Thursday, July 26, 2007

Iluminations, part 1

For some years I have enjoyed making illuminations. Mine are far less sophisticated and complex than the ones featured in that article. But I enjoy making them and decided to share a few.
This was a very early one. I didn't even have real ink. That's calligraphy marker and watercolor.

This is just pure watercolor.

I'll have more tomorrow. (Hopefully.)

Part 2 here

Part 3 here

The walk

It is very quiet as I set out on the familiar way; only the rough scruffing of my sandals against the sidewalk, the distant roar of traffic, and the whispering of the wind in the trees can be heard. The air is cool and full of scents: pine needles, wood smoke, fresh basil, and the sweet smell of nearing rain while overhead the grey clouds come rolling in.

I mark the way by the flowers I pass. The first of any note are the lavender bushes outside an orthodontist’s office. A few bumblebees make their way from flower to flower. Next are the small orange poppy-like flowers which grow around a telephone pole. Now they are closed for the evening but I greet them all the same. A few weeks ago the next landmark would have been the opulent purple petunias hanging outside a business but they have been taken down and so there is nothing more until the very end of the route: two beds of flowers outside a bank. Quite honestly, I don’t know what a single one of the flowers here is, but I have come to know them quite well this summer and I am happy to see them again.

As I walk, I let the wind blow my skirt and my hair about. I love wind. If I wore tighter skirts and had short hair I would forever feel that I was missing something glorious. I feel a bit as though I was the subject of a Waterhouse painting, “Windflowers” or “The Tempest.” The glory of the rush of the air makes me think of all sorts of bits of poems and they weave themselves together in my brain.

Here is the destination. I go in, return the library books I was bringing back, and check out a few more. Then there is the walk home, during which I think of nothing in particular and notice even less.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Notes from the second talk

Dr. George Bebawi
Christian Witness
My Life in Christ Conference, July 13, 2007

Christianity is the revelation of God incarnate.

If you are ashamed of being human or of God, the Incarnation will be alien to you.

4 facets of human nature:
1. Free will
2. Love
3. Development (of conscience, etc.)
4. Growth

Difference between Christianity and Islam is freedom.

In Christianity, if you start with humanity, you come to God, and if you start with God you come to humanity.

Islam is slavery to the law of God.

In Christianity you are the child of God; God came to save us from slavery.

Christian witness can also be teasing and humorous.

Buddhism has as its goal the lack of self.

In Christianity we witness to the great project of being completely human; sin makes us less human.

Christ is the Lover of Mankind.

God’s greatest desire is to be in each of us.

If God is out of my life:
1. I lose the sense of infinity
2. I am shapeless
3. I lose help
4. I experience inner death

With faith in God we are able to look beyond our being.

Our modern life has succeeded in making us dependent on things outside ourselves.

Solzhenitsyn: they have taken our wives, our cars, our names, and by taking everything they have lost their power over us.

We have a center of life and if we are Christian our center of life wants to be like God.

If we lose God our center of life becomes shapeless but with God we have a shape.

Communists, Nazis, have no God and so they have no center and no aim to become like God.

God is not a Big Brother waiting for you to make a mistake to punish you.

It is a great thing to lean on God Who is our help.

When we pray we look for infinite help.

Prayer opens.

You discover Orthodoxy by listening to the Liturgy; we sing our theology.

If you want to look at the difference between religions, look at the prayer.

The death of the heart, life is dead.

You are ignorant of yourself.
You have an inability to love others.
You have a life without God.
You have the inability to forgive.
You make something material the goal of life.

Christ destroyed death by giving us life.

Protestants only know Biblical texts; they cannot go beyond them.

Most of the Lord’s teaching is in parables.

Keep your eyes on daily life; talk about God, but do it in the way Christ did [i.e., simply and by means of stories.]

We are rich in stories.

We receive the power of divine love through communion.

The secular world is full of war, violence, distrust, greed, etc. all covered up with lies.

We all seek truth.

Truth in Christianity is a person; in the secular world it is a chain of ideas.

An idea is in your head and can be replaced; a person is a reality.

Needs are the most powerful element in the secular world; they make us slaves.

It is fine to secure our needs, but not to be slaves to them.

Needs are a vacuum cleaner that suck you into secular life.

Secular life breaks us but Christ came to make us whole.

Christian witness is about healing broken souls.

You can imagine anything you want about God, but did God reveal it to you?

