Saturday, October 31, 2015

Old Age Mumblings...

Yesterday I wrote of the futility of fighting old age, suggesting that we ought to use it and make the best of it.  However, I am well aware that old age brings significant and oft times crippling changes to our bodies.  I know that hearts fail, strokes happen, and cancer strikes.  Still, I think  (and I will someday know if it is possible in a personal way) we can use even these moments to  enhance rather than diminish life.  Even in such debilitating situations our “real person,” or “soul or spirit” is alive (and some of us believe that “spirit” is eternal).  When someone asked John Quincy Adams how he was, he replied:  “John Quincy Adams is well, thank you.  But the house that John Quincy lives in is falling to pieces; the doors are falling in and the windows are sagging and soon John Quincy Adams will have to move out of this house.  But John Quincy Adams is well, very well, thank you.”   What an attitude! It reminds me of the passage in 2 Cor. 4:16, “Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”  

George & Earl who made old age "A Wonderful Life"
It irks my soul when in these golden years (and they are golden) many of us  tend to harken back to an earlier time when things were, we say,  just wonderful.  It irritates me even more when politicians and others suggest that we need to go back to those days. I look back on my youth with great delight, those beautiful yesterdays, when “we caught lightning bugs, went fishing in the creek with our makeshift fishing poles, and knew all our neighbors, etc.” But I did not know back then what I know now.  I did not know then that some people were forced to ride in the back of the bus and use only those restrooms reserved for them.   I did not know about prejudicial attitudes toward Catholics, Jews, Blacks, etc., because there were very few of these folk in my rural neighborhood. I knew nothing of Jim Crow, South Africa, or Concentration Camps back then.  I do now!  Life is always idyllic for children because they cannot grasp and do not have the capacity to see or think through all that is swirling about them in the larger world. We are children no more!  

Friday, October 30, 2015

"The Best is Yet to Be"

Yesterday I met a young salesman in a furniture store.  He was an exceptional sales person and we had quite a chat while he gently persuaded me to buy one of the most expensive recliners in the store.  During our conversation, David told me that he had just recently lost his grandfather at age 79. I gulped!  I am old enough to be David’s grandfather!  How many years do I have left to enjoy this expensive recliner I’ve just purchased?

My mother at 93--She was an Adventurer!
Old age can be looked forward to with anticipation and with a sense of adventure, or one can fight it.  While walking through the cosmetic aisle in a drug store recently I was astounded at the many products available to fight old age.  There are products to keep your hair from turning gray and skin treatments to take away those inevitable wrinkles and things like that.  There are even pills available now to help your brain from deteriorating, or so they claim. You can set your jaws, clinch your fists, dye your hair, hide your wrinkles, take your pills and put on a defiant face, but you will still be fighting a losing battle.  Old age is one of those inevitable changes in life’s journey.  You really can’t do anything about it.  Or can you?

You CAN do something about it!  You can approach this time of life without fear and without fighting it.  You can use it and by that I don’t mean just bear it or live with it, but I mean use it by taking hold of it and making something really special out of it.  Make old age an adventure, the best you’ve ever had!  Make a “bucket list” and live it out.  Travel, see the world, enjoy your adult children and their children, have a ball!  Autumn is a beautiful time of the year, so why not make our own autumnal season beautiful and meaningful.  Spend the kid’s inheritance.  Buy one of the most expensive recliners available.  It’s okay.  Just don’t spend all day sitting in it!  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Afraid of Change

Most of us prefer the status quo.  We are disturbed by change.  And yet life is change and there is nothing changeless about life except change.  “What is” in life will always become “what was!”  Change is inevitable.  We know this.  What a great change it was (or will be) to move out of adolescence into adulthood, from singleness to marriage, from husband and wife to parenthood, from middle age to maturity and old age!  Change occurs every step of the way in life.  

Over the years I’ve noticed that most people tend to sit in the same seats—in their homes, in church, and in other settings.  We do not want to change—not even where we sit!  Some years ago I conducted an experiment.  I asked the members of the congregation I was serving to play “musical chairs (or pews)”—I asked them to change chairs and only as a game!  What a ruckus that created!  “Change our chairs—not on your life!”  Some refused to even play the game!  

