As I was preparing dinner last night, a report on the nightly news caught my attention. Apparently, yesterday in the midst of a busy day at New York’s JFK airport, air traffic on some runways was halted due, not to threats of terrorism, but to the presence of turtles. Terrapins, to be exact. It seems the turtles are making their way across certain runways in pursuit of laying their eggs in the sand of Jamaica Bay which borders the airport. It also seems this is a yearly activity that has often played havoc with the comings and goings of jumbo jets and the pilots who fly them. It was fascinating to listen to the air traffic controllers and pilots report to one another the progress of the lumbering turtles while they waited to take to the air headed toward far flung places around the world. To hear the humor and compassion in their voices was really quite remarkable.

For some reason it reminded me of my pilgrimage last year on the island of Iona. Before we began what was to be our three and a half hour walk around the holy sites that dot the lovely isle, our guide reminded us:” Remember. On pilgrimage we travel at the pace of the slowest pilgrim.” I watched as anxiety flashed across a few faces. Some in our group were quite fit and perhaps had seen this walk as exercise for the muscles and heart as well as the soul. But with the intention clearly stated, we journeyed on together, each of learning to match our rhythm to one another until we became, not individuals, but a community of pilgrims. The walk actually took us nearly twice the time we had planned but no one minded because we had come to know ourselves as now intricately woven together on this journey.

Thinking of the turtles and the wisdom gained in this pilgrimage experience, I pondered how often we forget about those who travel more slowly than our own pace. It becomes so easy to walk over or at least around them. I also thought about how often these days it seems we hold so little value for the sometimes smaller, more vulnerable around us. For those who live on the edges of our society, those who need the care and attention of all who are stronger and have more resources. It becomes easy to push ahead with our powerful force ignoring all that is in our way. We do this in a physical way sometimes but mostly we do it with how we organize our common life together as neighborhoods, as cities, as nations.

The terrapins who are making their way across runways and past enormous metal people-movers, do so for one reason: to bring life to the world. What endeavor is more noble, more holy than that? And so, for all the pilots, the baggage handlers, and the controllers who watched these slow moving beings make their own pilgrimage in the busiest airport in our country, I offer thanks. Thanks for your patience and self-control. Thanks for your compassion and humor. Thanks for remembering that on this pilgrimage we call life, it is always a right and good thing, to travel at the pace of the slowest pilgrim.

When we do, we are often offered the promise of new life.


Pour Out Your Heart

There is a time between sleep and waking when dreams seem more vivid and the images planted in your resting brain become etched in profound ways. This is the time when you are not quite asleep and not quite awake, the time when you struggle to remember what day it is and where you are. It must be,in the Celtic tradition,a thin place of sorts, that place where this world and eternity coexist.

I had an experience of this in-between land this morning that I am still gently wrestling with. In the span of time between being unconscious and conscious, I heard this voice in my head:” Pour out your heart.” I tried to come up from the darkened waters of sleep to connect these words with a dream I had been having, tried to attach the voice to some unknown being that played a part,opposite my own, in a nighttime drama. But I could not recollect any story that had been playing out in my sleep. Only the words: “Pour out your heart.” The words seemed so significant that I even repeated them out loud to myself so I would not forget.

And now this message has been following me about all day. Pour out your heart. What could it possibly mean? Pour out on what, to whom? What exactly am I supposed to be pouring from my heart? Compassion? Love? Empathy? I have to admit to feeling a little like the Kevin Costner character in ‘Field of Dreams’ who kept hearing the voice saying ‘build it and they will come’. He proceeded to plow over his Iowa cornfields and build a baseball diamond where dead but heavenly players came to play the game they had loved in life. But ‘pour out your heart’ is a little less concrete than Kevin’s baseball message. There is little direction other than the message itself.

But a good message it is. How could I go wrong pouring out my heart into every action I take? My work. My home. My family. My friendships. All the many things about which I feel passionate.There are also the small seemingly unimportant acts that make up each and every day. Buttering toast. Drinking coffee. Loading the dishwasher. Making the bed. Passing a stranger on the street. Setting the dinner table and eating with intentional gratitude. What about pouring heart into all that?

I have no idea why or how this message came to me. But it has given me much to ponder and consider on what could have been an ordinary Wednesday. But then again, if we pour our hearts into each day, can there even be such a thing as ordinary?