Sacrificial love is nowhere except in Christianity.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Of goats and names

We were invited by a family from church to go out to their property and have a barbeque last night. They live about half an hour out of the city, in beautiful country. They've got five acres which is filled with flower gardens, a vegetable garden gone to seed (Iley hurt his back at the wrong time this year), a goat pasture, a small barn, and trees. They have goats, chickens, two dogs, and two cats. I love the cats. I wanted to take them home with me, especially Mushka, who we had renamed Tweedledum. Her brother was Arkasha or Tweedledee.

When we were informed that the goats had no names, Kaitlin M and I proceeded to name them, at Iley's request. So now they have:
Harriet (Vane)
Mary (Bennet)
Charlotte (Lucas)
Jo (March)

It was a wonderful time. We played badminton, we ate dinner, we talked while standing in the goat field and staring at a bush in the middle distance. The adults drank champagne that had been left over from a wedding on Sunday.

Good friends, good food, and a beautiful setting. What more could you want?

Notes from the first talk

Relationships with God and with each other
Fr. John Koen
My Life in Christ Conference, July 11, 2007

Our relationship with God will determine our lives and our relationship with others.

We need to be sure of our relationship with God to have healthy relationships with others.

Relationship is a tie or connection.

We exist within God; He is everywhere although we cannot know God’s essence.

Can’t get away from Him even though we try [I thought of the movie and play “Wit” and the Runaway Bunny here.]

We have to look within ourselves to find God.

God must come first in marriage.

God blesses marriage.

The image of God is a given; since the Fall, the likeness of God is not a given.

Christ has called us all together; he calls us each to seek the uncreated light.

Modern churches have lost the goal of transfiguration [substituting in its place the goal of salvation].

We are called to a state like that before the Fall.

Orthodox halos are a symbolic representation of the uncreated light [which certain saints exhibit even during their lifetime].

[Uncreated light] is real and real for us.

We are called to be like the saints.

Spirituality should be real and practical.

How do we attain that state? Through the Church, not the organization, the network of believers throughout the world. West made a mistake in separating ourselves from the saints; they were ordinary people; they are still alive and with us.

“God became man that Man might become like God.” [St. Athanasius]

For those of you who are called to be married, you will find the right person.

Put God first. Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.

Joyful martyrdom and suffering.

If you truly seek God, you will find what you need.

The keys to salvation are baptism and communion; these are the strongest interfaces of God and man; we partake in the energies of God when we partake of communion.

Saul persecuted because he thought he was following God and giving his whole heart to Him.

We have to seek God passionately and intensely; you need passion and intensity to master anything [Here I thought of Dorothy Sayers: Jobs, if you’re not taking trouble with something, it’s not your job.]

Church is full of sinners; it’s a hospital searching for the Physician.

The Church is not a social club or an organization; it is an organism.

We are all called to serve, not just priests, monks, choir leaders, etc.

With the fullness of intent and desire to follow Christ.

Trusting in God is a challenge.

No false monasticism [within marriage].

Seeking actively is good, but remember God first.

Don’t let troubles fester in your heart and become bitter.

Confess regularly.

Have a spiritual friend, someone in whom you can confide.

Some things take awhile to heal; you must be patient with it and struggle on.

[Fr. John talked about saints who are special to you so I made a list of some of mine.]
St. John Maximovitch
Grand-Duchess Elizabeth
Fr. Seraphim Rose
The Royal Martyrs
The Theotokos
St. Seraphim of Sarov
St. Ephraim of Nea Makri
St. Herman of Alaska

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

I am back from the conference! I had a wonderful week filled with friends old and new, good talks, and grace. I hope to type up my notes from two of the three talks in the next few days. In the meanwhile, I've got to get back into the swing of things in the real and online worlds.

Now I'm going to go and try to get my things put away and some recipes copied into my recipe notebook!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Au revoir

Tomorrow my sister and I leave for the My Life in Christ Youth Conference in Indiana. We'll be gone until July 17th and I really doubt I'll be updating until then. The only chance of seeing me about is if I get very bored in the airport late at night. And I probably shouldn't be updating then anyway. When it's late at night I get a little weird.

I'm looking forward to the conference and looking forward to being in the Midwest again. I spent most of my life there and the West still feels a little odd.

I hope to return with book reports and maybe conference reports and thoughts and all sorts of things. Hopefully some of them will actually happen. But until then, I leave you with this thought from St. Herman of Alaska:

"From this day, from this hour, from this moment, let us strive to love God with all our hearts and to do His holy will."