May love and joy come to you…

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, and to you our wassail, too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

1st stanza to a traditional English carol

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Even though the Disciples suffered persecution, they were filled with joy.
One would have expected them to be depressed or angry or resentful.
The very fact that they responded to persecution with joy is a sign that
the Spirit was guiding their actions.
We can use that same test with our own words and actions.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, O.F.M., p. 11
An Excerpt From
Daily Meditations Holy Spirit

Love and joy…
two sentiments found in an old English carol which are, if the truth be told,
actually so much more than mere holiday fodder sung during just a particular time of year
but rather they are two paramount fruits of the Spirit.

We sing about them.
We think about them.
We might even find ourselves with wistful thoughts yearning over
along with hoping over…
Yet sadly I fear that we have become so jaded as a culture that we have
allowed the caustic wave that is blanketing our society to corrode our yearnings
leaving us more than simply longing but rather coming up woefully short.

Love and Joy, for and with our fellow man, woman, and child, are not only difficult
to find but are more and more difficult for us to actually feel.

It’s certainly easy enough to say all of this after turning on a television and
catching any news program, talk show, or late night comedy show…
as they are rife with everything that has nothing to do
with Love or Joy or any gift having anything to do with the Spirit…
but I say this more from a little incident Sunday morning that left me
scratching my head while questioning the notion of both Love and Joy.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent.
It is known as Gaudete Sunday or Gaudete Domino Semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”).

The word ‘rejoice’ is found in the Latin lyrics of the traditional and ancient Advent Hymn–
Veni Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio,
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

We are to rejoice with a spirit of Love and Joy…
over the Spirit of Love and Joy

My little tale began this weekend.

We had spent the night Saturday evening babysitting the Mayor as her dad had taken her mom
to see the Nutcracker—both of them will be celebrating their 30th birthdays this week
so our son surprised our daughter-n-law with tickets to the play at the historic
Atlanta Fox Theater.

And because we wouldn’t be able to celebrate with them during the week due to
work schedules, we thought we could go enjoy a late Sunday morning brunch
for a little low key family celebration before we were to head back home.

We opted to go to a lovely little French restaurant that we have loved and enjoyed
throughout the years which happens to be located in what was once a quaint
old neighborhood home.

These particular neighborhood homes, in this particular area of town,
came into existence beginning in the early 1920s and were lived in
until about late 1960’s—right when the city was hitting a stride of a boom,
turning the entire area into the trendy shopping and dining mecca it’s known for today
that being Buckhead.

In fact, the high school my parents attended is just around the corner…which is now
some sort of new learning center.
Many of the homes in this neighborhood were once the homes of their friends yet have
since been turned into haute couture boutiques or trendy restaurants.

The street where this restaurant is located is as it was decades ago…
shaded by old oaks with cars parked on either side of
the street making it a tight squeeze when two cars meet that are driving either
up and down the street simultaneously, narrowly missing one another let alone those
parked along the curb.

Our reservations were for 11:30.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and the valet fellow
was setting out his sign but there was a large truck delivering fresh fruit currently
blocking the driveway.
I had my blinker on to turn as we were waiting for the delivery guy to move his truck.

At this point, my daughter-n-law hopped out of the front seat to help me maneuver my car
into the driveway between the truck and a parked car as the valet told us to try and
squeeze in if we could.
She was going to check the distance between the car parked on the curb right by the
driveway and the truck.

Thankfully the delivery guy came out at this crucial moment to get in his truck and move.
Leaving us without having to hold our breath squeezing in between unmovable objects.

However, it was also at the same moment that suddenly a jeep drove up right up behind me
and proceeded to blow their horn.

My daughter-n-law motioned to the jeep to please wait for just a minute.
Because obvioulsy they could see that we were waiting on a delivery truck
to pull out of the driveway we were waiting to turn into.

However, the horn blowing proceeded.

My husband and son, sitting in the back seat with the baby, both reached for the door
so fast, practically falling out of the car over one another, to see what was up with
the jeep.

At this point, my daughter-n-law tells the lady in the jeep that we’re just about
to pull in if she could just hold on a minute, we’d be out of her way,
since obviously, we were having to wait on the delivery truck to move.

