Sin and Confession

“No conflict is more pivotal to the heart and soul of America than the sin battle.”
David Fiorazo

“If forces of sexual deviancy prevail, every part of our culture will be corrupted
and contaminated beyond repair…
Religious principle, tolerance, and rights of conscience mean nothing to pro-sodomy advocates.
They will remorselessly crush anyone and anything that gets in their path…
In their quest for cultural domination,
they will relentlessly extinguish the light of sexual normalcy and morality,
as well as the light of Christianity.”

Bryan Fischer
former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association


(fungus growing on a fallen tree / Cades Cove, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sin.

It’s a word that we take for granted yet it is a word whose actions are destroying us.
For we are its actions and we seem not to even care.

Our culture has opted to expunge the word from our vocabulary while blindly
embracing its very nuances.

And what of the Chruch?

She is either impotently silent or either she busies herself by embracing those
very nuances in order to appear more viable, more likable, more cultural.

And yet sadly, once again, we hear of the scandal and predation from those very
souls who are entrusted to represent this bride of Christ, the Church.

We are betrayed.
We are complicit.
We are quiet.
We are culpable.

The following quote by the martyred Confessing Church pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer could have
easily been stated today rather than 78 years ago.

Bonhoeffer was speaking of Nazi Germany and of the German Lutheran Chruch’s blood
it bore upon it hands… but his words could readily speak to us today…
speaking to the Catholic Chruch, the Anglican and Episcopal Church, the Methodist Chruch,
the Presbyterian Church…
his words could be directed to most of us who claim to be Christians of the 21st century.

We the church must confess that we have not proclaimed often or clearly enough
the message of the One God who has revealed Himself for all time in Christ Jesus,
and who will tolerate no other gods beside Himself.

She must confess her timidity, her cowardice, her evasiveness and her dangerous concessions.

She was silent when she should have cried out because the blood of the innocent was
crying aloud to heaven.
The church must confess that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force,
the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people,
oppression, hatred, and murder.

And that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims.
And has not found a way to hasten to their aid.
The church is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers
of Jesus Christ.
The church must confess that she has desired security and peace, quiet,
possession, and honor to which she has desired security and peace, quiet, possession,
and honor to which she has no right.
She has not born witness to the truth of God and by her silence,
she has rendered herself guilty,
because of her unwillingness to suffer for what she knows to be right.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1940

Bishop Gavin Ashenden has recently addressed the tragic issue of predation in the church
and of the current need for the Chruch to speak up while she owns up to her responsibility–
finally speaking the Truth while she gets busy with a much-needed Spring cleaning…

Gay predators, telling the truth and spring-cleaning the Church.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sine that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Hebrews 12:1

weedling it out

“Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(weeds found amongst the rocks / Julie Cook / 2018)

The word weedling has a variety of meanings and uses…
all of which are more or less of the urban slang variety versus that of the Queen’s
English variety.

I use it when talking about sorting through things…

A cross between, digging, weeding, sorting, discarding that which is non-essential
cluttering junk as compared to that which is essential and necessary.

A task of tossing or keeping.

And as I scan our headlines, our world events, our markings and our recognitions…
I’m beginning to feel as if we must be about the task of weedling when it comes
to what is real, what is really important and all of that which is not.

I’m having to play a drastic game of catch up with my viewing of Anglican Unscripted…
that of our dear friend and favorite rouge Anglican bishop, Gavin Ashenden and host
Kevin Clausen as they meet weekly to discuss the latest in the way of Anglicanism and that
of the Chruch as well as life for Christians in general within our Western Civilization.

I’ve just now gotten to watch the episode from the Tuesday of Holy Week.

And what an enlightening episode is has been.

Bishop Ashenden explains to Kevin a little about his online ministry and his initial
reluctance to actually “offer a homily” online.
It is only a small portion of the good Bishop’s current clerical duties but he felt very
much that God had spoken to him about offering such a service to interested Christians
out there somewhere on the internet.

He speaks of the awkwardness of “preaching” into a camera of a faceless audience but
that God had been very specific in His demand.
And who are we to disagree when God speaks or demands??

