29 April 2015

Exquisite Bungalow in Rensselaer

Here's a little history on maybe the most interesting bungalow I have visited-the house has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the last year and has undergone restoration.  The home's original owners were Oren and Adella Parker who were merchants in the city of Rensselaer.  Oren was born in 1875 and was the second generation of his family to live in Jasper County.  His father and mother, Francis and Mahala Walker Parker, were farmers in Barkley Township who maintained two farms north of Rensselaer that totaled 413 acres after they moved into the city in 1893.  The home, built in 1917, remained in the Parker family until Della's death in 1962.

The Parker House is best classified as a Craftsman bungalow, though the house’s details show an eclectic mix of other styles popular during the early 20th century.  The Craftsman style was inspired primarily by the work of brothers Charles and Henry Greene in California.  The term bungalow originates in India where it refers to a low house surrounded by porches.  The American form of the bungalow began in California and spread quickly through the country as an acceptable and desirable style for the growing middle class in quickly developing suburbs.  These homes were popularized in pattern books and other home magazines, again through the work of the Greene brothers of California.

Three-level entry foyer and staircase
The architect for the house was from Chicago and that urban influence is also part of the home’s construction.  The wide entry door with small square windows and the general interior layout of rooms is similar to Prairie Style architecture of the period.  The spaces flow into each other and multiple levels are visible to each other from the grand staircase.  This creates the sense that the ceilings are fairly low and the area is organized more horizontally.  The carved stone capitals and the egg-and-dart trim at the top of the porch’s walls both display a quality identified with Louis Sullivan.  The stone capitals have a blended Prairie Style appearance with Sullivan’s work.

Buffet and murals in the home's dining room.
The other popular style of the period that is part of the home’s construction is the Tudor Revival style.  Predominantly this is identified by the wood trim in the house.  The home’s doors and windows have pointed arches as does the wainscot in the dining room.  The hand-painted mural above the dining room wainscot is another feature of the house that heightens the importance handcrafted details were to both the designer and the home’s owners.  No information other than the name of the home’s architect can be found, though it appears he may have concentrated his work in residential design in the region in and around Chicago.

22 April 2015

20 years ago

This past Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  I remember having the television on in my grandfather's house, watching news coverage of the event.  It was unfathomable to me that so much hate could be generated by Americans against their government that they felt that they could act out in such a way that would claim the lives of 168 fellow-Americans, many of whom were children at a daycare.

In 2003, our family set out on a trip across Route 66 to see America.  It was important to me that we visited this site.  Here, in the absence of the former building, was a nearly still reflecting pool overlooked by the "survivor tree" and rows of empty chairs representing the victims.

Our son, then almost three years old, knelt down at the head of the pool to put his hands in the water.  That allowed me to snap this photo that captures, at least in my mind, the playfulness of innocence oblivious to what had transpired at the site.  An innocence that was stolen away from the families of the victims.  I truly hope that despite the political viciousness we experience today, multiple times that of 1995, we recognize that we're still one people with the most remarkable promise, and potential for good, that only America can offer.

15 April 2015

The Apotheosis of Lincoln & Washington

A box of old photos and photo albums was passed on to me last year from my aunt.  One album, assembled by my Moore ancestors as a memorial piece of the Civil War, included photos of the sons of Andrew Moore who enlisted from their Lowell, Indiana farm.  Three of the seven sons who served in the Union ranks did not come home.  I suppose one would question if the family thought the war was worth it.  Flipping to the back of the album, I think the answer is clear.  Nestled into their own gold-edged cardboard photo sleeves are images of Lincoln and Grant, including one image that I had never seen before.....and it seems like one of the most awkward Americana patriotic memorial photos I've ever seen.

The artist of "Washington and Lincoln in Apotheosis" is J. A. Arthur who created the image in 1865 shortly after Lincoln's assassination.  The image, which seems to have two versions, show Lincoln robed in black being greeted by Washington in the heavens.  Beckoning Lincoln to his eternal rest are hosts of angels in the upper left hand corner of the image, from which streams of light beam down on the presidents.  The angels are often cropped out or were removed in reprints of the postcard.  The postcard, which depicts Washington placing a laurel wreath on Lincoln's head, was produced in significant numbers in 1865.

I can't imagine the depth of sorrow felt by so many families across the country who had lost sons, husbands, and fathers during the war.  Then, as news spread from Appomattox, the elation felt by the nation as the long war was finally behind them....only to be covered again by the dark curtain of grief days later as news of Lincoln's death took hold of the country.  Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the close of the Civil War and Lincoln's death have been marked by a number of events throughout the country, but I thought-as odd as the postcard seems-sharing this image gives just a hint of what the country was feeling 150 years ago today.

08 April 2015

The Pennsylvania Railroad along the Lincoln Highway

"Built by Rochester Bridge Co. Rochester IND." Wanatah
 Late last winter/early spring I drove along the Pennsylvania Railroad in Eastern Indiana photographing bridge and other railroad structures along the way.  A few weeks ago I drove the Lincoln Highway, which parallels much of the Pennsylvania Railroad, west to Valparaiso, and photographed the remaining structures and landscapes.

American Bridge Co., east of Valparaiso
Lincoln Highway west of Hamlet

04 April 2015

What if the church was empty on Easter?

How sad of a story it would have been had Mary Magdalene and Mary arrived at the tomb only to find Jesus still there.  I don't know what kind of impact the Christian faith would have had on the next 2000 years of world history had Jesus remained in the tomb.  The silence of the tomb overshadowed by death.  But our hope became established on that first Easter morning when death was overcome by life and Christ exited the tomb to bring fullness of joy, life, and peace to the world outside of the cavernous walls.  The stone, ordered fixed by Pilate himself, had become the permanent encapsulation of the tomb, across the doorway.  It is now and forever rolled away.

