Grace, Glory and ….a white pigeon?!

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice,
forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”

St. Augustine


(an odd visitor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday morning, I was out picking the burgeoning blueberry bushes.
I must confess that I’ve gotten a late start doing such due to both a lack of time
and desire…
So in my absence, the birds have pecked their fair share and the latest rains
have plumped them up a bit too much…
Yet I felt obliged to get to my picking responsibilities…

Suddenly I hear my husband hollering.
What he was hollering was alluding me, but I could tell it was with a heightened sense of alarm.

I drop my berry bowl and race up the bank toward the carport.
He’s not there.
I race into the house and he’s now on the back deck scanning the yard looking for me.

“Did you see it???!!” he exclaims—
“See what?” I reply with heightened concern.

“The white bird!!”

Huh???

“The white bird by the driveway??”

“No” I dead pan.

“How could you miss it???”

“Well I heard you hollering and I thought something was wrong…I wasn’t aware there was a bird…”

But sure enough, I walk out into the carport and I see a white bird bobbing about in the grass.

It was too big to be a white dove.

I walked closer.

The bird was nonplused and was obviously accustomed to people as it paid me no never mind.

Upon further investigation, we determined the dove was a pigeon.

Firstly, pigeons don’t hang out in our neck of the country woods and secondly,
a solid white pigeon is certainly an anomaly.
The bird was not an albino.

In his own little world and not bothered by us, the bird sauntered up the driveway
over to the other side of the yard where the grass is actually greener—
he just kept bobbing up and down making his way through the grass while I went back to berry picking.

My theory was that perhaps there had been a wedding over the weekend and
someone released white birds…one of which was not a dove but a pigeon who just
kept flying.

And so as we were gifted by this odd little visitor, a white bird that brings my thoughts
immediately to that of the Holy Spirit…and given the fact that Sunday was the marking of Pentecost,
I will leave us with these thought-provoking words by Blessed Cardinal Newman…

“My God, you know infinitely better than I how little I love you.
I would not love you at all except for your grace.
It is your grace that has opened the eyes of my mind and enabled them to see your glory.
It is your grace that has touched my heart and brought upon it the influence of
what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair . . .
O my God, whatever is nearer to me than you, things of this earth,
and things more naturally pleasing to me, will be sure to interrupt the sight of you,
unless your grace interferes.
Keep my eyes, my ears, my heart from any such miserable tyranny.
Break my bonds—-raise my heart.
Keep my whole being fixed on you.
Let me never lose sight of you; and, while I gaze on you,
let my love of you grow more and more every day.”

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 44-5

detach from worldly things

“Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things.
Do your utmost to banish darkness from your mind and come to understand what true,
selfless piety is.
Through confession, endeavor to purify your heart of anything which may still taint it.
Enliven your faith, which is essential to understand and achieve piety.”

St. John Bosco


(St John Bosco)

There is so much more that I’d like to write about John Bosco, this educator/saint,
but again time is not on my side.

Hopefully, I will do so, God willing, as time allows.

But until then, I’ve included a brief biography of this man from Turin, Italy below.

This past school year was a very trying time for my daughter-n-law.
And that is putting it mildly.

Here she was, a new young first-time mother of a young child learning to manage
motherhood and her work…as work was anything but easy.

She had taught school in the public sector for several years, earning the reputation
as a stellar educator.

This past year, due to moving and making home in Atlanta, she made the move to a parochial school.

Initially, the hire seemed to be a God-send.
The woman who hired her, the then acting principal, was moved by my daughter-n-law’s record as
an educator as well as her exceptional interview.

Yet as fate would have it, this woman retired only to be replaced by an interim principal.

To say that the replacement was a bully and difficult would be an understatement.

As a veteran educator of 31 years, when I had the opportunity to meet her fellow colleagues
at her baby shower, I was struck at how miserable this staff actually was.

The entire staff hated this bullying tyrant acting principal—several vowed to quit,
many long-time veterans were fearful their contracts would not be renewed.
All the while this sadistic man seemed to have a laser of extreme hatred,
focused on his co-teacher, our daughter-n-law.

