18 March 2018
The land of fire and ice.
I have been learning from experiencing the nature here in Iceland the contrasting fragility of nature, and the power of nature, and it is an amazing thing to discover first hand. You have probably seen photos of Iceland but nothing can compare to standing there in awe of it all. I hiked to a glacier today, which sits on a volcano. These photos are from that adventure. The region on the south coast that we went to is very active, geologically, with several volcanoes and a recent history of earthquakes. I respect this land so very much. There is something so mystical and mysterious about it. Every kilometer presented jaw-dropping scenery, and it changed frequently, from lava fields, to dramatic mountains, to foggy valleys, to windy beach. I need to let my thoughts simmer even more about all that I saw, but I wanted to drop in with a little Halló! From Iceland with love.
15 March 2018
"Why are you always preparing, just go!"
We climb higher, through moody mist and fog,
Higher and higher, through coconut coloured clouds
And suddenly we are above the whirling world,
Over the clouds, the roadways of the sky.
A journey of cramped hours takes us
Across an expansive ocean.
It still baffles and excites me, simultaneously.
I read most of a book as I travel across the sky.
I know the land where I will arrive
Was formed by fire and ice.
As each land ages it has stories
Tucked into every nook.
I'd like to discover them along the way,
Stepping into the story myself.
New memories of a place ancient, yet new,
Falling in cascades from every step
In a foreign land.
I am on my way to Iceland, Scotland, and England, so stay tuned!
09 March 2018
Moody, misty forest. Fog-laden and lush green.
Birdsong softly echoing amongst the trees, the leaves soaking in the mist and clinging to branches. They are not ready to fall. They cling to a place of comfort and height. At its height, the summer months grow moodier, and feel more atmospheric. Tell tale signs of autumn begin with colder breezes. The evenings bring them first. Some leaves cannot hang on any more, and they have already faded to a golden colour. The depth of their understanding is that they are essential to every season, but in different ways. Winter would be too harsh for the trees if not for the leaves layered protection on the roots. Blankets are important when the snow comes. Even trees need blankets.
High above the soft mossy grass with an earth-toned colour are the dwelling places amongst the trees where the memories of ancient people live, keeping the story of the place ever-flowing. the story of the space interweaves with time. It began in ancient times before the land was deep. Centuries of story and pages of tales formed this land. Every page has been important. Poetic words jotted down in scribbles are the cascading tales flow forth. It would not be where it is if it were not for such pages.
(written on a scrap of paper, and tucked in my tote bag for a few weeks)
07 March 2018
Gloriously wasteful, O my Lord, art thou!
Sunset faints after sunset into the night,
Splendorously dying from thy window-sill forever.
- George MacDonald
So it is with all glorious moment in nature or with friends. Moments so beautiful, that cannot be redone. They could be seen again, but not in the same way. Even though it could happen again, another sunset will happen tomorrow in fact, we feel the loss when it is over and the time ends. The timeline moves on but we don't want to.
I am amazed at the marvels of nature, and how they fade away, only to return sometime later again. We live in these seasons of ebb and flow, in which the beauty of nature shines brightly for a season (plants burst forth in colour and flowers bloom with beauty) and then fade. Some nature seems to stand gloriously tall all the time, like mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers. Yet, they are all the time changing and shifting, albeit slowly.
In time spent with others, we cannot relive a beautiful moment, yet another may come again later. But think about how God lavishes upon us riches of beautiful nature and moments with others all the time! Sometimes we barely pay attention to it.
Do we look for such moments in our daily journey?
I'd like to think that I pay attention, and I reflect quite a lot about most things that I do pay attention to the details in thankfulness, but sometimes it's been a long day and I am tired, and barely take notice of the sunset or the conversation. But I write this as a reminder - this is what I should always aim for - always paying attention for God's glory in every moment.
05 March 2018
What does comparison lose? It loses the moment, the moment which should be filled with an expression of the life of love.
- Søren Kierkegaard
I am learning so much from this book, and it is challenging me in so many ways, I thought it would be a good idea to split up some musings on a different section into another post. So, this is the second.
I would be remiss not to reflect on the extreme nature of comparison in our society. It is stronger today than ever in history, thanks to social media. As we scroll through our feeds we see everyone else's seemingly successful, beautiful lives, and in reality we only catch a momentary glimpse into someone's life, but it can be the tendency for us to see that and immediately compare our own situation to that which shows up in our feed. We could then immediately lose our joy in a split second, and all from a brief glimpse into someone else's life. Kierkegaard saw this in his day, and saw where it would lead.