Minnesota writer Robert Bly has translated a poem of Antonio Machado. It ends with the lines:
“Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt- marvelous error!-
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.”

What a gift it was to have an early morning message that has so filled my day. With questions, with longing, with humor and hope and, even, with God.

Standing in Awe

One of the rewards of taking public transportation is that you are reminded of the ways in which we are all so intricately woven together as people. When I have the gift of taking the light rail, I find myself jostled and soothed by the variety of people around me and the rhythm of the train. On beautiful mornings like today, you get the added advantage of looking out the window and seeing the city you love fly by in a flash of speed and color. This vision was accompanied on this particular morning by the sound of a young woman sitting beside me quietly speaking a language I did not know into her cell phone. Those with bicycles load on and off flanked by fashionable men and women in business clothes: suits, ties, skirts, black high-heeled shoes. Nearly every person carries a backpack or briefcase that holds items that remain a mystery to their fellow riders. Only the imagination tells the story of their work, their life.

Once off the train there is also the vast array of people that are walking toward offices or buses or wherever their day might take them. There are also those that have no destination. Their day will most likely consist of trying to find their next meal, a helping hand or a place to sleep the night. The diversity of faces and clothing tells a part of the story but not its fullness. This kind of imaginative jogging is why I love to be able to use this mode of getting to work. It is not lost on me that this way of travel is a choice and not a necessity for me. My ability to spin stories and observe people’s lives represents my priviliged life.

Last night as I made my way toward the train that would take me to my waiting car, I observed many interesting sites. But the one that stuck with me throughout the evening and into this morning was the street preacher that had taken his stand on Nicollet and 8th Street. Standing on a metal platform no wider than a kitchen ladder, he held a small, hand lettered sign that simply read ‘Fear God’. He was expounding with some effort about all the ways in which we are meant to fear God and using scripture to back it up. But he was not a polished speaker nor a learned student of the Bible. He looked down periodically at his 3×5 white note cards to get his next scripture citation.

“For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23” he spoke, checking his note card. He then went on to say how we are all sinners and that is why we should fear God. As I waited for the light to turn, I found myself watching and listening out of a sense of obligation and identification. You see, I am not very good at being able to cite scripture…chapter and verse… either, so I felt a kinship with him. And while I don’t agree with him theologically, I was also humbled by his courage to stand out in public and put his faith out there for all to see.

Sharing the same corner soap box were two young people signing people up for Amnesty International. Perhaps they, too, were putting their faith out there. I watched them NOT watch the street preacher. Their eyes instead were on an inebriated young man who was sitting on the ground in front of them. A security guard was trying to get him to his feet urging him to “be mature about this.” Frankly, it was a lot to cram into a few square feet of concrete.

The light changed and I was forced to leave this little drama being played out. I did not walk on ‘fearing’ God anymore than I did on any other day. This preacher’s sermon was lost on me. But what I was captured by was his commitment and the commitment of the Amnesty International volunteers. And I was held by compassion for the young man who had had too much to drink and the one who was trying to help him without causing a scene or inciting violence.

In that scene, a snapshot really, of any given moment on any given day on God’s Creation, I was struck by ‘awe’. Awe at the frailty and the courage of humans. Awe at the ways in which a moment can connect us in ways that startle and break our hearts. You see ‘awe’ is the true meaning of the words in scripture we have come to translate as ‘fear’. The scriptures urge us to be in awe before God, not to be afraid of God.

For a few moments on an ordinary Monday on a little plot of sidewalk, I knew the depth of what it means to stand in awe before God.

Hosta Heaven

“What you gaze on, gazes back. What you contemplate in faithfulness, changes you into itself. Turning and turning you’ll come around to being open like earth in which much can grow.”
~Gunilla Norris

I began my morning with a stroll through a hosta heaven. I had taken the light rail to the office this morning which allows me to walk down Nicollet Mall and through the Loring Green area before making my way across Loring Park. As I progressed past the many green and manicured areas, between the high rise apartments and condominiums that flank Loring Green, I began to notice the plethora of hostas. It is the boon of gardeners to plant hostas, those shade plants that allow a yard to have towering trees that create more shade than most flowering plants can take. These perennials have the magic of sprouting out in the spring and creating a blanket of green throughout the summer. All with very little work of the human kind! They are hearty and hardy plants and can grow with enthusiasm, needing to be thinned out every so many years.

