Let There Be Light

Genesis 1 commentary

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:1-4)

Light is indeed good as we are reminded in the opening days of March that we will not be held forever frozen in the cold, dark abyss of winter. Around the 7th day of March each year, it begins to dawn on us that Daylight Savings time is just a wisp of wind around the corner and that the extra light will do us “good.” Good because it helps to bring us out of winter’s hibernating stupor and good because it reassures us that there is order in the universe – that we can find consistency and dependability in the rhythmic coming and going of seasons.

Indeed, the extra light of spring can be a welcome reprieve, bringing the goodness of beauty found in the cheerful colors of spring’s flowers, particularly at a time when it is so easy to become discouraged by the anarchy, disorder and turmoil that seem to surround us. One can find daily commentaries about the chaotic state of the world confirming the experience felt by many: that we are living in a hard, dark, disturbing and confusing time. As Geoffrey Norman notes in his article, “The United States of Dogs”, from the February 27 issue of The Weekly Standard: “It is a hard world and getting harder.”

As we step out of the darkness of winter this year into the promising light of spring, it would be good to recognize that it is in the messiness and chaos of life, whether it be in our personal lives or in the political vicissitudes of our nation and our world, that opportunity exists. Opportunity, not as powerless agents of a predetermined world, but as free agents capable of moving through the darkness and through the difficulties into a more excellent way of being. As theologian W. Sibley Towner writes: “If there were no freedom in this creation, no touches of disorder, no open ends, then moral choice, creativity, and excellence could not arise.”

In fact, the term “the deep” from Genesis 1:2 (“and darkness covered the face of the deep…”) comes from the Hebrew word “Tehôm,” signifying confusion and disturbance. Typically applied to the ocean to convey the restless motion of its waves, it is used here to describe the “chaos as a surging mass of shapeless matter.” It continues: “In the Babylonian legend, Tiàmet, the Hebrew tehôm, is represented as overcome by Merodach, who out of the primaeval anarchy brings order and beauty.”

It is in the darkness of our many struggles and challenges that our need for light arises. And it is light that illuminates our path and brings us to order and beauty.

It is out of the darkness that light was born. It is out of the darkness that we must come.

For Lillie Belle and All Dogs Great & Small

Dog quotes
Lillie Belle

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull, American Novelist (1888-1982)

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France, French Novelist (1844-1924)

Anyone who has loved and lost a dog will appreciate Lucy Dawson’s sketches in her book, Dogs Rough & Smooth, originally published in 1937.

Dawson (1870-1954) was a popular British illustrator known for her paintings and sketches of a variety of dog breeds and was commissioned by the Royal Family to paint the Queen Mother’s favorite Corgi, Dookie. The book, her second of dog sketches following Dogs As I See Them, was republished in 2016 with a foreword by Susan Orlean, an author of several books including Rin Tin Tin and a contributor to several publications, including the New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times.

Below are some excerpts from Ms. Orlean’s heart-felt words in the foreword, which acutely capture the space that a dog holds in our lives, their power “to be deeply present,” and the paw-dugged-hole left in our hearts when they pass away.

Ms. Orlean references her own dog, Ivy, and her obsession with taking Ivy’s picture as a way to capture her eternally:

“Most of all, what my pictures don’t capture is the astonishing quality Ivy and all dogs possess: the power to be deeply present. Even when Ivy is asleep in a room at the other end of the house, she is still noticeably in residence.”

Lucy Dawson“A house without a dog is a static space. A house with a dog somewhere in it is a house on alert, just moments from bursting into activity, especially if the dog hears the refrigerator open. Anyone who has lived through the death of their dog knows too well the suffocating quiet of a house without one. The first time you come home to the empty house, it aches with hollowness and silence, and the phantom concert of dog noises – those now-absent tail thumps, nail clicks, and tag jingles – just about breaks your heart.  My millions of dog snapshots don’t portray that strange, marvelous experience of coexisting with one of these creatures.”

“Ivy has wandered over while I’ve been writing this. The afternoon light is now buttered and honeyed….[t]his is why I keep taking her picture, in the vain but eager attempt to keep her with me forever.  She [Lucy Dawson] gave me the one thing that we all dream of, that our dogs will be eternal, and in her drawings, these dogs are. They snooze and sit and play and romp in the dreamtime of memory, of art – as alert and lively and full of heart as if they could walk out of this book right now and curl up on the sofa beside me.”

In the Beginning…

“In the beginning was Power, intelligent, loving, energising. In the beginning was the Word, supremely capable of mastering and moulding whatever might come into being in the world of matter. In the beginning there were not coldness and darkness: there was Fire.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), French Philosopher & Paleontologist

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

A Memorial Day Salute to Our Fearless Protectors

In honor of Memorial Day, we salute all of those who courageously gave their lives to protect our great nation and the values it espouses by highlighting the military’s steadfastness, discipline, order, bravery, humility, integrity and respect, reflected in the below excerpts, creed and poems. Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day quotes

Virtue & The Soldier’s Soul (taken from Endowed by Their Creator: A Collection of Historic Military Prayers 1774-Present, 2012)

“Virtue is the ‘animating spirit’ of the American military and is the ‘keynote’ of a Commander’s sworn duty of exemplary behavior, supervision and correction.”

“Successful armies consist of uniformly disciplined, patriotic, well-trained, obedient soldiers, whose high morale demonstrates a special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of their military officers and civilian military leaders.”

