the take away of hope and hopefulness

“Hate corrodes the container its carried in”
Senator Alan Simpson during his eulogy of President G.H.W Bush


(image of Senator Simpson offering a eulogy during the funeral of G.H.W. Bush)

One thing I learned as an educator is that we are always learning.

When we are a part of or exposed to various learning moments, those moments
which are both known, and even most often unknown,–moments throughout our
lives, we inevitably are given gifts of the ‘take aways’…

Those nuggets and morsels of wisdom that we glean…
glimpses of that which speaks deeply to our souls.

They are the things we ruminate over…chewing on and pondering over.
They are the small gifts we receive from both moments and individuals…

If you’ve read any of my posts this week, you know I’ve been trying to take
in what I can from the life, death, mourning and now funeral of our 41st President
George H. W. Bush.

I’ve been watching the state funerals of our presidents since John F. Kennedy’s funeral
as my parents instilled that sense of duty and respect in me…
a respect extended to our presidents for their service to us, the people.
It mattered not the party, we gathered for each one—that is until I was on my own,
And I still watched…just as I did today for our 41st President.

It was never about party or politics…but it was about respect and service.

President Bush 41 was just finishing the first year of his presidency when my son
was born.
It’s one of those things written down in a baby book…” who was the president
the year you were born”…with his being Bush, mine being Eisenhower.

Most who know me, know that I was a huge fan of President Reagan.

And if you’ve read many of my posts over the years, you’d then know that the tandem
working relationships between President Ronald Reagan,
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and
Pope John Paul II all played a significant role
in my life at a time when I was just coming into my own…
coming into my own thoughts and conviction about the world around us.

They fed my keen interest and love for our democracy, freedom as well as the importance of
having a working Christian faith within that very democracy and freedom—
as the cost for each comes at a very high price.

They taught me that hope remains even when things appear hopeless…that
a Cold War could be broken, a wall could be torn down and people could taste freedom
after living a lifetime under tyranny.

The presidency of George H.W. Bush seemed to serve as an asterisk to those
four world giants and the ture gifts they offered our world.

So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been quite taken with much of what I’ve learned
throughout the course of this week regarding the life of our 41st president.

Some things that I had known and some things that I had never known.
Some things about The President, some things about his cabinet and some things
about his lifelong friends.

It has been, however, from his death that I have actually found a surprising sense
of hope—hope for this oh so divided Nation of ours.
A deep-ceded, hate-filled division that I have anguished over now for
oh so many months.

Look at these two images.

The first image of this group of American movers and shakers is at the
beginning of the President’s funeral.
It is an image of past and present.

And within that past and present is a great deal of visible stain.

This was a gathering of people who we all know don’t exactly care much for one another.
Some in the group are better at hiding their real feelings in public than
some of the others.

This historic picture shows four presidents, along with one hopeful want to be,
along with spouses gathered together, seated side by side,
in order to pay homage to one of their own.
The mood is somber yet the tension on this front row is palpable.

The second image appears to show that humor can be unifying emotion.

Humor seems to be one of the small final gifts given by the 41st President to
this group who have followed his footsteps.

And it was Al Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming and lifelong friend of
President George H. W. Bush who, in his eulogy of his dear old friend,
offered many of those stories which provided a thankful amount of humor.
A gift freely offered to all those gathered and particularly needed by those gathered on
that front row.

But it was what Senator Simpson said toward the end of his eulogy that
I found most telling of which I could only pray that those seated on that
first row would each digest in his or her own private way.

Senator Simpson noted that President Bush never “hated” anyone…

Meaning this age-old friend never heard his very important friend ever
express vehemence or disdain…for anyone…not publicly nor privately.

Not even after a difficult and challenging campaign and defeat.
Not even after the dealings with aggressive and difficult world situations.
Not even after a life spent in the often ugly and petty business of politics.
Not even despite the trials of living life after losing a young child.
As this approach to life and living was something instilled in him at a young age.

For the Senator noted that both he and Bush had learned this particular lesson
early on in their young lives as each of their mothers carried what they
called velvet hammers.

These men learned hard lessons at the knees of their mothers with one of the most important
lessons being that “hate corrodes the container it is carried in”

That container being one’s heart.

So I was now curious for a little more background behind Al Simpson…
curious because he was much funnier delivering this eulogy than I had remembered
him to be during his days in the Senate.
So I found this little bit of his background story…

Another offering of hope found in a now elderly man’s earlier life…

The story is about a one-time youthful holy terror,
who almost, and most certainly would have in today’s time, served jail time for his
life of running wild, yet who, with time and redemption, actually grew up to become
a leader, a senator and dear friend to a president.

So the first of the takeaways that I want to share from a seemingly sorrowful event is
that of hope and hopefulness.
Other takeaways will be shared later.

I want to offer Alan Simpson’s backstory regarding how this now 87-year-old survived
to come out on the upside of what was nothing more than a selfish reckless youth…

The story is a reminder that if there is hope for a youthful hellion who
no doubt seemed to be a hopeless cause, so then surely there is hope for
a group of politicians who find great disdain for one another…
The same Hope that remains available for a deeply divided Nation.

A lasting gift offered even in death by a President to his grateful yet divided Nation.
A gift that our 41st President always knew came from his faith…
that being the faith and Hope found in and freely given by Jesus Christ.

There has been a great deal of this notion of hope that I have found in these
rapidly disappearing members of this Greatest Generation…

I even read of it coming from Barbara Bush.

Just a few months ago she herself was now dying,
her son Jeb asked her if she was afraid to leave their dad behind.
Barbara unequivocably told Jeb that she will miss her husband and his father
but that she believes in Jesus Christ.
She knew that George would be okay without her as she would be home with her
Savior—all the while waiting on George to follow.

Bereft as he was when his wife of 73 years died, George senior, knew where Barbara was,
that she’d be waiting on him as his hope also rested in his faith—
faith in a Savior who would also bring him home when the time was ready.

So I offer the back story to a once difficult young man who put his trust in
the notion of hope and hopefulness as he grew to be a man who also chose
to serve others over serving self.

According to Wikipedia:
In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”

In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case,
Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes
and punching a cop and that he “was a monster”.

One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school,
he and some friends “went out to do damage.”
They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it.
They committed arson on federal property,
a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt,
and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death.
Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.

Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns.
He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another,
at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store.
The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without
actually doing so.
Again, Simpson was lucky:
no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.

Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community.
They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow.
They fired their weapons at a road grader.
“We just raised hell,” Simpson says.
Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and
Simpson pleaded guilty.
He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds –
funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.

As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . .
your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.”

Simpson stated “I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid.
And a different person.” and then added,
“You’re not who are when you’re 16 or 18.
You’re dumb, and you don’t care and you think you are eternal.”

And so the state where this young hellion would cause so much trouble would eventually
vote him in as their United States Senator.
Setting his life on a path to becoming dear friends with the 41st President of the United States.
A man who remembered yesterday in the Nation’s National Cathedral.

There is always hope…

shame healing

“I cry, I cry and I cry again…the religion of Christ, the true faith,
has fallen so low that it is an object of scorn not only to the devil
but to the Jews and Saracens and pagans…
these keep their law, as they believe it;
but we, intoxicated with the world, have deserted our law.”

Pope Gregory VII

Healing and miracles have been a mystery to men of all times.
To some, the phenomenon is frightening, while others find it exhilarating.

Mother Angelica

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Christ Pantocrator / Hagia Sophia / Istanbul,Turkey)

“Our nation will not know healing in any measure through the work of mutual shaming.
There is no life to be found in it, only anger, depression
and the continued darkening of our culture.
Only light gives life.
Creating is difficult, careful work.
Destruction is easy – child’s play.
Forgive those who do not deserve it.
Forgive before they ask.
Forgive as though it is Judgment Day and your own soul will be held to the scrutiny
you extend to others.
It’s ok.
You won’t lose anything through forgiveness.
In holding onto the shame of others you will only increase your own.
Speak kindness.
Be generous.
Set your prisoners free.
No more shame slaves.”

