Clarity

One by one, the sharers in this mortal damage have born its burden out of the present world…At times perhaps I could wish them merely oblivious, and the whole groaning and travailing world at rest in their oblivion. But how can I deny that in my belief they are risen?

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 are so changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be.

That light can come into this world only as love, and love can enter only by suffering. Not enough light has ever reached us here among the shadows, and yet I think it has never been entirely absent.

Remembering, I suppose, the best days of my childhood, I used to think I wanted most of all to be happy–by which I meant to be here and to be undistracted. If I were here and undistracted, I thought, I would be home.

But now I have been here a fair amount of time, and slowly I have learned that my true home is not just this place but is also that company of immortals with whom I have lived here day by day. I live in their love, and I know something of the cost. Sometimes in the darkness of my own shadow I know that I could not see at all were it not for this old injury of love and grief, this little flickering lamp that I have watched beside for all these years.

– Wendell Berry, A World Lost

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Rant – Creative Writing | not depicted but revealed

I don’t usually make a habit of posting my creative work.  I have tried, a few times, and 56 Stories (which most of you may remember) I keep public only because it was a “public exercise” so to speak.  One reason I feel very strongly about not posting any poetry/fiction or any of my personal ideas for those two genres in the way of inspiration is because I feel like both these things are a very private, very personal.  As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a type writer and bleed.”  Now who wants to see my blood all over the screen?

I thought so.

But I’m going to break out of this routine—not completely.  You’re not going to get any original work, I promise, but I did have an inspiring thought, which I am writing out here because I think people will find it interesting, perhaps.

I like to be organized in the way I lay out a poem (or at least I like to imagine that I’m organized).  I like to have a firm idea of the thought I want to convey, the atmosphere I want to create, the kind of language I want to use.  It all sounds very simple when you write it out like that, but thinking abstractly about how to use very concrete images… that’s a challenge.  It’s almost like you have all these concrete images, and then you look at them from an abstract viewpoint, but then come out of the abstract viewpoint with different images that relate to the first…. As I read in a review of a movie recently that something was… “not depicted but revealed.”  The hope of poetry isn’t to merely convey a feeling, or a thought, or to create an atmosphere—though I would say that all these are goals.  Something would only be depicted if you used the images you wanted to reveal, and there’s something dead about that.  Part of the wonder of poetry is its mystery.  “What… does he mean?” I think that the real hope is to reveal something, without saying: “This is what I want to reveal.”

My hope this Easter was to write a poem that talked about the atmosphere on Good Friday.  During Easter weekend I wonder how many people realize that after Jesus died… saints were raised from the dead, and walked, and lived, their tombs broken open because the earth was twisting and trembling and there was uncanny darkness and the ripping of the temple curtain and—God.  To me this is an amazing thought and my mind runs with it.  This was an astronomical point in history, it was a writhing, twisting point, and what was happening metaphysically became manifest in the physical world.  Not even the earth could calmly bear the crucified Lord.  And at that moment, that one moment, when he died, and there was blood and vinegar and darkness coming on, chinking of dice… and he cried out again in a loud voice and yielded up his spirit… yielded up his spirit… that was the moment, wasn’t it—when sins were forgiven and there was direct access to God, and we were atoned for.  It was the final sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, something that humans hadn’t even considered on their own—that the Son of God would descend from heaven in the form of a man, and in that mystical wholeness of “fully God, fully man” put himself on the altar, and only He knew the depth of the matter, the importance, I think.

The fact about the saints rising and appearing to many in different cities is very interesting.  I haven’t explored it in depth, but it happened after Christ’s death—he didn’t have to be there to say something along the lines of, “Lazarus, Lazarus…”  The power of God was enough to raise the dead without Jesus even being there.  Even at the resurrection of Lazarus, there must have been an air of expectancy, a certain apprehension as Jesus stood in front of the tomb.  But imagine if you randomly saw people coming out of their graves—not in zombie fashion, but perfectly normal, in their grave clothes, on their way to appear to people.  People would have known that Christ had raised people from the dead before—but now that Christ was dead, even more people were coming alive—he may have been dead, but his power was not dead.

But I’m not ready to write this poem about the broken tombs and graves, and the terrifying thought of direct “access” to God, and the death of Christ, and his blood.  I’m not ready to write about how people wear pastels on Easter, and I’m not ready to contrast the happy behavior of today with the dread of the future when the Lord was crucified, and the terror-like joy of his resurrection.  It takes more than just lists of images, though those count too.  Yet this thought is so fresh poignant to me right now—I had to say something before Easter was over.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Compelled

Here we are at the end of February—Leap Day, it is, and there are changes in the air.  For one thing, the wind isn’t so bitingly cold, and even if it is, it smells like Spring.  Like dirt, and roots reaching down deep in the earth, and molding leaves.  There are snowdrops blooming in abundance in various patches all over the woods, and little flocks of daffodils pushing up towards the sun, which seems to be growing bigger and nearer.  And here I am, enjoying it, and thinking of the irresistible call of God.

Today, as I was reading parts of Genesis 3, I forced myself to think through something that has been lingering at the back of my mind for quite a few years.  And it’s simply this.  I was struck by the fact that though Adam and Eve hid themselves from God when they knew their nakedness and his presence, they spoke and answered him truthfully when he asked them: “Where are you?” and “What have you done?”  Coming into the knowledge of sin and misery, beginning the sharp descent from the state of perfection to this must have been shocking and grieving enough.  But then to know, “God is here;” must have produced the greatest feeling of fear and shame.  What I found amazing, then, is that even in these new feelings of shame and fear, Adam and Eve both answered God when he spoke to them, and they both told the truth.

Now, Adam did lay the blame on Eve, and Eve did lay the blame on the Serpent.  But the point is, they both confessed essentially what had been done: they had given in to temptation and had eaten the forbidden fruit.  And here is the thought I came up with.

God is compelling.  When he speaks to us, we have no choice except to answer.  We could be hiding in the depths of the sea.  We could be ignoring him with all the concentration of our minds.  And yet, if he spoke to us, like he did to Adam and Eve in the garden—if he said, “Where are you?” What choice would we have but to say: “Here I am, Lord.”  Perhaps that the idea of God being compelling is a bit too… hard? Too much force and pressure involved? Think of it this way.  No matter what the situation, God elicits a response from whomever he’s speaking to.

This idea then of God compelling man to answer him also relates to the Calvinistic view of irresistible grace.  I do believe that of all the five points, this is the most interesting.  Just as God compels Adam to speak when he confronts him, he compels us to accept him when he presents us with his saving grace.  In our feeble human life, we are so weak and cannot even resist our own nature sometimes.  How, then, can we resist God when he says— “I have called you by name, you are mine;”? (Isaiah 43: 1)

The blood is on the lintels.  Around my left wrist I have a red ribbon tied, to remind me of the blood that was spilled.  It is folly to some, and a stumbling block to others.  For me? It is my salvation and my deliverance.  Since I have felt this call of God, I have had no choice (and neither have I desired one) but to say: “Save me, O God!” (Psalm 69:1)

No, I’m not saying that God’s grace is irresistible or that his call is compelling because that is simply what I have gathered from what I have heard and read.  It’s what I truly believe, because I have felt it.  I feel it day after day.  Looking back, I see that there was no other option but to follow him.  There was nothing else I could have possible done, other than follow God, and submit my whole self to Christianity, to turn myself inside out so that the soul is on the outside, not hidden away with secret desires and ambitions in the crevices of my mind and heart.  We dream of hearing the voice of God, but I don’t think we know truly how compelling it is that it makes Adam and Eve, in the depths of their shame, to speak.  He has called us in the uttermost parts of our wickedness and our misery, so that we feel we cannot lift up our faces, but he says: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

Psalm 51, over and over again.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O Lord, you will not despise.” “Purge me with hyssop…” “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…”

“Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?”
“God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 20)

So by his blood we are healed.  “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)

And he sheds his blood why? “…I have called you by name, you are mine… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” (Isaiah 43:1, 4)
“…Sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy, but real love has always ended in bloodshed.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This grace poured out for us, we can’t resist. We are brought into his call, into his love, drawn there by grace and by a love so powerful and mighty and tender that it is beyond our comprehension.  This time of Lent and approaching Easter—for Christ, was not a time of peace.  It was a time of violence.  His death was not something brought about with tranquility.  It was terrible, so that even the earth quaked with the mightiness.  Even the earth could not bear up this great, terrible, wonderful thing that had happened. It was too much for human capability, for mortality, you might say.  And all because of grace.

