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I have to share one more cello piece, this one by Mendelssohn. This one has special significance to me as a mother, as one of my children will remember. Motherhood is often a “song without words” as love and feelings run deeper than words can convey. Happy Mother’s Day!
The scenes painted by Danish Painter, Carl Holsoe, depict a quietness that is very restful to the soul. When the noise of life becomes unbearable, it isn’t just the written word that can create a little island of serenity. Paintings can do the same. Nobody paints a spirit of “quiet” like Holsoe does. Here are a few of my favorites. The Mother and Child scene makes me think of my little daughter at my knee.
The light in these paintings and the tall ceilings in the rooms give the feeling of space and peace in these domestic scenes.
I love this Welsh folk song by the title, All Through the Night. Bryn Terfel sings it in his native Welsh in the video below.
Here are the English words.
All the twinkling stars say,
All through the night,
“This is the way to the realm of glory,”
All through the night.
Darkness is a different light
That exposes true beauty,
The Heavenly family in peace,
All through the night.
O, how cheerful smiles the star,
All through the night,
To light its earthly sister,
All through the night.
Old age is night when affliction comes,
But to beautify man in his late days,
We’ll put our weak light together,
All through the night.
Alternate words were written later in English.
Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.
Star of faith the dark adorning
all through the night.
Leads us fearless t’wards the morning
all through the night.
Though our hearts be wrapt in sorrow,
from the hope of dawn we borrow
promise of a glad tomorrow
all through the night.
Wednesday night was an evening that Tom and I will always treasure. Last summer, some friends invited us to dinner and afterward, a concert with violin legend, Itzhak Perlman in a one night only gala performance with the Milwaukee Symphony. The concert was not until January, 2013.
The concert was like a little gem on the calender as the months ticked by. Wednesday evening finally arrived. The concert was reviewed here and here, but in the end, it is the concertgoer who walks away with the true meaning and impression of a performance.
We began the evening in a cozy corner booth of Milwaukee’s outstanding German restaurant, Karl Ratzsch’s. Nothing is more authentically our home town than Ratzsch’s with its Old World architecture and food. Good conversation with interesting people is one of life’s true blessings. When you leave wishing you had 2 more hours to spend, it’s a joy.
We made our way to the Marcus Center and our friends directed us to our seats. Due to their amazing generosity, we had seats on the front row of the box section for a perfect view of the stage! I’ve been in Uihlein Hall many times in my life, but never with seats like those.
The concert opened with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The conductor, Francesco Lecce-Chong, made the familiar notes sound fresh again. I never tire of hearing this music that has stood the test of time. The MSO was all energy and precision. It was excellent.
After intermission, it was time to return to our wonderful seats for the highlight of the evening. Itzhak Perlman made his way to the small platform near the podium where the conductor stands. Due to contracting polio as a child, he performs sitting down.
In his hand was his nearly 300-year-old Soil Stradivarius which he handed to Concertmaster, Frank Almond, as he got settled in his chair. In Frank’s other hand was the Lipinski Strad that he plays. What hands full of history he had at that moment!
Almond got a laugh from the audience as he pretended to switch Strads back and forth before handing the famous instrument to Perlman.
I won’t make an attempt to describe technical aspects of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Far more able people can do that. I will say that the sound of that fiddle, said to have the greatest voice of any of the “Golden Era” Strads, in the hands of the master was unforgettable. That violin sings like no other instrument I have heard, and I have heard a lot of Strads and del Gesu’s in the hands of violinists like Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Joshua Bell, Schlomo Mintz, Rachel Barton, and Young Uck Kim, not to mention hearing the Lipinski played by Frank Almond in recital.
Perlman’s incomparable sound on that instrument made its way to every corner of Uihlein Hall. What an honor to be there and hear this amazing man who has overcome physical hardships to bring the world such music. For us, the ovation we gave was about more than the virtuosity of his performance. It was an honor to stand an applaud someone whose legacy to the world is pure beauty.
Before Perlman stepped down from the small platform where he sat, he handed his Strad to Frank Almond again. Tom leaned over and said (jokingly), “Almond has never been worth more than he is right now!” Those historic violins together were a priceless combination, literally and figuratively.
The evening was priceless. We are still astonished at the kindness of our friends who gave us this unexpected and thoroughly enriching evening of not only their company and dinner, but the gift of music.
