Returning of the keys

“King of England, and you, duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the kingdom of France… settle your debt to the king of Heaven; return to the Maiden, who is envoy of the king of Heaven, the keys to all the good towns you took and violated in France.”
Joan of Arc

(Julie Cook / 2014)

At some point in time, all those who have taken what is not theirs to take. . .be it land, kingdoms, homes, livestock, possessions, pleasures, time, identities, lives, esteem. . . will have to answer for their actions. It may be in this life or it may be the in the next, but answer, all must.

We often think of the act of taking what is not ours to take simply as stealing— which is something only the “bad” people do.
This comes in many guises.
Fraud, Identity theft, grand larceny, extortion, bribery, forgery, armed robbery, shoplifting, pickpocketing, corruption, money laundering, scams, etc.

Then there is the more insidious forms of taking such as kidnapping, rape, torture, brainwashing, murder, etc

We take liberties, power, charge, control all in the name of our own sense of righteousness and entitlement. Does that sense of superiority and righteousness make the taking any less wrong?

Is one type of taking more wrong or less wrong than another?
We could certainly argue such.
But is not all sin equal in the sight of God?

During the Hundred year war (which was really longer than 100 years), a young French girl had a vision from God that she was to be the voice to liberate France and her weary people from the clutches of what seemed to be the greedy English. This point could be argued depending on which side you ask— does one Nation have the right to “take” another Nation if they do so with justified good intentions or in many a king’s mind, divine right?

In 1429 this young girl dictated a letter, as she could neither read nor write, to Henry VI, the 7 year old King of England, as well as to those who spoke with authority for this young king, her intentions as instructed by God to bring an end to the fighting, the raping, the pillaging and the sheer madness of the English vying with France for total rule–the issue at stake was her people’s land, buildings, treasures, nationality as well as the actual people themselves—as the English were in France against the will of the French leadership and the people.

But try telling the English that, at the time, France was really not theirs for the seizing. The French were having their own troubles trying to determine who should be their rightful king. The best solution in the mind of the English, was indeed, the English.
What a complicated mess. As is the case when it comes to taking. The lines of yours and mine grow very murky when justification comes into play.

(Joan’s letter to the English as written my a monk but signed by Joan / March 1429)

One sovereign nation usurping another sovereign nation for possession, as in possession equals power. France struggled within itself and England saw this as their duty to swoop in and simply take charge. Is that not what taking is really all about—taking power and possession and in turn eventually taking charge and control and then being the one on top?

And if it had not been England, it would or could have been Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, and at some point later, France itself— or perhaps as it is today with Nations such as Russia, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq or as some in the world would say, The United States— Nations continually vying for supremacy over what is considered to be the lesser—as in less stable, less than, less prepared, less powerful.

Is taking considered ok if it is a Sovereign Nation doing the taking?
It depends on who you ask and it depends on the reason for taking, as it depends on the level of taking—As such taking always has a justification.

We take what is ours by proximity, by heritage, by birthright, by bullying, by might.
Yet at some point, we must give back, return, let off, recant, repent, own up, acknowledge or pay the price.

Our young heroin, St Joan of Arc, was eventually captured by French forces then handed over to be burned at the stake by the English as a heretic. King Henry VI ruled for 38 years before being murdered. France and England went on to continue waging war with one another up until the Revolutionary war when they continued taking sides and vying for control.

And so it goes. . .
Today it may not be the English and the French, but it is certainly other Nations now who are taking from other Nations. This seems to have been the trend of humankind—taking. And perhaps we may trace the taking back to an apple which was told not to be taken or the life of a brother which should never have been taken—the taking has been going on ever since.

From this tiny window or portal into history, lies the history of humankind.
The vying for power, control, charge and the taking of what we want with and by justification.
Nations justify their taking just as the petty thief justifies his—and sometimes God must say enough is enough, I will send one who must sort this out once and for all. Or maybe sometimes He just shakes His head wondering if we will ever get it right.

Thou shall not covet.
Thous shall not steal.
Thou shall not murder.

Perhaps this is a history lesson of divine Commandment.

At some point we will all have to return that which is not ours. We will be held accountable. The repercussions of the taking are endless if not silent at first then monumental in the long run.

May we be mindful of taking that which is not ours for the taking.
And may we be mindful of our justifications.
May we be mindful of our intentions—are they pure and loving or are they egotistical and self indulgent?

Joan of Arc’s Letter to the English
March 22, 1429

King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the kingdom France; you William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk; John, Lord Talbot; and you Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said Duke of Bedford, do justly by the King of Heaven; render to the Maid who is sent here of God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good cities that you have taken and violated in France. She has come here from God to restore the royal blood. She is all ready to make peace, if you will deal rightly by her, acknowledge the wrong done France, and pay for what you have taken. And all of you, archers, companions of war, nobles and others who are before you; and if this is not done, expect news of the Maid, who will go to see you shortly, to your very great damage. King of England, if you do not do this, I am Chef de Guerre, and in whatever place I shall find your people in France, I will make them go whether they will or not; and if they will not obey I will have them all killed. I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven, each and all, to put you out of all France. And if they will obey I will be merciful. And stand not by your opinion, for you will never hold the kingdom of France through God, King of Heaven, son of Saint Mary; it will be thus ruled by King Charles VII, true heritor; for God , the King of Heaven, wishes it, and this to him is revealed by the Maid, and he will enter Paris in good company. If you will not believe the news from God and the Maid, in whatever place we shall find you, we shall strike in your midst, and will make so great a hurrah [hahay] that for a thousand years there has not been one in France so great, if you do not deal justly. And you may well believe that the King of Heaven will send more strength to the Maid than you will be able to lead in all your assaults against her and her good soldiers. And when the blows fall we shall see who will have the better right from God of Heaven. You, Duke of Bedford, the Maid begs you and requires of you that you work not your own destruction. If you listen to her you will yet be able to come in her company to where the French will do the finest deed that ever was done for Christianity. And reply to this, if you wish to make peace at the city of Orleans; and if thus you do not do, you will shortly remember it to your great sorrow. Written this Tuesday, Holy Week. [March 22, 1429.]

