Under an Autumn Sky

leavesIn the grocery store parking lot where I was loading things into my cart I heard a voice behind me and realized I was being spoken to. A man in a wheel chair was there.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” he asked. He had strong muscles from wheeling his chair up the long hill to the store.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” I agreed. “I wish I had a way to store these days to get us through the long winter.”

He nodded, and we stood there just a few moments enjoying the fresh, cool breeze and the sun on our faces. We were two perfect strangers connecting as fellow humans, our souls drinking in the great beauty of the afternoon.

All the best rhapsodic prose about the Fall of the year has already been written many times over. But I was struck again today by the leaves changing color. Emmy and I walked along for our 3 mile walk, taking it all in.

There is something about being outside that makes Emmy think of God.

“He’s up there in the clouds,” she said solemnly as she walked along pushing her doll in her stroller.

“Who is?”

“God. Pastor told us about that in chapel,” she said firmly.

“God loves me, and I love Him,” she added. “He’s watching over me.”

We stopped to admire a maple leaf that Emmy observed was pink, not red. Bees buzzed over some droopy black-eyed susans at the corner where we turn. A neighbor waved cheerily at us as we made our way back home up the long hill.

“It’s such a lovely day, isn’t it?” Em sighed blissfully.

Beauty and truth and faith under a deep blue sky.

(Photo credit to my friend Francis MacDonald. This is a photo of his native Nova Scotia in autumn.)

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Never Miss a Sunrise

Emily came running into my bedroom one morning yelling, “Mama, quick, come look!” She was so intense she scared me. I thought something was wrong outside.  She lifted my window shade and pointed. “Look at that!”

The rising sun had turned the eastern sky the most unbelievable color of peach against the faint blue. “Isn’t it GORGEOUS?” she cried.

I would have missed it entirely. How many times has that child pulled me over to the window to see the moon shining down on us in all its different phases, something I would have never noticed either. Thank God above for children who never miss a sunrise or a sunset and whose sense of wonder is still intact.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. ~ George Eliot

 

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Last of the Summer Beauty

My friend Kim lives in Ottawa, Canada. She is wonderful with her garden. This photo is of her last rose of summer, and I wanted to share it in all its beauty. (This pink is my favorite color ever.)

She wrote:

It is a David Austin rose called ‘Heritage.’ I planted it in honor of my grandma, whose birthday was the first day of summer, and I always gave her a bouquet of roses on her birthday from my mom’s gardens. This rose is absolutely gorgeous, it opens up as a fragile-looking cup of shells…If it’s hardy here, you can grow it in Wisconsin, so see if you can find the plant someday! It is the perfect pale, peachy pink. I always think of the poem at this time of year. Also, that first stanza always makes me think of elderly women.

 

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

—Thomas Moore

(Full poem here.)

 

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“Smokin’ Hot” Pastors’ Wives – Enough Already!

stilettoplatformI remember hearing a late middle-aged pastor at a church introduce his “smoking hot wife.” Exact words. He leaned into the microphone and sort of leered in a pastorly kind of way at his wife in the audience. The “ick” factor was high. So high that it was difficult to take the man seriously. As of late, references to “smokin’ hot” wives from hip pastors are essential ministry talk. They may even practice saying it in seminary homiletics classes now.

What if God gives you a wife with a debilitating illness? Still proud of her? What if there’s an accident and she no longer has a Sports Illustrated-worthy body? Still love her? When a husband praises his wife, it better be for something that lasts, because I’m here to tell you, sir, that your” smokin’ hot” wife will soon go the way of all flesh, just like you. Character lasts a long time after looks are long gone.

The worldly view on sexuality long ago invaded the church. Pastors like Mark Driscoll even go so far as to suggest that if a woman “lets herself go”, a vague term that could mean anything from weight gain to eschewing hair extensions and professional spray tans, she may be pushing her husband into straying into an affair with a more attractive model. It is implied, not always said outright. In the world of the sex-obsessed, hipster “pastors”, you’d better be and stay “hot”, lady, or you can thank yourself when your marriage goes south. And I mean “smokin’ hot”, not just “hot.”

This piece from Christianity Today proves I am not alone in noticing this ugly trend (among the countless other such trends in American circus churches.) The author is sick of hearing about “smokin’ hot wives” from the pulpit. Disgust is in order for these men, with the label “pastor” or otherwise, who are blinded by our sex-addled culture into viewing women as nothing but sex objects, and yet claim biblical precedence for their views. I also feel sorry for their wives who have to hear themselves held up as “smokin’ hot”, long after age has had its way. (And it always does, Botox or not!)

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.   ~ Proverbs 31:30

When Morning Gilds the Skies

I was somewhat groggily moving at 6am to take Will 20 miles in for a ride to the state forensics meet with his team members. As I returned home and closed the door on the car in the driveway, I stood very still suddenly. The singing of the birds was so  beautiful, and the rising sun was sending its rays onto the flowered trees in our yard. It took my breath away. Had I not been up at 6 on a Saturday morning, I would have missed that beautiful moment. The words of this hymn sprang to mind.

When morning gilds the skies,
my heart awakening cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Here’s the lovely hymn if you’d like to listen. As I was standing there, our son Jon pulled in, returning home after a night of work on the third shift. He enjoyed the moment with me and got his camera to take a shot of this golden spring morning.

