Onward Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers,
marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
going on before!
Christ, the royal Master,
leads again the foe;
Forward into battle,
see his banner go!

Openning stanza to the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers
lyrics by the Englishman Sabine Baring-Gould 1865

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(stainglass window of St George, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 2:3

Christianity to the non believer, as well as to many of the faithful, must appear to be a faith of conjecture.

On the one hand we are reminded to be like minded with Christ… to forgive without ceasing…70 times 7…
We are to be peace minded when attacked by offering the other cheek, our cloak, our possessions…
We are the followers of the “Sacrificial Lamb” who when lead before his shearers is dumb, as he opened not his mouth…
As there are those who have long considered Christians weak, passive and non-agressive to a fault.

Yet there are others who eagerly finger point and recall that throughout history Christians have been known to rile against those who were not of the faith. Waging crusades and “holy” wars…as we are all left wondering what sort of war could ever be considered “holy” as that seems to be the epitome of oxymorons.

And yet we are called to be soldiers for Christ…

However’s today’s global family is currently witnessing an extreme example of a holy war, or caliphate. This war is being raged on a terrorizing global level by the Islamic extremists Daesh otherwise known ISIS.
It is a caliphate to be carried out against the infidel and all non muslims as per the Quran.
And yet our western governments continue to assure us that the Islamic faith is one of peace.

Despite the continuing airstrikes conducted by US, UN, British, French, Russian and other coalition forces, the numbers of IS recruits has only continued growing by leaps and bounds.

Stories of what happens to those civilians who fall under IS control continue making headlines.
Beheadings, shootings, torture, caged burnings, crucifixions—all manner of public executions are rampant.

The following link is to a recent story found on the BBC concerning IS, or Daesh’s, growing occupation in Libya, as well as elsewhere throughout northern Africa and the Middle East. The article is a collection of firsthand accounts of those who “got out” before total occupation but sadly left family and friends behind. The stories of the barbaric brutality, which is on an alarming rise, is most sobering if not stomach turning…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35325072

It has also been almost a year since the tragic news of the young American aid worker Kayla Mueller’s horrific death at the hands of IS leaders. Just yesterday there was a news article stating that her parents would soon be making their first public statement regarding their daughter’s kidnapping and subsequent death— as well as their failed attempts to negotiate with her captors and of the ensuing war of words with the American Government over those negotiations.

Whereas our Government has long held the stance that the families of any Americans taken hostage by hostile nationals would not be allowed to “negotiate” a loved one’s release by paying ransoms, the irony is sadly found in the Government’s negotiating with the Taliban for the release of the American soldier Bowe Berghdahl— by exchanging 5 terrorist prisoners—all of which has rung a sour note with the Muellers as well as other families such as the families of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Berghdahl, as it turns out, had purportedly gone AWOL and was a suspected Taliban sympathizer.
He is soon to be tried in a military court of law, facing a court martial with a sentence of life in prison…
Our Government exchanged five terrorist prisoners for this purported AWOL soldier while the Muellers are left trying to make sense a Government “threatening” their attempts to pay a private ransom for their own daughter.

http://news.yahoo.com/murdered-hostage-kayla-mueller-s-family-is-speaking-out-013516761.html

In 1941, after three years of fighting that was raging across the European continent and prior to US involvement, President Franklin Roosevelt met secretly with the British Prime minister Winston Churchill aboard the HMS Prince of Wales in the middle of the North Atlantic. The meeting of these two leading allied leaders was for the creating of the Atlantic Charter, a charter that would help to define a post-war world. During the time the two leaders were meeting, Churchill was charged with arranging a joint church service to be held aboard ship for all the attendees. He chose all the hymns with Onward Christian Soldiers being his foremost choice. Following the meeting, in a radio broadcast, Churchill later reccounted his reasoning for his choice of hymn…

We sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers” indeed, and I felt that this was no vain presumption, but that we had the right to feel that we serving a cause for the sake of which a trumpet has sounded from on high. When I looked upon that densely packed congregation of fighting men of the same language, of the same faith, of the same fundamental laws, of the same ideals … it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.