The lady in the jeep tells my daughter-n-law that we are being rude sitting in the
road and that she needed to hurry to take her daughter to her riding lessons.

Late for a horse riding lesson in the middle of the urban city??…hummm

She obviously wanted me out of her way come hell or high water or both.

We had only been waiting maybe 3 minutes max when she had pulled up
and we were just about to turn in.

And so with the continued honking horn and the selfish escalating words from the
lady in the jeep fussing about me not moving out of her way,
my oh so pregnant and out of patience daughter-n-law had had her fill…
she proceeded to tell this woman that she could kindly wait just one minute or take those
riding lessons and shove them into a dark, tight and painful place.

At this point the truck moved, the valet motioned me in while the jeep zoomed
past me, narrowly missing my car’s back end.

The valet guy, who had felt helpless, was beside himself telling us that that lady in
the jeep was “a rude looser” and that “this is the season for love and joy”,
as well as a time for little bit of patience. Where was her giving spirit??!!

Did I mention it was a chilly, grey, misty, foggy yucky kind of day…
of which cast a somber veil over the day?
Did I mention that this is a section of town known for being a bit upper crust?
Something my aunt use to laugh over whenever she came back to Atlanta
to visit as she remembered this neighborhood when…

All of us adults in the car, with the Mayor oblivious, were now frazzled with raw nerves.
The Mayor was just ready to be set free from the restraints of a car seat…
restraint is not something the Mayor is fond of as of late.

Grousing as we made our way inside, I had to remind everyone, myself included,
not to let this ruin our day or our time together.

But those sorts of occurrences tend to linger in one’s craw.

Especially when considering yourself to be a mild-mannered, patient
law-abiding citizen of the world whose thought process is live and let live.

I was glad my husband and son could not maneuver seatbelts and a car door both fast
enough to get out of the car, having to leave the dirty work to a pregnant lady who
teaches jr high school right here before a major holiday and was well past putting
up with anyone’s selfish nonsense.

And so now I am pulled back to the notion of Love and Joy.

As in where is the Love and Joy?
Where is the patience, the kindness, the peace?
The fruits?

Finally seated at the table, with the Mayor now opting to go wild,
my husband reminded us that 99% of folks are nice and kind and of whom want to
do the right thing…but it’s always that one person out there who can simply ruin
it all in one fell swoop and think nothing of it.
Leaving us to forget all the good while the bad glaringly taunts our thoughts
and emotions.

And so I was quickly reminded of the one who rejoices in the negative, the bad and
the wrong all found in the tiny percentage versus the good found in the
large percent. Much the opposite of the One who leaves the whole in order to seek
out the one who is lost.

From all of this, the one thing I do know is that Satan, who much like Santa
(note, Satan is real…Santa is, well, in the North Pole)
goes into to overdrive, particularly this time of year, working very hard to rob us all
of any sentiment of a Holy season while he joyously strives
to rob us of those life-giving fruits of the Spirit.

Because if we lose those Fruits we lose ourselves and in turn, a wedge is driven between us
and the very Spirit of God and in turn, Satan claims a tiny victory.

And so yes–whereas we, those of us in my car, needed to be mindful of that very
thought when confronted with a sudden difficult situation, we, as in humankind,
all need to be mindful of how we treat one another—
as holidays seem to bring out both the very best and the very worst in humanity.

So as this is the season of gift giving…
We must remember that we have each been given Spirit-filled gifts.
Life-giving gifts.
We have also been given the gift of Salvation.

Life-giving gifts which are meant to be lived and shared.

The remembrance of this particular holiday season blessedly remains as not merely a reminder
but rather as a wake-up call…
A call not so much of nostalgia or of the fact that we struggle with consumerism…
but rather the call that we are to strive to be gracious gift givers…
gracious in giving gifts that are neither bought nor wrapped…
but rather gifts that we as Believers have each been endowed with…giving
way to the best gift given to all mankind.

May we then be quick to share our Fruitful gifts while at the same time rejoicing
in the most precious gift of all…our very Salvation.

May love and joy come to you…

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)

the other story…

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole against the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


(historic marker for the Duelist’s Grave / The Colonial Cemetary,
Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s a street I’ll usually cut through when I’m driving home from town.
It’s a street that my husband isn’t always keen that I take.
Not that he worries about my safety in doing so…it’s just that he thinks it
a bit seedy.
And lord knows should my car suddenly quit working…then where would I be?!

