Driving Through the Irish Mountains

I do not care to travel much.
It’s not so much that I don’t like
To see the sights and feel the shock
Of fresh experience. I do
Enjoy that rare experience,
But in my mind these things take time,
And time is rare on trips like this.

We rush so fast from place to place
That all we really see is our
Reflections on each other. We
Can survey our environment;
The study is what we perceive
The clearest in our chartered screens.
And in this rush, the mountain view,
Its waterfalls and craggy peaks,
Is vanished in a vasty green
That blurs the glints of treasure far beneath.

My inclination then is just to run
As quickly as I can — to hide
In some secluded, quiet place,
Far from the madding crowd, and hold me still —
To mine for what is hidden, what is real.

I often fail to find it, whizzing down
The mountain roads, but always there’s
A hint of something beautiful:
The way the pubs all close at ten,
Or how the Irishman says, “now,”
To mean a process is complete;
The sight of all the hills denuded of
Their trees and filled instead with sheep.
The sight of barebacked mountains has
A holy feel to someone raised
On tufts of grass and clouds of dust
That stretch beyond the skyline.
Plains! they call them.
Furling out another world away,
And furling always in my heart and mind.

And so it always shocks me, when
I see variety. It feels
Just like my first time driving through
A city filled with trees. The things
Amazed me, how in just a little time
Abandoned plots could be transformed
Into a checkered wood, and grow
So thick and lush with pines and firs
And vines of every species. Trees
Were everywhere, and everywhere I looked,
It seemed so deep and rich, enfolding you
The way a mother holds her child.
But once a little time had passed,
The trees grew old on me. Eventually
I longed to see the sky again.
I have no way to tell the sense I have
for going home: again to feel the wind
And gaze into a great big sky.

And this is how I come again
Upon these mountains jutting up against the bus,
My window sometimes flecked by giant ferns.
The road seems almost out of place
So smooth and even is its keel.
The clouds are flowing rapidly,
A breath above the mountain peaks.
I like to think that from those points,
My eyes could grace a hundred vales
And see a thousand stone-walled fields,
Littered full of grazing sheep.

I lift my eyes, and looking up,
I feel myself surrounded by the heavens:
Bits of home inside me, reaching out to every place.

Adding to the Cacophony

Apparently #NeverTrump is the new Ross Perot: preemptive scapegoat in case the Democratic Party wins. Let’s be serious for a minute. Say there are 300k political Puritans who are so heavily invested in liberty that they couldn’t vote vote for Trump if he picked Calvin Coolidge for his running mate. (Actually don’t say it. If Coolidge could run with Trump, I could vote for him.) Three hundred thousand is less than one tenth of a percent of the population, and less than the margin of error of any election in living memory. So what?

It’s always been my pleasure to be a member of an elite minority, and frankly, I doubt there are that many highbrow sons of Liberty among us. But even if there were 3 million of us, that’s hardly all the fish in the sea. If Trump fails, it will be because he was a poor and unpersuasive candidate, like every political failure before him.

If you think Trump should win the election, kindly make arguments in his favor, or at least help me to distinguish positively between him and the candidate to his immediate political left. It’s really tedious to hear you blame me because I’m still waiting to be impressed.

If Trumpublicanism is so wonderful, what it needs is momentum, not a movement to circle the wagons. Even now he pivots left. By all means pivot with him. Help him build the momentum he needs to beat the dreaded enemy. I will stay over here, quietly being a wet blanket. It’s really not helpful to attack the blanket; that’s not the direction your presumptive leader wants to go.

To add to the cacophony of metaphors, #NeverTrump is now a very tempting tar baby. It’s not going anywhere; you’re not going to change its mind; and it can really gum up your program. The fact that there is a tar baby at the right end of the political spectrum is not much of a narrative. Picking a fight with the tar baby – now that will make a story. It may be the story the tar baby wants to tell, but it really isn’t the story that will win an election.

If you actually want Trump to win, help him woo the middle. If you don’t like to see him flirting with the middle, come sit down next to me and this tar baby.

Sample Army Company Command Philosophy

MEMORANDUM FOR COMPANY LEADERS
SUBJECT: Command Philosophy

1. The purpose of this command philosophy is to identify the attitudes and ideals that I want to establish in this company, as well as the practices I intend to use to promote those ideals. A company can achieve the mission, follow all regulations, and still be a rotten unit. We want a great unit, and to achieve that, I think we should pursue three things:

2. Happy Soldiers. We need people who work hard because they like what they do. To achieve this, we must work to eliminate unnecessary frustrations from the environment. Interruptions and delays come from the enemy, not from leadership. Unscheduled late hours will be considered a leadership failure. Additionally, we should work to recognize extraordinary efforts by our Soldiers in ways that are public and personally meaningful to them.

3. Ethical Soldiers. We need people who do what is right because they believe it is right. To achieve this, we must encourage conversations about ethical reasoning and right and wrong. Formal training events, such as SHARP and suicide prevention training are urgent, but they are not sufficient. Moral values are formed in a network of daily decisions, and I am convinced that keeping an eye out for little things mitigates against bigger ethical failures. Additionally, we need to lead by example. We guide and correct our subordinates across a spectrum of ethical decisions, but in doing so, we must be ready to accept respectful criticism from them as well.

4. Professional Soldiers. We need people who are committed to the long-term improvement of the unit and the Army as a whole. To achieve this, we must train Soldiers to think beyond their current scope of work. Thinkers find ways to improve everything. As the mission permits, we will actively promote professional development opportunities that increase the scope of Soldiers’ understanding, and we will make room for individual specialized training. Additionally, we will encourage and actively consider Soldiers’ recommendations for improving our methods within the unit.

