Monday, April 22, 2019

The Circles of the World

Good Monday morning.

I hope you enjoyed a Happy Easter. I have Easter pictures as well as a few Easter(ish) thoughts to share today.

First, the photos.

Last week the kids hunted eggs. Often. They both enjoyed a hunt with their school classmates.

These are from Sunday's post-lunch hunt with cousins Michael & Maisie & various other neighborhood children . . . & I note that Trey took all of these photos:

Last Monday morning I shared a blog titled Fire & Rain & Miss Madeline, which you can read - - - > here. I referenced fire in the title due to a local elementary school that burned the weekend prior after being struck by lightning in the middle of a monsoon-like rainstorm. If my memory serves the gist of the blog is that we hate the feeling that we're not in control. We often do things like makes lists & use planners to create & sustain the illusion that we are in control only to sometimes be reminded by excessive rain or a raging, destructive fire — or, as in the case of a former student of mine (the Madeline in the title), a health crisis — that we are actually in control of so very little.

Within hours of last Monday morning's post Notre Dame in Paris was on fire, which is obviously totally coincidental, but still is just odd. Let me tell you, I had (have) a lot of feelings about this fire. It provoked considerable thought, some of which you may've seen & read (or seen & immediately skipped over) on my Facebook page over the course of the last week.

In my whole life I don't think I'd given much thought to the aesthetics of a church building. If you know anything about life in the Middle Ages you know it was rough, certainly by today's standards. Still, they saw fit to build cathedrals like Notre Dame all across Europe. Should they have spent the money elsewhere? Maybe. I don't know. Do we spend the money elsewhere today? No, we really do not. We still spend a whole lot of money building church buildings, only we build ugly church buildings that visually could double as a family fun center (& honestly that's what some are). That people without electricity — people who dealt with famine & plagues & a host of things that are foreign to us today — chose to spend their time & energy building something like Notre Dame is incredible to me. What in the world are we doing with our time, our resources, our energy today? We're fussing over eco-friendly building material & whatnot. It's quite sad. I do not think we've made as much progress as we like to think we have made. 

Anyway, the fire was still on my mind this past Saturday when Trey & I took the kids to my Aunt Donna's house to have an old-fashioned family fish fry + an egg hunt with about twenty of our relatives. Before I continue, here are a slew of photos of Saturday's festivities, including the hunt:

I should mention that this was by far the fanciest egg hunt in our family's history. Much of the credit goes to my Aunt Kathy who was responsible for things like this:

Kathy, with the help of my cousin, Jennifer, was also responsible for this chocolate sheet cake concoction that I am certain was laced with cocaine it was so addictive. 

Anyway, some from the action:

Lounging on the porch with Papaw post-hunt:

I took these next few photos. It's series I've titled, "Anatomy of a Family Photo."

After much debate & several people analyzing the sunlight situation, we all (eventually, in a gradual manner) decided to make our way to the front of Donna's house to take a family photo there. It was a legit photo, too. We used a tripod & a timer & everything. We are very proud of ourselves. 

So, back to the Notre Dame fire. 

One of several thought pieces I read regarding the Notre Dame fire is titled, "Why Do We Mourn a Building?," (linked - - - > here) written by Faith Moore. Ms. Moore, perhaps better than anyone else who shared thoughts on last week's fire, captured my thoughts & emotions. She notes that, "As God’s house burned, His people sang hymns and prayed. It was hauntingly beautiful, and served as a reminder of where God lives — not inside those silent walls, but within the devoted hearts of the gathered crowd, and all who worship in His name." This was my initial thought when I read news of the fire. I comforted myself with the knowledge that even if every house of worship on earth is burned to the ground the Lord's church will still stand. And that is comforting knowledge, but there was still a tremendous ache as I watched, live, as the fire raged. 

I nursed this ache for more than a day. I read a lot about the history of the cathedral, & I read a lot of thought pieces about what the fire meant, what it means. Ms. Moore goes on to state that:

But the notion that Notre Dame is “just a building” — and so we ought not mourn — doesn’t actually follow. This building — its architecture, its windows, and its treasures — are a tangible link to all the human beings who have walked there, worked there, and worshipped there for over 850 years. Standing in that space, looking at the masterpieces that human hands have wrought, worshipping the God who has been worshipped there for centuries, we are connected through the ages to humanity . . . Our connection to this building and the things it held doesn’t mean we’re fixated on material things. It means we recognize the effort it took to create them, and the things these walls have seen. Look, a building like Notre Dame cries out, look what humanity is capable of. Look what we have done together.
Ms. Moore's phrase, "a tangible link," ran through my mind Saturday as I listened to my Papaw, present for the fish fry / egg hunt, speak in between bites of fish. He talked of men he knew who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day. He mentioned with sadness, as he often does, that so few today know what happened at Pearl Harbor.

