Stratford-not-upon-Avon but Almost as Wonderful

Stratford-upon-AvonAlthough Stratford-upon-Avon has a good 750-year head start on Stratford, ON, Shakespeare's birthplaceand certain decided advantages,
most importantly (at least to me) the birthplaces of Shakespeare Anne Hathaway Cottage & Anne Hathaway, with all the quintessential charm of ancient thatched roovesBirthplace of Shakespeare  and half-timbered buildings brightened by many tiny, paned-glass windows Avon River, ON …still, the Stratford that resides upon the Avon River in Ontario, Canada, Perth County Courthouse. Stratford. ON is a city of many charms and gardens, and when Alan and I visited last weekend, Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon we found that even the Shakespearean plays were as creatively re-enacted as any we’ve seen in England (such as the one we saw at The Swan a few years ago). Muse at Festival Theater We visited during “Culture Days,” Sign on Park Benchand so there was not only art in the park along the Avon River, Gallery Stratford  but the Gallery Stratford (and other venues) were free to the public, Listening in The Gallery along with many special events, Alan in Garden by Normal School such as a free Scottish dance class at the Normal School. The Old Rectory, Stratford We stayed at a gorgeous B’n’B called The Old Rectory Kim and Alan at the Old Rectory where Kevin (professionally trained chef from the U.K.) and Kim Creamy Eggs and Salmon at The Old Rectory. Stratford have been dazzling guests with their gourmet breakfasts Garden behind the Old Rectory and the warm ambiance of their historic home for the past 19 years. Shakespearean Gardens. Stratford, ON We spent our days wandering through Stratford’s many gardens and shops, Salmon Salad feasting at their restaurants Butternut Soup and Shepherd's Pie(Bentley’s had [relatively] great prices and good food; their butternut soup
with maple syrup and traditional Shepherd’s pie were both exceptional), Feeding waterfowl along Avon River and meandering among the waterfowl who live along the Avon River. Swan on Avon River. 9.25.15+15 At last count, Lots of Ducks on the Avon RiverI think their numbers may rival that of Stratford’s voting population! Festival Theater, Stratford We spent our evenings enjoying brilliantly acted plays and musicals. Sound-of-Music-Stratford-Festival My favorite was a flawless performance of The Sound of MusicBust of Shakespeare along Avon River although The Taming of the Shrew
showcased a husband-wife team in the leading roles,
which somehow lent the mad comedy even more tongue-in-cheek levity. Swirls in Avon River However funny the premise
that a woman can be tamed through severity in the name of love, Jesus Knocking I have to say that my Lord, Jesus Christ, conquered this wild-hearted Kate, Canoeing at Sunset on Avon River not through severity, but through unending, patient kindness. Sunset on the Avon River Has your heart been conquered by love? Stratford, ONOr, are you waiting for a severe mercy to overcome you?Avon River“Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip” (Psalm 18:35-36). Stratford City Hall

(All pictures were taken during our stay in Stratford last weekend, except for the first 4, which were taken in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, several years ago [when I also took the picture of the Swan Theatre].)

Rise Up, My Love (24): In His Steps

Footsteps copySong of Solomon 1:8 “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.” Our Good Shepherd never ignores our cry for wisdom! He shows us how to find him, where he feeds, and where he rests his flock at noon.  “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).Waterfall at Turkey RunI took this series of pictures at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana and have never forgotten the footsteps etched in the rocks above the stream bed (in the first picture). Without the footprints left by thousands of travelers over the years, I don’t think I could have safely hiked the trail without falling. Even so, by following in the footsteps of Jesus (who broke the trail) and the myriad pilgrims who have walked the path of life before us, we are much more likely to find our way without suffering a lot of unnecessary injury!Turkey Run copyIn verse 8, notice how tenderly the king addresses his new bride:  “O thou fairest among women.”  What does every wife desire above all else in her marriage?  To be loved by her husband above all other earthly treasures. The bride had just expressed her anxieties and insecurities over how she looks (and what a universal concern that is!), and before her shepherd husband instructs her, he addresses her first need: to feel absolutely secure in his love and devotion. Rose copyWho is the fairest of them all?  His bride!  Not because she is outwardly the most beautiful—she has already lamented that she feels neither beautiful nor successful—but because he has set his heart and love completely on her.  She is the “fairest among women” to him.  And, that is what matters the most to her! Ultimately, she does not care how she judges herself or if those around her persecute her.  What she most deeply desires is that her beloved spouse, who has filled all her vision, finds her the most lovely woman on earth.  O, for husbands here on earth who will treasure their wives as Christ treasures his bride…who will give their lives to love and care for their wives in such a way that God will find in them “no spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27)!St. Michael's Mount 2 copy1:8 “…go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock…”  How do we find the Lord? Notice the conjunctive phrase at the beginning of the instruction: “If thou knowest not…” If you do not know the way in which you should go, always ask your Shepherd Husband, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). As believers, we never need to be afraid to ask for direction! The bridegroom answered immediately and with no hint of censure or rebuke because she hadn’t figured everything out on her own. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not” (James 1:5). The bride demonstrated a humble, teachable spirit by asking, and her husband responded accordingly.  “God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).  No wonder she found grace in her lover’s eyes: she was adorned with the precious ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:4)!St. Michael's Mount 3 copyAnd, here is a lesson for earthly brides, too!  Is there anything so likely to endear you to your husband as asking where you might find him? …how to join him in his work?  …how he thinks you could best be or become a help meet (a helper appropriate) for him?  Perhaps our husbands would find us “the fairest among women” if we—like this bride—gave up everything to pursue a life of loving and supporting our husbands. Sound politically incorrect and stultifying?  You might discover (like I did) that it’s wonderfully challenging and fulfilling to set aside the ambitions you cherished as a single person in order to fulfill God’s wisdom for married women: “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:4-5). This is a huge job to do well, and I still don’t have it all figured out after 40 years of trying! Don’t underestimate the beauty and value of being a wife, mother, & “keeper at home.”St. Michael's Mount 4I took this second series of three pictures of St. Michael’s Mount on the coast of Cornwall, England. When the tide goes out, the path appears. Whenever I’m not sure how to get from “here to there,” I remember this scene and pray for patience to wait until the Lord clarifies things and reveals the path to me.