Shepherds—please, lead your flocks

I am like the sick sheep that strays from the rest of the flock. Unless
the Good Shepherd takes me on His shoulders and carries me back to His fold,
my steps will falter, and in the very effort of rising, my feet will give way.

St. Jerome


(sheep farm, Killarny Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Firstly—- I read the following July 4th post written by our freind and
most knowledgeable Christian sister IB.

As I read it, I felt warm tears falling down my cheeks.

I too have most recently deeply felt her words.
A sense of pleading that our Chruch leadership does what they are entrusted to do…
that being to lead their flocks—come hell or high water.
Not cower in the corner of current ideologies…

A day later, I read a post by our dear friend and former Anglican Bishop, Gavin Ashenden..
A post that mirrored IB’s thoughts and words but simply written from across the pond.

I’ve cut and copied both posts here.
I hope their words will touch your spirit.

We Aren’t going to “Get Our Freedom Back…”

So listen, I don’t want to sound uncharacteristically somber and serious,
nor do I want people to think I’m a total conspiratress.
I am you know, I do love a good conspiracy theory.
The problem being this isn’t a “theory,” it’s simply common sense.
So, I just want to say, those who are waiting patiently for things to “get back to normal,”
it ain’t happening. It ain’t going to happen.

Those who seem to believe if we just comply enough, just cooperate enough,
just do everything they say, (wear your mask you idiot,
so we can all open back up again) it ain’t going to happen.

If you’re waiting for covid 19 to go away, it ain’t going to happen either.
We could get down to no cases anywhere and there’s another “pandemic” right around
the corner waiting for us.
The media is already on it.

Government and public health officials are already trying to say we’re going to have
to wear masks for years, certainly until we get a mandatory vaccine.
Besides, flu season is coming this fall…

Never in the history of ever has anyone in government voluntarily relinquished
power over others that they have managed to attain.
The only way to get our freedom back is to stop playing the game,
stop the charades, and stop buying into the fear.
We have to say “no,” and we have to say it somewhat collectively.
None of this can continue without our consent.

I’m pleading with Christians who are just sitting there quietly accepting
a ban on singing in church. C’mon on people, some part of you knows this is not okay.
The power of life and death is in our tongues, it says that in the Bible.
If we believe those words, if the singing we do actually means something,
then we have to realize that shutting down churches, mandating we all wear masks,
and telling us it’s too dangerous to sing our praises, are all huge red flags.

I’m pleading with everyone who has ever felt the “benevolent” hand of government,
anyone who still carries trauma from those experiences.
C’mon people, we all know what this is.
It smells just like history trying to repeat itself.
It’s a power play.

We flattened the curve!
Heck, we shut down unused field hospitals and laid people off from our hospitals.
We did not get our freedom back.
We shut our businesses down, we bought the hand sanitizer,
we put on the masks, and we stayed home and we still did not get our freedom back.
It ain’t going to happen. Freedom once taken is not something you just “get” back.
There will be no passively sitting around and waiting for our freedom to be politely
returned to us once we’ve met all the requirements.

We met the requirements. So they just moved the goalposts.
They will continue to do so.

We aren’t going to “get” our freedom back, like it will just be passively
and nicely returned to us based on our compliance. That is a big lie, a total deception,
and has never happened anywhere, in the history of ever. Frankly,
I’m a bit embarrassed people still believe that. Not even God Himself,
and He is Holy, just, and perfect, just “gives” us freedom.
He may open the door to our prison, tear down the walls, and coax us out,
but even then we have to walk out under our own steam.
Or crawl.
Whatever works.
The point being, it is extremely rare we ever get anything without first opening
our hand and reaching out for it.

Jan 22, 2020, is when all of this began in my state.
We are going on seven months now! 7 months. A quarantine is for the sick,
not the healthy, and it should last about two weeks.
To quarantine the healthy is simply tyranny.

Such notions often put me at odds with friends, family,
even some churches. The problem being, I know I’m right,
I know that everything I see points in the direction I am observing.
We get our freedom back when we stop voluntarily consenting to hand it over.
That easy, that simple.

Happy Independence Day!
https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/we-arent-going-to-get-our-freedom-back/

The State, freedom of conscience, and civil disobedience.

The state and the Church have a history in our country.
The relationship status might read “it’s complicated”.
It ranges from the conversion and Christianization of the state to the deepest antipathy
of the State and its persecution of the Church.

Even when Christian, the Church has had to challenge the state.
Becket took on Henry 2nd and won. It cost him his life, but he won.

Thomas More took on Henry 8th. It cost him his life.
While he won the moral argument he lost the legal and political one.

The narrative in this country is of course set in the far wider and more
complex contest for a system of values fought in a variety of states
with a variety of aspects of the Church.

Glancing from the dynamics of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar,
through the Maccabees up to Bonhoeffer and Hitler, Solzhenitsyn and Stalin,
the contest for setting the values by which human beings live,
across states and cultures, defines one of the most powerful narratives in human history.

The pendulum swings from benign to malign.

In our day we are moving with some speed towards the malign.
Any reading of 20C history demonstrates a three-cornered fight between
two totalitarian ambitions, Marxism and Fascism, and Christianity.
All three make absolutist claims on humanity that are irreconcilable.
The anaemic relativism of our decaying culture in the West disguises
the sharp and brutal quality of the contest.

Christians are rightly wary that the in 21st C there is no reason for thinking
that the contest has been suspended. Fascism’s toll of Christians (and Jews)
in Germany and Spain was horrendous but dwarfed by the toll wreaked
by the Soviet Union and Marxist China.

