Name

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” No doubt that this is true but these days I am discovering the effect that a ‘name’ can have on you.

Very often the first piece of information we have about something or someone is derived from its name. We tend to form judgements very quickly so that the first bit of information, the name, is important. It can lean you in a positive direction or a negative direction. And those first bits of information can set the stage for future interactions.  

So why am I “waxing eloquent” about names? In my retirement I have undertaken, along with friends, the development of a small business venture. As a group we call ourselves, Cranstetler Crafts but each of us have our own individual selling space and inventories and individual event names. I recently decided to change mine to Arvey’s Creations. 

As I have begun the ‘branding’ process I began to notice the effect that the name change was having on me. I found that I am drawn more to the process of creating and what I am creating rather than crafting something that I believe might sell. While I always care about the quality of a piece I am finding that quality seems to have taken on increasing importance. In the past I felt more driven to get things done and tended to overlook very minor defects. But I find that I am not comfortable doing that any longer. I believe that it is because it bears my name which indicates that it is my creation. I want to be able to take pride in each and every item that I create.

Scripture reminds us that, “A good name is more desirable than great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1) At the end of the day my reputation for quality work is more important than the number of sales that I can generate. And I agree with Rachel Ingber when she says, “A name represents identity, a deep feeling and holds tremendous significance for its owner.”

Preach

I am discovering, and learning these days to deal with random thoughts and memories that seem to come at me from out of nowhere. In Sunday Bible class we have been studying from chapter 5 in Matthew within the context of holiness. At one point in the discussions I was reminded of the Salvation Army College for Officer Training and my own training experiences there. Perhaps my most powerful encounter happened to me there. 

All Christians have been called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:14) God called me to do ‘my preaching’ through The Salvation Army as an officer. I was fearful of this call for so many reasons but the greatest worry for me was that I was terrified to speak in front of people. (I was so painfully shy that as a child I would skip school on the days when oral reports were to be given.) Nevertheless, with the intent to obey Christ’s command I answered God’s call to officership.

I will never forget the first sermon I ever preached. It was as a cadet during my field training assignment at the Times Square Corps. It was bad enough that I had to stand at a pulpit and preach to a group of people in the chapel, but I also had to contend with the fact that it was broadcast outside. While the message (and the meeting in general) was going on inside, there were cadets outside handing out tracts, talking to people (about the message, etc.), and inviting folks to come inside. This assignment to preach became a powerful turning point for me.  
As I stood to read the scripture I was so scared that I was shaking all over and could barely speak—I could even see out of the corner of my eye that the bow on my bonnet was shaking! I sat down in great fear and near panic. As the next item on the program, a band selection, was taking place I began imploring God. I prayed this simple prayer: “God you have called me and I want to be here but I can’t do this without your help. Please, help me!” At that moment I felt the peace of God envelop me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. No more shaking, no more fear. The band finished playing and I stood and delivered that sermon with confidence. I even remember the opening line: “Have you ever stood in the midst of a crowd and felt completely alone?” Now I don’t know how effective that sermon was for anyone else (or the grade I received) but it was a game changer for me. God showed me very clearly that He had indeed called me and that He would equip me and help me to do the work and ministry involved in that calling. 
Not only was this experience a confirmation of my calling I believe that it was a second work of grace much like the those at Pentecost experienced. The power of that moment brought about profound changes within me that enabled me to do the work that I had been called to do.

The constant prayer of my life has been captured in the chorus of Richard Slater’s song:

I have not much to give thee, Lord,

For that great love which made thee mine:

I have not much to give thee, Lord,

But all I have is thine.

Discerning “Ought”

Another post from Lt. David Hostetler that is too good not to share. 

There isn’t much current TV that I watch these days, so if it isn’t sports I’m watching it’ll likely be re-runs on either Netflix or Amazon prime, and recently Presvytera Nora and I have been watching the old sitcom “Frasier” on Netflix. One of the long running themes of the show was Frasier’s brother Niles’ unrequited affection for their father’s live in therapist Daphne, an affection known only to his brother and father. At the conclusion of season 7, however, both Daphne and Niles admit their amorous love for one another, but only after Niles has recently married and on the eve of Daphne’s wedding to another man. What to do?

