“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:
it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
(the Mayor Christmas eve / Julie Cook / 2018)
If you’re anything like me, then the past month has been more or less a blur.
December is just that kind of month.
And now we’ll spend the next few weeks in what I call a December hangover.
That heavy odd sense of bluesyness bordering on depression which falls sometime following
the New Year’s celebration. It’s a heaviness that seems to blanket us
following the high that lead us up to Christmas to those quiet doldrums of a
grey, wet, cold January.
And that’s pretty much because we’ve made Christmas so much more than what Christmas
really should be.
But then we already knew that right?
On my end, the culmination for us was, of course, the Mayor.
Because Christmas is all about children is it not?
(Moppie with the exhuausted one / Julie Cook / 2018)
(Santa brought the Mayor an extesnion to Woobooville…a Wooboo teepee)
(and a new Mayorial ride)
And whereas I think of our cultural Christmas being basically, more or less, a magical
time for Children that has sadly morphed over the years becoming something so much more…
with that notion of ‘more’ not necessarily being a good thing.
The contrast that our children are living with is what we’ve turned Christmas into…
that being, on the one hand, wonder, excitement, anticipation, the magical, the giving
and the getting but also being the chaotic, the frantic, the merchandising,
with the getting notion being the ultimate part…
A shift from what Christmas was…that being the celebration of a single birth…
to the Christmas that is… a month of mania followed by the doldrums.
But this first Christmas morning was more than this little Mayor could handle
May we be mindful to keep our focus on the one Ture gift we’ve each just received.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would
believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
There is no antithesis between hope for heaven and loyalty to the earth,
since this hope is also hope for the earth.
While we hope for something greater and definitive,
we Christians may and must bring hope into that which is transitory,
into the world of our states.
(detail from Sainte Chapelle / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)
I mentioned the other day the irony that as we…we being anyone,
work toward pushing our way toward a Godly life, a Godly
mindset, a Godly perspective as to how we live our lives…
the harder we work toward such, Satan, in turn,
goes into overdrive trying desperately to thwart any and all efforts.
I know this.
Hence why I’m opting to just walk around with an umbrella over my head 24/7.
But more about all of that later.
One thing that I have noticed that isn’t helping…isn’t helping my mindset, my demeanor,
my outlook, is this country’s quagmire of division and hatred and the constant news
feeds… be they from a liberal progressive henny penny the sky is falling slant or from
the more conservative slant of ‘oh woe is us’ (of which I tend to be more of the ‘oh
woe is us’ camp) it is enough to be driving me absolutely nuts…
so much so that I dare turn on a television or click on news…
and Heaven’s help us, when I get the world breaking news alerts on my phone.
And so it was a bit serendipitous to stumble upon the following quote by
Joseph Ratzinger…aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal Ratzinger who worked under Pope John Paul II as the
Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
was known as God’s Rotweiller.
He headed a Vatican department responsible for enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy, and was
the successor to the Inquisition.
A tough-minded man who once said that “rock music was “the expression of basic passions”
And he described homosexuality as a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward
an intrinsic moral evil”.
He did not mince the words of Biblical truths.
The former Pope, who now lives a reclusive, prayerful and scholarly life in a small
apartment on the grounds of the Vatican, is German by birth.
Hence the Rottweiler reference as well as being known as the Panzer Cardinal.
However it was as a youthful boy, Ratzinger’s heart was set on being a priest.
But Hitler and his Nazi monster reign put that dream on hold.
The family was very anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler.
The Nazi regime’s politics ran counter to the Ratzinger’s Catholic Christian faith.
So much so that the senior Ratzinger moved his family multiple times in hopes of living a life
somewhat free from the growing madness.
However time eventually ran out and as required of all young German boys during this dark time
in mankind’s history, this future Pope was mandated to serve time as a member of Hitler’s
Youth Group. Should he opt not to participate, the family would face financial penalties
and most likely worse.
During the dark, chaotic days of Nazi Germany, Ratzinger witnessed first hand the
horrors of what life was like under Hitler’s spell.
Ratzinger had a younger cousin who had Down’s Syndrome—
Such individuals were considered to be defective….imperfect and impure.
It was the likes of Josef Mengele, the physician who performed countless “experiments” of such individuals-who viewed people like Ratzinger’s cousin as living guinea pigs, had those like
Ratzinger’s cousin rounded up and taken away.
And so his cousin was indeed “taken away” from the family by the local authorities.
A short time afterward the family was given word that the boy had been killed for being one of the “undesirables”—an individual considered to be a flaw…
a weak and unpure part of the Aryan gene pool.
During his time as a Hitler Youth, Ratzinger was miserable.
In Ratzinger’s book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger says the following “…
Thank goodness, there was a very understanding mathematics teacher.
He himself was a Nazi but an honest man, who said to me,
‘Just go once and get the document so that we have it’ …
When he saw that I simply didn’t want to, he said, ‘I understand, I’ll take care of it’,
and so I was able to stay free of it. (Wikipedia)
Later when he was of age, Ratzinger was drafted.
