17 August 2017

Inner Place of the Heart

To trust in God is action's highest kind;
Who trusts in God, his heart with life doth swell;
Faith opens all the windows to God's wind.

- George MacDonald

The inner place of the heart muses upon the state of life at present. This path that we are on today is littered with broken pieces. Contemplating scenes flash like slides in the head. Each slide (like an old fashioned photograph) holds some different action or outcome (welcome or unwelcome), as a result of other actions. Only pieces are grasped (past and present collide and crumble), with each slide providing a glimmer of what happened or what is happening.

A darkling landscape of questioning sweeps in. This doesn't mean despair (though it could feel as if it is), as a sudden warm feeling of comfort comes in the good light promised as the darkling scene begins to showcase the light. Each step is a struggle because we can barely see, and it leaves us eager to find a way out. But sometimes the way of ease isn't the way God guides us to go. It is at the darkest point that the pivot comes, back toward the light. It comes to greet us at the edge of darkness. Through the cracks, a beauty emerges. 

Going to a place we would usually not dare to venture may be our path. A place outside of comfort, that exposes us to elements we are afraid might batter us, but a place leading to joy unknown to us from our present perspective awaits us. We are left with circumstances that force us to move this way, as we cannot go back. It means we must keep going. Hold onto the hope of good. Hold onto it with a grip beyond your own strength.

Trust in God and all His light and love. He is there, waiting for us. He is providing shelter if we do feel battered. That, at the centre, is what holds us close. This, we rest in, knowing that darkness may cover us for awhile, but we are taken care of by our loving Lord, who goes through it with us.

15 August 2017

Stranger than Fiction

When one hasn't a touch of the poet one stands some chance of being a poem.
- G.K. Chesterton

I started reading The Club of Queer Trades by Chesterton the other day and I was so delighted in every page of the book. Chesterton's classic literal vs. mad characters make me chuckle, while there is a mystery slowly being revealed with small clues along the way. The wit of Basil and his keen ability to observe (to see through the holes of the 'facts') and find truth is something admirable that we would all benefit from if we could see so clearly. We can easily get caught up in the facts, which may at the surface appear to tell the story, but many gaps leave room for actual truth behind the scene that could easily be glossed over by those who push the way forward for the facts. 

Basil's brother, Rupert, is the literal one who looks only at the facts. He is the one to jump to conclusions. Basil sits back and watches the scene unfold, then the spotlight goes to him, where he cheerfully states his brother is wrong (like a good brother would do), and then slowly reveals (with a grin on his face) what really is happening. 

"Facts," murmured Basil, like one mentioning some strange, far-off animals, "how facts obscure the truth. I may be silly - in fact, I'm off my head - but I never could believe in that man - what's his name, in those capital stories? - Sherlock Holmes. Every detail points to something, certainly; but generally to the wrong thing. Facts point in all directions, it seems to me, like the thousands of twigs on a tree. It's only the life of the tree that has unity and goes up- only the green blood that spring, like a fountain, at the stars." (pg. 22)

The book centers on six stories of odd professions that some residents of London have taken up, to be part of the Club of Queer Trades. The rule of being part of this super-exclusive underground club (they literally meet underground) is that a member must be making an income from some trade that he has invented. That leaves the door open for some risible, odd trades.

In pure Chesterton enjoyment, you stumble through the London streets with Basil and Rupert as they solve mysteries that reveal the odd trade, such as the Adventure and Romance Agency, where a client will pay this agency to create adventure in their everyday life. Suddenly, the client will be caught in a dark alley that leads him to a mysterious house where his name is written on the lawn, threatening his life, so then he must investigate the house and find a mysterious lady, and the story continues to unfold in various seemingly dangerous encounters.

