696. Listening to the music

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Sunday, at church, after the service was over, we sat again, as has become customary, while our extraordinary organist played the postlude.  Instruction to stay seated is not given in the bulletin; it just started happening. Not everyone stays and listens. Many get up and move to greet the minister, chat with a friend or visitor, or go find the coffee and treats. Those of us who do stay usually keep seated where we are but some switch to a pew closer to the front, where the pipe organ lives. Sunday's postlude was the most beautiful Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C Major. I love this quiet moment, this spontaneous and organic practice of leisure, this corporate dwelling in beauty.

In my work as a medical writer I've written a little about "consolidation therapy" - for some kinds of cancer, once the main treatment is finished another course of something is given to "consolidate" the main treatment's effect and to help finish the work it started. I sometimes think of walks after a session of creative writing as a period of consolidation. The thoughts and images that had earlier rushed in at the writing desk are given a chance to gel and find their place.

It struck me on Sunday, sitting quietly in that pew with Bach ringing, that this post-service listening is a kind of "consolidation therapy." The Word that has already moved through the hymns, the prayers, the readings, the sermon, the communion table now sinks in deeper, finishing the morning's inner work in ways unseen.


[Photo: taken on a Memorial Day hike.]

664. Christmas is coming: ready?

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One week until Christmas Eve. Are you ready? That’s the question I was asked twice by clients yesterday and numerous times by friends over the last week. No, I’m not ready if by ready you mean all gifts purchased and wrapped, tree up and decorated, house decorated, cards sent, cookies made, menus planned, and stockings hung. In fact, the only way you’d know Christmas is coming by looking at my house is by the single string of lights (only half of which are working) hung on a 3-foot Norfolk Island Pine we bought last weekend and a 10-inch tall flat wooden tree from IKEA that we’ve had for several years. I see that my husband has brought up from the basement our Christmas coffee mugs but they’re still in a box on the kitchen floor. As of last night I’ve bought most of our gifts but some won’t have arrived by Christmas. Cards will likely not get sent.

I’m behind.

I’m telling you this not to underscore my failure to be ready, whether by lack of planning or simply because of busy-ness, but to come alongside you if you’re not ready also. A couple days ago I noticed there was a “home tour” happening online where bloggers were posting pictures of their decorated homes, room by room displays of swagged greenery and glittered trees. Lovely, all lovely, but honestly, it made me feel like there was a competition going that we all were in, even if we hadn’t signed up. No, I’m not in that competition.

You know that song by Alanis Morrisette, “That I Would be Good”? I’ve embedded the video below (if you’re reading via email you may need to click through to website version). The pattern of the song is that she identifies all kinds of “failures” and for each counters that she’d be good in spite of it. Here’s the first verse, but you can read the rest of the lyrics here:

that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds


I’ve been dreaming up my own lyrics related to Christmas:

that I would be good even if I baked no cookies
that I would be good even if I sent no cards
that I would be good if some presents were mailed late
that I would be good…

You get the idea. Maybe you’d like to sing along also with lyrics of your own.

The good news is that Christmas comes anyway to those of us not ready. I’m redefining ready. Jesus was born; God is with us; love is all around, even in my sparsely decorated home (and yes, even in “these” days). I’m here to celebrate. Bring it on.


[Photo: taken of the wooden tree from IKEA. Merry Christmas!]

659. Thanks be to Thee: Handel for Thanksgiving

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Last Sunday at church, our choir sang Handel's "Thanks be to Thee." When the last note ended, I wished all could be silent for the rest of the day to prolong that beauty, to prolong the surge of gratitude.

In the spirit of thanksgiving and for your Thanksgiving pleasure, here's the piece sung in the original German ("Dank Sei Dir, Herr") by Werner Hollweg with the Vienna Philharmonic. Just click the link below to listen. In my opinion it's a good use of 3 minutes 12 seconds. If you're reading this via email, I hope the link is clickable, but if not, you may need to click through to the post online.

Enjoy! I'm thankful for you, dear reader.