How much FAITH is enough?

The theme of the sermon this morning was “My Statement of FAITH.” The church recently got a new pastor and the installation ceremony takes place today.

During the children’s sermon, a statement was made that struck me as odd:  “You have to have a LOT of faith.” I think she might have even said, “You’d have to have a lot of faith to make that happen” which is a whole other issue but for right now I’m going to focus on the LOT of faith statement. She was speaking about the Israelites having faith that God would provide food (manna) and water for them during their journey in the wilderness after they escaped from slavery in Egypt. (The manna story is told in the Bible in Exodus 16)

The people of Israel called the bread manna.
It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
(Exodus 16:31 NIV)

I wrote a note to myself that said, “Isn’t any amount of Faith enough?” What would constitute a LOT of Faith?

Faith as a Mustard Seed: Image by Juliane Bjerregaard via Flickr CC license.
Faith as a Mustard Seed: Image by Juliane Bjerregaard via Flickr CC license.

What about the parable of the mustard seed?

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
(Mark 4:31 NIV)
Mustard Tree

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5,6 ESV)

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:20 NIV)

Image by Steluma of Ain Avdat in Israel, via Flickr CC license.
Image by Steluma of Ain Avdat in Israel, via Flickr CC license.

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.
(Matthew 21:21 NLT)

Black and White mustard seeds: Image by Mattie Hagedorn via Flickr CC license.
Black and White mustard seeds: Image by Mattie Hagedorn via Flickr CC license.

The image of a mustard seed sized bit of faith has always been a source of fascination and something I ponder. I wore a mustard seed necklace somewhat similar to this one for quite a few years. (I still have it, but the chain is too short for me to wear it now.)

I thought about what I think Faith means. I thought of Hebrews 11:1,3, 6, 11-12

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

And it is impossible to please God without faith.

Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

And then, I mused about the very personal experience I had with the story of Abraham and Sarah’s miraculous child: (for a more complete telling of this FAITH and GRACE-filled story, read this.)

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man (and one woman), and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

If I ever get a tattoo, the one I would most consider would be an image of the word faith slicing through the word grace, as in “by faith are you saved through grace.” (Faith through grace, get it?) Something like this, but with it cutting through a larger word “GRACE” done in a way so that both words are clearly seen.
Faith tattoo image

But I digress.

The pastor ended with the thought that each person’s statement of FAITH is their life. Your statement of FAITH is YOU.

My faith is personal. I am not one of those people who evangelize every person I meet. I don’t, however, avoid talking about my faith it if is relevant to the conversation. I pray throughout the day. If I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do. I have deep convictions about certain beliefs and a very strong sense of liberal theology (which isn’t surprising given the hodge-podge patchwork of churches I’ve attended so far in my life). This quote* says it so well:

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity (love).

Faith is not a creed, a recitation of a list of beliefs. Faith is not something that can be measured.

Faith, in my opinion, can not be more or less than it is. One either believes or doesn’t.

Yes, there may be reservations or questions — but when it comes right down to it — are you IN or out? You can’t stay on the Titanic and be in the lifeboat at the same time. Well, technically, I guess you could do that but your ultimate choice would be Titanic in the end.

At some point the decision has to be made.

I don’t think there is more or less, to it.
I don’t believe one can have a “LOT” of faith.
Faith just IS. Or it isn’t.
You’ve taken the leap or you haven’t.

One tiny grain of faith, as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain. Given that, does attempting to quantify faith make any sense?
How much more faith than that tiny grain is possible or even needed?

Faith has gotten me through all the major decision in my life. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve lived miracles. I’ve had sorrow, sadness, heartache and pain. There has been joy, laughter, and love. Through it all, like a thread woven into a gorgeous piece of fabric — FAITH is what holds it all together for me. Thanks be to God.

*The attribution of the quote is quite a story. You can read all about it here. Research points to this person as the author: Marc’ Antonio de Dominis (1560-1624), archbishop of Split (Spalato).

Summer Evening: Kayaking Through Downtown Milwaukee

My family has been “into” kayaks for many years now. Though we have 4 people in our family, we had 6 kayaks for quite a while. We still have five!

Image by Lori Wright: five little kayaks and how they grew. Via Flickr CC license.
Image by Lori Wright: five little kayaks and how they grew. Via Flickr CC license.

My husband is the activity cheerleader and organizer. A few weeks ago he went on a “midnight paddle” that was put on by the River Alliance of Wisconsin and Milwaukee River Keeper. The event didn’t take place at midnight — they actually started at 7:30 pm.

Image of Milwaukee River at night by Rough Tough, Real Stuff via Flickr CC license.
Image of Milwaukee River at night by Rough Tough, Real Stuff via Flickr CC license.

Since then, he has been trying to convince me to go with him on an the same route for an evening kayak trip on the Milwaukee River.

Map image of Moonlight Paddle trip; Hasker CC license.
Map image of Moonlight Paddle trip; Hasker CC license.

You might wonder why I would need to be convinced. Well, kayaking is fun while you are on the water, but there is a lot of lifting, carrying, tying down, loading and unloading involved. Since I’ve gained some weight in the last few years, it is also very difficult for me to get in and out of the boat and sometimes I end up IN the river.

Last night, I said yes.

Riverwest Outdoor Educational Adventures photo, showing the Kiwanis Landing on the Milwaukee River via Facebook (public photo)
Riverwest Outdoor Educational Adventures photo, showing the Kiwanis Landing on the Milwaukee River via Facebook (public photo)

It was nearly dark by the time we got into the boats and started down the river. There is a wonderful canoe/kayak landing hidden away which I presume was built by the Kiwanis club because there was a big canoe shaped sign proclaiming the place as “Kiwanis Landing.” For Milwaukeeans, the landing is just upriver from Bel Air and Gastropub on the north side of the river. (?)

Almost immediately I was spellbound by the experience. A mother duck and her three ducklings swam alongside of me. They might have been hoping for me to toss some food out for them, but I loved seeing them so close as they quacked, paddled their feet and chomped on bugs.

Image by Ingrid Taylor, via Flickr CC license.
Image by Ingrid Taylor, via Flickr CC license.

After the first bridge, there are condos and apartment buildings on both sides. At times the walls on both sides of the river reach so high, you feel like you’ve entered a canyon.

Going under the bridges is kind of spooky. There are ladders, dark corners and creepy little windows. Imaginations can run wild in a place such as this!   (This photo is not of the creepy ones; it was the only photo I could find of under a bridge at night in MKE.)

Image by Erik Aldrich, Pylons. Via Flickr CC license.
Image by Erik Aldrich, Pylons. Via Flickr CC license.

At one bridge, we watched while the road was lifted so that a taller boat go could through. We were passed by pontoons, huge yachts and regular speedboats. There was a LOT of boat traffic going both ways, so we were vigilant about making sure we stayed safe.

If you’ve never spent time on a boat at night, you might not realize there is a system of required lights that help everyone navigate around each other. In the front, there is supposed to be a light that is green on one side and red on the other. Red is starboard, I believe. If you see the red light, you should yield right of way. If you see the green, they are seeing your red light and it should be safe for you to proceed. If you are heading directly toward each other, you pass on the green side. All boats are supposed to have a white light in the back of the boat. For slower not very large boats like kayaks, the only required light is a plain white light in the front. We both had lights, but if we do this again — I’d prefer to have the red/green light in the front and a white light in back as the larger, faster boats are required to have. Or possibly not go on a gorgeous summer Friday night. There was LOT of boat traffic, and some boats were being driven by people who clearly didn’t have much experience (rental party boats, for instance).

The sun was down. There was a half moon in the sky. The lights from the bridges, businesses and buildings shimmered like a magic kaleidoscope on the surface of the water changing as the breeze and wave patterns evolved.

I didn’t take my camera, but my husband had his cell phone. I kept asking him to take photos because the light on the water was so mesmerizing.

People on the water are usually friendly, waving and sometimes saying a few words as boats pass each other.

We went about 2 miles or so through Milwaukee and turned around near the Public Market. We passed several outdoor patios (at restaurants and breweries for example) full of happy people, drinking and talking. One guy tried to convince me that we were heading for some dangerous rapids up ahead. Another person warned of sharks.

Image by Hasker, Singers Sausages. CC license.
Image by Hasker, Singers Sausages. CC license.

I laughed when we saw one of the letters of the Usinger’s sign was unlit.  The building now proclaims “Singer’s” — which as a music teacher and choir director I found amusing. (For non-MKE folks, Usinger’s is one of the famous sausage and bratwurst companies here).

As we paddled back toward the landing, a couple shouted “Good job; you made it!” and clapped for me. The woman added, “We saw you headed the other way.” I laughed and thanked them.

We also saw a very interesting and quirky boat docked on the river:  the Solomon Juneau.  Apparently it is a fixture on the downtown river and the man who owns it has lived in it for many years.  For additional photos of this boat, click here to see “Aboard the Solomon Juneau.”

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I kept thinking, “I grew up in my little tiny town with one stoplight and here I am paddling through the middle of a major city on a Friday night in a kayak.” You never know where life will lead you, that is for sure!

I will say, I was horrified by the amount of trash in the river, though. I can’t believe people are still so lackadaisical about throwing stuff willy-nilly into water (or anywhere not in a trash can, for that matter). Next time, I’m going to take a big trash bag (and some rubber gloves) so I can pick it out of the river. Didn’t they see that pollution commercial with the Native American and the tear running down his face??  He would have been crying again last night for sure.

But other than the trash and a few boats going too fast with clueless drivers, it was a magical evening. I can’t wait to go again!

Oh, I forgot!  We saw a great big green frog at the end as we were getting out of our boats.  He was alarmed by all the fuss, I think.

Ingird Taylor, via Flickr CC license.
Ingird Taylor, via Flickr CC license.

Rest and Be Thankful

Rest and Be Thankful:  Somewhere in Scotland

Image of Rest and Be Thankful by mike138, via Flickr CC License.
Image of Rest and Be Thankful by mike138, via Flickr CC License.

A place to linger with a spectacular view!

Running up Glen Croe, the road crosses and re-crosses the river in the crag-confined floor of the glen before climbing steadily up the valley flank to its head on the pass between Loch Long and Loch Fyne.

Image of Rest and Be Thankful Argyll Forest Park sign by Steve Zerr, via Flickr CC license.
Image of Rest and Be Thankful Argyll Forest Park sign by Steve Zerr, via Flickr CC license.

Here in the pass is Rest and Be Thankful, at 246m (800ft) where one can stop to enjoy the excellent views of the surrounding countryside and well, rest and be thankful.  For part of the way, the road follows the line of the military road built in 1753: the soldiers who built it gave the pass its name.

Rest and Be Thankful, Argyll and Bute. Image by JD Mathewson, via Flickr CC license
Rest and Be Thankful, Argyll and Bute. Image by JD Mathewson, via Flickr CC license

The ‘Rest’, as it is often called, is a vital travel link for much of mid and south Argyll; it is a way stop for travelers going through to the old county town of Inveraray.

In early days visitors held the area in a kind of fearful awe. Sarah Murray, a bold English traveller from 1799, thought it was “one of the most formidable, as well as most gloomy passes in the Highlands, amongst such black, bare, craggy, tremendous mountains, as must shake the nerves of every timorous person.”

A new road took the terror out of the glen, though landslides from the unstable slopes above frequently occur and can sometimes block the road.

Image of Rest and Be Thankful area by Marc via Flickr CC license.
Image of Rest and Be Thankful area by Marc via Flickr CC license.

A marker stone records the history of the pass at the bottom of the car park, just where the old road comes in. (photo below)  Rest & Be Thankful are the words which are located on this stone near the junction of the A83 and the B828.  A stone was placed there by soldiers who built the original road in 1753, and the road has been known by the same name for centuries. The original stone fell into ruin and was replaced by a commemorative stone on the same site.

CC found through
Memorial stone to original road builders, from Jim’s gallery on Picasa.

The inscription on the stone reads:

BY 93D REGT 1768

To find out the complete history of this wonderful spot, plus anecdotes and several photos — follow this link.

To find out more about the Scotland Forestry Park and Rest and Be Thankful in particular — follow this link.

Easan Dubh waterfall near Rest and Be Thankful, image by Tim Haynes via Flickr CC license
Easan Dubh waterfall near Rest and Be Thankful, image by Tim Haynes via Flickr CC license

If you plan to go:

From Glasgow, follow the A82 along Loch Lomond. Then follow the A83 towards Oban, Inveraray and Dunoon. The car park is at grid reference NN 229 074.

G83 7AS is the nearest postcode, a little way down the hill towards Arrochar.

Image of Rest and Be Thankful area by Steven Feather (tubblesnap) via Flickr CC license.
Image of Rest and Be Thankful area by Steven Feather (tubblesnap) via Flickr CC license.


Note from The Tromp Queen:

This topic idea has been languishing in my Drafts for a more than a year.  I think I stumbled upon this idyllic little slice of the world when I was searching for a photo to represent “rest” or “being thankful.”  I search Flickr and the Creative Commons photos using those words and this small roadside park kept popping up.  It looks like such a lovely place; I’d love to visit it sometime.  Whether or not I ever get there, it is good to know there is a place in the world called “Rest and Be Thankful.”  Hopefully people do that there every single day, and may we all take the inspiration to rest and be thankful where we are in our lives every day.

