we live in both dark and light

“The true diversity of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.
To diminish the number of dark, to increase the number of luminous,
that is the aim.
That is why we cry: education, knowledge!
To learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.
But whoever says light does not necessarily say joy.
There is suffering in the light; an excess burns.
Flame is hostile to the wing.
To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.
When you know and when you love you will suffer.
The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, be it only for the dark ones.”

― Victor Hugo


(prematurely fallen muscadine / Julie Cook / 2019)

See the picture above?

Look closely.

At first glance, you see some sort of greenish greyish orb perched in the middle,
amongst the debris of what must be some sort of woodsy ground.

However, upon further inspection, you will note that the right half of the green orb,
or rather a prematurely fallen muscadine, is the side with actual color,
as is the surrounding area.
The color of life and growth.

The left side appears to be rotting or rotten while the surrounding debris around the
muscadine is equally ashen and grey…as in decaying, rotting and dark.

It is a prime example of contrasting imagery between light and dark, life and death…
With the poor muscadine being caught in the middle.

And if the truth be told, that muscadine, my friends, is more representational of both you
and I then either of us can even begin to imagine.

Light vs dark…
life vs death…
While we are constantly suspended between the two.

It’s as if each one vies for our very being.
The endless struggle for mankind.

That struggle is much more active and much more real than most of us care to admit,
let alone contemplate…as the forces of both light and dark, life and death, continuously
wage battle over our very existence.

Metaphors, yes…yet also very much a reality.

I started an interesting book the other day, The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals seized control of
the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

“Ahhh”, you say rather knowingly…” one of ‘those’ types of books.”
A book that speaks of conspiracy and paranoia.
And so now you’re assuming that I am one of those paranoid loons or deplorables
we hear so much about—oh so lovingly nicknamed by Hillary Clinton…
all because I am a conservative individual reading a book that reads like
a Hollywood spy thriller.

Yet the book is much more than a tale of political upheaval, speculation and
finger-pointing.
The book actually, and perhaps unbeknownst to the authors themselves, speaks to this very
battle of both light and dark, life and death, that I previously referenced…
it’s just that they speak on a level that hits much closer to home than anyone might imagine
as it addresses our life here in America.

There is a great darkness growing in our Nation.
And it is both you and I who hang in the balance.

It is a life that is growing ever more precarious while we are perched between
both light or dark, life or death…
For we are living in some terribly strange times.

This book reminds me of a wonderful post I read the other day by one of my favorite bloggers—
Robert, Bobby, Kloska from Thoughts from the Side of the House.
Bobby is a former professor at Notre Dame who doesn’t
post as often as I or others would wish due to some tremendous health struggles
that get terribly in his way.

His struggles with cancer and the devastating outreaching effects have been an
amazing witness unto themselves.

I, for one, am most grateful that he continues to share both ups and downs.

This past week, for the fourth of July, Bobby wrote about what it is that is
at the root of what many of us believe to be a “crisis” in this Nation of ours.

“Life in America has never been perfect.
In every age, there have been injustices, conspiracies, and controversies.
This is not unique to America; it is part of the human condition.
Yet in America, because we had inherited these noble institutional mechanisms, hope remained.
So long as the republic contained within itself a critical mass of virtuous citizens
committed more to the common good than to privileging any particular sect, group,
or class, then the structures through which we grapple with self-governance could
still yield improvement.”

Today, I have my doubts.

We live in a country that in the span of only a few generations has suddenly lost
any kind of right understanding of objective truth –
as the founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence, “…
of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Today, the prevailing understanding of truth is that it is something purely subjective.
This is no small matter.

Today, there has emerged this new idea that you and I supposedly have some kind of
power to create whatever truth we want.
This, of course, not only opens the door to logical self-contradictions,
it very clearly contradicts objective reality itself.
You’re not George Washington even if you think you’re George Washington and
“claim this as your truth.” Simple people see this.
Grounded people see this.
People connected to the earth and nature really see this.

