heart of the matter

Lord…
our heart is restless, till it rests in Thee.

St. Augustine


(heart of a purple cabbage / Julie Cook / 2017)

“You must pray not only with words but with the mind,
and not only with the mind but with the heart,
so that the mind understands and sees clearly what is said in words,
and the heart feels what the mind is thinking.
All these combined together constitute real prayer,
and if any of them are absent your prayer is either not perfect,
or is not prayer at all.”

St.Theophan the Recluse

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

Ezekiel 36:25-27

E=MC2

It is better to believe than to disbelieve;
in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.

Albert Einstein

I don’t know if you had an opportunity to catch the biopic miniseries on the
National Geographic Channel based on the life of Albert Einstein entitled Genius,
of which finished up last week with the airing of the final episode…
it was actually quite good and extremely fascinating.
And I suspect that they will be rerunning the series.

The series spanned about 10 consecutive Tuesday evenings for an hour long episode
and was based on the book by Walter Isaacson Einstein: His Life and Universe

The movie was produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Actors Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn each played both the
elder(Rush) and younger(Flynn) Einsteins.

It was a well done series with a few little exceptions…
such as the scenes of Professor’s Einstein’s many trysts and dalliances
with various women…in particular a scene with his much younger secretary as they
“enjoyed” themselves in his office one afternoon up against the black board…
which was a bit too graphic and realistic for what I care for in a historical biography
that could otherwise have been so readily utilized within the classroom of say
high school age kids.

Other than that, the film was very informative and exceptionally well done.

One thing that struck me from the very beginning was how selfish Einstein was in
his relationships with people.
It took a much older Einstein to fully grasp this notion when he was confronted
with the blatant candidness from his then second wife, who
just also happened to be his first cousin…
and then later, near the end of his life,
by his estranged grown son Hans Albert.

Each berated the Professor for his utterly blind selfishness and insensitivity to and in
regard to the feelings and love of those who he should have been putting foremost
in his personal life.
From his many extramarital affairs to his total physical absence from the lives of his sons…
all of which he’d flippantly quip “they’ll understand”…..was a glaring flaw of character.

The other thing that struck me was how, as a young man, he renounced his German citizenship…
declaring himself a free citizen of the world who was null and void of all things political…
and hence responsibility to something larger than himself.
And also, in almost the same breath, proclaiming to be void of any sort of religious view…

And yet it was the older man who studied hard to become a citizen of the United States
and who also lobbied for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

One would most aptly presume that a man such as Einstein would have no use for religion
or the belief of an Omnipotent God.
Science and proof was his sole life’s purpose.
And for a while during his younger life, the lack of any sort or belief,
was indeed the case.

His was a life of physics and the quest of testing, defining and discovery.
To unlock and solve the mysteries behind what makes the universe just that…
the awesome mysterious universe that it is.

He had failures, he had frustrations, he had set backs, he had doors slammed in his face,
he struggled financially, he lived in dysfunctional relationships,
he suffered loss and sorrow, he was discriminated against,
he was betrayed and undermined by colleagues and scrutinized
for his convictions….plus he made some very poor choices…

And yet there is no disputing the fact that he was indeed brilliant none the less.

On more than one occasion he was asked about his belief in God.

“To sense that behind everything that can be experienced there is something that
our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly:
this is religiousness.
In this sense…I am a devoutly religious man.”

In response to a young girl who had asked him whether he believed in God, he wrote: “everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest
in the laws of the Universe—-
a Spirit vastly superior to that of man.”

And during a talk at Union Theological Seminary on the relationship between religion and science,
Einstein declared: “the situation may be expressed by an image:
science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
(quotes from an article by Bishop Robert Barron)

Einstein was born a Jew—and when he was younger and,
more or less very much a know it all…
thoughts of the God of Israel had very little if any appeal.
Remember this was a selfish young man as far as relationships were concerned….
he was never willing to give to a relationship the emotional commitment required…
or to invest in such for any real length of time.

Yet living and working in Berlin while Adolph Hitler rose to power and being a Jew,
a very famous Jew at that…despite being a non practicing Jew,
actually became a matter literally of either life or death for Einstein.

This was a time of a turning point for Einstein…
a turning point for his feelings and belief about being a Jew,
a free thinking man, and the responsibility that humans have to
something greater than themselves…
something even greater than his beloved physics.

I’m including NatGeo’s link to the series as viewing episodes from the homepage is possible.
just in case you’d like to watch one or two, or all….

I may not ever understand his science,
I many not always agree with his life’s choices or views…
but I can appreciate the fact that as brilliant as Einstein was…he eventually
understood the idea that there was a true connectiveness in man to that which is much
greater than himself…

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/genius/

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thought

Isaiah 55:8-9

absolute

“In passing we should note this curious mark of our age:
The only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute”

Francis A. Schaeffer


(the upside down gills of a spent mushroom / Julie Cook / 2017)

Death…
the one true absolute…
and yet,
there are those who would even argue the definitive nature of death….

