Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

Tear me up.

March 7, 2017

FalnTre3

Tear me up, life,

just tear me up,

stomp on me if you want to

pick me up and throw me ‘cross the world.

I don’t care.

Go on now,

get on with it.

Watch me like a hawk,

and when I’m at my tenderest,

most vulnerable point,

pounce!

Take your best shot!

What you do not see

is the One who died for me.

His sacrifice has made all the difference,

and will yet again

when I rise with Him.

So just get along now.

Go find someone else to pick on.

You think I don’t see you.

But I do.

And I will.

IrisB2

Glass half-Full

A Scene at the Lincoln Memorial

June 28, 2015

Yesterday we drove up from Charlotte to Washington. After checking into the hotel, we had dinner in the room, then launched out for a nocturnal walk to the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial. By ‘n by, being doused by a rainstorm we found ourselves taking cover  under this unfamiliar rotunda which turned out to be something called the D.C. War Memorial. I snapped this pic:

DCWarMem

which turned out to be a much clearer photograph than the one I attempted a few minutes later in the drizzling D.C. night at the Korean War Memorial:

KoreaGhostly

This very dark image of ghostly soldier statues seems to reflect a dim commemoration of a war that was taking place on the other side of the world about the time I entered this world in 1951.

My photographic success brightened considerably when, a few tromping minutes later, we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and caught this view in the dripping night.

LincMemNite

This luminescent sight reminded me of our arrival in Greece a few months ago when, having just stepped out of an Athens Metro station we caught a similarly eerie first sighting of the distant Acropolis, which seemed to hover at the apex of an ancient high-ground hallowed spot.

But that was then, and this was now, which is to say, last night:

We ascended the glistening steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and when we got up there this is what we saw:

LincolnStatu

Then, wandering over to the glyphed wall-inscription of our war-striven President’s message at Gettysburg battlefield. I was reminded of a scene from my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. In chapter 6 of that book, we find Marcus and Bridget, a young couple who have recently met, gazing at the inscribed words of the President’s famous speech. Here’s the scene:

They came to an inner sanctum. Carved on the white marble wall in front of them were the words of the slain President’s Gettysburg address. Marcus stopped, taking in the enormity of it, both physically and philosophically. He was looking at the speech intently. Bridget was looking at him.

After a few moments: “Isn’t that amazing?”

“Yes.” She could see that he was thinking hard about something. The great chamber echoed a murmur of humankind.

“Supreme irony.” The longing of a nation’s soul reverberated through the memorial. . .in the soundings of children, the whisperings of passersby. Deep within Marcus’ soul, something sacred was stirring, and she could see it coming forth.

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.” He was reading aloud Lincoln’s words on the white wall.

But for the echoes of a million people who had passed through this place, there was silence. After a moment, Bridget responded “. . .and yet, there it is, carved on the wall for all to see. ‘The world will little note what we say here. . .’ ”

“Right, Bridget. Isn’t it amazing?”

GettysbAddrs

Glass half-Full

I didn’t go to Vietnam, but . . .

May 25, 2015

I was a kid of the ’60s which means now I’m in my own sixties.

While there was a lot going on back in the day, with all the world descending into war and chaos and so forth and so one, nevertheless there was a lot of good happening too.

Always has been, always will be, a lot of good and a lot of bad going on in the world at the same time,  and here we are trying to sort our way through it.

Makes me think of Take Your Place on the Great Mandela, a song sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tBLqIz6wA

Now you remember, since I mention the ’60s, there was a war going on back then.

As there is a war going on today, somewhere. Most likely we are involved in it, directly or indirectly, we being the big kid on the block, policeman of the world, inheritor of the post WorldWarII reconstruction and defender of the free world.

I mean that: Defender of free world. It’s a job to be taken seriously.

Back in the day, when the war was in Vietnam, when Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and God only knows who else, along with thousands of American boys, were trying to make southeast Asia safe for democracy, I reached draft age at the same time that the US gov implemented a lottery for selecting draftees.

My draft # was 349. Literally the luck of the draw. So I never went to ‘Nam, never served in the military.

