30 November 2008

grandad's Star

Ten years ago, celebrating our first Christmas together, my new bride and I looked high and low for a star, or angel, or something while on our honeymoon to adorn the top of our first Christmas tree. Nothing we saw really called to us.

So as the day approached for getting the tree, my wife finally asked, well, what about that old star you had? "Grandpa's star?" I asked. I ended up with the star that had been on my grandparents' tree because my folks thought a bachelor pad needed a Christmas tree and dropped one off, fully decorated and waiting for me to get home from work one day.

My grandparents' star isn't anything spectacular. It has a little gold glitter, a few lights and gold tinsel. The light in the center hasn't worked the past eight Christmases, but that was ok. It reminded me of all those family Christmases at my favorite grandparents' home. All those memories the nearly 40 year old star shone down on, from about the time I was on the scene.
40 years. I remember it atop the simple little tree tucked into the corner of my grandparents' living room, there on the farm where two, then three, then four generations of the family gathered. I remember the chaos as we tried to cram over 40 people into the little farmhouse. I remember the smell of sweet potatoes and ham. I remember cousins being home for the holidays, grandma's canned pickles and homemade fudge. Outside of the memories, only the star I have from those Christmases. And maybe like the Bethlehem star pointed the way two thousand years ago, grandad's star points the way to a past I pray I never forget.

With the exception of the light in the center, and a little loss of tinsel, the star was in good shape and I always held my breath each year I plugged it in, hoping it would light again. As we began decorating the tree we got Friday, I plugged in the star.......and this time it didn't light. My heart sunk. I pushed in each of the little gold bulbs, making sure there was contact and it came on, then went out, then came on again. Whew. I placed it at the top of the tree and this time it didn't light. I took it down and messed with it a little; it still didn't light.

So, our tree has no star yet this year. I'm afraid that it won't be an easy fix because to get to any of the wiring, much of the tinsel and glitter will need to be compromised. It will be a delicate surgery, but I'm pretty adamant now that the star has to stick around. Do you have that favorite ornament or decoration that has been with you all these years?

28 November 2008

perspective by tradition

Gaining perspective can be a difficult thing, given the hype tied to the holidays. But how about finding perspective based on tradition? Can we, during Thanksgiving and Christmas, find the truest meaning, the purest understanding by simple traditions? Maybe.

Our family has a tradition at Thanksgiving, now running 10 years. We have an ear of Indian corn in a mason jar that is passed around the circle of family members gathered, each plucking a kernel off the cob, placing it in the jar with a comment of what they are thankful for. It can be silly & comedic at times-given our family-but, it was pretty heart-tugging this year.

My senior uncle who has battled some health issues over the last year, made this comment "you know, I'm thankful for God.....I've been angry at God for a long time because of my boys, but I can see beyond that now." His two sons were killed in separate car accidents. And then my great aunt had her turn, she also struggled with some real health issues this year-she's 87-but she commented that while in the hospital in so much pain she begged them to put her to sleep. She was thankful for life, to still be with our family. Both my uncle and great aunt also had this one strand in common, they were both so thankful for my mom for helping them so much.

So, I guess we can forgive my mom for accidentally getting the thankfulness kernels mixed up with just plain old regular kernels in her zeal to decorate the Thanksgiving table this year. We've calculated that there should be approximately 200 kernels of corn in the mason jar-but no one has set out to counting. Yet.
I trust you had a great time of thanks-giving this year.

27 November 2008

a Pilgrim & a Stranger

my Mayflower roots: Elder Brewster & Stephen Hopkins

Elder William Brewster (c. 1566 - April 10, 1644), was a Pilgrim colonist leader and preacher who came from Scrooby, in north Nottinghamshire and reached what became the Plymouth Colony in the Mayflower in 1620. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary Brewster, and his sons, Love Brewster and Wrestling Brewster. Son Jonathan joined the family in November 1621, arriving at Plymouth on the ship Fortune, and daughters Patience and Fear arrived in July 1623 aboard the Anne. Initially, the Pilgrams settled in Amsterdam, and worshipped with the Ancient Church of Francis Johsonson and Henry Ainsworth. Offput by the bickering between the two, though (which ultimately resulted in a division of the Church), the Pilgrams left Amsterdam and moved to Leiden, after only a year.

