Woodcraft: A Reminiscence

13 10 2017

Woodcraft shares reminiscences of childhood experience, dating back to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, as if told by a grandfather to his grandchildren during meals, just before bedtime, and while walking in the woods.

As may be surmised, the stories come through the perspective of a member of America’s Boomer generation. Many Boomers remember hearing stories from those in the previous Builder generation about their childhoods. We heard the now-cliché, “I used to go to school every day in sub-zero weather, knee-deep in snow, walking two miles uphill, both ways.” This anecdote would usually be employed by people who had experienced the Great Depression and World War 2 to remind younger people to put experience into context. Indeed, the Boomers have been among the most privileged generations in human history.

From time to time those of every generation ask themselves, “Which of the aspects of our past ought to be relegated to the rubbish heap of history, and which are valuable heirlooms that ought to be passed forward into the future?”

Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old”  (Matthew 13:52 NAU). Not everything old-fashioned is old. Not everything old is old-fashioned, which is to say that not everything old is obsolete and out-of-date. Indeed, some things old are better than the same things new.

Consider a tree. What’s an old tree got that a new tree hasn’t? Plenty. More leaves for air-conditioning shade and for the release of air-improving oxygen. More wood, and often more wood of a higher quality, for the production of lumber. More sap for the manufacture of syrup or naval stores. More nuts, more fruit for use as food by wildlife and by humans and their livestock. More seeds for the reproduction of forests.

Woodcraft does more than ring chords of nostalgia. It looks back not just to induce good feelings of old vibrations, but to remind that some things old ought to remain because they are vibrant and vivacious and vital, because they remain new.

Woodcraft may itself be a new kind of writing in its blend of literary fiction and creative non-fiction. It deals with facts of faith, with theology and philosophy and ethics. It also touches upon a number of other subjects: German-American history, mathematics, music, carpentry, woodworking, forest ecology, plant physiology, silviculture, and popular culture now half a century old. The entire story celebrates education in matters both natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal, physical and spiritual.

The narrative reflects the traditional human desire to pass knowledge and wisdom from one generation to next. More specifically, in this narrative a boy hears and learns things from his father and grandfather about the extended family enterprise. The author realizes that many contemporary readers will not care much about that enterprise. The author has, therefore, chosen to publish the text in an unusual format.  The essential story is printed using 14-point type. That which may be termed scholastic detailing is printed in 12-point type. This format makes it possible for a reader easily to skip over what may be considered TMI (too much information) and track the mainline of the story. Others more inquisitive can read the finer print.

Radio producer David Isay has said that, in a culture that idolizes athletes, popular singers, movie stars, and fashion models, it’s good to hear the stories of ordinary people because their lives and contributions are at least as important, if not more so. Certainly, while celebrities may stand in the limelight, the people who stand in our memories with greater significance are parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, best friends, and mentors. Most of these people have likely been, employing a couple words spoken by the late Andy Griffith, “just folks.” Yet they have been the ones who made the big differences in our lives.

The big difference in Woodcraft is this: a grandfather employs lessons in arboriculture to teach his grandson the meaning of “I in Christ, and Christ in me.”

For those who don’t cotton to Christianity, try tolerating it here. If nothing else (and that’s a big if), remember that Christianity has been woven into the warp and woof of the American experience from the first days of the Plymouth Colony. Recall how fundamental Christianity has been in the lives of great Americans from George Washington to George Washington Carver, as well as so many others before and after them. Realize the past pervasiveness of Christianity in the cultures of various communities. The culture of the state of Wisconsin, for example, cannot be appreciated without at least apprehending the massive influences of Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, and Baptist forms of Christianity. Consider this reading, then, an exercise in cross-cultural appreciation.

Now available at Amazon as a paperback and as an e-book. If you like what you read, do tell others. Feel free to let these words inspire you to tell your own stories to the members of your own household, stories that edify and encourage and enlighten.

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Steeds 38

3 06 2017

A tall woman opened the door of the Sheriff’s Department and stepped halfway through. She stopped to look back while the wind blew her long garments as if they were laundry on a clothesline. “That is the most beautiful horse I have ever seen,” she said in a voice that had command timbre.

The nun continued into the building and shut the door. She had noticed Lee sitting at his desk prior to her assessment. “Are you the sheriff?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Lee answered after standing. “I am Sheriff Leall.”

“I am Sister Margaret Mary. Is that your horse outside the window?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“She is fabulous. Does she have a name?”

“Yes, ma’am. Her name is Freyja.”

“A pagan name.”

“You yourself said she is beautiful.”

Sister Margaret stepped closer to Lee’s desk. “I understand Philip Redman serves as an officer of the law here.”

“He is my deputy, yes.”

“May I speak with him, please?”

“Yes, ma’am, but you’ll have to wait quite a while. He’s conducting an investigation in the southwest part of the county at present. I don’t expect him back for a few hours at the earliest. May I be of assistance?”

“I was rather hoping to speak with him. I was also hoping to greet him face-to-face. It has been some time since our last encounter.”

“I suspect, Sister, that you are somehow connected with the orphanage where he spent his childhood.”

“Indeed. Has Philip said much to you about his experience?”

“Only bits and pieces now and then.”

Sister Margaret looked about the office. “I wish he were here. As it is, I cannot wait an untold number of hours for his return. I am on way by train from Lake Delton to Germantown, whence I wish to go to Holy Hill. I stopped in Uttica specifically to see Philip. I catch the next train going southeast to continue my pilgrimage.” She reached into a pocket to remove a watch. “And that in seventy-three minutes.”

“You are welcome to wait here on the small chance Philip may return sooner than I expect.”

“I don’t believe in chance, Sheriff.”

“I believe in Providence myself,” Lee said. “However, it is written ‘that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.’ ”

“Are you Catholic, Sheriff?”

“I am a Christian, but I am not a Roman Catholic Christian, Sister.”

“Then perhaps you ought not call me your sister.”

“What do you prefer, ma’am?”

“Margaret will do. And what of Philip? Has he remained obedient to the Church?”

“He is, of course, quite familiar with St. Wenceslaus Church here in Uttica. The vicar is Benedict Ziemcewicz. Do you know him?”

“I have heard of him.”

“Would you like to have a chair, ma’am? And perhaps some coffee or tea? Another of my deputies has made a good snack cake using the first strawberries of the season.”

“One would think a man who bakes should be working in a restaurant.”

“Dorothy Oakley is not a man.”

“You have a female deputy?”

“She and her husband, Chester, serve as my jailors.”

“You subject a woman to the riff-raff and ruffians of society?”

“The women of the Sisters of Charity, some two hundred and thirty of them, went from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg to set up a hospital in a Methodist church building, where they subjected themselves to the blood and guts of hundreds of soldiers who had been, shall we say, roughed up.”

“You heard of that. Were you there?”

“I fought down south, not back east. The brother of the two women who are my landladies died at Gettysburg in the care of one of those nuns.”

“I will have some tea and cake. Thank you.”

Lee stepped to the small gate in the railing that divided the office in half and opened it. He then pointed at the chair next to his desk.

Sister Margaret swept through.

Lee went into the jail. In a few minutes, he returned with a tray holding cups, saucers, and plates. “This isn’t fine china. It isn’t even simple clay dishware.”

“Tin and steel are fine enough,” said Sister Margaret. “Tell me, please, about Philip.”

“Among other things, Deputy Redman is a good officer of the law.”

“And the other things?”

“He is a fine horseman.”

“Of that I am aware. He showed such aptitude as a lad when he worked on the farm.”

“The orphanage is located on a farm?”

“No. The farm is within the parish, and some of our orphans work with the farm family. All our charges are employed in some capacity when they are ready.”

Lee nodded.

“Has Philip found his place here?”

“I would like to think so. This may not be permanent, but he seems to have settled in.”

Sister Margaret paused and then said, “I must interrupt myself. Do forgive me, because I have been overcome by curiosity. I saw that piece of paper on your desk, and the calligraphy caught my attention, so I have been impudent enough to examine it while you were in back.”

“No harm done, I suspect,” said Lee.

“The note is written in cursive, as is usual and customary. The style of the cursive, however, is what drew me to it. It looks very much like the cursive taught to our charges by Sister Mary Catherine over the years.”

Lee looked at the note. “I am a police officer, and so you have now aroused my curiosity. I know there are differences in handwriting, as there are differences in script, and in calligraphy, and in typestyle. You are saying this looks like something your co-worker wrote?”

“Not quite. It looks like something she would have taught a child to write: a style of cursive handwriting. Place the paper here, please, and I’ll show you.”

Lee slid the paper between them.

Sister Margaret removed some papers from a satchel she had with her. “Turnabout is fair play, I have heard.” She placed the selected pages on the desk. “I daresay,” said Margaret, “that you have had the experience of being unable to read another person’s writing.”

“Certainly. More times than I can recall.”

“School teachers do their best to teach children at an early age how to write neatly and legibly. They teach those who have the freedom and privilege to go to school, that is. Again, as you have noticed, the children, despite what they have been taught, do not all write alike.”

“True.”

“Perhaps you also realize that at least some children have some difficulty reading the letters they are supposed to be writing, especially in cursive. Look at these examples. Think how similar are the capitals I and J and L in some styles of cursive. O and Q. I and T. T and F.

“Now think of how easy it is to confuse certain uncials when writing many styles of cursive: z and g and q, h and b and k. If a child isn’t careful, those letters can look too much alike when written.

“Add the similarity between the number 2 and the capital Z; the numeral 0 and the capital O; the numeral 1, the uncial l, and the capital I; the numeral 1 and the numeral 7.

“All our children are sent to school. Some are better at it than others, of course. Some last longer and go farther than others. But all are afforded the opportunity. And to help the children defend themselves against charges of misspelling and illegibility by their teacher, Sister Mary Catherine took it upon herself to develop a cursive script that makes all letters and numbers as distinctive as possible, both in the eyes and minds of our children, and after those symbols leave little fingers and attach to paper.”

“It sounds as though you have had some experience in teaching children,” said Lee.

“I have. Education is the reason for my pilgrimage. I go to Holy Hill to pray for guidance and provision. Then I go to see the bishop in Madison to petition for a school of our own in Lake Delton.”

“Dominican or Jesuit?” Lee asked.

Sister Margaret’s face took on a look of mild surprise.

“The Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Madison is Jesuit,” said Lee. “I see by your attire that you are Dominican.”

“I pray you are not a lapsed Catholic.”

“Benedict Ziemcewicz and I are friends. Besides, I said I served in the south during the war. The bishop in Nashville was Dominican, and he had a school there operated by Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, who left Ohio before hostilities arrived in Tennessee to perform that ministry.”

“Shall I pray that you become Catholic?”

“If I were Catholic, I would probably be Jansenist.”

“I’m sorry.” Sister Margaret tapped the desktop. “This sheet of yours certainly appears to be a result of Sister Mary Catherine’s tutelage.”

Lee looked at Sister Margaret. “This sheet comes to me as part of an investigation I am conducting regarding a number of horse thefts here in Tuscumbia County. This comes to me from a woman I have been told is an orphan. Helen Vrechek. Would she happen to have been one of your charges?”

“Helen Vrechek? Yes. That name is familiar.”

“She is a school teacher now … in Doylestown.”

“Ah, yes. And, yes, it should come as no surprise that her writing would look like this.” Sister Margaret pointed to Lee’s paper.

“The thing is, she didn’t write this note. It came from an anonymous author.”

