Thursday, June 2, 2022

Poem - A Woman Takes Up Her Calling

A Woman Takes Up Her Calling

Whoso beset her* round
with dismal stories,
do but themselves confound—
her* strength the more is.            

(John Bunyan, “He Who Would Valiant Be”, Verse 2)


Circled by her saboteurs,

Mocked by the Accuser,

Hobbled by provocateurs,

And labeled as a Loser –

Trying to focus on her goal,

Shutting out their prattle,

Stands the lone creative soul

In solitary battle.

She hoists up a bipartite freight:

The heft of her vocation

Added to the ballast weight

Of adverse cerebration.

“Summon all your strength!“ I say,

“The thing’s within your reach!

Stand up tall, prepare to slay

By action or by speech.”

And now she rises to full height,

And now she flies away.

And now puts enemies to flight,

Now merges work with play.

To see a woman thwarted makes me furious.

To see her at full strength -- a thing most glorious!


©2022 – Paul Erlandson


*It is of course “him” and “his” in Bunyan’s original -- PE

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Heroes, Villains, and the Judgment of Charity

The Heroes and Villains part of this post comes from the great Beach Boys song of that title -- a song which I commend to you all.

The "Judgment of Charity" part comes from something I learned from Fr. Steven J. Kelly, although I've also read about it from R. C. Sproul. Basically, the Judgment of Charity is to always to assume the best possible motives for other people. This is the story of how, 15 years late, the Judgment of Charity turned a Villain into a Hero in my mind.

It was about 15 years ago, I think, because our daughter Violet was about 9, I think. Our family was making our annual summer trek to either Oklahoma or Texas, and we had stopped at a gas station (and convenience store) in Arkansas. We all piled out of the car to use the restroom. On Violet's way back to the car, and older black man approached her and spoke to her: "Are you alright? Is everything okay?"

I saw at once what he was thinking -- that a young black girl with a white couple may have been a kidnapping or human trafficking victim. He wanted to make sure that she was getting into our car voluntarily and was not a captive.

My reaction at the time was to take offense at this. If I recall, Violet gave him a "are you crazy?" look and walked a bit faster towards the car. I was offended because it seemed wrong, almost racist to me at the time that this man did not consider it within the realm of normality to have a black child raised by white parents. I viewed him (only mildly) as a bit of a Villain.

But I think differently now. He took some risk to approach her. I was standing right there, pumping the gas, watching. He put himself out there, just in case there was a chance that she was being coerced. He got involved when he didn't have to, and when it could have cost him something. Hero.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Christ Church Anglican - Columbus, Ohio

Out with the old; in with the new. The exterior shot is the former location of Christ Church Anglican, our home-away-from-home in Columbus, Ohio. The interior shot is the sanctuary of the new church building in Westerville, Ohio.

Still 1928 BCP and Hymnal 1940!! A wonderful worship service with great people, always!

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