Restore, Recycle, Remember Revisited

Some of my readers expressed interest in the results of my “Restore, Recycle, Remember” project.  So here it is! Unfortunately, I only took a “Before” picture of the credenza.  You see it in my basement, not quite yet full of sawdust- although it was more sandingdust since little sawing was involved in this project.

 

original

The desk was in rougher shape, but both were basically wounded and worn.  My guess is that they had not seen any varnish, oil or care for some 30 years.  Here is the credenza in its new home.

credenza

What you see is the result of furniture stripper, sanding, light staining and Tung Oil.  I first tried varnish but was not happy with the results.  I am pleased with this look, which seems fitting for my office.  Below is the top of the desk.  Check out the beautiful wood choice by the artists/woodworkers who first made this.

desktop

Below is a bit broader picture of the desk in its setting.  You might not see, but I have left the desk for books, and made a little computer table for the side.  It is made of a piece of glass found at Goodwill for $5.00 (Canadian!  Cheaper in the USA!!).  A set of legs was found at the Restore (an arm of Habitat for Humanity) for $ 15.00.  On the ledge behind I have set another piece of glass (this one $ 3.00) sitting upon ten four inch cylinders of wood.  These cylinders are slices of a large branch that came down from our maple tree in the ice storm this last December.  This allows me the luxury of stand up computing without investing hundreds of dollars in a desk with adjustable heights.

deskwindow

This was a most exciting and invigorating way to spend my July.  I learned a lot, much of which does not admit expression, but allow me this single summary:  honest work that taxes the body sometimes salves the soul.

A Little Life, Please

My life is

little, paltry, hardly

seen, but being

human is that: more

minutia than magna.

 

Cutting lawn, cleaning stove, shuffling paper, reconciling calendars, building with broken legos.

 

Your life is

little, but it is the

marginal alone, that

slide in between, that

slip through the fence so to see

chipmunk’s cheeky treasure, to hear

robin’s cantata, to witness

tree’s rotation.

 

Our life is

little, but the little alone

become breathless, beholding

the world in their

hands.

Restore, Recycle, Remember

I am moving offices.  Our school just brought a community pastor on board, and we want her to have an office with good visibility and high traffic.  My home for the last 9 years fits the bill, and so I was asked if I would be willing to move.  I am very happy to do this, and was offered a couple of offices that have recently emptied.  The one I choose has good light, is a nice size and is set back a bit from the traffic.  It will serve me well, and I am glad to have it.  I was invited to move my furniture upstairs, or to leave it behind and get something from university stores (good, gently used goods).  I asked to see what was in the office of the retiring colleague vacating my preferred location.

 

I had never really noticed before, but he had an old wooden desk with a matching credenza.  I was taken by them, and asked if I couldn’t just keep these two.  The Principal Dean agreed to this, and I seconded my wife to help me cart these old masters home.  The following picture tells a little about the desk’s history.

 

IMG_20140713_113900

 

In 1973, the Lutheran Church sold its university to the province, and Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University.  Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, where I work is the founding institution of the old and new WLU, and is now a federated college.  The sticker lets us know that the desk dates from at least that time, and possibly earlier.  The cuts of the design hint at 60’s Scandinavian style, but the following photo from one of the desk drawers tells us that the desk was built locally.

 

IMG_20140713_113657

 

I am currently stripping the finish.  My wife is the wood expert in our household, but I have taken on this project with her advice as needed.  I really wanted my work of mind to take place on a piece of furniture in which I have invested the work of my body.  It seems right.  It also seemed like an act of retrieval because old desks like this are often junked in favor of the modular furniture that serves the cubicle culture of the modern office.  My office is a little old school, and so a 50 year old desk seems fitting.

 

I must say that I feel a little like I am in the midst of a holy task as I strip and sand and stain.  I find myself thinking about the sacred conversations that occurred across this desk.  I think of the professors writing articles, preparing lectures, and mulling over sermon ideas.  I think of the craftsmen who first put together this work of art.  I feel honored to be included in the history of this desk, and its credenza.

 

In working on this work of art, I find myself oddly at peace.  I don’t think I’ll give up my day job and take this up vocationally.  All the same, when I look down at the desk, it strikes me that as I caress this tree rendered in service of homo sapiens, the grain of the wood smiles at me, and I smile back.

Far from Truth

Far from truth, this lie

sneaks along in the night:

sun blind-sided,

moon on the wane,

stars amiss,

darkness reigns.

Yet this cannot hold; its promised

security, its pretense of

surety collapse, this

feigned “everything covered”

crashes in on itself.  And

from the chaos curiosity is

recovered, uncovered, discovered.

Darkness lightens as this burden

of certainty stretches to breaking – my

bonds, my fetters, my chains

snap and You burst upon me – You

Firefly, Flaming Sky, Lightning’s Cry and

I, I glow yet

again.

Being Red, Being White

IMG_20140701_161000

 

Today we celebrate Canada Day.  I’ve always loved this holiday.  I’ve celebrated it in many and various places, but perhaps one of the most memorable was last year’s festivity.  For my readers with a little longer history with me, you may recall that last year I was in Norway at this time of the year, making my way with five other pilgrims from Dovre to Trondheim.

