thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

isms

“For in spite of itself any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an
‘ism becomes so involved in reaction against other ‘isms that it
is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its
principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive,
constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities.”

John Dewey


(a dragonfly readies for take off / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the mid 1930’s there was a very loud and very vocal cry being sounded within the United States..
the voice was sounding the alarm to a rising tide of Communism…
as this rising tide had become a growing cancer on the world’s global stage.

This was at a time just prior to the outright assault of WWII, as war had not
yet been declared…
but Hitler was indeed on the move.

Both Fascism and National Socialism (Nazism in a nutshell) was viewed by most
of Europe, as well as the United States,
as the most serious and fastest growing threat to Western Civilization and
her beloved democracies…

In part because both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were within the confines of “Europe”
while Communist Soviet Russia was seen to be more of an eastern threat.
Poland had long served as the lone suffering stalwart blocker in histories past
to invaders, always being the stopgap to regimes set on menacing Europe…
so why should now be any different….

Yet this time Hitler had different plans for Poland and he needed Stalin’s help.

There was however a grim opinion held by a handful of visionary souls that it was
actually Communism which was to be considered the far more sinister sleeping beast.
These hardy and farsighted souls began to formulate a battle cry.

Joseph Stalin had come to power in the Soviet Union in 1929.
Cold, calculating and menacing…a terror the world would not soon forget.
Promoting and spreading the Communist ideal was a top priority.
A totalitarianism manifesto which would eventually dominate the world…if he and others
were to have their way.
Seeds were planted deeply into the various “western” democracies where the grounds were
ripe and fertile as the State would be seen as the
both the new god and guardian of the people…

It would be just a short ten years following his rise to power that in 1939
a toxic union would form between Hitler and Stalin.
A union that barley lasted 2 short years…that was…
once Hitler had decided his need of Stalin was no longer beneficial…
as he merely beat Stalin to the divorce.

And yet we must back up a few years.

Around 1934 Pope Pius XI, along with his top aide Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli
(later Pope Pius XII),
had a meeting with a certain American Catholic Bishop.
His name was Fulton Sheen and his was a bigger than life persona.
He was a dynamic and charismatic personality who was known as both a top
notch educator as well as notable orator.
Sheen was widely popular in the United States with both Catholic and non Catholics alike.
The Pope knew a catalyst when he saw one.

Calling Sheen to Rome, the Pope told the Bishop that he wanted him to study the works
of Karl Marx in order that he could better understand the terrible threat Communism
was to be against not only Christianity but to the betterment of mankind.
The Pope trusted this young vibrant servant of Christ with defending the faith
as well as guarding the dignity of all human life against the growing scourge
of Communism.

Shortly after returning to the States, Sheen addressed the faithful.

“They have thrown down the gauntlet to the world.
The voice is either brotherhood in Christ or comradeship in anti-Christ.
There is no alternative.
If the one does not regin the other will.
They will have chosen the comradeship in anti-Christ —
they can devour anything that is not brotherhood in Christ.
Communism was inspired not by the sprit of Christ but by the spirit of the serpent…
The Mystical Body of the Anti-Christ”

He predicted that neither ‘New Deals [n]or fascism’ would stop communism because they
could not ‘summon’ forth sufficent zeal and fervor.’
They lacked communists’ absolute devotion to their religion”

(excerpt from A Pope and A President / Paul Kengor)

So as we now stand on the landscape of this 21st century…
far removed from the horrors of WWII and it’s battle between the good and evil,
freedom or enslavement…and even decades from that most famous command heard
round the world…
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”
we must ask ourselves…how different are our times?

Are we not living in what many now call a post Christian society where secularism
and political activism have both risen to the forefront as the new religions?
Have we not merely traded one form of ism for another..that of progressivism, liberalism,
socialism, and even the counter nationalism…

May we each recall the wisdom offered during those previous dark days….

“The anti-God regime is always the anti-human regime”
Bishop Fulton Sheen

out of chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved,
upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(another shot of the dead loon I found on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Loons are fresh water birds so to say that I was more than a little shocked
finding a dead loon, partially buried in the sands along the ocean’s shore,
is an understatement.

There had been a bad storm the day prior…
I could only imagine the bird flying over the surf from one of the nearby dune lakes,
having tired as it was battered by fierce winds and torrential rains,
and simply succumbing to the raging maelstrom…
or maybe it was just old and sick.

Yesterday, several times throughout the course of my day,
I ran into a word, along with its resulting concept.
It is a word and meaning that I really prefer not to dwell on as it can be
unsettling and troubling.

That being the word chaos.

The word crept up and into the forefront of my focus more than once throughout the day.

Again, I am not one to believe in coincidence or happenstance but rather the
working of the Holy Spirit….sometimes gently whispering while at other times loudly shouting.

The word chaos kept coming to light in my reading perusals through the day.
And not only was it sitting before me in the printed word,
I found that I had to actually admit that it has certainly been a very real part of my
own life for these past many months.
Much more than I cared to realize or admit.
Because aren’t I always in control of me and my life?

As that was part of the revelation.

That despite my attempts to ignore, push down and to quell…
chaos has been wickedly swirling in my life.

Not a visible chaos necessarily, but a raging internal swirling turbulence.

Yet it was on a fellow bloger’s post yesterday that I had actually read a quote by a
gal named Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The quote more or less just hit me in the face.
One of those times when you’re broadsided, from out of the blue,
getting literally knocked off your feet.

“Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

It was more than just a simple reminder or statement…
it was a signpost.

It’s that whole question of what does one tie life’s anchor to?
Something real, sound, secure…
or instead….
does one opt for no anchor while simply allowing all things to drift off towards
an expectant and hopeful ending?

What have I been doing?

Is it simply a matter of casting out, allowing the anchor to randomly sink, hoping it
will grab hold, to something to anything…
hoping to be kept secure and steady…yet not really certain.

Or does one rather tie off to something much more solid and sure?
Anchoring to something that will hold tight and fast?

It is not a matter of merely drifting happily toward the hopeful sunset.

For there found in the drift…lies the ensuing troubles…
No anchor hold to keep one from being tossed and battered…
left to drift off course into dire storms.

In my faith and in my life, I found that question being asked…

Am I holding fast to God and God’s word or am I more focused on the
outcomes of my journey?
Focusing more on me and my end down the road verses
His choices and directions for my life…

In wisdom have I anchored?
Anchored and holding fast to God and His desired outcome?
Because I know in the end that that’s the only thing that matters…
His outcome and His alone.
Nothing that is of me.

For I am constantly reminded that it is He who is Creator and master of my ship
as I am but the created…
I am reminded of my constant need to tie off to Him…
trusting and holding tight through all the storms…
Claiming and knowing that His desired outcome is far better than that to which
I’ve been blindly holding to and racing off toward.

Him being the only lasting matter of my life….or of anyone’s life.

As we must anchor to that which is certain and sure
verses our ignorant and arrogant choice to simply drift while hoping for the best….

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked,
“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

interlude

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him,
and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude,
a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton


(blooming wildflowers / Julie Cook / 2017)

Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28:20-28

Wise words

“God will not look you over for medals,
degrees or diplomas
but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


(robin redbreast /Julie Cook / 2017)

A dear friend recently shared this bit of wisdom with me…
and what is wisdom if it is not in turn shared once again….

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head,
this you cannot change,
but that they build nests in your hair,
this you can prevent.”

Thank you Paul…..

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

excuses

The world will very soon be divided, unless I am mistaken,
into those who still go on explaining our success,
and those somewhat more intelligent who are trying to explain our failure.

Speech to Anglo-Catholic Congress 6-29-20

g__k__chesterton
(G.K.Chesterton)

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils;
they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

G. K. Chesterton

hard words

As fire is not extinguished by fire, so anger is not conquered by anger,
but is made even more inflamed.
But meekness often subdues even the most beastly enemies,
softens them and pacifies them.

Tikhon of Zadonsk

300px-tikhon_of_zadonsk
(icon image of St Tikhon of Zadonsk)

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved.
To look upon another–
his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects–
is to look upon one who is suffering.
He is suffering from negative passions,
from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer.
This is very important:
do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison,
noting the sins you assume you would never commit.
Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer,
a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need.
Help him,
love him,
pray for him,
do unto him as you would have him do unto you.”

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

I caught this quote this morning while playing catch up reading over several blogs.
An Orthodox monk offered the quote and when I read that very first line,
its was if St. Tikhon reached out across space and time,
grabbing me by both shoulders while proceeding to shake me to consciousness.

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved….”

Whoa…
Ruminate over those words for a minute…letting them sink in…

“It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved…”

Not just that it is a fearful thing to hate, but he adds, whom God loves.
As in doubly significant…

It is an ominous observation that transcends time.

St. Tikhon was a Russian Monk who lived in a monastery in Zadonsk during the 18th century.
He is venerated as a saint within the Orthodox Church.
And his observational words are as timely today as they were in mid 1700’s Russia.

The wisdom of those who have trod the very earth of this planet prior to our own wanderings,
have much to offer those of us today struggling to manage our lives.

Have we as Christians not been told repeatedly that God loves each of us…
each last individual one of us???

All 7,465,271,925…of us
(click on the world population meter and this number will have grown considerably
by the time you are reading these words…
it is almost frightening how fast the counter rolls off number after number…
http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ )

Turn on any television,
read andy news feed,
watch any current banter, particularly in the US,
and you will see right fast that there is very little if any love roaming about
this great Nation of ours.

Yet St. Tikhon tells us that it is a fearful thing, as in bad…as in really really bad,
not to love those whom God loves.

And don’t we know, aren’t we told that God loves everyone…
Not just Christians…but Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, Muslims…

If you can name them, He loves them…
as well as those you can’t name.

Remember the words of the prophet…

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

Let that sink in.

He knew you…as in you and you alone….
and He knew me and all those people now around us…

He even knows and loves those who you now hold with great disdain….

let that sink in…

For whom you hold with disdain,
for whom you loath,
for whom you distrust,
for whom you can’t stand,
for whom you claim to hate…

He, in turn, knows and loves.

And now remember the words of the saint…

Help them
Love them
Pray for them

And love them as He loves you….

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:18-21