Author: Karl (Page 1 of 44)

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Church Outside

Church Under the Oaks

Now that certain restrictions have been lifted for the coronavirus pandemic, our church is going to meet outside. The song (for those old enough to remember) below indicates some of the sentiment our congregation may feel. Although there may not be a dale (“an open river valley in a hilly area”) nearby, or even a vale (“a valley”) of note, we do have the wind, sun, trees, grass, and leaves. There are also sticks, stones, pollen, birds and insects and we may also see occasional birds, snakes, spiders, and foxes, indicating some “wildwood” may be nearby. 

The word wildwood may be familiar to some from a song that Dr William S. Pitts wrote in 1857. It is entitled “Come, come to the church in the wildwood,” and has several verses. Here are the first two and the refrain: 

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier spot in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning
To listen to the clear ringing bells
Its tones so sweetly are calling
Oh come to the church in the vale.

(Oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church by the wildwood
Oh, come to the church in the vale
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale.

The song reminds me of my own early church experiences. There were two churches in my rural farming community in Pennsylvania, nestled among the Allegheny mountains, but neither were in the “wildwood.” Many such churches had a cemetery “nestled” nearby, with gravestones marking the remains of former villagers. The churches were also invariably painted white, not brown, but they were “little,” with the average congregation of about 30 or 40, “swelling” to 60 or more at Christmas and Easter.

We did do some things outside, like Sunday School picnics and baptisms—but not in the winter—and our services were always inside. The weather was often unpredictable and disagreeable, not like Texas where, except for the occasional tornado and summer sun, it is safe to meet outside.

Of course, “safety” is the issue these days, with COVID-19 germs potentially lurking behind every face mask and cashier’s plexiglass separator. Meeting outside and following the six-foot separation will hopefully keep any nasty microbes at bay.

Older people (you know who you are) and those with “predisposing medical issues” will need to be especially careful, so the church under the oaks will need a restraining area for them, much like a “holding pen.” No hugging or handshakes, but a thumbs up or (perhaps) elbow bumps will be allowed. Singing will be difficult and muffled if people wear masks, but music may take on a new dimension, much like the ringing of a broken church bell, off in a distant vale.

Be aware: when we meet outside, there could be signs from the heavens: a hawk or vulture circling an area may mark a “dead” church, but a male cardinal could show that the church is “on fire” with red-like (not redneck) zeal.

The last verse of the “wildwood” song is more sobering:

There, close by the side of that loved one

‘Neath the tree where the wild flowers bloom

When farewell hymns shall be chanted

shall rest by her side in the tomb

If thin in terms of theology, the farewell is poetic and sentimental, allowing reflection and medication. That is appropriate in our outside service as well. 

Karl and Joice Franklin
Longing for the Outside

Unusual July Events

The month of July was named in honor of Julius Caesar, who was responsible for the year having 365 days—the “Julian calendar.” It has also a girl’s name and by 1900 was one of the most popular, with variants such as Julia, Jackquel, Jacquil, Jaell, Jahel, Jahli, Jalee, Jalil, Jayel and Jayla, but by 1950 its popularity had dropped considerably. 

Back in 1984 Ronald Reagan deemed July as “National Ice Cream Flavor Month” and the third Sunday of this month is “National Ice Cream Day,” so I headed to Drug Emporium and bought a gallon of French Vanilla, figuring that we could invent our own flavors for the month. So far, a bit of chocolate sauce and a few peanuts has been our flavor of the month.

There are also serious days this month, for example July 2nd was “World UFO Day,” so if you looked into the sky and saw some unidentified object, you should have immediately consulted the World UFO Day website. However, be careful: what one observer thought was the landing craft of intelligent beings from outer space turned out to be the lid of a garbage can, lofted high by Texas winds. The sighting was classified for several years.

You will not be surprised to know that July 4th, in addition to Independence Day, is “Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.” When we were studying linguistics at the University of Oklahoma one summer, we actually saw college students frying their eggs on the sidewalk. I think they were “over easy” and not scrambled—unless someone happened to step on them. We never saw anyone eat what was left of the eggs.

Although July 6 is “International Kissing Day,” in Texas, according to high government sources, masks are not mandatory and “social distancing“ will be reduced from six to two feet. This day is also cited as a direct cause for “National Mono Day.”

The children are probably going to have to forgo “Teddy Bear Picnic Day,” which is on July 10. The “day” was proclaimed a national holiday by a collectible items dealer named Royal Selangor, building on a song written by John Walter Bratton called “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” The holiday is popular in Europe and there is a ground swell among Baylor students for it to be recognized with signs near the bear pit.

