"Moma said there'd be days like this..." sang one of my favorite "girl" groups from the 60s - the Shirelles - and this was one of them.
The Shirelles hailed from Passaic, NJ and got their start singing together in high school back in 1958. And damn if they didn't have a string of hits: from "Soldier Boy" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" to "Boys" and "I Met Him on a Sunday." I dug them from the start and loved what the Beatles did with their tune "Boys" and Laura Nyro and La Belle did with "I Met Him on a Sunday."
To me, they were they the essence of sassy, earthy rhythm and blues singers who could do justice to doo wop but with a deep rock and soul groove. And that's just what it felt like I needed as this day unfolded: a rock and soul sensibility grounded in R and B that helped me embrace the pressure, expectation, beauty and frustration of people caught up in the anguish and joy of the Christmas holidays. There is too much work. There is too much sorrow. There is too much wishing on a star that can never, ever deliver as well as too much grace and joy to comprehend. To be present with love and hope patience and respect - when people you love are suffering demands a connection to a deeper back beat than is obvious, don't you think?
You have to trust it is there - feel it like a bass player - because sometimes there is too much noise and craziness to hear the downbeat. You have to sense it. Trust it. Know that it is bigger and deeper than all the fuss and hurt. And that made me think of another "mama" song that I have loved since forever... and nobody does it better than Sir Tom Jones!
This is a harsh season for some of us - so much grief and sorrow - and mostly we don't have words to describe this hurt and stress. All we can do is be present with love - and a little bit of sassy humor - and enter the silent hurt with our loved ones. Oh yea, and one thing more I would add: listen to some freakin' good music too! PLEASE!!!! Barbara Brown Taylor wrote at the close of her fine little book, When God is Silent, hat while "Jesus came among us as a word..."
I believe God remains among us as music (and the Holy Spirit as the breath that brings both word and music to life.) Those of us who preach may never stop judging ourselves for failing to do justice to the Word but how can we EVER do justice to the Music? How would you preach a sermon on Barber's Adagio or the slow movement of Schubert's C-Major quintet? Would you hum? Snap your fingers? How does the human voice capture the sound of sobbing violins? And yet that is what we are up against as we try to toss the fragile nets of word over the bone-melting universe-making of God.
Now as much as I love me some Barber or Schubert - and I do - I have to have me some rock and soul as well as some wild ass guitar and horns or else I can't get my mojo workin' in a season like this: it is just too simultaneously blue and beautiful. Today there was death, there was sorrow, there was anger and fear right along side stunning jazz charts and exquisite choral singers. There was physical pain and spiritual emptiness surrounded by a darkening sky, a frightening political world and people reaching out to one another with small acts of kindness and hope.
So, as I often do about this time of year, I had to take solace and sustenance in this version of Brother George Harrison's most excellent gift to creation as performed at "The Concert for George" by his buddies Eric Clapton et al. It is the perfect prayer for a full day. And to my heart NOTHING rivals the angst and pathos of Clapton's guitar break at the close of his song. It is pure spirit piercing my Advent heart.
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