29 June 2016

A Tale From Rivendell

In my dreams, this place is a little piece of Middle-earth. This, I have imagined, is where the elves dwell. I always feel a bit of magic when I come to Dry Falls (aptly named because you can walk behind it and stay dry except for drips and mist). My theory was confirmed when my friend, April, said that it looks like I am in Rivendell, the safe haven city of the elves in Lord of the Rings. Perhaps the waterfall gave that feeling, or the lush green environment. 

Both of those, coupled with a wonder-filled imagination makes me see the ancient history that these woods hold.

I have been coming to this waterfall since I was a very little. Since it is just up the mountain from where my grandma lives, it was always a good stop to get some walking and beauty of nature. The roar of the water cascading over the edge and crashing onto the rocks below reminds one of the power of nature. The seemingly gentle stream above the rock suddenly ends and the water has no place to go but down to the bottom of the gorge, and continue on down the mountain.

These paths hold lichen scattered rock, moss-strewn gravel, misty air, and lush greenery. I imagine hidden paths into the rocks behind the waterfall that lead to the elves secret city. This is the entrance to so much more, and I get to walk among the ancient land with eyes wide open, and an imagination dreamily seeking stories of this place.

27 June 2016

Travel Log

The Blue Ridge Mountains are calling....

The journey should be enjoyed, right? It's not just about the destination. So, whenever I travel, I look for places to stop along the way. To stretch out my legs, walk, and visit places that have character to spend a little bit of time.

Atlanta is the hot spot, both literally and figuratively. The traffic is always a dilemma, but it doesn't seem quite as bad when you stop somewhere like the famous Mary Mac's Tea Room, which serves the classic southern food. The lines of waiting people was out the door as we left. Just down the street from that restaurant is the Ponce City Market, which is a re-purposed historical brick building made into a shopping and food location definitely worth visiting. It has a mix of shops (like West Elm and Madewell) and a large variety of unique eateries in the central food hall (if you are a foodie, you would love it all).

After another quick stop for some iced coffee at Condesa Coffee (the temperature was 104 F at that point) I headed to the roads that lead up to the North Carolina mountains. A drive up the mountain and the search for the correct house leads to the moment of thankfulness as I safely arrive in front of the house where we will be staying. Deep in the woods, surrounds by tall trees, above 4,200 feet, we are here in our tree house.

The drive takes its toll when I wake before 6:30 am and drive from Florida to North Carolina in one day. The heat drains me. The evening grows deeper and to bed we all go. For the morning will soon arrive, and all the beauty of the mountain scenes that feel so familiar, and yet always have the air of a first time meeting.

22 June 2016

Ode to Oxfords

I've worn out two pairs of Oxfords this year. The soles are simply not hanging on any longer. I wear these shoes so much, they are quite abused (and loved). This is how much I love Oxfords, though. There probably isn't a pair of shoes that I wear more than my Oxfords.

The familiar click of the heels on my floor as I grab my tote bag, books, and lunch items for work. The look I wear with dresses, jeans, and skirts. My most-worn shoe, for certain. They have traveled with me over to Oxford, trotting around the cobblestone streets for days on end. It makes sense, then, why I would write a poem about them, right? Especially when both of my pairs are broken and I've gone weeks without Oxfords. (!)

Ode to Oxfords

O, comfort! The air I breathe
and the steps I take can be
so comforted. A ready realm
made for thee -- Oxfords.
Soft, supple leather enfolds my pace.
Feet adorned, trotting the streets.
Weather-worn and tattered-torn,
soles now losing grip on the shoe.
Heavy-laden are my sorrows of loss,
of such good times cherished whilst
Oxfords held my feet.
Alas! Joy shall arrive when new
Oxfords come ready for wear.
In caramel-coloured cheerfulness
thus appear, and the days shall
be grand again with Oxfords upon my feet.

20 June 2016

Self-consciousness in Schism

The rational, or self-conscious, power is indeed the noblest, but we must ask from it a complete self-consciousness, and not a self-consciousness in schism.
 - Charles Williams

The bifurcation of our modern mindset is one that splits body and soul as if they were completely separate, like different entities, but in fact one cannot fulfill its whole purpose while isolated from the other. This is a downfall of our views so common today (when we die our soul leaves the body and travels "up" to heaven - why is that?). Science and faith are split. Reason and imagination are split. The split way of thinking as if our body and soul are completely separate and unyielding to one another leaves us empty and missing essential pieces. Similarly, the thought that imagination and reason cannot both be used to teach or share stories is seriously flawed, when if fact there needs to be a melding of both.

