A Day Meant for Lustre


As an employee of The Dayton Company Dollie was well aware of the policies of George Draper Dayton.  The office dress rules were only one manifestation of Mr. Dayton’s character.  As a Christian of his day he took to heart the 4th Commandment:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”  Exodus 20: 8-11

A place of peace by Anika Youcha

A place of peace by Anika Youcha

Therefore the store was of course closed.  No employee was allowed to enter or work.  There would be no Dayton advertisements in the Sunday paper.  ( In fact Mr. Dayton allowed no advertisements in any paper ever that accepted liquor ads.)  Dollie told me that late on Saturday the store workers pulled down the shades on all the store windows so as not to advertise merchandise to any Sunday strollers.  All business ceased on the Sabbath.


My own grandparents often had company for Sunday dinner, but Grandma did all meal preparation on Saturday, only turning on the oven Sunday for the roast.  In our childhoods Sundays were quiet days of Sunday School and church, family dinners and visiting.  The normal domestic tasks of home and yard had happened on Saturday.  Asking friends my age about Sabbath-keeping in the past all remember similar muted days.  No work.  No worldly activities like going to the movies or playing organized sports.  Of course there would be no shopping since all department and grocery stores were closed.

Wind from the Sea by Edward Gordon

Wind from the Sea by Edward Gordon

It’s not that regular interactions were not erupting.  Getting many children ready for church was often stressful – just as it was for me in those kid-raising years:  scrubbed bodies, combed hair, starchy clothes, verses memorized, prodded slow-pokes, anxious mother.  And many active boys rebelled from the constraint of having to remain in their “church clothes”, sitting idly for an afternoon.  It’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that Fritz, my father-in-law, ran off to the Navy at 17 – and the reason that we gave more rein to our boys.

Sabbath ceasing [means] to cease not only from work itself, but also from the need to accomplish and be productive, from the worry and tension that accompany our modern criterion of efficiency, from our efforts to be in control of our lives as if we were God, from our possessiveness and our enculturation, and finally, from the humdrum and meaninglessness that result when life is pursued without the Lord at the center of it all.  Marva J. Dawn

Saying Grace by Richard Brooks

Saying Grace by Richard Brooks

There were exceptions made, grace freely offered when appropriate, of course.  I even remember a day when Grandma, (who may have never seen a movie herself,) gave us a dollar and permission to walk to the Parkway theater on Chicago Ave. for a Sunday matinee.  (We were probably driving her to distraction, reason enough to break the 4th Commandment!)



My brother Mike tells of a time when his baseball team had progressed to the tournament, a game which would be played on Sunday afternoon. When he asked during the week if he could play our folks said no.  After church on Sunday Dad took him aside and said he had changed his mind.  He said one reason was that Mike had taken the refusal without creating a stew.  And then Dad said, “Sometimes we realize that rules are made for people who are too lazy to make decisions.”  My Dad was always a man who easily comprehended and lived by the spirit of a law.

Baseball by Desiree Rose Zaslow

Baseball by Desiree Rose Zaslow

Back then (and now) people often minded the rules and missed the joy.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”             Mark 2:27

 God blessed this day and made it holy and by doing so declared – and declares just how good creation is.  God took pleasure in what he had made –  no regrets, no trying to make a still better world – or better men and women.  He spent time with his creatures.  He longs to do so still.


It’s obvious that we’ve lost something precious when Sunday is just another day like all days.  It’s happened with the advent of television and consumerism and success-driven ideology.  People deride Sunday “blue laws” and fill mall parking lots. Few of us can claim innocence in messing with the Sabbath. Certainly not I.

But on this day of giving thanks I want to come alive to the gift of a day, set apart for rest – and for joy.  Is it too late to recover the wonder of such a day?  They were not called the “Ten Suggestions” after all.

The freedom, rest and joy of the Sabbath consist in the fact that on this day man is released from his daily work. On the Sabbath he does not belong to his work. Nor is it merely a question of having to recuperate from the work that lies behind him and to fortify himself for the new tasks that are ahead. On the Sabbath he belongs to himself. Whether he be farmer, artisan, servant or maid, he is just the man who for six days had to be these things and to perform the corresponding tasks, but whose being and existence are more than all these things . . .That he does not strive in vain towards this goal; that his work cannot devour him but consists of steps towards this goal, is confirmed at the end of each week by the proffered freedom, rest and joy of the workless Sabbath which he is granted. It is this which gives perspective and depth, meaning and lustre, to all his weeks, and therefore to his whole time, as well as to the work which he performs in his time.     Karl Barth

Wishing all my May 1st Everlasting friends a beautiful Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for each of you – and quite amazed that you continue to visit on Thursdays. 

