“To use this life well is the pathway through death to everlasting life.”
St. John Almond
(Methodist Chruch, Cades Cove /The Great Smokey Mt.s National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)
“Even if you do not confess, God is not ignorant of the deed,
since he knew it before it was committed.
Why then do you not speak of it?
Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?
No, it becomes lighter and less troublesome.
And this is why he wants you to confess:
not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven;
not that he may learn your sin—how could that be, since he has seen it?—
but that you may learn what favor he bestows.
He wishes you to learn the greatness of his grace,
so that you may praise him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin,
that you may be quicker to virtue.
And if you do not confess the greatness of the need,
you will not understand the enormous magnitude of his grace.”
St. John Chrysostom, p. 255
An Excerpt From
A Year with Church Fathers
“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)
(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)
(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)
(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)
“Whoever confesses his sins…is already working with God.
God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God.
Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ –
this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ –
this is what man himself has made.
Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made…
When you begin to abhor what you have made,
it is then that your good works are beginning,
since you are accusing yourself of your evil works.
The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works.
You do the truth and come to the light.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1458
An Excerpt From
Catechism of the Catholic Church
“If you learn everything except Christ, you learn nothing.
If you learn nothing except Christ, you learn everything.”
(Independant Presbyterian Church steeple / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)
I must say that I have a small regret…
My regret is that of time…but who doesn’t regret time right?
Sometimes we might think we have enough or even too much, but if the truth be told,
we never have nearly enough.
I use to be able to catch a youtube or video blog post of Anglican Unscripted.
I use to listen to the podcasts of our friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Roberston…
as well as our favorite across the pond rogue bishop, Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
But first, the Mayor came on the scene.
Next, my better half retired.
And then, the Sherrif came on board.
Suddenly there was no more time….well, no more time for me to do those
things I use to do with time before my new time needers all arrived.
Now I am certainly not complaining mind you…as this use of time
is a good use…exhausting, but good.
It’s just that when I had time to do so, I would
listen/watch and take copious notes of the teachings by our two Christian Scholarly friends.
I would craft posts featuring the teachings of these most knowledgable individuals.
I learned and, in turn, wanted to share the learning…that’s a teacher thing and it matters
not if we retire…sharing knowledge is what we do.
So I was very excited the other day when I actually carved out some unexpected quiet
and surprisingly alone time in order to listen to a podcast offered by one of my
favorite publications, the UK publication The Spectator.
Happily, I got to listen, almost uninterrupted,
to an interview by Damian Thompson with Bishop Gavin Ashenden—
who by the way is a recent convert to Catholicism.
The interview focused on the Chruch of England and its current dangerous walk toward socialism.
Now for those of you who think you don’t have a dog in the fight over anything Catholic,
Anglican, Chruch of England or Episcopalian…or even Socialism…
may I quickly remind you that many of our Nation’s current politicians are touting
all things Socialism while Socialism currently creeps its ugly way into our
Nation’s political narrative.
Think Bernie, AOC and the Progressive left…
I think the good Bishop gives a sound foundation as to why all Christians
must be very wary of this most troubling dalliance of the Chruch of England.
The podcast is about 20 minutes and is well worth the time, if you are fortunate to
“Just before Christmas, Dr. Gavin Ashenden, a former Chaplain to the Queen,
converted to Catholicism. But that’s not the main subject of my interview with him in
the first Holy Smoke episode of 2020. In it,
he deplores the Church of England’s surrender to secularism under Archbishop Justin Welby,
who won’t enjoy his former colleague’s assessment of his talents.
Dr. Ashenden may not be Anglican any more,
but he does think that the Established Church has a historic mission –
and that its ‘middle managers’ have betrayed it in favour of ‘soft socialism’.
To which I reply that Pope Francis is busy hoisting the white flag,
or perhaps a red one, on the other side of the Tiber.
At which point our conversation takes an unexpected turn. Don’t miss it!”
“No conflict is more pivotal to the heart and soul of America than the sin battle.”
“If forces of sexual deviancy prevail, every part of our culture will be corrupted
and contaminated beyond repair…
Religious principle, tolerance, and rights of conscience mean nothing to pro-sodomy advocates.
