Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Thousand Reasons: Canto VII {Holiday Special}

Mornings are a great time to examine yourself. Today I find myself a procrastinator, from a mixture of not trying and not feeling. So I've buckled myself in and am putting up another Canto, after far too long an absence. This one is longer, a pile created over the holidays and too long letting myself lag.

{43} For the willingness of Heaven. I had a fairly obvious revelation, while singing a Christmas Hymn. It occurred to me what the angels must have known, to declare "Peace on earth, good will to men." The Incarnation itself doesn't merit "peace on earth." The angels must have known what came next: the sacrifice. The Beloved of Heaven had to die.
      They knew, and yet they sung praise.
      I can't help but wonder if any of them were crying.

{44} Thank You for hot mugs of teathe warmer of the hands, throat, and insides: gentle warrior against the winter chill.

{45} Thank You, Elyon, for embraces: the easiest language to speak and hear amidst darkness and thorns.
       "I'm here. You're not alone in this. And that, at least, is something."

{46} For strategy gamesa place to sit back and chance your minds against each other in the safe, merry realm of good sport.

{47} Thank God for His goodnessto be always the Deity sitting by our side. Not because He is small, but because He is good. The only God and terrifying in His Holy right, but right beside us all the same, with that smile none dare look upon.
       "Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he's not safe, but he is good."*

{48} For Christmas lights, which twinkle in the tree branches like little advent fairies.

{49} Thank God for the ability of vicarious experience through readingthe gift of human imagination that can soak in a story and feel with its characters. There is nothing quite like the racing pulse, warm fuzzies, or ache of another's feelings. Real or fiction. Whether is is Mary mother of Christ or Orual**, they seep into our consciousness and never completely leave, even when the book is closed. And we are never quite the same.

{50} For Advent: the season to remind how waiting makes things all the sweeter.

{51} For giftsthe chance to give and receive them.

{52} Praise Him for the cozy fireside feel: an atmosphere that lulls anxieties to sleep with crackling flames. And how that calm is further soothed by stories, that ancient fireside tradition carried on through words on a page or read aloud.

{53} Thank God for Christmas stories. That particular genre plays so well in the air being read aloud, and has a tendency to contradict the condemnation of man which is out healthy medicine for pride the rest of the year. We might overdose on it, if not for such tales of reprieve.

{54} Thank You, Elyon, for childrenlittle bundles of opportunity. They are our chance to see again the world through eyes not yet grim or bitterly disillusioned. Through their excitement we can see the reminder of our own childhood ecstasies, back when presents under the tree were a sort of magic, regardless of whether parents or a fat old saint conjured them.

{55} Thank Heaven for New Yearsdays to start over and begin again.

{56} For promises to self: chances to dream with conviction.

*C.S. Lewis, speaking through Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

**Another C.S. Lewis reference :) Opual is the main character in his book Till We Have Faces, and since my first time through that particular book I have continued to find her one of the most relatable characters in all of literature.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Thousand Reasons: Canto VI

Last week/end I had the rare pleasure of vacationing with my family. We rented a house in Door County Wisconsin and soaked in the glorious colors of autumn. So, naturally, most the things I found to be grateful for are in the singular category that comes from the outdoors and time with my quirky, wonderful family.

{36} Thank God for retreat: the chance to pull away from the day to day anxieties and say, at least for a while, "Later. Today, God willing, shall be a day of rest."

{37} Thank you for uncontrollable amusementthe times it is all so funny we simply cannot stop laughing. That unstoppable, bubbling force reminds me of so many dear things, not least of them the days of jumping on mattresses and not wanting to go to bed, when Father's warm arms embraced children squealing with laughter. There was always a particular gleam in his eye, when he gave his own rather childish grin.
       "Uh-oh. Someone's giggle box got opened."

{38} For the curvy, criss-crossed natured of our liveshow we are doomed to not always walk alongside family and friends as we may like, but that the intersections of our life paths are so much the dearer for that: a precious chance to reminisce, re-acquaint, and swap stories of our own individual adventures.

{39} Thank You, Elyon, for a family saturated in Your Love, a church made up of kin, sharpening each other with familial love in its highest form: strengthened by Agape.

{40} For the feeling of riding on waterno matter the vesseland how climbing into a boat and taking up an oar always feels like the start of an adventure.

