Inspiring Verse

I wonder if this verse was Mr Guest’s answer to Rudyard Kipling’s famous verse, IF? Read IF here.

DUTY

by Edgar Guest

To do your little bit of toil,
to play life’s game with head erect;
to stoop to nothing that would soil
your honor or your self-respect;
to win what gold and fame you can,
but first of all to be a man.

To know the bitter and the sweet,
the sunshine and the days of rain;
to meet both victory and defeat,
nor boast too loudly nor complain;
to face whatever fates befall
and be a man throughout it all.

To seek success in honest strife
but not to value it so much
that, winning it, you go through life
stained by dishonor’s scarlet touch.
What goal or dream you choose, pursue,
but be a man whatever you do!

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Less is More

I just finished reading a blog post by Martha Kennedy with this same title. She starts out with a terse bit of editing wisdom from author Truman Capote: “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”

I heartily agree with what she says. Less is more. Author Jerry Jenkins stresses this over and over in his writing course: “Don’t use two adjectives; one is enough. Better yet, choose a stronger action verb.” Adverbs have similarly fallen out of style, I hear.

Mark Twain once gave wannabe writers similar advice, with a wry wit in the delivery: “When you see an adjective, kill it.”

Awhile back I read a book that reminded me of his quip. A good story, but the author seems to over-use adjectives and adverbs, often as a way to pat characters on the back.
– Jill generously gave him a huge slice of pie.
– Jack unselfishly offered to drive them to the mall.
– He appreciated Jill’s considerate offer to look after his sister.
– Jack sighed appreciatively after Jill’s extremely satisfying dinner.
– Jill admired Jack’s dashing good looks.
– Jack’s humble way of suggesting…
– Jack found Jill extremely attractive.
– Jack’s unstinting effort to find the owner pleased Jill immensely.

Get my point?

These seasonings are okay when lightly sprinkled through the book, and I like stories about kind, thoughtful people. However, if superlatives appear too often it can sound like the writer’s trying to impress on forgetful readers what a wonderful, thoughtful, generous character this is. I don’t have to be told twenty times that the hero is smart, generous, and handsome or gorgeous. Perversely, this inclines me to dislike Mr/Ms goodie-two-shoes.

No matter what you’re saying about your characters’ qualities, more than three or four times is overkill. Don’t try to sneak them past the reader by embellishing their wonderful acts, either. Let the reader decide if that your character’s a keeper.

At Twelve per Hour

Yesterday my husband and I started doing a jigsaw puzzle, one given to us sometime in the past six months by I forget who. This is a Cobble Hill puzzle, one brand we always enjoy doing, where every puzzle piece is a different shape. Looking at their site, I see they have some really beautiful puzzles listed. 🙂

With each piece being a unique shape, the putting-together should be easy-peasy, right? Nope. Not this one, because it’s such a collage of vines and leaves, fruits and butterflies. In fact it’s call Fruits & Flutterbies.

Pretty? Yes. Easy? No. Click Here if you want to see the picture we’re trying to put together.

My hubby worked at it for an hour before dinner and put in twelve pieces. Then he calculated: 1000 pieces at 12 per hour, with each of us putting in a couple of hours every day, should take us clear through til spring. Somewhat like retyping WAR & PEACE.

However, with the outside temp hovering around -30 C we may as well occupy ourselves with something appealing indoors. It’s a sunny day and with sunbeams making all the snowbanks glisten, a person could almost go snow-blind. I imagine this country when settlers first came, not a tree or anything to break the view for twenty miles. And then sunshine on snowy fields!

One early arrival, coming from Wales, commented that “Back home I always like to face the road ahead so I could see what was coming up. But when I’m travelling here on the flat prairie it doesn’t matter what direction I face because the view’s the same whichever way you look.”

Is This Our Year?

I’ve been thinking for awhile about a story from the Bible and the warning Jesus gave to the people of his day. It was on my mind again this morning, then when I saw the Word of the Day ChallengeWARNING – well, this is the perfect prompt for sharing my thought!

In Luke Chapter 12 + 13 Jesus gives various signs of “the end,” and tells the disciples they need to be ready, watching, and doing the will of their heavenly Father when the Master of the house returns. Then he tells them this parable of the fig tree:

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

Luke 13: 6-9

The owner of the vineyard took note of this tree that wasn’t bearing fruit in its season. In fact, it hadn’t given any fruit at all for three years. So he said, in effect, “This tree is taking moisture and minerals from the soil, plus the time we’ve already spent on it, and giving us nothing in return. Chop the thing down and let’s use the space for a tree that will be more profitable.”

However, the caretaker was loathe to do something that drastic. Perhaps he felt some pity for the tree, having tended it and fussed over it from its days as a promising sapling. “Let me try what I can with aeration and fertilizer for one more year. Then if it doesn’t bear fruit, okay, we’ll cut it down.”

When I read these verses recently, it occurred to me that “this year” Jesus talked about represented the time of his ministry on earth. The few years he spent teaching and preaching to the people, calling them to repent and come back to God. This was Israel’s “year.” This was the time for the Jewish nation to bear fruit. Would they received his message? Would they repent and turn back to God –the One who had delivered them so many times before. God was giving them this one last chance to bear the fruit He wanted to see.

The Apostle John writes that Jesus came to his own, the Jewish people, and “his own received him not.” History records that the Jewish leaders and the mob they stirred up finally had him put to death because they hated his message. And God rejected them; not very many years later He allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed and the Jews carried away as captives, ultimately scattered to the four winds.

Another fig tree scene happened not long before Jesus was crucified. Mark 11:13-21 tells of how Jesus passed by a fig tree, stopped to look for fruit, and there was no fruit on it. So he said to the tree, “Let no man get any figs off this tree ever again.”
The next day, as they passed this tree again, it was in sad shape. Peter, recalling what Jesus had said the day before, pointed out the shriveling tree. “Master, there’s the fig tree you cursed. It’s withered away.”
I doubt his disciples caught the symbolism of the fig tree to the nation of Israel until after the events of the crucifixion and the day of Pentecost. Then they would have understood.

Another comparison came to my mind. I’ll write it and hope that it speaks to you. I’ve been thinking about this last year when COVID has stalked the earth and menaced people all over the globe. A lot of us have had to leave our pursuits – jobs, schooling, arts and entertainment, sports events, even going to the polls – and return to our homes. We’ve written about 2020 as “A year we’re glad to see the end of.” We’re looking forward to a time when Covid-19 has been conquered. When most everyone’s been vaccinated, this giant has been laid low, and we can go back to our normal lives.

But what if this was our “year” to respond to the voice of God. What if this Covid “season” we’re in is that “one more year” God is giving our world, the time we should stop, think about him and his word, think about “the end” when the Master returns?

Think of the great issues of our day. Environmental, financial, political, justice, personal. How they fill our minds and cause us no end of worry. But what if this really was our last year? Not that we can just stop caring, drop every concern, let everything slide. But there’s a bigger picture here we need to consider: are we concerned about, and prepared to face, the most important event in the world?

“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.”

Revelation 10:5-6

Jesus tells us to prepare, to watch and be ready. Just in case this is our Year.

The Small Joys in Our Lives

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is JOY, which is a very fitting word for the season. We’ve been hearing all about joy this past week, as we’ve been listening to Christmas programs put on by various of our parochial schools across North America. Two nights ago we heard the one from Buhl, Idaho; last night we listened to the school program from Lime Springs, Iowa – and after that, Christmas songs by our own school children here.

Though we can’t visit these schools in person to hear the carols and stories told, thanks to the technology of streaming we can get in on the joyful celebration surrounding the birth of Jesus, the hope and light of all the world. We still get a thrill as we hear the children singing the old familiar carols and also enjoy the new ones being introduced each year.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for , behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The angel’s message still circles the globe and floods this old world with hope. God has reached down to man in the form of Jesus Christ; we can be reconciled to our Creator. Also, we now have Jesus’ teachings and example of living in peace with our fellow humans.

Naturally speaking, joy may not be the first word that comes to mind. Because the incidence of COVID -19 has been on the rise in our province, restrictions are tightening up more and more. Families won’t be gathering if private homes are limited to five people at a time.

With more restrictions starting Dec 26th, or traditional Boxing Day sales will likely be rather a fizzle this year. According to space-per-person guidelines, only so many people will be allowed into stores at a time – and if it’s cold enough, folks aren’t apt to stand around outside waiting to get in. Most of us, if we’re honest, will admit that we have enough stuff now, but I hope our merchants can weather this storm. All this gives us a special joy to look forward to next year: the time when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

For us right now, the kitten we found on our doorstep a month ago – such a lively little puffball – has brought many smiles and small joys into our lives. We’re so thankful we discovered him there before Angus could chase him away and/or something awful happened to him.

Tuffy looks quite much like this.
Image by Ben Scherjon at Pixabay