The question…would St. Valentine still give his life today?

“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.

We’re off to celebrate a certain Mayor’s 2nd birthday.
Birthday on Monday.
Party on Saturday.

But before we get to birthday celebrations, we need to remember the day of all things Amore…
Yes, Dean Martin is indeed crooning in the background…

I wanted to stop long enough to consider the real person of Saint Valentine.

A Christian martyr versus the modern-day commercialized king of roses,
chocolate, and amore.

I caught this great piece yesterday on the Federalist regarding the life of the real
St. Valentine along with the story of his martyrdom.
The question posed was what might be St. Valentine’s thoughts regarding
today’s modern 21st century’s concept of marriage…?
Would he still sacrifice his life for today’s shifting thoughts on marriage?

Because that’s what St. Valentine did—he gave his life over to martyrdom for
performing Christian marriages— of which ran counter to the pagan thoughts of
marriage throughout Imperial Rome.
He would not bow to Ceaser nor Rome’s pagan gods.

This is a great piece—so please enjoy.
And just remember…there actually remains a real-life story…one of true agape love
which lies buried beneath those roses, chocolates and special romantic
dinners out.

Now off for the Mayorial celebrations!

Would Saint Valentine Be A Christian Martyr For Marriage Again Today?
We can especially feel an intense hostility towards the very idea of marriage that
Saint Valentine represented: the union of one man and one woman, centered on Christ,
and loyal until death.

One of the many legends about Saint Valentine is that he was a Christian priest martyred
by Roman authorities for secretly performing Christian marriages.
We used to think of Saint Valentine as the good guy in that scenario.
Today?
Not so much maybe, given the hostility towards the idea of Christian
marriage in our culture.

Saint Valentine would have committed a double offense by the time he was beheaded
in 270 A.D.
First, he defied Emperor Claudius II’s ban on marriage, a ban intended to create a
larger pool of effective soldiers by preventing young men from becoming attached to wives and families.
Second, as a Christian, Saint Valentine would have refused to bow down to false gods and the state,
and taught his brethren likewise.

The custom of burning incense to the pagan gods and to Caesar would have violated
the conscience of any devout Christian because it would be a public betrayal and rejection of Christ.
In addition, incense is significant in worship.

When the custom was in force, the authorities didn’t actually require anyone to
believe in the gods, but simply to go through the motions.
They thought it was no big deal. But it was a very big deal,
because the point was to enforce conformity and capture people’s consciences.

That’s not to say Christians uniformly resisted. Most likely obeyed,
while those who resisted were persecuted, even put to death.
Needless to say, this caused some division among Christians.

Christians during the great persecutions had a special example of
steadfastness in Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was 86 when he was arrested
and martyred around the year 155. According to tradition, when brought to judgment,
the Roman proconsul was astonished to see in Saint Polycarp a venerable old man
he did not want to execute.

So he offered him what he thought was a generous out: if Polycarp would just
toss a teensy pinch of incense (not even noticeable) to Caesar, then he would be set free.
Of course, Polycarp would have none of that. So he was burned alive instead.
Sacrificial Love versus Shiny Object Love

There are plenty of other legends about Valentine and other saints.
The point is that Valentine’s Day originated as a celebration of the sacrificial love
upon which Christian marriage is based. To “be true” is to be willing to make the
ultimate sacrifice for someone, and to proclaim that love for better or for worse, until death.

Valentine’s Day is still filled with beautiful traditions, such as exchanging
heartfelt notes of love and gifts to those we care about.
Who doesn’t enjoy the beauty of roses and the deliciousness of chocolate?
Commercialization is a given, and often a testament to things we love anyway.

But in many ways Valentine’s Day got hijacked by the shiny objects offered by
the sexual revolution: self-gratification, “free love,” etc. For many, sexual attraction
or hooking up is the only reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Self-sacrifice?
What’s that?
Sacrificial love doesn’t sell.
Often people seek out others who practice it because they prefer not to practice
it themselves.
Funny how that works.

By 1998, Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues” decided to dub the day “V-Day,”
which she said stood for “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.”
Well, not much love and sacrifice there. V-Day is still around, with the
mission of raising awareness of violence against women, “both cis and trans.”
(Since 1998, of course, the V-Day folks discovered that “men can have vaginas.”)