Do you know what God showed us once again through Wednesday night’s concert? We live in a world of great evil, where so much innocence and loveliness and hope is crushed out by sin. But in the midst of all of that, God, the source of all goodness and beauty and truth, continues to give us light and hope and reminders of His presence, through the kindness of others and through music. That’s why the beauty makers are so important. They continue to point all of us to what is good and lovely and true. God is not dead, nor does he sleep, goes the line from the familiar carol. And his gifts to mankind were in full evidence Wednesday night.
I want to thank our friends publicly for the gift of their company, their generosity and their insight. We are grateful.
Can’t help myself this morning. Today is Epiphany Sunday when we remember the wise men who saw that brilliant star and came to worship at the feet of the young Lord Jesus Christ.
Normally, Tom plays this hymn with the choir on Epiphany, but we’ve had illness here at home and so we are having church here. These words are so very beautiful and clear in doctrine. I wanted to share this with you, as well as a trumpeter playing it. These lyrics express our faith and lift our hearts, wherever we may be this Sunday.
“O Morning Star, how fair and bright!
You shine with God’s own truth and light,
Aglow with grace and mercy!
Of Jacob’s race, King David’s son,
Our Lord and master, You have won
Our hearts to serve You only!
Great and glorious,
Rich in blessing!
Rule and might o’er all possessing!
“Come, heavenly Bridegroom, Light divine,
and deep within our hearts now shine;
There light a flame undying!
In Your one body let us be
As living branches of a tree,
Your life our lives supplying.
Now, though daily
Earth’s deep sadness
May perplex us
And distress us,
Yet with heavenly joy You bless us.
“Lord, when You look on us in love,
At once there falls from God above
A ray of purest pleasure.
Your Word and Spirit, flesh and blood
Refresh our souls with heavenly food.
You are our dearest treasure!
Let Your mercy
Warm and cheer us!
O draw near us!
For You teach us
God’s own love through You has reached us.
“Almighty Father, in Your Son
You loved us when not yet begun
Was this old earth’s foundation!
Your Son has ransomed us in love
To live in Him here and above;
This is Your great salvation.
Christ the living,
To us giving
Keeps us Yours and fails us never!
“O let the harps break forth in sound!
Our joy be all with music crowned,
Our voices gladly blending!
For Christ goes with us all the way—
Today, tomorrow, every day!
His love is never ending!
Sing out! Ring out!
Tell the story!
Great is He, the King of Glory!
“What joy to know, when life is past,
The Lord we love is first and last,
The end and the beginning!
He will one day, oh, glorious grace,
Transport us to that happy place
Beyond all tears and sinning!
Come, Lord Jesus!
Crown of gladness!
We are yearning
For the day of Your returning!”
— Lutheran Service Book,
“O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” 395:1-6.
People experience things and places in different ways. I was part of a discussion about this recently, and a friend described how some people remember best when they hear something, some when they see or read or touch something, or a combination of these senses.
Good writing is that which enables readers to feel, hear, smell and see what is going on. A good writer will use descriptive language that is multisensory. It will take the reader into the setting in every way possible.
I’ve always been sharply sensitive to atmosphere. Years ago in elementary school, my siblings and I studied piano for a time at an old United Methodist Church in Milwaukee. The teacher, who was the church organist at the time, taught piano in a basement Sunday School room. While waiting for our lessons, we sat upstairs in the church library.
That brick church, probably built in the late 19th century, had a dank, cold atmosphere. From the faded 1950′s Sunday School pictures on the walls of the classrooms, to the musty smell that greeted us as we entered, there was a feeling of the distant past there. It was as though time had gone by and left that church there on the corner, forgotten.
The large library was dimly lit and carpeted in ugly dark red. The furniture scattered around was black. As a bookworm, I looked at everything on the shelves while waiting for my lesson. The books were primarily old theological works with a few Norman Vincent Peale, positive-thinking type books scattered in. Dusty books of little interest to me.
What really intrigued me was the cemetery outside near the parking lot. It had apparently been put there on the site of an earlier church building. We walked through the gravestones there one chilly, late afternoon in what must have been October. I remember the leaves blowing around and the trees outlined against the darkening sky were nearly bare.
The graves were not recent. The headstones were old, and some leaned in various directions. Some graves dated back to the mid-1800′s, I remember, because it made me realize that Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been a little girl then. In the chill of the wind, even as a child, something of the ephemeral nature of life struck me. These people, too, had walked around, played music, laughed and talked. And now they were long forgotten.
