May 5, 2016 § 4 Comments
“When she* shall die, take her and cut her out in little stars, and she will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun.”
~ William Shakespeare, ‘Romeo and Juliet’
My dear friend, Linda Ruth Fisher, died on April 20th. Linda’s was a large life well lived. She was a robust woman with a head of enviable thick, wavy silver hair. I think most who knew her would say it was Linda’s blue eyes, twinkling brighter than sapphires that first caught peoples’ attention when meeting her.
REALITIES ~ BEAUTIFUL AND SAD
Linda’s cancer began two years ago. It was then we became closer friends. Linda wanted to make something happen for our sisters and brothers with disabilities. They are challenged daily by bias, ridicule, and hardened bureaucratic hearts and systems (most, but not all). Disabled people seek their basic civil rights: to be treated with dignity, equality, independence, and respect — no more, no less than those perceived to be ‘normal.’
Linda envisioned an artistic initiative to bring more attention to this civil rights issue in which she firmly believed I could guide the participants — all of whom were disabled to varying degrees. She fought hard, creating a ‘work around’ the State Council on the Arts grant for me to teach this program: A photojournalism class comprised of eight participants at the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley (ILCHV) — Command Central for those who are disabled in the vast Hudson Valley Region of New York State. The ILCHV and Linda did outstanding work on the grant and obtained approval! We celebrated, and then the participants and I began our work. The experience and stories of those who courageously wrote about living with disabilities are on this site: “But remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.“
That was two years ago. This April, within a span of a day or two, Linda went from home care, to the ER at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, and then into St. Peter’s Hospice Inn. I received a text from her sister, Beth, early morning on April 19 saying, it’s a matter of hours, or a day. Come soon.
Once through the hospital maze and in the hospice, it was quiet: no doctors, nor noisy machines, but only caring, attentive nurses. I briefly shook hands with Beth who graciously proffered that I take my time alone with Linda. I stood outside the door thinking of the last time I saw her. It was at my 72nd birthday lunch, almost a year ago. Linda entered the restaurant with Janet, her companion and caregiver throughout the two-year saga. She was already a little thinner, but still vibrant in both body and spirit. Linda wore a hat for the last chemo treatment had taken her beautiful hair. But oh my, Linda’s blue eyes sparkled and danced with her delight in life! I knew I would hold on to that memory, but the moment arrived for me to say goodbye.
I gently pushed the door open and found myself in a softly lit room with upholstered furniture for those who visited. One-third, or less, of Linda’s once-Rubenesque body lay on the bed surrounded by pillows for comfort. She was receiving oxygen. This was not life saving; without it she would suffocate in a painful death. Though sedated, Linda was not in discomfort. Her breathing was a bit rapid: I could not help but be mindful of each exhaled breath.
I sat in the chair closest to her bedside. I gazed at a shadow of a woman, once a great lioness, whose door-to-her-heart was always open to anyone who knocked. I discovered honor, not fear nor grief, in being with Linda during these last hours of her life. I took her left hand, stroked her forehead, and said:
Linda, it’s Lee Anne. I am here darling. I know you can’t speak, but you can hear. I love you. Your presence in my life will now take up residency in my heart through many fond memories. You were so generously supportive of me as a person, artist, and writer. How can I ever give back what you gave to me?
My dearest Linda, you say you are not a woman of faith, though your life’s work contradicts that statement. You strived and succeeded in supporting the oppressed politically and with your own funds; you fought for civil rights wherever, whenever needed. Your home was open to anyone who required help.
Well, my dear, I am all about faith: one we delightfully, and respectfully, debated during one of our dinners. But, in reverence for my Lord and love for you, I need to do something. I hope not to offend you, Janet, and your family. I am going to read the Twenty-Third Psalm. I know you know it. If you object, just push my hand away and I will stop. I’ve already seen you use it, perhaps reacting to a stimulus known only to you at this point. Okay, since you’ve squeezed my hand and not let go, I’m taking that as a ‘yes.’
