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

666,666 and The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

This isn’t really some horrible warning about the end times, but it is the celebration of a personal mile-marker in my blogging journey: passing the 666,666 view mark and finding inspiration in The Boys in the Boat. It all started (Summer Setting) back in 2008, and it took four years before my posts had been viewed 100,000 times. In the next two years, by the end of 2014, Summer Setting had been viewed over 250,000 times. Over the next three years, that number doubled to over 500,000 times. About then, life seemed to speed up rather than slow down, and instead of posting daily, I found it maximally challenging to prepare just five times a week. The lesser output definitely affected the number of visitors, but this past weekend, I passed the 666,666 mile mark: two-thirds of a million views of my blog!

This number does not reflect those people who are “followers” and get my posts sent directly to their email inbox address, so it may be that Summer Setting has been viewed more than a million times already, but somewhere deep in my heart I keep feeling the desire to keep posting, at least until I’ve reached a million views. (I’d like to say “reached a million people,” but I have no way of figuring out how many “discreet” [different, unique] visitors are viewing Summer Setting.) That may take me until I’m 75, or it may take until I’m 90, or I may die before I ever reach that goal, but however long it takes, I will definitely keep trying until I become incapable or I believe the Lord wants me to do something else.

Boys rowing in preparation for the 1936 Olympics

Please don’t be critical of me for being a “numbers” person. Life is not about numbers, it’s about loving God and loving others. It’s about serving God and trying to reach out to others with the love of God in whatever way we can. Dreams and goals are only worth pursuing if they are God-inspired, for his glory and our good . . . or at least, that’s what I believe. Nevertheless, I think dreams and goals can be good for us. They challenge us to keep going when we’re just tired enough to want to quit, and they help us focus when the ubiquitous attractions and distractions all around us might otherwise derail us. (Or, should I say deboat us? 🙂 )

One perfect example of this is found in a book I just finished, The Boys in the Boat, which is a fabulous non-fiction account of the young men from Washington State who set their hearts on winning a gold metal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book is powerful and inspirational. A movie version is in production right now, with Kenneth Branaugh directing, and I can hardly wait for it to come out!

The story was especially thrilling to me, because it is a story from my parents’ generation! In fact, my mother and uncle spent their summers working to help build the Hoover Dam during the same year several of these young men were there! (Well, my mother worked as a waitress, serving food to the guys who were hanging over the side of the cliff chipping away at granite with jack hammers.) It’s also a story of gut-wrenching difficulty to overcome human limitations in order to reach a worthy goal. My mom lived on skim milk and bread at times in order to survive college during the Great Depression. Goals are good. Hard work is good. Survival is good. Success is profoundly satisfying!

Have you heard about the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell (who won a gold metal at the 1924 summer Olympics in Paris)? God infuses us with abilities and gives us purpose. He also wants us to give everything we can muster to achieve “my utmost for His highest” (as Oswald Chambers wrote).

So, whatever abilities God has given us—whether it’s writing or rowing or running or something else—let’s use those gifts and give it everything we’ve got to accomplish whatever goal God puts in our hearts! Ready to race?!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Happy Eleventh Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Life is beautiful.
It’s never what you expect,
But it’s still sublime.

Would you like to guess what I was trying to capture in this photo? Life never sits still for us, does it? Worse yet, we move even when we’re trying to hold still! Life is grander, more colorful, and more full of light and dark than we can begin to imagine. It makes me think of what I’ve been trying to accomplish with my blog these past eleven years. . . and even more, what God has been faithfully working to create in my life. I catch a vision, but it’s gone before I can even record it clearly. The funny thing is, the result can be more beautiful than what I was originally trying to capture! If your life seems messy, out of focus, and moving too fast, don’t despair! Give it to God. He can turn anything into something sublime.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Cec Murphy on Atalanta’s Excess Baggage

Ever since I listened to Cecil (Cec) Murphy speak at a writers’ conference about five years ago, I’ve been a fan, not just of his writing (which is excellent) but of his character and long life of fruitful ministry. He began with six years on the mission field in Kenya—about sixty years ago—and has never stopped working, even though he’s authored or co-authored more than 135 books and could be resting on his laurels (which would provide a very comfy cushion for sitting)!

