Priorhouse —blog maintenance

I would like to wish everyone a wonderful summer 2015!

va beach art
Virginia Beach, VA – roundabout sculpture – June 2015

Priorhouse is officially in summer pause mode.
va beach art 2

Some fresh, new ideas are in the works –

I look forward to sharing our update later this fall. :)


va beach
Virginia Beach, VA 16th Street – June 2015

On the move at Greek Festival

Mofman‘s challenge (HERE) invites us to use color photography that incite emotions. To join in, I am sharing TEN photos I took at our local Greek Festival yesterday.

Dancers at the Greek Festival in RVA. (Can you see the lady to the far right? – she is giving us a smile…)


greek 1
The vibrant colors at the Greek Festival can be seen in clothing, food, and even in the dishes.
ladies in colors
These two ladies – in their colorful dresses – are on their way as they walk and eat (linked to TS). The trash on the ground and the background folks add to the vibe. I also like the informal triangle in the composition the three ladies have two colored dresses and the one with a turquoise colored outfit – and then three flags and a little tilt add to the shape.
lady in blue
Another “on the move” (or on the way) feel – along with a traditional outfit and a bit of stage light for interest.
lady in orange
I was actually taking some pictures of folks using their phones- and somehow this sweet grandmother ended up giving me a smile. The exposure is not the best, but I like the mood with the grandmother’s kindness, her beauty, and her watchful diligence as she keeps close tabs on her grandson (notice that tight shoulder grip).
Here is an example of photos of folks taking photos.
man in green
This man’s soft smile and skin variations caught my eye.  I wondered what he was thinking. Also, the little happy face on the outfit seems to add something.
The mood in this photo speaks for itself (and notice the photo bomb?)
greek festival 2015 rva
A collage – just to show the fun and good food.  The gyros, kabobs,  and greek salads were excellent. We were at the festival back in 2013 and this event really feels timeless.
take out food
Many people leave (on their way home) with take out food from the festival. Here is an example of 5 people leaving with festival food – and this was a few blocks away. This event also has a drive through set up each year just for those who want to enjoy Greek festival food to go. mmmm.

walkers with color

Well thanks for dropping by – I hope you have a nice “last day” of May 2015.

Update- here is the street musician (Marquelle) who was set up “on the way” to the festival.


Mark Barker and 10 more Street Shots

Part 1

I received an email from RoxAnne this week (she is the one smiling in the photo with Mark) – letting me know that Mark Barker passed away last Sunday (5-3-2015). (My first post with Mark is here.) So I would like to start this post with a tribute to Mark.  I was hoping to interview Mark sometime later this year, and Jennifer sent me a cool outline for interviews, but it just was not meant to be….

mark barker rip - 1927-2015
So…. Rest In Peace Old Timer. The world is a better place from all that you did with TV in Central Florida, from your work in North Carolina, and from the MANY people you impacted with your smooth demeanor and caring heart. I am so glad I had the chance to meet you earlier this year —- our encounter was brief, but I am better because of it.  Also, thanks to you RoxAnne for staying in touch. I am sending you and all of Mark’s family my heartfelt condolences.


Here is the Orlando Sentinel’s article about Mark Barker –  also, Mark was a jazz music fan, so here is BB King jammin’ The Thrill is Gone in 1993.

Part 2: Ten More Street Shots From Florida 2015


This is Eric –  I took 6 photos of Eric in February and I emailed him the pics this week. In this collage, I combined 3 of the pics to highlight one of his boards –  and with all that wax, I just have to link to Narami’s texture week #19.


pps-312-3-2015-torn jeans lady
I took these photos a few months ago – and the one on the left reminded me (a bit) of Sally’s “high key” discussion  – check it out HERE – it is a very interesting post.


This is Chris. I really like the way the yellow circles look on the glass behind him – with his hat, sunglasses, soft smile, smoke, and crossed leg. I think he is homeless, buy I am not positive. He was sitting outside of the store and we started chatting as I was taking some tree photos. He was watching a Smithsonian show on his digital device.  Again, I am not positive he is homeless, but he talked about sleeping on the beach and there were other hints. I insisted he let buy him a Publix sub. He said no the first two times, but then when he said yes he had a custom order to blurt out. ha!  It turned out that the sub maker was quite rude (lower right) – the guy seemed highly inconvenienced. If I did not promise Chris a sub, I would have walked out and joined my Aunt who was down in the plaza getting Chinese take out.  It all worked out fine – but crabby workers leave a lasting impression.  However, nice people also leave an impression – and a big thanks to Chris for his sweetness.


