I can still feel the chilly breeze on my cheeks that May morning we visited Hotel Dieu, in Beune, France.  The French word  ‘hotel’ has roots in the Latin ‘hospes,’ meaning ‘a place of caring for a stranger.’  Our word, ‘hospitality.’

In 1443, Nicolas Rolin, a wealthy ‘old man’ of 47, and his third wife, the 18 year old Guigone de Salins, built Hotel Dieu, or the House of God.  The people of the area were destitute and suffering from the plague, a contagious illness that had no cure.

 

On the tour we heard that Nicolas built Hotel Dieu as an act of Christian charity.   His wife, Guigone, was the heart of the work.   An educated noblewoman, she furnished the rooms of the hospital with art because she believed healing the body was inseparable from healing the spirit.   The motto  Nicolas had inscribed on floor tiles and walls, “Seulle,” as a tribute to his wife, means ‘only her.”

After Nicolas died,  Guigone joined the order she and her husband established at Hotel Dieu, “Les sœurs hospitalières de Beaune”, serving the destitute there until she died in 1470.  The mission continued until the 1970s.

The furnishings we saw in The Room of the Poor, above, date from the 19th century, when each bed held two patients!  The chapel sits in the same space, through the wooden gothic arch, so the bedridden could still attend Mass.

In 2020 with a new plague afflicting us,  I remember our visit to Hotel Dieu.  Through the centuries,  Jesus’ followers are the courageous caregivers serving the sick, poor and needy.

“Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

And Jesus will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”   Matthew 25:38-40

 

 

 

 

 

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong.

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam…

 

…The delicious singing of the mother,

or of the young wife at work,

or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him

or her and to none else….”

– Walt Whitman  (I didn’t quote the entire poem but its worthwhile)

I open the ‘Daily Gleanings’ calendar to “Tuesday March 24, 2020.”  I scan the verse for the day as I set my foot on the plank floor.

“I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Micah 7:7

Dating all the way back to the days of Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea, Israel was taught to “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD…(Exodus 14:13).”

Written thousands of years ago, It’s as if a fortune teller predicted exactly what I needed to read in the present day.

For those of us who are introverts, the present ‘social distancing’ and the idea that we need to stay home is like a Christmas gift.  Except the reality is that with reduced work and nonexistent school hours, I’ve had more people around than usual.  People I love…   But… I need more than solitude to write.  Like Captain Hook, in the Broadway version of “Peter Pan,”  I need inspiration.

“Inspire me!  Play, you dogs, play!”  Captain Hook demands music of his rag tag pirate urchins.

After days of dismal discouragement, fresh air came blowing in the window from listening to Dr. Deborah Birx last evening during a White House press conference.  “Who is this intelligent woman, sharing clear and helpful statistics?” Duane and I wondered.  This morning, I dug around and found she is one of the doctors on the President’s crisis team and she graduated from Houghton, a Christian college, in New York.

And Walt Whitman’s poem inspires me, describing the vibrant  joy of work.  Specifically, the heroism of every American worker.  Some U.S. officials are deciding, these days, what to keep ‘open’ and what is ‘nonessential.’  All work is essential; our efforts to feed, cloth, shelter and protect each other,  all bring meaning and blessing.

Interesting that we have a phrase for our work: ‘what we do for a living.’  Our work isn’t only about a paycheck.  Our work, illustrated in Whitman’s poem, is one of the things that keeps us alive.

For ‘home managers,’ now we’re on the battle’s front lines.  Psalm 84 illuminates the beauty of ‘place.’  Verse 3 describes security,  “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”

In Lance Morrow’s excellent article, “What to Do When You’re Sheltering in Place,” he shares practical ideas for creating a haven of peace for our families.

Saturday I planted flowers outside the kitchen window. I’m making simple but tasty dinners, using the recipes on the back of the Stove Top Stuffing box.  Yesterday we listened to Rimsky -Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” while we made S’mores.

