Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Found Thanksgiving



I thought I had lost it because when I went to get a new leaf garland for my front doorway 2 weeks ago, there was no 'Fall' left at the craft stores. Nothing golden, brown, rust  or olive colored.
Just red an green. Already.

So I threw the broken leaf garland into a apple basket on the front porch to resemble  a pile of freshly raked maple leaves and my door remained adorned with only an Autumn wreathe. No garland draping its sides.

I found Thanksgiving in the grocery store. It's all about the turkey, you know. Found everything but corn.

So I felt better that the day of gratefulness hadn't totally been squashed out (pun intended). Until I realized I was humming along to I'll be Home for Christmas as it was playing in the store, while I picked out my Butterball. 

Last Thanksgiving while driving home from grandmother's house, over the river and through the woods,  a parking lot full of cars caught my eye while passing Toys 'R Us. Could it be true that Black Friday had appeared prematurely on Thanksgiving night!! Come on!

But it got worse this year. Many stores are touting their early Christmas sales starting Thanksgiving at 8pm.

Before your turkey dinner has even digested you can start consuming again!!


Far be it that we have a whole 24 hours of rest, family and contentment. A day to just be grateful for what we already have. Now we have to be reminded of how miserable we are because we lack the latest flat screen, computer or fashion trend, and run out and buy it in the middle of the night!!!

We should all boycott Thanksgiving Day sales. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be like any other day. Even as Sundays used to be a time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation, free from earning and spending,  so will this day end up; just another day....

I did find Thanksgiving tonight though.

I found it in a neighborhood church.  A band played. We sang old hymns and new Americana worship songs. Little children danced while we raised our hands in thanks to our generous God. Psalms were read. A message was shared. My son, home from college,  stood arm in arm with me as we sang

How Great Thou Art and 
Jesus Paid it All and 
In Christ Alone

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with sons of praise! Fr the LORD is a great God and a great king above all gods.

Psalm 95 
Here are the little children spontaneously dancing in the front while the praise music played. Little girls and boys swinging each other in circles and baby toddlers moving freely to the sounds while we sang. It was beautiful!

O give thanks to the LORD!!

 Tomorrow and everyday.

I hope you find Thanksgiving, too.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Sea of Galilee Baptism Experience

It was our first church campus' Beach Baptism.
All others had been jointly held with other churches. But this was our very own. With canopy, T-shirts, pens, registration forms, towels, signs and banners in tow, we headed east on Lake Worth Road.

The sky was vibrant blue with a few clumps of pearly clouds. Sunshine was winning all the way to our sandy destination.

Once we turned north on Ocean Blvd the clouds thickened and darkened. Turning into Phipp's Beach parking lot and I noticed a finger-like cloud jutting downward under a large grey formation hovering the water.

Hopping out of the car, folks on the beach confirmed what I saw. "There's a water spout moving at high speed southward." It started to rain. Over the sea out about a mile, we could see little glittering sprinkles swirling on its sunlit surface directly below the cloud protrusion. Cold front meets warm air.

Heavy showers forced us to wait it out in the car, wondering if our premier baptism was a wash. The 10% chance of precipitation had turned into 100%.

Volunteers arrived, including my good friend, Janet who said she was arguing with God as she drove toward the smouldering skies hovering over the coastline. "Lord, you told us to make disciples! Why are you making it so difficult for us?"

Why indeed.

10 minutes in and the drops stopped. We decided to move to the shoreline and give it a try.
Our hired lifeguard said the water looked fine, there was no lightening so we could proceed, though the clouds still hung dark and ominous.



Then just as the pastors started baptizing, the sprinkles started up again, then hard rain, then a downpour turning to sideways torrents. I had never been outside in weather this bad. It was hard to see anything except dark shapes moving in the shallows, the rain in sheets and and gale-like gusts.




They didn't stop baptizing. The life guard remained calm. Even with my 'cut' signals to the pastors, they kept on. Umbrellas having no effect against the storm, we were drenched through, t-shirts and jeans, hats and hoodies. Cell phones and watches thrown into the plastic bins for protection. I managed a couple of photos seconds before.



Jesus took the disciples out on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, when a storm just like this one stirred up suddenly with near hurricane strength. The disciples questioned God, "Why did you take us out here? Did you take us out here to die?"

We did not fear as the disciples did by any stretch, but this was certainly not what I'd envisioned for our first baptism. I imagined smiling faces, a guitar player singing worship songs.  Sweet moments of baptism on a sublime fall Florida day. Good thing I left the guitar at home!

We ask God those sorts of 'why' questions often. It seems he leads us to stormy places and we question his direction.

Yet, He remained calm. In one instance He slept through it. He after all, was Lord of the storm.

The picture is fitting. These new believers were learning that following Jesus isn't always sunny skies. But there is resistance and challenge and trial. And serving him, making disciples, is also not surrounded by fair weather. Quite often its uncomfortable and cold and we are fighting elements to get the job done.

Up in the tiki hut where I gathered with others seeking shelter from the pelting rain, I handed out dry t-shirts and congratulated the newly baptized friends. We could hear the cheering on the shore whenever another one got dunked.

