Monday, July 14

Declines, Inclines, and Happiness

What does this report from the Barna Group mean? 
Global Poverty is on the Decline
But Almost No One Believes It
Do more people care now? Less people care? Are there more resources to go around? Less resources?

Has the little bit that our household shares made a small dent? One or two lives are a small dent in millions, but to those one or two who are fed, clothed, etc. it means the world.

Today we got a hand-written letter from a 12 year old boy we've just started sponsoring in Kenya. His words will haunt me tonight:  "I ask you to pray for my country because some terrorists have come to our country so that they can take away our lives. And our country likes peace but not fighting. I would like you to pray for me so that I can succeed with my daily duties i.e. school, health and unity in family." How many kids in our neighborhoods have prayer requests like that?

When my husband Larry recently told me he'd signed up to sponsor another child through our charity of choice (Compassion International) he said, "It just seemed like the right thing thing to do." 

Good Samaritan by REMEMBRANDT
I don't share this to boast, but to encourage all who are reading this post (and go on to read this report from Barna) to greatly thank God for the resources they have had to share with others. Blessed to be a blessing, eh? Looking at friends posts in social media through the summer has been encouraging to my heart! How many people I know who are serving others in many different ways.

Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." 
from Matthew 25

I've always associated that Matthew passage with a friend from Muncie, Samara Newnam. I remember her reading this so passionately one time as she shared about one of her many adventures at home and abroad; an energetic lady who has been a blessing to so many as she's served and led teams of servants. I haven't seen her for years, but her example still inspires me.

It is a sad thing to know a 12 year old boy that I now know goes to sleep with thoughts of terrorists lurking in his neighbor clouding his young mind. But his letter included these words of hope:  "I am Happy and I hope that you will communicate with me. I think that you are also happy."

I am happy. Happy for many reasons, one of which is that as I write this, my family's needs are met, abundantly so, and that others have taught me the corollary to the Golden Rule. I have experienced it on my own, it really is true:  "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (see Acts 20:35)   [Here is an interesting commentary on this saying from Jesus, Did Jesus say that?]

Providing for the physical needs of a child in a country far from mine won't stop the politcal intrigues or terrorist assaults in that country. But it will give a small bit of light and hope to one child. May the Lord bless all our offerings of small loaves and fishes. Who knows what He will do with it?

So, I need to get down to the business of fulfilling one small dream and write a letter to a young boy across the pond...


Exile - Alan Hovahness, movements 1 & 2
discussion of this work here

Love Bade Me Welcome - Ralph Vaughn Williams

More Blessed to Give - Point of Grace 

Here's an article from this week regarding the terror attacks in Kenya.


Monday, July 7

Stretch Out Your Hand

Do you like stories of intrigue, with endings that mix triumph and sorrow? 
Those who find the music of Arvo Pärt deeply meaningful will want to watch this video which tells that kind of story.
The video story was inspired by a sermon from the Gospel of Mark given by Boyce Wilson at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, in Rock Hill South Carolina, in March of this year. As the apostle Paul said, one plants the seed, someone else waters, but God gives the growth (I Cor. 3:6).
We are all links in a chain aren't we? Pärt wrote the score, Möhler Pipe Organ Builders built the instrument, many people at this church sacrificed to pay for the instrument, the pastor inspired my choice of this work and the pairing of it with the scene from Mark's gospel. What remains for you to have a part in this chain?
I love it when men and women, great and small, collaborate in the grand march of bringing the message of love, hope, and grace to people all over the world. It's a marvelous thing!
In this work, titled "Trivium," Pärt's sparse compositional style in Movement I suggests intrigue, treachery. The leaping, resonant chords in Movement II captures the commanding authority of Jesus in the face of opposition and unbelief. I hear his confident "Stretch out! Stretch out your hand!" in the notes. Do you hear the resounding invitation too?
I hope you will take five minutes to listen to this video and reflect on and celebrate the many high and holy ideals it represents.
Trivium I and I

Monday, May 12

A Place Called Home

Only four letters but they contain the world,
A place where one is their truest and most real.
The locus of life in its widest berth,
Where body, soul, and spirit
Shine in their brightest, most radiant hues.

