Short and sweet

When we sin, we think we are geniuses;
when we confess, we know we are idiots.

Adreinne Von Speyr
from Lumina and New Lumina


(the Mayor attempts to drive herself donning her latest French driving barret /
Julie Cook / 2018)

As I’ve eluded these last past couple of days, I have a great deal I want to share…

For there has been so much gleaned during the past 18 days…
so many observations, so many revelations… but…as life would have it…
my desire for extensive sharing will have to wait just a bit longer.

I’ve been called into active duty…

The Mayor is requiring that her chief aide come to the Atlanta office for a few days
as her mom and dad’s work schedules this week will override the
daycare’s morning hours.

So the chief aide is having to pinch hit.

With that said, the offerings over the bulk of this coming week may be shorter
and sweeter rather than meatier and savory.

Therefore the offerings of thought and observations will have to suffice with a few thoughtful nuggets…little tasty morsels offered in order to tie us over until
time permits for further and more filling expansions…

“Your work—whether it is a chore around the house, a homework assignment,
a sports practice, or a job with an office and a paycheck—isn’t just a means to an economic end.
Nor is it something you need to ‘get over with’ in time for the weekend.
It is an essential part of your sanctification, a share in the divine brotherhood of Christ,
and a means of discovering your true self.
So the next time you are inclined to grumble about how much work you have to do,
try to remember that even this is an honor because it has been redeemed by Jesus.
If it was good enough for Him, it should be good enough for you.”

Fr. Augustine Wetta, OSB
from Humility Rules

when the going gets cold and dreary….

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
Carl Reiner


(these birds have not flown south, I’m trying / Julie Cook / 2018)

When the going gets cold and dreary…
The Cold and Dreary get going…as in they head south…

So for the weekend, I’m heading south…as far south as I can reasonably drive for the
extent of a weekend.

And if the truth be told, the only thing I asked for for Christmas was for a weekend away.
Remember, our’s is a life of one of retail—getting away for a weekend, at some point following the
dreaded black Friday unto Christmas shopping mayhem is the hoping for a weekend of peace and sanity.
And as we have a grandbaby due in two weeks…this was the weekend…snow, ice, tornados…
you name it, come hell or high water, away it was to be…

So during my very recent traveling southward, I passed a small country church that had a wonderful
sign posted out front:

“If your job depended on your prayers, would you still be employed?

That little obscure sign, in the middle of a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the
northern panhandle of Florida, gave me a wealth of wonderment to ponder as I drove onward…

Prayer…

We think we’re doing good, our prayerful due diligence, when we squeeze in our quick little
arrow prayers, those prayers which shoot upward throughout the day, yet leave out any real focused
and purposeful time spent in the presence of the One Omnipotent Creator…

Or… we squeeze in our designated 15 minutes each morning or evening…

Is it uninterrupted?
Is it hindered by falling asleep or by a ringing phone or a dinging text?

Communion.

“An act or instance of sharing.”

Do we spend time the time of communion with our Lord as we would want Him to spend with us…

I drove onward…wondering, hoping…and determining that time must be turned around…

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26

abundance

Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head,
and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.

Saint Basil


(my tiny black Russian cherry tomatoes along with the gifts from a friend/ Julie Cook / 2017)

The Lord has been gracious.
He has given, without hesitation…to us,
His abundance…

Abundance which equates to infinite love..
yet have we been gracious in our thankfulness….

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness
of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
therefore you shall serve
your enemies whom the Lord will send against you,
in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness, and lacking everything.
And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:47-48

tuning in

”What the press has been in the Nineteenth Century, radio will be for the Twentieth Century.”
Joseph Goebbels
Hitler’s Nazi Propaganda Minister


(My grandfather’s mid 1940’s Philco shortwave radio / Julie Cook / 2017)

I’m still in the process of slowly but surely picking through a lifetime of
“stuff” buried in Dad’s basement and attic…
Today my husband and I schlepped down and up two ancient pieces of technology…

One being grandfather’s 1942 shortwave radio…which if the truth be told, Dad had commandeered as a teen.

