“Odd Man Out” is Out

odd-man-out-cs-bk-coverAfter a year of steady writing and then several unexpected publishing delays, I’m glad to  say that Odd Man Out has now been published. You’ll find that its style is a departure from what you are used to reading from me. None of my previous books were autobiographical, nor are most of the articles I write, including what appears on this blog. Instead, Odd Man Out is a short, honest, true story of what was by far the strangest ten-year period of my life.

It begins in Detroit, my hometown, in the late 1960s, when I had lost all faith in the American Dream. In its place, I turned to the spiritual values and interests of what was then called the Age of Aquarius, becoming one if its staunchest practitioners and preachers. That lifestyle sent me into strange places of the spirit, where I made major life-decisions that seemed sweet but turned so sour.

I was often on the road those years, and by July, 1976, the month that Americans were partying big time, celebrating the nation’s bicentennial, I was living like a hermit in southern California and had only the flimsiest grip on reality. Odd Man Out recounts those years when I was an Aquarian dreamer and how that lifestyle eventually left me in bitter disappointment on the beaches of southern California where, to my complete shock, I found myself in the throes of a conversion that revolutionized my life.

Okay, Strohmer, enough of the sales pitch! I’ll shut up now and end here with this short bit from the book, which describes one of several turning point events that shaped big decisions I made. This event took place when I was nineteen years old and have decided to begin what I called “the search for Truth with a capital T.” Following that path over the next several years will take me far away from participating in the American Dream. But at nineteen I’m still waffling, considering certain costs. There was much less waffling after the morning I totaled the Corvette. From the book:

“It is the autumn of 1969. I now have six siblings, three brothers and three sisters, all younger, and my parents have recently moved the family to southern California. But there are two exceptions to the familial upheaval, myself and a sister; we continue living in Detroit. For several weeks following the big move, our gray brick house on Kinloch in Redford Township remains empty, and I still have my key to the place. One Saturday morning I meet a friend there.

“Rick is helping me cart off what remains of my possessions to my new digs, a cheap but roomy four-bedroom flat on Telegraph Road in west Detroit. The empty house is strangely quiet. Rick and I are upstairs in my bedroom, a long rectangular space with wood floors that is now empty. Almost.

“I find the car, thick with dust and cobwebs, stashed deep within the rafters behind a wall of the bedroom. I had forgotten all about it. I haul it out, along with other objects from my childhood, which, if memory serves, included a small wicker basket, a beat up old suitcase, and a shoe box containing kiddie Valentine cards, some baby photos, and whatnot. The heavy baseball bat I do remember.

What about this? Do you want to take it? Rick asks, shoving the car, which skids along the hardwood floor into the middle of the empty room.

I don’t know.

“Today, that large, scale model of a white 1953 Corvette roadster is a sought-after collector’s item, itself loaded with symbolic value of the American Dream. I had received it as a gift when I six or seven. The sleek white convertible with its red interior stretched about a foot-and-a-half long, from its big, toothy chrome grille to its two tiny round tail lights. At one time it had working headlights and other ‘real car’ features that made me the envy of childhood friends.

“I wiped the dust from Corvette with a piece of old cloth and pondered its fate. Clearly it is the one thing of material value of mine that remains in the house.

“We see the heavy baseball bat at the same time. Like some Old Testament prophet acting out a piece of performance art, I grab it from the doorway and walk back to the center of the room and stand over the car. The American Dream scatters into a million pieces on the hardwood floor.”

To see more about Odd Man Out, including the current Editorial Reviews, in the US, please go to this page on Amazon.com. In the UK and Europe, please see this page.

©2017 by Charles Strohmer

“I Have a Vision”

child reading a BibleI Have a Vision
John R. Peck

    Of a church whose worship seeks out all the resources of its members and utilizes all their skills.

Where the hymns are sung with zest, perception, and expression, and accompanied by every instrument anyone can play, including hands, and feet, and smiles. And where the unfamiliar music of another generation is learned until it is loved.

A church witdiplomacyh liturgies that are never mechanical, and spontaneity that is never trivial.

Where the least of its meetings are conducted like royal appointments, and its greatest days are marked with solemn hilarity.

Where organisational efficiency is always at the service of caring love.

Where even poor efforts are done with painstaking diligence, and commended with tolerant hope.

Where brilliance of mind or skill only serves to light up Jesus Christ and His Gospel; where no one can hog the limelight, no one gets too much attention, and no one gets left out.

Of a church were outsiders get as much welcome as old friends; were no one stands alone unless they need to; where the awkward ones are accepted, and the pleasant ones are disturbed by hard realities.orange flower

Where the first to hear a complaint is the offender, and the last to air it is the sufferer.

Where people’s interests are worldwide, without being worldly, and personal without being petty.

I have a vision of a church which shares an invincible passion for learning and giving, whose life is energised by a glad acceptance of the Cross as a way of life.

Whose self-critical humor puts people at ease, and whose self-denials disturb and brace them.

flower starWhose sympathy is so warm and imaginative that no one has the nerve to indulge in self-pity; and whose ideals are so high that slightly soiled notions are shamed into silence.

Whose convictions are firm without being rigid; whose tolerance extends even to the intolerant; whose life is a admonition, whose love learns even from its opponents, and whose faith is infectious.

I have a vision of a church that is like that because from time to time it hears its John Peck smilingRedeemer’s voice speak with such authority that nothing will do but obedience, nothing matters but God’s love, and others coming in can only wonder, and wish, and ask. . .

John R. Peck, B.S., A.L.B.C.
March, 1979
Earl Soham, Suffolk, England

 

©2017 by Charles Strohmer

Images via Creative Commons permissions. John Peck photo by Ann Horn.

A note from Charles: If you want more of the perspectives that Waging Wisdom seeks to present, I want to invite you to follow the blog. Just click here and then find the “Follow” button in the right margin, enter your email address, and then click “Follow.” You will then receive a very short email notice whenever I post a new article. And, hey, if you really like this blog, tell a friend! Thank you.

“There Are No Ordinary People”

refugee tent city [Klaus Reisinger]These are demanding times for Christians who are committed to loving neighbor as they love themselves. It is becoming increasingly easy to slip into less exacting paths. I am glad that our pastor has been addressing this theme in various ways in a number of sermons in recent months. C. S. Lewis, a highly regarded Christian thinker and writer, also took it on. In a sermon titled “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis offered a stunning insight about loving neighbor, which he delivered during a period of world history when division, conflict, and war offered a steady diet of hate for the soul.

A similar diet is being dished out to our generation – and you know that what you eat you are. Having eaten enough to hate our enemy, we are now being fattened to ignore another of Jesus’ commands: love of neighbor. Why bother loving our neighbor and loving our enemy? Indeed, if we are not being loved I return, why bother? Lewis grappled with this during World War Two. Here, in that inimitable way he had, are his concluding remarks in “The Weight of Glory”:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

“All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

©2017 by Charles Strohmer

Image of Tent City by Klaus Reisinger via Creative Commons.

A note from Charles: If you want more of the perspectives that Waging Wisdom seeks to present, I want to invite you to follow the blog. Just click here and then find the “Follow” button in the right margin, enter your email address, and then click “Follow.” You will then receive a very short email notice whenever I post a new article. And, hey, if you really like this blog, tell a friend! Thank you.

“The Snow Forgives Us”

snow in backyardSeveral inches of snow blanketed the ground and it was still falling as I drove to the Wednesday evening fellowship. The forecast called for 8-10 inches by midnight, and I believed it. But suburban Detroit is virtually bereft of hills and S-turns, and the large fleet of salt trucks with their huge plows had cleared the main roads. So no one who grew up in Detroit, as I had, fretted about driving here in this weather. You learned to drive cautiously and pay attention. If you did, most likely you would get there, and back again, on the flat terrain. And you remembered the enormous salt mine under the sprawling city.

I expected the usual crowd at Jeannie’s spacious house, and wasn’t disappointed. She lived there with her very cute, precocious 4-year old daughter, Heather. Fifty to sixty people could worship and fellowship comfortably in the large basement. I parked my rusty old Chevy 4-door a block away and crunched along through deep snow that was everywhere sparkling at me from the ground.

