Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Days - Day 16 - Music

 Silence is the speech of love,
The music of the spheres above.

         Richard Henry Stoddard,  Speech of Love.

There is something heavenly about music.  God is a precise Being, and Musical notation is mathematically precise.  To learn music theory, you must be something of a mathematician.  Certainly you must have rhythm to understand the structure and beat of a song.

Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
~William Congreve (1670–1729)The Mourning Bride. Act i. Sc. 1.

I love music.  If I'm in a snit for one reason or another, good music always soothes my anxious thoughts and gets my mind back on track, thinking with wisdom and clarity.

O Music! sphere-descended maid,
Friend of Pleasure, Wisdom’s aid!
~William Collins (1721–1759)

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

Have you ever noticed the memories flooding back at the sound of a song or the smell of breakfast cooking?  The smell of coffee early in the morning on a cold winter's day brings me back to being a child in my grandparents' house in Lac Beauport.  We'd awaken in a chilly room to the sound of music on the little transistor radio in the kitchen below, and the smell of toast, coffee and bacon.  We'd reach over to the little chair beside the bed and haul in our outfit for the day, because it was too freezing cold to throw back the blankets and get dressed outside of the bed.  We'd dress quickly, under the covers, then grab for our slippers before racing downstairs to the warm kitchen, to see Granny and Grandad sitting at the table, toasting the bread in an old-fashioned toaster.  Mickey the parakeet was there to strut around the table and help himself to crumbs.

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!
~William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Music plays a part in love.  Families share a love of particular pieces.  In our own family, the kids would be quick to tell you that "It is Well With My Soul" is Daddy's favourite hymn, and that Mom wants a Brooke Fraser song played at her funeral.

Where music dwells
Lingering and wandering on as loth to die,
Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality.
~William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

We are immortal.  We're spiritual beings.  Music moves the hearts of men and women.  No wonder there are so many Famous Quotes about music:

Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
~Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)

The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.
William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

That heavenly music! what is it I hear?
The notes of the harpers ring sweet in mine ear.
And, see, soft unfolding those portals of gold,
The King all arrayed in his beauty behold!
~William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796–1877)

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.
~William Shakespeare (1564–1616),
The Merchant of Venice. Act. v. Sc. 1.  [text]

We are the music-makers,
  We are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
We are the movers and shakers
  Of the world forever it seems.
~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844–1881)

Some of my most loved movies are filled with music.  I think of "The Sound of Music", or "August Rush", or "Mr. Holland's Opus".  Music moves the story along in each of these movies.

The light of love, the purity of grace,
The mind, the music breathing from her face, 
The heart whose softness harmonized the whole,—
And oh, that eye was in itself a soul!

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more
~George Gordon Noel Byron, Lord Byron (1788–1824)

Some folks are not affected much by music.  They can't be bothered listening to the latest artists (and who can blame them, actually?) or famous composers of the past.  They don't have song lyrics stuck in their brains, ready to pop out at a moment's notice.

Those of us who love music know what it's like to quote lyrics at the drop of a hat.  Someone comments, "That was a sad movie!" and others immediately respond, in song, "Saaad movies... always make me cryyyy!"  If a bushel of peaches is ready for canning, you'll hear "Millions of peaches, peaches for me!"

A few can touch the magic string,
  And noisy Fame is proud to win them;
Alas for those that never sing,
  But die with all their music in them!
~Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)The Voiceless.

How sad for those that never sing.

How about you?  Do you have music in your soul?  Are you always learning new songs, singing along with the radio, looking up artists on YouTube?  Even if you can't play a musical instrument, do you take joy in those that can?  I know I do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 Days - Day 15 - Moods (Pain and Sorrow)

There is a saying that to be a soldier means to endure long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.  I wonder if life itself is like that.  There are long periods of pain and sorrow punctuated by moments of joy.

Richard Henry Stoddard understood the trials of life.

Joy may be a miser,
  But Sorrow's purse is free.
I had two griefs already,
  He gave two more to me.
He filled my eyes with water,
  He filled my heart with pain;
And then, the liberal fellow,
  He promised to again.

~Richard Henry Stoddard (1825–1903)

How should we handle pain?  That's one of the big questions of life.  Why do bad things happen to good people? (The answer to that is that there are no good people, and no bad things, because God will work everything out for our good and His glory.  But that's a topic for another blog post.)

The problem of pain is that it refuses to be ignored, and it never lets up.  Pain continues to fester and grow.  Whether it's the physical pain of a broken bone, the worrisome pain of wars and sickness in our own country or abroad, or the emotional pain of injustice or murder or abuse that we witness, in our own life or in the life of a another.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book about "The Problem of Pain."  Heath McNease turned it into a song.  
You can download the entire album here:  The Weight of Glory.
Here are the lyrics which Heath McNease explains in this video.

