Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Do You Know Him?
"How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss:
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there,
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life:
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ-
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart,
His wounds have paid my ransom."
-Hymn by Stuart Townend
In this season when many Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, I think it is a perfect week to share: "the old, old story/ that I have loved so long."  Here is how it begins: Once upon a time, a long time ago, God said:
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou  hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing that thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I turn their glory into shame.
They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their doings.
For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the Lord.
Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart."
-Hosea 4:6-11
   "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up.
After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the latter and former rain unto the earth."
-Hosea 6:1-3       
Ocotillo and storm clouds, Dan Eckert via
"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we also are His offspring.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
-Acts 17:28-30
   "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
-1 John 5:13
    "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  
Now Moses in the law commandeth us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.  But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.
So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.
And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord.  And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.  
Then Jesus spake again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
-John 8:3-12

      "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?"
-John 11:25-26
He is Risen, Arthur Hughes, 1893-96
"He is not here, but is risen: remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee,
Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again."
-Luke 24:7   
   "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
-Acts 4:11-12
The Old Rugged Cross, via
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
-Romans 5:1-2
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
-Romans 8:1-2
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
-Romans 8:38-39
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Whereunto I [Paul] am appointed a preacher, and also an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
-2 Timothy 1:7-12             

That's the story; that's my story.  That's the story of all those that know Jesus; all those that God calls "friends."
 Do you know Him?

Friday, March 15, 2013

1798-1898: Boolavogue

Of late I have been enjoying the rollicking folk music performed by the acclaimed male Irish vocalists, the High Kings.  Their choice of songs, like those of Loreena McKennitt, send me seeking the historic backdrop against which they play out.  I was particularly enjoying the song entitled "Boolavogue" in mid-February when I unearthed it, but only idly absorbing a few of the lyrics (I was neck-deep in elaborate Valentine dinner preparations) when one curious line gripped my attention: "For Father Murphy of the County Wexford sweeps o'er the land in a mighty wave."

The distinctly martial flavor of this line, juxtaposed with the unlikely leadership of an Irish priest, intrigued me.  Dinner plans abandoned, I set forth on an odyssey into the Regency Era and pre-O'Connell attempts at Irish liberation from English rule. The lyrics that captured my attention referred to a rebellion of Irishmen that took place in 1798.  While there was an attempt by the United Irishmen to rally all Irish regardless of religious persuasion to push for reforms of the Irish Parliament during this year (with force if necessary), the plan had been largely unsuccessful and the County Wexford was particularly quiet-- until, that is, the parish of one priest by the name of John Murphy and their near neighbors began to suffer incursions at the hands of the English soldiers.   

John Murphy had hitherto counseled his parishioners to refrain from violence and live at peace with their conquerors.  The articles I read seemed not to agree as to the exact account of what changed his mind, but all were agreed that infractions against his parishioners by English soldiers forced Murphy to change his position drastically.  In fact, so drastically that he took up arms and led them, and the hitherto peaceful county of Wexford rose up behind him in a way unforeseen by the English.  

Murphy proved to be a surprising tactician and won a battle against the English and several skirmishes; this could not last, however, and the uprising was shortlived and brutally crushed.  Other leaders of the uprising (Protestant as well as Catholic) also achieved some victories, but on all fronts they were summarily defeated in the end.  John Murphy, once caught, was sentenced to death.  He was equally brutally killed, and his head, as well as the heads of other Irish leaders in the uprising, were displayed on pikes subsequent to their executions.  The disgusting violations of human dignity via the soldiery during this "polished" era of society was astounding, but the tale of Ireland's struggle for freedom is better known than most so- skipping ahead...

1801.  The backlash of the 1798 rebellion finalizes in an act binding Ireland more closely to England than ever: the Acts of Union, passed in 1800 and coming into effect in 1801 (which acts, notably, have never been repealed by Great Britain, although they have been so by Ireland).  Rather than free Ireland, the attempt only gave an excuse to dissolve the Irish Parliament (already largely a puppet of the English government).

Many of us have islands of history in our memory.  This is a primary reason I like historical works that take a single year or era for their focal point; they unite a lot of the "islands," in that you realize how many things you recall learning about individually actually occurred during the same time and had bearing (or should have had) on each other.  So what else was going on?  

In English literature, the Romantic Period traditionally is dated from the same year: 1798, the year Coleridge and Wordsworth published their Lyrical Ballads.  Think Regency; this was all shortly prior to the rise of our beloved Jane Austen's literature (as we all know, 2013 is Pride and Prejudice's grand bicentennial year).  As far as religious freedom is concerned, in Britain and Ireland even before the Acts of Union, only members of the established church could hold office as MP's and participate in the vote, meaning Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and others had no real representation in Parliament.  To envision the political climate, think Wilberforce; the famed fight for abolition which is central to the wonderful film Amazing Grace, the "Saints" who were so mockingly dubbed because they took their faith seriously and the reformation of society deeply to heart.  Also keep in mind, the powerful Prime Minister who emerged to define an era of history unto himself in William Pitt, a king who went insane, a France marching toward empire under Napoleon, and the young United States, a fledgling nation with a federal constitution of under five years in age, embarking upon threats to newfound ideas of freedom already in the reactionary legislation known as the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Wow!!!  What I love about history is it's complexity; what I hate about history is also- it's complexity.  As Shakespeare so famously put it, "All the world's a stage,"-- a stage which rivals the most multifarious novel or film with it's tangled skein of narrative.       