The German bombs that killed 43,000 civilians in Britain during WWII created the slogan of resilience its people carried in their hearts, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

We must do the same.

 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  John 1:5

 

 

“…we’ve heard the people clammer to shut the beaches,”  stated Janet Long, Pinellas County Commissioner, at last night’s County Commission Meeting.  In spite of Pinellas Sheriff Gualtiera’s objections that the public was using the beach appropriately, they voted unanimously to shut them down.

Welcome to Socialized Medicine.  Democrats, Janet Long being one,  seem to be the ones falling in with the ‘government knows what is best for you’  scare policies.  Politicians, not doctors, telling you what is best for your health.

Unfortunately, there are a few doctors, Dr. Fauci being the leader, terrifying the public with statistics and suggestions of: death.  Yikes!  We are all mortals!  Many other doctors are willing to put those statistics into a larger perspective to calm down the public.  They haven’t been featured on the news, which I gave up watching several days ago because the illogical stories, like ‘how to make candles’ to pass the time while you are isolated at home, have gotten boring.

Time for Americans to stand up for freedom and common sense.  We’ve watched communist and  socialized medicine countries implement draconian policies of shut down that have produced a ‘cure’ far worse than any illness.  Not only are people losing businesses and jobs, but people with significant medical needs  are being overrun by policies that hamper their care.

My husband and I went out for dinner last night.  We waited for our dinner at the outdoor empty seating area of a favorite restaurant and watched many diners come to collect their dinner ‘to go.’  One lady, standing at the curb, puffed on her cigarette as she waited.  When is our government going to stop selling cigarettes and ban alcohol, two health risks that kill more people than the present virus?

Kudos to Gualtieri,  who is trying to remain sensible.  And also to our governor, Ron DeSantis, who seems to be fighting to keep things open.  They are holding fast to their political beliefs.  Governments should serve, not terrify, their people.

“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” – Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t want to see “1917” because I have two sons, and for a mother, realistic war movies are really horror movies.  I see all kinds of movies but not horror movies.   But with everyone talking about the amazing cinematography, the ‘Best Picture’ nomination, and some of my girlfriends (also moms) seeing it, I decided, bracing myself, that I would go.

Also, Duane and I toured the WWI battlefield in Ypres, Belgium, on a cold rainy June day a few years ago.  We marched around mounds that were once trenches filled with mud soaked soldiers, and saw the fields where some of the millions of horses died.  The opening scenes of 1917 exactly reproduced that landscape of hell.  I watched with eyes squinting to not feel the full impact of the brutality of that war.

Two soldiers are on a mission to reach a major with a life saving message, was what I understood the film was about, without anyone giving away the ending.  I debated whether it would be a story of heroes or a story of the hopelessness of war; the first always inspires me, the second I can do without.

It won the Oscar for best cinematography because the visuals, like a bombed out town lit in the dark by fires and flares,  were amazing.  It was up for best picture because in the details of the story man is portrayed in his humanity: good and evil.  It was a story of two sons; each had pictures of their mother safely tucked inside their uniforms. Was one picture hidden in his small Bible?  One of the soldiers is desperate to find and see his brother.  In meeting a convoy of soldiers, an officer warns, “Be sure to give your message in front of others.  War makes men too eager to fight.”

I often wonder where a film gets its story.  The more fascinating ones are usually based in reality.  Most inspiring, In the end credit, Sam Mendes honors his grandfather, Alfred Mendes with his full military title, as the basis for the idea of “1917.”  We need to share our family stories.

My grandfather, Andrew Telford, served in the Canadian Army in France in WWI.  He had become a Christian the previous year and spent time preaching the Good News, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have eternal life,” to men who were going off to die.  They respected him; enough that they asked him to keep their gambling money safe in his Bible.

Five stars.

 

 

In June 2019 we sold our house with a pool and moved to the condo that had been our ‘beach place’.  We wanted to simplify life.  We turn 65 in 2020. 

