the Russians are coming…

Russia is a riddle
wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma.

Winston Churchill

The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming….
is the title of a 1966 comedic spoof based on the accidental beaching of a Russian sub
off the coast of a small fictional New England island town during the midst
of the Cold War.
The film stared Alan Arkin and Carl Reiner so you can only imagine the off the chain humor.

Fast forwarding all these many years later and history oddly seems to be repeating itself,
but this time it’s not over a comedic movie yet we can still hear that familiar war cry…
that the Russians are coming…

I’ve really tried, really really I have tried, to ignore the latest brouhaha concerning
Mother Russia and all things Russian…
all the latest “did they, didn’t they” sort of mumbo jumbo that is currently consuming all
things political and newsy.

I’ve really tried to tune out all things ‘news’ related since hysterical pandemonium
hit the airwaves following the election…

All because global news media are still having apoplexies following the US election,
all because the US simply elected another new president….
as in its something we’ve gotten pretty good at doing every 4 years…
Yet oddly this time, this process, this election…
although it was one that seemed to follow the same standard procedure of every other
election since General Washington’s election, has been anything but standard…
and I for one have grown weary of the now ensuing melee.

The conspiracy theorists on both sides of “this trouble” have whipped themselves
into such a frenzy that I’ve sadly found it all so very exhausting.

While the question remains, exhausting for what?

Has all this focus, frenzy and fuss made the world a better place?

Has world hunger been eradicated?
Are children no longer dying due to starvation or from treatable diseases?
Have we discovered the cure for cancer?
Have all the global conflicts and wars finally ended peacefully?

No?

No, I didin’t think so…

But rather than focusing on doing things to make living better for people…
easier, happier….
we’ve all decided to lose our minds and go nuts over a president half the population hates
and the notion of invading Russians from within the highest ranks of government.
Forget that kids are dying from starvation in the Sudan as I type.
Forget that airstrikes are raging in Syria as I type.
Forget the growing opiate addictions in this country.
Forget the widening global human sex trafficking nightmare….
Forget global terrorism.
Forget escalating violence.
Forget that half the United States now hates the other half….
Forget anything regarding the relevance of improving the suffering of humanity…
but rather, focus on collusion and intrigue….

Obviously according to the news, none of that humanity stuff matters and actually pales
in comparison to all things Trump and Russian.

The Russians, bless their hearts, all they have to do each morning is to wake up and
stare in bewilderment at their televisions because the Americans have pumped them back up to
being Enemy Number 1 without their ever having to lift a finger.

Putin doesn’t even have to act like his typical jerky egotistical, megalomania, tyrannical
self because we’re doing a fine enough job inflating his depraved ego
without his even trying…

During the Cold War, we were afraid of being blown off the map…
just as the Russians, aka Soviets, were afraid of the same fate.
It was literally a game of Russian Roulette with global annihilation at stake.

Churchill, way back in the 1940’s, first alerted the world that the slumbering Eastern Bear
would awake, making its presence known in a way that would cause grave troubles for all.

He was right.

Stalin proved him right….
As a long and dangerous “cold” war ensued.

Stalin’s crimes against humanity have rivaled, if not surpassed those of Adolph Hitler,
yet due to the silent steel curtain that has blanketed Russia since Lenin’s death and Stalin’s
rise to leadership in 1924, those facts have been buried in an eastern murky mire.

The world, following WWII, lived precariously and dangerously from day to day.
that was until 1989 when a dividing wall came tumbling down and a massive thaw took place….

However oddly it appears that both the leaders of the US and Russia seem to be more than
happy to return, turning the clock back to such frigid and frightening times.,..
as our news media readies the way….

Or maybe the truth of the matter is that we never really left those precariously
uncertain times….

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles
in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.
Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ,
but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Romans 16:17-18

celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6