Adding to the pile

“In times like these, it is helpful to remember
that there have always been times like these.”

Paul Harvey
Radio Broadcaster

Our friends at The Catholic Company
have a new interesting book that they’d like to share—
BAD SHEPHERDS
The Dark Years in Which the Faithful Thrived While Bishops Did the Devil’s Work

Given these days and times of scandal, mistrust, misdeeds shrouded by pure evil,
this is a rather timely read that I’ve now added to the ever-burgeoning pile of books
calling for my attention.

The Catholic Chruch, with the clergy leading the way, has become a pariah in the minds of many.
And with this deepening distrust and disgust, the global Christian Chruch is finding herself in the
crosshairs of being guilty by association.

Here is their enticing introduction of the book…

Sexual scandals and improper behavior
among religious leaders are nothing new.

“…the smoke of Satan has entered the
temple of God,”

said Pope Paul VI.

Believe it or not, St. Peter Damian wrote about the problem of active homosexuality
among the clergy over 900 years ago.

He warned that it was
“creeping through the clerical order…like a cruel beast within the sheepfold of Christ.”

Ever since Judas betrayed his Lord, there has been sin and scandal in the Church.

But this is not the time to despair.

In his astonishing, highly revealing and sometimes amusing book,
Church historian Rod Bennett offers some much-needed perspective to give us hope.

“My research, curiously enough, soon revealed a major key running under the minor;
and this was the striking fact that the Catholic laity…
often shone brightest just when their bad shepherds were at their worst.
God, in other words, had not left Himself without a witness.”
—Author Rod Bennett

These eye-opening pages introduce a number
of bad shepherds, showing us that corrupt church
leaders have existed since Christ established
the Church—and have not prevailed.

Instead, goodness has ultimately triumphed.

You’ll read about:
Pope Stephen VII, who so hated his late predecessor that he had him dug up,
put on trial, and flung into the Tiber.

Benedict IX, who bought and sold the papacy—twice!

Pope John XII, whose debauchery rivaled that of the corrupt emperor Caligula.

And here’s the powerful thing Rob Bennet will show you:

While these leaders were doing these evil deeds,
good Catholics not only survived—–they thrived.

They transcended their bad shepherds,
preserved the traditions, and served as the
foundation for a vigorous renewal of the Faith.

By bringing to light what’s happened in the past, this enlightening book shows that
restoration and renewal can happen again!

The notion of the governing Chruch going array while the faithful remain steadfast,
reminds me of a time in the middle of the 20th century when the
German Lutheran Chruch became the state Chruch of Nazi Germany.
And in essence became a pawn of Adolf Hitler…a vocal tool condoning evil propaganda.

Hitler knew that if he really wanted to plant his corrupted seeds within the hearts of the
German people, if he had the Church’s clergy acting as cheerleaders, the German people would be
more apt to listen and agree.

Yet there were committed Lutherans (Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, with a wealth of fellow clergy,
left the state puppet church creating the defiant Confessing Chruch) along with equally defiant Catholic
clergy mounted a counter voice of Truth.

The righteous know the Truth and hold steadfast despite the blanket of evil.

And so our friend the Wee Flea is also reviewing, as well as recommending, a new book—
a book about faith and God in our current troubling times.

God is Good for You—A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times
by Greg Sheridan
A political journalist looks at the impact of Christianity in the West.

David pulls out a few quotable gems to wet our whistle.

“In Charles Murray’s seminal study of the white underclass in the US, Coming Apart,
he reports that the last thing that holds working class and impoverished communities together
is the local churches.
When they collapse, the communities collapse.

(Page 27).

Does atheism explain the universe, life, including human life, consciousness and conscience?
Hyper- rational atheism gave us Nazism and doctrinaire Soviet communism.
Ultra-rationalism does not deliver you any moral compass.

(Kevin Rudd- Page 216).

If we abandon God, and the ethical imperatives that proceed from that,
we are in danger of ending up in an amoral morass,
where the sort of technocratic debates about whether certain human beings should be regarded
as sharing a common humanity, like the Soviet purges of “enemies of the people”
or the Nazi’s belief in the expendability of certain races, most particularly Jews, become possible.
You then land in an amoral jungle, animated only by some mud- begotten social Darwinianism.
This is because there was no longer a guiding moral authority.
These regimes could “reason” their way to any conclusion.”

(Kevin Rudd – page 217).

The only truly acceptable contemporary Christianity for Western political culture now seems
to be a Christianity which doesn’t mention God and which subscribes to conventional
elite wisdom on policy issues

(page 226).

The rule of law came out of a Christian mindset and defined the West.
The enemies of the West still define the West that way. Human rights have degenerated into
identity politics.
We are living now in a post-Christian society but still living on the legacy of Christianity
and that legacy is running down.
This could end in chaos.
For society to work you’ve got to have agreement about basic rules.
You want your rights but you have your responsibilities too.
If we don’t have consensus on the basic rules are we will find it hard to live in a society with each other…
That is a matter of great concern to me. I’m very concerned about where this experiment of being
a post-Christian society will end. It’s an experiment.
We haven’t been there before.

(Peter Costello – page 229).

Christianity doesn’t seek conflict for its own sake, but if it’s to be effective it must
know that conflict is the inevitable consequence of proclaiming its message.
It is also important to have always in mind that Jesus’s two greatest commands,
which he reiterates again and again, are to love God and to love your neighbour.
This does not, however rule out ethical conflict.

(Page 319).

https://theweeflea.com/2019/01/07/god-is-good-for-you-a-defence-of-christianity-in-troubled-times-greg-sheridan/

And so we hold fast to the knowledge that, as we have seen in ages past, when the going gets tough,
we of the Faith hold to our toughness and get going…

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love,
endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence
of many witnesses.
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus,
who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which God will bring about in his own time—-
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light,
whom no one has seen or can see.
To him be honor and might forever.

Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16

the triumph found in surrendering

“Persevere in labors that lead to salvation.
Always be busy in spiritual actions.
In this way, no matter how often the enemy of our souls approaches,
no matter how many times he may try to come near us,
he’ll find our hearts closed and armed against him.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage


(detail from one of the paintings by Fra Angelico at the Convent of San Marco /
Florence, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Give me all of you!!!
I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work.
I want YOU!!!
ALL OF YOU!!
I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman,
but to KILL IT! No half measures will do.
I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there;
rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit,
all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams.
Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—
in my image.
Give me yourself and in exchange, I will give you Myself.
My will, shall become your will.
My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In many paintings of the crucifixion, as well as free-standing vintage crucifixes,
there is often a skull positioned beneath the cross.


(Crucifixion with saints, Fra Angelico / Convent of San Marco / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

The reason for this is symbolic…and actually quite simple.
It represents Christ’s triumph over death…and in turn, our own triumph found
in Christ Jesus.

is it well with my soul?

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”

stanza from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford


(an end season skipper visits a blooming wildflower/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Is all well with your soul?

Probably not.

I know it’s not with mine….not in recent months…

If you are a breathing, sensory processing, thinking, feeling sort of human being,
chances are, that given the current day and times, all is not well with
your soul either.

How could it be?

I for one have gravitated from being an observer to what all is currently happening
around us to feeling angry, helpless, sad and frustrated.

From natural disasters that seem to ride in on each incoming wave to to the human
tragedies as seen in Las Vegas, to just our constant state of civil unrest and
disdain for our fellow citizens…
this oh so divided nation is breaking my heart.

Add in to that each of our own personal struggles and tragedies—
and life is becoming heavy to say the least.

Those of us of the faith pray, we read scripture, we listen and often we grow weary
by the weight of it all.

Those non believers amongst us often then jump on that weariness as some sort of sign of
our waffling and inner struggle as they gleefully shout that they told us all along…
there is no loving God….

And of course we know better than that…but it sure gets frustrating because we pray
and we pay and we just keep wrestling with the never-ending madness.

Growing up in the Episcopal church, the hymn It Is Well With My Soul was not
one of the hymns we sang…however I was familiar with it none the less…

So as I sat here today stewing a bit with the current condition of my “soul”—
as the heaviness just seems a bit heavier today than usual,
I did a little digging into the background of the hymn.

What I found was heart wrenching to say the least.
If there was a soul who wrestled with the heaviness and frustration and heartbreak
of life, it was Horatio G. Spafford…a successful businessman out of Chicago during
the mid 19th century.

I offer to you the following back story to this well know hymn…a story of reality, tragedy and eventually peace….
a peace in knowing that there is One who is always greater
than any trial, tragedy or frustration that we will ever face in this life….
A peace in knowing that there is One who has overcome each and every sorrow…

It Is Well with My Soul”
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

With this hymn comes one of the most heartrending stories in the annals of hymnody.

The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago.
He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was
also a devout Christian.
Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous
Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.

Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline,
he lost everything overnight.
In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster.
But the worst was yet to come.

Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story:
“Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join
and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns
in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873.
In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments,
he had to remain in Chicago,
but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the
S.S. Ville du Havre.
He expected to follow in a few days.

About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic,
the Ville du Harve collided with a powerful, iron-hulled Scottish ship, the Loch Earn. Suddenly, all of those on board were in grave danger.
Anna hurriedly brought her four children to the deck.
She knelt there with Annie, Margaret Lee, Bessie and Tanetta and prayed
that God would spare them if that could be His will,
or to make them willing to endure whatever awaited them.
Within approximately 12 minutes, the Ville du Harve slipped beneath
the dark waters of the Atlantic, carrying with it 226 of the passengers
including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down,
spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage.
It was Anna, still alive.
He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which,
nine days later, landed them in Cardiff, Wales.

Another of the ship’s survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying,
“God gave me four daughters.
Now they have been taken from me.
Someday I will understand why.”

From there she wired her husband a message which began,
“Saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr. Spafford later framed the telegram and placed it in his office.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife.
This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean
thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.

Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880,
though he later died of scarlet fever.
After the birth of daughter Grace in 1881,
Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land.
There they established the American Colony,
a Christian utopian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews,
Muslims and Christians.

After decades of benevolent activities, the Colony ceased to be a communal society
in the 1950s, though it continued in a second life as the American Colony Hotel,
the first home of the talks between Palestine and Israel that eventually led to the 1983 Oslo Peace Accords

(excerpted from both an article written for the United Methodist Discipleship Ministries
by Dr. Hawn who is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU as well as from a story that ran in the St Augustine Record)

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,
shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

Gone home….


(a table in my son’s home—his tribute to his grandfather)

Dad passed away last night—it was 11:42 when I was called.
We’d spent the day with him and my son was with him last around 9:30 PM
His earthly journey complete…his pain and suffering no more.
As I drove back over for the second time that day, just past midnight,
I was swept over by a sense of calm knowing Dad was finally
with Mother.

I had written the following post after sitting with him yesterday.
I think it still important to share…
But just know that death has once again been overcome by
Life!

Edward Dale Nichols
March 10, 1928—March 19, 2017

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support….

it’s never like the movies

“The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until
the party is over,
and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind,
which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things”

Lemony Snicket

Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for its ability to create
iconic and memorable snippets of life…
With some of the most captivating moments being those dramatic scenes of both death and dying.

A quick little Google search of iconic death scenes and you get anything from Alien
to Bambi, while my generation most likely thinks Love Story…
with it’s now immortalized tag line,
“love is never having to say your sorry….”

But anyone who has ever been involved in any sort of real life relationship knows that that
particular little Hollywood dribble is just a bunch of crap…
but of course, I digress….

No matter what overtly dramatized film moment you may happen to recall when thinking
classic death / dying scene…
be it an endearing tearjerker like in Titanic or a graphically
gory melee of any epic war picture,
nothing quite compares to the real life drama found in the balance between
true living and dying

Take the above image of the coffee filter filled with fresh dark roasted coffee beans…

Your brain registers that you’re looking at a coffee filter filled with coffee beans…
and because of what you know about coffee beans,
you’re pretty safe assuming that there is a strong aroma associated with the beans…
However you can’t actually smell them.