It has been slowly revealed to the good bishop that the faithful are demonstrating
an almost monastic need for direct worship as Christianity–
that of the true Christian faithful…those who are very much wanting,
if not needing clerical guidance and ministering–is becoming alarmingly apparent
due to the sensed pressure of having to go more and more underground with the
practice of their (our) faith.

And why you may wonder are Christians feeling the need to head underground?

Well this is where we stop and take a look at how our Western Society and Culture
is currently dealing with Christianity and the Chruch and its take on sin versus
that of choice by the masses.
While we watch the body of Christ slowly being squeezed more and more by a polarizing
Marxist leftist society and a radically liberal culture.

The good Bishop admits that he believes true Christians…
those Christians who believe in God’s word as sacred will be literally driven
underground in the near future. As freedom to worship God according to God’s word
will be a crime because our society does not like the notion of sin, sinfulness
or culpability for that sin.

This as we see more and more Christians being labeled homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic
all because they, they being you and me, believe God has been very specific in what He has
stated as a sinful lifestyle as well as that which runs counter to Holy Scripture.

Living life as a true Christian will soon be deemed living life as a true hate crime violator.
As disagreeing with Homosexuality, Transgenderism or anything of the LGBTQ communities
is indeed considered very much a hate crime.
Of which will push true Christians further away from what will become a “state”
sanctioned church.

We are actually already seeing this take place in our mainstream denominations…
Should a minister or priest say anything publically against or to the negative
about homosexuality or even refuse to conduct same-sex marriage…
that minister/priest is ostracized, demoted or even relieved of his duties.

And whereas the notion of moving underground may all sound rather Orwellian or paranoid…
I for one clearly see the writing on the wall.

Bishop Ashenden recalls a time when he was actually smuggling Bibles into the
then Soviet Union as well as theological books into what is today the Czech Republic,
all before the fall of Communism.

This was because the Communist Regime in the Czech Republic had decided that the best way to
crush the Chruch and Christianity would be to simply ban all clerical ordinations…while
destroying seminaries and all theological books of study.
As the thought was that by doing so, the Chruch would shrivel up and die within a
generation’s time.

This was very much the mindset of Nazi Germany in Poland during WWII—as I am reminded of
a young Karol Wojtyla studying for the priesthood in a very clandestine fashion as
ordinations within the Catholic church were strictly forbidden under Nazi rule.
He would literally meet in the basement of a building under the cloak of darkness to study for
his ordination…
Should he or the priest who was conducting the lessons been discovered,
both men would have been immediately shot for treason against the state.

Bishop Ashenden believes that our very own state-sanctioned authorities will begin to weed out
people before they have a chance to be ordained because of the state demanding like-minded
folks preaching their idea of the gospel of all-inclusiveness versus the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As any sort of belief system or gospel will be prevented from containing the notion of sin
or of sin’s repercussions but rather the said gospel of self-rule, along with a belief that all
things, all lifestyles, are to be deemed acceptable, will be the only tolerable view.

And so if you think all of this sounds utterly far-fetched or perhaps even over the top in our
most modern civilized society…
I would caution you to think again.

This as I am once again reminded of Mark’s comment from the other day about when a
generation is silenced, God will indeed have the stones cry out…
(Luke 19:40)

Anglican Unscripted…Gavin Ashenden

A bookstore, a war and a reunion….

“Be swift as a gazelle and strong as a lion to do the will of God in Heaven.”
(as seen on the ex libris of a book looted by the Nazi’s, a reference to
a line form the Mishnah, the Jewish redaction of oral traditions:
Andres Rydell The Book Thieves)


(the interior of a book store in Padova, Italy (Padua) / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today’s tale began many years ago, when my aunt and I found ourselves wandering
and weaving up and down the snake-like alley streets twisting through the old historic district of Padua, Italy…
better known to the Italians as Padova.

We were actually en route from Milan to Florence and opted to stop over for 3 days
in order to explore this deeply rich historical city.
And it just so happened that during our stay, during this particular mid June,
it was the height of the city’s yearly commemoration of Saint Anthony.

