Tag Archives: sacramental living

God Be In My Head

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
–Sarum Primer, 1558

God be in my hands when I pull the blanket up over my silly son’s head, just the way he likes it.

God be in my feet when I’m tramping across campus to another rehearsal.

God be in my eyes when I’m driving to the grocery store late at night to buy eggs to make cookies because I said I’d bring them to class tomorrow, and there’s no time in the morning.

God be in my words when it’s an hour past bedtime and my daughter is still wide awake.

God be in my mind when I’m doing my taxes and wondering where the money will come from.

God be in my waking, which comes too early.

God be in my sleeping, which comes too late.

God be in my head when I fold socks and underpants and shirts in silent prayer, and forgive me this one night for being too busy to fold my hands.

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Holy Scrub-brush, Batman!

When I first started looking into the Friends tradition, the concept of sacramental living made immediate sense to me.  Even as a child, I had a sense of lingering holiness about everyday things like trees and fields and books, although I couldn’t possibly have articulated what I felt.

Making laundry a prayer seems obvious, if I just remind myself.  The folding and sorting can be a quiet, domestic form of worship.  The feel of the cloth is soothing under my hands, and the rhythm of folding becomes a liturgy of socks and shirts.

Balancing the checkbook takes a little more thought, but I can find God there too.  The numbers and logic are satisfying, and it’s not a huge leap to imagine that God must find an exponentially greater satisfaction in the ordered rhythms of molecules and planetary systems.

Even driving can be its own meditation (as long as I pay attention to the road, of course).  I am learning the welcome discipline of shutting off the litany of work-related concerns, and replacing it with a conscious gratitude for the trees and fields and open sky on my way to work.

That said … if anybody figures out how to sacramentally scour burned rice out of the bottom of a pot, come on over to my house.  I will give you a scrub-brush and let you meditate the hell out of my pots and pans.

Echoes of Mercy, Whispers of Love

One of my favorite things about exploring the concept of sacramental living is that all of a sudden, God is everywhere.  Not just in the usual way of being everywhere at all times – I can see him all over the place now.  Strange places, like in novels and on back roads and in cups of hot tea.  (Not literally IN my cup of tea – although if I’m going to take the omnipresence thing seriously, I guess he kind of is, so I’ll just let you work out your own theology on that one.)

Tonight I heard echoes of God in my rehearsal for a classical concert on Sunday.  I’ve worked with the mezzo-soprano many times before, so she’s used to my ability to follow a soloist, bending my musical interpretation in that dance of give-and-take that all good music should be.  The viola player has heard me play, but we’ve never performed together.  He is phenomenal, to the point that he scares me a little, and I was nervous about working with him.

Then he drops this compliment on me.  (I’ll give it to you verbatim, and then I’ll translate.)  He says to my singer friend, while eyeing me, “She’s really good at that, the [he sways in place for a second, waving his hands back and forth with his viola tucked under his arm] – you know, instead of counting.”  If you don’t speak Musician, that probably didn’t impress you as much as it did me, so here it is in normal-person English:  “She knows when to follow and when to take the lead, and she values the line of the music more than staying precisely on tempo.”

Coming from the principal violist of the local symphony, who is not generally known for scattering compliments around, that completely made my day.  I appreciated it partly because I was so relieved that it had gone well, but also because that is one of my core values as a musician.  All of my professional piano playing is with other musicians, and I want that flexibility to be a hallmark of my playing.  It’s important to me that people be able to play the way they want to play, without having to fight me for it.

I’d never heard it phrased that way, though:  “Instead of counting.”  When I thought about it, I realized he was right.  Once I’ve learned a piece well enough that I can keep half my attention on the other performer instead of my own hands, I’m not really thinking about “ONE-two-three-four” any more – I’m hearing lines and shapes and tone colors, making the music dance and bend, never quite the same as the last time.  When we reach the end of a piece and we have to play the last few notes together, I really don’t care how many beats Brahms said to play them – I care about these three notes with this violist at this performance, and if that turns out to be 3.4 beats instead of 3, that is fine.  If we decide that it just needs to hang there until he runs out of bow, even better!  (That’s what we settled on, incidentally.)

As I drove home from rehearsal, the words “instead of counting” kept rolling around in my head, and eventually I remembered where I’d heard them.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love doesn’t count.  Love bends and flexes and dances, so that this love for this child, this friend, this hurting colleague or joyful neighbor or hungry stranger, is exactly as it’s meant to be at this moment.

Count less.  Listen more.  Find God where you least expect him.

Worship With Marbles

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No, this is not some silly pseudo-religious practice, and I am not planning to bring marbles to church on Sunday.  I’m trying to think outside the religious box I’ve built for myself, but not THAT far outside it.

Today I spent part of the afternoon helping my 10-year-old sort out some of his prized possessions.  Do you remember being 10?  I do.  I remember having a LOT of special things, some of which looked (to the untrained eye) suspiciously like junk.  I knew what it all was, though, and being a 5th-grader didn’t mean I valued my things any less than adults value their prized possessions (which, if we’re honest, sometimes also look suspiciously like junk).

Buddy is no exception.  His room abounds with the usual flotsam typical of boys his age – matchbox cars, plastic spiders, random coins lost from his weekly allowance, and pencil drawings of machines and many-eyed monsters wodged into every possible corner of his bookshelf.  However, like many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, his highly focused interests are evident in his room as well.  The reptile phase is represented by a menagerie of toy snakes, lizards, dragons, and a creepily jointed wooden alligator that gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I have to touch it. The interest in shipwrecks is evident in the wooden ships and an ancient key that actually came from a REAL shipwreck (and thus led to a collection of keys).  The “metal collection” is dozens of little bits of scrap metal and pop tabs from soda cans.  The gem and mineral phases are both still going strong.  His collection includes everything from playground gravel to an actual diamond, so tiny it’s practically invisible, in a little plastic case.

OK, now take all those things, put them in an average-sized bedroom with an impressive book collection and several dirty socks, and shake the whole thing really hard, and you’ll have some idea of what Buddy and I were facing.

I finally realized that “put your lizard away” has no meaning if every possible surface is already  covered with lizards.  For everything to be put in its place, everything needs to have a place.  So Buddy and I are spending fifteen minutes a day (sometimes 45, but don’t tell him that) working on his room.  We’re taking it slow – one shelf, one drawer, one corner at a time.

This afternoon’s labors resulted in a small cupboard reorganized, its three shelves emptied and wiped clean of fool’s gold dust, stray paper clips, and I kinda don’t want to know what was in that one corner.  We set it back up with homes for the rock collection, the metal collection (now safely in a cardboard box where it can’t accidentally stab anybody), and the Transformers, who now live in peaceful plastic harmony behind a cupboard door that actually shuts.

I also had the bright idea of using a bamboo silverware organizer (fifteen bucks, renewable resource, yay!) to keep all the little odds and ends in their right places.  It now holds the keys, the pencils, the string, the logic puzzles, a small family of plastic snakes, and the marbles.  It was at this point that the project started looking oddly like worship.

I’ve heard it said that God is a God of order, usually when Person A is trying to guilt Smaller Person B into cleaning their room.  I think it’s true, though.  Say what you will about chaos theory and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (and I think God lives there too, which is  another conversation for another day), but I believe God does value order.  This is perhaps why there is an innate satisfaction in having finished a project, cleared some space, Cleaned All The Things.

I’m still getting a handle on this whole concept of every day and every action having the potential to be holy – sacramental living, I think it’s called.  But if putting marbles in their little bamboo box makes me think of God and star systems and the periodic table of elements, then I suspect I’m on the right track.Image