Prayers for Santa Fe, Texas

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Søren Kierkegaard


(Julie Cook / 2018)

I was a high school art teacher for 31 years.

I loved my kids and I struggled with my kids.

The gifted,
the complicated,
the defiant,
the quiet,
the creative,
the difficult,
the angry,
the arrogant,
the athletic,
the popular,
the shy,
the academic,
the immature,
the kind,
the thoughtful,
the thoughtless,
the selfish,
the forgotten,
the struggler,
the spoiled,
the average,
the happy,
the sad,
the hard to crack…

My heart aches for Santa Fe High School and her entire community.
For those who have loved ones who will not be coming home at the end
of this school year.

Once again we are a nation wrapped in our shock, our sorrow, and our grief.

There are no clear-cut answers or explanations.
Anger, resentment, hate, indifference, intolerance, evil…
these are not simple issues.
Issues with no apparent clear-cut single solution …

Yet before we point our fingers, rile in our righteous indignation,
demand change or drown in our own emotionalism…
let us remember the families who are hurting…
families who are going through the unimaginable weight of unspeakable loss.

Let us mourn with them and for them.
As their arms ache to hold those they love just one more time.

May we ask a God, who is far greater than ourselves, to help us find our way.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.
The Book of Common Prayer
Burial of the Dead, Rite I

measuring time

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence,
and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. John of the Cross


(she’s already cheering on her DAWGS despite her great-grandfather’s love for Tech / Julie Cook
/ 2018)

We are a measuring sort of people.
We measure heights, weights, sizes, shapes, lengths, distances, amounts, numbers,
comings and goings…
You name it, we’ll measure it.
And we particularly like to measure time…

We enjoy measuring time so much that each year we mark time with a New Year’s celebration.
Just as we mark days of birth.

Any kid will tell you just how important the marking of a birthday really is…

And so it is that I am bittersweetly reminded that this time last year, on March the 10th,
we marked Dad’s 89th birthday.

You may remember he was gravely ill but was so excited to have “lived” long enough
just to have one last piece of cake.
Dad loved his sweets—chocolate especially.

He was born on his mother’s birthday in 1928 and died just hours before what would
have been his brother’s 97th birthday–
a brother who had preceded him in death by 8 years.

Dad died just 9 days after we celebrated his birthday.

The passing of a year’s time has brought with it a great deal of change.
All from one March to the next.
Seasons have come and gone… just like they usually do…
but within those seasons there has been a great deal of measuring…
both pluses and minuses.

This time last year, here in this house of my youth, we held a vigil for a life slipping away.
This year, 365 days later to the very day, we joyously mark a 3 week birthday of a new
life full of expectant hopes and dreams.

I find myself sitting in the same room that I once called my own, rocking a
young new life blessedly to sleep.
One who now claims my old room as her own.

I sit in the dimly lit room, illuminated only by a single bulb closet light
that cuts softly through the slats of the closet door. A small projected patch of stars
dance across the ceiling emanating from a novel little owl nightlight.
The sound of crickets and tree frogs gently pierce the silence, also coming from the
little owl nightlight.

The walls are the same.
The windows are the same.
The closet is the same…
Gone is the carpeting, long since stiped away, now exposing the original hardwoods of
this 1950’s house.
Gone are the gossamer sheer drapes, replaced by white wooden shutters.
The colors of paint have evolved with the changing times.

My thoughts drift back and forth over the near 60 years that I’ve known this house.
With memories and feelings being mixed—some pleasant, some not.
There is an unsettling mixed with a calming sense of hope.

My prayer is that for this new precious child, this house, this home, will be one of
peace.
I am reminded of the prayers and anointing of both house and crib.
The imploring of God’s grace to be poured down abundantly upon this family’s
new generation.

So happy birthday Dad and happy birthday to your new great-granddaughter…
a great-granddaughter who now calls the house you were so proud to purchase so long ago,
home…
A house you and mother were so proud to have for your own young family.
As a new generation calls it their own…

By wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding, it is established;
by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

reading my mind…

“The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship,
their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

Black Elk


(shelf fungus hidden in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Time is a funny commodity.
Whereas we are each allotted 24 hours within a single day’s time, those hours are
not always necessarily our own…

Ebbing and flowing like the tide, what is ours and what is not, comes and goes.
Sometimes plentiful, sometimes fleeting…

And as I’m finding myself currently without the ample time I’d prefer
allowing for say our, as in you and me, being able to chat more in-depth
about those things I think most important for our current track of exploration…
I must settle instead for the reflection of a quick observation.

There was a ‘Verse of the Day’ that came in around Saturday or so….

“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”

Jeremiah 17:10

And like most mornings and time, I did my due diligence in opening, reading and
in turn, mentally ticking off the one more item on the packed list of to dos
thus far for the day.

Yet it was there, right then and there, that I stopped suddenly,
almost stumbling over my own feet as I read….
“I the Lord search the heart AND EXAMINE THE MIND…

whoa…

I totally understand the use of the word ‘heart’…that’s a plentiful enough word when
reading scripture….but it was the notion that God was / is not only reading,
but was / is rather actually examining my mind.

Really???

Imagine that….
that one little thought made me shift my weight from side to side
as if I were a bit uncomfortable….hummm…

Examining is not just a cursory passing or glancing over but more like a
thorough inspection….a pretty image was not now what I was watching unfold.

You know that thing that is basically like a steal trap…??
that thing we call a brain which houses a mind that runs and races
almost constantly…
Racing even while we sleep, racing with all sorts of positives accented by a
plethora of rubbish???

Rubbish that no one on earth is ever privy to unless we allow those thoughts to
then flow from moving lips—-but chances are…the lips don’t slip.

Our thoughts, we fiercely believe, are our own.
For both good and bad, they are ours.
By all outwardly appearances, we can look to be a paragon of virtue,
but peel away our head and read that racing ticker tape….
and any notion of virtue flies right out the window.

Yet we are the only ones who know such—everyone else just sees the exterior
paragon.

And yet here, in what I’m reading, I’m being told that He reads my mind.

My ugly, dirty, selfish, self absorbing thoughts…
thoughts that are less than loving, pleasant, gracious or kind.

Hateful, hurtful, cussing, fusing…unsavory thoughts….

UGH!

So I stop.
I stop reading.

This is bad…
this is really really bad.
I know my thoughts and if God is picking through them,
then I might as well be toast.

So I go seek out the full passage…
and I see that there is actually a ray of hope sitting a bit further
down the page….

Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.

Jeremiah 17:14

As I am reminded that not only is it important to physically tick off my daily
chores and actions…it shall behoove me to be mindfully focused…
that I may be healed and in turn saved…from particularly myself….

The closet of the soul is the body; our doors are the five bodily senses.
The soul enters its closet when the mind does not wander hither and thither,
roaming among things and affairs of the world, but stays within, in our heart.

Our senses become closed and remain closed when we do not let them
be attached to external sensory things, and in this way our mind remains
free from every worldly attachment, and by secret mental prayer
unites with God its Father. “And thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly,” adds the Lord.

God who knows all secret things sees mental prayer and rewards it
openly with great gifts. For that prayer is true and perfect which
fills the soul with Divine grace and spiritual gifts.
As chrism perfumes the jar the more strongly the tighter it is closed,
so prayer, the more fast it is imprisoned in the heart,
abounds the more in Divine grace.

So, brother, when you enter your closet and close your door, that is,
when your mind is not darting hither and thither but enters within your heart,
and your senses are confined and barred against things of this world,
and when you pray thus always, you too are then like the holy angels,
and your Father, Who sees your prayer in secret,
which you bring Him in the hidden depths of your heart,
will reward you openly by great spiritual gifts.

St Gregory Palamas

I wish….

“Without free will we cannot have moral responsibility.
And without moral responsibility we cannot have justice, law and indeed society.
Human beings cease to be human and instead become just a collection of chemicals
living out the pre-determined paths of our meaningless existence.”

David Robertson


(a small remaining cluster of American Beautyberries—probably what my mockingbird got
drunk off of / Julie Cook / 2017)

During the course of one’s life, it is hoped that at some point, one will actually understand—as in comprehend with inward knowing….
where exactly one has been,
where one currently is,
and where one still needs to go….

I can say that with a great deal of certainty that I have, in the course of figuring
out where it is I have been, along with where I currently am, as well as where
I need to be…. that I have in turn done things, said things, thought things…
all of which would have been best never to have done,
never to have said, and never to have been thought.

Some of these things were said, done and thought most willingly—
While others were said, done and thought more reactionary or as fleeting bits of thoughtlessness or even innate quirks of randomness…
None the less, having caused pain, sorrow and suffering to others while often being
totally unbeknownst to myself, as they were done with mere flippant thoughtlessness.

Some of which, over the years, have been most grievous—
and in hindsight, grievous to both others as well as to myself…

I have done, said and thought things with mean intent, ill intent, selfish intent,
hurtful intent, harmful intent, malicious intent, prideful intent, sinful intent…
as the intents are ad infinitum.

And I wish, in this place of life’s hindsight, that I could go back in time
undoing each action, word and thought that was wrong, hurtful, mean, boastful,
selfish and or egregiously sinful.

But I cannot.

I can perhaps apologize, if such an apology would be appropriate, yet there have
actually been instances that I was simply unaware of…
instances that I was clueless to and unaware that I even needed to make some sort
of amends.

Plus time has a way of removing us so far away physically from those first moments
of error that the opportunity to “make things right” or even simply to offer a
sincere word of remorse have closed for the duration of life on this earth.

People come and go…and lives each come to an end.
Actually making it is impossible to extend a conscious heartfelt ownership
of wrongfulness in some instances…

There is however, one thing certain…
we have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others.

That is a fact of being a human being.

It’s something that is part and parcel with being a part of the human race.
And yet we most often forget that simple fact…and it is in that forgetfulness
where most of our errors come to surface.

Just as it is part and parcel of being human that we will make poor choices in
our actions, words and thoughts against both ourselves as well as others.
But what never changes is that each poor choice of action, word or thought has a consequence.

It’s just that some are more noticeable then others.

And when we have nothing but hindsight to remind us, it is then and there, in the
solitude of our remembrances, that we must seek the Grace that God so freely offers.

The act of contrition and true repentance.

As our remorse and sorrow over these mis-actions, words and thoughts weigh heavy on the burden of a soul.
And if they do not, then the checking of a pulse just might be in order.

Grace will not erase our actions, words or thoughts, once so arrogantly, vainly or ignorantly displayed, but it will always change our perception of such actions, words and thoughts just as it will change us…
ever so slightly back to that image our Creator had of us all along…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Titus 2:11-12

Thoughts no longer your own….

Denouncing your neighbour for a ‘thought-crime’ was a favourite past time
in the old Soviet Union.
The problem for anyone accused of having the ‘wrong thoughts’ is that it’s
impossible to defend yourself.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(stock image CNN Soviet Army Parade)

“Well the practice is back.
‘Hate crime’ is the new thought crime.
If someone else’s views makes you feel uncomfortable,
all you need to do is to accuse them of either ‘hate’ or, if you prefer, ‘extremism’,
or best of all, both.”

Bishop Gavin Ashenden

I read the latest posting by Bishop Ashenden this morning as he continues to address the maddening debacle of a Church of England church school kicking out a Christian
organization because parents complained that the group was too Christian for their children.

Remember we’re talking about a Christian church school and a Christian organization…
You may read the post here as I’m still in disbelief:

Hatred, like beauty maybe in the eye of the beholder; cowardice, complicity and the Church of England

And I have found myself ruminating over this whole incident on and off since first
reading about it over on the Wee Flee blog of the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.

https://theweeflea.com

However it was more than what the good Bishop added today to the story that reignited
my ire over all of this, it was what he said about our very thoughts that disturbed
me more than anything else.

