Poetry Friday

Well, this has been quite the week, hasn’t it? It has left me feeling completely drained, and more than a bit despondent.

 

Maybe it’s just me, but my mind goes to poetry at these times, and Wiliam Butler Yeats describes it well:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I noted from reports that Joe Biden called loudly for unity the other day, as he did more work than he has in a decade to undo the work of his predecessor. In fact, he wasn’t calling for ‘unity’ he was calling for ‘submission’ which he’ll get neither from the conservatives who have come to respect President Trump because he lived the words he said in the campaign against Hilary Clinton when we would have voted for pond scum instead of her. What we blindly voted for was a patriot and a man of his word, Not a perfect man, by any means but only the third President in my lifetime that I willingly would vote for again. The other two are Eisenhower (yes, I was too young by quite a bit, but looking back would) and Ronald Reagan. In truth, I think Trump surpassed both and was the best president since Calvin Coolidge, a full century ago.
So, no, Slow Joe, there’s not going to be any unity to be had, and in four years we will have a new president if you last that long, if you’re unlucky, you might be remembered like Buchanon, the man whose administration brought us to the brink of civil war.
But it’s also possible that he will suffer the fate of Benjamin Harrison, who arguably stole the election of 1892 against Grover Cleveland and was subsequently defeated by him in 1896. History has a habit of rhyming like that.
Have you seen this?
Somehow, I don’t think either American conservatism or Donald J Trump are quite to the end of the road yet. I have no idea what the names of the teams will be going forward, but there are many innings left to play. Made me think of another poem, in fact, From an American, writing in England, of the English. T.S Elliot’s Little Gidding

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Yes; it is.

This has been here since shortly before Christmas, it didn’t get published – not because it not a really good article – but because we simply ran out of slots. Anyway, it’s just as valid today as it was then so enjoy. Neo.

As there are twelve days of Christmas, I’m going to push your patience a bit and have a little discussion of the old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I saw that! – you just rolled your eyes, didn’t you? Don’t deny it – I caught you dead to rights. Anyway …

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying the yearly series “A Carol A Day”, written by Margaret Ashworth, a staff writer for The Conservative Woman UK. Along with the ‘backstory’ of the carol writer, and often times the words of the carols, she selects the most delightful samples of YouTube videos that relate to the carols. I highly recommend you go to that site – you can go back to December 1st and catch up or just enjoy the carol of the day. One of the carols she posted caused some interesting comments (below the line, as they say) and some of those comments got me going. Not in a good way.

Some of the TCW commenters hate It’s a Wonderful Life and proceed to share their mean-spirited appraisal of the movie. While some make valid – though obvious – points about the unrealistic portrayal of the characters and insist that if it were honest, the way the movie should go is ‘insert your objections here’. I just sort of bristled a minute or two and then moved on – as you do (a delightful English expression I may have to adopt).

Then, my very dear English friend, my Alys, sent me the link to an article in The Critic https://thecritic.co.uk/its-a-wonderful-life-the-perfect-christmas-film/

It’s meant to be supportive but it doesn’t quite reach its goal. To me, anyway. There’s just something missing from the article. It may warmth; it may be heart. I suspect what’s missing is heart.

First of all – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – IAWL is a work of fiction. Fiction means it is not true. But because something is not true, we are not prevented from taking a lesson from it. There is a great message in this film and especially important – I would think – in this time of me-ism. It is, after all, all about me, isn’t it? Hmmm – one wonders. In any event, we learn what we do has an effect in the world – like the thrown stone causes concentric ripples on the water. Truly no man is an island unto himself. Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back a hundred fold*

The big part of the movie that the Critic’s writer misses is the biggest part of what makes the movie. In his article, the writer says that the angel, Clarence, gives George Bailey the ability to see what life would be like without him; that’s wrong. The scene that matters is the one that shows the night sky with twinkling stars and the audience hears a discussion between God and St. Peter. God hears the prayers of the family and friends of George Bailey and sets about making things right. God and St. Peter choose Clarence, a not very effectual angel who needs help to get his wings, to accompany George on the journey he’s about to take. Clarence is there as a sort of haphazard “Behold, I bring you great tidings”. It is Clarence’s job to help George see what is most important in his life. Unless people understand that it is God ordained for this to happen to George, it’s very easy to pick apart the rest of the film’s premise.

