Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lavender, one of God's great gifts

“Aromatherapy is one of nature’s many gifts. Whether that gift comes from rose petals, peppermint leaves or juniper berries, we are all touched, in some way, by the quiet fingerprint of plants.” Patricia Carol Brooks

For the past three years  I’ve tried to grow lavender.  However, our thick WV clay isn’t very conducive to the needs of this aromatic plant.  Still, I would come home from the nursery with my little black container holding a few tender shoots.  And each time I would transplant it into a sunny location with well-drained soil and hope for the best.   I watered and fed it and then sadly watched it lose its color and fullness.  I’ve never claimed to have a green thumb....but I am determined.

Last summer I bought more lavender only this time, instead of putting it in the ground, I placed it into a large pot with lots of rocks at the bottom to facilitate good drainage.  I put the pot on my front steps in full daylight and, truthfully, didn’t tend to it much.  I did water it occasionally.  The plant grew and the kids and I enjoyed the fragrant leaves as we sat and talked on the front porch.  As fall and winter came, I’m chagrinned to admit that I left my lavender and sage on the front steps, without shelter, to fend the elements in their pots that had become too small.    In hindsight, I should’ve taken a photo of the lavender under the weight of several inches of snow!

Imagine my surprise this March when I realized that this bushy mature plant had not only survived the winter, it appeared to have prospered.  I removed the stemmy growth, the oak leaves that had covered parts of it and gave it a new, larger pot.  Hmmm...maybe there’s a lesson in all that.  Maybe we’ve got to weather some storms to become resilient.

The reason I’m so fond of this plant isn’t only because of the aroma, but it’s properties in healing.  Aromatherapy snagged my attention some 11 years ago and I still enjoy reading about various plants and flowers as used therapeutically for the healing of body, mind and spirit.  The virtues to be found in certain plants became evident to me when, after reading a book by Colleen Dodt, I tried using the pure essential oil of lavender on my skin.   For minor skin irritations, blemishes and sunburn, you can’t beat it.  The cytophylactic (cell-protecting)  qualities soothe the skin and aid its repair.  Lavender is also found to be antifungal, antiseptic, antidepressant, calming, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.*  And it’s one of the few essential oils you can use “neat”, or, undiluted.

For anyone interested, I recently found two informative websites regarding aromatherapy:

Aromatheraphy Thymes (magazine)

and an extensive aromatherapy website called Aromatherapy at Home.

*Information taken from Colleen K. Dodt's, "The Essential Oils Book"

*top picture of lavender farm found in public domain, Wikipedia. Bottom picture is our growing lavender! =-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day

Thank You...

To the men and women in uniform who have served and currently serve to protect and defend this nation.

To the moms and dads, sisters and brothers who have watched their loved ones leave comfort to serve our country in hostile places.

Thank you...

For preserving freedom, for allowing me to worship anywhere I choose without fear of the government.

For establishing and preserving the freedom that allows my voice to counter the liberal media.

For preserving a Great Republic, which keeps our nation free of tyranny.

For protecting a nation where one may be born into poverty yet die wealthy.

For defending a nation whose people may protect themselves by the use of arms.

Thank you...

For building the infrastructure in war torn countries.

For starting schools, caring for orphans and the elderly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For selfless sacrifice on the battlefield.

For delivering food, medical supplies and clothing to disaster struck peoples.

For your care of the animals, the often forgotten victims in war torn countries.

Thank You for defending America, whose people are among the most generous on the earth, giving billions annually in charitable donations around the globe.

May the Lord bless our President, civil authorities, armed forces and freedom-loving people everywhere.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eucatastrophe: Perfect Hope

I’m reading Thomas Merton’s No Man Is an Island, a collection of spiritual reflections for the Christian believer.  His chapter titled “Mercy” is singly worth the price of the book.  I could scarcely read past the first paragraph as it kept drawing me back, prompting a closer look, a longer consideration.  A few sentences there with nuggets of wisdom  prompted memories of something I’d learned about my hero,  J.R.R. Tolkien.

Merton wrote:

“We learn to know Him, now, not in the “presence” that is found in abstract consideration -- a presence in which we dress Him in our own finery -- but in the emptiness of a hope that may come close to despair.  For perfect hope is achieved on the brink of despair when, instead of falling over the edge, we find ourselves walking on the air.     ...So we learn to expect His mercy  most calmly when all is most dangerous, to seek Him quietly in the face of peril, certain that He cannot fail us though we may be upbraided by the just and rejected by those who claim to hold the evidence of His love”

That’s it.  “ we learn to expect His mercy most calmly when all is most dangerous...”  According to those closest to Tolkien, his friends and biographers, this idea was central to his writings.  He believed our English language was missing a word, which he coined “eucatastrophe”,  defined as the unexpected turn from bad to good.    When we teeter on the brink of despair, perfect hope is what enables us to go forward with our eyes fixed on Christ.

Maybe the fact that Tolkien had to coin the term speaks to our weak human condition.  How easy it is to fall prey to pessimism, doubt and despair, the downward spiral that shrouds our spirit in darkness.  And then to justify and define that outlook as ‘realism’ is the seal of Satan; how he enjoys manipulating mankind to believe his falsehoods.  Tolkien believed despair was not so much a weakness of man, a theological problem, as it was a mistake, for no one knows the future, no one can see all ends.  Eucatastrophes happen.

Perfect hope walks through the mists knowing the Creator provides the footing.  It’s the seed of all courage, ...the rock of Christian martyrs.

And so it is to Professor Tolkien that I owe my gratitude for growing my understanding of this spiritual truth through the weaving of his tales, the sharing of his heart.   As I take notice of all the mismatched threads and knots of my journey, my canvas,  God has used Tolkien to give me a glimpse of the tapestry on the other side.  

Here is a snippet of video (you can find anything on YouTube!) with thoughts from Brian Sibley, Tom Shippey and John Garth on the meaning of "eucatastrophe": 

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

A little chuckle, courtesy of my favorite crab.

And, in case you haven't seen her site,
Check it out anytime you need a good snicker ;-)

Wishing you all lots of love and laughter this Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Painting with light

Recently I was playing around with my camera, trying a technique new to me called painting with light.  I knew I wanted to experiment with candles and thought our standing cross would also provide impact.  I set everything up on an end table, placed my camera on a tripod and set to turning off all the lights and shutting all the doors to eliminate all light sources.  With cable release in hand and a mini pin light, I opened the shutter for 15 seconds while dancing my little flashlight around the cross and candle holders.  This experiment went on for a good 40 minutes as I became inspired with each new frame.

I’ve posted my two favorite exposures and as I contemplate the one with lit candles, I can’t help but think of something I wrote in my apologetics notebook several years ago: “we humans are called to create an atmosphere conducive to miracles”

Healed by the Light

I had been studying the miracles of Jesus, particularly the story of Jairus’ daughter (St. Matthew 9:18-26, St. Mark 5:21-43 and St. Luke 8:41-56) and the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak (St. Mark 5:28).  The study came about in response to a Calvinist perspective which proclaimed man has no responsibility toward his regeneration, which, from my perspective, is a miraculous event.  In every case of Jesus’ miracles, man is called to have faith.  In fact, Jesus frequently says “Go in peace, your faith has made you well” to those whom He has blessed and healed.  Man cannot heal his own wounds, but his faith creates an atmosphere conducive to God’s miracles.

When I first entered the Orthodox church, I noticed other people entering the sanctuary and lighting small votive candles immediately inside the doorway.  They would then pause to pray silently beside them.  It was explained to me later that anyone can light a candle and offer a prayer for a loved one.  And, what was especially touching to me was the fact that I was welcomed to this practice even before converting to Orthodoxy.  Later, while reading various Orthodox books, I came to see that these candles represent much more.  

The visual light of the candle reminds us that Christ is the Light of the world and the darkness has not overcome it (St. John 4,5).  What joy in remembering that no matter how bleak our world seems, the Light will never be overcome by the darkness!  As I look at the rows of dancing flames among the candles at church, I think of how God must be pleased to hear our voices, to listen to our sorrows, our joys, our praises to His holy name.  Seeing the candles alight is a part of our worship which involves all the senses.  It is a part of creating an atmosphere of worship and prayer which is pleasing to Him.  Even now, as my family is gathered around the dinner table, we keep a candle at the center and each time it is lit, I remind the kids, “Jesus is the Light of the world”.

Thinking back on those first few months at St. George Orthodox Church, I know that God healed me there.  Being surrounded by the visual reminder of prayers to God, the incense as a fragrant reminder of how our prayers are a pleasing aroma to could I not be transformed?  With the church that has proclaimed the same style of worship for over 2000 years, based upon the things in heaven (Hebrews 8 and 9 ), how could one not be ushered into God’s Divine Presence in a place where the atmosphere is conducive to miracles?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Divna Ljubojevic

The face and voice of an angel, as I recently discovered through Ancient Faith Radio:

And, the next time you are looking for music to pray and 
meditate with, consider "Voskresenije Hristovo Vidjevse" which means "Christ Resurrection was witnessed"

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