A Murmuration of Starlings

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Click HERE for a moment of murmuration wonder and delight, compliments of The Atlantic and Carolyn Kidder, who brought it to our attention.

My mother didn’t like Starlings, but she never saw anything quite like this.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2017.

Book Launch Invitation

Those of you who live in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota are invited to breathe deeply and celebrate the launch of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness. Books will be available at a friendly price! The evening begins with brief remarks and a short reading, followed by a lively Q and A, ending with refreshments and a author book signing.

Click HERE to view the invitation from Shepherd of the Hill Church and The Sower Gallery, and let them know you’re coming. Or . . . just come! at the last minute.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017

Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30

Location: Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church is located at the southeast corner of State Highway 41 (Chestnut Street) and Engler Boulevard in Chaska.

The gracious people of Shepherd of the Hill, the Sower Gallery, and I would love to see you there!

Grace and Peace,

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 24, 2017.

Be Still!

Yesterday was a day to celebrate. The publisher of BE STILL! Departure from Collective Madness graciously agreed to used Vincent van Gogh‘s painting from the asylum of Saint-Rimy as the Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness’s cover.

van gogh prisoners exercising

“Prisoners Exercising (After Dore)” – Vincent van Gogh, 1890. Also called “The Prisoners’ Round”

Today Be Still! is going through the final steps before publication by Wipf and Stock Publishers in Eugene, Oregon.

It will take two to three weeks before Be Still! will appear on Amazon. You will find it sooner on the Wipf and Stock site at reduced price. Those in the Greater Twin Cities will be invited to a book launch and book signing party where Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness will be available at reduced cost.

Grace and Peace,

Gordon

 

 

 

Why a Manger?

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” [Gospel of Luke]

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Tintoretto, 1518-1594. The Nativity from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Why a manger, the animals’ feeding trough? Why does Tintoretto’s babe seem to be so interested in the animals? Why are the animals so comfortable around him?

Luke is doing theology, which is not everyone’s cup of tea! But we all engage in it. It’s about Reality and what we believe most deeply about it.

“Good” theology — if we may be permitted to use the word in a world which is of the opinion that one opinion is just as “good” as another — seeks to connect the dots between the past, the present, and the future. Traditional Christian theology arcs back to the “goodness” of the beginning (creation) and anticipates the redemption of all things in light of the Christ-event – the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

As often happens, I heard Luke’s birth narrative this year in ways I had yet to put into words.

Could Luke himself have been arguing for what we now know in light of climate change: that we humans are of the same order as the cows, the chickens, goats, and sheep among whom Jesus of Nazareth was born? That is, we are not a superior species. We are not the exception to nature. And the redemption of reality itself includes the entirety of nature — the rescuing of nature from its despair and destruction by human hands.

So it was to poor shepherds, tending their flocks by night that the angel said,

“Do not be afraid; for see -I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Joyous Nowell, Merry Christmas, Happy Earth Day,

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Christas Day, Dec. 25, 2016.

 

Peace and Hope after the Election

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El Greco‘s “Pantocrator – Christ” feeds my anxious soul in a way words do not this Sunday after the American national election.

Christ’s eyes are knowing, sorrowful yet composed, searching deep within me. The right hand offers the blessing of peace while the left hand rests gently on the globe, the assurance that he is still the pantocrator (“all-ruler”) whose reign, though hidden, is trustworthy and real.

We republish El Greco‘s “Pantocrator – Christ” with thanks to the Vanderbilt Divinity School Library with the following attribution:

Greco, 1541?-1614. Pantocrator – Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48051 [retrieved November 13, 2016]. Original source: http://www.yorckproject.de.

I didn’t attend worship this morning. I didn’t want any more words. I stayed home with El Greco and a brief word from Isaiah (Is. 65:19).

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 13, 2016.

Edward Albee

Edward Albee, whose death was reported tonight by the NYT and The Washington Post, was my favorite playwright.

A line from “The Zoo Story” became one of the few texts committed to a memory not given to memorization:

“Sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.”

