Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Awesome Discoveries

I LOVE this blog. It's the kind of thing I wish I'd thought of first, but now it wouldn't be original anymore.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On Messiah and Mothers

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation of Handel's Messiah last night and it was one of the most beautiful and meaningful Lenten experiences I have ever had.

Two memorable parts for me:
1) All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray: My initial reaction to this section was disappointment over the light-hearted melody given to a verse which bears a certain amount of weight in my view. However, as the piece progressed, I came to realize that it IS a rather accurate portrayal of our careless oblivion as we make ourselves the gods of our own lives hoping that it will bear no consequences in our relationship with the God of the universe. Then, at the end of the section, the tone drastically changes as the gravity of the situation hits and the chorus sings "and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." It left me breathless, both from the beauty of it and from the feeling of having been punched in the gut by the fist of conviction.
2) Hallelujah: Ah, the Hallelujah chorus, the most well-known section of Handel's entire work. As I listened to the members of the chorus victoriously proclaim the "we win" section of the piece, my eyes were repeatedly drawn to the crucifix hanging directly behind them in the beautifully adorned Catholic chapel. My mind mulled over two thoughts: 1) how hard it would have been to believe that the truth of that chorus would be fulfilled had it been sung on Good Friday, and 2) how as a post-Easter Christian, I do not live in the truth of that victory, an unfortunate reality for which I have no excuse.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the performance. I have never heard Messiah performed before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never fail to be impressed by the discipline and training that goes into developing musical talent and how absolutely beautiful it is to see people taking a gift that they have been given by God and developing it to be used to proclaim his Word.

In other news, I am not one who has ever gotten "homesick," per se, but there are times, occasionally, when I wish my mom was around or I at least wish I had a few of her gifts and talents so that I wouldn't feel like I had to rely on her for things when she is not available to help me. Last night was one of those nights.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Life of Luxury, Part II

The Mennonites were singing again when I got to work today. There simply is no better way to start a day at work than to listen to hymns sung in 4-part harmony while looking up your patient assignment.

I decided that if I ever had all of the money in the world at my disposal, I would hire a Mennonite choir to sing for me every morning.

While I was getting my hair washed.

Oh man, the thought alone gives me shivers.

On Solitude and Silence, Part XIII - A Professor's Prayer

You in our past:
You are a mouthful on the lips of our grandparents.

The hard part is you in our present.,
For after the easy violations we readily acknowledge
then come the darker, hidden ones:
aware that appearance does not match reality;
aware that walk is well behind talk;
aware that we are enmeshed in cruelty systems
well hidden but defining;
and we have no great yearning
to be delivered from them.
Forgive us for the ways in which we are bewitched,
too settled, at ease in false places.

You in our present:
We in the shadows asking you to do what you have done;
to be whom you have been,
That we may do what we have never dared dream,
be whom we have never imagined...
free, unencumbered, unanxious, joyous, obedient...
Yours, and not ours. Amen.

-Walter Brueggemann
"Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth"

On Solitude and Silence, Part XII - A Prophet's Cry From the Belly of a Big Fish

I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, "I am driven away
from your sight;
Yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple."
The waters closed in over me
to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
Yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!

-Jonah 2:2-9

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Solitude and Silence, Part XI - A Problem

God, I don't know what it means to listen. I don't know what it means to be here with you. I don't know how to discern your direction. I don't know how to quiet myself. I don't know how to "turn off my intellect" and not think through everything that I am feeling. All I know is how to distract myself, to read books, to go to Seminary, to do things that seem good and give off the air of pursuing you without having to let my heart be affected or my will be changed.

On Solitude and Silence, Part X - "Poustinia" Excerpts

"Deserts, silence, solitudes are not necessarily places but states of mind and heart."

"There is no solitude without silence. True, silence is sometimes the absence of speech - but it is always the act of listening. The mere absence of noise (which is empty of our listening to the voice of God) is not silence. A day filled with noise and voices can be a day of silence, if the noises become for us the echo of the presence of God, of the voices are, for us, messages and solicitations of God. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind. When we repeat the intimate words of God that he has left within us, our silence remains intact."

"Prayer is a full-time affair; solitude, unless called to a lifetime of it by God, must always be a temporary thing, lest it ceases to be solitude and becomes an escape."

"Those who leave everything for God receive everything back from him, but in a different way."

"The life of prayer - its intensity, its depth, its rhythm - is the measure of our spiritual health and reveals us to ourselves."

"There is no fear that God is displeased with you. God is never displeased with you. Jesus has changed all that."

"God is gentle. He doesn't let us see all the corners of our heart in one minute."

"With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing, because listening to your brother until he has said the last word in his heart is healing and consoling. Someone has said that it is possible 'to listen a person's soul into existence.' I like that."

-Catherine de Hueck Doherty

On Solitude and Silence, Part IX - A Picture in My Mind

My thoughts on spiritual direction:

I feel like a fish on a dock, aimlessly flopping around and at risk of doing some serious injury to myself out of the fear and anxiety of having found myself out of the comfort of my watery home. I see a spiritual director as a fisherman's strong hand that holds me firmly, yet gently, as I stare wide-eyed and take a few desperate gasps for air before guiding and releasing me back into the life-giving water where I can further explore the mysteries of the deep.

On Solitude and Silence, Part VIII - Another Psalm

From the depths I call to you, Yahweh;
Lord, hear my cry.
Listen attentively
to the sound of my pleading!

If you kept a record of our sins,
Lord, who could stand their ground?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.

I rely, my whole being relies,
Yahweh, on your promise.
My whole being hopes in the Lord,
more than watchmen for daybraek;
more than watchmen for daybreak
let Israel hope in Yahweh.

For with Yahweh is faithful love,
with him generous ransom;
and he will ransom Israel
from all its sins.

-Pslam 130

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Solitude and Silence, Part VII - A Physical Manifestation of a Spiritual State

I look around me and I see death. The animals lie dormant, the air is silent, the earth is brown and void of life. The scene speaks to me of the long Minnesotan winter of my soul. Surely this will not be the first year that God does not bring the renewal of spring. I trust it is coming, in your perfect timing, yet it does not seem I can bear to wait much longer. So I pray, Lord, for you to hasten your arrival. Breathe the music of life back into this creation of yours. I long to live again.

About five hours after I wrote this, 4 deer spent about 20 minutes grazing their way through the woods in front of my window. Maybe there is some sense of life to be found within the dead of winter, afterall.

On Solitude and Silence, Part VI - Ponderings

* I love rocking chairs. And tea. And blankets. Well, I have always known that I loved blankets, but I find that I particularly love them when combined with a rocking chair and tea.

* I could write about my reflections from inside my hermitage until my hand goes numb and yet nothing could adequately capture the intimacy of the fellowship I feel while praying as I walk through the woods.

* There is something very serene about reading Scripture in the faint glow of candlelight.

* Man, that seat in the Biffy is COLD in the winter!!!

*Oh, to be a hobbit! Frodo's mission was so clear. He was to take the Ring to Mordor and destroy it. Sure, it might not have been easy, but at least he knew what direction he was supposed to head. I feel like I have been told to take something somewhere and do something with it. What am I supposed to do with that??

*I want this journal to be a reflection of my conversations with God. I am afraid it is becoming the extent of it.

On Solitude and Silence, Part V - A Plea

I came here full on the food of the world both in the physical and spiritual sense. As my body takes heed of its increasing hunger, so, too, I pray that my spirit would cry out for you. Come, fill my cup and satisfy my hungering spirit. I long for more of you.

On Solitude and Silence, Part IV - Another Poem

I am angry.
I am unknown.
I am misunderstood.
I am alone.

I am on an inward journey.
I am dancing in front of the Wall.
I am digging under the Wall.
I am realizing the only way around the Wall is through it.

I am stubborn.
I am resistant.
I am hurt.
I am lost.

I am here.
I am rocking.
I am quiet.
I am content.

I am alive.
I am here with you.
I am known.
I am renewed.

I am fasting.
I am praying.
I am reading.
I am listening.

I am a poustinik.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On Solitude and Silence, Part III - A Prayer

How long can I avoid you, even in this place? My mind is distracted, my body is busy. I came to pray but I do not pray. I came to meditate on Scripture but I read other books. Meet me here, in my busy, noisy mind, and teach me to listen. I long for the silence in which you speak. I ask you to come, though I know you are already here. Draw me into the desert, for I have come as far as I can by my own power. Quiet me and I will be quiet.

On Solitude and Silence, Part II - A Psalm

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!

In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you!
For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge!
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good spirit lead me
on level ground!
For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

-Psalm 143

On Solitude and Silence - A Poem




Surrounded by the glow of four candles,
Two in the room, two in the window,
I sense the light of your presence here.
Healing me (Jehovah-Rophe, come).
Guiding me (Jehovah-Rohi, come).
Sanctifying me (Jehovah-M'Kaddesh, come).

The rhythm of life exchanged for the rhythm of a chair.
In the silence you speak clearly.
As I listen to you listen, I am renewed.

The slow minutes pass much too quickly.
Listening. Speaking. Being.
Simply being.

In the silence.

In the candlelight.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Would You Rather...*

I can't decide which "event" I would rather have twice a year....Christmas or the Girl Scout Cookie sale.


*This is not an official "would you rather." I made it up. Because I really can't decide.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Favorite Moment at Work. Ever.

I started crying at work tonight.

I walked out of my patient's room and my ears were filled with the sound of distant voices singing in harmony. I followed the sound to its source and found a patient's room filled with Mennonite brothers and sisters singing hymns in 4 part harmony. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes and a few of them even leaked out. Here is what I found so beautiful:

1) I love music, especially "live" music. Choral and orchestral performances absolutely mesmerize me.
2) They were singing hymns. There are very few people in my life who truly understand how deeply I love and appreciate hymns. I have difficulty finding words to adequately express the affect they have on my heart and spirit.
3) They were singing in 4 part harmony and they were GOOD.
4) The tangible vision of community was powerful. There were probably 25+ people crowded into every nook and cranny in this patient's room, singing their hearts out and it went on for about 15-20 minutes. It made me wonder who would come to my room on a Sunday evening and sing hymns in 4-part harmony if I were ever in the hospital. In one brief incident, the Mennonite community showed me that they seem much closer to living in true community than I have ever been.

Seven hours later the memory of the music is still filling me with energy. In the fast-paced, stress-filled, peace-less, hurting world of the inpatient hospital, a few simple songs powerfully transported me to a place of joy and contentment. And there were tears.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Hits Just Keep Coming

I got some popcorn from the cafeteria at work tonight.

The scooper was decidedly right-handed.