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.

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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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Invite

If there were a list ranking things that i most despise about myself, the top position would be occupied with the summation:

Introvert.

i miss my friends. i long to talk to them, meet with them and find out what they are up to.  You would expect me to call them and invite them to meet with me. I want to do this. My husband has pointed out that once i start talking to my friends the conversations last a very long time. Despite my desire to make the call, the actual process of tapping my phone and hitting their name on my “favorite” list is surprisingly excruciating.iphone-518101__480

As the TV detective Adrian Monk ubiquitously said, “Here is the thing.” i dread making phone calls. i desperately want them to call me. It does not come from my rational faculty. i don’t expect them to pick up their phone and call me just because i am looking at my phone and praying that they will call. networking-2752106__480

Inviting someone is very stressful for me. There is an indefinable question that lingers just below the surface. An invitation is an offering of vulnerability. When we ask someone, they could turn us down. Rejection, however remote is possible.

i am convinced that those of us who are very comfortable with being alone are proportionally more uncomfortable bridging the divide of possible rejection. We check one more thing off our To Do: list while we wait on the possibility that they will call us first.iphone-410324__480

An invite is a loaded term. i love to be invited, but life would be so much easier if i didn’t have to initiate the conversation.

P.S. i actually did leave a garbled message on my friend’s machine telling her that i wanted to get together for lunch soon. It was mixed with phrases about how i would love her to call me and, vacillating introvert that i am, i said that i would call later. Ouch!business-2610262__480

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…

Remember

i remember the wrong things. i make copious lists, keep multiple calendars both digital and paper, yet still, i forget things that are important and fail to reach my goals.

i blame my illness. i blame failing to remember my agenda. i blame myself. i pass out post-it notes to my family and tell them to be sure to, “write it down.”

i have a shelf filled with old planners and agendas overflowing with bits of paper flowing with all the things that i did do.

i have been guilty of calling that shelf the history of my life.

All the things that i have done do not represent my life.

i forget. My life is what i have done for Christ.

i have a little wallet-card that i received in Sunday School as a little girl For years i carried it everywhere i went. It had a picture of Jesus on the front and a verse on the back.

It was not a verse from the Bible. It simply says,

Only one life,

‘Twill soon be passed,

Only what’s done for Christ,

Will last.

i remember the wrong things.

Trust

Trust can be a mountain, or an entire range. As pilgrims in the foreign land we are naturally reluctant to trust other people. It doesn’t take us long to figure out that many people are living under completely alien purposes and ideals from the orthodox Christian.

The Post-Christian culture has produced generations of people who claim to believe in God, while they live out their lives in a totally self-absorbed manner. They don’t question the basic assumption of the modern moral order premised on relativism.

We are not living here, now to gratify our pleasure-sensors and avoid pain. As practicing, thoughtful Christians, we know that is not the ultimate reality. How then do we trust others when they are often motivated only by those goals?

For me, the pilgrimage metaphor is particularly apt. Pilgrims come from various locations all centered on a powerful, transcendant place of worship. The pilgrims journey with others as long as the path leads them the same way. As the route progresses some will follow one trail, some another, and still others will try to forge their own. i recognize that everyone is not going my way. They may not even define trust the way i do. In this i think that the relativism and multiple worldviews constructs have won a large segment of the population.

Despite my apparent acceptance of the modern order in the preceding paragraph, i believe in a thoroughgoing Orthodox Christian worldview. i believe in the sacred and cherish ultimate truth, goodness and trust. My beliefs may be regarded as outdated to some, but i firmly belive that most people long for these pillars of truth even if they deny the Christian traditions connected to them.

For orthodox Christians following the principles of Jesus Christ is the goal in life. There are more people than we realize on this journey. If we follow Christ we value living a life of truth, and we are worthy of trust. However, as fallen humans we will fail sometimes. We sin and fall short of the ideal. We repent. We turn completely around. And we try again.

The way is rough; The journey is long. We will arrive battered and broken. That is how the selfishness is scrubbed out of us. 

Let us press on in faith, dear friend!

Our trust will be broken, but we will be broken into wholeness.

One day we will wash our robes white in the blood of the Lamb, may it please the Lord!

Worship

One of the attributes of modern society that puzzles me most is the habit of denying the value of an action or attitude whilst simultaneously engaging in the same characteristics in a modified form. I know the simple nine letter noun that sums the habit up succinctly. Since i have always been a woman of more words rather than less, i will allow Miss Bates to run rampant for a minute, but only one, i can afford no more.

Worship is often relegated to the storage-rooms of history.

It is wrapped in archival paper and shut away in boxes by those who labourously toil behind a screen always scrambling to stay ahead of the market. The one thing that is valued most and occupies more of our time than any other pursuit; that which we treasure more than any other-this is what we worship.

We all worship something or someone.

Twenty centuries ago the Apostle Matthew told us that what we treasure most is where our heart will be. He did not tell us that where our heart is our treasuer will follow. We often think that our heart decides what is most dear to us. St. Matthew said that our money or treasure determines where our heart will be. We worship what motivates our spending or giving.

Where do your time and money go?

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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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