/05/04/lonely-chinese-old-man-puts-himself-up-for-adoption.html

Being adopted myself, this story caught my attention for all sorts of reasons.

Our Asian brothers and sisters have always done such a fine job with their elderly.
They don’t neglect them.
They don’t ship them off to homes as we do here in the West.
They don’t turn their backs on them when they become infirmed, sick or simply
too old.
And they don’t decide to simply kill them because they’ve apparently run their course of
contribution and no longer serve a viable purpose.
Nor have they ever been viewed as a burden to society.

Our Asian kin have always taken their elderly into their homes,
caring for them as these now old ones once cared for the
younger others.

Yet sadly, that might be changing.

It seems that this particular man was a widower and was estranged from his sons.
The story noted that there is a growing shift in Asian culture these days
that the idea of a family caring for the elderly is not the given as it once was.

So this gentleman, who posted he is a retired scientist and is still in good
physical condition, just wants a family to spend his final years with.
He wants to contribute to the family by helping to shop, cook, pay bills…
but when the time comes, he wants to be cared for then properly buried by those who
in turn care for him.

He is doing this as he is gravely opposed to having to go to “a home.”

So all this talk of death and dying, life and living…the juxtaposition of
the whole bloody lot just keeps falling flat and heavy in front of my feet.

There’s just no getting around either one.
Because you can’t have one without the other.
There must be life if there is to be death…
That’s just the way it is.

I am not a morse person.
Not obsessive.
Not negative.
Not a fatalist.
I do however believe I am very much realist mixed in with a hardy dose of pragmatism.

When reading David Robertson’s latest post, which was actually an article written
for Christian Today, there I was again meeting death, or actually the notion of death
was meeting me at my door….or actually in my kitchen on my computer screen.

David was writing about death and life and destiny all based on the writings of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes.

But it was really the one line that jumped off the page, or shall we say screen, that
hit me squarely between the eyes…

Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.

Like most folks, I don’t much care for the whole death and dying business.
I don’t like much to talk about it.
I don’t like to acknowledge it…because that way, maybe it will just go away and leave
me alone.
And I certainly don’t like to think about it.
Not many of us living do.
Because the whole death thing really just tears me out of the frame.

Yes I will say it…despite being a Christian and despite knowing my Redeemer lives and
despite the knowledge that there is life after death…death still bothers me.

Life is for the living is it not?
Not for the dying…

Yet I think it is really a fear of the unknown that is what troubles us most.
Or at least it is for me.

As a planner, a teacher…I kind of like things all neatly mapped out.
Whereas spontaneity sounds glamourous…I’m not one for throwing caution to the wind.
I’m pretty set on point A to point B with no deviations in between.

However, I think it is that big black hole in our lives..the hole of separation
that’s the real kicker.
We are not a separating lot.

It’s the being cut off from and away from those we love that makes death so hard.
Going on living… without…
That is the burden…the burden of the living without.

So maybe that’s why our society is so fixated on trying to control both…
We want to be the masters of our own destinies…our entrances and our exits.
We want to call the shots.
And so we wrap it up in a fancy word and call it euthanasia.
A fancy way for us to call the shots…not God.
Nothing random there..no loss of control.
We, in essence, become our own god.

But it was that line of David’s that’s kept nagging at me…
“it’s not an accident–it’s an appointment which only God can change or cancel.”

David notes in his reflection from King Solomon’s words that
“He is saying that death comes to all, indiscriminately, good or bad:
‘Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…
‘(Hebrews 9:27). Death is not an accident –
it is an appointment which only God can change or cancel.
He is not saying that we are to live passively or that we are not to prepare.
But he is saying that it is only God who knows the future.

So there is both power and assurance in that statement.
An appointment that only God and change or cancel.

Not me, not you, no man…only God.

A burden becomes lifted.
It’s not my call.
Not my responsibility to say yay or nay…it’s there when God says its there.
It’s no longer my worry, our worry…my call, our call or truly my schedule or our schedule.
It’s God’s schedule.

And I need to be reminded, I was with that one line that I am small and He is not…

God’s power over death…so much greater than anything man could ever attempt to counter.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-9 – Death, Life and Destiny

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Reflections, thoughts and books


(one of the bronze dancing cherubs at the city cemetery Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Recently, over on a fellow blogger’s site, I read a most wonderful post written
about our dear friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
The following passage jumped right off the page,
right at me as it spoke to me about faith and as it challenged me to consider
what type of faith do I actually possess….
inward or outward….

Faith does not look upon itself but takes hold of that which is outside
itself, Christ.
Bonhoeffer draws on a Latin phrase from an early period of Protestant dogmatics,
actus directus,
as distinguished from actus reflexus,
to characterize the nature of true faith.

The difference here is between a faith that attends to God,
entrusting itself to God to be watched over and kept,
versus a faith that is constantly concerned to oversee itself,
ensuring its own vitality.

