Et tu…?

Perhaps the most famous three words uttered in literature,
“Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?)
this expression has come down in history to mean the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend.
This scene, in which the conspirators in the Senate assassinate Caesar,
is one of the most dramatic moments on the Shakespearean stage.
The audience has just witnessed the arrogance and hubris of a ruler
who has sought, within a republic, to become a monarch, comparing himself to the gods.
Brutus, a friend of Caesar and yet a man who loves Rome
(and freedom) more, has joined the conspirators in the assassination,
a betrayal which is captured by the three words above in this famous Shakespeare quote.

Julius Caesar (III, i, 77)
enotes.com


(an odd guest / Julie Cook / 2019)

There has been a betrayal…as in an Et tu Brute sort of betrayal…but more about that in a bit…
as our story will twist us back to that moment of utter treachery shortly.

Saturday afternoon, in between laundry loads, I was walking by the kitchen’s backdoor
and instinctively cast a sideways glance out the door…
the door that leads into the garage.

Remember I’ve been gone for a week working at the main Woobooville in Atlanta.
My husband remained behind until late Friday afternoon…
just long enough for a crime to be committed.

Here is an image of a clue…breadcrumbs to a crime scene if you will…
and yes those breadcrumbs look very much like sawdust…hummmmm…

The plot thickens.

But back to Saturday and the backdoor…

“Why is there a pigeon sitting in the garage?” I holler out to my husband who is
perched in his new recliner in the den.

New recliners tend to make husbands want to perch.

He hollers back from the den, “We don’t have pigeons, it’s a dove.”
This coming from someone who has not even looked out the door to said bird of which I speak.

Well, you might want to come look at this dove that is a pigeon” I counter.

To my husband’s credit, we are more rural dwellers rather than city folks…
rural folks who have doves and not city slicker pigeons.

Sure enough, my husband meanders into the kitchen, only to see a dove/ pigeon sitting
in the garage.

“Hummmm” he muses…“that is a pigeon”

“Really?!” I sardonically reply.

We both then wonder aloud as to what has brought a pigeon to our neck of the woods…
rather make that pasture.

“I bet it’s the trees” I sharply snarl.

“I don’t see how the trees have anything to do with a pigeon being in the garage” he bristles back.

Now our plot thickens even more…

You may recall the horrific tree debacle of October 2014.

I wrote a post about it.
I cried over it.
I bemoaned over it.
I mourned over it.

And I’ll admit, I eventually got over it.

Our house was once flanked by two majestic and stately oaks.

We live pretty much smack dab in the middle of what was once a pasture.
There are a few odd trees and a smattering of blasted sweet gums that dot the property.
Not my idea of wonderful trees…albeit for those two oaks.

The oaks began losing their leaves one summer.
Like in losing copious amounts of leaves.
Leaves were everywhere and it was driving my husband crazy because it was the middle
of summer and we were dealing with leaves like it was the end of Fall.

A year passed with a threat…“if those trees do that next year, they’re gone!”

The trees were sick but I didn’t know what to do.
No arborists out in our neck of the woods…uh, pasture.

But my husband knew what to do.

Cut them down.

For you see that seems to be my husband’s answer to everything.
It’s an “Off with their heads” mentality.

The bushes are out of whack, get rid of them.
Something is causing you a problem?
Let it go…as in literally let it go.
As he is a menace with a chainsaw.

The year passed and the trees lost more leaves even faster…
And then the trees were cut.
Afterward it did appear as if they were sickly and most likely would, in time,
probably have fallen.
Possibly falling toward the house.

Plus he constantly groused over the gutters and the mildew on that side of the house
always having to be cleaned…as in it was all the tree’s fault.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like trees.
I didn’t want to admit that keeping the trees was a pain and a risk.

Fast foward to now.

We have a bank alongside the driveway that has—rather make that had–
two River Birch trees sitting at the top of the slope.