Churchill’s words could easily be spoken today…“it swept across me that here was the only hope, but also the sure hope, of saving the world from measureless degradation.”

May we be reminded that as Christians we are to be that living embodiment of hope, that sure hope, as we march forward as the Soldiers for Christ casting His brilliant Light into a world held hostage by darkness.

“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.
Deuteronomy 20:1

Savagery vs Decency

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

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(window in the chancel house at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m beginning to feel, as well as sound, like a broken record…

Once again there is a report that ISIS, IS, Daesh, whatever you wish to call this steely precision machine of evil, has once again wielded swiftly the hand of hate and destruction over all of Christianity in Iraq. They have rendered the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, the 1400 year old St Elijah’s Monastery, to nothing more than dust.

The monastery was built between 882-590 AD by the Assyrian Christian monk Elijah and has been a place of worship and refuge for Christians well before the Great Schism divided Christianity into the Latin West and the Orthodox East…as it dates to the earliest days of The infant Church.

It was back in March, almost a year ago when I wrote another similar story about the dire situation taking place in Mosel with the systematic killing and destruction of any and all things Christian at the hands of the barbaric members of the Islamic State.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And almost a full year later, nothing has been done or said…the oh so hoped for cry from the global community… which would be heard, as it is shouted out loud from every roof top around the globe, in hopes to raise a real and substantial global concern…sadly remains in large part…silent.

Oh we hear a snippet of a story here and there, yet there are more reports about who’s been nominated for an Oscar and who is boycotting the awards show due to a case of colorblindness, yet the steady and systematic destruction of all things Christian throughout the Middle East, the very birth place of our faith, is being eliminated into oblivion with nary a whimper.

Why?

Here are the latest news offerings…with even the Pentagon weighing in, claiming that the destruction of the monastery is simply one more “battle of savagery against decency…”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35360415

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/20/isis-destroys-iraqs-oldest-christian-monastery-satellite-photos-confirm.html?intcmp=hpbt2

http://news.yahoo.com/only-ap-oldest-christian-monastery-073600243.html

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 1:17-19

What’s wrong with this picture?

“We don’t adore icons,
we us them to adore God”

Fr John Sexton

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( Vasari’s Annunciation / The Louvre / Julie Cook / 2011)

Over the course of this past weekend, an interesting story made its way into the news, which just so happened to catch the eye of this old art teacher.

Now you should know that I was a little more than bothered, as well as troubled, by this story as I have already touched on this sort of subject before and like any decent teacher whose students fail to comprehend the key components of a well delivered lesson, my feathers became just a bit ruffled…yet if the truth be known, this individual “student” had obviously totally skipped class altogether that day.

It seems that someone out there has decided to not only take issue with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but has decided to go so far as to file a law suit—

“For what?”…. I’m hearing you ask…

Well it seems that upon a recent visit to the Met, as this individual was viewing some paintings of the museum’s collection of several Renaissance and Baroque masters depicting Jesus Christ, this said individual suffered “personal stress” as the images contained, typical of the time, images of a “white” Jesus. This individual is now claiming that these images of a white Jesus are racist and should be removed.

I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type.
Imagine that, white Renaissance Northern Europeans painting images of a Jesus which looked just like them!
Shocking??
Not a bit…
But rather indicative of the time, the culture, the history, and the existing knowledge of the world—let us consider the audience of these white Northern European Christian artists…other white Northern European Christian type individuals.

I almost came unglued right then and there as I read, then later watched, the story.
A huge collective “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” should be reverberating as we all read of such lunacy.

If I had a ruler in hand, I would knock this said student upside the head as this is probably the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. But then given this day and age I would be fired as well as sued over such…sigh

First may I just say that this country has so many more glaring issues and concerns and so many more truly needful cases trying to work their way through our already dysfunctional legal system that a suit as frivolous and as ridiculous as this is a shameful waste of both time and money.