In any case, the V-Day project represents a trend that seeks to separate men and women—
on Valentine’s Day.
Such separation is the end result of the sexual revolution.
After all, the push to legally abolish all sex distinctions is nihilistic,
especially towards marriage.
Hostility Toward Christian Marriage

As V-Day plods its cheerless way onward, we seem to be witnessing a revolve back
in the direction of persecution. First, there was a celebration of Saint Valentine
and sacrificial love, particularly in Christian marriage.
Then the predictable focus on romantic love, much of it in the Victorian era
that popularized the sending of Valentine cards.

With the sexual revolution, we get a more direct focus on sex as the centerpiece
of the festivities.
Predictably, the sexual revolution then spawned resentment rather than love,
now by using the day to raise awareness of wife-beating and other forms of
violence against women.

We can especially feel an intense hostility towards the very idea of marriage that
Saint Valentine represented: the union of one man and one woman, centered on Christ,
and loyal until death. His crime was to bring a man and a woman together while
the state meant to keep them apart.
The marriages he performed were anathema both to Roman imperialism and to
today’s worship of hook-up culture, adultery, divorce, and abortion,
all celebrated in the media and pop culture.

The hostility runs so deep that Christians today are told they must pay homage
to same-sex unions or else lose their livelihoods. It is not only happening in the wedding industry,
as florist Baronelle Stutzman and baker Jack Phillips can attest.
It is happening in all of society’s institutions.

This hostility against the timeless understanding of marriage as the union
of one man and one woman runs so deep that it is a heresy being forced into the
churches themselves, often through evangelical defectors, such as Joshua Harris and David Gushee.
Gushee uses his title as an evangelical ethicist to warn other Christians that if
they don’t follow the LGBT agenda, they’ll be rightfully smeared as bigots.

In a 2016 op-ed, he warned: “Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance.
Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.”
(That goes for you too, Saint Valentine!)
This sounds like a recipe for forced love, which is quite the opposite of love.
Anyway, for good measure, Gushee shared a laundry list of those who have signed on to
this manufactured, sold-and-bought zeitgeist:
corporate America, academia, psychologists, etc.

That’s been the basic idea behind political correctness all along:
deny your conscience, shut up, and publicly prostrate yourself before the elitists
who operate this zeitgeist machine. Otherwise, to the stake with you.

Devout Christians know, of course, that this is the same old stuff served up to their
forerunners when they were told to bow down to pagan gods.
Yes, bowing down to the pagan gods was popular all right, since the alternative,
as always, was to be smeared and skewered. Just call it “the right side of history”
and you’re good to go.

Yet even one person who does not betray conscience in the face of
such punishment can change the world by injecting some truth into it.
Perhaps that is why the enemies of free conscience are on a constant
search-and-destroy mission to “come and find you.”
But in the end, true sacrifice—the kind that comes without deep-pocketed
lobbying—can breed real love. And, as Saint Valentine showed, real love can’t be forced.

Stella Morabito is a senior contributor to The Federalist

https://thefederalist.com/2020/02/13/would-saint-valentine-be-a-christian-martyr-for-marriage-again-today/?utm_source=The+Federalist+List&utm_campaign=f80b93b154-RSS_The_Federalist_Daily_Updates_w_Transom&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_cfcb868ceb-f80b93b154-84149832

running thread

Like Peter, the modern world has denied Christ.
Contemporary man is afraid of God, afraid of becoming his disciple.
He has said, “I do not want to know God.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah


(a sad little dried acorn in a very dry land / Julie Cook / 2019)

The other day I caught a lead-in title to a story by journalist Sam Sorbo
Conservatives must wade into [the] cultural fray –
yes, even making their own movies – to expand base

Meaning conservatives are more or less losing the proverbial culture war…but
the good news is that a complete loss is not yet a guarantee.

Sorbo notes that “while conservatives are leading in the battle of ideas,
they have all but surrendered the culture war.
Academia, entertainment and high- and low-culture are completely dominated by liberals.
Conservatives must enter the cultural fray if they’re going to expand their base.”

I think we might all agree that words such a conservative, morality, and Judaeo / Christian
run hand in hand while running against our ever-rising post-Christian progressive liberal world.

There is a war…and there are many of us who might agree that it seems
as if the ‘good-guys’ are losing?

If you consider yourself a Christian, a conservative, a Jew, a person of high moral principle…
then you have some sort of understanding of this “war…”

It is a war on both faith and values.
It is a war on the traditional family.
It is a war on the sanctity of marriage.
It is a war on the sanctity of life.