Autumn Pumpkins by Cathy Horvath Buchanan

Autumn Pumpkins by Cathy Horvath Buchanan

I will end with two quotes which in many ways reflect for me the Sabbath gift –

The room is quiet. You’re not feeling tired enough to sleep or energetic enough to go out. For the moment there is nowhere else you’d rather go, no one else you’d rather be. You feel at home in your body. You feel at peace in your mind. For no particular reason, you let the palms of your hands come together and close your eyes. Sometimes it is only when you happen to taste a crumb of it that you dimly realize what it is that you’re so hungry for you can hardly bear it.  Frederick Buechner on Sabbath, from Wishful Thinking

. . and the last words of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.



Daniel Barenboim playing Beethoven’s Pathetique;  Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, 2nd movement, concert no.  3. . . .





Images courtesy of:  Pearls;  ganoskin.com,  Art by Anika Youcha;  anikayoucha.com,  Wind from the Sea by Edward Gordon;  pinterest.com,  Saying Grace by Richard Brooks;  art.com,  Baseball by Desiree Rose Zaslow;  empty easel.com,  Autumn Pumpkins by Cathy Horvath Buchanan;  etsy.com/soloworksstudio

The Great Macy’s Take-Over

My all-time favorite department store - and it survives still in many Eastern states AND Chicago- is Lord & Taylor

My all-time favorite department store – and it survives still in many Eastern states AND Chicago-  Lord & Taylor

Dollie was summoned to the bosses office and she had a pretty good idea why. Always a bit of a rebel, that day Dollie, tall, thin and fashionable, had decided to wear a pale pink silk blouse with her dark navy slim skirt.  She took her scolding with a straight face, admitting that she did in fact know that the dress policy for The Dayton Company office personnel only allowed white or cream blouses to be worn with the standard black or navy worsted skirts.  The boss, undoubtedly intimated by her superior degree and carriage, let her off with a warning.  

I believe the outfit on the right might have been acceptable

I believe the outfit on the right might have been acceptable

The year was 1936 and Dollie, 23 years old and with a bachelor’s degree in merchandising, was thrilled to have landed a job with The Dayton Company, the finest department store in the midwest.  It wouldn’t be long before marriage and a family ended Dollie’s career, but it never ended her love affair with Daytons.

On State Street, Chicago

Marshall Fields On State Street, Chicago

It’s on my mind this week having heard of the death of Bruce Dayton, last remaining grandson of George Draper Dayton, founder of the great department store company which eventually gave birth to the Target Corporation.  Target is all that’s left of Daytons.

Famed Gimbel's Bridge over 32nd St. near Herald Square

Gimbel’s Bridge over 32nd St. near Herald Square, NYC

and sketch by Gerald K. Geerling of the construction of the bridge in 1927

and sketch by Gerald K. Geerling of the construction of the bridge in 1927

The success of Target, including its famed “give back 5%” philanthropic philosophy, is just part of the legacy of George Draper Dayton.  It’s probably telling that this man couldn’t afford to go to college himself because his father, Dr. Dayton, in upstate New York gave his medical services free to the poor.  However G.D. Dayton began to work at 16, turning himself into a banker, moved to Minnesota, bought a bank, and became a rich man.  Before long he bought the charred property left when Westminster Presbyterian church burned down so that the church would have money to build nearby.  This property, now the quintessential corner of downtown Minneapolis, is where The Dayton Company would begin to serve the city.  The year was 1902.

The Dayton Company in 1903

The Dayton Dry Goods Company in 1903   (today12 stories high)

If you are a person of a certain age, think now of your own downtown department store, elegant, a destination and now gone.  Marshall Fields in Chicago.  Wanamakers in Philadelphia.  Famous Barr in St. Louis.  I Magnin in San Francisco.  Gimbals in NYC. Higbee’s in Cleveland.  Hudson’s in Detroit. Bullock’s in Los Angeles.  I think they are all either gone or assimilated by Macy’s.

