a needed prayerful reminder

“I will glory not because I am righteous, but because I am redeemed;
I will glory not because I am free from sins,
but because my sins are forgiven me.
I will not glory because I have done good
nor because someone has done good to me,
but because Christ is my advocate with the Father
and because the blood of Christ
has been shed for me.”

St. Ambrose


(an early image from the spring of a robin visiting the future blueberries / 2019)

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Isaac Watts, 1738 / Oh God Our Help in Ages Past
a hymn based on Psalm 90

refined

“Never will we understand the value of time better than when our last hour is at hand.”
St. Arnold Janssen


(refining metals)

“Let the Word of God come; let it enter the church; let it become a consuming fire,
that it may burn the hay and stubble, and consume whatever is worldly;
there is heavy lead of iniquity in many; let it be molten by divine fire;
let the gold and silver vessels be made better, in order that understanding and speech,
refined by the heat of suffering, may begin to be more precious.”

St. Ambrose

Scrutiny, reviews, restrictions… I get it… but…

We seek for truth in ourselves; in our neighbours, and in its essential nature.
We find it first in ourselves by severe self-scrutiny,
then in our neighbours by compassionate indulgence, and, finally,
in its essential nature by that direct vision which belongs to the pure in heart.

Saint Bernard


(ariel view of a portion of the American Cemetery in Normandy, image courtesy of the White House)

For years, long before it became chic or before it became social or before it launched its
commercials with its very own spokes-owl and long before it was pitted against a growing
plethora of similar agencies…I had been writing reviews on Trip Advisor…
way before travel sites were “a thing.”

I have relied on Trip Advisor and its review offerings for everything from restaurants
to hotels to worldwide attractions as well as to the vast array of travel services,
all of which they’ve freely provided…
for,
you guessed it,
for years.

I have been in the top 1% of all Atlanta area reviewers…once again, for years.

I am well aware that each review written and submitted is in turn reviewed by a
TripAdvisor team member before it is allowed to be published…
just as it should be.

Integrity and truth are the driving forces behind companies such as TripAdvisor
that supply the general public with much needed and honest information.

I’ve never had a problem…
that is until yesterday.

I had written a review yesterday regarding the tour group we had used for our D-Day visit
while in Normandy.

I had written the review regarding the guide we were assigned along with an overall
review of the group we had used for this most memorable tour.

I sang the praises of our guide.
I sang the praises of the tour service…and…
here is where I ran into a glitch,
I also included a personal observation…

I wrote why I thought it was important for every American to visit Normandy.
An improbable probability yes, but still something I felt to be very important.

I wrote in my review of how a self-absorbed younger generation…
a generation that seems bent on division, socialism, anthem protests, violence,
all-inclusiveness, etc…
why a history lesson ‘in the raw’…
one such as walking through the American Cemetery in Normandy, would and could be beneficial.

One youthful generation looking out over thousands of crosses and Stars of David of
the sacrifices made by a previous youthful generation.
The lessons from those who went before…
lessons long lost on today’s youthful progressive generation.

TripAdvisor sent me an email about a need for ‘action request’ regarding
my review.
They told me not to include other URLs…
Yes I confess that I did have a link to my D-Day post that I had written here at WP
as I thought it could offer further, and some more in-depth
information, for those who might be seeking more or who were curious about such a tour.

“Okay”, I thought…they’re telling me to cut and paste what I wrote, edit it,
then reload and resubmit.
Okay, I’ll cut out my link.
No biggie.
I get it.

Yet a bit of a problem arose when I figured out that they had only sent me a small portion
of what I had previously submitted. Actually only about 1/3 of what I’d written.
And I quickly discovered, much to my frustration,
that there was no way, not even by going into my history, was I to find the full body of text.

So as I cut out my link, I had to rewrite, as best as I could remember,
what I had previously written.

I cut, edited, rewrote and resubmitted.

10 minutes hadn’t passed before I received the same ‘action request’ email with an added note
that they did not want reviews to include “personal opinions on politics, ethics, religion,
or wider social issues.”

Is this about those so-called trigger alerts?

Okay, I thought…
I’ll try to rewrite it again…rewriting again because they hadn’t provided
the full body of text again…
so I’d be relying on my fading memory, one more time…

But as I thought about this, I said to heck with it!

I opted to write just a bit more in order to finish out the first thought..the portion of the
text body that they had sent back in the email before I proceeded with my new thoughts.

I then proceeded to write that TripAdvisor had asked me to keep my personal observations to myself.

I continued my review by asking how does one write about visiting such powerful places
as the beaches, the various locations, the churches, as well as those overwhelming cemeteries
of that fateful June day in 1944 and not offer thoughts that include “wider social issues?”

Normally I would have kept my review informative with a general sweeping overview…just like
all the hundreds of previous reviews I’ve written…
however, for this particular review, I chose not to do so.
I couldn’t do so.

I didn’t know how I could.

How could I be simple and concise given the sacrifices freely made by all those thousands
of individuals who died that fateful June day?
Those individuals who, unbeknownst to them at the time, died for both you and me?
Do they not deserve more than some simple, generic, sterile, and broad sweeping travel review?

Maybe it’s the impending Veteran’s Day remembrance.
Maybe it’s the craziness currently sweeping our Nation.

No matter what the reason…I just couldn’t keep it simple when talking about
what I saw and what I experienced there in Normandy.

Something very powerful happened that June day in 1944.
Something that greatly affected how each of us lives our lives to this day.
Keeping one’s personal opinion quiet when taking in the raw emotion while visiting
those beaches and those cemeteries is…well…an injustice really.
An injustice to each one of those crosses and stars.

So I suppose it’s all a matter of context…or maybe its a matter of perspective…

No matter what it is…there are just some things that deserve our full attention and our
full voice.

(images from the National Gaurd Memorial of Omaha Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to
maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do,
would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

timely considerations

“Guard against anger.
But if it cannot be averted, let it be kept within bounds.
For indignation is a terrible incentive to sin.
It disorders the mind to such an extent as to leave no room for reason.”

St. Ambrose


(detail of the Sacred Heart of Jesus / Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“That raises a terrible question.
How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they
believe in God and appear to themselves very religious?
I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

After the storm

“Let the Word of God come; let it enter the church;
let it become a consuming fire, that it may burn the hay and stubble,
and consume whatever is worldly; there is heavy lead of iniquity in many;
let it be molten by divine fire; let the gold and silver vessels be made better,
in order that understanding and speech, refined by the heat of suffering,
may begin to be more precious.”

St. Ambrose


(the break following a very stormy day / Julie Cook / 2018)

“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says,
‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you,
and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’
I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.
I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you,
the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices,
all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into
a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature:
either into a creature that is in harmony with God,
and with other creatures, and with itself,
or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures,
and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven:
that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power.
To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence,
and eternal loneliness. Each of us at this moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 92
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

Righteous Indignation

“Anyone can get angry, but to do this to the right person,
to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive,
and in the right way, that is not for everyone, nor is it easy.”

Aristotle


(a favorite image I’ve used before—Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / 2015)

“Let anger be guarded against.
But if it cannot be averted, let it be kept within bounds.
For indignation is a terrible incentive to sin.
It disorders the mind to such an extent as to leave no room for reason.
The first thing, therefore, to aim at, if possible,
is to make tranquility of character our natural disposition by constant practice,
by desire for better things, by fixed determination.”

St. Ambrose

Righteous indignation—according to Wikipedia “is typically a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice of another. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice.
In some Christian doctrines, righteous anger is considered the only form of anger which
is not sinful, e.g.,
when Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple (Gospel of Matthew 21).”

As we find ourselves living in an age of growing and ever-increasing anger and angst…
anger over everything from road rage to cultural collisions,

It would, therefore, behoove all of us to stop and consider from whence comes our
wrath and rage… and to the reasons as to why it is and to where we send it…

Reactionary or purposeful??…
Or even actually necessary…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.

Ephesians 4:31

A place where everybody knows your name

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart,
and all they can do is stare blankly.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


( the wall inside the Bull and Finch Pub in Boston that was the inspriation to the television
hit series Cheers / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve always considered myself a rather independent individual,
as well as one who relishes in the quiet of being”alone”…
yet for the notion of loneliness, I am, like most folks, not a fan.

I’ve spent most of my married life on my own—not so much because I wanted to
or because my husband was always traveling or in the military but rather because he’s
owned and run a smalltown family retail business for right at 50 years.

He has worked 6 days a week, often 12 or more hours a day, for most of his life…
and he was working in the family business long before I came along.
The Christmas holiday season saw that time of working up to 7 days a week
at 14 or more hours a day.

At first, this wasn’t an easy adjustment.

My dad, for most of my growing up, worked for the County–a 9 to 5 sort of dad.
At one point early in his life, he had been a traveling salesman for my
Grandfather’s company, but Dad had hated it.
Dad was more lazy than not, so the idea of being on the road 24 /7 was less than appealing.
So as soon as my Grandfather died at the young age of 67 in 1967,
my dad and his brother sold the family business and dad went to work as an engineer
for the Fulton County Health Department.

So I was used to a dad who got home at a reasonable hour for supper
and who was always home on weekends.

That was not the case for the man I married.
For he has worked more than he’s been home.

He carries a great deal of regret with all of this as far as our son’s growing up was
concerned–but I continue to reassure him that he did the best he could and managed to
squeeze in good quality time with our son when it was most needed.

