Sinner, do you have my groceries?

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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.

groceriesI 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.

NLIOn 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.

7769907-1955-buick-special-std-cAs 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.

 

 

 

Bill in the Waiting Room

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cardiac-investigations-for-acute-coronary-syndrome-5-638He 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.

DDay120606121335-d-day-01-horizontal-large-galleryHe’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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five men in a living room

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.

My father, the Chaplain, on board ship to Saipan, WW!!. RIP

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 – RIP

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Shout! Shout! Elijah rocks!

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.

Shout! Shout!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Mah 23, 2017

A Burst of Yellow

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.

Purple yellow Iris

Purple-Yellow Iris

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.

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Goofy hat

The Seagull and a double rainbow

seagull in ScarboroughA 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.

pepperidge-farm-goldfish-cheddar-DbXv3l-clipartJust 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.

 

A Review and a Request

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.

 

 

“Oh what a relief it is!”

“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.

 

 

Steve Shoemaker’s Legacy

Click After husband’s death, wife steps in as teen’s mentor for the story of Steve Shoemaker’s continuing legacy through Nadja, Steve’s life partner, and their mentee.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Your works do follow you. RIP.

Thank you, Nadja, for continuing the legacy.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 29, 2017.

Old Friends on FaceBook

Ted Bonsall and I became lifelong friends back in Kindergarten in Broomall, Pennsylvania. We played ball in each other’s yards every day for years. I have pictures to prove it!

All these years later, FaceBook invited me to wish Ted (“Russell”) Happy Birthday!”

FaceBook wasn’t around way back in 1947 in Broomall. It didn’t know Ted then and doesn’t seem to know him now. Although Ted died of cancer several years ago, his Facebook page is still up. Like memory itself, his page can never be erased by time.

Miss you, good buddy!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, December 22, 2016