In Leiden, the group managed to make a living. Brewster taught English and later, in 1616-1619, printed and published religious books for sale in England though they were proscribed there, as the partner of one Thomas Brewer. In 1619, the printing type was seized by the authorities under pressure from the English ambassador Sir Dudley Carleton and Brewster's partner was arrested. Brewster escaped and, with the help of Robert Cushman, obtained a land patent from the London Virginia Company on behalf of himself and his colleagues.

In 1620 he joined the first group of Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower on the voyage to North America. When the colonists landed at Plymouth, Brewster became the senior elder of the colony, serving as its religious leader and as an advisor to Governor William Bradford. As the only university educated member of the colony, Brewster took the part of the colony's religious leader until a pastor, Ralph Smith, arrived in 1629. Thereafter, he continued to preach irregularly until his death in April 1644. Brewster was granted land amongst the islands of Boston Harbor, and four of the outer islands (Great Brewster, Little Brewster, Middle Brewster and Outer Brewster) now bear his name.

Stephen Hopkins (born about 1582 – 1644), was a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony. Hopkins was recruited by the Merchant Adventurers to provide governance for the colony as well as assist with the colony's ventures. He was a member of a group of passengers known to the Pilgrims as "The Strangers" since they were not part of the Pilgrim's religious congregation. Hopkins was one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact and was an assistant to the governor of the colony through 1636.

Hopkins had made a previous attempt to reach the New World in 1609 aboard the new flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture, on which Sir George Somers took the helm. Hopkins had embarked as a Minister's Clerk on the "Sea Venture", the Admiral of the Fleet. The ship was on the way to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia with much needed supplies when it was deliberately driven onto the reefs of Bermuda to prevent its foundering as a result of the damage it had sustained during a severe storm. All aboard, 150 passengers and crew and a dog, survived. The ship's longboat was fitted with a mast and sent to Virginia for help, but it and its crew were never seen again. Hopkins attempted to start a mutiny while stranded on the island. He was sentenced to death when this was discovered but was eventually set free after complaining of the "ruin of his wife and children". Hopkins and the remaining survivors spent nine months on Bermuda building two smaller ships, the Deliverance and Patience, from Bermuda cedar and materials salvaged from the Sea Venture. He and the other castaways eventually made their way to Jamestown, where Hopkins appears to have stayed for (some say) two years before returning to England. The Hopkins family is considered one of the First Families of Virginia. The story of the Sea Venture shipwreck (and Hopkins' mutiny) is said to be the inspiration for The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

Hopkins was respected for his previous experience with Indians and was elected ambassador for native relations. When Squanto arrived in Plymouth he resided with the Hopkins family. In 1621 Hopkins, Edward Winslow and William Bradford were delegated by their associates to treat with the Indians in the Plymouth vicinity on behalf of the Pilgrims and succeeded in winning the friendship of Chief Massasoit (1580-1661), concluding a peace treaty on 22 March 1621 in the Hopkins home. He later served in the Pequot War of 1637.

26 November 2008

this Thanksgiving, again.

I found this among my electronic documents, penned the day before Thanksgiving, 2006.

This Thanksgiving............

Will be different.
With a fully thankful heart, I will express gratitude to my God, who in His mercy has brought me back to solid ground. In His quiet and perfect way has raised a mirror before me, exposing a man I despised-a man I had become.

To now be fully broken, laying out my faults before my brothers and allowing God to mold me into the man He intended. This is what I am most thankful for this year.