Incredible interior of Wanamakers in Philadelphia with it's famed organ

Incredible interior of Wanamakers in Philadelphia with it’s famed organ

Daytons back in the day was an event.  It’s difficult for the shopper today to imagine that back then clothes were not wrinkled and jammed into hordes of rounds, filling every aisle nor piled helter-skelter on tables.  In the old downtown store Minneapolitans knew where to find what they needed.  The dark paneled walls on the first floor signified the men’s department where gentlemen made a career of helping men get fit and suited.  “Town and Country” was on third floor where women could find affordable fashion.  Furniture was on seventh.  The book store, my personal favorite, was on fourth and also the lingerie department. My mother never could afford to shop at the Oval Room, mirrored and oval, and where a client would sit and ensembles would be presented to her.  I peeked in from time to time – and had an aunt who did shop there, but probably not for Chanel or Dior.

Erwin Blemenfeld, fashion photographer for the Oval Room

by Erwin Blemenfeld, fashion photographer for the Oval Room

Every department had regular clerks and cash registers and help was ready and available.  Many of these clerks were known by first name and sought out.  Every elevator had a uniformed operator waiting to take you up.

at Marshall Fields

at Marshall Fields in 1948 – love the spectator heels!

Choices were fewer and gracefully displayed.  Shoppers dressed up to go downtown – hats, gloves and heels! My junior high friends and I would take the bus, wander through the store, stop at the lovely ladies lounge, feeling sophisticated and grown and then have a chicken salad sandwich and creme d’menthe ice cream at the windowed Skyroom on the twelfth floor.  More than anything I dreamed of buying a Jonathan Logan dress – and one day I did have one, high-collared and red.

Ann and I would always request a table by the windows

Ann and I would always request a table by the windows, tho this photo was taken long after our days there with white linens and fewer tables.

Beginning Thanksgiving evening the store windows on 7th and Nicollet avenues would be themed and animated for children and visiting the windows was as much a tradition as caroling at Christmas.

Perusing Dayton's windows, Christmas sometime in the '20's.

Perusing Dayton’s windows, Christmas sometime in the ’20’s.

For a few months when I was at the University I worked the inventory crew at Daytons.  Inventory then was all done by counting, two to a team – and it went on all year, department after department.  We’d arrive shortly before the store closed and were sent to the department of the day – and into the vast stockrooms with deep shelving reaching up to the ceiling.  Armed with pencil, checklists and tall ladders we would begin to count – every item in every color, every size.  (Twenty-two packages of Lanvin nylon stockings, seamed, ecru, 15 denier, size medium.  17 packages of Lanvin nylon stockings, seamed, ecru, 15 denier size long.  etc. ;) )  $1.15/hr.

I Magnin's marble palace on Union Square in San Francisco - 1948

I Magnin’s marble palace on Union Square in San Francisco – 1948

George Draper Dayton was known as a visionary retailer and as a Christian.  He taught Sunday school at Westminster Presbyterian.  He personally handed out candy to every employee on Christmas Eve.  He began the policy that the business would give back to the community at least 5% of profits and eventually when he died in 1938 he would have few assets, having given millions away.  The business would be passed on to his son Nelson who continued to carry on with the same rare integrity and Nelson in turn passed the company on to his five sons, the last one standing being Bruce, dying this week at 97.  These boys built Southdale Center, the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States in 1956, and in 1962 opened the first Target store.  (Bruce Dayton became a leading art connoisseur and donated over $80 million in cash and over 2,000 works of art from every field, including over $20 million in Chinese art, to the Minneapolis Art Institute and served on the board of directors for 73 years – and his son Mark is now Governor of Minnesota.) His countless donations include . . .

Manet's The Smoker

Manet’s The Smoker

A Wassily Kandinsky given to the MIA by Mr. Dayton

and Wassily Kandinsky’s  Study in Improvisation V given to the MIA by Mr. Dayton

Daytons bought Detroit’s Hudson Company and eventually Marshall Fields and even changed their own name to Marshall Fields – but the end was near.  In 2006 everything became Macy’s and you know the rest. Daytons was the pivotal downtown store, but the others, Donaldsons, Powers, Young-Quinlan and Thomas’s added to the vibrancy of the city.  They’re all gone and lost is the fun of going downtown for a elegant and gracious shopping experience  – in a store that cared about architecture, design, value and service.  

There is another piece that has been lost along the way, a piece that was central in the life of George Draper Dayton and to many of those patrons who put on their Sunday best to go downtown.  Next week I’m going to talk about that.

1939, the Women, with Joan Crawford as the perfume lady -

1939, the Women, with Joan Crawford as the perfume lady –

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Deuteronomy 8:17-20

Remember the Sabbath by Pillars of Our Faith

California Girls


Downtown LA by M. Bleacher

Downtown LA by M. Bleichner

Google “nature vs nurture” and you’ll get dozens of articles, some scholarly, some not, on this long-debated question.  I think most people now would claim that both genes and environment play crucial parts in the development of human personality traits. I certainly hold to the “nature and nurture” philosophy, having both biological and adopted children in our family.

Palm tree lined street in Beverly Hills. Los Angeles, California.

Palm tree lined street in Beverly Hills. Los Angeles, California.

However . . . . let me tell you a story.

My mother was one of 7 children.  My dad was one of 6.  My mother’s brother married my dad’s sister and moved to California and had 2 daughters, Pam and Britta.  My mom and dad stayed in Minnesota and had 5 children.

Armistice Day snowstorm of 1940 in Mpls - Excelsior Blvd. - the very spot where my dad had to leave his car and walk home - (not California!)

Snow covered street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Armistice Day, 1940  — the very spot where my dad had to leave his car and walk home – (not California!)

Money was scarce for us growing up and never once did we take a vacation to California.  I met these cousins on the couple of occasions that their family pulled together enough money to come and visit the grandparents. I was quite taken with the idea that we were “double” cousins and that we shared all four grandparents and that Pam and I even shared the same birthday, she being born 3 years after I. Eventually as we grew, reports began to come back that these two were very special women.

Redondo Beach Pier

I was in my mid-thirties when I first visited southern California.  It was a huge occasion for many reasons.  What Minnesota girl doesn’t want to see the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, Malibu, palm-lined boulevards, Beverly Hills and Hollywood?  Mr. A. had a series of meetings happening near LAX – and I was free to goof around on my own.  On one tour I saw Doris Day riding her bike and the bus almost tipped over when I announced it to the other tourists and they jumped to my side of the bus!  I took a tour around a movie studio.  Eating alone at the Brown Derby I had a particularly friendly server who pointed out to me that Jo Ann Worley, Ricardo Montalban and Fernando Lamas were also enjoying the famous Cobb salad in booths near mine – and I peeked as inconspicuously as I dared.  

Original Brown Derby Restaurant Los Angeles

Original Brown Derby Restaurant Los Angeles

I sat with coffee at Marina del Rey, taking in the salt air and luxurious yachts.  The weather was perfect, the sky blue, the mountains visible and I was on California cloud nine.

Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey


Then I spent a perfect day with Pam.  (Britta and her family were living in Kansas for a  few years).  Pam by now was married, had 2 girls and very long blond hair.  “I let it grow as soon as Mom died – she would have never approved.”  I got that.  And I got everything else Pam said.  We saw eye to eye.  She took me to a restaurant on Balboa Island – or was it Newport Beach – that had been an old cannery.  It was exactly the perfect place.  I couldn’t get enough of conversation with Pam and it was unusually sad to say goodbye.

Cannery by Storm

It would be almost 20 years before I went back to Los Angeles, this time with my sister Julie.  We decided to celebrate her 40th birthday with Pam and Britta in Anaheim.  I was 52 years old and it was about time that we would get to know each other.  We had a lot of catching up to do.  The four of us sat at Britta’s round table and talked and talked and talked.  And laughed and cried.

Women Taking Tea by Albert Lynch

Women Taking Tea by Albert Lynch

Julie and I both felt that we were meeting our sisters.  There was a depth of understanding that 2,000 miles and 50 years couldn’t touch.   We loved these women that we barely knew.  Our parents had joined us by genes and also by a common faith and world view and the combination was powerful.  It wasn’t that we agreed on everything, (though we did), but that there was a rare comfort that usually comes only with years and proximity.  Fortunately we’ve been able to get together more often these days – though it’s never enough for me.

