in the sound of silence

“On Good Friday last year the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests
with an hour on “the tree.”
That is the mildest camp punishment.
They tie a man’s hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward.
Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it.
His own wight twists his joints and pulls them apart…
Several of the priest who were hung up last year never recovered and died.
If you don’t have a strong heart, you don’t survive it.
Many have a permanently crippled hand.”

Jean Bernard, Priestblock 25487: a Memoir of Dachau


(worn grave marker, Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook)

“Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn’t climb all the way up to God.
So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday,
God climbed down to us, became one with us.
The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday.
We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God.
Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell.
He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it.
God still stoops, in your life and mine, condescends.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” he asked his disciples,
before his way up Golgotha. Our answer is an obvious,
“No!” His cup is not only the cup of crucifixion and death,
it is the bloody, bloody cup that one must drink if one is going to get mixed up in us.
Any God who would wander into the human condition,
any God who has this thirst to pursue us, had better not be too put off by pain,
for that’s the way we tend to treat our saviors.
Any God who tries to love us had better be ready to die for it.
As Chesterton writes, “Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate…
Real love has always ended in bloodshed.”

― William H. Willimon,
Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross

in the shadows

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

To think of shadows is a serious thing.
Victor Hugo

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(a jackdaw at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As the winter wanes and spring advances, the evening shadows slowly retreat from whence they came.
Or so it seems to the causal observer…
those innocents who observe the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet the shadows that secretly veil this earth…
grow ever far reaching …
while hidden from plain site…they slink around undetected

There are those who know the dangers because they can actually see..
the shape shifting shadows that dart in and out…
hidden far from reality’s plain sight
Chasing and dogging those who seek the One True Light….

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
1Peter 5:8 (Phillips)

Pick it up…or not

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

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(painting of Christ carrying the cross located in the Rock of Cahsel rectory / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Picking up your cross…
What does it mean…?

There is without a doubt a heaviness,
A weight and heft to the raw wood.
Roughly hewn, it immediately scratches and rips the smooth skin of palms and tender fingers
It’d be easier to drop it then to continue on.

The heaviness is foreign…out of the ordinary of lifting, nearly impossible to pick up…
Muscles stretch beyond capacity, burning, aching…
A back nearly breaks…
The realization is that lifting it is one thing…
carrying it from start to finish is overwhelming…

Many have opted to drop theirs, deciding to go on without it…
Free and weightless,…
no worries…
But where does one go without it?

What then matters?

Nothing…
Nothing else ever matters…


Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 23-25

Savagery vs Decency

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

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(window in the chancel house at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m beginning to feel, as well as sound, like a broken record…

Once again there is a report that ISIS, IS, Daesh, whatever you wish to call this steely precision machine of evil, has once again wielded swiftly the hand of hate and destruction over all of Christianity in Iraq. They have rendered the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, the 1400 year old St Elijah’s Monastery, to nothing more than dust.

The monastery was built between 882-590 AD by the Assyrian Christian monk Elijah and has been a place of worship and refuge for Christians well before the Great Schism divided Christianity into the Latin West and the Orthodox East…as it dates to the earliest days of The infant Church.

It was back in March, almost a year ago when I wrote another similar story about the dire situation taking place in Mosel with the systematic killing and destruction of any and all things Christian at the hands of the barbaric members of the Islamic State.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And almost a full year later, nothing has been done or said…the oh so hoped for cry from the global community… which would be heard, as it is shouted out loud from every roof top around the globe, in hopes to raise a real and substantial global concern…sadly remains in large part…silent.

Oh we hear a snippet of a story here and there, yet there are more reports about who’s been nominated for an Oscar and who is boycotting the awards show due to a case of colorblindness, yet the steady and systematic destruction of all things Christian throughout the Middle East, the very birth place of our faith, is being eliminated into oblivion with nary a whimper.

Why?

Here are the latest news offerings…with even the Pentagon weighing in, claiming that the destruction of the monastery is simply one more “battle of savagery against decency…”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35360415

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/20/isis-destroys-iraqs-oldest-christian-monastery-satellite-photos-confirm.html?intcmp=hpbt2

http://news.yahoo.com/only-ap-oldest-christian-monastery-073600243.html

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 1:17-19

Christian how are your defenses?

“If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War.”
― George Washington

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Winston Churchill

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(Rock of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Christian how are your defenses?

Do you lock your doors?
Do you lock your car?
Do you lock up your bike?
Do you have a security system?
Do you have a chip in your pet?
Do you have security cameras?
Do you have security for your phone, your laptop, your car?
Do you have insurance protecting your property?
Do you expect your bank to protect your assets?
Do you expect the FDA to protect your food?
Do you expect your bill of rights and constitution to protect your speech, your vote, your way of life?
Do you have police and sheriff departments protecting your city and town?
Do you have a military protecting your nation?

Yet do you defend and protect your faith?

Oh you say you don’t see the need?

You say you pray, that’s enough?

What about worship?

What if that was invaded, threatened, taken…away?

Have you ever worried that going to church could be taken away, stolen, lost, destroyed…?

Are you willing to fight for your beliefs?

If you defend and protect everything else in your life, why not your faith…

Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?

Psalm 94:16

the tontine

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time.
And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.

Mahatma Gandhi

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(The Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A tontine…
A french word used during the 17th century to denote an investment created by several individuals…With the premise being that each member of the group agrees to initially pay a set sum…
The money is never touched, rather it is allowed to grow over time.
As the years pass and the members of the group eventually, one by one, die off, the remaining shares grow…with the last surviving member of the group amassing the lump of the sum plus all accrued interest.

The idea of a tontine played out on one of the episodes of the hit show M.A.S.H.

