the power to give…or not

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.
If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without
waiting for them to ask you.”

St. Thomas of Villanova


(an olive dries on the tree outside of St Peters, Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women, irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person who does not realize his
responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all…
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness. Strange power,
indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse: that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows, but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149
An Excerpt from
Christian Self-Mastery

our confliction…

“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust

“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy.”
Zbigniew Brezezinski

As people of faith we learn to be bi-focal.
We look through the eyes of secular newsflashes,
and we look through the eyes of spiritual and theological discernment.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

Anytime a Western coalition is mounted against “the bad guys”…whomever
those bad guys may currently be…more and more questions abound…
more questions than there may be answers.

Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Vietnam war.
A horrific conflict and war where thousands were killed, maimed, scarred and lost…
leaving no clear win or victor.

The bad guys were still bad and we were left limping back home…
home to a Nation now divided…and still dividing as we speak.

For Christians, the notion of war is a tough call.

The Koran makes no bones about the allowance for war and killing.

Our faith, on the other hand, admonishes those who opt not to turn the other cheek
or refuse to offer the shirt when the tunic is first taken.

For the Believer there is an inner turmoil…a conflict of both faith and righteous indignation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist German theologian, lived this turmoil.
It also lead him to the gallows.
A walk he took decidedly confident because he knew his faith secure.
He looked to the words and teachings of St Thomas Aquinas when he agreed to be a part of
an assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private
person for the common good.
Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation
(tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power;
and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine),
a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include
that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority;
that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper;
and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil
than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen,
jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading
it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils,
then a private citizen can morally commit an act
of justifiable tyrannicide.
Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself,
is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant,
then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide.
Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses
power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes a usurper.

(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/the-seeds-have-been-planted/)

And so it is with interest that I’ve read a couple of the most recent posts by our friend
Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding his feelings and thoughts about the coalition attack
on Syria.

The necessity, the truth, the need, the deception, the compassion, the empathy,
the indignation is each woven into the fabric of our confliction as human beings.

The conflict between right and wrong, defending the undefended, the truth versus
the deception…
that which is right versus that which is wrong,
the need for freedom versus the oppression of tyranny…

What are our roles, our responsibilities, our culpability…

The good Bishop offers one more perspective, one more layer to the fabric we
Christians continue to weave…

Do I agree with his doubts, his concerns, his pointed questions?

I think his questions lead us all to a place of asking even more questions.

Yet the real question found in the Bishop’s concern is simply leading us back to wondering
where the real true answers rest…

So Syria has been much in the news.
But to the community of faith, Syria is not just a place.
It is both a birthplace, and an end-place.
Theologically, for Christians it is the birth place of the Church.
It is the place where in Antioch, we first became known as Christians (Acts 11.26);
for Muslims the place at the end of time, the apocalypse.
This dual identity lies at the heart of the present secular conflict and how we unders
tand it.

And yet, it is clear in geo-political terms that what is taking place in Syria
is a proxy war fought over future energy sources and types of Islamic hegemony
between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other.
The opposition to Assad was not a plea for regime change by democratic Syrians,
but an attempt to remove a non-Muslim ruler and replace him with a Muslim regime by
Saudi backed terrorist groups.
Twice now chemical attacks have been attributed to the Assad regime with the
immediate effect of inducing in the West a moral indignation that led to a call
for bombing the Assad regime.
But though the video footage was provocatively emotive, the hard evidence that laid a trail
back to Assad was always just missing.

Syria and the Western Christian conscience.

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

“provoke to love and good works”

Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth;
for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the
foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord,
when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all,
and men love each other in Him without dissimulation,
because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise
the real character of their love

St Augustine


(poor example of spontaneous note taking / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well….
it happened that before I could elaborate on last week’s video offering
by the Scottish pastor David Robertson..that being a video posting from his
Wee Flea Blog and the SOLAS conference talk given in 2010—
during the course of the weekend here came another posting.

It seems our Wee Flea friend is faster at offering tasty morsels than I am at
digesting them and then in turn sharing the nourishment of the morsel with you…..

This time the posting is from a 2013 SOLAS conference which focuses on education
and the poor.

Very powerful, sobering and collar grabbing kind of stuff.

And well, you didn’t think a retired educator, a Christian retired educator,
one who taught for 31 years in the secular public educational system of the
United States could actually pass over such a tempting morsel without stopping
to take it all in did you??