Thankfully, we have many writings of the Inklings that speak directly into this falsity that almost all moderns believe to be true. I am reading a lot of Charles Williams lately, who was an Inkling, and along with C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, pondered these issues in our culture. If we keep a corporeal mindset, and separate the body and soul, we can more easily shrug at the pain and suffering of a people as mere bodies without seeing that they matter. This leaves us blind to the important piece of God's great design - an element of dust God created into a being filled with the macrocosmic hidden deep inside.

What it boils down to in a great summation is if we neglect to love or care for our neighbor, we are in fact ignoring their heavenly qualities and therefore neglecting the Kingdom of God.

We cease to care for God's kingdom properly if we neglect one piece over the other - body and soul. As we come closer to understanding the importance of both and how they reach into "the deep heaven of our inner being" we see more than just a picture, we see a depth that lies beyond the surface and into the mind of God, as His creation. We are meant to look deeper and marvel at His glory that rests in each of us. A glimpse of the God-created cosmos within ourselves.

17 June 2016

Forever Thankful

(A sprinkling of Father's Day thoughts)

I miss how you devoured books, always eager to learn.
I miss how you steeped a glass carafe of green tea, and then chilled it in the fridge to drink a glass of iced green tea with your lunch.
I miss how you knew the names of all the trees and plants.
I miss your attention to detail and your memory, which could remember the minutest details.
I miss how much fun you had driving your BMW.
I miss all the camping trips (and all the stories about them).
I miss your shaggy, dirty blonde hair.
I miss all the hikes with you in the lead, because nature is where you came alive.
I miss your seemingly gruff persona, which really was a softie inside.
I love how you loved to tell stories and hear good stories.
I love how you valued people, and not things.
I love how you supported everything I did and wanted to do.
I love how you were so proud of my writing, and wanted everyone to read my first book. I wish you could have read my second book, and this blog.
I love how you carried the Bible I gave you to Sunday school each week.
I love how on that last trip, in California, you wore slippers on a hike to a waterfall in Yosemite.
I love how you didn't care what people thought about you, but it was more important to do the right thing, always.

I love how you loved your family so deeply, it was clear to everyone who knew you.

I am forever thankful for the strong ethics, morals, and Christian roots you instilled in your children. Your memory lives on through the lives of all those you knew. We can pass along your lessons, and laugh at the memories you left with us with joy in our hearts knowing we will see you again.

15 June 2016

Winding Down

Poetry is a felt change of consciousness (Owen Barfield)

The rain came in drizzles at first. A multi-layered sky overhead contained patches of some darkened clouds that seemed only a little bit menacing. Proven wrong, the droplets began to fall jubilantly, as if released from their cloudy prison, and can now dance freely through the air. I still have laundry to do, which requires me to go outside and down my steps, so I quicken my pace to dodge some droplets. 

Long weeks sometimes leave me drained and require heavy doses of winding down in reflection and quiet. Having a cosy home to spend time in is one of the best solutions for me to reflect on my feelings from a week. Each week presents its challenges, and attending to them requires both energy and thought, which is good, but to regain my calm sense of peace, time spent in some quiet solitude is essential for me feeling back on track.

Here are a few thoughts and ways I wind down from a week, and seek to quiet my soul again and lean into God more deeply:

- Take my journal to a different spot in my home to write. Sometimes simply changing the place I sit to write can open up my imagination with a different view or posture. 

- Read a good story that draws me in to beauty of words and imagery. My current fantastic read is Charles Williams' novel Many Dimensions.

- Make a cup of tea in a teapot and use a lovely tea cup. The art of making and experiencing tea is such a wonderful, simple enjoyment.

- Spin some vinyl of some classical music. My favourite is my Bach Brandenburg Concertos record. 

-  Listen to the rain fall outside. Rest by a window and just pay attention to the gift of nature that God created, and the life-sustaining goodness it brings to us. 

- Reflect on the best parts of the week, focusing on good memories and joys that I saw or experienced.