In each period of attrition, the sign that the struggle to the death
had begun was the control of Churches and worship by the authorities.

The beginning of this century has exposed the oncoming depth and intensity
of a cultural revolution of values that are inimical to the faith in the west
and suddenly out of nowhere, for medical rather than political reasons,
the state suddenly closes the churches and prohibits worship.

There are three patterns of Christian response.
The first is the highly secularized and spiritually incompetent one, which says,
“places don’t matter; your private thoughts are everything,
corporate worship is overrated.
We are not worrying about the implications for a weakened church losing financial
and philosophical traction becoming ever more bankrupt in both.
There is nothing to see here, move on, don’t fuss.”

The second response, more literate historically but still
underdeveloped spiritually says “yes it’s a terrible sign that that the churches
have been down unilaterally. Yes, it looks authoritarian and apocalyptic,
but check out the facts. It was a pandemic.
It was medicine and science, not politics.
Calm down.
Nothing to worry about.”

The third group is more inclined to the view,
“if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck,
it may well be a duck”.
There is no value free science; everything has a political dimension;
more importantly, everything has a spiritual temperature,
character and metaphysical flavour or dynamic.
Whether there was intentionality or not, the state took upon itself the right
to close churches, prohibit worship, and deny the autonomy of personal
choice and informed conscience. And although this was a temporary measure (it seems)
it set a precedent which should have been exposed, challenged and repudiated.”

This is not the place to argue that the science on singing, water droplets
and infection is contested, as is the nature of the virus itself.
But it is the place to make common cause with Lord Sumtion and vociferously claim
that civil liberties require us to make a distinction between those who want to withdraw
from public life in order to protect themselves in a situation that is scientifically
and medically ambiguous, and those who chose to take certain risks congruent with a
personal value system and the dictates of their conscience.

It is the place to say that Christians do not recognise the power or authority of
the state to prohibit gathering for worship in ways that are not
medically or scientifically lethal or antisocial.

It is the place for insisting that the bar that state has to cross to
outlaw worship, close churches and outrage Christian conscience is considerably
perhaps impossibly higher than the secular state recognises.

It is, therefore, a legal and moral duty for the Church to challenge
the jurisprudential and ethical authority of the state to have set a precedent
in the authoritarian closing of churches and prohibition of worship.

It is for this reason that Christian Concern and a number of Church leaders
(amongst whom I am the least) have issued a challenge to the government by means
of judicial review to test the legality of this programme of church closure.

Further, if the legal challenge should be lost, many of us believe that Christians
could argue that we had a moral and ethical duty to refuse to acknowledge
the legitimacy of unjust law that not only acted as a threat to civil rights
and liberties that our forebears fought so hard to defend, but also struck
at the heart of our religious, spiritual and moral allegiance and identity.
https://ashenden.org/2020/07/06/the-state-closure-of-churches-and-civil-disobedience/

lunatics at large!!! Where have all the sane people gone?????

“Sane people did what their neighbors did,
so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.”
George Eliot, Middlemarch


(edvard-munch.org)

About 8 years ago, when I first began this little blog of mine, I posted a little disclaimer …
that being—as a newly retired teacher, I still felt as if I had a few things left
in me to teach..things that still needed to be studied…

Two key components to that need of continuing education were–
A) the history of our Western Civilization and that of her Judaeo Christian bedrock
on which it was built—as well as…
B) the importance of knowing from whence we came in order that we could know where
we were going.

There were also other pressing issues but knowing one’s history,
as well as one’s foundation, were the lynchpins.

And yet we are currently watching our culture throw that proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
All because our oh so woke world cares not about her past but rather only about her
own selfish agenda.

And that my dear students, is what we call ignorance.

Or maybe it’s what we call stupidity.

Or maybe it happens to be both—ignorant stupidity.

Madame Speaker has demanded that all the portraits of all Civil War era
Speakers of the House be removed from public view.
Much like that crazy uncle who needs to be hidden away from the guests during the holidays.

Statues around our Western Civilization…statues of Columbus, Winston Churchill,
and all Confederate leaders are being defaced or toppled.

Rioters are commandeering our cities, claiming swarths of city blocks as new sovereign lands.

Our police have lost all due process and are leaving their posts.

Lawlessness rules supreme.

Face maks are mandated.

Rioters do as they please.

Where is our sanity in the midst of this chaos?

Your history matters people.
It defines you–for better or worse.
We pray that the worse part is what will serve to make you better.
But if you continue to stick your fingers in your ears, ignoring the facts,
then you are bound to the ties of failure.

Let me share an intimate look at history.

When our two-year-old granddaughter comes to visit…in order to
consolidate the hurried pace of getting ready for bed, she and I
will hop in the shower together.

If ever a kid loved water, it is her.
She could stay in a tub or shower all night if possible.
Happily turning into a wrinkled prune.

She will sit on the shower bench telling me to sit beside her,
this as the warm rainfall showerhead gently rains down over our heads.

I’ll scrub her little feet and lather her head as we style
soapy hair into fun and fanciful shapes.

She asks that I cup my hands together, filling my hands full of water so
she can try and take a drink.
She asks that I fill her pink water pitcher full of water so I
can pour it over her head.

I think of us sitting together in this shower, warm and happy…
an intimate setting when everything seems right in the world…
all within our happy little world.

And then I think of a different time…
a time when other women and their children and grandchildren
huddle together, all awkwardly and yet intimately naked, thinking that this
was to be their last sacred time together.

