August 31, 2011

never mind

So, I wrote the other day about why I changed my blog name from "my life: in short" to "deep thoughts, sometimes."

Never mind.

I changed it back.  Deep thoughts is too much for me to live up to.  My thoughts may, in fact, run deep on occasion, but I don't think I want to see that expectation every time I pull up my blog.

So there you have it.  And sorry, no promises that I won't change my mind again in the future!  (Consistency, anyone? .... I couldn't find it on amazon.com.....)

August 29, 2011

how to make tomato sauce (the easy way)


1) respond with an unequivocal "maybe" when your husband asks if he should bring home extra tomatoes from work to make into sauce.  add that he is welcome to make the sauce, should inspiration strike, but that your own personal interest in the project is extremely limited.

2) watch your husband carry in a large plastic tub of organic tomatoes from work that would otherwise have "gone to waste".

3) watch afore-mentioned husband wash and quarter tomatoes; offer tips as necessary.

4) prepare supper while tomatoes cook in large stockpot on the stove.  mention to husband the possibility of tomatoes scorching.

5) when supper is over and husband starts to look for the strainer gizmo, point him in the right direction, then go out to the hammock to read while he assembles it.

6) come back inside in time to watch Spice ladle the last of the cooked tomatoes into the strainer's hopper as husband tilts the strainer so that it doesn't spill onto the floor, Everything Nice pokes at the garbage end helpfully with the masher thing, and Sugar entertains Lil' Snip in the livingroom by crashing him onto the sofa with her.

7) wow the family by pouring the resulting tomato juice into two dutch ovens without spilling any of it.

8) volunteer to (wo-)man the sauce as it cooks down so that husband is free to clean up the strainer gizmo.

9) stir the sauce while reading personality books and watching husband in peripheral vision.

10) agree with husband that making sauce is a lot more involved than it appears.

11) get husband to take over stirring before your arm falls off and you expire from boredom on the pretext of making room in the refrigerator for the (hopefully single, eventually) pan of sauce.

12) thank husband for stirring, acknowledge his astute comment about the dullness inherent in the task of stirring, and set dutch ovens of sauce on trivets to cool on the table.

13) read more personality books.

14) announce that you're going to bed, then discover the two dutch ovens of sauce still cooling on the table.

15) pour sauce into a single dutch oven and place on trivet in the refrigerator.

16) wash out the other dutch oven before the ring of tomato "paste" hardens into tomato candy.

17) get ready for bed.

18) just before you get into bed, get the brilliant idea to write the whole sauce-making process down for the benefit of (wo-)mankind everywhere.

19) go to bed, windows open to admit cool post-hurricane autumnal breezes & the songs of crickets . . . .

20) make the mistake of sharing your brilliant post with husband, thereby giving him the opportunity (which he cannot pass up, due to his phlegmatic personality) to remark, "yeah, you weren't much help."

21) remind husband of step 1), add his compliments to your post and go back to bed.

[22) let husband read post to check for any inadvertent husband-bashing.  be pleased when he laughs.]



August 28, 2011

borrowed words, Part Six


So much wisdom (or wit!) packed into such a tight space in these quotes.  Which are your favorites?  Which do you disagree with?


Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed warm, mental fog. ~Joseph Conrad

Thinking is the great enemy of perfection. ~Joseph Conrad

It is the lovers of solitude that have explored the ends of the earth, founded empires, bred races of free and conquering people, extinguished savagery, advanced the growth of science, philosophy, and all learning, and reformed and rejuvenated religion. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Once you accept a thing as true, without knowing whether it is is true or not, you are on the road to mental ruin. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Life is short, but wide. ~Spanish proverb

Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it. ~Tallulah Bankhead

Immortality consists largely of boredom. ~Cochrane (Star Trek)

Alas! art is long, and life is short! ~Benjamin Franklin, The Ephemera

It is error alone which needs the support of the government. Truth can stand alone. ~Thomas Jefferson

But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature. ~Thomas Jefferson

Man is the only creature with the capacity for reason, and the predilection to avoid it. ~ J. E. Holbert (?)

