immovable and unswerving

Be one of the small numbers who finds the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven.
Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost.
Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow;
the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(a late season flitery visits what blooms remain /Julie Cook / 2019)

I admit that I was unfamiliar with both of our guest speakers this morning.

But it was the Dominican monk, the Venerable Louis of Grenada, that drew in my attention,
in part because of his book.
I was rather intrigued by the title of his book written in 1555, The Sinner’s Guide.

While doing a little background research into this centuries-old book, it appears this “guide
has quite the staying power as it has been compared to Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ”

It caught my eye because my name was right there in the title…The “Sinners” Guide.

Because are not all of our names in that title?

Both of our guests today, who offer us their words of wisdom and faith, remind us that
there are no middle paths but rather only two…
a wide path and a very narrow path…and our’s must be the narrow…
the more difficult but the only way.

We are reminded not to follow the majority of the herd as they are actually lost.
Much like the proverbial lemmings racing precariously toward the cliff of demise.

We are told not to put our trust nor hope in this world for it is rife with vanity,
malice, falsehood, and arrogance.

Be wary of false doctrine but rather remain steadfast…immovable with our goodness
unswerving in our faith…

“What is this brightness—with which God fills the soul of the just—but that clear knowledge
of all that is necessary for salvation?
He shows them the beauty of virtue and the deformity of vice.
He reveals to them the vanity of the world, the treasures of grace,
the greatness of eternal glory, and the sweetness of the consolations of the Holy Spirit.
He teaches them to apprehend the goodness of God, the malice of the evil one, the shortness of life,
and the fatal error of those whose hopes are centered in this world alone.
Hence the equanimity of the just.
They are neither puffed up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity.
‘A holy man’, says Solomon, ‘continueth in wisdom as the sun,
but a fool is changed as the moon.’ (Ecclus. 27:12).
Unmoved by the winds of false doctrine, the just man continues steadfast in Christ,
immoveable in charity, unswerving in faith.”

Venerable Louis Of Grenada, p. 135
An Excerpt From
The Sinner’s Guide

mincing no words

“At the root of the collapse of the West, there is a cultural identity crisis.
The West no longer knows and does not want to know who made it,
who established it, as it was and as it is.
Many countries today ignore their own history.
This is self-suffocation naturally leads to a decadence that opens the
path to new, barbaric civilizations.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(Cardinal Sarah)

Many of you may or may not be familiar with Cardinal Sarah.

I’ve quoted and even mentioned Cardinal Sarah before.

I am not Catholic, but having been raised in the Episcopal Chruch,
I have always been considered Catholic lite… or so they say…
of which I take as a compliment.

But I want you to know that despite my not being a Catholic, I have always felt
encouraged when ever reading Cardinal Sarah’s words.

He does not mince his words.
He does not apologize for those words.
And he always takes God at His word while never looking back.

That is such a refreshing stand in a time of endless apologies, backtracking, politicizing,
and the current persecution of Christians in, of all places, Western Civilization.

Robert Sarah was born in 1945 in Ourous, a village in then rural French Guinea.
His parents were both Christian converts.
Sarah began his religious studies at the age of 12.

With ongoing conflicts within Guinea, Sarah eventually completed his schooling in both
France and Senegal with his final ordination studies in both Rome and Jerusalem.
He was ordained in 1969, serving as a priest and eventual bishop in Guinea.
Both pope’s Benedict and Francis elevated Sarah to first cardinal deacon then
eventually Cardinal in 2013.

What we know about Africa, Cardinal Sarah’s home nation, is that it is the fastest-growing
Christian nation on the planet.
And it is a bastion of a conservative perspective on God’s word and of Christianity.
Meaning, the global Christian Chruch in Africa does not mince God’s word.
If God said it, then it is so…end of sentence.

There is no deciphering, interpreting, or rewriting to suit the whims of the times.

In a time in which Christianity is under tremendous attack and Christians are facing
all sorts of persecutions, Africa offers Christianity hope.

Cardinal Sarah makes no excuses for his Christian faith, his African Christianity,
his Catholicism and no excuses for what many claim to be politically incorrect
stances on Christianity.

Cardinal Sarah has been very vocal, as well as pointed with his words, regarding ISIS,
Radical Isalm, gender identity, LGBTQ lifestyles, mass immigration, abortion,
the current demise of the traditional family, and the current seemingly
demise of Western Civilization.

