Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

A Maundy Thursday example of love

“Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.”

― Francis of Assisi


(Mother Teresa’s bare feet)

I’ve used this image of Mother Teresa’s feet before in a previous post—
it was a post for a previous Easter that touched not only on the notion
of Jesus’ example of the washing of feet, but it explored our obsession with health,
wealth and all things fit and beautiful.

Like hands, feet are a good indicator of the type of life one has lived.

Rough, calloused and gnarly…
or
smooth, soft and pampered…

I tend to like the first notion…as in rough, calloused and gnarly being signs of
at best, a life really lived to the fullest….
or
at the least, lived to the best of ones abilities as
things had perhaps never been easy nor comfortable.

I find there is more character to be found in the rougher, harder, calloused side to living.

Following that evening meal of so long ago, a chain of events had been set in motion
and there was no turning back…
hope no longer remained in avoiding the inevitable.
I imagine everyone in the room that quiet night had a sense that things were to be
different very soon but as to exactly how, only one knew for sure.

The mood was somber…and not just because it had been a meal intended to
commemorate and reflect upon the struggles of a people from a previous time,
but rather because the master of ceremonies
himself was obviously melancholy as his thoughts were far removed.

Just as I know other types of jobs and services stress this same sort of approach,
in education, teachers are constantly reminded of the importance of leading by example.

Don’t just tell it or say it….
Do it and show it!!!!!
This so others may see.
Visual and tactile learning create a most lasting impression.

So Jesus set out that evening to do that very thing…
one more time…
to lead by example.

The point wasn’t just to wash feet.
Feet, as important as they are, are considered pretty lowly.
They aren’t the prettiest things to look at what with their bunions, hammer toes,
ingrown toe nails and rough cracked skin…
they can be oddly shaped, they get dirty quickly,
they usually stay covered up…for a reason,
and they are not the first things we prefer to look at,
plus they can smell.
Not good combinations.

So dealing with people and their feet has always been looked at,
other than from a podiatrist’s point of view, as something somewhat subservient….
especially if the feet are rough looking, with dirty cracked and broken nails…
Not the first thing most folks want to caress and love on…unless they’re a bit odd.

So naturally when Jesus set about wanting to wash everyones feet, he was quickly and
awkwardly rebuffed.
It was embarrassing to have the Master wash the dirty, dusty, dry feet of the followers.
Think of a General wanting to do such for a private…
As that’s exactly what it was like.
Unheard of….

But the washing wasn’t the lesson.

It was the leading by example.

The doing of and the action of that which would be otherwise considered lowly and less than,
being done to another…
As the recipient of such, that of the the washed,
would be thought to be more highly than the washer….

It was the notion of serving with the serving being of such a lowly but very respectful
and loving manner…that that was the key.
Doing something so lowly but doing it in pure unselfish care and love…

Mother Teresa’s feet are examples of a person who worked long and hard all her life—
her feet do not lie.
She toiled on those feet her entire life…always for others.

Being with Dad’s caregivers day in and day out, assisting as they had to turn dad from
side to side as I had to hold him up on his side towards me just so they
could wipe his bottom, cleaning him after he had soiled himself….

I marveled at the care and thoroughness in which one caregiver in particular
went about her task.

I don’t think I could have done or do what she did and does.
Taking care of the most basic needs of a human—
feeding and then cleaning…much as one does for a baby.

Baby’s are cute.

Old cancer ridden bodies that smell and are wasting are not.

As the days passed, physically moving dad was difficult as he winced and cried in pain…
but the cleaning still needed to be done…
And it was done with dignity, compassion…as

that is the rough, calloused, gnarly example of what love is all about…

“Love one another as I have first loved you…..”

And with the best way always being by example…..

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas,
the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,
and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet,
drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied,
“not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet;
their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said
not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should
wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Matthew 13:2-17

A coach teaches a profound lesson

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.”

Jim Henson

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As any educator worth their salts will tell you…

No…

wait….

let’s not make this just a teacher thing…

As any person who has ever worked with young people, will tell you…
a visible and physical lesson will go further in making a profound impression
and lasting remembrance than any lecture, paper or book.

