Sunday past was Pentecost. Fifty days after Easter, the Roman [Catholic] Church, among others, celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit as she descended upon the apostles and gave them a power to speak in all languages. To reach all people with the Good News.
This Spirit moves and animates in all sorts of interesting ways. After mass the Sunday before (where we celebrated the Ascension), one of the choir members approached me and said “None of us [musicians] will be here next week. So, if you want, you could lead some of the old songs.” Hmmmm. I retired from my role as parish musician several years ago after decades of service. It was a difficult call, and not always a smooth transition to be frank. And, my preference for guitar accompaniment and the songs I would choose seem to be a bit out of line with the current administration. Still, I considered the possibility of leading a song or two acapella.
I subscribe strongly to St. Augustine’s thought: To sing is to pray twice. I have struggled with the current music at church. It is lovely and harmonic and to my soul lacking energy. Most weeks I spend most of mass trying to find the things that can build me up and help me to give thanks. It’s difficult and I am all too often just sad.
Therefore, I did consider a couple of hymns that might be appropriate and singable. Like “Come Holy Ghost.” Much to my surprise Fr. Gil came up to me before mass and said “Kim said you would probably be helping with music this morning.” Now, it seemed I needed to at least lead Come Holy Ghost for opening. I don’t really know the current mass parts well enough to lead them, nor to I particularly like them. But, an opening song, OK. By the time I listened to the readings, I had a second hymn and a closing. So, all I needed was a communion song. Listen to the Spirit, listen to the Spirit, listen to the Spirit.
By the end of mass I had four songs/hymns. I could hear those behind me singing. It felt good. A young couple in the row behind us tapped me on the should and mouthed “Thank you” with a smile. The pastor thanked me for helping (in front of everyone). Again — it felt good. My soul was comforted. Isn’t the Spirit the Comforter?
After mass I was also greeted by a small group who thanked me and encouraged me. Fr. Gil suggested that if I wanted to show up at the Saturday 4:30 mass he would welcome the music. We are definitely Sunday folks, but when I first came to this parish I came on Saturday afternoon and helped with music. Is there a pattern emerging?
Not “doing music” seems to have a much deeper affect on me than I have previously been willing to recognize. Not sure what will happen going forward. At this time I shall enjoy the comfort of the Spirit, the praying twice as I sing. I will appreciate those people who responded to the movement of the Spirit and encouraged me.
It feels good. It feels peaceful. It feels like I’m healing, finally.
This idea of seeing and accepting reality has been following me around of late. It nudges me and it challenges me. Somehow, I’m pretty sure it will be a recurring theme so I’d best just learn to deal with it.
Today’s Gospel reading was LONG… we got the whole story it seems. If you want to read it in full go here: John 9:1-41 — yes, the entire chapter. The story is of a man who was born blind. He runs into Jesus, and Jesus makes a mud mask using his own spit and clay soil. He tells the man to go wash at Siloam which the man does, and he can see! And, by the way, this happened on the Sabbath. Well, this guy rejoices, but most folks don’t believe him. They think maybe it’s someone who looks like him. And, the officials, when they have to admit that it is him, and yes his blindness has been healed, they commence to arguing if this Jesus can be from God, since he broke the Sabbath rules and healed someone on the Sabbath.
Enter today’s reflection from Richard Rohr with the observation that sometimes (ok, most times?) we are not seeking to be right, but to be in control. It doesn’t really if I’m actually right as long as my view wins. We see not only in politics but in daily life as well. “If I can’t win this argument, let me turn it to a different argument.”
Back to the man born blind. It seems that because he is willing to tell his experience, he gets kicked out of the synagogue. He has to leave what should have been a rejoicing community, and he returns to Jesus.
My past jumped up in my mind. Nearly 25 years ago I found that God/Jesus/religion as I experienced it got me pushed out of what I had formerly felt to be a loving community. It was painful. I made the decision to look elsewhere in order to survive. I went to a different Catholic church (the only other one in the entire county). And, I found Jesus waiting to welcome me home. Granted, there have been struggles in this community as well, but I knew deep in my soul, 25 or so years ago, that this was right, proper, life-giving. My eyes were opened. I have had years to try to understand that I don’t need to judge Church A, but to accept that they see things quite differently than do I. It’s took years to be able to set foot in there again, and to be honest, I am still not comfortable there. But, it was time to seek Right, not control.
