A time of force verses a time of reason

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught
falsehoods in school.
And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a
lunatic and fool”

Plato

“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

William Shakespeare


(bad day for a little fish / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I can’t recall exactly where I read it, just the other night…
that we are living in a time when force trumps that of reason.

Meaning that whereas we were once a people of reason and rational thought…
we have now morphed into a people who have decided that force will be the
De Facto rather than De Jure.

Brut force now triumphing over our ability to intellectually reason…
As brut force has become the preferred plat du jour.

And it was reading that little observation that I was hit square between the eyes.

As in…that’s what this has all been about…hasn’t it!?

This madness we’ve been witnessing all these many months…
these protests, demonstrations and attacks against our own countrymen…
It’s all about the loss of reason and the gain of force.

No longer are the masses allowing rational thought to lead us in our governance,
living and thinking but rather they are exhibiting a dangerous proclivity
for the power of sheer brut force…
Brut force in order to yield their desired end result.

For this new growing angry mass has lost all patience for proper procedure,
due process and even free thought as they demonstrate that they have no taste for
the civil, the sequential or the rational…
preferring to use brawn and force against those who they find to be counter
in both thought and belief…

It’s no longer a matter of presentation, persuasion, and civil discourse …
instead it is a matter of beating one senseless, bullying one to yielding
and forcing one into submission…

Then…

NSDAP supporters are fighting on the street against KPD supporters, scene from ‘Horst Wessel’, directed by Franz Wenzler, Germany 1933.

And Now…..


(NBC news)

The pendulum continues to swing…in a most dangerous direction…

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason
for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

sticky wickets

“Your Excellency, Sir William Morrison, and gentlemen. I am afraid tonight,
owing to the rain we have had in this island of Springs,
I am batting on rather a sticky wicket. We have just heard Sir William Morrison make,
in my opinion, a magnificent speech. I do not hope or think of living up to that.”

the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, April 1930:

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(stem of my lovely bumpy pumpkin / Julie Cook / 2016)

Recently, having read an article about a school district ordering its elementary schools teachers
to immediately remove any and all references to Christianity from within their classrooms, sent a
familiarly eerie warning siren sounding within this old educator’s head….

No bibles were to be on their desks, no verses or images containing scriptures
were to be posted on the walls or in the halls,
there were to be no tag lines on their emails with any religious reference,
no mention of Christmas, or Easter…no religious images were to be displayed,
no references whatsoever of the Christian faith were to be evident…
end of sentence, period.

The district’s orders were indeed that, dictatorial orders.
No sort of explanation or conversation but rather strictly a “do as we say or else” sort of directive.
As an adult and educator, I always hated when the powers that be spoke down to their teachers as though they were, well yes, children.

It’s one thing for those in charge to say, “hey, we’ve received some complaints, or even a threatening law suit, etc, so we are asking that you please refrain…”
Instead it is the dictatorial command from up above…
laced with a threatening tone as well as a heavy dose of fear mongering.

Teachers were however told that they could continue wearing religious “trinkets”,
i.e. a cross necklace,
but anything that was considered too showy or attention grabbing or
blatantly displayed was strictly forbidden.

I can remember several years ago when I was still in the classroom and many of the current music entertainers had taken to wearing large crosses and rosaries…so our students, ever the fashion conscious, were quick to sport their own versions of the large showy crosses and rosaries around their necks.

To say that I was disappointed seeing prayer beads worn around ones’ neck as
something urbanely trendy was an understatement
as I’ve always felt prayer beads were just that…
for prayer….
but I digress.

I wonder if this particular school district, which just so happens to be in my own state,
has issued letters home to their parents asking that their children refrain from
bringing anything Christian related to school or wearing such…
or even that of the soon to be Christmas fashion world?
Or heaven’s forbid anyone talk about what happened at Wednesday night church…

Yet there was no mention as to removing anything Jewish nor was there
mention of anything of the Muslim faith..
no removing any stars of David, no removing prayer rugs,
no removing the kippah from the heads of young Jewish boys…
no removing henna tattoos from the hands of young Muslim girls,
no forbidding of any reference to Rosh hashanah or Yom Kippur
or Ramadan or Eid…
strictly a Christian sort of edict.

As a long time educator, I understand full well the whole concept of the separation of church and state…as we don’t want our schools endorsing or promoting any set religion…
for schools are simply to educate by following a set curriculum…I get that.

But as an educator, I also understand the undeniably woven nature of the
Christian faith in our history as a people of Western Civilization.
It is in the history of our DNA…whether we like it or not—
and no matter how hard we try to erase it from our very being as a people…we simply can’t.

There are very appropriate times when Christianity, and or the study of such,
is very much a part of a lesson.

I find it almost comical when our society tries to neuter the Christian faith.

Dare we not talk of the Pilgrims offering thanks that first Thanksgiving,
thanks to God that, quite frankly, they’ve actually survived thus far,
let alone why they came here in the first place…
to worship freely?

Dare we not speak of the Judaeo / Christian tenants which are the
basis of our own laws and legal system as we look at
the role the Ten commandments have played.
That whole thou shall not murder thing…

Dare we not look at the treasures offered to us artistically,
culturally, musically and even architecturally in the artwork, literature,
music and architecture which has reflected the endearing faith of Western Civilization…

Who among us didn’t read Pilgrims Progress or the Canterbury Tales, or works by
JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or even Martin Luther in a lit class?

What of the music of Bach, Mozart or Beethoven?

As an art teacher, my room was rife with images of the Renaissance.
Images from both Latin West and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Images from Africa, Asia, Native American….
along with the images of the importance spirituality played in each culture…
because like it or not spirituality and man have always been linked…
and from that came man’s desire to create, encapsulating that spirituality…
and that might be good spirituality or bad…
but such is to the eye of the beholder…

We explored the written words of the Latin, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Greek,
indigenous Indians, Arabic, and even Druid societies
as we looked at the history and relationship the
written word has to our visual understanding.

‘Over the top’ is the best way to describe how I often feel school systems
react when they feel threatened in some way…
They will bend over backwards, at the expense of their personnel,
good well trained personnel, if they feel that they might be sued,
cited or possibly lose critical funding…
should they not bow to the pressure of a few.

Sadly it is the local, state and even federal governments
who are putting the pressure on their own school systems to conform to
this current trend of across the board neutering…
Neutering of not all religion, but blatantly to just one…

It would be one thing if they had said absolutely no to all references to each and every religion,
but this district was very specific in referencing the Christian faith only.
For that, I cry foul.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/10/04/school-orders-teachers-to-remove-religious-items-from-classrooms.html

Then shortly after having read the first article, I next came across the following article
citing the current persecution of Christian believers taking place in Uzbekistan…
over the possessing of any and all Christian material…
and to the extreme measures the Uzbek Government is taking to
curtail and punish all offenders..

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.persecution.on.the.rise.in.uzbekistan.where.just.owning.a.bible.is.illegal/97157.htm

As I am left to simply scratch my head as to why Governments and Nations and even
School districts fear
the mere visibility of Christianity….

May we be mindful of our past…

In the field of education, everything was done to ensure that the youth of Germany was brought up in the atmosphere of National Socialism and accepted National Socialist teachings. As early as the 7th April, 1933, the law reorganising the Civil Service had made it possible for the Nazi Government to remove all ” Subversive and unreliable teachers “, and this was followed by numerous other measures to make sure that the schools were staffed by teachers who could be trusted to teach their pupils the full meaning of National Socialist creed. Apart from the influence of National Socialist teaching in the schools, the Hitler Youth Organisation was also relied upon by the Nazi Leaders for obtaining fanatical support from the younger generation. The defendant von Schirach, who had been Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed Youth Leader of the German Reich in June, 1933. Soon all the youth organisations had been either dissolved or absorbed by the Hitler Youth, with the exception of the Catholic Youth. The Hitler Youth was organised on strict military lines, and as early as 1933 the Wehrmacht was cooperating in providing pre-military training for the Reich Youth.
Excerpt from the Nazi Jewish Party
The Nazi Regime in Germany
The Jewish Virtual Library

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens,
to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew
24:24

Authority vs Power

“Another time of testing has come.
Another day of reckoning is here.
This is a testing and a reckoning…
that could prove even more decisive than earlier trials.”

Os Guinness

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(statue of St Peter stands looking over St Peter’s Square, The Vatican/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“The Kingdom of God is the realm of true authority; the kingdom of Satan is seen in the tyranny of raw power.”
(God and Churchill/ Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley

In his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence, written long before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the then former Chancellor of the Exchequer penned his bleak yet precautionary predictions for the future of not only Western Civilization, but the world at large.

Churchill’s essay was written post WWI, while the destructive images of a devastated Europe raged fresh in his mind just as the rumors of new wars festered along the horizon….

“Without an equal growth of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, Science herself may destroy all that makes human life majestic and tolerable. There never was a time when the inherent virtue of human beings required more strong and confident expression in daily life; there never was a time when the hope of immortality and the disdain of earthly power and achievement were more necessary for the safety of the children of men.”

Churchill’s opining of predictions were but a stone cast into a pond whose ripples were to reach to what he saw to be 1981…
however his words and thoughts, those ripples, continue to be relevant to our own day and time these 85 years later…well past the initial envisioned fifty years.
In fact his words ring more true today than they did in 1981.

I think we’d all agree that our times are exceedingly precarious.
Many an observer notes the almost tangible and even palpable fear that is presently running as an electric current throughout the world.
Radical Islamic Extremists,
global terrorism,
coups,
civil wars,
our own racial divide and unrest…
all of which has rocked this 21st century world.

There are many, myself included, who can’t help but to see the mirrored comparisons of a rising Adolph Hitler and his Nazi death machine compared to today’s current menacing death machine of Islamic fanaticism and its declared war or caliphate against the West and the Judeao / Christian foundation…of which has stood since the days of Constantine…

“We are confronted with another theme. It is not a new theme;
it leaps out upon us from the Dark Ages–
racial persecution, religious intolerance, deprivation of free speech,
the conception of the citizen as a mere soulless fraction of the State.
To this has been added the cult of war.
Children are to be taught in their earliest schooling the delights and profits of conquest
and aggression.
A whole mighty community has been drawn painfully, by severe privations,
into a warlike frame.”

(except of speech broadcast to Britain and the United States October 16, 1938)

Reading these words, not knowing they were spoken 78 years ago, in a different time and place, one would imagine them to be easily written today…
If we listen carefully we hear the ominous warnings…
warnings concerning the madrassas of today with their radical teachings to the youth of Islam…
we hear of the ongoing global teachings of intolerance for Western society…
we hear of the hate for the Christian and Jewish communities throughout the world…
warnings and reminders being echoed of the soulless citizens having lived or who are currently living under the blankets of communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships and the growing rise of socialism….
anything but democracy….

It would behoove us, as we stand on the cusp of the dire decisions and votes being cast…
with their often ominous results–
not only on a national level, but to the choices, votes and decisions being made globally,
to understand the difference between what is true authority verses what is power merely cloaked in a false authoritative shawl.

Authority shows itself in constructive power, whereas raw power is inevitably destructive, as Hitler and the Nazis amply demonstrated. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, but power is seized.
Authority is given to the humble, those under authority; power is snatched by the proud, who acknowledge no authority over themselves. Authority is sustained through relationship, which is why Churchill devoted so much time to communicating and to being among the people. Raw power, on the other hand, is sustained through four control mechanisms: manipulation, condemnation, intimidation, and domination, skills that Hitler and the Nazis honed to a sharp point”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Again, words written regarding a past time yet even more relevant today…

May we open our ears to the past as we open our eyes to the future as we currently wrestle with seeking
new governing leadership…
May we be mindful to look to those individuals who seek not to grab power but rather to those who seek to lead under the authority that has been granted from the only One who can truly grant authority to those who seek His counsel for those who which they are charged to lead….

The whole world is upborne and sustained by God’s Love, and each person was created as an act of love. This is truly incomprehensible to us because we can’t see clearly the breath, and depth, and enormous scope of such great love. God looked at each stage of Creation and said clearly that it was good: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish, and the plants. All is good, all is blessed, and all is an outpouring of Trinitarian love. When we were created, then God said that this was more than good, but very good. Very good! When will we live up to such a great calling, to such a great love: personal, intense, and giving the power to also create around us an expression of God’s goodness and love. Help us, O Lord, to fulfill Thy precious love in us and in all we touch and see.
Amen.
(offering prayer from the monks at St Isaac’s Orthodox Skete)
(http://www.skete.com/index.cfm)

infestation

…but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.

Hosea 7:2

“Some day the soft Ideal that we wooed confronts us fiercely, foe-beset, pursued, and cries reproachful: ‘Was it then my praise, and not myself was loved? Prove now thy truth; I claim of thee the promise of thy youth.’”
James Russell Lowell

RSCN3032
(chives infested with black aphids / Julie Cook / 2016)

The innocent chive is laid claim by a myriad of tiny pests,
far too many for the eye to number…
Which is all but too similar to the same dark irksomeness which befalls man’s very soul.

They cover the poor buds and blooms…
feasting on the very life juices which coarse through the plant…
All the while an insidious darkness, which vies to blanket man’s soul,
leaches forth all that is decent and good.

The ants have arrived in order to protect the mindless aphids, farming them as it were,
all for their own selfish pleasures and symbiotic delight…
Just as the master of darkness soothingly whispers that it shall all be well…
longing to hold on to one more soul in his ever collusive world…

Spray as one must, vainly attempting to rid the plant of these pests,
the seemingly endless siege momentarily abates…
only to return, growing exponentially more fierce.
As our own trials of the will dip in and out of sight.

With the chives survival ever insight…
A total ridding and annihilation of each tiny black pest is the only true solution…
While man, in turn, labors to waylay his own invasive scourge

It may seem drastic at best, if the chive is to live,
but total eradication is the only option should the plant be spared…
just as the total yielding of the will of man is the one and only hope…
for the eternal life free from sin’s deadly infestation

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;

Job 22:21-23

Backwards and forwards

Nobody gets to live life backward.
Look ahead, that is where your future lies.

Ann Landers

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Gleandalough National Park / County Wicklow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Peering over the top of the rock wall, we stare out over an unfamiliar site.
The who’s, the what’s and the why’s of another day and time.
Names forgotten.
Beginning and ending dates, once so important to those whom the comings and the goings of these particular lives truly mattered, are now nothing more than mere worn numbers.

We live,
we perish,
we mourn,
as the living move forward.

Are we different because of those who now are on the other side of the wall?
Are we better?
Are we worse?
Have we been affected at all?

Their voices may now be silent, yet we hear them whisper…
There are warnings, advice, encouragement and guidance
But only if we stop long enough to listen.

Their’s are regrets, sorrows, as well as lives well lived and loved.
Many, such as those across the wall, are all but long forgotten.
A weathered worn marker, ravaged by time and the elements, once a place
for melancholy recollections, stands now as a lonely sage to an unsuspecting future.

We can look and wonder…
We can imagine what may have been,
as we wonder what might yet be…

The way was paved.
For good or for bad.
There were mistakes…grave and regrettable.
Yet there were also moments of greatness and wonder.

Are we better?
Would they be amazed or would they knowingly shake their heads in disbelief?
Do they know what we don’t…
that we too have a date with destiny…
Yet with but two choices remaining…?

We must choose to yield a stone cold will
or
Either we choose to set that will to stone…
just like many of those on the other side of the rock wall…

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

Awaiting the harvest

Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.
James 5:7

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(wild pears / Julie Cook / 2014)

Some years the lone wild pear tree, perched deep in the woods, bears a bountiful crop. For what and for whom is uncertain as these are not the succulent pears of Anjou or Sekel. These are small hard bitter pears that neither deer nor raccoon will eat.

Other years this lone little tree yields but a single pear, perhaps two, maybe even three.
No matter whether there are baskets, or not, overflowing with fruit nor that the fruit is edible—the tree bears in both times that are lean and times that are plentiful.

The love of the masterful Creator, the omnipotent Father, equally bears a bountiful crop. At times it is a wonder as to what and for whom that bountiful love should be made available. Yet the crop is never exclusive nor sparse. The basket is open to any and all who may wish to reach in.

In times both lean and plentiful, the basket remains full. The harvest is always plentiful, yet those who choose to partake may often be few. The availability is never lacking. The basket overflows with a greater abundance than imaginable. The fruit is never bitter, always sweet.

However the time will come when the harvest and the season will draw to an end.
The abundance will wane.
The tree will be bare.
The basket will quickly empty.
Who will be left wanting
and
Who will remain full?

Letting God be God

“Faith and repentance mean letting God be God also in our actions and being obedient to him precisely in our deeds”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Except taken from the Berlin Papers 1932-1933

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(image of a single remaining leaf on the tree we had “removed” this past week / Julie Cook / 2013)

Letting God be God is often one of the most difficult tasks we all face at some point or other in our lives. I know most personally that this is one issue which I most often face as I tend to be rather headstrong, often feeling the need to “take over” the situation or task in which I have asked for God’s very help.

I like to think this little tendency of mine is due, in large part, to the teacher in me—as the need to be the one in the room who is facilitating and leading comes rather natural. The person who directs and oversees the group. The person who is responsible for the lives entrusted to one’s care. With that responsibility comes the need to guide and care for. . .

Not surprisingly, when I take back whatever task I’ve attempted leaving in God’s hands, the results are most often a disastrous mess—I allow myself to get worked up into a terrible dither with a soaring stress level, when I could have simply “let go, in order to let God”–resting in the knowledge that He’s in charge, that “He’s got this” —-whatever the “this” may be.

Have you ever been in the midst of some situation which seems to suck the very life out of you as your time and energy is totally consumed and tied up in and with this particular issue? You are at your wits end both emotionally and physically. You feel as if you’ve done all you can do and yet things are no better than they were—when suddenly, thankfully, someone else steps up— someone with a fresh perspective who is full of energy—who is ready to give the issue a go as you find yourself reluctantly acquiescing, yielding to the new strength this person possesses which is what you lost long ago—you finally let go, sigh, and fall back. . .thankful it is no longer in your hands. . .?

It never has to get to that point.

If only we, you, I could learn to let God be God. . .

To let go, to be obedient in both our actions and in our deeds. A life long quest that seems to come easily to others than it has to me I must sadly report. But the glory of it all is that it is never too late, time has not run out, there is still time to yield, to turn, to begin the steps towards obedience.

But of course you can still hang on if you prefer, fighting the losing battle, being headstrong and defiant. If that is what you want you may certainly continue carrying the burden. . .but I would beg to ask “how’s that working for you?’ Are you being successful? How are the lives of the people around you being affected? Are you miserable with that miserableness pouring out to the lives around you? Sounds all rather toxic to me.

Learning to yield to God doesn’t mean that the trials won’t come as the obstacles to cross will still be there and the challenges will still arise—but the glory is that you, that I, are no longer alone. There is One who is greater as He sees the big picture, not your, not mine, micro image of the issue at hand but rather the entire issue from start to finish.

It can be such a relief if only you, if only I, let Him do what He does best—being Father, being God—I must constantly remind myself that God is the Creator and I am but the created. He’s got this—-I can thankfully let go. . .

Here is to walking towards obedience and towards a life of allowing, yes allowing, God, to thankfully be God. It is all a matter of our “allowing” as He will not demand and/ or take—He is indeed a gentleman, He will not take over unless we allow Him to.

Are you willing yet to allow Him to be God or do you still want to try your hand at that? I’m personally ready for a little help.