Thursday, October 31, 2013

A House of Horrors, slavery in the South
I began reading a view of the Confederacy, and it's not a pretty picture.  It is the published diary of a woman of the South who told it how it was from her slavery-hating self, a very gossipy "Diary from Dixie."  The author said things like, "Every man objects to any despot but himself." She quotes Winfred Scott's assessment of the South:

"Scott feels, she says, that we (Southerners) have courage...consummate horsemanship, and endurance of pain equal to the Indians, but that we will not submit to discipline...If it could all be done by one wild desperate dash, we would do it; but he does not think we can stand the long black months between the acts, the waiting~  We can bear pain without a murmur, but we will not submit to being bored...Even the high officers share these qualities: they have carried into the army the same disposition that has made the young men fight so many duels..  They mostly belong to the same social world, and they know each other too well.  They are touchy and jealous of one another.  If they don't like the way they are treated, they are apt to get angry and sulk, and to try to get themselves transferred..." 

In the introduction Edmund Wilson says, "In this government, the fatal incapacity of the Southerners for agreeing or working together becomes even more apparent than in the conduct of the war itself.  The passion for independence which with masters of a subject race so often takes the form of wrongheadedness, of self-assertion for its own sake, of tantrums, this self-will that has made an issue, and that is now making a cult of states' rights, is now provoking certain elements to rebel against the Confederacy itself...The great irony is that the recalcitrance of the Southerners against any sort of central control, which has led them to secede from the Union, is also--since they refuse to submit to the kind of governmental coercion that will enable the North to win--obstructing their success with the war...The big planters will not allow the government to interfere in any way with their Negroes, even to send work on fortifications."

Self-will run riot.  Slavery is the epitomy of that, men who used a race to unquestionably serve themselves.  "The father, presiding at dinner, as 'absolute a tyrant as the Tsar of Russia,' with his constantly repeated axioms and his authoritarian tone..."  The author, Mary Boykin Chestnut, a well-to-do Southern woman who rubbed elbows with the who's who of the South writes, "My very soul sickened," after seeing a girl sold at auction.  "Men and women are punished when their masters and mistresses are brutes, not when they do wrong...God forbid us, but ours is a monstrous system, a wrong and an iniquity!  Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children.  Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household but her own."  "I hate slavery...A magnate who runs a hideous black harem with its consequences under the same roof with his lovely white wife, and his beautiful and accomplished daughters.  He holds his head as high and poses as the model of all human virtues to these" poor women...From the height of his awful majesty, he scolds and thunders at them as if he never did wrong in his life."


I have barely begun this edited down 547 page true "Diary from Dixie" but am struck by its bold truth already.  This book definitely stirred the pot by a woman who told it all much like Harriet Beecher Stowe's book did for the North.  War is horrid, but perhaps a civil war is the worst of all.  Combine civil war with slavery, and evil is present.  Blood had to be shed.  Our church pulled away from Methodism to take a stand against slavery prior to the Civil War and became a part of the underground railroad.  Sadly, slavery around the world and even in our own community exists.  Sin.

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, 
 but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of 
Him with whom we have to do."
Hebrews 4:13
If I wasn't right with God,
forget haunted houses,
skeletons, witches, and portraits
whose eyes follow you around the room,
I would get a fright from reading that verse! 
Happy All Hallowed Eve!








This is like the jack o lantern I had as a child to gather my candy.
Yes, we had one elderly neighbor who gave full-sized candy bars!



