Almost audible

Can you hear it this year? Every once in awhile, in a rare moment, I can almost catch the edges of the sound. It is the sound of a pitched battle, but we do not see it. We can't. Mortal eyes aren't strong enough.

It's the season, you see. At the end of September, we ask St. Michael and All Angels to come with us into the gathering darkness. The days shorten. The darkness gains in strength. And even on the sunny days the shadows are sharper.

Sense sharpens too. If you are very very still inside yourself, you might, in this season of the ancient battle, catch the last echoes of the whisper at the very outer edges of the war. Every year, it comes again, and every year it comes close enough to us that we can almost hear it.

Abide With Me

Abide With Me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Henry F. Lyte

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..


I'm just sayin'

Okay, here's the deal. Two things

First, if you can buy it at Costco, it's not Jesus. Jesus is found in the patience of a mother with her sick child in the middle of the night, and Jesus is found in glory at his Father's right hand, and Jesus is found in holy Sacrament and kindness to old people. Jesus is not found for sale in discount aisles or warehouse clubs. That's the first thing.

So, I'm sorry Mr. Osteen, that's not evangelism. It's just sales.

And second, are we actually a nation of thirteen year olds? Why, may I ask, do we seem to have no concept at all of the qualities of affection or loyalty unless it has something to do with sex? Albus Dumbledore gay? Seriously? Well, okay. Not seriously. People are having a ripping good time with the whole concept, and it's silly enough to warrant it, but the fact that we simply cannot conceive of affection that isn't sexual in some way is starting to ruffle my feathers.

I'm just sayin.


This year, I brine

Over at A Pioneer Woman Cooks, there are directions for brining, roasting, and making gravy from the Thanksgiving Turkey. I think it's a sign.

Yesterday, while waiting in the vehicle for the driver of the vehicle to come back and drive it some more, I was leafing through the Williams-Sonoma catalog (an activity which does less than nothing for my contentment level nor my personal fight with avarice, greed, envy, sloth, OR jealousy!), I saw the same spices it turns out now that the Pioneer Woman uses.

Hmm, Self, I said to me ... this might be the year. Never tried brining before. Always wanted to ... hm.... maybe I just will. Those Williams-Sonoma catalog people put the recipe in, you see... maybe I just will.

I've gotten pretty good at doing Thanksgiving here - all by myself - it's a little challenge I issue to me each year. I send them all off to church (only now, "all" is one husband and our bearded son), and then I cook and clean and decorate and light candles and get the table set with the snacks, and I can nearly do the whole thing without so much as getting short of breath these days. I need something to add some spice to my day, I think. Brining the turkey ... yes ... maybe I just will.

Point of view

Okay, I'll confess. I know it's mostly really silly, but I like the CBS drama "NUMB3ERS." Can't help it. I really enjoy it ... unless my son comes in while I'm watching it off the TiVo recorder on Saturday. In that case, I have to endure the comments about the director and the acting and the writing and the tech knowledge and the tech hardware and everything else about the show. (sheesh! It's gotten so a girl can't enjoy a little waste of time TV any more.)

Today, though, even I was being a bit distracted by the overeager work of the anything-but-steady cam. Seriously. The people who thought this was a good idea -- the quick cuts -- the constant movement at sea -- well, I just hope the inventors end up on roads full of potholes all the time, wherever they drive - and that they're trying to take pictures while they're bouncing along.

So today I complained about it. To my son. Who said (in a sarcastically over-earnest voice), "But it puts you right in the action. C'mon. Don't you feel like you're right there? ... Only you have four heads ... and they're all pointed in different directions."



From the Feast of Saint Luke the Physician

Every year this passage comes up at the Feast Day of Saint Luke the Evangelist, on October the 18th (in the Western calendar, anyway). And every year I vow again to someday paint the whole passage - or maybe just that one verse - onto the upper part of my kitchen and back hallway so that I can be reminded all the time - God believes in organic medicine. It's true! And since God created the medicines out of earth, the sensible will not despise them.

I like the products at New Chapter Organics at lot. And fortunately, one need not do a PhD amount of effort for finding out what medicines from the earth are good for what situation. There is more readily available information now than ever. Sure, sure, if your spleen ruptures or a car runs into you, you need an emergency room and all that modern and more conventional medicine can provide. No one thinks you can repair a broken bone with an herb compress. But hormone imbalances? Yeah - the earth's got your cure. Trouble relaxing? Visit the health food section and look at what they've got to offer you. Young adult offspring entering an adult life in a difficult enough way that you're the one with the spasms in your neck? Try this one, and get some sleep: MyoCalm P.M., by Metagenics. And for heaven's sake, don't buy your vitamins at the local big box store. It's worth it to get the real thing.

Ecclesiasticus 38:1-4,6-10,12-14

Honor physicians for their services,
for the Lord created them;
for their gift of healing comes from the Most High,
and they are rewarded by the king.
The skill of physicians makes them distinguished,
and in the presence of the great they are admired.
The Lord created medicines out of the earth,
and the sensible will not despise them.
And he gave skill to human beings
that he might be glorified in his marvelous works.
By them the physician heals and takes away pain;
the pharmacist makes a mixture from them.
God's works will never be finished;
and from him health spreads over all the earth.
My child, when you are ill, do not delay,
but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you.
Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly,
and cleanse your heart from all sin.
Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him;
do not let him leave you, for you need him.
There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians,
for they too pray to the Lord
that he grant them success in diagnosis
and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.


Three weeks!

It's been three weeks since a post on this blog. It feels like starting all over again to come back to it too. In the past three weeks I've been to another galaxy and back - that's what it feels like.

I worked at the library for nearly a full time week ... and I love love love working at the library again. Not too tired. Not bored. Not overwhelmed or confused or wishing it were something other than it is. It fits me like custom made clothes.

Then came a week of getting ready, and then came a week of Synod at the parish. The army of volunteers was a force of nature, and all the meetings and prayer offices and Mass times and music and food and transportation and logistics ... it all came together, and it was an exhausting and glorious week. And it seems that at long last I really have learned the trick of refusal. If it's not your bundle, don't pick it up. You'll hurt yourself, and the person who should be lifting it will either learn to ignore it, or will be left to wait you out or shoulder you aside. And if it is your bundle, you'll be like Mrs. Bale -- you'll have the strength of ten thousand because your heart is pure.


Heard today

Heard today on Ancient Faith Radio (the Orthodixie podcast):

When the disciples of Jesus asked him how they ought to pray, He said,

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

He answered the question. He told them how to pray. Every petition is contained within that one perfect prayer. Christians across the globe use it and have used it for more than two thousand years. They haven't used it as a springboard or a jumping off place or an outline or a suggestion, either. They've prayed, "Our Father ..."

And isn't it interesting to note that Jesus didn't say, "Just talk to me."

Look what the storm blew in

This time for me - midlife, I mean - this is the second time in life when it becomes inescapably obvious that to love is an act of creation.

The first time is on the brink of adulthood, when we must mourn the death of childhood, and try to realize that even if it was good, and we loved it, it is nevertheless gone. Loving something doesn't give the lover the power to make time stand still. You can't keep it. Love has to happen in motion.

Perhaps this is because love is a living thing - and all living things change.

The awareness bursts in like windows blowing open in a storm when it comes in for the second time. Or - it does for me, anyway. I think there may be people with battened down hatches who refuse to feel it ... and I think there are people who live in such ordinary and accustomed chaos that this storm isn't any different than any other. And, I know there are people who do not ache in every muscle and connective tissue and vein and vessel when their windows blow open. But I do.

Perhaps this is because love is a thing that must grow or die, and I always was the type to be susceptible to growing pains.

If your first awareness of mourning the passage of time happened after a bad childhood, you have two losses to mourn, though. If your childhood held love - or held mostly love, then you mourn the loss of that - but if it held pain - or if it held mostly pain, you must also mourn the lost opportunity. The Happy Childhood is now gone forever - you've aged out of the system. Your childhood was stillborn. That is a particularly ragged wound to bear. That is a wound that can become infected. Eventually, if you do not learn to clean and dress something like that, it will kill you.

But my childhood, for all its felt pain, contained mostly love. I resented its passing. I wasn't done with it yet. I knew where all the little coves and calm places were, and I knew how to get to them. And then, without my permission in the least bit, it was over. Suddenly in a new country. That's what early adulthood feels like. And the new country surrounds a body because the body is too big for the old one. You can't go home because you're not you any more. You don't know who you are. And you don't know how it is possible to be thrust into a new place not of your choosing. Don't we have to choose where we want to be? Decide something?

Perhaps this new habitation is because love is something that expands. Life tries to teach us this.

And so here I am, in the shards of glass from the broken window, in the sodden carpet and upholstery from the storm's most recent burst, catching my breath again and looking around and taking the deep breaths that precede the clean up. And this time some of the structure has been damaged. It's torn off over there, and I can see the colors of the old paint schemes and the place where I repaired it awhile back - oh - and that other time. What was I thinking? You can't repair stuff with the stuff I used for that one. Oh well. It worked well enough, I guess.

At least all those repairs and changes in color and rearrangements through the years kept this place habitable ... the kids didn't mind if this enclosure was a bit out of level in places or if the repairs were made with various oddities and bits of things.

And all of a sudden I see it. The repairs - the paint - the glass bits on the floor right now, and the papers everywhere because they were lying about when the windows crashed open this time. Slowly ... like the sun coming out from behind the clouds for a moment in the glorious, terrifying, shocking colors and air currents of the storm, illumination begins.

I know how to do this.

I know how to repair and construct things. How to make a dwelling.

For all these years, just because the babies can't be outdoors all the time and be okay, we did it over and over and over again. We changed things too. We added on. We moved things around. We rebuilt and repaired and in the middle of all of that, I turned into a person who knows how to grow and change. I learned to love.

Perhaps this is because love has an object. That is what love is. It loves something. It loves someone. It agrees to flex and bend and change - and to make safety when safety is needed.

And love knows when to open up altogether. Or ... maybe I should say, Love knows how to live through it when the windows blow open. And maybe, just maybe, Love is teaching me to live mostly out there in the occasional storm. Maybe there is nothing to fear. Not really. If I need to, I can build a shelter. I've had lots of practice.