Do I feel “personal stress” when I view an exhibit of African Art, Asian Art, Hispanic Art, Native American Art, Muslim Art (although Muslims do not depict images of individuals), etc…
No, of course not.
Can I and do I understand and appreciate that art collections are more often than not, mere representations of various time periods and or cultures?
Of course I can and I do—

This entire story has me shaking my head.

It seems that a case such as this has found its little loopholes of merit as the museum receives federal monies, lots and lots of monies—so this individual and his legal eagles have thought that perhaps there is not only a little issue of separation of Church and state but also a throw back to a 1964 civil rights ruling…that a white painting of Jesus in a federally funded museum violates a civil rights act….

Which in my mind rivals with a giant exasperated “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

It’s one thing that someone out there looks at a painting of Jesus depicted as white and cries foul as that’s not exactly historically accurate. As he wasn’t white–he was a middle eastern Jew. I somehow think that our atheist brethren out there would / could and may have take / taken issue with the whole historical accuracy of all of this as to them, Jesus may or may not have even existed in the first place… and if they agree he did exist as mere mortal, then that whole crucified, dead, buried and risen depiction would and most likely might send them running to lawyer up as it were…

Has this politically correctness business of ours not yet gone too far people??!!!

Stories like this give me a headache because I am incensed that there are people out there who waste precious energies over things that are so trivial and meaningless when we have innocent people dying around this globe due to radical extremist ISIS nuts out there who want us all dead…. and we’re going to waste our time worrying about stress caused when someone looks at a 500 year old painting of a white Jesus in a museum!!!!

What part of any of this story sounds right, rational or makes any sort of logical sense??????

I’m pulling a snippet of that previous lesson I was talking about earlier with a link to the original lesson on an icon….

I don’t want to give an in-depth mini history lesson today regarding icons, or of this particular image, as there is so very much out there in the form of books or on the web for the curious to discover. I simply want to share with you something that is very meaningful to me. I think it is important to share with others the things that significantly impact our own lives as those are the things that make us who we are.

As a person who grew up with Western Christianity, or that of the Roman or Latin branch of Christianity, I was always accustomed, as no doubt you were, to what typically is considered to be images of Jesus. Benevolent images of a young man of fair skin complexion, soft brown hair and beard who most often had blue eyes. But the problem with that stereotypical image is that Jesus was not European. He was a Middle Eastern Jew. Therefore that meant he most likely had a more dark or olive skin tone, with a thicker head of very dark hair. He was an orthodox, meaning devout, Jew, so it is theorized that he most probably wore the hair ringlets as do the modern day Hasidic Jews. His features were not as close to ours in the West but rather he was closer in appearance to those currently living in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, etc.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/pantocrator-2/

Historically rich are what our museums are and very well they should be.

Museums are places which thankfully exist around this globe, making available to us the wonders, marvels and lives of those from the past…allowing us to share in our collective history as humans.
And Lord know, the Renaissance was such a rich time in our history as developing human beings!

Who isn’t intrigued by the art work, scientific discoveries, architectural triumphs and sheer wonders of the Renaissance…a pivotal turning point in the history moving man from earthly dark to light…

Woe to this individual who can’t relish in the freedom he has been afforded, along with the readily available access and ability, to be able to go see these historical and beautiful bits and pieces—there are other places, other nations, around this world where there is not the freedom nor ability afforded to see or share in such…how dare he now complain that viewing such has caused him stress—you want stress—go visit the families who lost their children and loved ones 3 years ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as we sorrowfully mark that sad anniversary this week….
Or go to Paris and Belgium and feel the weight of sadness, anger, frustration and worry in the loss of life as the world is still reeling from those horrific attacks as we now mark the one month anniversary to that tragedy.

You don’t like a painting?

Move on from said painting, finding one you do like…it’s that simple.

My hope for this country—and that list is gravely long, is that we can get our act together as a Nation, to truly see what it is that is most important to us as a whole—and that is that we take care of the elderly, the infirmed, the young, the homeless, the hungry, the less fortunate, our environment, the dying and the needy….
That we can stop for just one day from being so utterly self absorbed and self obsessed, that we can reach out beyond our own wants, our incessant need to tweet, post and the taking of one more self absorbed selfie…tossing all of that nonsense and worthlessness aside as we reach outwards, far away from self, outward to those around us who are in desperate need both physically as well as emotionally and more important spiritually….