I believe the work we did with the ILCHV marked a shift in my approach and purpose for my artwork. I know you are saying that it was me; I did it, etc. No. It was not I; it was the Lord guiding me. The truth is I was never able, or inclined, to give of myself that way; the complete surrender to another’s need. I confess this to you now. Yet, something happened in that teaching process: I learned how little I knew about the important matters in life as well as facing the stark reality that my own heart was hardened. I was humbled, right-sized by the bravery of the participants, their work, and the results. Thank you, dear Linda, for fighting for them — and for me.
My dear, there is much more, but it is time for me to say goodbye. I see the corners of your mouth barely turned up in a smile. So, I believe our walk through some shared memories have pleased you. Know how much you are loved.
I took one long last look at Linda, kissed her forehead, and left the room. I walked around the hospice for a short while, noting those in rooms whose occupants were restless and alone; others openly grieving in the lounge areas; still more people who were laughing, probably over a story that was told many times at Thanksgiving dinners about the person in the room preparing to leave this life. My heart urged me to pray for each of them, but not knowing their beliefs I could not.
These are some of Linda’s favorite images. She loved the flowers together with “Blue Ridge Mountain Spring,” and “Sky.” I present this pastiche of painterly photographs to celebrate Linda’s life with beauty and an expansive love that defies all boundaries on earth and in heaven.
I was compelled during the drive home to finally give voice to my unuttered prayer in the hospice: Father God, I pray that in all hospices and hospitals each person is anointed with your tender, merciful Grace: the sick and dying, doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies, chaplains, volunteers, families, friends, and mourners. May they be lifted up and accept Jesus in their hearts, if they haven’t already, allowing Him to wrap them in His Eternal Love, comforting arms, and most assuredly in His peace and rest. I pray in Your Son’s name. Amen.
Once home, I randomly opened my Bible. I was not seeking anything in particular, or so I presumed. However, I landed at Psalm 103:15-17, and the reading of it brought me to the first tears of the day.
Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows and we are gone — as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever.
*I have taken poetic license and replaced “he” with “she.” I hope The Bard of Avon forgives my puckishness in this instance.
April 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
Beginning the morning of April 4, and throughout the day, we received six inches of snow: the first of our ‘winter season’ that just passed. But it was not ordinary snow; it was sumptuous, fluffy storybook snow — the kind in which, for those who remember, one made snow angels. As I settled in at my desk for a writing session on my book, I gazed out my window and observed these delicate, soft flakes: each one different, and definitely part of God’s sense of humor. There were flocks of birds too flying in a frenzy sans any choreographic sense. And like Joseph’s Coat, they were of many colors: yellow and red; others black as night; and only one Blue Jay I named Rufus. I fell in love with this beauty, for the snow on his head and under his beak made him a rather whimsical creature-of-the-air.
I began what I thought would be serious writing for the morning. It never happened. I was too distracted by the birds continuing their flamboyant, if not flirtatious, dance among the white crystalline flakes, descending aimlessly, gracefully, and with great intensity. Grabbing my camera, I hoped to capture the loveliness that was unfolding.
Female cardinals are muted in color compared to the male’s blazing red. But this girl made a subtle statement in her own kind of beauty, sitting on snow-covered branches in-between flying escapades.
Another female appeared later and was surrounded by a haze of misty flakes, creating a sense that she was unreal. But she was.
The snow stopped late afternoon. I heard a raucous cry and wondered if it was the eagle nesting in a giant conifer, also just outside my window. With expectancy, I reached for the camera again, and saw not an eagle, but a great black crow. His wingspan was at least twenty-four inches. He sat with his back to me. I took this image for as the light faded there emerged a haunting contrast of his sleek, black wings and feathers against the monochromatic surroundings. He was at rest, perched so very still, yet maintained his authoritative countenance.
Though I did none of what I planned, it was a satisfying morning and afternoon in that I got to do my favorite things: take pictures and begin writing this April Covenant Journal. I’m aware of the adage that ‘we plan and God laughs.’ I believe He smiles with compassion given we are so resolute and eager to execute “our” plans when, in fact, He usually has something much better in mind.
I want to share about the many e-mails and letters asking questions — all good, respectful, and curious — since I penned a statement within these pages three months ago. I wrote I uncovered inner peace and joy I never felt in my seventy-two years of living from the moment I began my walk with Jesus Christ.
