19 July 2018

Memorable Books (Part One)

I was asked by a friend on Instagram to post 10 most memorable books, so I thought I would share those on here, too, along with a few notes. I am sure I've shared many of these before, but they are really that good. So, you should go pick them up and tell me what you think! I will split it into a few posts (for your anticipation!)

1. Perelandra by C.S Lewis
This is book two of his Space Trilogy, but it could be read on its own. It is the story of Dr. Ransom traveling to Venus in a little one-person transportation pod. He lands to find a pre-fallen world where everything is fresh and innocent. He and the green lady explore the land and sea, and it's such a beautiful place where everything is good. Until...evil enters with a new arrival, and Dr. Ransom has to do something. The way Lewis depicts evil makes me squirm, but it is so effective. I've read and re-read this book several times. It leaves me with such deep feeling about the wonderful creation of God.

2. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Cheesterton
This is Chesterton at his best, and my favourite kind of story he writes that is a paradox wrapped in a mystery, twisted into an adventure story. Gabriel Syme is a poet and police detective in London who overhears an anarchist demonstrating in a park, and ends up talking with him, and learning about the underground (literally) society of anarchists putting together a grand plan. He is brought in as a spy to learn more about this powerful man who is called Sunday, but he isn't ready to encounter the twists as he gets deeper.

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I count the whole trilogy here, because it's all one story that reaches even beyond the scope of the books, because Tolkien created the word of Middle-earth and all its history and languages, stories and legends. These books, though, I always reach for every few years. They beckon me to re-enter the world of living simply with the Hobbits, Aragorn's journey, the elves and their melancholy but beautiful stories and lands, the magic of wizards, and the tale of small folk doing amazing things. 

4. Lilith by George MacDonald
I love this book and all its quirky dimensional weavings. Mr. Vane is in his library when he discovers a way to enter another land of many dimensions through a painting. In the other world, he has many lessons to learn, but also people to help, and love to encounter. It is a fantasy book like a fairy tale, with princesses who turn into giant cats, little people who cannot grow up, giants who are stupid, and long journeys that go through dark woods filled with creepy things. But then there are the deeply thought-provoking revelations of New Creation, and MacDonald's visions are so wonderful I constantly go back to those passages.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This was a little tough to narrow down, as I would like to include Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion here as well. But I went with Pride and Prejudice because there are many aspects that are so memorable about this book and Austen's masterful characterization and story-telling is why I re-read this one many times. Elizabeth is such an independent woman who loves her family, and she is challenged by a proud, rich man who seemingly only cares about himself and sticks his nose up to others. However, we know that with time, as we get to know people better if we are willing to learn their stories, some amazing things can happen as we seek to change ourselves for the better.

16 July 2018

Porridge with Bananas

A bright Saturday morning. I make some porridge with bananas, honey, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Even though it is about 75 - 78 degrees in the morning, it is still delightful every now and then. It reminds me of Autumn. I can dream, can't I?

I read in Nehemiah and am inspired by the leadership and getting through the trials faced to re-build the wall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell, most of the young and bright of the city were taken into captivity in Babylon, while those who remained in Jerusalem were the old and poorly. Nehemiah took action when he heard of the broken walls. Not only did the walls need to be re-built, so did the lives of everyone there. He overcame trials, rumors, mockery, corruption, and many other things that should have stopped the project. The walls were made whole in 52 days. Then, when the work was done, they turned inward to the Scriptures, as they had forgotten how loved they were. They had forgotten who they were, and whose they were. As Ezra read the Scriptures and all the people listened, they began to remember, and they rejoiced.

The other night (or early morning) I woke up with a worry in my head. It was something out of my control, and yet. I proceeded to keep myself awake with these thoughts that kept on and on in rotation in my mind. When I woke up, I felt so silly as I remembered that, and prayed that such worry would not keep my mind from forever praising God, in waking or sleeping. May my every breath praise God, so that there may be no room for me to forget who I am, or what He has planned to use me for good.

12 July 2018

Lesson from Blooms

Darkness closes in about her,

all areas cast into shadow of gloom.

Surrounded on all sides by the
dangers, she recalls the tiny bloom.

Delicate though may be, able to
weather the storm they can.

The winds may rage and try to bend
yet ever-holding to ground and land.

Such a small and fragile one there,
could never withstand the giant dark.

Yet somehow after all is done, love,
it brings the sun like a lark.

Layers of hope, inscribed in petals,
connected to the center.

The source of strength, not on our own.
We have One who bears the weather.

10 July 2018

Light and Knowledge of Creator

For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"
has shone in our hearts to give the light of the
knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 4.6

I am drinking coffee and gazing at my peonies that are slowly opening up. The beauty of nature does move me and make me feel poetic. As I study something of creation, I begin to wonder how one could not believe in God the Creator when one gazes at delicate blooms (in this instance). Would that come to be, so intricate and complex (thousands of different varieties of flowers) if it was not designed and created? I cannot imagine that oops! suddenly we have a peony folks, it just came into being. No, I don't think so. It is a tiny example of the designing Creator who set for His artistic brush onto the blank canvas of our world, and we get to experience it, in a micro and macro sense. All created because He loves us.

I feel it most when I travel (I could go on and on about Iceland, Scotland, England, North Carolina mountains, Mount Rainier, or the Grand Canyon and out west scenes) but even with the tiny things, like a peony I feel it on a small level that I can relate to (I feel so small sometimes). I sense it, I study it, and feel so thankful for the glimpses of glory. We are all custodians of this place in which we live. May we take a moment to think of how it all matters. We are also creations, and are uniquely beautiful. I'll continue to study the beauty of our lives that we get to enjoy here for a short time, ever increasing my knowledge of it and God's love.

05 July 2018

Morning Essentials

Morning begins with coffee. Thinking begins with coffee. 

Do you have a regular morning routine?

I love the morning hours. They are quieter, reflective, and offer the clearest thinking-time. Before my mind wakes and begins the races with all that I have to do that day, the morning hours offer some time that I can wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee, read Scripture to start my thoughts in the best direction, and write in my journal.

I patter into my kitchen and flick on the electric kettle to heat some fresh water. After it rolls to a boil, I pour it over the ground coffee (I just ground some whole beans in my grinder) in my french press and let the coffee brew as I munch on my cereal. Then, Scripture, journaling, and coffee drinking ensue. 

I've come to realize over the years that it's the most important part of my day. Without it, I am not as centered. Without it, I feel like I am missing something. Variations of this theme are acceptable. I can be at a coffee shop for it. Or, when traveling, it may be cut into a few bits. But it all boils down to the three essentials - Scripture, Coffee, and Writing.

What are your morning essentials?

03 July 2018

Coffee and Thoughts

There is a pen mark on my dress. I just noticed it. I think it just happened a few minutes ago, and I am not at all surprised. I always find ink marks on my hands, so why not on my dress? As I think I sometimes twiddle with my pen and end up with ink marks in places they aren't supposed to be. Pens and ink are a life-source to my journal and the lovely pen is the essential device. A thin, sleek piece of plastic or metal filled with ink. Handheld and finger-directed, placing words onto pages. It is magical. 

Here she had brought a lute and a few books;
Here would she lie for hours, with grateful looks,
Thanking at heart the sunshine and the leaves,
The summer raindrops counting from the eves.
- Leigh Hunt

I am learning the works and thoughts of a new poet/writer to me, Leigh Hunt. He lived 1784 - 1859 and was friends with Byron, Keats, and Shelley. I am reading his poems and his thoughts/encounters/letters with these authors, and it's a fascinating inside look into all their lives. The descriptions he writes on Byron, Keats, and Shelley contributes to my knowledge of them and adds keen insights from the sight of a friend who spent time with them.

You can learn a lot about people from letters back when letter writing was such a very thoughtful process and was the essential communication across distances. Leigh wrote poetical lines that inspired others, like Tennyson and Browning. It is so fun to get to know another poet/author who I am not familiar with at all, but who was skilled and admired amongst some of the most well-known authors of the time.

I love that there is always more to discover, more to learn, more to read. I am never finished with all that there is to discover. I am so thankful for that.

28 June 2018

Fresh Pages

The time has come, the Walrus said,
To talk of many things - 
Of sun and sand and glittery rays
And starting the day with words on a page.

Okay, that may not be exactly what the Walrus said (to borrow from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) but he might have said that if he has a new journal in which to write a new page each day. At least, I can imagine that is what he would say. Leave it to Lewis Carroll to write poems that forever stick in your imagination. For some reason the rhyme got up with me this bright, summer morning. 

A new journal always inspires me. This one is from Oxford. It was the first thing I bought when I arrived in Oxford this Spring, during the Oxford Literary Festival. This blank book is made out of an old book, and filled with fresh pages. It's the perfect idea to me, as they are a beautifully restored piece of bookish history. They are not cheap, but I always end up getting one each year. Old books being re-purposed for me to write in? Yes - please!  The spine holds a secret - it's a title written in German.

I like to buy journals whenever I travel. It's a piece of that place which holds memories for me, and follows me home. Just thinking about that gets me excited. Exploring, traveling, and observing are great joys to me. I smile just thinking about all the times I have spent writing about adventures and observations from a cosy cafe whilst sipping on a cappuccino. From Iceland, Scotland, and England. I find places everywhere I go.  

I suppose I am a bit day dreamy today. I blame the new journal. See what this lovely new book and a mass of blank pages does to me? It makes my thoughts swirl with ideas and imagining myself in some favourite places here at home, or new places to come with a joy of discovery in my soul. Wandering places of old with stories to tell around every corner, and history written onto the threads of each building and on the narrow lanes. These things reach out to grab my attention and I notice with full appreciation.

25 June 2018

Reykjavík - Side Streets

Something I loved about Reykjavík, Iceland was that all the side streets were just as charming as the couple of main streets (filled with shops and restaurants). Just taking a side street at random kept my eyes always alert to the brightly coloured houses and interesting details. I thought I would share a few of those photos I haven't shared yet, since they were just random photos taken as we wandered the northernmost capital city in the world.

Iceland has very dark winters, so they tend to paint their buildings bright colours, and street art is everywhere to showcase creativity. It was such fun to experience another country's culture just by walking around. I always think the best way to see a city, and get to know it, is to walk it. I was pleasantly surprised how walkable Reykjavík was. I hope to go back someday. 

20 June 2018

The Stories We Live

Vocation becomes, then, a creative act, something we create with God and others, unique to each of our lives.
- Kathleen Cahalan

I've been given this book to reflect upon and it seems so appropriate that it has fallen into my hands at such a time. Isn't it interesting when God surrounds you with reminders by different avenues that you need to pay attention? I think God speaks to me in puzzles - pieces I have to put together for myself requiring paying attention to myself and the world around me to understand. This book is all about "calling" and vocation. The author reminds us that God's callings are all around us, but we have a hard time seeing them. 

What is "calling"?

I'd like to think of calling as the action and movement through our unique story, and the passion that we use for the good of others. I like how the author introduces the use of prepositions to talk about calling. She points out that when most people talk about calling, they refer to a static thing (a noun). For example - "I'm trying to figure out what my vocation is". This leaves me with a sense of this solid thing I am trying to grasp at, that is already pre-made and complete. But our lives are not pre-made and complete. We are on a life-long journey of learning and growing.

I've heard of a story told by George MacDonald (a favourite 19th century Scottish writer and minister) that a young child was reluctant to want to go to heaven because he was told he would become a pillar of God, and he didn't want to become a pillar. Who would? A pillar is static, immobile, and cannot play. We are meant to be creative and imaginative all of our days, and beyond our days on earth. Why would God give us imaginations if we were not made to use them?

Instead of the static noun use of a vocation, the author suggests using prepositions (which in grammatical terms are small words serving to mark relation). This would include words such as by, to, as, from, for, in, through, within. I love that prepositions express relationship, and that is exactly what we were made for - relationship with God, and with other people.

The thing about using prepositions to talk about calling is that it is always moving. It puts us in the creative act of imagination that is unique to each of our lives and moves us forward. It is the story we tell with our lives. 

When I muse about how God created us to create, I always think about sub-creation, which is something J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a lot about. He believed that we were made to be sub-creators in this world. As you may know, he was a master sub-creator, inventing the world of Middle-earth and the vast history, stories, lineages, languages, and maps. He took his job as an earthy sub-creator seriously and look what he has made - the most complex, detailed, and beautiful tales of love, sacrifice, and goodness. He followed his passion of creating a world and its history, which has inspired millions of readers who have encountered The Lord of the Rings and writers who ventured into a new kind of way of telling stories to a modern world.

Through the book, she goes through many different prepositions and talks through ways our calling can be seen in those actions. She writes about being called as a follower, being called as we are, being called from places or situations, being called for service and work, and several other ways. Touching on all aspects of life, I could begin to see how we all have many different callings on our lives, and we live them out in our own ways.  This inspires me to dive into my own callings, because I know they are unique to me, and God will show me ways in which I can do good with these gifts I have. I don't doubt that God can find ways to put me to use. I just need to keep paying attention for what He is showing me.

18 June 2018

Words of Grace

I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 
Acts 20.32

When I start my day with several minutes reading Scripture, I am setting myself up for a more focused, centered-on-God kind of day. There is something about reading words that opens us up to listening to God speak to us through these ancient texts. If we are to work towards who God made each of us to be, we need to be immersed and be familiar with His words.

My daily routine is such that I make a cup of coffee and open up my beautiful cloth-bound hardback Bible on my lap to read. I don't aim to read a lot - it sometimes can be less than a chapter if I am reading slowly. Sometimes I will re-read a section if I feel like there was something to pay closer attention to.

I feel built up when I start my day this way. Even if I am reading through passages that don't initially register with me. I trust that God will help provide clarity through the Spirit as appropriate. And that clarity may come later down the road.

Is as if the Lord has put these words of encouragement (or questions, stories, frustrations, lessons, etc) in Scripture to equip my soul with the defenses it will need for the days ahead. To strengthen my knowledge through truth. To dwell in the words. To have these words on the tips of our hearts everyday. What if everyone did that? How much better equipped we would be to show one another grace?