Sister Margaret took the sheet in hand and looked more closely. “Well, I am all but convinced, if Helen did not write this, then another of our charges did.”

“You’re sure.”

“Quite confident. Sister Mary Catherine was most attentive in examining British, German, and Latin texts, and she was quite inventive at developing an alternative American cursive. It would probably not win any prizes in a calligraphy contest, but it works, and it is I believe unique.”

“Do you happen to recognize that handwriting?” Lee asked.

“Do I know who wrote this?” Sister Margaret studied the note. “No. We have had too many children over the years. I am sorry, but I am not that well acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of their individual handwriting. Indeed, I am sorry to say I have not been as well acquainted with each individual child as I would like.”

“But one of your children wrote this, or someone who was once one of your children?”

“I believe so, yes.”

Lee stood and strode to the door between the office and the jail. “Dorothy!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Please pack some food for me. I ride immediately for Doylestown.”





Steeds 29

16 05 2017

Sarah asked, “Why do we kill so many animals?”

Lee said, “I presume by ‘we,’ you refer to humans. Why do we human beings kill so many animals?”

“Yes.”

“The short answer is this: humans kill animals for food and fiber.”

“But why? Is it really necessary? And at such a high … how do they say it in war?”

“Casualty count?”

“At such a high cost in casualties, yes.”

“I’ve wondered about that myself sometimes. Perhaps not often enough.”

“How so?” Sarah asked.

“Well, as much as I regard these two horses, you’ve noticed that Freyja and Isolde are both loaded with leather. I wear leather boots and belts. That all came from cows not nearly as well liked. And I like the taste of steak as well as the next man.”

“I like fried chicken. And bacon. Even so, why is that? It wasn’t that way in the beginning.”

“You have in mind the Genesis account.” Lee pulled a book from a saddlebag. “ ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:” and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.’ ”

“That’s it,” said Sarah. “If we were made to eat seeds and fruit and herbs, and if we were commanded to eat seeds and fruit and herbs, why do we eat meat? And why do we have such a taste for meat?”

Lee turned pages. “ ‘And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” ’ ”

Lee said, “One might reasonably think that God allowed Noah and his family to slaughter animals for food because, after the Flood, they couldn’t afford the time it would take to plant, tend, and harvest crops; they’d starve. As I think about it, though, they would have had to kill quite a number of the animals they had just saved from the Flood while waiting for crops to harvest … unless there was already enough edible vegetation growing to meet their needs. They did wait months in the ark after it had come to rest in the mountains of Ararat.

Sarah said, “As I think about it, how could they have gathered enough food to store for that many for that long?”

“You have read that God put Adam to sleep when He took Adam’s rib to make Eve. Perhaps God put the animals on the ark to sleep in like manner, and they all went through the Flood in the way bears go through winter.”

“Perhaps.”

“As I think more about it,” Lee continued, “I wonder if humans had not already acquired a taste for meat by the time of, and even long before, the Flood.”

“Oh?”

“It is written that Jabal was the first to live in tents and tend cattle, otherwise known as livestock. Why would a man become a stockman?”

“Probably not just to produce milk, butter, and cheese,” Sarah said.

“So think about it. After the Fall, God cursed the ground and said that Adam would thereafter work by the sweat of his brow: work became drudgery, toil, slog. You’re a farmer. Well, at least you’re a farmer’s daughter. You know how much time and trouble it takes to get food from field to cellar and pantry.”

“I do.”

“Think of this. You’re a man or woman having a hard time of it, harder than usual after the Fall. You’re donkey tired and you’re still hungry, even starving. You see a fox take down a prairie chicken. You see a bobcat take down a rabbit. You see a cougar take down a deer. You see a pack of wolves take down a bison. And you say, ‘That’s ever so much faster, if not easier. Maybe I should try that.’ And you do.

“You might say, ‘But why would people used to eating seeds and fruit and herbs like the taste of meat any more than would a rabbit or deer?’

