Flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther

Tuesday, I am leaving Oz and flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther.

Flying time is just over two hours, which gives me little time learn about this fascinating man of faith and letters. While in Atlanta for three days, I will find snippets of time in the early morning and late evening to read Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther: the man who rediscovered God….

This is unfair to a holy man of God, but work creates its limitations on pleasure. And Martin Luther was a man who worked much and suffered for it.

Never talk politics or religion, my mother advised me, and never speak of both. Martin Luther spoke of religion, and tried to avoid politics, but one is always forced to choose. Erasmus did, though he would have preferred to stay on the side lines observing and commenting, but not committing himself.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther had no qualms about where he stood on religion and famously said in April of 1521:

“Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen!”

“My conscience is captive to the word of God,” Luther explained. “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” His remarks to the so-called theologians and politicians at the Diet of Worms put forth the idea of man’s own ability to read and interpret the Bible.

This earth rattling idea made Martin Luther the first existentialist of the modern era.
I say modern era because Gutenberg printing press had thrust Europe and the world into the information age, the precursor to our own digital age. I say Luther was the first existentialist because he had the temerity to challenge the pope and state on matters of belief.

Every Man a Priest

Every man a priest he said.

He would walk back this idea in time as he realized the many “false” interpretations of scripture that man was capable of. He also chose to become an instrument of state and recognize the value of submission to authority. Anarchy was the only other choice.

Amazingly, his idea took hold. Not without centuries of religious conflict, not without heretical burnings, wars, and murders, all fought in the name of God, an irony he recognized. An irony that we still live with and perhaps always will.

Sorry, John Lennon.

Luther’s idea of personal responsibility would in time become the bedrock of the American political experience, expressed eloquently by Thomas Jefferson, All men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Freedom of thought is liberating, it is daunting, it is challenging. It is the existentialist’s mantra.

It is your choice.

Which is why I find it ironic that Martin Luther came down on the “wrong” side of the question about Free Will. We have none, he said. It is all a matter of faith and love, and nothing else.

Paradoxical, yes, so too is life. We are such imperfect creatures, made in God’s image, but poorly.

I have, you will noticed, used quotation marks around certain statements of fact. This is because very little in life is certain. We may be certain of in-certainty, but that is it.

And…

Death, as Luther observed, and our ultimate destiny to meet with God, alone.

martin luther painting cranach
martin luther, lucas cranach the elder painting

 

Today, of course, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Eric Metaxas points out the historical trivia that after a visit to Germany, a certain Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, and his son became Martin Luther King Jr.

In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

 

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What will the New Year bring?

What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.

 

What will the New Year bring?

It is that time of year when we all pause to think back on what the past year meant, on friends no longer with us, and what will the New Year bring.

Friends I have lost keep piling up like the round smooth stones hikers leave on the way up to the peak of Colorado’s Mt. Long. Hikers know what I mean, the rest of you need to get off your chair and hike a mountain to know.

Words and songs that keep coming back to mind. How about Donna Fargo’s What will the New Year bring? Friends, if you have tears, listen and prepare to shed them now.

And yes, I know this is copyright material, but I can’t help but think it is fair comment and a salute to a great artist from Mt. Airy, North Carolina and all the folks in Mayberry, including Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Gomer, who are now gone from us.

If you don’t know what I mean, you are under thirty and you don’t watch TNT.

This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough
The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring

Will it bring us a little boy to fill our lives with love and joy
We’ve had our share of growing pains what will the new year bring

You’re still one and one makes two now one and one make one
I hope you will love me throughout the year to come

We’ve made our mistakes with love we learned that it can’t promise us
Tomorrow and forever things what will the new year bring

Wish I hadn’t read our horoscope things look stormy for Scorpios
Virgo’s posed to sprout their wings what will the new year bring

Will you want me to love you the way you know I do
And will you walk through life with me another year or two

Or three or four or five or six hundred years or more
Happy New Year darling for whatever is in store

winter-2

I heard the bells

winter-2

Christmas Day, 1863, Washington, D.C.

 

Outside his window on Christmas Day, 1863, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow heard the Christmas bells and the carolers singing “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men”.

