Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

God is dope

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it–
so by not getting what you’ve asked,
you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena

I had the pleasure of attending a corporate function yesterday at a large Atlanta corporation.
It was a great family affair.

I was very surprised when I heard a fellow over a loudspeaker addressing the large
crowd gathered, consisting of employees and their families, grateful that
“the Lord has provided us with such a beautiful day today for our party…”

“Wow,” I thought to myself…how many corporate events, other than Chick-fil-A,
will a person hear such words spoken publically to a large gathered crowd???
A crowd that is not gathered for some sort of church service but simply gathered?!

Hopeful was my immediate reaction.

Next, I saw a young lady walk past me wearing a shirt very similar to the one shown above,
albeit with gold lettering.

I laughed to myself, laughing over how our words and their meanings have evolved
with our ever-evolving culture.

Back in the day…as in back in my younger days, the word dope was another word for drugs…
usually hard drugs such as heroin.

So to see such a current catchphrase used, as well as worn,
in reference to the great I AM left me a bit taken aback.

Is the name of God to be emblazoned, worn across the body in such a fashion?

Is Elohim, El Shaddai to be merchandised and blended into the current culture as
trendy high fashion?
Just another glittery hip-hop fashion statement??

I don’t know.

Whereas some would argue that wearing such a shirt is a good thing as it proclaims
that one is obviously some sort of unashamed “believer”…
and yet I am left wondering if it is not actually the making of God into something He is not…
that being small…

Making God fit into our idea rather than His idea…
an idea of what it is to be GOD…the great I AM…
or rather something that is simply, as we now say, dope.

Sigh.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14

A small thank you to Bono in a growing world of ingratitude

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
G.K. Chesterton

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(Black eyed Susan / Seaside, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

If you don’t already know this little fact about me by now, let me just remind you—- I am not the most “digital” oriented individual in this age of electronic technological wonderment. I am happily, rather, a much more simpler person really. Perhaps considered old fashioned by some standards. Appreciating the straddling of two worlds–that of the “that was then”–“this is now” best of both worlds.

I had recently caught a glimpse somewhere, on some commercial, something about U2 offering some sort of free iTunes download. As this seemed to coincide with Apple unveiling their latest must have device, my most uninterested brain thought there was a correlation—thinking that if you got a new phone, a free download followed suit. I don’t know, like I said, I wasn’t really paying attention and it wasn’t really on my radar because I’m happy with my older version phone as I continue figuring out how it works—plus I’m just not an ardent music fan.

Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly like music. I actually love Jazz, Motown, Classical and contemporary Christian. I like some R and B, some top 40, but I just don’t cleave to it as I once did when I was much younger. I no longer listen to music when I’m in the car—preferring the sounds of quiet and silence—or perhaps more like the sounds of a rather raging world. That might have something to do with 31 years I spent in a classroom filled with the never ending deafening din of teenagers chattering, arguing, screaming, laughing, fighting, and never ever shutting their mouths.

So imagine my surprise the other morning when I journeyed downstairs to the basement for my morning ritual of bonding with my emotionless nemesis—aka my time on the elliptical, when there was a change of tune, literally on my playlist. I have a small selection of tunes downloaded to my phone which I turn to during my morning “workout”– aka death march, which helps to drown out my suffering, huffing, puffing and snorting.

I have 4 little classic U2 songs which pretty much sum up my routine. I know exactly which one and at what place I should be on my daily death march, aka workout, with the playing of each song. Two rounds get me near the end of my time of servitude and torture, aka workout, closing out with the finale of a rousing rendition of triumph from the band Macklemore.

Yesterday morning, suddenly following “Beautiful day” came a most unfamiliar tune–something about being raised by wolves. “What in the world” I could be heard uttering with breathless concern. Fumbling for my glasses, as I worked to balance keeping up my endless rhythm of stepping, I grabbed my phone to investigate what had taken control of my playlist.

Low and behold, it appeared that my playlist somehow connected to that invisible “cloud” of which seems to be the latest technological otherworldly invisible hangout, and I received the “free” U2 download.
Hummmm.
How’d that happen I wondered.
I don’t even know how to “go to the Cloud!!”
And what in the heck is the Cloud?
Where is it?
Why is it?
and really. . .
How in the heck does something invisible work for everyone on the planet?!
It’s all so, otherworldly. . .perhaps even alienesque, but I digress.

So as I continued my workout,my act of homage to health, listening to this new album (here is not the place nor time for a critique but I do find it all to be a bit dark and melodious but we must remember that Bono and the boys did grow up in Ireland during the height of a very sad chapter in Irish history known as “the Troubles”, but I digress as usual), it dawned on me that I needed to tell Bono and the boys “thank you”

In a day and time when a rather youthful society has grown accustomed to the ubiquitous BOGO (buy one get one), the free this and that attached to purchases of everything from food to clothes from electronics to even cars—all of which I call the marvelous marketing hook, the simple act of saying a proper “thank you” has been all but forgotten.

If, you the consumer, come in for a “free” test drive, we, the dealer will give you a new iPad. If you the consumer sign up for our insurance, we the company will give you a “free” cruise. If you the consumer sign up for our phone service, we the company will give you, not one, but two, free phones. And of course there are the department stores with their mega 70% off sales. . . Really? Do we honestly think we’re getting something next for nothing? Do we really think these mega department stores, with their crushing percentage sales, are giving away their profit margin without making money. . .woe to the naive.

Consumers are sadly being duped into thinking they save and gain, which leads to an unrealistic inflated sense of buying power— this false sense of power is produced by a frighteningly slick and savvy Product Marketing, super sales, economic selling engine. Nothing, and I mean nothing in our economy comes for free–despite that incentive cash loaded gift card Wally world just gave you for spending your money with them. There must be give and take—it’s just that the need to feed the proverbial consumer machine comes with a growing ravenous appetite in order to keep our accustomed sense of well being in tact–it is a vicious economic cycle that continues to spiral out of control.

And sadly, all of this economic game of cat and mouse comes with a jaded consumer market left ungrateful and simply wanting and hungry for more. Give us more glitz, glamorous goodies, shiny and slick tricks and baubles all in order to get us to buy–more.
The enticement has become expected.
We have created our very own ravenous consumer monster—a monster of expectation and assumption.
There is no gratitude, rather only ungraciousness and a hunger of wanting more.
If we, the consumer, do not receive our incentive of something for nothing, we rile against the
provider of service and goods.

All of which in turn has lead to a generation that has either forgotten how or never knew how to properly say “Thank You”

I grew up in a place and time when it was expected that if I, as a child, received any sort of present or even the slightest act of kindness, I was expected to offer a hand written thank you.
And don’t think I can’t see you. . . I see you rolling those eyes and I certainly can hear the snide asides of “how archaic” and “who in the world sends a thank you note, let alone actually writes anymore? Who needs to write when all we do is peck on keyboards. . .”

Yes I know, this blog is produced via a keyboard—but trust me I have stationary, I write and I love snail mail! My early years of conditioning and acknowledging the need to offer thanks, leads me to a constant stream of written cards, notes and hopefully an obvious gracious heart.

And as it now appears that I have received a small gift, a free download of a new album by the Boys of Belfast, I need, I want to send a proper Thank You.

And whereas I’m not quite certain as to where I would need to write Bono, or to whether or not he would ever see such a note, I shall use my tiny platform in the blogosphere to offer a heartfelt “thank you” for the “free” album that has mysteriously descended from the proverbial Cloud into my most humble little playlist.

Now whether or not there is an “alternative” reason behind this suddenly “free” kindness, I don’t know nor do I wish to sound ungrateful or assumptive as to motives. As my grandmother would tell me, you just need to write the Thank You note, end of sentence.
so. . .

Dear Mr Bono,
I wish to express here, in this small blog of mine, a humble offering of gratitude. . .
I wish to offer you a heartfelt thank you for. . .
Firstly making music—music which offers hope, joy, soulful examination, lessons of history and most importantly for the assistance of aiding a middle aged woman, who is working her way to the goal of better health, the incentive to simply keep plugging at it. You do all of this by offering the gifts and talents of self by setting your time and skills to the writing and creating the rhythms and beats of a talented music making machine.
Secondly I wish to thank you for the acts of kindness and compassion I know you offer to an ailing world. You unselfishly use your platform to bring recognition and awareness to causes and concerns, as well as a voice to many of the voiceless, in this often tragic and sad world.
And Thirdly Mr Bono, thank you for the album you just gave me for simply turning in. . .
Blessings for many more productive years. . .
Sincerely, Cookie

The hidden things you do not know

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:3

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(a pair of Cardinals/ Julie Cook / 2014)

The still small voice of God

Would we not assume it to be LOUD, LARGE, BIGGER THAN LIFE, ATTENTION GRABBING?
Yet experience teaches that God does not operate as we do or as we would–which is truly our blessing.

We might think a big name Ad agency should be hired. High tech, glitzy commercials, billboards, neon lights. . . run a spot during the Super Bowl—yeah that’s it, the Super Bowl. Use George Clooney or Heidi Klum as a spokesperson.
Offer some sort of give away—a new iPad, a new camera, a new car. A five nights, all expenses paid, trip to Disney–yeah that’s it, Disney.

Maybe we should Google the reviews to that Still Small Voice.
How many likes?
How many followers?
Has it been tweeted?
Can we follow it on FaceBook?
Has it opened on the NYSE?
Does it have a blog?
Can we clip a coupon, getting a discount?
Door busters, that’s it, does it offer a door buster to those who are the first to hear it?
Does its doors open extra early?
Does it offer extended hours?

Funny what we think to be attention grabbing and slick sales techniques—those things which we would employ as all important “hooks”—that which is loud, garish, flashy, tech savvy techniques, with millions spent in order to garner customers and sales. Our all engrossing sensory overload techniques. All this as we as a people are growing ever jaded with and by our savvy consumerism. It now takes something almost monumental to get our attention, our money, our business. As we continue searching and seeking something for nothing.

And yet God, the Almighty, Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, The Alpha and the Omega, the Omnipotent, the Creator, the Adonai. . . does not employ the tactics of mere mortals. He is not concerned with “out doing” the competition. He is not concerned without out selling the competitors.
The power is in the silence not in the noise.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19: 11-13)

A voice.
A whisper.
A simple spoken voice.
No screaming.
No shouting.
No yelling.
A voice.

We wonder where He is?
Why doesn’t He speak?
Why is He so silent?

The real question. . .
Is He?