They had been herded into “the showers” ridiculed, naked, and afraid.
Holding tightly together in a final intimate last moment before
the deadly ‘showers’ began.

I am removed from their nightmare by 75 to 80 years.

At this moment, I am happy and feel a deep sense of gratitude to be able to
share in this rather intimate night-time ritual with my granddaughter…

Yet there were other women who would have also relished in such an opportunity…
but rather theirs was to be a final solution to a culture’s perceived problem.

Madness.

Yet madness still prevails.

Learn from your history and your past my dear students.
Do not repeat the same errors of previous “woke” generations.

However, I fear your pride has blinded your eyes and chilled any hope of compassion
from your heart.

Continue on this path and we are all doomed.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar,
and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved,
and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought
you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming
of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved,
and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise
we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:10-13

remnant

I ask then: Did God reject his people?
By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.
God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.
Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—-
how he appealed to God against Israel:
“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars;
I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”?
And what was God’s answer to him?
“I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.

Romans 11:1-6


(the morning dew covers an emerging weed / Julie Cook / 2020)

I don’t know about you but I’ve felt very frustrated as of late.
I’ve expressed some of that frustration over the past several days.
And it seems that over the past oh so many months, I’ve loudly voiced frustration
in the sense of being held hostage.

Held hostage by our legislators.
Hostage by a seemingly shifting culture.
Hostage by the growing tide of secularism.
Hostage by the intolerance of the left.

I feel almost alone in a dark deep forest…all alone as the enveloping warming safety
of the day’s sun dims and the hungry predators begin to emerge..seeking someone to devour.

As a Christian, the frustration that my thoughts, feelings, and faith matter not
to our current culture is both frustrating and sad.

Christians have long been persecuted, since the dawn of our faith, so why I feel suddenly
newly threatened is perhaps odd.
It’s pretty much part and parcel of being a believer.
Yet having grown up in a Judeo/ Christian Western society that is now
trying to desperately rid itself of its own foundation, I feel cut adrift.

As a conservative American who relishes morality,
I am now scorned by the progressive left and an ever-growing secular population.

I am considered out of touch, uneducated, deplorable, laughable,
smelly (their word, not mine) and totally subservient to the most elite left along
with an angry and intolerable leftist culture.

But for the record, I do not shop at nor do I care for Walmart…
prefering to spend my time and money at Target.

And since Socialism is the new darling,
and abortion is touted as a sacred right…never mind the mystical mystery
of pregnancy and birth, I am anathema to the growing masses for feeling so
totally opposite to the rising tide.

Maybe you too are feeling suddenly, or perhaps slowly, out of place.

Mark over on hatrack4 voiced this very thought
https://hatrackley.com/

Mark commented on my post yesterday…
The Boy Scouts removed ‘square’ from their pledge,
because that wasn’t cool (Cub Scouts).
You missed ‘square’ and ‘civility’, unless I missed them.
As my wife keeps saying, “I don’t belong here anymore.”
Maybe I never did.

My response:
I kept the list simple as I could because otherwise,
I could write a post simply on
those pieces of civics that are no longer a part of our society—
I agree Mark in that I don’t feel as if we belong here anymore—
are we really hearing Americans talking as if socialism is a good path for us to take????
You spoke of a remnant yesterday—
maybe that is our reason for being here now at this crossroads of time…

He concludes,
Maybe so. We can hope, pray, and search for the remnant.

We were each commenting that we felt removed from our current time.
Out of place really.

Perhaps it’s simply our age.

Perhaps it’s the attack on our Christian faith.

Perhaps it’s the attack on the America we thought we once knew.

We have each felt the growing divide, the hostility directed toward the faithful
along with the seeming demise of Christianity in the West.

Mark noted that we need a remnant.

And that reminded me of a story David over on https://nwelford.wordpress.com
recommended to me a few years back.

It was a somewhat obscure tale…a tale that takes place between 1940 through 1953
on the island of Lewis, a part of the Scottish Outer Hebrides.

A wild and lonely place that takes much abuse from the northern Atlantic ocean.

There are several books and pamphlets out regarding the tale of which are written by
Duncan Campbell. Campbell was a Scottish evangelist, best known for being a leader in what is
now known as the Lewis Awakening or Hebrides Revival

The tale begins with two elderly women.
Two women who feel alone.
Not exactly literally alone but rather more spiritually alone.
Their faith is deep yet their community seems to have forgotten what faith is all about
and thus they are each deeply troubled.

Yet they know that God will honor a remnant that remains in the land and they
hope to be that remnant.

They begin to pray that God will bring about a revival to their community.

Below is a slight on-line snippet of the tale followed by a link to the
full article.

It is now my prayer that the remnants remaining in America will take to their knees…

Now I am sure that you will be interested to know how, in November 1940-1953,
this gracious movement began on the island of Lewis.
Two old women, one of them 84 years of age and the other 82-one of them stone blind,
were greatly burdened because of the appalling state of their own parish.
It was true that not a single young person attended public worship.
Not a single young man or young woman went to the church.
They spent their day perhaps reading or walking but the church was left out of the picture.
And those two women were greatly concerned and they made it a special matter of prayer.

A verse gripped them:
“I will pour water on him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground.”
They were so burdened that both of them decided to spend so much time in prayer twice a week.
On Tuesday they got on their knees at 10 o’clock in the evening and remained on their knees
until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning–two old women in a very humble cottage.