Is it safe to say
Is it safe to say
That only the pure of heart will ever see God?
But if heaven's a lie, if heaven's a bribe,
Then purity's lost and I am a fraud.

The problem of pain:
It insists that you quietly watch it spread,
And attack your insides.

I lost my faith in everyone I know - 
They're always out for something more
There's nothing more of mine to take away
Except my name

No answers for the problem of this pain

Is it safe to say
Is it safe to say
It rains on the pure of heart and wicked the same?
But if heaven's a lie, if heaven's a bribe
Then mine is a desperate plea to a powerless name.

The problem of pain
It insists that you quietly watch it spread,
And attack your insides.

I lost my faith in everyone I know-
They're always out for something more
There's nothing more of mine to take away
Except my name
No answers for the problem of this pain.

Is it safe to say
Is it safe to say
That if I wrote "darkness" on the walls of my cell
The sun would still shine
Your glory would blind as much as it ever did,
And all would be well?

It's ridiculous to think that writing "Darkness" on the wall of a cell could diminish the glory and brilliance of Almighty God in any way.  It's also safe to say that even though this life is filled with all sorts of pain, the pain will not come close to the weight of glory that we will see when we, the pure in heart, one day come face to face with this same Almighty God.  He is in control of the rain and sends it to fall on the just and the unjust. He metes out justice in His time.  He sends enough joy into our lives to keep us from being overburdened by sorrow, and He is with us in the midst of every trial.

That's not to say that we don't get grouchy from time to time, because of the pain.

I like a good grouch when I get it,
Sea-deep and dark indigo blue.
~Anthony Euwer

But remember, God will work ALL things together for good to those who love Him.

There are gains for all our losses,
  There are balms for all our pain.
~Richard Henry Stoddard

How about you?  Do you experience life as long periods of sorrow or pain punctuated by brilliant flashes of joy?  Have you developed a theology of pain?  Do you understand that this world, for the Christian, is NOT our home?  We are just passing through.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 Days - Day 14 - Wine

The Old Woman and the Wine-Jar

 YOU must know that sometimes old women like a glass of wine. One of this sort once found a Wine-Jar lying in the road, and eagerly went up to it hoping to find it full. But when she took it up she found that all the wine had been drunk out of it. Still she took a long sniff at the mouth of the Jar. “Ah,” she cried,
    ~Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.)  Fables. The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.

When I was younger, I rarely took a sip of wine.  However, now that I am a granny with plenty of aches and pains, it's a rare evening that passes by without finding me sipping a glass of red, usually a full-bodied Shiraz or a Cabernet Franc.

Out of curiosity, I checked my old "Familiar Quotations" for any quotes about wine.  I discovered quite a few.

The first one was a puzzle:

Good wine needs neither bush nor preface 
To make it welcome.  ~ Sir Walter Scott

Shakespeare had a shorter version in his play, "As You Like It." During the Epilogue, a female character intones, "Good wine needs no bush."

Good wine needs no bush?  What was Shakespeare talking about?  It wasn't until I read the following quote that I started to understand:

You need not hang up the ivy branch over the wine that will sell.—Publius Syrus: Maxim 968. In

Ancient Greece, wine sellers used to hang a branch of ivy outside to advertise their wine shop.  Of course, really good wine didn't need a branch of ivy, because word-of-mouth was enough advertisement.  People knew where to go for a good wine!

Sparkling and bright in liquid light
  Does the wine our goblets gleam in;
With hue as red as the rosy bed
  Which a bee would choose to dream in.
Then fill to-night, with hearts as light
  To loves as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim on the beaker’s brim

  And break on the lips while meeting.
Charles Fenno Hoffman (1806–1884)

Wine is best shared with friends or family.  It tends to mellow the heart and relax the soul, which leads to many great conversations.  As the following quotes warn, a glass of wine can make the imbiber relax their guard, and tell the truth.  

And wine can of their wits the wise beguile,
Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. ~Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
The Odyssey of Homer. Book xiv. Line 520.

It has become quite a common proverb that in wine there is truth. 
~Pliny the Elder (A.D. c. 23–A.D. 79)

Bronze is the mirror of the form; wine, of the heart. ~Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.)

Wine is better with age.  So are many other things:

Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears to be best in four things,—old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
~Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

Is not old wine wholesomest, old pippins toothsomest, old wood burns brightest, old linen wash whitest? Old soldiers, sweetheart, are surest, and old lovers are soundest.
—John Webster: Westward Hoe, act ii. sc. 2.

Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old shoes; they were easiest for his feet.—Selden: Table Talk. Friends.