He saw how this can happen in our daily life just as much, especially at work. If we pay attention we might catch ourselves comparing ourselves to co-workers, even when each person has a different role.
We lose it all in comparison. If we look at someone else's good fortune or good marriage and compare that to your own singleness or lower income, we lose the joy of our independence and ability for solo adventures, and we lose the opportunities to fully appreciate our own blessings that fall upon us. At the same time, we are missing the struggles that come with marriage and high income. Suddenly our image of these things is skewed, not representing a realistic picture at all. Comparison is a dangerous road to go down because it does dwell in images that are an idealized picture of something that we will never live up to.
Our comparisons are locked in the finite. They lose sight of the infinite importance. I don't know about you, but I would much rather be working for the glory of the kingdom of God than for the glory of this world. That is the challenge that is before us.
01 March 2018
Lift himself above earthly distinctions.
- Søren Kierkegaard
This book is such a good read, from the Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). If you've ever read C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves, you will catch on easily to what Kierkegaard is getting on about. He just takes longer to get there, with more philosophy and abstract thought. That means I read this book slower, and as I do, it gets better, and my understanding is deeper. In his view there are two loves (which differs from Lewis' four loves) - a friend/lover/parent type love and a God/charity love.
Alas, but the world has changed, and gradually as the world changes the forms of corruption also become more cunning, more difficult to point out - but they certainly do not become better! (pg. 86)
Kierkegaard is challenging me to love others (and he clarifies and distinguishes who are neighbors truly are) in a giving-with no-expectation-of-receiving anything love. He recognizes that with close friends or family this is hard because we already have an expectation that we will receive something. But when we love our neighbors: the poor, the hurting, the lonely, the stranger, we already go into that situation not expecting anything in return. We go into that fully expecting to give of ourselves.
The idea of love is so confused by the world. It is amazing how Kierkegaard saw this issue in the 1800's, and saw how it was getting worse. It is not true love which looks inwardly to better oneself at the expense of others, but that is what the world embraces as love. Our purpose is to share a love that is infused with the tendency to glimpse the eternal in the temporal. So much of the celebrated earthly love does the opposite. Earthly love looks to solely get the most out of this life and indulge all you can because that's all there is. Fighting that inclination of our culture is the big challenge we have to overcome. As Christians, we go against the grain of the world.
So much of our love in the earthly sense focuses on the temporal - some object or state of being, but only with a heavy dose of agape can each kind of love be truly good and have the right set of eyes to see beyond the moment and to seek the needs of others, regardless if any love is returned. May we be able to set aside ourselves, and as Kierkegaard encourages, ignore differences amongst us, to engage in disinterested love; a love that does seek to give to others, without expectation that we will receive anything in return. The whole perspective shifts when we don't expect anything in return.
Shut your door and pray to God and you have the utmost a human being can have; love your Saviour, and you have everything, both in life and death; then pay no attention to the differences, for they make no difference. (pg. 80)
26 February 2018
There is no burden but should lightly lie,
No duty but joy at heart must be.
- George MacDonald
Sometimes it's just one line that catches you right where you need it, tugging at your heart. George MacDonald does that to me frequently, and I love this line. No duty but joy at heart must be. That is what we are tasked with (our duty, per say): a joyful heart, and yet we let all these burdens rise up onto us, as if we had to hold them for some reason.
But, alas, we don't have to hang on to them. Our Lord offers to us that He will take them. Cast ye burdens unto Him. Why do we cling so tightly and allow ourselves to toil all the day (and night) long? I pray the Lord takes all my thoughts that cause me to stray from my duty of joy at heart.
I need guidance in this, for it is too easy to slip into collecting burdens and letting them pile up in a stack that quickly gets weighty, therefore it becomes tougher to let them go. It takes courage to let them go, but oh! The joy of the release when we lift them to God!
I sip coffee this morning and praise God as the sun rises and casts a bright glow into my home. May the Lord cast a bright glow into my heart, and shine there always. The Lord's light never grows dim.
22 February 2018
I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.
- William Butler Yeats
Take a walk with me across a stone-paneled city. Sand-coloured buildings adorned with windows ornate and tall. Windows lined with flower boxes blossoming in colour. Flower boxes surrounding a grassy space. Take a breathe and think about the history you are part of, even if only for a short time. We are only here on earth for a short time, but this city has lasted for centuries and will continue to flourish for many more. We get to experiences place like this. Where time has passed and history has occurred under your feet. I cannot help but feel that here, in Oxford.
It is good to be reminded of our smallness. A smallness coupled with the fact that we all have a part to play in this great story of God's creation. It is a paradox of the minuscule and the importance that fascinates my imagination. I feel that the most when I am travelling.
I think part of why I love to travel to old places is because I feel as if I am stepping into a story that has been taking place for centuries, and I get swept away into the middle of the book somewhere. The point is, I get to be within those pages, and it is part of that discovery and learning that thrills me. To be part of it is a privilege. The more unique a place is (and true to itself) the more I love it. I tend to stay away from the touristy sections if I can, so I am able to find the tucked away local spots that give me a feeling of the place. I want to learn the names of some of the locals I will see everyday, at my favourite coffee shop or at the place I am staying.
As we walk around, look around.
One thing I potentially dislike about travel is if I am shuffled from one thing to another with no sense of appreciation of a place except to cross it off the list as completed. This is one reason why I do not gravitate to take part in travel tour groups. I want to spend time in a place to gather its feeling, to feel its pulse, not just go nonstop from place to place. Each place has a vibe, but you cannot absorb that if you don't observe, which requires slowing down. So let's slow down for a cup of tea and listen to the locals chatter about their lives.
Everyone has their different modes of travel, and I love to hear about such travels and why they did what they did, and what they learned. So, how do you prefer to travel? Why do you like to travel? What draws you to a place?
20 February 2018
Are we loftily lifted up on the clouds?
Or is the sun always this bright?
A quiet morning, meditation in the now.
We are the clouds, being pierced by the great Light.
Rising up above all the earthly distinctions,
A shift in perspective results in much improved sight.
No breeze shuffles in to move us, so we think right here.
In a moment such as this, we can truly delight.
A heart less full of self, emptied out, flowing
Outwardly as a giving source like a river, with all our might.
16 February 2018
Charles Wallace's problem is to learn to adapt while remaining wholly himself.
- A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle
Charles Wallace's problem is my problem as well (and quite possibly all our problems). The issue in this book (A Wind in the Door, the second book after A Wrinkle in Time) is that young Charles Wallace (6 years old) gets picked on by many children, and he comes home from school with a black eye sometimes. He would be in his first grade class and when asked something about himself one day, he would begin to talk about microbes and mitochondria, and how tiny the particles are, and what microscopes can see, and what mitochondria need to thrive. He was a "special" child, with genius scientist parents. His bedtime reading was scientific books. He was doomed to always being misunderstood and picked on. The teacher and principal tried to coax him to fit in and not display his true self.
It is not an easy task when the world wants you to be something else that fits easily in a group. It keeps things pretty simple when everyone is the same. Somewhere along the way, sometime in elementary school, I realized that I was not made to be like other people, or to follow them just because. I was always glad to be different and go my own way. I knew that having red hair (strawberry brown, so I'm told) automatically made me stick out a bit. Then, add the fact that I loved to read and learn, while most young girls were more interested in cute boys and lip gloss, and I stuck out even more. Of course I was interested in cute boys and lip gloss, but have always been more interested in reading. I don't remember the reason why a girl in my 5th grade class decided to break all my coloured pencils in half and spread them out on my desk one day, but I remember approaching my desk with my newest library book in my hand completely clueless as to why someone would do that. I was just being myself, and didn't understand why someone would dislike that so much.
Sometimes it is easier to give in to the world, but we are meant to be our truest selves. It is amazing how we can forget who we are too easily. The book is filled with themes of embracing who you are and naming your true self. When the characters would name who they truly are, the danger would flee. Satan slips in those subtle words or memories from the past to bring back certain feelings, and before we know it, we are not ourselves. Oh how the subtle workings of Satan are much more dangerous than a blatant attack because we do not easily realize it slipping into our subconscious We need to recognize it to snuff it out.
"I don't know. We don't have to know everything at once. We just do one thing at a time, as it is given us to do." (pg 113)
When are we our truest selves? In the book, Meg had to learn to love Mr. Jenkins with an agape (giving and selfless) love, even though she didn't actually like him. When we can love others, and continue to give, we are our truest selves. We become more and more ourselves.
How can we know our truest selves? If we learn to know, really know deep down into the fiber of every cell, that God first loves us (before we existed, before we do anything, before we deserve it) we will become our truest selves by way of letting God's love live through us. Meg learns how many of us can be led astray to believe in nothing but themselves: a selfish darkness which ends in destruction. It takes a long time to truly know this, and let it sink in.
Oh! How we can learn so much about ourselves as we read good stories and books.
The books we read, read us.
"But you said your last assignment was to memorize the names of all of them."
"I did. All the stars in all the galaxies. And that's a great many."
"But how many?"
"What different does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter." (pg 206)