it’s happened again

“Man’s extremity is God’s appointment”
Pastor Rasmussen, Danish Pentecostal pastor

“First God gives to us–
Then we give back to God–
Finally God gives back
again to us–blessed and multiplied beyond our power to imagine”

Lydia Prince regarding the story of Abraham and Isaac
from Appointment In Jerusalem

“I can only bless that which is freely yielded to me”
Lydia Prince hearing the words of God
from Appointment in Jerusalem


(Panorama of Jerusalem old city / Israel / courtesy the web)

Remember the other day when I was cleaning off the bookshelves and that little
book by that Franciscan Monk just fell out of the pile landing at my feet…
a book entitled, There Are No Accidents by
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel…

Well after I had painstakingly moved the sea of books that would not be going back
on the shelves into another room where I could spread them out, looking through
them, sorting over who would stay and who would head to the Goodwill,
I had to then move and relocate the books which would be staying down
to the basement.

Remember, like I said the other day, I was an art teacher for 31 years…
having minored in both history and art history who happens to have a keen
interest in Christian spirituality…
so there are books,
lots and lots of pretty, heavy, expensive books.
Books that I still love and want to hold onto but there is just only
so much room…

So as I was gathering up stacks to carry down the stairs,
another book literally fell out of the pile at my feet.

Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek and Lydia Prince.

I vaguely recalled buying the book while still teaching.
The copyright of this updated edition is 2005 but the original story was
actually written thirty years prior in 1975.

Why I opted to just shelve the book obviously many years ago, I don’t know,
but is seems as if Someone was wanting me to read the book, as in now.
And who am I to argue when I have most recently learned that there are
no accidents?

Curious I picked the book up off the floor and set it aside for later
so I could look over what the book was all about.

I started the book Saturday and finished the main original story Wednesday–
as I’m still picking through the added post epilogue to this newer edition.
Mind you, I’m not a fast reader but this story has been such that it has
totally captivated my thoughts and attention.

I was not familiar with either Lydia Prince, whose story the book is about,
nor her husband Derek, but I have since done a bit of research.

It seems the book has been very popular– for in 2005, over two million copies
were in print.
The Princes had a global Christian ministry that was going strong up to Lydia’s
death in 1975.

Just a quick bit of background as it is not the back story that has spoken to me
but rather the person of Lydia herself and of her voracious hunger for God.

Lydia was born in Northern Denmark in 1890, making her 6 years older than my own grandmother.
Lydia was also born into a very affluent family so she was never one to have to
fret over finances.
She was very smart and well educated.
She began a very successful teaching career in the Danish School system,
becoming a global teaching pioneer in what would be known as home economics.

Teachers were highly esteemed in Danish society and Lydia enjoyed the stability
of both career and lifestyle.
By her mid thirties, a fellow teacher had asked for her hand in marriage,
a union which most felt was a natural progression,
especially given the fact that Lydia was only getting older and needed to settle
down.

But settling down was not something she felt inclined to do.

This was during a time when Lydia had began questioning the scope and depth of
her life as a nagging feeling seemed to be engulfing her very being…
She kept feeling, thinking and finally believing that there was something missing
and something more to life..in particular…her life…
and she needed to find out what it was.

Lydia began an in-depth study of the Bible, even fervently praying as in actually
talking to God rather than simple prayer recitations.
Like most in Denmark, Lydia was Lutheran—with the Lutheran Church being the
state Church of Denmark, so to suddenly begin such a quest would be looked upon
as most odd.

Yet she had never felt particularly fulfilled with that aspect of life—
it was something that had been expected and she attended Sunday services
but as for “feeling” something…
that was all that was to it—simply attending a service, nothing more.

She began seeking out the counsel and even attending the services offered by a
local Pentecostal pastor.
The Pentecostal Church was something new and looked upon cautiously and
skeptically by the Danes.
Attending such a service was akin to totally losing one’s mind…
no decent Danish Lutheran would be caught dead attending a Pentecostal service,
let alone associating with Pentecostals.

But Lydia did just that…eventually receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In her small town and school, this new found faith of hers became nothing
less than a scandal.
She was threatened with termination.
Ostracized by her colleagues and students.
Even the Danish Government took up the case.

