A Church Built on the Rock

On the first full day of our Nova Scotia vacation we stepped onto the balcony of our bed and breakfast eager to view famous Peggy’s Cove. Except for a beacon from the lighthouse, visibility was poor.  Nova Scotia is known for variable weather. A thick fog rolled in overnight from the Atlantic Ocean. Hoping the fog would lift, my husband and I ventured out to explore the area.  The first landmark we encountered was St. John’s Anglican Church. An open door to the chapel intrigued us. Once inside, we were greeted by a volunteer from the parish who told us people of the cove have worshipped here since 1885.

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The paintings displayed in the chapel impressed me.  Our volunteer guide explained their importance. The first, Storm and Turbulence, features a group of terrified fisherman clinging to the sides of their boat during a terrible storm. One man points across a raging sea. The second painting, Calm and Serenity, depicts Jesus Christ walking on the water with his arm outstretched toward the fishermen. Like the biblical message of Matthew 14:25, the mural communicates the supernatural power of Christ to calm our fears.  The artist, William deGarthe lived in Peggy’s Cove for years. His work relates the dangers of life at sea and the faith of local fishermen. The deGarthe Museum in the village houses many of his works.

Our guide told us six families founded Peggy’s Cove in 1811. Lured by the rich fishing grounds of nearby St. Margaret Bay, these early settlers battled storms, fog, and jagged rocks to eek out a living from the sea.  Some say the village was named for the bay, I prefer the romantic legend about a shipwreck with a lone survivor named Peggy. The young woman fell in love and later married the man who rescued her.  People would come from miles around to listen to “Peggy of the Cove” tell stories.  “Peggy of the Cove” later became Peggy’s Cove.

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Besides their times of trouble on the water, the fishermen experienced hardships on land. The village sits on granite bedrock. Gardening is futile. Drilling is impossible.  For years the community obtained water through a process of collecting rainwater and purifying it with ultraviolet light. Even so, this water is not considered safe for drinking. We were advised to drink bottled water during our stay.

Due to these conditions, the population of Peggy’s Cove has decreased. Consequently, St. John’s Church has also declined in membership.  When faced with the possibility of closing the church, the few remaining members realized the unique opportunity of their location. Thousands of tourists come to the cove during the summer months to photograph the famous lighthouse and tour the quaint fishing village.

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Volunteers decided to open the chapel on weekdays to minister to tourists. Visitors are welcome to share their prayer requests. I felt led to submit a written request along with my  email address. A few weeks ago I received an email from one of the church leaders who thanked me for my visit and asked if I needed additional prayer support. According to his note, over four thousand visitors from all over the world signed the St. John registry in 2016. The tiny congregation is amazed at the way God is blessing their efforts.

St. John’s Anglican Church is a testimony to a statement Jesus made in Matthew 16:18.  “On this rock, I will build my church.”  You can connect with them through Facebook at Friends of Peggy’s Cove Church.

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Poetry: A Message in a Bottle

Rain Song       

The rhythm of the rain

God’s pattern of music

echoes divine favor

bridges heaven and earth.

Poetry is the rain

that soaks the senses

and sings the melody

which waters the soul.

(Debra Burton 2014)

 

“Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Carl Sandburg  Atlantic Monthly, March 1923

In case you forgot, April is National Poetry Month. During the month of April flowers bloom and butterflies flutter.  What a great time of year to recognize the significant contribution of poetry to our world. Maybe you haven’t given this art form much thought. Maybe you enjoyed reading poetry in school, but currently read novels instead.  Maybe you don’t feel like you understand what some poets are trying to say.  If you agree with any or all of these statements, please consider the following benefits of reading poetry.

  • Poetry helps readers grow intellectually. It teaches us to simplify complex ideas through the use of  symbolism and imagery.  As we read we draw a mental picture of what the poet sees.
  • When we engage with the emotions of the poet, we develop empathy. If we identify with the experiences of other people, we better understand ourselves.
  • Poetry infuses life with beauty and meaning, which increases our creativity.

Take a few moments to access these links. In her poem, Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson compares hope to a bird that never makes demands.  Shel Silverstein grapples with the secret world of dialogue known to caterpillars in his poem, Forgotten Language.  William Wordsworth elevates his mood by contemplating daffodils in his work, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.  All of these poems connect with the reader’s emotions through the appreciation of nature. These poets make new discoveries as they ponder the small things which are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of life.

Writing poetry is a vehicle for artistic self-expression. Who I am, what I think, and my experiences are communicated by showing instead of telling.  The poet paints with words, like an artist paints on canvas.

In his book, How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, author Edward Hirsch refers to poetry as a message in a bottle. After the message is cast into the ocean, it drifts onto the beach waiting to be opened. The finder is the one the message was trying to reach. Once the finder opens it, words spill out from a distant place and time, yet still rich with meaning.

The following poems are my messages in a bottle. Cast out upon the waves, may these words reach the finders they are seeking.  

