Wednesday, November 16, 2016

REMBRANDT synopsis

A world-famous painter reveals his methods and encourages artists to paint with truth and light and to value each individual with all their strengths and weaknesses.

Rembrandt, the preeminent Baroque Dutch painter, meets his students. As an artist, the painter understands the human condition and represents it in his work. Several critiques deemed Rembrandt a prophet of civilization for his genuine art. He painted with common grace for every human. Before Rembrandt leaves, he asks to paint his students’ portraits. He says every life matters and each person’s face is part of a larger design, capturing heaven on Earth.

Dutch painter Rembrandt introduces himself to his students, saying he wants to teach them everything he knows. As an artist, he understands the human condition which puts him in a unique position to represent it in his work. Rembrandt’s portraits are painted with truth and light, never minimizing a person’s strong points or flaws. When Rembrandt paints himself he shows all his bumps, lumps, imperfections, wrinkles, sags, and bags. Not only does Rembrandt show people’s humanness in his portraits, but he also focuses on the eyes of the subject because confronting the viewer in a portrait causes a stronger association with the onlooker.

His self-portraits over time are a visual diary and he picks costumes with flair, comparing his moods and expressions. He also created etchings and drawings. After the financial success in his early years, Rembrandt says he might have been too self-assured. Although many people romanticize his life, he says he suffered heartbreak when he lost his wife and had severe financial trouble in his later years. However, he still painted with common grace for every human.

Rembrandt says historians categorize him in the Golden Age when Baroque style was popular. Along with self-portraits, he tried to make his contemporaries look good in paint. Some of his works include: “Man in the Golden Helmet,” “The Music Party,” “Girl at a Window,” and “Old Man with a Gold Chain.” “The Night Watch” might be his most famous painting. In “The Artist in His Studio” Rembrandt is seen alone, much like how he created. Before Rembrandt leaves, he asks to paint his students’ portraits. He says every life matters, so smile, or have a private thought, but pose for his painting, please. Each person’s image is part of a bigger composition, on Earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Heavenly Toy Soldier: The Story of a Peaceful Christmas

