Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Take a Peek

Crescent in Shutter

I've been kind of quiet in the blogosphere lately. So many things going on here.

In the past week, I wrote (and delivered) a talk called A Recorder, A Drawer and Kalashnikovs: Revisiting Grace. I thank Lynet for inspiring me. The passage I had to speak on was assigned, but it ended up converging quite nicely with some things we were discussing over on Elliptica (way back in December... glad you are patient, Lynet!).

Almost the entire week, while I was trying to get the talk done, I was still struggling with sadness. I find it very difficult to write when I'm down.

Then the weekend brought a strange mix of sorrows... the death of a friend's newborn grandbaby, a friend who was in a near-fatal accident, and the discovery that yet another of our congregants has cancer. Somehow in the midst of all this, I had been blessed with a trip to Graymoor Retreat Center... a trip I had been fussing over, kind of the way an infant sometimes fusses when it needs to nursed but instead flails around, hitting and screaming (not understanding there's milk just within reach).

I went to Graymoor and came away feeling a deep sense of gratitude. There, I wrote three pieces that I ended up sharing with the retreat group, at their request...

Against the Cedar
Holy Spirit Chapel

Now I'm tired. So please don't mind if I curl up in the sun and take a little nap.

Old Shutter photo, by J Barkat. Used with permission.

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Anonymous heather a. goodman said...

A much deserved nap.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

Been thinking of you, noticing your quiet, thinking it was a discipline inspired by Hayley Barton (and probably party was at the beginning, huh?), only to learn here how much more there was to your world. So sorry for all the many sorrows. So lifted up by what uplifted you in the gift of that retreat you didn't know was a true gift.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

thank you so much for giving us access to the talk and the 3 other pieces - they settled my soul as though it had taken a nap in a warm, sunny corner.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

Thank you. I'm sorry you've been sad; I just blew you a kiss in lieu of prayer.

I won't give my knee-jerk reaction to your talk; I'd end up being forceful out of sheer frustration (or unconscionably condescending in an effort not to be forceful) and this is a peaceful living room. Perhaps later I will think of a way of expressing it that does not start with the words "How can you possibly..." or "Of course you only say that because...".

I do like the atmosphere of your little prayer pieces, though.

12:46 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Heather.... yes, I think I will extend it a little.

Christianne... perhaps it is a discipline to pay attention to when one needs a nap, or when one needs to care for one's emotions and circumstances?

Susan... you're welcome. Settled. Yes, that's how I felt at Graymoor.

Lynet... thanks for the kiss... I caught it right on my forehead. As for your thoughts on the talk, perhaps your gut reaction is best (though I do appreciate metered language). Because what would it help for you to cover your ideas here? Peace is, to my mind, the ability to bring our differences out on the table and really struggle with them. Oh, and please don't assume that I was happy with giving a talk like that; I understand some of the grave implications.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sinclair said...

Hi! Sorry, I just saw your comment on my blog. Thanks for reading! No, I have not read the African Commentary. Who edited it? Would you recommend it? Thanks again for reading!

2:23 PM  
Blogger Lloyd Irving Bradbury said...

life blocks creation

6:41 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I look forward to hearing that. Good to have you back. It's been kind of the same over here as well, alot going on, struggles, etc. But God is good.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Eve said...

*slips in and covers LL with one of her homemade quilts-a colorful one.*

11:51 PM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

Just read your post yesterday and it hasn't left me.

Peering into the darkness with you, I wonder what in our past causes this sorrow to hurt as it does or if it is the Holy Spirit grieving inside of us as we patiently wait for that day to come—the day when this worldly sorrow will be no more.

I just clicked over to your post on the "gift of sadness" and re-visited the post on anger (had not realized the conversation went on so long, and I am stunned.) "For now I'm simply content with the gift of sadness— a sign, a fragile cone bearing seeds I need to grow." I love this.

It's a good perspective to allow God to use these emotions, these wonderful emotions as gifts, even when it hurts, as we live by revelation on what to let go and what to retain (downward rows or horizontal rows, remember?)

