“provoke to love and good works”

Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth;
for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the
foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord,
when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all,
and men love each other in Him without dissimulation,
because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise
the real character of their love

St Augustine


(poor example of spontaneous note taking / Julie Cook / 2018)

Well….
it happened that before I could elaborate on last week’s video offering
by the Scottish pastor David Robertson..that being a video posting from his
Wee Flea Blog and the SOLAS conference talk given in 2010—
during the course of the weekend here came another posting.

It seems our Wee Flea friend is faster at offering tasty morsels than I am at
digesting them and then in turn sharing the nourishment of the morsel with you…..

This time the posting is from a 2013 SOLAS conference which focuses on education
and the poor.

Very powerful, sobering and collar grabbing kind of stuff.

And well, you didn’t think a retired educator, a Christian retired educator,
one who taught for 31 years in the secular public educational system of the
United States could actually pass over such a tempting morsel without stopping
to take it all in did you??

Despite this latest SOLAS (remember Gaelic for Light) offering running for
nearly an hour…I couldn’t let it pass without giving it my undivided attention.

During last week’s video offering, I wrote down two quotes of David’s…

“When you remove Christianity from a country, [its] education declines”

“Secularism doesn’t educate you—it dumbs you down.”

I was struck by both of those statements.

And as I am also a faithful reader of Citizen Tom’s blog (https://citizentom.com)
as Tom often points out the dire and dismal state of the educational system in the
United States, I knew these two statements were indeed onto something….

And before I could properly digest and share my copious note taking from the previous
posting, here came this latest posting over the weekend.

My weekend was such that I had to put off watching this particular video until
this Monday morning when I could carve out an hour’s time…
in order to properly sort things out.
Yet on top of just watching the video, came the sorting of the notes and then the
turning around and offering to you a proper post regarding David’s talk…

So now picture me holding my hands to my head in a bit of a tizzy while visions of the
National Football Championship dance dizzily around my head…
There are homemade cookies and homemade pizza preparations to get underway all
for this evening’s big game festivities…..GO DAWGS…while my head was still
swirling with what I’d gleaned from David’s talk.
(well, I wrote this before the big game obviously—now, we won’t talk about it)

But back to the SOLAS clip….

Do yourself another favor—carve out the time to watch this.
Especially if you are a teacher, have children or grandchildren who attend schools
or are simply worried about our youth and their future…..

You should note however when watching the video that there is one huge difference
between the educational system in Scotland verses the educational system
in the United States.
The educational system in Scotland is considered a state Christian System by law
verses our very separate and secular school system in the US.

But the message remains the same—as there is a growing gap between rich and poor
in educational opportunities in both of our nations.

David noted an example….
The more affluent families can easily afford after school and out of school tutors.
Whereas a finer tutor, say in London, might fetch 400 pounds an hour—
such a tutor in Dundee, Scotland might command only 15 pounds an hour—
but no matter, as both kids, be it from London or Dundee, those who can afford a
tutor already have a step up the ladder from those disadvantaged kids from lower
income families who can’t afford any sort of tutor….

If you’ve never heard of Thomas Guthrie, it’s worth clicking on the following link for
a bit of background on a man whose life has played a rich part of the
educational system in Scotland other than that of John Knox himself who boldly
stated that “wherever there is a church, there shall be a school.”

https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/reformer-thomas-guthrie-11630341.html

Guthrie (1803-1873), a man who studied to become a doctor but became, upon graduating college, a minister instead held as his mission statement…
regarding those he ministered to in Scotland, that education was essential to saving
the less fortunate from a life of ignorance, squalor, disease, idleness and poverty.

He saw that education and learning were the keys to opening doors and turning away
from the vicious cycles of hunger, alcoholism, crime and poverty that was rife
within the families of the poor and disadvantaged…
Guthrie therefore petitioned Parliament to make compulsory education mandatory
in order to help save the children and future children from an assumed destiny
of misery.

Yet Guthrie maintained that such an education had to have Christianity as its root.
How else would morality anchor itself within society.
As we bewildered watch the secular movement today creating its “social engineering”
of the masses.

The physical threshold of each school Guthrie founded was to be fashioned with the
carving of an open Bible with the motto written, “Search the Scriptures”

Yet David notes that there will always be secular resistance as the secular world
pushes ever closer to ultimately having a society without God.
However David holds firm to the notion that without Christianity,
we will destroy Education….
***and in turn destroy our civilization…
(*** my 2 cents)

And David presents this polestar thought with laser precision in this talk.

David admonishes us all…those of us who confess the Faith of Jesus Christ…
that as Christians it is our moral obligation that we should be making education
and our schools a top priority…be it here in the States or there in Scotland.

Yet I don’t see that happening here anytime soon.

He reminds each of us not to simply leave it to the schools to educate our kids
as to what is a Christian worldview—but it is up to us…us being the ones who need
to chiefly see to that responsibility.

And I dare say, that most of us have grown rather complacent here in the States.
The upper tier pay exorbitant yearly fees to upper crust schools for a
private education, that even though some of the private institutions claim a church denomination’s backing…as I dare ask is that a worldly looking denomination???

Leaving everyone else to the charge of the state and federally funded school
systems—schools, many of which, are woefully lacking and are stymied in
their ability to lay a moralistic foundation…due greatly in part to the fact that
we have erased our Christian heritage from the very system our founding fathers state
as being an important component to the fledgling new nation’s growth and development.

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

speaking wisdom

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart,
and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal
the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and Hope.”

Alexandre Dumas


(late afternoon in Northwest Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:

Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?

No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.

For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.

People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.

They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.

Psalm 49:1-14

education verses wisdom

Before He is power… God is Mercy, Love and Vulnerability
and He wants to make us into
that same image.

The Rev. Gavin Ashenden


(a section of the magnificent Library at Dublin’s Trinity College / Julie Cook / 2015)

As a former educator, whenever there is talk about our ailing school system–
-of which has been an instrumental part of the bedrock of Western Civilization since
the beginning of such time, my ears most assuredly are always piqued.

I have read, watched and lamented these many months now over the fracas and
sideshows that seem to be happening across our major universities and colleges—
even since before last year’s election was really heating up.

Tales of snowflakes, cupcakes, safe zones, coloring sessions, happy talk and
fairylands has left me both frustrated as well as sad.

The images coming from so many upscale universities and colleges of violent protests
have amounted to nothing more than overgrown temper tantrums…
as students, and even the supposed role models of educators, converge upon all things
they currently find themselves whining against….
All the while administrators are afraid…afraid of law suits, of life, limb and job security as they stand cowering, daring to say nary a word.

Be it speakers who have actually been invited to discuss various viewpoints,
writings or books that just so happen to run counter to the current self absorption
many students are currently wallowing in—-
Or the odd professor who tries to offer some actual sort of sanity by suggesting
that the students should maintain an open mind…..

These students will immediately either rudely walk out
on said guest in some sort of protest when the lecturer dares to
say something these students find “offensive”—or even worse, they will go into a
fit of violent rage….
as most everything said today seems offensive to them.

Were not our hallowed halls of higher education intended for a better purpose?

Intended not to only stir the consciousness of young minds but to challenge said
youthful minds to dig deeper and go further…all in a quest of learning while seeking knowledge and dare we say it, eventually a bit of wisdom….

Did we not ourselves, as students, seek to further our education in order to
learn new thoughts and ideas while venturing further into the
unknown of possibilities?

So I have found it perhaps no coincidence that two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond, just this very week, were discussing issues about both
learning and wisdom in this most modern topsy turvy world of ours.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson was musing about knowledge and wisdom from the standpoint of the Book of Ecclesiastes and King Solomon while The Rev Gavin Ashenden
discussed the growing concern that anyone who upholds traditional Christian views, particularly on a college campuses, is perceived as anathema and a cause for
censorship—or even worse.

Pastor Robertson reminds us that “in our Western cultures we have largely
forgotten what education is supposed to be about—[that being] the search for wisdom.”

He goes on—We live in a culture where there is lots of information –
but little understanding: what the Bible calls wisdom.

This lack of wisdom is what results in a great deal of argument, irrationality, confirmation bias, fake news, virtue signalling and ignorant prejudice.

He continues….
It is that human beings observe and what we observe in real life is not
always pleasant. There is a heavy burden God has laid on men.
We may live as secularists but the problems we face have been ordained by God.
Mankind thinks and plans. We have been wired that way.
We want to understand.
The problem of life is for us all not just a hobby for philosophers.
The quest of meaning is a quest for God and it is something that God has placed
in our hearts.

Today we may know a lot more.
But are we happier?

