Heaven is exclusive…yikes

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.
This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…
Come further up, come further in!”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle


(Augusta National Club)

So the other day, a friend and I were chatting when the conversation rolled around to the
story about how her daughter had flown home this past weekend in order to attend a wedding
and the festive reception aftermath.

The shindig was held at one of Atlanta’s myriad of private “country” clubs.
City clubs, country clubs, tennis clubs, swim clubs, golf clubs, polo clubs…
clubs, clubs, clubs…
Atlanta has always had its fair share of clubs.

However, this particular club is one of Atlanta’s oldest and finest.

Back in college, I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s debut at this said club…
Do they still have such things as debuts??…
Those rights of passage for the more upper-crust amongst us?

Anywho, back to clubs.

This was my first and seemingly last visit to this particular club.
I checked it off my list of things to do before I died..wink, wink.

This club is one of Atlanta’s most prestigious, oldest and most exclusive.
It was founded in 1887 as a private club for Atlanta’s post-war elite males.

It was called a ‘driving’ club because of the carriages that were driven to the club.

This club did eventually allow women and the naturally flowing of families…
but there are still very few, if any, Jewish members and only but a handful of African American members.

In fact Jimmy Carter’s Attorney General, Atlanta’s own Griffin Bell,
a long-standing member of this club,
had to relinquish his membership, back in the day, when he was appointed US AG—
He had to part ways with the club due to its limitations of membership.

The waiting list is currently decades-long, shrouded in mystery and the fees to join is
that of a nice sized fortune.
Plus you need to “know” someone in order to get a foot in the door.
So certainly it is more trouble than most folks want to mess with…hence why
there are other clubs for all sorts of folks.

It’s an old vestige to a different time.

Now I really have no issues with “exclusive” clubs nor do I really care about their
existence or not…
They’ve been around as long as I can remember and I’ve known many
friends who have been members as well as those who would never want to be members…

Much like ancient secretive societes.

And yes, I will confess that my parents did join what was a new country club back
in the early 1960’s…
They joined just so they could take us swimming and have a place to go eat from time to time.
But knowing my dad like I did, it was a far cry from a whos who sort of club as he
would never pay dues for such…he just wanted to get us out of the house and dump us
off to swim throughout the summer.

Now whereas I don’t care who belongs to clubs or not…
there are those who do care…and some who care very much.

For the longest time, Augusta, Georgia’s home of the Master’s Golf tournament,
Agusta’s National Country Club, did not allow women or minorities as members.
I think Condoleezza Rice was the first of both…
a great choice as I really like Ms. Rice, but I digress…

However it was under the pressure of the press, along with various special interest groups,
that the club has since allowed women and minorities to become members…
However, due to the fees and dues, along with the necessity of knowing someone,
plus an often forever waiting list, these are hindrances that put the idea of membership
out of the grasp of most average folks.

And again, like I say, I really don’t give a hoot one way or another
but the irony of this notion of exclusivity is not lost on my thoughts.

Maybe if I played golf or tennis or wanted to socialize on a level beyond socializing
at the grocery store or at the post office, I might be interested…
but since I don’t…I’m good.

However, not all folks feel like I do.
Lot’s of folks do not like the notion of ‘exclusive’

Our overtly equity driven and level playing field culture does care and they care
very very much…

They care so much so that they petition, boycott and rage a twitter war while
wrecking all sorts of havoc…
They busy themselves shaming those exclusive places and those who want exclusiveness
into opening their doors to one and all…in turn, ending any and all exclusiveness…
because everyone will now equal…so yay for our equal culture…

Hummmm.

But really…who cares?

Why do I want to pay and play a part when I’m not keen on paying or playing
in the first place?
I don’t.
So let’s let sleeping dogs lie…or is that lay?
Right?

Lets leave those who wish to be exclusive, to their exclusiveness.

All of this is fine and good…but…when we seem to find the shoe on the other foot…
when what we do, what we say and how we react becomes a key to all this exclusiveness
while we allow such to become paramount…we find ourselves in a full-blown tizzy.

We want desperately to knock the high horses low while elevating the lowly to the higher position…
It’s an age-old human conundrum…envy, coveting and lusting…
as we yearn to assuage our egos by placing everyone even an even keel.

