Ordained Praise

Augusta Fells Savage, “The Harp”

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies . . .
Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson

Augusta Fells Savage has a fascinating life story of perseverance in her art, and she crafted “The Harp,” for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  This sculpture includes twelve singing African-American youth in graduated heights as its strings.  And I love this photo showing her work in progress, as shapes emerge from the clay.

Our children emerge into their own distinct personalities, too, on their way to adulthood.  Today a little girl who once attended our church Sunday School is getting married, and I’m feeling nostalgic in recalling how we would assemble each Sunday morning in a circle with these children who are now young adults.

It became clear that it was easier to participate at Christmas or graduation when the children were comfortable singing together weekly.  They loved music, and I looked forward to being in our singing circle on Sunday mornings.  A workshop entitled “Sing with Me, Please” offered suggestions:  “make sure the melody line is clear, sing the first time without accompaniment, learn parts of the song or only one verse first.  Start with high energy songs, have the kids write their own lyrics.”  We were fortunate to have an excellent accompanist in our young piano player, Ben.

When you work with children, you feel as if you are preparing them for a journey.  It was our prayer that the songs and lessons that they learned would be of help down the road.

When put to music, truths remain accessible for years.  In old age, seniors recall the songs they memorized decades ago.  We never can know when these seeds early planted in mind and heart become a comfort and blessing  in time of need.

In these children, we were privileged to witness the creative process by the God who, like a sculptor, shapes lives.  Each one was unique in gifts and talents, each has the potential to live a life of praise.  We wish each one much joy.

A Gift Horse

Trojan Horse, Danielle-Pixabay

“There’s a free gift of silverware,” said the photographer when quoting his price for our wedding pictures, and so I asked him the number of place settings. He looked at me as one would look at an ungrateful child and admonished me: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” I was young and easily chastened, but as life unfolded, things touted as free or cheap often did prove to be costly.  If it seemed too good to be true, it likely was too good to be true.

My sister initially vehemently protested the gift of a car from my parents, saying that it was like getting a free dog. And so it’s proved to be:  the vehicle has undergone extensive repairs, and still cannot be trusted on a busy highway. Generally, warning lights are flashing everywhere.

The Trojans were deceived, by the Greek’s gift of a wooden horse,  into believing that their enemy had retreated in defeat.  As a result, the city of Troy was destroyed when the soldiers hidden inside invaded them.  In today’s world, computer viruses have been nicknamed “trojan horse viruses,” because they mislead users into letting others into their systems, to their downfall.

I married into the Prins family of Troy (which in my case, did not involve royalty, and our Troy was only a little hamlet in Southern Ontario.)  And we did leave there shortly after Helen moved in across the road.  Perhaps that explains my interest in that ancient city.  Do only literary people notice these weird little vignettes?

It’s intriguing that concepts and names from ancient tales are part of our world today.  Those who don’t know their history can be doomed to repeat it, so perhaps this provides a way to keep their lessons in collective memory.

Their wisdom admonishes you to listen to the experiences of people down through the ages.  They tell you to trust your instincts:  when something disturbs you in some way, follow up on that feeling.  It might be linked to your well-being and maybe even your survival.

They tell you to pay attention to history and the arts, because human nature essentially hasn’t changed.  Beware of pride and arrogance, because it can blind you to danger.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Our lives may not be lived on an epic scale, but we still impact ourselves and others with our choices.  Solomon’s ancient advice is relevant today:

“Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.”   Proverbs 11:14, MSG



“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
― John Keats

In the late 1980s,  attempting to supplement household income, juggle the needs of young children, and going back to school, I cleaned houses.   It was the most flexible of choices, and it was a privilege to get to know people like Viola and Allan in their retirement years.   It proved to be good arrangement for both of us.  Their little black pug, Rudy, would follow me around, or confront me nose to nose as I washed the kitchen floor.   Allan would say, “The dog  hasn’t seen anything move that fast all week!” Time has moved on, and I cherish this picture taken there one day with Viola.    It makes me reflect on someone who has been part of my life, and on the different roles I have played.

A friend told me that her little granddaughter, catching sight of herself in a mirror, cooed and laughed at the image.   That same week, my mother’s nursing home posted a photo of a resident overcome with a fit of giggles when she saw herself in a mirror.  I’m beginning to relate.  At times, I can’t recognize the aging person who looks back at me either.  Especially when, on the inside, I can still feel like a girl of twelve.

There comes a time when reflection needs to be on a less superficial level.  Pity the poor beauty who clings desperately to the appearance of youth, like the fairy tale queen who constantly seeks reassurance from her mirror that she is still the most fair.

We are reflected in far more than our mirror.  The world around us, the  plays acted in the theatre,  the faces of our children, reveal our humanity.  What young parent isn’t convicted by the little one who has clearly mirrored her behaviour?  And it feels nightmarish when we find ourselves lost in a hall of distorted mirrors, confused about who we are.

Memories can be helpful then, because they also are reflections.  As time goes on, they continue to yield new insights, like a diamond’s facets catch the sunlight when you turn it.  They are great gifts, even when what you see isn’t always flattering.  You learn to accept who you are, even with imperfections, to look yourself in the eye.    What is now free to emerge is a kind of inner beauty that you see sometimes in older people, a joie de vivre that is so attractive.  Not necessarily because life has been easy, but that there’s been a choice to reflect on truth and goodness.  Over time, our faces become accurate reflections of  our thoughts.

The Bible is a mirror that uncompromisingly shows us our nature.  But it also points to what God considers timeless, “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”  And it speaks to the necessity of looking in the right mirror to know our true worth in God’s eyes.

“Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is  true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,

whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.”       Phillippians 4:8






Around the World

Take a  trip around the world!  Once you’ve completed the riddles, you can follow the link below.   Dedicated to Duncan for his 12th birthday!     (Jacquie Lawson)

For the last three months, we have been unable to venture out to travel, and some of us were greatly disappointed because long-awaited dream trips had to be cancelled.   Our wanderlust has had little opportunity to be indulged, so here’s a little taste of exotic in riddle.  You can add your own stanzas and locales if you are so inclined!

Where Am I?

Lofty pyramids built in the sand
Camels with their humps of two,
The Nile flow irrigates the land
Where am I?           (Egypt)

Palm trees wave and Disney World
Brings flocks of winter snowbirds.
To the sky, the space shuttle is hurled
Where am I?           (Florida, USA)

Clomp along in a pair of wooden shoes,
Watch windmills, their arms a-spinning
Taste cheeses – Gouda or Edam – you can choose.
Where am I?           (Holland)

Strange creatures here, a kangaroo
With a baby in its pouch.
Traveler, stow your port in a car boot.
Where am I?           (Australia)

Double decker buses grinding gear
The chiming of Big Ben
Elizabeth reigns as monarch here.
Where am I?           (England)

Listen: the bagpipes sound loud and clear,
Or glimpse the monster in the loch,
Aye, indeed, poet Robbie was born here.
Where am I?           (Scotland)

Dressed in saris, the women are lovely
Crowds fill the streets of Bombay
See a tiger, ride elephants for a fee.
Where am I?           (India)

Pilgrim, follow the Santiago trail
Runner, bolt from the bulls in Pamplona.
From this country, Columbus did hail.
Where am I?           (Spain)

Tick, tock, clocks keep the time
The chocolate is dark and delicious.
In the Alps, Heidi and Peter did climb.
Where am I?           (Switzerland)

Now we’re south, as far as we can go
Blinding snow and biting cold
Black and white penguins ride an ice floe.
Where am I?           (Antarctica)

Paddle your canoe in five great lakes
Traverse mountains and forest and prairie
Speak both English and French, s’il vous plait.
Where am I?           

Trudy Prins


Click on the link below to enjoy your trip!


By Design

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

In times like these, in clashes of race, gender and class, it becomes so clear that we’ve forgotten that we all have been made by a designer God.  Each of us is made in His image, so that when we disparage or mistreat any of God’s bespoke creations, we deeply insult the Artist.

The Bible reserves its harshest judgment for those who piously attend worship, but then neglect the causes of the needy.  Jesus talks about the separation of “sheep” and “goats” on the last day.   It’s a difficult story to accept, until you glimpse that it’s not an arbitrary separation, it’s not based on words or even professed beliefs.  Talk has always been cheap.  It’s based on their recognition of their common humanity and affinity with those who are suffering:  hungry, thirsty,  ragged of clothing, lonely strangers, those who are sick and in prison.  Even more fundamentally, how we treat every person is how we treat Christ.

Jesus considered that human beings are so valuable that he was willing to die for the whole world.  He stood with all of us in complete humanity, which meant identifying with the sin he absolutely abhorred.   Where we refuse to get our hands dirty, Jesus is there, considering each person a treasured child of God.

The poem doesn’t address one thing:  the source of love that Abou Ben Adhem shared with his fellow human beings.  Because of course, all genuine and generous love comes from God in the first place.  When we accept that unqualified love, we don’t ask others to jump through hoops to be worthy of our love either.

We have work to do in addressing the systemic and personal injustices of the world so that each person is encouraged in their potential.   Start from the top with just laws, or start from the bottom by treating everyone you meet with respect and kindness.

We are on record.  We need to start now.