For My Brother

As night fell in the desert

We stretched out on our cots,

Saw distant constellations

Whose titles we forgot

Viewed streaks of falling stars

Pulled down by gravity

Like fleeting dreams of childhood

Which never came to be.

 

The howl of a coyote

Made such an eerie sound.

It cautioned all outsiders,

“I will defend my ground.”

We whispered to each other

And felt a tinge of fright

Like children telling stories

When Dad turned out the light.

(Debra Burton 2015)

 

A Hapless Hero

Flutter of butterflies hover on the scene.

Arizona thistles bow before each queen.

Flutter of butterflies crowned in orange and white,

Seated on their purple thrones surrounded by the light.

Flutter of butterflies lift your scepters up.

Raise the royal chalice, drink deeply from the cup.

 

One little butterfly caught so unaware,

Lunch for a roadrunner dashing to his lair.

Roadrunner, fierce hunter, slowing to a stop.

Overcome with dizziness, suddenly he drops.

Flutter of butterflies, your banquet is not done.

Your kingdom was saved by the sacrifice of one.

(Debra Burton 2015)

 

 

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Florida Manatees: Long Journey up a Slippery Slope

I grab my cell phone and trek down the path to the water’s edge. The dense forest blocks any warmth from the morning sun.  Although I’m dressed in the heaviest clothing I own, I still shiver in the forty-degree temperatures. What would inspire this thin-blooded Floridian to drive for an hour and brave such cold?

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I reach the lookout platform and gaze into the crystal blue water.  Fat gray shapes lie deep beneath the surface.  I hear a snort as one rises for a breath of air. What appeared to be a boulder is actually a living thing.  My eyes adjust as the swirling water becomes smooth again.  Soon I recognize many similar shapes, and stare in unbelief as scores of manatees migrate into Blue Springs to escape the colder water of the nearby St John’s River.  I realize I have something in common with these gentle giants. We both want to be warm.

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Manatees cannot tolerate water temperatures below sixty-five. So they do what any tropical animal would do, seek warmth in order to live. How do these marine mammals know the water is a constant seventy-three degrees at Blue Springs? How do they communicate this news to each other? I’m amazed whenever I see God’s natural provision for this unique animal.

Over  the past forty years  the population of Florida manatees has rebounded. On March 30, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed their status from endangered to threatened. It is  estimated that 6,620 manatees live throughout the coastal waters and rivers of Florida. In the 1970s only a few hundred existed.*

Florida organizations like the Save the Manatee Club have worked for decades to raise public awareness about the plight of the manatees. One might think the change of status is cause for celebration. Quite the opposite. According to club director, Patrick Rose,   the federal government’s decision is premature and will undermine the manatee’s long- term survival.

As I take a closer look at those manatees swimming near the viewing platform, I can’t help but notice the scars on their skin from collisions with watercraft.  These incidents happened while the animal was considered endangered and where speed limits for boaters were posted.  What can we expect if protections are weakened?

The lives of these gentle giants hang in a delicate balance. A two thousand pound manatee has no natural predators.  Alligators move out of their way by staying close to the riverbank.  The only thing manatees need to fear is man. As Florida increases residential development, people and wildlife contend over limited natural resources.  Man always has the last word.

As a crowd gathers on the viewing platform, one child excitedly points to a manatee mother swimming with her calf.  I snap a photo of the pair and feel grateful for the individuals who continue to value the preservation of a species still so dependent on the protection of man.  What will the future hold for the manatee? The answer is up to us.

*Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post (April 2, 2017)

A Historic Amusement

How do you feel about April Fools’ Day? Some people relish this opportunity to play tricks on others. My feeble attempts to trick others never seem to work. Maybe my tricks aren’t creative enough, or tricking people is out of my character.

When I taught school the children usually told the same falsehoods to one another. “You’re shoes are untied.” Or “A spider is crawling up your back!” If a person was caught off guard and flinched, the joker felt he or she had succeeded. They would jeer “April Fools ” and everyone laughed, except the “fool.”

How did  April Fools’ Day begin? After researching the subject, I learned that it may have originated with the Hilaria festival of the Romans.  They celebrated the first day of the year which exceeded the night. The festival honored Cybele, mother of the gods. It was a time of rejoicing. No one was allowed to show any expressions of sorrow.  The Romans considered it a good day to marry or be born. Share that with anyone you know with a birthday on April first.

The English promoted their own theory during the 1700’s.  For some, April first commemorated the day Noah sent out the first dove to look for land. The dove returned and did not bring back any proof  the water receded. This started the tradition of tricking people by sending them on “fools errands”.

Not suprising, the media has also participated in April Fools’ jokes. In 1957 the BBC featured an article about Swiss farmers picking crops of spaghetti. It resulted in a flood of requests for spaghetti plants.  By the way, did you know donuts come from seeds that look like little cheerios?

April Fools’ Day can be a stress reliever if the humor is harmless and doesn’t focus on ridiculing others. What’s your opinion?  Leave a comment.