Saturday, December 27, 2014


May you enter into the Christmas liturgies with some joy in the Incarnation.  This was how my advisor in the Shalem Institute program signed his recent email in response to my request for extra time to write a paper.  It stopped me dead in my tracks….joy was the absolute last thing I was experiencing.

Every December is difficult for a church musician.  There are so many expectations, extra services, needy church members, sick or out-of town choristers, weather problems…the list goes on and on.  Although I don’t understand why, this December was particularly hard for me.  Musically things went very well, but I just ran out of steam. Joy at the coming of God to earth?  Maybe next year.

And then, something happened…at the last of the Christmas Eve services, late at night, I unexpectedly saw the Incarnation in the soloist who sang off key. And then I saw it in the intrepid choir members, singing their hearts out way past their bedtime.  During the sermon, as I was gazing at the beautiful poinsettias and candles, I took my husband’s hand and saw it in his patience and kindness to me.  I looked further into the congregation, some weary, some merry, and yes, I saw the spirit of God in each and every one. The stress and non-stop schedule of the past few weeks began to melt away and I felt joy.

And the next day, Baby Zev arrived for a visit. As I wrapped my arms around him I saw clearly… Incarnation.

The embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form.  Thank you, Winston, for urging me to find joy in this season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Personal Advent

For most of the western world the Christmas season is in full swing.  Decorations, music and ads have been appearing since Halloween and the frenzy of holiday shopping was encouraged by Black Friday, Small-Store Saturday, Cyber Monday and even Giving Tuesday, of all things.  Many folks lament this commercialization, as do I, and I try not to be a part of it. 

Many years ago, full of loneliness and confusion after a divorce, I was headed home across north Texas on Christmas Eve.  The radio was playing- there were precious few stations to choose from- and of all things I heard the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel for the first time.  At that moment I fell head-over-heels in love with Advent.

Growing up as a Southern Baptist I’d never even heard the term Advent, much less observed it as a holy season.  There was nary a single Advent hymn in our hymnal at that time and the church Christmas tree and poinsettias went up the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  This idea of waiting, of expectation and hope, filled a need in my soul, and still does.  Now a church musician and an Episcopalian, Advent has become my favorite sacred season.  No church decorations or Christmas carols until after the fourth Sunday of Advent for us, just the way I like it.  And twenty-four Advent hymns, yes, that’s correct, twenty-four.

I am feeling this season more profoundly than ever this year because I believe that I am in the midst of a personal Advent, one that will likely last for months or even a few years.  As I approach my 60th birthday, as my church continues to struggle, as my new grandson grows and changes daily, and as my husband enters a new stage, we must decide where we want to make our life.  Do we stay in Maine, which has become our comfortable home, or do we move closer to family, to share our lives with theirs more fully? It is a decision which should not be forced and which I am confidant will be revealed, in due season.  In the meantime, we wait.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

                                      Latin, ca. 9th century

Monday, December 1, 2014


What is there beyond knowing that keeps 
calling to me? I can't

turn in any direction
but it's there. I don't mean

the leaves' grip and shine or even the thrush's
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven's slowly turning

theatre of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that's always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same-what shall I say-

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out.  Life so far doesn't have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there's a temple, I haven't found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.

What Is There Beyond Knowing (Mary Oliver)