"In the Courts of Love" (a portrait of the Rev. Robert Soka) pencil, watercolor, and pastel
14"x13"
2014

My father commissioned me, several months ago, to paint a portrait of his good friend, 93 year-old Bob Soka (Father's never mentioned PAYING me for this, so I'm assuming that he's tactfully offering me a way to repay him for all that dental work I had during the Nixon and Ford administrations).

In any case, Bob is a retired Methodist minister (insofar as I've gathered, he's also the father of 2 daughters who are Methodist ministers whom my father greatly admires).  His Julliard-educated wife of fifty&more years was aptly named "Grace", and she served as the music director at all of the various churches where Bob was appointed as Minister over his long career.  Bob was, himself, a very young musician (traveling and playing with bands during the Big Band era) when he was told by a prospective, boarding-house landlady that he could have a room.....but everyone who rented from her in her house had to go to church.

Apparently, Bob went to church in order to get a room, and he's stayed in that room (so to speak) ever since; shortly after living in the boarding-house, he decided to leave professional music-making....and he entered seminary.

Bob Soka is a widely-loved and singularly admirable man.....and, given his and his wife's background in music, there's one perfect song for him/this portrait.  That hymn is, of course, "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" (written by Robert Robinson in 1757)

give yourself a treat, and go to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD9tCHpINUA


The lyrics are:

"Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the name! I'm fixed upon it
Name of Thy redeeming love

Hitherto Thy love has blessed me
Thou hast brought me to this place
And I know Thy hand will bring me
Safely home by Thy good grace
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
...."