Sonnet 81: “Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer Play?”

“I’d rather go to a Dime-Dog ball game than watch a boring Shakespeare play.” Yikes! Times are changing! In the light of that comment, and in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, I couldn’t help but write a (somewhat playful) response expressing my preferences too.

What was considered the height of literary wit four hundred years ago is out of vogue with most of Gen Z, and maybe Gen X too!

As I admitted last time I wrote, even I found a walk in the park more refreshing than a night at the theater!

So, here’s to my Maker, in honor of his glorious being, his creation, and His immutable Word, which stands above time and is eternal, surpassing the eloquence of even the most revered of our English-speaking writers!

Shall l compare Thee to a summer play?
Thou art more worthy and more glorious:
The winds of change oft temper what men say,
Their words, once apt, become notorious.
Words melt and molt; they fade and lose their voice.
What once was wise, youth’s wisdom doth suspect.
The audience today rejects past choice
And says it’s not politically correct.
Though wit be wit and dark be dark through time,
Though love and life and death collide with pow’r,
No light shines like Your canticle sublime,
No truth excels the wisdom of Your bow’r.
Yea, thine eternal grandeur shall extend
Thy Word still pure, unchanging to the end.

Thy word is true from the beginning:
and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160).

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5)

Sunset Falling on a Bridge Along the Avon River

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

Walking the footpath along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario with my son

Subscribing to Scribd

If you love books and have a bit of a budget for continuing education, then you might appreciate Scribd. Have you heard of it? It’s been dubbed the “Netflix for e-books.” Although there have been some serious accusations of copyright infringements since its inception in 2007 (by then Harvard student, Trip Adler), it is my understanding that at this point, Scribd has a clean bill of health and you can become a member without any concern that you’re doing anything shady. I joined last fall and have become a fan. For $8.99 per month, you can listen to as many audio books as you like, choosing from their vast collection of over a million titles and growing. Let me share just a bit of my own experience.

I love reading but all too often “don’t have time” for the pleasure of sitting and learning via the written word. To compensate, I discovered LibriVox (actually, my book-loving editor son told me about it), which self-identifies as “Accoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” This is a marvelous service, and you can access over 12,000 books that have no copyright issues. It’s completely free, closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg (another wonderful volunteer organization that has been digitizing culturally significant books in the public domain), and is always looking for volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and voice to adding to LibrVox’s listings with high quality books. Over the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed a number of LibriVox’s audio books, and if you have no money for continuing education but have time and the means for listening to audio books, this is an excellent way to go!

And then, last year, I began hearing about more recent books that I really wanted to read but were (are) still under copyright. Again, my son came to my rescue, as did several friends, particularly one friend who travels by car extensively for her work. Scribd will let you have one month as a free trial, and within one month, I was hooked. (Also, if you’re a student and too busy during the year, you could still sign up just for the summer. 🙂 )

There is a seemingly endless array of possibilities out there, but I will tell you that I mostly read non-fiction Christian books, so not everything I want to read is available on Scribd, which is probably good. I love to underline, go back and rethink, and study the books I really love, so it’s good for me to OWN books. However, Scribd opens the door for learning at times that I just can’t read, like when I’m driving, folding laundry, or washing dishes. I hope nothing ever ends our desire to possess paper copies of precious books (the Bible most of all), but every avenue for growth and learning about God and good seems like a blessing to me.

Here are a few of my favorite books from those I’ve enjoyed since last fall (all of which could also be purchased, but I’m just giving you a sampling of what’s out there that I really appreciated):

*King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (excellent study on the life of Christ from the book of Mark, for both seekers and those who have found!)

*Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Ravi Zacharias (so helpful for gaining perspective on why a “good” God might allow suffering in this life)

*Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (highly technical but excellent information for those with scientific minds, providing solid philosophical and scientific arguments for the probability of intelligent design rather than random chance in the creation of the universe)

*Earth Psalms, by Francine Rivers (short, happy devotional thoughts about nature and God; easy listening for tired ears)

*A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Suffering, by Jerry Sittser (learning to accept and grow through tragedy)

*America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, by Grant Wacker (fascinating, technical biography about one of our world’s most influential religious leaders)

*The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (“The #1 New York Times bestseller about the Greatest Generation freshly adapted for the next generation” [that’s me]; wonderful account of a motley crew of young men who worked tireless to fulfill their dream of rowing their way to an Olympic Gold Metal back in 1936)

*The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, by William Harmon. The commentary on the poems alone was worth the listen; I felt like I’d taken a crash course in English poetry, and since I love to write poems, it seemed worthwhile to hear what the world loves best.

And more, although I won’t bore you. The point is, if you’re looking for a good resource for spirit and brain food, there are ways to promote learning and growth even during times when your hands are occupied with daily duties. Of course, nothing is as sweet and good as prayer and meditation, but if you have time for some audio books and $9 a month, you might also enjoy this avenue for expansion!

May Jesus bless you this summer as you pursue Him!

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “Let no man despise thy youth” . . . or thy old age! Let’s be lifelong learners!!

The Birthday Club Goes Ludington

When we planned our trip to Ludington State Park for Susan’s birthday outing (months ago), I had visions of bright blue skies and balmy weather, but the weather—like all of life—is totally unpredictable, isn’t it?!

Instead of sunshine, there was a misty rain. Instead of being 80° (which it had been one day last week), it was 52° with a stiff wind.

We debated whether or not we should even try the four-mile hike to the lighthouse because, despite bundling, we knew we’d be uncomfortably cold by the time we climbed to the top of the Big Sable Lighthouse.

However, it seemed like the right thing to do, so we persevered.

It was indeed windy and bone-chillingly cold at the top!

But then, as if by magic, when we descended and started our trek back to the car, a streak of blue appeared along the horizon!

In less than an hour, the dark storm clouds blew away, and soon we were immersed in a world of bright blue skies and—well, maybe not balmy, but certainly lovely—springtime weather!

We recovered with a very late and very yummy lunch at the House of Flavors, where we celebrated Susan’s birthday with gifts and happy conversation. Our Birthday Club isn’t just dedicated to honoring the birthday girl, it’s a time to celebrate the blessings of God and the encouragement of friendship, so there is often a theme and some thoughtful sharing of comforting verses as well as communal prayer on the way home.

This year, Cindi had found a 100+year-old book of poetry from an antique shop (Souvenir Rhymes by James Hamilton) and read some to us. My favorite concerned the preciousness of faithful friends who administer mercy and grace to one another, which I’ll include at the end.

There is something very nurturing about true friends who inspire one another to persevere, not only through gloomy weather but also through gloomy circumstances. I thank God for every treasured friend of mine, and for every person who is willing to be a friend to someone else.

Are you feeling discouraged and sad? We all need companions to journey with us, not only through the bright and balmy times of life, but when the wind is in our faces and we’re not prepared for the unexpected and sometimes very miserable changes in our situations. We need one another to help us push on until the rain passes by and the sun starts shining again!

Have you got a friend? Be a friend! Reach out. We need each other! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrew 10:23-25, ESV).

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).

Legacy

A Masterpiece of Beauty

Brilliant, heart-shaped quilt,
Potpourri of symmetries.
You delight my eyes! 

At the Atlanta History Center, this gorgeous quilt caught my attention. It is an exquisite work of art, full of dazzling colors and images—mostly of brightly colored flowers, but also fruits, wispy insects, and other bits of beauty. I stood mesmerized, wishing I had time to ponder each tiny patch in this vast work of quilted art. Hundreds of individual pieces and thousands of tiny stitches. A lifetime treasure. A worthy legacy.

I wonder if the artist had any idea that their quilt would delight the hearts of countless strangers over the years. Wouldn’t you love to have a life as rich, varied, complex, and attractive as this quilt? I would!!

We are building our lives each day, and what we leave as a legacy is up to us. What patches are we choosing to add? Do we have a design in mind? Are we picking each square to depict something that will uplift others and bring them joy? Are we cutting our lines straight? Sewing with meticulous care? When we are gone, will others remember us with gratitude and meditate on what we’ve said and done?

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Find Us Faithful
—Steve Green

I used to sing this song when I was part of a ladies’ ensemble, and it still brings tears to my eyes to hear it, because it speaks of the longing in my own spirit!

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to god’s sustaining grace.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful,
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
may the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage…


Willow, Weep for Me?

I will weep for you!
How is it that simple winds
Can break a huge tree?

Although weeping willows grow quickly to great heights and are often prized by romantics (like me) for their long, gracefully arching branches and lacey leaves, they are relatively short-lived (about 50 years). They have vast root systems that suck up huge amounts of water, and in the winter, the water can freeze, causing the branches to become rigid and brittle. So, despite their beauty and size, weeping willows are prone to ice damage, and even a stiff spring wind can cause a great fall, such as happened recently to one of the lovely willows along our lane.

In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul describes the healthy way for a church to grow. Have you noticed that some churches grow at amazingly rapid rates? They may be drinking in a lot of spiritual water (the Word, Ephesians 5:26) and even have sturdy root systems (rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:17), but if they don’t recognize and utilize the full compliment of their church’s gifts (as given by God to each member), they are likely to become rigid and brittle over time (which happens in churches led by only one man) and very susceptible to “every wind of doctrine” that blows. The results can be devastating, just like weeping willow trees: Individual branches break off easily, and sometimes even huge limbs can come crashing down in a wind storm, not only killing a large part of the tree, but exposing the rest of the tree to disease and eventual death.

If you are a part of the leadership at your church, are you making sure to use all the spiritually gifted members of your congregation? Many minds and hearts working together will protect you from doctrinal error and strengthen your church family. If you are an inactive member of your congregation, do you know what your spiritual gift is? Will you offer to use your gift to help your church be healthy and grow stronger?

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV).

Death Rattle

He slept in sweet peace
Undisturbed by Serpent Death
Rattling in his throat.

Recently, I had the rare privilege of sitting bedside by the beloved father of one of our long time friends (so that this friend could enjoy a few minutes of reprieve over breakfast with my husband). We hadn’t even known if his dad would make it through the night, but he had, and I didn’t want to take any chance on his waking up without someone beside him. However, Jay slept soundly the entire time I was there, despite that old, familiar rattle in his throat that I remembered all too well, as it attended the loss of both of my parents some years earlier. My first reaction was to recoil from this sinister rattle, because I knew it was the trademark of our enemy, Death, stealing away the life of yet another loved one. “Death is just like a rattlesnake,” I lamented to my Father.

However, He gently reminded me that Jay was ready to be released from his outworn body, even though it was painful to watch him slipping away. I had to wrestle through the realization that part of our sense of loss in losing the parents of our friends is the recognition of how much our friends have become like their parents over the years. In giving up these treasured members of the older generation, we are also acknowledging and mourning that our friends will also pass away someday! We—too—shall pass.

I sat in silent vigil,
Watching and praying as he slept.
Like the snake Death is, it rattled in his throat with each breath.

He was at peace.
But, so was I, because I remembered:
Just as a serpent sheds its skin,
This elderly saint was simply shuffling off his outgrown foil.

He sprang free and slipped away to new life just a few hours later.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:22-25).

Beautiful Spilled Milk

Don’t cry for spilled milk.
Some find beauty in spilled milk.
Always look for good.

Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?10 Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?” (Job 10:9-10)

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11) God will bring us through the messes and suffering, just as he did for Job, who was able to testify after all he endured: “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). May our hearts echo his faith.