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

Salvator Mundi

“Secularism is no friend of Christ.”
Melody Phillips, journalist for the London Times


(Salvator Mundi / Leonardo da Vinci cica 1500)

Salvator Mundi, or Savior of the world….

A haunting image is it not?
Soft, other worldly and ethereal yet also equally powerful.

Look into those eyes…

At first glance the sockets appear gauzy, almost empty or perhaps out of focus.
Yet upon further inspection, the eyes seem to be like a window, opening into a
different realm or dimension..as in, they invite the viewer to look further
and venture deeper to someplace else.

This particular painting by Leonardo just set a record sale at Christie’s Auction
House, fetching the highest amount ever paid for a single painting…
approximately 450 million dollars.
The buyer is so far undisclosed.

And there is an entire post alone waiting to be written about this particular painting,
of this particular version….but that is for another day—
for today we have more important issues to discuss.

Savior of the World—-
that is indeed, for the Christian believer, Jesus Christ.

He was not simply a moral teacher, a philosopher or Jewish rabbi…
He was, just as He said and just He remains today—
The Savior of the World.

He is of one point to the three pointed triangle of the Trinity.

It is through Him and Him alone that anyone is to be saved.

It is not through good works, it is not through thoughtful actions….
it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Therefore to repent.

To die unto self.

To believe in His Resurrection and His saving Grace.

Grace.

As in nothing done by one’s self…for Grace is beyond self.

Saved from self, from sin, from death…..

That is the summation of the Gospel.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament is the Holy inspired, written retelling
regarding that summation—the Good News.

It is the lynchpin of Christianity.

There is no Heaven, no Salvation, no Grace, no Hope without Jesus Christ.

He is the only way.

And yet today we have mainline churches who are pushing, have pushed,
that one key integral component to Christianity to the side.

It has become secondary to their now all consuming main focus of secularism.

For those who adhere to the progressive Christian narrative,
they are the ones who have decided to make an alliance with those who
push for all things secular…

Progressive, uptick, Christians who now believe and embrace the stance that
the world would have them embrace….and that is to see Christianity in a 21st century,
more modern image.

Yet what they fail to understand is that such a “friendship” will be the death of the Christian Church as we know it.

In the latest interview of Gavin Ashenden on Anglican Unscripted, he makes this
point perfectly clear.

Bishop Ashenden notes that the “anti Christian Secular Narrative is being
swallowed whole as if it is Christianity—
and it is most certainly not”

That narrative being the open acceptance of same sex marriage, openly gay clergy,
the embracing of transgenderism, newly defined family units…
all the while making it clearly known that, anyone opposed to such, shall be
labeled as a hate mongerer…anti love, anti accepting, anti whatever…..
never mind that the lies offered up as a new progressive gospel run counter to
the actual word of God.

In steps a woman named Lorna Asworth.

Lorna is Saskatchewan by birth and was raised as a Mennonite.
But as Life has its way, she married a Brit who was Anglican and so
the UK and the Church of England have now been her home ever since.

That is until most recently.

Lorna has been an active member of the laity who works very closely with the clergy
as she has risen in the lay ranks within the working body of the Church of England.

Yet when someone like Lorna tenders her resignation from said working body of the
Church of England, such a resignation, one would dare assume,
would not, should not, be cause for some sort of henny penny
the sky is falling sort of reaction…yet that is exactly what has happened.

This mild mannered wife, mother and church lay worker who considers herself
a conservative Evangelical Anglican has been active on the Archbishop’s
Council as well as serving in the General Synod for the past 12 years,
has found herself at the center of a growing maelstrom and as somewhat of
a poster child if you will, for the Orthodox voice of the Church.

Lorna recently granted an interview with Anglican Unscripted where she explains her decision to ‘abdicate’ her position from the Church’s working body as
she explains what is currently happening to the Church.

She explains that the Church has lost its way.
It has left behind those who continue to claim the Gospel as the true teaching of the Church. “The Glory of the Lord has departed as the Church of England
is moving outside the presence of God.”

“There are now two different Religious communities.
One is rooted in Christ and its right to ask for the Holy Spirit.
The Second is not—and is where Glory has disappeared.”

Lorna verbalizes so clearly what so many others now feel.
“What am I to do?”
I didn’t leave them, they left me”

She spoke of meetings where those more conservative members would actually
cite scripture to reinforce a point only to be met by rolling eyes and even jeers
from the more progressive attendees.

She cites that the Church is no longer talking about Jesus and the saving message
of Christ as she actually uses the word heresy when describing what is taking place
within the Church.