Two large, airy trees that have been home to a myriad of birdhouses, feeders, and nests
all while casting a lovely amount of shade in the summer months.

However, for those of you who do not know River Birches…
these trees need to be by rivers and not the latest greatest landscape answer.

These trees are fast growing trees and they are always shedding something
all four seasons…plus the least little storm, and snap goes their nimble thin branches…
littering the yard and driveway…not to mention clogging the gutters.

But for 20 years I’ve watched what came to me as tiny saplings grow into giants.
Hence why they are often thrown into landscaping—they grow fast and fill in the
blanks quickly.
Only to become monsters in more ways than one.

We use to have three of these trees but my husband had one cut down a few years back
that was precariously close to the house.
It didn’t start out precarious—but the rapidity of growth made it precarious.

Off with its head.
And it was gone.

Next, he threatened to whack down the remaining two.

Only to be countered with my begging and imploring wails of
NOthey are home to my birds.
They offer delightful summer shade…

So enter this past week.
I was conveniently out of town.
The plot was now hatched.

When the cat is away the mouse opts to cause havoc.

Well, I suppose this is where I should confess tell you…that maybe…
just maybe, a while back during the summer,
I might have mentioned to him–
“please, if you must cut them, do it in the winter.”

But I wouldn’t use that in a court of law because I will plead the 5th.

So Thursday evening when my husband called to check in on the Mayor and me,
he made a quick mention that the tree men were coming the next morning, bright and early,
to cut down those trees.

WHAT?! I practically scream into the phone.

“Yep. I told you I was cutting them down and you had told me to do it in the winter…and
well it’s winter”

I never recall such I frantically wail.

But I knew my pleas were futile.
His mind was made up and there would be no compromising or changing his
“off with their heads” mindset.

I then quickly responded rather definitely…“well then, you better go out and
find some other type trees and have them planted and fix that mess pronto,
and I mean it!

I wasn’t even there to see it but I knew there’d be a mess.

And sure enough, I braced myself for what would greet me when I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning.
Or make that, what wouldn’t be there greeting me!

As this is all that remains…well make that two of these is all that remains…

So the moral to this little tree tale you might be asking…

Pigeons will erroneously show up when you cut down trees as they now think they’re
in the city and never…never ever leave a newly retired husband home alone…
especially during the winter…a husband who thinks
he needs to be about some major sort of project particularly when there’s nothing else he
can be doing when it’s dreary and cold.

A landscape guy will be out tomorrow to recommend a more compact type of tree!

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

weedling it out

“Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(weeds found amongst the rocks / Julie Cook / 2018)

The word weedling has a variety of meanings and uses…
all of which are more or less of the urban slang variety versus that of the Queen’s
English variety.

I use it when talking about sorting through things…

A cross between, digging, weeding, sorting, discarding that which is non-essential
cluttering junk as compared to that which is essential and necessary.

A task of tossing or keeping.

And as I scan our headlines, our world events, our markings and our recognitions…
I’m beginning to feel as if we must be about the task of weedling when it comes
to what is real, what is really important and all of that which is not.

I’m having to play a drastic game of catch up with my viewing of Anglican Unscripted…
that of our dear friend and favorite rouge Anglican bishop, Gavin Ashenden and host
Kevin Clausen as they meet weekly to discuss the latest in the way of Anglicanism and that
of the Chruch as well as life for Christians in general within our Western Civilization.

I’ve just now gotten to watch the episode from the Tuesday of Holy Week.

And what an enlightening episode is has been.

Bishop Ashenden explains to Kevin a little about his online ministry and his initial
reluctance to actually “offer a homily” online.
It is only a small portion of the good Bishop’s current clerical duties but he felt very
much that God had spoken to him about offering such a service to interested Christians
out there somewhere on the internet.

He speaks of the awkwardness of “preaching” into a camera of a faceless audience but
that God had been very specific in His demand.
And who are we to disagree when God speaks or demands??

