13 November 2010

Loss of the last true Public Servant

My great aunt, center, on the night she received the Sagamore from
First Lady Maggie Kernan, on the left

The elections last week and the republican, or tea party, hysteria surrounding them provided a huge win to liberals locally.

Liberals you ask? HR, what are you smokin'...it was the ultra-right that were voted in last week! True. With one huge exception. The absolutely MOST FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE elected official I have ever known was voted out of office. Why? Because she happened to have a D after her name. With almost 50 years experience she was replaced by someone that has been alive for only 20 of those 50 years and who has promised to spend our tax dollars. You see, lack of experience or fiscal prudence means nothing so long as you have an R after your name. Something we know all too well here in Republicania County.

In 1962 my great aunt began serving the people of our township as deputy trustee; since 1970, elected as their trustee. She has consistently worked to maintain the lowest tax rate of any township in the county (remarkably, we are the only Democratic hold out in a Republican county-how's that work?). Regardless, at 89, it is probably time for her to enjoy retirement. She represents a different kind of politician...she represents what we used to refer to as a public servant. Honestly, I don't know many elected officials that can claim that attribute and certainly not to the standard my aunt can.

In 2001 the Governor awarded her the high honor of the Sagamore of the Wabash. I've seen this awarded to individuals for political purposes; in this instance it was an overdue payment for a life of service. Few people embody the words written by the prophet Micah in chapter 6 and verse 8: You know what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly before your God. My aunt is just and merciful and humble beyond belief. She is a firm believer in self-reliance, but would be the first to lend a hand in practice of the Golden Rule.

My aunt has forever left a mark on the people of the township she has called home all her life, as a friend and neighbor in the truest meaning of the word. No better public servant has walked this Hoosier soil.

11 November 2010


Today was a tough day.

Veterans Day rolls around each year and it takes me to a point in my life four years ago that normally I don't mind being reminded of. This year it bothered me.

I understand that there are times in our Christian walk that God chooses to be silent. I understand that there are times when we are to just wait. I get that. But I think the difficult thing to is understand where He has led you to and then seemingly leaves you to fade away.

I suppose any number of stories from the Old Testament would seem an appropriate parallel. I had someone throw the "wandering the desert" line. It is difficult to see that from here.

What I wish for more than anything these days, maybe more accurately what I am frustrated with God over, is what I understand that I wish I didn't. My life would be so, so much easier if I didn't see through the crap....if I were just the average white evangelical republican sitting in my big comfy church. If I could just blindly follow and not know any different.

But instead I am stuck with what I know and it has paralyzed me.

I relayed the story of my "epiphany" four years ago to an old friend this morning. It still sounded right.....but it didn't feel like it was my story anymore. I felt like I was talking about someone I knew a long time ago. For me it seems like the stories have all been written and we know how each one will end....so there is very little use in the pursuit. Yet my friends were pushing pursuit.

There are times when I feel like taking a stand-kicking some backside. But I wait...religiously, I wait. Ideally I would just not care about the community circles I am a part of-because I don't see the possibility for change.

I don't know what the big guy is trying to teach me, but I am more than willing to listen. I am His bound servant...but the chains are wearing on me.

05 November 2010

The day we found Home

This was the conversation at the coffee shop exactly one year ago today:
"you really need to go look at this farm for sale"
"Dan, we JUST finished our house...we are not moving!"
"seriously-if for no other reason-you need to take a look at the awesome barn...follow me out there"
"mmm...ok, I guess"

Can anyone guess what happened? I'm still not exactly sure myself. Here's the thing about Sycamore Hill...and I don't know that I can convey it correctly in words...but I'll try. You see, I always wanted to have a cabin out in the woods somewhere far outside of town. It seemed that it would balance our living in town if I could just have that little get-away. Fact of the matter is that it was one of three main "dreams" in my life that I had boiled down after going through this great book about dreaming and living. I had three that I wanted to accomplish in no particular order: 1) go out on my own with my own business focused on historic preservation (check), 2) have that little retreat cabin in the woods and 3) transform politics as we know it. I'm counting moving to Sycamore Hill as #2, though last weekend I had scoped out a great place for a cabin on our property near the creek. Dream #3 seems like a pretty crazy-far out goal, but I also can't believe that within 4 years God would have accomplished the first two.

So I followed my buddy Dan out to this place he kept telling me about over coffee that Thursday morning. Something about the place settled deep in my spirit not more than a few minutes on the property. I went home and told my wife as she was standing in the bathroom that I thought I had found "our place in the country" (it was in the exact same location she told me she was pregnant-I just realized that as I was typing). She asked if we could move right in and I said I thought so, and I wanted to take the kids to see it after school. She was concerned enough to sneak out to the farm with a friend and peer in the windows. She came home that afternoon and said that unless something was seriously wrong....let's do it.

So the kids got off the school bus and we headed out to "the hill". The rest was captured in photos from that afternoon. My wife snapped this picture with the sun shining down on me and I often wonder if I look lost or found in it. Two weeks later our offer was accepted and a week later our house went on the market and a week after that we had sold our house in town. This became a pretty major shift in how we saw our future. No looking back.

Several years back I told my wife I had come up with the perfect name for our place in the country-wherever that would be. I've been so inspired over the years in traveling across the Hoosier state and seeing grand old sycamore trees standing sentry along our waterways. I love those trees with their white bark catching the sun. I told my wife if we ever had a place we would call it Sycamore Hill and if it didn't have a sycamore tree...I would just plant one. So imagine the connection that I immediately felt when I saw this ancient sycamore standing vigil on the hill by the pasture, and many of its offspring lining the creek. It felt like God was saying welcome home.

Of course, not everything has gone as planned. There is still a great deal of work to be done, even from the list of work I had planned for the interior of the house in its first year. But we've had a great deal of fun growing into the place. Another interesting aspect is that the man who built the house came to this county in 1834 to build the Michigan Road. Now, 175 years later, I'm working to establish the Michigan Road Byway.

This morning during our regularly scheduled coffee time I mentioned that it was the one year anniversary and Dan asked...."so, how do you feel about it?" I think a lot of that depends on my mood....but even now as I see the snow falling over this piece of natural serenity I don't see how it could be anything but good.