Her quiet simple life had blown up in her face…yet she was undeterred
and even found a peace in her continued pursuit of God.

She had given herself totally and unequivocally over to God and His directing
and there was no looking back

And such directing it was…

In 1927 she resigned from her teaching post as she now felt called to move
to Jerusalem.
She had no job awaiting her, no mission sending her, no backing from a church
and she had previously given away most of her life’s savings.
Yet there was no mistaking God’s direction.
Jerusalem it was to be.
She believed she was not to worry with any of the details…
not even fretting over not having proper funding because God would be
providing all– Lydia’s only responsibility was but to trust.

And Lydia might as well have been going to the wild west.
Because this was Palestine pre Israel.
A sandy territory under British authority with an uptick in
sectarian violence between Jew and Arab.
Living conditions were hard as well as dangerous….
especially for a single European woman in her late 30’s who spoke neither
Yiddish or Arabic and who knew absolutely no one in her soon to be new home.

However since the end of WWI there had been a steady inflow of Jews, from all over
the globe, moving into what was then Palestine, coming home as it were—
and this was something that the local Arab population
found gravely troubling…to the point of outright bickering and fighting
eventually erupting into deadly battles.

Yet both Arabs and Jews were equally weary of Christians as both groups had
suffered at some point or another at the hands of Christians….so
whereas Jews were unwelcome, Christians were even more unwelcomed.

I will stop here with Lydia’ back story—
saving it for another day.
As there is still a great deal more…
but for now I want to concentrate briefly on Jerusalem and the notion of faith.

I’ve written about the importance of Jerusalem before, and in turn the
importance of Israel, something that God has stated over and over and something
our family of Believers have most collectively and sadly forgotten or chosen to
disregard.

I’ve also explained how dangerous it is for any nation to turn it’s back on Israel…
for such an act is to turn one’s back of God himself.

This is all but spelled out throughout the Books of the Prophets…
throughout both Old and New Testaments.

And this is a fact that Lydia discovered and kept on the forefront of
her ministry for the remainder of her life.

Reading of Lydia’s pure unabashed dependent faith is now challenging me.

Her complete dependance upon God for every single need and detail shakes my
false perception of life’s security.

Her utter surrender of everything, holding nothing back…
from those she fervently loved down to her very life as nothing
was perceived to be an impossibility for God to attend to.

As the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac to
the God of all Creation…all because God said so…and knowing that Abraham,
obviously shaken and distraught over God’s request, still obeyed…
made such an impression upon Lydia that she too believed that there should
never be a time to ever deny or hold back from God whatever He asked for…
this as He worked to temper Lydia’s fatih and life within his
purifying furnace of Love.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from Lydia’s century old story and
the subsequent story of her life’s ministry and caring for orphaned children.
And I know that I will be eventually sharing those here with you…

“And yet the truth is that God’s plan of peace and blessing for all
nations can never come to completion until both Israel and Jerusalem are restored—
and He expects us to be His coworkers in bringing this to pass.”

Lydia Prince / Appointment In Jerusalem

And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Zachariah 12:9

E=MC2

It is better to believe than to disbelieve;
in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.

Albert Einstein

I don’t know if you had an opportunity to catch the biopic miniseries on the
National Geographic Channel based on the life of Albert Einstein entitled Genius,
of which finished up last week with the airing of the final episode…
it was actually quite good and extremely fascinating.
And I suspect that they will be rerunning the series.

The series spanned about 10 consecutive Tuesday evenings for an hour long episode
and was based on the book by Walter Isaacson Einstein: His Life and Universe

The movie was produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Actors Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn each played both the
elder(Rush) and younger(Flynn) Einsteins.

It was a well done series with a few little exceptions…
such as the scenes of Professor’s Einstein’s many trysts and dalliances
with various women…in particular a scene with his much younger secretary as they
“enjoyed” themselves in his office one afternoon up against the black board…
which was a bit too graphic and realistic for what I care for in a historical biography
that could otherwise have been so readily utilized within the classroom of say
high school age kids.

Other than that, the film was very informative and exceptionally well done.

One thing that struck me from the very beginning was how selfish Einstein was in
his relationships with people.
It took a much older Einstein to fully grasp this notion when he was confronted
with the blatant candidness from his then second wife, who
just also happened to be his first cousin…
and then later, near the end of his life,
by his estranged grown son Hans Albert.