Currently it appears as if there are many of us who are dumbfounded, flummoxed, sad
and down right angry as to the widespread level of disrespect currently rippling though
this country as far as our flag, our national anthem, the office of the president,
etc, etc, etc…
are each concerned.

Why don’t they get it???!!
we shout at the television when each new “protest” is broadcast.

Well today I saw a teachable moment about this very issue that should be shared.

My husband and I had gone to Home Depot in search of some sort of downspout
water thing…
There we were in the cavernous building,
wandering far off to some lone aisle searching deep within the bowels
of all things home improvement…
my husband seeking as I wandered behind a few steps pondering
if I should go find some plants that might need a new home….
when I was jolted back to the current moment as I heard
the alert on my phone informing me that I had
just received an email.

It was one of those forward things from my cousin.
Some of those things are interesting and good,
while some of those are utterly stupid or trash.

Curious, I clicked on it.
A couple of moments in,
I hollered out to my husband to halt in his tracks and come look at this.

There we stood, the two of us alone on a mostly forgotten aisle,
in a massive home improvement store,
on a Sunday afternoon,
staring at my phone with tears now streaming down our faces….

For you see…in this forwarded video clip we see a coach who is living and teaching
by example to each one of his players…

He offers a profound teaching moment to a group of young men as to why they are to
spend those early 2 minutes prior to each of their ball games giving their flag, their
National Anthem and their Country their full attention and respect….

limeaide?

Since you cannot do good to all,
you are to pay special attention to those who,
by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances,
are brought into closer connection with you.

Saint Augustine

DSCN4191
(my first limes from my little lime tree / Julie Cook / 2016)

I certainly know all about that seemingly simplistic little adage…
You know the one…
when life hands you lemons,
make lemonade…

Sometimes that seems so much easier said then done…

Plus it sounds somewhat childlike, sappy and far too sweet for the more caustic moments of life.
For it is a far cry from the reality of the nitty gritty lives we are living.

It’s kind of like saying, Life just handed out a pile of crap and now you’re suppose to turn it into something sugary sweet and oh so refreshing…

Not happening.

My lemons on my lemon tree aren’t ripe yet, but the limes are.
Or so I thought they were…
So I wanted to test them…
Turns out they are good and ripe…

DSCN4190

Life right now is anything but a time for sipping a nice long, tall and cool glass of lemonade.

Now granted I did grab a lemonade from the drive through at a Chick-fil-A yesterday,
in-between taking Dad here, there and yon…
and their lemonade is the best I’ve found….
but it’s just that somedays even the thought of a refreshing lemonade falls flat on our hearts….

For life is now hard.
It is pulling while pushing.
It is relentless and frightening at the very same time.
While there is both physical and emotional pain.

A friend of mine recently confided a haunting confession…
that he’s been feeling as if a steel curtain had been drawn between him and God.

I think there has been an almost palpable distance and or dryness.
That there has not been that usual deep spiritual connection between him and God.
His feelings have been dried up and most likely rusted tight.
He’s been going through the motions but simply not feeling the Love as it were.

I think St John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul.

I don’t know a single Believer who has not experienced living in that dark vacuum at some point of other during the course of their life as a follower of Chirst.

Mother Teresa recounted that she had actually spent the better part of her life
living in that darkness.

And yet we see what she was about doing, during the course of her life,
with that feeling of distance and longing heart…
trudging through the darkness, always moving forward toward the Cross.

The naysayers and militant unbelieving will immediately jump on the
“God is maniacal, mean and even evil” train.
Mocking all who dare to believe…yet seemingly struggle and hurt.
Sharply pointing out that this God of ours sits upon His lofty throne
sadistically watching us squirm in our suffering…

And that’s the thing.

Even when it gets hard, dark and painful…
Even when our hearts and bodies are broken.
With or without feelings…
we muster on toward the Cross…

because we were given the very same Divine example….