Padua is home to the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, or the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua—a massive and beautiful church built to honor the Portuguese born saint who settled in Italy, making Padua his adopted home.
The building of the basilica was begun  in 1232, a year following Saint Anthony’s
death, and was finally completed in 1310—with modifications taking place in both
the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of such a festive atmosphere, as
thousands of Catholics worldwide flock to this small Northern Italian town for
the June 13th feast day—
The city goes all out to make a colorfully vibrant yet equally respectfully spiritual
time for the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who flock to this city just south of Venice.

There are parades where the various ancient guilds are dressed in period costume as children, nuns, priests, monks and lay people march solemnly through the
narrow ancient streets all carrying flags as residents drape banners from their windows.

Yet Padua is more than just a spiritual hub, it is also very much of an intellectual
hub as it is home to the University of Padua, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
having been founded in 1222.
It is here where Galileo Galilei spent 18 years, of what he has described as being
the happiest years of his life, while he was the head of the Mathematics Department…
teaching, studying, lecturing and writing.

Italy, so rich in history, also happens to have a wonderful history with
paper making as well as bookmaking.
And Padua has its fair share of both fascinating and beautifully rich paper
as well as book shops–shops selling books, antique lithographs and rare prints.

It is said that after Spain, Italy is where paper making actually had its start.
It was most likely introduced to southern Italy by the Arabs who had in turn first
learned the craft from the Chinese.
Arab influence, particularly in architecture, can still be seen in and around the
Veneto region.

So it was during our visit, as we were wandering about one evening following supper,
that we saw the book store I’ve included in today’s post. The store was closed for the night and as we were going to have to be at the train station bright and early the following morning, I knew I would only get to visit this store by pressing my nose
to the window.

All these many years later, I still think about that store.

It had a wealth of what I surmised to be rare antique and ancient books.
Books, despite the language barrier, beckoned for my further investigation.
I would have easily considered giving up my train ticket to Florence just to be able
to wander in, dig and explore….
but it would take years for me to actually understand the draw as to what I would
be digging and looking for….
And as Life so often has her way, time has simply afforded for my wistful musing of
what might have been.

Having finally finished reading The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell,
the image of that book store in Padua has drawn me back time and time again
as I made my way through Rydell’s book. There is a very strong pull to go back
to look, to seek and to wonder.

There are not words nor adjectives enough for me to do justice to the meticulous story
Rydell lays out as he recounts the Nazi’s scrupulous, maniacal and highly
calculated quest to en masse the books of the all of Europe and Russia with
a keen penchant for those of the Jews.
Not only did they attempt to eradicate an entire race of people, they wanted
to hold, own and control the entire literary word of man—
particularly that of religion, science and history.
As they saw themselves as the new keepers of the history of humankind.

Millions and millions of books, both precious and random were taken…as myriads
are now lost or destroyed for all of time.

The Nazis had a detailed system for categorizing the stolen books.
And many of the books that are now scattered across the globe…
be they in large University libraries or small college collections,
to the random bookshop or second hand store—
many of those books still bare the labels of the Nazi’s numerical filing system.

The long arduous journey of Rydell’s very sad, horrific and overwhelming tale ends
in England with his actually reuniting a granddaughter, Christine Ellse, with a lone
little random book that had belonged to her grandfather–
a man she had never known personally but knew he had died in Auschwitz.
There were never any photographs, no sounds, no memories of a the man
this now grown woman so longed to know.

“Although I’m a Christian I have always felt very Jewish.
I’ve never been able to talk about the Holocaust without crying.
I feel so connected to all of this,” says Ellse,
opening the book and turning the pages for a while before she goes on.

“I’m very grateful for this book, because…I know my English grandparents
on my mother’s side.
They lived and then they died.
It was normal, not having any grandparents on your father’s side.
Many people didn’t, but there was something abnormal about this.
I didn’t even have a photograph of them.
There was a hole there, an emotional vacuum, if you see what I mean.
There was always something hanging midair, something unexpressed,”
Ellse says, squeezing the book.