I can remember when I was little, “tuning in” to very “staticky” pitch rising
and falling foreign voices.
What I was hearing and listening to was both thrilling and frustrating.

Thrilling because I was listening to distant sounding voices in Germany,
Italy, Japan as my imagination carried me around a world that had most recently
seemed detached and strange.
Yet frustrating because I had not a single clue as to what was being said.

This was a time during the height of the Cold War.
Spies, Communists and propaganda was rife as was the threat of nuclear
annihilation…and as an impressionable young girl,
I yearned to be a part of it all…
the radio could be my key….or so I thought.

But my spy days were short lived due in part to to my age as well as my lack
of a language other than my own.
And I’m certain that watching shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well
as Get Smart fueled that youthful imagination of mine.

So today as I brought the radio up from the basement,
the memory of my short lived spy days came flooding back
to the forefront of conciousness…

Once home this afternoon, I did a little research and was intrigued
to read that shortwave radio was still alive and well….

Old school technology seems to be happily having a bit of a resurgence…
Maybe low tech just might have a stronger and longer lasting connection
in the long run of importance…
who knew?!

“Did you know that it is possible for you to reach the entire world with
your message? Are you aware that you can reliably communicate to the
entire world from a single radio station that is equipped with multiple
antennas that target the entire globe and multiple transmitters?
If you live in the United States, this is a secret that has been held
by interest groups for nearly fifty years.
This secret is broadcasting on international world-band shortwave radio.”

“Recently, it has come to our attention that the internet as a whole may soon
become a field unsuitable for spreading the Gospel in any form.
More and more it is seen on the news how the United Nations is
trying to seize control of the internet. Countries that are members
of the United Nations are obliged to acknowledge the United Nations as
a superior authority.
As a result, if the United Nations gains control of the internet,
one could very easily find him or herself without the freedoms
guaranteed in the United States,
facing U.N. World Court in the Hague for ‘hate crimes,’
should someone or some interest group take offense to someone’s webcasts
or web page.
International world-band shortwave broadcasting, however,
is firmly protected in the United States under freedom of speech in the
First Amendment of the Constitution, and is protected from such restriction.
The idea of being brought up by the United Nations to World Court
for hate crimes may seem a bit of a stretch, but then again,
who would ever have thought Canada would officially proclaim the Holy Bible as
‘hate literature?’

“You are now aware of the best kept secret of evangelism.
This candle of truth, in America long hidden under a bushel,
is now placed on a candlestick,
where it illuminates America with the truth of the secret of world-band
international shortwave radio.
Shortwave radio is rapidly returning to America as people seek a source of
news and information that is unfettered by the forces of political correctness
and government policy.
With international shortwave radio rapidly becoming popular in the United States,
now is the best time to begin broadcasting, catching the wave of new listeners on international world-band shortwave.”

International Radio Station WWRB

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim
to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
and he said with a loud voice,
“Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come;
and worship him who made heaven and earth,
the sea and the fountains of water.”

Revelation 14:6-7

see you at the pig….

“The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings”
― G.K. Chesterton

The pig and the chicken were on their way to breakfast,
trying to decide what to have.
When chicken said,
“Let’s have ham and eggs.”
The pig then replied,
“That’s fine for you,
it’s a small donation on your part,
but it’s a total sacrifice for me.”

anonymus


(my view on the interstate / Julie Cook / 2017)

As most of you know, my corner of the world has been anything but happy.
Dad is hanging on by a thread…on a very much borrowed thread of time…
And given that it is all just a terrible time, I’ll spare you the dreadful details…

Plus, I am just very very tired…

However…

I learned long ago that it is in the little things found in life that we can truly
find a little piece of happiness and or comfort…

So while I was mindlessly moving onto the ramp to merge from I-20 to 285
Thursday morning, I suddenly realized that the happiest of faces was actually smiling…
at me!!
Nobody smiles on the interstate and to be honest,
I can’t remember the last time I actually
saw a genuine happy smile coming my way….