Montana, USA
This morning I’m thinking about our attitudes and fears toward the inevitable changes in our personal lives and in our world.  Some deal with change as a season of spring—a new beginning.  Others deal with change as a season of summer—feeling it as hot, humid, sweltering,  unbearable heat.  Still others deal with change as a season of autumn—everything we’ve known is falling like leaves to the ground.  Still others deal with change as a season of winter—the changes that have come have brought us to the “end time!”  

Change comes.  How do we manage it?  With trepidation? With fear?  With acceptance? With desperation?  With hopelessness?  How we deal with change makes all the difference in how we live our lives.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Love Wrapped In Care

I shall never forget the day when Elton Trueblood at 93, his eyesight dimmed by the years and no longer able to read,  shared from memory  I Corinthians 13 with a group of us who were visiting him in his retirement apartment.  He told us that the word “Love” has become so misused and over-used in our time that it no longer conveyed what it is meant to mean.  In his recitation he replaced the word “Love” in Paul’s great passage with the word “Care,”  suggesting that love equals care, or vice versa, care equals love. Is love the same as caring?  I still ponder and work with that question.  

To say we love a person and then not care about that person’s need, his or her loneliness, wounds and brokenness doesn’t seem to cut it. Nikos Kazantzakis, pondering the loving (caring) spirit of Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer, wrote these words:  “Both have in their grasp the philosopher’s stone which transubstantiates the basest of metals into gold, the gold into spiritual essence.  They take disease, hunger, cold, injustice,ugliness—reality at its most horrible—and transubstantiate these into a reality yet more real, where the wind of the spirit blows.  No, not of spirit; of love.  And in their hearts, like the sun over great empires, love never sets.”  Both of these men loved—but it was not an empty word for them—it was wrapped with care.

Perhaps one of the most painful things which can happen to us—and, of course, has happened to all us, is the feeling that no one has ever really cared enough to know what was going on inside of us.  We have all been victims of this kind of neglect and it  makes it difficult for us to sense that we are persons of worth.  For another to say, “I love you” and then not to care about what you are experiencing seems an empty phrase.  “I love all God’s children” we say, but do we care for them too?  Love makes human beings human, but only if that love is wrapped with care.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The first thing I see as I enter my study each morning are the icons  displayed on the wall.  As a 17-year-old Baptist, I didn’t even know the word “icon,” much less what an icon was, until I went to Crete. There I discovered that icons were an important and central part of every little Orthodox chapel, church, and family home.  I was even more fascinated when I read Nikos Kazantzakis’ imaginative description of the activity of the St. Minas icon in the Cathedral of Saint Minas in Heraklion, Crete. 

“On the annual holidays—Christ’s birth, death, or resurrection—all the people dressed, donned their jewelry, and forsook their houses to pour out of every lane.  They were headed for the cathedral, which awaited them with gaping doors.  Its great candlesticks and chandeliers had been lighted, and the knight and master of the house, (the icon of…) Saint Minas, stood on the threshold to receive his dear friends…of the city.  Hearts opened, misfortunes were put out of mind, names forgotten; all became one. They were slaves no longer.  Disputes and Turks did not exist, nor did death.  Inside the church with the mounted Captain Minas as leader, everyone felt part of an immortal army.”

Saint Minas was the defender of the city.  “Astride a gray horse, holding a red lance pointed at the sky, the saint remained motionless all day in his diminutive church, upon his icon—fierce-eyed, sunburned, with a short curly beard.  All day long weighed down by the silver ex-votos—hands, feet, eyes, hearts—which the people had attached to him so that his grace might heal them, he remained immobile, pretending to be only a picture: paint on a piece of board.  But as soon as night fell and the Christians gathered in their homes and the lights began going out one by one, he pushed aside paints and silver offerings with a sweep of his hand, spurred his horse, and went out for a ride through the Greek quarters…  He closed whatever doors the Christians had forgetfully left open, he whistled to night owls to return to their homes, he stood outside the doorway and listened absorbedly, with satisfaction, whenever he heard singing.  A wedding must be taking place, he murmured.  A blessing on the happy couple, and may they bear children to swell the ranks of Christendom.  Afterwards he made a tour of the ramparts which gird Heraklion, and at cockcrow, before daybreak, spurred his horse, entered the church with a bound, and climbed onto his icon.  Once more he put on a show of indifference.”  