Each berated the Professor for his utterly blind selfishness and insensitivity to and in
regard to the feelings and love of those who he should have been putting foremost
in his personal life.
From his many extramarital affairs to his total physical absence from the lives of his sons…
all of which he’d flippantly quip “they’ll understand”…..was a glaring flaw of character.

The other thing that struck me was how, as a young man, he renounced his German citizenship…
declaring himself a free citizen of the world who was null and void of all things political…
and hence responsibility to something larger than himself.
And also, in almost the same breath, proclaiming to be void of any sort of religious view…

And yet it was the older man who studied hard to become a citizen of the United States
and who also lobbied for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

One would most aptly presume that a man such as Einstein would have no use for religion
or the belief of an Omnipotent God.
Science and proof was his sole life’s purpose.
And for a while during his younger life, the lack of any sort or belief,
was indeed the case.

His was a life of physics and the quest of testing, defining and discovery.
To unlock and solve the mysteries behind what makes the universe just that…
the awesome mysterious universe that it is.

He had failures, he had frustrations, he had set backs, he had doors slammed in his face,
he struggled financially, he lived in dysfunctional relationships,
he suffered loss and sorrow, he was discriminated against,
he was betrayed and undermined by colleagues and scrutinized
for his convictions….plus he made some very poor choices…

And yet there is no disputing the fact that he was indeed brilliant none the less.

On more than one occasion he was asked about his belief in God.

“To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that
our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly:
this is religiousness.
In this sense…I am a devoutly religious man.”

In response to a young girl who had asked him whether he believed in God, he wrote: “everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest
in the laws of the Universe—-
a Spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

And during a talk at Union Theological Seminary on the relationship between religion and science,
Einstein declared: “the situation may be expressed by an image:
science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
(quotes from an article by Bishop Robert Barron)

Einstein was born a Jew—and when he was younger and,
more or less very much a know it all…
thoughts of the God of Israel had very little if any appeal.
Remember this was a selfish young man as far as relationships were concerned….
he was never willing to give to a relationship the emotional commitment required…
or to invest in such for any real length of time.

Yet living and working in Berlin while Adolph Hitler rose to power and being a Jew,
a very famous Jew at that…despite being a non practicing Jew,
actually became a matter literally of either life or death for Einstein.

This was a time of a turning point for Einstein…
a turning point for his feelings and belief about being a Jew,
a free thinking man, and the responsibility that humans have to
something greater than themselves…
something even greater than his beloved physics.

I’m including NatGeo’s link to the series as viewing episodes from the homepage is possible.
just in case you’d like to watch one or two, or all….

I may not ever understand his science,
I many not always agree with his life’s choices or views…
but I can appreciate the fact that as brilliant as Einstein was…he eventually
understood the idea that there was a true connectiveness in man to that which is much
greater than himself…

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/genius/

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thought

Isaiah 55:8-9

a time of signs

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him
to show them a sign from heaven.

Matthew 16:1

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death,
and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations,
and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:9-14

signposts

Today I found myself once again on the interstate, a place that I am more times then not…
As the sun was headed toward the west, I was finally heading home form Dad’s…
who by the way is hanging on and still in the game….but just barely….
Merging onto the interstate, it suddenly dawns on me that the ratio of big rigs to cars
was not in the favor of the cars.

Some days are like that as I suppose as there are certain days that are considered
more or less “travel days” for those transporters of all things commerce.

Those “travel days” tend to make me a bit more nervous as I don’t especially enjoy
barreling down the interstate sandwiched in-between 5 lanes of tractor trailer
trucks and little ol me….

Focusing on keeping up with the flow while my mind drifts back and forth over to Dad
and to the things I need to be taking care of for them, my eyes and mind begin to focus
on the truck in front of me…
“The World’s most award winning Tequila”

Hummmm…I think I’ve had it in a margarita once….

Changing lanes, as I was working my way over to merge onto the next interstate, I
found myself behind another truck boasting the “2013 Award Winning Whiskey Bourbon, Roses”

Hummmm…I’d never heard of it before…yet found myself wondering if it hails
from Kentucky or Tennessee as only Kentucky whiskeys may be labeled bourbon…

As I exit onto the entrance ramp to the next interstate, I’m precariously passed by
a massive Little Debbie’s truck….

