the power to give…or not

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.
If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without
waiting for them to ask you.”

St. Thomas of Villanova


(an olive dries on the tree outside of St Peters, Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women, irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person who does not realize his
responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all…
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness. Strange power,
indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse: that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows, but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149
An Excerpt from
Christian Self-Mastery

joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

Construction in progress…

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this:
that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed;
but a thing created is loved before it exists.

Charles Dickens

work-in-progress-danger-sign-s-6313
(image borrowed from the web)

construction-progress-3
(image borrowed from the web)

Throughout history, man’s idea of advancement has been a familiar sequence…
conquest,
conquer,
construct.

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider.

And as it becomes passé and outdated,
the sequence begins again…

Reclaim,
Destruct,
Reconstruct…

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider….

A continuing cycle of:
claim, up, down…
reclaim, down, up…

God has a very different approach….

Give
Offer
Love
Hope
Life

bartolome-esteban-murillo-paintings_456040
(Nativity / Bartolome Esteban Murillo / Adoration of the Shepherds 1657

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Do not…compromise

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–
the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings,
without milestones, without signposts,…
Your affectionate uncle,
Screwtape.”

― C.S. Lewis,
The Screwtape Letters

Right is right even if no one is doing it;
wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.

St Augustine of Hippo

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile–
hoping it will eat him last.

Sir Winston Churchill

enhanced-buzz-3255-1345922156-1
(a youthful Winston Churchill in his WWI uniform)

Give and take…you were taught since being a child
Bend a little,
give a little…
Give more,
take less.

Compromise…

Yet in that unabashed revelry of our growing concession and settling…
we have deemed that everything and all, even the vast Creator himself…
should now bow down to each petty whim and want…

Never mind that the God of both Heaven and earth laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
(Psalm 119:4)

Never mind that the time has come when people no longer
live with sound teachings and doctrine…

Instead, to suit their own desires,
they gather around them great numbers of teachers who will say what their
itching ears long to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the Truth, turning rather to the side of all falsehood.

However we must remember to keep our head about us in all situations…
We will endure hardships…
but we must strive to do the work of the One who teaches the Truth
(2 Timothy 4:3-5)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for,
but may win a full reward.
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ,
does not have God.
Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching,
do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

2 John 1:7-11

Relinquishing all

We have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, with the whole Christ,
so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet.

St Andrew of Crete

DSCN2529
(a silvery canopy of Spanish moss / Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretence. What Our Lord wants us to present to Him is not goodness, nor honesty, nor endeavour, but real solid sin; that is all He can take from us. And what does He give in exchange for our sin? Real solid righteousness. But we must relinquish all pretence of being any thing, all claim of being worthy of God’s consideration.
Oswald Chambers

Relinquish
To let go
To yield
To release
To surrender

No holding on
No waffling
No balancing
It’s all or nothing.

Jesus beckons…
He calls your name.
He wants you…

Not the pieces…
Not the parts…
Not this or that
Not a portion…

But all…
Of you…

He wants everything…
Every aspect
Every love
Every like
Every dislike
Every hate
Every passion
Every possession
Even…
The darkness
The savings
The wealth
The debt
The stuff that makes you who you are
Your temper
Your joy
Your anguish
Your secrets

Yet are you willing to give Him your secrets?
The things you’re afraid others will see.
That which you hope to hide, especially from Him…
That which you hope to keep hidden…

What of the status, the position…
Your place among others…
What of the security…
The pleasures…
The comfort…
Are you willing to give away that which makes you comfortable?
Stable,
Steady,
Happy…

Are you willing to lay yourself, your entire being…
The good, the bad, the indifference, the naivety, the ignorance, the pompousness…
Everything that makes you you…not only at His feet
But under His feet?

Offering it all
100% of it all
No holding on and no holding back…

To the One who gave His all to you….

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17

measure well

Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.
“With the measure you use,
it will be measured to you…and even more.

Mark 4:24

DSCN2259
(a hungry cardinal / Carrollton, Ga / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You get as good as you give”…
or so the saying goes.
You offer kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity…
Only to be swindled, taken advantage of and then run amuck with bad luck, bad health, bad times.
Loss, suffering, pain, struggles, sadness and woe.
You fuss and curse a God, you may or may not know…
You curse Him for not preventing, thwarting or stopping all the bad which befalls you.
“Where is the returned measure of favor which SHOULD be shown?” you grouse.
You hear the voices from within and without shouting
“it’s not fair, it’s not right…”
nor is it just…

And you’re right, it’s not….it’s not fair nor just.
But God never said to do good or be good in order to get good..
He said do good, be kind, give much, forgive…all without ceasing.
If they take…give
If they take again, give more
If they strike…turn and afford them to strike again
If they curse…bless
If they scorn…love
All to be measured outward… without ceasing

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27-36

So use your measure well…making certain that your measured output is greater than your measured intake…

Setting the example—Happy Father’s Day

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Umberto Eco

DSC01720
(3 AM 26.5 years ago / Tanner Hospital / Julie Cook)

DSCN5343
(groom and best man/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Parenthood has never come with an instruction manual–
much to the frustration of many a first time parent.

On top of not having a step by step manual,
throw in having no clue as how to be a parent—
as your own background of dysfunctional raising,
by two individuals who truly had no business really being parents,
left only an example of what not to do.

Forget manuals, your parents didn’t even try to pretend they knew what they were doing.
Throw in moving 5 times before your were 8. . .throwing out all thoughts of stability.
Throw in alcohol.
Throw in abuse.
Throw in the fact that this was a time when no one talked about such. . .
There were no Betty Ford clinics, no fashionable rehabs, just the state mental hospital.
How were you to tell your friends that your dad’s on another binge and was taken away kicking and screaming?
Throw in the fact your coaches, teachers and friends all saw the bruises, but again, this was a time when such things weren’t discussed out in the open, only in secretive hushed tones.

Mix all of that and the fact that you hadn’t really known what it was to be a husband and now you waited until you were 40 to start a family. . .
You had only one clue as to where you should start. . . you simply knew what NOT to do. . .
And so you ran with it. . .

Add in being. . .
Scared
Frightened
Anxious
Determined to be different
Never to repeat the same offenses you yourself endured.

And so you began your own journey into parenthood, with great trepidation, almost 27 years ago.

It wasn’t easy.
You immediately gave up smoking
You named him yourself
You worked long hours
You changed diapers
You made him laugh for the very first time
You gave him your full attention, each evening you were home, despite having worked 14 hour days
You fed him in the middle of the night allowing your wife some precious sleep
You never wanted to exclude him
You held him tight before his surgery
You cried when he was hurt
You offered him the gift of Nature.
You took him fishing, camping, hunting, hiking
You took him to the ocean’s shore for his very first time
You taught him how to swim
You bought him a boogie board and later a surf board.
You disciplined him when you absolutely had to, and it about killed you
You didn’t care when he couldn’t follow in your same athletic agilities and accomplishments.
You worried
You fretted
You cried
You obsessed
You gave him your old truck
You reluctantly bought him a new truck when he wrecked your old one
You afforded him college, to the place of his dreams, that turned out not to be a dream.
You later helped him settle into a place more suited for him.
Always teaching him how to begin again.
You offered comfort and only the positive when he fell, when he failed, when he lost.

You showed him what it means to be a man.
To be responsible.
To get up and try again when things look hopeless.
You taught him how to run forward. . .running toward the trouble, rather then running from the trouble.
You demonstrated that a man never hides from his troubles or mistakes.
You showed him what unconditional love is all about with your own attention to the father who never deserved your concern or care.
You demonstrated how to be a husband during both the good and the bad life has to offer.
You showed him how to give abundantly when it was little he would receive in return.
You demonstrated how to be honest in a dishonest world.
You taught him to be just, forgiving, strong, determined while keeping a gentle touch.
Reminding him to always walk with integrity while holding his head high. . .

You did this on your own. . .
With no direction
No manual
No help from your own father. . .
You demonstrated to your son, what being a real father is all about. . .
By giving him the greatest gift possible. . .
yourself. . .

Happy Father’s Day my love. . . .