So many things can be written here- anyone truly interested in the subject is advised to switch to scholarly articles because there is no way the scope of this post can include all the different factions, parties, convictions, and events of this period.  I am not following one thread because I believe it is all there is to be said on the subject; I am simply doing so for sake of time. 

And my thread, in honor of St Patrick's Day, is to take a peep back at one century of Irish history in broad strokes.  So back to my story: Catholics were, in the course of several decades, given the right to hold office in Parliament.  The "Catholic Emancipation" as it is sometimes called, grew in general favor over time but did not finally and formally come about until the famous Daniel O'Connell, "the Liberator," entered the scene, forcing the issue by running for office in County Clare and being elected twice.  O'Connell fought his battles on the stage of Parliamentary procedure, like Wilberforce; unlike Wilberforce, he did not see his labor come to entire fruition in his day.  Nonetheless, his skill as an orator, his passion for what was right (O'Connell was also an avid abolitionist and spoke out widely against American slavery, which was still in full force), and for me, most commendable of all, his nonviolence, all deserve great recognition and served to bring the issues of Ireland to the attention of many beyond the borders of his country.  

The 19th century for Ireland saw the Acts of Union at it's beginning; it saw the entire career of Daniel O'Connell; and finally, mid-century, it saw the terrible famine that drove millions of Irish from their homeland as immigrants, from which so many American citizens today derive their heritage and which is commemorated beautifully in Boston, MA.

Memorial of the Great Irish famine. Boston 2012.

And at it's close, Ireland was still not free; the issues had intensified, perhaps; the willingness to resort to mutual violence had not ended, nor had the sense of occupation by a foreign power with which the union was imbued for many people.  In 1898, the hundredth anniversary of the rebellion in which John Murphy (by then dubbed "Father" Murphy, retroactively) played such a historic but unfortunate role, the commemorative song "Boolavogue" was written.  The song embraced the strong terms of the United Irishmen and the cause of a completely free Ireland, not least because the issue would not reach it's culmination until the twentieth century.

Fast forward to 2013, and these actual events have become more recessive and distant to our imaginations than the legend as remembered in song and performed beautifully by the High Kings. That legend, however, retains the grain of truth at it's heart: the deeds which can be sparked by the passion of patriotism, the burning awareness of "inalienable" rights, and the fundamental desire of humanity to be free. 

 And that, in the phrase of Paul Harvey, is "the rest of the story."

---Or not?  For further reading, I recommend starting with the article "The 1798 Irish Rebellion" at the following link:

-I also read articles from Wikipedia to get me started, but I don't recommend these as a final source; I would fact-check in other places also.  For information on Daniel O'Connell's role in abolition, and his link with Frederick Douglass, there are articles available freely online from "History Today."  I read two, and they had far more of interest to offer than I could include here: Vol. 47 issue 5, 1997, and Vol. 57 issue 12, 2007.  There are additionally many other resources available online.  I additionally recommend the historical fiction trilogy which takes place in Ireland during the life of O'Connell written by Brodie and Brock Thoene: Only the River Runs Free.  While fiction, this series explores many of the very real aspects of the situation in Ireland during the mid-nineteenth century.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


"Come back to us; come back to us,” 
they whispered, one and all—
Come… we are important.”   
Then came a gentler call.

“Stay here, love, for here you are loved,” 
(like breezes through limbs of pines
When the nighttime world lies silent, 
and the moon, still placid, shines).

 “Nay, nay!” hissed the thousand voices. 
 “Better are we by far,
And stronger is light of street lamp 
than yonder pale-lit star.           

Again they clamored, tempting, 
Realistic is your life!
You need the pace of computers 
  and the spice of busy strife.

They knew a weak one wavered; 
they sought to use weak will—
Then again came the single clear voice,
 commanding them all: “Be still.”

“Child, did I not form you?  
 Do I not know what is good?
It was I who first thought of a garden; 
it was I who first planted a wood.

by Tony Hisgett, "Wild Arum Lily," 2005

unborn child, 24wks.
I it was who created the lily;  
I commanded the wind to blow.
I shaped each baby’s fingers, 
and I saw it good for things to grow.

Running here, the river, I set in,
 and laid the sky:
I didn’t give time wings
 because I meant him not to fly.

Greer Spring. by
I wrote you in the red earth 
that your father learned to till;
I gave you this tomorrow 
and the Joy of my own will.

Work hard, and be content, child, 
with your splendored halls of light;
I’ll be with you, small one, 
and will give your soul its flight.”