This is Lea. I was glad when she said that I could take her picture. I took about 6 photos – real quick like – and later at home when I saw the photos –  I was surprised!


I was with my second cousin when I took this photo of Renee, who was sharing samples and recipes. It seems like every time I visit this cousin in Tampa – we end up at the store together at least once. We talk, we shop, we laugh…. and this photo of Renee serving up some Tuscan steak reminds me of the joy I feel when I visit this particular family. Traveling is so tiring – especially when we make the rounds to see this one and that one, but in the end — it is food for the soul.


This lady had the coolest story to share about her work and the customers she encountered. I did not have time to take notes or record her sharing, but she was so detail orientated and on top of her game.  Someday I would like to do a “series” on people and their work – but for this encounter – I just listened – enjoyed – and grabbed a few photos.


pps-320-3-2015-g-cigar shop
Another shot from Ybor City…the people in the left photo each have such a unique feel.



Such a nice store clerk. The mural in the background is of the Florida manatee.


The rain was coming down as we checked out this Mexican restaurant. I like the bright colors of the building and this pic is linked to lingering windows.
This is Carlos.  This is my favorite street shot connection from Florida this year because Carlos is so cool.  We had one of those conversations that was fueled by chemistry – you know, where you click because you see the world thorough a similar lens. We talked about family, NYC, and the space program. I did get a tiny bit of video, not sure how/if that project will unfold, but thanks so much  to Carlos for the convo on that early, rainy morning!


That is all I have for today, which is part of my “catching up posts” this month.  Please let me know if you have a favorite from today?


Have a nice Friday – and if you are in the mood for some more street shots, check out Bill’s “POSTS FROM THE ‘PORTRAITS’ CATEGORY” HERE



indigo – Les Mis excerpt (Mabeuf)

JNW’s color of the week is indigo (here) -and let me start by asking you – what is the first hue that comes to mind when you hear the word indigo?

For me, it was blue.

You know, like a blue-ish-kinda-deep-purple (ROYBGIV)

Well it has been fun to learn that there is debate about the amount of purple vs. blue in this color referred to as indigo, which varies for textile, paints, and then spectral colors.

Part A:

And seeing that Paula’s theme is “something that reminds you of your place” –  I had to start with mon terero – looking down at an indigo-violet, Asian themed wine bottle cover –

indigo one word photo challeneg - priorhouse 2015 - asian wine bottle cover



purple tone on figure art priorhouse 2015
This photo shows something else from “my place” –  the wooden and metal figurines I bought at an art festival in 2006- with an indigo filter edit (linked to Thursday Special)

Part B:

I have a Les Mis excerpt for indigo.

It comes at a time in the story when Marius is in a gloomy mood because he has lost connection with Cosette.

Marius used to visit M. Mabeuf, an old man who has been trying really hard to make his fortune by growing indigo; in fact, this man’s enthusiasm and hope in this dye reminds me a lot of the people pitching deals on Shark Tank.

Anyhow, M. Mabeuf is gloomy because he is grieving the death of his good friend, a guy named Royal, who also wanted “to naturalize indigo in France.”

Hugo tells us that Mabeuf was so hopeful that indigo would bring him his fortune he “pawned his copperplates” and to invest even more money, he “reduced his breakfast to two eggs, and he left one of these for his old servant, to whom he had paid no wages for the last fifteen months. And often his breakfast was his only meal.

He no longer smiled with his infantile smile, he had grown morose and no longer received visitors. Marius did well not to dream of going thither. Sometimes, at the hour when M. Mabeuf was on his way to the Jardin des Plantes, the old man and the young man passed each other on the Boulevard de l’Hopital.

They did not speak, and only exchanged a melancholy sign of the head.

A heart-breaking thing it is that there comes a moment when misery looses bonds!

Two men who have been friends become two chance passers-by.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 7.21.01 AM

Okay, so this little part in Les Mis catches two characters at a heavy time.  And I want to take that minute to just encourage any of you out there who might feel similar right now.  For example, it is one month into the new year and you might feel like the year is not starting off the way you wanted it to.

Maybe you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Maybe your leg is in a cast, you are still waiting for the “right one” -or maybe you feel like Monsieur Mabeuf – where your dream is still being invested in, provisions are lean, and certain losses have left a huge void –  to where the spirit feels like the murkiest and palest shade of indigo.

