Rambling Woman

For one thing, I’m a terribly practical person when you get down to it.  I don’t say “totes” or “adorbs” or “fave” or “legit”.  I’m not sure how often I use the word totally.  When this faithful MacBook hits rock bottom and decides it will no longer serve me, it will be my last computer for a long time. I’ll get a type-writer instead, to write my books on.  I like the ideas of the old world—not just something you think about, but something you live.  I want to live that way.

I’m not caught up in politics or what’s going to happen with the war.  In some ways I’m irresponsible.

But I am quiet in my soul, and the quiet radiates out of me and into my life, and I desire to live simply, as much in the physical company of those near to me as possible, and not so much over superficial places on the internet.

I have a mind to do something purposeful. Not just part-time-jobbing my twenties away, but really doing something that means something to me.  I don’t believe that the earth was made to give to us.  I believe that whatever it gives counts as blessings from God, for the righteous and the unrighteous.  I believe that we were put on this earth to tend it.

Yes, I like to mess around with style and fashion.  It’s enjoyable to pick out a crazy outfit and go somewhere.  But lately it’s felt like more of a strain.  It’s so difficult each morning to decide what to wear, and to know it has to be nice and different.  And then you see all these girls, and they’re all wearing the same type of thing—”what’s in” I guess you call it.  Lately I’ve simply been wearing whatever comes into my hands first.  My priorities are to be clean and presentable, and whatever clothes me should flow with that general idea.

But where I am most at home is outdoors, and above all, with animals.  I like the fresh, cutting smell of pine and wet wood in the fall.  I love the serenity of the woods and the fields under quiet snow.  I like the warmth of a horse’s breath on your cold hand in the early morning, when he’s stamping for his food. I like taking care of things, things that are living, things that are dependent on you for their well-being.

I’m just about ten days from my nineteenth birthday.  The years seem to be going fast.  I’m young and a vigorous blood flows in my veins.  I am ready now to perform these things, to start living out and following a God-given dream I believe I was meant to realize.  To start establishing myself, not independently, but purposefully, as fits a young woman.

In these Wendell Berry books, young people decide that they love each other and they get married and settle down to live life.  They don’t go through this whole ordeal of trying to decide whether or not the girl or boy in question is ready for marriage.  They go ahead and do it, live life, learn from their mistakes.  Now it seems like there are so many inhibitions to marriage.  So much doubt about whether or not “he/she’s the right one! what if he/she isn’t?” And it doesn’t have to be that complicated, because honestly it’s never something that can be answered with logic.  But my point is that our lives nowadays complicate so much, even marriage.  College, career, lifestyles, etc.  So much divides us nowadays.

In those books and in those times women weren’t defined as writers or lawyers or artists or musicians.  They were measured and judged by their character qualities—by their sweetness, obedience, honesty, contentment.  They were admired, and while their husbands worked in the fields and with the animals they cooked and cleaned, fed the chickens and milked the cows, took care of the children, prepared the food for winter, canned, pickled.  She may have had artistic qualities—for instance she may have been a writer.  But her goal as a writer was not publicity.  She would write for herself, and for those around her.  She wasn’t always alone in her work, and neither were the men in their work.  There were always people who stopped by to talk, always people who stopped by to help out.  Even work was a type of community, for both women and men.

The point is this.  I want to be that kind of a woman.  I am strong in both mind and spirit and body, and I know I am capable.  I want to be admired for those qualities, and I want to be known as capable of cooking and cleaning, of being responsible, of being hard-working.

“She had come into her beauty.  This was not the beauty of her youth and freshness, of which she had had a plenty.  The beauty that I am speaking of now was that of a woman who has come into knowledge and into strength and who, knowing her hardships, trusts her strength and goes about her work even with a kind of happiness, serene somehow, and secure.  It was that beauty she would always have.  Her eyes had not changed.  They still seemed to exert a power, as if whatever she looked at was brightened.” (Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry)

God created the woman as a capable help-meet to Adam.  He created her a marvelous thing, as marvelous as man, but in a different way.  How can we expect to be the same?  He created her a beautiful thing, strong and intelligent and above all, with purpose.  We are not as strong as men, but we have our strength.  Our arms are strong for our tasks.  We are created with strength for what we are purposed to do.