Along the pathway that curves and turns between the buildings, the landscapers have planted a wide variety of hostas. There are ones with white and green or yellow and green variegated leaves about the size of my palm. There are ones whose leaves shine in the light of any sun that manages to peak through the branches of the trees overhead. And then there are the ones whose leaves could almost conceal a small child, leaves tinged a Kentucky bluegrass color. Looking at them, one expects a fairy to emerge at any moment.

This was the path that began my day. I found that as I walked through these lovely shade loving plants, I began to walk more slowly. My eyes moved right, then left, careful not to miss any of the variety that had become a morning meditation. Snuggled between the hostas were flashes of color, impatiens and an occasional gerbera daisy. But the hostas held court in these green spaces created for the hungry, city soul. I allowed my pace to slow to what might be called meandering. There was work to get to but walking through this heaven of hostas seemed the most important task at the moment. I found my spirits lift, my breath slow and go deeper.

There is much to admire about the hosta. It can flourish nearly everywhere. It is not a high maintenance flower. Basically you plant, water and let it alone. It is one of the first green things to push up out of the soil in spring. It grows fast but not too fast, allowing those who really pay attention, a certain satisfaction at its progress. If need be, it can spread to take up the space that is open. It does not need to be in the spot light to be its true self. And when it overstays its welcome or spreads itself too far in any direction, it can be thinned out and given a new home to begin once again.

Sounds like a pretty good way to live to me. My invitation is this: the next time you have the blessing of being in the presence of a hosta, spend time with it, treasure its beauty and its strength, and learn from it. We could all do with being a little more hosta-like, don’t you think?


It has been a series of drippy, dreary days in Minnesota. The rain has at times been powerful and torrential and other times just drizzly, like a fine mist. Throughout it all the sun has been absent, the skies gray and gloomy. People are nearing the end of their collective ropes. Yesterday I was privy to the conversational comments of a few mothers of young children who had, much too soon, lost their lust for the summer vacation. Having been trapped inside for too long, their creative juices were stopping up.

While I am now a fair distance from those days of trying to entertain children on rainy days or, even more importantly trying to help them entertain themselves, I listened with a certain melancholy longing. A favorite video of our children was a quirky, little piece called “Drizzle and the Rainy Day.” We actually rented this video when trapped inside a grandparent’s house on several consecutive rainy days. It featured an odd, hairy puppet whose true gift was helping kids pass the time and have fun on rainy days. The trick with Drizzle was that everything he used to do this were things already available in your house. I don’t remember too many of the details except that things like empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, straws and toothpicks became quite exciting creations. A little string, a marble, a Hotwheels car and you had a racetrack or maze that wound its way from the living room couch, under the chair by way of the paper roll tunnels, through the dining room, out onto the kitchen floor where it picked up speed and crashed into the dishwasher. The amount of time, energy,design and redesign that went into these creations not only led to exercising imagination but hopefully, to higher physics scores in high school.

I remember the Drizzle Days with great fondness. The sweet, simple joys of taking what was at hand for creativity and being entertained and challenged fill my heart, not only for the boys now turned men, but for the lazy days of making something out of nothing. Of course, this gift is available to us at all times but sometimes needs the imposition of rainy days to bear fruit. I have to admit that these gray, wet days have my mind turning to acts of creation much like a good, old fashioned Minnesota blizzard. I am certain it doesn’t work this way for everyone but it does for me.

What weather brings out your creative spirit? What manner of sky can send you to paint a picture or write a poem or sing a song? What weather pattern can form around your days that leads you into that right brained place that spins out new ideas faster than you can write them down? It is a good thing to understand your creative meteorology. When you know what fuels your creative spirit it becomes easier to see the inspiration as it begins to arrive. Yarn and needles call to be twisted and turned. Crayons and paper beckon from the closet where they have rested too long. The piano, silently sitting alone in the other room, begs to be played. That recipe you’ve wanted to try but took too long or need too many ingredients, shouts: “Now! Now!”

The rain is supposed to lift and move on sometime tomorrow. So, those of us who have been trained in the Drizzle School need to get busy. Those of you guided by the Sunshine Way of creative thought, get plenty of rest tonight. Tomorrow the sun is reported to be moving in and next week the temperatures will rise as the skies clear.

