Mortal Men, All

Observing National Poetry Month 2024 again today, I’m reminded how little mention I’ve made of those poets whose names and works have achieved high honors over many generations. Do a search of “greatest poets of all time,” and AI will provide a list of twenty names with William Shakespeare in the number one slot.

Of course, AI hedges its bets, indicating this isn’t an exhaustive list … and adds the usual reminder to verify critical facts. I’m always amused how AI bends over backwards (figuratively!) to avoid rigidly dogmatic answers! Remember the old advertising trope:  Nine out of ten doctors agree …? Looks like this trope has been suitably updated to reflect our digital age. Continue reading “Mortal Men, All”

Golden Books

In my last post, I mentioned there are certain digital books I’ve read over the last year which I will eventually purchase in actual hard copy format. One might naturally ask the question, Why? Since I’ve read these particular volumes digitally, what’s the point in acquiring them as hard copies? The easy answer is because I’ve found hidden treasure during my initial readings … and I anticipate more richness with each subsequent reading.

Image by Petra from Pixabay

Like most people, I may read a novel once and quickly dismiss the story line. Even with non-fiction, the content is (all too often) forgettable. But some books, I think of them as golden. Certain books, and occasionally even a few specific authors, have found a unique place, burrowing into my heart, and thus have earned an esteemed position on my bookshelf next to other Greats. (Note well, I said Greats, not necessarily Bestsellers, many of which would never qualify as great – except on the publisher’s ledger.) Continue reading “Golden Books”

The Artist in Real Life

Two birthdays have gone by since my sister-in-law Terri graduated to her heavenly home. Today marks the second anniversary of her passing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, missing her dear and delightful companionship.

Even in her absence, her presence surrounds us. Framed paintings lovingly created by Terri grace the walls of our home. Other decorative touches are visible everywhere: a pair of ornate candelabra, a table centerpiece of dried heather, crocheted tea-cozies for glassware, brightly-colored placemats and lace-edged gingham napkins. She found joy in beautifying our lives in the same way she enhanced the lives of everyone she loved.

The Lifetime Works of a Beautiful Young Girl  (click on image above to view the video)

In the two years since Terri’s home-going, my brother Eric worked on a unique project. He compiled her art works (as much as possible) into one PowerPoint presentation. This was a challenging task because Terri was so generous in sharing her art with … well, just about everyone! For many months, individuals contacted Eric to provide him with copies of paintings Terri had given each person. There were so many, some long forgotten.

Once he’d compiled digital images of Terri’s art, a natural timeline took form. (The image above is one part of the collection.) Given his artistic approach, my brother added specific background music to provide a professional touch. The finished production (more than 300 images) may be viewed by clicking the image above or being re-directed here. The video runs slightly over 30 minutes but I highly recommend it as time well spent.

Terri’s life was a huge canvas where she expressed her artistic vision 24/7. The sonnet I’ve included below expresses my own reflections about Terri’s sudden death. I think it also expresses emotions which are universally felt after a loved one dies.

Before her death, Terri and I often discussed getting some of her art and writing posted to the worldwide web. She launched a blog (two posts, I think) but after that, it languished. More recently, my brother took a look at what she’d begun and decided he’d continue where she left off. He’s learned a great deal about the process, so now he posts most days, offering daily devotions which feature some of his as well as some of Terri’s artwork. Please check it out here and I think you’ll find his commentaries thoughtful and incisive.

We remember Terri today and celebrate our privilege of having known and been loved by her.

Come, Let Us Worship the King

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/geralt-9301/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4705532">Gerd Altmann</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4705532">Pixabay</a>

Our church held Christmas Eve services yesterday. They’ve held similar services every year, I guess, but since we’re usually at home with family, this was the first time we’d taken part. The particular service we attended was designed as a family service so lots of children were in attendance. We’d been told it might be noisy … and it was.

Christmas decorations were beautifully displayed in the large foyer outside the worship center. A Christmas tree … pictures of angels painted on large canvases … a child-size Manger / Nativity scene … the kind of seasonal displays where families gather to snap a Christmas photo.

I happened to stand in front of the Manger scene and my attention was drawn in. The figures and presentation were similar to numerous displays I’ve observed through the years … but something was off. When my daughter-in-law walked up next to me, she noticed it as well. “Joseph’s foot is larger than the Baby Jesus and the manger together!” she said.

She was right. The standing figures were proportionally out of sync with the Child lying in the manger, as if two different Nativity scenes had been (carelessly) combined. I should have taken a quick picture of the scene but I found it too grotesque.

Like Mary (Luke 2:19), I’m given to pondering the inescapable irony. With all the various ways in which we celebrate Christmas, has the occasion’s central meaning (focused on the singular Person of Jesus Christ) been shoved into the background? As the shopping and gift-giving and parties and feasting keep us hyper-busy, does the Babe in a Manger recede to forgetfulness?

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Christmas! It’s a joyous time and should be celebrated with gusto and jubilance! Christ is come! Let us worship and adore Him!

Still, I’m the first to admit I can go overboard and the temptation (too often) is to get things out of balance. The unfortunate image of a shrinking Baby Jesus will stick in my brain and (I’m hopeful) nudge me to remember always the real basis for our hope, joy, peace and love — our Saviour’s birth.

May God bless you on this special day. Merry Christmas!

Each Day As God’s Gift

On Palm Sunday when we were kids, it was the custom (as we exited the church building after services) for an usher to give each of us a small palm branch to carry home. It was an odd thing, meant (I suppose) to commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem while riding a donkey. John 12:13 tells us “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” and they acknowledged Jesus as “the king of Israel.”

Looking at the palm leaves (the above image is just one example), I’m struck today by their beauty and symmetry. During childhood, I think we used the branches to tickle and torment each other. Today, my usual impulse is one of contemplation. These green fronds hold the last droplets of morning dew and invite peaceful reflection. Continue reading “Each Day As God’s Gift”

Behold, The Rose

The old saying “Beauty is as beauty does” was a phrase my mother used often when I was a child. Naturally, she desired to impress upon me the maxim that outer beauty is mostly irrelevant (or worthless) if there’s no inner beauty. In my teens, I might have offered this observation about the rose. It doesn’t do anything. A rose is beautiful simply because it is.

a rose in all its splendor
Image by Bessi from Pixabay

Today, we have beauty consultants, beauty tips and trends, spas and wellness clinics … all these and more revolving around the pursuit of beauty. In fact, according to one source, the $532 billion beauty industry is “growing faster than ever before.” Indeed, multiple market forces combine everyday to expand this already-significant effort at satisfying consumer demand.

A SELF magazine post from 2017 indicates women spend amazing amounts on beauty products:  $15,000 during an average woman’s lifetime, including $3,000 on mascara, another $2,000 on eyeshadows, and a whopping $1,700 on lip colors to match the multiple shades contained within one woman’s makeup bag! These are averages; some women will spend more. Ah, the pursuit of beauty does come at a hefty price. Continue reading “Behold, The Rose”