Sharing our Poetic Hearts for National Poetry Month

So, I’ll start with a haiku that mourns the loss of my beloved dog, who has passed from this life. The thought came me as I was shooing the geese off our dock  …yet again! 😦  I don’t mind the geese claiming our yard as their nesting ground, but they have absolutely no sense of decorum concerning appropriate dock etiquette and care!

“Oh, Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”   Geese are on our dock.   I will have to shoo them off.   Where did my dog go?

From earlier this April:

“Cast Away”   Dreams, like branches, fall.
Casualties of stormy springs.
Half buried in snow.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

The Lord gave this next poem to my friend…as she sat in silence during the early morning…lamenting the death of her beloved son:

“As I come downstairs early in the morning
You, O Lord, are waiting for me
You meet me in the darkness of the early morning
You meet me in the darkness of my life..my grief
As the light of day appears
Your WORD pours LIGHT into my heart
The LIGHT I need to face this day…..”
(—she prefers not sharing her name)
You, Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
(2 Samuel 22:29)
“PEARL”
(by a dear friend since college days, Phyliss Hammerstrom)
Every poem begins
with some uncomfortable,
aching,
irritating grain,
around which I layer
word
after sibilant word,
encasing it with shimmering
veils of opalescence,
until its sharp edges are smooth,
until I can live with it.
–Then the knife
that digs the treasure out of my flesh!

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he makes sore, and binds up: he wounds, and his hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18).

Carri Cassarino“Anxiety”
(by Carri Nelson Cassarino, September 20, 2017)

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought joy to my soul.
You say worry is against your kingdom,
So we must seek and must know.

Truly your best effort is to shield us from worry.
Your best hope is to keep solid for you and be in awe.
For the joy before us is your great joy,
And the way forward to trust your law.

For the glory of Him who loves us is His great and wonderful love,
We must ever trust him and give him our love,
For the way forward is to obey what He says.
And never seek our own way and be His beloved.

For the joy is found in obedience.
And the glory of Him for us is love.
For the hope He gives is eternal.
Then He will take what is His, above.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Rise Up, My Love (284): “Beautiful in His Eyes”

Song of Solomon 8:10 “. . .then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” Well, so much for personal struggles (as a prototypical female). What’s the bottom line on this verse? Was Solomon’s bride being realistic? Did she have a pride problem? Or, was the bride simply expressing how beautiful her husband made her feel? I’d like to believe the last option, although for those of us mortals who live in this physical, fallen world, I suspect the Shulamite was truly a stunningly beautiful woman, Solomon had been attracted to her for that reason, and she knew it.

This is the most reasonable, literal interpretation of the verse, and the fact that Solomon gathered a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines who became idols in his life and led him astray from God strongly supports this view. (1 Kings 11:3: “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”) This is one place in the book where—on the physical level—Solomon departs from our precious Savior, who looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7. Thank you, Jesus!).We’ll discuss spiritual beauty next, but on the physical level, what lessons can we learn today? First, a word to all of us, but especially guys (who are often extremely visual in their orientation). Of course you’re attracted to a woman’s beauty, so be sure you marry someone who is physically appealing to you. Never try to be “super spiritual” and refuse to acknowledge your basic feelings about how physically attractive a potential girlfriend seems. However, your physical attraction should only be the first step in identifying the right girl.

If you want to be content in this life…if you want a happy marriage…then learn to be like Christ. Look for an attractive mate who is intently developing spiritual beauty…and make sure you’re intently developing godly character yourself! It is our flesh that draws us to physical beauty, and if we don’t train our hearts to focus on and love that which is spiritual, we will forever suffer lustful attractions to members of the opposite sex based strictly on physical appearance. Why do you think the draw to pornography is so incredibly powerful? Modern men may not have Solomon’s wealth and power to acquire a physical harem, but for the price of his soul a man can develop a Satanic harem through visual images that will lead to his destruction just as surely as Solomon’s lust turned him away from his God.

The Proverbs remind us: “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:31). If you want to be still singing your spouse’s praises when you’re seventy, look for someone who loves the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. The spirits of such people grow more attractive year by year.Second, another word to all of us, but especially to us as women (who due to child birth and hormone shifts have an extremely difficult time retaining our youthful figures). Let’s try to be as beautiful as possible for our spouses! A fact of human nature that we would be wise to understand and accommodate is that human beings are attracted to physical beauty. (No offense on the lizard; I was thinking of myself!)

Let’s assess ourselves realistically. Are we firm and straight like a wall, or are we sagging and bulging under the weight of indulgence? Are we being self- disciplined enough to eat and exercise properly? Do we have good posture? Standing up straight will go a long way toward looking as attractive as possible. Our breasts may not exactly seem like “towers” to us, but if we’re not overweight, we’re standing up straight, and we’re wearing undergarments that are appropriately supportive, most women will have a pleasant frame that can be totally satisfying to her husband. (If he keeps his eyes off strange women; a man with wandering eyes will never be satisfied, no matter how beautiful his wife is.)Believe it or not, being as shapely as possible is something that God desires for us as part of living “heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). It is part of good stewardship. He gave us our body as a gift to maintain, and he wants us to be beautiful for him. We are his abiding place, and just as he is preparing a place for us, so we can express love to him by keeping our earthly tabernacle as beautiful as possible for him. Although our motive in everything should be first and foremost God’s pleasure, a beautiful body will also be a pleasure and attraction to our husbands.

