Tuesday, November 30, 2021

On the anniversary of Churchill's birth

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, November 30, 1874, Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England.

Monday, November 29, 2021


The Christian season of Advent begins this weekend. Advent is about waiting — waiting with anticipation. The waiting that anticipated the coming of Messiah and the waiting that anticipates His coming again. From "Why Celebrate Advent?" by Timothy Paul Jones:
.... Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but passed long before his arrival.

In the process, Advent reminds us that we, too, are waiting.....

“The whole creation,” the apostle Paul declared, “has been groaning together for redemption.”

In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come. Just as the ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the consummation of the good news through the Messiah’s return in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word. ....

Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge once suggested that “all happenings, great and small, are parables by which God speaks. The art of life is to get the message.” Advent reminds us to listen for the message that God is speaking, even in the waiting.


From the last pages of Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer:
I don't say the resurrection of this body will happen at once. It may well be that this part of us sleeps in death, and the intellectual soul is sent to Lenten lands where she fasts in naked spirituality a ghost-like and imperfectly human condition. .... Yet from that fast my hope is that we shall return and re-assume the wealth we have laid down.

Then the new earth and sky, the same yet not the same as these, will rise in us as we have risen in Christ. And once again, after who knows what aeons of the silence and the dark, the birds will sing and the waters flow, and lights and shadows move across the hills, and the faces of our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition.

Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be. For "we know that we shall be made like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

Thursday, November 25, 2021


Calvin Coolidge in 1923:
.... Though our mode of life has greatly changed, this custom has always survived. It has made Thanksgiving Day not only one of the oldest but one of the most characteristic observances of our country. On that day, in home and church, in family and in public gatherings, the whole nation has for generations paid the tribute due from grateful hearts for blessings bestowed.

To center our thought in this way upon the favor which we have been shown has been altogether wise and desirable. It has given opportunity justly to balance the good and the evil which we have experienced. In that we have never failed to find reasons for being grateful to God for a generous preponderance of the good. Even in the least propitious times, a broad contemplation of our whole position has never failed to disclose overwhelming reasons for thankfulness. Thus viewing our situation, we have found warrant for a more hopeful and confident attitude toward the future. ....

.... We have been blessed with much of material prosperity. We shall be better able to appreciate it if we remember the privations others have suffered, and we shall be the more worthy of it if we use it for their relief. We will do well then to render thanks for the good that has come to us, and show by our actions that we have become stronger, wiser, and truer by the chastenings which have been imposed upon us. We will thus prepare ourselves for the part we must take in a world which forever needs the full measure of service. We have been a most favored people. We ought to be a most generous people. We have been a most blessed people. We ought to be a most thankful people.

WHEREFORE, I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, do hereby fix and designate Thursday, the twenty-ninth day of November, as Thanksgiving Day, and recommend its general observance throughout the land. It is urged that the people, gathering in their homes and their usual places of Worship, give expression to their gratitude for the benefits and blessings that a gracious Providence has bestowed upon them, and seek the guidance of Almighty God, that they may deserve a continuance of His favor.
Proclamation, November 5, 1923

An acceptable Thanksgiving

MOST heartily do we thank Thee, O Lord, for all Thy mercies of every kind, and for Thy loving care over all Thy creatures. We bless Thee for the gift of life, for Thy protection round about us, for Thy guiding hand upon us, and for the many tokens of Thy love within us; especially for the saving knowledge of Thy dear Son, our Redeemer; and for the living presence of Thy Spirit, our Comforter. We thank Thee for friendship and duty, for good hopes and precious memories, for the joys that cheer us and for the trials that teach us to trust in Thee. In all these things, our heavenly Father, make us wise unto a right use of Thy great benefits; and so direct us that in word and deed we may render an acceptable thanksgiving unto Thee, in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1906.

Saturday, November 20, 2021


I thought this was pretty good (via Challies):
.... We will be afflicted, we will be perplexed, we will be persecuted, we will be struck down, but we will not be crushed, we will not be driven to despair, we will not be forsaken, and we will not be destroyed. For although this treasure of the gloriousness of Christ is in weak jars of clay, it is to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). Hence, though our bodies may fail us, yet still inwardly God is working and furnishing us to the end of his glory. ....

