to be kind

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,
anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on,
so that children have very little time for their parents.
Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the
disruption of peace of the world.”

Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.
It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain
of someone unloved in our own home.
Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Mother Teresa


(the wee one letting her feelings be known during a shopping outing / Abby Cook / 2018)

I would wager that most of us would agree that it’s pretty easy to be kind to a baby
or for that matter, a small child.

That is unless you’re some kind of depraved individual but those are sad thoughts for another day.

Babies just seem to have a way of drawing us in…into their little worlds.
They do so with their large inquisitive eyes, their sweet and heartwarming smiles
and their openly unconditional acceptance.

You have a bad hair day — a baby doesn’t care.
You have visible scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have internal scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have issues, a baby simply doesn’t care.

They smile, they coo, they draw us in…

And suddenly we have no cares.

We don’t care about much of anything but for this exchange of warmth and kindness.
We are lost in the kindness.
It just feels good.
No cares, no worries…just basking in an exchange of endorphin pumping feel good
between two individuals.

That is of course until said baby or small child decides they are displeased with life’s
current circumstance.
All of which could be due to hunger, teething, a soiled diaper, colic,
too hot, too cold, too tired…you name it.

And it is at these very moments that our own capacity for kindness seems to quickly
dissipate as our nerves take over and kindness takes a back burner.

So we ask ourselves…does kindness come naturally?

I’m no psychologist or anthropologist or neurologist.
I don’t study people’s brains or actions or reactions.

Rather I am just a wife married for 35 years, a mom to a 30-year-old, and now a grandmother
to a 5-month-old. Plus I was a high school teacher for 31 years…
so I kind of know people and I often know myself…be that for good or bad.

Kindness seems to be more of a reciprocating response.

Now granted there are certain folks out there who just seem to be more innately
kind than others.
Think Melanie versus Scarlett.

And yet I’ve observed some really gruff individuals lose some of that bristled gruffness rather
quickly when met with pure kindness.

In our day’s quote, Mother Teresa observes that we often tend to be more gracious,
more kind to strangers much more readily than we do to those actually closest to us.

An odd human condition.

She notes that perhaps it is easier to be kind and gracious to those we don’t know rather
then those who actually deserve our kindness the most….those who are closest to us
in our lives. Yet it is those individuals who we often look over, take for granted or
just assume they care despite our brusqueness, attitudes, selfishness, curtness,
rudeness, and self-absorption.

I know this to be true.
I recall now in hindsight my days as an adolescent and I feel the constant need to offer up
my apologies to Mother.

I also know that during 35 years of marriage, I’ve had a lot to learn in the way of kindness.

Two imperfect people are joined in the union of marriage…to have and to hold…to
love, honor and respect, to live with until death does them part…
all the while, the perfect union and marriage is being lived by two very imperfect people…
a bit of a blind leading the blind.

I know that I tend to be a bit hard-headed and stubborn. I blame an Irish heritage.
I know that I tend to be the one who is always more right than wrong despite my
husband not yet figuring this out.

And yet I also know that I can be more Scarlett than Melanie…
wanting things my way…
I can be selfish, snappy, short-tempered, overwhelmed and moody.

And I also know that my husband has a high frustration level,
very little patience and is a 69-year-old by-product of a very abusive alcoholic father
who left deep lasting scars.
Add in the fact that my husband is nearly deaf so he can misinterpret, misunderstand
or miss everything I say…talk about over the top frustrating.

And so often in this life of ours, kindness has sadly taken a backseat.

And yet kindness seems to be a glue.
It is a binding agent.
It can bind two imperfect people together placing them under the blanket, or yoke if you will,
of the One who casts the perfect light of hope and healing over our human brokenness.

And yet we know this act of kindness must often be learned as well as worked on.
It is something I have learned that is a grace that more often than not
must be prayed for, cared for and nurtured.
It is a grace that God will and can work in our hearts.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

the Russians are coming…

Russia is a riddle
wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma.

Winston Churchill

The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming….
is the title of a 1966 comedic spoof based on the accidental beaching of a Russian sub
off the coast of a small fictional New England island town during the midst
of the Cold War.
The film stared Alan Arkin and Carl Reiner so you can only imagine the off the chain humor.

Fast forwarding all these many years later and history oddly seems to be repeating itself,
but this time it’s not over a comedic movie yet we can still hear that familiar war cry…
that the Russians are coming…

I’ve really tried, really really I have tried, to ignore the latest brouhaha concerning
Mother Russia and all things Russian…
all the latest “did they, didn’t they” sort of mumbo jumbo that is currently consuming all
things political and newsy.

I’ve really tried to tune out all things ‘news’ related since hysterical pandemonium
hit the airwaves following the election…

All because global news media are still having apoplexies following the US election,
all because the US simply elected another new president….
as in its something we’ve gotten pretty good at doing every 4 years…
Yet oddly this time, this process, this election…
although it was one that seemed to follow the same standard procedure of every other
election since General Washington’s election, has been anything but standard…
and I for one have grown weary of the now ensuing melee.

The conspiracy theorists on both sides of “this trouble” have whipped themselves
into such a frenzy that I’ve sadly found it all so very exhausting.

While the question remains, exhausting for what?

Has all this focus, frenzy and fuss made the world a better place?

Has world hunger been eradicated?
Are children no longer dying due to starvation or from treatable diseases?
Have we discovered the cure for cancer?
Have all the global conflicts and wars finally ended peacefully?

No?

No, I didin’t think so…

But rather than focusing on doing things to make living better for people…
easier, happier….
we’ve all decided to lose our minds and go nuts over a president half the population hates
and the notion of invading Russians from within the highest ranks of government.
Forget that kids are dying from starvation in the Sudan as I type.
Forget that airstrikes are raging in Syria as I type.
Forget the growing opiate addictions in this country.
Forget the widening global human sex trafficking nightmare….
Forget global terrorism.
Forget escalating violence.
Forget that half the United States now hates the other half….
Forget anything regarding the relevance of improving the suffering of humanity…
but rather, focus on collusion and intrigue….

Obviously according to the news, none of that humanity stuff matters and actually pales
in comparison to all things Trump and Russian.

The Russians, bless their hearts, all they have to do each morning is to wake up and
stare in bewilderment at their televisions because the Americans have pumped them back up to
being Enemy Number 1 without their ever having to lift a finger.

Putin doesn’t even have to act like his typical jerky egotistical, megalomania, tyrannical
self because we’re doing a fine enough job inflating his depraved ego
without his even trying…

During the Cold War, we were afraid of being blown off the map…
just as the Russians, aka Soviets, were afraid of the same fate.
It was literally a game of Russian Roulette with global annihilation at stake.

Churchill, way back in the 1940’s, first alerted the world that the slumbering Eastern Bear
would awake, making its presence known in a way that would cause grave troubles for all.

He was right.

Stalin proved him right….
As a long and dangerous “cold” war ensued.

Stalin’s crimes against humanity have rivaled, if not surpassed those of Adolph Hitler,
yet due to the silent steel curtain that has blanketed Russia since Lenin’s death and Stalin’s
rise to leadership in 1924, those facts have been buried in an eastern murky mire.

The world, following WWII, lived precariously and dangerously from day to day.
that was until 1989 when a dividing wall came tumbling down and a massive thaw took place….

However oddly it appears that both the leaders of the US and Russia seem to be more than
happy to return, turning the clock back to such frigid and frightening times.,..
as our news media readies the way….

Or maybe the truth of the matter is that we never really left those precariously
uncertain times….

