Vanity

She was pretty. I’ll be the first to say it.

Her mascara was a bit heavy for such a delicate face, but I’m not criticizing. I think it’s a matter of taste.

Her lips were prominent. They made a provocative statement suggesting inner strength and independence. I think the thick watermelon lipstick was overdone, but when I stepped back and took it all in–saw the whole person–she was impressive.

But why the vanity?

Every day for a week I watched her staring into a small mirror. She posed with such gusto, swiveling her head at odd angles as if she were preparing for an essential role in a Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, she’s not the first to preen before a mirror. Tutankhamun’s 3000-year-old personal hand mirror made of polished metal with a golden handle tells us otherwise.

But why the vanity?

I decided to approach her discreetly and offer a little counsel. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful but not to confuse beauty with virtue. I wanted to warn of time’s inevitable weight and the wrinkles that would one day crowd the mirror. But alas she would not allow it. For whenever she caught my shadow drawing near, she flitted away showing little interest in temperance.

I decided to accept her as she was. After all, who am I to make judgments? Now, whenever I see her from my porch clapping her feathered hands with glee at her image in my car mirror, I smile and turn to the swallows dipping and diving above the lawn.

They don’t show any interest in mirrors.

David R. Denny  PhD
Observations
www.BlaktiePress.com

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The Nightingale’s Song

The little pine coffin, simple in design, elegant in austerity, gaped with the tiny prisoner held in eternal abeyance within its wooden jaws. She was just a common song sparrow. No noticeable markings. No medallions lapped about her fragile neck. Her fame did not lie in public accomplishments celebrated by the press. There was no mass acclaim. She was not a celebrity.Nightingale.jpg3.png

She was just a common song sparrow who once brightened the neighborhood where she lived. She called to her many friends every morning with encouraging melodies that lifted the spirits of all who rose for the day’s toil ahead. While others cooked daybreak grits and fired up coffeepots, she sang. There was no coercion. She sang with spontaneous delight.

The effect of her lifeless body upon the gathered mourners was immense. The sparrow’s Spartan lifestyle reminded all that the essence of the gospel life is elegant simplicity, austere joy. She summoned spiritual strength from servanthood. She lived for others, not herself. Her life was her song. She sang tirelessly spinning out melodies directed at the homeliest of hearts, at the despondent souls that inhabited the byways and sultry nights of her working class neighborhood.

Now she lay in state, her little limbs stiff and cold, the melodies hushed. The mourners, hundreds of friends from the streets about her home, sat numbly wondering who would sing for them now. Who would coax them from their beds on dreary midweek days when the sun was clouded over? Who? Who would flutter from window box to window box smiling at them as they sipped morning coffee? Who? Already they missed her. Yes. Already they missed her.

As the funeral progressed, the minister read his favorite texts promising a bright tomorrow. He reminded the sorrowful of the bliss of heaven and did his best to revive the song. He tried. But everyone knew she would warble no more. The songster was gone. The silence was too heavy for the sermon.

Nightingale2.jpg.pngThe minister heaved a cold sigh, closed the Bible and sat down on his stiff-backed pulpit chair covered in golden fabric. He sat down and dabbed at his misty eyes. He too wondered who would replace the song. Who?

The whole congregation was entombed in grief. No one moved. The Minister checked his watch and realized it was nearly time to depart. He had failed his people. Inspiration eluded him. Dismissal was all that remained. He dreaded to rise and dismiss. All was not properly settled.

Then, suddenly interrupting his limping reverie was a quiet melody so pure, so sincere, striding buoyantly with hope. It rose from the back of the sanctuary like angel’s breath from the recessed choir loft high and removed. Sweeter than taps, the heaven scented Aria fell over the congregation like mist on a cracked desert.

The effect was immediate. The desert began to bloom. Eyes red with grief brightened. Brows tight with death furrows softened.

The crowd immediately turned to stare up at the mysterious voice in the loft. What they saw was not an angel. They saw no apparitions or ghosts from paradise. No. What they saw was a humble nightingale whose own heart was broken over the loss of her friend in the casket.

Nightingale.jpg.pngShe was not on the program. No one had officially recognized her. She did not mean to sing. But as she listened to the Scripture and reflected on the sparrow’s life, singing seemed her natural contribution. She sang with her eyes closed spilling her heart upon the listeners and offering an inspired carol to God, who always appreciates genuine prayer.

The nightingale’s solo continued for a spellbinding period. The notes cascaded down upon parched attendants until without any warning or notice she stopped. She just stopped, wiped her eyes, blew her little nose with a delicate yellow hanky and then quietly flew off.

The minister, stunned over the unexpected performance, rose with renewed joy. He motioned for all to stand. “Go in peace,” he said, his face beaming. “Go in peace and remember the nightingale’s song,” he told them.

And they did.
“I was like one who comforts mourners” (Job 29:25).
Parakeets in the Choir
David R. Denny

 

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

I befriended a lady this week.

I am fully aware of the complications that can arise from such an act of kindness. You know how people talk. But still, she had stumbled into my Sea Breeze driveway, and I felt an uncontrollable urgency to act.

I knew at once that she was high born for she wore a sophisticated tea rose orange gown cut with impeccable taste, custom fitted to her petite form. Perhaps, I wondered, the black smudges that freckled the dress were the result of some unknown trauma encountered on the highway. It must have been those bad kids down the road throwing mud at her I thought, anger rising within me.

I knelt down and checked for signs of life. Not hearing any breathing, I was about to engage in CPR when she moved. It was just a faint fluttering of her gown, but I took it as a positive sign. I bent low and whispered words of comfort and inquiry.

She seemed startled and made an attempt to rise and flee.

I stopped her. “You’re not ready,” I said softly.

She paused realizing flight was an impossibility at the moment.

“Let me help you,” I said.

She would have none of it, searching frantically for an escape.

I lifted her from the ground. She made no resistance. A slight morning breeze drifted in across the ocean marsh ruffling her begonia gown, summoning.

I knew she would leave, and I would never see her again. I knew.

Still, I tossed her gently into the wind, and she was gone.

(But as we all know, real friends never really leave us).

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

ladybug

Whistling in the Dark

Version 2

Whistling in the Dark

It was close to midnight on the front porch, and the darkness clung to the unseen horizon muffling the ocean murmurs. The only sounds I heard were a few distant geese and some of the nuthatches that flitter in the cedars behind my house. The silence was haunting, almost frightening as I contemplated the mysteries lurking in the darkness beyond the Cedar Island shoreline.

I’m not sure what prompted me to whistle. Perhaps it was nothing more than an instinctive summons from nature; I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I just whistled and waited. The few lone chirps and distant squawks hushed, and all that remained was my solitary porch note gliding along the black corridors of the Point. I noticed at once that my brief melody lingered a while echoing off some distant pine tree before it slipped under night’s cover and was gone forever.

That simple whistle brought me such sudden joy I couldn’t wait to launch another. This time I added a little trill to the melody wondering if perhaps I might a get a response. But there was no answer; just a ponderous silence that tried to interpret my meaning. I knew I had an audience now for the night sounds had grown still, and I just knew that a thousand little-unseen eyes were looking this way.

Smiling, I whistled for a few more minutes sampling a variety of orchestral tempos from adagissimo to affrettando (very slow to hurrying). Each spontaneous stanza meandered over the dark marsh beyond and then sank slowly into the ocean.

It was something akin to praying, I thought. Little pieces of the soul flung out toward the heavens, waiting, hoping, expecting. Yes. It was little like praying.
David R.Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Sunrise

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Sunrise at Henry’s Point, Sea Breeze Drive
(Photo by Dr. Denny)

I paused on my morning walk recently as the sun stretched regally over the Cedar Island marsh that rolls out like a velvet carpet to the shore.  The horizon seemed almost to be on fire as I stood and stared in wonderment at the painting before me.
And then this deer quietly slipped out of the dark forest brush on full alert fully aware of my intrusion into his morning ritual.  It was one of those mystical moments that I knew would vanish within minutes.  I wanted so badly to freeze it, to command it to linger longer, but, alas within a few dolorous winks of a faint morning breeze, it was but a delicious memory.
        In some ways, this sunrise fantasy reminds me of the year just past.  It rose with promise balancing on the precipice of time and then quickly vanished into December’s mist.  Gone.  Within a blink or two twelve months slipped into the sea and left me realizing how fragile time really is, how fleeting the gift of life can be.
I stood a few minutes longer beneath the golden haze lost in lazy thoughts wondering what the deer was thinking and if he sensed the divine like I did.  I wanted to ask him, but before I could the sun bade farewell, the day began, and he was gone.


Christmas Shoe Boxes

We had another successful shoe box campaign this year.  Everyone gathered on a Wednesday night, including the girl scouts who helped this time.  Shirley Deeds spearheaded the event and close to 80 packed boxes were stacked in the sanctuary  ready for delivery to the needy around the world.

 

 


Hanging of the greens

The kids are practicing for the Hanging of the Greens service in December.  Jo Coniglio, the church organist, teaches them the songs for the service.  Megan Campbell watches from the front seat.
During the service on Sunday morning, these kids were such a delight to all the congregation.  They sang several songs and then bustled off stage to gather in ornaments which they paraded down the center aisle of the church in an endless stream dropping off their ornaments and looping into the back to gather more.  Thanks, kids, for your participation.


 Dale Parks and Linda Young pose beneath the pulpit in front of the poinsettias.  All the members of the Flower Committee (Alice Rew, Ted Lewis, Amy Kay Hines, and Shelly Mize) did an exceptional job of decorating the church.  This is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries on the Shore.  Be sure to stop and enjoy it before the holidays slip away.


The Dream Team will have its first meeting on January 20th at 10:30 at the Crossroads Coffee House in Onley.  Anyone is welcome to participate.  Currently there are eleven volunteers.  Our mission is a simple but complex one:  DREAM!  What can we do to make our church better, more effective, more interesting to absentee members and outsiders.  Our goal will be to dream of ways to spur growth and inspire many in the surrounding area to become a part of our church family.


Candlelight Service

  The Drummondtown Baptist Church Candlelight Service will be held December 23 at 7:30 pm.    Everyone is welcome.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s not forget the miraculous offering on Harvest Home Day, November 19, 2017.   On this hallowed day, the church gave from free and thankful hearts over $21,000.00!
The pastor will be out of the pulpit for two weeks– December 31, 2017 and January 7, 2018.

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

Tweet

It was an early morning tweet.

Its impact was immediate. The three short syllables were barbed and struck deep into my psyche.

There was a melody to them,
the notes dripping with venom.

The tweet came again and again
like a revolver dropped on cold concrete spitting bullets.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I searched the treetops behind my house, but I couldn’t see him.
The dew-speckled leaves of this sunrise morning hid him.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

The words bore a foreign accent, slurred but purposeful.

I subpoenaed him, but he did not comply.
I merely wanted to ask the obvious. Why?
Why do hate me? You don’t know me.

The wren, however, was polite. She sang me a lullaby
as I slipped away to the beckoning garden.

The dark tweet faded as the morning unfolded.
A doe nibbled a low branch by the creek.

I smiled again.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Tweet

 

Brood

The husband wasn’t friendly, but I understood. I had startled him, and he had a lot on his mind.

All ten of his kids were in the road.

The mother was doing her best to shoo them to the curb, but it was taking time.

My instinct was to chastise. Good parents don’t let kids roam around in the streets. But I was a kid once, and streets have a way of summoning.

I slowed down and kept off the horn. Both parents were already flustered. Ten little kids. It seemed like a mini schoolhouse.

I rolled my window down thinking I could offer some guidance—they seemed lost their eyes darting here and there searching, panicking.

They didn’t trust me.

I felt the cruelty of isolation at that moment. They were alone, wanderers in the wilderness. All they had was each other.

But a struggling family that stays together is a powerful force in a world of evil.

I drove on feeling somehow confident. They had each other.

There is no greater love.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Brood

Traffic

TRAFFIC

I thought I had escaped the traffic.

Oh, I remember those morning walks down city roads thickly layered with dirty dew. Every morning I paced to the beat of angry horns and whirring tires, drivers slapping the hindquarters of their Chevy’s, rushing against a dark deadline.

But then I moved into a bucolic cottage by the sea.

