hospitality while staying the course

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.
And this happens although the praise of God should know no limits.
Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Do not seek to be regarded as somebody,
don’t compare yourself to others in anything.
Leave the world, mount the cross, discard all earthly things,
shake the dust from off your feet.”

St. Barsanuphius


(a tiny ladybug rumaging about the hydranga blosoms / Julie Cook / 2018)

June, albeit already being known as National Icecream month, is quickly becoming
my national babysitting month…
This as I am here and there, acting as said keeper of the wee one, as work schedules and
summer workshops are currently on a collision course.

However, you won’t hear any complaints coming from me…more than happy to oblige…

But this balance of both distance and time, of which are each keeping me overtly busy and
currently stretched thin, is hindering my ability to fully contribute and offer meatier
and tastier posts… as well as forcing my unintended negligence to those day to day interactions
with those of you who are my friends and kind enough to offer your own thoughtful reflections,
feelings and words of wisdom.

And speaking of interactions…

I suppose I’d like to say a word or two regarding some rather interesting interactions
I’ve had with those who have been wandering into cookieland…
wanderings taking place from say, a week or so ago.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before.

As it’s an odd occurrence really.

Let us reflect a moment on the notion of hospitality.

I’m Southern born and raised and those of us who hail from the South are usually known
for our Southern Hospitality.
A graciousness in opening our doors, our homes, our lives our hearts…welcoming and inviting
others to ‘come sit a spell’…inviting others to come rest while we offer a
bit of respite from the pressures of life.

I shared this very notion, just the other day with Tricia, from over on
Freedom Through Empowerment.

I explained to Tricia that years ago I had read a small book that had actually been
written centuries prior.
It was actually more of a manual rather than a book.

The book is known as The Rule of St Benedict and it was written by Benedict of Nursia
in the 1st Century.

Benedict wrote the book as an instructional manual for those who were wishing to follow
in his footsteps…living life as a Christian monk…
an order of Christian monks known as the Benedictine Order.

It was written for those Christians living during the persecution of the Roman Empire…
a time not known for its hospitality toward Christians.

The little book has had amazing staying power as many a Fortune 500 company has their upper
management read the book as a lesson in how to work with others as well as how to treat others.

According to Wikipedia “The spirit of Saint Benedict’s Rule is summed up in the motto
of the Benedictine Confederation: pax (“peace”) and the traditional
ora et labora (“pray and work”).
Compared to other precepts, the Rule provides a moderate path between
individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism;
because of this middle ground it has been widely popular.
Benedict’s concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment:
namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature
of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the
individual’s ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment
of the human vocation, theosis.

However, there was one rule in particular that spoke to me more so than the others…
it is the Rule of Receiving Guests.

All guests who arrive should be received as Christ so that he will say,
“I was a stranger and you took me in” [Mt 25:35].
Show honor to them all, especially to fellow Christians and to wayfarers.
When a guest is announced, let him be met with all charity.
Pray with him, and then associate with one another in peace.
(Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer has been said, in case of satanic deception.)
Greet guests with all humility,
with the head bowed down or the whole body prostrate on the ground,
adoring Christ in them, as you are also receiving him.
When the guests have been received, let them be accompanied to prayers.
Then let the Abbot, or some he chooses,
sit down with them.
The divine law be read to the guest for his edification,
and then you should show him every kindness.
The Abbot should break his fast in deference to the guest,
unless it is a day of solemn fast,
which cannot be broken.
The other brothers however should keep the fast as usual.
The Abbot should pour the water on the guest’s hands,
and the whole brotherhood should join him in washing the feet of all the guests.
When they have been washed, let them say,
“We have received your mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple” [Ps 48:10].
Let the greatest care be taken, especially when receiving the poor and travelers,
because Christ is received more specially in them.

Chrisitianhistoryinstitute.org

In other words, how to be a gracious host.

Benedict admonished those managing the various monasteries to always be willing to
open their gates and doors to all who would venture to knock…
no matter the time day or night.
He told the brothers to get up in the middle of the night if necessary in order
to warmly welcome both stranger and friend should anyone come knocking with a need.

The brothers were to open their doors, offering food and drink as well as a place of rest to
wayward travelers.

That one “rule” made a strong impression upon me because early in our marriage,
my husband would often call me at the last minute to inform me that he’d received a call
from a “friend” who just happened to be passing through and informed my husband
that he wanted to come for a visit.

Such news would usually leave me grousing as I scrambled to tidy up,
put out fresh linens while rushing to prepare an impromptu meal usually after
I had worked all day.

So much for feeling very gracious.
Rather, I reluctantly confess, that I selfishly felt put out.

Yet over the years, I’ve come to understand that the giving of ourselves,
our time, our attention,
our skills, our food, our home, our possessions are really not so much about “us”,
but rather it’s about something far greater than ourselves…

And so it’s with St Benedict’s Rule in mind that I have faced a bit of a conundrum here
in my little corner of the blog world.

For you see, I tend to write about mostly Chrisitan related content.
Content that I’m pretty passionate about.

Be it my sharing of the insights and observations from two of my favorite clerics
from across the pond to my serious concern over those ancient Middle Eastern Christian
sects that have come under violent attacks by ISIS, to my dismay over
living in what has quickly become known as a post-Christian society to
the unraveling of what we call Western Civilization.

And yes, I am often outspoken as well as passionate about my concerns.

But the thing is, I’m writing a blog…small as it is.
There is no social media tied to this blog.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Pinterest…
Why?
Because I don’t participate in “social” media…only that of a blog.

Therefore my little corner is small and limited, yet passionate none the less.

I’ve always found that I like to learn, share and grow in my own faith…
as I still have so much to learn.
I like to do so by reading and learning from what others teach.
I consider my blog, and those I enjoy reading, an extension of a Chrisitan
Community.

I grow in the Spirit by reading and learning from other Chrisitan Spiritually based
individuals.
I don’t go looking for trouble.
I don’t go trolling.
I don’t care for those who do.
Trolling is a waste of time.
Nothing good comes from such.
Why waste life’s precious time by doing such?
I’ve yet to figure that out.

And at times I do believe that I am a bit of a Christian Apologist…
a defender of the Faith as it were.
God’s Word being God’s Word.
No mincing.
No rewriting.
No twisting.
No changing because we as a people feel the need to change.

Speaking what I sincerely believe to be Truth.
God’s universal Truth.
Speaking His Truth here on this blog.

All here on a blog that is here if you want to read it…
or not.

And that’s the key…or not.

Meaning no one has to come here and read anything I write.
That’s kind of the magic of a blog…you have a choice…
to read or not to read.

In fact, that’s how I do it.
I seek to read those who teach me and fulfill me with that which is edifying….
meaning it is rich in the Word as it offers up a hearty offering of Life in the Spirit.
Offering the positive because why would I want the negative?

Not the hostile.
Not the angry.
Not the hateful.
But rather that which is edifying, uplifting, and even liberating.

So imagine my surprise when I was hit by a barrage of those doing just the opposite.

Professing agnostics and atheists who had come visiting, en masse,
speaking of indoctrination, dinosaurs, lies, falsehoods, contraception, abortion,
young earth creationists, the Bible as fairytale, no Noah, no Moses, no flood, Jews,
science…as the list and comments grew and grew in number.

As cordial as I could be while standing my ground, the sneering, the questioning,
the snideness, the belittling, and the vehemence only escalated or rather more
accurately devolved into a swirling quagmire of running in circles.

Demands of justification, clarification, debate, arguments, proof, and defense
continued not over the course of a few comments but rather such ran on and on for days.

Verbal attacks and the pushing downward into the unending rabbit holes of nothingness…
down into the black abyss of nonsense.

Other’s jumped in, in defense.
Words grew heated and even ugly.
The word was spread by the nonbelieving to rally because the Christians were now
proclaiming.

A real shame.

But I hear that is the plan.
Divide, confuse, conquer.
Or so they say.

My thinking…you don’t like what you’re reading, go find what it is you do like.
Don’t berate.
Don’t harangue.
Don’t belittle.
Don’t be smug.
Don’t be snide.
Don’t be divisive.
Don’t be hateful.
Don’t be crude.
It benefits no one…especially yourself.

But don’t pretend you’re confused and that you don’t understand.
Don’t pretend you truly want explanation and clarification because all you want
is to publicly mock, accuse and berate.
You are sly and cunning…as those are the pages that come from your playbook.

However, my door will remain open to anyone who comes to visit.

The invitation will always be extended to one and all to come…
to come put up one’s feet and to sit a spell.

But come because you want to come…
Come because you want to visit, feast and fellowship.
Come because you want to share, to learn, to grow.
Come because you want to offer to others…
Come because you want to offer more, not less.
Come with peace, not hostility…

Or simply don’t come…

Don’t come but go elsewhere…
Go where you find your fulfillment because obviously, you’re not finding that here.

As St Benedict so wisely instructed, “Do not give anyone the kiss of peace before a prayer
has been said, in case of satanic deception”

So, therefore, may we pray for discernment over deception while we continue to extend the hand of hospitality.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2

Adversity; Hooray for the human spirit

“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

DSCN3374

DSCN3376

DSCN3377
(images of a very hungry and grateful blue jay / Julie Cook / 2014)

Everyone, ehm, every living creature, needs a helping hand at some time or other.
Just as in the case of this blue jay enjoying a welcomed piece of cornbread as his world, in the now icy white, is offering little in the way of sustenance.

And so it is, on this, the day after the winter storm debacle in Georgia—more specifically, Atlanta, which is the witness to the offerings of kindness from one to another. . .
such is today’s tale.

