the extraordinary venture

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei


(a protion of the paitning The Sacrificial Lamb / Josefa de Obidos / 1670-1684)

There is so much I wish to share after having watched the 2nd Sunday in Epiphany
posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden, but time will not permit me to do so.

I am however including the video clip of his homily at the end of this post, which is really so lovely, so welcomed and so needed.
For as the good Bishop reminds us—our pursuit of God, or perhaps that should be God’s pursuit of us, is that of an extraordinary venture…

I will, however, touch on just a portion of what I’ve taken away, as I will do so
over the next day or so, as his words have touched me deeply.

The good Bishop, at one point during his homily, recalls having, not long ago, having attended a reunion of his schoolmates. He had actually attended a Christian School and remembers quite vividly attending the chapel services and how often as a boy,
listening to the words of the Gospel, or a reading from the Epistle,
or even words of the hymns…just how deeply touched and moved he was—
his words— “I felt my spine tingling.”

So at this reunion of sorts, he knew that some of his now grown classmates were Christians and some were not. He asked if they remember the hairs on the back of their necks
standing on edge or getting goosebumps or feeling a tingling in their spine during parts
of the service…

And their response was one of incredulous bewilderment.
They told him that chapel was merely a time to be endured,
nothing earth-shattering as he seemed to recall…
and I, in turn, was keenly moved by this tale because I too have felt that tingling.

Bishop Ashenden went on to conclude that he felt perhaps that God’s hand was on his life
heavier and more direct, for whatever reason than at that same time of that of his mates.

And I too have felt that heaviness, and it was also at a much younger age.

He goes on to relate a tale of the notion of sin and the fact that there is a Christian perception of sin and that there is what is considered a secular perception sin…
Christian sin, to the Christian, is more evident as it is a brokenness that separates
the sinner from God.

A secular sin is more or less a cultural perception of correctness—
and if you are on the wrong side of that correctness, then that is the true sin…
An example would be a person who opposes same-sex unions/marriage.
Secular society condemns anyone who is against same-sex unions by not viewing such
unions as perfectly acceptable.
That’s all there is to it.
One has broken the cultural code of what is right, and therefore there is no help for you…for you have sinned. You are castigated.

The Christian perception of sin is different in that there is one key component…
That component is forgiveness.

In a politically correct society, there is no room for forgiveness.

And whereas “we are fractured from God by our appetites, by our flaws, by our behavior,”
we are in desperate need of forgiveness.
And that forgiveness comes in the form of Jesus
on the cross.

The homily was opened with the reading from the book of Revelation 5:1-10

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals;
and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open
the scroll or to look into it.
And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the
scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me,
“Do not weep.
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,
so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the
elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered,
having seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll,
the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb,
each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints
from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”

Bishop Ashenden makes note of John and of his weeping over the fact that there is no one
who can or is worthy to open as well as read the scrolls.
He is then told that first, it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David
who is also, in turn, is the Lamb…and it is this sacrificial yet triumphant
Lamb who will open and read the scrolls.

It is the Lamb who is key to the forgiveness and cleansing we are so desperately
in need of as our fracturing from God is now rejoined and made whole…

More tomorrow….

the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

Meat and potatoes

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

Robert Graves


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

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

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

And I for one delight in that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the first day of Christmas….blah, blah, blah…..

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
a drunk opossum in a box!”

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge


(mother’s late circa 1950’s mistletoe ball / Julie Cook / 2017)

See this garish, yet oh so festive green, red and white bedecked ball of plastic??

This ball of plastic, aka mistletoe, has been a part of every Christmas of mine since
I began having the capacity to actually remember memories…..

Every year, sometime in December, Mother would haul down the boxes of Christmas
ornaments and lights from our attic.
Down came the stuffed Coca Cola Santa who would sit on the fireplace hearth.
Down came our stockings knitted by my aunt.
Down came all manner of bauble and ball.

The wooden beamed, insulated tomb which housed our poor ornaments,
as they would spend 11 months out of the year, was
in this wizened sense of hindsight,
a really dumb place to keep real keepsakes….

You know how hot it gets in Georgia in the summers right??

So is it any wonder as to why those festive little dough ornaments
we made in kindergarten didn’t much survive past grade school…???
all before succumbing to the elements and reverting back to their powdery,
albeit now colorful, days of floury finery….???

Mother would pull down that wooden drop down hatch in the middle of our
hallway ceiling, the one with the sad little raveling cord and the plastic knob
at the end, as she’d precariously jiggle the pull down rickety wooden ladder
attached to said little pull down hatch, as I was instructed to hold the ladder
very still while she maneuvered boxes both up and down.

