Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday morsel: home

We arrived home Saturday night after a three-week vacation in PEI with my parents and family.  We had a lovely time:  plenty of sunshine, laughter, relaxing times under the chestnut tree, and ice cream (Peanut Butter Sensation from ADL dairies is my new best friend).

In spite of the great time we had in my childhood home, it also felt really good to get back to our family home in Kingston last night and to putter around this morning with our own stuff and our own routine.  So my small "morsel" for today is this excerpt from the song "Finally Coming Home" by the group Shores of Newfoundland.

And as I walk along
The long and winding road,
I remember every rock and tree
And I don't have far to go.
I'll soon sit in the kitchen
With the family that I know;
Oh, nothing beats the feeling
Of finally coming home.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday morsel: "the path of grace"

From Heather Kopp's memoir Sober Mercies, which I referred to in my last post:

Annie Dillard once wrote, "I don't know beans about God." ..... But maybe I don't need to know beans about God in order to have a vital, loving relationship with Him.  I can still know His presence and power in my life.  I can still rely on Him to keep me sober day by day.  I can forgo intellectual certainty and rely on what grace tells me is true of God.  I can forgo cleverness and decisiveness in favor of bewildered trust -- not because I get it all, but because I know that I can't.

It wasn't until I'd been in recovery for several years that I could look back and see how these questions and doubts compelled me to take the spiritual journey I've chronicled here.  It wasn't a direct path -- a clear route to God -- that I took.  I stumbled a lot.  I fell on my face.  Hard.  And even now, my daily journey of faith is messy and unpredictable.  Lingering questions still tag along.

But these days, I don't shoo them away.  I welcome them, hold their hands, and keep an eye out for answers I may or may not find.  Lately, I've come to realize it's the pestering doubts and unresolved issues, not the answers or certainties, that most often lead me forward on the path of grace.  So it's fine with me that the final destination, where all the answers are known and understood, is nowhere visible yet.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August reading

 Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly "Twitterature" post to share what I've been reading.

I just finished Heather Kopp's Sober Mercies, a memoir about the author's battle with alcoholism.  I've been following Heather's blog, Sober Boots, for about a year now and was fortunate enough to win a copy of her book in a draw on Gillian Marchenko's blog.

Sober Mercies is great reading.  Heather is brutally honest about how her desire for alcohol came to completely dominate her life and relationships, and how she eventually reached a point of desperate surrender and entered addiction treatment.  This was only one step in her long journey of dealing with her past, acknowledging her reasons for escaping into alcohol, and understanding why God didn't just "fix" her alcoholism in the way she thought He should.  Throughout the book she asks many questions that would be familiar not just to those dealing with addiction, but to anyone wondering how the struggles of life and faith in God fit together.

Reading Heather's blog is like reading the words of a humble, wise, and funny friend; reading her book is a similar experience.  Sober Mercies is a hopeful book.  I'd highly recommend it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday morsel: "feeling is deep and still"

  The other night we went to the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown to see a performance of a new Canadian musical, "Evangeline."  It is based on Longfellow's fictional poem about a young newly-married couple separated during the British expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in the 1750's.  It is a sad and moving story of a young woman, Evangeline, who spends her life searching for her beloved husband Gabriel; it's also the story of the sorrow and resilience of the Acadian people.  The musical was excellent.  I had never read Longfellow's poem before, so I got it out of the library to read ahead of time.  It is also really beautiful, and I particularly liked this passage about the relationship between our words and feelings.

After the sound of their oars on the tholes had died in the distance, 
As from a magic trance the sleepers awoke, and the maiden 
Said with a sigh to the friendly priest -- "O Father Felician!  

Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders. 
Is it a foolish dream, an idle vague superstition? 
Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?" 
Then, with a blush, she added -- "Alas for my credulous fancy! 
Unto ears like thine such words as these have no meaning." 
But made answer the reverend man, and he smiled as he answered --
"Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface 
Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden. 
Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions." 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

starry, starry night

In the quote I posted on Monday, G.K. Chesterton commented on how Christianity had answered one of his own youthful thoughts about the universe:  "The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void, but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist; to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds." 

I understood something of what Chesterton meant the other night when we went out to look at the night sky.  Living in a city we don't look at the sky all that often, but when we're here at Mom and Dad's in PEI we naturally have more opportunity to look at it in all its splendour.  

