“The Groves were God’s First Temples”

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Dear Reader:

This might not be a grove of trees, by anyone’s imagination, still in my imagination…I do see a grove of four trees (one day) forming a perimeter to shade and embrace a special sanctuary for years to come. A place where magic, imagination, and spirituality live as one.

This first line from the famous poem “A Forest Hymn” – title of today’s blog- (William Cullen Bryant) brings back so many memories of church camp. As homesick as I was at summer camps…I found peace each evening at Vespers as we sat around a campfire in the middle of a forest full of trees… reading scripture, telling Bible stories. and singing beautiful old hymns.

I remember feeling closer to God, for the first time, in those old childhood camp setting memories! The stars seemed to me to be angels winking down at us and letting me know I was not alone. I had never felt that in a man-made edifice of worship.

John Muir, the famous naturalist and spiritualist, re-told an incident he saw involving mother nature and the trees that convinced him that trees have feelings too….and like all of us, they simply want to live another day in God’s beautiful playground…not cut down to build a man-made conception of worship.

Clouds at noon occupying about half the sky gave half an hour of heavy rain to wash one of the cleanest landscapes in the world. How well it is washed!… How fresh the woods are and calm after the last films of clouds have been wiped from the sky!

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship.

But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves.

No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself. ~John Muir, 1869 July 24th

Since my yard is surrounded by tough, old pine trees that survived Hurricane Hugo….I found these two reflections on pine trees familiar and endearing.

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You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck at still of night. ~Denise Levertov

(* I have experienced both)

Who leaves the pine-tree, leaves his friend,
Unnerves his strength, invites his end.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Woodnotes”

These three quotes about our green friends spoke to me…and made me smile.

1) The trees are God’s great alphabet:
     With them He writes in shining green
     Across the world His thoughts serene.
~Leonora Speyer

2) There is always music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~Minnie Aumonier

3) The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what “the story of the trees” would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand.

~Author unknown, quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions by Maud van Buren, 1938

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And now perhaps our tree huggers’ anthem that we have come to adore.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
’Til it’s gone…

~Joni Mitchell, from “Big Yellow Taxi,” lyrics written circa 1967–68, © Siquomb Publishing Company

( Take a minute and quietly listen to the lyrics again of this song that loves God’s Playground and warns of man’s destruction of it)

Counting Crows – Big Yellow Taxi ft. Vanessa Carlton …

I might not be a “tree hugger,” as defined in our society, but I have certainly been known to pat a tree on its bark and wish it a good day!

That is why I will have the grandchildren name their trees as they get older…because I want them to understand that a tree is a friend who will always be there for you…to listen and lift your spirits…if you let them.

Mary Fennermore, Chris Frazier’s friend, and our blog friend too, who lives in Delaware….commented on how trees have played a big part in her life and then shared a wonderful poem associated with her father’s memory.

In reading your blog every morning it never ceases to amaze me of the similarities in our lives.  The most recent is our mutual love of TREES.  As I child, here on the farm, I spent a lot of time outside, climbing trees, swinging on my swing in the huge black walnut tree next to our house and walking through the woods, filled with all sorts of trees.  To this day I love to look up into ANY type of tree and see the pattern the leaves make against the sky (like I did when I was swinging!) 

My grandfather planted an English walnut tree that is, some 80 years later, a focal point of our Country Store.  Everyone comments on it!  So to me, trees speak of the past, the present and the future and I am blessed by their timeless beauty and strength.  Everywhere I go trees “say” different things to me.  For instance….Palm Trees say….”You’re on Vacation…YAY!!”  And apple and peach trees say…”Aren’t we miraculous?  Our flowers turn into fruit!”

Let me leave you with a poem that I found in some of my Dad’s “stuff” many years ago that I had made into a calligraphy picture to hang in our farm office some years ago.

Old men who Plant Young Apple Trees – The Whole World Leans on Such as These!!!

 The day that he was seventy-two,

Grandfather had a task to do:

A special job that could not wait,

Lest some tomorrow be too late,

Slow were his movements, but content

His heart, as to the task he bent

Of setting out young apples trees ~

Six slender stalks.  Upon old knees

He knelt to place young roots with care ~

Whose fruiting he would never share.

