She Believes In Fairy Tales

She does.  When she’s sick she reads Grimm’s fairy tales.  In Ezekiel 16 she reads a grim fairy tale, and it is by far her favourite.  She philosophizes about fairy tales, she writes them, she loves them.  And furthermore, she doesn’t care if people think it’s silly, because she knows in her head and her heart and all her being that it’s not.  You don’t think something’s silly that you believe in.  Look, it’s not just Cinderella or Snow White.  It’s what they mean.  She knows that they mean something far greater than happy endings, than dancing princesses and wicked old hags.  For her they represent more serious plights in the world today, each one of them.  They represent things in this world and out of it, transcendent.

She lives a fairy tale.

The truth about fairy tales is this. Faeries do not fly around on feathery wings.

The truth about fairy tales is this.  Some have sad endings.

Fairy tales aren’t always the fluffy animated Disney characters whose likenesses you can purchase at your local Wal-Mart.  In the original Cinderella story, Cinderella’s sisters had to cut parts of their feet off to fit into the glass slipper, and it was by the blood dripping on the road to the palace that they were betrayed.

She believes that the story of the Bible is like a fairy tale, and that the hidden chapter that reveals this peculiar truth is Ezekiel sixteen, and that’s not a pretty story either.  “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”

There is beauty in these tales, and there is terrible grief and much to instruct her.  To quote her dearly beloved Chesterton on the matter… he says that fairy tales don’t prove that dragons exist, but that dragons can be beaten.

I have a visa in my possession, I have a plane ticket, a few clothes, one book, and two weeks left in America.  The adventure? Siena, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany.

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I took this picture on my last trip to Italy.  When I clicked down on the button, exclaiming again and again because of the sudden, unexpected beauty, I had no idea that just two months later this would be my home for four months. A few hours later, the opportunity was presented to me and I said, “I’ll look into it,” and to myself I said, “What a joke.”  I applied to the Siena Art Institute, I was accepted with a full tuition scholarship.

In two weeks I’m leaving to live with an Italian family and to study creative writing in this historically rich town.  I haven’t latched onto reality yet, even in the midst of working hard every day to make this happen.

And I’m terrified, really.  I’m terrified to be so disconnected from my home.  I’m terrified of that loneliness.

But I also believe that the fear can be conquered.  And my mind is open.  My desire is to learn.  In this opportunity God has blessed me exceedingly. My desire was never to attend a university for four years.  Rather, I wanted to study in areas I was gifted in, specifically creative writing.  My desire was to learn, to be competent in what I want to spend the rest of my life doing—writing.  I want to write to change the way people think, and I don’t—don’t—don’t want to write Christian fiction.  (My hero is Wendell Berry.)  I had no idea that I could study outside of a university—especially overseas.  I didn’t even look into the idea because I thought it was impossible—even though it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Now I have to ask for your prayers.  I’m going to a strange place, away from fellowship that has been soul-strengthening.  I am going to a place that is prominently Atheistic and then Catholic.   I am praying that I won’t be alone and that I will find some other Christians to fellowship with.  Pray that my mind will be open and I will learn many things from this trip.  Pray that I remember to blog.  Pray that God gives me strength to be stalwart in my faith, and that he will sustain me throughout these four months.  Pray that he will prepare me for whatever lies ahead, since I don’t know what to expect.

I am excited.  I am sad to leave my home, sad to leave many people I love, but I know that God is working through me, and I can’t wait to see where he is taking me in all of this.

I believe in fairy tales.  I am living one.  And so, I believe that this is an adventure, absolutely worth taking and worth enjoying.

And I give all the glory to God for everything in my life, for the suffering and the joy and the contentment and the peace.  He’s working through me and sanctifying me, and all of it is for his glory.  Praise the Lord.

R.H.

The Life Worth Living

I wonder sometimes why people don’t think life is worth living.  As a Christian, I see it worth living because of its great end, because of the afterlife.  I see it worth living because I’m fighting for something, and I know in advance that the battle is as good as done.  But that’s me.  And to an extent, I’m wrapped up in my own Christian worldview, and have a difficulty understanding the world views of others when I come into one on one contact with them.  It’s easy enough to define a worldview, or to name a worldview and list all the things that people believe, but people are themselves are much more complex than that.  Sometimes you find them to be a whole mix of things.