The good Cardinal says that he “considers that the decadence of our time has
all the faces of mortal peril.”
He has also stated that ‘Gender Ideology is a Luciferean Refusal’
of the Sexual Nature Given to Us by God.

There are no apologies for such wording as he speaks with only the
word of God as his guide.

Cardinal Sarah has a new book to be released in September…
The Day Is Now Far Spent.

The publisher’s review is telling…

In this powerful book by the acclaimed spiritual leader and best-selling writer,
one he calls his “most important”, he analyzes the profound spiritual,
moral and political crisis in the contemporary world.
He says that he “considers that the decadence of our time has all the faces of mortal peril.”

“At the root of the collapse of the West, there is a cultural identity crisis.
The West no longer knows who it is, because it no longer knows and does not
want to know who made it, who established it, as it was and as it is.
Many countries today ignore their own history.
This self-suffocation naturally leads to a decadence that opens the path to new,
barbaric civilizations.”

In these words, Cardinal Sarah summarizes the theme of his book.
His finding is simple: our world is on the brink of the abyss.
Crisis of faith and of the Church, decline of the West, betrayal by its elites,
moral relativism, endless globalism, unbridled capitalism, new ideologies,
political exhaustion, movements inspired by Islamist totalitarianism…
The time has come for an unflinching diagnosis.

While making clear the gravity of the crisis through which the West has gone,
the Cardinal demonstrates that it is possible to avoid the hell of a world without God,
a world without man, a world without hope.

After the great international success of his first two books,
God or Nothing and The Power of Silence,
Cardinal Sarah offers a wide-ranging reflection on the crisis of the contemporary
world while teaching many important spiritual lessons.

I look forward to reading this latest book by this ardent soldier of the Faith,
and I am thankful that there are prelates, clergy, and
men of the cloth who will not apologize nor back down in the face of mounting backlash,
criticism or persecution—

In the word of God, there are no mistakes…there is no mincing of His word…

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth:
it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless],
but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose,
and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

is the devil is in the details…

“Till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed,
See this sword?
The prince of darkness sold it to me.”

Karl Marx “The Fiddler”

“If Marx, Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach associate to found a
theological-political review,
God would do well to surround himself with all his angels
and indulge in self-pity, for these three will certainly drive him out of heaven…”

quoted from D. McLellan, Marx before Marxism, MacMillian)

Yesterday I wrote a post about salvaging a few books left over from college and the rather
prophetic connection associated with one of those books.
It was during the purge of the attic that I found and opted
to recuse a few of these old reads.

You may have noticed one of the books in yesterday’s photo and found yourself wondering
about it.

It is a small book with a very unsettling title that seems to be more accusation than title.
It was written in 1976 and is a book I’ve actually had since high school.

“Was Karl Marx a Satanist?”
by Richard Wurmbrand.

I’d imagine that most folks seeing such a book, given our current state of political affairs,
would most likely roll their eyes as if to say,
“it figures you conservative religious types would think such.”

But if anyone should know whether Marx was a Satanist or not would be Richard Wurmbrand.

The Philadelphia Herald once stated that “He (Wurmbrand) stood in the midst of lions,
but they could not devour him.”

His biography reads like the script of some sort of beyond reality novel…

Richard Wurmbrand was born the youngest of four boys in a Jewish family on March 24, 1909,
in Bucharest, Romania.
Gifted intellectually and fluent in nine languages,
Richard was active in leftist politics and worked as a stockbroker.
On Oct. 26, 1936, Richard married Sabina Oster, who was also Jewish.
They placed their faith in Jesus Christ in 1938 as a result of the influence of a
German carpenter named Christian Wölfkes.
Richard was ordained as an Anglican, and later Lutheran, minister.

During World War II, Richard and Sabina saw opportunities for evangelism among
the occupying German forces.
They preached in bomb shelters and rescued Jewish children out of the ghettos.
Richard and Sabina were repeatedly arrested and beaten and, at least once,
nearly executed.

Sabina lost her Jewish family in Nazi concentration camps.
In 1945, Romanian Communists seized power and a million Russian troops poured into
the country. Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to his oppressed countrymen while engaging
in bold evangelism to the Russian soldiers.

That same year, Richard and Sabina attended the Congress of Cults,
organized by the Romanian Communist government. Many religious leaders
came forward to praise Communism and to swear loyalty to the new regime.

