LIFTED FROM THE MUD; STOOD UP ON A ROCK; HE IS HERE, RIGHT HERE.

I feel You here, in this place. I am listening. I come and listen.  For the living,  silence never happens; there is never total absence of sound. Now that I listen, I hear that and know it has always been so. I can evoke and feel in my chest the great 32 and 64 foot organ pipes and an impossibly high set of descant notes, then long, slow arpeggios from low to high, repeating like slow breathing- key, third, fifth, key, third, fifth- like. slow. breathing.    JUST AS I AM- THOU WILT RECEIVE, WILT WELCOME, PARDON, CLEANSE, RELIEVE; BECAUSE THY PROMISE I BELIEVE,  O LAMB OF GOD,  I COME!  I COME!  That total surrender which allows Your re-forming of me often eludes me and I must feel afresh the pain of my  weaknesses and failures to find the humility which reopens the door to the Path of Life— Then, serene joy once more. Help Thou my unbelief. Strengthen me to walk longer in Thy redeeming light.

Christmas and New Years are hard holidays for me to weather in good spiritual health. I am still by nature slow to seek and dwell in fellowship when it would be good for me to do so. Even my internet friends can’t help much because I don’t reach out to them, except if I know of needs they have that maybe I can help with. Then some sensitive friends pick up on my isolation and reach out to me. Bless`ed friends, and through them the Great Shepherd, have made this recent period of incipient depression better than usual. One friend in particular, who has every reason to be absorbed in her own situation to the exclusion of all else, still has managed to leave significant gifts of loving encouragement; for instance she knows I miss singing in a choir and that I have a funky electric short keyboard and a couple of hymnals and I sing alone, so she frequently posts videos of church congregations singing, or the Gaither Vocal Band, a big favorite of mine…for the general enjoyment, of course… she also uses music to lift her own spirits…she genuinely is sharing with everyone, but she knows it is a particular balm to my spirit…Bless her good heart.

Let’s see. Is my footing better? Am I secure on this rock? Do I want to be?… Instruct me sweet Shepherd. I just want to be with Thee. Just let me be with thee. Be thou my vision, clarified, a straight line from my heart to Thine. Fill my mouth only with truth speech, my tongue a sword to Thy service, filled with power that is only Thine to give and only for the heart’s ease of those you would have me serve. Grip me strongly to Thee, for I am often weak, and without Thy constant Presence am nothing at all. Though I cannot be true without Thee and am inconstant even to myself, still I love Thee more than anything other and offer myself utterly to Thy use. Empower me to be True, Holy Father. Make of me a proper vessel of Thy Holy Spirit in action in this world. Bend, shape, snap, break, mend and reform me; Whatever be Thy will, I am Thine to use, by my own choice, which is itself Thy gift in my creation, take me and make me useful to Thy purposes. Ordain me to whatever ministry You Will. Just as I am, I come…

(I am thankful, Lord, that you so artfully drove me to this keyboard, despite my stubborn, dug in heels and bleating. I feel so much better now.)

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THE SWORD MADE ANEW—

Bill Whittle wrote a powerful essay called SHARDS; shortly after, Stella of The Last Refuge wrote a beautiful essay of her own in reference to Bill’s to head a discussion thread. Both were using Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy to make plain the challenge many Americans now face to resist the fundamental deconstruction of the American state under the Constitution and the concentration of power in a central government, without Constitutional constraint. The discussion missed many opportunities to understand some of the deepest issues, though the usual high quality of commentary was there. But before I speak to one important aspect that was missed, I would like to set people straight about J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic work.

Thematically, it is not an allegory of any kind, nor is it metaphorical in any useful sense of that word. Reference to Fowler’s MODERN ENGLISH USAGE should straighten out this simple matter of what these words mean. Tolkien was a professor of Philology, a colleague of C.S.Lewis amongst many other peers. He is counted as one of the greatest philologists of the 20th century and his area of study was the cultural and linguistic history of the English language. As a student of the English language at university, I was directed to Tolkien’s work by my professors; I remember him for the obvious passion he had for the subject as well as his erudition.                                                                                                                        In the 1930’s he exercised his story-telling talents on his children; it is a tribute to his creative vigor that he didn’t just retell old Norse myths and such, rather he created a world informed by the cultural and spiritual heritage of all English speakers. As that world began to take shape, night after night, he took to writing out an overall portrait of what became Middle Earth,  pre-sketching the next adventure of Bilbo, the Hobbit, and the finding of The Ring. He published The Hobbit in 1937. But his sons kept after him for more; by this time he was inventing Elvish languages (Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit elements), Dwarvish (Old High German, Norse, Icelandic), Orcish (Gaelic, and Pictish) and others and creating cultural histories to match. To merge all that into the epic creation of Lord of the Rings (6 books; 2 per volume) rooted in the cultural/spiritual being of all English speakers… one can only be in awe. The work rings with Truth and Beauty. When I read these books to my children, I improvised tunes to the Hobbit songs, Tom Bombadil, the Elves…neither of my children failed to respond to, say, an Elf Song sung in Elvish…if it was sad, their eyes teared up; if a song was lively or funny they responded appropriately… As to the characters, they loved my Gollum, my Preciousssssss, and the distinct characterizations of all the characters, and it was Tolkien’s writing which compelled my efforts. When I got to the Wood Elves of Lothlorien, my daughter Phoebe caught her breath in wonder to hear the Queen called by her own middle name: Galadriel.  Aside from being, in my opinion, an imperishable work of the human imagination, It rings with Truth and Beauty.

     So, in SHARDS and in Stella’s followup there is discussion of Good vs Evil, the rightful assumption of leadership, and the spiritual significance of the re-forging of the sword, and it’s re-naming. Most important though is the importance of making the distinction between Good and Evil in one’s inmost heart and choosing to stand by the Good, no matter how hopeless that cause may seem. But, what if, as in present-day America, it becomes clear that one’s personal survival as well as family survival may well be at stake, or even just comfort and well-being seeming threatened. Parents will be concerned about their children and grown children about parents. What if the sense of threat is ill-defined and coming from all directions, and incremental and one’s own foundations in disrepair, and sense of self-worth compromised? What if one’s life-style choices leaves one disconnected from any particular support community or congregation of the like-minded? What if love bonds are few and rarely thought of or thought important? Many Americans now are swept hither and thither by forces barely sensed, much less understood; how can you get moral traction in such mud?                                                      Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Ents, and Humans are encountered on the journey of the Ring-bearer’s company. At Rivendale Human, Wizard, Hobbits and Elves confer on what to do about the Ring of Power, the One Ring that Binds Them All. If any of them take it, they become bound to Sauron, and if Sauron gets it, Middle-Earth is doomed; it must be destroyed to destroy Sauron; Gollum demonstrated that Hobbit folk have a unique ability to resist Sauron’s control through the Ring, at least for a long time; and so it is determined, and Frodo accepts the charge, to send Frodo with a small company for protection to try to sneak into Mordor and cast the Ring into the molten well of Mount Doom, the only way the Ring can be destroyed. The company is split by the betrayal of Boromir and Aragorn makes his first kingly decision: to accept that it is fated that Frodo and Samwise should go on alone while the rest would arouse resistance, and thus draw Sauron’s notice, amongst the peoples of Middle Earth. Except for Frodo’s  meeting with Faramir’s folk, he and Sam go alone. Most of the writing through to the last book, is devoted to the arousing of the Folk of Middle Earth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 It is hard-wired in our genes as a species: human beings survive in groups not as lone individuals. Heroes act in relation to a group and are remembered by their group with reverence. Honoring ancestors is about honoring those who contributed to your very existence, the progenitors. Spirituality in a people is handed down from generation to generation. Those of us who have a relationship with God, read in Scripture God’s work with humankind since the dawn of human consciousness. All peoples have such spiritual traditions. Let us not limit our Sense of God by thinking he hasn’t been everywhere active. Though peoples war, and some become avaricious and kill or enslave others, and all manner of evil can be cited, no great civilization would ever have existed without an extended stretch of Good. Ethical norms of forbearance, right action, morality and ethics, self-sacrifice for the welfare of the group; Love of country, family, friends…making an altruistic choice over a selfish one. Look at the last 2000 years just in Christendom and you will find the full breadth of both Good and Evil.                             Part of the powerful Truth-ring of Tolkien’s work is exemplified by the stories of the two human communities Aragorn’s company encounters: The Riders of Rohan and the people of Gondor. Both peoples are being hard pressed by Evil forces and both are suffering from a failure of leadership which is crippling resistance. Both have leaders able to carry on, but their efforts are torn by conflict of loyalties between vows to their King and the needs of the people for strong leadership….sound familiar? Both Theoden of Rohan and Denethor of Gondor have been turned to Darkness by corrupting influences, but they are alive and accepted as rightful heads of their people. Gandalf is able to awaken Theoden to himself by breaking Wormtongues hold, and just in the nick of time too, with just enough time to get the people to Helm’s Deep to make what looks to be a last stand. Young Faramir is enabled to assume leadership because Aragorn is the King for whom the Stewards have been waiting. And the great battle of the Two Towers is waged even as Denethor succumbs to suicidal despair. But this is not just about leaders; leaders are tested and must have the ability to put aside self-doubt and pick up the sword of leadership; but without a staunch people to lead, their efforts would be futile. Churchill had a staunch people to lead, and many are the stories of individuals and small groups who were tested and enough found courage to make their stand count, each finding and picking up their rightful mode of battle, an individual overcoming of fear and finding courage. Alone would they have found courage? A leader articulates the basis for resistance, makes the choices clear, then it is up to the people to respond, each one, then linking arms.       And what of the broken sword in our present circumstance? A what of the leadership which urges us to focus on the need to arouse ourselves and exemplifies the courageous choices we each must make? We do have a broken sword, you know. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    It is under this Constitution that we consent to be governed. It has been our sword, and now it is being broken; much of it has already been attenuated or broken; soon it will be dysfunctional as a guiding document protecting the people from a bloated Federal government seeking total domination by a few over all, with legislative or judicial checks and balances crippled. The subversion of the people has been incremental, by most imperceptible; the control of information is nearly complete now, coming to the people as deceptive constructs and manipulation of what facts are unfiltered to create a receptivity to and support for the centralization of power, and to create conflict between communities over race, gender, politics and wealth “issues;” the Federal government, under the Executive branch, has insinuated it’s control into nearly every aspect of the life of the people; under the aegis of joint action by DHS and DOJ, units of militarized police (SWAT teams) have been distributed to law enforcement of small towns and large across the country financed by federal money, as well as distributed within Federal agencies (70 percent, last count I saw), thus creating a national police force assembleable by mere executive order; a hierarchical chain of commanders and the legal supports are surely in preparation……                                    