My Papaw was born in 1926. He lived through & remembers the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, & an endless list of events that, for most people alive today, are blurbs in a history book, if that. He is, like Notre Dame, a tangible link to the past. His eyes, like the silent walls of Notre Dame, have witnessed so much, the passage of so many years, of births & deaths & celebrations & national history as well as history so precious to his family. 

My grandfather is also a tangible link to my maternal grandmother who died in 2010. As I learned last summer when my paternal grandmother died, you mourn a grandparent again when their spouse dies; you mourn them as a couple, as the unified front who raised your parent. I lost my paternal grandfather in August of 2007. I mourned him then, but knowing that his desk was still neatly positioned in his office in the home he shared with my grandmother on Frederick Street comforted something in me. I didn't even realize I was clinging to this sense of comfort until my grandmother died, & the house on Frederick Street was emptied of its contents. I didn't realize that for many years, over a decade, I hadn't fully dealt with the reality of his death because in seeing my grandmother, in knowing she was there in the house on Frederick Street, I wasn't forced to confront the finality of his death. In her I saw him, too; when I heard her voice, I heard his, too. 

My Papaw is like Notre Dame because he is a link to the past, but, if you'll allow me to continue the analogy, he is also similar to the ancient cathedral because he is, in every way, a testament to the beauty of men attempting to give their all to God in the midst of hardship. He was molded in a different era. He is a relic of a time before anyone knew who Ernest Hemingway was, born before Hitler rose to power, witness to world war & national economic hardship very few alive today have ever known or can call to memory. 

More than once I've felt tremendous sadness reading or listening to commentary regarding rebuilding parts of Notre Dame that were lost in the fire. The consensus is that it is not possible to replicate certain aspects of the cathedral because, frankly, no one quite understands how they were constructed in the first place. The cathedral was the result of human ingenuity, perseverance, patience, & holy devotion that are tragically not found in the year 2019. No one dedicates their life to building a building anymore. We don't set out to build something & feel satisfied with a completion date hundreds of years in the future. We hire construction firms today & demand they meet strict deadlines. It's just another building for them, another deadline to meet, another paycheck to cash. 

God does not live inside the silent walls of Notre Dame, & praise the Lord for that. Still, we don't want to see those walls crumble. God does not reside atop the spire we all watched succumb to flames last week, but you could not watch that unfold & not feel a tremendous loss. My grandfather will spend eternity in Heaven, & praise the Lord for that. Still, there is an ache knowing he is, like Notre Dame, subject to nature, to decay, to the ravages of time that will claim us all, save the Lord's return.

The ache we feel doesn't mean we don't fully grasp & appreciate truths worth celebrating; it just means we are human. The ache means we can hold one truth in our right hand & be comforted by it while holding another truth in our left hand & weep. I think Tolkien perhaps explains it best: 

In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. 
Physical buildings & physical bodies are most certainly of the circles of the world; praise God we are not bound forever to those circles, for they are subject to the forward march of time. 

Well. I promised you some Easter-ish thoughts, & I suppose I did mention the hope we have in Christ thanks to His resurrection. Let me tell you something: the last week I've had a couple of crises (all in my head). The first was brought on by Notre Dame burning; the second was brought on by Easter.

I have a lot of Easter feelings, people. The most succinct way I can state this, since I have already typed a lot & you are ready to be done with this, is that there's so much candy (& you know my stance on candy), & perhaps most importantly I kind of dislike the fuss over Easter because as Christians Easter is what we are to remember every Sunday. On the first day of every week we gather to take the Lord's supper to remember Christ's broken body on the cross & the blood He shed. There's no need to pack all that into ONE Sunday every year, people. Just do it on the first day of every week, & cut the candy nonsense. Give it some thought.

Why do we continue to allow candy manufactures & worldly companies selling bunnies to usurp holy matters like the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ? We play right into their hands. 

Whew. On a lighter note, the kids are home with me today because they're still on Easter Break, so we are all still in our pajamas. I hope I have far fewer thoughts in the week ahead than I did last week. May it be a slow news week. The book club is set to meet Friday, & my dad is rallying for all of us to go see a local production of Mamma Mia on Saturday. It has the potential to be a lovely, low-key week. We shall see. 


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