one more word…

America is the only country ever founded on a creed.
G.K. Chesterton


(images of the flag flying over the American Cemetery in Normandy / Julie Cook / 2018)

I want to offer one last reflection regarding our visit to the Amercian Cemetery in Normandy
before moving on to other thoughts.

When we arrived at the US cemetery after a day of exploring battlefields, the “enemy’s” cemetery
as well as occupied villages and towns, it was now shortly before 4PM.

Each afternoon at 4PM an honor guard makes its way to the American flag flying watch over the
thousands of perfectly aligned crosses and stars.

Taps is played as the flag is lowered and folded.
The flag is lowered each and every day just as it has been lowered now for the past 74 years
that the cemetery has been an official US cemetery on foreign soil.

We had been wandering about the graves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of graves—
almost unaware that we were now carrying a heavy sense of deep sorrow.

We were told that it was the state of West Virginia that suffered the greatest number of
losses during the invasion, so we looked for the names of the states whose young men are
resting under the rows of crosses and stars.

We saw names hailing from states such as Kansas, Arizona, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania…
and yes West Virginia.

Just like in most cemeteries, there is a solemn quiet that carries itself throughout
the air.
Whispers or simple silence is the unspoken rule of etiquette.

As the clock struck 4 PM, as the honor guard approached the flag,
all the wandering visitors stopped wandering.

Next, all present turned toward the flag and were suddenly very still
as ball caps were removed from heads, despite the rain…
as now both young and old automatically lifted hands to either place over hearts or
lift to the head in salute.

Something very powerful was taking place.

Reverence and respect were taking place…
laced with humility as well as gratitude.

Oh how far this land of ours has fallen from those hallowed ideals.

I pray we find them again…soon.

If we ever forget that we are one nation under God,
then we will be a nation gone under.

Ronald Reagan

Humble

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God.
A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course,
as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him,
without reserving any for themselves.
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due,
and above all, in rendering to God the things that are God’s;
that is, in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;

As the Venerable Bede says:
‘Whatever good we see in ourselves,
let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’

To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and
are continually receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come from the
lips but from the heart,
with a firm conviction that all good comes to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo,
p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

to be heartbreakingly humble

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,
but thinking of yourself less.

C.S. Lewis

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(the dried faded viburnum blooms / Julie Cook / 2016)

“Amid the sparkle and the color and music of the day’s celebration
we do well to remember that God’s insertion of himself into human history
was achieved with an almost frightening quietness and humility.
There was no advertisement,
no publicity,
no special privilege;
in fact the entry of God into his own world was almost
heartbreakingly humble”

J. B. Phillips

Recently reading a blog post by a Scottish minister regarding the ever growing saga
in the UK over Brexit…the UK’s vote for departure from the EU and the UK’s
courts latest counter order to halt all proceedings…
as it is a continuing sickening rollercoaster ride of will it or won’t it stay….
I was struck by the deep similarities of all things political and Governmental in the UK
compared with our own fracas over this Election…
The haves and the have nots of power elites who toil to establish their will,
the movers and shakers who forget who they are actually shaking,
the liberal biased media outlets determined to bend the will of the people,
the votes that don’t seem to count unless they favor the favored one, so revote until it’s right…

More often than not, the average citizen,
make that the average Christian citizen,
who is currently feeling lost in this political melee and
who is actually fearful of what the future might hold in either country,
now needs to hold fast to the one true Sovereign who is indeed sovereign over all…
despite what others would wish for us all to believe….

“We don’t trust in politicians or in judges who think they are sovereign.
The real sovereignty is with the only real Sovereign.
When the result of this court case came out I felt a wee bit depressed –
not so much because of it, but rather because I thought – oh no, here we go again.
But I was speaking at Abertay University that night on Daniel 5
The Writing on the Wall and was greatly struck by the phrase
“he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all
kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes” (v.21).
This trust in the sovereignty of God does not mean that we are political pietists
who don’t care about what happens.
It just means that we have such trust in the Sovereign Lord that we
recognize that we don’t rule and neither
does Trump/Clinton/Blair/Farage/Corbyn/May/Sturgeon or any of the elites.
And so we can respect those in authority and those not in authority.
We can have peace, even when we see things that disturb, anger and perplex us.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)
David Robertson
Pastor of St Peters Free Church
Dundee, Scotland

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Pride, greatness, nothingness

“if we cannot resemble God in his sovereign independence,
he wishes to resemble us in our humility.”

Meditations for Lent
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

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(lavender blooming / Julie Cook / 2016)

Promises of greatness
Blinded by pride….
Fall now endlessly into the abyss of nothingness…

Independence caught by humility
Rescued by Grace
Fall into the hands of a Sovereign heart

Man has made himself god through his pride.
God makes himself man through his humility.
Man falsely credits himself with God’s greatness,
and God truly takes on man’s nothingness

Meditations for Lent
Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The pleasure of your company is requested

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”
― Baltasar Gracián

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(Compliments of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the UK Dailymail / Windsor Castle State dinner preparation)

The table has been lovingly set
The finest linen and china are on hand.
Your invitation was printed eons ago.
It’s an open invitation of sorts.
There’s no RSVP so no worries as to your response.
Nor is there any particular dress code, no black tie or formal wear required.
Come as you are. . .
It’s one of those sorts of events that will go on with or without you,
Yet the hope is that you will indeed attend.