The point is, I never expect to hear from people that life isn’t worth living, unless they tell me right up front they’re an Atheist.  In my mind, the question is always “Why isn’t life worth living?” and the answer is: “Because you have nothing to live for, nothing lasting.” It’s nothing personal against Atheists, it would just make much more sense for them to say it than for a Christian.

But now here’s the point.  If you feel that life isn’t worth living, find the life that is.  There is only one, because the life worth living is the one that takes everything away and then gives you something back after the end.  It’s the Life that deprives you even of your clothes and your body, your personal belongings, your family, the people you’ve loved, leaving your bare, shivering soul that is laying its eyes on this Life, and embracing it, and finally living it to the full. O, yes, I am an idealist, and this all sounds very idealistic, because it’s true idealism.  The grimier life gets, the harder it gets, the bloodier, the more painful, that makes this Life more worth living than ever before. It gives you hope, and hope has never been like a beacon, or a light, in my experience.  It has always been a desperate prayer, and faith that the prayer will be answered.  Because in my darkest moments, there is only one way to look, and that is forwards, and forwards has always been black.  There never was any light.  Hope was desperate clinging, but knowledge and faith that there was something to cling to.  We know when we live a nightmare of a life at times, that that life is not lasting, but the Life worth living is what we fight for, and it will come later, and last forever, and never give us the blackness or pain.

The Life worth living has love, and righteous anger, and hope, and faith, and self-sacrifice, and virtue. It is peaceful, and does not seek a quarrel, yet it is a war-filled life, battling against the forces that seek to push it down to the ground.  But it will come out victorious.

But there have been those times, in the physical life, where you may have gotten up early in the morning and walked in your bare feet, and felt the cold dew on the grass sink into your skin.  Or you may have stayed up late, and listened to the humming of nature, or heard that one bird that sang clearly and wouldn’t let your mind rest, its song was so beautiful.  There may have been someone you loved, someone who loved you back who made your work seem light just because of the thought of them.  There may have been a day where it rained and ruined your plans, so you sat with a cup of coffee, and felt the pulsing, trembling life pass around the world. And if you have experienced anything like this at all, hasn’t it made you feel like perhaps there is something, something in this life that has given you grace to be alive and enjoy it all?

Be like Henry David Thoreau, and suck out all the marrow of life.  Find out what it is really is, and live it.  Don’t waste your time.  You’re alive now, and you might as well find out why you are so.

A Young Thinker

This young man’s name is Luther Whitfield Closson Hopkins. Now, with a name like that, you can’t help but be some sort of thinker, or at least a person with very special and intelligent thoughts.  Luther is a quiet sort, but sometimes he likes to ramble.  He can tell you all the habits of all the different kinds of lizards, and he’ll tell you exactly what sorts of things they like as if he had a conversation with them.  Today we were out in some woods, and we were reptile hunting together.  I remember exactly where he said something that made my heart ache it was so beautiful.  All his own words too.  We had passed by a space where long grass was growing in front of a forest of dead, mysterious looking pine trees.  We had been commenting on how bright the grass was, and how mysterious the forest looked.  All of a sudden, this came out of his mouth.

There are sometimes when you feel hot, and you want water, but you want to wait til you’re even hotter, so the water will taste even colder. And you lay there, waiting, and then the cicadas start singing, and you feel like you’re going to die.”

Whoa.  “And you lay there, waiting, and then the cicadas start singing and you feel like you’re going to die.” That struck me as being beautiful. I asked him, later on, if he felt like he had lived a really long time.  He answered no, not really, but when he thinks of a hotel we went to a long time ago with our cousins, and he stepped in the hot tub and the water went over his head, and when he got set on the refrigerator to watch everybody, well, when he remembered that he felt like it was a long time ago, and it made him feel old.  Luther and his whole nine years. He has the ability to draw up a wonderful image, and make you feel that you are living something so simple and beautiful that it aches.  Perhaps it was his attitude.  He had no idea what he was saying. It came naturally to him, as naturally as breathing, and he didn’t know that he was creating something so beautiful to me that I couldn’t answer him right away at times.  I wish I could write it all down, I wish I could remember everything he said.

I love this about Luther: his deep, thoughtful mind. the questions that he asks, his understanding and his simplicity.  All of my siblings have this element about them, but Luther has seemed a bit scholarly since the time he was born.  When he was a toddler he would put on glasses and pretend to read “The Tale of Jeremy Fisher” but he couldn’t read…. instead he was reciting it from memory.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for this young man.

