atonement for the crowd

“Without any censorship,
in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those
which are not fashionable;
nothing is forbidden,
but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books
or be heard in colleges.
Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(stampede of horses / courtesy wikipedia)

Stampedes are a frighting phenomena…
large gatherings of animals or humans, seemingly docile and clam,
with each creature or being in its own little world….
that is….
until a few in the crowd get spooked…
spooked by some real threat or something merely perceived as a threat…

It’s then Katie bar the door as each creature is now running and racing
for it’s life as it’s now every beast, or man, for itself….
too bad if you get caught up underfoot—it just wasn’t your lucky day.

Crowds are not great at perception.
They tend to disregard the subtleties of detail.
The mentality of the mob tends to take precedence…be it good or bad,
And since the crowd becomes its own entity, its mentality in turn rules.

Ever been that lone voice in the wilderness?
If so, then you get the idea—-

The crowd tends not to hear you over the din of its own self obsession, chattiness or chants….
And who wants to be the odd man out when the crowd leans one away while you’re alone
leaning the other way….

And so my thoughts turn to that of another crowd….
long ago…

“Crucify the Nazarene” they shout.
“Free Barabas” they demand….

As a lone procurator stands before a potential violent onslaught of the skewed
mentality of the crowd…
Best to placate the beast, lest you’re torn apart….
Yet there is no atonement to be found in the the placation or appeasement of the crowd….

“In Christ’s human life, there were always a few who made up for the neglect of the crowd.
The shepherds did it;
their hurrying to the crib atoned for the people who would flee from Christ.
The wise men did it;
their journey across the world made up for those who refused to stir one hand’s breadth from
the routine of their lives to go to Christ.

Even the gifts the wise men brought have in themselves an obscure recompense and atonement
for what would follow later in this child’s life.

For they brought gold, the king’s emblem,
to make up for the crown of thorns that he would wear;
they offered incense, the symbol of praise,
to make up for the mockery and the spitting;
they gave him myrrh, to heal and soothe,
and he was wounded from head to foot and no one bathed his wounds.
The women at the foot of the cross did into,
making up for the crowd who stood by and sneered.

We can do it too, exactly as they did.
We are not born too late.
We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers,
in everyone we come in contact with.”

Dorothy Day

Choose Love

“All your life, you will be faced with a choice.
You can choose love or hate. . .
I choose love.”

― Johnny Cash

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(a wall of Johnny Cash’s 45’s single hits / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook/ 2015 )

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(just a few of the gold and platinum albums belonging to Johnny Cash / Nashville, Tenn / Julie Cook/ 2015)

We are all given the choice–love or hate.

Suspicion leads to suspicion
Resentment builds on resentment
Anger begets anger
Hate reciprocates hate

Hate. . .
kills
ends
dismembers
silences
ruins
separates
hurts
harms
destroys

Love. . .
offers
gives
lightens
eases
comforts
cares
generates
fosters
soothes
builds
continues
saves

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would if it could walk up and down in the garden, swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

― St. Nicholas of Myra

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(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”

Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

The gift

Gift better than Himself God doth not know,
Gift better than God no man can see;
This gift doth here the giver given bestow
Gift to this gift let each receiver be;
God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.”

― Robert Southwell
(also known as Saint Robert Southwell–a martyred English Catholic Jesuit, known for being a clandestine missionary in Post Reformation England)

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Conspicuous
Pretty
Inviting
Beckoning

A pretty little box, with a simple white bow, sits for no one in particular.
There is no sign of the one who placed it on the counter. There is no specific occasion in which one should or would leave such a gift.

Seeing such a box arouses curiosity,
wonderment
expectancy
delight

It begs to be unwrapped,
opened
explored
enjoyed

Just seeing such a box evokes excitement,
anticipation
joy
happiness

How does one wrap up insatiable Love?
How does one offer Light to the darkness?
How does one give Hope to the hopeless?

The gift of Life is given by the taking of a life.
The gift of Redemption is bought with 30 pieces of silver.
There are no pretty boxes or pretty bows on Golgotha
No sense of excited expectancy.

The gift evokes suspicion,
uncomfortableness,
trepidation
fear

When did forgiveness cost so much?
When did the accepting of a gift cause embarrassment?
When did refusing a gift become commonplace

And yet the season of gift giving is once agin close at hand
With too much spent on pretty boxes and pretty bows.
Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold fit for a king
while a mere babe offers the greatest gift of all