thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

Finally… the official call of the quaking duck

“If it looks like a duck,
quacks like a duck,
it’s a duck!”

Robin Cook

“Your words have the power of life and death.
Choose them wisely.”

― Orrin Woodward

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(preening mallard at Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook 2016

A most edifying annoucnement came today from the State Department.

Genocide…
That’s what ISIS is indeed doing…
to Shia Muslims
to Yazidis
to Christians….

“We must recognize what Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] is doing to its victims,”
Kerry said, speaking from the State Department podium.
“We must hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The treaty commits signatory nations to take steps to “prevent and to punish”
the “odious scourge” of genocide.

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/isis-committing-genocide-against-christians-144946484.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35831711

Will the “recognition” change things?
Sadly, probably not…
But what it will change is the lens to which the world’s powerful leaders will use to view the vile acts committed by this terrorist organization….
and with the changing of the lens, we pray for the changing of hearts….

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:7

Obviously the truth

“Today I will do what others won’t,
so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t”

Jerry Rice

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion
against injustice and lying and greed.
If people all over the world…would do this,
it would change the earth.”

― William Faulkner

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out
the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

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(the first butterfly of the season visiting the blueberry blooms / Julie Cook / 2016)

The official word is supposedly to come Thursday.
The long awaited “will they or won’t they….”

Word is that they won’t.

Yet the House has voted…383-0
Unanimous across party lines.
A strong signal to the Administration…

“Last week, ISIS militants killed 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at a retirement home in southern Yemen,” Ryan said in a statement Monday. “This is the latest in a string of brutal attacks committed by ISIS against Christian and other minorities. Yet the administration has still not called this what it is: A genocide.”
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House

The Senate will vote next.
Yet these votes are symbolic in name only…
Because the final word will come from the White House and the White House alone.

However… no matter whether this Administration confirms that the atrocities waged by ISIS against Christians is indeed genocide… or not….the truth remains…obviously the Truth…

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/03/14/house-poised-to-declare-isis-committing-genocide-against-christians-other-minorities.html?intcmp=hpbt2

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;
Zechariah 8:16

footnote

Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure unfinished masterpiece.
Vladimir Nabokov

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(the quince are in bloom / Julie Cook / 2016)

A footnote…
an afterthought,
a lesser thought,
an added thought,
another thought,
an annotation,
an aside,
a reference,
insignificant,
not as important,
less than,
in addition to….

That is what the link below represents.
A mere blip on the radar to a previous story.
A footnote, a follow-up, a recap…

The lead-up stories blanketed the various news agencies last week…
Both liberal and conservatives bastions of all things newsy…each covered the story.
Not, mind you, the televised nightly news, but the cyber newsies had it covered.

Would they or wouldn’t they…?
That was the big question…the lone elephant in the room…
What would it take…?
How best could it be presented…?
What would they say…?
How would the acknowledgement, by the most powerful nation in the world,
play out with the current horrendous level of persecution?

The announcement was to come Thursday.
Yet here it is now Sunday…and nary a word has been seen nor heard…
There has been no real reporting of the results…
That is…until late this afternoon…

It was during a quick tour of the various cyber news sites, scanning the top stories of the day…
The he said, they said, she said, no they didn’t say stories…
And there it is was…
Off to the side on one of the more “conservative,
or controversial sites depending on your point of view…
in a column reserved for annoying advertisements and the stories of the bizarre…

The White House refuses to acknowledge that the systematic torture and killing of the Christians in Syria is genocide….

Yet how odd it is that the White House now happily recognizes and “approves” of Iran and its continuing development of nuclear weaponry…
plus is now readily paying out 1.7 billion dollars to Iran for “debt and interest”….

What’s wrong with this picture…?

