Discover

The world is an astounding place.autumn-165184__480

The awareness of wonder is often lost living in the modern world. i think this is one of the things that is so compelling about time spent with young children, puppies, kittens, etc. They have not lost their sense of the endless discoveries lying all about us…cat-1992140__480

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This sense of the possibilities is an aspect of the internet that excites me. i have been considering adding a podcast to some of my blog posts, or perhaps in place of some of the posts.

As i glanced through some of the information, i was filled with the wonder of all that potentially lies ahead.

The density of the required new learning could be a burden. Rather it has peaked my fondness for discovery.toddler-1484720__480

The truth is that i have a low tolerance for boredom and i thrill to learning something new. Exploration can take many forms.

The pilgrim journey continues.

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Remain

i thank my God in all my remembrance of you, dear readers,

Formal letters are rapidly fading from usage in our ultra-connected around-the-clock society. The format has drifted first to the succinct email and then to the acronym-rich twitter and now the thumbs-up emoji text. The Victorians, the literacy craving letter-writing crowd of the steamship and world exploration era often concluded their missives with the poignant, “i remain…”

St. Paul gave about two-thirds of the New Testament in the form of letters to the churches that he founded. A consummate world traveling Apostle he traveled the much of the then known-world with the Good News of the risen Lord. His familiar ancient world greeting begins each of his epistles, including the beloved letter to the church at Philippi.

In Philippians 1:21 he begins, ” For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain..But to remain in the flesh is more necessary”

As i pondered today’s theme i was reminded of this passage, which was one of this past week’s epistle readings for some of us. After randomly picking up a book of Emily Bronte’s poems the book fell open to a poem that resonated with me.

The Old Stoic

Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream,
That vanished with the morn:

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal:
’Tis all that I implore;
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.

My thoughts coalesced around the idea that we are fleeting pilgrims who will not long remain in this world. Rather than fear, this is our hope. Tomorrow will soon be here. i know not what form communication will take in the coming decades. i look forward with hope and anticipation. Technology is exciting, but it is not the keeper of my trust. Our lives are as fleeting as the single blink of a flashing cursor.

i remain…

in Him.

Try

Today i will try to write.

When i saw the word i felt a wave of relief.

The only thing that i consistently believe that i can in fact do is try;  i do not know what my body will permit me to do. i often have difficulty being upright for extended periods. The definition of upright varies based upon a whole host of issues too numerable to be of any interest to non-P.O.T.S. sufferers. i can always do my best, however.

Action verbs can fill me with trepidation if they are on my agenda. They are wonderful to characters in a book. In real-life, they can prove unpredictable. Trying is always doable.

Yesterday i faced the issue of inviting. Today i actually made and received phone calls. Trying to find a time for a whole group of friends to meet for lunch can require a significant amount of negotiating. The amusing aspect is that this is a group of ladies that i used to lead in a Bible study. We went out to lunch together every week for more than a decade. Now that we are no longer all starting from Bible study, trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule requires a number of back-and-forth phone calls.

We have a date and restaurant, but the time is still contingent upon another event that may be scheduled for that afternoon as well. We are trying to meet for lunch.

It appears as if life would be preferable if it were more predictable. Upon consideration, however, it probably serves us better that we do need to really work hard at living.

The fact that we are trying so hard teaches us something about the depth of our desire for community, and how much we treasure our friendship.

i am reminded of the ladder to heaven. Once we gain some spiritual maturity, we recognize that the gulf between our ability and the throne of God is immeasurable. In St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, he talks about the skills the soul needs in order to live fully with Christ. How can i be meek, obedient and renounce the world while i am still living in the world?

In every aspect of my life, i am finding that challenge helps me rise to greater heights of spiritual maturity. i know that i have not mastered any of the rungs of the ladder. i appreciated reading Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou’s book, Thirty Steps to Heaven, The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life. In consideration of the obstacles of life, i comprehend that i am extremely blessed. God only allows us to face what can make us more faithful. Surely, the paths for me have fallen among the pleasant ways!

