Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week #2.  What's next?

Quote of the Day: "When we don't know what we are trying to produce, we measure our nouns and verbs."                                                                                                                        --unknown.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Other People’s Kids.

Colleen and I have always been about, around, near, with, and in favor of KIDS – some of you may have noticed this fact.

She had six younger siblings. I had six older siblings and have been around nieces and nephews from my family’s side since I was twelve years old. We had three of our own (that we usually claim) and they have brought us six, soon to be seven, grandchildren.
But right now I don't want to write about MINE... I want to write about: Other People’s Kids.
Back in 1993 when we moved to Des Moines, Colleen's youngest sister, Lora, produced two bouncing baby boys, David and Jordan. She was alone and we wanted to help because we love kids and we love her.  So we DID.  At least I THINK we did.
When they are NOT your own, you can posit yourself in a pleasant ‘observer’s’ role. You are not responsible for EVERYTHING they say or do or whether or not they become a good citizen or get perfect grades. But you can hug ‘em and love‘em with a deep caring and a watchful eye. I say watchful eye, keeping in mind the time they were three years old and David and I were cleaning the bathroom (gotta teach ‘em young). I swear I turned away for not even two seconds and he grabbed the cleaning spray bottle, points it right at himself and squirts an eyeball full of some potentially toxic substance into his precious little face.  He was fine. No damage.  Of course, we had to call his mom from the Emergency Room. Ahhh, good times.
Anyway, I will spare you the many memories and cute anecdotes. Suffice it to say, Jordan and David were special to us in a way that's difficult to describe. Our own children were older and helped out with the twins, too. We didn't do a lot, just enough, we hope, to make a difference.
So it came to be that I have had May 26th, 2012 on my calendar for a long time. I wanted to see those boys walk across the stage for their High School graduation. The challenge they have presented to their mom, and to step-dad Ron, have been in many ways typical. But we have kept a watchful eye from a distance, hoping they would stay focused enough to get to this milestone with success. They did.
Lora, you are an awesome mom with amazing fortitude and deep love. Ron, you are man of tremendous patience. Thanks for coming into their lives and doing everything you have done. You should get an award. Ashley, you are an adorable little sister who was annoying to her brothers at all the right times!
David, heading to Iowa Central College in Fort Dodge: study!
Jordan, heading into the Army Reserves: stay safe!
We love you guys.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Three images from a foray into a supposed twenty-four hour solitude "adventure." 

The tent looks serene, doesn't it? It was.
But it was also VERY COLD after sunset.I didn't bring enough sleeping bags! I froze all night long.  Next day I told #1 child, Katie, how cold it was.  She said: "Cold is a metaphor for lonely." She's a Smart Alecky kid.  And maybe wise, too.

The broken hammer is yet another example of 'wrong tool for the job.'  Trying to pack lightly, I brought along the baby version.  I laughed out loud when it split apart. (And it reminded me of one of the first times we went tent camping with three little kids. After planning and packing and stuffing everything into a little station wagon, we arrived at the first campground... without a hammer or any tool to put in the tent stakes. Had to borrow from the guy in the next site. You make friends quickly in a campground.)

The campfire is the best part, of course. Always worth staring into.  Its primitive. Timeless. Contemplative.  .  .  AND WARM! It's one of the primary reasons people GO camping, I think. And, you can't do anything else while you tend a fire. Can't 'blog,' can't read, can't make to-do lists, can't sit at your computer.  If other people are around, you can talk.  But when you are alone, it's just you and the fire. It began to work its magic.

John Muir (1838-1914) wrote of one of his first nights in what is now Yosemite National Park:

"The fire smouldered and flickered an hour or two longer; the stars shone brighter; coons, coyotes, and owls stirred the silence here and there, while crickets and hylas made a cheerful, continuous music, so fitting and full that it seemed a part of the very body of the night."   

He was a good writer.  I was just cold.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A few more books for the journey

My intentions continue to be magnanimous when it comes to reading and I'm hoping that by posting those intentions, I will be more inclined to be successful.

OPC member Tim Kellogg loaned me a book which appears very intriguing, entitled, "Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother,"  by James A. Connor.  The title alone is fascinating! Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is often referred to as the "Protestant Galileo." The relaitonship between science and religious tolerance should make for a good read.

