when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

hospitality while staying the course

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.
And this happens although the praise of God should know no limits.
Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Do not seek to be regarded as somebody,
don’t compare yourself to others in anything.
Leave the world, mount the cross, discard all earthly things,
shake the dust from off your feet.”

St. Barsanuphius


(a tiny ladybug rumaging about the hydranga blosoms / Julie Cook / 2018)

June, albeit already being known as National Icecream month, is quickly becoming
my national babysitting month…
This as I am here and there, acting as said keeper of the wee one, as work schedules and
summer workshops are currently on a collision course.

However, you won’t hear any complaints coming from me…more than happy to oblige…

But this balance of both distance and time, of which are each keeping me overtly busy and
currently stretched thin, is hindering my ability to fully contribute and offer meatier
and tastier posts… as well as forcing my unintended negligence to those day to day interactions
with those of you who are my friends and kind enough to offer your own thoughtful reflections,
feelings and words of wisdom.

And speaking of interactions…

I suppose I’d like to say a word or two regarding some rather interesting interactions
I’ve had with those who have been wandering into cookieland…
wanderings taking place from say, a week or so ago.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before.

As it’s an odd occurrence really.

Let us reflect a moment on the notion of hospitality.

I’m Southern born and raised and those of us who hail from the South are usually known
for our Southern Hospitality.
A graciousness in opening our doors, our homes, our lives our hearts…welcoming and inviting
others to ‘come sit a spell’…inviting others to come rest while we offer a
bit of respite from the pressures of life.

I shared this very notion, just the other day with Tricia, from over on
Freedom Through Empowerment.

I explained to Tricia that years ago I had read a small book that had actually been
written centuries prior.
It was actually more of a manual rather than a book.

The book is known as The Rule of St Benedict and it was written by Benedict of Nursia
in the 1st Century.

Benedict wrote the book as an instructional manual for those who were wishing to follow
in his footsteps…living life as a Christian monk…
an order of Christian monks known as the Benedictine Order.

It was written for those Christians living during the persecution of the Roman Empire…
a time not known for its hospitality toward Christians.

The little book has had amazing staying power as many a Fortune 500 company has their upper
management read the book as a lesson in how to work with others as well as how to treat others.

According to Wikipedia “The spirit of Saint Benedict’s Rule is summed up in the motto
of the Benedictine Confederation: pax (“peace”) and the traditional
ora et labora (“pray and work”).
Compared to other precepts, the Rule provides a moderate path between
individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism;
because of this middle ground it has been widely popular.
Benedict’s concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment:
namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature
of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the
individual’s ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment
of the human vocation, theosis.

However, there was one rule in particular that spoke to me more so than the others…
it is the Rule of Receiving Guests.

All guests who arrive should be received as Christ so that he will say,
“I was a stranger and you took me in” [Mt 25:35].
Show honor to them all, especially to fellow Christians and to wayfarers.
When a guest is announced, let him be met with all charity.
Pray with him, and then associate with one another in peace.
(Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer has been said, in case of satanic deception.)
Greet guests with all humility,
with the head bowed down or the whole body prostrate on the ground,
adoring Christ in them, as you are also receiving him.
When the guests have been received, let them be accompanied to prayers.
Then let the Abbot, or some he chooses,
sit down with them.
The divine law be read to the guest for his edification,
and then you should show him every kindness.
The Abbot should break his fast in deference to the guest,
unless it is a day of solemn fast,
which cannot be broken.
The other brothers however should keep the fast as usual.
The Abbot should pour the water on the guest’s hands,
and the whole brotherhood should join him in washing the feet of all the guests.
When they have been washed, let them say,
“We have received your mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple” [Ps 48:10].
Let the greatest care be taken, especially when receiving the poor and travelers,
because Christ is received more specially in them.

Chrisitianhistoryinstitute.org

In other words, how to be a gracious host.

Benedict admonished those managing the various monasteries to always be willing to
open their gates and doors to all who would venture to knock…
no matter the time day or night.
He told the brothers to get up in the middle of the night if necessary in order
to warmly welcome both stranger and friend should anyone come knocking with a need.

The brothers were to open their doors, offering food and drink as well as a place of rest to
wayward travelers.

That one “rule” made a strong impression upon me because early in our marriage,
my husband would often call me at the last minute to inform me that he’d received a call
from a “friend” who just happened to be passing through and informed my husband
that he wanted to come for a visit.

Such news would usually leave me grousing as I scrambled to tidy up,
put out fresh linens while rushing to prepare an impromptu meal usually after
I had worked all day.

So much for feeling very gracious.
Rather, I reluctantly confess, that I selfishly felt put out.

