Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Dangers of Reading

Sometimes I wish I didn't read so much.
The more I read the more I find myself obligated to behave differently.

Maybe I should find another addiction hobby.

If I spent more time knitting maybe I could slide along in my life without growing on the inside. I could sit in my comfortable world, doing the things I want, being a mostly decent person with maybe a few minor faults, not worrying about Ideas and their consequences. 

If I gave up my books I could be grouchy with my family and not have Shakespeare's reproof running through my head like a song,

Fie! Fie! Unknit that threatening unkind brow and dart not scornful glances from those eyes.... 
...a woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled: muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty, and none so thirsty will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.  


If I gave up my books I could be insulted and mistreated by others and wallow in my self pity instead of having St. John Chrysostom's fiery tongue driving home the messages of the Sermon on the Mount, reminding me that it's a beautiful blessing to have the opportunity to turn the other cheek.

If I gave up books I could educate my kids the easy way with prepackaged curriculum, checking boxes and following someone else's plan, instead of consuming my time with working out the details of how education must be different if
Children are born persons
Education is the Science of Relations
Maybe books should come with warning labels:

Warning: this book has the potential to change you. Read at your own risk. 

Caveat emptor. 

If I put my books away I could avoid heartbreaking descriptions of horror and cruelty like those found in White Fang and many other books. In fact I almost didn't finish White Fang.

But I decided to keep reading anyway.

And if I hadn't finished I would have missed the beauty of his rescue and the glorious redemption of love.

If I had put away Little House I would never have known that my education was not as good as that of Laura Ingalls.

If I had put away Bulfinch I could never have truly appreciated the genius of J.K. Rowling.

Without heroes like Hector and Beowulf I would delight less in heroes like Aragorn and Gandalf.

And if I put my books away I would not be aware of those things that call me to a higher, better way. I would never know that there is more to life than just what meets the eye. Instead I would be left behind in the darkness of Plato's cave, never aware of the brilliant light which truly can burn, but which also illuminates and transforms.

So I guess I'll have to take the discomfort that invites change. The first step out of darkness into light has already been taken, and for me there's no turning back. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sasha and the Dragon

Lots of kids + a mom who loves to read + homeschooling = A LOT of books. Library books, school books, fun books, old books, new books; they're everywhere. (My dream home would definitely have a library feel.)

Fortunately there are many wonderful books to choose from, even when you're very careful to choose the best. So many children's books are treasures and they're usually just as delightful to read aloud as they are to listen to. 

There is a hugely wide range of content and it's not difficult to find beautiful books about almost anything one can imagine. My favorite children's books though, are those which bring our Orthodox faith alive; those stories which portray the sacramental nature of everyday experience are among the most valuable of treasured books.

I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to a new such book: Sasha and the Dragon by Laura E. Wolfe. Since receiving this book in the mail my children have brought it to me to read over and over and over again.

The story is simple: a young boy in a new place, lonely and afraid, who finds courage enough to face his fear and ask the Archangel Michael for help.  Simple enough, yet the lesson is profound. How many of us find ourselves faced with dragons - demons of all kinds - and find ourselves paralyzed with fear? How often we forget to call on our heavenly protectors for help. Children and adults both can benefit from the reminder that we are not meant to go it alone. And not only are we not meant to be alone, but that help will come when we ask. God does not forsake us and His servants always help those who call upon them with faith.

The book is beautifully written, poetic even, and the illustrations are gorgeous. The powerful image of St. Michael coming to Sasha's aid is one that will stick in children's minds and make its way to their hearts, to hold on to that sure knowledge that they have a protector who will come to their defense, even when they must come face to face with dragons. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Careful What You Wish For

O Thou, Who at the ninth hour didst taste of death in the flesh, mortify the presumption of our flesh, O Christ God, and save us. 
                             from the prayers of the Ninth Hour

Sometimes I have a tendency to say my prayers without thinking much about the words. It's not really a problem per se because I completely and absolutely trust the holy saints who composed the beautiful prayers that we use. However, God always hears our prayers and sometimes the answer comes while I'm busy looking the other way, because I just wasn't paying attention to what I was asking for.

If you look closely at the short prayer above you'll see what I mean. It's very easy to say those words and even easy to agree with the sentiment. But look more closely, take a minute to define some words, and suddenly it's not such a simple or safe prayer anymore. In fact it's downright dangerous if we aren't ready to face some mortification!

The same could be said for many of the prayers we pray. I have often asked for patience; it took me a long time to realize that asking for patience in prayer meant that I was going to be getting more and more opportunity to practice being patient!

It's always a good thing to ask for good things. Our God pours blessing down upon us without stint. But often we don't see the blessings because we haven't paid close attention. We get distracted by the illusion of fulfilment in this life and we forget that we're just visiting. This world shouldn't feel like home because it isn't.

...mortify the presumption of our flesh, O Christ God, and save us.