Aiding and abetting…

We are sinful not only because we have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge,
but also because we have not yet eaten of the Tree of Life.
The state in which we are is sinful, irrespective of guilt.

Franz Kafka


(a helter-skelter feeding frenzy in the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

Our dear favorite ‘across the pond’ rouge Anglican bishop is at it again…
showcasing the egregious acts of The Chruch, not being the Church.

And how might the Church not be the Church you ask…

Well the good Bishop is explaining such through various means…
such as taking part in interviews, writing a plethora of posts as well as contributing to
various printed articles.

Below is the most recent pitch from an interview with the BBC…

The Right Reverend Dr. Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen,
has criticised the Cathedral for making a “mockery” of God.

“Instead of allowing a Cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God’s presence,
instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people,”

Next, in a recent article, as well as posting, the good bishop offers the following as a
lead-in to such observations…

Three Anglican cathedrals have set out to increase both their appeal to the public and
to get more people into the building.

One has chosen a gin festival, another has built a mini-golf course over the flagstones
where pilgrims have knelt in prayer since the 7th century, and one has built a helter-skelter
at the heart of the building.

So for those of us on this side of the pond who simply think of the Beatles or Charles Manson
when we hear or read the words ‘helter-skelter’…a helter-skelter is actually an amusement ride.

And yes you’ve read correctly…
three churches, Cathedrals for that matter,
(Cathedrals being churches that are homes to a bishop),
have literally placed an amusement ride inside the sanctuary,
while another has put in a putt-putt green down its center aisle and
still, another is offering a gin festival…
think Oktoberfest with gin rather than beer, inside of a church.

And so Bishop Ashenden makes a very hard and painfully truthful observation about
the collective Chruch…

In every generation, the Church faces a live or die challenge.
Convert or be converted.

He goes on…
Act as an agency for people to encounter the Living God and be forgiven,
turned and transformed;
or fit into the unforgiving contours of a society that is driven by other forces,
other appetites, and smear over their agenda a patina of spirituality that confers a thin
covering of political and cultural legitimacy.

Yet Bishop Ashenden, however, does not sugarcoat those darker days in the Church’s history…
because the Chruch is not spotless nor free of her own egregious actions…

“There have been moments in history when the church’s failure has been tragically treacherous.
The blessing of guns destined to kill Christian German cousins a hundred years ago in the name
of the Christ who challenged his followers to meet evil with good and turn the other
cheek still burns in the recent memory.

The unquestioning presiding over the hanging, drawing, and quartering of elderly Catholic priests
guilty of nothing more than baptizing the faithful into the Church that carried the Gospels
to these islands and celebrating discreet house masses presented as acts of national,
political treason still casts a pall of shame across our collective historical memory”.

He then explains why things that are so seemingly simple and silly as a liquor festival,
mini golf greens and amusement rides residing in the sanctuaries of a church is, in reality,
an affront, as well as a mockery, to all that is Holy…

When Jesus went to the cross to bear the sins of humanity he faced not only murder,
but mockery.
The soldiers had fun at his expense, before they killed him.

Both guns and scaffolds have been the instrumentation of murder, but mockery
is no more acceptable just because it is not murder.
The trouble with the helter-skelter and the pitch and putt is that to anyone
with a sense of what Rudolf Otto called ‘the Holy” they constitute an offence
of some gravity.

The good Bishop explains that we are surrounded by a world full of distractions.
Everything is now vying, very loudly, for our attention.
We are consumed and have allowed that ‘still small Voice’ to be drained
from our being…

However, it was always the Chruch, our refuge, which afforded us the necessary quietude
and stillness in order to reconnect and to truly hear and feel that Voice while being
allowed to fall at the feet of that very Voice both in our need and in our joy.

We live in a culture addicted to distraction and pleasure-seeking.
The dynamics of this are potent antidotes to experiencing the presence of God.
They are everywhere.
We experience a saturation of stimulation and distraction in everyday life.
It is almost if the pace and pleasure of life set out to make reflection and prayer impossible.

The one place one might be free of this could be, ought to be a cathedral.

But for such a place, steeped in mystery and marvel to buy in[to] sensory pleasure and distraction
is to poison the very medicine it offers the human soul.
It cracks the exquisite mirror it holds up before the presence of God; it drowns out the still,
small voice, that Elijah encountered and adored.

And thus the dear Bishop reminds us that we are currently witnessing our own rapid
loss to what is in actuality our innate need for the Sacred.
As the very place where the Sacred could and should be found is in reality,
aiding and abetting in that very loss…

Please read and hear the good Bishop’s words in the following links…

Convert or be converted – the challenge for Anglican cathedrals today.

Golf, ego and awe. An interview with Gavin Ashenden on BBC radio about cathedrals and pitch and putt. What ARE they for?

daunting

‘Hope and change’ has become a cliche in our nation,
and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change
from what God has blessed.

Billy Graham

To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune;
to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it;
to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained–
who can say this is not greatness?”

William Makepeace Thackeray


(seagull surveying the tide / Julie Cook / 2017)

The task, should we choose to accept it, is nothing less than daunting.
To grow neither weary nor faint in the face of all that stretches before us.

To conform, to forget, to be worldly wise…the siren calls are ever more shrill.

Can you stand while facing the maelstrom, fully aware that you will be knocked
down, caught in the swirling toxic mix,
unable to surface when absolutely necessary?

Can you remain resolute?
Can you insist on what is right when your’s is the only voice left crying above the
madness?

Are you willing to defend the Fatih—the Truth, the One True God along with His Word…
a word that is absolute despite the cultural allure crying above all other words…

Will you fight against a culture that denounces you, ridicules you
and scorns you?

Can you withstand the taunts, the ridicule, the defamatory attacks?

Because in the end, that is what it will be striped down to….
a time for the courageous of faith to stand up and resist…

And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is,
that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

who becomes the enemy?

“If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritative governments grow…
eventually we or our children will be the enemy of the society and the state.
No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have a real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes”

(Francis Schaeffer
How Should We Then Live, 1976)

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(gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016

While we’ve been busying ourselves with life,
resting in the falsehoods of our comfort…
With steely precision, an insidious force has been set in motion,
casting forth a lie of epic proportion…

It is a growing and troubling lie…a lie now readily held as truth…
Held and spread by those who now claim that you and I, who call ourselves Christian,
are the true enemy of the people.

The world cannot abide by any absolute other than its own fickled whims and wants.
It is the ego of both pride and carnal knowledge that cannot tolerate the Holy Absolute.
That same Holy Absolute to which both you and I hold fast.

And so it now appears that the enemy is closer than we may care to imagine…

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.
At the end all his disciples deserted him.
On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.
For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.
So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.
There is his commission, his work.
‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.
And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ;
he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies,
not with the bad people but the devout people.
O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!
If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

it’s baaaaaaaackkkkkk….

“Yea, I shall return with the tide.”
Kahlil Gibran

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(a flock of gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

Today I thought we’d take a break, venturing far from the tales of woes of my
on-going trials and tribulations…
preferring rather to take a gander at the behavior of seagulls and the similarity they seem
to have with repetitions in history….

Have you ever walked along the shore and approached a
flock of gulls milling about the sands?
They congregate en masse, especially near where any humans congregate…
all in hopes of snagging forgotten scrapes of food…

If you don’t believe me…offer said mass a piece of bread and suddenly…
you’re Tippi Hedren in a scene right out Hitchcock’s The Birds….

Anywhoo, back to our train of thought….

While out casually strolling the beach, all one must do is to
venture too closely to a group of gulls and the birds immediately scatter…
either scurrying out of a perceived harm’s way or quickly taking to flight.

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Once you, the perceived danger passes, they return right back to
said spot of just hanging out and waiting…
It’s what gulls do…

This gull image came to mind yesterday when I came across the following news story
regarding Vladimir Putin’s desire to “resurrect” the KGB…The former Soviet Union’s
dreaded and oh so mysterious Secret Police…

An odd correlation perhaps…
but actually really rather appropriate.

We must remember that Putin is a former KGB man who rose through the ranks to where he is today…
One of the most powerful men on the planet.
Whereas you younger ones may think that lofty position belongs only to any US president,
perhaps it’s time for a small history lesson…

Old school USSR days were nothing like this new Mother Russia business
of a happy Federation today…
It was the old school dark days of a Cold War…
as the cloyingly murderous scent of Joseph Stalin still lingered heavy in the air.

It was the days of suspicion, mysterious deaths, poisonings, spies, counter spies, double spies,
mysterious disappearances, iron fists, gulags, suppression, oppression, lies,
total power control… and lots and lots of secrets…

So just when you thought it was safe to be Russia’s friend again….
Here comes the following story…

http://abcnews.go.com/International/russian-president-vladimir-putin-reportedly-planning-reforms-effectively/story?id=42190514

It’s as if the world went out one day walking, much as we do at the beach…
but for our story here, the world was out walking and demandeding an end to Soviet Communism…

Those die hard Soviets, feeling the surmounting world pressures, quickly scattered.
However the die hard and dyed in the wool Soviets, never disappeared…
much as the world had thought and hoped.
They merely flew away and waited…waiting until the perceived threat passed…

They simply waited until the world passed by and forgot…

Because that’s what happens with us human beings…
we tend to adhere to that whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ school of thought…

So just when you thought Putin’s Russia was now more like us, you might want to think again…

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19

Don’t let your eyes fool you

“It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that
by which we have even once been deceived.”

― René Descartes

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(a gull catches a fish that proves a bit too large, prompting the other gulls to come steal his catch/
Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

When I was younger, my mother would always warn, “don’t let your eyes fool you”
Meaning, as well as being very similar to the notion of not biting off more than you can chew…
that our eyes may deceive us—that just because we see it, doesn’t always mean we need it…
or even particularly want it…

This admonishment would often come when we would visit
a buffet style type of restaurant or reception…
As I would spy all those wonderfully prepared dishes…
just sitting there…simmering, succulent, steaming and savory…
practically begging for me to stop and partake…
The enticing scents wafting toward my hungry nose and eyes, drawing me ever closer…

I would politely ask for a little of this and a little of that…
dish after dish after dish—
with mother knowing all too well that as my plate grew, my stomach would not…
I’d eat maybe half of it and lament that I was suddenly too full to finish…
In turn being shamefully wasteful, as I was overcome by merely hungry eyes,
a hunger of vision verses true hunger and need of body….

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In this land of the plenty, we tend to see things a bit skewed..
Always larger than life,
with all things being shiny,
wonderful,
and alluring

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Prompting us to want to quickly snatch things right up…right then and there,
all before anyone else can get their hands on it…
Whatever ‘it’ may be…
Which in turn can often get us into some sort of trouble…

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Remember… more often than not…
our eyes, and even our insatiable appetites, are more often then not,
bigger than our needs or wants…
do not be deceived by the hype, the glitz, the beguiling scents and sights…

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

You are who you are

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
― George Bernard Shaw

Some days we simply wonder what’s the point of it all. . .

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Some days we just feel lonely and dejected. . .

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Some days we need to learn to go with the flow. . .

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Some days we need to pause, reflect, wait and consider the circumstances before we act and react. . .

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And some days, we must simply square our shoulders, hold our heads up high and march forward with determination and purpose especially when we feel more like staying in the bed with the shades drawn and the covers pulled up over our heads. . .

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(Seagulls at Watercolor, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)