What find you better or more honourable than age? Take the preheminence of it in everything,—in an old friend, in old wine, in an old pedigree.—Shakerley Marmion (1602–1639): The Antiquary.

I love everything that ’s old,—old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.
Oliver Goldsmith: She Stoops to Conquer, act i. [back]

With years a richer life begins,
  The spirit mellows:
Ripe age gives tone to violins,
  Wine, and good fellows.
~John Townsend Trowbridge 

I thank God for His gift of good wine, good friends, good books, and good manners.  

How about you?  Do you like a glass of wine?  What's your favourite quote about wine?


Monday, October 13, 2014

31 Days - Day 13 - Beauty

As a beauty I'm not a great star.
Others are handsomer far;
  But my face -- I don't mind it
  Because I'm behind it;
It's the folks out in front that I jar.
~ Anthony Euwer

This makes me laugh.

Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder.  I've often noticed that what someone else considers beautiful or handsome does not provoke the same response in me.  However, outward attributes aside, most would agree that true beauty comes from within a person.  Beauty is born of love, of courage, of sacrifice and noble deeds.  

Let each man think himself an act of God,
His mind a thought, his life a breath of God;
And let each try, by great thoughts and good deeds,
To show the most of Heaven he hath in him.
~Philip James Bailey (1816 - 1902)

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs.
He most lives 
Who thinks most - feels the noblest - acts the best.
Life's but a means unto an end; that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things -
~Philip James Bailey

Beauty, outward beauty, is but skin deep, and is bound to fade as one ages, or goes through trials that frown the face or accidents that leave deep and lasting scars.  Yet true beauty is within, born from unselfish love and sacrifice.  The most beautiful Being in all of the Universe is God.  If you know Him, you know that He is beautiful.  

God, from a beautiful necessity, is Love.
Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810–1889)

What do you think?  Do you know any beautiful people?  What makes them beautiful?  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

31 Days - Day 12 - Thanksgiving

Every Day Thanksgiving Day

Sweet it is to see the sun
Shining on Thanksgiving Day,
Sweet it is to see the snow
Fall as if it came to stay;
Sweet is everything that comes,
For all makes cheer, Thanksgiving Day.

Fine is the pantry's goodly store,
And fine the heaping dish and tray;
Fine the church-bells ringings; fine
All the dinners' great array,
Things we'd hardly dare to touch,
Were it not Thanksgiving Day.

Dear the people coming home,
Dear glad faces long away,
Dear the merry cries, and dear
All the glad and happy play.
Dear the thanks, too, that we give
For all of this Thanksgiving Day.

But sweeter, finer, dearer far
It well might be if on our way,
With love for all, with thanks to Heaven,
We did not wait for time's delay,
But, with remembered blessings then
Made every day Thanksgiving Day
  - Harriet Prescott Spofford

Today was Thanksgiving Sunday in Ontario.  There's something about a sunny Thanksgiving Day that simply makes the heart sing.  We went to church and came home, made a quick lunch, and put the turkey on for supper.  The kids helped me tidy the deck in anticipation of some family members coming tomorrow for a visit.  I am thankful for their help.

One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.”
—G.E. Lessing

I'm particularly grateful this year when I listen to the news of Ebola victims and terrorist attacks, yet realize that our family, so far, has been spared these great trials.  I know that this could change in an instant, and that God is good anyway, but for the peace in which we live, I'm thankful.

Let my voice ring out and over the earth
Through all the grief and strife,
With a golden joy in a silver mirth,
Thank God for life!
~James Thomson (1834 - 1882)

Are you thankful, too?  Why?

Friday, October 10, 2014

31 Days - Day 10 - Dogs

Ever since I can remember, I've had a dog.  There was a Great Dane named Duke who towered over me and stole my mittens when I was three.

My best pal galumphed into my life when I was five.  He was black with a small patch of white on his chest and the tips of his humongous paws.  Pepe was my best friend until I was 17.  I whispered all of my sorrows to him as he leaned against me and licked away my tears.

There are times when only a dog will do
For a friend… when you're beaten sick and blue
And the world's all wrong, for he won't care
If you break and cry, or grouch and swear,
For he'll let you know as he licks your hands
That he's downright sorry … and understands.
~Vagabond's House; Don Blanding

My pal Pepe was eager to please, and balanced precariously atop his doghouse on command, or caught a ball and tossed it back.  I loved to tease him, to "catch" his front paws, and he did his best to pull them out of the way.  When he was really excited, he'd dance - all four paws going to beat the band.  He had a short tail, and he didn't wag it so much as twirl it in a circle.

In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy -
 to wit, the wag of a dog's tail.  ~ Henry Wheeler Shaw.

