Press "Enter" to skip to content

Category: Writing

Flatten the Curve, Metaphorically

When the lockdowns started, and Oregon residents were given a choice to wear masks or not to wear masks, I chose to not wear masks. I was in the minority, but every business (except one customer who gave me the evil eye and got a look of disdain back, needless to say, she did not look at me again) I entered, the employees greeted me with a smile with their eyes as before the lockdowns. Shortly, and I mean days after the evil-eyed customer, the governor decided that not enough people were following her advice and made them mandatory.

I stocked up as much as I could without resorting to hoarding, though one employee disagreed and said to another, “I told you she would be in again.”

But after a few weeks, it dawned on me that this was going to last far longer than I had anticipated.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, the Christian cliché goes. I had watched a movie: the storyline was touching, beautiful, clean, and not to be forgotten (except for the title, which escapes me). Later, an idea hit me – the main character had to have a job at night because he was allergic to the sun. He was a courier.

So I did my internet research. I also found other ways of purchasing what I needed. The Lord provided in ways that never gets old.

Fast Forward a Year and a Quarter Later

The masks are starting to come off. But not in the way I would have dreamed, though the Lord warned me 20 years ago of “Hitler’s Germany looking like candy compared to what is coming.” I never would have lived my life if I could have seen what was coming.

I never was afraid of the virus, after praying for the Lord to take the fear away. It was the people around me who did not research and caved to fear that I was afraid. I did not want to be on the receiving end of an irate masked person, or worse, the police. And I did not want to get the local businesses in trouble, for they were forced to become mask police.

But every chance I had to not wear a mask “legally,” I ran with it.

I went for a walk today in the rain. First one since the lockdown started. I used to walk with my portable radio & headphones along the beach. Then the devil interfered. Soaking wet, but feeling soul-satisfied, I took a hot shower and sat down to write this post.

By no means is this over. Devastating revelations are fixing to fly. Research. Start with recent events and don’t use mainstream media for answers. Mainstream media is a piece of the revelation puzzle.

On my about page, I mention that not all art needs to directly point to the Lord. This movie was an answer I did not know I needed at the time. The fact that it was so beautifully done and remained in my memory, is God’s work of art, whether the people involved in the film knew it or not.

Some details in this post will remain a mystery. But good writing co-creates with the reader and allows them to use their native intelligence. And some details just need to remain private, if that is even possible anymore. I personally don’ t believe it is, but I have to at least try.

Shout Outs & Thank Yous

  • The local police. They made protesters follow the law recently and protected us.
  • My town. They did not cave to cancel culture regarding community and private events.
  • My courier.
  • A few local businesses.
  • Friends and family. For being there.
  • And mostly, the Lord, who gave me creative ways and the fortitude to deal.

FaithWriting

Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter

Aelred and Walter Begin

Just as with Ivo in Book One, Aelred, while holding a conversation with a group of monks, notices Walter is alone and need to talk privately. Ivo has gone to be with the Lord. Book Two introduces Walter and later Gratian. Giving homage to the fruit of their friendship beyond the grave, Aelred feels Ivo’s comforting presence in Walter’s and his midst.

Walter asks Aelred for his Spiritual Friendship notes on Book One. Aelred is a prolific writer and is loathe to share anything before he has a chance to edit notes. However, he does reluctantly, asking Walter not to make it public until it is edited. How many writers out there can relate?

In contrast to Aelred referring to spiritual friendship as sweetness, he calls someone not having this kind of friend a beast. They have no one to rejoice, sorrow, and lift up (Ecclesiastes 4:10). He also has no problem calling some in worldly friendships insane and “friendship’s poison.” He calls evil friendships non-existent because evil and friendship do not co-exist.

In this age of health issues, isolation, and disputes many may be friendless in some form. Lest you may think “Am I a beast?” John 15:15 Jesus counters with “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

For the ones who do have friendships, Aelred teaches Walter the perks of spiritual friendship.

  • You can tell your friend about your spiritual progress without fear of boasting because they know your heart. Aelred uses the term “unblushingly” which suggests a sense of humility.
  • You can tell your friend secrets, knowing they will not be repeated.
  • You can tell your friend anything without dread of the response when corrected.

Gratian Joins In

At this point, Gratian joins the conversation. The sarcastic banter between Walter and Gratian adds some comic relief to the seriousness of the subject. Walter is the antagonist to Gratian’s breezy style: Walter fears that Gratian does not take friendship seriously enough.

Despite this, they manage to focus on the lessons that Aelred has yet to teach them. Gratian calls their conversation a “spiritual banquet,” which brings to my mind Psalms 23:5a “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” In Book One, Aelred says that spiritual friendships were formed out of the fallen world caused by Adam and Eve.

How far should you go for a friend? Aelred answers with John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He addresses Adam’s sin with Eve, saying Adam should have told Eve she was presuming and told her no, instead of complying with her request. In Adam sparing Eve, he dishonored both himself and Eve and God’s imprint on humanity.

Walter states it is shameful to leave someone on their deathbed. Many with healthcare issues today are dealing with this possibility in our complex and divisive culture. This is one of the hardest moments in our modern history, if ever. Only God can give each person an individual answer.

All Three Wind It Up

Gratian brings their conversation to a close, praising Aelred for the summary so they could memorize what they had learned. Walter wants to return tomorrow, admonishing Gratian to be on time.


I need a break, just like Aelred did to attend to other matters, to work on my psalm. My fingers are curved around my pen to write a poem. I am a first write-on-paper person.

Post 1 – Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual FriendshipPost 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

FaithReadingWriting

Aelred Writes What He Can’t Read

Prologue

Some writers, past or present, have not found the subject matter they wanted to read and decided to write what they could not find. Aelred had read Cicero’s On Friendship, but could not find anything on Christian friendship. So he decided to write it himself.

The book is sectioned into three parts: Book One covers the theology of spiritual friendship, as discussed between Ivo and himself. He also lists two more worldly friendship types. Book Two and Book Three is another conversation between Aelred, Walter, and Gratian discussing practical points on forming and maintaining friendships.

Book One

Aelred doesn’t just jump into this theology, he sets the stage with how this conversation should be conducted between both parties.

He notices Ivo is silent in a group of talking monks and surmises that Ivo wants to talk privately. He tells Ivo he likes the fact that he is not an idle-talking monk, speaking only what is “useful and necessary.” For this reason, Aelred trusts Ivo to speak freely, knowing that time will not be wasted (on what I would call frou-frou). Aelred tells Ivo, he will be treated as an equal partner in the conversation.

Laying the foundation for their conversation, they agree to use Cicero’s definition of friendship as a starting point. “Friendship is mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity.” Ivo asks what the two terms mean and Aelred replies that benevolence means affection of the heart and charity means carrying out in deed. In other words, one is a feeling and the other is an action.

Ivo can’t see how true friendship can be lived with those who live without Christ. Aelred says though Cicero’s definition is imperfect for all types of friendships, you can get some idea of the nature of friendship.

He tells Ivo that he won’t teach what he doesn’t know. Aelred then proceeds to explain that a friend is a “guardian of our mutual love or the guardian of my spirit to preserve all its secrets in faithful silence, as far as he can, cure and endure such defects as he may observe.” In other words, protect your friend’s privacy, speak the truth in love when needed and wanted, and have patience.

Aelred does refer to spiritual friendship as being a “sweetness.” This counters Ivo’s argument of even trying if, as Cicero states, friendship is rare. And regardless of the outcome of any friendship, knowledge is gained.

He does define two other types of non-spiritual friendship. Both can turn into spiritual friendship.

  1. Worldly – useful for getting money.
  2. Carnal – useful for getting passionate desires met.

Aelred also references Adam and Eve in friendship. “How beautiful it is that the second human being was taken from the side of the first. So that nature might teach that human beings are equal…neither superior nor inferior, a characteristic of true friendship.” From beauty to ugliness, the fall of Adam and Eve corrupted charity and friendship. Once this happened, friendship remained among whom he refers to good, according to natural law.

For his final question, Ivo wants to know if wisdom can be abused through pleasing others through it, being prideful with it, or selling it. Aelred answers these are vices, so they are not an aspect of wisdom, so no.

Some Thoughts

  • True friendship is a trinity – Christ in the middle of two bound together for eternity.
  • When Aelred tells Ivo he can’t teach what he doesn’t know, he is showing humility and honesty towards Ivo. Servant leadership. I had a boss once who epitomized a true leader. One thing she hated was the small talk before business meetings. This is where I learned the term frou-frou. Seriously, though, agreeing on the terms of conversation dispels confusion later and keeps it steered in the right direction.
  • Aelred’s definition of friendship as each other’s guardians makes me think of the protection of each other and God’s protection of us in Psalms 91.
  • In the days ahead, as society is rebuilt with a godly foundation, true friends will be role models.
  • I looked up natural law. Divine timing – the next day after I wrote this, I heard a radio interview mention natural law and our Founding Fathers. Worth looking up.

