“provoke to love and good works”

Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth;
for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the
foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord,
when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all,
and men love each other in Him without dissimulation,
because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise
the real character of their love

St Augustine


(poor example of spontaneous note taking / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well….
it happened that before I could elaborate on last week’s video offering
by the Scottish pastor David Robertson..that being a video posting from his
Wee Flea Blog and the SOLAS conference talk given in 2010—
during the course of the weekend here came another posting.

It seems our Wee Flea friend is faster at offering tasty morsels than I am at
digesting them and then in turn sharing the nourishment of the morsel with you…..

This time the posting is from a 2013 SOLAS conference which focuses on education
and the poor.

Very powerful, sobering and collar grabbing kind of stuff.

And well, you didn’t think a retired educator, a Christian retired educator,
one who taught for 31 years in the secular public educational system of the
United States could actually pass over such a tempting morsel without stopping
to take it all in did you??

Despite this latest SOLAS (remember Gaelic for Light) offering running for
nearly an hour…I couldn’t let it pass without giving it my undivided attention.

During last week’s video offering, I wrote down two quotes of David’s…

“When you remove Christianity from a country, [its] education declines”

“Secularism doesn’t educate you—it dumbs you down.”

I was struck by both of those statements.

And as I am also a faithful reader of Citizen Tom’s blog (https://citizentom.com)
as Tom often points out the dire and dismal state of the educational system in the
United States, I knew these two statements were indeed onto something….

And before I could properly digest and share my copious note taking from the previous
posting, here came this latest posting over the weekend.

My weekend was such that I had to put off watching this particular video until
this Monday morning when I could carve out an hour’s time…
in order to properly sort things out.
Yet on top of just watching the video, came the sorting of the notes and then the
turning around and offering to you a proper post regarding David’s talk…

So now picture me holding my hands to my head in a bit of a tizzy while visions of the
National Football Championship dance dizzily around my head…
There are homemade cookies and homemade pizza preparations to get underway all
for this evening’s big game festivities…..GO DAWGS…while my head was still
swirling with what I’d gleaned from David’s talk.
(well, I wrote this before the big game obviously—now, we won’t talk about it)

But back to the SOLAS clip….

Do yourself another favor—carve out the time to watch this.
Especially if you are a teacher, have children or grandchildren who attend schools
or are simply worried about our youth and their future…..

You should note however when watching the video that there is one huge difference
between the educational system in Scotland verses the educational system
in the United States.
The educational system in Scotland is considered a state Christian System by law
verses our very separate and secular school system in the US.

But the message remains the same—as there is a growing gap between rich and poor
in educational opportunities in both of our nations.

David noted an example….
The more affluent families can easily afford after school and out of school tutors.
Whereas a finer tutor, say in London, might fetch 400 pounds an hour—
such a tutor in Dundee, Scotland might command only 15 pounds an hour—
but no matter, as both kids, be it from London or Dundee, those who can afford a
tutor already have a step up the ladder from those disadvantaged kids from lower
income families who can’t afford any sort of tutor….

If you’ve never heard of Thomas Guthrie, it’s worth clicking on the following link for
a bit of background on a man whose life has played a rich part of the
educational system in Scotland other than that of John Knox himself who boldly
stated that “wherever there is a church, there shall be a school.”

https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/reformer-thomas-guthrie-11630341.html

Guthrie (1803-1873), a man who studied to become a doctor but became, upon graduating college, a minister instead held as his mission statement…
regarding those he ministered to in Scotland, that education was essential to saving
the less fortunate from a life of ignorance, squalor, disease, idleness and poverty.

He saw that education and learning were the keys to opening doors and turning away
from the vicious cycles of hunger, alcoholism, crime and poverty that was rife
within the families of the poor and disadvantaged…
Guthrie therefore petitioned Parliament to make compulsory education mandatory
in order to help save the children and future children from an assumed destiny
of misery.

Yet Guthrie maintained that such an education had to have Christianity as its root.
How else would morality anchor itself within society.
As we bewildered watch the secular movement today creating its “social engineering”
of the masses.

The physical threshold of each school Guthrie founded was to be fashioned with the
carving of an open Bible with the motto written, “Search the Scriptures”

Yet David notes that there will always be secular resistance as the secular world
pushes ever closer to ultimately having a society without God.
However David holds firm to the notion that without Christianity,
we will destroy Education….
***and in turn destroy our civilization…
(*** my 2 cents)

And David presents this polestar thought with laser precision in this talk.

David admonishes us all…those of us who confess the Faith of Jesus Christ…
that as Christians it is our moral obligation that we should be making education
and our schools a top priority…be it here in the States or there in Scotland.

Yet I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.

He reminds each of us not to simply leave it to the schools to educate our kids
as to what is a Christian worldview—but it is up to us…us being the ones who need
to chiefly see to that responsibility.

And I dare say, that most of us have grown rather complacent here in the States.
The upper tier pay exorbitant yearly fees to upper crust schools for a
private education, that even though some of the private institutions claim a church denomination’s backing…as I dare ask is that a worldly looking denomination???

Leaving everyone else to the charge of the state and federally funded school
systems—schools, many of which, are woefully lacking and are stymied in
their ability to lay a moralistic foundation…due greatly in part to the fact that
we have erased our Christian heritage from the very system our founding fathers state
as being an important component to the fledgling new nation’s growth and development.

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

atheists ain’t got no songs…..

Do not be afraid.
Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.
Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

John Paul II


(Steve Martin appearing on David Lettermen singing Atheists ain’t got no song / 2011)

When I scanned my emails and saw that I had a notice of a new posting
from a blog I follow, I opted to investigate a bit further—

I realized there was actually a videoclip in the posting that was sitting at
roughly 42 minutes…
I wasn’t really certain I wanted to be contained for almost three quarters of an hour watching a videoclip in the middle of the day.

There were things to do.

How could I justify sitting at the kitchen table watching a video clip for nearly 45 minutes….what about the cleaning, the wash, the filing, the bills, the shrimp…
the shrimp that needed deveining for this evening’s supper….???

I am a person who isn’t one to sit around.
I am a doer and constantly moving about…as something always needs tending to.
Sitting in the middle of the day, listening and watching a videoclip is a little
hard for me to justify

45 minutes, really??!!

Yet I was curious.
And I also do quote this man all the time.

I am constantly offering this man’s teachings, his preachings, his defenses,
his proclamations…to you…and so do I not owe it to you to really
know a bit more about him????

Of course I do.
If one wants to be truly credible, one must invest time and understanding
before sharing.

Yet I’m not Scottish…well that is… not me exactly but in heritage, yes.
I’m certainly not a Presbyterian nor am I an Evangelical…
I’m still an Episcopalian by name…but just one who happens to no longer
agree with the direction of the Episcopal Church.

What I am is a conservative Christian who believes in the importance of
spreading the word about God, Jesus, sin, death, life and salvation….

So perhaps I needed to invest the time.
Something was nagging at me to give it a look.

I clicked on the video and after about 2 minutes in, I stopped it.
I knew I needed a pen and paper as there was much to be writing down.

David Robertson, the Reformed Presbyterian Minister who heads St. Peter’s Church
in Dundee, Scotland had posted his latest blog post in which he was offering
a videoclip from address given in 2010 for the Christian organization that he
is apart of, SOLAS.
And despite the videoclip being nearly 8 years old,
David had stated that if one really wanted to understand what he was about,
this was probably the best explanation.

The Christian group there in Dundee named SOLAS—was something I really had no idea
about or what it was, I just knew it was something he had his hand in…
but now know—
Solas is a Gaelic word meaning Light—and that Light is the Light of Jesus Christ….

If you visit my world here often, you hear much reference to David.
I found him via this little blog world of ours.
And when I read the things he was writing on his Wee Flea blog, I found myself
most often in total agreement, not all the time mind you, but most of the time as
I’d find myself nodding and offering a silent “Amen”

And as I don’t always agree with everything…
I’ve yet to meet a Christian who is usually 100% with another Christian—
heck most folks find something to disagree over with their own priests, pastors or minister. I don’t know any Christians who totally agree with
each and everyone’s doctrines or denominational background…but at the end of the day
if the bottom line is Jesus Christ for each of us then that is truly our common ground.

Doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Baptist, Pentecostal or Greek Orthodox…
if Jesus Christ…His birth, his life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection
is the chief cornerstone in your life—then we are all on the same page.

I had not read any of David’s books.
I hadn’t even heard of him before…but it seems he was pretty famous for
having debated and besting the avowed Atheist Richard Dawkins.

He even went on to write a book that acted as a Christian follow-up to
Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion.

So today’s videoclip, which I’ve attached below was indeed enlightening.

It made me think of Wally’s little meme and comment yesterday which was
“If somebody took a poll of 10 of your acquaintances and asked them the most
notable thing about you, how many of them would say:
“Oh they really love Jesus!?”

(https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com)

This really made me think.
I told Wally I’d probably get “good wife, good mom, good cook,
good teacher’…..but would anyone start with the fact that I do love Jesus,
proclaim Him as my Salvation…have I simply done that more inwardly and
just for self….??
I wasn’t sure I could answer that “thought” and even told Wally I
had been given much to ponder.

I will spend some time over the next couple of days focusing in on some of the key
thoughts I took away from watching David’s video.

He did offer something rather hilarious and that was a mention of Steve Martin singing
the song Atheists ain’t got no songs.
He said if you’d not heard it or seen it, google
it, it was worth the look….and it was!

It was a clip from a David Lettermen show and in true Steve Martin form,
it is hysterical while ringing of so much truth…

I don’t know about Steve Martin’s religious beliefs but I think he leans
toward agnosticism….but no matter, as I thoroughly enjoyed the song…
I think you will too

Plus—do yourself a favor, carve out the roughly 42 minutes to listen to David’s
address.

It matters not that his focus is the Church there in Scotland.
Scotland has a rich Christian history—and was once the loudest Evangelistic voices
in most of the world…but then something happened…just as it is happening here
in the US.

It matters not that you may be Lutheran, Anglican, Southern Baptist, Methodist,
etc…the message is the same.

And I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again…it was a quote from the
former Anglican Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
“It is the secular culture that is attracting many believers”—as more and more
people leave the Church, preferring the worship at the altar of the worldly….

There was a time when my mom, God rest her soul…my quiet, shy and very Episcopalian
mom would have warned me not to be talking about such…I wouldn’t want folks to think
I was some sort of nut, religious fanatic or “Jesus freak” or God forbid,
part of a cult…
but I would have to now say to mother, what better time then now Mom?
What better time than now….?

Give me Scotland or I die

“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!”

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples;
even though some of them still look down on me.

Saint Patrick

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(the shamrock, Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”
― St. Patrick, The Confession of Saint Patrick

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(detail of a tomb in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Legend tells us that it was blessed St Patrick who first established the shamrock as one of Ireland’s most endearing symbols.

Patrick spent 40 years of his life wandering the mystical Pretanic Island, preaching and teaching to the Druids and the Celts. The Celts were actually a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings, Danes, Druids, Picts and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion (northern Great Britain). And as an island people, these superstitious tribes were deeply connected, attuned to, as well as dependent upon the land.

Ireland was a rich and fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream.
Patrick knew that the best way to get the attention of the Celts was to utilize those things that were common and entrenched in everyday life.
A prolific example being the humble clover.
The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of the Holy Trinity.

To this day the shamrock is synonymous with Ireland’s Christiatn spirituality and heritage.

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(a small stain glass medallion from St Patrick’s Cathedral Bookstore, Dublin, Ireland)

Authentic representation

To be nobody but myself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else-means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings

No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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(a charming little sheep sculpture made by artist Marina Hamilton– County Donegal / Julie Cook/ 2015)

I had fallen in love.
For 15 days, I had fallen in love.
I had traversed the countryside, climbed upward and downward to what seemed to be each hill and dale, skirted the coastline, stood upon pinnacle after pinnacle gazing out over land and sea all the while as I tasted, saw, heard, felt and sensed what it was, what it is, that made/makes this island nation so enticing… as I had simply fallen in love with the sheer wondrous beauty which was lovingly laid out by a masterful Creator before my very eyes…

Yet I had fallen in love with something else as well…as in head over heels in love…for I was taken with and smitten by the endless sea of sheep.

DSCN0845
(a soon to be sheared sheep / County Cork / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN1712
(a sheep sits enjoying the day, somewhere near Slieve Liag, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a freshly sheared sheep, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

White faced, long haired, short haired, with horns, without horns, black faced, black sheep, brown sheep, all white sheep, spotted sheep–every kind of sheep imaginable…I had loved each and every one I encountered.

Why?

I’m not sure…I’ve just always had a deep affinity for sheep, as I have always fancied myself one day being a bit of a sheepherder.

Most likely it’s because I identify with the spiritual analogy of sheep–of our being like lost sheep with Jesus being the shepherd who goes out in search of that one lost sheep–aka, me…
He didn’t let it go, cutting his losses, but actually left the flock to go searching for the not so bright one who wandered off….

Or maybe its the whole sacrificial lamb analogy…the deeply mournful words spoken by the ancient prophets…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Whatever the reason the love has always been there…but the recent adventure, which brought me face to face, pretty much cemented the deal of true love.

Never mind that they are dirty…bearing poop stained butts. Never mind they don’t make for the most loyal of pets–if you can call them pets. Sheep are skittish, flighty, loud, and are certainly not the brightest animals on the food chain— hence why they are more or less dinner for many an opportunist predator…yet there is just something about them…

And maybe it’s just seeing them sitting, standing, grazing in a most pastoral idyllic picture perfect, kodak moment, locale of sheer sheep beauty that just seals the deal–peace on earth kind of wonderful.

How does one capture, taking home that whole feeling of the moment… of that love at first sight sort of instantaneous feeling—tasting it, savoring it, holding on to it for later when both you and it are parted and far removed from the very moment of being delightfully caught together in time?

There are a million touristy, kitschy, chotskies of the made in China variety of the cutesy Disneyesque sheep any tourist can snap up at any numerous shop throughout the country. Yet I wanted something real, something tangible, something as close to the real deal and unique as I could find.

As our time together was drawing to a close, I felt myself slipping a bit into the heaviness of melancholy as I was actually mourning–it was hard to still be happy, enjoying the moment as I knew I was mere days away from departing—and for who knows how long—a year, a few years, a lifetime?
Would I be back?
I could not say.

Wandering into a little shop of locally made crafts, in the middle of County Donegal, I immediately spotted my keepsake.

He was a little sculpted ceramic sheep made by a local artist. There were actually two perched on a display pedestal. I looked them both over–picking them up, feeling the unglazed heft of clay in my hands, the weight of something solid and substantial…all the while as I looked into those black glassy eyes. I made my choice and gingerly carried my “skelybegs” (a butchering amalgamation of the gaelic surroundings) to the counter. As he, yes it was a he I had decided, was a piece of art, he did not come cheap, but to me, he was worth the cost and then some as he spoke volumes of my Irish adventure.

Once home, I excitedly and carefully unwrapped my prized possession. I had painstakingly carried him by hand the final leg of the journey, even on the long plane ride home, so having unwrapped him and seeing he was in one piece, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I then lovingly placed my little sheep on the counter in the kitchen right next to one of my favorite Russian Icons of Jesus…as it only seemed fitting to have the sheep by the Shepherd.

I greatly enjoy seeing that sheep each and everyday as I lovingly labor about in the kitchen as it helps me to hold onto a very special place and time.
Yet my little clay sheep is but a mere representational reminder of something that, although I deeply love, is far removed from me and my daily life.

The clay sheep is a token of remembrance, a reminder and a representative…
yet he is a far cry from the authentic real deal sheep.
He merely captures the spirit of an enduring love and intrinsic connection to something deeply important.
Which got me thinking…

Jesus–that icon or image of the mystical shepherd sitting next to my little sheep…
Obviously not the real deal either…yet it is rather a visual representative of someone who was… and in my heart and mind, of someone who still is…

Obviously I understand that, feel that and acknowledge that…but what about others…?
What about the countless numbers of non-belivers or other faith believers or even those Christian believers who do not have that knowledge of that tangible Being…how are they to ever understand the depth of the love offered by the one true Shepherd…certainly not from a mere picture, icon or image…it certainly has to be more….

What of those countless numbers of folks currently around the globe, during these terribly trying times, who are more wary than ever before of what being a follower of Christ truly entails.

And then it hit me….

It’s not a matter of those of us who “get it” or truly understand being simply rote, mindless, empty, lip-syncing followers who merely show up to “worship” on Easter, pull out those dusty nativity scenes at Christmas or slap some sort of fish on the back of our car window or flippantly check off on a form that we are of the Christian persuasion but rather it is imperative in these ever growing darkening days that an authentic representative understands that he or she is to step up to the plate…one who understands what it means to be a true imitator of Christ….picking up and taking up the Cross and in turn understanding that that means dying unto self…as an authentic representative understands, grasps and lives the idea that a true imitator of Christ is called to do just that…imitate how Jesus lived and that living often exacts a tremendous price…a price often paid with ones very life, a price we must all be willing to pay….

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

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(clover in the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2015)

“God, my God, omnipotent King, I humbly adore thee. Thou art King of kings, Lord of lords. Thou art the Judge of every age. Thou art the Redeemer of souls. Thou art the Liberator of those who believe. Thou art the Hope of those who toil. Thou art the Comforter of those in sorrow. Thou art the Way to those who wander. Thou art Master to the nations. Thou art the Creator of all creatures. Thou art the Lover of all good. Thou art the Prince of all virtues. Thou art the joy of all Thy saints. Thou art life perpetual. Thou art joy in truth. Thou art the exultation in the eternal fatherland. Thou art the Light of light. Thou art the Fountain of holiness. Thou art the glory of God the Father in the height. Thou art Savior of the world. Thou art the plenitude of the Holy Spirit. Thou sittest at the right hand of God the Father on the throne, reigning for ever.”
― St. Patrick