Tag Archive | South Carolina

Ordinary Legends: A Review of T.S. 44 – The Button Tree Prophet, by William Spires

One of those unfortunate traits of any generation is the tendency to ignore our elders. Those who take time to talk with and listen to parents, grandparents, and other older people often come away with unexpected blessings. After all, they have lived through experiences that everyone must encounter at some point, and thus have acquired valuable lessons to share with younger people who have yet to go through those experiences. Of course, that is what we expect. What surprises us is that the ordinary life experience of our elders frequently turns out to be the stuff of legends. Will Spires discovered this in conversation with his father. What he learned about his father’s childhood in Columbia, South Carolina, during World War II inspired him to build a coming-of-age story that resonates with readers on many levels.

Spires’ first novel, T.S. 44: The Button Tree Prophet, investigates the world of an ordinary boy from a working-class family. But then, what is ordinary about a boy losing his father on the eve of his tenth birthday? Perhaps that is what makes this novel so compelling from the first page. Travis Shipley’s life is already what contemporary readers would describe as underprivileged. His family is poor, his parents are uneducated, the Great Depression has drained his country of much of its vitality, and global war is redefining every facet of human interaction. In a world where everything that once was normal is now in transition, the merciless scythe of cancer snatches away the greatest source of stability in his young life. All that he has to help him find the right direction is a button his father gives him just before his death, charging him with the task of finding out what it means to be a button.

How Travis adjusts to this new reality is the vehicle by which Spires conducts us on a captivating journey through the convulsions impacting the urban, industrial, segregated American South of the mid-twentieth century. The fact that this Southern society is decidedly Christian – at least culturally – explains why this is a story of faith. Few stories of the South in that era could be otherwise. Christianity defines the culture for all the characters, regardless of their color, economic status, education, or even religion. That is where we find the first unique point of Spires’ novel. As Travis moves through the fog of grief and the daily reality of grinding poverty, he encounters help from unexpected sources. Chief among them is Jacob Meadows, a disabled World War I veteran who serves as the local truant officer. We quickly learn that Meadows, an observant Jew, is somehow able to move comfortably between the Jewish and Christian communities. This is surprising on several counts. First, the average reader likely is not aware that the Jewish community of South Carolina has ancient roots, going back to the earliest colonial days. Spires provides the historical background, establishing credible reason for Meadows to be simultaneously Jewish and Southern. That helps explain the next unusual point: how Jews interact with Christians in the American South. It is actually not so unusual. As a minority in every place where they have lived through the ages, Jews have learned to interact with the larger community, and simultaneously find space to be Jewish. Jacob Meadows helps us understand how that worked out in South Carolina. But then there is the strangest point of all: how this Jewish man can interact with Christians on their own terms. Spires provides not only a plausible explanation, but a very strong one. The answer comes from Meadows’ experience on the battlefields of France in the First World War, where differences of belief and practice fade in the presence of a brotherhood born of sacrificial love extending beyond the grave.

That is what makes Jacob Meadows the perfect mentor for young Travis. As unlikely as it may seem, it is he who is best equipped to help the lad through the inevitable questioning of and anger at God for the hard trials he endures. Meadows comes in at precisely the right moment, helping not only Travis, but his mother. Sarah Shipley is a woman already worn down by the ordeal of caring for her dying husband. Her new role as single parent of a precocious and willful son is all the more difficult because of her long hours at work earning just enough to pay the bills. The Shipley family needs stability and normalcy, which Meadows is willing and able to provide it in good measure. Others assist him, although not always by design. One is Alfred Patterson, a hard-nosed journalist who learns of Travis’ story, and another is Annie Wright, Travis’ classmate and neighbor, who is dealing with her own father issues. Then there is the Ragman, a black shoeshine artist whose long career as a railroad porter and as a pastor give him just the right words to speak into Travis’ life at the moment he needs them.

The encounter with the Ragman stands as one of the most poignant episodes of T.S. 44. This is where Spires deals with one of the ugliest features of the American South: segregation. Spires does not hit it head on. In fact, he does not hit any issue head on. Many aspects of life in that era are uncomfortable and even reprehensible by contemporary standards. The secondary status of African-Americans is but one. So also are the divisions between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, the powerful and the weak, men and women, and Christian and Jew. Moreover, the ubiquitous presence of cigarettes is something contemporary readers will find uncomfortable and even disgusting. Yet all these are part of the reality of mid-twentieth century America. Spires incorporates all of that reality into his story without judgment. That is one of the strengths of his work; had he engaged in judgement, his novel would be nothing more than a shrill cry for social justice that would bypass the deeper human truths he conveys. Thus we see the poignancy of the Ragman’s meeting with Travis: an old black man and a young white boy connecting on very human terms, even in defiance of the color barrier and other realities that otherwise would keep them apart.

In time, Travis finds an answer to the question of what it means to be a button. The Ragman is one of those who help him find that answer. Along the way, Travis not only receives help from unexpected sources, but finds himself helping others in unexpected ways. In the end, a tragedy that should never befall one so young imparts a life lesson that few learn even in old age: every one of us impacts multitudes of others in ways we usually do not realize. What Travis Shipley learns is that it is better to make that impact a good one by easing the burdens of others whenever possible. This opens him to what may only be described as a miraculous encounter with his Creator. Is that miracle believable? By the time Travis is ready to walk it out, the question is turned on its head. He has already come through improbable circumstances just by making himself available for God to use as He pleases. In a sense, his very survival to the age of ten is miraculous. Why, then, should he question Divine intervention at all? If it comes in small things like responding with compassion to the presence of a mouse in his room, then surely it is there in moments of great need. And that is how Travis Shipley, the unlikely Button Tree Prophet of Columbia, South Carolina, teaches us what it means to be human.

T.S. 44: The Button Tree Prophet is available at Key of David Publishing (https://www.keyofdavidpublishing.com/).


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2018.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Celebrating Shabbat Texas Style!

B'ney Yosef National Shabbat New

Fischer Park in New Braunfels, TX, site of the first Central Texas National Shabbat.

Fischer Park in New Braunfels, TX, site of the first Central Texas National Shabbat.

The National Shabbat movement arrived in the Lone Star State through a gathering of about 100 people on March 19 at Fischer Park in the city of New Braunfels.  As with National Shabbats in Georgia and South Carolina, some participants traveled many hours to get there, coming from as far away as Sabine Pass on the Louisiana border, Wichita Falls near the Oklahoma border, Arlington in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, and Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast.  Most of those assembled in New Braunfels came from around Austin (Georgetown, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Kyle) and San Antonio (Boerne, Converse, Poteet, Adkins, Floresville), with a significant number from the Houston area (Katy, Sugarland, Pasadena). Please click here to continue reading

B’ney Yosef National Shabbat Has Come to Central Texas!

B'ney Yosef National Shabbat NewWhat is it that brings God’s people together faster than anything else?  How about praising and worshipping our Creator together on the day He set aside for that purpose?  That is the purpose of the B’ney Yosef National Shabbat:

“Once a month, there will be a Shabbat [Sabbath] experience that will bring Northern Israelites together from fellowships, congregations, and homes to express and declare to Avinu (our Father) that we are the people of Northern Israel.  There will be no teaching, but occasional presentations about our national restoration and Scriptural discussions promoting a national outlook.”  – B’ney Yosef National Shabbat Vision Statement

The National Shabbat first appeared in Georgia, and then South Carolina, and now it’s coming to Central Texas on March 19, 2016.  Here are the details:


TexasCENTRAL TEXAS NATIONAL SHABBAT

  • When: Saturday, March 19 from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Where: Fischer Park, 1820 McQueeney Road, New Braunfels, TX 78130, off I-35 between San Antonio and Austin. For map and directions click here.  
  • To download a .PDF of Fischer Park click here:  Fischer Park Map
  • For planning purposes, we would appreciate if you visit this link and RSVP:

http://www.evite.com/event/0365QHHKN63W5AFUGEPF3Q27Z5EN3Q?gid=034AHN2IISIN6E4W2EPF35LHV35GXA

  • Gather with us as we celebrate Shabbat as the Nation of B’ney Yosef (Children of Joseph) of the House of Israel. Those who choose to arrive at 12 noon will begin our time of fellowship eating lunch together. 
  • We will hear opening greetings and Scriptures, and then take time to praise and worship Yeshua our King!
  • Ephraim and Rimona Frank from Israel will be sharing, along with Sister Kaye, who lived in Aqaba, Jordan, for 25 years. We will hear the report from the B’ney Yosef North America Summit in Tampa, Florida, and be given a glimpse of expectations for the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress to be held in Ariel, Israel this October.
  • We look for the possibility of folks from across Texas and even neighboring states to join us. You won’t want to miss meeting fellow Hebrews of B’ney Yosef!!
  • There is no charge for this gathering, but we will have an offering box available for those who would like to help with the costs of the National Shabbat.
  • Please bring sufficient food for your family for the evening meal also, as well as any snacks and drinks that you and your family may require. PLEASE BRING FOOD FOR YOUR OWN FAMILY ONLY!!  Due to park regulations we are not able to have shared food at this gathering.  ALSO, PLEASE BRING LAWN CHAIRS.
  • All children and teens will be expected to have PARENTAL supervision AT ALL TIMES, please!!
  • We mention here this park rule: GLASS beverage containers are prohibited at the park.
  • To make sure everyone has the best possible National Shabbat experience, please click here to review additional park rules:  Central Texas National Shabbat – Fischer Park Rules

BFB160308 Fischer Park - New Braunfels


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015-2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SC National Shabbat Details!!

Bney Yosef National Shabbat 01For friends in the Southeast, here is another opportunity to gather with brethren who are taking YHVH seriously about His promise to regather and restore the entire nation of Israel. For those who are not in the Southeast, here’s an opportunity to pray in support of this initiative, and to seek the Father’s guidance on what more we should be doing. The question before us is this: Are we really Abraham’s seed, or not (Galatians 3:29)? If not, then pay no further attention. But if so, then ponder the implications of being adopted into the same family that became the nation of Israel. Ask the Father to explain what that means in terms of inheritance and obligations, and how that impacts our relationship with our Jewish brethren and with the State of Israel.

Two Sticks Forming 01And while pondering all that, make your plans now for the first weekend of December to be either in Elgin, SC, for the South Carolina National Shabbat, or in Denton, TX, for the B’Ney Yosef Region 35 Conference!

 


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015-2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

natsab

Mark your calendar!!!  We have a venue and a band, and I am really excited to tell you about it!!  South Carolina will have a National Shabbat gathering!!

Rich, in Washington, DC, saw the need for a location and after calling them, emailed me with details of a campground in Elgin, SC owned by a Messianic for Messianics.  Interestingly, I met the owner, Ron Cowart, three years ago at a shofar making class I taught.  When we met, he shared his vision of a private campground available to Messianics for Sukkot and other gatherings.

I spoke with him this evening to discuss the facility and believe it is exactly what we need for this gathering.  So, here are the details we know so far!!  Mark your calendar!

Location: 1117 Flaming Arrow Rd, Elgin, SC 29045

Date: December 5, 2015

Time: 1 p.m. until 6+ p.m.

Music:

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