And I think it’s noble.

I am old-fashioned. I don’t understand things about these days, or else I do but I disagree with them.  And I live so much in the old world that coming into the new world is like a jolt, a shock.

I am happy.  I have a purpose, and I want to work with the land.  I know from experience it is a satisfying kind of work.  A hard work, but satisfying.

After all, I’m not entirely a bookworm.  If I’m practical in my speech, I make up for it in imagination.  I get that from books.  And in my imagination and in my entire being a dream is born, and I don’t discard it just because it is a dream.  I take it up carefully, tenderly in my hands.  I grow it and I grow it until it is big and strong and ready to be fulfilled.  It’s not just any foolhardy dream.  There are some dreams you can tell are futile.  But then there are others… you feel it to the core of your being, and you can’t explain how or why, but you are led.  And God gives you grace, and grace feeds it, and God gives you opportunity and means, and then, in the end, you realize it.

I realize it.

RH

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2011 Favorite Books


Unfortunately, I didn’t do as much reading in 2011 as I hoped to do.  Or rather, I did a lot of reading, but only in the beginnings of books.  Hence, the list I have to put up are only the books that I finished completely.

Reading is a gift.  And when I say that, I don’t mean that it’s a talent.  It is a gift to be able to read the books we have access to.  It’s a gift to have access to them! I was thinking the other day, what if Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) came true? What if books were outlawed and people went around burning your house up if you had one? Would you really have the stamina to memorize the books you love, so that they never cease to be a part of you?  I like to think about this a lot.  A poem is much easier to memorize because you can quite easily follow the themes of the writer, the different patterns (especially in rhyming poems.) But books? If I were to memorize my favorite book? It would take five years to complete The Idiot (Fydor Dostoevsky).  So then I look on all those shelves of books, books holding stories, ideas, philosophies, saving grace, wars, policies, catharsis all in their strong straight arms, and I think: “This is all a gift.”  Please, appreciate this gift while you can.  Read books, but read the good books.  And I don’t mean the ones whose ideas agree with yours, or the ones that only have things you like in them.  I mean books that are well written.  Books that consciously present paradoxes, relevant in our cultures or past cultures, that are worthy of notice.  Books that tell the heart of the author.

I’m done talking about reading.  Here’s my top… well, I’m not sure how many there are yet, but my top favorite books from 2011.

Can You Forgive Her?

Save all the depressing elements of Anthony Trollope’s plots (especially He Knew He Was Right and The way We Live Now) I actually rather enjoyed this dusty, dry novel.  Can You Forgive Her? explores the mental confusion that can come from never really deciding on one thing or another (in this case, for the heroine Alice, a husband.)  In the midst of her going back and forth, telling one man yes and another no and then switching soon after, people are always trying to influence, are looking down on her, and controlling her.  The title was a bit deceiving.  I really thought it was going to be some Gothic novel like Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) and the main character (a woman) runs around melodramatically ruining everybody else’s lives. But it wasn’t like that at all.  It deals much more with mental strain and confusion than anything else.  All in all, it was a pretty satisfying read.  I knew I had to schedule myself in order to get through it, so I forced myself to read two chapters every day and I finished it in a month and a half. (That schedule didn’t work with Don Quixote, but I would recommend something like it if you’re having trouble getting through a 19th century novel.)

 

Mere Christianity

Ah, C.S. Lewis.  I do love you.  Not much to say here about this book except that I love reading apologetic type things, especially from 20th century thinkers.  C.S. Lewis fascinates me.  Although I disagreed with some of the theological principles in Mere Christianity (only slightly disagreed) I would say that it remains, to me, one of the clearest cut pictures of the doctrine of Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narcissus and Goldmund 

Please welcome Narcissus and Goldmund to the front.  By far, this was one of my favorite books this year.  I really liked this book simply for its comparison on the spiritual passions versus the physical passions, and what it meant for Narcissus (the more cynical, stern, ascetic man) and Goldmund (the beautiful, passionate, wandering man).

