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Country and small town churches are windows to the heart and sinew of this country. Anyone seeking to discover the “real America” need look no deeper than a rural church on Sunday morning. Understand the folks gathered there and you will understand what makes ours both the strongest and most compassionate nation on earth. The country church building will likely be a cobbled, unpretentious structure. Somewhere under its painted boards may hide logs or rough-sawn timbers from the 1800s. Amid tiles in the high ceiling of the sanctuary may be hidden an old chimney pipe. On the wall behind the pulpit may hang a framed “Church Covenant,” its parchment paper yellowed and the wording faded, but the beliefs it embodies as sacred as the day it was agreed to. Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, indoor restrooms, a fellowship hall, and maybe even a brand-new sanctuary may have been tacked on to the original structure in a sprawling maze — wood and mortar contributions of many successive generations. Whatever its appearance, whether humble or grand, it’s just a building. The people are the real church. more
This summertime fills me with the gleeful anticipation of more time to be spent fully immersed in books. Keeping the kids sharp during their school breaks is vital, as is the continuity of each adult’s forever ongoing journey towards increasing knowledge. Reading gives us the opportunity to reach not only those higher levels of knowing, but also can enhance empathy, as we are able to understand others’ life situations to a fuller extent, when we read from their vantage point. I’ve recently come across several gems (already!) in my own kiddos’ summer reading lists that I found worth sharing.British author Beatrix Potter, who wrote and illustrated Peter Rabbit, and many more, has a fictionalized, though historically based, biography written about her called Nothing is Impossible, published in 1969. Beatrix’s grandmother is the only person who really talks to her during her pre-schooling years, as her father is busy dwindling away the family inheritance. Not surprisingly, the matriarch is upset, and tells her son about his kids’ upbringings, “But Rupert, I want them to live life, not just be blotters and absorb it. I pray their days on this earth may be interesting- and creative. They should do something with their lives, not just exist!” And, she later counsels young Beatrix, “My dear granddaughter. We would all stagnate, we’d rot, if things always remained the same. ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new.’ A poet named Tennyson wrote those lines. Every day of your life you’re a whole day older, and even that’s a change.” The pages which beheld these treasures of wisdom to me were immediately puppy-dog-eared, so as to be referred to later, re-read as needed.Another historical fiction work from almost the 60s, The Far Frontier immediately piqued my interest because of its pioneer era setting. But, whilst reading the author’s note in the back, I grew even more excited for this read aloud on my docket, because of these words, “Asa Twistletree is modeled on several of the early naturalists, men whose love of books and learning, whose zeal for discovery and whose passion for all of nature stands out clear and sharp on every page of their journals.” Upon an initial thumbing-through of the old, stained up hardback, which carries that specific antiquated musk with it, it seems the young main character learns how to balance the growing of his brain with keeping alive his rural family’s survival skills, all from the old, strange-seeming Mr. Twistletree.And in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, another British great Roald Dahl wrote a lovely poem about children learning from books, as opposed to passively watching TV, which could be adapted to gaming nowadays, too. Super enjoyable in the audiobook edition via an accented, rollicking rendition, it ends with, “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books, Ignoring all the dirty looks, The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, And children hitting you with sticks- Fear not, because we promise you That, in about a week or two Of having nothing else to do, They'll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read. And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy! You watch the slowly growing joy That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen They'll wonder what they'd ever seen In that ridiculous machine, That nauseating, foul, unclean, Repulsive television screen! And later, each and every kid Will love you more for what you did.”And finally, in a book not for kids, but about raising them, in the famous work named Emile, Jean Jaques Rousseau says in the very first page, “From the outset raise a wall around your child’s soul.” That we do by surrounding them with these worthwhile activities, experiences, and materials to soak up, like amazing books. And after childhood is over, when we raise that wall around our own souls, we can let the awesome facets of existence, which are readily available if you look in the right places, help the garden within it flourish. Summertime is the perfect time to water and fertilize those needs, so I hope you thoroughly enjoy it!        more
Are we ready to read some more ramblings this week? Well saddle up your fastest horse and ride back with me into the past and learn more about our Johnny. O K – I will review and go back just a little to remind everyone where we are this week with our ramble that has been going on since the first of January. Our story is about a young couple, Johnny and Mary Lou, they grew up together in north west Webster county around the Sand Springs area and eventually married. Johnny joined the Union army and we learned two weeks ago he got shot and left for dead in Murfreesboro Tn in a brutal battle with thousands of casualties on both sides. In last week’s rambling we learned Mary Lou is going through her own daily battles with her father who has always been a confederate rebel that dislikes Mary Lou’s choice of a husband. Enough of the past. Let's proceed further. Let’s find out this week where our Johnny more
June 4, 2023, officially marked my one year here at the Marshfield Mail. more
I am sitting at this writing on a sofa set catawampus in a living room cluttered with stacks of cardboard boxes, pieces of furniture, luggage and computer parts, recuperating from the exertion of two hours spent unloading a truck about half the size of a railroad box car. more
Some movies are so much fun to not just passively watch, but to analyze their portrayals of our culture’s oddities. The main character Buddy in the movie Elf takes every single thing so literally, like a small child. An advertising sign in a coffee shop’s window claiming, “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” compels him to go into the store, beaming, authentically congratulating each store employee for this massive feat: “You did it!!” Buddy’s behavior is in stark contrast to everyone else, who simply walk on by without giving it a second thought. They are already accustomed to being told not-quite-truths, completely desensitized, merely walking through life without paying notice to so many types of lies. However, Buddy vigilantly and remarkably remains hyper alert, always aware of all that is going on around him. more
“Catch and release” has become an important phrase in the fishing world. more
This past weekend my father celebrated 60 years of being alive. Friends and family gathered to join the celebration, which was fun. I was told about the party a few weeks in advance, and I have been thinking about life this whole time. more
To my little brother, sister, and all of the 2023 graduates who have pretty much become my adoptive siblings over the years: more
Memorial Day is quickly approaching, and what a great day to remember our nation’s fallen heroes. If it wasn’t for these brave men and women who fought for our country, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today. Although some end up in the military without a thought of patriotism, in need of the stability it can offer, and others via drafts, some are in it solely for the love of our country. more
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