Poem For A Glorious Day

AMOR VITAE

by Archibald Lampman

I love the warm bare earth and all
That works and dreams thereon:
I love the seasons yet to fall:
I love the ages gone,

The valleys with the sheeted grain,
The river’s smiling might,
The merry wind, the rustling rain,
The vastness of the night.

I love the morning’s flame, the steep
Where down the vapor clings:
I love the clouds that float and sleep,
And every bird that sings.

I love the purple shower that pours
On far-off fields at even:
I love the pine-wood dusk whose floors
Are like the courts of heaven.

I love the heaven’s azure span,
The grass beneath my feet:
I love the face of every man
Whose thought is swift and sweet.

I let the wrangling world go by,
And like an idle breath
Its echoes and its phantoms fly:
I care no jot for death.

Time like a Titan bright and strong
Spreads one enchanted gleam:
Each hour is but a fluted song,
And life a lofty dream.

“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” Isaiah 45:18

Written in the Book of Life

André was one of those “colorful characters” you meet from time to time. A French-Canadian by birth, born illegitimate, an orphan abandoned by his adoptive parents at age five, he’d been brought up in an orphanage run by a religious order that shall here remain nameless.

In his youth the nuns had taught him to cook and he grew up to be an excellent cook. He continued with the religious order as an adult and traveled around as a monk, seeing the world and fine-tuning his cooking skills. Then one day he quit the order, packed his bags and headed out on his own.

Rough and tough on the outside, on the inside still hurting badly from being abandoned by his parents and then abused at the orphanage, André was looking after himself now. He earned his living by cooking in fine restaurants in the East and in various remote construction camps in the West. For a time he worked as Head cook for the Alberta Tar Sands project, feeding thousands of men every day. But André had a problem that finally sank him in a deep, black hole.

Somewhere in an eastern Head Office, some bookkeeper sat up and took notice of the receipts coming in from one of the camps. Checking back, he became intrigued by the amount of vanilla being consumed in their remote Northern Alberta operation. He got on the phone to the head honcho there. Why was the Cook ordering in vanilla by the case? The handwriting was on the wall.

André found himself out of work, out of money, and drunk in Vancouver one morning. Skid row loomed ahead. Wandering along the sidewalk with nowhere to go, he happened to see a Bible verse printed on a billboard outside a mission-type church.

He knocked on the door and told the man who answered, “I need help.”

The man scoffed. “You’re drunk!”

“Yes, I’m drunk, but I need help.”

They talked. André started going to the services. He came face to face with the real need in his life and the gospel of Good News. He turned his life over to God and God picked him up out of that deep dark hole.

Up until now the only thing he’d ever done was cook, and there was good money to be made in the mining and exploration camps in the North. Thus he signed up as a cook again, but he didn’t want to slide back into the life he’d lived before. So he took a Bible with him and throughout the long evenings, alone in his bunk, he copied out the entire Bible by hand several times.

He showed us the notebooks he’d filled. No hastily scribbled words for him. He’d learned penmanship in the orphanage school and had excellent handwriting, that flowing, flowery style so popular sixty years ago. His handwriting put most of ours to shame.

André developed diabetes, then heart trouble, and had to retire from cooking. But he did some work with Teen Challenge after receiving his disability pension. If I remember rightly, he came back to Québec to start a group home there. We met him one Sunday morning when we were on a visit to Montréal; a few years later, while we were living there, André became our brother in the faith.

He’d been through a lot and could still be fiery or defensive at times, but the Good News he’d embraced in Vancouver had worked in his life and softened his character a lot.

Word Press daily prompt: handwriting

Life’s Canvas

by Edgar Guest

Sunshine and shadow and laughter and tears,
these are forever the paints of the years
splashed on the canvas of life day by day;
we are the artists, the colors are they.
We are the painters, the pigments we use
never we’re wholly permitted to choose.
Grief with its gray tint and joy with its red
come from life’s tubes to be blended and spread.

Here at the easel, the brushes at hand,
each for a time is permitted to stand.
Whit was the canvas when first we began,
ready to picture the life of a man.
Now we are splashing the pigments about,
knowing the reds and the blues must give out,
soon we must turn to the dull hues and gray,
painting the sorrows that darken the way.

