hope for us all…

“Where there is no obedience there is no virtue,
where there is no virtue there is no good,
where there is no good there is no love,
where there is no love, there is no God,
and where there is no God there is no Paradise.”

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


(a willet shorebird / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

Recognition that lost periods of a life can never be returned can provoke
an intense desire to give completely to God what is yet remaining in a life.
The soul scarred by former sin is sometimes, after grace, the soul that will give without reserve.
It is not at all an exaggeration to affirm that great sinners often do become hidden saints.

Fr. Donald Haggerty
from Conversion

a commandment is as only good as it is kept, or is it?

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like
if Moses had run them through the US Congress.

Ronald Reagan

I’ve written a little about the 10 Commandments before….
Actually it was back in the Spring after having watched an interview with Lauren Green
the chief Religion correspondent with Fox News.

At the time Lauren had a new book out,
Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog

As I stated back in May…. Lauren explains the title of her book as being based
on the concept of the Ten Commandments.
She notes that “here you have a seminal point found in the very first commandment…”
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Lauren goes on to explain that by breaking commandants 2-10, you will always
have broken 1.
As number 1 is the pinnacle that everything else descends from.
A very academic and legal approach to looking at how we are to be living our lives…

And as this culture of ours which prides itself on being all about
academic advancements and of all things exceedingly legal,
you’d think we’d be all about some commandments…
but it turns out that we are not all about commandments, particularly those
Ten Commandments and especially those first 4.

The above picture showed up last night in a text message from a friend.
She had snapped the picture of the article from a periodical her husband
subscribes to and wanted to pass on the dismal tale to me.

The article is about a recent study conducted of folks, both those who consider
themselves Christians and those who don’t, there in the UK and of their current
feelings regarding the Ten Commandments.

Now the UK was founded as a Christian nation…
you know,—for love of God, King and Country…
or in the current case, that would be Queen.
Of course we had William the Conquerer in 1066 but it actually goes back to
601 with Æthelberht of Kent who was recognized as the first Christian baptized
leader of the Anglo-Saxon England that shaped a nation into what it is today…
a secular swirling mess.

Yet it was always known that God was at the top, followed by the Monarchy…
so the monarchy certainly had a higher Commander in Chief to be answering to—
and some monarchs did a great job with that and some were utterly abysmal.
But such is the nature of fickled humans and leadership.

It should be noted that in our most modern times, we have witnessed a deep
secularization taking place across all of Europe…
aka, most of West Civilization—as it is happening in Australia, Canada, and certainly here in the US

A recent study revealed that the most “Christian” nation that remains on the soil
of the European continent would be Poland…
and that little fact is certainly being pushed to its limits as the drive continues
fast and furiously for all nations to get on the progressive modernism bandwagon
by legalizing same sex marriages.

Church attendance across the European landscape is at a record low.
As there are many who now wonder as to relativeness of the institution of “Church”

This is not just a European problem…..

Here’s the thing—in our most progressive society, we all,
as in our current modern-day society, are all about rendering the God of said
Commandments null and void.

Most of our leading academics and politicians see no relevance in the notion of
not only Christianity, but more aptly, God himself.
Matters not that He commanded that we shall have no other gods…we’ve just been
so busy with our own myriad of little gods that we haven’t had much time to consider
anyone else as being greater or bigger than our narrow little world.

So whereas reading these latest statistics is rather dismal, I am reminded all
is not lost, all is not hopeless.
I think it will be vastly important in the days, weeks, months and even years to come
that we the Faithful maintain the importance of the Commandments…not in some sort
of self righteous and almost martyristique sort of fashion but rather with a
focused and purposeful intent.

For our example of demonstratively living will be scrutinized…
while the question will remain…
are we willing to live our Commandments, with number one being the pinnacle…
truly living it as a clear and visible living example of obedience….??

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
Exodus 20:3

the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

Eve’s “No” verses Mary’s “Yes”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )



(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary in turn counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

Obedience

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all
that He says.
There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you
would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself
over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.
But trying in a new way, a less worried way.
Not doing these things in order to be saved,
but because He has begun to save you already.
Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions,
but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint
gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a wandering coon in the middle of nowhere west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Obedience
o·be·di·ence
əˈbēdēəns,ōˈbēdēəns/
noun
noun: obedience
compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
“children were taught to show their parents obedience”
synonyms: compliance, acquiescence, tractability, amenability; More
antonyms: disobedience, rebellion

observance of a monastic rule.
“vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience”

Oooooo….don’t you just shutter when you hear that word?

It’s a burdensome sort of word for it requires things of us as well as from us….
and more times than not, the majority of us don’t like to have to be
“required” to do much of anything–anything we consider to be out of our circle of comfortable, happy living.

Because isn’t that what obey and obedience really mean, that we are required to do,
or not do, certain things….?

And yet our news has been rife with just that very thing.

“No it hasn’t” you counter “because this latest rushing of falling dominos,
we’ve been currently witnessing regarding improprieties, harassment and out right
full fledged advantage taking, doesn’t have anything to do with obedience….”

