Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time
annotations, blurbs and ruminations
to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind
and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore
My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.
I wonder what we know now. Now, the moment you are reading this. The tumblers have been set in motion. Every second is a forking path. As I write, the woods are dark, save for the pale daubs of lantern light angling out the cabin windows. It seems like Earth might be rotating around this coordinate. It is stunning to think of all humankind made contiguous by the globe. It is difficult to think in terms of governments, of man’s inhumanity to man. It is earthen and peaceful here.After a few other good paragraphs, he tells of arising the next morning, going for a hike. He finishes with this finely-crafted and important paragraph:
Where I live, we were looking east all day. That Day. Through the television, over the Web, with an ear to the radio. We peered through the smoke and the flags and began to get a sense of magnitude. In a faraway city, skyscrapers were falling—would the tremors reach our little township. Where the only structure over two stories is a four-legged water tower?
Our volunteer fire department met for training the following evening. There are twenty-four of us, amateurs playing at a game in which the professionals regularly get their tails whipped. Flipping through Firehouse magazine before the meeting, I saw that 102 firefighters died in the line of duty in the year 2000. One rumbling instant in New York, and that number was eclipsed. The last burning structure I crawled into was a trailer. We were looking for a guy who turned out to be gone. Until courage meets circumstance, there are no heroes.
Tell me: How is the nation’s resolve? Very few volunteer firefighters quit the department at the sight of big flames. They quit when they realize the bulk of the battle is a back-breaking slog. Hours spent burrowing and hacking through soggy debris to extinguish intransigent little hot spots. You begin a warrior and wind up a drudge, rolling hose, cleaning equipment, restocking the rigs. The September 11 attacks were nationally iconic. Our response was equally so. United. Strength. Charity. But the battle will not always live up to the telethon. Resolutions of substance generally require heavy lifting and extended attention to the mundane. I reckon I’m a pickup-truck-coveting blue-collar capitalist, but this talk of preserving the nation through the wielding of credit cards and the acquisition of king cabs at 0 percent APR makes me snort. It’s hard to know what more—if anything—will be required of us. I’m not overly worried. My neighbors have already crawled through fire with me.
An East Coast friend said she figured I’d be hearing a lot of rural tavern talk of how it was time to kick some towel-head ass. Well, sure. There’s always some loudmouth eager to swab the flag around like a World Wrestling Federation banner. But I have heard equivalent sentiments expressed on NPR and CNN, refined only in terms of diction and dress. Bigotry and extremism have commonality: Both are difficult to eradicate; both respond poorly to benevolence; and both are an embarrassment to those impugned through putative associations, whether we wear NASCAR caps or turbans. The battle for civility will outlast all others.
By morning, the woodstove is dead cold. It takes a little internal dialogue to get me to unzip my army surplus sleeping bag. I stow the Smith Corona under the bunk and shoulder by backpack. When I come out of the woods, I hear Osama bin Laden say there is fear in America. So be it. Courage does not arise out of comfort.
Excerpted from: Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator Michael Perry (HarperCollins) $13.95
Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects in his important introduction upon the double alienation felt by many of the artists whose work graces this gorgeous book and it is a tough testimony that should be read by church folk everywhere; what damage we have done to hinder the artists amongst us, what a mediocre ethos we have too often created which discourages those with gifts of brooding allusiveness, creative imaginativity or colorful joy. But his pondering is only part of the story: herein is documented in word and image, the pages of this book record the glorious work of an organization dedicated to supporting the Christian artist. CIVA is a wonderful association and this book shows off the God-blessed glory of their members’ work in extraordinary fashion. Thank God for the gentle steadfastness of CIVA, for those who compiled this excellent book, and for Square Halo who publishes manna like this.Joyfully and significantly, Square Halo also produced a collected volume of the important work of Sandra Bowden (herself a notable leader in CIVA and a wonderful art collector and artists.) Not only does The Art of Sandra Bowden showcase beautiful reproductions of Sandra’s fine work, it has criticism and essays and tributes to her by some thoughtful essayists (like the very sharp NY critic, James Romaine.) This is a beautiful, beautiful book and to see it, too, while trying to sip white wine with Ned and Leslie and keep an eye on our passel of young daughters, was nearly overwhelming. Maybe like you, I will have to save my nickels and dimes and buy these as soon as I can. In the meantime, they will soon grace the shelves of Hearts & Minds. We want to support Square Halo and get their good books into stores, reviewed, and bought and given as gifts. Know anybody that cares about God’s glory being seen in a respectable renewal of faith-based modern art?