And to begin again-in loving my neighbor, in embracing life and in speaking truth.
Truly this is a new day.

This Thanksgiving will be very different.

It seems that this Thanksgiving will be very different for me again. I can't believe how far God has taken us on this wild ride called life.

Happy Thanksgiving. Live your life in gratitude by giving of yourself to all those around you. This is the model of Christ, it is what God requires.

25 November 2008

will this be trite?

I hesitate to post anything about Thanksgiving this year, fearing that the words may sound trite. With the economy tanking, family and friends fretting and angry over the elections, and with the garbage I've put up with this year......well, enough said.

But I know I am blessed, and maybe therein lies the problem. I know I am blessed, because I compare myself to others. Not because of an internal well-spring of gratitude, but because I recognize I am better off than someone else.......whether by wealth, health, or circumstances that I was born into.

I guess this is confession time. I look back and I can see how the hand of God has directed my paths and how He has provided. So, why me? I watched a program on PBS a few weeks ago where the setting was an Auschwitz bunker and the Jewish men huddled together were putting God on trial for breaking His covenant with them, that He no longer acted on their behalf for protection. The arguments for and against God were gut-wrenching, particularly as men were dragged out by Nazi guards and executed. Where was the God of Abraham?

That made me thankful.......that I was not a Jew in Germany. But thankful to God? or just fortunate? Fortunate to not be born Jewish, and lets add born into Mexico or Africa, or into the Great Depression. We Americans today have no concept of gratitude or thankfulness, because we rely on comparisons-thank God we're not them, which I believe is the condescending basis of why we are "proud to be Americans", we'd just never admit it. What do you suppose they are thankful for in Darfur? Life?

So, here we sit this year.....me just as guilty as the next guy, around our blessed Thanksgiving tables......it's a lean year for us, we might have to cut back on the fixins, maybe only one helping of mashed potatoes so there is enough to go around.......and in these devastating trials we muster up a thanksgiving prayer. "Oh Lord, Thank God we're not them."

It has to sicken Him. He, the God who told us to to be His hands, feed those who are hungry, to act on behalf of those who have been treated unfairly. Where was God in Auschwitz? Maybe He showed up, but for many it was too late. Where is God in Darfur? Still sitting on our backsides-hopeful that stocks will rebound, thankful that gas is $1.65, praying that the $800 billion given to fluff up the economy will allow us to have a second helping of potatoes next year.

How pitiful. So, what are you thankful for this year? does it even matter? think very hard Thursday-are you comparing, or are you truly grateful?

22 November 2008

he's only just begun!

Highest Unemployment Rate in 21 years

10th in the Nation in Foreclosures

One of the highest dropout rates in the Country

Left Cities and Counties with enormous budget Shortfalls

Raised Sales Tax an Additional 1%

Lost Over 130,000 Jobs

Reallocating Millions of Dollars Away from the rest of the State to Indianapolis


I just couldn't resist, what with the new jobless rates reported this week. My county, whose Republicans are heralding Mitch as Saviour, is suffering an 8% unemployment rate-higher than I can ever remember, and second only to RV capital-Elkhart County. Yeah, that $42 net reduction in my property taxes are about to be eaten up by river city's own version of privatization-to help with the shortfall-by outsourcing trash, an extra cost to me of $50 a year.
You know, I'm beginning to understand why the rest of the country questions our intelligence....and I thought the hayseed from Cheers was inaccurate stereotyping. God Help Us.

18 November 2008

first snow

A little snow on the pumpkin puts a little smile on the face!

15 November 2008

follow the Lincoln brick road

While doing my Lincoln Highway reconnaissance in Noble County, Indiana, I came across this old brick alignment south of U.S. 6. This curved section was bypassed to allow for a more gradual curve to its west. I am unclear how early the brick section is, however, the Lincoln Highway came through this part of Indiana in 1913. Note the old mailbox that says "Old U.S. 33" in the left picture and the way the bricks are banked with the curve, and the modern Lincoln Highway directional sign in the right. Ever wonder how they create a curve in a brick road? This was their answer (below).