Sometime during the worship or preaching – I don’t remember why – I left the basement and went back upstairs. Nobody was there. But as I crossed the dimly lit living room, I saw Heather standing in rapt silence by the large sliding glass doors that looked out into the backyard. I slid quietly alongside to have a look.

What a sight met my eyes! Twelve hours earlier while driving downtown to work, I had seen the world differently. Roads soiled by the traffic of cars that dripped oil. Fast food debris discarded along curbs. Lawns yellowed in dormancy awaiting their green spring. Sidewalks cracked through neglect. Cigarette buts stubbed out and flicked aside. But, now! Snow covered all the ugly. Man’s detritus – indeed, all earth itself – lay covered. And it was still being covered.

Millions of snow flakes were falling gently and quickly past the bright outdoor lights that lit up the yard. They glittered and twinkled like I imagine the wings of angels will sparkle with colors when I see them.

I too now gazed in rapture. This was another world. Not just covered but adorned.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” I whispered.

“The snow forgives us,” she said.

©2017 by Charles Strohmer

Image by David Pinkney via Creative Commons.

Puzzled About Making New Year’s Resolutions?

puzzled

Thinking about resolutions for the new year? Thinking: Nah, they never work for me?

Here’s a talk by John Peck that just might be your solution: http://revpeck.com/2016/12/29/good-resolutions/

“Christmas–Just for Children?”

Advent candle

Here’s a great take on Christmas by John Peck: Christmas – Just for Children? In this talk John helps us undomesticate Christmas and rediscover the reality behind it.

May the Light of Christ shine in 2017 evermore brightly than the stars in the darkness.

Thank you all for being part of this experimental blog about bringing the wisdom of God into our hearts, minds, passions, families, daily lives, careers, and everywhere else. I have no idea where we’ll go with this in 2017. Stay tuned!

John Peck: Christmas – Just for Children?

©2016 by Charles Strohmer

Image by pathlost

“Christmas Carols & Songs”

d-clifton-christmas-albumI’ve never done this before on this blog and may never do it again, but I want to call your attention to some truly superb Christmas music and say, “Buy this album!” My wife and I were recently given it as a gift, and after we heard it we immediately moved it to #1 on our list of Christmas albums.

“Christmas Carols and Songs,” produced and arranged by David Clifton and Mark Russell, with the acclaimed choirs of Peterborough Cathedral, a full band, and the London Telefilmonic Orchestra. The full details of this special album, its history, and how to get hold of the album are available at Little Room Recordings.

You will find your own favorite carol or song on the album. Just to say that mine is the slightly jazzed up arrangement of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I also got a lot out of the well-researched booklet that accompanies the CD to give a brief history of the origin of each carol.

Link to iTunes download, name your price download, and CD mail order purchase: http://www.littleroom.com/artists/ikos/

Enjoy it for years to come. And Merry Christmas.

©2016 by Charles Strohmer

Reconstructing American Political Community

Creative Commons imageAmong the three main points of my previous post, my first since Donald Trump was elected, I argued that there will be no flourishing political community in America if we do not humbly seek God, praying to become “vessels of civility, grace, and hope – to everyone.” That very general statement needs some particulars, and the little phrase “to everyone” is a key.

As Timothy Sherratt (Gordon College) has said, America is a diverse society, and in it we struggle to give that diversity political expression: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Progressive, and Green – to name just several. The problem is, we’ve stupidly turned our diversity into a house divided. We Christians contribute to this problem whenever we take our political cues from the world, so a big question we face is: how do we as Christians flex our political muscles in a way that – at this current time of discord and division – is biblically just.

This is a question that Sherratt takes seriously in very helpful, recent article in Capital Commentary. Arguing for what he calls re-constructive politics, Sherratt calls us to diversity conversations whose virtues are rooted in the fruit of the Spirit, which, he argues, “are correlates of the character of true power” as understood at Calvary. “Their utility for remaking relationship, both political and personal,” he writes, “is what commends them in the present circumstances.”

With that as a backdrop, Sharratt offers a biblical vision of the nature and purpose of politics in our diversity. I urge you to read this important article. It may surprise you.

©2016 by Charles Strohmer

Image via Creative Commons permission.

A personal note from Charles: My sincere thanks to those of you who follow this blog, and to other readers, who helped my previous post become very widely shared, read, and discussed.