I mysteriously received a copy of a book in the mail... from Amazon Books. I had not ordered it and was never charged for it. It just showed up at the office one day.  It's called, "Bad Religion: How we Became a Nation of Heretics." Now... how could I resist?!  It's by Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist and I intend to give it a try. Nothing like a little heresy on Sabbatical!

I was glad to be given a copy of the classic memoir "Walden,"  by Henry David Thoreau. An excellent selection for a contemplative journey, and one which I either cannot remember reading all the way through, or just DIDN'T!  Along with a book my wife gave me last Christmas, "My First Summer in the Seirra," by John Muir, these nature and solitude-oriented books should give me plenty of food for thought.

Quote of the day:
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."     --Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 20, 2012

With thanks...

To the good people of Oswego Presbyterian Church, who, on a hot, windy, muggy afternoon, "elevated, commemorated and celebrated."  We ate, we chatted, we played, we flew kites!  Congrats to Sam Perkins on his soon-to-be signed MDiv diploma.  And thanks, OPC for the Sabbatical send off. "Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord--Amen?" 

Not to mention...

When writing about books I forgot to mention the four books I always have with me... the ones that got me here in the first place, that seem to be stuck in my heart and mind and even my soul: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Those Gospel guys... whose stories I never tire of hearing, whose lead character I couldn't shake even if I wanted to. Those books go with me everywhere. They never cease to amaze, provoke, inspire, move and shake.

Quote of the day, from Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow: "...a puzzling limitation of our mind: our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Strength for the journey...

Strength for the journey...

One of the joys of a sabbatical, I presuppose, is the chance to get 'caught up' on some reading. All of us, at one time or another, feel as though we need more time to just read a good book and get lost in its information, mystery, adventure or history. But in our hectic, errand-running, kid-centric, bill-paying, meal-making, technologically saturated lives, we hardly ever find the time. Of course, you can't really blame technology, since it actually provides for us yet another means of connecting with untold number of books, magazines and newspapers as is evident on my Kindle Fire which is currently loaded up with samples and lists of books I hope to read someday with the mere swipe of a fingertip on its colorful 'easy to use' touch screen!

Here are a few books I am hoping to bring along as strength for my journey:
  • I am actually in the middle of an excellent book given to me at Christmas, "1861: The Civil War Awakening," by Adam Goodheart. Like many of you, I am a history buff; but I'm not necessarily a Civil War buff. However, this tome is not a typical blow by blow battle to battle rendering of this tragic era in our nation's history. It's a lively and thoughtful account of the social and cultural status of the States in the year we slipped into a highly destructive and yet defining war with ourselves.  (By the way, another 'non-battle' type book about the Civil War years is the near-perfect "Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," by Doris Kearns Goodwin. That was a book I could not put down.)
  • My favorite American writer is probably John Updike. For me, no one can match his ability to describe the American psyche with such honesty, depth and vivid description. I will take with me several of his works, including "My Father's Tears, and other stories."
  • I've also started a book on my Kindle called "The Swerve, How the World Became Modern," by Stephen Greenblatt, a far-reaching and rather quirky story of the search for a manuscript which could be credited with changing the way we 'moderns' think concerning just about everything!
  • Also 'ready to go' on my Kindle: "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman; "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness." by Economists Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. 
Wow, my eyes and brains are tired already and I've barely just begun. I'll let you know if I ever finish ANY of these, or the many others I have hopes of diving into, including anthologies of poetry which I never seem to have enough time to enjoy.

Or maybe, I 'll just stare at the clouds during the day, and a campfire at night, and dream of doing all this reading....

Either way... Keeping the Faith, 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First of all, I cannot take credit for the NAME of my blog spot. " A shot of Hennesy" was from the creative genius of one Mr. Sam Perkin... otherwise known as the Almost Reverend Sam Perkins. 

What I hope to accomplish with this Blog, at first, is to chronicle the 'adventures' of my summer of 2012 SABBATICAL... graciously granted to me by Oswego Presbyterian Church for the usual and customary reasons for ANY sabbatical: rest, renewal, education... with one particular project in mind: developing a forty day Lenten Devotional based on art work on display at the ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, one of my favorite places in the world!
But there will also be journeys to a "Renewal Conference" for clergy sponsored by the Presbyterian Church USA, and a trip to the General Assembly of the PCUSA and other inspirational venues.

Come along... we'll Keep the Faith together.