The petty trials of every day are blessings in disguise. By trying to climb the larger steps like repentance and simplicity we grow by grace closer to the One who made us. We become more fully human when we try to renounce worldly ways and give precedence and kindness in all our actions. The more i attempt to live with time dedicated to prayer and stillness the closer i grow to Grace. Perhaps trying is a success for humans in God’s great beneficent plan.

 

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Write

My husband asked me why i write. i write because i enjoy reading. When i read i learn truths about what it is like to be a human being. i recognize things in others that i cannot make out clearly in myself until another author writes it down. i write to make sense of myself and the world.

There are actually quite a lot of us who learn verbally. Words elucidate ideas which grow into concepts that lead to truth. We write to find TRUTH.

We cannot see the truth in all of its grandeur until we dig the words out of our own spirits. The truth does not come from us, but we need to excavate the rocks from our selves so that we can grow the truth in us. A harvest only comes from good soil.

i farm words.

My spirit is full of rocks and thorns. i have toiled away weeding and pruning for years. Part of my problem is that i have a hard time knowing what to remove. Some of the thorns that tear my hair and shred my skin and sweater grow on rose bushes that ought to be pruned but not destroyed. Other thorns grow on briars. When i become frustrated and begin to pull everything out of the soil i expend enormous energy to little effect. However, when i consider the origins and nature of what is growing carefully, only then do i begin to reap a harvest.

Reading, writing, editing, it all requires a surfeit of time. Farming takes time and diligence. i write in hope that someday, truth can blossom in my soul.

 

Story

Stories move us and drive us. A narrative is often our framework for understanding. When life fails to, “make sense” it is often because we don’t grasp a unifying narrative.

For those of us who are native storytellers most of the stories pass by unrecorded. 

i reminisced about all the stories that have flickered through my head as threads that i did not follow. They were not woven into the fabric of my life. They were left dangling.

i think all writers have these loose ends.

Stories that might have been.

The one who got away is not a man. The one who got away was a Viking…

Hope

It is only the fourth day of the month and we are already at the heart of the story! Our lives are the novel story of our existence. Without hope we would have no reason to go on. If it were a work of fiction we would not continue reading. These are facts that can lead one to despair.

Where does hope come from? Different people put their hope in various theories, people, God/gods. But what is the essence of hope? Why do we as human being hope by nature?

Fundamentally we require hope. It drives us out of bed, or to the computer in the bed. Hope gives us passion. We are deprived of peace when we are away from hope. We become relentless and will push beyond our abilities to find hope.

The difficulty in talking about hope lies in part because it lies in the deepest part of ourselves, one that the modern western philosophical framework has deprived us of. Hope lives in the soul.

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain. Romans 6:19

Significantly, we don’t know how to talk about the soul. We grasp at words and ideas longing for something to hold onto. Hope springs forth untended from the nous, or deep part of the being. It comes from God and we can receive it if we are willing. Sin makes it very hard for us to see hope.

The more we stay locked in our human understanding the harder it will be to see through our selfishness.

i think of hope as a wildflower growing alongside the road.

No person planted the flower, it blooms briefly and then dies to be replaced by something else. While it is blooming it represents a gift of beauty to anyone passing by, but only if they see. Will i remain so focused on my schedule, worries, relationships, goals or pleasures that i look and do not see?

How often have i missed hope?

Create

A deep desire to create lies within many people. Creation can take many forms and often expresses itself in guise of ordinary life. For some it is dinner at home or a program at work. Many people find their deepest desires met in teaching and guiding the children they helped to create. Watching new life develop and grow inspires us since we are all made in the image of our Heavenly Father, the Creator of all.

Fear can be a companion of the creation process. Self-doubt nips at my heels when i engage in creative endeavors. Why would anyone want to read this blog? What is the purpose of passing up some time with my husband? i am a fool to babble on the internet.

Recognizing our limited ability can help or hinder us depending upon our personality. For me releasing control is difficult but essential. i must surrender to the fact that i can not place myself at the head of the creation process.

Once i become humble enough to accept my place as a recipient, i can learn to receive the creative gifts that He gives.

i am nothing; He is everything.

Lord, make me an instrument of your orchestra and play Your will through my hollow life. Amen.

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Do you know what Love is?

