Sunday, August 26, 2012

For My Grandmother

My Grandmother and My Mom in early 1935.
My grandmother, Esther Pauline Goble Van Hooser was raised on a farm in SE Missouri outside of Poplar Bluff. The arc of her life has thus far seen the introduction of radio, commercial aviation, television, space travel and landing on the moon, the computer revolution, countless medical advances, the internet and smart phones.  Even when I was young she would talk about these changes and discuss them in the course of telling stories of what life for her family was like growing up.  It has been one of the means by which she conveys to her loved ones their heritage and identity as family and children of God. This sense of history and of progress is something I learned from her.  I have a distinct memory from when she came to visit us when my brother Tim was born. He was a few days old when this happened so it is sometime in August 1960.  The space program was in the news prominently and the Echo communications satellite had just been launched.  Mom, Grandmother, and the rest of us went out in the evenings and watched it cross the sky.  One evening as Tim was lying on the couch, she said to me, a nine year old thrilled at all things having to do with science and space, "Just think, he might live to see them land on the moon."   From that I learned optimism and justification for interest in such things as well at their importance.  Little did we know how soon that significant event would come about.  It would only take about nine years.  One of her favorite memories involves her family traveling across the US to California in a Model T when she was just seven.  She has told the story a number of times to me.  It was must have been a formative experience for her and a journey, not a trip.  She survived Tetanus as a child. She and my grandfather Mac were married in the midst of the depression and after a year of farming, they did as so many from the South, they migrated to Michigan where it was possible to find employment. They raised their family in Pontiac, MI. The extended families of Pauline and Mac often looked to them for assistance with their needs as they were stable, responsible, and supportive. They returned South to Searcy, Arkansas upon Mac's retirement in 1972. To this day, at age 95, she continues in various church activities, most recently she made dozens of dresses for a mission in Panama.  She still teaches Sunday school.  Her knowledge of the Bible is intimate and she discusses the various people in the Bible as if they are friends and acquaintances. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

West Ridge Church of Christ/ Eastside Church of Christ of Pocahontas, AR

Two pages from Arkansas Christians:  A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County 1800-1995, Arkansas by Dr. Michael L. Wilson  Copyright 1997.

My Dad attended the old Carter School mentioned in the first sentence. The East Pocahontas Church of Christ was established around the time I was born.  I left Poky in 1966.  I knew when this church moved to Highway 62 but have never had the opportunity to meet with them.  Don't know when they changed the name to West Ridge Church of Christ.  Their present web site is .  Would like to go there as many people I once knew must attend there.  Recognized two of the deacons.  Don Wilson is likely the book author's brother.  I think Mark Futrell is the son of the late Phil Futrell who owned Futrell's Pharmacy and gave me my first job where I paid into social security. Worked at his soda fountain pulling soft drinks, making milkshakes and ice cream sundaes.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Pocahontas and Randolph County Ministers in the Church of Christ