When I finally tuned in and focused one the back of the tractor trailer truck
in front of me, I saw the Piggly Wiggly Pig smiling and happily inviting me to visit
his neck of the woods..
It was then that I actually felt my face move…as in I too started to smile.

And naturally I had to take a picture because I wanted to share this momentary slice of
happiness with someone else who might just need a smile coming their way as well!

So here’s to happy smiles…
which in this case just so happens to be courtesy of the Piggly Wiggly Pig!
May you receive some genuine smiles your way today!!

(also, I’d like to dedicate this pig to both Wally and Kathy—sooouuuiiiieeeeee)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:4-5

bitterness

“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”

Euripides

“Up from behind a sand dune close beside her rose the form of her enemy Bitterness.
He did not come any nearer, having learned a little more prudence,
and was not going to make her call for the Shepherd if he could avoid it,
but simply stood and looked at her and laughed and laughed again,
the bitterest sound that Much-Afraid had heard in all her life.”

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


(image of wormwood)

Anyone who spends any amount of time in a car alone… commuting or traveling…
knows that such time is spent basically as a virtual prisoner of one’s car…
yet it is time spent providing one with ample time for thought and reflection.
That is if the radio isn’t blaring or you’re not jabbering on the phone.

Finding myself commuting to and from Dad’s these days….
Just one way I am alone in the car from anywhere from a little over an hour to upwards
to 4 hours and beyond given the happenstance of life on Atlanta’s interstates….
One little wreck or stall or the never ending construction projects…
and I can find myself with plenty of “alone” time in which to ponder, reflect or fret…

The other evening I found myself quickly playing catch up with some of
my favorite blogs.
One of my brother’s in Christ and his wife are currently in Israel.

This blogging friend has been dutifully posting pictures of his trip along with a bit
of historical commentary as time has allowed.
I’ve enjoyed playing virtual tourist as have others who read his blog.

Yet sadly there have been a few commentators who have been very negative and even critical
of my fiend’s trip….likening such a trip to Israel, Jerusalem in particular,
as a type of Disneyland experience.

Now I understand that any sort of historic tourist draw is going to have its fair share
of those hawking to make a fast buck made on the backs of unsuspecting tourists.
Think posing with Roman clad gladiators outside of Rome’s Colosseum…paying
upwards of 20 to 40 euros for a shot and you get the idea of money being made
at historical sites.

I experienced a very similar sordid encounter at another overtly tourist site
on a trip once to Pompeii.
Pompeii being the ancient Italian city, just outside of Naples, that was destroyed in the year
79 AD by a catastrophic eruption from the volcano Mt Vesuvius.
The city is frozen in time and is a sad and eerie testament to what it means living in the
shadow of a volcano…

Pompeii is an ongoing archaeological site as well as a protected and perseved historical site.
Buildings have been identified as various homes, governmental offices, stores….
as well as the identification of even a local brothel.
Pompeii was a port town and well, one has always heard about sailors on leave…

The brothel was readily identified because of the stone carved man’s genitalia placed above
the threshold of this particular building.
It seems that the locals now capitalizing on the universal interest in sex and so
replicas of this particular “carving” are for sale all over the area outside the city gates.
Think Disney and Mickey’s ear and Pompeii has, well, male body parts for sale.

So I get the whole Disney mentality of tourism…
But there was more to this viewer’s comments than that of causal observation…
as his comments actually turned bitterly hateful.

For you see, this particular blog visitor is an avowed nonbeliever.
He is not a stranger to my friend’s blog, my blog, nor others who profess to
be believing Christians.
It would probably be more accurate to note that this fellow is a former believer now
turned ardent atheist.

I don’t know much about him but that he enjoys taunting Christians.

His taunts on my friend’s site, concerning this trip to the Holy Land, actually
began to border on almost sick…even as he alluded off color to my friend’s wife.

So naturally when I found myself in my car, alone, I began to recall those vicious words,
as well as the words of those who did not care for this
“raining on the trip parade” as it were.
The volley of insults began bouncing back and forth…

What I do know is this man lost his father several years ago—
to cancer is my understanding.
That he was a believer and also what I understand was actually a minister.

I realize that by watching those we love who suffer,
grievously suffering in anguishing pain,
can certainly test and try the faith of the most ardent among us.
And I must confess that I’ve been known to raise my fist to God during the various trails
throughout the course of my own life… so I do not begrudge anyone those emotions
of sorrow and frustration associated with heartbreak and agony.

Yet as I ruminated over those rather wicked words…reflecting even on the tone
to which they were delivered…
only one word kept coming to mind…
bitterness.

Pure unadulterated bitterness.

Bitterness, according Merriam Webster, is a deep-seated ill will caused by anger,
distress or sorrow.
Chances are we have all experienced bitterness or its fist cousin resentment, at some
point during life.

Yet bitterness which is not eventually banished, takes root within one’s being…
Allowed to fester and ferment it is easily recognized.
It is highly unattractive and the outward seeping and spewing of bitterness,
which easily bubbles up to the surface,
is readily and regrettably tasted by any observer.

Bitterness creates an isolating barrier…
Repelling anyone who dares to offer an open hand.

Bitterness is not a welcomed human trait nor is it tolerated for long by others…
It becomes a never ending cycle of brokeness….
as bitterness simply begets more bitterness…

It seems to me that more often then not, non-belivers and bitterness
often walk hand in hand…
whereas the followers of Christ are grounded in what many note as
an unexplainable settled peace…

So as I continue my journey of commuting and ruminating,
I know my friend is throughly enjoying his trip, just we are…
those of us who are enjoying reading of his travels as we
enjoy being virtual tourists…

As one thing I have gleaned…there is certainly no time for bitterness when one is selflessly
sharing with ones friends…
Happy travels Wally….

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

words, deeds and offered kindness

If there was a little more light and truth in the world through one human being,
his life has had meaning.”

Alfred Delp, priest

dscn4681
(a cache of books from Plough Publishing House)

When life seems to be endlessly hard fraught with struggles, isn’t it amazing how
one small gesture, one small act of kindness or recognition, can mean so very much…

Over the better part of almost two years,
my life has, more often than not, felt like a battleground.

Some days there has been advancement,
some days there has been retreat,
some days there has been a stalemate,
and some days there has been defeat.

For a myriad of reasons, every last one of us faces moments in our lives
that are hard and difficult… some of those moments are downright devastating.
And much like the Geico Insurance ads that so famously highlight life’s absurdities
with that famous tag line “because that’s what you do”
we in like turn muddle through, power through or simply manage to make it
through such times…because, that’s what we do….

So imagine my surprise when one evening I received a comment on my blog
from an editor from Plough Publishing House.
She had read a recent post in which I used a quote by Eberhard Arnold,
the early 20th century Christian theologian and writer.

You must know that I do not choose the quotes that I use for each post randomly
as I am very purposeful in selecting the right words spoken…
In that I use other’s words,
in order to add impact or highlight a particular point or post,
is not something I take lightly.

There are times when I have stumbled across a quote or statement that I think appropriate
yet I may be unfamiliar with the owner of the words and thoughts.
So I’ll do a little background research.
And in that research I often find intriguing backdoor stories that draw me ever inward…
as I find myself wanting to know more about the particular individual of choice.
Such was the case with Eberhard Arnold.

I don’t want to spend time today jumping off on a side pig trail but it is
interesting that I have found the words and stories behind many German Theologians intriguing—
certainly with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I often quote and write about,
to Maximilian Kolbe and Alfred Delp…
two Catholic priests whose lives, words and deeds we remember to this day
due in part to their martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of the Holocaust.

I like to think that I am not discriminatory with the words I include in my posts
as I greatly welcome the thoughts and words from a wide range of the faithful…
be they Protestant or Evangelical, Catholic or even Jew—
I have a deep respect for those individuals who have spent their lives,
if not having given up their lives, for our shared Judaeo / Christian faith and beliefs…
As they are in part the stone pavers to the pathway we walk today.

And so was the case with my inclusion of Eberhard Arnold…
which in turn brought the attention of a senior publishing editor my way.
She asked if I would be interested in maybe receiving a few of their newest releases
in hopes that I might find time to not only read them but to share them on the blog.

I was more than humbled as well as honored by her offer.

Delightfully a small package arrived Tuesday afternoon containing five books.
Five faith-filled books…
Of which I look forward to exploring and sharing from time to time here on cookiecrumbs with you…

There is so much to learn as well as to apply to our own 21st century lives from the thoughts and experiences of those who, having often walked their journey prior to our own, have put their
experiences of both their lives and faith in action to pen and paper…

We should note that the written word has such a way of
transcending both space and time…as does a simple act of kindness…

All be they seemingly insignificant, it would behoove us to be mindful of the
importance of our own actions and words… .
That to reach out, to speak, to touch, to offer kind thoughts,
gestures and words to another…can, as a stone dropped into a still pond,
ripple outward reverberating far beyond our limited sight…
touching those who we may never meet or know….
Such is the power of our words and deeds…

The final Kingdom is near, and the whole world should be on the watch.
But the world will not take heed unless the Church of Jesus Christ puts the unity
and justice of this Kingdom into practice daily.
Faith will bring about true unity among believers
who are ready to live a life of unlimited,
active love.

Eberhard Arnold, 1934

hands

“I take comfort in the fact that somehow,
in the mysterious resources of the human spirit,
even pain can serve a higher end.”

Dr. Paul Brand

“I don’t pray that you may be delivered from your troubles.
Instead, I pray that God will give you the strength and
patience to bear them.”

Brother Lawrence

dscn4502
(the hands of Mother Teresa / A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

The other evening a visitor to my blog made a comment on a post that I had actually
written 3 years ago…

It was a post about feet.

And the feet in question were not just any pair of feet,
but rather the tired and worn feet of a relentless saint of a woman.

A woman, mind you, Pope Francis most recently declared a saint.

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

For some, especially my high school students…at the time I had originally shared the photograph,
the image of her feet were hard to look at…
for the image was that of a pair of feet that had not lived a pampered life
but rather a life of back breaking labor, toil and work….

And we are each the better for those feet.

In the commentary of the post, a dear friend of mine lovingly and sweetly reminisced
about the rough and worn hands of her grandmother.
Recalling the vivid details that had been etched on her young heart.

The new visitor added to that very train of thought with her own poignant memories of the rough and worn hands of her aunt…and of the very touching response from her uncle to her aunt’s weary anguish over her “ugly worn out hands”…

There is a post unto itself in her very touching words…

And it was today that I read the most beautiful tale of hands that I thought most appropriate to share with this most current thought of hands…

“What practical effect does Christ’s identification have on the person who actually suffers?
A dramatic example of the effect of this truth was seen in
the ministry of Dr Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.
There he preached a sermon, one of his best known and best loved.
At the time, Brand and his workers were among the few in the area who would
touch or closely approach a person with Hansen’s disease—townspeople quarantined them.
Brand slipped in late to a patients’ gathering,
sitting on the mat at the edge of an open courtyard.
The air was heavy with combined odors of crowding bodies,
poverty, stale spices, treated bandages.

The patients insisted on a few words from Dr Brand,
and he reluctantly agreed.
He stood for a moment, empty of ideas, looking at the patients before him.
His eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them,
most pulled inward in the familiar “leprosy claw-hand,” some with no fingers,
some with a few stumps.
Many patients sat on their hands or otherwise hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he began and waited for the translation into Tamil and Hindi.
“So when I meet people, I can’t help looking at their hands.
The palmist claims he can tell you your future by looking at your hands.
I can tell your past.
For instance I can tell what your trade has been by the position of the
calluses and the condition of the nails.
I can tell a lot about your character,
I love hands.”

