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Archive for June, 2017

Intimations of Solitude

 

I wait in solitude.

I breathe in.

I breathe out.

All I really have to do

is accompany my days.

They swirl like skirted pleats of time.

They move like silent friends

into and out of my rooms,

warmed by my fire,

cooled by the night,

attending my being,

They are my days,

My lovely days,

Ever, all, and only mine.

 

Night calms and shelters sleep.

It sits, dark, upon my bed and waits.

Dream finds and covers me.

I open to his presence,

a blossoming of time and thought.

His tenderness compels.

I open first to him, then to the All.

We soar on sparkling tides of mind,

sifting quarks and streaming galaxies,

swirling eddies in our wake.

Then we rest and wait.

The next and last great thing will be

to thank this grand old carcass

for its days and lay it down,

wrapped in gentle folds of time

on the doorstep to the infinite.

 

But not just yet.

 

For crouched beyond the ragged rim of dawn

Tomorrow waits.

My name is slick upon his tongue,

My face a mirror to his vision.

The galaxies that comprise my form

Still resonate with pulse and blood.

When tomorrow comes we laugh!

When tomorrow comes we dance!

When tomorrow comes we fly!

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Antidote to Narcissism

Two hundred thousand years or so ago an isolated group of primates evolved into a species that became aware of itself. Like a child peering into a looking glass, it was fascinated by what it saw looking back from still water. “That is me,” it marveled. “I am.” It was the discovery of the ages, the beginning of a complexity that is still being unraveled to this very day, sitting together in a special place, performing certain actions together in shared awe and wonderment.

Until that first excursion into fascination with the narcissistic self, our natural animal instincts where directed outward: pure erotic delight in the passionate other, instinctual sacrifice of self as mother (and later claiming authorship of the sperm as father), in joined adoration of child; numinous enchantment with perceived beauty, expressed as art. But that primitive discovery of the self as prepossessing all other amazements stands as the actual original sin, tales of munching apples in mythical gardens at the instigation of wily serpents notwithstanding. As homo-sapiens-sapiens, we knew at some deep level that fascination with one’s self was wrong. It flew in the face of two hundred million years of evolution becoming mammals. Suckling one’s child creates love, teaches that it is important to value another beyond one’s own selfish needs, even to the death. Who would not die to save one’s child?

Directing love outward, subsuming all-consuming self-involvement, as a purposeful endeavor, created worship. We gathered together, for in numbers there is strength, and acknowledged our foolish ways. Does this suggest we invented God? No. He was there all along, waiting for us to awaken to Him and accept the love that waited for us as own His magnum opus. The magnificent arithmetic, the algorithms of Truth that pre-existed all bangs, big or small, were there waiting for us to name it “God.” Our salvation lay in discovery that it is not we who matter, but God and caring for His creation.

Worship is a together happening; Prayer can be solitary, but in worship we bare our narcissistic selves to each other and to God. Primitive worship featured song, dance, and visual art. These summoned spirit, not so much from far, far away, but from within. Painting on cave walls, the art of the ancients, captured the power of symbol. Fire leapt as embodiment of life and spirit. Sacrifice, an early attempt to negotiate with the divine, was once part of worship, but now passing the plate replaces ritualistic blood-letting. Drumming, echoing beat of heart, combined with ululation celebrating breath, generated excitement, more than any crass modern football contest.

Language, a late arrival, provided elegant tools to express “a love so amazing, so divine, it demands my soul, my life, my all.” Of all the fruits of carbon based life on this planet, only we, homo-sapiens-sapiens, know and love God. In our worship, we honor and celebrate that miracle. Methodism, an off-shoot of the Christian Triune understanding of God, especially honors the place of music in liturgy, thanks to John Wesley its founder. The world-around, similar mythologies know God as incarnate. Methodist hymnody shares that musical art with a great many Christian sects, describing our devotion to a savior-God, not as fact but as Truth. For example:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. (Watts)

Worship as expression of such devotion, away from self, toward God, is surely an effective antidote to the self-absorption that characterizes narcissism. River Road United Methodist Church knows how to worship. We try hard. Appealing to the various sensibilities of our laity, our Worship Committee and Ministerial Staff conjur multiple worship settings. Sundays at 8:30 the Chapel holds an intimate gathering, sharing communion every week. At 9:30 in the Fellowship Hall a contemporary multi-media service featuring a live band and professional soloists rattle the walls and assault the hearing of those not inured to rock concerts. Phillip Tickle leads the excitement of the fracas with Eric Price behind the curtain tweaking buttons and levers. Finally the stately 11:00 service targets those who remember and appreciate the solemnity and classical beauty of traditional worship. Rev. Fran Cooper, our Lead Pastor, weaves language into an elegance that speaks Truth to all three services. Roger Dowdy musically masterminds the 11:30 featuring choral and instrumental ensembles.

Lydia Morriss, Chair of the Worship Committee, used to caring for others as a Physical Therapist, is a natural to lead the creative cohort that structures all of RRUMC worship. Lydia, a thirty-year member, was a cradle Baptist, a familiar of tent-revivals and altar-calls. The first time the Holy Spirit spoke to her, it led her down the aisle to fall on her knees, while “Just As I Am” played a tender accompaniment. Her relationship with God is a personal one. She recalls her first Christmas service as the one responsible: “An altar candle just wouldn’t light in spite of holding enough oil. Anxiety choked me. I was terrified, feeling not just a little resentment at being asked to do more than my share. Then a light went on in my head. How could I possibly resent doing anything for Jesus? I prayed, Get a grip! It’s not about my perfect details. Just relax and be a joyful servant. Then the flame caught.” She had cracked her nut of wisdom: “Worship is about God, not about me.”

__Dorothy Jeanette Martin

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