Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


1 Comment

Joy to the World!

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat”  Who can think of Christmas without the joy of Christmas carols?  Everyone wants joy at Christmas.  Everyone wants to be loved, to be cared for, to be remembered.  There is no lonelier time of the year than Christmas spent alone.  Sometimes we try too hard to be joyful at Christmas.  I usually find that the harder I try to be happy, the more self-obsessed and miserable I become.

‘Joy to the World!’  Why is Christmas often the high holiday for alcoholics and the chemically dependent?  Perhaps because people feel this ‘moral burden’ at Christmas to be joyful at all cost.  Joy for many is like the elusive butterfly that is just out of reach.  They can almost grab it and suddenly it is gone again.  All the Christmas presents, all the eggnog, all the tinsel, and all the Christmas lights just don’t seem to be able to produce that strange phenomenon of joy.

‘Joy to the World!’  Joy is like being tickled.  In the same way that you can’t tickle yourself, you can’t ‘pull up your bootstraps’ and conjure up joy.  Joy can’t be forced, manipulated, controlled, psyched up, or packaged.  Joy is a gift, a free gift, an overwhelming gift from the most generous giver in the Universe.  Joy is the true heart of Christmas because Christmas is both about the joy of giving and the giving of joy.

‘Joy to the World!’  Have you ever noticed how you can’t fake laughter?  Laughter too is a gift, a gift of joy, a gift of freedom.  Can you imagine how sad a Christmas Dinner would be without laughter?  Many of us have such a stern view of Jesus that we can’t imagine him laughing or joyful.  Yet Jesus was at his best when he hung out at parties with some of the most unexpected people.  We forget that Jesus, being Jewish, made use of Jewish humour and hyperbole to shock people into thinking.  Can you imagine how racy Jesus’ story was about the prodigal Jewish son who ended up working for a pig farmer?  And yet he used that now famous story in Luke Chapter 15 to remind us that no matter how messed up we become, we can always come home to the Father’s arms.  That’s the true joy of Christmas.

‘Joy to the World!’  Joy and sorrow are neurologically linked in a way that few of us expect.  How true it is that ‘those who sow with tears shall reap with songs of joy’.  Unless we grieve the losses of life, true joy never comes.  Alcohol and drugs merely postpone our doing the hard grief-work that awaits each of us.  Is it a coincidence that the symbol of drama is the twin masks of Greek comedy and tragedy?  How true it is that ‘weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning’.  The price of really enjoying this Christmas may be paying the price of grieving the loss of our parents in death, our ex-spouse in divorce, or our children in heartbreak.

‘Joy to the World!’  Shakespeare in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ said: ‘frame your mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life’.  The ancient Proverbs said ‘A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’.  More and more scientists are discovering that joy and laughter are scientifically good for you.  Joy and laughter strengthen our immunity systems, reduce our stress levels, and alleviate chronic pain.

‘Joy to the World!’  Isaac Watts back in 1719 wrote the unforgettable Christmas Carol ‘Joy to the World! The Lord is come: Let earth receive our King’.  This Christmas, let joy fill our hearts, let the King fill our lives, let the baby Jesus fill our homes.  This Christmas ‘let every heart prepare him room’.  Joy to you and your families this Christmas!

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


2 Comments

Rembrandt: The Prodigal Painter Returns

By The Rev. Dr. Ed HirdRembrandt1

How do you feel about the world-famous Mr. Van Rijn’s paintings?

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is one of the few men or women in history recognizable from just his first name.  Others are Napoleon, Michaelangelo, and Cleopatra.  Today Rembrandt is known to hundreds of millions of people in all parts of the world.  Many art experts see him as the greatest of all Dutch painters, indeed as one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

By his subtle contrasts of light and dark, Rembrandt caused the people he painted to seem alive.  Theatre people often call Rembrandt the Shakespeare of painting –for his capacity to probe personality, his compassion for each person he depicts, and his feeling for grasping the dramatic moment and displaying it with moving effect.

On July 15, 1606, Rembrandt was born as the rembrandt-sea-galileeninth child of a well-to-do couple in Leiden, Holland.  While in his early 20’s, he developed an overnight celebrity status somewhat akin to the rise of the Beatles.  This brief time of prosperity and  popularity,however, was  followed by much sorrow and  rejection.  Championed as the Netherlands alternative to Peter Paul Ruben in Belgium, Rembrandt became very wealthy and over-extended.  Taking out an enormous mortgage on a beautiful house, he was accused of wasting his inheritance and living an indulgent lifestyle.

