Happy Memorial Day . . .

DeathI’m a veteran.

Today, May 25th, in the United States, people celebrate the brave, dead veterans…

I’m still alive.

The best gift I can give my readers on this misbegotten holiday is this story by Mark Twain:

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came—next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams—visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory—

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,

“Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside—which the startled minister did—and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne—bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import—that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of—except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two—one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this—keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
“You have heard your servant’s prayer—the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it—that part which the pastor—and also you in your hearts—fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the whole  of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory—must  follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle—be Thou near them! With them—in spirit—we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause. ) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

~~~~~~~~~

Spiritual Quote:

“And if, confirmed by the Creator, the lover escapes from the claws of the eagle of love, he will enter THE VALLEY OF KNOWLEDGE and come out of doubt into certitude, and turn from the darkness of illusion to the guiding light of the fear of God. His inner eyes will open and he will privily converse with his Beloved; he will set ajar the gate of truth and piety, and shut the doors of vain imaginings. 

“He in this station is content with the decree of God, and seeth war as peace, and findeth in death the secrets of everlasting life. With inward and outward eyes he witnesseth the mysteries of resurrection in the realms of creation and the souls of men, and with a pure heart apprehendeth the divine wisdom in the endless Manifestations of God. In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

“Split the atom’s heart, and lo!
Within it thou wilt find a sun.”

Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 11

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One Common Faith ~ The Story – Part One

children_praying
In the last post I said, “I want to tell a story”.  I also said certain people wouldn’t like it…

I’m not sure right now how many posts it will take to tell the story. It starts in the dim past and soars into the unseeable future.

The story won’t have a lot of detail but it will have a lot of emotion. The beginning is my early time on our earth as well as the early time of our human family. It’s very easy to see the stages of an individual’s life mirroring the infancy, youth, adolescence, and maturity of humanity.

Before I launch into the beginnings, I want to give the links to a document and a site that explores the document—they’re the immediate stimulus to my needing to tell this story.

The document is One Common Faith—a deep and scholarly exploration of religion (that’s the reason some folks won’t like this story…).

The web site is Changeless Faith—dedicated to a multimedia learning process that dives into One Common Faith  and helps you connect with it in a personal way. {if you’re not the type of person who regularly reads deep scholarly documents, I’d recommend starting with the “Companion” part of the site rather than the “Document” part—you’ll get a simpler introduction to the concepts and appreciate the full document much more}

The Story

I was born in 1946 to two Christian ministers—mom and dad. I feel lucky to have had such an early introduction to serious religious life. I’ve felt conflicted about the deep problems I’ve had to struggle with to unravel the mystery of Who God really Is—mom and dad or the Ineffable, Unknowable Creator.

I think our earliest ancestors had a somewhat similar problem. The members of our human family who lived during our infancy had to struggle to co-exist with the powers they encountered and they developed various theories about a Power that ruled over those powers. Lightning or earthquakes are powers (so are mom and dad); why do they happen and what causes them? Later in the story, we’ll look at the scientific understanding of this issue but it won’t be easy to leave behind the ultimate Mystery about the Origin of our life and struggles in this earthly home…

I went to church four or five times a week. Our early ancestors worshiped in the constant cathedral of nature.

I trembled and uttered inner prayers that my soul wouldn’t be damned by my parents. Our earliest ancestors shouted and danced to appease the gods—inner and outer.

I asked my Sunday School teacher questions she couldn’t answer. They went to the medicine woman and were instructed to perform rites they weren’t expected to understand.

I mostly behaved but grew up to be quite impulsive and rebellious. They did what they had to do to survive and sometimes killed the members of other tribes.

To be continued…

Spiritual Quote :

“It is a great mistake to believe that because people are illiterate or live primitive lives, they are lacking in either intelligence or sensibility. On the contrary, they may well look on us with the evils of our civilization, with its moral corruption, its ruinous wars, its hypocrisy and conceit, as people who merit watching with both suspicion and contempt. We should meet them as equals, well-wishers, people who admire and respect their ancient descent, and who feel that they will be interested as we are in a living religion and not in the dead forms of [many] present-day churches.”
From letter written on behalf of Shoghí Effendí to the Comite Nacional de Ensenanza Bahá’í para los Indigenas de Sur America, September 21, 1951

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Your Turn . . .

https://i1.wp.com/www.thedailypage.com/media/2007/02/08/BoyDogBath.jpg

image credit

What does that picture “say” to you? Could you write a caption for it? How about a short paragraph explaining what you see happening? What about a short story? Well, it’s your turn !

I did this a month or so ago and it seemed like the right time to try it again.

I hope you’ll take this mild challenge: write a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or story about that picture. Post it in the Comments, and I’ll post all the comments day-after-tomorrow.

I normally post every day but I’ll extend this post’s lead to give you a chance to crank up your creativity !

Write Me A Story !


Humans are story-telling creatures.

Answering, “What did you do at work today?”, is story-telling just as much as a thousand-page novel is.

I spent quite a bit of time in my picture files to find the image up there.

It “spoke” to me…

What does it say to you?

Write me a story in the comments, o.k.?

Anything from an entertaining caption to a full-blown work of literature !