“Crazy Quilt”

“Crazy Quilt”

We all respond to stories. The desire to make sense of our experience is part of the human condition. I think stories are compelling because as we watch, read or listen to other creatures responding to stimuli and understanding it in a coherent way we see parallels to our own situation. Even in fantasy we sometimes see most clearly  the similarities since the stark contrast allow the coherence to be more vivid. Stories are what bind experience together. Our own stories are just the way we retell our own experience to ourselves as we seek to understand the three-year-old’s relentless question that we ceaselessly ask ourselves, “Why”

On a cosmic level we are like unto a crazy quilt. Each one of us is composed of an odd collection of scraps held together with threads that bind the bits and pieces of our lives into a whole. All the while something beautiful and cohesive is constructed of every day and the everyday overworked with intricate stitching becomes something remarkable that to the unschooled observer appears random. Actually we see with enough information a complete story arc that has meaning only because of the skill of the Maker. Our stories, the reasons why, are the threads that hold the incongruous pieces of our lives together. We are irresistibly drawn to compelling stories because they resonate so deeply with us.

All our media is filled with stories. Our tv and movies, books and podcasts all help us make sense of why we are here. We choose our media because it helps us to either unravel or develop our own stories. The stories, what we typically call “explanations” for why our lives are constructed in a certain way, the way we deal with the why of our lives. Stories are always about the overcoming of some obstacle. We like some stories and not others because they help us to narrate our own lives.

Crisis remove the “stuffing” or “quilt batting” from our lives. All good stories have a dramatic period where the hero copes with the un-stuffing of their life and rises above their circumstances to reconfigure their story in such a way as to restore themselves. This heroic action of willingly undergoing trial and loss only to rise again in a new form, willingly transforming through loss into a better wholeness is the stuff of greatness. Our continual failure to rise above our own un-stuffing is the disintegration that overwhelms and undermines much of modern life. Stories become even more of a popular tonic, or escape in a society that provides very little deeper meaning for people to fall back upon in the remaking that is intrinsically part of every life.

The curious thing about “crazy quilts” is that unlike other blankets described as quilts, they do not contain “batting”. Batting is the lofty material between the layers of fabric in a quilt. “Crazy quilts” may be filled with a layer of fabric like wool, but they do not contain the “batting” and the actual quilting stitches that hold the layers of a typic quilt together are not present. They are created for the design, not the warmth. We are all in a way, “crazy.” We don’t exist to provide some other creature warmth or function. We are here because we add to the design of the whole. All of history is somehow incomplete without our tattered contribution.

Living in a pandemic has left many of us feeling like un-stuffed rag dolls. We feel frazzled, limp and lifeless. We are probably more like “crazy quilts.” We were never designed to be stuffed. All of the frantic rushing from event to event was what made us truly crazy. Life at home may be helping us to pare-down and focus on the actual story that our lives are telling. What we need most is not something to puff us up. Rather we need to let the hand of the Maker stitch us together and overwork us with the embroidery that will make sense of us.

Praise

Praise

Words are walls. Sometimes i am finding myself cleaning things rather than writing. Cleaning is very difficult for me. i know that if i can get the words flowing they will eventually break free with the force of the Colorado River at the Boulder Dam.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The force is caught in a quagmire of fear. i am not at all sure what fear holds the words like gelatine that has coagulated and will not pour. i wish that i were not a pitcher filled with praise.

Penitence for the brokenness of my soul warms my nous and like a flame melts my distraction. When i appreciate that everything is a gift, i am set free to glorify God. i want to blame the world. The culture has not refrigerated my soul. i have moved away from the flame of Divine Love. i was the one who focused on the fallen leaves and the grime in the oven.

Grace is so wonderful.  i can turn my attention back on Christ and His love warms my soul. All i need is to stop and praise God.

Glory to the Almighty Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Life with Books

Life with Books

i have challenged myself for the last few years with the 31 Days group. This year, i will link up and make the attempt to publish every day for the month of October.

Humility is the “one word” i am focused on for 2018. The journey to humility is exceptionally long! i have come just far enough to have lost my certainty about anything but Christ. Despite the added burden and unpredictability of life with a chronic illness, i will make my best attempt to share my greatest joy with you daily.

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have brought me more joy than i can describe. The fullness of experience makes writing about my love of reading all the more difficult. Yesterday i could only share some of the best-loved words from my favorite book, The Bible. Exhausted, i could only think of the Good Shepherd bringing me to serene fields to graze in peace.

My husband gave me two icons for my birthday. The Good Shepherd and Christ Blessing the Children are two of the most powerful images for me. When i am physically and emotionally broken they remind me of who He is and what He has done. My weakness allows His grace to shine through.YDJGBM0hSKGiuuvA1jWRwg

The analogy of a candle’s flame is a powerful representation of what i believe to be a great truth. No man is an island.

In the nature of this month, i will attempt only a version of my Commonplace Book.0AGHHfvERB2Zcu2jGd0lzg

In the category of fiction, i would recommend Middlemarch, by George Elliot. Though not an explicitly Christian book, the main character, Dorthea had a finely wrought spirit that i appreciated. I read the book years ago but copied down the following description of Dorthea’s character.

“That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the Divine power against evil-widening the skirts of light and making the struggles with darkness narrower.”

As the Church is transformed from darkness to light on Pascha (Easter), we are synergistically lighting the dark society we dwell in when we allow the Light of Christ to shine through. We can do nothing by our own power but we can maintain the wick and let the Holy Spirit dwell in us. Like the wise virgins, we must keep oil for our lamps and trim our wicks.

Therefore, i just live quietly. Daily prayer and Bible reading with my family and consistent worship in the Church are my little ways.

This month i share some of the books that inspire me and help me. October is a great month to curl up with a good book. Join me in the comments section and share what inspires you.

31 Days 2018

Discover

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.

Try

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

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

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

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…

Worship

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

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?