Hummmmm…Now I begin wondering if someone isn’t trying to tell me something…
as in…am I suppose to be heading to the nearest bar or to grab some
not so healthy snack cakes….???

Signs were all over the place it seems…
vying for me to remember, to consider, to seek, to find…????

So as I was finally on the home stretch of highway, eventually taking me home,
the whole notion of signs and their meaning flooded my mind,
shadowed by the significant and current visit taking place in Washington of Israel’s
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu….

I ruminated over the importance of the renewed support offered by our
new administration to Israel…
and to what that now may means for a nation who returns her support to the chosen
of God….

As some would flippantly quip that it means nothing,
while others would bemoan it just means more trouble,
while still others see great significance being found in this renewed support.

I have always believed in the importance of the United State and her relationship with
the Jewish state…

Yesterday we heard in his greeting to President Trump,
along with those gathered in the East Room,
Prime Minister Netanyahu offering an explanation as to why Jews are called Jews.

“Well, the Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China.
The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan.
Well, Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea.
This is our ancestral homeland.
Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.”

The age long quest for the acknowledgement of existence.

Yet that acknowledgement continues being met with resistance…

The Middle East is a vast and formidable land..
It has always been shrouded in mystery, hostility, and suspicion.
With the seeming epicenter to be found in the obscure city of Jerusalem…

A city that is the knot in the bow tying and binding the three
greatest monotheistic religions together…
whether they like it or not…bound they are.
Yet it is a city that has been fractured and divided since its very formation…

The hostilities between Jews and Muslims is age old, dating back most notably to
the time of Abraham.
The Christians are really the upstarts in the mix, having entered the fray 2000
years ago.

So say what you will…
be it coincidence, myth, lore, legend, history, the Divine…or a combination of
each component…
The land of Judea is for the chosen of God…and peace will come…but…..

The prophet Zechariah reminds us with his words:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples,
when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all
peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces,
though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:2-3)

It seems that conflict will always be found in this epicenter…
only until such time comes that there is a final
collision between both Light and Darkness….

In Psalm 37 we hear David proclaiming that “the meek shall inherit the earth,
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”
(Psalm 37:11).
And in Leviticus we are told, “I will give peace in the land, and you shall
lie down, and none will make you afraid”
(Leviticus 26:6)

We are reminded, told, and shown that there will indeed be a day of peace in
this land that has only known dispute, war, hatred and suspicion.

So until that day of peace and reconciliation is upon us…
It may behoove each of us to consider the signs we are offered as we
look, wonder and wait…..

With Christ—“the Prince of Peace”—ruling the earth,
“there will be no end” to the peace that will envelop our planet (Isaiah 9:6-7).
As Isaiah hopefully noted,
“LORD, You will establish peace for us” (Isaiah 26:12).
And as each individual obeys God, he or she will enjoy peace.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You” (verse 3).

(Life Hope & Truth)

And the sheep were silent…

“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision.
It is a silent acquiescence to evil.
The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction,
while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

DSCN0884
(a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where does one begin…
Where does one look when attempting to sort it all out?
From whence has it come?
What was the root cause?
What was the catalyst?
How did it ever come to this?

Standing in the center of the raging maelstrom
Silent and dumbfounded…
Only a remaining handful are left to sort it out.

As the majority silently chooses to ignore it…

We choose to turn our heads.
We refuse to call truth by its name.
While hoping it all just goes away.

We don’t want to get labeled.
We don’t want to lose our businesses, our jobs, our positions.
We don’t want to be taken to court.
We don’t want to be disliked, unliked or disconnected.
We don’t want to be shamed…

All the while we are being told we’d best accept things or otherwise shut-up.
We are told to get on board or get out.
We are vilified,
We are hated
We are deemed ignorant.
We are considered backwards.
We are called all manner of vile names
We are stalked by the shadows…

That is unless we recant, we back down, we reconsider,
we change our minds, we accept the once unacceptable…
as the bitter taste is no less palatable, yet we swallow for survival.