The Old Hubble Creek Church of Christ
When I was growing up in Pocahontas, Arkansas in the sixties, there were 16 Churches of Christ in Randolph County.  County population was 12,000 if I recall correctly.  Dad held meetings for many of these churches and I often went with him.  A number of ministers who became influential and well known in “the Church” have a Pocahontas connection.  The family of Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation from 1955-1983 was from Randolph County.  (After that, he started Image magazine.  It came along in the eighties and I like it . It folded and New Wineskins continued somewhat along those lines)  The Lemmons and Allisons and perhaps others migrated to Oklahoma in the twenties.  Reuel was about ten years old.  [Brief aside:  There was a Lemmons family reunion at the old Hubble Creek Church where I heard Reuel talk about church and family history. see picture]  My Allisons returned from OK but his parents remained.  In the first half of the 20th century, the two most important publications in the CofC were the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation.  A large number of ministers came from the Lemmons family.  A. G. Lemmons the son of a Lemmons and Allison (my great aunt Hassel) of Nashville wrote some books on fasting, among other things.  He is my cousin.  A. G. has a nephew, my cousin Thom Lemmons, who was a professor at Abilene, moved to College Station, TX and has joined the larger Christian universe as writer of a number of books.   I read a nice one by him of historical fiction Mother of Faith where he crafted a story based on the lady of III John.  Ray Chester of Randolph County was also a person of influence and stature in the church.  He moved up the line and had a big Washington, DC church for a while.  Eventually he transitioned to the Disciples.  I grew up with his nephews and nieces.  Ray held us a meeting at the Pyburn Street Church of Christ some time, I guess the mid sixties.  He was different.  He didn’t quote as much scripture as was considered necessary and did not spend much time telling about how everyone else was wrong.  I listened to the adults talk and they were very disappointed in him.  Around the same time, give or take a year, Foy Wallace came to town.  He would preach 90 minutes.  He was colorful and entertaining.  One of his points made often was that the RSV was not a Version but a Perversion.  Many from the Starling family became ministers.  Too many for me to keep up with.  One down in Florida that I know about is still active and has a blog ministry.  Jerry Rushford has a connection to Reyno on the east side of the county.  He is one whose family took him to Michigan when he was young.  He is well known and well liked.  He managed a lectureship at Pepperdine for many years.  I met him for the first time at the Homecoming of the Laurel CofC here in Knoxville some months ago.  Jack Hawkins was originally from Doniphan, MO, just across the state line.  He eventually ended up in Michigan (Note to a blogging friend:I’m sure your wife’s family must have known him.)  He first served at Tasmania.  My grandmother used to talk about that church.  My mom and grandparents attended it before moving on to Keego Harbor.  I can just barely remember that KH church.   If I recall correctly, that fellowship built a new facility in Sylvan Lake and moved there around 1958 or 9.  Jack served there at some point also.  Delores Hawkins was a class mate of mine at Harding.  I think she must have been a niece of Jack or something.  My late grandfather, Mac Van Hooser was an elder at Sylvan Lake.  

Then there are the Olbricht brothers, Thomas, Glenn, and Owen.  They grew up in Thayer, MO, just across the state line.  Thomas has been a professor at Penn State, Abilene Christian, and Pepperdine U.  He is an internet acquaintance whom I met in person at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb U. in 2008.  I read his book:  Hearing God's Voice and enjoyed it very much.  Need to do a review some time.  He has a new one out that is on my list:  Reflections on My Life: in the Kingdom and the Academy.  Glenn, the one I never met, was a missionary to Germany.  Owen has had a long influential career in the Church of Christ and played a formative role in my life.  The summer after I graduated from Harding, I joined his Campaigns Northeast.  We conducted three week ministries successively in Anderson, IN; Endwell, NY; Baltimore, MD, and Northfield, NJ.  We knocked on doors and engaged people in Bible studies.  That was a real character builder.  The 3rd week culminated in a Gospel Meeting. 

Lester Perrin, a painter, was the song leader at Pyburn Street when I was growing up.  His sons were my dad’s age, roughly.  They played high school sports together.  One son, Kenny, was my Calc 1 teacher at Harding.   The next year he trekked to Pepperdine U.  His brothers, Les Jr. and Jerry, made it down to Texas and were prominent at Lubbock Christian and other places.  I get them mixed up.  One of their sons, Tim, was named President of LCU recently.  

My brother-in law’s first cousin, the late Michael Wilson, wrote a book called Arkansas Christians: A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph, County Arkansas.  I’ve referred to that to help out my memory.  This is just a smattering of what is in the book.  Mike has a cousin, John Wilson, a religion professor at Pepperdine.  Mike, about six years my elder, ended up a Disciple and died in his late fifties of a heart attack.  

