a study in tense

“To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but,
the more I reflect on it,
the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life:
we are still awaiting Easter;
we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.”

― Pope Benedict XVI, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977

“Bible teaching about the Second Coming of Christ was thought of as “doomsday” preaching.
But not anymore.
It is the only ray of hope that shines as an ever brightening beam in a darkening world.”

Billy Graham

One cannot and must not try to erase the past
merely because it does not fit the present.

Golda Meir


(the beginning cracks of life in the robin’s nest / Julie Cook / 2017)

Past
Present
Future

He was born and He lived.
He died and He was buried.
He rose and He will come again…..

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the
body ruled by sin might be done away with,
that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives,
he lives to God.

Romans 6:3-10

the collision of life and dying….

“I believe O God,
help thou my unbelief….”

Dorothy Day


(Julie Cook / 2017)

I still have a great deal that I want to share about the last two weeks that Dad and I spent
together….however the time is just not yet ripe…

Too much is now pressing and weighing in as I still find myself having to journey
back and forth…albeit not every single day…
taking care of business that is now snowballing faster then I care for….

Yet despite these larger than life looming worries found in the act of both dying and death,
I continue wading through the musings and thoughts of Dorothy Day…
And how timely it is that I should stumble upon her own reflections of her time spent
by the bedside of her dying mom…

“It almost seems that one is absorbed in a struggle, a fearful, grim, physical struggle,
to breathe, to swallow, to live.
And so, I kept thinking to myself, how necessary it is
for one of their loved ones to be beside them, to pray for them,
to offer up prayers for them unceasingly,
as well as to do all this little offices once can…

In reading Dorothy’s own words of the interaction she had with the last
moments of her mother’s life,
I was taken by the similar thoughts that I held as I kept my vigil with Dad…

I found myself actually timing his breaths….
and when I didn’t think he’d taken a breath as I thought he should,
I stared with an almost laser intent vision at his chest checking to see I could
still see the heart beating through his now thin body and translucent skin.

I watched him laboring to swallow as his eyes, now cloudy and glazed, would roll back
then vainly attempt to focus on the sound of a nearby voice…
Muscles involuntarily twitching as the toxins overtook what oxygen remained in the blood.

All the while the unrelenting conversations with God continued unabated.

I was keenly aware, as I sat in the stillness of his room, of the mysterious,
yet rocketing forces of both life and death…hurdling at a ferocious and devastating speed…
colliding simultaneously into one another….with dad smack in the middle…

It was, it is, a struggle between both life and death.
A most fierce tug-o-war…
All the while a scared and mystical transition of power was actually taking place.

Our natural earthly instinct is to fight….
just as in birth we are implored to breathe..
In death we fight for the very last breath…
for we do not, will not, go peacefully from this realm of which we have grown so accustomed….

And yet, when the final moment does come for us to relinquish…our very beings…
as it always does…for there is no choice when that time does indeed come….
there is a tremendous release…
as if a heavy sigh is expelled after completing some sort of most strenuous physical task..
something so demanding and so arduous…
that when it is finally finished, a resulting sense of both exhaustion and
satisfaction ensues…

That feeling of being totally spent yet simultaneously feeling totally content…

And so it is the Psalmist who so sweetly, yet so aptly, expresses the
true underlying yearning found in the center of that life ending and life beginning
seismic collision….

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

No ifs

“Everything in this life passes away–
only God remains, only He is worth struggling towards.
We have a choice:
to follow the way of this world, of the society that surrounds us,
and thereby find ourselves outside of God;
or…
to choose the way of life,
to choose God Who calls us and for Whom our heart is searching.”

Seraphim Rose

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(remembering blooms / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Don’t say it Corrie!
There are no if’s in God’s world.
And no places that are safer than other places.
The center of His will is our only safety—-
Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!”

(Betsie ten Boom to her sister Corrie during the German occupation in Holland)

Laying awake each night now at 3AM, my mind shifts back and forth between Dad
and to the current unrest sweeping this Nation of ours.

I lay there wondering if this will be the night that the phone will ring commanding me
to hurry to Atlanta.

Trying not to think about that,
trying to settle the rising nervousness,
I shift my thoughts to
what is currently taking place in and around the country…
as I have a growing sense of real concern.

I had grown up during the Vietnam War…during the Civil Rights movements,
all the while, having grown up in the South for heaven’s sake…
I know all about news and trauma…
bad news, troubling news…
complete with its pictures and individual stories…

But this is now all different…
this is not a war weary Nation,
this is not a Nation learning how to be both black and white…

No, this is not ‘that’ Nation…

Rather this is an angry Nation….
angry for all the wrong reasons….

