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 David Murray.

From all outward appearances David 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

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(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

The cross

The whole life of Christ is the cross. And the more spiritual progress you strive for, the heavier will your crosses become, for as your love for God increases so will the pain of your exile.
Thomas à Kempis

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(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom,
but few who will bear his cross.
Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.
He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting.
Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.
Many will follow him as far as the breaking of the bread,
but few will remain to drink from his passion.
Many are awed by miracles, but few accept the shame of the cross.

The cross, therefore, is unavoidable. It waits for you everywhere.
No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it,
for wherever you go you take yourself along.
Turn where you will–above, below, without, or within–
you will find the cross.

If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you.
It will take you to where suffering comes to any end, a place other than here.
If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load,
though still you have to bear it.
If you try to do away with one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one.
How do you expect to escape what no one else can avoid?
Which saint is exempt?
Not even Jesus Christ was spared.
Why is it that you look for another way other than the royal way of the holy cross?

Thomas à Kempis

The choice in decision…for it is indeed a choice…stands before you each and every day you open your eyes to each new morning…
Will you forgo your comfort, your smooth road, your ease for which you prefer living…
all in turn to heed His beckoning, His calling, His desires for you?

You want to say yes.
Your lips easily and readily form the word…
Yes
And you want to follow, really you do…

Sorrow verses joy
Hardship verses ease
Pain verses suffering
Culling verses gathering
Isolation verses abundance
Emptiness verses fullness
Denial veres accepting
Uncomfortableness verses comfort

The road less traveled…

You stand in the middle of the decision, the choice,
as you continue staring straight ahead to the cross.
The overwhelming obstacle that cannot be circumvented or ignored
It stands between you and Him
You and Eternity

Are you truly willing to give everything up for Him.

Chances are you are not.

The garden

“We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“When Adam ate the irrevocable apple, Thou
Saw’st beyond death the resurrection of the dead”

C.S. Lewis

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(Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

There once was a garden that was perfect in every sense.
There were no need for boundaries nor signs, not even a single fence.

Its beauty was undeniable as its splendor was amazing.
There were animals of every shape and size contently roaming and grazing.

The trees grew tall and the pastures lush, as the bushes grew full and wide…
While all manner of flower and fruit blossomed with unapologetic pride.

God sweetly handed man the keys proclaiming that he should now enjoy,
Creation could but only hope for a happy ending to this perfect story…

But happiness and peace were not to be this story’s blissful end…
For there was far more trauma and tragedy that this writer should have penned…

There were whispered lies and falsehoods uttered, as selfishness stepped on stage.
With the die being cast and death now laughing, it is only sorrow for this new age..

The gates to this most beautiful place were sealed and tightly locked.
As both seraphim and cherubim stood to the side confused and terribly shocked…

Forever banished now is Adam, with Eve right by his side…
Along with every hope and dream, which has each now quickly died…

Death this tragic day was given dominion over this now broken world…
As chaos and madness mixed together and evil loomed and swirled…

Our generation is no different from the rest with each now having come and gone…
We wonder if today’s the day as we look beyond this morning’s dawn.

Will Christ come riding triumphantly upon the clouds so white…
And will this once beautiful garden ever be returned to earth’s most anxious sight?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
Revelation 22:1-3

the saint, the sultan and a first in meetings…

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( modern grave markers within the ancient cemetery located within the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

In 1219 a humble and simple Italian Franciscan monk ventured across raging seas and hostile lands with the hope of eventually crossing enemy lines in order to meet one of the most feared men of his time, Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt… who also happened to be the nephew of the greatly feared Muslim warrior Saladin.

This was the height of the 5th Crusade. The Holy Roman Empire was embroiled, once agin with Muslim forces, as Jerusalem and what is known to Christianity as the Holy Lands, was under Muslim rule. Pope Innocent III and his successor Pope Honorius III, along with King Andrew II of Hungary and the Grand Duke Leopold VI of Austria launched a Holy Crusade to rid Christianity’s holiest city and her lands of Muslim rule once and for all. The irony here however is that Sultan Malik al-Kamil was actually one of the more tolerant Muslim rulers and allowed Christians living in and traveling to and from Jerusalem safe passage as well as greater freedoms than had previous rulers. Gone were the days of persecution and vast bloodshed. Yet the Catholic Church and most of Europe held the belief that the only good Jerusalem was a free Jerusalem.

Francesco Bernardone, affectionately known to us today as St Francis of Assisi, according to historical record longed to travel to the land of the Saracens not only to witness to the Muslims in the name of Christ but to broker peace. There is much debate over this encounter—had Francis simply wished to die a martyr in his hope to convert the Sultan as some historical documents record or had he hoped to intervene a peaceful solution putting an end to the ages of hostility, violence and bloodshed which had existed between these two religions for hundreds of years…scholars continue to debate these varying schools of thought.