{41} Thank You, God, that, in the words of Madeleine L'Engle:
             "The great artists keep us from frozenness, from smugness, from thinking that the           truth is in us, rather than in God, in Christ our Lord. They help us to know that we are         often closer to God in our doubts than in our certainties, that it is all right to be like the         small child, who constantly asks: Why? Why? Why?"*

{42} Praise God for things to look forward totimes when we can feel like children again, asking ourselves even though we already know the answer: "Is it time yet?"

*This quote is another from the delightful Madeleine L'Engle book I've been slowly savoring my way through: Walking on Water .

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Thousand Reasons: Canto V

{29} For hot showers on cold daysabsolutely delightful.

{30} Thank You, God, for tastes: those preferences which can cause such immediate connections. I love the lively energy of that realizing moment: "Ah, you like _____ too?" What a God, to create a world of so many little things to bind man together.

{31} For critiquethe nerve-racking but necessary sharpening of talentthe chance to grow.

{32} Thank You for re-acquainting: those precious chances to meet again with old friends, after the separation of time and years, and see, "Here are the bits of you that are just the same as I have always loved, and here is the rest which is just a bit different. But don't worry; I shall love those too, once I know them, because I love you, and we are all always changing. If you don't see my differences yet, give it a few hours, or minutes. They'll show."

{33} For cold floors, which contrast so wondrously to warm blankets and hot drinks, making them infinitely more pleasant.

{34} Thank God for the pre-sunrise. I laid under the stars this morning and experienced, perhaps for the first timeor maybe simply the first time with eyes truly grateful to seethe change from stars to dawn. That black-blue sky started to fade at the eastern edge, turning a dark, murky violet. My heart constricted in rapture at that which I can only describe as magical, watching the sky's eastern corner fade from violet to lavender, illuminating the fringes of wispy clouds in maroon, pinkish colors that put the ugly, false pinks to shame. And I could not stop watching until the stars had winked out, one by one, swallowed up by the sky's edges as they changed from lavender to the lightest of grey-blues, and from that to an only slightly tinted white.
Thank you, Elyon.

{35} For inspiration. That little muse reaches straight through the slum of day to day, mortal life and stirs the immortal soul, calling with a smile. 
"I know you are there. Now, wake up."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Thousand Reasons: Canto IV

{22} For smiles, in all their various looks and purposes.

{23} Thank God for milestonesNot only those little laughable ones, where we grin at our mid-week existence and whisper "hump DAY"* to lighten the air of day to day. But also the dearer, one-time markers: the graduation we were not sure we would reach with our sanity intact, moments of realizing how many years you two have been blessed to be friends, and the bittersweet anniversaries of escaped addiction"Ah, how the withdrawals of the soul hurt, but it is a sign, a dear, sweet sign that I am getting better." Thank you for this milemarker, Elyon. Please give me the grace to make it to the next one. 

{24} Thank You, Lord, for the chance to measure the world in smaller steps. There is nothing quite like holding the hands of a toddling child, thinking how far you've gone before you look behind and see the littleness of the distance. But the distance is not little; we have just grown too big, measuring miles by cars instead of our feet. Oh for the days when dogs were horses to our eyes, horses elephants, and elephants too huge to be anything but monsters.

{25} For community: the circle of friends to surround ourselves with in a reminder that these lives of ours are not a solitary existence.

{26} For lyricsthe creativity with which you have blessed men and angels. How the well-written word takes root in the human soul when carried by melody, lodging in place where it may give man's heart wings on the day he needs them most.

{27} Thank you, Elyon, for Your wondrous persistence in the pursuit of Your peoplehow You do not let us fall without a fight, even when we would fall to the influence of our own wicked selves.

{28} Praise God for purpose: the quickening of the blood that says, "Here and now, at least, I am doing exactly what I am supposed to."

*In case anyone doesn't know it or just needs a daily dose: 
   Sorry, even after years, I still find this hilarious.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Thousand Reasons: Canto III

{15} Thank God for warm atmospherescozy nooks to curl up with a drink and some idle purpose of your choosing.

{16} For relaxationthe ability to simply lay back, loosen the muscles, and do no more than be still and comfortable, even if only for a while.

{17} For life-mates: those whom we share our day to day with, surrounded by the warm, unpressured atmosphere of familiarity. 

