dystopian or reality?

“Friendliness took the place of charity, contentment the place of hope,
and knowledge the place of faith.”

Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World


(Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson)

First, read the following intro to a new book I’ve recently learned about, along
with a few of the following reviews—and then we’ll talk…

Oh, but keep this in mind, the book was written in 1907.

What would you do if you were living
at a time when the entire world regarded
Christianity as a dangerous superstition…

When governments ridiculed religion
and exalted the progress of humanity…

And materialism and psychology seemed
to provide for man’s every need?
Can you imagine a world where
faith is replaced by “information,”
hope with “contentment,” and
charity with “friendliness”?

Where politicians are lauded as prophets,
and the greatest politician of them all
is worshipped by the masses as the
Messiah, they’ve been waiting for?

A world where Humanitarianism is the
new “Kingdom of God,” and madness
descends like a fog on the nations?
What would you do if you saw priests, bishops,
and Catholic laity falling under this great delusion
and apostatizing from the Faith in masses?

What would it be like to see everything
and everyone rapidly coalescing into
two distinct yet unequal camps:

…the World and its massive secular power—
and the small flock of Christ’s true Church?
And all the while God
seems distant and silent.

His Church appears to be defeated,
with all hope lost; Rome seems
as vulnerable as a sandcastle
before the crashing tide.

The Church has no men who are
strong enough for the decisive
fight that is approaching.

Except one.

Father Percy Franklin.

On the surface, he is a young, unassuming priest,
but deep down he is a man-made for the times—
like a brilliant general who sees with strategic
and intuitive eyes the powers that are at play.

He rises in the ranks to lead the
Church in its darkest hour.

How will he endure the impending
assault of the world’s combined powers?

All this is the apocalyptic scene
placed before you by novelist
Fr. Robert Hugh Benson.

In this dystopian novel, we can
see prophetic elements of our
present real-world crisis.

“Classic and prophetic work.”
—Joseph Pearce

You will find yourself in a world
that feels hauntingly familiar…

…a world in which there is a magnetic
temptation to apostasy, and even the strong
struggle to keep their faith in Christ.

Author Robert Hugh Benson
will make you ask yourself:

Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?

Robert Hugh Benson was a famous Anglican priest.
His father was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But he stunned the world when he left the Church
of England and became a devout Catholic priest.

A brilliant author, he was also an astute
observer of the great world powers
that were at work in his day.

He predicted that a modern rise in mass communication
and weapons of mass destruction would culminate in a
future clash of the world against God and His Church.

‘Lord of the World’ is his apocalyptic novel,
written in the years leading up to the Great War—
the war that would bring Our Lady to Fatima—and
he places the reader into a prophetic re-telling
of the Book of Revelation.

“[Robert Hugh Benson] was a magnetic preacher,
an excellent story-teller, a ready writer; he had
enthusiasm and unremitting energy, a rich
imagination… but he knew that there was
only one relationship of absolute
value, that of the soul to God.”

Evelyn Waugh
Author & Convert

“Lord of the World is the right book for Christians
in the modern world—and there may be no
message more critical for our time.”
Most Reverend James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln

“A relevant and readable edition
of a harrowing 1907 novel that,
in places, seems all too
familiar and timely.”
Elizabeth Scalia
Acclaimed Catholic Writer

Ok, so let’s chat a minute.

Firstly, I’m not a big fan of fiction or novels.
I’ve always just preferred more actual, realistic, biographical or historical works.
But that’s not to say that I’ve not read my fair share of both good and bad fictional
tales over the years.

So I’ll admit that my interest was certainly piqued when reading this particular intro–
especially when I read the line
“Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?”

For starters… because you and I need to understand that we are indeed living in such a world
as outlined in this intro of a 1907 dystopian novel.

The troubling thing is that we don’t exactly see or “get” that we are living in such a world.

And secondly, the question asked is a very relevant question for both you and me…
the question being, ‘would, or more likely will, our individual faith in both Christ and the
Christian Chruch remain in such an anti-Christian, anti Chruch, anti-Christ culture?
…Not simply be unshaken, but more correctly, will it actually remain??

Because the reality of this particular fictional tale is not whether or not we are actually
living in the world of this 1907 prelate’s fantasy—bur rather are we living one man’s
fantasy which has in actuality become our very own reality??

And thus the looming question that you and I need to be asking ourselves
is whether or not our faith is holding–
is it fast, firmed and fixed…
or is it simply slipping too quickly through our oh so slippery fingers of doubt?

I ordered the book.

What say you?


(it’s a blooming spring in my kitchen / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day a fellow blogging buddy, from whom I have learned so very much,
actually offered a question as her post…
A very deep and thought-provoking question…
A question which generated some subsequent pondering on my part.

The sort of thought-provoking pondering that got me pondering along the same lines…

The following was her posting:

Dear Readers. As I write this morning, I confess to the question in my mind,
“Lord, do all have an equal chance?
Really?
What about those in third world who can’t even read?
Is their chance equal to mine – one who has been blessed to read, teach, learn,
listen about you all my life?
My answer still only falls on my faith.
My faith that answers
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes on him,
shall be saved.”
EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES ON HIM.
No matter the advantages I have had to hear about him,
I am just as lost as anyone else if I do not respond to the call.
In fact, all the advantages I have had makes me more liable if I choose to ignore the call.
“To him who is given much, much is required.” Luke 12:48

INVITATION TO ALL

And so yes, I too have often wondered about such.

What of those who do not know and have not heard because of where they live…
and where it is they’ve happened to be born…
as well as to what they have and haven’t been exposed to.

What a gift it is that I have had the privilege of being born and raised in this
Western Civilization that has afforded me the opportunities to both see and hear…
and to eventually choose what it is I claim as my own.

Do we, those of us who have been afforded so much by just having been born in a Western modern civilization, not have some sort of responsibility to and for those who have not had the same
exposure as ourselves?

What is our responsibility?

Because we have been gifted with an abundance…are we therefore not responsible for the
sharing of what God has given us???…
offering a betterment to those who have not been as exposed as ourselves?

And yet more often then not, we just cast a cursory glance to “those there”
as we bask in what we are here…

Yes, we are all equally lost…despite our place of birth, status of earthly lineage,
opportunities or not…and yet we, who have been afforded so much are indeed liable…

The question is…what will we do with that burden of liability?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

“ya gotta know it folks”

“We are our choices.”
Jean-Paul Sartre


(buckeye enjoying the sedum / Julie Cook / 2017)

I had the privilege of spending a large part of my career working alongside
quite a remarkable woman.
I won’t spend time reiterating that relationship or that of her tremendous impact
on not only me, our fellow colleagues or of the hundreds of students who came and
went from the desks of her classroom better upon leaving than when entering…
for I did that three years ago with a post dedicated to her life and legacy…

Please click the link for that original tribute:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/to-rome-and-jackie-with-love/

Yet during the past several months there has been one phrase my friend would
utter almost daily that continues to resonate within in my head…

“ya gotta know it folks,
“you just gotta know it”

This was a phrase my friend constantly reiterated to her students.
Over and over.
It was a mandate.

She taught geometry and would drill and drill the importance of simply having to
know the basics because without them, there was no going forward.
For there was no moving forward if you didn’t commit to memory
the various properties, postulates and theorems.

So with so much of the world now precariously perched atop an explosive powder keg…
I can’t help but hear those same words proclaimed by my friend as they are now
ringing within my head…
“ya gotta know it folks”
You’ve got to know that so much of what is happening to us and to those around us
is based on choices….
yours, mine, ours.

It is imperative to remember, nay we need to just know, that our choices,
be they good or be they poor,
effect more than ourselves at any particular given moment or time.

Our very lives today are the direct by-products of the result of choices
made by those who have gone before us…
as their,
those souls who forged through this life before us,
their choices continue effecting us to this day.

For we are living in a continuum of choice.

So the question posed to us this day…

Why do we wail and lament over the current circumstances of our times?

Why do we stand as if a deer in headlights over the repercussions from our
choices of violence that have only begotten further violence…

from the repercussions of our anger which has begotten further anger…

from our egos which have only begotten further arrogance…

from our selfish and self centered decisions which have only begotten
harm and pain for innocent bystanders…

from the thoughtless and rash proclamations which have only begotten
loss of life and mayhem for those we don’t even know…

Why do we blame everyone and everything other than ourselves for
we are all living in the throws of poor choices on a massive scale…

Choices…. ya gotta know it,
You’ve got to know that the choices you are making
are affecting not only you, but everyone else around you…
Ya just gotta know it….


Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you
to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind
of criminal, or even as a meddler.
However, if you suffer as a Christian,
do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household;
and if it begins with us,
what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves
to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4:12-19

simply settled

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
Thomas Merton

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(cattail / Julie Cook / 2016)

I posed a question yesterday…
or actually… A.W. Tozer posed the question…

the question being…
“what do you think of Christ and what are you going to do about him…”

And maybe that’s two question in one…

However…
in that simple question lies the cusp of everything…
everything in a compact little nutshell.
The true bottom line.

For you see…
the question here isn’t about religion….
It isn’t about debates…
It isn’t about doctrine…
It isn’t about being an atheist
It isn’t about being agnostic
It isn’t about faith…

This is a question about one thing and one thing only.

Jesus Christ.

Nothing that has followed.
Nothing that has preceded.
Nothing that has resulted over the continuum of mankind…

With the only sole issue in the question, which is of relevant importance, is simply Jesus Christ.

People can claim to have problems with the Bible…
With the Church
With the faithful
with morality
with the various branches of Christianity…

Yet when all of that which is superfluous is finally pushed aside,
when the dust is settled
and the last breath of contention is expended,
it is only Jesus Christ who remains….

All these other issues,
concerns,
battles,
questions….
are reduced but to one single thing…

“God spake His eternal Word in Christ Jesus the Lord,
so Christ has settled every question….”
Because everything stands or falls with Him—and Him alone…

And until you are willing to cut away and dispose of everything else
that merely is distraction and minutia…
and deal with the center of the matter…
Jesus himself…
then you will continue avoiding the answer…

(a paraphrase of thought based on A.W. Tozer’s The Crucified Life)

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you,
my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.
Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

Middle ground

“Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner?”
Henri Nouwen excerpt From Action to Passion
Bread and Wine Readings for Lent and Easter

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(a visiting dragonfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Living in a time filled with…
the chronic pursuit of a middle ground,
the incessant scrambling of meeting half way,
the constant yearning for compromise…
the mindless steamrolling to level all playing fields….

Our society anguishes to create the equilibrium of the overt…
Striking any negative or counter thought or action into a thousand pieces…

Society screams that anything and everything is perfectly okay…by gosh by golly!…

Yet that’s the thing…

It’s not ok.

No matter how much the culture police shout.
There is no waffling or fence riding, not magic middle…

Despite being the culture of infinite choices…
the “that’s okay” while “that’s ok too…”
The time in which each individual may have what they want while doing what they want…
be it legal or illegal,
sinful or saintly,
of the norm or over the top…
Is waning..

We just want it all to be…
Copacetic,
Acceptable,
Non confrontational,
Happy
And by all means…
Peaceful…

Yet the question remains…

The same question asked ages past…
Just as it is asked today…

Will you be my disciple or my executioner…?

Will you pick up your cross and follow me?
Will you follow me on this journey to hell and back?

Or

Will you say you will follow only to…
abandon me
deny me
ridicule me
forsake me
beat me
nail my hands and feet to a tree…?

Will you honor me when it means to dishonor Caesar (your government, your culture, your status quo)
Will you acknowledge me when it means to ignore your peers, your entertainers, your athletes, your politicians, your friends…

The ultimate yes or no..
No maybe,
No let me think about it,
No can we just strike a balance…
It’s either
Yes
Or it is
No

“There is no middle ground here.
Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say “Yes” or “No”
That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion”
he had to wait upon how people were going to respond.
How would they come?
To betray him or to follow him?
In a way, his agony is not simply the agony of approaching death.
It is the agony of having to wait…”

Henri Nouwen
From Action to Passion

The time for a decision is now
The time of waiting is finally over….
Will it be yes?
Or will it be no?

“Who will save your soul?”

“To save all we must risk all.”
Friedrich Schiller

“poor boy! I never knew you, Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you”
― Walt Whitman

‘You are no saint,’ says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, I go to Him; other hope, I have none.
Charles Spurgeon

DSCN0801
(Timoleague Friary / County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Who will save your soul…..?”

