Ten poetic and four prose entries in our non-competitive call for hopeful art! Plus an audio article and music video.
Nor Ear Yet Heard
By Anne MacMillan, Saskatoon
Upon a rock of pensiveness, she played her broken tune,
The strings that once were tautly strung, now frayed, neglected, ruin’d.
Yet in her mind’s eye beauty heard, a beauty seen and touched,
The harp which once played heaven’s song still held within her clutch.
“Yet shall I play the ancient song on instrument of praise?
Lament alone is not its strength, but songs of gladder days.
A day of full recov’ry, no more mere bandaged wounds,
When all creation, harp and soul will sing the Eden tunes.”
Each note reverbed and caught by wind transformed to join a song,
Still sung in heaven and on earth, amongst the joyful throng.
The day, the hour we know not when but now redeem our days,
For then with open eyes and harp, springs forth resounding praise.
Eye has not seen nor ear yet heard the things prepared for those,
Whose gaze is set on things above, not solely earth’s repose.
Tear open blinds and mend all strings, prepare in jubilation!
The day will come with hast’ning glee and stunning new creation.
The harp unchained and strings restored, all groaning, weeping, ceased,
And on this Rock of ages spring the songs of our release.
So play and sing in hastening, while bandaged, chained and weak,
For in that weakness strength perfects the song of the redeemed.
You Still the Waves
Psalm 89:9, Psalm 107:29, Matthew 8: 26
By Anita McBride
Ominous clouds of darkness roll toward the shore and chill my soul.
Waves rise up, disrupt my path, blasts of spray an aftermath.
Keep on going or turn back? I climb the rocks to stay on track.
Frigid winds push me on. My balance fails, the gusts are strong.
Still the waves. Calm the storm.
Still my heart from all alarm.
Pierce the clouds. Send the Son.
Wind and waves … let stillness come.
Such a lonely time and place, I am weary with the pace.
How long will the dark advance? I need Your light, Your radiance.
Soon, come soon. I need to rest from this storm of great distress.
Longing for a better day … be my help, Lord, make a way.
I’m not alone. You’re with me here.
Help me to wait without the fear.
You’re my hope. You make a way.
You’re my light. Lord, lead today.
You still the waves. You calm the storm.
You still my heart from all alarm.
You pierce the clouds. You send the Son.
You speak to waves … let stillness come.
Hope Through the Pandemic
By Donna Tweney
“All visitors must leave the building immediately!” This announcement came on May 14, 2020 while I was visiting my husband who lives in a long term care home. That marked the beginning of prolonged periods of isolation for him during outbreaks in the home and prolonged times when no visitors were allowed.
Later, FaceTime and Zoom calls were the only form of contact possible. This technology enabled our family to see and talk to Bob, although the Alzheimer’s disease had already stolen his ability to actually carry on a conversation.
Bob has maintained a contentment that goes beyond all explanation during these times. He often laughs or whistles or hums. He still recognizes his family, and tries to interact with us. Miraculously, he has said things like “I love you so much,” “beautiful,” “yep” and “thank you.”
My hope has come from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ over our 55 years of marriage. God has been so incredibly close to us during our journey of life, Alzheimer’s and this pandemic. A plaque that hangs in our home says “The closer we come to God, the closer we come to each other.” That says it all!
Currently, we visit Bob outside, so our family can hold his hand and look in his eyes. Still wearing masks, he knows us and is happy to see us in person. His touch, his laugh, his fancy whistle are all precious gifts that we treasure.
Ultimately, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds our future. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” These words have encouraged me throughout the pandemic. I will continue to claim this promise until we can once again resume a normal life.
By Lynne Collier
Why my soul
are you prone to worry
as one who flails in an ocean
without sight of land?
Why be anxious
in these times?
You are safe
no matter what
The deadly virus
This is the state of
But One who suffered before
has vanquished the enemy
of flesh and bone
and has a safe place
for you my soul
in due time.
