Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Have Loved Us First (Prayers by Søren Kierkegaard)

"You Have Loved Us First"

(Prayers by Søren Kierkegaard)

Father in heaven! 
You have loved us first; 
help us never forget that you are love 
so that this sure conviction 
might triumph in our hearts 
over seduction of the world, 
over the disquiet of the soul, 
over anxiety for the future, 
over the fright of the past, 
over distress of the moment. 
But grant also that this conviction 
might discipline our soul 
so that our hearts might remain 
faithful and sincere, 
in the love which we bear 
to all those whom you have 
commanded us to love as we love ourselves.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

I found this in on my iPod today in a rather random place in my notepad.  I'm not sure where I saw it originally last year, but it speaks to me this morning right where I am.  There is so much going on in our lives, it is easy to fret.  I need to find that calm conviction.

Here is another Kierkegaard prayer that I found...

You have loved us first, O God, alas! 
We speak of it in terms of history 
as if You loved us first but a single time, 
rather than that without ceasing. 
You have loved us first many times 
and everyday and our whole life through. 
When we wake up in the morning 
and turn our soul toward You – 
You were there first – You have loved us first; 
if I rise at dawn and at that same second 
turn my soul toward You in prayer, 
You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first.

When I withdraw from the distractions of the day 
and turn my soul toward You, 
You are there first and thus forever. 
And we speak ungratefully as if 
You have loved us first only once. 

The other day while traveling in North Carolina on our way home from vacation, I purchased the book A Brief Guide to Ideas by William Raeper and Linda Edwards.   As a mom trying to be a good example to her kids, I believe in stretching my brain and learning new things, and I figured that a taste of philosophy from a Christian perspective might do me some good.  I'm glad to see there is a chapter on Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian philosopher who believed in experiencing God by faith and continually choosing to renew that trust.  I know I wouldn't agree with much of what he wrote discounting the value of reason.  Yet I am touched by his childlike faith expressed in these prayers, especially in light of the fact that his own childhood in a pietist home is described as "isolated and unhappy" and "deeply affected by the guilt and religious gloom of his father."  (See how American naturalist John Muir responded to the same kind of upbringing: The Fruits of Harsh Parenting.)

I want my children to experience joy and liberty in their faith in Jesus, rather than rigid duty and a sense of spiritual failure.  I want them to be who God uniquely created them to be. I want us all to be in a close relationship with God. I can't choose faith for my children, but I can model it as I "withdraw from the distractions of the day" and overcome "the disquiet of the soul." That is a challenge for me. I need God's help, the reminders of his love that I find in Kierkegaard's prayers. "Grant that conviction might discipline our soul" so that I, too, can be faithful, sincere and loving - as God is and wants me to be.

What about you?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. The zinnia and butterfly photos in this post were also taken on our way home, the same afternoon as I bought the philosophy book. You can see more of my botanical photos from Sarah P. Duke Gardens in North Carolina.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Road Trip and a Little Care Giving

Dear friends,

If you read this Come, Weary Moms blog but not my others, you might wonder where I've been.  The answer?

Traveling north!

I've been on an extended road trip with my six younger kids, ages 7 to 18.  We left Florida in June 24, took three days to travel seeing sights along the way, and have been staying at my parents' home in Maryland ever since.  My 18 year old daughter is flying home today, but the rest of us are leaving in our mini-van Friday morning, stopping at the Manassas National Battlefield (Civil War) on our way out of the D.C. area.  By the time we get home this Sunday, we'll have been gone for three whole weeks.  

I'm really glad that my cousin Jean lent us her GPS when we stopped to see her in Chapel Hill on the way up.  It's been a huge help getting around town on our frequent forays.  We'll give it back to her on the way back down!  I always look forward to seeing her and her sister Marge.  They have been so kind to us.  This trip, they loaded us up with road trip snacks!

Anyway, even though I haven't written here on this blog, I have posted a photographic series on Traveling North.  Here are the links so far:

    My mom and her mom,
    who  hadn't seen each other in over a month.
    I had been wanting to drive to Maryland this year already, but then my mom called and said that since she was having two surgeries this year and couldn't make it to Florida, she and Dad would pitch in for gas and hotels so we could come up.  What we didn't know then is that three weeks after her back surgery, she wouldn't even be home yet.  She's been bouncing back and forth from hospital to rehab because of severe complications, including a MERSA infection on the steel rod in her spine. So part of our time has been spent visiting her!  I'm glad we could be here to help cheer her up and relieve my sister from non-stop care giving.  We have also visited my 98 year old grandmother in her nursing home and taken her to see my mom in rehab.  As of yesterday, Mom is back in the hospital again.  I took the flower picture at the top of this post near the hospital chapel yesterday.  More flower pictures from when I flew up to Maryland by myself last month: A Bouquet for My Mommy.

    One of the practical things I did is clean out the refrigerator and reorganize the kitchen.  I know Mom is going to be limited in bending over, lifting, twisting, etc.  So I tried to put things where she could easily reach them, or where my sister or a hired home helper could easily find them.  I even labeled cupboards and drawers.  I tossed out old food and put other opened food (like nuts and crackers and cereal) in Tupperware and Rubbermaid.  I put all the mugs in the same cupboard as the coffee and tea.  I moved less used appliances -- like the meat slicer that my late grandfather used until he died a few years ago -- from prime spaces to less accessible places.  I bought some fresh dish towels.  That sort of thing.  It took me several hours, but I had a blast!  Occasionally, I would look out the kitchen window and see a deer grazing in the yard.  Beautiful.

    We did have a few mishaps on our trip -- a parking ticket, smoke coming out of the van, stitches in the emergency room, a lost child in a big place, a really bad rash that required a doctor visit, a few broken dishes, and what else?   I'm trying to be the Chill Mom and take things in stride.  Handing out quarters (for good behavior) and chocolate (just because!) in the van sure helps keep kids happy, as does a lap top, a pile of DVDs, and a collection of iPods.  

    I also taped a decorative coaster to my dash board that says "Blessed are the gentle."  When I start stressing out while driving, I just reach up an pat it as a reminder.  I bought the same one for my mom for her hospital room as a "gentle" reminder for the nurses.  Most of them have been perfectly lovely.

    Much as I have enjoyed our travels, I'm looking forward to getting home and spending some time with my husband, four oldest daughters, and two adorable grandsons.  My fourth daughter is leaving for a semester in Australia and New Zealand later this month, and my second daughter and her husband just arrived home from a mission trip to Bolivia this past week.  We've got a lot of appointments coming up, too, including an interview for a part-time teaching job in a home/private hybrid school.

    While I've been gone, I have also added two new posts to my Strength in Hymn series at Watch the Shepherd.

    Older posts in that series:

    Until next time,

    Virginia Knowles

    Linking here next Wednesday:

  • Adorned from Above
  • Raising Homemakers
  • Whole-Hearted Home
  • Wise Woman Link Up
  • Walking Redeemed