In this particular episode Colonel Potter, the patriarch of the cast, received a secretive and oddly strange package of which suddenly cast a grave pall over his entire demeanor. Naturally those closest to the beloved leader, Hawkeye, BJ, Margaret and Charles each grew terribly concerned seeing that the Colonel had grown almost inconsolably depressed after having received this most odd package.

The entire episode evolved around what was in the package, what was wrong with Colonel Potter and what could this rag tag group of friends do to help.

Finally Colonel explained…
The package was a bottle of fine French Brandy.

The story behind the bottle was that during World War I, when Colonel Potter was a young soldier, his regiment had found themselves dangerously deep behind enemy lines in German occupied France. His small group of comrades had come upon the bottle of brandy as they hunkered down in an abandoned shell of what was once an elegant home. Right then and there this little group of beleaguered soldiers made a pact, or more appropriately a tontine. Should they survive the war, they would save the bottle of brandy by placing it in a safety deposit box. The bottle would then remain under lock and key until there was but one lone survivor of the group–upon which time the bottle was to be delivered to the “last man standing” who would in turn drink a toast to what had been.

Colonel Potter, who now bitterly found himself still fighting, what seemed to be a lifetime of wars all these many years later, was the last living soul remaining from his once youthful regiment, as his own mortality now mockingly taunted him as it stared him in the face… all the while a lonely bottle of brandy begged to be consumed.

Life is indeed bittersweet.

If we are fortunate, we live a long life supported and surrounded by family and friends.
We journey together through both joy and sorrow, trepidation and gallantry.
We ride the waves of triumph both high and mighty then hold fast and tight during the calamity of storms.
We experience shared moments, good and bad, which become the mortar between the building blocks of our lives.

Then one strange day we suddenly realize, that while we weren’t paying attention or taking much notice, ever so slowly and one by one…our numbers mysteriously have decreased…

We find ourselves on the opposite side of happily ever after, looking back wondering where the time has gone. One by one we are left more and more isolated and alone, until finally we are the last man / woman standing out of a once large troupe of beloved comrades, family and life long companions.

Gone are those who were in our lives to protect, to cheer on, to share with, and to relish with….those who were the life-lines, the wise ones, the sages of our lives…
Leaving us in the unfamiliar position of now being those very things for a much younger lot than ourselves…
A lonely feeling.
A bittersweet feeling.
A very sad feeling.

And that was the very overwhelming realization for dear ol Colonel Potter…

The friends that had transitioned with him from boyhood to manhood, under cloak of war, we’re all now gone. Those who had lived through and understood a lifetime now long past had all but vanished, leaving him as the only remaining one who could recall and understand a time that was as he found himself now surrounded by a much younger group who had not been there nor done that…he was now the odd man out.

Yet through the heavy sense of loss with the weight of age suddenly bearing down and crushing his shoulders, our dear Colonel Potter understood that as he may be the last of his particular group to survive, he was still surrounded by companions, loved ones and friends… albeit of a different generation.
Life was still to be lived, relished and enjoyed.
Occasionally he could look back and recall all that was, but life was indeed for the living and it was time to say good-bye to the past while looking toward the future.

And so as he opened the bottle of bandy that had delightfully mellowed with time, offering a toast to those who once were and to a life that was well lived…he also offered a toast to those standing by his side and to the life that was yet to be…
toasting the memories of friends now gone and toasting the lives of those friends now standing by his side.

May those of us who now find ourselves standing closer to the end of our own life’s tontine remember, that as our numbers maybe decreasing, our importance in the lives of those who come behind us is greatly increasing.
Our experiences, our history, our life’s knowledge is all necessary in order to help light the path for those generations behind us as we continue moving toward an unknown future of the possibilities of what will be.
We stand as the mile markers and guideposts for future generations…may we, with God’s grace, direct them well…

And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
1John 2:17

The Great Divide

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a worn weary relief of Jesus adorns an ancient cross, marking an equally ancient grave in the Rock of Chasel Cemetery / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

On a random day oh so long ago, in a place and time unknown,
a bond of union and love was irreparably broken…

Ripped apart and torn asunder, a Heart was left in pieces.

A chasm so consuming was cut instantly deep and wide.
Two sides now existed where before there had been but one.
Where there was once only Light…darkness now laid claim.

As the separation of man and his Creator was now catastrophically complete.

For He who is without sin may not, can not, gaze upon he who is of sin…
and man had made his sinful choice as Death was now his eternal companion.

With the Heart that knows no sin splayed open…broken and shattered, shame enjoyed the show, as sorrow and contempt swept across the land…
Agony and darkness joined with pain, colliding together as one.

Nothing could, would, ever be the same.

“GO” was the agonizing command, “Be Gone from this sacred place for you are no longer welcome”
There was to be no turning back nor return.
The gate was forcibly slammed as it vanished far from sight.

Now lost and alone for the very first time, the fallen wrapped themselves in shame as a sick and twisted laughter worked to fill the deafening void.
Ridicule and mockery rushed to offer service…
As pride and arrogance proceeded to build a shrine.

As the eons of time drifted along the wind, sorrow, division and separation remained.
Suffering, illness, lies and deceit lay cluttered across the land.
Hatred, self-centeredness, self obsession, mistrust and ignorance perfected their craft,
As man was hopelessly lost unto himself…

And so there was yet another day not so random, yet oh so long ago, that the Heart which once lay broken offered the only solution possible for a seemingly lost state of irrevocable divide…
The only option remaining was for that which was once broken…to break itself again.

And so it was, on a not so random day, equally long ago, chosen particularly by Love itself…there was a cross, then a tomb, and finally a unified Heart…