Reaction… And Dreams

“O, what good is it to live

With nothing left to give

Forget but not forgive

Not loving all you see?

O, the streets you’re walking on

A thousand houses long

Well that’s where I belong

And you belong with me

Not swallowed in the sea.”

~ Swallowed in the Sea by Coldplay

There are some songs, like this one, that just hit a spot in you.  I can’t explain why they do this, but they slap you in the face, and they make you think: “There’s a lot of people in this world who have less and have lost more than I have. What can I give to them?” Because even if you run out of physical, tangible things to give away, there are always gifts in your mind and your heart, if you have taken care to become that kind of a person.  And you realize soon that nothing is about you, that there is a tie you have to other human beings, an inborn ability to help them, to become their brother and sister, so that if we had a correct picture, you would see the whole of humanity stumbling up a mountain, and every person would be holding someone else’s hand, or pausing to bind up each other’s feet. Idealistically.

But I have to interrupt my own thought, and I have to put it to rest, and realize that before we can paint that picture, we must have the model.  Unlike a mirror, which falsifies its object by showing the exact opposite of what it sees and makes you believe it’s not, the artist would paint exactly what he saw, exactly what was there, with no pretending on the part of the subjects. The problem with dreamers is that we tend to dream of the results instead of how we get to them.

Because we are not naturally good.  When I see a person who looks absolutely perfect, I remind myself: “Well, I bet they pulled their sister’s hair and scratched their brother when they were two.  Those sinners!” And then I laugh.  And then I blush, maybe, because I realized that I did that, and then I want to go hide so no one can see me because I think that they can see all my memories of all the horrible things I’ve done. But a line from a Muse song comes to mind: “I choose to hide from the All-Seeing Eye.” And I shrug my shoulders, thank God for his mercy and forgiveness, and trudge on.

I think the greatest lie in humanity is the lie that people tell themselves when they say: “I am alone.” And the lie that says you were meant to be alone.  If only we were not deaf, we could hear each other’s voices, we could hear the birds, the wind, and we would realize that there is something out there, and then we would reach out our hands and still not feel anything, except a sense of fullness and satisfaction.  For when you open your heart, you open it to a great danger, and that danger is that something might enter it, and when something enters it, everything you know, your whole life, all your plans, become the bits and pieces of a smashed monument: for when your heart is open, you no longer have the heart to live for yourself.

Songs like this make me want to create.  They make me want to capture a quiet moment, a meaningful moment, and show it to the whole world.  They make me want to catch images in my mind, and plaster them to the walls of my mind so that the force of their meaning will always be with me, staring me in the face wherever I go, and I will remember most of all that picture of humanity climbing the hill.

Immortal

It was only croquet, last night.  A small game, and a simple thing, but we all laughed at each other, for none of us were really good at it.  My brother made funny shots; one made the ball jump over the wicket instead of through it.  He turned to me, and he smiled.  And my heart ached when I saw him smile, for I saw all his youth —right before me, I saw our youth and a million memories, and how quickly it was going.  I saw how happy we were, how young and inexperienced and naive, but happy because we knew the things we loved. Already, because I am noticing it, I am growing out of simplicity, into a complex future where there is less room for this funny, carefree life, where love will be challenged, and principles tested.  And I prayed then that our youth would last as long as possible, like a dream that you know will end.

And now, I see other things.  “I should have felt ‘the joy of grief'” as Keats would put it.  I see a beauty in the struggle, a deeper enjoyment than could have been experienced.  For our minds will expand and grow larger, able to adapt to the tribulations of living in this world.  There is a beauty, a joy, and an adventure in learning new things.  Leaving youth is saying goodbye to something you always knew and were used to.  And however much you might want it all to stay the same, it must change, and I at least cannot help but take delight in the things the future brings.

There is this conflict, this irony about our lives.  How we at once seek to be young and be grown up.  How we wish to die, yet wish to be immortal. How we wish to order our own lives, yet be free from constraint and responsibility.  There are smiles, laughs, a face that stays with you in your mind forever, an image that you never forget, even if it is disconnected from everything you know, like seeing the smile of someone you’ve never met, and will never see again.  This is the beauty of memory, that even in life, the rush of life, there comes a quiet moment and a thought, and the memory itself, and it seems like time stops as you relive the memory, and you think: “I will always remember this.”

 

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I think about people,

And the way they rush

I think about how they rush for the sake of rushing.

 

I think about foxes,

And how they dash through the woods,

Sneaky, daring, and scarlet red.

