To battle! And was it not I who won?

He set out, with a gun, and he pointed it, and marched, and he fired. And he may have killed, he may been killed, but all the while, he thought

“here I go, to save”

And no, he was a soldier. Is this an acceptable soteriological analogy? That God is the general, and without him victory is not secured, but we must fight? And if we do not fight, we die. But, if we fight, it is not us who saved us, but God? But did we not fight? No then, this cannot be an acceptable analogy.

What do we believe?

I must know that I am His.

Every bone, and sinew, all of my flesh and soul
pours forth from His creative activity
so that if I do anything good
…if I win that battle
It is because he allowed it
He created me, and this a child can understand. How can creation take the glory of the Creator?
And there is not “but”… only,

my struggle, the pain I endure, I endure it, is endured because of his Grace, and I only endure it because of what sin hath wrought on the flesh and soul of man, and so this pain does not render me glory, but my glory is in Christ who bore this pain on our behalf, so that our bearing is not futile. Because, the bearing of all pain is a natural consequence of first action in pride. O that God would have died for the angels? But did he? Could he? For angels cannot die. A fate sealed outside of time.

And so we fight and bear pain knowing it is meaningful, because Christ gives it meaning, because our suffering his, and his ours, and our God has saved us.

But… what of the will? Is it not our will that bears? Is it not our will that resists? Our will? Must we not will the good? And if we will it and overcome that which wars against our will, are we not due glory?

And indeed, we are rewarded! Treasure in heaven. And so our will does matter. But our wills were not sufficient to save us, and now, through Christ, our wills may be redeemed.

 

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A marquee passes by my window

OAK HARBOR FREIGHT
Red, initial letters for each word, the rest all black.

“I wonder if the artist who depicts these things, in video, in music, in painting… I wonder if those who…”

…Consume? What is the right verb for how we interact with art? I’m uneasy with the word “consume” in conjunction with our interaction with art. It seems grotesque and barbaric. As if art were a slab of meat that we greedily seize with our bare hands and stuff down our throats. I suppose it’s possible there are those who are indeed gluttons with more than just food. So then the problem isn’t the thing itself, but our disposition to the thing.

So what is the good way to ______ with art? Commune… no, it is not subject (though it depicts subject and beckons a shadow of the artist). It has to be nondescript. We approach art. Perhaps it then approaches us, if we let it. The spirit in the thing (for the spirit of the artist never leaves the thing, it is bound, like the soul). Art is a shadow of the soul. Through art we see the shape of the soul, an outline of a thing invisible.

And so we approach art and might…

Contemplate (it must have started with a “c”!)

“I wonder if those who contemplate art… Ah, and that completes my thought. I was troubled because I didn’t know what was art, and what was not, and I was troubled as I thought that if I did begin to contemplate God, and such contemplation overflowed into that which others could contemplate, it would merely be consumed.”

I have neglected contemplation because of a devil, to be sure. But I have been dissuaded to contemplate for lack of contemplation, a vicious cycle to be sure.

“Vicious cycle” a modern idiom that is perfectly Christian! Dante, the whirlwind of lust, the viciousness of such a whirlwind. Cyclones, lust… and vicious coming from “vice!”

But I have neglected being by science, a kind of exactitude that is endemic to the modern attitude. I lack the fortitude of the medieval mind. (that which is endemic to modernity is anemic.)

Well it is true that we are barbaric. And we are barbaric because we are anemic. But what is that myth where the more we eat the more famished we become? There must be one, but it does seem rather unnatural. O, I’m so ashamed at my lack of knowledge, even in my senses are right (and I’m not assured of that, or hardly anything).

And perhaps then it’s simply that we are consuming something like sweetmeats, the shape and taste of which are so alluring, but as we consume it we are filled with nothing nourishing.

(And now that I think of it, consumption of course is linked with communion, is it so barbaric after all?) Yes, yes, because we are not as animals as we partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord. “This is my…” there has always been reverence, for… “this is me.”

And that is the key to understanding what lies behind this door: Art cannot be, “this is me” but surely, “this is a sketch” or “this is an outline” or “this is shadow” of me. Look at my body! You see me, but only from one vantage. Art gives a vantage impossible to those with mere sight of the body. (the depiction of the body is how one body can depict another, giving insight into a communion of bodies)

EDM: Math, science, automation has given us a way to present ourselves with greatness of form. Like a construction worker might use better building materials for withstanding the elements, we can present that which may be consumed and contemplated with great precision. This is a good, but are we not consuming mere lines and angles? Are we not living beside strong and impermeable walls, with no roof over our head, and no foundation below our feet? What a strange sight to behold.