Or, in another story, Rupert is about to head out to a dinner party, when an old clergyman shows up at the door with a terrible re-telling of being made to dress up as an old lady and take part in a crime with a gang of other men who dressed up as old ladies. He recounted detail after detail of such horrible treatment. Rupert misses his dinner party because the story went on for hours, which was the aim of the young man dressed up as an old clergy. His job, you see, was a Professional Detainer. Apparently, their agency is very busy, as many people need to hire professionals to detain other people from being somewhere.

Each story is its own jolly fun that Chesterton delivers in all his writings. The discovery of the profession always made me chuckle. And yet underneath each story and situation, there are some subtle moral, political, and social statements, per Chesterton's usual (the judicial system, standing up for what is right, not judging too quickly, morality, madness, secret societies).

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction," said Basil placidly. "For fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." (pg 83)

10 August 2017

Silvery Grey Expanse

Cloudscape above familiar land. My home
Resonates with feelings akin to softness.
Comfort and cosiness permeates the air, come
Along with the silvery grey expanse
Aglow, catching the sun's final rays until some
Turn of the earth brings us 'round again,
Back to where we started, or is it known
That we move forward to where we go.

Does the silvery sky inspire my soul? When it covers the blue-hues radiating from the sky, cast over me a time of musing. This is when interesting light and shadows emerge. For a while it does cover the sunlight, then as I look again, glimpses of breaks leak the light. Smooth entryways of a soulful musing invited by the waves of sky, cast in shadows and shades analogous to crumpled tin foil and embers of a quieting fireplace as the evening deepens. It is nature's own creative hygge. 

08 August 2017

Winter in August

My niece doesn't notice (or care) that it is midsummer. She has her own style and personality that makes me smile. Who says you can't wear a winter cap in August? The look isn't complete without some Hello Kitty mittens.

The wild abandon of a four year old is refreshing. When you are four, you don't care what others think about you. You express your creativity without reserve. You let your imagination wander and you make up stories about travelling through space or living with dinosaurs.

The sad thing is, we lose that sense of being ourselves as we grow up. When I watch my niece, I see her creative wheels spinning in her head. She thinks about what she might have heard the day or week before, and asks questions to learn about something ("what are satellites, daddy?"). She soaks up information like an eager sponge. She picks out her outfits, matching colours, and does not worry about what other people might think about her selection. She asks you what your favourite dinosaur is (mine was triceratops that day, her is always T-Rex).

When we really take a moment to think, we all probably spend a large amount of our time worrying about what other people might think. From what we wear, where we live, what we eat, where we spend time. Do we act in ways that really go along with our personalities, or are we trying to impress someone or be like someone else? Are we trying to please God, or please others?

We were all created with different fingerprints. We are made to bring our unique self to the table everywhere we go. That is not an excuse to do wrong and say it's just following our personality. Not at all. It is embracing the tools God gave us and wondering as we look at the world how we can use that for good purpose. I used to hide all my writings and never share with anyone. I was worried that people wouldn't think it was any good. I'm no C.S. Lewis, but perhaps something I write will connect with someone, or resonate with them in a way to make them think. Or be useful and helpful. My work is then purposeful.

Perhaps my niece will grow up to be a fashion designer, or teacher, or scientist. Whatever it may be, may she always be truly herself and embrace her creativity.

03 August 2017

Infinite Perspective

Of writing many books there is no end.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Bible tells us that if all the stories were written down about what Jesus did, the world would not be able to contain all the books. If that be true, then we only know but a tiny portion of what Jesus said and did. Yet we are to believe and have faith in the infinite, while only knowing some pieces. We are to trust that which is promised, without knowing all the answers. We are, in fact, left with more questions than answers sometimes.

The rain falls in heavy, steady drops this morning and I will have to face those wet drops soon. Until then, I will be here, cosy at my table with a book (Aurora Leigh by E.B. Browning) to set my mind in another world for a few minutes. I have been feeling a sense of contrasts these last several days. Myriad inner emotions and states of understanding (or lack thereof), while the outer realization of truth that surpasses all understanding pulls me back into the centre with a trust that goes beyond all that I know. I didn't notice how much of an automatic reaction it was for me until now. This is an infinite perspective that accepts that I may only grasp a small paragraph of the whole chapter I am trying to take in all at once.

