pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

The intolerance of tolerance

“Our Western Nations have both forgotten God and forgotten where they have come from.
Now they are attempting to complete the process of severing the roots of Western civilization,
destroying its root system poisoning its soil and ruining its entire spiritual,
moral and social ecology”

Os Guinness

Only a renewal of Biblical Christianity will save Western civilization…
otherwise, we are doomed to go the way of the great Roman and Greek civilizations.

David Robertson


(gulls enjoying a morning looking for fish / Rosemary Beach, Fl /Julie Cook / 2019)

It seems that our favorite cleric from down under…
you know the one…the one who use to be from merely across the pond
but who is perhaps technically now under the pond rather than across it,
has recently offered some wonderful insight into our latest cultural woe…
that being Cultural Marxism.

We’ve talked about this before.

And we’ll just keep on talking about it because it is a real and present evil..
one that is currently burrowing its way into our lives…and please note
that is a fact and not merely right-winged hysteria.

You may recall that the Rev. David Roberston resigned his post as head pastor
at St Peter’s Free Chruch (reformed Presbyterian) in Dundee, Scotland after
27 years in order to move to Sydney Australia.
He continues to write, preach and blog away just as he continues to be
what I like to call a modern-day Christian soldier…

The post that I’m referencing today is actually a post that is based on the notes used
for a recent talk, David gave at the New South Wales Parliament Round Table Forum.

He opens the post with a small disclaimer to his readers…

David states that he is a white, middle-aged male who hails from a historically
imperialistic nation.
He notes that he also has, and most likely still, considers himself a socialist
as well as a Christian.
He also extols that he went to school not to merely get a degree in hopes of
procuring a job, but rather that he went to school in order to learn.

“I think education is in and of itself a good thing and should not be about
social engineering in some kind of Brave New World dystopia.”

So I will state my own disclaimer.

I am a white, late middle-aged, woman who hails from a leading
world power, democratic nation.
I am a Christian.
I am college-educated.
And I am from the South of this said democratic nation.

I think folks like to call where I hail from the Bible belt of the Nation.
But I don’t know if that is still applicable as no one seems to be a local
anymore but rather imports.
Imports who don’t give two hoots about Bibles or belts.

I am not a socialist but rather a moralistic conservative.
I don’t know if that’s a thing or not, but it pretty much sums me up in a nutshell.
Moralistic.
Conservative.
Oh, and don’t forget, a woman.
All that girl power out there should give me points where the
moralistic and conservative aspect take points away…
or so say the current culture gods.

David pulls heavily from a couple of books for his notes.
One of the books is actually a book I’ve alo pulled heavily from as well,
Melvin Tinker’s book The Hideous Strength

I learned of this little book actually from David and his posted review of
the book some time back.
It was written in 2018 and is based on the fictional a work of C.S.Lewis of
the same title, That Hideous Strength.

The other book David pulled from is Rob Smith’s book Concocted Conspiracy or Revolutionary Reality
A book I am not familiar with.

And so yes, before we begin, we all know that I’ve written about the ills of Marxism
before just as has David…
however, David is offering us a bit of an updated timely reminder as he also throws in
the recent dangerous push of identity politics.

David notes that
“Marxist theory leads to three aims –
the abolition of private property, the abolition of the family
and the abolition of the Church.”

I think most of us over the age of 50 will agree,
all but maybe Bernie Sanders, that Marxism is a scourge.

However a scourge it may be, sadly our youthful progressive liberal culture seems
hell-bent on implementing it and won’t rest until it does—

This misguided and out of touch with reality post-Christian, progressive
youthful culture is equally supported by many of our own Democratic hopefuls
running for President of the United States, along with their fellow House
Democratic members who seem equally hell-bent on the Marxism quest.

Why am I now thinking that the word pandering must be somewhere behind all of this??

Think the Fab 4…but again, we digress.

Marxism, as history has so blatantly demonstrated, does not work– end of sentence.
Nor will it ever work in a conventionally democratic nation.
Again, end of sentence.

And once again, as previously stated, history emphatically teaches us this.

And yet we are apparently such slow learners, as well as products of amnesia,
that it appears we’ve all but forgotten our own history lessons.

Think the Soviet Union and Karl Marx.

Think 1987 as President Reagan tells the current sitting leader of
the Soviet Union, ” Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”….

It took from about 1917 until 1987 but that wall did indeed come tumbling down.
However, I fear most of our youthful progressives wouldn’t be able to
actually name said wall of which we speak, and as to why we even speak about it…
but I digress.

Oh and I forgot… we might just be able to thank our heavily angst-ridden liberal colleges
and the equally liberal professors for this lapse in history teaching as they have been
busily rewriting that very history…one event at a time.

But David explains what this lastest Marxist and totalitarian scourge will eventually
do to life as we know it if we as a society continue on this same trajectory.

Things that were once embraced will be rejected and that which was once accepted as
normal behavior will be forbidden.
Look at what the PC culture is doing, has done, to Christianity and morality
along with your right to hold on to such as sacred and true.

“Another tool is the totalitarian (as opposed to the Christian) view of tolerance.
Things which are perceived as preventing freedom or happiness cannot be tolerated.
“certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed,
certain policies cannot be exposed, certain behaviour cannot be permitted without making
tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude”.

Political correctness is driven by two things,
group identity and the discounting of truth as valuable.
Some groups are beyond criticism.
Some truths cannot be said.

And it appears that Christianity, the Judaeo / Christian tradition,
the traditional family, traditional Western Civilization, differing opinions,
white males, morality, truth, conservativism, etcetera…
have all fallen into that category of that which may no longer be uttered…

All the while, abortion, gender fluidity, transgenderism, fake news, liberalism, safe rooms,
LBGTQ_____ (fill in the blanks with any letter that pleases you), atheism, racism, fascism,
‘isms’ of every shape, size, and description… are all the rage as are those
who embrace such…
Embrace anything other than the aforementioned and then you my friend will be ridiculed,
sued, attacked, heckled, disgraced, run out of business, run out of town and gleefully obliterated.

Yet David offers one last piece of closing wisdom in which we all must reach…

“You cannot have the fruits of Christianity if you do not have the root of Christ.”

Cultural Marxism in Modern Society…

courage, courageous or more of the same ol’ lies…

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point,
which means at the point of highest reality. ”

C.S. Lewis


(image from the movie of Hacksaw Ridge)

Okay, so lately we’ve been reading, hearing and seeing a lot being made mention
concerning the notion of courage.

You know what I think of when I hear or see the word courage?

Hacksaw Ridge.

If you have not seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge…well you need to watch it in order
to understand the notion of courage.

It’s the courage of being both verbally and physically abused…not by some twisted
martyristic desire but rather as a result of one’s convictions.
To be beaten to a pulp because you’ve opted to stand up for your Christian faith of
pacifism because you feel deeply called to do your part against the onslaught and scourge
of fascism during a world war.

A subjugation of abuse simply because of your belief and faith.
Ridiculed and maligned because you know deep down, God has called you to serve and you
believe that serving means to do so without a gun.

And as a faithful servant, you know you must answer God’s call…
it is simply what you must endure.

And yet there are a myriad of examples of courage…
it’s just that that one example first came to mind.

Of course, you can walk down any children’s hospital across this Nation and you will
readily see courage on a day to day basis on each and every face of each and every child
in each one of those hospitals…
but that is a different tale for a different day.

However, the courage we keep hearing about these days is a different type of courage.
It is a man-made notion of courage that has been molded to fit neatly into a post-Chrisitan era.

Courage as in it is courageous to come out of “one’s closet”
Courage as in it is courageous to admit to being gay.
Courage as in it is courageous to be born, say, a man, and decide to be a woman…
or visa-versa…only to decide differently agian…and on and on…
Courage as in it is courageous to stand up for beliefs that are for all things progressive
as in contrary to anything conservative or even orthodox…

Yet it seems that this modern-day courageous business hits a speed bump when
one thinks that being courageous simply means to speak out and against middle American
conservative values…

Values such as the concept of a traditional family, sexual morality,
life versus abortion, to possess a strong work ethic versus a governmental handout,
opposition to illegal immigration, patriotism etc…

Today’s society believes it is courage to scorn traditional beliefs.

That is not courage…that is egotistical arrogance pretending to be courageous.

And so when reading our friend the Wee Flea’s latest post,
I am reminded of the importance of courage.

Well actually…it’s from reading his last two posts…
as one is a book review and the other is a piggyback from both the book and
its review as well as a rebuttal to the author.

His is a post that was written to refute the latest adulations over a former Chrisitan singer
(Vicky Breeching / Undivided)
who has let herself out of the proverbial closet and who has written a book describing her
now liberating ordeal as brave because she has been a lifelong victim of
conservative Christianity…

So that’s it now???

As a sinner, one is now simply a victim??

A victim of sin…but what of repentance?
Sin, it seems is now without a cross, without a Savior and without saving Grace…

Well, that certainly lets us all off the hook now doesn’t it…

This woman is currently making the US and UK book tour circuit and has been met with a
resounding level of applause from the liberal press, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and those of the LGBT sector.

David reminds those of us who remain opposed to any sort of notion of a Biblical
condoning of a homosexual relationship as being perfectly fine that we are not,
in the eyes of God, wrong…
no matter how much our progressive society tries to paint us as wrongheaded
and backward in our thinking.

This new trend that seems to be known as “Gay Christianity” is actually a most
dangerous trend that is working fast and furious to drive a wedge straight into the heart
of the Chruch.

And so David, in his recent post, list points for Christians to hold to and to be
accountable to in this latest fight…
with one such point being that of courage and courageousness.
And it is with courage that we stand united against the growing assault by a
progressive post-Christan culture.

8) We must not be cowards – we respond with courage.

One person wrote and told me that after they posted a ‘like’ to my review on
‘Undivided’, they were reported to a British Government institution for being homophobic!
This is the kind of intimidation that causes many to be silent.
Vicky talks about British evangelical churches putting their heads in the sand and being silent.
She is right. We need to speak out against the intimidation and the lies…
even, or especially, when it comes from those who are pleasant and plausible.
Are you prepared to speak out with grace and truth?
And we need the courage to rebuke those who would take the same view as us but are abusive
and full of hatred.

David concludes his post with a lesson…

One final lesson I have gleaned from Vicky’s book and interviews.
In her woundedness and hurt, she has become a very intolerant and demanding person.
She won’t attend churches that hold non-affirming theology, like HTB.
She demands that churches she goes to should never have someone in the pulpit who says
that marriage should be between a man and a woman –
because otherwise she might be triggered.
(I note in passing that there is not a great deal of humility or tolerance in her approach…’
do what I want or I will condemn you’ is the mantra.
She has also ‘unfollowed’ me on Twitter…which kind of gives the lie to
‘lets have respectful discussion’ –
I find that most liberals are like that –
we have to agree with them, or we are beyond the pale).
She wants the warmth and friendliness of the evangelical church –
just without the evangel.
My fear is that there are far too many of us evangelicals who are dangerously
close to a similar position – in private if not in public.

Liberal evangelicals want a God without judgement, a Cross without atonement,
a Bible without hard things and a church without the Jesus of the Bible.

Those of us who believe in that Jesus must hold fast and not be intimidated or deceived
into giving up on him.
I leave you with these apposite words from that Jesus to the church in Thyatira –
Words that today would see him accused of ‘hate speech’ and condemned by the liberal
evangelicals of being ‘unChristlike’!

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet
are like burnished bronze.
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance,
and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.
By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of
food sacrificed to idols.
I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
So I will cast her on a bed of suffering,
and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely,
unless they repent of her ways.
I will strike her children dead.
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds,
and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church about Vicky Beeching and ‘Gay Christianity’

The Inferno

“When it became clear that the death warrant for hundreds of thousands
of Irish babies was about to be signed, it broke my heart.
When I saw the grotesque pictures of people dancing in the streets in
celebration it was like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.”

David Robertson


(Dante)

Dante degli Alighieri was a 14th century Florentine who is most remembered for the epic
poems he composed into a collection known as The Divine ComedyInferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso
in other words, Hell, Purgatory and finally Paradise.

The collection of 3 poems are as epic as they are brilliant.
An allegory for what Dante believed were his own dark days and yet sadly for us,
during these trying days of our own, his words are most timely as they remain as a
reflective mirror—reflecting the emptiness of our own darkness.

As noted by a description on Wikipedia,
“it [hell] is the “realm…
of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites
or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice
against their fellowmen”.

Our friend the Wee Flea, the Scottish Pastor David Robertson, continues in his most
recent post which piggybacks off of the post he wrote just following the passing of the
referendum in Ireland rescinding the ban on abortion, as a most troubling sign of the times.

David likens much of what we are witnessing coming out of Ireland, in particular
what is coming out of the capital of Dublin, with its now jubilant party-like atmosphere
following the passage of the vote,
as something that could be straight out of the pages of Dante’s Inferno.

David notes that the vote, which is in itself bad enough in its own right, almost pales in
comparison to the near-hysterical celebratory mania that has followed the referendum’s passage…
a frenzied jumbled hoopla that is more than disturbing, it is downright barbaric.

Think about it…
a vote passed with an overwhelmingly large percentage in favor of the right to
terminate pregnancies up to 12 weeks…meaning that a mother can decide to
legally kill her unborn child, and the people are celebrating as if some massive
and oppressive enemy has just been finally and thankfully defeated.

Some sort of David and Goliath moment but so utterly far from such.

Prior to this vote, women in Ireland who wished to terminate their pregnancy
had to travel to Britain.

Yet today, women from around the globe are now proclaiming this latest referendum as
a giant victory in the way of women’s rights.
It’s that whole notion of ‘it’s my body, it’s my choice’ nonsense.

But what of it no longer being just your body involved?
Technically it is no longer the choice of a single individual because there are
actually, two bodies now involved.

And if the truth be told, it is not merely a singular choice or even a choice of two…
but rather it is a choice that truthfully involves three…

Yet oddly we never seem to hear about nor count the male who was involved
and assisted in the occurrence of this now rather ominous choice that is proclaimed as
being a singular choice.

David startingly notes that the whereas the politicians and the media have each
joined in the festivities proclaiming this referendum as a victory for the people…
the collective body of Church families has remained eerily silent.

The Catholic Chruch, silent.
The Anglican Chruch, silent.
The Chruch of Scotland, silent
The Free Chruch, silent.
The Baptist Chruch, silent.

A few clergy members here and there have voiced their sorrow but as far as a collective
Christian body response, the voices remain silent…

My favorite quote by Dante:
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis,
maintain their neutrality.”

Perhaps the Chruch needs a reminder of the volumes her indifference speaks…

The Irish Referendum – the Repercussions

Matt. 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked,
“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble,
it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be
drowned in the depths of the sea.

it takes more than a resolution, it takes a tenacious faith

There is nothing wrong with bringing resolution and courage to the new year,
but life is precarious. And dealing with the death of friends,
tragedy striking unexpectedly and bits of one’s body giving up,
needs more than just well-gritted teeth.

Gavin Ashenden


(a Norwegian wolverine demonstrates tenacity, grit and a fearsomeness)

Life is indeed precarious.
None of us know where it will take us next.
I dare say we all have some sort of notion of where we’d like to go,
even as to how we’d like to get there…but again, there are no guarantees.

Bishop Ashenden, in his wanderings and wonderings over the notion about new years
and their resolutions, has a bit of a lesson for each of us.

Now first we must note that we are a number liking people—-
just consider the fact that we are all about stats and numbers,
especially if we are wanting to justify or clearly define that with is unjust or undefinable.

Statistics show that they, being stats, are stacked against resolutions.
This we know.
Numbers don’t lie right?

Just yesterday I read some headline stating that by February, 80% of every New Year’s
resolution, is simply scattered by the wayside…
discarded and forgotten.

I don’t even bother.
I learned years ago that resolutions are simply short lived—
somewhat feeble attempts of being a better/ healthier person.
It takes more than just a resolution for those two things to take hold.
And when push comes to shove—the resolutions get shoved.
And it is that very reason, the good bishop notes,
a resolution will simply die…
Because Life simply has a different plan.

Life will put up a brick wall and all resolutions not to mention stamina, mindset
and determination quickly head out the back door.

Yet for many of us, a new year becomes some sort of giant reset button.
A time to review, remove, rewrite, renew….
And that certainly has its merit….
that is, up to a point.

Yet what the good Bishop is reminding us of is that as life has a way of
steamrolling over our best of intentions and plans, so much so that when that happens
as it eventually will, it’s going to take a lot more from within to survive
the steamrolling…
much more than a resolution or even gritted teeth that are grinning and bearing
can endure.

Life is hard.

It is not fair nor is it often kind…

And yet….we always seem to think that with some sort of twisted finagling,
we can beat it and actually win.
And we might actually do so but only for a while…for eventually,
Life in the end will have its way and that is when we in turn call it calamity,
sickness and even death.

And so the good Bishop looks to one who has gone on long before us but yet lives
on in her writings….
St Julian of Norwich (1373).

Julian had a tenacious belief in God.
She was what was known as an Anchoress….or one who literally attached
or anchored themselves to a church.

She was literally sealed up into a cell attached to the church of St Julian’s
there in Norwich, hence her name—as we really don’t know her actual name.
(here’s a bit of history lesson concerning this dear woman:
http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/norfolk/norwich/st-julian.htm)

Julian spent a lifetime devoted to God and ministering to those who would come
to the window of her cell seeking solace, prayer or wisdom.

Julian experienced visions and wrote these visions down—
as the writings eventually became a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

Tenacious and unrelenting—the only way Julian would extol that one should or could
best live…and that was to be anchored to the Divinity of the Creator and to the Love
He offered as in the tangible being of His Son…..

Bishop Ashenden notes that “it’s this belief in God that offers the kind of
affirmation for us that equips us best to deal with uncertainty,
and even tragedy, as we face the future remembering the disturbing
uncertainty of the past.”

The good Bishop relays a story of one of the many visions that Julian
was so famous for having–visions of God as Divine Creator.

Delusions of a mad or even physically ill woman some would claim….
but a gift of visions is what the faithful know….

So when Julian witnessed God taking the planet Earth and holding it in
His hand she responds by asking Him about its now seemingly smallness…..

‘It is all that is made.’ (God replied) I marvelled how it might last,
for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: “It lasts and ever shall,
for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian of Norwich

Throughout her visions she was taught that God could and would bring good out
of evil and because of that there was no need for anxiety.
Her motto and mantra became,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

and perhaps Julian gives us the best of resolutions…to know that all shall indeed be
well when we rest in the Divine Love of God which is found incarnate in Christ, Jesus.

Belief in Christ brings the affirmation needed to strengthen our resolution.

heed thy words

img_0891
(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

img_0888
(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47

crime and punishment meets mercy

woman-caught-in-adultery

Two thousand years ago, or so the story goes, there was a woman who was accused,
by the elders of her community, of having committed adultery.
She was taken to the central courtyard of her village for punishment.

The woman was bound and dumped onto the hot sandy center of town.
Next she was surrounded by her accusers,
the men of the community,
who would now proceed to pelt her with rocks…
one rock at a time,
until she was dead.
All of which, depending on the size of stones, the number of men gathered, coupled with
the accuracy and speed with which each stone was thrown, death could be anywhere
from 20 minutes to 2 hours…
Slow, painful and torturous…

This was the required and assumed punishment for any woman accused of such an act…
never mind if the man involved was married and guilty, punishment did not usually await him.
And not all accused woman were actually guilty.
It was often a convenient deterrent to others…as well as a way to do away
with undesirables…

And so the story goes….

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning
he was back again at the Temple.
A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees
brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.
They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus,
“this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
The law of Moses says to stone her.
What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him,
but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said,
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one,
beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left
in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman,
“Where are your accusers?
Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said,
“Neither do I.
Go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

Fast forward to 2016 Iran.

Stoning is still an accepted form of punishment in many Middle Eastern countries.
It is still a widely practiced and totally acceptable means of punishment in
Sharia Muslim communities…and as we see from the recent following story out of Iran,
even to protest or write against such, is an equally punishable offense.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37575193

Mercy,
Grace,
Forgiveness
Hope…

or—

a fate buried in stone…

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10