For Bonhoeffer, this is a way finally of avoiding faith –
for like Peter in the sea of Galilee,
it takes its eyes off of the living Christ who is the source of our life.

This emphasis upon the outward direction of faith that lays hold of Christ
in pure intentionality,
in a kind of passive reception where the self is kept out,
structures much of Bonhoeffer’s later reflections on ethics.
While we do not see him returning to this phrase,
the concept remains operative.

excerpt from the blog post Freedom in Orthodoxy
http://freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2017/07/bonhoeffer-and-role-of-moral-reflection.html

“A faith that attends to God…”

I looked up various synonyms for the word attend and found the word dwell
which I like here as it fits in perfectly…
it fits in such a way that it reminds us that our faith should be such that
we are to dwell in to God….to be a cohabitant within….

Verses a faith that attends to self….
and if we are to use the same word of “dwell” here,
then we are saying that it is a faith that dwells within self…
and somehow that does not sound like faith at all but mostly a self
centered inclination…something much along the lines of today’s culture of the
religion of self.

Bonhoeffer is reminding us that we must constantly work to strive to reach out of
self, out of ourselves…out to the living God…so that we may then, in turn,
dwell within Him and within Him alone…..

Then next, on the same day of perusing, I read another great post by our good
friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
This time he was offering a two part reflection regarding a book that he
most recently read…a review of sorts that due to his often verbose ways, he
opted to review over a period of time.

The book is entitled The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.

From all outward appearances Douglas Murray and David Robertson are probably polar
opposites of sorts and not exactly on the same page in life…
as Mr. Murray is an openly avowed homosexual as well as ardent Atheist and we know that Pastor David Robertson often writes about both topics…
as to why homosexuality and or atheism, from the Christian perspective,
are both wrong and sinful.

Yet Pastor Robertson read, enjoyed and whole heartedly agreed with Mr. Murray’s
observations regarding Europe and her mad dash to committing a ‘political suicide’
of sorts as she has forgotten,
or better yet recklessly thrown away with ardent abandon,
her Christian roots….

Replacing those long standing roots with a new religion…
that being the religion of humanism, materialism and human rights.
Because isn’t that what this has all become…
that for the majority part of the West, it is the religion of Human Rights…

In all the current melee, Europe is now lost as to what to do with the massive
Islamic influx that is currently and literally sweeping in with the tide….

One passage that Pastor Robertson highlights as brilliant on Murray’s part is the following observation:

in order to incorporate as large and wide number of people as possible it is
necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and
unobjectionable as possible.
If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a
definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.
This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become
so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.
So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific,
not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations
(the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy),
today the ethics and belief of Europe—
indeed the identity and ideology of Europe–
have become about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and
(most self abrogating of all) ‘diversity’.
Such shallow self definitions may get us through a few more years,
they have no chance at all being able to call on the deeper loyalties that
societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.”
P.7

And I for one see that his observation is not merely a European problem
but rather an American dilemma as well as we are also striving to “redefine” who
and what America actually is and means…
trading our true foundation and founding principles for something vastly
other than…
something humanistic, materialistic and oh so smugly human rights oriented…
As one reviewer wrote about having read Mr Murray’s book and of the dismal
position the West seems to have taken over the current identity crisis…
as in it has no real answers or position because
“modern culture has little to offer a person other than entertainment.”

And it is here where the good pastor leaves us until he comes back for part 2
of his review.

In the meantime, I’ve put the book on my order list.

Here’s a link to Robertson’s full review post…

Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness

So I will leave us today with these various interesting thoughts—
thoughts on faith–inward and outward…
and thoughts on the West’s seemingly mad dash to Western Civilization’s demise…

a conflicting conundrum indeed….

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—-the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—-
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John:15-17

what’s in a word

“My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel–it is, before all, to make you see.”
― Joseph Conrad

“A man must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions if he is not even ready to wear a wreathe around his head for them.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”
G. K. Chesterton – Where all roads lead, 1922

DSCN0346
(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Strike while the iron is hot”
or so they say…
I don’t know if the iron is truly hot but the thoughts are fresh and the spirit seems willing…

I am a far cry from being a grammarist or etymologist.
And those of you who read much of anything I write, probably painfully observe I would imagine, that often I either fall victim to my own inability of having ever mastered spelling or either I fall prey to the dreaded autocorrect monster who simply doesn’t understand me or gets where I’m coming from.

Add to that that I am a southern belle, born and bred, with my syntax and or jargon often being more times than not, based on my regional dialect and verbiage….ie my southern drawl….so anyone who stumbles this way may be hard pressed making sense of things…

Yet despite all of the aforementioned, one thing is certain, I love words.
I am most intrigued by words.
I find words fascinating.
Just as I find language fascinating…
Yet sadly my brain has failed miserably when it comes to
learning a language…other than my own southern style of english.

Yet that never stopped me from incorporating the use of words, language and even alphabets within my classroom with my kids or in my own art work.

