BEULAH, Colo. — Sunbury Press has released Rev. James A. Campbell’s visionary memoir The Chair. Road trip photographs were provided by Vernon J. LaBau.
“The Chair is Pastor James Campbell’s spiritual odyssey that leads us through the night of emptiness and then emerges into the light of compassion, intervention, and redemption. Through his renovation of a simple chair, reverence for worn out sewing needles in the Japanese celebration of Hari-Kuyo, and reflection upon how stress to the Diamond Willows of Alaska produces works of art, this parable describes Campbell’s own epiphanies during the course of his life travels ministering to the forgotten and broken.
“For members of the helping profession, caregivers, or those looking for meaning in meaningless times, Campbell is a valuable read. He will guide you, literally and figuratively, out of the ruins of the great dust bowl to a peaceful Colorado valley. And he will show you how all these things remain part of your soul.” — Steve Schoenmakers, M.S., Superintendent, Retired, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
With warmth and wit, James Campbell explores one of life’s mysteries: the way ordinary objects acquire meaning in our lives. In literal and symbolic journeys with him across the country and through the years, his old oak chair becomes a catalyst for new discoveries, comic revelations, daydreams, and finally, of blessing. He shares his wisdom, borne of rich experience, and leads us to think about what the things we treasure and what they might mean to us. — Margaret M. Barber, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of English, Colorado State University-Pueblo.
“The Chair is a metaphor, at first puzzling, then intriguing and then a reference to “life.” The book hooked me into experiences of my own life. This was enjoyable, enlightening. I ended the book wanting to know more, unwilling to have to say, “the end.” — Taylor McConnell, Professor Emeritus, Garrett-Evangelical Seminary
A life by that one thing.
How many funerals through the years were planned around that thought? Show me something that is your father, his spirit, distilled into that one thing: a coffee cup, a favorite chair, a fishing rod, a photograph.
Life in that one thing.
For me, that one thing is the old oak chair and that one thing is this story. I wish I had one picture, just one, of when it all began. I doubt the chair, a captain’s chair, would be the center of any photo. Most likely the chair would be in the picture’s corner, out of focus, perhaps cut off in partial disclosure. Still, hopefully, there would be enough of the chair in the photo to witness to its original humbled condition and its overlooked place in the backyard. Overlooked is a good word for forgotten. That is what the old chair was, forgotten in plain sight, overlooked. Its once caned seat was missing the caning and the seat was now a piece of makeshift plywood. Its weathered layers of green, beige, orange, and turquoise paint were peeling like diseased skin.
In fairness, the chair had some utility. The family cat claimed it as a lounge. By knotting the garden hose around its arm, the chair could be posed to point the hose nozzle across the lawn or garden. Looking back, I wish I had had the wisdom to capture such mundane moments with a camera. Photography was my one art. I earned money selling photos of my valley. I knew what was appealing. Yet, I missed what would become a centerpiece of my life.
When that revelation came, it was not a dramatic epiphany, but rather quiet bemusement. It was a joke. Joke can be another word for “dismissed”, as “dismissed” is another word for forgotten.
A joke was how I remember first seeing it through the kitchen window, really seeing it. Even then it was a subtle joke… not a funny grab-the-camera joke, only a reason to pause as pause turns to passing wonder and passing wonder to “what if?” Wouldn’t it be something if, under all that paint, there was still enough integrity of wood to both bear a luster and, if reinforced, to even serve its purpose as a chair?
Christmas was two months off. With no money for gifts, I wondered if, with considerable effort, I might give the old chair a new face, well, as much a new face as the chair would allow. Certainly, I had no idea that the joke of that old chair before me was sacred, as ironic humor sometimes is. That chair was the essence of my calling, my door to the kingdom of God. It was to be the parable of hope with which I would relate and come to bless others. Eventually, the chair became a mentor, as it inspired taking the camera into the sacredness of forgotten places. If only I had thought to take just one picture through the kitchen window.
One October day, 1971, with no one watching, I removed the old chair to the garage of Hugh Reed down in the village. In the two months of the chair’s renovation, not one mention was made in the family that the old chair was gone from the backyard, a true test of the meaning of forgotten.
About the Author:
Rev. James A. Campbell, D. Min. is a retired clergy living in Beulah Valley, Colorado. His writings and paintings culminate thirty-nine years of ministry in Iowa and Alaska. Much of the emphasis of his work in Alaska was as Director of Humanitarian Aid to the Russian Far East during the desperate years from 1995-2003. Rev. Campbell is the author of seven books. He spends these years discovering multiple ways of knowing, the wonder unto beauty of each venue of discovery, and the doors that then open to the sacred.
Authored by James A. Campbell, Photographs by Vernon J. LaBau
List Price: $19.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Full Color on White paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Coming soon on Kindle
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