LOS ANGELES-CA-DECEMBER 30, 2010: Snow capped mountains peak behind downtown Los Angeles as seen from Kenneth Hahn Regional Park in Los Angeles on Thursday, December 30, 2010. (Christina House / For The Times)

This seems of course to be a credible argument for nature, a closely shared gene pool.  But here’s the rub:  it seems that everyone who meets Pam and Britta loves them and feels like they’ve known them their whole lives.  My sibs and I claim the uniqueness of being double cousins – but maybe it’s more.  

Los Angeles by Tom Brown

Los Angeles by Tom Brown

Maybe it’s just them . . .two deep, fun, fascinating, dazzling California girls.

Pam, Britta, Sue

Pam, Britta, Sue

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Prov. 22:6

Simon and Garfunkel / Sound of Silence . . .


Images courtesy of:  Downtown by M. Bleacher;  fineartamerica,  Marine del Rey by V. Jeremy;  etsy.com,  Cannery by Storm;  fineartamerica,  Tea Party by Albert Lynch;  fineartamerica,   Los Angeles by Tom Brown;  dailypainters.com.

Drizzle and Moonlight

Christian Dalbec photography (Odyssey)-5

All weekend the clouds were just barely holding back their downpour, mirroring my cloudy heart.  In each case drizzle occurred from time to time.

We were at Dolly’s Stuga, our dear cottage on the North Shore, cleaning up to prepare for the new owners.  We had held on to this sweet property for a year after selling our cabin, hoping that the county might relent and allow us, (and other property owners), to begin renting again to vacationers.  It’s a long story and we believe one of local government stepping on our rights, but that was not what had me near tears.

I’m just darn tired of good-byes.

Dolly's Stuga

Dolly’s Stuga

“Grace is something you can never get but only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”  Frederick Buechner

Grace appeared at the Stuga. 

Emily and her two in tow surprised us shortly after we arrived with their cheerful countenance, drawing fantastic pictures with crayons, putting on musical shows, throwing rocks on the shore, helping to make decisions.

Lou and Paul came to pray – bringing blueberry pie, coffee, cream and understanding.

The new owners love the Stuga.

And after four days of clouds and mist I crawled into bed with moonlight making its path across the lake and onto my pillow, the night sky ablaze with stars.


Now I turn my face to the next thing and with deadlines looming, I am brief this week.  Grace!  :)




Hope Comes Regardless

see no evil

There are days when not only all the news is bad, but the voices of despair and cynicism are the loudest.  It’s bad enough to sorrow over hurricanes, cyclones, ship,plane, and car crashes, droughts, floods, ISIS, mass shootings, war-torn refugees and world-wide hunger on a daily basis, but when Facebook friends, radio and tv commentators and even ordinary conversation turns suspicious and negative – I get downright weary.

The Coming Storm by Stanislav Svetlozarov

The Coming Storm by Stanislav Svetlozarov

I have discovered that whenever this happens the Lord will send me a messenger of hope, a reminder of of Who is in control and a picture of how then I can live.  It’s happened many times, but I am still awed by this gracious presence.  Given the current state of the world – and the inevitable conflicts that are about to arise in the next 12 months of campaigning, I am on the look-out for these bearers of good news.

Malachite Road by Vicky Mount

Malachite Road by Vicky Mount


Four have appeared in the past two weeks.  (It’s probably more than 4, but hey, I’m not too quick . . .)

The first was William Beasley.  William Beasley is a Canon in the young ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) – and it’s my joy to sit on a board with him.  Beasley is Director of the Greenhouse Movement, a ministry dedicated to nurturing church planters throughout the country, located in Oak Park, IL.  I could tell you a lot about this unusual man of God, but for now I just want you to know what happened that day at the board meeting.  The discussion was focused on the strength and growth of eastern and western African churches and what could happen if they were brought together in purpose.  I could see William engaged and mind a-whirling – and he burst out with joy . . .”Yes!  This must happen and this will be key in winning Europe for Christ!”  

Canon William Beasley

Canon William Beasley


The joy and hope that he exuded went straight into me.  When all the voices are yelling “give up!”, a prophetic voice of certain hope bubbles up like a spring of water in an arid land.