So we must not lose heart, for his sure word assures us that God never forsakes us. And therefore, today we can together with Paul and say, ‘because of the sure word of God and his certain promises, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I am content, and I can do all things through him who strengthen me’ (Philippians 4:12-13).
Sorrowful yet always rejoicing

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Jesus got angry

From "Jesus Wept" by Matt Labash:
...I have sat under roughly ten ministers in my life, on a regular or semi-regular basis. Of those, none were plagued by scandal. And most have done worthy things, from feeding the hungry to bringing the light to very dark corners of this world, sometimes at great personal danger. Whatever their politics, which I often didn’t know, they didn’t bring those into the pulpit. And even when I did know their politics, and might even have a good-natured (or good-enough) slug fest with them on one matter or another, they left it all behind on Sunday morning. They respected their calling enough to still preach out of The Book, and not some partisan hymn book. God, they understood, was bigger than Republicans vs. Democrats. At least he should be, if he’s at all worth serving. ....

...[T]he problem with cocked-fisted Christianity is that it often over-emphasizes the fists, and underemphasizes the Christianity. It gives short shrift to the most essential, if inconvenient, of Christ’s teachings — the very thing that is supposed to make a Christian what they are. (The root word “Christ” is right there in the name. It’s not terribly subtle.)

And what did Christ teach? Well, he said a lot of things, which hang together marvelously as a coherent body of work. There’s a passage in Matthew where he is asked what the greatest commandment in the law is. He responds with, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” But there’s a second-place finisher, which he says is “like unto” the first — in other words, just as important: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” In some ways, it might be the most difficult commandment in the Bible. But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s optional. ....

Christ wasn’t always peace’n’love, mind you. He wasn’t always Hippie Jesus, walking the countryside in sandals, blessing people and healing the sick. There is one incident — recounted in three separate Gospels, so you know someone wanted us to get the point — where Jesus genuinely blew a gasket. When he entered the temple, and saw the money-changers defiling the House of God, he turned the dump over, almost literally. Matthew tells us that he “drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers.” Mark tells us that he said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. But you have made it a den of robbers.” John tells us that Jesus went so far, when driving out the defilers, to make “a whip of cords.”

Yes, Jesus got so angry, that he went all Billy Jack on us. I wonder what he’d do with the Let’s-Go-Brandon chanters? .... (more)
Matt Labash, "Jesus Wept: Are Christians hurting Christianity?"

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


Prufrock is back both as a three times a week newsletter (sign up here) and a weekly column (linked here). I have always found something interesting in what Micah Mattix finds interesting. From the first of the new newsletter:
Michael M. Rosen reviews a new history of the English language, focusing on its bizarre rules: “If you’re curious about why we say Woe is me (instead of Woe am I), why we egg people on, why colonel is pronounced kernel, why multiple moose aren’t meese, and how come we say how come, this is the book for you. It’s also skillfully and charmingly illustrated by Sean O’Neill, Okrent’s frequent collaborator.”

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Red Arrow

The 32d Division was organized under War Dept. orders of 18 July 1917 of National Guard Units from both Wisconsin and Michigan. Units began leaving state camps in Wisconsin and Michigan bound for Camp MacArthur, near Waco, Texas, in early August 1917. The last units arrived at Camp MacArthur by late September 1917.

The Division served on the front line during World War I from 18 May 1918 until the end of the War on 11 November 1918. It was the first American Division to pierce the famed Hindenburg Line, fought in 4 major offensives and earned the name “Les Terribles” from the French.
The 32d Division was the only American division to be bestowed with a nom-de-guerre by an Allied nation during the war.

The colors of all four Infantry Regiments, three Artillery Regiments, and three Machine Gun Battalions were decorated with the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. These were the only National Guard units bestowed with the highest order of the Croix de Guerre during WWI.
The Division served with the Army of Occupation in Germany until 18 April 1919 and began its return to the U.S. on 1 May 1919. ....

On 15 October 1940, the 32d Division, Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard, was again called to Active Duty.

In July of 1941, the 32d Division’s official name was modified to 32d Infantry Division.

In August and September of 1941, the 32d Infantry Division participated in the 'Louisiana Maneuvers,' the greatest peacetime maneuver in the history of the United States Army.

On 22 April 1942, the 32d Infantry Division sailed from San Francisco, bound for the war in the South Pacific. They arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 14 May 1942.

On 15 September 1942 the first elements of the Division were flown from Australia to Port Moresby, New Guinea.
The 32d Division was the first U.S. Division to fight an offensive action against the Japanese in the Southwest Pacific.