At the end of Book One, Ivo doesn’t want to wait for another conversation, but he does this side of heaven. He dies before Book Two is written. We will have the practical aspects taught to us through Aelred’s conservation with Walter and Gratian.

Post 1 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t ReadPost 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

FaithReadingWriting

Introduction to Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship

Welcome to my first of four or five post series on Spiritual Friendship, a book praising the wonders of Christian friendship. This post will give you a bit of theological, historical, and cultural background information of St. Aelred’s world.

Aelred’s Life

Aelred was born around 1110 A.D. in Northumbria to Eilaf, priest of St. Andrew’s at Hexham. During his father’s married life, Pope Gregory VII ordered the priesthood to become monks or leave the church. His father chose to leave which created financial hardship. But it did not seem to affect Aelred, at least based on his educational opportunities and rise within the ruling Scottish government.

He likely was educated in a cathedral school and later became a steward in King David I of Scotland’s court. He held this position for nine years. During this time he read Cicero’s On Friendship, which had a profound influence on his book, Spiritual Friendship.

After nine years of court life, he visited the Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx in Yorkshire, where he asked and received permission to join. Aelred’s life was spent mainly in Rievaulx, but he spent a few years starting a new monastery at Revesby. He died at Rievaulx of ill health in 1167.

Since he prospered in his duties in King David’s court, his time there gave him the skills he needed to lead Rievaulx: it grew to 140 monks and 500 laymen. His unhappiness with superficial life in court was the goad that God used, I believe, to drive him to spiritual life. When he wrote Spiritual Friendship, he wanted to go beyond On Friendship, adding a Christian foundation.

Aelred’s Monastic Life

The Cisterns had their theology – they took the Benedictine’s Rules more stringently by following the rules and doing no more. Their world view was one of hierarchy starting with God at the top: learning to love Him through experience and metaphor. The monks read both the Psalms and spiritual books. They balanced work and prayer, refused elaborate church art, and practiced poverty. They also settled uninhabited European land to build the world for God to overcome man’s lawlessness.

He also viewed himself as equal to women, as seen through the eyes of God. I can’t help but wonder if St. Francis of Assissi, an after-his-time contemporary, had read or heard of Aelred, because of his lifelong friendship with St. Clare.

Aelred’s Reading and Writing Life

Around the 3rd century, the practice of Lectio Divina began. Readers read to apply what is read to their own lives. It usually applies to religious works, but can also apply to secular ones. (Reading poetry using Lectio Divina is explained in Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic.)

Aelred was a prolific reader. One of the books he read was Augustine’s Confessions.

He was also a prolific writer, writing histories, guides, and sermons along with his books. One book, The Mirror of Charity, was requested by St. Bernard, a fellow well-known Cistern. The book became the foundation for Spiritual Friendship.

In Spiritual Friendship, Aelred writes in the dialog format, teaching us through his conversation with younger monks. He teaches us the value of friends through the mediator of Jesus Christ:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Ephesians 2:14 NIV

Closing Thoughts

Though this was written by a monk roughly 1,000 years ago, the principles still apply to anyone. Knowing a smattering of the background enhances the understanding of Spiritual Friendship. However, I think we can all to some degree relate to his solitude due to our lockdowns.

Godly friendships prepare us for our time in heaven, where our bodies are transfigured for eternity. Where there is no giving in marriage, just friendships for eternity.

Friendships here on earth allow us to bear each other’s sorrows and celebrate each other’s joys. Over the years, I have made big mistakes and lost friends, but I have also been blessed with a few that have been “closer than brothers” (Proverbs 17:17). One waits for me Up There.


Post 2 – Aelred Writes What He Can’t ReadPost 3 – Add Gratian’s and Walter’s Banter
Post 4 – Aelred, Walter, and Gratian Bid Adieu

FaithReadingWriting

Aelred’s Spiritual Friendship, A Series

With orchestrated divisions being perpetrated on all of us, friendship is a commodity more valuable than gold. And the divisions being perpetuated are on a micro, local level between friends and families too. Anyone who reads the news knows the specific ways we are being divided – I will not rehash that here.