He was so smart.  If I wanted to go uptown to do a bit of shopping, I took Pepe along for company.  He'd wait outside the store till I was finished, then dance to greet me as if to say, "You've been gone SO long!"  Sometimes, I wanted to shop for a longer time, so I'd say, "Pepe, go HOME."  He'd look at me sadly, hesitating... thinking he might be in trouble, and did I really mean that I wanted him to leave me?  Sternly, I'd command, "Go Home!"  He'd slowly turn, and walk away, looking back in case I'd change my mind.

He was always waiting on the porch when I got home.

Give the boy a dog and you've furnished him a playmate

Always true and faithful as can be.  A Gift. By Berton Braley

When he died, I grieved for weeks and weeks.  I still hope there will be dogs in heaven, so I can be reunited with Pepe.  Like the Indian in Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, I want a companion dog for all of eternity.

But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,

His faithful dog shall bear him company.
Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744
Essay on Man.   Epistle 1  Line 111

John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is replete with quotes about dogs.  Since creation, dogs have been man's best friend.  If you're a dog person, you'll understand this:

Love me, love my dog. ~John Heywood

Latin version: Qui me amat, amet et canem meum.  
(Who loves me will love my dog also.)  Sermo Primus

The dogs in my life right now include Hunny, a tiny Cairn/Jack Russell cross with a huge heart and a lot of enthusiasm.  Hunny just loves life!  Everything makes her happy.  

I had a little dog and my dog was very small;
He licked me in the face, and he answered to my call;
Of all he treasures that were mine I loved him most of all.
~ Frances  Cornford, A Child's Dream

The second one is Kaia, a Kuvasz.  She is big, and white, and hairy, and she's always at my feet.  Even now, as I type this, my toes are warmed by her tummy as she lies underneath my desk.  She smells faintly of "Eau de Moufette", as she was sprayed by a skunk last night when she fearlessly protected our hens and horse from the intruder.

The poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend.
 ~George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron

I was in a wheelchair a couple of years ago (three broken metatarsal bones in my foot), and this dog knew I was in pain.  She hardly left my side, and worried that I might fall again.  Of course, she didn't express this in English, but her big brown eyes and tail waving slightly let me know of her concern.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can  have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.  A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness.

~George Graham Vest, 1830 - 1904, Eulogy on the Dog

My only regret about being a dog-lover is that they never live long enough.  We had a dog named Abraham, who lived to the ripe old age of 15.5, but died too soon.

Stephen Foster understood the joy of having an old dog as a friend:

When thoughts recall the past,
His eyes on me are cast;
I know that he feels what my breaking heart would say;
Although he cannot speak,
I'll vainly, vainly seek

A better friend than old dog Tray.  Stephen Foster.

I expect I'll always have a dog.  If I live long enough to say good-bye to Hunny and Kaia, there'll be another one, different to be sure, but welcomed heartily and loved much.

Be with me Beauty for the fire is dying,
My dog and I are old, too old for roving… 
~on Growing Old ; John Masefield  Sonnet 1

If I ever end up without a dog for a season, this will echo my sentiments:

I have no dog, but it must be
Somewhere there's one belongs to me -
A little chap with wagging tail,
And dark brown eyes that never quail.
My dog, Stanza 1 by John Kendrick Bangs 1862-1922

Finally, this:

Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit. ~Sir Walter Scott, 1771 - 1832

How about you?  Are you a dog lover?  Do you have a companion who wags his tail in circles and does a little happy dance whenever you get home?  Have you had dogs all of your life?  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

31 Days - Day 9 - Poetry

"There are lots and lots of people who are always asking things,
Like dates, and pounds-and-ounces, and the names of funny kings..."

I still hear my mom's voice reciting poems by A. A. Milne.  I can see her tucking me into bed, singing Vespers in her soft, sweet way.  My love of words was born from mom's vocabulary, which was ever-growing, ever changing, and ever challenging.

She introduced me to poems by Christina Rosetti, and Shel Silverstein.  Bridges, Rainbows, Polar Bears - all came alive through beautiful words and powerful images.  Poems create portraits from words.

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer 1886-1918

Poetry is better shared.  Oh, you can read a poem and enjoy the images in your own mind, but there's nothing like reading a poem to a bunch of kids who giggle and laugh at the joke.

Consider this one by Alfred Noyes (the poet who wrote The Highwayman, a much more somber subject.)

Everyone grumbled.  The sky was gray.  
We had nothing to do, and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond.
Then, DADDY FELL INTO THE POND.  (Click to read the rest of this.  I guarantee you'll smile.)