Contemplate, then! And your contemplation may be like a bubbling brook, rising up in the heart and out through your mouth, giving shape to words, and those words carrying the river of life that bubbles up within you, or those words –food–carried by the stream of contemplation that rises up within you may be consumed, but not as the barbarian who eats the sweetmeats!

God does not consume himself, but rather gives himself, and is he eaten? By us yes. We eat God. When we become Him, we cease to eat.

“Food for the stomach, and stomach for food, and ”
“The body for the Lord, and Lord for the Body”

 

 

 

Work

There is a demon, acedia, and it will exert its power to weaken yours. The relationship is directly inverse. As it flexes, you dystrophy. As you flex, it weakens.

Exert yourself then unto that which is meaningful. For there is idle activity, and there is fruitful inactivity. Think of Martha, who runs about the house, who does not do what is better. She collapses at the end of the day and has little peace for her effort. Likewise there is the man who spends his time doing this or that activity, mindlessly applying his body to that which does not require real effort or pain. For it is often more painful to be still than it is to remain busy.

Exertion unto a purpose. Was it a feat of strength for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus? Yes, it must have been. For there was work to be done, and the desire to impress her Lord burned within her. But she chose that which is better.

Desire burns within us, but we must choose what is better.

 

In the prairie, find the root

“Keeping a woman around is hard work. Keeping a woman pleased is the hardest work you can imagine.” He set the cup of water down on the table lightly, pulling it back up slightly right after it had hit the wood. The dust in this old wood house moved slowly over everything, illuminated by beams of sunlight from cracks in the walls. He swirled the water around for a moment. His eyes were fixed somewhere on the center of the surface-water as he continued:

“See a woman really does want a strong man. They want the strongest man. That’s why they want you surrounded with all these pleasures.”

Adam furled his eyebrows, cocked his head slightly to the left.

“It’s not that they don’t want their pleasures—women—they do. They love all the things money can buy. From booze to cars to all the television in the world, they want it all, they really do. But that’s not the main reason they want all these things around. They want to test your strength. That’s the one thing a woman can’t stand: A man without temptation. Women want their men to be tempted all the time, because they want to see how strong they are.”

Both men were silent. Adam now fixed his eyes on the swirling water in the cup.

“You see that’s why I believe they really are a test from God. A woman can make you a holy man, but it’s the hardest way to be holy. It’s better to just move out there, get rid of all those evils that tempt your everlasting soul, and serve God. But a woman is going to keep you steeped in the world. Even when she says otherwise, there’ll always be a world that she wants. There’ll always be a world she tests you with. Now does that sound like something you want?” He paused for a moment.

“I’m sorry for talking so much.”

“No, no, that’s good. That’s…good.” Adam placed his hand up to his chin. “That’s interesting to think about, that’s for sure.”

The old man let a sharp breath through his nostrils, harder than usual. “Yeah, it’s interesting alright. God, I’m almost done here. You know?”

Adam’s nervous laughter.

“Oh come-on.”

“Don’t do that to me. I know what you’re saying but you’re not listening to me. God, how bleak. This life almost over, and I have nothing to show for it, no one to share it with save for a kid who hardly knows anything about me. It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault. You’re fine. I’m sorry.”

Adam shook his head, trying to empathize with his eyes. “You’re a good man. I know that much.”

Adam wanted to say something more, to continue. Maybe even lecture. But he knew in the back of this mind he really didn’t care that much. He wanted to get out of this hot, dry cabin. He wanted to get back on the tarmac. He wanted to feel the air conditioning on his skin and fill his ears with voices. He didn’t want to hear himself think tonight, he just wanted to go home.

“So what’s all this, on the wall up here?” Adam tried to prove to himself he wasn’t as disinterested as knew himself to be.

“It’s like Delilah, in the Bible.” The old man was still staring at his cup.

“You know that story? About that strong-man, Samson, and his love interest?”

“Eh, yeah, I know about that one. That’s a classic.”

The old man scoffed again, this time through his mouth.

“Classic. Well yeah, Delilah is just like any other woman. She’s what woman looks like, unless the woman is a saint. Delilah wants to find your strength, and take it from you. But not because she wants to see you weak, she wants to see how strong you really are. She wants to see you overcome all she lays upon you. They love that. It’s perverse. It’s a fetish.”

Adam’s countenance changed, inspired.

“Then what’s a man?”

The old man turned his eyes up from the cup to catch Adam’s eager face.

“What’s a man?”

“Yeah, what’s a man? If Delilah is a woman, what’s a man? What’s his fetish? Because I doubt there are many man-saints out there either, you know? If the woman loves to see her man be strong, what’s that man want to see?”

“Well, what do you think, kid?”

Adam stretched his arms out, turning his palms up in the air. He smiled a weak and condescending smile.

“Well it’s just what you think it’d be. Men want to see their women weak. It’s just the opposite, how hard is that to figure out? They want to see their women cry. They want their women to feel bad for them and for themselves all the time. They love that. They think a woman crying is one of the sexiest things alive. It’s perverse.”

Adam took a few steps towards the shelves filled with dust-laden boxes on the wall. “So, it sounds like we’re not great for each other. Sounds like we should all run for the hills.”

There was a longer pause than usual as Adam thumbed some of the dust off what looked like an old book. Both men found the word “power” on their lips at the same time.

That’s what they both found that day, in that old wood building, dry and hot, quiet and alone. They saw Power gripping at their throats, turning their heads one way or another. It was ironic, or perhaps just surprising. They were surprised to find that Power was powerful. And it didn’t take a poet to show them that Power and Pride were the same person.

“So you never got married, because of that?” Adam’s palms were starting to sweat.

“Never did. Never could. Never really fell in love. Every girl that I could’ve had wasn’t beautiful enough. Every beautiful girl was taken, whaddy’a think that means?”

“You wanted what you couldn’t have? Seems simple enough.”

“Power.” Adam’s rumination satisfied him.

“Maybe. But I always thought I was cursed. I did something wrong, God paid me back for it. And now I’m out here all alone in some damn shack, out here with nothing but a conversation. That’s all I have.”

The old man was begging for pity, and Adam wanted to give it, but he didn’t have any to give. The kid knew he was just the same.

Psalm 6

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.

The Psalmist begins this song in a state of terror. The entire song is centered around terror; the fear of death, of suffering, and the total lack of power.

The heart cries out to the only one who can save it,

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.

What is this illness that he suffers? He is dying. Or, he thinks it. His body is giving way to the grasp of death—heal me! But it is not only his body that suffers:

My soul is also struck with terror,
while you, O Lord—how long? 

The reader is struck with the incomplete thought, followed only by a desperate plea for a quick recovery. While you… how long?

Poetry. Anxiety.
This is the cry of the soul in terror, in anguish. It is aware just enough to know how bad things are, and disturbed enough not even to finish a thought—only a question remains. How long must I wait?

And then, the soul attempts a plea—an appeal to reason: 

Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. 

Why should God deliver you? Because that is who God is. So do this then—heal me—for your namesake, to reveal your mercy. And also:

For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise? 

What good would it be if I were to die here like this? Death is a finality, the end of life, and, subsequently, the end of my praising you.

But we must read this spiritually. For we know that through Christ, “death is swallowed up in victory.” Death is not a finality, we will be raised. But the second death could only have been conquered by Christ.

I am weary with moaning
every night I flood by bed with tears

This illness has lasted for a season. God, hear my prayer. Please!

My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes. 

Has this illness not been caused by anxiety itself? Over those who seek to end his life? Over the enemy who waits at his door, seeking to kill and destroy? Where, then, is rest? And here is the crux of the matter:

Depart from me, all you workers of evil

The Psalmist’s command is not to his illness, but rather those who do evil around him. It is the unjust, the unrighteous—those who seek their will above the Lord’s—who have caused his state. What is his illness? Terror and its effects.

And why must those who call it go?

for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. 

The Lord has heard my supplication
the Lord accepts my prayer. 

The Psalmist here shows why he is not an evildoer—his faith. In the midst of his terror he trusts in the goodness and mercy of the Lord. Even in the midst of misery and anguish, he trusts in the Lord and his goodness.

And thus,

All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame. 

The roles here shall be reversed—and not through justice, but rather mercy!

I fear for my life,
heal me, O Lord.
I trust in you,

the source of my illness will be vanquished.

Psalm 5

Dialectic.

Righteous

Unrighteous

Righteous

Unrighteous

Righteous

This song, in 5 stanzas, juxtaposes the plight of the righteous with the plea for justice. The Psalmist begins:

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing…
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; 
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

What is his case? That because the Lord is just, because he hates the boastful, the evildoers, the liars, He will not tolerate them. He will not hear them. 

