Contrasts

Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.
Edgar Allan Poe


(Getty image)

For whatever reason, I get daily Travel and Leisure as well as Conde Nash travel emails.
I suppose it’s because once upon a time, I most likely subscribed to something.

Yet during this time of quarantine, I have not much cared to be a virtual traveler.
I might be an armchair quarterback when watching my beloved college football
but I definitely prefer to be a real-life traveler.

And so I’ve pretty much trashed all the travel notices I’ve received these oh so many weeks,
as I’ve wondered if travel will ever be what it was.

While scrolling through emails yesterday, something interesting actually piqued my curiosity.

It was an article with 21 pictures of what a locked-down Italy looked like.

If you’ve ever been to Italy then you know it seems as if the country is comprised of
more tourists than local residents.

Tourism has gotten so overwhelming that the Italian government was having to issue hefty
fines to bring a bit of calm amongst the throngs of madness.
It is said that there are very few real Venetians or even Florentines who still remain
in their collective overrun cities.

And so I was curious as to what a mostly deserted Itlay might look like.

The images were eerily serene.
However, knowing of the death toll that Itlay has experienced and the hardship this tiny country
has endured, viewing the images was not necessarily for a cursory glance on a rainy
Sunday afternoon.

There was a poignancy found in the images.
An emptiness.
A sadness.

There was the image of a single figure, a pope, clad in white and sitting alone in a darkened and
empty St Peter’s square observing the solemnity of the Easter Vigil…

To the ruins of the Coliseum surreally quiet and alone for the first time in centuries.

The empty gondolas bobbing up and down in eerily empty canals…

Yet I think it was the image (seen above) of the small church in Venice with photographs of
its parishioners taped to the pews that touched me the most as to how this pandemic has effected our
collective human family.

The small parish priest had asked his parishioners to please mail or email him
their pictures so he could, in turn, tape them to the pews in order that they could “be in attendance”
with him…there in the quiet and still little church, as he conducted Easter mass…alone.

Since all church services were canceled this Easter,
one pastor in Venice asked his parishioners for their photographs,
then placed them in the sanctuary and performed Mass for them on Easter Sunday.

https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/photos-of-italy-on-lockdown-from-a-vacant-colosseum-to-empty-churches-on-easter?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=cnt&utm_mailing=CNT_Daily_PM_041920&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email

I next read a heartbreaking story of a woman who was unable to visit her dying father in the
the hospital due to the quarantine.
The hospital was only five miles from her home, but her dad had contracted the virus
after having to go to the hospital following a fall at home.

He had been in good health up to his fall and was expected to be fine.
But while in the hospital, he developed a cough and fever…with the hospital realizing its greatest fear…
their patients were contracting the virus within the hospital itself.

The story is difficult to read as it is helplessly sad.

One of his four grown children relays how she and her siblings
stayed on the phone with their father for his final 36 hours of life
simply listening to his labored breathing before finally, there was no more sound.

‘We hear you, Dad’: A daughter stays on the phone for hours and hours as
her father dies alone from coronavirus

https://www.yahoo.com/news/hear-dad-daughter-stays-phone-120345094.html

And yet the enormity of all of this heartbreak, sorrow, isolation and emptiness is contrasted
by petty partisan politics.

Following the first two articles, I read two very different types of articles.
Articles by Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich is indeed a very smart and astute man.
He is currently on lockdown in Itlay as his wife is US Ambassador to the Vatican.
A position the late journalist Cokie Robert’s mother once held.

The former Speaker of the House was expressing his frustration with the current speaker,
Speaker Pelosi, and the squabbles she is currently having with the President over passing
a bill intended to bring financial aid to small businesses.

If anyone is hurting right now, it is our small businesses.
They have had to either shutter their doors or operate
very sparingly.
They have had to let go of employees.
Many cannot contiue paying their bills with no business to be had.

Yet the Speaker continues to refuse to work with the President.

The impeachment fiasco was bad enough…but we now have real people,
not celebrities, not high-end athletes, not entertainers, not politicians, but real people…t
he you and me kind of people..who need help— and they need it now!

And yet…we have people like Madame Speaker who continues to want to play cat and mouse.

Madame Speaker was being interviewed from her home by a late-night talk show host.
It seems she was standing in her kitchen in front of her two rather fancy Wolf sub-zero
refrigerators while babbling on about having to spend 58 dollars for 5 pints of ice cream as she
desperately needed to restock what she and her husband had already eaten.

58 bucks on high end ice cream while there are folks who can’t pay their bills
because they’ve lost their livelihood or worse, their health.

Something is wrong in all of this.

When we need help–many of the very people we elected to help us, choose to eat
expensive ice cream instead.
No wonder Speaker Gingrich sees the correlation between Marie Antoinette telling
a starving French population to simply eat cake while our Speaker of the house
eats her posh ice cream—as a President is trying desperately to bring aid
to those in desperate need.

Newt Gingrich: Coronavirus crisis makes some leaders believe they have god-like decision-making capacity

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-coronavirus-crisis-makes-some-leaders-believe-they-have-god-like-decision-making-capacity

Newt Gingrich: Like Marie Antoinette, Princess Pelosi enjoys luxuries but ignores needs of desperate people

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/newt-gingrich-the-job-killing-democrats

Sunday was Easter right? Why does this still feel like Lent? Hope found in an egg

“A box without hinges, key, or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(pretties found during the lockdown / Julie Cook/ 2020

Today’s other title choices…wait for it…WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?!

And then there was the alternative, Crisis within a Crisis…

I don’t know, maybe you are like me and prefer not to admit it…

You should know, there was this subconscious thought, deep down somewhere in my being,
a subconscious thought that pondered that once Easter got here, and what with a couple of weeks
of this lockdown business under our belts, this madness would joyfully all be over.

But the somber and sober reality was that once Easter actually arrived here in the South,
we were met with a deadly and storm ridden day.

Grey, windy, humid and eerie.

Eerie for all sorts of reasons.

We were under a tornado watch throughout both day and night with the storms
making their presence known here in Georgia around at 2AM

They had already left their deadly mark in Lousiana and Mississippi.

There were tornados in the neighboring counties and states all around us, but
we were thankfully spared the brunt of mother nature’s deadly fury.

Lives were lost, homes and properties destroyed.

I was reminded of the Easter Sunday years ago when a storm rolled through a tiny town
in neighboring Alabama, making a direct hit on a rural Methodist Chruch.
The pastor, a wife, and mother, was killed and the church destroyed.

Mother Nature does not discriminate.

Nor do crises or viruses.

Just before all this madness ramped up, I had to have a molar’s crown replaced.
I was fitted with a temporary and was to come back in two week’s time for the
permanent crown to be put in place.

Well the pandemic reared its ugly head and my appointment was canceled as all businesses were
shuttered.
No worries, I thought, this temporary molar is great.

That was until yesterday morning, Easter morning when the Mayor offered me one of
her jellybeans–out popped the tooth.

Well, knowing it was, A. Sunday and B. Pandemic, I knew I was a ship load out of luck.
So what does a former girl scout/educator do in a small crisis?
She finds the super glue to poke the tooth back in.

The only problem was that it was in the back, in between two other teeth, I was having
a hard time seeing in the mirror, holding the flashlight while trying to figure out what
was the correct line-up for the tooth.

Have you ever gotten super glue on your tongue?

Take it from me, DON’T!!!
Then do not use fingernail polish remover to get rid of super glue on your tongue.

I got the tooth back in but not lined up for the bite.
So now, it hurts and doesn’t align when my teeth touch and I can’t “pop” it back out
because it’s glued in like nobody’s business.

I called the dentist Monday morning and the recording told me all I needed to know…
PANDEMIC. CLOSED!

But I did, however, leave a message.
And a gal did call back.

I explained what happened but she said that for now, they needed to remain closed
but if it popped back out, do not use superglue…well duh…
and to call back as they’d see if they could get me in.

I hung up wondering why I couldn’t get in now but I suppose we’ll wait until
infection sets in and my head begins to throb.

Oh, and did I mention Percy?

Last week, I had let the Mayor and Sheriff’s big black lab out onto the deck for water.
I went to fill up the water bowl when I saw a good bit of bright red blood on the bowl.

I asked my daughter-in-law to check the dog’s mouth to make certain she had
not lost a tooth.

Nope—all was well.

And that’s when I saw it.

Percy looked up at me and his entire mouth was swollen with his bottom jaw almost
swollen beyond recognition.

I immediately called the vet asking how they were seeing emergency cases.

Of course, they know Percy most intimately.

They told me to bring him to the parking lot and call once I got there.
They would send out a masked and gloved tech to get the carrier while I
waited in the car.

