Monday, November 30, 2009

The Family with Itchy Feet

I spent an hour on Friday, the National Day of Listening, interviewing John and Ruby Schlosser. Over half of their 68 years together were spent in Asia. They raised a daughter and three sons, and gave them all the gift of itchy feet.

John was born and raised in China, the son of missionary parents; Ruby grew up in California, the daughter of a Free Methodist pastor. They met as students at Greenville College in Illinois. (John said he worked as a custodian in the administration office at school and looked up Ruby's file before he asked her out!) They married after seminary and pastored a couple of churches, but John's heart was still in China, and that's where he went after finishing language school. Women and children were not being granted visas because of the political unrest in China, so Ruby and their daughter, Lora Jean, could not join John. After a year they were able to get a passport and find a ship to take them to  China where the family was reunited.

China was a difficult place in the mid- to late-1940s, following Japanese occupation and later the encroachment of the Communists. When missionaries were evacuated from China John and Ruby spent time in Hong Kong, getting their papers in order to go on to the Philippines. Aboard the ship to Manila seasickness had overtaken the passengers on the ship, but as everyone else had recovered John continued to get sicker. Arriving in port with a storm raging around them, John was taken off the ship and delivered to the hospital, where his ruptured appendix was removed.

Their destination, Southern Mindanao, was deemed unsafe for babies, and by now they had two small children. So they spent a year in Manila, where John recorded two weekly radio programs at Far East Broadcasting Company -- a study of the Gospel of John in Chinese and an English devotional program -- before moving on to Mindinao

The Schlossers spent 25 years in the Philippines. They began a pastoral training center with five students which has since educated hundreds of pastors. Today the Philippine Conference of the Free Methodist Church has 220 churches, over 20,000 members, and its own bishop. While John was supervising a large district, Ruby was privileged to plant and pastor two churches in that district.

More language training, in Cantonese this time, prepared them for five years of service in Hong Kong. They later served another five-year term in the Philippines and retired in 1983.

As for the gift of itchy feet, they gave their children a generous dose of compassion along with it. Jean, a registered nurse, was on her way to midwife school in Kentucky, preparing for overseas missions herself, when she lost her life in a car accident. Their sons have worked with ethnic populations to promote legal and social justice. And most of the Schlosser children and grandchildren have gone to the Philippines to see the people and places of their past.

One of John and Ruby's grandchildren is currently in Japan teaching English. Looks like the gift of itchy feet just keeps getting passed on.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!...
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He'll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Strong God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this.

(Isaiah 9:2,6-7, The Message)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Been a Long Day's Night

A Poem
(In the style of Jack Perlutsky)

My head is thumping,
my eyes are red,
my breathing's shallow --
I'm going to bed.
Through the past long night
I slept hardly a wink
'cuz my boys got sick.
So now I can't think
of anything clever
or witty to say
except "Good night,"
and "Have a good day."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Same But Different

I invite you to pause for a few minutes today -- between trips to Fred Meyer to buy half-price socks and to the garage to haul down the Christmas decorations, while you pull out yesterday's leftovers or cook the turkey bones for soup stock -- to watch this video that celebrates God's greatest creation: people. Made in His image for His glory, experiencing an infinite variety of circumstances, we are different, yet the same.

Take a look at just a few of the nearly 6.8 billion people in our world today as Michael W. Smith and the Afrcan Children's Choir sing "Seed to Sow."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

With thanks to God for His greatness and His many blessings, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Beware!

Turkey Warning
(Author Unknown)

Tell me, Mr. Turkey,
Don't you feel afraid
When you hear us talking
'Bout the plans we've made?

Can't you hear us telling
How we're going to eat
Cranberries and stuffing
With our turkey meat?

Turkey, heed my warning:
Better fly away --
Or you will be sorry
On Thanksgiving day.

(With special thanks to McKenzie, age 7, Malea, age 6, and Lili, age 4,
for drawing turkeys for me!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Looking Back

While I was out yesterday the elevator door opened and I caught a glimpse of myself 18 years ago. Out stepped a mama carrying her round faced, bright eyed infant in a baby carrier and beside her was a curly haired blonde boy, maybe a year-and-a-half old. As they stepped off the elevator the fountain on the facing wall caught the eye of the toddler. His words weren't completely clear, but I think they were, "Look, Mama! Water! Water!" It could have been Tommy and Samuel and me. She did seem less frazzled than I remember being at that stage, but otherwise things were about the same.

