Aiding and abetting…

We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge,
but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life.
The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.

Franz Kafka


(a helter-skelter feeding frenzy in the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Our dear favorite ‘across the pond’ rouge Anglican bishop is at it again…
showcasing the egregious acts of The Chruch, not being the Church.

And how might the Church not be the Church you ask…

Well the good Bishop is explaining such through various means…
such as taking part in interviews, writing a plethora of posts as well as contributing to
various printed articles.

Below is the most recent pitch from an interview with the BBC…

The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen,
has criticised the Cathedral for making a “mockery” of God.

“Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence,
instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people,”

Next, in a recent article, as well as posting, the good bishop offers the following as a
lead-in to such observations…

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and
to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini-golf course over the flagstones
where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter-skelter
at the heart of the building.

So for those of us on this side of the pond who simply think of the Beatles or Charles Manson
when we hear or read the words ‘helter-skelter’…a helter-skelter is actually an amusement ride.

And yes you’ve read correctly…
three churches, Cathedrals for that matter,
(Cathedrals being churches that are homes to a bishop),
have literally placed an amusement ride inside the sanctuary,
while another has put in a putt-putt green down its center aisle and
still, another is offering a gin festival…
think Oktoberfest with gin rather than beer, inside of a church.

And so Bishop Ashenden makes a very hard and painfully truthful observation about
the collective Chruch…

In every generation, the Church faces a live or die challenge.
Convert or be converted.

He goes on…
Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven,
turned and transformed;
or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces,
other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin
covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

Yet Bishop Ashenden, however, does not sugarcoat those darker days in the Church’s history…
because the Chruch is not spotless nor free of her own egregious actions…

“There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous.
The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name
of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other
cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of elderly Catholic priests
guilty of nothing more than baptizing the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels
to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national,
political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory”.

He then explains why things that are so seemingly simple and silly as a liquor festival,
mini golf greens and amusement rides residing in the sanctuaries of a church is, in reality,
an affront, as well as a mockery, to all that is Holy…

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder,
but mockery.
The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the instrumentation of murder, but mockery
is no more acceptable just because it is not murder.
The trouble with the helter-skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone
with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence
of some gravity.

The good Bishop explains that we are surrounded by a world full of distractions.
Everything is now vying, very loudly, for our attention.
We are consumed and have allowed that ‘still small Voice’ to be drained
from our being…

However, it was always the Chruch, our refuge, which afforded us the necessary quietude
and stillness in order to reconnect and to truly hear and feel that Voice while being
allowed to fall at the feet of that very Voice both in our need and in our joy.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure-seeking.
The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God.
They are everywhere.
We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life.
It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in[to] sensory pleasure and distraction
is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.
It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still,
small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

And thus the dear Bishop reminds us that we are currently witnessing our own rapid
loss to what is in actuality our innate need for the Sacred.
As the very place where the Sacred could and should be found is in reality,
aiding and abetting in that very loss…

Please read and hear the good Bishop’s words in the following links…

Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Golf, ego and awe. An interview with Gavin Ashenden on BBC radio about cathedrals and pitch and putt. What ARE they for?

well that didn’t go as planned now did it?

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
Allen Saunders


( I snapped this little spine chart yesterday sitting in the exam room waiting on the doctor / Julie Cook /2019)

Pour yourself a cool glass of lemonade and pull up a chair, this may take a minute.

Yesterday I found myself sitting in the orthopedic’s exam room waiting on the doctor.
They were kind to work me in as I called on Memorial Day and they were closed.
During grandmother duty this past Saturday, something went awry in my back…
I knew when it happened…much like 3 years ago when I could be found in the same office.

Last time it was two herniated disks.
This felt much the same…sooo I knew the drill.

Shots in the back for now…we’ll see how that works before we pull
in the big guns as we did last time with an epidural and nerve block.
Sigh.

Things like back issues, bone issues…any medical issue really, in almost all cases,
have a hereditary leaning.

We inherit so much from our parents and from those even further down the line from previous generations.

That’s in part why our doctors are always asking us if we have a medical history for __________
allowing you and I to fill in the blank.

When you’re adopted, you almost never really know the answers.
You never really know a thing about any sort of medical history.

They don’t send home care instructions or medical charts with babies who are being adopted.
Well, they didn’t in 1959 when I was born.

So I usually tick the boxes on my doctor’s charts with an NA or an “I have absolutely no clue”

Every medical issue I’ve ever stumbled into during my lifetime has seemed to be an anomaly…
an out of the blue sort of occurrence.
Who knew this short person who has been relatively active her entire life would have bone
and back troubles?