 

We were all Canadians, and I recall that at one point in the day, we dropped our packs, raised our voices  and belted out “O Canada” in a Norwegian meadow on the side of a mountain.  It was a memorable moment, touching even.  In some ways, this moment recapitulated the enigmatic character of  pilgrimage – in its various guises.  People in pilgrimage studies have studied the why, the how, the where, the who and the when of pilgrimages.  But to tell the truth, this pilgrimage was as much circumstantial as by design.  The invitation just came at the right time, and my wife and I had enough interest, and the bank account gave us a thumbs up, and so we went.

 

 

allen-pondering

 

But our going, at least my going, was something of an internal journey: some making sense of my DNA.  Where is the locus of my people – or at least half of them.  What did they leave behind?  Why did they go?  Did they ever want to return?  Alas, so many of my questions remained unanswered, yet attenuated by the stubborn beauty of this land called Norway.  We did learn of the difficult economic time at the end of the 19th Century that had ripple effects for many years.  We learned of the impossibility of finding enough land for a house full of children.  Of course, I also knew of the attractive – if not quiote honest – images being used on posters to encourage immigrants to the prairies.  Pictures of buxom young women (blond of course) in front of acres and acres of wheat bordered by vineyards.  Little did those young Norwegian men know that they would end up on a prairie in sod huts with land requiring back breaking work.  And as for the young women?  Some were lucky in love, but others not so much.

 

Immigration is hard work.    Immigrants have to navigate how to fit in, what are appropriate social cues etc.  And yet immigrants still come.  They often hope to escape the very real possibility of death by war or interrogation or targeted hatred.  In others cases, like that of my grand parents, they were simply looking for a place to call home.  As we sang “O Canada” in that Norwegian dale, I knew that Norway was not my home, but I also recognized as a second generation Canadian that my people are fresh on the land, still learning what comes by second nature to the First Nations of this continent.

 

Canada Day is a day for Canadians to consider the gift it is to be hosted by generous First Nations, but it is more.  It is an invitation to return hospitality to those coming from afar.  It is good to be the stranger – even on a Norwegian mountainside – so that I, so that we, can practice the radical hospitality and infectious joy that marks the way of the One whose way I follow.  Dear Canadians, take time this day to recall what brought your people to this place, and try to imagine the feelings of those wondering if they will ever fit in, and if so, how.  Take some time today, or in the next few, to become what you have enjoyed: grace, hospitality, and an ease with the land.  Happy Canada Day all!

Otherwise Disposed

I died just

yesterday and so am

otherwise disposed.  I cannot

attend to your “RSVP”:

your pardons,

your pleas,

your demands of me fall

on dead ears.  But

still the earth in you calls

to the earth I’m in.

Here, a deep resonance

your heart to mine-sown-in-soil – our

bridge, our

beat, this bond

strikes me, like the hammer

the bell.

I am dead,

but not

silent.

More than Parchment

This last Friday, our school celebrated Convocation.  Students, who have spent two  three, four, perhaps more years with us made their way across the stage, newly hooded and eager to shake the hand of the university President, our seminary’s Principal Dean and then to hold in their hand a piece of parchment.  Now they will be Masters of Divinity, Masters of Arts in Theology, and Doctors of Ministry.  As I stood to congratulate them as they wound their way from the stage back to their seats, I could sense both excitement and a bit of trepidation.  Endings are odd events.  A sense of completion and satisfaction attends them as well as uncertainty and that anomie that accompanies a future not yet crystalized.

 

Convocation is not only an emotionally charged event for the students; staff and faculty too have mixed feelings.  We are so very proud of the hard work that has enabled our graduates to achieve a goal that will hopefully open new doors for them.  But with them, we also experience a little bit of sadness.  Many of these students have shared themselves in hallway conversations and class papers.  While writing on topics of theology, more than a few have poured out their hearts, making me aware of their experiences, their passions, their hopes and fears.  They have shared themselves with me.  I am changed by my students.  I am not being polite in saying this.  I really do feel myself shaped by the encounters that make up my experience as a teacher.  I suppose, I too, share something of myself with them along with the facts about history, theological vistas, and hopefully some passion for our subject matter.  Something happens in this interchange that really includes a change in me.  I am forever being prodded, challenged and stretched.  Many of them have experiences that are foreign to me.  Many of them have interests that are embryonic in me.  They all bring something to the table, and I am the better for it.  So I lament their walk across that stage even as I celebrate it.

 

Students really are in some ways like a book.  They need to be read with both a lot respect and a little bit of appreciative criticism.  Sometimes they want to generalize their experiences, and sometimes they discount their experiences; sometimes they can’t get out of their heads, and sometimes they really don’t want to get into them.  Of course, all of this is true of me as well.  But if I am willing to encounter them with the supposition that they have something to offer me, I will never be disappointed.  I might not like what I learn, but I always learn from them.  Hopefully, I’m able to return the favor.  So in this season of convocation, I’m mindful that two words hide in this synonym for graduation.  “Vocation” is rooted in the Latin word for call (vocare) and the Latin preposition con means “with.”  To convocate is to be “called with.”  No-one convocates on their own because we are all called to learn with others and to teach with others.  Knowledge is only knowledge in its being a shared phenomenon.  I thank God for my students, my teachers, and this gift called learning.  The parchment is important, but what really matters never ends.  Learning feeds that hunger that paradoxically feeds humanity.