People are like alcohol – better in small quantities. ~ unknown

Better a good enemy than a bad friend.  ~ Plato

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. ~Edmund Birk

These do I love:
Old things, old places,
Remembered times,
Familiar faces.
~unknown

The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Give me health, and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am human. Therefore anything that is human is not alien to me. ~ Terence (Roman playwright) 

Wit is thought and words elegantly adapted to the subject. ~John Dryden

[of Chaucer] As he knew what to say, so he knows also when to leave off. ~John Dryden

August 27, 2011

perfection, again

*sigh*

I so much want to be perfect.  To do it "right."  And my failure is so much in my face.  Am I the only one out there who deals with this?  I just want to raise my children right, I want to love well, I want to be the right wife for my Farmer, I want to keep house right.  I want to be, well, like my Father God, and I fall so short.

Actually .... oh, dear, I hate it when a post changes direction on me in the second paragraph .... Maybe it's not my imperfection that's the problem, here.  Maybe it's my pride.  [gulp]

The Bible (which I believe) says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), so my own falling short should not come as shocking news to me.  It definitely would not be news to my Maker.  And yet, that same Bible does not report that he is impatiently pacing Heaven's halls, pulling out his hair over my deplorable inability to measure up to him.  How can that be?!  I sure am!!

What are my Father's views on my failings?

"As a father has compassion on his children, 
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust."    
(Psalm 103:13-14)

And, in his own description of himself, he is:

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, 
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, 
and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."  
(Exodus 34:6-7)

John the disciple, the "one Jesus loved", tells us of this same Jesus that "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  (I John 1:9)  No prescription there for tearing out hair or beating self up.  Just confess - basically say "what I did was sin" - and my Father, who "remembers that I am dust", will not only forgive my sin, but cleanse me from all unrighteousness.  Now that is a good deal, is it not?  (especially considering the alternative:  hell, which I also believe in.  Hmmm, humility or hell?  Looks like a no-brainer to me.)

So if it is no surprise to God that I am going to fall short of his glory (perfect love), and if he remembers that I am, after all, mere dust, and if he promises to forgive my failings and wash me of them .... then why do I waste time agonizing over my failings instead of just showing up at the Throne for a bath?  (Hebrews 4:16  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.")

Must be I've forgotten that I'm mere dust.  Human, not god.  And that, my friends, breaks the very first commandment:  You shall have no other gods before me.  (Exodus 20:3)

Time for confession and a bath . . .

"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love!
According to your great compassion
blot out all my transgressions!
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.....
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
(Psalm 51:1-2, 7)


"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? ... And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God."  (I Corinthians 6:9, 11)

Look at the good news that is too often omitted at the end of the oft-quoted "all have sinned" sentence: 

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  (Romans 3:23 & - praise God - 24)

My Father God doesn't just watch me fall short of his glory - he grants me grace, freely, to go on in his power, "being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18).  If he will do this for me, he will do it for you, too.  Just ask him and see.

"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."  Philippians 2:13



August 25, 2011

what's for supper?


To keep, or not to keep, that is the question.

I have a deep suspicion that I am the only one who reads this feature on my blog. And I am beginning to have a deep desire to deep-six it (i.e. permanently discontinue said feature).

What started out as a way to try to prevent having too many of the same old meals (and to maybe give ideas to anyone desperate enough for supper ideas to check out mine), has become, more or less, simply a public record of too many of the same old meals. Now, as much as I would love for all my mommy-blogging friends to start a what's-for-supper sidebar on their blogs (hint, hint), I am thinking the productive life of mine has ended (if ever it began).

Your vote?

empty spaces


Except for 15-month-old Lil' Snip chirping happily in his crib (his hours of waking and sleeping defy all hope of comprehension), the house is quiet. It is naptime, and even 9-year-old Sugar is sleeping. It was a late night, and my children do not sleep in.

Some late nights are worth it, though, and last night was one. Friends from Kansas visited – an almost-dropping-in visit – and while the mommies and daddies caught up, the children, who barely remember our last time together six years ago, became like brothers and sisters for the evening.

