March 2010

A much happier month for book-reading; indeed, it would have been happy if the only book I read was A Conspiracy of Kings, but I had the pleasure of also reading other wonderful books.

  1. Studies in the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance by Lucy Allen Paton.
  2. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.
  3. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.
  4. The Arrow by Christopher Morley.
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
  6. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.
  7. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.
  8. Bede: a novel by C. A. Cole and Kelly Ledbetter.
  9. Digging to America by Anne Tyler.
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O Light perpetual

It would be incorrect in every sense to say that so near the end of his life he had lost his faith, when in fact God seemed more abundant to him in the Regina Cleri home than any place he had been before. God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees. God saturated the hallways in the form of a pale electric light. … How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy. We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God and in his life Father Sullivan had seen it miraculously for eight-eight years. … This was not the workings of disbelief. It was instead a final, joyful realization of all he had been given.

from Run by Ann Patchett (2007)

Conspiracy theories

1. A Conspiracy of Kings — Read in whirlwind of cover-to-cover, staying-up-past-midnight bliss, it was, of course, marvelous. Thinking of it still brings a smile to my face. Though, I realized with some horror that I will most likely have my PhD by the time the next book comes out. It will be the highlight of my year.

2. Bede: a novel — I have sent my edits to my co-author. The black binder that holds my copy of the manuscript no longer sits conspicuously on my desk; the map that has hung over my desk for over a year and a half has finally been taken down.

3. Short stories — Onward to the stars: time to edit and (I hope) write science-fiction, in which things are still not all what they seem.

A Thief in the night

I was early returning from my errands before lunch, and so I went out to the sea, alone, to face my melancholy thoughts. I stood atop the cliff, face numb from the freezing spray and wind, looking down at the sea all chiseled and edged like slate. I went to be reminded that the created world cares little for our mortality. Grain by grain the relentless waves reduce the castle into sand. We live but the span of a few breaths, and though our foundations of stone outlast us, the sea was here in the beginning, and the sea will outlast us all.

There was something infinitely graceful in the way the seabirds flew into the wind.

I had another, impromptu, meeting with my Primary today, to follow up from last week’s, and it was the meeting I was hoping for. She had rescheduled to the afternoon, unwittingly allowing me more time to prepare. At least for this section, we are on the same page, for the first time this year. I actually left smiling instead of near tears, even if I jokingly offered to be in a crisis to save her from a meeting she didn’t want to go to.

And so, so, so, though this morning had a melancholy start, and though the haar has rolled in and I can barely see the next building across the street or the lamplight shining in the dim, the day has ended well. At long last I have A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. I shall go put away dinner dishes and then begin. As Kelly so aptly put, consider this my ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.

Sunday morning

Some time ago a friend of mine said that she didn’t see how anyone could reconcile a belief in a loving creator-god on days when everything piles up: the conjunction of a bad head cold, the start of a period, past injuries flaring up. Surely God, too, would end up in tears at the top of a flight of stairs, if we are made in His image.

I didn’t reply at the time; what I had to say were not words of consolation. When my arthritis is flaring up and I have a migraine and a sinus infection, and I still have to go about life doing things like making meals and eating them, going into town to work, all the while in pain, I have also taken a swipe at God. On days like today, when I can’t walk enough to make it into church or when my hands hurt too much to do my Lenten devotion, there isn’t much stopping me from cheekily saying, “You know, it’s not my fault I hurt.”

What I would have said is, “Our pain is the result of a fallen world. The universe is broken, and we are broken, too.” If I were more evangelistic, I would then go on to say that we hope for the renewal of all things in eternity. I have written here before about that future hope. But that’s just it: it’s in the future. Not only a new body, but a new name, a new reality; eternity is the impossible future, beyond whatever human understanding I have now. It doesn’t remove the pain right now, doesn’t alleviate it, doesn’t explain anything.

I remember how the story of Job was always the answer to suffering for no apparent reason. Unknown to Job, he was the field of contest between God and Satan. Job had the gall to demand explanation from God Himself, and God did not explain. His answer was, essentially, “Am I not God?” Job’s possessions and health were then restored—in this life, not the next. His suffering was temporary; what then for us who suffer chronically? It is not a comforting book.

Like the man born blind the apostles accused of being punished for his or his parents’ sin, my body is not broken because of anything I did. Perhaps I can be self-absorbed enough to say that my arthritis is an opportunity for God’s glory. It certainly can be, but I hold no delusions that I will be healed instantly—though I would sing and dance if that were to happen. Instead, the glory comes day by day. It is easy to turn to anger and despair; it is much harder to grin and bear it and confide in an invisible being that you don’t necessarily approve of how He’s doing things. I am a symptom of a broken world, and I am broken too. God is God, and I am not. Hollow words sometimes, even to my ears, but no less True.

Seeing the sunlight

Anna recently posted some very insightful observations about depression in her post, Who’s afraid of the dark? She points out that, like with plane crashes, it’s often a series of little glitches that can get us spiraling down that dark pit again. Even being aware of the triggers, and panicking when we see them, is enough to set it off.

But we can battle the little things with little things. My mother once told me that we have the power to choose how we respond to things that make us unhappy. It’s up to us.

Spring is coming, and with it, the sunshine.

Notes and edits

Two weeks in a row now I have completed my weekly goals by Friday afternoon. It is a good feeling. Especially today, because I have sent off a draft of some mostly-okay words to my oh-so-kind friends to edit, thus leaving me to blissfully ignore the literature review over the weekend. Thanks friends. Now I might get to reread Bede tomorrow, going over my own edits, before beginning the typing-up process of said edits.

Also, I am highly enjoying rereading Queen of Attolia. Last night I read one of my favourite lines: ‘If I am the pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make up my mind for me.’

To follow up on an earlier post about health care reform, this story was on NPR this morning: Christian Groups Find Way Around High Health Costs. It is about a ministry called Samaritan Ministries in which families help each other cover health care costs. The ministry has quite a few caveats and exceptions, though, most of which are understandable given the contexts of a Christian organisation. However, just from what is said in the article, it does seem that the ministry is catering more towards Christians than it does at helping out non-believers.