I know you’ll be grateful that I’m not going to go through the whole movie – I’ve already spoken about what’s most important. But I do want you to consider your own life. Simple things we’ve done for others, without their knowing or without them having to ask. These are the things that make our lives wonderful. We didn’t think long and hard about them, we just did them, sort of spur of the moment or an opportunity presented itself. Or perhaps – just maybe – you answered a prayer. I call them ‘Holy Spirit moments’; seemingly coincidental moments when you did something good for someone without even thinking about it. Answered prayer.

My prayer is that your life is sprinkled with these lovely acts and that you acknowledge that you’ve done good in the world. Not to take pride in them but to be grateful that at that moment, you did a good and wonderful thing. For someone else.

*Ecclesiastes 11:1

New Years Eve – Finally

Is there anyone in the Anglo-American world who hasn’t had their fill (and much more) of 2020? Well, kids, it looks like we’re gonna make it. Not that anything is solved really, the pols are still trying to remove our freedom using Wuhan Flu as their excuse, Boris still hasn’t a clue as to what Churchill was really about, in truth he’s a poseur, and here in America not least because our judges are cowards, it increasingly looks like we have the illegitimate Biden regime to look forward to. No good prospects in sight.

But it isn’t 1941 yet when FDR and Churchill met at Argentia Bay the free people of the world all spoke English, and Uncle Sam was just starting to get over being Rip van Winkle with his 20-year nap.

That’s not so true now, the American people sound increasingly like it’s either 1859 or maybe and more accurately 1774. Well, even a British education can’t hide what happened next and from what I’m reading the British are also starting to wake up. Even more, than us, they have a dearth of leadership. President Trump issued a proclamation honoring St Thomas Becket on the 850th anniversary of his martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral, last Monday. St Thomas, he referred to as “a Lion of religious Liberty” and the proclamation states this…

The president’s proclamation heralds Becket as the precursor to “numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West,” particularly the Magna Carta, which declared that “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”

“It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, ‘All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’ and that ‘it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights,’” the proclamation said.

That is important for us, and it is important for the British to realize that we honor their pioneering efforts in making men free, all that America is was built on English foundations, that still hold.

But for the first time since 2016, this blog is not all Neo, thankfully. My two main contributors, gingers both (go figure) have much to do with what we do here, like our new fiction category which was Audre’s idea, strongly supported by Jessica.

If you’ve been here long, you’ll realize that Jess is my dearest friend, and here she tells a bit about that came to be. here’s Jess

Neo asked me to say something about how it feels to be back blogging, so here goes.

I started my own blog back in 2012, and met Neo soon after, as fellow start-ups we got along more than just fine. In November 2012 I began writing here, partly as a filler for Neo’s absence over the holiday season. The fun came to an end round Easter 2016 when I got seriously ill. Neo was sweet and kind enough not only to keep me in his prayers, but to re-publish a few pieces, but I suspect that like me, he never expected to see me back here again – and yet he kept the faith, which is, as regulars will know, just what the man does – and then in October this year, I was well enough to come back. Since then I have been publishing mainly fiction here, and much enjoying it.

Has this place changed? Sure, we all change. There are some new (to me) readers, who have been kind enough to comment, and there is my co-blogger, Audre, who always adds a note of common sense and quiet humour. I have never been particularly political, and don’t feel I have a political home. What I do enjoy, is good company, which I get here, and good writing, ditto. I think you are all terribly sweet to put up with this Anglo-Welsh changeling who inflicts her stories on you. I love writing my Gospel stories from the female point of view, and for those of you still awake, there’s a length to run yet on my “Rowan” saga, as well as on my imagining on Mary Magdalen.

Above all though, it’s fun to be back here and with you all – and let’s hope for a better 2021 for us all!

She’s right, I kept the faith, well mostly, it began to waver a bit here and there as despair began to sneak in. I’m told that seeing Audre’s posts both here and on Jess’ AATW encouraged her to come back first there and then here. My word how I missed her, her blog posts yes, but even more her steady friendship and love, and some fine advice as well.

We have spoken of Audre, and I asked her for her thoughts as well, and they make an excellent end to this post because they are true for all of us. And I think we all want to thank you gluttons for punishment who read here, we admire your fortitude, if not always your sense. Here’s Audre…

What a flippin’ year it’s been. And yet – how wonderfully amazing.

I was generously given a little patch of land to do with as I saw fit. The surprise of the offer set me back and I had to think about it awhile but in the end, I accepted it with both joy and trepidation. I’ve never had a little patch of land before and wanted it to be sprinkled with wild flowers and decorative boulders and a little river running through it. That’s what I’ve tried to create.

