what lengths are you willing to go so that no one will ever forget?

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.
Malcolm Muggeridge


(Photo: Getty Images/Ellen van Bodegom)

Maybe you’ve fantasized about living out your days in a Mediterranean villa.
You might have even gone so far as to check listings before the reality of your
bank account forced you to give up on the dream.
Well, despair no longer.
One town on the Italian island of Sardinia is offering the real estate deal of a
lifetime, as long as you’re willing to stick around for the long haul.
In Ollolai, one of several hundred historic homes could be yours for just $1.25 (€1).
Yes, really.
Mayor Efisio Arbau successfully petitioned local residents to turn over their
abandoned homes in the town,
which then put them on the market for the attention-grabbing low price.

The aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known for its
successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.
The village’s population has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300 over the years,
and the migration of its younger people to larger cities has led to a declining birthrate.
“My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion,”
Arbau told CNN.
“We’ve always been tough people and won’t allow our town to die.”

as seen on Conde Nast Traveler / CNN Travel

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ollolai-italy-one-euro-homes/index.html

I always love these stories—the ones about the small tranquil village that has witnessed
a tremendous decline in its inhabitants and in turn makes almost outlandish sales offers
in hopes of luring would-be occupants and potential citizens to come own, inhabit and live,
all at very little expense, for a piece of paradise.

And we know that the reasons for these villages slow deaths are for all sorts of troubles…
families move, youth…when grown…move-out and away,
and the Old…well they have simply died…

And so now all these small communities, all over the globe, begin to slowly shrivel up and die…

The young see no growth, no fun, no potential, no reason to stay.
Young families have no real choice in schooling or sound medical care.
Those trying to make a living and livelihood discover that such is nearly nonexistent…
while the Old have hung on for as long as they can, yet are now dying off in large numbers…

It is the visual death knell sounding for small communities worldwide.

And yet there is a real desire that these communities remain for they have existed for eons…
they have been the underpinning, the lynchpins, of our greater society as a whole…

And of course, the catch for the potential buyer is always the caveat of remodeling
and pouring copious amounts of cash into the refurbishing of said piece of paradise.

But I’ll admit, the allure of buying a piece of paradise for all of a buck is pretty darn
appealing…however it’s the copious amounts of cash needed for the remodeling, modernizing
and upkeep that is the killer of the dream.

And so I bring all of this up as I’m still making my way through Andreas Knapp’s book
The Last Christians…Stories of Persecution, Flight, Resilience in the Middle East.

You may remember it was the book that my publishing friend from Plough Publishing House
sent out for my perusal back around Christmas.

It’s not a long book and you’d think I would have finished it ages ago,
but it is a book that demands my full attention—
especially since I take highlighter in hand as I read, along with a notepad
as I make notes while reading.
I cover only a few pages or a chapter a day here and there as time allows…

For meatier stories demand our utmost attention…and this is such a tale because the
subjects of this story deserve nothing less.

And it is not an easy read—it is not easy reading about persecution, murders, terror,
and insanity.

I was struck by what Mayor Efisio Arbauin said in the Conde Nast / CNN article
about why he wants to maintain his dying village in Sardinia.
“the aggressive real estate blitz is an effort to prevent a town known
for its successful resistance to the Roman Empire from fading into obscurity.”

Advertise like crazy as we want to maintain an ancient town that stood up against
an aggressive, mighty, powerful and brutal empire…

And yet I marvel at how the world at large will allow the last remaining true
Aramaic Christians, who trace their lineage, which in turn is our lineage,
back to Jesus himself–a world that will allow, nay is allowing,
these Aramaic Christians to be tortured, murdered,
disbanded, scattered and ultimately totally destroyed and wiped from the face of the Earth.

Read the following excerpt offered by the book’s author Fr Knapp along with a
priest and Bishop Petros Mouche who is the leading prelate of a
dispersed and disparaged people:

“Many people in Western countries, he points out, campaign for the protection of
animal species threatened with extinction.
And yet all appeals to halt the loss of the oldest Christian
Culture and its people and language have been ignored by the Western World”

(Bishop Petros Mouche displaced Syriac Catholic)

A young priest along with the Bishop both relate their tales of horror to the author
Fr. Knapp

“He who says nothing implies consent”
Latin Proverb

“How can we rebuild our trust?”
We can’t simply forget what happened.
And how can there be reconciliation with our Muslim neighbors when they haven’t expressed
the slightest regret?
Indeed will Muslims ever be capable of acknowledging any guilt toward us Christians?
Bishop Petros intervenes quietly at this point: “In times like these, we ourselves
can experience feelings of aggression.
We must overcome them.
It is God’s will that we should love our enemies.

