Home is Not a Location

“Home, for the exile, is not a location, but union with God.”

– Bruce Gordon, Calvin, p. 57

First, I want to apologize. I am a truck driver, not a scholar. When it comes to John Calvin or countless other topics, I’m just a guy interested in learning about things outside my normal scope. I’m not an authoritative historian or even as well-read as I’d like to be. To attempt to remedy that last part, I have been trying to finish a newer biography about the French reformer by Bruce Gordon for a little more than a year. Contrary to what might be deduced from my mind-numbingly slow pace, Gordon’s book is actually quite an easy read. There’s plenty of sixteenth century European history that gives better perspective of the world in which Calvin lived.

I am well aware of the division often surrounding this historical figure (if anything, this is primarily what most lay people who are interested in Church history know of Calvin, and that is a shame). It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that in circles I’m more familiar with due to my own cultural background, the name John Calvin is usually filtered through the lens of a Jack Chick tract. In that context, one tends to get an idea of something like a raging despot, screaming about God’s sovereignty, kicking puppies, and unilaterally sending poor Genevans to the same fate as the anti-Trinitarian Michael Servetus. In short, rubbish.

If there is anything, in my present limited scope, that I find noteworthy about this Frenchman is the passion he had for who God is and his word. At a time when tradition and papal authority were treated as though they were on par with (or greater than) the Bible, Calvin stood with those other men and women of the Reformation who believed, taught, and remained unmoved on one of the basic principles found in the apostle Paul’s writings, namely, that, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness(2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). Something simplified under the Five Solas as sola scriptura, or scripture alone.

Another thing of note about Calvin is the concept of exile. Exile was nothing alien to him; he was an exile from his native France most of his adult life. What I find heartening is the encouragement he sought to bring other Christians who had to flee their homelands, as he had, because of their faith. I’m not halfway finished with Bruce Gordon’s book(I know, so slow!), but it seems that at least part of the reasons why Calvin began writing his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion was in order to, by way of explanation of scripture and doctrine found therein, encourage others facing persecution and exile.

The idea of exile runs through the pages of God’s word. We were strangers but God drew us to himself. Separated from him by our sin in Adam, he brought us back under the work of Christ. Strangers to God no more; strangers only to this world as the old American spiritual goes, “this world is not my home, and I’m just passing through.”

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A Simple Admission 

The Lord’s ways are not our ways.

He is good, kind, and gracious.

In His wisdom He has decreed our days

And has appointed the hour he takes us.

Along the Road: Tree in the Rock Sketch

Another sketch from our cross country car trip. Tree in the Rock is nestled in granite rock in between the east and westbound lanes on I-80 about twenty-one miles and thirty miles from Laramie and Cheyenne respectively. We very briefly stopped, via a very thoughtful left-lane exit, to enjoy this point of interest. The State of Wyoming has it’s act together when it comes to accommodating visitors interested in the unique, nichey sites found along the highways and byways. For those inclined to make this tree a stop, it was an easy in-and-out diversion. There are no restrooms. Those are located westward at the Lincoln head (see previous post), in Cheyenne, or along the road shoulder in a pinch. Wyoming is a fantastic place.

Road Trip Sketch: Abraham Lincoln Memorial Monument 

Drawn with a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen on a pocket Moleskine Cahir Volant

Along Interstate 80 in Eastern Wyoming, between Laramie and Cheyenne, a bronze sculpted head of the sixteenth president of the United States is perched on a granite pedestal facing southward. Eccentric and weird, it’s the kind of diversion travelers ought to enjoy on any good road trip. My wife, our six children, and I were headed back to Northeastern Nevada from Michigan (a story for another time), and we made the statue of Honest Abe one of our obligatory bathroom/antsy-pants stops. It’s a great rest area. After the mass exodus from our eight passenger car into the clean facility, we did the whole photo-op thing at the base of the granite pedestal. Afterwards, my wife and I passed salami and cheese sandwiches out and we ate lunch before heading back on the interstate. Goofy, crazy memories that only cost our time.

Geminid Meteor Shower in Northeastern Nevada

Quick post! I’m not going to pretend to be cool. When it comes to events like the solar eclipse, the conjunction of planets Venus and Jupiter, or the few good meteor showers we’ve had in the Northern Hemisphere in 2017, I turn into an astronomy fanboy. I’m not a super technical person, but I’ll read up, obsess, and gab to my co-workers about how cool these things are. When it comes down to it, I’m sort of like that annoying 90s kid back in first grade who liked Power Rangers. There he goes, attempting to roundhouse kick off the playground equipment again. Yes, that was me. It still is—minus the campy martial arts TV show. 
Last night the Geminids put on a fantastic display of shooting stars. My wife and I counted sixty-six meteors (and among them were more than a few fireballs) in a clear sky out in frigid December weather. Every time one streaked across the sky, we let out a “Wow!” as the vapor from our breath steamed in the night air. We stayed out  doors under forty-five minutes, opting to warm up next to our wood stove before we went to bed. I don’t have a sweet camera set-up so here’s a sketch from my pocket notebook.