Fr.Stephen Freeman

Dear future mom….

Yesterday as I was reading over a few of my favorite blogs, I came across a video clip under the title of “Slouching toward tyranny” on the blog Dover Beach.

My curiosity was piqued as I wondered what slouching, as in drooping, toward tyranny
and a smiling young lady with Down Syndrome had in common with one another.

It was soon very evident what brought these two seemingly polar opposite entities
catastrophically crashing into one another.

I’ll let you click on the brief French Television advert that never was…
before I continue our conversation….

“Slouching toward tyranny.
25 NOVEMBER 2016

“This is how a free people slouch toward tyranny. Here is an excerpt from a Catholic News Agency article. The short commercial mentioned in the article is below.

“On Nov. 10, the French Council of State, a body of the French government, ruled that the short video was inappropriate for broadcast on French television as a commercial.

In a decision upholding the French Broadcasting Council’s earlier ban of the video, the Council of State said it failed to meet the criteria for a public service announcement. In its reasoning, it pointed out that the happiness of the children shown in the video was “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.””

If you are like me, after watching this clip, there are probably tears flowing down your cheeks.
Tears of joy and tenderness and hope…
always hope…

I taught high school art for 31 years before retiring 4 years ago.
During the course of three decades, I had the pleasure of working with all kinds of kids.
I taught in a public city school system for my entire tenure.
I worked with every color of kid you can imagine and a myriad of nationalities–
and yes, even illegal immigrants…
I taught kids with all levels of intellect…
those who were considered and tested gifted as well as those kids with both
physical and cognitive disabilities and deficiencies.
All mixed in within one class…
no separation, no division, no segregating, no distinction.
Simply kids…

This is not the first encounter I’ve had in recent weeks with an article or
video clip highlighting Down Syndrome children and the alarmingly and rapidly
growing cultural clamoring over the rising questions of should such pregnancies,
where by various testings an at risk child in utero has been identified,
should that pregnancy be allowed to come to term or should such a pregnancy be terminated,
as in aborted…

Sally Phillips is a British actress and a woman of deep Christian Faith.
She is featured in a documentary on the BBC raising the question about a world without Down Syndrome.

If you do not already know, I am the product of adoption.
I was adopted during a time when abortions, all though preformed were done so very clandestinely.
It was a very taboo back ally sort of affair…so adoption was much more prevalent,
as homes for unwed mothers were numerous.

There are those who would then take that notion and use it as a rallying cry for the legality of such, keeping it from being back ally clandestine.
But I would disagree.
There is no justification for itemized death.

I have very strong feelings about pregnancies and the bigger picture that far transcends
that initial act of sex–
For you see I don’t look at sex as merely sex,
as an act of satisfaction…
but rather always as, depending upon age and health,
the potential act of procreation.

And how our culture has disregarded such an intimate union of two individuals as something as trite,
the fulfilling of the physical, something causal or even wanton is beyond my soul.

And now we enter a new arena—where man enters the realm of God—
deeming who may live and who may not…

I have problems with that.

Shame on the French for deciding not run that advert letting both women and men
know that it’s ok to see the pregnancy of a child with Down Syndrome to completion.
The fact that they felt the showing of such an ad would trouble the conscious of those
women who had opted to “lawfully” abort their babies,
is one more reminder that we have ferried ourselves across the river Styx as we have
left the realm of the living opting to cross the river while embracing the realm of death…

“Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable,”
Pope John Paul II

“Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today- abortion which brings people to such blindness.”
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Pax et Bonum

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end.
Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature.
What you are in his sight is what you are and nothing more.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…
but only what you have given;
a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Francis of Assisi

dscn4648
(Florentine bookmarks / Julie Cook )

Pax et Bonum

Latin for…
Peace and Good
or
Peace and Goodwill
or
Peace and Salvation

depends a bit on translation…
However it was the motto of St Francis…

And with all the vitriol rhetoric streaming constantly into our ears,
seeping deep into the psyche of our hearts…

With malcontents running rampant through the avenues of our lives,
casting the seeds of bitterness and hate…

With division drawing an ever widening perimeter,
separating those who once were oh so close…

How great would it be,
could it be,
if we all had such a motto….

