Duncan Newcomer’s Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire—Now, we’re all hoping for ‘Yonder’

This entry is part 28 of 28 in the series Duncan Newcomer's Quiet Fire

By DUNCAN NEWCOMER
Host of the ‘Quiet Fire’ series

This is Quiet Fire, a reflection on the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln and its relevance to us today. Welcome.

I have a Lincoln quote for you from The Prairie Years, the opening of poet Carl Sandburg’s multi-volume, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reflection on Lincoln’s life. This is how Sandburg described the spiritual foundations of Nancy Hanks, Lincoln’s “Sweet Angel Mother”—

It could be that she was sad with sorrows like dark stars in blue mist, with hopes burned deep in her that beyond the everyday struggles, the babble and gabble of today, there might be what her brightest dreams told her. She read their Bible. One who knew her said she was a “ready reader.” She was a believer and knew—so much of what she believed was yonder—always yonder. Every day came cooking, keeping the fire going, scrubbing, washing, patching, with little time to think or sing of the glory she believed in—always yonder.

Certainly Nancy Hanks—who died when her son was only 9—was shaped by the revivals that swept west across America in the beginning of the 1800s. Some called this wave another Great Awakening, some felt it was the very Kingdom of God in America. As Sandburg tells the story, the perpetually overworked Nancy Hanks simply thought of it as a faith in “yonder.”

Yonder is a spiritual word whose time has come again. It is a word like other spiritual nouns—like bliss, grace, enlightenment, beatitude. These words are almost verbs because they carry such life, words that as nouns hardly cover the state of being that they refer to. They can be adjectives and adverbs.

Yonder is a mix of vision—horizons—like the prairie lands that stretch out to the edge of the sky, like the ocean of land that the prairie is, and wonder. In the mix of vision and wonder, Yonder becomes an envisioned and visionary place.

Remember Carol King’s “way over yonder”?

A way over yonder
Is a place I have seen
In a garden of wisdom
From some long ago dream

Yonder is a feeling, a wonder, like the story-book awe that greets the little animals at the edge of the riverbanks under the Wind in the Willows, when morning light comes and the sound of the flute of the great God Pan floats over their little ears. Yonder is like that awe. A natural holiness.

Yonder is when the hopes of a people are believed in so much they go beyond themselves to achieve what is then called glory.

Do you remember that word, “glory,” at the close of Sandburg’s passage? He admits that Hanks’ real aim was “the glory she believed in—always yonder.”

That’s the meaning in title of the 1989 film Glory about the Black soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th regiment who tried to take South Carolina’s Fort Wagner—in an even larger battle to prove that Black lives matter.

So glory is that place where politics and the real struggles of people mixes with values and vision.

That is the vision involving the spirit of yonder that Lincoln grew up with, and never lost.

This is Quiet Fire, the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln.

 

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Care to Enjoy More Lincoln Right Now?

GET A COPY of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire.

Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions. ALSO, you can order hardcover and paperback from Barnes & Noble. In addition, our own publishing house offers these bookstore links to order hardcovers as well as paperbacks directly from our supplier.

 

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Duncan Newcomer’s Abraham Lincoln Quiet Fire—Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson!

This entry is part 27 of 28 in the series Duncan Newcomer's Quiet Fire

By DUNCAN NEWCOMER
Host of the ‘Quiet Fire’ series

This is Quiet Fire, a reflection on the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln and its relevance to us today. Welcome.

This week’s quote is: “At present we are told that America is being made great again, but specifics are hard to come by. It is true that, compared with the America of memory, little has been done recently to demonstrate modest foresight, let alone grand vision.”

Marilynne Robinson

No, that’s not Lincoln reflecting on the challenges of his turbulently divided America. Those are the words of Christian novelist Marilynne Robinson in the Opinion pages of The New York Times this week. Her lengthy essay was headlined: Don’t Give Up on America. This country is not just an idea. It’s a family.

Lincoln might well have smiled and nodded at such a thought. Spending time with Lincoln becomes a relationship. When we think about the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln—soon, we begin to have a spiritual life with Abraham Lincoln. That is one reason historians don’t write very much about the spiritual life of Lincoln, because it takes them out of the library and into the temple.

Lincoln inspires parents to give their daughters or sons tokens of their own deep interest in Lincoln—perhaps family photos of trips to Springfield, framed old copies of the Gettysburg Address, things like that. This often really happens.

