An email from Joshi Daniel Photography arrived today, the first anniversary of the publication of 40,000 words. Searching back into the site’s archives, Joshi’s self-portrait “Living on the Edge” seemed to capture the sense of the 40,000 words of Be Still! in one photograph. Joshi and I share a heritage. We are both preacher’s kids who met at The College of Wooster where Joshi was a student. Joshi perched himself on the rock at arms length from my perch on the pulpit of McCaw Chapel. All these years later, Joshi’s still living on the edge with photographs worth a thousand words.
This Christmas Eve we write to thank you for reading Views from the Edge and to share with our readers this Seasons Greetings letter and photos sent to those nearest and dearest to us.
2017 brought into our lives two new grandsons, Elijah (7 mos.) and Calvin (one mo.) and the joy that comes with the innocence of children. Fortunately for us, Kristin (with Elijah), and Andrew and Alice (with Calvin) live 20 minutes from Chaska. We only wish we could shower the same affection on outstate grandkids Jack (17), Amelia (14) KY, and Ruby (4) CA, and sons John (CA) and Doug (NYC, VT) and their spouses, Jen and Jason.
Other notable events?
These two news events have long-lasting importance: 1) Last January’s publication of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (click the link), Gordon’s collection of essays, and 2) August’s moment of temporary insanity when we raided our retirement funds to buy a small four-season A-Frame on a wetland two and a half hours north in Minnesota.
Buying the cabin while we grow closer to buying the farm felt a bit foolish. But, hey, we got the impulse, acted on it, and are loving the simplicity of rough-cut pine, wildlife (trumpeter swans, beaver, deer, skunks, and owls), and total isolation from all electronic distractions. We build a fire in the wood stove, break out a book, write what we feel like writing, take naps, and walk Barclay (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now 4 yrs. old) down the dirt road to see what’s happening. It’s a simpler life that we savor as novel and precious.
Although Season’s Greetings normally steer clear of things political, we would be untrue to ourselves without commenting on the over-riding fact of daily life since January 20. Elijah calls the president “You-Know-Who” because we refuse to name him except in blog posts of conversations between Elijah and Grandpa about what faith calls for in the face of greed and collective madness. The cover of Be Still! — Vincent van Gogh’s, Prisoners Exercising, painted during his time in Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy — could not have been better chosen.
We count ourselves among the fortunate who have family and dear friends whose love and kindness keep our spirits focused on justice, mercy, and humility. We are so grateful for your friendship, and wish you and yours the very best of life in the Second Year of the You-Know-Who Era. Fortunately, God’s patience is longer than ours, but, as California Governor Jerry Brown said recently about climate change denial, so is God’s wrath. 😳
In the belief and hope that the cries in the wilderness count and that Love wins,
Seasons Blessings and Happy New Year,
Gordon and Kay
Andrew and Calvin
Kay and Gordon
Kristin and Elijah
- Gordon and Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 24, 2017.
I’d never thought about groceries back in Broomall. We’d drive to the Acme, fill the grocery cart, and bring the bags home. It was just part of daily life. Or so I thought.
I was 17 the day I learned about groceries in America.
Tony and I had become friends at Pennington Island, the church camp in the Delaware River, after meeting each other on the Saturday several years before when the junior-high youth groups from Marple Presbyterian Church and Berean Presbyterian Church had met during a service project at the Green Street Settlement House.
On Pennington Island the kids from Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs spent nights together in the same cabins, rose early for “morning watch”, played games, ate the same food at the same tables in the mess hall, swam in the same swimming pool, and sang hymns and spirituals like Jacob’s Ladder. We were living in the same economy while climbing somewhere together.
After the week or two on Pennington Island, the members of his ideal economy would say good-bye and return to the disparate circumstances whose differences we preferred not to know.
Ignorance was bliss. Until the day Tony visited our home in Broomall, 15 miles west of Philadelphia, and watched my mother pull into the driveway with the groceries. My mother spoke of it years later as one of those moments that opened her eyes.
As we began to unload the groceries from the ’55 Buick, Tony’s eyes grew bigger. There was more than one bag. Never had he seen multiple grocery bags. When the Lewises had a little money, they’d bring home what they needed for the day…or maybe two, on a good day. There were never five, six, seven bags of groceries.
