looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….

It’s time to think

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

― Albert Einstein


(the sun hides behind the weed stalk / Julie Cook / 2017)

Notice how Einstein said “the world as we have created it…”
He meant man….
He did not say, nor did he intend to say, that it was God who had been doing the creating….not God, but man.

For it is a world very much which man has indeed created…ever since that
fateful day in a now sealed garden…
Very much a pandora’s box sort of world—as all manner of things, both good and bad,
have been unleashed…..

And it is with that notion that several thoughts have been coming to light over
the last week or so…as time has allowed for such thoughts and tidbits, if you will,
to percolate, fester or ferment in this mind of mine….

Firstly the other day, I read a comment by a young gal on the site of a fellow blogger,
who happened to be a young lady of color.
I couldn’t tell but guessed that her feelings about Christians and or Christianity
was a bit ambivalent to actually being somewhat hostile as the tone in which
she wrote / spoke rung of mixed signals, mixed messages and outright
hypocrisy regarding Christians / Christianity and the current witnessing of the
whole Black Friday consumerism mayhem she had been seeing, as it sounded as if
it had seen as a bit up and personal—
All of which, if the truth be told, has sadly become the notable marker
to the this whole holiday season—
never mind that it use to the the lighting of an Advent candle.

Somehow the lighting of a candle verses being the first in line for a door buster
goodie just doesn’t seem to ring of the same sense of importance.

This young woman sees it as if ‘they speak of all things love and acceptance
but act like hungry crazy sharks who’d punch a fellow human being in the face
over the last door buster flat screen TV…

ahh humanity……

She went on about sharing the Thanksgiving holiday with a Middle Eastern friend who
was Muslim, along with the friend’s entire family. And that she found them
(the friend and friend’s family) to be warm, gracious and hospitable which was a
stark contrast to what she presumed to be the Christian hate of all things Muslim….

Would it help any if I defended “us” by saying we’re not suppose to be calling it
Christmas in the first place….but rather ‘winter holiday’… or some other similar generic winter mumbo jumbo…
a time that just so happens to be earmarked as a time of over the top giving????

How are we to help the fact that the savvy marketeers of all things materialistic
have turned Christmas gift giving into some sort of high end art of a feeding frenzy….

And therein lies much of our trouble—
we have allowed this to grow out of control by playing right into the middle
of it all.

And secondly, I don’t recall it being a Christian mantra that “we hate Muslims”…

But either way, this young lady obviously had been given some sort of bad vibes in
order for her to “feel” this level of resentment for Christians and Christianity….
because I don’t think she just pulled all of this out of thin air…

As in what kind of Christians / Christianity has she been witnessing???

The other thing that has been resonating with me as of late is the fact that
there is evil in the world.
I’m talking real serious evil.

I bring this up because evil is something that has always been
at the forefront of my relationship with God as Father and Christ as Savior….
As in I’ve always known that the devil is real and there is a raging spiritual
war all around us…and it was Christ who went to hell to do battle
over our very salvation.

I just think we the faithful often prefer to down play the real ugliness of evil….
except only when it’s convenient or practical—as in ‘that violent act was so evil’…
never mind the guy punching the other guy in the face on Black Friday at the mall
as also being an evil act…it just wasn’t “as” evil as we like to define our evils.

We tend to gloss over it, him, whatever…
I think in part because it’s a topic we don’t much like to think about nor do we
consider it a tasteful topic…preferring to think of Flip Wilson and Geraldine
“the devil made me do it” sort of nonsense…saving the sinister one and his
minions for Halloween.

So in the comfort and safety of our homes how much are we willing to
recognize such as really being real?
We tend to ignore or just push aside that which we don’t like to talk about because
gloom and doom and the Devil are not things we really think we need to talk about or address.

Those of us “Christian” bloggers, as much as we talk about what it is we
talk about…that being of faith and or witness, is all well and good but
I wonder if we are really reaching our target and or are we truly presenting our
case, testimony, witness or whatever it is we’re presenting as well as we should??

Oh we have our “friends” who read our words, offering their supportive “amens”,
and we even have our atheist “friends,” whom we’ve gotten to know over the years,
who we truly do like as we both simply seem to enjoy our daily or weekly tussle and arguments…

But what of our real message and target…the one with words and the one with actions?
The ones this young lady missed, or maybe didn’t miss and those things we’re afraid
to talk about??

Satan is slick.
Just ask Eve as she was engaged in conversation with a smooth talking serpent.

When Rio was about to host the Summer Olympics, I think it was 60 Minutes who had gone
to Rio to do a story about its darker side.

Rio is rife with poverty, crime and drugs.
That is a fact but a far cry from what the Olympic Committee or the Government
wanted anyone to see or realize as images of the Girl from Ipanema was to be the
focus and not what was going on in the slums just up the hill.

The reporter was granted an interview up in those slums with a drug lord.
Jabba the Hut came immediately to mind.
This large slimy looking man was surrounded by geeked out followers just waiting
for the next offered hit—he was more than creepy… he was downright evil.
His vantage point was one of looking directly down on those beautiful Brazilian beaches.

That man, I had no doubt, would put a bullet in your head so fast, if he felt one
inkling of betrayal…it would literally make your head spin before you fell over dead
as he was / is the type of person who does indeed scare me.

Those very cold unfeeling people who have no regard for human life.
Think Mafia and organized crime…think psychopaths like Charles Manson.

I’m currently reading the book A Very Expensive Poison,
The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West

by Luke Harding.

If you don’t think there is real evil out and about—then you are living much too sheltered under your rock or much like my aunt, preferring the covering of sand
over your head. And if you think it is far removed from your safe little
corner of life, again you are sadly mistaken.

There is so much going on that the average human being really has no clue.

And much of it will simply manifest itself in the ugliness of greed, materialism and
entertainment that is so far removed from a Christian’s mindset but is consumed
mindlessly as we rationalize away any thought that it could actually be harmful
or dare we say it, evil.

And I don’t say this as some paranoid Henny Penny the sky is falling chicken running
about with hands to head wailing ‘oh woe is me.’

I think it is time that Christians really need to start thinking about what it is
that makes them, us, you, me…believers.
We need to figure out our faith and how that faith is to manifest itself to a world
rife with evil.
And anyone promising a happy life of pie in the sky is simply delusional and lying—
because being a Christian is so very much more.
It is to truly be at battle….as very real battle indeed.
And it is not a pretty battle.

Yet maybe the route you’ve taken is because you were raised as such and
that’s just how it is? A quiet simple go the Church on Sunday sort
of deal with that being that.
Maybe it is because you go to church on Sunday, maybe even on Wednesday night, and that makes it all good—as in you’re checked off for the week?

Maybe it’s because you are the typical and dying breed of WASP and that’s
just the history of how your life has always been…?

Maybe you throw money in the red kettle this time or year, give a little extra something
to those who cut your yard, your hair, carry your groceries, etc…and that’s
your humanitarian effort for the year?

Are you just living your life, doing your thing, while all the bad guys are out there,
over there and far removed as you rationalize you and yours are good to go
as those “others” out there are busy in the world of all things destructive
and evil?

I’m afraid itsjust not so simple.

And until we as Believers can figure that out—that we keep allowing the bad,
the Evil one, to get and keep that upper hand while we politely turn our backs….well
it certainly is more comfortable to be cozy in this kitchen of mine as I chat about such
and as I oddly find myself humming the Girl, or in my case the boy, from Ipanema….
all the while folks are still putting cold compresses on those black Friday beatings…

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Ever vigilant

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Thomas Jefferson

DSCN1562
(A statue of an Irish wolfhound stands guard at Ashford Castle / Counties Mayo – Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are currently caught in a maelstrom…
a
black
swirling
churning
drastically
changing
moment
in
time …

A time of grave darkness.

It was in 2001 when we first heard the words…“we are winning the war on terrorism….”
words Spoken by George W Bush.
He had first publicly used the term “war on Terror” following the attacks of September 11th.
However we can actually look back to the Reagan administration when the phrase was first used by then President Reagan as he implored Congress to pass legislation to freeze the funds of various terrorist agencies.

Terrorist regimes are not new.

Yet our current President tells us that we are winning, making gains, making great strides, curbing and shutting down this insidious menace….
In May he even boasted that the war on terror was over…Hummm
“The “Global War on Terror” is over, President Barack Obama announced Thursday”
(US New and World Report May 23, 2015)
He again touted that we were winning the war on November 13th, just hours before the deadly attacks in Paris.
He must know something the rest of us don’t. He must see something that the rest of us aren’t seeing.

Somehow I think that San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and Tel Aviv and Egypt and Russia and Tunisia and London and Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Algeria and Denmark and Canada and Bangladesh and Australia and New York and Texas and Afghanistan and Lebanon and Libya and Turkey and…..
All of which would beg to differ…for each and every one of these cities and or nations has had to clean up the spilt blood of their citizens and guests…of which has been shed at the hands of terrorists— either ISIS, aka Daesh, the Radical Muslim terrorist organization, or their duly inspired henchmen.

It doesn’t seem to get any clearer than that…

As it certainly appears that this war on terrorism is pretty much a global issue…

And it is with great frustration that we continue hearing, listening to and seeing the lamentations and the finger pointing…
The accusatory rhetoric from individuals, various nations, the news media, various heads of states and governments, religious leaders…
the “I told you so”
the “this is all your fault” business…
the “this is what you get for _________” (allowing you to fill in the blank)

The “all of this is all the fault of western civilizations….”
(Then why are so many attacks also happening in the Middle East?)

“all this is the fault of Christianity…” dating all the way back to the first crusade…

“All of this is the fault of the Jews dating back to…to…to…Abraham…”

And maybe that is where much of all of this may have actually come about with that whole Isaac and Ishmael business but that tale of woe is for another day…

Since the terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001, the governmental powers that be will have issued 3 different, or amended, terror alert systems with the latest one to roll off the shelves within the very near future.

I don’t know how many more steps one can add in between BAD and REALLY BAD.

Today’s young people, age 25 and younger, have been living under this raging war on Terror for the majority of their lives—14 long years
And with each passing year, the sitting president continues telling us we are winning the war.

We are NOT winning the war.

If you think anything differently, you are merely deceiving yourself.
The war is simply morphing, evolving, changing.

However it should come as no surprise to any Christians among us that this menacing business of evil has long been with us…dating back to that whole Adam, Eve and serpent debacle.
For it was in that very moment of disobedience that mankind went to war.
Man went to war with himself, against himself, against his descendants, against his world, against His God…
And Evil has freely walked the face of this earth ever since that fateful day when the gate was slammed shut in Eden.

Yet as Christians, we know that this war may indeed continue being fought as it is raging without a seeming end in sight… it may be bloody, it may be cruel, it may be catastrophic…. but one thing is certain…
there will be no victory for the prince of Darkness.

And whereas there are those who will say that such talk is delusional, it is equally delusional to deny that there is Good and Evil and that we are all in the midst of a battle between Light and Darkness.

Our government calls for vigilance.
This vigilance was initially more pertinent for those who were traveling—be it at home as well as abroad.
Yet now that vigilance blankets our journeys much closer to home…journeys now to the mall, to work, to sporting events, to plays, to the theater….

Vigilance.

As Christians, we are making ready our preparations during this Advent season as we are filled with expectant and ever vigilant hearts…
For we are making ready for the arrival of the One True Light…the birth of all Salvation, of all Hope and of the greatest Victory yet to come…
even so, Come Lore Jesus…..

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

On your mark, get set, GO!

Never confuse movement with action.
Ernest Hemingway

“I am like a book, with pages that have stuck together for want of use: my mind needs unpacking and the truths stored within must be turned over from time to time, to be ready when occasion demands”
Seneca

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(Tiger swallowtail in Julie’s yard / Julie Cook / 2014)

It is time to get ready.
Ready for what you ask.
Simply to be ready, is the reply.
But ready for what you press.

Ready for moving forward.

Out from the shadows.
Out from the past.
Out from the bondage.
Out from the guilt.
Out from the weight of sin.
Out toward the light.
Out toward the freedom.
Out toward the forgiveness.
Out toward the person you / me are meant to be

This is a week of deep reflection for those of the Christian faith.
It is Holy week.
The most sacred time in all of Christendom.
A time of profound sadness and loss ending in a heavenly crescendo of Joy and Life.

It is also the beginning of Passover.
A sacred time in Judaism.
A time for the deep reflection of G_d’s* merciful Grace.
(* may it be noted that those of the Jewish faith, those who are most devout, believe that it is sinful to speak or even write the name of God, as it is considered the ultimate in sacred and Holy—I wonder how we Christians have missed that same sense of deep reverence associated with the name of the Most Holy, The Omnipotent, The Redeemer, the Creator, Yahweh, Jehovah. . .)

This week a converging of two sacred religions collide, melding into one, as two monumental and pivotal moments for each faith mirror and reflect one another.
The Jews and Christians are each reminded of a liberation.
The Jews are reminded of being liberated from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as the Christians are reminded of the liberation from the bondage of sin as procured by the cross.

Our two faiths, whether either group is willing to truly acknowledge the fact or not, are inextricably linked. . .since the beginning of time—woven intricately together. . .for good and for bad.

Those who blame the Jews for the death of Jesus are tragically misinformed.
To look in any mirror is the simple reminder, for those who’s image is reflected, as to who is actually culpable for that death.
For Christians to mount some campaign of a holier than thou sanctity is to have never fully grasped the encompassing scope and bottomless depth of that lone and ultimate death.

For in that lone death, we have all been liberated and are now made free.
Free to go forward in forgiveness and love.

Yet sadly how difficult those steps seem to be.

Just as Lazarus came forth from the tomb and shroud of his death, back to the warm radiant light of life. . .we too are being called—out of our tombs and shrouds of death, into the radiant light, moving forward in freedom and forgiveness.

As the sad events of the past week continue to unfold in the Kansas City area, with the unexplainable taking of 3 innocent lives at a Jewish Community Center and at a Jewish Assisted Living, the irony for the killer’s sick and twisted mind, is that he had not murdered Jews as he had hoped, but rather he murdered three Christians. We mere mortals cannot explain away the whys of this tragedy nor may we rationalize the raw pain of loss. It is unfair, it is wrong, it is maddening, it is to what shakes the core of all of our faiths. . .

It is so difficult for the moral and just, in our society, to wrap their brains around these hate groups which litter this world. The sickly twisted rationale these groups spawn, in order to justify their manifesto of evil, is beyond comprehension. . .and yet, it and they remain, morphing into more insidious groups intent on havoc, hate and death.

We must not allow ourselves to bend to their damnable acts in the name of their hate. We must not meet them at their level of banal emptiness. We must not repay hatred for hatred. For we are commanded to love. We are commanded to forgive–over and over and over until the end of time.
As the words of this week echo in our ears . . .

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. . .”
as the heel of the Holy One crushes the head of the serpent.