I certainly didn’t.

I’ve written about my having been adopted on numerous occasions.
When I first began this blog 6 years ago, I pegged adoption to be one of my “discussion” topics.
We former educators always think along educational lines…so much so that when I started writing,
I was all about wanting to inform and educate…
Be it about cooking, art, travel or adoption…education was the impetus.

But in the middle of those 6 years, God redirected my words…
I found I wasn’t sharing much about those sorts of topics anymore but rather topics
God had lead me to share.
And who am I to argue with God??

But for whatever reason, I am back to revisiting the topic of adoption…
In great part, due to my concern over this culture of death we seem to be living in…
a culture that puts money, lifestyle and convenience over the sanctity of human life…
but I digress.

Adoption is a funny thing.

We adopted children are actually given a second chance at life.
Aborted babies, not so much.

Adoption is either a hard and painful choice for a woman or it is relatively simple.
It just depends on the woman.

Yet adopted children, those whose adoptive parents are very open and transparent about the adoption,
live with the knowledge that they, in essence, have two sets of parents…
a biological set and an adopted set.

It’s just that many fathers in the biological set may or may not know that they had ever fathered a child.
But that is not to be the pig trail for today’s discussion…we shall stay on topic.
Educators do try to keep the discussions on track…not unless they see a teachable moment taking
place in the diversion…today, we are on track.

A couple of weeks ago, before baby James got so sick, I wrote a post about my search for my biological parents.
Well, not totally an in-depth tale and not so much about my parents, but actually, a search for my mother.
Suffice it to know, things did not go so well.

The link is here:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/i-think-we-could-have-been-friends-and-i-do-have-some-really-nice-lamps/

However I want to back up a bit.

I was born in 1959 and adopted in 1960.

There was a little book put out in those early days for adopted parents to read to their adopted children,
a book read when the adopted parents deemed their adopted child was ready…ready to learn
the truth and could help explain the situation.

Dad read me the story when I was about 5.

I loathed that little book and I loathed the story.
Suddenly I felt separated from everyone I thought I knew as mine.

I then set out living my life,
while trying to keep the feelings of separation from that life, at bay.

I think we call that suppression.

This was the first post I wrote about my adoption—
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

I didn’t want to talk about being adopted nor think about it.
If I did, then my neat and tidy little world wouldn’t be so neat and tidy.
Plus I fretted about my parents and their feelings…I never wanted them to feel hurt or
pain that I was really not theirs, but rather that I was someone else’s child.

The child playing a role far beyond her age, responsibility or capacity.

For you see their second adopted child, my adopted brother who was 5 years younger than
I was, was a mess.
His life with them and the life of us as a family was doomed…
because in essence he was doomed.

He did not handle being adopted well at all, and we all suffered grievously.

It is probably one of my better posts, despite the difficulty in writing it as well as the pain
in re-reading it of which adds to the re-living…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/

So I suppose we could say adoption has almost haunted me my entire life.

Once, when I finally became a grown woman with my own family, I wanted to learn more.
I wanted to be able to know things for my son’s sake.
Mainly medical information, but genealogy as well.

So 10 years ago, I was troubled by those nagging questions.
Adopted children live with questions.
That’s not a bad thing…don’t educators always say, no question is a bad question?
And I thought I’d seek a few of the answers.
I had always told myself, because of what my dad had lived through with my brother,
that I would never search for my biological parent—
I knew that the thought of possibly “losing” his only living child would be too much.

So rather than seeking the answers to the big questions, I decided to look for smaller answers.
But when I did find those “answers”, they only created giant gaping holes in the story
of who I was.

I reached out the Family’s First, Georgia’s Adoption Reunion Registry—
it is what the Atlanta Adoption
Agency, the place I came from, had morphed into.

For a small fee, they would provide me with my redacted case files—
no identifying cities, last names
or any hints as to people, states, cities or places.

But the story left larger questions.

Questions I would sit on for another 10 years.

Dad died two years ago.
I now have grandchildren.
I continue to look in a mirror wondering.
What is in me that is now in those grandchildren of mine?…and whose DNA is in them?

My doctor and I had talked about me doing one of those popular DNA tests so I could
find out some medical
information to pass on to my son.
She preferred 23 and Me as it provided the best medical info.

And so I did—I did so also hoping to find some sort of family.

I found a 1st cousin in Tennessee.
When I saw his information pop up on my computer screen, I felt my heart stop.

I nervously reached out to this man and shared the story of me that I knew.

That is an on-going story but he is my first cousin on my dad’s side of the family.
He is almost certain his second cousin is my half sister—but they are all still
working on that.

The story I shared added up.
Jobs, dates, etc.

I felt euphoria.
Which quickly faded as they have lives, they are busy and a long lost sibling is
not top on their radar…
but that is not to say that they have not been kind and helpful and eventually
want to meet and share pictures.
But they are younger than I am and are in different places.
My birth dad, one of the three brothers, their uncles, has since passed away…
so no reunion there.
And as I say, that is a story still in the making.

During all of this, however, I opted to reach back out to Families First.
I was ready to pay a larger fee for a full-fledged search for my biological mother.

The social worker told me they always start with the mother.
If she is deceased, then they share information and move on to a search for the father.

She told me that I was to come up with a top 10 list of questions I wanted to be answered,
as well as a letter is written directly to my birth mother.

At the time, I was feeling a bit disconnected…perhaps it was a protection mechanism as
I was almost stoical bordering on flippant in my going forward with all of this.
I was generic in my questions and really didn’t have a full 10.

The social worker told me that they enlist the aid of a private detective and don’t
be surprised if the search takes up to 6 months.

I then tucked all of this away on a back burner.

Yet I was actually becoming a bit of an internal emotional wreck.

But as life would have it, our second grandchild was born nad life quickened.
There were some complications and time was not my own.

I really wasn’t thinking about adoption searches anymore.

But then one day out of the blue I received a call from the social worker informing me that
they had found my mother and she was indeed still alive.

I felt an electric jolt of excitement–a smile filled my face.
Hope of sorts was entering my life’s quest.

The social worker now wanted those questions and that letter—
in hopes of giving them to my mother
when she reached out to her.

I wrote fast and quick…I didn’t want to overthink or reconsider.
I wrote without even reading over what I wrote—
a letter filled with gratitude and kindness
and well wishes…and lots of typos.

And then I waited.
And life got busy, again.

So it was not until the other week when my husband and I were getting ready to
walk out the door that my phone rang.

I immediately recognized the name of the social worker and I stopped dead in my tracks.
She had been good to keep me up to speed via email, but here she was calling.
I fumbled all over myself answering and offering pleasantries.

What had begun as a rather low key nonchalant search of curiosity now had turned into
something much more…
It had grown into the notion of me seeing all of this as a second chance…a second chance
with a crucial relationship in life.

Yet I’ve known of family horror stories—those who were seeking, just as I was,
only to find disaster.

I was well aware of the risks—yet I was willing to take those risks…
because I wanted to know who made me who I was…who I am…
all those nuances that are simply the by-products of personal shared DNA.
Who looks back at me in that mirror every day.
Who has helped to build this wall inside of me?

The social worker started the conversation with,
“Julie, I heard back from your mother today through her attorney…”
I swallowed hard and stammered “attorney”…as in “oh, ok, well that says it all does it not?!”

I felt a sicking weight hit my guts.

The room shrunk in around me and I felt as if I might suffocate.

My family has had enough dealings with attorneys as of late due to
deaths and wills…here we were to go again.
Nothing with an attorney is positive.

She continued—she wants nothing to do with you…” you were from the past and
that is where you are to stay.”

Hot tears now formed in my eyes.

I wanted to yell into the phone that “you tell that attorney and that woman
that I am a good person. A kind person…
a person who I think she could be proud of…”

But I didn’t.

I was the baby she bore prematurely, without any prenatal care.
The baby she fled her family over, moving out of state.
The baby who she ended her relationship with my father over—
a man who had asked her to marry him.
She was 23 and he was 28—yet she said some things and things went too far…
and she ran—she ran from everyone and everything…and she ran into hiding.

She was a nurse who didn’t seek prenatal care.
She delivered under me using an alias.

Even a different hospital then what is on my legal birth certificate.

She gave birth and left the hospital that day.
But the social worker at the time noted in the files that twice she was called back
because I was sick
She was worried and had tears in her eyes when returning to the hospital.
The social worker noted that she was still very much emotionally attached to my birth father
despite his having moved on and becoming engaged.

So many questions.
Such a sad past.
And that was where I was to stay…in her sad past.
A past that could have had a happier ending.

The social worker told me that because of this, she was unable to share my
questions and letter.
I half-heartedly laughed telling her it was a letter chocked full of grammatical errors and
typos as we both laughed.

