pondering…proposes, invites, counsel and freewill

“And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force,
because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one,
but only proposes, invites and counsels.”

St. Angela Merici


(Julie Cook / 2022)

On a snowy Sunday afternoon…way down here in the deep South—
a day full of anomalies…meaning….
that the two notions of a deep South and a snowy day are not usually
found within the same sentence, it seemed to be a perfect day for pondering.

Pondering.

Merriam Webster tells us that the definition of the word ponder is:
to weigh in the mind or to think about or reflect on…

And so, on this stay inside sort of day, this day of a deep South’s
day of ice and snow, pondering simply seemed to be a perfect pairing.

To weigh, to think, to reflect…

I found the following quotes, both above and below, to be so full
of thoughtfulness..so full of deep reverberations…
so full of infinite truths…
all of which each echo within the walls of any longing soul…
so much so that each quote has caught my breath.

words spoken…

Words which speak of purpose…
words which speak of freewill…
words which speak of accepting actions…
words which speak of burdens…
words which speak of conscience…
words which speak of opportunity,
words which speak of forgiveness…

All three quotes give us much to contemplate, examine and reflect upon…
all during these dark days of winter…

Tis the season to ruminate…to ingest and to ponder…

“We have difficulty understanding this,
just as a blind man has difficulty understanding color,
but our difficulty doesn’t alter this fact:
God’s omnipotence and omniscience respects our freedom.
In the core of our being we remain free to accept or
reject God’s action in our lives—-
and to accept or reject it more or less intensely.
God wants us to accept him with all our ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’—-
in other words, as intensely as possible.
But he also knows that we are burdened with selfishness and beset by the devil,
so it will take a great effort on our part to correspond to his grace.
Every time our conscience nudges us to refrain from
sharing or tolerating that little bit of gossip, every time we feel a tug
in our hearts to say a prayer or give a little more effort,
every time we detect an opportunity to do a hidden act
of kindness to someone in need,
we are faced with an opportunity to please the Lord
by putting our faith in his will.”

Fr. John Bartunek,

The more I wanted to pray for my father and could not,
the more I realized how much my hatred of him had harmed me
instead of harming him.
I can’t remember where I heard this saying,
but it came back to me then:
Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping that
the other person will die.

Derya Little
from her book From Islam to Christ

an adopted path to Grace

“All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by
laws analogous to those of physical gravity.
Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces,
but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it,
and it is grace itself which makes this void.
The imagination is continually at work filling up all
the fissures through which grace might pass.”

Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace


(Rosemary Beach during Hurricane Sally / Julie Cook / 2020)

Tossed within the surf of a sea churning with tumultuous emotions…
joy, sorrow and even regret now vie for prominence within my heart.

An engulfing crescendo of deep abiding love is gently offered…
yet is is overshadowed by the inward naysaying whispers of a past
that speaks of unworthiness.

Grace and Graciousness, along with open forgiveness,
have each been tenderly extended…
freely extended by the hands of unconditional love.

The very word unconditional has always made these eyes fill with tears.

Humbled by such a love leaves this heart feeling only more unworthy
and even trembling.

Ode to a child of adoption…the child who finds the unconditional
a foreign gift.

Condition most often becomes the wiring of the adopted one.
And thus the thought of such worthiness is oh so far away from anything
the adopted individual finds possible…
for the single sense unworthiness clings for dominance.

If you’ve ever visited this little corner of the blogosphere of mine very often,
then you know I’ve written at length about such feelings and that of
my own adoption over these many years.

The highs and lows, the battles and the healings.

With adoption, the notion of healing and that of worthiness each become
a lifelong quest.

For the one who was given up and given away…to be able to ever feel worthy
of accepting such a precious offering of true and abiding love…a gift given from one
freely to another, feels as a near impossibility.

And so a battle ensues…

The adult who has lived life and attained hindsight now fights with the
ever present child who was born of rejection.

Logic wrestles with raw emotion.

Yet what we know, is that in the end, love does indeed win.

Because we know that anyone who calls
themself a Christian, is adopted by Grace.

I am a child of Grace and I am a person who is so ever grateful
to that of the unconditional…

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:5-7

consequences of our choices (2014)

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended, will wreak its Vengeance on
Our SOULS.”

