Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Name for My Blog: Gleanings

"Gleanings" is an admission.  I am beholden to a legacy.

My mother’s father kept a small notebook, a journal really, and on its front cover he had entitled the notebook “Gleanings.” The notebook was filled with quips, notes, quotes, commentary, and sidebars related to his reading.  Here I hope to distill gleanings from my own reading, writing, preaching, pastoring, husbanding, fathering, and living.

Before he died, I got to know my mother’s father.  After my grandmother died, he came to live with my family. We shared a bedroom together for three years.  He was a very educated man and had in turn been an educator himself. He loved the collective wisdom of God and men and worked through his life to cherish it and then to pass it along.  He read and he wrote and he taught what he had gleaned.  I did not know my grandmother well, but I knew he missed her.  Soon after coming to live with us, he began to go blind and reading for himself was lost until he was able to learn braille.  In the meantime, I would, as I was able, read for him some of the things I was studying in school, and we would talk.  I would read some psalms or other passages from the Bible, and we would talk.  He didn’t lecture - we would talk.

I owe a legacy of learning also to my father’s father. A postman and real estate manager to pay the bills, he was a dedicated reader and student of the Bible, current events, and the box scores all his life. Before he died, I got to know my father’s father as well. In preschool, I spent most Wednesdays with him and my grandmother.  He taught my Sunday school class. He led our little class in singing, “Jesus loves me.” For one summer in elementary school, I lived with them for a month while my parents travelled in the Holy Land. We shared a passion for baseball & hot dogs.  We would listen to Vin Sculley call Dodger games well into the night together.  He read the newspaper everyday. He owned a 12 volume commentary of the whole Bible called The Interpreter’s Bible, not the newer edition that came out about 10 years ago - the old one.  The new one as many "new ones" are, is a shadow of the original, more concerned with typesetting than with scholarship. Those 12 volumes, that old Interpreter’s Bible now leads the commentaries in my study. I received a gift from my Grandfather after he passed away. In his memory, I purchased a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Great Books of the Western World, the Annals of America, and took one year of graduate school studying in Cambridge.

My mother and father have been very active parents.  Dinner was a family gathering more often than not.  My mother taught me and my older brothers and sister to love the wisdom of God and men.  She has always been an artist at heart, but set aside her art for the sake of raising her family and serving as a teacher in schools wherever we lived. Her collective passions for reading, learning, teaching, counseling, and living generously have remained inescapable. Once my older brothers and sister grew up and I followed along toward High School, paint began to appear in our home.  Then, paintings.  My mother never forgot the shapes, colors, and scenes that carried reflections of her spirit.

My father is a Lutheran Pastor. I am a Lutheran Pastor.  I am beholden to a legacy that goes back well beyond these two previous generations.  My father has been very spare about giving too much advice.  He is not the kind of Dad that is always looking over your shoulder telling you what to do.  He is far more apt to watch and pray.  One piece of advice I will always remember is this: "Read everything you can get your hands on." I’m sure another important person in his life had told him the same thing.  I am sure that he has been happiest and most helpful to others when he was living by that maxim.

“Gleanings” is my attempt to live out this legacy. They are a portion of my own Dead Poets’ Society. As John Keating's character quotes Walt Wittman and then comments, “The powerful play goes on and you can contribute a verse, what will your verse be?”

Read widely, then, selectively, read deeply.

O ME! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the
struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me
The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me,
O life?

That you are here-that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.