black sheep

“America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.
That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in
the Declaration of Independence;
perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics
and also great literature.
It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice,
that governments exist to give them that justice,
and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism,
and it does also by inference condemn atheism,
since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom
these equal rights are derived.
Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of
such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally
God whose claim is taken more lightly.
The point is that there is a creed,
if not about divine, at least about human things.”

G.K. Chesterton

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(folkart ceramic black sheep my aunt found at a crafts show in North Carolina)

Bah, Bah, a black Sheep,
Have you any Wool?
Yes merry I Have,
Three Bags full,
One for my Master,
One for my Dame,
One for the Little Boy
That lives down the lane

(the original 1744 English Nursery Rhyme from the Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book)

Anyone who knows me….
knows I have a thing for sheep.
Why, I don’t know…I’ve just always been drawn to them….

And it must be noted that it is those with either a black face or those entirely black
that speak most sweetly to my heart.

Add to that…that it seems black sheep have always gotten a really bad rap…
so perhaps there’s a bit of ‘supporting the underdog’ in my affinity….

Outsiders and or outcasts of a family have always been referred to as a black sheep….

In ancient times black lambs were killed by the farmer or shepherd as they were associated
with being like the devil as both were black in color.
Even ancient Greeks associated black sheep with Hades, the ruler of the underworld,
and would in turn sacrifice black sheep in hopes of currying favor while hoping to ward
off any unforeseen visits by this keeper of Hell…

Consider even the seemingly benign old English Nursey Rhyme, Bah Bah Black Sheep

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(Edmund Caldwell illustration 1880)

What was first published in 1744 as part of the oldest recorded collection of children’s
Nursery Rhymes, Tom Thumb’s Pretty Song Book,
is included the sing song tale of a little black sheep along with his wool…

Yet it is thought that the rhyme’s original intent was actually more of a political comment
on the wool tax of that day’s time…

And then in the late 20th century it seems a darker and more sinister twist took place
with our little children’s rhyme as it was seen to possess negative racial connotations.
Hence leading it to become its own black sheep of the nursery world….

Pity really….and even quite ridiculous….

As this is a prime example of how far we’ve detached ourselves from reality…
it is a prime example as to how our crazy minds have been sadly evolving…
spiraling down into the depths of sheer lunacy and madness….
As we’ve allowed a sweet little children’s rhyme to become a poster child for all things
negative or racist…

Shame on us all for being so damned sensitive….

I say this because I continue hearing and seeing all sorts of references to our becoming a
fascist Nation.

Didn’t I just touch on this little observation last week??
Did I not try explaining as to why we are not???
And yet it seems as if no one is listening…

Sigh…

If anyone really wants to understand about fascist regimes…
any book ever written offering first hand accounts of life in a Nazi occupied nation or
of life lived and lost in a concentration camp…
well, that would be the best and most accurate description of what fascism,
along with its spiraling nature of uncontrolled brutality, is all about.

Our current life here in the US is not, and I repeat, IS NOT,
an example of living under a Fascist regime.

The very notion that people are able to yell and scream at, to or about the president
and the government…while not suddenly disappearing…
never being heard from again…
should be proof enough…

That people may be hateful to one another, intolerable of one another, that they may
defame their leaders or their fellow countrymen, that they can throw things through
windows, spray paint buildings, set fires to cars, and basically destroy everything
and anything in their wake that is neither owned nor possessed by them….

That people are actually allowed to go crazy and ballistic over various speakers wanting
to speak…as these certain groups of people have now decided who will be allowed to
experience the First Amendment and who will not…
while taunting law officials, while wearing masks, while causing all manner of chaos
and havoc… with little to no repercussions…should be proof enough.

That you aren’t having to poison your own pets as an attempt to end their lives in what you
consider to be an act of mercy because you live in fear that when the authorities come for
you, you won’t have to worry about what will be happening to your pets when you
are hauled off….

That you haven’t had to surrender your technology or communication devices because
the powers that be have deemed them to be a danger to the state.

That you have not had your business seized, your home seized, your family incarcerated
because you were considered anti nationalistic…

That you are not afraid when you lay your head down on your pillow at night that there
will be a knock on your door demanding your sons or daughters be handed over in order
to the do their duty for the State while knowing you may never see them again….

Rather instead we are all basically allowed to be selfish, hateful, intolerant, violent,
mean, vile, vulgar, dangerous, inflammatory…
as well as…
secretive, selective, extravagant, flamboyant, pompous…
All behaviors which have been not only tolerated but to a great deal, protected…

that IS NOT fascism nor is it living in a fascist nation…

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(little black sheep Co Kerry, Ireland sheep farm / Julie Cook / 2015)

Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the one true God;
whoever takes an oath in the land
will swear by the one true God.
For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.

Isaiah 65:16-17

Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26

What is your mission statement?

And I believe that what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me. . .

excerpt from the song Creed
Rich Mullins

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I hold another creed, which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention, but in which I delight, and to which I cling, for it extends hope to all; it makes eternity a rest – a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last; with this creed, revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low. I live in calm, looking to the end.”
― Charlotte Brontë

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(deer hair caught in a barbed wire fence / Julie Cook / 2015)

It seems as if every business, corporation, agency, assembly, organization, all across the planet, has some sort of mission statement, guiding principle placard or pledge of delivery—some sort of proclamation of purpose, commitment of services rendered or a list of the promises made– ready to be executed by and to both its members and or consumers or customers.

Everyone it seems these days, needs some sort of directional treatise.
A form of purpose-driven compass that is clear, concise, transparent and “consumer friendly”. . .
Nothing hidden
No duplicity
No secret agendas
As in a “it is what it is” sort of realism which seems necessary in which to conduct bushiness, function as a corporation, or basically to serve ones clients, consumers, stakeholders, stockholders–i.e., the general public.

In the year 49AD there was a meeting of the early church fathers–Paul, Barnabas as well as various Bishops and Apostles. The new upstart “religion,” or cult as some leaders of the day observed, those who were continuing to follow the teachings of the Nazarene, were finding their numbers of followers growing exponentially. Direction, teaching and leadership was quickly becoming paramount. The tradition of oral teaching was the norm. The majority of people were not versed in written communication or literacy. Reading and writing had been entrusted to the rabbis, Sanhedrin and Roman prefects.

There had to be some sort of cohesiveness or unifying factor in which all followers could claim, relate to, and use as a basis of their faith.
Yet there was still the conundrum of the importance of the Law of Judaism.
Jesus, a devout Jew himself, had spoken of the importance of the Law. And yet His teachings, His death and subsequent resurrection had turned some of the Law upside down by bringing forth “amendments” to the older Laws of Moses. Not only were there commandments of what not to do such as the forbidding of sexual promiscuity or any unnatural sexual act, the eating of raw uncooked meat, the eating of sacrificial animals and the drinking of animal’s blood, the making and worshiping of idols, the forbidding of stealing, committing murder, infanticide, abortion, etc– there were now commandments of what a believer was to do such as loving and treating others as one would wished to be treated and the belief that all are called to be followers, not just Jew, but Gentile as well, and therefore all that one must do to follow is to be willing to pick up one’s cross and claim as well as live the teachings of Jesus.

It was time for a verbal proclamation of belief to be firmly established.
A specific written treatise which could be held up for all followers and non followers alike to be able to hear, see, read, proclaim, as well as live.
It was to be the cornerstone of the infant Christian church.

The declaration known as the Apostles Creed was born:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Yet as was typical of any new teaching, or in this case a new way of life, there came those who wanted to craft and sculpt the new Church as their own. Allowing ego, pride, misguidance, selfishness, avarice, disbelief, or simple ignorance to filter in and dilute the purity of the given Word. There were those who waged their own agendas against what was considered to be the Truth.
Discord, quarrels, uneasiness, disagreements were becoming rampant.
Heresies began to abound.

In 325 a new council meeting was requested by leading bishops wishing to quell the latest rising of heretic teachings. These were the men of trial and tribulation. Many having endured persecution, torture and often escaping with barely their very lives. Men who were greatly invested in the necessary and correct direction in which to set the future of the Christian faith.
Emperor Constantine, who was the leading Holy Roman Emperor, oversaw the historic meeting.

Three hundred years had past since the first council in Jerusalem.
Bishops, deacons and priests from Rome to Palestine, from Asia Minor to Hispania, from Greece to Gaul, from Georgia to the Danube region, from Armenia to Syria all converged in Nicaea, present day Turkey, in order to silence growing heretical teachings and to finally bring a cohesive understanding to the doctrine of the Trinity. Finally establishing that all Christians would be on the proverbial same page.

Time was also allotted to the sorting out of various directional issues such as deciding on one agreed calculation to be used in order to determine the yearly date for the Easter celebration as well as considering cases of extreme spiritual demonstrations of self denial such as self castration. Extreme directions believers felt compelled to follow as signs of deep devotion and as a way for attaining a higher level of “holiness” which were all more self destructive than spiritually edifying.

The Council was in session for over a month.
Not only were new Church cannons, or laws, established— such as the prohibition of extreme demonstrations of asceticism (i.e. self castration); the establishing of a specific process for the ordination of clergy; the forbidding of young women, while visiting alone, to enter the home or chamber of priests; the forbidding of usury among clergy; a specified “proper” procedure for holy Baptism; as well as the establishing of a new creed.

Enter the Nicene Creed.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The cornerstone and guiding principle of a young church.
A lasting, declaration of belief.
A creed written approximately 1700 years ago, recited and unchanged to this day.
A unifying statement for all Christians–Catholic, Orthodox and the various Protestant denominations to be recited and proclaimed.

And as Rich Mullins so aptly stated. . .
“. . . I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man. . .”

Yes, it is indeed making me. . .