And thus those of you who visit cookieland know that I don’t believe in coincidence but
rather I believe in the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

There has been a word…a single word that is considered to be also an action…
That word, that action, is ‘prayer

I’ve noticed that the idea of prayer, or simply the word prayer,
has been a running thread recently here in the blogosphere,
as well as popping up in the things I’ve been reading and even in average conversations…
be they books or various on-line sites.

Prayer… the act of petition, asking, addressing, worshiping, praising…
a conscious practice of either or all mental, vocal or physical actions.

One of the quotes I shared the other day was a quote by St. Angela Merici.
The quote was actually more of a command.
A command she offered to others in the early 16th century…however it is a command
that is most timely and relevant these many centuries later.

St. Angela Merici, a religious educator and according to Wikipedia,
‘founded the Company of St. Ursula in 1535 in Brescia, Italy,
in which women dedicated their lives to the service of the Church through the education of girls.
From this organisation later sprang the monastic Order of Ursulines,
whose nuns established places of prayer and learning throughout Europe and,
later, worldwide, most notably in North America.

St. Angela Merici extolled her young female charges just as she extols us today to
“Pray, and get others to pray, that God not abandon His Church,
but reform it as He pleases, and as He sees best for us,
and more to His honour and glory.”

Most of you know I’m currently working my way through a powerful book by Catholic
Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Day Is Now Far Spent

It is a powerful rallying cry of the faithful—not simply the Catholic
faithful, but rather a cry for the entire global Christian faithful.

Cardinal Sarah is very candid about the ills of our current state of affairs…
ills both in and outside of the Chruch body.
The Cardinal shares that both fasting and prayer are the two crucial weapons that he
relies upon during this spiritual battle, we now find ourselves facing.

He reminds us that…
“We have abandoned prayer.
The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere.
We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses.
We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Chruch.”

And so today I echo the words I read yesterday on Kathy’s post at atimetoshare.me
“What lies below”
“I pray that God will hear the prayers of the faithful and once again intercede.
We need Him now more than ever.”

WHAT LIES BELOW

Just as I echo Fran’s comment she offered to me when I commented on her post
Showers of Blesings:
“Julie, the Spirit fills us with praise for what He is doing, though we cannot see it.
As the unseen God of all life, He works behind the scenes within the heart and spirit of man
to accomplish all His will.
We need to pray for more of His Spirit to do His work in our own hearts and lives as
He continues to work in others. Blessings for your day.

Showers of Blessing

Calls for fasting.
Calls for revival.
Calls for prayer.
Calls for a Nation to fall upon her knees.

The thread keeps running.
Will we heed the call?

“Without union with God, every attempt to strengthen the Chruch and the faith will be in vain.
Without prayer, we will be clanging cymbals.
We will sink to the level of media hypesters who make a lot of noise and produce nothing but wind.
Prayer must become our innermost respiration.
It brings us face to face with God.
Unless we place our head on the heart of Christ, like Saint John, we will not have the strength
to follow him to the Cross.
If we do not take the time to listen to the heartbeats of our God,
we will abandon him, we will betray him as the apostles themselves did.”

Robert Cardinal Sarah.

let me tell you…

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring
momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them.
The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(our son and his daughter, the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Let me tell you a little bit about our son…

He turns 31 later this year and would absolutely die if he knew his mother was
sharing anything about him on her blog.

Oh well.

I’ve written about him before, several times…it’s just that I don’t tell him that I do.

I’ve written about him not because he’s simply my son nor because he’s famous, infamous
or terminally ill…thank the Lord he’s none of those things but just our son.

I write rather because his growing up was not an easy journey…

It was a journey that seems oh so long ago and yet the memories of the difficulties
remain.

Despite that long and often difficult journey, we, his parents, are so exceedingly
proud of the man, husband, and father he’s grown into.

And that is what I want to write about.

But I also want to write, not so much about our son,
but rather about the very surreal time in history in which we are now
finding ourselves living in.

We are living in a dystopian culture that is playing fast and loose with
something so straightforward and simple as the obvious fact of biology and gender…
that being the exacting fact of male and female.

It is a culture that is trying its best to demasculate any and all males.
A culture that is shaming boys, young men, and adult men…for being just that, male.
A culture that allows children to “choose” a gender, with gender being
a fluid notion.

I, for one, believe in and very much want strong men.