Well –  wherever you are at in life right now, remember that life’s richest joys are not from things (even though we do need “things” to survive and live and enjoy some days – and need things to prevent parched times, but they never innately satisfy)….

And here is a little bit of wit with therapy boxes:

therapy boxes 1



therapy boxes with indigo paint

Remember that humor is healing and it is oh so good for the soul. 

Remember that sleep is healing – and many times you are REM sleep deprived without knowing it. 

Remember that your physical body will feel worse if it is not absorbing nutrients – (we are what we “absorb”) and so make it your aim to fortify your physical body in a new way!

Remember that you need more healthy fats.  (And you likely need to do an inner cleanse – esp. if you are feeling like crap all the time)

Remember to start rethinking about sugar and the way it poisons the body – because sugar suppresses your immune system every single time you eat it. (But before you quit sugar, you need to “break” off of it…)  

Remember that your spirit man also needs to be fortified.  And so maybe this is the time that you get serious about going right to God.  Forget all the religion, which is man-made – and go to the source.   I double dog dare you to boldly ask God to show you great and mighty things you do not know.  Today might just be the day for that.

And lastly, remember that it is good to have your opinions and views, but it is also good to have a “teachable spirit.” And so as this first month of a brand new year winds down – why not do a self-awareness check – and just examine if you have become cynical, closed-minded, layered angry, or passive about a few things (cos that is what humans tend to do – so just check for it).

Sometimes it all just starts by dropping your guard.  Softening up – laughing at stupid stuff, and not taking things so serious.  

Come on now, life is short and a goal should be to enjoy it more – and it starts right now. 

Happy Sunday – 

calvin and hobbes humor priorhouse 2015 street art -resolutions- indigo is between blue and violet



From My INBOX – (stop it, dp book, puppy, writing flowers)


This video that came in from C- has a nice take as it highlights “two words” for effective counseling (ha!) – and if you are busy – at least watch first 3 minutes – although that full 6 is just fun.

stop it skit bob newhart
“Stop it.”


QUOTE of the week:

From Visitor Hugo’s Les Mis’

“Another story must begin!”

“Une autre histoire doit commencer!”


Delancey Place has a summer book release, which has just been added to my MUST READ this summer (making it 7 books on my list now). I would not normally be drawn to this topic necessarily, but I look forward to this author’s digestible and flowing writing style — AND I really “do” want to know more about HOW theRoaring Twenties, the Japanese ‘economic miracle’ of the ’80s, and the Asian boom of the ’90srelates and ties intoalmost all crises in major countries” right now…..

The Next Economic DisasterWhy It's Coming and How to Avoid It
source: amazon – click image for link


“It is a short book, and that’s intentional.

And it is definitely a challenge to conventional economic thinking. I hope you will consider ordering the book, and I further hope that it will give you much food for thought on what I consider one of the most important issues of our time.”

you can preorder the book from Amazon….




I first received an email that Starbuck’s was working in tandem with Arizona State University to offer free college to their employees, with no obligation to work for the company afterwards.  This led to a bit of a fun discussion with the hubs about how that is pretty cool – and then we talked about the state of Arizona – and how my school (NCU) is from there (which I really like NCU by the way) – and how my husband’s daughter is a serious Diamondbacks fan. My husband’s daughter lived in Arizona for many years and so my husband has MANY miles logged from trips to and from AZ to pick her up for the visitation we had to fight for…..

Anyhow, THEN this came in my inbox: Starbucks Liars

Having told the world they had made a massive grant to Arizona State to help underwrite the education of their baristas, we now learn that Starbucks is not actually funding an employee scholarship. It seems Arizona State University is simply dropping the price of admission and low-wage Starbucks workers can then apply for federal student aid. Starbucks does have a tuition assistance program, but it is not new, and it does not pay for all or even most of college. Meanwhile, at Starbucks, this how the folks behind the counter spelled “Virginia.” (more from terrierman HEREand terrierman also shared this doggie wisdom image:

“You are not getting a puppy.  You are getting a dog that will bark, sh**, piss, chew, need veterinary care, and will require both training, fencing, and exercise for the next 15 years.  Too much?  Maybe what you need is a cat.

source: terrierman


Have you taken an amazing iPhone photo recently???

Well you may want to consider entering it into the 8th Annual iPhone Photography Awards – more info HERE– and entries can be submitted HERE.