To understand is to piece together parts of many things. Sometimes those pieces seem scant, as the rest of it all swirls around me in droves of confusion. But I never want to lose sight of the outer infinite - that ring of truth so complex and beautiful I can only hear fragments of the harmony being produced and be fully content in the good and promise that it holds.

I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite.

- Elizabeth Barrettt Browning

01 August 2017

Shining True

All things are shadows of the shining True.
- George MacDonald

Words frequently come into my mind without apparent reason or instigation. I will hear words sometimes and if I am able, I will write them down in my journal, and a flow of words will continue onto the pages. I find after a minute that there is usually a reason I heard those words. Some truth is revealed to me through my own words in the act of writing.

Walk humbly with God.
These words just flashed into my mind. I grab my journal and start to write. You can have questions and still seek out God's path all the time, in humility. It has been my answer as of late. Walk humbly with God, and it will all work out appropriately. You don't have to try to push your way up. You don't have to seek attention. When you are humble and truly following God's path, it is noticed because it contrasts so much with everything else.

In the beauty of this day, whether God's buckets have poured out over the clouds, or the warm sun's rays are casting shadows, the words of truth ring out and sing a lovely tune if you listen in. In humility, recognize the smallness of our lives while all the while seeing the hints of glory (wonderful, majestic, macrocosmic glory!) hidden all around, for us to discover in delight. The joys of His creation hidden in a myrtle bloom.

I love this reminder in MacDonald's words, because I seek to find the shining True in the everyday. All the microcosmic things can speak to that. Whether it is through people, places, or things. It is there to be seen. If we look closely, we might be able to see the glory in all the nouns.

25 July 2017

Word and Time Wonderings

C.S. Lewis's desk in the study at The Kilns (his home outside Oxford)

Sometimes I wonder what it be like if we were alive in a different time. Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong century?  What century would you want to live in? Do you think you would be doing the same thing or something different with your life if you lived at that time?

Or what if someone from history were alive today, instead of in their time? What if J.R.R. Tolkien was alive today, for example (he died in 1973)? He would have been raised differently due to technology and the machine advancements of our time (which he detested in his own time). He would not have served in WWI and would not have had certain ideas stemming from that experience to write about (such as the sudden image of a Hobbit living in a hole in the ground). Would The Lord of the Rings and all the sub-created world of Middle-earth ever been written?

If C.S. Lewis were alive today, writing at his desk at The Kilns, would his views of the this modern day change the story of Narnia? In his many essays, he wrote with valid concern about the direction our world was going (from his point of view in the 1950- early 1960s). He joked about how he was the last of the dinosaurs, but he also wrote about space travel. What would he write about today looking ahead from our modern perspective?

Isn't it interesting to think about how we are alive at a certain time for a purpose? It is not a mistake that you are here right now. It might feel like sometimes you belong in a different decade, but you were made to be alive today, and to bring your talents forth for good.

Shakespeare, for instance. If he were alive today instead of during 1560-1600s, would the English language evolve as we know it today? Not at all. Shakespeare penned so many of our words used today, which did not exist until he wrote them down in his plays! Words like baseless, bedazzled, belongings, dishearten, dwindle, multitudinous, sanctimonious, watchdog. Or phrases like "wear one's heart on one's sleeve", "a laughing stock", and "all that glitters isn't gold" come from Shakespeare's writings. These words and phrases simply did not exist until his creativity was put to good use in his plays that we read today. His influence on our language is immensely palpable.

All this wondering reminds me that we are here to do our part and it is of utmost importance for us to get moving with what we were made to do. I focus on words, language, and writing of course, but that is not the only essential talent we need in this world. Your talent has purpose in this time you are in right now. Thank goodness you are here in 2017, as your talents are needed for good. You don't know how far-reaching that good is.

