Reading Time: 2 minutes
[For Cathy and Judy, and all the Crows of the present and past]
Rondo: [according to oxforddictionaries.com]:
“A musical form with a recurring leading theme, often found in the final movement of a sonata or concerto.”
A rondo’s form is comprised of a refrain that is repeated between other melodic material, called “episodes”
Its form is often A B A C A
Every summer, my family descends upon a wonderful little barrier island in North Carolina called Emerald Isle. Scads of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents gather together to relax and enjoy each other’s company. The days stretch as long and as wide as the sugary sands of the beach. The nights are filled with delicious seafood, competitive games (Scrabble and Poker are favorites), and endless conversations, all accompanied by the soundtrack of rushing surf. This year was no exception. It was lovely to see everyone and to see how their children progress, seemingly overnight, from toddling babies into willowy teenagers.
One morning as I sat in my beach chair chatting with my cousin, Tracy, I saw her watching her little boy dig busily in the sand beside my teenaged son (Shelby) and my husband (Doug). “Look at them,” she said, grinning. “You know, I remember being little and Doug digging big holes in the sand for us. Then, when I got older, I remember playing with Shelby when he was a tiny little boy…” She paused and laughed. “Now, Shelby is playing with my little one! Isn’t it amazing?” I agreed. It IS amazing to watch time wash by and, wave by wave, gradually alter the coast-line of our lives. It’s a cycle that is still miraculous to me.
What also continues to astound me is to watch my nieces and nephews as they have children. These kids (so they’re in their twenties—they’re still frozen in time for me as kids) whom I babysat and diapered are now having babies of their own. “The Kids Table” at which all the nieces and nephews gathered together to enjoy raucous meal times has become “The Second Adult Table.” We will need to buy another “Kids Table” to accommodate the new little beach combers that keep appearing. Our hearts are as full as our beach house now!
The celebration of new little ones is tinged with a bit of sadness, too, because we remember that not all of our family members are present each year. Some live too far away to come regularly; some have other commitments; and some are no longer with us. It is this dichotomy we have come to take part in every year—the predictable “sameness” of the location and the traditions we uphold, juxtaposed by the constant change of new and aging faces. The absent faces may not be here, but they live on through the stories we re-tell about them every year.
I am already counting the days until next summer…
Precious soul, do not delay
Embark on the wondrous journey
To the sea of meaning!
Remember, you have passed through many stages
Do not resist, surrender to the journey.
Wash your wings from the earth’s clay
And follow the trail of those before you.
Do not linger in the potter’s shop
Break the jug and flow with the stream of life.
Rush down from the mountain to the sea
For the mountain offers no refuge.
Do not wander east or west
Aim straight at the sun!
From its light, like the moon,
You will sometimes be a crescent
And sometimes full. [p. 42]
From Rumi’s Little Book of Life: The Garden of the Soul the Heart and the Spirit. Translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2012. Given to me by my dearest of friends, Kari Skipper.
Reading Time: 2 minutes
[For Mary Lynne]
A Christian community shares common goals and communicates (with each other, and with God) through communion.
Community is an old word, actually. According to Merriam-Webster, it has been in use since the fourteenth century, and its root word, common, has been around even longer–since the thirteenth century. All of these words stem from the Latin communis, or “ordinary,” which is one if its contemporary definitions. Other synonyms might be shared, similar, or related.
Today, community is a buzz word some might define in a social context, as in “belonging to a group,” or in a geographical sense, as in “an area of a town or neighborhood.” While these definitions are valid, they really only hint at what community is and what it was intended to be.
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
Looking at community in this context, we see that it is a creation resulting from a centuries-old covenant between God and Abraham. God chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation of people who would no longer worship a multitude of fickle gods. This nation, named after Jacob/Israel, Abraham’s grandson, would be unique. They would have a direct relationship with the One God, later revealed to Moses as “I AM.” This nation would see God’s manifestations in clouds of fire; they would hear His voice in the thunder; they would see His writing on stone tablets; they would learn His laws, which at the time, were different from any human law.
This nation would also struggle, rebel, and disobey every law placed before them. They would, as they had years before, lose the intimate relationship they had with God, yet, He would always return to them. God eventually came back to them in the most profound way possible—by becoming one of them. By becoming one of us. By becoming “common” and “ordinary.” Perhaps this is why the word communion seems directly related to community and common. After the Last Supper, every-day sustenance was transformed into a holy ritual—a reminder of the fulfillment of that covenant made long ago between God and His chosen, wandering people.
No matter how far we roam from God, no matter how our sins transport us away into the Valley of Sheol, He will always be there pursuing us, even unto death. When we share communion, we communicate our thanks to God for promises kept. We communicate with each other by acknowledging openly how far from perfection we truly are, and by recognizing the unfathomable value of every person eating that bread and drinking that cup.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Psalm 37 [David]
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I distinctly remember watching both of my children as they first learned to walk.
One day, your child is standing still, she gets that sparkle in her eyes…and then she steps. You hold your breath, not wanting to shout for joy, as you don’t want to startle her. Will she do it again? You can barely contain yourself as you wait. You watch as she pauses and thinks for a moment, her face suddenly serious. Then, with great effort, she picks up the other foot and steps. Her arms are splayed outward as she wobbles uncertainly, and inevitably, she plops down. Startled and frustrated, she cries inconsolably. You reach out, saying, “Ssshhhh, come on, let’s try again” and help her up, this time, holding her chubby little fists in your hands. You step with your left foot, and she matches you; you step with your right foot, and she matches you.
God does not promise that we won’t stumble or fall down; in fact, the verse above guarantees that we will indeed do so. God does not say, “I’m going to make sure you feel loved and fulfilled every day of your life. I’m going to prevent this storm from flooding your home. I’m going to prevent this disease from taking over your body. I’m going to keep your loved one from dying.”
What God does say is, “I’m going to comfort you on the days you hate your life. I’m going to send workers from a church to help you fix your flood-ravaged home. I’m going to clutch your hand when this disease takes over your body. I’m going to embrace you when your loved one dies. Believe Me, all of those things and worse will come to pass, but you will feel My love, both in prayer, and through the concern of others. Remember this, most of all: I watched Jesus stumble down that dusty road dragging a cross on his ravaged back. I didn’t prevent My Own Son from dying, so I know what suffering is all about. Now, here we go. I have your hands clasped in Mine; now move your left foot…now your right…that’s it. Just match My steps.”
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
Step…out of your comfort zone
Step…over an obstacle
Step…through your pain
Step…beneath the wings of security
Step…between your fears
Step…behind the Protector
Step…beside your friends
Step…with a heart, cracked open and pouring out gratitude