Based on these letters and queries, there are issues that require absolute truth be told:
- Being Christian is a commitment to living a world-view that is in the minority today.
- It isn’t ‘cool’ to be Christian, especially if you are a believer, born again, evangelist, apologist.
- We believe the Bible is Sacred and the literal Word of God.
- We do not bow at the altar of the humanist movement, reverencing sovereignty of intellect and self.
- Some ask how can an intelligent person believe in God, the Bible, the Triune Godhead on any level?
That said, if any, or all, of the above resonate with your thinking, I recommend you read, peruse, or research C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, J.R.R. Tolkein, Thomas Merton, A.W. Tozer‘s Pursuit of God, and R.C. Sproul‘s renowned scholarly work: writing, teachings, and the foundation of Ligonier Ministries. These are few among other intellectual Christians too numerous to name both past and present. These highly educated, inquiring minds doubted, questioned, and struggled with the truth of the Bible, even wrestled with the Lord, yet finally embraced Christianity. Why? If you’re curious then you’ll investigate the matter. If not, to quote C.S. Lewis, Don’t fuss. Just forget about it.
Truthful Answers to Assumptions: 1) I do not belong to the Tea Party, nor do any of the people with whom I worship, 2) I do not own a holster and gun, and 3) I do not hate or judge anyone for their sexual inclinations. While I do have conflicts about abortion, these relate to personal matters going back to my own birth, and the sanctity of life. It is an issue with which I struggle. I seek not to impose my inner conflicts on anyone, though I am inclined to embrace life over death.
Jesus taught, in His humble, gentle way the superficiality of self-righteousness; to not ever judge others; that acceptable sins such as hatred, arrogance, violence, slander, gossip, and pride are, indeed, serious transgressions against others — as well as our own souls.
I was disappointed that not one person seemed remotely concerned about God being erased out of the Founding Father’s fundamental documents that govern our great nation. I’ve excerpted the last third of Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural address as a reminder to myself how important God was to our Framers and former leaders who believed in The Moral Law. Most of our current and potential leaders (President, Congress et al. as well as those of other nations), appear rather clownish in the shadow of Mr. Lincoln.
The Almighty has His own purposes…
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Thought provoking for sure. Interesting too is that Lincoln alluded, or directly used, Biblical verses throughout his Inaugural speech: Genesis 3:19; Matthew 7:1; Matthew 18:7; Psalm 19:9; Psalm 147:3; and James 1:27.
A BIRD NAMED ISAIAH
This final image was taken last spring when a large, robust cardinal perched on a single limb outside my writing desk window. Due to his hour long monologue, I named him Isaiah. (The Book of Isaiah is the longest of the Old Testament prophets.) The timing seemed right to use this image: we need some green and Isaiah is surrounded by lush foliage. Also, a wonderful lagniappe appeared in this image through the shadows of trees: a cross. I did not see it when I photographed Isaiah, but it is there. Enjoy and God bless!
May our Lord richly bless and keep each of you in His strong, loving care ….
March 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
An eagle soars over wind-tossed tree tops. A slow, steady rain drips from my studio gutter onto an empty cedar bench. Birdsong prevails as they circle dry places. A lone silver fox stops on its trek to somewhere and stares at me. We lock gazes. He moves on. I stay. The cedar bench remains empty, yet my eyes are full for they have been walked upon.
This poem was written while in my studio after completing the final work on the first images for my new venture launched in 2010: Lee Anne’s Photo Journal Chronicles. My vision of merging two things I love doing, photography and writing, was realized through God’s grace in the form of these photo journals. In so doing, I was, and am, able to present to you continuing photo journal chronicles that strive to be inspirational and thought provoking with a modest attempt to help us all ‘renew our minds.’
As of this writing, I have changed the title of these pages to The Covenant Chronicles – Inspirational Images And Words To Consider. I made a silent covenant with the Lord six years ago when the silver fox gazed directly into my eyes. The covenant consisted of my personal commitment to the Lord: utilize His gifts to me to create the ‘painterly’ images that now fill these many pages; to write truth from my heart; and produce this work with humility (at which I have failed many times!) … and that it all be for His glory. This was our agreement; our covenant. God’s commitment to me was already made: He provided me with an eye to ‘reveal a truth’ in the photographed subjects through the lens of my camera, and the sheer rapture of penning words into sentences. What joy! Thank You!
As to the silver fox? I knew I would not lay eyes upon him again: His job was done.
The following image was taken with a film camera many years ago. I waited all morning for the rebirth of this chive in my garden. It heralded the time of renewal that spring brings: a genuine resurrection, emerging from dormant, seemingly lifeless, winter soil into the day’s dazzling light. The chive flower was tightly enclosed into its protective bud for many days. Finally, on this particular early morning, I saw the first hint of pink color at the very tip of its long, slender green stem. I knew if I waited it would open that day. In late afternoon, it was born again! With my old Nikon F-100 (oh how I miss the sound of its shutter release!), I began shooting the chive from several angles in rapid succession. Since this was a film camera, I had no preview of the image, yet I knew the Great Author guided my eye. I quietly said, Thank you Lord. I felt I had just caressed one of His glories-of-nature.
John 3: 5-8 (English Standard Version)
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
May our Lord richly bless and keep each of you in His strong, loving care ….
February 12, 2016 § 1 Comment
A small, plain-looking nun arrived on the streets of Calcutta in 1948 with a few rupees in her pockets. She wrote in her diary that she had no income, no place in which to live, and resorted to begging for food and supplies. During her first year in Calcutta, she experienced doubt, loneliness, and the temptation to return to the comfort of her prior convent life. Yet, she fervently followed what she believed was a true calling from God: To live in the slums of Calcutta, devastated by disease, filth, and misery to bring comfort, compassion, and boundless love to the sick and dying. A short excerpt from her diary tells us about an unshakeable spirit, an unwavering faith, and an endless compassion and love for all.
Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food, and health. But, of free choice, my God, and out of love for You, I desire to remain and do whatever be Your Holy Will in my regard.
Mother Teresa did not cry for herself, or complain, in those early months of her ministry. Within two years she founded The Missionaries of Charity, dragging the dying, sick, leprous people, and even small fetuses from the streets of Calcutta to her ‘safe harbor’ where they were loved into living, or loved on to death. Regardless of the outcome, most assuredly they were loved.
Mother Teresa said, the hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. Yes, love is the greatest gift.
I took this image with a film camera many years ago in a church ruin on top of a mountain in Switzerland. Among the rubble in this forsaken church, I found this remnant of a painted, chipped shattered statue. I resurrected this image, for I believe it reflects Mother Teresa’s heart for unlimited compassion and limitless love.
1 Corinthians 4-7, 13 (New Living Translation)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance.
Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.
With blessings for each of you, in Jesus’s name I pray~
PRINTS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
January 23, 2016 § 1 Comment
While January is the dawn of a New Year, my ‘new year’ began last May when I reached a crucial fork in the road: I chose a path upon which I never intended to walk. Yet, I did.
Since then, my life has changed remarkably: there is an inner peace I have never known; a greater love of, and commitment to, all God’s creation and His Word — concepts I flirted with, yet wavered back and forth on for sixty years. There are the humbling experiences of being renewed from the inside to the outer person people see, as the Lord sands and refines my heart and mind — processes that will continue to my last exhale. Oh yes, I have been ‘born again’: my heart is full of love and a joy for which there are no words.
Most assuredly there are trials: hills to climb; valleys I unwittingly fall into; and the so-very-human battle of whether I permit my emotions, ego, arrogance determine the state and peace of my soul…or look to Him for liberation from these attitudes, behaviors — enslavements all. I choose the latter. In so doing, my service to the Lord is to love Him first and foremost above all others: to love my neighbors—all peoples, as myself, and to continue deepening a compassion that thrives in my heart and spirit for all beings. This is who Jesus was And Is. Love, patience, and compassion are what He taught.
This image was taken on a warm January afternoon; even parts of the River and shoreline were opaque. There was beauty to behold, though, and a time to pause for anyone who stopped long enough to ponder and see the wonders of His Work.