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Do you prefer taking the easy way or the hard way…

DSCN0320
(An iron cross sits in the cemetery of Saint Cóemgen’s better known as St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Given the current mess throughout this world of ours…
the fighting, the dying, the martyrdom,
the lack of choice, the excess of choice, the lack of tolerance the overt tolerance,
the whole “she said, he said” tit for tat bickering and feuding over beliefs…who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s in, who’s out, who’s with, who’s against, is it a yes or is it a no…or is it or else…

Is it then any wonder that so many folks around this globe claim to be either atheist or agnostic or something else entirely… sans any sort of deity or set belief system…?! As if believing in nothing or, say a tree, would be easier than believing in a deity that requires a great deal of follower…or seems to be the very reason for all the current ruckus in the world…?!

Anyone looking closely enough would be hard pressed not to understand why, given the sad plight of so very many people globally who are displaced, living under cruel regimes, suffering from disease, hunger, homelessness, isolation, torture, loss, fear… with nary a ray of hope in sight….that there is such a deep mistrust and skepticism when none of those folks who profess to be followers of the All knowing and All caring come to offer aid, succor, comfort, help, assistance, support or relief yet rather choose to squabble, bicker, fuss, cuss, fight, kill and destroy one another….

Is it any wonder that folks find it difficult believing in as well as following Something or Someone they’ve never seen, spoken to face to face, touched, hugged, shaken hands with, shared a meal with or simply hung out with…

Yet that’s exactly what those who believe in a monotheistic “god” do…they believe in the unbelievable while they, those very believers, are to be the living embodiment of that monotheistic Deity by giving others a glimpse as to whom and what that monotheistic “God” is all about….compassion, caring, trust, integrity, honesty…

We, the body of believers, must ask ourselves…are we doing a good job at such?
And if we answer no… then we must ask ourselves—why not?

Yet those of us who do believe, who have chosen to follow the Son of that very Deity… the One True God, have chosen what seems to be the most difficult task in a world of ever growing disbelief, mistrust, skepticism, resentment and down rate hatred… to believe and follow when a world turns in the opposite direction.

Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun or on your knees with hands tied behind your back as a sword is raised at your head or as you’re being hoisted up a tree with a rope around your neck or as you lay on the ground with a cold knife pressing into your neck as you’re asked one simple question—a question between life and death…”are you a Christian??”
with the easy answer being “NO!”

Yet those who have chosen the harder path, the path less traveled by the world resoundingly respond…
“YES!”

Do you prefer easy or hard?

Taking one for the team in the company of loons and voodoo dolls

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
Vince Lombardi

Skylark, Have you seen a valley green with Spring Where my heart can go a-journeying, Over the shadows in the rain To a blossom covered lane? And in your lonely flight, Haven’t you heard the music in the night, Wonderful music, Faint as a will-o-the-wisp, Crazy as a loon, Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.
Johnny Mercer

Great Northern Diver/Common Loon
(a beautiful image of a loon found on the web and belonging to Ignacio Yufera photography)

Ok–
I’ve always said let me be the example. . .
Allow me to be the one others look to in order to learn from life’s mistakes.
I’m willing to take one for the team, hoping that others will see. . .
what not to do
how not to do
when not to do
While learning from my
miscues
misfires
misgivings
mishandlings
misinterpretations. . .

These past three weeks have been jam packed with shining examples.
Despite any luck of the Irish that may have befallen the planet this past week, I was sadly passed over.

Almost three weeks ago I found myself living the life of a voodoo doll.
A cute little stuffed stick like figure, arms stuck straight out, hair looking like a result of an errant finger poked in an electrical outlet, blank faced, quasi puppet who’d quickly became a pin cushion at the hand of the malevolent and loon alike.
I was placed,
forced,
stuck,
covered in a situation (or four or five)
in which I was knocked upside the head,
dealt a terrible hand,
hit broadside with a triple whammy,
bamboozled,
and dumped within the middle of one nasty sticky wicket.

In order to protect the innocent or actually my own behind, we won’t use names.
Nothing to identify anyone but my poor misguided self and of course good ol Dad.

And before we proceed and lest we forget, a loon is not just another name for a lovely red eyed lake bird possessing a haunting tune, but rather the name for a psycho, sociopath or crazy individual who I seem to attract like a magnet. . .

–First to the current moment at hand. . .
If a medicine reads PM and or Nighttime, do not think that suggests AM or Daytime.
That is unless you enjoy feeling rather “outer body” during the waking hours
want to / need to drive
operate heavy machinery or something as simple, say like, the washing machine or hair dryer
wish to be productive–such as shower, dress, cook, eat, clean. . .
need to stay awake, as in not sleeping. . .
enjoy feeling drunk,
or think it’s a good idea to drive home from the grocery store with eyes that won’t focus. . .
PM and Nighttime are for just that—nighttime—even though it just may be the only option
in the cabinet, simply wait for the sun to go down before taking.

–Never ask “what else can wrong”
For it will be at that very moment the sewer pipe bursts.

–Never assume when presented with two different scenarios,
with one being tolerable and the other being the onset of Armageddon,
that you will get lucky, escaping with the better scenario hiding behind Door number 1. . .
Armageddon has your name written all over it.

–Never think that the other people you will find yourself dealing with are like minded, sane, rational, nice, or friendly. . .
There is a 50 / 50 chance you’ll get like minded–we must remember that since you usually get Armageddon, that 50 /50 percentage thing will be more like 80 / 20 against you. . .enter the loons.

–Never think that if you leave Atlanta at 4PM on a Friday afternoon, for your average hour drive home, that you will arrive anytime before midnight–thus making you the loon.

–Never think that if you are standing in a room with a loon and about five other folks that the loon will ask what you would like for lunch. . .the said loon, who has you in its crosshairs, does not consider you present, only the five other folks.
Trust me, you will be the only one without a sandwich.

–Never assume that age is essential when expecting people and loons to act mature. A 55 year old loon can act like a 12 year old junior high age kid any day of the week.

–Always remember, evil does walk the planet and sometime enjoys stalking you.

–Voodoo dolls are real and they look very much like me you.

–There comes a time when you need to be your parent’s advocate. The torch mysteriously passes from them taking care of you and your needs to you taking care of them and their needs. Don’t forget to step up and speak up.

–Which brings us back to likeminded. . .never assume you’ll be working with those who possess a “team” mentality when meeting a crisis head-on especially with a loon nearby.

–Never assume that if you were once a childhood friend with a loon someone that they remember it having been a nice friendship, a good time, or even remember at all. . .

–Never assume or figure. . .you’ll always be wrong, especially when it comes to loons.

–Never trust your “confused” 87 father with a “touch of alzheimers” to tell you that he will pay his bills and keep his records organized and don’t even mention the taxes—the witness protection plan may be the only open option when dodging the IRS

–Never remarry if you have grown kids. . .trust me.

–Never give in when the loons first approach you wearing smiles offering some sort of “great idea.”
Keep that whole Armageddon thing in mind.

–Never assume savings will always cover long term care for the elderly.

–It’s okay to now ask your dad what he was thinking when he thought getting remarried at almost 70 was a good thing. Trust me, he will now wonder with you what he was thinking.

–It’s ok to change your dad’s doctor.

–It’s ok to ask your dad if his idea of shaving is that of his entire face or just sections. It’s also ok to ask if he’s shaved in the past week or finds a beard with one long hair here and one long hair there his idea of no shave November in March

— It’s ok if your 87 year old dad asks you over and over “ok the doctor told me to speak my mind right?” “Yes dad, find your voice”

–It’s not ok when your dad starts calling you from a cell phone you thought he’d lost years ago and never knew how it worked.

–It’s not always a good thing getting step siblings at age 40

–Siblings. . .step, half, whole, or otherwise are like that whole 50 / 50 thing. . .
with that whole Armageddon thing hiding in there somewhere.

–Remember loons of a feather flock together, often attracting like minded loons.

–If you get rundown and stressed you will get sick—and then you will take nighttime meds accidentally in the daytime and wonder how you’ll get home from the grocery store

–there are no frequent flyer miles for traversing Atlanta’s interstates

–And lastly remember, when Life and loons come calling with crises and haunting calls—
it’s best to hold on, pray hard and look for the humor in between the tears. . .