Sunday, June 20, 2021

A turtle on a fence post

From a very good article about the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Have you ever wanted to be a turtle on a fence post?

If you answered “No,” that’s because you didn’t hear Pastor Ed Litton’s sermon at Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., on June 6.

Pastor Litton was elaborating the third point in his three-point sermon entitled “After God’s Own Heart.” He said that author Alex Haley had a picture of a turtle on a fence post in his office. He said there was an inscription at the bottom of that picture that said, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get up there by himself.”

Litton delivered that line in a soft voice and followed it with a pregnant pause. Then, with his finger pointed heavenward, he said, “Oh that God would put you [his finger now pointed at the congregation] on a fence post in this community! That people would look at your life and say, ‘How’s that possible?’” In typical Southern Baptist preaching style, he was winding up to exhort his flock with the Good News in parallel structure:
How’s joy possible in such grief? How’s love possible in a world of hate? How’s satisfaction possible when there’s so many needs? Man, I’m gonna tell you what I’ve learned: When I don’t have enough, He [pointing heavenward again] is enough. When I couldn’t go on, He goes on.
And in that moment, as his voice reaches your ears, and his impassioned hand gestures reach your eyes, even if you aren’t poetically inclined, you want to be a turtle on a fence post. You want what Pastor Litton has — and he wants you to have it. .... (more, very interesting and very much worth reading)
Dominic Pino, "Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton Is a Turtle on a Fence Post," National Review.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Auden liked it

A tweet brought me once again to this 1956 NYT review of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King. The reviewer was W.H. Auden and the third and final volume of LOTR had just been published. I have quoted from the review before, including a portion of this particular passage.
...[T]he situation in the War of the Ring is as follows: Chance, or Providence, has put the Ring in the hands of the representatives of Good, Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn. By using it they could destroy Sauron, the incarnation of evil, but at the cost of becoming his successor. If Sauron recovers the Ring, his victory will be immediate and complete, but even without it his power is greater than any his enemies can bring against him, so that, unless Frodo succeeds in destroying the Ring, Sauron must win.

Evil, that is, has every advantage but one—it is inferior in imagination. Good can imagine the possibility of becoming evil—hence the refusal of Gandalf and Aragorn to use the Ring—but Evil, defiantly chosen, can no longer imagine anything but itself. Sauron cannot imagine any motives except lust for domination and fear so that, when he has learned that his enemies have the Ring, the thought that they might try to destroy it never enters his head, and his eye is kept toward Gondor and away from Mordor and the Mount of Doom.

Further, his worship of power is accompanied, as it must be, by anger and a lust for cruelty: learning of Saruman's attempt to steal the Ring for himself, Sauron is so preoccupied with wrath that for two crucial days he pays no attention to a report of spies on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, and when Pippin is foolish enough to look in the palantir of Orthanc, Sauron could have learned all about the Quest. His wish to capture Pippin and torture the truth from him makes him miss his precious opportunity.

The demands made on the writer's powers in an epic as long as The Lord of the Rings are enormous and increase as the tale proceeds—the battles have to get more spectacular, the situations more critical, the adventures more thrilling—but I can only say that Mr. Tolkien has proved equal to them. ....
I recently re-watched the movies. I think Jackson made a mistake when he made Saruman an ally rather than a rival of Sauron.

W.H. Auden, "At the End of the Quest, Victory," New York Times, January 22, 1956.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"To aggravate regret"

Via Patrick Kurp, Samuel Johnson on losing a friend:
The loss of a friend upon whom the heart was fixed, to whom every wish and endeavour tended, is a state of dreary desolation, in which the mind looks abroad impatient of itself, and finds nothing but emptiness and horrour. The blameless life, the artless tenderness, the pious simplicity, the modest resignation, the patient sickness, and the quiet death, are remembered only to add value to the loss, to aggravate regret for what cannot be amended, to deepen sorrow for what cannot be recalled. (The Idler #41)
Anecdotal Evidence: 'The Last Steps of an Inoffensive Life'

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"He has not created me for naught"

In a high school commencement address Ryan Anderson quotes John Henry Newman:
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place...if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am.... He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
“He Knows What He Is About”: Living a Life that Matters

Monday, June 14, 2021

Flag Day

As has become my custom on Flag Day I post this (almost forgot this year):

Several years ago I was part of an exchange with secondary teachers from Japan. The Japanese teachers spent time with us in Madison and in our schools and we did the same in Japan. As preparation for the experience, all of us were together in Washington, D.C., learning about each other, getting acquainted, and trying to bridge some of the cultural differences. In one of the sessions a Japanese teacher asked why Americans seemed to place so much emphasis on the flag. Many Japanese are, for understandable historical reasons, very skeptical of anything smacking of nationalism. I explained that in our case we have no national figure—no queen or emperor—who symbolizes the nation. Nor does the flag stand for blood or soil. It stands for our ideals—"the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It stands for what we believe in and aspire to be as a country. We honor the flag because it represents the Constitutional system that protects our freedoms and our rights.

