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November 25th, 2009

Story behind the picture of Praying Hands

Albrecht Durers Praying Hands

–  Albrecht Durer’s Praying Hands  –

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household,  goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition.

His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.” All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”

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More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one – no one – ever makes it alone!

November 24th, 2009

Story : Little Things About Mom

heart-with-mom-tattoo

“What do you remember most about your mom?” I asked.

“The way she did the dishes,” she replied. “”She used a wash rag, not a sponge. She took her time doing them like she was giving us a bath.”

I was in a card store trying to find a card for my wife. I don’t like to just stand there looking. I like to talk to the people who are trying desperately to find just the right words.

I thought it was a great time to ask what they remembered. It also helped them to find the right card.

“What about you? What one thing do you think of when you think of her?” I asked the woman to my right.

“The way she folded her clothes. It was never one, two, three. If she was folding an under shirt it was the same as folding a work shirt. Every crease in every fold meant something to her,” she replied.

Another woman nearby joined in.

“My mom ironed the bed linens. The details she insisted on were such that you would think she was giving tours through the house,” she said laughing.

Within minutes each of them had selected the “perfect” card.

“Thanks. That helped me find the right one.”

“Me, too!”

“I hate buying cards…this was easy, thanks!”

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So, what was it that made it so easy?

The little things.

When it comes to love, we don’t think about the big accomplishments, we tend to focus on the details. The way they walk, talk, smile, cook, laugh or sing is suddenly more important than anything else.

Think for a moment about someone you love. What comes to mind?

See, we create an image of that love by painting a picture of them. All the little things remembered are like single strokes of a brush.

For me? Cup cakes. My mom made the best cup cakes. Nothing fancy, just chocolate with butter icing. The cake was moist and the icing thick. Always the first ones to go at the school bake sales.

If you are a mom by giving birth, adopting or by marriage. If you have no human children but furry babies. If you are blessed to still have your mom or if she is now blessing heaven with her presence…

I wish for you this weekend, days filled with little things to remember and big love to give. I have to bake some cup cakes!!!

– – – written by Bob Perks

November 13th, 2009

Story : A Bug’s Life

A  Bugs Life

Cricket was always fretting. “Everyone is listening,” she chirped. “Every note must be perfect.”

Cricket had a gift for reaching others with her music. She could change her tune to suit her listener. She could perk you up with a bouncy melody, liven your step with a reel or jig or calm you with a hymn or ballad. That responsibility had begun to weigh cricket’s heart. Her tone became shrill.

“Can’t you see I am busy?,” she would screech. “Don’t you know that everyone is depending on me?”

Everyone around could hear her atonal whinges.

“What horrid noise!” groaned the caterpillar. The other insects agreed. Something was wrong with their reliable and once harmonious friend. They decided to ask the one who had the most wisdom, the praying mantis. “Mmmm,” he said. “I shall see about this.”

Praying mantis sent cricket an invitation to tea. Cricket was so worried. “It must be perfect,” she shrilled. “He must be in need. I can’t let him down!”

Upon arriving, cricket tried to sense mantis’s mood. He appeared at peace. Finally, she asked what it was he needed of her. The mantis said, “You have been given a very great gift…” Cricket interrupted, “Thank you. You are too kind. I am only here to serve.”

“Yes you are,” mantis said solemnly. “Unfortunately you have been rather a poor tool of late.”

Cricket was so horrified and overwhelmed that she began to cry.

“But I tried so hard,” she said miserably. “I have worked until exhaustion trying to do well.”

“That is just the problem,” mantis said. “You are trying too hard. You are an instrument, but you have taken yourself out of the master’s hands and tried to wield yourself. Like a violin leaping from the hands of the virtuoso in the midst of a concert and playing a jingle.”

Mantis told cricket to think back to when she first began to play her tunes for others. “What were you thinking of then?” he said.

Cricket realized that she hadn’t been thinking of anything. She had simply seen someone and felt happy or sad or compassionate and her music had come from her soul to fill the air and heal the others around her.

“Think back to what happened to make you leap off on your own,” he added.

Cricket pondered. “I lost faith and stopped trusting what guided me and began to fear,” she said.

Fear turned to panic and panic to anger and anger turned to fear again.

“Take your faith back with you to your family and friends and you will soon change your tune,” said mantis.

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Author : Lisa Suhay is a freelance writer who lives in Medford, New Jersey. Her work appears regularly in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Newark Star-Ledger.

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