In her Times column, Mrs. Robinson never specifically mentions Lincoln. But her challenge in that piece—and our challenge as well—is much like the awesome task that faced Lincoln and the generations around him: What to do with America?

Mrs. Robinson—whose most famous novel is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gileadsaid in her Times piece that America is more than an idea, it is a family.

Lincoln was deeply drawn to America as an idea. Lincoln was as much an intellectual as he was a politician. But he makes an everlasting blend of the idea of America and the social and political life of America. He re-coins the words “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

America to Lincoln was an idea he hoped people would embrace nationwide. “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty….we must think a new, we must act anew.”

The Civil War was about the idea of America, and particularly the unfinished idea of all people being equal. It was a growing family, a unique social experiment, a human proposition.

Not long into the war Union soldiers began to refer to President Lincoln as Father Abraham. Lincoln was an Old Soul even as a boy. He had gravity. It was in the nature of his spirit to be grave, serious, profound, sorrowful.

Of course he also had a way of being forever young. As a father, he could not control his own children. He could barely control his own rollicking jokester humor. He nearly made a romantic mess of his life when he youthfully crashed into the world of women, Eros and love. His favorite poets were the big bad boys Lord Byron and Bobbie Burns. The Bible and Shakespeare barely kept a lid on Lincoln.

Lincoln as Father Abraham brings us into the family of America that he helped conceive, bring forth and offer a new birth of freedom.

Lincoln as an intellectual brings new meaning to the idea of America as much as Lincoln fathers a newly born America.

He was and is a Father Figure to the American Family in the same tragic way that fathers are in the plays of Shakespeare trying to govern a human family of near-impossible variety. Father figures in Shakespeare are flawed characters who have the full range of human angels and devils within them. They meet fates like, Lincoln’s own, tragic, and yet his with ongoing, nearly eternal inspiration for us, the witnessing family.

Shakespeare as the author plays the same role as God does in the Bible, the Father progenitor who survives his own creations. Even in the Bible the God-man Jesus has a tragic encounter with the human family before his love and spirit take over.

Mrs. Robinson is right to move our relationship with America, as did Lincoln himself, from just an idea to a relationship. Of course ideas, and the Idea of America, seem much more orderly than the Family of America. We know about family life, the tribal wars, the sibling rivalries, the divorces.

Lincoln experienced this first hand. Robert E. Lee decided to betray his oath as a soldier in the American Army and went back to the family home to fight for his tribe—to fight, as he said, for Virginia. The tribe of Virginia, or even the idea of Virginia, to him, had more of a draw than the idea of America. He simply was not the intellectual or moral thinker that Lincoln was.

Perhaps, when we think about the spiritual life of Lincoln, as it begins to have an effect on our own spiritual life, we see that his idea was that democracy was for the world. It was not just for America.

To this day, people around the world still look to Lincoln.

Father Abraham is the kind of figure who tells us, as he said, not only to think anew but to act anew, so that we can, as he did, save our country.

This is Quiet Fire, the spiritual life of Abraham Lincoln.

 

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Care to Enjoy More Lincoln Right Now?

GET A COPY of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire.

Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions. ALSO, you can order hardcover and paperback from Barnes & Noble. In addition, our own publishing house offers these bookstore links to order hardcovers as well as paperbacks directly from our supplier.

 

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Craig LeMasters and futurist Rita J. King talk about ‘Unstuck: How to Unlock and Activate the Wisdom of Others’

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

This ReadTheSpirit Cover Story is a video story—in fact, two videos!

Both are introductions to the newly released book,
Unstuck: How to Unlock and Activate the Wisdom of Others, which is available now from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Walmart.com and other online retailers.

THE FIRST VIDEO, below, is a less-than-2-minute introduction to the work of international business coach Craig Lemasters whose team takes a rapid-cycle approach to helping leaders get unstuck—mainly by connecting them with wise men and women outside their current circle. Then, Craig and his team at Atlanta-based GXG coordinate these catalytic encounters to ensure that these new outside sources of wisdom unlock and activate growth within the company that originally was stuck.

Susan Stitt created this very brief introductory video. She is the marketing director of our Front Edge Publishing house and is a strong advocate of video marketing, as she explained in this earlier column about the importance of book videos.