And in my little Lent devotional book is a quote that stared up at me just now as I read it, relating to all of this. “When we speak of grace, we think of the fact that [God’s] favorable inclination towards the creature does not allow itself to be soured and frustrated by the resistance of the latter.” (Karl Barth)

Pre-Moving Thoughts

God’s victory means our defeat, means our humiliation; it means God’s mocking anger at all human arrogance, being puffed up, trying to be important in our own right. It means reducing the world and its clamor to silence; it means the crossing through of all our ideas and plans, it means the Cross. The Cross above the World. It means that man, even the noblest, must, whether he likes it or not, fall in the dust and with him all the gods and idols and lords of this world. The Cross of Jesus Christ, that means the bitter scorn of God in all human depths, the rule of God over the whole world.
The people came to victorious Gideon; it is the final clamor and the final temptation: ‘rule thou over us!’ But Gideon does not forget his history or the history of his nation… ‘God shall rule over you, and you shall have no other Lord.’ At these words the altars of the gods and the idols are cast down, all worship of man is cast down, all apotheosis of man by himself, they are judged, condemned, crossed out, they are all crucified and flung down into the dust by him who alone is Lord. And beside us kneels Gideon, the man who has been brought to faith out of the midst of fears and doubts, kneels before the altar of the one God, and with us Gideon prays: ‘Lord on the Cross, be thou alone our Lord. Amen.’ – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1933

I was sitting alone in Panera bread around 7:30 AM when I read this.  I had left the house an hour before to have study time.  In this tortuous storm of moving, I needed the quiet.  The morning air, the grogginess, even the cheap, bad tasting caramel latte. But it was all worth it.  This time was spent writing a letter to a dear friend, studying the Bible, and reading Bonhoeffer’s biography.  I knew I needed to wake up early this morning, even though it will be the first of two of the busiest days of this year.  Not to run away from what needed to be done, but to grab some time and in it, revert into peace and calm and good cheer.
I’ll be leaving the home I’ve lived in for ten years, and the area that I’ve lived my whole life in.  But strangely, I don’t feel nostalgic or anything.  I feel excited, eager, ready for a challenge and ready for an opportunity to embrace my challenge.  “But for those who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” – Malachi 4:2.  I feel like those fresh cows now, leaping with the vitality of life.  I was particularly encouraged by that passage of Bonhoeffer’s sermon up there.  To just be reminded: “It’s not about you.  Nothing is about you.  It’s all about God.  He is not only the reason everything is here, but the reason that everything is happening, and to him belongs the glory,” is not only convicting, but a great relief.  To keep things God-focused is hard at first, but after awhile, it becomes joy and relief.  To know that my sinful human self will not conquer.  It won’t conquer in the short run or in the long run.  I have given myself up to God once, but I do it again over and over, every day.  To say, Lord, lead us, guide us, be our God and our one Lord.   I have been encouraged to know that my strength is crushed, and that I must depend entirely upon God.  Even this knowledge strengthens me.
I will miss things about this house (mainly all the built in bookshelves) but it is amazing to me to see how at first I didn’t want to move, and now, because it is God’s will, he has brought my mind and my heart about face, and has confronted me, and graciously made me ready.

Another thing, before I close.  I was reading about Gideon today in Judges, and I noticed that when he’s getting ready to go down and defeat the Midianites & Amalekites, God commands him to go at once, but then says: “But if you are too afraid… go down to the camp tonight and listen to what they say.”  He knows Gideon’s weaknesses, and takes care of him.  He knows my weaknesses, and is compassionate and kind as he takes care of me and guides me.  He will do the same for you, if you trust in him.

Now, I tell myself, more than ever, seize the day!

P.S. If you haven’t noticed, please read the text below the header (Carpe Diem.)  It used to be a quote by C.S. Lewis— “Reason is the natural order of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning”—but I changed it to something more fitting for the purpose of this blog.

2012: Forty Books (And Their Reason…)

While I love reading, I tend to be sporadic in my choices of books to read. Some are easier for me to read than others.  I may love reading history, but it takes me a longer amount of time to read a biography than it does to read a general work of fiction.  Because of this I often end up with a “currently reading” list of about twenty books.  Not only do I want to knock off some of these books I’ve been “currently reading” for about three years (i.e. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) but I want to read books that have been on my “to read” list for ages.  One of my goals for 2012 was to fix this.  So I picked four categories, Philosophy/Theology/Inspirational (that’s a bit of a wide range), Fiction, Literature, and History.  Into these four categories I put ten books, and I will read one book from each category each week.  Not only will it balance my mind and the information I’m taking in, but the fact that I know: “This week I’m reading this book,” will help me to focus on that specific book.