Duane was still taking care of kids at North Pinellas Children’s.  We were loving our small group and friends at church.  I planned to continue serving in BSF.  And the mailings from Medicare arrived on a daily basis.

I loved our condo at the beach. Yet now when we were living here full time and friends smiled, “Aren’t you living the dream?!” I didn’t feel like it.  Maybe it was the mess of the first weeks, but even after the floor was done and closets installed and filled, the unease remained. As I looked out at spectacular sunsets from the bedroom window, instead of marveling at the beauty, the unspoken idea that this might be our last place made me feel sad.  Life felt smaller, which had nothing to do with square footage.

Duane and I talked about what God’s future plans for us would be.  His friends were starting to retire, and that was making him think about what he wanted 

to do.   Duane knew from little things I said, that I was struggling with the change to full time life at the beach.  We asked our friends to pray for us.  

In December, our daughter-in-law Elizabeth mentioned enjoying listening to Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership  podcast.  On a Monday night, while Duane was watching football (again!), I listened to Carey’s 2 hour interview with Gordon MacDonald. He authored the bestsellers “Ordering Your Private World” and “Reordering Your Broken World.”  His thoughts about his life and marriage when he was in his 60s were so inspiring I urged Duane to listen.  We listened to their conversation three times. 

We started talking.  We spent hours asking each other questions about what we expected in the next few years.  We said the things we had been thinking but were afraid to say.  We went to sleep past our bedtime and then woke up in the morning with another fresh idea.  

In 1975, when we began dating at Wheaton, Gordon MacDonald had taught a Special Services week at Wheaton, on “Relationships.”  His ‘appearance’ now, with pivotal insights, was a ‘nice touch,’ God.

We had been looking to God for a new opportunity.  That wasn’t happening.  The only possibly new idea was starting a young couples group at church.  I wasn’t sure how we would do that, since our condo wasn’t too far for us but too far for some.   

“Have you had any answer to prayer about your future plans?”  asked one of the ladies in my BSF group, when we got together after the Christmas break.

She knew we were praying for direction, even with a specific, “We’d like to know what to do by January 1.”  

One morning at BSF, in a hallway conversation, a mom of one of Duane’s patients mentioned how often his work had been a ministry to their family.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that.  Then, a few weeks later, a favorite uncle, now 80, counseled, “The years I worked from 65 to 75 were some of my best.”

We kept searching, as January 1 came and went.

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

“I’m hesitant about living full time at the beach,”  It felt good to confess to a friend.  A little scary, too, as I didn’t have an easy solution.  She wasn’t a bit shocked.  She told me she and her husband, who had downsized, were considering adding on. 

“You need more room, too.  You and Duane like having people over.”

“He’ll flip out,”  I answered.  

She just smiled.  “I’ll pray for your conversations.”

A few Wednesdays ago, on one of those rare, empty of time constraints, open afternoons, we plunged into talking more specifically about what we’re doing, and where and how.   We talked about the size and location of our condo, church ministry plans, and Duane’s work.  

Duane didn’t flip out.  Instead, we figured out new ways to meet our goals.  Age wise, we’re five years shy of seventy, but still in excellent health and love being actively involved with work, friends, church and family.    

Last Sunday afternoon, we visited an Open House at a two bedroom villa (no maintenance!), near work and church.   I could see us hosting friends for dinner in the spacious dining room.  Within a few days, we were under contract.  We’ll keep the beach condo, but  split our time, as we were doing before.  Duane loves his patients at North Pinellas Children’s, and plans to keep on working.  Thursday afternoon we’re meeting with our pastor about a small group opportunity.

We’re ignoring the number 65, with gratitude that we do have our health and Duane has a flexible job.    

I’m glad we’re not dead yet.  

Thank you for praying for us.