God have mercy on us all….

these absurd times of our surreal lives

“I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.”
― Groucho Marx

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.”
― Albert Camus

Surrealism: An archaic term. Formerly an art movement. No longer distinguishable from everyday life.
Brad Holland

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(an early marketing advert used by Guinness Beer / the Guinness Factory Museum / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s not easy knowing what to say….
It’s difficult figuring out what to do…
It’s a challenge understanding how we actually should be feeling…

It’s no longer easy nor comfortable figuring out what we are to say, how we are to react, or to whom we are to speak candidly and clearly to…
All of which is a reflection of the sad state of affairs of our current trials and tribulations.

We currently have crazy Islamic extremists running around the globe attempting to kill as many people as possible who are not a part of their “movement”…

And because the crazy Islamist extremists claim that their movement is a “defense” of their extreme branch of their religion, everyone out there has now decided that all religions are bad.

As now so many people, even the President who made mention of such in a recent speech, seems to think that had those Christians just not gone on those crusades almost 1000 years ago, none of this would be happening…uh hummmmm

We have planes blowing up, cars blowing up, people blowing up….

As we have people strapping bombs to themselves in order to blow themselves up, as well as anyone and everyone within close proximity–not even children or infants are considered hands off or scared…

We have Christians still being crucified.

We have people cutting off the heads of other people.

We have crazy Islamic extremists parading around in the desert blowing up ancient historical monuments just for fun, while they strap a few innocent souls to these monuments just for kicks, as they blow everything and everyone up to smithereens.

We have people who can’t wrap their heads around the crazy Islamic extremists who in turn don’t give a damn that nobody can understand what they’re all about, as if death, murder and mayhem leaves much to understand. So everyone just kind of stands around scratching their heads.

We have satirical magazines being just that, satirical…as well as irreverent–as they spread the love for each and all– it’s as if they think that it makes it all ok if they ridicule, belittle and make fun of everyone equally as nothing, I mean nothing, remains “sacred”…but it’s all good and its all ok cause they make fun equally and we’re all about some fun…

We have thousands of people displaced and on the move on a global scale because no one seems to be able to stop the bad guys in these peoples home countries–with everyone left wondering whose going to take care of all these displaced folks.

We have bad guys mixed in with all the displaced roaming global people…
all the while as the world Governments think they can weed out the bad from the good, as places like Paris must now think otherwise with Germany, who was leading the charge of come one come all, now closing their borders.

We have a president along with his fellow world leaders who are either too afraid, too arrogant or to ignorant to call the mass murders of the crazy Islamic extremists what they are, mass murders carried out by crazy Islamic extremists, as they fear they might just hurt somebody’s feelings…I wonder how the families of all those killed thus far by these crazy Islamic extremists are feeling about hurting the feelings of others as their entire beings now hurt and ache in the deep abyss of loss…

We have young black college students all over this county now fighting the powers that be, screaming “black lives matter”…when I thought all lives mattered–of who now dare to say that the terror attacks in Paris have stolen their thunder….

We have policemen who are afraid to be policeman because we have had some bad policemen doing bad jobs and the lack of leadership to do anything about it.

We have violent crime, tragically deadly home invasions, carjackings, smash and grabs, child molesters running amuck and ruining lives because our legal systems seems to favor the bad guys.

We have too many people living their too busy, self consumed, self obsessed, rule free lives who won’t stop, can’t stop, long enough to actually see what’s taking place

We have a bunch of people who want to be president so they spend millions of dollars as they wine, dine, schmooze and waste countless hours debating with a tit for tat mentality of fussing children all the while as people are dying by the hands of crazy Islamic extremists.

We have folks all over the Globe wondering what’s going on.

We have Muslims afraid to say or do anything to or with the crazy Islamic extremists because they are afraid of what will happen if they do.

We have the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sounding the alarm but he is maligned and ignored by world leaders as an extremist bully himself.