Someday a child he’d never know

Would wander down the shaded row,

Some star-eyed girl, some lusty boy,

To share his apples – and his joy.

(S. Omar Baker)

So until tomorrow….Help us Father be a good a steward to your gift of life as our friends, the trees, are. We can learn a lot from them.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* Pam Stewart had put this picture/message on FaceBook and I asked her if I could use it for the blog…love the message.

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A “Blackberry Winter”

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Dear Reader:

I knew there was a reason why I had left three colorful quilts on the rocking chair and three logs in my basket stockpile by the fireplace.

A “blackberry winter” came to visit bringing with it unusually cool, damp weather….burr! Thursday evening I built a fire for the first time since February…probably the last one for the season and it felt so good!

I grabbed the top quilt from the rocking chair and curled up in it on the sofa…lowered the lights and I had a “blackberry winter” snuggle! Delightful!

Blackberry winter is a colloquial expression used in the south…especially, in the Piedmont and Mountain regions, that refers to a cold snap which often occurs in late spring (following Easter) when the blackberries are in bloom.

The Blackberry winter expression  describes the belief that a spring cold snap helps the blackberry canes grow faster.

Grandmother Wilson always warned us grandchildren not to pack up our sweaters and jackets until the “Blackberry winter” passed at the end of April or early May.

In other areas of the country…you hear colloquial expressions about “dogwood winters” or “redbud winters“….depending on what is blooming (that coincides with a late spring cold snap) each year.

The funniest one…which dates back pretty far…(but which Grandmother Wilson remembered as a child growing up) was a “Linsey-Woolsey Britches winter,” referring to a type of winter long underwear which could be put away after the last cold snap.

Today weathermen just call these cold or hot snaps “fronts”….I think the old expressions are much more colorful. Whatever we call them…Thursday was definitely chilly. The house never warmed up and my toes and fingers stayed cold all day.

However…all the flowers in the garden seemed quite happy with the unexpected cold snap….the pansies, especially,  have beamed more brightly than usual…they were beginning to look a little straggly…now they had a new lease on life.

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My roses (in the giant pot Vickie gave me last year) are popping out all over…like pink popcorn! And all the climbing, flowering vines have taken off in “hot” pursuit of fences and posts, on which to ascend.

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The moon flower and morning glories (vines) are attaching to the strings Anne and I so diligently labored over on the porch.

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And here comes the honeysuckle and a beautiful flower…(reminds me of the wild Cherokee Rose)….both are so pretty.

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My Daphne is blooming for the first time.

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Even though this past week has been pretty cloudy, rainy, and gloomy-looking for most of it….there is a silver lining…I haven’t had to water so I am saving money on my public works bill and the electric bill (which has been ghastly the last few months!)

Besides…I love blackberries….in pies, tarts, yogurt, any way it is served…so if a little cool weather is needed to assure a good blackberry crop…then bring it on!

It won’t be long until we will look back on these cool, cloudy days as a blessing and yearn for their return. God gives us what we need when we need it….so let’s get out there and enjoy life in any type of weather just like all these beautiful plants and vines!

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My Passion Flower vine is stretching for the fence, as hard as it can…(even with the old wooden clothespin attached so it won’t fall back down the stick!)

 

 

So until tomorrow (Mary Jean Irion)

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.

One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* When I received this picture from Walsh…I had to laugh…Rutledge is not only the ladies man but he likes older “women” too!…The girls’ parents (Katie Kelien and Sarah Bailey) went to pre-school, elementary, middle, and high together with Walsh…he was always (according to Dee Dee his beloved grandmother) Wallace Dickey Dingle….graduation night from kindergarten one little fella wouldn’t get his “diploma” unless the teachers called him that name too! Ah…memories…and here we go again!

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“Hello Darkness…My Old Friend”

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Dear Reader:

The title quote for today’s blog is one that many of you probably recognize…especially if you were/are a Simon and Garfunkel fan, like myself.

It is the opening lines in the popular song –  The Sound of Silence...made even more popular by the (quite memorable) movie The Graduate. (Here is a three minute video clip from the movie…featuring The Sound of Silence.)

The Graduate – The Sound Of Silence (Soundtrack) – YouTube

The first line (of the lyrics) says:

“Hello darkness, my old friend…I’ve come to talk to you again.”

