Last week, I told a friend I would add joy to my next Advent post because it has been noticeably absent from my journey towards Christmas. Well, I searched for joy ~ I really did ~ but the closest I could get to it, for this fourth Sunday in Advent, was:
‘ Let there be light, let there be understanding,
let all the nations gather, let them be face to face.
Open our lips, open our minds to ponder,
open the door of concord opening into grace.’
The quote comes from a hymn for peace, written and composed in 1968 by two Canadians, Frances Wheeler Davis and Robert Fleming https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-let-there-be-light It is one of my favourite hymns to sing at any time of the year but it seems particularly appropriate for this Christmas season.
May you all be blessed with some measure of peace, hope, and joy, now and always.
And, in closing……
I would like to dedicate this post to Baquer Namazi and his family. Baquer Namazi was my husband’s colleague for many years. He was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran. As he is 80 years old, and in poor health, this sentence is tantamount to life imprisonment. Bacquer’s former employer, UNICEF, has issued several statements about his plight, all of which I endorse.
Here is one of them.
UNICEF Statement on detention of Baquer Namazi
NEW YORK, 6 September 2016 – “It has now been over six months since Baquer Namazi, a respected former employee of UNICEF, was detained in Iran. His colleagues at UNICEF, and especially those who once worked with him, are deeply concerned about his health and well-being – as we stated on 3 March. Our concern has grown ever since.
“Mr. Namazi served at UNICEF as Representative for Somalia, Kenya and Egypt, among other positions. He worked tirelessly on behalf of the children in all those positions, often in highly difficult circumstances. He deserves a peaceful retirement.
“UNICEF does not engage in politics. We hope that Mr. Namazi will be treated as the humanitarian that he is, and that a humane perspective can be brought to his plight.
“Our thoughts remain with him and all his many friends and loved ones.”
The US State Department has also issued statements, one of which can be read here. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/10/263245.htm
And President-in-waiting, Donald Trump, has, of course, issued a tweet: “Well, Iran has done it again. Taken two of our people and asking for a fortune for their release. This doesn’t happen if I’m president!” (Note: I don’t know what fortune, Donald Trump, is talking about.)
Our family’s thoughts and love are with Baquer Namazi and his family. We hope that humanity and justice will prevail, and that a good man will be released.
“Let there be light, let there be understanding.”
Still in the spirit of keeping track of myself ~
ALL GOOD GIFTS ( Incomings):
from Cynthia, author of A Good Home, a dedicated post, accompanied by flowers;
ALL GOOD GIFTS (Outgoings):
for Robbie ( and Lori ), composting my soil in time for Save our Soil Blogger Action Day, and scattering seeds of buckwheat and wildflowers;
for Clare, a beautiful rendition of We Plough the Fields and Scatter,
and a glimpse of a harvest to come,
fed on the sweetness of summer raindrops;
for Cynthia, an arrangement
for a heart’s ease and a heart’s celebration in all things bright and good, no matter how tiny.
‘I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.’ ~ ( Katherine Hankey, 1866 )
Dawdling at the kitchen window this morning,
I reflected on the tradition of Sunday story telling that was part of my younger years. When I was little, the early hours of Sunday morning were filled by listening to Story Time/Children’s Hour on the radio. The same stories were repeated endlessly. Yet I was not bothered by the repetition. It was good to hear old favourites over and over. Once Story Time and breakfast time were finished, we were shepherded off to Sunday School where, once again, we listened to stories; stories that had been told, and retold, for thousands of years.
We listened to those stories, we acted them out, we coloured them in, and we sang them, too. Remember this one? Tell me the old, old story.
Thinking about Sundays and stories reminded me that I have a story to tell. It’s not new. You have heard most of it before; it’s tall but true, as well as sweet and ‘pleasant to repeat’.
It goes like this.
In the beginning there was Britt , of the beautiful smile and the blue beret.
Then there was the Book that Britt wrote,
and the Kindle that Gallivanta bought to read the book that Britt wrote,
which turned out to be a game changer in Gallivanta’s life, and prompted her to be a little sassy and issue a playful challenge to Britt, of the beautiful smile and the blue beret. The challenge: to locate a totem pole by Chief Lelooska somewhere in Portland, the replica of which stood 7,000 miles away, here, at Christchurch Airport, in New Zealand.
And Britt, being much like one of the determined women in her Book, took up Gallivanta’s challenge and, with a few choice words like “Gallivanta, you stinker”, went on a Totem Pole Quest in Portland, Oregon.
Was she successful? You bet. For two months Britt quested and queried and questioned and, finally, she found Chief Lelooska’s Totem Pole, recently restored and reinstalled, at Oregon Zoo. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
The End, but not quite…..if you would like to read more about Britt’s Totem Pole quest and the story of the Totem Pole itself, click here and follow the links.
Story telling over, it’s back to more dawdling for me,
and wondering why the little yellow flower of the sharp tasting rocket is so sweetly scented. Must be a story in that. 🙂
By the way, for the child in all of us, don’t forget that Story Time is still a regular feature on Radio New Zealand. Have a listen.
The photos of Britt at the Zoo and of Chief Lelooska’s Totem Pole at the Oregon Zoo are used with kind permission from Britt. Please do not copy or use them without her consent.
It was the last week of March; it was the 27th; the Archbishop of York was in town;
and I was at home, celebrating my birthday… in the good company of wine
and old friends, bearing beautiful gifts of fine paper
and flowers of all sorts, on stems
and on cards, each carrying messages of loving kindness and good will.
It was the loveliest of days to be honouring the process of growing and ageing. I hope the Archbishop thought so, too, even though he wasn’t at my party at all, except in the very vaguest way, via my life lived within the framework of my historical and ancestral relationship with the Church of England. (You see, I wouldn’t be here in this 21st Century New Zealand, if my church-going forebears hadn’t decided to take assisted passages, in the 19th century, to a new life in the Church of England settlement of Christchurch.)
The Archbishop of York was here to help the Anglican Church prepare for a much more senior birthday than mine; the bicentennial of the beginnings of the Christian Gospel in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
And he was here to address a symposium entitled, ‘Poverty, Global and Local’.
Which made me think that, no matter how differently we celebrate a birthday, or, how disparate our ages, to grow up and grow old is a privilege; for state and church and person alike.
and for that privilege, and every strand of grey hair on my head, I must remember to be truly grateful and of a gladsome mind, always.
This post comes with a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped celebrate my birthday. I am looking forward to kicking up my heels and having a grand time with you all again in 2015. Put the date in your diaries now. 🙂
Footnote : This is an excellent article on the art of Mabel Royds http://www.addisonembroideryatthevicarage.co.uk/2013/11/29/mabel-royds-printmaker/
I am thinking about love…..and our expression of it. I am thinking about Bishop Valentine before he became Saint; about Saint Valentine before he became Valentine. I am thinking about who he was, or who they were , and what they may have become….the dream sales team for the business of Valentine’s Day? 🙂 But, mostly, I am thinking of love.
Not romantic love so much as the love which is extolled in the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth;
“The love which from our birth over and around us lies“….the “human love of brother, sister, parent, child”….the love from “friends on earth and friends, above“, the love that comes from “gentle thoughts and mild”.
And I am thinking of how that love finds its form in the most unexpected places,
where, for the most part, it sits in quiet, patient, unobtrusive abundance,
waiting to support us, when called upon,
and ever willing to send us gentle, trans-formative love letters ~
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton
love letters that help us to see that the loving heart, contained within,
can be released and applied, like nature’s salve, to heal the woe of the broken landscape.
In my previous post, on Joy and Woe, your loving, supportive, compassionate comments brought me tears, laughter and a huge amount of joy. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This post is my Valentine’s love letter to you all.
The Blessings of Saint Valentine (whoever he may be!), chocolate, flowers , gentle thoughts and mild, and love, be with you all.
This morning I woke up to a version of this ; The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended, one of my all time favourite hymns.
I lay in bed listening to words and music that I hadn’t heard in years, and felt profoundly peaceful. The hymn was part of our New Zealand Praise Be programme for Remembrance Sunday, on this second Sunday in November. On Remembrance Sunday, people throughout the Commonwealth pay tribute, before God, to those who laid down their lives in war. I haven’t been to a Remembrance Sunday service, in real life, but the few scenes (and one service sheet ) that I have seen, via the internet and television, always impress me with the beauty of their words and their music and their surroundings. Heavenly and divine aptly describe these church services where we honour peace and life, and, somehow, try to atone for the horror of war and conflict.
Now, although to a certain extent I am a person of faith, my spiritual life is more bread and butter than angels and divine inspiration, which means that, as I was listening to the hymn this morning, my mind suddenly jumped from wreaths on tombstones to one word…hardtack! Yes, hardtack! Well…. it was nearly breakfast time, so quite natural that my stomach/brain would be reminding me of food. And, since an army is said to march on its stomach, I would guess most soldiers, of older times, also thought more often of hardtack (what they would rather have, or what they could do with it!) than their Maker.
Hardtack, as many of you may know, is a type of plain cracker made from flour and water and salt and, in ages past, was used to sustain soldiers and sailors. Hardtack was hard, very hard, and very long- lasting. It was a substitute for bread. In World War One, Australian and New Zealand troops ( ANZACS) jokingly called their hardtack, ANZAC wafers. They were also called ANZAC tiles.
According to this source, http://definingnz.com/bully-beef-and-biscuits/ , the daily ration of an ANZAC soldier was ”disablingly bad” and included 7 ANZAC Wafers ( ie 7 hardtack biscuits). Considering many soldiers didn’t have a full set of teeth, or had false teeth, eating the rations must often have required more energy than they had to spare. Apparently the Anzac biscuits (and the bully beef) were so inedible that, sometimes, they were merely nibbled on and then thrown in to No Man’s Land.
The Australian War Memorial website offers a recipe for ANZAC wafers. However, I don’t suggest you try it, unless you want to boost your dentist’s bank balance.
A happier and more nutritious alternative would be to try these delicious, crunchy rye crackers that I made, based on a recipe by New Zealand caterer, Ruth Pretty. I had to bake the crackers about 15 minutes longer than suggested, to get the degree of cracker-ness that I like but, my goodness, they are good. No armed services personnel would throw these crackers in to No Man’s Land.
And, if you do make these crackers, or something similar, remember as you munch, that our service personnel once had more to fear than enemy fire. Remember too, that how we treat and train our armed services is often more important than how we pray for them.
After bites; Captain Clark Gable had false teeth 🙂
Some viewers may not be able to see Praise Be for copyright reasons.
My newspaper tells me that, today, 15 October, is Virgil’s birthday. He was born in 70 BC. To quote from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/virgil “Publius Vergilius Maro was a classical Roman poet, best known for three major works—the Bucolics (or Eclogues), the Georgics, and the Aeneid—although several minor poems are also attributed to him. The son of a farmer in northern Italy, Virgil came to be regarded as one of Rome’s greatest poets; his Aeneid as Rome’s national epic.”
My poetry book “Poem for the Day”, edited by Nicholas Albery, tells me that, today, 15 October, is the day that English poet Robert Herrick died in 1674. Robert Herrick was well-versed ( yes well-versed !) in the ancient authors, and like Virgil, many of his poems are pastoral or bucolic. He also believed that he would “triumph over “Times trans-shifting” and live beyond death through his verses” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/robert-herrick
One of Herrick’s poems which lives on is Delight in Disorder
It also takes me to the abundant and gorgeous
I look forward to its appearance, every year, in early October, and ,more often than not, it arrives in time to help me celebrate the October birthdays of my aunt and my grandmother 🙂 Clever little plants!
Another poet, sometimes pastoral, is Eleanor Farjeon, most widely known for her poem/hymn, A Morning Song, Morning Has Broken.
In 1965, the year of Eleanor Farjeon’s death, a friend of my paternal grandmother gave me Farjeon’s “The Children’s Bells”, ( first published in 1957 ). It is a book of verse for children but contains this small poem, titled Sweet Robin Herrick (born 20 August 1591). Although some of Herrick’s poems have a wantonness that might be considered inappropriate for a child, Eleanor Farjeon obviously thought him too important a poet to leave out from a child’s literary education!
This day Robin Herrick
Was born in Cheapside,
His father he laughed
And his mother she cried,
So to sweet Robin Herrick
‘Twas given to spy The tear in the marigold’s Laughing eye.”
I have no marigolds at this time of year, so the best I can do, to perpetuate this enduring and wonderful poetic lineage, is to show some photos of the wayward, wanton disorderly poesie of my garden
Floral Notes: Lily of the Valley symbolises the return of happiness. It is the national flower of Finland and the flower of May in the Northern Hemisphere. And its delicate scent makes it a lovely addition to a small floral bouquet on my kitchen window sill. (It was also in Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet 🙂 )