We have a divided Jewish nation who haggle over their religion verses their heir apparent nationality.

We have people who now think we’d never be in all of this mess if it hadn’t been for religion in the first place so they want to do away with religion as they see Christians as the main ones at fault…so it makes sense just to crush the Christians.

We have people who don’t understand that we have basically turned a blind eye to God and that maybe, just maybe, we have not lived our lives as He would have had us to live…

We have Christians afraid to say anything about everything because they are just that, afraid…afraid of offending others, afraid of retribution, afraid that maybe their beliefs are wrong, afraid that their faith is not as strong as it should be…Christians who are depressed, frustrated, simply too nice, too kind, too naive, too passive, too distracted—forgetting that God decreed some very powerful tenants for living all the while as the powers that be within the “Church” have watered down the Word of God, tweaked and rewritten it all to appease desired lifestyles of those wishing to have their cake and eat it too–never mind that we choose sin over His Word or that His Word just seems to interfere too much with how we want to live… as in lets all hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya while we continue to make God little…all the while as we turn our God, Creator, Savior into just another friend rather than the Absolute God of all that was and is and will be, who desires, as well as deserves, our utmost homage…

As each new day brings a new piece to the surreal puzzle we now call our absurd lives…

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And…

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:3-19

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

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(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Ostriches and ducks

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.
Arthur Conan Doyle

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mahatma Gandhi

Ostrich-400x300

duck2
( two images, one ostrich up close and personal and a female mallard both courtesy the web)

“Faith and Christian witness are presently confronted by such great challenges that only by working together will we be able effectively to serve the human family and enable the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and of our world. May the journey of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to draw us closer, so that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to all, and bring it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).

I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: “Jesus, help me!”. They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.”

This is an excerpt, courtesy of Vatican Archives, taken from an address given by Pope Francis earlier this week when meeting with members from the (Reformed) Church of Scotland. The Pope ventured away from the agenda at hand in order to offer his concern, outrage, and prayers regarding the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS.

Before the World could catch its collective breath, ISIS once again carried out another egregious and malicious act of terror and murder this week by publicly taunting then burning alive 45 men from a western town in Iraq—this while the Obama Administration readied themselves to host a summit discussing “extremism”. . .

The definition of extremism, according to Merriam Webster is: advocacy of extreme measures or views : radicalism

The definition of terrorism, according to Merriam Webster is: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

The White House has, as has other Western European leaders, yet to acknowledge what the Pope so painfully stated Monday, that the killing of the 21 Copts was an act of violence against Christians.
The White House is also having a rather difficult time calling the violent acts of barbarism what they are—sadistic, callous cold murder carried out by the whims of Islamic Terrorists. They are Islamic and they are terrorists and they wage a jihad in the quest of a Caliphate in the name of Mohammed and Allah. . .

Yet this is not to say that the “Islamic terrorists” speak for or are representational of the Islamic Faithful. The concern however is that other Muslim Nations and Muslim leaders and Muslims in general have merely tried to ignore and distance themselves from the “extremists”. . .With some quietly agreeing that Western Society is indeed partly, if not fully, to blame for the current crises. Unfortunately however the insidious ooze of hate and radicalism is seeping into corners thought to be once off limits and even impenetrable. It appears as if it is in bad form for Muslims to rile against their Muslim kin as it is better to ignore and hope the ugliness will simply go away. . .

A holy war—an oxymoron if ever there was such a thing. A word phrase of extreme opposites in one spoken breath.
Is there such a thing as a “holy war?”—
Yes—but it is of a Divine nature, as the Heavenly Host wages war against Satan and all that is evil and full of darkness. It is what transpired as Jesus descended into Hell, only to rise victorious 3 days later. Yet Satan continues to walk this earth and still works to wield his madness as we remain in the crosshairs, as the earth remains under his dominion—the battle wages, yet the war has been won. . .

And yet it sadly becomes ingrained in the twisted minds of modern man that he can carry out such a “holy war”

The White House urges calm, reminding us not to jump to conclusions or God forbid we insult anyone.
We find ourselves drowning in a sea of political correctness as people are having their heads cut off and are burned alive in cages. We preen and strut in our technological 21st century modernism and pinnacle of civility all the while as thousands of people are tortured and murdered by means of medieval madness–all in the name of a radical religion, hate or simply both. . .the question remains seemingly unanswered.

Why do I feel it is just me who finds this all so terribly troubling? Especially the comment made by ISIS following the beheading of the Coptic Christians that they, ISIS, would now carry their “war” all the way to Rome.

We can choose, like many Muslims, to ignore the current actions of a group of marauding thugs, as it is, who are “over there”. . . We can sit around a large table and talk about if we just create jobs then we could nip this extremism in the bud.
Really??
We can choose to ignore the fact that the very Judeo / Christian foundation that has been the basis of our existence for centuries is truly threatened—that there are those who wish to see it destroyed.

It would be one thing if this was what various leaders, early on, considered to be just a rag tag group of thugs rattling sabers. . .Rather what we are witnessing has startlingly emerged to be a large and spreading cohesive, and well orchestrated, growing group of “radicals” hoping to achieve their Caliphate or that which is actually known as a governing body with direct descending political and religions powers from Mohammed himself. The ideas such as creating jobs for disenfranchised youth around the globe and maintaining overt politically correct terminology in hopes that no one will take offense to our growing alarm or concern will sadly not do one single thing to stop this growing threat to our very way of life.

Two things—may we be mindful that if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck–therefore we may conclude that it is indeed a duck. . .

Also. . . may we never be caught with our heads buried in the sand. . .

Asleep at the helm

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.
Henry Ward Beecher

Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.
Pope Francis

scott_s_state_of_the_union_add_0_1421844730
(Justice Ginsburg asleep during the State of the Union Address, image taken from Web / 2015)

It is not my intent to delve into the twisted world of the political here on this blog—preferring rather to simply offer a bit of thought, concern and reflection on this thing we call life. . .
However I was recently taken aback when this image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg made its way in and out of the various news agencies and the meme of various websites as this octogenarian was caught napping, as it were, during the recent State of the Union Address.
Adding a bit of insult to injury was her ensuing explanation—“I wasn’t 100% sober”

OUCH!
Really??!

As a lifelong educator, for me, this entire incident has trouble written all over it. Here we have a member of one of the highest offices in our land doing two things that any other mere mortal human would be strung to the highest yardarm for having done. . .
A) she was sleeping on the job
and
B) she wasn’t sober.

“Ok”, you say, “she’s old, cut her some slack.”
Really?
“She technically wasn’t working, she was attending an albeit, perceived by many, boring sort of speech.”

I would think, however, that when one dons the robes of one of the highest offices in the land, that would pretty much be considered working at the top of one’s professional duty.

And now the mantra begins. . .”She’s been sick, battling cancer. . .She’s a tough old bird. Let her have her wine and sleep. It was just a speech. She’s brilliant. It’s no big deal. . .”

And so it appears that the excuse for her having been caught sleeping, which was more or less an alcoholic induced sleep, is no big deal because she wasn’t driving, wasn’t the speaker, wasn’t actually sitting on a case—making it all fine and dandy, and as some may add, a much ado about nothing sort of moment. . .???

Well, I’m certainly not trying the cast stones as I am far from any paragon of virtue, yet I do know trouble when I see it.

Let’s say that my principal, superintendent or even myself, a lowly teacher, had gone to dinner prior to say some sort of school or other important function, opting to have had a couple of drinks or glasses of wine with the meal—only to later attend said function. Taking either the place of honor on stage or on front row of said function and now feeling and reeling from the full effects of being totally satiated and woozy, coupled with it being toward the end of a long day and it’s now a little too warm, plus I’m now nice and still, subsequently falling asleep—Only to blow it off later as “I ate and drank too much prior to the meeting”—-the general public would demand a head upon a plate as that would have been no way for any professional, let alone educator, to have conducted themselves during a public forum of such.