The one fact however greatly agreed upon is that the meeting was one of mutual respect and peace.
Both men departed company with a lasting impression of mutual admiration and an understanding that each honored God…albeit in his own way.

As the world sits and watches the daily violence and mayhem unfolding within the very same region of the encounter of Francis and the Sultan…in Northern Arica and the Middle East, there appears to be an endless rolling wave of violence and bloodshed that seems to have been relentless since the dawn of mankind…as those deadly ripples reverberate ever outward into a gravely unaware world.

And it is during these global dark days in which my thoughts often turn to the teachings of that humble monk from Assisi.
I wonder how St Francis would view the current crisis with the current global assault by ISIS…
As this rising new unbending rule within Islam seems to lack the wisdom and tolerance of the long ago Sultan.

There is a historic meeting which is soon to take place.
It is a meeting between the two leading men who sit on the ancient thrones of their collective branches of Christianity.
Pope Francis, the Sovereign of Vatican City and the Bishop of Rome, the leader of the western Latin Roman Catholic Church, who is the 266th pope to sit on the throne of St Peter, will meet with his Orthodox counterpart, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the leading patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This meeting is a first between these two branches of the same tree. Previous popes have attempted to meet with the Russian Orthodox hierarchy but the rift between these two “sister” churches is deep.
All of which indeed goes back to the Great Schism of 1054 when Christianity was divided between the Latin West and the Eastern Orthodox.

However with the Russian Orthodox the wariness seems to go even further as the Mother Church of Russia looks at the Latin Church as one who has long hoped to lure away the Russian faithful while the Catholic Church has long wondered how “close” the Russian Orthodox Church has been first with the ruling Tsar’s and then later with the Communist regime…with current continuing questions regarding the relationship and roll between it and Vladimir Putin’s government.

Yet it is with grave mutual concern over the rampant rise in global Christian persecution, especially in the region of Northern Africa and the Middle East, that these two holy men will put aside all differences in order to come together in a greatly historic and unprecedented union in hopes of creating a unified front, while the world watches and wonders how many more must die at the hands of barbarism before someone stands up and says enough is enough.

As the time of this historic meeting fast approaches, may our collective Christian families join together in united prayer for these two men as they prepare to meet later this month in Cuba.
May the Holy Spirit make His presence known and felt as these two men of deep Christian faith, who speak as representatives on the global stage for all of Christianity as well as humanity itself…may they find the necessary common ground within their shared faith, their love of Jesus Christ…may their two voices join as one as they speak for those who cannot speak.
May the world stop long enough to hear these two men’s collective wisdom which is steeped in the wisdom of the One True Spirit of God.
And may all Christians join together in support as we stand together as the Light shining in this every darkening world….

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35500973

Where is the Sacred?

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

― Wendell Berry

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow / Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is the Sacred,
the Holy,
the Hallowed?

Where has it gone?

Has man lost his connection to the Divine
and what it means to be
reverent,
quiet,
observant….

Oh how it so seems…

Does the mocking of a drowned two year old child, off the coast of Turkey,
make anyone else uncomfortable, distressed or disturbed…
or is it just me?

Does Charlie Hebdo and others who make light over everything and anything,
who use the satirical to…
malgin,
berate,
and draw attention to…

Do they, the magazines, the papers, the comics.. try to make us…
better,
wiser,
more insightful…?

Do they make us think, laugh or simply feel numb?

All with their mocking, ridiculing and disrespect…?

Freedom of speech…
it is the rallying cry is in not…
The defensive call to arms.
Yet whose word is free and whose words are not?

What of….
what of the respect found within that freedom…
what of the cost of human sanctity found within that freedom
what of the spilled blood found within that freedom

Was respect not rooted in the foundation?
Civility?
Courtesy?
Fairness?

What of the respect for…
for life,
for death,
for the living,
for the dying,
for the less than,
for the maligned,
for the young,
the old,
all found within that freedom…

What of the honor to be afforded to all human beings regardless of…
stature,
class,
race,
age,
belief,
Does none of that matter…
Is it all just fodder now for our obsession with the biting satire of our own contagious dark humor?

Oh laugh and chuckle if you will.
That nervous sort of ridiculing and jaded scoffing…
Join the masses of those who have grown numb, cold, closed, shallow, empty…
and so over the top that there is no longer room for the kind, the compassionate, the soul…
the Hallowed,
the Holy
or
the Sacred…

Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5