Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hopes and Dreams and Visions

Today we heard two more parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven from Mathew 13.    In the two brief stories, each man finds a great treasure.  One found it by good fortune and the other found it after years of searching.  Suddenly their dreams were coming true.  Was this the kingdom of God?    The lucky men seemingly received something for nothing.  But WAIT!  Jesus adds one line to the stories. Each man went out right away and sold all his earthly possessions.  Was Jesus telling the disciples that the Kingdom of God wasn’t free?  Would it cost them everything?
 Isaiah was preaching to a people who had been in exile for generations.   Much like today’s refugees they had gone looking for a better life but  they ended up incarcerated.  The first part of the sermon in Isaiah 34 describes an angry God and wretched conditions.   Conditions that were described like a desert, dry and desolate.    In chapter 35 Isaiah changes his tone.   He describes a desert filled with flowers and flowing water.  Is this God’s Kingdom?   One day we will wake up from a long sleep to discover flowers, fresh fruit, kindness, peace and justice?  Will it just happen overnight?   But wait!  After the first stanza Isaiah stops and gives instructions. Strengthen your weak knees, energize your limp hands.  Tell others to have courage.
 Have we figured out the kingdom of God yet?  Is it going to appear one day like treasure in a field?  I think not. 
 Will we know it when we find it?  I wonder?
Today is my once in a lifetime chance to say what I think the Kingdom of God will be.  When will it happen?    And how are we going to get there?
   Today, I do not live in a desert.   I have everything that I need and more. So, does my family.  I could easily proclaim, Is this Heaven?  No, it’s Iowa!   I look out my back window and I see lush green lawns   and a field of blooming flowers.  I live in a crystal-clear bubble. I am safe, I am protected.   But if I leave my bubble, if I go out on my front porch, I can see the truth.  Right down the street is a family who does not have enough to eat.   I see people who don’t go to the doctor for fear of the cost. There are people with mental illness who cannot get treatment.  I see violence on top of more violence.  I see it in the movies and on television.  It is pervasive in our culture.   I see a world that is broken and hurting.  A world where war has become the norm.  A world where so many mass shootings happen that it doesn’t even make the news unless it is a slow news day.  I live in a world where police shoot first and ask questions later.    A world where people are drowning, or dying of heat exhaustion as they attempt to escape from the desert of their existence. I see discrimination in so many forms I can’t count it all.  People who are persecuted for their religion or their race, or their gender or gender orientation. 
 From my secure bubble, I see a world that is described by the Rev. Bill LeMosy in his poem
A seismic scream builds up within;
its guardians can quiet it no longer...
as empires rage against reason,
as coastal lands sink beneath the sea,
as profit triumphs over humanity,
a long-silent lament quakes and shakes.
Unless we learn to wail, magma erupts
unless we dare to howl, we explode.