I now marvel at how Mother never fell and broke her neck.

Ceremoniously Mother would pull down this and that box…
She’d survey the contents determining the survivors and discarding the broken.

And each year she’d head to the kitchen in order to literally tack up that
plastic ball of mistletoe over our back door,
as in with a thumb tack in the door frame.

I always imagined being kissed under that mistletoe…
because isn’t that what you’re suppose to do when you happen past a boy
under some mistletoe…????
You get kissed by someone magical and special under that mistletoe???

And I always wanted it to be someone other than my dad’s peck on the cheek
each evening when he’d return home from work throughout the holidays….

I wanted a kiss, a real kiss from a real boy…one day…much like something Prince
Charming might offer….
Yet what I knew of real kisses back then, eludes me now… but I
certainly thought it was something every young girl would dream of…..

Fast forward about 50 years….

So there I was Sunday night, unpacking our own boxes of Christmas treasures
and memories, most of which oddly spend their 11 months out of the year in a very
hot Georgia attic (as some lessons are hard learned)… when low and behold,
what did my wandering eyes behold….but that same ball of mistletoe with
Mother’s tack still stuck on the strand.

Proudly holding up my childhood relic as if it were some trophy fish dangling from
a stringer, I call for my husband to see my prize….
to see if he remembered where my plastic treasure came from and as to its
magical importance….

As I was all ready for my sentimental walk down memory lane,
full of a cherished warm glow from recalling those oh so happy days gone by,
all the while anticipating that long awaited kiss from my very own prince charming…

He looks over in my direction, away from the football game, then practically screams—-
“OH MY GOSH!!
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T SEND THAT WITH ME TO THE STORE….CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CRIES IF I HUNG THAT UP IN THE STORE?????????!!!!!!!!!

And so goes another cherished memory right out the window….gone to our overtly and
off its freaking rocker society….

Sigh…..

And so on that note…I figured since we’ve all probably been taking ourselves just
a wee bit too seriously as of late—-
I wanted to share a story I read yesterday out of the News….
a story coming out of Fort Walton, FL….

It seems that a possum…of which you must know I do find cute and always have, as
I hold a soft spot open in my heart for these poster children of all things
roadkill ever since I can remember….

It seems a possum found its way into a Liquor store in Fort Walton.
Or actually found its way into the ceiling of the building.
Yet it appears that this possum fell out of the ceiling….
Falling onto some bottles of whiskey—of which broke.

When the proprietor of the store opened up the following morning,
imagine the surprise of finding a staggering, foaming at the mouth and
obviously very drunk….possum…
a possum who just so happened to have lapped up all that spilt liquor.

So the kind and caring folks from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge had to come get
the staggering and very sloppy drunk marsupial.
They in turn had to give the sot possum a bag of IV fluids to flush the alcohol from its system.

Once the hangover had passed and the possum had sobered up,
it was released back into the woods…as it was heard to exclaim,
before it went out of sight…
Merry Christmas to all and to all no more bourbon tonight!!!!

http://www.fox13news.com/news/florida-opossum-found-drunk-after-liquor-store-break-in#/

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy,
all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11

Obedience

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all
that He says.
There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you
would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself
over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.
But trying in a new way, a less worried way.
Not doing these things in order to be saved,
but because He has begun to save you already.
Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions,
but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint
gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a wandering coon in the middle of nowhere west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Obedience
o·be·di·ence
əˈbēdēəns,ōˈbēdēəns/
noun
noun: obedience
compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
“children were taught to show their parents obedience”
synonyms: compliance, acquiescence, tractability, amenability; More
antonyms: disobedience, rebellion

observance of a monastic rule.
“vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience”

Oooooo….don’t you just shutter when you hear that word?

It’s a burdensome sort of word for it requires things of us as well as from us….
and more times than not, the majority of us don’t like to have to be
“required” to do much of anything–anything we consider to be out of our circle of comfortable, happy living.

Because isn’t that what obey and obedience really mean, that we are required to do,
or not do, certain things….?

And yet our news has been rife with just that very thing.

“No it hasn’t” you counter “because this latest rushing of falling dominos,
we’ve been currently witnessing regarding improprieties, harassment and out right
full fledged advantage taking, doesn’t have anything to do with obedience….”

And then I simply remind you that “yes”….yes,it really does because the base
of all that we are watching and witnessing is exactly that….
obedience…or more accurately the lack of….”

Next I’ll then remind you just how much you had hated the very notion of obedience
that you even wrote it out of the traditional marriage vows eons ago…
because there was just something about that word, that notion,
that act that has been akin to rubbing the fur
of an animal in the wrong direction—it’s uncomfortable and seemingly,
well, unnatural.

Human beings, by their very nature, do not like to be nor do they want to be obedient.
It is an act of the will to do such. And to exert that will is hard, difficult,
taxing and tiring.
Yet be it because we want to be law abiding, a nice person, a good person, a cooperative
person, even a loving person… we tend to lean toward obedience—
And if we’re not careful, we can just as quickly be disobedient.

Ask any parent of a toddler, teenager or the owner of a young pet…they will tell
you right fast that the nature of obedience vs disobedience is truly a very
fine line….

I’ve thought a lot about obedience as of late with each new tale of the rich
and infamous falling flat on their faces.

Us commoners have been doing it for eons,
falling on our faces in utter disobedience,
Yet the media seems to think the scions of all things political, newsy,
entertaining and even ministerial have somehow been exempt all these years….

And so now with these tales of the sick, twisted and powerful being just that,
the media outlets are in pandemonium, panic stricken to make sense of it
all while assuming some new disease has simply befallen mankind.

And yet those of us in the know just call that sin.

Sin.

Man’s age old nemesis.

Ego
Pride
Arrogance
Greed
Lust
Want…

The list is endless…and the root lies in our disobedience.

I can say this because I know what it is to have been disobedient and sinful…
just like anyone else really…it’s just that as a Christian, I am more
keenly aware of my errors and of the healing Grace that has brought healing and
reconciliation to the God of whom I disobeyed.

Doesn’t make me any better than the next person.
Doesn’t make me anything ever being perfect…
And to top it all, I’m still very much susceptible to the ways
of disobedience and its ugly repercussions…

But as C.S. Lewis so eloquently reminds us in our day’s quote,
‘that the reason behind our seeking or desire to be obedient…is not because
of anything we may be getting in the end but rather because there is now
a faint glimmer of the Divine burning in
our being….'(paraphrased)

We seek Him not because of anything about us or in us or from us,
as none of this is about us, as we so often egotistically assume…
but rather we seek, we obey because of Him and Him alone—
because He has first sought us…
And once that has happened, there grows a thirst and unquenchable yearning
within our beings to seek Him out—along with the desire to “want” to be
in communion with Him and Him alone.

Listening to Bishop Ashenden’s Morning Prayer podcast yesterday morning,
I was keen upon hearing his offering from a reading by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
It was taken from Bonhoeffer’s book Discipleship…
The good Bishop explained that the obedience of an individual, as to the call
of Jesus, has nothing to do with some psychological reasoning on the part of said
individual but simply because of Jesus himself.
A Jesus only sort of thing.
As in He is the authority.
He calls.
We, as disciples, follow….
and that is Grace….

Pure and simple.

It is because we “hear Jesus loving us…and thus respond….”

“Hear Jesus loving us….”
That notion resonated deeply within me as I was listening.

Not because of anything I’ve done or even not done…but He loves, is loving, me
none the less.

There is such a peace in that.

And it is in that Peace, that Love, that calls me to Obedience…
He offers and I readily accept.

As we see Obedience acting as Healer…

May we seek and heed the call to obedience rather than the crying out
and call to sin…

“If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:15

lord of the flies

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”
Denis Diderot

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
William Golding, Lord of the Flies


(I used this image back in June, but it fit so well today)

I suppose the reading of certain books during our time spent in high school
lit classes is all a part of the adolescent right of passage.

Most folks my age read such books as Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye,
A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Crucible,
1984 (yes published in 1949 and I read it long before 1984),
The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men…the list goes on and on.

Some books I enjoyed.
Some books I loathed.
Some books left me unsettled.

Lord of the Flies was just one such book.

No happy ending there.

It was a tale that left me terribly unsettled.

Any sort of story showcasing those who are oh so civilized one minute while
quickly falling into barbarism the next,
when all the trappings of modern life suddenly disappear,
leaves me less than happily settled—

Perhaps because it is a blatant reminder of how thin is the veil that separates
modern man from his animalistic alter ego …
and yet that was indeed the author’s intent…
A stalk reminder…..

I was in high school just past those heady days of Woodstock and Flower power.
The early 70’s were to be a time of reemerging.
We were coming up for air from an unpopular war, grave national unrest,
sit-ins, love-ins as a president was preparing to leave office in disgrace…
people wanted to reset and move forward.
Our naiveté was long gone.

Sounds as if I could be talking about today….

We read the works of writers who addressed such feelings..some being current, some
simply ahead of their time.