Surely things will be different here I mused as I laced up my walking shoes on a bright, spring morning. The sun winked over the edge of the marsh, and the distant spindrift sparkled over ocean crests.

But then it happened. Traffic! I live on a dirt road that hits a farm field. How can it be?

I braced myself, holding tightly to the porch rail high above the terrain. I saw them coming, but I noticed at once that the frenzy was missing. It almost seemed as if they weren’t going anywhere in particular. They didn’t stick to the road at all. In fact, they avoided the road. How odd, I thought.

There were six, no, wait, make that eight. The does were the most playful darting in between pine trees and over little puddles from the night’s rain. There was no destination. Just going. Playing. Loving.

And then just as I was getting to know the deer, along came waves of small swallows from on high. They seemed to enjoy darting toward me and then with a last minute feather dip, bouncing off a wave and shooting high into the sky with the others that called the space beneath my porch home.

Wait. What’s this? Bobbing along in the slow lane, a little cadre of plump guinea hens is tiptoeing past my front porch in their speckled nightgowns clucking their hellos, laughing at me.

I thought I had escaped the traffic.
I’m glad I didn’t.

David R. Denny  Visions501@gmail.com
www.Blaktiepress.com

Traffic

Haircut

Haircut

The ladies stood impatiently. So many things to do; so little time.

They cast furtive glances here and there, up and down the long line as if body language would move the line faster.

It didn’t.

I didn’t see what the fuss was all about. I liked long hair and didn’t see any reason why each client was in such a rush for trimming this or slashing that. What’s wrong with a few long curls anyway?

But they didn’t see it that way. The big spring dance was just a few days away, and there was a particular social protocol that demanded swift and daring action.

I was merely a disinterested passerby, but curiosity got the better of me, and so I approached one of the ladies with an honest question. “Why?”

“Why?” she retorted rolling her eyes at the other women in line as if I was some social outcast. Her face contorted into utter disdain for the question as if the obvious needed no further small talk.

I couldn’t resist having a little fun. I kept up my questioning pretending to be some expert. “Women should never cut their hair short,” I said. “It’s the length that creates a certain mystery.” (I was picturing Goldilocks with her head stuck out of some castle window high above a flowered valley praying for a dashing prince to come along).

Suddenly the line shifted, and the stylist summoned her. She left me standing there like I was mere chaff in the wind.

My eyes wandered to the lady just leaving. She had a small pocket mirror out and was preening her cleanly shaven scalp. Her smile of deep satisfaction said it all.

I didn’t see it. Such a shame I muttered.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Haircut2

Ghost on Blue Heron Street

Ghost on Blue Heron Street

He wasn’t a real ghost, for he had substance and form.

He waited for me each morning at the intersection of Sea Breeze and Blue Heron. He waited, but he never spoke.

He was a tragedy in silence. Whenever I neared the intersection on a morning walk, I always slowed and nodded. He stared through me unable to share a deep, stifling grief I did not understand.

Tree

The only thing left of the house was a broken cinderblock outline worn to a nub by time and ravenous winds and rising tides. Each morning as I walked past him with my head at half-mast sharing his grief, I often peered at the home’s skeleton and wondered.

Was there laughter here once? Did he hold a sweetheart tightly each night long ago beneath a marsh moon in this house beside the sea? Did they share dreams? Did she kiss him longingly beneath golden sunsets?

He never spoke of these matters, but I read the sadness in his expressions. Nothing would cheer him. He had lost the will to continue, and all that was left was this lonely loyalty at the intersection of Blue Heron and Sea Breeze where he stood each day staring at the ruins of his house.

Version 2One night, driving home in a battering rain with the tides rising and panic in the wind, my headlights hit him full face. He never budged or acknowledged the interruption. Dripping beneath heaven’s deluge, he stood alone, moss dripping off his limbs.

“Please! Come home with me for one night. Rest and dry your clothes,” I implored, but he resisted. Perhaps, he thought, she might return on this very night. He could not leave. He would not leave.

He wasn’t a real ghost, for he had substance and form.

Still, I still greet him to this day on my morning walks. But I fear that loneliness has forever calcified his heart.

And so it does to us all.
And so it does to us all.

David R. Denny
visions501@gmail.com