Rembrandt responded by painting himself with his wife Saskia, as a Prodigal Son/wealthy playboy with his latest female conquest.  As a young person, Rembrandt had all the attributes of the Prodigal Son: brash, overconfident, spendthrift, hedonistic, and very arrogant.  Money dominated and crippled much of his life.  He earned a lot; he consumed a lot; he wasted a lot.  Sadly, much of his energy and talent was depleted in protracted court cases about financial disputes and bankruptcy affairs.

Rembrandt’s best-known painting, the so-rembrandt_nightwatchcalled Night Watch, was both his greatest success artistically  and his worst failure relationally.  While painting the Night Watch, he made many people angry who would no longer buy his paintings.  The soldiers, who paid to be in the picture, all wanted to be front and centre. Instead of painting a typical group portrait, Rembrandt created a masterpiece where some soldiers were prominent and others were hardly visible.

Around that time, his wealthy heiress wife Saskia, whom he deeply loved and admired, died, leaving Rembrandt to care for his nine-month-old son, Titus.  Rembrandt had already lost his son Rumbartus in 1635, his first daughter Cornelia in 1638, and his second daughter Cornelia in 1640. Ten days before Saskia died, she changed her will so that Rembrandt would never be able to remarry without being disinherited.

After Saskia’s death, things worsened.  Rembrandt became involved in a very unhappy relationship with his housekeeper, Geertje Dircx.  When he refused to marry her, she took Rembrandt to court and won a settlement. In response, Rembrandt and Geertje’s own brother had Geertje confined to an insane asylum for the next five years.

Unable to marry, he then became involved in rembrandt03aanother scandal with his new housekeeper, Hendrickje Stoffels, whose pregnancy scared off even more of his Dutch customers.  His financial problems became so severe that in 1656 Rembrandt was declared insolvent.  All of Rembrandt’s possessions, his large collection of artwork, and his house in Amsterdam were sold in three auctions during 1657 and 1658.  In 1663, Hendrickje, who has been described as ‘one of the noblest souls to serve a troubled genius’, died.  Five years later, Rembrandt’s hopes were again raised and then dashed when he celebrated his son Titus’ wedding, only to see him buried that same year.  Only his daughter Cornelia, his daughter-in-law Magdalene van Loo, and his granddaughter Titia survived him.

Rembrandt became more and more fascinated with painting ‘old age’, as he felt that it often revealed the most about human nature.  Bludgeoned by tragedies that might have crushed a weaker man, Rembrandt achieved a new depth to his art.  Rembrandt was close to his death when he painted his Prodigal Son, seen by many as the last will and testament of a turbulent and troubled life.

In his Prodigal Son painting*, the essence of rembrandt06love was concentrated in the hands.  When the famous author Henri Nouwen saw the Prodigal Son painting in the St Petersburg Hermitage, he was struck  by the sight of  “a man in a great red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of a disheveled boy kneeling before him.  I could not take my eyes away.  I felt drawn by the intimacy between the two figures, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic, and the mysterious light engulfing them both.  But, most of all, it was the hands –the old man’s hands–as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before.  …”  Nouwen realized that Rembrandt must have shed many tears and died many deaths before he could have so exquisitely painted the father’s heart for his lost son.  Rembrandt  had once again painted himself as the Prodigal Son, but this time coming back home to his Father.

Instead of the rich apparel with which the youthful Rembrandt painted himself in younger days, he now wore only a tattered undertunic covering his wasted body.  The Prodigal Son, like Rembrandt, returned to the Father with nothing: his money, his health, his honour, his self-respect, his reputation…everything had been squandered (Luke 15).  Yet the good news of Rembrandt’s painting was that the Father still loved him and welcomed him home unconditionally.

Rembrandt indeed saw himself as the rembrandt_1661Prodigal Painter coming home to the true Father.  Rembrandt knew that he had wandered a long way, but that it was never too late to return home.  My prayer is that many of us may have the courage, like Rembrandt, to turn our hearts towards Home, where love and forgiveness are waiting.

*The Prodigal Son Painting: http://www.artchive.com/rembrandt/prodigal.html

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca