carrying the cross

When the son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:8


(fall persimons / Julie Cook / 2019)

Where confusion reigns, God cannot dwell!
Let us not be afraid!
What more wonderful gift is there to offer to mankind than the truth of the Gospel?
Certainly, Jesus is demanding.
Yes, following him requires carrying his Cross each day!

Robert Cardinal Sarah

What separates Christians from the rest of the pack…

“Life [had] replaced logic.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(a soon to bloom peony / Julie Cook /2018)

The image of the bloom used in today’s post is that of a peony.
I call this peony my resurrection plant because I bought it two summers ago, in July.
It was a very expensive plant.
Yet anyone living in the deep South knows you don’t sink a lot of money into a
plant, dig a hole in the hot dry ground, plop in said expensive plant and expect it to live…
especially in July and especially in a summer experiencing a full-blown drought.

I wrote about this plant last spring and the reason as to why I call it a resurrection plant—
of which you can read from the following link…
but that is not the true gist of today’s post

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/resurrections/

Today’s post is a reminder of what the Resurrection is all about…
and if you are a Chrisitan, it’s a reminder of what that exactly means to you.

The reminder rests in the fact that we’ve just celebrated Easter…

Easter being holiest celebration, besides the birth of Christ, within the Christian Chruch…
Some would argue that it is the sole holiest celebration…but I suppose we can’t have a
resurrection of our Savior without his immaculate conception and birth…
all of which supersedes the ability of man’s small mind to grasp and process…
hence so much of the consternation in mankind since that very first miraculous morning.

After watching the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gavin Ashenden, I’ve come to realize that
there are many in our fold who really don’t know what they think about
the Ressurection…
And what is even more startling, many members of the clergy don’t quite
know what to make of it either…

In a nutshell, it is the what which separates Christianity from every other religion.

How in the world can you offer anyone, let alone speak of such things as
Hope, Salvation, Grace, if you can’t find the words to say that you believe, without
a doubt, in the Ressurection of Jesus?

You can’t.

Because the Resurrection is the defining key to our faith.
It is the impetus to faith…the belief in that which is a mystery, undefinable,
and greater than oneself.

Without the Resurrection,
Christianity is nothing… nor is it any different from a myriad of other belief systems.

C.S. Lewis explained this very point in 1950

I heard a man say,
“The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival,
evidence that the human personality survives death.”
On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men,
the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought.
Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened.
Christ had defeated death.
The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.
This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival.
I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival.
On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion,
Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.
The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection
as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death;
they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.
Something new had appeared in the universe:
as new as the first coming of organic life.
This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”.
A new mode of being has arisen.
That is the story.
What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose,
whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis.
That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe,
down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him.
The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost.
It is either lunacy or lies.
Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

C.S. Lewis,
“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

So if you claim to be a Chrisitan and yet find yourself unable to acknowledge the mystery
and the might behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to rethink your allegiance.
And if you are a member of the clergy and find the words and concept uncomfortable,
you need a new profession because the calling, was not for you….

what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Urgency

“How much does one imagine, how much observe?
One can no more separate those functions than divide light from air,
or wetness from water.”

Elspeth Huxley

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

DSCN1267
(Remnants of stain glass, Bunratty Castle / County Clare / Julie Cook / 2015)

At some point or another, we will all find ourselves at a crossroads.
We will be confronted by a choice.
Left?
Right?
Perhaps even, back….

It will be at such times that the Spirit of God will be resting His hand upon our shoulder.
He will be nudging, or perhaps pulling, or more urgently yanking us…
For the path we are to choose is crucial…dare one might even say, dire.

We certainly may not discern the current quandary of choice in direction as spiritual…
especially if we do not consider ourselves to be such…
In fact, as we stand before this choice of left, right or back,
the last thing we are considering is our belief in a god…
or whether God would be, could be, the source of our quandary.

Beginning this blog 3 or 4 years ago (I’ve lost track) my initial desire was to sprinkle out a few little cookie crumbs here and there….a little bit of this and that…always with a spiritual sense about it all, but still more hodge podge than not.

Then a trip to Ireland and an encounter with someone I’d never known prior, and all of what I thought or imagined changed.

My original intent for dabbling in writing, sharing and creativity were keyed more into my life’s experiences—that of retired high school teacher, artist, Christian, wife, mother, daughter of a man living with Alzheimers, a lover of cooking, an adopted child, etc….

But then all of that shifted after Ireland.

It’s not so much that one must take some grand adventure or trip in order to feel something seismic…
not in the least.
Seismic can take place sitting in ones car while stuck in rush hour traffic.
It matters not the place nor time for seismic.
When the Spirit touches our shoulder,
and the original intentions lift, revealing our truer purpose,
that is when we can begin to finally see with the utmost clarity.

And it just so happened that I felt that seismic shift while sitting at a dinner table in a country not my own.

No longer did I feel compelled to rattle on about the random, but I felt a sense of urgency in speaking the Truth.
The Truth as in the Word of God.

Not like some itinerate tent evangelist.
It’s not like I’d been down some crazy bad path in life, had some catastrophic mishap, then bam,
it was a religious conversion of the utmost that needed sharing.

No, it wasn’t any of that…
actually quite the contrary.

I am not a fundamentalist.
I am not a Pentecostalist.
I am not gregarious in my faith.
I am not a theologian who is versed in every verse of scripture or translation of the bible.
Nor am I a mystic who has visions.
No, I’ve never had a vision…migraines yes, visions no.

Yet I knew last fall that my sharing, my words, my offerings were no longer to be my own.
There was a sense of urgency placed in my being—
time was / is of the essence.

God, His Truth and His Word…have never been readily accepted by man.
For we are a fickled lot.
Our internal struggle for independence often precludes our understanding of need.

The filters of the world have always lowered over our eyes, changing our view of the Truth…
Altering our perception of what is real and what is false
We have been told lies and we have allowed those lies to become our truth….

The lies are slick, told by a master in telling tales.
They come guised in forms which speak to our brokeness…
To those areas where we are least secure.
They speak to our ego and bravado and to our desire to having it all.

They are thinly veiled in soothing comfort…
as they tell us that we truly are ok and that our desires are, in turn, also ok.

We are told that we can have our cake and eat it too.
We are told that everything goes as long as we are happy..
because isn’t that all that matters…our happiness?

We are fed a bunch of garbage about fairy tales and fables..
That the stars point more to Life’s truth than the supposed Word of an unseen made up god.
Yet within those stars is found His very hand…

His word is mocked and scorned as are those who claim it as their own.
Misguided, ignorant, weak, clueless lemmings chasing after that which is
neither seen, felt nor heard…

That is until we stand at the crossroads,
a place we will each find at ourselves at one point or another…
We will have to decide…
Left?
Right?
or back

That internal struggle will rage…
and you will either try and ignore it or you will know it for what it is…
and at that point, everything will become clear and you will never be the same…

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

wrath vs iniquity

“God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe.”
A.W.Tozer

DSCN2351
(a crisp February sky / Troup Co, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

When He arises to put down iniquity and save the world from irreparable moral collapse, He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgement in history of the world has been a holy act of preservation. The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably untied. God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that takes the life of her child”

A.W. Tozer

With a simple sweeping scan of humankinds’ landscape, the general conclusion is one of deep concern.
The health and wellbeing of mankind seems, at the present time, most dire and even quite grim.
Spiraling and spinning out of control…tis the current condition.
Helplessness the common feeling …

Yet God neither sleeps nor slumbers.
A day of reckoning rests along the horizon
His holy wrath verses man’s depravity and iniquity
The health and wellness of all Creation demands His attention
as it shall no longer wait…

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:18-20

3 minutes ’til

DSCN0571 (1)
(old wall clock in the Jameson Distillery, Midleton, Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Doomsday Clock

A metaphorical clock created in 1947 by a group of scientists who all had a hand in creating the nuclear bomb.

A clock whose hands, when set at midnight, would signify the almost certain and impending demise of all mankind.

Interesting that those who helped to create “the bomb”… the very thing touted as being the be all to end all wars…in turn create a clock marking the end of mankind….hummmmm

The clock is currently set at three minutes ’til midnight.
The only other time, during its 69 year existence that the clock edged closer to the ominous midnight hour was in 1953 when it was set at 2 minutes ’til midnight.

What pray tell, one may ask, could ever be a determining criteria to the fretful moving of the two hands ever closer to or further from the dreaded bewitching midnight hour?

Well the obvious threat would be that of nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons somewhere across the globe….
think Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia, the US, ISIS….you get the picture.

Global economic stability…or lack thereof…think IMF, stock markets, world banking, black markets, recessions, depressions….

The precarious health of the environment….think global warming, global cooling, locusts, plagues, floods, erosion, pollution….

Seeing any or all of the latest headlines ringing round the world and you can get some sort of idea to the scope of “criteria” as to what makes the doomsday hands tick closer to the proverbial pumpkin turning, glass slipper seeking, fairytale stroke of midnight turned reality tale type of harbinger of cataclysmic death and destruction.

Yet I’m not really certain as to why we need a group of world renowned scientists, nobel prize winners and leaders in all things academic amassed together in some sort of board room or labortory telling us we’re almost ready to implode. One look at the news and anybody with any sense can plainly see the alarmingly rapidly increasing impending demise of mankind splattered across every news outlet from Sydney to Katmandu, from Spokane, to Liverpool, from Tibilsi to…..you get the idea.

It all reminds me of those homemade beacons of foreboding doom stuck in the ground along wayward roadsides declaring to one and all… “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR”

And yet, I’ve not noticed a run on the churches…
You know, like when the weathermen start predicting an impending storm and suddenly all of humanity descends upon every grocery store within the bullseye of the storm in order to snatch up every loaf of bread and every gallon of milk as if those two things alone are the only things that can sustain us throughout the duration of hunkering down and battening down the hatches…

One might imagine that when the rallying cry of doom is sounded by those in the know, the average citizen would feel as if he or she may want to get serious with that whole getting right with one’s God concept, as in the time has come….filling the local pews to the brim as everyone jockeys for position while seeking the saving grace before the you know what hits the fan….

Or maybe not…

Maybe everyone is just so jaded, so gloom and doomed out…so hardened of heart…
as in over it…
as in sick and tired of thinking about the dreaded end…
merely preferring to think that destruction and mayhem are either over rated or merely part of the inevitable and that there’s just not avoiding the inevitable.
I actually think one of the networks has a new show, a black comedy, coming out focusing on the very concept of living life in the wake of “the end”….

At any rate, I found the story as well as the fact that the BBC found it necessary to report that the hands are somewhat stuck…as in they aren’t moving, most interesting. It’s three minutes ’til and that seems to be it for now…no moving backwards or forwards—and depending on one’s outlook, maybe that’s a good thing…at least we’re not moving forward, with maybe a chance to go backwards…

However, given the precarious global situation I don’t think backwards is going to be an option anytime soon.
And whereas man may need reminding every once in a while that he’s sitting on the brink of total annihilation, I am reminded of many a biblical passage which addresses this rather interesting position we’ve gotten ourselves into….

…And yet, I am not running about like Henny Penny proclaiming that the sky is falling…rather I am resting in the peace of the knowledge that no matter what may or may not blow at this supposed midnight hour, my life rests in the blood of the lamb, in the saving Grace of the One True Resurrected Savior of Jesus Christ.
Come what may, I am His and He is mine—
and there is a great deal of contentment found in that one small fact…

Here’s a link to the story…
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35412454

Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

the danger in losing

In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it’s more dangerous to lose than to win.
George Bernard Shaw

“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.”
Martin Luther

DSCN1899 (1)
(the knights of St Patrick / St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

TO ARMS
TO ARMS…

The nightwatchman has sounded the alarm…

The time has come!

The Fortress is surrounded.

Are you ready?

The time has come to gather up your weaponry…
Take to your positions…
Set your sights
The gauntlet has been thrown down and it is
to you who must pick it up.

You have no choice but to accept this looming fight now before you…
For you have chosen this fate long ago.
You can either fight with intent or
try and flee as those poor souls, unaware…
Who try to flee when it is far too late and hope has long departed.
For yours is a fight unto the death…
the death of all mankind.

Be not lulled into complacency.
The enemy has rallied his army.
The walls will soon be breached.

Perhaps you could ignore it,
Pretending there is no advancement.
You may even attempt to convince yourself that there is no enemy…
just as so many have tried to do in the past…
even as they continue to do now, those who stand by your side, oblivious to the
advancing mayhem.
Maybe it’s just been a lot of hype, a mere distraction.
The alarmists and doomsday crowds are simply beating the war drums….
…again.

However be warned, the enemy is cunning.
He has a myriad of lying spies…
those who enjoy nothing more than to woo you into a sense of false security
The whispered lies of false flattery ooze like silky honey form their lips.

You must not be dismayed nor distracted..
for the battle of all eternity is raging…
Be not fooled nor deceived…
The enemy advances more rapidly than you’ve ever imagined.

To win is but a mere gain
But to lose will be a never ending agony with no hope of salvation…
You have been warned,
you have been called…
Take to your post now, for the Prince of princes has called His army to defend the kingdom
And you have been chosen to fight….

He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Daniel 8:25

the frivolity of the frivolous

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.

John Burroughs

DSCN0241
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.

Yet let us look more closely at a single word…

Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment

yet counter that with

Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit

One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…

Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.

And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…

With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.

And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.

One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.

The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.

Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.

Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.

Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….

Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….

It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.

Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…

A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.

When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.

Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.

A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.

We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.

We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….

DSCN0240
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

What do the wise among us see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:6-14

Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

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(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

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(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

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St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)