Sophisticates, distracted people, and afflicted people often do not.

What we have is a crisis of truth.

In all human communities, freedom is built upon personal and collective
responsibilities.
These responsibilities always rely upon truth.
Our greatest problem today is not simply that we have lost any meaningful concept of truth.
No, it’s worse than that.
Our greatest problem is that 1) we don’t know that truth is something objective to be discovered;
and 2) we no longer have adequate tools to do the work of discovery.

Let that sink in.

We don’t understand that truth needs to be discovered…
and yet everything of consequence depends on this one thing!

The discovery of truth does not come cheaply.
It requires diligence, patience, nuance, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual
humility.
To actually discover truth and not merely “win” an argument,
it is enormously helpful to be able to presume the good will and sincerity of one’s
discussion partner. But today our public discourse is largely carried out on Twitter.
News and opinion media have become reactionary and overly polemical.
Even our so-called presidential debates take on the form of a cheap tv game show.
How helpful is that?
Complex questions cannot be answered in one minute sound bytes.
It is folly to even try.

A crisis of truth leads to a crisis of love.

The loss of truth has led to the particularly harmful notion that your disagreement
with one of my ideas is somehow disrespectful of me as a human being.
Tragically, in 2019 America, “disagreement” equals “hate” to a lot of people.

But what if you truly love me?

To love is to will the good of another person.
If I hold an opinion that is not rooted in truth,
then that opinion can be quite harmful to me and to the people I influence.
Isn’t the most loving act to help me discover the truth?
Yes, this might require a discussion, debate, or argument.
Prudence dictates that such discussions occur at the right time,
in the right place, and with appropriate people.
But the premise of these kinds of honest disagreements and discussions is love.
To neglect such conversations with people you supposedly love
(or even with the culture at large)
is to not really love and care about them at all.

At the end of this sobering and somewhat frightening discourse,
Bobby is quick to remind us that not all is lost.
This is not a hopeless situation…

Not hopeless because it is in our hopelessness that our real Hope is to be found.
For in that Hope, resides the One true Everlasting Truth.

The Main Crisis on American Independence Day in 2019

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

channeling one’s inner Ester Williams while thanking the founding Fathers


(Ester Williams)

Well, my fourth of July post suffered a major glitch for some odd reason.

Foreign or local nationals is yet to be decided.

On the morning of the 4th, I went to hit the publish button and to my surprise, nothing posted.

Quickly, with a rising sense of panic, I went in twice to cut and paste the post,
creating a “new” post in order to attempt a “re”- publish.

Twice again, nothing…only the day prior’s post.

Hummm… or more like Agggghhhhhh…

Finally, the third, or perhaps was it the fourth or fifth time??, was the charm…
it posted…

However, later, several folks told me that the post never showed up in their Reader
but that they had to go to my regular WP site of cookiecrumbstoliveby to find it.

Odd…to say the very least.

In the meantime, spending the 4th with the Mayor and her new Sheriff, it was
apparent that the spirit of the famous 1940’s great competitive swimmer and actress
Ester Williams was alive in well in the Mayor as she donned her swimming cap for a
celebratory dip in the watermelon pool.

While the Mayor was busy with her photo ops, the Sheriff was busy showing off his red, white and blue
Patriotism while enjoying a refreshing bottle of formula…

Thank you dear Founding Fathers, along with all the countless men and women, throughout the
decades, who freely gave their all in order that one day a little girl would have the joyous freedom
to play in a watermelon wadding pool while her little brother enjoyed a bottle of formula,
all the while a loving grandmother cherished the moment of a family’s 4th of July and has the
freedom to have a tiny platform to speak her mind…

“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.”
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

the nagging issue of a name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve written a good bit
about my adoption…and that of a quest.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions with the exhilaration of discoveries–
all of which have been met by the slamming of doors, tightly shut…
all the way to the bewildering opening of different doors, much more welcoming.