So guess what…here’s a brain explosion…

Something you may have never considered.

Heaven is actually exclusive.

Whoa.

Yeah, I know how you hate hearing such…
In fact, you don’t like hearing such, nor do you even agree…

But it’s true whether you like it or not…

Heaven is truly exclusive.

It’s exclusive to and for all those who hold the fact that Jesus Christ
is Lord and Savior.

Matters not whether you consider yourself a ‘good’ person or that you live
a ‘good’ life…
the one key factor to “getting” in is that you have made Jesus Christ your
lord and savior.

The entrance fee has been paid in full.
The monthly dues have been paid in full.
The membership is open to anyone no matter skin color, financial holdings, social
level or educational accomplishments…in fact, you don’t need any accomplishments…

Plus there’s only one person you need to know in order to help you get in…

It’s that simple.

And yet despite the clamors and protests by the counter culture and our uber progressive
society, Heaven will always remain exclusive…

The one key for membership…Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

looking up and being reminded


(a pigeon rests on a statue placed above the ridge of the Assumption chapel at the corner
of Garancière street and Palatine street, behind the Saint-Sulpice church. / Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in the summer, back when the beach was consuming so many of our minds,
I offered a post featuring some shots I’d taken of some pelicans I’d seen while enjoying
our summer trip to the panhandle of Florida.

Nothing says beach and ocean like seeing a brown pelican sitting on an old weathered pier or that
of a formation of these gangly birds gliding effortlessly just above the surf…

Days such as today…days that are damp, windy, overcast and grey quickly push our thoughts
to warmer sunnier days. This as we are just entering into our darker colder days of the year.

I noted in that previous post how much, for reasons unknown, that I love pelicans…
They are my favorite birds oddly enough.

Birds that eat whole fish and hold them in their gullets for later…
my husband calls them nasty birds while I call them resourceful.

My previous post touched on the seemingly odd relationship pelicans have had in Christian lore
and tradition.

I did a little research and offered a bit of teaching from the information that I had gleaned…
The premise was that during times of famine, mother pelicans have been known to pluck their own
breasts until they bled in order to offer their own blood to their hungry babies…
offering life-giving sustenance.

A direct reference to Christ who offers His own blood for our spiritual hunger and
our own salvation.

So recently when visiting Paris, we were staying at a small hotel just outside of
the Luxembourg Gardens.


(just a tiny area of the Luxembourg Gardens with a shot of the Senate building behind/
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

This boutique hotel sits in the shadow of the second largest church in Paris,
Eglise Saint-Sulpice.


(Eglise Saint-Sulpice / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

I happen to really love this church as it is not Notre Dame.


(Notre Dame / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

It is not consumed by crowds and tourists.

It was the anchor to the neighborhood my aunt and I called home for a couple of
days about 8 years ago and the same anchor to the same neighborhood my husband and I called
home more recently….the Germain-des-Prés, Odéon of the 6th arrondissement.

Entering this historic building is definitly otherworldly.

It’s like walking into an ancient, silent and dark crevasse…as well as
stepping back into a far removed time…think pre-Revolution and pre-Bonaparte.
Yet the Revolution did hinder the finishing of the facade.

The original church was constructed in the 13th century but the building we see
today dates to the early 1600’s—finally being completed in the late 18th century.
Yet it suffered, as did so many in Paris, during the Revolution.

There are some famous paintings by Eugene Delacroix…

Along with some masterful statues and some simple but lovely stain glass…

Along with the scars from living through the days of a revolution down to
simple neglect and decay…

Add of course the massive and impressive organ

And yet there is reverence…
There is a deep and mystical yearning by many who come here…
those who come curious or those who come seeking.

They come to sit,
to pray,
to sleep,
to hide,
to rest,
to wander,
to wonder…

And so it was when I was actually outside on a side street…
walking alongside the perimeter of this massive hulking building that I looked up
and actually saw it…
the mother pelican sitting atop a spire of a side chapel.

The same imagery that came to mind back in July…and here it was again in September.
Found not at the beach and not in some warm tropical locale but rather in the midst
of a massively large city whose people are often too busy to glance upward albeit toward
their rather famous tower…

And yet here it was…as always, a powerful reminder of sacrifice.
Life, death, redemption, and salvation…


(all photos by Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Remember to always stop long enough to look up…

And may we now offer our prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh
as well for all the first responders…

Lord have mercy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/pelicans/

The Truth versus that of silence…speak on

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross


(the week’s gathering / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours,
so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company,
that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him…
God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people,
by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.

Sometimes He calls souls by means of sickness or troubles,
or by some truth He teaches them during prayer,
for tepid as they may be in seeking Him,
yet God holds them very dear.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.26
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

Ok, I admit that I’ve been a bit remiss in my reading here in blogland as of late.
As I’ve been here, there and yon for quite some time—
really, if the truth be told, I’ve been running willy nilly since February
when the ‘wee one’ was born.

And I will be out of pocket once again starting today, on and off throughout the week
and weekend as I scoot back and forth babysitting.

Yet sadly, all good things must come to an end as next week a new routine is to
be established.

With our son’s position and hours soon to change and our daughter-n-law beginning
a new school year teaching in a new school, the ‘wee one’ will be going to a lady
who keeps about 8 kids in her home—two of whom are the ‘wee one’s’ cousins.

So it will be an all in the family sort of home care situation that is the best and
more viable solution.

The other option…

my husband and I sell our house and move…
Not exactly practical but don’t think for a minute that I’ve not entertained the idea.

But I digress…

So back to the issue at hand…
I’ve been noticing a rather alarming and running theme amongst many Christian bloggers.

Frustration.

For there is a growing and rising tide offered by non-believers, nay-sayers and
even from within the ‘family fold’ to silence those who continue to hold true to
the Word of God.

Not some watered down Word.
Not some rewritten Word.
Not some progressive liberalism mishmash of The Word…
Not some uber feminist militant anti-male bashing blatant denial of The Word.

But rather an adherence to the authentic Word…
as in Words that are a couple of thousands of years old, Holy in inspiration, and stated
as is for all of eternity…

As in God said it and therefore, it is.

Be it an Aramaic text, Greek text, Jewish or Latin text…His authority does not change.

I AM remains I AM.

His Words, His tenents, His commands have not changed nor evolved with the times.
We are the ones who are evolving with the times and those various cultural norms and sins…
sins that we continue to claim as new truths…

And no, I’m not talking about the argument of evolution of monkey to man or
anything to do with Darwin…
I’m simply talking about us not being a consistent lot.

We are fickled and we like to have our cake and eat it too while eating everyone else’s as well
or telling others how and what to eat and when they shall eat it.

Now my dear friends, Bishop Gavin Ashenden and Pastor David Roberston, have each been quite
busy as of late posting various observations and articles…as have most of my
dear blogging family…all while I’ve been torn for time.

And one thing I’ve noticed while playing catch-up in my reading of blog posts is the
same theme…that being the theme of frustration—

And I should know….as I’ve had my own share of frustration from those who come
around pretending to want to engage in dialogue when their main objective is to belittle,
malign and obliterate as they are frothing and rabid with atheistic zeal.
So much so that they cannot nor will not rest until they feel as if they can silence
a Believer’s words.

Slaughter the lambs as it were.

There are many in the fold of the Faithful who have also come across these rabid foxes and
wolves…each on a daily basis…

Our dear Oneta over on Sweet Aroma became “embroiled” in my absence with a younger
whippersnapper on FB, who was bashing the social media of her day…
that being handwritten letters and autograph books.

Not one to be on FB, I don’t know the 1, 2, 3 of her tale but I have gleaned that
somehow the conversation turned,
or perhaps it was an entirely different conversation with an altogether different
commenter, but the gist was that Oneta challenged someone for stating that John McCain
was a traitor…she wanted documentation to back up that statement but
somehow it came across that Oneta was echoing that notion of McCain as traitor…
but the thing is, Oneta never said such.
She merely stated some negative observation against the dear senator while also wanting to
see documentation as to his acts of treason.
(see, I have no idea of how it went from social media to traitors)

Oneta responded that she had not labeled Sen. McCain a traitor but rather her
negative observations regarding the good senator could stand as negative without
her words being twisted around that she was now calling the senator a traitor.

I admire McCain as much as the next person for his service to our country and for being
an American war hero, but his time representing the Republican party in a strong positive
light is rapidly spiraling outward and downward as are all of his kith and kin of the
old guard on both sides of the aisle.
And last I checked, we are each entitled to our thoughts on the legendary senator along
with his colleagues…

Oneta is a positive and well-learned person who engages with a wide and diverse audience.
She is a woman of deep faith and conviction.
And one whom I greatly admire for her life lessons, knowledge and the teaching of that very wealth
of knowledge.

I don’t think Oneta would mind my sharing her observation.

“Just called it off with my FB “foe.”
It was fun.
You know I would enjoy that.
The issue was that someone posted that John McCain was a traitor.
I challenged by asking for documentation.
I couldn’t seem to get through to my responder that I was not calling McCain a traitor.
But I did have plenty of negative charges to pass on.
He said he was 56 and a history buff who had read three books about McCain.
I told him I was 84 and I didn’t need history. I lived it.
I would say we parted as almost friends.:D
Have a good rest, dear friend.”

Oneta is 84 and is not new to this world’s rodeo—she’s ridden her fair share of bronking
bucks and has lived to tell about it.

So to be silenced when it comes to God’s Truth and tenants or to be silenced when challenging
the observations of those who turn personal notions into sweeping accusations…
accusations which ring of falsehood…accusations without any sound basis…
well none of that is going to be happening around our tenacious little octagenarian who expects
nothing but the sound Truth…because there is no need to quibble over Truth.

And of course, we next have IB.

Insanity Bytes is a woman around my age who resides in what she likes to claim to be
the 9th circuit of hell…
or so I think it to be the 9th circuit as most of our current ‘circuits” are none too friendly
to certain political leanings nor to that of certain faith leanings these days…
so it’s not surprising that I can easily get my circuits confused.

IB actually seems to stay embroiled whether I’m around to
read about it or not…and she lives not only to tell about it but to actually
laugh about it all…like it or not she finds the last word and her last word is
build on that notion of Truth.

IB mixes it up with those who are unbelievers as well as many who actually confess
to be believers…it’s just that their beliefs are more of that rewritten Word business.

IB knows her stuff and isn’t afraid to say her peace…
a peace I might add that is steeped in that same unrelenting ancient Word of Truth that I was
talking about earlier.

And as for our friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Roberston, notes in a recent posting on his blog
“Keep silent or speak out?” that…
“As an undershepherd of the Great Shepherd,
it is my job to counter such error and to protect the flock of God.”

Keep Silent….or Speak Out?k

David has been taking a really rough beating by the Scottish press as well as from
those progressive liberals and atheists who troll his blogs, his speaking engagements,
his magazine columns, etc.

And yet he does not waiver…never wavering from the Truth no matter how hard the beating.

Yet David has expressed his frustration and exasperation with what he sees playing out
against the Chruch from both within and without her sacred halls.

Of which brings us next to our good friend and rouge Anglican bishop, Gavin Ashenden—
a non-wavering soul who has also been lambasted for his firmly rooted stance within
the Word of God…a stance constantly hounded by the British liberal press.
Bishop Ashenden challenges the powers that be within the Anglican Chruch over their growing
acceptance of all things transgenderism as well as all things of homosexuality and the ever
growing liberal theology…The Chruch of England’s continuing push for the total acceptance
and teachings of all things that run counter to God’s Word.

In a recent offering on the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted, with the sad reporting of
a horrendous incident committed by a once beloved bishop along with the apparent cover-up from
a former Archbishop of Canterbury, the good bishop notes that “there must be a moral independence
of the Chruch such that She is to say to the State (the government at hand) that “you’re getting
it all wrong”—
yet sadly we are reminded that the Chruch of England and the State of the British Government
just happen to walk hand in hand without separation…so rather than holding each other accountable,
there is actually a deeply obvious collusion.

As I paraphrase the good bishop, he goes on to say, ‘if we set ourselves up as saints then
all is lost. But if we admit to being sinful creatures, the Lord can and will pick us up…
and it is in that picking up where Hope actually begins…

There is forgiveness but that forgiveness is predicated upon our asking for it and then admiting that
we must now live with the consequences of our actions…yet we will live with the knowledge of
redemption.

