Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To My Absent Son

To My Absent Son
Emma S. Paige (1909)

When Dawn unlocks the portals
of the doorway of my eyes,
When Consiousness ascends her throne
My spirit to you flies.
I steal into your chamber,
And softly kiss your brow,
I am beside you there, my darling,
Though I cannot tell you how.

And when the hour of noonday
is over all the land,
When homeward wend the toilers,
A weary, hungry band,
I am with you then, my darling,
I stand beside your chair,
And lay my hand in blessing
On your brow, to me, so fair.

And when the twilight deepens
At the setting of the sun,
And alone at your desk you linger
When the long day's work is done,
I am then beside you, darling,
Your loving arms I feel,
Your kiss upon my forehead,
As beside your chair I kneel.

And in the silent watches
Of the dark and sleepless night,
When slumber's pall is o'er you,
And gone is mortal sight,
Beside your bed, my darling,
My spirit lingers oft,
As in the nights of childhood
I came with footsteps soft.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Life's Hightway

Life's Highway
Edgar A. Guest (1916)

Tis good to walk life's highway wide,
Past cabin low and steeple,
And meet along the countryside
The smiling, friendly people.
For wheresoe'er a man may fare,
Though rough or smooth the mile is,
Or bright the day or dark and gray,
He'll come to where a smile is.

There's sorrow for the hearts of all
Before the journey closes;
But Junetime lines fill many a wall
With pink and scarlet roses,
And overhead the blue skies spread
A canopy of splendor
'Neath which we fare, despite our care,
To welcomes warm and tender.

And be the highway short or long
Which stretches out before us,
Man's ear will catch the heartening song
Of thrush or robin chorus.
By stream and brook on scenes he'll look,
Illuming Nature's pages
To glad his eye as he goes by,
Repeated through the ages.

The poorest man a friend may find,
The righest man no truer:
For kings, whom soldiers march behind,
God's sky is made no bluer.
'Spite care and strife, the joys of life,
The beauties richly blended,
And sun and star and blossoms are
For all mankind intended.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Who will pray for us now?"

On a hot day in July of 1785, a little baby was born in Morris County, New Jersey. There was nothing remarkable about this event - babies are born every day. But this little baby would die 65 years later, leaving behind a remarkable legacy.

You see, that little baby was Phebe Ann Jacobs, a little baby born into slavery. While still a child she was given to Mrs. Wheelock, the wife of the president of Dartmouth College. Mrs. Wheelock wanted Phebe to be an attendant for her daughter Maria. So Maria and Phebe grew up together. Maria eventually married a Mr. Allen who would become the president of Bowdowin College in Brunswick, Maine. Phebe accompanied her mistress to Brunswick in 1820 and remained with them until the death of Maria - after which Phebe chose to live alone. The reason she preferred to live alone was so "there would be no hindrances to prayer and praise at any time, where she could converse with her Savior all day long".

She supported herself by taking in washing and ironing for the students of Bowdoin College. No one ever heard her complain or fault find but always seemed contented and happy. She was never absent from attending the services of the church, but was always seen sitting in the farthest pew, with her head bowed in secret prayer. Many times a day she would go to her bedroom to kneel and pray. It was not an uncommon occurrence for her to arise at midnight and pray. In 1834 a 6 a.m. prayer meeting was scheduled. When the minister arrived to open the doors, he found Phebe had been there on the door steps for more than an hour praying. Her life came to represent a prayer, a hymn of praise. Who can tell how many lives were touched with her prayers?

Phebe's humility drew people to her as she continued her life, doing her own work in her own humble, quiet way. Every morning she would arise and start a fire to begin her day. She had given instructions to her nearest neighbor that if no smoke was ever seen coming from her chimney that she would be dead.
One night Phebe went to look in on the wife of her minister who was about to die. As Phebe was standing near someone asked, "Phebe, don't you wish you were going home soon?" "Yes, indeed I do" was her answer. The wife of the minister died that night and the next morning no smoke was seen from Phebe's chimney. Her body was found in bed, her eyes calmly closed, her Bible and glasses by the bedside.