I want strong men in my life.
I want strong male role models who know what it means to be a man…
I want men who know what it means to be a Godly man.
Mature men.
Men who understand God’s intention for them as husbands, leaders,
role models, fathers…

And these desires of mine do not equate me with being weak, dominated,
overrun, demure, belittled or abused.

Just shy of 40 years ago, my late godfather, an Episcopal priest,
sat me down right before I got married in order to share a few important
thoughts with me.
As my priest, but more importantly, as my Godpoppa, he felt compelled to tell me that
marriage was not going to be easy.

I think we all know that an engaged bride-to-be lives in a bit of an unrealistic fairytale
of fantasy.
There is a whirlwind of activities, details, and parties to attend to;
reality is not often found in the fanfare.

My Godpoppa told me that I was marrying a good man but a man who had been abused
both physically and emotionally as a child by a hardcore alcoholic father.
He told me that my husband-to-be had not had a positive role model of
what it meant to be a loving husband and father.

He wanted me to keep this all in mind as we prepared to embark on
a life together.
He knew all too well that there would be difficult times.

He already knew, up close and personal, of my own issues with adoption and
dysfunction within my adopted family— but in his wisdom, he knew that
two broken people were about to be joined as one…
as in two becoming one big broken person.

Not only did I have to learn how to be a loving, supportive, forgiving wife and later
a mother–of whom was also working and tending to the house…
but my husband had to learn how to be a good husband, provider,
and an eventual positive father—
the type of father he desperately wanted to be for our son.


(our son and my husband many moons ago / Julie Cook / 1995ish)

And my Godfather was right—marriage was and is hard—add work, bills,
life and parenthood to that and things can become dangerously complicated fast!

I read the following quote this morning from the author Tom Hoops:
People think of “the family that prays together stays together” as a quaint old saying.
But it was a favorite saying of Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta,
and the daily practice of Pope Benedict XVI’s family, according to his brother’s biographer.

I had to learn the hard way the importance of seeking God first and foremost when
it comes to one’s most intimate relationships.
It is imperative that He be in the middle of all we do because if He is not and
we substitute ourselves in the center, then we have a toxic equation for
stress and disaster.

It is Satan’s desire that the family fails.
If the family fails, Satan gains a greater foothold in our world…as all binding institutions
begin to crumble.

But I suppose I’ve deviated a tad from my original intention with this post…

Yet we need to understand that parenthood, like marriage, is often a learn
as you go experience.

And so it was with us—especially when our 5-year-old son was diagnosed
with a rather severe learning disability and a year later with ADD.

Life suddenly took a difficult turn.

He didn’t learn to read until he was entering the 3rd grade.
We spent the previous summer driving back and forth every day to a
specialized private school in Atlanta that focused on teaching kids with
dyslexia how to read.

We spent our afternoons fighting over homework and driving from tutor to tutor.

It all sounds so matter of fact now…but at the time it was anything but.

There was a father who was gone working 16 hour days, 6 days a week, a wife who
was teaching and commuting 30 minutes to and from work to home while shuttling a
child from school to tutoring to home, to homework, to Scouts, then back home again…

Throw in making supper, tending to the house, washing, cleaning, preparing
lessons for the next day…and life just seemed to get more and more difficult.

There was enough exhaustion, frustration, resentment, tears, fears and worry
circulating in our young lives to last a lifetime.
And there were many times I angrily raised a fist and questioned God.

Yet our son wanted nothing more than to be “normal” and of course we
wanted that for him.

But what was normal?

For him to be “normal” meant that there was going to have to be a great deal of
commitment, time invested, assistance, sacrifice and lots and lots of work.

But of course, you can read about all of that in the following linked posts written years back…
because today is not a day to dwell on what was but rather today is a day to look at what is:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-journey/
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/a-large-collective-sigh/

I actually had colleagues who openly voiced their skepticism over our son ever
going to college let alone being successful.

It wasn’t easy.
There were hurdles.
There were setbacks.
There were mistakes.
There were injustices.
And there was simply dumb rotten luck.

Then there came a girl.
And then came love.
And then came marriage.
And eventually, there came a degree.

Some very tough jobs followed—they came complete with low pay, poor hours,
dangerous conditions, a lack of appreciation, pounded pavement,
all the way to a shuttered company, a lost job, and then news of a baby.

When things were looking their lowest, a ray of light shone through.

Out of the blue came a new job.
New promises from a prominent company.
A new start.
Along with that new baby.