There are so many ways I have to let go of my side and seek truth. Sometimes it scary because God can speak truth to me from the mouths of folks I totally distrust and dislike intensely. I just don’t want to take off my blinders and allow truth to come from these dark places. And, I know well the saying that Satan can quote scripture with the best of us.
I must remember that reality doesn’t care what I think or believe. I remember it seems that the State Legislature in Tennessee at one time thought they could declare the value of pi to be 3, so calculations would be easier. Yeah — but bridges and more would fall down. Reality didn’t really give a flip about how easy it was to calculate certain values. Other current political, social and religious ideas run headlong into reality: You can try to tell people not to talk about sexual preference or gender issues, but that simply won’t stop how a person feels and what he/her/their preferences are. You can declare the value of pi to be 3, but the universe isn’t going to change. You can refuse to believe “supernatural things” occur, but you can’t change my experiences. You can edit the January 6 videos to show only the parts you want to be true, but it won’t bring back a dead police officer (or 2) or the fear felt by so many during the events.
Start with the real. Look beyond outward appearances. Seek the truth.
I have no idea who Becky Hemsly is, but she speaks to my soul
‘She sat at the back and they said she was shy,
She led from the front and they hated her pride,
They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,
They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,
When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,
So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,
They told her they'd listen, then covered their ears,
And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,
And she listened to all of it thinking she should,
Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,
But one day she asked what was best for herself,
Instead of trying to please everyone else,
So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,
She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,
She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,
And she told them what she'd been told time after time,
She told them she felt she was never enough,
She was either too little or far far too much,
Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,
Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,
Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs
,And she stopped...and she heard what the trees said to her,
And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,
For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe`
~ Becky Hemsley ~
Today’s “aha!”comes from a January reflection from CAC
…One of the most familiar of Jesus’ teachings is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39). But we almost always hear that wrong: “Love your neighbor as much as yourself.” (And of course, the next logical question then becomes, “But I have to love me first, don’t I, before I can love my neighbor?”) If you listen closely to Jesus however, there is no “as much as” in his admonition. It’s just “Love your neighbor as yourself”—as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. There are not two individuals out there, one seeking to better herself at the price of the other, or to extend charity to the other; there are simply two cells of the one great Life. Each of them is equally precious and necessary. And as these two cells flow into one another, experiencing that one Life from the inside, they discover that “laying down one’s life for another” is not a loss of one’s self but a vast expansion of it—because the indivisible reality of love is the only True Self.
Love my neighbor as myself — that is ultimate connection. Lately I’ve been dealing with some personal interactions that are making that goal extremely difficult. I don’t even want to think of this woman as my neighbor, much less to love her. She’s done her best to make my life miserable. And, she seems to have no regret, or even acknowledgment of the pain she has caused. This is going to be a tough one. After all she seems to be saying that it’s all my fault and even after I made a sincere apology she is still out for blood.
My first step is to spend at least a part of Lent praying for her. Even that is rather difficult. I know it is necessary, but not in any way easy.
Note: I don’t really expect anyone to wade through this long, rambling look at events in my life. I just need to write it so as to better see where I am.
My goal is to be in the present moment. But, sometimes life (and Facebook) pull up the past and tripper me to think how I got to the present moment. Then perhaps I can assess the present and rest there more easily.
Yesterday Facebook prompted me to share my status from New Years Eve 2015 (the day before New Years Day 2016). Here’s what I had written:
2015: No doubt I could have eaten less, walked more, run harder, prayed more and been more generous. But, I got to surprise a dear friend by turning up at a celebration of his 50th anniversary of ordination, the dogs and I have taken many walks, I’ve enjoyed biking the Gulf State Park, the house didn’t flood Christmas Eve and the tornado in Birmingham missed us by a few miles; I would have preferred to have a miracle for Molly over the miracle of Molly Praying for Molly Remmert Rossell,. It seems too many folks have left us this year. But, Henry turned 1 and there’s another grandson coming in the spring. A we still go out to dinner on Friday night with my mother. Welcome 2016! I’m sure the best is yet to come!
As I read this, I thought — “Wow! I was mighty optimistic about the coming year.” To be honest, 2016 brought a lot of changes. And 2017 even more changes and loss. 2018 has been a time to process and heal. I chose to look at the past 3 years as a period of growth. I choose to take the good.
When I wrote that reflection on the last day of 2015 much was different in my life. I had just finally taken a break from church music ministry. I still lived in the same house where we lived for 31 years, and raised 3 children, several dogs and cats, survived a house fire and rebuilt. Less than 2 weeks later, on a dream trip to Hawaii to celebrate 40 years of marriage and revisit the place where we met, I stepped off of a banyan tree root and broke 2 bones in my leg (tibia at the ankle end and a spiral fracture in the fibula); The vacation was cut short, and it was almost April before I walked free again. 9 weeks of living non-weight-bearing on my left leg led to more changes. The realization that we could not grow old in that house because of accessibility issues was one of the things that moved us to move.
Letting go of my grounding on Windsor and moving was exciting. By August all was ready for closing and moving. In a space of 2 weeks we closed on the house we sold, found out my husband had colon cancer, closed on the new place and faced the surgery which fortunately removed all of the cancer — and moved. For the second time in a year, one of us was severely restricted for several weeks. By late October, I could ride bikes again and after a week of lots of riding down on the coast, my left ankle/foot finally gave up swelling. By Thanksgiving I realized I wasn’t panicking about falling with every step I took.
Just as JP got the “all clear” in early October, my brother in law got the bad news that he didn’t have appendicitis – he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He would begin chemo immediately, and do very well with it. JP and BIL had the same oncologist..
Not sure I would have evaluated 2016 as “the best!” Broken bones, 2 cancers, new house. We made it! We faced adversity with a semblance of grace. I understood within myself that my sabbatical from parish musician wasn’t a sabbatical. It was a retirement.
Enter 2017: Gonna be calmer and better!!! Do want to see God laugh? Tell him your plans.
In February my mother’s cousin (more like a sister, Mama was an only child) fell and broke her hip. 5 days later they were planning her funeral. Mama wouldn’t go, probably mostly because of a fear of falling herself. She had been having problems with that. At about the same time, another of my mother’s cousins lost his wife to cancer.
In March, I watched family deal with a suicide of someone too young to die, and it seems, too broken to live.
By April, my step-brother had died of a massive heart attack. Mama went to that funeral. We had so much fun “driving Miss Martha” around Florence so she could take in the changes since she had moved away. The funeral service was a musical delight and the crowd in the church massive. 4 songs, all verses for communion. That was Mama’s last trip.
May found us saying “Good-bye” to Mama; a return to Florence for a smaller, low key funeral. By now I was feeling a bit shell shocked. But, BIL had been told he had reached the stage of maintenance treatment and should expect to live a full, healthy life.
June was full. Cooper, our 12 year old diabetic schnauzer left us. When Cooper died I did shake my fist at the sky (at God) and holler. Too much! We left for vacation. My sister called: BIL had been feeling horrible. They were at UAB since his lymphoma had transformed into a double-hit lymphoma. He would spent most of his time for the next 4 months undergoing intense, debilitating chemo.
In September I retrieved him from the hospital after a round of chemo. We had to make several stops on the way home for him to relieve himself (diuretics are a bear!) and to buy him a hand dipped milkshake. He enjoyed it so much that he said I should have gotten him the big one. I had. He returned to the hospital less than 2 weeks later, where he died on October 8.
A part of writing this is to try to find my way through 2017. It is still a bit of a blur. You notice very few actual dates.
2018 must have been healing and loss. One of my son’s friends died suddenly at 32. We had known this child/boy/man since before he could walk. But his friends showed up from far and near for the day of remembrance. His mother is still reeling. A good friend’s husband passed in April. He was in his late 80’s and had been failing for a while. But, one is never truly ready to let go. We celebrated my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday in May. Visited with her as she slipped out of consciousness in July and returned to RI for her funeral in August. And, by year’s end, our dear friend from church (and Sunday breakfast buddy) had gone home to heaven. On Sunday before Christmas, we said goodbye to Grace, our 15+ year old schnauzer (Cooper’s mother);
In the flow of life, 2018 was overall good. I went back to practicing yoga. I’ve continued trying to get back to a bit of running. I’m making peace with the music at church. We’ve ridden bikes. We had a lovely Thanksgiving in Birmingham with my brother and all of the remaining family. We spent Christmas in Florida with my oldest son and his family. Life is good. I find myself a bit more in touch with the eternal “I AM” and better centered in my day to day life. I do better at looking in the mirror and accepting and loving what I see.
For 2019 I pray for peace and grounding. My only resolution is that this is the year of purging [added] sugar from my diet. I’ll start right with cornbread, collard greens (for folding money), black eyed peas (for good luck and pocket change) and ham (hey! it’s pork for good luck just like hog jowls);