Like everything, there is more to an icon (in the mind and heart of the beholder) than I ever dreamed!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Finding Space....

We live in a busy world. It is a world of mass media 24/7, a world of technology from Facebook to Twitter and the constant texting via cell phone,  a world of heavy schedules that include not only our work, but the constant sports events and other entertainment that have become central to our living.   Parents keep their children on the same kind of schedule, a full day at school and then the various after-school events from karate to baseball practice.  There is little space for the “Me” within us.

I’m sitting with my friend of the written word, Howard Thurman, this morning.  He speaks to me of his youth:

An Oak and a Country Road in Wales
“When the storms blew, the branches of the large oak tree in our backyard would snap and fall.  But the topmost branches of the oak tree would sway, giving way just enough to save themselves from snapping loose.  I needed the strength of that tree, and, like it, I wanted to hold my ground.  Eventually, I discovered that the oak tree and I had a unique relationship.  I could sit, my back against its trunk, and feel the same peace that would come to me in my bed at night.  I could reach down in the quiet places of my spirit, take out my bruises and my joys, unfold them, and talk about them.  I could talk aloud to the oak tree and know that I was understood.  It, too, was a part of my reality, like the woods, the night, and the pounding surf, my earliest companions, giving me space.”

When I was young I had a similar place that gave me space.  Sitting on a log that had fallen across the water bubbling out of the springhouse, I would, like Thurman, “reach down in the quiet places…take out my bruises and my joys…unfold them, and talk about them.”  I felt I was heard by the frogs, the watercress, and the whirly jigs that skated across the water, and the sun that warmed all of these and me.  The surroundings gave me needed space to be heard, to be strengthened, to be renewed, to talk things through.  Where do we go now—where are we finding and getting our space?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

...Paths We Did Not Know

“He leads us by paths we did not know.”  Hiram O. Wiley (1831-1873) wrote this poem, later turned into a hymn.  It is seldom sung these days.  What a shame!  It is meaningful verse.  I think I will make it part of my new discipline to memorize a poem or two.

He leads us on by paths we did not know.  
Upward He leads us, tho’ our steps be slow;
Tho’ oft we faint and falter on the way,
Tho’ storms and darkness oft obscure the day,
Yet, when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.

He leads us on tho’ all the’ un-quiet years;
Past all our dream-land hopes, and doubts and fears
He guides our steps; thro’ all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrow, and o’er-clouded days
We know His will is done,
And still He leads us on.

We all wish that we could know the future.  How I would like to know what is ahead for me, for my children, and my grandchildren.  Even though we may say it doesn’t matter—we inwardly really want to know.

This “wanting to know” is a part of the anxiety which we experience in every new stage of life, every threshold of a new job, decision, or other life adventure. If we could know that we are going to make it, if we had some guarantee that our tomorrow will be okay, then we would be less anxious.

We inwardly want to know, but life is not like that.  We bring to the future all that has happened to us before.  All the baggage of the past, all the yearnings of the present go with us. All our experience goes with us too, as we move forward into our tomorrows.   And, I believe, unapologetically, that there is Another who "leads us on by paths we did not know".  The thought of tomorrow may bring us anxiety, but in the end, my experience tells me that through whatever comes, 
Life is an adventure....following paths we did not know...
Another still leads us on.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pondering a Present Predicament

There is a prevalent attitude in present day society which seems to say, you are welcome to “your truth” and I to “my truth.”  This kind of easy tolerance leaves no room for dialogue. What it says is that we have no right to claim that anything, anywhere, is really wrong, or right, or truth. so why bother to talk about it together.  You have your truth; I have mine! This kind of tolerance, if we take it to its logical conclusion,  means that we would have to  allow Hitler to proclaim the persecution of Jews as “his” truth.  We  would have to allow another person to say that one race is inferior to another as “his” truth!  This sort of tolerance leads rationally to indifference where there is no right, no wrong, no truth.

The other side of this easy tolerance are those who claim to have the Truth, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  This is just as illogical as an easy tolerance and perhaps even more arrogant.  Those who think they hold the Truth become adamant in their position, that it is either their way or the highway.  This becomes a serious matter in a democracy, something we have witnessed recently in regard to the rights of women and other groups of people.  It runs rampant today in religion and in politics.  Once again, the presumptive "Holder of Truth" and the one who is still seeking it, or the one who thinks that he or she may have some tidbit of the Truth, have no room for dialogue.  
The attitude of easy tolerance won’t do!  The belief that one holds the absolute Truth won’t fly!  Both positions are subjective rather than objective. Neither attitude allows for dialogue, much less compromise.  

