You go on a few weekend road trips and read books that make you chuckle (this is a P.G. Wodehouse).
You celebrate your little nephew's first birthday at his shark-themed party where he played in splash pools, ran around, ate pizza and cake, and was as happy as can be.
You enjoy the evening glow of the pre-sunset light each night and feel a deep thankfulness for every beautiful moment of every day.
You watch your niece at your place, and she ends up falling asleep after all morning and afternoon is filled with completing puzzles, playing piano, reading books, watching Star Wars, and writing a story.
You watch the partial eclipse with everyone at the office (using a carefully crafted viewing box) and marvel at the eclipse-shaped shadows! I know I'm not the only science nerd out there who really enjoyed it.
17 August 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
C.S. Lewis's desk in the study at The Kilns (his home outside Oxford)
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
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
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
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.
12 July 2017
I suspect the hot/humid weather causes me to read more books, since I spend more time indoors.
My reading life has been very busy, and somehow I have read 34 books this year already (thanks to goodreads for keeping track)!
Here a some of the books I've been reading lately:
The Book of Iona: An Anthology
edited by Robert Crawford
I am a bit fascinated by Iona, a tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland, and the location of the monastery begun by Saint Columba, who left Ireland in exile, landed on Iona, and began his Christian ministry around 563 AD. The place is wind-swept, secluded, and mysterious, and yet it was the heart of Christianity for Scotland and the surrounding areas for centuries. This book is a mix of stories, poems, and journal entries relating to Iona.
Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
by John Lewis-Stempel
‘To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.’
Every time I go to England, I end up buying a modern book written about the English countryside, and this past Spring was no exception. This time I read about an English field through each season of a year. The flora and fauna observed by the poetical man who lives there on the edge of said meadow. I admire those who hold onto those traditional aspects of country life; embracing the land and the life and death that is essential to every season.
Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Eliot
This short book is a play dramatizing the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral (in 1170 AD) by four knights who arrive at the cathedral to do what they feel they need to do for the king. Before the knights arrive, Thomas is approached by tempters (offering him ways out), which he rejects, and then he is warned by many others that he is in danger. Sensing his impending martyrdom, he accepts his fate, and even gives a sermon about being joyful in such a fate. Whether good or bad, he says we should celebrate. The knights arrive, and murder him there in the cathedral, and then turn to all the onlookers and justify their actions in some gaudy speeches.
The End of the Third Age: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four
by J.R.R. Tolkien
To read Tolkien is to read glimpses into his sub-created world. This is a supplemental book containing drafts and incomplete alternates for many sections of The Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien wrote his drafts, some of the details didn't make it into the final draft, or, it was greatly modified. Tolkien was well known to be a perfectionist with his writing, so it's not surprising that there are many alternatives and drafts for all his stories. It was very interesting to read the alternative version of Frodo and Sam's return to the Shire, and the tumultuous time of "The Scouring of the Shire" chapter from The Return of the King. There is also an entire ending of the book that shows you life with Samwise, his children, and the sweet domesticity. It seems that Tolkien wanted that ending to be in the final published version, but didn't get it.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
by Reza Aslan
Basically, it is a biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, or the historical Jesus. The book recounts the first century state of affairs within the Jewish world, and all the conflicts that arose. Roman rule enslaved the Jews, messiahs declared themselves left and right, and an apocalyptic mind-set filled religious views. Our modern world is very different, and it is helpful and fascinating to learn about what the people of first century Palestine actually did and believed, and how Jesus became well known across the land (it started with John the Baptist, who was the well-known figure. Jesus was not known at that time). Obviously, he writes this book from a distinctly historical perspective, so many things contradict the theology we know to this day, but some of his historical perspectives actually help me understand passages in Scripture, by knowing more about the reason things were done, and why the conflicts arose (such as between Paul and James).
10 July 2017
Mornings like these.
It is the weekend and I am sitting at my small round, white table that makes me think I am in a cosy cafe sipping coffee. Well, I am sipping coffee, made by this in-house barista. These morning hours are when I am most reflective, and I try to indulge as much as possible. It is the weekend, so I let my thoughts wander. I let words meld out of these delicate, quiet hours of a summer morning.
I love how the landscape wakes up, with misty or dewy beginnings. A refreshment after sun-drenched days. A cycle of strain and restoring.
Glistening morning sun
reflecting off dew-filled windows,
arguments of space
persist in the trees, like willows,
arching outward to claim the air.
The sunscape casts shadows
in these still, early hours,
details of which melt away by noon,
this isn't early June,
but the depths of summer heatwaves.
07 July 2017
In these heat-drenched summer months, I spend less time outside. The air is so thick with humidity. When I take short excursions to venture outside, I am always astonished how plants and flowers can flourish in this most intense time of year. The beating heat of the sun is unrelenting. How are they not burnt and drooping from such heaviness?
They are, instead, flourishing and vibrantly alive. I like to head outside, but it is so hard to enjoy it for long. I wasn't made for this weather, but some things were.
I collect images of such beauty that somehow grows under such circumstances because I want to remember that each season has its purpose, and while it might not be ideal to some, it is nourishment to others.
05 July 2017
Deeper and deeper we go. A new month of summer is upon us. We are halfway through the year. It is a little bit strange to think of how we got halfway through already, but I suppose time is moving the same speed as it always has. It appears to move quicker as you get older. I think because as children, we get so caught up in moments that time seems to freeze. Children have a great way of being in the moment. We adults tend to think ahead to some other moment to be, or a past moment we wish to re-live. We have a difficulty in being immersed in the right now.
Of course, the way to enjoy and remember moments is to be fully present in the present. This is how your memory stores the feelings, sensory notes, and impressions. That is likely why we have certain memories from very early childhood that stick out so vividly. Memory is certainly an interesting study, as we are purveyors of information, knowledge, and wisdom, but does that impact our memories? We are on a never ending quest for more information so we can sell information. But why is it that many people these days do not use their memory very much? Instead, we rely on computers to remember everything - from dates, appointments, birthdays, calculations, spelling, directions, etc. It is interesting to think about how progression of our memories has been over history. Before the written word, all stories and songs were memorized, and passed down from generation to generation. The tales (that would fill entire books) would be totally committed to memory and recited to each other. That was the norm of human existence. How many of us memorize entire books today?
Once the written word came along and paper was used to make books, the need for someone to memorize waned, as it could be written down instead. This is wonderful for keeping stories and passing them down through time, but our mental capacity lessened and wasn't used as it could be.
Now, with computers, we use and/or challenge our memories less and less. Is that good or bad? What effect will that have on future generations? We tend to have trouble enough remembering all the little normal things in our busy lives. Is that a result of our modern time?
Just a few thoughts that came to mind as I thought about time flying.
30 June 2017
Good Morning! A new day is dawning. It might feel like yesterday, with that same moody atmosphere but the sun rises (or the earth turns, to be more accurate) and the blue sky emerges, and already the day is becoming its own shape. Maybe it still feels the same as yesterday, but it is a new day filled with thousands of possibilities. Your door is about to open, you are about to step through, and you get to choose which way to go.
Make it a choice of joy.
These are notes to myself, you know, for, to me, the summer months challenge me as I grow weary of the hot, humid weather.
But I need to look beyond.
Try to embrace the season by noticing the things to be thankful for. To lift these things up in thankful prayers.
The beautiful dappled light coming through my curtain in the kitchen. My candlesticks with flickering flames. Morning birdsong. The scent of coffee freshly ground. Cosy pajama pants. The crepe myrtle bursting in bloom everywhere. Putting on a favourite top and cardigan. Refreshing afternoon rains. Fresh raspberries. An encouraging word spoken to me. A letter in the mail. Opening a new book. Sitting down with a cup of tea. An unexpected smile from someone.
There are so many, that as I start to focus on those lovely things of the everyday, I forget that the weather might be miserable as I begin to notice something so small like the lovely plants in my yard (especially these autumnal coloured leaves) and feel this deep sense of appreciation. Yes, even amidst the heat.
All the positive thoughts eclipse any frustrating thoughts that may lurk, and I find myself praising God because it is all a gift.
This is how I am making my choices of joy all day.
27 June 2017
Mere draft notes of a tale slowly unfolding...
Many times she awakens with a start, as thoughts demand her attention. She's the writer sort. Always keen to learn about things, so those page-filled evenings toss jumbled in her mind as she sleeps, and on occasion they crash together. Hence, the awakening with a start. Sometimes it is related to the topic of the previous evening. It could be a study of people under a controlling government, or a forest filled with mysteries and elves. The imagination is limitless, as even the sky cannot hold down ideas. Let them toss and be thrown about; this could be the start of the next beauty-filled story, or a grand idea. May the hours that pass in darkness create the opportunity for goodness to form and become realized for the first time.
For most people drift aimless and almost unconscious of life and the world. If they cannot see the world, how would they ever see the truth hiding in tiny moments, and delights in glimmers, cast swiftly along your daily path?
But no, this writer sort is one who defies that persona. As one who pays attention and appreciates the small nuances that usually go unnoticed. Here is one who sees what lies underneath the landscape covering something. Mystery only intrigues her to pursue and seek out. Don't try to dismiss her timidity. She is observant, taking notes. Some one will probably look at her with a questioning gaze, but she doesn't care. She lives not for the approval of others.
She occupies the threshold of a kingdom invisible. At this specific point in time and in space, only with the faith of the imagination can it be seen. It all is left to imagine, but it will not always be so. And even today there are glimpses of the kingdom. Such a heavenly realm surely spills out of some of its goodness to that dwelling place of future residents. Indeed, the creative spell is upon the land. The grass is evidence. A flower is proof. Every bloom holds a notion of something more beautiful than we can even imagine, but we can try. In each moment of beauty, we can know it was made possible by a love so strong, it has passed through the deepest, fiery depths of hell and came back, alive.
This love that has come back is in everything. Its presence is what makes the spheres circle their star. It drives their pursuit to get closer and closer to the centre. If this love is in everything, it is in you as well. It means that as the planetary spheres seek the centre, so does your soul. The thoughts that wander and the dreams that wonder all seek to take you there to the deeper place of centre. Everything is drawing you to it.
And she, this writer sort, this dreamer who pens these words wanders deeper into the mysteries because the mysteries of unanswered questions is where bits of the heavenly realm toss a crumb over the threshold. But only if you are dwelling there amidst the mysteries can you see that tiny glimmer of that which is to come.
22 June 2017
The name warns you ahead of time. There is no promise of a neat, tidy event. It won't be a pretty scene of perfection. Not with crumb cake. It might look pretty now, but beware. Powered sugar will likely fall on the table cloth. The crumbs will inevitably break off and stray onto the dish, but gather it in with your fork. It is just as tasty. The scent of cinnamon rises and I smile because cinnamon is a favourite spice of mine. Combine that with a tea cake, and you have a delighted gal.
Every so often a weekend warrants some cake to go with tea. I make a proper brew in a small pot and add cake on a pretty English dish and I am instantly back in England, enjoying a tea break. A normal, daily occurrence it is when I am in England. They just know how to master the tea breaks. Here, it is not quite the norm, but I crave it (that must be the English in me).
When it is part of my day, you will see me at my table with a book propped open as I try to fork a piece of cake as I turn the page. It forces me to slow down and just enjoy some quiet moments, without being distracted by other things.
This late morning tea is so lovely. The light is nearing the zenith and my kitchen is illuminated with natural light. Here in the heat of summer, I keep cool inside. But the moment you step outside, it is a different story. The humidity is thick. With a lot of rain lately it hasn't been scorching, but still it is summer. All that tropical air is settled in. Thankfully, air conditioning keeps me chilled so I can enjoy a pot of tea whilst pretending that it might be a bit nippy outside. The reality is, of course, there are many more months ahead that I will have to keep pretending.
20 June 2017
Lay before God what is within you, not what should be within you.
- C.S. Lewis
Draw me in, Lord, closer to Your wondrous love at the centre. You are there. You are here. The blessings of this life are present in all the good in every single day. Paths are cut for me to follow. Thankfully Your plan doesn't rely on me to create the path, no, You have done that for me. I do not have to have knowledge beyond my own, but I need to trust that You are guiding me to the best place and that You will use me through whatever talents I have to offer.
Help me be present in the everyday, and be filled with Your love, so it comes out in all that I say and do.
I pray that my thinking
always leads to You.
Discerning with every moment,
falsity with what's true.
Allow me to look not just at the window You set before me, but through it so as to see what You have out there beyond myself. In all Your goodness, may I always trust and keep faith in that.
Lord, You have all of me. Sometimes I know not what to pray, but to simply be silent and focused on You is a prayer in itself. I pray for the Spirit to guide me and lift up my own feeble words and thoughts. I have so little to offer, but in You it is enough. I do not need to be somebody important as the world sees it. I just need to be me. Please help me to see my purpose in the everyday, and then nudge me to strive toward it with love in my heart.
16 June 2017
These men and women little realized that their partial allegiance was in fact a guarantee that Hitler would get and hold control: they became the supporters of the very movement that would enslave them. (pg. 218)
I have been lax in my writing blog posts because of this book - Darkness Over Germany: A Warning From History by E. Amy Buller. I haven't been able to put it down. Published in 1943 (in the midst of war, mind you), it is absolutely a book for our times. The author was concerned with why the youth of Germany so quickly bought into Nazism and how it became their religion, filling them with lies. But the issue was much deeper, because the spiritual need of the country was real.
We have much to learn from history. These stories she tells are of her own conversations within Nazi Germany, and they leave such a lasting impression we need to pay attention to as we move through history. She was a British educator. She traveled into Germany countless times through the 1930's as the Nazi Party grew stronger and stronger. She talked with professors, farmers, workers, political leaders, Nazis. The book is filled with these conversations.
They have put into this movement the sort of confidence a man has in his faith and not in his political party as a rule. So that we see something very much like religious power and drive that is really a sort of hysteria. This, I think, is partly due to the last war and all the unsettled, evil years since. (pg. 31)
A lack and/or collapse of confidence in politics, and society's inability to argue well and make good decisions is what prompted much of the strife told within the pages. This environment allowed the party to rise up and give "worth" and "purpose" to the youth of Germany. The crisis in Germany after WWI was very dreadful, including the economic dilemma and unemployment. The citizens wanted to see that their homeland would be strong again, they wanted jobs, they wanted to feel important, and Hitler spoke to those needs they felt deep within.
To a generation without faith, the Nazis gave a brutal philosophy and millions of lives have been sacrificed to free the world of this false answer to a real need, but let us not fail to understand that it was caused by real need.
12 June 2017
The climate in which monastic prayer flowers is that of the desert, where the comfort of man is absent, where the secure routines of man's city offer no support, and where prayer must be sustained by God in the purity of faith.
- Thomas Merton
I am starting a new book I got in Oxford - Thomas Merton's Contemplative Prayer. It is a small book, but it is packed tightly with thoughts that will challenge every reader. In fact, he writes that the book is for fellow monks, but some laymen might find interest in it, since we are all bound to be people of prayer. I would be one of those common people.
I took my book to Concord Coffee one morning to spend some time waking up with a latte and also waking up my inner prayers.
He writes about how simple and uncomplicated prayer should be. The earliest monks prayed so simply and somehow things have gotten over-complicated in our modern day. Many times the earlier monks would pray the Psalms. Psalms is a place of expression, and the book holds "special efficacy for the ascetic life, in that it revealed the secret movement of the heart in its struggle against the forces of darkness."
This is turning from the world to God. Conversatio monastica.
Here is awakening inner dialogue with God not just for selfish, live for self, false reasons, to which we can all be inclined. This is what we must confront. Within ourselves we must shed the worldly notions that all promote the illusion to be narcissistic is to be filled and happy. Those things will crumble in our hands.
The climate of our prayers then should be of awareness and gratitude, according to Merton, who also stresses that it should be quiet an private, not made with loud voices to draw attention to ourselves. Here is when we can go deep into an inner sanctuary that can help us understand beyond ourselves in the meaning more drenched in purpose. The challenge is to be quiet and in solitude is not appealing to most people. It is too much to be silent in a world of noise. It goes against the rush of our days and what culture tells us to do. It disrupts our lives.
