Love everlasting (#BibleJournaling)

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love…” – Jeremiah 31:3

This is the verse on which the Rebekah R. Jones’ Original Bible Art Journaling Challenge series, Week 36 is based.

As soon as I saw the word “everlasting” I thought of dried flowers, which are sometimes called everlastings. My mom used to grow gorgeous everlastings—strawflowers, statice, love-in-a-mist (nigella), Chinese lantern, and more.

She got me interested in trying my hand at it. I did, and for a few years I made dried arrangements out of my dried roses, statice, hydrangea, baby’s breath, tansy, nigella pods. So fun—but messy!

I decided to decorate this page of my Bible with everlastings. Working on this drawing of straw flowers, statice, celosia and nigella was like stepping back into time. I just wish I could have shown Mom, who died in 2006, but whose love I sensed as I worked on it. Of course God’s love lasts longer and is stronger than any mother’s!

Thank you, Jesus, for your truly everlasting love!

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Bible Journal entry for Jeremiah 31:3 (Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly)

Media used: Pigma micron pens and pencil crayon.

Cheerleaders (a poem for Family Day)

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Today is Family Day in B.C. In the year since I first posted the poem below, we’ve discovered that our littlest granddaughter’s developmental delays are most likely caused by cerebral palsy. And so a family very precious to us is walking a new-to-them path with lots of challenges—and the sentiments expressed by little A’s grandma in “Cheerleaders” are more heartfelt than ever. Cheer someone in your family on today!

 

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Swans and cygnets, June 2016 – West Vancouver  (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Cheerleaders

Every wee one who is learning
to kick the ball, hit it off the tee
point her toes and do a plié
summersault, the front crawl
sing in a choir, be elf in a play
play guitar, trumpet, violin
shoot baskets, basket weave
weave in and out in a skillful
soccer dribble to the goal
with the goal to make the team,
every child with dyslexia, autism
Down syndrome, whatever syndrome
who isn’t ever going to make the grade
make the team, team up with the cool kids
(because who are we kidding?)
needs a cheerleader
a yell of encouragement
a bull horn, cow bells, sign held high
banner in the sky
face painted green, blue
or whatever colour the jersey
and an after-game trip to Dairy Queen
because she’s queen of the day
and you’re her mom, dad
grandma, grandpa, uncle, auntie
cousin, biggest fan
on the team of the family.

 

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Blessed by Psalm 84 #BibleJournaling

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I love Psalm 84!

David Kitz writes three chapters on it in his book Psalms Alive! I did a Bible journal sketch for each of them.

The first section (Chapter 12 in his book focusing on Psalm 84:1-4) is about living in God’s house. I love the word pictures of sparrows nesting there—all the more because my maiden name was “Sperling” (German), which translates to “sparrow.” I doodled this picture in the margin of my Bible, based on Psalm 84:3,4.

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Bible Journal entry for Psalm 84:3,4 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

The middle section (Chapter 13 – Psalm 84:5-9) is about the faith journey or pilgrimage. I focused on verse 5: “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion” – Psalm 84:5.

Because my Bible margin was already full, I did a journal entry in my sketch book. Ever since I saw the idea of using footprints in a Bible journal entry, I’ve wanted to do that. This seemed like a good place to use that idea.

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Bible journal entry for Psalm 84:5 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

The quotes on the shoe soles are from Chapter 13 of Psalms Alive! (pp. 121-128):

Right (top) shoe:
“He brings hope into the Valley of Despair”
“We are called to a faith journey.”
“He is the great transformer. He brings light into darkness.”
“Read God’s Word daily.”
“It is the way of the cross that will bring us safely into His arms.”
He will be living water.”

 

Left (bottom) shoe:
“The place of weeping becomes a place of living springs when Jesus passes by.”
“We are to undertake this walk together.”
“He brings joy into sorrowful hearts.”
“Bread of Life sustains us.”
“Pray.”
“Hear His voice.”
“Our strength is in the LORD.”
“Strength for our pilgrimage comes only from Him.”

The last section (Chapter 14 – Psalm 84:10-12) was about how this is really a love psalm to God. I chose to illustrate it with a wonderful quote of David Kitz’s that fit on the overleaf side of my Bible—“Love is at the core of every special day”— paired with Psalm 84:10: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.”

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Bible Journal for Psalm 84:10 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

After all that, I love Psalm 84 even more!

(David’s book Psalms Alive! is really quite wonderful as an in-depth study of selected psalms. His writing is full of vivid word pictures and meaty quotes that make it a perfect resource for those of us attempting to personalize and add colour and images to our Bible pages.)

 

Well (review)

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Well: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West AfricaWell: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa by Sarah Thebarge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Well, Sarah Thebarge immerses us in her three-month experience of working as a Physicians’ Assistant in a missionary hospital in Togo, West Africa. From her first days of climate and culture shock to her trip back home, she shares not only what she sees, hears, and smells, but also what she feels on many levels—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Many chapters are short. Some are narrative—wonderful storytelling. Others read like essays that speak to large themes of love and the meaning and purpose of life in the shadow of unspeakable suffering and the inequality of the developed versus the developing world. Scattered throughout her chronological account of her Togo experience are flashback stories about her medical training, her battle with breast cancer, and her experiences in Portland.

Thebarge is an excellent writer and a delight to read. She remembers events in amazing detail—though I’m sure some credit goes to her journals, which she repeatedly refers to keeping. However, many of the stories are hard to read because of their content. The book is heavy with heartbreaking tales of death disease, and primitive conditions. Over and over Thebarge refers to Togo as the saddest place on earth. She is deeply affected by the inability of the medical staff to help more people and prevent what appear to be the meaningless deaths of newborns, children, mothers and fathers needed as parents.

Thebarge’s dedication and love are Mother Teresa-esque. One of the most beautiful passages in the book for me was this short exchange between her and Omari, her Togolese work partner:

“I want to see patients like you do.”
‘You already said that,’ I teased him.
“No, no, I mean, I want to look at people like you do.”
“What do you mean? How do I look at people?”
“You look at people with love,” Omari said.
O thought about Massiko’s words, that love looks around.
And the father’s words, “There is love in your eyes.”
And now Omari’s words, ”You look at people with love.” – Well, p. 219.

I would like to recommend this book without reservation, but can’t quite do that. For Thebarge’s theology does not, as I’ve picked it up from Well, agree completely with the Bible. She seems to take a Universalist approach toward the mostly Muslim patients that come to the hospital, implying that in death all will find themselves transported in love to the same loving God.

She is sharply critical of what she calls the “fundamentalist” Baptists who support and run the hospital, offended that the chaplains speak to the dying of hell and how to avoid it.

I found her explanation of the Incarnation interesting as well.

I wondered what, if anything, was the point of Jesus being physically present in our world. What was the significance of Emmanuel—of God being With Us?

If we look at everything Jesus left undone when he departed from the earth, then his presence hardly mattered at all. People were still sick, they still died, they were still oppressed, and they still suffered.

So why did it matter that Emmanuel was here?

As I thought about it, the question became its own answer. Emmanuel’s value did not lie in what he did or didn’t accomplish while he walked the earth. What mattered was that he was here. – p. 294

Maybe I missed it, but in Well I never came across the crux of the Gospel—that Jesus came to earth to show the Father’s love and be with us, yes, but to also die in our stead, to pay the death penalty our sins deserve. His atoning sacrifice is the reason we can look forward to spending eternity with Him and God the Father. Though this is a free gift, it’s a gift we receive when we, with our volition, accept it.

I have nothing but praise for Thebarge’s loving empathetic heart and tireless work. I have much to learn from her. The theological critique notwithstanding, this book is a worthwhile read because of the part of the world it shares and the way it challenges the reader to grapple with issues that Thebarge has faced and worked out in her way.

I received a copy of Well as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Casting out Fear #BibleJournaling

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Hi! It’s Tuesday again–already!– and time for another Bible art journaling project.

The challenge:

In the Rebekah Jones Original Bible Art Journaling Challenges that I’ve been getting, Week 7 focused on a verse from 1 John that I’ve always struggled with: 1 John 4:18:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NKJV).

I do not live a fear-free life and have often berated myself with this verse. What’s wrong with me!? My imperfect love notwithstanding, I welcomed a chance to meditate on this verse in a visual way.

The project:

Rebekah’s blog post and video lesson is HERE

If you check it out, you’ll see that her visual is a set of tags (like one would find attached to new clothes), with the words “Perfect love casts out fear” on them. The word “fear” is untied from the rest, and about to slip to the ground. It’s simple and beautiful.

As at other times, I didn’t have her supplies but loved the idea of getting rid of fear in some way. As I pondered this, a picture came to mind of “Love” as a heart, pushing “Fear” off the page.

I sketched it with pencil, outlined with Pigma Micron pens, and used pencil crayon to do the coloring.

I added the house at the top, from which fear was cast, as a symbol of my life. For in verse 16 I see:

“God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”

That tells me that God lives in me and if He is there, there is no room for fear in the same house.

Fear’s chain and leg irons symbolize Fear’s torment, which are thrown out together with their master.

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As I worked through the process of illustrating these verses, I believe I came to a better understanding of this difficult (to-me) passage than I ever have before. I continue to be surprised by how art journaling is adding life, color, and relevance to my Bible study.

Still mothering me

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A favourite photo of my mother as a young woman.

