Saturday, 4 February 2012

Naomi and Ruth

Iconic drawing of Naomi and Ruth by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
Ruth is holding wheat in reference to the wheat fields of Boaz

Here is an icon of Naomi and Ruth.  Like so many people, I have always loved the story of Ruth -- of her dedication to her mother-in-law, her willingness to accept marriage with Naomi's relative, Boaz, so that they both might be provided for and the fact that this dedication led to her being an ancestor of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin through the birth of the son she bore by the name of Obed.  Obed, as you probably recall, was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David himself. 

Icon, King David, descendant
of Ruth, ancestor of Christ Jesus
by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
  What an honour God gave to Ruth, not an Israelite, but a woman of Moab, because of her kind and compassionate heart which led her to say to Naomi after the death of her husband, Naomi's son:
"Entreat me not to leave you or return from following after you, for wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; your God, my God."
The final place where we find Ruth’s name is in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah found in the first chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.  All those centuries before the birth of Christ, the story of Ruth was included in the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures just waiting for the day when her name would become part of the story of our salvation.

Now, speaking of people with a kind and compassionate heart, let me tell you about my friend whose nickname is "Chaos Bedlam" (the nickname was given to him by some of his grandchildren during a visit to Shropshire, England).

CHAOS and BEDLAM (an actual intersection in Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, England)

I have a dear friend, Charles, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.  He is a truly wonderful person -- intelligent, creative, generous and compassionate.  Even though he is a Protestant, he truly seems to understand the Catholic teaching that we are all called to be saints and that we should be working on it now!

He got his PhD in some type of engineering years ago and not only had a successful career but continues to work at creatively improving production techniques.  He is also an inventor.  So often he does things that help people in big ways without any expectation of remuneration.  Here is one recent example taken from one of his emails:

"Many people in manufacturing think that a person with a PhD degree has a pointy head. They might make good theoreticians but have absolutely no practical sense. I have heard it said that they don't know which end of the hammer to use to drive a nail. Last Friday, I was over at a foundry where I do some of my work part-time. Almost all of the pipe they were making after 11:30 AM was failing a particular test. I told them what was wrong, but the operator of the furnace told me that I was wrong. What I proposed to do would make absolutely no difference to the product quality. So I told him that since everything was failing anyway why not try making the change. I also told him that if the pipe did not improve, I would take he and his wife [or girlfriend] out to dinner at least once and maybe twice. He said that was worth the gamble so within 15 min. he had made the changes that I wanted, and within 30 min. every single pipe was passing. So I gained some credibility with both he and his supervisor that afternoon. I may have a funny head, but I know what I am doing with Cast Iron. Having established a little bit of credibility, I had the confidence to try a different experiment on another furnace today. The same two people were involved so both knew that I had a general understanding of what we were trying to do. At 10:30 this morning I suggested another change to improve the productivity and reduce the cost. Without any arguing, they agreed to it. We increased production by approximately 33%, made the properties of the pipe better and never had a failure. We did all that with no additional cost of operation."

Coalbrookdale by Night, oil on canvas, 1801,
by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740-1812)
This is actually Bedlam Furnaces on the right, with the coke heaps behind creating fiery glow. The large building on the left has nothing to do with the furnaces and was known as Bedlam Hall.

Three-hundred years ago this valley changed the world when Quaker ironmasters found a much cheaper way of making iron. In 1709 Abraham Darby fired his blast furnaces with coke instead of charcoal, and he and his descendants developed products to exploit the iron - the first cast iron wheels, iron steam engine cylinders, iron rails, the first iron bridge, iron aqueduct, iron-framed building, and even the world's first railway locomotive. This burst of inventiveness set in motion the Industrial Revolution and changed the world for ever in both good and bad ways.

From 1700 to 1800 the furnaces in the Gorge burned day and night, and visitors came to marvel at this "most extraordinary district in the world". But as the raw materials were used up in the 19th century and industry developed elsewhere the valley fell silent and nature reclaimed the landscape. It is hard to imagine that this was once the home of the largest ironworks in the world. Today in this beautiful gorge the remains of those momentous times are celebrated in 10 remarkable museums - of iron, porcelain, decorative tiles, of ironmasters homes, of furnaces, factories and a lost way of life. At its heart is the internationally recognised icon of the Iron Bridge of 1779 - and Darby's furnace dating back to the mid-1600s. The Ironbridge Gorge is a World Heritage Site and its history is cared for by a trust that preserves and interprets the remains of this birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

This photo was taken of a framed print of the actual painting.
Personally, I find the image to be very effective in portraying
the feeling of the furnaces as they burned through the day and night.


Now for the latest news on myself and Miss Suki.

I hesitate to tell you about the only change in Suki's behaviour of late -- her increasing attentiveness to any bathroom activities involving the toilet.  Her fascination seems to increase daily.  If I want any privacy, I have to actually shut the door and listen to her scratch and meow plaintively from the other side.  Otherwise, she is right there, perched on the laundry hamper, watching my every move.  Then, as soon as the toilet is flushed, she must immediately jump up on my raised toilet seat to observe the movement of the waters! 

Suki watching the movement
of the waters!
 In ancient days, there were soothsayers who actually made predictions about people's future by observing the movement of the waters after having the person stir the water in a bowl with their hand.  Perhaps Suki is in training to become a soothsayer!  Maybe this is why so few black cats are adopted in comparison to other colours and patterns -- they are into devilish activities!

Actually, my biggest concern is that I know that Suki is bound to figure out, sooner or later, how to flush the toilet by herself.  She has almost gotten it figured out already, but just needs to use a bit more strength to push the handle down.  When that happens, I am not sure how I am going to manage things.  What a crazy cat.

As for me, I am grateful to say that another four days have passed with any falls.  I think I may be learning, finally, to be a bit more careful.  For example, last night about a half an hour before I normally go to bed, I realized that I was starting to get the "space-y" sensation that always precedes a fall.  As soon as I noticed this, I did the last few things, quickly, that had to be done before going to bed and was in bed within 10 minutes.  During this 10 minutes, I was making a very conscious effort to stay upright.  I fell asleep almost immediately.  In the past, I would be stubborn and say to myself that I wasn't ready to go to bed yet regardless of how I was feeling.  The result was usually a fall or a near fall.

Then, this morning when I noticed that I was getting very sleepy withing a few hours after eating breakfast, I took a nap for about an hour and awoke feeling well rested.  This is what Suki has been teaching me:  when you feel sleepy, you sleep.  Cats are very wise about such matters!

Well, I should end this rather lengthy posting.
I am asking Holy Naomi and Ruth, ancestors of our beloved Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to pray for us that we, too, may become saints even now as we seek to "deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Christ".  Where are we going?  Where do we think we are going if we are carrying a cross?

Blessings and peace to you all.

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