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles
in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.
Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ,
but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Romans 16:17-18

altars

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator
as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

Augustine of Hippo

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(altar tomb in the Rock of Cashel, the Cathedral of St Patrick / Co Tipperary, Ireland/
Julie Cook / 2015)

A thick blanket of smoke hangs heavy in the air.
It’s not the result of burning effigies or burning communities
but rather from the woods of North Carolina and northern Georgia which are on fire…
and the winds have shifted…

The sinking grey smoke is a somber reminder that there is a dangerously severe drought…
and the parched land is now beyond thirsty…

Yet there is more to this current drought than simply a lack of rain…
for there is more that is dry than mere vegetation and brush…
And there is more to this endless thirst than a need for water….

Vehemence and anger are filling the air, accented by vile and profane sentiment.
As the mobs march toward the altars of self indulgence and guile.
Immaturity laced with ignorance stokes the fires of rage as the hate filled
smoke fills the nostrils of a nation.

Self absorption and egocentric worshipers have taken to the streets.
They have taken to their computers and to their phones…their current altars of choice.
All the while they shout vile rhetoric as they stomp their spoiled bored feet.

If you must…
Protest against atrocities,
demonstrate against hunger,
fight against killing…
but not because you’ve simply forgotten, or have never known, how to lose.

Young dismayed parents now publicly lament how are they to console their
confused children who cry in fear from the big bad what ifs of hysteria…
simply because democracy has been at work–once again…

Nay, answer with truth…
the truth that one person lost while another person won…
For that is how this game is played…one person wins while one person loses…

Yet ours is a culture currently obsessed with the win win…
because we’ve grown moralistically soft while deciding everyone should be a winner…
We cannot live with the sad notion of losing…
Never mind old adages of always trying again…

There are those who are falling at the altar of womanly feminism…
which is currently shored up by gender neutrality, resentment and anger.
Marching not for policy or real equality but rather for the notion that
the wrong sex was the victor…as the votes which were cast are ignored….

Tears are being shed not because freedom has been lost
or because lives have been lost,
nor because a nation has lost all hope…
No…
rather tears are flowing because an election was lost…

And now we no longer want to play…
Because reality is simply no longer considered fun.
While we have found ourselves kneeling before all the wrong altars…

Ours are the empty altars of hero worship and of self…
the altars of gadgetry, boredom, appeasement and ignorance.
Altars of fear, anger, hostility, emptiness and divisiveness…

For what or whom has become our idol, our god?
Who or what are those hungry deities which have left us empty, sad,
frustrated, angry and resentful…
as we turn upon one another in the feeding frenzy of resentment?

We have gathered before all the wrong altars for far too long…
These altars have left us shallow and empty while also full of loathing and contempt…
We continue to march without leadership and direction…
lost and wandering…all the while lashing out at those we assume to be our enemy…
never realizing that we are all actually one.
One people…one nation…

And all the while hidden deep within the suffocating smoke of our thirst
lies the only One true proven path in which we need march…

Yet we have decided it’s far easier to wander angrily in the parched darkness
while hiding behind the vitriol sputum which oozes forth from our mouths…
spewing out upon our fellow human beings…

As it seems we’d rather choose…
paranoia to Grace
greed to Offering
ignorane to Enlightenment
darkness to Light
death to Salvation
egregiousness to Gentleness
hate to Love…

May we all fall at the foot of the one true altar,
the cross of Resurrection, Salvation, Hope and Life.

The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son,
whom he gave to us and who was born for us,
should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross.
This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made,
but for our sins.

Francis of Assisi

Hungry?

There is a spiritual hunger in the world today –
and it cannot be satisfied by better cars on longer credit terms.

Adlai E. Stevenson

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(a disgusted jackdaw surveys a tossed aside apple core / Blarney Woolen Mills / Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

God will fill the hungry because He Himself has stirred up the hunger.
As in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray,
He prepares His ear to hear (Ps. 10:17).
So in the case of spiritual hunger,
when God prepares the heart to hunger,
He will prepare His hand to fill.

Thomas Watson

If you saw someone who was hungry,
would you in turn offer them a piece of rubbish or rotting trash?
Would you hand them something discarded and already eaten upon?
Would you toss them a mere rind or core?
Some sort of afterthought, something less than…?

Chances are that you would not.

You wouldn’t feed a hungry person with trash or previously eaten and picked over food.
Rather you would most likely offer them something fresh, preferably warm and cooked.
Something that you yourself would wish to be offered…something you yourself would enjoy.

So we can safely assume that if someone stood before you physically hungry,
you would most certainly feed them or help provide a means for them to be fed…right?

So now, if someone was standing before you spiritually hungry, lost, angry with their life’s lot,
searching for that elusive satisfaction and happiness…
Why then would you not share the word of God?…
offering them the bread of life, the endless waters of salvation,
the body and blood of the only One who can satiate the real and true hunger of man?

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 107:9

Need and want

“The art of our necessities is strange
That can make vile things precious.”

― William Shakespeare

“What people need and what they want may be very different.”
Elbert Hubbard

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(a hungry squirrel, Colonial Cemetery, Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2016)

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me

Lyrics by Cheap Trick

Need verses want
Want verses need

Once upon a time mankind knew that what was needed
was far more pressing than what was wanted…

However…as time passed and lines blurred, the hype was on…
Needs took a back seat to wants…

But there always seemed as if something was there…
something we just couldn’t put our finger on…
There was a gnawing, a burning, a hunger of sorts…
but yet it wasn’t necessarily for food…

And it only grew, and kept growing to an almost insatiable level.

We weren’t hungry because we had all the tasty and trendy food we could want.
We weren’t cold because we had all the coats, gear and warmth we could want.
We weren’t exposed to the elements because we had all the nicest shelters we could want.
We weren’t sick because we had all the best medicines we could want.

We were simply without…
Without something we couldn’t understand.

And so we felt…
empty…
lacking…
pained…
disjointed…
incomplete…

We had everything we thought we needed and everything we thought we wanted…
But…
But we were wrong….

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Psalm 55

Motivation

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
Fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Proverbs 1:7

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(Red Spotted Purple Butterfly and Blueberry blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

What is your motivation?
Your self help…
Your comfort…
Your reason to continue…

Family?
Friends?
Country?
Career?
Home?
Future?

Maybe faith…?

When you are lost, do you seek…
Guidance?
Books?
Speakers?
Music?
Entertainment?

Perhaps you pray…

When stripped away of everything…
When all that made you…you….is abruptly taken away
When you stand alone, vulnerable and lost…
What propels you forward?

Need?
Hunger?
Fear?
Hope?

Or is it a yearning for something…
Someone greater than yourself…?

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Psalm 34:17-20

Homesick

“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it, I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape, to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”

Alan Bradley

“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart,
if they exist,
I will still not have the power to forget you.”

Ovid

God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart

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(sheep on a teaching farm / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A fitful night…
dreams seemingly more real than not…
To wake…
On and off, over and over…
as the dream simply picks up where it left off.
A continuous movie playing out inside my head, all night long…

Trying desperately hard to find you, to call you…
Yet I can’t reach you.
I am there, not here…
but I am lost…
I need for you to come find me…
for it is only you who can help me….

Yet why is that?
Why do I seek you and your help?
Are there not others…?
Others even more capable…
Those who are more near and not so far away…?

Waking….
Perplexed, exhausted, wondering…
What ever does it mean…
or not mean…?
As the thought,
the memory,
the utter physical uneasiness…
hangs heavy over the day.

Homesick, yet here at home.
Missing and longing…
Aching for something else…
someplace else…
something more…
Yet what could it be…and why…?

You are there and I am here.
A melancholy heaviness clouds my thoughts.
It was all but a mere brief crossing of paths.
Yet with a lasting effect.
There was a change.
Deep and profound…
And I am the better for it…
Yet there remains a yearning, a hunger, an aching…
for more…

So very much more.
For hearing,
for seeing,
for feeling,
for learning.

Yet frustration is found in the simple being…
of so very far away…

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26:9