{18} Thank You for moonlight, and the manner in which it illuminates everything in a cold, enchanting glow. Its reflection on the dark water seems almost magical: a call for mermaids and sirens to rise of the depthsor sea monsters, perhaps. Funny how all beauty seems to bear the possibility of the frightening, no doubt a reflection of its Creator.

{19} For the words of the ancients, preserved on pages through time. Thanks for all, of courseAristotle, Caedmon, etcetera, etceterabut especially for those people of God preserved in His Word. It is strangely beautiful, how I may read the words of David and think, "ah, good... he felt it too. This distress is not new. It is ancient, even." And there is something soothing in having the unknown ancients made known as brothers in arms.

{20} Thank You for lineage, the passing for mother to daughter, father to son. It is so simple, and yet so thrilling: standing with your mother in the kitchen, asking questions and soaking in knowledge. I felt a warmth spread to the very tips of my toes, thinking of how some of her vast wisdom was gained from her mother, and her mother before that, all the way back to the first woman who learned to preserve the food her family needed in a jar. It's these times which make me feel what a shame it is that the just struggle for women's rights has given so many a bad taste for the kitchen. For it is here and so many other "sexist" settings that we have our dearest, oldest right of womanhood: to learn from our mothers.

{21} I thank God for stories about nothing.* After so much time straining to understand the intricacies driving the action in this movie or that novel, it is refreshing, from time to time, to stumble upon a story about nothing in particular. Before realizing I find myself asking, "Where is the plot?", almost frustrated. But then it comes to me"Ah, there is no plot. It isn't really about anything, just life. And, you know, I don't really mind in the slightest."

*If anyone is curious, the book I'm currently reading in this category is The Little White Bird by J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. If you want to laugh and read about nothing in particular in the life of a quirky, humorous author, I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Thousand Reasons: Canto II

Life taught me again how hectic it can be. So here are the seven "gratitudes" I've managed the last two weeks, and God forgive me for not making the time to be more grateful.

Canto II

{8} I thank God, almost regularly, for discussion. The mental sharpening of iron on iron is exercise for the brain that has no equal. To be forced to put your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs into words is the best way to know what you think and believe. And the discussions I thank God for are those where the other minds at work share an understanding, not of "Let me convince you to think my way," but, "Let us stumble together with words and concepts until we both know better what you and I think."

{9} Thanks be to God that "I have something that makes saying goodbye so difficult."* 

{10} For the ability to forget--that these moments of of corruption need not stay vivid forever. Praise be to God that the devil's "Ah, but look what you did yesterday" simply doesn't hurt the same when it is "Ah, but look what you did __ days ago." We forget a bit how the guilt tasted.  And there is a bit of danger in that, of course. If we forget past guilt we can become proud and stumble again. But man can corrupt all gifts, and there's wonder in this one too--in how God himself hears our regret and says, "What mistake? You confessed before, and I've forgotten it already, silly. Certainly, I know all, but there are things we need not remember forever, you and I."

{11}I thank God we live in a world of broad horizons. Oh the joy of those days we glimpse them, when God throws back the scales from our eyes and says, "Look and all these possibilities and choices before you. What are you quivering for, child? They aren't meant to frighten or burden you! Stop fretting over 'just right' and step forward. You aren't a machine, needing just the right design. You are an explorer, and there's a whole new world to be discovered here."

{12} For bedhead--a chance to be roused from morning stupor with a chance to laugh at yourself, which is always a better start than taking yourself too seriously.

{13} Elyon,** You have my thanks for the eyes of childhood: that perception which makes everything seem larger and more full of wonder. There are few things so warming to the heart as a child looking upon something you've done for them--some slapdash project you were hardly even trying for--and then looking back at you with those bright, wonder-filled eyes and saying in a tone hushed by awe, "Can you teach me how to do that?"

{14} For campfires--the earthy, wholesome scent of wood smoke and the dancing light of an open flame. I love how the flickering movements are a performance in an of themselves in the dark, darting about in a primal, wild show that men have watched under the stars for centuries. Oh the beauty of the sparks' flight, cascading upward as if you join the galaxies and make stars of their own.

* This is a quote which I believed, until just now, was said by Winnie the Pooh or some other Milne character. But in my research to find out which stuffed character actually said it, I discovered it isn't a Milne quote at all, and isn't even originally said that way. However, I love that word choice, and it isn't one i constructed, so I left it on quotations marks :)

**"Elyon" is one of the Hebrew names for God. It translates to something like "the most high God." Probably due to my love for foreign and magical sounding words, I developed a love for it some years ago and use it fairly often. It's come to feel like my own personal name for him, something like a nickname but not near as flippant as that. I'm not really sure how to explain what it means to me, except to say that I call God by that name in my happiest and darkest moments, when I am feeling most sincere.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Thousand Reasons...

I often sing songs and say words without really knowing if I mean them, and this bothers me. Far too often I find myself pausing amidst a song sung with fellow believers, wondering to myself, "Can I say that honestly?". And one of those that catches me almost every time is the line which is also the title of one of my favorites: "Ten Thousand Reasons."

Can I really come up with that many? I doubt it. I'm honestly not even sure I can conjure a thousand... or a hundred. I'm ashamed to say I'm not a very grateful person, even if Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. But I'm trying to change that. I'm starting smaller than maybe I should, afraid to dream too big in the area of projects and plans. But I keep hearing of a book that did something similar, so these seems tangible to me* (one of these days maybe I'll actually read it so I get a better idea of how it was done). So I am starting what I hope shall become daily and weekly habits, coming up with one thing that I am grateful to God for every day and then sharing them every week for all of us who need to remember that this world has sunshine too (a group of which I am, most likely, first and foremost--let no one say I am judging pessimism, for that would be very self-discriminating judgement).

So, here I go.

Canto I

{1}  I am grateful for morning air--the freshness of its taste, scent, and feeling. I adore how it is never empty, brimming over with sounds that give it life and texture. Oh the joy of the bug's chirp and the bird's song. At any time these may be music, but in the morning air they are a symphony.

{2} I thank God for excitement: the quickening of the blood in its centermost veins. The squeezing thrill in the gut that says, "On this day my life holds something worth looking forward to."

{3} Thank heaven for the comfortable quiet of Family. The most precious moments are sometimes those without words, where we may all sit together in a silence that says, "It's alright. We don't need to speak. We have all these years of words with which to understand each other already. Now let us sit and breathe the same air, inhaling the knowledge of love and acceptance that has no need for verbal affirmation. It has been so long in getting here, and it won't last long, with the ever changedness** of human nature. So let us cherish a little while longer."

{4} Praise God for distractions, and the variety they come in. I love how my grim thoughts can be swept away by stories of adventure just as much as they may be swayed by the persistent need for sleep. Oh how these wondrous little rabbit trails can lead away from the black current: the path that would suck the body and soul into the desire, the trap of thinking it a need, to sin. And we helpless humans would try to call this victory of Grace "mine." Oh, my foolish pride. Thanks to God for overlooking it.

{5} For imagination--the key which releases us from the prison of these dreary bodies into the realm of the infinite, where we may find the galaxies' ballroom and join the dance of the stars.
"Everything was new and delightful for him.
The rosy glow of a sunrise had in it the flaming 
glory of creation. The stars at night were a living, 
heavenly dance. He listened to the grass growing, 
smelled the west wind, tasted the rain, touched the 
grains of sand on the shore. All his senses, his mind, 
his heart, were alive and in touch with being."***

{6} For words: the vessels by which we may ride the tides of imagination. They throw open doors into fantasy and weave a tapestry of magic. And this is a magic made for sharing, to pass on to anyone with eager eyes and a heart ready for the adventure of reading.

{7} For laughter--that balm over inner aches which rumbles the body and strengthens the soul. Thanks to God for its wile, stubborn nature, sneaking in to snatch you up and squeeze you in a bear hug on the grimmest of days. How it grins, mischievously.
"You only thought I could not touch you today. Let me show you the depth of your naivety."

*One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voscamp is the book I'm referring to. And yes, I have, unfortunately, not read it yet.

**I reserve the right of making up words to suit my purpose. Let's call it "creative license", since that sounds more like the act of a posh writer than being simply stubbornly set on making the English language do what I want.

***From the book Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art, on the second page in Chapter 3, where the author, Madeline L'Engle, is reflecting on another author's depiction of how we view the world with such endless imagination as children.