In my files I came across a pamphlet, undated, published by the Marine Corps, titled How to Respect and Display Our Flag. A stamp on it indicates that it was distributed by the "Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station" in Janesville, Wisconsin. Since the flags in the illustrations have forty-eight stars, it must be from the late 1950s. The rules it specifies seem almost quaint after the events of the last half century. The flag has been burned and trampled by Americans. It is flown night and day in good weather or foul—even by those who intend to honor it. A colleague used to put one on the floor of his classroom, inviting students to decide whether to walk on it. How one treats the symbol became partisan, expressing a political rather than a patriotic allegiance.

Here is the section from that pamphlet titled "How to Display the Flag":
Respect your flag and render it the courtesies to which it is entitled by observing the following rules, which are in accordance with the practices approved by leading flag authorities:

The National flag should be raised and lowered by hand. It should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset, or between such hours as may be designated by proper authority. Do not raise the flag while it is furled. Unfurl, then hoist quickly to the top of the staff. Lower it slowly and with dignity. Place no objects on or over the flag. Various articles are sometimes placed on a speaker's table covered with the flag. This practice should be avoided.

When displayed in the chancel or on a platform in a church, the flag should be placed on a staff at the clergyman's right; other flags at his left. If displayed in the body of the church, the flag should be at the congregation's right as they face the clergyman.

Do not use the flag as a portion of a costume or athletic uniform. Do not embroider it upon cushions or handkerchiefs nor print it on paper napkins or boxes.
1. When displayed over the middle of the street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.
2. When displayed with another flag from crossed staffs, the flag of the United States of America should be on the right (the flag's own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
3. When it is to be flown at half-mast, the flag should be hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-mast position; but before lowering the flag for the day it should again be raised to the peak. By half-mast is meant hauling down the flag to one-half the distance between the top and the bottom of the staff. On Memorial Day display at half-mast until noon only; then hoist to top of staff.
4. When flags of states or cities or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States of America, the latter should always be at the peak. When flown from adjacent staffs the Stars and Stripes should be hoisted first and lowered last.
5. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope, extending from house to pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out from the building, toward the pole, union first.
6. When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at any angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should go clear to peak of the staff (unless the flag is to be displayed at half-mast).
7. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
8. When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.
9. When carried in a procession with another flag or flags, the Stars and Stripes should be either on the marching right, or when there is a line of other flags, our National flag may be in front of the center of that line.
10. When a number of flags of states or cities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs with our National flag, the latter should be at the center or at the highest point of the group.
11. When the flags of two or more nations are displayed they should be flown from separate staffs of the same height and the flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

A federal law provides that a trademark cannot be registered which consists of, or comprises among other things, "the flag, coat-of-arms or other insignia of the United States, or any simulation thereof."

Take every precaution to prevent the flag from becoming soiled. It should not be allowed to touch the ground or floor, nor to brush against objects.

When the flag is used in unveiling a statue or monument, it should not be used as a covering of the object to be unveiled. If it is displayed on such occasions, do not allow the flag to fall to the ground, but let it be carried aloft to form a feature of the ceremony.

On suitable occasions repeat this pledge to the flag:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The pamphlet also has the words of our National Anthem. We almost never sing anything beyond the first verse. The third is particularly good:
Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

First posted in 2009

Sunday, June 13, 2021

"I pray that..."

This morning Tim Challies posted a portion of the prayer that "John Stott would use to begin his day":
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
A Brief, Daily, Trinitarian Prayer

Sunday, June 6, 2021

June 6, 1944

On June 6, 1944, American, Canadian, and British forces under the command of Dwight D. Eisenhower landed in Normandy to begin the final campaign to defeat the Nazis. Everyone knows the story of that day. The cost was very high. About 2,500 Americans were killed. The landing was successful and by the end of the day the Allies had moved beyond the beaches — but the war was far from over.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the nation in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. ....

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.
 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

In joy and felicity

From the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, a prayer from "At the Burial of the Dead":
ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity: We give Thee hearty thanks because it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, beseeching Thee that it may please Thee, of Thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of Thine elect, and to hasten Thy kingdom, that we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of Thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in Thy eternal and everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The twilight bark

This reviewer at CrimeReads has no intention of seeing the new Disney film Cruella, but celebrates the 1961 animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians. She is totally uninterested in a backstory about how Cruella de Vil came to hate puppies, but she really liked the original movie. I think I'll watch it tonight.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (which IS a crime film) is a timeless joy, and an aesthetic marvel. If you have seen it (or even if you haven’t) you probably know the gist, but here’s a deeper dive. The film is set in London in 1958, and tells the story of an affable dog named Pongo (voiced by Rod Taylor) who wants to start a family, and so concocts a plan to set up his human, a musician named Roger Radcliffe, with a young woman named Anita, who (more relevant to Pongo’s interests) just happens to own a beautiful female dalmatian named Perdita. The pairs fall in love and settle down together in a neat row home near Regents Park (with a housekeeper known as “Nanny”), and it’s not long before Perdita gives birth to puppies: fifteen.

