Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Meditation upon an Acorn Squash

bright orange blush
on earthy green squash
 light in darkness


Photos: Acorn squash (Getty Images)


Friday, December 30, 2016

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

He actually did far better than I expected with his acceptance speech. It was beautifully humble, wonderfully literary, and skillfully brief. Bob Dylan was not on hand to receive his Noble Prize for Literature in person, but he wrote his acceptance speech which was delivered by the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji. The speech was given at the Nobel Banquet on December 10, 2016.

In addition to sending his acceptance speech, Dylan sent Patti Smith to perform on his behalf. The song she sang was an emotional rendition of an early Dylan song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." It was first recorded in 1963 on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (his second studio album). Dylan skillfully adapted the 17th century English ballad style to create a timeless classic.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Till We Have Faces" An Artist's View

This fall, from October 14 to December 12, my daughter Elaine had a solo art show at The Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama. The theme of her show was taken from C.S. Lewis' remarkable book, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. Elaine stated that if you know the book, you will get the art. Like any true artist, that is all the explanation we will get from her. It gives us a framework while allowing for our own intuitions/interpretations/gut responses.

If you know Lewis' book, you know that it is unlike anything else he wrote, and it touches depths of perception and lived experience that one may go through life without fully knowing. Lewis takes the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche and demonstrates to us in story how we can think we see the world as it is, only to have it upended and new insights revealed (if we are lucky). Do we understand what we see? Do we know another's motives? Do we know our own motives? How do the shadows play in our lives? What is true and enduring in our lives and relationships?

If you have not read Till We Have Faces, put it on your "must read" list. For a quick insight into what C.S. Lewis was getting at in the novel, read his poem, "As the Ruin Falls."

Till We Have Faces

Resident Artist at Ground Floor Contemporary, ASFA alumna, and Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate, Elaine Kinnaird presents 
textural interpretations and expressions in her exhibition, 
"Till We Have Faces."

Some Gallery Shots

Individual Exhibits

Ghost Net"

Detail from "Ghost Net"


"Empty Space"

Detail from "Empty Space"

"Do We Touch?"

Detail from "Do We Touch?"

"Shadow Painting"

"Veil Triptych"

Detail from "Veil Triptych"
Detail from "Veil Triptych"

"Memory Bundle"

"Time Bundle"

The artist posing inside "Empty Space"

For more detailed information from this exhibit and for other works and exhibits by Elaine Kinnaird, visit her website at


Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Music: O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion

By the liturgical calendar, Christmastide began with the Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and will continue until Epiphany (January 6). In other words, although Christmas Day was yesterday, it is still Christmas, which means we have a little more time for Christmas music.

My friend, Mark Biddle, has been sharing "12 Days of Christmas" musical selections from his talented family on his blog, Mostly on the Bible (he's a seminary prof). I wanted to share this lovely performance by his daughter, Ellen Broen, singing "O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" (from Handel's Messiah). Check out his blog site, though, not only for the Twelve Days of Christmas music, but also for the theological commentary he shares on living our faith values.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas: Of the Father's Love Begotten

"Of the Father's Love Begotten" is a 5th century hymn composed by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius.

From the YouTube notes:
The communion hymn from Midnight Mass 2011, broadcast live from St George's Cathedral Souhwark. The hymn is sung by the Choir of St George's Cathedral, the Cathedral Girls Choir and the congregation. The verse harmonisation is by Sir David Willcocks, the last verse and descant by David Briggs. The Choir is director by Nick Gale with Norman Harper at the organ.

St George's Cathedral, Southwark is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, south London and is the seat of the Archbishop of Southwark.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Winter

quietly the land
with snow-laden trees awaits
the lone bird in flight


Image: The Road in front of Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter, 1867
Artist: Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Public Domain, courtesy of I Require Art


Friday, December 23, 2016

Finding Christmas

I enjoy the Christmas season and when I discovered the liturgical season of Advent as an adult, that sacred time of waiting gave the season even more meaning for me. At the same time, I realize that there are many who have difficulty participating in the festive season. Some have painful memories from the past; some have been hardened by life and cannot make their way back to hope. Others have either lost faith, were nurtured in a different faith, or were raised without a strong faith tradition.