Some think that “What the world needs now is love sweet love,” and we do. But sometimes that love comes in the form of … “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—“ (Eph 4:15 NKJV).

So if you have managed to hang onto friends and familiy despite the differing opinions and actions of others, you are blessed indeed. Civility of conversation and brotherly love are required for the other person’s benefit.

My Friend

I recently wrote about one of my best friend’s passing, but I didn’t explain why he was a best friend. He would listen to me, then give me his opinion. And I never once felt slighted. I knew he knew me well and spoke the truth as he saw it (and he did see it), keeping his love utmost in his words to me. He told me that my blog writing was mainly for my benefit (in an enriching way) when I would moan and groan about having low numbers of followers. But he read my posts, commented on one that touched him, and subscribed to my newsletter.

Blog Series

A few years ago, I read Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx, who lived during the 12th century. I marked it up as I read. Aelred wrote this book in a time when friendships were discouraged in the church. His views on friendship, and his education and ties to nobility before he became a monk, enabled his footprint in the church to flourish.

As well as work on my Psalm project, I am going to do a short series of blog posts on what I glean from rereading Spiritual Friendship. The book is sectioned into three books, and I will do one post after each book, plus some background information, and a summary post.

The passing of my friend is opening the possibility to pass on what I know about friendships that the Lord would be proud of. Friends are united through Him. Or put another way:

You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”.The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these.

Mark 12:30-31 VOICE

FaithReadingWriting

Old Normal or Forge Ahead?

After I finished my sonnet and published it, I was awakened by the Lord shortly afterward. He had a multi-faceted, timed response to what I had written, simultaneously confirming what I was reading and hearing on the radio. I heard to not rush what I write. He reiterated once again that I was using my gift, even if it appeared I was not working at a fast pace, but at a pace that I could handle. And allow time for personal heartaches. He told me months ago writing would save me and it has. And it will.

April is National Poetry Month. The American Academy of Poets has 30 ways of celebrating.

The days ahead are forcing many to make hard choices, with much grief involved, no matter what choices are made. They are not only earthly choices but ones that will determine our eternities. I did an Old Testament Job a few days ago, telling God why was I born during these horrific days? He made it clear, I was born for such a time as this. Twenty years ago when He spoke this to me, He also gave me prophecies that I had no clue as to the scope of them. This is a comfort to me, knowing that He cared enough for me to let me know back then He was in control of not only international events but of me too. As Esther fasted for her people during the possibility of religious extermination, she chose to move forward despite the potential cost to her life.

What is your choice?


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life”

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
     Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
     And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
     And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
     Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
     Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
     Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
     And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
     Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
     In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
     Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
     Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
     Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
     We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
     Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
     Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
     Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
     With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
     Learn to labor and to wait.

FaithPoetryWriting

A Sonnet Odyssey

For the last few years, I said I was going to write a sonnet, so I could check this item off my list. Yet, I kept putting if off, because it is not as easy as writing a 30 minute haiku.

A Bit of History

Sonnets were invented in the 13th century in Italy. The word sonnet derives from the Italian word sonetto, which translated means “little song.” Michelangelo wrote them as well as the sculptures he created. Shakespeare popularized them in English during the turn into the 17th century. Plutarchian and Shakespearian are the two most popular forms of sonnets.

A Bit of Form

Sonnets have a musical quality to them with a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables called feet. An iamb is an unstressed then a stressed syllable equaling one foot. Pentameter is five feet, so there are ten syllables for each of the fourteen lines. Sounds like dancing with a partner who has two left feet! But just as in dancing, practice makes if not perfect, then easier.

Words at the end of the lines have a rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg – same letters rhyme. Lastly, the first twelve lines set up a story, and the last two bring it to a resolution. Shakespearean and Plutarchian sonnets are mostly alike, but do have different rhyme schemes and story approaches.

My Process

Iambic pentameter closely mimics human speech. I dug up this tidbit in my research, making a difference in being able to write one or not. I had stressed over words I chose fitting the pattern by looking them up in the dictionary. The light bulb went off when I realized all I had to do was read it aloud listening for the rhythm and anything sticking out needed correction. I also researched it being a perfect fit, and found out there can be a very small amount of variations to still qualify as a sonnet. I used one slant rhyme, and some variations in the iambic pentameter.

My steps:

  • Wrote a list outline for subject matter,
  • Drafted the fourteen lines close to ten syllables,
  • Picked the end rhymes for each stanza, and
  • Worked on the iambic pentameter.

I decided I could work on it forever, or get somewhat close and chose the latter route. Walt Whitman kept revising his self-published work Leaves of Grass from 1855 to the end of his days. I don’t want to be Walt Whitman. Without further ado –

Arrest

 Her land was robbed in virginal attire:
 A fossil bed in fashion lined hued sand,
 The coastal pines intoned the ocean choir,
 Majestic mountains stood by His own hand.
 The scissor cut directed forest fires,
 Her swatches shorn in blackened forest floor.
 Bound by the gods of Delilah’s hellfire,
 She fought against entrance into her soul.
 The smoke burning darkened the sky by day,
 Air slipped through cracks of doors into twilight.
 Her cloak and dress and her lands were repayed.
 Delilah’s deceits ravished His birthright.  
 The heavens poured rain in His fierce backlash;  
 He washed away the floor plan's lifeless ash. 

FaithMy poemsPoetryWriting

Poems, Blogging, and Process

Austin Kleon wrote a book, Show Your Work. The premise is creativity is a process, not a product. It allows a public showing of the stages we go through in our art by sharing our process publicly.

After the process of importing my data from my old blog into my new one, I read through all my posts. Deciding which ones to keep and which ones to toss. Over the last year, I saw a progression of style and subject matter. I also did some deep thinking about the direction I wanted to take my new blog.

I desire to write more in-depth posts and return to writing poems, which went by the wayside. No more posting quote graphics and public domain poetry – for that I have started a Tumblr blog to complement this one. I will post once a week, Saturday, all prayer concerns for my readers to read and pray over as the Lord leads, called Prayer Points. I will be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. And I plan on expanding my newsletter beyond just sending the last post via email. Finally, I am adding more graphics to my posts to make them more visually appealing.

It was an act of faith for me to start again. National news made me want to throw up my hands and say, “Lord, what is the point if censorship is rolling ahead full steam?” But I have learned to hear His voice over the years, and have seen His faithfulness. I know if He says, “Write!” then I need to honor this process and write, not only for Him but for my readers and for me too.

FaithPoetryWriting

What Is Public Domain?

Surprisingly, some of my most liked posts are public domain poems. I’ll admit, I post them to keep myself from infringing copyright, but I also believe it is important to read from an historical standpoint. And I try to pick ones that have bearing on current events. Poetry is truly timeless.

So what exactly is the public domain? According to Copyright.laws.com, “they are works that are considered to be in the public domain are not protected by copyright. To be in the public domain means that the works can be used, copied, and distributed without any particular authorization from the copyright holder. This situation occurs when a copyright term expires or the rights themselves have been forfeited.”

In United States copyright law – each country and jurisdiction has its own – it is not a cut and dry date for all conditions of how and when a work is produced. Anonymous works can even be copyrighted. Cornell University hosts a downloadable PDF to explain conditions and dates. (Make sure to figure correct dates, based on the date of the PDF.)

Public Domain Day starts on January 1 of every year for all countries/jurisdictions depending on their own laws, and determines what goes into the public domain. Oregon has its own special case regarding unpublished works.

At the beginning of every year, you can surf the internet and usually find a list of works that enter the public domain. For 2021, The Mary Sue entertains us with its list, along with the basics of when a work enters the public domain.

Creative Commons explains two different ways artists can choose to release their works into the public.

Copyright law protects an artist’s ability to receive recognition and financial reward from work that is created. But at some time in the future, they are released into the public for everyone’s benefit.

ReadingWriting

To Be Continued…

Several weeks ago, I felt the Lord say to me, my writing would save me. And it already has – the one good thing that came out of lockdowns was my learning discipline to blog and enjoying the likes and occasional comments. You really kept me going.

Many years ago I saved articles that decried the Church not meeting the needs of Christian artists.

I have held for a long-time desire to belong to a regular Christian writing community. I have pondered what that means specifically, or how it would play out. Not a how-to, marketing, or anything similar, but a place of support for Christian artists.

As they say, anything new begins with the first step, or in my case, the first blog post.

To be continued…

FaithWriting

Copyright © 2021 hrenell's Hearth. All rights reserved.