Mom! I’m not a fetus anymore!!!

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Elijah doesn’t like being confined. He’s screaming for release from his swaddle!

Maybe Elijah already knows about Martin Sostre held in solitary confinement at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, and the warden who allowed him only one hour of freedom in the prison yard . . . or about the 2016 prison revolt when the Dannemora inmates refused to return to their cells from the exercise yard.

“Mom! Stop acting acting like a warden! I love to drink and stuff… but I’m not a fetus anymore! I need some exercise! And stop calling me Elijah; my name is Martin!”

Perhaps the swaddle is to little Elijah’s mind what solitary confinement was to the protesting Martin: a violation of the human rights to the free exercise of speech and bodily movement for the purpose of allowing the warden . . .  or the Mom . . .  to sleep securely through the night.

But there’s a big difference between the two. When Martin Sostre made a lot of noise, Marin was confined to his swaddle while the warden slept soundly miles away.  When Elijah – or is it Martin? – protests every hour or so through the night –“Mom! I’m not a fetus anymore!”– his mother is crying in the same cell.

Elijah smiling in swaddleThis morning their roles have switched. Elijah’s sleepless mother is a weary protester; the well-fed rioter is sleeping happily in his swaddle.

  • Shared against prison regulations by an adoring grandfather in Chaska, MN, May 28, 2017.

 

 

 

Elijah’s face

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Elijah calm

Five day old Elijah

Looking at the contentment on Elijah’s face, do you suppose he’s already read grandpa’s Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness or has memorized grandpa’s favorite psalm, Psalm 46? I wish I could be this calm, this cool, this collected, this still.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
    though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.

[Psalm 46, NRSV]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 26, 2017

The Amish Pope with the Trumps

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The Amish don’t like cameras. Humility tells them to shun photographs. Why? Because a photograph draws attention to oneself. Christ calls a human being to be humble. Christ calls a person to be modest. Christ calls a person to take a place in the community and to shun “the English” love of ostentation and self-aggrandizement.

There are no Bentleys or Fords among the Amish, no one-percent and 99 percent, or, if there is the latter, no one can tell it by the buggies they drive. It’s the community that counts. They all wear black.

Maybe the president and his family thought the Pope was Amish? Although the Pope is robed in white linen, the Pope’s facial expression leaves one to wonder whether perhaps the Trumps were right.

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American Gothic and the Amish Pope

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 26, 2017.

A very sad little man

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A video is worth a thousand words. A push. A “get outta my way” shove. The quickly changing facial expression. The peacock fanning his tail. So much for the conversation with Pope Francis: “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” It stuck like silly putty. Or…like water off the back of a very sad little man. The President misunderstood the Pope’s quotation from John 14. “In my Father’s house there’s only enough room for me.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 26, 2017.

Do newborns smile?

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Taking his first bath, newborn Elijah Andrew smiled his deep dimple smile, looking toward his mother cooing to him from her hospital bed following emergency surgery.

Newborns don’t really smile, I’ve been told. Their faces change because of gas or for some other bodily reason. But, looking at Elijah’s face, how can anyone doubt that Elijah is smiling at the sound of his mother’s voice?

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Elijah Andrew, 8.1 lbs., 21 inches with huge shoulders and smile and dimpled smile.

After smiling at his mother, Elijah was heard to say to the nurse who was bathing him, “What you talking about? Baby’s DO smile! I’d know that voice anywhere. I’ve been with her everywhere she’s gone for almost nine months.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 24, 2017.

Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet

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“Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” is read aloud here from Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (p. 10f.). This recording is not as professional as it will be this weekend when it airs on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” This practice run starts out a little mushy! But it’s good enough that Day1.org posted it yesterday on their site.

Many thanks to Chuck Lieber for making it possible to turn “Be Still!” into a podcast.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 24, 2017.

Shout! Shout! Elijah rocks!