Oasis by Johnathan Harris

Oasis by Jonathan Harris

The second message came from Winn Collier.  Do you read his blog? (here)  It always has a good word.  Winn first posted this on facebook and again this week in his blog and the first paragraph calls to a way of life that is irresistible and life-giving and eschewing of pessimism and negativity.

“I believe Christian faith engenders an inherent playfulness, a free-wheeling optimism drenched in the largess of God’s love, yielding great droughts of laughter, hope and a near-scandalous rejection of fear, narrow-mindedness and gloom. Some of us, saddled with a stilted, dour or unimaginative faith, need to encounter anew the Father who threw raucous parties for wayward sons and daughters, the Jesus who gathered children, scoundrels and outcasts like the pied piper.”

Cornucopia by John Nolan

Cornucopia by John Nolan

The third message was straight from the Word.  This week our small group  began a study of Colossians – and every word seemed to ring out with beauty and the reality of the light -filled life that we have been given in Christ.  By now I knew that I was being targeted to remember just who is in charge after all.

“. . . .walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Col: 1:10-14

The art of Karen Hollingsworth is light-filled

The art of Karen Hollingsworth is light-filled

And then last night I had a dream.  I was invited to a great party.  Many people were there having a wonderful, noisy time.  Color and food and laughter abounded.  I came upon about 8 people who had been chosen to receive special gifts – each according to their desire.  One woman had been given dolls from all over the world – in every size and color.  One man had been given dozens of stones, each precious and beautiful.  I wandered from person to person – and finally asked how they had been chosen to win all these gifts.  A woman told me that it was a drawing and everyone was eligible.  I then saw that my mother, (now gone 25 years) had arrived.  She looked young and beautiful and happy and I showed her all around this fantastic party.

a place for you and me

a place for you and me

I awoke to joy.

Throughout these mayfirsteverlasting years I have said it many times.  Nevertheless it still causes me to wonder – and tremble – at a God who is so good that He will not leave us fearful and depleted but will find a way to refresh us in our world-weariness and send us messengers of hope.

“In me you will have peace.  In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Hot Air Balloon and House - by Brian Ogi - happy painting!

Hot Air Balloon and House – by Brian Ogi – happy painting!



Jessye Norman & Kathleen Battle, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” – 




Images courtesy of:  The Coming Storm by S. Svetlmzarov;  stanislavsvetlozarov.deviantart.com,  Malachite Road by Vicky Mount;  redbubble.com,  Oasis by Jonathan Harris;  fineartamerica.com,  Cornucopia by John Nolan;  fineartamerica.com,  Karen Hollingsworth;  daily-art.weebly.com,  Hot Air Balloon and House by Brian Ogi;  fineartamerica.com.

Panning for Gold

Communicating without words: Eugene Bernard's Les Disciples Running to the Sepulchre

Communicating without words: Eugene Bernard’s Les Disciples Running to the Sepulchre

“That’s why we must be wordsmiths.  You use words to ravish people with the beauty of the Kingdom.”   Dallas Willard

In less than a week two people have told me about the inadequacy of language to uncover the richness and significance of a concept.

My friend Rebecca has lived in many places in the world and has taught English in Turkey, Italy, Korea and the U.S. – and is my grammar coach.  (Yes, I know I need to check with her more often about my extensive proclivity to hyphens:))  Rebecca’s blog is Dwelling in the Word which is a reading through the Bible with art and incisive commentary.  Her son Devlin is a student at Princeton seminary, now teaching for a year in Ethiopia at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa. 

Communicating without words: Eland with Foal by Ayele Assefa, Ethiopian artist

Communicating without words: Eland with Foal by Ayele Assefa, Ethiopian artist

Rebecca was telling me about some of Devlin’s challenges, not the least of which was finding words in Amharic, the Ethiopian language, to unwrap the nuances of  Biblical text and theology to these African pastors.  Evidently Amharic has a fraction of the words that we find in English.  So excellent, virtuous, right, capable, well-behaved could all be translated as simply good, although they could mean very different things in certain contexts.


Translation from any language to another has its pitfalls.  When we were in Russia our interpreters, (translators write, interpreters ‘translate’ orally when people speak), were brilliant.  Most of them had never lived in an English speaking country and had been educated in Ivanovo, an industrial city 200 k. northeast of Moscow.  Their English was impeccable – though we understood not a word of how the words rendered in Russian.  We could see that many Russian words had no English parallel and vice versa.