C.G Jung

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are
of such infinite importance.
The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you
never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger
today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which
the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis,

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Nelson Mandela


(one of my peaches / Julie Cook / 2014)

The third law of physics, as stated by Sir Isaac Newton,
proclaims that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I would say that this “law” is not only true for the physical actions in our lives,
but is equally true when it comes to our “mental actions”
better known as the choices we make in our lives—
For every choice made, there is a resulting consequence–be it good or bad.

Some of our choices not only bring ill effects to ourselves
but may have sweeping negative ramifications for others.
Therefore one may, in turn, conclude that our choices are accompanied
by grave responsibility.
Yet who really ponders the decision to change a lane while driving
as having potential grave consequence?
Who really ponders the decision of taking a flight for a business trip
as having possible lasting effects for our loved ones…
as our plane is blown from the sky?

I would imagine President Harry Truman understood the concept of
choices and consequences as he kept a small plaque on his desk
“The Buck Stops Here.”
Meaning the ultimate end of all decisions and choices regarding
the best interest of all the American people and that of those in
the free world, rested with him. It was ultimately President Truman’s
decision to go with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A choice to bomb or not to bomb—either way would have had consequences—
consequences effecting millions which would (and still) continue
reverberating far into our future.

Let’s look at this concept of choices and consequences within
the frame of a little scenario—

A man walks into a convenient store with a loaded gun pointed at the head
of the cashier, demanding all the money in the register.
Suddenly, for whatever reason, the robber chooses to pull the trigger.

Lives are immediately changed forever.

For the sake of our little story let’s say the cashier is killed.
The robber, now turned murderous gunman, runs.

In that single selfish instant, the cashier’s family is changed forever.
The gunman, let’s say, is eventually apprehended.

His family is forever changed.

There is lengthy legal haggling.
In and out before a judge and the Courts.

Suddenly a bunch of other people are now consumed with the
gunman’s selfish choice.
Years pass before there is a trial.
Now all of us as taxpayers are responsible for the
gunman’s upkeep.
More lives are effected.
Eventually the gunman is found guilty and is sentenced to death.

There are appeals.

Years continue to pass as he lives in prison on Death Row,
paid by taxpayers.
As other lives continue to be consumed with his own.
At some point, he turns to God.
He asks for forgiveness.
He is indeed forgiven.

God says to our gunman, “I forgive you and I love you,
but your actions have consequence in the life of your world as well
as in My World.
As I have forgiven you, you will now be welcomed Home,
but you must answer for your poor choices there in your world and
undergo the punishment given.
You must know that you will be with Me in and for Eternity
but you will have to first undergo the consequences of your actions.”

Depending on the courts, the state of the crime, and the lengthy appeals,
there will either be a sentence of death or life in prison.
Either way, the gunman clings to God’s Grace—
he accepts his earthly fate as a result of his initial choice of
walking in the convenient store, all those many years prior with
a gun in his hand, yet now instead of hate, greed, malice,
there is a Peace in his being as He knows he is now forever God’s child come home.
And there is a resolved acceptance to the punishment of his crime
as our gunman now knows that his punishment will not be a permanent ending.

Let’s say for the sake of our little scenario that our gunman
does not find God and does not seek forgiveness.
He chooses to live bitterly stewing over the one hiccup in his plan,
that he was caught.
If he had to do it over again, he’d make certain he was never caught.
There is no remorse—
just a seething internal hate and disdain for all creation.

Depending on your belief system, be that in a Heaven or Hell,
in a God of Grace and Justice or if you prefer to believe
in nothing at all–
either way, our gunman’s lack of remorse and choice of a selfish act
now sends him either to eternal damnation or into oblivion.
End of story.
And isn’t that all quite empty and sad?

It is obviously not always for us to see justice.
Which can be terribly frustrating as well as painfully maddening.
Imagine the hearts of the parents of children who’s young lives have
been savagely taken from their parents arms by malice or illness…
which must lead us all eventually to the Cross for some semblance
of direction—but that is for another post.
However, the one thing we must take from this little story of ours
is that we are to be mindful of our own choices.