But when the puppies are born in the wintertime, Anita is visited by an old acquaintance, Cruella de Vil (incomparably voiced by Betty Lou Gerson), who attempts to buy the puppies to have their skins made into fur coats. “My only true love, darling,” she tells Anita re: furs. “I live for furs, I worship furs.” But the Radcliffes and the Pongos refuse to hand over the babies, and so Cruella hatches a plan to steal them: getting the material for her coats as well as revenge.

When the Radcliffes and the Pongos realize that their puppies have been dognapped, the humans turn to Scotland Yard. But Pongo and Perdita instead turn to the dogs of London, spreading the word and asking for assistance through a continental barking chain called “The Twilight Bark.” .... (more)
Stopping for a Moment to Appreciate the Original 1961 film One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Sunday, May 30, 2021

These honored dead

My Great-Grandfather's brother:

Levi W. Bond, Company B, 15th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, US,
killed September 3, 1864, Age 19, near Berryville, Virginia


From the preface of Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac (1962):
...[O]nce, ages ago, they had been everywhere and had seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much. All that was real had taken place when they were young; everything after that had simply been a process of waiting for death, which did not frighten them much—they had seen it inflicted in the worst possible way on boys who had not bargained for it, and they had enough of the old-fashioned religion to believe without any question that when they passed over they would simply be rejoining men and ways of living which they had known long ago.

.... A generation grew up in the shadow of a war which, because of its distance, somehow had lost all resemblance to everyday reality. To a generation which knew the war only by hearsay, it seemed that these aged veterans had been privileged to know the greatest experience a man could have. We saw the Civil War, in other words, through the distorting haze of endless Decoration Day reminiscences; to us it was a romantic business because all we ever got a look at was the legend built up through fifty years of peace.

We do learn as we grow older, and eventually I realized that this picture was somewhat out of focus. War, obviously, is the least romantic of all of man's activities, and it contains elements which the veterans do not describe to children.  ....

Yet, in an odd way, the old veterans did leave one correct impression: the notion that as young men they had been caught up by something ever so much larger than themselves and that the war in which they fought did settle something for us—or, incredibly, started something which we ourselves have got to finish. It was not only the biggest experience in their own lives; it was in a way the biggest experience in our life as a nation, and it deserves all of the study it is getting. ....
Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1962.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A birthday

G.K. Chesterton's birthday was today, May 29, in 1874. I was born on May 29 in 1946. GKC on birthdays:
The first fact about the celebration of a birthday is that it is a way of affirming defiantly, and even flamboyantly, that it is a good thing to be alive….But there is a second fact about birthdays, and the birth-song of all creation, a fact which really follows on this; but which, as it seems to me, the other school of thought almost refuses to recognize. The point of that fact is simply that it is a fact. In being glad about my birthday, I am being glad about something which I did not myself bring about.
G.K.’s Weekly, 21st March, 1935

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

"A peculiar type of brainy people"

Winston Churchill, from his St. George’s Day speech in April, 1933:
.... The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without. They come from within. They do not come from the cottages of the wage-earners. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people always found in our country, who, if they add something to its culture, take much from its strength.

Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians. But what have they to offer but a vague internationalism, a squalid materialism, and the promise of impossible Utopias?….
WinstonChurchill.org: Wit and Wisdom – “St. George and the Dragon”

Monday, May 24, 2021

Bob Dylan is 80

Lots of articles about Dylan today, his 80th birthday. From "Bob Dylan Refused to Be the Voice of a Generation," quoting him:
There’s no black and white, Left and Right to me anymore, there’s only up and down, and down is very close to the ground, and I’m trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics.
A writer at the same site observes;
I had little enough use, myself, for Dylan’s music until I was in my mid 30s. Getting past the image and into the deeper waters is where Dylan is best encountered.
I didn't appreciate Dylan until I was about that age.

And:
Few American musicians have attracted more praise or influenced more artists than Dylan. He even won a Nobel Prize in Literature for his lyrics. Dylan is loved by some and respected without affection by others, yet, for many, the sound of his voice and the words of his songs produce a reflexive revulsion. Either way, Dylan has always been more complex and interesting than the public image embraced by casual fans and bitter detractors alike. ....
From 1971:


"I can see the Master's hand":

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Whitsun

On the Sunday when much of the Church celebrates Pentecost:
GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of Thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort, through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Not by mere luck

Gandalf to Bilbo:
Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies just because you helped them come about. You don’t really suppose do you that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck? Just for your sole benefit? You’re a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I’m quite fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world after all.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sabbath

From Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath:
He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Gratitude in the moment

A blogger I read regularly quotes today from chapter 15 of the Screwtape Letters. If you aren't familiar with the book, it is one of C.S. Lewis's best. It supposes letters from a senior demon giving advice to a junior. It's important to remember that the "Enemy" referred to below is God.
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. . .It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do not think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too — just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"A trust from Providence"

I think we would be better off if our political representatives were more like Edmund Burke in his "Speech to the Electors of Bristol" (1774):
Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. (emphasis added)
As I recall, Burke was not re-elected to the seat in Bristol and had to seek election elsewhere.

Perhaps related: "Liz Cheney May Have to Be Ousted, but That’s a Sad Reflection of the GOP."

Sunday, May 2, 2021

"More ready to hear..."