The Division fought in six major engagements in four Campaigns involving 654 days of combat, more than any other American Division during WWII. .... (more)

Saturday, November 6, 2021


Five Books does "The Best Wartime Mystery Books." The war is World War II. I've read, and have possessed, two of them, and am familiar with the author of a third, Michael Gilbert. The familiar ones are Agatha Christie's N or M?, one of the Tommy and Tuppence novels, pretty lighthearted, and Margery Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse (1941). A friend introduced me to Allingham while I was still pretty young and her books remain favorites.
.... It features her regular detective Albert Campion, who she’d been writing about since the late 1920s. He’s in, I think, at least ten books through the 1920s and 1930s. At the beginning, she’s writing him as almost a parody of an aristocratic amateur sleuth. He’s very silly. That slowly morphs into him becoming a more serious, rounded character. His silliness becomes a facade that he puts on when he doesn’t want people to realize that he’s actually very astute.

What’s so interesting about this book is that she completely formally deconstructs the detective novel as people have known it to date. It begins with Campion waking up in hospital with total amnesia. He doesn’t know who he is, or where he is, or why he’s there. He’s had an accident, he’s suffered a head injury, and he has no idea what’s going on. But he just has this overwhelming feeling that there’s something he’s supposed to be doing — something really important. He doesn’t know what it is. He has to piece together his own identity, and the case that he must be working on, from what he overhears other people saying and from contextual clues, and from who comes to see him in hospital. He’s solving the mystery of himself at the same time as trying to solve a wartime mystery. ....

...J.K. Rowling has also cited Allingham as her favourite of all the Golden Age crime writers. Allingham wasn’t content to just churn out books in the same old classic mould. She was always trying to do something a bit different each time. .... (more)
Five Books: "The Best Wartime Mystery Books."

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Well put:
We have lost the gravitas that is congregational singing. To many, they don’t want their voices heard in the first place. This is partly due to insecurity—which we can all experience—and partly due to putting on a show. We are more concerned about our appearance than losing ourselves in singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19) to God.

When the congregation is focused on the glory of God, the glory of man dwindles. In a very real sense, the reason we search for a church that has congregational singing is because it reveals the attention is not on man, but God—the object of our worship. ....

When we are singing, we are talking to our God who saved us. This should compel us to fearlessly and freely lift our voices high in unison! It is what we will be doing—and thoroughly enjoying—in glory for all eternity! ....

Friend, are you looking for a church? Might I suggest you go somewhere that has congregational singing. You can hear others singing with joy—whether they are on key or not. Either way, it is a wonderful sound and pleasing to our Father in Heaven. .... (more)
"Can You Hear the Congregation Singing?"

Friday, November 5, 2021

"God, let me see your glory..."

I'm not a fisherman but I loved this essay. Matt Labash was one of my favorite writers at The Weekly Standard. He begins quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins:
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

He writes about one day:
....Shit happens, as the Good Book says. (I forget which translation.) But so did the glory that happened just before it. I saw it with my own eyes, and felt it on the end of my line. I had what I needed, and more than I could want. And what I really wanted, more than shad, was my faith restored that anything can happen, and that sometimes, those things are good. .... (read it if you are permitted)
Matt Labash, "Spots of time," Slack Time.

Monday, November 1, 2021

"Probably too busy watching television to notice"

Chris Stirewalt:
.... When Facebook and Twitter made it possible for a young black man to get elected president after serving less than one term in the Senate, it was evidence of technology for progress. When the same technology enabled an old, white reality-show host to become president without any experience at all, it was evidence of corporate wrongdoing. Facebook and Twitter had to do more to restrict what could be said and who could say it. In short, they had to start acting like the “corporate media” that was once reviled for its gatekeeping and high barriers to entry.

That realization came alongside the dawning knowledge that social media wasn’t so much about people-powered content as it was in the power to hypnotize people. Just like with television, these new advertising platforms weren’t selling #content. They were selling us and our attention. Listening to lawmakers express shock that Facebook tries to keep people endlessly glued to its feeds for as long as possible makes one wonder if they’ve ever considered, say, primetime cable news, Below Deck, or Dr. Pimple Popper.

We should have known that we would have ended up here, given the human tendencies toward avarice and self-indulgence. It should not have been a surprise that people would get rich from Americans yet again “narcotized by technological diversions.” But we were probably too busy watching television to notice.
A Series of Boob Tubes: We should have seen the downsides of social media years ago.