So, tell me – what do rain, presidential politics, and bittersweet family gatherings have in common? I’ll tell you in a moment.
First, what an odd week. I’m looking ahead to being out of town next week, and this week, well, wasn’t quite what I though it would be. At the beginning of the week, hot and dry. Instead…how about some of those storms? Like the seemingly endless rumble of thunder on Thursday evening into Friday morning. And did you see how quickly the black clouds rolled in earlier today (Saturday)? And then…twice today the street lights went on – once at 9:30 AM, and then again at 12:30 PM. That’s odd! Not to mention all the rain this week. At least I didn’t have to water the lawn like I thought I would, especially when I’d be gone for the week that follows.
Odd too, the book I read this week. For Labor, Race, and Liberty, by Bruce Mouser. It’s the story of George Edwin Taylor. Taylor ran for president in 1904, losing (really big) to Teddy Roosevelt. To be fair, Taylor was primarily a write in candidate as his small party couldn’t get on the ballot in most states. Still, he ran the race, and the story, while perhaps not all that riveting, is still intriguing.
Of course, it’s not really his campaign that is all that interesting. Small time candidates are hardly significant stories. But Taylor’s is, and for two reasons. First, Taylor was the first African-American to run for president on a party ticket. (Another African-American also ran that year on another ticket, but pulled in fewer votes than Taylor.) Taylor collected only 2,000 votes, but for the first time one who had been born a slave ran for president. Barak Obama may have been the first African-American president, but long before that, Taylor gave it a shot!
But there’s another reason the Taylor story is significant. Taylor got his start in politics in La Crosse, which made sense since he grew up in…West Salem! Taylor spent a number of years as a foster child of Nathan Smith, and grew up on Nathan Hill. Did Obama’s presidency have its roots in West Salem?
Yeah, I know that’s quite a stretch, but it is kind of fun to wonder…
Meanwhile, we are prepared to leave town on something of a bittersweet trip. We are heading to Wausau, Gladstone, Frankenmuth, Buffalo, Chicago, and home. Along the way we will connect with some old friends and colleagues, hit a few wineries, and buy some Mackinac Island fudge.
But most of all, we will visit with two aunts, and connect again with my brother’s family. All of which makes this a bit of a bittersweet trip. The two aunts, my mother’s sister (100 years old), and my Dad’s sister (90) are both wonderful aunts, and both are still pretty sharp. I’m going to take some time to listen to (and record) stories of family, stories that could be lost – and I don’t want to lose them. That’s exciting, but recognizing that the generations are changing is, well, bittersweet. I treasure the stories and memories, but also lament that the times, they are a changin’!
The visit with aunts, however, has been planned for a while. Thought about that a year ago already. But the visit with my niece and nephew, that was not. It was supposed to be a time to visit with my brother, the one who died Easter morning. Bittersweet – I am excited to see Alicia and Michael, and their families. I just wish brother Mike was there too. Bittersweet!
So back to my opening question – what do rain, presidential politics, and bittersweet family gatherings have in common? Nothing, really. It was a trick question!
Or not. Maybe it’s not a trick question. The answer might be bit “tricky”: they have nothing in common, except they are a part of my world these days. And while that might not seem very significant, it really is. It’s significant because life is usually like that – the collection of a number of things that have little in common, except that they are a part of my (or your) daily life. Day in and day out things that have nothing in common come together to make my day. That’s the rhythm of life, the mystery and sometimes confusion of how our lives unfold.
But that also is the wonder and marvel of life – that God brings together so many seemingly disparate and disconnected pieces, yet weaves them into one existence – into the fabric of my day. Things that having nothing in common other than me…and the God who holds all things in his embrace.
And so the rain, the story of George Taylor, the bittersweet family gatherings all came together this week- along with the anticipation of travels and visits, fixing my mother’s flat tire, worshiping at Prince of Peace (La Crescent), and even a brief moment off of sabbatical to chat with a representative from Wartburg Seminary – all part of my world, and all in the embrace of a loving and caring God.
So that’s my world for this week – how about you? How did God bring together pieces that seem to be random and disconnected into the fabric of your life? And how did you experience God’s embrace in the midst of all those pieces? I know I’m on sabbatical, but if you have anything you’d like to share about God’s work in your life this past week, I’d love to hear it.
For now, I’m thankful that my life (and yours) is full and rich. And I’m thankful that even though I don’t always get it, my life includes so many different pieces. But most of all, I’m thankful that all the pieces are held together by a good and loving God.