Yet hours remained frustratingly poor, pay remained minimal and frustration remained high
as the promises kept being pushed aside.

However in all of that remained something more important, something more instrumental,
something more exacting…that being…perseverance.

It was a desire and a will ‘to do’, not only for himself but more importantly the
desire to do, to be and to provide for his young family.

He wanted to be that man he saw in his father.

A man who made years of sacrifices of self for the betterment of his wife and child.
A man who was just that, a man who possessed both determination and a respect
for responsibility.

There was work, there was a growing family as baby number two appeared…
added to all of that was more college work for an additional degree add-on.
A balance of living life while looking ahead.

And just when life was looking overwhelming and growth was looking stymied and stagnant…
along came an opportunity for something different, something new and something that
seemed improbable, unattainable and most unlikely…and yet it came none the less.

After gaining a toehold in the door and with nearly two months of
interviews and scrutiny, the new job offer came last week.

I know I’ll be writing more about all of this change in the coming weeks…
but first, there are the necessary two weeks of finishing up one job before
starting another.

There will be the training, learning the adjusting…for not only our son
but for his entire small family.

Change is good, but it is also hard.

Yet the one thing in all of this that I know to be true is that our son did this on his own.
He earned the opportunity and sold himself as the best asset he could be…

There is God’s hand and timing in all of this.
And I can say this as I’m now looking back.

On the front end, things can look overwhelming and impossible…

Yet my husband toiled to become that man, that father, he so yearned to be…
and now his son is following suit…

Living the life as the man God intended for him to be.

A strong focused man who loves his family.
A man who works to lead his family and honor his wife.
A strong role model for both his young son and daughter.
A man who continues to make us, his mom and dad, so very proud.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul.

Proverbs 29:17

35 years ago….

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person.
You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.

Julia Child


(August 13, 1983…me and my godpoppa, The Very Rev. David B. Collins, who officated at our wedding)

35 years ago today, I said I do.

Or actually, we said, we do.

Oh, that is such a long story from such a long time ago…

It is a story that was questioned by some back then and later questioned, more times
then not, by our two younger selves.

And yet here we are.
For better and worse…35 years later…
And yes, we’ve seen both…

However, we are currently out of pocket…so that little story will have to wait for
a day or two…

But this is the first time in 35 years that we’ve actually gotten to go do something on
the actual date…I was always teaching and he was always working…so we typically had to
squeeze in a night out or a quick getaway at a later day…at a later time when
time actually allowed.

And with one of us having just recently retired… leaving both of us now home…retired,
we’re practicing on that notion of Julia Child’s…
that notion about being together alllllllll of the time.

I’ll let you know how that goes… 😉

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

to be kind

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,
anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on,
so that children have very little time for their parents.
Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the
disruption of peace of the world.”

Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.
It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain
of someone unloved in our own home.
Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Mother Teresa


(the wee one letting her feelings be known during a shopping outing / Abby Cook / 2018)

I would wager that most of us would agree that it’s pretty easy to be kind to a baby
or for that matter, a small child.

That is unless you’re some kind of depraved individual but those are sad thoughts for another day.

Babies just seem to have a way of drawing us in…into their little worlds.
They do so with their large inquisitive eyes, their sweet and heartwarming smiles
and their openly unconditional acceptance.

You have a bad hair day — a baby doesn’t care.
You have visible scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have internal scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have issues, a baby simply doesn’t care.

They smile, they coo, they draw us in…

And suddenly we have no cares.

We don’t care about much of anything but for this exchange of warmth and kindness.
We are lost in the kindness.
It just feels good.
No cares, no worries…just basking in an exchange of endorphin pumping feel good
between two individuals.

That is of course until said baby or small child decides they are displeased with life’s
current circumstance.
All of which could be due to hunger, teething, a soiled diaper, colic,
too hot, too cold, too tired…you name it.

And it is at these very moments that our own capacity for kindness seems to quickly
dissipate as our nerves take over and kindness takes a back burner.

So we ask ourselves…does kindness come naturally?

I’m no psychologist or anthropologist or neurologist.
I don’t study people’s brains or actions or reactions.

Rather I am just a wife married for 35 years, a mom to a 30-year-old, and now a grandmother
to a 5-month-old. Plus I was a high school teacher for 31 years…
so I kind of know people and I often know myself…be that for good or bad.

Kindness seems to be more of a reciprocating response.

Now granted there are certain folks out there who just seem to be more innately
kind than others.
Think Melanie versus Scarlett.

And yet I’ve observed some really gruff individuals lose some of that bristled gruffness rather
quickly when met with pure kindness.

In our day’s quote, Mother Teresa observes that we often tend to be more gracious,
more kind to strangers much more readily than we do to those actually closest to us.

An odd human condition.

She notes that perhaps it is easier to be kind and gracious to those we don’t know rather
then those who actually deserve our kindness the most….those who are closest to us
in our lives. Yet it is those individuals who we often look over, take for granted or
just assume they care despite our brusqueness, attitudes, selfishness, curtness,
rudeness, and self-absorption.

I know this to be true.
I recall now in hindsight my days as an adolescent and I feel the constant need to offer up
my apologies to Mother.

I also know that during 35 years of marriage, I’ve had a lot to learn in the way of kindness.

Two imperfect people are joined in the union of marriage…to have and to hold…to
love, honor and respect, to live with until death does them part…
all the while, the perfect union and marriage is being lived by two very imperfect people…
a bit of a blind leading the blind.

I know that I tend to be a bit hard-headed and stubborn. I blame an Irish heritage.
I know that I tend to be the one who is always more right than wrong despite my
husband not yet figuring this out.

And yet I also know that I can be more Scarlett than Melanie…
wanting things my way…
I can be selfish, snappy, short-tempered, overwhelmed and moody.

And I also know that my husband has a high frustration level,
very little patience and is a 69-year-old by-product of a very abusive alcoholic father
who left deep lasting scars.
Add in the fact that my husband is nearly deaf so he can misinterpret, misunderstand
or miss everything I say…talk about over the top frustrating.

And so often in this life of ours, kindness has sadly taken a backseat.

And yet kindness seems to be a glue.
It is a binding agent.
It can bind two imperfect people together placing them under the blanket, or yoke if you will,
of the One who casts the perfect light of hope and healing over our human brokenness.

And yet we know this act of kindness must often be learned as well as worked on.
It is something I have learned that is a grace that more often than not
must be prayed for, cared for and nurtured.
It is a grace that God will and can work in our hearts.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

what is love?

We do not understand the Cross if we do not understand sin.
If we deny there is sin, the Cross loses its meaning.
That is why it is difficult in our time to speak about the Cross.
One no longer knows what sin is.

Fr. Wilfred Stinissen, OCD
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love

What is love?
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
Baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt, me no more
What is love? Yeah

lyrics by Hadaway

This past weekend my husband and I had the privilege of attending not one but actually two
different weddings.

There was one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening.

The one on Saturday took place at a lovely and tranquil farm, turned wedding venue, located
out in the rural countryside of West Georgia where both bobwhite and songbird joined
cheerfully in with the festivities.

The second wedding was on Sunday evening and it was also at an outdoor venue tucked deep in the
West Georgia woods which overlooked the soft rolling green hills…this while rumbles of
distant thunder gently reverberated between the “I dos”.
The vows were stated in what was a state of the art horse paddock perched high above a peaceful
lake where we had all gathered due to the threat of rain.

Both officiants/ministers spoke a familiar theme…that being the theme of the day, love.

Saturday’s officiant, a college minister, actually called up Michael Curry by name, the now
“infamous” Episcopal cleric who was invited to speak at the Royal wedding.
This college minister invoked much of the same line of thinking as the Bishop’s
during the Royal wedding yet giving the obvious nod to the fact that this current
wedding was between a Kentucky boy and Georgia peach.

I found myself shifting a bit uncomfortably in my chair as the mockingbird
overhead began, as if on cue, to sing.
“Really?!” I was thinking to myself.
“Did he just really head in that direction right here, right now, in this
peaceful meadow setting!?”
The words I heard grousing from that little-unamused voice inside my head.

This college minister, who had been the minister of this young couple throughout their college
tenure, echoed much of what Bishop Curry had said to both Prince Harry and Megan Markle…
with that being the pure unbridled all-encompassing power of love…

And his take was very much the same as that of the bishop’s in that his offering was
the same notion of an idealized jumble of both romantic and erotic love which seems to be
able to carry one and all through a married life….but the thing is it won’t.

It is a type of love that is in actuality very fleeting.

His was the notion being that joy and celebration which is found in romantic love,
could carry a couple throughout a lifetime together while
forgetting that once the shine and glitter fade,
a couple would be left staring at one another wondering what’s next.

