F is for Football, Fame and Father

by Deborah Butts

by Deborah Butts

“He didn’t tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it”

It’s August and around here we’re beginning to think about football.  Admittedly I’m one of those fans who counts on television re-plays to actually get what is going on – but nevertheless I do love this game.  Can’t help it.  My dad and brothers were/are football fans – and I grew up with the sounds of Minnesota Gopher football accompanying all autumn chores.  No doubt this year once again we’ll be hoping against hope that Minnesota will have a decent year – and at least trounce the Badgers in November at Camp Randall!  I am an alum after all – and have a natural bias.

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But somehow it is the Vikings that really get the Awes’ juices flowing – and I include here my sons-in-law – as we all wear the purple.  The whole Awes reunion clan – including our Bears and Steelers’ diehards –  took the light rail downtown just to walk around the perimeter of the new US Bank Viking stadium – which is spectacular!

US Bank Viking Stadium

US Bank Viking Stadium

Mr. A. and I had season tickets for years, only to relinquish them about a year too soon.  2009 was my favorite season ever.  This was the year that Brett Favre briefly became a Viking.  He brought us to the brink of the Super Bowl in the most fun season ever.  His laughter, joy and brotherhood transformed the team single-handedly – and for a moment we had a glimpse that even pro-football could be simply fun!

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So it was with great expectation and loyalty that we watched the Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last Saturday – from Canton, Ohio.  We were especially interested in Tony Dungy, (a former All America U of M quarterback and a Viking defensive coordinator ), and Favre, but it turned out that all of these old fellows had something to say in their acceptance speeches – and it was invariably entwined with gratitude, affection and emotion.  On several occasions even the Lord was mentioned – though the papers forgot to include those references.  (Duh. . .)  Tony Dungy is known as a man of God and is respected throughout the country – and of course, the football world.  When he speaks the Lord’s name it’s clear that he’s talking about his closest friend.  

by Johnny Myers

by Johnny Myers

Brett Favre was the last to speak and the crowd was plump with the green and gold of “Packer nation” – as the planners had envisioned.  Brett made up his speech as he went along.  This guy is flawed like the rest of us – but so likable.  A Mississippian, he grew up with folks who were teachers, his dad a high school football coach.

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The more Brett talked the more he revealed.  As he thanked those in his life who had helped him on his life journey, he became choked with emotion.  We began to see the boy in the man.  Of course it was the boy who all those years laughed and had fun as he was playing his game – capturing us all, reminding us that this is in fact, a game!

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Brett then told of his father’s dying – and of the moment when his wife, (his sweetheart since the age of 14,) told him that his dad had told her that he looked forward to the day when he could introduce Brett at the Football Hall of Fame.  His dad evidently had never even implied to Brett that he might reach that goal, but from that day on Brett strived to accomplish the award.

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 06: Brett Favre, former NFL quarterback, speaks during his 2016 Class Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 659051701 ORIG FILE ID: 586857092

CANTON, OH – AUGUST 06: Brett Favre, former NFL quarterback, speaks during his 2016 Class Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 659051701 ORIG FILE ID: 586857092

Now we’re well into the speech – and Brett is rambling – and telling us in stumbling words that his father was never able to say aloud to him the words that every son longs to hear.  I believe it must have been these words:

“My son, I am so proud of you.  No matter what you do in life I will always treasure you and be at your side.  You are a wonderful and amazing person.  Be happy.  Be yourself.  Never forget that I love you.”

Brett went on to tell the story of the day when waiting for his father outside his office he heard his father say to another coach, “Don’t worry about Brett – next time he will redeem himself.”  It was the closest his father ever came to suggesting that he had faith in Brett – and the boy determined that one day he would redeem himself in his father’s eyes.

Brett then, choking back his tears, suggested that he hoped that in making the Hall of Fame that day he did in fact redeem himself for his father.  It was a moment of raw exposure of a man in search and need of his father’s approval.

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The sports commentators afterward only spoke of Brett’s tremendous respect for his father – and those of us watching were stunned by their lack of insight – or willingness to speak truth.

The smallest bit of internet research will turn up dozens of lists which enumerate characteristics of a good father.  That I grew up with my father’s spoken and unspoken approval and affection is, I believe, the number one reason for my relatively healthy and relaxed sense of self.  

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A father to his children is . . . .

  •  blessing them with spoken words and actions
  •  a physical presence in their lives
  • providing and protecting them
  • teaching and disciplining them
  • stable and kind
  • an example of moral and fair character
  • affectionate and loving to them and their mother
  • bringing them to God
Warfare by Ron DiCianni

Warfare by Ron DiCianni

The words of I Corinthians 13 are often read at weddings- but maybe we should read them at each birth again for fathers and mothers . . .

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

A precious man who continues to father his grandchildren -our friend Ben Brezina's dad.

A precious man who continues to father his grandchildren -This is Greg, our friend Ben Brezina’s dad.

Who would have thought that watching a football award ceremony would bring to the forefront the necessity of a father’s blessing?  It has reminded and instructed me to comfort the fatherless and those with gaping holes where a father’s approval might have been – with the sure knowledge that there is a Father who loves us as we are, without our striving, without recognition or fame – and in Whom redemption resides.

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How Deep the Father’s Love for Us / Austin Stone Worship Live . .

 

ps: I was mightily reminded before posting that it was while he was wearing purple that Brett Favre had his best year ever!:).dd::_

Images courtesy of:  Father and Son by Deborah Butts;  fineartamerica,  Warfare by Ron DiCianni;  candypopcornceleryandnuts.wordpress.com.

Why I Didn’t Write My Blog This Week . . .

It’s been such a joyful week with family reunion with folks coming from around the country – and then the fun company of our Chicago kids and grands – a super reason to take a week off!

Rafe, Susie Axel and Gust on the train -

Rafe, Susie Axel and Gust on the train –

Gust at the Twins Stadium

Gust at the Twins Stadium

Axel at the gazebo concert -

Axel at the gazebo concert –

Granddaughter Michaela and grandniece India on Lake Minnetonka

Granddaughter Michaela and niece India on Lake Minnetonka

Grandsons and nephews on the boat

Grandsons and nephews on the boat

Some of the boys at the new Viking stadium

Some of the boys at the new Viking stadium

Granddaughters Erin and Susie in the park

Granddaughters Erin and Susie in the park

Just a few of the bunch that made this such a merry week!  I promise to re-gather myself and write next week!!  Blessings – – –

 

Blest Be the Tie . . .

After the Rain by Paul Cornoyer, 1901

After the Rain on Madison Aven. by Paul Cornoyer, 1901

Note:  All of the art today is by early 20th century painters, many of whom comprised the AshCan School of art, known for realism, grit, broad strokes and a positive portrayal of life at the turn of the century.

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Fritz and Lu were born at the start of the 20th century.  Fritz was a Norwegian Lutheran pastor’s son, raised in a distinctly strict Christian home – and was one of the youngest of 13 children.  The sense I get is of a loving home, but where rules were necessary to keep both order and propriety.  Education was esteemed as were traditional mid-western values.

George Bellows

Men of the Docks by George Bellows

Lu was raised in a smallish industrial Massachusetts town, with one brother.  The values in her family sprang from French/English, Roman Catholic work ethic.  This woman was a delight and she and I dearly loved each other.

Spring Rain by John Sloan

Spring Rain by John Sloan

They met at a dance in Newport, R.I, when Fritz was a sailor.  Lu fell madly in love and embraced Fritz’s Lutheranism and all things mid-western.  That never changed.  They were opposites in many ways:  Fritz was black and white and dedicated to work and providing for his family of 4 boys;  Lu was more fun-loving – and settled in Minnesota, accommodating Fritz, in an immaculate little house, raising 4 bright, scrappy boys, happy to all appearances.

Fritz and Lu

Fritz and Lu

Like most folks of their generation Fritz and Lu never spoke of their dreams or of their inner lives.  Their four boys were/are much the same. Mr. A. was the youngest son of Fritz and Lu.  This was not a family given to introspection.  So while my siblings and I spend endless hours talking about who our parents were as human beings and all the whys and wherefores of their lives, Mr. A. and his brothers just don’t talk about, or evidently contemplate, the inner workings of their parents.

Central Park in New York in 1901 by Maurice Pendergast

Central Park in New York in 1901 by Maurice Pendergast

This is what I know of Fritz and Lu:  they did what had to be done.  If when they came to the end of their days they were enormously satisfied or questioned any of it, we’ll never know.  It simply wasn’t in their lexicon to speak of desire or disappointment or realization or failure.  They did what had to be done.  And they did it genuinely, diligently, without self-pity or any need for acclamation.

Going Home Near Bloomingdales and the 59th St. Elevated by Lionel Reiss, 1940's

Going Home Near Bloomingdales and the 59th St. Elevated by Lionel Reiss, 1940’s

Their boys garnered many of these habits – do the next thing.  Get educated. Work hard.  Don’t complain.  Provide. Such great qualities.  The frustrating thing for those of us who like to look inside however, is that these old boys are so accustomed to not delving inwardly, that they’d simply rather not.  And don’t.  So we don’t have much insight into the missing pieces of the family puzzle.

Fifth Avenue by Everett Shinn, 1910

Fifth Avenue by Everett Shinn, 1910

This very evening we commence the Fritz Awes’ Family Reunion.  We’ve been meeting biennially for almost 20 years.  The 4 boys ended up in different states – so we take turns hosting the reunions – and this year it’s our turn.  Two of the brothers have died in the last two years and a third will be staying home to keep watch over his beloved, who is now living in memory care.  Mr. A. is the only one of the originals who will be present.

Glenn Coleman

Minetta Land by Glenn Coleman

Our plans are in place and there are only the last minute tasks to attend to.  We expect about 55 people – and this is a FUN BUNCH!  Events include a dinner cruise, a Mexican Fiesta, a picnic with entertainment, games, crafts, golf, excursions to visit the Mall of America, the new Viking stadium, the old Awes’ homestead – plus hours of visiting, munching and swimming at the hotel.  We’ll wind up on Sunday with sharing and worship.

Portrait of Mary Ann by Robert Henri

Portrait of Mary Ann by Robert Henri

The Lord called Elias Awes, Fritz’s father, to come from Norway and preach the Gospel.  The faith was passed from Elias and Christine to Fritz, from Fritz and Lu to their sons, two of whom became pastors – and from them to their 14 children – and now to the next generation of 23 great grandchildren.  Other values were passed on too- like education, hard work, music, (beautiful voices those Awes’) laughter, conversation, loyalty and sports!

Armistice Night by George Luks

Armistice Night by George Luks

I’m looking forward to the conversations – especially over-hearing those in which our kids and their cousins dissect us lovingly!  For I trust that we have taught them to examine and look deep – to talk about what is good and must be preserved – and then to acknowledge what is jaded or skewed and can be discarded.  I want to hear what this next generation is dreaming of – and in Whom they are placing their hope.  It’s family triage – a good and necessary thing.

The family with Grandmother Christine, 1945

The family with Grandmother Christine, 1945

Our theme this year is Blest Be the Tie that Binds.  I’m humbled and awed again to ponder this.  We find that in spite of loss and illness and old age,  regardless of self-examination or education or political ties or denomination or personality quirks – a family like Fritz and Lu’s has been bound forever by love and faith – and while that has been nurtured by the faithful, it is surely a gift and the work of the Spirit.  

Fruit and Roses by William Glackens

Fruit and Roses by William Glackens

If you hear a sweet song, it’ll be us, singing His praises this weekend!

The Original Four, Mel, Ken, Vern, Bob (Ken and Bob are now in glory)

The Original Four, Mel, Ken, Vern, Bob (Ken and Bob are now in glory)

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.   Ps. 78:4

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Blest Be the Tie That Binds . . .

 

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Images courtesy of:  After the Rain by Paul Cornoyer;  ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com,  dockside by George Bellows; irajoelcinemagebooks.blogspot.com,  Spring Rain by John Sloan;  wikiart.org,  Central Park by Maurice Prendergast;  wikiart.org,  Going Home by Lionel Reiss;  ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com,  Fifth Avenue by Everett Shinn;  art-now-and-then.blogspot.com, Minetta Lane by Glenn Coleman;  pinterest,  Portrait of Mary Ann by Robert Henri;  wikiart.org,  Art Sunday by George Luks;  nicholasjv.blogspot.com,  Fruit and Roses by William Glackens;  tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com.  AshCan artists included Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, George Bellows, John Sloan, Everett Shinn and Glen Coleman. Prendergast was also associated with the Ash Can School.

In Days Like These . . .