Now we don’t have a draft any more. Our soldiers are all professionals. And that, in my opinion, is the main difference between American strength then and America now. And please forgive me when I say, that’s the way it should be. It seems to me that that whole damn business of the anti-war movement during our Vietnam striving was an outcome of the draft. It was the draft, and my generation’s refusal to accept it, that doomed our effort, from the start, to successfully prosecute that unpopular war.

And for what its worth, Vietnam hasn’t turned out so bad. My daughter traveled there several years ago and gave a very favorable report of the place, including their fondness for Americans in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

But looking back on it, ff we had had no draft, everything we did in Vietnam might have turned out differently. We might have won.

But then we’ll never know, will we?, about such vain speculations as the one I have just made.

Nevertheless, that’s my opinion and I’m stickin’ to it. I’m an American, with a Constitutionally-protected right to express it, thanks to those whose valiant service has assured our freedoms.

And I believe that if another war comes along that truly requires a draft, such as World War II, then our Congress will affirm the need, and men and women will rise to the challenge.

Thanks to those who have fought to defend to our liberty. Thanks to their families, whose survival is saddened by the loss of their brave sons, daughters, relatives and friends who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, who deposited into the blood-drenched soils of Vietnam, Korea, Okinawa, France, Belgium, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, and many other places including our very own USA where President Lincoln commemorated their sacrifice at Gettysburg. . .the dear cost of freedom paid by those who contributed their “last full measure of devotion.”

Now you may be thinking that’s easy for me to say, as one who never served.

And you’re right. It is easy for me to say, or to write, but that’s just the way it is.

In a free country, citizens are free to serve in the armed forces, or not serve. For those who do accept military duty, whether for a season or for a career, we ought to provide a good living, and extraordinary opportunities for them to prosper, to live long and well, in our free nation after they have completed military service.

I mean it when I say: we owe a great debt to our men and women who defend the United States of America and our Allies by serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Because of my feelings about all this, I wrote a novel to express the way I see our war-torn world. It is the story of a young man who did not do military service, but who is, in the story, traveling through Britain and France during the year 1937. And he, Philip, has a destination, which is a battlefield in Belgium, a place called Flanders Field, where his father is buried.

His father had died in 1918 defending Belgium, France, and the free world.

My novel story is fictional, but it depicts some tragic truth about what goes on in this perilous world, a world that is often at war with itself. But it’s a world that occasionally catches some respite in between wars, as I did, and also as my character Philip did in the novel,

Smoke.

Ritual and Renewal in Christendom

February 14, 2015

I was raised in the Catholic Church, and my wife was too. That was a long time ago.

During the 35 years of our marriage, we’ve been intimately connected to a group of Protestant Christian believers. Our group spends a lot of time reading the Bible and discussing the revelation, poetry, prophecy and history that is documented therein.

Our literate emphasis on the Bible, the printed Word of God, has not always been the main thrust of the Christian religion. Widespread reading of the Scriptures only came to the forefront in Christian life during the Protestant Reformation, which was led in the 1500’s by Martin Luther, John Calvin and many other outspoken reformers.

There’s a historical reason why the Reformation, and the Renaissance before it, happened when it did.

About a hundred years before Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention and development of the printing press had begun forging new paths of communication. This new printing technology would greatly proliferate literacy, and the use of the printed word, for centuries to come. The expanded use of printed Scriptures fundamentally changed the Christian religion; it was similar, in a way, to the way digital media has profoundly altered communication during our times.

But before that 16th-century revolution in literate religion came (enabling Christians to sit around discussing the Bible), there was the centuries-old Practice of Religion, and a major part of that religion was Ritual.

Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is plainly told, for all to see and read, in the four Gospels of the printed Word. We take this for granted in the 21st century, as we did in the last century when I was growing up.

My Catholic childhood practice of religion was absolutely defined by the Mass, which is a ritual that had originated in the events of Christ’s sacrifice, but was later morphed during 1900 years of time into a prescribed, elaborate ceremony. The original purpose of the Mass was to tell the story of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, in Jerusalem. But as that Mass came down through the ages, the cognitive element (understanding what actually happened at Calvary) was draped (rather mysteriously in my young consciousness) in ceremonial robes, and spoken in a language–Latin–that I did not understand. And so the Mass became, for me and for millions of others, something else. It became a Ritual.

In my young soul, this produced reverence, and a kind of faith–not a faith of understanding, but of. . .ritual, and yes, belief.

