Time is what we have

“What is time?” asked the 11 year-old son of his father.  Finally, the father, who was supposed to know about such things, offered the briefest of answers. “Time is what we have.”

The answer  begged for more explanation, but it spoke out loud the frailty and wonder of the human condition. What is time? It’s what we have but, like everything else mortals have, or think we have, time runs out. Time is like the sand in the hour-glass. It sifts slowly through the funnel from top to bottom until there is nothing left. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The relation of time to eternity is the relation between mortality and immortality. Our hour-glass contains eternity but it does not define it or confine it. We experience eternity in the now of time as we look at the heavens on a starry night, feel a gentle breeze or the rush of a mighty wind, or watch the shorelines of human construction eroding, pushing back the illusion of ownership and control of nature and of time.

My poet friend and Views from the Edge colleague Steve Shoemaker is coming to the end of his time. After many decisions that prolonged his life far beyond the original prognosis, he opted last Saturday to give way to time. Steve chose to spend whatever days are left at home at Prairie Haven on the plains of Illinois.

The news came less than a week after five old friends who call ourselves the Dogs traveled from Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota to gather one last time with Steve at Steve’s room in the care center. We barked and growled watching the first presidential debate. We laughed. We sang some hymns. We prayed with and for Steve, Nadja, and their children, Daniel and Marla. We prayed for ourselves. The time was right.

When news arrived only days later that Steve had opted to end further medical treatment to go home, the conversation with my 11 year-old son years ago and Steve’s verse “When to Stop Praying” (April 2, 2016) came quickly to mind. The prayer now is for an end of striving. An end of pain. “Pray for my peace, not my life.” The end of time.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 5, 2016.

 

 

 

 

A gentle pastor faces death

Next Monday five old friends will visit Steve Shoemaker at the rehab center in Champaign-Urbana. Steve’s humor remains in top form despite the cancer that has limited his mobility and chunk the weight of his 6’8″ frame from 240 to 187 pounds.

Thinking about Monday’s visit, originally planned around the first presidential debate, I recalled a story about Steve jumping into a swimming pool dressed in a tuxedo after a wedding. It was locked in the Views from the Edge “draft” folder because we couldn’t convert the original piece from tpyepad to this platform. Today, in honor of Steve, we “converted it” for posting. The words belong to Bill Tammaeus, former columnist at the Kansas City Star.

The first time I boarded an airplane after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was to fly to Champaign-Urbana, Ill., at the invitation of the Rev. Steve Shoemaker to speak to a YMCA gathering at the University of Illinois.

I knew I needed not to avoid planes after experiencing the death of my nephew Karleton, a passenger on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, and Steve’s invitation to speak made it necessary to get back on one.

I’ve been thinking about Steve a lot recently after learning that he has developed pancreatic cancer, which is expected to kill him within a few months. I follow his almost daily thoughts about that now on the CaringBridge.org website. Which is where I learned that the newspaper for Champaign-Urbana, The News-Gazette, just published this terrific story about Steve. [Aside: VFTE republished the News-Gazette story]

You can get a good sense of the kind of sweet, thoughtful man he is, a man whose Christian faith issues in much concern for life’s downtrodden people.

Steve first got connected to my family through my North Carolina sister, Barbara, and her husband, Jim, who are my late nephew’s parents. They became friends with Steve and his wife Nadja when they were neighbors in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Later Steve performed the wedding ceremony for some of Barb and Jim’s children, including Karleton.

I still laugh at the memory of Steve and Jim — fully dressed in tuxedos — diving into a swimming pool in joy at the wedding reception when Barb’s and Jim’s daughter Tiffany was married. It helps to know that Steve stands about 6-foot-8 and made quite a splash.

From that News-Gazette story, here’s a taste of Steve’s theology: “God has his eyes on the sparrow and not the eagle, on the people who are hurting. That’s the God that makes sense to me.”

God’s eye is on the sparrow.

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 9, 2016

Which song for today?

Steve Shoemaker is hospitalized in Illinois.  CaringBridge and FaceBook, which have kept us up-to-date on his journey with terminal cancer, have been silent since Thursday. Steve’s last post on FB read “another set-back, fall-back, back-slide,” posted with a photo of his book “A Sin for Each Kind of Day.”

Waiting for news, Steve’s verse “A Song for Each Kind of Day” (posted on Views from the Edge on On April 12, 2012) came to memory.

One Hebrew word for “god” was “jah.”

(It was a time of many words

for god–and many gods.) To say

“hallel” was for all to sing praise,

so HALLELUJAH meant “Praise God!”

(or “Thanks to you, oh God!”– for some

words could be truly translated

more than one way.

And so, a Psalm, or Song, that offered thanks or praise

might well be paired with a lament:

a cry of pain from one who prays

for help, relief, from gods who sent

disaster. (But, of course, some Psalms

wisely acknowledged that some wrongs

were caused by those who sang the songs!)

There is a Psalm for each one of our days…

[Steve Shoemaker, April 12, 2012]

Today Kay and I are far away in Minnesota, but our hearts are in Illinois. Your prayers are invited. Just close your eyes. Sit quietly. Speak the name “Steve”. . . .[be still]. . . . Then “Nadja” . . . .[be still] . . . . Then “Shoemaker family”. . .  [be still] . . . .Then “Jah”. . . and leave the rest there.

There is a psalm for each kind of day. Today, it’s Psalm 46.

— Gordon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up for air

Hello there!

It’s been forever since we posted something of our own here. For very different reasons.

Steve is still with us but only writing on CaringBridge and FaceBook to keep friends up-to-date about his daily life with pancreatic cancer. A group of seminary friends will swoop in on the Shoemakers’ from Texas, Colorado, northern Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota to groan and moan together at the September 26 presidential debate.

Gordon is still with us, too, but has been under water preparing Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness for publication by Wipf and Stock Publishers (Eugene, OR). Steve’s poetry is featured in the book as well as Gordon’s essays on religion, culture, and the  news. He hit the “send” button Sunday evening for final submission.

At this moment, Steve is in the hospital, which is both a concern and a hope. He was admitted because he needed immediate medical attention the required surgery. But Steve has joined Jimmy Carter as a beneficiary of the cancer protocol credited with saving Jimmy’s life. Last night he wrote on Caring Bridge:

Family, friends, neighbors, church, Synagogue, mosque,
Club members–what would sick folks do without you?
New friends from nurses, Doctors, aides, who move in with skills, caring, short-term help help, help!
How to say thanks?  $ helps a little.  But who are the poorest of helpers?  Some of the poorest cannot even receive tips, gifts, or gratuities…
Mutual kindness…charity…love…

Hours before Steve’s latest CaringBridge post, the “statement of faith” by Lisa Larges arrived in Gordon’s in-box.

Why mention Lisa, a complete stranger to most Views readers?

The Presbyterian Church (USA), Steve and my church, denied ordination to Lisa Larges many years ago because of sexual orientation. Some changes take a very long time. Lisa’s statement on love itself illustrates love’s forbearance. It speaks of love, as does Steve’s CaringBridge post, and it’s all the more telling because of who said it.

Love wins.

Not indifference. Not fear.

Love wins.

Lisa’s statement will be posted next on Views from the Edge.

An Evening of Sin

Steve recently published A Sin a Week: Fifty-two Sins Are Described Here in Loving Detail for Folks With the Inclination and Ability to Do Wrong, but Who Have Run Out of Bad Ideas. You can hear Steve’s renditions in an audio book available on Amazon.

This morning he posted this invitation on his CaringBridge page:

A Sin a Week: 52 sins described in loving detail…

Remember my book reading tonight, Thursday, August 11, 7-8 pm @ the Philo Presbyterian Church, 105 E. Jefferson, Philo, IL.

Crackers, cheese, coffee & wine with words about sin. A whole evening with sin.
Free & open to the public. Free parking.

Bring your copy to follow along & see the illustrations. The bookless can use loaners–or just listen happily….

NOTE from Gordon: Steve’s poetry and reflections on life, death, and dying are featured on Views from the Edge. Just enter his name in the search box and he’ll pop up!

 

Verse – NRC

I fear for her life
haters speak their hate
Handgun rifle knife
Semi-automatic fate

Nothing could be worse
Her Chief Commander
USA will fail
To the blacks she’ll pander

Supreme Court she’ll stack
Liberal lawyers pack
Constitution lack
All have empty gun rack

Use them while we can
Vitriol drives our plan
Sneers give us our cue
We know what to do

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 21, 2016

Verse – White Folks

White folks can be the shade they want,
not be the shade they’re born.
Tanning beds, beach vacations, cruises
Creams, and dyes, all for one damn race.
Pale faces can become bronze.
Pasty legs and arms be brown.

Only white folks show their blushes–
they have so much, they should blush more…

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 18, 2016

Verse — If she died first

If she died first
I’d die soon
trying to find
all I need
to live.

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 13, 2016

Note from Gordon: Steve may be sick, but his humor’s in tact! Every day’s a new day for Steve in no small part because of his beloved Nadja. They celebrated 50 years of marriage this year.

Verse – Kissing in a Hearse

Only college seniors were allowed
cars on campus in those ancient days.
Four guys, Juniors, searched car lots and found
just the thing, a ’47 hearse,
Pontiac, straight 8, just fifty bucks
each. A Senior said he’d claim the beast
legally was his. Quadruple dates
were the thing: one couple in the seat,
driving, six would lounge on pillows where
caskets usually rode. Of course, at times
two young people would kiss, death be damned.

Steve's Hearse

Steve’s Hearse

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, July 1, 2016