The garden newsletter from Marie Iannotti:

“And when I’m truly stuck indoors, I just bring the garden inside with me, by snipping a few flowers to put next to my desk as I try to focus on working and fight off the urge to gaze out the window. I hope you remembered to plant some flowers, just to cut and bring indoors.”  

I know a few gardeners that abhor the thought of cutting flowers from their gardens, and even though I agree that the beauty can stand as-is outside to offer refreshment as we come and go – well come on now – sometimes we need to bring some of those blooms indoors to add refreshment.

Just make sure you shake off any bugs when you bring in garden flowers!  

In 2010, I did this a lot. I would go outside and grab a few misc. blooms and just put (smush) them in a glass real quick like – and enjoy the soft touch as I wrote through the night.

writing flowers from 2010 - priorhouse 2014
In this photo, here are some of my writing flowers from 2010 – along with the Mac computer I wore down! Notice the peppermint? Well not only do herbs offer a pretty flower – but the leaves and flowers can be rubbed together to offer a potent therapy scent (which calms and even takes away a headache).  Lemon balm and lavender are also easy to grow herbs that can add beauty AND body balancing smells!!


Lastly, did you know that there is a very simple recipe for keeping fresh flowers in a vase thriving longer?

This works for quick garden picks or expensive bouquets.

Put the water in your vase (or container) and add a drop or two of bleach and a few pinches of sugar!  One feeds while the other keeps things clean – and then change the water every few days – while also pulling out the flowers that fade quicker…

Have a nice day!




Monday Walk with Jo (street shots, bread, and Jim Gaffigan clip)

Someone reminded me that I had a sticky note, with some words on it, stuck to my arm.

“I know,” I said!  “I put it there because I am about to write a poem….”

You see – that is what bloggers do sometimes!

We get ideas and have to scratch them down right away!

And a few lines came to me while I was waiting for the Keurig Brewer to warm up (yum).  Now if you have the model we have, you know that it does not take very long to warm up – and so these words came quick – and well, they could have left just as fast…. so I jotted them down.  Not because it’s Poetry month, but because I like a bit of poetry now and then.

Sometimes poems are the perfect way to say something quick – with a little flow – especially for those on the go.

Which ties into today’s post – my walk with Restless Jo…. Well not literally walking with Jo – but will you join me with my take on her challenge?


First, when we went to the store- yeah, the same night that led to my cheesy “Me and My Beau” poem – well when we walked into that store – I spotted this couple and it reminded me of Richard Guest’s cool blog.  You see Richard photographs street portraits (cool one here) and while I do NOT want to start doing this, I will grab a shot when inspired.

I didn’t get their names and I didn’t tell them where they could see their photo (oops), but I did get their permission and had the pleasure of sharing smiles.


monday walk with jo-priorhouse_


Next,  One of the things we bought here was some bread.  The apple cider looked cool, so I am adding a shot of that too – but some old-fashioned white bread came home with us that night.


monday walk with Jo-2-priorhouse-april-27

Sometimes a loaf of plain white bread is just refreshing!

Plain white bread may not be as nutritious as Spelt bread or a hearty wheat – and it may not be as tasty as sourdough rye – but it rightfully has a place in this world!   Just like iceberg lettuce can be enjoyed at times.  I know iceberg lettuce gets slammed for not being as nutritous as darker greens like spinach or kale, but sometimes I just want to enjoy some refreshing iceberg lettuce!   And it is not a waste of time to eat (as my mom suggests).

This also ties into what has been on the television at the Priorhouse – our favorite comedian Jim Gaffigan (link is here)!  Now even though I actually love the taste of Kale – both raw and cooked – well I enjoyed his funny comments: “Can we stop with the kale propaganda?  That stuff tastes like bug spray.  I was looking at a can of bug spray and it said, “Made with real kale.”

snippet here:


Third, after the store trip, we went for our little stroll (and I refuse to add those pictures that I took for the travel theme “glow….” because if you want to see them, you know where to go)- but here is a cool crosswalk I wanted to show!


monday walk with jo-3-priorhouse-apilr27


On a different day – I walked in to discover something delightful.

You see, my older son and I started a few seedlings last week.

It is a bit late to start them, but at least we got to it!   Now my boys have not gardened with me since they were young (you know, when they “had to”- ha!) and so this added a special touch.

