I swear that the stones sing. During the week, I used to walk in Highland’s sanctuary and in the quiet, even with no other voice present with me, I swear I could hear the congregation singing. From the worn stones, from the tattered wooden pews, from the high rafters, the hymns pour forth as if in a continuous stream. Even now, I can walk into the sanctuary in my mind. If I am still long enough, I can hear the particular voices and faces from the Cloud of Witnesses, present and past.
Now during this sabbatical year, so far away from the stones that sing and the communal worship with the Cloud of Witnesses, a hymnal has become the sacrament that leads me home, grounds my feet, centers my being, and remembers me. In this exile space where I worship away from the land I call home and the people who call me home, hymns are the great time-and-space connectors that hold us together.
Day 4 of kindergarten and we keep going. We sleep at night and then rise to try again the next day. Perhaps life’s greatest gift: the chance to do it again the next day; the chance it might be different; the chance something will happen that will leave us more alive at day’s end.
Last night after a long day, we got to hymn #19 from our new nightly ritual of singing from the hymnal. I lay beside him in bed and I close the day with these words sung to my tired-from-courage boy…
Everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.
The cries pierce my sleep. I wait it out a few moments and listen to determine if they are the cries of a momentary disturbance or if they are the cries of nighttime need. I walk to the room and rub his back. His arm reaches around to touch mine. Finding my hand, he wraps his fingers around mine. The cries cease and in the silence, he holds on and finds his calm again.
Eight months old, I am still his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. One of the greatest privileges of parenthood is getting to be the peace my little one needs – to be the arms that make everything alright. During the early months when the needs are concrete and specific (food, diaper, sleep), parenthood means being the one to anticipate, notice, and satisfy.
When the oldest wakes now, I venture down to his room the same I did when he was young. Now, though, there are some night terrors where I struggle to break him out of the crying. I hold him close in his little bed and try to whisper those words, ancient and sacred, “Do not fear, I am here with you.”
And yet the words and my presence do not hold the magic power they once did. Right before my eyes, my oldest is growing up. The chubby cheeks are dissipating and his physique is more “boy” than toddler. As his vocabulary grows, he is becoming more and more aware of his surrounding. He is beginning to taste the Great Sadness Continue reading