You may recall my having mentioned reading the book The Book Thieves
by Anders Rydell
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance

I’ve yet to finish the book.
It is a very difficult read…for all sorts of reasons.
It is a story that I have had to put down for extended periods as it is not easy
processing the sheer overwhelming information—
the tragedies, the unbelievable acts and the mercurial madness of humans
against other humans

Mr Rydell has done an exceptional job with the devastating facts and figures…
that of the cities, the towns, the libraries, both public and private,
that were decimated.
He has traveled extensively all over Europe, as well as into Russia,
in search of recovery efforts.
He has followed the often frustrating breadcrumbs left by owners…trails that
eventually lead to various death camps or simply stopped as abruptly as they
had begun.

Millions of priceless, and the not so priceless, manuscripts, books, torahs, diaries, incurables that were stolen, plundered, confiscated, hidden, burned or reduced to pulp
the for Nazi’s own paper needs…
With many important collections simply being scattered to the four corners
of the globe…
As there is now a race against time underway to reunite families with the
recovered “treasures” of lost, and sometimes forgotten, loved ones.

But the one thing that Mr Rydell has actually unearthed is the reasoning as to why
the Nazis would go to such extensive and meticulous extremes to confiscate books
along with entire libraries across all of Europe and Russia—
a reason which was more than merely amassing of war booty—
it was something so much darker.

It was to be the complete eradication of the spirit and soul of the
People of the Book.

“The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into
a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts.
They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them”

Michal Bušek

And so today with Bishop Ashenden’s words of recounting the notion of
“thought crimes”–something the Nazi’s and later the Soviets would each attempt
to master, we are reminded that such practice is now alive and well with a key focus
on the Christian thought….

“If it were possible for any nation to fathom another people’s bitter experience
through a book, how much easier its future fate would become and how many
calamities and mistakes it could avoid.
But it is very difficult.
There always is this fallacious belief:
‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’

Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Reflections, thoughts and books


(one of the bronze dancing cherubs at the city cemetery Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Recently, over on a fellow blogger’s site, I read a most wonderful post written
about our dear friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
The following passage jumped right off the page,
right at me as it spoke to me about faith and as it challenged me to consider
what type of faith do I actually possess….
inward or outward….

Faith does not look upon itself but takes hold of that which is outside
itself, Christ.
Bonhoeffer draws on a Latin phrase from an early period of Protestant dogmatics,
actus directus,
as distinguished from actus reflexus,
to characterize the nature of true faith.

The difference here is between a faith that attends to God,
entrusting itself to God to be watched over and kept,
versus a faith that is constantly concerned to oversee itself,
ensuring its own vitality.

For Bonhoeffer, this is a way finally of avoiding faith –
for like Peter in the sea of Galilee,
it takes its eyes off of the living Christ who is the source of our life.

This emphasis upon the outward direction of faith that lays hold of Christ
in pure intentionality,
in a kind of passive reception where the self is kept out,
structures much of Bonhoeffer’s later reflections on ethics.
While we do not see him returning to this phrase,
the concept remains operative.

excerpt from the blog post Freedom in Orthodoxy
http://freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2017/07/bonhoeffer-and-role-of-moral-reflection.html

“A faith that attends to God…”

I looked up various synonyms for the word attend and found the word dwell
which I like here as it fits in perfectly…
it fits in such a way that it reminds us that our faith should be such that
we are to dwell in to God….to be a cohabitant within….

Verses a faith that attends to self….
and if we are to use the same word of “dwell” here,
then we are saying that it is a faith that dwells within self…
and somehow that does not sound like faith at all but mostly a self
centered inclination…something much along the lines of today’s culture of the
religion of self.

Bonhoeffer is reminding us that we must constantly work to strive to reach out of
self, out of ourselves…out to the living God…so that we may then, in turn,
dwell within Him and within Him alone…..

Then next, on the same day of perusing, I read another great post by our good
friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
This time he was offering a two part reflection regarding a book that he
most recently read…a review of sorts that due to his often verbose ways, he
opted to review over a period of time.

The book is entitled The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.

From all outward appearances Douglas Murray and David Robertson are probably polar
opposites of sorts and not exactly on the same page in life…
as Mr. Murray is an openly avowed homosexual as well as ardent Atheist and we know that Pastor David Robertson often writes about both topics…
as to why homosexuality and or atheism, from the Christian perspective,
are both wrong and sinful.

Yet Pastor Robertson read, enjoyed and whole heartedly agreed with Mr. Murray’s
observations regarding Europe and her mad dash to committing a ‘political suicide’
of sorts as she has forgotten,
or better yet recklessly thrown away with ardent abandon,
her Christian roots….

Replacing those long standing roots with a new religion…
that being the religion of humanism, materialism and human rights.
Because isn’t that what this has all become…
that for the majority part of the West, it is the religion of Human Rights…

In all the current melee, Europe is now lost as to what to do with the massive
Islamic influx that is currently and literally sweeping in with the tide….

One passage that Pastor Robertson highlights as brilliant on Murray’s part is the following observation:

in order to incorporate as large and wide number of people as possible it is
necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and
unobjectionable as possible.
If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a
definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.
This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become
so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.
So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific,
not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations
(the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy),
today the ethics and belief of Europe—
indeed the identity and ideology of Europe–
have become about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and
(most self abrogating of all) ‘diversity’.
Such shallow self definitions may get us through a few more years,
they have no chance at all being able to call on the deeper loyalties that
societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.”
P.7

And I for one see that his observation is not merely a European problem
but rather an American dilemma as well as we are also striving to “redefine” who
and what America actually is and means…
trading our true foundation and founding principles for something vastly
other than…
something humanistic, materialistic and oh so smugly human rights oriented…
As one reviewer wrote about having read Mr Murray’s book and of the dismal
position the West seems to have taken over the current identity crisis…
as in it has no real answers or position because
“modern culture has little to offer a person other than entertainment.”

And it is here where the good pastor leaves us until he comes back for part 2
of his review.

In the meantime, I’ve put the book on my order list.

Here’s a link to Robertson’s full review post…

Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness

So I will leave us today with these various interesting thoughts—
thoughts on faith–inward and outward…
and thoughts on the West’s seemingly mad dash to Western Civilization’s demise…

a conflicting conundrum indeed….

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—-the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—-
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John:15-17

“and when my life is over….”

“Where there is love there is life.”
Mahatma Gandhi


(coconut palms at The Breakers, Palm Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

There are days when suddenly, for no apparent reason…
a song, a thought, a memory
pops into the forefront of consciousness.

While we are often left wondering why…from whence, from where and for what?

Sometimes… the whys are not to be understood.

My life is currently a herky jerky roller coaster full of emotions…
The days are punctuated by smiles and accented by endless tears.
Wandering about mostly lost.

And then a song from the recesses of time percolates to the current..
bridging a time that was to the time which is now…
That a random tune from a different season
triggers a memory, a feeling, a thought…
existing now to help assuage the current moment….

“A Song For You”

I’ve been so many places in my life and time
I’ve sung a lot of songs, I’ve made some bad rhymes
I’ve acted out my love on stages
With 10,000 people watching
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you

I know your image of me is what I hope to be
I treated you unkindly, but darling can’t you see
There’s no one more important to me
Darling can’t you please see through me
‘Cause we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you

You taught me precious secrets
Of the truth, withholding nothing
You came out in front and I was hiding
But now, I’m so much better
And if my words don’t come together
Listen to the melody, ’cause my love’s in there hiding

I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song to you

But I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song for you
We were alone and I was singing this song for you
We were alone and I was singing my song
Singing this song for you