Now for the Allisons.  My Dad’s Uncle Marvin Allison is 95 and the last of his generation.  He was a missionary for many years in New Zealand.  He served under the Union Avenue Church of Christ and its successor Woodland Hills, in Memphis.  Another of Dad’s first cousins, Fielden Allison, has been a missionary to Kenya since the mid-70’s.  Fielden’s sister, Joan, married one of the VanRheenen boys (I think they were from Paragould, the seat of Greene County to the east), Dwayne, who was a professor in Maine for many years before moving on to Abilene and Pepperdine or vice versa.  Doug Allison, another one, was often a song leader for many area wide youth meetings in the 80’s and 90’s.  Then there is my dad, known variously as G. W. Allison or Chick Allison or George Allison. He was raised in Pocahontas.  He was the minister at Pyburn Street the first time from 1958-66.  Then he had a stint in the mid-seventies after I was long gone from the scene.  Then another short time in the nineties.  Dad is a close friend of Jimmy Allen.  Jimmy has always credited my dad with influencing him to be a Christian.  

A Previous Post about my Dad and his Sixty Years of Preaching is here.

Above I've discussed those who grew up in or close to Pocahontas, AR who became influential in the fellowship of the Church of Christ.  There are many more.  And then there are those who sojourned for a while and left that tradition.  David Elkins is one.  He was at Harding in the mid-sixties and was a minister for a while.  Eventually he switched to Psychology and taught at Pepperdine. I've read his book Beyond Religion and did a review of it in 2005. 

Google Street View of the Pyburn Street Church of Christ

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Review of The Asteroid by M. R. Cates

"Night before last." she began, "I imaged this asteroid...."
My friend and co-worker of over thirty years, Mike Cates, recently published his first book, The Asteroid.  My review on Amazon is below plus some additional comments.

This riveting, fast paced book, like all good science fiction, explores what it is to be human, what lies in the future for us, and how we are to deal with the unknown that looms ahead. Many of us presume that technology will continue to progress and coupled with the knowledge that there is an immense cosmos out there, we long to engage it to answer the question "Are we alone?" This book delves into that mystery.

There was something about the book that called to my mind the 1960's television science fiction show "The Outer Limits". The twenty years prior to that included spectacular technology advances that changed how we viewed ourselves and oriented us to the future and the implications of technology. The advances included the development of the atomic bomb and atomic power, rocket science that placed people into orbit, and television to communicate and stimulate speculation about our future world and worlds that could be. I was a kid caught up in this excitement and The Outer Limits (OL) fed the thirst for such. While the book happily evoked some of those same feelings and memories of wonder, it lacked the gloom and foreboding of OL which quite often was critical of the human race and its antics. The pessimistic, dystopian visions of OL, 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 have their place and might rightly be considered an important part of the Spiritual Formation of present society. The Asteroid, on the other hand, is positive and the reader has a sense of this. We are provided with the author's view of how humans can be good natured and act rationally when confronted with the unknown and can work cooperatively, unselfishly to everyone's benefit. Oh that we could solve our problems today without the guile, subterfuge, resentment and spite that is an attribute of our current politics. The guileless main character is guided by curiosity and wonder and is a role model in that regard. 

The setting is the present and as a previous reviewer, Bill Coghlan has said, the physics is consistent and believable. Too often today's movies are indulgent and undisciplined in this regard. Here, technology is essential to the plot but it is realistic and understated, if anything. A key role is played at one point by the creative use of an optical fiber. The author is probably one of the few scientists on the planet to have worked with fiber optics continuously since the 1970's. Nevertheless he gives only the necessary amount of technical detail. It fits in a vital way rather than intrudes on the narrative.

The author draws on his scientific and technical interests to construct the story. Some of the main characters were raised in Texas, as was he. He spent a year at a French national laboratory in the 1970's and one wonders in what ways that influenced his creation of a prominent role for a French graduate student and the love by everyone of the main characters for that greatest of blessings, sharing wine and food among friends. He chose a woman as his protagonist and this is one crucial way he deviates from his own experience. This requires creativity and instincts to work. And it does.

Young women and men are involved. So yes, part of the story concerns love interests. I kept imagining how I thought things would develop between them and this held my attention. And I'm not letting you in on any secrets.  You will have to read it yourself.

Favorite quote: "Weapons were to her the ultimate symbols of human stupidity."