I was fretful because as our daughter-n-law was very pregnant, I was more than aware of
what outward stress internalized could possibly do to an unborn child.

We were all on pins and needles as our hands felt tied.

Frustrated and anxious summed up the winter months.

At the end of February, our son and daughter-n-law bought a new rug.
I was there the day they brought the rug home.
As we unrolled the rug, we found what first appeared to be a half dollar rolled up
inside the rug.

Upon further inspection it was a St John Bosco medal.

Hummmm…

We are not a Catholic family so my son and daughter-n-law were a bit perplexed
and unaware of who this man was.

My quasi-Catholic self knew good and well about St. John Bosco.

“Abby”, I exclaimed, “don’t you see…this is St John Bosco…he is more or less
the patron saint for educators…”
“It is a sign…God sees and He knows of your troubles…you’ve got to trust”

I had no doubt after this “coincidence” that God was at work.
Because in my world there are no coincidence but rather only the
workings of the Holy Spirit.

It’s is a long story that I will save, but circumstances grew to such a level that this
hateful man actually painted himself into a corner.
Word was issued, via e-mail, during Spring Break that this principal had been relieved of his duties
and would not be returning.

It was an answered prayer not only for our family, but also for entire school staff.

God hears, God sees, and God knows…

It is us, His often lost and clueless children, who so often need reminding.

St. John Bosco reminded our small family…

Saint John Bosco’s Story

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth in Turin to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan in Turin, and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, Don Bosco opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. John’s interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

Saint John Bosco

Something about that date…

“But no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

James 3:8-10


one of the side chapels in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018

I don’t know about your phone, but my phone displays, on the home screen, a banner
notification alert to emails, breaking news, missed calls, texts…etc…
One notification kept reoccurring, despite my having already opened and read the email—
weeks ago.

Day after day, the same notification kept showing up.
Despite my having opened it, read it, and closed it.

Glitch?
Power the phone off.
Power on.

The problem was that it kept happening, again and again.

But first, let’s back up a tad…

I subscribe to The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering.
Each morning, bright and early, I receive an email with the day’s quotes, daily office readings,
the saint of the day meditation of the day…etc.

It’s where I find many of the quotes and meditation (observations and writings) excerpts that I use.

I usually save them, only sending them to the trash once I’ve accumulated about a month’s allotment–
making certain I’ve read, savored and pulled out what is needed in my sharing.

Well, I did such for December 18th’s offering…
I didn’t use it that exact day but the following day…I used it when I felt “called” to do so.
I had used the morning of the 18th’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
as well as the meditation excerpt from Fr. Basil Maturin.

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him, and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

— Archbishop Fulton Sheen

It is, then, in following the will of God,
in spite of all the difficulties that may arise both from within and from without,
in the constant offering of ourselves to God as the creatures of His hand to do and to be what
He would have us,
in the surrender of one thing after another that comes between us and Him and holds us back—–
it is in such acts that we unite ourselves with those glorious beings who cast their crowns
before the throne and with those unfallen creatures who have never known what it is to have
a wish or thought apart from the will of God.
Amongst those glorified saints there are, indeed,
many whose wills were for a long time in revolt against God’s will and who brought themselves
at last into subjection, many to whom the will of God here on earth meant the sacrifice of
everything the heart most loved, many to whom it meant the sacrifice of life itself.
But all that is past and over, and its fruits remain—the eternal life of oblation and union
with God, where one will rules those countless multitudes and binds them together and to God,
where each one of those countless millions lives his own complete and perfect life yet never
jars on any other, where each is perfect in itself and all together compose one perfect whole—
the Body of Christ.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

My godfather, who passed away 3 years ago December 29, 2016, was the Episcopal priest
who I often reference in many of my posts.
He was instrumental in my life…
especially during my youthful Christian journey…
as he watched and silently prayed as I ebbed and flowed when beginning a life of my own.
He was the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta from 1966-1984…
His birthday was December 18th.

And so ironically, oddly or divinely I kept having that errant notification on my phone from the
Catholic Morning Offering for the day of December 18th.

(and you know I don’t believe in coincidence…only prompting by The Spirit)

Day after day the notification was showing up on my phone despite my having read the email.

After powering down the phone multiple times, closing all apps, yada yada, yada…
it would keep popping up.
So I went back to the original email and moved it to the trash…
of which removed it from all of my devices…
I was suspecting my migrating of old to new computers might be to blame but doubted it.

So that was that.
The email was trashed and I hoped the popup notification would leave me alone.

So then out of the blue on December 17th, I received an errant text message from a dear old friend
from out in Billings, Montana.

He was a former priest at the Cathedral when I was in high school and was our priest for youth.
He and I were always very close friends even following our taking separate paths in life.
He moved back home to a small Montana town in order to pastor a small Episcopal Church
while I went off to college.

We’ve stayed in touch sporadically throughout the years…my husband and I even stopped in Billings
a few years back when we were on a driving adventure to Glacier National Park and met up for a bit of
face to face catch up.

But our contact is usually relegated to the yearly Christmas card…

And so I was really surprised when his text popped up out of the blue.

My friend wrote that He and David (Dean Collins) had had a good conversation the evening prior while
my friend was driving back home from church.

I wrote back a tongue and cheek response that their conversation must have been of the divine…
I then asked how he was besides being delusional…

He told me that sometimes he finds that he still needs to run a few things past the Dean, his former
boss, and mentor, as only the Dean would understand.

I get that…as I wholeheartedly agree.

I can’t count how many conversations I still have with my godpoppa…
I deeply miss that twinkling eye and sly smile and rich melodic soothing voice of his
as he’d take me in his arms offering my angst-filled heart comfort or lovingly place those
gentle hands upon my head calling for prayers of healing.

My friend in Montana has since retired as the rector of the Episcopal Chruch there in Billings
and now enjoys fishing as well as keeping up with the families of all of his now grown foster boys.

I told him that it was funny that he text me out of the blue regarding Dean Collins the day before the
Dean’s birthday which would have fallen on the 18th.

So fast forward to earlier this week.

I’ve written about my crazy dreams before.

I don’t always sleep well due to the vivid dreams I often have.

Some are slap crazy.
Some are weird as hell.
Some are troubling.
Some have me walking up my husband as I’m mumbling loudly while thrashing about as I seem to be
struggling in my sleep.
Some are so vivid that I can actually wake with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Well, the other night I had a dream that seemed to last most of the night…going on and on.
And of course, it made absolutely no sense and it was crazy… but…
the Dean was in the dream.

He was as he was when I was in college, but I was as I am now.
We were seated at a large table or maybe it was a long bench but we were seated side by side.

He was right by my side.
And despite the dream making no sense, there was however a sense of peace having him right by my side.

So when I woke up… I figured I needed to go back in and pull up that Morning Offering from Dec. 18th
that kept nagging me.
I wanted–needed–to see if I was missing something.

Or was I simply suppose to repost the quote and excerpts again…maybe someone esle needed to read
them…maybe again.

The bible verse is listed above—James 3:8-10

The quote was by Archbishop Sheen which is listed above along with the same
meditation by Fr. Basil Maturin.

And the saint for the day was–
ST. WINEBALD
St. Winebald (701-761 A.D.) was a Saxon prince born into a holy and royal family in England.
His father, St. Richard the King, and his mother, St. Wunna of Wessex, are both saints, as well as his brother,
St. Willibald, his sister, St. Walburga, and his uncle, St. Boniface.
After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his father and brother,
and then spending many years in Rome, Winebald was recruited by his uncle, Boniface,
to join him in evangelizing Germany.
Winebald was ordained a priest and worked as a missionary across Germany, Holland, France, Austria,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, leaving behind many flourishing churches and monasteries
under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Winebald was an important figure in laying the
foundations of Christianity across much of Europe.
After his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. His feast day is December 18.

So now let’s look back at today’s picture I posted up above.

Back in October when I was spending a reflective afternoon exploring the beautiful church of
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Chruch of Sanit Mary over Minerva,
I was slowly walking from side chapel to chapel taking in the paintings, and the statuary—
all of the man-created beauty complimenting the Divine offering of peace.
When I found myself stopping, noting an odd little sight.

Something that I don’t think many of the passing tourists even noticed let alone understood the significance.

Someone had tied a scallop shell to the gate in front of the chapel.

Some of the chapels have gates and are locked most days as many of them contain priceless works of art.
These churches are open to the public with little to no security, so given our day and time,
some areas are simply locked off to a wandering public.

The shell is a symbol of St. James and is associated with Christian pilgrims…
Of which you may read here:
https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/
(Lynda I hope you have your shell)

And so I knew that a pilgrim had been here before I had been.

Our paths had crossed…unbeknownst to either of us…all but for the breadcrumb of a simple shell left behind.

And so since I feel as if my blog is often a pilgrimage of sorts, I also believe that my blog is
in turn a place for pilgrims to visit.

And thus since there was obviously something about the day’s devotion from Dec. 18th that
needed for, or rather longed for, me to revisit and reshare. I have done so.
It is for whoever may find themselves stopping by for a bit of a respite during their pilgrimage.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

the Holy Spirit is on the move…

“Often, actually very often, God allows his greatest servants,
those who are far advanced in grace,
to make the most humiliating mistakes.
This humbles them in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow men.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(detail from an altar’s funerary tomb within the Chruch of Santa Maria sopra Minerva/
Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

On a warm October afternoon as my husband was back in the hotel taking a much
needed and long awaited nap—
I opted to step out into the streets of the madness which is synonymous
with the Eternal city of Roma…
Wandering with a purpose while drinking in both past and present.

Now I will say that ever since I was a wee child,
napping was just something that was never ever on my radar.
Mother would ‘put me down’ for my nap, gently closing the door, as I’d wail in protest…
Once I realized I was pretty much stuck, I would then defiantly stand up on the bed with
little elbows resting on a windowsill as I’d stare out wondering about the world outside.

What was I missing?
I wasn’t sleepy.
Why waste this precious time offered for living by sleeping??

And before all of you nap advocates out there begin to read me the riot act over the
glorious benefits of naps…
with those first protestors being my cats and my husband…
I will simply plead my defense to my odd wiring…
I am simply not a napper.

So on this early October afternoon, I chose not to nap but rather to explore, meandering
the overtly crowded streets near the frenetic sea of tourists milling in and around
the Pantheon in Rome.
And as usual, I found myself drifting off course.
I cut down a side street that gave way to a quieter and much smaller piazza.
The Piazza della Minerva.

Seeking peace amongst the madness.

I quickly realized I was standing outside of the Dominican Chruch of
Santa Maria sopra Minerva, or rather known to English speakers as
Saint Mary above Minerva—
The name is due to the fact that a Christian Chruch was built over an early temple
dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, or rather the Latinized version being
that of Minerva.

Nothing gives me a greater sense of peace when I’m visiting a large frantic historic city
then finding a hidden, off the radar, church…be it big or small…

Ode to the sacred that beckons me to come in…
Coming in to marvel,
to rest,
to wonder
to ponder,
to think,
to pray…

I am drawn in to such places like an iron ball is drawn to a magnet.
With my eyes open wide, usually adjusting to the dim flickering candlelight,
as my head tilts upward, all the while I try to find my balance as I take in the size
and scope of what it is I’ve been drawn in to.

I allow myself to bask in the utter majesty or rest in the pure simplicity of our
Christian roots.

Such was the case in this ancient gothic church constructed in 1320.

I’ll share more about this visit later as there is a beautiful statue of the risen Christ,
flanking the main altar, carved by Michelangelo…along with the beautiful frescoed altar
paintings by Filippino Lippi
(you remember I was an art teacher right??)

I reverently wandered in this cavernous church while the footsteps of both myself
and those who had also come inside..those who were both curious as well as seeking,
echoed throughout the massive sanctuary.

I stopped before each niche and each chapel, studying and soaking in what I saw.
Soaking in the stories, the emotions, the glory, and even the sorrow offered
to those who take the time to look, read, ponder and imagine.

When suddenly I found myself gazing upon what
appeared to be a large collection of various polished white marble statues.