Each of us is a member of nested circles of community which in aggregate are The People. These networks of inter-relationship bond us together as The People. When a crowd stands for the National Anthem and many tear up, it is our love for our country and for our fellows that wells up in our eyes; not everyone, but still many. Our country’s election process shows a deep polarization of the people, but most do not realize what distinguishes the poles; thus the forces for increased centralization of power and abrogation of the Constitution, through media control and a focused agenda, are able diffuse the perception of the opposition by most, and also sow discord and confusion of purpose in the opposition. The ability of The People to see through the fog, smoke and mirrors and realize their danger is seriously compromised. In order to avoid being forced to more desperate actions to recover our birthright as a people, we must somehow become mobilized to take advantage of the upcoming election.

  Each of us, in ourselves, must clarify our vision, recognize the danger, assume personal responsibility for what we see, and pick up the sword being broken and vow we will not rest until the government under the Constitution is restored, else we will not be governed by it’s substitute; then, sly like the snake, peaceful as the dove, we work in our nested circles of community to awaken–The British Are Coming!  Awake! Awake!— We are not defeated yet. It is not enough for me to take comfort in the CTH community, in the Internet community; no,  right here in the vineyard where God placed me is my battleground. I will be staunch. I will believe in The People. I will trust God to bring the needed leaders to the fore. I will love the people around me enough to open my mouth and say what needs saying, to share what I have learned, to pass on what was passed to me by my forefathers, to awaken what is already in them, to keep informed of the Truth and share what I learn. I will walk amongst my brethren with my eagle-headed cane with it’s cruelly hooked beak and sound the call to action….I can do this, it can be my small part in the big picture, but many like me doing just what they can where they are, do a movement make. Leaders on a larger scale will be encouraged to take up the call by sensing the stirring of The People, and, overcoming self-doubt, and clarifying their vision and realizing what is in them to contribute will step forward, maybe to lead a small group, maybe a small group of groups, and so it grows…

Our Sword is the Constitution by which we consent to be governed. It can be restored if the People will it. Perhaps later we can see if changes need to be made to strengthen the protection it gives us to be a free people, but for now, Restore what is Ours.