There is much to be done……rain or shine!

Holy Day

“We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.”
~ John O’Donohue

Sometime last week I read with interest a posting on a clergy friend’s Facebook page which outlined what she had done that day. Its purpose was to answer an often asked question:” So, what do ministers do all day, anyway?” There are many folks, I’m sure, who think that a few hours a week in preparation for Sunday sermons is the extent of what might be on any clergy calendar. My friend’s daily diary was impressive indeed as she listed the meetings, Bible study led, visits made, conversations had, more meetings, a stop in on the young children in the preschool, worship preparation,a lunch meeting and on and on into the evening. It was a whirlwind of purposeful, soulful activity. I smiled thinking of her moving through that most holy of days.

If we are awake and aware, each day is a holy day. And not just for religious “professionals.” Each day holds the gift of communion, transformation, enlightenment, epiphany, even redemption. When I think about the day I have just lived, it held all this and so much more.

I began the morning having coffee with a friend and colleague. It had been my plan to simply catch up on her life and also check in on some worship details for a service she leads. But our conversation turned to challenging subject matter in which there was anger, disappointment, confession, absolution and eventually deep understanding and love. This had certainly not been on my to do list, had not been a part of my plan, but our time together became a gift of transformation that brought about an eventual feeling of freedom.

Lunchtime found me surrounded by some of our church’s true saints. Every Wednesday two groups of worker bees gather at church. One threads needles and creates quilts for the crisis nursery and others who need the warmth of lovingly created comfort. The others pick up paint brushes and hammers and fix anything that needs to be fixed around the building. We, literally, would be a mess without them! I had been asked to offer the grace for their noontime picnic. As we ate our summer meal of hotdogs, brats and potato salad, stories were shared of all the hours they have worked over nearly two decades together. Savoring my meal, I looked around the table and also noted who was no longer present, whose hands no longer painted or repaired. I had the sense that I was not the only one aware that while we were sharing a simple lunch we were also sharing a Meal of Memory.

A large portion of my afternoon was spent with our District Superintendent as we looked back over the past year at goals I had set and what this year’s work had been. O.K. It was a kind of yearly job review. But in the course of our time together we shared our hopes and our frustrations with what it means to be this body called church. Having the opportunity to spew out all the good, the bad and the ugly of a year in one’s life can be a humbling experience. Today I was privileged to eat the feast of humility and drink the cup of mercy.

These three events in my day were sandwiched in between phone calls and emails much like most working people. Also, like most people, I carried the brokenness and longing of my life into every word formed, every phone call answered, every conversation. It is holy work, this living. It is somehow made even holier when we take the time to notice the sacred threads that bind each moment together into a whole.

John O’Donohue ends this poem called ‘The Inner History of the Day’:

“So, at the end of the day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And the wisdom of the soul become one.”

We give thanks and look forward to the living of yet another holy day.

Getting Wet

“Most of what we do in our worldly life is geared toward our staying dry, looking good, not going under. But in baptism, in lakes and rain and tanks and fonts, you agree to do something that’s a little sloppy because at the same time it’s also holy, and absurd. It’s about surrender, giving in to all those things we can’t control; it’s a willingness to let go of balance and decorum and get drenched.”
~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

We began our worship yesterday with these words. We laughed. It is vey good now and then to begin worship with laughter. We do it so seldom. We laughed because most us, the adults anyway, knew the truth of these words. Like most humans who can be open to knowing that the joke-finger is pointed in their direction, we joined forces in common laughter and a certain humility. Yes, each of us had spent considerable energy trying to ‘stay dry’ in life.

But baptism was the central movement of our worship together. We were there to celebrate one of our little ones whose birth we had anticipated and then celebrated, whose personality we have been blessed to watch evolve. We have walked with her parents through these early months of her life and stand looking forward to watching her as she becomes. As we gathered to lay hands on her and to bless her with water combined from many sources, we all knew we were engaged in something holy and perhaps absurd. After all, who can understand it really? And yet, as humans, we try to cobble together the words that tell her and her parents that we are with them in this journey. Most importantly we all affirm once again that we believe the Holy travels with us. Even when we do not know it or understand what it means. Even when we don’t feel as if we are worthy, or together enough, or even much of a ‘believer.’ Even when we don’t get it or understand what it all might means. Even when our primary aim is to stay dry.