My hope is that everyone can find reason to celebrate the season and that we all can have hope for the days ahead. The following essay is one that was first posted in December of 2010. It was first written and presented at the request of Rev. Karen Matteson, a Unitarian Minister. She wanted me to take part in a Sunday morning service in preparation for Christmas. Many in that Unitarian congregation felt that it was very important to have a big Christmas Eve celebration. Others had a problem with Christmas because they came from different backgrounds, and most had a problem with affirming the divinity of Christ. The minister wanted to have a service to help bring everyone in to the celebration of the season while acknowledging the different places that many were coming from. "Finding Christmas" was my contribution to that service which I was honored to take part in.

   Finding Christmas: A Post-modern Christian Revisits an Ancient Holiday
by Charles Kinnaird

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me 
                                            there lay an invincible summer."
                                                   ~Albert Camus

In the Jesus story, the Gospel writer at one point has the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, asking the question, "What am I to do with Jesus?" It is fascinating to me that from that time until this, most of us in Western Civilization have had to ask that very question and in some way respond to the question. When I was in high school, there were two Broadway musicals, Godspell, and Jesus Christ, Superstar, that represented one way that my generation was responding to the question of what to do with Jesus. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, Handel's Messiah, Zulu Zionism in South Africa, Base Communities in Latin America, and the Jesus Seminar in Santa Rosa, CA, represent a few of the many varied responses to the same question.

In my own journey, I am always re-evaluating and redefining. I took a computer course once where we were working with spreadsheets. I loved the visual effect of having the spreadsheet all laid out, then typing in another number and watching the whole screen change in response to the new data. A living philosophy has to be that way. When we are confronted with new information or new experiences, our perspective will change in some way. There may even be a shift in our world view.

The Risk of Incarnation

A few years ago, I was attending a Eucharistic service at an Episcopal Church (some traditions refer to it as Mass, or Holy Communion). It was at a time when I was re-assessing what the Christian myth meant to me, given my world view. It occurred to me that however the person of Jesus fits (or does not fit) into one's theology, the Jesus Story dramatically illustrates the risk of incarnation. It was an emotional moment and I immediately connected with that notion because I knew first-hand the risk of incarnation.

In my work as a registered nurse, I often have to ask patients to sign a consent form for the surgeon to operate. I always ask the patient "Has the doctor explained to you the risks and the benefits of this procedure?" If the patient answers affirmatively, then I know that he or she is ready to sign the consent form. That day during the Eucharist, I knew that as I drank from the cup, I was affirming my own participation in the risk of incarnation. Knowing the beauty of being alive, I was also fully aware of the risk.

Celebrating the Light

Christmas is about light and life. It is a celebration in the middle of winter that the light will come and the darkness will end. It is a celebration of the promise of new life beginning. We call it Christmas, a time when Christians celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus as the incarnation of God and a light to the world.

The celebration existed, however, long before the Christians took it over. Winter Solstice had long been a time to celebrate the dawn on the darkness of winter. It was a time to extol the evergreen that proclaimed the promise of life in the dead of winter.

Christmas for us can be a time to celebrate the joy and beauty of incarnation as we know it. If we have lived long enough, we understand the risk, but we also know from our collective experience that the darkness will end. We sense the persistent hope of new life. We know that life on this planet is worth the risk. We can use the Christmas season to acknowledge our own participation in the incarnation of Life.

Our light has come.
Our day has dawned.
We can joyfully celebrate
Life is up to something,
    and we are included!
Life is full of surprises,
    and we are a part of it!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Artsongs: Small Cowper Madonna (Raphael)


Mother of God, Mother of Earth

How bright the world he came into –
No darkened plain of woe.
Her grace of form and steadfast love
Transformed the path of God.

The skies are clear, the hills are green
And all the world is calm,
For in this moment one can see
The realm of the divine.

Still, kings and princes in their haste
To bring the Kingdom in,
Led massive armies take the field
To guard their bleak frontier.

If only we could rest within
The dawn of all our joy;
To see the grace of God anew
In every earthly form.

God’s kingdom, scattered all across
The earth, is near at hand.
Made clear in mother’s living form,
It breathes from age to age.

                                                ~ CK

Image: Small Cowper Madonna at the National Gallery of Art
Artist: Raphael
Medium: Oil on Panel

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Music: Forgiveness (Santana)

"Forgiveness" is from Santana's new album, Santana IV.  The entire CD is a vibrant musical feast. Carlos Santana has been making music since the 1960s, and this new endeavor is has so many beautiful refections, from the slow evocative "Suenos" to the lively "Echizos." With such songs as "All on Board," and "Come As You Are," you might imagine that this is one inviting experience.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent: Alma Redemptoris Mater

"Alma Redemptoris Mater" is a Marian hymn traditionally sung during Advent. The earliest version is in Gregorian chant and is mentioned in The Prioress's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This version was composed by 16th century church musician Giovanni Palestrina and is performed by the Monteverdi Choir, King's College Cambridge. the recording comes from the album Once As I Remember -John Elliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir. Scroll down to read the lyrics in Latin and in English.

