Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Flashback

Hey everybody!

Someone recently posted a comic strip on Facebook about how we give our friends little Valentine's Day cards when we're in elementary school (at least, we do in the US), but we don't do it as adults. This reminded me of something that happened when I was deployed.

My friend Bridget got a fantastic little package in the mail at the end of February. Her mom teaches 3rd grade, and she had all her kids make little Valentines to send us. The box was full of them, and I have to say, this was one of the absolute best pieces of mail any of us ever got. Little notes from little kids? Priceless.

We all loved it. Bridget had them in a common area and we all went through them laughing about the spelling or the handwriting or the pictures they'd drawn; so great. Because Bridget is awesome, she let us pick some out for ourselves. I still have the one I chose, although I couldn't find it in time for this post. I did find my description of it in my journal, though:

"I took one w/a drawing of planes on the front (two labeled "enimy" [sic], and an undecipherable drawing on the back. :)"

It was pretty awesome.

So happy Valentine's Day, no matter where you are in the world.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Well, I'm back! That was a nice hiatus, but it's been long enough, I think.

I'm altering the blog again (I know, I know - it's a learning process, folks); I will not be posting every Wednesday according to a set schedule of topics. I will simply post whenever I have something to talk about.

Today's topic: Beauty

No, I'm not talking about celebrities.

Beauty is a topic I've been thinking about (in conjunction with art) for quite some time. In college, it bugged me that the English department was in the ugliest building on campus. A few years ago, I took a page from my brother Ben's book and started collecting works of art as souvenirs whenever I traveled. Two of my favorite Sara Groves songs are about beauty.*

Yesterday I took a walk at sunset. It was a beautiful day; sunny, nearly cloudless, warm for February. I live part-way up a hill and if I go to the top and round a corner, this is what I see on nice evenings:

Yeah, it's tough living in the Pacific Northwest.

I have always been a fan of the beauty of nature, and particularly of mountains and fast-moving rivers. Growing up, this was pretty much the only beauty I cared about. These days, I also appreciate the beauty of the visual arts, the performance arts, music, and the written word. I am attracted to the beauty of the Gospel more and more.

I have also found myself more attracted to liturgy in recent years. I've considered getting Advent candles for the last two Christmases, and I'm observing Lent** this year for the first time ever (apparently it started today).

Today was also Ash Wednesday. I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service; I hardly know what it is, but I was disappointed when I discovered that although the church up the road has an Ash Wednesday service, I was not going to be available to attend. I don't know what goes on in an Ash Wednesday service, but if it's anything like Maundy Thursday, I'd like to find out.

I had never even heard of Maundy Thursday until 2007. I was attending Park Street Church in Boston, and they held a special service. My brother Steven was going, and I figured I ought to, as well, though I will admit I wasn't super excited. It turned out to be the most moving service I had ever experienced. Unfortunately, Park Street remains the only church I have ever been to that observed Maundy Thursday. I miss it every year.

There can be great beauty in liturgy.

The same church up the road that has an Ash Wednesday service (Calvin Presbyterian) is one that I pass quite often. I drive past it on my way to work and church, and although I have a variety of walking routes, most of them start out passing this building. And yet, somehow I never noticed the stained glass windows.

I'd seen them, of course, but I'd never thought about them at all until yesterday. The windows are small, so I stopped to take a closer look. When I did so, I realized that I had been overlooking a small treasure. Not only are there seven beautiful displays in stained glass, there is a whole courtyard, complete with garden plants, a couple of sitting areas with benches, and a simple water feature with a Bible verse.

I looked around for a bit, then continued on my way. I got about twenty steps and turned around to go back. I sat and contemplated the windows from a bench by the water feature. I took in the beauty of the courtyard, feeling quite content. I stayed several minutes, just enjoying my surroundings. When I went home, it was still in my head - I grabbed my notebook and headed back again. It was lovely, and I even wrote a pretty terrible poem^ about it while I sat there.

I will be going back whenever I can. I feel very fond of this church for its courtyard; just a pretty little nook, welcoming me in.

Beauty in its various forms is a wonderful thing. A refreshment for the soul, a counterpoint to the darkness in the world, and a gift from God. We need more of it in our lives.

*Add to the Beauty and Why It Matters.

**Albeit in ignorance. All I know about Lent is giving something up for the duration. I am abstaining from chocolate. This is a big deal.

^But, hey - I wrote. Not every poem turns out.