David in the Books of Samuel. As I read and study the books of Samuel, I find several episodes in the life of David, in the lineage of Jesus, compelling: his ability to dispel through music the “evil spirit” that sometimes plagued Saul [” . . . David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.”]; David’s love for fellow warrior Jonathan, expressed eloquently in the funeral lament [“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”]; his joyous dancing, “with all his might,” wearing almost nothing before the ark of the Lord; his bold and impassioned acceptance of the responsibility for God’s punishment for his wrongs, God who was punishing through “pestilence on Israel” [“I alone have sinned, and I alone have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me . . .” ] These characterizations, apart from David’s skill as a warrior, for instance against Goliath, are the stuff of lyric poetry, dramatic poetry, drama, and novels. I wonder why they are not more celebrated. (Quotations from the New Revised Standard Version).
A Novel Preview. Six copies of my novel Will arrived Monday afternoon from the publishing company. It is a handsome printing, though there are several errors in the text that will be corrected before other printings, before I become a marketer. Another couple of weeks, after a project that has taken more than a decade and a half, will not matter. There may be errors remaining, but the completed revision will have several fewer. Here’s the idea of the novel, printed on the back cover: “Teen years become even more of a challenge for Will Whiteside when he falls victim to an evil about which he feels he can tell no one. Guarding the secret, he becomes depressed and suicidal. His healing is a story of love enacted by ordinary people in his life. Set in eastern North Carolina in the years 1961-1966, a time of great social change, the novel is a story of the joys and sorrows of adolescent years and a celebration of the love that can overcome evil. Included is a set of questions which can be used for reflection as a guide for book group discussions.”
I’m looking forward to the marketing. Several friends have offered help with their Facebook accounts, and I have opened a separate checking account for debts and gains in the marketing. In the flawed first six copies, I will put a listing of the errors that will be corrected. I ‘ll probably send them free to those want to review it or who want to consider it for a book club discussion.
Nonfiction. Michele Clarke and Taylor Plimpton, editors, The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays, Abrams, 2009. There are essays, poems, short plays by such writers as Calvin Trilling, Jay McInerney, Billy Collins, Roy Blount, Jr., Dave Barry, John Cheever, David Sedaris. The book was a Christmas gift from friends who know my propensity to grumpiness around the holiday season. It is an entertaining book on holiday celebrations.
Witness (1). “Do you realize that your back-up lights aren’t working?” a man said as I was backing up in the parking lot at church Sunday.
On Monday, the technician at the car care center said, “I can’t find anything wrong. You are right, the lights don’t work, but there’s nothing wrong with the fuse or the bulb. The folks at the corner station do good work. You might check with them.”
I had passed the station many times, but I had noticed only the sign “CLOSED SUNDAY TO GIVE THANKS.” As I pulled into the bay area, I noticed another sign “TIRES, FREE or UP TO to $60.” There was another sign in Spanish, indicated that Spanish is spoken here.
I entered and explained the problem and asked if they could check the electrical system. “We can,” said a man propped against a counter. Brandon does real good work. He’ll be right with you.” He gave an estimate right away of the cost, not including any needed parts, and soon Brandon began work.
It was a cold, gray day. Temperatures had been dropping noticeably since I left home for errands at 9:30 in the morning. There was a threat of rain. I waited for several minutes inside. I noticed a worn Bible on top of a stack of guides for tires. The proprietor offered me coffee.
He answered the phone politely. We can do that for you. When would you like to come? Yes, now will be fine.” A technician, not working on my car, came in and the proprietor said to him, “I am so glad your work here. I feel blessed to have you here.” He answered with sincere thanks, took a part, and left. The proprietor turned to me and said, “I am the luckiest business owner. I have the best workers.” He walked to a mounted board with their photographs and named each and told how many years each had worked with him there. He said he had very little turnover. The man doing my work, he said, had worked with him since he was fourteen years old. He’s now in his early 30’s.
“You have a bad switch,” the technician said. “It’s on its way from Durham now. I should have everything done is one hour.” (It was.)
As I waited, a woman came for a tire installation. The two of them talked quietly, the proprietor offering some clean and humorous jokes. A man came in to ask him if he would patch a tire, and the proprietor said that he didn’t patch tires, but he could send him to someone who who would. “It’s a Michelin tire,” he said. The proprietor sad that he should never patch a Michelin; it would invalidate the warranty. Another man can in and handed the proprietor a check. The proprietor counted out $300 in twenties. “He comes in every Monday to cash his pay check.” A man came in to pre-pay his gasoline purchase. “Why don’t you pump first? We trust our customers here.” A woman who suffered from arthritis in her feet came in to pay a bill. They chatted pleasantly, and he praised her for her care of an elderly woman. He said good things about her and his other regular customers when she left. A man came to buy propane gas, the truck with a Georgia license plate. He told one of his workers, “See that truck? He comes a couple of times each winter for propane. Ask him to take the other lane and help him out. He seems to be a good person.
