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December 21st, 2009

Story : The Voice of Christmas

The Voice of Christmas

He had been a long time member of the church but refused to show up for services let alone join. He was an integral part of the Christmas Choir, but would not attend rehearsals.

Still, everyone looked forward to seeing him once a year. So much, in fact, they would hold a seat for him at the candle light service every Christmas Eve. Many of the congregation would arrive early to get a good seat nearby the gentleman.

Was it his personality? No, he really kept to himself rarely sharing a word with anyone.

It was his voice. “Oh Holy Night” was his song.

Throughout his life he often wished for the chance to perform it at a local church. Although the spirit of Christmas had left his heart years ago with the passing of his wife, this one song, those special lyrics, belonged to him.

It was said that it was her favorite song and although poor, the richness of his voice was his gift to her. This church, that night, was always theirs. As the service progressed anticipation would build. Everyone joined in singing “Silent Night,” “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and others.

Then the big moment would arrive.

The choir would stand, the church organ would begin to play.  “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining” was the intro sung by the 12 member choir. Then, as if Heaven had open its doors, the choir softly faded and the man began to sing…
“It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

You could feel the excitement as music began to build to the refrain…

“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!”
By this time there was never a dry eye.

After the service the man would blend into the crowd and exit the rear door. The tradition lived on until a month before Christmas that year. He had joined his love, his reason to sing.

“What will they do?” one of the elders asked. “Who could take his place?”

No one. No one would dare attempt to fill his spot. It would be difficult indeed to come close to that long treasured moment.

“We will do the song in his memory” the choir director declared.  “But who among us will sing his part?”

“God had blessed us with his voice and His earthly choir is not made of only one single voice,” he assured them. “He will bless us again.”

That Christmas Eve, as everyone filled the church, you could hear the choir warming up in the basement.

A small piano began playing followed by, “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining” then silence.

The minister began by welcoming everyone and in particular the visitors, “Family and friends who return home each year.” “In the center of the church you will notice a single seat holding a bouquet of Christmas flowers. It is in memory of a man we called, “The Voice of Christmas.”

The service began building to that very moment they all waited for. Lights dimmed and a young child holding a single candle in his hand walked toward the front.

The organist began the intro and the choir stood to sing, “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining..”

There was a sudden hush and the faint sound of one small voice singing…
“It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

The organ stopped. The choir remained standing as everyone looked to see where the voice was coming from. “Over there! I couldn’t believe it. That beautiful voice was the child. The child holding the candle.” He slowly, nervously turned around toward the crowd and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” and he began to cry. The choir director rushed to his side and assured him everything was fine.

Then the young boy said, “I always sang along but no one could hear me. Some man was always louder than me.”

Laughter filled the church.

The minister declared, “God has indeed answered our prayers. We are blessed once again with “The Voice of Christmas.”

The organist began again as the young boy was lifted up to sing and they all joined in…

“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!”

We are each called to be His Voice not only at Christmas but all year long.

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

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