Children who miss out on their Teddy bear picnics can look forward to July 13th, which is “National French Fries Day,” although French Fries should actually be eaten on July 22, which is “National Junk Food Day.”

Several July events will not take place this year: July 26, the “National Talk in an Elevator Day” is replaced by “Guess Who Has Dimples under Masks Day”. There is still debate about honoring “Yellow Pig Day,” which normally takes place on July 17, the name arising from “an intense study of the mathematical properties of the number 17.” Piggeries around the world may hold rallies and object to the use of the word “pig.”

You have probably heard of “spoonerisms,” the accidental switching of consonants or vowels and named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner. To honor him, July 22nd is “Doonerism Spay.”

But enough trivia, let’s get serious. The Catholics have over 15 Saints who are celebrated on July 1st alone, with another 11 on July 2nd, and similar additions for the remaining days of the month. For example, St. Phocas the Gardener, who died in 303, has his Feastday on July 3 and, for a more modern example, St. Maria Goretti, who died on July 6, 1902 and was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Protestants are featured in July as well: think of theologian John Calvin, who was born as Jehan Cauvin in Noyon, a town in Picardy, a province of the Kingdom of France on July 10, 1509. Calvin was a pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Reformation. He developed a system of theology called Calvinism, which includes aspects of predestination, the sovereignty of God and eternal damnation. He was originally a lawyer and left the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. During the English Civil War, Calvinistic Puritans produced the Westminster Confession, which later became the confessional standard for Presbyterians.

But this isn’t a religious contest, so let’s turn to some other famous people who were born in July: Diana, the Princess of Wales, on July 1, 1961, Koko the gorilla on July 4, 1971, Tom Hanks on July 9, 1956, Henry David Thoreau on July 12, 1817, Nelson Mandela on July 18, 1918, Ernest Hemingway on July 21, 1899. Amelia Earhart on July 24, 1897, and Beatrix Potter on July 28, 1866.

In other words, if your birthday is in July, you are showcased with many prominent people. However, if it is in December, don’t worry because Santa Claus is coming to town and will remember you. Hopefully, he will not be wearing a mask and kids can sit on his lap.

Spurious July reflections
Karl and Joice Franklin

Independence and July 4th

On June 11, 1776 the signing of “A declaration by representatives of the United States of American in general congress” took place. The rallying cry had been “Taxation without representation,” meaning freedom from Great Britain. The final draft of the declaration was signed on July 4th 1776, and the first celebration took place a year later in Philadelphia. Independence Day was declared a national holiday in 1870.

We know a little about how that might have felt because on September 16, 1975 when Papua New Guinea received its status as an independent nation, we were there. We took part in celebrations because Australia was no longer the colonial power (under United Nations authority) governing the country. The mother country had done its best but now it was up to the new infant.

Expectations and aspirations ran high for the new nation: books were published, songs were written, the new Prime Minister and other leaders declared great things for the nation. After all, it was a “Christian nation,” with most of the population declaring themselves as “Christian.” However, 45 years later it is an adult nation and there are widespread problems, despite the country’s economic “success.” Although political corruption, tribal warfare, lack of health and educational care for rural areas, and so on, are not uncommon, there is also a high degree of potential for the country. This is due to outstanding Christian men and women leaders—many mission educated, as well as pastors and their churches.

We should not be surprised that problems have arisen. Although the U.S. has had 260 years to get things “right,” there is political corruption, warfare, lack of health care for many, and education obstacles as well. Nevertheless, concerned citizens and churches continue to work for justice and equality. In other words, “Independence” is a two-edged sword: it can bring “freedom” and opportunity, but it can also result in widespread disenchantment and chaos.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I thought of July 4th as a holiday, with parades, picnics, baseball double-headers, hotdogs and fireworks. The history of the event was marginal in my thinking. I am probably not alone and doubt if many of us think very deeply about the event, although anyone who has had military experience should be more conscious of the cost of maintaining “independence.”

We furloughed to the U.S. in July 1976 when our country was celebrating its bicentennial in a variety of ways, e.g., people in covered wagons re-enacting some of the journeys that settlers had taken. We didn’t consider it as conquest by dispossession—Native Americans, like African slaves, were simply a part of our American scenery and heritage. It was time to celebrate. 