My book choices were not necessarily random.  In the first category, I chose books that I’ve been meaning to read for awhile.Those might be a bit random. I also possess a great love for both C.S. Lewis and (especially) G.K. Chesterton.  The Puritans have been a heavy influence on my life, and A Practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce I’ve been reading for two years now.  Every time I pick it up, I wonder why I don’t read it more consistently.  After two pages I know.  As beautiful as the writing of 18th century writers is, it can be a bit, just a bit, heavy at times.  But this book truly is wonderful. I can’t say how many things I have written down from it, and it’s inspired a few blog posts.

In the Fiction section are books whose style I would like to imitate (Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen) and for study on techniques (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.)

In literature I basically just picked one novel I hadn’t read from ten famous writers living before the 20th century. Each one of these authors, though, has been inspiring to me in different ways. Tolstoy is obvious. I love Russian literature. Anthony Trollope interests me, and while I’ve never read He Knew He Was Right, I know the story and the psychological part of it (something Trollope liked to toy with in Can You Forgive Her?) is intriguing, however frustrating.  I never read Wuthering Heights before, because I knew how it ended and it struck me as depressing.  Time to put that aside and enjoy the literature.

As far as history goes, I’m generally interested in WWII for different reasons.  Mein Kampf is something I’ve been reading for about a year now, but I’d really love to finish it up. Anne Frank I find to be an inspiring character in history, though she may not have known it.  I love history; I like to know people’s stories, why the do things, what caused them to get off on the wrong foot, or what inspired them to do the right thing.  To see the evolution of politics, the introduction of a new idea or concept for worldwide living, socialism, and the rush for it, and then its downfall, is amazing.  To be able to see how an entire country filled with millions can pick itself up and recover from a horrible war… it’s a gift to be able to learn these things.  But most of all I love stories of individual people.  The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Mary Bosanquet, has sat on the bookshelf in my parents living room for years.  I used to look at it when I was younger, turn it over in my hands.  The bold writing on the front—even that intimidating German name, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—awed me and I was, actually, scared.  How did he die? I kept asking myself. It said death right on the front.  I knew he died.  I found out later the reason, but it only intrigued me more. I always meant to read it, but it was only in October that I actually took it up to my room along with some other WWII books, and determined in my mind to start it. (But that didn’t happen till 2012…)

So far, I have found this this plan of mine, to read systematically and in an organized fashion, has worked.  I’ve only read Run (Ann Patchett), The Abolition of Man (C.S. Lewis), and The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Mary Bosanquet), but I find my appetite for always starting something new and not finishing a certain book has been curbed.  I think I can safely recommend it.

Philosophy/Theology/Inspirational

  1. The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton
  2. The Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis
  3. Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis – Michael Ward
  4. A Body of Divinity – Thomas Watson
  5. The Bondage of the Will – Martin Luther
  6. A Practical View of Christianity – William Wilberforce
  7. One Thousand Gifts – Ann Voskamp
  8. The Mystery of Providence – John Flavel
  9. Ezekiel (An Exposition) – William Greenhill (Let’s specify… only parts of it!)
  10. All Things For Good – Thomas Watson

Fiction

  1. Run – Ann Patchett
  2. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
  3. The Summer of the Bear – Bella Pollen
  4. Possession – A.S. Byatt
  5. Gilead – Marilyn Robinson
  6. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  8. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. The Red Pony – John Steinbeck
  10. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse

Literature

  1. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  2. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  3. Onegin – Pushkin
  4. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
  5. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  6. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
  7. He Knew He Was Right – Anthony Trollope
  8. Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott
  9. Vilette – Charlotte Brontë
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

History

  1. Schindler’s List – Thomas Keneally
  2. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
  3. A Woman in Berlin – Anonymous
  4. The Long Walk – Sławomir Rawicz
  5. The Life and Death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Mary Bosanquet
  6. Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler
  7. Le Morte d’Arthur – Sir Thomas Malory
  8. The Birth of Britain – Winston Churchill
  9. How Should We Then Live? – Francis Schaeffer
  10. Lark Rise to Candleford – Flora Thompson

A Eucharist: Feasting

I love being in the kitchen, knitting molecules of food together, feeling the sense of wholeness that it brings to me to prepare a full feast with someone I love, my sister, and laughing and consulting and feeling everything become whole and warm inside.  Everything is transfused—the chicken broth seeps into every unseen crevice of the carrot, and what was sweet becomes unbearably savoury.  That’s what we do.  We mix and match, throw a little of this in, a little more of that, and every scent and smell and texture that is different in every way fuses together and changes completely.  A chemical change.  We create a feast.  We use every dish in the house, even though none of them match.   Every dish is laid out, all the varieties of colors, everything we’ve made from scratch (and perhaps one or two things not made from scratch).  And we thank God for the feast, the fellowship.  We eat.  Breaking the molecules apart, and suddenly I feel broken, especially the next day when it’s all over.

But then I have heard since my earliest days a story floating around like the whisper of something great that’s going to happen.  It has passed from the lips of Christians in the church, passed with a smile of relief, and an absent-minded look, as if the speaker isn’t entirely there.  A continual feast.  No brokenness, no end.  Everything is whole, all the time.  Feasting on joy, feasting on wholeness that remains whole, feasting on gratitude and love.  This is what was in our food, and yet, these things when they’re on earth, they disappear.  Love disappears so quickly, and is replaced with lust and passion. Gratefulness sinks into criticism.  Joy slowly digresses and is replaced with discontentment.  These things are gifts, and we fail to retain them all the time.

The wind blew cold today, and it blew freshness into my hot soul, and a new kind of life into my lungs.  The slap of the waves on the sea as they rush up to wash around my boots, and I leave my hands open and free, seeing how long I can go with them cold, how long before I must tuck them into the warmth of my wool sweater.  The cathedral, every single grave is bathed in a flitting sunlight that flashes here and there, but through the dark clouds above, warms me, and makes even death seem golden.  To the North, the hills are capped in snow.  Winter is coming fast, I sense it in the wind as I sit in its breath writing my gifts.

Can I think of one thousand gifts? Can I even think of one gift?  During Thanksgiving season, all over Facebook, all over blogs, I see people being thankful for one gift every day.  And after Thanksgiving—are we done being grateful? Why is it so important only during this season? I wish we could spend all the time in the kitchen, stealing time to take a walk above the fields and stopping for a moment to write down a thought, a story, but returning to the kitchen, always, making feasts every day, washing the dishes every day, baking again, knitting molecules again, creating wholeness.  I wish we could do it every day, and I wish that every day we could celebrate this Eucharist, even without the food.  Why are we so quick to overlook the opportunities for joy now, here? Why are we so eager to accept brokenness and depression? And finally, what does it mean to live a good life?

I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy. – Anne Frank

I wake up smiling, thinking of gifts now, because I feel like I should.  A good life.  Living a good life.  Being grateful, truly grateful, and living out thankfulness.  That quote up there—I am convicted about it, and feel myself wanting to weep.  That I should be unhappy and ungrateful when I have a life with no misery, while Anne Frank who lived a hunted life filled with horror and blood should be grateful, and happy!

Embrace your life.  Live your thankfulness, not only during November, but every day, all day.  Live slowly, purely, live well.  We always talk about this—about living thankful lives.  But don’t just say: “I’m thankful.” Think of what you’re grateful for.  Think of your gifts—gifts that have been given to you.  Material and immaterial.  Individual things.  On one piece of paper, on a chalk board, or on your heart write one gift—only one.  And then, continue writing.  Write these gifts for the rest of your life, and live the thankfulness you feel for them, and for the One who gave them to you.

In heaven there’s a feast for the saints, a feast that will not end, and there will be no end to our thankfulness.

‘Sorrow Drips Into Your Heart’

Early in the morning, before you can quite see the sun, but when there is enough light to see the growing sky and the branches of trees, an autumnal wind usually blows scurrying leaves across the pavement and a feeling of life into your soul.  If I listen very intently, I can feel the energy in the atmosphere around me, the beating of my own heart, the urge to stride through the slight mist.  These times, in the early morning, are the easiest times for me to pray.  If I listen I hear nature’s chirps and calls, the wind in the trees, and I feel the air, see the sky growing golden and light blue.  I feel closest to God, for I am reveling in the cycle of Life that he has created.

But this time is also dangerous to me, for it makes me want to be alone, to make myself solitary so I can think.  It makes me want to grasp the early morning, to make it stay.  Once, not very long ago, I hoped that perhaps God would make the sun still in the sky somewhere far away, so I could keep this early light to myself.