How many times have we talked to the darkness…our old friend? Except….for most of us….darkness, in the form of insomnia, becomes more of an enemy than a friend.

Like almost everyone I know…these nights appear, with no warning, to play games with our minds. And even if we are too tired to play…we find ourselves throwing the dice in the game called What If?” The problem with this game is ….no one wins…except insomnia.

As I would rock Jakie these past couple of days in his darkened nursery I would find myself so-o-o sleepy… I couldn’t keep my own eyes open. It was that wonderful carefree drowsiness from childhood that has eluded me since adulthood. No worries or concerns…just peace…and trust…in the gift of sleep.

I would put the sleeping Jakie in his crib and close the door…that is when it happened. Instead of going to the sofa or bedroom and falling asleep in this wonderful drowsiness of a childhood-like trance….I would pop awake…shake my head….and think about everything I could get done while the baby slept.

Babies and little children can fall asleep anywhere….even during an Easter Egg Hunt.

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But not me…if I start to feel drowsy during the day…instead of giving into this natural cycle of life…I fight it…so I will sleep during the night. Stupid reasoning actually…since when I have given in…I actually find myself sleeping better that night too.

I don’t know how any of our Presidents have managed to get any sleep in the White House. I think I would stay awake for four years…scared of all the “What if’s” that could happen  any minute anywhere around the world…and they usually do sooner or later.

But, even for Presidents..most of what man worries about never comes to fruition…

Jefferson: “How much pain has cost us the evils which have never happened.”

Coolidge: If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.”

It is true. We worry about things that exist only in our minds as possibilities…not certain realities.

We really have to laugh at ourselves for our predicament of insomnia most of the time…as seen in the following quote:

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night…you might as well get some sleep.”

-Charles Schulz-

Our monsters from childhood (that hid under the bed or in the closet once upon a time) continue to come out at night for adults and they, too, have all grown up…bigger and “badder.” Sometimes…it is confronting our very souls that scare us the most.

“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.

Scott Fitzgerald

By morning…all the monsters are gone…leaving us feeling as embarrassed as our child counterparts for all the “fuss.”

“I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race-never quite sane in the night.”

-Mark Twain-

In modern society…one of the worst monsters is “over-thinking”…..best described in this quote by the actor Anthony Hopkins.

“We are dying from overthinking! We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything! THINK THINK THINK…..tick tock tick tock. Don’t we realize the human mind is not the final answer?”

When I have the occasional sleepless night…I have learned to get up and do something…just don’t lie there. In fact some of my best blogs have been written in the wee hours of the morning. My mind seems sharper and my feelings deeper than the “surface” exposure during the day.

“Nighttime is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours…because everyone else is asleep.”

-Catherine O’Hara-

I used to catch up on emails on sleepless nights… but I would get too many replies asking me what I was doing up at 3 in the morning….too much trouble to do double correspondence.

…………………………………………

So until tomorrow….When we can’t sleep…Remind us Father to trust you to help us with our problems. Pry the reins off our hands, help us down off the horse, and tuck us into bed with a promise and a kiss to protect us and love us forever.

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

* Update on the garden: I could hardly wait to see my garden yesterday morning….here are the latest smiling faces…”Welcome my Pretties”!

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The title picture is a photo I took of this little book that I got at Simple to Sublime. I use it to jot down ideas wherever I go….there are two things I must have at all times and that is a camera (iphone) and notepad. This book contains a quote (the ones used today are all in this book and more) and then a page beside the quote for reflection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is wrong with us…when we get to be “adults?” I have come to the conclusion that I act like an idiot. Here I am retired and have all the time to nap like a child…but instead I manage to add more items to my “to do” list…thus knocking out the time for a pleasurable catnap.

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Trees and Humans…Seeking the Light

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Dear Reader:

On  a stroll Wednesday (between pop-up rain showers) Jakie discovered trees!

I still pause in wonder and gratitude (now in reflection) for the observation of these magical, spiritual moments.

Jakie had gotten up from his morning nap around 10:30… by then an early morning shower had already gone through…but the turn-around was just as fast –  the sun was shining brightly…so off we went. We cut down a street in Mandy and John’s neighborhood that drops you off at a pier overlooking the water. It is my favorite street to stroll on.

