Thoughts on the words of J. Gresham Machen – Think for yourself

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art-Stuart Miles

J. Gresham Machen lived from 1881-1937. He was a Presbyterian churchman, a New Testament scholar, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor, founder of the Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians. The quotes in this series come from his book, “Christianity and Liberalism”.

“It is usually considered good practice to examine a thing for oneself before echoing the vulgar ridicule of it.”

I’ve learned, and am still learning, the wisdom of this statement. I think this thought can apply to many different situations, not just religion.
Some other example where it might apply:

  • Homeschooling – often people want to put down homeschooling based on traditions. They are so used to the public school system, the way they were raised, that they jump to conclusions. I did this years ago when our friends were the first people I knew who had decided to homeschool. I thought they were nuts. Little did I know.
  • Outward appearance – the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here.
  • Vegetarianism – I am not a vegetarian, but I certainly see the wisdom in it.
  • Alternative medicine – Many of our nation of pill takers don’t question all the prescriptions they are handed. Many people think those who prefer natural methods are wackos. Not so.
  •  Everything you read on social media. Nuff said.

“It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain” – from A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Today’s PAD challenge was to write a poem about family

 

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Can’t Separate

Can’t separate me from the past
my grandfather’s desertion
my grandmother’s tenacity
the stories told and retold
by the aunts who remember

Can’t separate me from my childhood
Dad’s bellowing and invented words
Mom’s steadfastness and silly jokes
brothers by my side, happy or not
supper in the kitchen every night

Can’t separate me from those cousins
who made paper dolls for me
we swam and skated and pretended
and whispered into the night
those first and forever friends

Can’t separate me from my husband
who made a new family with me
who grew and stumbled by my side
the one who really knows me
and loves me anyway

Can’t separate me from my offspring
flesh of my flesh who look like their dad
my babies grown up too soon
across state lines and time zones
in joy and sorrow, mine

Can’t separate me from this next generation
the little ones who let me love on them
these two with bits of me inside
this hope for the future
this family of mine

Panic

Today’s PAD prompt was “Panic” . This came to mind as it does quite often.

that night

September, 2000

 

That Night

 

The black darkness as we tumbled

came so swift and sudden until

we were upright

across the road

facing the opposite direction

and she was gone

 

outside the car

screaming my name

before I could even make sense of it

I climbed out the window

to get her in my arms

and my heart restarted

my breath returned

Not Today

Today marks the second day of PAD – Poem a Day – for this year. This is a yearly challenge by Robert Brewer of Writer’s Digest. You can read more about it HERE  I think this makes my 7th year of participation. I will be posting some of my poems here throughout the month.

 

Today’s prompt was “not today”.  Here is my attempt:

not today

 

Once

 

Once a slamming door rattled the picture on the wall in the living room

I bellowed “settle down”

which you did for two minutes

 

Laughter and foot patters echoed through the upstairs

I smiled to myself in contentment

knowing you were up to something

 

We would roll down the windows and sing off key

the wind tangling our curls

carrying our voices into the treetops

but today I sing alone, softly

 

You and James played in the rain

floating boats in the gutter

then stripped off your clothes in the garage

 

You always called dibs on the shower

on the way home from the beach

anxious to rid yourself of the sand in your suit

 

Last week I found that picture we took

on the way to Georgia

with Smokey the Bear

you in your black knee highs

me when my hair was long

and I smiled

 

But not today

 

 

You can read PAD Day One HERE.

 

Life and Death

 

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I wrote some thoughts on death a few weeks ago, and I wanted this to go hand-in-hand with that post.

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as microscopic swarm, the lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks late, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us. -from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I love this description of the beginning of life. Job knew all about life and death. Oh to be like Job; to learn how to accept when the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”            Job 1:21

We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if.”

But we are always optimists when it comes to time: we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.

We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

That last quote about fearing that death will take someone else is so true. I know I will die one day, and I don’t want it to be anytime soon. But, I also don’t like the thought of outliving all my loved ones. I have watched my mother lately as she has lost several longtime friends. I guess when you get to be 80 that is bound to happen. But, it still doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it probably makes you think about death just a little too much.

 

John (the author’s husband) shrugs his shoulders… “Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop…You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us. It’s all good.” – from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Unseen

light

I have always admitted that I just can’t grasp the simple concept of beautiful music coming out of a vinyl record, much less a cassette tape or a cd or via the internet. It boggles my mind how the music can be played over and over. It is fascinating to think of all the sounds passing across the air 24/7. Werner and Marie-Laure, in All the Light We Cannot See, thought along the same lines.

Werner like to crouch in his dormer and imagine radio waves like mile-long harp strings, bending and vibrating over Zollverein, flying through forests, through cities, through walls.

Marie-Laure imagines their electromagnetic waves traveling into and out of Michel’s machine, bending around them, just as Etienne used to describe, except now a thousand times more crisscross the air than when he lived – maybe a million times more. Torrents of text conversations, tides of cell conversations, of television programs, of email, vast networks of fiber and wire interlaced above and beneath the city, passing through buildings, arcing between transmitters in Metro tunnels, between antennas atop building, from lampposts with cellular transmitters in them, commercials for Carrefour and Evian and prebaked toaster pastries flashing into space and back to earth again, I’m going to be late and Maybe we should get reservations? and Pick up avocados and What did he say? and ten thousand I miss yous, fifty thousands I love yous, hate mail and appointment reminders…

Recently I was telling my husband that I think sometimes about how we are walking around every day – in and out of all kinds of wifi waves and radio and TV and I don’t understand it at all. Right now I might be walking through a jazz song or an I Love Lucy rerun or somebody’s email. Ever think about that?

When I was pregnant with my last child, I had to lay in bed on occasion to rest on my left side. I could swear I’d hear jumbled voices – like the muffled voices of newscasters. Yet, when I sat up they disappeared. I wondered if I was picking up sound waves via my silver fillings. I’m sure it was just the air swishing through the vents, but it drove me mad. Yet, it also sparked my imagination. Years later, I developed an interest in stories involving time/space travel. Some of my favorites are Michael Crichton’s Timeline and Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time and the movie Frequency. This fascination spills over to old buildings. I love to imagine what went on in buildings that have been around a long time. When my son was renovating the kitchen of a 1940’s home, he knocked out a wall and discovered some items that had been hiding inside. Among his findings were silver serving spoons and some toy cars circa the late 50s/early 60s. I imagine some little kids dropping them inside the wall when it was opened for some sort of repair.

Though Werner and Marie-Laure are fictional characters, I know that at least the author, Anthony Doerr, thought about things the way I do sometimes. That’s comforting to know; I’m not alone in the allure of invisible sounds or in the enchantment of historical buildings.