THE SECOND VIDEO, below, introduces Craig Lemasters himself in a 27-minute interview with futurist Rita J. King at Science House in New York City. Years ago, Craig was a client of this national center for innovation, which specializes in working with Fortune 100 companies. Now, Rita has written the foreword to Craig’s book and she also hosts this YouTube interview that serves as an online virtual book launch for Unstuck.

Video 1: Is Your Company Stuck?

Here is Susan’s video that conveys the valuable core message of this book in 1 minute and 41 seconds:

Video 2: Unstuck Launch Day

Here is Rita J. King’s interview with Craig about the importance of helping leaders break free of the barriers that are preventing them from adapting and growing. NOTE: The interview begins 45 seconds into this 27-minute video:

HAVING TROUBLE VIEWING THESE VIDEOS ON THIS PAGE?

You also can go directly to YouTube to view these videos.

Video 1: Is Your Company Stuck?

Video 2: Unstuck Launch Day.

 

From Michael T. McRay: ‘The stories that might help save us’

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Letters to America

EDITOR’s NOTE: The fourth letter in our series this week is a text from the opening pages of Michael T. McRay’s remarkable and inspiring new book, I Am Not Your Enemy. While reading Michael’s book—then interviewing him about the global story-collecting project behind this book—it became obvious that there were many parallels between Michael’s work and our own 10 Principles that we posted online in 2007, when our publishing house was founded. So, we are sharing this “letter” from Michael (from his book’s Introduction) as an invitation for our readers to learn more about Michael’s important and innovative work. You can do that right now by visiting his website and by ordering a copy of his book.

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Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

By MICHAEL T. McRAY
Author of ‘I Am Not Your Enemy

I believe that some of the highest goals of storytelling, of crafting narratives about our lives, should be cultivating empathy and telling the truth in service of reconciling relationships.

Stories are powerful, muscular devices. Storytelling can transform us, whether toward better or worse versions of ourselves. The stories we tell and the ones we listen to change us all the time, in large and little ways, and we’d do well to consider carefully which stories win our attention.

We are wise to consider carefully how we might learn to live together well with those we find difficult. It’s no great feat to enjoy living next to people you enjoy. That doesn’t make for peace. What makes for peace is the capacity to live with difference in such a way that bears fruit rather than arms. Difference and disagreement are guaranteed for human relationships. More often than not, it’s how we deal with difference, rather than being different, that determines our potential to be peaceable.

There’s an old Irish saying: Ar scath a cheile a mhaireas na daoine. Irish poet and theologian Padraig O Tuama says one could translate it as “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Another way is: “It is in the shadow of each other that the people live.” There’s wisdom in those twists, not the least of which being that they tell us we can choose how we live together. Will we give shelter and welcome to each other, or will we let our shadows blot each other out? The stories we tell are part of how we make that choice.

The stories we tell either help us or harm us. No narrative is neutral. The ones that help are usually ones that tell bold truths about our world, even painful ones, because we always need to face the truth with courage if we’re to heal and grow. The ones that hurt are usually ones that distort truths—maybe to protect power, or dehumanize, or tempt us to weaponize our fear. We humans tend to do our worst when we’re afraid. Fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to violence and violence leads to fear, which leads to hatred, which leads to violence. If we don’t address this deadly cycle, it can loop forever.

The stories that might save us from this are stories that open us toward a fuller embrace of the world. These stories must, therefore, tell the truth. And part of the truth is that the world is full of violence, bereavements and terrors that will terrorize even our dreams.

And yet the agony of the world isn’t the truth of the world; it’s only part of the truth. Another part of he truth is that the world is full of beauty, friendship and healing. The earth is populated with powerful stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, of inconceivable reconciliation, of faith and hope and love. Yet for some reason, we seem uninterested in these stories or are unwilling or unable to give them a platform. It seems that horror sells better than hope.

We have to do better. The stories we tell inform the breadth of our imaginations. Stories can help foster creative and prophetic imagination; they help us find order and meaning within chaos, help us get our bearings when we feel lost. And stories can also foster bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness when told without wisdom.

Wise stories, however, are those that know that sometimes someone else might tell it differently. Wise stories know there is never one villain and never one hero. Wise stories know that sometimes, maybe even most times, people can be both. Wise stories know that if you describe characters as demonic, listeners will likely long for their destruction rather than redemption. Wise stories know that the wisest stories are not told by people in power.