I want to wail.  I want to see the Kingdom of God on earth.  I want it now. 
Today I come to share a story about a man who dreamed of finding the Kingdom of God on earth.   A prophet who preached God’s love for all, who was not appreciated in his home town.  My grandfather dared to wail and howl. 
For as long as I can remember I knew that my father's father, the Rev C.H. Talbot was a Presbyterian pastor.   I knew because I was told a couple of family legends over the years.   In 1936 my parents were both working in Washington, D.C.    Three weeks after they started dating they decided to get married.  They sent their respective parents telegrams to announce it.   My grandfather wrote back and said if they would wait for him to get there, he would marry them.   And so, it was that my grandfather officiated at my parent’s wedding.    The second story concerns my baptism.  I was born during WWII.  At the time, my father was traveling around the country training troops.  When we finally made it to Louisville where my grandfather lived, I was a very chatty 2-year-old.   Apparently, it was quite a show.
After I was 6 years old we lived in El Paso far from my grandparent’s home in Kentucky.  When we visited in the 50's I knew that he worked as a practical nurse.  He stayed all night with patients at home or in the hospital.  He usually went to work about 9 PM and came home at 9 AM and if he was lucky he got a few hours’ sleep.
A little history:  My father’s ancestors were early settlers in Kentucky.  They farmed and were leaders in the community.  My great grandfather, the first Charles H. Talbot was college educated and worked as a superintendent of several different schools for the deaf.  Leonora McCurdy Hann, my great grandmother was a descendant of the McCurdy brothers who fled from Scotland to Ireland and later to Pennsylvania each time to escape religious persecution.  The McCurdys were pioneers in the early Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania.  One of them was Elisha McCurdy who was known as the great revivalist.    Leonora’s father moved to Kentucky and practiced medicine.
Leonora was a teacher before she was married. Although I never knew her, I have come to believe that she might be the person most responsible for who I am today.  Let me explain. 
They had 12 children but only 8 lived.  My grandfather, the second Charles H. Talbot was the youngest.
My grandfather and his older brother graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and attended seminary in Louisville.  The older brother and several of the sisters who were nurses went to China as missionaries.  Another sister was a nurse in France in World War I.
My grandparents had three children, my father and two sisters.  Neither of the sisters had children so my brothers and I are the only grandchildren.    Everyone in this family typed letters and shared carbon copies almost every day.   My aunt Rosemary saved all these letters and many newspaper clippings.  I have become the family historian and the keeper of all the papers.  Rosemary wrote that she always wanted to write a book about her father but she never did.   Rosemary was my mentor.  When I was a child I spent summers with her and traveled with her as a young adult.   
Recently I realized that it is up to me to tell this story. 
Brother Talbot, as people called him, was ordained in the Presbyterian church and served several churches.  In 1914, he was called to the First Presbyterian Church in Somerset, Kentucky.  He served this church for 25 years.  He was very active in the Presbytery and synod and attended General Assembly as a delegate at least once.  He helped many people along the way and was, according to the letters I have read, much loved by his flock.    In October 1939, the church held a large celebration for his 25th anniversary as pastor.  During those years he worked tirelessly for social reforms and civil rights.  Prison reform was always on his agenda.  He had a vision of what the Kingdom of God looked like and he never gave up working to bring it to fruition. 
In the summer of 1940 there was an event in Somerset that changed my grandfather's life forever.  He often visited the county jail to see if he could be of help to the prisoners.  On this occasion, he happened to pass a court room that was in session.  He stopped in to see what was happening.  The trial concerned two men who had been arrested for sedition.     They were Jehovah's Witnesses and their crime was going door to door in the community as the Witnesses do unto this day.  Brother Talbot stepped into the courtroom and asked to speak.  He then gave a lengthy and eloquent defense of the Witness's right to free speech.  He later wrote that he did not agree with them and he thought they were a nuisance and wished they would go away but that he thought they should have the freedom to practice their religious beliefs.
The incident was written up in the local paper and picked up by the Louisville Courier Journal.  The reaction of the town and his congregation was swift and brutal.  Brother Talbot wrote a note to the editor of the Louisville paper and asked to come to visit him in his office.  He said that his friends were urging him not to write a letter to the editor.  The editor published an editorial in Rev. Talbot's behalf and that seemingly just fanned the flames.
So, what was his terrible sin?  It was defending the rights of a fellow man who did not believe in saluting the flag or standing for flag ceremonies.   In his vision of the Kingdom of God, there was freedom of religion.
I recently received a copy of the session minutes for that period in the Somerset church.  There is no discussion of why but they made it clear that they wanted him to leave.  He was asked to depart by March 31, 1941.  He contacted the leadership of the Presbytery who tried to get some reconciliation but their minds were made up and nothing would change it.
I found it interesting that on March 23 the session held a special meeting between Sunday school and church so that Brother Talbot could tender his resignation.   The following Sunday they held a congregational meeting as a part of the morning worship to accept the resignation.  And it was done.  This man of God never served another church as pastor.  He went on to serve in other ways.  He never gave up trying to bring the Kingdom of God on earth.
My grandmother wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt who arranged for him to have a position as a Civilian Conservation Corps chaplain.  He spent a little over a year in this position working with the large number of people who were building Mammoth Cave National Park.  He wrote of driving from camp to camp counseling and preaching.  This effort ended with WWII.
During the next decade, there are few letters so details are scarce.  There are lots of letters from the early 1950’s.  Those were difficult years, they had little money, my grandmother passed away, and McCarthyism was on the tv every day.  Still his letters were filled with love and baseball.  During those years he worked as a nurse, lovingly caring for his patients.  He also worked for the large downtown Presbyterian church where I was Baptized.  He ran something called the Soldiers Club.  In the church basement service people were welcomed daily.  There were snacks and entertainment. Lonely soldiers were given counseling and love.  Brother Talbot occasionally preached, and officiated at weddings and funerals.
In 1954 he married Jane, my step grandmother.  Together they operated the Rose Anna Hughes home.  The Presbyterian retirement community for women, at the time was housed in a large and beautiful  old mansion in an elegant neighborhood of Louisville.  I visited there in 1956 and again 60 years later last fall.  I like to imagine this small luxury was a nice reward after living so near the poverty line all his life. 
Brother Talbot died in 1960. 

