In case anyone might be interested, I have posted some recordings at my music blog, particularly these two choral pieces written for Fr. John’s retirement, and, in preparatory exploration of the equipment I borrowed, this guitar song and a cappella hymn.


Avarice, part i

Today’s sermon in Father John’s ongoing series on the seven deadlies addressed avarice. It won’t be posted to the church website until later in the week; perhaps there will be a part ii when I get a chance to re-read it.

Meanwhile, I had a few thoughts.

First of all, it was good that he took the opportunity to remind us why we are doing this series, or why we would study sin. It is not because we must always feel as awful as possible about ourselves and our wickedness. Nor is it in order to judge the wickedness of others and feel superior. It is because we are made for life — and because sin sneaks in and disrupts life. If we learn more about how sin works, we might sooner see the signs of it and take action — repent, seek forgiveness, make use of spiritual disciplines, and so on.

Years ago Steve Camp made a song with this chorus:

Oh, to gladly risk it all
Oh, to be faithful to His call
Abandoned to grace yet anchored in His love
Living dangerously in the hands of God

Partly the song is about devotion and commitment and obedience and service.

Partly, though, it is about walking in faith without fear. Continue reading

Evil song: So Long Self

I was coming home from some shopping (mainly trying (vainly) to find fabric for a dress, at Jo-Ann’s) and had a local Christian radio station on. I’m not terribly fond of the genre — there’s lots of mediocre music and words out there — but sometimes there’s something good, and it’s good to be reminded of the Gospel in any ways and times.

I was listening to one song but not really paying attention, and then realized it sounded like a break-up song — “I’ve found somebody else” — but it took me a while to figure out who the singer was saying goodbye to.

Then I realized he was saying “so long, self.”

How vile.

It’s one thing to recognize when self is trying to run the show, to its own detriment and that of others — but to even want to stop having a self is, well, evil.

God gave us selves. He did not, does not intend for us to give them up, to become empty clones or robots. When he comes into our lives, when we are regenerated, when we receive the Holy Spirit, it is not like being possessed, it’s not like being obliterated, becoming merely a puppet animated entirely by him. It is the adoption as sons and daughters — it is relationship, and relationship requires more than one person, more than one self.

Humph to Mercy Me for this ugly song.

Read the rest of the lyrics if you really want to.

By my side

In college, my freshman roommate and I used to prop my microphone up on a music stand, get out her guitar, and record ourselves singing. One of our favorites was “By My Side,” from the musical Godspell:

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?

Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
“Meet your new road!”
Then I’ll take your hand
Finally glad
Finally glad
That you are here
By my side

I find the lyrics puzzling but beautiful — some glimpse of the struggle it is to walk in this darkness, the striving to perform on our own power, the final gladness of the warmth of Christ’s own hand.

I thought about this song the other day because I was realizing that I need to be on Amy’s side when she is screaming. We should not be antagonists; even efforts to stop her crying can be antagonistic rather than sympathetic. It’s one thing to realize this (and I thank the books and people who keep reminding me of it), but it’s another thing to do. I’m not sufficiently strong and secure in my self to defeat the feelings of rejection, attackedness, inadequacy, guilt, and so on, so as to be a security for her, a safe place for her to feel her feelings.

When I am in darkness, when I am in agony, like Amy seems to be when she is screaming, Jesus doesn’t stand with a pointing finger to accuse me or demand better performance, nor does he abandon me until I’ve fixed myself, and, most disappointingly, nor does he fix me himself. He will; he’s in the process; but in this life it seems that process mostly involves him being by my side — sympathetic and compassionate; secure and strong enough to handle the intensity of my feelings.

Mark and I both need a lot of work on learning to tolerate each other’s (and Amy’s) feelings. To be less threatened by them. To feel less accused by them. To feel less responsible to fix them. To be more able to be by each other’s side rather than facing off as antagonists. I think our difficulties with tolerating feelings is the main reason why evenings and nights tend to get into crisis — one feels tired, the other notices and gets anxious, the one feels bad about showing their tiredness but wishes the other didn’t overreact, the other feels bad about overreacting but isn’t able to stop, and so we escalate.

Lord Jesus, please may I know more deeply how you are by my side, and may that knowledge, and your power, work in me so that I can be by my own side, by Mark’s side, and by Amy’s side.

An old story

A little over a year ago, I was looking through some old journals and found this story, which I’d written in December 1999. At that time I was working my first real job — teaching high school math part-time — and working through some difficult and painful stuff about myself, God, and my relationships.

The story is called “The Crow and the Pitcher, or, A New Narcissus”

“The Crow and the Pitcher” was one of my favorite Aesop’s fables. A crow wants a drink out of a pitcher, but the water level is too low for her beak to reach. So she drops pebbles in until the water level rises enough.

The myth of Narcissus tells of a boy who becomes so enamored of the “person” he sees in a pond, a person he can’t have, that he dies of sorrow at the water’s edge. In psychology there’s a concept of healthy narcissism, in the sense of proper self-love, partly developed through mirroring, which is getting information about oneself from other people and one’s environment.

For my story, it’s helpful also to remember Jeremiah 2 and the image of God as a spring of living water.

Here’s the story:

A girl was thirsty, and alone. Oh, she believed in water; she had seen pictures, had heard of others’ experience. But she had none, herself. She spent her days wandering, alone, as the forest creatures and city people milled about their business. Sometimes her steps meshed with theirs, so that it appeared she was dancing with them. But her steps were only her own. In the dance of the others she could make an appearance, but she did not belong, and was not understood.

Whenever she found a hole in the ground, her hope and fear rose to her throat. Reaching hurriedly into herself, she took out rocks, jewels, dirt, straw, and all sorts of things, and threw them as deep as she could into the hole. She felt if only she had enough things to throw down, surely the water would rise, displaced by the pebbles. If she only had enough, she could drink. And as she drank she would look, and see her treasures held and caressed by the water.

But time after time, her efforts proved fruitless. No water rose for her to drink, no water bathed her pebbles. Each one disappeared as she threw it, and was gone. Every hole was empty, receiving her treasures only as a black hole absorbs stars. It does not keep and cherish them, only devours.

And for a while she would stand, or kneel, there at the edge of the hole, searching the darkness for some sign of response, hearing the emptiness of the echoes. Perhaps a tear, a single tear, would glisten on her cheek as she rose bravely to walk on. Or perhaps she would lie there for days, alternately crying out and beating the ground, or lying still, tightly curled, holding her breath against the ache. But however she reacted, time continued; and soon enough she was wandering again.

In another old journal entry (3/24/2000) I found this quotation from Anne Lamott’s novel All New People:

…it was Camus, I think — that Narcissus was transfixed by his own reflection, because he was searching for something lovable in it.

About a month later (4/19), I remembered a song called “So Much Mine,” by The Story; something one of my junior year college roommates would often play:

Where’d you get that dress?
Where’d you learn to walk like that?
Don’t talk back
Tell me where you’ve been – maybe I don’t want to know
Oh, Lord, why me?
You were so much, so much mine, now I reach for you
and I cannot find you
So much, so much mine, now I reach for you
and I cannot find you
So much mine
So much mine
So much mine

It’s about mothers and daughters — and now I’m one of each — and it could also be me, singing to my lost self.

It’s funny — until the post partum stuff hit, most of this blog — and even my journaling during pregnancy — was fairly upbeat and superficial. I wonder how much I was subconsciously avoiding subconscious depression and anxiety, and if I had not avoided it, would the post partum stuff have hit me less hard.