gee, haw…

“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.
And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your
heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away
every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales


(a pair of Belgium working horses on Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

My husband and I hopped in the car the other evening, as we were getting ready to
head over to Atlanta to see our son and daughter-n-law…
and I don’t know what brought it up, but we got off on a small technology tangent.

Most likely what got us started was my wanting to turn on the seat warmers.
Temps had not reached above the freezing point all day, and now the sun was quickly
setting sending temperatures plummeting.
Needless to say, I’ve been mostly cold for the last two months.

My husband said, for no one in particular, “technology left me years ago…
it left me back with gee and haw…”

“GEE, HAW???!!!!” I practically shout before bursting out into full laughter.

For those of you unfamiliar with such words, Gee and Haw are the two words used with
working animals such as mules, draft horses, and even sled dogs.
Gee means for the mule, horse or dog to turn right
Shout ‘Haw,’ and the animal turns left.

My husband can remember as a little boy visiting his grandparents up in north
Georgia with his grandfather using mules to plow the fields.
He’d shout “Gee” then “Haw,” and those mules knew exactly which way to turn.
That was probably in the early 1950’s as rural Georgia was just that, still very rural.

We had actually heard the same terms used recently, this past summer when visiting
Mackinac Island as there are no vehicles on the island—only draft horses doing
everything from acting as the taxis to delivering UPS.
Gee.
Haw

Low tech.
And I must say, I for one, found it somewhat comforting.
It was actually really refreshing.

I know it, being technology, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but instead will only be advancing…
And sadly so…
for technology has, if it hasn’t already, gotten entirely out of hand as well as a disaster
just waiting to happen…

This insatiable need of ours to see, to know, to hear, to tell everything instantaneously is a very dangerous false need.

It has created a very dangerous sense of profound falsehoods that most of us don’t even
realize.
For we are a people who are greatly dependent upon our technology—for even life
and death issues…

But let’s look at a couple non-life-threatening examples of when technology goes
awry…or perhaps just more of an irksome trouble.

During the busy Christmas shopping mayhem season, my husband’s internet randomly went out at his store. His is a busy retail
business, so when there’s a technology issue and his register goes out, or his credit card machine goes out, he loses money as people will walk out the door.

We spent hours on the phone with AT&T trying to find a person who was actually
“stateside” as we continued narrowing help down to Georgia, then down to our individual town.
That took hours of waiting and frustration. All the while the store is full of people
who want to be waited on and checked out.
We were told it would be days before they could get someone out to check out our problem.
Days was not an option.

In the meantime, we had to pull out the old-timey credit card swiper….remember
those low tech little machines?

A customer would lay their card down on top of a triple carbon copy slip
while the clerk swiped the little lever over the card and carbon paper. The
customer’s card info would be swiped and imprinted onto the carbon ticket.
The customer would then sign the swiped carbon slip as the clerk would then pull off
the customer copy while keeping the store copy…
then off went the happy customer with their purchase.

The old-timey swiping machine worked perfectly fine as we waited for the AT&T technician
to eventually make the trip to the store.
Turns out the internet was out for unknown reasons randomly in the shopping center…
the next time it went out, a week later, the technician sent us out get a new cable…

sigh…

Last evening we went to neighboring town for supper at a Craker Barrel.
I often crave Cracker Barrel’s simple homey fare offering of
good ol’ southern prepared food.
Chicken and dumplings, fried okra, spicy collard greens, southern style green beans…
or even their offering of breakfast for supper.
Plus they had a roaring fire going and we were fortunate to snag
a table by the fire.

When we’d finished our meal we took the bill out to the register to pay.
The line snaked all the way back into the dining area.
We figured they were low of help at the registers…
but that was not the issue.
Their card machines weren’t working probably and weren’t reading folks
debit or credit cards correctly.

Finally, as we made our way to a cashier, we told the manager we were going
to pay with something very novel…real money.