I am silent, left speechless by his stance in the face of such a brutal reality.
He shakes his head thoughtfully.
“We can’t just forget what has happened.
But we will ask God to forgive the offenders
and lead them to think differently.”

Still, the white-haired bishop’s face betrays a deep anguish.
With this last oasis of Iraqi Christianity now under IS control,
and a nearly two-thousand-year-old
local church reduced to rubble, Qaraqosh is like a ghost town.
Bishop Petros is especially troubled by the fate of a three-year-old girl and some
young women abducted from the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain who–
like the Yazidi women-face sexual abuse, forced marriages with
Islamic fighters and slavery.

Bishop Petros told me of one eighty-year-old man who asked the terrorists why there wouldn’t
spare his family any food for the children;
their response was to hack off his hands and feet.

And yet the Bishop states that “they may have lost everything else,
but they have never lost their faith.”

What will the world be willing to offer in order to save these last Christians?
What will Christians be willing to offer in order to save these ancient brothers and sisters?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

what are you willing to die for

“You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures.
I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion.
I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith.
I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”

+ St. John the Russian


(lingering pomergarnite / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

The definition of the word martyr, according to Merriam Webster is: a person who voluntarily
suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion.

When we think of individuals who fit that description…we think of those individuals
who reach out to us from various Biblical tales.
We recall the stories of individuals who were tried and sentenced to death
for their faith in God, people like Daniel in the lion’s den—
or of Mesach, Shadrach, and Abednego along with King Nebuchadnezzar who decreed
having them thrown into the furnace…
We think of the stories of those individuals who refused to recant their belief in
the Omnipotent God.

Stories that are both far away and long ago.

And so in turn, we know from our Biblical history teachings that St Stephen was the first
recorded Christian martyr—
a man who refused to renounce his Christian faith, that of his belief in Jesus Christ…
with the near obvious result being his death…
and in Stephen’s case, it was by stoning.

The New Testament is laced with such stories—the stories of those who
suffered and died for refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as the Risen Son of God.

Yet today when we hear the word martyr or martyrdom, our 21st-century minds focuses in
on radical extremists…radical Islamic suicide bombers who offer themselves,
their lives, in order to kill as many other people as possible.
Not like the Christian who simply stands firm in his or her faith.

Christian martyrs are still being killed worldwide…
They die more or less quietly as their deaths are not publicized or are of common knowledge—
in part because they die in places where news of such is very hidden and or controlled.
Their deaths do not make the papers or the evening news.
Their deaths are not the headline gripping stories of deaths carried out by those who
prefer to kill mass numbers of people due to a skewed faith…

Many in the West, members of the Christian faith along with nonbelievers,
erroneously assume that Christian martyrdom ended with the fall of Rome…
due in part because the deaths of martyred Christians
does not make the nightly news or is not sprawled across the headlines.

The tales of imprisonment, tortures, and deaths of today’s Christians are not on the level
of breaking news as are those of the martyred Islamists because of the flip-flopped
extremist’s view of martyrdom.
Whereas the radical kills hundreds in one act—the countless numbers of tortured and
martyred Christians go virtually unnoticed.

However what we do know is that an Islamic Martyr sacrifices self in order to kill
while the Christian martyr is killed because he or she will not recant their faith…
and often is killed because of an attempt to protect others…
certainly not to harm others.

A vast difference.

Today most Westerners, and again that would be both Believers and non Believers,
does not feel a life or death threat or link to or for any martyred Christians
simply because the notion of a martyred Christians is not currently taking place.
Or at least that’s what we assume.

We aren’t still stoning or curcifying a person because they claim to be a Christian,
are we???

But what many in our society do not realize is that just because we live in an oh so
very modern society, there are indeed places still around the globe where Christians
are being stoned to death and even crucified for their faith despite our thinking
such barbarism disappeared eons ago.

