Decide to live…

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Sometimes living is hard.

Decide to live today.

Decide to let a deep breath fill your lungs, and call it a good thing. To breath. To be alive.

Decide to eat. Notice how foods feel and taste. Notice the cracking in your ears when you swallow. Think about how often you have to eat, and what a strange thing eating is. Laugh at your own creatureliness.

Decide to speak to someone. Notice how their face changes as you talk. Think about what strange and wonderful things humans are. How bizarre speech is; these sound waves we make with our little pink mouths, meaning something to the people across from us. Perhaps even meaning something kind.

Decide to see something beautiful, and acknowledge it for its loveliness. Be thankful that for all the ugly in the world, this beautiful thing exists… and you get to see it!

Decide to work on something today. Clean a kitchen. Pull a weed. Make a pot of soup. Marvel at your own productivity; well done, you! Your work can make things happen. What a marvel! What a gift. Remind yourself that you are valuable and able to shape your world.

Decide to think today. Chew on an imponderable idea in your little mind. Chase its syllogisms, muse on its images. Stand back and applaud your intellect, because its your gift. Acknowledge it as a mystery, and know its limits. Thank God you have a mind.

Decide to pray today. Embrace your finitude. Lift your eyes and your heart to that, and whom, you don’t understand. Be quiet. Ramble. Take off your shoes. Bow your head. Lift your eyes. Say, “not my will, but yours,” and release all that you have, the good and the bad, into hands more capable than yours.

Decide to love today. Pick one person. Be glad they exist. Think about what is good and lovely in them; tell them. Wish the best for them. Bless them.

Living this old life can be hard. But good. And beautiful. And above all, meaningful.

But it is our gift.

So, decide to live.

Today and every day.

Peace from Bonnie ole’ Scotland,
Joyness

 

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Little thoughts on integrity and fear

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The real grief of this election will be people compromising their integrity out of fear.

The world sometimes feels wild and out of our control.

And the truth of the matter is that most of the world is out of our control. Much to my chagrin I cannot control the world, the weather, the election, or my next door neighbour. And sometimes it is very frightening. When I don’t turn my face away, I can see the unfolding future of a world I can’t control, no matter who we elect. And fear bubbles up.

We fear what we cannot control.   

But I am in control of my integrity, my choices, my love. The choices I make will shape my world, as small as it may be. And they will shape me. And your choices will shape you. Each individual’s choices shape their world, creating ripples that will become waves that will become culture that will become history.

So I will guard my integrity fiercely because it is the one thing I can control. It is one thing a candidate can neither give nor take away from me.

My admonition to you, as to myself is this: do not live (or vote!) out of the fear of what you can’t control, but out of the integrity of your heart that you can.

So, there are my little thoughts.

Peace,
Joy

The Stories We Tell…

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St. Andrews Cathedral graveyard just outside my front door… So many stories are represented here.

I went to a seminar last week on the long lost memoir of Warnie Lewis (C.S. Lewis’ brother).

It was very informative

The lecturer rifled through a fat book of their personal letters, coming to well reasoned conclusions about the life and legacy of the brothers. She reminds us that Warnie was an author in his own right. She told us the story of Warnie’s conversion.

The questions began. What was Jack’s personal devotional life like? Warnie’s? What were theological beliefs the Lewises held but didn’t express publicly? The fellow in the green shirt in the corner questions the nature of Jack’s relationship with Mrs. Moore…was Warnie jealous? There is conjecture about whether their crazy school master was nicer to Warnie or Jack. It was Jack. Definitely Jack.

And then there was Warnie’s alcoholism. What was the cause? Was it the war? His mother’s early death? His natural temperament? Mrs. Moore? His relationship with his father? Wearily, we piece through the unearthed tapestry of their story, trying to follow faded threads.

But there were lovely bits too. The cheerful letter Jack sent to one of his Goddaughters on the day of her confirmation, and the playful jab at sending her the only kind of magic he seemed able to wield… a five pound note.

I walked home alone after that seminar. As the wind with its new autumn chill numbed my nose and tossed my hair, I wondered what the brother’s Lewis would have thought of all of us, sitting around with scholarly faces, engaging in the dialectic method about every detail of their bachelor lives. Did Jack ever feel, in the living of it, the weight his own life story would carry?

What a strange and wonderful thing to see a life laid out like a story at its end. 

And then it struck me, like the blast of wind from the north sea I walked along:

My story has already begun. 

Some of the ink on the pages of my life is already dry.

My story won’t begin someday in the future. 

It won’t begin tomorrow.

It didn’t begin yesterday.

It began in a day I can’t remember, and stretches out before me till days I can’t see.

What story am I telling with one life of mine?

I wonder, in a hundred years, what a room of scholars bent over my journals, letters, and Facebook messages would come to think of me. If I’m honest, that’s actually a sort of horrifying thought. But I do not feel tethered by the opinions of such hypothetical people, and it is unlikely that not one will study my life like that. But, I think of the children I hope to have some day.  I think of being old with my siblings, and looking back on life. I think of meeting God. And I wonder… what story will I have told with these few earthly days of mine?

The stories we tell with our lives matter. 

We need look no further than the news cycles of the past week to confirm that theory.

Decisions.

Habits.

Attitudes.

Secrets.

Sins.

Words.

They compound over the years, and give your story a colour, a shape, a taste. An aroma. A stench.

Choices have real impacts that cannot be wiped out with flippancy, forgetfulness, or bluster.

As my mentor often told me… God forgives, but wisdom doesn’t.

The repercussions of our decisions, good or bad, echo into our lives, and the lives we touch.