The last verses of Isaiah 35 were read at his memorial service.  I find these verses to be the ultimate description of the Kingdom of God: a safe place for all.
A highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
    but it shall be for God’s people;
    no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain joy and gladness,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two more solvy bookmarks using ultra solvy with fabric scraps.  This time I raided my crazy quilt scrap supply that has lots of unusual fabric many of them cut from old dresses found at thrift stores.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bookmark with solvy stitching

This is my trial book mark made by stitching little tidbits of fabric etc between a solvy sandwich.  I used ultra solvy because I already had some.  I have ordered some super solvy to see if I like that better.  It is probably over stitched.  I just can't seem to stop.  


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Banquet table

The theme for the Ecumenical Lenten services this year is feasting and fasting.  Today the theme was the Great banquet or as it was called in Matthew 22 the parable of the wedding banquet.  The planners chose to use the theme all are invited.  I was asked to create an art project and I chose to do a banquet table.  I used a narrow card table and covered it with a patchwork table cloth in rainbow colors to signify inclusiveness.  I used two place settings and a center piece of a large gourd filled with dried plants and a cross made from dried cholla.  I spray painted everything with gold.    All of the dishes etc came from a thrift shop.  I even spray painted a couple of wooden chairs I got at the thrift store.  

I made up a little invitation to hand to everybody inviting them to the banquet.  I also included a little about the symbolisnm of the various items and colors.    

I worked many hours on the table cloth and I knew it would never be finished so I said I would use it just as it was on the day.  I was putting a border around it last evening when my sewing machine quit.  So I hand basted the edge and pinned it to the back side.  I felt like the people on Project Runway, sewing their models into their outfits just before runway time.  

I am not really a quilter so I didn't call it a quilt but it may grow up to be a quilt someday.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rainbow table covering

One of the first things I learned about when I moved to Grinnell in March 2006 was the wonderful ecumenical Lenten services held every Wednesday at a different church, with a little lunch served afterwards.  I look forward to attending these every year.

This year I was invited to participate by doing a visual project for one of the services.  The planners are trying to bring in different arts including visual, music and poetry.  I am the only visual artist and they pretty much gave me freedom to design the project.

The theme is feasting and fasting and my project is going to be "Feasting" centering around the parable of the wedding banquet.  Now I am not ready to reveal too many details of my project yet, but I am hard at work on a rainbow table covering.  I am not going to call it a quilt, at least not yet, as I am not a real quilter.  But I am a color person at heart and I am loving using the rainbow of fabrics I have gathered to make blocks.

Snow dyeing results Final!

Finally getting around to posting photos of my final results for the snow dyeing.  All of my experimenting paid off and I am pleased with the results.  I have shipped off some pieces and received some beautiful pieces back in the swap.

These are done on prepared for dyeing Kona cotton.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ice painting

I read somewhere a long time ago about painting outside in below freezing temps.  I decided to try it recently during our ice storm.  I used a piece of light weight canvas and hung it outside for a few hours.  Then I brought it in laid it on a rack and painted it with Stewart Gill fabric paints.  The fabric thawed so quickly it was really not icy while I was finishing the painting.  But, I am not going to paint outside during an ice storm so my ice painting is not quite authentic.You can see the ridges made by the rack in the photo.  This is before I ironed it to set the paint.