The dilemma made me think of the climax of the movie Casablanca, wherein Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick faces a similar dilemma with a married woman. They had been in love once—and seem to be again—she wants to stay with Rick rather than escaping with her husband to neutral Spain, but he won’t let her, saying she’d regret it, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” They did the right thing, not what was easy, but what they ought to do.

I thought Niles and Daphne would also, since that is how the show and season ended, but the next season began with Daphne jilting her fiancé at the altar and Niles telling his new bride that he wants a divorce. They did what they wanted, what they thought would make them happy, not what they ought to have done.

Whether or not the span of time between the movie and the TV show, and the social changes during that time are to blame for the difference is impossible for me to tell, but I am certain that modern audiences could not fully appreciate what Rick and Ilsa did, and are more likely to understand and approve of Niles and Daphne’s decision. More and more these days, as we erode every common morality in favor of individuals’ self-determined ones, we become unable even to discern an “ought.” Rather we replace the “ought,” that ideal model for right thoughts, feelings, and actions, with the self, making our ultimate aim self-fulfillment, what makes me happy.

When the self replaces the ought we are unable to value properly the kind of work we do, so rather than find joy in the work at hand that must be done, we seek more “fulfilling” and “meaningful” work. In other words, work that pleases me and makes me proud to tell others what I do. It’s no longer sufficient to see work as a means to the ends of providing for one’s needs, work becomes an end in and of itself; we are what we do.

When the ought gives way to the self we also fail to evaluate our relationshipsproperly. Rather than offering ourselves to others, we seek relationships that feed our self-esteem and avoid those “difficult” people. Rather than doing the hard work of living in community, we isolate ourselves in enclaves of like-minded people and thank God we’re not like that man over there. We hide behind our phones and computer screens, refusing to stand face to face.

Until we recognize that there is a way we ought to act, and that our self is fulfilled only in relationship with God and others, then we will continue to confuse our desire, which is disordered by sin, with our need, which is constant. Self-denial used to be a cornerstone of Christian faith and practice, now it is done if we can fit it into our schedule. The 5k this weekend will make me feel better for doing something for others. But we need the other more than we need to feel good. And we need God more than we need our self. The cosmic irony is that we only becomefully ourselves when we surrender fully to Christ first. So, the next time we find ourselves confronted with a choice, the best question to ask is not “what do I want?” or “what feels right?” or “what makes me happy?” We should ask ourselves and each other, “What ought I to do?” “What is the right thing to do?” Only with our self in its proper, subordinate state can we have healthy relationships or be truly fulfilled. Several episodes later Niles and Daphne are still picking up the pieces of relationships broken by their selfish choice. Rick walked off camera with Renault saying, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

In Two Worlds

I have spent the day in Maggie Hope’s world while putting together a quilt top. Maggie Hope is the main character in a historical fiction novel, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal. I am adding her to my favorite authors list and am looking forward to reading the next five books in this series … well, listening … as my eyes don’t let me get much reading done anymore. She has authored many more novels than these six and look forward to reading them.

It occurred to me at some point how neat it is to be able to indulge in two favorite pastimes simultaneously, reading and sewing! I noticed today that it felt as if I was slipping easily in and out of two worlds, reality and imagination. Imagine the start I received when I left to pick up Don from work and heard the news about the attack in London. I had just left Maggie narrowly escaping a London bombing and here, in the real world, London is still under siege! It almost felt as if these two worlds I had spent my day in merged together in some weird and improbable way.

Lord, I thought, have we made so little progress since Maggie’s time? Winston Churchill’s rhetoric once again speaks truth when he says that, “To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.” 

Let the Truth be the Truth

This is well worth reading.  It is my son’s latest post.  He is stationed in Okinawa and is a Naval Chaplin.

I once read a bit of graffiti that redefined the acronym USMC. Rather than United States Marine Corps, the author claimed USMC really meant “Uncomplicated Stuff Made Complicated.” It is true that any organization will over time tend to complicate things it once did simply—one only needs to look at the tax code to see that. Such complications have become so common place that it often surprises us to find simple solutions to anything, and it is the assumption that important truths must necessarily, if they are to have substantive meaning, be complicated or hard to understand that leads to elitism. There is, of course, a place for scholarship and erudition, but more and more we allow people to use complicated terms and arguments to explain why what I can see for myself to be true is actually false. The problem is with me, you see, I am incapable of understanding. It may be that sometimes things are difficult to explain simply, but often artists and intellectuals make me think of Ambrose Bierce’s poem about fellow poet Robert Browning’s style:

Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning–Sense lacking. 

Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning, save blacking.

St. John Chrysostom, I think, would agree that intellectual elitism is a problem. To him “There is nothing clearer, nothing simpler than the truth, if we deal not perversely; just as (on the other hand) if we deal perversely, nothing is more difficult.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 7:37-52; 8:12)) reading Jesus is teaching in the temple, and within his hearing are officers that have been sent there to arrest him. Upon listening to what Jesus has to say, however, they cannot bring themselves to nab him. The officers then went back to the chief priest and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” To which they answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

Jesus’ words were direct and clear, they carried meaning without need of a dictionary, and they were few. Jesus’ words had impact. They impressed people not because of his education, for they “marveled, saying ‘how does this Man know letters, having never studied?’” (John 7:15), nor because of where He lived, since some said “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” (John 7:41-42) No, Jesus’ words had impact because they were true, even if the elites could not make sense of them.

As Chrysostom notes, the officers were not convinced by syllogisms, logic, or argument, “Yet they had not heard a sermon either, but a short one; for when the long mind is impartial, there is no need of long arguments. Such a thing is truth.”

The officers, once convinced, didn’t keep the truth to themselves, either, but went back to their masters. They could have avoided the hassle and been on their way, following Jesus, but instead became heralds of the wisdom of Christ to men who wanted to complicate matters. And all because “No man ever spoke like this man!”

When is the last time you spoke such impactful truth? How was it received? Have we been impacted enough by the words of Christ to want to share them with others? We cannot use our lack of education or our address as an excuse to keep to ourselves our experience with the risen Lord. We can’t let people with lots of letters after their name intimidate us into believing that lies are true. It is time that we, as the Church, speak Truth plainly into the world around us. To do so these days will likely prompt others to say of us “No one ever speaks like they do!” At least, it should.

Redux

Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will.” (A.W. Tozer)

In many ways I feel as if I am beginning again, again.  But isn’t that grand?! Life is an adventure and I am only just beginning to realize the depth of that statement these days! I have experienced difficult times and the desperate situations of life; my spirit has soared life’s heights and through it all I have known the providential care of my Lord and God! And yet there is more to come and my ventures these days are only a small part of what the Lord has in store for me.

Now that I have “waxed eloquent,” my original intention for this page was to invite y’all to take a look at my website and let me know what you think. I would welcome suggestions on how to make it better.  And if there are any techie guys (techy? tech guys/gals) I could use your help and advise.R

Change

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their mind cannot change anything.” (George Bernard Shaw)  Well, I don’t know exactly if I am progressing…but I am making a change in this blog. I am attempting to bring it in line with my current situation.

For the past year I have been working to turn my passion for quilting, art, and crafts into a small business of sorts.  At present my sales are done at arts & craft fairs and festivals.   I am looking for ways to expand things and since I am not keeping up with this blog as I had orignially intended I am going to change this up with this blog.  I want to connect it to my life as a vendor at fairs and festivals.  I still want to keep a spiritual connection as I am hoping that as people who pick up my business card and check out the blog they will encounter the Spirit in some way.

I began doing events because I was looking for a way to “fund my habit!” Quilting and Painting ain’t cheap!  And really! How many quilts and canvas’ can you push onto your friends and family? However, I am discovering that this whole process has become a real joy for me.  First, I have the opportunity to work with lifelong friends and second, I am finding a way to become salt and light in a whole new way.  I have been so uplifted at times through the conversations with folks who come to my “shop.”  (my shop is under a 10′ x 10′ canopy!)  What a ministry is possible and where it may lead, only God knows and Him I trust implicitly!

This past year as I was beginning this venture it required a layout of funds to build an inventory and to get the necessary equipment to do this ‘job’ — purchasing a canopy for instance. By the way, did I mention that I have a wonderfully supportive and generous husband who keeps pushing me to go for it? Anyway, I am hoping that this year I might actually make a profit…..?!! (prayers please!)

All along the way I have sought God’s guidance for all that I am doing.  This is exciting as  my relationship with Him is deepening in ways I did not realize was possible.  For many years as an Officer I often felt confident of the Lord’s will and guidance.  Now I find that in some respects I am starting over in understanding which way and how the Lord is leading.  This is a whole new adventure for me in and of itself!  There are times when the way seems very clear and others when its not so clear and I find I must step out in faith.  I love it when He confirms my step but admit I find it disconcerting when He closes a door.  In all of this I absolutely love how the Lord can make life fresh and new all over again!  What an awesome God.