A lyric trapped inside one’s head, playing over and over and over…
Had it been the background song at the grocery store?
Newly imposed on some uptick television commercial?
Something playing in the distance of one’s small world….?
As it appears to have been picked up at some point during one’s day…
and is now forever stuck on constant replay, deep inside the recesses of the subconscious.

The same line running around and around inside the brain.
Unconsciously hummed, muttered, softly sung…
When suddenly, unable to remain on the periphery…the words come crashing into focus.

More than a simple lyric to an older song.
More than a folksy balard offered up by a young woman long ago
More than a simple soulful melody caught inside your head…

“Who will save your soul…?

It is not merely a lyric, a song or a random musing…
It is rather one of the most deeply profound questions ever to be asked, pondered or entertained.

It is a question that spans the very inception of both time and space.
A question queried for both life as well as death.

If it is to be agreed that each being, each life, does indeed have a soul…
then the question certainly begs to be asked, who or what will save each and every soul?
When all is said and done…who is the savior?
When life, as it is currently known, has come to its conclusion and ceases to be…
be it suddenly and unexpected, stolen simply by time… or be it slow and simply accepted…
What then of the soul?
Does it extinguish itself with the last living breath?
Will it simply be left to float upon the whispers of others?

Will this soul be claimed
Or
Is it all mere nothingness?
A fabrication?
A myth?
A fable?

The question is being asked…Who will save your soul?

Yet the answer, this answer of both life and death, remains for many something oddly to be ignored, left uncomfortably unanswered….

So….
What say you then my friend….
Who will save your soul….?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast
Ephesians 2:8-9

Dots. . .

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
― Thomas Merton

When a poor person dies of hunger it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.
― Mother Teresa

DSC01212
(Dragonfly / Julie Cook / 2015

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Have you ever looked at the world population clock?
A vast string of numbers that is constantly turning, adding, updating.
An overwhelming and incomprehensible number that ticks off at an alarming speed. . .
adding individual numbers to the bigger number, constantly.
You can’t stop it.

So now you’ve got to ask yourself . . .
What am I living for. . .
Who am I living for. . .
and maybe even. . .
Why am I even living. . .

Some of us are too busy to be bothered with such nonsense.
We race here there and yon. . .
Gotta work in order to pay those bills you know. . .
No time for philosophical or esoteric sorts of silly questions that have no answers.
No time to look at a spinning counter of numbers that is really irrelevant to my life.
Busy, busy, busy. . .

The world is a big place.
Is it big enough?
And anyway, I’m just a dot in a sea of billions of faces. . .

7 billion and counting dots. . .or numbers or faces. . .

As each one of those billions of dots is an individual who lives, breathes, hurts, cries, laughs
and does so with a wider circle of dots.

Some of the dots are good, some of the dots are bad.
Some of the dots are happy, some of the dots are sad.
Some of the dots are babies, some of the dots are dying.

The questions begs, do you make a difference to any one of those 7 billion and counting dots?

There is not a single dot. . .
Nor a single face. . .
Nor a single individual. . .
Which exists without purpose or merit.

Every life matters.
No life is greater than another.
No life is less than another.
Not the rich, the beautiful, the popular, the famous, the brilliant. .
Not the handicapped, the crippled, the dysfunctional, the diseased, the alienated. . .
Each and every one matters. . . attributes, merits, failings, or sins . . .each matters.

What is it that you do to make your small corner of the 7 billion and counting dots better?

God knows those 7 billion and counting dots, faces, individuals.
He sees each one
He hears each one
He’s always right beside. . .each individual dot, number, face. . .

Can’t comprehend such?
Well you’re not always suppose to.

Don’t think you can make a difference?
That’s an awful lot of numbers, dots, faces, individuals. . .
Yet if you touch one dot, one individual, one life. . .
ripples begin to reverberate outward from the center,
Spreading wider and further than you will ever be able to see in your life time.
And when each dot begins touching other dots. . .all those dots, those lives, those individuals,
each touched by the loving, caring, hoping and praying of other dots, lives, individuals. . .
Well, the ripple effects become infinite.

The questions remains, what will be your ripple?
Will it be a part of God’s Word, Grace, Peace, Love, working to make each dot, face, individual better, happier, safer, healthier, fed, clothed, secure. . .
or are you too busy just being a dot?