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are you as smart as a fifth century-er?
As I prepare for my blog, some thoughts gnaw at my soul like my puppy who gnaws at the board that holds my laptop.  I wrestle with these thoughts as my little dog chews my sleeves or plays tug of war with my robe as I type.  One pervading thought, wrong to its core, that I admit has influenced me is left over from our Darwinian brainwashing: the evolution of the species that we are getting better, improving from the cave man, half ape, half-man and before that, crawling out of the sludge as a fish with feet.  I never believed in evolution, but the teachings have permeated our thinking that man has come so far.  Hitler took it to the extreme by trying to help it along by eliminating "hindrances" to perfect breeding.  Even abortion was put forward by Margaret Mead and her ilk as a way to accentuate selective breeding by eliminating the "less desirable" of certain races.  Actually, man was created as a brilliant being with his first breath, the very breath of God.  Sin brought degradation that has taken our life spans from hundreds of years as in days of old to the four-score and twenty or thirty that they are now.  Thus, the expectation is that early writings are somewhat crude is something to be overcome.  As I study my ancestors, especially our nation's forefathers, and even back to the early centuries, I find that it is their sin that brings them down; but  they were sophisticated in many ways beyond my expectations even without the advantages we have today.  It is we who have "dumbed down," not excelled, from the dirty snowball of sin's effect.

My reading list is dictated by what used books I find at thrift stores as I look for Christian publishers.  "Then Sings My Soul," is a new addition telling the stories of wonderful hymns.  A favorite hymn is from the eighth century in Ireland.  The background goes back even further to the story of Saint Patrick who was born in 373 A.D.  in Scotland.  His father was a deacon and his grandfather, a priest, thus he was raised in a Christian tradition.  Raiders came, burned his home, and found him hiding in the bushes.  They took him to be a slave in Ireland at 16.  It was there he gave his life to the Lord Jesus, "The Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God."  He escaped and made his way back home, but had a dream where he saw an Irishman pleading for him to come back to Ireland to spread the Gospel, much like the Acts 16," Paul's vision of the Macedonian call.  After preparing in France to become a missionary, now 30 years old, Patrick went back with only one book, the Latin Bible.  As a missionary, God used his years as a slave to teach him the language and the culture and awareness of the Druid worship which prepared him to minister to them.

 The Druids fought him and sought to kill him, but he became one of the most fruitful evangelists of all time starting 200 churches and baptizing 100,000 converts.  He taught them to regard their gods as demons.  Instead of fearing them, they could have the power through Christ to defeat them.  By the end of his life, only Munster in Southern Ireland still practiced paganism with even that converted in the next hundred years.  Instead of human sacrifice, they learned of the Son of God's sacrifice that took away the sin of the world.

As a slave while a young man, he spent six hard years herding sheep.  "I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountains, and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain. I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness because as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time."Because of his experience as a slave, he preached against slavery, calling it a sin.  He even wrote a letter excommunicating a British tyrant who carried off his converts to slavery. 

As I said in an earlier post about the church in Ireland, it remained pure longer than any where else in the world with a missionary zeal that evangelized Germany and Switzerland and the Danish people.
Several centuries later, Ireland was producing hymns, prayers, and sermons, and thus we have "Be Thou My Vision," written in the eighth century. In 1905 a scholar in Dublin translated the hymn while another scholar put it into the form it is now set to the tune of a traditional Irish folk song, "Slane," named after a place in Ireland where Patrick had faced the superstitions of the Druids with the truth of the Gospel.
"Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me save what thou art.
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word;
I ever with thee and thou with me Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son,
Thou in my dwelling, and I with thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High king of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.
This dark time of year where the superstitions of the Druids are glorified,
let the Lord keep our vision fixed upon Him, O ruler of all.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


As a child, my Aunt Margaret gave me one gift that I can remember, actually two; now come to think of it, three.  She gave me a small set of plastic Snow White's seven dwarfs.  Then one Thanksgiving, she remembered my fondness for black olives and for all intents and purposes gave me my own can of olives--"she can eat as many as she wants"-- so I could put as many on my fingers to eat as I desired, in spite of my mother's gentle objection.  When the other gift was given, it was pressed upon me that I was receiving an object of value:  it was a Steiff little black lamb.  If I had kept it pristine, now fifty years later, it would have been worth quite a bit.  However, it was well-loved and played with, not just by me, but by my children.  The worst wear came when a "wolf" attacked the lamb, and chewed off an ear and a glass eye; actually the wolf was the family dog.  It's true value is in how much it was loved.  Now my grandchildren are begging for the sweet little sad thing.