Dad Life: Lego Gun

This is a shout out to  sleep-deprived dads (and moms), especially to those who’ve been awake most of the night comforting a cranky baby or tending to sick kids. For parents with little ones, sleep is practically a barterable commodity. If it were possible, we’d all get together like a mountain man rendezvous, trying to trade a few packs of gummy snacks and dryer lint cash for a few hours of uninterrupted REM sleep. When I was a single man, I took sleep for granted. But I also wanted to eventually get married and have children. So on the other end of the spectrum, I understand there are people longing to start a family, and some who aren’t presently able to do so would give up a whole lot to make that a reality. Laying that all aside, I would go back and punch my bachelor counterpart in the face, give him an ice pack, then tell him to enjoy his good night’s rest. I now leave you with a verse of dad poetry.

A day off at home for a family man with six kids

Is probably different than a bachelor without a daughter or son:

On a quiet wintry morning the single man blissfully sleeps with closed eye lids

While the dad, in silent repose, gets jumped by a kid with a Lego gun.

Advent Ruminations: The Light Shines in the Darkness

I jotted down a few verses today as I was thinking about Jesus’ incarnation—the eternal God dwelling with sinful man. Forgive my clunkiness. Besides a few scant words in my pocket notebook, I haven’t written much during the past twelve months. Before the poem, here’s a little of what I’m ruminating on.
Every year right around the day after Thanksgiving, when most of us are still getting over pie coma, our thoughts turn towards the hustle and bustle of Christmas. And it’s often customary or, as in Christian culture, even obligatory to reflect on the “real meaning of Christmas.” While it is true that this is a cliché, I personally resist letting that get in the way of dwelling on Christ during Advent as well as the rest of the calendar year.

In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer wrote, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” As I ruminate on Christ again and again, I realize the nature of his birth, nothing short of miraculous, only sets the stage for his accomplishment on the cross. Still, his birth ought not to be skimmed over to get to the good part. The poem below is but a small result of my ruminations.

I turn to Packer again: “The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”

We were dwelling in darkness, mired in selfishness within,

Reaping rubbished good, tasting the bitterness of our sin.

But in the midnight of our folly, a slough of our soul’s decay,

We saw, like Zebulun and Naphtali, a great light brighter than noonday.

 

Despondent in guilt and shame, still, we delighted in doing wrong.

The light shined in the darkness, convicting and revealing we needed Christ all along.

You chose us to be yours before you laid the foundations of the world.

Your Son came to seek and save us, and upon him our sins were hurled.

 

God of gods, it is only right to emphasize that you came to the lowest of the low,

To shepherds, fishermen, tax collectors, publicans—moralistic dead people—to show

Your love in the light you sent to us to who dwelt in darkness on this Earth.

O that the God who made the Universe came down to man through a virgin birth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIELD NOTES: Stationary for Those Who Aren’t

Pictured: Field Notes’ 36th Limited Edition, “Dime Novel”

If this blog has a theme, it would probably have something to do with transience—hence the words “wayfaring” and “pilgrim” in the header—perhaps in the spirit of the hobo culture of the 1930s and 40s, when working people went wherever and did whatever they had to do to make ends meet. We may not be in the Great Depression now, but the same tenacity back then has been passed down to many of us now. No matter what our vocation, we strive to do our best because we care about what we do. 

The folks at Field Notes reinforce that ideal with quality notebooks and accessories such as pens, pencils, and leather notebook covers (all made in the USA). They make a quality product because they care about what they do. So it’s no surprise to find that they have a generous selection of notebooks marketed with the working person in mind. At their page you can find great notebooks, which generally come in 3-packs, such as their Original Kraft memo books , Utility, which comes in graph or ledger and a flip-out ruler to boot, as well as a host of other cool editions. Their design team is top notch, creating notebooks that salute the pragmatism of yesteryear while contributing stylish subtleties like embossed letters (especially in their newest edition, Dime Novel) and a ruler printed on the inside back cover. They make notation a pleasure for hard-working people in the field.

Which brings me to the meat of this post. Having a pocket notebook was at one time a common necessity—not just a small part of a subculture today. Not only for writers or artists, pocket notebooks were largely utilitarian, used for practical purposes by people in job sectors such as agriculture, transportation, and trade jobs. My late grandad would often carry in his shirt pocket a small composition notebook to check off each stop on his water softener route, write out a lumber material list, or jot down tasks to be completed. I worked on drill rigs for drillers who would keep their own shift logs in addition to the ones they were required to keep in the rig clipboard. 

As for myself, I keep a notebook to sketch, make quick notes, log how many cords of firewood I’ve cut (see what I did there?), or scribble out a poem once in a while. For me, the folks at Field Notes have tapped into an unpretentious mixture of blue collar durability found on the job site and literary creativity found in a corner booth at the local coffeehouse. A real win.