Still mothering me

Five days ago
would have been your birthday.
It’s been eight years …
But you still visit me often
keep me cool every summer
when I slip on the brown sundress
rescued from your closet
wrap your arms around me
every winter week
it’s the old magenta sweater’s turn.
Sometimes I catch glimpses of you in the mirror
as I hobble about on my cane
recovering from my own broken bone.
Two weeks ago I found
your white velcro-flap runners.
Now, like you, I can always
fasten my own shoes.
I’ve been wearing them
on my outside walks.
The other day taking the last tired steps
of my limping trek home
I’m sure I heard your voice:
“You be careful now.”

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (written April 15, 2014 – All rights reserved)

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Prompt – Inspiration

Three years ago (March 2, 2014 to be exact) I took a short tumble on some stairs and broke my hip. That resulted in surgery and a whole lot of new experiences for me. I documented some of them in poems (which I’ll share over the next few days—new experiences are great poem fodder, by the way). This is one written at that time, chosen for today because April 10th was my mother’s birthday.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Cheerleaders

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The subject of today’s Spiritual Journey first Thursday is CONNECTION. It’s Doraine Bennett’s one-little-word for this year.

I’ve been thinking about connection and connections for several days now and the more I do, the more I realize it’s a big concept.

Many of our tools (like the computer I’m typing on) need a connection to a power source to keep working. Plants need to be connected to nourishment in the ground or water. Craft projects of knit and crochet are a series of yarn connections. And then there’s the vast array of human connections.

We talk of meeting, networking, partying, and fellowshipping. Our connections with people can be as underlings (employee, servant, slave, assistant, aide), equals (contact, associate, ally, kin) or superiors (boss, CEO, leader, head honcho).

Human connection is so important, in fact, that it’s needed  from day one. A  healthy bond between infants and caregivers can be the difference between life and death. Numerous articles on the psychology of early childhood underline the importance of human connection (skin-to-skin as well as eye and voice contact) with infants for them to grow and develop normally. Those early connections become the foundation for all other human connections and contribute as well to a person’s concept of God.

Have you noticed how family members dote on their own? Moms and grandmas carry their brag books and post photos on Facebook. Dads and grandpas cheer on their sons and daughters at ball games, swim meets, concerts and recitals. No one compares to Junior or Missy.  And that’s just how it should be.

Each one of us has our family assignment of little and big ones with whom we connect in a myriad of ways to support, teach, guide, and love.

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My team – December 2016   (Photo© 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Cheerleaders

Every wee one who is learning
to kick the ball, hit it off the tee
point her toes and do a plié
summersault, the front crawl
sing in a choir, be elf in a play
play guitar, trumpet, violin
shoot baskets, basket weave
weave in and out in a skillful
soccer dribble to the goal
with the goal to make the team,
every child with dyslexia, autism
Down syndrome, whatever syndrome
who isn’t ever going to make the grade
make the team, team up with the cool kids
(because who are we kidding?)
needs a cheerleader
a yell of encouragement
a bull horn, cow bells, sign held high
banner in the sky
face painted green, blue
or whatever colour the jersey
and an after-game trip to Dairy Queen
because she’s queen of the day
and you’re her mom, dad
grandma, grandpa, uncle, auntie
cousin, biggest fan
on the team of the family.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey first Thursday, hosted today by Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads.

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Mindfulness at Christmas

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One of the Christmas bells in my mother’s collection (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Thank you to Irene Latham for rallying us to revive our Spiritual Journey Thursday meme, at least this once. We’re invited to reflect on our One Little Word choices for 2017.

My 2017 word was / is MINDFULNESS.

I am aware that there are psychological and, in some faiths, religious overlays to the word which may bring baggage to it that I hadn’t intended. In my February post where I talked about what mindfulness meant to me, I gave it this definition:

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Now, in the middle of December, I am relating mindfulness to Advent, the candles that are lit each week in church, and the qualities each represents. So far we have focused on HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. I suspect next Sunday when we light the fourth candle, we will hear about LOVE.

I want to possess these qualities in abundance and in their purest forms, especially at Christmas. However, the circumstances of my life change and with those changes my emotions fluctuate resulting in the needle of my Hope-, Peace-, and Joy-meters becoming virtual pendulums,

Each Sunday’s sermon has helped me focus on the lasting and unchanging aspects of Hope, Peace, and Joy that play out for us in the events of that first Christmas. Hope doesn’t dim because God took the initiative to reconnect with us, and promises us eternal life beyond this life. Peace is possible because we’ve entrusted Jesus with our lives; Joy is irrepressible because we are invited into relationship with our Creator. I’m sure next Sunday’s talk on Love will deliver something just as enduring.

My challenge to myself, then, is when circumstances change—when I get the flu, or the shortbreads don’t turn out, or the weather switches off all the power and my plans go sideways, or whatever—I remain mindful of the lasting, unchanging verities of the season’s meaning, instead of losing hope, peace, joy, and love at the whim of what’s happening in my daily life.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”—a poem that became the carol—illustrates how this worked for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, according to this article, wrote it in the middle of the American Civil War. The carol version leaves out the two stanzas that refer specifically to the war. Here is his poem in its original form.

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Image: Pixabay

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I’m going to take ringing bells as my cue to be mindful of the truths that Advent represents that are bigger than my fluctuating day-to-day hope, peace, joy, and love.

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This post is linked to “Spiritual Journey Thursday,” hosted today by Irene Latham. At the link-up you’ll be directed to other bloggers and their Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

Prayer Breakfast Reflections (NPM ’16-Day 6)

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What I experienced on Monday and Tuesday of this week was the perfect preparation to write about Bobbie Ann Taylor‘s one-little-word MERCIFUL.

My husband and I were asked to be part of our church’s delegation to the annual MLA*’s prayer breakfast, hosted at a hotel just steps away from B.C.’s Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday morning.

After the beautiful ferry crossing Monday afternoon, we arrived in Victoria in time for dinner. An MLA friend who attends our church joined us at Milestones. That began a fascinating time of learning as we conversed and he answered questions about how he navigates the tricky water of provincial politics. No novice (he was formerly the mayor of the town in which I live), he explained how has trained himself to ask questions, listen, and then when the time is right, explain his position. He told of interfaith gatherings where he has joined with Muslims, Sikh’s and people of other faiths in initiatives which they all support.

The prayer breakfast saw around 150 people eating breakfast together (18 tables, with one or two MLAs— representatives of both political parties—at each table). It was an eye-opener for me as I glanced across the room and saw, for example, the former leader of the NDP** party in B.C. who raised his hand when the organizer asked who of them had attended the prayer breakfast for each of the ten years it had been happening. I had no idea and realized I have make judgments while I didn’t have a clue!

The man who, those ten years ago, had the brain child to start hanging out with our politicians for the purpose of lending them spiritual support obviously loves them and is loved back. In this time when politics can be a divider of people, this event was a real encouragement to me.

We stopped for lunch on our way home where each one us (five in all) shared the significance of the event personally. My friend Joyce said she had texted the words of the hymn “There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy” to her husband as a sum-up of her response. I found those old lyrics were also the perfect expression of my feelings.

As my poem for today (Wednesday—poem-a-day for National Poetry Month and my post for Spiritual Journey Thursday), I’m taking the liberty of using some of the lines of that old hymn as I reflect on MERCIFUL.

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Here I am standing in front of the Legislative Assembly. After Tuesday’s breakfast we  observed Question Period from the gallery (Photo by Joyce J.)

Prayer Breakfast Reflections

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea…”
We can live it out when peaceful
we agree to disagree,
when the members, left and right
share croissants, coffee, and tea.

“There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.”
Listen to opponent’s viewpoint
strive to understand and see
common path we walk together
while we guard integrity.

“For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind…”
See the needs that make us human
not by party lines defined
while the prayers of fellow travelers
aid us in the daily grind.

“And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
On this servant-leader pathway
that by many is maligned
help us all to pull together
as we seek Your mastermind.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Spiritual Journey Thursday is hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

*MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly

** NDP: National Democratic Party – the left-leaning party in Canadian national and provincial politics, roughly equivalent to the Democrats in the U.S.

*** “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

 

Sonnet to a Potato

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A couple of weeks ago, I found inspiration for a couple of poems in response  to the found photo prompts at Laura Shovan’s blog (where the fun continues).  A photo of a “Loaded baked potato” was the prompt for February 14th.  That photo plus the fact it was Valentine’s Day and love sonnets were in the air of my brain inspired “Sonnet to a Potato,” a parody of the classic “How Do I Love Thee?”  by  Elizabeth Barrett Browning. (You can read the original HERE).

PotatoCollage

Collage from photos at pixabay.com

Sonnet to a Potato

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee boiled, peel-mashed, deep fried as chips
in gravy drowned, sweet, baked, spiced hot with dips.
I laud thee for thy subterranean days,
thy secret growth all hidden from sun’s rays.
Fair starchy flesh, thou’rt comfort to my lips.
They calories they fortify my hips.
Sweet staple nightshade fruit, I give thee praise
for skin of white or yellow, russet, red
for Yukon Gold, Kerr’s pink, purple or blue.
Thou give’s thyself in pancakes, latkes bread
skins, salads, hash browns, scalloped, soup and stew.
Though sometimes called tater or spud instead
to thee, Potato, my taste buds stay true!

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, where you’ll find all kinds of delectable poetic fare. PF is hosted today by Elizabeth Steinglass.