So I found myself now turning to read a story that I had known about for most of my life
as the book was first published in 1971. I should have read this in high school or
even college but for some reason, I never did…

It is Corrie Ten Boom’s book ‘The Hiding Place’
The story about an unassuming 50 some odd year old Dutch Reformist spinster’s
work with the Dutch underground’s resistance against the Nazi juggernaut…

A story I knew but for whatever reason had yet to read.

I began the book about a month ago.
Reading a page or two each evening…as much as I could muster after spending
each day with Dad.
I now find myself immersed in the story written by a woman who could have
been my friend.
Her writing is such that one feels as if an old friend is merely reliving
a tragic episode of life.

While I currently hear and see angry people, mostly women, screaming like
crazed individuals at television cameras about Nazis now taking over this country
all due to the election of a new president…
And after reading Miss Ten Boom’s story,
I am again keenly reminded as to who the actual Nazis really were and that they,
along with their leader Adolf Hitler, have nothing in common with our country’s current
new presidential administration.

But more importantly I am profoundly reminded about what it means to choose a life as a
true follower of Christ.

Corrie and her entire family had been arrested by the Nazis when it was discovered
that they were working as part of the Dutch Resistance.
Corrie and her Sister were subsequently beaten and imprisoned,
eventually being sent to the Death Camp Ravensbruck.

At one point after enduring severe brutality, hardships and heartbreaking loss,
such that my mere words fail to recount, Corrie is struck by her sister’s Christian focus.
Despite deprivations, ill and failing health as well as being treated no better than
herded cattle, Betsie sees God’s hand….
Where Corrie only had seen evil and hate,
here was her sister Betsie, who had endured so very much seeing not so much hate and evil
but rather humans, much like herself,
who were also victims…
victims of the same evil…just like them…

“This was evil’s hour: we could not run away from it.
Perhaps only when human effort has done its best and failed,
would God’s power alone be free to work”

And there in the dark and frustrating silence of those wee morning hours…it struck me
Are any of us truly living the life of what it means to follow Christ…
to honestly follow Christ…not the Christ we imagine or model in our own image…
not a Christ who places limits or demands…
Not a Christ who has all of life’s endings working happily to
our own personal fairytale closure…
but rather the real Christ, the God made man whose words were pointedly specific and seemingly,
as assumed by much of mankind, as harsh and almost impossible to carry out…

Or are we simply following our own focus…deferring to our twisted idea of how
a world should run according to the Gospel of self…..

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant
brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will,
and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

looks are deceiving

DSCN2633
(Lenten Rose, hellebores orientails / Julie Cook / 2016)

Hellebores orientails, otherwise known as a Lenten Rose, is a member of the ranunculaceae family and are kin to buttercups, clematis and peonies with no relation at all to the rose family.
While the thought of a lenten rose may bring deeply spiritual thoughts to mind, the only correlation between the plant and Lent is that it usually flowers during the Lenten season.

Hellebores are actually “one of the four classic poisons, together with nightshade, hemlock, and aconite. In fact, the name hellebore comes from the Greek “elein” meaning to injure, and “bora” meaning food.”
(University of Vermont)

As the enticing intricacies, those tiny marvels of detail within the flower which are both hypnotic and marvelous to behold, the mysterious allure can however have deadly consequence.
Hellebores have been known to cause death to both humans and animals alike…to those those poor souls who have, for whatever reason, ingested roots, seeds or flowers.
Even the seeds have been known to cause blisters and burns to the skin.

Hellebore’s history and use dates back to 1400 BCE when the plant was mistakenly thought to aid in accidental poisoning, relieve mental instability and to purge the body of ailments such as worms and various intestinal maladies.

Whereas the plants and flowers are indeed attractive and are a nice early blooming addition to the garden, it is with a bit of trepidation that they be allowed to join the yard, especially if one has young children or pets.

Therefore it may be safe to assume that the innocently charming Lenten Rose is actually quite deceiving.
Pretty to look at yet hiding a darker and more sinister side.

Much like the master of deception…

We would do well to be mindful that the Prince of Darkness works in a similar fashion as the unpretentious Lenten Rose. He often takes the appearance of something most benign or perhaps attractive or even enticing, yet in reality, He is just as deadly as our little hellebore…

This Prince of Lies woos us through our own senses…lulling and dulling our reactions.
Confusing us and enticing us by our own wants and desires…

Be not confused nor deceived by the misleading beauty of the world…
for there is one who is watching…
and he waits
with an often hypnotic beauty…

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
Psalm 10:8-11

He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Daniel 8:25

A Noble Treason

“….only religion can reawaken Europe and restore Christianity to its earthly mission as patron and founder of world peace.”
Novalis

DSCN0076

(a white rose in the garden /Julie Cook / 2013)

Merriam Webster defines treason as:
the betrayal of a trust : treachery
the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or
the sovereign’s family.

Noble is defined as:
possessing, characterized by, or arising from
superiority of mind or character of ideals or morals.

Putting the two together produces something akin to an oxymoron.
Killing, betrayal, overthrowing, injuring all coupled with high character and
superior morals.
Certainly sounds like a conflict to me–
a clashing of two vastly different thoughts of mind and/or philosophies….
and yet, each were inextricably linked and exemplified during a terribly
grave time of madness.

Yes, I’ve posted images of white roses before,…not this particular image however.
And yes, I’ve written a specific post on the White Rose revolt and Sophie Scholl…
even briefly addressing it in an additional post…and yet, here I am again.
A flummoxing situation has arisen as I find myself in a quandary.

I just finished the book today…
A Nobel Treason–The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

I know what you’re thinking, “Julie, how long have you been reading that book…
it’s been since May hasn’t it?”
Yes, it has been a very long read.
Not because it is a voluminous tome, not because my life is so consumed that
I can’t find the time…
simply put it has not been an easy read.
The story has been such that I have had to put the book down,
sometimes for weeks on end.

I’m not here to give a book review as that is not my purpose for this post.
My intent is, however, to continue the story of these young people,
to continue placing them, their lives,
their act of passive resistance in the forefront of our minds,
lest we forget.
Hence my quandary…
I can’t keep quiet and not share….
for the final word of the book was to “remember me”….
and remember we shall.

I know what you’re thinking, that all of this is of the past,
why do we have to revisit something so terrible?
Can’t we just let it go?
As none of us really like thinking about any of this.
A casual response might be that “I don’t know these kids, never heard of them…
who cares….?”

I have said this time and time again—
if we forget the past, if we let it go as it were,
we are bound to fall into some bad old ways.
And whereas it won’t be exactly like it was—we won’t, I don’t think,
allow for another Hitler, another Holocaust,
but there are places on this globe that may beg to differ.
There are other names for such…ethnic cleansing or genocide,
ask Bosnia-Herzegovina, ask the Kurds in Iraq,
ask the Rwandans, those in Darfour…the list goes on.

It all still continues…it’s just that it happens under different names and in
different places.
Time and distance does not make it right, does not make it go away…
But this country of mine seems more concerned and consumed with the latest Hollywood starlet’s demise, Queen O and her handbag flack in Zurich as well as
stories about some idiot politician and his bad boy behavior.
Sometimes I sadly wonder where the moral hutzpah of this nation has gone.

Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were college kids who
could no longer tolerate the cultural and dehumanizing demise of their once
culturally and academically rich historic nation.

Theirs was a literary sort of resistance as they produced leaflets for distribution denouncing The Third Reich.
No violence,
no overt opposition as they had each served their time in the Hitler Youth Program.

It was just to be the power of the written word coupled by the desire that the
World know that there were those who still remained in Germany who still
possessed a moral consciousness as well as a civility that had otherwise vanished
in the wake of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich and National Socialism.

Before it was all over, 6 of their group, all of them young college kids plus a noted professor, would be lead to a guillotine—
14 others sent to various prisons and concentration camps.
The spinoff branches, which had taken hold throughout Germany,
were also then rounded up and either executed or imprisoned.
The Gestapo was working over time to silence a mere handful of dissident youth.
Why and how could a group of young people living in the small town of Ulm cause
such alarm and fear within the upper ranks of the Gestapo and Nazi Party by their
quiet distribution of mere pamphlets…
such that the dreaded and powerful Heinrich Himmler himself took personal
command of the situation and of the ultimate sentencing.

When arrested they all took full responsibility for their actions never
capitulating never recanting.
There was a calmness in the face of certain death.

A single word comes to mind….
Brave.

Could I walk calmly to have my head chopped off?
Could I bear all responsibility, trying to deflect potential harm from my
friends and family?
Could I remain brave or would I be of the status quo afraid of the reprisals?
Could I still hold to my convictions while facing the possibility of
tortures, when those I trusted turned on me, pretended not to know me?
Could I remain brave seeing the tears and sorrow in the face of my parents
as they said good-bye one final time……

I have never been able to wrap my brain around Hitler, the Nazis,
or of the German people who fell under the spell…
how could a once proud country of northern Europeans,
whose nation, though its millennium of rich history,
which had given so much to the world in the way of literature, art and music,
be capable or such barbarism?
How could they have allowed it to grow into such a monstrous level of hate and death
while doing little or nothing to stop it….
going as far as even agreeing with it?

I find it nearly impossible understanding the unthinkable death camps and of
the horrific things a few humans would inflict on other humans,
using those deemed “less than” as lab rats for all sort of heinous acts…
As there were the ovens and the chambers…

But of course that was then and this is now….
why do I torture my mind by pondering such…

Because none of those 6 million plus individuals died in vain,
And just because it is a staggering number that is so overwhelming…
almost impossible to comprehend,
Nor should we forget the millions left dead on the various battlefields
before the war was all said and done.

We remember the women paraded to the “showers” who were stripped naked while
walking past sneering and heckling guards…

These were wives, mothers, sister, daughters….

There were the children torn from the arms of parents.

How do we now comprehend humans being so unfeeling and disconnected
from other humans?

And yet, it continues today…simply in a different guise and in different
part of the world.

But the question should be asked, are there groups of young dissidents
today such as Sophie, Hans and Christoph and if so, where then?
I don’t know.

At first these were Germans against Germans.
It seemingly starts insidiously then grows to an almost triumphant crescendo,
when the world first takes notice, with Kristallnacht,
the night of the shattering glass.
Germans killing fellow Germans because of their religion…
destroying lives, businesses, and unbeknownst, destroying themselves.

I thankfully will never know what it was like to live in a Germany destroyed by
a previous world war.
I have not lived through a great depression nor of a war fought on my own soil.
I do not personally know what those sorts of things do to people.

One of the most poignant parts of the book retells the story of the hurried up
monkey trial for Sophie, Hans and Christoph–
from the time of their arrest to the trial and of the ultimate beheading,
it was less than a week—
unheard of today as these sorts of things could take months to sort out.

Their parents had learned on a friday of their children’s arrest.
On Monday they took the train to Munich thinking they would be there for the trial.
But the trial was already in progress by the time the parents arrived.
The Scholl’s pushed their way through the crowded courtroom to where their children were sitting before the most notorious judge of the Third Reich,
Roland Freisler.
Freisler had been immediatley dispatched from Berlin to pass sentence on three of Germany’s brightest youth.

When Mrs. Scholl first sees her children in a defendant’s box and hears their words,
it is all she can bear.
She faints and is taken from the courtroom.
She attempts to re-enter,
explaining to the guard that she is the mother of the defendants—
the response from the guard was cold, not one of empathy…
“You should have done a better job raising them”

Aggghhhh the irony!!!

The fact here is that she had done a marvelous job raising her children as she and her husband instilled in their children the deepest sense of responsibility and moral conviction that would transcend time …

No, I don’t think I will ever understand this particular time of our human history. Countless historians, military experts, philosophers, analysts, etc…
greater minds than my own,
have written about, researched and written some more regarding the how and
why of it all—-yet still leaving the world no less wiser.
Was it the perfect storm of events which created such a black and horrendous
scar on our existence?

The White Rose organization wanted the World to know that there were still
decent people remaining in Germany,
defiant and not willing to bend to the will of a madman.
The young Anne Frank, hiding hundreds of miles away in Amsterdam
remarked that she still believed that people were still inherently good.
The christian Corrie ten Boom worked along side her father to aid countless
Jews trying to escape the death grip of the Nazis only to face prison herself.
Father Hugh O’Flaherty worked tirelessly in Rome, within the Vatican
and under the vise of Nazi occupation and Mussolini’s fascist regime,
working tirelessly to smuggle thousands of men, woman and children out of the
county.

I suppose the small ray of hope is that there are men and woman who remain the
still small voices in the desert of the madness of humanity..
their voices continuing to fight and cry out when all else seems lost.

There always will remain a moral compass to guide others.
There will always be risk as there are those who will work equally as hard to
silence the voice of justice and righteousness.

I can hope that when I am faced with the choice of action, of speaking out
verses remaining silent…
I will chose to act and to speak–
to speak loudly with brave conviction–
may it be so that we all choose the courageous path of the often lonely and
dangerous road of justice and moral obligation.