Storm Clouds by Milan Melicharek

Storm Clouds by Milan Melicharek

“These are the times that try men’s souls . . .”
Thomas Paine, 1776

In days like these it does feel like things are running amok and that the ship has neither rudder nor captain – and that the leak is apocalyptic.  Our worries are legion in these days of summer, 2016.  I imagine that our parents were feeling the same sense of impending doom in that legendary summer of ’68, but then I was young and doom was out of the question.  “Everything will turn out alright”, we believed – and for the most part, the ship righted itself and sailed again.

Ships in a Storm by Ivan Aivazovsky 1887

Ships in a Storm by Ivan Aivazovsky 1887

We are entangled again by many of the same webs;  racial divide, police mayhem, political shambles, morality unfastened.  To this we have added a new word in America – terrorism.  No wonder we’re sensing massive unease.

As I write the Republican convention is underway – and the first nights have been lessons in incivility.  I say this as a newly minted but entrenched independent.  In 1968 I watched the party conventions with interest and amusement, finding the whole thing entertaining.  Today I am not entertained, but quite horrified – a word that just this morning my son Seth told me that I’m using with frequency!

Storm Clouds by Michelle Manley

Storm Clouds by Michelle Manley

Therefore, in days like these I am compelled to turn again to Scripture to find my moorings and pool of calm.  

Red Boat (tethered) by R.J. Clark

Red Boat (tethered) by R.J. Clark

There I find no word that things are going to get better and better.  This is not our hope.  Our truth as believers is that in the midst of downturn and chaos we are being held in God’s hand.  Our truth is that while we love our country, our belonging is to another kingdom – and we serve another King.  

Our charge in serving him is to love our neighbors – including our enemies.  We’re called to lift one another up and to speak only words that build and heal.  Vitriol has no station in a believer’s mouth.

Work in Progress by Horacio Cardozo

Work in Progress by Horacio Cardozo

In days like these the folks around you need to hear voices of hope and humor. Let ours be merry hearts and light – (and not be “horrified”!)  There is no need to fear, for we belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Above the Clouds by Mike Olbinski

Above the Clouds by Mike Olbinski

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them. . .

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood . . .

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”   Hebrews 12

by Anika Youcha

by Anika Youcha

By the time this post is published the GOP convention will be winding down – and Democrats will be traveling to Philadelphia – and another spectacle will commence.  But life goes on – and here in Minnesota the Awes clan will gather for their reunion.  Our friend Chris will be recovering from her ATV accident.  Vern Anderson will be getting another infusion to fight his multiple myeloma.  Sam will be testing his new driver’s license.  Adam will be moving back to the University for his senior year.  Seth will remind us to enter our picks for the PGA Championship.  Mary and Phil will be finalizing their trip to La Rocca and thousands of Pokémon Go fans will be roaming the streets, glued to their smart phones. Etc., etc.

Family Vacation by Maryanne Jacobsen

Family Vacation by Maryanne Jacobsen

It is not by accident that you and I are living in days like these.  God be near.

Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek

Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14b

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One of my favorite songs . . .Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, Theresa Donohoo singing Safety Harbor . . . 

Lyrics and story by Rory Cooney:

. . where the song came from. There is a Safety Harbor. It’s a little town in Florida where the first American martyrs fell. And it’s a community that calls the pilgrim through the tempest’s roar. And it’s a God who is a beacon in the midst of that community, gathering the storm-battered pilgrims with a light that cloud, rain, and darkness cannot extinguish.

1. Sweet vision, Bless my eyes!
Land upon the western skies!
Constant stars, I bid you rise Over Safety Harbor.

2. Home, home! At last, becalmed!
Far behind us screams the storm.
Tattered canvas waves like arms greeting Safety Harbor.

From the windows of the tower, where the beacon burns,
Faithful friends at ev’ry hour watch for my return.

3. Yours the calm and peace I claim
When I face the waves and rain,
When the searoad calls my name
Out from Safety Harbor.
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4. Thru the fearsome, foaming gale,
When no spirit fills my sail,
I shall see, tho’ sight may fail,
Lights of Safety Harbor.

Where from windows of the tower, bright the beacon burns.
Faithful friends at ev’ry hour watch for my return.

Heart’s haven, mem’ry’s shore,
Call me thru the tempest’s roar,
Where the pilgrim sails no more,
home to Safety Harbor,
Where the pilgrim sails no more,
Home to Safety Harbor.

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Images courtesy of:  Storm Clouds by Milan Melicharek;  fineartamerica.com,  Ship in a Stormy Sea by Ivan Aivazovsky;  oceans bridge.com,  Storm Clouds by Michelle Manley;  mymodernmet.com,  Red Boat by R. J. Clark;  artspan.com,  Work in Progress by Horacio Cardozo;  fineartamerica.com,  Above the Clouds by Mike Olbinski;  mikeolbinski.com,  mountains by Anika Youcha;  anika youcha – artist (Facebook),  Family Vacation by Maryanne Jacobsen;  maryannejacobsen.com,  Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek;  orianakacicek.com.

North of Eden

by Tom Brown

by Tom Brown

“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go  into the house of the Lord.”  Psalm 122:1

On a sunny Sabbath morning
my mind began to wander
Not to ponder as I should have
but in some dreamlike yonder
In the pew beside my dear one
I strayed from hymn and praising
And thus began the raising of
superfluous appraising

black church

Elsie Johnson’s put on weight
Baby Anders won’t stop crying
Poor Lily has her hands full
Is the chicken thawed for frying?

forgetful woman

 

Oh the reading’s from Isaiah
he’s a prophet I adore
All the more to pay attention
it’s Isaiah forty four
Shout oh earth break into song now
every tree will sing out loud
But my mind it is a’drifting
like I’m somewhere in a cloud

Woman with Yellow Hat by Picasso

Woman with Yellow Hat by Picasso

Billy Whittle needs a haircut
I could use a little trim
I wonder how Art’s feeling
For he looks a little grim.

Man in Chair by Paul Cezanne

Man in Chair by Paul Cezanne

 

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
just to take him at his word,
I am stirred to now remember
concentration undeterred
The praise team is amazing
voice, guitar and violin
As I’m singing I get sidetracked
to that nether world within

Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky

 

Is the bedroom window open
It might rain before I’m there
Should I make some cacciatore
Did Jane Wilson dye her hair?

frazzled-woman

 

The sermon is beginning and
the text it is from John
Come on back it’s time to listen
shepherd’s word to lean upon
I’m blessed in this place always
with a pastor fine and true
In the flowers on the altar
should there be a bit more blue?

I'd favor delphiniums. . .

I’d favor delphiniums. . .

Kirsten’s dress is so becoming
Is the deacon wearing shorts
Did I pack some breath mints
Is my husband out of sorts?

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It is time for pulpit prayer now
in your mercy, Lord, amen
We need your sweet safekeeping
for the world’s a lion’s den
Folks are sick and deeply hurting
so we kneel in thanks and need
But then I ramble north of Eden
just a frail half holy breed

old lady

 

Did I turn the oven off
Shall we take a ride today
Is Jacob’s fever down
It’s my Sunday morn ballet

Eden Dance by Lara Meissirel

Eden Dance by Lara Meissirel

 

But praise the Lord I do believe
that all is made aright
He knows my heart and loves me still
and comprehends my plight
My thoughts go dashing off at times
my feeble mind might stray
But I am saved by grace my friend

ChurchCross-0619-web

 

And so was Tammy Faye . . . 

tammy

 

 

Flatirons Community Church (Denver) , Come Sail Away. . .

 

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Images courtesy of:  Most images found on bing.com, source not indicated or public domain, Eden Dance by Lara Meissirel;  artsetter.com.

Lazarus Come Forth

 

a_flower__s_tears_by_tinaturtle

Can a divide become so deep that there is no way to heal the breach, to cross the chasm?  I have to believe that bridges can yet be built, but the way has become longer for each of us.  Until we examine ourselves and find the debris of our prejudice and shabby judgments, our unfounded opinions and pockets of unforgiveness –  until we claim our own denial or cruelty – we can not be part of the balm that might restore our nation.

chasm-progression-4

100-Jefferson

It was only 150 some years ago that Abraham Lincoln was living in such times.

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“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We [-] will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.  In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”
–December 1, 1862, A. Lincoln

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan…”
1865 inaugural address

Angel of Grief, William Wetmore, 1894, Stanford University

Angel of Grief, William Wetmore, 1894, Stanford University

I came across a poem by Daniel C. Potts, MD, noted neurologist, champion of  those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, a believer.  He wrote this poem about Jesus’ sorrow over the death of Lazarus.  It a poem for today.

I Weep
(John 11: 1-44)
I see him…
my brother,
dancing on the Holy Hills.
He prays,
he sings the soul song,
a ballad with the meter of His heart.
He is whole,
and the wholeness of him
prays and sings
and dances on the Hills,
with mansions and palaces in view.
And I feel the Peace;
surpassing, enwrapping all that is, eternally.
I feel it with him, in unity complete;
My Father at the joining point of souls,
the place where we are knit,
tethered in;
drawn together in the Truth, in the Life
that is All in All forever.
This is what I left.
This is why I came:
my brothers’, sisters’ union
with the Father’s heart.
The linking of all
in Love Divine.
So why must it be?
why must he be wrapped again
in rags that wreak of death?
Not My will, but Thine.
I weep…
for glory given up.

Lazarus, come forth!

Jesus Wept, designed by David Meyer for adjunct Oklahoma City Memorial

Jesus Wept, designed by David Meyer for adjunct Oklahoma City Memorial

We can find words to inspire us when we look to our forefathers and the reformers and peacemakers and poets.  There is only one however who can change our hearts.  Let’s look to him.  Let’s look to Jesus.

“I am not praying for these alone but also for the future believers who will come to me because of the testimony of these. My prayer for all of them is that they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me—the glorious unity of being one, as we are— I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one.”

John 17:  20-22

by Nathan Greene

by Nathan Greene

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“Sometimes It Takes a Mountain”, sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

 

300 Years And Still

heart-of-gold

“Keep thy heart with all diligence;  for out of it are the issues of life.”  Proverbs 4:23

I try to imagine little Tom Watson, a boy in Elizabethan England, undoubtedly growing up in a strict Puritan home, wishing he could play with his mates instead of being confined to home on the Sabbath.  Who were his parents and where did this family live and did he have a brother or a sister?  How was it that the Lord laid claim on his heart?

A 17th century boy by Bachenis Evaristo

A 17th century boy by Bachenis Evaristo

Nothing is known of Thomas Watson the boy.  Nor is anything recorded of his later personal life.  The only inkling we have that he might have had a family is Charles Spurgeon’s mention that Watson was buried beside the grave of his father-in-law, John Beadle.  The dates of his birth and death are even in question.  

During the reign of Elizabeth I the Puritan movement began and she died about 20 years before Tom was born -

During the reign of Elizabeth I the Puritan movement began and she died about 20 years before Tom was born –

But this is what we know:  After intense study at Emmanuel College in Cambridge Thomas Watson received his Bachelor of Arts in 1639 and his Masters in 1642.  He had the reputation of being a diligent student with a fine intellect.  Emmanuel College was known to be a fountainhead of great Puritan preachers – and their names, while not recognized in our world, were well-known  in their time.

Emmanuel College at Cambridge

Emmanuel College at Cambridge

Thomas was not only among them, he was at the top of the heap and renown for his grasp of the English language – and Greek and Hebrew and Latin.  Through his sermons and books it was evident that his familiarity and understanding of the whole of Scripture was astounding.  He would preach and write on obscure texts that most scholars avoid.

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Further, it was clear through his references and illustrations that he had also studied and absorbed history, physics, medicine, botany, the classics and many trades.  Because of this his sermons were rich and practical and instructive and his flocks grew in numbers and faith.

London before the great fire of 1666

London before the great fire of 1666

Watson was rector at St. Stephens, Walbrook, (City of London) beginning in 1646 for 16 years.  The congregation flourished spiritually during these years.  The Puritans were basically a sect within the Church of England at that time, emphasizing a need for further reform, committed to Scripture, the sovereignty of God, moderation and godly lives.  These were years of great turmoil in the Church as political factions grew and waned – and monarchies were deposed and re-instated.  These were the days of Oliver Cromwell.  At one time Watson was briefly imprisoned for being in favor of restoring Charles II to the throne – and later reinstated to St. Stephens when he promised submission to the government.  

Engraving of Parliament in early 1600's, King James I

Engraving of Parliament in early 1600’s, King James I

Interestingly the current website of St. Stephens mentions nothing of its famed preacher, but talks only instead of the fire which destroyed the old church and the architect (Christopher Wren) and construction of the beautiful edifice it now is.

St Stephens, Walbrook, City of London, early "new church", around 1700

St Stephens, Walbrook, City of London, early “new church”, around 1700

In 1662 the Parliament of England issued the Act of Uniformity.  This not only required all members of government – but all ministers to conform to the Book of Common Prayer, all rites, prayers and Sacraments, all ordinations without question.  Immediately about 2,000 clergymen refused to take the oath and were ejected from the Church of England.  Thomas Watson, bound in conscience to God alone, was among them – as were most Puritan clergy and he had to leave St. Stephens.  Most people had never even seen the Book of Common Prayer 1662 edition.