And it is because of one thing and one thing only…
We carry the name Christian or Jew.
We support the cross, we support Israel and we hold the word of God as just that…
The Truth.

Yet even under that banner there are those who toil
at rewriting and altering ancient words and law in order to
“modernize” them.
“God didn’t mean that, He actually meant this instead….”
As we don’t like thinking about sin and Hell, so let’s
just throw the blanket out covering everyone…as in
it is all indeed good…because we are all about feeling good.

We stand before the manger feeling all warm and fuzzy,
as we look upon that peaceful nurturing scene of Mother and Child…
All the while we throw up our Christmas trees as the media screams at us,
telling us what we must have and actually need under those trees
in order to be forever happy…
never mind what we really need or want….

…simply to love and be loved….
as in forever…

We want our God to be all loving, all caring, all good, all giving
all about us….
He loves everyone no matter what, right?
He tolerates everything right?
He accepts us no matter what right?

Cause if that’s not right, we don’t want Him.

Cause and effect.

Have we forgotten?

For every cause, there is an opposite reaction or effect.
Up, down
push, pull
lift, drop,
climb, fall….

Yet we decide that the law of physics will not apply to us.

We will live as we choose, with a God who we demand will
abide by our choices and our will…or else…
We will simply rewrite Him…

…or deem Him ill suited, outdated, or better yet…
the product of mere myths…

We deem marriage is not just between man and woman.
We decide boys can be girls and girls can be boys.
There is no separation, no division, no balance…
We don’t like results so we kick and scream until we get the results we like.
We don’t like the flag so we burn it.,
We don’t like religion so we ignore it,
We don’t like those over there cause
we are paranoid and think they don’t like us over here….

We are so busy being us and loving us…as in me, myself and I…
that we are failing to see what is happening all around us.

We are so afraid of offending anyone and everyone that we can’t call terrorists what they are.
We can’t admit that radical Islam wants to annihilate us so we instead invite
them to all come live with us.
We bend everything about us…
until we break, all in the name of acceptance and equality.

And yet we still just don’t get it.
We can’t see it.
We don’t want to admit it….
We’d rather just stare at the crib feeling all warm and fuzzy…
as we forget that the road to Bethlehem, and it’s inviting manger, leads directly
to the Via Dolorosa…

Cause and effect.

Birth and death
Life or not…

If we claim to be Christian or Jew.
If we believe in morality as a guiding principle.
If we believe in cause and effect
If we believe that God is God and we are not…

Now is our moment to be silent no more….

DSCN0866
(a sheep being sheared at a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Acts 18:9-10

words, deeds and offered kindness

If there was a little more light and truth in the world through one human being,
his life has had meaning.”

Alfred Delp, priest

dscn4681
(a cache of books from Plough Publishing House)

When life seems to be endlessly hard fraught with struggles, isn’t it amazing how
one small gesture, one small act of kindness or recognition, can mean so very much…

Over the better part of almost two years,
my life has, more often than not, felt like a battleground.

Some days there has been advancement,
some days there has been retreat,
some days there has been a stalemate,
and some days there has been defeat.

For a myriad of reasons, every last one of us faces moments in our lives
that are hard and difficult… some of those moments are downright devastating.
And much like the Geico Insurance ads that so famously highlight life’s absurdities
with that famous tag line “because that’s what you do”
we in like turn muddle through, power through or simply manage to make it
through such times…because, that’s what we do….

So imagine my surprise when one evening I received a comment on my blog
from an editor from Plough Publishing House.
She had read a recent post in which I used a quote by Eberhard Arnold,
the early 20th century Christian theologian and writer.

You must know that I do not choose the quotes that I use for each post randomly
as I am very purposeful in selecting the right words spoken…
In that I use other’s words,
in order to add impact or highlight a particular point or post,
is not something I take lightly.

There are times when I have stumbled across a quote or statement that I think appropriate
yet I may be unfamiliar with the owner of the words and thoughts.
So I’ll do a little background research.
And in that research I often find intriguing backdoor stories that draw me ever inward…
as I find myself wanting to know more about the particular individual of choice.
Such was the case with Eberhard Arnold.