It was actually more like one particular statue that was just one piece of a much larger
carved funerary tomb which held my gaze steadfast.

There were several statues of women and angels.
Large and imposing, they made me feel very small…both physically as well as metaphorically.

One figure, that of a woman who I initially assumed to be Mary, turned her body away from
the viewers, as well as from her fellow statues.

She was covering her face, turning her body, in what appeared to be a
state of anguish or perhaps even shame…
All the while, a small cherub, also known as putti, looked directly at her in a most knowing
and penetrating fashion.

What did he know about this woman?
What had happened?

Yet rather than being a statute of Mary, this woman was actually a portrayal of Justice…
And rather than being a typical blindfolded image of a woman, as Justice is usually depicted,
this statue, designed by Bernini, was portrayed as a woman who seemed consumed by grief.

There were suddenly a thousand thoughts racing through my mind as I gazed up at this somewhat
painfilled moment of time.
A moment that should have otherwise been private, was here on display for all to see.

No hiding her grief.
No mourning and crying privately.
The putti knew…and now I knew.

But what did I know?

I felt compelled to offer, albeit in some distant fashion, comfort.
I could feel the weight of her pain.
But why?
I had no idea.

Fast forwarding to yesterday morning, I was reading my morning devotions when I came to
the following excerpt from Father Jacques Philippe.
I had a similar reaction to his words as I did to that statue…
there was a sense of the deep weight of both pain and understanding.

Like I say, we will come back to take a deeper and wider look into the beauty and mystery
of Santa Maria sopra Minerva but for now…
The Holy Spirit is busy…
this much I do know…

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me,
there are always others that I know for sure and can invest in without any risk,
knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing
the essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided:
finding ourselves in darkness about God’s will on an important question . . .
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day,
like being faithful to prayer, maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future,
we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

Law of the Spirit

“If you have allowed the tablets of your soul to be carved and written
over with various opinions and impressions, without ever wisely and carefully
discerning who the writer was and what he was writing about,
then sponge away things written by false teachers–
purify your soul through repentance and rejection of all that is contrary to God.
Let the only writer on these tablets be the finger of God.
Prepare your mind and heart for this writer with purity, piety and a chaste life.
Then, through your prayers and your reading, the tablets of your soul
will be–inconspicuously and mystically–
inscribed with the law of the Spirit.”

St. Ignaty Brianchaninov


(eveing sky / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Next thing is, have faith (Gal. 3: 2).
We receive Him by faith as we receive the Lord in salvation by faith.
He comes as a gift of God to us in power.
First He comes in some degree and measure when we are converted,
otherwise, we couldn’t be converted.
Without Him, we couldn’t be born again, because we are born of the Spirit.
But I am talking about something different now, an advance over that.
I am talking about His coming and possessing the full”

A.W. Tozer,
How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

beloved seeking beloved

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God,
his beloved is seeking him much more.”

— St. John of the Cross


(just some of the blueberries picked the other day / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day I shared a tale about a lesson gleaned from within a blueberry bush.

I spoke of going full on honey badger after the abundance of plump berries.

An expression which means going after whatever it is one is going after with an exuberant
and high velocity of gusto and tenacity.

I likened such a fierce hyperfocus over the act of berry picking,
as small as it is in comparison,
to how God is to be viewed in His quest for and over us…
That He will go full on honey badger for the object of His affection.

A simplistic comparison but an earthly one that is readily understood in its
scope and depth.
A no backing down, no relenting, no walking away sort of approach to attaining the
quest.

And so yesterday morning, when reading the daily offering, the words of St. John of the Cross,
words echoing that same sentiment, I clearly began to see a trend of thought.

So since we’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence…
only the Holy Spirit…
we know that this “thought” is being revealed for a reason…
A reminder, timely that it is, that we are being sought to such a depth of desire that it
far surpasses our own comprehension of what intent and reason actually mean.

If we seek our earthly desires with such a tunneled visioned steely wanting and precision…
what then of God for us?

So here is a reminder, an offering in the need in knowing, that God will not nor has not,
abandoned us…
A reminder from past to present that God remains steadfast in His pursuit
of both you and me.