The sun was high enough to send shadows racing along the streets from the over-hanging limbs from a variety of trees along the picturesque street.

I was so caught up in my own joy of being outside with my little Jakie and studying all the gardens and flowers in the various yards that I didn’t realize, at first, what was happening with him.

IMG_4401He was sitting in the stroller in his car seat facing me…so I could observe his expressions. Perhaps it was the shadows floating over his face that first caught his attention from the trees….we had passed several homes when I realized something special was happening …a little smile would creep on his face… then it would disappear…only to return again.

It took a few minutes of observation to discover it was the trees that were fascinating him. When I slowed up by the next tree I stopped.. I said “tree” several times and pointed to the high branches… “pretty, pretty tree.” He grew strangely quiet (from all his earlier baby gibberish) and it felt like he was in some type of communion or spiritual zone that left me out.

I began taking a picture by each “stop” and the awe and wonder in his eyes never stopped. It didn’t matter what type tree he was looking at….the marvel never ceased.

At one old oak tree with low limbs…I jumped and pulled two leaves off….putting one in each hand…when we returned home he was still holding and looking down at them.

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The gift of witnessing my grandson see the beauty of a tree for the first time in his almost seven months of life …felt strangely like being re-born again and getting a chance to experience all of God’s gifts to us fresh…as the first dew drops on the morning roses.

*( I detour by speaking of roses…but my across the street neighbor, Vickie, asked if she could plant a rose bush by my fence corner…(since her yard doesn’t get enough light and she would be able to see it from her own front yard)….I screamed “YES”! Here it is with raindrops still on it.)

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Robert Frost once wrote of trees:

Tree at my window, window tree
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be a curtain drawn
Between you and me. — Robert Frost

Mankind likes to analogize trees being like humans (limbs for branches, blood for sap, hair for leaves, trunk like a body….etc.) But perhaps it is the other way around. Henry Thoreau said this about the “heart” of trees. Quote:

The trees indeed have hearts.” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “with a certain affection the sun seems to send its farewell ray far and level over the copses of them, and they silently receive it with gratitude, like a group of settlers with their children.

Like humans all trees are different…even in their own species. Why? Because all trees have a continual fight going on throughout their existence on earth…they must fight for their share of the light.

Sometimes this means twisting or contorting into strange and different shapes…but the light is calling and they must do whatever needs to be done to follow.

So until tomorrow…(from the Trees of Endor)

Trees purify the air;
they also purify the mind…
If you want to save your world,
you must save the trees.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* I, so enjoyed my stay with the grandchildren…(and, especially getting to keep Jakie to get closer to him)…Every grandchild has a different personality…which makes it so much fun! Jakie is the quiet, musing child with a sweet smile on his face almost always.

Here are some photos from my three days with Mandy and the kids…. Mollie and Lach came to visit and have lunch Tuesday.

Jakie loves his little cousin….even the size difference…which seems substantial now… will one day subside as their age difference narrows…they will both be in the same grade…hopefully together.

Photos from an earlier stroll the night before with Eva Cate riding her bicycle…I got some gorgeous pictures of the sun setting on the way back home…with the purple wild lilies in the marsh behind Mandy’s home.

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Jakie tried to be the gracious host and plant a “kissing cousin” smooch on Lach…but he was having none of it!

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Eva Cate is a big helper with little brother Jakie….even feeding him!

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* I saw this wooden carved statue in one yard when Jakie and I were strolling and just loved it….I couldn’t figure out what the little ‘boy’ was holding…a turtle…don’t you love it?

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* And now to finish off a most wonderful Monday…before leaving for Mt. Pleasant….I left Vickie patting the last shovel of dirt on the roses and ran by Anne’s before I hit the interstate. She said she had a riddle for me.

She gave me three clues which I recognized as a painting…another squeal session ensued….what a day…roses and now another flower….an original from Anne for my living room (with her furniture on the B&B side) It is almost finished.

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Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL? A Camellia!!!!  What a day! What friends! What friendship!

Thank you, Anne, from the bottom of my heart! I will treasure it forever!

