CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

January 11, 2015

Things Really Haven’t Changed

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THINGS REALLY HAVEN’T CHANGED

SCRIPTURE: Haggai 1:5-6   5.  Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hoses, Consider your ways,   6.  Ye have sown much, and bring little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (KJV)

REFLECTION:  Haggai, living in pre-Christ times, describes today’s society. I watch, read and sometimes experience all the behavior he describes.

I see people who work hard and have little to show for their labor. I myself sometimes eat and drink gluttonously and yet remain hungry and thirsty.

Media ads convince us we never have enough clothing to keep warm (or at least, enough clothes reflecting the current trend). And bankruptcy is routine and acceptable, as people incur so much debt their earnings fall through holes like water through a container filled with holes.

These behaviors are not new to our society, although we somehow feel they originated with us. What caused the existence of those behaviors in Haggai’s time? What causes them today?

The root causes are probably similar: too much stress, greed, the need to have (more…)

December 18, 2014

The 8 Maids-a-milking & the 8 Beatitudes

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THE EIGHT MAIDS-A-MILKING

AND

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES

We’re too blessed to be stressed…even in a holiday season.

Eight maids-a-milking…the eighth gift in the song the Twelve Days of Christmas…is the theme of the Monte and Carolyn Holland 2014 Christmas ornament (each year our Christmas card is a hand-made ornament). NOTE: Each illustration uses one of my seven sisters, plus myself, our heads superimposed on pictures of maids-a-milking.

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance.

Typically, the work of milking cows (and goats) was a woman’s job. Although milk was not a common beverage during this pre-refrigeration time (it spoiled too quickly), milk based products did not spoil so rapidly. Cheese, sour milk, and custards—which were prized treats for celebrations.

And the word maid? It’s a shortened form of (more…)

December 14, 2014

Thy Wife Shall Bear Thee a Son

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THY WIFE SHALL BEAR THEE A SON

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SCRIPTURE  Genesis 21:2, 25:21, 30:22; Judges 13:2; 1 Samuel 1:19-20   21:2. For Sarah conceived,…. 25:21.  And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  30:22.  And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.  13:2.  And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 19. …And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. 20. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived….(KJV)

Luke 1:13, 2 4   13. …and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  24. And after those days his wife conceived,… (KJV)

Related Scripture:   Mary 3:10-11

DISCUSSION:   Note that God is always punctual to his time: although his promised mercies come not at the time we set, they will certainly come at the time he sets, and that is the best time. It wasn’t by the power of common providence, but by the power of special promise Isaac was born. Note: True believers, by virtue of God’s promises, are enabled to do that which is above the power of human nature, for by them they partake of a divine nature.  (1=38)

When Sarah heard the angel’s message to Abraham she was shocked and laughed. Her plight was poignant. She had ceased to be in the manner of women,” and she asked “After I am worn out, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”  (1=38)

REFLECTION:  Surprise, Sarah! God has good news for you!

Likewise, March 17, 1997 was a good news day in our family, as was a day in May 1971 a good news day.

After much struggle and fear, Sandy and Greg announced that they were with child—evidenced by Sandy’s physical symptoms and a home pregnancy test.

After struggling with a lengthy infertility problem Monte and I discovered we were with child in the spring of 1971 was the time .

Both news announcements were preceded by many prayers and much lost hope (more…)

December 9, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 2

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS SHARE OUR LIFE JOURNEY

Part 2

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. This is Part 2 of their stories. Read Part 1 at

germany-map-travel_2

David, an 18-year-old exchange student from Germany. We co-hosted him with our then neighbors Rhonda and Tom—we had the sleeping space, they did the high school activities with their children and they cooked dinner regularly. David learned a lot during his stay with us—how to do his laundry, how to iron, how to tie a tie. He was great at skateboarding. But most of all, he held a baby, my great-niece Haleigh, for the first time. He returned to Germany at the end of the school year.

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Another good friend came from my paternal grandmother’s country, Sweden. We met Roy through a fellow writer, the late Diane Potter. On each of his visits we hung the Swedish flag, which delighted him. He often told the story about dynamite being invented in Sweden, and went with us to a St. Lucia program at the Church of the Savior in Cleveland Heights, Ohio (my son’s church). Read about it at  Sancta Lucia: Swedish Christmas Tradition with Italian Roots

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In recent years I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Holocaust survivors Bob Mendler and Janet Singer, perhaps the only two child survivors of (more…)

December 7, 2014

Saving Beyond Necessity: A Question

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

SAVING BEYOND NECESSITY: A QUESTION

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 41:34   (and Joseph instructed) Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.   (NIV)

 Related Scripture:   Genesis 41:35-36, 47-48

DISCUSSION: Joseph not only interpreted dreams, but also presumed to make practical suggestions for a course of action necessary in light of the interpretation. He presented his case successfully to the Pharaoh, who immediately began to sift through candidates for the position of “Secretary of Agriculture.” Finally, he said to Joseph: as much as God showed you all this, you shall be over my house. Pharaoh conferred on Joseph symbols of the high office to which he had been appointed. (5 pp. 103)

REFLECTION:  A question occurs to me: If there were to be seven years of abundance, then seven years of famine, would not one save one-seventh of each good year’s harvest? Yet Joseph instructed Pharaoh to take one-fifth of the harvest, a significant difference (14% versus 20%) beyond what would be needed to pull the Egyptians through the famine, assuming one-seventh would be sufficient for one year’s sustenance.