I asked if she could, perhaps clean it up and send my letter to this attorney.
I even almost found myself asking for the attorney’s name before I thought better—
knowing all of this was such an anonymous process, protecting her identity.

In the state of Georgia, one’s adoptions records remain sealed under the court of law.
They may only be opened by petitioning the court and the reason better be pretty darn good.
Curiosity and the answering of questions are not good enough reasons.

And so that is why I wrote that post the other week.

Tomorrow I will post the letter I wrote to my mother.

I figure what the heck.

The social worker was having to send some sort of affidavit to the lawyer for my
mother to sign—
I suppose a paper to put in my file that states she is not to ever be contacted
and my records…may never be seen.
Despite the fact that they are also my records.
As in mine and just as much mine as hers.

I told the social worker, to again, please assure this attorney that it had not my intent
to invade into this woman’s life.
I also told her I figured this would be how it would end.
“Why is that Julie” she inquired.
“It’s just my luck Stacy”

After writing that post the other day, a dear blogger friend, Dawn Marie,
in Pennsylvania offered this comment:

I am so sorry, Julie.
But even sorriest for the woman who opened her womb to you, but not her heart.
I will pray for her.
And I would ask you to consider perhaps this “rough” ending was put in place by God
to protect you & not harm.
He revealed, through her calloused legal action, a lot about her –
perhaps sheltering you from further harm.
May you be at peace.
A warm hug sent your way to uplift you.

I’ll add a few more words tomorrow when I share my letter.

After I hung up the phone I dropped my head like a small child might do,
and sobbed into my husband’s arms.
A double rejection.
The grown me, the grown 60-year-old woman, crying like a small child whose
own mother had rejected her…again.

But as Dawn reminds me…God is in the midsts of all of this
just like he was when in 1959 when I was conceived and born…
and later in 1960 when I was eventually adopted.

When we opted to go down to the beach for a few days last week, I thought it would be
a time that I could ponder, contemplate and make sense of things…
and to natually lick my wounds.

Yet God thought differently—no time for self-pity…
He called us to race home to be with our grandson who was rushed to the hospital.

See…life, my life, does go on.
It goes on in three blood relatives…
My son and his two children.
Of whom mean the world to me.
They are mine and I am theirs.

Some reasons in life we know,
some we do not—
The best we can do is to always pick ourselves up when we fall and move one foot in
front of the other–
always moving forward…and never back.

The letter tomorrow.

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

Did the world stop spinning?

Stop the earth from spinning, I want to get off
anonymous


(big sister Alice does believe her world has indeed stopped spinning / Julie Cook/ 2018)

I think it was last Tuesday…
I started a new post and suddenly…life just spiralled away…

It has been spiralling since Friday, February 16th.

That Friday began with a frantic phone call followed by a frantic race to the big city…
racing 65 miles along a busy interstate to a busy metro hospital…
as a first-time pregnant mom felt no movement from her soon to be baby.

Was there a heartbeat…we did not yet know.

The doctors ordered them to the hospital immediately.
The dreaded word “stillborn” was quietly uttered and cautiously mentioned by a
somber doctor.

Tears, prayers and shouting flowed freely…while racing on a busy interstate.

Finally and thankfully the call came…there was a heartbeat.
But I kept racing none the less.
The voice of my own, now grown father-to-be, son was frightened.

And there was a call for urgency for a delivery.

4:15 PM, a week ago Saturday, a loud exhale could be heard rising up from a lone labour
and delivery room.

A week has since passed in what seems to be a gauze veiled haze of weary relief.

A new mom is now ill with fever…
A new dad is a walking zombie…
A new big sister dog is depressed
A new odd inherited aunt of a cat is still an independent nut job
A new tiny princess has been jaundiced and has had to visit the local Children’s hospital
all the while a new grandmother is still on ‘new-life’ duty while toothpicks prop
open her eyes…

So yes, it does feel as if the world has indeed stopped spinning for a myriad of reasons…
reasons which I haven’t even listed…reasons we’ve been living with but matter not much here…

For us, as exhausting as it all has been, it has been a privilege of wonderment to behold.

The post I attempted last week touched on the fact that the world was obviously still
churning onward without me.

All the current worldly worries and woes have not changed.
The News outlets are still rambling on about the same ol same ol.
Russia is still being Russia.
The Olympics have come and gone.
Politics are still a hot miserable mess.
And today is the first day I’ve looked at a computer.

Truth be told, I’ve not missed any of it!

Tending and caring for a new life seems so much more important than any and everything else.

Caring and tending—a focus of caring, nurturing, tending and servicing the needs of another.
What a novel concept.

No fussing and cussing of opposing sides.
No worries about fake news or animosity.
The self-centred world has been refreshingly removed.
The weight from this heavy and angry painfilled world lifts
as the reality of what is real settles in.

I have, however, missed reading and learning…
learning and sharing with and from all of you my learned friends…
yet there has been no time.
And there is very little if any energy.

I did, however, manage to briefly read snippets, in the wee hours,
of those posts offered by our clerical friends from across the pond
regarding the death of Billy Graham.

I am obviously of the age to clearly remember the televised Billy Graham crusades.
However, I never did attend one in person…
Being an Episcopalian and a committed Christian, I never felt called to
attend a crusade, but I did enjoy watching his televised “sermons.”

In college, I worked at a Christain girl’s summer camp.
The camp was the neighbour to Billy Graham’s North Carolina home.
We never saw him…but his presence was always felt.

Both our friend the Wee Flea, David Robertson,
the pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Dundee and our loving renegade
Anglican Bishop Gavin Ashenden each made note of the famous Evangelist’s passing.

Bishop Ashenden, in his post concerning Billy Graham,
noted the mixed reviews regarding the death of this 99-year-old soldier of Christ…
comments expressing both sorrow as well as sarcastic vehemence.

The good bishop actually cited a rather nasty comment by a contributing editor for Teen Vogue.

“The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time.
Anyway, have fun in hell, bitch.”

Lauren Duca

As a very exhausted new grandmother…
who has experienced some rather low lows and some soaring high highs in the past 10 days…
a grandmother who is marvelling in the life of this new granddaughter—
a little girl who will one day find herself exposed to such things as Teen Vogue…
I am left absolutely baffled by such a caustic comment.

Running out to Target, in order to pick up some baby necessities…
I actually caught a glimpse of the most recent cover of the latest edition of Teen Vogue…

Is this the type of message we want to offer our young girls???–
“resist we must”

Resist what?

The world?
Our society?
Our history?
Resist who we were meant to be?

Resist…
meaning…we must be rebellious vs peace giving,
we must be defiant vs compromising, yielding, giving, offering…
we must be obstinate vs diplomatic…
we must be hate-filled vs kind and loving…
we must be militant vs confident
we must be all that is opposing what God originally intended…

My son, during the course of these past 10 days we’ve spent together, has voiced his anguish
for this new daughter of his…
his anguish over the future of a young woman caught in the growing maelstrom of worldly confusion.
What is to be her future—
A world where Christianity is condemed while secularism rules?
A world where the word Conservative or Orthodox or Tradition is scorned, ridiculed and even
hunted down…???

I echo his concern…

May we continue to hold onto the promise we have been given…

So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

A study in the contrast between Political and Pneumatic Christianity in the light of the life and death of Billy Graham.

Caritas

“Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments:
love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate


(a modern day icon depicting Saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica)

Ok so if the truth be told, I have about 6 or so posts in the making just sitting in
the draft pile waiting for expansion and or completion.
Much like the pile of books that I keep accumulating…
the must-reads that must be prioritized…
add a heavy and liberal dose of life…
and thus so many good things are simply left hanging and or waiting…

But as I am a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit,
there will always be a good nudging or even a shove into the direction I need to go.

So since today (yesterday for those reading this as intended on Sunday)
February 10th is the feast day of St Scholastica.

“Who??” you’re probably asking…
We’ll get to her in a minute.

Sometimes I am so tired or weary when putting the finishing touches on a post
that in my strained eyed state, I’ll push publish rather than preview well before it’s time…
In turn, sending myself into a fit of near hysteria as I try to undo what I have
erroneously done lest anyone pop onto a half-finished and more ill edited post
than they should.

Add to my posting troubles that my favorite clerics,
all who oddly are each located on the Isle of Great Britain…
those being that delightfully rouge Anglican Bishop, that no-fuss,
no holds barred free Presbyterian Pastor and that rather conservative Orthodox Australian
Catholic monk stuck in the middle of the UK…
each has been serving up more than the ample plate of refreshing and deeply
heartening truths—all of which is making me run around like some sort of chicken
with my head cut off as I’m finding myself hard pressed just trying to keep up—
Trying to discern and pick what I must in turn digest and later share…

Father, or rather Dom, Hugh offers a most intriguing Latin-based themed post entitled
Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas—
or for us laymen, contemplation, consideration, and love, or charity,
whichever word you’d like to use.

Fr Hugh focuses in on St Benedict of Nursia and Benedict’s sister St Scholastica,
along with the power of prayer and what is the true nature of our actions and prayers.

St Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism and is the patron
Saint of Europe. A saint whose current job,
I would suspect, is quite busy given the growing secularism sweeping
across Europe but that’s a post for another day…
like I say, waiting in the queue.

This saintly brother-sister duo was born and raised in Itlay,
in what is modern-day Norcia, sometime
in the 5th century. Some historians believe the two had been twins,
others merely note them being merely brother and sister.

Benedict is probably best known for his Rule of Benedict.
A playbook of how to live…in a monastery….
but whereas it is most a relevant and practical book for those living a cloistered life,
it is also a book most relevant for those of us outside of the monastery.

This little book is still in huge demand and is widely read today.
In fact, many businesses have adopted Benedict’s Rule as part of a guiding
and directional tool for their employees.

The good Father relays the teaching found in the homily offered on the feast day
of St Scholastica during their morning mass.
Where the notion of Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas was put before the gathered monks.

The abbot offering the homily tries to explain the balance between body and soul,
prayer and our often misguided practicalities…

“Put another way, it is to apply the primacy of love to any situation;
not the schmaltzy love favoured in muzak, but the love of God and of our neighbour
as ourselves, seen in one harmonious whole.
A good example would be Our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath:
he did not devalue the sabbath but put it in a proper sense of proportion,
as being made for man not man for it.

The abbot shared a story about Benedict’s sister the nun coming for a visit to
her brother the monk.
Her brother met her at the gate. Benedict and a few of the brothers left the
walls of the monastery in order to visit and share a meal with Scholastica.

Scholastica was keen to spend the day with Benedict and his brothers,
sharing stories about God’s power and grace.

As evening fell, Benedict told his sister that he and his fellow brothers
needed to be getting back to their abbey as she must hers.
She implored him to stay that they still had much to share.
But he insisted that he must leave her.
At this point, Scholastica took her brother’s hands within her own and began to
earnestly beseech God to impress upon her brother the importance that he should stay,
even throughout the night, in order that they may share in God’s good word.

And so a storm suddenly ensued.
Benedict reprimands his sister “What have you done?”.
Scholastica replied, “I asked you and you would not listen;
so I asked my God and he did listen.
So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
The storm was beating down too hard for Benedict or his companions to return to
his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”

(solemncharge.com)

The storm had made it impossible for Benedict to take his leave back to the
abbey and in turn, he had to spend the remainder of the evening in his sister’s
company discussing God’s glory and wonderment.

Benedict felt that the rules of his order, that he and the others were bound to follow,
that their return to the abbey was far more important
then talking about God all night long with his sister.

Finally, as daylight arrived and the storm had abated, Scholastica bid her brother farewell
as they each retreated and made their individual ways back to their respective abbeys.

Three days later Scholastica died, and Benedict had a vision of Scholastica’s soul
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.
He sent his fellow monks to retrieve her body to his monastery and they laid it
in his own tomb.
She died about the year 543.
Her feast day is February 10th.

(solemncharge.com)

Benedict later reflected that because his sister “loved” more in her prayer of pure
earnestness, her will prevailed over his idealism of practicality.
Think Martha and Mary.
For her prayer that night was one of the pureness of charity and of a deep abiding love
as she most likely realized that her time death was imminent—
and that to spend what time was remaining together was most important.

Dom Hugh notes that “if we truly have charity for even those who disagree with us,
who peddle a line that reeks of error,
then we will achieve far more by persuasion than intimidation.
The achievement might come in God’s good time rather than our own,
a salutary reminder that instant gratification is not of the Gospel.
A sense of proportion, a healthy discretion, will keep us to this way.
It is all there in the Tradition.

It is interesting to note that when dealing with sinners Jesus was mildness itself.
His more strident tone was reserved for those who should have known better
or thought they knew better.

Caritas indeed.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

Silence, authentic and evil

“The Islamic State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East is well
documented. Yet this modern atrocity is often judged less newsworthy than the
jihadists’ destruction of the region’s cultural heritage. What are the roots
and human realities of this unfolding tragedy in the birthplace of three
great religions?”

back cover offering of the book The Last Christians by Fr Andreas Knapp


(one of our trees in last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Speaking of books arriving via the post….
another bookmailer showed up in my mailbox yesterday…

Dare I say that this most recent book will take us in a vastly different
direction than the children’s book seen in yesterday’s post
If My Moon Was Your Sun by Andreas Steinhofel….
Not to say that there won’t be both poignancy, sorrow and loss…
but such will be on a scale that will touch all of us rather than some of us….

This recent book does not look to be an easy read.
Not that there should be great burdensome amount of academic depth but rather simply
the hard tale of human loss and suffering on an epic and historic proportion….
and yet mostly on an overlooked and even ignored level.

Of which is actually most perplexing given the significance of the situation.

The book is entitled The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

“For a long time Christians in the Middle East have been condemned to silence.
For centuries they have been discriminated against by a predominantly Muslim
society and, as a minority, they have been forced to quietly accept
injustice and lead an inconspicuous life in the shadows.
Even I, a preist and theologian, was for a long time unaware of the moving story
of Christians in Syria and Iraq.

Two years ago, I met some Christians from the Middle East who now live in my
neighborhood of Grunau, in Leipzig, Germany. Having listened to their stories,
I was so moved I had to write them down.
They may not be entirely politically correct, but they are correct in
the sense that they are authentic.”

Fr Andrea Knapp

It is noted from the publisher that “remarkably, though these last Christians hold
no hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.
Could it be that they–along with the Christians of the West, whose interest will
determine their fate–hold the key to breaking the cycle of violence in the region?

Their’s is a story that I have actually written about before…
around the same time Fr Knapp, the German priest,
came to see with his own eyes, then came to write down his interactions
and observations…
but yet this is a story that is still exceedingly timely and necessary to hear.

My origianal post is from March of 2015 and is more informative
than what is offered here today…as it includes a 60 Minutes segment in which
Lara Logan had also gone to visit the region in order to see and hear
first hand the plight of this particular group of ancient Christians.

The post offers images and insight into the barbarism used by ISIS to systematically annihilate this last vestige of the original Christians who have existed in this
region since both the death and resurrection of Christ.

Regarding the book…I have not yet had a chance to delve into it…
but from what I have gleaned from the tantalizing tidbits…
this will be not only a very important tale to Christians but also a hugely important
story for historians, Jews as well as Muslims…as it actually determines the course
of humanity.

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

And perhaps ironically today, as I was thinking about these first Christians who are
lined up to be the last of their kind, I caught a very brief, like all of 2 minute,
video clip of an interview of sorts given by the Reformed Presbyterian Minister David Robertson—
a clip where he is responding to the question of
‘How does the existence of Evil undermine the atheistic worldview?

Pastor Robertson notes that in the mind of an atheist, the existence of Evil
is a clear sign that there is no God.
As they will rationalize that if there was a God,
He would in turn be all powerful and therefore He could and would prevent all Evil….
So since there is Evil, there is obviously no God.

Yet on the flip side of all of that is how then does the atheist define Evil
with no moral absolutes?
If there are no rules, no judgements, no afterlife, no God, no way of resolving
or dealing with Evil, how does the atheist actually deal with the concept of
evil in any sort of defining way.
The answer… He cannot.

So the non believer has a conundrum…with the mindset of ‘well, since there is no
God and Evil isn’t Evil, we might as well just live it up….

This as humankind wrestles with what to do about the historic and epic genocides…atrocities which have taken place throughout all of time.

And so you are now asking as to why I would write about such during this time of
Advent—a time of all things full of Expectancy, Anticipation and Christmas…
a time that is to be of softness, love and dare we say, hope…
Why should we worry ourselves over the ugliness of reality as those are problems
not on our particular or given radar—things that are happening over there some
place and out of sight.

Why write about the annihilation of Aramaic Christians, atheists and their fight for disbelief and the very concept of Evil….

‘Please not here, not now, not at Christmas…’ we are each heard to lament.

Well it actually is because it is Advent and the Christmas season that we should be
and need to be most mindful of such….

As those of us who confess to be Believers must not find ourselves falling
into the hole of secularism and the Societal notion of Christmas…
of which we have done.

This secular celebration of all things Christmas that is currently in all
its full glory and regalia is lulling us into a time of contented ignorant bliss.

And just as I reminded us in Tuesday’s Meat and Potatoes post….
this time of year is particularly very loud and very noisy…for a reason…

Do you not think that there is one who delights in the pure distraction
from what is to be our Truth?

Advent….
yes…
be ready,
be watching,
be waiting…
for there are epic things taking place all the while as we busy ourself with
the minutia of the moment while missing the importance of the day…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

lord of the flies

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”
Denis Diderot

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
William Golding, Lord of the Flies


(I used this image back in June, but it fit so well today)

I suppose the reading of certain books during our time spent in high school
lit classes is all a part of the adolescent right of passage.

