Singing for … ?

Are you singing this Advent?
I’m not a great vocalist but I enjoy singing-a-long with my favourites
as I putter around my home.

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Bing Crosby’s White Christmas takes me back to my childhood home
with Silver Bells and Mele Kalikimaka.

this is a christmas album by the once
was given to me by my son who lives in Newfoundland
so these songs from The Rock are full of energy and fun.

When I want something more mellow I listen to
Yo-Yo Ma and his variations of Dona Nobis Pacem
and in the quiet of evening when I settle down for the night
the piano meditation music of Klusmeier and Gray calms me…

and this year, a new cd
Frost
sung by friends here in Kenora who vocalize with tight harmonies
and offer a variety of winter song-moods.

*** ***** *

This Advent, I am following a Daily Reading series by
Walter Brueggemann, an esteemed theologian and Biblical scholar
whose words a few days ago caused me to pause and ponder.
He said:
We do not know what to sing for
if we do not understand what we sing against.
( Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent )

What do we sing
FOR ?

In several of the songs I’m so fond of I sing
for
a White Christmas, and
for
a memory of when I was Home for Christmas (my childhood home), and
for
a seasonal celebration that will be
merry and bright.
I sing for memories of Christmas past
and for my enjoyment of Christmas present
and for an ‘atmosphere’ of the season indwelling my home.

There are many wonderful songs to be found on
Christmas cd’s and on iTunes.
There are also other Christmas songs
not so ‘popular’
contained within the written word of
Scriptural Story
and read/sung during Advent reflections and community worship, including:
Zechariah’s Song
Joseph’s Song
Mary’s Song
echoes of Israel’s Song
and the laments and joys of the Psalm-Songs.

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Brueggemann continues:
We do not know what to sing for
if we do not understand what we sing against.
The glory of God is not sung in a vacuum
but in a context where much is at risk.

sing…for
sing…against
I stop to ponder.

The Scriptural Songs are sung in their context of
Empire and peoples’ oppression
exile and marginalization
poverty and despair
and of fleeing (Mary and Joseph) to escape
a violent ruler’s rampage
and so
these Scriptural songs
sing against
corrupt power and injustice
and
sing for
freedom and equality and human dignity.

In facing into the difficult, horrible, frightening news these days
I want to join a chorus of voices to sing against and for.
I want to hear songs of protest and prophetic hope encircling our earth
singing against the indignities and
for
justice and equality and respect
and
for
peace on earth.

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*** ***** *

Do you sing?
What do you sing at this time of year?
Are there songs that especially stir your heart?
What are you singing for?

 

Advent … it comes in the dark

Twinkle lights are all around town
and the big Christmas tree on Main Street stands like a beacon
lighting the way for night-time shoppers.
Twinkle lights are in my home too.

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It’s too early for our Christmas tree but I have put a branch-tree in our sunroom
so that I can see these little lights against
the dark December night-time sky.
These twinkle lights
delight me
capture my attention
give me a Christmassy feeling
and
they take away the dark.

Barbara Brown Taylor
a writer and theological thinker I admire, has written a book called
Learning to Walk in the Dark and I have just re-read it.

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This is a very good Advent read given that Advent comes
in the darkest month of the year, so I commend this book to you.
It might re-set your notions about
the dark
an entity that BBTaylor reflects on, raising up the way that most of us
have been taught in one way or another
to fear or avoid
the dark
both the dark of night and what we call our ‘dark emotions’.

I remember that I had ‘my little night-light’ on when I went to bed as a child
and know that I have done my fair share of avoiding/denying my dark feelings.
I also realize that much pop-psychology writes about happiness
rather than of
sitting for a time in whatever dark you see
to look into it
to ask questions of it
to learn from it.
Learning to Walk in the Dark is not pop-psychology.

Many/most of us have polarized
dark and light
night and day
as two very separate entities.
We seem to favour the light of day
and steer away from the dark of night
because
we think
that things will go ‘bump in the night’
or that we will bump into
some of the things that reside inside us
if we sit there
in the
dark.

As I have re-read this book I’ve been thinking about spending more time
in the dark of this December.
I feel that if I don’t, I will by-pass something important about
Advent.
Perhaps the dark of this season has something to teach me.
Perhaps I need to sit in it for awhile, and listen.

When we read the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures
we find several places where
darkness is portrayed as death
while light is portrayed as life
so this may be one of the things that I/we have absorbed about
the darkness of our inner and outer lives;
one of the reasons that I/we have put up our guard.

Yet, in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures
there is also
the story of Abraham whose vision came to him under a night sky, and
Jacob, whose dream and wrestling happened in the dark, and
The Exodus of liberation which began in the night, and
manna, which appeared out of the dark.

Jesus was born at night
and not only at night
but most likely in a cave
which is a very dark place.

I wonder what vision or what spiritual food or what new life
might come to me
if I sit here for awhile
having turned the twinkle lights off so as to absorb
what Nature and Spirit have to offer?

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As few years ago I introduced a ‘new’ hymn into our congregational life.
It didn’t go over well, not at first
and then it started to grow on us and within us.

Joyful is the dark, holy, hidden God,
rolling cloud of night beyond all naming:
Majesty in darkness, Energy of love,
Word-in-Flesh, the mystery proclaiming.

Joyful is the dark, Spirit of the deep,
winging wildly o’er the world’s creation,
silken sheen of midnight, plumage black and bright,
swooping with the beauty of the raven.

Joyful is the dark, shadowed stable floor;
angels flicker, God on earth confessing,
as with exultation, Mary, giving birth,
hails the infant cry of need and blessing.

Joyful is the dark coolness of the tomb,
waiting for the wonder of the morning;
never was that midnight touched by dread and gloom:
darkness was the cradle of the dawning.

Joyful is the dark depth of love divine,
roaring, looming, thunder-cloud of glory,
holy, haunting beauty, living, loving God.
Hallelujah! Sing and tell the story!

Joyful is the dark, joyful is the dark, joyful is the dark.

-Brian Wren, Voices United #284

*** ***** *
Do you ever sit in the dark?
Have you ever experienced dark as joyful?

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like …. whiplash

On a weekday in the second week of November
my daughter-in-law and new grand-baby and I
drove to Winnipeg for a car repair
and when the repair was completed
we drove to a BIG box store and then to a Mall.

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It was mid-day mid-week-day November, and
it was hard to find a parking place, and
the stores were crowded, and
I found myself 15th in line for a cup of coffee at the Mall outlet
with the musical sounds of Christmas in my ears as
I stood in the midst of all the ‘stuff’ of the season.

Indeed, on this mid-week November day
it was beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas, and
this day sucked my Christmas enthusiasm right out of me!

If you were to ask my ‘kids’ they’d tell you that
I LOVE CHRISTMAS
but
NOT
this!

*** ***** *
Back home
I watched a street-person-man I know by name
hobble slowly and painfully across an intersection
skimpy coat open and bare hands red with cold.
I watched a mother’s tears flow as she remembered her daughter
and spoke her story at the inquiry for
Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women.
I received information about and notification of need for
Rohingya children…and so many others.

*** ***** *
Then this week
I attended an Advent Retreat
hosted by Jan, a colleague-friend
at Westhawk United Church in the Whiteshell…
a lovely quiet rural small perfect place for retreat.

She reminded me/us of a comment written by David Giuliano
in an Observer article a few years ago
in which he named this jerky head-spin from one reality to the other…
from Christmas commercialism to human despair
as creating a spiritual whiplash
and we were asked
if we experience this, and
if we do
what do we do with it?

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So we reflected on Advent and
the deepening darkness
viewing beautiful art and hearing songs of longing
and reading sacred stories of
fear and escape; dreams and visions; mighty Empire and tender babe
and we considered our own
INTENTION
for this season.

*** ***** *
Do you experience this kind of whiplash?
Do you observe Advent?

Have you ever considered that practicing a Spiritual Advent is
counter-cultural?

Advent offers a holy resistance to the pressure of consumerism, and
invites us to
hold
the hopes and fears of all the years
in our hands and in our hearts.

*** ***** *

          I intend to practice Peace this Advent and share some moments with you.

Knitting Transition

A dictionary definition of Transition:

NOUN
movement, passage, or change
from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another;
change
VERB
to make a transition

In my first blog entitled ‘A beginning’ (December 29th, 2016)
I said that one of my reasons for writing was because I was in
transition
and I wanted/needed to reflect on this reality, amongst other things.
My transition is the transition from working life to retired life
and more specifically, from
congregational ministry to…
well
this is what transition is all about…
figuring it out
and
living into it.

Transition:
we all experience transition
when we move from one place to another
or enter into a new employment or unemployment
or retire
or try to figure out what life will be for us after a loved one has died
or when our health is challenged
or when we return to school to explore a new potential
or when we enter into parenting
or when we empty-nest…

transition
transition
transition

Some life-transitions go quickly and easily
and some take their time.

*** ***** *
I am a knitter and last summer I purchased two rather costly skeins of
beautiful hand-dyed yard.

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They are called ‘gradients’
which means that the colour changes as you knit.
I chose a pattern which inter-mingles the two skeins
so at the beginning of this scarf I was knitting in
green and purple

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but
at the end of this scarf I was knitting in
red and blue.

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Somewhere in-between I noticed a subtle colour shift.

A new colour was entering in although the overall look seemed unchanged.