I used it to illustrate the children's church lesson on Psalm 23.  Here's an old Scottish version's  lyrics.
"The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll not want.
He makes me down to lie,
In pastures green.  He leadeth me
The quiet waters by."
When my firstborn was quite small and heard this Psalm for the first time, he was aghast saying, "Is that in the Bible?"  "Yes."  "But it says I shall not want the Lord as my Shepherd!"
As I thought over those in my children's church, some have been attacked by bad things in this ol' world of sorrow.  I wish children were exempt, don't you?  Some of them have had to already deal with griefs and wrongs that I never have had to.  We need a shepherd who will love and care for us, who sees our value in how much we are loved, not in our battered condition, like my little lamb, "Blackie."

Growing up camping in the Colorado mountains, sometimes we were right there in the "American Alps" among the flocks of sheep guarded by a Basque shepherd.  He stayed with the flock all the summer months, living in a horse drawn shepherd's wagon, riding his horse to keep watch over his flocks along with his sheep dogs.  He did not speak English, so it was a lonely job in the midst of exquisite beauty.  The nearly daily cloud bursts that melted into a surreal blue sky made very verdant pastures along the slopes. Even with the language barrier, my parents invited him for a Sunday dinner of boiled chicken in the can, and he shyly came.
The swift mountain streams were fed by snow melt.  The shepherd must have damned it to make still waters for his flock where only fly fishermen dared to wade.  If a sheep got caught in the current, its wool would act like a sponge, and the sheer weight would pull it under. 
Now, it is a heartbreaking sight to see those who were part of the flock prefer the fast current of this life with its alluring temptations bringing them down.  They refuse the still waters that the Good Shepherd offers for their good.  Jesus charged His disciple to "Tend my lambs," and to "Shepherd my sheep."(John 21:15-16)  But He also said, "We all like sheep have gone astray, each one to his own way."   Let the prayer of Hebrews 13:20-21 rescue the perishing, "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ..."
When we are born again, forgiven, washed in His blood, though our sins were as crimson, we shall be white as snow.  Living in Oregon, where much rain brought lush green hillsides, the newborn lambs would appear as shining white dots, laying beside their muddy mothers who had laid down their lives to give birth.  We can be clean.  The good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Kinfolk story...

John Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster,
de Plantagenet
London, England,
My 20th Great Grandfather
John Gaunt was the fourth son of King Edward III and Queen Phillippa, and the father of King Henry IV.  He was between nobility and royalty.  He began military service at fifteen years of age and was knighted at age 19.  He married his cousin Blanche, daughter and sole heiress of Henry, Duke of Lancaster.  His marriage made him the greatest lord in England, worth what would be 100 billion in US dollars today. 
There were times when he could have seized the throne for himself, but he was first loyal and was never the traitor that his enemies always tried to make him out to be.
Sometimes he had to stay out of affairs and even out of the country until accusations proved untrue.  He supported King Richard II.  In fact, William Shakespeare two centuries later in his play "Richard II, calls John Gaunt, "him that puts words in his mouth." (Act 2)
John Gaunt was a supporter of Geoffrey Chaucer, his brother in law, who wrote in the commoners' language of Middle English including "Canterbury Tales."  He had him write an ode to his beloved wife Blanche when she died, "Boke of the Duchesse." He helped by being a patron as well as protector of Chaucer who wrote dangerous satire.  Chaucer died under mysterious circumstances the year after John Gaunt's death.
Gaunt sided with Pedro the Cruel 

He spent much of his life in military endeavors. Though not very successful, he sometimes financed whole war efforts by himself. He did supported Pedro the Cruel of Castile who in time proved untrue in later battles even though John married his daughter Constance.  She did not live long.  The marriage entitled him to become the King of Castile and Leon, which he pursued above all else for sixteen years before going back to England. 
His daughter Philippa married the King of Portugal.

