Two Little Boys with Matches

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Happy Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.

Remember when you used to play with matches and your mother told you not to? Remember when you aimed a toy gun at a friend and your father told you not to?

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Maybe not.

Maybe the adults in your home never told you “No”. In that case, you may understand what it might have been like growing up as a child who would lead the United States or North Korea, playing with the bigger matches that can light the fuses of nuclear holocaust on Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.

Saint Valentine’s Day celebrates love; Ash Wednesday observes our mortal nature. Love and death are side by side on February 14, 2018 when wine and chocolates coalesce with dust and ashes.

Is it too much to hope today that two adult boys with matches will be parented by nations that impose the discipline they lacked as little boys? Is it too much to pray they put away the “sticks and stones” they throw across the Pacific Ocean, burn their match sticks into ashes before they burn the house down, and send each other a Happy Valentine’s Day card and some chocolates?

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Ash Wednesday ashes and Saint Valentine’s Day chocolates

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Ash Wednesday and Saint Valentine’s Day, Chaska, MN, Feb. 14, 2018.

 

 

 

Visual Poetry: Go fly a kite

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A kite flying above the Illinois prairie invites the viewer to hear the Sound of Silence.

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“Visual Poetry” – Photo by Steve Shoemaker, 2014

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Steve Shoemaker welcoming President Bill Clinton to Champaign-Urbana. IL

Steve Shoemaker, the 6’8″ kite-flying poet whose poetry blessed Views from the Edge readers, shared this photo from the Shoemaker prairie home near Urbana, Illinois in 2014.

Steve didn’t live to see the changing of the guard one year ago today. On the anniversary of the 2017 inauguration, pancreatic cancer has silenced Steve’s Views from the Edge posts, but his poetry and “Visual Poetry,” as he called this photograph, still speak clearly. Like the kite in the photograph and the photo of Steve towering over President Bill Clinton, Steve still invites us to “go fly a kite” for a better time. RIP.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 20, 2018.

 

Martin Luther King Day 2018 – Making America Great Again

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Today Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream seems further from reality than it was a year ago. Events of 2018 have turned America into an international horror show, a source of ridicule among our closest traditional allies, and the home less of the brave than of white supremacy and white nationalist movements that are making America small again.

Dr. King called for making America great. Not great according the past reign of white supremacy and nationalism which we thought we’d overcome, but great as a lofty aspiration and spiritual-moral-economic task.

Every day we choose what greatness is. Every day we choose what to believe. Every day we choose who we are and who we will become. Dr. King’s own voice says it best.

“The long arc of history bends toward justice.” I do believe. I have to believe deep in my heart that we shall overcome someday. To do less would be to die before I die.

— Gordon C. Stewart, MLK Day, January 15, 2018.

 

The Future Perfect President

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Elijah and Grandma are playing peek-a-boo this morning after his mother texted last night that Elijah is “the p-e-r-f-e-c-t baby.” He’s not. He has a cold, and Grandma doesn’t have Kleenex or a handkerchief. She needs your help. Get some Kleenex or a hanky and  take a good look at America’s future perfect President.

 

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, hours before Elijah’s doctor’s appointment this afternoon, January 12, 2018.

 

Grandpa, what’s faith?

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Grandpa, who’s Faith?

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Elijah reading

She’s our good friend, Elijah. We don’t see her very often. You’ve only met her once. You were too little to remember Faith. You were just a newborn.  Why are you asking about Faith? Was Grandma talking with Faith on the phone?

No. You were just talking about her! Sometimes I wonder, Grandpa. You just said her name! Remember?

Oh, THAT faith! That’s not Faith. That’s faith.

Are you in love with Faith, Grandpa?

No, THAT kind of faith isn’t Faith, it’s right next to love, but it’s not that kind of love.

Grandma says you sometimes preached over peoples’ heads. I asked Grandma what preaching over peoples’ heads means. She told me. I think you’re doing it again in retirement. Grandma says you can’t help yourself. I bet Faith thinks the same thing. That’s why she doesn’t come around anymore.

Elijah, you’re getting a little sassy this morning. That diminishes my faith in our ability to have a good conversation. Maybe we put faith away for awhile until after we’ve taken our naps.

Okay. What’s sassy?

Sassy is smart-alecky, being too big for your britches. It’s not nice. It’s not like love.

I’m sorry, Grandpa. What are britches?

They’re pants. They’re what you wear over your Huggies. Being too big for your britches is like forgetting you’re little.

Okay. What about Hope? Is she coming over?

No, hope isn’t a person. Hope is like the faith Grandpa was reading about this morning. It’s what Paul was talking about: faith, hope, and love.