14 November 2008

Irony: life from death

I figured I needed to get my blog on....it's been almost a week, but I've been pretty busy. Or maybe just distracted: I celebrated another anniversary this week...one of life from death, all a beautiful story of irony. More of the "David Story" I'm afraid. I had coffee with, well, sort of a new friend today. We go to church together, our kids play together, and we've talked about grabbing coffee for sometime, so last night at our kid's Thanksgiving program, we scheduled it. And when I made the comment "I don't know how much you know about the last 2 years" I realized, it really is a beautiful story.

July, 2005: meet with the top GOP power houses....I become the unofficial party candidate for mayor of river city in 2007

July, 2006: they ask this question, "what would you do with the current city economic development director?" I say, your idea about a county ED guy doing all the work doesn't make sense for river city. I'd replace him, but make it a full time position with plan director." It becomes part of my platform.

September, 2006: it is suggested by the party chair that if I want the full support of the GOP, I should consider leaving my employer because he's a detriment. In wide-eyed amazement I say, I can't do that, sure I'm not always happy, but that's just wrong to do.

October, 2006: the power houses switch their support, pulling a guy from my team to run against me.

November, 11, 2006: after battling it out with God, I realize what a mess of my witness I had made and discover the "David Tree"

November 24, 2006: I back out of the run

May, 2007: I'm pushed out of politics when I lose my council seat in a GOP primary. I'm told it's because of my employer having too much influence with the then mayor.

November, 2007: the guy who replaced me at the top of the ticket wins mayor by less than honest means, the most illegitimate victory in river city history.

December 2, 2007: my employer begins angling for power within the new administration, by invitation of the GOP power houses. I find out he is being considered for building commissioner and that our office would close.

Jan. 1, 2008: the family waits on pins and needles for the announcement and find out that they didn't choose my employer. I felt safe for 2008.

May, 2008: I find out that my employer is being courted to be the plan director/economic development director for river city (remember where that idea came from?) This time I knew I had to make plans to leave.....the situation was maddening.

July 12, 2008: one last piece of information sent me over the top. I gave my notice 3 days later.

I found it ironic that I was facing losing my job due to the fact that I was loyal enough to not leave my employer, even though the GOP said he was a liability, which ultimately forced me out of running for mayor....and that those guys were the ones asking him to now join their new mayoral team. A few weeks after I left the office I heard that the mayor said the rumors about (my former employer) taking the job were not true. Well, that's not what his city attorney and puppet master were saying-this I know for sure. My guess is that as word got out (maybe leaked intentionally) and a lot of bad feedback surfaced....they decided it wasn't such a good idea after all.

BUT! But....while I absolutely detest what happened and find it all part of a rampant loss of integrity-the result of kinda pathetic power-hungry individuals (geesh, this is river city we're talking about here, not Chicago), there is absolute beauty in that I LEFT MY JOB and I am doing so well. It is exactly what God wanted for me all along. Once I took my last stand against dirty politics and all went south is when the light shone the brightest and God led me into greener pasture.....out of a desert.

So-November 11th rolled around this year and I pulled out my sketch book where I drew the "David Tree" and thought, wow, how blessed I am. Blessed to have been brought to the cross-to be sweetly broken, forever changed. Click on David below if this is all new to you.

09 November 2008

to the tip of the state and back

From New Harmony, we drove south to Mount Vernon, then southwest until we could go no further. The Indiana delta area was remarkable-teaming with waterfowl, and yes, those are cypress growing out of the water. We left from New Harmony and drove home via lil' Nashville, teaming with a different kind of bird all together.

the Indiana delta area: confluence of the Ohio & Wabash Rivers

the Brown County Courthouse in downtown Nashville

life is good, isn't it?

this is the severe cold front rolling in that welcomed us back home again to Northern Indiana

08 November 2008

road to southwest Indiana: New Harmony

If you haven't been to this lazy little, architecturally rich historic town....you don't know what you're missing. This was our 4th trip & this time we caught a highschool play in the old playhouse.