The wind raced unceasingly all evening, and the children raced to match it. Down the yard to eat supper under the heartnut tree whose nut-laden branches arch down to form a leafy room, just right for children's picnics. Up to the implement shed to “cook” in their “kitchens.” Back down to the Concord vine to feast on grapes. Up in the treehouse, crowded but happy. Down in the hammock for a “rowdy ride” (a sturdy hammock can double as a boat, should one be needed). Up on the zipline and down to the chicken yard. Up to the greenhouse, down, and down, just to run, to feel the wind.

When we finally waved them down the road, it was dark; an exquisite novelty for Sugar, Spice, & Nice, who are used to looking longingly out their bedroom windows at the perfectly good summer daylight a-wasting outside as we tuck them in.  Last night they went to bed tired, but joyful:  they had been out in the night!

Today the wind races on an empty yard. The children sleep, dreaming, probably, of their one-night siblings. The flute they made from a hollow pawlonia stick rests on the windowsill....

Richard Paul Evans & the meaning of life

A quote from A Perfect Day, which is, in my humble opinion, a book every aspiring writer should read, and an excellent read for anyone at all, at least as far as page 197, where this quote occurs:



“... The simple truth is that we don't come to earth to make a name for ourselves just so time can erase it. That's not what it's about.”

“Then what is it about?”

Michael smiled. “Finally you're asking the right question. But you already know the answer. You've always known.” He looked into my eyes and his gaze pierced me. “It's about learning how to love.”


Get the book in your hands if you can.  Our local library system has it, and I bet yours does, too.  If you've ever wanted "success" in any form, this book may clear your vision a bit.


August 23, 2011

am I doing anything important?!


"There are no great things; only small things done with great love."  ~ Mother Teresa

Just last night I was wondering if I am doing anything at all important with my life.

The days and months feel like they're moving so quickly right now, and so easily get away from me.  I look back on my day and think, what did I do that mattered?  


There's nothing too impressive on my to-do list (not that got crossed off anyway)....... 

but you know, 

I fed my family, 
washed their clothes, 
kissed their boo-boos, 
taught my children, 
encouraged my husband, and

if I did those things with love, then what I did was important.  

August 19, 2011

borrowed words, Part Five


Love these various thoughts on the creative process, reflection, and our interwoven-ness with each other.  That last reminds me of Deitrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, which I need to re-read.  

I remember being impressed by his assertion that when the Bible refers to the Church as a body, united, it is not making reference to a goal, or an ideal, but to a present reality.  We affect one another, like it or not.  When you are injured, I bleed, for we are one, deny it though we may.  Our fight for independence from each other reminds me of the truism about unforgiveness:  it is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.  

I need you.  You need me.  There is no way around it.

The error of youth is to believe that intelligence is a substitute for experience, while the error of age is to believe that experience is a substitute for intelligence.  ~Slyman Bryson

The days are just packed. ~Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes)

Please God, I will live my years with my face to the light, meeting the blows of fate with a joke, the contempt of men with a smile, the plague and mystery of the Unknown in my own heart and in the universe with cheerful faith, and death the best I can when I come to it.   ~Dr. Frank Crane

No artist has any other aim than to show his soul by his work.   ~Dr. Frank Crane

For the use of reason is to justify the obscure desires that move our conduct, impulses, passions, prejudices and follies, and also our fears. ~Joseph Conrad, Victory, 1914

The young man learned to reflect, which is a destructive process, a reckoning of the cost. It is not the clearsighted who lead the world. ~Joseph Conrad, Victory, 1914

I feel a most keen sense of self-laudation in that I am doing something the world is willing to pay for. ~Dr. Frank Crane

I wonder if it is written just which souls, of all the millions, shall touch ours? And each one whose personality impinges upon ours, even in the least, leaves some particles of flavor of himself upon us, and we upon him. ~Dr. Frank Crane

The Lord certainly shows His low opinion of money by the kind of folks He gives it to.   ~Dr. Frank Crane

Pessimism is the fine name for cowardice, vulgarity, self-pity, and failure. ~Dr. Frank Crane

The author lays his compelling mind upon the lives of thousands when he has written by the light of his own soul-burning. ~Dr. Frank Crane

It is sweet to mingle tears with tears; griefs, where they wound in solitude, wound more deeply. ~Seneca


August 18, 2011

cheerfully struggling on


I was encouraged today to let go the strange pleasure of self-pity, and reminded that we are all struggling - valiantly, it is hoped - to learn to love well, and to sing praise in the midst of trouble.


excerpted from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene H. Peterson

"There are no easy tasks in the Christian way; there are only tasks which can be done faithfully or erratically, with joy or resentment.  And there is no room for any of us, pastors or grocers, accountants or engineers, typists or gardeners, physicians or teamsters, to speak in tones of self-pity of the terrible burdens of our work.
        .....
"There is nothing I am less good at than love.  I am far better in competition than in love.  I am far better at responding to my instincts and ambitions to get ahead and make my mark than I am at figuring out how to love another.  I am schooled and trained in acquisitive skills, in getting my own way.  And yet, I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily - open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.
       .....
"I live on the edge of defeat all the time.  I have never done any one of those things to my (or anyone else's) satisfaction.  I live in the dragon's maw and at the flood's edge.
      .....
"....  Christians are not fatigued outcasts who carry righteousness as a burden in a world where the wicked flourish; Christians are people who sing "Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!"  [Psalm 124]"

a word of explanation

Ever vigilant regarding false advertising, I noticed lately that my own blog may be guilty.  My posts have tended more toward the thoughts in my life than the actual happenings.  (Or, the thoughts that the happenings ignite.)  In light of that, my blog title "my life:  in short" began to seem a little inaccurate.

If the new title reminds you of parody, it should (lest I appear to be thinking too much of my own philosophical meanderings).  Apologies to Jack Handey & SNL.

Well, with a 5-year-old singing incessantly (but pleasantly!) in the background, accompanied by her grizzling 14- (or is it 15?) month-old brother, and my mother arriving any moment to give me a break today, not to mention the rapidly approaching naptime of the aforementioned 14-month-old, that's all the deeper I can manage for now.....

Today is definitely a "sometimes."


[afternote:  I briefly renamed this blog "Deep Thoughts, Sometimes."  After a day or two, when it became evident that "deep" was not going to be sustainable, it reverted to its former uninspiring name, as you see it now.]




August 16, 2011

tense

In my Past lives ....

.... I ate simple meals, whatever I was hungry for, at sometimes random hours.  Or elaborate meals, that had no deadline, start or finish.

.... I hopped on my bike on a whim and ride along the ocean road, watching Japanese grandmas collecting seaweed.

.... I cleaned when I noticed dirt - which wasn't often.  Clutter was a single stack of papers on my desk.

.... I sat on the porch, watching the sun set and letting my brain play around with ideas.

.... I ran errands when I needed something, without planning or forethought.

.... I slept in on the weekends.

.... I planned a garden in January, and then in the spring I planted it.  I enjoyed taking care of my garden and took pride in its appearance.

.... I took long walks with my husband on country roads.  We talked about the future and dreamed big dreams.

.... I taught myself to can meat in my spare time.

.... I read for pleasure, not escape.  I stayed up late to finish a good book.

.... I envisioned my future offspring cheerfully following me as I did my work, enriching the experience for us both.

.... I had houseplants, knew their Latin names and their peculiarities of care.

.... I basked in solitude on a regular basis.

I enjoyed my Past, but casually, not cherishing the Present that I had.  People (usually much older than I) tell me that when those days come again in the Future, I won't enjoy them as much as I anticipate doing, the second time around, - instead I'll be missing my children, even their mess and their noise - a different Past.

The Past and the Future beckon with such a deceptive glow.  The Present chafes; I am so unlike the person I had hoped I'd turn out to be.


August 12, 2011

a little sleep, a little slumber....

Last night I did something revolutionary:  I went to bed before eight o'clock (one minute before, actually).  Despite several interruptions - refereeing sibling issues, husband coming to bed, husband getting out of bed, husband pulling up covers - I was a new person this morning.  (see this post for the person I was yesterday!).

