"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 November 2005

Getting Out of the Way

Chambers has been preaching on relationship to Christ lately, and I have been convicted and confused and wondering and elated and grateful . . . I know so little about this journey, and I fear so often that I am arrogant in my talking and thinking about it while sitting by the roadside going nowhere . . . The easy thing is to have something to do and do it. The hard thing is to just do it without angst or arrogance, without looking at the doing and praising or berating ourselves for how we fare, with our eyes on Jesus instead of self.

A number of quotes from Chambers from the last few days:

We have to battle through our moods into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus, to get out of the hole-and-corner business of our experience into abandoned devotion to Him.

Beware of making a fetish of consistency to your convictions instead of being devoted to God. The one consistency of a saint is not to a principle, but to the Divine life.

He talks about interfering in the lives of others, trying to stop God's will in their walk by getting in the way with all our supposed wisdom, with our felt need to make things right. Then he says that if we are to advise someone else,

God will advise through you with the direct understanding of the Holy Spirit; your part is to be so rightly related to God that His discernment comes through you all the time for the blessing of another soul.

The mature stage is the life of a child which is never conscious; we become so abandoned to God that the consciousness of being used never enters in. . . . all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.

We are to live for Him in the daily life where no one notices, and that is our truest witness:

The aim is to manifest the glory of God in human life, to live the life hid with Christ in God in human conditions. . . . We are so abominably serious, so desperately interested in our own characters, that we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life.

To know Him. That is the goal of the quest, a goal which can be attained right now in the journey and yet which will never be attained in this life.

I do not presume to pretend that I have ever lost myself in devotion to Him; I know myself too well. But there have been occasions when He has shown me how He moves without my awareness, my reaching to be a faithful witness, my anxious working to show Him and everyone else that I'm really spiritual despite appearances. Now and again, someone has come to me and remarked on some way in which my words or actions have encouraged him, and I have been astounded. It was no work of mine, no thought-provoked attempt. But because He is in me, He graciously moved through me to touch someone's life. And He gets all the glory.

I think these have been tiny pictures of what life could be like if I learned to love Him and simply immerse my life in Him. Why is something so simple so difficult to do? Lord, that I could just forget all else and see You, only You.

14 November 2005

November Roses

The fall colors have been nice this year, but not spectacular, with the exception of a few particular trees and bushes. It's been inordinately warm, perhaps more dry than usual; maybe that's the cause. At any rate, while my attention has been caught by an occasional burning bush or bright maple, for the most part it's been an understated autumn. I've missed the color.

Saturday morning I decided I desperately needed to take a walk -- too much sitting while grading, writing, lazing in the exhaustion at the end of a week. My guys were gone somewhere, and I'd gotten a good night's sleep, and I felt almost human again.

So on with the tennis shoes, a jacket because it is, after all, November, even if a warm one, and out the front door.

And there, as I started down the steps -- three deep coral-red roses leapt into sight, taking my breath with their unexpected beauty. One full-opened, at the height of its majesty; one just beginning to show its petals; one a tightly closed bud promising loveliness to come.

Roses in November. What a spectacular gift amidst the otherwise subdued days of a too-busy season.

11 November 2005

Veterans Day

Thank you to both my grandfathers and to my father-in-law. Thank you, Daddy. Thank you, my big brother and my husband. And thank you to my sons-in-law and to my beloved oldest son.

Without you, there would be no peace, no place to write and teach and love and read and worship in freedom unknown anywhere else.

You are my heroes.

May all I do with this freedom you have won and kept for me be worthy of the sacrifices you have made.

I love you. God bless you.

03 November 2005

Aiming for the Chopping Block

I sent a review/essay off today to a journal I've wanted to publish in for a very long time. I'd sent an earlier draft and received good advice, so it will be good to find out how close I've "got" it now.

When I write, I feel fully alive. The first phase is hardest -- getting down on paper what it is I want to say. The striving for clarity, for coherence, for internal logic, for something truly worthy of my time and the time of others . . . Once that is roughly accomplished, my favorite part begins -- making it say that idea how I want it said. Striving now for conciseness without loss of meaning, the telling detail, the most effective syntax, precise diction, making it exactly right -- or as close as a mere human can ever come.

When I write, I learn. Not just about the subject matter, but about myself. How I think, how I work, how I relate to ideas but also how I relate to people. I am reminded of the value of patience and revision, the need to be quiet and listen, to let the work be the focus instead of myself. All of these I need continual lessons in as I try to be a wife, a mother, a colleague, a friend, a teacher.

from Annie Dillard's The Writing Life:

"Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.

"The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as a necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with your life's strength: that page will teach you to write.

"There is another way of saying this. Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block."

Writing brings me fully alive, because it connects me as nothing else but childbirth ever has with reality.