From The Collects of Thomas Cranmer:
Almighty and everlasting God, which art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of Thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving unto us that that our prayer dare not presume to ask, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Happy May Day!

We've been a-rambling all this night,
And sometime of this day;
And now returning back again
We bring a branch of May.

A branch of May we bring you here,
And at your door it stands;
It is a sprout well budded out,
The work of the Lord's hands.

The hedges and trees they are so green,
As green as any leek;
Our Heavenly Father, He watered them
With His heavenly dew so sweet.

The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths are beaten plain;
And if a man be not too far gone,
He may return again.

So dear, so dear as Christ loved us,
And for our sins was slain,
Christ bids us turn from wickedness
Back to the Lord again.

The moon shines bright, the stars give a light,
A little before it is day,
So God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a joyful May.

The Mayers' Song

Once upon a time May Day had nothing to do with any political cause, much less Communism, but with things like May Poles and May Baskets and the celebration of the coming of Spring.

Happy May Day!

The verse and the illustration are from The Children's Book of Rhymes, by Cicely Mary Barker

Monday, April 26, 2021

Wake up!

Netherlands Bach Society
In 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme', performed by the Netherlands Bach Society for All of Bach, everything revolves around the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They wait throughout the night with burning lamps for the arrival of the bridegroom. Five of them have brought along extra oil to keep their lamp burning. The others run out of oil and go off to buy some more. The bridegroom arrives while they are away.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

One eternal day

J.C. Ryle:
The day is coming when there shall be a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end, a song of praise that shall never cease, and an assembly that shall never be dispersed. In that assembly shall be found all who have ‘worshiped God in spirit’ upon earth. If we are such, we shall be there.

Here we often worship God with a deep sense of weakness, corruption, and infirmity. There, at last, we shall be able, with a renewed body, to serve Him without weariness, and to attend on Him without distraction.

Here, at our very best, we see through a glass darkly, and know the Lord Jesus Christ most imperfectly. It is our grief that we do not know Him better and love Him more.

There, freed from all the dross and defilement of indwelling sin, we shall see Jesus as we have been seen, and know as we have been known. Surely, if faith has been sweet and peace-giving, sight will be far better.

Here we have often found it hard to worship God joyfully, by reason of the sorrows and cares of this world. Tears over the graves of those we loved have often made it hard to sing praise. Crushed hopes and family sorrows have sometimes made us hang our harps on the willows.

There every tear shall be dried, every saint who has fallen asleep in Christ shall meet us once more, and every hard thing in our life-journey shall be made clear and plain as the sun at noon-day.

Here we have often felt that we stand comparatively alone, and that even in God’s house the real spiritual worshipers are comparatively few.

There we shall at length see a multitude of brethren and sisters that no man can number, all of one heart and one mind, all free from blemishes, weaknesses, and infirmities, all rejoicing in one Saviour, and all prepared to spend an eternity in His praise. We shall have worshiping companions enough in heaven.

Armed with such hopes as these, let us lift up our hearts and look forward! The time is very short. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Let us worship on, pray on, praise on, and read on.

Let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and resist manfully every effort to spoil Scriptural worship. Let us strive earnestly to hand down the light of Gospel worship to our children’s children.

Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Blessed in that day will be those, and those only, who are found true worshipers, ‘worshipers in spirit and truth!'”
J.C. Ryle, “Worship” in Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion, London: William Hunt and Company, 1885.

Friday, April 23, 2021

New every morning

My denomination emails me a Bible passage and meditation every morning. This morning it was Lamentations 3:22-33. They use the English Standard Version, a version I like very much, but I prefer the Revised Standard Version for this passage.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:22-26, RSV)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Chronological snobbery

Michael Dirda:
.... Until the last third of the 20th century, education broadly meant familiarity with the best that had been written or thought, discovered or imagined, painted or composed. The classics, in other words, the high spots. In my own childhood, adults still sent away for International Correspondence School courses, working men and women hurried to night classes after supper, and “30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary” by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis reached the bestseller list. High culture mattered. Leonard Bernstein taught music appreciation on television, Clifton Fadiman shared his infectious enthusiasm for great books in “The Lifetime Reading Plan,” Dr. Bergen Evans discussed English usage on a weekly radio program titled “Words in the News.”

Today we’re liable to dismiss all this as an antiquated, even antiquarian, approach to what it means to be educated. To think that people once actually pored over books, scribbled on three-by-five note cards, wrote papers and paid homage to what Yeats called the “monuments of unageing intellect.” How naive! In 2021, by contrast, the past — that seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge, culture and human achievement — is too often portrayed as little better than a vile sink of iniquity. With a smug sense of our own superiority, we downplay our ancestors’ real accomplishments to dwell on their moral failings. Just wait till our grandchildren get hold of us. ....
Michael Dirda, "Remember when high culture was revered? Louis Menand’s ‘The Free World’ made me nostalgic," Washington Post, April 22, 2021.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Spring

It snowed lightly here today. Spring is, for the moment, postponed. Samuel Johnson in Rambler No. 5:
There is, indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature. The cold and darkness of winter, with the naked deformity of every object on which we turn our eyes, make us rejoice at the succeeding season, as well for what we have escaped as for what we may enjoy; and every budding flower, which a warm situation brings early to our view, is considered by us as a messenger to notify the approach of more joyous days.

