According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Time and Place Not Forgotten


After a turbulent past two years of bearing a long illness a few months ago my wife and I asked ourselves the question of whether this might be the time to look for a new home.  It seemed the right thing to ask. But as Fall began it was also the furthest thing on our hearts until one day we decided we should finally begin the process we had discussed for so long. And so, several months later, having looked at many homes we bought something we both liked and will be leaving the only home we have known together as we raised our family into young adulthood.

This I think will cap a very long and suffering illness I've been enduring from the start of the other year - and from which I am still recovering even now - as I regain strength and stamina. It gives me a new stage of life from which I might move past towards something which may help alleviate old wounds. To this, my wife and I also experienced a very violent auto accident on the highway this past summer destroying both our new truck and an old travel trailer we were pulling but not ourselves. In its aftermath, after regaining consciousness, we were able to walk away with only bruises from the seat belts but with no cuts or broken bones or lost limbs because the safety equipment built into the new vehicle did what it was suppose to do.

And as I stood on the side of the busy highway surveying the massive damage, watching police and firemen scrambling towards us over the wreckage of our lives strewn across a 100 yards of debris, listening to the ambulance wailing in the distance, I wondered then how the Lord would guide our paths from a place of total loss to one giving shape and direction for the future. In hindsight it has been an amazing journey confirming everything I felt inside the pitching, rolling vehicle at the time - that we would be ok despite the destruction we saw laying across the hillside and within our hearts.

After having spent by then most of the summer learning to live with an infection which refused to leave  my body, and then dealing with losses so typical of life, I remember thinking back to those moments standing on the side of the highway wondering if there was a life lesson found somewhere here in the wreckage and if we should take this time to continue completely undoing our past in order to recreate it anew. It was this latter thought that finally took root and moved my wife and I to rethink and pray about a new direction instead of the one that looked us in the eye everyday whispering discouragement, defeat, and hopelessness.

One of those things we have decided to do is to change communities and begin another kind of life together than the one we had become so familiar and comfortable with. Without sounding unthankful to the deep goodness of God it had grown to become a life holding precious memories with no forward movement anymore. It needed destruction and rebuilding in order for us to find again those days of our past youth filled with struggle, unknowing, uncertainty, and promise.

Leaving the Old

The downside to these thoughts is that we must sell our family home after 35 years of memories while leaving a community which has been my dear childhood home since birth. During those sixty plus years of life I have witnessed the change of the rural countryside I grew up in become transformed seemingly overnight into a sprawling metropolis. As much as I resisted this change and attempted to adapt into it I have felt myself slowly becoming a foreigner in a land I had once known as deeply different from what it has become today. With the lost of older generations who bore my memories - of family, relatives, and friends who had lived and shared their older lives with us - the ingress of urban/cultural change has brought with it another profound kind of loss. One both personal and social. One both internal and external. Its but another kind of destruction we go through as older souls should be so fortunate to live out long years.

For myself, unlike my wife who grew up in the city, I grew up on a family farm. My brothers and I were the last of six generations to have lived there. Next door was my grandma and grandpa's house which had held five previous generations of children all growing up like ourselves having known all that we would come to know until the family farm finally went out of operation after 150 years of service to the community (c.1837-1987). There my brothers and I attended a little one-room school which held all our previous relatives within its clapboard walls and ink-welled desks for long, long years of childhood instruction, fun, and play. We walked across the same pastured fields, climbed over the same broken fencelines, and were occasionally chased by the same red-eyed bull leaning into our very narrow stretch of fenced pathway defying our presence unless we were a tractor hauling equipment, hay or grain between fields.

In my fifth grade year, a year which held many pleasant surprises, came another kind of surprise would come. One that would change everything. For the community it was a necessary change but for a little boy growing up in the quiet of the countryside it would mean a deep change unlike any other he would come to know or understand. During that year our township of rural farms would be subdivided into six or seven city corporations. The gravity gas pumps and milling station on the corner would go away; our smithy shop full of ancient cackling relatives and moving machine belts smelling of oil would go away; our little country school which I loved would go away; even the street I grew up on would go away. We had entered into an unwanted age of modernity with its insatiable need for land, people, and presence.

The following school year, instead of walking the wet pasturelands, my brothers and I would ride a yellow school bus our dad would drive carrying us to the public schools far, far away from our family farm. Our dad had also left the county sheriff's department to become the city's second policeman and fire department's first fire crew. That same year grandpa died and with him what was left of the family farm (c.1966). Dad no longer plowed the fields like he did before nor did we ride the tractors or listen to their engines grind across the distant fields in the early morn. Our uncles no longer came over to help in harvesting nor did we walk behind the baler across hot fields pulling out bales of hay under a hot sun. Even the two-lane road we lived on became of a sudden reborn into a five lane thoroughfare quickly to become the state's second busiest street. Our hunting properties became more restricted as homes built up a mile away and the calm of peaceful mornings and evenings disappeared in the constant hum of cars and trucks always speeding past our lands going somewhere in a hurry.

For many, I'm sure, this transition wouldn't have been a bid deal but for myself, having lived enough of my youth in this older, agrarian way of rural thinking and living, it was huge. We were the sixth and last generation to have lived on the land farming and hunting in the very early days of Kent County when it was still a pioneering wilderness. The one-room school we attended began with my great x 5 grandfather's construction, who also built our barns, sheds, and grandma and grandpa's farm home next door. The street outside our door was a dirt-lane affair with rolling hills bearing large, spreading oaks which were very ancient. We had no nearby neighbors nor friends unless you count those whom we met at school over the years. Our grandparents lived next door in the house that our father grew up in, whose aunts and uncles, and their aunts and uncles, and so on, had done the same as youths. All tied to the land of their birth like ourselves. The ground was sacred, the land was sacred, sky, water, and all living creatures were sacred. We felt the deep value of living closely to this earth. We felt its rhythms, its pauses, its winds and storms. It seasons meant something to us but now it was being lessened by the hand of man gripping at its wonder.