I answered my husband's "good morning" decently.  I was eager for my baby to wake up (he, too, has been suffering from sleep deprivation and went to bed over an hour early last night, exhausted).  I made baked oatmeal for my family's breakfast.  I started a load of laundry and hung it out to dry.  I took my children on a walk through dew-drenched grass between fields of corn and soybeans.  We saw an indigo bunting!  We played "guess where I'm sitting" (which idea came to me last night as I was waiting to fall asleep).  I did some hemming that I've been procrastinating for weeks - and had the patience to explain the whole process to an audience of three.

My mind is clear and able to think creatively.  I am calm and patient with my children, and able to enjoy including them in my activities.  (Unfortunately, this has been unusual lately!)

I must confess, though, that it was NOT easy to go to bed early last night.  I had no time to myself after putting the girls to bed.  No leisure reading.  No relaxing conversation with my Farmer, catching up on each other's days.  No snacking.  No finishing up leftover chores.

But you know what?  It was worth it.  I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat!  (Not tonight, though, probably - I'll just try to go to bed when I'm tired, instead of waiting until everything is crossed off my to-do list).

What inspired me to go to bed so crazy early was a book I'm reading, Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I am so grateful for this book, I could cry.  It has helped me understand why some of my children sleep easily, and why some get so wired (and what to do about it).

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has more than twenty years' experience as a teacher, an award-winning parent educator, and an international trainer, and she's written some great books on related topics.  What she has to say may revolutionize your world.

Just to whet your appetite, the subtitle of the book is "Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?"  The book is full of real-life examples of parents solving tantrums and bedtime struggles, attention problems and whining, by changing the way they approach sleep.  It is definitely aimed at helping children, but her points applied to parents can have dramatic effects, as I found out.

Sleep well:  live well.

August 11, 2011

was it a morning like this? (irony)


Recipe for a bad morning:

Wake up several times during the night, preferably to the sound of your youngest child crying.  Sleep through your husband's alarm clock so that you can be disoriented when you hear your own.  Answer your husband's “good morning” with a sleepy (ok, growly) mumble.  Think dark thoughts in the shower.  Read James during your quiet time and feel inadequate and burdened.  Fight with your husband over whether or not he should wear an ill-fitting birthday present.  Make coffee without replacing the carafe completely, so that the coffee accumulates in the basket with the grounds and spills out into the carafe, the counter, and the coffeemaker's water reservoir.  Allow your children to come to you with problems they should be able to solve on their own.  Remember to check when those homeschool affidavits and educational objectives are due and discover that it was two weeks ago.


Recipe for recovering the rest of the day:

Remember that the world will not end over this, and that if it did, that would be a good thing!  Spend a couple of hours with a friend and her children (after first printing out generic objectives and affidavits and filling in all blanks preparatory to zipping in to the notary in the afternoon).  Get the crying out of the way first, then laugh as much as possible while solving the more complex of the world's problems.  Have a random lunch, just for comic relief.  Nap.  Plan frozen pizza for supper, even though it's not Friday.  Try not to think about those late affidavits........


August 8, 2011

borrowed words, Part Four


A few more ... lately I am especially appreciating the truth of the Seneca quote about process over product, and the one by Saint-Exupery about the web of our relationships; one thinks of the rose cared for by the little prince.  So many truths, so deep is life.

All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And each man in his life plays many parts.
     ~William Shakespeare

I flee who chases me, and chase who flees me. ~Ovid, The Loves, A.D. 8

The artist finds a greater pleasure in painting than in having completed the picture. ~Seneca, 1st century

We are what we love. ~Erik Erikson

Glimpsed heaven and hell are vastly more potent than they would be if they were somewhere in New Jersey. ~Dr. Frank Crane

We do not emphasize enough the sheer delight of merely being alive. ~Dr. Frank Crane

I like my pen and my pad of paper, and to see words grow under my hand. ~Dr. Frank Crane

The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. ~Saint-Exupery

Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination. ~Voltaire


a cry


down here, together but alone,
we're a wandering, restless, uncertain people,
selfish, stubborn, hurting and deceived.