I smile inwardly as the flood of memories wash over me: pushing Tommy in his stroller up Queen Anne Hill as we waited for Samuel's arrival; Tommy as a six-month old, laughing at the antics of Danny Kaye as he and Tom watched a movie together; Samuel doing the same thing when he was little; trying to shop with two kids just 15 1/2 months apart; watching them discover the world and grow. I remember the exhaustion, the uncertainty, and the exhaustion (oh, I guess I already said that), and the mingling of frustration, joy, and wonder as the parent of two little boys.

That mama who stepped out of the elevator has quite a ride ahead of her. I could fill her ears with stories and advice, but I doubt she'd be impressed. No matter how much support you have as a mom, it's still a kind of private journey for each of us. Godspeed, my friend. Enjoy the ride!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Virtue of Patience

Peach, my sister, sent me this photo three weeks ago. It's not just a cute picture; it's a tribute to her patience and persistence.

On December 20 of last year she stood in line for quite a while at a very crowded pet store to adopt a couple of kittens. She chose a brother and sister, just a few weeks old, purchased all the necessary supplies, and happily took her pets to introduce them to their new home. That's when she discovered that her kittens were feral. No one had mentioned it when she chose them and they thrust the papers into her hands.

It took nearly six months before Persy (short for "Persnickety," the female cat) would let Peach touch her. Now after 11 months Finny (Persy's twin whose name is short for "Finicky"-- he's the one on the bed) has only allowed her to touch him on the foot! Peach keeps working with them, wooing them into a relationship, and little by little it is paying off.

We had several pets growing up. Mostly I remember the strays: a Cocker Spaniel we loved who moved out on us when he found people down the street who'd let him up on the furniture; a cat we named Peeka because the neighbors' cat was named Boo; a bold beggar of a cat who would come to the dinner table and put his paws on your lap, looking for a handout. We called him TC for Top Cat, a cartoon character on TV. I liked them, but I never really loved them.

Peach loved them; most of the pets we had were hers. There was Gunky, the guinea pig with a deformed foot who lived in a big box with a loft that Dad made for him. After he died he was replaced by Gunky II. Tim and Ted got to keep the classroom white rat one summer (oh, joy!) and the teacher didn't ask for him back in the fall (oh, bother!). Peach and her friend Sandy must have been feeling particularly patriotic one day and thought that a white rat with red eyes should have a blue tail. I guess he shouldn't have -- he expired a few days later.

Over the years Peach has had other animals, including a couple of rabbits. She got Peter from a friend at college, and brought him home where he lived part-time in the house and part-time in a cage outside. Peter turned out to be a girl -- a very big girl -- who loved to play in the fireplace and chew people's shoes.

Years later our brother Tim drove home from Boston and brought his very traumatized rabbit, Bun, with him. Tim gave Bun to Peach, who gave Bun six months to learn to use the litter box. Two days before his time was up, Bun finally got it. His favorite past time was watching Sesame Street. When the show didn't get turned on he'd thump until someone would come and turn it on for him.

For a few years Peach was pet-less. When our boys were young, they wanted a dog. Problem was, one wanted a Chinese Crested and the other wanted a Rottweiler -- polar opposites! So I took Peach with me to the animal shelter to help me find our idea of a compromise -- a cat, a delightful smoke colored fur ball that she kept for us till Christmas. She wrapped that kitty up in a baby blanket and took him with her to work and let him sleep on her bed. She's had a few cats of her own since then.

I'm sad it's taken so long for Persy and Finny to warm up to her, but she doesn't mind. She's in it for the long haul. Those cats have no idea how good they've got it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Here Comes the Train

At the platform, waiting for the train at the opening of the
Stanwood Station.

Grand Opening -- Stanwood Station!

It's three minutes to nine and I am bundled up and standing on the new train platform for the opening celebration of the Stanwood Station. The first train, a northbound Amtrak Cascades, is due to pull in at 9:03. I'll try to get a picture or two that I can post later in the day.

It's great to know that the train will be stopping in Stanwood, but I'm a little concerned about the schedule's practicality for commuters. Let's say you work in Bellingham. You will leave Stanwood each morning at 9:03 and arrive in Bellingham at 9:44. Unless you work in Fairhaven, where the station is, you'll probably need to arrange transportation to your job. Your train home doesn't leave till 7:40 in the evening, getting you back to Stanwood at 8:25. All things considered, you could work an 8-hour day, maybe 10:30 to 6:30, and would spend $24 a day on train fare.*

The Seattle-bound train is about the same for practicality. There will undoubtedly be people who can make the train work for the daily commute to the job, but it seems like it would be a better option for students. If you are attending college in Seattle you could leave Stanwood at 9:18 AM, arrive at 11:00, go to classes in the afternoon and return home on the 6:50 train, arriving back home at 8:14. You'd get a good three hours of study time in during the commute too, for a cost of $34 round trip.*

OK, so you may not choose to take the train every day, but at least you can hop on the train right here in Stanwood without driving to Everett or Mt Vernon, spend a few hours exploring Bellingham, Seattle, or Tacoma, or go to a sporting event, and not have to pay for gas or parking. It sounds like a plan!

Maybe you've got some other ideas of ways to get around on the train. Let us know. Maybe we can join you!

*(There are several categories of people who can get discounts on ticket prices, including senior, students and military personnel. This and other information is available on Amtrak's website.)

Friday, November 20, 2009


Looking for a new veterinarian? You might try one of these. I found them here along with a list of other medical practitioners whose names are well suited to their jobs:

Dr FishDr Pett
Dr DoolittleDr Shepard
Dr Cooney (raccoon parasitologist)Dr Bowser (submitted 8 times!)
Dr RenderDr Basset
Dr Katz (2)Dr Hogg
Dr FoxDr Parrott
Dr BarksdaleDr Butcher
Dr HowellDr Woof
Dr LeashDr Barker
Dr Wagy (waggy)Dr Nay
Dr WolffDr Lyons

P.S. Thanks to my younger son for helping me format today's blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Day of Listening

There's an ad on television, maybe you've seen it, where the names and faces of several celebrities flash across the screen and the announcer says that they are the most interesting people in the world. Well, I disagree. Celebrity doesn't make someone interesting. Being alive does. Just being on the earth and having hopes and dreams, difficulties, unexpected pain and pleasure, relationships with others, hobbies, grand thoughts and small -- these are the things that make people interesting. These are the elements of story, and each of us has one.

Based on this attitude, StoryCorps is a non-profit project whose mission is to "honor and celebrate one another's lives through listening. By recording the stories of our lives with the people we care about, we experience our history, hopes, and humanity."

StoryCorps has designated November 27, the day after Thanksgiving, as National Day of Listening. They encourage folks to set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you, preserve the interview using recording equipment, and share those stories. They provide questions you might ask your partner and answers to questions you might have about the process. Check them out at

My life is full of the most wonderful, amazing people. I haven't decided which one I will interview next Friday, but I'll let you know. And after you've spent that hour with your partner, learning things about him or her that you couldn't have even imagined, I'd love to hear from you. I invite you to send a photo and a couple of paragraphs about your experience. Send it to the and I'll post it if you'd like.

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great Hummus War

One of my favorite radio programs is World Vision Report, a weekly program which I hear online. A show that engages all the senses, the host Peggy Wehmeyer and a number of reporters capture "the human drama behind global issues and event." Through the program I discover people and place I would have no other exposure to, and my life is enriched.

This week's show features the rebounding economy in the West Bank city of Nablus, a Canadian doctor's blog of his work in the Sudan, a Sierra Lenoe stick seller, a shelter in India for widows, a Rwandan pop star -- and hummus, that Middle Eastern staple. I think you'll find this delightful piece a wonderful introduction to World Vision Report. You can catch it here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On Being a Good Parent

My friend Irene became a grandma twice in the last nine months when both of her daughters had babies. The other day she got a call from her older daughter who clearly had something on her mind. After some casual conversation she said, "Mom, what's one of the most important things about parenting?"

