Tag Archives: spirituals

GRATITUDE ATTITUDE 2019 #2

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”~2 Cor 4:15

The words have started to rumble about getting their say in my life. They have been passive for quite a while, biding their time, waiting to emerge, and that was okay – for a while. Somehow they know that putting one foot in front of another takes a lot of focus which oft leaves the body just plained tuckered out at times, and the mind somewhat befuddled at other times. So the words waited.

Until today.

Well – – – actually – – – they started the clamoring last night.

They bugged me, but I ignored them because – well – I fell asleep. What can I say?

The body was a little weary.
Heart was a little teary.
Eyes were a little bleary.
Mind was a bunch leary.

After all – – – what could be so important that the words wanted to say, and I wasn’t sure i was up to the task of lining them all up in some kind of cohesive order?

It has been a long couple of weeks with every day more blessed than the last. Days filled with things that needed to be learned, accomplished, and enjoyed. Got to admit, I’m pretty good at getting that first two parts – it is what teachers do. Go in the class. Teach. Observe. Absorb wisdom from what I’ve missed – what I need to do next time. But lately, I’ve missed that last part.

ENJOY.

A little word. An important word.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”~Jn 14:26

Enjoying that blessing of “doing” – whatever it is – just enjoying the blessing of “doing”. Somehow – seeing it in print makes it seems obvious and simple. Yet – for me – lately – just putting one foot in front of another has kept me from the blessing of what we were created to actually do – ENJOY. 

Enjoy this temporary garden that He created after we screwed up.
Enjoy the wait.
Enjoy the process.
Enjoy the sweat.
Enjoy the tears.
Enjoy the planning.
Enjoy the people.
Enjoy the journey.
Enjoy His presence, His light, His laughter, His smile at watching me stumble and fall and cry and lift myself up just so He can hug me even closer.

ENJOY.

The Holy Spirit kicked me this morning with a simple song. A song that I loved to sing with my family’s small church choir long ago. It is probably the first choir that started my love of choral music. Anyway – as I was doing this, that and the other thing on my to-do list of the day – the Moses Hogan Chorale started singing: “Let us break bread together on our knees…” and I found myself singing, crying and listening.

The Holy Spirit is like that when He gets a tight hold of my ears and heart. The voice in the choir began to sound more like my mom just as it had sung those same words in my ears year after year. The words – the lyrics – long dormant in some recess of my mind – were brought forth as if they were always at my tongue’s tip. The joy of singing in mixed formation as the harmonics overwhelmed me and went beyond the ears, flowing into the eternal consciousness that always encircles me when I participate in choral music.

“Enjoy this day that the LORD hath made. Enjoy the tribulation. Enjoy the work. Enjoy the refining and molding fire. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the sweat – the tears – the laughter – Enjoy the words that push their way forward – the blessings of all things for indeed,” the Holy Spirit whispered in my heart – “He is there – He is here – He never leaves or forsakes – He is faithful in all His promises – He is Your Father and He wants to see you smile.”

“Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees)
Let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy if you please. (if you please)”  75407655_10156713434853549_5688404572591095808_n

BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT

Long, long ago in the Campbell Street house, I heard a song while sitting on my daddy’s lap. His feet were bouncing me up and down until my mom pulled us both up to dance with her. From then until now (and from the way it looks now, probably for all eternity), it is always her voice in my head when I hear this song.

I fell in love with jazz that day. Blue-grass rhythms and harmonies had probably been a part of my genes while I was being knit in my mother’s womb, then add a few spirituals from whatever choir she was singing in, and my preference in music was pretty much set for life.

“I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I’m beginning to see the light”~Don George/Duke Ellington

A few years later – I discovered the deep power of vibration as William Warfield sang “Ol Man River” (one of the first songs I remember memorizing just out of love for singing it in the Campbell Street house)- the richness of George Gershwin’s Bess as she sang “Summertime” – the intricate harmonies of the 5th Dimension’s “The Declaration” – the dissonances of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy” – the heart of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” – the soul of all spirituals that chorally covered me in oh-so-many-choirs over a lifetime of singing.

“Every man has a place, in his heart there’s a space,
And the world can’t erase his fantasies
Take a ride in the sky, on our ship fantasii
All your dreams will come true, right away
And we will live together, until the twelfth of never
Our voices will ring forever, as one”~Earth, Wind and Fire

Today, I got to listen as my eldest daughter sang in a new choir. It is one of those unspoken blessings about living close to children we were blessed to raise. Sitting in an audience, swelling with pride as we watch them perform, and somehow – it never gets old. It never goes away. It never changes. Love, heart and soul circles through the music, into a new generation, into the Grands as they fidget in their seats, and into the mind of this elder as she pondered all these treasures clasped as tightly as possible in her hands.

“I must walk my lonesome valley,I got to walk it for myself, 
Nobody else can walk it for me,I got to walk it for myself…
Jesus walked his lonesome valley, He had to walk it for himself,
Nobody else could walk it for him,He had to walk it for himself.”~J.H. Cone

Journeys are individual. Yet – when those paths intersect, there is that possibility of being able to walk together for a short space of time, and today was just one of those blessed days. A day to listen as my youngest Grandson read an entire story to me for the first time while my youngest Granddaughter reached for my hand behind his back for a short minute or two. A day to watch the daughter sing for joy a song I have loved for ages. A day to hear the Grands shout across a big city parking lot, “Bye, Grandma” – not once but twice. A day to rejoice for being in the perfect place – at the perfect time – and looking up to see the Conductor of Life start the up-beat for “I’m Beginning to See the Light”.

“You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, to go bear fruit – fruit that will last.”~Jn 15:16   

“MY WINDOWS ACHE”

istock000000032072smallSeems like there are a lot of hurting people tonight. Post after post seems to pop up and weep into my thoughts. When this type of weeping tarts within my own life, I often turn to poetry, spirituals, or the Bible. Each of them bring a different picutre – a solidarity of thought – that I am not alone in my pain or sadness. There are others who have felt this same thing, tripped over the same rock, bled from similar ouchies. These testing periods are never fun.

Maybe it is just me, but some of the strongest poems are those that are written from that pain-filled experience. The images take on a poignancy that reaches beyond the physical and into the various depths that we share with no one except Those who keep watch over us. I love the image of this stanza: “…my windows ache.”

.”…so I wait for you like a lonely house29865221
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.”~Pablo Neruda (Sonnet LXV)

Spirituals sing me to sleep even now. My mother started me on this path long ago. She worked during the day, so she would do housework at night. As I did my homework or curled in bed reading a book after she heard my prayers, I would often hear her singing spirituals. In 2005 when she “tripped the light fantastic” and went to dance with my father, I spent the summer months sitting outside, listening to Moses Hogan’s choir singing spiritual after spiritual. It was balm to my deepest pain. I had become an orphan.

images (2)“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way is from home
A long way is from home
Do believe us, A long ways from home
A long ways from home”

The Bible is the place I go not only during rough times but also during happy times. My father battled heart disease from the time I was 10 to the ripe ol’ age of 19 when he finally hugged me for the last time. During those years, I often fell asleep with the Bible in my arms as I cried and feared that my daddy might die all too soon. I still read the letter he wrote me while I was in college. In it, he quoted the Gen 1:3

“God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light”

He then went on to write…”and believe it or not, most of that light came from a child…” That quote made a huge impression on me. I wanted to know the Light he talked about in that letter. I still want to know that Light, so I keep clinging to the Bible.

So if you are on a bumpy road right now, maybe some of these things might help you find the Light for your own path. Blessings!Be!

[google images]

A Living Epitaph

A Living Epitaph – sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

Death surrounds us.  We lose family, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, pets, co-workers, even celebrities (those people we don’t really “know”, but are somehow a part of our life), and in my case…sadly, former students.  Just a part of life throughout our journey upon this muddy sphere of life.  Our periods of mourning varies depending on the person and their personality.  For me, cutting my hair, music, crying buckets upon buckets of tears, building a memorial, and spiritual introspection all seem to be part of my mourning process.  Don’t ask me why, it is just me.  Maybe it is also why I am fascinated by epitaphs – although there is nothing special on our own family stones.  

George Washington:  (1732-1799) – Looking into the portals of eternity teaches That the Brotherhood of Man is Inspired by God’s WORD; Then all prejudice of race vanishes away. 

I tend to think that music is the Light that is always in my transitory hallway of mourning.  It echoes down that darken space where the lights are almost non-existent and scary shadows stretch up the walls.  It beckons me forward when I really don’t want to move.  If I listen, it encourages my steps, inch-by-tiny inch. Its harmonies, melodies, accompaniments, harmonic overtones, dissonances waft around me until I am ready to open a new door in my life and walk through.  When my father died, I filled my life with classical music.  Requiems – masses – in particular, the B-Minor Mass by Bach and Bernstein’s Mass.  My college choir sang the B-Minor Mass  just a few months after Daddy died and “Simple Song” from Bernstein’s Mass resonated in my soul constantly – and still does.   I spent a long time in that hallway before my steps reached the right door to open.  Many years later, that transitory hallway appeared again when my mother died.  This time it was filled with spirituals…specifically the recordings of Moses Hogan choirs: Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot and Gonna Ride.  It was a shorter hallway for some reason, but still a very dark one.

Benjamin Franklin: (1706-90) – The body of B. Franklin, Printer, Like the cover of an old book Its contents torn out, And stripped of its  lettering and gilding, Lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost, For it will, as he believed, appear once more, In a new and more perfect edition, Corrected and amended. By the Author. 

Since the time my father walked me through my first graveyard and pointed out special family markers, looking at tombstones have always been fascinating to me.  Walking through old, old cemeteries is always one of my favorite things to do. Especially taking the time to read the Epitaphs.  Epitaphs are a way of summing up a person’s life.  Some of the great ones are written by the deceased before their passing.  Some are blank.  Some are short.  Some are erased by weathering over the decades.  Now there are even pictures and computer chips that can be activated by cell-phones. Epitaphs are as varied as the people that walk upon this earth.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior: (1929-1968) – Free at Last, Free at Last Thank God Almighty I’m Free at Last. 

I watched a movie this weekend.  In it the protagonist was challenged to change his life.  In the climax, the protagonists sits in a graveyard and writes two lists.  One was a list of lies that he has always believed; the other, a list of truths that he has found to be true.  He buries the lies and then writes a living epitaph for himself using those truths as a guide.  Those three words stuck with me all weekend.  A Living Epitaph: a sentence that describes who we want to be from here on out. We don’t have to wait till we die before we are “free” or “re-written” or “inspired”.  Because of Grace, we can be all of these things today.  We can bury the “lies” we believed about ourselves and become  – A Living Epitaph.  It is just a simple action of opening up the door and walking into the Light.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” Jn 11:25