As for the state of the people, I say this: the Revolution was not won by Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, et al; the Revolution was won by farmers, frontiersmen, carpenters, tradesmen, cattle herders, adventurers, plodders, the uneducated, the some educated, the highly educated, men, women, slave, free. indentured, bonded, high-minded and low-minded, the smart and the not-so-smart, the washed and the filthy—all and any stirred by the cause—and they shocked the world by what they so nobly accomplished, then they went home and tended to business. My people were Scots already survivors of British predation; most had come over as bond servants or indentured slaves, served their time, then went over the Smokies to start a new home. They left a contingent at home to assure the safety of community and attend to farming and trooped over to join the fight with their long rifles and ways learned from the Cherokee as well as their own battle-hardened knowing— there was no assurance of victory, far from it, but to answer such a call for such a cause was bred in their bones. And they were not remarkable; all over the colonies such as they answered the call; somehow the identity of a people had grown in the colonies; the Declaration of Independence does not plumb the depth of what came together and endured that hopeless war; no writing has ever satisfactorily explained it, but the Constitution was written to protect that precious core strength that won victory. That core has not gone away. By God, it will be aroused once more. So I pray that God brings me home to my core strength and guides me to my Right Actions in this battle. Thy Will Be Done. AMEN             

 AND  GOD BLESS AMERICA!                                                                                                                   

-A-ONE-AND A ONE-AND A ONE-AND A ONE…….

Time is simultaneous; so say some mystics.                                                                          There is a sucker born every minute, says old P.T.                                                                  But it feels like there is no time left for either/or.                                                                     We’ve got ourselves by the throat.                                                                                           Our long knives are drawn and poised.                                                                                  We’ve been born every minute in sync with our death.                                                            How do we unclench ourselves from this dream?                                                                    Caught exposing ourselves in public places,                                                                            We stand accused on the coasts of time.                                                                               The sun rises and sets according to how we face,                                                                   And the two oceans rumple the sands at our feet                                                                                       with recurrent hissing____________

Free, condemned on shores of balanced flux                                                                          In the silence of a thought—                                                                                                         Our hearts also, stilled between beats,                                                                                     Minds go white—-

In the silence of this thought,                                                                                                    All Time Is Simultaneous                                                                                                         (1987)                                                                                   

LOON

Moon’s

Light rays

Out over the loom

Of wind-rippled lake.

Light bars flash in the eye of a loon,

That still shore sentinel watching the sand lapped, slaking

It’s endless thirst, hissing. She opens her long mouth

And boldly hoots her runes into the ear

Of the intimate, feathering wind,

Stately spreads her wings

And flies straight into

The moon’s

Cold

Eye.

(1995)

Trying to Live… V.S. LIVING

Until recently, I have been trying to live every day consistent with my experiences of contact with God and developing a relationship with God. “Trying to live????” Until I die, living is my default state. What I am realizing is that living is what I do and doing is choosing…even not doing is choosing and living. As long as I live mainly isolated in my skull, revealing only what serves to enhance and protect my safety, my perspective becomes so skewed that actions become ill founded and I become entangled in a net of internal and external deceits, misqualified actions, and a proliferation of negative consequences. So I turn my will and my life over to the care of God, because I judge myself incompetent. I resent myself and God, then, to at least some extent and sometimes a lot…rebellion. So living in isolation makes living God-centered harder because selfishness and self-centered thinking tend to become the moment by moment norm. Someone once said to me that once I truly accept Jesus/Father/Spirit as my savior from my lifelong bondage of Self, That Spirit goes to work to re-form me into a new man, born once again. But while I have no plan to fix me I have a powerful urge to fix me, and it seems Spirit simply waits calmly until I get out of the Way. Determining to go out and do good doesn’t work either, because again my faulty perceptions and judgments are in the way. When I ask for help to do His will as I go out, and am alert to and appreciative of the glorious beauty all around me as I am out and about, I return home refreshed and well– did I do good work? I have no idea. It is a lonely old man’s vice to talk more than he listens. Sometime when I go out as I just said, I return aware of intriguing and sometimes surprisingly wise things ordinary folks have said, and I realize I must have done some listening. Since my medical spinal procedure of Nov. 6th, I am not living in overwhelming pain, or indeed any pain, but more importantly I am discovering just living. When I finally recline for sleep, sometimes I feel bad about some things, sometimes I feel good about some things, but I never feel completely good or bad. I glimpse ways I am BEING changed, and I am flooded with gratitude. Occasionally a teary Joy overwhelms me. Sometimes I am deeply saddened by the memory of having caused hurt to another, and can finally forgive my younger self…     Just living. It is enough. It is sufficient. It is full. It is the wind of Spirit forming my life…

—– Dedicated to Sharon and her husband in thanks for their example.