Sequoia National Park, California

Sometimes we say that it is what people do that matters most, but we frequently neglect the fact that what people believe determines what they do—and what they think.  If we believe that persons are only cabbages (strange, different, outsiders, inferior, etc.) there is no reason to value them or liberate them from various kinds of bondage, but if, by contrast, we believe that they are persons who possess “that of God within,” as the Quakers say,  we are bound to look upon all men and women (regardless of being strangers or outsiders, and all the rest) with respect.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

This morning I’ve enjoyed a brief visit with my friend of the written word, Jean-Pierre De Caussade, through his book, “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.”  He reminds me that time is a sacrament, for “time is but the history of divine action!”  He reminds me too, that your history and mine is the story of divine action whether we know it or not!   That is an incredible idea since we often think we have made it on our own by the choices we have made or the things we have achieved.  For Caussade, nothing is secular, not even time—all is sacred (a sacrament:  an outward sign of an inner invisible and spiritual grace).

“No moment is trivial since each one contains a divine Kingdom, and heavenly sustenance.”  “Precious moment, how small in the eyes of my head and how great in those of my heart, the means whereby I receive small things from the Father who reigns in heaven. Everything that falls from there is very excellent, everything bears the mark of its maker.”

“You are seeking God, dear sister, and God is everywhere.  Everything proclaims God to you.  God is by your side, over you, around you and in you.  Here is his dwelling and yet you still seek God.  Ah! You are searching for God, the idea of God ….God is in everything that happens to you—your suffering, your actions, your impulses are the mysteries under which God reveals himself to you.  But he will never disclose himself in the shape of that exalted image (your image of god) to which you so vainly cling.”

Just think!  Every moment of your day today is a sacred moment.  God is in it all with you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Sacrament of Friendship

Friendship is an adventure.  It is also a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward invisible grace).  William Ferrar Renzulli and I have been friends since 1971.  We were young, handsome, thin, had hair,  and were “full of piss and vinegar” (rowdy, boisterous, full of youthful energy) back then.  That expression was used by John Steinbeck in his novel “In Dubious Battle” (1936) and it fits.  We were on the threshold of our vocations, he in medicine and I in ministry.  We were both young husbands and young fathers, eager to be the best in both roles.  We were altruistic and naive.  We had no awareness of how life could and would tumble in, or if we did, we paid it no mind.  We had the world by its tail!

Forty-four years have passed since first we met.  We are no longer young, our handsomeness has taken on the marks of maturity, and our thinness has turned into well-rounded waists, and we still have a little hair (at least I do) on our heads.  Our children have all grown up, have children of their own, and Bill and I are grandfathers now. 

I wish I had space to tell, but I cannot, of all the many experiences of these years Bill and I have shared in friendship.   Bill fulfilled his calling in medicine and also his calling to be an artist.  I fulfilled my calling in ministry and also my calling to develop ministry in new and various forms.  We have been successful, I suppose, in the eyes of the world.  But more importantly, we have, through thick and thin, through turmoil and joy, in trouble and in peace, in rocky places and in smooth, maintained our friendship.  The adventures Bill experienced, I experienced with him, and he shared my experiences as well.  

There are many things I prize—but at the top of the list is the adventure and the sacrament of friendship—because this is rarer and more precious than all the rest. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

E. Stanley Jones

I’m here in my study again with E. Stanley Jones. He wrote many books, all of them good books, but the best of all his books was his last, “The Divine Yes.”
Late yesterday I thought to myself, “You’ve read all these wonderful books written by your friends, but have you taken on their words, their wisdom, their examples, and lived accordingly?” The answer was and is both yes and no. 
“Brother Stanley” provided me with several things to think about today:
“Society demands conformity. If you fall below its standards, it will punish you. If you rise above its standards, it will persecute you. Jesus said, ‘Beware when all men think well of you.’”
“Yes, I have found that when life shuts one door, it opens another if you have eyes to see and initiative to follow.”
“Everyone comes from his peak to a gradual or sudden fall into old age. A…woman said to me, ‘I hate to grow old, but I feel it gradually coming upon me.’ She was going into a gradual decline, a slow aging. She didn’t like the process for she could feel the creeping paralysis of old age. There is a way to come into old age with a crash. Apparently I have come into it that way.”
“Now that I am in this crisis I face the question of living on crippled or calling it a day and accepting a passage to the other world. I am honestly indifferent as to which it shall be. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds it. I have tried for 88 years (and in a few days it will be 89), and I have no need to live any more unless he decides.”
“Sometimes I find myself musing….Dear old body—for the past nine decades we’ve walked the dusty roads together, we’ve flown across contine
nts, and you’ve been uncomplaining even when I’ve put impossible loads upon you. Thank you for your faithful service, and now you say you’ll be faithful till death us do part. When that parting comes, I’ll look back at you and salute you and thank you, and I’ll say to you, ‘When I get my immortal body, I hope there will be a lot of you there incorporated.’ Thank you again, for everything."

(October 13, 2015)

The Coming of Autumn

I find myself singing to myself this morning, “The autumn leaves pass by my window, the autumn leaves of red and gold.” as the leaves drift down from the trees in my back yard. Not many are red or gold, except for those that cling to my neighbor’s dogwood tree. The chill in the air reminds me that autumn is well on its way and very soon, the trees will become barren, the ferns will dry up and hug the ground, and even the grass will take on its winter hue. Everything has its season according to the writer of Ecclesiastes. There is a time for this, and a time for that, and another time for something else. 
We were meant to bloom....
What kind of time will this autumn be for me? Will I, like the squirrels I’m watching just now in my back lawn, gather and store what I need in preparation for some other time? Will I, like the daffodil bulbs I’ve planted along the fence, hunker down and wait patiently and with hope for what is to be when another time comes? I certainly don’t want to shrivel up and hide away somewhere like those dahlia tubers I dug up last week!
We are not leaves, or squirrels, daffodil bulbs or dahlia tubers! Winter, spring, summer and autumn may affect our human spirit some, but every season in nature and in our living, is our time to live and to live as fully as we can. There is no need to let our leaves fall and become barren, no need to gather and store for some other day, no need to hunker down and just wait, no need to shrivel up and hide away. We are called to live abundantly in every season—to live with gratitude, joy, hope, and love now and always. 

(October 14, 2015)

Windows into the Soul

These morning hours in my study are precious ones.  I ponder over many things from 5 or 6  to 8 a.m.  I think of those persons I know who are going through tough times.  I hold them in my “bundle” of care.  I think of my children and their children and wonder what this day may hold for them.  I sometimes ponder my own trail of life, the roads taken and those not taken, and the friends I’ve met along the way.  I think of my parents and my heart is grateful for the love they gave to me and my six siblings.  I ponder the “Star Persons” of my life, those who provided light to guide me along the way.   With my  books surrounding me, I am aware of my “Friends of the written word” who have left indelible marks on my thinking about life.  

Bangor University in Wales
I think about those I do not know who wander in search of a home—those refugees from Syria and many other places where life is so threatened.  I wonder about the future of our planet earth and what that will mean for human life, particularly what that will mean for my grandchildren and great grandchildren.  

This morning time is so full of pondering, wonder, sorrow, loss, love, care, gratitude and hope that the hours seem but minutes.  Sometimes, naturally, the complaining mood comes to the fore.  When that mood and others like it come over me, I find it helpful to focus on the things for which I am grateful.  Sometimes that tact works and sometimes it doesn’t!  Complaint and similar moods are self-defeating.  I know that, but knowing does not always have the upper hand.  We have within us many selves, each competing for first place.

Almost every day, for over a year now, these morning thoughts have been posted on Facebook in one form or another, sometimes as poetry, sometimes as travelogue, sometimes a quotation, and sometimes just plain ranting and raving, Each post in some way a window into the soul.  Whatever form “these traces of thought and mountings of the mind” the post has taken, the purpose is to awaken a real faith in our own spiritual nature.  

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

For the living of these days.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Robin Hood Was Right!

In the late 1970’s  I read “Robin Hood Was Right” (A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change) by the Vanguard Public Foundation.   Former Presidents Carter and Clinton, along with Bill Gates and others of wealth, believing Robin Hood WAS right, have set up foundations which not only seek to remedy health and poverty issues,  but  to also foster social change.  Without social change, the health and poverty issues will continue ad infinitum.

