immovable and unswerving

Be one of the small numbers who finds the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven.
Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost.
Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow;
the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(a late season flitery visits what blooms remain /Julie Cook / 2019)

I admit that I was unfamiliar with both of our guest speakers this morning.

But it was the Dominican monk, the Venerable Louis of Grenada, that drew in my attention,
in part because of his book.
I was rather intrigued by the title of his book written in 1555, The Sinner’s Guide.

While doing a little background research into this centuries-old book, it appears this “guide
has quite the staying power as it has been compared to Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ”

It caught my eye because my name was right there in the title…The “Sinners” Guide.

Because are not all of our names in that title?

Both of our guests today, who offer us their words of wisdom and faith, remind us that
there are no middle paths but rather only two…
a wide path and a very narrow path…and our’s must be the narrow…
the more difficult but the only way.

We are reminded not to follow the majority of the herd as they are actually lost.
Much like the proverbial lemmings racing precariously toward the cliff of demise.

We are told not to put our trust nor hope in this world for it is rife with vanity,
malice, falsehood, and arrogance.

Be wary of false doctrine but rather remain steadfast…immovable with our goodness
unswerving in our faith…

“What is this brightness—with which God fills the soul of the just—but that clear knowledge
of all that is necessary for salvation?
He shows them the beauty of virtue and the deformity of vice.
He reveals to them the vanity of the world, the treasures of grace,
the greatness of eternal glory, and the sweetness of the consolations of the Holy Spirit.
He teaches them to apprehend the goodness of God, the malice of the evil one, the shortness of life,
and the fatal error of those whose hopes are centered in this world alone.
Hence the equanimity of the just.
They are neither puffed up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity.
‘A holy man’, says Solomon, ‘continueth in wisdom as the sun,
but a fool is changed as the moon.’ (Ecclus. 27:12).
Unmoved by the winds of false doctrine, the just man continues steadfast in Christ,
immoveable in charity, unswerving in faith.”

Venerable Louis Of Grenada, p. 135
An Excerpt From
The Sinner’s Guide

Innocence and wonderment…

“In any case, you must remember, my dearest,
that the main strength of innocence is innocence itself.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
Albert Einstein

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(an alert fawn in the backyard / Julie Cook / 2016)

It is now time that we all just stop for a moment.

Time to stop with all the…
malice and ill intent.

It is time to stop the…
polarization,
the divisions,
the anger,
the lies,
the slandering,
the accusatory nonsense…

It is time we stop just long enough….
Just long enough to remember…
to remember and recall that there is still a world…
a world where we can find…
innocence,
joy,
wonderment,
rapture,

A world still full of the…
amazing
miraculous
mystifying
and the loving…

A world where God’s Grace still remains…

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 8-10

There is both compassion and malice in this world

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

Every day in the year there comes some malice into the world, and where it comes from is no good place.
Lady Gregory

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(a tiny friend trapped in a garage, weary and waiting for assistance / Julie Cook / 2014)

As I opened the kitchen door, I heard the familiar sound of heavy and intense buzzing–as if a swarm of giant bees was laying siege to my garage. And as it is, I have grown somewhat accustomed to this sound, as I immediately did an about face heading back in the house to fetch the telescopic duster.

For whatever reason, during the summer months, as long as the hummingbirds have taken up residence at my feeders, inevitably one of their clan seems to find its way into my garage yet cannot find its way out.

Our garage / carport is finished on the inside and is painted white. I’ve often wondered about the color white and whether or not the hummingbirds, or birds in general for that matter, have any sort of depth perception as far as color is concerned. Once in the carport, the birds frantically fly about the ceiling, as if they think it is the sky and they should simply be able to take off as it were. Instead, the tiny birds exhaust themselves buzzing along the ceiling, around and around hoping to be free of the invisible barrier. Sometimes they head to the windows with the same flying intensity as if the glass boundary will magically disappear. As the tiny birds grow increasingly fatigued, they often light on the windowsill or garage door lift. This is where I come in. . .

Careening my neck to an almost backwards breaking point, I precariously wander about the carport holding up a telescopic pole used for dusting ceiling fans following the erratic flying pattern, attempting to get near enough to the small lost creature, hoping he or she will grow so weary that they will simply perch on the soft duster at the end of the pole.
I look much like I’m practicing some sort of odd balancing circus act.

Inevitably and thankfully the bird lands. If I’m lucky, I can gently lower the pole, dipping it low enough, past the overhead garage door, allowing the exhausted bird to fly off to freedom. Sometimes they still have just enough energy to panic, taking off again for another round of “fly around the ceiling.” Other times, if the bird lights on the windowsill, I can usually crawl up on the brick ledge, gingerly picking up the weary bird from off the sill and gently carry it out to freedom—as was the case yesterday.

