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

I must decrease

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability
to see your worth.”

Anonymous


(a broken stem of blooming rhododendron floats across the lake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the course of the past couple of weeks following Dad’s death,
I am finding my world shifting.
There is so much to do, but it is vastly different from what I had been doing.
From the endless driving to the running of errands, the picking up of meds,
to the seeing of doctors, nurses, hospitals…
to buying groceries, paying bills and lastly, to sitting a sad and difficult vigil.

Now all of that is different.

There is change.

There are messes that now need sorting.
There are still many bills…as bills don’t die when we die.
This part of the process is hard, laborious and full of uncertainties.
Much like before, there are open ended questions and
just like in that time of before where there was transition,
so too a shift of all that is has become most apparent.

For now it is a matter of picking up the pieces…
the pieces that fell when Dad took his last breath…
And now a good many of those pieces simply leave me less then thrilled
that I must even tend to them.

There will be more on all of this once the dust settles..
and that might be in several months…

But the change has made me think.
The caregivers who had seen me every single day for the past several months see me now
about 2 to 3 times a week if that…as there is a shift in family dynamics…
So there is mourning and frustration in the change…
They continue to look to me to direct the course of the ship…
Despite my now being sole overseer of all that was and all that remains…
I have stepped back with a controlled intent.

There are lessons here…and some are hard…for all involved.
There has been frustration and even resentment…
but I know God’s hand is the actual hand which still guides this ship.
I am learning to be still, silent and serving as I wait.

I don’t understand it all.

Yet I wrestle with sorrow and absence mixed with a dose of bitter anger
all directed toward the man who I just lost…
He’s gotten us in a bit of a pickle with poor and selfish choices..
as I’m seeing just how much he didn’t consider the after effects….
This as I have to put his discarded pieces back together again…
because as I said…in death we, nor any of our messes, readily disappear.

However, this morning as I sat in another day’s nightmare now known
as Atlanta’s traffic disaster, the words echoed by the Baptist flooded my head…
“He must increase as I must decrease….”

As I ponder my role in regards to the caregivers and my stepmother…
all which is decreasing…
Much to the chagrin of those caregivers.
However their roles in our lives will end when April ends.
They will then move on elsewhere to new assignments.

For good or bad there is change.
And there is decrease…
while others and other things must increase….

But as for me, when all is said and done, to remain faithful…
To feel God’s hand steadying my shoulder lest I step out or speak out of turn
in unbridled harsh emotion as…

continued lessons during this holiest of weeks come readily into focus…..

The one who comes from above is above all;
the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.
The one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God,
for God gives the Spirit without limit.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 3:30-36

the direction of bricks and mortar

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good,
and melt at other’s woe.

Homer

DSC00070
(Julie Cook / 2015)

Currently feeling most grieved over the latest madness sweeping across this
great nation of ours…
what with the divisiveness and hateful discourse bombarding our daily lives…
Of the recent marches and demonstrations…
with now high school kids adding to the mix…

My thoughts shift to relationships…
meaningful and significant relationships…
To those components of mortar and to the building blocks…
to all that builds and creates a base
a community…

to those footings…
to the foundations…
and to the resulting communions we build…

Thoughts shift to those who have crossed my own life…
to those who imprinted and imparted upon me…
a betterment,
a lastingness,
an endurance..

where would I be without such…

Today I ran across a post I’d written 2 years ago…
oddly it was just sitting out there on the internet…
under a particular search word…

It seemed rather timely so I decided to borrow a portion it for today’s post…
because it recounts the importance of a life that helped to form my own life.

For I now see that our youth currently need individuals in their lives who are strong…
those who don’t mind taking time…
those who aren’t afraid of taking a risk …
Those who want to help…
to mould,
to shape,
and to guide.

For our kids need to hear the words “don’t” and “no”…
as well as “good” and “job well done”
they need to be loved and nurtured…
not ignored or simply turned out…
they need to be disciplined and held accountable
not left unbridled or excused…
they need to be given directions…
but not carried…

Because they will seek out those individuals…
that communion and community..

the concern will be to whom and to what….

excerpt–original date Jan 12, 2015…

Being able to express myself was always important.
I most often found that freedom in the process of simply writing.
First, as a young girl, in the form of a journal / diary,
then as I grew older,
it came through the writing of letters.

It was in the writing of letters where I allowed myself to fully express my thoughts.
It was the one place my often frustrated brain could and would be allowed to soar.

In the days before computers, emails and word documents…
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–
especially the letters I’d write that bordered more along the lines of epistles,
those lengthy and meaty tome like lettes to my godfather–a long retired Episcopal priest.
He passed away late December at the age 94.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in many a previous post.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words,
despite the large dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought… as I would think much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without a judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement or warning,
lessons or simply the “if I were you”…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman,
where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.

He would never say “yes” or “no” but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance,
of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

And so as I currently find myself surveying a sea of rising national angst..
My thoughts now wander to those meaningful and significant relationships that we form…
those unique and timely bonds offered by the mentors and the role models amongst us…

To what direction are they now pointing…
To what sort of guidance do they long to impart…
To what sort of mortar and foundation do they wish to use…
and does anybody really still care…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23

(The Very Reverend David Browning Collins 1922-2016)

A coach teaches a profound lesson

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.”

Jim Henson

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As any educator worth their salts will tell you…

No…

wait….

let’s not make this just a teacher thing…

As any person who has ever worked with young people, will tell you…
a visible and physical lesson will go further in making a profound impression
and lasting remembrance than any lecture, paper or book.

Currently it appears as if there are many of us who are dumbfounded, flummoxed, sad
and down right angry as to the widespread level of disrespect currently rippling though
this country as far as our flag, our national anthem, the office of the president,
etc, etc, etc…
are each concerned.

Why don’t they get it???!!
we shout at the television when each new “protest” is broadcast.

Well today I saw a teachable moment about this very issue that should be shared.

My husband and I had gone to Home Depot in search of some sort of downspout
water thing…
There we were in the cavernous building,
wandering far off to some lone aisle searching deep within the bowels
of all things home improvement…
my husband seeking as I wandered behind a few steps pondering
if I should go find some plants that might need a new home….
when I was jolted back to the current moment as I heard
the alert on my phone informing me that I had
just received an email.

It was one of those forward things from my cousin.
Some of those things are interesting and good,
while some of those are utterly stupid or trash.

Curious, I clicked on it.
A couple of moments in,
I hollered out to my husband to halt in his tracks and come look at this.

There we stood, the two of us alone on a mostly forgotten aisle,
in a massive home improvement store,
on a Sunday afternoon,
staring at my phone with tears now streaming down our faces….

For you see…in this forwarded video clip we see a coach who is living and teaching
by example to each one of his players…

He offers a profound teaching moment to a group of young men as to why they are to
spend those early 2 minutes prior to each of their ball games giving their flag, their
National Anthem and their Country their full attention and respect….