Nothing but happiness

In a person’s lifetime
there may be not more than half a dozen
occasions that he can look back to
in the certain knowledge
that right then, at that moment,

there was room for nothing
but happiness in his heart.

– Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

This quote, though it is ostensibly about happiness, makes me feel melancholy.

It is sad that we make so little intentional time and space for happiness in our lives.

Most people spend (waste) those joyful, happy moments being distracted — by worry, fear, their phone or some other electronic device, by thinking ahead or looking behind.

Whatever the cause, the moments pass by unnoticed and unmarked.

Thankfully, I DO remember some instances when I have specifically consciously realized:
THIS is a moment to remember.

There are several of these “moment memories” from when our children were babies. Becoming pregnant was not an easy road so when the babies arrived, I probably made more of an effort to be “aware” of the moments than some mothers might. Holding your very own freshly bathed, clean diapered, just fed, snuggly baby who is either asleep or falling asleep in your arms — well, there is nothing like it. I wished I could store those moments up for when they turned into raving teenagers telling me they hate me (which did happen, though I know they don’t truly mean it!)

Most people make an effort to stop and enjoy the big events: graduations, births, weddings, retirements, new jobs, new homes, etc. But even these milestone events often pass by in a whirlwind of activity or in a fog of details.

Once in a while I need to escape to a “happy place” in my mind.
This is when I draw on one of those memorized moments.

I have several of these images from which to choose. One is from a camping vacation we took with some dear family friends who had/have children around the same age as ours. We all enjoy tent camping, swimming, hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, etc.

Door County, Wisconsin. View from Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0
Door County, Wisconsin.
View from Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0

My specific memory comes from a trip we took together several years ago to Clear Lake (“up North” in Wisconsin). The children (early elementary ages at that time) were playing happily in the sand or in the shallow water. My friend, Anne, and I had been sitting in our chairs in the warm sun (safely sunscreened, sunglassed and be-hatted with our crossword books and pencils in hand). Our toes were in the sand. We had eaten a picnic lunch on the beach.

Image of Devil's Lake beach by anjanettew, via Flickr CC license.
Image of Devil’s Lake beach by anjanettew, via Flickr CC license.

I’m not sure where the “guys” were but maybe they were out in the kayaks or off riding their bikes.

Image by Dakiraun, kayaks via Flickr CC license
Image by Dakiraun, kayaks via Flickr CC license

I decided to get into the water. I put a floaty noodle behind my neck and around under my arms and another floaty noodle under my knees. I closed my eyes and just floated. The lake was clear (as advertised!) and cool but not cold. The sun was warm but not hot. The sky was blue and clear, with just a few small white clouds. There were not many other people around, so I mostly heard our content and creative children at play. I heard the birds, the small waves, and distant boat sounds.

Image by Al Herrmann, "Dave, lounging" via Flickr CC license.
Image by Al Herrmann, “Dave, lounging” via Flickr CC license.

We were all happy, healthy, and safe.

I realized — it was a completely happy moment — and I concentrated to memorize the feeling and all the sensations.

Here’s hoping you find a moment soon that is filled with nothing but happiness.  
And here’s hoping you are aware of it when it happens.

To learn more about the woman behind this quote, click here.

Image by The Tromp Queen, Aug 2015 CC license 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, Aug 2015 CC license 4.0

FREE great stuff online! (FREE!)

Georgia O’Keeffe It Was Blue and Green

I just discovered a very comprehensive, interesting and best of all FREE online resource:  

Open Culture — The best free cultural and educational media on the web.

Free Art & Images

Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image
Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image

Great Lectures

Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license
Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license


Book Lists By

Book Lists By

  • There is no excuse for boredom from now on.  You’re welcome.  

    (I apologize for the odd formatting quirks in this post.  I did my best, but with the copying and pasting from the Open Culture webpage there seemed to be a lot of phantom issues I could not solve).

Reconciling the “new” post-Mockingbird world with the old

Mockingbird Image by Mark Moschell via Flickr CC license
Mockingbird Image by Mark Moschell via Flickr CC license

I finished reading “God Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee yesterday afternoon.

I do not think it is impossible to reconcile the two Mockingbird worlds.

This new novel is a “coming home” book. Familiar territory to me, really. I was “born and raised” in a small town in northeastern Indiana. We had 699 people and 1 stoplight. My dad had a barber shop on the main street through town.

image by Randy Von Liski, via Flickr CC Springfield IL - Bob & Gale's Barber Shop
image by Randy Von Liski, via Flickr CC
Springfield IL – Bob & Gale’s Barber Shop

My childhood was similar to Scout’s in that we roamed free from early morning ’til the lightning bugs came out. We played barefoot; swam (mostly unattended) in the lake among the lily pads and fish; and created imaginative scenarios for “play” involving whomever was in the back yard that day.

We had a cement driveway and a basketball goal (regulation height). We had a playhouse and a yard large enough for kick ball. We had a ranch house that we could play “Ollie Ollie Over” around. My mom would make Kool-Aid and cookies. Grass stains, bug bites, sun burn — no problem. Life was good. Days were long. Fights were rare.

Steve Lustig, via Flickr CC Haunted House #2
Steve Lustig, via Flickr CC
Haunted House #2

We even had a “haunted house.” It was an abandoned house just a few blocks away from our neighborhood, and we walked by or rode our bikes by it (never alone, though) whenever we were feeling brave enough. The house was not inhabited (alas, no Boo character for us), but the trepidation we felt and the stories we imagined kept us in a state of fear whenever we were near it. That didn’t stop us, though, from finally gathering courage to explore the house (on one very sunny, bright summer day). The mystery was blown. There was nothing there. It was just an old house, mostly empty of everything — except the faint clues and hints about the lives that had been lived within its walls.

Boo and Scout

Now that I think about it, we did have a kind of Boo Radley character. His name was Slim Miller, and he seemed to live in his car. I don’t know the real story of this poor man’s life, but I imagine it was rough (or possibly a result of mental illness?). He had longish hair, a scraggly beard, and an unkempt appearance (no big surprise since he lived in his car). As far as I know he never did anything illegal and he never said “boo” to me or to any of my friends.

Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Croix des Bouquets, Jumecourt, Inn at Jumecourt, Source de la Grace, Source de la Grace Jumecourt Children's Village, SDLG, The Global Orphan Project, image via Flickr CC license
Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Croix des Bouquets, Jumecourt, Inn at Jumecourt, Source de la Grace, Source de la Grace Jumecourt Children’s Village, SDLG, The Global Orphan Project, image via Flickr CC license

When I turned 18, I went away to college after a summer church youth group trip to Haiti. That trip changed my life. I looked in the mirror at some point during that trip and was surprised to see my white face instead of a dark Haitian one. I could count the number of black people in my home town on one hand, and I believe that moment in the mirror opened my eyes and heart forever.

Movie Marquee, image by Pioneer Library System, via Flickr CC
Movie Marquee, image by Pioneer Library System, via Flickr CC

I attended a large state university for one year and then transferred to a Christian liberal arts college (with an excellent music conservatory). Going home for visits and summers as the college years flew by, brought into focus some of the ways my world views were changing/had changed. Assumptions and beliefs I had never questioned growing up either became stronger and more dearly held or gradually morphed into a larger coherent (to me) framework to include the people, cultures, and experiences of my life — broader and wider than many “back home” might hold with but still centered in Faith and Love.

So, I can relate to Scout trying to make sense of her kin and town folk — Harper Lee’s words ring true.

After reading the new book, I mulled over the troublesome issues trying to understand how to piece these two novels together into one coherent narrative.

Some have thrown up their hands saying, “She never meant for this book to be published” or “She wrote this first, submitted it and then the publisher requested major revisions. Mockingbird is the result.”  I don’t buy either of those.

Mockingbird Morning, image by TDlucas5000 via Flickr CC
Mockingbird Morning, image by TDlucas5000 via Flickr CC

I think it is clear she wrote this as a sequel. However it started out, the version that was published yesterday expects that we have lived through that earlier Maycomb County summer with these characters.

I think it was deemed not publishable for various reasons which might have included fears of inciting violence in the ongoing Civil Rights movement, the fragile state of world politics (Cuban crisis, Vietnam, space race, etc), and (apparently) Harper Lee’s own wishes.

The reconciliation will come in part 2.  I’m still working it out.

An Abundance of Roses

Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

The Rose
lyrics by Amanda McBroom

Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love it is a flower
And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dyin’
That never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.
— Maud Hart Lovelace

I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.
— Emma Goldman

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Remembering the Victims

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015. Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015. Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 image by jalexartis via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 image by jalexartis via Flickr CC license

I honestly don’t ever want to hear the name of the shooter again.  I don’t want to see his photograph either.

I am ashamed and angry about the horrific violence that has invaded our lives yet again.

I’m praying for the families, friends and loved ones of the victims.

The local newspaper in Charleston has published short bios for each of these precious people.

I encourage you to click on the links so you can see a photograph of each person.  They lived amazing lives, each making a difference to many other lives by living their faith.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

DePayne Middleton Doctor.

Cynthia Graham Hurd.

Susie Jackson.

Ethel Lance.

Tywanza Sanders.

Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Myra Thompson.

Clementa Pickney.

The Post and Courier

Photo above:  In a moving tribute during today’s services at Mother Emanuel AME Church, a choir member laid#CharlestonShooting victim Susie Jackson’s robe over her regular seat in the church’s sanctuary.

(from The Post and Courier’s Facebook page)

Remembering the Victims.  

Thousands Gather for Bridge to Peace Event:  “We Will Rise Above the Hate.”

Emanuel AME Church Reopens with Display of Faith, Hope and Unity.

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015  Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license

Creative Commons license 2.0

Solo Dios basta

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Let nothing disturb thee. Nada te turba.

Let nothing disturb thee. (Nada te turbe)
Let nothing frighten thee. (Nada te espante)
All things pass away. (Todo se pasa)
God never changes. (Dios no se muda)
Patience attains all things. (La paciencia todo lo alcanza)
He who has God lacks nothing. (Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta)
God alone suffices. (Solo Dios basta)

–prayer written by St. Teresa of Avila in the 16th century
–all images by The Tromp Queen, CC license 

Let nothing frighten thee. Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC
Let nothing frighten thee. Nada te espante.
All things pass away. Mourning  Angel--Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
All things pass away. Todo se pasa.
God never changes. Magical mist and morning sunbeams at Turkey Run SP on Trail 3; photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
God never changes. Dios no se muda.
Patient attains all things. Stone steps in the arena at Ephesus in Turkey.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.
Patience attains all things. La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Image by The Tromp Queen.  Chora church, Istanbul, Turkey 2013
He who has God lacks nothing. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
God alone suffices. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.
God alone suffices. Solo Dios basta.

the echo of a tune we have not heard

(Wise words from The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis.)

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.

Image by Bable Fortin
Image by Bable Fortin “Tear Here” via Flickr CC license

I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.

Image by Mudhavi Kuram
Image by Mudhavi Kuram “Gossip” via Flickr CC license

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Image by Juan de la Obra
Image by Juan de la Obra “Yearning” via Flickr CC license

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past.

Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC

But all this is a cheat.

If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.

Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.

The Tromp Queen, CC license
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license

For they are not the thing itself;
they are only the scent of a flower we have not found,
the echo of a tune we have not heard,
news from a country we have never yet visited.

image by dave
image by dave “Taj Mahal India”, via Flickr CC

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

Image by Nishanth Jols
Image by Nishanth Jols “Together Forever” via Flickr CC

When I attempted a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light… For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world.

Image by Adib Roy
Image by Adib Roy “Jewel” via Flickr CC

Now we wake to find that it is no such thing.

We have been mere spectators.
Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face turned in our direction, but not to see us.
We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance.
We may go when we please, we may stay if we can, no one cares.

Now, a scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable Something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment.

Image by Ali Arsh
Image by Ali Arsh “Grey Heron” via Flickr CC

We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in the universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.

Thank you for the Music, B.B. King

Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília
Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília

There used to be a saying that if a black performer — it was four theaters you had to play and be accepted before you would be accepted as a true entertainer. One of those theaters was the Howard Theatre in Washington, the Royal Theater in Baltimore and the master itself was the Apollo Theater in New York, in Harlem. … The fourth theater was the Regal Theater in Chicago. My manager said, “Do not go to New York trying to be Nat Cole or anybody else that’s trying to be slick, because there are people that are sweeping the floors that are much better than you’ll ever be. So the best thing for you to do is go there and be B.B. King. Sing ‘3 O’Clock Blues’; sing the songs that you sing the way you sing them. All these other people can do all of those other things, but they can’t be you as you can be you.” That I’ve tried to keep from then until now.

On the best advice his manager gave him — Quote from a Fresh Air (NPR) interview which originally aired on Oct. 22, 1996.

Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)

May you rest in peace and sing some heavenly blues.

Ogling Google Doodles

I use Google every day at least once or more accurately, usually several times a day.

Sometimes, when I need a short mental break, I look through the Google Doodle archives.

Today, I noticed some pretty incredible Google Doodles as I perused the archives.

What are your favorite Google Doodles?  Do you prefer the stills or the videos?

Wassily Kandinsky’s 148th Birthday
126th Anniversary of the public opening of the Eiffel Tower
St. David’s Day 2015
Ofra Haza’s 57th Birthday
Shoen Uemura’s 140th Birthday
Victor Horta’s 154th Birthday
Keith Haring’s 54th Birthday
Brasilia’s Anniversary
Wisława Szymborska’s 90th Birthday
Tanabata (Star Festival)
Niki de Saint Phalle’s 84th Birthday


First Day of Spring 2015

First Day of Summer 2013

First Day of Autumn 2014

First Day of Winter 2013

First Day of Fall 2012

Zlatko Grgić’s 82nd Birthday

Looking at these wonderfully creative doodles is quite inspiring!

I’m going to make an effort to look at the Google Doodle of the day more often!

Inspirational Centenarians

On a recent visit to a nursing home to visit an ailing relative, my mom and I had a memorable encounter with one of the residents.

Photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
You can see part of Lily's "lawn chair cart" here.
You can see part of Lily’s “lawn chair cart” here.

Her name is Lily. She is 102 years old. She came to the door of my aunt’s room pushing a lawn chair. The lawn chair was sitting on a wooden square with wheels that must have been custom-built for her. She uses the chair as a cart. Every day she delivers ice cream to residents and to visitors. She uses coupons that a fellow resident wins at Bingo to acquire the ice cream. Lily will try to get special flavors for people but adds with a smile that she might not remember.

Lily -- photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license

As our conversation continued, she asked if we knew of any overseas service men or women to whom she could send a care package. She explained that she has been sending boxes to troops for over 10 years. Several years ago a nearby veterans’ group offered to pay the postage for all her care packages which adds up to over $1,000 each year. Other people have sent her checks or given her donations to help with costs as well.

As I mulled over all Lily said, this quote came to mind:

This quote is often attributed to John Wesley but there is no evidence he said or wrote these words.
This quote is often attributed to John Wesley but there is no evidence he said or wrote these words.

This 102 year-old woman is doing good deeds for as many people as she can every single day. Her good deeds don’t just stay within the walls of the nursing home — she makes a positive difference for young men and women all around the world by sending care packages.

Gladys Culver was my 2nd grade teacher, and she retired at the end of that school year. She is now 104 years old! She still plays piano for her fellow nursing home residents quite often. She made a difference in so many lives in my small hometown community not only as a school teacher (for 50 years!), but also as a woman of faith in my home church. I fondly remember her playing the organ for decades of church services. She encouraged my sister and me to sing duets together and to play piano duets together. (Singing was more successful than the playing.) I don’t remember her ever not having a smile on her face.

Read more about Gladys here. Here is a video interview with Gladys. You can see and hear her play the piano at the 28:30 mark. How wonderful!

I have a quilt that Gladys’s mother-in-law hand pieced and tied (completely made of 1970’s era double-knits). It turned out to be king-sized! Looking at the fabrics brings back so many memories of the clothes my mom made for my sister and me throughout our childhood. I don’t remember exactly how old she was at the time, but I’m fairly sure she was well over 90.

My Aunt Ruthie was still “taking care of the old people” even as she closed in on her own 90th birthday. She died just a few months after reaching 90. I still take inspiration from her work ethic, loyalty and generosity. “Be a good neighbor” and “Always vote” were the family words of wisdom, and she reminded us of these expectations frequently.

All these women embody/embodied the phrase “young at heart.” They seem/seemed to be living lives about 20 years younger than their chronological age. They do/did not let “old age” dictate what they could or could not do.

What needs to be done?
What can I do to help?
I will do it — that is what these women say/said.

The Pages Project

used books
image by Don Shall, via Flickr CC license

Have you ever bought a used book?

I buy them all the time.

I love looking for great books at low prices at places like Goodwill, Thrift shops, and used book stores. I love buying a hard back novel for less than $2 or a recent bestseller paperback for less than a dollar. I also love taking them back to the store again as a donation if I don’t think I will want to ever read that certain book again.

I do not, however, like the fact that I sometimes have to put up with underlined passages, highlighting or even comments written in the margins. Unless it is a book I really, really have been wanting to read for a long time — I usually pass on buying a used book with any markings at all. The marks bother me, probably more than they should.

book ornament

I find myself trying to figure out why someone would underline that particular passage or word. I almost feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal or peeking at their notes or journal without permission.

Imagine my surprise at finding a website called “The Pages Project” that is devoted to preserving specifically this “marginalia.” The “about page” says that “the goal of the project is to demonstrate the layered expansion of meaning and insight that occurs through the marginalia left by ordinary people within printed books.”

photo by Erik Schmitt for The Pages Project


This is the article that led to this discovery: The Message Hidden in Classic Literature: How a graphic designer is paying tribute to marginalized marginalia.


If you have pages to share, follow the steps given under the “Submit a Page” tab.

By the way, a great source for buying good quality used books is Thrift Books. Most books are $2.99 or less and shipping is FREE! They have a pretty comprehensive list of search categories, but for some reason one must check “hide out of stock items” when searching. Why show items that are not available? That makes no sense to me.


Acquire an odd new hobby. Not on my list, but I did it anyway.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

I’ve been interested in my family history since I did a project long ago in elementary school.

I gathered as much information as I could from my living family, but it was not very comprehensive and didn’t go very far back. I liked knowing how long my ancestors had lived in certain areas of Indiana. I liked knowing the names and connections of family members who lived many, many years before I was born.

Late last summer a friend introduced me to Find a Grave. (Thanks, Janet!)

It is a website that helps any interested person “find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.” In other words, you can find the burial location of dead relatives. If a photo of the tombstone is not available, there is a method to request a photo (a cadre of willing volunteers provide this wonderful service). The best part is this is all FREE!

You have the ability collect your relatives into a Virtual Cemetery so you can find them easily in the future. Volunteers photograph whole cemeteries and create “memorials” (pages with family connections, tombstone information and photos if available, and obituary information). Family members can leave virtual flowers and messages. If you are within 4 generations of a person you can request that the memorial page for your relative be transferred to you so you can control what is posted. It is quite an elaborate community!

When my friend told me she had gotten involved in this website she warned me that it was “addictive.” Yeah, right — I thought.

But, it is.

I discovered that I enjoy solving the mysteries of birth and death dates, marriage licenses, names of children, and figuring how the various branches of our family tree grew. I couldn’t imagine that sorting out these tangles would interesting but it is!

Another site that I’m using in my research is
Here, it is possible to quickly and easily locate sources that help clarify connections and family relationships. It is amazing to see electronic versions of actual documents — census records, birth/marriage/death certificates, emigration records, draft registrations, and more. You search for the records in a massive database, then you can attach them as sources for specific relatives.

I quickly learned to be very careful in choosing my sources and in checking dates and locations. As incredible as it sounds, in more than one instance I had more than one couple with identical names and years of birth in the same county married in the same year — but they had divergent records (burial places, children, etc.) that didn’t quite match up.

It is like a scavenger hunt to find sources to verify each child, each marriage, each set of parents — and it all leads backwards and forwards through time.  I particularly enjoy finding out which generation made the voyage across the Atlantic to get to America.

I might have found a connection between my husband’s mothers ancestors possibly marrying a distant relation of mine in my maternal grandmother’s branches. I haven’t found proof but some of the facts I’ve uncovered seem to point to this scenario.

There is a family story that claims we have a relative that was close to Cyrus Hall McCormick (the inventor of the reaper).  My husband’s family has a story that some of his relatives traveled with the ill-fated Donner party.  (Obviously they must have survived the ordeal).  I can find evidence to support neither of these claims at this point, and believe me I’ve tried.

Using these two websites, I discovered a cemetery within just a few miles of my in-law’s house where a dozen of my ancestors (all of whom I had no idea even existed before I started this research) are buried. My maternal grandfather’s grandfather had several brothers and sisters and these are the folks that are in that cemetery.

Marriage Record of Katherine and Leopold
Marriage Record of Katherine and Leopold

One mystery I unraveled involved John Schwob, Katherine Schwob, Leopold Reuf and Adelheid Schwob. I knew John was married to Mary Miller. I couldn’t figure out how Adelheid fit into the Schwob picture. I didn’t have her anywhere on my list but all the other Schwobs in that cemetery had already been established as my relatives. John and Mary were Katherine Schwob’s parents. Adelheid had been married to Friedrich Reuf and their son was Leopold. Mary Miller died and so did Friedrich Reuf.  Katherine Schwob married Leopold Reuf. They are both buried in this cemetery. John Schwob then married Adelheid Reuf and she became Adelheid Schwob.

(This would be like my husband’s mother marrying my dad!)

As confusing as all that sounds, add to the mix misspelled names, errors in birth years, and generally inaccurate cemetery records in that particular cemetery — and you can get a sense of the tangle of mysteries that had to be solved.

Many of my roots are clear back to the late 1700s or early 1800s.  Some lines go much further back — to the early 1500s and a few back to the 1100s.  I’m leary of the accuracy of these lines that far back, but it is fun to look at the names and follow the trail.  One line lists Edward IV, King of England as an ancestor of my husband’s paternal Grandmother’s family.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Beware!  This hobby can be VERY addictive.