This night seemed particularly special.  It was about 10:30 p.m. and the air was calm.  A bright line of twinkling lights was clearly visible across the strait in Nova Scotia, including two sets of wind turbines whose red lights winked on and off.  But the sky over our heads was magical.  It was as if a dome filled with sparkling lights had been placed over the world.  On some nights you feel like you can count the stars, but this time that was impossible because there were so many visible -- and some kind of optical illusion made it seem to me that they were all linked together in a web.  We also saw several airplanes moving across the sky, their lights blinking. 

As I looked, I thought it was very much like Chesterton said:  the sky didn't seem distant and cold and impersonal.  It didn't give the feeling of being a meaningless speck in a massive void.  Instead, it seemed warm and cosy and close enough to touch.  It was comforting.

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? 
He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, 
by the greatness of his might, 
and because he is strong in power not one is missing."
- Isaiah 40:26

"And over all is the sky, the clear and crystalline heaven,
Like the protecting hand of God inverted above them."
- Evangeline, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday morsel: "the strange thing began to happen"

I've been reading G.K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy lately (partly because Tim Fall said I should) and am finding it so interesting.  It's a small but very meaty book in which Chesterton essentially explains how he came to Christian faith:  how he speculated about many things such as optimism and pessimism, humankind's relation to the world, free will, progress, even fairy tales -- and how he came to realize that Christianity answered his questions and solved the riddles he'd been pondering.  The way he explains arriving at that realization is outstanding:


"And then followed an experience impossible to describe. It was as if I had been blundering about since my birth with two huge and unmanageable machines, of different shapes and without apparent connection--the world and the Christian tradition. I had found this hole in the world: the fact that one must somehow find a way of loving the world without trusting it; somehow one must love the world without being worldly. I found this projecting feature of Christian theology, like a sort of hard spike, the dogmatic insistence that God was personal, and had made a world separate from Himself. The spike of dogma fitted exactly into the hole in the world--it had evidently been meant to go there-- and then the strange thing began to happen. When once these two parts of the two machines had come together, one after another, all the other parts fitted and fell in with an eerie exactitude. I could hear bolt after bolt over all the machinery falling into its place with a kind of click of relief. Having got one part right, all the other parts were repeating that rectitude, as clock after clock strikes noon. Instinct after instinct was answered by doctrine after doctrine. Or, to vary the metaphor, I was like one who had advanced into a hostile country to take one high fortress. And when that fort had fallen the whole country surrendered and turned solid behind me. The whole land was lit up, as it were, back to the first fields of my childhood. All those blind fancies of boyhood which in the fourth chapter I have tried in vain to trace on the darkness, became suddenly transparent and sane. I was right when I felt that roses were red by some sort of choice: it was the divine choice. I was right when I felt that I would almost rather say that grass was the wrong colour than say it must by necessity have been that colour: it might verily have been any other. My sense that happiness hung on the crazy thread of a condition did mean something when all was said: it meant the whole doctrine of the Fall. Even those dim and shapeless monsters of notions which I have not been able to describe, much less defend, stepped quietly into their places like colossal caryatides of the creed. The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void, but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist; to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds. And my haunting instinct that somehow good was not merely a tool to be used, but a relic to be guarded, like the goods from Crusoe's ship-- even that had been the wild whisper of something originally wise, for, according to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world."

Sunday, August 04, 2013

fantastic fifteen

Happy fifteenth birthday to Allison:

Avid reader
Loving big sister
Laughing game-player
Intelligent student
Sweet daughter
Outstanding writer
Nice friend

Love always from Mom, Dad, and Jonathan!

Friday, August 02, 2013

road trip

In case my last post sounded too idyllic, I'm countering it today with a slightly less positive sentiment:


Or is that too strong?

How about apprehension?  Trepidation?

We are about to spend 13 hours in a van tomorrow.

 A five-minute drive home from church generally involves some version of the following:
- Jonathan yelling when we slow down.
- Jonathan yelling when we change lanes.
- Jonathan yelling when we turn left instead of right (just because of construction or a last-minute errand).
- Me telling Jonathan to stop it.
- Allison attempting to peace-make by saying things like "It's OK, Jonathan, everything's fine" and "Everybody's happy, right?  I just want everybody to be happy."
- Jonathan screaming when we back the car into the driveway.
- Me telling him to stop it.
- Allison .... well, you get the idea.

So that's a typical five-minute drive; therefore we have 156 of those increments to look forward to tomorrow.

Yes, sometimes you really want to know what a person's communicating by his or her behaviour.  But sometimes you really just want all forms of communication to cease long enough that you can breathe and look out the window.

Oh well, as the Chinese proverb says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Or a journey of 13 hours begins with one five-minute interval.

Are we there yet?