Several of the techs who had endured those agonizing months with me as
Percy was a daily patient dealing with his bone infection, all came to the door
to wave.

I think that’s what I miss most throughout this madness—our daily
mundane, yet comforting, interactions.

After about 30 minutes, the vet came out and told me Percy had bitten into his bottom lip.
Remember, Percy has some very messed up teeth, those of which have not been pulled or
lost to his abuse as a kitten, before coming to us.

Two shots, antibiotics, steroids, and a million dollars later, we were headed back home.

They even brought me back my bank card back out wrapped in Lysol wipes.

Only Percy would have a crisis during a global pandemic!

And so I went back to the grocery store today.

Again, the emotionless masked shoppers were out in droves.

The chicken and meats were back up to speed but limited to two packs per person.

All the chicken broth was out as was all flour and sugar.

The aisles were now marked with an arrow or an x—directional markers as to how to travel.

I had to weave up and down.
If I forgot something, there was no backing up or u-turning.

Cheese was only two per person as was most everything else.
There were actually 5 packs of toilet paper on the shelves.
Yet no Lysol or disinfectant wipes to be found.

Eggs were also a bit sparse.
But of course, it had just been Easter.

In the background there was some late 90’s song playing on the intercom
that pricked at my senses.
I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

I had a moment of sheer visceral sadness.

Normal.
I just wanted normal.
Not some kind of science fiction, brave new world NEW normal.
I just wanted plain ol normal.

Afraid that the enormity of all of this twilight zone life was just about to
push me over the edge…I blessedly saw them.

Eggs.

And not just any eggs…it was a package of a lovely multi-colored palette
of perfectly shaped beautiful ovals

And just like that, I was jolted back to the bigger picture…
that of new life and new birth.

Something so much greater than this current madness.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

a study in tense

From Holy Saturday 2017:

“To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but,
the more I reflect on it,
the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life:
we are still awaiting Easter;
we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.”

― Pope Benedict XVI, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977

“Bible teaching about the Second Coming of Christ was thought of as “doomsday” preaching.
But not anymore.
It is the only ray of hope that shines as an ever brightening beam in a darkening world.”

Billy Graham

One cannot and must not try to erase the past
merely because it does not fit the present.

Golda Meir


(the beginning cracks of life in the robin’s nest / Julie Cook / 2017)

Past
Present
Future

He was born and He lived.
He died and He was buried.
He rose and He will come again…..

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the
body ruled by sin might be done away with,
that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives,
he lives to God.

Romans 6:3-10

do you remember…

Memories
Pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories
Sweetened through the ages just like wine
Quiet thoughts come floating down and settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touch them and they burst apart with sweet memories

Lyrics by the Lettermen


(the sun cutting through the clouds / Julie Cook / 2020)

Do you remember when we use to worry about things like tornados, hurricanes, blizzards,
droughts…what about things like The Wall, illegal aliens, the fab four, Madame Speaker,
‘pencilneck’, impeachments, our President, the left, the right, the wrong…

What about the pollen?
The highest ever, in all of recorded history took place this week—

Or what about climate change…oh wait, didn’t it cause the pandemic or was that Trump??

But who has time to worry about sneezing and itchy eyes, the climate, global warming,
ad infinitum, when we can’t even find toilet paper?

Ahhh, those were the good old days…

So isn’t it simply amazing how a pandemic just seems to glibly push all that
other stuff aside?

There was a doctor from Emory University, who was interviewed by the news this morning,
who quipped that we might as well just wipe the month of April off the books cause we
ain’t budging from this life on lockdown for at least 4 to 6 more weeks.

And then to put the icing on the cake, I actually read that Easter was being canceled.

Yep, canceling Easter.

Hummmm…

You mean canceling local egg hunts, Sunday services with fancy new dresses and frilly
Spring hats, the wee hour sunrise services…canceling luncheons and afternoon gatherings…
canceling that Easter right?!

Because we know that nothing…not politicians, principalities, dominions, rulers, kings,
pandemics—-not even death can ever stop Easter…

But of course, we already knew that, didn’t we…??

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 11:25

keep calm?

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows,
it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom


(my extent of “prepping” for our latest cirises/ Julie Cook/ 2020)

The market has crashed.
Our savings have suddenly taken a nosedive.
Our life’s savings have shrunk drastically, if not totally having disappeared.
All in the course of a few hours on a Monday morning.