Naked disaster in the Church of England. Anglican Unscripted. IICSA, Carey & Ball.

And so I’ve found a rather interesting book that I’ve just ordered…
“The Cost of Our Silence: Consequences of Christians Taking the Path of Least Resistance”
by David Fiorazo.

This one excerpt grabbed me:
Christian in name only, America has become an epicenter for the culture war as too many of us
keep ducking the issue of sin.
Due to decades of Christians being silent,
failing to preach the gospel and speak the truth in love,
we’ve reached a tipping point in which political correctness refuses
to coexist with religious freedom.
Why do you think Christians who defend God’s Word are often called hateful,
intolerant, or judgmental?
There are consequences in this life and for eternity,
when Christians take the path of least resistance.
We cannot reverse the moral decline, but we can choose to stand for righteousness
as we pray for revival and be the salt and light Jesus called us to be while we’re still here.

Hide the light of Christ and retreat,
or let it shine and expose the darkness; live an inconsequential life,
or bear fruit that will last. If most Christians remain silent,
fewer people will be saved, society will collapse,
and we will continue to be part of the problem.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.
God will not hold us guiltless…”

And so we are slowly learning the cost behind remaining silent in a
world that is so opposed to the Truth…
the cost is much greater than most of us are willing to imagine.
Yet thankfully there are those voices who continue speaking…refusing to be silenced.

And we are all the better for it.

Speak on…

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.

John 16:13

work done while sleeping….

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long.
If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


(tiny prayer box / Julie Cook / 2018)

The above image is that of a tiny, badly tarnished silver, prayer box.
This particular little box, along with others like it, was very popular in the late
80’s early 90’s.
This is the one that I had at the time.

Just inside the tiny box, you can see a bit of blue paper.
And might I add, that is a very tiny piece of blue paper with an equally tiny
written prayer.
But we might note that the prayer was anything but tiny.

Below is an image of another prayer box.
This particular box was discovered buried along a street in the old City of David sandwiched between some tile during construction taking place in a car lot.
This tiny box, made of some sort of animal bone, dates from either the 5th or
6th century AD and is considered to be a Byzantine prayer box.

Rather than a tiny piece of paper with a tiny scrawled prayer resting inside the tiny box, there is actually a small and very worn Icon, or painted image, of what is thought to be Mary.
Such a prayer box was intended to be carried in a pocket or pouch and acted as a
tiny traveling church, as one could open the box and pray before a holy image…
taking one’s prayers directly to the source.

The Byzantine time period from which this little box dates was a very tumultuous time
for the Middle East along with the whole Mediterranean region.

The Roman Empire had fallen to the Visigoths and Carthage had fallen to the Vandals…
add in the push from Attila’s Huns and it was a very dangerous time to be either
Jewish or Christain.

I can only imagine the prayers offered before this ancient little box…
as I am left to wonder whose box it was and how did it come to rest buried
in a parking lot in Jerusalem.

Right before Christmas a longtime blogging friend emailed me that she wanted me to
look into something she had just purchased.
This friend has since moved on from the blogging world, as she is a working mom
with young children whose time has not been her own.
She is an extremely devout Christian with a deep Jewish heritage.

She is very familiar with the idea of prayer, particularly those that are written and
placed before God.

It is a tradition that at the Wailing wall in Jesurelum, prayers are written down and placed in the crevices of the wall, as the wall is considered Holy by Jews as well as many Christians.

Often seen rocking slightly back and forth as their heads gently touch the wall, Jews will stand for long periods of time before the Wall, hands resting outward with palms facing upward or either with hands reverently folded…they will be immersed in deep meditative prayer.
Others, be they tourists or locals, merely push tiny bits of paper into the cracks as they lay their written prayers before what it thought the Divine Presence of
God Himself.

The Wall is considered Divine because it is a remnant of the actual Temple.

Human beings seem to have a very deep need for the tangible when it comes to their relationship with the Divine Presence of God…to be able to touch, to write to physically connect is of the utmost importance to many of the faithful.