Besides being an excellent writer, Hermann Hesse is a great thinker.  I appreciate literature written by deep thinkers because I think they combine so much of their own personal mental thought process and struggle in their books. (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky… Hesse.)  It makes it so much more interesting to read a book when you know it’s written with the mind and soul of the author all through it’s pages.

 

 

Hannah Coulter 

Wendell Berry is an excellent writer.  He’s real. When you read him, you feel like he’s tangible, like he’s been sitting next to you the entire time, telling you the whole story. (Except for maybe Remembering, which had some different writing techniques that made it seem a bit abstract.)  Hannah Coulter tells her whole story in the first chapter.  You know everything.  Who dies, who lives.  But you keep reading on because there’s something so beautiful about the way she thinks, about the way she remembers things.  And you know, you just know, that there has to be something she hasn’t told.  Some little secret, something that redeems all her troubles.  It’s a story rich in real, genuine love, between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, etc.  Wendell Berry loves the idea of unity.  He writes about it everywhere.  Keeping the family together.  Being close knit even when the birds grow up and leave the nest.   If you enjoy his fiction, read his poetry.

 

Cyrano de Bergerac 

Well, I rather liked his nose.

I forced myself to read Cyrano de Bergerac in a moment when I thought I wasn’t appreciating tragic writing very much.  (Well, after all, I was studying Bolshevism, and Marxism, reading Mein Kampf and Macbeth at the time…) But Cyrano de Bergerac is a wonderful story.  I yelled at Roxanne quite a bit.  She annoyed me with her sentimentality. Yet, Cyrano was deceptive.  Even though he wrote letters to her in Christian’s name, it probably gave him some self-satisfaction.  And Christian.  If you love the woman, say so, and woo her for yourself. And if she can’t see beyond your inability to make up poetic lines, then maybe she isn’t worth it after all.  (How quickly she loved Cyrano at the end when she discovered it was him all along!) Roxanne was only in love with words, not an actual person.

And after that little rant, here we are.  I love plays. This year I read about ten or twelve plays.  It was a very interesting experience.

Much Ado About Nothing

Oh, if you ever wanted me to recite something all day long over and over again it would be this play.  Shakespeare was a genius.  In this particular play he presents the comparison of courtships, the comparison of deception and honesty, and so many other things.  It’s important to note about the title, that in Shakespeare’s day, the word “nothing” would have been “noting,” which meant eavesdropping.  Also, nothing, in its literal sense, refers to that which does not happen, but which might.  In other words, you have a circle and inside of it are all the things that did, do, or will happen.  But outside that circle are all the possibilities of what might have happened, in other words, Nothing.  Both possibilities are relevant to the play. My favorite line from this play?

“Shall these quips and sentences and paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No! The world must be peopled! When I said that I should die a bachelor, I did not think that I should live to be married.” – Benedick

 

A Room With  A View

This was such a delightful novel.  I read somewhere else that it has to do with the enchantment of Italy and how it can affect even the most sensible of people.  I think it’s very true. But I haven’t been to Italy so I would exactly know.  I think there are several odd things in this novel, but none the less, it’s wonderfully written and for once things really do end up right in the end.  E.M. Forester has such quirky characters. (These things I’m writing really aren’t intended to be in depth reviews… I’m just observing.)

 

 

 

The Great Gatsby 

I have nothing to say to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I admire him too much.

Things do not “end up right” in this book.  That’s no secret. I can’t imagine, though, a book plainer or truer to the drama of life than this.  And yet, you wouldn’t even say that the style is dramatic.  But it is.  In the midst of a fight between a husband and his wife who’s trying to leave him for another man (this is a big fight…) the narrator suddenly says: “I’ve just remembered it’s my birthday. I’m thirty.” And it’s funny, because I don’t find that strange.  I would probably say something like that too, if there was a fight like that going on.  But writers these days don’t think to make their characters go off on these weird trains of thought, and then, without relating what the train of thought is, have them say something they ended up at, just out of the blue. Somehow, it all makes sense.