“Sinner, do you love my Jesus,” we had sung in the egalitarian economy of Pennington Island where we were climbing higher together. But unloading the grocery bags that day in Broomall, the difference in groceries seemed more like a symptom of sin – the gulf of separation between two worlds. One home was much “higher” than the other — one white, one black; one privileged, one not — in a black and white economy.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 14, 2017.
He sits by himself in the hospital waiting room.
“Where you from?” he asks, welcoming the gowned stranger who’s come for a stress test.
“Chaska,” I answer.
“Where?” he asks over the whine from his hearing aids.
I’m not anxious to strike up a conversation. I’m here for a stress test. I’m an introvert. Talking with strangers when I’m going inside to cope with stress is the last thing I want in the waiting room.
“Chaska!” I repeat.
“Oh! I’m from Waconia! I’m Bill.”
He gives a broad smile as though we’re related. (Waconia and Chaska are neighbors in Carver County, MN.)
His gowned wife, fresh off the treadmill, interrupts the flow of the conversation.
“This is my wife, Jane. She’s a lot younger than I am. I’m 96.”
“94,” she the younger wife. “We’ve been together 15 years.”
“Chaska’s the county seat. That’s where i was sworn in.” [Clearly, he’s an extrovert.]
“World War II?”
“February 6, 1942. Eighty of us. A lot of guys from Chaska.”
“Where’d you serve?”
“He was part of D-Day,” answers Jane. Bill’s head sinks toward his lap. His chin begins to quiver. A long pause follows.
“Only 15 of us came back.”
“Were you injured?”
“No,” he says, forming his hands in prayer and looking up. “I don’t know why.” He falls again into silence.
He’s back on the beach at Normandy.
“That a lot of death. A lot of killing. A lot of loss,” I say.
He looks up and nods before dropping his head again.
“Posttraumatic Stress,” I say quietly to Jane. “I’m a pastor. I’ve seen it so many times with Vietnam War and Iraq War veterans.”
“I think so,” she says. “He still can’t talk about it after all these years.”
The technician calls my name. “Mr. Stewart?”
As I leave the waiting room, he reaches up to say good-bye with a firm handshake and friendly smile for the young guy from Chaska.
I get on the treadmill, reminded that there’s stress and there is stress, knowing that mine bears no comparison and thankful for a few moments with 94 year-old who has every reason to think he’s 96.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 27, 2017.
Funny how things come to consciousness slowly over time until, in a flash of light, what should have been obvious all along comes clearly into view.
Learning that “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not air as expected on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” because of its length, I went back to read it and hear it again over morning coffee.
Hearing the ending again –“three men in a living room — two Americans and on dead Japanese….” — I realized there were more than three. There were five.
Without the influence of the missing two, “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not have been written. It was as though the pen I had thought was in my hand had been in theirs. They had written the piece.
Who were the missing two?
My American father, the former World War II Army Air Force Chaplain on Saipan, and Kosuke Koyama, the teenage Japanese survivor of the American firebombing of Tokyo.
A father casts a long shadow over a son’s life.
Except for a poem he had written on Saipan about the flames of war lighting the night skies of the South Pacific, Dad didn’t talk about the war. During his 18 years as pastor of the Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall, Pennsylvania, Korean and Japanese students from Princeton Theological Seminary were frequent weekend guests in our home.
Kosuke Koyama, who had been a student at Princeton Seminary during my teenage years, came into my life decades later in 1996 when he moved to Minneapolis following his retirement as John D. Rockefeller, Jr Professor of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.
Might Ko have been a guest in our home way back when?
That my father and Ko might have known each other is a happy thought.
But, whether they occupied the same physical space is not as important as the large space they opened in the inheritor of their influence. Two invisible men in a living room brought the other three together in the bonds of sacred silence and the hope of something better for us all.
Funny thing! If the recording had aired yesterday on “All Things Considered”, I might still be in the dark!
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, in honor of Kenneth Campbell Stewart and Kosuke Koyama, May 30, 2017.
Elijah fought his way into the world yesterday with the push of a very weary mother. His middle name is Andrew, named after his uncle, his mother Kristin’s younger brother.
