From the Uncreated Light

I posted specifically at Midsummer about my growing relationship with my husband when we were children, when we were adolescents, and now through the first two years of our marriage. Several of you remarked on how unique our relationship is, and I distinctly caught some tones of envy in some remarks. I'm not going to rebuke the tones of envy. I am grateful for what God has done for me, and I don't take the honour of having brought it about. That is in the almighty hands of God. What I would like to say now does, however, apply to all of you, and Lord willing the secret which I will presently divulge will be a help and blessing to you all.

This secret, like the toys of young elves left long ago under the heaping mountains, takes a great deal of digging to reach. As time progresses the mountains only grow higher, the earth more compressed and difficult to work with. A vital secret which Heaven has made manifest to mankind (and mankind and Hell have frantically tried to hush up) lies shining in the depths of reality, throwing off its facets God's uncreated light, and we are not now so young and foolish as to miss it, or to neglect searching for it.

The secret is the Essence of Love.

Among the diadem of Heaven's gems, this is the greatest which we can appreciate and emulate. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain asked, and God answered by sending his only Son to die to redeem mankind. What other love is there than this? What greater love could there be that would do such a thing? To give up all, even that primal gift of life, for another person - this is love abounding, this is love breaking its banks and laughing at the thought of constraint and contingency. Yes, you are your brother's keeper. Yes, you must love your neighbour as yourself. Yes, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.

But what is love? Is it meek and mild? Is it a protective tempest? Is it feeling? Is it constancy? What is this attribute (we know that it must be more than mere feeling) that we must possess, which must define all that we do? What is it?

The Essence of Love is to seek the good of its object.

The essence of love is to seek the good of its object. It wants nothing more (which is to say, it wants everything of worth) than to bring about its object's happiness and security. This is the nearest love will come to selflessness, though true love, by its very nature, revels and joys in itself and its work. It delights in the good of its object, it spins out silver good for its object like Grandmother Moon at her wheel, it exists to bring about and to live through bringing about the good of its object. This is love: when everything else has been cleared away from its fringes and its core is left bare, this is love: with all that it is, it strives to bring about its object's good.

Then the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.

We are not now so young (as the Green Lady reckoned young) and foolish to miss this gem. Christians believe this instinctively. Everything about their faith confirms this: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...for God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him;" and "greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Why did God save mankind? What could possibly be worthy of salvation in fallen man? These questions have peppered the ages, because we understand that there isn't anything in mankind that is worth saving, not once it has been willfully corrupted. So why? Because of love. Because God, in his ineffable council of wisdom, delighted to extend love to mankind, to seek the good of mankind - not because of any good mankind has ever done, but so that mankind might have good.

This is love, and this is love which we can emulate. I dig out this secret and bring it to the fore because I know that it has been obscured beneath layers and layers of shallow Romantic ideals and odd "biblical" notions, not to mention the whole seething wash of the world's confused, twisted definitions. I dig out this secret and bring it to the fore because I know many of you are looking for Mr Right (or Mrs Right). Personally, I don't hold to the notion of a Mr or Mrs Right, or Perfect, or whatever. But neither do I hold to the notion that you can grab any man or woman off the street and such a marriage would be peachy. There are many, many aspects of a relationship that must be developed, and I am here dealing with only the fundamental. Love is patient, not in the sense that it is kicking around waiting for Mr Right, but because it is loving. Love doesn't require a perfect match of personality, love doesn't require a strong, mature nature: love exists in spite of imperfections, and love endeavours to bring about a holy perfection in its object. If you can say "This person, of all the people in the world, is the person whose good I want to cultivate for the rest of my life" then you are in love.

It'll break your will, it'll change your mind,
It'll loose all the chains of the ties that bind,
And if you're lucky, you'll never make it out alive -
And that's a good thing. Love is a good thing.
It can hurt like a blast from a hand-grenade
When all that used to matter is blown away:
There in the middle of the mess it made
You'll find a good thing.
Yes, it's worth every penny of the price you paid.
It's a good thing.
Love is a good thing.
Andrew Peterson, "Love Is a Good Thing"

A Whitest Day

"I do" are the two most famous last words,
The beginning of the end;
But to lose your life for another, I've heard,
Is a good place to begin.