And yet we think it’s okay for a Supreme Court Justice to do such since she’s older, sickly and probably tired. . . all the while as we, the courts, the justice systems and any adult worth their mettle, tell our kids, as well as the general public, do not drink when driving, working, caring for children or the elderly, operating heavy machinery or making important decisions that effect people’s lives. . .let alone opting to be seen by the general population at a massively public forum. . .and better not to drink in the first place, period. . .

I think we mere mortals do expect, as well as often demand, that our elected officials, our leaders, our doctors, our ministers, our educators, our justices, even our parents, act the part of their said position and if they don’t, we, in turn, are very quick to do one of two things. . .We either quickly excuse and dismiss the poor behavior, attempting to make it all quickly disappear, or we quickly assemble the executioning squad.

It’s just that I don’t ever remember seeing Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, being snapped by press or paparazzi, sleeping while attending any sort of state or governmental function. . .nor even Vladimir Putin, who is often seen shirtless attempting to be a hulking he-man, nor Queen Elizabeth (we won’t discuss her children or grandchildren), or other world leaders. . .Therefore do we not observe that certain positions require one to step it up as it were, appearing above board particularly when the lights are on and the cameras are rolling?

Which brings us to the idea of not being caught asleep while standing at the helm.

A colloquial expression used to express the sage warning that anyone given authority, such as steering a ship, should live up to such responsibility, not shirking one’s duty particularly when the heat is on. . .
I can only imagine the jokes that this viral image has now generated amongst not only ourselves and the late night TV talk shows but to the jokes and mockery from allies and enemies alike.

I don’t think I need to remind any of us that we are currently living in very globally grave times. A time that calls upon us to be ever vigilant, mindful, stalwart and resolute. . .

There is another image out today equally as viral yet this one being most vile. . .

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This is an image of a group of Coptic Christian men from Egypt, lined up along a beach in Libya, at the hands of their ISIS captors who are about to video the beheading of the men. Beheaded in retaliation for the death of Usama Bin Laden. . .
But wait!
Weren’t we, the US, the ones who actually killed Bin Laden?
These men were guilty of one thing, and one thing only, they were Christians.
Maybe they were actually guilty of two things—they were Middle Eastern and Christian—a deadly combination.

Somehow I do not think we will ever see images of ISIS leaders asleep at the job, claiming that they were not sober, I often wonder if these evil individuals ever sleep.

“But Julie” I hear you implore– “a sleeping Justice has nothing to do with a global terrorism organization that is comprised of thugs! How can you even put these two events within close proximity to one another?! You’re being terribly unfair. . .”

When we see our country wrestling with and waiting on our Supreme Court Justices to figure out such in-country bickering and struggles over who can and can’t smoke pot legally, whether or not homosexuals can or cannot marry legally, or to what extent does a President’s powers reach— all the while as a growing global army of terrorists quickly decide who can and can’t live, let alone who can or cannot practice a religion and life other than that of extreme Islam, I think we’ve got bigger troubles than what we could ever imagine. . .

May we all be mindful of our responsibilities.
May we be mindful of our duties.
May we be mindful that we are often the only example others may have.
May we be the example of that which is just and good.
May we be strong enough to stand above the crowd.
May we take what we do seriously, no matter how insignificant we may think it to be.
May we understand that too causal is not always a good thing.
May we be mature, stepping up to the plate, when the circumstances demand nothing less.
May we not play the blame game but rather “man up” to take the heat when necessary, remembering that often times the buck does indeed stop with us.
May we not be so quick to write everything off so simply.
May we not tolerate everything we do and say for the mere sake of tolerance but rather may we have the courage to pick and choose what we do and say then have the courage to stand behind our beliefs–
May we remember that there was a time in this country when we could disagree, respecting the right to disagree rather than as today when the mentality of “I’m right and you’re wrong and therefore you must change and change now or else” reigns supreme
And may we remember that there are those forces around this globe of ours who look to take away our very way of life and wait in the shadows for when we are asleep at the helm to take advantage of our sleep and distraction, hoping to change our lives forever. . .

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”

Mark 13:34-36