Thanks to Russia and Saudi Arabia…

Italy is closed for business.
Forget the impending Holy Season of Good Friday and Easter.
Forget your favorite olive oil, pasta or historical wonders.
News flash, the Pope has a cold.

China…

Well, China is a bad word…in more ways than one.

South Korea and North Korea…typhoid Marys…

Delta is canceling flights left and right.
Grocery store shelves are reminiscent of an impending snowstorm,
let alone the ending of the world as we now know it…

But remember, you just lost your life savings in the crashing market…
therefore you can’t afford the grocery store’s price gouging on things you really don’t
normally need.

And whatever you do…
DO NOT TURN ON THE NEWS!!!!!!

Do you remember the days following 9/11?

We were told to prepare.

We were told to put together a “survival” kit.

We needed to fill a plastic tub with:

Duct tape.
Duct tape should be used to seal all windows and doors in case there was a dirty bomb.
Duct tape, as a saving grace from nuclear annihilation, who knew?!

Water.
Because our water systems would be targeted.

Freeze-dried foods.
If there was a run on grocery stores, supply would not meet demand —
Should a catastrophe ensue, our food sources would be targeted.

Cash.
Because there would be a run on the banks and the Government would
shutter the bank’s doors in order to protect the markets…in turn,
you’d not be able to get any of your money.
But remember, you don’t have any money because the markets crashed.

Flashlights and batteries as power grids would be targets.

Old fashion radios because communication would be limited due to destroyed
power grids.

Batteries– to power our now old school technology.

First aid supplies since we wouldn’t be able to leave the house should we need care.

A bottle of bourbon.

That was my addition—

So fast forward to today…
Each morning I’m blessed to wake up, I’m hearing more and more about doomsday reporting.

I’m hearing that hand sanitizer is now a rare commodity and so the DYI folks are
offering hacks to make our own.
Think alcohol and aloe vera gel.

So this morning was my typical morning to head to the grocery store for my
weekly shopping.

If I listened to the people, be they the news folks or just friends or neighbors,
I would need to go out and prepare for this latest plague and end of times crisis…

I would need to stock up on bleach, hand sanitizer, canned foods, bottled water,
iodine tablets, surgical masks, nitrile gloves, zinc tablets…

I would also need to grab my mail out of the box while wearing gloves.
All deliveries would need to be put down at the door while I retrieved them while
wearing gloves and a face mask.
And better yet, I should not order anything because chances are everything has
been touched by ‘the infected’.

And so that image up above, well it’s the extent of my gathering.

I saw the sanitizer wipes on an end cap on sale…what the heck, I’ll pick up a canister.
I use them when cleaning up around the cat box.

The bleach… well, spring and pollen are coming and I’ll need to be cleaning down the deck
following the onslaught of yellow powder that will settle upon our world.
Plus we’ve had so much rain, the deck is a giant piece of mildew.

The Oreos you ask??!!

Well, my husband will need something sweet to nibble on should he be stuck
inside a duct tapped domicile due to the impending apocalypse.
No better way to go then while munching on a few Oreos.

And whereas we should always take precautions, as we normally do when viruses or
bacteria such as the flu, West Nile virus, Ebola, Ecoli…
each run amuck, we also shouldn’t ready ourselves to climb out on
the latest window ledge to jump before we are taken out by the latest plague.

Be smart with your health but NOT a henny penny panicker who is listening to the
doomsday news naysayers…folks who actually want our nation to fail and fall apart…

Because yes, there are those who want our Nation to fail…
We need to stay calm while staying smart…

Oh, and by the way…I caught wind that toilet paper is becoming scarce.
Who knew???
Why in the heck there’s a run on toilet paper I have no idea, but supposedly some
shoppers in Australia got into a smackdown over the last package on the shelf.

When I visited my local grocery store today…I’m happy to report that the
shelves were full and there wasn’t the slightest sign of scarcity…
I did, however, pick up a package of toilet paper…
just to be on the safe side…

Because like Kathy over on atimetoshare noted, the Sears catalog has since long come and gone…

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Alleluia

I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end, he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh, I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19:25-27


(home sky 2016 / Julie Cook / 2016)

the wisdom of a child

“One just soul can obtain pardon for a thousand sinners.”
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


(a contemplative little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

So I must make a confession on this Holy Saturday…

Whereas in years past my posts were reflective of this time of year…
starting with Ash Wednesday, those dark heavy 40 days of Lent leading up to the
Holy Week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—
as we culminate all of this on a triumphant Easter.