Downtown New Harmony

New Harmony Playhouse

David Dale Owen Laboratory

Original dwellings of the Rappites (c. 1810)

Phillip Johnson's Roofless Church

A two-seater outhouse at the Fountleroy House

07 November 2008

road to southwest Indiana: Vincennes

Maybe one of my favorite spots in the Hoosier State is the George Rogers Clark Memorial (closed for restoration) and Memorial Bridge over the Wabash River in Indiana's Territorial Capital city of Vincennes. The weather had turned gray on us and the rain started to come in, so these pictures aren't my best work, but enjoy.

These large limestone "pillars" form the gateway across the bridge into Illinois. I am a huge fan of Art Deco architecture, and the engraved Native Americans on the pillars are in the style of Art Deco sometimes referred to as "Egyptian".

The bridge and memorial were constructed under Roosevelt's New Deal plan to get America back to work. Some folks called it socialism, but I'm glad we have this legacy of WPA/CCC work today.

Tell me little boy, what do you want Santa Vigo to bring you for Christmas?

06 November 2008

road to southwest Indiana: Clay City

I'm taking a break from politics and plan to provide a few posts from our trip to southwest Indiana, along the old Wabash.....it's good to remind myself why it is I love the Hoosier state.

Why is it I find this picture so comforting?

Someone's an old gas station fan. This place, turned bar, looked like a great place to grab a burger.

05 November 2008

Indiana goes Blue

The year was 1964. Before men walked on the moon, before computers were small enough to not need a whole room to themselves, before the I have a dream speech, and well before I was born. 1964, 44 years ago, was the last time a democrat (LBJ) won in the State of Indiana. Albeit a close victory, a mere 30,000 votes separate the candidates, last night showed a monumental shift in the Hoosier State. Not only was this guy a democrat, but he was a black guy with the name Obama. Maybe growing up you never experienced the racial slurs in our fair state...I did.

I'm not a raving Obama fan, but let me tell you what I saw last night. As I watched the growing crowd in Grant Park, just a stone's throw across the state line, I saw whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, and a lot of young people embracing, joining arms and coming together unlike any election celebration I have witnessed before. And I saw a black man give a victory speech, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. If you remove the political rhetoric and the fear mongering, and understand the significance of what happened last night...you might just shed a tear as I did. And I'm proud to raise my kids in a country that may well have proven itself larger than hate last night.

Now, for my fellow Christians out there who are struggling this morning, feeling that all hope is lost, that somehow this represents a moral low for the nation-that this may actually be judgement on America by a Holy God.....I offer this: live Christ. If you believe that abortions will go unbridled, then it is time for YOU to step in and mentor young women to help them make good choices. Surely, if this is God's judgement.....it is His judgement on His people, not on a Godless nation. The church has been so comfortable demanding morality from the polling booth, and like tickling ears-having our egos scratched by Republican candidates, that we have become irrelevant to our nation, to our neighbor, to whom God has called us to love.

We should not forget that in the last 40 years, only 12 of those years have seen a democrat in the White House, yet we conservatives want to blame the national moral decline on democrats. We should also understand that George W. Bush has probably been the most outspoken, Christian conservative president we have had in those 40 years.......and where has that gotten us? Check that, Jimmy Carter (D) may have been the most outspoken Christian president.

It also isn't lost on me that while Indiana voted D in historic proportions, due to the economy-135,000 jobs lost in the last 4 years, 10th in foreclosures and a jobless rate higher than the national average..........somehow we were suckered into voting for Mitch in large numbers because he created 50,000 jobs (net loss of 85,000 jobs) and he saved us maybe a net reduction in our taxes of $100. Something doesn't add up. But hey, we're Hoosiers.