Now with the sunshine and now with the shade
slowly but surely the picture is made.
Even the gray tints with beauty may glow
recalling the joy of the lost long ago.
Let me not daub it with doubt and despair,
deeds that are hasty, unkind and unfair,
but when the last bit of pigment is dried
let me look back at my canvas with pride.

Let me, when trouble is mine to portray,
dip, with good courage, my brush in the gray;
after the tears and the grief let there be
something of faith for my children to see.
Lord, let me paint not in anger or hate,
grant me the patience to work and to wait.
Make me an artist, though humble my style,
and let my life’s canvas show something worth while.

From his book The Light of Faith
© 1926 The Reilly & Lee Company

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Today’s WordPress prompt asks if we believe in reincarnation.

I have to ask, What’s the point?

If I understand the philosophy behind this belief, we can work our way into Heaven. We learn and thus become better people through our various lifetimes. Then why, I ask, have I been so dumb in mine? Why have I made so many mistakes? After all these lifetimes I should be wonderful, right?

And so should everyone else. After all these centuries — and especially after all the insightful books that have been written — this world should be full of compassionate, gentle people who love everyone. No more greed, jealousy, hate or violence. No more abuse of power; no starving masses.

Anyone can venture theories about the meaning of life. However, to cite the old cliche, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” If people learned anything or became better through the process of reincarnation, why are we all still making the same mistakes Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel made? This may be a great theory, a wonderful philosophy for improvement, but it doesn’t hold water IMO.

The Bible teaches, and I believe it, that we get one canvas on which to paint our story.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb 9:27

Did God Sink the Titanic?

Today’s Word Press Prompt asks us to go to our site stats and see which are our most popular posts. Then see what the connection is.

Well, I did…and I didn’t. On this site the most popular posts vary from a poem about friendship to information about CLL — chronic lymphocytic leukemia. On my Christine Composes site the most popular post by far has been: Did God Sink the Titanic? I’ll just post the link here and you can read it if you like.

Lessons Everywhere

Today’s daily prompt: What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

Learning style? Most of us learn every which way. We learn by observation; by example, good or bad; we learn when we’re alone; we learn in a group; we learn from reading; we learn from nature. Learning happens to us whether we are actively seeking knowledge at the moment or not. You’re going along watching life unfold and all of a sudden here’s a lesson right before your eyes.

I learned a lesson one morning out in the garden watching my cat play with a mouse, and even wrote a post about it here: Kamikaze Mouse.

The most important thing about learning is, do we retain the lesson and apply it usefully? My mother-in-law talked about one of her sisters who would touch the old wood stove. And get burned. Then she’d touch it again—and get burned. Before long she’d touch it again—and get burned.

Just to see if it was still hot? Who knows what was going on in her little mind. Normally pain is an effective lesson, but Mom thought her sister was just that stubborn, she insisted on winning the battle with the old stove. Her first lesson wasn’t retained or applied to save her from further pain.

Which in itself is a lesson in human nature. Aren’t we all like that at times. I know I should leave it alone, but… Or as one wise soul once said, “A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and expecting different results.”

For some reason this prompt brought to my mind the words of the Apostle James:
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” James 1:23

This man faced reality, then turned away and promptly forgot. You could say he caught the lesson in a flash, but chose to not hold onto it. Opportunities to learn are there for us every day, but it’s our choice if we file them in our brain and our lives benefit from them.

But the question asks, what’s my preferred learning style. I don’t know if I have one; I’ll take it anyway it comes. There are times I set out to learn a new thing, and various methods work at various times. Like the time I decided to learn to draw. The method I initially chose fizzled, so I went with Plan B. (Read about it here.)

What I am realizing is that I’m older and lessons don’t stick like they used to. One morning I was with a friend working at a Food bank in Montreal. Another woman working there was Romanian, so I asked her how to say hello in Romanian. She told me, and even repeated it several times, but ten minutes later I’d forgotten. The sound was completely unfamiliar to my English mind and I couldn’t retain it.

