Reading Challenge

Saturday, February 11, 2017

               

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 21 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: Archimandrite Tikhon related an account in which he and Father Raphael were in a car accident. Very late one snowy evening they were racing homeward from visiting a friend when their car swerved off the road and into a deep wall of snow. After they managed to clamber out of the car, the following conversation was had: “’Father!’ I [Archimandrite Tikhon, he was not an Archimandrite at the time.] exclaimed, shivering throughout from fear as well as from the bitter cold. ‘How could it be? We will die like this! Maybe we ought to pray somehow? But what should we ask for? Lord, help us drag our car from the snow? Somehow it doesn’t sound right!’

Father Raphael suddenly looked at me so severely that for a second I forgot about the cold. ‘Shame on you, Georgiy Alexandrovich!’ he said indignantly (Father Raphael always called me by my secular first name and patronymic, my name before ordination). ‘How can you possibly doubt that the Lord will not aid us in such a moment? Pray for help at once!’”

How often is it that I fail to pray to God for something because I am embarrassed, or I believe it to be petty/trivial, or I think it doesn’t sound right? Is this not a lack of faith? An absence of understanding about the depth to which God loves each and every soul?

I believe it is also a product of dysfunctional upbringing. I am afraid of Him saying no, because I fear that means I have angered Him or made Him not love me anymore. As a child I feared upsetting my parents, whether it be angering or saddening them, because I was taught by their words and actions that their disapproval meant they didn’t love me anymore, and that I was somehow responsible for that.

That isn’t who God is. We may ask anything of Him! The important thing is that we are always open and desiring His will, even if it is in opposition to what we ask. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking Him for what you want or making plans, as long as you remain open to them changing to His desires and plans for you.

As a child I learned not to trust, not to talk, and not to feel. That isn’t what God wants for any of us. He wants us to trust Him, to talk to Him, and to feel our emotions. No matter how much I have been hurt and learned not to trust, I know in my head that He is not the one who hurt me, nor did He desire me to be wounded the way that I was. Humanity can TRUST Him. He truly only wants our benefit. Now I just need to get my heart to truly feel that.

 

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: This is the final post about this book, as, sadly, I have finished it. I am looking forward to starting Wounded by Love very soon.

Reflection: On the final page of this magnificent book there is a paragraph that I would like to share; it is a wakeup call, I feel, to just how much God is involved in our lives:

“One ascetic monk once told me that every Orthodox Christian could relate his own Gospels, his own Glad Tidings about coming to know God. Of course, no one would compare such testimony to the books of the Apostles, who saw the Son of God alive on Earth with their own eyes. Yet still, though we are frail and feeble sinners, we remain His disciples, and there is truly nothing more beautiful in this world than the contemplation of the remarkable unfolding of the Providence of our Savior in His divine will for the salvation of the world.”

We could not last millionth of a second without God. The entirety of creation would collapse and be no more if He took His hand from us for even a blink of the eye.

No one on Earth has not experienced God. It is an impossibility, for if they had never encountered Him, they would never have been. When I look at my life I see many extraordinary things, many miracles and graces. Yet in ordinary moments I somehow feel alone.

This is not because God is not with me, for, as I said above, if He weren’t then I would be no more. But rather because I want to believe I’m alone. I feel horribly embarrassed and awkward for hours every time I realize there is a Guardian Angel with me 24/7, let alone the Almighty!

He is watching humanity, every second of every day, and we need Him too. One day, I hope to be a healthy enough person to not feel that as a burden, but rather a blessing.

I think, this too, goes back to my childhood. I spent the vast majority of it on pins and needles around my parents, terrified of doing anything to upset them in the slightest. Scared to feel rejected for being myself, or for innocently making a mistake. As a result, I am having to learn that God is not my parents. That His watchfulness is not reproachful.

I believe God gave humanity parents so that each person could grow up with an earthly, tangible example of His unfailing love and acceptance. He wanted us to learn that when we err we are not lost, but that we can always return; and, when we return with humble repentance, there is nothing but love awaiting us.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

 

Antiques at Home by Barbara Milo Ohrbach –

Report: 12 pages read in the hour; not sure I made it a whole hour.

Reflection: “It is the loveliness of little things that imparts life to a room,…” Isn’t that a wonderful thought? So poetic and beautiful. It inspires me.

That was the first half of the first line of the first chapter in this book, which was all about ceramics. I now know the difference between pottery and porcelain. Though, when you say one of those words it calls to mind a different image than if you say the other, I wouldn’t before been able to verbally define the differences. Now I can.

Pottery is formations of baked clay. They are heated in kilns or sundried and, without glazing, are porous. The color achieved after baking is due to the makeup of the clay. I believe earthenware describes pottery of a reddish/brown hue, stoneware describes pottery of a grey color, and creamware describes “cream” colored pottery.

earthenware

Turkish Earthenware

stoneware

Stoneware Churn

creamware

English Creamware Shallow Form Chestnut Dish and Cover

Porcelain/China is often made of kaolin. It is not porous, is very hardy, and comes in two kinds: hard paste and soft paste. Hard paste porcelain has been produced in China for centuries. Once it became popular in Europe, European manufacturers began producing porcelain. However, they didn’t yet know the correct formula so their creations were very fragile, thus called soft paste porcelain. Eventually they got it right, and Europe was able to produce its own hard paste porcelain.

hard paste porcelain Z&K Antiques; 18th Century Bow Musican Triangle Figure Hard Paste Porcelain

Soft paste porcelain

Fine Spode Antique English Soft Paste Porcelain China Teapot Blue Willow Gilding; based off of my past reading, I would venture a guess that the Orient inspired design on this teapot was chosen to mimic the designs of the imported porcelain that was selling so well.

 

A Piaget Primer How a Child Thinks by Dorothy G. Singer and Tracey A. Revenson –

 

I’m thoroughly enjoying this book. It’s not written in Scientific Journalism style so it is much easier to get through and understand than the previous Child Development book I read about Piaget’s theories.

I find his approach to his experiments very pleasing. I feel as though many scientists approach their research in a very dry manor, but, at least based off of what I’ve read, Piaget approached his work much more realistically. His experiments have a very real-life, organic, and empathetic feel to them. By that I mean to say that I feel him caring about people when I read his experiments and the theories they spawned.

“Believing that children’s spontaneous comments provide valuable clues to understanding their thinking, he sought a less-structured method for collecting answers to intelligence test questions than a formal test allows. Using a standard question or set of questions as a starting point, he followed the child’s train of thought and allowed the questioning to be flexible. If a child was confused, Piaget could repeat or rephrase the question; if a response was incorrect but intriguing, he could pursue the point further…Piaget was not concerned with whether a child gave the right or wrong answer, but rather what forms of logic and reasoning he used.”

I feel so convicted when I read his studies. How often do parents worry more about the answer than why the child gave it? Inflexibility is so selfish and therefore, unloving. I’m not saying I don’t believe in the value of structure, but structure for structure’s sake can be so sinful. When we have children and we become rigid because it makes US feel more in control and thus comfortable, we are not loving but rather hating our children!

Parenthood is SUPPOSED to be fall on your face, dead from emotional and physical exhaustion hard. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. I think many people create structure in their lives, which is really an excuse not to bare the God-given cross of parenthood, and excuse it saying that the children really do benefit from it somehow. But they DON’T! Not if the only reason for the structure is that it makes Daddy and Mommy feel better.

The irony is, it actually makes the parent’s life harder. This is because structure is not love, so the child who is being forced into a structure so that they don’t “upset” Daddy and Mommy does not feel loved, but rather rejected. And when a child feels rejection they act out, and then Daddy and Mommy have to either ignore the child completely, or spend even more time trying to untangle their mess than they would have if they had allowed themselves to be uncomfortable and not made the tangled mess in the first place.

It really makes sense when you think about it. We are called to live in love, because that is God’s way; and God purposely designed the parent-child relationship to break down the parent completely. He wants us to shed all of our sinfulness, all of our selfishness, all of our pride, so He gave us children.

How often is it that we look at God’s way and  we think to ourselves, usually subconsciously, “That’s too hard; but it’s what God wants of me so I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it the way I think is best.” That’s what structure for structure’s sake is. A parent looks at the task before them, the LOVING rearing of a child, and they think, “That’s a lot, I don’t have that much to give and I will be depleted at the end. So I’m going to make structure to give myself the illusion of control and ease.”

We must always remember that God never gives us more than we can handle. This means that we have no excuse but to live the way HE wants us to, because He knows where the real end-of-our-rope is, and if we are truly living in love, He won’t let us reach it (that isn’t to say that if we are insistent upon our own will He won’t let us have our way and get ourselves into more than we can handle).

That means giving ALL of ourselves to our children; especially their freedom that makes us so uncomfortable. Freedom to ask any question and demand an honest answer. Freedom to express pain and anger and expect comfort, support, and protection. Freedom to feel secure in the knowledge that their parents will NEVER deny them their time, emotional connection, energy, and/or physical assistance because they are “tired” or “working”. Freedom to demand their parents ACTUALLY CHANGE WHO THEY ARE.

Having empty inflexibility is just the parent selfishly withholding a piece of themselves. We know that when we sin it affects EVERYONE on the planet because of the Spiritual Life. So when we are selfish, if it reverberates around the world, how much more does it shake, and ultimately tear down, those closest to us?

 

Piaget’s 4 Stages of Child Development are as follows:

Birth to 2 YRs, Sensory-Motor Stage

2 YRs to 7 YRs, Preoperational Stage

7 YRs to 11 YRs, Concrete Operations Stage

11 YRs to 16 YRs, Formal Operations Stage