We probably do not think we could compete in a Miss Universe contest, but let’s work on being able to go at least this far towards feeling like the bride. Let’s work on being able to say: “God gave me just the body he wanted me to have, and I am beautiful to Him. I want to be a good steward of the body that God has given me, and my husband appreciates me for that.”(Hopefully!! 🙂  )

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:19-21).

Carrot Cake Waffles with Creamed Cheese Syrup

Alan and I had “carrot cake waffles” at one of our favorite restaurants in Lower Michigan not long ago. Since we both love carrot cake, we thought the waffles would be amazing, but we were both totally disappointed. I think they were probably made from a carrot cake mix, but they were definitely too bland and lacked character…like a beautiful person with a limp handshake. So—of course—I embarked on a journey to come up with a recipe that would please the palate even more than the eye, and then I tested it last weekend on my family, including two sons, a daughter-in-law, and their three little girls. The little girls preferred plain waffles, but the carrot cake waffles were a hit with the adults, so if you like carrot cake and entertaining adults, try this recipe for a new twist on breakfast sometime!

Carrot Cake Waffles
(makes 8  4″square waffles)

Add together in a mixing bowl:
2 cups pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1.5 cups  chopped carrots, finely grated (which might become less than 1.5 cups after grating)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter (or bacon fat)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat with mixer until well blended. Pour into a hot, buttered waffle iron and bake until golden brown. 

Serve with:Creamed Cheese Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a small pan:
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
Boil until it starts to thicken slightly (about 3 minutes after all the sugar has dissolved)
Add 8 oz. creamed cheese and stir until it’s completely mixed. Turn the heat off and add:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla, then whisk for a minute or two to make sure there are no lumps left and it’s completely creamy. Pour out and serve warm!This may not look at lovely as what we ate at the restaurant that day, but they were bursting with flavor and had real (tiny) chunks of carrots and walnuts, so every bite was warm and memorable!

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Even If You Can’t Dance, You Can Zumba!

By the time I was five, I was trying to imitate my swingin’ teenaged brothers as they danced to hot new songs like “The Terror of Highway 101.” By six, I was learning to “Rock Around the Clock,” and by seven, I was practicing Elvis the Pelvis’s swinging hips from songs like “I ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” By twelve, I was practicing the Peppermint Twist with my girlfriends at slumber parties. And then, I surrendered my life to Jesus, and the dancing stopped. It wasn’t just that I started attending a very conservative church where they considered dancing the “vertical expression of horizontal thoughts,” I was beginning to think there might be something even more exciting in the world of guys than being nicknamed “Buckwheat” and allowed to play first base on their ball team!

Long story short, I decided that dancing was way too provocative and romantic to be a part of my life if I wanted to make it to adulthood keeping my name in tact. (Kathryn means “pure.”) Marriage didn’t exactly stop all attractions to the opposite sex either, and so it seemed wise to continue a hands-off, no-dance policy indefinitely.  However, 45 years into marriage and finding myself pretty stable emotionally, Alan and I both noticed that we were becoming the least bit unstable physically. One bit of advice we’ve heard repeatedly about aging well is to participate in new physical activities that stress grace and balance, such as dancing. So, we decided that it’s time to start dancing again…together…in our basement…with our video Zumba instructor, Beto Perez, the Colombian dancer and choreographer who developed a fitness program called Zumba in the 1990’s. Zumba combines dance steps with various martial arts moves and is the perfect combination of fun and aerobic exercise. It really took off in 2006, and today there are more than 14 million people who participate in some 160,000 classes in 185 countries…and counting! At 14, Beto was working 3 jobs to support his single mother and their family in Columbia. Today?! Talk about the American Dream come true!! The wife of one of our psychiatrists sponsors a Zumba class on Tuesday afternoons where Alan works, but we are a little too old (or self-conscious) to join that group. However, for $7.99 we got Zumba 101: Can’t Dance? from Amazon, and we’ve been working out ever since! At first, we could hardly make it through the first two songs without needing a rest, but now we can dance through the entire hour session and are ready for something more. The funny thing is, it’s just as appealing to our grandchildren, and when they come to visit, the kids beg to work out with us! It’s just SO. MUCH. FUN!

So, if you’re looking for a way of exercising that doesn’t bore you to tears and makes you feel happy, consider giving Zumba a try…maybe even in the privacy of your own basement! Alan is still struggling to swing his hips, but…I’m back to my roots! 🙂

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. . .a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4; this is our time to dance~).

Are You Optimizing Your Brain Fitness?

A week ago, I wrote about Alan’s attending the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists’ annual meeting and the tidal wave of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, and I suggested that we start learning to surf so we don’t get crushed. This week, I want to offer a few ideas from what I’ve been learning in my own quest for health.

Are you familiar with The Great Courses? I am a fan. Through audio or video, this organization can bring a world of research and learning via professors from some of America’s best universities right into your car or home. I can drive and learn, sit quietly on a couch with notebook in hand, or work out on my elliptical while absorbing information.

Granted, these college-level courses won’t keep you awake like Hollywood’s glitzy entertainment, but they are excellent resources for brightening your brain! I ordered a couple of series last fall and have been completely satisfied with the quality of their programs and what I’ve been learning. My personal favorite way to optimize both brain and body fitness is to work out while keeping a notebook right beside me for scribbling down ideas. Stopping to write notes does effect my workout stats, but I figure the mental stimulation is worth the hit to any personal pride that may be lurking behind my attempts at physical conditioning.

Simple tips from the series on Optimizing Brain Fitness that impressed me:

*In an experiment with rats, those who were fed 35% less food lived 35% longer!
*Best diet tip? Stop eating deep-fried foods.
*Walking 1 mile daily decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50%.
*Get enough sleep. The current generation is getting 45 minutes less sleep per day than the older generation, but it’s had a negative effect on learning.
*Power naps are good; they reset your energy and help process learning.
*Most important aspect of memory is learning to focus and pay attention!
*”If you can see, look. If you can look, observe…attend…study!”
*Your brain needs exercise, so take up some new hobby.
*Scientists have discerned that you improve long term retention more by repeated testing than by more study.

This last bit of research made me understand why we have tests in school and in life! The Lord is training us to learn and grow, not just have brains full of data that doesn’t stick!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Just in case you’re interested in more information about The Great Courses, I’ll include their contact information: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses. 1-800-832-2412. For classes on Christianity, though, I’d rather refer you my son Jonathan’s Aqueduct Project [https://aqueductproject.org/ ], or the new Center for Global Theological Education, which he’s developing at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Home and Family Quandaries

Here are a few more haiku based on family fun:

On Turning One  Little Birthday Girl   Why are your favorite gifts Boxes and paper?

Play Actors  All the world’s a stage.  But if they won’t let you act,  You still get to play!

Life or Death MattersGreat expectations!I want chicks, but he wants eggs.Life and Death collide.

Asclepias   Snowy bird brooding
On your nest of eggs, are you
Hatching milkweed seeds?

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

Song of Solomon (283): What Would You Like Your Husband to Love About You?

Song of Solomon 8:10 “…then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” I believe this verse is best considered in its entirety, first on the physical level, but then—for our encouragement and comfort—on the spiritual level (because it seems to me that our physical bodies are often even more difficult to significantly improve than our spiritual lives).

Two things are very striking to me about the verse. First, the bride’s self esteem and unusual self assessment, and second, the bride’s confidence that her body is what gained her favor with her husband: “then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.” There may be women who read this verse and identify with the bride’s assessment of herself in a positive way (e.g.: “Oh, yes, that is true of me! I have a gorgeous body and that’s why my husband fell in love with me!”).

If you did, you can skip the next few paragraphs! However, I’ve heard that even Hollywood’s lineup of beautiful movie stars, when surveyed, reported they would like to change some things about their appearance if they could. So, I suspect almost every woman grew up the way I did: not perfectly content with her physical appearance. For me, the bride’s declaration seems surprisingly vain on the one hand and discouraging on the other. It seems vain for anyone to think so highly of herself; but if her assessment was correct, then it is discouraging to think that someone could truly have such an amazing figure.

I grew up feeling pretty, but I would never have thought of myself as being as strong and statuesque as a wall, nor would I have described my breasts as towers! (The earlier description of sleeping fawns could compute in my brain.) Is such high regard simply recognizing the truth, or is it pride? Certainly, this woman was one of a kind in Solomon’s estimation, so perhaps she was the “Miss Universe” of her time and had gained the king’s favor strictly because of her beauty.

Something inside me resists that with all my being. I prefer the story of Esther, who was winsome because she was beautiful both inside and out. My husband once intimated that what attracted him to me was my body when we were first married, and I just about hit him over the head with a baseball bat! (Well, maybe not really.) I didn’t want him to love me for my looks. Outward beauty is ephemeral and often misused by the world. I wanted him to love me for my spirit…my character…maybe even my brain…anything but my looks, because I felt that surface appearances truly were just “skin deep,” and that the real and lasting beauty I should be concentrating on was the unfading inner beauty of a Christlike spirit.

Now, forty-five years later, I know my husband loves me for something deeper than outer beauty, because he still says he thinks I’m beautiful, even though I no longer have my youthful figure and face. I appreciatively accept his assessment as one who is blinded by love. In other words, I don’t think I’m beautiful, but when my husband tells me that I am, my brain relays this message: “Your husband really loves you!” A man who thinks a woman is beautiful will either love her for it (in the sense of being drawn to her), or because he loves her, he will think she’s lovely. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts!

(P.S.—I used a photo of Elizabeth Taylor as my graphic for this article because when I was little, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Despite her beauty, fame, and fortune, I would not have traded places with her. Would you?)

I’d Rather Have Jesus
(-Rhea F. Miller, 1922)

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sins dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame.
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs.
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sins dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.