So I asked her again. And forgot again in a few minutes. Thanks be, she was a patient teacher! I asked her about twenty times that morning until finally I was able to connect her word in my mind with two other similar-sounding familiar words. It’s this word plus this word put together with a French twist. Then I remembered!

I find listening to someone else tell their own story is a great way to learn. For example, I learned about the Great Depression, or “the Dirty Thirties,” by reading a book, partly memoir, by James H Gray called The Winter Years. Intrigued by his experience, I felt a strong nudge to write a children’s book about this era. (Someday!) Our children can barely comprehend what it took the great-grands to survive those years and give us the world we’re in now. They don’t either comprehend just how fragile the good times really are.

To this end I’ve studied up on the “Roaring Twenties,” Prohibition, and the factors that precipitated the stock market crash in October 1929. And I’ve learned a lot. So in this case my lessons have come from books.

Actually, over my whole lifetime I’d have to say that reading has been my preferred learning medium.

“From Many A Blunder And Foolish Notion”

The Law of Nature I’d Change

As to today’s Word Press prompt: I think Bobby Burns expressed my wish extremely well centuries ago in his poem, “To A Louse”:

“Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel’s as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us, And foolish notion.”

If there’s one law of nature I’d change — human nature, that is — I’d endow us all with the ability to mentally pop out of ourselves long enough to receive these little flashes of truth now and then. I’d give us all those one-minute cameos where we can see ourselves from the eyes and ears of an impartial observer.

This ability wouldn’t be to only see our actions — or worse yet, to see what other people think of us. I have a dear friend who suffers from this type of paranoia; she’s convinced she can “read” what other people are thinking of her. Sad to say, this has not been any benefit to her life at all; rather, the whole world revolves around her. Always in a negative way. (“Everybody hates me! I can tell by the way they look at me. I know they’re plotting something.”)

As far as I can tell, wanting to know what others think of us leads to disaster and total self-absorption. We “grow up” when we finally get out of that mindset, stop being the center of our world, and start caring about others.

No, I was thinking of some brilliant flash of insight that would hit us now and again (preferably BEFORE we do something we’ll regret) where we could look beyond our actions and reactions, right down into our own hearts. Where we could for one instant understand our attitudes, the motives that prompt us to say and do — and the effect our attitude has on others.

I believe it would indeed save us “from many a blunder. And foolish notion.”

Having made this wish for one and all, I believe these “flashes” are actually possible, based on our desire to know the TRUTH. Alas! We mortals tend to get so carried away with our own plotting and our own self-justification! When we love the truth — instead of being so fond of our common sense, our explanations and excuses — we have much clearer vision as we go through l;ife.

Having said that, I do believe there’s a way to achieve these little glimpses. This method is called AN HONEST FRIEND.

I had an experience once, involving a kind but honest friend, that produced exactly this “flash” I’m writing about.

This goes back to the fall of 1981, to one Sunday evening after our church service when I was moaning to a dear Christian friend about my back pain. I’d had chemotherapy for breast cancer in the spring, sank into a chemically-induced depression in the summer, and now in late fall I’d injured my back. I was definitely frustrated!

Martha listened, smiled, then said, “And maybe there’s a little self-pity in there too?”

Her words weren’t sarcastic or critical. She wasn’t making an accusation. She simply left it as a suggestion, something for me to think about. But oh, how it stung!

On the way home that evening I was rehashing her remark in my mind — and the unfairness of it — I was fuming for awhile. Look what all I’d been through! Then the question came to me: “What if it’s true? What if you really are drowning in a well of self-pity? Wouldn’t you want to know it?”

So I silently prayed, “Lord, Is this true? If I really am feeling sorry for myself here, let me see it.”

And just like that I did see what she was seeing. It wasn’t nice. I didn’t like it. But I had to admit she’d told me the truth.

The next morning my friend phoned up and told me how sorry she was she’d let that comment slip out. I told her, “Martha, DON’T apologize! That was exactly what I needed to hear.”

One day Jesus told his listeners, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

The truth really does open the door of our prison — the one we’ve built and locked ourselves into. However, that first gleam of light may be awfully painful.

Thank God for true friends who are willing to stick their necks out and give us those flashes of insight that “free us from many a blunder. And foolish notion!”