 

I think about the summer sun,

About the people it burns,

The people it warms,

And the cold dead who can’t feel it.

 

I think about the helpless dead

Who can do no more than they have done;

Who will never get a second chance.

 

They sing a strange song,

Silent like an autumn wind,

That makes its sound through the trees;

Their song lulls me when I sit

And consider the end.

 

The living become the dead.

The scarlet hair falls from the fox

Leaving his bare bones,

And God spins life on.

 

And there is no silence in the rush of life

We are forced out of grief

Forward into our lives,

 

And we cannot stop anything.

 

Wait… I Tell Myself

I have been thinking about the word wait, and I love that word.  It is everything I would wish to be.

Wait quietly. Wait patiently.  Wait slowly. Wait. Wait. Wait.

I tell myself to be gracious, to be kind.  I tell myself to wait.  To not rush my words.  To think before I speak.  To pray before I plan.  To plan before I take action.

I tell myself to think quietly.

I tell myself to wait, and be wise.  I tell myself to wait until the time is right, and then seize the day.

I tell myself that my time is short.  And I ask myself what I will do with that time.

My capability is low.  My strength is weak.  Strive for perfection, settle for excellence, a friend told me.

Festina Lente – Make haste slowly.  I think of the nuns in the Sound of Music, slowly walking to answer the bell at the gate.  I think of Treebeard – “Don’t be hasty!”  I think of God, who has been patient with me, and I yearn for the time when I will be perfected.

Wait.

Work and wait, I tell myself.  Be productive, and wait.  Be kind, and wait.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

Everything We Need

Banana Pancakes.  It’s a sweet song by Jack Johnson, and I like to listen to it while I do the dishes because sometimes it makes me happy.

I never really think much of songs like these.  To me they’re mindless.  I listen to them when I’m not really listening, not thinking about what they’re saying.  Sometimes I like to give my full attention to music, let myself feel it swell inside of me, abandon myself to it, and I listen to something deeper and richer.  But those times are not when I’m doing the dishes.  So I was thankful when, this time, in the midst of scrubbing and rinsing and humming along, I looked up, and became struck by a sudden thought.  I knew all the words to Banana Pancakes, but had never thought of them, and this line hit me.

“We’ve got everything we need right here

And everything we need is enough.”

I don’t care what it means in the context of the song, but I thought about what it means right now.  How often do we have everything we need, and actually consider it enough?

No, whatever we obtain is never enough.  As one millionaire said in response to the question, “How much money is enough?” “Just a little bit more.” Alway more, more, more, because our minds are never dead.  We are brimming with ideas.  We yearn and pine for things we want, and we get them.  And we weary of them, just as we weary of this world, our friends, and our lives.  And why? Because we have made everything worthless in an attempt to please ourselves.

There has always been satisfaction in contentment, but contentment isn’t an abandonment of dreams and aspirations.  But why does ambition always have the accompanying ideas of hardness, of money, of endless wealth?

Why must our dreams be so contained? So pent up as to deal only with this earth and what it can give us?  Why can’t we dream of what we can give other people?

If we dreamed of helping other people, if our ambition was not to obtain money, but to obtain ideas, to learn how to be gracious and compassionate, to learn how to serve people best with the talents we have been blessed with, then there is contentment in that, and there is satisfaction, because that is doing the right thing.  That is using ourselves as we were meant to be used, that is, not for ourselves but for the community we live in.

That is why we have everything we need, and that is why it is enough.  You have your talents within you.  You cannot wait to hone them to use them. Remember that life is a journey, and you learn along the way.  It is the blessed thing about growing older, is that if you try hard enough, you grow wiser.  Don’t think you have to go to school or on a missions trip or see the whole world to minister to it in the proper way.  Use what you have right now, inside of you, and let it flow out of you into the world to those you love.  Strive for perfect, settle for excellence, a friend told me.  That is what will bring you satisfaction, and contentment, even if you have to work harder for it than you’ve ever worked before.

This world is tiresome, but we can have joy in it.  These things, contentment and satisfaction, are what give us the joy to make it through the world.  People are wonderful things, you know.  They draw us away from ourselves, they challenge us, hurt us, love us, teach us, bear with us.  There are so many wonderful things about life that we miss when we draw the curtains of our soul, and put a wall between ourselves and the people around us.  But we must be self-sacrificial to have joy.

You could say that joy is an acquired taste. True joy is, anyway, because it’s not what most people desire once they see all it takes to attain it.  They would rather settle for something less that brings a more passionate happiness… that sadly ends too soon.  They know it ends soon, they do know it, but they continue wandering this tiresome world in search of a new pleasure, trying to fill up their souls, trying to find contentment and knowing all along it will never be real, but skeptical about how to make it real.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis)

Work for joy by being content and being satisfied.  Don’t try to minister to the whole world at once, but use your gifts to the best of your ability towards they people you come into contact with. Give yourself, your work, and your ambition to the community, give all of that and your soul to God.  Abandon yourself to anything but yourself.  Don’t look within, but without your own self. Live for God, and in doing so you will live for each other.  If you do this, everything you need will finally be enough.

Love Revolution

Youth is the time for ideals.  Adulthood is the time to achieve those ideals.  It’s what the stages of life are about, it’s what we live for, these ideals.  Each person changes the world, because the world cannot stay the same. We can’t help having ideals, we can only guide them.

One of the greatest ideals is love.  Real love, the love that everyone seeks for and few find because they look for it in the wrong places.  What kind of love is the ideal? Divine love or earthly love?

Unlike divine love, earthly love does not have the power, the knowledge, or the will to achieve what it longs for. (Wendell Berry)

What we long for is the love that can achieve what it longs for: the love that will satisfy, divine love.  Though we don’t often know it, we are consumed by a desire to be completed, and this desire, some find too late, does not come from our physical being but from our soul.

The sober person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of the drunkard, for instance, but those of the soul. He is by no means a stoic, on the contrary, with a full measure of joyful anticipation he looks forward to the return of the Lord but he doesn’t run away from his task. – William Hendrickson

Imagine a love that is founded in respect, that contains gratitude and humility, that takes its chief delight in sacrifice in order to serve.

Maybe I always saw the past as beautiful because it was fleeting.  As the future met me, it passed, and became the past, and was beautiful.  I had an aversion to change, and it seemed like everyone was changing, breaking out and flying away.  I didn’t see myself as changing, but others must have thought so, because I was caught up in the change of those closest to me, and it was their change that changed me.

The only changeful thing I did was to get married, and even that had been predicted.  Clyde was sick, had been crippled from birth.  I had known him since I was born, and when I was a girl I used to go and read to him, or amuse him.  He liked that, though he was six years older, and I liked to make him laugh.  He became a natural part of my life, and I never wanted anything more than to take care of him.

When we were still children, he asked me if I would up and leave the town someday. I told him no, because then he couldn’t come with me.  Later when I promised to marry him, he was hesitant to tie me down.  I told him I would make the same commitment if he was well or sick, but I liked it best when I could take care of him.

We live quietly, others come and go.  My heart aches with all this change, because it doesn’t happen quietly.  They are caught up in an external change.  They don’t know what it is to care for someone so as to sacrifice your life to their service, they don’t know what it is to do so joyfully.  They missed the inner change in their rush, the quiet, the sublime.

The above was a story I wrote when I was thinking deeply about this idea of real love.   I thought about how it is founded in sacrifice, I thought about how my heart beats and how my life is sustained by the breath of life, but how my soul is saved and redeemed by a sacrifice, and so, by love.

If we could have this love!  If we could only love each other in the way love was meant to be demonstrated!  We cheapen it, we make it less than it’s worth, and you see it rampant in the culture and even, sadly, in the Church.  It is more than a feeling; love is your soul, your existence.

Why is it that the hero who gives up his life or himself for love inspires us?  We admire those Sydney Cartons and those Cyrano de Bergeracs, and yet we throw our love away, or we throw away the feeling that might have, with effort and work, deepened into an actual reality.

Love cannot be restored.  How can it be restored if it can never be taken away? It is fixed—real love is.  If you stopped loving someone you never truly loved them.  Love never ends, it is always there, always present, always with us, in us, around us.  It is either our failure to see, or our misuse of love that makes us believe it is a sham.  The word sham reminds me of a quote.

Sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. – Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

Chesterton also says that because love desires personality it desires division.

It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say “little children love one another” rather than to tell one large person to love himself.

Love was meant to be given away, not with-held.  But there is a difference between emotional love and soul-love, just as there is a difference between sibling love and marital love, though the parallel is different.  Soul-love, the real love, cannot be hurt or offended in the way emotional love can be.  It is constant, and cannot be quenched.  It can only be given, like a sacrifice.  It delights in returned love, but does not require it.  Emotional love that is rejected, whether by just any person or by a prospect for marriage, will always tear the heart down. I’m not saying emotional love is bad.  The emotions must be contained within soul-love, but emotional love should not exist as its own entity.

Do you know how the Christian old-maid can be perfectly content?  Because she is already loved with real love, and she is preparing for the day when she can return that love perfectly.  She will go through phases of discontent, but will always find her tranquility and peace in something deeper.  For when the mind and soul are truly committed, the senses can be controlled.

I admire such a woman, and I would be like her if I could.  Even if I get married, I want to be like this before marriage, for I would learn how to love the true Object, Christ, and be fulfilled.  1 Corinthians 13 is a wonderful passage, but isn’t paid attention to as it ought to be.  It describes love as the essence of life, basically.   It describes it as being patient, self-sacrificial, never-ending, able to endure the stormiest weather.   Love can bear all things, yet it is tender, it is strong, yet kind, it is not arrogant or rude, but it is truthful, desires truth, and rejoices with the truth.

Death and love are seldom thought of together in a proper sense.  I have two friends, the first friend told me: “You get annoyed with love and fascinated by death.”  And it’s true.  I get annoyed with the meaningless expression and feeling that people call love.  The second friend told me: “The funny thing is that death and love are intertwined.  Without love, death is hopeless.”  They are so connected with each other, because love pushes for death that it might attain the perfect love, that it might finally reach its object.  Also, because the ultimate death occurred by and through love.  Christ died for us because he loved us, was willing to suffer infinite humiliation and death because he cares for us.

I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven.  Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light’s awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled.  In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be. – A World Lost (Wendell Berry)

The love described there was the kind of love that achieved what it longed for.  It was a love not created by us but developed in us, and realized by death and rebirth.

If the purpose of marriage was love (not real love) then the divorce rate would be 99.9%.  The .1% is for the couples who actually stayed “in love” for the whole of their married lives.  Thankfully, marriage is not about love.  It is a commitment with divine sanctioning, that aims at deeper ends than for the participants to be near each other for the rest of their lives.  I realize I’ve never been married and have no right to speak in depth about this, but I have to say this.  There is work in marriage I think, hard work, and if it is the right kind it results in satisfaction.  If we could try to pursue real love then we would find that we could really be satisfied.  For to me, marriage is partly a joint-effort, not to find love for each other, but to pursue real love and to reach the Object of that real love.

It is a zeal tempered with prudence, softened with meekness, soberly aiming at great ends by the gradual operation of well adapted means, supported by a courage which no danger can intimidate, and a quiet constancy which no hardships can exhaust. – A Practical View of Christianity (William Wilberforce)

This is a description of the Christian’s zeal in the Church.  I imagine that love is the exact same.  Yet listen to what he says about the Affections within a Christian.

Of the two most celebrated systems of philosophy, the one expressly confirmed the usurpation of the passions; while the other, despairing of being able to regulate, saw nothing left but to extinguish them. The former acted like a weak government, which gives independence to a rebellious province, which it cannot reduce.  The latter formed its bloated scheme merely upon the plan of that barbarous policy, which composes the troubles of a turbulent land by the extermination of its inhabitants.  This is the calm, not of order, but of inaction; it is not the tranquillity, but the stillness of death. (To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and call it a peace. – Tacitus.) – A Practical View of Christianity  (William Wilberforce)

I’m not proposing stoicism at all.  I think that passion is an important part of love, but I believe most fervently that it is not love.  It can be its own entity, but when separated from Love, it becomes a beast, and makes animals of us all.

Love does not concern itself with advantages.  It is not competitive.  It allows us to confront in kindness, but it has nothing to do with self-pride.  It allows us to live in humility.

We need a love revolution.  And a revolution takes work.  When looking for a husband or wife, the first person to catch your eye is not always the right one.  (“Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes. . . ” – Horace)  Don’t listen to your heart, which is and has proved to be deceitful above all things, but listen to the principles that are firmly grounded within you.  Why should we forsake all our work?  The woman preparing to be a spinster loses nothing in all her work when she unexpectedly gets a husband.  She has someone to work alongside now, a further encouragement, another object for the love she’s seeking to imitate.

I have been convicted about love.  Adulthood is the time to carry out and pursue ideals, and I am entering on that stage.  This is the one pursuit that will not disappoint.  How can it, when it is founded in Christ?  It is done for him, and for him alone.  He is the only Object.  He has brought me into the world in his providence, he will take me out, he will greet me in death, he is sanctifying and will finally perfect me.  He is the solid foundation, the aim I’m working towards.  He is love, and I pray for his love to flow through me, so that I become wrapped in it, enamored with it, so that it is in me and through me, so that it becomes my very being.

Favorite Things

I have favorite things, a lot of them, and sometimes I love to blurt them all out, so I’m going to right now.

1. Spring. The way it feels on my skin, and the shivers it sends through my body.  The tension between the wind that freezes and the sun that warms.  The heavy clouds that want to drop on the earth, and empty their burdens on my uncovered head.

2. Books. The way a book feels in my hand, the way my mind responds to it, the way my forehead creases into worry before I realize how anxious I must look to any passerby.  The way I get so immersed into it, as if the book was a culture in and of itself.

3. Colors. How the colors of my room remind me of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its snatches of beauty and color splattered here and there, the primroses on the sill of my window, a shelf filled with vintage collections from grandmothers, and old books.

4. Freedom. Personal freedom. How free my life is now that I’ve deactivated my facebook.  I feel more private, personal, and original, less busy, less of a nosey person. Really I’m just so happy, because now people have to ask me what’s going on.  They have to call me or come visit.  I love hearing your voices and getting your letters and seeing your faces much better than I like hearing about it all on the internet.

5. Guitar. Hearing my older brother play the guitar at night.  For six years he’s been out of the house.  Now he and his wife are staying with us a few months before moving to Scotland, and I realize how much I’ve missed hearing his fingers strum out the songs in his head.

6. Youth. The grace God has given me to realize the short time I have now, and the strength he’s given me to use my time wisely.

7. Forgetfulness. How often I don’t write on this blog, and how many times a day I say: “I should really write a blog post on that…”

8. Cemeteries.  Feeling myself living and breathing, and knowing that I will decay and rot, but someday, I will meet some of these souls in eternity, and my heart-beat quickens when I think of my approaching death, because it will bind me to my Saviour.  Another favorite thing is bound up in this: fighting the fight I was called to.  For though I look forward to death, I take joy in this life, in this battle, that is weary at times and painful, but I take joy in it because I do it for the sake of Christ, and he has given me a mind, a taste, a sense for the beautiful.

9. Flowers. Tulips and daffodils, and how, when I’m going to sleep, the spring breeze carries their scent from the vase where they stand to me, everything sweet and lovely about it.

10. Music.  The Water, sung by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling.  It’s so simple, almost melancholy, but it appeals to my mind.

11.  Silence.  How, when I close my eyes, everything is filled.  The soul-waves that bear me almost to the brink of the unbearable, that fill me with pain, joy, thankfulness, and love.

12. Love. True love, and you’ll probably get a post on it soon.  I am rather fed up with the world and how most people deal with love, because to my eyes it is sacred.  The ties between siblings, children and parents, husband and wife, friends, the love that binds them together is sacred.  Alright… more on that later… maybe tonight…

13. Fifty-Six Stories.  I am truly addicted to it.  I love writing my little story each night, I love how it’s become a natural part of me.  I love seeing my writing progress and regress and then progress again.  I love the critiques my friends give me.

14. Memories.  I have many, and they seem bitter sweet.  A smell of something will remind me of days when I was little and ran freely in the joy of youth.  I am still basking in youth, loving it, embracing it, meeting it full in the face, trying to capture every moment of it.

15. Dreaming.  Purposeful dreaming.  A sudden lull in the beat of every day life, where a dream comes, the excitement it brings, and the joy.  Another purpose, a new goal, something to pursue.

16. Problems.  I have had a lot of problems this year.  I’ve felt pretty messed up sometimes, but looking back, I see how they’ve strengthened me.  Even in the midst of them, I enjoyed in a rather odd way how low I was, how completely laid low, just because I knew that I would be raised up with new courage.

17. Learning.  Ideas, thoughts, philosophies, dreams, adventures.  I love these things with my heart, and I love talking about them with other people.  I’ll settle for reading, but I much prefer looking at the sky through the branches of a budding tree and talking about people’s ideas, and learning from wiser people.

18.  Fairytales.  The lost meanings, the misinterpreted beauty.  I love the originality, the sameness and yet variety.  I love folklore too.

19. Friends.  The good friends who inspire you, who help you along the road of life, encouraging, honing, giving all they can and accepting what you give.

20.  Family.  My mother, good and kind, wonderful and inspiring.  My daddy, strong and wise, who can answer any question I ask.  My brothers and sisters, dearly loved, with all their quirks and eccentricities, all their wildness, their different characters and personalities.

At the end of this list I find myself blessed, as always.  Almost burdened by so much goodness, so much joy that has been given to my soul.  Some people find me quiet, some find me loud.  I express myself in different ways, but I am a thinker.  I think when the joy is too much for me,  I laugh loud and sing when it is too much for me.  I am thankful and happy in the life God has placed before me, abandoned to the race in front of me, ready to fight His battle.

What Changes The World

There is a rather large, bulging problem that is about to burst through our culture and overtake the world.  The problem has many aspects to it.  Humanism.  Marxism.  Darwinism. Pantheism. Atheism. Socialism.  The underlying issue is that people in societies around the world are drifting further and further away from truth.  It’s happening in our government, politics, literature, music, art.  Anything that defines our culture.  But the worst part of it is this.  Our culture is shaped by smart people who know what they want, and our culture is made up of people who are blindly following the smart people around, because they think the smart people are wise.

But there is a difference between being wise and being smart.  Wisdom is founded in truth; smartness is founded in how quickly our brain functions, how we size people up, our intuition.

Our presupposition is that truth is something external, something that’s not found inside ourselves.

Napoleon didn’t change the world.  He wanted to, but he only ended up changing France, really.   Darwin changed the world.  Marx changed the world. Voltaire changed the world.  Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, all these philosophers changed the world by their influencing thought.

Many of these philosophers had a problem.  They did not believe that truth was external.  They looked inside themselves for the answer.  It reminds me of when G.K. Chesterton talked about the Hindoo saints.  Their eyes were closed, looking inward.  The Christian saint’s eyes were opened wide, looking for truth without.

Now, I need to say something about Darwin here, because I listed him as one of the greatest influences.  You may say that he was looking for truth externally, because he was studying the natural world.  The thing about looking for truth internally is saying: “I will explain truth, what I think truth is.”  Which is what Darwin basically did with his ideas.  He used evidence to explain his ideas (granted he explained the evidence against his ideas.)  But the Christian saint who is looking with eyes wide open for truth externally is looking for something that is not explained by him, but is explained to him by the source of Truth

Changing the world does not begin with finding one good person and getting him into government.  It starts with making influences that will make better people.  It doesn’t start with a general who thinks he might be able to overrun the world and rule it.  That ends in chaos.

No, changing the world starts with our literature, our music, our art.  If you want to change the world by being a politician, that’s fine.  But do something that influences the young generation.  We need to be a generation producing books, music, art, philosophies, that point to ultimate truth, so the next generation can be better.

We can’t be the people blindly following the smart people around.  We have to be the smart people.  And even if you’re the follower, be a smart follower.  Be smart enough to resist the flow of culture.

But don’t be proud.  Pride is what makes us fall, pride is what leads us away from truth, down our own path.  Remember that life every is a struggle, a fight.  It has its moments of bliss and joy, but overall, we are struggling for what is right.  We are fighting the world, the flesh, the devil, and the fight never ceases, especially in this reformation of our culture.

We must go through some of the pain of learning.  I would like to say now that we’ve become pretty stupid people.  Here we have a wonderful brain and only use a small fraction of it.  The temptation is to use less and less of it.  But let’s take care of our bodies and our minds.  It’s not easy, it’s hard.  We don’t feel like doing these things.

But really, we live in an education driven society where no one learns anything.  Let’s change that, please.  Love learning, love studies, love the hard, laborious work.  It will do you good in the end.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  You don’t have to be a rich city kid who always got straight A’s in school.  You don’t have to be a grown up.  It starts now, with whoever you are, and however old you are.

But just remember something.  We can only know the extent of something to an extent.  Learning is a frustration.  It takes faith to learn, so if you have any, expect to use it.  We will never know the full extent of something.  But as long as these other smart people are shaping our culture, we have to be just as smart to counterbalance them.  We must be strong, confident, courageous, but we must be humble, accepting the fact that our bodies are finite, that our minds are limited, that we can’t know everything, or know everything about everything.

Just remember it starts with the books.  The latest song.  The newest painting in the art museum.  That’s where you start.  Be a painter, an architect, a writer, a musician and reform our culture.  That’s where it starts, with ideas.