20 February 2018

Morning Meditation

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

Books Read You

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)

13 February 2018

Reflections on a Warm Winter Day

She had another whole hour in which she could curl up under the covers, and luxuriate in warmth and comfort, and doze -
Then she remembered.

She tried to reassure herself that she was remembering a dream, although it was not the way that a dream is remembered. It must have been a dream, obviously it must have been a dream - 

- Madeleine L'Engle

From the moment of waking, I am reflecting. A thankful heart sits quietly and wakes brightly.  A troubled heart wakes in the midst of thoughts that never quieted. On a warm (dare I say it - hot) day of February, I wake up after sleeping-in one morning. To wake slowly and not slip out of bed instantly is a luxury I don't indulge in very often. I stretch and let my mind wake up as a thoughtfulness fills me. As light begins to fill my room my thoughts wake up with the rising sun.

Weekends for me lately have been a restorative and reflective time. If you ask me how I've spent my weekend as of late, it would seem rather dull to most people, filled with the very basics like chores and errands, but what fills me each weekend is the time I am able to take to sit at a coffee shop writing, being reflective, reading at home, and being creative in some way. Sometimes the creativity looks like writing a blog post, or wrapping gifts for an upcoming birthday, or writing a note to someone, or organizing/decorating something in my home.

In moments of time I have that are free, I really enjoy being home. For some reason lately, I haven't been inclined to fight traffic to go out and about much, but to be at home enjoying this tiny space I have is where I have been drawn. There are many activities on the weekends, of course, so it is not all quiet at home. Much of what I can learn and reflect on is obtained by way of a gathering, event, or specific conversion with someone. But then I need to return home with some time for reflection.

We all are made so differently, it is a wonder to behold and learn how others recharge and relax. While I need a stack of books and my journal (plus a cup of coffee or tea if available), others may need a good movie, or a game, or a nap. It is fun to learn about those things in each person, so do share what it is that you need to recharge if you feel so inclined. 

08 February 2018

Thinking Music

Do you need music when you think?

What music genre helps you focus?

I've read that the younger millennial generation more than the older needs music to focus (the millennial birth years range from 1982-2004), and that's why so many students you see in coffee shops have ear buds in while they work on their laptops.

I am a millennial, but not of the younger set, and perhaps as a result, I work well in total silence, but I also work well with some good music that's not distracting. I prefer either classical (such as Bach or Chopin, or just simple piano) or some electronic ambient music. I don't want any vocals if I am working or trying to write. 
If there are vocals, then I need to be in a coffee shop where other voices will muffle the vocals and it all melds into the atmosphere. 

In a world where distractions are all over the place, it is interesting to learn how everyone works, and what environment they need. Is it a generational thing? Is it a preference based on personality? If something specific works well for you, why is that?

It is just interesting to think about. And as I think about it, I am listing to the above electronic song. It only seemed appropriate.

06 February 2018

Thinking Place

I am sitting at Concord Coffee, letting the atmosphere of a coffee shop fill my head and space. I am sitting up at the counter/bar, drinking a delicious peppermint latte. I don't usually sit up at the bar, but all the other tables were taken, and I do find that a new perspective is good to take sometimes. The coffee shop looks a bit different from up here. 

It reminds me to be open to seeing the same thing but with fresh eyes. Like discovering a place for the first time. To look upon a place of familiarity with a new sense of appreciation. The concrete counter top is smooth and spacious. I could spread out with a few more books, really. I can hear the conversions behind me, but cannot see the people unless I turn, so my imagination is at work picturing them in my head. The music playing is upbeat and unfamiliar. Other than the baristas, the people are all strangers to me.

This is an ideal situation for a thinking place. Here is where I find it easy to think think think. While being in the midst of people normally has the potential to be distracting, when I don't know the people and they are going on about their business with muffled conversations, writing notes, and tapping keys on their laptops, I am in community with them as other thinkers, writers, creators, students, business people doing life in their way. I find beauty in that.

I welcome the ambient atmosphere because it is not a distraction. It is a place where I am not distracted by my own things. I love being at home (and that's my other good thinking place) but it can be more distracting because I will see that I need to dust, so I'll get up to dust. Then, I'll remember I needed to change my water filter, so I will get up to do that. Then I will see the stack of things I left on the table, that I mean to go through and put away, so I will get up to do that. You see where this is going, and sometimes it gets the best of me as I get little things done here and there, my thoughts are going here and there, too. It's not always like that, but sometimes it is.

A coffee shop is where the comings and goings of daily life inspires me. I am a lifelong learner so I will read my book and underline with gusto as if I had a paper to write. That paper I write might just be a reflection in my journal. I will glance up and take a sip of coffee and wonder what the person next to me is writing about as they type away on their laptop. I love the environment of many brains thinking, postulating, and working in the same space about a wide range of topics (I can only imagine what each person is studying or discussing).

Where is your good thinking place?

01 February 2018

Love that Moves the Spheres

Where ever-present joy knows
naught of time.
- Paradiso, Dante

Paradiso is a long poetical allegory of paradise written by Dante, completed in 1320. I try to grasp ounces of Dante's words in his grand poem. The version I read is translated by Dorothy L. Sayers. In this, the last of the books (he has already been through hell and purgatory), we travel along with Dante as he and his beloved Beatrice travel from sphere to sphere through the different planets, moon, and sun (ie. the heavenly realm). As they move closer and closer to God, to paradise. As they move through the spheres, are they moving away from the centre? In Dante's limited mind, perhaps outward, and yet all that is written and all of what God does us to draw us into Him, actually closer to the centre. It is the paradox of time and space. Could moving through the different spheres cause us to pass through realms while at the same time drawing nearer to the centre?

Perhaps it is the love that moves the spheres that moves us as well, in ways and on planes we would not be able to imagine ourselves. The shape of the path we think we take takes us somewhere else.

How do we describe the love that moves the spheres? Is that why poems and imagery sometimes can reach us deeply as they help us cling onto a little snippet of the heavenly realm?

Follow the spheres and the mystery of love as it melds into each one. We are limited in our place and time to fully understand, but we can look at Jesus, who was both human and divine. In Jesus we can see the elements of humanity we can follow and connect with. By these human experiences, we can better understand His divine nature.

These mysteries of God continue to rise as Dante and Beatrice are encircled by lights of souls who pass ahead of them - those with great wisdom and the saints. 24 lights encircle them.

Their measure done of dance and melody,
The sacred fires again gave heed to us,
Turning from task to task with right good glee.
-Paradiso, Dante

It takes a harmonious dance amongst the participants of love to make the spheres go round. Captured in the rings is love and light, and each sphere is drawn to the centre by those things. Each task at hand is part of the circle and a piece of the divine. Each task is to be turned with a right good glee, which makes me smile. We don't always smile at tasks or take them on with glee. But each thing we do is part of the heavenly realm, building up from the time of Christ.

This mixture of the heavenly with the earthly in my imagination helps me see the glimpses of the heavenly realm in the here and now. Even on my table of spheres, I mean grapefruit and bowl.

30 January 2018

Musing on a Month

Open thy mind; take in what I explain
And keep it there; because to understand
Is not to know, if thou dost not retain.
- Dante

It is the perfect time of the morning. Just about 7:45 and the light is softly risen, emanating a warm glow to illuminate the day. Add the chilly air, and it is just so lovely. I could stay here for hours - enjoying a cup of coffee, journal, and stack of books.

My birthday was last weekend and I have a stack of new books that I want to dive into. Actually, I already have; I won't lie. A stack of new books to read makes me so happy. I'm not sure how you feel about that - perhaps it would stress you out because you would have a lot of reading to do, but to me, it excites the inner-workings of my mind that I have so many good books to read. To have a stack before me means I have hours of reading (expanding my horizons) ahead. Entering into a good story and/or learning by process of reading is one of my greatest delights.

January is my favourite month, and I am truly sad it is almost over. I hear that many people are cast down in January because of the dreary weather and the after-Christmas slump. I have always felt the exact opposite, actually. Obviously with a birthday, there tends to be some treats and celebratory times, which is lovely, but January also provides the coldest weather we get here, way down south, and I soak that in as much as I can, because this season does not last long. As I mentioned I usually have a stack of new books to read, from Christmas and then birthday, that I feel fully engaged and excited to jump into many good thoughts/musings in the new year.

To pause and give thanks is a good practice to keep, I think. I am just pausing to give thanks for January, all the books to read, my favourite weather here, and all the good people who are in my life that I have been privileged to see our touch base with this month. I am immensely grateful to God for providing that which is given to me.

