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Syrian refugee children signal to onlooking media, from a camp set up by by Turkish Red Crescent in the town of Yayladagi in Hatay province.

Today I'm posting two songs that flow from my last few blogs on Steven Galloway's novel The Cellist of Sarajevo (here and here). The first is a piece for cello which was composed by David Wilde in honor of Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who performed during the Siege of Sarajevo, his instrument offering up a persistent prayer for peace. The work is entitled The Cellist of Sarajevo, a Lament in Rondo Form for Cello, and is performed here by Yo-Yo Ma. The second youtube clip is of the Albinoni Adagio, the composition that the fictional cellist draws strength and solace from playing. 

One of the powers of good literature, and of good music, is the ability it has to transport you from the place you find yourself to a different world. Although I was sitting comfortably in an upstairs study enjoying a beautifully calm September morning, as I listened to the notes of the cellist, connecting back through scenes in Galloway's novel, I found myself praying for those who are still caught up in the horror of war.

A Prayer for Peace by Maya Angelou, can guide you if you want to offer up a prayer yourself while listening to this music. Like the earth needs the rain, so the human heart constantly thirsts for peace. And so we pray for peace - for peace in nations, peace in communities, peace in our families, peace in our own hearts. We come with open hands and hearts to the borderless sea of substance and ask for what we need most - the gift of peace.

A Prayer for Peace
Maya Angelou

Father, Mother, God,

Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we
have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are
able to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon
them the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to
all the world that which we need most—Peace.

 
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The blare of a power washer has chased me from the sunlit patio to the quiet conference room here at Shell Point now that it's finally time to settle down to write. I find it ironic, knowing the topic of this post.

"Soul-making" is a phrase that is appearing in several of the books I'm currently reading. When the soul is sick, or immature, the body and mind can't help but be affected, which makes me wonder if the formation of our souls, our psyche, our spirit, is perhaps the most important task that we have as human beings. My body would like me to make sure I grab all the sun I can while I'm here in Florida. My soul says, please, give us a quiet morning. I am learning to trust that if I start with my soul, the rest of the voices in my inner community will get all that they need to thrive.

The following poem by Wendell Berry gives a hint on the importance of silence in this inner formation. The poem is included in a collection entitled "Given" and was received as a gift from my sister-in-law this Christmas. The picture at top of the post is that of a bellwort, a woodland flower that blooms in early spring.


Sabbaths 2003
III

Ask the world to reveal its quietude-
not the silence of machines when they are still,
but the true quiet by which birdsongs,
trees, bellworts, snails, clouds, storms
become what they are, and are nothing else.
 
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I realized after I finished yesterday's post that I should have mentioned Dan's newest book, Playa Perdida (click here) as a great read that touches on some of these ideas of work and rest. The novel chronicles the journey of Gray Albright, a burned out pastor who leaves the mind-numbing pressures of a northern US congregation for the warm and whimsical grace of a church plant in Costa Rica. You'll enjoy Dan's great sense of humor and gentle reminders that God desires our good, and that gifts come in unexpected packages.
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One of the dangers of including personal journeys in your blog is that often the very thing you're blogging about rears its cheery head and gives you a nip on the backside. I hadn't even hit the "publish" button at the top of my screen yesterday when I noticed that I'd begun to lose it - peace, that is. The airwaves got scrambled with concerns about time commitments, which led to anxiety (so low-level it almost slipped under the radar) and I brought the static into my subsequent conversations. This led to confusion, misunderstanding and a whole lot of wasted time. 

However, it did help to confirm my working thesis that peace is important to maintain if you want to keep in step with the guidance of the Spirit. Disruptions to our peace keep us from being able to sense where the energy of God is leading. Recently I've been using the phrase "What wants to happen" as a fresh way of speaking of being led by the Spirit. Though I have a mental idea of what I think might be good, I am learning to submit my conscious plans to the internal nudge of the Spirit. I'm assuming that God is working through my thoughts, my desires, my intuitions and feelings as well as the people around me to guide me into the path for the day. (One way of living into the phrase "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.)

It's easy for the airwaves to become muddled, especially if our radar has been tuned to pick up other people's feelings and responses, the "you shoulds" of the multiple voices in our heads, or the expectations of the culture in which we're steeped. To enter a watchful stillness, I think it's necessary to lean into the deep love of God. This love, in which Paul reminds us we are "rooted and grounded" (Eph 3:18) is the only thing strong enough to allow us to stand down from defcon 3 or 5 and enter peace.

It's still a challenge to believe that all is well, (that all will be well) that God's love is deep enough to hold me. Surely I'll make mistakes, incur other's displeasure, ruin expectations that are beyond repair. But that's not true. Either God's love is enough for the long haul, or it's not worth my allegiance. However, it's also true that changing my mindset and moving my focus is difficult, and because of that I need the grace of God to even begin. But God is willing and eager to extend that grace, as Paul reminds us with his wonderful prayer for the Ephesians.
 
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  (Ephesians 3:14-19)
 
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I'm reading a wonderful little book by Henri Nouwen called "Reaching Out, The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life." It's coming at a great time, when unlike most of the people I know, my life is amazingly tranquil. Yesterday I spent an entire day at peace, with not much to motivate me, and amazingly enough, no anxiety about not having more to do. I can feel guilty about the calendar being so empty, this extravagant gift of time in what is often a busy and hectic season. But yesterday, I was just able to live in the quiet and be.

Nouwen encourages his readers to move from loneliness to solitude, a way of being at peace in one's inner core. This leads to an ability to be hospitable, offering a free and open space for the stranger. The third movement is one that connects us to God in a deeper and more profound way. I happen to be reading concurrently "Into the Region of Awe, Mysticism in C. S. Lewis," by David Downing. I'm caught in a new way by the desire of those in the mystical tradition who, over the years, have sought to bring themselves ever more fully into the love and light of God. I think my soul is ready for this, is starting to desire the desire to be in the presence of God, basking in the glory of the Light of Lights.

Peace and light beckon like pole stars. They offer to guide us deeper into the gift of love we celebrate this season. May we find what we seek, and receive what is given this Christmas.

Until next year...