Somber Season

Dark before Dawn.

Sorrow preceding Celebration.

Trial before Triumph.

Christian churches are exploring and remembering this entire emotional range this week. Palm Sunday (two days ago) was celebrated with joyful songs, waving of palm branches, and readings of Jesus welcomed to Jerusalem by an adoring crowd. Today Lent continues. Defined as: a 40 day period of penitence and fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by many Christian churches.

Lent is a time of introspection. Repentance. A customary time to shed a bad habit — or develop a good one. Purple reminds the faithful that this is a somber season. On Good Friday the color deepens to black.

Reminder to reflect on our actions and motives.
Reminder to reflect on our actions and motives.

Do not despair. Sunrise Sunday white will replace black and joy overpower sadness.


Room without a View

They’ve changed things again. I stood in the hotel hall and turned my key card over and over, looking for an arrow. It wasn’t there. Instead of “put the card in the slot” it was “wave card over sensor”

Inside all was as expected. Clean bathroom, more spacious than the one at home.  Beds with enough pillows to build a fort. Large TV. Desk with outlets for electronics and gadgets. Ice bucket. COFFEE MAKER! There was even an upholstered chair in front of a lamp.

Feeling curious I opened the drapes. And then closed them. It’s a good thing I didn’t expect a view or the time to meditate on it.

Non-scenic view.
Non-scenic view.

All of the wager prone people can create odds I’ll live until the date on the photo. It flips to the future without warning.



Retail Religion?

Toothpaste. Towels. Toys.

A dozen years ago, all of the above could have been purchased in this “big box” store. Then the corporation built a larger box a few miles away.

What do you do with a roomy, one story building adjacent to a large parking lot?

You could open a restaurant? Or a roller rink. (Oops. They aren’t the rage this decade.)  What about a church?

But…but…aren’t they rectangles with steep roofs? Perhaps a bell tower or an education wing glued to one side.

Think outside the box (or maybe inside). Move interior walls. Hire a plumber. Add, subtract, and modify windows and doors. Move in a pre-school. Create a fitness center for the community. Add classes, discussion groups, meeting rooms, and music lesson areas. Top off the week with worship services.

Ample parking. Handicapped accessible. The building has gone from brooms to Bibles.

A new look for the 21st Century
A new look for the 21st Century

Still Water

I’m not a sheep herder — but I’ve heard these animals prefer to drink from still, rather than moving water. It seems logical. I imagine running water tickling their lips, distracting them as they dip their mouths below the surface.

Still water. Calm water.

It’s a view that unwinds interior tension. A bench or flat rock beside a pond does as much to lower blood pressure and calm the spirit as pills from a bottle.

Still water. Calm water. Frozen water.

Spring happens. Conditions change. The scene may not be the same today as it was the day of my visit. A few more warm, Midwest, spring days and solid will turn to liquid. Another week or two and ponds will reflect wind activity with ripples and wavelets. Geese will swim instead of walk from shore to shore. A different sort of visual and spiritual therapy will occur while viewing.

I’ll take one last look at the smooth, calm, iced pond in 2015.


Still. Calm. Cold.
Still. Calm. Cold.



Chalet Chapel

“In a chapel, in the wood…”

No, no, no. That should be cabin if it’s the silly song I learned in 4-H. (A bouncy ballad that ends badly for a rabbit.)

This building on a wooded lot is adjacent to a busy street and about half a mile from my home. I’ll bet some people in New England wished for this roof line in recent months. Snow, rain, and all the other moist objects from the sky slide right down to the ground. Leaves too. The salesman for the non-clog gutters will not see potential in this building.

Roofs of this shape serve a purpose during worship also. Sounds of prayer and praise rise up. Worshipers naturally raise their eyes to the high interior of the peak. God is in His heaven. Let us give thanks.

Beauty in a Simple Form
Beauty in a Simple Form

Spring Break

This is the season that students and teachers get a break from each other.

Plans are made. Day trips and multi-day trips are taken. Working parents study schedules. “Dare I ask for an extra day off?” “Can we afford …?”

If you’re lucky, at least some of the days during the school break will be filled with sunshine and temperatures warm enough to shrink snowbanks. Puddles, squishy lawns, and mud win the battle against ice melt chemicals and snow.

A not-so-secret secret? Adults need spring break also. A change of pace. A few days in different surroundings. As the years pass, my desire for this grows. I’ve been fortunate. The last few years I’ve been able to combine a “spring break” in the form of a few days away with an educational opportunity. A day or two of workshops and mingling with others with a shared interest (in my case, writing fiction) makes for a pleasant change of pace. I return with my mental batteries re-charged and ready to tackle the next portion of the project in progress.



More than One

Saint Louis, Missouri is defined to much of the United States, perhaps the world, by an arch. The Arch as it’s sometimes called in casual conversation. No question among St. Louis residents as to which one you mean.

It’s tall — 630 feet. It’s wide — north and south legs are 630 feet apart.                         It towers over the Mississippi River (thanks to the natural bluff the legs rest on) and the stainless steel skin shines bright on a sunny day.

Contrary to local opinion, it’s not the only arch in town.

Walk into a building created as a place of worship in either the 19th or 20th century and you’ll likely find several. Is the altar area set off from the congregational seating? Look for an arch in the ceiling. Check the windows. And the doors. Decorative carvings on wood or stone. Elegant stitching on banners.

Roman. Gothic. Flat.

I found these simple triangular arch windows repeated throughout a place of worship designed with function, as well as beauty, an obvious concern.




Did they really?

Today I watched a large portion of a movie with a group of other adults.

It’s a biography of sorts, I’m not sure of the accuracy. But I was impressed, and a little dismayed, by the presentation of the culture. I’d expected more curiosity from the subject of the story and his colleagues.

Perhaps it’s my training and interest in the sciences which lead to different expectations. I had expected a group of college professors to test new idea out on each other within a group. The setting was not so long ago as to prevent active communication with other institutions of higher learning – in other countries and on other continents.

Did the British universities really look only inward in the 1950’s?

How disappointing.

The story within the movie — to be continued next week. But I expect the professor who has not lost recent debates to learn something important from a younger woman.


Subtle Symbol

The buildings, and the organizations they host, are a component of most American neighborhoods. The church on the corner. Or perhaps in the middle of a block. They vary in size from a tiny chapel to a great cathedral and appearance from a modest storefront to towers and steeples adorned with art.

In recent weeks I’ve taken special notice several that I pass frequently. How much does the outside matter. Does it invite a second look? Stir your curiosity?

Look twice at the first one. It blends in during daylight. For a few weeks, when dark hours outnumber sunshine, it glows with invitation.

A Star Visible from afar
A Star
Visible from afar