our confliction…

“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy.”
Zbigniew Brezezinski

As people of faith we learn to be bi-focal.
We look through the eyes of secular newsflashes,
and we look through the eyes of spiritual and theological discernment.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

Anytime a Western coalition is mounted against “the bad guys”…whomever
those bad guys may currently be…more and more questions abound…
more questions than there may be answers.

Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Vietnam war.
A horrific conflict and war where thousands were killed, maimed, scarred and lost…
leaving no clear win or victor.

The bad guys were still bad and we were left limping back home…
home to a Nation now divided…and still dividing as we speak.

For Christians, the notion of war is a tough call.

The Koran makes no bones about the allowance for war and killing.

Our faith, on the other hand, admonishes those who opt not to turn the other cheek
or refuse to offer the shirt when the tunic is first taken.

For the Believer there is an inner turmoil…a conflict of both faith and righteous indignation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist German theologian, lived this turmoil.
It also lead him to the gallows.
A walk he took decidedly confident because he knew his faith secure.
He looked to the words and teachings of St Thomas Aquinas when he agreed to be a part of
an assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private
person for the common good.
Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation
(tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power;
and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine),
a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include
that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority;
that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper;
and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil
than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen,
jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading
it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils,
then a private citizen can morally commit an act
of justifiable tyrannicide.
Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself,
is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant,
then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide.
Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses
power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes a usurper.

(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/the-seeds-have-been-planted/)

And so it is with interest that I’ve read a couple of the most recent posts by our friend
Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding his feelings and thoughts about the coalition attack
on Syria.

The necessity, the truth, the need, the deception, the compassion, the empathy,
the indignation is each woven into the fabric of our confliction as human beings.

The conflict between right and wrong, defending the undefended, the truth versus
the deception…
that which is right versus that which is wrong,
the need for freedom versus the oppression of tyranny…

What are our roles, our responsibilities, our culpability…

The good Bishop offers one more perspective, one more layer to the fabric we
Christians continue to weave…

Do I agree with his doubts, his concerns, his pointed questions?

I think his questions lead us all to a place of asking even more questions.

Yet the real question found in the Bishop’s concern is simply leading us back to wondering
where the real true answers rest…

So Syria has been much in the news.
But to the community of faith, Syria is not just a place.
It is both a birthplace, and an end-place.
Theologically, for Christians it is the birth place of the Church.
It is the place where in Antioch, we first became known as Christians (Acts 11.26);
for Muslims the place at the end of time, the apocalypse.
This dual identity lies at the heart of the present secular conflict and how we unders
tand it.

And yet, it is clear in geo-political terms that what is taking place in Syria
is a proxy war fought over future energy sources and types of Islamic hegemony
between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other.
The opposition to Assad was not a plea for regime change by democratic Syrians,
but an attempt to remove a non-Muslim ruler and replace him with a Muslim regime by
Saudi backed terrorist groups.
Twice now chemical attacks have been attributed to the Assad regime with the
immediate effect of inducing in the West a moral indignation that led to a call
for bombing the Assad regime.
But though the video footage was provocatively emotive, the hard evidence that laid a trail
back to Assad was always just missing.

Syria and the Western Christian conscience.

Mean, the new black

“You’re nasty and you’re loud,
you’re mean enough for two,
If I could be a cloud,
I’d rain all day on you.”

― Jack Prelutsky

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color.
I have said that black has it all.
White too.
Their beauty is absolute.
It is the perfect harmony.”

― Coco Chanel

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

― Mother Teresa

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(red spotted purple butterfly enjoys the blueberry blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

Remember when black was all the rage?
The glamorous ones like Audrey Hepburn and Coco Channel made it chic.

It was touted as being…
Slimming
Elegant
Vogue
Classic

Yet eventually there were those who found it…
Boring
Passe
Drab
Dull

New colors vied for Black’s coveted spot at the top
Orange
Green
Brown
Neons

Yet black aways managed to have staying power..
Just ask the French…
For it is….
Timeless
Powerful
Dignified
Stylish

Black is now…
The standard
The benchmark
The gauge
The arcehtype

So imagine how…
Kindness,
Compassion,
Empathy,
Charity,
Mercy,
Each are now feeling as they see how Mean and Meanness are vying for the top…

As in the constant barage of headlines around the globe…
Beaten
Shot
Stabbed
Tasered
Robbed
Humiliated
Tortured
Raged
Cursed
Sprayed
Belittled
Bullied
Maligned
Hated

It matters not the color…
As all colors are now victims of the new black…
Mean…

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1-3

desensitized

Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.
For the Strength of Youth

These data suggest very strongly that participating in the playing of violent video games by children and youth increase aggressive thought and behavior; increase antisocial behavior and delinquency; engender poor school performance; desensitize the game player to violence.
Leland Yee
former California Senator

Today the data linking violence in the media to violence in society are superior to those linking cancer and tobacco.
David Grossman
Israeli author

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(gargoyle downspout Adare Manor / Adare, Coutny Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Desensitize–a transitive verb—meaning: to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically: to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it

Two recent articles about children and young people have each catapulted the word desensitization and its meaning to the forefront of my radar leaving me greatly troubled.

