News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  23 December 2020 •  No. 209

Processional. “Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein. / Rejoice on earth, ye saints below. / For Christ is coming, Is coming soon. / For Christ is coming soon.” —“E’en So, Come Quickly Lord Jesus,” Paul Manz, performed by the Cambridge Singers

Call to worship. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Over the Rhine, Fairuz, Brothers of the Baladi. A musical journey through modern Bethlehem—in all its beauty and pain. From the church of the Holy Nativity, to the refugee camps and the checkpoint.  Read more ›

Thanksliving

A poem for Thanksgiving

by Ken Sehested

Gratitude is surely among the precious few,
truly-renewable energy sources available. The
hearts of both giver and receiver grow larger
in the process. Saying thanks, especially beyond
the demands of simple etiquette, is among the
most accessible violence-reduction strategies. Read more ›

Electoral ambiguity

Why don’t I feel happy?

by Ken Sehested

It was a leisurely Saturday morning. I promised a friend I’d help move some furniture and boxes, but he called the night before to say he needed to reschedule.

So, I said to myself, you no longer have an excuse for delaying your flu shot. Plus I needed to shop, since the kids were coming for dinner.

Upon my return, barely in the door, Nancy hollers, “Biden’s just been declared the president elect.” Read more ›

Dad’s “Heart Shield” Bible

A Veterans Day reflection

by Ken Sehested

At right is the image of my Dad’s “Heart Shield” Bible, an edition of the New Testament on to which a metal plate has been attached. The engraved cover, now smudged by corrosion, reads “May this keep you safe from harm.” It was sold by the Know Your Bible Sales Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, manufactured by the Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, and was designed to fit into a soldier’s uniform shirt pocket. Multiple stories exist of soldiers reportedly spared serious injury when bullets struck this tiny piece of body armor.

An inscription inside the cover indicates that Dad’s sister, my Aunt Juanita, gave him this gift. No date is listed, but it was sometime before Dad landed with the first wave of soldiers storming Omaha Beach in the 6 June 1944 D-Day invasion of Allied forces on the French coast in World War II. Dad was among the fortunate survivors, though he carried for the remainder of his life a piece of German artillery shrapnel embedded in bone behind his right ear.

I pause on this Veterans Day to ponder a number of questions (listed below). These in no way disparages the courage of my father, among countless others—fathers, mothers, children and siblings—before, during and since that particular day in 1944. Jesus truly and rightly said that greater love hath none than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). In fact, as a pastor, I am envious of the military’s success in coaxing from its ranks the willingness to go into harm’s way for the sake of something greater than personal fortune. Read more ›

What’s up with “Signs of the Times”?

Renovation underway

by Ken Sehested

Unless you’re a new reader, you likely noticed that my (almost) weekly “Signs of the Times” column (“news, views, notes, and quotes) took a long hiatus. An explanation is in order, especially to you who contribute.

Late last year I sent a note saying that, as my Nana used to say, “I’m all tuckered out.”

Shortly after that, my Mom’s health took a nosedive. She passed in February. Read more ›

When wealth, weapons, and worship align

Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s frightful intent

by Ken Sehested

        The normally-reclusive Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, took center stage this past week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, promising a “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts.

        Let’s unpack that declaration. What he wants is:

        •rewriting tax policies that reinforce the rule of capital as the arbiter of the common good; Read more ›

Rejoinder to election day blues

3 November 2020

by Ken Sehested

Anxiety is loose in the land here in the US; and abroad as well, since our nation’s cravings reach around the globe.

Today’s polling deadline—whose results will likely not be determined before the bewitching hour of midnight—may very well lead to the donning of sackcloth and ashes for many.

The predictions on the outcome run the gamut from a landslide for Biden to a narrow electoral college win, despite another loss in the popular vote, for Donald Trump. Read more ›

Ah, grief, my importune friend

Prose poem in the face of electoral dread

by Ken Sehested

“You've kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,
each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”
—Psalm 56:8 (The Message.)

Ah, grief, my importune friend, who has brought you to my table,
spoiled my bread, tainted my cup, directed my eyes to the psalmist’s sigh
Read more ›

Precious memories

An All Saints Day meditation

by Ken Sehested

Like most, my early memories of holiday festivities are varied and (mostly) pleasant. But Halloween stands out, with the most distinct memories, since it involved an evening of roaming (without adult supervision) in homemade costumes throughout the small town where I lived, collecting sweet treats in decorated paper bags.

Then came the much-anticipated sorting of the evening’s haul: the keepers (the really good stuff), the give-aways, everything else for trading with friends, which could go on for a week or more.

In deep-water baptist territory, All Saints Day—following "All Hallows Eve" (part of the origins of Halloween)—was never mentioned, much less observed. We didn’t believe in saints. Though we did have Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, namesakes of bi-annual mission offerings—a surprisingly feminine pantheon for a body with severely circumscribed leadership roles for women. Read more ›