Without words: from a collection Women in Russian Art

Without words: from a collection Women in Russian Art

I remembered some 30 years ago Mr. A.’s business added a shampoo to its line.  They named the shampoo Jouissance.  They brought in a French hair stylist to address the sales force.  It was a delightful presentation – and much of it in French which was fun.  But when he heard the new name he laughed and commented that he had never associated jouissance with shampoo.  The company thought the word meant loosely delight.  But here is what jouissance means:

“Jouissance, and the corresponding verb, jouir, refer to an extreme pleasure. It is not possible to translate this French word, jouissance, precisely. Sometimes it is translated as ‘enjoyment’, but enjoyment has a reference to pleasure, and jouissance is an enjoyment that always has a deadly reference, a paradoxical pleasure, reaching an almost intolerable level of excitation. Due to the specificity of the French term, it is usually left untranslated.”

Hardly shampoo.

Communicating without words: The Eiffel by Ginette Callaway

Without words: The Eiffel by Ginette Callaway

 Then we heard an excellent sermon in Chicago several days ago.  The young man, soon to be ordained, was preaching from the lectionary.  His main point was that the great Story of God has now enveloped us.  To intro his point he showed a short video clip of the beginning of the movie The NeverEnding Story.  This in itself was fun for 3/4 of the people in the pews who were children of the ’80s.  And it was fun for me who had rented the video a dozen times at least for my kids.

Do you remember?

Do you remember?

Pastor Dave then went on to amplify the Deuteronomy text.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord . . .Deut. 6:4-12

Without words: Moses and the Ten Commandments by He Qi

Without words: Moses and the Ten Commandments by He Qi

This young preacher brought us into the text just as Moses was bringing this new generation of Israelites into the promises that had been given to their ancestors, those who had been called to Canaan, to those who had been promised a nation, a land, a blessing, to those who had been enslaved in Egypt, to those to whom the Law had been delivered, to those who had wandered for 40 years.  

Communicating without words: Entering the Promised Land by Darius Gilmont

Communicating without words: Entering the Promised Land by Darius Gilmont

These were now the inheritors of the promise.  Pastor Dave stretched the boundary to include us, we, the inheritors, keeping the Story going. . .

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you . . .

Read here the urgency which could accurately be translated – “to you, us, these, here, today, all of us, the living!”  Deuteronomy is for us.


It’s a tough job, this business of communicating.  My only language is English and even after 75 years my vocabulary is minimal.  I find myself using the same phrases again and again – and many of them thin and shallow.  It’s not a matter of using more words.  It’s finding the choice word with sumptuous meaning.


Christians today must effectively tell the story of their fathers in the language of their children.

If we’re going to ravish people with the beauty of the kingdom, we need to be searching for words that are fresh and clear, light and deep, words that invite Ethiopians and Frenchmen and neighbors into the NeverEnding Story.



Christian Perri’s A Thousand Years by the Piano Guys . . . without words . . 




Images courtesy of:  Les Disciples can be found at Musee d’Orsay in Paris,  Eland with Foal by Ayele Assefa;  stgeorgeofethiopia.com,  Russian Woman;  russianartandculture.com,  The Eiffel by Ginette Callaway;  fineartamerica.com,  Moses by He Qi;  heqiart.com,  Entering the Promised Land by Darius Gilmont;  static.wixstatic.com,  sky photograph;  pastorron7.wordpress.com.

The Day He Called Her / II

Dear Friends – Taking a little break this week.  Here is a re-post, a blog about my friend Cass.  I hope you have such a friend.. . . 


Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts . . . 

Cass and I met in Margie’s Decorative Painting class in January of 1975. I had long wanted to learn to paint and lacking the confidence to take a fine art class, I gathered my courage and signed up for Margie’s class in Elmhurst, Illinois. No experience nor talent required.

We painted daisies and mushrooms and toadstools, but not this good!

We painted daisies and mushrooms and toadstools, but not this good!

Margie was a character and sat at the head of the table chain smoking and gabbing – and we learned our simple techniques by copying her. There were two other women in the class. I liked them both and decided to invite them over for coffee one at a time. One woman was a red-head, classic in style, bright and nice. The other was Annie Hall. I decided to invite her first.


