Funny Faces

All of us have visited festivals or theme parks where street artists are sketching faces for money. Most often the drawings aren’t true to the person but are caricatures bearing similarities with exaggerated differences. The artists are quite good and most likely can draw faces accurately, but what makes it fun is producing pictures in which one facial detail is highlighted and drawn larger-than-life.

The artist first studies the face he’ll draw, looking for a dominant feature. Maybe it’s a turned up nose or freckles or heavy eyebrows. Then he creates a picture around that feature. Passers-by enjoy watching the face come to life on paper, chuckling as the artist reveals through charcoal or chalk what facial characteristic he’ll overstate.

The one being drawn nervously awaits the end result, knowing he or she will be paying for something that resembles their reflection in a fun-house mirror.

Margaret's caricatureWhen I was in 7th grade, my family went on vacation, and my face was caricaturized. Although signing up for one of these drawings is risky and the end result often insulting, this artist was kind. I didn’t get a nose and my freckles were pronounced, but “Davo” gave me bright blue eyes and a lovely ponytail.

When Nate was a young lawyer in Chicago’s Loop, an acquaintance was practicing his cartooning and asked if he could draw a caricature of Nate.

Nate's caricatureHe, too, was kind, making Nate look like Robert Redford in an action movie. He gave him the jaw line of Superman and the heavy hair of a Kennedy, and we had the picture framed and hung for many years.

To me, the most interesting part of an artist’s caricature is the moment just before he puts chalk to paper when he’s studying the face in front of him to decide what feature(s) he’ll amplify. It reminds me of how we often see ourselves. We exaggerate certain features in our minds and think other people are judging us as a caricature rather than accepting the real us.

The other side of that is our looking at someone else and judging them unfairly based on one physical feature or even just one facet of their personality. What if the Lord looked at me that way? What if he said, “Margaret, you missed a chance to help your friend today; therefore you’re lazy and self-centered, never lifting a finger to help anyone. That’s how I see you.”

But he doesn’t do that. Instead he sees me through the perfection of Jesus Christ and sets judgment aside because of that.

An artist creating a caricature looks at me with the desire to transform my face with humorous characteristics. God looks with a desire to transform me into a person of improved character. There’s a big difference.

“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:11)

The Spy Club

Everybody loves to belong, because it’s no fun being stuck outside looking in. We belong to families, clubs, student bodies, churches, small groups, neighborhoods and more. Most of us have also been excluded or eliminated from belonging, since rejection comes in all shapes and sizes.

When I was a school girl, I had the same strong desire to belong that every other girl had. Thankfully I found Carol, who turned out to be my best buddy from kindergarten through fifth grade. We were a group of two, and if we felt excluded by the other girls, we had the perfect solution: start our own club.

Margaret and Carol

In the back of my primitive journal from those days, I discovered the founding document of “The Spy Club” started in 1955 when Carol and I were 10. There were 8 important rules:

  • Never back out on any of the members.
  • Must always be ready for duty.
  • Must be brave at all times.
  • When on pleasure trips, must not spy.
  • Never get too close when spying.
  • When spying on one person, never take to another until finished with the first one.
  • Must wear pin at all times, and you will be checked at every meeting and at school.
  • Must be at all meetings unless of a good excuse.

Beneath this list was a description of the initiation process: to go on a brave spying trip.

At the bottom of the legal-sized sheet are the signatures of the club leaders: Margaret Johnson and Carol Miller. (We were also the only club members.) No doubt our finest missions were spent spying on the girls from whom we felt excluded.

All are welcomeThere’s only one club I know of that’s open to any and all people, and that’s God’s Club. The one qualification needed is a sincere desire to submit to him as personal Lord. Anyone willing to do that can join the Club by going through the initiation: repenting of personal sin.

There are no club dues, because one Donor paid them all, and that was Jesus. His death covered the cost of being in the Club for all of us, and once we’re “in”, God will never turn us out. We might choose to quit, but he won’t ever quit on us.

When we join this Club, benefits abound! Every scriptural promise becomes ours, and we can look forward to One-on-one time with our Leader, any time of day or night. Best of all, our Club will never end. Every other club will eventually dissolve just as the Spy Club did, but God’s Club will continue into eternity with the assurance that every member will be included forever.

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’.” (John 11:25-26)

Praising and Praying with Mary

  1. I’m exceedingly thankful my feeding tube feels so much better! The antibiotics are working.
  2. Though my veins are suffering from so many infusions, I’m praising God the medical staff found a good vein on Monday for #12.
  3. I’m thankful next week is my “off” week, allowing my veins to rest.

Happy Birthday, Nate.

Dear Nate…

IMG_1744Today was the 5th year in a row you weren’t here to celebrate your birthday with us, and the 5th year I’ve written you a letter on your special day. All of your children checked in with your wife during the day, and we reminisced about the years we had with you. Your family loves you.

Even as I write that, though, I realize you have a new extended family where you are now, each one a heavenly relative, most you hadn’t even met till you got to heaven. You probably don’t miss us like we miss you, but that’s ok. Someday we’ll all understand, when we’re there, too.

In the mean time, here’s a sampling of comments from a few of your children today. Birgitta said, “When I think of Papa, I feel overwhelmed with thankfulness for the man he was! He will always be missed.”

Linnea said, “Being on vacation right now reminds me of all the fun vacations Papa took us on as kids.”

Nelson commented about the 5 years that have passed since you died. He concluded with this: “Time on earth really is short. It’s challenging to think about how we spend our time and what’s important.”

???????????????????????????????Today I’ve been thinking about the 25 Augusts we spent in the North Woods of Wisconsin, always celebrating our birthdays together there with the family. It struck me that when we started going to Afterglow Lake Resort, we were both 32. When we ended that tradition, we were 57 – having gone from “kids” to middle-age adults as we birthday-partied through those years. Yes, indeed, time is short.

I often wonder if you’re aware of our lives on earth. Do you know your sister-in-law Mary has the same cancer you had? We’re grateful it was caught early and that she did well through radical surgery to remove the tumor.

Now she’s enduring the miseries of chemotherapy, without complaint. Maybe you already knew that. Today, as she was making her way to her 12th infusion, she took time to write a tribute to you. And I thought you’d appreciate it as much as I did. She wrote:

???????????????????????????????I’m thinking of Nate today and all the happy memories we have. Your blog also reminded me of how magnificently he did as he soldiered on through all that God called him to endure, all the way to the end.

He is a good example for me and continues to inspire, even though he’s no longer with us. I often wondered why the Lord facilitated or allowed my being present for much of Nate’s last weeks, and now I know. I needed to see firsthand how a person dies well. Nate did that, and I pray I might do as well when my time comes. He was a good, trustworthy, and faithful man who ran the race marked out for him with grace and perseverance. We miss him.

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Amen to that.

I love you, Nate.

I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)