'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down,
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found.

And we're dancing in the minefields;
We're sailing in the storm.
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that's what the promise is for.

That's what the promise is for...

It's Midsummer. It's kind of a special point, don't you think? Midsummer. And it has such a beautiful ring to it. Speaking of a ring to it, two years ago yesterday, on Midsummer's Eve, this young lady was married. In our age, marrying at the age of eighteen strikes people as unwise; and, in many cases, sadly, they might be right. But being unfettered by social winds and adhering to a more biblical method than contemporary wisdom, my father and my husband's father raised, not children, but adults. So by the time I was eighteen (my husband had just turned nineteen) we were ready for marriage. We had been gearing toward it for years. This precocious child, at the age of four, had already decided that the blond bean-pole of a gentleboy was for her, so everyone could see this marriage coming from a league off.

After twenty years, though, two years doesn't seem like much: only two years of being actually married, and yet it seems like forever. It hasn't been an easy twenty years, of course. There were pockets of mines and rough patches, and my husband and I had a lot of growing to do, which is perfectly natural. I'm usually one to fixate on the traumatic moments in my life, but in these cases all those delightful moments of shared childhood and shared adolescence come to the fore. We were like Peter Pan and his shadow, one always tagging right behind the other, and always getting into some kind of trouble. It isn't often that one gets to have such a history, and to be still making that kind of history (we don't get into so much trouble now, though our childish streaks are still glaring - silly artsy people, us) and I'm very, very grateful to God for this gift.

You're the first light of the morning, my cool sunrise;
You're my love across the table, a little sleep in your eyes;
You're my strong cup of coffee, you like to laugh right with me.
You're my heart's companion, my one true companion:
Sweet darling, lover of mine.

In It's A Wonderful Life, it is brought home to the viewer how important even a single person is in someone's life. I know I would not be who I am today, nor where I am today - not even a shadow of who or where - if it were not for my husband. He has always been there for me, and he has been patient with me, and helped me grow, indulged and even shared my quirks, been "such a child!" with me, and been serious with me... I look at what God has given me in him and I can't quite believe my eyes. God's gifts are rather splendid like that, aren't they? They are all different, but each one fits perfectly. There will still be minefields, and storms (these drive us to the arms of the Father together, don't they?), and moments of peaceful quiet and ridiculous fun (these refresh the soul, don't they?) - but Lord willing we will have many Midsummer Eves to see yet side by side, and, Lord willing, each Midsummer will find us grown a little more in our Father than the year before.

"Dear heart, press on; let not husband, let not anything, cool thy affections after Christ. I hope he will be an occasion to inflame them. That which is best worthy of love in thy husband is that of the image of Christ he bears. Look on that, and love it best, and all the rest for that."

Beautiful People - Rhodri

Once a month Sky and [Georgie] will be posting a list of 10 questions for you to answer about your characters. You can use the same character every month, or choose a new one for each set of questions. Your call. You can answer all the questions, just one, or however many you have the time and energy to answer. Just go for it and have fun.

Despite his objections at being thus singled out, I've decided to introduce my principle fairy from my novel Adamantine in the June-July issue of Beautiful People. On his account I do apologize for the title "Beautiful People;" it isn't very masculine at all, though I'm sure Sky and Georgie couldn't help it.

He has gone back to reading my copy of Francis Bacon and is effectively ignoring me. Well! We will proceed, and hopefully he will talk to me by tea-time without looking witheringly askance. Ladies and gentlefolk -

  1. What kind of music does he like?

Rhodri enjoys all kinds of music. He plays both the piano and the cello, and is a fair hand at a number of country folk tunes as well as more elegant, complicated pieces. If a piece has a good sense of rhythm he is usually game to try it.

  1. Does he like to go outside?

Inside or outside, Rhodri doesn’t mind either way. Except as it impinges on others, he doesn’t really consciously mark a difference in the weather, though he could probably tell you what the weather was going to be like if you asked and gave him a minute to sniff the air.

  1. Is he naturally curious?

No, not really. He has always been a voracious student of whatever has struck his fancy, but curiosity is not among his traits. If anything, he is quite the opposite.