Anyhow, we then accidentally left the starters outside overnight – and it was cold out! brrr…. Then – we both forgot to water them – not once, but twice!  Now I, am not sure if you garden, but most seeds are delicate and sensitive – and the chill can zap them.  Also, the starter soil is so thin that it does not always hold water.  So I decided to place this little neglected project inside the house for good, on my little 1950’s chair, and I let it sit!  I was getting ready to go and recycle the peat pots- or add fresh seeds to the slots – when I walked in to a nice surprise.


Most of the seeds had endured the cold night out back- and had endured dehydration twice – and they were now – full of LIFE.

monday walk with Jo-priorhouse-april27

This was even more invigorating to me because I have been fighting something off through this month of April – which took patience and strength – and I too was now starting to feel full of life again! Whew! It was the best feeling looking down at the surprise sprouts!

Resiliency is amazing – and so is patience for things….

And of course this reminds me of a Victor Hugo quote:

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”

And people are like seeds, we can be delicate and sensitive – but we can also be tough and resilient! Oh yes we can!


In closing, I then walked in to an email from Karin – with an updated photo of their house, as they patiently wait for it to be completed.

karins house_april update-2-priorhouse

Hope you have a great Monday –

If you are enduring a trial or waiting for things to turnaround – hang in there – and remember that “this too will pass” (Thanks Marilyn for that one – as she gets a gold trophy for her strength!)

Also, I have said it before and I will continue to say this – Trials have much value….. they do….! And so do you!

For more walks with Jo – go here.




Lisboa Antiga ceramic tile (photo challenge)

I have given away about 75% of my leftover stuff from teaching art.  I will save some of the remaining goodies, and while I am not sure as to “what” I will keep, here is a fun little tile I found while cleaning out the bins this week.

It is a vintage ceramic tile from Lisboa Antiga, Portugal – and I just love this little beauty!

This tile has a natural violet-blue hue to it:

Vintage Ceramic Tile Lisboa Antiga Portugal_blue

I decided to edit the photo a bit (and wanted to use it to enter Cee’s “fun-foto” challenge this week as well) – so I adjusted the definition, temperature, and contrast – and got this cool version of it:

Vintage Ceramic Tile Lisboa Antiga Portugal_purple_hue

I am not sure which I like better, but the edited photo seems clearer. Which one do you like? Well either way, this looks like a nice place to visit sometime.

This is linked to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which is the color purple this week.

AUTHOR Update:

For a modern photo of this street in Portugal, check out “Lisbon’s Bairro Alto by Cheri Lucas Rowlands”  – HERE

Photo Challenge – Lookin’ up (blossoms in DC)

tree in arlington va
Cherry Blossoms in Northern VA – image by Y. Prior – 3/30/2012

My nephew lives in Arlington, VA – and we took this “looking up” photo while visiting him in 2012cherry blossoms at nephews – he took us all to a nice lunch that day and when I saw this photo today – I felt, well, –  “happy” (hate that word – but that is what I felt…)

I also love having old photos scroll on my screen saver for this very reason – to see random pictures and then remember when….

I also thought it was perfect for the Look up, Look down, challenge” from Travel with intent -(week 22)

Oh, and a bit of FYI – did you know that the D.C. area has a Cherry Blossom Festival each spring? – and you can see the area via WEBCAM  – so beautiful!!

Here is the info from the Gov website:

A Gift of Beauty and Friendship:

The beautiful and delicate cherry blossoms cultivated in the National Mall and Memorial Parks have inspired generations of viewers since 1912. A gift from Japan, the flowering trees symbolize friendship between nations, the renewal of spring, and the ephemeral nature of life.  Blooming occurs between mid-March and mid-April depending on the species of tree and annual environmental conditions.

Also, one more tidbit to share: We only have ONE of the trees left that the cheap builders put in our initial landscape (the rest have been replaced), but the final one happens to be a flowering Cherry (like the ones in D.C.), but sadly this one has problems and may not be savable – but we have been trying….

bad tree from builders
April Cherry blossoms… at night (such a pretty mess….)

Not all Scrooges are depicted equally…

practicing for christmas carol

The “auto-format” feature is helpful, but sometimes it is so annoying because it changes words so quickly! My husband and I were laughing about the “messed up” texts (from auto-format) we sent this weekend.  His friend asked him what he was wearing on stage, and he meant to type, “I am wearing a dorky t-shirt and so is Chad,” but it came out, I am wearing a dorky teacher and so is Jack!     And yesterday, I shared that song link, but instead of it reading “my boys rocked it today” – it came out as, “my body rocked it today”  ha ha.

