who by fire...

Today was given over to the quotidian mysteries (a la Kathleen Norris) of yard work, bill paying and being deeply quiet. No meetings. No church work. No outside conversations. Just grass cutting, sorting out how to pay whom and how much, being fully present to Di and Lucie, but mostly being still. This is one of the greatest gifts I have received since moving into part-time ministry: more silence. Henri Nouwen taught that the purity of heart that defined the life of Jesus was born of silence. In quiet reflection, I learn how to focus more on the doing of God's will so that my distractions and denials can take a back seat - at least for a few minutes each day.

I didn't sleep well last night. I was hurting for one of our own who is battling the agony of lung cancer. The pain was agonizing last night. Relentless. And all who care are helpless to bring relief. Finally, the doctors upped the meds and blessed rest "poured down like honey from our Lady of the Harbor." (Still thinking about St. Leonard, ok?) 

One of Cohen's songs is haunting me right now: "Who By Fire." Tomorrow I am going to write about the way Cohen wrestles with an ancient Yom Kippur prayer in his ultra contemporary manner through this song. It is haunting and asks is God really the source of so much of our agony? It was a song I kept singing over and over last night to stay present with my friends suffering. Not surprisingly, I didn't sleep well but that is how it should be in faith, hope and love. "I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I'll laugh with you..." as the song teaches. (Listen to this incredible genre-bending version of Cohen's song with the genius of Sonny Rollins added to the mix...)

Then this morning, it was a stunning day in the Berkshires, a sacramental reminder that in the midst of suffering there is also beauty and rest. I sat on the deck, sipped Scottish tea and read the paper as Barth recommended: with my Bible in the my other hand. Later I heard that our friend's pain subsided and that a measure of relief was taking place. I heard from other friends who are eager to make music in these strange times. And a colleague who is deeply committed to the course of spiritual direction reached out to me, too. It was a time to rejoice in small blessings.

Still, all day long, I have been singing "Who By Fire." To be pure of heart is to hold the paradox of pain and pleasure, dark and light, questions and clarity together as one whole even when that is disturbing. 


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