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Gone Fishing!…For All the Right Answers

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Dear Reader:

The food served at the wedding Sunday evening was in such abundance…it took one’s breath away. There were “stations’ throughout the premises, inside and out, where “snacks” were served of southern cuisine…like boiled peanuts, deviled eggs, southern relishes and jams for all types of breads.

Then upstairs there were more stations for the main courses. One was shrimp and grits…along with different fillets of fish. Next to it were loaves of cornbread and different homemade rolls and biscuits. The combination of smells was intoxicating!

Loaves and fishes. It reminded me of a devotional message that Anne had just sent me over the weekend. I had read it before getting ready for the wedding.

It is a thoughtful message and contributes to the theme we have been addressing lately…. the power of the story and its place in our lives today.

Loaves and (Gold)fishes
Elizabeth Griswold

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. – John 6: 9-11

A few years ago, I was walking across the quad of a large university and noticed a group of inner-city elementary school kids on a field trip. Just as I came upon them, they paused to take a break, and the teacher began to pass out carrots. Being in a playful mood, I smilingly reached out my hand too.  One of the little boys turned to me with a very concerned look on his face and asked, “Are you hungry?  Do you want some goldfish?” And he reached into his pocket.

I think sometimes the greatest gift we can give another is to receive graciously their heartfelt offer of hospitality. So I accepted his crumpled bag of crackers with sincere gratitude (since I really was kind of hungry too!).

But I felt that his gift was greater than that. I felt as if I had just witnessed firsthand a modern-day miracle. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes right before my eyes!

Maybe the Bible’s stories are alive all around us, and it’s our job to find ways to tell the old, old stories in beautiful new ways. You’ve heard of rose-colored glasses. Well, what if churches’ stained glass windows were lenses that colored the way we see the world through what’s depicted there?   

Then our theology just might help us view those biblical figures as regular people revered not because they are different, but because they are like us and still somehow managed to serve God in ways that changed history and society.

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So until tomorrow…(I will use the prayer the author wrote)

Dear God, help us to recognize you in the ways you appear all around us—and especially in those seemingly meager yet astonishingly abundant offerings that just may feed both our bellies and our souls. Amen.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

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Libby spotted my latest garden surprises Sunday morning…look how pretty my lilies are…and how they bloom!

* Libby also observed that the back of the garden could use some “pop” of color and suggested that I replaced the solar lights (that don’t light very well) with the orange Clemson bottles on the deck)- she was right…looks better on both ends. Sometimes we just need another pair of eyes, don’t we?

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* Honey and Mike had the land around their waterfall landscaped ….but with the very cold winter some of the plants and bushes didn’t make…but two did!

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Tell Me the Stories of Jesus

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Dear Reader:

Jerry Falek, master storyteller, told us in Sunday’s blog, that:

 …The wisdom of elders is available to us whenever we want it. It’s in the old stories.”

He was referring, in this instance, to folk tales and fairy tales…but isn’t this statement true of Bible stories?

For no reason (out of the blue) I started singing one of children’s’ favorite hymns….Tell Me the Stories of Jesus the other day on the way home from the Aldergate Methodist Church presentation.

When I got home I googled the origin of the hymn and discovered a wonderful blog site (The Meltdown Continues) by Keith Hunt… who had done research on this same hymn….adding some personal anecdotes….very compelling and heart-warming. Here is the story behind the story of the hymn…

Tell Me

the Stories of Jesus

William Henry Parker, 1845-1929

 Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear.Scenes by the wayside, Tales of the sea, Stories of Jesus, Tell them to me.

It all began in  the summer of 1885…with a warmhearted Baptist businessman in Nottingham, England.

His mind settled on the young students in his Sunday school class. Wanting attention. Needing direction. Always tugging at him with one request: “Tell us another story.”

Before the day was over, William Parker had written the lyrics of this song made memorable by the soothing melody it later inspired, when a publisher ran a contest to find a fitting tune.

Parker probably knew the then-popular “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” written twenty years earlier by Britisher Kate Hankey. Her “Tell Me” is drawn from a long poem titled “The Story Wanted,” in which the narrator begs a gospel story: “Tell me the story slowly … often … softly … always … simply, / As to a little child.”