Richard walked up to the podium and declared to the delegates, whose speeches were
broadcast to the whole nation, that their duty was to glorify God and Christ alone.
Between 1945 and 1947, Richard distributed 1 million Gospels to Russian troops,
often disguising the books as Communist propaganda.
Richard also helped arrange the smuggling of Gospels into Russia.

On Feb. 29, 1948, the secret police kidnapped Richard as he traveled to church and took
him to their headquarters.
He was locked in a solitary cell and labeled “Prisoner Number 1.”

In 1950, his wife, Sabina, was also imprisoned.
She was forced to serve as a laborer on the Danube Canal project,
leaving their 9-year-old son, Mihai, alone and homeless.

He was then taken in by Christian friends, who risked imprisonment to care for the
child of a political prisoner.
Sabina was released after three years, and Richard was also later released,
only to be re-arrested and then released in an amnesty in 1964.

In December 1965, two organizations paid a $10,000 ransom to allow the
Wurmbrand family to leave Romania.
Reluctant to leave his homeland, Richard was convinced by other underground church
leaders to leave and become a “voice” to the world for the underground church.
Richard, Sabina and their son, Mihai, left Romania for Norway and then traveled on to England.

Richard began his ministry of being a voice for persecuted Christians in the West,
where he also wrote his testimony of persecution, Tortured for Christ.
Later, Richard moved to the United States, and in 1967 the Wurmbrands officially began
a ministry committed to serving our persecuted Christian family called Jesus to the
Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs).
This work continues today in more than 60 countries where Christians are persecuted.

TorturedforChrist.com

During his imprisonment, according to The Telegraph,“Wurmbrand was beaten on his body
and on the soles of his feet, given mind-altering drugs and forced to watch the humiliation
of fellow prisoners.

Through everything, he refused to recant.

For three years he was held in solitary confinement in a cell some 35 ft underground;
he kept sane by preaching himself a sermon every night,
fixing more than 300 of them in his brain with mnemonics and rhymes.
After his release, he published 22 as a book, Sermons in Solitary Confinement (1969).

Only once did he have anyone else to speak to – a prisoner in the next cell to whom he
communicated in Morse by tapping on his cell wall and whom he converted to Christianity.
Sabina Wurmbrand meanwhile was forced to work as a slave labourer;
at one stage, while building a canal, she was reduced to living on grass.
After her release in 1954, she was denied work for refusing to divorce her husband.
When later informed that he had died in prison,
she refused to believe it even when strangers called on her claiming to be former prisoners
who had attended his funeral.

In May 1966 when Wurmbrand testified in Washington before the Senate's Internal
Security Subcommittee, he stripped to the waist to show 18 deep torture wounds
covering his body.

Wurmbrand was a fiery, almost explosive man who never fought shy of controversy.
Although he always spoke about his oppressors with understanding,
he was passionate in his belief that "Communism is the greatest crime in humanity"
and was highly critical of those who sought dialogue with Communist regimes.
In 1967, on a visit to Britain, he roundly condemned British churches for their lack of
interest in the plight of Christians under Communism:
"What is happening in China?" he demanded.
"All the churches have been desecrated and closed, but nobody protests."

The British churches, he believed,
had been compromised by their membership of the World Council of Churches which included
members of the officially-approved Russian and Romanian churches.

(why do I now see Bishop Gavin Ashenden in my mind's eye nodding in agreement?)
He recalled how, during his incarceration,
he had been asked whether he would like to become a bishop -
so that he could help to influence the World Council of Churches in "our" favour.

So if anyone knows Communism, The Soviets, as well as Socialism, on an intimate level...
it would be Richard Wurmbrand.

In his book "Was Karl Marx a Satanist", Wurmbrand does not merely make a case for such
a notion but rather states, after meticulous research,
that which is not conjecture but is rather a definitive fact.

And so the answer is yes.
And in turn, we now know that the father of communism and socialism was a practicing Satanist.
(Read the book in order to glimpse the known and little-known documentation which
details Marx's practicing involvement)

Ironically Marx was once an ardent Christian during his youth, but it at some point
during his time in college, there is a grave transformation.
One from a heartfelt warmth to a bitter unfeeling cold.

For time's sake, I will leave the reading and study to you for the details of the whys,
whens, and wheres---just know that Wurmbrand offers copious documentation.

Wurmbrand notes that "All active Satanists have ravaged personal lives.
This was the case with Marx, too."

Arnold Kunzli, in his book K. Marx--A Psychogram (1966), tells of this life,
which led to the suicide of two daughters and a son-n-law.
Three children died of malnutrition.
His daughter Laura, married to the socialist Laforgue, also buried three of her children.
Then she and her husband committed suicide together.
Another daughter Eleanor, decided with her husband to do the same.
She died.
He backed out in the last minute.
The families of Satanists are under a curse.

I find it interesting that in western civilization we are witnessing a resurgence, along
with a keen interest and desire, of and for all things 'ism' within our culture,
chief among them being that of Socialism

Socialism is the growing darling of the Democratic party...
a tantalizing trinket from Pandora's box no longer found in the outer fringes of the party
but rather a dangerous siren singing her alluring song while making headway deep
into the rooted elect.

And this rooted elect has little to no need for the tenents of a Judeo Christian society.

"exactly as Satanists do; unlike atheists, they do not deny the existence of God, except to deceive others;
they know of His existence but describe Him as wicked"

Am I saying that Socialists are Satanists?
No.
But what I am saying is that the birth of socialism, and that of her first cousin communism, has
their roots in the heart and mind of one man who embraced the darkness.

I would utter caution in this race to embrace the latest resurgence of isms in Western Civilization.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

won’t back down

“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell,
but I won’t back down!”

Tom Petty


(rod iron fence to Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

The first official Christian martyr, or protomartyr,
was Stephen, who was killed in 36 AD.

What we know about Stephen comes to us from the Book of Acts.

A Greek speaking foreign born Jew, Stephen was elected to serve as a deacon to his community. Stephen, along with others, had appealed to the apostles that the
elderly widows within their community were being passed over and forgotten.
So Stephen, along with 6 others, were elected as official deacons who would in turn
attend to these elderly widows.

Yet Stephen was also known for being quite the evangelist.
He was an ardent speaker and witness of a new faith based on the teachings
of Jesus of Nazareth.
Stephen was known to lead many Jews to conversion.

Now we must remember that Stephen was both a Jew, born and raised,
as well as a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
A conundrum in dry and dusty Palestine.
As a Jew, he was still expected to answer to the Jewish governing body.

It was however his gift of speech and witness, along with the numerous conversions
of Jews, that would lead to Stephen’s swift demise.

Stephen was brought before the ruling Sanhedrin on charges of blaspheming.
The council believed Stephen to be nothing more than a heretic.

Eloquently, standing before the tribunal, Stephen presented his case as he spoke
of a natural and holy thread of events spiraling down through the ages as he linked
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, the Temple, David and finally culminating with Jesus Christ–
the inevitable final link in the chain.

Stephen continued explaining that the true Son of God who will come again to
judge both the living and the dead….
As he told those gathered that God’s kingdom was not to be found here on earth and
was not to be found in manmade buildings such as the Temple or in earthly accumulated treasures but rather was to be found only in the the risen Son.

Stephen closed his testimony by turning his gaze upward while announcing to those
gathered that
“I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
(Acts 7:58)
At which point the members of the council descended into chaos as they shouted and
covered their ears against hearing such seditious and heretical talk.

Shadows of Caiaphas tearing his clothes over the words of Jesus…
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you:
From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the
Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Matthew 26:64

Stephen was immediately sentenced death…being stoned to death.

Remember this was the time of pre Christian Paul–rather this was the dangerous
time of Saul, Paul’s ‘old man’ of persecution and hate…
For it was Saul who was the agent who took keen personal interest in crushing
any and all ‘heretics’ who were promoting the teaching of the crucified Nazarene.

It was Saul who paved the way for Stephen’s death and it was Saul who approved it.

Now imagine if you will what would have happened if Stephen had recanted
his teachings?
What would have happened had Stephen been frightened by the knowledge that he would
be sentenced to death.
What if the thought of having people throwing rocks at him until he died…
a death brought about slowly and painfully from rocks beating against his body,
what if the thought of such a horrific death made him change his mind?
What would have happened had he thought it would best, be easier, if he just opted
to cooperate and renounce his preachings?

What example would be set?
What presedent would then be set as a witness to other followers.
What if other followers had been too afraid?
Afraid for their own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families?
How would those decisions of so long impact today?

But Stephen had seen Christ in all His glory—
there was no backing down.
There was no turning back.
He would stand against the gates of Hell and he would not back down.

…..and it was this tale of Stephen and the sacrifice of faith that came
flooding front and center to my thoughts when I read the follwing
words offered by the Scottish Pastor David Robertson regarding the latest
news coming out of both England and Scotland regarding the Anglican Church.

“The Anglican Church is officially distancing itself from biblical and historic Christianity.”
David Robertson

Whoa!

The Church, the very bride of the Christ the groom, is actually distancing herself
from Jesus Christ???!!
As she is currently turning away from the Word of the God and the tenants of Biblical teaching… choosing rather instead to go the way of the current culture gods….

We are at present witnessing the Church of Western Civilization turning herself
away from her very foundation and yet thankfully, at the same time, we are witnessing
the Church of Africa rising powerfully to the defense and forefront of that same faith…
steeped in the Truth of God’s word….

The Bishop of Uganda has addressed this very issue….

“Archbishop “The British sent missionaries to Africa in the 19th Century telling us to trust the Bible as the Word of God, now they are telling us not to”
Archbishop of Uganda

“It is one way, Henry Orombi says,
of keeping faith with those long-ago Englishmen in muttonchop whiskers who brought
the church to Africa.
“A hundred or so years ago, the fire was in the Western world,” Orombi says.
“And many of their great people went over to the countries in the Southern Hemisphere,
and reached out there, and planted seeds there.
And then things changed in the Northern Hemisphere. . . .
It now looks like the Western world is tired and old.
But, praise God, the Southern Hemisphere,
which is a product of the missionary outreach,
is young and vital and exuberant.
So, in a way, I think that what God has done is he took seeds and he planted them
in the Southern Hemisphere, and now they’re going to come back,
right to the Northern Hemisphere.
It is happening.
It is happening.”
(excerpt from an article in The New Yorker / A Church Asunder April 2017)

As I pray that Bishop Orombi is correct…

May those of us of the Faith, as we find ourselves now standing against the
very gates of Hell, may we hold fast to God’s word, being not afraid of what the world
may do to us as we continue to proclaim His Glory…

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Reflections, thoughts and books


(one of the bronze dancing cherubs at the city cemetery Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Recently, over on a fellow blogger’s site, I read a most wonderful post written
about our dear friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
The following passage jumped right off the page,
right at me as it spoke to me about faith and as it challenged me to consider
what type of faith do I actually possess….
inward or outward….

Faith does not look upon itself but takes hold of that which is outside
itself, Christ.
Bonhoeffer draws on a Latin phrase from an early period of Protestant dogmatics,
actus directus,
as distinguished from actus reflexus,
to characterize the nature of true faith.

The difference here is between a faith that attends to God,
entrusting itself to God to be watched over and kept,
versus a faith that is constantly concerned to oversee itself,
ensuring its own vitality.

For Bonhoeffer, this is a way finally of avoiding faith –
for like Peter in the sea of Galilee,
it takes its eyes off of the living Christ who is the source of our life.

This emphasis upon the outward direction of faith that lays hold of Christ
in pure intentionality,
in a kind of passive reception where the self is kept out,
structures much of Bonhoeffer’s later reflections on ethics.
While we do not see him returning to this phrase,
the concept remains operative.

excerpt from the blog post Freedom in Orthodoxy
http://freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2017/07/bonhoeffer-and-role-of-moral-reflection.html

“A faith that attends to God…”

I looked up various synonyms for the word attend and found the word dwell
which I like here as it fits in perfectly…
it fits in such a way that it reminds us that our faith should be such that
we are to dwell in to God….to be a cohabitant within….

Verses a faith that attends to self….
and if we are to use the same word of “dwell” here,
then we are saying that it is a faith that dwells within self…
and somehow that does not sound like faith at all but mostly a self
centered inclination…something much along the lines of today’s culture of the
religion of self.

Bonhoeffer is reminding us that we must constantly work to strive to reach out of
self, out of ourselves…out to the living God…so that we may then, in turn,
dwell within Him and within Him alone…..

Then next, on the same day of perusing, I read another great post by our good
friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
This time he was offering a two part reflection regarding a book that he
most recently read…a review of sorts that due to his often verbose ways, he
opted to review over a period of time.

The book is entitled The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.

From all outward appearances Douglas Murray and David Robertson are probably polar
opposites of sorts and not exactly on the same page in life…
as Mr. Murray is an openly avowed homosexual as well as ardent Atheist and we know that Pastor David Robertson often writes about both topics…
as to why homosexuality and or atheism, from the Christian perspective,
are both wrong and sinful.

Yet Pastor Robertson read, enjoyed and whole heartedly agreed with Mr. Murray’s
observations regarding Europe and her mad dash to committing a ‘political suicide’
of sorts as she has forgotten,
or better yet recklessly thrown away with ardent abandon,
her Christian roots….

Replacing those long standing roots with a new religion…
that being the religion of humanism, materialism and human rights.
Because isn’t that what this has all become…
that for the majority part of the West, it is the religion of Human Rights…

In all the current melee, Europe is now lost as to what to do with the massive
Islamic influx that is currently and literally sweeping in with the tide….

One passage that Pastor Robertson highlights as brilliant on Murray’s part is the following observation:

in order to incorporate as large and wide number of people as possible it is
necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and
unobjectionable as possible.
If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a
definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.
This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become
so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.
So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific,
not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations
(the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy),
today the ethics and belief of Europe—
indeed the identity and ideology of Europe–
have become about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and
(most self abrogating of all) ‘diversity’.
Such shallow self definitions may get us through a few more years,
they have no chance at all being able to call on the deeper loyalties that
societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.”
P.7

And I for one see that his observation is not merely a European problem
but rather an American dilemma as well as we are also striving to “redefine” who
and what America actually is and means…
trading our true foundation and founding principles for something vastly
other than…
something humanistic, materialistic and oh so smugly human rights oriented…
As one reviewer wrote about having read Mr Murray’s book and of the dismal
position the West seems to have taken over the current identity crisis…
as in it has no real answers or position because
“modern culture has little to offer a person other than entertainment.”

And it is here where the good pastor leaves us until he comes back for part 2
of his review.

In the meantime, I’ve put the book on my order list.

Here’s a link to Robertson’s full review post…

Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness

So I will leave us today with these various interesting thoughts—
thoughts on faith–inward and outward…
and thoughts on the West’s seemingly mad dash to Western Civilization’s demise…

a conflicting conundrum indeed….

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—-the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—-
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John:15-17

the great escape or a bad case of follow the leader….

… Men for the most part follow in the footsteps and imitate
the actions of others…”

Niccolò Machiavelli


(a working sheep farm near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I caught an interesting story day before yesterday…
interesting but also a bit sad.

Seems there was a herd of sheep, on a farm located somewhere in the
Pyrenees Mountains along the border of France and Spain,
who were apparently being stalked or chased by a bear.
All 200 plus sheep leapt to their deaths off the face of a cliff as they were
desperate to escape the bear.

So rather than scattering…with some of their numbers dashing off in one direction,
while others dashed off to a different direction…
with chances being pretty good that 199 or so should survive,
they all opted to jump to a joint death.

And it seems this odd phenomena is nothing new as it’s been known to happen
to other herds.

here’s the link…
http://www.foxnews.com/great-outdoors/2017/07/24/bear-panics-200-sheep-and-jump-to-their-deaths.html

So this mob mentality of herd animals and their reaction to panic and hysteria
obviously got me thinking….

See this picture….


(a working sheep farm near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s the picture of a sheep farmer with his sheep dogs and his herd of sheep.

Notice how the farmer has his hand out alerting the dogs to stay.
Notice one of the sheep looking back over his shoulder at the dog,
a bit hesitant and nervous, as if he’s anticipating what the dog is about to do.

As soon as the farmer gives the word or signal or both,
the dog will go about his task, herding the sheep…
keeping them all together while working them into the direction he wants them to go.

And the sheep who are afraid and nervous, despite the fact that their numbers
and physical size exceeds that of the dog, place themselves at the mercy of
the guidance of the dog.

They say sheep aren’t the brightest animals on the planet.

And yet we the faithful are often referred to as sheep…
as we are reminded of our similarity to sheep throughout much of the Bible…
With us being the proverbial sheep of his pasture while Jesus is in position
of the Good Shepherd.

We are reminded that when 99 sheep out of a flock of 100 are present
and accounted for—with one errant sheep being lost and left behind
as expendable…
Jesus will go out and seek that one errant sheep until all sheep in the
fold are present—not willing to allow even one to be lost to some sort of
collateral damage.

And like sheep, we have the same tendency to go running about all willy nilly
as if being chased by some sort of threatening bear…
even if there isn’t any real physical threat–
perceived threats are counted as equally as powerful in our own little
world of pandemonium.

So perhaps it would behoove the herd to remember the voice of the Shepherd
lest we continue heading toward the cliff…of our own demise…

So Jesus again said to them,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the door.
If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees,
and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

John 10:7-16