That cold December day he was in Washington, D.C. called to the bedside of his son who, less than a month earlier, had been wounded in the shoulder at the battle of Mine Run Campaign, the follow up to the Battle of Gettysburg, and an unsuccessful attempt by Union forces to defeat the Army of the Potomac near Chancellorsville.

 

The north wind blew fierce that day in fitful gushes that banged the shutters on the windows that were not secured. The carolers, attempting to dispel the gloom, pulled tight their winter coats and scarves, their voices accompanied by sleigh-bells from horses making their way to their appointed destinations, and in the air one smelled a mixture of sweet egg-nog and the stench of death.

Worried, disconsolate, and inspired, he wrote these words:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

vermont-farm

For goodness sake!

For goodness sake!

Do not wake me yet

Let me sit and dream

For it seems

The world has gone quite mad

And the fighting never ceases

And for that I am sad, but for this I am glad

Oh Lord, let me rest

Oh Lord, let me dream of a world at peace

Full of goodness!

beach_sit

Wassail

Cheers!

If I said, “Wassup!” you’d know what I meant, but what about “Wassail!”

Wassail has its roots in ancient Norse, it rhymes with lass and hail and means “be hale” or “be of good health”.

The word entered the English lexicon in the 5th century with the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, who came to help the British Celts fight the Picts. Horsa died fighting and Hengist stayed. The story goes that Hengist’s daughter Rowen offered British King Vortigern a golden cup filled with wine, saying,

“Lord King, Wassail!”

The word was new to Vortigern, the wine was pleasing, and so too was Rowen. They marry and the next thing you know, Hengist is the very first king of England, or at least of Kent, where the Saxons and their cousins the Angles settled down and became English.

By the time the Normans arrived centuries later, Englishmen were wassailing each other with a cup of wine. The habit was hard to break. Time changes words and their meaning and wassail was remembered as the spicy hot wine and not the salutation.

Sometimes a glass of wassail will start you thinking. What do other countries use for toasts?

In France they say, Bonne sante. The French being the French and very idiosyncratic don’t pronounce the first e and accent the second “e” to make the long eeee sound.

In Spain and the Spanish speaking countries of the western hemisphere, they say “Brindar.” Literally, meaning “offer” but that doesn’t express the thought, which is a hope that the recipient of the toast may receive all that is good and necessary. Brevity, the mark of a good toast and good sense.

“Expresar un bien deseado a alguien o algo a la vez que se levanta la copa con vino o licor antes de beber.”

In Russian, they say “Prosit!” but they say it Cyrillic, просит, which is hard to say, and means nothing more than, I beg or pray.

In German, they also say, “Prosit” or “Ein Prosit” which translates as “Cheers!”

But they made it into a song, which everyone sings at Oktoberfest and when wishing one a schönes Neues Jahr:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Cheers, my friends, it all means the same, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

forest-couple-1280

At home in Bruges

canal-runner-bruges-24

If you want to see how the other half lives, don’t sit at home and think about it. Get out and run. You will find, however, that homes everywhere are like puppies and snowflakes, similar in so many ways, and always unique.

The grand canal between Bruges and Ghent is lined by high banks, tall trees, lovely homes and sweet gardens.

cottage in Bruges, Belgium

Whose woods are these

stressless recliners, fairy tales can come true

I dare not leave these woods quite yet, something lurks up above, something lingers behind a tree, waiting just for me

… in these woods, lovely, dark, and deep.

I cannot sleep for from the distance in the woods comes a sound, “Who?” it calls mocking me. I dare not answer, my knees are knocking, teeth chattering. Am I scared?

You bet.

Then, I hear a branch crack, needles crunch, and I have got a hunch from the woods there comes for me a dark and hairy beast. Should I run, should I grab a great big stick, or, should I fall and make a tiny little ball? Then, I manage in a tiny voice to call out, father-mother are you there?

Silence, says my father, go to sleep.

forest-sun

Great starts

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  –  Mark Twain

frog in pond

It certainly had a wide celebrity…but I was aware that it was only the frog that was celebrated. It wasn’t I. – Mark Twain’s Autobiography

frog-submerged in water

It seems like such a waste, what do the French do with the rest of the frog, and what does the frog do with the rest of the day?