So easily we taint our God-given pleasures.  We turn them into things that must stay, that must be present with us always.  Our blessings become our gods, and we give, as I heard in a book the other night, our “living affection to dying things.”  Things like nature serve a purpose, not only for the earth and the ecosystems they’re placed in—not only for the cycle of life but to enhance our appreciation of God and his masterful and intelligent design.  It is not the things we enjoy that demand our love and our undivided worship, it is God.

We waste so much of our sorrow on these passing things because they’re passing.  If our love and our faith and our entire being were implanted and embedded in God, then we would not have any sorrow to waste on passing things.  Rather, we would see nature and all the other gifts and pleasures in life through the eyes of righteousness, and they become what they are: blessings.  Enjoy your youth.  Don’t lament because it’s passing (this is my biggest problem) but embrace the whole cycle of growing up.  Enjoy your motherhood or fatherhood, your singleness or your married life, your old age.  Embrace it and come to terms with it.  Don’t weep because a time of your life you loved has passed, but keep on living with the assurance that you enjoyed it, and lived to the best of your ability, and now there is another adventure ahead of you.  Even we are passing, these bodies we have now, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  But our soul, the essence of our being, is eternal, and when we die, it will not linger on this earth to lament about lost pleasures.  It will haste on its way, called to stand before God and give an account of that life it just left.

The only reason we have for rejoicing is that there is a God in the heavens who has loved his people enough to give his own life for them, in order that they might live.  It’s because of this that we can laugh and sing and dance, that we can rejoice and be glad, that we can find joy in the blessings he has given us, and joy in him because of the assurance that we will one day be called into his presence.  Don’t let the world shape your view of God, but let your belief in God and your faith shape your view of the world.  For the world changes with its fashions and its phases, but God never changes, and that should be our greatest comfort: he is steadfast.

What I Called Mine

My youth was what I called mine.  And more and more, I realize it never was.  As I grow older, I see it was only a part of me; something that defined me; but it never belonged to me, nor I to it.  It was something fleeting, something that gave me a glimpse of everything I would wish to be, and then threw me headlong into something like grief, and I saw it was gone. And suddenly I faced something much darker, and there were more shadows than before, but behind me was that bright light, and sometimes I looked over my shoulder at it, and reached out towards it.  But we never go back, because there is no going back. There is only forwards, and that’s the best we can do, just the next thing.

And O, I wish that I wasn’t quite so old.  Today in the store I saw an old friend of my family.  She worked at the hospital where I was born.  She asked me how old I was, and when I told her, she said: “Oh my, I never thought you would get that old.” “Well I certainly didn’t think I would either,” I said.  And we laughed, but my heart broke.

Even now my memory is fading, and with a kind of desperation I try to cling to something that loses itself, and I feel a dull kind of ache in place of it.

I’m still young, I’m still young.  There is still so much to learn, and ahead are years packed with new memories. But I am so hesitant to let go, so unwilling to part with something I always associated with truth and light and goodness and purity, so unwilling to walk steadily into the unknown.

Eyes wide open, full of images.  Ears filled with many sounds, and a heart so full I think it will break, mind open, thirsting for learning.  Soul reaching out with love, receiving love, binding itself to my Savior.  And from that perspective, I am blessed.  I might go mad, I might forget everything.  But how can I ever forget the essence of my life, the Redeemer of my soul? I can’t ever, and that is the important thing.  I am eternally bound.

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.

Excerpts From My Antonia

I’ve been reading My Antonia today by Willa Cather.  I can’t tell where it’s going to go, but I thought I’d share a few beautiful passages.  There are lots more that I would like to share… the book has a beauty and charm all its own, it’s singular and unique.

 

I sat down in the middle of the garden, where snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned my back against a warm yellow pumpkin.  There were some ground-cherry bushes growing along the furrows, full of fruit.  I turned back the papery triangular sheaths that protected the berries and ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic feats among the dried vines.  The gophers scurried up and down the ploughed ground.  There in the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses wave.  The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers.  Queer little red bugs came and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots.  I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened.  I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.  When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep. (My Antonia, chapter 2)

All those fall afternoons were the same, but I never got used to them. As far as we could see, the miles of copper-red grass were drenched in sunlight that was stronger and fiercer than at any other time of the day.  The blond cornfields were red-gold, the haystacks turned rosy and threw long shadows. The whole prairie was like the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed.  That hour always had the exultation of victory, of triumphant ending, like a hero’s death—heroes who died young and gloriously.  It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting-up of day. (My Antonia, chapter 6)