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And then
when the new colour was seen more often
I couldn’t help but notice that
change
was indeed taking place!

For me right now
TRANSITION is a VERB.
It is active
moving
changing
subtle
on-going
like stitches on needles
trying to knit something new…
and sometimes the colour shift shows forth
and sometimes it doesn’t.

*** ***** *

I have noticed that since I retired, I have barely written about ‘it’…
retirement, that is
because
I really haven’t known what to say.

One thing I know for sure is that when a smiling face greets me downtown
and asks
‘so how is retirement?’
I freeze.

I think the expected/desired response is:
great / wonderful / I love it
peachy keen
the best thing since sliced bread
or some other statement that will get the asker
off the hook from a more challenging conversation.

So I smile and say something vague like:
I’m trying to get used to it
or
not quite sure yet, ask me again in six months
or
too soon to tell.

There have been days when I might have said
it’s ok
and others when I might have said
it sucks

but actually, retirement or any other significant life transition is
A PROCESS
which means that it takes time
and effort
and perseverance
and a hope and a vision
to knit something new into reality.

For those of you who are familiar with the
Circle Movement around the Enneagram
I have moved around the Symbol to
FIVE
so I’ve made it across the Void
and now realize that there are necessary consequences
for what I have chosen to do.
The temptation has been to stray back or move inward.

At SIX
I have seen that discernment is required
along with insight and solutions
so I’ve invited the questions and received the teachings
and have needed a little push.

At SEVEN
I now see the temptation to jump ahead
to move too quickly
and so Patience calls to me.

I sense myself within this Seven Space
and know that I need to
be present to what is
the lovely relaxed days, the boring days,
the missing days, the expectant days,
the depressed days, the ‘I feel good’ days.

I hope to enjoy my goal of living well in my retirement years.
I hope to experience the Eight’s confidence for life
and then
the Nine Space peace
that knows that
all is well within ‘it’

which for me is

retirement.

I’m in process…not there yet…living Transition
and trying very hard to
knit it
stitch by stitch.

*** ***** *

Have you ever set out on a Transition Journey but returned
to the way things were?

Have you ever persevered through the hard stuff
and made it?

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A Collage Prayer…

A few weeks ago at the Fall Residency of Prairie Jubilee
our Morning Practice was a contemplative art practice.
After a Reading and a time of Silence together in the Circle
we were invited to move to the art table and to select
a piece of paper and some Natural Geographic magazines.
It was suggested that we look through them
and let
Soul
speak to us.
Without thinking, to let our Heart-Soul
choose pictures that moved us in some way
or drew themselves to us …
and then
with them
to create a Collage.

Beautiful music was playing and the sun was rising
giving natural light to our room.
I turned the pages
and tore out the images
and this is what was glued
to my paper.

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The next morning we were invited to
write
whatever came to us
as we further gazed into what had been
brought forth.

I wrote:

The ‘eyes’ have it
have it
have it
the doorway
the window
into the Soul
and Souls’ torn edges
touch and intermingle
and connect one to the other
to be
bound
within the humanity of Souls

a One-Soul
opening, yearning, loving.

 

 

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Why
in this collage
is it so easy to be together?
This old man leaning back
this young girl crying
this woman eating
this poor man
and screaming face…
clown, child, musician, grandfather
and let’s not forget the creatures
feathered and legged.

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Why
outside of collage
is this intermingling
blocked by harsh lines that separate?

I pray that my tiny offering of vision…
a torn world of beautiful souls
together
touching
clustering
might someday lift from the page
to be made
manifest
and
embodied

under the eye of Eagle God
who sees
and yearns
that
it be so.

*** ***** * 

What prayer do you have for the people and creatures of our world?

 

Remembering Ancestors

Since I have been living apart from congregational life this Fall
I have noticed how much I miss the naming and colouring of the
liturgical seasons
which have for so long given my life it’s rhythm.

One way I have found to support myself through this time of retirement transition
has been to attach myself to an on-line offering of
seasonal retreats through
Abbey of the Arts:
transformative living through contemplative and expressive arts
abbeyofthearts.com
One of Christine Valters Paintner’s books is noted in my
Resources
and she has several others equally worthy.

The three week retreat of daily reflections that I am now observing is called
Honouring Saints and Ancestors: A Retreat for the Season of Remembrance
which is in November if following the Celtic Spiritual tradition
although this coincides with the Christian observance of
All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day
on November 1st and 2nd.

This season/month is a time for remembering
those from our family tree
and other significant people who have imparted their
wisdom and guidance and life to us, and for whom we are grateful.

I recall all of the Litanies of Remembrance
that I have led over the years during November
in which I stood at The Table

lit candles
and read out the names of those whom others had asked me to
remember …
the great communion of saints
and many of these names
seem to be moving through my mind and heart these days.

Today I was drawn to do something
that was on my retirement ‘to do list’…eventually
but I opened a box of family photos I had inherited, today,
and started to go through them.

This was one very precious ‘find’.

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In my Mother’s handwriting I read:
this type of photo is a Daguerreotype
and google tells me that a Daguerreotype
was the first commercially successful photographic process (1839-1860)
in the history of photography. Named after the inventor,
Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre,
each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.

The woman seated is Sarah
my great, great grandmother
and the child is Emily
my great grandmother, born in 1857.

I feel fortunate to have a photo
of these two women who are my ancestors…
and then
I opened another box
and also in my mother’s handwriting read:
‘this was made by your great-grandmother Emily’

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so this exquisite piece of crocheting was made
by the babe in the picture grown to be a woman.

How do I feel about this?
stilled
in awe
grateful
connected
blessed
that I can touch what she made,
this woman I never met but whose DNA
is within mine.
This Daguerreotype and this tablecloth are
a doorway of connection
between us.

Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey wrote:
As we grow older we have more and more people to remember,
people who have died before us.
It is very important to remember those who have loved us
and those we have loved.
Remembering them means
letting their spirits inspire us in our daily lives.
They can become part of our spiritual communities
and gently help us as we make decisions on our journeys.
Parents, spouses, children, and friends
can become true spiritual companions after they have died.
Sometimes they can become even more intimate to us after death
than when they were with us in life.
Remembering the dead is choosing their ongoing companionship.

*** ***** *

I have not been one to ‘call upon the ancestors’
although I live amongst a community of Ancinabe people
who do
and I have been impressed with their ancestral honouring
and especially with the way the women
call upon their grandmother ancestors.

While I do not follow this spiritual practice
I do honour my ancestors
and at times like today
feel very closely related…and so
I give thanks for ancestors
and today
particularly for the women who have been my
mother and grandmother and great and great-great…
who nurtured and sewed and created
and passed on to me something of their love for things
made by hand.

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*** ***** *

What items do you have that connect you with your ancestors?
Do you have a yearly time for remembering?

 

Winter Storm SILENCE

A few days ago, we had an early winter storm.
The snow was wet and heavy and it bent and broke many tree branches.
We were saddened to loose a Red Pine that we had planted eighteen years ago
and a Spruce that we had transplanted from our previous home location.

I viewed the storm
with an odd mixture of winter-beauty-awe and feelings of grief
as we witnessed all the dazzling white brokenness.

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Our power went out at 4 PM and wasn’t restored until later the following morning.
We bundled up in sweaters and scarves and played games by candle-light.
This was quite enjoyable!

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When I awoke at 6:30 AM I made my way downstairs by flashlight
and then turned my flashlight off to sit
in the dark and in the silence.
It was so
very
very

silent!

We live on a small lake and it’s always quiet here
but without the sound of our furnace and the other electrical hums
that are always present although barely noticeable
the silence was
deafening
if that is possible.

I sat in ‘it’ for awhile and then thought
‘this is the perfect time for meditation’
so I began my Centering Prayer Practice.

One might think that this would be facilitated by the silence
but NO
my thoughts were all over the place…more so than usual.
It’s called Monkey Mind
and the Centering Prayer Practice is to
notice when a thought arises and then to let it go, so my time went like this:

Thought: I wish I had a cup of coffee…let it go
Thought: Hot coffee would be really nice…let it go
Thought: How long will we be without power…let it go
Thought: Will I make it to my workshop this evening…let it go
Thought: I’ll need to phone someone…let it go
Thought: My nose is cold…let it go

and on it went for several minutes until I was finally able to settle
and be more at one
within
Silence

one
within
THE GREAT SILENCE.

Robert Sardello (see Resources)
reminds us that all spiritual traditions value Silence.
We tend to think that being silent is to be in a place absent of noise…
that to be silent is to take our ear buds out and turn the hums off and then
voilà
silence
but
just as the Desert Fathers and Mothers discovered when they parted
from the noise of their world to live in a more quiet and secluded place
their inner selves were not silent…not at all!!

Sardello describes The Great Silence as a living Presence.
We, along with everything else, are within Silence.

Silence is palpable. It is a kind of subtle substance,
which we can almost reach out to feel…
It has favourite gathering places, such as the natural world,
a forest, the mountains, the empty plains.
Other places of subtle congregation are
cathedrals, caves, sacred sites, and cemeteries.
In meditation
we run into it at the moment when our interior becomes a vast exterior,
and we no longer know if we are inside or outside.
(p. 11)

We silent ourselves and in so doing
we connect with
Silence.

*** ***** *

I wonder…

How do you feel when the power is out and silence surrounds you?
Do you avoid Silence or do you seek out time within Silence?