I stepped in it. Just before getting into bed on the night before Christmas eve, I stepped in it. It felt cool on my foot, and slimy—definitely slimy. It squished up between my toes. And it was sticky—it took several minutes under the bathtub tap with soap to get it all off…and then I had to work to get it off the soap bar as well. The cat had left her gift of hairball right in the middle of the rug on my side of the bed, precisely placed to be found as I set my foot with my full weight to launch onto the high four-poster. Merry Christmas. Continue Reading
One morning, a year or so ago, as I stood in the Communion line I looked up to see a person receiving the cup—a person whom I do not like and rarely agree with…on anything. As I smirked my dislike in his direction, I heard a still small voice murmur, “You’re going to spend eternity with this person; you might as well start getting over yourself now.” I was stunned, in that eternal moment at Christ’s banquet table, to hear eternity addressed in such tactless terms. Continue Reading
My Aunt Thelma, “Auntie,” was a second mother to me, from my birth until her death in May of 2000. She never married and I sometimes wonder if maybe I was part of the reason for her remaining single. Did she somehow see other relationships as disloyal? (I do remember a telephone call when I was three or four when I asked to spend a Friday night with her, as I normally did. She told me that she had a date that night and I seem to remember pouting about it for a time. Did she secretly vow never to let another man interfere with our standing Friday night sleep-over? She never mentioned another conflict and I spent almost every Friday night of my life with her until my teens when I found my own Friday night conflicts. I’m afraid I was not nearly as loyal as she was.) Continue Reading
I’m a church choir director, so Christmas inevitably begins in August for me. This year one piece is giving us fits, a new setting of Anglican priest (and later bishop), Phillips Brooks,’ “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It’s not dissonant and doesn’t appear difficult at all, but no musical material ever recurs. The similar harmonic treatment from verse to verse gives the illusion of a constant melody, though no actual repeating “tune” ever emerges. The effect is glorious, but it doesn’t make the singers’ lives easy. So in trying to help them to get a handle on this brand new music, I’ve tried to dig deeper into the familiar words. Here’s what I find, a very Benedictine essay on radical interior transformation.
Overall, the constant theme is the invasion of the interior life by the historical event of Jesus’ birth in the world–our transformation into a new Bethlehem. Continue Reading