Have we progressed?
Are we wiser?
Lets be brutally honest – most of us cannot face the truth.
‘With much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.’
Is it not the case that the more we really understand, the more we ache?
Is that not why people escape into the fantasy world of films, dramas,
drink and drugs, celebrity gossip and computer games?

David Robertson

Wisdom and Meaning for the 21st Century – Ecclesiastes

Bishop Ashenden in the latest interview on Anglican Unscripted explains that
“our colleges are broken”

He notes one example as to just how broken with the story about the former Bishop of Rochester, who just so happens to be a greatly esteemed theologian and gifted orator,
had been invited to speak at Cambridge. Yet it seems that someone did a little digging
into the background of this intended guest and discovered that he was a priest
who actually held traditional views regarding marriage…
imagine that…
a priest with traditional views….
Who upon which discovery was quickly uninvited.

As it seems that anyone who has a counter thought, particularly one that is a
more Orthodox thought or standpoint, is no longer welcome on the campuses of
higher learning.

The good Bishop notes that Orthodox Christians are being grossly marginalized…
particularly by our more liberal society and on our campuses of higher learning.

Both men agree that there is rather  a sad and frightening trend that we are turning out generations of individuals who have not actually gone to college to seek knowledge or
even wisdom but rather those who have been coddled and merely given a piece of paper

The good Scottish Pastor Robertson notes that “we live in a culture where there is lots of
information – but little understanding…
adding that perhaps it would behoove us to
“stop following the marketing and ‘knowledge’ ways of this world.
Instead let’s return to the ancient paths of wisdom and seek the Lord whilst
he may be found.
We can chase the wind – or we can build on the Rock!

Perhaps a suitable motto for every school and University and church would be these
words from Hosea 14:9.

Who is wise?
Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning?
Let them understand.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea 14:9.

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

inviting and yet locked

“By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision
to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path
toward a spiritual life.”

Thomas More

As polarized as we have been,
we Americans are locked in a cultural war for the soul of our country.

Pat Buchanan


(an inviting, yet closed and obviously shuttered, secluded entrance way / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a lovely Orthodox Christian blog that I follow…
Where I often find the most beautiful wisdom presented in the simplest of fashions.
This morning was no exception.

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/what-does-charismatic-despair-mean/

When I first read this morning’s posting’s title, with words such as Charismatic and despair…words that at first glance appear to be polar opposites of one another, I wasn’t prepared to find both a sweet reminder as well as an embracing
comfort all rolled into one.

I am reminded that as we each journey through this thing we call life,
we will each inevitably encounter times of great frustration, difficulty…
even overwhelming sorrow.

We will come to those places along on our walk where we find our pathway blocked
with the doorways, those apparent entrances beckoning us to continue forward, each shuttered and locked tight. There will be no obvious alternate path allowing for us
to continue onward, proceeding freely and unhindered.

It is at such a juncture on the path, where we are met by both doubt and despair.

Choice suddenly appears limited or even nonexistent.
Knowing we can’t progress forward and that we certainly can’t turn around,
going back from whence we came…for too much time has passed for turn arounds,
we are stymied. A rushing fear washes over us as we realize that we have
no other options, no choices.

And this is where we must look not obviously outward from ourselves
seeking our answers,
but rather we must look inward…traveling deeply within ourselves.

For it is in this very moment of inward verses outward, of how we will decide
to interact with the obstacles and locked doors,
which will eventually decide how we continue forward on our journey.

And so it is here, tucked gently away in this morning’s reading of simple words
offered by a simple monk, where we are gently yet profoundly reminded that
in our apparent despair, we are driven not by the seemingly overwhelmingness
of that very despair and its accompanying frustration, but rather by the divine interventions of the Spirit…
He who urges us, without our even being aware, to seek the only One who has
the key to unlocking those shattered doors, allowing for us to continue forward
on this odd little journey of ours.

It begins with a frustration or a pain or a sorrow and it ends with
an imploring prayer…


(the wisdom of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex from the book Remember Thy First Love)

foolish wisdom

“I remind myself very often that God does His best work with those whom
the world thinks as fools…”

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

“Hell itself is but the filling of wretched creatures with the fruit
of their own devices.”

John Owen


(ripening muscadines on the vine / Julie Cook / 2017)

Let no man deceive himself.
If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world,
let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.
For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

And again,
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

Therefore let no man glory in men.
For all things are your’s;

1 Corinthians 3:18-21