Incarnation

The fact that theology also considers the body should not astonish or
surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation.
Theology is that science whose subject is divinity.
Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh,
the body entered theology through the main door.

St. John Paul the Great


(bumble bee on sunflower / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Christ took upon himself this human form of ours.
He became Man even as we are men.
In his humanity and his lowliness we recognize our own form.
He has become like a man, so that men should be like him.
And in the Incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity
of the image of God. Henceforth, any attack on the least of men
is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man,
and in his own Person restored the image of God in all that
bears a human form.
Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord,
we recover our true humanity,
and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism
which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with
the whole human race. By being partakers of Christ incarnate,
we are partakers in the whole humanity which he bore.
We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity
of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means
that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others.
The incarnate Lord makes his followers the brothers of
all mankind.
The “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) revealed in the Incarnation
is the ground of Christian love towards all on earth that bears
the name of man.
The form of Christ incarnate makes the Church into the Body of Christ.
All the sorrows of mankind fall upon that form,
and only through that form can they be borne.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“The kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom…”

“The truth of the matter is that the whole world has already been turned
upside down by the work of Jesus Christ”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(Lady Banks roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“[Saint] Paul understood that the suffering he was going through somehow allowed him
to share in Christ’s suffering for the world…
In his own life, there was a time when he asked the Lord three times to remove a
particular suffering from him (see 2 Corinthians 12:8).
The response he received from the Lord was not “Oh, my oversight.
That’s right, I took care of all that suffering.
You don’t have to do anything.”
No, God’s response was, “[Paul], my grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)…
It is completely opposite of the way the world thinks…
What looked like the worst thing that ever happened on earth—Christ hanging on a cross,
bleeding to death—became the source of salvation for the entire world.
The point of weakness became the point of strength;
it was transformed into the power over death and Hell.
We have to get it through our heads that the kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom
according to the world’s perspective.
Weakness confounds the wise.
The poor and obscure confound the rich and famous…
Whatever you are going through right now, remember that God has a plan for you.
He wants to be united to you so closely that it resembles a spousal relationship…
your suffering is not inconsequential; it is extremely valuable in the economy of God.”
Jeff Cavins, When You Suffer

An Excerpt From
When You Suffer

give my your Light

“Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis


(they take the bulbs and shades…so life is in the dark / Julie Cook / 2020)

Transition seems to bring about a variance of both light and dark.
I can have a lamp, but without a bulb or electricity, I have only darkness.

The same remains true for the soul.
If there is no light, there is only darkness.

We pray for light.
Give us you light oh Lord…

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stuff happens

“I put myself in the way of things happening, and they happened.”
Theodore Roosevelt


(my current view within my home / Julie Cook / 2020)

We are a people of stuff…
We are a stuffy people…
and yes, stuff, our stuff, happens.

I have so much I want to say about stuff.
There is so much to say.
So much to say about the stuff of…
Mandates.
Vaccines.
Masks.
Santas that make kids cry simply because they asked if he could bring them a nerf gun.
Elections.
Election fraud.
Bought elections.
Being tired of the ongoing drama over elections in Georgia.
Being weary from all the Europeans, Australians, and South Africans lecturing us US bloggers
about US politics and policies.
Being tired of folks complaining about those who show their Christmas spirit.
Being tired of the shutdowns of restaurants, bars, and small businesses while Hollywood marches on.
Being sick about any and all things China.
Being sick about all things Russian.
Fake news.
Wokeness.
Riots.
Leftist propaganda.
Antifa.
Black Lives Matters.
Democrats.
Weak Republicans.
Wokeness.
Harry and Megan.
Pandemics.
Lockdowns.
Canceling Christmas.
Abortions.
Did I mention wokeness?
Political commercials.
Robo political calls.
Manipulation.

But I’m afraid that if I start trying to sort out all of this stuff,
I won’t be able to stop…

So instead, allow me to share both an interesting as well as beautiful reflection…
a comment I received yesterday regarding the post I had written about the nuttiness
over the attempts being made by the powers that be
to “cancel” out Christmas—with the argument being if we cancel out Christmas,
we will help with the never-ending flattening of the never-ending pandemic.

This from LightWriters:

Shows us just how closely this all seems to tie into the
anti-Christian communist agenda—virus came from there,
many of the masks we are forced to wear are made there—
Yet, our God laughs at the wicked as we read in the Psalms.
He is greater and many will have an opportunity in this ‘crisis’
to think about the true meaning of snd reason for the season.
Shalom and Blessed Christmas

https://5wise.wordpress.com

So instead of trying to begin sorting out all of this insufferable stuff,
allow us rather, during this Advent season, to head toward a deeper space.
A space deep within each of our beings where the ancient piece of the Divine resides.
Where the tender mark of the Creator rests upon the created.
The indelible fingerprint of the master potter permanently engrained
upon the vessel of his creation.

“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that
we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us
that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is
really good and light because it comes from God.
Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty,
light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us;
whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed
as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

food for thought; Advent

Sometimes I don’t need God to tell me what he is like so much as I need God
to tell me everything will be alright.

anonymous


(Julie Cook / 2013)

So as the debates rage on…
Be it a draconian world supposedly led by science vs one of humanity’s common sense…
complicated by lockdowns, masks, vaccines…
I caught a few storylines yesterday that only seem to add to the confusing madness.

According to Fox News, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme nutjob,
has ordered national executions, placed a ban on fishing as well as placing a
ban on salt production…
These various actions being his idea of handling Covid and preventing it from
entering his hermit kingdom.

Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea,
and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the
coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday.

One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-keung, quoted the NIS as saying Kim is displaying
“excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” over the pandemic and its economic impact.

Ha said the NIS told lawmakers that North Korea executed a high-profile
money changer in Pyongyang last month after holding the person responsible
for a falling exchange rate.
He quoted the NIS as saying that North Korea also executed a key official in August
for violating government regulations restricting goods brought from abroad.
The two people weren’t identified by name.

North Korea has also banned fishing and salt production at sea to prevent seawater
from being infected with the virus, the NIS told lawmakers.

So I suppose if you can kill the people first before they even can get sick…
then that makes perfect sense.

Next came a more somber headline out of Japan–

You may or may not know this but Japan has a very dark secret…
it has the dubious distinction for a proliferation of suicide.
They even have a beautiful and tranquil forest that is known as a place where
folks go to end things…the suicide forest.

And given the added burden brought about from the pandemic, be it lockdowns, lost
economy…Japan’s fragile mental health is even more fractured.

The National Police Agency said suicides surged to 2,153 in October alone,
with more than 17,000 people taking their own lives this year to date, CBS reported.

By comparison, fewer than 2,000 people in the country have died from COVID-19 in 2020.

The forest might need to be exorcised.

Then there was this little cheery headline:
The US could face an ‘apocalypse’ by Christmas as COVID-19 cases surge

Apocalypse in one hand…Christmas in the other.
Notice how I am weighing them.
Tipping back and forth…yet Christmas just simply lifts higher.

Winter is setting down upon us.
Heavy, dark, and foreboding.
Yet we must not despair.

We must not allow the news outlets or our leaders to crush our hope.
We must not allow them to crush our Christmas spirit!
Let us not allow a pandemic to win.
Let us not allow despair to triumph.

We are preparing today to enter an ancient time of mystery.
And it is in this mystery that we have overcome the world…
This mystery has overcome pandemics, elections, wars, division, animosity,
hatred, pettiness, along with man’s small-mindedness.

We are allowed a small peek at the ending of the story…and in that glimpse,
we see that victory will indeed be ours.

Be clear-minded.
Be watchful.
Wait…
He will come…

God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather,
his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly
and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected,
the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

I witnessed a crime…

Crime is the price society pays for abandoning character.
James Q. Wilson


(courtesy Publix produce images)

First, let me preface this tale with a small disclaimer…I hate going to the grocery store
on a Saturday.

This tale, however, begins because of my having been gone most of last week,
and half the week prior, and thus my pantry was in great need of re-stocking.

Despite feeling that I should don a surgical mask due to my grandmother crud,
I went on, mask free, lest I send coronavirus shock waves through our small city.

I headed off, much to my chagrin, to my local grocery store of choice.

As I turned onto the drive leading to the parking lot, I noticed a group of about 7
teenage girls. They were walking along the sidewalk and I thought they might veer off,
crossing over in front of me–
crossing over to our city’s greenbelt walking-path near the grocery store
which leads back to our high school—

But no, they continued on the sidewalk up towards the grocery store.

This was not exactly an area of town to be out strolling…
because it is congested and a high traffic area.
Plus it was a cold blustery day.

I continued on my way to the parking lot, figuring the girls were probably walking to the
nearby McDonald’s.

The always enduring high school teacher, who lives forever deep within me,
always wonders when I see a flock of kids, out and about, simply walking where
kids would not normally be walking.
It’s something akin to a teacher’s eyes in the back of his/ her head.
Always watching, always knowing.

I parked, gathered my bags and made my way inside, grabbing a cart.

I started toward the produce section when I saw the same set of teens walking
rather quickly towards me, out from the store towards the door.

“Boy, that was fast,” I thought.
In and out they were as in I had no idea they had even been heading to the grocery store.

They had no bags, no cart, no nothing.

Yet as they rapidly passed by me and the fruit section,
the gal on the tail end of the entourage reached out and grabbed a peach.
She held it tight in a clenched fist while looking back to see if she had been seen.

And yes, she had…she had been seen.

I had seen and she saw that I had seen.

So I did the only thing I thought to do without causing some sort of ruckus—
I simply gave her the death stare of any high school teacher who had just
spied poor behavior.

Part of me wanted to loudly holler out for the young woman to put the fruit back
as I wondered what else had been picked up as they were walking with quite the
quickstep to the exit.

So here are the obvious facts to this little incident…
I am a 60-year-old white woman.
The group of 7 girls consisted of black teens.

Now those two little facts alone should just be obvious observations…
yet they are enough for most of today’s hypersensitive politically correct,
progressive liberal lot to accuse me of racism, as well as something
I’ve just learned about today, “white fragility.”

Yet the only facts are:
I am white and old.
They were black and young.

And from those two obvious facts…our culture will race to pull all sorts of accusations
out of the air.