So, friends, pray for me and be patient as I try to work my way through this technology to get this site up and running appropriately.

I leave you with a quote from a favorite author, Frederick Buechner:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  (from A Memoir of Vocation)

 

Don’t Look Down

Taken from Fr David Hostetler’s (Navy Chaplain stationed in Okinawa) weekly message.

DON’T LOOK DOWN! Years ago I took a motorcycle riders’ safety class. One of the things they told us was to never look down, because while riding a motorcycle wherever you look that’s where you’re going to wind up. Look down and you’ll fall. This has stuck with me even after many years because it applies to so many things in life.We spend far too much time worrying about what we have done wrong and where we messed up, instead of considering what we’ve done right and for what we’re striving. So, rather than berate ourselves for where we messed up, we should look to where we got it right, using our ideals and goals to redirect ourselves and fix what is wrong. For example, the difference between those who support the recent National Anthem protestors and those who oppose them isn’t in denying America has faults; neither side denies the ugly aspects of American history. Only one, however, loves their country in spite of them, choosing to focus on positives from a fealty that could not imagine living elsewhere. The other would love America if it lived up to its self-stated ideals, skeptically wondering if it ever will and happy to go somewhere less embarrassing. Though the latter might describe the former as fallen under a blind love, G.K. Chesterton compared patriotism of this kind to a wife’s love of her husband.

 “The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else. Women who are utter mystics in their creed are utter cynics in their criticism … The devotee is entirely free to criticise; the fanatic can safely be a sceptic. Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

This Sunday we will remember St John Climacus, known as such on for his book The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John describes in detail the steps it takes to ascend from earth to heaven, and the very first step is Renunciation of the World. But he doesn’t begin to describe the world, he begins by describing God. “Our God and King is good, ultra-good and all-good (it is best to begin with God in writing to the servants of God).” No navigator can chart a course without first knowing the destination. Knowing where we’re headed we can begin to climb, but we need to always look up towards our goal. If we look down towards what we’ve left behind—like Lot’s wife looking over her shoulder as she fled Sodom—we’ll fall off of the ladder. It’s no coincidence that in the icon of St. John’s ladder there are demons flying underneath, pulling pilgrims down.

This is why St Paul encouraged the Philippians to think about “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.” The peace of God resides in such things. When we focus on them, and on Christ, then we can ascend the Ladder confidently, and we’ll begin to change our viewpoint from one who doubts our ability to climb, to one who knows that on our own we really can’t but makes the effort anyway. Like the hapless father we cry out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

The more we bind ourselves to Christ, the more we become aware of our reliance upon His grace and mercy. The more we bind ourselves to our fellow climbers the more we will be able to see what is truly there, and not what we want or imagine we see when we simply look down on them. What looks like anger may be really be pain, what looks like bitterness may actually be loneliness. What before we couldn’t see will become inescapably evident when we bind ourselves closely to others in love, then we will recognize in others’ struggles a suffering much like our own. Then we will be seeing with the eyes of Jesus, while still looking up into His face, into His image there in the person in front of us. Always look up. Never look down.

Preparing for the Battle

Weekly message by Fr David Hostetler to the soldiers stationed on Okinawa.

During planning meetings I have often heard that “amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics.” The truth of this simple aphorism is reflected by what Napoleon said, that “an army marches on its stomach.” What is meant by both is that even the most brilliant tactician cannot fight when his army is weakened from hunger, short of ammunition and supplies, and too far removed from reserves and reinforcements. I was reminded of this basic principle during training this week recounting the history of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.

While preparing for the coming enemy assault, General Oliver P. Smith of the 1st Marine Division didn’t just see to the placement of his forces, but also planned for the provision of his men. He saw to the construction of two airfields which provided a logistical lifeline that allowed for the survival and eventual breakout of his surrounded Marines. Because of his preparations and care, and his ability to keep the division together, General Smith saved it from total destruction.

The art of logistics isn’t just having plenty of stuff, it’s about having what you need where and when you need it. It does no good to ship a helicopter to a submarine, or artillery shells to an infantry battalion. We should be learning similar lessons during our Lenten journey. Are we preparing ourselves for spiritual battle by equipping ourselves with the necessary spiritual supplies?

One of those things we need in abundance is something that we learn about this week: stillness. This coming Sunday we commemorate St. Gregory Palamas, champion of the Hesychast movement. Hesychasm, from the Greek word esychía, meaning “stillness, rest, quiet, or silence,” is the practice of attempting to quiet the mind through the repetition of short prayers, most commonly the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. As through fasting we discipline our bodies,so through prayer we discipline our minds and souls. St. John Climcus speaks of this in Step 27 of his Ladder of Divine Ascent. “Stillness of the body is the knowledge and reduction to order of the habits and feelings. And stillness of the soul is the knowledge of one’s thoughts and an inviolable mind.” Stillness is important, says St. John, because “The celestial powers unite in worship with him whose soul is quiet, and dwell lovingly with him.”
And this is the goal of such stillness, to achieve the quiet peace that allows us to encounter God. St. Gregory Palamas taught that it was possible for the hesychast to experience the Uncreated Energies of God through stillness. Without such contact with God, without encountering Him regularly in prayer and through the sacramental life of the Church, we will be inadequately prepared to face the challenges of daily living. Jesus himself sought such stillness after his baptism, fasting in the desert for 40 days before beginning His preaching. The ascetic struggle through fasting and prayer teaches us that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
I pray this Holy Lent that we all are providing ourselves a robust and reliable logistics train connecting us to God. Without the peace of His abiding love it will be difficult to face the pettiness of coworkers without becoming bitter. Without the knowledge of our dwelling in an eternal kingdom we may find it impossible to be patient with the injustices we suffer here. Without moments of stillness, the chaos of life can be overwhelming. God wants to connect with us. He wants us to connect with Him. Let us make daily time for prayer and for practicing stillness, thus preparing ourselves for spiritual battle. Because the army of God marches on faith, and faith is nourished through stillness.

Somebody Prayed for Me

My prayer list seems to be growing.  Maybe it’s a function of getting old(er) and keeping company with folks even older than I.  This week I have been praying for a friend recovering from surgery and two others having surgery this week.  I have also sent prayers heavenward as I read on Facebook of friends and family who request prayer — sometimes without knowing any specifics.

The three disciplines of Lent are fasting, giving and praying.  The first two seem to go together naturally:  we “give up” something and what we save by doing that we give away. That’s the economy of ‘self-denial.’  I suppose a similar kind of thing surrounds the discipline of prayer.  Time we would spend on other things is devoted to prayer instead; but, I confess, my prayer time seems to expand or contract based largely on the length of my list or the depth of the concern I’m talking about with God.  (And I don’t keep a timer running during my devotions, anyway.)

Intercessory prayer has always seemed a boring topic to me.  I’d rather do it than talk about it or listen to others talk about it.  And here I am blogging about it.  That’s because, like I said, I’m doing more of it these days.  And it got me thinking …

First of all, the idea of intercession seems a bit cheeky.  We tell someone, “I’ll pray for you” as if that alone means something.  But apparently it does mean something.  As I have prayed aloud for a hair stylist or a waitress, her burden seems a bit lighter just by hearing someone else voice her concern to the Almighty on her behalf.

I remember when friends were going through the darkness of grief following the death of a child, they spoke of their prayer life as an enduring habit but one without warmth because of their anger with God.  They said that initially the trite assurance “I’m praying for you” seemed almost to be annoying, but by the grace of God they began to hear the words differently.  They started hearing it this way:  “When you cannot bring yourself to have a civil conversation with God, know that I am praying FOR you.  I’m praying the prayers you cannot articulate in your grief.  I’m putting words to your guttural cries of pain.”

I have come to view intercessory prayer as a way in which we incarnate Christ to others.  Truth is, human intercessors are not needed because Christ is every Believer’s Great Intercessor (Romans 8:34).  But praying for others is a way we can help bear the burden of someone going through difficulties.

And I have been the beneficiary of intercessory prayer.  My husband uses two words to describe the value of prayer on our behalf.  He says he feels “buttressed” by the prayers of others in a “palpable” way.  I know what he means — in a real way (palpably) we rely on the added strength we get (buttress) from intercessors.

If you wonder what I mean, listen to this beautiful song.

Somebody prayed for me