She had that layered, mannish look that was astonishingly feminine and appealing and unique, beautiful without trying and completely natural. We giggled over our attempts to paint these silly plaques and I asked her after a couple of classes to come for coffee. Cass Conley Wilson from Janesville, Wisconsin, 28 years old.


Some day I’ll tell you about Cass’s amazing gifts as an artist and designer, but today I just want to tell you about the day He called her.

Our friendship grew quick and deep. We had much in common, especially in the things we valued – and laughed about. I was 6 years older than Cass. We both had 2 sons and husbands who bent towards perfectionism. We loved to talk and drink coffee and go for lunch and garage saling and paint together. We had been friends for about 4 months when I told Cass that I was going to start a neighborhood Bible study. Would she like to come?


No, she said, standing in her dining room. She drew a box in the air and said, “There’ve been so many changes in my religion and I’ve finally got it right where I want it.” (inside her air box) I asked her to come, “just once”, just to see. By then we trusted each other and she reluctantly, but kindly agreed.

It was the spring of the year when we began. There were about 5 or 6 of us at first. We sat around my dining room table with coffee and treats and began to read Ephesians. Cass had never read the Bible before but she seemed to like it and especially the conversation with the other women.

It was an unusual time and has burned itself into my consciousness. Being 1975 many women smoked, so I put out ashtrays and Mel would come home on Tuesdays and invariably remark, “oh, I see this was a Bible study day!” The women who were drawn to our study were churched and unchurched, worldly and saintly, ordinary women who were becoming seekers and being sought.

I had but one thought; it was my job to be prepared and to open the Word and it was the Spirit’s job to do the rest. I was greatly comforted in this, feeling very inadequate and unlearned. And I was eager to learn and hoped to grow.

High Sierra Dawn by David Lobenberg

High Sierra Dawn by David Lobenberg

On about the third Tuesday we arrived at Ephesians 2 and spent the morning in the first 10 verses.


That afternoon Cass called me. “Sue, I think I heard you say that we are saved only by what Christ has done and not by what we do. Is that what you are saying?”

“Cass, yes, I do believe that is what the Bible is teaching us – that salvation is God’s gift to us through what Christ did on the cross, and we can’t add to it, only receive it by believing.”

Cass: “I just wanted to get that right.”

(This was an actual phone conversation)

Seeing the Light by Osnat

Seeing the Light by Osnat

The late Gert Behanna tells the story of her two sons coming to faith. One struggled in the muck and mud for years. The other “crossed the river at the narrowest point and went on up the other side.”

The narrowest place in the river

The narrowest place in the river

That was Cass. And on that very day in the late spring of 1975 Cass crossed the river into the fullness that God had prepared for her. She crossed quietly and simply and with a joy that became the hallmark of her faith.

She began to invite her friends and neighbors to the study and eventually brought about 15 women. That study disbanded after a few years and I moved away. Cass joined other studies and hungered for the Word in a tangible way. She would send me verses and commentaries and devotionals and quotes and songs. Her painting blossomed and she was in demand as a decorative painter all over Chicago. She utterly belonged to Christ and radiated this reality. Her faith was a thing of beauty, honest and without pretense – just like her! And isn’t that the Truth? When we are in Christ, we become more and more truly ourselves. I saw it in her life and in her dying. You can read a story about that here.

Dawn by Fiodor Aleksandrovich, 1850

Dawn by Fiodor Aleksandrovich, 1850

Today, (as I write this) is October 17, Cass’s birthday. She would have been 66. (I add that this year Cass would have turned 69 – she died almost 10 years ago.)

Cass and me, sometime in the '80's.

Cass and me, sometime in the ’80’s.

At her funeral about 6 women told me that Cass was their best friend. I kept my silence :) I miss her.

evening grace

One of Cass’s favorite hymns was Charles Wesley’s, And Can It Be That I Should Gain?

Images courtesy of: creative brushes; quantumshifting.wordpress.com, blue jars; mostlyrandomness.wordpress.com, Bible study; anamcara-gippsland.org, High Sierra Dawn; davidlobenberg.blogspot.com, Ephesians 2:8; pinaquote.com, Seeing the Light by Osnat; osnatfineart.com, Narrow River; wallpaperpimper.com, Dawn by Fiodor Aleksandrovich; allartclassic.com, Evening Grace; redbubble.com.