refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

do not allow your arrogance to convince you that there is nothing left to learn…

“So long as I am acting from duty and conviction,
I am indifferent to taunts and jeers.
I think they will probably do me more good than harm.”

Sir Winston Churchill

“One man with conviction will overwhelm a hundred who have only opinions.”
Winston Churchill


Sir Winston Churchill speaks at the Hall on Thanksgiving Day, 1944

“We have come here tonight to add our celebration to those which are going
forward all over the world, wherever allied troops are fighting in bivouacs and dugouts,
on battlefields, on the high seas, and the highest air.
Always this annual festival has been dear to the hearts of the American people.
Always there has been that desire for thanksgiving, and never,
I think, has there been more justification, more compulsive need than now.

It is your Day of Thanksgiving,
and when we feel the truth of the facts which are before us,
that in three or four years the peaceful, peace-loving people of the United States,
with all the variety and freedom of their life in such contrast to the iron discipline
which has governed many other communities –
when we see that in three or four years the United States has in sober fact become
the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world – that,
I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving.

We are moving forward in this struggle which spreads over all the lands and all the oceans;
we are moving forward surely steadily, irresistibly,
and perhaps with God’s aid, swiftly towards victorious peace.

There again is a fitting reason for thanksgiving, but I have spoken of American thanksgiving.
Tonight here, representatives of vaster audiences and greater forces moving outside this hall,
it is British and American thanksgiving that we may celebrate today.
And why is that? It is because under the compulsion of mysterious
and all-powerful destiny we are together.

We are joined together, shedding our blood side by side, struggling for the same ideals,
and joined together until the triumph of the great causes which we serve has been made manifest.”

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

After the end of the Second World War,
Churchill spent six years as leader of the opposition to Clement Atlee’s Labour government of 1945-1951,
before being re-elected in 1951 for a second term as Prime Minister.

This rare video footage shows Churchill speaking at an event organised by
the Women’s National Advisory Committee (now known as the Conservative Women’s Organisation)
on 27 May 1954, discussing his government’s policy of
“peace through strength”:

(archives from the Royal Albert Hall)

“You have enemies? Good.
That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Winston Churchill

“Shadow of the Almighty rather than the shadow of death”

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Psalm 91:1


(image courtesy decidingvoteblog)

As the fluid situation of all of our lives continues to swirl, the post I had hoped to
write today…a post about looking back at how we Americans have overcome past crises
is now on hold.

We’ve been called into a bit of action—for we are off to fetch the Mayor today
with the Sherrif following in a few more days.

With the schools now shuttering in Georgia, our daughter-in-law the teacher
will find herself at home. She will be home with two little ones, along with
a husband (our son) who is already working from home.
And as a teacher, she will be responsible for conducting virtual learning classes
so in turn, they will need help with the kids….so…
the kids will be coming to us.

For how long is yet to be determined.
Therefore, any blogging will be sporadic.

The Mayor tends to demand a great deal of her staff’s time and energies.
And as a governing official, she has her hands full…as we all do.

But before I leave you, I wanted to offer you some lovely words of hope.

The following message…a message of hope in the face of global adversity,
is from our dear friend The Wee Flea, David Robertson.

Living now in Australia but with family still in Scotland as well as England,
David understands first hand the fretfulness we are all feeling during these
times of uncertainty as well as times of fear…

How do we as Christians respond?

My wish is that you will find comfort in the following words…
the link to the full post is found at the end…

Be blessed, stay well and be safe…

One of my greatest concerns is that the Church far more often reflects the society
than it does lead or love it.
This pandemic is a real test for the reality of our faith and the relevance of our doctrines.
And there is no doubt that our world is being taught some real lessons –
lessons the Christian should, if we believe the Bible, already know.

Humility

We are being taught humility.
Fintan O ‘Toole had a marvelous article in The Irish Times pointing out that we are not
kings of the world and we are not masters of our own fate.
It’s a hard lesson to learn. And one that humanity, in our hubris,
has to keep being taught.