The most interesting aspect of his life is that even though he did not support John Wycliffe's religious ideas, he had used him to oppose chief ecclesiastics.  John Wycliffe produced the first English Bible and was nearly burned at the stake.  He was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation and lost his position at Oxford because of his radical views.  So when the bishops arraigned Wycliffe for heresy, John did not abandon him.  The conflict over his trial led to a violent quarrel with Londoners, and a riot in which John Gaunt's life was also in danger.  It was suddenly altered by the death of the king. 
 Wycliffe's trial.

His third wife, Catherine of Swynford, had been his mistress for many years before he was finally married to her and was able to have their four children legitimized.
John Gaunt was not a saint, but God used him to help save the life of one, Wycliffe.
In 1399, his son Henry of Bolingbroke deposed King Richard II, and was on the throne as the first English monarch of the House of Lancaster. This led to the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster (red roses) and the House of York (white roses) from 1455-1485.  It wasn't restored until Henry VII Tudor (great, great grandson of John of Gaunt), was on the throne.
Almost 700 years later, this is what the wealth
of one of the richest men  in the world looks like.
"Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich,
When the glory of his house is increased;
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
His glory will not descend after him.
Though while he lives he congratulates himself--
And though men praise you when you do well for yourself--
He shall go to the generation of his fathers;
They shall never see the light.
Man in his pomp, yet without understanding,
Is like the beasts that perish."
Psalm 49:16-20

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Now thanks be unto God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ,
and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
For we are the fragrance of Christ." 
II Corinthians 2:14-15
"Beauty without virtue
is like a rose without scent."
"...yet the rose has one powerful virtue to last...
When its leaves are all dead and the colors are lost,
Still how sweet a perfume it will yield!
So frail is the youth and beauty of man,
Though they bloom and look gay like the rose,
But all our fond care to preserve them is vain,
Time kills them as fast as he goes.
Then I'll not be proud of my youth and my beauty,
since both of them whither and fade;
But gain a good name by well doing my duty:
This will scent like a rose when I'm dead."
Isaac Watts
Oh little wild rose,
The wind nips your nose,
When fall appears, the summer goes,
 blowing a kiss.

Wild and sweet,
Relief from heat,
Makes a heart beat
at your beauty.
"The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy...
And the ransomed of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away."
Isaiah 35:1-2,10 
What fragrant memories are we leaving to our children?
It is important to let go of the past and go on to bloom, to be the fragrance of Christ in every place.
We can triumph in Him with everlasting joy upon our heads
finding joy and gladness.
"And a highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness...
But the redeemed will walk there.
Isaiah 35:8-9

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Did you hear the one about the guy who was shaving his moustache when his razor slipped? 

His vanity was all over the vanity. 
 I'm glad the beard is back.  That's how it was back in the hippie days of yore.  I wasn't for all that went with it, but I did like the beards.  My newest grandson (4) told his parents that when his birth mom gave birth to him, he was born with a moustache just like Jimmy's!  Hmm.  In honor of Jimmy's stiff upper lip whiskers, last year's Christmas card found them all wearing moustaches.

  I even found an ancestor who was called "...the Beard."  Awesome!


Have you seen the winners in a beard convention?  Incredible!  It is a manly art form.  It begs the question, did God create Adam out of the dust with or without?  We don't know if he was a smooth cheeked boy, at the peach fuzz stage, or a mature beardable man soon to be on the hunt for a mate.  My fifteen year old has been sporting a shadow for months now.  Was that how it was with Adam?  God said, "It was good," so I doubt it: adolescent facial hair is just not that great.  What?  You don't wonder about these things too?  Just me?  Hmm.

This is what my boys would look like if they could.

Did you hear about the ones in the Bible who had their beards shaved in half, the ultimate humiliation?  Facial profiling.  It caused a war. (II Samuel 10:4, good buddie).  "The king said, 'Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and then return.'"  For my son-in-laws, that would mean overnight.  Just like you don't mess with a cowboy's hat, you don't mess with the beard.  Put the razor down and back away slowly.


But more than waxing a moustache or growing facial hair,
 "This ought to be our endeavor,
--to conquer ourselves, and daily wax stronger,
 and to make a further growth in holiness."
Thomas a Kempis
Now that's true manliness!