It isn’t a fancy sort of fete.
Not a jovial or raucous party, but rather a somber sort of affair.
It’s a yearly gathering, a remembrance, of a time long ago.
The yearly marking of hardships and struggles of a different era.
A special dinner to recall what was with a slight nod to what may be. . .

Yet on one such annual occasion,
One of the yearly gatherings, something was unnervingly different.
There was a deeper heaviness than usual.
There was a sense that things would never really be the same.
Year in and year out the words, the ceremony, the food, had always been the same. . .
But not so on this one particular evening.

Everyone had gathered as requested.
All were present and accounted for.
The food and beverages were to be the same,
The ceremony the same,
The words, the prayers all the same. . .and yet, this time, it was different,
It was all very different.

Sorrow had already taken his seat at the table,
along with Betrayal who was dressed to the nines.
Whereas Sorrow was often mentioned as a past participant, this year,
he had actually arrived earlier than expected.
Betrayal seemed almost excited to be included this year.
Sitting off to the side, Denial and Questioning were in deep conversation.
Thankfulness took his rightful seat.

Humility arrived fashionably late, as he had been detained washing up.
Kindness, Graciousness and Empathy sat together, offering a gentle smile to all who entered.
Anxiousness paced around the table, as Doubt visited with each guest.
Greed rubbed his hands while Treachery made excuses for an early departure.
Love’s warmth filled the room
Sadness began to sing.

Each guest was offered new bread and wine,
as a parting gift before departing—
It was a taste of the labors and fruits that had been gathered by both Glory and Hope. . .

Only the Wise,
The Needy,
The Poor,
The Castaway,
The Forgotten,
The Humble,
The Mournful,
The Peacemakers,
The Hungry,
The Meek,
The Penitent,
The Sinful,
The Lonely,
The Obedient,
The Hopeful,
reached in to take the Gift. . .
as the others hurriedly raced off to the shadows. . .

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:17-30

Humility and a hero

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.
William Temple

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( Sir Nicholas Winton, seated in wheelchair, being honored by the Czech President, Milos Zeman)

A few months back I wrote a post about Sir Nicholas Winton entitled “When does 669 equal 15,000”
His is a remarkable story of bravery, ingenuity, compassion, hope, intrigue, longevity, but especially noted, his is a story of humility.

I encourage you to read the previous post as it gives the story of Sir Nicholas as based on a report taken from the news magazine, 60 Minutes as well as the BBC.

( https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/when-does-669-equal-15000/ )

At the age of 29, in 1938, a young Jewish London stockbroker made a trip to Prague where he witnessed first hand the perilous situation taking place as Hitler was methodically beginning his annexation of Europe. At the time, most of Europe, Great Britain and the United States had turned a blind eye to Hitler and was taking a stance of Appeasement—an attitude I liken to the mindset of “if I don’t see it or acknowledge it, it is not actually happening.” Sir Winton knew better and he knew that time was of the essence. His mission became clear. He had to get as many children out of harms way before the eventual annexation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia as quickly as possible.

With little to no resources, no government or military assistance, Sir Winton arranged passage, as well as the eventual housing and “foster care” back in England, for 669 children all before the Nazis sealed the borders making travel or escape impossible. He organized the running of 8 trains from Prague to London. The last train scheduled to leave Prague was stopped due to the closing of the borders and it is believed that none of the 250 children abroad that train survived as the majority of the children were Jewish.

It was 50 years, long after the war, before anyone became aware of Nicholas Winton and of the heroic act he took upon himself in order to save hundreds of children from a fate of certain death. It was not until his wife discovered an old faded musty scrapbook in a trunk in the attic of their home which contained photographs of a much younger man holding child after child that the story was finally acknowledged. He had not even told his wife.

There are those stories that one hears over the course of a lifetime which make a deep lasting impression—the story of Nicholas Winton, for me, is just such a story.

Earlier this morning, while reading over the BBC’s web news postings, I noticed a story regarding Sir Nicholas being honored earlier this week in The Czech Republic. Sir Nicholas was awarded that country’s highest honor, The Order of the White Lion. Sir Nicholas is now 105 years young. Happily his humor, wit and humility are still very much intact and are most quick and keen. Upon receiving the award, surrounded by many of the now grown children, many of whom are well into their 80’s, Sir Nicholas humbly commented “that I shouldn’t have lived so long as to give everyone the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” He went on to thank the British people who helped by taking in the children, the majority of whom, after the war, had not homes nor family to return to.

When asked about life in today’s world, Sir Nicholas replied:
“I don’t think we’ve ever learnt from the mistakes of the past…”
“The world today is now in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been and so long as you’ve got weapons of mass destruction which can finish off any conflict, nothing is safe any more.”

For the video clip and full story from the BBC I’ve provided the following links

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29809556

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29798434

Merriam Webster define Hero as:
a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
a person who is greatly admired

Humility is defined as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people

May we be mindful that heroes are not born from the scripts of Hollywood nor of athletic prowess on the playing field. Heroes are born from the hearts and minds of humble men and woman who simply see a situation and know that things must change and then go about to create that change with no regard to themselves or of their own wellbeing. They require no thanks, no recognition, no accolades. They merely do what needs doing then quietly and simply move on.

669 children, who grew exponentially to 15,000, are the better for a man named Nicholas Winton.
You and I are better for knowing his story.