The description for this blog is "these are the things that intrigue and inspire me." I suppose it's obvious that I'm mostly inspired by books, but there are an endless amount of things that catch my interest. One thing that's been affecting me lately is this painting by Ted Nasmith:


It's been my desktop image for a week, and I keep noticing more things I like about it. Aesthetically, I love the width of the landscape, the majesty of the mountains & clouds, and especially the depth & lustre of the sea. But more than that, I love how the light at the top of the mountain is bright, but hidden. You can see that there must be a great canyon beyond the brink, but that too is hidden. The scene is beautiful, but it heightens your desire to see more. I also love the subtle details like the waterfall on the mountainside and the birds flying between the ship and the shoreline. If you look closely, you can see figures on the ship, clasping each other with their arms outstretched toward the light.

The title of this piece is The Shores of Valinor. It is inspired by The Silmarillion (so I suppose it's literary as well as artistic...of course it would still have to do with books...) Valinor is, in some ways, the paradise of Middle-earth. What the painting signifies to me is the heavenly fulfillment of our desires for greatness & beauty. Heaven will be everything our hearts have ever longed for because it will be complete unity with God. When I was little, I remember not wanting to go to heaven because I didn't want to leave all the delights of earth. But what I didn't realize was that heaven is all the delights of earth multiplied by infinity.

The couple on the ship have made a journey - a long, difficult journey - and have depended on each other to complete it. They have two arms reached out in rapture and two arms grasping each other. To me it's a picture of true friendship. The aim of true friends is to help each other reach Heaven - union with God. And that's what a marriage of two souls should always be.

Those are just some of the things that have been going through my head as I've logged onto my computer every day. ;) It's good to have a constant reminder to set my thoughts on worlds far off / where we only cry from joy.
Set your sails upon the mighty winds of May
Set your sails upon the hope of June
Set your sails upon the air of warm July
Set your course for Heaven's shore!
- Future of Forestry
[Music is another thing that inspires me a great deal; I should write about it more often!]

People seem to focus so much on the future. Our vision is naturally horizontal -- looking at the things in front of us (or behind). Some of us fruitlessly dwell on the past, and others (like myself) have the tendency to dwell in our imaginings of the future. What I wish I could do is shift my eyes to a vertical perspective, one that moves along the x-axis of time, but is always fixed on the y-intercept of the present.

What I mean is, if we could look upward, focused on God and not on our own fates, our fates won't get messed up by our tainted, twisted selves. We don't live for the future; we live for the infinite God. Our lives shouldn't be directed toward our own pursuits; they should always be in pursuit of Him. I've come to realize that it doesn't matter much what happens to me as long as I am in union with God when it happens.

I came across this passage when I was re-reading The Screwtape Letters for my previous post, and I think it explains the "present" concept brilliantly:

The humans live in time, but [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.
Recently, I've been faced with many "coming of age" decisions, and to be honest, I've struggled a lot with entrusting them to God. But He has given me a great confidence because, even when I feel I don't know what to do with my life, I know that my life should belong to Him no matter what I do. I try to embrace that knowledge because it gives me purpose in the present.
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek ye first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.
On a bigger scale, for the last 5 years I have wondered and prayed about my "vocation," whether I should serve God within a family, or consecrate my whole self as my patron St. Cecilia did. I have a deep attraction to both lives, and I have come to realize it is because they both have the same call - to live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a sacrifice for us. All lives have this same call, and when we answer it, we are fulfilled in the deepest part of our souls.
Our vocation is LOVE, and we are called to it NOW.

The rude, uncomfortable human self-portrait presented in The Screwtape Letters puts me to shame every time I read it. But it's the sort of healthy shame that I need provoked with - the fact that the Creator put in us dignity, purpose and love, and our sin and selfishness are perversions of that.

Lewis shows how "devils" love perversion, confusion, and vacant minds. Haziness and tepidity delight them. They love it when we make God little in our minds, defining our spiritual lives by emotions or social perceptions. But despite their diabolical power, they are entirely crippled by virtue, and especially sincere humility - what Lewis called the "real nakedness of the soul in prayer."

...if he ever consciously directs his prayers "Not to what I think thou art, but to what thou knowest thyself to be," our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with full recognition of their subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it -- why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.
We so often forget that we are serving a fathomless, infinite, incomprehensible Being. If only we would worship Him with awe! The more we fear the Lord, the more we're aware of the stupidity of our sins, but the amazing thing is that the more we stand in awe of our Creator, the more we understand who we are, because we're made in His beautiful image.
Remember, always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd amount of value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.
There are so many things addressed in this little book, but one that strikes me especially hard, especially during the season of Lent, is the importance of submitting the will to God. No matter how much I think or talk about loving Him, it's all for nothing if I don't actually obey Him.
The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which an enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination will harm us if we can keep it out of his will.
The Screwtape Letters makes the list of my significant books because it opened my eyes to the constant raging of spiritual warfare and heightened my perception of God, not as a someone we define, but as someone who defines us.

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