In all of this is a name…
or more aptly, two names.

A before name and an after name.

The ‘now’ name of Julie and the ‘then’ name of Sylvia Kay…

Two names for one person that were exchanged after only three short months.

The Julie side of all of this has had the staying power of nearly 60 years while the
initial Sylvia Kay side was used but for a short time…

The whys and significance of Sylvia Kay remain unknown but to one.

Albeit a brief name, it none the less has most certainly remained in the recesses of the
conscience of a certain 83-year-old woman.
She has slammed shut the door but none the less has obviously allowed this name to fester…
just as it has festered in my own thoughts.

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

The name following, which was officially Mary Julia and shortened by Dad to ‘Julie’,
has been the ‘after’ name—a name that has remained for all these many years…
the name with the real staying power of identity.

And so it was this morning, as I was reading a verse from the Bible, that I noticed
the real importance of before and after names.

I read a verse in which Abraham was referred to as Abram.

I am obviously no Bible scholar.
I was raised an Episcopalian and we all know Episcoplains are not Old Testament,
let alone Bible, aficionados.

I noted that it seemed odd as I am more familiar with the name Abraham
but I figured it must indeed be a “before” name for Abraham.

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

And it seems that I was more correct than I realized.

You’ve often heard me quote and share the teachings of a simple
Benedictine monk from Australia who is currently living in a monastery in England.
He is best known as Father Hugh—Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The good Father’s post from yesterday opened with a picture of the
Jerusalem-version lectionary used throughout England and Wales.
Father Hugh asks all viewers if they can spot what it is that is the glaring mistake…
a mistake that is actually used twice.

The glaring mistake is found in a name.
The name Abraham.

Because of where this name falls in reference to the before and after encounter
of Abram with God, it is indeed, incorrect.
Instead of the after name Abraham, the Lectionary should use the before name of Abram.

Before Abram encounters God, he is known as “exalted Father”
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Genesis 14:19-20

After his encounter and ensuing covenant with God, Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
“As for me, this is my covenant with you:
You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your
descendants after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:1-7

Why does any of this matter?
What is the big deal about a before and after name?

Well, it matters a great deal…
For we see time and time again throughout the Bible, names matter.
Names have meaning…purposeful meanings.
And in this case, the case of Abram, it matters because of the implications
of a covenant.

A covenant being an agreement.

And this agreement between Yahewh and Abram has lasting implications for all
generations to come…of which include both you and me.

On the other hand, my little before and after names are much smaller in scope.
They matter really only to me…and perhaps one other.
Mine is a simple matter of why…
Abram’s before and after is a matter of the beginning of reconciliation which
in turn leads to the salvation of all mankind.

Yes, big or small, names matter.

Please see the link below for Father Hugh’s most excellent teaching post

What’s in a Name

God shed His grace on thee…

For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean
themselves as good citizens…
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,
continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants.”

(excerpt is taken from a letter written by George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation
in Newport, Rhode Island)


(Washington before Yorktown / Rembrandt Peale 1824)

Okay—long story short…
I began this post day’s ago…when I caught a news story about a letter from,
a soon to be President Washington, expressing his belief in God…
or who Washington so often referred to as “Providence” (’twas the times).

It coincided with the news story regarding Representative Ilhan Omar’s disparaging remarks
concerning Israel and Jews.
Shame on you Ms. Omar….but more to you later.

I have many other choice words to say to our new dear darlings of the House,
as well as some not so new senators and congress folks, those who are jumping on the intolerant bandwagon
of antisemitism, anger, and ignorance all while hiding under a Mr. Rogers-like engulfing sweater of all
things equitable, fair and tolerant…those who flock to the altar of Socialism while pretending to
be all things welcoming, inviting and dare I say, American.

They do not ask “would you like to be my neighbor?”… preferring rather to eradicate any and all who
continue to cling to and adhere to the tenants of a Judaeo/ Christian culture—that which our
Nation was actually built upon.

