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

What more can there be?

“There’s more to getting to where you’re going then
just knowing there’s a road.”

Joan Lowery Nixon


(entry way to a home on Mackinac Island, MI / Julie Cook /2017)

Standing in front of the locked gate,
looking through the cascading tunnel of hydrangeas,
one’s view falls upon a single door.

There is much to be assumed by standing on this other side,
this outside of the locked gate.

Whereas there is no sign stating otherwise, most passerbys would assume that
attempting to open the gate would be considered taboo, a violation, a no no.
There is just something there, with the gate and emptiness from the closed
door, that lacks an invitation or welcome or adventure.

Staring at the door, located at the far end of the walkway,
one does not know if there are residents on the opposite side of the closed door.

Is anyone at home?

Those standing at the gate, staring at the door,
have no idea as to what the interior of the home looks like.
Is it pretty?
Does it have a lovely view?
Is it a permanent home or a vacation home?

So many questions and even more assumptions from simply staring through a
narrow opening while standing before a closed gate.

One might assume, given the mystique found in the almost tunnel-like entry
leading to the yard and walkway, that there is something almost
otherworldly here.
One might assume from the location of the house, which sits on the shores
of the great lake, steps from a historic town, that someone rich and or
famous may live here.

Yet no one can really say…

It is a mystery only heightened by the curious yet lovely sweeping floral
entry gate.

The house… could it be actually vacant, even empty…
or perhaps waiting on the market…
Yet the current condition of the exterior does not appear to signal empty.

So given one’s curious thoughts, generated by merely passing by such
a gate to such a home, all the while being given over to the easily assumed and
imaginative wandering of what could be…
all the while the open-ended assumptions seem much greater than the factual…

So why then, when presented with the idea of a God and of the Resurrection of
His son, the Savior…why would anyone simply assume negating such a presentation,
imagining it be impossible and or implausible when totally uncertain about the facts of truth?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

2 Timothy 3:16

Catching the scent

“In the aftermath of Gethsemane, we catch the fragrance of Eden”
Alister E. McGrath
excerpt from In Light of Victory

DSCN3142
(the beginning of the hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2016)

Not all things that bloom have a scent…
And some blooming plants and flowers actually have a repugnant smell.

Yet I think we may safely surmise that Eden, the birth place of all gardens, had what can only be imagined to be the most heavenly of scents.
An endless cascading array of flowers and blooms, given by the Creator to the created…
All to be savored and enjoyed…
Just as a Lover would shower his beloved with abundant bouquets of beautiful flowers…
equal only to the beauty of the one who holds his affections…so God bestowed upon man…

Yet the story does not end with the gift of the fragrant bouquet…

“Jesus was betrayed within the garden of Gethsemane, in order to undo the disobedience of human nature within the garden of Eden.
Alister E. McGrath
In Light of Victory

How appropriate that as it was a garden, which was the scene of the greatest blow to humankind, should in turn be the scene to the beginning of the greatest act of Love ever extended to humankind.

And so…
He comes once again…
bringing you the fragrant scent of the saving grace of Love Divine…

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing

2 Corinthians 2:15

Mercy and Grace

I had many friends to help me to fall; but as to rising again, I was so much left to myself, that I wonder now I was not always on the ground. I praise God for His mercy; for it was He only Who stretched out His hand to me.
May He be blessed for ever!
Amen.

Saint Teresa of Avila

“You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.”

― Rumi

DSC01449
(a newly blooming white hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2015)

Somewhere each morning,
sandwiched inbetween slumber and waking. . .
Dreaming and living. . .
Grace and Mercy meet,
And within each greeting’s kiss,
they tenderly wake a brand new dawn.

Grace, mercy and peace will be with us,
from God the Father and from Jesus Christ,
the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

2 John 1:3

What was. . .and will be

All that’s bright must fade, The brightest still the fleetest; All that’s sweet was made But to be lost when sweetest.
Thomas Moore

“God can make a new beginning with people whenever God pleases, but not people with God. Therefore, people cannot make a new beginning at all; they can only pray for one. Where people are on their own and live by their own devices, there is only the old, the past.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

RSCN8460
(frozen and wilted gerber daisies / Julie Cook / 2014)

Brilliant and masterful, the truth once stood
Where luminescent colors mixed and mingled, flowing gently down upon the dirt.
The choice was presented, more times than once, but only the innocent could hear the offer.
“Prepare ye the way,” as the cold swept in, this time from the Northwest sky.
Heeding the warning, we gathered all we had.
The time to seek shelter had arrived.
The advancing forces prepared to route all the followers.
Heads now bowed, no strength remained, “it is done” whispered the wind.

DSCN8457
(frozen and wilted gerber daisies / Julie Cook / 2014)

Fading joy now sorrowfully droops, turning brown and crisp to the touch as the fluids of life simply drain away.
Limp and dying, yet held sweetly in strong arms, the silent foe claims victory at last.
Dormant and silent life now yields its glory.
No sounds nor growing objects dance to fill the silent void which stretches beyond empty ears and eyes.
Barren and desolate prop up against a monochromatic canvas now painfully empty as the sinister thief makes off with all we had.

DSCN8463
(frozen, wilted and brown a once white hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2014)

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DSCN8465
(sickening gray and yellowing once vibrant blue hydrangea droop in the cold / Julie Cook /2014)

3 hours gives way to 3 days which gives way to 3 months, as a flat muffled world now waits in devoid silence.
Yet hidden, under the cloak of darkness and buried beep within, a mystery unfolds.
Trembling and twisting, that which was thought to be lost, begins to take form as the Master Creator secretly breaths hope in a world filled with hopelessness.
Hesitant color gingerly and slowly returns to the ashen gray cheeks of death.
Life reaches desperately upward, bursting through its burial chamber, as the gaping crevasse is thankfully bridged.
The resilience of a cyclical world, marked by the miraculous seasons of life, death and life again, offer to all who so choose to believe in the everlasting redemption of Hope.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
(John 10:10)

Life’s muted tones

DSCN7654
(the fading blooms of a hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Surely your gladness need not be the less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this – when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters – when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day – and when all the sadness, and the sin, that darkened life on this little earth, shall be forgotten like the dreams of a night that is past!”
Lewis Carroll
from An Easter Greeting to Every Child Who Loves “Alice”

Will it or won’t it?

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
T.E. Lawrence

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
—Albert Camus

DSCN7329
(tiny emerging Hydrangea bloom / Julie Cook / 2014)

If I were a betting woman, which if the truth be told. . .I have been known to place a few friendly wagers over the years, particularly where my beloved DAWGS are concerned, I would bet that this Hydrangea bloom will indeed make it to its very showy, garish, over the top, full blue bloom before the first frost.

The first frost is a good two months away right?
How long does it take a hydrangea bloom to come to maturation?
Hummmmm. . . .
Sounds a bit reminiscent of some sort of mathematical word problem. . .if two hydrangeas left a train station at the same time, one traveling by train running 80 mph and the other by bus traveling 60 mph. . . yada, yada, yada—I hated math and I hated word problems even more–but I digress. . .

This is the same hydrangea bush, plant, mass that I shared with you back in the Spring—the same hydrangea that had suffered grievously back in the Spring when Winter was refusing to let go. A very late hard freeze had all but killed it. . . or so I thought.

In late May and early June, my heart leapt for joy when I noted some tiny leaf buds trying desperately to take hold on the barren woody brittle steams. Much to my wonderment, I realized that this little plant was not dead after all but was actually very tenacious and thankfully very stubborn. I had, however, resigned myself to the fact that this summer would not be privy to the pom pom like blooms which are so indicative of Summer in the deep South due to its late start at simply putting back its leaves.

That is, until today.

Just when I thought I knew what would happen as far as a little (actually massive) plant was concerned–late freeze obviously equalling no summer blooms–Life, Mother Nature, you name it, decided to show me a thing or two.

And so it goes. . .
Once again. . .
Life lessons learned in the yard, in the garden, via Mother Nature. . .

Never say never!!!
I have learned that little life lesson the hard way many times over and over throughout this life of mine. As soon as the word leaves my lips, something or someone comes along, almost immediately, to prove to any and all of those around that never is never going to happen!

Never give up!!!
You don’t have to be a Pollyanna with your head stuck in the unrealistic clouds, but you must never quit, never give up, never give in, or never throw in the towel. . .not unless it is spelled out in big bold black and white letters written in plain and simple language.

Never, for one minute, think you know it all.
Just as soon as you make a “set in stone” statement, something or someone comes along to turn upside down everything you’ve just stated as concrete fact.

Be prepared for anything!!
Just when you thought you had things figured out and were “good to go”, something is going to turn your world upside down. Be watchful and be ready. . .it will happen, trust me.

Always remain hopeful!!
If you don’t have any hope that things can turn around, get better, improve. . .then there is really no point to life now is there? As long as there is breath in our bodies, there must always be hope. Nothing is going to last forever–all things eventually change—it may not be within the set time frame of our desires, yet eventually, everything changes.

Make the most of the “now”!!
Don’t wait.
Don’t put of.
Don’t be Scarlet and deal with it all on the proverbial ‘morrow.
One’s house should always be in order–and by house I’m not meaning your literal house, but then again an orderly home is nice as well. . .
I’m talking about the business of life. We only have the now, the today–there are no promises of the tomorrows. . .so if not now, when?
Enjoy today.
Do what it is you’ve been putting off— do it, start it, tackle it— today.
Instead of repeating the mantra of “later”, “tomorrow”, “not now”—-go ahead and do it!!

Give everyone and everything a second chance.
We all deserve second chances.
Don’t be too quick to rush in with judgement, conclusions or endings.
No one is perfect.
No situation is a guarantee.
Those of us whose belief system is steeped in the Gospel know of the admonishment that we must forgive 7 times 70. 490 times seems rather excessive when it’s put to such a number that I should be forgiving someone that many times right? Well, it was once explained to me that in ancient times the circumference of a circle was thought to be 490ᵒ not what we know today as 360ᵒ, so the whole 7 times 70 was once again one of this analogies I have a heard time picking up on–meaning forgiveness should be a constant unending thing. . .

So just when you thought you had it all figured out, knew everything there was to know about something, closed the book on it all, written it off as over and done, given up, decided to call it quits. . . something as simple as a hydrangea, wanting to bloom at the proverbial 11th hour, comes along to remind you that everything and anything is always possible. . .

Happy day!