intent on little things
we strive, stubbornly, to hold on to control,
manipulating minutia for the moment:  blind.

greedy, wasting time on trifles
grasping ugly clutter to hide from our thoughts,
from our God,
from our sin that keeps us from love.

aching, O God!
we are achingly desperate for the Savior we scoff at
and turn from, choosing wretched placebos
in place of redemption.

forgive us, O God,
our smallness, our blindness,
our sad, dumb attention to staleness and filth.

fill us, we cry,
with a longing, persistent,
insistent on You.

we're done with the darkness, God,
done with the smallness,
done with the clutter,
done hiding from you.

save us, O God,
from our selfishness, stubbornness.
save us, O God, from our hurting,
ourselves.

free us from darkness, God,
free us to see You; show us each other
and teach us to love.

open our eyes, God,

to see you, to hear you,
to feel
all Your love pouring down over us.

tip up our chins, God,
to look in your face
and know we are loved,
and know we're forgiven.

your bigness, O God, is an infinite mercy,
your goodness so good
that the overflow covers our lack 
and restores us to you.

August 6, 2011

de-throning the Protestant work ethic

The past few days should have been restful ones.  Outside of basic homemaking (cooking, laundry, overseeing chores and schoolwork) and a very small handful of "special projects", I have had a good bit of free time.  And, feeling I needed a rest (July was one scheduling crisis after another for this homebody), I spent most of that free time divided between my laptop and my Lazy Boy recliner.

When I occasionally surfaced from my books and my blog, I felt guilty.  I should be spring deep cleaning.  I should be weeding flowerbeds.  I should be taking my children on fun, educational day trips.  I should be freezing corn.  I should be canning peaches.  I should .....

I've been undermining my free time by underestimating its value.

Work is good.  If you never work, you can't truly enjoy leisure.  But leisure is good, too.  If you never rest, you can never truly enjoy your work.

I want to be able to enjoy both, so now that I'm fully rested (after a mind-clearing evening at the pottery studio last night, where I figured all this out), I think I'll go find some work to do.  Seems to me I saw some cobwebs somewhere recently ....

(and when I've finished with that, Frederick Beuchner's sermons beckon....)

August 4, 2011

coward?

According to wikipedia (sorry, Webster) a coward is someone who "is perceived to fail to demonstrate sufficient robustness and courage in the face of a challenge."  Hmmm..... I find life to be vastly challenging, and some days I'd love to be rescued from it all.  

I think I might be a coward. 

Parenting, for starters, feels like driving in a high-speed race – the smallest actions fraught with peril & significance; one false move and you total the car. Marriage, and friendships in general, are likewise complex and easily injured.  Thanks to psychology, even cleaning and eating and simple pleasures are redolent of internal neuroses.  

If I have a finite task in front of me – change this diaper, say, or clean out this closet, or navigate with love this one conversation about mother-daughter relationships or welfare or faith vs. works – difficult or messy though it may be, a single task feels doable. The challenge in life's difficulties is not knowing their boundaries, how long they'll last.

I just read something recently on the subject of difficulty, and escape.  I've been worrying it in my mind, trying to find out the truth of it:
"The Christian walk is not a quiet escape to a garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord ... The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, ... pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground.
"The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life." [from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson]

I guess I've thought that "the Christian walk" could (or should) be a "quiet escape to the garden" ... in fact, that's what I'd like some days - deliverance from difficulty, not merely help as I walk through it.  (You could say that I appear to lack sufficient robustness and courage in the face of life's challenges.)  But, lacking a viable escape, I bluster on.

I wonder if this lack of robustness could stem from inaccurate expectations.  

