Saturday, 31 October 2020
Thursday, 29 October 2020
I carved out a very little pumpkin and steamed the flesh until it was soft.
Sunday, 25 October 2020
This is a painful section to write about because I am extremely afraid of a great many things at the minute. I am disappointed in how cripplingly afraid I am just now. I read this week, in my Psalms book, that the fear of the Lord drives out all other fears, but while I believe that in my head, I am like the Poet who shakes his head despairingly at his inability to live it out and goes on feeling sorry for himself.
So here is Kierkegaard writing about the silence we learn from the natural world which retains silence, despite the whispering of the noises it may make. This silence is not my starting point; I work back to silence from my starting point of prayers, even fervent ones. And when I find myself in fear and trembling before God, my voice falls mute.
Now what I can understand is that Kierkegaard says that this kind of silence is the first place to seek the Kingdom of God, not in all the "shall I do this?" or "shall I do that" questions we ask ourselves about doing God's will. What I find difficult to accept is Kierkegaard's idea that human beings and God "cannot very well talk with one another". This appalled me, after years of being taught that God is always near me, hearing what I say. But I think I do know that all my prattling belittles an unbelittle-able God and that indeed "only in much fear and trembling" should I come with awe before Almighty God. Or might we at this point disagree with even Kierkegaard? Can we come with great respect, but also very well talk with one another?
However, coming back to the fear. This process of becoming silent is the beginning of the fear of God (which could drive out all my other fears), and this is the beginning of wisdom. And I could do with a whole truck-load of that right now.
This prayer, this "art in the ability to keep silent", enables us to listen. I'll admit that at this point all my warning bells are ringing because here comes another fear of mine, on top of all the other ones, that I may think I'm listening and hearing, but I'm remembering all the things I've done based on things I have thought I've heard, and look how they turned out? But, Kierkegaard says the bird keeps silent and waits. It waits for the moment, and it needs to stay really quiet because the moment comes and goes without herald or clamour, and the moment rarely comes for us because we can't keep silent to know it or make use of it.
But the bird knows that the moment will come at the right time and its silence shows that it believes this. And when it sees the moment come, it makes use of it, and "is never put to shame". "Only in silence is the moment." This is a very frightening thought. That it is so easy, and so common, for us to miss the moment. There's another fear then, for then we presumably are put to shame. But Gretchen, there's more: here's the next section, "The bird keeps silent and suffers"...
That's as far as I'm going this week. This is why I rarely finish a Christian book. I get to the end of the first chapter and think I can't seriously read on until I've put that into practice. And of course I never do. So, with all hope that I will continue, I am going to see if I can work back to the beginning now. To enter this winter of what seems to be global discontent with a working back from even fervent prayers to silence. Hoping to begin a holy fear that might chase out all other fears, and from there to listen, but to listen and hear aright. And yes, like the bird, I will be keeping silent and suffering. Until the moment comes, if I realise it.
I do actually need to read on from that!
Monday, 19 October 2020
How many years is it since we shared an interest in Kirkegaard? I was working two evenings a week in the library of the university close to where we live. Every now and again I would borrow books myself that jumped, not physically, off the shelves when I was doing my night's shelving. This was how I discovered Barbara Pym, and this was how I came face to face with a name I'd only ever seen quoted in devotional or theological books - Kirkegaard.
So the book that I borrowed at that stage was a biography, because I thought that I would understand his actual works better if I knew his story. I suppose, in retrospect, that was an avoidance tactic, but I certainly didn't expect to find myself still embroiled in avoidance most of ten years later! You however, with the genteel erudition that I adore in you, got straight down to the words themselves. Certainly a lot straighter than my circuitous meandering has been.
I know that we decided to read this one together, relatively recently, and I really did start off with great gusto. But as soon as I met the Poet my reading became slower and slower and that first attempt struggled to get even close to the end of the first section! So this is what I've decided:
Every Sunday (though it's technically Monday here now...) I'll tell you what I've read thus far.
This is the perfect book for Lockdowns, and right now we are into Lockdown: the Sequel in Northern Ireland. Kirkegaard promises that we will learn what we need to be human, and this will be something impossible to learn or be remembered in the throng. We need silence, obedience, and joy. All three of these have already been topics for consideration since March for me, as has the command not to worry about having what we need. So, the opening of the book has been very exciting, twice.
The Poet floored me. On my first reading I began to feel that Lockdown (or perhaps Menopause, or indeed both) had robbed me of all ability to read intelligent prose.This time I have been reading the book out loud to myself, deliberately imagining myself reading a story like a mother to a child. Taking the words slowly has helped, as has the implication to myself that this story is rich and worth following.
And so I found myself finding myself in the Poet at exactly the same time as I found him deplorable. This self-pitying person who nonetheless took pleasure and attention from their self-pitying. This believer who believed for a glorious moment but not in any way sustainable enough for the belief to be allowed to make a change. This professed seeker who fooled the earnest, but found nothing.
I want very much to be like the child, but I want my wanting not to be the transitory wanting of the Poet. I want honestly to be like the child who wastes no time in doubt or disobedience, but who accepts what is presented to them, and can then move on having all other time "for play, for enjoyment, and the like". There are issues just now that are frightening to me, and I want my faith not to be the self-pitying, attention-seeking, short-lived faith of the Poet, but the trusting, simple faith of the child who accepts, moves on, and enjoys.
So, Gretchen, I've got as far as the urgent exhortation that I should believe this fully and act now. This is earnest. This acceptance of God's imperative to consider the lilies and the birds is earnest. This Gospel is earnest. Our "most irresistible invention does not cause it to smile". Lord, help my unbelief, and teach me to play joyfully and sustainably in your lily field.
Sunday, 4 October 2020
I told him to take back three of the jars, thinking I'd ordered them by mistake. But he re-appeared at the door ten minutes later. It turned out that I had only ordered one jar, so because it was easier he told me to keep all four. That was more free food, albeit much less Godly!
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