It has been slowly revealed to the good bishop that the faithful are demonstrating
an almost monastic need for direct worship as Christianity–
that of the true Christian faithful…those who are very much wanting,
if not needing clerical guidance and ministering–is becoming alarmingly apparent
due to the sensed pressure of having to go more and more underground with the
practice of their (our) faith.

And why you may wonder are Christians feeling the need to head underground?

Well this is where we stop and take a look at how our Western Society and Culture
is currently dealing with Christianity and the Chruch and its take on sin versus
that of choice by the masses.
While we watch the body of Christ slowly being squeezed more and more by a polarizing
Marxist leftist society and a radically liberal culture.

The good Bishop admits that he believes true Christians…
those Christians who believe in God’s word as sacred will be literally driven
underground in the near future. As freedom to worship God according to God’s word
will be a crime because our society does not like the notion of sin, sinfulness
or culpability for that sin.

This as we see more and more Christians being labeled homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic
all because they, they being you and me, believe God has been very specific in what He has
stated as a sinful lifestyle as well as that which runs counter to Holy Scripture.

Living life as a true Christian will soon be deemed living life as a true hate crime violator.
As disagreeing with Homosexuality, Transgenderism or anything of the LGBTQ communities
is indeed considered very much a hate crime.
Of which will push true Christians further away from what will become a “state”
sanctioned church.

We are actually already seeing this take place in our mainstream denominations…
Should a minister or priest say anything publically against or to the negative
about homosexuality or even refuse to conduct same-sex marriage…
that minister/priest is ostracized, demoted or even relieved of his duties.

And whereas the notion of moving underground may all sound rather Orwellian or paranoid…
I for one clearly see the writing on the wall.

Bishop Ashenden recalls a time when he was actually smuggling Bibles into the
then Soviet Union as well as theological books into what is today the Czech Republic,
all before the fall of Communism.

This was because the Communist Regime in the Czech Republic had decided that the best way to
crush the Chruch and Christianity would be to simply ban all clerical ordinations…while
destroying seminaries and all theological books of study.
As the thought was that by doing so, the Chruch would shrivel up and die within a
generation’s time.

This was very much the mindset of Nazi Germany in Poland during WWII—as I am reminded of
a young Karol Wojtyla studying for the priesthood in a very clandestine fashion as
ordinations within the Catholic church were strictly forbidden under Nazi rule.
He would literally meet in the basement of a building under the cloak of darkness to study for
his ordination…
Should he or the priest who was conducting the lessons been discovered,
both men would have been immediately shot for treason against the state.

Bishop Ashenden believes that our very own state-sanctioned authorities will begin to weed out
people before they have a chance to be ordained because of the state demanding like-minded
folks preaching their idea of the gospel of all-inclusiveness versus the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As any sort of belief system or gospel will be prevented from containing the notion of sin
or of sin’s repercussions but rather the said gospel of self-rule, along with a belief that all
things, all lifestyles, are to be deemed acceptable, will be the only tolerable view.

And so if you think all of this sounds utterly far-fetched or perhaps even over the top in our
most modern civilized society…
I would caution you to think again.

This as I am once again reminded of Mark’s comment from the other day about when a
generation is silenced, God will indeed have the stones cry out…
(Luke 19:40)

Anglican Unscripted…Gavin Ashenden

“provoke to love and good works”

Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth;
for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the
foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord,
when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all,
and men love each other in Him without dissimulation,
because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise
the real character of their love

St Augustine


(poor example of spontaneous note taking / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well….
it happened that before I could elaborate on last week’s video offering
by the Scottish pastor David Robertson..that being a video posting from his
Wee Flea Blog and the SOLAS conference talk given in 2010—
during the course of the weekend here came another posting.

It seems our Wee Flea friend is faster at offering tasty morsels than I am at
digesting them and then in turn sharing the nourishment of the morsel with you…..