Elsewhere in his book, Peterson says, 

"The world, in fact, is not as it has been represented to us.  Things are not all right as they are, and they are not getting any better.
"We have been told the lie ever since we can remember:  that human beings are basically nice and good. ... The world is a pleasant, harmless place.  ... If we are in chains now, it is someone's fault, and we can correct it with just a little more intelligence or effort or time.
"How we can keep on believing this after so many centuries of evidence to the contrary is difficult to comprehend, but nothing we do or nothing anyone else does to us seems to disenchant us from the spell of the lie.  We keep expecting things to get better, somehow. ... Convinced by the lie that what we are experiencing is unnatural, an exception, we devise ways to escape"

There's the rub.  If "life's good", if I alone in all the world am suffering, then the injustice, the loneliness of it burns more sharply than the suffering itself.  If all the world is wounded, though, then those around me are fellows in my grief, understanding sojourners helping and being helped in turn.

The optimist in me (despite it all) does not want to believe in a wounded world.  I want to see the blessings, choose to look at life with wonder and gratitude.  So is life good?  Or is it "but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage"?  [Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5]

Where to turn?  How to reconcile these two conflicting views?

The Master Potter, He who wields the clay to fit his will, reminds me of a verse I read this morning (the answer's always there):  

"let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith ....  Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, ... but let us encourage one another ..."  [Hebrews 10:22, 24-25]

The world is wounded, but life - together - nevertheless is good.  We have God's grace, equipping us to love in the face of libel, do good despite our weariness and lack of trust.  We have God, and we have each other.

Courage! then, my fellow cowards - onward and upward!  Let us link arms and spur each other on, and be "robustness" for each other, filling in the gaps.


August 2, 2011

borrowed words, Part Three

Words are such a gift.  I am currently watching my small son learn the potential of words.  "Chocolate", I say, and his face lights up.  "No-no", and his brow furrows in disapproval of his own.  He hears "Daddy" and turns to listen for the opening of the door.  We don't even say "outside" unless we mean to take him there.  Words make things happen, he is finding, and bring order and meaning to his world.  I can't wait for his first joke.

It is with a consciousness of the gift that words are, that I appreciate especially the first two quotes here, and, down further, the one from Aristotle.  The ability to say what you mean is at the same time one of the most practical of all skills, and one which brings to life the most peace and beauty.


Loud talking is a sign of a consciousness that one's reasoning is feeble. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Profanity comes from a limited vocabulary. ~Dr. Frank Crane

The strongest being conceivable is God. And He is so modest, quiet, and hidden that many people refuse to believe there is a God. He never blusters. Hence, many humbugs cannot understand how He exists. ~Dr. Frank Crane

I come into the fields and spacious palaces of my memory, where are treasures of countless images of things in every manner. ~St. Augustine

Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity. ~Aristotle

When I say “I”, I mean a thing absolutely unique, not to be confused with any other. ~Ugo Betti

Every step forward that we take we leave some phantom of ourselves behind. ~John Lancaster Spalding

It is only when mind and body quit and rest that the soul comes out for an airing. ~Dr. Frank Crane

Sweeter shall the roses blow
In those far years, those happier years;
And children weep when we lie low
Far fewer tears, far softer tears.
         ~Dr. Frank Crane

August 1, 2011

a brief defense of chivalry

I realize this is a minefield.  Just humor me.

Recently, in a public setting, I came very close to falling down some stairs while holding precious cargo:  my 14-month-old son, Lil' Snip.  Two men, seated nearby, leapt instantly to their feet, hands automatically outstretched to catch us or break our fall.  Shaken, I regained my balance (and my composure) sufficiently to thank them, and moved on, baby intact.

Could that have been embarrassing?  To be caught by two men, mid-fall, in public?  Absolutely.

Did I wish they had left me to save myself by dint of my woman-power?  Absolutely not.

This is not the first time that men of limited moral proximity to me (thank you, Isabel Dalhousie) have instinctively risen to rescue or protect me.  Once, at the pottery studio, eight months pregnant, I was applying glaze with a small brush to bisqued pots, being very careful to avoid getting the potentially toxic-to-my-baby mixture on my skin.  Two resident potters entered the studio in conversation, saw me glovelessly glazing, and rushed in tandem to alert me to the danger.

Knowing that there are men out there who are programmed in their very DNA to protect women and children (despite jeopardy to their political correctness) makes the world seem, to me, a safer and a friendlier place.  I wanted to go on record as being in favor of this.
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