Beauty

The bush these grow on is taller than I am. Each cluster of blossoms is the size of a softball. I see Creation showing off again these days, everywhere I look.

According to the Internet, the writer Alice Walker said this about beauty: “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”

Perhaps that’s true, but there’s more. What I would say is, this: Whenever you really see the beauty that already is all around you, you are restoring your own soul. Call it mindfulness if you like, or just call it being truly alive.

So what exactly is Beauty, and why do we crave it so?

The poet/priest John O’Donohue wrote, “We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. For a while the strings of struggle and endurance are relieved and our frailty is illuminated by a different light in which we come to glimpse behind the shudder of appearances the sure form of things. In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. Beauty brings a sense of completion and sureness.”

We awaken and surrender in the same act. I love that.

Honoring a life

My dad, who was a veteran journalist, used to joke that he hoped to die on a slow news Sunday, so his obituary would be prominently featured in the next day’s paper by editors looking for copy to fill the paper.

He didn’t, but his obit still made it into two newspapers, the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, which respectively covered the areas where he had grown up and become a newspaperman and where he lived for the last 50 years of his life. He didn’t make the New York Times; apparently you have to be multiple kinds of wonderful for that, and the wonderful ness of my smart, gentle, kind and loving dad wasn’t quite enough to make the cut.

So what does it taken to be deemed the worthy subject of a real obituary, not just a paid death notice? The Times itself has been doing some soul-searching about that lately, recognizing that “who gets remembered — and how — inherently involves judgment. To look back at the obituary archives can, therefore, be a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers.”

Big surprise: the Times’ look back at its own obituary archives revealed that the achievements of white man have been disproportionately valued in those pages over the years.

So consider this: When my father-in-law died in 2007, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran his obituary. It reported that he served in the Merchant Marine during and after World War II, founded a couple of successful businesses with his wife, and was involved in many community activities.

My mother-in-law, Doro Kerr, died three weeks ago, but the Inquirer said they would not be able to run her obituary. Thumbnail sketch of her life? She fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and started over again in this country. She worked for the Inquirer itself and was the first woman at the paper to sell national advertising, despite some resistance from her immediate superior, who is said to have commented that the people who were best at that kind of work wore pants. (She says she told him that would be no problem, she’d be happy to get a few pair.) She founded a couple of successful businesses with her husband—and believe me, he might have had the big ideas but she was the one who made them happen—and was involved in many community activities.

His life worth an obit. Hers not. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Anyway, she will be remembered at a memorial service this Saturday, May 5, at Solebury Friends Meeting. The service itself begins at 2, and it will be preceded by a 20-minute prelude of piano pieces that were meaningful to her. She will be remembered and honored there by those who knew and loved her, so all will be well.

Rector’s reflection: Seeing the face of Christ

In the shadows next to the main door of the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral in West Philadelphia, there’s a sculpture that touched my heart when I first saw it at Diocesan Convention last November, and I’ve continued to think about it ever since.

It’s called Hungry and Thirsty Jesus, and it shows a life-size figure in bronze, seated on the ground, a beggar who has pulled a blanket around his shoulders and up over his head to stay warm, so his bearded face is barely visible. He has one hand extended as a plea to passers by, and that hand is the clue to his identity, for it bears a wound in the center of palm, the ugly mark of a nail.

The sculpture was installed last year, and it’s the work of Timothy Schmalz, a sculptor who describes the art he creates as ͞visual prayers.͟ This piece draws its inspiration from Matthew 25:35: ͞I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.͟

As faithful Christians we know we’re called in baptism to see the face of Christ in all those around us, from the rich and powerful to the homeless beggar on the street. We accept this as an ideal, and yet we fail at it again and again. How many of us would recognize Schmalz’s beggar as Jesus if he didn’t have the mark of that nail in his hand?

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For the beauty of the earth

For the beauty of the earth …
Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise …

I’ve been remembering that a year ago I was part of a chorus that sang “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “The Blue Green Hills of Earth” for Earth Day. That night I wished we could stay and sing them over and over again, and I wish we could come back together and sing them again now, but YouTube will have to do.

For the Beauty of the Earth, https://youtu.be/-0qQyW0W0Rw
John Rutter

For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
Over and around us lies

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise

For the beauty of the hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light
Sun and moon and stars of light

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise

For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
For all gentle thoughts and mild

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise

The Blue Green Hills of Earth, https://youtu.be/fN7iPUVJfqI
Kim Oler, from Missa Gaia by Paul Winter

For the earth forever turning,
For the land, for skies and sea,
To our Source we sing returning
Home to our blue green hills of earth.

For the mountains, hills and pastures
In their silent majesty
For the stars, for all the heavens
Sing we our joyful praise to Thee.

For the sun, for rain and thunder,
For the seasons’ harmony,
For our lives, for all creation
Sing we our joyful praise to Thee.

For the earth forever turning,
For the lnd which gave us birth,
To our Source we sing returning
Home to the blue green hills of earth.

Rivers, not reservoirs

Don’t think about saving your love as if you’re going to need it later. We’re meant to be rivers, not reservoirs.

~ Bob Goff, Everybody Always (paraphrase)

Welcome, child of God

I love walking through these doors at the Morrisville United Methodist Church. I’m pretty sure these words are intended for the children of the Montessori school there, but they make me feel special, too.

My bridge, our town

If you love a place as I love this place, how could you not love all the places in this world that other people call home? And if we did, how could there not be peace on Earth?

I was thinking of the hymn “This Is My Song, O God of All the Nations” when I took this picture this morning:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

https://youtu.be/H8FPOjgX07c