This time the posting is from a 2013 SOLAS conference which focuses on education
and the poor.

Very powerful, sobering and collar grabbing kind of stuff.

And well, you didn’t think a retired educator, a Christian retired educator,
one who taught for 31 years in the secular public educational system of the
United States could actually pass over such a tempting morsel without stopping
to take it all in did you??

Despite this latest SOLAS (remember Gaelic for Light) offering running for
nearly an hour…I couldn’t let it pass without giving it my undivided attention.

During last week’s video offering, I wrote down two quotes of David’s…

“When you remove Christianity from a country, [its] education declines”

“Secularism doesn’t educate you—it dumbs you down.”

I was struck by both of those statements.

And as I am also a faithful reader of Citizen Tom’s blog (https://citizentom.com)
as Tom often points out the dire and dismal state of the educational system in the
United States, I knew these two statements were indeed onto something….

And before I could properly digest and share my copious note taking from the previous
posting, here came this latest posting over the weekend.

My weekend was such that I had to put off watching this particular video until
this Monday morning when I could carve out an hour’s time…
in order to properly sort things out.
Yet on top of just watching the video, came the sorting of the notes and then the
turning around and offering to you a proper post regarding David’s talk…

So now picture me holding my hands to my head in a bit of a tizzy while visions of the
National Football Championship dance dizzily around my head…
There are homemade cookies and homemade pizza preparations to get underway all
for this evening’s big game festivities…..GO DAWGS…while my head was still
swirling with what I’d gleaned from David’s talk.
(well, I wrote this before the big game obviously—now, we won’t talk about it)

But back to the SOLAS clip….

Do yourself another favor—carve out the time to watch this.
Especially if you are a teacher, have children or grandchildren who attend schools
or are simply worried about our youth and their future…..

You should note however when watching the video that there is one huge difference
between the educational system in Scotland verses the educational system
in the United States.
The educational system in Scotland is considered a state Christian System by law
verses our very separate and secular school system in the US.

But the message remains the same—as there is a growing gap between rich and poor
in educational opportunities in both of our nations.

David noted an example….
The more affluent families can easily afford after school and out of school tutors.
Whereas a finer tutor, say in London, might fetch 400 pounds an hour—
such a tutor in Dundee, Scotland might command only 15 pounds an hour—
but no matter, as both kids, be it from London or Dundee, those who can afford a
tutor already have a step up the ladder from those disadvantaged kids from lower
income families who can’t afford any sort of tutor….

If you’ve never heard of Thomas Guthrie, it’s worth clicking on the following link for
a bit of background on a man whose life has played a rich part of the
educational system in Scotland other than that of John Knox himself who boldly
stated that “wherever there is a church, there shall be a school.”

https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/reformer-thomas-guthrie-11630341.html

Guthrie (1803-1873), a man who studied to become a doctor but became, upon graduating college, a minister instead held as his mission statement…
regarding those he ministered to in Scotland, that education was essential to saving
the less fortunate from a life of ignorance, squalor, disease, idleness and poverty.

He saw that education and learning were the keys to opening doors and turning away
from the vicious cycles of hunger, alcoholism, crime and poverty that was rife
within the families of the poor and disadvantaged…
Guthrie therefore petitioned Parliament to make compulsory education mandatory
in order to help save the children and future children from an assumed destiny
of misery.

Yet Guthrie maintained that such an education had to have Christianity as its root.
How else would morality anchor itself within society.
As we bewildered watch the secular movement today creating its “social engineering”
of the masses.

The physical threshold of each school Guthrie founded was to be fashioned with the
carving of an open Bible with the motto written, “Search the Scriptures”

Yet David notes that there will always be secular resistance as the secular world
pushes ever closer to ultimately having a society without God.
However David holds firm to the notion that without Christianity,
we will destroy Education….
***and in turn destroy our civilization…
(*** my 2 cents)

And David presents this polestar thought with laser precision in this talk.

David admonishes us all…those of us who confess the Faith of Jesus Christ…
that as Christians it is our moral obligation that we should be making education
and our schools a top priority…be it here in the States or there in Scotland.

Yet I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.

He reminds each of us not to simply leave it to the schools to educate our kids
as to what is a Christian worldview—but it is up to us…us being the ones who need
to chiefly see to that responsibility.

And I dare say, that most of us have grown rather complacent here in the States.
The upper tier pay exorbitant yearly fees to upper crust schools for a
private education, that even though some of the private institutions claim a church denomination’s backing…as I dare ask is that a worldly looking denomination???

Leaving everyone else to the charge of the state and federally funded school
systems—schools, many of which, are woefully lacking and are stymied in
their ability to lay a moralistic foundation…due greatly in part to the fact that
we have erased our Christian heritage from the very system our founding fathers state
as being an important component to the fledgling new nation’s growth and development.

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

redeemed from paradox

“Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living.

Thomas à Kempis


(a persistent strangler of fall hangs on / Julie Cook / 2017)

“But he never said to people, ‘Come as you are and stay as you are.’
His promise was always that all were welcome –
but that they would be radically changed.
All need to be reborn.
Jesus does not affirm us in our lifestyles.
He redeems us from them.”

David Robertson

There is really so much to say.

Too much really…about so very much.

About all of this really.

As in…there is so very much that needs sorting, weeding out and pruning…

Such as those overt ‘he said, she said’ issues taking place daily….

The egregious name calling of those we do not see eye to eye with….
nor actually even see…yet everyone feels free and safe to use all manner
of vile ugliness, rather gleefully and clandestinely, behind these screens of ours
as we joyously lash out…..

There is tolerance of the intolerant and intolerance of the tolerant.

One no longer knows which one is best to be…tolerant or intolerant…
perhaps just both.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear about a spike in crime…
often violent crime.

Why is it that at “this time of year” we hear of what seems to be an escalation
in the sorrowful and tragic…that of accidents, death, fights, wrecks,
abuse, overdoses, fires…etc

Yet why is it that “at this time of year” we actually can witness a softer,
kinder, more generous and giving world….

A paradox found in the juxtaposition of man.

All the while there is some sort of misnomer running around out there that if
you don’t open your arms to embrace everyone and everything….
then there is something terribly wrong with you and you are made
to wear the Scarlet letter P….

P because you are phobic… homophobic…or maybe transphobic.

P because you’re just paranoid…you think that the Right and Left are
collectively out to get you…and maybe they are….

P because you’re just proud…a little too proud…as a good many of the
proud and arrogant have suddenly tumbled from their thrones.

P because you’re just pissed off,
mad as hell at all the fake news, lies, angry rhetoric, news outlets turned
tabloid junkies, anarchists burning down the towns…
mad at the progressive left who want nothing more than to destroy you and
your little corner of the world….
so no, you’re not going to take it any longer…

And right when someone hears or reads that you’ve just said as much,
you are now brandished as an extremist who should be locked up…

Maybe you should be locked up because you cracked and own a gun…
never mind all the uncracked folks out there who own guns….

Maybe you want to celebrate Christmas but since it is Christmas, you can’t call it
Christmas….
Yet you are repeatedly told to buy, buy, buy….for Christmas.
The same Christmas you’re not allowed to call Christmas.

Maybe you want to celebrate Hanukah because you’re Jewish…but a lot of folks
out there blame Jews for everything so maybe it’s best not to light the candles.

So now it is P because it is all so precarious…
especially since our vision is no longer clear.

It’s difficult crossing the narrow log spanning the deep chasm when
one’s vision is clouded…clouded by the upside down lies being offered
as what is true.

Yet how is one to know truth verse lie…
Or do we simply believe the loudest voice?

Across the chasm on the far side, across the narrow log, a tiny lone light
is lit…
And you know deep down that it is a light offering clarity to the obscured….

For from out of all of our darkness, a great Light has shone…

All that was, all that you have known, will be no more…
You cannot exist in the paradox and juxtaposition…
caught in the cycle of in and out, yes and no, left and right, up and down…
nor can you abide in the acceptance of what you know to be false yet
are constantly told that this false is absolutley true.

As all the little truths are merely by-products of the fickleness of the times…

Yet the question is asked of you….
Will you be able to ford the chasm on the narrow log, pressing ahead
toward the lone light offering clear vision or do you prefer to remain where
you are in a world turned upside down and mad upon itself?

Are you happy with what you are hearing and seeing day in and day out
as everything you once knew and thought is now turned inside out?

We are living a paradox and conundrum yet yearn for the clarity and light…

And I don’t see why the choice needs to be so difficult.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 9:14)

crime and punishment meets mercy

woman-caught-in-adultery

Two thousand years ago, or so the story goes, there was a woman who was accused,
by the elders of her community, of having committed adultery.
She was taken to the central courtyard of her village for punishment.

The woman was bound and dumped onto the hot sandy center of town.
Next she was surrounded by her accusers,
the men of the community,
who would now proceed to pelt her with rocks…
one rock at a time,
until she was dead.
All of which, depending on the size of stones, the number of men gathered, coupled with
the accuracy and speed with which each stone was thrown, death could be anywhere
from 20 minutes to 2 hours…
Slow, painful and torturous…

This was the required and assumed punishment for any woman accused of such an act…
never mind if the man involved was married and guilty, punishment did not usually await him.
And not all accused woman were actually guilty.
It was often a convenient deterrent to others…as well as a way to do away
with undesirables…

And so the story goes….

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning
he was back again at the Temple.
A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees
brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.
They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus,
“this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
The law of Moses says to stone her.
What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him,
but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said,
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one,
beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left
in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman,
“Where are your accusers?
Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said,
“Neither do I.
Go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

Fast forward to 2016 Iran.

Stoning is still an accepted form of punishment in many Middle Eastern countries.
It is still a widely practiced and totally acceptable means of punishment in
Sharia Muslim communities…and as we see from the recent following story out of Iran,
even to protest or write against such, is an equally punishable offense.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37575193

Mercy,
Grace,
Forgiveness
Hope…

or—

a fate buried in stone…

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

sanctuary

Sanctuary, on a personal level,
is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.”

Christopher Forrest McDowell

DSC00494
(interior of the Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

The first time I was made aware of the concept of sanctuary
as in the meaning of the word as a verb of action verses a noun of place,
was when, as a little girl, I watched the 1939 movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It didn’t matter that it was an old black and white movie made 20 years before I was born…
it was and still remains, just as the original story itself, a classic.

This 1939 classic starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name, left a powerful and lasting impression on my youthful mind.
That being…
a church, The Church, can protect anyone asking it to…

Maureen O’Hara played the role of Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy girl, falsely accused of practicing witchcraft as well as murder.
Charles Laughton played the deformed bell keeper, Quasimodo, who had fallen in love with the beautiful Esmeralda.

One of the pivotal and overtly theatrical moments in the film is when Esmeralda, whose hands are bound as a rope hangs around her neck, is being led to the gallows on a horse drawn cart as she is about to be publicly hung for the crimes of witchcraft and murder.
A huge procession marches forth from the church as choirs sing and bells toll…for the people of Paris have gathered to witness the public hanging of this poor young girl.

Quasimodo, who is perched high aloft along the ledge of the bell tower, looks down at the proceedings and grabs hold of a rope…
Miraculously to the astonished crowd, Quasimodo swings down, just in the nick of time, grabbing Esmeralda from the clutches of the gallows master. He then swings back up to the safety of both bell tower and Church where, holding a now limp Esmeralda who has fainted…he lifts her high over his head for all the crowd to see while crying out “Sanctuary, Sanctuary…”
Letting all those gathered below know that the girl in now safe within the arms of the church because those who enter a church, seeking sanctuary, are protected from the masses and the authorities outside the walls of her building’s structure.