The spring affords to a mind, so free from the disturbance of cares or passions as to be vacant to calm amusements, almost every thing that our present state makes us capable of enjoying. The variegated verdure of the fields and woods, the succession of grateful odours, the voice of pleasure pouring out its notes on every side, with the gladness apparently conceived by every animal, from the growth of his food, and the clemency of the weather, throw over the whole earth an air of gaiety, significantly expressed by the smile of nature. ....

A man that has formed this habit of turning every new object to his entertainment, finds in the productions of nature an inexhaustible stock of materials upon which he can employ himself, without any temptations to envy or malevolence; faults, perhaps, seldom totally avoided by those, whose judgment is much exercised upon the works of art. He has always a certain prospect of discovering new reasons for adoring the sovereign Author of the universe....
Samuel Johnson, Rambler No. 5

Monday, April 19, 2021

On Narnia

In "Why the bigotry of CS Lewis’s Narnia books shouldn’t disqualify their magic"  Katherine Langrish argues for the continuing value of the books albeit conceding more to the critics than I would:
.... With all its faults, Narnia is a world rich in allusions not only to Christianity, but to ballads, fairy tales, medieval and Renaissance literature, to Plato, Greek and Norse mythology, and to classic children’s books by Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and E Nesbit. Narnia is stuffed with exciting ideas. It was Lewis who introduced me, aged nine, to Socratic logic and the concept of the multiverse.

As for his effortlessly drawn characters, a child could learn much without even realising it from meeting selfish Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, who thinks the rules are for the little people. In Prince Caspian, Nikabrik the Dwarf is a narrow, passionately focussed jihadi whose anger I could understand because I knew the story of the oppression and persecution of his race.

And what about the wonderful passage in The Silver Chair when, turning Plato’s parable of the cave on its head, the Green Lady almost gaslights the children into agreeing that her dismal Underland is the only real world? It’s followed by Puddleglum’s splendid defence of the power and importance of the imagination: “We’re just babies playing a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow.” It made me want to cheer; it still does. ....

For me, reading the Seven Chronicles as a child was a life-changing experience. I still love them, and if I now see flaws where once I saw perfection, that’s because I’m grown up and Narnia was part of my growing. It’s always there in my past, and it’s still here – now, today, tomorrow – for any child who wants to open the wardrobe door and push past those fur coats.
Katherine Langrish, "Why the bigotry of CS Lewis’s Narnia books shouldn’t disqualify their magic," The Telegraph, April 19, 2021.

"Fresh courage take..."


The performance omits the fifth verse

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His gracious will.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
William Cowper, 1774

Friday, April 16, 2021

Aging

Patrick Kurp, who is younger than I am, on the advantages of age:
On this date, April 16, in 1939, George Santayana wrote in a letter to his friend William Lyon Phelps, the American writer and academic: “.... I heartily agree that old age is, or may be as in my case, far happier than youth. Even physically pleasanter. I was never more entertained and less troubled than I am now.” ....

I aspire to Santayana’s condition and thus far, at age sixty-eight, have experienced it. Aging has been mellowing – less worrying, less striving for attention, less desire to argue and set others straight. The ego seems to have settled on its proper dimensions. I’m content to be a spectator; not, in any sense, an activist. The world is a far more amusing place than it once was. Comedy is everywhere. ....
Anecdotal Evidence, "I Was Never More Entertained," April 16, 2021.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The greatest detective?

From Michael Dirda's review of a new book about Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot:
In the recent Washington Post poll to choose the greatest fictional detectives of all time, the top four vote-getters, tallied in descending order, were Armand Gamache, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch and Hercule Poirot. Pfui, as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe would say. ....

No, looked at historically, the only true contenders for world’s finest super-sleuth are Holmes and Poirot (with Wolfe and G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown close behind). Being a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and having written a book about Arthur Conan Doyle, I don’t need to say more about my own loyalties. But what about that other fellow, the protagonist of 33 novels and more than 50 short stories by Dame Agatha Christie? ....

...I impetuously decided to try an experiment: What would it be like to reread, after half a century, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd when I already knew its trick?

This time, Christie’s hints to the killer’s identity stood out almost too obviously, yet I quickly surrendered to the zest and smoothness of the fast-paced storytelling. James Sheppard, the village doctor who assists Poirot and narrates the book, proved far more witty than I remembered, though his deductive skills are no better than Dr. Watson’s: When Sheppard first sees Poirot, he tells his comically nosy sister Caroline, “There’s no doubt at all about what the man’s profession has been. He’s a retired hairdresser. Look at that mustache of his.” ....

...The Murder of Roger Ackroyd remains a triumph. As Poirot stresses when speaking of its solution, “Everything is simple, if you arrange the facts methodically.” That sounds easy enough, but only a great detective, like the fastidious Belgian (or Sherlock Holmes!), can disentangle the essential from the inessential. (more)
"Who is the greatest fictional detective? A new book reminds us why it’s Poirot," Washington Post, April 14, 2021.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun...."

