looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

changing hell into paradise

“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Dante Alighieri


(Georgios Klontzas, 16th Century icon)

No matter one’s concept of hell, I think most Believers would agree…
Hell is the total absence of God.

An endless, as in never ending, void of the Divine…
ergo no hope, light, joy, love, compassion….
you get the idea…

So leave it to an Orthodox monk to offer an interesting thought concerning
how the demons handle the desire of a condemned’s longing for God….

And yet what an interesting thought it is…that even in hell the demons quake
at the notion of one reaching upward to the Almighty…

One day we met on the site where the construction of the new church had begun,
and the Elder said, “It is a difficult thing today to build a church.
All the demons will rise up.”
And he told me an anecdote that he had heard in Russia:

“Someone went to hell, but he wanted there to be a church there too so that
he could pray. Despite his sinfulness, he loved God and wanted to pray.
He began to measure the site in order to lay foundations.
A devil asked him what he was doing.
He replied: Ί want to build a church so that I can pray.’
The devil was uneasy, because it was impossible for a church to be built in hell,
and he tried to stop him. He did not manage.
He summoned other demons. They could not do anything either.
They reported it to their leader.
Then many demons gathered and they threw him out of hell,
to prevent a church being built.”

And he continued:
“So we build churches to change hell into Paradise,
and if we do not manage to do that,
we will succeed in not being accepted by the devil in hell.”
And he laughed wholeheartedly.

—Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. I Know a Man in Christ:
Elder Sophrony the Hesychast and Theologian

As seen on Discerning Thoughts:
(https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/someone-went-to-hell-but-he-wanted-there-to-be-a-church/)

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

Urgency

“How much does one imagine, how much observe?
One can no more separate those functions than divide light from air,
or wetness from water.”

Elspeth Huxley

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci

DSCN1267
(Remnants of stain glass, Bunratty Castle / County Clare / Julie Cook / 2015)

At some point or another, we will all find ourselves at a crossroads.
We will be confronted by a choice.
Left?
Right?
Perhaps even, back….

It will be at such times that the Spirit of God will be resting His hand upon our shoulder.
He will be nudging, or perhaps pulling, or more urgently yanking us…
For the path we are to choose is crucial…dare one might even say, dire.

We certainly may not discern the current quandary of choice in direction as spiritual…
especially if we do not consider ourselves to be such…
In fact, as we stand before this choice of left, right or back,
the last thing we are considering is our belief in a god…
or whether God would be, could be, the source of our quandary.

Beginning this blog 3 or 4 years ago (I’ve lost track) my initial desire was to sprinkle out a few little cookie crumbs here and there….a little bit of this and that…always with a spiritual sense about it all, but still more hodge podge than not.

Then a trip to Ireland and an encounter with someone I’d never known prior, and all of what I thought or imagined changed.

My original intent for dabbling in writing, sharing and creativity were keyed more into my life’s experiences—that of retired high school teacher, artist, Christian, wife, mother, daughter of a man living with Alzheimers, a lover of cooking, an adopted child, etc….

But then all of that shifted after Ireland.

It’s not so much that one must take some grand adventure or trip in order to feel something seismic…
not in the least.
Seismic can take place sitting in ones car while stuck in rush hour traffic.
It matters not the place nor time for seismic.
When the Spirit touches our shoulder,
and the original intentions lift, revealing our truer purpose,
that is when we can begin to finally see with the utmost clarity.

And it just so happened that I felt that seismic shift while sitting at a dinner table in a country not my own.

No longer did I feel compelled to rattle on about the random, but I felt a sense of urgency in speaking the Truth.
The Truth as in the Word of God.

Not like some itinerate tent evangelist.
It’s not like I’d been down some crazy bad path in life, had some catastrophic mishap, then bam,
it was a religious conversion of the utmost that needed sharing.

No, it wasn’t any of that…
actually quite the contrary.

I am not a fundamentalist.
I am not a Pentecostalist.
I am not gregarious in my faith.
I am not a theologian who is versed in every verse of scripture or translation of the bible.
Nor am I a mystic who has visions.
No, I’ve never had a vision…migraines yes, visions no.

Yet I knew last fall that my sharing, my words, my offerings were no longer to be my own.
There was a sense of urgency placed in my being—
time was / is of the essence.

God, His Truth and His Word…have never been readily accepted by man.
For we are a fickled lot.
Our internal struggle for independence often precludes our understanding of need.

The filters of the world have always lowered over our eyes, changing our view of the Truth…
Altering our perception of what is real and what is false
We have been told lies and we have allowed those lies to become our truth….

The lies are slick, told by a master in telling tales.
They come guised in forms which speak to our brokeness…
To those areas where we are least secure.
They speak to our ego and bravado and to our desire to having it all.

They are thinly veiled in soothing comfort…
as they tell us that we truly are ok and that our desires are, in turn, also ok.

We are told that we can have our cake and eat it too.
We are told that everything goes as long as we are happy..
because isn’t that all that matters…our happiness?

We are fed a bunch of garbage about fairy tales and fables..
That the stars point more to Life’s truth than the supposed Word of an unseen made up god.
Yet within those stars is found His very hand…

His word is mocked and scorned as are those who claim it as their own.
Misguided, ignorant, weak, clueless lemmings chasing after that which is
neither seen, felt nor heard…

That is until we stand at the crossroads,
a place we will each find at ourselves at one point or another…
We will have to decide…
Left?
Right?
or back

That internal struggle will rage…
and you will either try and ignore it or you will know it for what it is…
and at that point, everything will become clear and you will never be the same…

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21