And then I simply remind you that “yes”….yes,it really does because the base
of all that we are watching and witnessing is exactly that….
obedience…or more accurately the lack of….”

Next I’ll then remind you just how much you had hated the very notion of obedience
that you even wrote it out of the traditional marriage vows eons ago…
because there was just something about that word, that notion,
that act that has been akin to rubbing the fur
of an animal in the wrong direction—it’s uncomfortable and seemingly,
well, unnatural.

Human beings, by their very nature, do not like to be nor do they want to be obedient.
It is an act of the will to do such. And to exert that will is hard, difficult,
taxing and tiring.
Yet be it because we want to be law abiding, a nice person, a good person, a cooperative
person, even a loving person… we tend to lean toward obedience—
And if we’re not careful, we can just as quickly be disobedient.

Ask any parent of a toddler, teenager or the owner of a young pet…they will tell
you right fast that the nature of obedience vs disobedience is truly a very
fine line….

I’ve thought a lot about obedience as of late with each new tale of the rich
and infamous falling flat on their faces.

Us commoners have been doing it for eons,
falling on our faces in utter disobedience,
Yet the media seems to think the scions of all things political, newsy,
entertaining and even ministerial have somehow been exempt all these years….

And so now with these tales of the sick, twisted and powerful being just that,
the media outlets are in pandemonium, panic stricken to make sense of it
all while assuming some new disease has simply befallen mankind.

And yet those of us in the know just call that sin.

Sin.

Man’s age old nemesis.

Ego
Pride
Arrogance
Greed
Lust
Want…

The list is endless…and the root lies in our disobedience.

I can say this because I know what it is to have been disobedient and sinful…
just like anyone else really…it’s just that as a Christian, I am more
keenly aware of my errors and of the healing Grace that has brought healing and
reconciliation to the God of whom I disobeyed.

Doesn’t make me any better than the next person.
Doesn’t make me anything ever being perfect…
And to top it all, I’m still very much susceptible to the ways
of disobedience and its ugly repercussions…

But as C.S. Lewis so eloquently reminds us in our day’s quote,
‘that the reason behind our seeking or desire to be obedient…is not because
of anything we may be getting in the end but rather because there is now
a faint glimmer of the Divine burning in
our being….'(paraphrased)

We seek Him not because of anything about us or in us or from us,
as none of this is about us, as we so often egotistically assume…
but rather we seek, we obey because of Him and Him alone—
because He has first sought us…
And once that has happened, there grows a thirst and unquenchable yearning
within our beings to seek Him out—along with the desire to “want” to be
in communion with Him and Him alone.

Listening to Bishop Ashenden’s Morning Prayer podcast yesterday morning,
I was keen upon hearing his offering from a reading by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
It was taken from Bonhoeffer’s book Discipleship…
The good Bishop explained that the obedience of an individual, as to the call
of Jesus, has nothing to do with some psychological reasoning on the part of said
individual but simply because of Jesus himself.
A Jesus only sort of thing.
As in He is the authority.
He calls.
We, as disciples, follow….
and that is Grace….

Pure and simple.

It is because we “hear Jesus loving us…and thus respond….”

“Hear Jesus loving us….”
That notion resonated deeply within me as I was listening.

Not because of anything I’ve done or even not done…but He loves, is loving, me
none the less.

There is such a peace in that.

And it is in that Peace, that Love, that calls me to Obedience…
He offers and I readily accept.

As we see Obedience acting as Healer…

May we seek and heed the call to obedience rather than the crying out
and call to sin…

“If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:15

root of the matter

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.
C.H. Spurgeon


(root vegetables / beets/ courtesy HGTV )

“I believe that we begin by learning literally to repent and to obey.
The English word “repent” in Scripture translates the Greek word metanoia,
or “change one’s mind (or heart).”
According to our faith, to grow into the fullness of being means an eternity
of such change and growth from the fallen human nature we inherit into
participation in the fullness of God’s own nature.
This was the first call of Christ when He began to preach:
“Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand.
We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

(excerpt from an essay Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery)

Down through the ages a great deal has been written about the will of man—-
along with the concept of obedience and it’s evil twin, disobedience…

It is the age old tug of war…with obedience tugging while disobedience is pulling.

If you have ever dealt with or have lived through a child navigating the waters of the
“terrible twos” then you have a small snapshot into what the will of man is all
about.

There is a constant state of flux between the act of defiance as well as the exertion
of authority— as said little one attempts to chart his or her’s own path.

The problem lies in the lack of acquired experience and hindsight…
both of which the wee one has none of.
Add to that a developing sense of the greater world at large and the
the parent must therefore act as guide helping the small one along the fine line of balancing the tight rope of safety, wisdom and proper choice.

It is not an easy task.

Patience is often exasperated as the wee one hears none of rational thought or
common sense. With experience often stepping in as the better, yet,
harrowing teacher.

And even though we all eventually outgrow this trying and most difficult time of
defiance and growth…we never ever really lose that assertion of the will.

And then slides in the notion of obedience…or it that disobedience.

Obedience and disobedience are each a willed act of choice.

We either choose to obey or we choose to disobey….

And despite the popular thought, there is no in between.

The other day I was in the bank.
I was seated at the desk talking with a banker about a safety deposit box when all
of a sudden a young man bounds into the chair right next to me,
across from the now surprised banker, and loudly proclaims for all to hear–
“you don’t remember me do you?”

When you live in a town the size of mine that has two very large high schools within
a mile radius of one another, with one being a county school while the other being
a city school and you are a retired teacher, the odds are that you, at some point or another, taught half the town….are very good odds.
And I did just so happen to have taught this precocious young man.

Never mind that I was obviously in the midst of a conversation
with a banker, this young man saw me and proceeded to remind me as to why I’m so
happy to be a retired educator….

With the poor banker woman now exasperatingly staring in bewilderment, this young man proceeds to tell me that he is now “living the dream.”

“So you graduated college?” I ask.
He never answered that but said that he now had two kids and a house with some land out
in the country. “The bucolic dream” he continues…

“Oh you got married, who did you marry” I ask.
“Oh we’re not married—but we’ve been together a couple of years….we’re planning
on getting married however…..

He then proceeds to tell me his younger brother is now expecting his first child but
is also not married….but does hope to eventually marry…

Finally just as abruptly as he popped in, this young man pops up out of the chair
and bids me farewell as he makes for the teller since the line is now non existent, allowing me and the now aggravated banker to resume our conversation…

So the standard worldly thought would be “oh isn’t that all nice”
with the rationale being that this couple, all be they not married, they are
somewhat together, while living this “dream” out in the countryside with two kids,
and I’m even assuming a dog…which all sounds great, right?
The proverbial American dream….

Well if you’re of the world, then yeah, this all just sounds really nice…
warm and fuzzy.
Because there’s a rationalizing going on that since these two “kids” love one another
and now have two kids of their own, that all that matters…

But if you are one who lives under the conviction of man’s will while
opting to live a life under God’s will, then this “dream” is just that,
a dream, a facade.

The world would say that I am being judgmental in this assessment.
Old fashioned, right winged, and given long enough, someone would come
up with some sort of idea of racism or that I was just being a Nazi…
hence the lunacy of our times….

But what I see is a falsehood lost in an assumed obedience.
Which in actuality smacks of disobedience.

To live one’s life as one so chooses, going about it as one so chooses
is but to live with one’s own will—living in willfulness.

Many of us have learned, most often the hard way, that to live in
one’s own willfulness is simply waiting for havoc to ensue while
living with the repercussions and fallout.

Our willful choices will always effect many others than ourselves…
Yet we are too caught up in our own little worlds of willfulness to actually realize
that anyone else would or could be effected.

And so to live in obedience, there must be repentance.
For there to be repentance there must be a bending of the will.
For a bending of the will there must be a desire to obey…
and so it goes…

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions
of your former ignorance,

1 Peter 1:14

Honor, obedience and consequence

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

Psalm 33:12

DSCN0437
(Wicklow Mountains / County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“As for me and my house…”
my people
my town
my city
my state
my country
my nation…..

The encompassing and far reaching
me and my and house…

….for the Lord will bless the house of those who are obedient….

Obedience.

We tend to have a bit of a problem with that word now don’t we…?
Obedience.
We labor with its sweeping definition…
or more aptly noted… its underlying connotation of “requirement.”
As in a mandate.
A must.
A no questions asked sort of statement.
No ifs, ands or buts….
The epitome of “just do it”
The proverbial “because I said so” sort of just do it
Because God said so—

Yet we tend to eschew the true meaning preferring to insert our own meaning…which is to be, more or less, obedient to the more applicable me, myself and I…
as in obedient to our own individual wants and desires…

We prefer living our lives doing our own thing without any policing by some sort of heavenly body which may or may not really be watching our every move.

Recently Antonin Scalia, one of the nine US Supreme Court justices, delivered an address to a Catholic high school in Louisiana where he made a very public and now somewhat controversial observation regarding our very touchy and hyper focused obsession with the idea of the separation of church and state.

“God has been very good to us. That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,….”

There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that,”

(You may read the full article here:
http://news.yahoo.com/scalia-dismisses-concept-religious-neutrality-speech-202953789.html)

Now if you adhere to Judeo / Christian beliefs, you easily understand this whole concept of honoring God so that He may in turn offer honor…so therefore this little observation of mine may now end…..

however….
If you are not a believer in God, the repercussions, the fallout and the reverberations for not honoring the one true omnipotent Creator of the Universe, and that of His word, are all most likely looked upon as mere coincidence, happenstance, a run of really bad luck, or just the way the ball bounces..
For you who see no God in turn see no recourse for disobedience.

You simply don’t see any sort of correlation between the concept of decline and disobedience….

Hummmmmm…..

So as I stand on the starting outer edge of this latest new year, surveying this very sad, cantankerous, disjointed, jumbled, discordant, angry, hate filled, distrusting, diminishing nation of ours…
I wonder what really is this relationship between obedience and honor and what does it have to do with us today…perhaps it would behoove us all to consider such…..

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age…
1 Samuel 2:30