I’d pray earnestly.
I’d fast regularly.
I’d be diligent in my observance.
I would have even gotten some purposeful Lenten reading.
I would focus on the cross and that of an empty tomb.

However, this week has passed in a blur.
In fact, Lent passed in a blur.
As much of the year has passed in a blur.

I hardly even noted that yesterday was Good Friday as I was on the road in
torrential rains and horrendous traffic as my thoughts were elsewhere.

There was a time I would attend the 3 hours long Good Friday service while
purposely fasting this highest of Holy days.
I would go to the Great Easter Vigil…clutching my candle with deep intent.

However, this year has been different.
For lots of reasons I suppose.

Whereas there were both sorrow and loss in years past, I none the less managed to keep
the tires in the middle of the road.

This year, sadly, I pretty much simply fell off the tracks.

There are some distracting extenuating circumstances that will most likely be written
about when there is finally a bit of clarity…
But in a nutshell, my time and my focus have been pulled into a thousand different degrees…

And speaking of degrees—
I have been suffering through some sort of flu bug this past week that has left me hot
to the touch yet cold and shivery to the body.

Add in the Mayor visiting her satellite office and the walking dead comes to mind…
not in the zombie kind, but rather literally feeling dead while still walking.

There’s been little sleep, lots of heavy thoughts, as well as thoughts of anticipation with
a new little sheriff set to arrive any day now.

And having spent the past two days trying to keep an ever-growing, rambunctious, newly walking
borderline toddler out of harm’s way while trying to keep up at the same energy level has
been no easy task.

And yet I often find myself sitting back and simply marveling at her intense gaze.
I watch her little wheels turning while wondering what are her thoughts.

Her love, excitement, and openness to each and all she meets.
Be it animal or human or a stuffed animal or even an interesting plant.
Each one is met with a raised hand and a resounding “HI”

There is such an open innocence and trust that we adults,
who love her and are entrusted with her care, wish to warn her of the dangers
as we work to protect and keep her from harm.

Any parent or grandparent will tell you that that is a life long task that can,
in this current angry world’s day and age, leave anyone who loves a little one
both anxious and nervous.

Because we adults know that there is bad, there is danger and there is evil.

My husband noted this morning at breakfast,
as she gobbled up some bits of maple syrup-soaked waffles,
that if the world possed the same sort of sweetness and same refreshing innocence…
oh, how the world could be so different.

And so on this Holy Saturday, I am reminded that God is reminding me…
He is calling me to return to that same trusting spirit…
return to an openness…allowing Him to pour out His sweet balm
within this weary soul of mine.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


(the Mayor in such a pondering pose / Julie Cook / 2019)

“No one who follows Me will ever walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
These words of our Lord counsel all to walk in His footsteps.
If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart,
it is His virtues you must imitate.
Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpasses that of all the Saints.
But to find this spiritual nourishment you must seek to have the Spirit of Christ.
It is because we lack this Spirit that so often we listen to the Gospel without really hearing it.
Those who fully understand Christ’s words must labor to make their lives conform to His.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.15
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

fat tuesday

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth,
faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience and love to your servant.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother,
for You are blessed from all ages to all ages.
Amen”

St. Ephraim the Syrian

“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself.
It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us,
and no longer the path that is too difficult for us…
Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(a king cake and mardis gras beads)

We’ve heard a lot of talk about Manic Mondays, Wordless Wednesdays, Fabulous Fridays
and yes–even Taco Tuesdays…
but today we are actually going to be talking about a Tuesday other than
a Taco Tuesday—
we will be talking about, as well as “celebrating,” Fat Tuesday…

Yet how many of us truly understand the significance of a Fat Tuesday
or an Ash Wednesday or even that of a Good Friday?

So today we’ll take a little closer look at Fat Tuesday…
saving the other days for later.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday— the eve of the beginning of Lent.
It is a day in which we are to “use up” the excess fat (think oil and butter)
in the house all before the beginning of the required fasting during the Lenten season.

Lent being the season that the Church marks the 40 days that Jesus spent in the
desert while being tempted by Satan.

During the 40 day fast, our Orthodox brothers and sisters will abstain from
consuming any fats, such as oils and butter, along with meat,
dairy products as well as alcohol.
Many of our Catholic and Anglican brethren will abstain from much the same.

There is even to be an abstinence from sexual intimacy…
meaning— ALL earthly pleasures are put on hold during the Great Fast of Lent…
because we are to fast not only from certain foods but from all that holds and binds
us to our earthly bodily pleasures….a time that affords us the opportunity of
transcending, as it were, our sinful, earthbound bodies.

It is a time in which we are to abstain from all that is earthly while striving
to turn more inward as well as upward with our thoughts and personal actions.
…A time of deep introspection and drawing closer to God while we lift
our spirits upward closer to the Spirit of God.

A time of abstinence, fasting, repentance and spiritual reverence.

Many denominations refer to Fat Tuesday as Shrove Tuesday, a term that comes
from the old middle English word ‘Shriven’ meaning that one goes to confession
and receives absolution for one’s sins.

A day, also, where many of the Christian faithful will indulge in a Pancake supper.

So not only are we to use up all of the excessive cooking fats in the house
as we prepare to ‘fast’—
we are also told that we are to both acknowledge and confess our sins while in turn,
receiving absolution.

The other day a fellow blogger, Christina Chase, offered an interesting post on Lent…
Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

I greatly enjoyed reading Christina’s take on fat vs ashes.

Her opening to the post was very telling.
She even added the image of a typical fast food meal…our daily intake of
“fat” that we so often take for granted.
Literal fat, as well as the fat that represents our sinful nature.

Christina mirrors that fast food fat image with the talk of our over the top revelry…

Revelry, might I add, that is currently taking place in locatoms such as New Orleans,
Venice, and Rio–
the world’s biggest draws for all things wanton and that of pre-Lenten celebrations.
A revelry that only grows greater while the observance of the Spiritual season
of Lent grows less and less.

Christina reminds us that it has become a giant excuse for a party really.
A far cry from the original intent of preparations and fasting of which eventually
leads to the celebration of life in triumphant joy found in the Ressurection of Christ.

Christina shares…
“Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, and it represents the last occasion
for eating rich, fatty foods before the fast of Lent begins.
However, who abstains from fat during 40 days of Lent anymore?
Funny how that tradition has faded away,
but the tradition of overindulgence and revelry has only increased.
It says a lot about us.”

Christina’s observation of our “fat” goes well beyond the literalness of fat in our diet
to that which is more of a symbolic fat—that of greed, self-indulgence and materialism…
that which is personal to that of a national level as witnessed in our government with
it’s excessive pork-barrel spending at the taxpayer’s expense…a vicious cycle.

As a long time observer of Lent, I love Christina’s words…
“If done prayerfully, we discover that our fulfillment as human beings is not dependent
upon extra stuff. We are invited to shed the excess and find out what
it truly means to be fulfilled.”

Amen!

She continues…

“We humans are not merely taste buds and pleasure sensors, after all.
We have minds and hearts because we are not only of flesh but also of spirit,
being created by God in divine image. The pure goodness of our souls gets tainted
and soiled by self-centeredness — when we want what we want because it feels good,
even if we know that it isn’t truly good for us or anyone else.”

Christina then switches her focus to ashes—that which is left to pass away—
“Much of earthly life is perishable and will not continue into eternity with
our spiritual souls.”

Musing what, in this life, will she have allowed to turn to ash and fade away…

I shared with Christina that whereas I loved her take on the ashes of our lives,
I actually see those ashes as more of a goal…they are the lessening of the fat,
with the ash being a passing away of that which I have failed to do
or be—the ashes being a cleansing of the fat…a burning away of the negative.

So whatever our take may be of the fat and ashes of our lives…
may we all be drawn ever closer to the passion, to the
death and final resurrection of our Redeemer and Savior.

40 days of the lessening of ourselves and the lessening of the fat that hinders our very souls.

Here are two links to previous posts regarding
Lent, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesdqy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/ashes-to-ashesa-history-lesson/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/ash-wednesday/

What separates Christians from the rest of the pack…

“Life [had] replaced logic.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(a soon to bloom peony / Julie Cook /2018)

The image of the bloom used in today’s post is that of a peony.
I call this peony my resurrection plant because I bought it two summers ago, in July.
It was a very expensive plant.
Yet anyone living in the deep South knows you don’t sink a lot of money into a
plant, dig a hole in the hot dry ground, plop in said expensive plant and expect it to live…
especially in July and especially in a summer experiencing a full-blown drought.

