Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Morning in Maine

We have long been Robert McCloskey fans, but I made a new discovery today.  We have Blueberries for Sal and Time of Wonder, but had not had the chance to read One Morning in Maine until we got it from the library last night.  I read it to the kids before bed, and noticed that the heroine's name is the same as in Blueberries--so while Mommy was at a brunch this morning I suggested to the kids that while the babies were napping we spend the morning in Maine, reading Blueberries for Sal, then One Morning in Maine to see her as a toddler and then as a "big girl," then read Time of Wonder just to keep in the vein.  When we finished Blueberries, however I read the biographical sketch of McCloskey at the end and realized his books are autobiographical!

He was born in Ohio in 1914 and raised there; and Lentil is set in a small Ohio town in what appears to be the late nineteen-teens or early nineteen twenties...

... he won a scholarship to Vesper George Art School in Boston in 1932, where he no doubt received the inspiration for Make Way for Ducklings which is set in Boston in what appears to be the 1930s...

... then he lived most of his adult life in Maine where he and his wife, Peggy, raised their daughters Sally and Jane (of One Morning in Maine fame).

My guess is that they lived on the mainland at first, where Sal's mom drives a car to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries with Sal, and later moved to the island from which Sal and Jane's father rows them across to Buck's Harbor for ice cream and to fix their outboard in One Morning in Maine.

The next surprise that began to occur to me as we read (okay, the kids didn't make it all the way through this one as their attention was starting to wain...), was that Time of Wonder is the McCloskey family a few years later as the story follows two girls, probably around ten to fourteen years old, from spring through fall as they live with their father, mother, and dog (who looks like Penny from One Morning) on an island near Buck's Harbor in a world populated with some of the same characters as One Morning. This book, which was a gift to us from our friend Joel, also contains two allusions to God's watchful care over His children: the pair of eyes watching over all, above the hundred pairs watching you as you row back to the dock in the night (Ps. 146:9, Jer. 1:12, Zech. 2:8); also the rainbow cast by the moon toward the end of the storm, "a promise that the storm will be over soon" (Genesis 9:13-17). I don't know what McCloskey's specific religious views were, but he has done a masterful job of weaving these comforting biblical images into a beautiful book.

Given Time of Wonder ends with the family departing the island "for the last time this year" it appears that the island home is not their permanent home, so maybe the car-accessible house in Blueberries is their destination... Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our morning in Maine, and I want to heartily recommend  McCloskey to all.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Death and Life Matter by Bruce William Klunder, 1963

A sermon from the Civil Rights movement that helps to show us that some sin isn't personal, it's systemic. Bruce Klunder was a Presbyterian pastor who was active in the Civil Rights movement in Columbus, OH, and eventually died when a bulldozer ran over him while he was picketing the construction of a segregated school.

“The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them.” (John 17:22-23)

Strange as it may seem, I have chosen today to preach an Easter sermon.  Thus, I have read as the Scripture lesson for the day portions of the Passion narrative as recorded by John.  We have read from the prayer that Jesus offered with his disciples before his betrayal.  We have read of the crucifixion itself, and finally, we have read of the presence of Jesus with his disciples in the post-Easter community.  This is the stuff of which Easter sermons are made, and to make it complete we shall sing a very familiar Easter hymn at the conclusion of our worship.

I hope that it will become clear as we progress why the sermon of the day must be an Easter sermon.
Now, while the title I have put to the sermon—“A Death and Life Matter”—is no mistake, I would like first of all to turn it around and address our attention to what must necessarily be termed a life and death matter.  At this point I want to attempt to interpret certain of my own experiences and feelings about an issue which can no longer be ignored by any of us.

It is no secret to anyone that the past few years and especially the last few months have been for our nation a period of turmoil and finally a test of courage and purpose, the result of which cannot be seen with any great certainty at this point.  Since the Emancipation Proclamation of one hundred years ago now, we have been faced with the problem of conscience which is posed by the disparity between an official policy of universal human freedom and the daily observation that in fact for many of our fellows this proclamation of freedom is a hollow thing indeed.  We are faced with the discrepancy between the American dream of unlimited upward mobility for each person and the fact that the American Negro lives surrounded by walls and covered with a nearly immovable ceiling.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preaching the New England Way:

"Private Bible study, family devotions, and neighborhood discussions were all important activities, but they were not converting ordinances; the primary work of the Holy Spirit came in hearing the sermon. Without that voice of guidance, an ordinary saint would drift like a 'ship without a compasse.'"
-- Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul

The New England Puritan's view of preaching may go a little far... but is humbling!

Monday, August 25, 2014

 In the article, "Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?," Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist writing to a primarily Israeli audience, argues that resolving conflict depends on understanding the way one's enemy thinks; or, to put it another way, being empathetic to your enemies.  He notes U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's perspective that, "part of President Kennedy’s successful management of the Cuban Missile Crisis was his administration’s ability to put itself in the shoes of the Soviets and understand their point of view." Applying this to the crisis in Gaza, he points out that only by understanding the Palestinian desire for freedom can Israel hope to bring an end to the cycle of violence and revenge. The same point can be made in the opposite direction, of course: Hamas would do well to take a lesson from the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela, all of whom embraced peaceful resistance models under similar persecution with very different results from those Hamas has achieved in the 27 years since its founding (granted, Mandela's journey took much longer). I am directing this point at Palestinian leadership in their struggle with Israel, not at residents of Gaza in dealing with their own leaders; Sheizaf notes the absurdity of demanding that the people of Gaza protest against Hamas, as is often suggested in Israeli circles, in the midst of a war-zone. For both sides, there is a need to empathize with the others' perspective; only when at least one side is willing to do this can the cycle of violence be broken.

I believe Sheizaf's view is profoundly biblical. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records Jesus words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43–45 ESV). The apostle Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22 when he says, “'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20–21 ESV). We might protest that this advice is given to individuals, not governments; yet we see from McNamara's perspective of President Kenedy's example that governments would more effectively 'wield the sword' (Romans 13:4) by heading and appropriately applying such advice.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Only Carbondale. from Arthur Agency on Vimeo.

I attended a meeting of Carbondale's Downtown Advisory Committee tonight; I was glad to hear from our city manager, Kevin Baity, some ideas that seem like good, incremental solutions: slowing traffic down in the downtown in ways that won't cost a fortune, and would allow us to eliminate some traffic lights (making it safer to walk and bike while reducing the commute time through the downtown for cars); encouraging development of more café type seating on the sidewalks (I believe this would involve repealing some restrictions that require businesses to put up fences in order to delineate on-sidewalk seating [?])

I was also concerned by some ideas that seemed to look to spend a lot of money developing infrastructure where there is not a proven need (developing a downtown hotel that might serve visiting profs and people using the hospital sounds awesome, but hospital guests who have trouble with the drive to existing hotels will have trouble with the necessary price of the type of hotel we'd want in the downtown...).

The experience made me excited about Carbondale, but also recalled my thoughts when I first saw the above video: "I want to live there! Wait, I do..." It makes me both want to appreciate what is there more and also work to improve.

I was also struck by the commonality of desire/goal even when you could tell people were coming from different "camps" or were suggesting almost opposing methods of accomplishing such goals (one lady spoke against the new development on the former site of 710 Bookstore as being too big for its setting and discouraging walkable space, a later commenter pointed out that increasing density as the new development does actually encourages pedestrian use--while I'm with him on that point the new development makes me nervous because it's not an incremental step, it's a leap forward: will we find the 300+ renters needed to make the development viable? That said it will definitely increase the density and potential of the 'Strip').

Monday, August 18, 2014

In a recent article on Paste, speaking of Narcocorridos, the harder-core Latino equivalent of gangsta rap, Sam DeLeo wrote, "As with violent video games, gangster movies and, to an extent, even drugs themselves, narcocorridos give us what we crave, a vicarious sense of danger, the chance to dip our toes in darkness without sliding in to its void."
I realized as I read his article, and began taking notes on the books and sources he was quoting for further study, that at least some part of my interest in being informed on what appears to be an important issue, is 'dipping my toes in the darkness without sliding into the void.' I feel like this is the same tension, however, that we face in the problem of, "do I want to do a good thing to get recognized for doing well, or for the sake of doing something well in itself?"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A workspace...

 Abby having started her own blog for keeping up with family happenings (and the blogosphere moving away from that use in general), I'm thinking of taking the blog over again as a place for my meanderings on theology, history, dissertation work (friends advise against that, actually, so maybe really vague dissertation thoughts...), projects, etc.  We'll see...