I asked about a cut raw onion sitting in a saucer on his desk. “It draws germs,” he said. “I heard about it from someone who lived through that bad flu epidemic–when was it? The early part of the last century?” I told him my mother’s father died in that epidemic. 1918. “That’s it,” he said. “You cut an onion and it draws germs away.” One of the workers passing through said, “My daughter had the flu and couldn’t break the fever, and I put a cut onion by the bed, and right away her fever broke. It’s for that reason I never eat an onion at a salad bar.”
“You said that you found out about your back-up lights leaving church. What church do you attend?” I told him. He said, “We like to know people of all religious faiths.”
The phone rang. He said, “I sell only one kind of tire. It’s the best tire for the money, entirely adequate for most folks’ needs. You can get more expensive tires and tires that serve more purposes, but I’m satisfied and trust the kind I sell. Yes, you come on in any time!”
There was such an aura of kindness in the little room that I wondered what his faith was. As kind as Baptists are, the tone of the place did not seem Baptist. “Pentecostal,” he said when I asked. It’s one of the few Christian denominations at which I have not attended a worship service. “I know something about your church. In my adult Sunday school class when I taught a class on Faith Neighbors, we learned about your worship and response to Spirit. You have a direct response to spirit, like the tradition in which I worship, but the expression is entirely different.” We talked about the differences.
“You’re about ready to go. But do stop by again. Come just for a visit and chat if you don’t need car work done or if you buy your gas somewhere else. You’re welcome here.”
I asked for a business card. “It’s here on the back of this card, with our two churches and their pictures and addresses.” I noticed the Burlington address and said, “One of them, the one in Burlington, is right down the road from my church. I pass it weekly.” He repeated the information to another technician who came into the office as I was leaving. He said, “He goes to a church near yours.” I told him the name of my church. The technician said, “I know that church. It’s real big, right down the road.” He smiled as if in recognition. The proprietor said, “This man here is one of my workers, and I’m so proud that he works here.”
Kindness, humor, acceptance, warmth mark these good people and their relations to each other and to their customers, those they serve in competence and good spirit. Their religion has taught them awareness of the blessings of gratitude and service to others.
Tuesday afternoon there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and was pleased to see two missionaries, elders from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I had never spoken with missionaries from this faith, and I welcomed them in.
I asked about the church that would be located in the town, and our discussions started there. I asked them several questions about their work, their lives and beliefs, and I pointed out similarities in their and in other Christian traditions. They were knowledgeable, dedicated, sincere models of their faith.
These young men leave their homes and families and spend two years talking with others about their faith and faith practice. They asked me to ask spiritual questions, to which they gave complete and good answers, referring often to the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.
They asked if I had any spiritual need, and of course, I do. I told them and what I was doing about that need. The assured me that I was on the right track, quoting once again from the New Testament and Book of Mormon. I told them I had read the Book of Mormon, but rapidly, and they asked if I’d like another. I like the edition they left. I has an index of topics for easy reference to Scripture. I read it, using the index as a guide.
We ended in prayer. I loved the experience because they knew I was not interested in converting but we shared ideas in an open exchange.
On two consecutive days, I have encountered people of faith from traditions which I’ve not directly experienced. Perhaps today or tomorrow or some day soon I’ll meet the Buddha. Or perhaps I already have.
Winter. I have stopped ranking seasons by my preferences. I have learned to love all of them. Winter has a beauty unlike the other seasons. These are some of them that I noticed on a walk Tuesday: a gray mist that lingers or dissipates; sky of various colors of gray; grass that is dull green or gray-green covered in spaces with leaves of various shades of brown; bird calls but rarely bird songs; smells of wood smoke from those lucky enough to live in houses with a fireplace; muted and cold barking of dogs, to which my greeting, “Hey, Bowser!” likewise rings with a more hollow, muffled sound; few fellow walkers; shifting breezes of various degrees of cold or coolness; and often damp stillness in the air. Beautiful, yes.
Listening. My images and feelings of winter are reflected well in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No, 1, subtitled “Winter Reveries.” My recording is London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Igor Markevitch. (Philips Classic Productions, 1975). The critic Bernard Jacobson in the program notes says that the symphony is “merely a suggestion of mood.” He mentions that the titles of the first two movements, “Dreams of a Winter Journey” and “Land of Desolation, Land of Mists” are “not”especially appropriate even in this general sense, for neither of these two movements nor their successors are particularly bleak.” (Verb-subject agreement error his problem, not mind.) Right. My favorite two movements are the second and third. The second, written as theme and variation, is as beautiful a reflective and meditative piece as I know. The third, a scherzo, is quiet, fey, not ever suggesting the demonic or devastation or overt ecstasy and turning into a lovely waltz. I prefer this symphony to the manic, Romantic, over-the-top, soul wrenching last symphony. It’s complete, quiet, like winter.
Thanks for reading. I hope your week will be good. Do not hesitate to leave a comment or contact me with my regular email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.