 

 

Screwtape Letters

Oh, C.S. Lewis again.  I would read this book a hundred times over and again.  I’ve never seen the spiritual battle depicted so neatly and truthfully.  I knew it was true because I had experienced some of the exact things described in here.  Everyone should read it.  Twice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it.  Can you believe it?  Once I get one book up there, I remember all the other books I’ve read.  I want to bring them all up, and talk about them all.  But I can’t.  These are just nine books from 2011 I thoroughly enjoyed.  Next post I’ll give my 2012 to read list.

Morsels

A month, more or less, since I’ve posted.  And here is not anything original with me—not any thought or idea that has come.  Life has been busy, and I have been working in it.  But this is something which has given me sudden comfort.  Like the person who continues drudgery, the mundane, and suddenly finds hope in it, a certain satisfaction and justification.  Let any one who suffers, any one who is in grief, any one who is simply having a down day or a frustrating mood read this.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. – 1 Peter 4:19

Oh the implications.  It brings to mind a quote by C.S. Lewis, on my sidebar, I believe.

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

Our grief, our misery, our sorrow, deep as it may seem, too unfathomable to render precisely—it is all present, and passing, interminable as it may seem.  We have a faithful Creator. We suffer according to God’s will.  And we suffer so that we will not forget him.  The life of our Saviour was one of great suffering on our behalf.  This world we live in is a torment and a grief to me—but can’t I live in deep joy in spite of it?  And it is not about ourselves.  We must be doing good—always.  Being kind, being attentive, sympathetic, loving, tender.  And what are we at heart? Warriors—and sufferers.  But our comfort is great, the end eternal and wonderful.  Don’t give up.  Press on, and hold fast.

It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

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.

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

Winter Clarity

My head has been so full of thoughts and ideas, but they get mixed up, and I feel like each one of them is a snowflake in a huge storm: single, disconnected, and then mixed as soon as they settle.  It reminds me of a line from a Mumford and Sons song:

“I stand alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind.”

A few weeks ago we were eating dinner.  A natural occurrence, and one that happens frequently in our family.  I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, and the conversation around the dinner table was about the detail that was given, by God, for the building of the temple, the allotment of lands, the portions of foods, the sacrifices, etc.  Every square inch was taken care of.  My father wondered, in the most respectful way, why it mattered?  It must signify something important.  I looked down at my food, at the faces around the table, and I laughed.  The circumstance was absurd.

If God were human, we would have said that he took great pains to lay down instructions for the building of the temple.  It probably wasn’t any trouble for him, but he was very particular about it.  The temple was the most important building on earth.  Men spent such great pain and labor building this thing.  It was advancing the kingdom of God, it was fulfilling a decree, it was obeying a command.  Here was a great and wonderful thing happening in the world—it has already happened, and we should not forget it—and here we are, eating dinner.  I didn’t necessarily want to eat, but I needed to.  If I didn’t eat continually, I would die.

I was convinced of my dependence, then.  And not only of mine, but of everybody’s. And I felt minuscule and absurd.

I think I am so proud, that I am the most independent of all the creatures.  And yet, take away the food, the water, the will to live, or the breath of God and I am nothing.  My body is like a machine, and if the battery dies there is no recharging, there is no going back.  It would be so easy to lose my physical life, impossible to regain it on my own.

There have been famines, there have been droughts, there have been oppressive leaders, there have been huge memorials built for great men.

A workman chisels away at the stone for a man he didn’t know, who is now dead and cold.  He is employed by the living, to do something for the dead, so that he may not die from hunger.  Perhaps when he is done with his work he slings his tools over his shoulder and picks his way through dark streets to his home.  Perhaps he has a family, perhaps he lives alone; and once, he covered his face with his hands and wept for something he could not find.  What he made is remembered, but when he is dead, a small stone lies at his head, and people wonder who he might have been, and they don’t know the life he led.