Why the extra? Possibly because (more…)

December 2, 2014

Best Laid Plans, Interrupted, Offer Opportunity

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

BEST LAID PLANS, INTERUPTED, OFFER OPPORTUNITY

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday? 

OK, I was unaware of this. A Tuesday newspaper article alerted me to the day. However, we were thrown into a giving experience on December 1, 2014, the day before that year’s Giving Tuesday. Allow me to share the story with you.

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I’d planned a quiet day clearing up some paperwork, writing, making turkey broth from leftover turkey bones. However, the best laid plans…you know the rest of this cliché…

Blood dripped onto my kitchen floor as I examined the cut on husband’s index finger. Its depth had me suggesting he might need stitches. I finally convinced him to go to the emergency room as his AB+ red fluid flowed freely into the bathroom sink unless he put real pressure on it.

Monte and I entered the emergency room almost simultaneously as another gentleman.  We looked at each other while waiting to sign in. He looked so familiar.

“John?” That morning I’d had a man cancel an interview due to illness, and he mentioned he might have to go to the emergency room.

“I’m Walter,” the man (more…)

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving is Every Day: Transformation Through Gratitude

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

THANKSGIVING IS EVERY DAY:

TRANSFORMATION THROUGH GRATITUDE

…the problem is, we celebrate Thanksgiving on this one day, but it’s something we should be celebrating every day.

Dr. Gary Welton

Turkeys in a garden in East Weymouth, Mass.

Turkeys in a garden in East Weymouth, Mass.

What is this new sub-discipline of psychology called positive psychology?

Positive psychology was developed as recently as 1998 to seek understanding of the fulfilling aspects of the human experience. It counteracts psychology’s historic focus on mental illness and dysfunction.*

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Robert Stern, upon reviewing the research on the benefits of gratitude, concluded that gratitude has …dramatic and lasting benefits in both the physical and psychological realms.*

Physically (an attitude of gratitude) can

  • lower blood pressure
  • improve immune functioning
  • increase energy

Psychologically (an attitude of gratitude) can

  • reduce depression, anxiety, and substance abuse
  • provide protection from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, and bitterness
  • may offer some protection against psychiatric disorders

(An attitude of gratitude) is larger than the effects of optimism, hope, (more…)

November 25, 2014

Give Thanks for the Ordinary

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

GIVE THANKS FOR THE ORDINARY

When the extraordinary becomes ordinary and the ordinary evolves into entitlement the need for giving thanks dissipates.

When I first visited Kentuck Knob I wondered why Frank Lloyd Wright located the structure a distance back from the knob, denying residents the opportunity to view the knob’s spectacular sunrises over the rolling Laurel Highlands hills, the Youghiogheny River gorge and nearby farmland.w of the .

I learned that Wright chose the location away from the peak to enable the house to become part of the landscape. It’s also my understanding that he also chose that location so that persons who wanted to experience the view had to make an effort, had to walk from the house to the knob—because he understood that a scene of beauty readily available would soon become commonplace, making it ordinary, and therefore less miraculous, less profound.

When we first visited our community of Laurel Mountain Borough it was magical. The one-lane gravel roads, the forested atmosphere, the almost eccentric aura contrasted with the cookie-cutter world we were accustomed to. We felt like we were being transported back in time to an era reputed to be less stressful, to a back-to-earth time. It was magical.

Gradually this profound, magical, feeling dissipated. The sense of uniqueness and magic evolved into the commonplace, the ordinary.

This evolution from the miraculous, the profound, to the commonplace, the ordinary, is a part of the human condition. Once a situation becomes ordinary it evolves into entitlement.

Which brings me to a statement I read in the November 23, 2014, newspaper column, Giving thanks can be a challenge. The quote is somewhat altered: That which was a pleasant and gracious (experience) year quickly becomes an expected entitlement. That for which I was thankful in the past, I now assume to be my right.

The author, Gary Welton, professor of psychology at Grove City College (Pennsylvania), noted that he’s been blessed with incredible health, yet I have never appreciated it. I have only taken it for granted. Only when I am ill do I recognize the incredible gift I have been given.

That for which we feel entitled we don’t feel thankful for. It it belongs to us so there is no need to give thanks.

 

Perhaps we need to step back from the commonplace, the ordinary, in our lives and revisit it with new eyes. So today (and every day) I will be thankful for (in no particular order):

  • my morning coffee, and the persons who planted the seeds, grew it to maturity, picked the beans, prepared them for market, and transported them, all so I can enjoy my morning wake-up time
  • my morning newspaper, and the journalists (who sometimes risk their lives) to research, interview subjects, and write the copy; and for the delivery person who brings it to my newspaper box in the wee hours of the morning so I can relax reading it while partaking of my morning coffee
  • my gray cat King and his former owner, who abandoned two cats in our community, one of which adopted our family. King offers us companionship, adulation, and conversation
  • my family, without whom I would not be who I am today
  • the dishes that clutter my kitchen counter, waiting to be washed and put away. I am no more entitled to this luxury than is the person living in a hut eating out of pie tin
  • water that flows freely from  my household taps, water I am no more entitled to than the woman who must walk a mile to find water to fill the jugs she carries back to her home.

I could continue, but I think you have the idea.

Do you agree with the items on this list? For what do you feel entitled, so thoughtlessly leave off your list of things to be thankful for? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

May you and your yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2014

Reports from Storm “Knife” in Buffalo, New York

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

REPORTS FROM STORM “KNIFE” IN BUFFALO, NEW YORK

November 17 to November 21, 2014

Photo by Kirsten

Photo by Kirsten

In 1977 my sister Lee was driving in Alden, New York, when the Blizzard of 1977 began. When she could drive no longer she parked her car on what she hoped was the side of the road. She, her 5-year-old son Todd and her 10-year-old daughter Deb exited the car and proceeded to the distant lights of a farmhouse.

Almost immediately she lost Todd in a snow drift. She frantically dug into the snow and finally managed to uncover him. Frightened, the three headed towards lights in the distance, never realizing they passed another closer house on the way. The owners let them in and cared for them while the blizzard blew wild outside.

Fast forward to Monday, November 17, 2014.

Sunday and early Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 Contributed photo.

Sunday and early Monday, Nov. 17, 2014
Contributed photo.

Lee is now a senior citizen experiencing health problems. Her daughter lives in a trailer with her husband, Tom, and 3 children: 7-year old, 5-year old, and a 6-week old baby. Kirsten could only open her door slightly open. The snow is falling. Fast.

Photo by Pat

Photo by Pat

Below are conversations I had with her, Kirsten, my long-time friend Pat, my sister Sally and sister-in-law Marge.

Snow blocking Kirsten's door --- photo by Kirsten

Snow blocking Kirsten’s door — photo by Kirsten

Kirsten's girls, photo by Kirsten

Kirsten’s girls, photo by Kirsten

Tuesday. November 18.

Lee. 10:00 a. m. While Monte and I drove to a doctor’s appointment I called Lee. She was snowed in.

“It’s sunny here, blue (more…)

November 18, 2014

International Friends Share Our Life Journey — Part 1

CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS SHARE OUR LIFE JOURNEY

Part 1

The following piece was written between July 1985 and summer 1988. It has been updated from then to include relationships to the present date.

During our children’s growing up years they met special people from foreign countries, people who joined their life journey to ours. Below are some of their stories.

singapore_sm_2014

One such person was Hung Pheng Tan, a graduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where my husband Monte taught. We were his American host family, and when we relocated from SUNY@Buffalo to Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, he visited our new community. He was the first international person our daughter Sandy met—although I’m certain she doesn’t recall knowing him back then, as she was only a few months old. Hung Pheng was present at her baptism. She remet him (and his wife) when the couple visited us in 1988, and my son Nolan met him for the first time.

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

Whether from Singapore or America, we all feel joy

When they visited us in July 2014 Sandy could introduce him, his wife, and his college-age son to her daughter, a sweet sixteen.

map-of-cameroon

Joseph, a Cameroon (Africa) native, lodged with us for a short time while studying at Slippery Rock University. He needed work and we needed help in our country-style life—especially with planting trees. When he moved on he left behind a young boy—our son—who, for almost two years, rejected the use of silverware in favor of fingers.  This was the result of the effects of an African dish meant to be eaten with the fingers, a technique Nolan applied to almost all foods.

When Joseph’s wife Susanne came to the United States to join him and to study here, she left their son in their native country. While here she also became a special friend. Susanne became pregnant just before we left for Atlanta, Georgia, where my husband Monte studied for the ministry. Understandably they lacked many needed items. Our family prepared a pond-side baby shower for Susanne, complete with a warm-weather swim to cool off. In attendance were several elderly neighbors as well as younger folk, all of whom were exposed to her Cameroon culture. Her son arrived a month later while we were in Atlanta.

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During our three-year sojourn in Atlanta Samir and Farial, from Egypt, joined our life journey. We met through a program that connected foreign visitors with (more…)

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