I wrote about this plant last spring and the reason as to why I call it a resurrection plant—
of which you can read from the following link…
but that is not the true gist of today’s post

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/resurrections/

Today’s post is a reminder of what the Resurrection is all about…
and if you are a Chrisitan, it’s a reminder of what that exactly means to you.

The reminder rests in the fact that we’ve just celebrated Easter…

Easter being holiest celebration, besides the birth of Christ, within the Christian Chruch…
Some would argue that it is the sole holiest celebration…but I suppose we can’t have a
resurrection of our Savior without his immaculate conception and birth…
all of which supersedes the ability of man’s small mind to grasp and process…
hence so much of the consternation in mankind since that very first miraculous morning.

After watching the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gavin Ashenden, I’ve come to realize that
there are many in our fold who really don’t know what they think about
the Ressurection…
And what is even more startling, many members of the clergy don’t quite
know what to make of it either…

In a nutshell, it is the what which separates Christianity from every other religion.

How in the world can you offer anyone, let alone speak of such things as
Hope, Salvation, Grace, if you can’t find the words to say that you believe, without
a doubt, in the Ressurection of Jesus?

You can’t.

Because the Resurrection is the defining key to our faith.
It is the impetus to faith…the belief in that which is a mystery, undefinable,
and greater than oneself.

Without the Resurrection,
Christianity is nothing… nor is it any different from a myriad of other belief systems.

C.S. Lewis explained this very point in 1950

I heard a man say,
“The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival,
evidence that the human personality survives death.”
On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men,
the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought.
Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened.
Christ had defeated death.
The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.
This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival.
I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival.
On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion,
Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.
The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection
as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death;
they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.
Something new had appeared in the universe:
as new as the first coming of organic life.
This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”.
A new mode of being has arisen.
That is the story.
What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose,
whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis.
That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe,
down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him.
The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost.
It is either lunacy or lies.
Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

C.S. Lewis,
“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

So if you claim to be a Chrisitan and yet find yourself unable to acknowledge the mystery
and the might behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to rethink your allegiance.
And if you are a member of the clergy and find the words and concept uncomfortable,
you need a new profession because the calling, was not for you….

Divine Mercy

“Great love can change small things into great ones,
and it is only love which lends value to our actions.
And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames
of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will cease to be a suffering for us;
it will become a delight! By the grace of God,
I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus,
whom I love with every beat of my heart.”

(303, page 140) St Faustina


(the chives are blooming / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday, and this week actually, marked the day of Divine Mercy for our Catholic
brothers and sisters.
A timely marking given our continued celebration with Easter and the
most notable and tangible gift of our Salvation…

According to Wikipedia…
The Divine Mercy of Jesus, also known as the Divine Mercy, is a Roman Catholic devotion
to Jesus Christ associated with the reputed apparitions of Jesus revealed
to Saint Faustina Kowalska.
The Roman Catholic devotion and venerated image under this Christological title refers
to the unlimited merciful love of God towards all people

The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and
the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those in need of it.
As he dedicated the Shrine of Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II referred to this when he said:
“Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind”.

For a woman whose writings were once banned by the Vatican, the fact that the Catholic world
now recognizes this Polish nun is really quite amazing.

“Twenty-five years ago, her writings were banned by the Vatican and her legacy —
a special devotion to the divine mercy of God — seemed in doubt.

Today she is a saint,
her diary has been translated into more than a dozen languages and her Divine Mercy movement
has attracted millions of Catholics around the world.”

Catholic News Service

For a more in-depth look into St Faustina Kowalska…here is a link:
https://cssfinternational.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/backstory-st-faustina-and-the-divine-mercy-devotion-cns-top-stories/

According to Merriam Webster–Divine is defined as of, from, or like God or a god
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone
whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

Put the two together and we have Compassion and/ or forgiveness,
shown by God who actually has the power to
punish or harm if so desired…and yet, He desires Compassion and forgiveness…
the same compassion and forgiveness afforded to each of us on Easter
as witnessed through His resurrected Son…

Now, this is not to be some sort of theological debate about our Catholic,
a word that also means Universal, brothers, and sisters in Christ.
Nor is this a debate about saints or the notion of God playing judge, jury and
executioner…this is about the call for all Christians to come together and remember the gift
we’ve each been given and as a Divine gift, it is in turn to be extended to others…

Divine Mercy…may we each pass it on…

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16