I don’t mean to be sassy, but Paul wasn’t here this morning! Only Grandma, you, and me, Grandpa!

Oh, not THAT Paul. Not our next door neighbor. This Paul’s been dead now for two thousand years, but he’s still speaking. We still read his letters from Corinth, Galatia, and Ephesus. I was reading from his letter about faith, hope, and love. Remember?

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Probably Valentin de Boulogne – Saint Paul Writing His Epistles – Google Art Project

Yeah. But I still don’t know what faith is. What’s faith?

You know how when you wake up in the morning you trust that Mom’s going to take good care of you? That’s faith. Faith is trust. And faith doesn’t stop after we’re out of our diapers. Faith lasts a lifetime; it’s one of life’s essentials. We all have faith of some sort or another. But like Paul says, it’s still not as great as love. Love’s the best.

“Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.” – Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:13  [CEB]

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I love you, Grandpa, and I have faith in you. But you’re making me really tired. And, because you love me, too, I hope we can take a nap sooner rather than later before things get sassy again.

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa Gordon) with seven-and-a-half-month-old Grandson, Elijah, Chaska, MN, January 10, 2018.

 

 

 

Seasons Greetings

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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.happy-holidays

Dear Friends,

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

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Cabin

Andrew and Calvin

Andrew and Calvin

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Kay and Gordon

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Cabin wetland

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Kristin and Elijah

  • Gordon and Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 24, 2017.

Grandpa, what’s joy?

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Grandpa, what’s joy? Is it like happiness?

Good morning, Elijah! What brought that up?

Mom keeps singing “Joy to the world”! What’s joy? What’s the world?

Joy is deep gladness, Elijah. Happiness is like joy, but joy is deeper. It has to do with who you and and an inexplainable assurance about you, your Mom, and the world. It’s a deep inner gladness. You show it to me every day.  Don’t let the world take away your gladness, Elijah!

Okay, Grandpa! But what’s with that third stanza, that thing about the curse?

Oh, that! “No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make his blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.”

Yeah, that. What’s the curse, Grandpa? We’re not supposed to curse, right?

Right. But this is a different kind of curse. It’s the curse of selfishness and greed that bring sorrow to the world.

Isaac Watts — he’s the one who wrote the words to “Joy to the World” for Christmas — knew all about selfishness and greed when he wrote “Joy to the World” way back in 1719. Isaac was English. He knew all about colonialism and the nations.

Yeah, my baby-sitter really loves that last stanza about the nations! She says American exceptionalism is a curse. She really likes that fourth stanza. “He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.”

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, December 20, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping Up: Running for Congress

Moments ago Tabitha Isner, a highly respected friend and ministerial colleague, sent an email announcing she’s running for Congress.

You can meet Tabitha and learn why she’s running on her campaign website Tabitha Isner for Congress, on FaceBook, or that thing that issues early morning messages that make us groan: Twitter.

Tabitha is the only Tabitha I’ve ever met in person. I do remember another Tabitha whose Bewitched TV  sit-com daughter Samantha could change the world with the twitch of her nose. Tabitha is no Samantha! knows it will take more than the twitch of a nose to make democracy work in America.

Thank you, Tabitha, for stepping up and stepping out.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN

 

I want to be an olive tree

I love olives. I love the Psalms. Well . . . some of them . . . some times. Partly. Like the Psalm that greeted me this morning at the cabin far from the news.

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Old olive tree in Karystos, Euboia, Greece

Maybe you’ll like it too.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
Your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor,
you who practice deceit.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth;

You love every harmful word,
O you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you
down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and
tear you from your tent:
He will uproot you from
the land of the living.

The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at him, saying
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his wealth
and grew strong by
destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God . . . .
(Psalm 52:1-8a, NIV)

I am not righteous. But I do fear.

I just want to be an olive tree. Like the olive tree that produced the twig the dove brought back to the ark signaling to Noah that the flood was over.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, truck stop near cabin in northern MN, November 3, 2017.

 

H.L. Mencken — American prophet

H.L. Mencken wrote it in The Baltimore Evening Sun, Sunday, July 26, 1920:
“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”
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Henry Louis Mencken @The Baltimore Evening Sun

Mencken was known as “the Sage of Baltimore.” These days, I listen to Bill Moyers, Christopher Hedges, and watch the PBS News Hour Friday nights with Mark Shields and David Brooks.
David Brooks’ “The Week Trump Won” (Oct. 26 NYT) confirms — in chilling detail  — H.L. Mencken’s status as a prophet. Yet it ends with the faint hope that the better angels of the American character still lie buried in the people’s DNA, waiting for a spokesperson, a leader, to give voice to sanity and vision.
– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Oct. 28, 2017.