Clouds

In high school I was in the Advanced Chorus and Jazz Ensemble. I loved everything about it. Our teacher, Mr. Knepper, was not only an excellent teacher, but he was a prolific composer.

In my junior year he wrote a medley of tunes from each decade from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. It was a 30-40 minute production complete with choreography and matching outfits. It was not only fun, but our audiences loved it too.

We also participated each year in district and state competition. Our ensemble consistently won superior awards which built our confidence. Which lead us to enter solo competition too, including yours truly.

I’ll never forget my song of choice, Joni Mitchell’s, Both Sides Now.

I remember Mr. K telling me so many times, “Sing it like you mean it!” I hadn’t a clue what the song meant; I was only 16 and hadn’t lived enough life to see it all as an illusion.

But today as I cooled off in our pool from pulling weeds, I noticed the clouds.

“Rows and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air.”

I thought of my grandmother and how when I was a child, she would always encourage my imagination by spotting animals in the sky. I loved the game and I loved her attention.

Today, as an aging adult, I see that clouds are so much more than a tool to spawn the imagination of a child.

“But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on everyone. So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.”

This is one way to look at clouds.

But I see them more as tools to display God’s glory. Some days the clouds are so beautiful I take photos trying to catch the view. I call these “fair weather clouds”

Other times, when a tropical storm or hurricane is nearby, I love watching the clouds race across the darkened sky. And it’s even better when lightning occurs. It’s like watching a symphony take place with a timpani of thunder following the conductor’s lead.

Clouds. They can be peaceful or powerful. Happy or sad.

I’ll never forget seeing the cloud that hung in the air like a memorial over our Central Florida skies when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff.

Or the beautiful skies on the day the Lord called my brother home to be with him. He loves the song “I’ll Fly Away”, and I marveled at how God filled the sky that day with such glorious fair-weather clouds.

Clouds are beautiful. Joni Mitchell surmised that they were an illusion. She came to this conclusion because they can’t be touched or moved by human hands.

But God! He forms the clouds and has them go and do His bidding. They reflect His character.

Today, He is reminding me He is near even if I’ve yet to touch Him. It’s enough that He has touched my heart bringing faith alive.

Clouds aren’t an illusion, they’re a reflection of who God is. And one glorious day He will return on the same clouds that took Him to Heaven.

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

The Value Of Old Letters

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Once again I was rummaging through some of my Mom’s papers and came upon a real treasure. I want to share it with you in an effort to inspire you to dig for your own undiscovered stories, as well as to encourage you to continue writing hand-written letters to your extended family. It is an art I’m afraid we’re losing.

It all began when I found a letter to my Mom and Dad from his cousin. It’s dated December 13, 1987. She was talking about an enclosed picture of her mom and my dad’s parents.

Dear Stan & Lee,

I have always felt “guilty” about grabbing that picture of Aunt Amy and my mother that day Jewett offered it to us when he was visiting several years ago, so now I’m trying to “make-up” for it!! This is not a copy of that picture, which wasn’t in very good condition anyway, but is one of a picture I thought you’d rather have since it shows both your mother and father. My mother is in it too.

As young people in their early 20’s – they used to help entertain at the hospital since they were all pretty talented. Aunt Amy (my Dad’s mom) always played the piano, Uncle Andy (my Dad’s dad) and my mother sang…Anyway, this is a copy of a group which put on “The Man From Brandon,” on December 7, 1912 – 75 years ago. Uncle Andy, as you can see, is in the front row. You’ll notice everyone is so serious–a characteristic when pictures were taken back in those days, for picture taking was serious business!!

Aunt Amy is to the left in the second row, and my mother is to the right in the top row. It would be interesting to know what the play was about since it appears to include a poodle, but I haven’t been able to locate it!

We know you’ll have a happy, busy Christmas, and we hope 1988 will be a healthy and prosperous one for you both and all your family.

Love,

Betty & Ken Porter

In 1987 the internet wasn’t around, so it was impossible to locate the play mentioned. But imagine my delight when I did a quick Google search and found it! I downloaded a PDF of it and can’t wait to read it. And yes, it does include a poodle! (Click on the picture below to access the script).

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Over a hundred years ago, and I’m uncovering a snippet of my paternal grandparents’ lives about which I knew nothing. It is priceless! And I’ve discovered one reason why I love plays and musicals; It’s in my genes! What’s even more amazing is that I only met my paternal grandparents twice before they died because we lived in Florida, and they lived in Rhode Island. I’ve always regretted missing this part of my family’s story, but this letter is proof that there is much more to be discovered.

You never know where or when another story will surface. But you might miss it if you’re not looking. I’m so glad I didn’t throw this old letter away thinking it was meaningless. I plan to treasure it forever!

What interesting facts have you discovered lately about your family? I’d love to hear!

Music Memories Never Fade

 

Music has always been a big part of my family.

I remember our vacations on the road being filled with folk songs like My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, I’ve Been Working On The Railroad, and Found A Peanut to name a few. My Mom had a song for everything, and seemed she would pop a new one on us often and at unexpected times.

I think I’ve picked up her gift, as I find myself remembering songs for my grandchildren that I haven’t thought of in years. They’re fun songs that don’t have much meaning other than the memories they evoke in my heart.

Music is like that. It causes our hearts to remember a certain time in our past. But it’s not only our memory that is stirred, we remember the emotions we felt as well. This is why some of Sirius XM’s most popular stations are 60’s on 6, 70’s on 7 and 80’s on 8. We love to be reminded of what once was.

My dad loved music too.

He was the one who loved to gather our family around the piano to join him in singing songs like, The Holy City… as my sister played accompaniment. It was his father, my grandfather, who instilled this love of music in my dad’s heart. Andrew Gray was a soloist at his church and would often share his rich baritone voice on Sunday’s with his church family at the Cranston Street Roger Williams Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. It was after one of his performances when he had a heart attack and died right there doing what he loved most.

When my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003, we knew what would mean the most to him. We had the worship leader at our church come and play hymns on the piano while we all joined him singing. There were lots of tears, and many of us had a difficult time singing, but the look on my dad’s face as the music played was worth the pain.

I recently was shown the following video of an elderly man who had lived in a nursing home for over a decade.  Watch and see how technology is playing a part in bringing some of this man’s life back to him in a powerful way. Be sure to watch the entire piece–it will brighten your day.

What songs have had an impact on your life?