Wise stories are ones that help us face the truth around us and name it for what it is. Throughout Padraig O Tuama’s book, In the Shelter, he offers the simple tool of naming the truths around us and saying hello to them. Rather than pushing them away or pretending they aren’t there or have no power, he encourages us to acknowledge them. Greet them. Say hello. See what we might learn from the situations and the strangers we did not choose—or at least did not know to name. I use this all the time now in my life as a way of acknowledging often unacknowledged truths, as a way of becoming familiar and maybe even friendly with what can be frightening.

Because sometimes, simply saying hello might be part of what helps us.

This brief excerpt is from Michael’s much longer, prophetic Introduction to his new book. The entire Introduction reads like an open letter to all of us to recognize the peacebuilding potential in sharing wise and true stories.

 

From Duncan Newcomer: ‘Do we need another Lincoln?’

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Letters to America

By DUNCAN NEWCOMER
Author of ‘30 Days with Abraham Lincoln

Friends—

Have you noticed, this autumn, that there is a lot of talk about how we need another Lincoln? Wherever you turn in major magazines and newspapers and even on air, these days, we keep hearing this question: Whose Lincoln do we want and need right now?

There’s a good reason this question keeps arising in each new season of our nation’s history: There’s a lot of Lincoln available!

Paradox is his most noteworthy psychological and philosophical characteristic. Lincoln seems to have values and virtues on one side of the tracks and then values and virtues on the other.

He was a great joking extrovert, he was a silent somber introvert.

He was big and ugly, he was sweet and beautiful.

He was a warrior king, he was a man of peace.

So recently in The New Yorker you could read about a Common Man Lincoln who knew how to love and mix it up with the vulgar circus of humanity. The Atlantic weighed in as well.

There was an Old Sage Lincoln who knew how to speak to tragedy from the Bardo of his own grief. (And George Saunders’ Bardo novel went on to win the Man Booker Prize.)

There was a political Glad Hand and Iron Fist Lincoln who knew how to bring people together for the common good in politically shrewd ways.

Then there is the Yonder Lincoln, whose spiritual life infused all of the above versions.

Or consider the Circus Jokester Lincoln who once hosted Little Tom Thumb as a White House guest and regarded this wee gentleman as a marvel of equal humanity while fully one-half his own size.

To the Lincoln in the Bardo of death his grief for his son defines the god-send from Scripture, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

To the Hand and Fist political Warrior King, Lincoln was also the mythological Grail King, the one who communed with the Holy Grail of the Sacred Feminine, giving the Kingdom its true greatness, which, of course, would be its goodness.

So many questions about Lincoln! We never seem to tire of puzzling over the paradox.

Please, this fall and winter, I hope you will continue to enjoy my own weekly Quiet Fire reflections on Lincoln. Feel free to share with me your own thoughts via [email protected]

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

 

 

 

From Larry Buxton: ‘A better way to win’

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Letters to America

From LARRY BUXTON
Author of ‘30 Days with King David on Leadership

Dear Friends,

This autumn, how often do you find yourself asking this question: How will this battle end?

I came across a true story recently that moved me deeply. I kept thinking about it. Finally, I realized that it truly is a parable for our day—a parable I like to call: ‘A Better Way to Win.’

You can watch the video right here:

Or, please visit my website …

Did you find that video letter helpful? Want more? Every week, I’m posting another very short video meditation based on lessons from my book 30 Days with King David on Leadership. If you go to my website LarryBuxton.com you can enter your email address and get a link to a new video letter like this from me each week. (Don’t worry, we follow best practices and you can cancel the weekly email anytime.)

Want the text of this video letter?

‘A Better Way to Win’

Sometimes, visitors to my website ask me for a text they can read or save or quote or share with a friend. In case you’d like this video letter in text form, here it is …

Two marathoners were matching each other, stride for stride, mile for mile. For hours they pounded the gray streets in rhythm, each man hoping to be crowned the winner of the first-ever London Marathon.

As the miles went on, one runner would attempt a surge—and fail. Then the other one would try to pull ahead—and fail. Nothing worked. Neither runner could shake the other. How would this battle end?

As the two men pass the 26-mile marker, the commentator is heard saying, “Someone must take the race.”

But which one? They’re down to the last 300 yards, gasping and straining. We hold our breaths.

Suddenly one runner puts a hand out. The other takes it. No words are exchanged. In shared exertion they join hands and cross the finish line together. Dick Beardsley of the U.S and Inge Simonsen of Norway finished as the first co-winners of the 1981 London Marathon.

