repentance, forgivness and forgetting…..

“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self,
I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Past / A Christmas Carol / 1951)

I recently caught a news story this past week coming out of the Vatican,
and thankfully this story had nothing to do with the wording or
re-wording of the Lords’ Prayer.

Pope Francis is criticizing journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalize the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved.

Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news,” told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.

But he reminded them to provide precise, complete and correct information and not to provide one-sided reports.

The pope said: “You shouldn’t fall into the ‘sins of communication:’ disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today.”

He called those actions a “grave sin that hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others.”
ABC News (ironically enough)

The News media does seem to really enjoy the digging up of the past, particularly if
said past was a sensational sort of past—
heinous, gruesome, odious, or simply grievous.

Never mind that whatever it was has been dealt with and is now left in
the past… as those involved have either healed and or moved on—
The Media must be bored or simply enjoys opening old wounds.
They can’t seem to move on….let alone, dare it be said, forgive and then forget.

Watching one of the most recent episodes of Anglican unscripted,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden was addressing the latest befuddlement plaguing the
Church of England.
It seems that the current powers that be, i.e. the Archbishop of Canturbury,
Justin Welby, has been racing to cast judgement on one of their own, now long dead
yet greatly esteemed, clergy members, The Rt Rev George Bell (1883-1958),
former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The story is playing out that a now elderly woman, who doesn’t exactly have all her ‘remembrances’ in order or even in the right places or buildings, etc seems to
recollect that perhaps a member of the clergy had molested her when she was a
young girl and maybe it was Archbishop George Bell.

Well rather than sorting through the facts and accusations and remembrances….
or questioning the very murky recollections of a now very elderly woman, the current Archbishop and others have raced to cast judgement on this long deceased but highly esteemed clergyman.

And Bishop Ashenden, for one, is crying foul.

Bishop Ashenden, who does have a background and degree in Law, points out that
much of the logic here is all wrong. The handling of all of this by the Church has
been all wrong. And the reaction by the current sitting Archbishop is all wrong.

There is not nor has there been any corroboration to this woman’s story as others who,
now equally as elderly, in the same care of the Archbishop at the time—
as it was during the War and many displaced and refugee children had been taken in by
the Church with Archbishop Bell acting as overseer, do not ever recall any such
instances let alone remember this woman.

So Bishop Ashenden is publicly demanding that Archbishop Welby apologize for racing to
damning the dead while exploiting the troubled “remembrances” of an elderly woman.

The good Bishop notes that as Christians, repentance is such an integral part
of our faith.
“It is what sets us apart form all other religions other than perhaps Judaism.”
Yet to be able to acknowledge a wrong seems to be one of the most difficult things
for human beings to own up to. Just as it is equally difficult to utter
those three little words— “I am sorry.”

But what is “genius” about our faith, the good Bishop extols, is indeed that very fact
of repentance and forgiveness—as that is the very reason Jesus came into the world…
That we should repent and forgive, just as our Father in Heaven forgives us.

Yet how hard it is for us to ever admit that we have erred, that we have made a mistake,
that we were wrong and are heartily sorry…and so in turn, please forgive me.

So where the current Archbishop has not afforded a fair critique of this matter but
rather has raced to the shut and closed condemnation, before even having sorted
fact from fiction,
is incredulous as he now owes everyone on every side of this story,
an apology–

Yet that very act, that very Christian of acts, appears to be far from the
ability of this very prominent vicar of Christ…

If an Archbishop can’t say that he is sorry or that he has perhaps over reacted or not thought something thoroughly through, how on earth can he ever ask the same,
that notion of repentance and forgiveness, from others….

Anglican Unscripted – commentary on Welby’s intransigence on +George Bell – and Dame Sarah Mullally, ‘bishop-to-be’ of London.

And as I had just finished watching the video segment about this story on Anglican Unscripted, I went on to find the following observations by St John Kilmakos—
a commentary of points on that very thing…the remembrance of wrongs and
the ultimate in forgiveness.

2. Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.

3. This dark and hateful passion, I mean remembrance of wrongs, is one of those that are produced but have no offspring. That is why we do not intend to say much about it.

4. He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive.

5. He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself endless sufferings.

6. A banquet of love dispels hatred, and sincere gifts soothe a soul.
But an ill-regulated banquet is the mother of boldness, and through the window of love gluttony leaps in.

—St. John Klimakos
The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

And so it is….we find in our repentance and sincere sense of regret and sorrow
for our misdeeds coupled by our forgiveness—
forgiveness from God which in turn produces forgiveness from one another
as well as from ourselves….and it is here where true Love is really to be found.
That Jesus Christ was born to save us from our constant state of wrongdoing…
otherwise known as sin.
And as we are forgiven, we in turn are to forgive—
and as is with the Father…He forgives and He forgets…..

I thank him who has given me strength,
Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,
appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor,
and insolent opponent.
But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
of whom I am the foremost.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost,
Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who
were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

forgiveness

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because
God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis

“Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord”
Psalm 130:1

4931
(Pope Francis walks through the gate at Auschwitz. Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock)

This past July,
July 29th to be exact,
Pope Francis journeyed to Oświęcim,
a small industrial town in southern Poland…
He next ventured a bit further to the small village of Brzezinka…

He had come to Poland to meet with an excited and joyful throng of young people
who had journeyed to Krakow in order to celebrate World Youth Day.

Yet it was to Oświęcim and Brzezinka that Francis made a solomon detour.
For in this once obscure and quiet area of Poland, 76 years ago,
the first of 23 concentration camps was opened to receive its first prisoners of war…
This was the beginning of Hitler’s incomprehensible final solution…
this was Auschwitz…

There were major camps…camps where exterminations took place,
of which were scattered throughout Poland,
And there were sub-camps…camps where hard manual labor was the focus.
But it was at Auschwitz that an estimated that 1.5 million people
died during the 5 years it operated.

Six million jews and an additional 11 million individuals
lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis, most of which died in the camps.

And it is estimated that 80 million people lost their
lives during the course of the war.

Pope Francis came to Auschwitz to reflect and to remember…
to remember what the world must never forget…

Yet like all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior,
that Savior who, when nailed to a cross, lifted
his face toward Heaven and asked His father to forgive…
to forgive those who knew not what they were doing…

to forgive us…all of us…
over and over and over…
for our egregious sins…
sins that are unfathomable,
sins that are horrid,
sins that are unspeakable,
sins that are unthinkable,
sins that are inhumane….

All of which leaves us…you, me, the Pope…
charged with that same living and dying example…
to forgive…to forgive those who have sinned against us,
just as we have sinned against others…

It is the most difficult and challenging action of the human ego…

Seventy-five years ago, when Francis was a four-year-old boy
called Jorge living in Buenos Aires,
this cell at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was occupied by prisoner number 16770,
Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar.

When 10 fellow inmates were selected to die in punishment for the escape of another prisoner,
Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered his life instead of that of Franciszek Gajowniczek,
who had cried out in anguish for his wife and children. Kolbe’s offer was accepted.
He was thrown into the starvation bunker for two weeks and finally given a
lethal injection on 14 August 1941.

The pope came to Auschwitz on Friday to pray in silent memory of Kolbe and the
other 1.1m people the Nazis exterminated there. Jews made up the vast majority-
960,000, including 185,000 children–
but thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were also put to death.

He had signaled his intention to visit the memorial “without speeches, without crowds”.
His simple plan was:
“Alone,
enter,
pray.
And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”

In the shadows of the cell, his long silence was an eloquent tribute to the suffering of so many and a profound condemnation of evil.
At the end of his prayers, he raised his head, crossed himself,
stood and left.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/29/no-words-as-pope-francis-visits-auschwitz-death-camp-in-silence

“Lord, have pity on your people.
Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

Pope Francis

what do we learn

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.
Mahatma Gandhi

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended –
civilizations are built up –
excellent institutions devised;
but each time something goes wrong.
Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top
and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,
even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

Henry Kissinger

1afc8983c747df5e4bc1c9c3ee04451b
( WWI German soldiers, in gas masks, ready to throw a potato masher grenade at the French troops in the opposite trenches)

It is said that if left unchecked, the past is but doomed to repeat itself.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always the best teacher,
always providing the best sorts of lessons to be learned…that is,
as long as one actually learns.

