what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Might a new day be dawning????

“When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance,
it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus;
the church no longer remains distinctly Christian;
it is no longer salt and light in the world,”

(excerpt from the Southwark Declaration nailed to a Cathedral door)


(recent Southwark Declaration grievances nailed to the doors of Rochester Cathedral)

And so it has begun…

And I for one rejoice!!!

Almost 500 years to the day, over the course of the past 48 hours,
a band of “back to the Bible” disgruntled, dare we say it, Orthodox Anglicans
have followed in the footsteps of Luther and set about nailing,
or in most cases tacking or taping, a two page document of grievances
to the doors of Anglican Cathedrals across the UK.

The document is known as the Southwark Declaration named for the
Diocese of Southwark in which the original letter was composed.

According to an article in PJ Media written by Tyler O’Neil…
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted
a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals.
The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting
of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany,
and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.

“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,”
one document reads.
“He did it because the church had become corrupt.
Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice
on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not
biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,”
the document explained.
“This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across
the whole of the Church of England.”

You can read the full article here:
https://pjmedia.com/faith/anglicans-pin-95-theses-style-complaint-on-lgbt-issues-to-doors-of-5-uk-cathedrals/

The Vicar of St. James’ Church of Westgate-On-Sea, The Reverend Stephen Rae, has
opted not to remain anonymous but rather has publicly admitted to nailing the
document to the doors of Canterbury Cathedral….the Cathedral at the very heart of Anglicanism and the Church of England.

“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury
Cathedral,”
Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea,
told PJ Media in a statement.
“This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”

“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty;
it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned
its children,”
Rae added.
He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful
under-shepherd” to “guard the flock against the wolves that would seek to
enter the fold.”

Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added,
“We are not merely to assert biblical truth.
We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the
hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,”
the vicar concluded.
“If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling.
We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never
turns out well.”

The Southwark Declaration

As clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Southwark:

We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority
in all matters of faith and conduct.

We affirm with Canon A5 that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England
is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers
and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.’’

We affirm, with Article XX, that ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any
thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.’

We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10. 7, Matthew 19.5),
the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 (‘Of Holy Matrimony’)
that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.

We affirm resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998).

We call upon all the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese,
alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths,
live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.

We call upon the Bishops to appoint to positions of teaching authority
only those who hold to these truths in good conscience.

“Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”
(closing excerpt from the “nailed up” Anglican Southwark Declaration)

More on all of this tomorrow but for now, let us allow all of this to sink in…
slowly…
as we pray for the brave vicar and others who are speaking up,
stepping up and letting it be known that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and the Word of God will stand…despite man’s attempt to alter it or change it
to suit his or her desires….

Santa Julia

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.

excerpt from the hymn
I Sing a song of the Saints of God
Lesbia Scott 1898


(when your name is officially Julia and you see a wine named after you, well…..)

It was a very long day….
followed by the very long exhale from years of burden.

More about all of that later…
As we’re just in the middle of a huge change of life’s seasons…

So late this afternoon, when I was dashing in a store in Atlanta
in order to pick up something for supper,
I spied this little bottle of wine…and since it had my name on it…
well, it seemed like a destiny sort of thing…

Thus in turn, I offer us all a little background lesson on Saint Julia….

Saint Julia

Virgin, Martyr
Patron of Corsica
(Fifth century)

Saint Julia was a noble virgin of Carthage, who, when the city was taken
by Genseric in 439, was sold for a slave to a pagan merchant of Syria.
In the most mortifying employments of her station,
by cheerfulness and patience she found a happiness and comfort which the world could not give.
Whenever she was not employed in household affairs,
her time was devoted to prayer and reading books of piety.

Her master, who was charmed with her fidelity and other virtues,
thought proper to take her with him on one of his voyages to Gaul.
When he reached the northern part of Corsica,
he cast anchor and went ashore to join the pagans of the place in an idolatrous festival.
Julia was left at some distance,
because she would not be defiled by the superstitious ceremonies,
which she openly spurned. The governor of the island, Felix,
a bigoted pagan, asked who this woman was who dared to insult the gods. T
he merchant informed him that she was a Christian,
and that all his authority over her was too weak to prevail upon her to renounce her religion;
nonetheless, he found her so diligent and faithful he could not part with her.
The governor offered him four of his best slaves in exchange for her.
But the merchant replied, No; all you are worth will not purchase her;
for I would lose the most valuable thing I have in the world rather than be deprived of her.

Nonetheless Felix, while the inebriated merchant was asleep,
attempted to compel her to sacrifice to his gods.
He offered to procure her liberty if she would comply.
The Saint made answer that she was as free as she desired to be,
as long as she was allowed to serve Jesus Christ.
The pagan, offended by her undaunted and resolute air,
in a transport of rage caused her to be struck on the face,
and the hair of her head to be torn off.
Finally he ordered her to be hanged on a cross until she expired.
Certain monks from the isle of Gorgon transported her relics there,
but in 763 the king of Lombardy transferred them to Brescia,
where her memory is celebrated with great devotion.

Reflection.
Saint Julia, whether free or a slave,
whether in prosperity or in adversity, was equally fervent and devout.
She adored all the sweet designs of Providence;
and far from complaining, she never ceased to praise and thank God for all His holy designs.
God, by an admirable chain of events,
raised her by her fidelity to the honors of a Saint, and to the dignity of a virgin and martyr.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints,
a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and
other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

tradition

“The great movement of apostasy being organized in every country
for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas,
nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions,
and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity,
would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome)
the reign of legalized cunning and force,
and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer…
Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators:
they are traditionalists.”

Pope Pius X

The importance of tradition and traditionalists as it and they relate to innovations
and innovators as to progress and progressivism, as to development and developmentism and
so forth and so on…
As it and they are not either deterrent nor stumbling block as so often smugly assumed…
but rather the very lynchpin to the essence of our humanness….
Sever it from man and you take away his humanity…

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort,
with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure
sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening
to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

Winning or the tale of a “Damn Good DAWG”

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. Thats the essence of it.”
― Vince Lombardi

slideshow_1379930_uga.1120_bs2
(one dog in the continuous line of the last 7 UGA bulldog mascots / AJC image)

Attending the University of Georgia during the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a magical time full of pure wonderment and joy.
It was a time of National Championships, Heisman Trophies, broken records, sUGAr raining from the sky, and all of the things of which legends are made.
Those were heady days in which to be a college coed.
It helped if you liked football.

Being raised in the South, I indeed not only liked, but loved college football, as I still do. I do not speak of the round variety of futbol played world over—but rather I speak of the humble and odd oval pigskin variety which is the epitome of the quintessential slice of Americana.
Blame it on my father, for I was raised watching as well as loving college football.

Those exciting days of fame made oh so sweet by the likes of Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley and Larry Munson have all but long disappeared from the forefront of University of Georgia. Those legend makers have retreated back into the shadows where they now live as the ghosts of Glories past. Their phantasm images remain ready to haunt old, as well as new, fans and coaches alike as each season the hopes of the DAWG Nation silently, noisily, fantasizes “will this will be the year???”

That same nagging and haunting question hangs painfully and often bitterly over the heads, as the awkward elephant in the room, of colleges and schools nationwide. As time marches on and Legends come and go, their parting often brings the anxious anticipation and hope of recapturing those long past days of not only winning and bragging rights, but of fame and fortune. Because isn’t that what football is all about now, the fame and the fortune?

We need not look only to The University of Georgia as a school, a team and a fan base which seeks out those days of glory gone by, but we may cast our glances to schools such as Ohio State who wistfully wonder if their glory days, which harken back to the likes of Woody Hayes, may rest on the steely shoulders of Urban Meyer, as Buckeyes continue to exorcise the demons of the ingrained image of a beloved and aging coach, who’s frustration with a player and a game gone a rye, lead to the infamous punch seen round the world.

Ghosts of glory may also be found on the campus of the University of Alabama who’s legendary Coach Bear Byant is the standard bearer for all of college football and of what it takes to create winning programs. His image is hallowed with not only Bama fans, but with college football fans, young and old nationwide as no one can deny the immortal houndstooth.

And then there was the sad and tragic toppling of a legend in Pennsylvania which was shrouded in mystery, denial, pedophilia, fame and the defamation of a once almost holy character. I won’t go into the details of Joe Paterno as I was once a stalwart Penn State fan. I continue to sort out the horrendous accusations of a heroic legend of a man who I can’t wrap my brain around having not known what evils were taking place in his “backyard”. . .

Yet it is to the hallmark of the ultimate American tale, the one of seeking a better life, hard work and success, coupled with a tragic premature ending, which most likely captures the imagination of many a sports fan—that of the legendary player and coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. Rockne immigrated with his parents to the US from Norway in 1903. He grew up in Chicago playing neighborhood ball. He played football in high school, but the lack of funding forced the would-be gridiron standout to head to the workforce. Four years of working at the Chicago post office, a 22 year old Rockne finally saved enough money to attend Notre Dame where he not only played football, earning the honor of All American, but where he also coached immortalizing the emotionally charged phrase “win one for the Gipper”

Sadly however, today’s college football, for good or bad, along with collegiate sports in general, has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, falling victim to the all mighty dollar. Today there is television and savvy marketing which brings not only popularity but millions upon millions of dollars to schools clamoring for a piece of the pie. Scholarships, advertisements, colossal stadiums, notoriety and endorsements run amuck. These are the things which now drive and dictate college sports. The winning at all costs mentality is sadly what keeps coaches with a job. And who wants to lose a multimillion dollar job?

Fans, alumni and sportscasters become a fickled lot. No longer is a winning record important but things such as key rivalry games and national titles now loom paramount. A beloved coach who “allows” the team to lose the hope of playing for, not only in a bowl game, as it must be an important bowl, but the loss of a potential national title, can quickly find any coach in the proverbial hot seat come Monday morning following any loss during the usual round of the sports talk shows hitting the airwaves.

Fans and alumni begin clamoring for a “head on the plate” as something must change and change quickly because we are a Nation of winners.
Americans do not like losers.