Tell me—tell the children-—-the story. Many Christians have grasped hold of the challenge today. Others are rediscovering their heritage. I recently read of a mainline pastor who reshuffled leadership priorities—when he discovered his Sunday school children could not name one Bible story that had any relevance to life here and now. Suddenly retelling stories to children seemed more important than tending to endless administrative tasks.

“Tell me the story” It’s a request of every generation of children. Every year at her birthday dinner, my young friend Glenna asks her mother the same question: “Tell me the story about the day I was born.”

I vividly remember an incident one summer evening in 1985. ( a hundred years after William Parker wrote “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.“)

I was visiting my parents for a weekend, and another guest graced the house: my youngest niece, a toddler still in diapers, just beginning to string words into sentences. With granddaughter Elizabeth snuggled at his side, my father “read” through Peter Spiers Noah’s Ark picture book. Telling the story. Naming the animals. Walking the rainbow. Closing the book.

And then came Elizabeth’s supplication, as basic as it can be: “Read again.”

Repeat the stories. Our children need to hear them.

Long ago and far away does matter. Here and now.

First let me hear how the children – Stood round his knee;

And I shall fancy his blessing – Resting on me.

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So until tomorrow…(Hunt’s beautiful prayer)

Lord, give me a new appreciation of the old, old story that you chose to leave with us. Your story. Our story. The Good-News story. Give me opportunity to tell the story in a fresh way to someoneof any age-who is eager to hear it.

(From the book: “Spiritual moments with the Great Hymns” by Evelyn Bence)

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

* An interesting side-note: The painting in the title photo came from the children’s Bible Story Book by Egermeiers….my publication dates back to 1955…although the first publication was in the 1920’s….

My younger brother David and I received this children’s Bible Story Book from my cousin, Elaine. Her mother wrote the inscription because my cousin was severely brain damaged as an infant…when she was given too much penicillin for a high fever… about the time it had just come on the market for doctors everywhere.

Today she lives in a special home and we correspond. She writes like a first grader and her letters are beautiful to me. So many memories came flooding back as I looked for a picture for the blog and found this wonderful treasure instead.

 

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* I headed over to Mandy’s to help her with Eva Cate and Jakie, after Libby left Monday… while John is at an out-of-town meeting until Wednesday. I am sure I will return with lots of fun stories.

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“A Problem Well Put…is Half the Solution”

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Dear Reader:

John Dewey was right when he observed that if a problem is well-stated (which correlates to much thought-out problem solving) then the solution is already half-solved.

I learned this lesson with an everyday problem I encountered while buying a jacket and shell for a wedding and cocktail reception for Jackson’s niece.

I went to Dillards and I was steered right to the perfect sales clerk…kindest person I have ever known. I told her that I needed a cocktail outfit for a wedding reception and I didn’t want to  have any more pants taken up….so off to the Petite Short section we went.

She found me some flowing black pants that actually fit…length and all and then showed me the (title photo) jacket…pretty white jacket with a shell underneath.

The jacket fit fine…but the shell came down low enough to show the scars across my chest. When she sales clerk knocked on the door to see how everything was fitting….I showed her the problem.

She didn’t flinch at the unexpected sight of my war zone...but immediately flipped me around and said that the back of the shell was higher than the front so we had a solution…she asked me to turn the shell around, cut off all the tags, and wear the back side on the front… which now fit like a “boat” style (straight across) top.

While I was shifting the top around…the clerk told me that a lot of companies were now making shells just for this situation (reversible with no tags)….they can be worn either way. She showed me how to remove the tags gently so as not to tear the blouse and viola….problem solved.

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Many times…the problems we encounter in life are just that simple…all that is needed is a different perspective…and a little help from our friends.

Yesterday we discussed the importance of storytelling in our lives as a way of addressing problems. This reminded me of one of my favorite stories I used to love performing for children and adults alike. It is a fable based on an old folk story that has been revised numerous times.

I took it and revised it once more…another adaptation of a popular folk tale. One of the origins of the tales goes back to the title : A Kingdom for a Drop of Honey and Other Burmese Folktales (Maung Hun Aung)

This particular version was re-told by Margaret Read MacDonald. (Peace Tales: World Folktales) I, then , made an adaptation of the story from this.