  1. Right, or left handed?

Rhodri is right-handed.

  1. Favourite colour?

Personally, black would probably be Rhodri’s favourite colour, if one can call it a colour. A runner-up would probably be scarlet.

  1. Where is he from?

Rhodri has come from all over the place, but his boyhood home was in Kartusca, the Garden of Faerie.

  1. Any enemies?

Rhodri’s personality is such that spawns enemies almost without thinking, and chief among those enemies he would place himself.

  1. What are his quirks?

Rhodri is probably the most quirkless person I know. He is extremely taciturn, and has a way of looking at you as if he is looking right through to your inner inside; but though he is never boring, he wouldn’t claim to have any “quirks.”

  1. What kinds of things get on his nerves?

Pookas, over-inquisitive strangers, pain, Eikin, constant damp, sugar in his tea, untoward women and bad wine.

  1. Is he independent, or needs others to help out?

Rhodri is very independent. On occasion, depending on who he is working with, he can be cross or even manipulative, but in general he can take care of himself and doesn’t often suffer anyone to lend him a hand. Perversely, he usually offers his own services first, or gives them without asking.

As a parting shot Rhodri would like to mention that this is a very narrow snapshot of himself, and not from his most flattering side. Not that he has a flattering side, except when it comes to - ack! help - !

Here lies all that was mortal of Jenny. She will not be missed.

Equality by the Divine

If you have heard of C.S. Lewis, perhaps you have heard of his book The Screwtape Letters. It's an excellent book - I've read it more than once. But I had never read the appended "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" before, though chiefly because the copy of the book I have didn't include it. Having purchased a collection of Lewis' essays which did include the piece, I sat down and began to read it.

This post isn't about C.S. Lewis, or Screwtape, or really his toast. It's about an ancient question, one which Screwtape resurrected in his toast and which got me thinking. He brought up the concept of Democracy. Not Democracy as some might think of it, as a sort of governmental structure, nor Democracy as our forefathers thought of it, as a breed of anarchy, but Democracy as a way of thinking. What is Democracy? Equality. The ability, as Screwtape put it, for a man to say to another "I'm as good as you."

The moment I say that, though, you're probably thinking, "Pfft, that's not true. I'm not as good as Lizzy, and Lizzy has nothing on Jane," and so on. But that isn't what Democracy is driving at. Of course you're not as good as Lizzy at something, and Jane is even better. Democracy demands an equality, but from the up-ended, wrong-sided view. A democratic man of this sort wants to put himself on an equal footing as a person with someone else, it doesn't matter what for - indeed, the man wants his equality with another to encompass everything.

In our oh-so-enlightened age, the idea of equality and democracy is rampant in our country. At first blush, it's a good thing. Great inroads have been made in society under the philosophical idea that man is equal to man. Slavery has been abolished, women can vote (though I'll decline my views on that matter), and the like. Equality. "I'm as good as you." We have laboured long and hard to level the stratification of society that engineered such atrocities as the French Revolution. But if you take a closer look at this societal progression of thought, you'll find out that "I'm as good as you" isn't what they are really saying. It's what they want to be saying, but if they were really saying that, they would be saying it differently. What they are really saying is, "You're as bad as me."

"Lincoln said, 'With malice toward none, with charity toward all.' Nowadays they say, 'Think the way I do, or I'll bomb the daylights out of you.' "

Democracy is a levelling, a reducing to the common denominator. Democracy of this sort is a weak, sniveling, suspicious thing getting about on its belly and hating everyone who has the manfulness to walk on his own two legs. This is Equality, that every man be as I am, no one better (I shouldn't want any one worse) than myself. Better or worse imply morals, morals imply right and wrong, right and wrong imply judgment, judgment implies condemnation. But we have no need now for such things in our oh-so-enlightened age, (wasn't it observed that God is dead, and at the hand of man?): better and worse are the trappings of a bygone era of religious fervour, and have nothing to do with today. Today is for Democracy, an equality of mind and man: and every man in his own mind is the prototype of Equality.