My little patch of land is the space Neo offered to me. I’ve never done a blog before. And – Neo casts a mighty big shadow; following in his footsteps is daunting but in the end, I can only be me and he’s never once complained. Grimaced once in awhile I suspect but he gave me free range and now it seems as natural to me as brushing my teeth. I’m retired; I don’t do ‘deadlines’ anymore – but I find that there’s no shortage of things to consider and I actually get ahead in pieces to be published.

As you have walked by and stopped to look at my little patch of land, you smiled, or laughed, or rolled your eyes (probably mostly rolled your eyes) but in your kindness you watered the flowers, added your own decorations, and greatly improved the content of the little patch of land.

Many thanks to Neo, and to you, for your fortitude and forgiveness. It’s been a great 10 months of writing and of reading your comments.

Happy New Year (finally) from all of us at NEO

 

Thy will be done.

Basically speaking, 73.8 million prayers were lifted. The realist in me has come, sort of, to a reconciliation that the Biden/Harris ticket won. All that’s left to do is the crying.

It’s especially hard, I think, for Christians who do firmly believe in the power of prayer. How do we ‘measure’ the effectiveness of prayers against actualities not of our choosing? While we may be hurting, I think it’s important to step back and look at things dispassionately.

First of all, America has been moving in this direction for quite some time. We did little to recognize it, let alone stop it. We just went along because, well, we’re busy and who has time to work these things out while juggling kids and work and family issues and the day to day trials and tribulations of the work a day world. Secondly, who could have foreseen the tremendous accomplishments of President Trump when he assumed power four years ago – did any one of us think he’d have such breath-taking success?

The thing to remember, when we scratch our heads and wonder if God has deserted us, is that for God, this is all just one long day. He sees the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things all at one time. He knows and sees what we can never know and see. There is always a reason. There is always the fulfillment of His plan. This turn of events may be a chastening; it may have an outcome, over the next four years, that we simply can’t imagine. But whatever the future holds, He is still in charge and ultimately, His will will be done – on earth, as it is in heaven.

So, as folks say, buck up, buttercup. He’s given us the strength to get through all that we’ve surmounted throughout our lives and we’ve lived through tough times as a country and we will, with His help, get through this as well. Don’t stop praying for our country; don’t stop praying for the President of the United States no matter who he or she may be; don’t stop praying for our governments and the people who man them. He hears us. But always remember, “THY will be done”

Innocents

were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, 

T.S. Eliot, The Journey of the Magi

Eliot captures the way in which the journey to the Christ-child changes us. We are not told which of the three is talking, but in that birth, he had seen a death – and he could no longer feel no longer “at ease here, in the old dispensation, / With an alien people clutching their gods.” Neither can we, having journeyed to the Christ child be at ease with the many “false gods” worshipped by this society.

We read, with horror, in Matthew 2: 16-18, of how Herod had all new-born sons massacred after the Magi had not reported back to him. It tears at us – as it should. How horrible, we think. Yet, we live in a society marked by a much greater horror. Herod had a selfish motive for his action – he wanted to kill a rival king. What is our excuse for allowing abortion on demand? The law in the UK does not allow for it, but in practice, it is what we have. Here, unlike in the US, it is not a political issue. We simply accept it.

Yes, even to query it is to invite hostility. Do I not care about the woman who has been raped? Yes, I do. But I do not see why killing the second innocent party should make the mother feel better; what about the sense of loss and possible regret? There is more than one side here. But the vast majority of the abortions which take place have nothing to do with the extreme circumstances which the supporters of the abomination call in aid. How strange that in a society saturated with contraception, we should need so many abortions.

Before I married for the first time, I practised the best and most reliable method of contraception – I kept my panties on and my legs closed; it worked splendidly too! To my deep sorrow, it transpired that I have a gynecological problem which prevents me conceiving, which of course, I accept, may make my attitude to abortion particularly hostile. But there are many women like me who would love to adopt. More than 41 million babies perished in abortion this year alone. It is the only form of “healthcare” where one of those involved dies every time.

To justify this horror to ourselves, we subject the language itself to abuse. We do what the slave-owners did to justify their sin – we dehumanise the object of our sin and call the baby a “fetus”. I looked in the card-shop recently and you know what, I couldn’t find a single card saying “congratulations, you are having a fetus”; have you seen one? So, the greeting-card industry, which has a card for every season, has none for the “fetus”. What is the womb is a baby; what will be killed is a baby. But once admit that and the game is up. So let us pretend and insist on it.