Despite this latest SOLAS (remember Gaelic for Light) offering running for
nearly an hour…I couldn’t let it pass without giving it my undivided attention.

During last week’s video offering, I wrote down two quotes of David’s…

“When you remove Christianity from a country, [its] education declines”

“Secularism doesn’t educate you—it dumbs you down.”

I was struck by both of those statements.

And as I am also a faithful reader of Citizen Tom’s blog (https://citizentom.com)
as Tom often points out the dire and dismal state of the educational system in the
United States, I knew these two statements were indeed onto something….

And before I could properly digest and share my copious note taking from the previous
posting, here came this latest posting over the weekend.

My weekend was such that I had to put off watching this particular video until
this Monday morning when I could carve out an hour’s time…
in order to properly sort things out.
Yet on top of just watching the video, came the sorting of the notes and then the
turning around and offering to you a proper post regarding David’s talk…

So now picture me holding my hands to my head in a bit of a tizzy while visions of the
National Football Championship dance dizzily around my head…
There are homemade cookies and homemade pizza preparations to get underway all
for this evening’s big game festivities…..GO DAWGS…while my head was still
swirling with what I’d gleaned from David’s talk.
(well, I wrote this before the big game obviously—now, we won’t talk about it)

But back to the SOLAS clip….

Do yourself another favor—carve out the time to watch this.
Especially if you are a teacher, have children or grandchildren who attend schools
or are simply worried about our youth and their future…..

You should note however when watching the video that there is one huge difference
between the educational system in Scotland verses the educational system
in the United States.
The educational system in Scotland is considered a state Christian System by law
verses our very separate and secular school system in the US.

But the message remains the same—as there is a growing gap between rich and poor
in educational opportunities in both of our nations.

David noted an example….
The more affluent families can easily afford after school and out of school tutors.
Whereas a finer tutor, say in London, might fetch 400 pounds an hour—
such a tutor in Dundee, Scotland might command only 15 pounds an hour—
but no matter, as both kids, be it from London or Dundee, those who can afford a
tutor already have a step up the ladder from those disadvantaged kids from lower
income families who can’t afford any sort of tutor….

If you’ve never heard of Thomas Guthrie, it’s worth clicking on the following link for
a bit of background on a man whose life has played a rich part of the
educational system in Scotland other than that of John Knox himself who boldly
stated that “wherever there is a church, there shall be a school.”

https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/reformer-thomas-guthrie-11630341.html

Guthrie (1803-1873), a man who studied to become a doctor but became, upon graduating college, a minister instead held as his mission statement…
regarding those he ministered to in Scotland, that education was essential to saving
the less fortunate from a life of ignorance, squalor, disease, idleness and poverty.

He saw that education and learning were the keys to opening doors and turning away
from the vicious cycles of hunger, alcoholism, crime and poverty that was rife
within the families of the poor and disadvantaged…
Guthrie therefore petitioned Parliament to make compulsory education mandatory
in order to help save the children and future children from an assumed destiny
of misery.

Yet Guthrie maintained that such an education had to have Christianity as its root.
How else would morality anchor itself within society.
As we bewildered watch the secular movement today creating its “social engineering”
of the masses.

The physical threshold of each school Guthrie founded was to be fashioned with the
carving of an open Bible with the motto written, “Search the Scriptures”

Yet David notes that there will always be secular resistance as the secular world
pushes ever closer to ultimately having a society without God.
However David holds firm to the notion that without Christianity,
we will destroy Education….
***and in turn destroy our civilization…
(*** my 2 cents)

And David presents this polestar thought with laser precision in this talk.

David admonishes us all…those of us who confess the Faith of Jesus Christ…
that as Christians it is our moral obligation that we should be making education
and our schools a top priority…be it here in the States or there in Scotland.

Yet I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.

He reminds each of us not to simply leave it to the schools to educate our kids
as to what is a Christian worldview—but it is up to us…us being the ones who need
to chiefly see to that responsibility.

And I dare say, that most of us have grown rather complacent here in the States.
The upper tier pay exorbitant yearly fees to upper crust schools for a
private education, that even though some of the private institutions claim a church denomination’s backing…as I dare ask is that a worldly looking denomination???

Leaving everyone else to the charge of the state and federally funded school
systems—schools, many of which, are woefully lacking and are stymied in
their ability to lay a moralistic foundation…due greatly in part to the fact that
we have erased our Christian heritage from the very system our founding fathers state
as being an important component to the fledgling new nation’s growth and development.