The manager was grateful and said he wished he had one of the old-timey
credit card swiper machines but since he was the oldest one on staff, he was the only
one who even knew what such a machine was…

Low tech.

Those are just a couple examples of small technological issues
of when things don’t work or go wrong.

Now let’s consider a bit larger trouble.

Saturday, a statewide alert went out in Hawaii, alerting the public that a ballistic missile was on its way to the Islands.
It was one of those Amber style alerts that went out on everyone’s phones.
It was not a drill and everyone needed to seek immediate shelter.
For those in Hawaii, it was the end of life as they had known it.

With North Korea’s 24/7 threats, threatening to send a nuclear warhead
in the direction of Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, or Alaska…well its all had everyone
a tad bit nervous…so Saturday, it seemed that the unthinkable was actually happening.

However…

The issued warning alert was in actuality incorrect.
It had been issued by mistake.
There was no missile, no need to duck and cover.
No need for immediate Last Rites.

I wonder how busy the ER’s were following the correction with those feigning a
possible heart attack?

So it should come as no surprise that we’ve gotten really good these days at lamenting,
“technology, it’s great when it works…not so much when it doesn’t…”

And yet I rather miss our low tech dealings during these waning days of ours…

Gee
Haw

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psalm 146:3

a commandment is as only good as it is kept, or is it?

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like
if Moses had run them through the US Congress.

Ronald Reagan

I’ve written a little about the 10 Commandments before….
Actually it was back in the Spring after having watched an interview with Lauren Green
the chief Religion correspondent with Fox News.

At the time Lauren had a new book out,
Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog

As I stated back in May…. Lauren explains the title of her book as being based
on the concept of the Ten Commandments.
She notes that “here you have a seminal point found in the very first commandment…”
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Lauren goes on to explain that by breaking commandants 2-10, you will always
have broken 1.
As number 1 is the pinnacle that everything else descends from.
A very academic and legal approach to looking at how we are to be living our lives…

And as this culture of ours which prides itself on being all about
academic advancements and of all things exceedingly legal,
you’d think we’d be all about some commandments…
but it turns out that we are not all about commandments, particularly those
Ten Commandments and especially those first 4.

The above picture showed up last night in a text message from a friend.
She had snapped the picture of the article from a periodical her husband
subscribes to and wanted to pass on the dismal tale to me.

The article is about a recent study conducted of folks, both those who consider
themselves Christians and those who don’t, there in the UK and of their current
feelings regarding the Ten Commandments.

Now the UK was founded as a Christian nation…
you know,—for love of God, King and Country…
or in the current case, that would be Queen.
Of course we had William the Conquerer in 1066 but it actually goes back to
601 with Æthelberht of Kent who was recognized as the first Christian baptized
leader of the Anglo-Saxon England that shaped a nation into what it is today…
a secular swirling mess.

Yet it was always known that God was at the top, followed by the Monarchy…
so the monarchy certainly had a higher Commander in Chief to be answering to—
and some monarchs did a great job with that and some were utterly abysmal.
But such is the nature of fickled humans and leadership.

It should be noted that in our most modern times, we have witnessed a deep
secularization taking place across all of Europe…
aka, most of West Civilization—as it is happening in Australia, Canada, and certainly here in the US

A recent study revealed that the most “Christian” nation that remains on the soil
of the European continent would be Poland…
and that little fact is certainly being pushed to its limits as the drive continues
fast and furiously for all nations to get on the progressive modernism bandwagon
by legalizing same sex marriages.

Church attendance across the European landscape is at a record low.
As there are many who now wonder as to relativeness of the institution of “Church”

This is not just a European problem…..

Here’s the thing—in our most progressive society, we all,
as in our current modern-day society, are all about rendering the God of said
Commandments null and void.

Most of our leading academics and politicians see no relevance in the notion of
not only Christianity, but more aptly, God himself.
Matters not that He commanded that we shall have no other gods…we’ve just been
so busy with our own myriad of little gods that we haven’t had much time to consider
anyone else as being greater or bigger than our narrow little world.