Then the life guard called an end as the current was just too churned up for safety. All but one was baptized.

Pastors went home after good-byes. And the sun came back out.

We wondered why the weather couldn't have held till after the baptism, why it stormed only while we were baptizing.

Perhaps it was to experience the thrill of His strength in nature. To see a water spout send droplets dancing circles over the surface of the sea. To see the sky-washed beaming faces of those proclaiming their soul's decision to follow Jesus. To see them glory in  having triumphed over the whipping wind and wet, following through with their commitment.

Perhaps that's why, God.

The tempest will help us remember. We will never forget this baptism day, to be sure.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Of Poets and Presidents

My father was not a fan of Jack's politics.

Dad, a Goldwater republican,  and JFK a democrat. Dad loved a battle of wits and the raising of voices in discussing politics. (What I'm saying is there was a good amount of yelling). He broke all the rules about appropriate topics at dinner parties, much to my mom's chagrin.

I'm about to follow suit. Forgive me in advance.

The 60's left wingers were benign compared to today's democrats. My father would be, not just turning, but agitating like a washer in full spin mode in his grave at the democratic politics of today!    
 "*@#! commies," he would call them!

Think of how different the two generations  are!  JFK said,

"ASK NOT what your country can do for you...


Ask not what your country can do for you?

 Our generation is known to deliberately have children to get DCF benefits, father far removed. All we do is ask is what our government can do for us! The government encourages it, I might add. Today's democrats, 50 years later are bent on the country doing nearly everything for the citizen.

Yes, palms open, we ask all the time and this is where we republicans can be real hypocrites, because as much as we say we want small government, we want the college Fafsa grants for our kids' education, yes we do, two faced as we are.

2013 democrats are a far cry from the party platform of Kennedy's day. His democrat looked a lot like today's conservative. And today's conservatives are leaning more and more to the left.

Ask what you can do for your country.

Right! That's what I ask all the time. First thing when I wake up in the morning, I say to myself.,
"What can I do for my country?" Hardly. I am constantly thinking of ways to keep the government's hands out of my self employed piano teacher's pocket (45% tax rate) by hoarding every tax deduction I can, you bet I do.

On the up side, and akin to the republican ideal, I do try to find ways to give something to someone everyday. Even if it's a small donation at the grocery store or my banana bread I baked to a neighbor.  I figure if I'm helping a person in need, that's one less single mom or poor person the government has to provide food stamps for. And that helps the country.

JFK, 50 years ago this week was assassinated. We remember his larger than life contributions.
He was an orator and statesman that inspired hope. Hope that the nation might enjoy peace and grace and beauty like that in the popular 60's musical, Camelot.

His wife helped foster the Camelot  personae. Embodying class and grace, she was a lady who sought to preserve the historicity of the white house, and brought a style and sensibility to its halls no First Lady has since then. I was reminded of this as I thumbed through the book The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, by Caroline Kennedy,  mentioned in the previous post.

Conversation between a great poet lover and a great poet.


A Poet spoke at his inauguration. Not just any lyricist,  but a renowned one, in his latter days.

Robert Frost. Have you read him? A great American poet, he is best known for The Road Not Taken, Mending Wall and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Kennedy invited Frost by telegraph and the poet answered by the same means the following day.


IF YOU CAN BEAR AT YOUR AGE THE HONOR OF BEING MADE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I OUGHT TO BE ABLE AT MY AGE TO BEAR THE HONOR OF TAKING SOME PART IN YOUR INAUGURATION. I MAY NOT BE EQUAL TO IT BUT I CAN ACCEPT IT FOR MY CAUSE—THE ARTS, POETRY, NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME TAKEN INTO THE AFFAIRS OF STATESMEN.
Kennedy's invitation came to Frost by telegraph and the poet answered by the same means the following day:
IF YOU CAN BEAR AT YOUR AGE THE HONOR OF BEING MADE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I OUGHT TO BE ABLE AT MY AGE TO BEAR THE HONOR OF TAKING SOME PART IN YOUR INAUGURATION. I MAY NOT BE EQUAL TO IT BUT I CAN ACCEPT IT FOR MY CAUSE—THE ARTS, POETRY, NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME TAKEN INTO THE AFFAIRS OF STATESMEN.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20540#sthash.dQVtcjKj.dpuf




I never realized that in 1961, when I was 4 years old, Robert Frost was 87. That such great literary things were transpiring before I learned to read and write myself.


Here's his poem for JFK's inauguration.     

The Gift Outright

By Robert Frost
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.


What president invites a poet to recite at his inauguration?

A president like Jack Kennedy, married to a First Lady like Jackie, with a passion for things penned.

May verse and rhyme ever compel us to set aside our politics.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Sad Fate of Hollywood Has-Beens & Dollar Store Hardbacks

Some people give it all to get from the gritty sidewalk to the glittering screen.  To make themselves a Hollywood actor or entertainer.

They spend every penny, sacrifice every moment, forgo loved ones and give the best years of their lives for this goal.

Then, after all the trouble to get there, at the twilight of their life they find themselves demoted to nightly shows in Vegas.

Really? That's what the end of a celebrity life looks like? It's as fleeting as the strobe lights that flood a Vegas boulevard. It's as meaningless as the neon flashes that seek to grab the attention of the tourist's wallet.

If that were me, I'd feel disappointed and cheated to have given so much just to end up on the desert hotel stage entertaining a gaggle of senior gamblers. Such a sad fate!


------------------------------------------------


An equally unfortunate fact of life is that good books end up in dollar stores.

That's right. I have found some great reads at the Family Dollar that break my heart to think they missed the NY Times best seller list. It's like finding a diamond in a pig sty. The location doesn't match the quality of the item.

The dollar store is where I stock up on my piano students' incentive gifts. I have a treasure box to reward their practicing. Other than that, there's not much to find. And it's really scary that some super dollar stores sell food!

But if you wander down the coloring book aisle and rifle through the shelves you're likely to find a very good hardback for 100 measly pennies.

Sometimes they make great gifts, too.


Here are a few gems that I've found recently:

The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
by Caroline Kennedy.


I adore Caroline Kennedy, one of the last of that famous family to live on, and a contemporary of us baby-boomers.

She wrote a book about the poems her mother loved. These stories of how Jacqueline Kennedy introduced great literature to her children are poignant and to be imitated by every good mom. And the poetry is rich.


I feel so sad for Caroline; that her book ended up in the dollar store. And truly, if a book about Jackie O, the wife of one of the most prominent Presidents, JFK, written by his daughter doesn't sell much, 

what hope do we bloggers have of ever attaining any commercial success?


http://www.amazon.com/Loved-Poems-Jacqueline-Kennedy-Onassis/dp/1401302483



                                                         


 Life of the Skies by Jonathan Rosen.

Anything birds grabs my attention. This is full of notes on Audubon and great birding stories and analogies.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Skies-Birding-Nature/dp/0312428197


Never heard of the writer before, but  he had so many intriguing points about bird watching. While I didn't agree with a couple of chapters, it is a wonderful book on birding. I bought extra copies and gave my brother and daughter one along with a pair of binoculars.

My brother loved the book.






Wander no more. Sit and read this book called

When Wanderers Cease to Roam - A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put by Vivian Swift

I was struck by the clever title and whimsical illustrations and have enjoyed getting to know Vivian Swift through her

lovely sketches,

watercolors

and wit of this memoir of traveling and nesting.

I think you will, too.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Wanderers-Cease-Roam-Travelers/dp/B002VPE81O




http://www.vivianswift.net/ 


So pick up one of these books on Amazon.


 I doubt you'll get them for a dollar, though.


And that's a little sad, too.






 

Monday, November 4, 2013

When you need to pop a Psalm!

The end of daylight savings signaling less sunshine and shortening the days sends some people into seasonal depression. Especially, those who live up north or work in windowless offices.

I fall into the latter category and found myself clamoring like a lunatic for natural light today. It was too blustery to work out by the pond and the warmth of the sun in the courtyard coupled with the time change cast a spell of mid-day drowsiness against which I was rendered powerless.  Lunch time turned into power nap time under my desk. (Oops! My secret is out!).

This was me before I crawled under my desk.


What do you do when lethargy descends? When a bad case of the blues hit? When loneliness lurks like a dull ache and when shadows fall long and foreboding?

Rather than running to the medicine cabinet or wheeling over to the wet-bar, try to pop a Psalm. There is one for nearly every emotional ailment. Most have heard of the first one, though I don't know who to credit it to.

In an emergency dial Psalm 91:1. 

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty." 

When you are burdened by something,  read Psalm 55:22


"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."

When you are afraid because of the actions of another, pray Psalm 56:3


"Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust. I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?"

Or Psalm 34:4

"I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears." 

When the future seems uncertain, meditate on this Psalm 23:6

"Sure goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

When there seems to be no good around, try Psalm 34:8

"Oh Taste and see that the the Lord is good; 

When you need to get happy, read further

"Happy (Blessed) is the man who trusts in Him."

There is no other shelter, no escape, no pick me up, no well of living (flowing) water other than Him. And David, the Psalm writer seemed to know that better than anyone else. So run straight to Him, the Light of the World to brighten your day, renew your strength and lift your spirit.




Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fall is Fallin'


I missed this by a week. My Virginia visit in mid-October was too early to see the firey fall colorfest lead by this tree.

I had tidied the brick steps and front sidewalk of my daughter's house, sweeping these same leaves from this same tree. But they were brittle, dry leaves of mousy brown; dirty, dusty, before-the-streetsweeper-came-brown, when I left.

Now they're forest fire orange. Almost electric. A sight my eyes never saw in California, temperature too mild to cause a leafy stir such as this. It was all evergreen palms and pines, mulberry and silver eucalyptus against an ever-blue sky. And now in Florida, the only orange is in the lobster blossoms of the palm shrub in my front yard.

Nothing as massive as this pulsating  blind-your-eyes shade of  ripe tomato to greet you on a brisk morning, cheeks pink with chilled air. Leaves drop and the ground is a  bed of red-hot coals.

Next year I'll visit Virginia in November and gorge myself on the visual  feast of the tangerine, golden blaze of a real Fall.





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