Clutter, Clutter everywhere

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
― Albert Einstein
(photograph:storefront window / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

I was walking down the sidewalk of a side street, late yesterday evening, while on a quick trip to Savannah, Georgia, when I stumbled upon a most interesting storefront. At first I wasn’t quite certain as to what type of business this actually was that I had wandered upon. There was a poor old philodendron plant that ran the length of the inside window of the store. Dead leaves out numbered the living leaves and were scattered along the very sad sprawling vine running the length of the storefront window. It was perched amongst dirt, magazines, keys, and junk. It needed pruning, cutting, watering and simply a good cleaning…the window itself– filthy.

The store was full of “stuff” that sparkled in the fading sun; immediately drawing ones eye inside to the massive array of keys dangling from a million hooks– like that of a groaning tree struggling under the weight of a million shining Christmas ornaments hanging on for dear life– covering each and every wall. There were several old time cash registers… one propped up by the door, another perched on an old timey safe far too small for the register. There were old lanterns hung precariously from the rafters, tin and various old metal salvage items laying on the floor….

Was this some sort of Antique store, junk store, locksmith or all of the above? It did catch my eye and it strangely beckoned me to come in to explore. However it was well after 5, closing time long past….Beckoning and yet repelling at the same time—made me a little nervous. It was dirty, dusty but interesting…….

Ecclesiastes 3:6….a time to keep and a time to throw away….

I too have accumulated a great deal of “stuff” over this lifetime of mine. Things that are mine and my husband’s, things that were Mother’s, things that were my grandmother’s, my great-aunt’s, my grandfather’s, my son’s left behinds, my future daughter-n-law’s transition things, and now my dad’s things….family treasures that are now “cluttering” my house and my world. But everything seems to have a story, a connection…what stays, what needs to go…..I can’t seem to let go.

I had vowed that once I retired it was time for me to “let go” of so much of my “clutter”… but so much of the “stuff,” my stuff, is compiled from the very pieces of my life. My past and these “things” are parts of the connections to and with my past. And yet, as I have read so very much about Francesco Bernardone and of his conversion…of his literal take on God’s often metaphoric words, of his stripping himself of all of his worldly connections, including his clothing..leaving him naked, exposed and yet free to take up the simple cloak of a simple man whose only desire in life was to hear God’s word, to follow His word and to live His word…..

How can any of us attempt to hear and follow, just as St Francis heard and followed…how can we do that and do that very well while we attempt to manage all of the “stuff” in our lives? The “stuff” which requires so much of our attention, our concern, our worries….it gets in the way, it blocks a clear cut path, it’s burdensome….and yet we cling to it so tightly……The old cliche “you can’t take it with you” rings so very true and yet we are all so overpacked with all of our clutter.

St Francis knew the answer. Einstein’s quote states the answer. Ancient scripture teaches the answer…SIMPLICITY. Learning to live a life of simplicity verses the standard chaos and clutter is no easy task. Our western society’s motto has always been bigger and more is always better. From biggie sizing our food to our desire for name brands and luxury items, to always acquiring the latest technology. As soon as you walk out of a store with, say, the latest and greatest phone, a new more advanced device is advertised the very next week, leaving you yearning for the new toy and feeling “less than” with the old toy, which was brand new itself the previous week—leaving you with a drawer full of really good phones, just not the latest and greatest…..a vicious cycle indeed and sadly a genius of mass marketing…

So perhaps we are often “victims” of our own clutter. We fall into the marketing and sales traps…those slick sales gimmicks that insidiously slink into our brains taking control of our very will power and wallets without so much as nary our knowledge…..we must fight the desire and simply say, “NO”– no more, I have enough thank you very much—-my house is fine, my car is good, my clothes are nice, my furniture is functional…but what about the economy you say, we must do our part to keep the economic growth in our country….yada, yada, yada…. See what I mean—it’s a vicious cycle indeed.

Now back to my clutter and less is more….
I will leave you today pondering this dilemma of mine and no doubt of your very own…time to down size just as Dad is saying you’ve got to come get everything out of the basement and don’t you want Mom’s this and that…..the list goes on.

Maybe there is just a little more space in the basement……..

Dare to find the right key

(photograph: Julie Cook/ Savannah, GA 2013)
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done–then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

A small gate sits in the middle of a large stone wall…who knew that a beautiful secret garden was hiding behind the stone wall? The gate is locked but all who pass by may peer in, if they stop long enough, they may catch a glimpse of the beautiful private garden. Are they too busy or too preoccupied to stop and glance? Do others know this garden exists or am I the only lucky one? The only one who stopped to look beyond the locked gate?

If beauty can hide behind a massive stone wall, can that same beauty not hide within a closed off human heart? Surly it can. It’s just a matter of finding the right key and getting inside. If you see the locked gate to a human heart, dare to be the finder of the right key— open wide the hearts around you to the potential beauty waiting inside. Dare to find the beauty that lies within the stone walls and locked gates to the hearts of the people you meet along your life’s journey. Who knows what joy you may discover……