It seems that human beings are simply hell bent on pushing that proverbial envelope.
Yet we are smart enough to push just far enough without plunging ourselves over the cliff into the great abyss of no return.

Our global relationships are fickle at best.
Allies, turned foes, turned allies, turned foes…
as the never ending merry go round runs around and around.
It just seems to be a part of our nature as trust and distrust dance a dangerous waltz.

Ever since that fateful day when brother killed brother,
the children of Adam have never been able to wash the blood of the innocents off of their hands.

Over this past weekend, we Americans marked Memorial Day.
A day set aside to honor our Military Personnel.
It was a day created following the Civil War, the bloodiest war fought on American soil—
the war that pitted brother against brother.

It was a day in which we told ourselves we would never forget the lives lost during the fighting and during the battles. A day set aside yearly to remind us of the sacrifices made as well as of those gallant ideals and principles that divided a Nation—
And we told ourselves that no matter the reasons nor the victors…it was to be a day we would pay tribute to the lives lost, on both sides…a day in which we would pay our respects…

As our time as a Nation has continued, we have continually found ourselves entangled in countless other clashes, conflicts and wars.
Each time as the dust settles and the bombs cease, this Nation is called upon to remember…

Yet with all our celebrations, our cookouts, our ballgames
and our quiet solemn observations over this past long weekend,
we probably failed to notice that there was another tribute taking place…

This “other” day of remembrance was held in Verdun, France.
A poignant ceremony was held to mark a long ago and now mostly forgotten battle.
A battle that is simply kept deep within the books of global conflicts.

It was known as The Battle of Verdun.

The tale of this battle is as black and monstrous as they come.
It was a battle that pitted modern day allies against one another, fighting until the very death.

The Battle of Verdun, fought throughout the entire year of 1916, is known as the longest battle waged. Deadly, frustrating, endless trench warfare.
It is a battle with some of the most staggering numbers of casutalites and fatalities for any single battle.
700,000 soldiers from both France and Germany were either killed, wounded or never found as the fighting wore on for eleven long months–
The battlefield covered not even 6 square miles of land.

As the fighting wore on, it no longer remained a strategically feasible fight but became a battle of nationalistic pride. Who could outlast the other…

During the course of fighting, 9 surrounding villages were destroyed as a nation’s landscape was forever altered. It is said that the villages died for France.
Historians note that the battle was eventually wrested from Germany,
giving France the bittersweet victory.

Two years later, in 1918, Germany was finally defeated, offically ending WWI…
Yet silently a stage was now set as a foreboding darkness sat ominously upon a not too distant horizon…as lessons would quickly be forgotten…

This past weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined France’s president, Francois Hollande, marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Verdun.
These once sworn enemies, on more than one occasion, came together on May 29, 2016 in solidarity, now as allies and friends, in order to remember what once was a very dark time in both their shared history.

Days such as Memorial Day, VE Day, VJ day, Decoration Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July…specific days set aside yearly, or even those spontaneous moments, results of humanity’s gratitude…
serve to teach us…
they remind us of our past struggles and sacrifices as well as of our past differences…differences in ideologies and goals.
They teach us that the freedom to live and to do, a freedom we often take for granted, more often than not comes at a tremendous cost…a cost, that as a generation passes, is likely to be quickly forgotten.
These days serve to teach the surviving generations that working hard as well as together—that the deadly mistakes of the past do not always have to be repeated, as long as we are willing to learn….

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

Please click on the link in order to see more regarding the past weekend’s ceremony.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36407564

It’s hell getting old

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

DSCN7532 2
(Watercolor Beach, Florida, The Gulf of Mexico on a fine September morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

This is not a tale about the proverbial wisdom which comes with age.
This is not a tale about aging parents (or maybe it is).
This is not a tale about the endurance of a family’s legacy with the addition of adorable grandchildren.
This is not a tale about the new 30 being 50 (which is so stupid right?)
This is a tale about you and me and simply put, about the triumphs and agonizing defeats
of aging. . .

Once upon a time, somewhere around the age of 50, life suddenly became less clear. No, I’m not talking metaphysically, I’m talking literally, as in things are literally out of focus.
A trip to the eye doctor is scheduled.

The good news is that you haven’t contracted some terrible disease nor or you going blind. . .
well not exactly going blind. You’ve simply gotten older and your vision is well, not what it use to be.

Thousands of dollars later you walk out with new glasses or contacts, which are suddenly making you feel as though you now live on a boat which has just set sail on a storm ridden sea. Up and down and all around you swivel your head like a bobble head, desperately searching for that tiny little speak of clarity and focus. . . Yet you must constantly remind yourself that the new glasses are “fly” and you are looking designer chic, albeit nauseated and still blind and of course thousands of dollars in the poor house.

Also at this magic age of 50, your doctor informs you that it is time for a colonoscopy.
I really don’t want to go into what all that entails as this venue is family friendly but if you must know, I am still having nightmares from the one I had 3 years ago–swearing I’d never do that again. . .of which I’ve now done twice. The only good thing to come from such an experience, other than being told you’re not dying nor that there’s anything detected, by observation, to be wrong with the workings of the plumbing, was that I lost 6 pounds while enduring the dreaded “prep”

Let’s move on.

By the age of 50, if you’re a female, you will most likely find yourself popping pills on a daily basis.
Not exactly mommy’s little helpers but more like the pills derived from the urine of a horse.
Great.
The dreaded yet welcomed hormone replacement therapy pills.
Pills to keep you calm.
Pills to keep you cool.
Pills to keep you collected.

It is usually obvious, to the casual observer, as to the women who are not popping said pills but certainly need to be popping said pills. They are the women who break out in a sweat in the dead of winter, shedding all forms of clothing, screaming at any and all as if everyone is an idiot for having the heat on, as it is only 25 degrees outside–this as they cut on the AC, turning it down to that of a meat locker all the while screaming at any and all for merely making the comment that no one is hot.

They are the women who you find crying hysterically because they just looked at a picture of their now grown children when they were but sweet tiny babes. . . but who, in the blink of an eye, are now screaming incessantly at said now grown children who made the ill fated decision to pop in for an unannounced visit. . .that they should have called first because the house is a mess.
Go figure.

Also sadly around the age of 50 one’s mind is not as sharp as it once was.
You find yourself forgetting that you’re in the process of cooking supper.
You seem to have forgotten that you had put the skillet on the stove and that you are suppose to be waiting for it to heat up.
You seem to have forgotten that you had added the olive oil ready to sauté, let’s say, a nice piece of fish.
Your phone rings.
You answer.
You chat.
You suddenly smell something burning.
You now remember the skillet and the olive oil.
There is a small fire.
No one is seriously injured and the kitchen can be repainted.
Enough said.

Also around the age of 50, there is the issue of your ears and of your hearing.
That once taken for granted clarity of the sweet whispered secrets and the singing of birds–both of which are sadly no longer special simply because you no longer hear them.
In fact you find yourself wondering why the birds no longer sing.
You decide it must be due to global warming.

This is when you decide its time to make the appointment with an audiologist.

You have that little hearing test.
“Raise your hand when you hear the beep.”
You never raise your hand.
You now leave the office with thousands of dollars worth of two little things you’re to poke in your ears to help you now hear.
The birds actually still sing.
Good.

Let’s create a little scenario to highlight a few of these aging problems shall we, in order to help put all of this observation business into perspective.

Let’s say that it’s your anniversary.
And since you are old, it’s an anniversary of significant number because at this stage of the game, they are all of significant number.
Your spouse offers to take you to the beach for a long weekend.
Ooooooo.
This is a gracious offer because your spouse hates the beach but knows you love the beach.
However, he does really likes to eat.
The beach has really good food.
Really, really good food.
It’s a win win.

As your spouse begins to feel badly that you are sitting alone down on the beach under a little umbrella surrounded by couples and families who are all sitting under their own little umbrellas, as he’s inside in the nice air-conditioning watching football. He decides it would be a nice gesture to brave the 97 degree heat and the irritating sand to come sit with you for, say, 30 minutes or until he feels he’s catching a sunburn. How this is, when he is wearing a tee shirt, shorts, shoes, a hat, sunglasses and has wrapped a towel around his legs lest the sun hits them, is beyond your soul—yet you’re just happy for the company.

The ocean looks inviting.
It’s 97 degrees.
Sweat begins to form on the brow.
The waves look big and fun.
Something about the ocean and waves brings out the inner child in said spouse.
Your spouse begins to take off his hat, his shoes, his glasses.
He empties his pockets of keys, wallet, etc.
You ask what he’s doing as you have decided he has been struck by heat stroke.
“I’m going to get in the water with you for just a minute”
“Really?!” you hear yourself squeal with excitement.
You both venture into the water.
Boy the current is really strong.
The waves are really big. . . this as they crash over your head, knocking you off your feet.
You nervously look around for sharks.
Your spouse dives under the water.
He seems to be having fun.
Really, really lots of fun.
He never seems to have fun.
This makes you a little nervous.
Suddenly you see a little gray thingie falling from his left ear.
“YOUR HEARING AID. . .” you hear the words coming from somewhere far away as if the world has suddenly gone into slow motion.
BAM
Another towering wave crashes over you both.
You now hear cursing.
Very bad words being echoed out over the sound of a frenzied ocean.
He remembers to take off his glasses but can’t remember the most expensive thing on him?!
Frantically you search the maddening swell for the lost hearing aid as your spouse narrowly catches the other hearing aid falling from his opposite ear.
You swim around desperately searching for a small grey hearing aid in a vast swirling churning sea.
Your spouse is now back up under the umbrella, throwing things.
The woman sitting under the neighboring umbrella looks nervous.
You scamper out of the water and begin frantically walking down the beach, at water’s edge, praying to see the hearing aid washing up on shore.
You ask the nice ladies sitting in the surf to be on the look out for a hearing aid.
The proverbial needle in the haystack is now your reality.
You sadly relinquish the search and head back to the umbrella.
Visions of a ruined anniversary trip swirl through your head.
Tears now are stinging your eyes.
Literally thousands of dollars are now floating out to sea in a tiny grey hearing aid.
You pack your things back into your beach tote in order to go back inside.
Your spouse, now calmer, tries to reassure you he’s not upset.
You feel terrible and guilty because you know differently.
Remember you have been married a significantly long number of years, you know him better than that.
He gathers the remaining towels and follows you up the stairs.
You fight holding back a flood of tears as you knew that moment of the happiness and fun was too much to hope for. . .he works really hard and has very little precious time away from work and the business has not been good as of late. . .who can afford thousands of dollars floating out to sea?
Luckily you have on sunglasses so no one is the wiser that you are about to lose it on the sand.
“It’s alright” he reassures, they’re insured.
“What?!”
“Really?!”
“I just remembered. That’s why they cost so damn much, I paid for the insurance”
A smile crosses his face.
You begin to feel a little better.
You want a margarita.

The moral of this little tale. . .?
Well, if you’re under 50, you probably won’t understand.
If you’re over 50, you already know. . .you get it.
Not only is growing older expensive. . .
It is painful,
It is limiting,
It is aggravating,
It is life altering,
and. . .wait. . . let’s see. . .What we were talking about?!
Hummm. . .
Oh well, let’s just go have a drink shall we. . .