The Best and Worst Sellers Lists

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Publishing is a pain in the neck; marketing what’s been published moves the pain down the spine to a lower place of an author’s anatomy. Unless, of course, the book makes the Best Sellers’ List because your publisher is one of the decreasing number of corporate giants who do the marketing and have the connections.

Small publishing houses like Wipf and Stock and its authors are ancestors of the poor man Lazarus left to pick up the crumbs from the rich man’s table. We do what we can to catch the reading public’s attention with an occasional success. But, without divine intervention, few, if any, make it to the New York Times Best Sellers list.

So, for the sake of all things just and fair, we herby propose an “alternative” list: The Worst Sellers List, and offer readers one of the “dog-eared” crumbs that fell from the table yesterday to a dog on The Worst Sellers List:

My reason for this email is to let you know that I have just finished reading your wonderful BE Still. We all need a “Departure from Collective Madness” and your book has been such a breath of sanity in the midst of this messy world. I’m grateful to you for your book. I read it, as someone else who has a copy is also reading theirs – one entry at a time on any given day.

I began to read your book and the very first thing I underlined was the instruction from “The Brothers of Opal Street.”*[see explanatory note below] I can’t tell you how many people I have told of that instruction of theirs, and the very wise pastor who passed on the message to us. The idea that we must change things where we live, instead of being the saviors to the poor in the ghetto, is such a powerful message.

Following from that, I went on to dog-ear the prayer from the Book of Common Worship. That prayer is so familiar to me and I love it. It’s not part of any prayers I learned in the Catholic school, but probably one I picked up from the “religion” of the other side of my family. As you may remember, or not, my parents came from two different backgrounds. Mom was very Catholic. My dad’s side followed no particular religious persuasion, with grandpa and my aunt never seeming to attend any church. My paternal Grandma Allie was Baptist, Presbyterian, or Congregational, depending on the Minister and the music. She loved the traditional hymns of her earlier years and they were often heard by me as she listened to her radio when she couldn’t get about and lived with us in our home. Also, Grandma had my mother join her Congregational church group aptly named The Friendly Circle, where every meeting began with a hymn and a Bible verse. I often went along to these meetings. There were probably no baby sitters available. As I grew older I went to baby sit the younger children there.

My underlining and “dog-earing” pages increased as I read of your liberal philosophy, your concern for the direction of this country and humanity as a whole, and your concern for all people of various colors, and persuasions. This diversity thing has become probably my greatest issue and concern. It’s so good to read the views of someone who shares the same perspective. With grandchildren who are half Afghan and whose Grandfather spent much time in Gaza working with USAID, a daughter who teaches the Ojibwe language and mentors Native students, another daughter married to a fellow who is Jewish, I have come to appreciate various perspectives and religions. I am thankful for all this learning. I find it goes a long way when dealing with folks who can be quite narrow in their thinking and really have no experience with other perspectives on a one to one basis.

Before this gets any longer I just want to say, “thanks again for the wonderful book.”

* The Brothers of Opal Street are honored in Be Still!‘s Acknowledgements. Remembering them again so many years later is appropriate to the date on the calendar: Juneteenth.

Last, but by no means least, is a group of men who would be shocked to find themselves mentioned anywhere but in a courtroom.

“The Brothers of Opal Street,” as they called themselves, eight black homeless former inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary, had a farewell conversation at the end of August, 1962 with me, a naive nineteen year-old church street outreach worker. As we sat on the stoop of a boarded up tenement on Opal Street, they said good-bye with a startling instruction not to return to the ghetto. “Go back to ‘your people’ and change things there. Only when things change there will there be hope for the people here.” What they called “my people” were in the white western suburb of Philadelphia. I have come to believe that lsat day on Opal Street was its own kind of ordination. This book is in memory of them. – Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, p. xiv.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 19 — Juneteenth — 2017.

I wish I were a newborn…

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. . . like two-week-old grandson Elijah.

Without malice. Or guile. Insincerity. Envy. Or slanderous speech. A disciple of Jesus who has been fed by the Beatitudes, and by First Peter to:

“Rid yourselves . . . of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation . . . (I Peter 2:1-2a).

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 6, 2017.

Blind Christopher opens eyes

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Some things bring tears to even the hardest of hearts. Christopher Duffley, the blind autistic 11 year-old does that here. Even those with hearts of stone might shed a tear “seeing” Christopher sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart”.

Whoo-woo! I hear a rumblin’

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Some days, when I’m weary, I hear the rumblin’ wheels of the gospel train rolling through the land. The song of the American slaves speaks its hope to me in this later age of collective madness.

The Gospel train’s comin’
I hear it just at hand
I hear the car wheel rumblin’
And rollin’ thro’ the land

Get on board little children
Get on board little children
Get on board little children
There’s room for many more

I hear the train a-comin’
She’s comin’ round the curve
She’s loosened all her steam and brakes
And strainin’ ev’ry nerve

The fare is cheap and all can go
The rich and poor are there
No second class aboard this train
No difference in the fare

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Whoo-wooing for the fairer train from Chaska, MN, May 11, 2017.

 

Day One – and the Last Day

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Peter Wallace, Day1.org

Good news came early this morning from Peter Wallace of Day1.org.

“It (i.e. The Seagull and the Double Rainbow, previously published on Views from the Edge) will be on our homepage Saturday May 20—Saturdays are our biggest traffic day.”

Thanks to Bob Todd for introducing Peter Wallace to Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness and to Peter for featuring “Homeland Militarization” on Day1 several weeks ago.

seagull in ScarboroughEarlier today we published Dan Balz Washington Post piece on the firing of James Comey and the need to search for the truth behind the firing. Maybe the insistent seagull that kept banging away on the glass door is a model for people seeking the truth behind the curiously-timed, sudden firing that sent White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer into hiding in the White House bushes.

Maybe at the same time we could look at the beauty of the rainbow for a quieter critical perspective. Stillness comes hard on days like this. Anger and confusion come more easily. But the friendly word from Peter Wallace, and that moment last week on the Maine coast with the seagull and the double rainbow remind me that no day, in the end, belongs to the darkness or the proud.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 10, 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.

 

 

Early Morning Shape Notes

I wake up with a tune in my head. It’s lovely. It’s simple. It’s familiar. But I can’t remember the words except for something about going through deep waters. Grinding the coffee beans, more of the line comes to consciousness.

“When through the deep waters I cause thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

It’s an American “shape notes” folk tune that voices lyrics written earlier by an unidentified author named ‘K-‘ in a collection by John Rippon from 1787.

The subconscious knows better than the conscious mind. It deals with deep waters. It knows better our deep sorrows threatening to overflow the banks. It knows about troubles and deepest distress. It also knows something else: a kind of unreasonable assurance, a hope against every reason to hope that something deeper than our fears and anxiety will shape the notes, will shift the shape of things to come.

Shape notes, sometimes called ‘character notes’ and ‘patent notes’, reflect our deeper character, but none of us holds the patent-right.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 16, 2017, 5:34 a.m.

 

Truth alone is strong

In this moment of “the strife of truth and falsehood,” the Notre Dame organ voices the assurance of hope spoken by James Russell Lowell in the hymn “Once to Every Man and Nation.” “Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet truth alone is strong. ”

The Sound of Trumpets in the Morning

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Times such as this beg for an historical perspective. According to a Jewish legend, what Satan missed most after falling from heaven was the sound of the trumpets in the morning. This sermon was preached the Sunday before the 2012 U.S. election.