But then, it is “my body, my choice”. Here, as a feminist, I take issue with another abuse of language. My body, last time I looked, had one head, two hands, and two feet. Before I knew I could not conceive, I thought I had a choice. I exercised it by keeping my clothes on and avoiding horizontal jogging with eager young men; it can be done you know! But, except in those hard cases of rape, we all have a choice. Those with no religious objections to contraception, who are willing to take the medical risks of the pill, can jog all they like and usually avoid contraception. Why not call it what it is? “I want the right to have sex on the same terms as a man, and to get rid of the consequence”? At least that would be honest; but once admit it and the thing is what it is – sheer selfishness and a desire to have what I want when I want it and for someone else to bear the consequences.

On this, the commemoration of the massacre of the Innocents, let us pray for all those souls killed before birth. Who can know what we have lost – another Shakespeare; the cure for cancer? But we do know what has been lost – a child who never had the chance to say that her choice mattered most.

 

[All of you know that I completely agree with what Jessica writes here, in fact, I asked her to write it, in recognition of the Feast of the Innocents. But for whatever reason, I forgot that the feast day was yesterday, and thought it today. Very stupid of me, and I hope you’ll forgive me. But, and this is important, this is something we should remember and pray about every day. I won’t say our actions redeem King Herod, nothing can, for two (let alone 41 million) wrongs do not make a right. But we, all of us, have no right any longer to look askance at him as we perpetrate horrors at least as bad as he did. He could at least claim he knew no better. What is our excuse? Neo]

 

Joy to the World

The Star of Bethlehem?

It has been illuminating, I think, to let our lady authors, both Anglican, one American and one Welsh, living in England, do our Christmas series this year, Jessica’s in particular, will continue, both Rowan and the Harlot, but probably not till after the first of the year. This week will be a look back and a look forward. That is normally how we spend this week that is almost a nonweek, back when I was working for myself, I rarely scheduled anything between Christmas and New Year’s, nobody, including me, wants to deal with much of anything.

One thing I really want to do is thank R.S. McCain (The Other McCain), who has started linking to many or most of the articles here. I won’t say we aren’t worthy, because I think we are, but we are grateful and it makes a difference. If you’re not familiar with him, follow the link above and read one of the best of bloggers, and as he would tell you, “Hit his freaking tip jar”. He deserves it.

If you’ve been around the internet for a few years, you know that Dave Barry’s recap of the year is must reading, and the worse the year, the more essential it is. Well, it’s out and pretty much what you would expect, but far better.

Our dear friend Margaret Ashworth published a Christmas article on The Conservative Woman yesterday that is very nearly as good as the Candlelight services of my youth in my memory all these years later. Do read it. I’m pretty sure it can’t be improved, but I did see this, and I think you’ll love it as I do.

Such a powerful rendition of a traditional carol reminds me that, as the horizon darkens for Christianity as it is doing now, we believers will tend to congregate around those of us who have kept the traditions sacred for everyone, everywhere, and always. This is happening, Even here in the United States, still far more Christian (and Jewish) than Europe these days, we are seeing the trendy, do it yourself theology of the megachurches and the churches who follow every secular fad starting to fade. What will remain? The hard core of Christianity, Conservative Anglicans, Conservative Lutherans, Traditionalist Catholics, the great triumvirate of “Bells and Smells”. all claiming the Catholic Heritage. And the conservative Reformed churches. Along with us, there will remain the Orthodox, in their various stubborn flavors, who survived in the belly of the beast of the Soviet Union, such that today, there are only two arguably Christian world powers, Russia and the United States.

I’ll have some thoughts on the political situation, but that will come perhaps next week. For now, let us have a poem, from Rudyard Kipling, which at first glance appears to have little to do with Christianity or Christmas, but keep reading.

“Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”

“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
“Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

 

 

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid ’em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron — Cold Iron — was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
“What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?”
“Nay!” said the Baron, “mock not at my fall,
For Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all.”

“Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown —
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.”

“As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
“Here is Bread and here is Wine — sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary’s Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron — Cold Iron — can be master of men all!”

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
“See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron — Cold Iron — to be master of men all.”

“Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason — I redeem thy fall —
For Iron — Cold Iron — must be master of men all!”

“Crowns are for the valiant — sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!”

“Nay!” said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!”

And this

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