One night, one of the sisters had a vision.
Now remember, in revival, God works in wonderful ways.
A vision came to one of them, and in the vision she saw the church of her fathers crowded
with young people. Packed to the doors, and a strange minister standing in the pulpit.
And she was so impressed by the vision that she sent for the parish minister.
And of course he knowing the two sisters, knowing that they were two women
who knew God in a wonderful way, he responded to their invitation and called at the cottage.

That morning, one of the sisters said to the minister,
“You must do something about it.
And I would suggest that you call your office bearers together and that you spend with
us at least two nights in prayer in the week.
Tuesday and Friday if you gather your elders together,
you can meet in a barn-a farming community, you can meet in a barn-and as you pray there,
we will pray here. Well, that was what happened,
the minister called his office bearers together and seven of them met in a barn
to pray on Tuesday and on Friday. And the two old women got on their
knees and prayed with them.

Well that continued for some weeks–indeed, I believe almost a month and a half.
Until one night; now this is what I am anxious for you to get a hold of–
one night they were kneeling there in the barn, pleading this promise,
“I will pour water on him that is thirsty, floods upon the dry ground”
when one young man, a deacon in the church, got up and read Psalm 24.
“Who shall ascend the hill of God? Who shall stand in His holy place?
He that has clean hands and a pure heart who has not lifted up his soul unto
vanity or sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing (not a blessing, but the blessing)
of the Lord.” And then that young man closed his Bible.
And looking down at the minister and the other office bearers,
he said this-maybe crude words, but perhaps not so crude in our Gaelic language-he said,
“It seems to me to be so much humbug to be praying as we are praying,
to be waiting as we are waiting, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.”
And then he lifted his two hands-and I’m telling you just as the minister told
me it happened-he lifted his two hands and prayed, “God, are my hands clean?
Is my heart pure? ” But he got no further. That young man fell to his knees and
then fell into a trance. Now don’t ask me to explain this because I can’t.
He fell into a trance and is now lying on the floor of the barn.
And in the words of the minister, at that moment, he and his other office bearers
were gripped by the conviction that a God-sent revival must ever be related to holiness,
must ever be related to Godliness. Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?
The man that God will trust with revival-that was the conviction.

When that happened in the barn, the power of God swept into the parish.
And an awareness of God gripped the community such as hadn’t been known
for over 100 years. An awareness of God-that’s revival, that’s revival.
And on the following day, the looms were silent, little work was done on the farms
as men and women gave themselves to thinking on eternal things gripped by eternal realities.

http://www.revival-library.org/index.php/pensketches-menu/historical-revivals/the-hebrides-revival

And I thought ‘woke’ meant something you did after sleep

In 2020, Americans are going to be forced to choose between two opposing visions:
the pro-American vision of President Abraham Lincoln
and the deeply anti-American vision of the modern left…
The modern left’s outlook is radically different from —
and deeply hostile toward — the classic definitions of
American liberty and history.

Newt Gingrich

Yep, it’s hard to keep up if you’re of a certain age.
And perhaps even harder if you make the conscious decision to abstain from
social media…
Because it appears that social media is THE place to learn all sorts of new words,
both good and bad, and oh so part of our ‘woke’ culture.

According to an article on business2community.com:
The Oxford English Dictionary has added a plethora of new words to their online database.
Those searching their dictionary can now find the definitions of words such
as “woke,” “hygge” and “post-truth,” which they named last year’s Word of the Year.

One of the most notable entries for many on social media was “woke,”
a slang entry that was met with both praise and backlash.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “woke” as:
well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination
and injustice; frequently in stay woke (often used as an exhortation).

In later use perhaps popularized through its association with
African-American civil rights activism
(in recent years particularly the Black Lives Matter movement),
and by the lyrics of the 2008 song Master Teacher by American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu,
in which the words I stay woke serve as a refrain.
In addition to having an original meaning of simply “awake,” the adjectival “woke”
has been around far longer than some may think.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, the earliest use in a figurative sense was
in a 1962 New York Times article.
Titled “If You’re Woke, You Dig It,”
it “describes how white beatniks were appropriating black slang at the time.”
The term is now widely used to challenge others to be more aware of
injustices in the world.

It seems that the folks of all things dictionary, be that Merriam-Webster, Oxford or others,
have actually added 600 new words this past year.

At this rate, my communication skills will no longer be woke but more like asleep…

And I for one find such words stupid…as in dumb, useless and if the truth be told, lazy–
as they are nothing more than slang.

There already exist some pretty great civil descriptors out there–
of which mean very much the same.
Yet I wonder…is it because these existing words are more pointed and
seemingly painfully direct…Because we know this progressive culture of ours is actually
afraid of pointed, direct and painful.

And as a small aside, might I just add that I am sick and tired of hearing,
seeing, reading the ‘F’ word at every turn. We went to the movies last evening
to see the movie 1917 and in the very first preview of coming movies, Will Smith opened
the preview spouting off the F word…sigh…
And despite my having written many a post of the use of vulgar slang as being now
acceptable, I am digressing…

So all this talk of culture, words, and of being woke had me thinking when I caught
the following article by Newt Gingrich.

If anyone out there is woke (please note that my Grammarly correction wants that to read ‘is waking’),
I would think it would be Newt.
As a history professor, author, historian and former Speaker of the House,
Newt knows a thing or two when he looks back while looking forward.

Here are a few tidbits from his latest article followed by a link for the full
story.

Newt Gingrich: In 2020, Abraham Lincoln will be controversial and divisive.
(Yes, Lincoln!) Here’s why

Lincoln clearly admitted that the work of freedom was unfinished and that we owe it to those
who gave their lives to continue the work of extending and improving liberty for all people.
In fact, Lincoln said it is our duty to extend “under God, … a new birth of freedom.”

(Of course, the anti-religious left would scoff at the reference to God.
Yet, both Lincoln and Washington shared a belief that America existed because of
Divine Providence’s benevolence.)

We have moved from government of the people to government of the experts.

The gap between Lincoln’s belief in the people and the contempt elitists such
as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.,
have for those who Hillary Clinton called “deplorables” tells you a lot about the gap
between Lincoln’s values and the values of the modern American left.

One of the great challenges for the Trump administration and its allies is
to re-center government on Lincoln’s values and dismantle the elitist
“bureaucrats know best” model that now defines so much of our government.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2020-abraham-lincoln-controversial-newt-gingrich

Enrich, inspire, live

“Health is God’s great gift, and we must spend it entirely for Him.
Our eyes should see only for God, our feet walk only for Him,
our hands labor for Him alone; in short,
our entire body should serve God while we still have the time.
Then, when He shall take our health and we shall near our last day,
our conscience will not reproach us for having misused it.”

St. John Bosco


(interiour vault of the Cathedarl of St John The Baptist / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert
for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society.
It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in
Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign.
It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity, and scandal.
It means overcoming every separation between faith and life,
and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness.
It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life,
since, as the Second Vatican Council put it,
‘there is no human activity—even in secular affairs—which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion’.
It means working to enrich…society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel,
and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value
to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.”

Pope Benedict XVI
An Excerpt From
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

“We live in a fallen world.
We must, therefore, work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth, we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit
in which we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

let me tell you…

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring
momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them.
The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(our son and his daughter, the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Let me tell you a little bit about our son…

He turns 31 later this year and would absolutely die if he knew his mother was
sharing anything about him on her blog.

Oh well.

I’ve written about him before, several times…it’s just that I don’t tell him that I do.

I’ve written about him not because he’s simply my son nor because he’s famous, infamous
or terminally ill…thank the Lord he’s none of those things but just our son.

I write rather because his growing up was not an easy journey…

It was a journey that seems oh so long ago and yet the memories of the difficulties
remain.

Despite that long and often difficult journey, we, his parents, are so exceedingly
proud of the man, husband, and father he’s grown into.

And that is what I want to write about.

But I also want to write, not so much about our son,
but rather about the very surreal time in history in which we are now
finding ourselves living in.

We are living in a dystopian culture that is playing fast and loose with
something so straightforward and simple as the obvious fact of biology and gender…
that being the exacting fact of male and female.

It is a culture that is trying its best to demasculate any and all males.
A culture that is shaming boys, young men, and adult men…for being just that, male.
A culture that allows children to “choose” a gender, with gender being
a fluid notion.

I, for one, believe in and very much want strong men.

I want strong men in my life.
I want strong male role models who know what it means to be a man…
I want men who know what it means to be a Godly man.
Mature men.
Men who understand God’s intention for them as husbands, leaders,
role models, fathers…

And these desires of mine do not equate me with being weak, dominated,
overrun, demure, belittled or abused.

Just shy of 40 years ago, my late godfather, an Episcopal priest,
sat me down right before I got married in order to share a few important
thoughts with me.
As my priest, but more importantly, as my Godpoppa, he felt compelled to tell me that
marriage was not going to be easy.

I think we all know that an engaged bride-to-be lives in a bit of an unrealistic fairytale
of fantasy.
There is a whirlwind of activities, details, and parties to attend to;
reality is not often found in the fanfare.

My Godpoppa told me that I was marrying a good man but a man who had been abused
both physically and emotionally as a child by a hardcore alcoholic father.
He told me that my husband-to-be had not had a positive role model of
what it meant to be a loving husband and father.

He wanted me to keep this all in mind as we prepared to embark on
a life together.
He knew all too well that there would be difficult times.

He already knew, up close and personal, of my own issues with adoption and
dysfunction within my adopted family— but in his wisdom, he knew that
two broken people were about to be joined as one…
as in two becoming one big broken person.

Not only did I have to learn how to be a loving, supportive, forgiving wife and later
a mother–of whom was also working and tending to the house…
but my husband had to learn how to be a good husband, provider,
and an eventual positive father—
the type of father he desperately wanted to be for our son.


(our son and my husband many moons ago / Julie Cook / 1995ish)

And my Godfather was right—marriage was and is hard—add work, bills,
life and parenthood to that and things can become dangerously complicated fast!

I read the following quote this morning from the author Tom Hoops:
People think of “the family that prays together stays together” as a quaint old saying.
But it was a favorite saying of Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta,
and the daily practice of Pope Benedict XVI’s family, according to his brother’s biographer.

I had to learn the hard way the importance of seeking God first and foremost when
it comes to one’s most intimate relationships.
It is imperative that He be in the middle of all we do because if He is not and
we substitute ourselves in the center, then we have a toxic equation for
stress and disaster.

It is Satan’s desire that the family fails.
If the family fails, Satan gains a greater foothold in our world…as all binding institutions
begin to crumble.

But I suppose I’ve deviated a tad from my original intention with this post…

Yet we need to understand that parenthood, like marriage, is often a learn
as you go experience.

And so it was with us—especially when our 5-year-old son was diagnosed
with a rather severe learning disability and a year later with ADD.

Life suddenly took a difficult turn.

He didn’t learn to read until he was entering the 3rd grade.
We spent the previous summer driving back and forth every day to a
specialized private school in Atlanta that focused on teaching kids with
dyslexia how to read.

We spent our afternoons fighting over homework and driving from tutor to tutor.

It all sounds so matter of fact now…but at the time it was anything but.

There was a father who was gone working 16 hour days, 6 days a week, a wife who
was teaching and commuting 30 minutes to and from work to home while shuttling a
child from school to tutoring to home, to homework, to Scouts, then back home again…

Throw in making supper, tending to the house, washing, cleaning, preparing
lessons for the next day…and life just seemed to get more and more difficult.

There was enough exhaustion, frustration, resentment, tears, fears and worry
circulating in our young lives to last a lifetime.
And there were many times I angrily raised a fist and questioned God.

Yet our son wanted nothing more than to be “normal” and of course we
wanted that for him.

But what was normal?

For him to be “normal” meant that there was going to have to be a great deal of
commitment, time invested, assistance, sacrifice and lots and lots of work.

But of course, you can read about all of that in the following linked posts written years back…
because today is not a day to dwell on what was but rather today is a day to look at what is:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-journey/
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/a-large-collective-sigh/

I actually had colleagues who openly voiced their skepticism over our son ever
going to college let alone being successful.

It wasn’t easy.
There were hurdles.
There were setbacks.
There were mistakes.
There were injustices.
And there was simply dumb rotten luck.

Then there came a girl.
And then came love.
And then came marriage.
And eventually, there came a degree.

Some very tough jobs followed—they came complete with low pay, poor hours,
dangerous conditions, a lack of appreciation, pounded pavement,
all the way to a shuttered company, a lost job, and then news of a baby.

When things were looking their lowest, a ray of light shone through.

Out of the blue came a new job.
New promises from a prominent company.
A new start.
Along with that new baby.

Yet hours remained frustratingly poor, pay remained minimal and frustration remained high
as the promises kept being pushed aside.

However in all of that remained something more important, something more instrumental,
something more exacting…that being…perseverance.

It was a desire and a will ‘to do’, not only for himself but more importantly the
desire to do, to be and to provide for his young family.

He wanted to be that man he saw in his father.

A man who made years of sacrifices of self for the betterment of his wife and child.
A man who was just that, a man who possessed both determination and a respect
for responsibility.

There was work, there was a growing family as baby number two appeared…
added to all of that was more college work for an additional degree add-on.
A balance of living life while looking ahead.

And just when life was looking overwhelming and growth was looking stymied and stagnant…
along came an opportunity for something different, something new and something that
seemed improbable, unattainable and most unlikely…and yet it came none the less.

After gaining a toehold in the door and with nearly two months of
interviews and scrutiny, the new job offer came last week.

I know I’ll be writing more about all of this change in the coming weeks…
but first, there are the necessary two weeks of finishing up one job before
starting another.

There will be the training, learning the adjusting…for not only our son
but for his entire small family.

Change is good, but it is also hard.

Yet the one thing in all of this that I know to be true is that our son did this on his own.
He earned the opportunity and sold himself as the best asset he could be…

There is God’s hand and timing in all of this.
And I can say this as I’m now looking back.

On the front end, things can look overwhelming and impossible…

Yet my husband toiled to become that man, that father, he so yearned to be…
and now his son is following suit…

Living the life as the man God intended for him to be.

A strong focused man who loves his family.
A man who works to lead his family and honor his wife.
A strong role model for both his young son and daughter.
A man who continues to make us, his mom and dad, so very proud.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul.

Proverbs 29:17

don’t put a squashed pine cone in your mouth…

“the ‘task of the conscience’– a word of great value in Western civilization,
is to determine what that divine purpose is and then to live
it out irrespective of the cost”

observations about Pope John Paul by George Weigel
excerpt taken from The Divine Plan
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Dramatic End of the Cold War
by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando

The above image is a picture within a picture…or rather, it’s a still-shot from a video.
And the title is a quote I actually uttered yesterday…
as in, “DO NOT PUT THAT SQUASHED PINECONE IN YOUR MOUTH!!

However, that story will have to wait as I simply needed an
the attention-grabbing title today…
As in I wanted your full and undived attention.

I’ve been spending time with the Mayor and the new Sheriff the past several days,
helping out…and I hate that I’ve not even had the chance to share with you about their
charming encounter with the ocean…
But it seems as if the world has tilted just a bit further off her axis and has needed
a tad more of my attention than merely my chattering on as a doting grandmother
who’s droning on about her grandkids…

But first a quick word to the wise…it is not prudent nor is it wise to pick up a run over
and flattened pinecone and proceed to poke it into your mouth and then bite down…just saying.

But now to the matter at hand.

It seems that there has been a lot of talk as of late…here in the blogosphere, FB
(or so I’m told) as well as on various Christian media outlets about more and more
big-name Christians announcing their seemingly sudden withdrawal from the fold
so to speak.

As in there appears to be a slight uptick in the number of those recanting their faith
all in very public places and on very public platforms.

Odd to want to grandstand over losing one’s faith.
Opting to be vocal and in the spotlight rather than introspective, sad and
living the loss.

Or as IB so aptly noted the other day, in the words of the famous band out of
Athens, GA—REM—grandstanding over ‘Losing My Religion’…

And to be honest…not being one who runs in the evangelical or other
protestant denomination’s circles or one who keeps up with the current mega-church craze,
I can’t say that I’m familiar with many of these recently fallen sheep.

But as I’ve been reading…there is indeed a long, sad, public and very vocal fall
taking place.

I have, however, on the other hand, been a bit more focused on the sexual abuse scandal
rocking the Catholic Chruch as well as the naming of a few notable and now long deceased
Anglican priests whose names have been sullied by the same accusations.

And so as I look out over the horizon of our collective Christian faith—
our denominations far and wide, I can see Satan being very busy as work.

I’ve written about this so many times before that I think I must just be beating my head
against a brick wall but there is a divide and conquer mentality being applied to the
Christian fold and it is being applied fast and furious…
And the thing is… nobody seems to “get it”

I’ve also written that this is indeed a mad world—a mad mad world on so many levels.
Mad as in crazy nuts and mad as in viscerally angry.
We have troubles my friends and I do indeed fret for my darling grandchildren.

The slick lies that are being tossed about fast and loose as truth
from things such as children’s tv and music, to what defines a family, to
legalized murder in delivery rooms, all the way to the odd notion of fluid genders…
it is enough to make me want to grab up my babies and run and hide.

But we cannot hide.

We cannot ignore it any longer.
We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening.

We are being spoon fed lies as truth.
Lies as legalized truth.

As a once overly zealous teen, when reading the stories of those early Christian martyrs in
places such as Rome and Judea, I would often imagine having been there and how I would have
hoped to have stood up so bravely as those countless men and women who suffered
grievously under torture, mutilation and even death—
suffered almost readily rather than giving in and recanting their faith.

Because their faith was precious.
It was dear.
It was sacred.

Today it seems to be more passe, victimized and tired.

And so when I read of these modern-day Christians recanting their faith
so flippantly and arrogantly, apologizing to the masses of those seemingly innocent souls
who they feel as if they had helped to lead astray, I am more than saddened, I am sickened.

For they have bought into the culture gods hook, line and sinker…
They are now the poster children of a hedonistic and self-absorbed culture…
selling a bad bag of goods to an innocent fold.

There are thousands around this world of ours who continue to die for the Christian faith.
They worship in secret and in whispered tones.
They live in places such as Russia, China, Africa, Myanmar, Yemen, Iran, Iraq…
They love Jesus and are willing to pay the ultimate price for that love.

Their worship is not easy nor is it easy to come by…
not as it is here in the West.

And yet here in the West, we too indeed suffer as well.
It’s just that we suffer on a quieter level.

Our suffering is on a more insidious level.
Our suffering is often more psychological than physical.

We are shunned, ridiculed, threatened with legal action and told we may not utter
the name of God or Jesus as we once did…
Words spoken, along with the right to speak those words, was simply taken for granted.

And maybe that’s part of the problem.
We’ve taken for granted the Precious and the Sacred.
We trivialized our God and made that which is Great, small.

And now Satan is working overtime.

Time is running out.
He knows this.

So, therefore, be not quiet.
Speak up and speak out.
Because it is a mad world…
in all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways…

I know our problem


(sun coming up /Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve been chatting a great deal, as of late, about the current state of events
taking place around this Nation of ours.

Not a great deal of positives to report–or so say the news outlets…
or so say many of us average observers.

Because according to anything newsy, the sky is falling, the Russians are coming,
the White Supremacists are already here, everyone is a racist and if you support the
President of the United States of America, you are to be immediately outed via all things social media,
shamed, tarred, feathered and branded a deplorable, annihilated and readily destroyed…
plain and simple.
Heck, they wanted to make a movie about that very thing.

100 years ago such news would have been met with shrieks of laughter or the
hushed tones of berating to never say such heresy.

Sigh.

The other thing I’ve been chatting on and off about is the state of the Chruch
(be it the Chruch on either side of the pond)—
As in there’s been a big sell-out by denominations and clergy…all opting to follow the culture
gods and not the God of all Creation.

Happy happy is the key.
Abortions are okayed.
Same-sex marriages are approved, as well as happily conducted in sanctuary after sanctuary.
Gay clergy are a-okay.
Transgenderism is embraced.
The biological concept of male and female is now passe as gender is a fluid notion.
The traditional family is a cumbersome dinosaur and considered obsolete.
Males are to be neutered all because we no longer like strong male figures in the world.
Intolerance is the new tolerance.
Violence is the end to whatever means…
all the while the Chruch turns a blind eye or jumps in willing, into the thick of it all.

Yep, things seem all topsy turvy if you ask me.

And so I think I’ve finally figured out the problem.

At first, I thought the problem was simply that we had become an angry people.

Think Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Neo-Nazis…or even the angry progressive liberal news…
However, I think I’ve actually narrowed things down beyond the mere angry component.

Yes, we are indeed an angry people but that is just a result of our real problem.

The real problem is that we have lost The Sacred.

We have lost our understanding of The Sacred.

We have lost our longing for The Sacred.

We have lost the reality of our very need for The Sacred.

But here’s the thing, The Sacred has not lost us.
Never has.
Never will.

But for us, on the other hand…well…we lost The Sacred like we lose our keys.

We put Him down and can’t seem to remember where we put Him.

And if the truth be told, we don’t care if we find Him or not.

We’ve become so consumed by ourselves that we’ve squeezed the space The Sacred occupied
till there is no space left.

We are smug and arrogant, powered by tremendous appetites and egos…and yes, anger.

And yet I dare must ask… exactly how happy are you?
How content?
How at peace?

And so here’s the thing…it’s not too late to make room in that overly crowded
discontented space.

It will take, however, a little humbling,
a little letting go of that ego and of course that anger…and a simple,
“Dear Father, please hear me…”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy,
and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

crossing the Rubicon toward the black hole of culture

“[death]…the abyss from where no traveler is permitted to return”
George Washington

Men willingly believe what they wish.
Julius Caesar


(image courtesy NASA)

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the direction our world seems to be headed.
Not a fan of the current demands made by the culture gods.

And my discontent only grows by the minute.
We are being rapidly sucked into the black hole of a culture gone mad.

Black holes are seemingly endless voids that suck in and gobble up everything and
anything that happens to wander into their paths…a merciless vacuum to nothingness…
a seemingly never-ending emptiness where there is no light, no escape, no hope.

If allowed to stay on this current path of cultural madness, we will be swallowed whole,
never to be heard from again…as in no escape, no hope.

And I’ve been reminded of this perilous race of ours toward the black hole of hopelessness
several times this past week.

I had the opportunity of sitting in on a court hearing this past week–
not as a participant mind you, but more or less as an observing supporter.

It’s a long story but we all know that in most court proceedings,
things are not always as they seem.

It’s an odd dance of the legal tit for tat for truth.

Sitting, listening and observing, I found my mouth falling open when I heard the opposing
side’s lawyer feed off of the latest #metoo movement frenzie.

He was describing to the judge the behavior of a now three and a half-year-long deceased
92-year-old man.
Deceased before we had even heard of #metoo.

And yet this latest example of cultural madness was being surreally applied
to a person who was no longer here to defend his reputation which was currently
being tried in a public forum of culture in a courtroom.

Not really sure how a 92-year-old feeble man on a walker, a man who had Parkinson’s disease
and the energy level of a newborn child could aggressively push himself on a couple
of youthful female caregivers, but this is now sadly the times in which we live.

Yet what I was watching was a gross and obvious desperation grab by a lawyer…
all because our culture has gone off the skids of sanity.
And thus a shark hungry lawyer saw an opportunity to feed off the hypersensitivity
of the times.

All because we have cast ourselves outward toward the merciless vacuum of hopelessness…
and the thing is, no one seems to “get it.”
No one seems to grasp that we are creating our own rapid demise as a civilized society.

And thus the reputation of a deceased man was just one more of the latest casualties
of victimization by the black hole created by a culture out of control.

The next incident came later in the week.
I found myself reading a story that I found being repeated on many blog posts.
They were posts referencing a particular story about a young man who had once been a rising
star and prominent Christian in the public forum of culture.

The story is that this young man, who is now a bit older but still one I consider younger,
had written a book that became very popular within the youthful
Chrisitan circuit…basically a how-to-live sort of proclamation and manual to and for
young Christians.

He later went on to become a popular minister–be that self-proclaimed or
theologically trained, I do not know.

Yet sadly this past week, this same young man announced,
in the very public forum of all things social media,
that he was recanting his faith and his Christianity.

He apologized for hurting anyone who had ever worshiped (my word), at his feet,
read his books, listened to his teachings and his preachings…as well as apologized
to those, he may have offended by his ‘narrow-minded’ faith.

And so it was now high time for him to set the record straight…
He had been wrong about everything and oh, by the way, he was also getting divorced.

He was wrong…

Wrong about Jesus.
Wrong about his faith.
Wrong about his marriage.
And thus he was wrong about the Word of God.

He was wrong about sex, marriage, and all the spin-offs found entrenched in our counter-culture’s
obsession with all things anacronyms—LBGTQ_ _ _ _
(add in all the other letters you care to add)

He was, however, lauded for his “confession.”
He was embraced for his “beautiful” apologies as he
eloquently waxed and waned about the need for a new spiritual quest.
He had crossed over the Rubicon and the culture gods were now embracing him.

My friend Shara ( https://scasefamily.com/2019/07/26/kissing-jesus-goodbye/)
responded that “There’s nothing beautiful about denouncing Christ to the world.
Ever.”

My friend IB (https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/deconstructing-josh-harris/)
wondered aloud, whether or not in the wake of his fall, how many others had fallen simply for
their blind following of a fellow Chrisitan rather than following Christ and Christ alone.

I suddenly had a vision of a sinking Peter in a stormy sea when he had diverted his eyes
from his Lord and turned his vision rather to all that was around him.

And so I noted that here was simply another victim to the black hole that our culture
is busily creating.
A black abyss sucking up all that is right and decent and Holy.

Not being familiar with this particular one-time Christian advocate now lost young man,
I thought the story to be just another sad tale of the victimization of our times.

But isn’t that what all of this current culture is all about?
Victimizing, apologizing, recanting and accusing?!

That’s what we’re supposed to do and what the culture gods command us to do, is it not?
Apologize for everything while we accuse everyone of crimes against the Culture.
For culture is no longer a little c but is now the big C of all importance.

And that my friends is the black hole of hopelessness.
Our brave new world of a politically correct society that has no tolerance
for Judaeo /Christian values, morals let alone the word of God.

And so we have a choice…we can either keep our eyes on Culture or we can keep
our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
But the thing is, we cannot do both.

It’s all pretty simple really, but obviously not as easy as it sounds.
In part because the insidious lies of ‘the Culture’ strive to undermind
what we once thought and lived—

All the while we can find ourselves inching ever closer to the
Culture’s black hole…we just need to finish crossing the Rubicon first.

If God had merely saved us from sins, it would be enough.
In fact, it would be the greatest gift imaginable.
Instead, however, he chose to surpass the limits of our imagination when he came down
from heaven” to save us. Not only did he make himself like us — but he made us like himself.

Leila Miller
from Raising Chaste Catholic Men