Increase your hearts: pay attention to a different world
SHE stands at the very edge of my paper-strewn desk between a small singing bowl on the box and a framed poem "The Journey" by Mary Oliver. I wore The song of the lark (Jules Adolphe Breton, 1884) with me in some form for more than 40 years. Today it is in a white block frame, bought for something else, but more suitable for it.
I think I met her the day I played Hooky from school. It was the spring of our last year. My best friend, Kathy Torpin, and I – each girl with two good shoes – decided to get out and take the train 26 miles to the big city. I don't know what was more exciting: that we would dare just not show up where we belonged, or the trip to Chicago. We felt wild and grown up and happy with ourselves.
The day was long and wonderful, spending time walking up and down city blocks, memorizing street names of American presidents, chatting continuously, and immersing yourself in the cultural jewels of this great city on the edge of the inland sea, Lake Michigan: the crown jewel of the art institute where I stood and looked at her for a minute, which felt like an hour, her longing met mine; the distant sky of the planetarium, where we leaned back in an artificial night sky and wondered about our place in the universe; the windswept spray of the Buckingham Fountain.
I probably bought my first postcard from her that day. The one who now adorns my desk is too clean and fresh to be the original. Why she? Barefoot, babuschka-ed, scythe in hand, foot and looking ahead, it embodies my northern European peasant genes and my desire of the small town for something bigger.
The sun is going down in her west, but her eyes are on my northeast – the north umbrian sky framed by my window. We ended up here four years ago, 13 years after I emigrated to the UK. She has seen other vistas: Cambridge, Massachusetts; Chicago; Kotzebue and Anchorage, Alaska; Berkeley, California; Chicago; Taunton; Oxford.
I now see it as a source of strength. I like the old meaning of the word "comfort": strengthen. Your look at a better day reminds me of myself; longing for a better world that has shaped my life and work from the very beginning.
I worked as a lawyer on poverty and civil rights for years before hearing a call to the Ministry. The prophet's call for justice goes straight to my heart. The scripture that shaped my calling – before and after ordination – is Isaiah 58: 1-12: "Isn't that the fast I choose: losing the bond of injustice. . . The Lord will guide you constantly and satisfy your needs in arid places and strengthen your bones. and you will be like an irrigated garden. . . You should be called the repair man of the injury, the restorer of the streets you can live in. “A neat summary of human intentions.
SHE looks ahead. Does she listen to the song of a lark, whose song flight tries to enchant a partner for the new day? Birdsong was the first gift of closure when the earth and its creatures began to breathe deeper without grasping our greedy throat. Arundhati Roy said something: “Another world is not only possible, it is on the way. I can hear them breathing on a calm day. "
The music that was balm to my soul is a cake Jesus written by Mary Lynn Lightfoot, in memory of the children who were killed by local terrorists in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The emotional roller coaster ride of the pandemic was such that sometimes I can't be horrified at how terrible and sad these times are. When I feel it, I sit at my piano in front of the five tattered, glued pages of the score and play it over and over again.
During the hours when I wasn't researching, writing, or zooming in on community trauma as part of the Tragedy and Congregations team (Tragedy and Congregations.org.uk), I was immersed in reading natural writing.
First, how to read water to familiarize me with the most soul- and body-strengthening thing that I do: skins swimming all year round in the North Sea (thank goodness I was able to resume it a few weeks ago – desperate, I was in the Wansbeck wading through Morpeth. Now, Underland by Robert MacFarlane.
I had forgotten how claustrophobic I was. The cave exploration chapters were a white knuckle ride. Now I am in the better known environment of cold and sea as he traverses arctic ice walls and cliffs to visit prehistoric cave paintings. MacFarlane's writing is so lavish that I will follow him anywhere beyond my deepest fears. These days it's the connection to Earth that supports me.
FINALLY a prayer. I came across this at the beginning of my service Prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin into the anthem of the universe and copied it into my diary so that I would have it with me forever:
“When the erosions of age begin to leave marks on my body and even more on my mind; when the evils that have to shorten or end my life knock me down from the outside or grow up out of me; when I reach that painful moment when I suddenly realize that I am sick (woman) or that I am getting old; especially at the last moment when I feel like I am losing myself and becoming completely passive in the hands of those great unknown forces that shaped me first: in all these dark moments, Lord, give me understanding that it is you (assuming my faith is strong enough) that painfully separate the fibers of my being to penetrate to the core of my substance and pull me to you. "
That is why I long for the coming of the new day and peace in the end.
The pastor Dr. Carla A. Grosch-Miller is a practical theologian, poet (Psalms Redux, 2014; Lifelines, 2020) and transition minister of the United Reformed Church of St. Andrew in Monkseaton in Tyne and Wear.
A great beer festival for the King of Kings
This is the last part of our Lift Up Your Hearts series, thanks to everyone who contributed – and distributed copies of the A4 version to people who are unable to leave their homes.
We are aware that the pandemic is not over and that many people must continue to isolate themselves for health reasons. also that worship services, although starting again, are still handled with caution.
Nevertheless, the national ban as such is almost over, we hope that we will never return. We will monitor the progress in the rest of the paper.
Recognizing the easing of the socially distancing restrictions, especially with regard to bars, we end with an Irish poem / prayer from the 10th or 11th century, author unknown:
I would like a big beer festival for the King of Kings. I want the heavenly host to drink it forever.
I want to have the fruits of faith, pure surrender; I want the seats of repentance in my house.
I want to have the men of heaven in my own apartment; I want the Long Suffering tubs to be at your service.
I want to have the vessels of charity for donation; I would like the jugs of mercy for your company.
I want hospitality for them. I want Jesus to always be here.
I want the three Maria to have a glorious reputation; I want the heavenly host from all sides.
I want to be a tenant to the Lord. He who gives a good blessing has done well to suffer in need.
From A Celtic blend, selected and translated by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson (Penguin, 1971).