I’m not rejecting ritual altogether. I believe it is a profound component of human community, and can be a pathway toward faithful worship. But my turning, in early adulthood, to (what is called Protestantism) the Scriptures, instead of the Catholic (or HighChurch) ceremonial practice, has been quite productive, and beneficial in how I have lived life.

When Pat and I visited Greece and Italy a few of weeks ago, I was enlightened about all this. It was a kind of epiphany.

In Athens, we saw:

OrthxBrite

I snapped the image in a Greek Orthodox church.

A week later in Rome, we saw:

GoldAltar

This image is from a Roman Catholic church.

These two pix cannot portray the meaning, nor the reverential profundity, of worship as it regularly is offered in Orthodox and Catholic churches of the Old World, and still today through the whole world. But they are a visual indicator of the cultural legacy, and the experiential intensity, that accompanies ceremonies in both major strains of Christendom. (Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic parted ways during the 11th century A.D.)

I will cast no judgement about the formal traditions of my Christian brothers and sisters whose faith is framed in the Old way of worship. I suppose what they are doing may reflect more perfectly what we will all be doing in heaven someday.

These reverential musings, which were recently initiated for me in Athens and Rome, have marvelously, perhaps Providentially, landed on this screen just now, for you to see. Now I will bring this ceremonial sojourn to a visual cadence with . . . one more picture I snapped; it expresses my feeling about our colorful Christian faith, which is visible to those who watch attentively, in the midst of a tragic, and dreary, world.

PiazNovnaColr

Glass half-Full

Deliver us from evil

July 19, 2014

We read about it in a book:

La guillotine Revolution;

how it fell so quick,

and king’s blood splattered Paris stones.

Anarchy was loosed upon the world.

 

Then we read about it in the news:

that hammer/sickle Revolution,

heavy like a brick

when czar’s blood splattered Russian stones.

Anarchy was hurled upon the world.

 

Then we heard it on the radio:

blitzkrieg of  rabid Evolution,

emblazoned in that weird swastik

when innocent blood splattered kristallnacht stones.

Anarchy goose-stepped upon the world.

 

We even saw it on TV

that same forever-spreading evolutionary Revolution,

manifesting every slick human trick

while tactical blood splattered o’er strategic zones.

Anarchy was broadcast upon the world.

 

Now we encounter it in the ‘net,

that old new Revoluti scimitari;

it slits across us quick,

while new astonished blood spills on ancient stones.

Jihadi anarchy is hurled upon the world.

 

Let this be a warning to yah.

Prepare to meet our Maker Jah,

whose sacrificial blood spilt on Jerusalem brick

while atonement shone bright and thick.

Then a banner of Deliverance was unfurled;

now Mercy is hurled upon the Revolutionary world,

if ye will have it.

Selah.

 

Smoke

Don’t go ballistic like Cain did

March 10, 2014

I’m a meat-eater, but that’s neither here nor there. Some people are not, and that’s just fine. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. People are different; each person has his/her own preferences. This diversity makes human life much more interesting and dramatic than it would be if we were all the same.

In that  ancient great Book–the one  that is holy and cherished by millions while it is disdained by others–a story is told about two brothers of long ago, Cain and Abel. Cain was growing crops in the ground; Abel was raising flocks of sheep.

Back in those days, men had not yet figured out how cool they were, so they looked to the supernatural realm for inspiration and faith. Many men and women of antiquity  believed in offering a portion of their increase to God. It wasn’t like today, when folks don’t pay attention to such things because they are, you know, on their own.

One day,  these two brothers were offering their sacrifices to God, but, as it turned out, with differing results.The book of Genesis reports that God had regard for Abel’s sacrifice, but not for Cain’s, whatever that means. The common interpretation of this is that God rejected Cain’s offering, but received Abel’s. If God did indeed reject Cain’s sacrifice, the Bible provides no explanation of God’s preference in this incident.

In Christian tradition, writ large and writ small, this event has been for a long time a matter of some study and speculation.  Some have inferred that God was indicating a preference for meat instead of veggie or grain produce, or simply an acknowledgement that meat has more protein value as food for us humans. Or maybe God’s apparent distinction was based not on the foods being offered, but on some difference between the two brothers themselves. Perhaps Cain had offered low quality goods, while Abel had reserved his best for God. Or it could be that Cain just had a bad attitude. We don’t know.

