Yearly: 2021

In Monet's Garden
Poetry

Beauty

Beauty is all around, yet I seek it more.

I seek to see beauty—beauty that is within and stored

not just laying lightly on surface.

Beauty that emanates from His creation.

Beauty that lasts. That is what I seek.

Beauty in love, beauty in pain.

Beauty in the found and beauty in the stain.

Beauty in the joy and even in the sorrow.

There in Christ is more than enough for today and tomorrow.

Open my eyes to see it, Lord

And better still, my heart to know it’s there

Let my fingers touch it, my mouth taste it, and my ears hear it.

Let my mind and eyes see it, then paint or write it.

So it lingers on.

And when my heart brims and starts to overflow,

let me give it out and let it go.

Beauty can be quick, short lived, but true.

Let not any of it be missed and slip through.

Sometimes camouflaged in ugly, it lay unseen.

Still beauty is there waiting to be gleaned.

Beauty once hung upon an ugly cross.

Pierced with pain and sorrow

Its wicked means for grace through loss.

A necklace hangs lightly with symbol on a chain,

not to adorn the grotesque, or to celebrate His pain.

But to remind me of that beauty and my salvation through it that as gained.

And there it was the first one of today.

A rock pressed hard into the sand.

shaped like a heart from ocean’s harsh play.

Another symbol, maybe, of my own heart—a stone shaped

and hardened by the wicked world’s hand.

Needing Holy Spirit cleansing, waterfalled and washed down to a thirsty land.

Place in me a heart of flesh

And not a heart of stone.

Let beauty of truth and love, be softened and shaped

by You alone.

Moriah's Gift
Blog

WRITING – THE GREAT REVEALER

As an author, I have learned that writing is a most revealing craft, not just to the reader, but also for the author. Consuming the message of a story may fill the reader with insights for their own life, but you may also find yourself peering into the heart of the author’s own soul. 

If that sounds a little backwards, it probably is. But, for me, writing has always been an overflow of my own experiences, impressions, and soul searching. Thus, my old wounds, early impressions, hopes and dreams can float to the surface of a text. Perhaps that is why my latest book Moriah’s Wings, though a short and simple story, reflects so much of my own seasoning.  For example, while writing Moriah’s Wings, I drew upon my experience as a teenager and my babysitting days. Quite often while sitting with little girls, they would ask to brush my long hair. I was always accommodating to that request because their gentle brush strokes tickled my scalp and helped me relax. So, when I created a scene in the story that could explain how Moriah had the opportunity to learn about her Mistress’s worries, I wrote that Moriah asked if she could brush Priscilla’s hair. And of course it worked: “each gentle gesture seemed to massage her mistress’ troubled spirit and relax her slumped shoulders.” Soon Priscilla began unloading her worry about her husband Naaman’s leprosy. And just as she finishes, Naaman walkes in and Moriah boldly suggests he go see the prophet Elisha to be healed.

Another surprising thing I have learned is how often my own words can be a lesson or comfort to my own soul. Just recently, I was struggling with some new tasks and responsibilities that just didn’t seem to be taking shape in a timely fashion. Frustration overflowed as all my best efforts continued to fail. Then I picked up my book, “Fresh Eyes: Seeing God in the Unexpected,” and began reading one of my own stories. There, shouting from the pages of my own hand, lay wisdom, inspiration and a reminder of God’s solution to my dilemma. The title of the story, “Keeping the Goal in Sight,” was all about how we can reach our goals when we harness the power and strength of the Lord and the example it used  was the powerful racehorse, Secretariat in comparison to his jockey. 

It read: “I considered how the rider must feel as he becomes one with the horse, experiencing its power, strength, and exhilarating force flow through his spirit. I imagine that for the rider, each thrilling moment is fulfilling God’s purpose for his life.” The story went on to remind me that, we are only powerful when we learn to harness God’s power and we become one with the Lord in purpose and goal.  And like a jockey whose horse takes him to the finish line, only through His might and strength, will we run the race He has set before us.”

So, there it was all laid-out before me. Clear as day. Words of wisdom speaking back into my own soul. The irony wasn’t lost on me. In fact it continued to speak to my spirit further as it brought to mind other times when I’d learned to rely on God’s power and spirit, instead of my own, to get through something. So, I guess it’s safe to say that sometimes a writer might send a reminder to themself that’s hiding in the plain site of their own words.

Blog

FRAGRANT MOMENTS AND MEMORIES

Did ya ever have a moment of curious inspiration and wonder—wonder that asks if it was your imagination, or if there’s a logical explanation for what happened? Well, just yesterday morning I had one of those. I was out on my patio spending some time in prayer, when it happened. A sweet fragrance suddenly wafted by. Funny, it wasn’t there when I first came out. I sat relishing the intoxicating perfumed air, inhaling as much as I could of the aroma similar to gardenias or jasmine. But, curiously, I noted, there aren’t any fragrant flowers currently blooming in our back yard at all, nor many in the front. And I wasn’t aware of any like that in nearby properties. 

So, how was it, I could smell that sweet fragrance? Could it be God was sending me a beautiful message of hope and courage? I’d been feeling weighed down lately after a barrage of troubles had continued to batter my husband and I for several months. It seemed that every time we’d get past one, another would come our way. My husband had suffered the most with everything including two different medical events that took him to the emergency hospital. By themselves, most of the trials weren’t earth shaking and our faith continued to get us through, but with wave after wave we barely had a chance to catch our breath between each one.  

So, I wondered, does God ever make Himself known in that way? I don’t know. But shortly after my unique aromatic experience, a distant memory drifted in too. I remembered an amazing woman I’d met thirty or forty years ago, named Bilquis Sheikh. She had spoken at our church telling her miraculous story of an encounter with God and how it led her out of her Muslim beliefs and into Christianity. In one part of her book, “I Dared to Call Him Father,” I recalled Madame Bilquis telling of a moment when an inexplicable sweet fragrance surrounded her. That sign, along with others, led her to a great change of faith. 

Ironically, the very fact that I remembered Madame Bilquis Sheikh’s name—and how to spell it, after all these years, was, in itself, a miracle for me—in my senior years I’m lucky to remember my own name sometimes. Yet, I do know that smell and memory are very attached to one another. Perhaps that’s why the story of Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus with the  Oil of Spikenard to prepare Him for burial, also came to mind. In John 12:1-7 the account mentions the fragrance and how it “filled the room.” But the account that stands out most for me is the one in Matthew 26:13 that says “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told as a memorial to her.” I.O.W. people would remember it, like, forever. 

Whether or not it was a miraculous manifestation of my Lord, or He caused the fragrance to catch a breeze and drift my way, or it just happened to find its way to me from afar, it was just what I needed that morning. And as I sat soaking it all in, a poem came to me, so I’d like to share it as my Easter gift to all of you.

A SWEET FRAGRANCE

You come to me in sweet fragrance, carried on a breeze, 

blowing softly from afar, you enter inside with ease.

Into the deep places within,

that store my pain and sin.

Infusing sweet perfume,

and a healing balm of love.

Like a candle in a room and a sweet fragrance from above. 

Springtime flowers fresh in bloom,

carry your message 

Resurrected from a tomb,

Bursting through the soil 

That held them down,

They too, raise up 

With new life found.  

Sheep beside English Church 2012
Blog

THE RIGHT VOICE


Don’t know about you, but with all the voices in our world that are clamoring for our attention these days, I’m finding it harder and harder to find my way through the din of noise. Even the joy of singing in my church choir was getting drowned out by all the Covid 19 restriction noise——”Wear a mask, keep your distance and only sing virtually, blared in my head above the beauty of the music and experience for me. So, when a friend asked if I’d seen the “peaceful” goats grazing near her home, I took pause. “Yes” I said, “and they are a beautiful sight to see.” Unfortunately, it had been on the way to the emergency hospital with my ailing husband, so of course we hadn’t been able to enjoy the sight.

Later that week, however, while pondering my friend’s observance, memories came to mind of my own experiences with goats and sheep. Many years back, we lived near a large patch of empty land. Often times sheep would graze there and we were able to observe them from across the street. Then, a few years after moving to a new house, an artist friend invited me to go with her to photograph some sheep in a nearby town. She’d gotten permission from the shepherd for us to walk among the sheep at lambing time as they grazed on the hillsides. My friend was doing research on a painting project of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and she needed some good photo references of lambs. As it turned out, I also gained some eye-opening, or should I say ear-opening information that day too.

Walking close beside the sheep brought a new revelation as I heard their bleating calls. It struck me that each sheep had a different voice much the same as people do. Some sheep had higher pitched voices (like sopranos) and others had low, or alto/base voices. And when one of the adult sheep, a mama sheep no doubt, started bleating over and over, her little lamb recognized its mother’s voice and went running up the hill to have lunch (nurse). That is when it truly sunk-in as to what Jesus was talking about when he said: “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me,” (John 10:27). I realized, then, that sheep do recognize different voices, because they too have unique voices.

So, as I reflect back on that experience and apply its principal today, it seems the best thing I can do is keep my ears tuned to my Shepherd’s voice (Jesus) and not let the clamoring noise of many other voices gain my attention. Not let those voices “kill, steal and destroy” my joy.

Iris Carignan