“You know, my father never spoke about this.
About the past, the war.
But my aunt talked about it endlessly, all the time.
She was the eldest of the siblings, so she was also the most ‘German’ of them.
She coped with it by talking;
my father coped with it by staying silent about it.
I knew already when I was small that something horrible had happened.
I knew my grandparents had died in the war.
Then I found out they’d been gassed, but when you’re a child you don’t
know what that means.
It’s just a story—you don’t understand it.
Then I learned they’d died at Auschwitz. Only after I grew up did I begin to understand and get a grip on it.
It was very difficult when I found out they’d been murdered just ten days
before the gas chambers were shut down.
It was agonizing.
I imagine myself sitting on that train, experiencing the cold and the hunger.
And then straight into the gas chambers.
I’ve never able to get over it.”

Historian Patricia Kennedy Grimstead, a woman with a mission to see that war plunder is eventually reunited with families, notes that “millions of trophy books–although no one can say how many there are—will remain as ‘prisoners of war,”
Today, in Russia, there is no willingness to return books to the countries or families
that were plundered. But we still have to know what books are still represented there
from Europe’s cultural inheritance, a monument to the libraries that were destroyed
and scattered as a consequence of the most terrible war in human history.”

And so my mind wanders now back to that bookstore in Padua—
what book, if any, was there that had once been someone’s personal book
before madness took it away…
a book I now wish I could have found, in order to have brought it back home
to its rightful family.

The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark.
You will be unsuccessful in everything you do;
day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you….

All these curses will come on you.
They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed,
because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands
and decrees he gave you.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly
in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness and dire poverty,
you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.
He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 45-48

mirror mirror, review part II

“One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere on this planet
to burst into the northern one.
But not as friends.
Because they will burst into conquer,
and they will conquer by populating it with their children.
Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women.”

Algerian President Houari Boumedienne in 1974 speaking to the Gen assembly
of the United Nations
Excerpt from David Murray’s book
The Strange Death of Europe
(Page 310).


(Longshanks, King Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots played by Patrick McGhooan)

If you saw the 1995 movie Braveheart you may remember the early startling
scene where King Edward “Longshanks,” also known as the hammer of the Scots,
proclaims his right and the right of his noble knights of jus primae noctis.
It is a a Latin phrase translating to “right of the first night.”
It was a custom where a nobleman or king had the right to have sex with any
lesser woman or peasant on her wedding day…
beating the groom to the punch as it were.

It was often done with intent of being the first to take the girl’s virginity,
but more importantly it was a custom for impregnating the girl with a higher breed
of gene and a way of lessing the undesirable population.

Longshanks stated that if “they could not bend the will of the Scots,
then they would simply breed it out of them.”

It was a scene that left me sickened as I had never imagined such a thought.
Perhaps back then at 34 I was simply naive to the wicked ways of mankind…
at 57 I now fear I’ve seen a bit too much.

Now whether or not there is any historical accuracy or truth behind Edward’s
proclamation, that will be left to the historians to decide,
but the actual practice does indeed date back thousands of years and has been
documented as used in various cultures.

A sort of population control as it were, ensuring the propagation of a particular
lineage at all costs.
And it harkens back to Hitler’s same desire to breed pure Germans.

There is debate as to wherever he actually put this notion into practice
with the youthful female members of the Hitler Youth.
Sending the young girls to “camp” where they were mentally indoctrinated
as well as physically…as the Nazis hoped to breed a new race of
“perfect” Germans.

It is a rather sick and twisted way to do battle against an opponent…
simply breed them out of existence.

And even here in today’s quote we have a rather alarming modern nod to the
same thought when in 1974 the Algerian President,
Houari Boumedienne, told the United Nation’s General assembly very much
the same thing.

I read that quote on the good Scottish Pastor David Robertson’s latest posting on
his second installment of his review of
Douglas Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe

The Strange Death of Europe – Part 2 – Immigration

It was actually the quote David Robertson closed his post with and the one I’ve
opted to open with as it showcases a mindset that is not so far removed from our
view as we of the oh so post modern era might imagine.

Below are the running thoughts and quotes pulled from this most recent post
with excerpts from the book along with David Robertson’s piggyback candid
observations.

I just can’t help but feel this is not merely an EU or UK problem.

We sit here in America rather smugly watching the tit for tat taking place
across the pond… what with Brexit and the EU’s response coupled by the on going
terror attacks in France, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden…
as well as the massive influx of migrants…
predominantly a Muslim migrant population flooding into a non majority Muslim
land….

Thinking that the proverbial pond exempts those of us here from the
troubles over there.
But what we fail to realize is that their problems are indeed our problems…
as we are also wrestling with an extreme identity crisis…

In August 2015 Angela Merkel announced that Europe was open to refugees and she declared, “We can do this”.
Much of the media, like the Economist,
backed her and said that her move was brave, decisive and right.
And yet in 2010 in Potsdam she had made a speech in which she admitted
that “the approach to build a multicultural society and to live
side-by-side and to enjoy each other has failed, utterly failed”.
(Page 96)

“In 2015 after Merkel’s announcement, 400,000 migrants moved through Hungary.
They didn’t stay—or at least only 20 of them did.
They don’t want to go to the poorer EU countries–
they want to come to Germany and the UK especially.”
(David Robertson)

“The six Gulf cooperation countries comprising Kuwait, Iran, Qatar,
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman had granted asylum to a grand
total of zero Syrian refugees by 2016.”
(Robertson and Murray)

“Not only has Saudi Arabia not made one Syrian into a Saudi citizen,
it has also refused to allow the use of 100,000 air-conditioned tents
there which are erected for only five days a year by pilgrims and the Hajj.
At the height of the 2015 crisis the single offer the Saudis did make
as to build 200 new mosques in Germany for the benefit of the country’s
new arrivals”

(page 316)

“When the 2015 crisis was at its height many individuals in Britain
from the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party to the Labour Party
Shadow Home Secretary, with numerous actors and rock stars in between,
had said they would take in a refugee family.
More than a year later not one of these people had actually done so.
As with the generosity and benevolence throughout the crisis,
it was easy to expect others to be benevolent on your own behalf once you
had signaled that you are on the side of the Earth’s poor and oppressed.
The consequences of your benevolence could be left to others.”

(Page 285)

“The big problem that Murray identifies is that the assumption that millions
of people would just assimilate and accept ‘European’ values is proving
to be demonstrably false.
We are ending up with a clash of cultures and our liberal elites just haven’t
a clue what to do with that.
As a result they are creating a vacuum which is most likely to be filled by
populists of right and left.
It is astonishing that in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France,
the far right are making great progress.
In Austria an extreme right-winger was almost elected President.
And yet lemming like the liberal elites still think that they are so
right that ‘everything will just be ok’.
After all they have the media, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Richard Branson,
George Soros and Lady GaGa to reassure them that of course they are right!”
David Robertson

“What is the effect of people coming into Europe in very large numbers
who have not inherited the doubts and intuitions of Europeans?
Nobody knows now, and nobody ever did.
All we can be certain of is that it will have an effect.
Putting tens of millions of people with their own sets of ideas and
contradictions into a continent with its own set of ideas and contradictions
is bound to have consequences.
The presumption of those who believed in integration is that in time
everybody who arrives will become like Europeans,
a presumption made less likely by the fact that so many Europeans are unsure
whether they want to be Europeans.
A culture of self-doubt and self-distrust is uniquely unlikely to persuade
others to adopt its stance.”

(page 225)

“Whilst our political leaders talk of European or British or indeed
Scottish values–they don’t seem to be able to identify what those are.”
(David Robertson)

Meanwhile there is a crisis of confidence in much of Europe about what it
actually means to be European–
is it more than Ode to Joy, Italian lattes and Belgian beer?
The EU leadership has already decided that it has nothing to do with
Christianity (refusing to recognize Europe’s Christian roots),
but still can’t tell us what it does have to do with.
The one thing they do seem to have accepted as facts are the doctrines of
cultural Marxism – aka Gramsci.
This involves deconstructing the previous values on which European culture
was built and indeed trashing that culture.
(David Robertson)

Long before the politicians notice,
the public already knew that a continent which imports the world’s people
also import the world’s problems

(page 302)

To pile on the agony Murray then indicates how he considers Europe is
committing suicide –
(David Robertson)

“Moreover, Europe remains the world leader in not only allowing people to stay
but in assisting them to fight the state even when they are there illegally.

(page 204)

I don’t want to leave it there.
I think Murray’s analysis is correct–
but as we will see in a future part of this series–
he does not really grasp what Christianity is.
So just before I finish let me offer an alternative vision.
I think the EU is fundamentally corrupt and undemocratic and that,
because it is geared for the corporate elites and posited entirely on the
gods of free market capitalism and the ideology of cultural Marxism,
it cannot and will not deal with the coming crisis.
Indeed it is far more likely that an economic collapse will further fuel the disillusionment with mainstream parties and drive many people to the
political extremes.
A Weimar style collapse may well lead to a Nazi type solution.
(David Robertson)

Perhaps also we should recognize our debt to the Christians of the Middle East–
we bombed their countries and as a result they have been increasingly persecuted…)
(David Robertson)

We must remember that Mr. Murray is an avowed atheist yet seems to wrestle with ‘the notion of Europe glibly tossing away her very Christian foundation…
I look forward to the good pastor’s next review installment as I also await the
arrival of Mr. Murray’s book…

until tomorrow….

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads,
with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.
And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s,
and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his
power and his throne and great authority.
One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound,
but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they
followed the beast.
And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast,
and they worshiped the beast, saying,
“Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words,
and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. …

Revelation 13:1-18

celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6

fretful, wearisome, fearful…and the challenge to love and believe

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity
but a spirit of power and love.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

dscn1351
(the cliffs of Moher / County Clare, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is much around us that is awesome and awful.
We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world.
We have seen that the authorities today use tactics similar to those employed 2,000
years ago, and many people scheme to play to our fear,
destroy our hope, and seal off our joy.

But we have the confidence of our faith.
We have seen the risen Lord!

Joyce Hollyday

Growing up in the United States I have always felt safe and protected.
I have always felt safely blanketed under our laws and judicial process.
The founding fathers, those paternal creators and now guardians of all that
I had known growing up and held dear, had painstakingly paved the way for
future generations of Americans, of which I was one,
to live and to prosper in a harmonious cohesive nation embarked now on her steady course…

Yet unbeknownst to me or to those men who gave birth to this Nation,
that steady course of which was set in 1779 with the swearing in of our first president,
would begin to unravel…with the unraveling beginning around 1970 or so….
(yet I am certain that there are those who, no doubt, would say the unraveling
had actually started much earlier than the 20th century….

What with Roe v Wade, the Woman’s right movement, the demand for birth control, and the seemingly
never ending war in Vietnam….
according to Bod Dylan’s singing proclamation of 1964,
“the times, they are a-changing”…
for they were indeed changing…
just as they were to be changing even more…

According to Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen in their newly
released book, You Will Be Made To Care
a book based on “the war of faith, family and your freedom to believe”…
a wildfire is raging out of control…
with the faithful being caught smack dab in the middle.

Every once in a while, a society succumbs to a cultural wildfire—
and loses its mind.
It does things that future generations look back on and wonder,
‘How could they have possibly throught that was a good idea?’

To most Christians and conservatives, it seems that society has lost its mind,
attempting to play God by redefining gender and abolishing marriage…

Many people of faith have been trying to ignore the signs of smoke from this wildfire
in the hopes that it will just go away.
Others have been trying to avoid the heat by being nice,
hoping that a little compromise would keep the flames at bay.
Still others have thought all that would be required to extinguish the flames
was a kinder, gentler, more winsome voice.
But the accommodation of evil never achieves the desired end;
it only increases the inevitable cost of victory

(page 28)

Reading the latest never ending stories of modern day Christian persecution,
and I am not referring to those ever increasing attacks at the hands of Islamic extremists,
but rather attacks by our own courts, legal system and journalists who now claim
that Christianity and Christians in the United States equate to being enemies to the human race,
I am left both saddened and dazed.

