Birdsong

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

~~ Lou Holtz

Outside my window every spring and summer morning, in the darkness of the pre-dawn, somebody lets me know that the day is arriving.

Cornell came out with bird identification game called Bird Song Hero.

Very fun, but I think my memory is full. If I could purchase an upgrade, I would. For my memory, that is.

Instead, I think I’ll just close my eyes, listen, and pray to the sound of birdsong.

In order to see the birds, it is necessary to become part of the silence.

~~ Robert Lynd

 

 

The Batwhacker of Ban Rona

Well, Andrew Peterson has done it again.

I haven’t even finished the book, The Warden and the Wolf King, and I know I’ve gotten a treasure from it.

This long-awaited conclusion to the Wingfeather Saga showed up at our house last week. Mary had first dibs on it. She was nice enough to let me open the box, but the book quickly disappeared, as did my teenage bookworm.

She reappeared long enough for meals, bathroom breaks, and to snag the map of Aerwiar.IMG_3867[1]

Good thing she’s a fast reader. I started it on Saturday.

On Sunday, I set it down with a sigh. Not finished, just needing time to mull. And be thankful.

The Wingfeather Saga is a now-complete set of four books: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King. I’ve written about them before — An Open Letter to Andrew Peterson, Odds and Ends, The Liberty Press, and Birth Order are a few of the posts where I reference this book series. The books tell the adventures of the Igiby/Wingfeather children in the land of Aerwiar where they battle the evil Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang.

SCN_0017Tiny spoiler alert here: In book 4, Bat Fangs attack from the sky.  Fortunately, Leeli, the youngest Igiby, figures out that her whistleharp acts as a weapon against them, so she begins to play.

And play.

And play.

Leeli played for hours. She played in the center of that bladed, bellowing ring of Hollish protection and played every song she knew. Nia knelt beside her, one arm around her waist, speaking words of encouragement all the while. Leeli’s lips and fingers grew numb, and when her legs gave out after an hour, Nia eased her to the ground and yelled for water…

In Exodus 17, there is a story about the Israelites fighting Amalek. Moses watched from a hill.

Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side.

That’s the story that came to mind as I read about Leeli.

Whenever I’ve considered the Bible story, though, I’ve put myself in Moses’ position and wondered who will hold up my arms when I’m weary. Now I realize that I’m probably an Aaron or a Hur or a Nia.

A mother’s role is to hold up her children, their arms, their hands, their whole body. It is to whisper words of encouragement all the while. And sometimes, her job may be to ease them to the ground.

You see why I’m still mulling this.

Andrew Peterson, you’ve undone me again, with a reminder and a challenge.

And I haven’t even finished the book.

Sunrise

I used to keep my Bible beside my bed.

Bud would be the first one up and he would bring me my coffee, while I stayed snuggled in the warmth of many blankets.  I would begin my day, in bed, with my coffee and my Bible.

Now I’m the first one downstairs.  It’s dark on January morning at 5 AM.

I make my coffee and begin my day with readings and moodlings and meditations and prayers.  I think I could spend hours thus.  In the dark quiet of my kitchen.

In the summer, I can look out the back window and watch the sunrise, but, in the winter, the sun shifts just enough that I can’t see it from my chair.   Where it rises, though, in the winter, a church steeple stands stark against it, pointing to heaven.

This morning, when I left my chair and saw the sunrise, it was shades of gray and beautiful, so beautiful that I took a picture.

sunrise grey 1-15-14

Less than fifteen minutes later, Karl came in the kitchen.  I was back at the table in my usual spot, but he could see the sunrise where he stood.  “Whoa!  Have you seen the sunrise this morning?” he asked.

“Yes, so gray and pretty,” I said.

“No, pink,” he answered.

He was right.  I then took this picture.

sunrise 1-15-14

In another fifteen minutes, the pink was gone, replaced by the dazzling brightness of the sun.

brightness of day

For years, I missed this sight for the sake of warm toes.

Today, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that nothing is stagnant.  We are ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-moving towards the brightness of another new day.

For all the change around us and in us, one thing never changes.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
Great is thy faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Amen.

Chase Me to the Ocean

This morning it was, like, a billion below zero outside.  Really cold.

Okay, it was only 2 below, but, man, it felt cold.

I was half expecting my Florida relatives to call and gloat tell me how they went for a walk on the beach this morning and later they’re going to mow their lawn.