Why do I remember that afternoon so clearly some 35 years or more later? I think because the feel of the chilly wind, the sight of the tilting old gravestones, the scent of the dry, crumbling leaves under my feet, the melancholy feel of that dusky, autumn afternoon impressed the experience on my mind all at once, so I could tell you about it in detail all these years later.
They say that scent is a powerful evoker of meory, and it is true. I can still remember the smell of a lavender, vinyl book bag I had in first grade. The scent was memorable to me, because it represented the excitement I felt at attending school. I loved elementary school, and that lavender book bag was a symbol of everything it meant. I’ve heard others comment that the smell of something will take them right back, sometimes many decades back, to their childhoods.
The gifts of sight and sound and feel and touch create so many simple joys every day, and we’re prone to take it for granted. Today, Em and I walked to meet Mary coming from the bus stop after school. The leaves are in peak color right now, and a cool breeze lifted our hair. It was a feast for the senses.
Up the long hill came Mary, swinging her bag along in the autumn sunshine, “I saw a dead bird, Mom. It reminded me of that verse that God sees even the sparrows fall,” said my girl, her ebony hair gleaming in the sunlight.
“It smells so good in here!” she exclaimed coming in the house. The meat in the slow cooker greeted us with a wonderful aroma. The sound of William practicing Bach at the piano greeted our ears as we prepared dinner. The red-checked tablecloth was a cheery sight as the table was set.
All of those sights and sounds and aromas are daily gifts from God, giving us the little joys that make up our lives. Everyday grace from our Creator.
I want to thank NASA personally for all it has done to underscore the truth of the Word of God. Like no other agency or organization, it offers constant photographic proof of the direct hand of God in creation.
Please take just a moment and see planet Earth from 11 billion miles away. That tiny dot is where we all live. Billions of us. NASA’s cameras provide something we arrogant humans desperately need—perspective! These verses came to mind when I saw the photos. King Nebuchadnezzar had spent years living like a wild beast as God’s judgment against him. Then, in Daniel 4:34-35, we see these words recorded:
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
God’s written revelation to us explains how his creation sings of his power.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
~ Psalm 19
Who gave me life? My mother.
Who first showed me love? My mother.
Who first breathed the name of Jesus in prayer over my head before I could form a word? My mother.
Who showed me the love of God in every act of tenderness and care? My mother.
Who taught me Bible verses as soon as I could talk? My mother.
Who sought to live out those verses in front of us? My mother.
Who taught me right from wrong and corrected sinful behavior? My mother.
Who wore out a Bible story book reading out the marvels of God’s mighty hand? My mother.
Who gave of herself constantly and poured all she had into her three children? My mother.
Who taught me mother-love for my own children? My beautiful mother.
I honor my mother, Freda, today who through many difficult circumstances and through the wearying and complex maze of this life shows the reality of her faith and shows Christ to her children and grandchildren and soon, their children.
We all love you, Mom and call you blessed!
Her children arise up, and call her blessed. ~ Proverbs 31:28a
Emily and I were out on a walk today, and we heard the birds singing as though their chests would burst. Lilacs are blooming in some yards, and the breeze was fresh on our faces. It made you glad to be alive.
A young girl came up behind us. Her head was bowed over the rectangular object in her hands, thumbs pounding away. We stepped aside to let her pass, but I don’t think she knew we were there. In this poor girl’s world there were no birds, no flowers, no private thoughts, only manic texting of symbols into the tiny screen of her phone. I watched until she went out of sight, and her head never moved from its downward position. I felt sorry for all the beauty she had missed.
I read an excellent column today on a different but related note—the cynical detachment of today’s kids in this social media-driven world.
Matthew Archbold writes:
In this Youtube world where every kid has a camera, so many kids act like the cameras are always rolling. They don’t stand, they pose.
I’ve watched them dance at their school dances. They don’t dance with abandon. They dance to make fun of dancing in front of their friends videotaping them. They dance “the robot” to make fun of people who danced the robot or they dance like people did in the music video of the song to make fun of the video.
They say they like a movie because it was “sooooo bad” or “It’s awesome in a totally stupid way.”
They’re not living life, they’re commenting on it.
This ironic detachment is the pose of the powerless. It’s the shrug of surrender because it would look uncool to actually put your arms up in surrender, except if you were making fun of people surrendering.
Exactly. Here is the thought-provoking piece.