So whereas reading these latest statistics is rather dismal, I am reminded all
is not lost, all is not hopeless.
I think it will be vastly important in the days, weeks, months and even years to come
that we the Faithful maintain the importance of the Commandments…not in some sort
of self righteous and almost martyristique sort of fashion but rather with a
focused and purposeful intent.

For our example of demonstratively living will be scrutinized…
while the question will remain…
are we willing to live our Commandments, with number one being the pinnacle…
truly living it as a clear and visible living example of obedience….??

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
Exodus 20:3

the darkness shall not overcome….

“In order for the light to shine so brightly,
the darkness must be present.”

Francis Bacon

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism,
but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.

Francis Bacon


(a partial solar eclipse caught in mid eclipse courtesy the web)

See this image of an eclipse?
Even when the moon passes completely between the sun and the Earth,
creating a total solar eclipse…as the day turns into an eerie twilight…the
sun is still seen as if glowing from behind the moon…

It’s as if the moon cannot hide nor contain the Sun’s radiating light
for the sun and all of her all encompassing power and might will not be denied

It is such that her light cannot and will not be hidden, contained, nor denied….

I think of Jesus and of his victory over Death—
His far reaching and everlasting Light, like that of the sun, cannot and will not
be hidden, contained nor denied …nor will the light that shines
upon the heirs of his Glory….for His Light will perpetually shine upon
all those who confess His name….

Epiphany—a shining forth….

Our good friend Bishop Ashenden offered a lovely homily for the Feast of the
Epiphany which was this past Sunday—
And as I keep explaining….my time is not, nor has it been, my own as of late
as it continues getting further and further away from me–
Hence why a past Sunday’s homily is being presently posted on a following Wednesday….

Yet no matter—I’ve added the video clip—it is all of about 15 minutes—
and well worth the time spent as the good Bishop offers a thought provoking look at the Epiphany as he asks us each the question,
‘what gift is it that we will lay before
Jesus as homage to his birth?”

And of course that gift is to be our entire being…especially
that of our complete and uncompromised time….
While at the same time we must remain mindful that our ancient Enemy will do
everything in his power to keep us from offering Jesus much of anything,
especially our time….

The good Bishop explains that what we know of the Magi, who were most likely
kings and if not kings of earthly kingdoms…they were certainly kings of
the realms of theology and science….
And it is clear that they were certainly not Jews….

Yet they came from far away places, converging simultaneously, in order to
see for themselves this baby that the heavens foretold…
A baby that was certainly no ordinary Jewish baby…
but rather a great and mighty future king…

And as they were not Jews, we have the first nod to the fact that this king-to-be
had actually come for all men and not just for the Jews.
As we actually see the leading thinkers and scientists of the day,
kneeling before the Christ.

Men of great, knowledge, thinking and wisdom…
yet humbled by the birth of a seemingly random Jewish child…
in what was considered a far flung dessert outcropping in the middle of
a barren land.
Men of great study and stature being humbled by the birth of a mere foreign child.

An event and scenario that would be highly unlikely to be acknowledged by our
current day’s community of academics and scientists.

For our dear Bishop explains that over time, the age of Enlightenment brought with
it a tremendous sense of hubris. With the current intellectual high priests
of all things scientific and academic possessing their fair share of self importance.

As our current age’s thinkers have been wounded by apostasy, unbelief,
schism and capitulation…
all the while as society is currently being sold a progressive theology
and the selling out to the spirit of the age…

And yet we are reminded of not merely a single birth of a small child
far away and long ago, we are reminded of the emergence of a Great Light…
A Light that called out the brightest and the greatest as well as the smallest
and the least….
for in this Light, not even the darkness itself can nor will contain it….

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

“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

it takes more than a resolution, it takes a tenacious faith

There is nothing wrong with bringing resolution and courage to the new year,
but life is precarious. And dealing with the death of friends,
tragedy striking unexpectedly and bits of one’s body giving up,
needs more than just well-gritted teeth.

