O, Death, where is thy sting?
O, Grave, where is thy victory?
May you feel the warm embrace of the Sun today! It’s a great day to sit in stillness for a moment, allow that light to bathe you and remind you of the Light inside you. Think about where you have been this year, where you are, and who you are becoming… and then, CELEBRATE!! Bright, Beautiful Solstice Blessings to each of you!
Sometimes what we need to do in discernment is articulate a possibility so that we can live in the space and see if it fits. Kind of like how you search for an outfit… you see something on a rack at the store - it might be a different color than you usually choose, but the style is the similar to your taste. So you try it on and see if it works. But you can’t see if it’s the right outfit for you until you say, “I like that. I think it might be right.”
A couple of months ago, I did that. I spoke the words so that I could start “trying on the outfit.” Last summer, I had a really amazing experience in Monroe, MI, one that absolutely changed my life because it helped me open up my heart and brain to a possibility that I had packed away. It took me awhile to say “I want to see how the IHMs fit me” - even though I am surrounded by people who are cheering me on, telling me that the outfit suits me just fine.
I am still not sure. I still have many doubts and many concerns and am just not sure it’s the right path for me to be able to use my gifts and graces in the best way. I’m still not sure the outfit fits, even though there are so many saying it does. My soul still is not certain about that, but it IS certain about other things, other people, and other opportunities that are nourishing me and helping me figure out the continuing answers to the only important question: how do I best love and serve God?
Does this mean I stop discerning? Exactly the opposite. I’m still discerning, still asking the questions. The possibilities have not been exhausted — and that’s exciting. Coming to these conclusions (which are really just “rest stops” on the journey), I’m not sad or disappointed - I’m excited. So, so, so excited to see how this keeps playing out in my life, to see how the Mysteries of Christ continue to reveal themselves in my life.
O, Death, where is thy sting?
O, Grave, where is thy victory?
Since I was a kid, I’ve had a practice of trying to place myself into the Gospel stories for Holy Week, starting with the Passion Narrative on Palm Sunday and through to Mary finding Jesus in the Garden on Easter Sunday morning. I try to imagine myself as Peter denying Jesus, as Judas making gut-wrenching, hateful decisions, as the Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross, as Jesus, finding his friends not watchful, but asleep.
This morning when I woke up, I wondered what it was like that Eve of Passover morning centuries ago. What was the mood like? Was it tense? Did Judas keep out of sight because he knew what was coming? Who was cooking? Did Jesus try to spend time with each of his friends, knowing he was soon going to be separated from them? What was the weather like? Did any of them have an inkling of what was going to happen that night?
One of my favorite songs to listen to this week is “Gesthemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Even though I like musicals, I was never familiar with this music until I heard a recording of “Gesthemane” that Michael Crawford did once. This song just grabs my heart, and listening to it was transformative for me… suddenly I began to realize that Jesus had a choice. Jesus was responding to the call he perceived from God. He could have walked away. He could have said, “No. I am NOT doing this. Find someone else.”
This version by Michael Ball brings “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from Godspell together with “Gesthemane”. It’s especially powerful to me when sung this way. I think of John the Baptist, convinced of a call to tell the world that The One is coming. To tell people to repent. To prepare. To be ready.
And what does that yield? At the ultimate moment, it yields Jesus on the Cross, tortured and bleeding, being crushed to death by his own weight. And before that, John’s message to prepare and follow led to Jesus in the Garden, desperate for God’s comfort and touch, longing to believe there was a better way, crying out to God from The Deep, that place of chaos from which God calls us into life. He is tormented, knowing he could walk away, knowing he would never.
I love Josh Groban. I didn’t always love Josh Groban, but in the past few months since I’ve gone Spotify bonkers, I was able to listen to more of his stuff, and it grew on me. There’s a song of his that always catches me when it plays, and I found it on YouTube as a duet with Josh and Idina Menzel. (If that didn’t just make you *squee*, then you either don’t know them or you have no soul.)
The song is about a shared experience - maybe about lovers waking up together, maybe just about people sharing some time together - that is about to become a memory… it’s going to over soon, they’ll go their separate ways, and they’ll have to figure out how to go on. I certainly identify with this concept from the perspective of lovers who will soon have to say goodbye, but it also hits me strongly in other ways. Just a few weeks ago, I had two Days I Will Never Forget… I was in Michigan at the IHM Motherhouse with a few of friends. It was two days of sharing stories, laughing, teasing, contemplation, prayer, more laughing and even glorious sunburns. It was AMAZING, and I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to hold those moments out of time, freeze them so that I would never forget how wonderful I felt RIGHT THEN.
If I could make this moments endless
If I could stop the winds of change
If we just keep our eyes wide open
Then everything would stay the same
Mindfulness and staying in the present are ideas that are really, really popular. You hear it all the time… stop and smell the roses. Enjoy the present. Don’t worry about the future. Another song that presses a similar theme is Glad You Came by The Wanted
The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
And I love that idea. I LOVE the idea that THIS moment is all that matters, but sometimes I can’t really embrace it. Maybe it’s because I’ve had too many experiences where “living for the moment” has led to disaster. I’m acutely aware of people making bad choices that have echoed through lives and lifetimes.