It is more than hard to wrap my head around such language and thoughts
as I never thought I would live to hear fellow Americans espouse that
Christianity and Christians are now the enemy of the state.

It is both wearisome and worrisome to hear such,
as it leaves me terribly fretful and even fearful as to what may yet to be…
For that once protective blanket has now been sufficiently ripped away.

If I did not know the stories behind such language were coming from today’s
news, headlines and court cases involving Christian business and individuals
who are being forced to either pay exorbitant court fees and settlements,
close their businesses or acquiesce and succumb to business practices that run counter
to their religious morals and beliefs,
I would simply think I was hearing and reading tales out of Nazi Germany…

To say that professing to be a Christian in the 21st century of the United States
is now not only looked upon as a negative but in many instances is actually
considered to be downright counter to American values…
that is something my grandparents would never have believed.

Yet in the course of 50 years since my grandfather’s death when he was but 70 years old,
that is exactly what has happened.
And I am left like a deer in headlight, stunned.

And yet we are reminded that for all the angst, the worry, the fretting and even the fear,
we, the faithful are reminded…
to be strong and to let our hearts take courage…for our courage is in the Lord
(Psalm 31:24)

As we join the psalmist’s plea…
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever
(Psalm 12:7)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

sticky wickets

“Your Excellency, Sir William Morrison, and gentlemen. I am afraid tonight,
owing to the rain we have had in this island of Springs,
I am batting on rather a sticky wicket. We have just heard Sir William Morrison make,
in my opinion, a magnificent speech. I do not hope or think of living up to that.”

the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, April 1930:

dscn4491
(stem of my lovely bumpy pumpkin / Julie Cook / 2016)

Recently, having read an article about a school district ordering its elementary schools teachers
to immediately remove any and all references to Christianity from within their classrooms, sent a
familiarly eerie warning siren sounding within this old educator’s head….

No bibles were to be on their desks, no verses or images containing scriptures
were to be posted on the walls or in the halls,
there were to be no tag lines on their emails with any religious reference,
no mention of Christmas, or Easter…no religious images were to be displayed,
no references whatsoever of the Christian faith were to be evident…
end of sentence, period.

The district’s orders were indeed that, dictatorial orders.
No sort of explanation or conversation but rather strictly a “do as we say or else” sort of directive.
As an adult and educator, I always hated when the powers that be spoke down to their teachers as though they were, well yes, children.

It’s one thing for those in charge to say, “hey, we’ve received some complaints, or even a threatening law suit, etc, so we are asking that you please refrain…”
Instead it is the dictatorial command from up above…
laced with a threatening tone as well as a heavy dose of fear mongering.

Teachers were however told that they could continue wearing religious “trinkets”,
i.e. a cross necklace,
but anything that was considered too showy or attention grabbing or
blatantly displayed was strictly forbidden.

I can remember several years ago when I was still in the classroom and many of the current music entertainers had taken to wearing large crosses and rosaries…so our students, ever the fashion conscious, were quick to sport their own versions of the large showy crosses and rosaries around their necks.

To say that I was disappointed seeing prayer beads worn around ones’ neck as
something urbanely trendy was an understatement
as I’ve always felt prayer beads were just that…
for prayer….
but I digress.

I wonder if this particular school district, which just so happens to be in my own state,
has issued letters home to their parents asking that their children refrain from
bringing anything Christian related to school or wearing such…
or even that of the soon to be Christmas fashion world?
Or heaven’s forbid anyone talk about what happened at Wednesday night church…

Yet there was no mention as to removing anything Jewish nor was there
mention of anything of the Muslim faith..
no removing any stars of David, no removing prayer rugs,
no removing the kippah from the heads of young Jewish boys…
no removing henna tattoos from the hands of young Muslim girls,
no forbidding of any reference to Rosh hashanah or Yom Kippur
or Ramadan or Eid…
strictly a Christian sort of edict.

