Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.
***Painting by Beatrice Emma Parsons – Annunciation
Into the dusk of the East,
Gray with the coming of night,
This may we know at least–
After the night comes light!
Over the mariners’ graves,
Grim in the depths below,
Buoyantly breasting the waves,
Into the East we go.
On to a distant strand,
Wonderful, far, unseen,
On to a stranger land,
Skimming the seas between;
On through the days and nights,
Hope in each sailor’s breast,
On till the harbor lights
Flash on the shores of rest!
J. H. Jowett.
***featured images by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
In terms of disease, sanitation and real poverty 19th century tenements were far worse than the modern versions in most western nations today. I wonder if the attitude was better then or was David Livingstone just a fluke. Why is it that so many great men of the 19th century rose up from poverty to do great things and to become great men?
A staunch abolitionist, fearless explorer and medical missionary Livingstone spent his childhood in a single room tenement and worked long hours at the mills in Scotland. At the end of the day he hit the books. The other day a teacher told me she didn’t have the heart to give students homework–school was too hard on the little flowers of today. One wonders if Livingstone complained to his parents about hard work.
Here’s where the victim mentality wreaks havoc on children. If a child has the right to be angry forever about the state of his life then when will he ever see that hitting the books in the evening could quite possibly lead him on a life of useful and exciting endeavors? Victimhood nurses cowardice and bitterness–two things David Livingstone seems never to have accepted into his young life of poverty. Somehow he knew that poverty of the mind (and heart) was far worse than living in a tenement for one’s soul. We know that as a missionary he must have believed in callings and God.
In an age when tourists like to pretend to experience past adventures but are seconds away from medical assistance and police, real explorers almost seem boring–though they shouldn’t. Livingstone on one of his many trips to Africa witnessed a brutal massacre of an entire town by Arabic slave traders and vowed to speak out against slavery. One must always remember that white, Christian men were the only abolitionists in the worldwide slave trade and were the only ones who ended slavery. We must remember this especially now when victimhood is the fashion and searching for someone to take revenge on is the rage.
We demand our right to complain. We isolate ourselves and wonder why people are so awful (the ones we meet in our office or the ones we see on TV). Totalitarian governments love dependent children. It’s so much easier to lead them by the nose.
Dear David Livingstone,
Thank you for stepping out in faith each day. Thank you for not only witnessing the evils of the slave trade but for doing something about it in your lifetime. You lost your wife to fever in Africa but never stopped exploring. You made the connection between malaria and mosquitoes and malaria and quinine. Good for you! I’m sorry I never knew more about you than the cartoon version of you.
You didn’t see your life as one to be lived demanding your personal rights but worked for the kind treatment of others–in short you gave up your life and in the end received a bigger life than most people ever dare to imagine. I wonder what drove you. I suspect it was your faith in old dead heroes and the one dead hero who rose again on the third day. It’s too bad that most heroes are banned in schools today. We need a a journalist like Henry Stanley to come looking for the likes of you even now!
I’m not God, but I play one in my novels. It’s no secret that my books are about flawed people who eventually get their acts together (as I’m an optimist). I think about Calvin’s idea of God choosing who to save. I’ve always hated this idea, but as a writer I find a weird parallel. Almost as soon as I think up a character I know if I’m going to save him or not. I’m not sure if it’s a decision on my part or just a sense, a knowing, that this character will move in the direction of redemption or in the opposite direction. All of my characters are jerks, wimps and selfish asses–so basically human. I love them. I create them. I fret over how they will get to where they need to go to be redeemed (I never know until I join them on the journey).
I fret over the other guys, too. The characters who seem bent on spiritual blindness, who do good things sometimes but for terrible reasons, who suffer abuse and have great excuses for being bad–but choose to stay bad. I root for these people, I do mental gymnastics to turn them around. I want them to change direction, but I’ve never been able to convince them of anything. Never once have I been surprised. I know from the beginning and it’s a sad thing.
I wonder if God is all powerful then why can’t he just change people. On a tiny scale I experiment with the same notion, but the resistance from the character is so strong and my coddling and begging make for a stilted story, an unreal outcome.
My untrained and insignificant brain knows more intelligent thinkers have better answers and impressive theories.
The past is my playground because fate and freewill matter little when looking back. Novel writing forces one to live in the present with predestination standing there at the finish line.
Of two minds. It’s how we live without crumbling into tears of frustration, terror and despair. We play mental games, don’t we? When I say “we” I mean slave owners and slave traders (past and present), black and white, vegetarians and trophy hunters.
Abraham Lincoln was just like the rest of us until he was sainted by assassination. Of two minds, he wrestled with slavery. Ambition isn’t always a bad thing for it gets a person out of their easy chair. It forces a person to declare something, to speak up–maybe the words and the ideas aren’t perfectly crystallized yet. Maybe a consensus hasn’t formed in the popular mind, but an ambitious person with moral qualms takes up the challenge knowing that even if he stumbles it’s better than sitting on the couch eating popcorn.
