"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature...Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world."
Ezra Taft Benson
By intense, I don't mean action-packed. Au contrair, mon ami.
It is a slow-paced book (set in a time during and following WW2), but the words are intensely poetic and thought-provoking.
I could write about a thousand different lines from the book, but this is what particularly struck me today:
"I grew up thankful for every necessity, for food and drink....When my parents were liberated, four years before I was born, they found that the ordinary world outside the camp had been eradicated. There was no more simple meal, no thing was less than extraordinary: a fork, a mattress, a clean shirt, a book. Not to mention such things that can make on weep: an orange, meat and vegetables, hot water. There was no ordinariness to return to, no refuge from the blinding potency of things, an apple screaming its sweet juice. Every thing belonged to, had been retrieved from, impossibility..."
Now the line that echoed thoughts frequented by my heart:
"There was no pleasure, for my father, associated with food. It was years before I realized this wasn't merely a psychological difficulty, but also a moral one, for who could answer my father's question: Knowing what he knew, should he stuff himself or starve?"
As a contrast,
"My mother was determined to impress upon me the absolute, inviolate necessity of pleasure....When I witnessed her delight in a colour or a flavour, the most simple gratifications--something sweet, something fresh, a new article of clothing, however humble, her love of warm weather--I didn't disdain her enthusiasm. Instead, I looked again, I tasted again, noticing.
I learned that her gratitude was not in the least inordinate. I know now this was her gift to me. For a long time I thought she had created in me an extreme fear of loss--but no. It's not in the least extreme.
Loss is an edge; it swelled everything for my mother and drained everything from my father. Because of this, I thought my mother was stronger. But now I see it was a clue: what my father had experienced was that much less bearable."
I'll give you a second.
What do you think?
I've wrestled with thoughts like this.
Life is so dang great, eh?
Do you ever feel a touch guilty for everything that you have? (I'm not saying I should. But sometimes I do.)
So what do you do with all you've been given?
Do you stuff yourself or starve?
By living for pleasure you forget to help out those who aren't so fortunate.
But shouldn't you take advantage of everything you've been given?
(Whether that be food, knowledge, friends, etc)
By living with guilt of pleasure you forget to recognize or enjoy everything that is marvelous about life.
But sometimes that prick of awareness about another's lack is what can
shift the balance. Cause someone to reach out and expand opportunities for others.
I certainly haven't found the balance in this. I think about it quite a bit though.
So maybe..we don't feel guilty at the enjoyable things in life but we recognize where we've been blessed and try to share?
Staring at a plate of food, we can recognize:
-You are so dang lucky to have that plate of food
-Not eating that food, just because someone else doesn't have food, isn't going to help anybody
-Maybe you can look into ways to help out those who don't have food
Back to the old problem of recognizing that there are sooooo many areas of life where we could help out. Where to start? How to contribute? How to not be excessive in either direction?
How to find the middle ground between stuffing and starving ourselves?
I'm sure I'm overlooking something quite simple.
Oh yeah! And the book I'm reading is called Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels. (Disclaimer: I just stumbled upon some..ahem...adult content in the book. Whoops. Just so you are aware if you wanna read it. Aaaah. Sorry.)
...Ok, ok. I'll indulge myself by sharing a few more lines from the book that I quite liked :)
"What does the body make us believe? That we're never ourselves until we contain two souls."
"Silence: the response to both emptiness and fullness."
"We think that change occurs suddenly, but even I have learned better. Happiness is wild and arbitrary, but it's not sudden." (This one is from a chapter called "The Gradual Instant." Deep.)
...I'll probably post more parts I liked sometime ha. Too good to keep to myself.
Today I am just so dang excited about all of the possibilities I have in my life!
Dang excited also = grateful.
Man life is good.
Sometimes I get stuck in a mental rut thinking how busy I am and how I couldn't possibly cram in anything else. Well. I'm deciding whatever it is I'm including in my life.
And I currently love everything I'm including right now.
(Even if my studying/sleeping time could use a little more attention ha)
Where will I be this summer? Utah? West Coast? (Romania??! ;))
--note the double chin that occurs when a smiley is enclosed in parentheses. one of those little random things about life that really makes me smile--
ok. ok. I can't afford to be in Romania this summer. But! Someday, if I really want to go, I can!
Location is only one thing rolling around in my mind.
Life is what we make it!
Ahem. Did you catch that? We MAKE it.
What do you want to make it into?
Also. Dah! (Scream of excitement: guess what?? My camera is currently stateside!!!)
I feel really spastic right now. If this post is incoherent, ha, ah well.
Do you ever like when people are around you...even when you aren't really with them?
Like...when you go skiing, you aren't stuck to another person, talking to them the whole way down. You might even split off into the woods alone and rejoin your group on the trail further down.
Even if you aren't reeeeally with them the whole time, it is fun to have them there.
Or like in the movie theaters, people talk about the "experience" of going. What makes the experience?
Super big TV or movie treats might have something to do with it. But when I think about it, I like the background feeling that you are enjoying/mocking the movie with all the other people in the room.
Of course, when the people leave the background and become super loud, it detracts from your movie-watching ha. You don't reeeally want them to be overly involved with you. Just to enjoy it with you?
I don't really know how to say what I'm saying. But there 'tis.
"It is a sad fate for a man to die too well known to everybody else, and still unknown to himself."
~Sir Francis Bacon
Last year I had a history professor who pointed out that people rarely keep really honest journals/diaries. Then he chuckled and said, "My wife is one of those really honest people in her journal."
That statement has intrigued me ever since.
Who do we keep a record for?
Our future selves? Future generations?
Sometimes I laugh at the thought that anything I write will be significant to anyone in the future.
Yet I still hesitate in writing honestly sometimes.
What if somebody does read what I write?
Part of me thinks that I don't want them to know everything I'm thinking or doing, especially when I confess my faults or confusion so often. Another part of me thinks if I'm not recording my true thoughts/doings, it is useless to write at all.
I've been pretty good at journaling the past year or so. (Great contrast to the rest of my life ha. I have many journals that are about 1/10th full.)
Wanna a tip for continuing to write? If you get behind, don't try to catch up. You won't. Move on, keep writing right where you are at. Then if you have time, go stick in inserts.
Otherwise the thought of catching up on everything you've failed to record will overwhelm you and you won't write at all.
If you have time to read this post, I suggest you should probably read or reread all of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. 'Tis a classic for a reason. This is an excerpt:
"You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, ‘Take up your Cross’—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden light.’ He means both.
(Annie Henrie's "Balm of Gilead." I love it.)
It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said , a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, ‘Be perfect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.…That is the whole of Christianity.
…things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.
I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said [previously] about Our Lord’s words, ‘Be ye perfect.’ Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you’; and as we cannot be perfect, then, if He meant that, our position is hopeless. But I do not think He did mean that. I think He meant ‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.’
Let me explain. When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother—at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.
Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentist. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin [which they are ashamed of or which is obviously spoiling daily life]. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.
…He says…’You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’
And yet—this is the other and equally important side of it—this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.’
The practical upshot is this. On the one hand, God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again.
…That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to getting going pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected) he often feels that it would be natural if things went fairly smoothly. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his ad old days; but why now?Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving , than he ever dreamed of being before.
…If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said."