How automatically we assume that winning must be a zero sum game: If someone wins, someone else has to lose. We assume this is the purpose of competition. But the goal of competition is not necessarily winning, Competition is our straining for excellence in the presence of others. It’s pounding out stamina, chasing down resilience, pursuing strength and gasping for courage.

Beardsley and Simonsen were equally great competitors.

I find the mysterious Spirit here in two moments. The first is Dick’s and Inge’s implicit realization that competition doesn’t require a loser. Everyone’s assumption echoed the announcer’s intoning, “Someone must take the race.” But Spirit—however we define Spirit—reframes this contest in their minds and substitutes a win-win model.

Neither suggests it. Neither one floats the possibility for them to discuss along the route. But somewhere they each see it, a different way to win, and that new image or new possibility begins to inspire their race.

Then comes the mysterious moment. Neither one speaks. They don’t even look at each other. Each man reaches out his hand. At the same time.

In their simultaneous clasping hands, Beardsley and Simonsen each surrender, in a sense. Each one surrenders his hope to stand alone on the winner’s podium. But their shared surrender makes for a shared victory. Theirs was concession and triumph at the same time.

That’s a basic conversion theme for Christians and alcoholics and lots of others of us: Surrender leads to victory. When we surrender ourselves and our individual dreams of glory, we discover a much greater victory: Sobriety. Salvation. Honor. Self-respect. Character. Love.

Our political leaders need to embrace this story. So do we in squabbling marriages, antagonistic organizations, conflicted congregations, argumentative families, and bickering boardrooms. We might watch for that glimpse – listen for that whisper – and welcome a more selfless way to lead.

I hope you see it – or hear it – or reframe it yourself. And then, reach out! Risk an offered hand. In the days ahead – Let the Spirit move within you. Our entire nation needs it, now more than ever.

Yours in faith,

Larry

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

From Lucille Sider: ‘You are not alone.’

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Letters to America

From LUCILLE SIDER
Author of ‘Light Shines in the Darkness’

Dear Friends,

You are not alone.

In four words, that is my message today—and it is such an important truth for all of us to accept and embrace.

A lot of people I know are truly struggling. For the first time in their lives, they wake up with depression—mild though it may be for many people. We’ve been living with this pandemic for a long time already and we have many, many months to go. We’re realizing that we will never return to life as we have known it—and that is very frightening.

Living in the pandemic is truly exhausting, because we have to continually make decisions about how we should respond.
Dare we meet a friend for lunch?
Must we sit outside even though the weather may not cooperate with our plans?
What about the children we have not seen—for months now? We missed their birthday parties and we just want to take them out for ice-cream as we have always done.

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

And our beloved seniors are so vulnerable whether in their own homes or in a retirement home. We notice that some are quite depressed and we’re trying to do our part in reaching out to them.

We find ourselves struggling with depression as well. We just feel exhausted even though we are not doing much. We’re trying to do our exercises or walk faithfully but we get no pleasure out of it. We’re reading but are having trouble focusing. We’re sick of watching TV.

And oh—we miss the chance to worship with our congregations. We miss that so much! We miss singing. We miss passing the peace and touching base with all those dear folks. Many of us miss communion—going forward and receiving the bread and wine. We long for “coffee hour,” the time to catch up with friends and to reach out to newcomers or chat with the children who are all growing like perfect little weeds.

Our pastors have brilliantly devised ways to keep us all in touch. We’re so grateful, but we are tired of all the distance and limitations. Zoom, which seemed so magical at first, is so limiting.

And there is one more very serious concern I have and that is about sexual abuse. You may have heard that during this time of isolation in our homes sexual abuse is increasing. Victims are often stuck in their homes with abusers. They do not have the usual outside contacts to report the abuse. They seldom see teachers, doctors or clergy.

Dear friends, if you know of a situation where sexual abuse is occurring—please reach out. You can contact a clergyperson, a teacher, social worker, doctor or trusted neighbor. Or you can contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). RAINN ) RAINN works with 1,000 sexual assault providers across the nation. Their number is 800-656-HOPE.

You can reach out to me, if you would like me to make a Zoom appearance to talk with your small group or circle of friends about the wisdom I’ve tried to share in my book Light Shines in the Darkness. I am available as we have said before in this online magazine. Just email [email protected]

I wrote this letter today to remind all of you: Wherever you are and whatever you are facing—there is HOPE.

You are not alone.

Blessings to you.
Lucille