Jay Nordlinger today:
Time was, boys and men memorized poems by Robert W. Service. Did girls and women? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. Ronald Reagan committed Service poems to memory. While he was president, he memorably unleashed a little of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” This was at an event with the education secretary, Bill Bennett. ....

Once, Pierre Trudeau challenged Reagan to recite “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” They were at a state dinner — Buckingham Palace — where Reagan sat between the Queen Mother and Trudeau. Reagan accepted the challenge and recited the poem, all 112 lines. ....

He also writes of John McCain, who was campaigning across New Hampshire. Aboard the candidate’s bus was a crew from Comedy Central. They asked him, “Who’s your favorite poet?” McCain answered, “Robert Service, I guess.” The crew then challenged him to recite some — which he did: “The Cremation of Sam McGee” (115 lines). ....
"Poems by Heart"

Friday, April 9, 2021

Memories

Reading tonight from the "Memories of Mary Elizabeth Bond Skaggs" (1994), my mother.
I was born (Mary Elizabeth Bond) August 3, 1911 to Charles Austin and Maud Virginia (Hefner) Bond on Canoe Run, Roanoke, West Virginia. I was the fifth of eight children — Beatrice Mora, Walter Clarence, John Stanley, Luther Harold, Mary Elizabeth, Richard William, Charles Hefner, and Robert Levi.

We lived on my Grandfather’s farm until three of the older children were ready for high school. I have pleasant memories of these eight years of my life. Through third grade I attended the one room school with my sister and brothers. Charles and Robert did not attend the country school as we moved to Salem before they were of school age. My teacher was Mr. Tom Snyder. I remember the pot-bellied stove which stood in the middle of the room and the girls occupied one side of the room and the boys the other. Only one other (Warren Pickerall) was in my class. We went to the front of the room and stood beside our teacher for our reading and perhaps other work. I remember doing numbers on the blackboard and was impressed with Warren’s height as his work was so much higher on the board. We had work to do at our desks but also listened in as older classes went to the front of the room for their sessions with the teacher. Perhaps I even napped with my head on my desk at times. I remember doing ovals and push-pulls and forming letters as I learned to write. Recess was always fun. After we took our turn at the out-side toilet and had a drink of water from the pump there was time for activity. A stream ran across the road near the school and when it froze over the big boys and maybe girls too skated there. When I was little I was little so sometimes the big boys would carry me as they skated. In the spring I remember going across the road into the woods and gathering wild flowers. One Thanksgiving our cousins, Elizabeth, Virginia and Mary came on the train from Salem and went to school with us on Friday after Thanksgiving. That must have been an experience for them. Walter always carried the lunch basket and we gathered round to eat together.

Many of our church people lived relatively close together in what I believe was called “Seven Day Valley.” We lived farther away but went to church regularly. Dad was a deacon. We were related to most of the people there. Often we were invited to dinner. The older children sometimes went one place while the younger children went with Mom and Dad. At Uncle Lee’s (grandfather’s brother) there were always hickory nuts to crack (and eat) while dinner was being prepared. I seem to remember a spring in Uncle John Heavener’s under-ground cellar in the side of the hill. Often there were cool apples there! Aunt Darla had large loaves of freshly baked bread and Aunt Lily Bee had good meals too. You couldn’t go wrong! At a given time our family would meet and return home together. Sometimes Ruth and Main, (first cousins of Dad but near the ages of Bea and Walter) would come home with us and stay over night. We liked to have them come.

My Grandmother Bond died before I was born. Grandfather lived with us part of the time and with Aunt Goldie (his daughter) and Uncle Doc in Salem and visited from time to time in the homes of Uncle Arthur (Dad’s twin brother) and Uncle Ahva. We always enjoyed having Grandpa with us. His room was across the hall from our living room. I liked to go to his room, sit on a stool beside his chair in front of the fire and talk to him. He kept a diary, a small book which he carried in his pocket and wrote in any time — not just at the close of day. Always he mentioned the weather. I have ten years of his diaries including the World War I years. Uncle Doc served over-seas and sometimes Aunt Goldie and Bond (a cousin about my age) came to the farm and spent time with us. The cattle scales used by the farmers round-about were on Grandfather’s farm — a testament to his honesty. Grandfather Bond made shoes and repaired shoes. He had a shop a little way from the house where he did his work. In my time which was after Grandma died he only mended shoes, I think. I learned some of the tools of his trade as I spent time with him in the shop.

My Grandfather Hefner was a blacksmith. He was small in stature but very strong. I don’t remember my Grandmother Hefner except in a wheelchair. During my life they lived in Burnsville. They had lived in Roanoke earlier. I don’t remember them visiting us on the farm. I do remember going to Burnsville with Bea one Easter. This was the first time I had colored eggs. They were so pretty I took one home and kept it long — too long! ....
Ten pages in all. I have no pictures of her at that young age. After her memory began to fail Mom would sit and read her "memories" over and over.