Cec still puts out a weekly blog called Writer to Writer as well as a monthly newsletter. He is busy leaving as large a legacy to the glory of God as possible, and he’s definitely a mentor and inspiration to me.  I was particularly touched by his last newsletter so asked if I could share it with you. As always, he was gracious! Here it is:

Excess Baggage

As I stood in line at Delta’s baggage check-in, the agent said to the woman in front of me, “You’re nineteen pounds overweight. You’ll have to pay for the excess weight or take out some of the goods.”

The woman dropped out of line to repack and stuff items into her large purse.

As I watched, I thought of the excess luggage most of us carry—hurts, slights, betrayals, and rejections. We haven’t let them go, even though they weigh us down. For example, whenever someone mentions a person we haven’t forgiven, we feel a heaviness inside. Even anger.

Those thoughts reminded me of Greek mythology and Atalanta, the fleet-footed goddess. Her father, King Schoeneus, wanted her to marry, but she refused. Finally, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could outrun her in a footrace. If the challengers lost, they would be put to death. Many young men tried, lost the race—and their lives.

Hippomenes became the next suitor and asked the goddess Aphrodite for help. She gave him three golden apples.

The race began and Atalanta was soon twenty yards ahead. Hippomenes rolled one apple in front of her, and she stooped to pick it up. A little later, he rolled out the second and she grabbed it. And the third.

By then, Atalanta was so weighted down, Hippomenes passed her and won the race.

The story teaches us that we self-sabotage by holding on to “golden apples” of anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. They hinder by weighing us down in successfully running life’s race.

We know they’re there, and we know they hold us back. Even so, it’s not easy to cast off those hurt feelings and rejection. With God’s help and opening ourselves to individuals we trust, we can dispose of the things that weigh us down.For any of you who’d enjoy reading more, here’s the link to his blog: https://t.e2ma.net/message/yb7lv/yjxfi

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

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).

Offerings for NaPoMo (National Poetry Month)

Do you enjoy poetry? Write poems? Since 1996, April has been designated as National Poetry Month in America to celebrate and encourage the enjoyment of poetry. Usually I take the opportunity to write a few poems, but so far this spring I’ve not slowed down enough to allow literary creativity to send up any new shoots from my soul. Nevertheless, I’m a believer (in good poetry), so I’m going to share 10 quotes on poetry with 10 poetic photos from around my home in the hopes of inspiring us all to poetic endeavors, and if you write any lovely poems between now and then that you’d be willing to share, please add them in the comment box below or send them to me via email (or message me on FaceBook), and I’ll reserve April 30 for sharing what we create. Sound like a plan?

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” Plutarch   “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg   “Always be a poet, even in prose.” Charles Baudelaire   “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings:
it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” William Wordsworth  “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought
and the thought has found words.” Robert Frost   “As to the pure mind all things are pure,
so to the poetic mind all things are poetical.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   “A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out
in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times;
a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.” Randall Jerrell   “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal
down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”  Don Marquis   “Why should poetry have to make sense?” Charlie Chaplin   “If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.” David CarradineAnd so, I’ll await with great expectations for any expression of emotion
mixed with bits of wisdom or puzzlement that blossom from our hearts.
May we all find some quiet time for reflection and meditation this spring! “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26).

(As might be obvious, the last photo was not take around my home. 🙂  Rather, it’s from Meijer Garden, where “the butterflies are blooming” through April.)

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Summer has now been setting in my life for many years, and yesterday marked my tenth anniversary of writing “all about it!” With over half a million views and 2,222+ followers, I’m still incentivized to write my heart out when and while I can! Beyond that, people from 215 nations and territories have stopped by at some time or another, which is approaching most of the countries in existence, except for the heart of Africa and Turkmenistan. (This is the beginning of the “Global Map”of visitors to Summer Setting; the complete list of nations is at the end of this post.)

As I prayed about what to write for this personally special occasion, it occurred to me to look back and remember all that God has done for me as I’ve attempted to glorify Him, enjoy Him forever, and share His love with you:

From seven years ago: This is my 365th post since starting to blog three years ago, and I discovered with astonishment and joy that this site  has been visited almost 30,000 times! “Summer Setting” was intended to have a double meaning, expressing both the sentiment that the setting of my life is still sunny and warm—like  summer sunshine—but that I am aging and this wonderful “Indian Summer” season will transition into fall soon.  Like the shimmering sun disappearing behind a vast expanse of ocean, the summer of my life is setting.

I want to thank each person who has cared enough to look in on my life and  walk the pilgrim road with me a little. Thank you for this wonderful privilege! It’s my earnest desire to bring joy to you as I share what I’m learning about the life and love that God has granted me.

Because of my husband’s prostate cancer, I’ve been reading a lot about life and death issues lately. I found this touching quote from Walt Wangerin’s Letters from the Land of Cancer (written as he was preparing to meet his Maker): “Good night, good friends. The nice thing about these letters is that you can quit reading them at any paragraph. No guilt to you, no fear in me that I might have burdened or bored you.”

And so it is with me too! I will begin my “second” year’s worth of letters—casting them into cyberspace like crumbs upon the waters—with the hope of encouraging whomever God sends my way…and very eager to hear anything you’d like to share with me. May the Lord bless you!

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

Fifth Anniversary: Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. I’ve been blessed by more than 128,000 visits (nearly half of them during this past year) from 168 countries and now have 193 “followers”. . .

It’s a “dream come true” to be able to share God and all He’s done for me with people around the world. When my sister and I were in our early 20’s, we started a trek around the world to share the good news of Jesus, but our mother almost died in a car accident, and so we came home. Probably for the best. She was not a believer at the time (although she did become a Christian before she died, praise God! 🙂  ), and my naive sister and my naive self might have gotten ourselves killed on such a mission. However, the Lord knew our hearts were in it…and still are! So, now, at the tender age of 62, after having reared our brood of seven darlings, my husband has granted me the freedom to write a blog rather than get a full-time job somewhere.

I look at it as being allowed to be a self-supporting missionary of sorts, trying to reach out with the gospel of hope from my desk at home. I don’t suppose my sister Annie and I would have really made it to 168 countries in our trek or have met 128,213 people on our way. Isn’t God amazing? He hears the cries of our hearts and delights to answer. Granted, the answer has come some forty+ years later, and in a way I could never have dreamed, but God is full of surprises and has an infinite number of ways to answer our prayers and fill our hearts with joy! Bless you for being a part. I am so grateful for you and your ministry in my life, too! Thank you for being fellow pilgrims with me through this awesome life!

Eighth Anniversary: On Submitting our Passions to God   Today marks the eighth anniversary of Summer Setting, and I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy photo journalism. Actually, I love it with a passion. It’s “work” so satisfying that I look forward to it. It’s therapeutic; it energizes me; it makes me feel happy! Reminds me of my son Michael, who got totally splattered with fresh concrete once while helping build a house down in Mexico. Instead of expressing dismay (which was my reaction), he just grinned: “I never knew this mission trip was going to be so much fun!” What can I say? When you feel really passionate about what you’re doing, what’s a little mud on your face?

Ninth Anniversary: April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPress’s “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

 

And, those reminiscences now bring me back to the present! I’ve been struck by several verses from the Gospel of John lately. In all we do—whether it’s writing a blog, studying and trying to grow up, working at a job, taking care of children, sitting in a retirement center or trying to survive in a  refugee camp— may everything we do be to the glory of God and to lift up the name of Jesus! May we seek the honor that comes from God alone, testifying to His Word and His truth, so that others too may know the joy of His salvation and eternal life.

Jesus said, “I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” (John 5:34) “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

 

United States

333438

United Kingdom

20172

Germany

17946

Canada

17192

France

11776

Australia

8483

Taiwan

8263

India

7658

Philippines

4728

South Africa

4030

Italy

3815

Brazil

3385

Netherlands

3069

Ireland

2661

European Union

2632

South Korea

2519

Spain

2518

Russia

2348

Thailand

2345

Japan

2268

Indonesia

2217

Turkey

2071

Singapore

1945

Norway

1827

Poland

1690

Romania

1579

Mexico

1493

Malaysia

1467

New Zealand

1442

Belgium

1425

Sweden

1326

Greece

1204

Switzerland

1202

Hungary

1176

Israel

1075

Hong Kong SAR China

1019

Colombia

959

Ukraine

946

Czech Republic

910

Vietnam

885

Pakistan

854

Austria

828

Argentina

823

Denmark

823

United Arab Emirates

814

Finland

765

Portugal

713

Saudi Arabia

649

Croatia

632

Serbia

600

Bulgaria

596

Slovakia

478

Egypt

463

Trinidad & Tobago

414

Kenya

410

Chile

366

Nigeria

363

Slovenia

351

Tunisia

318

Bangladesh

315

Lebanon

313

Sri Lanka

304

Peru

293

Puerto Rico

284

Lithuania

275

Estonia

260

Jamaica

249

Latvia

249

Kuwait

240

Morocco

211

Georgia

197

Iraq

193

Tanzania

193

Ghana

183

Macedonia

181

Algeria

175

Qatar

173

Malta

164

Jordan

162

China

161

Cyprus

156

Bosnia & Herzegovina

155

Costa Rica

150

Cambodia

148

Ecuador

143

Albania

140

Venezuela

137

Belarus

134

Iceland

115

Nepal

115

Armenia

101

Uruguay

97

Azerbaijan

96

Guatemala

93

Oman

90

Dominican Republic

87

Bahrain

87

Palestinian Territories

85

Myanmar (Burma)

85

Bahamas

83

Luxembourg

81

Honduras

80

Mauritius

77

Uganda

77

Panama

76

Moldova

74

Kazakhstan

67

Bolivia

65

Mongolia

64

Zimbabwe

59

El Salvador

58

Paraguay

57

Botswana

57

Montenegro

56

Barbados

56

Namibia

47

Ethiopia

45

Zambia

44

Brunei

42

Guam

39

Aruba

35

Laos

33

Libya

32

Belize

31

Nicaragua

31

Sudan

30

Maldives

29

Guyana

28

Monaco

28

Syria

28

Madagascar

28

Afghanistan

23

Bhutan

22

Cameroon

21

French Guiana

21

Fiji

21

Curaçao

20

U.S. Virgin Islands

20

Martinique

19

Antigua & Barbuda

18

Guernsey

18

Isle of Man

18

Jersey

18

Cayman Islands

18

Bermuda

17

Mozambique

17

Côte d’Ivoire

16

St. Kitts & Nevis

16

Réunion

15

French Polynesia

15

Uzbekistan

14

St. Lucia

14

Kyrgyzstan

13

Djibouti

13

Guadeloupe

13

Papua New Guinea

13

Macau SAR China

13

Angola

13

Sint Maarten

13

Haiti

12

New Caledonia

12

Suriname

12

Andorra

12

Faroe Islands

10

Yemen

10

Seychelles

9

Benin

9

Rwanda

8

Senegal

8

Lesotho

8

Micronesia

7

Vatican City

7

Turks & Caicos Islands

6

Burkina Faso

6

Solomon Islands

6

Gibraltar

5

Northern Mariana Islands

5

Somalia

5

Liberia

5

Grenada

5

Tajikistan

5

Congo – Kinshasa

5

Gabon

4

Guinea-Bissau

4

Vanuatu

4

Cuba

4

Malawi

4

Swaziland

4

Åland Islands

4

British Virgin Islands

3

Iran

3

Cape Verde

3

Liechtenstein

3

Samoa

2

Greenland

2

Togo

2

Falkland Islands

2

Cook Islands

2

Dominica

1

American Samoa

1

Caribbean Netherlands

1

Tonga

1

Congo – Brazzaville

1

St. Pierre & Miquelon

1

Sierra Leone

1

Gambia

1

Palau

1

Netherlands Antilles

1

North Korea

1

Burundi

1

South Sudan

1

St. Vincent & Grenadines

1

Timor-Leste

1

Marshall Islands

1

Mauritania

1