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Proverbs 3: 13, 18-20
13 You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.
18 She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight — and be blessed!
19 With Lady Wisdom, God formed Earth; with Madame Insight, he raised Heaven.
20 They knew when to signal rivers and springs to the surface, and dew to descend from the night skies.
~Eugene H. Peterson, The Message
I send abundant prayers and blessings to each of you.
In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen!
November 21, 2015 § 1 Comment
Most people would agree that autumn is a resplendent time of year. Pumpkins and apples abound. Thoughts of freshly baked pies, turkey, stuffing, cranberry fixings, and something delectable from sweet potatoes made with brown sugar and butter tantalize our taste buds. There is anticipation, too, of the first scent of wood smoke in the air.
This year, nestled in our Catskill Mountains, our eyes were danced upon. An intense profusion of colors burst upon our landscape. Daytime temperatures remained in the sixties into early November! The sun shone every day with few exceptions. Even when it rained, the colors continued to dazzle. It was one of God’s finest displays of glory: a wide spectrum of hues on every tree and in every leaf from deep russet and burnt orange to bright gold, sunshine yellow, and crimson red.
The autumnal sky brought its own canvas of color: bright blues to various shades of lavenders melting into soft grays. We witnessed sunrises and sunsets that staggered us with in-the-moment changes from deep orange to pink, and then, fire red. Everything, all of nature, shouted praises. The landscape, even today, remains alive with rustling leaves falling from towering trees to a final rest where they will be absorbed into our bountiful earth.
This morning, shortly before I published this Journal, I tried to capture the austere grandeur of the day’s sunrise through the now leafless woodlands that reside outside my windows. It thrills me to watch these morning miracles for each is different, containing its own spirit with both subtle and dramatic hues, shadows, and drama. Each of our days calls for a resounding hallelujah! to the Great Author and His spectacular theater.
I walked with my cameras hanging from my shoulders, a backpack with my lenses, and more ‘tools’ stuffed into my pockets. I did not seek the obvious in photographing the vast landscapes, farmlands, and soft shouldered Catskill Mountains. Rather, I sought out scenes and subjects that are overlooked; quiet in their beauty; or merely too common to be worthy of anything more than a glance.
Would these images be worthy? I need to hear music, and feel the soul of the subject; see movement too, even if it appears steadfast. When I do not hear, or feel that tug within, I know I am being told it has no song; it is lifeless. So, I delete the image never to be seen again.
While some of my expectations went astray as they usually do, there was always something more waiting for me to notice. Always. I am old enough now to say this with certainty: those surprises, the unexpected delight may not come in my time, but it does come in God’s time…if I’m patient.
Hundreds of photographs were taken. Fourteen, as of this morning!, remain and are presented here.
On one morning walk when the colors surged forth to their peak, I found myself in the throes of a forceful wind. There stood a tree half dead, half alive. I wanted to preserve the still-living section even with the wind’s refusal to calm. I finally surrendered to the wind and saw the tree differently. Always a dancer at heart, I imagined the tree limbs as balletic dancers in a soft, elegant flow, arrayed in various hues of red, orange, and gold against the bluest of blue skies with just a suggestion of deep lavender strokes deliberately placed there by The Great Artist.
On another morning, quite early, I walked to our historical cemetery. I find beauty in its stillness; mystery in the fog slowly rising; life in the russet and yet-still-green grasses; wonderment in the aged gravestones dating from the late 1700s to late 1800s. The cemetery transports me. It does not speak of decay, but, rather, life once lived, and the miracle of Creation and eternity.
Further along on this particular walk, I passed a garden with several lagniappes…flowers blooming in late-October and in astonishing color!
A few weeks rolled by and our warm weather and autumnal color seemed unending. I rose early enough to take this sunrise “happening.” There was a storm on its way and the sky seemed conflicted on whether the clouds would dominate, or the sun would prevail for a while. This image reminds me of the Hudson River School of painting and the use of light, capturing the dichotomy of ruggedness and sublimity of our Hudson Valley.
The sun did not prevail that day, so I drove to an old silo on 9W North. Hundreds of people pass this silo every day. It is ignored for the silo is weather-beaten, unused, and old. I, though, see beauty and music and grandeur in her, and I finally captured this image after waiting for the right moment in time: a cloudy, drizzly day in autumn.
Across from the silo, there was a field I barely noticed in the past. When I turned to get back into my car, this image was presented to me. I adore the bare architecture of nature and this too sung to me; perhaps an adagio movement of a quiet musical composition.
The sun made its entrance through morning clouds the following day as I strolled along the River walkway only to discover a scene of perfect serenity: a single boat in the calm of the River; the golden willow that is the first to bloom and the last to lose her color; two red benches, punctuating the peacefulness of all the eye could behold.
I found the experiences of this past autumn rapturous. God danced over our eyes and glorified Creation with a grace-filled beauty so grand yet fragile that it brought tears to my eyes. I am humbled and grateful to have been “guided” to these images and to write about my journeys these past weeks.
There is always gratitude we can offer, no matter what is happening in our lives. Each day is a new gift: for that alone, I am thankful. Each day offers blessings and miracles, large and small, if we quiet our lives long enough to see and listen. And, for these I am grateful.
The Book of Abbey
Abbey is another reason I give thanks daily. She sleeps most of her days and comes to life at night. But, it is a moment like this where she is fascinated with the rain and appears to be in deep meditation that I say ‘thank you.’ The wonderful, blessed fact is that she is happy, healthy, and my good girl and companion.
I hope you enjoyed walking with me during my footsteps through autumn. I wish you and yours bountiful blessings for this Thanksgiving and every day that follows.
“You are the Author of beauty.” ~ Wisdom 13:3
October 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
The title of this Journal post is part of a verse found in the Book of Isaiah 61:3. The full verse is: To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes/a joyous blessing instead of mourning/festive praise instead of despair.
When I began writing about ‘ashes’ and the ‘crown,’ there appeared a brilliant crimson cardinal singing an endless song, sitting alone on the closest branch of the closest tree outside the window where my writing desk resides. I was compelled to name him Isaiah.
The Ashes In The Message
In Isaiah’s time, ashes represented an old covenant of laws; enslavement to brutal and inhumane behaviors; cruelty upon cruelty; despair and bondage — all of which the Israelites mourned. When Pope Francis recently visited the United States to address a joint session of Congress, he raised issues of some overwhelming and disturbing ashes-of-today: homelessness and poverty, violence and abuse, conflicts throughout the world, brutal atrocities.
The Pope’s message focused on the marginalized among us, especially children. In today’s world, we have powerful corporate and global economies as well as generously-funded foundations and ministries who can, and do help, yet 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children worldwide); 640 million live without adequate shelter; 400 million have no access to safe water; 270 million have no access to health services.
There is Syria with millions of beleaguered, displaced people, half of whom are children.
When we half listen to, or read about, these issues and don’t take the time to look into our hearts, we remove ourselves from actuality; it is easier to ignore. By doing so, though, we shield our hearts from truth.
These are ashes that need not, should not, exist.
The rousing, standing ovation from both sides of the aisle when Pope Francis invoked the Golden Rule, Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you, was inspiring, hopeful, yet disquieting too. I wondered if it was a one-off moment for the two houses of Congress, or, if some hearts in our government as well as those millions who watched and listened had turned to tender, merciful flesh rather than remain crusted in stone.
I am not a politician, activist, or devoted to a specific religion. I am a woman of faith who tries her best to follow the teachings of Jesus. I witnessed firsthand, though, a humble, gentle man truly walk in His footsteps as his face and eyes lit up like a celestial display of Roman candles when he mingled and said prayers with the homeless at St. Patrick’s in Washington, D.C.
The Pope was gentle in his speech, but when I re-read the transcripts I imagined him evangelizing the words of J. Philip Newell and saw him as a young Jesuit raising his voice in a stirring hosanna that would carry over any great assembly: Thanks be to You for the men and women whose passion for the poor is undying/whose prayer for the oppressed is tender/whose defense for the wronged is fierce. Grant me the strength to cry for justice, to be patient for peace, to be angry for love.