And it appears as if I am not alone in my recollection of my required reading
of such a tale…

The newly consecrated bishop of the Christian Episcopal Church of Canada and the US,
The Rt. Reverend Dr Gavin Ashenden, also recalls reading Lord of the Flies.

I found his post Wednesday to be most timely as he touched on an issue I’ve been
referencing in just these past many days…

That being the Nazis and their obsessive need to plunder, loot, and burn millions of books… in an all out attempt to control the thought processes of those they
wished to manipulate and rule while at the same time obliterating an entire
swarth of humanity.

“I can understand why the Nazis burned books.

One book can subvert a whole culture.

Perhaps one of the most subversive books I’ve known was “Lord of the Flies”
by William Golding.
I must have read it when I was 14 or 15.

It tells the story of a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes onto a remote island.
They survive the crash, but descend into violence and chaos and finally murder.
They lose all the trappings of civilisation, inside and out, in a very short time.

This was and is a shocking book.
It called the bluff of moral progress and ethical evolution.
Our civility is just skin deep Golding was saying.
From the moment I finished the book,
I knew that Golding was right and that progressive politics was based on a
misjudgment of human nature.
Our ethical progress was just skin deep, and could be lost in an instant.

I keep on being haunted by images of Nazi book burning and the smashing up of
Jewish shop fronts from Germany in the 1930’s.
Something like a collective madness came on the people of Germany.
It really seemed to erupt almost out of nowhere.
How could such a civilised people, the children of Goethe and Beethoven,
so swiftly become the breeding ground of Nazism, with its book burnings, thuggery
and ultimately the horrifying and very Golding-like final solution?”

The good Bishop goes on to explore the similarites he sees between the current acts of violence taking place on both sides of our collective pond in regards to the
progressive liberal groups and their lack of tolerance, or perhaps allowance would be a better word, with the more conservative and Christian groups over the current battle
lines.

Bishop Ashenden notes in particular a rather nasty incident taking place in Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park when several protesting groups converged.

It seems that a 60 year old feminist sort of protester was punched in the face by a transgendered male dressed as a female type individual,
who after punching said 60 year old woman in the face and knocking her to the ground,
then ran ran off.

Ashenden makes a rather stalk comparison between a now and then sort of moment:
“Mindless thugs beating their opponents in public were not the preserve only of the Brown Shirts in Berlin, of state apparatchiks in Moscow, but it’s odd to find gender activists demonstrating in favour of love, peace, tolerance and inclusion, beating up elderly feminists at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.”

Ashenden goes on…
“A great deal is made by the left that the threat of violence comes from the
‘far Right.’ In fact the press and media don’t bother with the ‘Right’ any more.
Anything less than socialist is called ‘Far-Right, – or Nazi.
There is no near-right, or middle right, or further right; just Far-Right.’

You may read the full post here:

‘Far-Left’ and ‘Far-Right’ need to be replaced by ‘Far-UP’.

The irony of our current thuggery groups behaving so terribly badly while they shout
for rights, proclaim justice, preach love, and of all things, demand tolerance….
all the while commencing to malign and beat to a pulp those who oppose their current
trend of senseless thoughts……

They might do well to reread a book or two from their day’s in lit class.

Barbarism is but a step away from the the civilized…..

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

hedonism

“Men in the vehement pursuit of happiness grasp at the first object which
offers to them any prospect of satisfaction,
but immediately they turn an introspective eye and ask,
‘Am I happy?’
and at once from their innermost being a voice answers distinctly,
‘No, you are as poor and as miserable as before.

‘Then they think it was the object that deceived them and turn precipitately
to another. But the second holds as little satisfaction as the first…
Wandering then through life restless and tormented,
at each successive station they think that happiness dwells at the next,
but when they reach it happiness is no longer there.
In whatever position they may find themselves there is always
another one which they discern from afar, and which but to touch,
they think, is to find the wished delight,
but when the goal is reached discontent has followed on the way stands
in haunting constancy before them.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


(ripening persimmons / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wonder where it started…this hedonistic nature of ours.
History certainly speaks of the Roman’s thirst for all things sensual and soothing.
An insatiable appetite of all things of pleasure.
With a never-ending quest for the wanton.

And yet we know of other societies, other cultures that were equally focused on
a hunger for lusty tastes.
So does this mean that this hedonism of ours is an innate quality or
is it rather a learned trait?

Oftentimes we of the present feel a smug sense of superiority to those people
of the past.
We believe ourselves to be more knowledgable, more sophisticated,
better educated…
so therefore we grow overtly confident and even pompous believing ourselves
better than.