Yet over the years, I’ve come to understand that the giving of ourselves,
our time, our attention,
our skills, our food, our home, our possessions are really not so much about “us”,
but rather it’s about something far greater than ourselves…

And so it’s with St Benedict’s Rule in mind that I have faced a bit of a conundrum here
in my little corner of the blog world.

For you see, I tend to write about mostly Chrisitan related content.
Content that I’m pretty passionate about.

Be it my sharing of the insights and observations from two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond to my serious concern over those ancient Middle Eastern Christian
sects that have come under violent attacks by ISIS, to my dismay over
living in what has quickly become known as a post-Christian society to
the unraveling of what we call Western Civilization.

And yes, I am often outspoken as well as passionate about my concerns.

But the thing is, I’m writing a blog…small as it is.
There is no social media tied to this blog.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest…
Why?
Because I don’t participate in “social” media…only that of a blog.

Therefore my little corner is small and limited, yet passionate none the less.

I’ve always found that I like to learn, share and grow in my own faith…
as I still have so much to learn.
I like to do so by reading and learning from what others teach.
I consider my blog, and those I enjoy reading, an extension of a Chrisitan
Community.

I grow in the Spirit by reading and learning from other Chrisitan Spiritually based
individuals.
I don’t go looking for trouble.
I don’t go trolling.
I don’t care for those who do.
Trolling is a waste of time.
Nothing good comes from such.
Why waste life’s precious time by doing such?
I’ve yet to figure that out.

And at times I do believe that I am a bit of a Christian Apologist…
a defender of the Faith as it were.
God’s Word being God’s Word.
No mincing.
No rewriting.
No twisting.
No changing because we as a people feel the need to change.

Speaking what I sincerely believe to be Truth.
God’s universal Truth.
Speaking His Truth here on this blog.

All here on a blog that is here if you want to read it…
or not.

And that’s the key…or not.

Meaning no one has to come here and read anything I write.
That’s kind of the magic of a blog…you have a choice…
to read or not to read.

In fact, that’s how I do it.
I seek to read those who teach me and fulfill me with that which is edifying….
meaning it is rich in the Word as it offers up a hearty offering of Life in the Spirit.
Offering the positive because why would I want the negative?

Not the hostile.
Not the angry.
Not the hateful.
But rather that which is edifying, uplifting, and even liberating.

So imagine my surprise when I was hit by a barrage of those doing just the opposite.

Professing agnostics and atheists who had come visiting, en masse,
speaking of indoctrination, dinosaurs, lies, falsehoods, contraception, abortion,
young earth creationists, the Bible as fairytale, no Noah, no Moses, no flood, Jews,
science…as the list and comments grew and grew in number.

As cordial as I could be while standing my ground, the sneering, the questioning,
the snideness, the belittling, and the vehemence only escalated or rather more
accurately devolved into a swirling quagmire of running in circles.

Demands of justification, clarification, debate, arguments, proof, and defense
continued not over the course of a few comments but rather such ran on and on for days.

Verbal attacks and the pushing downward into the unending rabbit holes of nothingness…
down into the black abyss of nonsense.

Other’s jumped in, in defense.
Words grew heated and even ugly.
The word was spread by the nonbelieving to rally because the Christians were now
proclaiming.

A real shame.

But I hear that is the plan.
Divide, confuse, conquer.
Or so they say.

My thinking…you don’t like what you’re reading, go find what it is you do like.
Don’t berate.
Don’t harangue.
Don’t belittle.
Don’t be smug.
Don’t be snide.
Don’t be divisive.
Don’t be hateful.
Don’t be crude.
It benefits no one…especially yourself.

But don’t pretend you’re confused and that you don’t understand.
Don’t pretend you truly want explanation and clarification because all you want
is to publicly mock, accuse and berate.
You are sly and cunning…as those are the pages that come from your playbook.

However, my door will remain open to anyone who comes to visit.

The invitation will always be extended to one and all to come…
to come put up one’s feet and to sit a spell.

But come because you want to come…
Come because you want to visit, feast and fellowship.
Come because you want to share, to learn, to grow.
Come because you want to offer to others…
Come because you want to offer more, not less.
Come with peace, not hostility…

Or simply don’t come…

Don’t come but go elsewhere…
Go where you find your fulfillment because obviously, you’re not finding that here.

As St Benedict so wisely instructed, “Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer
has been said, in case of satanic deception”

So, therefore, may we pray for discernment over deception while we continue to extend the hand of hospitality.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

when disagreeing becomes a hate crime

The idea of opposing dangerous ideologies is not foreign to Americans,
but the idea of opposing an ideology that is also a religion is more problematic.
It has become increasingly problematic now that we live in an era in which merely
disagreeing with another’s opinions is tantamount to a hate crime.

