Thursday, April 29, 2010

Same God, Same Hymns

Dead.

630,000 family men, young men, and boys lost their lives in combat. The figure is much higher if you count the number that died from disease and complications from war wounds.

Countless homes and buildings were pilfered, razed, and burned leaving large populations of citizenry destitute and homeless.

The conflict didn’t happen afar off in jungles or deserts. No. It happened in our own front yards, in our fields, and on the streets of our towns and cities.

It staggers me to consider and think about it. There were quite a few issues involved. Once the ball started rolling it was impossible to stop. The emotional conflicts were as heated as the engagements on the battlefields.

Union and Confederate. US and CSA. In many cases it was brother against brother, cousin against cousin. Both sides speaking the same language. Both sides praying to the same God. Both sides singing the same hymns. Both sides believing their cause to be the right one to support and defending it to the point of violent and bloody death.

The historical scenario reminds me a lot of the heated conflicts of issues and opinions, political and otherwise, that embroil the hearts and minds of this modern day citizenry. It was hard to sit the fence during the 19th Century war that raged between the States. It’s no different now. Fence sitting is still a difficult proposition.

The spirit of that historical line, known as Mason-Dixon, is still a very real Line of Demarcation although it is not necessarily defined by flags, uniform colors, and emblems. The conflicts still rage as inescapable realities. Only now the sounds of rifle and cannon fire have been silenced, their resonance replaced with rhetoric and promises emanating from an even more powerful and growing centralized government.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Appreciation And Celebration Of Life

Fred flaps his wings. I know what he’s going to do next. His wing-flapping is always followed by a musical Bantam rooster-crow. Our neighbor’s rooster pipes in with his rooster-tune and they banter back and forth trying to outdo each other.

I’m not sure why roosters crow. But I enjoy listening to them and I’m glad they do. Birdsong of a myriad sort, and the sweet fragrance of our lemon tree blooming, punctuates the cool stillness. Laughing gulls, high overhead, contribute to the morning lauds.

An early Sunday morning stroll about our small Homestead Hermitage estate. The little three-quarter acre homestead has come a long way in the five and a half years that we’ve given to it. The more we give to it, the more it gives back. It’s an atmospheric relationship that lends itself to an appreciation and celebration of life.

Mornings are still quite cool for this late in the month. I don’t mind putting on an extra shirt first thing in the morning. It will be deep-south blistering hot soon enough and it will stay with us a long time. Garden planting was late but things are coming along nicely. The first buds have opened on the yellow climbing rose and the wild red rose in our memorial bed is showing some color.

A lot of things were late this spring. The frequent late winter heavy rains and bouts of cold blasts from the north kept the earth in its winter sleep longer than usual for this sub-tropical climate zone. In another week or so the beautiful colors of the wisteria, dogwood, and azaleas will be gone for another year. Ah. But other summer-blooming things will step up to fill in for them.

It’s gotten dry, bone dry since we started our spring garden planting. The gardens would look pitiful was it not for the irrigation they receive to slake their thirst. Our already knee-high corn patch is getting a good dowsing this morning, as will the fenced main garden, before the warming atmosphere begins creating the coastal breezes that make it difficult to efficiently lay down water where you want it to land. It’s not an expensive and elaborate irrigation system but it works well enough. I don’t mind dragging hoses.

We struggle against the elements and tend these gardens partly for the fun and emotional health of it. We also do it as a hold out against pesticide laden and G.M.O. food crops that we personally believe are not fit for human consumption. It requires some work done in a timely fashion and there are some financial expenses. The return, weighed in hundreds of pounds of food each year, greatly outweigh the monetary costs. It’s time to start putting in summer peas and okra.

I know he’s gone to a better place; a reality of being that makes me glad he’s no longer languishing and wasting away. Had my dad made it a few more months, he would have celebrated his ninety-first birthday today. In honor of the occasion we’re having a noon meal family get-together at the home place.

It’s one of those happy-sad occasions. I miss my dad. He did have a contrary stubbornness about him, a little character trait that I see a bit of in myself. The best we can do with it is to simply keep moving on, pledging to live our lives as fully and faithfully as we can. I think that’s what he would recommend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Roaring Against The Tide

I believe in the democratic process. I also, in affirming this belief, have no doubt that the democratic process, in a profligate society vainly disposed to its own moral and ethical demise, will continue to reflect and impose its desires on a dwindling minority that labors to hold onto the hope that rests securely only in the healthy realm created in and fostered by righteous thinking and living.