And in order for the Church to save herself from the inevitable implosion,
Lorna warns that there must be repentance, from the top down.
“We have lost what it is to fear (respect in some translations) the Lord.
If you fear the Lord, you will fear nothing else…and we have lost that.”

And so we leave it to a Jewish woman, one who leans a bit right in her
journalistic style, to write an article for the London Times noting that the departure
of Lorna Asworth from the Church is putting the Church of England on a trajectory
involved in self destruction.

As in it appears everyone gets it but the Church herself….

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/17-november/news/uk/lorna-ashworth-resigns-from-general-synod-over-revisionism

Travesties

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.
It supercedes all other courts.

Mahatma Gandhi

In war, truth is the first casualty.
Aeschylus

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(a bumblebee busily enjoys the sunny day / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth and justice…
Two of the massive building blocks to man’s existence.

If this was a perfect world, a pre-fallen world, or rather a never fallen world, then truth and justice would be as commonplace as breathing. They would be woven into the everyday living of man and most likely never really contemplated or fretted over…

They would be nothing out of the ordinary.
As nothing could challenge such as each would simply just be part and parcel of man’s existence.

For if there were no fall of man, there would be no lies, no falsehoods, no injustices, no deceptions,
no fabrications, no misdeeds hidden under the pretense of false or half truths and no repercussions of such…

There would be no harm nor fouls.
No need for others to impose justice in defense of the truth…
no casualties of war as there would be no wars….

Yet sadly, for better or worse, we do live in a fallen, as well as broken, world.

We, both you and I, are victims of our own duality—the inner struggle between right and wrong…
With that duality being rooted in the very fall of man…
and in turn…a direct result of man’s sinfulness…

The duality of Good and Evil…
with “truth” being the first victim of that sinful nature.

There is the metaphysical and philosophical concept of dualism, or binary opposition, which addresses the concept of man being both good and bad.
There is also the Christian concept of dualism, or the inherent condition of man’s sinful nature, and the earthly battle of Good and Evil.

C. S. Lewis, the noted British academic, theologian and writer observed that “good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

Lewis goes on at length about the concept of dualism and its relationship to Christianity…
“But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.”

We fight a constant battle—within ourselves as well as without.

We are often victimized doubly—first by our own sinful nature, then as the direct result of the sinful nature of our fellow man.
Victims of crime, of war, of lies, of deciet…all attacks outside of ourselves, attacks that we are often helpless to defend.

6 million innocent lives taken in the death camps of World War II—-
…victims of the evil duality of man.
First that of Hitler, then of his commanders, then of his soldiers who carried out the arrests, the tortues and the deaths and finally to the culpability of their fellow countrymen who placed all blame for all things wrong with Germany upon their Jewish neighbor’s shoulders.

We face a constant barrage of attacks from outside of ourselves.

You can call it what you will, but Evil has claimed Earth as his own.
It happened that fateful day in the Garden…
And it has raged against us ever since.

Pope Emeritus Benedict continues this idea of duality and Good and Evil in his 2008 Advent catechesis on original sin
“And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.

The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: “Rorate caeli desuper.” And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”

So yes, come Lord Jesus….
Even in the duality of this Good and Evil and in our constant battle… we can rejoice…
As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have already been cured and healed…the hope is regenerated with each Advent, the healing began on Good Friday and the cure came Easter morning…
Hallelujah!!!

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Pope John Paul II

What do the wise among us see

“Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. ‘You have grown, Halfling,’ he said. ‘Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. you have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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(a curious jackdaw watches from the crumbling walls at The Rock of Cahsel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What of those wise men…
those sages of days long past…
those perceptive foreign kings who would travel from far far away in search of the sacred, the mysterious, the Divine?

What of those enlightened seers who once possessed a depth of wisdom not afforded to the masses of their time…
Of those scholarly patricians, scientists and astronomers of yore, those who studied both the heavens and the stars hoping to see, to foretell, and to discern those dire or joyful events which were to befall mankind…

I wonder what their thoughts, predictions, and discernments would be for our day and of our time…would they travel day and night all those many miles wandering only hoping to pay homage or rather would they hasten to warn those willing few brave enough to heed their divinations?

Would their concern be of the escalating global warming as they measured various viscous liquids watching the rise and fall of floating objects within a myriad of glass vessels?
Would they gather dirt and seed while measuring the falling rains?
Would the increasing number of tumultuous storms, floods, fires and earthquakes give way to a heightened need of understanding fueling their global quest?
Would their concern be of the climate shift and of the rising ocean temperatures?
What of the mysterious “die offs” of massive numbers of fish, antelopes, star fish, birds…
What would these learned men who sought to understand the balance between health and living make of these new pandemics, epidemics, plagues and unexplained global sicknesses?
What of the melting icecaps, would they even be aware of opposing earthly poles encased in ice and snow?