Holmes

Richard Brookhiser spent some of his COVID confinement reading Sherlock Holmes stories aloud to his wife. He writes "The stories vary in quality...but all satisfy. Why?" Part of his answer:
The primary, and obvious, reason is the immortal pair. Holmes is fascinating by himself: the law-enforcer who is a skillful house-breaker, the misanthrope and misogynist who can charm stable hands and old ladies, the loner who defends society, the man who sports personal items presented to him by two different European royal houses but who is familiar with waterfront opium dens. He is simultaneously benevolent and cold; when the KKK — one clue that this mid-century boy reader did not need to have explained — manages to kill one of his clients, Holmes is wounded as an outfoxed professional and moved by the horror of the deed.

Dr. Watson is a reader transported into the story. Though he cannot unravel the mysteries any faster than we can, he does have a field of expertise (besides medicine) — and that is Holmesology. He does not know what his friend is thinking, but he almost always knows that he is thinking, and he can tell whether those thoughts are fruitful or still stymied. Watson’s double function as “author” also applies the final coat of verisimilitude. ....

The stories thrive on their sense of place. The crime-fighters venture into the countryside, where, however small the town, there is an inn to serve as a base of operations, and a noble or at least centuries-old house in which they must operate. But their preferred habitat is the city — Holmes “loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people.” ....

The best, most vivid place is the era. The stories existed in real Victorian time when they first ran, but by the end of Doyle’s career they became nostalgic (the last ones appeared alongside flappers). A century-plus on, they are wholly so. .... (more)
Richard Brookhiser, "The Comforts of Holmes," National Review, April 19, 2021.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Unconditional curiosity

Patrick Kurp today:
“Nobody anymore under the age of fifty has any education whatsoever.”

A rhetorical exaggeration, but still sobering. It’s tempting to assume ignorance metastasizes untreatably across generations, that the young are willfully blind to their inheritance. Many are, and have been taught by parents and teachers to scorn learning. But the opposite of ignorance is not a college degree but unconditional curiosity. My essential education occurred not in classrooms but in libraries and wherever I happened to be reading a good book or listening to someone more knowledgeable than I.

The writer quoted above is Guy Davenport in a letter to James Laughlin on this date, April 6, in 1994. ....
Anecdotal Evidence, "Having Been Taught How to Find Things"

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Addison's Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford

.... On September 19, 1931, in what might rank as one of the most important conversations in literary history, Lewis took his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien on a walk along the River Cherwell near Magdalen College. .... (more)

Alleluia!


From the hymn "Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain," words by John of Damascus (675–749).
Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
Hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst the twelve
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
"Alleluia!" now we cry
To our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars
Of the tomb’s dark portal;
"Alleluia!" with the Son,
God the Father praising,
"Alleluia!" yet again
To the Spirit raising.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

David Suchet

David Suchet, on becoming a Christian:
“Agatha Christie puts into Poirot’s mouth the words, ‘I am un bon Catholique’. He says his prayers and reads the Bible with a cup of hot chocolate every night of his life. He is a very religious man.” And so, too, is 74-year-old Suchet.

He quietly became a Christian in 1986, “fairly late in life”, but in recent years has been more public about his faith. To mark this Easter, when many churches will still be closed, he has recorded a reading of the whole of John’s Gospel that goes live tomorrow (Sunday 4 April) at 4pm on Westminster Abbey’s YouTube channel. ....
David Suchet: ‘I often wonder what Poirot would have made of my walk to faith,’ The Telegraph, April 3, 2021.

A Saturday kind of faith

Re-posted

 

.... Martin Luther said himself that Saturday was the day that God himself lay cold in the grave. Friday was death, Sunday was hope, but Saturday was that seemingly ignored middle day between them when God occupied a dirty grave in a little garden outside Jerusalem. Saturday is about waiting, about uncertainty, about not knowing what’ll happen. ....

So much of Christian faith is Saturday faith. ....

A medieval theologian, Anselm, once described the kind of faith that comes with Saturday—fides quaerens intellectum: “faith seeking understanding.” By that, he meant that faith isn’t something that arises after moments of understanding. Rather, faith is something that you cling to when understanding and reason lay dead. We don’t believe once we understand it—we believe in order to understand it. Saturday’s like that: offering a day of waiting, a day of ambiguity, a day when God is sovereign even if our ideas and theologies and expectations about him are not. It is the day that our ignorance is our witness and our proclamation. Truth is, our intellect will always be one step behind in our love of God. We don’t love God once we understand him; we love God in order to understand him. ....

At times, we are all like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who were really close to Jesus but didn’t always know it. In Luke 24, two disciples walked away from Jerusalem, where they’d just seen their Lord and Master die on the cross. Leaving, dejected, upset, hopeless, and broken, to find the next stage in their lives and careers. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus had been resurrected and was actually walking alongside them on their way to Emmaus. The hope of Sunday hadn’t dawned on them yet. The Gospels tell us that, on their way to Emmaus, the disciples were “downcast.”

That experience is the kind of experience Saturday is all about. .... (more)
A.J. Swoboda is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. This is from his A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience, excerpted in Christianity Today.

Monday, March 29, 2021

1662 BCP

Just received in the mail from InterVarsity Press, The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition. I came to order it after reading this by Alan Jacobs, author of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography:
What they have done is something deceptively simple, with only a few elements:
  1. Take the 1662 Prayer Book;
  2. Replace the prayers for the British monarchy with more general prayers for political leaders;
  3. Replace a few terms that have become wholly archaic or have changed in meaning so much that they will not be understood;
  4. Add a brief glossary for the unusual terms that it would have been unwise to replace;
  5. Present the result in beautiful typography. 
That’s it! The distinctive structure of the 1662 BCP — built around the rhythms of Morning and Evening Prayer, following the changing seasons of the church year, and centering always on Coverdale’s Psalter — remains, and it remains because it can’t be bettered.
It is attractive, cloth-bound in green, compact, and with a red ribbon.

I haven't had time to examine it thoroughly but as I was opening it properly I came across the collects for today:
Buy your own: The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"A disposition of reverence"

From a review of poet Dana Gioia's recently published memoir:
.... Today the word “piety” is used to describe hollow and sentimental shows of belief. In its ancient and proper sense, however, piety is a noble thing, a disposition of reverence toward those to whom we owe gratitude. The pious man worships God, serves his country, and honors his mother and father. He remembers the dead. “To name is to know and remember,” Gioia writes in one of his finest poems, and here he repeats the refrain: “Oblivion can do its work elsewhere. Remembrance is our métier. After all, our Muse is the daughter of Memory.”
Matthew Schmitz, "Dana Gioia’s Timeless Piety"

Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Obedience is not legalism"

Browsing through previous posts on this blog I came across this and I like it very much.
.... I have never yet met a parent who complained that his child was a legalist because he obeyed too much. In fact, it would be impossible for any parent to imagine how his child could obey too much.

Yet, find a Christian who is careful to obey God in everything, and we won’t have to look far to find another Christian to call him a legalist. What do we make of this?

It’s a word we all hate, but exactly what is legalism? Legalism is that attempt to establish or maintain a right standing with God by means of our own efforts. .... Anyone claiming to be Christian knows better than that, but even among believers there is sometimes found that attempt to maintain a right standing with God by means of personal efforts. They seem to think that having been saved by grace they must maintain that salvation by works. Legalism. ....

But we must be careful not to confuse legalism with obedience. Obedience is not legalism. Obedience is obedience. God commands us to obey his Word, and when pressed with those commands we must not cry foul—“legalism!” No, disobedience is sin, and obedience is not legalism. ....

Simply put, we needn’t fear that we may obey our Lord too much. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey him.

Happily, God has promised in the New Covenant to give us a heart to obey him. And every true Christian has found that obedience to God is not a burdensome thing. This is the work of his Spirit within us to bring us to obey him—not legalistically but faithfully. .... (more)
Legalism or Obedience?- Credo Magazine

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"To bind one's self to one man..."

Samuel Johnson, August 15, 1773, in Edinburgh, on the wisdom of committing oneself to a political party:
I CAN see that a man may do right to stick to a party; that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot [bundle] of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove.
James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, L.L.D.

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Them that die'll be the lucky ones."

Last night I watched once again my favorite film adaptation of Treasure Island (1990). There have been quite a few. I've seen many of them and have four in my collection of DVDs (including one I very much dislike — not sure why I still have it). This is the best because it is the one that follows Stevenson's story most faithfully and is superbly executed. The cast is great: a teenage Christian Bale is Jim Hawkins, Blind Pew is played by Christopher Lee, Billy Bones by Oliver Reed, and Charlton Heston is Long John Silver, also Pete Postlethwaite and others well cast. The director was Heston's son which may explain how so much talent came to be in this version. The soundtrack is performed by The Chieftains. The ship used for the Hispaniola was originally built as the HMS Bounty for the version of The Mutiny on the Bounty filmed in 1962. The DVD can be purchased right now for less than ten dollars at Amazon or streaming from Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"You’re fer or agin"

From a Jay Nordlinger post today:
In recent years, people have liked to describe themselves, and others, as “post-liberals.” I find this term puzzling. As I see it, they are anti-liberals, or illiberals. Such people, we have always had with us, and always will. In fact, they constitute the vast majority of mankind.

Liberalism — meaning, classical liberalism, rather than, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — has no “pre-” and no “post-.” It has friends and enemies. (A relative handful of the former, teeming multitudes of the latter.) You can no more be “post-liberal” than you can be post-freedom, or post–human rights.

I mean, you are or you aren’t. You’re fer or agin.

In a discussion of this topic last week, a reader drew my attention to a speech by Calvin Coolidge. The president was speaking on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in the summer of 1926. I’d like to quote a big ol’ chunk, and I don’t think you will be sorry.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
Well said, Cal. They called him “silent,” but when he spoke — it was worth it.
Jay Nordlinger, "Bad words, good words, etc," NRO, Mar. 17, 2021.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Theology is like a map

From "Book Four" of Mere Christianity:
.... I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the RA.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

...Theology is like the map. .... Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. .... For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. .... (more)
C.S. Lewis, "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps In The Doctrine Of The Trinity," Mere Christianity.