What is it about man and absolutes??

On the one hand man riles against those who espouse in absolutes…
“be damned you fools” he will shout, “for I will not live by such pronouncements…”

While on the other hand he will test and retest in order to hold triumphantly
a handful of litmus papers of absolute proof…
that being the definitive definer…
as he will now forever hold those stained papers sacred.

Thou, oh ancient man, shall have no other gods but the Lord your God…

Absolute…

Yet man hordes a thousand other gods.
Clinging and clutching tightly to the fading fancies of his whims.

Thou shall take one woman as your wife and have no others besides her…

Absolute…

Yet man will alter and amend each law and sacrament in order to appease his current
fickled and twisted lust.

Thou shall honor and cherish your wife just as Christ honors and cherishes his own bride…

Absolute.

Yet man will opt not to have and to hold until death do part as he will grow weary
and seek that which is constantly fresh and new as he opts for the easier throwaway
mindset of the fleeting.

Thou shall cherish and love life and thou shall honor and love one unto another just
as you would wish to be cherished, honored and loved.

Absolute

Yet man will prefer to fight, hurt, murder, slander, defile, maim and destroy not
only others, but himself as well, as life and the living have lost all holiness…

For man has proclaimed himself his own god…

And thus it is man who extols that which is right and that which is wrong.

And since he is never satisfied with his choices for very long,
he will just as quickly turn each proclamation upside down,
in order to suit the latest craving or longing…
because nothing remains scared,
nothing remains holy
and nothing remains true…

for the only absolute in the mind of man is that there are no absolutes….

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven,
with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth,
to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
and he said with a loud voice,
“Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come;
and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water.”

Revelation 14:6-7

thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

authority, fear, respect…

“Power is a poison well known for thousands of years.
If only no one were ever to acquire material power over others!
But to the human being who has faith in some force that holds dominion over all of us,
and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal.
For those, however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison.
For them there is no antidote.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(two cousins vying for the same spot / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a sequence of events taking place within these images…
And believe it or not,
it has everything do with authority, respect and fear and the presumption of each.

First we should note that there is a giant dog’s bed that has been placed
in an otherwise dog free bedroom.

A cushy enough looking bed that cousin Alice sleeps on at night.

In the first image we see cousin Percy taking a look at
85 pound cousin Alice resting on the floor and not in her bed…
as a million questions now race through cousin Percy’s thoughts.

Next, cousin Percy looks to see if anyone else has noticed this anomaly.
A bed but the owner of said bed is opting not to use it, instead preferring the floor….
Hummmmmm…

In the next image we see that cousin Alice is nowhere to be seen and that cousin Percy,
deducing that the coast is clear, has decided to try out the bed.
Not that cousin Percy doesn’t have real beds at his disposal or closet shelves or
couches or anywhere in the house that he wants…but it is this visiting bed,
belonging to cousin Alice, that seems most appealing.

Lastly we see cousin Percy sound asleep.
Happy and content.
Cousin Alice’s favorite toy, the Yoda chew doll, sits on the floor right in front of a sleeping
cousin Percy and what we don’t see is cousin Alice, who is just out of camera shot, and who
is afraid to come in the room to get either favorite said chew toy Yoda let alone
get on her bed lest she wake the sleeping giant….

So here we have a small example of what authority is all about and what it means to
have respect… or in this case, a bit of fear of and for said authority.
And of course, there are all sorts of side lessons in all of this but let’s just consider the
concept of authority for now.

Authority is defined by Merriam Webster as:
a power to influence or command thought, opinion,
or behavior…as in the president’s authority.
b : freedom granted by one in authority: right..
as in Who gave you the authority to do as you wish?

2 a : persons in command; specifically : government…
as in the local authorities of each state
b : a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing
public enterprise…as in the transit authority or the city’s housing authority

3 a : grounds, warrant…as in had excellent authority for believing the claim
b : convincing force…as in lent authority to the performance

We should note that throughout history, humankind has been expected to have respect
for authority…
And we might note that throughout this history of humankind,
that such words as ‘respect’ and ‘fear’ have been used interchangeably…
with fear not necessarily meaning cowering like a mouse but rather
being full of overwhelming awe….

Example being that some biblical translations use the word “fear of the Lord,
while a more accurate translation would be “respect for the Lord”…
but we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

This business of authority, as well as that of having respect for said authority,
got its start with that whole creating of man and woman…as in Adam and Eve…

Adam, the first man, was to have respect for the authority of God, the only Creator.
The very God who gathered up dust, ash and mud and breathed life into it all,
creating Adam.
Next, God the Father knew that Adam would need a helpmate,
so borrowing that now famous rib, Eve came along.
Eve would now in turn have respect for the authority of both God and Adam…

Have you noticed that a little sequence of authority and respect is beginning to form?
The building blocks of authority and respect.

Next with Adam and Even having dominion over all of the animals, fish and birds…
they, these creatures of the earth, in turn then fell under authority of the God
followed by man and woman…

And we should note that any offspring of Adam and Eve, as they were the first,
then said offspring would therefore also have dominion over the animals, birds and fish….
And on and on it was to flow.

Add to all of this the lynchpin of respect.
Respect for and of one for another…
The tie that binds it all up.
A perfect scenario.

Yet unfortunately the chain of authority and respect fell into disrepair with that
first bite of an apple…
For you see God afforded this man and this woman the gift of free will.
And here is the kicker…..
they were not slaves who were to be forced under authority….
they were to come under authority freely and willingly…because within that
authority was the most perfect expression of Love.

And oh how perfect it all could have been…..

And as we now see, looking back over the annals of time, history has shown us that not
all authority since the fall has been kind nor benevolent.
Because in that fall from grace, free will gave way to poor choices..
choices that have been more selfish rather than selfless..
choices that have held very little regard for the dignity of person upon person.

With all of this business harkening back to that original initial sin and disobedience…
of which in turn begat pride, envy, jealousy, selfishness, arrogance, cruelty, disrespect…
ad infinitum…

Yet just because we know that there have been those who have abused their authority
over others, and that there have been times that said authority had to be eliminated
or even rebelled against, the overall notion that a civil society has a chain of authority
which is a lynchpin to living…has been the glue that has held the precariousness of man
together.

And thus we see cousin Percy exerting his authority as kingpin of the home over his
visiting cousin Alice by deciding that what is hers should actually be his…
or at least for a little while.

And on the flip side we have cousin Alice, who despite her sheer size and body strength,
who could eat cousin Percy in one maybe two bites…defers to this pint size king
out of an overwhelming sense of awe, fear and respect….

Hence….
authority, fear and respect in a nutshell….

“Don’t be scared by the word authority.
Believing things on authority only means believing them because you’ve been told them
by someone you think trustworthy.
Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.
I believe there is such a place as New York.
I haven’t seen it myself.
I couldn’t prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place.
I believe it because reliable people have told me so.
The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution,
and the circulation of the blood on authority—
because the scientists say so.
Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority.
None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada.
None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics.
We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us
about them: in fact, on authority.
A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion
would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”

C.S. Lewis

Hopeful anticipation

Our thoughts determine our whole life.
If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace.
If they are quiet, meek, and simple, our life will be the same,
and we will have peace within us.
It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us.”

Elder Thaddeus


(two cousins, Peaches and Alice, anxiously wait for a handout / Julie Cook / 2017)

My son had warned me about this.
We were to “babysit” our granddog for about 9 days while her parents were out of town.
He had told me that Alice would seek out the “weak” one.

Huh?

The begging.
Her biggest fault is that she is a beggar.

Alice, an 85 pound black lab mix, is a smart and mindful dog…but
she is a tad lazy and a big baby who loves food…hers, ours and everyones.

My son told me that when it’d come time for us to sit down for supper, Alice would
be right there in the mix, hovering near the one she felt she could coax into
offering a few free morsels…breaking down the resolve of the one most likely
to offer a free handout….in other words…the weak one.

Tag!
My husband was it….
the obvious weak one…or perhaps the sucker for those wanting big brown
eyes is more like it….

And not only did Alice zero in on my husband’s weakness, but cousin Peaches
was not to miss out on any free snacks.

Needless to say, trying to eat supper while four eyes were intently and relentlessly staring
us down….
and to compound the matter….two of those four eyes also had a drooling mouth attached,
was just a tad bit unnerving.

The laser focused attention, the palatable anxiousness, the anticipation of hopefulness…
filled the entire room with a buoyant sense of both yearning and waiting.

How absolutely amazing would it be if we had that same sense of longing, desire,
hopefulness and focus as we anxiously anticipated the presence of God….

And here’s the kicker to that notion…
God doesn’t merely toss us a morsel or a piece of unwanted or discarded leftover…
He offers each one of us His entire being…
as He is ours for the asking…
For with God,
there is absolutely no begging required…..

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman,
born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

unconditional

“God never hurries.
There are no deadlines against which he must work.
Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

A.W. Tozer

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

Mother Teresa


(Alice our granddog when she was here for a visit while her “parents” were out of town /
Julie Cook / 2017)

I think it’d be a safe bet if I said that every pet owner out there would
attest to the fact that a pet’s love is unconditional.

Meaning that their love is not limited, judgmental and is soundly absolute.

Our four legged and winged friends care not how we look, how we smell, how much we weigh,
how many wrinkles we have or the status of our finances.

They only want…us.
Yearning simply to spend all their time with us…as they set their passions
upon us and us alone.
And we in turn rest the weight of our concerns in their endless acceptance and openness.
There is a sense of safety found in their welcoming and wanting eyes.

I like to imagine that God affords us this tangible glimpse into His
own complete desire and love for us through the love of these, our animals…

But God shows his love for us in that while we were
yet sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8