The concept of a church, the physical structure, offering safety to those at risk… resonated deeply in my thoughts….
As it seems that for centuries the collective body of The Church has been a place of protection and safety to not only our spiritual beings, but to our physical being as well.

Yesterday, when reading a recent news article about the growing security worries now facing our churches and places of worship, I imagined that moment long ago of Quasimodo yelling “Sanctuary

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/08/08/churches-take-new-security-measures-in-face-terror-threats.html

Back in April, it seems that during a daily worship service at an Orthodox Church in Riverside, California, several young mothers had excused themselves from the service as they carried their crying infants outside as not to disturb the remainder of the service.
As the women stood outside the church chatting, while holding their babies, a car appears out of the blue pulling up close to the sidewalk where the women stood.
The windows of the car are rolled down as several men with bullhorns hang out from the windows and are heard to shout Allauh Akbar…
The startled women stare in disbelief while holding their children tightly to their chests…
all the while as a feeling of dread washes over them.
And yet just as quickly as the car appeared, it drives off leaving the women shaken.

Since this incident in April, numerous houses of worship, churches and synagogues around the globe have had similar unsettling incidents to occur—
Most notably being the recent attack on Father Jaques Hamel.
The attack took place in a quiet catholic church on the outskirts of Rouen, when two young men interrupted the service grabbing Fr Hamel and slashing his throat in front of horrified parishioners.

There have also been reported acts of vandalism, break-ins and incidents where churches have received anonymous written threats of violence.

But attacks on Churches and Synagogues is sadly nothing new.

Our houses of worship, although representing something much larger and greater than mere man himself, can fall victim to acts of evil intent just as easily as the average person.

In times past, just as in this present time, there have been fire bombings on buildings, desecrations of buildings, attacks and sadly murders on both clergy and parishioners…
As it is becoming much more alarming and worrisome that these sorts of incidents are on the rise…
No longer seemingly the random act of evil and madness, but now more and more the deliberate growing act of hatred.

Whereas there was a time when the Church as a whole was revered and respected, a place in which the lost, the sorrowful and the frightened could find refuge….
that simply is no longer the expected given.

Yet whereas the building and the bodies of believers themselves may come under attack—we are not without hope—for the blood of the Lamb remains our refuge and sanctuary no matter what may befall a physical building or our physical body…

SANCTUARY indeed!!!!

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
Ezekiel 11:16

Costly Justification

“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

RSCN2711
(flowering quince / Julie Cook / 2016)

‘It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it costs God the life of God’s Son—“you were bought with a price”(1 Cor 6:20) and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live. God did indeed, give him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship Vol 4 pp 45

We have honed our craft both you and I….
As we have become that which we justify…

For within each justification lies…
the crime,
the hating,
the sentence,
the lying,
the hurting,
the bombing,
the cheating,
the policy,
the stealing,
the taking,
the death,
and even the murder…

Echoed are the causal observations…
“Twas a crime of passion”
“It was a justifiable homicide”
“It was taken in order that they could eat”
“It was hidden for their own good…”
“It was stolen in order to pay…”

There are…
The interestingly tragic assisted suicides…
The abortions due to untimely pregnancies…
The surreal justifiable shootings…
The acceptable culture of death…
The wars to end all wars…
The nuclear deterrents….

Every human act can be justified into being correct…

It was…
the right decision…
a necessary evil…
the only option…

How quickly it rolls off the tongue, as it slips easily from consciousness.
There is no remorse, no guilt, no real sorrow…
because it was something that had to be…

The justification of and for every action and reaction of mankind…

And yet how does one justify the free offering of ones only child…
In order that others may live…

One word….

Grace….

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—-not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9