Let Down in Minnesota

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We’re not going to the Super Bowl — again — this year. But there’s a mostly proud and wonky history here in Minnesota. In politics, think Hubert Humphrey, Floyd V. Olsen, Walter Mondale, Gene McCarthy, Jesse Ventura, Michelle Bachmann, Al Franken, and Amy Klobuchar. In sports, think the Minneapolis Lakers and the North Stars before they left the Land of 10,000 Lakes to become bigger fish in Dallas and L.A., Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Kevin Garnett, Paul Molitor . . .  and last, but by no means least, remember the name Minnesotans are still trying to forget: Shawn Chambers who gave up one of the most famous goals in all of hockey history in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1991.

After the Minnesota Vikings did a Shawn Chambers in the NFC Conference Championship game that would have put them in the Super Bowl, I remembered Gene Wilder’s mocking Green Bay Packers’ grin and heard his Packers taunt.

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Grumpy Old Men

I’m a Philadelphian transplanted in Minnesota, still learning how the game is played here. I love my adopted State and today I’m still a little grumpy about the loss to the Eagles and having to be nice to them.

 

Although it will be the the Eagles who will fly into Minneapolis for the Super Bowl we Minnesotan thought belonged to us, I have no desire to return to my native Philadelphia.

 

Nope! In an hour or two, I’ll head north to the cabin. No ice hockey. No ice fishing. No football. No TV. No cell phone. No internet. Just a warm fire and a book in the woods next to the wetland where the eagles soar and the owl perches in the oak tree, reminding me that I’m dust and to dust I shall return.

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  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 23, 2018.

 

Earth Day 2016 – farewell to evergreens

white-spruce-apThe tall White Spruces that add beauty to Village Point Urban Townhomes in Chaska, MN require annual treatment for spider mites. Without early spring treatment the spider mites eventually will kill all the evergreens: the arborvitaes, junipers, and pine trees.

Last week the arborist who treats the association’s evergreens told us what we didn’t want to hear. Because of rising temperature, the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minnesota will no longer be suitable habitation for the evergreens. In five years they will be dead or on their way to becoming a memory of a cooler climate in Minnesota.

It’s one thing to believe that climate change is real. It’s another to learn of a real consequence that drives it home. You have to work really hard at denial!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Earth Day, April 22, 2016

 

Lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp

Felix's Fish Camp near Mobile, Alabama

Felix’s Fish Camp near Mobile, Alabama

Driving home to Minnesota from Key West, Florida, Kay and I stop for lunch near Mobile, Alabama. Trip Advisor ranks Felix’s Fish Camp the #8 most highly recommended of 581 restaurants in Mobile, right on the waterfront. An old fish shack; our kinda place!

Our waiter has Southern DNA written all over him. His style is the epitome of Southern hospitality: unhurried, gracious, warm, personable, respectful, friendly. “Yes, Ma’am. No, Sir.”

In his late-2os, Brian is very tall. He kneels down beside the table to get acquainted. He introduces us to Felix’s, talks about the menu, asks about our tastes, and zeroes in on the dishes we might like most.

The man in the next booth overhears the conversation.  He’s smiling. Getting to his feet with the help of his cane, he comes by to say hello. Turns out he’s from Duluth, Minnesota, a traditional stronghold of the Democrat Farm Labor Party. He and his wife closed their chiropractor office in Duluth three years ago to retire near his son in Mobile. He asks what brings us here and what we did for a living. He smiles. “You’re a pastor. You like people. What church?” “Presbyterian,” I say.  “I’m a Lutheran,” he says. “What’s your favorite Scripture? Mine is Psalm 91. I learned it as a child and can still recite it from memory.”

Lunch at Felix's Fish Camp, Mobile, Alabama

Lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp, Mobile, Alabama

Brian delivers the fish, topped with fried oyster, shrimp with cheese grits, and side dishes of almond green beans, cheese grits, and turnip greens to die for.

At just the right moment, as skilled waiters do, Brian returns to ask whether we’d like desert, maybe some lemon pie or Key Lime Pie. The lemon is more unique to Felix’s but he thinks perhaps we might prefer the Key Lime.

After the Key Lime pie, we thank Brian for his extraordinary hospitality and service, promise to write a review on TripAdvisor, pay the bill, and say goodbye.

The relocated Minnesota couple leave at the same time. As the four of us walk way out together, our new friend wishes us a safe trip home and then says “Before you go, I have a question for you. Which Republican do you like for 2016?”

His wife grimaces. We just smile. Maybe he’s forgotten that he’s from Duluth, or maybe he’s being playful one last time…or maybe he’s confusing Christian and Republican. We’ll never know. Life is funny like that.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2015

 

Barclay preparing to go to school

All schools in Minnesota will be closed Monday out of concern for children’s safety. Governor Dayton wants no child left behind freezing at a bus stop. The prediction is 50 degrees below zero with wind chill. Meanwhile, seven-month old Barclay is practicing for his first trip outside in booties. He’s a champ, despite the slur in the narration. He’s attending his first obedience class Monday night in New Germany, MN. Unless they call school off.

The guns in my own back yard

It’s the eve of Martin King Day. This morning’s Star Tribune tells the story “Murderous ‘monster’ acquires an arsenal” in Carver County, Minnesota. Three cheers to you, Jim Olson, Carver County Sheriff. Thanks to the Star Tribune and other newspapers for keeping us informed.

The Oberender case exposes loopholes in national gun laws and Minnesota’s background checks. Here’s the link to the piece:

http://www.startribune.com/local/west/187610601.html

Today in worship we will look again at the call of Samuel and the call of Jesus’ first disciples who asked Jesus an odd question. “Where are you staying?”  “Come and see,” he said. I wonder: Are there guns where Jesus lives?

