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Tag: History

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

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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

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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

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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

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Sonnets to Psalms

Now that I have written a sonnet, I don’t even have to ponder what my next project will be. I have been sitting on pages of notes and internet bookmarks about scapegoats, the outcasts, the misfits. (I hear the word misfits and Rudolph’s Island of Misfit Toys comes to mind.)

Since I have so many pages of information, maybe it would be better written as a long essay. But I think a longer psalm, like Psalms 119, maybe in order. As I was reading the long note in my NASB Study Bible and found the psalmist was himself a “target of their ridicule, hostility, and slander.”

One poem that I wrote could be repurposed for this psalm. (My tip: unless your drafts are doggerel, and even then, keep them for repurposing.)

Reading through the notes, magazine clips, and bible notes for psalm writing tips, I found some interesting trivia:

  • What is one meaning of a maskil? A skillful psalm. Psalms 47:7 “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful song.”
  • What American poet used biblical free verse? Walt Whitman.
  • What is a psalter? The book of Psalms, or a book of psalms to use in devotions.
  • What is one benefit of writing a psalm? It is easily translatable to other languages.

Like a long essay, Psalms 119 meanders but sticks to the central theme of the Word of God as a way of life. Before, I advoided reading it. But now when I read it, I find it full of life.

Sounds like a good starting point.

Poetry

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

Martin Lurther Or How to Treat Your Enemies

I listen to many radio sermons throughout the day and night, and it is not uncommon to hear a preacher state just how divided this nation is. Many offer biblical solutions. The ultimate biblical solution is to read and follow the four gospels of Jesus. Not only did He teach us how to treat our enemies through His example, but He was and is the standard.

Many know Martin Luther as the priest and scholar who nailed the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Castle Church door in 1517. What is not as commonly known is a pastor who hounded him until the day Thomas Münzer was executed in 1525.

A Little Backstory

After the exasperation and intervention of Luther’s spiritual advisor, Johannes von Staupitz, Luther learned the hard way of legalism over grace – Luther would confess every single thought and action that he thought was a sin to Staupitz.

After he overcame this obstacle, Luther believed in sola scriptura, or the supremacy of the Bible over the Church. He was considered a mystic: he prized inward religious experience over ritual. However, over his life he did return to both church and scripture, drawing the ire of Münzer.

Back To The Present

Münzer read the 95 Theses and considered Luther as his spiritual mentor. Luther recommended him for a pastoral position at St. Mary’s at Zwickau, where he immediately and increasingly criticized the Franciscans until he was dismissed. He, along with two other men, shunned book learning and preached that God spoke to men directly. And most damning, they deemed themselves the only ones qualified to interpret the Bible.

After this, he bounced from church to church, stirring up the peasants – the miners, corn threshers, and farmers – saying they could teach better than Luther. He wanted the learned slaughtered, particularly pointing out Luther. His Utopian vision consisted of bringing a godly Kingdom type of equality to the earth.

In a letter written to his elector Frederick (nobles who ruled territories), he asked for toleration for Münzer and his other enemies. “Let us leave in His hands the combat and free encounter of minds.”

Thomas Münzer was tortured into a confession of his crimes, but still unrepentant towards his current congregation in a letter, not taking responsiblity. He was beheaded and impaled, rotting there as a warning to others.

Luther never advocated execution on his enemies, advocating for exile instead. Romans 12:19 states, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Closing Thoughts

The Reformation was not what it could have been because of the constant hounding of others, not only Münzer’s enemies but the peasants he used to foment his ideals.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.

Martin Luther

Faith

She Flies With Her Own Wings

Several years ago, I ventured to David’s Tent in Salem to pray for Oregon. I went inside the white tent staked in the parking lot across from the state capital building to pray. Before I left, David’s Tent placed an invitation to write the name of the town that you came from (I think it was a small piece of wood) and I did. I wrote the name of my town and said a prayer over it too.

Inside the state capital building is a small gift shop. I bought a few things, among them a plague that had the state motto written in Latin and English: Alis Volat Propiis or She Flies With Her Own Wings.

Oregon territory seal

The motto has not always been so. In 1854, Supreme Court Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton translated the Latin phrase and added it to the Oregon territory provisional government seal. It symbolized the independent spirit of the Oregon settlers outside both the British and United States government.

In 1957, it was changed to The Union, showing that Oregon was no longer divided by the issues of slavery from the Civil War. Finally, the motto She Flies With Her Own Wings returned home in 1987.

Oregon has been avant-garde in national legislation. Some laws include the recall of public officials, state-wide voter registration, and one dear to me, public access to the beaches.

Though I have lived in the Midwest most of my life, I have found a kinship with the spirit of Oregon – the beautiful vistas, the potential of her independent spirit.

Five Oregon counties are, for a second attempt, trying to join with Idaho since Salem does not represent conservative interests, and has a statewide super majority in all branches of government. I am torn. I desperately want Oregon to stay Oregon, but with draconian bills possibly being passed, living here would be miserable, to say the least.

Not only did I pray in Salem that day, I have walked the local beaches praying for my local area and beyond. I believe my prayers, and the prayers of other Oregonians, are stored in Heaven waiting for the right time to be answered.

Faith

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.

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Feeds for a New Era

My blog post today may be old-hat to some, but because of the censorship issues today, I am revisiting it.

The technology of RSS feeds some consider to be old-hat, and they have been since the rise of social media. But they have been under the radar, not obsolete like others have proclaimed over the years. Twitter had a feed many years ago.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Netscape created it in 1999 under the different name of RDF Site Summary, and through the years it morphed into the current name.

The format is in XML language, which is a plain text file. Another file associated with RSS is OPML, which is XML’s outline format for exporting the feeds you have created in a feed reader for backup.

Feed readers consolidate feeds from websites that use this form of syndication. Blogs, podcasts, emails, websites, and news sites (this is not an exhaustive list) publish the XML files to their sites so that feed readers can pull in articles that are newly published. Most feed readers are free. Another file form of aggregating websites is called Atom. Most feed readers support both.

I will use mine to illustrate. I use the Linux program named QuiteRSS. It allows you to add folders to organize subject matter. For example, I have folders called Oregon, News, Church, Writing, and Personal. I can update all at once, only certain folders, or certain sites. There is a rudimentary browser so that you can read the feeds on their home website. Or you can open an external browser to read articles. Filters are available to further help sort information. And the articles can be labeled or deleted as needed. I clean mine daily so I am not overwhelmed.

The fall of popularity of RSS, a decentralized form of gathering data for the user, instead traveled to companies centralizing data on us users, was planned? If so, it is time to stake our claims on the World Wide Web and raise the flag of our RSS mailboxes.

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