I know that throughout my life I have certainly spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to stay dry and look good. I have probably also spent even more effort trying not to go under, not to send myself spiraling into a hole I feared I’d never crawl out of. I’ve twisted my self into shapes and knots only a contortionist should be able to do in order to keep control. Any of this sound familiar to you?

And yet, as Anne Lamott reminds us, this life we have been given is really mostly about surrender. The more we surrender to the surprises and unknowns, the more we allow ourselves to free fall into the Mystery that holds us. It is the dress rehearsal for the ultimate surrender we each reach at life’s end. A daily practice of surrender can bring more than any of us could ever imagine and promises to keep our daily walk spicy and even exciting.

Baptism means many things to many people. But as I see it, this act we in the Christian household call a sacrament, is something visible to us of something that dwells within, whose ingredients are pure grace. Its action binds strangers and friends, guests and enemies, young and old, those who agree and those who argue, into a common, messy life together using that element of which we are all made and through which we are all sustained: water. Swimming through it all is the Creator whose image is imprinted on each of us.

Yesterday as we greeted this one so new to this messy, wonderful world, we did so with water and hope and love. “Come on in! The water is fine!”, we said.

And so it is. And so it is.

Initial Impulse

No doubt most people have favorite buildings. These are structures that connect us with a memory or an experience from childhood. A house. A barn. A cabin. They can be buildings where important events happened for us. Where we met our first love. Where we went to school. Where we had some life transforming moment from which we were changed forever. Just driving by such a building can stir in us physical reactions that can catapult us to another time. Our cheeks can turn hot or our palms can sweat. We can smile or find our stomach beginning to church.

One of my favorite building is the Carondolet Center on the grounds of the College of St.Catherine. It is an old building, the former residence of the Sisters of St. Joseph. While a few of the sisters may still live there or nearby, it is now filled with several different offices of various organizations. However, unlike many office settings, these still carry the grandeur and beauty of a by-gone day. The hallways and all the rooms are furnished with an attention to beauty and hospitality. The walls are decorated with lovely art, the furniture is arranged in cozy groupings just right for quiet conversation. Climbing the polished stone stairs between the floors, I am always aware of the grooves in each step that have been worn away by years of faithful women going to and from prayer. In little nooks and crannies, there is often a glimpse of a vase with fresh flowers or a single candle burning.

One day this week I was in this lovely building for a couple of meetings. Going from one floor one floor to the next, I reached out for the door handle that led into an enclosed hallway. Just as I was reaching on one side someone was obviously pushing from the other. The door came open quite fast, startling both of us on each side of the threshold. “Welcome!” said the sister with whom I was now face-to-face. “Thank you.” I said without thinking. She smiled and stepped aside and I made my way on through the door.

What struck me in this encounter was how quickly the words were on this sister’s lips. “Welcome.” Most people in this situation would have said “Excuse me.” or “Sorry.” Or even “Oops!” But her initial reaction was “Welcome.” The invitation, even blessing, was full and genuine.

Oh, how I long to be one of those people whose first reaction in any situation is to be welcoming. To be a person who is ready to open a door without fear or anxiety or even hope and to simply say “welcome” to whatever, or whomever, is on the other side. And to do so without forethought because it is my way walking in the world. I think it is the kind of welcome we all hope for, long for, when we cross any doorstep. It is the welcome people especially hope for when they enter our places of worship. Sometimes it is what they receive but often their presence is invisible to those who have forgotten how to see. What a sad thought and a missed opportunity.

Emerson once wrote: “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

The invitation is this: As we go about this summer weekend, may ‘welcome’ be ready on our lips as a sacrament. May it be our initial impulse at the opening of each door, the greeting of each stranger, the rising of each day.

Blessed be.

Morning Harp

I began my morning with the music of the harp. What a privileged and blessed person I am! To be in the presence of someone playing the harp is a profoundly deep experience. The physical beauty of the instrument itself is, for one thing, a sight to behold. So many curves and turns. So many strings. Sitting in chapel as I allowed this intricate and yet simple sound wash over me, it was quite clear to me why many pieces of art show angels playing the harp. What other creature in all Creation might be more suited for the job?