It’s hard for me to think of these post-modern times without personally concluding that something of a cataclysmic era has fallen upon us. The restraints of former times seem to have largely passed from favor in the eyes of the public majority. Western society, once a bastion of morality has, at least in the limited opinion of this one tired simpleton, managed to successfully become a licentious free-for-all.

I didn’t ask for this perceived external environment. It is, however, the one that I find surrounding me, the one in which I must daily labor to work out and integrate the faith born and growing in my breast. It’s not an easy proposal. As Milt Grannum once said as the opening proposition in a sermon, perception makes a difference. The way we perceive things will have a definite effect on the way we go about living our lives.

What I perceive as a cataclysm in modernity motivates me. There are times when I find myself verbally and vocally roaring against the noise created by the post-modern tide. My own roaring involvement as a member of this post-modern larger society, though at times seemingly purposeful and necessary, most often has a way of generating its own prideful and distracting self-punishing afflictions.

Peace and contentment reside at the heart of Benedict’s model of monastic spirituality. The old Saint tells me to avoid situations that create strife and contention (RB Chapter 69). My own societal roaring creates a personal scene of interior strife and contention, sets me on edge, and robs me of the peace and contentment that grows best in solitude and simplicity.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Techno Concerns

It concerns me that people read what I write and post in this venue that is open to the public. Oblate Offerings didn’t begin that way. It began as a simple little reflective means to share personally and intimately with a dear friend that lives far away.

One concern that I have about this is that I have an international audience. No. It’s not large like some mega-site but it’s larger than some of the churches that I pastored during my Protestant pastoral career. Some are frequent readers. Others stop by infrequently. Some show up accidentally, others curiously. Many don’t come back. A few leave comments. Most don’t. It’s amazing what a good stat counter tells you.

Over these few years of blogging I’ve had only one person roast me on a spit. He did it with a succession of argumentative and accusing comments. His last comment was an apology for roasting me.

I’ll admit it. I’m human and there’s still that carnal part of me that is capable of being flattered. There was a day when I would have really fed on this and found a self-righteous way to justify my vanity, a character trait that I’ve worked hard at overcoming, yet one that is still very much alive and at work within me.

Another concern is one that rests in the realm of personal accountability, one of those “be not many masters” things that the Apostle James talks about in chapter three of the little biblical book that bears his name. I live with a healthy fear of one eventual but certain day finding myself indicted for leading any one astray in matters of faith and morals.

I did in fact, a few months ago, consider taking a long hiatus, aspire more to anonymity and smallness, work at satisfying another character trait and become much more of a hermit-type recluse, and leave off doing this reflective journaling in a public venue altogether. It’s still a consideration but it isn’t quite as strong as it was a few months ago. Is this Providence at work or my own vanity steering me?

I prefer to think that it is not the latter in control of my little vessel.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arrested

It was already late in the morning but the breeze was still quite cool. I wore my comfortable old plaid sleeveless insulated vest as I headed out on the small lake. I had hopes of enticing a fish or two to attack a spinner bait, of one sort or another, that I repeatedly flipped toward the earthen dam and along the southern lakeshore.

The fish proved to be as uninterested as they had been the previous two days. Not a big deal. I was fishing for the fun of it. Just being out there was reward enough. We had plenty enough food in the camper, our little rolling cottage. Sure. There’s always something about that anticipated jerk on the rod when a sassy bass tries to demolish a lure. Fish on the line or not, it was alright.

A group of Boy Scouts, I counted twelve of them, were side by side on the fishing pier casting their lines. They were a well behaved group of boys around the campsite. Here, on the pier, their adult leaders were out of ear shot and they carried on some foolishness amongst themselves. Occasionally one of the older scouts had to remind someone to watch their language. I found that to be a little humorous. Why? I’m not sure. It just was.

My own fishing gradually took me far enough away from the pier that the sounds of the water lapping against the boat and the wind whistling in the pines pretty well drowned out the boy-noise coming from the pier. What I could hear from the pier was easy enough to ignore. I put my rod down and dug a Gideon Testament out of my inside vest pocket. With the water lapping the side and bottom of the aluminum jon-boat, the wind whistling in the pines, and the sounds of woodpeckers going about their hole-making in the surrounding forest, I read Psalm 19.

I read it quietly but aloud as a prayer. And, just like so many other times that I’ve read it, I couldn’t help but to wonder why. Why? With all of creation declaring the glory of God, why do so many fail to sense God’s closeness and care? I couldn’t help but to wonder why I can so often be so dense and unreceptive to God’s presence. I couldn’t help but to think how often the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart betray my profession of faith.

My thoughts arrested me. For a few minutes I simply sat there unable to think about fishing.