26 January 2018

26 Degrees

The cold is fierce
It pierces all the nooks
of my old home, even books
Shiver in their spines
and need another cover
to keep them warm this time.

It's all the same, yet it feels
different when the cold is real.

Seeping into my home, wood floors
creak as they freeze under my slippers.

Cup of tea steams, cooling quickly,
need to drink it faster, and write
more and more, to keep warm.
More words appear aided by tea,
under a blanket I warm and smile.
This is a place I'd like to be a while.

22 January 2018

Mystery and Story

Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.
- Mark 4.11

It is the kind of day that is getting colder by the minute. I may need to grab a sweater in between a few of these words. As I have a snippet of time here under my blanket, my thoughts begin to wander, weaving in and out of some words that hold truths that my soul needs.

I cannot expect to know or understand everything that's going on, but I always wish I did. I am one who wants to know the details and the reasons, especially when it involves something close to me that I care about deeply. What is it in me that desires to know? Is it our human nature to want to know? Is it my personality?

Being a very introspective and reflective person, I always have thoughts going round my head. Inside, there's deep thinking going on most of the time. I suppose this can be both good and bad. As we all have certain traits that make up who we are, there can be good sides to it, and also a side that could lead into something not so good. These thoughts don't really turn off until I fall asleep, and even then sometimes the thoughts follow me into my dreams. Sometimes not.

I imagine myself in the time of Jesus sometimes as I read Scripture. If I were nearby when He was telling a story, what would I be thinking? The parables He told had deeper meanings and glimpses into what the Kingdom of God was like, which was especially helpful to those who didn't have faith and trust in the Kingdom of God. Since we don't always understand what is right in front of us, a story is sometimes what we need to bridge the knowing and the understanding. Sometimes a story can offer an image for us to dwell in, as a complex meaning can be brought into view as a story - something we can relate to our lives.

Perhaps that is how we can understand something better - through a story told to us, or even our own story as others might tell it. 

16 January 2018

Winter Reads

When the weather gets cold, there's no better time to curl up with a book (or two) and some tea. Actually, I would say the same thing for every season, but winter seems to have a need for staying warm and cosy inside more often than other seasons.
Here are a few books I have been thoroughly enjoying lately. 

The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is an incomplete alliterative poem. Just as the suspense is building up and the story gets into a full swing, the story breaks off, and Tolkien never finished it. Tolkien's son Christopher does a wonderful job working with the various drafts and manuscripts written by his father, and writes several essays included in his book about the continued story. Where would Tolkien have taken the story if he worked on it more? What would happen with Lancelot and Gawain? It is interesting to ponder about what could have been. 

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Have you read this book? If not, then why aren't you reading it now? I just re-read it this weekend, and each time I read it, it is more wonderful, in the same way the Narnia books get better with each reading. It is a book for young people, and the theme of love is the undertone of everything. Meg is one we can relate to, as she feels inadequate and lacking the smarts (that her parents, both scientists, have), and yet she is the only one who can save her little brother. Her faults actually help her accomplish a triumph over darkness. L'Engle always wrote about family dynamics, struggles, and the love that families can demonstrate in her books. Mix all these deeper themes with space and time, traveling to other galaxies, and experiencing other planets and the strange inhabitants and you have a story you won't forget. Oh, yeah, and there is a movie coming out, but the book is always better. Be sure to read the book.

The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen
'She has many rare and charming qualities, but sobriety is not one of them.' This tiny Penguin classic book holds a collection of Austen's early writings, that include her usual wit and sarcastic humour about those in society. She wrote about what she knew best, and she can certainly capture some silliness and some very accurate portrayals of situations at that time. Austen is always so fun to read. I found myself chuckling several times while reading this little book.

Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne
I have been slowly reading this book for a while, and finished it at the end of the year. It is a collection of his reflections and responses to life's questions. It is like a book of wisdom, written in the mid 1600's. Traherne went to Oxford, and C.S Lewis mentions reading this book in his letters, and enjoying it very much, so of course these things motivated me to read it. I have grown to like Traherne. Some of the passages are above my head, in the realms of metaphysical that I reach for. My imagination needs to work more to get to that point. I can see the influences he had on George MacDonald, and C.S. Lewis. I really did enjoy these writings, even if I didn't fully understand them all. These are the kinds of writings that the more I read them, the more they will unravel and reveal truths.