“Merry Christmas! I’m keeping the peace,” the Heavenly Toy Soldier said, standing in the doorway of the most famous toy store in New York City, the Toymaker’s Shop. As the children pulled at his wool coat and toy gun, he yawned. “I do such a good job that nothing dangerous ever happens in this store,” he said, as the customers poured in from Fifth Avenue.
The Toymaker’s Shop three-story building had shelves of every kind of toy imaginable—stuffed bears and animals, dolls, dollhouses, model trains, blocks, musical instruments, kitchen play sets, blackboards, jungle gyms, swing sets, kaleidoscopes, tree houses, painting easels, puzzles, board games, picture books, sports equipment, skates, and toy cars.
With advanced technology, some of the toys were quite pricey, not your average mom-and-pop shop, like the real-life fire engine that sat in the store’s entrance, which had a long hose connected to a hydrant in the store. A large yellow school bus stood next to it in the display. They might have seemed too big to be toys, but they were in fact only made for fun.
“That will be $15,000,” the cashier said to the man in line with his two children, holding a mini gas-powered car.
“That’s the Christmas spirit of giving!” the store manager said, shaking the hand of the father in line with his children.
Then, he walked over to the Heavenly Toy Soldier and stood in front of him with a sigh, shaking his head.
“We’re letting you go,” Mr. Cartwright said to the solider. “This is a toy shop. It’s full of kids. No one ever steals anything. You’ve been standing here for years, and I’ve been paying you out of my pocket, and it’s a waste of money. You’ll have two weeks of severance pay, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find another job. Your last night will be Christmas Eve.”
As the Heavenly Toy Soldier fought back a tear, he found the courage to say, “Yes, sir. I understand.”
Then, he looked across the store full of strangers he was protecting. It was a cold day in the city, and many of the customers would leave with hundreds of dollars of toys. At least he could still defend them until Christmas.
For the next two weeks, he was extra conscientious of everyone’s needs in the store, not letting one child go unattended.  
“Maybe I don’t do much,” he said, as his last days in the store passed by. “I’ve never once even used my gun. Of course, it only shoots toy pellets, but the pellets would hurt if I shot them and would give enough time for the police to come.”
As the Heavenly Toy Soldier pondered his current situation, he noticed that a little girl dropped her baby doll as the store door closed behind her. The Soldier ran into the street, stopping traffic to the give the girl her doll. In one of her hands, she held a cup of banana nut pudding. Being that it was too much to hold, she must have dropped her new toy doll.
“Thank you so much,” the girl’s father said, taking the baby doll and shoving it under his arm, while holding other bags filled with Christmas packages. “Oh, and I heard that Christmas Eve will be your last day at the shop. We’ll miss you!”
“I appreciate your kind words, sir,” the Heavenly Toy Soldier said. “I’m grateful to have served you for the time I did.”
While the Solider walked back into the shop, he was unaware of the listening ears that had heard of his departure.
Two of the worst hoodlums in the neighborhood happened to be crossing the street at the moment of the conversation.
“Did you hear that, Bubba Joe? The Heavenly Toy Soldier at the Toymaker’s Shop got the axe,” said Brother Jim.
“Maybe we should just drop by on Christmas Eve after hours and do some shopping!” Bubba Joe said, scratching his chin.
“Too bad that he’s not already fired,” Brother Jim said. “We could really ruin Christmas for a bunch of bratty kids!”
“Well, this way we can ruin Christmas, Easter, and everybody’s birthday for years to come,” Bubba Joe said. “Why don’t we set the place on fire to teach everybody a lesson! It’ll definitely ruin Christmas and shut the place down for good.”
When Christmas Eve arrived, the Heavenly Toy Soldier felt sadder than he let the customers know.
“I’m sure I’ll find another job,” the Soldier said to the families, many of them shaking his hand on the way out the door.
However, the Soldier knew that his chances of finding another job anywhere were slim to none. If he did find another job, it would not give him the respect in the community that working at the Toymaker’s Shop had provided. Even still, he kept his chin up, trying to be thankful for the opportunities that he had for years in the heart of New York City. At least he didn’t have a wife and children to support. He was mostly alone in the world, sacrificing his life for others.
“This is your Christmas bonus,” Mr. Cartwright said, giving the Heavenly Toy Soldier a golden medal for his heroic efforts. “I know today is your last day, but I wanted to give you something special. Have a Happy New Year!”
“Again, thank you, sir!” the Soldier said. As Mr. Cartwright walked away, he choked up, almost wanting to leave just then.
“Since I’m the last one in the store, I’m just going to spend the night,” he said to himself. “Then, I’ll leave in the morning, when no one sees me. At least, I can spend one final night alone in the Toymaker’s Shop, thinking of the good times.”
While the last customers piled out of the shop on Christmas Eve, including Mr. Cartwright, the Heavenly Toy Soldier bided his time, shuffling toys back to their shelves. Then, he locked the front door behind everyone, sat down in Santa Claus’ armchair, and cried while watching the lights on the store Christmas tree flicker in the darkness.
Before the Heavenly Toy Soldier had a chance to get a tissue, someone threw a rock through the front store window.
“Ouch! What in the world?” the Soldier said, as the rock hit his leg. He stood up, grabbing his toy gun and sounding the store alarm. Then, Bubba Joe and Big Jim jumped through the broken window, with giant, flaming torches.
“Stop right there!” the Heavenly Toy Soldier said, aiming his gun. “I’m here to keep the peace. You’re disturbing it.”
“Are we? Gee! We didn’t know we were disturbing anything,” Bubba Joe said to Big Jim, waving his torch.
“We were just going to light the place on fire for Christmas Eve,” Big Jim said, laughing like a snorting pig.
“Not on my watch,” said the Soldier, firing his pellet gun. Then, he grabbed a water gun from the nearest shelf, filling it from the hose on the store fire engine, and doused the torches before Bubba Joe and Big Jim could burn anything.
With that, the New York City Police Department arrived and arrested Bubba Joe and Big Jim, who definitely had a memorable Christmas behind bars. A squad of police cars with loud sirens and K9 police dogs lined the streets.
By morning, the Heavenly Toy Soldier was the Christmas hero of the nation, the defender of Fifth Avenue in New York City. Of course, he kept his job for years to come, keeping the peace for adults and children everywhere.

Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Christmas Frost King: The Story of the Nasty North Wind in Winter

“The Polar Forest is so beautiful,” the Nasty North Wind said to the Christmas Frost King in a fierce argument.
The Nasty North Wind blew against the Christmas Frost King’s Ice Palace in the tundra of the Arctic.
He had been blowing so hard against the Palace that many in the King’s household thought it would soon topple.
“With one little icy breeze, your forest will never again serve you,” the Nasty North Wind said. “Let me test them!”
“Fine, you may test the trees of the Polar Forest to see who is full of love and compassion,” the Frost King said.
“None of the trees will care about the animals of the forest,” the Nasty North Wind said, ridiculing the King.
“You have my permission to test the trees, but not to kill them, and only for the winter season,” the King said.
“If the trees of the Polar Forest love my animals, then they will also love me,” the King continued. “And I know they do.”
“I know you believe that your forest is good, but none of your trees are truly pure in heart,” the North Wind cackled.
“The Spruce Tree, the Pine Tree, and the Little Juniper Tree will stand tall against your wind,” the Frost King said, slamming his ice scepter again the palace wall, sending rays of light into the North Wind, causing him to shrink.
“Do not mock me,” the Frost King said, sitting on his throne. “I know my forest is fallen, but it still loves me.
Be gone, and do not return until the test is complete. I already told you that I know which trees are upright. If I’m wrong, then you can have my throne. If you’re wrong, then you’ll be banished into the Antarctic never to return to the North.”
“We shall see who is right and upright,” the Nasty North Wind said. “And we shall see who is crooked and deceptive.”
The Nasty North Wind set out through the Polar Forest, sending the worst storms in years with sleet, rain, snow, and ice.
Tree branches were freezing and snapping off the trees like twigs. Tree hollows were filling with snow and icicles.
Of course, animals like the Gray Wolf and the Brown Grizzly Bear were able to hide in the mountains and caves. 
However, a creature like the Littlest of Little Birds could not even fly fast enough to escape the wind to shelter.
“This is how I will win this battle against the Christmas Frost King,” the Nasty North Wind said through the air.
“No one will even care what happens to the Littlest of Little Birds,” the Wind said, trapping the Bird in a downward spiral.  
At first, the Birch Tree caught the Littlest of Little Birds in his arms, hiding the Bird for a few hours, until the Nasty North Wind laid bare its branches of leaves. With the Wind biting at the branches that held the Little Bird, the Birch Tree let the Bird go back into the winter storm. Within minutes, the Oak Tree took the Little Bird into his arms, but the same thing happened as with the Birch Tree. The Nasty North Wind plucked it branches of leaves and tormented the tree until it released the Littlest of Little Birds back into the freezing storm. By this point, the Little Bird was fearing death.
“I can’t take anymore suffering,” the Bird said. “What did I do to deserve this? Why will no one save me?”
Then, the Willow Tree, which was known to weep openly, grabbed the Bird and hid it until the Nasty Wind blasted its branches so hard that it could not keep the Bird in its shelter any longer. It ushered the Bird back into the forest with tears.
“Where are these grand trees that you mentioned Christmas Frost King?” the North Wind called, almost killing the Bird.
The Little Bird had lost most of its feathers by now, had a hard time flying, and could no longer sing with its sore throat.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a spruce, pine, or little juniper tree,” the North Wind said, almost crushing the Bird.
With that, the Spruce Tree, Pine Tree, and Little Juniper Tree picked their roots from the ground and walked forward through the Polar Forest, past the Birch Tree, Oak Tree, and Willow Tree, and shielded the Littlest of Little Birds.
“I offer my thick branches to protect you, Little Bird,” the Spruce Tree said, putting his roots down and refusing to move.
“I will give my life for the smallest animal in the forest,” the Pine Tree said, standing between the Bird and the Wind.
“My needles will be your nest, and my berries your food, even if I am small,” the Little Juniper Tree said to the Bird.
The Three Evergreen Trees, who are green in every season, spread kindness in the Polar Forest, causing all the other evergreen trees of the Polar Forest to defend every large and small animal throughout the wintertime storms.
Although the Nasty North Wind blasted gales and gusts, which were deathly typhoons, the Evergreens stood tall.
The harder the Wind blew against the Evergreens, the more resolute the Three Trees became to defeat him.
“I lived to see the springtime,” the Little Bird said, singing a song in the sunshine. “I can sing again! Sing a love song!”
When the Nasty North Wind returned to the Christmas Frost King, the Wind could not believe that he had lost the wager.
“For the rest of your days, you will not touch any spruce, pine, or little juniper trees on Earth,” the Christmas Frost King said. “I banish you to the Arctic, except for the winter season. Each fall when the season turns to winter, you may wreak havoc on the other trees, especially the birch, oak, and willow trees. If you must, pluck their leaves and leave them naked. You will, however, never pluck a needle from the Evergreens of the Earth. You will also never attack my palace again. Be gone! Never return to me, foolish, arrogant tempest! I hope you get tired of freezing the world and bring warmth instead.”
“I bow to your greatness, Christmas Frost King,” the Nasty North Wind said, departing for the Southern Hemisphere.
“Find me the Littlest of Little Birds,” the Christmas Frost King said to his servant. “I need her song in my court.”
Just before the Little Bird was about to fly away into the spring sky, the servant found the Bird resting in the Spruce Tree.
“Your presence is requested by the Christmas Frost King,” the servant said, gathering the Little Bird into his arms.
“Thank you, my lord,” the Littlest of Little Birds said, singing a melody which humans called “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
For the rest of her days, the Little Bird sang in the court of the Christmas Frost King, winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters