Really now? You don’t say??? I think we need a history lesson!

The First Amendment was not written to protect the people of this country
from religious values;
it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

Ronald Reagan

As time allows, while I find myself sitting and waiting for this appointment
or that appointment, I have tried desperately to steal those precious moments of self
and empty time to read a bit further into David Fiorazo’s book The Cost of our Silence.

The following excerpt is truly an amazing tasty tidbit of what is, for all intent purposes,
a lynchpin of lost history.

The excerpt explores the long ago written words that shed a long-ignored light onto a
dark assumption…an assumption we have allowed to become the sole driving wedge
piercing deeply into the heart of Christianity in America.

It was never meant to be what it has become as it was in actuality a mere excerpt from a letter…

And yet our justice system, Government, legal eagles and every atheist in the county
have each had a hand in finagling this small section of a letter into becoming something so much
more than what it was ever intended to be.

Mr. Fiorazo explains…
There are citizens today who still don’t realize the phrase “separation of church and state”
does not exist anywhere in the United States Constitution.

Earlier drafts of what became the Frist Amendment are valuable in understanding our founders’
intent.

Emphasizing the fact that denomination was one of the words proposed
when drafting the meaning of the Establishment Clause is vital to comprehending their objective.

They wanted complete and unhindered freedom of religion, which to them meant Christianity.
But they did not want a specific denomination to
hold more power, control, or influence than any other denomination.”

The majority of colonial settlers were Christians…all of one denomination or another
with eventually a handful of Jews making their way to settle in Savannah Georgia.
As Savannah boasts the oldest Temple in the United States.

As the 1787 Constitutional Convention got underway, it was Benjamin Franklin’s
suggestion that participants kneel in prayer.
Franklin stated:
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live,
the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—
that God Governs in the affairs of men.
And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice,
is it possible that an empire can rise with his aid?”

Mr. Fiorazo notes that “Fifty-two of the fifty-six signers of our
Declaration of Independence were deeply committed,
orthodox Christians as well as all thirty-nine signers of the Constitution.
The others agreed the Bible was God’s divine truth and that He personally intervenes
in the lives of people.”

And despite what many folks will tell us today about our founding fathers and their faith,
or lack thereof, they were all either quoted or wrote at one point or another, as referring
to God as Creator…and yes even the deist Thomas Jefferson.

Yet the worry was that the majority of these men were members of the Episcopal Chruch,
and just as in England with the Anglican Chruch, they feared that
the Episcopal church could become a similar state church.

Thomas Jefferson seems to be the person that the Left cites as responsible for
putting up that so-called “wall of separation” between church and state.
Jefferson was not even one of the framers of the First Amendment;
and yet, court cases have been built on this idea,
and laws have been changed because of a false premise.
He used those infamous words just one time–in an 1802 letter to Baptists in Connecticut
who wrote him. they were concerned about their ability to express their faith publicly.
Jefferson wrote back to ensure them that government could not lawfully get in their way.
He also explained the state ould not enforce or favor a single religion.

In the Declaration of Independence, God is mentioned or referred to four times:
as Creator who gives us “certain unalienable rights,” as a sovereign legislator
(Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God), the ultimate authority as
“the Supreme Judge of the world,”
and having faith (a firm reliance on)
in the guardian and protector of mankind (Divine Providence).
Keep this in mind when Jefferson mentions natural rights referring to religious
expression in his reply to the Danbury Baptists.

Isn’t it interesting with all the historical diaries, documents,
and writings available to us, not one of the ninety framers of the Constitution
ever mentioned the phrase “separation of Chruch and state?”
It should amaze us that the very amendment they intended as a restraint upon
government to keep out of religious matters is used today by activists
to hinder the expression of Christianity.

Known as the Establishment Clause,
this amendment was to prevent an official state religion,
but this is most critical to see:
It also prohibits the federal government from favoring non-religion over religion.
Clearly, atheists are winning more court cases today as a result of
judicial irresponsibility.”

[Think Episcopal Chruch as a state-run church]

And so we now see the importance of actually looking back while we continue looking
forward as we learn that what we’ve simply taken for granted is not so simple after all.

Jesus answered,
“My kingdom is not of this world.
If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting,
that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:36 ES

fusion

“To join two things together there must be nothing between them or
there cannot be a perfect fusion.
Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be,
without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between,
just as God loves us without anything in between.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(image from the Passion of the Christ)

The word fusion, according to Merriam Webster, is defined as a union by or as if by melting:
such as a: a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole

A merging of diverse, distinct, separate elements—
Merging…as in combining, blending, joining together… a union…
the binding of two pieces in order to become one.

That is what God desires…a fusion of created to Creator.

But this is actually more of a re-union…a re-joining of two who were long ago separated…
for, in the beginning, there was a union… but with man having chosen to defy the Creator…
the union was torn asunder.

Yet as St Catherine of Siena reminds us, God longs to be reunited…He longs for the two to
be fused back together…

However, for the fusion to hold, there can be nothing which exists in between…
there must be nothing.

Not the thinnest, smallest, tiniest or slightest separation…
not any passion, nor desire, nor want…nothing that we think we simply must have
can exist because if it does, we remain separate and not one.

And so as we read below an excerpt from the Catholic Catechism…
whether we be Catholic or not, we read that it is by Christ’s passion…
his sacrifice, his willingness to offer himself in place of our own damned fate
that we are able to be reunited.
He has fused himself to us as we are re-united in “his redemptive Passion.”
As He joins the Father, we in turn re-join the Father…

“Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.
He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing.
The sick try to touch him, ‘for power came forth from him and healed them all’.
And so in the sacraments Christ continues to ‘touch’ us in order to heal us.
Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick,
but he makes their miseries his own:
‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’.
But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover.
On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and
took away the ‘sin of the world’, of which illness is only a consequence.
By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering:
it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.”

Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Chruch, pp.1504-05

life’s separation

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends,
but let us not despair.
God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.
The more we are united to Him by love,
the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Going home…as it should be

Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.
Madeleine L’Engle


(mom’s roses / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well…
for both happy and sad, today (yesterday in case you’re reading this today) has finally come.

The day for packing up and having to move from a temporary home back
to a real home has arrived…

This is the part of life’s story when being the adult, the grown-up, the parent,
the grandparent is one of the more difficult roles to play.
Life dictates that I’m supposed to be the one who knows what is best and
simply keep that stiff upper lip.

And so, reluctantly, I do.

We packed up and journeyed homeward.

A wreck, coupled by construction, on 285 had us sitting in traffic for over an hour.

Do you know what a screaming baby sounds like in a car stuck in the middle of
an interstate impasse?
A baby who is happy only as long as the car is moving??

I wanted to roll down the windows for all the truckers and cars alike—telling them this
is what I’m currently listening to so could everyone just please drive
like they’re supposed to!!!

Yet when we finally reached “home”, what a splendid greeting…
Mom’s little lone tea rose bush was in full bloom.

Blooms of anticipation for a great-granddaughter mom never meet here on earth but
who I know she has met long before I had even met my little one.

This wee one has finally come home…a home that was once mom’s home…
a home that was also once my own home.

What a most fitting welcome…

And so whereas I will miss these day to day moments of growth and change…

I know there’s just nothing like one’s own bed and one’s own space…
each providing a welcomed sense of peace

Sweet dreams my precious little wee one…

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

a little more empty during a tough year…

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(The Very Rev. and Mrs David B. Collins–David and Virginia “Ginny” /
Julie N.Cook / 1981)

In this grainy old photo you see two people who were very much in love—

…and those two people were two individuals who I loved very much as well.

He had been a Naval Officer during WWII and she a staring actress in the original
production of Carousel on Broadway—and yet they somehow met, fell in love, married
and loved one another well into their 90’s….

And they had each loved me.

The year of the photograph was 1981 and it was taken during an evening
a group of us had met up at our favorite British Pub in Atlanta.
The Churchill Arms.
One could have walked into this pub and felt magically transported across the
proverbial pond to a different place and time.

I think both young and old in our group that night wished we were all in England–
during a different time.

Back then, back when I was young, at that pub on Thursday nights,
the Atlanta Bagpipes and Drums would hold court and practice.
There were the nightly dart competitions.
And on Friday and Saturday nights, a dear older lady would play the piano
as everyone would gather around to sing rousing renditions of Waltzing Matilda,
Keep the Home Fires Burning, Over There, etc….
all the while enjoying a pint of Whitbread, Guinness or New Castle….

Funny thing thinking about a bunch of late 70’s college kids singing Waltzing Matilda
and actually knowing not only the words but what the song was about and when it had actually been popular….

I think the pub is still there…where it was back in my youth…
But it’s now a modern trendy sort of place sans all the typical Anglophile
paraphernalia.
No longer does it harken back to a better place and time.
As it beckons to the cutting edge millennial…with it’s more otherworldly
bar atmosphere of the 21st century.

It was probably an odd place for a group of college kids to gather along with their
parish priest, the current Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Philip…along
with this vicar’s wife…..but the church was no small parish,
he was no small church vicar and we were no average lot of kids.