One thing that I have found intriguing, when delving into the use of words, is that of their origins and of how the original meaning morphs over the passage of time. It is also interesting when words sound alike but are vastly different in meaning.
Those who try their hand at learning English, I am told, have quite a time as we, primary english speakers, have so many similarly pronounced words that have vastly different meanings— a quick example being there and their.

Let’s take another word—apology.

A word rooted in Greek which means to admit a wrong doing or owning up to a slight or misdeed.
Yet the word apologetic is not necessarily referring to one who is sorry for said misdeed but rather refers to one who is defending a certain belief or stance.

I can see where this can all become confusing.

I never really understood why the word apologist was used when referencing one who was defending a point of view verses one who was offering an “I’m sorry”

The Greek, ἀπολογία, translates to “speaking in defense”—or—apologetics
With the classical Greek word being apologia
Wikipedia explains it with this sort of example… “the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia.”
Meaning the defendant wasn’t apologizing but rather was arguing in defense…

Talk about confusing…

Interesting that the word used to admit a wrong sounds so much like defending a stance.

Which brings me to the meat of this wondering…

I read many Christian blogs that are written by very knowledgeable, learned individuals, who are equally passionate in what they write.
They are well versed in their knowledge and they are true defenders of the Faith.
They are apologists.
They are staunch and even zealous in and of their defense…
They are not ones to apologize….nor should they

And that’s the thing…
They are witnessing and presenting a case and / or defending a case…not apologizing for it.
There is no need for an apology…but there is need for the apologetics.

In today’s society we may or may not see any similarities to nearly 2000 years ago when the Church was but young and new. However it may certainly behoove all of us to take a closer look.

Back then the disciples and followers of the risen Christ had begun to spread far and wide in order to teach, preach and share the Gospel of both Hope and Salvation.
Some of the faithful found themselves in positions of acting defense attorneys, where the preaching had quickly turned into the defending of one’s beliefs.
There were arrests and trials.
There were deaths and persecutions.
And there were the apologetics.

Yet how familiar a position are the faithful now finding themselves today.

What had become accepted and even commonplace in the day to day life of mainstream folks, is now questioned and even actually banned out right.
The talking about one’s faith in Jesus with fellow students on college campuses is being banned.
Those who opt to join in prayer before and after sporting events are now warned against such.
The display of Christian religious symbols in public settings is now outlawed.
The use of bibles in various places of learning are now prohibited.
Those who profess to be believers of the Faith are now finding themselves as targets of violence and hate.
Those of the Faith are being pegged as scapegoats for all the is now wrong with the world.
Those who write about their beliefs and faith in magazines, papers and blogs are being called to task
to defend such beliefs as they are mocked, ridiculed and scorned.

However…. this is not the time for apologies…
But simply, rather, a time for apologists….

and rightly so it seems…

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16

Wise Love

Wise love takes many forms:
it is not timid and passive;
it can be demanding as well as long suffering”

Sacred Space
The Irish Jesuits
Lenten readings 2016

DSCN0348
(grave marker, St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park , Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Recently while pursuing various blogs penned by Christian writers, I have been astonished reading the negative, or actually downright vehemently hateful, chatter (aka “comments”) offered up by those non believers professing to be ardent atheists who hound the innocent bloggers just as hungry dogs hound a rabbit.

I’ve touched on this concern before.

Be it the teacher in me, the mom in me, the decent human being I hope in me,
I quickly discern that these “comments” are simply bullying and taunting guised in the form of commentary…offered by adults to other adults yet all taking on a very sophomoric and juvenile tone…
With the comments ranging from the mean spirited, hateful and disturbing to the downright threatening.

Yet given the current trend of equally sophomoric behavior within our own political system, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised.

I’ve always been of the mindset that if you don’t like reading someone’s blog, views, opinions…don’t read them…go elsewhere seeking that which interests you, encourages you or is like minded as yourself.

You prefer hate?
There’s plenty of that out there for you to read…leave those who merely want to offer hope and encouragement… while you go off to find all the vile and negative your heart desires….

And whereas it is discouraging to see how individuals…
those who are merely offering their personal values, their views,
their opinions, their beliefs…
those individuals who are being readily and easily maligned….
The truly amazing gem in all of this…
the real story behind this little observation into this lack of humankind treating humankind without mutual respect, is how these “bullied” writers can in turn offer kindness and patience to the grossly negative visitors and commentators…or better yet, how these writers offer forthright, steady, well versed and well informed responses going toe to toe with with what boils down to nasty evil hatefulness.

As Christians, we learn early on that our’s is a faith steeped in Love.
The Love of God for His creation
The Love of a Father for His Son
The Love of a Son for His Father
The Love of a Savior for His fellow man…

And yet we know that that Love is not simple minded, mindlessly passive, merely benign…
Nor is it timid…
This Love we share does not rest nor slumber…
It is determined.
It is exacting.
It is precise.
And it is patient, steely, determined and… yes, even long suffering…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3