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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

Naming the (step)grandchild

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When the Chinese waitperson who has mixed two Kettle One martinis with twists and a yellowfin tuna roll listens carefully to the reason you’re at Sake Sushi — your pregnant step-daughter is being induced into labor two weeks before her due date because of high blood pressure — responds to your inappropriate question about a good name for the baby (it’s a boy) with “PETER!”, could she be the voice of God?

Just wondering. I’ve enjoyed two Kettle One martinis!

By morning I expect the baby to leave the womb. We shall see whether he is Jackson, Elijah, Eli, Micah. . . or Peter!

Pray for the mother, the child, and the weary grandmother at the hospital.

  • Gordon, safely home from Sake Sushi in Chaska, MN, May 20, 2017.

Thank you, Frederick Buechner

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Today Day1.org features “The Seagull and the Rainbow” right beside Frederick Buechner, whose writings influenced me as a young preacher and pastor.

Frederick Buechner

Frederick Buechner

Thanks to Peter Wallace of Day1 for putting the student next to a man he unconsciously aspired to be. I’m older now . . .  and the distant iconic mentor who had no reason to know his mentee’s name is older still but no less alive to faith and life!

Years ago the Council of Churches in Cincinnati invited a Canadian publisher to publish “The Cincinnati Prayer Book,” a collection of prayers for the year by Cincinnati religious leaders. I was Pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church at the time. The publisher asked whether I would be interested in publishing a collection of sermons.

I recall the conversation in my office as if it were yesterday. I thought I smelled a rat.

“Are you a vanity press?” I asked.

They assurance me they were not. “The Startling Kindness of God” moved forward, including an endorsement from Frederick Buechner. But Fred’s letter to me included a private comment that changed how I preached and wrote. The sermons were good, he said, followed by a devastating “but”: “but I find them rather bloodless. I want to see some of your blood in them.”

Listening to your lifeI learned laster that he was working on Listening to Your Life. Reading my sermons, he seemed to sense I was not listening to mine. I wasn’t.

When the final contract appeared, the publisher required that I sell 300 copies of the sermon collection. I tore up the contract. The bloodless sermons are in a box in my closet, wondering why they were never published.

I have no reason to believe Fred Buechner has any recollection of that or that he remembers my name. But his combination of affirmation and warning began to change the way I preach and write. To appear next to Frederick Buechner today is a serendipitous occasion of joy and thanks. Thank you, Fred. I’m holding out a goldfish after all these years.

Thank you, Peter, for posting “The Seagull and the Rainbow” on Day1.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, May 20, 2017, Chaska, MN.

 

 

 

 

Glooming Gus at the Precipice

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This otherwise cheerful morning – the sun is bright, the sky is blue, the air is brisk, the flowers are blooming – I open my eyes to find myself standing again before the precipice.

“I don’t know whether we’re on the edge of the precipice,” said Louis de Guidos, “but we’re in in a very, very, very difficult situation.”

He was speaking of the Spanish and European economy, but his description is suited to the crisis in which the world now finds itself in the aftermath of a global cyber attack and men-children in North Korea and the U.S.A. with nuclear arsenals at their fingertips.

“At times, we forget the magnitude of the havoc we can wreak by off-loading our minds onto super-intelligent machines, that is, until they run away from us, like mad sorcerers’ apprentices, and drag us up to the precipice for a look down into the abyss.” – Richard Dooling.

A lesser known author wrote on this topic:

“It’s one thing to play with toys. It’s something else when the toys are nuclear bombs and missiles.

“Our time is perilously close to mass suicide. Unless and until we get it straight that I and we are not the center of the universe, the likes of Kim Jong-un – and his mirror opposites but like-minded opponents on this side of the Pacific – will hold us hostage to the madness that lurks in human goodness.

“‘Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else?’ asked Dr. King. ‘The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.'” -“Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans: Little Boys with Toys,” Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness, p. 77.

Just because a person’s a gloomy Gus doesn’t mean it’s not gloomy. 🙄

  • Gordon C. Stewart, gloomy Gus, at the precipice in Chaska, MN, May 17, 2016.