 

We Will Dance

     -Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes

And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain

You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong

You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go

We’ll see them come and go again

But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze

One thing will not be changin’

We will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight

Sometimes we feel so far apart

Sometimes we dance as one

And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet

Some days we’re bouncing off the walls

No matter how this world may turn

Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

The music will play

And I’ll hold you close

And I won’t let you go

Even when our steps

Grow weak and slow

Still I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we, will dance

5-star-movie reviews

“Just Mercy”‘s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), heroically fights for truth and justice for his death row clients in Alabama.  Based on a true story, the film exposes flagrant racism too close in time, only twenty five years ago, for comfort. Aren’t we past all that?  Five stars for subject matter: truth and the fight for justice.  Also, a graphic portrayal of the death penalty with a worthy plea to shut it down, in the name of justice and mercy.

However, on a cinematic level, although the acting was believable and writing hammered home the film’s message, the pace of the story in the first half was slow, and visually, something I could have watched at home on a TV screen.  Hence the three stars below.  Best supporting actor for Tim Blake Nelson,  whose characterization of the guy whose lies put innocent Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) on death row sparkled.

The movie could have ended where Foxx’s character realizes that the truth has set him free, while he is still incarcerated.  Powerful scene.  But doesn’t.

Duane wondered why the title was, “Just Mercy”:  Real justice stands alone on the truth, and in this story, that’s all the man needed.  

 

“Parasite,” Oscar nominated for Best Picture and International Feature Film, among other categories, is the story of two nuclear families: father, mother, son and daughter.  The poor family lives in honest, harmony, hungry and dependent upon each other, in a hovel in South Korea.  The rich family don’t know or even like each other, living in an architect designed dream house, with a basement.  (Foreshadowing; there’s lots of it in the movie.)

What happens, when, through the appearance of a metaphoric rock, the lives and hopes of these two families intersect?

You have to see the movie to find out.  Discover how peach fuzz and morse code, American Indians and the danger of cell phones, combine in a story that consistently surprises while at the same time, is relatable.

“What’s the plan?” the poor son asks his father, as they lay side by side on the floor of a gymnasium, after their hovel is washed away in a rain storm.  Throughout the film, the family had worked many plans.

“There is no plan,”  the father replies as he gazes hopelessly at the ceiling.

But that’s not the end of the movie.

A must must see.  Because the details are so creative: like how the wrong smell can give away a scheme.   And because the characters are so finely written.  Especially the father, who appears at the beginning as an out of work loser.  Then becomes the suave chauffeur of the rich family.  He fools the rich family, til even the rich father says, “There’s something I like about him:  ‘he knows not to cross the line.'”

And who’s fooling who?  Another big theme.

We saw lots of horror movie previews before this film; thought we must have been going to see a horror movie.  The tone shifts from comedic to satire to – well there is lots of blood at the end.  Not for kids, at all.  Too dark.  And it has subtitles.  But brilliantly told truth to ponder.

I karaoked to this album on Dad’s Fisher stereo at full blast whenever I had the house to myself, in high school.  The power of that orchestra, led by Mort Lindsey,  created a magical musical world with hit song after hit song by Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Dorothy Fields and on and on, topped with the icing of Judy’s full throttle voice.  “We’ll sing ’em all and we’ll stay all night!”  Judy exclaims before the second to last showstopper.  I brought the album with me to college.  I listened to it as a young mother while walking.  Now it delights me as I drive in my car, preferably in a Chrysler car because somehow their sound systems are better.

I adore Judy’s voice.

Her life was a train wreck.  Renee Zellwegger is not my favorite actress as she seems self- conscious.  “I’m on screen and I love it.”  Now that she’s up for Best Actress I forced myself to watch the movie.

The film was brightly colored, contrasting her bright, not drab,  black hair and dark fake eyelashed eyes with a rainbow of colors.  For the first half hour that was fun to watch.  In the second hour, it was tiring to see close ups of the Judy face with the pouty lips impersonation.  The story of her childhood/teen years at MGM was briefer than expected.  I’m not sure if the filmmaker intended that those loveless and demanding years were an excuse for Judy’s drug, alcohol and anxiety issues.  Or is it that people that are talented to genius artistic level are just impossible to live with?

Either way, it’s a depressing story, a gifted person turned into a victim of her own life.  Was it well told?  The pace, after the first half hour at that pace, was too slow. And not enough of Judy’s life was told, in a 2 hour story.  Tell a story instead of so many many close ups of Renee’s face.

I apologize for being tough on her, but we’re talking about a legend. And Renee’s singing voice, on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being Judy, was a 0.  Find the Judy at Carnegie album and listen to it. You’ll see I’m right.

Nominated by the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, “Knives Out” doesn’t make the cut of ‘best’ or ‘original.’  The film did have a screenplay – which fits into the category of ‘been there, done that,’ like a game of ‘Clue,’ as alluded to in the film, with the typical caricatures who have a possible motive for the preposterous murder.

An entertaining film has a clever story but just as important, if not more, is how the screen delights the eye.  I’ve never seen a mansion with more maroon carpeting and walls, dark brown woodwork and olive (yuck) green.  Enhanced with only the light from the windows on a cloudy winter day, the lighting budget was obviously nil.   The drab, colorless scenes don’t get any help from the ‘action’ (?) of the film: mostly actors sitting in chairs talking to each other.

Daniel Craig’s southern drawl didn’t work and the puking was gimmicky.

 

 

“Little Women” treads on sacred ground.  I grew up reading and re-reading this classic in the yellow spined  ‘classic of the month for children’ edition my mother bought for her four girls.  (Each month’s spine color a different color of the rainbow which looked classy when they lined our bookshelf).  I was in sixth grade when I fell in love with Jo March; not because she wanted more than anything else to be a writer, but because she was independent and unafraid to break the feminine falsities of the day.  She was a woman with an ‘attic of her own.’  My kingdom was in the basement; a desk, bookshelf and bulletin board, under the stairs.

So, wouldn’t I love this feminist “Little Women” flick?  The visuals: settings, home decor, costumes and hair are gauzily beautiful.  They made Americana look as elegant as Downton Abbey.  The writers chose to keep the storyline, if somewhat back and forth in time.

Where it fell completely flat was in the writing of the dialogue of the four sisters.  I didn’t believe any of the words that came out of their mouths, which makes working off a script dicey for an actor.  Oh, except one or two of the lines, which came directly from the book, like, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents!”  Funny thing, that, the charm and brilliance of Louisa May Alcott’s actual writing, which Greta Gerwig mistakenly thought she could fill in, with her own political beliefs about women and marriage in the 19th century.  The only other thing missing from the film was the emojis that should have accompanied the end of each sugary syrup scene.  Those round yellow faces wouldn’t fit the period, so the creators of this sermon on the injustice of marriage to women substituted a musical soundtrack of over obvious crescendos and sappy sentimentality.  Women who made this film, are you trying to work your way out of your jobs back into your meaningless marriages?

The Laurie character is always a tough one… Chalamet fit at the younger Laurie stage, but looked too young for the more mature Laurie.  Also, the Amy character looked too old for her younger part and overplayed those scenes.  Is it ‘looks’ or is it ‘acting?’  And horrors! The March girls never wrestled each other or punched a friend, even in play.  For all the efforts in scenery, costumes and staging, to have the characters act like hyperactive children was offensive to the dignity that Louisa May Alcott instilled in her characters.

I’m trying to remember why I loved reading her books so much when I was in 5th or  6th grade;  I also adored her second book, “Jo’s Boys.”  I wanted to run an orphanage for boys, too.  Her stories inspired because her characters were real people who lived ‘ordinary lives’ with courage, creativity and love.

I’m sorry that for Greta that wasn’t enough.

Oh, and my baby sister, like Amy, took her ‘fancy drawings’ and turned it into a thriving design business!

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