There was very much a homey feel here, there was a fire place, lots of wood—
a place we, a bedraggled little extended “family,”
could all gather to enjoy one another’s company.
A place we could chat, catching everyone up on life at our various colleges and
hear what we had missed at Church.

The drinking age at the time was 18 so we were all good and by the time this
picture was taken, I was well into my early 20’s.

I’ve written about both of them before.
For various reasons…be it because of my adoption, my faith, my family, my life…
as they each had had a prominent role in my small corner of the world.

They each taught me a great deal about life, love, living, dying, fighting,
believing…. as well as lessons about Faith, God, hopefulness, healing and Grace.

They each saved me, more times than I care to recall, from myself.

They each knew of the failings and egregious actions of my life yet
loved me none the less.
As I certainly worked hard at testing that love many a time.

I am who I am to this day because of them.
Better because of who they were.

They actually laid hands upon my head, several times, as they prayed for healing.

Not for a physical healing but for a more profound and more important healing.
A deep spiritual healing.

He was adopted, just like I was.
We shared that—just as she shared us.
She knew the importance of deep healing.
And she knew how important such healing was for both of us and to our pasts—-
to the two people she loved.

They had 4 children of their own…
and then there was me—the surrogate 5th.
They claimed to be my Godparents…by proxy really…for when I was baptized
as an infant, our paths had not yet crossed.

The relationship was set in motion in 1966 when they first moved to Atlanta
in order for him to take the over the position of dean at the Nation’s largest
Episcopal Cathedral.

They are not my parents yet my own parents knew of the great importance and role
this couple played in my life…and where there was jealously there was also
a knowledge that the relationship was necessary for all of us….
Just as their children knew that they were sharing their parents with me
and yet they often spoke in terms of me being “the truly good child”.

Over time, I learned, as I grew and matured, that they needed me just as much
as I had needed them…
life has a way of teaching us such things.

The end of the year will mark a year since he’s been gone.
Her passing was on Tuesday….
And now they are Home, together.
This I know.

Yet that doesn’t make me less sad.
Doesn’t make me feel less lonely.
Doesn’t stop from reminding me that all my parents are now gone…
along with an aunt and uncle, a brother and cousin along with all grandparents.
That all are gone…but me.

Odd how that makes one feel.
Even at almost 60 years of age.
Good-byes are never easy.

There was a time when I could not have weathered this tremendous amount
of loss I’ve experienced this past year…
but I now have a deep knowledge and understanding of Grace.
I am saved by that Grace.
They taught me that…and then some…

an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson


(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

impossible seperation

“Wherever an altar is found,
there civilization exists.”

Joseph de Maistre


( guillotine located in the Museum of the Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

There is nothing like a good ol revolution followed by the feeding frenzy of the lopping off
of heads to turn one’s thoughts to say, a more conventional path to life….
Or so it seems to have been so for the author of today’s quote.

A life, shall we say, consisting of the anchors of morality sprinkled with a steady dose of
conservatism….particularly if one was previously giddy over a life of anarchy and wanton
enlightened liberalism.

Yet it seems that time and time again…
man precariously rides the ever swinging pendulum of time,
swinging both left and right….
as he works to swing himself ever closer to living life simply fast and furious
while claiming to be both footloose and fancy free…

However the pendulum will always come back to the elephant in the room…
that being…. man verses a Divine Creator…

Deny and decry as oft man does….
As ego and pride take center stage as the masters of all that is,
societies will continue going to hell in a hand basket.

All the while as everyone is busying themselves… trying to separate the notion of morality
from Western Civilization’s Christian / Judaeo lynchpin….
which is like trying to separate the moon from the night sky….

It has always seemed to me completely inconsistent that existentialism should deny the
existence of God and then proceed to use the language of theism to persuade men to live right.
The French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance,
states frankly that he represents atheistic existentialism.
“If God does not exist,” he says, “we find no values or commands to turn to which
legitimize our conduct.
So in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us.
We are all alone, with no excuses.”
Yet in the next paragraph he states bluntly,
“Man is responsible for his passion,” and further on,
“A coward is responsible for his cowardice.”
And such considerations as these, he says, fill the existentialist with “anguish,
forlornness and despair.”
It seems to me that such reasoning must assume the truth of everything it seeks to deny.
If there were no God there would be no such words as “responsible.”
No criminal need fear a judge who does not exist;
nor would he need to worry about breaking a law that had not been passed.
It is the knowledge that the law and the judge do in fact exist that strikes fear
to the lawbreaker’s heart.
There is someone to whom he is accountable;
otherwise the concept of responsibility could have no meaning.

A.W. Tozer