Winners and Losers

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Minnesotans were big losers last night. The Vikings lost 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, “Grumpy Old Men”

Floridians were also losers. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost 24-20 to the New England Patriots.

Minnesotans and the North Floridians are both grumpy today. But there’s on big difference between the grumpy old men facing a depressing winter on the Florida coast and the Minnesotans up north in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Minnesota ice fishing houses

We get to go ice fishing!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018

 

RAPIDLY. BLINKING.

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Elijah laughing with Grandma – pure joy

A good laugh is medicine for the soul. Marilyn Armstrong’s SERENDIPITY post “RAPIDLY. BLINKING.” brought Norman Cousins to mind the day of the shutdown.

SERENDIPITY

I was standing next to the bed. Blinking. Rapidly. Garry looked at me. I must have appeared to be in pain or something because he said: “Are you okay?”

He can’t blink.

“Yes,” I said, blinking and frowning. “I was putting the gunk on my rash? So after that, I washed my hands. I must not have washed them enough, because I think I touched my eyes and now my eyes are burning. I suppose I got some of the gunk in my eyes.”

By then, I was trying to rub my eyes with the back of my wrists since apparently my fingers were not eye-worthy.

Garry started to laugh. Then I started to laugh. We both kept laughing.

“One thing always leads to another,” I cackled.

He went back to watching the movie. I found the eye drops. Everything is hilarious. Of course, I suppose it could also be tragic and dramatic.

It’s…

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Grandpa, what’s a shutdown?

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Elijah with Grandpa: “I don’t like that, Grandpa!”

Watching the news last night, Elijah was worried.

Grandpa! What’s a shutdown?

Well, Elijah, let me think. You’re just eight-months old. Let’s try this. If your Mom decided not to feed you anymore, that would be a shutdown.

Mom’s not going to feed me anymore? Mom and I were on the NEWS?

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Elijah with Mom

No, no, Mom’s not going to shutdown your feeding. She loves you very much. I’m just saying that’s what a shutdown is like.

So, who’s being shutdown?

The government.

What’s a government?

It’s what keeps us together in a democracy.

What’s a democracy?

Actually, I mis-spoke. We’re not a democracy. We’re a democratic Republic, a representative democracy. We govern ourselves by electing people to represent us in Congress and the Presidency.

Did all those people die? Did they get shutdown?

No, Elijah, they’re the ones who are threatening to shutdown the government.

Why, Grandpa?

Because they’ve forgotten why they’re there. They’re confusing government with a sandbox. It’s not. The government belongs to the American people. They’re acting like kindergarteners throwing sand at each other in the kindergarten sandbox. If they keep doing this, there’s be no sand left. The sandbox itself will be gone. It’ll all be shut down.

I don’t like that, Grandpa, and I don’t like the way you’re talking. You’re making fun of kindergarteners!

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Kindergarteners working together in the sandbox

You’re right, Elijah, I shouldn’t make fun of kindergarteners. Kindergarteners are better than that. They’re adults. They’re not acting like children. If they acted like children, we might be better off. Like the psalmist said,

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 82:3)

Thanks, Grandpa. I like the psalmist. Will their Moms shut them down if they shut down the government?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 19, 2018.

AN AMERICAN DILEMMA

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Kay in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Kay Stewart in the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area

Gordon has asked me to write a post encouraging readers to feed their brains a most remarkable, very long, edited version of The Age of Outrage, a lecture by Professor Jonathan Haidt.

Once I disciplined myself to stay with it, I couldn’t get enough. Brain food provided by a most remarkable mind-chef. Haidt has thought about our present state of polarized dialogue for a long time.

This lecture illuminates and translates and fascinates. Best of all, it frustrates FEAR and illustrates HOPE—something sorely needed in our current collective stalemate.  Power-packed with research, it articulates the issues clear as a bell. But, only if you are patient and keep reading.

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Haidt provided me brain food, lifting me from maze-filled conundrums of ugliness to a way to some light at the end of a well worn tunnel called civilization.

I do have hope and always have—this Eeyore-soul of mine just can’t live in doom for very long while alive—but I now see an articulated way through the despair, as this wise professor has a bigger brain than any I’m used to reading. So wise. So substantial.