Albee’s line begged for sustained reflection. It described my life experience.

Life is not a straight line. It’s jagged. Sometimes it doubles back on itself. It coils and uncoils, breaks, and appears again from nowhere. We don’t go a short distance “correctly.” and those who have gone a short distance “correctly” (playing by the rules of social convention), often wonder whether they have been anywhere at all.

The NYT and Washington Post articles are worth the read. Edward Albee was not straight, but he understood that the deeper human issues transcend sexuality. They are intrinsic to the human condition.

Receiving today’s news of his death at home in Montauk, Long Island, I bow with thanksgiving for the gift.

RIP.

  • Gordon C. Stewart

 

 

Author Madness

Had I known it was this complicated, I might have thought twice about publishing a book. Yikes! I like to write. Securing copyright permissions, adhering to the publisher’s requirements for final manuscript submission, converting from Apple’s Pages to Microsoft Word, and completing the marketing survey are much more complicated than auth0r vanity imagined.

Be careful what you ask for. (You might inadvertently end a sentence with a preposition.)

September 10 is the date for final submission of “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness,” in the once vain hope of making the NYT Best Sellers list. The author’s life is way too complicated!

The Daily Post’s invitation to write something on the word “complicated” is responsible for this waste of your time.

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, August 14, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer walking through fields in Kumta

Scroll down for Joshi Daniel’s photograph that inspired this reflection.

Tourists and residents see things differently. Actually, it’s more than that. They see different things, like the farmer walking through the field in Kumta, and this tourist website that introduces would-be visitors to Kumta.

Today we’re tourists in Beynac-et-Cazenac, one of the loveliest places we’ve ever experienced. Well, i,e. experienced as tourists. But even a tourist (we’ve rented a house      for the week (pictures to follow) recognizes the slower pace of this medieval town on the banks of the Dordogne River.

The Experiment in International Living (EIL) offered a deeper way of seeing the world forty years ago. That summer I lived with a host family in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Immersed in the daily life of my Slovakian family and students at the university, I was not a tourist. I cared nothing about the sites a tourist might visit. I walked everywhere, paying attention to where I was, looking more deeply, more thoughtfully – being more present, one might say – less disembodied, less virtual, less distracted, not as entertained, but so much happier in my body.

Like the Experiment in International Living, Kosuke Koyama encouraged me to slow down, to walk instead of run by, drive past, or fly over – to see the dailyness and the natural field of the man Joshi’s photograph. God, said Kosuke, is a three-mile-an-hour God who meets us at the pace of human being walking.

Momentarily, we’ll walk very slowly down the steep hill into the village on Sunday morning in this beautiful place. If we go to fast, we’ll fall on our faces.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Beynac-et-Cazenac, June 12, 2016.

Joshi Daniel Photography

A farmer walking through fields in Hegde, Karnataka while holding a basket Farmer walking through the fields | Hegde, Kumta, Karnataka, India

If you would like to buy a print of any of the images, get in touch with me here.

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Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire de Béziers (Dennis Aubrey)

Once again Dennis Aubrey’s writing and photography on Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture offers a rare jewell worthy of wider circulation.

Via Lucis Photography

Beziers has fallen!
They’re dead.
Clerks, women, children:
No quarter.

They killed Christians too.
I rode out,
I couldn’t see nor hear a living creature.
I saw Simon de Montefort.
His beard glistened in the sun.

They killed seven thousand people!
Seven thousand souls who sought sanctuary
In St. Madeline’s.
The steps of the altar were wet with blood.
The church echoed with their cries.

Guiraut Riquier, troubadour (Translated by Martin Best)

In 1130, the master builder Gervais built a Romanesque cathedral in the thriving episcopal town of Béziers. Built eighty years before Notre Dame de Paris, it had a comparable nave height as that Gothic masterpiece and was 50 meters long. Evidence given at the time indicates that it was a truly remarkable structure but it lasted only 79 years. The Cathedral of Saint Nazaire was burnt to the ground on July 22, 1209.

We went to Béziers in…

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