Most folks my age read such books as Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye,
A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Crucible,
1984 (yes published in 1949 and I read it long before 1984),
The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men…the list goes on and on.

Some books I enjoyed.
Some books I loathed.
Some books left me unsettled.

Lord of the Flies was just one such book.

No happy ending there.

It was a tale that left me terribly unsettled.

Any sort of story showcasing those who are oh so civilized one minute while
quickly falling into barbarism the next,
when all the trappings of modern life suddenly disappear,
leaves me less than happily settled—

Perhaps because it is a blatant reminder of how thin is the veil that separates
modern man from his animalistic alter ego …
and yet that was indeed the author’s intent…
A stalk reminder…..

I was in high school just past those heady days of Woodstock and Flower power.
The early 70’s were to be a time of reemerging.
We were coming up for air from an unpopular war, grave national unrest,
sit-ins, love-ins as a president was preparing to leave office in disgrace…
people wanted to reset and move forward.
Our naiveté was long gone.

Sounds as if I could be talking about today….

We read the works of writers who addressed such feelings..some being current, some
simply ahead of their time.

And it appears as if I am not alone in my recollection of my required reading
of such a tale…

The newly consecrated bishop of the Christian Episcopal Church of Canada and the US,
The Rt. Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden, also recalls reading Lord of the Flies.

I found his post Wednesday to be most timely as he touched on an issue I’ve been
referencing in just these past many days…

That being the Nazis and their obsessive need to plunder, loot, and burn millions of books… in an all out attempt to control the thought processes of those they
wished to manipulate and rule while at the same time obliterating an entire
swarth of humanity.

“I can understand why the Nazis burned books.

One book can subvert a whole culture.

Perhaps one of the most subversive books I’ve known was “Lord of the Flies”
by William Golding.
I must have read it when I was 14 or 15.

It tells the story of a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes onto a remote island.
They survive the crash, but descend into violence and chaos and finally murder.
They lose all the trappings of civilisation, inside and out, in a very short time.

This was and is a shocking book.
It called the bluff of moral progress and ethical evolution.
Our civility is just skin deep Golding was saying.
From the moment I finished the book,
I knew that Golding was right and that progressive politics was based on a
misjudgment of human nature.
Our ethical progress was just skin deep, and could be lost in an instant.

I keep on being haunted by images of Nazi book burning and the smashing up of
Jewish shop fronts from Germany in the 1930’s.
Something like a collective madness came on the people of Germany.
It really seemed to erupt almost out of nowhere.
How could such a civilised people, the children of Goethe and Beethoven,
so swiftly become the breeding ground of Nazism, with its book burnings, thuggery
and ultimately the horrifying and very Golding-like final solution?”

The good Bishop goes on to explore the similarites he sees between the current acts of violence taking place on both sides of our collective pond in regards to the
progressive liberal groups and their lack of tolerance, or perhaps allowance would be a better word, with the more conservative and Christian groups over the current battle
lines.

Bishop Ashenden notes in particular a rather nasty incident taking place in Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park when several protesting groups converged.

It seems that a 60 year old feminist sort of protester was punched in the face by a transgendered male dressed as a female type individual,
who after punching said 60 year old woman in the face and knocking her to the ground,
then ran ran off.

Ashenden makes a rather stalk comparison between a now and then sort of moment:
“Mindless thugs beating their opponents in public were not the preserve only of the Brown Shirts in Berlin, of state apparatchiks in Moscow, but it’s odd to find gender activists demonstrating in favour of love, peace, tolerance and inclusion, beating up elderly feminists at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.”

Ashenden goes on…
“A great deal is made by the left that the threat of violence comes from the
‘far Right.’ In fact the press and media don’t bother with the ‘Right’ any more.
Anything less than socialist is called ‘Far-Right, – or Nazi.
There is no near-right, or middle right, or further right; just Far-Right.’

You may read the full post here:

‘Far-Left’ and ‘Far-Right’ need to be replaced by ‘Far-UP’.

The irony of our current thuggery groups behaving so terribly badly while they shout
for rights, proclaim justice, preach love, and of all things, demand tolerance….
all the while commencing to malign and beat to a pulp those who oppose their current
trend of senseless thoughts……

They might do well to reread a book or two from their day’s in lit class.

Barbarism is but a step away from the the civilized…..

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44