“What saith the Scripture? ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron…’. The Apostle Paul at the time was speaking of the future, but I suspect the same thing happened leading up to the Flood. How many cuts can a man inflict on his heart and mind before those wounds require cauterizing? How much blood can a man spill before his conscience is seared?

“What did God say? The whole earth was corrupt and full of violence. This after what God had made was good and very good.”

Sarah said, “You think part of that violence was the killing of animals?”

“I wouldn’t preach it from a pulpit, but yes: killing beyond whatever may have been ordained for religious sacrifice. As you may know from family experience, hunting isn’t as easy as wild cats and dogs make it look. It requires skill, patience, and quite often courage.”

“So does farming,” said Sarah.

“True, but that’s so slow. Compared against taking on a boar or a bear, who notices the performance?”

“Is that why predators always get more glory than planters?”

“And if you’re an intrepid hunter who wants still more glory at less cost, well then: take on the farmers. Says the hunter, let husbandmen do all the drudgery, and then prey on them; the dullards can’t defend their crops, their livestock, or themselves even as well as turkeys and geese can defend themselves. And if they try?”

“Violence,” said Sarah. “More and more violence.”

“Lamach bragged that the homicide he committed was worth eleven times what Cain did to Abel. That kind of corruption was more than wicked enough. Add what men did to their fellow, non-human creatures, and you get an earth reeling with violence.

“What saith the Scripture? ‘And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.’ The Apostle John at the time was speaking of the future, but I again suspect the same thing happened leading up to the Flood: men worked to destroy, not just their fellow man created in the image of God, but the earth and its creatures made by God, too.”

“So why didn’t God destroy only wicked men … and women? Why destroy everything?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know. One the on hand, God was reluctant to destroy wicked Ninevah in the days of Jonah, not only due to His concern for the people, but also out of concern for their animals. On the other hand, God executed judgment on everything of Sodom and Gomorrah, on everything of Jericho, on everything of Amalek, to include their animals. The answer may lie in this. Wickedness of heart and mind can and will deprave a body. Even so, corporate wickedness of hearts and minds can and will deprave a community and its environment.

“In the days of Noah, the earth needed to be washed clean. And maybe, just maybe, while that was happening, Noah and his family had to care for a number of animals in a manner similar to that which had been the responsibility of Adam and Eve as stewards of the earth given the task to dress and keep. Can it be that Adam and Eve, and all mankind, were intended to care for God’s creatures the way you cared for Daisy, and the way I care for Freyja and Isolde?”

“So,” said Sarah, “after such a cleansing, why not return to the way it was supposed to be?”

“The Devil wasn’t executed. Sin wasn’t destroyed, as Noah himself soon experienced. And the earth wasn’t transformed back into a Garden of Eden. God told people to spread out. At Babel, He coerced them to do so. People then eventually migrated to places all around the planet, to include many places unsuitable for agriculture: deserts, taiga, tundra, mountains. If those people were to survive, if not thrive, they then had to rely on animals for food and fiber.

“And remember: Jesus Himself ate fish. And as a Law-abiding Hebrew, He was at least present at the sacrifices ordained in Leviticus. He also ate the Passover, which included lamb. Indeed, as the eldest son―or perhaps the only son, depending on your religious instruction―in the family after the passing of Joseph, He would have been the one to slay the Passover Lamb. If so, I doubt that He, knowing He would become our Passover sacrificed for us, killed His creatures with the bloodlust of Nimrod.”

Said Sarah, “Maybe that is the attitude we should have at the death of any animal.”

 





Steeds 26

10 05 2017

“Sarah.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Isolde is retired, but she still needs exercise. Every day. It’s a fine evening. Would you like to take a ride?”

Sarah looked at Lee’s beautiful chestnut mare and smiled. “Oh, but I’m not properly dressed, sir.”

“Bah. Isolde won’t mind.”

Sarah looked at Ella, and then at Clara.