By James R. Coggins, Chilliwack, B.C.
The midtown bus lurched along, carrying its random assortment of humanity.
“Someone should do something,” muttered the old woman, squeezed between two middle-aged businessmen on the seniors’ bench near the front.
The driver, balding with a spreading middle, hunched over the wheel, his eyes on the road, his ears closed to what was happening behind him.
A line of swaying passengers, dangling from hand straps, stretched halfway down the aisle.
A 30-something man with tattoos on his bulging arms sat stoically on an outside seat, no one daring to squeeze past him to the empty inside seat.
In the back, a half-dozen older teens in jeans and black T-shirts lounged on the benches.
“Hey, Paki! What you doing on our bus? Why don’t you go back to India where you belong?” one of them called.
Their target was a wiry middle-aged Latino with a brown face and black hair, last in the line of swaying standees. He kept his face down, staring at the floor.
“Hey, babe! Want to come back here and give us some honey?”
Their target had switched to a young woman in a black skirt and a white sweater. She glanced up, horrified, then turned her face away to stare at the back door.
Two burly men in a middle seat glanced back at the commotion, then turned up the volume on their iPods.
“Paki, when you get off this bus, we’re going to stick you real good. You should’ve stayed where you belong.”
“Somebody should do something,” muttered the old lady again, perhaps a repetitive phrase of burgeoning dementia.
The bus lurched to a stop to let on one more passenger, a middle-aged woman in a wrinkled business suit. She joined the line of standees.
In the pause, an old man near the back doors slowly pulled himself to his feet, leaning heavily on a wooden cane. He lurched out of the row into the swaying line. He looked back, into the face of a dowdy middle-aged woman in green slacks. He bowed slightly and waved his gnarled free hand toward the vacated seat.
“Ma’am, would you like to sit down?” he said.
I Can Write Like the Autumn
By Ruth Marie Paterson
I can write like the autumn leaves
beautiful, striking, colourful
yet somehow still dead
Untended, my heart is harsh like winter
full of ice and freezing out
the life that used to grow.
Those are the worst versions of me,
but not the ones I choose.
I choose the hope that perches in my soul
like Dickinson wrote about:
spring in my heart
all year long.
Experiencing God’s Love in the Simple Moments
By Bianca Schaefer
My husband and I like to joke around. We don’t tell each other jokes. Oh no. The joking around I’m talking about just happens organically. Like when we’re sitting on a park bench and he turns and asks me,
“How many people do you think there are in Heaven? Is there going to be enough room for all of us or is it going to be crowded?”
“I think there’ll be enough room, sweetheart. As far as I know, there won’t be any special limitations.”
“Well, what about all those people? Are we going to know everyone instantly? Cause I don’t want to have to wait in line to talk to certain people,” he says.
“Oh, really? Who do you want to talk to?”
“Adam. I’d really like to pull him aside and ask him what he was thinking when he let Eve take a bite of the apple. I mean seriously, who was wearing the pants in that family,” he smiles.
“I don’t think anyone was wearing any pants, but I suppose that’s beside the point,” I chuckle.
“Well, when there’s a new heaven and a new earth, I’m going to tell God to make sure there’s no good-looking fruit hanging on any trees. Maybe to have kiwi trees instead. No one wants to bite into those fuzzy things with the skin on.”
“Sure, while you’re at it, make a list of everything else he should do,” I say.
“Well, what about nail clippers? Do I need to bring nail clippers? Cause my nails grow pretty fast and I don’t want to be walking around with long fingernails.”
“Sweetheart, I’m sure they will have a locker with you’re your name on it and you can put all your belongings in there when you get there.”
“Will I have to go to the washroom? Apparently, we’ll be having a big feast. I know I’ll need to go, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, dear, I know exactly what you mean. He’ll need to get some air fresheners too,” I blurt out.
We both have a belly laugh.
“I hope they can accommodate all the special diets,” I say, “you know, gluten-free, dairy free, what about allergens? I wonder if we should give Jesus a call and put in our order?”
“Yeah, but what about toilet paper? Do they have enough toilet paper?”
“Oh, you’re still on that,” I smile, “you’re right. We might have to tell them to stock up on toilet paper because you know what happened at the start of the pandemic.”
We both smile and realize our spirits feel lifted. The weight of the pandemic lifted right off of our shoulders with a little “holy” banter going back and forth.
I say to hubby, “I really hope God has a sense of humour… you know, since we want to tell him how He should do things. I picture him up there in heaven right now, shaking his head.”
“Why, what do you mean?” he says.
“I think the first thing he’ll say to us when we get there is, ‘hello dumb-dumb’. You know, like the Great Gazoo from the Flintstone’s would have said to Fred.”
“I picture us sitting on God’s lap, telling him everything we think we know. He has his arms around us, smiling, saying, ‘Uh-huh, yeah, good idea’ and feeling happy we’ve finally come home.”
By A. E. Thorimbert
candlelit at dusks’ edge
preparing for the night’s watch
stillness in my pockets, hope in my lanterns
winds high, weaving between towers
a thought flickers by, “what should happen should they topple and fall?
would life be like the vines crawling up through the cracks in our walls?”
not one stone will be left here upon another, he said. All thrown down.
Down. How far down?
apocalypse we had said – that’s for blockbusters and war-torn countries
“Look Rabbouni, what large stones and what large buildings!”
Not understanding that an apocalypse isn’t an event
Its just a simple crisis the reads us like a book
revealing all our hidden nooks
so I watch
as famine draws closer to becoming family
as everyone points to everyone and anything that can save
what can save? What even is saving? Can be saved?
Not the earth they say.
Peaceful I watch. Not surprised tho.
Why am I not surprised? How am I not surprised?
Ah, the answer comes – we stand at the gate, like he, at the doorway, like he
Alert to it all.
Keep awake, awake, awake.
Are you looking for a way out, oh it is there, but won’t anyone stay awake
third watch – and the vinegar hour
oh the gall to be the centurion in light’s bower
never to cower, never the coward
courage good saint, courage this hour
Candlemas shall come this very day
David’s son comes, foreigners by his side, father in his eyes
pass the markets in a frenzy,
pass the clergy caught in their ways and webs
pass even the high curtain. He slips by
they’re all looking for Divine Light.
Divine light now has match, wick and oil.
pass your hand over, coat your fingers in his wax.
like a seal, be marked; for we as epistles shall be sent.
ah my imaginations do take hold of me; Candlemas still yet to come.
home’s fireplace and mantle are waiting, so too must I
till then bring any candle out,
mount them on this covered city’s walls
let their wax drip and drape down
let our enemies see only our incense
we shall laugh as they ready their swords for war
as our families dance with bonfires on our minds
they think us doomed, defeated, but the gates are open
what you call dusk, we call but the prelude the dawn’s hymn
Our master is on but a journey
Our toil is heavy, but midnight is the a good time to create
so stay awake with me.
the Night’s watch is hard, but our master is tender
there is intimacy to be found even in this isolation
the world has chosen to be frank with you
making revelation a wall you cannot turn from
so press your head to the words that will endure
they’re the stones that will not crumble
beautiful and awful.
stunning and stirring.
the word is a lamp unto my feet
and I shall walk and keep watch this night, unafraid.
By Vickie Sprenger
Sunday March 7th 2021
This earthy, bitter grind
The rich black dust which must remind us
of what we are made
Mixed with boiling, bubbling water of life
This is holy
This simplicity, this mug of normalcy and every day-ness
Of warm comfort cream and sugar
Bought, sold or offered
Paid for or paid forward
At home and away
This is sacred
From office worker to dock worker
Street corner to corner office
We all enjoy a sip of brew to wake up to
To warm up to
To buck up to
This sharing of common grounds
Through church services and conferences
The cup presides over hang-outs and first dates,
AA and board meetings alike
She is the common denominator, the neutral grounds
Wrap your hands around the cup and you are a little safer, a little warmer
Hold the cup to your lips and you are a little braver, a little kinder
Brave enough at least, to get the kids to school
To stay awake on the drive home
To have that conversation
To offer that confession
To leave the house
To leave the shelter
To get up off the ground
And keep going
This is coffee
And it is Holy Ground
Audio article by Ajay Caleb
By Paola Barrera
Hope, such a small word.
pushed out in one breath.
Like a pause,
It stops, and you exhale what's left.
to be found in the oddest places.
carry traces of it in different spaces.
The crease of the eyes behind the mask of a stranger,
greeting you 'good morning'!
Against all odds,
In the pristine ghostlike empty grocery store.
On the screen of your TV,
Your pastor showing up to preach to the a camera,
Because he knows you and many others are on the other side of the lens.
It's a digital door,
We enter to gather and care,
To be gathered and cared for.
Like a pause,
hope stops you.
Sometimes to a halt, like March 2020
Sometimes to pace you, steady you
like a year after that.
Until you exhale.
Hope shows beauty amidst sorrow
Because beauty isn't pain free,
but it is FREE to all and found anywhere God is.
He's found on the cross,
In a tomb
On a screen Sunday morning
On a poem written in June and spring
About March and darkness.
I found Hope holding the world
when we lost balance,
plans and calendars fell apart
and the new hard was met with old strength.
The Rock of Ages remakes what breaks,
this is hope.
Awaken to Wonder
By Monique Watt Heintzman
Take a walk in the woods,
where life surges and recedes through the seasons like waves on the shore,
where new treasures await your discovery everyday.
Walk regularly, paying attention -
to the light, to the smells, to the sounds,
to what has changed, to what is the same,
and marvel at the beauty that greets you.
Consider a leaf.
Ponder its life cycle through the seasons.
Notice tree trunks’ bark -
some smooth looking and to the touch,
others thick and rough,
protecting their precious core like armour.
Observe their form -
their straightness or crookedness,
their scars and tumours.
Each one has a story to tell -
just like you and me.
Gaze upwards at tree branches
reaching heavenward in praise and thanksgiving.
Slow down and contemplate the rocks -
how even these hard, solid ones wear, soften and crumble over time,
becoming pebbles and sand under your feet.
Notice the heart-shaped hoof prints that accompany you along the path.
Let your thoughts meander and wonder where the deer went,
and how the bears know when to hibernate,
or the birds know where to migrate.
Perceive how your definition of beauty expands and changes through the seasons,
how it's not only the colourful blossoms of spring and summer,
or the rhapsody of autumn leaves that are beautiful -
there's beauty too in the dying and in the letting go,
and in the crunch of your boots on the snow.
Feel your heart swell with gratitude and joy,
and praise your Creator God,
the Divine Artist whose fingerprints are everywhere!
Navigating Through the Pandemic
By Loretta Yoder Ostojic
When reflecting on the ways my husband and I found help and hope during the pandemic, I believe that there are three things that have especially helped us at this time. Allow me to share them with you.
First of all, I believe that it has helped us to establish a daily routine. Early on in the pandemic, I heard a psychologist say that, for children, establishing a different routine is important for their security when their normal routine has been interrupted. I realized that my husband and I had already sort of adopted a new routine, so this idea works for “bigger kids,” too. The fact that we are semi-retired has also allowed us to be more flexible with our schedule.
After a quick walk when we got up, mornings were generally dedicated to getting work done. During the fall and winter, my husband, a retired physics professor, worked on a course he was taking in New Testament Greek. I continued to teach English to French-speaking Quebecers in businesses, but I now did them online. In the spring when classes ended, we tackled a myriad of spring cleaning chores that needed to be done in our condo.
Afternoons became our time to get outside, exercise, and enjoy Nature! When the pandemic hit, we were especially happy that we had taken out an annual pass that permitted us to explore several nature parks in the Montreal area. The park we usually visit is one that has many trails for cross-country skiing. We have a favorite trail there that we would walk in all seasons. The scent of the forest, silence from city traffic and spotting of an occasional red-crested woodpecker were a balm to our pandemic-weary souls. Halfway along the trail is a rustic “cabane a sucre” (sugar shack). Although we doubted that the cabane would be open this winter, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could still get a steaming cup of hot coffee and a brioche for takeout when cross-country skiing.
The second thing that has helped us has been to stay in contact with others through Zoom technology. As I’m sure so many others also realize, Zoom has been a wonderful tool to help us stay connected, both with our church family as well as with our biological families. I always look forward to the Bible study that my husband leads with a dozen or so people before the church service on Sunday mornings. Even though we can’t chat very much with individuals like we used to, it’s still so encouraging to see their faces, interact with them about the text and give them a friendly wave of the hand at the end. A long-distance phone plan has also allowed me to converse more often with family in the US and Canada.
And lastly, but certainly not the least in importance, is the realization that God has a purpose for everything, even in a time like this. (Eccles. 3:1). In the Alpha class that my husband and I led on Monday evenings, we had the great joy of seeing several participants come to know and accept the Lord. One girl clearly told us that the pandemic had caused her to start seriously thinking about the purpose of life and about God. Now we have started another online Bible study to help some of these newcomers to the faith become more acquainted with the basics of the Christian life. These courses, and the new relationships we have developed with these new Christians, have been a source of joy for my husband and me.
The pandemic has been a trying time for all of us. Some have been hit harder than others, especially those who have been bereaved of loved ones. But I think all of us have learned lessons through this trial (James 1:1ff). For myself, I’ve learned to adapt to a new situation, reach out more to others, and truly appreciate the simple joy of being out in God’s creation.
By J. L. Bond
Master, we are hungry
unless You nourish our flesh
with everlasting manna.
We are naked
unless You clothe us in the fabric
We are poor
unless we grasp
the riches of who You are.
We are lonely
unless You show us divine friendship
and our need of neighbour.
We are timid
unless You replenish us
with the current of courage
We are homeless
unless we envision
We are unemployed
unless You give us a purpose
to toil after.
Master, we are half-hearted
unless You spirit us
with Your blood-stained compassion
. . . again and again.
By James Tughan. Charcoal drawing and poem.
For Shadrack and the rest of us
There are days in this season
of our grumbling, calling out from our niche windows
on digital reefs in peril, to echo-locate our immediate
familiar clan, our brothers and sisters, when it seems we and all our material bonds
have been unmasked.
Do we imagine, we are the first
in the history of our species to be seeing all our props
sent skittering along by this leaf-blower virus,
queuing up for necessities, or the next conspiracy
when it seems we forget all the other diaspora cut off from Zion?
In our annoyance, and the cramping
of our style, in the tears that fall with the thinning
of the trees in the fire all around us, can we not see
golden one who treads our white hot coals
when it seems as if we are alone, and are not
but in fact held fast?
If we would but look closer in the blizzard,
look higher in our firmament of sources,
look harder for His heart of passion, His steely-eyed
will to imagine, to create, and not destroy,
cannot this drawing seem to you, more like the whole
than all the broken parts?
By James Tughan. Kintsugi vessel and poem.
For Elizabeth, 2020
If I took one section from each
of our tents, undid the threads and ripped
the seams, tore out the tent pegs from
our unlikely village in this cathedral
of trees turned upward . . .
If I pretended that in the sigh
of those boughs in the sky, that I could
not hear the muffled shrieks of pain
from our torn houses and
friendships turned inside outward . . .
If I sowed together anew, a vessel
of shards, those fragments of cloth all
joyously coloured, gilded in new formation,
held out like the bird-lady’s offering of
cupped hand turned upward . . .
I’d be dreaming.
By James Tughan, with chalk pastel drawing entitled "Zigzag"
For Jennifer, 2014
What is the thread
that sews together the islands;
that joins the dots
of our picture puzzle journeys,
crayon on inked bond, smeared
on our fast food placemats?
What is the line
that follows beside route lines;
that connects the towns
of our Michelin guide plan,
ballpoint on survey elevations, graded
between our pilgrimage hostels?
What is the sinew synapse
that accelerates the freedom pulse;
that crystalizes the image,
spirit oils rising from tectonic fire,
glazes washed on canvas, impregnated
by diamond, by divine measure alone?
It is the gesture line
of yellow ochre, on the fluid mystery
where the slide rule world cannot follow
in the night bloom damp, in the flights
the portage paths of fireflies, dancing.
It is Jesus tacking upriver, singing.
By Rachel Major
Ferme les yeux.
Lève la tête.
C’est la déception dans son ampleur,
Et la méfiance d’une autre erreur,
Qui ébranlent et amènent le doute :
« L’espoir devrait-il rester dans mon cœur ? »
Ferme les yeux.
Lève la tête.
Mais, la douleur sera toujours là.
Et la souffrance reviendra.
Elles envahiront et détruiront.
À quoi sert-il de se battre pour un espoir ?
Ferme les yeux.
Lève la tête.
Étant si cloîtrés, ignorés, rejetés,
Même incompris, dans un silence imposé,
Ces cris contre l’injustice brûlent sans cesse.
Comment nourrir l’espoir ?
Ferme les yeux.
Lève la tête.
Ouvre les bras.
Sent les clous dans Ses mains et Ses pieds,
Cette vie qui a coulée
Sans hésitation pour toi.
Dans un acte de beauté pur,
L’Amour plus fort que la mort
Échange tes douleurs
Contre Son honneur1.
En toi, il a mis Son Esprit,
Scellant ta vie à la Sienne.
Sa rédemption, rien ne la freine.
Ton Espoir, qui pourra le ravir2 ?
Tu es libre Enfant du Bien-aimé.
D’un pas assuré,
Tu peux traverser la vallée.
Il est ton bon Berger3.
Ouvre les yeux et va,
Avec foi !
1 « Il était méprisé, abandonné des hommes, un homme de douleur habitué à la souffrance. Oui, il était semblable à ceux devant lesquels on détourne les yeux. Il était méprisé, et nous n’avons fait de lui aucun cas. Pourtant, en vérité, c’est de nos maladies qu’il s’est chargé, et ce sont nos souffrances qu’il a prises sur lui, alors que nous pensions que Dieu l’avait puni, frappé et humilié. Mais c’est pour nos péchés qu’il a été percé, c’est pour nos fautes qu’il a été brisé. Le châtiment qui nous donne la paix est retombé sur lui et c’est par ses blessures que nous sommes guéris. » (Ésaïe 53:3-5)
2 « Je leur donne la vie éternelle : jamais elles ne périront et personne ne pourra les arracher de ma main. Mon Père qui me les a données est plus grand que tous, et personne ne peut arracher qui que ce soit de la main de mon Père. » (Jean 10.28,29)
3 « L’Éternel est mon berger, je ne manquerai de rien […] Si je devais traverser la vallée où règnent d’épaisses ténèbres, je ne craindrais aucun mal, car tu es auprès de moi : ta houlette me conduit et ton bâton me protège […] Oui, toute ma vie, ta bonté et ton amour me poursuivront et je pourrai retourner au sanctuaire de l’Éternel tant que je vivrai. » (Psaume 23:1,4,6)
Note: Faith Today's original call for art mentioned 10 prizes to be given at random to those who entered. The winners of the draw were: Rachel Major, Phil Mix, Anne Mongraw, Doug Paddey, Jenn Williamson, Ajay Caleb, Jim Coggins, Vickie Sprenger, Donna Tweney, Anne MacMillan. The original call said: "We hope you will use to support a local business or charity in your area." Thank you to all the entrants for sharing their work with the Canadian Christian community!