Coming to Know the Present

We also felt the sudden impact of post-industrial change as modernity upended everything we knew and loved. It ended everything of our ancient past with a finality that still rings in my heart today. All the while it began a good deal of trouble in sorting out in our heads and hearts what it all meant as pre-teen youths awashed in sudden change. What once seemed simple, known, even expected, became quite different and complicated as time and life grew up leaving me, as the eldest, to face university years which opened into an even wider world then the one I was learning to transition into back home.

Thankfully, my parents loved to camp and travel. This dad had learned in his days in the army in the Korean War. Imagine my dad, as a seventeen old boy having never left the farm, to be drafted into an army that taught him how to kill other men he didn't know, then shipping him off in container ships across a pitching northern Pacific sea into a foreign land he didn't understand. Here was dad's first lessons in survival and deep change as it would become for many others from both sides of the war.  When he returned he had learned a second occupation besides the one he was educated in. He had grown up and learned resiliency in the face of change. He was no longer a young innocent filled with wonder but a new hardness to the ways of the world. But it was my mom who kept wonder alive in him as they grew older.

As such, for many years we learned to camp and travel across 1960's America and Canada, foreign lands like ourselves laying witness in their own ways to wildernesses lost upon ribbons of highway and steel. The cultures we met in small towns, on Native American reservations, or in the farmlands, were all undergoing the same deep change we were  undergoing... and for some, a much longer and harsher change under the throes of oppression, discrimination, loss of life, and passive indifference.

In hindsight, I suspect my love for postmodernity may be the result of never liking the modernal era we were forced into as our rural population slowly left its farmlands and moved into the industrial factories subtending the growth of the cities of America as each sprawled across the gilded countrysides of our past in ferocious development. Modernity never felt natural. But postmodernity  in its dislike of modernity feels very good - especially in its criticism of modernity's deep angst of forced change upon lands and peoples more in rhythm with one another before its era than now under its empty presence.


Learning a New Rhythm

Consequently, over the fifth and sixth decades of my life, I have felt the deep, deep movement of the Spirit of the Lord our God come upon me to question everything I had witnessed by re-writing my past in a profoundly different direction than the one I had learned by way of a modernized education, traditional church beliefs, and urbanized cultural mores. This I have done following the only path I knew. A path which must first destroy the past in order to move forward into the future as I have been one of those fortunates caught betwixt-and-between the forces of deep change yet able to survive its spiritual impact for whatever reason.

Like last night's harsh northern winds which swept their bitter cold gales across the Great Lakes to push away the last vestiges of yesterday's November warmth likewise has come our own sweeping storms to blow across our lives forcing critique and re-evaluation of what we believe, and why we believe as we do, as we enter into an age of violence propelled by senseless nationalism. An age which does not allow the backwards look lest we become disturbed by our losses and filled with its guilt. An age of post-truth, anger, destruction, and chaos. An unsympathetic age to the burdens of mankind. One more selfish, seeking its on survival in ignornace, oppression, and injustice. An age reaching past postmodernity returning us to another form of modernity - this one just as violent, just as chaotic, just as senseless. A post-postmodernity marked by greed, lies, deceits, lusts, power, and dark evil.

A decade earlier I had felt its destructive gales coming. Black thoughts began to trouble my heart even then. The ground underneath my feet seemed to move not with hope but with troubling belief. And upon the surfaces of my conscience had risen a wind I could no long hold back. A wind demanding I look at life differently than I had before. To no longer accept what I had tried to adapt into. To no longer believe what I was told to believe. To no longer think in the ways I had once learned when abandoning my own thoughts from a more distant time. Once again the hand of God came to disturb. His Spirit's torrent swept across the landscapes of my heart like the mighty flood tides of God's sovereign grace and benevolence. His leading purposed my steps towards another heavenly truth than the one I thought I was following in my deep devotion to church and religion.

As of now, I no longer wish to support the traditional, fundamental ways of my church or my learned past. But to continue the more fundamental tradition of challenging the systems we live within, by not accepting what common beliefs tell us to think; by reading beyond my geopolitical, economic, and regional understandings; by questioning why we do what we do. By embracing - or planting - profound community systems of generosity, compassion, justice, and humility. Seeds any well-tended crop will need to challenge a post-postmodern chaotic despotism towards another kind which might vouchsafe economic globalization, ecological restoration, and civil discourse against uncivilized actions and attitudes. These are things we can do together. But we begin by doing them alone as the Lord of the Harvest reaps where He will, sowing in order to share with us the bounties of His good grace against all that would hold us back... especially upon the hard soils of our naive and good intentions built upon religious beliefs and principals.

To all who seek the Lord this coming Christmas Season. Who would be servants of Jesus in the sharing the His yuletide blessings. May you find grace and peace by becoming those prophets of God crying out in a wilderness lost upon the hands of man that men and nations might find grace and peace with one another and be turned from the destruction we all bear within.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
December 3, 2017
revised December 5, 2017


Addendum: Below are not our family pictures but ones resembling some of the operations of our family farm and what it felt like to work together as a farming family. I have very few pictures, if any, of my past because cameras and film developers were either unavailable or unaffordable. - res
















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