History

We have a lot to learn from history –
not least because we keep forgetting it.
Plague and disease are not new to humanity.
When we look at how the Church in the past has dealt with plague –
whether in ancient Rome, medieval Europe, 19th century London or numerous other examples
we can get a better perspective.
My predecessor in St Peter’s Dundee, Robert Murray McCheyne died aged 29 after he visited
the sick and dying in an epidemic among the poor in the city.
The Church today seems to be more concerned about not getting sick, rather than visiting the sick.

Hebel

I love this Hebrew word.
I don’t really know an exact English equivalent.
It’s what Solomon uses in Ecclesiastes when he describes everything as ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’.
It carries the idea of trivial froth.
The coronavirus is exposing our societies’ Hebel.
Sport, wealth, leisure, entertainment –
how light and frothy they appear to be in the light of such a foe!

I was in a barber’s in Sydney yesterday where my fellow clientele would normally have been
outraged at the cancelling of the major sporting events which play such
a large part in our lives, but there was general agreement that it didn’t really matter.
(I loved the sign above the door – “if you’re sick you need a doctor, not a barber!”).

Hope

That is the great missing thing.
Real hope has to be more than the wish that this would soon be over and that we could carry on
with life as normal. This virus has exposed the shallowness of that approach to life.
Where do we find hope?
As always I find it in the word of God.
Let me share with you three readings from this morning.

Proverbs 1:20-33 warns us of what happens when we neglect the wisdom that is calling aloud
“in the public square”.
There will be calamity and “disaster that sweeps over you like a whirlwind”.
The waywardness of the simple and the complacency of fools destroys them but
“whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

Then there are the great words of Psalm 91 –
a Psalm that sustained me when I lay on my bed in the ICU unit in Ninewells hospital,
helpless and fearful.
We can rest in the ‘Shadow of the Almighty’ (rather than the shadow of death).
We are covered by his feathers, and his faithfulness is our shield and rampart.
“You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday” (v.5-6).

Finally, my song for this morning was Psalm 139 where,
amongst other things, we are assured that all the days ordained for us were written in the
Lord’s book before they came to be. These verses surely speak to our situation.
Are we listening?
Or are we listening to the voices of doom both within our fearful selves
and our frightened society?

Listening to what God says is not burying our head in the sand;
it is allowing the light to expose our darkness and to point us to a greater and better truth –
to The Rock that is higher than us.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
my anxious thoughts survey.
Show me what gives offence to you,
And lead me in your way”

(Psalm 139:23-24 – Sing Psalms – The Free Church of Scotland)

Three Bible passages to Replace Fear of Coronavirus with Hope in God

can’t go back…lessons from the road

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had
,
Lyrics, The Isley Brothers


(the main stairwell in the Biltmore House / Ashville, NC / Julie Cook / 2020)

About a week or so ago,
I wrote a post bemoaning the fact that I had cared for sick grandkids who in turn,
unintentionally, gave me their sickness.

It seems that germs just love to travel and share themselves.
Just like the song by the Isley Brothers, you gotta love the ones you’re with…
germs will love any and all… whoever they are with or even near.

But this is NOT another post chattering on about coronavirus or the flu or any other bug.

This post is rather about adventure…
Or better yet…this is a post about lessons.

In that previous post, I had made mention that we had had a little impromptu adventure
while trying to escape all this unrelenting rain…

About two weeks ago, we were sitting in the house… sick and tired of sitting in the house.
It had rained for almost the entire month of February.
It was our wettest February on record.

Let’s get away” I proclaimed
My husband agreed.

We threw some things in a bag and headed north.
About a 4-hour drive north.

It had been years since we’d visited the Biltmore House
and thus that would be our destination.

We opted to stay at the Inn on the property,
spending the following day visiting the house,
then we would drive around the mountains before heading home.
Short and sweet.

And most importantly, it was minus the rain.

But then there was the snow.

However, let’s back up 40 years.

Back in 1980, I was a college student who had no real feel for what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought I knew.
I thought I had known.
I wanted to work with kids.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to work in advertising.
I wanted to meet a nice boy.
I wanted to get married and I wanted to be a mom.

I bounced back and forth between each different course and college major that were
more or less, a flavor of the day regime.

I have written about this journey when I first started blogging.
It was about how I finally made my way into teaching.

It was the summer of 1980 when my angst and turmoil finally came into focus in the
middle of the mountains of North Carolina.
Specifically, Black Mt., NC.

I had taken a job at a Christian summer camp for girls as a camp counselor—
Riflery Director oddly enough.

I spent my summers working at the camp until I graduated and made my
way to my first teaching post.
It was a position that would last 31 years.

So before we set out on this little adventure,
I asked my husband if we could drive over to Black Mt,
find a little inn for a night and spend an afternoon
wandering the little town before going to see the camp.

Knowing how important this place once was to me,
he knew he was now simply along for the ride.

When we started out from home on this northward drive,
we took an off-the-beaten-path route.
Many two and four-lane roads avoiding much of the interstate.
Crossing over into NC from Georgia, just before entering the Nantahala forest,
I caught sight of a homemade sign perched along the side of the road…
sitting boldly in plain sight.

It was a conversation bubble sign.
One conversation bubble read: “God, why won’t you send us someone who will help us?
The response bubble read: “I did, but you aborted them”

A powerful thought to chew on and get lost in while driving.

Our visit to the Biltmore was brief but enjoyable.
It had been meant to be our diversion,
a brief respite from our temperate rainy winter.

But then…it snowed.

The snow was pretty as it gently covered the mountains.
It was a gift from the relentless rain we had left back home.
Soft and silent.
White and muting.
A fitting and tender offering.

The small town of Black Mt. is about a 15-minute drive east from Ashville on I-40 or about
20 minutes via Hwy 70.

It was my home for several summers…a place that had left
and indelible mark upon my heart, soul and on the person who I would grow to be.

My former boss and dear friend, the camp’s director, had passed away several years away,
leaving the camp to now be run by two of his sons.

I had been very close to the older of the two boys.

At the time, he was instrumental in the growth of my Christian faith.

He was one of those individuals who you knew had a relationship with
Christ that transcended both time and space.
There was a depth not normally seen in “normal” Christians.
There was a mysticism.
There was a sense that He was privy to something that was not experienced by many others.
It was so much greater than…

There was a diligence to his faith.
A detachment from the world, yet done so graciously and most willingly.
It was a relationship that had been tried in a furnace…
a furnace so hot that it had burned away all the dross.

It was a relationship that I marveled over from afar.
A relationship that I wanted yet always felt as if it was just beyond my reach.

During that time, I had also become close friends with another counselor.
She and I both were attending the same college,
however, we had not met until our summers working at camp.

She was a hungry and joyous Christian..strong and uncompromising in her faith.

The three of us became quite the trio.
I earned the name slugly…the questioning one who always seemed to be
lagging a step behind.
The one who still had the one foot in the world.

Despite my now almost manic positive spin on life,
I carried a heavy black cloud.

Most often my friend and I both felt like students sitting at
the feet of a master teacher as we learned so very much from our older and wiser friend.

His had once been a hard and rough life.
We were fortunate to have met him long after the darkness.
We were the grateful recipients of the light now shining through him.

Yet as life would have it, we remained as close as we could,
as our lives simply took us each on different journeys.
I married first, followed by our friend then finally my fellow counselor friend,
found her true love.

Three different states, jobs, children, and life, made the years race past with less and less contact.

What might I find after 40 years?

I felt a sense of heaviness and nervousness…a journey of trepidation.
The excitement of what might be was shadowed by both what was and what
had passed.

I knew that the camp had grown and even changed.
A boys camp and also a climbing adventure camp has become spin-offs of the
original girls camp. Things were much larger and not as intimate.

Billy Graham was the camp’s neighbor, living on the neighboring mountain top
and Montreat College was less than a mile up the road.

Graham was now gone but the college was still there having, like everything else,
grown and expanded.

We drove up from the what was once a sleepy mountain town that has since boomed
into a buzzing home to artists, breweries and eclectic eateries–
a top NC mountain must-see travel destination crowned by all things southern
and travel, Southern Living…crowned as one of America’s most charming small towns.

I pulled into the familiar hemlock lined gravel drive leading up to the main house…
and that’s when I stopped the car for the briefest of moments before quickly deciding to turn around…
simply driving back to town.

Just like that.

With all that growing anticipation and wonderment I felt during our drive from home…
in the end, I knew that the girl who had spent her summers in this small part of the world
had, in the end, moved on.

I decided to drive back leaving what was.. simply to be.

Later that evening, once back in town,
we started walking the couple of blocks from our Inn to the trendy new restaurant
that had been recommended to us.

While walking rather briskly, shielding ourselves against the bitter cold,
a group of college-age young folks fell in line behind us on the sidewalk.

All we could hear was ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that as they weren’t but
a few steps behind.
There were no filters, no restraints, no consideration for our obvious older ears,
that was for sure

They were loud and raucous, cursing as if uttering simple words in conversation.
I turned and smiled while giving that knowing look of
“hey, consider the other folks in your surroundings
as your language just might not be suitable let alone appreciated
by those in such close earshot.”

The loudest gal in the group just looked at me, not missing a beat
with her profanity-laced chatter.

Thankfully they veered off to head into one of the local watering holes
while we kept walking.

Aggravated by the thought that the one place I had always held somewhat sacred
and somewhat protected,
as it had been just that for me all these years ago, was now just like any other place invaded by
a youthful, progressive left-leaning, mindset as I saw many a Bernie, pro-choice, coexist, and all
things feminist stickers stuck on the cars parked along the sidewalks.

With the crisp mountain air now laced with cigarette smoke, the sweet scent of weed and stale beer,
I could feel my shoulders slump just a tad.

There was now a heavy dose of melancholy and irony found in being just the other side of
Ashville…the home to the great writer, Thomas Wolfe…

Wolfe was right you know…we can’t go home again.
Home is never the same.
The then is no longer as it is simply the now.

I was clearly reminded that our home is truly not of this earth.
Our peace will not ever be found here despite our constant searching.

For we are indeed strangers in a strange land…
We seek a home where we know our hearts will finally be at rest…
it is our life’s innate quest really.
Seeking a home that is beyond that which we have known…a home
that is eternal and somewhere just beyond those mountains I once
considered my haven of peace.

I think that’s what my friend had known all those years ago…it just took
me forty years to figure it out.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,
so that when they speak against you as evildoers,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

If I were queen for a day

Monarch of all I survey — Mo–na-a-a–a-arch Of all I survey!
the Lion singing
If I were King of the Forest
from the Wizard of Oz


(Queen Elizabeth’s Emprial Crown)

If I were Queen for a day…
I’d give them what they want.

Their freedom.

They want to carry no burden of duty while desiring
all freedom from responsibilities…

I’d strip them of their titles.
I’d cut all funding, entitlement, privileges, and perks.
Fly economy I say.
Put in a home security system, setting your own agenda
and hope for the best.

Come home for the holidays if you’d like, or not.

Last name you say?…
Well, no longer Sussex, not even Windsor
but perhaps Mountbatten.

As Monarch, I know that one cannot have
one’s cake and eat it too…we saw how that worked
once for a distant French cousin.

I also know that sometimes giving someone what they
think they want is the best lesson learned.
A hard lesson that makes for a lasting impression.

For better or worse, birth into this family is shadowed by burden.
Duty.
Service.
Obligation.
Constancy.
Accountability.
Commitment.

Not all have done it well.
One before you also chose to go.
Torn between want versus responsibility.
Others have relished in the gifts while forgoing the noble route.

I have borne the disappointments alone.
My hopes rested in you, your brother and cousins.
Learning the lessons your parents failed to learn.

Sometimes loving someone means allowing them to have what
they so desperately think they want–
Yet knowing that it will not end well and is not what they
actually need.

To lead is hard.
To love is even harder

If I Were King

I often wish I were a King,
And then I could do anything.

If only I were King of Spain,
I’d take my hat off in the rain.

If only I were King of France,
I wouldn’t brush my hair for aunts.

I think, if I were King of Greece,
I’d push things off the mantelpiece.

If I were King of Norroway,
I’d ask an elephant to stay.

If I were King of Babylon,
I’d leave my button gloves undone.

If I were King of Timbuctoo,
I’d think of lovely things to do.

If I were King of anything,
I’d tell the soldiers, “I’m the King!”

A.A. Milne

And I thought ‘woke’ meant something you did after sleep

In 2020, Americans are going to be forced to choose between two opposing visions:
the pro-American vision of President Abraham Lincoln
and the deeply anti-American vision of the modern left…
The modern left’s outlook is radically different from —
and deeply hostile toward — the classic definitions of
American liberty and history.

Newt Gingrich

Yep, it’s hard to keep up if you’re of a certain age.
And perhaps even harder if you make the conscious decision to abstain from
social media…
Because it appears that social media is THE place to learn all sorts of new words,
both good and bad, and oh so part of our ‘woke’ culture.

According to an article on business2community.com:
The Oxford English Dictionary has added a plethora of new words to their online database.
Those searching their dictionary can now find the definitions of words such
as “woke,” “hygge” and “post-truth,” which they named last year’s Word of the Year.

One of the most notable entries for many on social media was “woke,”
a slang entry that was met with both praise and backlash.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “woke” as:
well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination
and injustice; frequently in stay woke (often used as an exhortation).

In later use perhaps popularized through its association with
African-American civil rights activism
(in recent years particularly the Black Lives Matter movement),
and by the lyrics of the 2008 song Master Teacher by American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu,
in which the words I stay woke serve as a refrain.
In addition to having an original meaning of simply “awake,” the adjectival “woke”
has been around far longer than some may think.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, the earliest use in a figurative sense was
in a 1962 New York Times article.
Titled “If You’re Woke, You Dig It,”
it “describes how white beatniks were appropriating black slang at the time.”
The term is now widely used to challenge others to be more aware of
injustices in the world.

It seems that the folks of all things dictionary, be that Merriam-Webster, Oxford or others,
have actually added 600 new words this past year.

At this rate, my communication skills will no longer be woke but more like asleep…

And I for one find such words stupid…as in dumb, useless and if the truth be told, lazy–
as they are nothing more than slang.

There already exist some pretty great civil descriptors out there–
of which mean very much the same.
Yet I wonder…is it because these existing words are more pointed and
seemingly painfully direct…Because we know this progressive culture of ours is actually
afraid of pointed, direct and painful.

And as a small aside, might I just add that I am sick and tired of hearing,
seeing, reading the ‘F’ word at every turn. We went to the movies last evening
to see the movie 1917 and in the very first preview of coming movies, Will Smith opened
the preview spouting off the F word…sigh…
And despite my having written many a post of the use of vulgar slang as being now
acceptable, I am digressing…

So all this talk of culture, words, and of being woke had me thinking when I caught
the following article by Newt Gingrich.

If anyone out there is woke (please note that my Grammarly correction wants that to read ‘is waking’),
I would think it would be Newt.
As a history professor, author, historian and former Speaker of the House,
Newt knows a thing or two when he looks back while looking forward.

Here are a few tidbits from his latest article followed by a link for the full
story.

Newt Gingrich: In 2020, Abraham Lincoln will be controversial and divisive.
(Yes, Lincoln!) Here’s why

Lincoln clearly admitted that the work of freedom was unfinished and that we owe it to those
who gave their lives to continue the work of extending and improving liberty for all people.
In fact, Lincoln said it is our duty to extend “under God, … a new birth of freedom.”

(Of course, the anti-religious left would scoff at the reference to God.
Yet, both Lincoln and Washington shared a belief that America existed because of
Divine Providence’s benevolence.)

We have moved from government of the people to government of the experts.

The gap between Lincoln’s belief in the people and the contempt elitists such
as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.,
have for those who Hillary Clinton called “deplorables” tells you a lot about the gap
between Lincoln’s values and the values of the modern American left.

One of the great challenges for the Trump administration and its allies is
to re-center government on Lincoln’s values and dismantle the elitist
“bureaucrats know best” model that now defines so much of our government.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2020-abraham-lincoln-controversial-newt-gingrich

guarding faith from assault

“When we attend to the needs of those in want,
we give them what is theirs, not ours.
More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

Pope Saint Gregory the Great


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2019)

Some people who think themselves naturally gifted don’t want to touch either
philosophy or logic.
They don’t even want to learn natural science.
They demand bare faith alone—as if they wanted to harvest grapes right away without putting
any work into the vine.
We must prune, dig, trellis, and do all the other work.
I think you’ll agree the pruning knife, the pickaxe, and the farmer’s tools are necessary
for growing grapevines, so that they will produce edible fruit.
And as in farming, so in medicine: the one who has learned something is the one who has
practiced the various lessons, so that he can cultivate or heal.
And here, too, I say you’re truly educated if you bring everything to bear on the truth.
Taking what’s useful from geometry, music, grammar, and philosophy itself,
you guard the Faith from assault.”

St. Clement of Alexandria, p. 13
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

reign of terror

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people,
whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

―Maximilien Robespierre

Robespierre’s quote seems sensible enough…
for I’d bet we can all agree that an education does truly open minds.

But opens to what?

On the flip side to that opening of ignorant minds to that of knowledge,
would it not then depend on the education that is being provided…
provided to give this particular gift of knowledge?

So when it is a state-run, state-funded institution offering said education,
aka the knowledge provider, well then…
I suppose you get a state’s worth of education/knowledge…be that for good or bad.

Thus we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there might be just a wee tad of skewing
buried in all that educating…a skewing that leans back toward the state…but I digress.

Today’s thoughts are not exactly about education…
or maybe they actually are…I’ll let you decide that once you take all of this in…
as to whether or not you learn something…be it good or bad.

Today’s post is really just a post about a particular type of lesson…
a lesson which focuses on a new and troubling trend.

The other day I read a rather interesting article by Newt Gingrich.

Now you can say what you will about the former Speaker of the House,
but being a close friend of the Speaker’s late first wife and mother to his two daughters,
I can certainly say my fair share…
however, I will say what she always graciously said…” he may be a lot of things but out of
all those things, he is extremely smart…”
She even would often use the word brilliant…

Despite having every right to say some other choice and more fitting words…
my friend would always opt to share the good by choosing to offer a positive
observation. And in this case, it was certainly true.

So with that being said, we should know that the Speaker, in turn, knows his stuff…
especially when it comes to his passions…
and those passions are history and politics.

So in this recent article, Mr. Gingrich shares both his knowledge
and passion with regards to a dangerous opening of Pandora’s box by the Democratic party.

The article’s opening sentence says it all:
“a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) wrote an article for
Vox explaining the movement’s goals –
to end capitalism and radically change America.”

It seems that Mr. Gringrich is concerned, as well we all should be,
with this current growing trend in the Democratic Party…
the trend of a hatching of a hybrid in the guise of youth, vigor, newness, and relativism…
that being the Democratic Socialists.

Let those two words sink in slowly…
Democratic + Socialist.

Democratic + Socialist = a demon in the making

Or so says our professor for the day, Professor Gingrich.
(who did indeed teach college classes)

I never thought I’d live long enough to hear Socialism as a viable option in the US
coming from those other than odd little fringe groups…
so maybe hell is indeed freezing over because these youthful, truly ignorant, idealist
candidates are actually being elected.

And I suppose we can thank Bernie Sanders for unlocking this proverbial box and
gleefully lifting the lid.
But I suspect our thanks can go back even farther than Mr. Sanders.

Gingrich goes on to quote Meagan Day, a member of the East Bay Chapter of DSA,
as saying “in the long run, Democratic Socialists want to end capitalism.”

Who else vehemently denounced capitalism???… Let’s think…
What did our history lessons teach us?
Was is Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, the Bolsheviks, the Communists…?

Gingrich observes that the recently elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
who defeated a senior Democrat in New York City’s 14th Congressional District
as now going on a whirlwind media tour,
spreading the gospel of socialism.

This explicit goal of ending capitalism makes clear what Ocasio-Cortez meant when she
said cryptically in a recent interview, that
“capitalism has not always existed in the world,
and it will not always exist in the world.”

This is a clear threat to the system which has made us prosperous and the envy of the world,
but I appreciate the honesty.
Ultimately, the United States is a democratic republic.”

But Gingrich actually prefers to look further back to a different Nation that underwent
its own revolution of change…
all the way back to the French Revolution.

He does so because he notes that “however, the second notable item in Day’s
article suggests that Democratic Socialists don’t value democracy all that much.
Day also identified herself as a staff writer at a New York-based,
socialist magazine called Jacobin.
In fact, several members of the Democratic Socialists of America are writers and
editors at Jacobin magazine.”

And so who cares whether or not a magazine opts to name itself Jacobin
or that there are those who desire to identify themselves as Jacobian?

Gingrich continues with our history lesson…

The Jacobins were the most violent and radical political group of the French Revolution.
Led by Maximilien Robespierre, the group responded to a growing backlash against
the revolution by executing anyone their so-called Committee of Public Safety
deemed insufficiently loyal.

Gingrich makes note that the estimate is that over 40,000 people were beheaded by the
guillotine for being considered in opposition to the Jacobian rule.
Gingrich then shares a moving true story about a play which he and his wife attended
a few years ago that told the story of a group of nuns who were beheaded for not
denouncing their faith and adhering to the Jacobian way…

“A few years ago, Callista and I saw “Dialogues of the Carmelites”
at the Washington National Opera.
It is a moving, true story of the Carmelite nuns who refused to denounce Christ at
the peak of the Reign of Terror.
(The French Revolution was virulently anti-Catholic –
many churches were closed and reopened as “Temples of Reason.”)
The nuns were beheaded for their unwillingness to denounce their faith.
Moments before the guillotine dropped,
they displayed the power of God’s love by singing hymns and renewing their vows.

A few years later we visited the Picpus Cemetery in Paris.
It holds the graves of the martyred nuns and more than 1,300 victims of the Terror
in a six-week period of 1794.
It is a very sober reminder of what the Jacobins did during the Reign of Terror.
It is not a record for which any American should advocate.”

And so if you’re one to think that all that is in the past…these are just superficial
coincidences Gingrich cautions…
“It is hard to imagine a modern-day Reign of Terror happening in America.
But consider the recent phenomenon of outrage mobs on social media demanding people
be fired and ostracized for expressing un-PC points of view.

Think about the left-wing activists taking over classrooms to prevent conservative
voices from speaking.
Think about the rash of people being attacked for wearing MAGA hats.
Think about the violence of Antifa.

Perhaps it is not so difficult to imagine.”

So perhaps those new demons who are currently being unleashed from this newly unlocked box
shouldn’t be so full of themselves as it would behoove them to remember the fates of previous
generations and their revolutionaries…

Trotsky was assassinated by means of an icepick when Stalin sent the secret
police to Mexico to find him.
While Robespierre’s very own Committee of Public Saftey turned on him…
arresting him, placing him in the very cell where he had once sent Marie Antoinette
as he eventually met the same fate with the guillotine.

So before these new “socialists” begin claiming a new day in this brave new world, a look back to
a history lesson just might be in order… they might be surprised who it is crying
“OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/18/newt-gingrich-democrats-have-no-idea-what-demons-are-unleashing.html

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

God’s perspective verses man’s

I never give God thanks for loving me, because he cannot help it;
whether he would or no it is his nature to.

Mester Eckhart


(a stormy surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

An aged man, whom Abraham hospitably invited to his tent,
refused to join him in prayers to the one spiritual God.
Learning that he was a fire-worshiper,
Abraham drove him from his door.
That night God appeared to Abraham in a vision and said:
“I have borne with that ignorant man for seventy years;
could you not have patiently suffered him one night?

The Talmud