But the Lord hears the psalmist—and why? Because of the singers righteousness? No, but,

Through the abundance of your steadfast love, I will enter your house. 

It is the Lord who leads the Psalmist into his court.

But not so the wicked—their own deceit keeps them from holding court with God.

Because of their many transgressions cast them out… 

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. 

Who is it who sings with joy? Who is it whom the Lord hears?

Those who do not depend on their own counsels. 

Those who take refuge in Him, even if they take refuge in Him as one whom they fear, find peace.

So that those who love your name may exult in you. 

 

Psalm 4

Happiness.

You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound

Pascal. Pensées 570
Types. — They [the Jewish people] had to deal with a carnal people and to render them the depositary of the spiritual covenant…God chose this carnal people, to whom He entrusted the prophecies which foretell the Messiah as a deliverer, and as a dispenser of those carnal goods which this people loved. And thus they have had an extraordinary passion for their prophets, and, in sight of the whole world, have had charge of these books which foretell their Messiah…

But David here, understanding the true nature of God, claims that the gladness that God deposits in his heart is more than the “grain and wine”—the carnal pleasures—that the Jewish people take pride in. The Psalmist here has a spiritual happiness, one that persists.

And this is what the Psalmist means when he says, “How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?” His honor is the Lord, while the people seek after vain pleasures and lies.

But who are these who seek after vain pleasures and lies?

The ones that the Lord has not “set apart for himself”.

But this disturbs the spirit. “Has the Lord not set me apart?” But if you are disturbed, the Psalmist says,

“Do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.”

Those who show disturbance are to show trust—trust in the silent contemplation of the Lord. Hope. Trust through the “right sacrifices” of those who “work out their fear in fear and trembling.”

Are we chosen by God? Do not despair. Instead,

“lie down and sleep in peace”

for we serve a God who

“makes us lie down in safety.” Hope.

Happiness.
A peace that “transcends all understanding.”

Paying Attention To The Sky

“His second night in Talkingham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all of time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.”
From Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Lyrics:

Times have changed,
haven’t they?
People go
And no one stays

I thought by now I’d find some peace of mind but
I’m getting more restless every day

We’re fascinated that our time escapes us
we wonder why things don’t fall into place

As we grow up
We keep on looking down to find

Something we’d have
if paying attention to the sky

We have changed
Haven’t we?
We both ate
from a poison tree

With opened eyes we closed our hands together
in hopes we could undo what we undid

Coveting the things that have been veiled
We buy and sell the very skin we hid

Afterthought


Lyrics:

Love can be an afterthought
Wakes you up to find you’re not
Where you really want to be
Missed an opportunity

I was asleep in
The heavens I created
Only to find that
Our hearts were separated

I won’t stop fighting till I die
I’m trying to be right by you and everyone you set apart
There’s no point hiding when I lie
You find me with a light reflecting off the souls I murdered in my heart

Love can be an afterthought
Shakes you up to find you caught
Up in arms and ready for
Fighting in a losing war

Psalm 3

Psalm 3

I lie down and I fall asleep,
and I will wake up, for the Lord sustains me.

Whereas the Second Psalm focused on the fear of God as a requisite to knowledge and, ultimately, any form of true power (one that is not founded in the Ego, but rather flows through and from God himself), the Third Psalm shows that the fear of the Lord leads to freedom from the fear of man.

The psalmist writes the words above in the midst of an immanent threat to his life—he is being pursued by attackers who will kill him when they find him. And yet, so confident is he in the Lord that he is able to do perform the most vulnerable act—sleep—even though a letting down of all defenses means a potential loss of life. The writer here is not just free from fear, but from all anxiety.

Interestingly, the writer’s security is not merely a defensive one, but it manifests itself in an active faith of the offensive:

Arise, Lord! Save me, my God!
For you strike the cheekbone of all my foes;
you break the teeth of the wicked

We don’t here see death and utter destruction, but we do see a plea for debilitation. The saving of the righteous happens transpires through the punishment of the wicked.

What is striking about this psalm is the writer finds himself in a place of true desperation

How many are my foes!
How many rise against me!

And the reiterate, no one seems to believe he can (or will) be saved:

How many say of me,
There is no salvation for him in God

“It is not God who will (or can) save, but he may save himself, perhaps” they say. But the psalmist rejects this: On the contrary, it is precisely the Lord who allows him to live, who gives him the ability to continue. It is through this knowledge that he does not fear either man (or himself!), but finds rest in the Lord, who watches over all things.