The Beauty In the Crown
Whether you agree with what I’ve said, or not, we can acknowledge that there are ashes and our beloved country and the world are broken. But what is this ‘crown of beauty’? Isaiah, one of the great prophets in the Hebrew Bible, prophesied the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and the New Covenant: leaving the old laws behind; obtaining salvation and the forgiveness of sins; the wiping away of tears; living a new life in joy, peace, and love.
For me, the beauty of the crown embodies loving-kindness, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, wisdom, peace…and, most of all, love. Inspiration and faith are in the crown of beauty. Caring and doing, in whatever ways we can, especially small daily acts of comfort and kindness, are in the crown of beauty. Treating one another as we wish to be treated no matter our faith, sex, race, weakness, disability, neediness, is most assuredly in the beauty of the crown.
Using Ourselves Up
I write and take pictures for a living. I have often wondered if it is enough. But, these gifts are what were given to me. They are as much a part of me as breathing. This is what I know how to do best that honors the God I love and it would grieve my soul not to use up every gift given. I hope and pray that in some small way my writing and images contribute to the crown of beauty if only one soul is soothed and one mind is quieted; that joyous blessing and festive praise are present — not to forget the ashes in our splintered world, but to reveal the abundance of beauty, hope, and grace that are available to each of us so that we may be renewed to tend to what is needed most: the love of one another, and for me, a devoted love for the God who loves us all.
What Happened After “My” Isaiah
I wake before dawn most mornings. After I consume a bracing mug of hot tea and milk, I write ideas for my book and this Journal, and then read. Isaiah departed and I continued pounding away on my computer keys. Once in a while I am taken by surprise and that is when I believe Spirit most guides my eye, hand, and camera. I heard munching of brush outside my apartment window, which is surrounded by woodlands. There was a buck with two spotted fawns. No doe was present. This was taken at first light — a gift of grace.
I often photograph from my window-to-the-world. But this particular morning, I took off on a brisk walk. My very first sight was an extravaganza of sunflowers in bloom. They were absolute aberrations in size; reminiscent of mythical giantesses! I realized, too, that their grand, happy presence was the last of summer, heralding the onset of autumn. What a happening this was!
These September hydrangeas were not shades of deep purple or pristine white. They appeared to have been dipped in a sepia tint, washing their tips to a muted rose-brown. I could not resist them, for they were not only lush, but also otherworldly.
The balance of my day took on its tempo of doing things, talking to people, cooking, and more reading and writing. Later, as dusk began turning day into night, The Buck returned. It was the very same one from early morning, for the twin fawns were in the brush. He walked out from the woodland, stood solidly and resolutely still, and looked straight at me through the window. And, yes, I thanked the Lord once again for this image.
The Book of Abbey
Abbey has asked me to pen some words for her. She is preoccupied with jumping from window to window as our autumnal weather arrives, for there is much scurrying about of furry and feathered creatures outside of her reach.
She would tell you that I’ve been absorbed in writing, reading, and the taking and making of images. I believe Abbey would have preferred I not take this picture, and allowed her the privacy, or reverie, she was in. But I could not resist. Abbey is almost incessantly sleeping next to the cross as well as on the open bible. A friend said, She knows this is important to you and is absorbing The Word for you. We’ll see.
The other spot Abbey has chosen to occupy is my desktop, computer keyboard…wires, papers, and all. I took this picture after I already moved her twice, and she knew she was busted! I decided to keep this image for it captured stillness and motion at one time!
A dear friend is away for three weeks and I have the privilege of caring for her cat, Guinness. I fall in love with most animals, but Sir Guinness, is noble, handsome, loving, and my Abbey would say, A real hunk. I love this gentle boy. His markings are those created by The Great Artist.
Abbey sends her love to all of her fans …
May I leave you with a blessing? It doesn’t matter to me how you believe, or what faith you follow, if any. I am soothed by the words of this Psalm and share it with a heart full of love.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving-kindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. ~ Psalm 90:14
In an earlier version of this writing, I spoke against Planned Parenthood, believing I had all the facts. A few months ago, when the ‘smoke and mirrors’ began with the videos, I did extensive research, listening to, and reading, all sides of the debate. However, at the time of publishing this weekend, I did not update that research. Had I done so, I would have expunged those paragraphs in this Journal post. I apologize to all my readers for this error.