Well this was fun, but there are other times when mixing things up is not so funny – because it is misleading and maybe even wrong.


For example, my boys were in the play  A Christmas Carol  this past weekend.

Here is the abridged video:

The director changed some of the words in the script.   I tried to speak up about it (twice) because come on now – why do we even need to change Dickens words???  Especially Scrooge’s most classic line, “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”  Well this was altered to say, “If they would rather die, they may as well do it because we have enough of these wretched creatures, anyhow.”     (Cringe)   Now the funny part is that my son knows some of the original lines and he had to go out of his way to memorize the incorrect ones.   But he took it in stride and that helped me to chill as well.

Well – the play turned out VERY well – Even with a few of those changed lines, the overall outcome was a BIG success for many reasons – and one of those reasons is because the director still kept Dickens message nice and pure, which is that of Scrooge’s transformation from greedy and withdrawn to becoming empathetic and involved.  This classic story was written as a way to RAISE AWARENESS about needs and how sharing resources makes the world better and people better!  We are richer when we invest in others and A Christmas Carol is a story that is used as a wake-up call to how the “haves” can and should help the “have-nots.”

practice 2

A few days ago, I was reading a famous author’s blog, and he actually summed up A Christmas Carol incorrectlyThis well-meaning author was actually describing Scrooge, the musical (1970 film) and/or Scrooge the Musical, which ARE NOT the same as A Christmas Carol!  They have different messages woven into the story – and while I do not have the time to give my entire critique about these altered musical renditions, there are two notable differences I want to point out because they involve possibly enjoying Christmas a bit more.

First, at the end of the musical adaptation, Scrooge goes around buying presents and taking on a Santa Clause role.  Now you may think me scrooge-like to complain about this, but this is materialistic giving, and it is NOT the giving that Dickens had in his story.  Instead, the original story addresses giving that is more heartfelt and specific – like it was an employer righting a wrong – and maybe correcting exploitation.  In contrast, the musical versions associate and PROMOTE grandiose giving with Santa!  Really??  A make-believe dude that some later say they lied about (very unethical).  And this giving usually involves all these store bought gifts, which usually has a tone of excess or commercialization – you know, the store buying consumer type of thing.  And so without realizing it – all the folks that sit there and watch these changed musical version endings, well they are being exposed to this SUGGESTED way of giving – because they have it modeled that “change for excellence” involves this type of giving.  YUK!!! This kind of power trip, surface type of giving is what leaves people in the rat race and caught up in materialism!  Yes, gifts are awesome – especially the unique ones that are dear to our heart – so believe me, I agree with that!  But the corrupted ending in the musicals go against Dickens “giving” message – because Dickens was trying to free people up from feeling oppressed at Christmas – either oppressed with greed, want, or wrongly thinking that STUFF would make them (or others) happy!  But the way the musical has materialism modeled almost sends the oppressive feel to those that think they have to buy things to impress and bless – but the giving of love is more than the giving of stuff – and in the original story, Scrooge does not SHOP for everyone!  Instead, Scrooge provides a meal (a nice hearty goose) for a needy family (who is also an employee who he short-changed for years) – then he gives the GIFT OF HIMSELF to his nephew – and then invests time and gives specific care into tiny Tim.

So when it comes to giving this Christmas – give the gift of yourself – and really be “present” with those in your life right now – and for the ones that are difficult and challenging – ask God for the grace that only He can give – it works – believe me, I know!  Of course give – and buy a few treasured gifts that make it fun, but DO NOT let subtle beliefs layered in materialism rob your joy.   And for our family, we told our boys years ago that we will always try to NOT let Christmas be about stuff, stuff, stuff – we have a limit of gifts we like to give, and sometimes if we have additional items, we intentionally wait to give it in February or March.  This has been a nice formula for balance.

Second, in Scrooge the musical, the writers of this altered version also corrupt Scrooge’s transformation by associating his positive change with drinking the “milk of human kindness.”  And again, this sounds nice – But it is wrong!!  And there we were one day, sitting in a church watching this musical performance with young kids, and then Scrooge starts using a substance to alter his mood and find elation.  Now some may snicker and call this petty or minimize it, but talk to anybody who is fighting for sobriety or listen to those who can share about loss and the many wounds from that lifestyle – and you will see that the little things we have modeled DO MATTER – and they add up! (Check out the ROS blog or bye beer)

scrooge from musical

So sucking down the milk of human kindness??? – Well this Shakespeare borrowed term is not how Dickens depicted Scrooge’s change!  You see, in the original story, Scrooge has a SPIRITUAL transformation – and he does NOT need to drink anything!  His eyes are opened – he gets the epiphany straight and sober.  But in the musical versions, Scrooge is chugging, slurping, even burping in one scene – and getting intoxicated in a drunken way from the big goblet with kindness in it –(sneaky) – which just models substance use for mood – and this is NOT what Dickens intended!

