A prophetic voice… “despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness”

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging
everything on earth-—imperfect man, who is never free of pride,
self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects.
We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not
been noticed at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days, we have enriched our
experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity
which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(image courtesy the web)

In 1970 Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature.
At the time, the Soviet State viewed Solzhenitsyn and his writings as both controversial and
threatening to the Communist State.
Thus Solzhenitsyn was prohibited from leaving the country in order to receive his award.

It wasn’t until four years later in 1974, after he was expelled from the USSR for treason,
only to find a new life in the United States, that Solzhenitsyn finally officially received
his award in person.

At the time the Swedish Academy noted that it was due to ‘the “ethical force” with which
he pursued the traditions of the Russian people,

which helped to lead the jury to bestow such an honor upon the Russian writer.

Even today, more than 100 years following Solzhenitsyn’s birth, he remains rather
an enigmatic personality.
In fact, Solzhenitsyn continues to be a controversial figure in both modern-day Russia along
with her alter ego the former Soviet Republic, as well as in the democratic West—
as he was vocally critical of both governing ideologies.

Yet I’ve often written about the importance of Solzhenitsyn and his prophetic words which remain
brilliantly relevant for those of us traversing this precarious 21st century.

In 1978 Solzhenitsyn had been invited to deliver the commencement speech at Harvard.

According to the Solzhenitsyn Center, “Solzhenitsyn’s June 8, 1978,
commencement address at Harvard was the most controversial and commented-upon
public speech he delivered during his twenty-year exile in the West,
for he critiqued the spiritual crisis of both East and West.

Solzhenitsyn is not without controversy as he was critical of both East and West…
and perhaps more so of the West as he saw in the West wasted hope.

But far from being inspired by hostility to the West,
Solzhenitsyn refuses to break faith with a civilization still capable of
drawing intellectual and spiritual sustenance from
“the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their rich reserves of mercy
and sacrifice.

Dialetika.org adds that “in that speech,
he criticizes the two central contending systems during the Cold War:
Communism and Western Capitalism.
His argument centers on what he calls “despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.”
The problem, according to Solzhenitsyn, lies in the predominance of these forces
at the base of all modern societies.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging everything on earth —
imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity,
and dozens of other defects.
We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed
at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days, we have enriched our experience,
but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain
our passions and our irresponsibility.”

If anyone knows the evils of Socialism, Communism, regimes run by the oh-so
sacred ‘state’, and a life lived in a labor death camp for voicing free-thinking and thought,
it is Solzhenitsyn.

In his award-winning book The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn’s non-fictional
and auto-biographical investigation into the survival of life inside a gulag,
a Soviet forced labor camp,
Peruvian Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa noted that through this book,
Solzhenitsyn is “the man who described hell to us.”

Solzhenitsyn’s words remain as a polestar…acting as both a warning and a guide—
Words that continue to warn and remind us about what it means for mankind to lose
his/ her humanness. Words that warn about the loss of morality.
Words that warn about man becoming his own god while both forgoing and failing to yield
to a power greater than his own.

It would behoove this Nation of ours to recall the words of Solzhenitsyn.
His observations and warnings over our own arrogance and smugness especially
as we find ourselves moving into the final steps towards our November election.

With a swarth of Democratic contenders dangerously courting and even embracing
all things Socialism, Americans must never forget the suffering of those who
lived through the nightmares produced by previous nations who also
courted and embraced Socialism.

Should we even wonder why a senator and his wife would opt for a honeymoon in the
USSR? Not Russia but Communist Soviet Union long before its fall?

Should we wonder if a young congresswoman really understands the concept between
democracy vs socialism and how each system effectively or ineffectively governs when
she says things like…“When we talk about the word ‘socialism,’
I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity
and our economic, social, and racial dignity.
It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over
their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.

Should we be concerned when a US congresswoman questions that radical Isalm
is to blame for the attacks on 9/11 and simply thinks that “some people did
some things”?

Should we wonder when certain candidates promise to pay for everyone to go to college
while forgiving all existing student loans with money that simply doesn’t exist?

What when homelessness runs amuck? What of major US cities becoming dens for
crime and blatant drug abuse and where streets are considered unsafe both night and day?

What of free healthcare for all—who actually pays for free?

The list goes on and on…

So before you consider a dangerous dance with Green New Deals and the
new Socialistic state…you might want to recall the wisdom of those who actually
lived in, under and through such notions and saw them for what they really are
both dangerous and eventually destructive…

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them.
But when you’ve robbed a man of everything he’s no longer in your power —
he’s free again.

piggy backing on grace

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because
it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price
to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(image courtesy Spanish Bowl)

Why things like this are newsworthy I’m not certain, but did you catch the story yesterday about
Aaron Rodgers and his recent public comments on religion of which have left his family “dismayed”?

I admit I have been a Packers fan for much of my adult life,
but not so much a fan of their current QB.
Not that I have anything against Aaron Rodgers, I just find him to be a bit of a primadonna,
but such is the case with many a quarterback.

I saw the Rodges’ storyline yesterday and decided to read what he was having to say
regarding religion…and not just any religion mind you but rather the
religion of his youth, Christianity.

It seems that Rodgers was a recent guest on a podcast that just so happened to be hosted by
his current girlfriend, former racecar driver Danica Patrick.
The podcast is titled “Pretty Intense” and no, I’ve never listened in.

However, at some point during the interview, Danica asked Rodgers about his view on religion.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

The Green Bay Packers quarterback admitted he has struggled to believe in a higher power
on Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” podcast last month. Now, a source told People Rodgers’
family is offended by his religious comments.

“During the Pretty Intense podcast, Rodgers told Patrick that he has gone down a path
to a “different type of spirituality” that is more meaningful to him than
what he experienced as a child.

“I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the
planet to a fiery hell,” he said.
“What type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn his
beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?”

Rodgers did not specifically refer to himself as an atheist,
but he said that religion can divide people.

“Religion can be a crutch, it can be something that people have to have to make
themselves feel better,” Rodgers continued.
“Because it’s set up binary, it’s us and them, saved and unsaved, heaven and hell,
it’s enlightened and heathen, it’s holy and righteous …
that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves.”

It is said that Rodgers’ comments have deeply hurt his family who
consider themselves to be a deeply devout Christian family.
They say that their faith was always important throughout Rodgers growing up but if you
read anything about Rodgers, you most likely know that he and his family have been estranged
for several years.

Rodgers is a pretty private guy and doesn’t really talk about his family but it has been said
that his celebrity status seems to have helped to separate the family—
this despite Rodgers’ younger brother who also has a bit of a celebrity status.

But it has been reported that Rodgers’ most recent comments “felt like a slap in the face”
to his family and to that of their raising of their son.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/aaron-rodgers-family-dismayed-religious-comments-danica-patrick-podcast-report

So Rodgers’ comments regarding religion aren’t anything new.
What with that one sentiment of ‘how could a loving God be so full of condemnation’ acting
as the lynchpin for many non-believers—Rodgers is far from the first person to utter such
an observation.

So this story about Rodgers and his comments carried my thoughts back to my adventure yesterday
with radioactive eggs and the reading and subsequent sharing of a post regarding
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings on cheap vs costly grace.

I had intended to elaborate on Bonhoeffer’s words as they struck a chord…a chord his words
often strike when I read them…however I think my radioactive eggs had my thinking
a tad scattered.

“As Bonhoeffer explains, Protestants have turned orthodox Christianity into Christianity
without discipleship or obedience or sacrifice. In short, this is what he calls
“cheap grace.”

“You can be forgiven by God without being transformed by God.”

Rodgers joins a host of both believers and non-believers that have long bemoaned
the same bipolar idea of a loving God versus a wrathful God of condemning judgment–

But what all these folks fail to grasp is the single notion of Grace…
be it cheap or costly.

Sadly, there is a wealth of Christians who have a difficult time wrapping their
heads around the idea of God being a loving father but also a strict disciplinarian.

Many of our culture’s current “feel good” Chrisitan believers have painstakingly
written sin, repercussions, and hell totally out of ‘their’ Christian tenants.
Wanting just the feel-good without the responsibility of what it means to live a
life of costly Grace.

Picking and choosing to believe in a little god of their making
rather than believing in the Great I AM who was, is and will always be.

A re-writing of the foundation of the Christian faith simply because it is
uncomfortable to think about the serious consequences of sin or the cost of
living under Grace.

Yet perhaps it’s simply human nature to think that a loving father would never ever actually
turn his back on his children…we want the happy ending, always.
We want our cake and we want to relish eating it.
But God has made it clear that that is not possible

But costly Grace requires choice.
The choice to keep the comfort of self or to let it all go.
There is no in-between.

“Bonhoeffer’s main point in all this is that God’s grace cost the life of God’s son.
Although God’s grace is freely given to all who are willing to receive,
it still costs something from the one who receives.
What does it cost? Simply put, it costs a man his life.”

Costly Grace is what our faith is all about.
It is not easy.
It requires the death of self.
Aaron Rodgers and many many other folks don’t like the idea of the death of self.

I would dare to imagine that God was gravely pained over the death of his son,
but He also knew the cost of Grace and was willing to extend that Grace to
a fallen world.

And yet it remains a choice… your choice, Aaron Rodgers’ choice, my choice.

Costly Grace is saving Grace.
But you can choose.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Ephesians 2:8

Be wary, keep watching…the time draws nigh

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night:
ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,

Isaiah 62:6


(the German watchman nutcracker /Julie Cook / 2019)

“St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries,
the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her.
The Devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ.
After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat,
that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to Hell.
For those who have sinned grievously,
there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 138
An Excerpt From
Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori

Prophets, St Matthias and the kneeling of the Church to Isalm


(“Saint Matthias” | Serra Brothers workshop)

Tuesday was the feast day of St Matthias–May 14th on the Gregorian calendar…
the calendar most of the world now follows.
However, our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters follow the Julian calendar
and so their commemoration of the feast day is August 9th.

But for our purposes today, for those of us who adhere to the Gregorian calendar,
we’ll just stick with May 14th.

St Matthias was the disciple that, following the death and Resurrection of Jesus,
and then that of his Ascension was voted on by Peter and the others to fill the void left
by the betrayal and subsequent suicide of Judas Iscariot.
(Acts 1:15-26)

It was the replacing of one who betrayed with one who remained faithful.
It was also a fulfilling of prophecy.

May 14th was also a day that I actually had time to catch the latest youtube episode of
Anglican Unscripted with US host Kevin Kallsen and our favorite rouge Anglican priest,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden.

Our dear friend actually started the segment by mentioning that their day’s discussion
was to be quite timely given the fact that it was the feast day of St Matthias.

After watching the episode, I understood the nod to the significance of St Matthias.
That being the replacing of betrayal with dedicated devotion.

A devotion that, in the face of severe trial and grave threat to life,
never wavered–one iota.

Those in the US, other than disheartened Episcopalians and Anglicans such as myself,
may not understand nor be interested in what a former British Anglican bishop has to say.
They may wonder why I continually reference the man.

So for those of you who wonder who in the heck I keep talking about, quoting or referencing,
in a Wikipedia and from his own bio nutshell, here is who is he is…
“Gavin Roy Pelham Ashenden (born 1954)
is a British Anglican clergyman.
He was a Chaplain to the Queen from 2008 until his resignation in 2017.
He was ordained in the Church of England, but left it in 2017.
That year was consecrated a missionary bishop by the Christian Episcopal Church,
a continuing Anglican jurisdiction outside of the Anglican Communion.”
On the Feast of St Michael and All Angels 2017,
the Archbishop of the Christian Episcopal Church announced that Dr. Ashenden
had been consecrated as a Missionary bishop to the UK and Europe.

But there is more to the man than a quick bio—

Bishop Ashenden knows music and its history, he has a law degree, he studied psychology
and theology, he is an accomplished and deeply published author, he has been a teacher,
preacher and even smuggler—smuggling Bibles into the communist Soviet Union.
He has served in small parishes and he has served a Queen.

He is keenly knowledgable about history be it the history of religions, governments or law.

In other words, he is a man who knows his stuff.

Yet because he knows “his” stuff, why should any of that matter to you, you might now be asking.

Well, because my friend, if you are one who considers themselves a Christian, as well as a member
of the Judaeo/ Christian democratic Western Civilization, Bishop Ashenden paints a grave yet
painfully honest picture of your very world…a truth that you need to familiarize yourself with
before you are caught like so many will be, blindsided.

Would I call Bishop Ashenden a prophet?

Perhaps.
Perhaps I would.

I do know that much of the modern-day world wonders why we have not heard from the
likes of such prophets like those from the days of old.

Those wizened voices who rose up most often from obscurity,
bending the ears of kings and warriors alike by foretelling things that were to be.
Those men who dreamed dreams and shared visions.

Not like a Nostradamus mind you, but more like a Jeremiah, Obadiah or an Isaiah,
or even a John The Baptizer.

I know I’ve been guilty of lamenting ‘where are the prophets?’
Where are those voices of Truth…?

But as I’ve pondered such a notion…it has dawned on me that the prophets are indeed
alive and well…they are found the world over and rest in the voices of men and women who
speak the Truth about Jesus Christ…His life, His teachings, His death, and His resurrection.

They are the ones who do not bend the Truth for convenience sake.
They are not the appeasers or the pleasers of an egocentric society or a materialistic world.

They are the men and women who literally die each and every day for their faith because their
trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ and in Christ alone.

They do not care about social norms, culturalisms, objectivism, convenience, or popularity.
They do not care what a world gone mad thinks of them.

They are not afraid.
For those who speak Truth are never afraid.

During Tuesday’s segment, host Kevin Kallsen made mention that he had seen on a
recent Yahoo News interview freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib,
who happens to be a practicing Muslim, state that the notion of the Holocaust gives her
“a calming feeling.”

Are you kidding???
Holocaust and clam used within the same sentence???

And yet Congress, along with mainstream media, has basically all ignored such a statement.

Who in their right mind has any sort of sense of calm or peace whenever thinking of the Shoah,
in other words, the Holocaust???

I’ve looked into the back story a bit and it appears that some feel her words were taken
out of context…but, I don’t agree.

And so as the segment’s conversation continues,
the good Bishop actually takes a closer look at Islam and that of the Chruch’s odd embrace
of a religion that has always stated that living
in harmony with the followers of the Cross will never be tolerated.

Bishop Ashenden notes that Mohammed’s Islam has, for the better part of 60 years,
been taught by theologians to be one of the three legs of the Abrahamic religions…
with the other two legs being that of Christianity and Judaism.
However our dear friend staunchly, and without hesitation, states that that thought
is absolutely not the truth.

Mohammed borrowed the Biblical characters such as Noah, Mary, and even Jesus,
in order to give credence to “his” religion.

And he denied that Jesus ever rose from the dead.

The good Bishop states that “Mohammed is nothing more than a dictator who demands submission.”
whereas Jesus Christ offers himself as a sacrifice.

Islam is not a cousin of our faith but on the contrary…runs counter to Christianity.

The troubling thing, however, is that we are today witnessing a global Chruch who wants to
appear friendly, accepting and even embracing of Islam.
Going so far as to inviting Muslim neighbors into a Chruch’s sanctuary in order to celebrate
the ending of Eid by covering up the crosses in order not to offend.

Is not covering the cross on the altar of the Chruch a turning of one’s back to Christ and all
He stands for in our faith?
Is that not a betrayal of convenience?

To follow Jesus means that we are not to be ashamed nor disassociate ourselves–ever.

Bishop Ashenden reminds us that we know more about Hell from Jesus than from anyone else Biblically.
He shares that Jesus was and is very specific about consequences…
So much so that He tells us that to deny Him, results in the opposite of Paradise…
it results in Hell.

Yet so many of us will argue that we are a polite society.
We don’t want to rock the boat.
We want to accommodate and be neighborly and friendly.

But to what extent?
At what cost?

Do we opt to turn a blind eye, ignoring public servants who speak positively about
egregious atrocities such as the Holocaust?

Do we rewrite God’s word so that His words now fit better into our current day and times?

Do we cover up and hide the key representative symbol of our faith,
thinking that others of differing faiths may find it offensive?

Evil is alive and well…yet no one likes to admit such let alone think about such.

Bishop Ashenden tells us that Christianity, and only Christianity, offers a defense against Evil.
Jesus cleanses the human heart of such Evil.
Yet the fingerprints of Satan are very much visible within and across the global collective Church.

Truth is being turned upside down as there is not enough regard for the truth in our
social culture.

And yet we are reminded…
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life…the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life…
(John 14:6)

Do not compromise.
Do not be ashamed.
Do not hide.
Do not deny.
Do not pretend.

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis

what is love?

We do not understand the Cross if we do not understand sin.
If we deny there is sin, the Cross loses its meaning.
That is why it is difficult in our time to speak about the Cross.
One no longer knows what sin is.

Fr. Wilfred Stinissen, OCD
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love

What is love?
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
What is love? Yeah

lyrics by Hadaway

This past weekend my husband and I had the privilege of attending not one but actually two
different weddings.

There was one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening.

The one on Saturday took place at a lovely and tranquil farm, turned wedding venue, located
out in the rural countryside of West Georgia where both bobwhite and songbird joined
cheerfully in with the festivities.

The second wedding was on Sunday evening and it was also at an outdoor venue tucked deep in the
West Georgia woods which overlooked the soft rolling green hills…this while rumbles of
distant thunder gently reverberated between the “I dos”.
The vows were stated in what was a state of the art horse paddock perched high above a peaceful
lake where we had all gathered due to the threat of rain.

Both officiants/ministers spoke a familiar theme…that being the theme of the day, love.

Saturday’s officiant, a college minister, actually called up Michael Curry by name, the now
“infamous” Episcopal cleric who was invited to speak at the Royal wedding.
This college minister invoked much of the same line of thinking as the Bishop’s
during the Royal wedding yet giving the obvious nod to the fact that this current
wedding was between a Kentucky boy and Georgia peach.

I found myself shifting a bit uncomfortably in my chair as the mockingbird
overhead began, as if on cue, to sing.
“Really?!” I was thinking to myself.
“Did he just really head in that direction right here, right now, in this
peaceful meadow setting!?”
The words I heard grousing from that little-unamused voice inside my head.

This college minister, who had been the minister of this young couple throughout their college
tenure, echoed much of what Bishop Curry had said to both Prince Harry and Megan Markle…
with that being the pure unbridled all-encompassing power of love…

And his take was very much the same as that of the bishop’s in that his offering was
the same notion of an idealized jumble of both romantic and erotic love which seems to be
able to carry one and all through a married life….but the thing is it won’t.

It is a type of love that is in actuality very fleeting.

His was the notion being that joy and celebration which is found in romantic love,
could carry a couple throughout a lifetime together while
forgetting that once the shine and glitter fade,
a couple would be left staring at one another wondering what’s next.

It is a current cultural notion of love that Bishop Gavin Ashenden notes as
“the more it glitters, the more it’s good.”

The second officiant at Sunday’s wedding also spoke of love.
Because what else brings us to a wedding but what we hope is indeed love?!

But rather than going on about all that glitters being gold, the officiant was rather more
matter of fact.
He noted that marriage is not the end but rather the beginning of the journey…
and it is not always going to be the smoothest or clearest of travels.

He reminded this couple, along with the rest of us,
that there will be times that things will be hard.
Times when that romantic love and erotic love will have long since faded.
Because of time, life and even the separation of distance due to life’s varying circumstances
will each interfere with that initial love of romance which had brought them
to this spot on this particular day in the first place…
he reminded all of us that it is at this point that love
usually has to roll up its sleeves.

He then had the couple do something I’ve never seen before and was unfamiliar with.

Obviously, days before the ceremony he had previously told both bride and groom to sit down
and write a letter to one another.
A letter about what their relationship meant to them and how and why it had brought them
to this particular place…the place of marriage and a day in which they would commit
themselves one to another.

There was a wooden box on the makeshift altar along with a bottle of wine.
He explained to all of us gathered how he had asked them to write the letters but that
the letters were sealed and they had not yet shared them with one another.
In front of all of us he asked them to take the sealed envelopes and place them into the box.
He then placed the bottle of wine in the box and sealed it all up.

He told us that tradition dictated that they were to,
in a year’s time on the day of their first anniversary, open the box,
read the letters and then make a toast to themselves.

But…

Should they, at any point before the year’s time had passed,
find themselves in a place of darkness, they were to open the box and read the letters.

I rather liked that idea.

Looking back…recalling my younger self, my very immature younger self, I know full well that
what I had was an idealized vision of what both marriage and love were all about.

I think the glitter wore off on the honeymoon when we were at the beach for a week…a place
I now know my husband of 35 years was none too keen to be.
But we were there because his sister told him that’s where we needed to go.
He had actually wanted to go out west.
If he had thought to ask me, I would have voted on out west.

But here’s the thing.
Relationships, loving, growing…
they all take learning.

It takes learning to know…learning in knowing to ask, learning how to ask, learning when to ask,
learning how to speak up, learning when to speak up, learning when to be quiet,
learning when to share and learning when to listen.

It is a journey of growth.

Relationships are hard.
Love is even harder.

I think of those song lyrics listed above…“baby don’t hurt me”
But the thing is Love does often hurt…
Just ask anyone who has ever lost a loved one and whose heart now aches.

Love is not glamorous nor is it that of a fairytale.
There is a reason we are asked “for richer and for pooer…in sickness and in health”

Poorer and sickness are both hard and painful.
They are not pleasant, fun nor easy.
They aren’t pretty to see, pleasant to hear nor are they, at times, easy to even smell.

Love can appear to be very ugly at times because life can be ugly…

But here’s the thing…
Love, that day on Golgotha, was not pretty.
It was painful, it was lonely, it was bloody and it was dying.
And yet that dying Love actually went to Hell in order to do battle.
It was love in its most pure and rawest form.

And the thing is, it won.

And so what we now know is that because of that Love, that battered and bruised Love,
our love today, when battered and beaten, can actually be cleaned up,
repolished and made anew.

It will not be easy.
Nor will it always be pretty…but in the end, it is well worth it.

Here’s to the happy couples!

Below is a link to a 5-minute interview between Rod Liddle, a jounalist for the Sunday Times,
and Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the Bishop’s concern from
the wedding speech now heard round the world.

Rod Liddle Interviews Gavin Ashenden in the Sunday Times – on the Wedding Sermon.

And also here is a link to the latest offering by our friend the Wee Flea as he provides us
with a breakdown of the same sermon and how it is now dividing Evangelical Christians.

How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7