The following Sunday, Phebe's remains were brought to the church building. A large assembly was there gathered from all the churches in the area. The minister gave the eulogy even though he had just lost his own wife. He said "if his own wife had been permitted to choose a companion to accompany her through the dark valley of death, she would have chosen Phebe."
At the funeral of Phebe Ann Jacobs, there was no relative, no kin. The woman who was born into slavery and lived in humble obscurity was borne from the church by the senior officers of Bowdoin College and a former governor of Maine. Her coffin was followed by the president of the college and his daughters who had traveled 200 miles to testify their respect and affection for Phebe.

Afterwards it was heard "Who will pray for us now? Now that Phebe is gone? We have lost Phebe's prayers" What a legacy this one woman left!! Can the same be said of us?


(from the poem "Silence" by S. Miller Hageman, 1876)

"Somewhere on this moving planet,
in the mist of years to be,
In the silence, in the shadow,
waits a loving heart for thee;
Somewhere in the beckoning heavens,
Where they know as they are known,
Are the empty arms above thee
That shall clasp thee for their own."

"Somewhere in the far-off silence,
I shall feel a vanished hand,
Somewhere I shall know a voice
That now I cannot understand;
Somewhere! Where art thou,
Oh spectre of illimitable Space?
Silent scene without a shadow,
Silent sphere without a place."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Fool's Prayer

The Fool's Prayer
Edward Sill (1841-1887)

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin; but, Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

"Tis ill-timed truth we might have kept-
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say-
Who knows how grandly it had rung?

"Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders - oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tears in a Bottle

In the small village of Menands, New York, there is a little rural cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery there stands a monument to Sara Weed. The monument depicts Sara cradling a bottle to her face. In the early 1900's, a newspaper ran a story about poor Sara, saying that the bottle was a bottle of booze and that the monument showed that she was a slave to alcohol. The article went on to say that the monument's inscription which read "Sara and her babe" referred to the bottle as her "babe" and that the monument was put up by her husband, William, as a warning to everyone to stay away from the demon rum that killed poor Sara.
But actually the truth about this monument is much more poignant and will serve to illustrate a tender lesson. You see, the inscription refers to Sara, wife of William Weed, who along with her unborn child, died in childbirth at the age of 27. The bottle she is holding is a tear bottle, which she is crying into and collecting her tears.
It is difficult to say exactly when the first tear bottles came into being. They were fairly common in Roman times, around the time of Christ, when mourners filled small glass bottles with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of respect. Tear bottles reappeared during the Victorian period of the 19th century, when those mourning the loss of loved ones would collect their tears in bottles with special stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate. When all the tears had evaporated, the mourning period would end. In some American Civil War stories, women were said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands returned from battle. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were adored and missed.
Did you know that the Bible speaks about how God collects our tears in His bottle? (Psalm 56:8) What a comforting thought that we have a loving, caring, wonderful God who hears us when we cry and collects each of our tears as something very precious to Him. This God of the universe - who looks over millions and millions of his creatures - yet He hears each and everyone of our tears.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Haven of Rest

I have struggled with this idea for so long -so people have wanted me to start a blog (thank you Frank) - but I never felt I had anything of interest to say. There are so many blogs out there now, what could I possibly add that would be worthwhile?
But after much thinking and soul searching, I thought that perhaps it could act as an outlet for my deepest loves and in some small way could touch someone’s heart. You see, it is hard for me to reveal one part of me without also revealing the other parts because they are all intertwined and cannot be separated. The overpowering love that reaches into the very depths and darkness of my soul - it just astounds me and amazes me that He even thinks of me at all. But this love permeates my life and emerges in the paint as I apply it on the canvas.
So one of my loves is art. Another is poetry and frequently poetry serves as a catalyst for my art. The Bible is another love and has inspired many of my paintings. I also love real life stories of people who overcome great burdens and hardships and these also serve to inspire me. My family is another one of my loves. But through all, and over all and above all, I love my God who inexplicably loves such a lowly, insignificant wretch as I. All these loves have become my Haven of Rest.
So this blog will hopefully try to tie all these loves together and will give hope or comfort in some small way to someone, somewhere.