Excited by the birth, I phoned a friend. “Hey,” I said, “I’m a grandson! Kristin just had a grandfather!” The grandson weighs 190. The grandfather 8.1.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Mah 23, 2017
Four days with old friends on the coast of Maine is tonic for the weary soul.
sometimes I feel all blue
sad sorry blue
all down in minor key
a rhapsody in blue.
sometimes when blue
begins to play in me
its melody the minor
turns to major key –
blue bursts into purple
and, leaping into joy,
a burst of sun-burst yellow
pushes the blues away
and I feel un-blued
almost whole, more up,
a purple-yellow rhapsody,
an off-beat Ode to Joy.
The days with Ted Campbell, McGaw Professor (Emeritus) of Old Testament at our alma mater, became a burst of yellow joy for us all. We awarded Ted an honorary dogtorate and made him an honorary member of the Dogs with a Goofy yellow hat.
A double rainbow appeared last evening over the tidal river beyond the house where five seminary classmates and our spouses are staying this week on the coast of Maine.
It happened after a full day feasting with our seminary Old Testament professor, Edward F. (Ted) Campbell, Jr. and poet J. Barrie Shepherd on William Greenway’s For the Love of All Creatures: the Story of Grace in Genesis in this time of climate departure. The five seminary friends, once seven, who call ourselves “The Old Dogs” or “The Gathering” have convened annually from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Arizona, and Minnesota for study and fellowship for the past 20 years.
Just moments before the rainbows appeared, we were entertained by two seagulls begging for treats. One of them ate a Pepperidge Farm “goldfish” our of my hand – twice. Snatch! The goldfish was gone. Down the seagull’s gullet. My hand was fine.
Then the first rainbow appeared. Followed by another. Almost as beautiful was the reflection of the sun from the yellow grasses on the far shore of the tidal river at the foot of the rainbows. The seagull and the rainbows were like exclamation points to Greenway’s case that we are seized by the love of all creatures.
“Maybe there really IS a God 😂!” I said to my seminary roommate. “You know there is,” Mr. Stewart,” said Wayne.
Early this morning at dawn there is a very aggressive seagull incessantly banging on the sliding glass door between my living room chair and the deck demanding more cheddar goldfish!
- Gordon C. Stewart, Scarborough, Maine, May 2, 2017.
Today marks the first public review of the book that was born three months ago.
Click “Essays to explain collective madness” to read former Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus’s review of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness. And HERE for his citation from Be Still! in his column yesterday “When the forces of fear rule”.
Then, if you’re feeling kind toward a postpartum depression author dependent on the kindness of friends to help his baby grow up, use your email or FB page to share the review. If you’re on FaceBook, you can also “Share” the review from Bill Tammeus’s or Bob Todd’s FB pages.
Thanks for considering and have a great day!
Gordon in Chaska, MN, April 19, 2017.
“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, Oh what a relief it is!”
Writing a book is one thing. Promoting it is another.
I love the one. The other gives me a stomach ache. I sip joy as I write. I gulp down anxiety just thinking about the book’s material success (i.e., number of sales!). Which is why I’m so grateful to “Speedy” – Bob Todd of Bob Todd Publicity – for relieving me of the gastric distress of promoting Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness.
Bob posted on my FaceBook page page today.
I’m delighted to be spreading the word about Gordon Stewart’s new book, “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness” from Wipf & Stock Publishers.
”Be Still! is needed at this American moment of collective madness even more than the moments that occasioned many of the essays originally airing on public radio and other venues. With a keen eye and a knack for telling the right story at the right time, Rev. Stewart speaks to the pressing issues in our politics, economy, and culture, and consistently, often poignantly, puts them in ethical and theological perspective that clarifies what too often mystifies. Great bedside reading for those of us who stay up at night concerned about where our world is heading!”
–Michael McNally, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Carleton College; Author of Honoring Elders
I have gratis copies available for media interested in doing a book review or feature article, and for professors interested in considering the book for their classroom.
Contact me direct at BT@BobToddPublicity.com.
As for the Alka Selzer, remember what Speedy says,”take only as directed!” Then, slow down, be still, and leave your anxious madness behind! Who knows? With Bob’s bromide, I might yet become still – and know that I’m not God.😳
- Gordon C. Stewart, thankful for Speedy’s relief, Chaska, MN, March 5, 2017.