Gavin Ashenden


(a Norwegian wolverine demonstrates tenacity, grit and a fearsomeness)

Life is indeed precarious.
None of us know where it will take us next.
I dare say we all have some sort of notion of where we’d like to go,
even as to how we’d like to get there…but again, there are no guarantees.

Bishop Ashenden, in his wanderings and wonderings over the notion about new years
and their resolutions, has a bit of a lesson for each of us.

Now first we must note that we are a number liking people—-
just consider the fact that we are all about stats and numbers,
especially if we are wanting to justify or clearly define that with is unjust or undefinable.

Statistics show that they, being stats, are stacked against resolutions.
This we know.
Numbers don’t lie right?

Just yesterday I read some headline stating that by February, 80% of every New Year’s
resolution, is simply scattered by the wayside…
discarded and forgotten.

I don’t even bother.
I learned years ago that resolutions are simply short lived—
somewhat feeble attempts of being a better/ healthier person.
It takes more than just a resolution for those two things to take hold.
And when push comes to shove—the resolutions get shoved.
And it is that very reason, the good bishop notes,
a resolution will simply die…
Because Life simply has a different plan.

Life will put up a brick wall and all resolutions not to mention stamina, mindset
and determination quickly head out the back door.

Yet for many of us, a new year becomes some sort of giant reset button.
A time to review, remove, rewrite, renew….
And that certainly has its merit….
that is, up to a point.

Yet what the good Bishop is reminding us of is that as life has a way of
steamrolling over our best of intentions and plans, so much so that when that happens
as it eventually will, it’s going to take a lot more from within to survive
the steamrolling…
much more than a resolution or even gritted teeth that are grinning and bearing
can endure.

Life is hard.

It is not fair nor is it often kind…

And yet….we always seem to think that with some sort of twisted finagling,
we can beat it and actually win.
And we might actually do so but only for a while…for eventually,
Life in the end will have its way and that is when we in turn call it calamity,
sickness and even death.

And so the good Bishop looks to one who has gone on long before us but yet lives
on in her writings….
St Julian of Norwich (1373).

Julian had a tenacious belief in God.
She was what was known as an Anchoress….or one who literally attached
or anchored themselves to a church.

She was literally sealed up into a cell attached to the church of St Julian’s
there in Norwich, hence her name—as we really don’t know her actual name.
(here’s a bit of history lesson concerning this dear woman:
http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/norfolk/norwich/st-julian.htm)

Julian spent a lifetime devoted to God and ministering to those who would come
to the window of her cell seeking solace, prayer or wisdom.

Julian experienced visions and wrote these visions down—
as the writings eventually became a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

Tenacious and unrelenting—the only way Julian would extol that one should or could
best live…and that was to be anchored to the Divinity of the Creator and to the Love
He offered as in the tangible being of His Son…..

Bishop Ashenden notes that “it’s this belief in God that offers the kind of
affirmation for us that equips us best to deal with uncertainty,
and even tragedy, as we face the future remembering the disturbing
uncertainty of the past.”

The good Bishop relays a story of one of the many visions that Julian
was so famous for having–visions of God as Divine Creator.

Delusions of a mad or even physically ill woman some would claim….
but a gift of visions is what the faithful know….

So when Julian witnessed God taking the planet Earth and holding it in
His hand she responds by asking Him about its now seemingly smallness…..

‘It is all that is made.’ (God replied) I marvelled how it might last,
for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: “It lasts and ever shall,
for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian of Norwich

Throughout her visions she was taught that God could and would bring good out
of evil and because of that there was no need for anxiety.
Her motto and mantra became,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

and perhaps Julian gives us the best of resolutions…to know that all shall indeed be
well when we rest in the Divine Love of God which is found incarnate in Christ, Jesus.

Belief in Christ brings the affirmation needed to strengthen our resolution.

the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..