Be it prayer beads, a knotted prayer rope, icons or even a prayer box–the
tangible and physical connection between penitent and God is a deeply profound
yearning as well as a mystery.

What my friend wanted me to look into was what is known as a sleeping Joseph.

Now that might sound odd and even appear odd but the story behind the small figurine is anything but strange and is actually rather full of gentleness and a gracious sense of comfort.

We know very little about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph.
He is only mentioned early on in the Gospels of both Matthew and Luke and later in the books of Mark and John
It is in Matthew (1:1-18) that we read of his lineage harkening back to
David.

It is also when we read of the importance of dreams regarding Joseph as God came to Joseph at the most key moments in his life as a husband and father during his sleep. First Joseph is reassured that Mary is indeed telling the truth regarding her pregnancy and that he is to follow through with marrying her.
Secondly, Joseph is warned to take his young family to Egypt in order to flee Herod’s wrath and the killing of the Innocents.

I can remember my Godpoppa, the Episcopal priest, giving a sermon one Father’s day
about Joseph.

And he noted what we already know, that historically, we know very little regarding Joseph as he seems to simply “disappear” from scripture once Jesus begins
his earthly ministry.
He is not mentioned throughout the three years of ministry as being present and is not by Mary’s side at the crucifixion.

And so we simply and sadly assume he died at some point during Jesus’ growing up.

As we are left to wonder about this earthly father of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ earthly father actually brought tears to my Godpoppa’s eyes as he had lost his own father when he was only 16. His was a heartfelt observation about what a life Joseph must have lived.

He most likely taught Jesus the skills of carpentry.
How to be a craftsman using both his mind and his hands.
He taught Jesus what it meant to be reverent and prayerful
He taught Jesus the demonstrative nature of what Jesus intuitively knew,
how to worship His actual Father…no doubt a precarious balance and a heavy burden
for the earthly father.
He also taught the young boy respect.

There was a humble yet focused obedience that Jesus learned from Joseph.

And he learned about the importance of prayer…

The small figurine my friend shared with me is a prayer box of sorts.
The idea being that as you ready for sleep you place your concerns, worries, prayers
written down while placing them under the sleeping Joseph.

How often is your sleep disrupted by the heaviness of concern and worry?
Your thoughts, including your subconscious, consumed by the weight of whatever it is
that is eating at you. Your family, your friends, your work, your health, the health of those you love…there is a quickening of need that plays out even while you attempt to sleep—you pray as you drift off only to toss and turn…

The Joseph “prayer box” asks that you write down these concerns and or petitions,
laying them beneath Joseph—a man who was accustomed to Godly encounters during his sleep through his dreams, as you literally give your concerns over to God.

Trusting that He will, as He does, see, hear and know…

This is not a discussion on the topic of Saints nor of the notion of their interventions or of denominational differences, infighting, and angst…
it is rather a reminder of the human need and desire for a tangible and or physical connection as we literally acknowledge the weight of our concerns, worries and thoughts along with the very real need to literally give them over to God.

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,

Job 33:14-15

the tale of a tetovierer

Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us Jews different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?
It is God that has made us as we are,
but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.
If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left,
when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed,
will be held up as an example.

Anne Frank


(image of some of the children in Auschwitz holding up their arms to a cameraman,
showing the tattooed number on their arms / BBC)

I am not a fan of tattoos.

I’m just not nor have I ever been.

And this coming from a retired art teacher who had many an aspiring tattoo artist
in class.

I truly believe that what one finds grand, fascinating, bold as well as defining
at say age 18, will not hold the same sense of fascination, boldness nor still
be defining at say age 58…

Plus I can’t help but see a good bit of an underlying psychology underneath a
need to permanently “ink” ones’ body…..

But hey, that’s just me.

It’s obviously not the rest of our culture’s or society’s mindset….
I’m just a one hole pierced earring sort of girl….

I like things understated and simple really…elegant, ageless and timeless.
I blame my grandmother…thankfully.

I grew up with many Jewish friends.
I attended Synagogue with them as they came to church with me.
I feel a deep connection to our Jewish brethren as I happen to
claim one of their own as my Savior.