As a long time educator, I understand full well the whole concept of the separation of church and state…as we don’t want our schools endorsing or promoting any set religion…
for schools are simply to educate by following a set curriculum…I get that.

But as an educator, I also understand the undeniably woven nature of the
Christian faith in our history as a people of Western Civilization.
It is in the history of our DNA…whether we like it or not—
and no matter how hard we try to erase it from our very being as a people…we simply can’t.

There are very appropriate times when Christianity, and or the study of such,
is very much a part of a lesson.

I find it almost comical when our society tries to neuter the Christian faith.

Dare we not talk of the Pilgrims offering thanks that first Thanksgiving,
thanks to God that, quite frankly, they’ve actually survived thus far,
let alone why they came here in the first place…
to worship freely?

Dare we not speak of the Judaeo / Christian tenants which are the
basis of our own laws and legal system as we look at
the role the Ten commandments have played.
That whole thou shall not murder thing…

Dare we not look at the treasures offered to us artistically,
culturally, musically and even architecturally in the artwork, literature,
music and architecture which has reflected the endearing faith of Western Civilization…

Who among us didn’t read Pilgrims Progress or the Canterbury Tales, or works by
JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or even Martin Luther in a lit class?

What of the music of Bach, Mozart or Beethoven?

As an art teacher, my room was rife with images of the Renaissance.
Images from both Latin West and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Images from Africa, Asia, Native American….
along with the images of the importance spirituality played in each culture…
because like it or not spirituality and man have always been linked…
and from that came man’s desire to create, encapsulating that spirituality…
and that might be good spirituality or bad…
but such is to the eye of the beholder…

We explored the written words of the Latin, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Greek,
indigenous Indians, Arabic, and even Druid societies
as we looked at the history and relationship the
written word has to our visual understanding.

‘Over the top’ is the best way to describe how I often feel school systems
react when they feel threatened in some way…
They will bend over backwards, at the expense of their personnel,
good well trained personnel, if they feel that they might be sued,
cited or possibly lose critical funding…
should they not bow to the pressure of a few.

Sadly it is the local, state and even federal governments
who are putting the pressure on their own school systems to conform to
this current trend of across the board neutering…
Neutering of not all religion, but blatantly to just one…

It would be one thing if they had said absolutely no to all references to each and every religion,
but this district was very specific in referencing the Christian faith only.
For that, I cry foul.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/10/04/school-orders-teachers-to-remove-religious-items-from-classrooms.html

Then shortly after having read the first article, I next came across the following article
citing the current persecution of Christian believers taking place in Uzbekistan…
over the possessing of any and all Christian material…
and to the extreme measures the Uzbek Government is taking to
curtail and punish all offenders..

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.persecution.on.the.rise.in.uzbekistan.where.just.owning.a.bible.is.illegal/97157.htm

As I am left to simply scratch my head as to why Governments and Nations and even
School districts fear
the mere visibility of Christianity….

May we be mindful of our past…

In the field of education, everything was done to ensure that the youth of Germany was brought up in the atmosphere of National Socialism and accepted National Socialist teachings. As early as the 7th April, 1933, the law reorganising the Civil Service had made it possible for the Nazi Government to remove all ” Subversive and unreliable teachers “, and this was followed by numerous other measures to make sure that the schools were staffed by teachers who could be trusted to teach their pupils the full meaning of National Socialist creed. Apart from the influence of National Socialist teaching in the schools, the Hitler Youth Organisation was also relied upon by the Nazi Leaders for obtaining fanatical support from the younger generation. The defendant von Schirach, who had been Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed Youth Leader of the German Reich in June, 1933. Soon all the youth organisations had been either dissolved or absorbed by the Hitler Youth, with the exception of the Catholic Youth. The Hitler Youth was organised on strict military lines, and as early as 1933 the Wehrmacht was cooperating in providing pre-military training for the Reich Youth.
Excerpt from the Nazi Jewish Party
The Nazi Regime in Germany
The Jewish Virtual Library

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens,
to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew
24:24