How ironic our life is.

Suddenly everything I have strove for and against, everything I wanted, everything I wept for—it all shrinks back and reveals only me: selfish; using my own means to accomplish my own ends; frivolous.  There are people fighting and dying for my country—for me.  And sometimes I forget that there’s a war; I forget that I am being protected at the price of a life.  I become impatient or unfeeling, and somewhere a young sister is grieving for her brother, who fought and died for us.

The winter becomes so bitter and so cold.  The stark whiteness of the snow blares out any color: it all becomes one.  The world is united under an seeming eternity of white, only broken by the red flare of a cardinals’ wings.  My one clear thought is like that cardinal on the ever-stretching surface of mixed thoughts and ideas.

It is not wrong to be happy; it is not wrong to be sad.  If I sing and dance I cannot be blamed, and if I weep and mourn I cannot be condemned.   There is a greater purpose, a greater meaning in life than leaving my mark upon the world.  It is as particular as the temple, as big, and even more holy.  In the midst of this life I forget that purpose; my tears become selfish, my laugh seeks to banish the doubt in my mind.  I cannot lose sight of the purpose as bright as the cardinal.  I cannot forget about it: it must take up my whole mind, for it demands all my attention, and it is so huge.

And leaving out all worldly pursuits—the dream of being a famous writer or pianist, or any smaller dreams—what is left?  What do I settle my ambition upon?

Christ is as pure and wide as the snow, his blood as striking as the cardinal.  His purpose was deeper than I can ever know, but it was clear and distinct.  No matter what my character, my personality, my position—my purpose will be the same: to pursue holiness.  To become one with Christ.  To spread His Word like a snowstorm, so that all the world lies enthralled in it.

This is my winter clarity.  I must forget about myself.  I must even forget my existence, and I must live only for Christ.  I must be so entwined in his purpose that apart from him I have no inspiration, no ambition, nothing to pursue.

“There’ll come a time you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”
(Mumford and Sons, After the Storm)

And I know that afterwords I will see how much grace I was given, how my heart will finally be free to love Christ fully, how worthy He was of all the pain and suffering I endured for his sake, and how undeserving I am of him, but yet, how much he loves me.  This is the most important thing of all; and if I die forgotten by the world, I die running into the arms of my King.

Is God Bored?

Well? Haven’t you ever wondered?

I always have so many things to do it’s almost impossible to be bored – and life is certainly not monotonous.  But I always wondered about God.  He created the earth.  He knows how to do everything.  He is omniscient.  He has the book of Life, he has known and planned since before the foundations of the earth.  There is nothing new to him.  Is God bored?

Are you tired of G.K. Chesterton? (Assuming negative answer.) Good.  Because I’m going to post him… again. Take a deep breath.  Let it slowly out. Close your eyes for a second and forget about your job or everything you need to do before you go to sleep tonight.  Listen to your heart beat for a moment, relax your body.  Listen to the voices of nature – the autumn wind, the wild, rasping leaves against the pavement. (I am hoping you have a window open.)  Now open your eyes, and read this.

(I had to get you calmed down enough, you see…)

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight alement of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstacy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God….”

I think that’s enough.

The End!

Just kidding.

To continue…

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance. (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. IV)

Are you still breathing?  I could almost swear that when I read that for the first time I had stopped breathing for a full five minutes.  I find apologetics to be as exciting as a novel.

I do not think God’s bored.  I don’t think he wound up the earth at the beginning like a clock, and let it run its full course and then – whoop! the end! Haha! O Man, your play is ended. Thanks for the entertainment. Let’s calculate how many of you made it into heaven. Oh look! 144,000.

I don’t think he did that.

Question 11 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts into perspective my thoughts on how God acted after creation.

Q. What are God’s works of providence?

A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful perserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.

He didn’t wind it up like a clock and let it run.  He didn’t create it and leave it, sit back, and wonder what man would do.  Though he knows all things, though he ordains it, he yet takes an active role in the “perserving and governing” of all his creatures – not just humans – and all their actions.  His work is evident in creation.  He still makes the daisies.  I thought perhaps he must get bored making the daisies, because it must be monotonous, and there was nothing new or exciting, but there… Chesterton proved me wrong.

Earlier in the book, he says:

How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?

I feel that we must look at the world this way.  God makes the daisies all alike – not because he must, but because it is his joy and delight to make all daisies alike.  He makes the sun rise every morning – not necessarily because the sun MUST rise every morning, but because he wants it to rise every morning. He has created this cycle of life, and though he could change it with no difficulty, and blow up all the scientific laws and confuse the minds of men, he doesn’t.  He runs it with skilled hands.  Remember how he made the sun stand still in the sky in Joshua?  How could he stop the cycle of life for that long? Even for three hours!  Yet he perserved creation.  “Yet we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we…”  Monotony is boredom to us, yet I believe that we should look upon the “same and old” of nature as though it were “different and new.”  Every time we see the “fields of rye, that clothe the world and meet the sky” (Tennyson) we must see it as though we had been blind at first.  We have heard of the grass, and felt it, but have never seen it’s beauty… those billions of green fingers reaching and stretching towards the sun.  For the five hundredth time, we must see it for the first time.

I used to think that everything was the same because it MUST be the same… that oaks were like oaks because God created an oak in the beginning, and now all oaks must resemble that first oak. Genetics, wot. But…What ho! Chesterton! I will take my bow, exit stage left, and allow you to take the floor.

“…I found the whole modern world talking scientific fatalism; saying that everything is as it must always have been, being unfolded without fault from the beginning. The leaf on the tree is green because it could never have been anything else. Now, the fairy-tale philosopher is glad that the leaf is green precisely because it might have been scarlet. He feels as if it had turned green an instant before he looked at it. He is pleased that snow is white on the strictly reasonable ground that it might have been black. Every colour has in it a bold quality as of choice; the red of garden roses is not only decisive but dramatic, like suddenly spilt blood. He feels that something has been done. But the great determinists of the nineteenth century were strongly against this native feeling that something had happened an instant before. In fact, according to them, nothing ever really had happened since the beginning of the world. Nothing ever had happened since existence had happened; and even about the date of that they were not very sure.

I feel as though our world is too rushed to feel the excitement and beauty of the green, green earth.  We get up in the morning, sometimes feeling like slugs, and we don’t notice the fresh wind, or the autumn rain, or the warm sun, or the delirium of colors in the world.  After a time, if our conscience really gets to us, we might say “Good morning” to people.  Yet, putting aside all convention and politeness, perhaps we could reach the point at which we say “good morning” because we feel that it MUST be a good morning.  We have taken the time to recognize the joy of a new day, of a fresh start.  We have stirred up our cup of determination and cheerfulness, with which we will face the so called drudgeries and hardships that might come later on.  And amidst the rush of life, we might occasionally stop, and we will start laughing with joy because the sky is blue!  And at thanksgiving, we might thank God for the reds and oranges and golds of the leaves – for his perserving and governing all his creatures and all his actions.

Here are five things that I am convinced people need to do on a regular basis:

  1. Think
  2. Dance
  3. Sing
  4. Dream
  5. Pray

All of those things can contain many sub-categories, but in their essence, they are important.  Thinking deeply through things helps us to understand and appreciate.  Dancing helps cleanse you of any pessimistic parasites lurking in your soul.  Singing does much the same thing – it is an outburst of joy, or of sorrow.  Dreaming makes the world go round, I am convinced, because dreams determine who we are, what our pursuits are, and how we will live.  Praying is the most important of all.  Through prayer our faith is strengthened.  Through prayer our trust is placed out of earthly things and into Christ.  And thus, through prayer, we do not have to be anxious about anything, and we can sing, dance and dream.

Alright, I am done.  But I’m sure that’s not the last you’ll be hearing of G.K. Chesterton…