Most cultures have some form of the harp. There are small hand harps from places in Africa. There are shapely harps strummed by musicians across South and Central America. The harp that comes from the Celtic people across Great Britain and Ireland creates music so sweet and tender, it makes me cry. And then there are the various classical harps in numerous sizes that often grow as the harpist grows in both stature and skill. Perhaps it is the desire across cultures to make this music of the angels.

The Psalmists speak of praising God with the harp:
Praise God!
Praise God with trumpet sound;
Praise God with lute and harp !
And in the first book of Chronicles, David is said to have ‘commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kindred as the singers to play on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise loud sounds of joy.’ And in one of the great psalms of lament, Psalm 137, the people were in such despair that’ there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps.’ Their hearts were so broken even music could not save them.

The harp is indeed a powerful instrument that can inspire and bring about great emotion. It can also create a calm and peace that is palpable. Which is what I experienced this morning and what caused me to consider the idea of how the world might be different if everyone had the blessing of harp music to begin their morning. I thought of our elected officials at the Minnesota Capitol right now pulling out one another’s hair and slinging vile and angry words at one another. What if their morning began with them being told to “Please sit down and listen to the harpist before we begin our work together.”? What about our world leaders who find it impossible to understand our shared humanity and often resort to war and conflict? I can imagine them all gathered around their conference tables, eyes cast down to the important papers before them. A harpist moves to their instrument and begins one of those flowing, mind-bending arpeggios up and down the strings until the thought of arguing and bickering drifts right out the window.

I think of all the children around the world who could be soothed and nurtured by a few choruses of ‘All Through the Night’ played gently on the harp. Or the parent who is worried about so many things……rent, the next meal, a job, the health of their child…..being surrounded by the strong chords of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ played confidently on the harp strings.

These are only flights of fancy, I know. But they flow out of my sacred experience of being blessed by music that has carried me throughout the day. And for this I offer my gratitude to both the harpist and the Universe that could imagine such an instrument, such a sound.




Carols in Summer

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

This day began by singing this traditional Advent hymn. In the workshop I am in this week, there is opening worship designed to travel through the seasons of the church year. So on this rainy, almost summer morning, I found myself singing an Advent hymn. It was a wonderful surprise and set a tone for the day. From then on everything felt a little out of season, a little ‘off’, not a bad thing for a week dedicated to creativity.

The invitation to sing this Advent tune came with the spoken words ‘this is one we all know.’ Clearly, many around the circle did not know this hymn. I heard my own voice and the man next to me spit out the words. But I heard the majority of the other voices carrying the tune and doing that “watermelon” thing people do with their mouths when they do no really know the words but don’t want to let on. I realized then that knowing hymns by heart is probably a dying art. In fact memorization of any kind is probably something that is quickly falling by the wayside.

This realization led me to think of one of my friends who is also a minister. He talks about how he requires his confirmation class to memorize Psalm 23 and the Apostle’s Creed. He tells them this will be good when they find themselves in jail. “And make no mistake about it”, he says, “at some point of your life, you will be in jail.” I can just imagine those adolescent faces staring at him in total a disbelief spiced with a dose of fear. What does he know that they don’t?

Of course, my friend was speaking mostly metaphorically. At some time in nearly everyone’s life, we have the experience of feeling as if we are held captive by something. Fear. Despair. Failure. Success. Disappointment. So many ways in which the bars can create a cell out of which we feel we will never escape. In those moments, what are the phrases that can bring comfort or at least distraction? What have we committed to memory that will entertain us when we cannot flip a switch or press a button to ease the pain? Any Shakespeare in our brains? How about Thoreau or Whitman? At least one good line of Mary Oliver?

It is a good thing to consider the words we want to stay with us when others have flitted off or can’t be found no matter how hard we try. I think of the poems I would like to be able to pull out in the dark of night when all manner of shadows threaten. Or the songs I want to be able to continue to sing as I pass from this world into eternity. Perhaps then it is an equally good thing to begin to memorize these lines that will be companions. The poetry. The songs. The scripture. A little of each.

What are the words you would like to have in your personal memory library? Summer, at one point, was a time to read the books there was never time for during the school year. Maybe this is the summer for reviving the forgotten art of memorization.

Anyone know the words to ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’?