However, consider what Frederick Douglass wrote: “Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, ‘may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!’ To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July!” (From The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II. Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860.)

One 4th of July that I will never forget took place in Houston, Texas in 2013. We were there because Joice was undergoing treatment for cancer at the MD Anderson Proton Radiation Center. My cousin and her husband were visiting from Virginia so we went to see the Astros play baseball. At the conclusion, the roof was rolled back, and the fireworks began. It was spectacular, even if noisy and costly, and part of the baseball ticket—a bargain.

This 4th of July will be very different from any other we have ever had.  The state governments will save a lot of money which I imagine (with tongue in cheek) they will quickly and gladly disperse to needy citizens.

There may be social distancing, face masks, small groups, and parades—if any—may resemble a poorly attended church service or a political rally. We pray there will be no riots or shootings, but we cannot be sure, so individuals, families, and groups will take extra precautions.

There are also people and groups of people for whom July 4th will be no different than any other day: struggles for food and justice, lack of jobs, poor health care, and so on. If we are not in these categories but know people who are, it is our Christian duty and privilege to help them. We do not need to wave flags, set off firecrackers, wear long robes or pray on the street corners to be seen; rather, with humility and gratefulness, we need to help in any practical way that we can.

This could turn out to be the best 4th of July celebration that we have, with no missing fingers or limbs due to firecrackers, no riots or tearing down statues; instead, thankfulness that we trust in God with this conviction: “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” (Proverbs 16:1).

On a quiet Covid-19 
July 4th, 2020
Karl and Joice Franklin

Unusual June Holidays

This month features, among other things, Dinosaur Day and I Love My Dentist Day. I am not sure why they are both mentioned this month, but it may have something to do with teeth. I did not remember Dinosaur Day, which was on June 1, concentrating instead on Oscar the Grouch’s birthday and Donut Day.

I also forgot about I Love My Dentist Day, which was on June 2, because I have never met a dentist that I loved. My fervent wish was to get away from the dentist as fast as I can and with most of my teeth and mouth still intact.

Let me show you what I missed so far in June: Egg Day (June 3), National Frozen Yogurt Day (June 4), National Gingerbread Day (June 5), National Yo-Yo Day (June 6), National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (June 7), National Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day (June 8), International Young Eagles Day (June 9), National Flag Week (beginning June 10), National Peanut Butter Cookie Day (June 12), National Juggling Day and National Lobster Day (June 13), Pop Goes the Weasel Day (June 14), and both the Power of a Smile Day and Fly a Kite Day (June 15).

All of those took place in the first half of the month and, not so sadly, I missed them all. However, I became interested about Fudge Day (June 16), but not so much about Iceland Independence Day (June 17). I have written about Father’s Day (June 18), but didn’t realize it was also International Picnic Day.

I’ll skip some of the rest of the June holidays, although I will mention National Catfish Day (June 25), National Chocolate Pudding Day (June 26), National Orange Blossom Day (June 27), Paul Bunyan Day (June 28), Camera Day (June 29) and Meteor Day (June 30).

June also has its share of more serious holidays. In fact, according to “Catholic Online,” June is the Month of the Sacred Heart and St. Justin Martyr is the Saint of the Day for June 1, followed by Sts. Marcelllinus and Peter on June 2. There is, in fact, a saint listed for every day of June, including St. Charles Lwanga, St. Francis Caracciolo, and St. Boniface of Mainz. As far as I can tell, there is only one woman who made the June calendar: St. Emily de Vialar (June 17). However, my Latin is very poor, and I may have misread the gender of some of the names.

Protestants also have June holidays, often on Sundays. We are familiar with Pentecost (June 9), Trinity Sunday (June 16), Corpus Christi (June 20) and Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). I skipped Saint Vladimir on June 15, but he is legendary and mentioned in both the Orthodox and Catholic calendars. The Internet says that “Vladimir was the son of the Norman-Rus prince Svyatoslav of Kyiv by one of his courtesans and was a member of the Rurik lineage dominant from the 10th to the 13th century. He was made prince of Novgorod in 970.” That was not terribly enlightening to me. What did he do that made him famous? Well, if it is the same Vladimir, he united the eastern Slavs in accepting Christianity and helped Russia become a part of “Christian” nations. There are numerous legends and songs about him.

Returning to Texas, each city seems to have events in June. Houston, for example, was named “a hot spot for travelers,” even before the coronavirus pandemic. The city features the Space Center, the Fine Arts Museum and the Houston Experience Marketplace, and “much more.” We spent 6 ½ weeks in Houston some 6 years ago but saw mainly the M D Anderson hospital and the proton radiation center. I did manage to visit the Arts Museum and see the Astros play a baseball game one July 4th, with fireworks following.