Original Latin:

Alma Redemptóris Mater, quæ pérvia cæli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succúrre cadénti,
Súrgere qui curat pópulo: tu quæ genuísti,
Natúra miránte, tuum sanctum Genitórem
Virgo prius ac postérius, Gabriélis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatórum miserére.

English translation:

Mother of Christ! Hear thou thy people's cry,
Star of the deep, and portal of the sky!
Mother of Him Who thee from nothing made,
Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid;
Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday Haiku: At the Wheat Field's Edge

at the wheat field’s edge
where human industry fades 
poppy’s bloom delights

Image: Edge of a Wheatfield with Poppies (1887)
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Medium: Oil on canvas
Private collection, found at Wikiart


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Return of Boris and Natasha

Earlier this week I posted this little innovation that I cooked up on my satire blog, The Vidalia Onion:


"Our plan is vorking, Natasha. Soon ve tell Meester Trump, 
time to kill moose and squirrel -- or ve release his tax returns 
vitch ve got from WikiLeaks."


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Artsongs: Two Harlequins (Picasso)

Nimble Harlequins

Where do they stand – these acrobats
     who bring the crowd delight?
Is it on stage with full applause,
     or waiting in the wings?

Perhaps they’re in a circus tent
     awaiting the next cue;
Or simply watching, biding time
     amidst the revelry.

The young one seems irresolute –
     his gaze is turned aside.
The older now is in his prime,
     and stands assuringly.

Their bodies are their livelihood –
     with movement they convey
The follies of the noble class
     while prancing on the stage.

They take us from our mundane world
     more quickly than a song;
And lighter than a butterfly
     they dance us into joy.

But for a moment they appear
     so nimble in their form.
And turning, all our cares are gone
     as they take center stage.

Now standing still, they take it in;
     they understand their role.
And we, still watching, find our place
     within the world anew.

                                                ~ CK


Image: "Two Harlequins" at the Stephen C. Clark Collection, New York, NY
Artist: Pablo Picasso
Medium: Pastel on cardboard

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Mountain Path

a blanket of mist
covers the distant mountains
  the path remains clear

Photo: The Great Smokey Mountains
Credit: Jeff Harville at Beautiful Places of the South


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Artsongs: St. Martin and the Beggar (El Greco)

Martin of Tours

The soldier traveled on his way
Along a lonely road.
The finest horse at his command,
His destiny was sure.

But then a beggar passed his way
And time was bent askew.
Compassion pulled and stretched the forms
Of man and beast that day.

His side sword meant for cleaving foes
Became a tailor’s knife
So he could half his very cloak
To clothe the naked man.

And there unfolded all the world
With beggar clothed and warm.
The Lord of all creation spoke
Of Martin’s loving act.

The sadness of his countenance
Reveals a new insight
That knows we all share poverty
And thus must share our gain.

The beggar did not make the saint
But helped the soldier see
That his compassion for the poor
Would welcome life anew.

Awakening the saint within
The Roman soldier’s heart,
The path was set for Europe’s best
And all would speak his name.

                                                          ~ CK


Image: St. Martin and the Beggar at the National Gallery of Art
Artist: El Greco
Medium: Oil on canvas

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Music: Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) first appeared on the 1979 album Street Legal. Here is powerful version by Willie Nelson and Calexa from the soundtrack for the movie, I'm Not There. The song is full of symbolism that might take a classroom to unpack. It opens with the question, "do you know where we’re headin’? Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?" which is likely a reference to the Lincoln County War. For a fuller discussion of the symbolism of the song, check out Christopher Rollason's Bob Dylan's "Señor": a wasteland with no easy answers.

Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
By Bob Dylan

 Señor, señor, do you know where we’re headin’?
 Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
 Seems like I been down this way before
 Is there any truth in that, señor?

 Señor, señor, do you know where she is hidin’?
 How long are we gonna be ridin’?
 How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door?
 Will there be any comfort there, señor?