Marriage and Old Love

Minnesotans will vote in November whether to amend the MN State Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. This beautiful video of “old love” features couples in long relationships here in Minnesota. The music and the pictures speak for themselves. Some of the faces are from a congregation I once served. Enjoy.

The World through a Poet’s Eyes

Join with Plato Oct. 23: “Poetry is closer to vital truth than history” … or a political campaign.

An evening with Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen 

MN Poet Laureat Joyce Sutphen

Joyce Sutphen’s first collection of poems, Straight Out of View, won the Barnard New Women Poets Prize; Coming Back to the Body was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and Naming the Stars won a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. In 2005, Red Dragonfly Press published Fourteen Sonnets in a letterpress edition. She is one of the co-editors of To Sing Along the Way, an award-winning anthology of Minnesota women poets. She is also a Renaissance scholar and has published essays on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. She grew up on a farm in Stearns County, Minnesota, and she teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Her latest collection, First Words, is a “memoir in poems,” and was published in 2010.  She is the second Minnesota Poet Laureate, succeeding Robert Bly. Joyce will read and discuss her own poetry and works of other poets:

  • Wislawa Syzmborska,
  • W.S. Merwin,
  • Charles Simic,
  • Mary Oliver, and
  • Nazim Hizkmet.

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history” – Plato. Take a break from the campaign season to look through the eyes of a poet.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012    7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, 145 Engler Blvd., Chaska, MN 55318.

*First Tuesday Dialogues: examining critical public issues locally and globally” is a community program for the common good, re-creating the public square in the southwest Twin Cities metro area. 

www.shepherdofthehillchurch.com

“A place for the Mind and Heart”

“Holy Tears: David, Absalom…and Us”

A sermon inspired by the personal story of a king who was losing it and his son, Absalom, leading to the larger question of how we define abundance in our time. If you can get by the first minute and have the time – it’s dreadfully long 🙂 it might be of interest. Please let me know your responses to the last part of the sermon re-defining the idea of abundance.

Same-sex Marriage

 “What does Obama’s announcement {supporting same-sex marriage) mean to you? Will it make any difference in your life?” asked CNN’s blog this morning

Here’s how I responded:

“The President’s declaration has not changed my life, but it has moved it one step closer to leaving behind the trail of tears the church has inflicted on its own members. I am a pastor. My family and church are straight and gay. I have shared the tears and listened to the sobs and shouts. I have cried their tears and shaken my head and wanted to make a fist.

“Here in the state of MN a referendum to amend the State Constitution –  similar to the one that just passed in NC – will be on the ballot.  I cringe that the proponents of the amendment – the opponents of marriage equality – often do so “in the name of Christ,”  ignoring the fact that we have nothing to indicate any statement by Jesus on this issue, while at the same time they ignore the Beatitudes and other teachings of The Sermon on the Mount that clearly oppose the church’s endorsement of and participation in state-sponsored violence and war. It saddens me.

“My family makes no distinctions among us. Orientation is orientation.  Families, churches, and cultures change slowly, and sometimes tumultuously

“My professional life will change when both the church and the state celebrate the commitment of two people, regardless of their gender, to the estate of marriage. Until then… every heterosexual wedding celebration will also remind me of those who cannot celebrate the same.

“A comedian once asked why GLBT folks shouldn’t be allowed to be as miserable as we (heterosexuals) are. Misery and joy do not reside within the lines we draw between “us” and “the other.” My gay son pays little attention. He’s not married, and, although his state permits it, he has chosen otherwise. But, in the event he decides that the blessings and miseries of marriage are for him, the choice should belong to him and his partner of 12 years. And, in the event he should so choose, the church should be there to celebrate and share the cake. When that day comes, my life will have changed.”

How would you respond the CNN question? Leave a comment to generate the discussion here.

And, if you’re looking for a welcoming church, stop by Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska Sunday morning at 9:30. Whatever your opinion, or any other source of division – no matter who you are – you’ll be welcome.

Child found in burning house; Mom at a casino

Click HERE for the story that triggers this morning’s recollection and reflection.

Richard and I walk through the big doors of the giant casino. We’re there to pick up a charitable contribution from a casino. We enter the space between the big outside door and the big doors that lead into the vast space of cachinging slot machines.

I’m going through the second set of doors when I realize that Richard isn’t going in. He’s standing in the no man’s land between the two sets of doors. He’s frozen in his tracks.

“I can’t go in there,” he says. “I hate this place!”

“What’s happening? Why? What’s going on?”

“My wife’s in there. We’re broke. We’re losing our house.because of this damn place. Can’t pay the mortgage or the water bill ’cause she’s throwing our paychecks into a slot machine. I hate this place! I don’t want their —–  money!”

Eventually we walk together through the doors. Richard points across the room. “That’s her,” he says. “Let’s go this way. I don’t want her to see me.” We go to the executive suite to pose for a photo-op with the casino’s executive. He hands us the blood money. “Smile,” says the casino photographer. I smile a disingenuous grin.  Richard has too much integrity to sacrifice himself on altar of the golden calf.

The story of the mother who left her children in the middle of the night to head for the casino reminds me of that day years ago when we went to pick up the check that came from ripping off Richard’s wife and this latter victim of false hope.

The State of Minnesota considers expanding the “gaming” industry to generate revenue for a tight state budget. We need to change our language. It’s not a “game” unless there’s a level playing field. The casino always wins. And we lose…not only at the slot machines and pull-tab tables.  We lose our homes, our children, our souls, and a culture of shared responsibility. All because…well…because we prefer slot machines to taxes. We sneak out on our kids at midnight, knowing full well that if we do, the whole house could burn down.