Lifting up a few highlights from my personal enthusiasm:

  1. For years, I have been saying “If we don’t educate our children, teach them how to think, we simply won’t have a democracy to save.” Haidt says it too. Vindication is sweet. Of course others have said it many times, repeatedly, yet it still remains on the bottom of the list of our national priorities and funding
  2. Raising our children to handle “undifferentiated play”. When my youngest was in a progressive Austin, Texas elementary school, the school district eliminated the only free time in his entire day—20 minutes on the playground after lunch. The rest of his day was organized, supervised and regulated. Since the Vietnam War Moratorium days, it was the closest I ever came to carrying a protest sign in front of the school with other mothers who cared deeply about their kids getting a chance to develop social wisdom, a skill cultivated by kinds when allowed to be themselves with a pocket of free time all among equals on the school playground. A skill they will be required to be good at in negotiating the rest of their social lives.

So, in a nutshell, I recommend you read this transcript. Print it out and carry it around. Anchor it, tether it to the status quo. Believe in the power of a changing paradigm. We sorely need it about now.

  • Kay Stewart, Chaska, MN

Click “The Age of Outrage: What the current political climate is doing to our country and our universities” to read and comment on Jonathan Heidt’s reflections.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 19, 2018.

 

 

 

A speck in the sand

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Sometimes I feel like a speck in the sand. My insignificance to the shifting sands of time once led me to despair. But the shifting sands of later years have turned the sense of smallness into awe and gratitude. Joshi Daniel’s photo “A Speck in the Sand” inspires a joyful meditation.

Joshi and I met at The College of Wooster. My recollection is that Joshi cleverly disguised himself as an empty pew while I was in the pulpit in McGaw Chapel.  Just two specks in the sand temporarily shifted to India and Minnesota.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 16, 2018

Joshi Daniel Photography

Photograph of Dinu Varghese sitting on a sand dune in United Arab Emirates Dinu Varghese | United Arab Emirates

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Elijah: “Grandpa, What’s Hope?”

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Elijah @ seven-an-half months

Grandpa and Elijah’s conversation about love and faith led to further conversation about hope. Like most conversations between a seven-and-a-half month old grandson and a 75 year old grandfather, it’s a bit convoluted.

Grandpa, now that I know all about love and faith, tell me about hope.

I hope you don’t mind my saying so, Elijah, but you’ll never know all about love or faith or hope, but that’s okay. You’ll learn later how little even the oldest people on the planet know.

We’re on a planet?!!!

The Good, Good Earth: Our Island Home

NASA photo of planet Earth

Yes, we’re on planet Earth.

Wow! Where’s Earth? Will I ever get to go somewhere else?

No, I don’t think so. We’re Earthlings. Earth is our home.

Uh-uh. Edina’s my home! Mom said so. And my daycare’s somewhere else. You’re messing with my brain, Grandpa!

Well, Edina and Chaska aren’t planets. They’re tiny towns on planet Earth in the Milky Way in a vast universe.

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Milky Way galaxy

Mom loves Milky Ways. I hope someday I can have one. I hope Mom will share one of her Milky Ways when I start eating solids.

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Milky Ways

Aha! See, you ALREADY know what hope is!

So hope’s like hunger?

Sort of. I hadn’t thought of it as hunger, but I guess it is in a way. Hope is food for the soul. Hope is desire for something you don’t yet have, or for what you haven’t yet become.

Like being able to walk, right?

Yes. Like that. Hope is always ahead of us. We’re always reaching toward it. Hope requires us to crawl rather than run. It’s a slow crawl. It’s hard. It’s the opposite of despair.

Pretty soon I’ll be done with hope! I’ll just need faith and love, right? I’m going to walk pretty soon. I can just feel it in my bones! I’m certain of it. I don’t need hope!

Yes you do, Elijah. You do. You can’t be certain of anything. You could get hit by a car and die before you learn to walk and talk.

That’s mean, Granda! Why’d you say that? So life is cruel. God’s mean! I’m going be an atheist!

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Hope and Despair

Well, you can be, if you want. But atheism is its own kind of certainty. Certainty is the opposite of faith, Elijah, and, like we already talked about, everyone has some kind of faith. And despair is the opposite of hope. Everyone has some kind of faith and hope. Otherwise we’d be in despair. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”

Yeah, like the planet. We can’t see the planet, right, Granda? We have faith and hope for the planet, right?