Enter Mark Richt, the current head football coach at the University of Georgia.

Richt2

If I had a son who played football, I would want him playing for a man like Mark Richt.
Richt is a man of conscience, who is driven and steered by a faith based compass. His is a deep based unwavering faith in a God of mercy and grace.
Ohhh, I can hear those who lead the atheist protest groups and those of the ACLU raising their wary little antennas worried we’re mixing Christianity on the field of play. My observation of Coach Richt is not of a man leading a team of Christian soldiers—he merely happens to be a Christian who happens to be a leading SEC football coach who happens to merely be a ‘lead by example’ sort of man.

When Auburn’s current quarterback, Nick Marshall, who was recruited and signed by UGA, was caught stealing from fellow teammates, Richt cut him from the team. Richt believes that for all actions there are consequences and that everyone must see those consequences through, as painful as they may be for everyone involved, even at the risk of winning. Nick Marshall has since worked his way back to a leading role in the SEC, much to Richt’s delight. Never smug or condescending, Coach Richt is a believer in second chances and the turning around of misguided character. He was pleased that lessons were obviously learned and that this young man is finally seeing a dream come true.

The guidance and teaching of young men is a big factor as to why Coach Richt is in the business of coaching—for you see coaching goes well beyond the calling and formulating of plays–anyone in education or who has ever played on a team under the leadership of either a good or bad coach knows.

Yet frustratingly, positive events for Mark Richt do not always come easily or readily as they do for his counterpart head coaches who seem to bask in the ever constant lime light of the big wins and success. Why that is, I’m not sure but somewhere I hear the idiom “good guys finish last” rolling around in my head. He and his team often seem plagued and deluged by a constant series of bad luck, bad breaks and bad calls year after year after year. The latest incident of famed running back Todd Gurley, who just finished sitting out a 4 game suspension handed down by the NCAA for the profiting of signing sports memorabilia, is just one case in point—

The crowning blow of Richt’s season, a season that had been so highly anticipated as the Bulldogs were highly touted, sitting atop leading polls back at the end of the summer, in this now surreal world of a college football playoff. . .yet all of the hopes and dreams which had slowly faded from losses to both SEC rivals, South Carolina and Florida, came crashing down on one particular play at the end of Saturday’s game against Auburn. Todd Gurley had come back from the suspension chomping at the bit to play.

His Heisman Trophy hopes already dashed by his own poor choices, Gurley still had some things to prove. The first play of the game, Gurley ran the kickoff back for a touchdown which was then immediately called back due to a Bulldog penalty–the continuing curse of the penalties has been a self inflicted slow bleeding demise for the Bulldogs. Gurley continued to work in tandem with teammate and fellow running back Nick Chubb throughout the game, gaining yards and racking up points. Yet it was during one of the final plays of the game when Gurley, running the ball, was hit. He goes down grabbing his leg yet eventually gets up, walking off the field under his own power. He wasn’t carted off the field, he could even be seen walking the sidelines. However it was a MRI which later confirmed the fears of the Bulldog Nation, Gurley had blown out his knee, tearing his ACL– ending not only his playing season, but his tenure at UGA.

Does one player make a team?
No.
Does one play make a season?
Sometimes.
However Gurley’s suspension and now torn knee are but a few pieces of the never ending litany of bad breaks which have besieged this most mild mannered coach and of this often maligned and under respected team.

Todd Gurley will have surgery to repair his knee. He will rehab and be as good as new. He will most likely be a high pick in the draft, going on to a lucrative career in the NFL.

There will be those who question Richt’s decision for having left Gruley in the game when it was clear the game was in their hands. There are those who have thought that Richt is not aggressive enough, too nice to be a head coach in one of the biggest powerhouse conferences of the game. There are those who clamor that Richt just can’t win “the big one” or that the team lacks consistency. He hangs on to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, when others have called for Bobo’s head on a platter. Anything and everything that is wrong with the Bulldogs all comes back to Richt.

Yet one thing is certain, Mark Richt is consistent.
He does not bend under pressure. He does not acquiesce, he does not put his moral compass aside if its inconvenient for his audience.
He is a leader,
a quiet man,
a kind man.
He is often unruffled on the playing field.
He is steadfast, not one given to the emotional fits and tirades often displayed by so many other emotionally charged college coaches.
He is a rock during a crisis.
He consistently does the right thing by all under his command regardless of position, his paycheck, or pressure.
He is the example of how one human being should treat a fellow human being.

College coaches are often compared to opposing strategizing generals who formulate plans of attack against “the enemy”—a steely game of chess with the elusive checkmate hanging in the balance. I know that I would be more than happy to follow a man like Mark Richt into battle as he is cool under pressure and always has the best of his men in the forefront of his mind.

All those attributes are great and grand you say, but they don’t win football games.
What about the Glory days you ask.
What about the multimillion dollar endorsements?
What about all the money generated and brought to the schools that win?
What about the fame, the fortune?
Yeah, you’re probably right. . .
. . .but there once was a time when winning wasn’t everything.