And I too have rendered my time to the store, especially during the holidays—
but as a career educator and eventually both teacher and a mom, my own time was
equally filled. Yet it seems that the two of us have, more or less,
been more apart then together…

So I was intrigued this morning when I caught the title of our friend the Wee Flea,
Pastor David Robertson’s title to his latest blog post—
Loneliness-the cord of three strands- Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Cure for Loneliness – the Cord of Three Strands – (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

It seems that the idea of loneliness, as a rife problem, was recently noted in
a commissioned report produced regarding life in the UK…
and it is now seen as such a real problem that the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May,
has just appointed a minister to be in charge of the UK’s problem of loneliness, having
named Tracey Crouch as the new Minister of Loneliness.

A rather interesting title…and I imagine there’s a song in there someplace…
such as the song ‘One is the Loneliest Number’ by the 70’s rock group, Three Dog Night,
which suddenly comes racing back into present-day focus.

Our Wee Flea friend notes that “according to the aforementioned Jo Cox report there are
9 million people in the UK who always, or mostly, feel lonely.
It’s a problem recognised in our media.
The long-running Australian soap reminds us of the importance of ‘good neighbours’
who become ‘good friends’.
Yet how many of us live in streets when we don’t even know the names of our neighbours
(other than when the Amazon parcel arrives),
never mind identify them as friends?
Likewise, Netflix has just introduced a new generation to the ever popular
Friends with its instantly recognisable theme tune, ‘I’ll be there for you’.
How many of us have friends who will be there for us?
How many of us have substituted the handful of friends that come from deep and
committed relationships, with the hundreds of online friends who mean virtually nothing?”

The long-running comedy series, Cheers was the show that first popped into
my mind when thinking of the notion of loneliness along with friends and family
being found is the some of the oddest of places.


(yours truly, along with the ever working husband who, on a business trip, found time
to go visit that place where everyone knows your name / 2014)

The story, if you recall, was set in Boston at a fictions pub named Cheers.
The actual real-life pub that was the inspiration for the TV show is named the
Bull and Finch; a Bostonian pub dating back merely to 1969.
The Bull and Finch is a much smaller place than the television version’s pub
known as Cheers–yet is set up in a rather similar fashion.

One does indeed descend down a small set of stairs from the street level while walking
into a more cramped, low ceilinged sort of tightly configured quasi-tavern.
The bar, however, is long and somewhat spacious. There is a bronze plaque screwed
to the end of the bar, commemorating the iconic seat reserved for the character Norm who
always appeared arriving at the bar after work.
He’d take his usual place at the end of the bar where he would receive his usual,
an icy cold mug of beer while he was often heard to lament about life with his wife who
was obviously home…alone.


(a plaque on the bar at the Bull and Finch Pub commemorating where Norm always
would sit / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is also a back set of stairs similar to the stairs in the TV show, that does lead up
to another restaurant, along with, of course, a Cheers gift shop.

This was a show about the lives of the hodgepodge mix of folks who were each connected
to the pub. From the bar owner, bartenders, barmaids down to the patrons–
and how they had all developed their own sort of close-knit family despite having lives
outside of the bar.

The bar was a place where regular patrons could come, having their very own seat…a place
where the bartenders knew what to serve without the patron ever having to say a word—
simply coming and sitting down said it all…as strangers each gravitated to
this nondescript little pub while eventually becoming most important one to another…
much like an extended family.

A place where everyone knew your name…your likes, your dislikes, your history,
your story, your ups, and your downs…

And whereas our friend the Wee Flee was drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes and the
pinning of a now wizened old king found in Solomon…

Ecclesiastes 4 deals with the oppressed having no comforter, a man without
the companionship of family and friends and a lonely king.
The early church had some quite fanciful interpretations of this passage.
Jerome, for example, saw in the three-fold cord the faith, hope, and love of 1 Corinthians.
Ambrose was more interesting – in speaking of Christ as the friend who sticks closer
than a brother he sees him as the one who lifts up the companion when he falls,
the one who warms, and the one who went from the prison to be a king.
He points us to the real solution for loneliness.

I myself seem to find much more comfort in those words and thoughts
offered by our friend St Ambrose rather than that wisdom uttered by the aging King Solomon.

That being the notion of Christ being closer to us than that of our very kin…

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.”
He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.

And thus we find that it is in our very relationship with Christ in which our loneliness
dissipates as He and His very essence of being seeps in turn, into our very being,
filling every void and crack within often lonely lives.
Thus being truly the One who knows our name, our ups, our downs, our dislikes, our likes,
our best and our worst—staying right by our side despite what He knows about us
and sees—because He is us and we are Him…

Abide in me, and I in you.
John 15:4