I read somewhere that we need to surround ourselves with a portion of beauty larger than the portion of sorrow we are experiencing. "Let you mind dwell on these things"...and when beauty is around us, in front of us, to be in the moment with it.

Van Gogh asks, "Have you ever really looked at a flower?" We can say we have, but an artist has to really see the object in front of them, ever detail, nuance, the spirit of the object, if you will. Andrew Wyeth said that only comes through drawing an object from life, that as you keep looking at it there in front of you, the meaning slips in through the back door.

(Looking forward to reading your Graymoor work, rest well in the beauty of the sun, my friend)

10:24 AM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

oh good! it is a picture of a shutter...at first i thought i was an outhouse door...so the title was a little bit...uh...confusing.

God bless you!

10:47 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

i loved your talk on Tuesday!!

10:48 PM  
OpenID spaghettipie said...

My mom used to tell me I was like a cat because I would find a sunny spot to take a nap in.

I appreciate your transparency as you walk through this particular time in your life.

1:29 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

it seems to always flow in rivers like that.... sorrow and sadness. sorry to hear of all that has been going on in your world.

please do nap... it can do wonders. :) sweet dreams....

10:40 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Kevin... welcome. Wow, that was a long time ago. I guess you've been napping too? ;-)

Lloyd... or helps initiate it.

Eve... oh, thank you. That's a beautiful thing.

23... good, good on the direction of our rows. I had forgotten that part. And I do think that sadness functions similarly, in the sense that it asks us to decide what to keep and what to release. That's what I'm trying to evaluate right now. And some of it relates to your advice of taking in beauty. To do that, I might have to give up some ruminating on the sorrowful parts of life (though not all, for there's a strange beauty in that too, or maybe in our response to the sorrows). Love the Wyeth observation!

Nancy... what a good laugh I got from your observation!!

Andrea... thanks. Not an easy one to deliver.

Spaghetti... as I say so many times, you all make it easy to share.

Blue... yes. Which means there are rivers of delight as well. Thanks for your words of comfort.

5:00 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Yes, the rest is much deserved and much needed, indeed. May you enjoy the stillness, the quiet.

Thinking of you.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

I'm glad you weren't entirely happy with giving a talk like that. More, I'm glad you can say so, without feeling obliged to claim that you are comfortable when you are not.

The reasons you give to justify Biblical genocide don't really seem quite mitigatory enough to me. I can't bring myself to think that the Rwandan genocide would have been just fine if, a few generations earlier, the Tutsis had killed some Hutus as they passed through Tutsi land. And I feel sorry for the tribes who lived in the lands the Israelites wanted, that every possible fault they might have had should be magnified and exaggerated to the point where child sacrifice on their part can be given as a reason to kill all their children.

I get that the Bible is mostly talking about acts of war; "Kill them all!" is no more than the war-cry of an Iron Age tribe. As such, it's a sign of the times. But that's why it's so hard to accept it as the work of a loving, unchanging God.

11:26 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Lynet... I understand your view, which has been and is still sometimes my own view. (Thank you for sharing it so respectfully, when I know you were fired up!)

I think what struck me about some of what I researched was the lack of positive change over time; in other words, these nations were spiraling downward not upward and it was a generational thing. So that they had shown several times over that the babies of today were becoming the baby sacrificers of tomorrow. The genocidal attitudes (trying to starve the Israelites through agricultural destruction methods) were also generational.

Like you, I think of situations like Rwanda as arguments to my own thoughts. But I also think of times in history and life when we accuse God of the complete other side of things. "Why isn't He stopping that horrible father from abusing that daughter? Why is He letting that Great and Oppressive Country act so imperialistically that it's causing famine and environmental destruction and cultural genocide?" So that I find we often accuse God for both acting and not acting. He can't win, in our estimation.

Which brings me to the place of trying to answer, "Do I trust You God? Does what I know of your essential nature and power help me out here?"

As I said at the end of the talk, I finally have come to that place of trust. This doesn't exempt me from being wise or questioning the acts of humanity, but it does ease the constant accusations against my God, who really has shown a love to me personally that I find hard to deny.

11:38 AM  

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