“Bah,” said Clara. “So your pretty dress smells like a pretty horse for a while. Your Aunt Ella won’t mind washing it later. She doesn’t mind washing my clothes.”

“That’s only because you don’t mind sharing the money you earn at that print shop,” said Ella. “But your Aunt Clara is correct. Go for the ride.”

Isolde stood wearing nothing but a bridle and lead rein.

Lee held a hand out in invitation.

“Yes!” said Sarah.

Lee stooped to place a book on the ground. He then put two hands together to make a stirrup so that Sarah could mount the horse. Once up, Sarah immediately leaned forward to hug Isolde around her neck. Sarah buried her face in the horse’s long, flowing, flaxen mane. Ella stepped to the horse’s left side, and Clara stepped to the horse’s right. Each made sure Sarah’s skirts were discreetly arranged.

Lee began walking, and Isolde strode at his side. “We’ll be back before the sky turns black,” he called. “When the fireflies are blinking.”

They travelled in silence for a time. Eventually, Lee said, “Your aunt says you have a question she’d like me to try answering.”

“Do animals go to heaven?”

“What does your minister say?”

“The Reverend Van Meter says no.”

“He pastors the Reformed church west of town.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And, in the words of the Apostle Paul, what saith the Scripture?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I suppose we can start with the passage your minister probably has in mind.” Lee draped the lead rein over a shoulder and opened his book. “ ‘Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?’ ”

“That sounds familiar,” said Sarah.

“Let’s consider the question in its context. ‘I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?’

“Now I doubt seriously that the Reverend Van Meter would say to any man or woman that human beings are nothing more than beasts. I doubt that he would agree that humans have no preeminence over animals, that men and beasts die in the same manner, and that, in accordance with a shared cosmic destiny, they alike gain nothing more than decomposing into elemental dust.

“The person who wrote this book of the Bible went on a quest. In short, the challenge was this: can man declare independence from God and make a life for himself? The result: he can try, but life will be vain, futile, meaningless, lacking in significance. It is God who puts eternity into the heart of man. Without God, no life; without God, life is nothing but death and that which is as good as death.

“In this passage, the writer is positing that humans and animals are alike. He asks, ‘Who really knows whether the spirits of men go up and the spirits of animals go down?’ What saith the Scripture?”

“What does it say?” Sarah asked.

“It says that God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was good. That includes the animals. How can anyone who bothers to behold a horse and a cat and a butterfly and a hummingbird and a bumblebee not agree that each is amazingly good?”

“I do agree,” said Sarah.

“And what artisan, what artist does not wish his work to last, to endure through all time? What artisan, what artist does not wish his work to be appreciated through all time?”

“None, I would think.”

“And what does it mean to appreciate? Welcome. Understand. Value. Respect. Esteem. Treasure. Cherish. Even love. Did you appreciate Daisy?”

“I did,” Sarah cried.

“Do you still appreciate Daisy?”

“I do!”

“Is not the God who made Daisy thus pleased?”

“I hope so.”

“If God appreciates what He has made, why wouldn’t He want it to last beyond the last? If God appreciates you, made in His image, why wouldn’t He want you to last beyond the last, and also that which you appreciate of His?

“It is written, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life….  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.’

“True, it is not written that animals have the offer of everlasting life. But why? I believe it is because animals are innocent; they are not evil, and they have no need of redemption.

“But can they have everlasting life? Do animals get to heaven? Are animals in heaven? What saith the Scripture? In the book of Revelation we read that Christ Jesus Himself has a horse. We read that the armies of heaven ride on horses. Now, we can debate whether what John saw is actual or fanciful, real or symbol.

“However, consider this. It is written, ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’ It is also written that, when we see the ascended Jesus, we shall be like Him. It is written that He will not be ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. This being so, even if an animal is not yet in heaven, can we not reasonably expect that God our Father will grant His children permission to bring an animal to heaven? Isn’t it possible that we, once there, can ourselves learn how to resurrect an animal? If it is impossible for God to forget how to bring the very same saint who died and decomposed thousands of years ago to a new and glorious life, is it not possible for God to teach His children to do the very same thing for creatures of His they appreciated in lives past?

“Such is my hope after this fine, but aging horse experiences death.”

 





Greater Than Galaxies

29 11 2015

15-066

 

The night,

It feels as cold as the near-desert day was hot.

Yet the sky blazes with light

The darkness of blackness cannot blot:

Dots of white silver bright,

Each still and silent to my short sight.

With the prophet poets of old I myself again ask,

“How long, O Lord? How long?”

And then, at long last,

With speed comes the shout,

As stars suddenly startle with lightning:

“To God, Glory in the highest!

Upon earth, peace!

Among men, good will!”

There!

As small as the star seen farthest in the firmament,

Into the village of David the prophet poet king,

Comes the Creator King of all

Large and small

In heaven and on earth:

Greater than galaxies,

The very Sun of Righteousness

Rising with healing in His wings!

“Let us go… and see….”

D.Raymond-Wryhte

 

References

Luke 2: 8-18

John 1:1-5

Colossians 1:15-20

Psalm 6:3

Psalm 13:1-2

Psalm 74:9

Psalm 79:5

Psalm 80:4

Psalm 89:46

Psalm 90:13

Psalm 94:3

Jeremiah 12:4

Habbakuk 1:2

Malachi 4:2

Psalm 19:1-14

(Photograph courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America.)





Life Together

25 08 2015

The pastor of the church I attended while a student at university often mentioned the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This charismatic Swedish Covenant pastor spoke of the ecumenical German Lutheran pastor with so much respect that I decided to buy some of Bonhoeffer’s books.  These included The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, Letters & Papers from Prison, and Life Together.

Decades have passed. Recently, I was inspired to pull that last one listed from the shelf and take a new look at it. Even though the book was first published in English by Harper & Row in 1954, reading it anew in 2015 has been a renewing experience.

As the blurb on the back of the Harper Jubilee edition says, “This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost Biblical, words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.”

Many fine Christian scholars over the years have taught that, in this Age of the Church (which is also called the Age of Grace), the office of prophet is performed by those who preach and teach the Bible. In Pastor Bonhoeffer’s case, that title is indeed befitting. He really does sound like a New Testament apostle speaking with the authority and accuracy of an Old Testament prophet. In this epistle on how to be a church, and how to do church, Bonhoeffer’s words become, in those of an earlier minister of the Gospel, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

This is due in great part to Bonhoeffer’s reverence for the Word: Christ Jesus the Word of the Triune God, and the words spoken and written by the prophets and apostles on behalf of the Triune God. As Bonhoeffer insists, not a person and not an assembly can be any good in the Church of our Savior and Lord Christ Jesus without centering in thought, speech, and action on the Word.

“The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself.  He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to the Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

“But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Bonhoeffer presupposes this occurs in church … that is, within what we typically designate as church: services and ceremonies both formal and informal conducted inside ecclesiastical buildings.  But Bonhoeffer has other assemblies in mind, too, such as monasteries and convents, communes, families and households.  As Jesus Himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And Bonhoeffer has much to say to individuals. “We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in fellowship. Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in fellowship. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

Life Together is not one of those books to be skimmed and then cast amid the jetsam navigated by garage sailors. Read it and read it again. The book is worthy of the kind of meditation encouraged by Bonhoeffer.

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The Incarnation

14 12 2014

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our Friend!
God the invisible appears,
God the Blest, the Great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His Name.

Him by the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Lo, tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Our being’s Source begins to be,
And God Himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

So do the sons of men rejoice
The Prince of Peace proclaim,
With Heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s Name;
Our knees and hearts to Him we bow;
Of our flesh, and of our bone,
See—Jesus is our Brother now,
And God is all our own!

 

Charles Wesley

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