21 July 2017

At Last Breaking Through

There is something about the morning light;
A waking freshness of delight 
shines through my window.
The journey overnight was arduous, 
but at last breaking through
the darkest of night,
emerging as the hopeful, 
glowing morning light.

There is something magical about morning light. The way it begins as a soft glow, just barely visible over the horizon, but penetrating the darkest of night. The soft glow breaks through. It brings hope and restoration as the new day awakens. It offers that our own small light can break through something dark.

Sometimes we need some light to break in, as a dark day emerges. For whatever reason. Memories of sadness, trials of hardship, displacement of good. My Dad would have been turning 70 coming up this weekend. It is strange how a loss can raise its head at certain times. We all have days and times in which we try to grasp for that light, and yet it is there. Every day. The love of God is all the light we need. It is through that Light that we have anything good.

As the sun's softest rays break through the deepest midnight, let the love of God shine within you. Nothing can break it up or cover it up. Not even the darkest cloud. Take heart. Let the glowing morning light shine on your morning, and may that remind you to trust in the love of God for everything you need.

19 July 2017

Strange and Wonder-filled

A stranger here
strange things doth meet, strange glory see,
strange treasures lodg'd in this fair world appear,
strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be who nothing was,
That strangest is of all; yet brought to pass.

- Thomas Traherne 

The heat begins to rise early in these midsummer months. I can feel it as I wake up and get ready. It is a strange thing because it feels so familiar. Our summer is so long. There is this notion in me that longs for the months of cooler weather that seem so far away.

But look at the sunset from the dusk preceding. A clear (or clearing sky) can produce a majestic sunset. Why is it summer sunsets tend to be so inspiring? Is it the intensity in the atmosphere that paints the sky with such other-worldly colours? 

The sights and sounds of summer are all the more intense. Thunderstorms can rattle your house. Cicadas can make a deafening chorus during the heat of the day. Sunsets are vibrant and colourful. Thunderstorm clouds heading your way are huge and menacing.

Nothing is very subtle in the summer months. A juxtaposed mixture of contrasts dwell in our days. Indoors, it tends to be chilly. Outside it is sweltering. A blue sky can be quickly covered by the darkest storm clouds. Vibrant blooms dance in the afternoon breezes, somehow flourishing in the blazing sun.

May the wonderment of my soul keep growing somehow, even if I feel less than inspired within these months of intensity and heat. Sometimes one has to look deeper than one might expect. A shallow muse may not present it. Often, one must be daring to go deeper.

14 July 2017

A Rainbow that goes to Outer Space

I received a thank you note in the mail from my four year old niece with her dictated message to me written by her 'mommy'. It made my day when I opened the mail and read her thoughts exactly as she said them. She wrote her name and drew a picture of a rainbow. But her dictation describing the rainbow is my favourite part. 

"This is a rainbow that goes to outer space."

 I could not stop smiling as I read that. In her imagination, the rainbow goes to outer space. Why not? A rainbow can go to outer space in her story. I love to see her imaginative processes at work. It warms my heart and fills me with joy. Because all of it matters - her beautiful ideas, stories, and make-believe places where rainbows can stretch into outer space, and she will develop that as she grows.

It brought to mind some sweet memories of my childhood. When I was my niece's age, I loved to create imaginative stories, but before I could write, I would dictate to my 'mommy', and she would write down my stories for me. 

The first book I ever wrote (when I was 4, I think) was called "The Girl who Lost her Pumpkin", written around Halloween of course. It was dictated to my mom, with colour illustrations by me. It was a complex, mysterious tale about a girl (me) who had a lovely pumpkin ready for Halloween, but somehow she lost it! A lot of searching takes place, high, low, and all around. At last her mom notices that the pumpkin is sitting there on the counter. The last place she thought to look. Aren't our lives like that sometimes? Something important that we were looking for is right in front of us. 

True, the story needed a bit of substance, but it paved the way for me to love to write and use my imagination. And that has never gone away.