This is the destructive nature of Democracy in the mind of man. But what about Equality? Is that such a bad idea? What about the abolition of slavery? At its core, twinges of embarrassed conscience aside, don't we know that that man in bondage is our equal? This isn't just a mutation of human thought over the centuries. If anything, this concept of Equality has a much more prestigious parentage. But more on that in a moment.

What makes men equal? We can't go tearing folk down to our level to make them equal to us, and we can't try hauling them up to us, either. Equality doesn't come from station, equality doesn't come from skills; that has been tried, and it is impossible. At what level do you draw the line and say, "Because of this, all men are equal in the sight of God"?

I let slip the answer with the question. The answer is absurdly basic, fundamental, even primeval. It is because all men, in the sight of God, were created by God, and in his image. This is an imprint which cannot be erased, and indelible fixture of man's essence which neither servanthood, ignorance, social station, and skills (or lack thereof) can do away with. At our most basic, we are equal simply because we are Men. It underlies the core of our race, but wouldn't you say it is a rather important basic principle?

But Jenny, God is dead.

Shh, we do not really believe that. History, in all its dysfunctional revels, has anchoured its great ships of state upon this basic principle. If man were not made in God's image, and owe at the very core of his essence allegiance by existence to a single Divine, there would be no concept whatsoever of Equality. Why should there be justice among men if there were not an image of God's just person on us? Why should we be compelled to be merciful to our fellows if we did not hark back to a creation by a Person who delights in mercy? I might tantrum against society all I like otherwise, and tear people down to my level all I please (or crawl my way up to others, if I feel a little more noble) except for this immovable concept of Equality by the Divine.

"I'm as good as you." Do you hear the childish tone in the words? If you are of a sensitive nature to such things, the proclamation makes you cringe. This is because of what a decent, pure sort of Equality has done. A good sort of Equality says, not "I'm as good as you" but "You're as good as me." A really honest sort of Equality goes further and says, "I esteem you better than myself." A really honest sort of Equality upends the whole mess entirely, for the more a man thinks, "I love my neighbour as myself," the more he will think of his neighbour, and the less he will think of himself, until he may very well love his neighbour more than he loves himself. Equality, not a bad idea in itself, is a truth that moves as a spirit moves, unseen, through the depths of a man's psyche. Indeed, the more a man goes on about Equality, and announces his adherence to it, the less likely Equality will be to keep his company. "The lady," it was said, "doth protest too much."

Equality by the Divine, on the grounds of common birth by God's hand, has a way of fading me out as my esteem for my fellows grows. If we are equal, I suppose to myself, what is to stop me from esteeming others? And isn't it better to esteem others than myself? Of course, no one likes a selfish brute, a prig, an "intellectual."

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

A man who hasn't surrendered his mind and soul up to the idea of Democracy will likely put his fist on the table and say "Hear! hear!" to such a statement. No one likes a selfish brute, everyone likes a charitable heart. There is an unspoken understanding among mankind that the latter is noble, and the former is a grotesque twisting of the soul by pride. And this understanding goes far to answer the inevitable question, "If we are all equal, then why should I be my brother's especial keeper? What makes him any more special than myself? I'm not looking to having anyone cover my back, because I know I'm just as good as the next guy and I don't deserve special treatment - so neither should he." If you won't take the glaring answer, there's an answer smeared over man's mind through the centuries. We do acknowledge honourable behaviour, of giving yourself up for the sake of someone else, of putting others first, and the like. And you may, if you like, cling to an obstinate idea of Democracy and say that all this idea of Nobility and Equality by the Divine and Charity and Self-Sacrifice and Keeping One's Brother is merely a weak carry-over from the days of superstition. You may, if you like, though I should hate to be in the dog-eat-dog, grubbing, hating, swindling, sniveling, hellish world such a denial would make.

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

This Democracy is a Democracy of Ignorance, of Selfishness, of Grubbiness of Spirit. Even among the elite, the moment this barb of Democracy sticks into a mind it infects it with a degrading poison. This Equality, not of Democracy but by virtue of our creation, inspires a selflessness in its adherents - a selflessness which I shan't do an indecency to by calling it into the spotlight even now. The most I will do is leave you with the glaring answer to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Jesus, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just has I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."


and why I drink it

I usually try to post something helpful, or meaningful, or whatever. Something that folk will be able to take away and use. Not that I suppose I very often succeed, but chances are you're not going to go away with much from this post in particular. This is about tea.

If you're a coffee-drinker, don't go. I tolerate you guys too, even if I loath the stuff myself.

I'm a Southern girl, so I've grown up drinking sweet iced tea and the like. I've run into waitresses in the North who squinted at my family quizzically when we asked for "sweet tea" - "It's tea, just put some sugar in it." It wasn't until I got into highschool that I began to develop a liking for hot tea. My mother bought me a box of Twinings Lemon & Ginger and I made myself a cup of tea. I will never forget that cup of tea. Just you try steeping lemon and ginger for more than the appointed time. I could barely even taste the lemon through the ginger, and I could barely taste the ginger through the scalding sensation running down my esophagus. This smug little Southern girl with her fine iced teas of sweetness was put in her place. I could hear the shades of Twinings chuckling at me.

But I tried again. Mother got me a prim little box sporting a green and gold vista of an Indian tea-field, also from Twinings. Rudyard Kipling helped give me an intellectual interest in the wilds of India, and this box of "Darjeeling" tea struck that nerve. "Darjeeling." I could jingle it to myself all day. I tried it, and I loved it. It's a subtle black tea, rich but light, and when they say it has hints of "muscatel and honey," they mean it. Drinking Darjeeling is like drinking royalty, only without all the nasty trappings of diluted blood, bad upbringing, and scandals. Drinking Darjeeling is like drinking red velvet and damson silk. I love that stuff. Once we ran out, as stocks of anything will run out, and Mother bought a different brand. I tasted the difference at once, and I went back to Twinings the moment I could.

I'm not a connoisseur, though. I don't drink widely enough to be that. I can pick out the differences in brands of Darjeeling, but that's about as much as I can boast. I never really liked the typical teas: Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, etc. I tried Earl Grey, and it was too flat. I tried Lady Grey, and it was too fruity and sweet - the same with Irish Breakfast. English's been too long, I don't remember what that tasted like. I retreated back to my faithful Darjeeling and stuck there.

"Tea is nothing but hot water with leaves in it."

An accusation levelled at me by one of my own characters, one which I couldn't really refute. But it's tasty water with leaves in it, and we take the leaves out before we drink it, you know. Give me a good black tea, a Darjeeling or an Orange Bliss, and I'm set. I like my teas dark and strong - but without the lemon and ginger. I don't use milk, because I think milk makes tea look uncomfortably like coffee; on occasion I'll take my Orange Bliss without sugar, but Darjeeling needs just a touch of sugar to take the edge off its bitterness (but if you put too much sugar in, it tastes like grossness). I'm not very adventurous either, save in an emergency. I'll dabble in a dubious Pomegranate Delight if there is no Darjeeling to be had (I think the Pomegranate brews too thin) and I'm not adverse to Ceylon Orange Pekoe if that's all I can get.

I drink a cup of tea every morning. Every morning. I get up, put my contacts in, get dressed, and put the kettle on the stove to heat. Not that you could ever set a clock by me, because I get up at different times: I suppose that routine is my only claim to regularity. But I must have my tea in the morning. I am not a morning person, and I've been told I'm a simmering mass of murder until I can get my tea down my throat. I like to think the report is exaggerated just a wee bit. It doesn't matter what time of the year it is, or what the weather is like, tea must go on. Tea is regular, tea is soothing, tea doesn't taste like engine sludge... In fact (I almost hate to admit this) I think my body has become so accustomed to having tea in the morning that it doesn't always mind substituting it for a proper breakfast. On occasion I have had only tea before shooting out the door, and I've managed without too much agony.

On a purely emotional level, I deeply enjoy the sight of a good ambery cup of tea in morning sunlight. It's like drinking sunlight itself. This is half the reason why I skirt around and avoid green teas (also, green teas are thin and dastardly, and don't do the job): tea may be only leaves in hot water, but I want it to at least look like I'm drinking something. Tea in the sunshine. It's hard to beat that.

that is why I drink tea, because I love it