A pursuit that has been gravely costly to Him but a pursuit that has never lost its momentum
nor waned nor diminished.

If we stop, just stop doing what it is we are doing, allowing our minds to grasp the very thought
of such a driven quest for such a desire…it is more than we can digest or phantom…
to grasp that we are the end focus of such a quest, such a goal…that we are
the end of His desire, His wants…

If we allow ourselves to ponder and ruminate over such a thought we find that such knowledge
is so very necessary and even crucial in this day and time of ours…

Yes there is a beloved…
and He his seeking His beloved…

and that beloved is both you and me…

amazing really…

“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude.
For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence.
Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude.
For God has this beatitude by His very nature,
whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 119
An Excerpt from
Aquinas’s Shorter Summa

Warfare

“It is Satan’s constant effort to misrepresent the character of God, the nature of sin,
and the real issues at stake in the great controversy.
His sophistry lessens the obligation of the divine law and gives men license to sin.
At the same time he causes them to cherish false conceptions of God so that they regard Him
with fear and hate rather than with love.
The cruelty inherent in his own character is attributed to the Creator;
it is embodied in systems of religion and expressed in modes of worship.”

Ellen G. White


(image of a replica of a plane similar to the Red Baron’s / The History Channel)

“To KILL and kill and kill was the cry.
To burn, to destroy, to devastate, to lay waste.
Men heard the madness and knew it for madness and embraced it,
some with fear and some with joy.
Kill or be killed.
Survive or perish.”

And so opens the 1927 book The Red Knight Of Germany:
The Story of Baron von Richthofen
by Floyd Gibbons.

Today, the Baron is known to most of us simply as the Red Baron.
The famous, or perhaps infamous, WWI German flying ace.

The Red Baron was the name applied to Manfred von Richthofen,
a German fighter pilot who was the deadliest flying ace of World War I.
During a 19-month period between 1916 and 1918,
the Prussian aristocrat shot down 80 Allied aircraft and won widespread fame for
his scarlet-colored airplanes and ruthlessly effective flying style.
Richthofen’s legend only grew after he took command of a German fighter wing known
as the Flying Circus, but his career in the cockpit was cut short in April 1918,
when he was killed in a dogfight over France.

The History Channel

I had been dusting when I noticed the stack of books I’d brought back from Dad’s almost
a year ago.
The tattered and yellow-paged red cardboard backed book seemed to beckon that I pick it up.

There was no mistaking the black imprinted iron cross on the cover.

The first paragraph was definitely an attention-grabbing opener.

I think I will now read the book…

For it speaks of soldiers and war.
It speaks of heroes and death.
as it speaks of victory and loss.

All sad, all fleeting, all madness when the luster fades and the lights run into the shadows.

Our hindsight now gently affords us that bit of understanding.

It is all madness was it not?
Is it not?

Yet the dogfights of those early days of war, being fought high up in the clouds, has
romanticized itself into something almost mystical…

And so it is with this notion of war and of the idea of fighting for what one believes in
which brings my thoughts around to another sort of warfare that is currently being waged
all around us..which is unbeknownst to most.

I caught a brief, 2 minute long, interview yesterday with our friend the Wee Flea
David Robertson.
David is currently on Sabbatical in the land down under but that has in no way quieted his
witness nor his words written or spoken on behalf of the Faith and Faithful.

This short interview David provides for the Forum of Chrisitan Leaders
entitled “How should we use the means of Grace in Evangelism”, touches
on the notion of seeing Jesus in action…
Of which is actually performed by both you and me.

Yet it is how we go about performing such that is key to our witness and earthly battle.
We need to be fed…
Fed by the Bible and by prayer because what we are doing actually boils down to
spiritual warfare.

Because where the word of Christ is proclaimed, Satan works desperately hard, waging war,
in order to silence that Word.

And so it’s the idea of Christians living solely for Jesus and not for self.
For when we allow self to get in the way or even intervene…then that is not Christ.

David touches on this notion of spiritual warfare and that it is the Holy Spirit who
convicts the sin and the righteousness and the judgment…
in order for our ability to go forward and do battle…
not us…
not us alone.