Sunday, January 12, 2014

Today I went, but not with my heart.  Not even with my head.  It was a physical presence only and it was not only tiresome but somewhat irksome as well.  In those moments, I am prone to complain or make a big deal out of things which are of very small consequence in the grand scope of things.  Not to mention of no veritable concern to anyone else (though I know my friends love and care about me!)

Moment arise when all is swirling about in a mass of confusion and chaos, when I can hardly tell up from down or left from right (wait a sec... I can never tell left from right....), I don't know if I'm moving forward or backward, towards healing or damage, and it's frustrating.  To make matters worse when these waves come on I pull back from those around me.  As one who prepares to weather a storm, the shutters are pulled, the windows are barred and the doors are closed tight.  Ain't no storm gettin' in here!

That also means nothing else is getting in.   No bright rays of sun to say the storm is passed, no cleansing breeze to brush away the musty stale air that hangs in every room.

 I wonder if it would do more damage than good for someone to come busting down the door, saying, "Girl, get out here RIGHT now!" 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

while the merry bells keep ringing, happy holidays to you!

the last of the festal days. and this is how the feast is remembered...

Friday, December 06, 2013

more wanting

It's Christmas time.  One of the most painful associations I have with Christmas time is the pressure to give and get.  Not so much pressure on me (though I certainly feel it in some of my relationships) but that the pressure is there and loud and very in your face

It's the giving which is forced, done out of obligation instead of innocent desire, done for the sake of saving face or not offending. Akin to walking a tightrope of social expectations with the fear of tumbling off always before you.  And the getting that drives in us a pressing want for "things" and to be remembered, that inspires an acquiring of material goods so we can parade them before others in a show of how special we are that not only do we have these things, but people thought of us enough to give them to us.

Forgive me, I'm not painting a very good picture and it sounds very harsh indeed.  Especially since I love to give gifts to the people I love, and people around me, and people in general, and joyfully receive tokens from those who love me, with as much gratitude and thankfulness as my weak and feeble heart can muster.

Giving is not bad.
Getting is not bad.

Lately, though, I have been investigating my own wants and needs and haves and have-nots; examining what they are, why they are, and whether they need to remain or be discarded, then figuring out how to manage them responsibly.  (That's right... more critical analysis of normal, everyday aspects of living.)  But it isn't for nothing, this reflection, it is to an end.  I am learning to decipher between good, healthy and attainable wants, and those which lead to discontentment, disillusionment, or danger.

Case in point:

Yesterday an acquaintance invited me out to a sort of open-house/soirĂ©e she was hosting to sell her fantastically hand-crafted wood pieces and showcase a much-gifted local musician.  She invited me with a task-in-hand, it is true, but part of me had the desire to engage in this mystical world of 'folk art' and be grounded by the interaction.

It was a short visit, cold (bitterly!) but nice and I built a small collection for her of photos to sort of capture the evening.  Not my best work, but not awful either.

What struck me, though, was the painful longing that set itself in my belly shortly after leaving.  It was not envy or jealousy, but it was an inspiration of wanting for something more simple and life-giving than what I currently feel I have.  The wanting in and of itself did not surprise me, for years I have panted after the quiet of country life.  What was particularly shocking was the painful quality of this wanting - that my body physically ached for it. 

Of course, this too will fall under investigation and thorough examination, likely in conversation with those who are most trusted and dear to me, with the aim of understanding whether it is a want to be persued, or to be dropped.

Perhaps it is fitting to have these thoughts today, on St. Nicholas' feast day, who through humility gained the things on high, through poverty, riches, and proclaimed to all by his actions a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a model of self-control.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

from All-Merciful Saviour Orthodox Christian Monastery

Instead of complaining, do something about your complaints. Make a difference in your life, and the lives of those around you, by keeping focused on making a difference. If there is reason to complain, change your complaint into a positive action that changes your perspective. Complainers never change a thing by their constant negativity, other than make those around them want to take a cab to the other side of town. Complaining seems to many like such a little sin, and nothing to be worried about. Yet the impact of a complaining heart is spiritually ruinous, for when we complain we bear bitter fruits that destroy our peace and the peace of those around us.

When we refuse to fill our lives with complaints, we live our lives knowing that opposing the evil that is the root of our complaints, means we preserve our inner peace. Some live as though avoiding complaining will make everything worse, for by doing so they ignore the reality of negative things. Yet when we complain, we are returning evil for evil, and giving the fallen spirits the very thing they thrive upon.

Complaining never changes a thing, but only strengthens the power of the evil that is the very basis of our complaints. When we face every bad situation with a positive response, we empower the heart to good, by diminishing the power of negativity. By keeping a positive mindset, the sin of complaining is banished from our life, and everyone around us is bathed in a healing and healthy setting.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rethinking Choices

Last night we went to see a movie. We do this regularly, go to the theatre to watch movies.  It's what we do; our thing.  Not my preferred choice for spending time together, but it is typically entertaining enough and we more-or-less can find something agreeable. At the very least we're doing something together. 

Last night's movie, though, puts to mind some very pressing questions and makes me wonder if it wouldn't be better to rethink this type of outing. 

Let me begin by saying I am not a puritan and do not believe movies are a sure-fire way to ensure one's place in hell or guarantee eternal damnation.  That being said, I do believe that many forms of entertainment can provide grounds for spiritual and psychological damage if not engaged in properly, soberly, and with caution.

In a conversation with a friend earlier this year we were discussing television programs that intimately touched on the workings of serial killers, rapists, torturers, etc.  I hid from her the fact that my husband & I regularly watched crime shows and even liked them; that we had a series on the psychology behind serial killers and owned a number of movies which were somewhat graphic in how they portrayed brutal crimes.  At the time, our conversation only rubbed me the wrong way but didn't produce any form of conviction.

Something over the past 6 months has changed, though.  While watching a movie in the theatre about [yet another] attack on the U.S. government, there was a scene wherein a number of innocents were violently gunned down.  This scene sent me into a fit of near hysterics, complete with hyperventilation, which both frightened and shocked me.  Had I not watched such needless violence before, numerous times, without a tremor? 

A month later, during another film on a completely different subject matter, I was again overcome with distress over the violence enacted on the screen, and had to fight for breath to keep from falling apart. 

Last night's movie pushed this even further and has prompted the rethinking of these regular doses of escapism.  The subject matter (which I prefer to not discuss) created a deep and disturbing sense of horror; I wondered, afterwards, why we had even chosen to see that movie at all.  What was the draw?  the pull?  What did we hope to gain or profit by spending two hours filling our consciousness with that?

Certainly, we cannot hide from the fact that there is violence in the world, especially of this type, and we dare not pretend that this kind of behaviour does not exist, but do we really need to make money off of it?  The movie was exceptionally well done. But do we need to praise it and elevate it to a level worthy of accolades because they made it so real?

Perhaps this recalls the question of realism in art - how far is too far, how much too much?  I do not have an answer for that...

For now, I can only make informed decisions and, while I accept that there is terrible violence in the world and I am not one to bury my head in the sand and pretend it's not there, perhaps it is not wise to engage in, promote and fill my conscious space with that violence, and only face it with prayer and petition when necessary.

God help us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

fading to grey

i took my husband to England. it was for the purpose of introducing him to different parts of the world, different cultures, even  if those cultures arent vastly different. hes never been outside of N. America so this seemed like a perfect start.

our hometown is not unfamiliar with rain or greyness, especially when mid-autumn and winter are in their fullness. but there is something disconcerting about travelling halfway around the world, to be thrust into a premature winter of your place of origin. we expected some damp days, yes, but not a perpetual odghtdfgnslaught of wet after wet.

maybe its the weather, or the boringness of this day, or feeling hindered from exerting energy, whatever it is, i am completely saturated with grey. i yearn and hunger for colour and light. what a strange melancholy. like a stone building left alone on the moors to befriend only wind and mist.

[tried to post a photo but it didnt work]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

O' them brothers

For the sixth time in my adult life, I have taken up the task of trying to read Dostoyevsky.  By that you can assume that the previous 5 attempts were not successful.  And no, I didn't start with Crime & Punishment (which would be punishment in itself) but rather with The Brothers Karamazov and then The Idiot, neither of which could keep hold of me for more than 75 pages.

Why would one make such a great effort, you may ask yourself.  Well, primarily because I have been told on many occasions and by many different people of varying educational levels that they are literary masterpieces and really capture an element of humanity that other noteworthy authors don't seem to reach.

Having made it through Charles Dickens' David Copperfield (and believe me, the term "made it" speaks for itself!) without tearing my hair out or dying of boredome, I figured Dostoyevsky wouldn't be too much of a stretch.  Ha!  While on par with Dickens, he is a completely different writer altogether and, though he is categorized among the classic writers, his composition is far different from any of the English-style classics to which I am accustomed.

That being said, each previous attempt (2 with The Idiot and 3 with Brothers Karamazov) yeilded no result as it was simply too cumbersome to work through the network of relationships, not to mention the labrynth of names given to each character, struggling always to try and identify who the writer was talking about at the time.

What is different this time around, I think, is that I'm reading it with an Orthodox heart, which means the names don't really matter, and even the interconnections between characters is of little importance, but rather my mind is focused on the interactions between the characters, how these interactions speak to our humanity, and how the Russian Orthodox faith seeps out from these interactions.  It really is quite telling!

Below you will find listed some poignant excerpts from The Brothers Karamazov which have pierced me in one way or another, and prompted reflection on life and being:

"...that he adopted the monastic life was simply because at that time it struck him, so to say, as the ideal escape from his soul struggling from the darkness of worldly wickedness to the light of love."

"Add to that that he was to some extent a youth of our last epoch - that is, honest in nature, desiring the truth, seeking for it and believing in it, and seeking to serve it at once with all the strength of his soul, seeking for immediate action, and ready to sacrifice everything, life itself, for it."

"Fear nothing and never be afraid; and don't fret.  if only your penitence fail not, God will forgive all.  There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant!  Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God.  Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?  Think only of repentance, continual repentance, but dismiss fear altogether.  Believe that God loves you as you cannot conceive; that He loves you with your sin, in your sin.  It has been said of old that over one repentant sinner there is more joy in heaven than over ten righteous men.  Go and fear not.  Be not bitter against men.  Be not angry if you are wronged.  Forgive the dead man in your heart what wrong he did you.  Be reconciled with him in truth.  If you are penitent, you love.  And if you love you are of God."

"Ivan Fyodorovitch added in parenthesis that the whole natural law lies in that faith, and that if you were to destroy in mankind the believe in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up.  Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful, even cannibalism.  That's not all.  He ended by asserting that for every individual, like ourselves, who does not believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognized as the inevitable, the most rational, even honourable outcome of his position."

"The mild serenity of age takes the place of the riotous blood of youth.  I bless the rising sun each day, and, as before, my heart sings to meet it, but now I love even more its setting, its long slanting rays, and the soft, tender, gentle memories that come with them, the dear images from the whole of my long, happy life -- and over all the Diving Truth, softening, reconciling, forgiving."

"To transform the world, to recreate it afresh, men must turn into another path psychologically.  Until you have become really, in actual fact, a brother to every one, brotherhood will not come to pass.  No sort of scientific teaching, no kind of common interest, will ever teach men to share property and privileges with equal consideration for all.  Every on will think his share too small and they will be always envying, complaining and attacking one another."

There are more.. so many more... and I'm not even half-way through the book!!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


Sometimes I feel as though I am struggling to live and breathe in a dying world; that life is being sucked out and I am left gasping and parched.  Essentially, I am referring to the small world in which I work and play and have my being, not to the great wide world of all humanity.  It is a small scale perspective, but I am a small person and looking out too far makes me tremble.

Furthermore, dying does not mean beyond repair or hope, or that there isn't room for restoration, of becoming alive again.  Ezekiel was shown the valley of the dry bones into which life was breathed and they once again became a living, vigorous people. And I believe in the resurrection (having received a kind reminder from a beloved friend) and death is not the victor.

Reading the lives of the saints restores me, but I wonder how they did it - especially the ones who were not monks or hermits, who did not withdraw from the petty cares of the world to embark on a deeper communion with God.  How did they not choke on the emotional oppression that surrounded them?  The small worries and calamities that befell them? How did they not collapse under the pressure of uncertainty while in a place of having to make a decision?

Our priest encouraged me to not think of my choices as "God wants this or that for my life" but that what He really desires is that whatever I put my hand to, I do with faith and love and in service to Him.  Gulp; now there's a handful of responsibility if ever I heard it!  And you have read, recently, about my struggles to keep afloat in the midst of uncertainty, learning to trust the Almighty to carry me through.

Today I took a step backwards.  A step that hurt my ego and squashed my pride.  Not a 'bad' step in the sense that it forces me to encounter and learn to accept humility, but a step which is hard.  Having taken that step, though, it seems even more likely that the ground on which it was taken is shaky and unstable. Having had the confidence that while it was something I didn't want to it would be more reliable, I am learning that other circumstances make it such that this step may lead to a dead-end after all. 


Lessons to be learned... so many lessons... hard lessons!

What is important to remember is that God is bigger than all my cares - that I need not gripe or complain or fret about what is happening, but to fall before Him and seek His grace.  That LIFE is not something inherent, but a gift given, imbibed from the Fount of Living Water - Christ - that we may never thirst again.  The only way to stave off thirst is to keep drinking.  Taking a sip or guzzling full-on doesn't quench thirst - constant, regulated daughts are what keep thirst from creeping in.