I will save those choice words for another day.

However, with all the current talk and a seemingly nefarious push to eliminate our
Judaeo / Christian foundation by an uber progressive radical culture, finding
a letter by a soon to be President Washington praising God for the ratification of our constitution
was uplifting.

Wednesday evening I sat down to finish the original post.
I wrote all evening until it was time for bed.
I saved everything and thought I was good to go.

The following day there was no finished post but rather only the original post…
sitting there as if I’d never touched it since I started it.

It wasn’t in my history on the computer or in WP.
Odd…to say the least.
So I’ll try to recall what I had to say…maybe it will be better.

Plus this is not to be an in depth thesis on the “faith of our fathers” but rather
a tantalizing morsel to whet your whistle.

There has been a growing debate for years concerning the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers…
A debate now rapidly growing and gaining in interest as many folks now wish to expunge all
references to God from our founding documents, our pledge, our historical architecture,
our books, and even our currency.

It appears that many non-believers and progressive provocateurs look to Thomas Jefferson when they wish
to begin an argument about God’s presence, or lack thereof, in this Nation of ours…
as Jefferson’s personal beliefs have always been a bit grey and convoluted given his keen interest in science
as well as theism and deism.

Jefferson was a devout theist, believing in a benevolent creator God to whom humans owed praise.
In an early political text, he wrote that “The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;…”
He often referred to his or “our” God but did so in the language of an eighteenth-century natural
philosophy: “our creator,” the “Infinite Power, which rules the destinies of the universe,”
“overruling providence,” “benevolent governor,” etc.
In 1823, he wrote to John Adams referring to
“the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore” while denouncing atheism.

Jefferson said that Christianity would be the best religion in a republic,
especially one like the United States with a broad diversity of ethnicities and religions.
“[T]he Christian religion when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have
inveloped it, and brought to the original purity &; simplicity of its benevolent institutor,
is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, & the freest expression of the human mind,”
he explained. It was a “benign religion…
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and love of man,
acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence.”
Based on these understandings, Jefferson demonstrated a deep, even devout, admiration of Jesus,
“the purity & sublimity of his moral precepts, the eloquence of his inculcations,
the beauty of the apologues in which he conveys them…

It was in this context that Jefferson said that
“I am a Christian,” a quote which is often repeated or referred to without context.
What he said was “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Jesus] wished anyone to be;…”

Monticello Organization

And speaking of John Adams…probably my favorite president as well as favorite Founding Father,
it seems we glean much of our knowledge of both Adams and Jefferson, along with their feelings and thoughts
regarding the Christian faith, from their correspondence between one another.

Much of what we know of Thomas Jefferson’s religion comes from letters he wrote from 1811 to 1826
to John Adams. Much more of what we know about John Adams’ views on religion comes from
his letters to Jefferson.
Religion was important to John Adams

“From early entries in his diary to letters written late in life,
Adams composed variations on a single theme:
God is so great, I am so small.
Adams never doubted who was in charge of the universe,
never viewed himself as master of his, or anyone’s destiny.”

There was a strong Puritan strain to Adams’ morality even when he strayed from Puritans’
religious precepts:
Adams wrote at 21 “that this World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State,
but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity
and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence,
after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety.
And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire,
and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune,
against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

Like Jefferson, Adams was a child of the Enlightenment.
The future president brought to religion a lively interest in science that he developed at Harvard.
Steven Waldman wrote: “Like [John] Locke, Adams believed that since God created the laws of the universe,
the scientific study of nature would help us understand His mind and conform to His wishes.

Like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams believed in the utility of religion even when he had doubts
about religious beliefs themselves:
“Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.

Lehrmaninstitue.org

So as we turn our sights to Washington and his personal views…
We know that the General and future President remains a bit of an enigma when it comes
to our understanding anything truly personal within Washington’s true beliefs.