I suppose in seedyville.

And this is when my eyes roll at such a thought as I remind him I’d simply be in the same
town I’ve now called home for nearly 40 years…no worries.

It’s not necessarily a bad street in a bad part of town, but it does have its share of
what some might call a few folks who are ‘rough around the collar.’
A mixed sort of neighborhood to be sure.

But having taught school in our community for over 30 years,
I figure I know or have known all the kids from every side of town…
the upside, downside and in between side…so it really doesn’t bother me.
Many are now very much grown and I no longer recognize their faces but they know me…
so if I’m ever stranded in or around town, someone I once knew will most likely
know me now.

When I first started teaching, it was the “westside” of our town that was more or less
the more infamous part of town.
My kids (aka students) who lived in that part of town would ask if I’d ever been there…
and of course, I’d tell them yes as I had actually given ‘so and so’ a ride home.
They would in turn quickly chastize me, telling me not to go after dark.

It’s a shame that we have such sections of our towns and communities…
but the fact of the matter is that we do–as every city and town seems to have its fair
share of places one should be cautious about traveling through.

So on this particular cut through street of mine, sits an old house that looks a bit
piecemealed together…
as in it started out as a single story wooden framed home when at some point or other,
an upper story was oddly added with an open deck that makes me think “old Florida”…
as in the older type of houses built near the ocean back in the day, long before there were
multimillion dollar McMansions and highrise condos.
More bungalow than house.

The yard around the house is pretty rough looking, cluttered and littered with both weeds
and junk.
The upstairs deck is covered with what must be 50 birdhouses of various sizes, shapes
and descriptions.
Plus in bold black letters, on the front of this mishmashed house, are the words
“The other story”
Which is another throwback to those old beach bungalows when folks would name their cottages…

The other side of the story…
As in this fellow who lives here, and I say fellow because this place screams of a
curmudgeonie sort of person that calls this place “home”…maybe its the broken down lawnmower
and all it’s scattered parts…but no matter, it seems that this fellow has his own side to
some sort of story.

All of which has reminded me of something I recently read…
It reminded me of a different sort of ‘the other story’…or maybe it reminded
me of what is actually the real story…

I read that there are actually two Christmases…
Two different Christmases both rolled one into the other.

There is, of course, the Christmas of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, giving Tuesdays,
Santa at the mall, presents, mistletoe and all that speaks of secularism and consumerism.

And then on the flip side, there is the ‘other’ Christmas.

The Christmas of Christ’s Mass…the birth of the savior.

The latter, however, is deeply overshadowed by the former…and it seems that it is
overshadowed more and more each year with what seems to be a concerted effort to actually
drown it out forever.

But it is that other story, that other Christmas story that is actually the real
and only story.

Because it is the original story
The original Christmas.

The story being that of salvation.
The story of, a once long-ago time, when Hope was returned to earth…
in the form of a baby.

An amazing story really.

Not so much a story about mistletoe, or shopping til you drop, or of presents or
of cyber this or that but rather a story of unconditional love made manifest.

There’s always another side to every story…and I for one certainly prefer this other Christmas
story to that more modern version of this sacred story…

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas
and so few stop to inquire into its meaning,
but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human
habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

A.W.Tozer

Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible
for six weeks of each year…
He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them.

A.W. Tozer

the anticipation, the meeting, the victory…Santa

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

(The Mayor proclaiming the day was a success/ Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor is proclaiming the day a true success…

First, there was the preparation…

Next, there was the anticipation…

Then there was ‘the meeting’

and then there was the victory supper…

A good meeting and a great day…

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves,
as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—
in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.

Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

the frivolity of the frivolous

Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.

John Burroughs

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(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.

Yet let us look more closely at a single word…

Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment

yet counter that with

Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit

One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…

Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.

And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…

With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.

And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.

One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.

The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.

Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.

Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.

Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….

Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….

It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.

Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…

A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.

When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.

Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.

A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.

We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.

We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….

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(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14

What does the Pink Pig and a messy refrigerator have in common?

“Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some devine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.”

― Alfred Tennyson

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(a refrigerator is hiding under the tokens of a lifetime / Julie Cook /

I think it first started somewhere in-between childhood and adolescence.
This odd habit of adoring some blank canvas, in this case a refrigerator, with the important, and not so important, special mementoes of a life lived with some sort of purpose.
Perhaps it was actually earlier.
Perhaps it dates back to early childhood.
Maybe it started during the annual holiday trek downtown in order to visit and pay homage to Santa.

She was sporting a green velveteen dress, the one with the lacy white collar and tiny little holly leaves layered with the pretty red wool car-coat accented with the black velvet trim, dressed in the season’s holiday finest, the little girl was dressed to impress both Santa and grandparents alike.

The year was 1964 and the long awaited and deeply anticipated day of a very important yearly right of passage had finally arrived.
Jumping into the car, proudly sitting in between her father and mother in the front seat, as this was long before the time of required back seat riders, the little girl is more than ready to make the journey downtown.

Upon entering the massive and historic shopping mecca, proudly and hurriedly marching toward the escalator, the family ascends upward to that most special and anticipated appointment. Here they find a long snaking and winding line made up of fidgety children, crying babies and mothers and fathers who have sadly long lost any and all holiday cheer. Taking their place in line, they join the throng of humanity weaving in and out of the furniture and rug aisles on the tip top floor of the department store.

It’s a confessional line of sorts where the tiny penitent line up in order to confess all indiscretions in hopes of procuring the wealth of a heart’s desire.
Rather than a curtained lined booth where a man with a white collar sat waiting in the shadows, here a jolly old man, with long flowing white hair and beard, donning a red suit, sits perched upon a throne, beaming a broad cheek to cheek smile with arms wide open.

As grand as this moment was to be, this was not the true culmination of the yearly magical visit.

The crowning moment came when a hesitant young father escorted his now giddy 5 year old daughter to the waiting open door of the tiny pink car. Settling her in on the cold metal seat, a helper elf shuts the small door. Looking through the wire mesh of the tiny window, she waves the triumphant wave of sheer bliss to her parents as she prepares for a magical adventure. Slowly, yet determined, the long pink monorail train, known as the famous Rich’s Pink Pig, lurches into motion.

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Journeying out on to the roof top of the famous downtown department store, around the base of the giant anchored great tree, past the live reindeer caged in wooden stalls nibbling on hay and looking most out of place in this foreign southern locale, the Pink Pig slowly makes the entirely too short 3 1/2 minute circle along the track which had been in operation since 1953.

Following the ride and now proudly wearing the badge of honor, otherwise known as the Pink Pig sticker, which is strategically placed on the lapel of the red wool car-coat, the little girl, holding a crisp 5 dollar bill, enters Santa’s “secret shop” where helper elves assist children in the purchasing of presents for their parents.

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Finally arriving home late in the afternoon, after the long, yet wonderful magically full day, the little girl bounds from the car, proudly carrying the tiny wrapped Christmas presents, that of the typical tie and bottle of perfume, the same presents Santa’s elves had helped her pick out and wrap. She hurries to her room where she intends to hide the precious presents deep in the recesses of her closet–safe from any prying eyes.

Then lastly, in a final tribute to a very special day, with the deepest and most solemn reverence, fit only for the most regal and spiritual of occasions, the little girl gently pulls the sticker from the lapel of her red wool car-coat, which is now more fuzzy then sticky, and places the not so sticky sticker proudly on the antique mirror her grandmother had bought for her room, the mirror she never liked because it was much too girly and frufru, alongside the two previous Pink Pig stickers.

Stepping back, making certain the growing horizontal line of pig stickers was straight, a small smile of satisfaction crosses her face. Little did she know that she would eventually have almost ten stickers pasted upon that antique mirror before the importance of the special annual rite of passage had finally played out.

Little did any one realize that an annual adventure to a pink pig, with the resulting pasting of a couple of Christmastime stickers onto an old antique mirror, would begin the importance of commemorating and marking the oh so important remembrances of those magically special moments in life which began in a young girl’s heart—Which would eventually, in turn, continue to unfold onto an unsuspecting refrigerator in the life of a not so young woman . . .

I promise I’m going to clean it off of all the “clutter”, soon. . .

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.
Rose Kennedy

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