In closing, keep in mind that society’s readily available messages are not always healthy ones – and many of us may find Christmas more taxing than something to enjoy – so keep it simple – give reasonable gifts that mean something – and do not forget to give the gift of relationship (but draw needed boundaries too)!    Gifts do not have to be bigger and better to show true love for someone – and remember the gift of God’s Son and what that did in the spiritual realm (it broke up strongholds and we have an advocate).

Be purposeful about what you do and don’t do!  Oh, and Merry Christmas from me to you!


Edited update (January – 2014) – A week after posting this, the RZIM daily email arrived with an article from one of my very favorite writers, Jill Carattini, and it was about Dickens’ Scrooge!!  She also superbly noted “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – which is one of the songs the my boys recorded last week too.  The timing was spooky cool – and I had to share it here: 


GOD REST YE MERRY  by Jill Carattini

Encounters with frigid temperatures and wintry blends of snow and sleet frequent weather reports for many this time of year. Years lived in the pungent cold of Michigan allows me to relate with a shudder, albeit now from a warmer, southern place. But the worst descriptions of the searching, biting cold bring to mind a less personal memory.

“Foggier yet, and colder!” writes Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. “Piercing, searching, biting cold.” The narration continues:

“If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of—

‘God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”(1)

The irony within this icy picture is not missed on Dickens’s careful detail. In the piercing, wearying cold stands the cheerful caroler while warm and sheltered sits the cold, cantankerous Scrooge.

The contrasting souls Dickens paints in this scene strike with an idea ripe for the reflections of Christmas and a coming new year, particularly for those who enter with greater apprehension than hope. Life often presents the mystery of this caroler. Somehow some of the warmest hearts belong to lives that have been surrounded by the darkest and coldest days. The words of the caroler and the familiar lines of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen amplify the contrast of bleak and merry men:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy

Though I thought it for many years, no thanks to Dickens, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is not an address to “merry gentlemen.” It is not because Scrooge was grumpy that the words of the carol are unbefitting. The word “merry” has in fact come to mean something quite different than it did for the first hearers of this hymn. Where it now connotes jollity, it once meant “mighty” or “strong.” Similarly, the word “rest” signified not sleep or relaxation, but the more wholistic notion of being kept or made well. Thus, in more contemporary English, we might most soundly pronounce the title of this carol in the manner of a prayer: “God make you mighty.” What specifically makes us mighty is relayed in the story the song retells:

From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.

The most cynical responses to the Christmas story—the story of God’s Son born by name—often come from the most comfortable places. Yet for those living in cold and harsh realities, remembering that Christ the Savior was born to save the lost is often much more than a thought that warms them. It is far more like the sun that provides the very capacity for life. Mary’s song, as it is recorded in Luke, could hardly have been sung without the reality of hard times ahead; being pregnant without a husband as a woman in first century Palestine bore the stigma of adultery and the punishment of death. Yet Mary sang because the angel gave her a mighty, terrifying, expectant story to sing about: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High… And his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).

The “comfort and joy” promised by the angel and proclaimed in this song is not an outburst of seasonal cheer or a call to passive contentment. Comfort, in the Christian story, comes from the mighty encounter of knowing hope by name, and joy the startling wonder of finding that hope has drawn near. Whether seized in the midst of warmth or darkness, God has made us mighty in the giving of Christ to a bleak world.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.


Windows and Contentment? (famous window paintings)

Yesterday, a reader shared that one of his favorite paintings is The Window, by Matisse:

The Window, Henri Matisse, 1916

This led to my looking at 2 other Matisse window paintings (below), which then reminded me of my favorite window painting, Marc Chagall’s Paris Through the Window, which then reminded me about the inspirational talk we had last December in the art room.  The discussion started on  break in between classes while a few students were looking at the floating images within this asymmetrical piece. The students already knew the basics about Paris Through the Window, and so I just began sharing some of the few tidbits I knew about Chagall’s Russian Jewish background, like how this painting was made after he was living in Paris for three years, and how he probably missed certain parts of being home as this picture depicts his new life in Paris alongside of images of his former village life.