Love is such a popular word. People light up when hearing it spoken. Some people get flustered, defensive, or curmudgeonly when love is discussed. Few words illicit such powerful, emotional responses. Being newly engaged I am made aware of how the awareness of love affects even total strangers.

As I struggle across the room in the blinding throb of a series of monster migraines, I stop to smooth the skirt of my wedding gown. It is newly acquired and hanging in my study so I can admire its beauty. Besides, who has closet space for a wedding gown! The glimpse of tulle and lace lighten my heart and I am transported from a state of pain to happy thoughts of the future when I get to marry my Beloved! Thoughts of the wedding lift my spirit because love breaks through the ugly of today.
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Our world is ugly. Countless souls are slugging through today just trying to endure the pain. There is too much brokenness all around. Love shines like a shaft of warm sunlight through a cold-winter night. It cuts through the hurt, pain, doubt, and best of all death!

We can deny or misunderstand the meaning of what love actually is. It is almost easier to define what love is not than what it is. St. Paul eloquently defined love in 1 Corinthians 13. But even if we confuse love for a feeling, the feeling love gives us is an effect not a cause. We cannot confuse the two. What Jesus Christ did for us on the cross is the greatest example of love that anyone can imagine.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant of rude. Love does not insist on its own way…rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

When I am hit by a long series of migraines, I drift further behind each day that I am sick. The pressure that I feel inside my spirit is second only to the pressure in my head. Rest comes when I surrender to Love. I don’t need to do more, have more, or be more ____ to find rest for my soul! What I actually need is less. I need to surrender not only control of my life to Jesus, but I need also to release management of my schedule to Jesus! His mission reveals the true nature of love. There is no “earning” in love. Jesus redefined what it means to be a successful human being in the cross. He, God, poured Himself out to become one of us! He fully embraced us. He freely accepted all the lies and suffering so that by letting go of Himself, He might save us.

Jesus, who was God and could not by nature stay dead, died so that He could reach past the great abyss that existed between man and God. He saved us. We did nothing but spit in His face and nail Him to the cross. He arose Easter Sunday that we might have everlasting life. For perfectionists like me it is a terrible reality to face, but we can never be enough, complete enough, people pleasing enough, God-pleasing enough. But Jesus said, “Enough…It is finished.”

What does Christ’s mission reveal about God’s love for us?

The truths packed into this little line of the Nicene Creed are strong enough to pull us through pain, misfortune, loss and make us happy enough to, “dance at our wedding.” How can I write a blog post and comment on the greatness of Christ’s mission revealing God’s love for us during a week-long series of severe migraines? Grace. What is the central theme of His mission? Self-sacrificing love. Real love. It is the kind of love my fiancé demonstrated last evening when he looked deeply into my slit-eyes, migraine-cooling-patch covered forehead and told me I was beautiful. Love. Thanks to Jesus we know what it is. It is an action verb full of might and gentle as a whisper. Love is not a feeling-but it creates a glorious feeling to those who surrender themselves to receive it.

This post is shared with If:Gathering in the wonderful ongoing study of the Nicene Creed. No prior knowledge is required. A heart that is open is the door to truth. Join the Gathering at If:Equip.com and find this post under “Jesus Came to Bring Salvation to Us”.

Good Fathers

baby-203048__340What is a father? The variety of answers that this question elicits are almost unlimited. The possible replies are limited only by the number of human fathers that have existed. The description may incite joy or fear, hope or despair depending upon your personal experience. I have been blessed to have been raised by a loving human father. My concept of a father is one of unconditional love. This has made my relationship with our Heavenly Father easy to learn.

Despite this there are pronounced differences between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, and I recognized many of them early. My earthly father could build anything, but he could not make other people do what he asked. My Heavenly Father could make people do what He wanted but chose to let us have free will.
Good fathers sometimes allow children to experience difficult things if it is needed to help them grow. Fathers who bail their kids out of every problem and buy their kids every gadget raise kids who have no ability to care for themselves. They become selfish, needy adults who take rather than give.

france-85871_960_720My Heavenly Father has been teaching me about humility and trust quite a bit lately. If God did what I wanted He would simply heal me. But, God knows far more than I do, and He clearly believes that I need to learn to submit to His will sometimes without fretting. I am reasonably good at giving my worries to God. I have a great deal of difficulty in letting go of the problems that I have given to God. I continue to fret and worry. Wisely, God my Heavenly Father is putting me through a training course on humility and submission. The world calls this course chronic illness; God calls it teaching His child.