Better. Now there’s a word. It hardly means anything anymore. I’m surprised it’s not a banned word in public schools for it hints at meritocracy and superiority. And here is the mental game again: let’s pretend somethings aren’t painful. Let’s pretend that if we don’t like something it doesn’t exist.
Except for some outspoken and at times incredibly naive and hypocritical abolitionists most people in the North just preferred not knowing too much about the ins and outs of slavery. While most opposed it, it wasn’t their problem. Some may have read a few horror stories and congratulated themselves for being open enough and courageous enough to read the stories in their entirety.
I imagine if there was Facebook back in the day animal stories would go viral, celebrities would organize campaigns to save the Cecils in faraway lands. But would they allow themselves to watch an entire Planned Parenthood video? Would they watch a slave being whipped or beaten or raped? Would they pretend that slavery was like a clinical doctor’s office–clean and pain-free?
Or would they wrestle as Lincoln did with their own prejudices, fears and ignorance? Today in our tolerant and polite society how many of us are willing to be called vicious and mocking names for our beliefs? Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many of us would be willing to die for our beliefs or even be shunned for our beliefs? How many of us take the time to study what we think we already know because a talking head on TV or a blog told us it was so?
When I say “we” here I mean ME. In Africa the people wonder why we care more for an animal that they understand eats people than we do people. Our president chides African nations (in a condescending way I find offensive) for selling albino body parts for rituals. Okay. I’m with him on that, but he’s of two minds isn’t he? There’s a big body parts controversy right here in the states.
When I felt the child I was told I had to abort or I’d die move inside me and when I saw the ultrasound they had to take before the operation I was of one mind: SAVE ME. I understand the fear, despair and embarrassment of believing the lie of exploding populations and a life made easier without another baby to feed. I was poor and of an environmental mindset.
That baby haunts me still because I didn’t want her even before the health crisis. I want her now. (And yes it was most definitely a baby. I saw it and felt it).
I may lose my limited readership taking a stand here, but It’s impossible after watching bureaucrats chowing down lunch while callously discussing harvesting baby organs for thoughts not to crystallize. My heart had been wavering this summer about the foster care/adoption classes I took this spring. My life is peaceful and good here on the farm, but how can I not open my life up to the many families in crisis? How can I stay of two minds?
Some of you may wonder what this has to do with one of the best books ever written about antebellum America. This book requires an expansion of the mind. This book is an exercise. Yes, it’s thoroughly readable and full of anecdotes, but it’s more. It’s a study of the American mind and soul in all its wonderful and horrible complexity. David M. Potter spares no one, but he’s the rare soul who captures the difficulty of coming to one mind about things. He understands (and loves?) people.
Lincoln was an American man. Not a perfect man, but he took a stand and a chance. Here’s what Potter says about him:
My father once ran out of a restaurant because people at his table talked religion. He hated offending people and nursed a strong distaste for “holy rollers.” I like talking religion. I’m curious about the meaning of life. If you study American history you can’t help but bump up against Christianity.
Christ has always been controversial and in the 19th century it was no different. Don’t be scared of Ellen White. Yes, her nose is disfigured. A mean boy threw a rock in her face as a child landing her in a coma. When she awoke with a screwed up nose she was devastated.
A few years later she had a conversion experience. Eventually she had controversial visions of the great spiritual war going on behind the veil of what we call normal life. Fallen angels and followers of God fought for the souls of mere mortals.
I’m not a Seventh Day Adventist though I admire some of their teachings, but who knew that Ellen White held the position of most translated female non-fiction writer?*
“During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books.” Wikipedia
*According to grandson’s biography
Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus Time Magazine photo essay on the many Rembrandt depictions of Jesus.
Taking every penny from the school treasury to pay for their traveling expenses the Fisk Jubilee Singers set out on a mission to ensure the continuance of the school they dearly loved.
Only a few months after the end of the Civil War John Ogden, the Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, and the Reverend Edward P. Smith (their stories are inspiring in themselves) founded the Fisk School in Nashville–so named for the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau General Clinton B. Fisk who donated Union army barracks to be used as the first facilities to educate the impoverished people of the South aged 7 to seventy.
The school was open to all races, but quickly attracted ex-slaves only a few years after emancipation. Always teetering on bankruptcy the school decided to let the spiritual songs of God determine its fate.
After a rough start the singers rose to stardom bringing US Grant, Mark Twain and Queen Victoria to tears. The school survived, but more importantly their faith and music remains a testament to the power of music to win hearts and minds and to the selfless generosity of the founders of Fisk University.