ROMANS 12: 1 – 10 — THE STEADY PATH

Nine days ago I went through a surgical procedure which relieved me of crippling pain which had kept me house bound for 10 months. I asked for prayers from friends, specifically in alignment with my own prayer= for serenity of mind and strengthening of my Trust in God. Immediately after the procedure, that very same day, my Serenity and Trust were shattered= an insurance and financial issue freaked me out and, in violation of Doctor’s orders I went out on the bus to make a corrective move possible in what remained of that day. The next day I made some more corrective moves, then suddenly realized that I had totally misread the situation and the disaster did not really exist, though the moves I made did actually need doing…     I found my Serenity restored, my Faith justified, the pain I had lived with so long, Gone. Psalm 129 and the first 10 verses of Romans 12 have been my steady Scriptures of contemplation since. Housework, studio work, singing, cooking have kept hands and mind occupied while I wait upon the Lord. Psalm 129 emphasizes the quality of Perseverance in discipleship; Romans 12: 1-10 is about giving my whole, unadorned, ordinary human self in offering, “a living sacrifice,” to God. In February, 2010 I fervently prayed this dedication=        My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go through this day to do Thy bidding. Amen.       I have learned that the Spiritual Life is not a theory. It must be lived in daily renewed truth.
When I was 12 I sought ‘the call’ to God’s service but I finally quit trying because I didn’t feel I had gotten an answer. I was wrong. My calling was to persevere in a search for God in Truth, not in theory; a God I could totally believe in without reserve; a God I could totally give myself to…  What amazes me now, remembering that little guy in 1953 is the fidelity to that search he ended up demonstrating and the amazing meetings with God he actually had and how protected he was by God in every endeavor… When I realize these things my soul is filled with overflowing love for the Great Shepherd who has nurtured me Always…     I thought perseverance had to do with persistence in improving oneself, but I have learned that it has more to do with holding myself open and willing to God’s action in me. Paul suggests that I fix my attention on God; that I will be changed from the inside out; and that I need to learn to recognize what God wants from me, and to be quick to respond. My old thirst to Understand myself and God has been replaced by Recognition of what God is and what He does for me which reveals me to myself- what understandings I can have arises from that. Revelation and Recognition= a whole new gnosis. What seemed backward at first to my rational mind, I now find compatible with my Greater Intelligence which is my whole mind of which rational thinking is only a part…AND THAT is immensely satisfying to my Spirit.                                                                                                                I sense that I have been given my mission in life now, but I will have to live it to know what it is. Somehow, that makes sense. Staying my mind on God. Loving God. Loving myself and all I meet is what is required of me. Help me Great Shepherd to stay the course. Amen.  

I was 19 that winter,and writing in a attic apartment in Groton, Mass which I shared with a fellow instructor at Fort Devens, USASA School. I had just been informed that I was to be transferred to overseas field duty, promoted, destination classified. I had taken a big risk, and now I was going to be rewarded by being thrown through the veil of silent mystery known as NSA.  At that time, no one had any idea what this civilian agency we were attached to was. When I was discharged in May, 1962, 21 years old, but many years older in mind and spirit; I spent the summer polishing poems, learning Bach and Beethoven Sonatas, and silently watched my country slide into the gaping maw of Vietnam, which I had just left, and could almost feel the death of the friends I had left behind…  I started back at the university in the Fall…

I remember running across the poem below in my journal in late summer in its rough, scrawled out form and being struck at how prophetic it was of my then-current spiritual state- so I went to work on it… Now I look at it from a perspective of 53 years and am still struck by it’s spare honesty about a certain kind of moment in my life that seems to signal a major shift of perspective and spiritual change… I said that too quickly… it is not a quick state= Nothing…Silences…Null…Null…Null…bursting apparitions…Stark fears…love of darkness…Blood moving…no motivation…Stark fears…questions echoing…no motivation…flow breaking up into eddies, whipping into flow, yet…no motivation…ideas like froth on the pane of consciousness…moving blood…null…Silence is a wig I wear/ My face exploding out of hair…the owl’s scream that freezes prey for the strike…Silence on the cold stones…icy breeze on the cheek…fumbling to start a fire in sub-zero cold…Echoes of the question call= Why do we move at all? The match explodes into flame and is touched quickly to tinder, puff puff There it goes, wild exultation of heat on the brow, smell of singeing beard hair…Being and nothingness.  II  Though the mind lay itself down in sullen refusal, ‘the force that through the fuse drives the flower, drives my green age’, then I like Gargantua stride through the flung wide gate into tomorrow…

It is the breath; it is the heart; it is the growling stomach and legs itching to travel- we push out onto a new path… Because the mind lies, but the body stays honest.