I don’t want to spend time today jumping off on a side pig trail but it is
interesting that I have found the words and stories behind many German Theologians intriguing—
certainly with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I often quote and write about,
to Maximilian Kolbe and Alfred Delp…
two Catholic priests whose lives, words and deeds we remember to this day
due in part to their martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of the Holocaust.

I like to think that I am not discriminatory with the words I include in my posts
as I greatly welcome the thoughts and words from a wide range of the faithful…
be they Protestant or Evangelical, Catholic or even Jew—
I have a deep respect for those individuals who have spent their lives,
if not having given up their lives, for our shared Judaeo / Christian faith and beliefs…
As they are in part the stone pavers to the pathway we walk today.

And so was the case with my inclusion of Eberhard Arnold…
which in turn brought the attention of a senior publishing editor my way.
She asked if I would be interested in maybe receiving a few of their newest releases
in hopes that I might find time to not only read them but to share them on the blog.

I was more than humbled as well as honored by her offer.

Delightfully a small package arrived Tuesday afternoon containing five books.
Five faith-filled books…
Of which I look forward to exploring and sharing from time to time here on cookiecrumbs with you…

There is so much to learn as well as to apply to our own 21st century lives from the thoughts and experiences of those who, having often walked their journey prior to our own, have put their
experiences of both their lives and faith in action to pen and paper…

We should note that the written word has such a way of
transcending both space and time…as does a simple act of kindness…

All be they seemingly insignificant, it would behoove us to be mindful of the
importance of our own actions and words… .
That to reach out, to speak, to touch, to offer kind thoughts,
gestures and words to another…can, as a stone dropped into a still pond,
ripple outward reverberating far beyond our limited sight…
touching those who we may never meet or know….
Such is the power of our words and deeds…

The final Kingdom is near, and the whole world should be on the watch.
But the world will not take heed unless the Church of Jesus Christ puts the unity
and justice of this Kingdom into practice daily.
Faith will bring about true unity among believers
who are ready to live a life of unlimited,
active love.

Eberhard Arnold, 1934

What’s wrong with this picture?

“We don’t adore icons,
we us them to adore God”

Fr John Sexton

DSC00762
( Vasari’s Annunciation / The Louvre / Julie Cook / 2011)

Over the course of this past weekend, an interesting story made its way into the news, which just so happened to catch the eye of this old art teacher.

Now you should know that I was a little more than bothered, as well as troubled, by this story as I have already touched on this sort of subject before and like any decent teacher whose students fail to comprehend the key components of a well delivered lesson, my feathers became just a bit ruffled…yet if the truth be known, this individual “student” had obviously totally skipped class altogether that day.

It seems that someone out there has decided to not only take issue with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but has decided to go so far as to file a law suit—

“For what?”…. I’m hearing you ask…

Well it seems that upon a recent visit to the Met, as this individual was viewing some paintings of the museum’s collection of several Renaissance and Baroque masters depicting Jesus Christ, this said individual suffered “personal stress” as the images contained, typical of the time, images of a “white” Jesus. This individual is now claiming that these images of a white Jesus are racist and should be removed.

I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type.
Imagine that, white Renaissance Northern Europeans painting images of a Jesus which looked just like them!
Shocking??
Not a bit…
But rather indicative of the time, the culture, the history, and the existing knowledge of the world—let us consider the audience of these white Northern European Christian artists…other white Northern European Christian type individuals.

I almost came unglued right then and there as I read, then later watched, the story.
A huge collective “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” should be reverberating as we all read of such lunacy.

If I had a ruler in hand, I would knock this said student upside the head as this is probably the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. But then given this day and age I would be fired as well as sued over such…sigh

First may I just say that this country has so many more glaring issues and concerns and so many more truly needful cases trying to work their way through our already dysfunctional legal system that a suit as frivolous and as ridiculous as this is a shameful waste of both time and money.

Do I feel “personal stress” when I view an exhibit of African Art, Asian Art, Hispanic Art, Native American Art, Muslim Art (although Muslims do not depict images of individuals), etc…
No, of course not.
Can I and do I understand and appreciate that art collections are more often than not, mere representations of various time periods and or cultures?
Of course I can and I do—

This entire story has me shaking my head.

It seems that a case such as this has found its little loopholes of merit as the museum receives federal monies, lots and lots of monies—so this individual and his legal eagles have thought that perhaps there is not only a little issue of separation of Church and state but also a throw back to a 1964 civil rights ruling…that a white painting of Jesus in a federally funded museum violates a civil rights act….

Which in my mind rivals with a giant exasperated “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

It’s one thing that someone out there looks at a painting of Jesus depicted as white and cries foul as that’s not exactly historically accurate. As he wasn’t white–he was a middle eastern Jew. I somehow think that our atheist brethren out there would / could and may have take / taken issue with the whole historical accuracy of all of this as to them, Jesus may or may not have even existed in the first place… and if they agree he did exist as mere mortal, then that whole crucified, dead, buried and risen depiction would and most likely might send them running to lawyer up as it were…

Has this politically correctness business of ours not yet gone too far people??!!!

Stories like this give me a headache because I am incensed that there are people out there who waste precious energies over things that are so trivial and meaningless when we have innocent people dying around this globe due to radical extremist ISIS nuts out there who want us all dead…. and we’re going to waste our time worrying about stress caused when someone looks at a 500 year old painting of a white Jesus in a museum!!!!

What part of any of this story sounds right, rational or makes any sort of logical sense??????

I’m pulling a snippet of that previous lesson I was talking about earlier with a link to the original lesson on an icon….

I don’t want to give an in-depth mini history lesson today regarding icons, or of this particular image, as there is so very much out there in the form of books or on the web for the curious to discover. I simply want to share with you something that is very meaningful to me. I think it is important to share with others the things that significantly impact our own lives as those are the things that make us who we are.

As a person who grew up with Western Christianity, or that of the Roman or Latin branch of Christianity, I was always accustomed, as no doubt you were, to what typically is considered to be images of Jesus. Benevolent images of a young man of fair skin complexion, soft brown hair and beard who most often had blue eyes. But the problem with that stereotypical image is that Jesus was not European. He was a Middle Eastern Jew. Therefore that meant he most likely had a more dark or olive skin tone, with a thicker head of very dark hair. He was an orthodox, meaning devout, Jew, so it is theorized that he most probably wore the hair ringlets as do the modern day Hasidic Jews. His features were not as close to ours in the West but rather he was closer in appearance to those currently living in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, etc.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/pantocrator-2/

Historically rich are what our museums are and very well they should be.

Museums are places which thankfully exist around this globe, making available to us the wonders, marvels and lives of those from the past…allowing us to share in our collective history as humans.
And Lord know, the Renaissance was such a rich time in our history as developing human beings!

Who isn’t intrigued by the art work, scientific discoveries, architectural triumphs and sheer wonders of the Renaissance…a pivotal turning point in the history moving man from earthly dark to light…

Woe to this individual who can’t relish in the freedom he has been afforded, along with the readily available access and ability, to be able to go see these historical and beautiful bits and pieces—there are other places, other nations, around this world where there is not the freedom nor ability afforded to see or share in such…how dare he now complain that viewing such has caused him stress—you want stress—go visit the families who lost their children and loved ones 3 years ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as we sorrowfully mark that sad anniversary this week….
Or go to Paris and Belgium and feel the weight of sadness, anger, frustration and worry in the loss of life as the world is still reeling from those horrific attacks as we now mark the one month anniversary to that tragedy.

You don’t like a painting?

Move on from said painting, finding one you do like…it’s that simple.

My hope for this country—and that list is gravely long, is that we can get our act together as a Nation, to truly see what it is that is most important to us as a whole—and that is that we take care of the elderly, the infirmed, the young, the homeless, the hungry, the less fortunate, our environment, the dying and the needy….
That we can stop for just one day from being so utterly self absorbed and self obsessed, that we can reach out beyond our own wants, our incessant need to tweet, post and the taking of one more self absorbed selfie…tossing all of that nonsense and worthlessness aside as we reach outwards, far away from self, outward to those around us who are in desperate need both physically as well as emotionally and more important spiritually….

God have mercy on us all….

the frivolity of the frivolous

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.

John Burroughs

DSCN0241
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.

Yet let us look more closely at a single word…

Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment

yet counter that with

Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit

One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…

Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.

And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…

With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.

And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.

One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.

The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.

Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.

Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.

Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….

Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….

It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.

Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…

A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.

When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.

Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.

A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.

We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.

We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….

DSCN0240
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

DSC02486
(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Obligatory obligations

Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.
Elie Wiese

DSC00321
(tufted titmouse / Julie Cook / 2014)

To rise with each new dawn,
with prayer upon my lips. . .

To greet you in my waking hours,
with praise for a brand new morn. . .

To give to you this time,
which you first freely gave to me. . .

Despite the sleepiness and fatigue
Despite the press for time
Despite not being in the mood
Despite the freedom not to pray. . .

There remains my obligation, an obligation to you. . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A definition of Obligatory—–
Binding in law or conscience; imposing duty or obligation; requiring performance or forbearance of some act.

Having an obligation means there is a responsibility.
There is a requirement.
A duty is to be done, performed, or to be said— carried out as a specific task.
A responsibility to act on behalf of self or others.

In the book Meditating on the Word, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer with translation by David Mel. Gracie, the word obligatory is applied in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he instructs seminarians, instructions which may be equally directed to us today, regarding the responsibility for prayer, in particular, the importance of the responsibility to morning prayer.. .

Before the heart unlocks itself for the world, God wants to open it for Himself; before the ear takes in the countless voices of the day, it should hear in the early hours, the voice of the Creator and Redeemer. God prepared the stillness of the first morning for himself.
It should remain his.`

The morning must yield an hour of quiet time for prayer and common devotion. How else could we prepare ourselves to face the tasks,cares and temptations of the day? And although we are often “not in the mood” for it, such devotion is an obligatory service to the One who desires our praises and prayers, and who will not other wise bless our day through His word and through our prayers.

Should we, those of the Christian faith, not find it odd that the muslims, who both Jews and Christians look upon with distrust, make time daily as they are called to prayer 5 times during the course of each day? Are we not reminded by the psalmist that we too are called to pray. . .to pray 7 times a day. . .
Can we not carve out time for the communion, conversation, fellowship and relationship with the loving Creator as He has stated we are required to do—to worship, to praise, to petition, to seek, to learn, to grow, to find peace, solace, and ultimately love. . .

I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous ordinances.

Psalm 119:163-164

Defining Definitions

For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.
(Deuteronomy 4:31 NIV)

DSCN3156
(a cold puffed up Mockingbird perched in the barberry bush / Julie Cook / 2014)

Covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement

Law: a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or
formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

Ten Commandements: A covenant document

Testament: Latin for Covenant

Oath: a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of
what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says

Rebellious: showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.

Disobedience: refusal or failure to obey rules, laws

Willful: obstinately and often perversely self-willed, refusing to change your ideas
or opinions or to stop doing something

Obstinance: the trait of refusing to repent

Adonai / Yahweah: Lord. Used in Judaism as a spoken substitute for the ineffable
name of God.
A name of the Hebrew God, represented in Hebrew by the tetragrammaton (“four
letters”) יהוה (Yod Heh Vav Heh), transliterated into Roman script Y H W H.
Because it was considered blasphemous to utter the name of God it was only written
and never spoken. This resulted in the original pronunciation being lost. The name
may have originally been derived from the old Semitic root הוה (hawah) meaning “to
be” or “to become”.

Child: An offspring. A member of a tribe; descendant

I / Me: Metaphysics– the ego.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

Mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender

Savior: one that saves from danger or destruction

Deliverance: the action of being rescued or set free.

Jesus: The name “Jesus” is an Anglicized form of the Greek name Yesous found in the
New Testament, which represented the Hebrew Bible name Yeshua (“Jeshua” in
English Bibles; Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7). Yeshua, in turn, was a shortened form of
the name Yehoshua (“Joshua” in English Bibles).

“Yehoshua”
“Yehoshua” is a compound name consisting of two elements.

(1) The prefix “Yeho–” is an abbreviation of the Tetragrammaton, God’s Four-
Letter Name: Yod-He-Vav-He or YHVH.

In the Hebrew Bible “Yeho-” is used at the beginning of certain proper names:
Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (the “J” was pronounced as “Y” in Medieval
English). The suffix form of the Tetragrammaton is “-yah” (“-iah” in Greek,
as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Halleluiah).

(2) The second element is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to
deliver, save, or rescue.

Thus, linguistically, the name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers (his people).

What defines you?