President Carter recently wrote “A Call to Action,” (Women, Religion, Violence and Power) addressing the need for social change around the world.  Addressing the health and poverty needs of the world is an immense task.  Attempting social change in the midst of that work is an even greater task.  (These issues, health and poverty needs, along with social change are not limited to poverty-stricken areas of the world, they apply to every nation, including our own).

Yesterday I wrote about the philosophy of  sufficiency (having enough) as opposed to the philosophy of “more and more.”  “Enough” means not only that we have sufficiency for ourselves but also enough to be given to one’s brothers and sisters.  Many people are willing to do this, but how?  Many feel guilty, having more than enough, but not knowing how or where to give (in a way that will make a real difference). And there are many who are not willing to give a single penny.  This is the way it is!

The Banyan Tree suggests how our world must
come together.

So the first necessity is to develop the WILLINGNESS to share.  The second necessity is to  form an international coalition to carry out the mission  (if we can form one for war, we can form one for a better purpose). Abraham Lincoln’s definition of government was that governments should do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves.   We do not not how or where to give out of our sufficiency.  We do not know how to bring about social change.  We do not know how to lift up our neighbor here, there, and everywhere.  Private Foundations can’t do it alone—only a coalition of governments, dedicated to this purpose can begin to tackle the problems.

Our day requires a new direction in life-style—a move toward simplification.  Our day requires a new philosophy—the philosophy of sufficiency.  There is a “cry” (Kazantzakis) or “call” to meet the needs of brothers and sisters everywhere in all areas of living (social change, health, poverty, women, violence, an endless list).  An international coalition might help—or not, since governments are part of the problem too.

[October 17, 2015]

The Simple Life

What is the “simple life?”  Many people in our Western society (and particularly in religious circles) talk about it and even claim that they are living it.  I’ve fallen into that kind self-deception trap occasionally, thinking that in this autumnal season of my life, I’m living a “simple life.”  What a self-deception that is!  Of course, it is necessary to define what we mean by the “simple life.”  

Sunset in Little Falls, MN
If the simple life means gearing down our lifestyle and dropping our entrenched philosophy of “more and more,” we certainly would not be candidates.  We’ve got to have the iPhone 6, even if we already have the iPhone 5!  The simple life in this sense would necessitate impossible changes.  Suppose, for example, that we wanted to gear down to the level of the average impoverished family in India.  What would that mean?  It would mean getting rid of one or more cars and taking up walking, selling our home, throwing away all our clothing except for one well-worn garment that we would wear to every occasion.  It would probably mean living in a tent or a sheet metal shack along the street, doing without daily bath or shower  (which do you prefer?), giving up all medical care and eating one meal a day.  (It would even mean letting go of our iPhones!)

I don’t want that kind of simple life, do you?  What I would prefer is that we share our abundant resources and lift that kind of “simple life” into a more complete life, where everyone has a car, a home, and several sets of clothing.  I would prefer that everyone have a choice between a shower or a bath and food enough to nourish and strengthen, and medical care too.

The philosophy I prefer is not the “simple life” but the philosophy of sufficiency, not just sufficiency for my simple life, but sufficiency for the simple life of every human being on the planet earth.  

[October 16, 2015]

A New Discipline

My friend of many years, William Renzulli, from Paducah, KY, is visiting for a day or two.  We’ve known each other for a long time.  In the midst of our conversation last night I mentioned that I should like to memorize some of my favorite poetry.  It would be a good exercise for my mind—and it is something I use to do.  If Cato could learn Greek when he was eighty, surely I can memorize a few poems at the age of 72!  Will I follow through with this resolve? Who knows?  

When my granddaughter, Eleni, visited earlier this year she told me how much she liked to visit our house because “Grandad’s house has imagination.”  Her words came back to me this morning as I thought about a poem I once had memorized.  (When you don’t use it, you lose it!)  Perhaps re-memorization of   Joyce Kilmer’s “The House With Nobody in It” can be good starting point for my new “self-imposed” discipline.  

The House With Nobody In It
Joyce Kilmer

Granddaughter Eleni exercising
 her imagination...or whatever.
Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it. 

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two. 

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside. 

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free. 

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known. 

But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet. 

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,

For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.