I later told a friend about what I had seen at the grocery store and her response
was that it was sad they wanted something healthy and probably didn’t have any fresh
food at home.

The rolling of my eyes set in.

Well, I can certainly tell you that the nicked pinched peach was an afterthought while
our culprit was simply passing by an open bin. There was no focused intent on taking a
piece of fruit.
It was just sitting there and she was passing by and simply slipped a hand down to
grab one as in, “oh, let me grab that as I make my way out the door’.

And might I add that any peach sitting out this time of year would be an imported
rock-hard poor excuse for a fruit…not even palatable.

My response to my friend was not to make some sort of liberal excuse for stealing.
Because that was what it was…stealing. It would be the sort of excuse we’d hear
from our progressive left…an excuse for doing wrong.

So okay…to be fair…

I suppose we all recall the days of our own youth…
days of reckless abandon when we too nicked and pocketed something seemingly harmless
like a piece of fruit, a yard ornament, a street sign, a glass from a restaruant…etc.

Yet sadly today, what we now readily give a pass to is, none the less, blatant stealing.

It is always hoped that we will each grow up and mature…learning, knowing and realizing
right from wrong.
Right from wrong as well as learning that the notion of taking what is not ours
is one of those top 10 commandments—as in “DO NOT…”

It is hoped that we grow to have remorse for our past wrongs while we work toward
living a life that is better than…a life of positive morality.
A life of setting wrongs right.

Yet unfortunately, the idea of what was once perceived as wrong is now
perfectly ok…and we make excuses as to why it is now right rather
than wrong.

We have made excuses our demigods…excuses for every ill that befalls
our culture.

We could once justify wrongs as right in those life and death situations.
Situations of war, or of need vs want, or of the necessity of life vs death…

Yet did that make them any more right than wrong?

Probably not…but the taking of some bread or milk lest a child starve
was deemed justifiable…the assassination attempt of a tyrant like Hitler
was justifiable to the pacifist Christian pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer because
the taking of the one life would spare the hundreds of thousands he was annihilating.

However, we now have created the notion of excusing and justifying behavior that is
obviously wrong for simply every day lives…and this notion has been long percolating.
We’ve made an art of turning wrongs into rights and defending such to the hilt.

Our culture no longer desires to call a wrong, wrong.
Rather we make excuses.
We make sad pathetic excuses for needs not being met.

It is a want versus need mentality.

There are excuses for poverty.
Excuses for inabilities.
Excuses for limitations.
Excuses over race.

Had the girls not been racing toward the exit, I could have offered to buy her the fruit.

But then we’d both have been acknowledging what she had done…
and the reality is, she didn’t want acknowledging.

So this little incident brought my thoughts back to an article I had just read earlier
in the day on The Federalist.

How ‘White Fragility’ Theory Turns Classrooms Into Race-Charged Power Struggles
White fragility theory is counterproductive and divisive.
White teachers should not be discounted, bullied, or shut down during anti-bias trainings in schools.

An article that, as a former educator, I could readily relate to…
For I saw this indoctrination coming down the pike nearly two decades ago.

The article focused on a recent talk given by academic and author, Dr. Robin DiAngelo
to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in Atlanta.

She’s written a book and is a bit of a self-proclaimed expert on “White fragility”

Huh?
Who knew, but it seems that white fragility is indeed a thing.

Her book focuses on “why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism.”

The answer, she says, is “white fragility,” defined as “a state in which even a
minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”
This “racial stress” is the direct result of “implicit bias,”
which runs so strong in white people that it is a core reason racism persists in America.
This claim is based on a worldview, advanced by an increasingly influential field
called Whiteness Studies, that racism is inseparable from the reign of Whiteness.

What is Whiteness?
It is hard to say, but the basic idea is that all the institutions of society
are “white”—made by white people, ruled by white people,
and kept in place by white people to make sure that white people continue to benefit from “white privilege.”
These institutions are infected by white supremacy,
a result of the long arc of racism in American history.
Whiteness works through implicit bias, which refers to a whole range of unconscious behaviors,
speech, and beliefs that keep white supremacy in place.

Needless to say, I think this sort of thinking is nothing but a bunch of crap.
This sort of mindset leads to only more trouble.
It leads to a deeper misunderstanding.
And even a greater and much wider divide.

But then, I’m white… so…yeah, of course, I would think that.
Or so would say, Dr. DiAngelo.

And therein lies both the rub and the irony.

Let us dare not speak of racism directed toward whites or disdain and vehemence directed
towards Christians or toward pro-life supporters, or towards traditional marriage proponents,
or towards conservatives or towards anything or anyone who embraces traditional values…
especially towards issues of morality…issues of right vs wrong…

Because in this brave new world of which we now created and find ourselves living…
it is a world where wrong is now right and right is most certainly wrong…

There is no true biology.
No boy or girl.
No girl or boy.

There is no God
There is no Savior
There is only the State

We have created an excuse for each and everything…
along with more and more reasons as to why we must dislike and mistrust one another…
We must quiet each and every last one who dares to disagree with the new state’s mindset.

But Believers know that this is Satan’s plan.

To divide and conquer.

We must never forget…the battle may be raging, but the war is already lost.
So let us not be on the wrong side of the winning vs the losing when
it is all finally said and done.
And that will require a constant need to shout the Truth while the
chosen ones attempt to silence anyone who dares to utter such a Truth.

Hate, wrongs, mistrust, division, disdain, oppression…lose each and every time.

Here’s the link to the article.

https://thefederalist.com/2020/02/28/how-white-fragility-theory-turns-classrooms-into-race-charged-power-struggles/?utm_source=The+Federalist+List&utm_campaign=01ad0a3f38-RSS_The_Federalist_Daily_Updates_w_Transom&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_cfcb868ceb-01ad0a3f38-84149832

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
James 4:17

piggy backing on grace

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because
it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price
to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(image courtesy Spanish Bowl)

Why things like this are newsworthy I’m not certain, but did you catch the story yesterday about
Aaron Rodgers and his recent public comments on religion of which have left his family “dismayed”?

I admit I have been a Packers fan for much of my adult life,
but not so much a fan of their current QB.
Not that I have anything against Aaron Rodgers, I just find him to be a bit of a primadonna,
but such is the case with many a quarterback.

I saw the Rodges’ storyline yesterday and decided to read what he was having to say
regarding religion…and not just any religion mind you but rather the
religion of his youth, Christianity.

It seems that Rodgers was a recent guest on a podcast that just so happened to be hosted by
his current girlfriend, former racecar driver Danica Patrick.
The podcast is titled “Pretty Intense” and no, I’ve never listened in.

However, at some point during the interview, Danica asked Rodgers about his view on religion.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

The Green Bay Packers quarterback admitted he has struggled to believe in a higher power
on Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” podcast last month. Now, a source told People Rodgers’
family is offended by his religious comments.

“During the Pretty Intense podcast, Rodgers told Patrick that he has gone down a path
to a “different type of spirituality” that is more meaningful to him than
what he experienced as a child.

“I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the
planet to a fiery hell,” he said.
“What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his
beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?”

Rodgers did not specifically refer to himself as an atheist,
but he said that religion can divide people.

“Religion can be a crutch, it can be something that people have to have to make
themselves feel better,” Rodgers continued.
“Because it’s set up binary, it’s us and them, saved and unsaved, heaven and hell,
it’s enlightened and heathen, it’s holy and righteous …
that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves.”

It is said that Rodgers’ comments have deeply hurt his family who
consider themselves to be a deeply devout Christian family.
They say that their faith was always important throughout Rodgers growing up but if you
read anything about Rodgers, you most likely know that he and his family have been estranged
for several years.

Rodgers is a pretty private guy and doesn’t really talk about his family but it has been said
that his celebrity status seems to have helped to separate the family—
this despite Rodgers’ younger brother who also has a bit of a celebrity status.

But it has been reported that Rodgers’ most recent comments “felt like a slap in the face”
to his family and to that of their raising of their son.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/aaron-rodgers-family-dismayed-religious-comments-danica-patrick-podcast-report

So Rodgers’ comments regarding religion aren’t anything new.
What with that one sentiment of ‘how could a loving God be so full of condemnation’ acting
as the lynchpin for many non-believers—Rodgers is far from the first person to utter such
an observation.

So this story about Rodgers and his comments carried my thoughts back to my adventure yesterday
with radioactive eggs and the reading and subsequent sharing of a post regarding
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on cheap vs costly grace.

I had intended to elaborate on Bonhoeffer’s words as they struck a chord…a chord his words
often strike when I read them…however I think my radioactive eggs had my thinking
a tad scattered.

“As Bonhoeffer explains, Protestants have turned orthodox Christianity into Christianity
without discipleship or obedience or sacrifice. In short, this is what he calls
“cheap grace.”

“You can be forgiven by God without being transformed by God.”

Rodgers joins a host of both believers and non-believers that have long bemoaned
the same bipolar idea of a loving God versus a wrathful God of condemning judgment–

But what all these folks fail to grasp is the single notion of Grace…
be it cheap or costly.

Sadly, there is a wealth of Christians who have a difficult time wrapping their
heads around the idea of God being a loving father but also a strict disciplinarian.

Many of our culture’s current “feel good” Chrisitan believers have painstakingly
written sin, repercussions, and hell totally out of ‘their’ Christian tenants.
Wanting just the feel-good without the responsibility of what it means to live a
life of costly Grace.

Picking and choosing to believe in a little god of their making
rather than believing in the Great I AM who was, is and will always be.

A re-writing of the foundation of the Christian faith simply because it is
uncomfortable to think about the serious consequences of sin or the cost of
living under Grace.

Yet perhaps it’s simply human nature to think that a loving father would never ever actually
turn his back on his children…we want the happy ending, always.
We want our cake and we want to relish eating it.
But God has made it clear that that is not possible

But costly Grace requires choice.
The choice to keep the comfort of self or to let it all go.
There is no in-between.

“Bonhoeffer’s main point in all this is that God’s grace cost the life of God’s son.
Although God’s grace is freely given to all who are willing to receive,
it still costs something from the one who receives.
What does it cost? Simply put, it costs a man his life.”

Costly Grace is what our faith is all about.
It is not easy.
It requires the death of self.
Aaron Rodgers and many many other folks don’t like the idea of the death of self.

I would dare to imagine that God was gravely pained over the death of his son,
but He also knew the cost of Grace and was willing to extend that Grace to
a fallen world.

And yet it remains a choice… your choice, Aaron Rodgers’ choice, my choice.

Costly Grace is saving Grace.
But you can choose.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:8

Eating the most expensive scrambled eggs while pondering cheap grace.

This is NOT the picture of scrambled eggs that sat in a styrofoam bowl along with
a plastic fork and napkin that awaited me in the nuclear medicine lab this morning…
complete with a dixie cup of water–
but I just wasn’t thinking fast enough to snap a picture before downing
my radioactive breakfast.

I had gotten up with the chickens this morning in order to arrive at the hospital
bright and early for a gastric swallowing test.

It was to be a 90-minute procedure that I really felt was not at the heart of my
issues and not what I really needed but I am currently playing human guinea pig.

I was supposed to have an MRI Monday of my liver, with and without contrast…
of which would also take a look-see at my gallbladder and pancreas.
The scan had been scheduled for two months…but last week the gal in scheduling called
to tell me that the insurance company had told the hospital that I had just had a CT scan
so why would they now need an MRI?!

Don’t you just love insurance companies and hospitals!?

“Well yes,” I explained to the gal at scheduling “I did just have a CT scan 4 weeks ago.”
“But that was a CT scan in the office of a Urologist that was to check my kidneys and bladder
for any abnormalities or kidney stones since there has been blood in my urine and lower
abdominal pain along with bloodwork that was all over the place indicating
low kidney functions.”

“The MRI is for the gastroenterologist and was to be performed at the hospital as he wants
an image of the liver before he does a biopsy…
The same blood work that showed poor kidney function also showed high liver levels with even
the fatty liver enzymes increasing…along with the recurrent bouts of either
gallstones or pancreatitis.”

She told me I could go ahead with the test on Monday but that I would have to sign a
waiver stating that I would be responsible for the full amount until the insurance company
decided to approve it…or not. Something like $6000 bucks…
I politely declined and so we rescheduled for the beginning of February as by then I
trust the insurance company will have things sorted out in the understanding department.

So as I sat down in the lab full of whizzing machines and fans,
I raised a fork full of eggs to my mouth and I asked the nuclear med tech if he was going to
poke an IV in my arm for the nuclear meds.
He replied nonchalantly, “nope, it’s all in the eggs.”
“In fact, he quipped, “that’s probably the most expensive little serving of eggs you’ll ever eat.”

Suddenly I felt like some former 007 MI6 / Russian spy who had been discovered
with Putin himself ordering that my eggs be poisoned with undetectable radioisotopes.

But luckily these ‘isotopes’ emit photons which would be detected by the gamma camera
that was to hover over me while I laid perfectly still for 90 minutes.
The machine would follow the path of eggs from esophagus to stomach on out to the small intestine.

Amazing really when you think about it all.
How amazing is it that God crafted every tiny little detail and how amazing is that man is
trying to figure out how to get up close and personal to watch the Master at work!

So let’s back up.

When I arrived at the hospital, the scheduling gal told me to arrive at one entrance vs another.
So once my husband dropped me off at the front door, I hurried in from the cold and walked up to the
receptionist’s desk.
The nice lady told me I was actually to have arrived downstairs at the other entrance.
I had asked the girl on the phone twice and she told me this entrance.
Sometimes I think hospitals are too big for their own good.

So the nice lady at the wrong desk got me scheduled and actually walked me to the elevator and
through the maze of corridors all the way to the Nuclear lab.
Where I proceeded to wait until my name was called.

The gal working this particular desk was actually a former student who began catching
me up on the last 20 years of her life—marriage, kids, careers, divorce and now remade woman.

As other patients arrived and she kept talking, I made nice by excusing myself so the line wouldn’t
continue building behind me as I politely listened to life.

I found a chair in the corner and pulled out my phone to peruse my WP reader.

Now you know that if I ever see a post with the word Bonhoeffer in it, I knee-jerk click.

And I am so glad that I did.

The post is by Jarrett Dickey who is a blogger, pastor and faculty member of
several colleges where he teaches theology and humanities.

His post is titled ‘Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace’
a post based on Bonhoeffer’s writings from The Cost of Discipleship

I have written many a post highlighting Bonhoeffer’s writings based on cheap vs costly grace.
But it should be noted that Bonhoeffer’s works are not often easy to read…they are
deep in both a theological sense and a personal sense.

Talk about conviction–cheap grace.

Here is the post:

The opening chapter of The Cost of Discipleship features Dietrich Bonhoeffer in some
of his best form as a writer. His use of paradox, irony, hyperbole,
exaggeration, and sarcasm makes this one of the wittiest criticisms of popular Christian
theology ever written. It also can make it hard to understand and follow for
the uninitiated reader. In general, Bonhoeffer is addressing the two major
flaws of the Protestant (especially Lutheran) mindset.