5. A command philosophy is only as good as the team that builds on it. I expect each of you to take ownership of this unit, find what’s broken, and take the initiative fix it. Communicate with each other, communicate with me, and let’s all be humble enough to accept criticism and move forward. It’s an honor to serve with each of you.

Kyle B. French
CPT, TC
Commanding

With apologies to Pangur Ban

There is no time I am happier now
Than about 5:30 in the morning
My morning mug, my little book…
Sometimes I think it isn’t love of scripture
That causes me to study
But love of study that pulls me to the scriptures

What truth is more certain
Than holy scripture?
What is so important, valuable
That a man must make space
For peace and quiet
To read, and do more than read?

Oh Lord, I would be happy
To sit like this forever.
An hour a day or ten, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t know if I’m called to be a pastor
If evangelism is the standard, I have seen no converts.
But one year or ten working my headache job
Coming home to noise and laughter
And rising up early to behold wondrous things…
It is enough; I am content.

Tongues and Interpretation

I’m not sure what brought it to mind, but I’ve been thinking lately about the best example I ever saw of tongues and interpretation in a church setting.

In the church I went to in high school, we usually had a few pauses in the worship service that were sort of designed for an interruption from the congregation.  I’m pretty sure they were put there on purpose, but they always seemed like a natural selah in the singing.  That was the designated time for prophecy.  Sometimes it would be the pastor, or another elder, sometimes a member of the youth.  They would speak, the elders would lead the congregation in response if it was necessary, and the music would resume.

Occasionally, from the last or second to last row, this couple would rise, holding hands.  It was very striking, because he was a black man, with great bright eyes and a beaming smile, and she looked as though she might have been a combination of Inuit and Welsh.  First she would speak, in a tongue that sounded something like Chinese, her closed eyes rapidly fluttering, her hand clamped hard on her husband’s.  When she was done, there would wait a second or two, and then her husband would open his eyes and begin to give the interpretation, always comfort and encouragement, with a voice on the verge of rejoicing.

I always thought how convenient it must be, to always bring your interpreter along with you.  Paul doesn’t give the prophets any favors in his passage about decency and order.  If a person prophesies and another person interrupts him, the one who was interrupted should give ground to the person who so rudely interrupted.  The one who speaks in tongues, apparently, has the responsibility of ensuring that an interpreter is there.  No interpreter?  He should keep it to himself.

I think this places an even greater burden of charity on the congregation (and thereby on the elders as well) to plan ahead.  Do you believe that these Spirit-led utterances are supposed to be a normal part of the service?  You do well to set parameters and practice.  Without parameters, you will get chaos, and your primary means of guiding the church in these things will be stamping out the disorder.  Without practice, having stamped out the disorder, you get… nothing.  Your service will be identical to our brothers in the cessationist camp, broken up by six-month swings into Pentecostal hysteria.

Opening Thoughts, Marred by Verse

This poem isn’t really finished, but it’s at least round the first bend, and since somehow I’ve already managed to post it once by accident, I’ll let you read what’s there while I work on the rest.

I have been reading Dante, so
Forgive me, if you may,
The way that I am strewing all
These iams on the page.

The mind adapts itself unto
The pattern that it’s fed
And replicates it endlessly
While pulling on its thread –
Unraveling, re-raveling
With endless permutation,
A master-house that has the goal
Of its own renovation.

Who has seen a created thing
That’s made quite like the mind?
Do fish, or birds, or arthropods,
Or beasts that feed on grass
Create themselves the path they follow
And set their lives to plans?
But such is man who’s made like God
The created who creates.
He picks a star and sets his course,
And rides in his own wake.

Yet, unlike God, who gets to choose,
Man also cannot choose.
The mirror shines, and so must he,
Reflecting what he sees.
He halts a bit, and modifies,
Changes meter, or the rhyme,
Opens up his aperture,
Adjusts his shutter speed.

But he cannot cease to worship.
He cannot cease to feed
On wisdom, honor, truth and beauty.
The numinous, the seed
Of glory ever lives inside him
and grows there like a weed.
It forces him to seek the holy
With a holy sort of greed.

And Lord, here is your gardener,
Standing in the field:
He has his seed; he has the soil,
He has a hoe to wield.
He has his purpose, and his duty,
And has the call to choose.
But still he cannot force himself
To ever choose the good.

And like a telescope deciding
Stars are without worth –
It twists itself to look for something,
Unhinging from it’s posts,
Then sways and tips, and holding… falls,
Its lens now mired in earth,
Its vision-shaft now soundly bent,
And lost to starry hosts.
Yet something still is working there,
Receiving what it sees,
Passing up exhumous visions,
Displaying rotten leaves.

So the human constitution,
Though broken by its fall,
Cannot help but seek its purpose,
Shaping self and all
The cosmos to the god it’s fashioned,
Cycling god and self
And cosmos, thralled with choosing, still
Desiring something else.

Exhortation

This fallen world affects all creatures,
Saint and sinner, with the bread
Of hard affliction—mournful soul-ache,
Unjust judgment, creeping dread.

But the God of all creation
Has engineered a hidden path
Wherein the sweetest, purest pleasures
In affliction may be had.

The wise are found in those dark mine shafts
Sifting ore from worthless slag,
While the torrents of life’s hardships
Fall like oil upon their heads.

And the key into this pathway
Where God’s favorites know to hide
Is the simple abjuration
Of any form of human pride. Continue reading “Exhortation”