For the one thing we can and do have some manner of control over
is indeed our choices.

And granted not all of our choices are going to be as drastic or extreme
as an armed gunman’s…as that is but a mere example.
But it is an example which sums up the ripple effect of poor and
selfish choices.
The tentacles stretch outward casting a wide net that often stretches out
through the ages.
One’s negative choices can effect children, grandchildren–
oftentimes altering the entire dynamics of a family for generations.

Many of us today continue to pick up the pieces of our parent’s
or grandparent’s poor choices which have impacted our own lives
in ways that leave us bitter and resentful.

May we then be the cycle breakers.
May we be blessed with the vision to see the unhealthy and negative web
which may be consuming our lives.
May we rest in the knowledge that the cycle can be broken,
which is after all, a mere matter of a choice.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts And said to you,
‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Isaiah 41:9

My heart shall become your heart (a re-post)

****I read a marvelous post yesterday over on Mel Wild’s site, In My Father’s House.
Here’s a link to the post:
https://melwild.wordpress.com/2021/06/29/compassion-more-than-all-our-doing/

Mel spoke about compassion—the compassion of Christ…
In his post, Mel examined the latest episode of The Chosen…the same episode
I had also discussed earlier in the week regarding Mary’s falling backwards…

As the storyline played out, we saw how Mary felt that Jesus would
never give her a second chance, not after she turned away from Him and that initial healing.
How could He?
He’d healed her once and here she’d turned away from that healing
and fell back into her old familiar and damaging ways.

But in that encounter between Savior and sinner, we see a deep
and unending compassion.

That touched a deep chord with me.

Falling and failing, over and over…
and yet we are only met, time and time again, with three simple words.
“I forgive you”

Here is a post I offered back in 2014.
7 years have passed…much has happened in my life
and in the life of our country in those past 7 years.

Yet the same need and desire remains….

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time,
so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work.
I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!!
I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman,
but to KILL IT! No half measures will do.
I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there;
rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me,
the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams.
Turn them ALL over to me,
give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image.
Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself.
My will, shall become your will.
My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(Orchid / Julie Cook / 2014)

Oh that this strong request of yours could only be answered with a swift response of “yes.”
That I could and would whole heartedly shout at the top of my lungs
YES!!
YES!
I will give you myself.
All of myself.
I shall hold nothing back.
I am yours.
Yes, take all of me.

Yet, this demand of yours, this most intimate demand from the purest essence of Love,
is meet by my hesitation, my doubts, my frozen in time inability to immediately scream “yes.”
I hesitate.
Why?
I stumble over the words.
I hold back.

You reassure me.
You make me a promise
You have proven the promise.
And yet, I balk.
The “I” must be broken
Why can’t I let go?
Why won’t the “I” let go?
Am I afraid of being broken?
Being broken by you would be so much better than remaining whole as the captive of “I”
Still I find the words unable to slip from my mouth.

You sense my hesitation.
You see my reluctance.
You take my hand.
Suddenly, within that single touch, there is a cosmic explosion which shakes the very foundation of my world.
At the very moment you touch me, there is something so overpowering, something so beautiful which takes places.
I have never felt this before.
A connection
A oneness
It’s as if the brokeness, which I never fully comprehended, is immediately made whole.

And just as quickly as our hands meet, I pull away.
I look away.
It’s all too much.
I can’t.
If you honestly knew, knew everything, you’d walk away
You should walk away.
Others are better than I.
Others have not done the things I have done.
The things I am ashamed for you to discover.
You really don’t want me.
You really don’t know me
You really don’t know. . .

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not,
for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.

(Isaiah 43:1-28)

The love song plays out,
You reveal everything I’ve hidden.
I am ashamed and want to turn away.
Yet you continue watching.
There is only acceptance in your eyes.
Pieces of a broken heart lay scattered on the floor.
You pick up the pieces, putting them back together,
handing me the final piece.

Again, You extend your hand.
You whisper my name.
“My heart shall become your heart” you whisper ever so gently–
“You will be mine and I will be yours” for all of eternity
Love lies bare and open between us.
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!
(Song of Solomon 4:1)
I hear those words flowing from your heart.
A heart that has broken for me.
“Yes”
“Yes”
The word now slowly falling from my mouth.
Take me as I am and make me yours.
All that was is suddenly no more.
I will give you my heart…
I want nothing more than for my heart to now become your heart…
as the last piece of the puzzle is finally put back in place.

abnormal


(Mary Magdalene on The Chosen played by Elizabeth Tabish)

In yesterday’s post, I mused and rambled on about the meaning and notion
of the word “normal”
and that’s because I was playing catch up from having been away from blogland for
nearly a week and I kept reading post after post that each were each exploring
the idea of what is meant by normal.

So after a little investigating, I surmised that normal is a base, a root, a footing
a grounding.
It offers stability as an anchor.
It is a starting point.

It had been my intention to elaborate and to write about the opposite
of normal…that being abnormal.

I intended to relay all of this around the craziness that is currently
taking place across this Nation of ours within our schools.
What with the push, or in some cases the quiet and sinister implementation
of Critical Race Theory into the curriculum of our schools—
along with the push for the teaching of and embracing of transgenderism—
all within our schools and all without the input of our parents.

A dictated sort of agenda, implemented with no regard to parental feelings
or thoughts about what their children should or should not be a part of.

I had intended to address the opposite of normal education with that of abnormal
education…
but then something interceded…something jumped in the way of that train of
thought and is now taking me onto a different and more important thread of thinking.

I watched episode 6 of Season 2 of The Chosen.

These backstories…oh my goodness—

Growing up, reading the Bible—the various individuals that we’ve always
read about, learned about—well, they are people from long ago…
their names are familiar….but are “they” familiar?

Their stories are shared and well known… but them, as actual people, well…
they have always been a bit sterile, obscure…even distant.
As in… they were way back then and we are now—how do we relate?
It seems we can relate on some levels but not so much on other levels.

That’s what I like about The Chosen—granted there is certainly
some artistic interpretations taking place but in the end, it brings
life to these past trailblazers.
They become real life—not bigger than life.
They become like you and me.

Take Mary Magdalene for example.

We know that Mary had lived a hard and tormented life…
that is… until she encountered Jesus.

He healed Mary.

Allowing her to became a new creation in Christ.

End of story right?

Well, most likely not exactly.

This particular episode of The Chosen offers us an example of backsliding.

If you have become a Christian, encountering Jesus on your own personal road
to Damascus, then you must also know backsliding.

It happens to all of us at some point or another.
It can happen on a catastrophic level or it can happen in a small
almost inconspicuous way—but it happens none the less.

We let ourselves down and in turn we feel as if we’ve let the Christ
of our Salvation down.

In the beginning before there was sin—Adam and Eve were “normal”
They were the foundation and starting point in God’s creation.
From them was to grow a people of God.

However, God had afforded them, and in turn us, freewill…and with that freewill,
sin was allowed to enter into that which was normal.
Sin took normal and created the abnormal within creation.

But note the importance here—freewill was freely given.
God knew what He was doing and yes, it would break His heart,
but he did not want to make mindless puppets but rather true children
who had choice.
Real, true, unconditional love allows room for heartache.
Plain and simple.

So no glitch on God’s part, no mistake.
God does not make mistakes.
And in turn there was a freely given choice for man.
Not an easy gift to give…but one freely given and one readily taken.

So back to Mary.

Mary, like all of us, had a past.
Her’s was a dark hard past.
And sometimes we discover that our pasts are hard to walk away from.

Think addiction.
How often has someone gotten clean from alcohol, drugs gambling
or even pornography only to fall back into old hurtful patterns?

For reasons we may never understand…some folks get clean,
and or get saved and can walk a pretty straight path afterwards
for the majority of their lives.

For others the walk is not so easy as they fall backwards, time
and time again.

It is hard and it is frustrating and it is painful.

The Chosen explored the idea of Mary falling back into her
old ways–only to feel that now, she was even more than unworthy of Jesus.
He’d healed her once—how could she go back to him knowing she
had thrown away his gift while she reclaimed her tragic past?

It’s like being in a lake, unable to swim any longer, someone
throws you a lifebuoy—and yet you push it back seemingly to prefer
to try saving yourself.
Finally the person who hopes to help has to jump in the get you.
Suddenly you feel an overwhelming sense of shame in having refused the
lifebuoy as you’ve allowed this individual to put him or herself in
jeopardy at your selfish expense.
Yet they save you none the less.

Jesus knew of Mary’s dilemma and in turn sent Simon Peter and Matthew to fetch her–
bringing her back to the fold.

She came back—ashamed.

But Jesus saw no shame in Mary.

He forgave her backsliding.
He embraced her and her brokenness.

Just as he does the same for each of us.

We were normal.
We sinned and became abnormal.
Jesus heals us, mending us to normal…
but everlasting normal comes only when we are truly reunited to and with Him
in Heaven

He takes our abnormal while offering us back normal

adjective
adjective: abnormal
deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way
that is undesirable or worrying.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

extend love and forgiveness

God wants us to receive His mercy and, in turn,
be merciful to others through our actions, words, and prayers.
He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He extends
love and forgiveness to us.

Fr. Chris Alar, MIC
from his book Understanding Divine Mercy


(hidden creatures amongst the rosemary /Julie Cook / 2021)

Free me from evil passions and heal my heart of all disorderly affections,
that being healed and well purified in my interior,
I may become fit to love, courageous to suffer and constant to persevere.
Love is an excellent thing, a great good indeed,
which alone maketh light all that is burdened and makes all that which is bitter sweet and savory.
The love of Jesus is noble and generous;
it spurs us on to do great things and excites us to desire always that which is most perfect.”

Thomas á Kempis, p. 89
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

the in between is what really matters

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank, Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex:
A Collection of Her Short Stories, Fables, and Lesser-Known Writings


(looking down on the top of the original grave marker for my grandmother’s
great grandfather / Julie Cook / 2020)

Yesterday, I wanted to escape.

I wanted to go anywhere—anywhere where there were no protests, no looting, no riots,
no fires, no pandemic, no hate…but oddly I wanted to go to a place of death.
Or more aptly put, a place of final rest.

Odd yes, but I just really wanted to go away.
Just for a little while.

So where do you go to escape the world and her madness on the final Sunday in May?

I had a thought.

We got in the car and drove for a while.
Driving to a tiny rural middle Georgia town…
It was the birthplace of my grandmother.

There isn’t much to this tiny speck of a town.
It is a rural area with its share of farming and cattle.

My grandmother isn’t buried here but her mother, sister, and brothers are.
She, on the other hand, is buried in Atlanta and Atlanta is under siege so I wasn’t
about to go back over there…the middle of rural nowhere Georgia was much more appealing.

My grandmother’s father was killed in 1900 during the Spanish American War and
in turn, she and her three siblings were raised by their 26-year-old widowed mother
along with her father–their grandfather.

It was in this small rural town where they were raised.
But how in the world did they get to this place in the middle of
nowhere I’ve often wondered.

I knew that their family had come to this small middle Georgia area by means of Savannah.
Their great grandfather had been born in Savannah and before that, their great-great
grandfather was born in Germany finding his way to Savannah via London and North Carolina.

He fought in Chatham’s Artillery during the Revolutionary War.

The son severed in the Georgia Legislature and later as a state Judge.
Following the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1820 that killed 4000 in Savannah,
the elder man took his small family to rural middle Georgia as a hope
to avoid the sickness found in a swampy coastal region.

And since neither man, grandfather nor great grandfather were buried in
the hometown of my grandmother, I wanted to know where they were.

It didn’t take long to locate them with a quick google search.
They were only about 12 miles away in a small cemetery located in another small town–
the county seat to this particular rural county.


(the grave of the man, along with his wife, who raised my grandmother / Julie Cook / 2020)

And the irony found in my day’s journey was that I got a call while we were exploring the second
cemetery from our son, asking where in Arlington, the Atlanta Cemetery in north Atlanta,
where my dad, his Pops, was buried.

It seems that seeking peaceful rest was a running thread in my small family today.

He wanted to visit his grandfather’s grave, introducing his young son to his great grandfather–
and in turn, my mom, my uncle, my grandmother, my grandfather, and my cousin.
My brother was elsewhere in the cemetery.

A family reunion of sorts.


(my grandson meeting my mom, his great grandmother/ Brenton Cook / 2020)


(my grandson meeting my dad, his great grandfather/ Brenton Cook / 2020)

So with all of this notion of death, eternity and yes, even peace, swirling in my head,
and obviously in my son’s as well, I shifted gears right back to the madness plaguing our land.

For you see, I couldn’t truly get away.

I kept thinking about an article I had read the previous night.

It was an article by a black woman who was riling against anyone using
the phrase ‘all lives matter….’
In her mind, the folks who were saying such a phrase were white and due to their skin color,
“they didn’t get it”—
and thus, such a comment was to be considered racist…
so we can only say black lives matter…while forgetting all the rest.

She was angry.

And the odd thing is that I actually wrote a post about this very thing back in 2015…
five years ago.

Imagine that—five years ago we were digging the same divide we see continuing today.
Five years ago we still had national trouble.
We were riding the wave of the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

Antifa and Black Lives Matter were rising violent groups who sought change by the use
of force and violence at any cost.

Police officers were part of the problem.
In particular white police officers.

We don’t seem to change much in this country because we continue having the same
tragic incidents over and over.

Here is a portion of that post I wrote in September of 2015:

Fast forward to September 1st 2015…
Breaking News…a Fox Lake, Illinois police officer is shot by 3 assailants
and dies from his wounds.
He’s a 32-year law enforcement veteran who leaves behind a wife and four children.
The suspects are still at large as the entire community is put on lockdown.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination,
which took place over the weekend of a Texas Sheriff’s deputy who was shot while simply pumping gas,
filling up his police car.
A man approached him from behind, shooting him executioner style.
When he fell to the pavement, the gunman stood over the body,
emptying his gun into an obviously dead body—an exclamation point of murder.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination, wait, didn’t I just say that…
of two television journalists in Virginia…etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.

There’s been a lot of banter recently about “Black Lives Matter”…
However, I heard a response from the Sheriff of the deputy who was shot that I think sums up
all of this craziness best…
his response to the press just following the murder of his deputy was, and I’m paraphrasing…
‘that there has been lots of talk surrounding the Black lives matter conversation
but we all need to drop the qualifiers and understand one thing…
that ALL lives matter—doesn’t matter black, white, brown, yellow…
ALL lives matter…’

For you see, in this one man’s grief over the wasteful loss of life,
he gets it–he can actually see to the core of what is yet just one more divisional line
to so many divisional lines in this Nation of ours…

…for in the heart of God, there are no distinctions…
there is no line of separation, no color, no status, no sides, no qualifiers…
all that exists is a Love that is as wide and tall as it is deep…as in never-ending.

It does not discriminate, nor does it look twice…
it does not set limits nor does it demand anything in return…
It is equal, all-inclusive, welcoming, and offered to each and every one…
who so chooses to accept it—-
and that’s the kicker…
choosing to accept it––
choosing love, forgiveness, surrendering of self, of pride, of ego, of hate, of suspicion
in exchange for Love…
a Love that has been offered from a Father and bought with the ultimate price by a son,
so that you and I could stop the madness and live a life that finally lets go of the hate—

So today, these five years later, I still say all lives matter.
I still say folks who seek violence as a means to an end are thugs.
I still know that we are all born and that we will all die.
And I know, more importantly, that it’s what happens in between both that living and that dying
that is what matters most.

I always find solace in knowing of those who went before me just as I find hope in knowing
that it is particularly important that I leave a path of goodness for those who
follow after me.

I would think that George Floyd would have desired that his life and death be remembered
not for the begetting of more deaths and violence but rather for the possibility of positive
changes for a future generation…

May God have mercy on the United States.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Growing Monster
December 29, 2019
by Anna Waldherr

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

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

–Ronald Lauder, Pres. of World Jewish Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Growing Monster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Trump is not Satan…contrary to popular belief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 10:22

what does forgiveness look like

I had prepared an entire post for this morning that was to continue with the
discussion from yesterday regarding prayer…but that post will just have to wait until tomorrow.