Be very careful, then, how you live—
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil

Ephesians 5:15-16

The distance

“Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love!
But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says,
“Be,”
lovingly adjoins,
“Be something even in opposition to me”
Marvelous love, even his omnipotence is under the sway of love!”

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

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(the details of a hibiscus / Julie Cook / 2016)

“Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest…”

We so often speak of God as in the Heaven, somewhere up and above…
or that He is in the very air we breathe…as in all around us.
Yet we know, all too painfully well, that there is a divide, a division…
For He is there…wherever there may be…
and we are here…as in this present state of living and being.

The fellowship, the union, is in a constant state of flux…
With sin creating the friction that keeps the reunion from being complete.

“It [being love] is as great as the distance to be crossed.”

That fateful day in the garden,
the day that both man and woman chose to disconnect,
severing the binding tie,
a chasm deep and wide was torn across the dimensions of both space and time…

We created the difference and the distance between here and there.
And try as we must, there has been nor will there be a rejoining…not in this realm… now yet.

“So that the love may be as great as possible, the distance is as great as possible.”

That was to be our fate until the day complete Love could no longer bare to be torn from the beloved.
The cost, as great as it was, had to be paid…

“That is why evil can extend to the extreme limit beyond which the very possibly of good disappears. Evil is permitted to touch this limit.
It sometimes seems as though it overpassed it.”

Prisoner of sin…
Shrouded by a penetrating evil,
A sacrifice had to be offered…
Love sought the beloved with all that it had to offer.
A cross bridged the distance
And Love was reunited with its own…

(bold quotes by Simone Weil / excerpted from “The Distance”

But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord.
“My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you,
and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips,
on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—
from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 59:2 / 9 / 21

The Great Divide

“The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The disciples will be sorely tempted to desert their Lord. But the end is also near, and they must hold on and persevere until it comes. Only he will be blessed who remains loyal to Jesus and his word until the end.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a worn weary relief of Jesus adorns an ancient cross, marking an equally ancient grave in the Rock of Chasel Cemetery / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

On a random day oh so long ago, in a place and time unknown,
a bond of union and love was irreparably broken…

Ripped apart and torn asunder, a Heart was left in pieces.

A chasm so consuming was cut instantly deep and wide.
Two sides now existed where before there had been but one.
Where there was once only Light…darkness now laid claim.

As the separation of man and his Creator was now catastrophically complete.

For He who is without sin may not, can not, gaze upon he who is of sin…
and man had made his sinful choice as Death was now his eternal companion.

With the Heart that knows no sin splayed open…broken and shattered, shame enjoyed the show, as sorrow and contempt swept across the land…
Agony and darkness joined with pain, colliding together as one.

Nothing could, would, ever be the same.

“GO” was the agonizing command, “Be Gone from this sacred place for you are no longer welcome”
There was to be no turning back nor return.
The gate was forcibly slammed as it vanished far from sight.

Now lost and alone for the very first time, the fallen wrapped themselves in shame as a sick and twisted laughter worked to fill the deafening void.
Ridicule and mockery rushed to offer service…
As pride and arrogance proceeded to build a shrine.

As the eons of time drifted along the wind, sorrow, division and separation remained.
Suffering, illness, lies and deceit lay cluttered across the land.
Hatred, self-centeredness, self obsession, mistrust and ignorance perfected their craft,
As man was hopelessly lost unto himself…

And so there was yet another day not so random, yet oh so long ago, that the Heart which once lay broken offered the only solution possible for a seemingly lost state of irrevocable divide…
The only option remaining was for that which was once broken…to break itself again.

And so it was, on a not so random day, equally long ago, chosen particularly by Love itself…there was a cross, then a tomb, and finally a unified Heart…

Do you know your roots?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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