My wife was talking about a church in Texas that closes its doors on Easter and takes that life that brought Christ out of the tomb, to their community around them.  Think about it.  What if.....just what if our churches were empty on Easter, just like the tomb, and if people came a sentry could say

I know you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen and His people have taken Him to the world.

And we, who are to carry the light and the life of Christ to this world are seen practicing a faith through service to our fellow man-being the hands and feet of Christ.  Imagine that.....what if we took Jesus outside of the four walls on Easter just like the life of Christ exited the tomb that morning.  What if it wasn't about pageantry or celebrating for our own enjoyment....what if the celebration was a sacrifice of love and service to our fellow man?

Imagine if every church was empty this Easter.  Imagine the impact.

01 April 2015

WWJD without RFRA?

I tend to try to avoid controversy these days-a reader brought that to my attention.  RFRA was a bad move politically and economically for the state.  Politically, House Republicans struck while the fire was hot, so to speak, coming off of the 2014 election with super majorities, they wanted to get this controversial bill passed, much like the Ritz bill, as quickly as possible so that people forgot by the next election in 2016....it's a strategy often used, but doesn't make it right nor representational of the people they've been elected to serve.  Economically, this was a complete disaster because of the message it sends and has undone much of the economic development advances made in the state in the last several years.  The bill is different than other states with similar legislation by the insertion of section 9, and by the fact Indiana does not have anti-discrimination laws protecting non-heterosexual individuals.  It can be interpreted to permit discrimination by businesses toward individuals based on the business owner's religious beliefs.  Does it say discrimination in the bill?  No-of course not, but it could be used for such.  For proof, look no further than the bill's biggest proponent Advance America's own website which states it crystal clear (if it's still up), not to mention the governor's own reluctance to simply say "No" when asked that direct question eight times on ABC.

But to me, RFRA is more a matter of faith, not politics, and I wanted to share some thoughts with why some recent events have me feeling really uncomfortable and wondering what is next for the Church in America.  So as someone trying hard to follow Christ, and not a politician, I'm just asking for some pondering by the readers.  If you believe that Indiana now has an image problem, I believe the Church has a bigger one, or maybe more accurately a heart problem that few in the pulpit are addressing.  Recent events seem to make it worse. Last week we saw Ted Cruz announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, invoking God into the 2016 race, I've seen another comment  "Pence stands with God", and of course House Bill 101 signed into law.

Let's look at our Biblical belief system more broadly in light of RFRA.  If I owned a restaurant, could I refuse to serve obese people on the premise that gluttony is a sin?  If I were a florist, could I refuse to cater a wedding if the bride and groom were sleeping together because sex before marriage is a sin?  How about divorced individuals?  Can I deny a developer the right to develop based on greed as sin?  How about the sins of idolatry, gambling, or pride?  Well, Dave Ramsey has said gambling's not a sin so we can eliminate that.  But the others,  I mean, I've got some rights here, right?  Maybe even some moral obligation to help set this state straight.

I'm not a proponent of RFRA, not because of the language necessarily, but because of the damage it does to the Church.  And frankly, I'm getting tired of defending my faith, not on the basis of Scripture or our model Christ, but on the basis of how politicians have seemed to assert roles as defenders of the faith.  As if God needs any help.  The depth at which politics has influenced the gospel and our churches should be alarming, but we've bought into it.....we've embraced it, and cheer it on like we do  the home team.

God's so much bigger than Indiana, or America for that matter, yet it seems hard to fathom He ever got along so well without us.  Do you suppose He's grateful for RFRA?  I mean seriously, I bet Jesus had wished he could have had RFRA to fall back on so He could have avoided the prostitute, Samaritan, lepers, or tax collectors, against some there had been strict religious laws.  But I'm certain He anticipated a lawsuit and ministered to them anyway.  And me, the chief of sinners, I am so glad Jesus didn't have RFRA to fall back on because I would have never known a Holy God's redeeming grace.

Do I think that a preacher, organization, or individual should be forced to provide wedding services to a gay couple?  No, honestly I don't.  And frankly, this is what I don't get from the other side...........why would they want them to?  But I think it boils down to a heart issue of how to engage one's faith.  I have friends and family in the gay community that I love and respect, yet I believe in traditional marriage, no surprise there.  I think that they understand that's a belief drawn from conclusions of my personal faith, not because the state may or may not be able to define marriage according to my Judea-Christian beliefs.  And subsequently, I don't feel like I need the State of Indiana backing me up.  If I error, let me error on the side of grace, and if compelled to go a mile.......go two, and give my coat as well.

What truly concerns me is how this law may be misused by interpretation, despite its seemingly innocent language, in this heated and tumultuous environment.  The bill has been called innocuous and really "won't change anything".  But it will, and it has already, regardless of the prospect of a clarifying statement by the legislature.  Sometimes the message sent is bigger than the words penned.  It's created division, as I believe was planned, and it cast a long shadow over our state, but I care a lot less about that than the longer shadow it casts over the Church.  Only repealing the law will pull the state out of the downward spiral.  I'm not sure what it will take to change course for the Church.

This time of the year, between Palm Sunday and Easter, always makes me think of the parallels between those who cried Hosanna and the Church in America.  The Jews lining the streets with palm branches were much more interested in a Jesus who could overthrow Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom....but that wasn't His plan, not at all, and so they left.  Too often I think as Christians we try to establish Christ's religious authority in our government, but that's not what He wants.  He wants us to follow Him, not try to somehow finish a job He chose not to do. The Church has got to figure a way out of the political binds we find ourselves in, to sound more like Christ and less like angry politicians.  But hey, that's our right........not what we are called to, but certainly our right here in the land of religious freedom.