Red and White Images and a Little Black Book

Mom's Memorandum Book from her teenage years

Mom’s Little Black Book from her teenage years

Yesterday morning, I decided to take out my mom’s little black book – the one where she wrote the Bible verses she memorized, week by week, when she was in high school. I looked up the verse for May 28, 1922. I wondered if she might have chosen a verse to memorize that would relate in some way to “Decoration Day” – what Memorial Day was called back in those days. Nope. Her verse was Isaiah 1:18:

Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.

Scarlet and white. I don’t think she was thinking of “Old Glory” as she was memorizing this verse. However, I noticed that she memorized only part of the verse. I looked up the passage in the King James Bible to see the whole verse.

Come now, and let us reason together,
saith the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow,
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.

Moms Memorandum Book - May 28 1922 croppedBack in 1922, I’m pretty sure my mom was thinking about needing to be a good girl. Her scarlet sins had been forgiven by God, and her heart was now as pure and white as snow. Red and white. That was a colorful image to keep her mind focused on God’s love for her.

In the “Introduction to Isaiah” in The Message, Eugene H. Peterson writes,

For Isaiah, words are watercolors and melodies and chisels to make truth and beauty and goodness. Or, as the case may be, hammers and swords and scalpels to unmake sin and guilt and rebellion. Isaiah does not merely convey information. He creates visions, delivers revelation, arouses belief. He is a poet in the most fundamental sense – a maker, making God present and that presence urgent. Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.

Scarlet sins and white snow. Crimson sins and wool. Isaiah painted colorful word pictures to help us understand God’s transforming love for us.

A more contemporary poet, William Carlos Williams, painted another word picture using the same colors, red and white.

red-wheelbarrow white chickensSo much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white chickens

I first read that poem when I was in college. I liked the simplicity of the poem, and the humble image of a red wheelbarrow and white chickens. It’s a picture I’d seen in the real world – on the farm – many times. This was just the first time I’d seen it described so beautifully. So accurately and economically – just 16 words.

What images come to your mind when you hear the words RED and WHITE?

US FlagSince yesterday was Memorial Day, you may think of the stripes of the “red, white, and blue.” If you had a picnic and dressed up the table with a red and white checkered table cloth, that image may come to mind. If you’re a wine drinker, you may think about the red or white wine you enjoyed with your hamburger or barbequed chicken.

College sports fans may think of the Badgers. Gardeners may remember all the different varieties of rose bushes they have planted in their rose beds to display many shades in the red to white spectrum, from the deepest scarlet to the purest white. For those who like peppermint candy, the image of that iconic hard candy may be in your mind – and on your taste buds. Shoppers and hunters may be thinking of red and white targets.

white roseRed and white images. There are so many of them. Gilbert K. Chesterton once said,

White… is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black… God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.

I think my mom would have agreed with Chesterton.

Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.

For some reason, she chose to memorize that verse. I guess that will be one more image I’ll think of whenever I think RED and WHITE.

snowflake 2

 

 

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