Yet in all my years, I never knew nor had met anyone who had been a survivor
of the Death Camps.

I knew many a WWII veteran but never an individual who lived to tell the
horrific nightmare of having lived when one was expected to die…

I knew Vietnam Veterans and even POWs of that war, but none from
those infamous Death Camps of a previous war.

So I have never seen an aged wrinkled arm that bears the fading yet distinct
numbers of one’s time spent surviving death.

I did a pencil drawing once of a portion of a forearm and hand…
It was a man’s arm and hand.
There was a number scrawled on the inner wrist running about an inch and a half
lengthwise up the forearm–along with an inch wide hole piercing all the way through
the palm of the hand…
the backdrop was what one would assume to be a rough hewn piece of wood….

His death, the death of the man whose arm I had drawn, had not been in vain and
had not been for but a select few…it had been for all…
as He had been there, in their midst, with all those who had those numbers
inked onto their arms, despite many Jews to this day truly believing that God
had abandoned them during the Shoah …

The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean “destruction” since
the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry
as early as the early 1940s. The word Holocaust,
which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term,
originally meant a sacrifice burnt entirely on the altar.
The selection of these two words with religious origins reflects recognition
of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events.
Many understand Holocaust as a general term for the crimes and horrors
perpetrated by the Nazis;
others go even farther and use it to encompass other acts of mass murder as well. Consequently, we consider it important to use the Hebrew word Shoah with
regard to the murder of and persecution of
European Jewry in other languages as well.

Yad Vashem

And so I never gave much thought as to those tattooed numbers on those forearms.
I never thought about who was charged with having to “write” them…
I never thought about when exactly it was, during the ordeal,
that they had received them…
And how odd that I had never known anyone who had endured what it meant to have one.

The other day I caught a story with a rather interesting title….
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–and his secret love

Visions of today’s tattoo artists in my mind is of an individual who
themselves is covered in various images and colors, electric pen in hand…
a master of a cultural craft.

Throw in the notion of a secret love and all manner of clandestine activities
suface in one’s imagination.

Clicking on the story, I am met with the tale of a man and of the life
he lived and of an age-long sense of heaviness for having betrayed the
millions who did not survive.
I believe that is called survivors guilt.

And yet in this tale there is found love, loss, rediscovering, life, hope….
and finally a sense of understanding that there was no culpability for
simply having survived.

The story is set in Melbourne, Australia…
a far cry from a Death Camp in 1940’s Poland.
And the hero of this tale actually died in 2006.
It took him until he was well into his 80’s to even be able to share his story…
much of which his now grown son had not known. Not many who survived liked to
talk about their stay.

The story is of Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg who later changed his name to
Lale Sakolov.

Lale’s story was coaxed out of his memory by Heather Morris
who has since written a book The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale was a Slovak Jew who, like the other Jews in Czechoslovakia, was sent
to Auschwitz.
He was 26 years old.
He did manual labor at the camp until he contracted typhoid.
He was cared for by a Frenchman who had actually been the one who had
tattooed Lale’s number on his arm 32407.
The man was known as in the camp as a tetovierer, or tattooist.
He was charged with “writing” the numbers onto the arms of those coming into
the camp who would be staying—those being sent immediately to the gas chambers.
did not receive numbers.

Eventually Lale became the tetovierer to the camp.

Yet in the middle of madness and death, love was actually kindled.

An 18 year old girl found herself standing before Lale…one in a myriad of women
waiting in the long line…
waiting their turn to exchange a life and a name for a number.

Lale did not like tattooing the women—there was always a sickening feeling in
the pit of his stomach, but he did as he was ordered.

Gazing up at this girl who stood before him, his heart was immediately taken
by this girl’s bright eyes.
Her name was Gita.

Gita and Lale’s life together actually began that fateful day in Auschwitz–
and the twists and turns are amazing…

There is a lovely video clip on Heather’s kickstarter page that she put together—
which I assume was created to help raise the necessary funds to write and publish
Lale and Gita’s story.
The book is now available on Amazon…I ordered mine today.

Below are two links—
the first is Heather’s story along with a brief video overview about her finding
and forging a relationship with Lale, who would eventually share his story with her.

The second link is about the story as written by the BBC.