William Kilpatrick
excerpt from LifeSite.com


(statue of homeless Jesus outside of Christ Cathedral Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ideology versus religion.
Disagreement versus hate.

We seem to be having a very difficult time discerning between these 4 words.

Ideology:
a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
c: the integrated assertions, theories, and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

Religion:
a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Disagreement:
the state of being at variance

hate:
a: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury:
b: extreme dislike or disgust

I stumbled across the following article that I found most telling.
The title alone grabbed me and reeled me into reading further.
The Catholic Church Needs to Wake Up to Islam

The article focused on the hierarchy of the Chruch,
in particular the Catholic Chruch, and its inadequate response,
handling and understanding the difference between a religion versus that of an ideology.

With the religion and ideology in question being Islam.

A religion and ideology that has minced no words in its disdain for
those of the Judeo/ Christian world.

The problem is that church leaders seem not to understand that the two are indeed the same…
as in one in the same…a mindset along with a belief system.
Mr. Kilpatrick pointedly explains that the church fathers just don’t seem to “get that.”

Not only does the hierarchy of the Catholic Church struggle with the difference…
most of the Christian fold struggles.
They, they being you and I, struggle along with most of the secular west.

For you and I need to understand that a basic ingredient to our western DNA psyche is
the fact that we like to and want to “play nice”—it’s who we are.
We’re a kumbaya lot.

And that’s because we think and feel that that’s just how normal civilized human beings act…
People want to play nice right?

We want to and desperately try to give the benefit of the doubt to each and all—
along with that whole notion of ‘do unto others as you would want to be done unto you…
despite any religious inclination or not…that mindset is really at our core.

The problem is that various ideologies do not “play nice” nor do they care to play nice.
And we westerners just don’t get that.

And in our rush and zeal to always play nice, we’ve raced off half-cocked
decreeing that anyone who disagrees with an ideology…
well, they are guilty of being hateful…as in committing hate crimes.

So we’ve basically thrown the concept of disagreement out with the bath water and
hopscotched all the way over to hate.

Remeber when we use to acquiesce to those we couldn’t come to terms with by
saying “well, let’s just agree to disagree” …meaning that we realized that we were at
an impasse of thought on a topic or issue but we’d remain civil, cordial and even peaceful
by letting the disagreements pass without driving a wedge of contention—
each of us would keep our independent thoughts without fussing or bickering or
forcing our ways, thoughts, ideas upon the other.

It’s what civilized folks did.

Unfortunately, our society has morphed into something else entirely.
We no longer allow for disagreements but rather equate the word disagreement
with the word hate.

Two entirely different words with two entirely different meanings yet we’ve twisted them
together…melding the two into one.
Yet unlike Islam which is both a religion and ideology,
disagreement and hate are not one and the same.

And so sadly we are now seeing the various leaders of both the Christian and Jewish faiths
failing to understand the trouble in all of that thinking.

Yet what is most worrisome in all of this is that the Judaeo/ Christian faiths are
not offered or afforded the same gift of tolerance or global acceptance and the right
to disagree as, say, the ideology of Islam receives…
or even atheism for that matter…but that issue of thought
is for another day.

So now Christians and Jews are expected to bend to the wields of the very ideology
that actually seethes a deep hatred toward their very existence.

So it was with great interest that I read the following words and article by
William Kilpatrick in an article in Crisis Magazine.

Mr. Kilpatrick offers a warning that it would be wise that our religious leader stand firm
against ideologies…while explaining that to stand firm does not mean that we are to hate…
merely that we hold true to the tenants of our faiths…

By contrast, Church leaders and Pope Francis in particular, have become,
in effect, enablers of Islam.
Pope Francis has denied that Islam sanctions violence,
has drawn a moral equivalence between Islam and Catholicism
(“If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence”),
and has campaigned for the admittance of millions of Muslim migrants into Europe.
Moreover, he has criticized those who oppose his open borders policy as hard-hearted xenophobes.
In return for his efforts,
he has been publicly thanked by several Muslim leaders for his “defense of Islam.”

One might be tempted to use the word “collaborator” instead of “enabler.”
But collaborator is too strong a word. In its World War II context,
it implies a knowing consent to and cooperation with an evil enterprise.
It seems clear to me that the pope and others in the hierarchy are enabling the spread
of an evil ideology; however,
it’s not at all clear that they understand what they’re doing.
Francis, for instance, seems to sincerely believe that all religions are roughly equal in goodness.
Thus for him, the spread of any religion must seem like a good thing.
It’s an exceedingly naïve view, but one that seems honestly held.

But one can’t plead ignorance forever.
Eventually, the reality of the situation will become plain to all but the most obtuse.
At that point – at the point the threat is undeniable –
we assume that the people in power will wake up and take the appropriate actions.
But what if the awakening comes too late? The pope, for one,
has shown little evidence that he will change his views on the subject.
If anything, he has doubled down –
recently going so far as to say that the rights of migrants trump national security.
We should not look to the pope to lead the way on this issue.
He seems constitutionally incapable of entertaining doubts about his Islam policy.
It looks like the impetus to change course will have to come from bishops,
priests and Catholic laity.
They had better get busy.
There is no time to waste.

Published with permission from Crisis Magazine

https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/the-catholic-church-needs-to-wake-up-about-islam

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

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

Ronald Reagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not just a European problem…..

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

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

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

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

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

fall from Grace…

“Freedom has been elevated to a total eclipse of a person’s obligations,
to a freedom from any obligation.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

“After the Western ideal of unlimited freedom….
here is the true Christian definition of freedom.
Freedom is self-restriction!
Restriction of the self for the sake of others!”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

In his book A Pope and A President, Paul Kengor recalls the admonishment of a young senator from Massachusetts to a college audience….

“In 1955…Senator Kennedy told Assumption College that the Communists had a ‘fear’
of Christianity and allowed ‘no room for God.’

In a passage that could have been spoken by President Ronald Reagan thirty years later,
Kennedy said that Communists sought ‘to make the worship of the State the ultimate objective of life’ and could not ‘permit a higher loyalty, a faith in God,
a belief in a religion that elevates the individual, acknowledges his true value,
and teaches him devotion and responsibility to something beyond the here and now.

As president, Kennedy candidly warned America of its “atheistic foe,” the
fanaticism and fury” of communions, and the “communist conspiracy” that
“represents a final enslavement.”
“The enemy is the communist system itself—implacable, insatiable, unceasing
in its drive for world domination,” Declared Kennedy.
“This [is] a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies”
freedom under God versus ruthless, goddess tyranny.”

“Years later President Reagan went to the home of Senator Ted Kennedy…
where he spoke at an endowment fundraiser for the John F. Kennedy Presidential
Library. On hand were Jackie and her two grown children.
Reagan commended JFK for his shrewdness in recognizing the enemy:
“He understood the tension between good and evil in the history of man;
understood, indeed,
that much of the history of man can be seen in the constant working out
of that tension.”

Reagan noted that Kennedy knew that the United States had adversaries,
real adversaries,and they weren’t about to be put off by soft reason and
good intentions.
He tried always to be strong with them and shrewd.”

It’s hard for me, in this very surreal 21st century of ours, to imagine that there
were once two presidents serving roughly 20 years apart—
men from two very different parties,
who each understood who the nation’s collective enemy was.

These two very different men who, despite being decades apart in their service to
their nation as well as being nearly 30 years apart in age…men who were each of
different ideologies could actually collectively agree then on what today has
become a more satirical farce than serious consideration.

And not only did these two very different presidents understand who the
collective enemy was…they also deeply understood the connection between a nation
who rested under God’s dominion verses a nation resting under the dominion of man.

Imagine today the party of Kennedy speaking about an “atheistic foe”…
Or referring to an adversarial nation as having “no room for God”
as well as those who have a fear of a Christian nation—
Imagine that a leader of the party of Kennedy would actually claim the United States
to be a “God fearing, Christian nation”
That there would be those who would speak of godlessness when referring to
oppressive regimes.

Imagine the party of Reagan, in turn, speaking words of agreement…

Oh how far we have fallen from who we once were.

When did it happen?

When did we think it necessary to scorn and scoff the notion of being
collectively under the yoke of an Omnipotent Creator?
When did we decide that we were free of any obligations other than to our own
selfish individual whims?

When did we decide there was no real good nor evil…
rather just the altar of individual humanism?

And what is the irony that the words of a one time Soviet dissident
would remind us, those of us who have lived in and with “freedom” most of our
lives, that our’s is a precious gift…one that we have been entrusted with
to cherish and maintain…as blood has been spilled and lives have been lost
all in the name of this very “freedom.”

So on this Veterans day, it would behoove us as individuals as well as a Nation to
recall, as well as honor, the selfless sacrifices made by those men and women who,
since those early days when we were but a collection of bedraggled colonies,
who down through the decades understood exactly who the enemy always was and
that we as human beings have been called to a greater good…
These very men and these women who have often offered the utter sacrifice–
of both lives and limbs, for a Nation that now is at war with itself…
having lost her way.

May their service never have been in vain.

“…it would have seemed quite impossible, in America,
that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose,
simply for the satisfaction of his whims.
Subsequently, however, all such limitations were eroded everywhere in in the west;
a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian
centuries with the great reserve of mercy and sacrifice.”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

E=MC2

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

Albert Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 55:8-9

simply settled

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

dscn4629
(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