Ah, the beach… it reminds me of my favorite song from 2013: “Chase Me to the Ocean” (words by Rebecca Reynolds, music by Ron Block, vocal harmony by Kate Rusby).

I figured out the looping feature on my ipod just for this song.  Some days I play it over and over and over.

Here are a few of the lyrics.

Are you tired, chosen one,
Are you often weary?

Weary...

Weary…

Yes, yes, yes.  The two verses are so sweet and easy for me to relate to.  Then, the chorus:

Chase, chase, me to the ocean,
Where the white gulls fly.

where the white gulls fly...

where the white gulls fly…


I’ll build you, build you a castle,
You’ll find pictures in the sky.

I'll build you a castle...

I’ll build you a castle…


The waves will crash around us,
While we laugh, and love, and sigh,

Laugh and love and sigh...

Laugh and love and sigh…


For all we know is growing new,
In the turning of the tide.January 1 2013 041

Ron Block’s CD, Walking Song, which has this song and many others, can be purchased at the Rabbit Room.  It’s my favorite new music from 2013.

A Year of Listening – 2013 in review

I dubbed 2013 “A Year of Listening”.  The idea was to pay attention to what was being said around me and to me.

The most important listening I wanted to do was to listen to God. No, I’m not saying that God speaks to me in an audible voice, but He does speak through scriptures, and I often think the little nudgings on my heart are from Him.

One scripture that I pondered in 2013 was Genesis 3:9 – 10, the conversation is between God and Adam.

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

And the man answered, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Over the course of the year, I began jotting down times that I heard God.  I used the format that Adam used.  “I heard the sound of You (fill in the circumstances), and I was (fill in how I felt), because (fill in why), and I (fill in my response).  Here are a few.

Early on, I wrote this:

I heard the sound of You whispering in my heart, and I was surprised, because it was unexpected, and I listened.

Make no mistake.  God is alive and well;  He does speak to us.

One day, I had some terrible ugly words spoken to me, and a friend spoke words that were a salve on the wound.  I wrote this:

I heard the sound of You in a friend’s words, and I was comforted, because I was hurting, and I was blessed.

Contrary to the face we put out to the world, sometimes there is friction and contention in our family.  In the context of that, I wrote this:

I couldn’t hear You when there was arguing, and my head hurt, because of the discord, and I was grieved.

022

sisters

One of this mother’s greatest joys is hearing her children having fun together. I don’t remember exactly what was happening when I wrote this one because, thankfully, there are many such occasions.

I heard the sound of You in laughter, and I laughed too, because You are Joy, and I was cheered.

One of the things I re-added into my life in 2013 was playing my flute in church.  As long as the choir director doesn’t get tired of me sitting beside her and playing the hymns, I’ll keep doing it.  I feel like it’s my way to worship.  I think I wrote this, however, after riding in the car alone one day, blasting the music and singing along with it.

I heard the sound of You in music, and I sang out loud, because You love a joyful noise, and I love You.

Last night, Bud said, “2013 has been an odd year.”  I looked at him because I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at, and then he elbowed me with a smile, “Get it?”  Bud doesn’t always play with words, so I wasn’t prepared.  I guess I need to listen for that.

It hit me as I was writing this, that one of God’s most important messages to me is one He delivers nearly every day through my youngest daughter.  She wraps her arms around me and showers me with kisses.  When she’s done, she turns her cheek to me so that I can kiss her too.  She leaves notes on my pillow and sends me email messages.  They all say roughly the same thing.  Here’s one exactly as she sent it.

I LOVE YOU AND DAD MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE HOLE WORLD!!! 
:* :* :* AND I KNOW YOU GUYS LOVE ME TOO!!!! :)
Sent from my NOOK

I can just imagine God saying those same words to me.

All in all, 2013 has been a growing year for me. Listening is an art, and listening to God takes special ears.

My Most Beautiful Moment at Hutchmoot

As with most beautiful moments, it was entirely unplanned.  And unanticipated.  Those of you who took part in it probably had no idea how profoundly it would affect me.

Mark Geil captured a photo that I go back to over and over and over.  It reminds me of that moment.  A little thing, but so huge.

It wasn’t the hug that I received at the beginning, although that was definitely a close second.  Since Hutchmoot 2012, I had been corresponding with another Rabbit Roomer. When we saw each in person on the first day of Hutchmoot 2013, she squeezed me in an hour long hug.  Okay, I may be exaggerating a little.  It might have been only 60 seconds, not minutes, but for a non-huggy person, it took my breath away — literally and figuratively.  I felt so loved.

No, the most beautiful moment took place on Saturday.  I had finished my small group session and gone on a quest for my husband.  I found him on the lawn, his small group still talking with Jeffrey Overstreet.

Image

photo by Mark Geil

On my way to finding Bud this thing happened to me.  Such a small thing.  Probably insignificant to everyone else. But, for me, huge.

I walked out the back door to find Bud and had to walk through the tent — the one filled with tables and chairs to accommodate overflow dining.

The ladies were meeting in the tent.  This small group session was being led by Jennifer Trafton Peterson, Lanier Ivester, and Sarah Clarkson.  If Hutchmoot had royalty, these three ladies would be wearing tiaras.  They embody so much of what I would like to be as a Christian woman: gentle, kind, and gracious.  They each have the ability to see beauty and then put it into words for the rest of us.

The circle of ladies was intimidating to me.  Looking at them reminded me of all my misgivings about Hutchmoot.  Hutchmoot is such a gathering of talented, amazing people.  I feel grateful that I can sit in the background and soak some of it in.  But I always have this nagging little voice whispering in my ear, you don’t really belong here. You don’t really belong.

As I looked at the group of ladies — and you have to understand that all this took place in the space of a few seconds — I saw the beauty, I saw the talent, and I heard the little voice.

Find Bud, I told myself, hoping to walk past the group without anyone noticing.

Then the beautiful thing happened.  Lanier looked at me and said, “Come join us!” Jennifer smiled at me, and Sarah scooted her chair over to make room for me.  For me.  In their circle.

photo by Mark Geil

photo by Mark Geil

Probably each of them would say this isn’t a very flattering picture.  I would bet that they rarely, if ever, go back and look at it, but I do.  Often.  Because I’m reminded of all the little ways they told me that I belong.

Sometimes it’s the little things we do, and we don’t even know that we’re doing them, that can make the biggest difference.

So, today, scoot your chair over for someone.  Smile.  Invite someone on the outside to join you.

It may be the most beautiful thing that happens to them.

Three New Christmas Songs

Quite honestly I don’t know what Christmas songs the powers-that-be have decided we all must listen to this season.  I’ve only had my radio on for news.

I listen to my own Christmas playlist.  This way I get to choose songs I overplay — which, of course, I don’t.  Overplay songs, that is.

The powers-that-be in this house have three new favorites.

So, if you’re at all tired of hearing The Carpenters sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or Whitney Houston sing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” — then check out these Christmas songs.

1. Mary’s Song (Ave Maria) by Jason Gray.

Jason released a Christmas album last year called “Christmas Stories.”  It looks at Christmas from the perspective of the different people within the story.

My favorite song on the album is Mary’s.  It begins with a lilting little melody about a girl gathering flowers and tucking them in her hair, but the chorus is Ave Maria, roughly translated by Jason Gray as “Wow, Mary!”    I love his lyrics:

You carried hope and a promise
You carried shame and disgrace
Which was the heavier burden
That drew lines in a little girl’s face?

2. The Canticle of the Turning 

I think it says something about a modern hymn when you think it’s one that has been around forever.  I told Mary that — that the song had been around for a long time.  It turns out that I was wrong.  The tune (Star of the County Down) is old.  The words were inspired by Mary’s Magnificat — “My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great…”  and written by Rory Cooney in 1990. Buddy Greene put it on his new Christmas album, December’s Song – and I like his version even more than the Youtube video posted above.  (Spoiler alert — Donabeth, don’t buy this CD)

Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

3. Come, Children of This Long, Discarded Night co-written by Ron Block and Rebecca Reynolds.

It was released as a single just one week ago and already is the most played song on my Christmas playlist.  And I’m not overplaying it.  The music draws you in, but the lyrics are like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag -  I just keep unpacking and unpacking.  They are rich and deep, treasure upon treasure.

Oh, hear the shining thrill of grace resound!
The ancient throng in wonder now declares
That Love is born!
That Love is born!
All glory be to God on high,
All peace, good will toward men in Him is found.

You can listen to it, and follow links to purchase it (only a dollar!) on Ron’s post: “Come, Children of this Long, Discarded Night” or Rebecca’s post: “Come, Children of this Long, Discarded Night.”

Enjoy.

Overplay away.