Poor Georgia.
Poor Atlanta.
Oh I am certain we could add to the dirge of woesomeness, that of Alabama and most likely Mississippi, but my news world has been exceedingly limited during the past 36 hours due entirely to the misery of my state—and in particular the capital of this gracious state, Atlanta.
Has anything else been taking place outside of the state in the last 36 hours other than a winter storm? Seriously, we haven’t heard.

Oh the anger.
Oh the blame.
People stuck in the snow and ice impacted gridlock for hours–12 hours, 16 hours, 20 hours, 24 hours only to abandon their gas deprived, ice immobile vehicles to walk the treacherous interstates in search of home, a safe haven, help. . .

Both Mayor and Governor now battling the media.
The Department of Transportation battling the media and now the public.
The National Weather Service battling the media and now the Governor and Mayor.
School Systems defending the decision of holding school despite the news of potential, repeat potential, winter weather to the parents who are now beyond irate as children were stuck on school buses for 12 to 16 hours, or had to remain at school over night.

Sadly on this now sunny, potentially thawing day, the blame game begins.
The finger pointing.
The deflections.
The denial.
Is the rest of the country thinking us to be idiots?
I hope not, we do the best we can.

Yet in the midst of all the negatives, all the seemingly poor choices, the failures, the lack ofs— emerges the best of human beings.
The stories which will no less continue for weeks to come— but it is those stories which are first appearing, the stories needed to act as the soothing balm for our negative weary souls.

The stories of:
The firefighters who welcomed in the cold, lost night wanders who arrived unannounced, all on foot, having long abandoned cars in search of a safe haven. They gave up beds and food for the strangers–offering warmth, protection, assurance.

The truckers who aided the young pregnant woman stuck in her car for 12 hours without food or water, let along a bathroom break. Aiding her in climbing over a 7 foot tall highway wall to an awaiting rescue vehicle. They took tool boxes from their big rigs, stacking them up to create a makeshift stairway up, over and down the wall.

The tales of the babies born in the gridlocked cold cars all through the icy night–delivered by total strangers.

The two strangers united with the one intent of service. They meet along the side of the highway, one pulling a sled and cooler full of food– the other caring a cooler full of sandwiches–distributing food, water, and kindness to frightened weary travels.

The news reporter, who was prepped to report on the gridlock, finds a family–mom, dad, and their 2 year old and 6 month old daughters, all who had been in the family van overnight without any food or drink. The reporter, an avid backpacker, had foods suitable for both children.

To the teachers and bus drivers who put their own families, lives, safety, comfort aside in order to care for their students, not only during the school day, but all through the night, as kids were either stuck in a bus in the midst of the slick icy nightmare or hunkered down for a long night at school.

Would you like to entertain 600 teenagers who can’t go home, who are tired and of ill disposition all night long? Would you want to comfort the elementary kids who just want their moms and dads, their beds, their warmth—all night long? Would you want to sit, huddled with a bus load of kids on a dark icy road hour after hour. . .all night long?

Perhaps it is the adversity, that which is life’s counter balance, which serves as a reminder to us all of our humanity, our capacity to care—to care for complete strangers. Echoes of “when, when did we see you naked and cloth you, when did we see you hungry and feed you. . .?”

All along a cold icy interstate–all through the rages of a winter’s storm—-that’s when.

Is it the calamity of life, those times of trial which test our fortitude, our sanity, our souls? Are these the types of situations which reach down to our very core–those which speak to our true humaneness and our ability to connect with other living beings? Is it during such times when we are the better, not the worst? When we shine and are not shattered?

In the coming days as Atlanta, and really the entire State, attempts to defend the choices of actions taken or not. . .as a State tries to explain to a Nation why 3 inches of snow, coupled by a sheet of ice, can put an entire region on hold, as officials hem and haw, as visitors vow never to return. . . may we all be reminded of the good which, just as the soon to be blooming bulbs breaking forth out of the cold barren ground signals to us all that wonder and joy can come from a long bleak cold winter, that it is in the depths of adversity and calamity where our realness and our goodness—our true identities, resides.

As those of you who have no doubt seen and heard the stories of “Snow Jam 2014”– of what seems to be the ineptitude of another Southern State which can’t seem to get its act together in winter weather, you must know that there was and is much more happening than mere gridlock and state and city officials scrambling for explanations—human beings were / are shining, goodness was / is taking place, kindness was / is the real issue at hand.

Perhaps we may not be able to handle ice and snow, but we will be there for you in a pinch, in a crisis, in a disaster as our Southern hospitality and tenacity, which are forged in the depths of the southern heat and red clay, is not only intact but it rises to the occasion in order to rescue, to comfort, to reassure, to defend, to care for–we will give you our beds, our food, our graciousness. . .but most importantly—we will give you ourselves.