Three separate times his service was terminated, only to be reinstated and serving in various capacities
but never seeing active fighting on the front.
Eventually, he made the harrowing decision to desert.
Ratzinger has often stated that Heavenly angels watched over him and his family during those
frantic final days of Nazi Germany as there were multiple times when the authorities
discovered a young man of draft age who was oddly not enlisted—
and yet, his desertion was oddly never pursued.
As soon as the war was over, Ratzinger and his brother both entered seminary.
So if there is one who understands the attacks by Satan on those who attempt to pursue a
Godly life and of the role a political ethos plays in the lives of Christians
it would be Ratzinger…as well as Karol Woytjla, aka Pope John Paul II who
lived a life of labor, pain, and suffering in a Nazi-occupied Poland…
So may the following words of wisdom offered by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speak to all of us today…those of us who are finding ourselves living
in these very uncertain and surreal political times…
True human objectivity involves humanity, and humanity involves God.
True human reason involves morality, which lives on God’s commandments.
This morality is not a private matter; it has public significance.
Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be no good politics.
What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the core of their political
ethos must also be the core of an active Christian politics:
only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live together
well in a thriving community.
Demonstrating the practical importance of the moral dimension,
the dimension of God’s commandments—publicly as well—must be the center of responsible
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)
Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….
Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.
It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.
Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….
On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.
It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.
It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.
It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….
The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—
Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.
I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….
Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.
As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?
And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.
And now we look to the paradoxical…
We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.
It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.
Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…
For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)
(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)
Consider the following comment….
What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.
And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]
No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)
From Discerning Thoughts
And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….
His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.
What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.
We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.
(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)
One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.
(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)
Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”
I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….
I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..
Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….
And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.
Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.
So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…
And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—
A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…
And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.
And I for one delight in that.
In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….
Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….
Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….
And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…
All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..
But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.
Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
As in The Coming….
I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.
The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.
He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.
Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.
The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.
So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.
And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….
John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…
The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.
Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!
Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.
We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.
Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.
For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.
Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…
None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?
I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…
Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….
“To love is easy and therefore common –
but to understand –
how rare it is!”
― L.M. Montgomery
What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul,
which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?
Saint Teresa of Avila
(one of dad’s urban neighbors / Julie Cook / 2014)
I’ve written about Henny Penny before.
And no, Henny Penny is not the chicken in the picture above…
that’s just a neighbor.
The real Henry Penny is the heroine of a classic and timeless sweet children’s tale.
The story of a rather hapless and clueless chicken
who gets her knickers in twist when she’s out and about minding her own business,
when suddenly out of the blue, something falls from above knocking her in the head…
This falling object unleashes pandemonium in poor ol Henny Penny.
Convinced that the sky is now falling,
Henny Penny proceeds to run about chaotically alerting all her neighbors
that the time to panic has arrived…
while proclaiming that everyone must immediately seek shelter…
because the sky is…
(Henny Penny / art work by Thao Lam)
As it turns out the sky was never falling, as the sweet illustration above indicates,
yet try telling Henny Penny and her now distraught neighbors that it was
just a pesky little acorn falling onto poor Henny Penny’s head.
And not that I’ve become some sort of nervous nelly dashing about
in a frantic panic over a falling sky…
but it does feel as if the sky, or actually life rather, is indeed falling…
and that familiar primordial feeling of panic
is desperately attempting to rear its ugly head…
As I’ve just spent the past three days running around in circles over…
Add to that some other rather pressing issues of life and we have
our very own Henny Penny running around clucking like a nut.
If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who may have spotted a black car,
early this morning, out on the four lane driving in big circles…
about 3 different times back and forth…
As in driving out toward the interstate then turning back around,
then driving back out toward the interstate, then truning back around…
Not so much a panicky Henny Penny but more like a crazy moron…
Either way I’m feeling a bit Henny Pennyish as of late as I’ve been
twirling about in circles flapping my wings arms trying to make sense of things…
It’s a long story…as are all my stories as of late.
And I’ve promised myself that I will not be overtly verbose today,
for your sake as I wish to spare you the agonizing details…
However…is it not the details which make things all that more interesting??
as in the devil is in the details—
as in really, yes,
he is frighteningly in my details….
It all has to do with a catheter, a nurse, dad, a blockage, the caregivers, the ER
and a urologist that I had hoped to never see again…as I’m not a fan.
Add multiple calls beckoning me to come then don’t come,
come, don’t come… and you’ve got circles on the four lane…
Throw upon that not gas but confusion…adding all the other nuttiness in my life,
throw in the shenanigans of this county of ours just for kicks,
fan the fumes…
and you get me, driving around in big circles
while dad is blowing up like a water balloon refusing to be treated.
So I will take the water balloon dad back to the Urologist today, whether he wants to go or not while taking our chances that
a) the water balloon weren’t burst and
b) that mr nonchalant will figure out the problem
allowing us to get back to our regular business of falling sky….
I think I like Henny Penny…
I think we must be kindred spirits…
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.