What we can see in this story is that God’s acknowledgement of one brother’s offering was not the same as his regard for  the other. That’s about it.

Those of us who believe in God, and in the Mosaic revelation about God’s attributes, can derive with surety only one lesson from this demonstrative story about God’s preference: whatever God does, he does. Or, to put it the other way, whatever he doesn’t do, he doesn’t do. There is no need for him to justify his acceptances to us. Who are we to question the One who created all things?

And we have to live with that.

Christians and others who value the Genesis revelation have this awareness of the Almighty’s sovereignty, which is absolute because God is the Creator who set all things in motion. Our conception if God is fundamentally different from our view of humans, whom we know to be fickle, inconsistent, generally unpredictable, contentious, and sometimes murderous.

The reality of God’s sovereign will was not a lesson that Cain was ready to accept. He got upset about God’s apparent rejection of his offering. So Cain killed his brother.

Is God guilty of some injustice here? Is God unjust because he did not receive both sacrifices as equal?

No.

Equality, as venerable as it is, is a human notion.  According to our Declaration of American Independence, the God who created Nature also created men and women, and created them all equal. This means that we, as men and women who need to govern ourselves, must form institutions that regard all persons as equal if we want to work together toward societal justice.

Let’s accept the human idea that all persons should be equal in the eyes of human law.

But we are individuals; that is important. Furthermore, equality of individual persons is a valuable truth for prioritizing our behaviors and institutions.

Once a baby is born, the wonderful dynamic of that person’s unique circumstances–nature and nurture and all that–determines what that person is, who they become, and how the work of their hands and mind is received by others, or for that matter,  by God.

But this does not mean everyone’s input and output will be equal. In that sense, we are not equals. This inequality affords us a thoroughly fascinating human race, with a beneficial diversity of inputs and outputs, and hence a vast range of incomes and outcomes.

Let us make judicial provisions for equality of opportunity for each person. But equality of income and outcome is ultimately a matter that is determined by each person’s use of the resources available to him/her.

If you have something to offer to God, or to the world, do not go ballistic if it is ignored or overlooked. Just find the lesson in that rejection; then go back and try again. You will have better results than if you, like Cain, get mad and kill someone.

As for Cain’s fate after his crime, God spared him the death sentence, and allowed him to wander away to the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he took a wife. Perhaps her feminine influence, coupled with the Lord’s chastisement, mellowed him out a bit.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, soon to be published

Hey you.

May 27, 2013

During the dark middle years of our Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln went to a battlefield in Pennsylvania where thousands of soldiers had died in defense of our nation, while fighting to preserve what we Americans stand for.

Mr. Lincoln spoke very briefly that day, November 19, 1863. He spoke gravely, as a leader who deeply understood, and grieved at, the terrible, bloody price being paid for our freedom. What he said has filled and inspired the consciousness of us who have, over these last 150 years, benefited from the sacrifice of those brave men at Gettysburg. Here is a small shrapnel of what he said:

“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate–we cannot consecrate–we cannot hallow– this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Nowadays, we may ask ourselves what were those men struggling for? What have all our soldiers, past and present,  lived and died fighting for? Mr. Lincoln’s final sentence that day reinforced it:

“. . . that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This Memorial Day, we should remind ourselves of this principle too–government by the people— as we remember the men and women who have died on battlefields all around the world for us people, so that we can live free.

Are you actually making the best use of that freedom that these brave soldiers fought for? Or is your power to act favorably– on behalf of yourself and those you love– is that power, your personal initiative, your energy, buried in the ground somewhere on some lapsed battleground of your life? Is your impulse to serve others  hiding in a bag of potato chips? or a carton of beer? Is it taking refuge behind the glass of a flat screen tv?

You, you who are reading this,  ask yourself:

Am I a person? Am I one of those “people” whose responsibility is to govern? 

Or have I abdicated? Have I ceded my personal responsibilities as an American to some other person or agency? Is my freedom to act and prosper locked in a harddrive, on a desktop, somewhere in Washington, DC? Or in my state’s capital?  Have I signed off on my freedom to act?

98 years after President Lincoln addressed, at Gettysburg, the heart issues of our nation’s purpose–government by the people– President John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

This, too, we need to remember, and act upon, instead of looking for handouts or unearned entitlements, instead of waiting for superman to bail us out of whatever couch-potato cushion we are stuck in. Are you doing your part to keep our  United States of America a nation of free citizens, who are willing and capable to act on your own so that you and  all the rest of us may benefit?

What have you done this week to make our country a better place? Did you do your job? Did you look for a job? Did you read something worthwhile? Did you break a sweat, hammer a nail, or cook a meal? Did you pick up your own trash, clean your plate after the meal, help load the dishwasher? Did you speak kindly to someone? Did you speak correction to yourself or your best friend? Did you plant a seed. I mean, it is spring. We can get out now and see what the real world looks like.

What’s going on out there? And what does it mean that “the people,” govern? Do I get a fancy desk and a legislative vote-on-the-bill button to push? Probably not. But you and I, as people, do have certain responsibilities thrust upon us, lest our great ship of state plunge to the depths of lethargy.

Although we cannot, as President Lincoln said, truly consecrate that hallowed ground at Gettysburg, there is something we can and should do.

Are you doing your part in governing this great nation? Many men and women have died so that you could exercise that privelege. Use it. Find something that needs to be done and do it, whether you’re getting paid for it or not.

Glass half-Full

True Love

June 19, 2012

If a man chooses a woman as his wife, he should stay with her. He should be faithful to her,  because when he is old, who will care for him? And she should remain faithful to him, because when she is old, who will care about her?

This is not easy, although in the long run, in the big picture of life, it is the best way. And when you get right down to it, during the time of approaching old age, it is not only the best way, it is in fact, the easiest way.

The way of fidelity is the best and easiest because, although the man gets old, and his functions diminish, and maybe he takes the little blue pills to help him and his wife along, the old triggers of youth remain. They do not go away. The old visual stimuli that motivated him as a youth and cornered him into tight places of desire and release do not just disappear.

So this is something that the man and wife deal with in their latter years. And it is better that they address the issues of waning masculinity and withering femininity together, because that is better than being alone.

Of course, ultimately every man is alone at the very end, and he must deal with it–a matter between himself and his Creator. Same for the woman, though her worries and fears are, I believe, different. There is a difference, you know, between the man and the woman.

But insofar as it is possible, a man and woman who have committed themselves to each other should remain committed for life. In the long run, this is the best for both of them. Trust me, from my beach perspective here on the island of Maui, I can see a multitude of directions that a man could pursue, but where would they lead him?

My fading memory of such libidinous pursuit in the early days tells me that those random paths of desire would lead, after perhaps some momentary release, to frustration and disappointment.  So it is better that the man remain faithful to his woman, and she to him.

The Creator has designed life this way. By the time a man is old, he is cornered by God, bound by his own diminishing prowess. He has no truly viable choice but to remain faithful to that woman who has stayed with him all along the unpredictable twists and turns of this life’s journey. The same is true for the woman, I suppose. Or at least I hope so.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

What Mr. Lincoln said

May 28, 2012

. . .at Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania:

. . .we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate–we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. 

It is better for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

Time for Soul-searching

April 26, 2012

America needs to find something else to do besides argue and complain. Each man, each woman has a destiny to fulfill.

Get hooked up with some person or organization with which you can at least partially agree; get your hands, your feet, your mind busy, to solve the problems that confound you now.

Act on behalf of those whom you love– those for whom you are responsible; assist those who are responsible for you.

If you are in a mess, Big Brother is not going to get you out of it. The government may toss a few greenbacks and food stamps your way, but ultimately you are responsible for your own life.

You go-getters out there–no corporation will fill your destiny. If you want to become an integral link in a corporate structure, remember: its all about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. You do your job right and the good stuff will come after many days.

Get busy. Look around you. Find something in your vicinity that needs doing, and do it, whether that makes you underpaid, underemployed, or seemingly underutilized. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done out there in getting this country turned around from our present dead-end of overinstitutionalism and overgovernmentalization. We need to restructure from the ground up. And I do mean the ground literally. This could involve growing some vegetables or something like that.

If you’re at a loss as to how to find some direction, take some time for a little soul-searching. That’s what I did a few decades ago, and I was never the same afterward. I wrote a song about it: Like Moses, like Martin Luther King, I took a walk up the mountain.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress