Touching the Holy

Every once in a while, life grants me a transcendent moment. Often, this happens when I am out of doors, gaping at the sea, the mountains, a redwood forest; snorkeling above coral reefs, standing in the wind on the deck of a ship, or staring down at the world from 35,000 feet. These moments are gifts, glimpses of the Mystery, those thin places between earth and heaven, a place/person/? which I choose to believe is much nearer to us than we can imagine, close enough to touch.

And once in a while, we do.

Music is often an entryway to heaven for me. Especially choral music. I’ve written before about my lifelong love for choral singing — listening to it, but mostly, singing it. Standing with a larger group of singers, making Beauty together is a privilege and a joy; I do not take it for granted.

Here is an example of a small piece of music that was instrumental in my own deeper awakening to the Spirit about twenty years ago. It is an audio recording of a piece that hit me right between the eyes when first I heard it up in the tower office that was mine when I worked on staff in our home church. I have listened to it hundreds of times and always, always  it moves me to tears and wonder. I had the privilege of singing it (though we did not sing it very well, I fear) in the choir I joined last year. This is one piece of nine that are part of a spectacular requiem mass written by Maurice Durufle, a French composer from the early-to-mid 20th century. There are frequently changing time signatures and many different keys throughout the entire mass, but this piece is one of the simpler ones, as written. But it is the most difficult to sing exactly right. Robert Shaw and his famous Chorale got it exactly right. Close your eyes and let this music wash over you.

“Sanctus” – by Maurice Durufle, using the text of the requiem Mass:

Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth,
pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis! Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis!

Holy, Lord God of hosts.
The heavens and the earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Do you see what I mean? Or perhaps this particular piece doesn’t lead you across the threshold in the same way it did me. I’m willing to bet however, that somewhere in your life there is one piece — or perhaps several — that help you to do just that.

Last week, our choir met again to prepare for our spring concert. We are doing a variety of anthems and folk songs, about five of which we’ve looked at so far. Of those five, two of them, TWO OF THEM, opened that door to the Holy in me as we sight-read them. The act of sight-reading is exhilarating, all by itself. It is one of my favorite things to do in the world: to take a stack of unseen music and work through it for the first time. So fun.

But these two? Oh, glory! The words simply stopped me. STOPPED me. And the close harmonies and moving choral parts? Well  . . . that was three days ago and I am still awash with gratitude and glory.  This first one pretty well sums up what I believe and have experienced with music . . . sing me to heaven, indeed.

“Sing Me to Heaven,” words by Jane Griner, music by Daniel E. Gawthrop

In my heart’s sequestered chambers lie truths stripped of poets’ gloss
Words alone are vain and vacant, and my heart is mute
In response to aching silence, memory summons half-heard voices
And my soul finds primal eloquence, and wraps me in song
If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby
If you would win my heart, sing me a love song
If you would mourn me and bring me to God,
sing me a requiem, sing me to Heaven
Touch in me all love and passion, pain and pleasure
Touch in me grief and comfort, love and passion, pain and pleasure
Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem
Love me, comfort me, bring me to God
Sing me a love song, sing me to Heaven

And number two? Yes, yes. This is the cry of my heart for me and for all those I know and love who are struggling to see God in the midst of their pain, to believe in the midst of crushing doubt, to take a step into the unknown when it feels dark and murky and above all, lonely. 

I invite you to take steps into the holy, my friends. To look for thresholds in your day-to-day living, to ask for eyes to see and ears to hear. May you find small moments when loneliness recedes and hope rises, rises, rises.

“Even When He Is Silent” – music by Kim Andre Arnesen
          The text for the piece was found in a concentration camp after World War 2:
          The key signature encourages director and singer to set the metronome for 54 per quarter note and adds these remarkable words, ‘with hope.’ Indeed, indeed.
I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 11 — Singing for All I’m Worth

I am writing this on a Tuesday morning. And Tuesdays are now very special days. Here’s why: August marked the beginning of semester number two for me to sing with the local Concert Choir at our community college. I began last January, soon after that BIG birthday event, and except for those unfortunate hospital stays during the spring, I’ve been in that rehearsal room every Tuesday of the school year.

I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember. Joined the kids’ choir at our downtown LA church at the tender age of five and kept right on singing in choirs until I moved to Santa Barbara at the age of 52. Nearly 40 years of being in choirs!

And then I stopped. Why? Because our church did not have a weekly choir to join, that’s why. We did sing seasonally the first few years I was here, but even that dropped away about seven or eight years ago.

Then a talented and kind woman in our congregation formed a small ensemble that sang in worship one Sunday and I was simply overwhelmed with how much I missed that kind of music. Initially, I was not a part of that group — and that, I will admit, was more painful than I ever would have guessed. In truth, it was stunning how much it hurt not to be included in their number. And in earnest conversation with my pastors and my husband, I began to realize that choral singing was a piece of my own story, my own identity, that I had buried for way too long. And I was strongly encouraged to find somewhere to sing.

So I did a little online research and found this college/community choir. And I HAVE LOVED IT. One of the hardest things about that second hospitalization was that it forced me to miss our spring concert. I am bound and determined that I will be there for the Christmas one! We’re doing Durufle’s beautiful Requiem Mass and tonight, we’re supposed to get the music for Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Five Mystical Songs — settings for poems by George Herbert, who is a favorite of mine. Not exactly typical Christmas music, but it will be fun to work through. Challenging stuff — and I’m delighted that it is. My voice is not quite as steady as it once was, but I’m still a dang good reader.

It’s interesting how the pain of exclusion served as a huge wake-up call for me, forcing me off of my duff and helping me to do a little exploration of the possibilities. This choir is roughly 50% college students — and 50% old folks from the community. Pretty much exactly what I needed right now.

And then there was this lovely bonus: I was invited to sing with that church ensemble right after their first attempt last winter — and I’m loving every minute of that, too.

What do you love to do? Has it gotten lost, maybe buried under too many other things you love (or don’t love)? How can you help all the pieces of yourself to re-emerge?

Just Wondering

How Blessed Am I? #MyFaithHeroine

This piece is part of Michelle DeRusha’s blog link-up about #MyFaithHeroine, in connection with the recent launch of her excellent new book, #50Women. 

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A Double Delight rose, my spiritual heroine’s favorite.

Life was hard and uncertain when she was growing up. One of four siblings, barely a year apart, with parents who both worked, a father who drank hard and gambled hard, always losing. Then there were “the aunts,” she told me. The three older cousins who never married and who loved all those kids to bits, providing protection on occasion, but most of all, bringing fun and merriment into their days.

Though their mother had grown up in the church, after she married their dad, neither of them ever darkened a church door again. But they agreed that their kids could go.

So every Sunday, they dropped all four kids at the curb and left them to fend for themselves in downtown Los Angeles at that old brownstone building. For my heroine and her sister, it stuck. For their two brothers, it took a lot longer. The sisters loved to go to that place, where they met friends their own age and were sheltered and loved by lots of adults, as well.

One of those older women saw potential in the bigger of the girls, and when she was in junior high school, almost into high school, she arranged for a scholarship to a nearby training seminar. A Christian leadership seminar. And my heroine bloomed, learning to love the Bible, church music and a wide circle of friends, many of whom remained close to one another throughout their lives.

Eventually, she married one of the church musicians, a talented pianist with a bent for mathematics, and they began to build a home and a family. A girl was born, then two years later, a boy and about ten years after that, another boy.

All during those early years, the family continued to attend the downtown church where the parents had met, and they contributed faithfully, both musically and financially. Eventually, they moved too far out into the suburbs and switched to a larger church closer to home. Within a few years, that old church was razed and a used car lot took its place.

Their new church provided wonderful activities and teaching for her children and some powerful teaching during the adult Sunday morning hour for her and her husband. Professors from a nearby seminary came and built small congregations within the larger one. Once again, this woman bloomed and grew, stretching toward the light, exercising her good mind, asking probing questions, reading widely.

She always worried that she didn’t have a degree from college, but then, she never really needed it. Her own reading regimen (everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote, plus a lot of Paul Tillich, George Ladd, Eldon Trueblood, Peter and Catherine Marshall), her willingness to ask hard questions and her fearlessness about seeking answers provided a priceless education, as well as forming her more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

She taught eleventh grade Sunday school (girls only, in those days) for about a dozen years, providing wisdom, grace and breakfast out for every one of them sometime during the year. Each week, she worked hard on those lessons, getting up before the rest of the family to rough out ideas and read scripture. And to pray. She prayed for each student in her classes, regularly, faithfully.

By God’s grace and her own commitment to growing, both spiritually and psychologically, she overcame the difficulties of her upbringing, remaining close to her entire extended family until they each died. She is the only one left now, and that is hard — for her and for those who love her.

She dealt with a lot of insecurities and fears her whole life, but always, there was a joyful sense of humor, a warm and welcoming hospitality, and an immense reservoir of creativity. She decorated her home, her children and herself on a tight budget, and encouraged each of her children to get a good education and build a good marriage. And she loved her husband fiercely, even when he was old and frail and sometimes demanding.

This woman modeled for me what it means to follow hard after Jesus, to commit yourself to learning, asking questions, reading widely, and serving others. She wasn’t perfect — and she knew it! — but she was good. Even in her old age, she hangs onto her faith with all of her diminishing energies.

I visited her over the weekend, in the dementia unit where she now lives. She was sick, with a very sore throat and a nasty cough, all of which makes the dementia worse and exhausts her. I helped her change her clothes and sit in her recliner chair for an afternoon nap and then went across the room to bring her large, whiteboard calendar up-to-date after several months of neglect.

As I worked in the semi-darkness of her small entry way, I could hear her muttering in her chair. I thought perhaps she had drifted off to sleep and was dreaming. But then I began to pick out a few words, and my heart soared and broke, all at the same moment.

“Oh, Lord,” she said. “Please help Diana to be well, to be strong. She is such a beautiful daughter and I love her so much.”

Before I left I kissed her on the forehead and she smiled up at me and said, “The Lord’s been good. We’ll just keep praying and believing.”

“Yes, Mom,” I said. “That is exactly what we’ll do.”

 

This blog post is part of Michelle DeRusha’s #MyFaithHeroine contest, in connection with the release of the book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Find out how to participate here. 

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Fifteen

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And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Luke 1:56b-35-The Message

Have you ever tried to imagine what it must have been like to be Mary, before she got to the place where she could sing this powerful song? What must it have been like to have your life turned upside down by an angelic visitor, to have to explain to your fiance how you got pregnant, to continue to live in your small town while the whispers got louder and louder?

No wonder the angel told her about Elizabeth. She needed someone to talk to who understood something about miracle pregnancies!

Years ago, I met a friend who was (and is) a talented pianist, singer and songwriter. In fact, Ken Medema is one of the most talented people I’ve ever known in my life. And one of his earliest story-songs was about Mary and Elizabeth. For your reflection today, I’m going to paste in the words to that song and then give you a link to go over and listen to it. I think you’ll be glad you did.

So many things are happening to me that
   I don’t understand – 
Visions and angels and a baby named Jesus – 
   It’s not what I planned.
The plans I have made are like birds’ nests
   blown down in the wind and the rain.
And I’m scattered like straw, and I can’t quite
   tell where to find saneness again.

So, I’ll go tell Elizabeth,

For she’ll understand.
I’ll go tell Elizabeth,
She’ll hold my hand – she’ll understand.

“Go talk to Joseph.” Well I’ve talked to Joseph
and Joseph’s a man;

So many things that a woman can know that 
   a man never can.
Joseph is practical and Joseph is worried with
   things of his own.
And talking to Joseph is sometimes no better 
   than being alone – being alone.

So, I’ll go tell Elizabeth,

‘Cause she’ll understand.
Yes, I’ll go tell Elizabeth,
She’ll hold my hand – she’ll understand.
Sometimes I wish I could wake up and discover it all was a dream;

I ought to be shouting for joy, yet I’m coming apart at the seams.
Mostly I’m quiet – I keep things inside me – It’s how I get by.
When there’s too much to handle, and I need someone
   near me to share a good cry – share a good cry.

So many things are happening to me that she’ll understand.
Now that she’s pregnant her life isn’t going exactly as planned.
The plans we both made are like birds’ nests
   blown down in the wind and the rain.
And we’re scattered like straw, and we can’t quite
   tell where to find saneness again – saneness again.

So, I’m coming Elizabeth.

‘Cause I’ll understand.
I’m coming Elizabeth.
I’ll hold your hand – I’ll understand.
Yes, I’m coming Elizabeth.
For I’ll understand.
I’m coming Elizabeth – I’ll hold your hand – 
I’ll understand.
        copyright, Ken Medema

You can hear Ken sing this wonderful song by clicking on this line, and then hitting the small photo next to the title. An arrow should appear.

The Many Shades of Christmas – A Deeper Family

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Have you ever noticed how many of our favorite carols are written in a minor key? Think about it for a minute . . .

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“In the Bleak Midwinter”

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”

“What Child Is This?”

“Greensleeves”

“I Wonder as I Wander”

“Carol of the Bells”

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

“Coventry Carol” (“Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child”)

These are melodically darker-hued songs, offered in a season when we are encouraged on every side to be merry, dang it! And I am more grateful than I can say for the rich texture they bring to these days before Christmas.

Why?

Because there are many pieces of this story that can only be told in a minor key.

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus came into a broken world, that there were no colored lights, and certainly no tinsel around that hayloft. Yes, yes — the gift of the incarnation is unspeakably good, that babe whose head was cradled by his open-hearted, willing young mother, that babe brought light and hope to us all.

But in and around the lowing of cattle, the bleating of lambs, the exhausted moans of a brand-new mom and the healthy lungs of a newborn — who can forget the cries of the mothers in Ramah, the rumbling threat of Herod, the hurried flight to Egypt, or the sorrowful truth about where that sweet baby hung his beautiful head at the end of his good, good life?

The reality of life on planet earth is that even good news, the best possible news, must be told in the midst of the bad; to get to the light, we have to walk through the dark. To truly live our story, we have to tell all the pieces of it.

So I think it’s important that the sounds of sadness, the echoes of loss, the edges of fear and uncertainty, are carefully and intentionally woven into our celebrations. All the voices in this Story, and in our own stories, cry out to be heard as we move toward the manger and the major key of Christmas Day.

I know that I have lived longer than most of you who are reading this piece. And over the course of this long life, I have experienced loss upon loss, asked question upon question, and listened for the answers in the midst of silence. If there is one thing I’ve learned, one truth that stands at the top of all the truths I know, it is this one: everyone carries a story of brokenness. Everyone.

Please join me over at A Deeper Family today to read more about singing in a minor key in this ‘hap-happiest season of all . . . “

Day by Day – A Guest Post for Micha Boyett

When I was 17 years old and a recent high school graduate, waiting to both lose and find myself in a very large university setting, I spent a good part of that last carefree summer volunteering as a camp counselor. One weekend, my supervisor drove me down the mountain to her parents’ home so that we could do a little laundry and breathe more heavily oxygenated air for a day.

And as we swerved our way along that curvy mountain road, enjoying the view from her vintage VW Beetle, she taught me a song, one I had never heard before. It was an old Swedish hymn called “Day by Day,” and in a way, that sweet and simple melody became a kind of theme song for the rest of my life, even though I didn’t sing it again for a long time.

About 13 years, to be exact. The year I turned 30, my husband and I and our three young kids (ages 3, 5 and 7 at the time) joined a neighborhood church that happened to be part of the very denomination that birthed the hymn I had learned driving down that mountain. As my children were growing to adulthood, as I was  discovering who I was without those children to tend, as my marriage morphed from very traditional to one of mutuality and partnership, I sang that song often. Each time, it touched something deep inside me. Each time, it called me to lean into trust — just enough trust for today.

God knows, if I’d tried to trust for all the days I’ve lived, I’d have crashed and burned long ago. I can just about manage one at a time. So often over the course of the last 50 years, I’ve found myself offering this phrase to people I love, people I counsel, people I write to, people I preach to, people I share life with. And most of all, I’ve whispered it to myself.

Over and over again. . . 

One of my favorite bloggers, Micha Boyett, invited me to participate in the beautiful series she is running called, “One Good Phrase.” I am honored to be there today. Please click here to come on over and read the rest of this piece (and to find a link to a lovely rendition of this sweet hymn. . . )

Come to the Water. . .

It was a thirsty kind of day.
After three weeks of deadlines and commitments,
the last one was in sight as I backed my car out of our driveway.
I was tired yesterday morning, and nervous.
A speaking/teaching engagement loomed after worship,
at another church in town,
one whose pulse I do not know.
And I am decidedly rusty — no public speaking in over two years now.

I was due to bring cookies for the Coffee Hour today,
and those had been baked and frozen earlier in the week.

Adult Sunday School was starting up again,
and my husband surprised me by wanting to go —
a class with a literary emphasis,
looking at poetry and prose from classic and contemporary writers,
pondering together how their words might be helpful to a life of faith.

So I schlepped my usual too-much-stuff, ready for each separate event of the day:
the cookies, a bag with printed handouts and
suggested books on the topic I’d been invited to teach about,
a cup of hot tea to sip in the Sunday school class,
a tired body and a very thirsty spirit.

The class was rich and good, the teaching excellent,
the conversation lively.
And then I walked into the worship center and I knew:

All that was thirsty in me would be satisfied, satiated, slaked.

The font was front and center, down from its usual place
at the top of the chancel steps,
and the water it contained danced in the sunlight.
A glance at the bulletin showed the baptism of Jesus in Luke’s gospel
as the sermon text for the morning,
and the music . . .
Oh.My. . . the music.

Two of my favorites as we began, setting the tone for the entire
morning of worship.

“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us. (Alleluia) Have mercy on us. (Alleluia). Have mercy on us.

Glory be to the Father. Amen.
Glory be to the Son. Amen.
Glory be to the Spirit. Amen.”

“All who are thirsty, all who are weak, come to the fountain.
Dip your heart in the stream of life.
Let the pain and the sorrow be wash’d away
in the waves of his mercy as deep cries out to deep.
(And we sing) Come, Lord Jesus, come.” 

Listening again to that wonderful text,
those powerful words of affirmation and commission,
given from Father to Son on the banks of the Jordan River
so many centuries ago, it felt as though they were
bouncing around our sun-strewn sanctuary,
newly offered to each one of us.
“You are mine.
You are loved.
You are pleasing to me.” 

And then the invitation —

“COME TO THE WATER — it is here for you.”

And we came.
By the dozens, we came streaming down the aisles,
as the music swirled around us, singing of amazing grace and glorious freedom.

On this second Sunday of the new year, we were given the rich gift
of renewing our baptismal vows,
together,
in worship.
Our pastors read them for us,
we responded firmly with, “We do!”
And then we walked to the front,
to the font,
and we got wet.

Swishing our hands through the cool, clear water,
a finger or a fist,
making the sign of the cross or not,
touching the hand of another coming into the water
from a different direction,
we did this together.
We remembered who we are,
We remembered where we belong,
And we marked ourselves once again with the Water of Life.

Which was exactly what this weary woman needed today.

The speaking/teaching thing went . . . well, it went.
And it was all right. It wasn’t perfect, but it was all right.
And then on my way back home,
I stopped for just a few minutes,
and I came to the water one more time
before heading up the hill.
I came to the primordial waters this time,
the ones that call my name and speak to me of the
immensity of our God.
I sat and stared,
I said, “Thank you!”
I shut my eyes and breathed deeply.

And I went home feeling loved and no longer thirsty.

I have not yet figured out how to embed videos into WordPress. But I have managed to get a link or two here! If you click on this link, you will hear our opening song, as sung by the worship team at Westmont College, which is just up the street from our church. I think our worship director helped arrange the strings that are added to this beautiful rendition. Click on over and then, leave the music playing as you browse the internet. It’s a lovely piece, taken directly from the liturgy of the Catholic mass.
And this is a short, a cappella version of the second song of the morning.

“All Who Are Thirsty”

 

Joining this tonight with Michelle, Jen, Ann and Laura.


 

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 7

Have you ever been hungry for something
and didn’t know it
until you ate,
and found relief? 

Tonight, we held our first Taize worship service,
and I was filled with the sweet and savory
presence of the Lord. 

If you are unfamiliar with Taize, I write out for you here the descriptive paragraph found at the top of tonight’s worship folder:

A Taize service is a worship service of sung prayer and contemplation. The distinguishing marks include repetition and silence. Taize style prayer is repetitive with simple musical lines and core biblical texts that can be sung by a whole assembly. The assembly is to immerse itself in the simple but profound harmonies and let itself be carried by this sung prayer. Silence is perhaps the second most important aspect of this particular prayer practice. It is simply holding oneself in the presence of God and letting Christ, through the Holy Spirit, pray in us. The simple, repetitive prayers and an ample silence are means for the gathered assembly to “hear the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.” (Luke 8:15)  

Candles, candles everywhere,

soft light spreading,
flicking
into dark corners,
lighting our way into the room. 

Thirty-five people, 
sitting spread out in the space,
two-thirds of them
under the age of 25.

Gentle singing, sweet harmonies, simple words . . .

“Come and fill our hearts with your peace,
you alone, O Lord, are holy…” 

“In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful, 
in the Lord I will rejoice!” 

“Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. 
Those who seek God never go wanting. 
God alone fills us.” 

A three-fold reading of Mark 10:13-16,
a lectio passage that spoke 
to the deepest places in my heart tonight.
“…that he might touch [the children]…
and he took them up in his arms, 
laid his hands on them, 
and blessed them.” 

“The kingdom of God is justice 
and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.” 

A penitential psalm . . .

“O Lord, hear my prayer. O Lord, hear my prayer:
when I call, answer me…” 

Space to make silent intercession for others. 


And then . . .

. . . this . . . 


Our worship leader led us in the refrain, 
“Adoremus Te Domine,”  
and then he chanted
very simply, 
these lines,
in between each simple singing of that phrase:

“Christ the Lord, you became poor and you offer the kingdom of heaven to the poor of the earth.”

“O Lord, gentle and humble of heart, you reveal a new world to all who abandon themselves; we receive of your fullness.” 

“O Lord, you fell prostrate on the ground, and you show us a path of consolation in our distress; you are the joy no one can take from us.” 

“O Lord, you shed your blood, and you give the cup of life to seekers after justice; you quench every thirst.” 

“O risen Lord, you showed yourself to the disciples and you pluck from our flesh our hearts of stone; we shall see you face to face.” 

“O Lord, you divest the powerful and clothe peacemakers in festal robes; you transform us into your likeness.” 

“O Lord, first of the living, you welcome into the kingdom all who die for you; we dwell in your love.” 

Sung liturgy. 

That’s what I was hungry for, 
starving for, 
in fact. 
And I didn’t even know it . . .
until I heard it. 
Until I took it in. 
listening,
eyes closed,
singing the refrain,
holding my just-lit Christ candle. 

Saved by beauty, indeed . . . indeed. 

As the service ended,
we each took our candles,
placing them in the white sand 
surrounding the 
One light that lit us all, 
a circle of flickering flame. 

And the melting candle wax
dripped onto my finger,
stinging, 
biting,
as I moved my one, 
lone light
to join the circle.

Because sometimes
to step into
the circle of light,
we have to burn a little.
Sometimes
we have to let ourselves
drop out of our
carefully shaped 
plastic holders 
right into the dust of the earth.

Oh, that the Flame would shine,
brilliant and true,
through the gathered Body –
in this place,
for this time.

Joining tonight with Michelle, Jen, Ann, Jenn – and with Laura and Laura this week, too:

 

 
MercyMondays150


   On In Around button

Sunday Musings

Just wondering . . .
on a summer Sunday night,
with cool night air drifting in from the door
and sweet worship music on 
the computer.
Just wondering . . .

what comes next?

We’re home this week,
when we thought we’d be gone.
Traveling to the northwest,
to see beautiful country,
and beautiful friends.
But we’re not. 

So here’s a calendar,
suddenly open.
And here’s a body,
more tired than I knew . . .
wondering.

My mom-in-law
began to slip,
 down
and down.
And her daughter had long-laid plans
to be gone.
It didn’t feel right to be gone at the same time,
so here we are.

And really, it’s fine.
We’re relieved not to be packing and unpacking.
We look at each other and wonder –
how come we’re feeling so tired?

When did we get so old?

And that has me wondering. . .
what happens in this culture
as we get old?
We see lots of pictures of
green space,
golf games,
exotic travel,
smiling, silver-haired models
seem to say,
“It’s time to relax,
to enjoy the fruit of your labors,
to remove yourself from the world of work.”

But here’s what I’m learning.

It’s truly difficult to do that.
I love to travel – I do.
But not all the time.

And I love to relax – I do.
But not all the time. 

So, we put our hands to what we find.
My husband, gifted with finance and investing,
sits on boards and committees,
and he manages the money he so carefully
invested for us,
for our moms,
for other family.

He tends this huge yard,

with good professional help. 

He invests himself completely in our grandkids
when they’re around. 

And I?
I sit in my small study which needs sorting.
And I meet with those who are seeking
more of God.

And they teach me far more than
I ever teach them.

 And I tend to family, too.

Ailing mothers, growing grandchildren.

I make spinach salad for 50 at our
first-Sunday-back-to-college student lunch
after church today.

And in, around and through all of that,
 I try to write.
But I’m late to this game,
really late.
And I am also way past the age of most
of my compatriots out here in cyberspace. 

Most of the time, I’m okay with that.
But tonight, I’m feeling out of place,
out of sync,
out of my element.

I’m sure this wondering phase will sort itself out.
And I’m talking to God about it,
in my usual, on-going conversation
with this One who seems both near and far,
surprisingly small,
yet immense.
And right this minute,
I am listening to the song I wrote about 
And the beauty of it pierces,
it pierces through all the wondering,
all the melancholy,
all the feelings of uncertainty 
and ego-centered angst.
Because THIS is the truth – 
and a woman who lived many centuries ago*
wrote these words,
in another tongue,
another place.

But her words, her insights
speak to my soul this night, in this place:

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.
I cannot leap in gladness, unless you lift me up.
From love to love we circle, beyond all knowledge grow.
For when you lead, we follow, to new worlds you can show.

Your love the music round us, we glide as birds on air,
entwining soul and body, your wings hold us with care.
Your Spirit is the harpist and all your children sing;
her hands the currents ’round us, your love the golden strings. 

Play me a medley,
play me a song.
Lead me, I am yours.
I cannot dance alone.

O blessed Love, your circling unites us, God and soul.
From the beginning, your arms embrace and make us whole. 
Hold us in steps of mercy, from which you never part,
that we may know more fully the dances of your heart. 

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.

*Our Director of Worship Arts, Bob Gross, wrote a lovely melody to go with these powerful words written by Mechtild of Mageburg in the 13th century. This translation was done in 1991 by Jean Wiebe Janzen, but the words in bold are Bob’s addition and serve as a beautiful refrain throughout the piece. Since I first wrote about this beautiful, haunting song, Bob has included it on #5 in a series of self-produced CDs taken from our Sunday worship services. And if you would like to listen to it, follow this link right here and scroll down to number six on the list. Hit the play button and enjoy. (If you use the contact addresses on the home page, you can order CDs for yourself. We are a congregation of about 325 people and apart from Bob, everyone you hear is a volunteer – vocalists, string players, acoustic and electric guitars and bass, piano, wind instruments, percussion – all from within our own community, many of them college students. We are so blessed. SO blessed. Please remember, these are not studio sessions, but live worship recordings.)

I’ll join this with Michelle, Jen, Duane, Ann’s Monday gratitude group – because I am grateful, even for the melancholy times – and maybe with Laura and Laura, though it’s not particularly playful nor is it about a physical place so much as an emotional one.


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