Paris Through the Window, Chagall, 1913. A Cubist style cityscape with Fauvist color and a surreal feel.

Scholars agree that Chagall liked his time in Paris, especially because he said, “Paris is the color of freedom, the sun and the joy of living.” In the painting, notice the shine on the Eiffel Tower and the yellow, smiling face, which hints at joy with this newness. Now look at the more serious blue face, which is also accompanied by a blue hand with a heart right in the palm, which may be reflecting the heartfelt and embraced love that will always anchor him to his boyhood home.  This painting could have allowed Chagall to cope with his transplant status by helping him  to acknowledge – and then file – his feelings as he compared different places.

Our talk in the art room that day also reminded me about Mary Engelbreit’s Bloom where you’re planted piece (below)- and how the apostle Paul noted that he learned how to be content. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”   Anyone can be happy when things are going super great, but it takes maturity and the grace of God to learn how to be content no matter where you are at.  bloomwhere planted

Broken Windows

Broken windows is actually an old city revitalization theory that came out of the 1970’s in New Jersey, which addressed issues of urban decay.  The theory was used to posit that small disorders will lead to bigger disorders, which can then lead to more crime.  This theory is what Guiliani used to help clean up NYC in the 1990’s – and by not overlooking broken windows, graffiti, and small signs of breakdown, the city improved.   SIMILARLY, in our lives, small, untended areas can lead to sloppy habits, which can then lead to more and more decay.               In the counseling world, people are asked to take a serious look at any “untended” behaviors that may be clogging success.        You may want to do that now, because many times the situation is NOT the problem, it is our VIEW of life that keeps tripping us.  Sometimes it is unbridled “demandingness” – or expectations that are clashing with reality, or just selfishness.  Now sure, sometimes a change is in order and relief may be needed and at that point we may need to feel and embrace that too – But quite often, the change needed is a personal one and it takes self-awareness to grow and find contentment!

Johari Window 

The Johari Window (1955) in psychology is actually a little grid that helps people RAISE SELF-AWARENESS!  The window has four sections that categorize different areas of self: Public, Private, Blind, and Undiscovered.


Taking the time to explore your window can be a powerful activity that helps you raise personal awareness (about who you are and how you come across to others). This is important because when you know more about your God created wiring, it can help you examine current and past responses to life.  Better self-awareness can give you more of a feel for “why you do what you do” and highlight any behaviors you just can’t see!   Sometimes people experience a lot of relief when they see the bigger picture of who they are – and they become more content-  and get more solution focused – when they see things and when they understand how personality interplays with life.

In closing, if the coming holidays are a big drag to you – I would like to challenge you to find a way to do the holidays with a bit more joy!  I know for our family, it took some exhausting (and expensive) traveling nightmares to finally say that we just would  NOT travel over the holidays any more!   Drawing this boundary was a turning point for us, which then freed us up to make new traditions and to define what the Holidays meant to us!  So do that now, be intentional and purposeful about finding contentment, because life is too short to not find general contentment.

Other Window paintings by Matisse

The Blue Window, Matisse, 1913
The Open Window, Matisse, 1905

TEACHING TIPS (from Paris Through the Window)

~ Students will want to examine that this is an asymmetrical piece. Chagall also uses vivid color, depth, line, and shapes to develop unity.  Have them note triangles in the Eiffel Tower, parachute and the shape the sky and in windowpanes – and note rectangles in the sky, window, each windowpane, train and buildings.

~ Hang up works of art that you study – or have copies around for quick reference, because it can lead to some enriching reflection.  For example, because I kept a copy of this painting hanging up on the wall (where masterpieces used to go after lessons) this availability is what led to our special talk that December day.

~ Chagall’s paintings often have surreal objects and mini stories going on in different sections, and sometimes it is nice to just let students hypothesize and guess as they observe different works.  interactive Paris through the WindowAlso, be sure to have students use the “elements of art” to do some easy art criticism.

~ Do not think that students are ever too young to talk about feelings and coping – always make sure it is age appropriate, but elementary students can grasp what it is like to ache, and can learn from talking about adapting to moving around, missing a place, or to have to deal with feelings of contentment and being in the now.

~ Remember, even if we like where we are, sometimes it is okay to still miss places we have been or lived! And maybe writing about feelings, or painting a reflective piece, it can be an activity that leads to more contentment in the now.