See all the church spires

See all the church spires

A Bishop Richardson visited St. Stephens when Watson was there and being moved by the sermon and ending prayer he followed Watson home and asking for a copy of Watson’s prayer recorded thus:  

“Alas!” (said Mr Watson) “that is what I cannot give, for I do not use to pen my prayers; it was no studied thing, but uttered, pro re nata, as God enabled me, from the abundance of my heart and affections.’ Upon which the good Bishop went away wondering that any man could pray in that manner extempore.”

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Other “Acts” followed like the Five Mile Act, which forbade these Nonconformist ministers to come with five miles of a city or town except when traveling – or another in which it was illegal for more than 5 non-family members to gather together for worship (outside of the Church of England).  Nevertheless our Tom continued to write and study and preach to wherever a few could gather in safety and private for worship.

Countryside outside London in 17th Century

Countryside outside London in 17th Century

Finally in 1672 Watson was granted an indulgence to preach again and began a ministry at Crosby Hall in London, later joined by another great Puritan preacher, Rev. Stephen Charnock.  This esteemed duo served there until their deaths.

Tom would be surprised to know that we are talking about him today and that Christians around the world have found his 176 recorded sermons – and books – and are growing in faith through his insights.

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

The Spiritual Watch is one such sermon.  Here is its essence for us 300 years later:

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

“This text is about matters of life and death. The words are mandatory and carry in them the force of a command, God’s solemn charge.

 In these words there is:
A duty: “Keep thy heart.”
The manner: “with all diligence.”
The reason: “for out of it are the issues of life.”

THE DUTY:  KEEP thy heart.

Keep your heart as you would keep a temple. The temple was a hallowed place set apart for God’s worship; so the heart is the temple of God  This heart-temple must be kept pure and holy;

Keep your heart as you would keep a treasure.  Men do not know the worth of that treasure they carry around with them; therefore they prefer other things.

Keep your heart as you would keep a garden.  Therefore be weeding your heart daily by prayer, examination, and repentance.

Keep your heart as you would keep a garrison.  The heart of man is a garrison or a royal fortress. This garrison is besieged; the devil shoots his fiery darts of temptation. So keep your heart as a tower or a castle.

Keep your heart as you would a prisoner. The heart is guilty, and is ready every now and then to break prison.

Keep your heart as you would keep a watch. The heart will unwind to the earth; therefore wind it up every morning and evening by prayer.

THE MANNER:  with all diligence

Keep your heart when you are alone.

Keep your heart when you are in company.

Keep your heart especially after good duties

Keep your heart in times of adversity.

Keep your heart in time of prosperity.

THE REASON:  for out of it are the issues, (the springs), of life 

The heart is a slippery piece  (Jeremiah 17:9)

First, the heart will deceive us about sinful things.

Second, the heart will deceive us about lawful things.

Third, the heart will deceive us about religious things, our duties and graces.

In the natural body, the heart is the fountain of life; if the heart lives, the whole body lives; if the heart is tainted and poisoned, the body dies. So it is in a spiritual sense: if the inner man of the heart is holy, then the thoughts and actions are holy; if the soul is earthly and impure, the actions receive a bad tincture. In religion, the heart is all; we judge men’s hearts by their actions. God judges men’s actions by their hearts.”

3d-Gold-Love-Heart-Transparent-Background

I’ve been pondering about the claim of God upon this one man and how His whispers would still be heard across the span of 300 years.  I’ve also been pondering about keeping my heart – and if I should grow weary in this, I will remember: 

“The Lord is thy keeper”    Ps. 121

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One of the great early Baroque composers (during Watson’s time) was Arcangelo Corelli.  Here is his Violin Sonata Op. 5 No. 12 (part 1). . . .

 

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Images courtesy of:  painting by Evaristo and of Elizabeth I;  bing.com,  London Before the Great Fire;  eandt.thelet.org,  Engraving of Parliament;  myartprints.co.uk,  St. Stephens book print found on bing as are other London drawings.  For more information on Thomas Watson;  fivesolas.com, thomaswatsonquotes.com, cal.org/ccel/watson, puritansermons.com/watson/wats_mem.htm.