Home is a simple place,
Where the sights, sounds, and smells
Pile upon one another over the years
Forging memories that remain strong
And motivate us in the outside world-
Whether for good or ill depends upon
What occurs in the ticking minutes and days
Of life in this captured space of intimate living.

Home is a family place,
Where husbands, wives,
Fathers, mothers,
Children-daughters, sons-
Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins,
Come to roost together;
Kaleidoscoping gatherings
Throughout years of singleness, 
Babying years that grow young adults,
Middle years of alternating work and rest,
Aging golden years of
Family that swells and shrinks,
But always remains part of what makes 
Home our own Home.

Home is a friendly place,
Where friends and neighbors
Walk through welcoming doors,
Where the table is spread and spread again
With fare humble or a feast
But always blessed when broken and shared.

Home is a laughing place where
The walls echo with the sounds of joy.

Home is a weeping place where
Tears are shed and dried without shame.

Home is a singing place where
Music fills the hidden hollows with beauty.

Home is a working placed where
Sweat ends the day in tasks well done.

Home is a resting place where
Bodies are renewed in restful ways.

Home is a place where it is safe to try
And figure things out;
Like “why am I here?” or
“Where do babies come from?
Or just to be content with not knowing 
But still being alive.

Home is a place where the juices of life 
Are the ripest and sweetest;
Where the sound of clattering dishes in the sink,
Or the feel of clean sheets,
Or the view out the window,
Or the voice calling from the back yard,
Or the good-morning-it’s a great-day smell of 
Breakfast on the griddle,
Or the peaceful breathing of children asleep,
Or the letter that arrives 
Lying expectantly on the table,
Or a thousand and one other things 
Masquerade as common,
But in reality are golden pieces of a rich life.

Home is sometimes a place where sandpaper days
Shape awkward or hard edges
That need refining, reshaping with the intent of
Being real and loving without malice
Or harbored resentments,
A creeping transformation where
Daily living urges us to better things
And sweet implementation of our 
Noblest dreams and intentions.

Home is a word that, 
Whether often said out loud,
Or only quietly permeating 
The background of our lives,
Is more important to our well-being and living
Than any other accomplishment;
Whether of power, wealth, discovery, or craft.

Home is a place that goes with you,
Landing, nesting, surviving wherever the
River of Life bends your journey toward
Your eternal home where one final day
You will discover that the
Joy of being a child at home-
Loved, cared for, untroubled-
Was a beautiful prelude to
God’s never-ending surprises
In a Home where unending
Life and Peace abound.

One day Jesus told his friends that
He was going on to this new home
To prepare a place for them and us;
A place where life with the Father welcomed
And untroubled all hearts 
Whose footsteps entered through its doors.
Puzzled Thomas wondered how to 
Find his way to this home.
With tender eyes and gentle cadence Jesus
Revealed where to find 
The key to that golden home,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father 
Except through me.”

Love and Home-
Two small words
With a world of meaning,
Good Lord, lead us to
Love and Home
Today and always. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Bluebirds in Our Back Yard (with the piano solo "This Is My Father's World")

Scenes around our home this week ...

Thursday, May 1

Tea Time

Monday I chatted with my friend

While we wrote poems

And sliced life into

Bits of cake with tea in old china cups;

Sparking memories that

Sweetened our friendship

With warm looks from

Gentle eyes

Steeped in loving thoughts

That grew fragrant

With the delicious ritual

Of conversation.

Nancy Gerst, © 2014
Tea set from my friend Lois H.
Christmas gift mug made by granddaughter Daisy, age 4

Mug from my friend Kristine H.


J.S. Bach's "Coffee Cantata"
    The story behind the cantata 
     The Cantata
     The Lyrics