- Sometimes we need to shift our focus off ourselves, so I remind myself that those around me are probably facing a bigger struggle than I am, and I pray for more patience and compassion because I don't always know what is in another's heart.

- Sit in quiet thoughtfulness, opening up to God. As I am still, my heart and soul listens and God's love can penetrate my sometimes hardened shell.

13 June 2016

Prayer : a study

I have been collecting ideas and thoughts regarding prayer, as it is always a spiritual discipline in which I can give myself a satisfactory grade, but rarely a good grade. As a work in progress, I am always seeking thoughts and reminders of deeper ways to engage the good habits I might already have, while adding particular practices that I fall short in. 

In an attempt to improve the depth as well as the frequency of my prayers, I thought I would share some notes on insights and reminders I have heard, read, or learned recently, that I hope to come to know and meditate on, or already have begun to. 

It's not always the act of prayer that is difficult, for me, it is the focus. I want to pray about something particular, and as I do, my mind begins to wander somewhere else. Then something distracts me. Does that happen to you? Is it a curse of the modern minds we possess that are always distracted? I do think so. Writing and reading doesn't cause me as much trouble. So, I try to say more "little" prayers throughout the day, whenever I think of anything that needs prayer. It's the devoted time of prayer that I really need to improve upon. It is a spiritual discipline I bet we all need to work on.

 - Go to church, or chapel, sit in silence and tune into the space and time.

- Prayer is opening your hands and staying open to the graces God will set there.

- There are different ways in which we can absorb truth, and it requires a poetic mindset, not literalistic.

- To focus on joy even when the darkness of despair is lingering.

- Move towards God.

- Our cry out to God is our deepest acknowledgement that we are not home.

- Never surrender a good question to a mere answer.

- To be honest is of central importance.

- Something good is coming, in joy ,and in a completely surprising and unexpected way.

08 June 2016

O Wisdom

For in God's deep wisdom, He made it so that the world could not even begin to comprehend Him through its own style of wisdom.
 - 1 Corinthians 1.21

O wisdom! That which we strive to attain!

I feel like I have gained a lot of wisdom over time, if I look back at how I was years ago, and years from now I will look back to myself now and think how much I have grown. As I find wisdom, wisdom finds me. Reminding me of all that I need to be grounded in.

Yet there is so much more to gain, that which is not yet attainable. And I will never get close to comprehend God's deep wisdom. If we try to make our own version of wisdom to fit to God's (or expand to encompass) we will be foolish. There is no way to do that. Our own pursuit of wisdom is earthly and cannot reach that which is beyond our grasp, except through God.

Catching glimpses we see come from deep wisdom of God if it is His will to share that in our time.

Sometimes I feel wise, sometimes I am wise, and sometimes I am not wise. There is a difference in each scenario. I come upon struggles within myself as we all do. I tend to overthink, I resist change, I try to be perfect, and I worry about what others think of me (and oh so many more!). These are all things that rise and fall with the tides. Often they cause no trouble, but then I might get caught in one of their traps.

Wisdom finds me and if I listen to the words of truth, I am brought back out of the tumultuous tide.

But wisdom would not be so desirable if it were so easily attainable, and thus my days are not always simple. I wonder about so much and am left with many unanswered questions, but I've come to accept that we cannot fulfill everything by the end of the day. 

06 June 2016

Summer Heat

Summer has dug in its heels, and it is not going anywhere. It refuses to wane, even for a few hours overnight. We rise in the morning heat, and rest our heads on our pillows amidst lingering heat as the air conditioning drones on. The weight of the humidity drains my energy, and I must retreat indoors.

Yet, a walk around the lake with a friend is still essential. Good conversation and scenes of nature help deflect focusing too much on how hot it is. Even an hour before sunset.

With the summer heat upon us, and not willing to let go, I hide from it inside with books, lectures online, eating lots of salad, drinking La Croix, and cleaning. To step outside is to feel the need to shower again after a few minutes. Always on the horizon is the everyday risk of storms that roll in, or develop overhead. The day begins clear and with air fat with humidity. As the sunlit day increases in heat, it rises to the sky, the clouds form and fill with pent-up humidity. The cloudbursts can be strong and sudden, but usually expel their energy quickly and dwindle down as the evening grows deeper. This is a perfect time to enjoy the cosiness of the indoors with a good book and cup of tea (yes, I still love a cup of tea in the evening, even as it is hot outside).

