Saturday, March 23, 2013

We Are Still Trees

A rook's coarse cry rends the snowy hush of this pearl-grey afternoon. On my desk awaits a piece of crusty, warm, homemade potato bread - liberally spread with butter. My thoughts turn to the brisk walk I enjoyed this morning...

Fine snow blew from every direction. Stinging my eyes, settling on my nose, eyebrows, and hair, it filled my very soul with vibrant life. Along the paths I tread were birds, birds, birds: a flock of  three dozen robins, a brace of red-shafted Northern flickers, a downy woodpecker, and (my favourite) a pair of nuthatches. Drawn by the chatter of birds, I turned into a quiet cul-de-sac, enjoying the view of fast-falling snow upon tall golden grass. Next to that avian sanctuary a line of snow along the trunk of a pine tree caught my gaze. A fir, slanted at a forty-degree angle from earth. How had I not seen it before? 

I paused my forward motion to drink in the sight, to ponder this tree's perseverance. Like other trees, it grew straight and up. Unlike other trees, it did so at an angle, rather than perpendicular to the ground. Some hardship or radical impact had drastically changed the course of this pine, yet it remained a tree, growing as it ought.

This gave me pause to think on my own life, and the lives of several of my friends. We do not pursue life at the pace of forty-plus hours a week, an MA or DPhil, spouses and children, or numerous other things many consider the mark of a 'normal' person. We pursue the good life from a different angle.

We study both books and persons not for a diploma, but for the sake of challenging our minds and hearts. We work as a means to keep our lights and heat on, to put food in our cupboards, yes. But we also see work as an end itself, something to be enjoyed; whether it is the work that gives us the funds to put bread on the table, or the work of making the bread to put on that table. When we do not have spouses and children of our own, we learn instead to enjoy the time spent with married couples, children, peers, and those older than we. Being gracious is a continual refining process. Opening my home, pantry, and heart to others takes effort, but the rewards are bountiful. 

 My friends and I are humans, cultivating life, growing as we ought: toward God, with others,  while stewarding the gifts (physical, mental, emotional) given by Providence. Though we desire and seek things that other persons do, we are often seen as 'not normal', because we seek those things differently. We desire friendship, enjoy Beauty, find work cathartic,  want to enrich our minds, etc., like any healthy human being ought. Yet those of us who undertake to live fully are seen as stumps, as compared with growing trees.

The fact is, we are much like that fir tree, growing upward and in a linear direction, but at an angle. We are still trees, still growing as we were designed to grow. Our position relative to the ground has simply changed due to hardship or a radical impact... But we are still trees.

~ Johanna

Sunday, March 17, 2013

May it Be According to Your Faith

Since Christmas I have been meandering through the book of Luke. Granted, I took a deer trail through Psalms, and a sashay through  bit of II Corinthians, too. Still, I have been taking my time about getting through Luke, thinking about what Jesus said, what He was really like... And what the people around Him were really like, too. More than once persons come to Jesus asking Him to heal them and He responds with things like, "Your faith has made you well," or "Let it be according to your faith."

What if I asked Jesus to make my [near-sighted] eyes able to see? Would I really have the faith to lay aside my glasses and be able to see perfectly whilst driving? What about my spiritual eyes - do I think Jesus has more authority over spiritual things than physical things? It is sad that I think Jesus is more able to heal my heart than my eyesight. He made both my heart and my body, He has equal authority and ability to heal them.  Yet He has every reason not to - not if healing is in proportion to my faith. My faith is cramped, atrophied, beggarly. I have lost  much of the childlike innocence that believes without wavering and doubting. I have grown old, and my Father is younger than me (to paraphrase Chesterton). I hate growing old, talking of lifeless things, forgetting how to believe, knowing now the double meaning behind various phrases, and the sordid like. 

I do not think innocence means ignorance. I believe it is a knowing, a belief, that transcends  --even halts-- senility of heart and mind. In a way, innocence is the deepest knowing, both clarity of sight and of insight.

My more youthful self asked yesterday (after reading of the lepers who were cleansed and the nine who never came): "What if every time I sinned it appeared on my skin like a boil or leprosy? What if I then had to go around shouting out, 'Unclean! Unclean!'?" I shuddered, knowing I would be hideous beyond imagining. Then I had a feeling of relief and joy: I was unclean, but since God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us --for me!-- and in that same act made us to be righteousness itself, I am no longer unclean. Though I still wrestle with sin and my own fleshly desires, God forever sees me as redeemed through the blood of Jesus... Because God is not trapped in our linear time like we are. He sees us as we are - though we see ourselves as still becoming, in our limited time-line existence.

Something about knowing that I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus gives me more faith. Perhaps seeing the miracle --it is nothing short of that-- of being made righteousness itself reminds me that if God can do that great (vastly more far-reaching) work, He can heal my eyes, or cancer, or broken arms and broken hearts. May it be according to our faith.

~ Johanna

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Sweet Song

My fairest child, I have no song to give you;
No lark could pipe to skies so dull and gray;
Yet, ere we part, one lesson I can leave you
For every day.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
One grand, sweet song.

 ~ A Farewell: by Charles Kingsley

Do you do noble things, or merely dream them? Do you use your cleverness (or other natural giftings) for good? In short I am asking, is your life a sweet song? The way you respond to things big and small, the way you treat every person, matters. Either your  bitterness or your kindness will live on long after you die. It is a matter of letting God's Spirit work in you, or quenching Him.

The line, "Do noble things, not dream them" is probably my favourite of this poem. I dream of grand things, when really I should just write a letter of encouragement to my friend's younger sister. I aspire to loving others, when I ought to call that person I do not relish calling --  they are worth being listened to. Noble things come in small choices sometimes. We must learn to do the small noble things if we expect to accomplish the great ones. There lies the sweetness flavouring life's song.

~ Johanna

Thursday, March 7, 2013


In case you thought I was going to expostulate about marriage, I am not. If you thought I was going to extol the benefits of singleness, I am not.

The fact is that today, 7 March, my parents have been married for 43 years. Forty-three years. Forty-three years!! Now that is something you do not hear about very often in this epoch. But it can be done, by God's grace and kindness, it can be done.

Today I am thankful for parents who have worked through hard times, who love one another, who still flirt with each other, and who have loved us girls. I am grateful that I grew up in a peaceful home, where my parents worked through their disagreements without a lot of yelling and name-calling. I am thankful for the examples my parents have set in honesty, love, wisdom, knowledge, teaching, giving, forgiving, and much more.

I love you Dad and Mom!

~ Johanna

Monday, March 4, 2013

Under the Shadow...

Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
 ~ Charles Wesley: Jesus, Lover of My Soul