Would they unroll their brittle parchments and calfskin scrolls plotting and planning while measuring the charted maps of both known land, sea and heavens?
Would their vision be cast upward during a nighttime sky as they pondered the oddity of 4 successive large reddish moons which each oddly took place during a holy day or festival of the Hebrew people?

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(the half moon in the Killarney night sky / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook )

Would they read the words of ancient prophets and prophesies wondering if there were connections and correlations or would they simply pass it all away as coincidence.
Would they yield to the ancient scriptural warnings of things long foretold or would they consider the ancient tomes written by those delusional and crazed?

What of the star, that lone bright and brilliant star which had beckoned them years prior to that tiny Jewish village on the periphery of the expansive Roman Empire…
What of the ancient texts and the cross references of the both sacred and secular…were they but mere conjecture?

What other celestial and earthly signposts and events must appear before the wise and the average both understand?

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(moonlight over Killarney, Ireland / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“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 24:6-14

Passages of time and the sharing of sacred scripture

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you”

― Paul Simon

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Verse 6 Psalm XXIII

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(an old Jewish book of prayer, opened to the XXIII Psalm / Julie Cook / 2014)

It had all the makings of a most odd union of two very different people.

One, a young tomboy who had a bad habit of saying whatever came to mind, often letting her emotional heart lead when a thoughtful mind would have sufficed. A zealot when it came to her Christian faith and a bit of a rabble rouser, yet one who actually played it safe and obeyed all the rules.

The other was more girly and most reserved, often painfully conscious of words and actions. She was often reluctant in her acknowledgment of her Jewish faith. Her family was multilayered consisting of step parents, 5 half brothers and sisters and several step siblings. More worldly and one who enjoyed a good time.

What drew them together?
What kept them together?

Fast forward over 4 decades.

Sitting in the ornately fashioned sanctuary, feeling a bit out of place and silently waiting for the service to begin, my mind began to wander in and out of the past 41 years and as to what had actually brought me to this particular place today. The delicate sounds of the piano soft and soothing.
Unexpectedly the weight of all the previous years, with all of their enormity, and all their stories, their secrets, their joy, their sorrows, came tumbling forward as I sat in silence feeling suddenly very very tired.

The Rabbi entered leading the family to their places. I watched a fragile figure, lead by husband and followed by daughters, take her solemn place.
A time of good-bye.
Had we not played this role before?
First almost 30 years ago for me, then years later for her, and now, we were gathering once again.

The last time I walked this aisle was 30 years ago during a wedding as I lifted a young confident bride’s trailing gown up the steps. I had worn the same dress 3 years prior as the roles were then reversed.
I grew up attending church 2 miles north on the same street.
What is it that separates us?
Likes and dislikes?
or
Miles, family, and doctrine?

The Cantor began the prayers.
A mournful and deeply reverent form of prayer as a profound moaning and yearning of the heart reverberated off the masterfully carved roundels along the ornately decorated ceiling.
Our moms both now gone.
Once it was agreed we’d trade them, one for the other.
I wanted the sweet one, she wanted the sassy one.
Now our trade is all but a forgotten long ago secret shared between two young angst ridden teens.

She was the stoical one, I was the emotionally driven one.
For good or bad, time and circumstances have reversed those roles.
Yet today we are both caught in the tide of emotions as life, age and death collide chaotically becoming one massive wave of what will soon be but a memory and moment of time passing.
Our time once passed painfully slowly as we yearned to grow up quickly.
Now time passes painfully quickly as we yearn to live more slowly–savoring and holding each sweet morsel of life tenderly before it filters through our fingers.

The differences are obvious.
They always will be.
The similarities however are found in the lamenting prayer from a mourning heart to the God of all of creation as we each watch the other learning to say good-bye . . .

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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Sense of scent

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

― Patrick Süskind

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(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome. When I first opened the jar, in order to use it, I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany. Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume, hair permanents, and medicine, but the smell of sudden nearness. A palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom. I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party– a grandmother and both of her granddaughters. It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory was so strong. Not only did I smell the smells, I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind. The white cabinets, the double sinks. . .

