Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Showers of Blessings

Having enjoyed reading blogs of others recently, I've decided it's time for me to try my fingers at it.

About the title. Showers of Blessings is the title of song number 528 in The Sacred Harp, a collection of shape note hymns and songs that is one of the great joys of my life. The words, written by Isaac Watts in 1719, reflect my basic outlook on life.

With songs and honors sounding loud,
Address the Lord on high.
Over the heavens he spreads his clouds,
And waters veil the sky.

He sends his showers of blessings down,
To cheer the plains below.
He makes the grass the mountains crown,
And corn in valleys grow.

The plains here in Minnesota have been very much cheered by the showers of this spring.

Tonight, I'm sitting on our screened in front porch, enjoying a Minnesota summer evening. There is a warm heaviness and moistness in the air with the feeling of a storm coming in. Often, I sit out here and listen to the baseball game on the radio and watch the people who go by. I especially love to see those on bicycles; they move so quickly and gracefully, like meteors, as they pass down our quiet residential street.

I also enjoy watching passersby look at the five colorful signs we have on the outside of our porch. They are about 2'x3' and say "Demand Truth", "Insist Justice", "Vote Peace", "Proclaim Love", and "Live Hope." Here's what they look like:

I made them last summer, during the election season, when I wanted to say something a little more pointed than Vote for the Candidate of My Choice. I wanted to prompt people to think. The slogans (all but Live Hope) were borrowed from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater's 2004 May Day pageant. Here's a photo of the pageant that inspired the signs:

I made the signs from materials purchased at Ax-Man, a wonderfully quirky liquidated-merchandise store on University Avenue in St. Paul -- the signs were made from white magnetic bulletin boards and brilliantly colored vinyl. I covered each white board with a bright color, and then cut the letters from a contrasting color.

I also like to sit out here and practice playing my banjo and accordion (but not at the same time). The nice thing about a screened-in front porch is its ambiguity. It's subject to being seen & heard by anyone passing by, but the screen provides psychological privacy so people can pretend they don't see or hear me, or me them, unless one of us wants to say something.

Right now, our family is beginning to prepare to travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to Friends General Conference's annual Gathering. It's kind of a cross between church camp, elder hostel, family reunion, and camp for about 1300 Quakers. This will be the eighth or ninth gathering since my first one in 1983. The Gatherings have an especially sweet quality for us because my wife and I met at one at Oberlin College in 1987.

This year, I'm looking forward to taking a workshop to learn about Le Chambon, a village in southern France that sheltered and protected several thousands of Jews from being murdered. The story is a compelling one of how a community with a strong religious connection and its own history of persecution (Le Chambon has been a Protestant town in a largely Catholic country for hundreds of years) was able to do good in the midst of evil. As I read the book, Lest Innocent Blood be Shed, I couldn't help but thinking about how we can live in resistance during our own dark times.

Right now, though, I'm resisting going to the kitchen for a piece of warm rhubarb pie. But the seductive aroma says, "resistance is useless." I surrender.

There was ice cream, too.

Life is good. I am showered with blessings.