There are many issues and themes touched upon in the final chapters that will be beneficial as a starting point for further medication: the role of light in bringing knowledge, the nature of consciousness, what other kinds of beings may exist, how human beings may be a blessing to the cosmos and the relationship between meaning and pleasure. Curiously, given his love for music, there was but one reference I recall to music and its importance. Perhaps the next book will involve that important aspect of life.

Bacteria plus Balok, an alien of a famous episode of Star Trek.
Finally, I ran across a list of laws of good science fiction writing at The most important were that the story must 1) be good science, 2) have a sense of wonder, 3) make the world better and 4) be fun. I think this book succeeded in all of these.


Appropo to this topic and review is a timely article by Phil Plait whose blog, Bad Astronomy, I find myself reading increasingly more often. It is titled Will We Find Life in Space? And the photo to the right came from that article.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What David Lipscomb teaches about Climate Change

I'm a southern boy, all but two years of my life have been in the South.  But, when younger I wondered why those folks back in the 19th century could possibly have accepted slavery and not eliminated it as was obvious to me that they should do; and much sooner than they did and without "help".  The story of the Lipscomb family and tragedy that befell them explains in part why.

David Lipscomb was an important figure in the development of the Churches of Christ and his legacy lives on these several generations past.  Lipscomb University is named for him.  One source for the story which happened when David was a young child is in the biography Crying in the Wilderness.  It taught me a lesson about dealing with climate change. 

Lipscomb came from a very religious family and they were independent minded.  When they moved to Tennessee the extended family not only changed their physical geography but their spiritual as well.  This is reflected by the fact that David Lipscomb's father and Uncle decided that slavery was wrong and to act upon that belief.  They resolved to release their slaves.  Unfortunately, the state required payment to allow that and then freed persons had to leave.  So rather than sell their land, make the payment, and become destitute, thereby endangering everyone's health; they came up with what they thought was a better plan, that was to sell their land and travel to the slave-free state of Illinois for the emancipation.  We can fly from Memphis to Lithuania in a day, no problem, I've done it. But it was the 1830's and for them even the trip just two states northward would have taken probably weeks to accomplish and with accompanying adventures, no doubt. 

They ran into the same problem however.  But they were stuck.  To survive, they had to farm.  They would buy land, plant a crop, and wait for harvest.  It turned out to be a very wet spring.  Flooding was widespread and a malaria epidemic came through the area and claimed the life of Lipscomb's mother and some siblings and others.  They were able eventually to arrange for the liberation in Indiana.   All told, about one third of the group gave their lives for that purpose.    They returned home to Tennessee, fewer and, no doubt, saddened. 

Now for the connection with climate change.  Climate change is a science problem that is quintessentially postmodern. There are so many narratives out there making it difficult to determine who to believe. Many of them – even contradictory ones – seem reasonable on the surface.   No one study or test is absolutely decisive or free of critique. Each investigator or analyst is situated and none has the “God’s eye” objective view. No one of us has inspected each and every thermometer or retried each and every experiment or re-derived each and every equation. All of the knowledge that we have is secondary or tertiary and we seek to come up with a coherent and realistic view based on who seems most reasonable and trustworthy. With that said, I have come to the conclusion that the situation is indeed very serious and reality will eventually move everyone to that same conclusion.

I'm convinced that the main narrative of the majority of climate scientists these past twenty years is essentially correct.  It is hotter and it is due to carbon emissions, in the main.  Sure there are important issues and details that need to be understood better.  But what they said would happen is happening and that provides powerful validation in my opinion.  The most responsible skeptics it seems to me are agreeing that the climate has been changing and that humans have had at least some role in causing it. 

So accepting this as fact, how does one liberate oneself from the habits of a high carbon lifestyle? Laws and customs were not helpful enough to the Lipscombs as they tried to do the right thing and it cost them.  Thankfully we have the internet where one can find ideas and support and sometimes critical thinking about what serves the purpose and what doesn't.  I wish our churches would see it as important.  Once they are on board they could encourage and effect wonderful things. Here is a smattering of interesting links in this regard. 

Climate Change:  An Evangelical Call to Action

Catholic Climate Covenant

Operation Noah

Creation Care

Tips for Going Green

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