Empty sky...

The late Henri Nouwen used to say that in order for a person to go deep into God's spirit we must "look within the heart, look to God in the book and look to others in community." One without the others, it would seem, keeps us from getting honest with the truth our real lives ache to share and thus we miss a connection with the living God. Over the years I have found that in order for me to look within my heart, I have to play my way through a number of songs in order to get beyond the business and distractions to what is really happening.

Last night I started singing a slow and almost bluesy version of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "I'll Take My Chances" which led me into a similar rendition of Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses." I screwed around a little be with James Taylor's "Steamroller Blues" only to find myself singing his "Close Your Eyes." The blues are songs of lament I have come to understand - Bono speaks of the Psalms as some of the original blues - and as I played this song over and over I slowly became aware of a deep sadness.

Now I should confess that "Close Your Eyes" is the song my sister, Linda, asked me to play at the funeral of her 5 year old son, Mikey, whose death pushed her into her own untimely death two years later. It has been more than 15 years since she died but she asked me to sing this song at her funeral, too, so... it has some baggage. It is a lovely and tender love song that has now become a bluesy lullaby for me about crossing over from this life into life everlasting.

But why so blue...? Following Nouwen's advice I simply kept looking into my heart - and playing songs - and tonight took me into Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington" - another lament about politics with the chorus, "Come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now, tear your eyes from paradise and rise again somehow; if you run into Jesus, maybe he can help you out, come back Woody Guthrie to us now" - which morphed into Springsteen's "Empty Sky" and "You're Missing."

Now these two songs are heart breakers for me - September 11th laments of such deep sorrow and anguish that I can never sing them without weeping - so I just let the tears flow.


By why...? Life is good - I am doing the work I love with people I cherish and admire - I have a deep and loving connection with my beloved, Dianne and so much more. And then it hit me: it will soon be winter in North country - and I mean WINTER - with precious little sun and LOTS of cold.

And like those earth-centered people of faith long before my Scots-Irish ancestors came to these shores - and like my Celtic family so long ago back in their own homeland, too - as the days become shorter and less sun fills the sky, there is a profound sorrow that wells up in my heart - the blues - and it cannot be denied. Some turn to drink, some get mean or depressed or busy themselves with distractions but even as the leaves grow beautiful, there is death is in the air.

Add to that what happens when I look to others in community - and this community is reeling from economic insecurity and pain to say nothing of fear as this political season in the United States heats up - and the blues make some sense. So rather than fight it these days, I just go with the flow and feel what is there...

Which led me to own the fact that it is time to try to find some balance a la Nouwen by looking for God in the book, too (which I admit has often seemed boring to me of late...) And what Psalm should grab my attention...? Psalm 84 which includes these words: How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts to me... the sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young... Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way... For the Lord shall be their sun and shield, God will give grace and glory, and no good thing will the Lord withhold from whose who walk in God's way. Happy are they who put their trust in you, O Lord of Hosts.

Comments

Black Pete said…
While we're at it, how about Steve Bells' rendering of Isaiah 40:

For our hope is found
in the power of God,
On the wings of an eagle
we will fly.
RJ said…
Thanks man... sooo good.

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