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I faint, and nearly faint. The nearly comes from the fact that after many years I figured out that it is much less embarrassing to put your head between your knees in public than it is to fall on the floor unconscious. After a good blood test at the doctor, who is treating my anemia, I nearly fainted while standing in line to make my follow-up appointment. This could be the definitive description of embarrassing. They had to move another patient out of a treatment room to get me into a room with a recliner so that I could lie down with my feet up to recover. That is only a piece of the inconvenience that I inadvertently caused. All of the ordeal was only to find out that my anemia is still under control! I told my fiancé that it felt humiliating. He wisely told me it was a gift.
God, my Heavenly Father, is teaching me humility. That is what my fiancé pointed out. Humility comes from the same root as humiliating.

All too often we ask why God allows suffering and difficulty in the world if He is good. The question assumes that we know what the good is.

Often we know good, sometime we miss the point. Some hardship exists to teach us how to grow up into the kind of people we are made to be. We are made in the image of God. That fact usually causes us to expect greatness and power, but Jesus is God’s Son and true God. What we are trying to grow up into is Christ-like. Our Father knows that we will never become who we were made to be as long as we call good only the things that feel good to us.

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Good fathers don’t give us whatever we ask for. They do not solve all our problems, nor do they remove all our challenges. They would if it actually made our lives better. They would lay down their own lives for us if it would really help us.

The truth is they sometimes are required to love us through the hard places. Good fathers want us to learn and grow. Helping us grow means that they may walk through a fear or embarrassment with us rather than for us.

Our God is a Good Father. We see the evidence in all the blessings we so easily call good. If we look carefully we can also see the traces in the gifts that don’t look good at first. Then we may trace the trail of Jesus’ suffering through the tears or feel the Holy Spirit’s groans that are too deep for words and then the Father’s seeming inaction may make sense–good sense.

 

This post is a reflection on God as our Heavenly Father from the Nicene Creed. It is linked to If:Gathering app and the study on the Nicene Creed.

Humble Wildflowers

We live in a culture that encourages us to be assertive. We are taught to be confident in our own power and grow in popularity. We dress to get ahead.  It never ceases to astound me how opposite our cultural values are with the values of Christianity.

Jesus was the singularly most influential person in all of history. He did not promote himself. He owned no property. He rose to influence with no backing of the elite or even the religious leaders of His day. He taught humility and meekness to the crowds and still more came to hear Him. After He was condemned to death, and crucified, rose again and ascended into heaven, His disciples continually risked their lives to tell others about Him.

Paul, formerly Saul, was ardently working to stop people from following Jesus, until he heard from Him on the road to Damascus. Then Paul began to risk his life to take the Good News to all the known world.
In a sense the most influential movement in the world was started by and has been promoted by the meek. Perhaps that is why it seems to be loosing influence in our society and graining ground in oppressive and impoverished countries around the world. We have forgotten where we came from.
The Bible repeatedly encourages us to value humility more than pride. We become frustrated with our leaders for their pride. In 1 Peter 5 leaders of the early church are exhorted to,

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b).

Flowers were once chosen for symbolic reasons. Each flower was said to represent a particular meaning. The bouquet given to a sweetheart was given additional meaning through the message contained in the flowers.

bluebells-758478_960_720Bluebells represented humility.

As Valentine’s Day nears many flowers will be exchanged. Not many will contain bluebells in this era. Humility is undervalued. Spring is coming. The woods and meadows will once again be clothed in bluebells, now relegated to the position of simple wildflowers.

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Lovers and leaders may eschew the bluebell. But, God still paints the wilderness with humility. In the drama and excitement of this season perhaps it would do for us to pause and consider what we are doing.

bluebells-341794_960_720Do we live in a way that teaches humility? Do we actively put others ahead of ourselves? Each of us is encouraged to clothe ourselves like the spring woods. Let us wear a garment of self-sacrifice not self-aggrandizement.

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