We do need to pray......we need to pray for President-elect Obama and his family. For their safety-as a nervousness for him exists in the pit of my stomach, for a tenderness in his heart toward the things of God, for wisdom to lead us. We need to pray for our country. For the greed, corruption and selfishness of our generation to be removed, for the divisiveness created by our churches to change to "bleeding for Christ" as the author of Myth of a Christian Nation calls it..........in short-living Christ to those around us. And we must remember, God is not America's God.........nor does he have an (R) next to His name. He loves indiscriminately, just as He calls us to do.

03 November 2008

finding Jesus on the Lincoln Highway

Outside of having some near misses with incredibly fast moving semis on Highway 33 (old Lincoln Highway), I am thoroughly enjoying some historic resource mapping along Indiana's Lincoln Highway.....of which I'll be posting some pictures soon.

But what I have most enjoyed is meeting some interesting characters along the route. My first day of survey work led me through Noble County and into the little town of Wolf Lake. As I was photographing, gps'ing and making notes, walking the short two block downtown stretch, I passed a young man who nodded and said "hello". I returned the hello. As I was photographing this little "church", he came out of the house next door and asked if I wanted to see inside, that he was a trustee. I said, "a bit young, aren't you?" And he smiled. He looked all of 20 years old, if that....and I think he said his name was Scott. Evidently a very forward thinking Lutheran church out of Churubusco felt that there was a need in Wolf Lake, so they not only started this church, but they started a food pantry next door. Scott said they were already serving 30 families from that community. I wished him blessings on his work and continued on my way.

Day two of reconnaissance led me into Elkhart County, near the village of Benton where the really awesome 1926 Lee Cabin tourist camp exists. I was all over this. I was out taking pictures, when I heard a television at about 3,000 decibels coming from the main cabin. I walked back to the car when an old fella stuck his head out the door and asked if I needed something.

Uh, just taking some pictures....and I described what I was doing as I handed him my business card. He said, "well, that's all good and fine, but let me ask you this one question.....do you know Jesus?" I said I surely do. He got a big smile on his face and asked me inside. It was like walking into a museum of sorts with all kinds of religious and republican icons, dating back to the 60's. He said his name was "all-is-one" and that he was Cherokee. Finally, I realized his name was Allison. He was from Missouri, and remembers pretty squaws coming into his village from a reservation in the 1920's when he was a boy. As I was doing the math, he asked if I knew we were in the front part of the tribulation.....I said, brother, do I know we've got tribulation! ....as his tv was blaring a southern preacher's end-time prophecy in the background. We had a nice little chat and as I kept trying to go, saying that my car had been running, he asked my name and said he'd pray for me....I said I'd do that same.

Sometimes you have to just stop and listen to the stories to truly have a richer life- seeing Jesus in the people you meet.



I pray the Lord
He lets me see,
Another leaf, another tree
in Autumn splendor

And in October,
God gave me life
A celebration of Harvest
My time, memorial.

The Colors of Harvest

A splash of light paints the landscape
of the Harvest.
Over field and farm, the sky above
The ground below
A rustle of leaves as I walk.
These are the colors of Harvest

Gold is the color of Harvest;
It spills over the ground
And lands upon each leaf.

Red is the color of Harvest;
It burns in the sky at the setting sun,
It splashes the side of weathered fence and barn.

Yellow is the color of Harvest;
It scatters its star-like leaves
Against the bluest canvas.

Orange is the color of Harvest;
It finds a home on every stoop
And creates wonder in the night sky-
The Harvest Moon.

Would You....

Drive down a country road in Autumn
And say there is no God?
Tell me of the little worth of country?
Breath in the Harvest
And say it does the body no good?
Tell me you can go without!
Watch the sun set and turn the world to gold.
And say to me,
Son, leave the country behind!
Tell me, would you?