Thursday, July 23, 2020

Leaving Henry's Building ...



"Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" (Haggai 2:3)

The consensus of my friends is that I shouldn't be so sad that I'll never work in that glorious Ford Motor Company engineering laboratory building again. When I hired on in 1992, it was the EEE building, and though I didn't work there, multiple shifts of engineers worked there each day. My friend Harland, from Texas, had also moved to Michigan, and worked midnights there. He got me into the building once in the middle of the night, and showed me the pencil markings on the pillar where "H. Ford" had marked his height to compare it against the height of his peers.

Just kidding -- Henry Ford had no peers. But he did have his office in this exact building, on what is called "mahogany row" for its GORGEOUS mahogany-panelled conference rooms ... where, up until the COVID panic, I was allowed to attend engineering meetings. All that is gone. Or rather, it's there, for the time being. But I'll likely never place my hand on the handle where H. Ford's hand gripped to pull open the ridiculously heavy brass door.

To me, places are sacred. Worship spaces especially, which is one reason that Live Streamed church is not real church. But what we think of as "secular" spaces are holy in their own right. And the building I left today forever was among the holiest in Ford Motor Company history. It was later the POEE building (not the best-sounding acronym it ever had) and currently the FEL building. But it means something to me ... the brass, the mahogany, the marble, and the spirit of H. Ford resting about the place, urging me to do better and better work.

So amid all your appeals for me to "get over it" and your admonitions that "the world is changing" ... please leave me a little space to be sad about this. Something important is being lost.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

For the Purveyors of Macho Christianity

I have composed this blog entry in my head perhaps half a dozen times over the past ten years, but I never got to the point of typing it all out before, much less posting it.  It could ruffle some feathers, and perhaps hurt some feelings.  I didn't want to do that.  But the particular kind of Christian leader who pushes this kind of "hard-edged men / soft women" teaching has driven me to the point of actually writing the thing down.

Here's the teaching in a nutshell:  God has made men and women to be very distinct.  They have different acceptable gender roles, and should pursue different sets of virtues.  Men are to pursue the hard, aggressive, combative virtues, and women the soft, nurturing virtues.  Additionally, we must look the part.  Most of these teachers mock men who choose not to wear beards as being not fully Christian and not fully male.  They do things like form pipe (or cigar) clubs at the churches they pastor.  They may cultivate a taste for single malt whiskey.  They talk about pirates and warriors and sports.  A lot.

The motivation for at least some of these purveyors of macho Christianity is not hard to find.  Our entire culture is howling wasteland of gender dysphoria.  They seek to clarify male and female roles.  Typical of the burden they lay on people is the responsibility of every Christian to emphasize, as far as possible, the differences between males and females.

And, for the male Christian, their prescription can be boiled down to a single word:  hardness.  Christian men should be courageous, strong, immovable, unyielding, but mostly hard as (well, you fill in the blank).

The thing is, nearly all these Christian priests, pastors, and thought leaders are fat.  They are incredibly soft.  Maybe if they were not sitting at 20 to 25% body fat, I would take serious what they say about the hardness, and about being warriors in training for battle.  But, with a few notable exceptions, they are fat or even obese.  I know one priest who competes in bodybuilding and other who runs marathons.  Perhaps I could stand to hear such a teaching from one of them.  But not from these doughnut-scarfing fatties.

So to you fat purveyors of hard-edged Christianity for males:  Just stop!  You look ridiculous doing it!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A (new) Poem in Praise of Scar Tissue


Scar Tissue


How often I have bloodied up these hands,
These arms, upon some jagged engine block,
Or on the razored shrouds of cooling fans,
And left upon my flesh a mark or pock.

O opener of many lesions, Thou,
Who rule the world we were allowed to spoil;
God of the thistle and the sweaty brow,
Ordainer of the blood of all our toil --

These scars are very agents of your grace.
We might have bled to death from modest cuts,
Except new tissue fills each wounded place.
Scar tissue heals us from those bloody ruts.

The scars are stark and most corporeal.
They neither fade, nor leave our lives to cease;
But of each hurt they make memorial,
And from each gaping wound they grant release.

© 2019, Paul Erlandson

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Rival (a Poem I Wrote for My Wife 5 Years Ago)

My wife likes birds.  She is smitten with the cardinals that are with us in the good weather. 


The Rival

My lady arises and opens the shade,
And bends at the waist to peer out of the pane,
Where my rival intones his melodious refrain.
I lie on our cool morning bed, yet unmade.

His love song enthralls her, she hears and obsesses.
No part of her mind is on me or our bed.
Her thoughts are ablaze with his feathery red.
I gaze on the form her brief nightgown caresses.

On guard, my opponent, I’m stealing your tune!
I’ll learn it, refine it, and bring it alive.
I shall serenade her at five-forty-five,
And steal her attention away from you soon.

But no, there’s your color. She aches for a glimpse
Of your bright apparel. My clothing is lame.
I’ll hie me to Kohl’s™, for a shirt bright as flame!
My color, not yours, shall then capture her glance.

But, no, there’s your flying; she loves you for this.
Had she wings of her own and the power of flight,
She’d fly off to find you, and with you alight.
You’ve won her, my rival, by bringing her bliss.

But still I’ll adore her fine form from this view,
And watch her as closely as she watches you.


© 2014, Paul Erlandson

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Language

I like hearing English spoken with many and varied accents. I remember that at my company, more than 20 years ago, there was an Accent Reduction Team, formed by Indian-American engineers who felt that their career fortunes would improve if they spoke like native Michiganders. I remember objecting at the time, stating that I loved to hear English spoken by my Indian-born colleagues. The musical lilt they gave to my native tongue was something wonderful to the ear. Whenever God reverses a curse, he does more than simply put things back to the way they were before the curse. So, when God in Christ redeemed the world, he did not simply put men back to the original Edenic state. No, he went far beyond that, taking humanity into Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus, a Redeemed person is even more blessed than an unFallen person. It is the same with language. When God reversed Babel's curse, He did not merely put us back to a common language such as Esperanto. No, He did something FAR more glorious. He allowed us to keep the rich diversity of languages, and one step beyond that. He allowed us to have each language spoken in a plethora of accents. The whole things is just so rich and beautiful and glorious. It is far more than a simple utilitarian solution of allowing us to comprehend each other's words. It is a majestic amplification and magnification of language. It is a phenomenal enrichment of human experience.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Another New Poem - The Small Commission

The Small Commission

When school yearbooks are thrust forth to be signed,
We give out life advice.  We speak our mind,
And charge our classmates to keep some small vow:
“Recall our good times!”  “Stay as you are now!”

As Christ did with his Great Commission bind
His church to teach and baptize all mankind,
So do the yearbook’s Small Commissions urge
Obedience to some much less solemn charge.

If we look back to that glad time remote,
Shall we have held to what our friends then wrote?
Were Small Commissions in our hearts enshrined?
Or were their words forgotten over time?

Well, one of these at least I’ve kept so far:
“Dear Paul, please stay as crazy as you are!”

© 2019, Paul Erlandson

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas - 2018

For this year's Christmas cards, we are recycling and old poem of mine from 1997.   Here it is: