In the corner of my office is a box of my Grandfather Kamm’s papers. He was a professor of political science for 30 plus years at Wheaton College. There’s a picture of him in the box: short and slender, silver-gray hair, a half smile and kind eyes, standing in front of a chalkboard. I rummage through the box occasionally, reading his syllabi, lecture notes and publications, envying that he seemed to have found his niche and lived in it so well. My family’s history is filled with professors and college administrators; books, ideas, stories and words are the currency we trade over holiday dinners.
Words matter for us all, of course. They reveal and create the world in which we live. The Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Nuremberg Laws. The Emancipation Proclamation. Mein Kampf. Das Capital. The Bible. Wedding vows and divorce decrees. Poems, songs, novels. Dinner conversations and goodnight prayers. Fights and apologies. Words build up and words destroy. “In the beginning was the Word,” the Gospel of John tells us, “and the Word was made flesh; it dwelt among us.” The ineffable was made known. There are lesser examples of incarnation in our lives each day: words inspire, comfort and challenge, they are made flesh in who we are, in what we become and what we might hope for in life.
Grandfather Kamm earned a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s. My father was all but dissertation in history from Washington State University. I eked out a MA in theology at 48 from Fuller Seminary. The trajectory isn’t promising. Still, I enjoy books and stories and ideas, what we can learn from them about life and, hopefully, about living faithfully. So I fill the margins of my books with notes and blank journals with thoughts. This blog is an effort to create a little order out of that chaos.