For even in the midst of misery and death, remains hope…there is always Hope.

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

St Stephens Day

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers,
but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the All-powerful God.

Saint Stephen


(portion of the Demidoff Altarpiece 1476 / The National Gallery / London, England)

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke praises St. Stephen as
“a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who
“did great wonders and signs among the people”
during the earliest days of the Church.

Luke’s history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen’s death –
witnessed by St. Paul before his conversion –
at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus
during the Lord’s ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples
whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while traveling with almost no possessions.

This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church,
in which St. Luke says believers “had all things in common”
and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need.”

But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between
Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected
in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.

Stephen’s reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him,
along with six other men,
to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose.
Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ,
the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons,
and set them to work helping the widows.

As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the
Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message,
some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities,
charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions.

Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts
of the Apostles.
He described Israel’s resistance to God’s grace in the past,
and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit”
and rejecting the Messiah.

Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory.
“Look,” he told the court,
“I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death.

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’”
records St. Luke in Acts 7.
“Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’
When he had said this, he died.”

The first Christian martyrdom was overseen by a Pharisee named Saul –
later Paul, and still later St. Paul –
whose own experience of Christ would transform him into a believer,
and later a martyr himself.

—Catholic News Agency

Righteous among the Nations

“The Righteous Among the Nations, honored by Yad Vashem,
are non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Rescue took many forms and the Righteous came from different nations,
religions and walks of life.
What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors
at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed.”

Yad Vashem-The World Holocaust Remembrance Center


(96 year old Tibor Biranaski / The Buffalo News / one so honored as Righteous among the Nations )

This time of year there seems to be an overt abundance of stuff and fluff
blanketing our lives.

For we are a people now consumed with all things holiday—
and with what all that entails.
Whether we participate in the madness or not…it doesn’t matter…
because everyone is affected to some level or other and in some capacity or another…

Be it traffic, crowds, travel delays, deadlines, timelines,
weather mishaps, shopping, cooking…there is simply a heightened sense of urgency
racing throughout this month of December.

So when a tiny shining ray of light pierces the chaos, we stop dead in our tracks,
staring as we take notice of this out of place phenomena.

I caught the latest offering by our favorite Wee Flea…his latest mixed bag
of stories highlighting a variety of events and observations–some good, some bad…
with one small story catching my eye.

Saving the Jews –

Tibir Biranaski, was a 22-year-old trainee priest in Budapest who stopped over
3,000 Jews being deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
This lovely video from Channel 4 News shows the 96 year old testifying
to why he did it.

“The Jews were persecuted. I’m a Christian and God created man for freedom.
Everything that is against freedom is devilish”

I clicked the link taking me to a Channel 4 News Facebook video clip featuring a breif
tale of Mr. Biranaski. (link included in the Wee Flea link)
I dug further.
I found a newspaper story about Mr Biranaski’s tale. (link also provided below)

As this is the season of gift giving, we are indeed now given a small gift.
A most timely gift.
A most needed gift.

A single reminder and example of one human being offering himself selflessly
for his fellow human beings.
A story we don’t see or hear much about as such stories are drowned out by the
never-ending din of cultural madness.

A young Catholic priest in training, with great risk to self, worked to keep
3000 Jews from certain death.

How sobering it was stopping long enough to watch the video clip.
How perspective changing to read the Buffalo News story about this now
96 year old man…a former seminarian, husband, father, grandfather, and “savior” to
3000 jews.

And yet his story, those countless stories, now grow only fainter and father away
with each and every passing day as the members of that “greatest” generation…
be they Americans or not, are leaving us at an ever increasing rate.

The irony that such a story surfaces now as thoughts are turning towards a
tiny Jewish family wandering their way toward Bethlehem, is not lost on me or
on my sense of wonder.

A time for gift giving indeed….

LED 20 – Refugees in Scotland; Saving the Jews; Anti-Nazis in Dundee; Banning Franklin Graham; Another Brexit Bus; Feminism; Bermuda and SSM; A Christmas Carol

http://buffalonews.com/2017/08/27/sean-kirst-saving-thousands-holocaust-buffalo-man-honored-sweden/

https://www.yadvashem.org