Friday, October 28, 2011

"How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet?" (Screwtape)

Early this week Mom and I were at Small Grocery Store in the wonderful world of Small Town.  We bought out about a third of their produce department (I exaggerate.  But it does seem like a lot.), where I covetously snagged the very last and only eggplant.  (how dare they run out of eggplant right as the Italians are rolling into town?!  Rude.)  Finally, we wandered over to the aisle of toiletries.  Unfortunately I have a weakness for lovely soap and nicely scented hand sanitizer.  I spotted a little bottle of "Vanilla Cream & Apple Blossoms" *pink* hand sanitizer!  Mom had the proper response (don't you hate it when you're shopping and your shopping buddy does not have the proper response to an indubitably cool item? because there is a proper way to respond to exciting shopping finds, and the words bland, monotone, or non-enthused, do not describe it.).  As a matter of fact, she went beyond a proper response and put two in the cart; one for me, and one for her.  What a pal.  I was excited.  "It's the little things in life that make the world go 'round,"  I contentedly sighed. 

And it is true.  It really is the little things that can be the big things in life.  The little kindnesses that give grace to life.  The little pleasures like a steamy mug of tea or coffee on a blustery day, or driving with the windows open on a beautiful one.  Or a good book that makes you laugh or think.  Or coming downstairs on a fall day smelling the fresh air mixed in with a cinnamon spice candle.  Or a leisurely walk.  Or a good family dinner.  Or music that makes your heart yearn for a deeper Beauty.  Or perfume that makes the day more special.  Or trying to dance like the kids in a Charlie Brown episode.  Or laughing until you cry.  Or a warm home to return to.   Or the homey sound of a gas burner lighting into a flame in a still early morning hour.  Or... you get the picture.  Simple Pleasures, all of them.  Straight from God's hands to ours.  I've been thinking about this, ever since I read from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Maybe you'd like to read the quotes from it to?
"And now for your blunders.  On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends.  In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there- a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone.  In other words, you allowed him two real positive Pleasures.  Where you so ignorant as to not see the danger of this?  The characteristics of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakeably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality.  Thus if you had been drying to damn your man by the Romantic method- by making him a kind of Childe Harold or Werther submerged in self-pity for for imaginary distresses- you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes' genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem.  But you were trying to damn your patient by the World, that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony and expensive tedium as pleasures.  How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet?  Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value?  And that sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all?

"The deepest longings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, which which the Enemy has furnished him.  To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human's own real likings and dis-likings.  I myself would carry this very far.  I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite trivial such as a fondness for country cricket or collecting stamps or drinking cocoa.  Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack.  You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the 'best' people, the 'right' food, the 'important' books.  I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions."

With Thanksgiving coming up, it's a lovely time to count our blessings... so many simple pleasures the Lord blesses us with.  So many blessings.  What a kind God we serve. He has filled His world full of simply beautiful every-day pleasures for us to enjoy.

"All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade.  Or only like foam on the seashore.  Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure.  He makes no secret out of it; at His right hand are 'pleasures forevermore'.  ... He has filled His world full of pleasures.  There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least....  Everything has to be twisted before it's any use to us."  (also from The Screwtape Letters by Lewis)

And now, I'm off on this blustery fall eve to the Chinese mission.  I'm getting the teenage boys combined in my class tonight.  This could be interesting.  But not to worry, I shall put on the most teacherly-air I possess and firmly but kindly convey that they must behave.  At least I'm going to try to, anyway... no guarantees as I have yet to perfect my own version of an 'evil eye' that would freeze a unruly teen into behaving.  Hopefully I will have no need to practice on them.

Blessings and simple pleasures to you all,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

early morning thoughts...

It's much to early to be up but I wasn't sleeping well and sometimes the best thing to do is just get up.   These wee hours find our kitten, Marilla, in a decidedly (and unusually, I should add) docile mood and snuggled up beside me.  Peppermint tea sits steaming from one of my favorite mugs.

I think back to last week, when for three seperate days I left the house early, when the autumn moon was still high above the tree line, for a long 2 hr plus drive not counting a good dose of big city traffic thrown in.  A dear friend of mine, and some of her sisters, teach itinerant (at the student's home) piano lessons, and since they were out of town, they asked if I could fill in, which I was delighted to do.  The Lord showed Himself so faithful to me during those three days in a lot of ways, but one of the most special was a Divine Appointment with "Nana".

One of families I taught I had five children in the family, four of whom take lessons.  The mother passed away unexpectedly this year, and their grandmother, "Nana", has been caring for and homeschooling them all since.  My heart went out to these children, and on my way out, I began chatting a bit with the grandmother.

"Oh, call me Nana, everybody does!" she insisted.  Then, I found out her husband had just died a year or two ago... her daughter this year, and now she as an older lady was playing the role of "mom" for a very active household.  It could wear a young person out.  I searched her face and voice for negative emotions... and found none.  Instead, this lady who's been through so much, was glowing with the joy and presence of the Lord.