Captured images just don’t processes a smell-o-rama capability.

You see the beans….
you know they have a very strong enticing smell…
but….
because they’re sitting on a screen, you only experience them with just one sense…
that of sight.

Now Hollywood works hard on a viewer’s senses of both sight and sound in order to
coax out a physical reaction…they’ll happily surmise that they’ve been succeessful if
they think that they’ve made a viewer “feel”…
be it a physical reaction from laughing to crying to even nausea….

Yet for all their special effects, they lack the sense of smell.
And the truth be told, they lack reality.

Because whereas art tries to imitate life, it will always fall short.

Now you know with your eyes and brain that the two images here of,
first the coffee beans and now a fresh bouquet of flowers,
each have a distinct aroma or smell….
but…
you can’t actually smell them by looking at them on your screen.

You can’t touch them or hear them or smell them.

You’re just working off your previous associations…

Nothing can prepare you for reality…but reality.
The nitty gritty touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smell, feel of raw reality.

Dad’s room is now filled with coffee filters filled with coffee beans.
Not because he ever greatly appreciated coffee…
but because the Hospice nurse told us it would help with the smell.

The overwhelming smell of decay because oddly the body will fall apart quite frankly
before we’re exactly finished using it.
As in the body will begin to simply erode, decay and die while we’re still hanging on…
with the end result not being a pretty picture.

Dying is so much worse then what we see in the movies.

For there is much more to it then a Hollywood script…
For it has graphic sights as well as unpleasant sounds and sickening scents…
things that never should be imitated because the reality it simply too overwhelming.

Yet in all of this….
what I know to be true is that our bodies are merely borrowed earthly vessels in which
our souls reside before we are freed from them in order to go home as it were.

Yes I believe this.

It is nearly impossible to watch and be a part of…this eroding, this wasting…
what with the sounds, sights and smells….
because our human brains and emotions are so limited…

This body is all we have known….it is what we have seen age over the years.
It is has come to represent what and who we love, who we cherish, who we hold on to,
who we cling to…who we associate our very beings with….

It is the tangible while our God is not tangible.
It only makes sense that we anguish over its demise.

And yet, in the graphic sights, sounds and smells there remains something far greater
then the decay of age or disease..

For there once was a body that had been so grossly damaged, so horrifically abused as
it had died a slow and agonizing death.
Later it was to be washed and cleaned…
anointed with sweet oils, aloes and spices before being
wrapped in freshly woven flaxen linens.

Yet following three days, more spices were brought to be added to the tomb—
a tomb that was by now assumed to be filled with the overwhelming
stench of human decay and rot…

However, that was not the case….

For within that dark enclosure—a seismic shift of time occurred…
where once life had simply slipped away and become death….
here in this dark enclosure, death had become life…

And so now we wait amongst the coffee beans…for death, to become, life….

“No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of
Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem.
Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship.
Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb
proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes.
Death is not a wall, but a door.”

Peter Marshall

somewhere restoration

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.

(Lyrics Somewhere over the Rainbow / The Wizard of Oz)


(the garden shops are getting ready…Julie Cook / 2017)

Somewhere out there the snows and ice are melting…
Somewhere out there the sun warms the face of children
Somewhere out there, there are smiles and laughter
Somewhere out there flowers are blooming, again…

I know this to be true.

It may not be here
and it may not be now
Not here in my world…
But I know it to be true.

I spend my day’s looking at the chest of a frail body…
a body with halting breath,
watching to see if the chest still rises and falls.

I see a body wasted.

I watch a face grimace and hear the cries of pain when that
frail body is moved or manipulated.
I see the wretched ulcer…the added insult to misery.

I am sad and sorrowful.

But I am not angry nor am I bitter.

I am however aggravated.

I am aggravated when reading the often taunting and hateful rhetoric
written by non believers about Believers.

The atheistic touts that there is no God.
Claiming that no loving God would allow the pain I am currently witnessing.

The pain is real.
The suffering is grievous.
But it is not caused by God.