Right. Planet Earth is in danger right now, Elijah. I want you to grow up on the good green Earth the way I did, and I’m sad because I’m afraid you won’t. The Milky Way’s not in danger, but Earth is.

Yeah! I sure hope Mom drives carefully on the way to daycare! I’ll tell her to leave her Milky Ways in tiny Edina. Otherwise Earth might get eaten up!

— Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa), Chaska, MN, January 13, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS THERE LIFE WITHOUT COMPUTERS?

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Cabin life is nice when I can get it, but Marilyn Armstrong’s wonky SERENDIPITY sense of reality (SCROLL DOWN) did it again this morning. It brought me to my senses with a chuckle.

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Author David McCullough at manual typewriter

Only David McCullough with his manual typewriter is exempt. David does all his writing from his trusty manual typewriter. No word processor cutting, pasting, erasing.

I’m no David McCullough! Neither is Marilyn. But only one of us is forthright about the computer addiction.

Marilyn and I have never met face-to-face. We became “friends” through the blogosphere. But I did meet David McCullough years ago while hosting him as Moderator of the Westminster Town Hall Forum. Wise. Genuinely self-effacing. Humble. And wise in an “old-fashioned” sort of way.

Enjoy Marilyn’s lovely post,

Gordon

SERENDIPITY

You see stuff online — Facebook mostly — about “could you live in this lovely (log cabin) house (in the middle of really nowhere) without WiFi? And everyone says “Oh sure! I could live in that great little house — in the middle of a huge woods by a cold lake where the nearest shopping center is 50 miles on dirt roads — forever without so much as a VOIP phone.

Sure you could. NOT.

I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t even want to try. Because that’s not life or at least not my life.

There was a time when I could imagine a life without computers. I think that was before I owned a computer, before every house everywhere had one or many computers. Before every single thing in the house got “connected” and computerized in some way. Before your toilet got so smart you have to argue with…

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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.

 

 

 

Elijah: “Grandpa, what’s love?”

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Photos of Elijah

Grandpa, everywhere I go people say they love me. What’s love?

If I were wise, I’d take a month to read up on it before answering a big question like that, but I’m not, and instant gratification is too slow for a seven-and-a-half month-old grandson, so I’ll give it a shot.

Thanks, Grandpa, gimme your best shot, but don’t hurt me!

Not that kind of shot, Elijah. It’s just one of those expressions.

Yeah, Mom expresses before I go to daycare.

No, not that kind of expression. “I’ll give it a shot” means “I’ll try.”

Okay, try to give it a shot. What’s love?

Well, Elijah, like Frank Sinatra said, love is a many splendored thing. Love means MANY things to many different people.

Grandpa, you’re not giving me your best shot. You’re using a shot gun. Take out your rifle and give it to me straight! What’s love?

Like I said, it’s one of those words that requires lots of thought. We throw it around to express all kinds of feelings but most of them aren’t really love. Like “I love ice Ben and Jerry’s ice cream” and “I love ‘How to Get Away with Murder'” and ‘I love ‘Sesame Street’ or “I love my ‘Huggies’.

Yeah, like I love Lammie!

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You do, Elijah. You do! You express great affection for Lammie. You have a thing between you. The way you feel about Lammie is the way we all feel about you. Everyone just wants to hold you. You make us feel like children again. Your smile makes us smile. Your laugh makes us laugh.

Yeah, like Barclay makes me laugh. I love Barclay. He’s even better than Lammie. He can give me his paw! I love that! “Sit, Barclay! Sit!” 

Yes, I know. Lammie is a stuffed animal. Barclay’s a real one. He’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He loves you. But he doesn’t love you and you don’t love him because you can order him around, Elijah.

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Barclay the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Remember, no matter how much you love Lammie, now matter how much you love Barclay, and no matter how much I say I love you, I always love you more than that!

Thanks, Grandpa. That’s a many splendid answer. I’ll always love you, too. But I love Mom more! She expresses herself much more clearly than you do!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, January 7, 2018.

 

 

Living on the Edge

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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.

Joshi Daniel Photography

Self-portrait of joshi daniel sitting on the cliff by Bondi beach in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Self-portrait | Bondi beach, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A GoProSelf-portrait taken on the cliff by Bondi beach in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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