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle. Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff, I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent. Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic, to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s. I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a new store that sells candles. On a round brown table in the center of the store, I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top, my dad at time had a blue bug. I loved the smell, sweet and light, being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug– I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to the growing eclectic treasures of teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs, not even knowing if they still made those things. I had brought home a box of old papers and what nots form Dad’s. I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling of the minisucule critters that were already doing damage to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin, a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in Mimi’s closet, my mom’s mom. Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s. It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom. I was playing hide and seek. Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes, shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner, I’m consumed with a smell that to this day reminds me of my grandmother. Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting, are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s. To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s, but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory. The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents, smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus, the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose, which are caught by the olfactory receptors, allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with those initials smells from childhood, the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells. Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting, processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching, that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume, specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly” just prior to the time of death or immediately following. It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt, followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead. There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene, who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus. It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body yet some believe it symbolizes his bringing the grace of forgiveness into an unforgiving world. This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day, there is indeed a change in the air. Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm of crackling fires. . . I can smell its presence in the air. As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind, those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift, sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life, waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing . . .

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

On your mark, get set, GO!

Never confuse movement with action.
Ernest Hemingway

“I am like a book, with pages that have stuck together for want of use: my mind needs unpacking and the truths stored within must be turned over from time to time, to be ready when occasion demands”
Seneca

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(Tiger swallowtail in Julie’s yard / Julie Cook / 2014)

It is time to get ready.
Ready for what you ask.
Simply to be ready, is the reply.
But ready for what you press.

Ready for moving forward.

Out from the shadows.
Out from the past.
Out from the bondage.
Out from the guilt.
Out from the weight of sin.
Out toward the light.
Out toward the freedom.
Out toward the forgiveness.
Out toward the person you / me are meant to be

This is a week of deep reflection for those of the Christian faith.
It is Holy week.
The most sacred time in all of Christendom.
A time of profound sadness and loss ending in a heavenly crescendo of Joy and Life.

It is also the beginning of Passover.
A sacred time in Judaism.
A time for the deep reflection of G_d’s* merciful Grace.
(* may it be noted that those of the Jewish faith, those who are most devout, believe that it is sinful to speak or even write the name of God, as it is considered the ultimate in sacred and Holy—I wonder how we Christians have missed that same sense of deep reverence associated with the name of the Most Holy, The Omnipotent, The Redeemer, the Creator, Yahweh, Jehovah. . .)

This week a converging of two sacred religions collide, melding into one, as two monumental and pivotal moments for each faith mirror and reflect one another.
The Jews and Christians are each reminded of a liberation.
The Jews are reminded of being liberated from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as the Christians are reminded of the liberation from the bondage of sin as procured by the cross.

Our two faiths, whether either group is willing to truly acknowledge the fact or not, are inextricably linked. . .since the beginning of time—woven intricately together. . .for good and for bad.

Those who blame the Jews for the death of Jesus are tragically misinformed.
To look in any mirror is the simple reminder, for those who’s image is reflected, as to who is actually culpable for that death.
For Christians to mount some campaign of a holier than thou sanctity is to have never fully grasped the encompassing scope and bottomless depth of that lone and ultimate death.

For in that lone death, we have all been liberated and are now made free.
Free to go forward in forgiveness and love.

Yet sadly how difficult those steps seem to be.

Just as Lazarus came forth from the tomb and shroud of his death, back to the warm radiant light of life. . .we too are being called—out of our tombs and shrouds of death, into the radiant light, moving forward in freedom and forgiveness.

As the sad events of the past week continue to unfold in the Kansas City area, with the unexplainable taking of 3 innocent lives at a Jewish Community Center and at a Jewish Assisted Living, the irony for the killer’s sick and twisted mind, is that he had not murdered Jews as he had hoped, but rather he murdered three Christians. We mere mortals cannot explain away the whys of this tragedy nor may we rationalize the raw pain of loss. It is unfair, it is wrong, it is maddening, it is to what shakes the core of all of our faiths. . .

It is so difficult for the moral and just, in our society, to wrap their brains around these hate groups which litter this world. The sickly twisted rationale these groups spawn, in order to justify their manifesto of evil, is beyond comprehension. . .and yet, it and they remain, morphing into more insidious groups intent on havoc, hate and death.

We must not allow ourselves to bend to their damnable acts in the name of their hate. We must not meet them at their level of banal emptiness. We must not repay hatred for hatred. For we are commanded to love. We are commanded to forgive–over and over and over until the end of time.
As the words of this week echo in our ears . . .

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. . .”
as the heel of the Holy One crushes the head of the serpent.