As a retired educator articles which showcase the current and various growing concerns for and of our youth certainly catch my eye as I spent a lifetime living out those very concerns on a daily basis. As any educator will tell you, teachers not only “teach” they also nurture, mentor, direct, guide, care for, comfort, coach, discipline, lead, encourage, help…etc.

Teaching is not a one subject fits all sort of job.
In fact teaching is not a job at all but rather a vocation or a calling. You have to care about kids and their well being in order to want to teach. Those in it for either a paycheck or some sort of job security need look elsewhere.

As a veteran classroom teacher, who spent my entire career working at the high school level, I am very much aware of the often fragile and tenuous tightrope our adolescents walk in their daily lives.

Any parent and educator alike can tell you that raising and educating kids is no easy task especially given today’s growing technological pull and social media draw that is blanketing our youth.

The first story I read yesterday.
It was an article examining a link between the alarming rise of teenage suicide and that of social media usage.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/02/11/is-social-media-fueling-national-epidemic-teen-suicide.html

I found the article both disturbing as well as telling— as I forwarded it to several teachers and counselors who are currently still working with various school systems.

It has often been noted that many in this generation of kids have a very difficult time actually talking to people. It is often observed that they do not make eye contact easily or readily nor are they capable of carrying on any sort of lengthy conversation with a free flowing dialog.

They can be in a room filled with their family or friends yet will be more engaged on their phones rather than those sitting by their side. They will actually opt to text a person in the very same room rather than ask a verbal question or make a verbal comment.

There is a frighting and rapidly growing disconnect between reality and virtual…with kids often preferring the virtual.
Maybe because its as if they feel they can control the virtual better than reality.

Yet the correlation between kids, their social media usage and an increase in the suicide rate is something that should have us all concerned…..

The second article, which includes a short video clip, I actually read today having spotted it on the BBC.
It was an interview conducted by a BBC reporter of two young Syrian boys aged 8 and 10.
The boys were only two out of hundreds who have been living in IS occupied areas of Syria.
Luckily for these two boys, they have made it out of Syria and hopefully out of harms way.

The interview begins with the 8 year old aptly demonstrating how to put on a sucicide vest with as much ease as he would have kicking a soccer ball.

He told the reporter how they had often witnessed beheadings. They would be called by loudspeaker to come witness what was taking place as IS members would behead, in the boy’s case, a neighbor.

It is reported that IS is actually rewritng the textbooks used in classrooms…changing dates as well as “current” geographical maps.

The children, yes young children, are put through a variety of physical military type training and obstacles courses while actually being shot at and yelled at as they maneuver the course.
Of which is probably the most disturbing clip in the video.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35552391

Between our own kids who are drowning in a sea of social media, violent video games and a huge Spiritual disconnect and then the children who fall under the harsh and brutal regimes of hate spreading their insidious indoctrination of hate and destruction all around the globe our future as a human race is looking neither hopeful nor promising…
We need, for their sake as well as our own, to take our children back….


All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

Life’s unexpected surprises

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
Henri Nouwen

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(perusing the soon to be blooming shrubs when I notice a little visitor / Julie Cook / 2014)

Perhaps this is a bit of an odd assessment by Father Nouwen. . .his thought being that our expecting a surprise being the only way in which we may “see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.”

How is one to expect a surprise?!
How is one expected to expect the unexpected?
Is not the whole point of a surprise just that. . .a surprise?
A surprise is unexpected and indeed a surprise, that’s how it works right?
We don’t know it’s coming.
We’re caught off guard.
Blind sided.

And yet perhaps that is the gist of Father Nouwen’s assessment—that we should always be prepared for the unexpected.
Meaning, we shouldn’t exactly start walking around nervously looking over our shoulder 24 / 7, nor should we be living in a constant state of paranoia. . .but rather, we should be living with the knowledgable of the fact that life is constantly full of surprises and moments that are truly not expected nor planned. . .some of which are not even welcomed.

Surprises and the unexpected are just a few of the multi colored threads and cords which bind themselves to those events of our lives which are indeed well thought out, planned, and expected. We have control over one part of life’s woven fabric. . .not so much on the other half—Yet it is both pieces of cloth which make us whole.

It is therefore the wise individual who can wear these two fabrics as one. The one who can take the cloth of expectations and plans, the cloth of control and preparations and knit it to the cloth of surprises, the unexpected, the curveballs, the bombshells. . .knowing that both sides of this fabric is what makes us who we are.

The joys and the sorrows, the seen and the unseen, the planned and the surprises are those very threads which intertwine, weaving the magic of the development of who we actually are. Simply put, we must not live in fear of the unseen and unexpected happenings because like it or not, they will come. They will happen, and as Life has it, when we least expect them and are least prepared. There will indeed be the days of “I did not see that coming. . .”

And yet what Father Nouwen is merely stating is that we should simply acknowledge these occurrences within our daily lives. The unexpected should, simply put, be expected. This acknowledgment will allow us to leave our hearts open— as such occurrences of Life are part of the shared experience of our very humanity. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad all go in to making, forming and moulding each one of us as an individual— and in the end, when it is all said and done, we will truly be the better for it all. Is this not how understanding and empathy are forged? Is it not these shared experiences, be they good or bad, that lead to making us more human, more kind, more sympathetic, more concerned. . .?

All of which is forged and woven in the daily furnace and loom of what we call Life. . .

Reverence

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29 (RSV)

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(shot of the delightful long lost sun, looking west form Julie’s driveway / 2013)

Circumstances during the past several days have lead me to a great deal of reflection and pondering.

I suppose various situations and individuals I have both experienced and met, within the last week or so, have lead me to revaluate my place in this life and of my being dependent on the Creator of all life—as I have become painfully aware of my insignificance in the universe after so falsely feeling a puffed up sense of importance.

I must say that I am most grateful that, after such a long period of grey wet days, we have been most fortunate seeing the brilliant blue of a winter’s sky and the brilliance of a full and most healthy sun. I am humbled by the power Nature plays on the emotional psych of we mere mortals. It is amazing watching the lighter step of folks out and about running their errands, dashing here and there, once the sun and its warmth finally returned after days of hiding.

I must say that I am taken aback however by the lack of reverence I have been observing, usually during my daily routines, from many of the folks I simply pass by, here and there, during the journeys of a single day. I am troubled by how people often treat “Life”—be it the immediate environment with the littering which accumulates on the streets, the sidewalks, the parking lots. . . or of how people often treat one another— abrupt, curt, dismissive, or as less than.

There was the woman who was loading groceries into her very expensive car from her shopping cart just as I was doing the same, as I had parked next to her. She was dressed very smartly and was maybe 10 years older than I am. I finished unloading, she finished unloading. I pushed my cart back to the “buggy corral” in the parking lot, walked back to my car, only to discover that the woman had already driven off— leaving her cart merely sitting in the middle of the vacant parking spot which was between us. No car could have gotten into the space due to her abandoned cart. . . I had to move her cart out of the way, back to the corral, lest someone unknowingly hit the cart while trying to pull into the space. Really?

Or how about the myriad of people who stay on their cell phone throughout their entire time while standing in line at the ___________ store (fill in the blank), who finally get up to the check out counter without ever acknowledging the cashier as a human being who is providing a service– instead opting to stay on the phone, never acknowledging anyone around them. It blows my mind. There is a live breathing human-being standing directly in front of them, and yet they are too busy talking on the phone to a voice, that is who knows where, to be kind, courteous or simply human. Unbelievable. .

Or how about waiting on a person, as I have done in my husband’s store, whose phone suddenly rings. With no acknowledgment, they quickly, in mid sale, sentence, question, transaction, answer the phone and walk off leaving you or me simply hanging with a line of people now waiting for them to come back to finish up what they had originally intended on doing. Really?

Have we all become so clueless to our immediate surroundings or have we simply reached a point where we don’t care about those around us, vying rather for the affections of a voice emanating from a small little box we hold to our ear?! Have we lost our humanness, our compassion, our ability to communicate with real people verses voices in small boxes? I am troubled by our lack of patience with one another, our lack of empathy for one another, as well as our lack of respect for our living and breathing world. I think it simply boils down to a lack of reverence for not only the Sacred, but for merely life in general. When we lose our humanness, we lose ourselves.

May this time of year, especially this time of year, regardless of religious persuasion, allow us to reclaim our humanness, our concern for both our fellow man (yes that means women as well—I don’t feel the need to clarify as the word usage is all inclusive) as well as for our immediate environment. May we stop long enough to acknowledge those who are all around us—who is to say that by the offering of a smile, a small conversation or brief interaction isn’t what that person opposite us at the counter, next to us in line, or who is delivering packages and mail to our door, is not in desperate need of just such in order to get through their day. . .the opportunity is just waiting for us to be the right person in the right place for whoever may be in need. . .

Reverence for life, for the planet, for the Sacred, for one another–that is partly what this time of year, especially this time of year, should draw us all close to—to our planet and to our fellow man–or woman—or child. Common sense, kindness, compassion, acknowledgment, are all such simple acts which sadly seem to be more and more difficult to preform. Has our obsession with technology dulled those components within our very being which give us our “humanness”? I hope not.

May we take the challenge during the next couple of weeks to be ever mindful of those around us—those who we pass at the store, the post office, in the parking lot, at the day care, at work, at school, at the mall, etc—wherever we interact with people— by putting down our phones, our “tablets,” our earphones, our e-readers, etc–allowing for kind interaction and acknowledgment of our fellow man. For by doing so over the course of the next couple of weeks, we may develop a delightful happy pattern of interaction that will carry on throughout the entire year.

Here is to a smile and a warm hello. . .