It has to wait because I just finished reading the latest post from our friend
David Robertson…our favorite Scottish pastor who is now our favorite
down under pastor.
His post, or what I consider to be more of a reflection, centers on a leading US headline.

It is a post about the US news story regarding the trial of the white female police officer
who unbelievably walked into her neighbor’s apartment—
a neighbor who was a young black male–
She mistakingly thought it was her own apartment, and in turn, shot the neighbor
as he sat on the couch eating ice cream…
All the while thinking he was a burglar in her apartment.

I won’t even begin to try to go into the surrealism of this story.
The attempt of understanding this particular case—
a case which eludes the mind and prevents any ability to comprehend how or
why this could have ever happened.

Of course, there are currently a myriad of angry voices expressing their take to this
entire sad tale…but in the end…there are no words.

There is only tragedy, loss and death.

Or so that is what we would be lead to believe.

Yet there is one individual in all of this who has shown us otherwise.

It is the 18-year-old younger brother to the 26-year-old victim who tells us all that there
is much more to this story…

This is what forgiveness and love look like (David’s full post follows the clip)

Here is the link to David’s post…

Amber Guyger and Brandt Jean – Forgiveness – the Most Radical Teaching of Christ – in Practice

Asking forgiveness, it’s never too late nor futile…Poland is such an example

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has
forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Freedom is the capacity to assert one’s will against the willfulness of others.”
William of Ockham


Over the past weekend, I caught a lovely news story.

In between the nerve-racking updates about Hurricane Dorian here on the east coast—
the hurricane that just doesn’t want to go away—
to the sorrowful story coming out from the west coast about the tragic boat fire in the
Pacific claiming nearly 40 lives, to another sorrowful mass shooting…
finding a news story that read of hope, if not simply civility, was greatly welcomed.

Below, I’ve simply cut and paste the AT&T news story.
My take on it all follows…

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked for Poland’s forgiveness
80 years after the start of World War II.

“I stand before you, those who have survived, before the descendants of the victims,
the old and the young residents of Wielun, I am humbled and grateful,”
Steinmeier said during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun,
the site of one of the first Nazi bombings in the country on September 1, 1939.

“I bow to the victims of the attack in Wielun,
I pay tribute to the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask for forgiveness,” he said.

Nearly 6 million Poles died during World War II,
which remains the bloodiest conflict in history.

More than 50 million people were killed in the conflict overall,
including some 6 million Jews, half of whom were Polish.

At a ceremony in Warsaw, Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke of the atrocious history
suffered by Polish people during WWII and the “trauma” that they still carry today.

The Polish President remembered the fallen and thanked the soldiers
“who fought and sacrificed their lives for freedom.”

In an address on Sunday morning in Westerplatte, Gdansk,
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of the huge material, spiritual, economic
and financial losses Poland suffered in the war.

“We have to talk, we have to remember about the losses we suffered,
we have to demand the truth, we have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said.

War reparations remain a contentious issue in Poland —
since coming to power in 2015, the Law and Justice (PiS)
party has revived calls for compensation, Reuters reported.
Germany made the last payment on reparations in 2010.

US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Warsaw on Sunday at the commemoration ceremony
to mark the 80th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland.
Two days later, on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

“During the five decades of untold suffering and death that followed the outbreak of World War II,
the Polish people never lost hope, they never gave in to despair,
and they never let go of their thousand-year history,” Pence said.

“In the years that followed this day 80 years ago,
their light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” he added.

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/cnn-german_president_asks_for_forgiveness_80_years_aft-cnn2/category/news

The nation of Poland has a great deal to teach the rest of the world about perseverance
as well as the ability to forgive…just as it seems a German leader has a few things to teach
all of us about the never-ending ability to ask one who has been tragically wronged, to forgive.

But you’d need to understand a bit of history first to truly appreciate this story.

I’ve touched on Poland and her history before in a few previous posts,
but it seems the importance of revisiting has resurfaced.

Poland sits in a pivotal location geographically.

According to the renowned author and biographer, George Weigel, in his international bestseller
Witness to Hope / The biography of Pope John Paul II,
Poland’s location at the crossroads of Latin and Byzantine Europe, it’s geography,
and its repeated experience of invasion, occupation, resistance and
resurrection gave rise to a distinctive Polish way of looking at history.