As the sun blazes and scorches the land and all who stand upon it, I am reminded of seasons, and how there are seasons for reasons that might be beyond us. It may seem to lack sense and not feed our souls as we enter a season, but if there weren't a "dry" season where we are tested to continue in our practice of faith, how would we truly appreciate the end of the dryness as we enter a season most loved? If it were always your favourite time of day all day, it would eventually lose some magic. Our human nature causes us to become bored all too easily, so we need a myriad of milieu to keep us motivated through each season. We always have that to look forward to.

We should be thankful for summer, because after that comes autumn. Even if it feels like a million miles away.

03 June 2016

The Question We Should Ask

My morning reading from Romans recently brought to light a reminder of how our past doesn't determine our future. So many of us get caught up in our past and allow it to hinder us, or plague us with fear or bitterness. "How would God wish me to deal with this?" is the question we should ask.

It can also work the other way around. Meaning, just because the family line goes back to Abraham and followers of God (a Paul writes to the Romans), it doesn't mean you are automatically all set with God. It is a choice of your own, not a descended lineage guarantee. Nor are we entitled to it because we go to church or act like a good person. Paul's letter to the Romans throws this out on paper, with challenges to sharpen their faith.

We have the personal choice to determine if we want to be a follower of God. Since we all tend to worship something, as human nature determines, we need to decide what we will worship. If that is not God, it will be something else. If that something else is worldly (created or of this world), we shall always be left empty in the end after short spurts of happiness.

Joy has a taste of primary truth. It does not rely upon anything of-the-moment, but instead, it keeps an eternal perspective. A joy-filled life does not look inwardly or at other people too much. That is where the danger grows of creating an idol. We should be looking at our Creator, who actually chooses things to happen (or not to happen). It is up to God, not us. And we should look at each thing God gives us knowing that it should provoke acknowledgement of Him in all circumstances. We ought to be drawn to Him in all things, not just in matters we feel need attention.

I will let C.S. Lewis summarize:
It means that every single act and feeling, every experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, must be referred to God. It means looking at everything, as something that comes from Him, and always looking to Him and asking His will first, and saying: "How would He wish me to deal with this?"

01 June 2016

Progression of Language

Our language is flexible and it has evolved over centuries. If you were to think of one reason most people do not enjoy reading old books written by Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, and Chaucer - it is because the language is different. While it may be English, it has changed over the four hundred (or more) years so much that today's modern reader does not understand many of the words, diction, or syntax.  To me, it is a fun challenge, full of discovering meaning and learning historical contexts.

Language has to change as the new generations invent new words and use old words to mean new things. Should we resist the new use of altered words or slang created? Probably not. Should we halt the mis-use of certain words that become easily confused and used at the wrong time? Probably so. Here are a few examples.

flout - mock, insult
flaunt - parade, wave proudly

disinterested - not biased, impartial
uninterested - bored

These are commonly mis-used words, and most people do not even realize it. As someone who loves language and words, I aim to be conscious of the words I use, to be sure they actually relay the meaning intended, rather than relinquish it.

New words today have historical roots, and they produce new and interested attention to our language. This, I think, is a good thing. While the newness can draw upon the old, we cannot (should not) lose sight of the history of English. The cultivation of our existing, historical language whilst allowing the stems to grow new leaves on the same tree is the vital piece. Our creativity is utilized in language, even though most people likely do not realize it. This same thing has gone on for centuries. For example, William Shakespeare created countless words in his plays that never existed before then, and we still use today. We continue to do that today - as we expand our dictionary with new words.

Now, how do we handle the spelling? The difference in spelling and grammar from the King James Bible and Shakespeare to today is quite different. The apostrophe was used as a plural form rather than a possessive form (ex. your's and potato's). Words were spelled (as we would say) incorrectly in today's standards (ex. blest vs. blessed). This is a fun and fascinating exploration if you are interested in language. 

What is important in my eyes, is not to lose words of old. We have forgotten words that have fallen into non-use, but they are still in the Oxford English Dictionary and can live on unless they are removed. I love to integrate the old with our modern world wherever I can. Letting history live in pieces of our words is something so fun for me, but I also think it is important to preserve and protect as part of our culture and heritage.