On the other hand, imagine if everyone truly held each moment as a gift, as an opportunity, as an access point to the Divine, and realized how important THIS MOMENT is. The decision you make now is the only one that really matters, because the next decision you make will necessarily be a different choice entirely. So all that counts really is here and now.
And what of the Divine? In Process Theology, we understand the Divine as consistently calling you from moment to moment, as a Divine Lure. How you interact with that Lure changes the next moment of your life. So “embracing the moment” is really about embracing the Divine. And that… well, that’s an idea that excites me.
Wisdom gleaned from Fr. Antonio Gaviria today:
Jesus was among both wild beasts and angels… at the same time. When we are in the desert of Lent, we too are with both beasts and angels. The desert gives us the time to confront the beasts and welcome the angels, to see our weakness and our strength. The desert is like God University, an intense time of learning and discernment.
From my Bible this morning - visual juxtaposition of the text from Mark 1 - Jesus begins his ministry by declaring “The reign of God is at hand! Change your hearts and minds and believe this Good News!” and the text from the end of Matthew, where the women find the Empty Tomb and then the Great Commission.
My head exploded with awesome - it’s the Gospel all in one photo. :)
When I decided the other day to do this Aural Icons project for Lent, I heard this song three times in the space of about 15 minutes, and then they featured it on Glee that night. I’m taking that as a strong indicator that this is a good song to start with.
It’s a catchy tune, the kind that sticks with you and also makes you want to dance a bit (even if it’s just butt-dancing in your chair :) ). Dance tunes always make me feel closer to God for some reason. I’m a lousy dancer, and you’ll rarely find me dancing in a public place, but I’ll turn the music up loud and dance all over my room, channeling my inner Baby Houseman - and no matter how ridiculous I look, I never *feel* ridiculous. I just feel pure joy.
The lyrics, though… I love these lyrics.
Thanks to you I got a new thing started
Thanks to you I’m not the broken-hearted
Thanks to you I’m finally thinking ‘bout me
You know in the end the day you left is just my beginning
In the end
In the days and weeks after my husband left me, I clung to the idea that even though my world had collapsed around me, that my life as I knew it was OVER, this ending as still a beginning. It’s been a mantra for me for years - in chaos is creation, in the end is the beginning. And the spark of life I needed in that chaos was the love of God, and that love nurtured me and healed my broken heart.
It took a long, long time.
But here I am.
This song is tinged with anger and there is more than a bit of “screw you” in it. And I certainly don’t think that my former husband walked out the door and thought I’d never survive his leaving. But I still have a measure of pride for the person I have become, because there were more than a few people who gave up on me. More than a few people who walked away from me because they couldn’t deal with my pain. More than a few people who didn’t think I’d survive.
But I did. I surprised them, even though I didn’t surprise myself. I had that love in my soul, even when it felt like nothing more than a tiny, tiny ember, barely there at all. And even though there are times I miss my former life, I love the life I have now. I love it.
This song reminds me of those times when I was broken that God walked with me and carried me.
I’m reading a book. It’s called Rock-a My Soul. It’s by David Nantais. The subtitle is “An Invitation to Rock Your Religion”. I’m reading it because we’re going to interview Dave next month for In Good Faith.
There are a million things I like about this book, but the one thing on my mind is how Dave leads the reader through listening to music as a spiritual exercise, engaging the images and emotions evoked by the lyrics and rhythms and melodies as a gateway to exploring how you see and meet God. He writes, “music is like an “aural icon” that can help facilitate a spiritual experience for the musician and help her to discover something that is both strange and familiar, both corporeal and spiritual, both felt and just out of reach. (Nantais, David (2011-04-15). Rock-a My Soul (p. 58). The Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition. )
Years and years ago, I wrote a paper about autobiographical criticism as a methodology for biblical criticism. In what was possibly the best paper I’ve ever written, I posited that ALL criticism is autobiographical criticism, because everything is viewed from the lens of our personal experience. There is no objectivity - and that’s OK. That’s good, because it provides gateway points for us to engage one another and our experiences of the Divine.
Reading Dave’s book reminded me of the time I spent writing that paper - half-drunk on sangria, designing the pages in columns with callouts to mimic a type of hypertext-on-paper in a grand postmodern experiment (delightfully received by my professor) and listening to the RENT soundtrack on repeat, singing “I’ll Cover You” - and knowing, intellectually, that the song is about two lovers making promises to one another, and then remembering those promises in grief… yet knowing in my soul that those promises are the same promises God sings to me - that God will cover me, protect me, love me with all the passion and hope of two lovers who have finally found each other… and I could respond with the same joyful hope and wonder Collins has “I’ve long to discover something as true as this is.”
A song, a lyric, a poem - it means whatever you need it to mean, and if you sit with it a bit, you can use it as an aural icon to help you see God, see God’s Creation, to help you understand a bit about the things you believe to be true and untrue about God and Creation.
This is as true of a CeCe Winan’s gospel anthem as it is of a Nicky Minaj dance anthem, if you are willing to sit and let God speak to you.
So that’s what I’m going to do for Lent. I’m going to choose songs that are in my head, songs I keep humming, songs I hear on the radio, songs that I play over and over again, and sit with them a bit and let them be aural icons for me.
I was very melancholy most of the day, which I suppose is fitting to the day. I went to Mass, I read the first reading from Joel. I received my ashes. I thought about my sinfulness. I prayed for mercy. I received the Eucharist.
And I began to hope.