This election season has played out like a morbid, almost comic, depressing moral story. It’s really quite distressing to dwell on. It is a wreaking mess of poorly told stories, and people trying to shake or ignore the sin that has shaped the story of most of their adult life. Sin that chases you down even after 10 years.

As I’ve contemplated the sorry affair we find ourselves in, I’ve come to this: I alone can’t fix the government, the candidates, the country, the state of global affairs, this school, the Church. I am limited in my scope of influence, but this I can determine: the faithful telling of my own story.

The reform I see as necessary in my country, and indeed in my world, is a reformation of character. Policies, spin, social reform, none of it will make a difference if each individual is not living a well told story, doing what is right though it hurts, renouncing evil and perversion, celebrating kindness, goodness, and justice. Real change only comes through repentance; the turning away from the Bad, and towards the Good. The plot must shift, the characters must decide. The story must be told in years lived, not in hasty words said.

And so, with each decision I make, habit develop, attitude I allow, secret I keep, word I say, vote I cast, I hope to be telling a story of faithfulness and humility. One that I will be proud to tell my children, and reminisce about with my dearest friends. One I hope is honouring to the Jesus I follow.

It was strange and wonderful to see the Lewis brothers’ lives laid out like a story at its end.

But it was a good story they told. 

And, Lord have mercy, may I tell a good one too.

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

(Psalm 90:12)

 

 

Dating and Courtly Love : 5 Helpful Tips

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Romance. 

That desire and bond which ever culture seems to value.

Love, true love. 

That tricky, smoggy ideal we all awkwardly stumble around in pursuit of.

Dating. 

The unfortunate cultural fallout of a society without an agreed upon romance manual, comprised of unspoken social constructs developed mostly from Taylor Swift songs, the 60’s, Coca Cola ads, that one weird book you read in high school, and the fall of humanity.

And so we find ourselves in the social dance that no one knows the moves to, stepping on each others toes as often as we accidentally fall into each others arms. Stepping in love as often as we fall in it.

There must be another way!

And so I propose turning back to the old, the tried and true, the Manner of Courtly Love. 

After studying Courtly Love in my graduate course this week, I’ve decided that it has the best advice which I will now follow unquestioningly.

And so I present to you 6 ways that love may be acquired, as set out by the twelfth century love sage Andreas Capellanus.

1. Be extremely, very, very good looking. 

Capellanus’ first way to win love is simply to be, or look for someone who is, just golly old darnit attractive. Capellanus notes, “A beautiful figure wins love with very little effort.” And really, what could go wrong here? Could there be a more common sense way to find love than to base your affections solely upon physical attraction?  If you are wildly attractive, Cappellanus also particularly recommends finding a simple (read: stupid) lover, because they’re happy to settle for a relationship based on looks. I quoth, “A simple love thinks there is nothing to look for in a love besides a beautiful figure and face…I don’t blame such love.” In such happy cases, you can go on being attractive, your love can go on being simple, making you one happy, shallow couple.

And what more could one ask for, really?

2. Have a good character because that’s attractive… I guess. Sort of. 

It is, of course, impossible to be both of good character AND attractive. And so, if you feel unconfident about your looks, forget trying to find an inner sense of value and beauty, or developing in confidence, just be a good person. Afraid people won’t like you just for your “nice personality?” No fear. Capellanus reminds us that, “A well instructed lover does not reject… an ugly lover if the character within is good.” Isn’t that comforting? And also a great and totally not problematic reason to be virtuous?

3. Talk a great deal and with many anecdotes which will inspire and enlighten your future love.

Being of “ready speech,” is in Capelanus’ mind meritorious of love. Ready speech, as far I can discover is the general proclivity to say nice and funny things, and to talk a lot. Sorry introverts. But this also applies to being a generally socially mature human. For instance, Capellanus recommends the following for men: “After the man has greeted the woman, he ought to let a little time elapse, so that she may, if she wises, speak.” This is good advice. It gives us women the momentary illusion that you care about what we think, which is very nice. So, being ready to always say witty things is good for winning love, but so is not saying things. It’s really a toss up.

4. Be wildly wealthy.

Mr. Darcy? Romeo? Cleopatra? Queen Victoria? Rochester? They all had one important thing in common: they were out of this world rich. Now, Capellanus notes that this is perhaps not the most advisable reason for falling in love. However, it’s worth noting that, “I know from personal experience that when poverty comes in, the things that nourished love begin to leave.” One might wonder if this perhaps says something about the nature of the commitment and quality of the relationship. Would a real love relationship not grow with each difficulty it encounters?

Nah.

It is a clear sign that wealth encourages love. Or at least, as my grandmother once said, it is no harder to marry a rich man than a poor one.

 

5. Be desperate:

What more needs to be said? Join the teeming masses. A great aid in obtaining love is a “readiness with which one grants what (love) is sought.” Basically, don’t be picky. Have in your mind the attitude which approaches each person you meet with this question: are you my boyfriend? How about you? No? Maybe you?

Again, one can hardly imagine where this might go wrong, or how it is indeed a way love might be acquired as it sometimes appears desperation is repelling. Well, I guess my advice is just to not ask too many questions and stay desperate.

And there you have it! The five ways to acquire love. If only E Harmony had told you it was so simple. 

It must be noted that Capellanus is doubtful of the last two ways of acquiring love, going so far as to say we should, “banish them from the court.” All things considered, I think this is an overreaction. I mean, what does Capellanus think those of us who are not extremely, very, very good looking are going to rely on? Our good character? Pfft!

And, so these are Capellanus’ ways to acquire love.

Do let me know how they improve your love life.

Tune in next week for more helpful Courtly Love tips like what kind of flowers to bring your beloved and how to woo a courtly lady from France.

Over and out…
Joyness