 There’s a wicked wind still blowin’ on that upper deck
 There’s an iron cross still hangin' down from around her neck
 There’s a marchin’ band still playin’ in that vacant lot
 Where she held me in her arms one time and said, “Forget me not”

 Señor, señor, I can see that painted wagon
 I can smell the tail of the dragon
 Can’t stand the suspense anymore
 Can you tell me who to contact here, señor?

 Well, the last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled
 Was that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field
 A gypsy with a broken flag and a flashing ring
 Said, “Son, this ain’t a dream no more, it’s the real thing”

 Señor, señor, you know their hearts is as hard as leather
 Well, give me a minute, let me get it together
 I just gotta pick myself up off the floor
 I’m ready when you are, señor

 Señor, señor, let’s disconnect these cables
 Overturn these tables
 This place don’t make sense to me no more
 Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, señor?

Copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent: Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming

For the second Sunday of Advent, a rendition of "Lo How a Rose E're Blooming," by the Samford A Cappella Choir at my alma mater, Samford University.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Haiku: December


a light morning frost
casts a December stillness
as fields lie fallow


Photo: "A misty and frosty scene near Dursley in Gloucestershire on December 12"
Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire (from Weather Cast Monthly Weather Review)


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Artsongs: The Harvesters (Bruegel)

Daily Bread

The word goes out to harvesters
From fields head-high with grain.
With scythe in hand they lay the stalks
In neatly ordered rows.

The birds are flushed out from the fields
As workers cut and reap.
The children play upon the green
As boats come to the shore.

The town embraces everyone
From beggar man to prince.
The city thrives upon those fields
Where crops are gathered in.

Some workers stop and find a place
To take their midday meal.
Their strength renewed, they carry on
So all may be sustained.

For no endeavor in the world
Will ever be fulfilled
Without the skills of laborers
Who bring our daily bread.

                                                ~ CK



Image: The Harvesters (1565) at the New York Metropolitan Museum
Artist: Pieter Bruegel
Medium: Oil on wood

[To see a very nice 5 minute video presentation from THE MET about this painting, go to]

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Music: You Are Too Beautiful - Johnny Hartman with John Coltrane

Johnny Hartman was the smoothest of smooth jazz,  a classic crooner, The Last Balladeer. He should have been better known since his talent was superb. Here he joins John Coltrane's quartet in this 1963 studio recording.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

For the first Sunday of Advent, the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sings the Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Mountain Rains

in mountain valleys
the rains carry memories
of so many lives


Photo: A Glen Gary Stag by Gordie Broon (Getty Images)


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Throwback Thursday

"We Are the World"

United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa was an unprecedented effort at the time. To raise relief funds for drought-stricken Africa, recording artists gathered in 1985 following the Grammy Awards to record this song by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. Quincy Jones directed and produced the recording. One of the singers (I can't recall which one) said that Quincy Jones asked all of the artists to check their egos at the door, and they produced a truly inspiring recording! It is good to be reminded that beauty, harmony, and goodwill can sometimes prevail.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Artsongs: The Flower Carrier (Diego Rivera)

Purchasing Joy

Our joy is never quite so close
As when the flowers bloom.
The sight, the colors in the field
Make even cold hearts glad.

The fragrance bids a memory
To open long-shut doors;
It calls forth laughter, dance, and song
And weaves the days anew.

Yet we can only briefly know  
The joy of fragrant flower.
It lingers softly in the air
Then turns in darkened flight.

Seek now the vendor on the street
Bowed down by beauty’s care,
And he can sell you fresh-cut joy
To bring into your home.

He offers busy city folk
Such beauty nature brings.
His hope is but for sustenance
To fill his meager days.

Perhaps a flower will remain
When workday is complete.
Will it suffice to bring him joy?
Or give his lady peace?

                                      ~ CK


Image: The Flower Carrier (1935) San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Artist: Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
Medium: Oil and tempera on masonite

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Music: I Don't Worry about a Thing (Mose Allison)

We lost another music legend last week with the passing of jazz pianist Mose Allison. “People are always trying to categorize me as blues or jazz or folk,” he once told the LA Times. “Some say I'm a jazz pianist that sings the blues.”

This piece captures the style of the iconic blues artist and songwriter. His trademark was an ironic turn of phrase as in “I don't worry about a thing 'cause I know nothin's goin' to be alright.” and in the song, Everybody's Cryin' Mercy: “Everybody's crying peace on earth, just as soon as we win this war.”


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Haiku: Sleeping Dragons

in mountain forests
a slow breathing fog reveals
dragons as they sleep


Photo by Monica Volpin

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