Yet we read of IS and of the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians and
we occasionally hear a word of those who are killed for their faith in places
like North Korea, China, Myramar…but not here we will gloat, not where life
is civilized…right?

Yet what we fail to both see and understand is that the persecution of the Christian
in our Western Society is very much real…. however it is more hidden,
more insidious and quietly more subtle than those types of murders and deaths of those
Christians from either our history books or of those in far-flung regions of the world.

It would behoove us to realize that just because we consider ourselves “civilized” and
above the torture and or persecution of individuals for their Christian belief,
we should stop and take notice that there is one who is very much aware of the fact that
there is indeed such persecution taking place…
as such acts are carried out in a much more hidden and sinister type of execution…
And this individual is much more keenly aware of such…much more so than any human being.
And He couldn’t be more excited…

Abba [St] Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, said:
“One of you often says: ‘Where is the persecution so I can be martyred?’
Suffer martyrdom in your conscience; die to sin;
‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth’ [cf. Col 3:5]
and you will have become a martyr by intention.

Those [former martyrs] fought with emperors and rulers;
you have the devil, the emperor of sin, for adversary and demons for rulers.
For at that time a shrine and an altar stood before them and an abomination
of idolatry, an execrable idol.

Take careful thought;
even today there is an altar and a sanctuary and a virtual execrable idol in the soul.
An altar, that is luxurious gluttony; a sanctuary, the longing for delights;
an idol, the spirit of covetousness.

reflective remembrance

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;
it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

― Coco Chanel


(a slice of the Mile High Pie from Bones in Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2017)

As long as I can remember, my birthday has always fallen on the weekend of the
Georgia / Auburn football game.
Never mind if my birthday was on, say a Wednesday,
the birthday has always been marked by this hallowed grudge match.

A grudge match rivalry game considered, by those who write the history of
collegiate sports, to be the oldest college rivalry
in all of college football dating all the way back to 1892.

So this past weekend was no exception when it came to birthdays and football games…
despite the actual day being a few days after the fact of said game.

And so it would have only seemed to make sense that my beloved Dawgs would have
stepped up to the birthday plate by delivering the best gift possible—
a defeat of this most ancient of foes…putting them one more game closer
to a year of perfection….
Yet alas…
it was not to be….

Yet defeat is not the intent of today’s thoughts but rather the musing of what was,
what is and what will be…

When I turned 21, way back when I was in college at this same beloved college of
which I speak of today, I had been invited by a young man who I really liked at
the time, to travel down to Auburn for the game in honor of my birthday.

But I had a conundrum.

My godparents, the priest of my church and his wife, had already invited me to come
home as they wanted to have a small party in my honor.

Now I don’t know too many 21 year olds who would spend even a second weighing out such proposals…as whether to stay or go—as most any 21 year old in their right mind
would have wholeheartedly opted to go to the football game…
excitedly ready to spend a great weekend with great friends
and a potential great beau all the while living it up as one’s team beats
up another—

I however chose the latter.
I went home.

I really can’t say how many 21 year old kids had the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta,
at the time, bake them a birthday cake, but me…

And yes it was indeed a small intimate gathering… yet one that was, obviously, most memorable.

The game would have been no doubt memorable as well…or maybe not…
because I couldn’t even begin to tell you who won that year…
and I can recall that that young man was only a beau for a short time…
but on the other hand I do remember those other particular individuals who loved me
enough to want to make a special day even more special in their own small way.

And so it is with this day of marking the passage of time,
that I find myself being a bit wistful.
Because isn’t that what we do as we age, we become wistfully reflective.

So in keeping with this notion of being both wistful and reflective,
I am poignantly reminded that this is the first birthday that is to be spent
in 58 years without my dad and aunt.

Mother has been gone since just before I was to turn 26, but Dad and Aunt Martha
have been around throughout of what seems to be the duration of time…

Each of them knew how to make a birthday celebration both special and memorable.
As I remain grateful in recalling the years gone past that they did make a special
day just that— special.
Just as I am sad thinking of a new year without them.