The rich and complex biblical portrait of faith is reduced to simple belief in creeds,
doctrines, or statements of faith.
In trying to correct the Catholic over-emphasis on the necessity of good works for salvation,
Protestants have gone to the extreme of making good works almost entirely optional (sola fides).
As Bonhoeffer explains, Protestants have turned orthodox Christianity into Christianity
without discipleship or obedience or sacrifice. In short, this is what he calls
“cheap grace.”
In addition to addressing these two major mindsets, Bonhoeffer seems to be addressing
two other major flaws in popular Christian thought:

You can be forgiven by God without being transformed by God.
In other words, you can continue in your old lifestyle (what the Bible calls
“the flesh”) and be pleasing to God, no need to walk in the Spirit or live a holy life.
There are two levels of commitment. One is for the really devoted Christian
(i.e. monks, missionaries, pastors, etc.), and the other is for the average Christian.
In other words, a spiritual caste lives a devoted and sacrificial life while
the regular class of Christians lives a worldly and ordinary life.
Bonhoeffer’s main point in all this is that God’s grace cost the life of God’s son.
Although God’s grace is freely given to all who are willing to receive,
it still costs something from the one who receives.
What does it cost? Simply put, it costs a man his life.
In return for the free gift of God’s grace, a man offers his life in total obedience
to God’s will. This is what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2.
In light of God’s mercy, there can only be one response:
the offering of oneself completely to God.

On this basis faith is clearly more than just belief.
It involves trust, obedience, sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment.
The Latin term, fides, conveys the multiplicity of faith.
Imagine substituting the English word “fidelity” for the word “faith”
throughout the biblical text.
The reader would walk away with the sense that faith was a lifetime commitment
of enduring loyalty. With this in mind, faith and works cannot be so easily
separated into different compartments. As Paul says in Romans 1:5,
he is trying to spread “the obedience of faith.” The two are linked in a beautiful dance.

Furthermore, the biblical notion of faith implies a change and transformation.
Receiving the mercy of God does not leave a person unaffected.
Grace is the power to live a new and abundant life. Finally,
we can see that there is only one Christian life– the one of total surrender to the will of God.
This, as Bonhoeffer explains, is costly grace.

https://conciliarpost.com/theology-spirituality/bonhoeffers-cheap-grace/

The answer is as plain as black and white—Persecutions? Yes.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Pope Francis (L) prays as a Jewish Rabbi looks on at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 26, 2014. Pope Francis faces a diplomatic high-wire act as he visits sacred Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem on the final day of his Middle East tour AFP PHOTO/ VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Late last evening, while watching Clemson finishing out on top over Ohio State
in a battle in the Fiesta Bowl, a breaking news alert popped up on my phone…

The initial report was that there had been a stabbing outside of a synagogue
in New York.

“Oh Lord,” I thought out loud, “not again!”

As the facts started to come in more clearly, the attack had actually happened
inside the home of a Rabbi who lived next door to a Synagogue in Monsey, New York.

Reports were that a man had entered the home, where Hasidic members of a synagogue
had gathered prior to going to celebrate the 7th night of Hanukkah,
and began hacking people with a machete.

The news headline read:
New York Jews continue Hanukkah celebrations after stabbing at
rabbi’s home that left 5 wounded

The story explained that
Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home in New York during a Hanukkah celebration
on Saturday night —
but that didn’t stop worshippers from continuing their prayers at a synagogue next door.

Soon after the attack in the suburb of Monsey, located just 35 miles north of New York City
in Rockland County, Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and his followers gathered at the adjacent synagogue,
which the rabbi leads, and sang together in prayer.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley tweeted a video of Rottenberg
and his followers continuing their celebration of the seventh night of Hannukah.
“The grace of God did not end and his mercy did not leave us,”
they sang, according to a translation of their song posted online.

Here’s a link to the initial story
https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-hanukkah-stabbings-five-wounded-synagogue-celebrations

The following day, I ran across a post shared by a fellow blogger…
The post seemed more than ironically timely as it addressed an alarming concern…

The concern being that there is a troubling rise in growing antisemitism while being
mirrored by a simultaneous decline in Holocaust memory.

Meaning—attacks on Jews is on the rise while the history of the Holocaust
is fading.

Fading as many young people have little to no grasp of the darker side of
20th-century history.
Just considering the almost rabid fascination by youthful generations with socialism
then this should not be terribly surprising—but terrible it is.

Here is the post along with a link to the full article.

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

A Europe-wide CNN poll in November 2018 found a rise in anti-Semitism and a
decline in Holocaust memory [1].
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by almost 10% in 2018, to a 10 year high [2][3].
In December 2018, a Greek Holocaust Memorial was desecrated for the fourth time [4].
In January 2019 a synagogue was vandalized in the Bulgarian capitol Sofia [5].
In June 2019 planned construction on the site of mass graves dating to the
Holocaust came to light in the Ukraine [6].
By July 2019 anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom had spiked [7].
A video showing West Ham soccer fans singing an anti-Semitic fight song about
rival club Tottenham Hotspur (which has a largely Jewish fan base) was posted to Twitter.
There is a monster growing in Europe. Anti-Semitism has increased substantially since
the 2015 immigration crisis [8].
France reported a 74% increase in violence against Jews.

“An alarming pattern of anti-Semitism is spreading across Europe,
from France to Germany to Sweden and elsewhere on the continent…
Antisemitism is not, and cannot, remain just a Jewish problem.
This is an issue that affects all Europeans, and Western society as a whole.”

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

[1] CNN, “A Shadow over Europe” by Richard Allen Greene, 11/27/18, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/11/europe/antisemitism-poll-2018-intl/.

[2] France 24, “Anti-Semitic attacks rose sharply in Germany in 2018, report says”, 2/13,19, https://www.france24.com/en/20190213-anti-semitism-hate-crime-jews-germany-afd.

[3] New York Times, “The New German Anti-Semitism” James Angelos,
5/21/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/magazine/anti-semitism-germany.html.

[4] Times of Israel, “Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year”, 12/17/18, https://www.timesofisrael.com/greek-holocaust-memorial-vandalized-for-4th-time-this-year/.

[5] The Jerusalem Post, “Synagogue in Bulgarian Capitol of Sofia Vandalized by
Stone-Throwing Incident” by Zachary Keyser, 1/22/19,
https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Synagogue-in-Bulgarian-capital-of-Sofia-vandalized-by-stone-throwing-incident-578217.

[6] Israel National News (Arutz Sheva 7),
“Ukraine plans construction atop Holocaust-era mass graves” by Cnaan Lipshiz, 6/18/19, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264735.

[7] CNN, “New report shows spike in British anti-Semitism” by Ivana Kottasova, 8/1/19, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/europe/antisemitism-incidents-rising-gbr-intl/index.html.

[8] The Guardian, “Anti-Semitism rising sharply across Europe,
figures show” by Jon Henley, 2/15/19,
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/feb/15/antisemitism-rising-sharply-across-europe-latest-figures-show.

A Growing Monster

Then if things weren’t troubling enough, a story broke Sunday morning about a
gunman walking into a church outside of Fort Worth, Texas and killing parishioners.
The gunman entered the church during communion and opened fire with a shotgun,
killing two and critically wounding another before being fatally shot by
quick-acting parishioners.

Texas church shooting leaves 2 dead, witness says gunman opened fire during communion

https://www.foxnews.com/us/texas-church-shooting-texas-injured-active

When Evil attacks our Spiritual foundation, we have always struggled to understand.

Yet here’s the thing, Evil is not something to be analyzed or neatly understood.
It does not play by the rules.
The fallen light-bearer is now the father of darkness.
Rules do not apply to Satan or to the Evils he relishes upon this realm we call home.

And yet the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, went on a news talk show Sunday
morning and tried to blame life in Washington and the hate that is seemingly
generated there, on the latest spate of attacks on Jews in his city and state.

Because we all know that when we have no answers, we blame Trump.

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

Persecution against both Christians and Jews has been with us throughout the ages,
yet there is an alarming uptick taking place across the globe.
Physical persecution to emotional and psychological persecution.

Might time be of the essence for both Light and Dark?

Faith, belief, God, Jesus, love, kindness, forgiveness, the family, honor,
righteousness…these are all components of our true essence…the piece
of the Divine which continues to reside in our souls.

And each and every one of those components is an enemy of the Darkness.

I read today that many Jews are now afraid to wear anything that
symbolizes their faith in fear of being attacked.

This while many Christians are being told that, at places such as work and
school, they are not allowed to have a Bible on their desk or to wear
a cross or other religious symbols.

As the shadows grow long, remain steadfast…
for your God will not be moved by man nor darkness.

You will be hated by everyone because of me,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

enough people…enough is enough

It is not enough for us to restrain from doing evil,
unless we shall also do good.

St. Jerome


(Kayla Mueller before being kidnapped by ISIS)


(Kayla in ISIS captivity)

In February of 2015, 4 long years ago, I wrote two posts about the abducted American
aid worker Kayla Mueller.

I wrote about her again in 2016 when her ISIS abductors finally killed her.

You can say what you want.

You can say that she was foolish for going into such a volatile area.
You can blame what happened to her on her own choice and actions.
You can blame President Trump…becuase you always blame President Trump.
Because don’t we blame President Trump on all our ills?

But President Trump was not president when Kayla was abducted.

President Trump was not president when ISIS emailed Kayla’s parents demanding a ransom.

President Trump was not president when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally tortured
and raped Kayla over and over again.

Put yourself in the shoes of Kayla’s parents, her brother, her grandparents.

What and how would you feel knowing your daughter was being so utterly abused
and your own government was not there for you and you were helpless to stop the days,
the weeks and the months of her cruel abuse?

How could you live as a loving parent?
How could you sleep at night knowing your daughter was in constant harm?
This was your child…your baby girl and you were helpless to rescue her.

How could you go on day in and day out, knowing your beautiful, loving and selfless
daughter/granddaughter/sister was being tortured and repeatedly raped by a man of
pure evil because she was the American aid worker in the lot?
The other kidnapped workers all noted that it was Kayla who took the brunt of the
torture and rape because she was an American and they were not.

And so now you’re saying that I’m simply basing my words on emotion.
I’m playing on emotions…

And you’re right, I am.

Why?

Because it is emotional.

It is emotional because a young woman who went to help take care of displaced children
was, in turn, kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed…all because she was an American.

The man who personally took pleasure in her mutilation and sexual abuse was,
this past weekend, trapped in a tunnel…hemmed in by American troops and so in turn,
did what any coward would do, he blew himself up rather than being captured.

Only a coward tortures a young girl and uses her for his twisted sexual pleasures.
Only a coward blows himself up.

Hitler blew his brains out.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blew himself up.

The man who took sadistic pleasure from abusing a young American girl cowardly
blew himself up…just like a man who called for the deaths of countless men, woman, and children
because they were Jews, or Catholics or handicapped, hid in a bunker and blew his brains out.

Evil seems to always self implode when it is cornered.

So Americans should perhaps feel some sense of justification in the news that another
member of evil’s clan is gone.

And yet Congress is up in arms because they didn’t know about the covert military operation.
A ballpark booed a President, chanting “lock him up” …
The Speaker of the House announces that she will call for an impeachment vote this week.

However, in all of this upside-down madness, there are two grieving parents who have thanked
that very same president for finally bringing some sense of justice to the
cruel treatment of their daughter.

No one can bring back their daughter
No one can give back the sense of innocence their daughter once possessed and in turn
lost at the hands of evil.

But at least these two tormented parents now know that someone in the leadership
of their government, our government, remembered their daughter…
someone acknowledged their neverending nightmare and has worked to bring those
responsible to justice.

This is what I wrote back in 2015:
“Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek,
Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives
had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting.
Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids,
as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found.
She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world”
–then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them…
her response was simply to cry along with and for the children.

This is what I wrote in 2016:

Tuesday night, after having spent much of the day glued to the news and having grieved
along with Kayla’s family, having noted that she was the same age as my son,
having wrestled with the position of the United States in such matters as hostages and war,
I found myself settling in for the evening reading over the Bonhoeffer book that
I have previously mentioned…of my meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
translated by David McI. Gracie.

The evenings reading was based on Psalm 34:19
A Sermon on the Suffering of the Righteous
It was a meditation that Bonhoeffer had actually written down and mailed to his dear friend
Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was a prisoner in Tegel Prison near Berlin—the
first of three different prisons before his subsequent execution.
Bonhoeffer had already been held by the Nazi’s for over a year,
his future uncertain. He had just become engaged prior to his arrest,
and with it now being over a year away from those he loved, the confinement was
wearing on his soul.

Once again, as the created and not being the Creator,
there are those events in life that we simply will never truly understand no matter
how hard we try. We can write them off as this or that,
we can grow bitter and cold or simply empty and numb but there are those moments
when we will find ourselves at a loss for words, a loss of understanding.
It will be there, in the midst of the suffering and sorrow, that we will meet God. . .

I want to offer the following excerpt of the meditation as I find its
subject most timely and most enlightening…
(the translator has chosen to mix up the use of the feminine and masculine pronoun)

Psalm 34:19
The righteous person must suffer many things;
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

1 Peter 3:9
Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing,
but rather bless, and know that you are called to this,
so that you should inherit the blessing.

The righteous person suffers in this world in a way that the unrighteous
person does not.
The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others
seem only natural and unavoidable.
The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness,
because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.
She suffers because of the destruction of the divine order of marriage and the family.
She suffers not only because it means privation for her,
but because she recognizes something ungodly in it.

The world says: that is how it is, always will be, and must be.
The righteous person says: It ought not to be so; it is against God.
This is how one recognizes the righteous person, by her suffering in just this way.
She brings, as it were, the sensorium of God into the world;
hence, she suffers as God suffers in this world.
“But the Lord delivers him.”

God’s deliverance is not to be found in every experience of human suffering.
But in the suffering of the righteous God’s hope is always there,
because he (the righteous person) is suffering with God.
God is always present with him. The righteous person knows that God allows him to suffer so,
in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake.
In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.
Find God in your separation and you will find deliverance!
The answer of the righteous person to the sufferings that the world causes
her is to bless.

That was the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross: blessing.
God does repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person.
No condemning, no railing, but blessing.

The world would have no hope if this were not so.
The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of
the righteous person.
Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying:
You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world
that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out,
despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope,
we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come to you;
may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world,
for you belong to your creator and redeemer.
We have received God’s blessing in our happiness and in our suffering.
And whoever has been blessed herself cannot help but pass this blessing on to the next one;
yes, wherever she is, she must be herself a blessing.
The renewal of the world, which seems so impossible,
becomes possible in the blessing of God.
As Jesus ascended to heaven, “he lifted up his hands and blessed” his followers.
We hear him speak to us in this hour: “The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen

So enough!

Enough of this stupidy that is tearing our nation apart.
Enough of the ignorance and stupidity.

The problem is not President Trump.

Our trouble goes much deeper than that of a single man.
No single man can cause so much divisiveness.

329 million people, give or take a few, cannot be toppled by one single man.
So there is something else going on.

But you’re too proud, to selfish to see it any other way.

It’s time you get over yourself.
Your paranoia.
Your false accusations.
Your inflammatory reactionary foolishness.

It’s time we get back to being a unified United States…because if we don’t…
it will indeed be too late.

Stop to think about the grieving families who have lost loved ones to terrorism…
But you can’t because you’re too busy complaining and blaming a man who really
wasn’t on the scene when this craziness began.

May our prayers and support remain with families like the Muellers.
And all those who we have buried because of terrorism.
Terrorism that was ramping up long before President Trump was president.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/song-for-the-innocents/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/innocence-and-sorrow/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/onward-christian-soldier/