Country Roads

Our friend Francis in Nova Scotia keeps us supplied with photos of his favorite places on Cape Breton Island. That’s where the photos in this post were taken. I’m a city girl, born and bred, and I grew up to the usual urban din having lived and attended school in the heart of a large metro area.

But my parents both grew up in rural areas, and as a result, we saw plenty of country growing up each summer both in Southwest Missouri and also up in northern Minnesota. I think somewhere inside, I have a bit of country girl waiting to get out.

Our family once took a bouncing, jolting car journey across a field where a road used to be. We were driving to see the old abandoned house where my great-grandmother used to live when my mom and her siblings were growing up. They spent some war years there while their parents worked in a plant making airplanes to fight Hitler.

The house was in an advanced state of decay. In a shed, we found an old textbook from my uncle with his nickname written in the cover. We walked a bit in the fields near the house that late afternoon. Mom shed a few tears over the many memories there in those Missouri hills. She was raised a country girl, and she still is one.

The country road in the photo on this post draws me in. The thought of walking down that road brings peace just thinking about it. Add Tom and a picnic basket, and that would be about as good as it gets.

I was driving on a very isolated country road in Wisconsin once when we passed a horse and her young offspring quietly standing by a wire fence. I pulled over to let the children watch them for a while. (They had never seen a horse close up except for a depressed looking pony giving rides at a fair.) There is nothing so restful in this world as to watch animals like that in their own element. The horses stared at us with their big dark eyes, chewing solemnly and thinking their horse thoughts. I wanted to touch their soft noses, but decided as a city slicker that watching was probably a better idea.

I’ll never forget that day gazing at those beautiful creatures and experiencing the quiet of the country. No sirens, no obnoxious motorcycles filling the air with their nerve-shattering noise, no interstate with the eternal roar in the distance. Just the fields shimmering in the summer sunlight and the occasional song of a bird.

In our suburban world nature is paved over, restrained, poisoned with toxic chemicals to keep unsightly weeds at bay, and allowed only in small little orderly patches. It has to be that way, I guess. But country roads beckon me where you can hear the crunch of a dirt road under your feet, where animals and insects go about their business unhindered, and you get to see the whole panorama of God’s creative genius.

The whole earth is full of God’s glory. Humans build towering complexes and buildings that seem to defy gravity, and the architects should have their due, but nothing can come close to the world of nature created by the word of our Creator’s mouth. All it takes to see it is a walk down a country road.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

~Psalm 104:24

The Beauty Makers

Karl Goldmark was one of 20 children born to an impoverished Jewish cantor in 1830 in Hungary. Someone handed the child a battered violin when he was still small, and history was made.

Margaret Sanger, founder of the international killing machine known as Planned Parenthood, once said that the most merciful thing you can do to a child from a big family is kill “it.” Think for a moment of all the beauty the world has lost because of that worldview. Karl Goldmark would have been just another murdered baby had his parents held that view.

Beauty comes from God. He is the source of all beauty. Satan can only kill, steal and destroy. God is the giver of life and all that is lovely, and even our ability to perceive what beauty is is the result of God’s image stamped on mankind.

God does not need our permission to show forth His glory. It often comes from unusual and unlikely places in this world. A poor boy in Hungary was bestowed with the precious gift of music, and the world is a richer place because of it.

Marie Avinov, the Soviet dissident and author of the book, Pilgrimage Through Hell, wrote of the nightmare of living through the Stalin purges and losing her husband to the vicious brutality of communism. There is a scene in that book that I will never forget.

She was on a train, a cattle car, on her way to Siberia for being the wife of one of the men randomly thrown into Stalin’s prisons. On board the cattle car to hell was an opera singer who had sung in the famous opera house in Moscow. Her crime was being an artist. Stalin viewed beauty as a dangerous thing because it pointed to God. The communists institutionalized ugly and evil instead and tried to shut down all artists as enemies of the state unless they agreed to create only propaganda.

Marie was so thirsty on the train she thought she would die, and she begged the guards for a small drink. They refused. Finally, the opera singer bargained with the guards to get her a drink and promised to sing a famous aria in exchange for water.

Marie told of that unbelievable juxtaposition of beauty that shone forth from the voice of the singer under the stars that night, as human beings who had committed no crime were hauled away like cattle to untold evil and suffering. Beauty against a backdrop of horror. God and Satan. Truth and lies. Beauty and abject ugliness. That is the human reality. Man rejects God and barbarism soon follows.

In a world of natural disasters, terrorism, and so much sorrow, beauty is a bursting forth of the eternal into our temporal lives. God knew how much we would need it.

If you have an artistic or musical child, encourage them in every way you can. They are carriers of truth whenever they create something of loveliness and they show forth God’s glory. These artists are a reminder to all who hear and see and watch what they create that God is real, and that no matter how hard evil tries to destroy what is good and lovely and true, God will prevail in the end.

Here is a clip of Karl Goldmark’s Violin Concerto, the second movement, which I find so exquisite. Turn your speakers up as the beginning is soft. One minute in, the voice of the violin comes in over the sound of the orchestra like a hymn rising before God. Let the music remind you of that little boy among his 19 siblings in a Hungarian village and how God graced us all because of him.