There was a time when there was no pain, no suffering.
There was a time when there was no worry.
There was a time when bad things did not happen…
and good people did not suffer.
There was no violence.
There was no sickness
There was no evil….

Yet what I know, despite the suffering I am witnessing,
despite the frustration,
despite the seemingly unfairness of it all….

Those of us who are members of the family of Believers knows that there will be
a time again…
where good dreams really will come true…
as a restoration of Life will finally triumph over Death…

Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit,
yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it,
and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face,
and his name shall be on their foreheads.
And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 22:1-5

Love and Truth

The truth is incontrovertible.
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it,
but in the end,
there it is.

Winston Churchill

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end,
they always fall.
Think of it–always.

― Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN3549
(toad frog / Julie Cook / 2016)

Just remember….
They might not always be considered pretty, worldly or even popular…
but Love and Truth will always triumph…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

To travel through adversity

My strength is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians

DSCN3506
(black capped chickadee on an ice encrusted limb / Julie Cook / 2014)

That was rough…. Thing to do now is try and forget it…. I guess I don’t quite mean that. It’s not a thing you can forget. Maybe not even a thing you want to forget…. Life’s like that sometimes… Now and then for no good reason a man can figure out, life will just haul off and knock him flat, slam him agin’ the ground so hard it seems like all his insides is busted. But it’s not all like that. A lot of it’s mighty fine, and you can’t afford to waste the good part frettin’ about the bad. That makes it all bad…. Sure, I know – sayin’ it’s one thing and feelin’ it’s another. But I’ll tell you a trick that’s sometimes a big help. When you start lookin’ around for something good to take the place of the bad, as a general rule you can find it.
From the movie Old Yeller

If you’ve never seen nor heard of the movie Old Yeller, may I recommend it to you.
I’ve seen it perhaps only twice in my life, each time when I was around the age of 10. Each Sunday evening, when I was a little girl, The Wonderful World of Disney would air a weekly movie, sometimes animated sometimes not, always at 7PM. Bathes were quickly taken as fresh PJs were quickly put on, as my brother and I would quickly grab our pillows in order to plop down in front of the television in grand anticipation—-with Old Yeller being one such presentation.

As an adult, knowing the story line, my heart aches so that I simply can’t bear to watch it again– although it is indeed a positive story. The story will certainly leave the viewer with a lasting impression. A difficult impression, but lasting none the less.

The movie made its debut in 1957–and is based on a 1956 book of the same title. The story is not an easy one and involves post civil war hard times, in rural Texas, an old stray dog and a young boy’s transition from that of childhood to manhood. Love, struggle, tragedy, grief, growth, the cost of loyalty, death and hope are all intertwined, woven tightly together. By the movie’s end there is never a dry eye from those who are watching.

The movie is but a microcosm for much of life. Both our young hero and the old stray dog have much to teach us, the viewer. There is the story of the ultimate sacrifice made for the sake of loyalty and love. It is the story of an unconditional love and sacrifice—with that sacrifice bleeding into the most trying and conflicting of actions in the human heart, which gives way to a deep and almost consuming emptiness and loss.

Growing up is never easy as life is usually punctuated by difficulties and hardships, pain and sorrow. However, it is not to the hardships and the difficulties of which we must train our focus and attentions but rather we must look toward the end results. . .eventually looking past them, to the hope of a future.

If we spend all of our time and energies focusing solely on our troubles, then we never move our eyes from the current worry and woe. If we never pull our heads up in order to look for solutions or for a brighter light or for even an escape, we simply remain in the tortuous prison of the situation.

Our young hero was in such a sticky wicket, as life had already proven tough and unkind– when suddenly and tragically, the tough and unkind grew exponentially paramount. The ultimate discovery for our young hero was not that of bitter sorrow and a closed heart, but rather that life, for good or bad, is a continuum, it is something which is always moving forward. The choice of moving along with it, is simply and plainly the decision of the individual. Stay with and in the adversity, or work to move past it—that is the real issue.

As Sir Winston Churchill so succinctly reminds us: “If you are going to go through hell, keep going.” I would imagine he would have noted …”by all means, keep going and by all means get past it!!”