Washington remains a larger than life figure in our Nation’s history
and yet he was a very private man…
probably more so than his fellow fraternity of Founding Fathers.
The Lehrmaninstitue offers this: George Washington worked hard to keep separate his public and
private views on religion.

History tells us that Washington’s life-long love was his dear Mt Vernon, farming and family…
Following his departure from office, disappearing into obscurity at Mt Vernon was most welcomed.

In most later paintings of Washington, we see an often dour man…particularly emotionless.
Some historians credit chronic mouth pain due to, yes, wooden dentures, to Washington’s pained and
stoic portraits.
At the same time, we know that Washington had been raised an Anglican.
Anglicans by nature, both then and now, are characteristically reserved when it comes to their faith.
They are not as demonstrative nor vocal regarding their belief in God or that of their faith.
I know because I was raised under a similar umbrella.

The Mount Vernon Organization shares a private insight with us…
Looking at Washington’s theological beliefs,
it is clear that he believed in a Creator God of some manner,
and seemingly one that was also active in the universe.
This God had three main traits; he was wise, inscrutable, and irresistible.

Washington referred to this God by many names, but most often by the name of “Providence.”

Washington also referred to this being by other titles to infer that this God was
the Creator God.

This aspect of his belief system is central to the argument about whether or not
Washington was a Deist.
His belief in God’s action in the world seems to preclude traditional deism.
Washington believed that humans were not passive actors in this world.
However, for Washington, it was also improper to question Providence.
This caused Washington to accept whatever happened as being the will of Providence.

Notably, Washington did see God as guiding the creation of the United States.

It is also possible that Washington felt he needed to discern the will of Providence.
These facts point to belief in a God who is hidden from humanity,
yet continually influencing the events of the universe.

This does not illustrate conclusively that he was a devout Christian, however.
Washington never explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in
private correspondence.
The only mentions of Christ are in public papers, and those references are scarce.
However, Washington’s lack of usage may be due to the accepted practice of his day;
Jesus was not typically referenced by Anglicans or Episcopalians of Washington’s generation.

Mount Vernon Organization

And whereas each man had his own personal and private thoughts and feelings regarding a Divine
Omnipotent Creator…each man, however, was very much convinced that this Creator was pivotal
to laying the foundation of the new fledgling nation.
He was intertwined within her birth, invited to play a key role and intentionally injected into
each part of her birthing fibers.

History teaches us that each man agreed that God and the Christian faith were vital
to the birth of the young nation. A unifying base.
And each man demonstrated a unique humility with regard to that which was greater than themselves.

These Founding Fathers provided us with a foundation as well as a guidepost.
It is my hope that we will not depart from the very foundation that our earliest architects
found necessary to our survival as a viable and functioning nation.

May we continue to humble ourselves to the one true Creator who is far greater than ourselves
and may He continue to shed his Grace on us all.

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/

https://www.foxnews.com/science/george-washington-letter-on-god-and-the-constitution-surfaces

Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

distortions, lunacy or both?

“Finding the right spirit for the Chruch…the Chruch needs the Holy Spirit.
And that is not the spirit currently serving the Chruch.

You cannot serve two gods.”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden

The Church ought to have noticed that one of the aspects of the New Left and its
ambition for culture is that it literally hates ‘Judaeo-Christian’ values.
At this point, the new alliance between Islam
(given a special pass by the New Left as both an ally in destroying Judaeo-Christianity,
and because it is a minority in Europe) and the Left makes it impact energetically felt.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(cyclists in Cophenhagen, Denmark)

I recently watched the latest offering of Anglican Unscripted…
I’ve posted the clip below.

In the conversation between Kevin the host and Bishop Ashenden the guest,
a conversation which primarily focuses on the ailing Chruch of England as well as
her sister affiliation, or perhaps more like her red-headed step-child–
that being The Episcopal Chruch here in the US, the conversation deviated toward a recent
trending news story coming out of London.

It seems that the mayor of London, who is Muslim, complained publically that there is not
enough ethnicity amongst those who cycle throughout the streets of London.

Huh?!

It seems that the fact that the majority of cyclists, be it those who are cycling for exercise
or cycling as a means of transportation, are predominately white middle-aged males.

This small observational fact troubles the mayor.
He is calling for a more diverse population of cyclists.

Hummmmm…

How does one go about such a task?

Advertise to those of varying skin tones, ethnicities, and genders, etc. that cycling
through the congested and rather traffic-heavy streets of a major global city would be fun
and a good idea?

This coming on the heels of rising reports of severe injury and even death amongst those
who are currently opting to bike these so-called undiverse streets.

Maybe the ethnicities and varying genders are wise in that they prefer not to play
‘dodge the truck and car’ while opting not to breathe the noxious and deadly exhaust fumes…

But it is this very nonsense of a mayor who is over-reaching to extremes in wanting to mix up
the colors he’s noticing on his streets riding bikes, that the Chruch of England is also
headed…headed to a dangerous precipice in her own over-reaching.

The Church of England is promoting the idea, nay enforcing the mandate,
that the pulpits throughout the UK should be more full of diversity.
More homosexuals, more women, more varieties of skin color and more transgender individuals.

Bishop Ashenden notes in a recent article that piggybacks off of his Anglican Unscripted
interview,
“It has been said that we don’t get ideas; they get us.
Two announcements have been made recently by parts of the Church of England.
One was that it looked to increase the quota of ethnic and other minorities ordained
to the Christian priesthood,
and the other was the promotion of transgendered people as clergy.”

The good Bishop continues….
“The second idea is simply an intensification of the first.
We have been hearing so much about minorities and diversity in recent years,
it can be hard to remember that these are artificial political categories that have not been
around very long.

By artificial, what I mean is that they are all to do with category and not with content.
The categories are political ones that allow a language based on power to be used and developed.
What is an ‘ethnic minority’?
It all depends on where you use the word.
In England it becomes a euphemism for non-indigenous people.
What would it mean in India.
There an Englishman or woman would be part of the ethnic minority.
Do you ever hear anyone show concern for the English as an ethnic minority in India?
No, of course not.

This is a strategy of what we are calling the New Left, and it’s a very dangerous one.
Its intention is to capture both politics and culture and radically change them.

But this in itself has terrible implications. The whole idea of the incarnation,
is that God became a human to save His lost children.
But one of the very clear elements in the Bible is that God deals with people individually
and not collectively.
He engages with us at a direct personal level,
not through our parents, tribe skin colour, intelligence or sex.

In fact, St Paul goes further with the matter of homosexuality and talks only of acts,
sexual intimacy entered into.
There are no such thing as gay or homosexual Christians.
Secularists might want to describe themselves as gay or homosexual,
though even then it seems strangely shallow to sum up a whole human being through the
filter of their sexual appetite.
In fact, it represents a decadent and sad diminution of the way one looks at people.

Even Gore Vidal, one of the homosexual revolutions most articulate advocate despised the idea
of calling people gay.
In an interview with the London Times his interviewer wrote,
“Vidal says that he hates labels and has said he believes in homosexual acts
rather than homosexual people.”

The moment a Church starts talking about gay Christians it has been captured by an
anti-Christian idea, some would go further and say ‘an anti-Christian spirit.

Our dear Bishop closes his latest post offering with the following wisdom…

At what point might the Church of England notice that is has given up the life and language of the New Testament and the grace of the transforming Holy Spirit for the death and incoherence of politicisation and the stagnation of the spirit of the age?

There is a way out. There is one door through which the Church can pass in order find its freedom, but it is the door of repentance of action and ‘metanoia’, a transformation of the mind and soul.

In the language of the Church, in order to be the Church, trans needs to stand for transformation, not trans-sexual.

A distorted church;- where ‘trans’ stands for transsexual not transformation – and stagnation replaces salvation.