He paused and looked at the eager faces.
“How I would love to have had the chance to meet Christ and study his hands!
But knowing what he was like, I can almost picture them, feel them.”

He paused again,
then wondered aloud what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands.
He traced the hands of Christ,
beginning with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, futilely grasping.
Then came the hands of the boy Jesus, clumsily holding a brush or stylus,
trying to form letters of the alphabet.
Then the hands of Christ the carpenter—
rough, gnarled, with broken fingernails and bruises from working with saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer.
Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them,
so much so that when he touched people they could feel
something of the divine spirit coming through.
Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

“Then,” continued Dr. Brand,
“there were his crucified hands.
It hurts me to think of a nail being driven through the center of my hand,
because I know what goes on there,
the tremendous complex of tendons, and nerves and blood vessels and muscles.
It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.
The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me
of what Christ was prepared to endure.
In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled
human beings in the world.
Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor,
weariness with the tired,
but–clawed hands with the cripple.”

The effect on the listening patients,
all social outcasts,
was electrifying.
Jesus—a cripple,
with claw hand like theirs?

Brand continued.
“And then there were his resurrected hands.
One of the things I find most astounding is that though we think of the
future life as something perfected,
when Christ appeared to his disciples he said,
“Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail.
Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity?
Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an eternal reminder
of the sufferings of those on earth?
He carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs
of this suffering.
He wanted to be forever on with us.”

As he finished, Paul Brand was again conscious of the hands as they were lifted,
all over the courtyard,
palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.
The hands were the same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches.
Yet no one tried to hide them.
They were held high, close to the face, in respect for Brand,
but also with new pride and dignity.
God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

T.S. Elliot wrote in one of his Four Quartets:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
the questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

The surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know
that the Surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon,
has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.

Philip Yancey
Jesus’ Reminders

dscn4501

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/

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

DSCN0241
(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….

DSCN0240
(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

Narcissus and the selfie obsession

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.”
John Steinbeck

Narcissus,-c.1597-99-large
(Narcissus by Caravaggio 1597-99 / Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica, Rome, Italy)

I just don’t get it.

Were we not taking pictures, those of ourselves, long before the word selfie came into being the most recent phenomenon cultural obsession?
Those good ol days of the Kodak instamatic, with its four part flash cube, clicking away at the important moments of our lives. . .

Excitedly we’d pop out the film role, being careful not to expose it to light, racing it off to the nearest camera shop as we could barely contain our excitement over our soon to be developed pictures.
Only to joyfully retrieve the prints after several days of anxious waiting, marveling at the double exposures, red eyes, and blurry images as being careful not to get sticky fingerprints on the new glossy picture prints.
Were we a bit more cautious as to what we were taking pictures of as we knew that there was a person at the camera shop who would be developing said pictures and we certainly didn’t want him or her to see us in any poor choice of situation—perhaps with the developer acting as both filter and conscience. . .Hummmmmm. . .

But I suppose yes, we have come a long way. . .I just don’t know if its been a very good journey.

And social media, I don’t much get that either. . .

This whole FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram. . .”insta” this and that obsession in this obsessive connect every dot, unabashedly sharing of everything, and sadly I mean everything, with everyone and anyone world of ours. . .
Keeping up with the Joneses has now met the 21st century way.
A virtual brag sheet of trips and activities with the sharing of our intimate and private moments. . .with not only friends and family, but everyone!

Maybe it’s the latest national, no actually global, obsession, of everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame—with, as we again sadly see, that fame often leading to instant demise. . .

I know what you’re thinking. . .you’re thinking I’m really showing my age, my ignorance, my uber unclooness. . .
Well I prefer hoping that maybe I just might be simply on a quest for wisdom.