"Jesus said He came that we might have life! and have it more abundantly!  and that our joy might be full!  We just have to call out that joy that Jesus said is in us through Him!" she excitedly and animatedly shared.

She went on to share about how precious her "hour of power" (time with the Lord in the morning) is, and how He gives her strenght even when she is most tired.  This lady is going through so much, but yet she is one of the most joyful people I've met in a long time.  What a blessing!

I needed to have this edifying conversation with this saintly lady, and I knew it.  Except... 15 mins passed... then 30.  Then almost 45. And we were still fellowshipping in the kitchen.  And I still had about four other families with multiple students on my route... and for an itinerant piano teacher, it's a domino effect if you get behind and it can be a disaster.  And I knew I was getting seriously behind and that this could be bad.  Real bad.  But, I knew I was supposed to be having that conversation, and I knew that I could trust the Lord to work out the rest of my schedule. 

After the last edifying word, promises to pray for each other, and a hug, I got in the car and called the next family on my route... they were fine with my being late.  I called the next person.... who wanted to know if it might be a double blessing to both of us to cancel their lesson for that day?  Would it!?!  That got me exactly back on track, and I was able to finish the day as planned.  Does God know what He is doing, or does He not?   I believe God wants us to walk by faith and not be sight, even in the small things, like a day's schedule.  Perhaps mostly in the small things, actually, because only when we learn the small things will get move on to bigger.

I drove home that night when the moon adorned the autumn sky again, and only the russet hues of the last whispers of sunset remained... and I praised God, Who does all things well.  We can trust Him today... even in the smallest things.  That's the beauty of being dependent.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

this & that

-I didn't mean to fall off the Blogger Bandwagon...  but we were out of town all last week, and I have spent the first part of this week since I've been back both playing CatchUp and being sick.  Today, I am not only feeling better, but I am nearly caught up, and I call that a very good thing.   Yay God.

-While I was out of town, I roamed several Flea Market stores, and one resale shop.  They were all the sort of shops with lots of dust, plenty of junk, but with treasures waiting to be sought out, with just a bit of hunting.  It's kind of like an Easter egg hunt.  A few of their treasures came home to Texas with me: an entire set of six CS Lewis books (including a few I've been wanting!) for seventy-five cents; two old hardback books with beautiful covers to make purses out of (yes, that's right, purses); and a retro sewing pattern from the 60s (I am currently making a dress from a retro 40s pattern... if that turns out to be wearable, why not try my hand at another?).  It's the little things in life, I tell ya. 

-We had a lovely time on our family vacation... we didn't do a lot of anything, except perhaps, wandering and roaming the sights and stores, and that was perfect for this year.  And I drank copious amounts of coffee and tea too.  That was also perfect. 

-Since returning, Becs and I have started a very strict diet regimen for abundant-health purposes (I am something of an Herb Nerd and Becs is always wanting to try some extreme new health pursuit, so we are a bit dangerous together).  We can have as much of we want of practically nothing.  Becs is like a little hawk, and if I so much as put the wrong sort of vegetable on my plate she gives the The Eye and fusses.  I do not exaggerate.  I hope I survive the next six weeks.  However, it is so so good to bring my flesh into submission in this way and exercise those muscles of discipline... it's good, every now and then, to do something your flesh really hates doing.  Somehow, the physical and the spiritual work together, and not only do I find my physical self-discipline strengthening, but then I find my spiritual discipline begins giving my spiritual muscles a new workout and that is always good.  It's one of the benefits of fasting too... My dad, for as long as I can remember, fasts one day a week (breakfast and lunch) for spiritual reasons, and some of us have followed that example in some way or another.  It helps builds spiritual stamina and helps keep your gaze steady on The Prize.  I love what the Apostle Paul says, 'Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Not they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.' (1 Cor. 9:24-27)  The Apostle Paul sure was smart. Christians should be some of the most disciplined people out there.

-I got some fall cleaning done today... this included cleaning windows.  I'm sure no one realizes how many windows their house has until it is time to clean them.

-These days I find myself praying about going to China next summer for three weeks.  My flesh doesn't much want to go, I do not know if I will go, but I think it's a possibility that the Lord might want me to go.  There is a need, and what are these single years for, but to serve the Lord with all that I am?  Whether it is this need or another one that I am supposed to step up to, is yet to be seen.   We shall see.

-This is all for now, I suppose.  I want to keep my seat on the Blogger Bandwagon for a longer period of time this round... you know, that discipline thing I was talking about?  ha!  Yes, it needs to extend to time management and making time for more than just the immediate-urgent tasks in front of me as well.

-I am thankful today for: music {it enriches life so much}... good family team-work... blustery days and afternoon showers... safe travels... trials that put steel in the backbone... enriching books... my own room...  happy faces... thoughtful and pondering faces... my favorite season being upon us...  Celestial Seasoning's seasonal Candy Cane Lane tea being back on the shelf!... the strong and mighty love of God...