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4799285801001/white-house-refuses-to-acknowledge-genocide-of-christians/?intcmp=hpvid1#sp=show-clips

It is what it is…

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(up close and personal with a sheep / Slieve League, Co Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe I read more news then I should…
Maybe I read the stories that don’t receive the same amount of coverage or
attention as say… those stories which fill and flood our news outlets…
just as excessive rains fill a sewer system…

Sending a sea of garbage filled overflow flooding into all of our lives…
whether we ask for it or not…

For it seems that there are just too many “newsless” stories which seem to overshadow the truly more pressing stories…
those stories that we really should be focusing on…
especially as Christians…

Why as Christians you ask?
Why should I worry myself with the happenings and business of things which take place
“over there”
you muse?

Well…because in a plain spoken reminder, by one who did just that…
Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that when Christ calls…
when He calls both you and I…
it is a call to die…
to die unto self.

We are united in the faith and fellowship in the single body of Christ,
with our brothers and sisters around this globe…
and when one part of the body hurts and aches,
so does the whole…

It behooves us to be mindful that we have a vested interest in the
honoring of God’s sovereign land of Israel…
of which the US and the current administration has opted not to do…

It behooves us to be aware of the sacrifices made globally
by our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer because of their faith.
Those who are imprisoned, tortured and killed just for worshiping…
What will ever stop that happening say…one day to us…

It behooves us to be mindful that we in the West take for granted the freedom
to walk into our various houses of worship while so many others cannot…

It behooves us to note that if we fail to speak or act on their behalf,
on the behalf of countless others scattered around this ailing world…
then who will remain to act on ours…..

The following links are to recent stories…
stories reporting the events taking place in Israel,
the Christian genocide in Iraq by IS, the destruction of churches in China and
how 2015 was a very bad year for Christians worldwide:

http://news.yahoo.com/white-house-says-israels-netanyahu-opted-cancel-visit-211709688.html

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/03/08/separate-attacks-reported-in-israel-2-security-officers-injured.html?intcmp=hpbt3

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/03/08/beheadings-imprisonment-made-2015-worst-year-for-christian-persecution-report-finds.html?intcmp=hpbt2

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/catholics-urge-obama-to-use-1382330232389686.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/03/10/report-details-isis-atrocities-against-christians-presses-state-for-genocide-label.html?intcmp=hpbt1

http://uverse.com/uv/watch/c___Wbh9DOcn41YA?ref=yfp

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Martin Niemoller

what constitutes genocide?

If it’s April, it must be “Never Again” time once more. You hear this solemn pledge a lot every April, since the month commemorates not only Holocaust Remembrance Day but the official anniversaries of both the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Leaders at every level seem to love hearing themselves declare “Never Again.” But those who mean it have no power and those with power never mean it. The record speaks for itself.
Gerald Caplan, Samuel Totten and Amanda Grzyb
The Globe and Mail 2013

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(remnants of desecrated monuments / Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook /2016)

Genocide–a noun–the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

What does it take for mass murder, the systematic killing of one group of people, to be recognized by world powers, in particular the Obama administration, as genocide?

How many people have to die a brutal death, before one more death, becomes one too many?

Why do we have to have committees, writing up and comprising dossiers, detailing the numbers and events of the egresses brutalities, the murders, in hopes that the powers that be, in this case Secretary of State John Kerry, will finally publicly agree that the systematic mass murders are to be recognized as genocide?

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/pressure-mounts-on-obama-to-call-islamic-state-163109049.html

Also… this second link is to a story about a man living in Raqqa who has kept a diary reflecting life lived under the rigid arm of ISIS—his story secretly shared with BBC reporters

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35728424

A Noble Treason

“….only religion can reawaken Europe and restore Christianity to its earthly mission as patron and founder of world peace.”
Novalis

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(a white rose in the garden /Julie Cook / 2013)

Merriam Webster defines treason as:
the betrayal of a trust : treachery
the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or
the sovereign’s family.

Noble is defined as:
possessing, characterized by, or arising from
superiority of mind or character of ideals or morals.

Putting the two together produces something akin to an oxymoron.
Killing, betrayal, overthrowing, injuring all coupled with high character and
superior morals.
Certainly sounds like a conflict to me–
a clashing of two vastly different thoughts of mind and/or philosophies….
and yet, each were inextricably linked and exemplified during a terribly
grave time of madness.

Yes, I’ve posted images of white roses before,…not this particular image however.
And yes, I’ve written a specific post on the White Rose revolt and Sophie Scholl…
even briefly addressing it in an additional post…and yet, here I am again.
A flummoxing situation has arisen as I find myself in a quandary.

I just finished the book today…
A Nobel Treason–The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

I know what you’re thinking, “Julie, how long have you been reading that book…
it’s been since May hasn’t it?”
Yes, it has been a very long read.
Not because it is a voluminous tome, not because my life is so consumed that
I can’t find the time…
simply put it has not been an easy read.
The story has been such that I have had to put the book down,
sometimes for weeks on end.

I’m not here to give a book review as that is not my purpose for this post.
My intent is, however, to continue the story of these young people,
to continue placing them, their lives,
their act of passive resistance in the forefront of our minds,
lest we forget.
Hence my quandary…
I can’t keep quiet and not share….
for the final word of the book was to “remember me”….
and remember we shall.

I know what you’re thinking, that all of this is of the past,
why do we have to revisit something so terrible?
Can’t we just let it go?
As none of us really like thinking about any of this.
A casual response might be that “I don’t know these kids, never heard of them…
who cares….?”

I have said this time and time again—
if we forget the past, if we let it go as it were,
we are bound to fall into some bad old ways.
And whereas it won’t be exactly like it was—we won’t, I don’t think,
allow for another Hitler, another Holocaust,
but there are places on this globe that may beg to differ.
There are other names for such…ethnic cleansing or genocide,
ask Bosnia-Herzegovina, ask the Kurds in Iraq,
ask the Rwandans, those in Darfour…the list goes on.

It all still continues…it’s just that it happens under different names and in
different places.
Time and distance does not make it right, does not make it go away…
But this country of mine seems more concerned and consumed with the latest Hollywood starlet’s demise, Queen O and her handbag flack in Zurich as well as
stories about some idiot politician and his bad boy behavior.
Sometimes I sadly wonder where the moral hutzpah of this nation has gone.

Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were college kids who
could no longer tolerate the cultural and dehumanizing demise of their once
culturally and academically rich historic nation.

Theirs was a literary sort of resistance as they produced leaflets for distribution denouncing The Third Reich.
No violence,
no overt opposition as they had each served their time in the Hitler Youth Program.

It was just to be the power of the written word coupled by the desire that the
World know that there were those who still remained in Germany who still
possessed a moral consciousness as well as a civility that had otherwise vanished
in the wake of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich and National Socialism.

Before it was all over, 6 of their group, all of them young college kids plus a noted professor, would be lead to a guillotine—
14 others sent to various prisons and concentration camps.
The spinoff branches, which had taken hold throughout Germany,
were also then rounded up and either executed or imprisoned.
The Gestapo was working over time to silence a mere handful of dissident youth.
Why and how could a group of young people living in the small town of Ulm cause
such alarm and fear within the upper ranks of the Gestapo and Nazi Party by their
quiet distribution of mere pamphlets…
such that the dreaded and powerful Heinrich Himmler himself took personal
command of the situation and of the ultimate sentencing.

When arrested they all took full responsibility for their actions never
capitulating never recanting.
There was a calmness in the face of certain death.

A single word comes to mind….
Brave.

Could I walk calmly to have my head chopped off?
Could I bear all responsibility, trying to deflect potential harm from my
friends and family?
Could I remain brave or would I be of the status quo afraid of the reprisals?
Could I still hold to my convictions while facing the possibility of
tortures, when those I trusted turned on me, pretended not to know me?
Could I remain brave seeing the tears and sorrow in the face of my parents
as they said good-bye one final time……

I have never been able to wrap my brain around Hitler, the Nazis,
or of the German people who fell under the spell…
how could a once proud country of northern Europeans,
whose nation, though its millennium of rich history,
which had given so much to the world in the way of literature, art and music,
be capable or such barbarism?
How could they have allowed it to grow into such a monstrous level of hate and death
while doing little or nothing to stop it….
going as far as even agreeing with it?

I find it nearly impossible understanding the unthinkable death camps and of
the horrific things a few humans would inflict on other humans,
using those deemed “less than” as lab rats for all sort of heinous acts…
As there were the ovens and the chambers…

But of course that was then and this is now….
why do I torture my mind by pondering such…

Because none of those 6 million plus individuals died in vain,
And just because it is a staggering number that is so overwhelming…
almost impossible to comprehend,
Nor should we forget the millions left dead on the various battlefields
before the war was all said and done.

We remember the women paraded to the “showers” who were stripped naked while
walking past sneering and heckling guards…

These were wives, mothers, sister, daughters….

There were the children torn from the arms of parents.

How do we now comprehend humans being so unfeeling and disconnected
from other humans?

And yet, it continues today…simply in a different guise and in different
part of the world.

But the question should be asked, are there groups of young dissidents
today such as Sophie, Hans and Christoph and if so, where then?
I don’t know.

At first these were Germans against Germans.
It seemingly starts insidiously then grows to an almost triumphant crescendo,
when the world first takes notice, with Kristallnacht,
the night of the shattering glass.
Germans killing fellow Germans because of their religion…
destroying lives, businesses, and unbeknownst, destroying themselves.

I thankfully will never know what it was like to live in a Germany destroyed by
a previous world war.
I have not lived through a great depression nor of a war fought on my own soil.
I do not personally know what those sorts of things do to people.

One of the most poignant parts of the book retells the story of the hurried up
monkey trial for Sophie, Hans and Christoph–
from the time of their arrest to the trial and of the ultimate beheading,
it was less than a week—
unheard of today as these sorts of things could take months to sort out.

Their parents had learned on a friday of their children’s arrest.
On Monday they took the train to Munich thinking they would be there for the trial.
But the trial was already in progress by the time the parents arrived.
The Scholl’s pushed their way through the crowded courtroom to where their children were sitting before the most notorious judge of the Third Reich,
Roland Freisler.
Freisler had been immediatley dispatched from Berlin to pass sentence on three of Germany’s brightest youth.

When Mrs. Scholl first sees her children in a defendant’s box and hears their words,
it is all she can bear.
She faints and is taken from the courtroom.
She attempts to re-enter,
explaining to the guard that she is the mother of the defendants—
the response from the guard was cold, not one of empathy…
“You should have done a better job raising them”

Aggghhhh the irony!!!

The fact here is that she had done a marvelous job raising her children as she and her husband instilled in their children the deepest sense of responsibility and moral conviction that would transcend time …

No, I don’t think I will ever understand this particular time of our human history. Countless historians, military experts, philosophers, analysts, etc…
greater minds than my own,
have written about, researched and written some more regarding the how and
why of it all—-yet still leaving the world no less wiser.
Was it the perfect storm of events which created such a black and horrendous
scar on our existence?

The White Rose organization wanted the World to know that there were still
decent people remaining in Germany,
defiant and not willing to bend to the will of a madman.
The young Anne Frank, hiding hundreds of miles away in Amsterdam
remarked that she still believed that people were still inherently good.
The christian Corrie ten Boom worked along side her father to aid countless
Jews trying to escape the death grip of the Nazis only to face prison herself.
Father Hugh O’Flaherty worked tirelessly in Rome, within the Vatican
and under the vise of Nazi occupation and Mussolini’s fascist regime,
working tirelessly to smuggle thousands of men, woman and children out of the
county.

I suppose the small ray of hope is that there are men and woman who remain the
still small voices in the desert of the madness of humanity..
their voices continuing to fight and cry out when all else seems lost.

There always will remain a moral compass to guide others.
There will always be risk as there are those who will work equally as hard to
silence the voice of justice and righteousness.

I can hope that when I am faced with the choice of action, of speaking out
verses remaining silent…
I will chose to act and to speak–
to speak loudly with brave conviction–
may it be so that we all choose the courageous path of the often lonely and
dangerous road of justice and moral obligation.