I’ve stated before that I’ve never joined in with the whole FaceBook phenomenon.
I don’t tweet, pin, post, chat and whatever it is that most folks are now doing on this communicative world stage of ours.
Oh I understand the whole “it’s how I stay connected with my family who live so far away” mentality. . .I get that.
I get you want to see pictures of the grandkids. . .share what the kids are up to with a traveling spouse. . .share those treasured family moments with literally the world, I get it. . .I’m just wondering if we haven’t also turned into a culture of. . . what’s the word??. . .oh yeah, creepers or maybe just plain ol voyeurists–as we fill our time by pouring over ours and our neighbor’s, those known and unknown, virtual worlds.

Moms following their kids around cyberly making certain all is on the up and up until the kids “unfriend” them (which is good and all, but maybe policing their allowance of usage with technology would be better serving. . .I know, you’ve got an argument for that. . . as I’m obviously far off the grid here)
And what of the old high school and college flames reconnecting, never mind one or the other may still be married. . . or maybe you’re just trying to rekindle that whole “what was” business only to discover “what was” in now 40 years in the future and we and it has all been changed by time. . .

And yes I get the whole raise the awareness of current issues and crises. . .the promoting of businesses, the whole global drawing attention to the growing list of the lost and hopefully soon to be found. . .yet I fear our obsession is going too far—

And what’s up with this whole “sexting” business?
Where folks sashay out into the world of casual sex in a way that oddly is rationalized off as safe, as in no body is touching anybody and therefore there is really no sex, no potential disease, no true infidelity or premarital sex, so it’s all harmless—no biggie that you’re posting pics of your intimate areas as it were, looking for love or affirmation or whatever it is you’re looking for in all those wrong kind of places. . .only to see those private images go suddenly viral. . .now there’s a sticky wicket—and then that leads us to the growing sickness with cyber porn, child predators as we open an entire world of technology darkness. . .lets not even talk about cyber stealing. . .

Maybe you’re just feeling really good about yourself these days and you want the cyber world to know it as you upload selfie, after selfie, after selfie. . . .is there not more to your world than you?
And who exactly is it who is seeing these images. . . and just when you may have second thoughts about having posted those pics, hitting delete later doesn’t delete you from cyber space where you and that image remain until the end of time. . . .looking hot and good for ages to come. . .Hummmmmm

We’ve seen the selfie of the young lady, all grins as she snaps a picture of herself while on that special European trip, standing at the gates of Auschwitz—-a big ol happy smile with that cold dark gate standing behind her as the sign of “welcome” still remains. . .maybe she didn’t get that whole history of where she was standing thing. . .

What of the other young American tourists scratching their names into the side of the Colosseum there in Rome then snapping pictures in order to post to FB of their “kilroy was here moment”. . .never mind defacing a National historic treasure of Italy or the arrest, or of the fine. . .
or of the stupidity. . .

What of the tourists mugging for the camera with the bodies of the calcified remains of the victims of Pompeii—maybe it’s just me but that just seems a bit awkward—everyone pull in tight as we snap the pic of us with our arms around the case containing the remains of a human being who met a tragic end. . .everybody smile. . .

Are we so caught up in the moment of snapping that picture that we forget where we are,
what we’re doing. . .too busy to take it all in because we’d much rather get the perfect picture of us with “it”— and not merely of “it”, wherever and whatever it may be—as in look at me, here I am with “it”, at it, on it, under it, in it. . . but I’M here, ME, WE. . . forget it. . .

Oh sure there are the shots of the adrenaline rush moments with the GoPro taking us places most of us will never be or of things we will never see or of perspectives that are not our own. . . of the parachuters, the whitewater rafters, the free fall divers, the skiers, the surfers, the sharks, the rhinos, the birds, our dogs. . .

Yes there is certainly coolness and there is good. . .yet there is sad and there is dark as well. . .

I fear that our focus has become more about us, as in. . . see us, see we, see me. . .
all of this self obsession as a world continues spiraling out of control, as its troubles keep growing- – -yet we keep on smiling and sharing. . .


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20