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

human

“Do you know what the definition of insane is?
Yes.
It’s the inability to relate to another human being.
It’s the inability to love.”

― Richard Yates


(Leonardo’s Vitruvian man / 1490)

So last night, as I sat flipping through a bit of television, I stopped to catch a bit
of the reality singing competition The Voice.
I don’t like watching much that is offered on television.
I find most everything to be repulsive, in poor taste, vile, overtly violent, offensively
borderline pornographic, or plain silly, dumb and insulting to one’s intellect and moral code.

So I took my chances with people singing who were wanting to win a singing competition.
Relatively benign…that is until the judges open their mouths.

One of the guy contestants chose to sing the song Human and made the comment that
he was all about love and none of the current hating mindset ravaging the country…
what with all the full blown contempt everyone seems to have for those who may differ
in opinion than, say, their fellow man….

His particular song of choice has been around a while with a myriad of remakes.

Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

It’s a nice enough sentiment I suppose.

As in I’m just human….
full of vulnerability, foibles and obviously error prone.
So don’t blame me…..

But herein lies the rub….or at least the problem.

It’s that whole “don’t blame me” sort of mentality that currently has us in
the worst of trouble.

It’s the passing of the blame.
It’s the “I’m right, you’re wrong” tit for tat, back and forth we go mentality.
It’s the lack of stepping up to the plate of responsibility.
The whole deferring to taking responsibility for ones actions.
Act like a bafoon one minute then maybe apologize later if you get caught.
“I didn’t mean to, I’m only human”

It’s the “uh oh—it seems that when I got mad and decided to go join the protest,
getting caught up in the excitement of the destructive moment and threw that brick through
that bank’s plate glass window then helped overturn the police car, lighting it on fire…
well, your honor, I’m only human and didn’t really mean it….

For you see, that sort of mindset does not hold water….
and yet sadly that is the mindset sweeping through our land.
I’m really not responsible for what I do because as a human, screwing up is just part and parcel…
Add all those thinking along the same lines and you get….
Irresponsible manic mania.

Is it not enough that there is a sweeping lack of moral conviction,
humankind irresponsibility or a total lack of understanding for those who
actually believe in taking the higher ground…
but now we simply blame it on our humanness.

Contrary to popular belief,
we are called to stand up and be accountable to not only ourselves but to our fellow man.
We are called to be responsible for our actions.
We are called to be respectful to ourselves as well as to others.

The code for living that was delivered to Moses was pretty simple…as well as clear cut.

Recently I caught an interview over on Fox News with their chief Religion correspondent,
Lauren Green….
She has a new book out, Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog

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…

So yes…we are only human—
perfectly formed and lovingly made—
by an awesome and Omnipotent God who knew, that in our vulnerable humanness,
we would need a set of rules to live by—simple and straightforward…
yet as only as we humans could…we messed up simple and straightforward—

And so now enters the One who takes that humanness of brokeness and error
and brings both healing and Grace…

This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10

what do you think about all day….

“What do you think about all day?”
Worldly things?
There is your heart.
Are you concerned about health, bodily goods?
There your heart is.
If one falls in love, all the habits of life are ruled
by that love—letters, telephone calls, whatever we do.

Dorothy Day


(flowering maple shrub / Julie Cook / 2017)

As is the case with the loss of any loved one…
life as we know it, turns upside down.
Not only is there the emotional aspect of loss, there is the
stark reality that even in death, there are responsibilities which remain.
The complications of living simply do not cease upon death.

I have been met head on with the reality of what it will now entail to
tend to dad’s worldly life, finishing up where he left off.

Lawyers, banks, accountants, the house, the car, paying for and eventually closing
accounts, the utilities, Social Security, insurance, a pension, taxes….
the list goes on and on…and it will for quite sometime.
Add in a step-mother…..

It will take weeks for the primary significant paperwork to arrive,
then there’s a visit to the court house in downtown Atlanta.
There will be new bank accounts as old accounts are closed.
And a new role as I begin the arduous and laborious process of closing one’s
existence out of our society.

I told someone today that it’s easier to be born than it is to die…
I suppose we think everything just stops when we die…but it doesn’t.

I can remember when both of my grandmothers and mother died and how Dad worked to
settle their estates…
It took years to finally put an end to things.

Needless to say…overwhelmed is now my mantra.

So when I read the sentence by Dorothy Day asking what it is that I think about all day…
and as to her follow-up remark to whatever the filling in of that blank would be…
“there is your heart”
I felt a real conviction of spirit.

Convicted because my thoughts are currently of worry.

And so there is my heart…steeped in worry.

And whereas I would suppose most anyone in my current pair of shoes would
be feeling much the same sense of overwhelming worry…
I have been thankfully jolted to refocus my sights…

“We must remember…
God is a sensitive lover.
God will not force you to choose him.
It is an insult to God to worry so about things of the world.”

Dorothy Day

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in 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 morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom 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.

Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

Cause the times they are a-changing

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

Lyrics by Bob Dylan

dscn4688
(antique color plate of a wild turkey / Julie Cook)

Normally at this late inning in the game, I would be up to my elbows in flour, giblets,
and sweet potatoes…franticly watching the clock tick off the precious seconds of time…
time until it was…
Go Time…

But not this year.

Not this year, at all.
No flour.
No giblets.
No sweet potatoes.
No festive deserts.
No dressing (as in what we southerners call stuffing that’s not stuffed)
All simply…
no….

I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving, or at least the bulk and better part of it, ever since I was
a junior in high school…

Because that was the year my great aunt died in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning
and my mom, as her only living nearby relative, had to drop apron and
mixing bowls in mid mix…with Turkey quickly slammed in the oven,
as she practically threw me the basting bulb,
while shouting over her shoulder as she dashed out the door…
BASTE EVERY 20 MINUTES TILL DONE…”

Huh?

I think I was still mumbling questions when, like a bat out of hell, my mother with the car
slammed in reverse, barreled out of the driveway,
racing off to a distant nursing home leaving me in a puff of confused exhaust fumes….
still holding a forlorn basting bulb.

Did I mention that on this now discombobulated Thanksgiving it was also the Thanksgiving
that our pet parrot, the one we had rescued a couple of years earlier,
after a brief cold, had decided to also give up the ghost on this Thanksgiving morning?

So needless to say that this was not to be like any Thanksgiving that I would be able to,
in my youthful naive memory, recall.

Yet might I add that the turkey, by shear pluck, turned out really quite lovely.

And so I’ve been cooking ever since…

Oh I started out somewhat slowly, with but a few components of the feast left to my expertise,
eventually becoming the full Master of Ceremonies…
as those were the heady days and weeks of plotting, researching, planning,
buying and preparing…
The aromas leaving all in their wake salivating….
It was to be the stuff of legends….

Until this year.

Yet had I not seen it coming?
Slowly and methodically coming my way…
Despite my not wanting to acknowledge it…
it was hell-bent on coming.

My husband, over the past couple of years would gently, if not a bit too tactlessly,
remind me that the time was coming…
that the day and time would eventually come….
Our numbers were now diminishing at a far greater rate than they were multiplying…

As those we have loved and have known…have come and now have sadly faded…
in other words, the family has shrunk.
My husband’s side and now mine…
lost to the annuals of time.

The time when Dad would be too old to come to us…
The time when our son would be too old to stay…as he would now have to divide his time…
and the time I would be too old to manage it all…on my own….

Don’t you hate it when husbands seem to actually know it all…
or perhaps more accurately can suddenly, after 34 years, find the gift of verbalization…
As in verbalizing what we try so desperately to deny…
Whenever did they become ones to verbalize…?
When you least want it, that’s when….

And so it is…

No linens have been pressed.
No grandmother’s silver polished.
No burgeoning refrigerator bursting at the seams.
No massive turkeys sitting in brine as basting bulbs have long since been discarded.

For we will become one of “those people…”
The people I use to turn my nose up to who would go out to eat on Thanksgiving.
The people who make other people have to work and miss time with their families
because they were having to cook and service “those people”……

We will eat out and then take plates to dad, my stepmother and the caregiver.
As our son travels to in-laws as my in-laws are now longer…
Aunts, uncles, nieces, grandparents, parents, brothers have all since departed…
leaving but us…left to find solace in our memories of times now past…

So Bob Dylan was right all along…
for the times, they are a-changing…

PS….
you should know that going out to eat was not my idea.
It was my husband’s…
The same husband who, after 34 years of marriage,
has suddenly gained the gift of verbalization.
He has also gained the gift of thoughtfulness….
as in he has felt sorry for me these past several most trying months
and he has decided it is time for me to become one of “those people”
and I am actually both grateful as well as thankful….

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9