If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and will deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. (Isaac of Nineveh, Syrian Monk)
I don't know about others, but I have always been one to go against the grain. I don't feel the need or urge to follow just because everyone is going that way. There has always been this rebel sense in me. Perhaps it was fostered growing up as I was given the space to think for myself. So to me, solitude is a gift to be felt in gratitude.
I love how Merton describes the silent and often wordless prayer as being "watchful listening of the heart".
08 June 2017
Not just a bibliophile, as one who collects books, but also a voracious reader who seeks to read all the books possible, because there are so many!
Bookworm? Book lover? Bibliomaniac?
There are probably many words to describe this kind of situation. A situation where I have no more shelf space for books, so there are stacks on the table, and on the TV stand (they kind of block the TV actually, but I never watch it. I am reading instead.). I live in a tiny little home, and if I really run out of space, there is a whole other side of my queen bed that could easily hold some stacks. Just kidding (sort of). Or, I could just forgo my blankets and do this.
If you gave me a week to do nothing but read books I would rejoice, but then at the end of the week I would mourn that the week of reading was over, and I would need more time. because there would be more books to read. There are always more good books to read.
Such is the dilemma of an avid reader. The more I read, the more I find and discover all that I want to read. One book leads to many others. An author might refer to a book or an author that I want to read next. Or while reading, I might be reminded of a book I wish to read, like a classic that this book might have stemmed from. Sometimes things I read in a book will remind me of another book I mentally add to my reading list.
Is this normal? Do other people do this?
Or, I might travel to a place like Oxford, and come back with a suitcase weighing a ton because stacks of books are crammed in every nook. My self-assigned homework assignment is then to read all those books. I gladly jump into it, but other books come along eventually, crossing my path. Before I know it, I am reading 4-5 books at once and there is more beckoning.
That's how I like it. Books upon books upon books to read.
I bought a tote bag at the Bodleian Library in Oxford this Spring that reads "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus
Now, thankfully, I am blessed with a good job and a steady income, so I am not lacking in money that I ever need to make this decision, however, books would be at the top of my priority list in such a situation.
05 June 2017
But love laughs at the end of the world because love is the door to eternity and he who loves God is playing on the doorstep of eternity....
- Thomas Merton
It is not by chance that I found this book by Merton, on the vocation of writing. I seem to stumble upon books at just the right time. I have been thinking a lot about writing lately, and how I can better fulfill my purpose through my love of writing. The book has been opening up a world of thoughts, contemplations, and I find myself underlining passages everywhere. Merton was a Catholic who joined the Gethsemani Trappist Monastery and became a monk living in Kentucky back in the 1940s. My aunt and uncle have been to the monastery several times to visit, enjoying the nature and retreat from the busy world that it is.
I read his words that challenge me with insights:
When everything is "creative", nothing is creative.
What we call creative today (he wrote these thoughts in 1960) is not original or unique, but usually something that is more aggressive or vulgar (he says this in regards to sale techniques that might be called creative). It is so true that we praise something as being creative when it is actually so familiar to us and could go against what we believe to be good and honest. We are surrounded by that, rather than true creativity.
So what is real creativity, we might ask?
What it is not, is all the destructive and negative actions used in frustration and anger, which actually causes us to lose the true elements of creativity.
There is no true creativity apart from God. That is the great summation.
The theology of creativity is recovering our likeness to the image of God, he writes, "since God is love, then for man to be restored to the likeness of God, all his acts must be pure and disinterested love."
Creativity is possible, then, when we can forget our own limitations and allow ourselves to be lost in the immense and expansive creative power of God, whose "love is too great to be seen or comprehended."
Indeed, we look inward at ourselves too frequently, which leaves us dry and lacking while we wonder why. As we try to fill ourselves with the outward knowledge and inspiration, we should instead be emptying ourselves in Christ. It is then we can move into being truly creative with a focus on Christ rather than the world and its approval. I think this is when our true selves, as God intended us to be, begins to shine through and we lose the urge to mimic others and instead become truly creative.