And whereas there will definitely be some sadness on an otherwise momentous day…
besides nursing what could have, should have, been with the Dawgs running the table
on a possible all out rout of a season of wins…
it will be a day marked with a sense of without…
of what was and of what is no more…

Yet as our dear friend Coco Channel so pointedly reminds us—
it is not necessarily a matter of what we may have once been or been given,
rather it will be a matter of who and what we will opt to one day be…

May we opt to be both wiser and kinder….


(my husband with his birthday girl / 2017)

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

Isaiah 42:2,3,4

Finally… the official call of the quaking duck

“If it looks like a duck,
quacks like a duck,
it’s a duck!”

Robin Cook

“Your words have the power of life and death.
Choose them wisely.”

― Orrin Woodward

DSCN0447
(preening mallard at Glendalough National Park / Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook 2016

A most edifying annoucnement came today from the State Department.

Genocide…
That’s what ISIS is indeed doing…
to Shia Muslims
to Yazidis
to Christians….

“We must recognize what Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] is doing to its victims,”
Kerry said, speaking from the State Department podium.
“We must hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The treaty commits signatory nations to take steps to “prevent and to punish”
the “odious scourge” of genocide.

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/isis-committing-genocide-against-christians-144946484.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35831711

Will the “recognition” change things?
Sadly, probably not…
But what it will change is the lens to which the world’s powerful leaders will use to view the vile acts committed by this terrorist organization….
and with the changing of the lens, we pray for the changing of hearts….

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:7

what constitutes genocide?

If it’s April, it must be “Never Again” time once more. You hear this solemn pledge a lot every April, since the month commemorates not only Holocaust Remembrance Day but the official anniversaries of both the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Leaders at every level seem to love hearing themselves declare “Never Again.” But those who mean it have no power and those with power never mean it. The record speaks for itself.
Gerald Caplan, Samuel Totten and Amanda Grzyb
The Globe and Mail 2013

DSCN2518
(remnants of desecrated monuments / Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook /2016)

Genocide–a noun–the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

What does it take for mass murder, the systematic killing of one group of people, to be recognized by world powers, in particular the Obama administration, as genocide?

How many people have to die a brutal death, before one more death, becomes one too many?

Why do we have to have committees, writing up and comprising dossiers, detailing the numbers and events of the egresses brutalities, the murders, in hopes that the powers that be, in this case Secretary of State John Kerry, will finally publicly agree that the systematic mass murders are to be recognized as genocide?

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/pressure-mounts-on-obama-to-call-islamic-state-163109049.html

Also… this second link is to a story about a man living in Raqqa who has kept a diary reflecting life lived under the rigid arm of ISIS—his story secretly shared with BBC reporters

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35728424

Onward Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers,
marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
going on before!
Christ, the royal Master,
leads again the foe;
Forward into battle,
see his banner go!

Openning stanza to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers
lyrics by the Englishman Sabine Baring-Gould 1865

DSCN0255
(stainglass window of St George, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 2:3

Christianity to the non believer, as well as to many of the faithful, must appear to be a faith of conjecture.

On the one hand we are reminded to be like minded with Christ… to forgive without ceasing…70 times 7…
We are to be peace minded when attacked by offering the other cheek, our cloak, our possessions…
We are the followers of the “Sacrificial Lamb” who when lead before his shearers is dumb, as he opened not his mouth…
As there are those who have long considered Christians weak, passive and non-agressive to a fault.

Yet there are others who eagerly finger point and recall that throughout history Christians have been known to rile against those who were not of the faith. Waging crusades and “holy” wars…as we are all left wondering what sort of war could ever be considered “holy” as that seems to be the epitome of oxymorons.

And yet we are called to be soldiers for Christ…

However’s today’s global family is currently witnessing an extreme example of a holy war, or caliphate. This war is being raged on a terrorizing global level by the Islamic extremists Daesh otherwise known ISIS.
It is a caliphate to be carried out against the infidel and all non muslims as per the Quran.
And yet our western governments continue to assure us that the Islamic faith is one of peace.

Despite the continuing airstrikes conducted by US, UN, British, French, Russian and other coalition forces, the numbers of IS recruits has only continued growing by leaps and bounds.

Stories of what happens to those civilians who fall under IS control continue making headlines.
Beheadings, shootings, torture, caged burnings, crucifixions—all manner of public executions are rampant.