Michael Drayton (1563 - 1631) understood the joy of sharing words with friends:

My dearely loved friend how oft have we,   
In winter evenings (meaning to be free,)
To some well chosen place us'd to retire;
And there with moderate meate, and wine, and fire,
Have past the howres contentedly with chat,
Now talk'd of this, and then discours'd of that,
Spoke our owne verses 'twixt our selves, if not
Other mens lines, which we by chance had got,
Or some Stage pieces famous long before,
Of which your happy memory had store;
And I remember you much pleased were,
Of those who lived long agoe to heare,
As well as of those, of these latter times,
Who have inricht our language with their rimes,
And in succession, how still up they grew,
Which is the subject, that I now pursue;
For from my cradle (you must know that) I,
Was still inclin'd to noble Poesie.

Modernized, it reads:

My dearly loved friend,  how often have we,
In winter evenings (meaning to be free,)
To some well chosen place used to retire;
And there with moderate meat, and wine, and fire,
Have passed the hours contentedly with chat,
Now talked of this, and then discoursed of that,
Spoke our own verses between our selves, if not
Other men's lines, which we by chance had got,
Or some Stage pieces famous long before,
Of which your happy memory had store;
And I remember you much pleased were,
Of those who lived long ago to hear,
As well as of those, of these latter times,
Who have enriched our language with their rhymes,
And in succession, how still up they grew,
Which is the subject, that I now pursue;
For from my cradle (you must know that) I,
Was still inclined to noble Poetry.

I'm not the only one who was inclined to poetry from the time I was in a cradle!  I look a little sideways at people who just don't get it - they think that poetry is boring, and prefer a touchdown on TV.

Perhaps a poet thinks differently from the rest of men.  Michael Drayton, again:

Neat Marlow bathed in the Thespian springs
Had in him those brave translunary things,
That the first Poets had, his raptures were,
All ayre, and fire, which made his verses cleere,
For that fine madnes still he did retaine,
Which rightly should possesse a Poets braine.

Modernized, again:

Neat Marlow bathed in the Thespian springs  (Marlow was a fellow that loved the stage and drama)
Had in him those brave translunary things,  (he had in him things that were beyond the moon or ethereal)
That the first Poets had, his raptures were,
All air, and fire, which made his verses clear,
For that fine madness still he did retain,
Which rightly should possess a Poet's brain.

Yes.  I think Poets have to have a sense of drama.  They must be artists with imagination, painting their masterpieces with words on paper rather than oils on canvas.  Brave they are, because they bleed with open wounds, visible to all.  They are vulnerable, fragile, courageous and daring.  They see the world through peculiar perspective, then courageously attempt to sketch it for others.

Poetry is what Milton saw when he went blind.
~Donald Robert Perry Marquis

Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
~Donald Robert Perry Marquis

Here are some quotes regarding poetry... click over and read, if you have poetry in your soul.

On the same website there is a helpful chart explaining the many and varied types of poetry.

From the magic of Facebook, I recently learned that there's a difference between haiku and senyru.  I always thought that haiku was simply a three lined, non-rhyming poem, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.  The old adage is true: you learn something new every day.

Hideo Oshima posted the following:

Better ask the winds
Who in the whole world can tell
Which leaf is to fall?

David Dunham corrected him:  And yet you have not written a haiku. You have written a senyru. :  a 3-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku but treating human nature usually in an ironic or satiric vein.  

True haiku must not contain any human element and should mention one of the four seasons. Really true haiku should also have a double meaning.

babbling winter brook
Do you know that you destroy 
that which gives you life?
~David Dunham

How about you?  Did your mother read poems and nursery rhymes to you?  (If she didn't, I'm sorry for your loss.)  Did you develop a love for the English language, and a sense of simile and metaphor which helps you understand the deeper meaning of a rich and weighty poem?  Do you bravely attempt to write a few lines of verse on your own?  Are you willing to share?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

31 Days - Day 8 - Perseverance

One of the character traits I have attempted to cultivate in myself and in our children is that of perseverance.  I've often quoted Winston Churchill's famous speech, which includes these words:

"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender..."


I want my children to learn to persevere, to carry on in spite of incredible odds.  They come from a line of courageous people who fought for their right to be free, to worship as they saw fit, and to raise their families as they thought best.  In our ancestry, we have Hugenots who fled France rather than give up their faith.  We have shipbuilders who knew what it was like to work on a ship so massive that at any moment their lives would be in danger.  We have fishermen that went out to sea in order to battle for the means to feed their children.  We have architects and nurses and engineers and pilots.  We even have a man (my grandfather) who worked with Nikola Tesla.  Each of these men and women demonstrated strength of character.  They persevered.  They carried on, in spite of incredible set backs. 

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light;
That stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king,
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

~Douglas Malloch - Good Timber

Strength comes through perseverance.

Courage, brother! do not stumble,
  Though thy path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble,
  Trust in God and do the Right.
 ~Norman Macleod (1812–1872)

Take courage, and carry on.

The essence of good and evil is a certain disposition of the will.
~Epictetus (A.D. c. 50–c. 138)

"Not in rewards, but in the strength to strive,
  The blessing lies." 
~John Townsend Trowbridge (1827– ?)

How about you?  Do you teach your children to carry on in spite of great difficulty?  Have you read to them stories of great men and women who faced insurmountable obstacles, yet carried on in spite of pain and sorrow and loss?  Do you tell your children the stories of family members who left their homes and families to travel to the new world and start over?  Whet their appetite and give them examples of perseverance and courage!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

31 Days - Death - Day 7

I think about death quite often, but not in a morbid way.  I have come close to dying on a number of occasions, starting as a tot who was nearly hit by a dump truck.  My most recent brush with death was a result of complications during surgery.  Although I was never in the same danger as I was when I'd lost so much blood that there was no discernible pulse, losing over a half litre of blood reminded me that life is short and death is certain.

I'm a Christian, and I have hope.  

Not this kind of hope:

Oh, write of me, not "Died in bitter pains,"
But "Emigrated to another star!"
~Helen Hunt Jackson

This kind of hope, found in a prayer by Scotty Smith:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.Hebrews 3:12-14

Dear Jesus, this portion of your Word is both sobering and encouraging. It leads me to think about friendship this morning and the gospel-posse you’ve given me. I’m so very grateful for the friends you’ve woven into my life. Being an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long term relationships has required, and still requires the work of the gospel in my heart—a grace work you’ve been faithful to provide.

I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets and they’ll do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together in the gospel. What does look like and what will it require, Jesus?

My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks—I just enjoy these relationships without much thought or effort. It’s a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other’s sentences, endure one another’s jokes, appreciate each other’s quirks and accept one another’s weaknesses. Surely, this is a gospel-gift.

Yet, Jesus, we’re still foolish men—capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. Sin is exceedingly deceitful. With all of my heart, I believe in the “final perseverance of the saints,” but I equally believe that it’s the saints who will finally persevere. Your Word is very clear—continuance in the gospel is a sign of being rooted in the gospel. That doesn’t scare me, but it does humble me.

Help us know how to hold each other accountable for believing the gospel. Help us to take each other’s heart-struggles seriously. Don’t let us confuse flattery with encouragement. Help us never to minimize nor marginalize the hardening power of sin. Help us know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily and to each all the time, until Today gives way tothe Day. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious name.

 Oh, how I long to finish well.  I do not want to waste my time playing Solitaire and watching television.  I want to be an Ambassador for Christ - His representative here on earth.

Father, I scarcely dare to pray,
So clear I see, now it is done,
How I have wasted half my day,
And left my work but just begun.
 ~ A Last Prayer

I have aches and pains that remind me that my life is a vapour.  This is humourous, and true:

My body, eh.  Friend Death, how now?
Why all this tedious pomp of writ?
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow
For half a century, bit by bit.
~Habeas Corpus.

I hope that I continue to be stoic when pain and sorrow invade.

Long, long before men die I sometimes read
Their stoic backs as plain as graveyard stones.

~John Crowe Ransom

Better still, may I look forward to eternity with joy.   That's where I'll see Jesus face to face!

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, ~1 Peter 1:8

Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Days - Day 6 - Freedom

I honour the man who is willing to sink
Half his present repute for the freedom to think
And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,

Will risk t'other half for the freedom to speak.
~James Russell Lowell

Free speech.  In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes that Canada was founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.  Canadians have the following fundamental freedoms:  

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

As a Canadian, I take freedom for granted.  The only real threat historically to our fundamental freedom as a country came during the second World War, when Hitler planned to conquer our Allies.  Of course, during the first World War,  we were a British Colony, and were expected to join the war as Britain's ally and subordinate.  It wasn't until the second World War that Canada flexed its muscles of independence when this country declared war on Germany.

Canada was a place of freedom when the United States of America still had many slave-owners.  I recently watched a movie, "Twelve Years a Slave", based on the life of Solomon Northup, a free man who was captured by cruel men and sold into slavery in the South.  You can read this book here.

One of the things that caught my imagination was the fact that Solomon was not permitted to express himself.  He, an educated man with many talents, had to pretend to be uneducated and dull.  He was never allowed to express an opinion.  To do so meant a whipping, or even death.

"Freedom has a thousand charms to show,
That slaves, howe’er contented, never know."
~William Cowper (1731–1800) 

 Even in the best families, a slave was still a slave.  Less valuable than the owners and their kin, unimportant and without the right of free expression.  There was no justice.  No freedom.  No joy.

"Truth is its [justice’s] handmaid, freedom is its child, peace is its companion, safety walks in its steps, victory follows in its train; it is the brightest emanation from the Gospel; it is the attribute of God. 
~Sydney Smith (1771–1845)

In a truly JUST society (--> shades of Trudeau there for those of you who know Canadian History) people are free to say what they want to say, go where they want to go, and do what they want to do as long as their actions break no laws.  

"A democracy,—that is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people;  of course, a government of the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake I will call it the idea of Freedom."  ~Theodore Parker (1810–1860)

Notice that the principles of eternal justice come from the unchanging law of God.  

That is true freedom.

How about you?  Are you willing to risk your reputation for freedom of expression?  Do you thank God for the principles in His law that led to the freedoms you enjoy in our North American societies?  Are you aware (painfully aware) of groups like ISIS or ISIL that do not respect basic freedoms of expression or religion or association?  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

31 Days - Day 5 - French

"Whene'er I hear French spoken as I approve,
I feel myself quietly falling in love."

Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, Earl of Lytton

I was born in Quebec City, Quebec.  I was raised in a series of small towns such as Sept-Iles and Loretteville and Ste. Foy and Montreal and Lac Beauport.  By the time I was in my teens, the French language was part of me.  I easily flipped from English to French, and sometimes found myself switching to French more readily than English, because what I was trying to express just worked better in French.

I left Quebec at the tender age of 17.  Married at 18, and immersed in the culture and practices of Ontario, I left French behind.  Yet, once a language has gripped your soul, you can't forget it.

"Unhappy lovers always should be Frenchmen, 
So sweet a tongue for any kind of pain!"
 ~Christopher Morley

A friend of mine phoned me a few months ago, saying "Do you want to go to Paris and Rome?"  

Are you kidding me?  Paris and Rome for $1200?  Three nights in Paris, three nights in Rome?  A dream come true!

I told Jane that she has to learn Italian.  After all, her maternal grandfather's name was Giovanni Marcantonio.   You can't get more Italian than that!  I made a bargain with her.  She can speak Italian, and I'll speak French.  I've been brushing up on my French, using Duolingo to learn vocabulary and grammar, and I'm using YouTube videos to listen to the spoken language.  I've been perusing grammar and reading books.  It's amazing how much French I've retained after being away from Quebec for over forty years.

I love the language, and I love the French people.  Here's a few quotes from John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations:

The French are emotional:

There is an old French air,
A little song of loneliness and grief --
Simple as nature, sweet beyond compare --
And sad -- past all belief.  
~George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier

The French are practical:

The Frenchman, like the old Scotch golfer, endeavours to do what there is to be done without superfluous weapons or fancy gestures.  He sits down, ties his napkin behind his ears, picks up a knife and fork and goes to work with admirable directness.   He dunks his bread in the juice of the snail, he chases fragments of steak and gravy with a piece of crust, he licks his fingers , says "Ah!' and gets fed. ~Westbrook Pegler

The French like to chat:

A Frenchman must be always talking, whether he knows anything of the matter or not; an Englishman is content to say nothing, when he has nothing to say.  ~Samuel Johnson

I can't wait to visit Paris.

Oh, London is a man's town, 
there's power in the air;
And Paris is a woman's town, 
with flowers in her hair.
~Henry Van Dyke

How about you?  Do you like the French language?  Is it music to your ears?  Have you ever tried using Duolingo, a free online program for learning various languages?  Have you ever been to Paris?

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Diplomacy is to do and say
The nastiest thing in the nicest way.

Isaac Goldberg  1887- 1938

I'm not as diplomatic as I ought to be.  I've noticed that my children have inherited this trait, and they say what they mean, and they mean what they say.  Sometimes, the things they say are misconstrued by their hearers.  It is a strange art, the art of diplomacy, and it is wise to learn how to balance truth with grace.

Here are a few more quotes about diplomacy:

I'm always diplomatic when heavily outnumbered by armed strangers. ~S. M. STIRLING, The Sunrise Lands
All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. ~ZHOU ENLAI, Saturday Evening Post, Mar. 27, 1954
All war represents a failure of diplomacy.~ TONY BENN, speech, Feb. 28, 1991
An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. ~SIR HENRY WOTTON, inscribed on the album of Christopher Fleckmore, 1604
There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished. ~JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, "The American Ambassador," Foreign Service Journal, June 1969
The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy — give one and take ten. ~MARK TWAIN, Bite-Size Twain: Wit and Wisdom from the Literary Legend
Diplomacy is the art of saying, "Nice doggie!" until you can find a stick. ~VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes
To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy. ~WILL DURANT, The Story of Civilization
A diplomat is a man who can juggle a hot potato long enough for it to become a cold issue. ~VERNON K. MCLELLAN, Wise Words and Quotes
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. ~JOHN F. KENNEDY

Until points of gravest import yielded slowly one by one,
And by Love was consummated what Diplomacy begun.  ~Concepcion de Arguello   ~
 Francis Bret Harte

How do you know that I am a diplomat?
By the skilful way you hide your claws.
~Emund Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

Some diplomat no doubt
Will launch a heedless word,
And lurking war leap out, ~ John Davidson, 1857 - 1909


Friday, October 3, 2014

31 Days - Day 3 - Food

I have celiac disease.  This does not define me, but it is something that I must not ignore.  At home, it's easy - we are well aware of our food allergies, which are many and varied, including wheat/gluten, soy, corn and dairy.

When we go out to eat, whether it's at church for potluck or at a restaurant with friends, we have to be ever vigilant, or we end up sick, weak, and ailing for days or even weeks.

Of course, my husband doesn't have any food allergies (at least none that he admits to), so eating out with him is a test of my patience.  He always lets me order first, then says pointedly, "Now for the easy order."

The way to my man's heart is definitely through his stomach.  In the book of Familiar Quotations, I found this quote:

We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man can not live without cooks.
He may live without books, - what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope, - what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love, - what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?
~ Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, Earl of Lytton

That made me chuckle, because unlike my husband, I'd be lost without poetry, music, art, and books.  I think I'd rather miss a meal than miss a chat with a friend.  

We were fairly strict parents when we had a bunch of little kids at home, and one of the rules we enforced was "If a man will not work, neither will he eat."  In other words, if a chore was not completely properly and on time, the person who did not get his job done had to miss the next meal.  That actually included writing assignments, which brings me to this poem:

God have mercy on the sinner
Who must write with no dinner,
  No gravy and no grub,
  No pewter and no pub,
  No belly and no bowels,
  Only consonants and vowels.

  ~John Crowe Ransom, Survey of Literature

 How about you?  Would you rather eat dinner than spend time practicing an instrument or completing an art project?  Do you have a husband like mine who equates food with love?  Are you a mom that considers an occasional missed meal a valuable training tool in bringing up a child in the way he should go?

Even when we're boating, we have to stop for breakfast.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days - Day 2

My Garden

"A Garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
   Rose plot,
   Fringed pool,
   Ferned grot -
   The veriest school
   Of Peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not -
Not God! in Gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign:
'Tis very sure God walks in mine."
                     ~ Thomas Edward Brown

I'm a terrible gardener.  This year we started well, but my husband's dream that took over 40 years to come true ended up consuming most of our time.  We are now happy owners of an old boat.  We are not great gardeners.

But oh!  How I love to see the dahlias in all of their glory!  They are still blooming, bigger and brighter than the mums with their tiny orange and yellow flowers.  Our petunias are still bravely flowering, purple and white, ignoring the dying stems.  It's as if they think that the more they flower, the later the snows will fly.

Our cherry tomatoes produced bucketsfull of fruit.  We had a few squash, some kohlrabi, and cauliflower.  We dried some chocolate mint leaves, and look forward to sipping hot peppermint tea all winter.  My favourite herb, basil, grew well, in spite of terrible neglect.

"God Almighty first planted a garden.
And because the breath of flowers
   is far sweeter in the air (where it comes and goes, like the warbling of music)
                    than in the hand, 
therefore nothing is more fit for that delight
than to know what be
         the flowers and plants 
                  that do best perfume the air."
                     ~Francis Bacon

"How deeply seated in the human heart 
is the liking for gardens and gardening."  ~Alexander Smith

We're drawn to plants and flowers.  There's such a joy in growing your own vegetables!  I've picked romaine lettuce, little tomatoes, cucumbers and basil for a home-grown, delicious salad!  It tastes better when you grow it yourself!  You invest emotional energy in the plants, along with the sweat of your brow.

"If you have once planted a tree for other than commercial purposes, -and in that case it is usually done by your orders and by the hands of hirelings, - you have always in it a peculiar interest.  You care more for it than you care for all the forests of Norway or America.  You have planted it, and that is sufficient to make it peculiar amongst the trees of the world." ~Alexander Smith

How about you?
Do you love gardening?  Are you drawn to particular flowers or plants?  Are you able to grow enough vegetables to feed your family and put some in the freezer for winter?

The joy of gardening is like the joy of being a Christian.  His mercies are new every morning.  As far as the garden goes, there's always next year.