Irene took a gulp and said, "What a good question!" And as she thought about it she came up with what seems to me to be a very good answer. "I think I'd say it is the thing that has brought me the most joy and the most sorrow. It is being reliable.

"When I've listened to you girls, really listened, been available and stood by you, I have experienced great joy. There have been times when the Holy Spirit led me as a parent, and I listened and followed His prompting. That's brought me great joy too. But there have been times when I didn't listen to His promptings or act on them. Any regrets I have are those times that I didn't listen or respond to the Holy Spirit, and because of that I was less of a parent than I wish I had been. In those moments I let you down, and that brings me sorrow."

Yeah, being reliable and listening to the Holy Spirit. That's going to make a huge difference in the lives of our kids.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Two Words That Don't Go Together

Here's a terrific contradiction for you: "Never, Lord!"

In Matthew, chapter 16, we read of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. He asked them, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" referring to himself. The disciples gave several answers -- John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But Jesus wanted to know what the disciples themselves thought of him. "What about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (verses 15, 16).

He got it! He had come to know that Jesus was the Son of God and because he confessed Jesus' lordship he was blessed.

Yet Peter had more to learn. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:21-22)

"Never" and "Lord" can't go together in the same sentence. If Jesus is indeed Lord, we do not have the freedom to tell him how to do things. As much as Peter loved Jesus and wanted to follow -- and protect -- him, Jesus told him, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (verse 23).

As believers in Christ, we are called to follow him, even if he doesn't do things the way we think he should. He is trustworthy and knows how to manage, even without our help.

How reasonable it is to trust ourselves to the keeping of infinite love, and infinite wisdom, and infinite power! (Thomas Erskine, 1788-1870)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Danny and Glenda Cook

Now and then someone enters your life and finds a comfortable place in your heart where they fit just right. Danny and Glenda Cook are two of those people for me.

After my one and only year of teaching I took a job at Warm Beach Camp, my favorite place in all the world. I'd been a camper there since 4th grade and had nothing but wonderful memories. I loved my job, my co-workers, and the many people I met who came onto the grounds for camps and retreats. But I was young and single, and the staff was small back then. I missed the close friendship of other single gals, because I was the only one there at the time.

Danny Cook was the camp's business manager. Quiet and easygoing, he provided much-needed help as I was learning the ropes of managing the bookstore. He and Glenda kept an eye out for me, always stopping to engage me in conversation, inviting me to join them and their two young children in family activities. I knew without question that they were friends.

One winter week all the staff went to a retreat. It was during a particularly difficult time in my life and I was feeling especially vulnerable. I was housed in a room alone. When Danny and Glenda, who were in a three-bedroom home with another young couple, learned that I was by myself they welcomed me to come stay with them. Everything changed. I went from being alone and feeling depressed to being in community and feeling loved and accepted. We went out for ice cream, stayed up late and played games, laughed, talked. I don't really remember the content of the retreat, but I do remember the grace I experienced as I accepted their offer of friendship.

We moved on to other endeavors -- Danny and Glenda raised their kids in Haiti and Colorado, I went to Japan, moved back to Warm Beach, then Seattle where I married and had children, then on to New York. But we are all back in the neighborhood again, attending church together. Whenever I see the Cooks I feel that same warmth that I experienced with them so many years ago. Glenda just knows how to love on you, to make you think there is nothing she'd rather be doing than spending time with you. I don't think she even knows she has such a lovely gift. And Danny is always standing by to lend a helping hand, just like he did during our camp days.

Last summer, when I was dealing with some difficult insurance matters that required my time and careful thought, Glenda let me know that I was welcome to come to their house if I needed a quiet place. The invitation was given without any strings attached. Though I haven't taken her up on it yet, just to know that I could brings a smile deep inside me.

Thank you, Danny and Glenda, for your sweet friendship.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Be Encouraged - God is at Work

You never know what the Lord will use to turn someone's heart to Himself. Lee Strobel, a cynical newspaper man, set out to disprove the gospel and ended up believing it. After years of resisting God, Saint Augustine heard a child's voice singing, "Take up and read; take up and read." Hearing those words, he took up Paul's Epistles to the Romans and read from chapter 13, verses 13 & 14. They were just the words God used to turn Augustine to repentance. Lottie Moon, who later became a missionary to China, was kept up all night by a barking dog and, through the course of that night, surrendered her life to the God she had steadfastly resisted. A young man we know who is in prison for murder has been transformed by Christ and is now a vibrant believer behind bars.

Are you praying for a loved one? Don't give up. We do not know what is going on in another person's heart and mind, nor do we know just what God will use to bring that one to Himself. It is our job to love and pray; it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict and draw people to Christ. He is at work, even when it doesn't appear so.

"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" -- Jesus, as recorded in John 12:32.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Parents' Bibles

Among my treasured childhood memories, I would include my parents' Bibles.

For years my dad taught an adult Bible class at our church. With long work hours and family responsibilities, he usually studied on Saturday evenings for the class he would lead the next day. He had a great big Holman Study Bible, filled with charts and notes. He'd sit on the couch in the Family Room, his material spread out around him, and work on his lesson.

Dad's Bible was the victim of a flood. My grandparents had stopped by to show us their new car and we all ran outside to see it. Mom had been filling the sink and, in our excitement, no one thought to turn off the water. When we returned, the sink had overflowed and there was water all over the counters and floor, and in the drawer where Dad's Bible was kept. Already large, the Bible was now nearly doubled in size with its swollen pages.

On day Dad was looking for something he'd slipped into his Bible, maybe sermon notes or a bulletin. Because of the number of extra items stuffed between the Bible's pages, he was having trouble finding the one he wanted. He looked up and said sheepishly, "This is my briefcase."

Mom's Bible survived the flood. It was on top of the refrigerator, open to one of the passages she memorized while she ironed or baked -- the book of James, Psalms 23 and 91, the Beatitudes in Matthew, and several others. Sometimes she'd ask us to listen as she practiced her latest verses.

Mom memorized in King James, but she had other versions as well. Every year she'd read through the Bible, a different translation each time. I'd often come into the Family Room to see her in the same spot where Dad sat as he studied his lesson, quietly reading the Scripture. When we were older she attended Bible Study Fellowship until she completed the program.

Mom is reading in John now; Dad is reading through 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. They take the Bible seriously. They are "doers of the word and not hearers only," as James admonished believers. They read it; they believe it; they obey it. And we are blessed by their example.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love Those Vegetables!

Here's a thought. If you can't get your kids to eat their vegetables, why not show them this video. You never know -- it might encourage them to find some other very practical use for those veggies.

This Japanese young man was inspired by the orchestra and has created several instruments of his own. If you like this one, you can find more on YouTube.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Every Second Sunday

2nd Sunday of the Month
Schedule for Tom, Ginger & Tommy

9:20 - 10:50 -- Church Nursery
(play with babies, give hugs, wipe noses, laugh, read stories, fix toys, soothe crying kids, check diapers, page parents, pick up toys, feed snacks, hunt for binkies, chat with other nursery workers, hug more babies, await parents' return)

1:00 - 5:00 -- Take a NAP!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Here is a prayer for the persecuted church, written by Pastor Brent Johnson of our church and prayed in the morning service today. As you read it, make it your own prayer too.

Heavenly Father, we remember today those brothers and sisters of ours around this world whose safety and survival is in peril because of their faith in You, their commitment to Your Church and their dedication to your mission to save the world. So many have to worship You in utter secrecy, building up the Body of Christ while hiding from authorities who seek to arrest, imprison, torture and kill them for their love for You and those around them. We pray that You would today bring the comfort of Your presence, the peace and power of Your Holy Spirit within them. Give them courage to continue on in the mission to which You've called them.

For those who serve as pastors and leaders of Your underground church, give them wisdom and steadfastness as they seek to be instruments in Your hands for the advancement of Your kingdom. For those who are oppressed and ostracized in their communities because of their faith in Jesus, give them the comfort and courage that comes as they gather with other believers to lift each other up. For those who are imprisoned, give them a deep hope in You, that they might be able to endure whatever hardship befalls them behind bars. For those who are tortured, give their bodies strength to endure, a strength that comes only from You. We pray that they might even be a witness of Your love and redemption to the very people who torture and kill them.

And blessed is the death of Your saints who give their lives for Your sake, and thereby share in You sufferings, earning a glorious homecoming of ultimate relief, resolve and reward.

Challenge us, O God, who live in such comfort and ease, to stand strong in the struggles we face in our own lives. We stand proud today to be called the children of God, and thereby called the sisters and brothers of those across our world today whose hardships we can only imagine. Make them to lie down in green pastures and beside the still waters, and give them great courage as they walk though the valley of the shadow of death. In the strong name of Christ we pray, and for the sake of His Kingdom in power in our world, Amen.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

No Smiling Allowed!

Maybe you saw this video a few months ago when it was making its rounds over the internet; maybe you didn't. No matter -- here's a challenge for you. See if you can watch it all the way through without smiling! Go ahead. Just try!

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Would Jesus Live?

I heard an interview the other day that Charles Morris of Haven Today did with Ed Dobson, a former pastor who, for nine years, has been living with ALS, "Lou Gehrig's Disease." He had heard A.J. Jacobs, a secular Jew, telling about the year that he endeavored to live by all the commands of scripture. It challenged Dobson to see if, for one year, he could live like Jesus, getting to know Him afresh from the gospels and putting into practice what Jesus taught. His book, The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do, is the story of that year.

He ate kosher for the year, read through the gospels many times, tried to follow Jesus' pattern of prayer. He observed the Sabbath and attempted to live in the way he felt Jesus would have lived. It changed his life, and impacted others. "I am not asking God to heal me," Dobson says. "I'm throwing myself on the mercy of God....I don't think I really care what [others] think about me. Ultimately what really matters is what they think about Jesus."

The book came out in October. If you'd like to hear Dobson talking about his experience, click here. It will take you to a three-minute video on Amazon. If you'd like to hear his interview with Charles Morris you can go to Haven Today, click on Program Archives, and look for 11.02.09's program -- Christians You Should Know - Ed Dobson. This is an entire broadcast and lasts about 25 minutes.

Hmmm...I wonder how it would affect us if we could truly grasp the notion of living like Jesus?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pray for the Persecuted Chruch

This Sunday, November 8, Christians around the world are asked to join in praying for our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing persecution because of their allegiance to Christ. Let's pray that their faith will remain strong as they face unbearable suffering. Most of us would not choose suffering, but when the day comes that we might be called upon to suffer for our Lord, we pray that we will not shrink from it. So we should pray for courage and strength for those who even now have been called to suffer.

Let's wrap our arms around those who suffer for the name of Jesus and lift them to God through prayer, especially this Sunday.

To learn more, go to There you will find a number of ministries that are working with the persecuted church and meet specific people for whom you can pray.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More on Norman Rockwell

I have an even deeper appreciation for Norman Rockwell after reading Ron Schick's book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Schick tells the story of many of Rockwell's paintings by showing just a few of the photos from which he worked.

Rockwell's paintings capture a moment in time, yet tell an entire story. Take the Going and Coming series (see above) that appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post on August 30, 1947. The photograph above is one he used in preparing the series. Even a casual look at the pair of paintings tells you that the family set out fresh and excited for a day at the beach and returned after dark, all used up. Only Granny seems to have been unaffected by the excitement of the day. Indeed, Rockwell used the same photo to capture her for both paintings.

The characters that piled into the car that morning and those that appeared in other paintings were precisely that -- characters. They were neighbors, children of friends, professional models and, often, Rockwell and his family. When he was painting Maternity Waiting Room for a 1946 Post cover he had to travel to New York City to find subjects who could display authentic anxiety. There just weren't men in Arlington, Vermont, to be convincing models!

The front flap of Schick's book tells us, "What most people do not that virtually everything and everyone that Rockwell painted from the 1930s onward was first elaborately staged for the camera." And that is what I found to be so fascinating about this book.

In the pages of Behind the Camera we are able to see into Norman Rockwell's studio and glimpse his models posing for the paintings we love. Whether he hauled a rowboat into his studio (as he did for an unpublished calendar illustration in 1956), or staged a circus audience with his models on dining room chairs atop a library table (Circus, a 1955 advertisement), he worked to make his paintings authentic. The photo to accompany his 1976 painting entitled Liberty Bell, depicts Rockwell attaching a Happy Birthday banner to a barrel on a table. Simulating people walking or dancing required awkward positions with one foot propped on a stack of books or twisted sideways on top of an upended apple crate.

I was intrigued by Boy in a Dining Car, a 1946 cover for Saturday Evening Post. A young boy sits at the table in the dining car, holding his change purse and studying the menu, while the waiter stands by patiently. Seventy-three photographs survive from this series, with four different models used for the boy. I wondered why there was a separate photo for the waiter's feet. According to Schick, "The model for Rockwell's waiter was a veteran New York Central dining car employee. The narrow confines of a sidetracked New York Central Railroad car prevented the photographer from positioning his camera far enough from the waiter to capture his full stature in a single shot."

The Gossips, probably my very favorite of his paintings, was done for a 1948 cover, and features many of Rockwell's neighbors. In the painting, fifteen different subjects, including Rockwell and his wife, enjoy a good bit of gossip as it travels from person to person, returning to the woman who started the story. When the painting was finished the editor of Post, Ben Hibbs, was unconvinced that these people were real, until Rockwell introduced them to Hibbs.

Norman Rockwell's work spanned sixty five years and appeared on the covers of seventy-nine magazines, beside Saturday Evening Post. More than 18,000 black-and-white photos from which he worked are archived in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Favorite Rockwell Painting

Strange thing, the memory. I've been looking online for days for my favorite Norman Rockwell painting that appeared on the cover of Saturday Evening Post when I was a kid. I could see it in my mind -- a woman whose husband is just boarding the train while she is parked in front of the station, dressed in her robe, her hair in curlers (maybe, that part I wasn't sure of), looking at her flat tire. I finally found the painting today, and it doesn't look much like I remember, and it is not painted by Norman Rockwell!

I was only ten when it came out on November 26, 1960. It laid around our living room for a while until it was carried to the attic to be piled with the other magazines that Mom planned to read if she ever had an operation and got a chance to lie around. Years later, my chronically healthy mother packed up all those musty magazines and found a home for them somewhere besides our house. So I don't suppose it had too much time to articulate itself in my mind. I was convinced, though, that it was a Rockwell. Today I discovered that it was called "Flat Tire at the Commuter Station" and was by Amos Sewell, another slice-of-life Saturday Evening Post illustrator whose style couldn't be mistaken for Rockwell's. Shucks! The Norman Rockwell post I'd been planning suddenly lost some of its punch!

How about we talk about him tomorrow (I found a wonderful book at the library that's a lot of fun called Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera) and for now answer the question, "Why did I like this picture as a 10-year-old?" I have no idea! Maybe it was the horror that I felt when I saw the picture, the empathy for this women who had run her husband to the train in her robe and had gotten caught. Had she just slept in this morning and not changed her clothes before they had to rush out the door? Or did she always drive him in her robe and slippers, tempting fate? It was a dilemma too overwhelming for my sensibilities. How many times since then have I awakened from dreams of myself in similar situations! Even as I write I realize that I may not have actually liked this painting at all, but I couldn't let it go without trying to help this poor woman resolve her situation. And I could never come up with a rescue plan for her.

Now that I've come to terms with this little bit of mis-remembered information, I think I'll go study my Norman Rockwell book and figure out which of his own paintings is really my favorite! I'll let you know tomorrow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

Life is fragile and uncertain. My brother Ted was reminded of that last Friday morning as the car he was riding in was hit broadside, ripping off the driver's door. His boss Tom was driving him to work on the day of Juneau's first frost. They were going 55 on a divided highway when they saw an out-of-control pick-up in the oncoming lanes. The truck spun around on the ice and shot through the guardrail and across the median like a cannon ball, and slammed into Tom's car. The force of the crash pushed them into a panel truck in the next lane; it was that panel truck that prevented them from ending up in the bay. And it all happened in the blink of an eye.

Except for little cuts all over from broken glass, Ted is fine. His boss was air-lifted to Seattle because of the severity of his injuries, including a broken hip. Both men are grateful to be alive.

We don't know what the next moment will bring. Good thing, too, or we'd spend our lives trying to manipulate the circumstances to our own advantage. Aren't you glad our times are in God's hands? (Psalm 31:15) We don't know what the next moment will bring, but we don't have to. God does.