Poland sits in the middle of Europe—in between the majority of Europe to the west
and Russia along with her broken minions to the east.
Poland has, down through the centuries, proven to be a historical bulwark.

She has literally been the defending line between tyranny and democracy for centuries.
And she has never complained about her pivotal lot.

I am reminded of the verse from the book of Luke:
“From everyone who has been given much,
much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

“Polish history is generally taken to begin with the baptism
of the Piast prince Mieszko I in 966. Mieszko’s choice for Latin Christianity
over Eastern Christianity, which had been formed in the orbit of Constantinople,
decisively shaped Poland’s history for more than a millennium.”

By Mieszko’s choice, a Slavic land and people would be oriented toward the Latin West.

These Roman Slavs were a bridge between Europe’s two cultural halves;
they could “speak the language of two spiritual worlds.”
Poland’s Catholicity and its geographic location led to a certain catholicity
of cultural temperament.

Tartars and Swedes had laid waste [to] the country; the Austrians had stripped the
Old Town of its fortifications and walls (Kraków); occupying powers of varying degrees of
ferocity had displaced the kings and queens of Poland from the royal castle,
atop the “Polish Zion.”
Now, on September 1, 1939, Wawel Cathedral was about to experience something beyond the
imagining of those who had worshiped beneath its gothic vault for centuries.

Poland, as a nation, has been erased numerous times from the known geographical
maps of human history.
Meaning, she was eliminated as a nation…
absorbed by her greedy neighbors on more than one occasion…
actually being erased for over 100 years from any historical map.
Yet the Polish people and their spirit as a unified people, has always remained.

Weigel notes “Poland is not always appreciated this way.
Indeed, the suspicion seems widespread that the Poles
must, for some reason or other, deserve their bad luck.
Yet Poland’s curse is neither in the stars nor in the Polish people.
It’s the neighborhood.”

“For more than a thousand years, the Polish people and their state have inhabited an enormous
flat plain bounded by large, aggressive, materially superior neighbors.
…The Germans were always to the west, and almost always aggressive.
German-Polish enmity followed and peaked in World War II,
when the Nazis sought to eradicate the Polish nation from history.

World War II, which the Poles sometimes describe as the war they lost twice,
was an unmitigated disaster for Poland.
Six million of its citizens our of a prewar population of 35 million,
were killed in combat or murdered– a mortality rate of eighteen percent.
The nation was physically decimated.
Poland became the site of the greatest slaughters of the Holocaust.
And, at the end, another totalitarian power seized control of Poland’s political future.

Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, would live under and eventually be formed by
these two occupying and oppressive regimes–two regimes that would each lend an
unknown hand to the building of a formidable world leader and in turn their own
nemesis and foe.

According to Wikipedia:
On 16 October 1978, Poland experienced what many Poles literally believed to
be a miracle.
Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope at the Vatican,
taking the name John Paul II. The election of a Polish Pope had an electrifying
effect on what was at that time one of the last idiosyncratically
Catholic countries in Europe.
When John Paul toured Poland in June 1979, half a million people came to welcome
him in Warsaw; in the next eight days, about ten million Poles attended the
many outdoor masses he celebrated.
John Paul clearly became the most important person in Poland, leaving the regime
not so much opposed as ignored. Rather than calling for rebellion,
John Paul encouraged the creation of an “alternative Poland” of social
institutions independent of the government, so that when the next crisis came,
the nation would present a united front.

On 27 October 1991, the first (since the 1920s) entirely free Polish parliamentary
election took place.
This completed Poland’s transition from a communist party rule to a Western-style liberal
democratic political system.

And so despite the centuries of war, siege, occupation, death, murder, and even obliteration…
Poland has remained…just as she continues to remain.

And so we are fortunate in that we, as a world, may watch as a one-time warring
and occupying nation sincerely offers a very humble and visceral apology.
Words that cannot erase the pain, suffering, loss or unfathomable human tragedy…
but words offered by a nation who can admit to the sins of her past…
which in turn now offer hope to a renewed future for us all.

Forgiveness, Hope and Healing—all offered to a very troubled and very needing world…

We continue to hold on to Hope…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32