And yet current events are appearing to indicate that we may not actually be
better than…as in better educated, better controlled or even a better people…

Take the following observation by our friend the Wee Flea….

“As an international chaplain I find it a source of constant embarrassment that many international students are bemused and offended by the banality and stupidity of a monolithic hedonistic culture, which seems to be encouraged by the University.”

The Rev Robertson offers us his latest observation in a posting concerning the recent
start to Dundee University’s school year with the welcoming of the new freshman class.

University Challenge

Pastor Robertson raises concern over what appears to be an ever increasingly
pleasure seeking college population.
Our western college and university campuses are now rife with a generation of
youthful learners known as snowflakes…meaning they rapidly melt at the
slightest hint of uncomfortableness…all the while the majority busy
themselves imbibing in any and all earthly and sensual pleasure…
with their mantra being “you only live once.”

Pastor Robertson recalls that “I once spoke to some third and fourth year
male students who had returned early for Fresher’s week.
“Why have you returned so early?”
“Fresh meat!” was their sickening reply.
They had come back to see how many new female students they could sleep with.
This is how in our ‘PC’ culture women are treated.”

University officials however, as we have witnessed throughout this country
in most recent weeks, appear not to be in control of their youthful charges
as they turn blind eyes to the raucous and even violent behavior.

Most college educated adults know first hand about the difficulties of balancing
both faith with what is known as “the college experience.”

Newly found freedoms, a plethora of choices, liberal academic thinking,
accented with open sex, alcohol and drugs…makes keeping the faith an often
difficult task for even the most ardent of Believers.

All the while administrations and educators are turning a blind eye, or even worse,
offering words of encouragement for experimentation…coddling and indulging a
growing generation of self indulgent narcissists.

That is until various troubles hit the news circuits…
Think Penn State’s current legal woes over the death of a college freshman at
the hands of his drunken fraternity brothers or the costly destruction to property following the riots at Cal Berkeley and Evergreen College in Washington.

In his most recent post, the good Pastor reflects on the backlash a school
administrator faced when pushing back on the young charges under her leadership.

The former principal of St Andrews University, Louise Richardson (now of Oxford),
has been told to apologise after she upset some students by claiming that they
have no right not to be offended.

Predictably they were offended by her remarks.

She claimed that she had been approached by several students who
are uncomfortable with the views about homosexuality expressed by some professors
and lecturers.
“they don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with these views.
And I say, I’m sorry but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable.
Education is not about being comfortable.
I’m interested in making you uncomfortable.
If you don’t like his views, you challenge them,
engage with them and figure out how a smart person could have views like that.
Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind.”

Her sensible and mature attitude surely would not in almost any other age in the UK,
have needed to have been said–but in today’s censorious,
dumbed down and intolerant culture they were deemed to be highly controversial.

Oxford University student union president Kate Cole, said
“Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia”.
In other words forget freedom of speech if it is deemed across our absolutist line!

Oxford City Councillor, Tom Hayes added;”
it’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudice tutors who will
propagate hateful views and pass of discrimination as debate”.
Doubtless Mr Hayes will tell us what hateful views are
(presumably anyone who disagrees with him)
and will ensure that no debate takes place at all.

In another sign of the irrationality gripping some sections of academia,
a student Latin course (Reading Latin by Jones and Sidwell)
was outed by an American PhD student because the text featured three goddesses,
each confidently stripping off, determined to win the golden apple from Paris,
and two rapes.
Such ‘offensive’ choices, she said, did not help the cause of Latin,
‘or make the historically racist and classist discipline of
classics more acceptable”.

Meanwhile back on planet earth normal students face their own University Challenge.

Rod Liddle – “The idea that she might subordinate her feelings for the good of
some higher purpose did not sit easily with Diana.
Because according to this new mantra, there is no higher purpose than
simply what one feels”

LED 8 – Yemen – The Proms and the EU Cult- Jacob Rees Mogg – Religious Decline in the UK – Canadian Immigration – Irma, Climate Change and Lovelock’s Change – University Principal takes on Snowflake Students – John Knox’s Transgender Toilets – Don Williams.

And so I will close our look at the new fall term taking place in our Western society
with words both thoughtful and prayerful offered by the good Pastor on behalf or our
students, those Believers amongst them and of the adults charged with their care and education.

Let us pray for, encourage and seek to serve those who have begun the new term this week. Especially those Christians who go against the flow and are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the face of an increasing hostile culture. As our Universities forget their Christian roots and market themselves as monolithic academic businesses.
They are becoming places where a diversity of views is not encouraged.
In such an environment Christians are the real radicals!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12