It is a current cultural notion of love that Bishop Gavin Ashenden notes as
“the more it glitters, the more it’s good.”

The second officiant at Sunday’s wedding also spoke of love.
Because what else brings us to a wedding but what we hope is indeed love?!

But rather than going on about all that glitters being gold, the officiant was rather more
matter of fact.
He noted that marriage is not the end but rather the beginning of the journey…
and it is not always going to be the smoothest or clearest of travels.

He reminded this couple, along with the rest of us,
that there will be times that things will be hard.
Times when that romantic love and erotic love will have long since faded.
Because of time, life and even the separation of distance due to life’s varying circumstances
will each interfere with that initial love of romance which had brought them
to this spot on this particular day in the first place…
he reminded all of us that it is at this point that love
usually has to roll up its sleeves.

He then had the couple do something I’ve never seen before and was unfamiliar with.

Obviously, days before the ceremony he had previously told both bride and groom to sit down
and write a letter to one another.
A letter about what their relationship meant to them and how and why it had brought them
to this particular place…the place of marriage and a day in which they would commit
themselves one to another.

There was a wooden box on the makeshift altar along with a bottle of wine.
He explained to all of us gathered how he had asked them to write the letters but that
the letters were sealed and they had not yet shared them with one another.
In front of all of us he asked them to take the sealed envelopes and place them into the box.
He then placed the bottle of wine in the box and sealed it all up.

He told us that tradition dictated that they were to,
in a year’s time on the day of their first anniversary, open the box,
read the letters and then make a toast to themselves.

But…

Should they, at any point before the year’s time had passed,
find themselves in a place of darkness, they were to open the box and read the letters.

I rather liked that idea.

Looking back…recalling my younger self, my very immature younger self, I know full well that
what I had was an idealized vision of what both marriage and love were all about.

I think the glitter wore off on the honeymoon when we were at the beach for a week…a place
I now know my husband of 35 years was none too keen to be.
But we were there because his sister told him that’s where we needed to go.
He had actually wanted to go out west.
If he had thought to ask me, I would have voted on out west.

But here’s the thing.
Relationships, loving, growing…
they all take learning.

It takes learning to know…learning in knowing to ask, learning how to ask, learning when to ask,
learning how to speak up, learning when to speak up, learning when to be quiet,
learning when to share and learning when to listen.

It is a journey of growth.

Relationships are hard.
Love is even harder.

I think of those song lyrics listed above…“baby don’t hurt me”
But the thing is Love does often hurt…
Just ask anyone who has ever lost a loved one and whose heart now aches.

Love is not glamorous nor is it that of a fairytale.
There is a reason we are asked “for richer and for pooer…in sickness and in health”

Poorer and sickness are both hard and painful.
They are not pleasant, fun nor easy.
They aren’t pretty to see, pleasant to hear nor are they, at times, easy to even smell.

Love can appear to be very ugly at times because life can be ugly…

But here’s the thing…
Love, that day on Golgotha, was not pretty.
It was painful, it was lonely, it was bloody and it was dying.
And yet that dying Love actually went to Hell in order to do battle.
It was love in its most pure and rawest form.

And the thing is, it won.

And so what we now know is that because of that Love, that battered and bruised Love,
our love today, when battered and beaten, can actually be cleaned up,
repolished and made anew.

It will not be easy.
Nor will it always be pretty…but in the end, it is well worth it.

Here’s to the happy couples!

Below is a link to a 5-minute interview between Rod Liddle, a jounalist for the Sunday Times,
and Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the Bishop’s concern from
the wedding speech now heard round the world.

Rod Liddle Interviews Gavin Ashenden in the Sunday Times – on the Wedding Sermon.

And also here is a link to the latest offering by our friend the Wee Flea as he provides us
with a breakdown of the same sermon and how it is now dividing Evangelical Christians.

How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

oh the many lies…say it ain’t so…


(a wee granddaughter who seems to have had enough / Julie Cook / 2018)

The following video is a very brief interview with The Rt Rev. Gavin Ashenden on:

Our culture getting rid of objective reality while refusing to accept the narrative

If you believe in the sanctity of the family as well as that of marriage between one man
and one woman then it would behoove you to spare 6 minutes of your day…


What lies behind the culture wars directed against marriage & Christianity? -a call to resist. An Interview with Gavin Ashenden.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

Isaiah 49:16