The following link is to a recent story found on the BBC concerning IS, or Daesh’s, growing occupation in Libya, as well as elsewhere throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. The article is a collection of firsthand accounts of those who “got out” before total occupation but sadly left family and friends behind. The stories of the barbaric brutality, which is on an alarming rise, is most sobering if not stomach turning…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35325072

It has also been almost a year since the tragic news of the young American aid worker Kayla Mueller’s horrific death at the hands of IS leaders. Just yesterday there was a news article stating that her parents would soon be making their first public statement regarding their daughter’s kidnapping and subsequent death— as well as their failed attempts to negotiate with her captors and of the ensuing war of words with the American Government over those negotiations.

Whereas our Government has long held the stance that the families of any Americans taken hostage by hostile nationals would not be allowed to “negotiate” a loved one’s release by paying ransoms, the irony is sadly found in the Government’s negotiating with the Taliban for the release of the American soldier Bowe Berghdahl— by exchanging 5 terrorist prisoners—all of which has rung a sour note with the Muellers as well as other families such as the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Berghdahl, as it turns out, had purportedly gone AWOL and was a suspected Taliban sympathizer.
He is soon to be tried in a military court of law, facing a court martial with a sentence of life in prison…
Our Government exchanged five terrorist prisoners for this purported AWOL soldier while the Muellers are left trying to make sense a Government “threatening” their attempts to pay a private ransom for their own daughter.

http://news.yahoo.com/murdered-hostage-kayla-mueller-s-family-is-speaking-out-013516761.html

In 1941, after three years of fighting that was raging across the European continent and prior to US involvement, President Franklin Roosevelt met secretly with the British Prime minister Winston Churchill aboard the HMS Prince of Wales in the middle of the North Atlantic. The meeting of these two leading allied leaders was for the creating of the Atlantic Charter, a charter that would help to define a post-war world. During the time the two leaders were meeting, Churchill was charged with arranging a joint church service to be held aboard ship for all the attendees. He chose all the hymns with Onward Christian Soldiers being his foremost choice. Following the meeting, in a radio broadcast, Churchill later reccounted his reasoning for his choice of hymn…

We sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers” indeed, and I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high. When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals … it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.

Churchill’s words could easily be spoken today…“it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.”

May we be reminded that as Christians we are to be that living embodiment of hope, that sure hope, as we march forward as the Soldiers for Christ casting His brilliant Light into a world held hostage by darkness.

“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.
Deuteronomy 20:1

Savagery vs Decency

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

DSCN0554
(window in the chancel house at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m beginning to feel, as well as sound, like a broken record…

Once again there is a report that ISIS, IS, Daesh, whatever you wish to call this steely precision machine of evil, has once again wielded swiftly the hand of hate and destruction over all of Christianity in Iraq. They have rendered the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, the 1400 year old St Elijah’s Monastery, to nothing more than dust.

The monastery was built between 882-590 AD by the Assyrian Christian monk Elijah and has been a place of worship and refuge for Christians well before the Great Schism divided Christianity into the Latin West and the Orthodox East…as it dates to the earliest days of The infant Church.

It was back in March, almost a year ago when I wrote another similar story about the dire situation taking place in Mosel with the systematic killing and destruction of any and all things Christian at the hands of the barbaric members of the Islamic State.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And almost a full year later, nothing has been done or said…the oh so hoped for cry from the global community… which would be heard, as it is shouted out loud from every roof top around the globe, in hopes to raise a real and substantial global concern…sadly remains in large part…silent.

Oh we hear a snippet of a story here and there, yet there are more reports about who’s been nominated for an Oscar and who is boycotting the awards show due to a case of colorblindness, yet the steady and systematic destruction of all things Christian throughout the Middle East, the very birth place of our faith, is being eliminated into oblivion with nary a whimper.

Why?

Here are the latest news offerings…with even the Pentagon weighing in, claiming that the destruction of the monastery is simply one more “battle of savagery against decency…”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35360415

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/20/isis-destroys-iraqs-oldest-christian-monastery-satellite-photos-confirm.html?intcmp=hpbt2

http://news.yahoo.com/only-ap-oldest-christian-monastery-073600243.html

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 1:17-19