Because of the pandemic, some events have been postponed or canceled in Waco and other Texas towns. However, the Dr Pepper Museum, with “the best collection of soft drink memorabilia in the world” is open, but I wonder if you can drink your Dr Pepper through a face mask.

There was no shortage of festivals in the Old Testament either. In calendar order, they were the Passover (lasting 7 days), Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits (at the first barley harvest), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost, 50 days after Firstfruits), the Feast of Trumpets (signifying the calling of Israel to judgment), the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths (a week of celebration for the harvest of grapes and olives).

There were other feasts as well: New Moon, Sabbath Year (every 7th year), and the Jubilee (the 5th year or 49 years from the last Sabbath year).

God blessed such celebrations and Jesus reminds us of another great feast.  In Matthew 8.11 and Luke 13.29, we read that “many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

No masks or social distancing will be necessary.

Karl Franklin
Awaiting that grand feast

Father’s Day

We speak metaphorically about the “Father of our country” and even about “Father Christmas.” The song, “Faith of our Fathers” wistfully refers to the founding fathers of our nation and was written by Frederick W. Faber, who lived from 1814 to 1863. The faith they had, Faber asserted at the time, is “living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.” He reminds us that it is a “holy faith” and one that we should hold on to until we die. The song is also evangelistic: “we will strive to win all nations to thee; and through the truth that comes from God, we  shall then be truly free.”

Of course, all of our founding fathers did not have such a faith, although many of them did. Today, we pray that this stanza might be true: “Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife; and preach thee, too, as love know how by kindly words and virtuous life.” Imagine, if you can, men and women in our congress standing and singing this song. Sung with sincerity and intention, our nation’s leaders could signal repentance and love and we could see the kind of change that will promote justice in our society.

I became a father on April 11, 1959, a day before my own birthday, when our son Kirk was born. His entrance into the world took place in a jungle hospital in Papua New Guinea. Holding my little son in my arms, I dedicated him to the Lord. He didn’t know that for a long time, but he had a father (and mother) who wanted him to serve God in some way. He has, and three children and three grandchildren have blessed him and his wife Christine.

It is hard to evaluate one’s own success or failure as a father—and both will be true. Our children, bless them, tell us we did a good job, with some exceptions (too numerous to mention). We lived in villages and communities where the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true. Many people in the villages and communities interacted with our kids and helped them to grow in a safe and healthy environment.

Due to a tubal pregnancy, Joice was told that she could not have children after Kirk, so  I would not be a father again. However, there are even medical false prophets and our daughter was born in 1965 in a different jungle hospital.

I don’t know what my father was thinking when I was born. It was during the Great Depression and, as the third child, he and my mom probably wondered how to survive financially. My father loved me but, if he ever prayed for me, I did not know it. Every father has a story and his was full of pain and surprises. But he was ordained by God to be my father and I am thankful for him. I don’t know, however, that I ever told him so on Father’s Day.

When our children praise me on Father’s Day, I could contradict them: I like to hear words of praise from them, even though I say “yes, but…” and remind them of some less worthy Father’s days.

Today, instead of seeing anything in the newspaper to remind me of the “Faith of our Father’s,” I read about sales and the “great gift ideas for dad.” Or a patriotic cap and a T-shirt inscribed with “Greatest Father in the World”?

If I liked fishing, they could get me a Shimano Stradic CI + Spinning Reel for only $149.97, marked down from $229.99. There are also numerous “hot buys” for dad: men’s offroad clogs, a wi-fi connected option to monitor the weather, or a S&W M&P Bodyguard 380 semi-auto pistol. I’m not off the road much these days and the weather forecast for the next three months is “hot, with a 10% chance of rain.” My bodyguard is a semi-automatic brand of deodorant, meaning that it has to be applied mechanically.

All the fathers (and mothers) who read this should rejoice in the relationship they have with their children. Hopefully, it can in some sense mirror the relationship Solomon had with the Lord, “by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David” (1 Kings 3:3).

Or, as Hallmark would say “Happy Father’s Day to the man of my heart, the father of our children, the love of my life.” “Thank you for all the ways you go above and beyond every day for our family. The kids and I are so lucky to have you.” Priceless? No, the card will cost you $5.99, on sale.

Father’s Day,
June, 2020

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