“A Honey of a Problem”

Revision/Adaptation by Becky Dingle

Once upon a time a king sat with his top adviser, eating honey on a piece of puffed rice. It was his favorite treat! As both of them nibbled away…they leaned out the top palace window to see the beautiful, peaceful kingdom below.

The king wasn’t paying much attention to his eating and a drop of honey fell off the puffed rice onto the windowsill. The adviser immediately spotted the drop of honey and offered to wipe it up.

“Oh, don’t bother,” said the king. “That’s not our problem…the servants will clean it up later.”

As the two men continued to dine on their honey and puffed rice…the sun grew warmer and slowly began to melt the honey…until the one drop fell off the window sill down into the streets below… with a big plop!

A fly spotted the honey and immediately began to make a feast of it for himself. Suddenly, a lizard that lived under the palace spotted the fly and honey (two for the price of one) stuck out his long tongue and swallowed the fly.

Unbeknown to the lizard, who was smacking his lips, a cat had witnessed the whole scene, and she pounced on the lizard. But before she could even swallow her unexpected delight…a dog sprang forward and attacked her!

The adviser to the king noticed some commotion in the streets below and made the king aware of the fact that a dog and cat fight was ensuing below them… and then asked if they should call someone to stop it.

“Never mind,” said the king. “It’s not our problem...nothing big.” They continued munching on their snack of honey and puffed rice.

Meanwhile the cat’s owner and the dog’s owner were both accusing the other’s pet of starting the commotion. Words got heated and soon the two men, the pet owners, were fighting each other.

“King, said the adviser, there now appears to be two men fighting each other in the streets.” “Would you like me to call the guards out to put an end to it?”

The king, who was getting quite drowsy from his full stomach and the sun shining on him….said: “Never mind…it is nothing…besides…it’s not our problem.”

Meanwhile…the friends of the cat’s owner and the friends of the dog’s owner now began to take sides and started cheering each friend on to fight harder. Soon both groups exchanged heated words and a brawl broke out between the two factions.

“Oh king!” said the adviser more loudly. “It appears that there is a street brawl going on between a large gathering of men in the square below. Don’t you think we should call out the guards to put a stop to this?”

The king, who was half asleep by now, shook his head, and went to lie down on a couch. “It’s nothing,” he said. “Besides…it’s not our problem.”

The palace’s soldiers, however, did seem to think it was a problem and they marched onto the scene. Soon after… some of the military sided with the cat’s owner, and others with the dog’s. A civil war erupted between the two groups.

Homes were burned, people were hurt or killed, stores were ramsacked, and finally the palace, itself, was burned to the ground. (The king and his adviser barely escaped with their lives.)

The next morning, amidst the lingering smoke, destruction, and carnage, the king and his adviser surveyed the damage.

“Perhaps,” said the king. “I was wrong. It appears that the little drop of honey was our problem

– A tale from Burma and Thailand

………………………..

*When I told this story and got to the refrain where the king always answered with “That’s not our problem” I had the children shout it out with me. Then I added an additional ending to the story for more emphasis on the message from it…with a little “Dingle-Jingle.”

“Solve your problems while they’re small.

If left alone, they will grow tall

And in the end…be our own downfall”!

( I had the children squat down for the small problems, then stretch tall for the second line and then fall on the ground for the conclusion.)

Jerry Falek, the master storyteller… we mentioned yesterday, is right. We can learn from the folk tales of old, even if we don’t have elders in our families to teach us about life and life’s problems.

“A good story is often far more valuable than an answer.”

So until tomorrow…May we be open to different avenues for learning how to best make our way through life…with God as our director.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* The wedding! The Ya’s were reunited yesterday afternoon at the the William Aiken House in downtown Charleston for the wedding of Jackson’s niece, Mim to our favorite Scotsman, Chris. Beautiful wedding… sumptous food, warm reunions, and pure happiness. We love you Mim and Chris!

IMG_4146The Ya’s and our favorite Matthew! What a cutie!

IMG_4144 (2)  The Ya’s…..

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The freedom of  love and happiness for a newly wedded couple and an imprisonment for wine-drinkers..(couldn’t step out on the sidewalks with a wine glass….had to stay “contained” within the William Aiken House premises)….don’t I live a tough life?

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