Photo and Poem Credit                       Wilma Christine Guzman                    Used with permission.

Secrets of Longevity

A coincidence perhaps
or something more . . .

The two most prolific writers of letters
In the nursing home
were both over a hundred.

Neither had families
in this country
or children of their own,
but had faithful loving friends.

                                                 They knew the importance
of keeping in touch   

and remained disciplined
in corresponding,
showing care and concern for others,
sharing details of their own lives.                                   

A tradition to follow
which holds the secret to longevity.


Today, on her birthday, I would like to take some time to honour my sister Wilma and wish her a long life of much happiness.  Though our lives differ in many ways, our family has grieved the loss of two sisters and so our time together is precious to us who remain.  I am the oldest and she is still the middle child.   We are fortunate to share our family history and an affinity to poetry and literature.  Our love of  writing fosters a connection that is a special kind of correspondence.

Wilma worked many years in nursing homes as an activity director and her collection “Vignettes on Life” includes observations from, but not limited to, that experience.  The poems are snapshots captured of  life “from birth to one hundred and two.”  Whether she reflects on prosaic circumstances or highlights the pathos of a news story, we realize that we are continually being presented  gifts in life, no matter what our age, race, or status.

A poet is a seer who enables us to open our eyes to the wonder and grace and beauty and tragedy all around us.   This collection reminds us that we are all part of a common humanity, but we are not alone on the journey.

The book is available on Amazon.com.



Arek Socha – Pixabay.com

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs – 
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. 

                            From God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877

There are times in life when it feels that the night has been so long that it will never be light again, times of grief or worry about a loved one struggling with illness, or when the sheer repetitiveness of daily work becomes drudgery.  In the first part of this poem, Gerard Manley Hopkins sees  that “Generations have trod, have trod, And all is seared with trade” and adds “nor can foot feel, being shod.”  But he  wants to reassure us that the Spirit of God still hovers over this formless chaos to bring new life and hope, just as it did in the creation of the earth.  Every day is a new beginning, a new “Let there be light!”  I’ve found comfort in this poem ever since I was introduced to it in college.

Though tragedy unfolds to his heedless people, the weeping prophet Jeremiah also sounds a note of hope:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”

Lamentations 3:22-24

When we’re tempted to give up or to despair, we need to remember that day always follows night, that God has promised to be faithful when we wait patiently for His providence.  Morning will come.

Artist – G.J. Prins



Get Your Nose Out of the Book!

Nearly 20 years ago, I participated in several seasons of singing in the Fanshawe Chorus, a professional choral group in London, Ontario.  It was a classical, symphonic choir, and to say that I was out of my league would be an understatement.  Nevertheless, it was very enjoyable, especially in our annual Christmas presentation of The Messiah.  The altos  around me were experienced, and I learned to attune myself quickly to them.  Conductor Gerry Fagan, with his wife Marlene as accompanist, worked tirelessly during rehearsals to harmonize the group.

As the concert date approached the pressure increased.  Because I had somewhat of a musical ear, keeping the alto voice was not my main problem.  It was the keeping count that preoccupied me and I felt I had to pay close attention to the score, fearing the potential embarrassment of hearing my note break the prescribed silence.

There must have been others wrestling with their own anxieties.  This, of course, created another problem because a choir looking down has lost the full richness of sound, and Gerry Fagan would admonish us with a thundering “Get your nose out of the book!”  Increasingly, as we had already learned the notes, we needed to be focused on him as he brought all of the elements of orchestra and chorus together.  In a choir, you need to be alert and aware:  of yourself, the score, the voices of others beside you, the instruments playing, the conductor’s baton.

Even with the last-minute panic, final rehearsal was always joyfully exciting.  For the first time you could sense the majesty of the music as all participants joined in.

The choir taught me valuable skills that could be applied in other areas – to listen to direction, to let art enrich my life, to join in with the harmonizing of community.   And specifically, I think about how often I have needed to get my nose out of the book and fully experience relationship.  I think about how the Pharisees in Jesus’ day knew the Torah law, the Psalms songbook, even the Prophets writing so well, but couldn’t recognize that the Messiah was standing right in front of them.

Our Messiah is the Master and the Conductor of the Universe,  and He will someday bring us all  together in a joyful symphony.

We All Have Gifts – They Differ

This week, on a lighter note, I thought I’d include a script written for a puppet performance at Friendship Club, a weekly event held at the church for people with mental disabilities.     We had a lot of fun with these puppets.  It’s very interesting to see performers come out of their shells and really ham it up, and  audience reception was enthusiastic.

Cast of Characters:  Narrator, Melody, Rhythm, Blue

Narrator:  I would like you to meet some members of First Puppet Church.  This is Rhythm, Melody, and Blue.  The Bible tells us that we all have different gifts, so let’s just listen as these members tell us about their gifts.

Rhythm:  I have to say that I really sometimes wonder whether I fit in anywhere.  You could say that I march to the beat of a different drummer.  Sometimes people think my talent is really just a lot of noise.  (Bangs on drum.)

Blue:  I like to sing, but not all the songs suit how I feel, and I don’t know a lot about music.  Sometimes when I look at other people’s gifts, I just want to hide my little gift away, and it makes me feel so blue.  (He hangs his head.)

Melody:  Well, I think I have a bee-utiful voice, much better than some other people have.  God must think I’m pretty special to have given me such a great gift.  People come a long way to hear “Moi.”

Narrator:  Well, it appears we have a bit of a problem here.  Rhythm has a gift, but he thinks people might not want to hear it.  Blue has a hard time using his gift when he feels it’s not really much, and Melody thinks it’s all about her.  Melody, first of all, when you sing about God, does it matter what you’re thinking?

Melody(preoccupied with preening)  What?

Narrator:  Your gift comes from God, but it’s not to make you look good.  It’s about worshiping God and loving other puppets through your singing.  It’s a “gift,” remember?  You need to think (taps her head lightly and affectionately) and sing from your heart, so that others can receive that gift.

Melody:  Oh.

Narrator:  And Blue, God just wants you to be honest.  If you are feeling sad, you can make that part of just the right song, and it will be beautiful.  We need you, too!  Everyone’s talent matters, everyone’s life matters, and our puppet church just wouldn’t be the same without you.

Blue:  You really, really want me?

Narrator:  Absolutely!

Blue:  All right, then!  I’m ready whenever you want me.

Narrator:  Rhythm, the drums might sound like a lot of noise to people who don’t understand your gift.  But they don’t understand that some things work better when everybody’s gift is included.  Let’s see if we can put this together.

Puppets:  (Singing) Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Blue’s line is “sometimes I’m down.”

Narrator:  Thank you, Puppet Praise Team!  We enjoyed your music and  are very glad that you were able to share with us.  We could give you the gift of listening.  And thank you, God, because all good gifts are from you and will help us to grow.

Narrator:  Turning to audience) Thank you all for joining us in our special interview tonight!