“…General George C. Marshall, author of ‘The Marshall Plan’ to rebuild Europe after World War II, taught that morale comes from ‘the religious fervor of the soul.’ It is the essential element of achieving military objectives, and is ignored at great peril, when soldiers hold only guns and orders, with no strength of virtue.”

Said Marshall:

“…I look upon the spiritual life of the soldier as even more important than his physical equipment…the soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his command and his country in the end.”

“In 1828, Noah Webster defined ‘soul’ as; ‘The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man…which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government.’ The soul’s training for self-government yields a commensurate level of good order and military discipline. American military services are especially constituted to train effective and disciplined forces, to lead and defend the country ‘in time of national peril,’ and must therefore be keen to the soul and the true source of American virtue, honor and patriotism.”

prayer for courage

United States Navy SEAL Ethos

Below is the stand that every U.S. Navy SEAL learns:

“In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.

Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.

I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.

Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.

military quotes

Three military prayers below:

The Prayer of a Midshipman
from Vice-Admiral Harry W. Hill (1890-1971) Superintendent, United States Naval Academy

“Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never fails: Let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and Thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do the work of a man and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me faithful to my duties and mindful of the traditions of the Service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should is the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by Whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

West Point Cadet Prayer

“O God, our father, Thou Searcher of men’s hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth…

Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live about the common level of life.

Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.

Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer.

Help us, to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished an unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of All. Amen.”

Prayer by Lieutenant General G.S. Patton, Jr. United States Army Commanding General, Seventh Army (WWII)

In response to a request alongside President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower to contribute a prayer to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Prayer Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1944, General Patton composed the below prayer for courage:

“God of our Fathers, who by land and sea has ever led us on to victory, please continue Your inspiring guidance in this the greatest of our conflicts.

military prayersStrengthen my soul so that the weakening instinct of self-preservation, which besets all of us in battle, shall not blind me to my duty to my own manhood to the glory of my calling, and to my responsibility to my fellow soldiers.

Grant to our armed forces the disciplined valor and mutual confidence which insures success in war. Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived.

If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the energy, and please, O Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord. Amen.”

Springing With Flowers

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

beautiful spring flowers

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
– William Wordsworth

spring quotes

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

spring flower quotes

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions – so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”
– Adabella Radici

flower quotes

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
– Claude Monet

spring poems

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The ordinarily decent impulses the ordinary man learned at his mother’s knee are our last line of defense against the wickedness of overweening power at home and abroad.”  – John Dos Passos (novelist, 1896-1970)

Mother's day quotesThe importance of mothers is beautifully captured in the below excerpt from the book What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Tina Santi Flaherty (2004):

“The memory of our mother never leaves us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  That Jackie Kennedy Onassis was an exceptionally good mother even her harshest detractors readily acknowledge. Motherhood was what mattered most to Jackie. She believed that absolutely nothing came before the welfare of her children. Indeed, she referred to her efforts in raising Caroline and John Jr. as the best thing she’d ever done, saying she wanted to be remembered for that achievement more than for any other. She once remarked, ‘If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.’”

A Poem For Spring

As we warmly welcome the bright and cheerful colors of Spring, enjoy the poem below by Walt Whitman – a reminder of all the good and beautiful “miracles” that surround us daily.

Walt Whitman miracles poem

“Miracles”
by Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819-1892)

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love…
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

March: All Things Saint-ly

“Why were the saints, saints?

Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful,

patient when it was difficult to be patient;

Cathedral in Rome Italy
Church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola; Rome, Italy

and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still,

and kept silent when they wanted to talk,

and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable.

St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh
St. Giles’ Cathedral; Edinburgh, Scotland

That was all.

It was quite simple and always will be.”

St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin
St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Dublin, Ireland

Turning to Dylan During The Winds of Change

See also some thought provoking quotes from Thomas Jefferson and a powerful quote from Ronald Reagan on the importance of freedom.

One can feel the winds of change and the increasing force with which they are swirling around the 2016 presidential race. With every state primary and every presidential debate, the atmosphere becomes more and more charged and leaves one with the feeling that a revolution is just around the bend.

Bob Dylan The Times They are a-changin'

Indeed, all manner of revolutions are taking place and changing everything – our country, our world and our lives as we have known them.

The revolution of “Black Lives Matter” where one of its spokeswoman said in an interview to a white reporter:

“It is ‘All Lives Matter’ not ‘Black Lives Matter’, that is an insult to us.  You white people are going to have to get used to giving up the privileges that you have long been used to.”

The revolution of micro-aggressions and trigger-warnings, the revolution of atheists looking to blow out the fire of Christian belief and institute atheism as the spirit of the land, the climate change revolution and control of natural resources. The revolution of Islamic jihadists terrorizing the world in pursuit of establishing the Caliphate. The revolution against privacy, capitalism, wealth, the established media. The technological revolution where virtual reality is slowly displacing the “real”, physical world.

How will it all play out?  “The answer”, as Bob Dylan once said, is “blowin’ in the wind.”

But, there is no doubt, as we continue to watch this unprecedented presidential race to the White House unfold that, “the times they are a-changin’.”

The Times They Are A-Changin’
Bob Dylan, 1964

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimming’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Famous Bob Dylan songsCome writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

See also some thought provoking quotes from Thomas Jefferson and a powerful quote from Ronald Reagan on the importance of freedom.