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(a grateful and soon to be liberated friend / Julie Cook / 2014

Happily no one is any worse for the wear as I can often be found later in the day sitting on the back deck reading and watching the feeders when, out of the blue, one of the birds darts under the awning, right up to my face hovering around a bit as if to offer a bit of thanks before darting back out to the feeders. A most humbling interaction with one of Nature’s smallest creatures.

And as I sat yesterday afternoon, thinking about my encounter with a tiny bird in need of a little help, a little human compassion, my thoughts turned to the latest tragedy which unfolded in the Middle East this week with the execution of Steven Sotloff. Was it not just last week that our attentions were turned to the execution of the American journalist James Foley?!

Executions which are more reminiscent of medieval times verses a modern 21st century. The sinister and malicious, if not sadistic, performance of the macabre. It is beyond my soul how a person can raise a knife to another person’s throat and proceed to cut off that individual’s head. I simply can’t wrap my mind around that. And maybe that’s part of the problem. This middle aged American wife, mother, educator, cannot comprehend what it takes, what exists inside of a person, do such a horrific act on another living soul.

Frighteningly, there is obviously a cold and empty detachment.
Perhaps this is the living definition of Evil.

I understand that there are sick individuals out there who commit horrific crimes–for a myriad of reasons all equally twisted and sick. Yet we must be mindful that the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known by its acronym, ISIS, is not composed of a single sick deprived individual—rather, it is a movement. A movement that is growing at an alarming, frighteningly and exponentially rate of high speed.

Oh I suppose we can say what we will about journalists who perhaps get a little too close to the action in the name of capturing “the story.” Some may say that these reporters and journalist know the risks going in. I suppose we may say the same about the aid workers who rush in to war torn and disease ridden countries in order to offer just that–aid, comfort, help and hope to the millions of innocent souls caught in the middle of chaos or those unfortunate enough to live in plague ridden areas with limited medical care. . .

Yet I for one do not buy the excuses of the jaded who write these individuals off as merely folks who unfortunately end up on the wrong side of the statistics of the risk.
No human being deserves to suffer mercilessly at the hand of another human being.
How empty my words sound to the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

About this same time last year, a Paris based organization, Reporters without Borders, reported that the estimate was that there were at least 60 “news providers” being held captive, or “detained”, as well as 110 or more individuals who had already been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups across the globe.

Kidnappings, torture, exorbitant ransoms and ultimately grizzly executions.
All for what?
A new world order?
A new dogma?
World domination?
Sounds all rather Orwellian, yet ominously, it seems to be a very real and swiftly growing worry and threat.

Recently reported by a New York Times investigation, published last month, “Al Qaeda and its affiliates had brought in at least $125 million through ransom payments since 2008, including $66 million in 2013. That money came largely from European governments.”
As reported yerterday in The Guardian, “After telling MPs that the UK would not pay ransoms to secure the release of hostages in the hands of Islamic State militants, the prime minister, David Cameron, said Britain and the US would step up attempts to persuade other governments to cease making such payments.”

There are currently three known aid workers being held by ISIS. One being a 26 year old female American who was kidnapped last year. An Italian and Brit are the other two known captives. The American aid worker, as had her European and British counterparts, had gone to Syria, by her own volition, to offer her help, comfort, support, hope–to countless numbers of refugees, many of whom are children caught up in the tangled web of extremist chaos.

We may choose to sit back, reading our papers and watching our news reports of such stories as these–stories of the ugliness of “over there.” We may have missed the fact that there are now American and European citizens who are counted among the members of this growing extremist movement. We may continue feeling comfortable and safe in our chairs in our homes as we read and watch the news about this latest war. . .over there. . .

What of the aid workers? What dare say we will be their fate at the hands of these depraved terrorists? There has been a confirmed ransom demand of 6.6 million dollars for the American. Our government has long said it will not negotiate with terrorist. I agree. Obviously David Cameron agrees. Yet if I was the mother of that aid worker, I know I would feel differently. I would most likely beg, borrow and steal to have my child safely back in my arms. The question begs to be answered. . .can nations continue paying barbaric thugs astronomical amounts of money, which simply in turn goes to further funding the deepening madness and chaos of thuggery and terrorism. . .a precarious price of extortion and blood money given in the name of buying, albeit a brief, peace of mind?

How long will the cost of that peace of mind last until the next demand of payment to the proverbial piper?
The concern should be that groups such as ISIS will not be content to merely take hold of a town, a city, a country. They are parasitic and they are hungry. Their hunger is ravenous and knows no limit.

The compassion of the innocents, in this case the aid workers, has been met with the malicious hate of evil–in this case, a cohesive malevolent movement. It is merely a matter of time until we learn the next move in this latest and costly game of chess. May our thoughts and prayers remain steadfast for theses individuals and their familiars.

When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail.
Pearl S. Buck