They will remorselessly crush anyone and anything that gets in their path…
In their quest for cultural domination,
they will relentlessly extinguish the light of sexual normalcy and morality,
as well as the light of Christianity.”
former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association
(fungus growing on a fallen tree / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)
It’s a word that we take for granted yet it is a word whose actions are destroying us.
For we are its actions and we seem not to even care.
Our culture has opted to expunge the word from our vocabulary while blindly
embracing its very nuances.
And what of the Chruch?
She is either impotently silent or either she busies herself by embracing those
very nuances in order to appear more viable, more likable, more cultural.
And yet sadly, once again, we hear of the scandal and predation from those very
souls who are entrusted to represent this bride of Christ, the Church.
We are betrayed.
We are complicit.
We are quiet.
We are culpable.
The following quote by the martyred Confessing Church pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer could have
easily been stated today rather than 78 years ago.
Bonhoeffer was speaking of Nazi Germany and of the German Lutheran Chruch’s blood
it bore upon it hands… but his words could readily speak to us today…
speaking to the Catholic Chruch, the Anglican and Episcopal Church, the Methodist Chruch,
the Presbyterian Church…
his words could be directed to most of us who claim to be Christians of the 21st century.
We the church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough
the message of the One God who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus,
and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself.
She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions.
She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was
crying aloud to heaven.
The church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force,
the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people,
oppression, hatred, and murder.
And that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims.
And has not found a way to hasten to their aid.
The church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers
of Jesus Christ.
The church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet,
possession, and honor to which she has desired security and peace, quiet, possession,
and honor to which she has no right.
She has not born witness to the truth of God and by her silence,
she has rendered herself guilty,
because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1940
Bishop Gavin Ashenden has recently addressed the tragic issue of predation in the church
and of the current need for the Chruch to speak up while she owns up to her responsibility–
finally speaking the Truth while she gets busy with a much-needed Spring cleaning…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sine that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…
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….
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
― Elbert Hubbard
“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. . .”
Opening line from poem Protest by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(Fra Angelico, Christ Crowned with Thorns, 1440 / Livorno, Santa Maria del Soccorso)
Frustratingly this week, my time has not been my own as I have been back and forth to Dads–Dad is still sick with what I’ve thought to be little improvement but the doctor today tells us otherwise. He seems to think Dad is showing slow gains.
Well, slow it certainly seems to be—and I suppose slow is better than stagnate.
Dad’s question to the doctor “can I eat fried chicken and chocolate?” Hopefully he didn’t intend to have that as a combo meal. . .
My hope is that he might have something a little more solid, sans fried chicken. . .of which will still be quite sometime as we’ve had to switch up meds hoping for greater improvement. . .
All of this has left me with little to no time to put together a thoughtful, or thought provoking, post as of late. And that is in part why I have yielded the past few days to the wisdom of my friend, Pastor Bonhoeffer.
Of which I must do again today as the past couple of entries from my devotional book have spoken deeply to my heart.
His words race across the chasm of time and place.
It is as if I am reading an observation from our own sad world. . .
May we, the body of the Church, no longer remain silent. . .
The Sin of Silence
The church confesses that it has witnessed the arbitrary use of brutal force, the suffering in body and soul of countless innocent people, that it has witnessed oppression, hatred, and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways of rushing to help them. It has become guilty of the lives of the weakest and most defenseless brother and sisters of Jesus Christ. . . .
The church confesses that it has looked on silently as the poor were exploited and robbed, while the strong were enriched and corrupted. The church confesses its guilt toward the countless pople whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation, and defamation. It has not condemned the slanders for their wrongs and has thereby left the slandered to their fate. The church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.
(the above image of a painting by il Beato [the blessed one] Angelico known as Fra [brother] Angelico of the Christ Crowned With Thorns is one of the most moving Renaissance images of Christ that I have ever seen. I actually saw the image at the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy on a card in the gift shop. San Marco is the convent in which Fra Angelico lived as a monk. Each of the monk’s cells are painted with various images depicting the life of Christ, as painted by Fra Angelico, intended for each monk’s contemplation—a beautiful contemplative respite in the tourist ridden Florence)