Folding clothes my heart was pierced.

On the radio the strains of Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams transported me to another lifetime.

Suddenly I was eighteen and under the direction of Dr. John Hunter at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. My only previous experience with choral singing was with a mighty fine church choir but I was little prepared for singing in the select choir at UW-Whitewater. I will never forget the first rehearsal when fifty voices joined as one. It changed my life forever.

The man who wove the strands was a Texan by birth. He was huge of heart, exacting and had a laugh we sang for. His conducting was fluid poetry and his soul desirous of communion and he got that from his singers.

I fell in love. I fell in love with heart given soar through music. I fell in love with friends who are life companions yet. I fell in love with choral literature diverse and resonant. And of course I fell in love with Doc Hunter.

I wonder. Did he have any notion that years after his death one of his singers would gasp upon hearing music previously shaped by his hands?

Oh, to be eighteen again, broken open by amazement.

Oh, to be fifty-six, broken open by gratitude.

Hey hey!

Last night was a pastor’s dream.

I went to church to be present for the conclusion of a week long Vacation Bible School program.

There were kids everywhere: Smiling kids and proud kids and happy kids and their glowing parents and all of this accompanied by hot dogs and song.

“Hey hey! We’re living in God’s back yard” (the VBS theme) was proclamation and reality.

Part of the evening treat was seeing a slide show of pictures taken throughout the week. Each child was shown living the joy of back yard fun. The adults who led the program were captured in discipleship action.

Such beauty is almost too much to behold.

I’m peeled back from child sickness and life. As I watched the slide show and experienced the kids sharing the song they had learned (complete with motions like the twist) gratitude leaked out of my eyes and would not be stoppered.

Hey hey! We’re living in God’s back yard.

Hey hey! We’re not alone as we raise children and share the wonder and snargle of life.

Hey hey! There are life songs yet to teach.

Hey hey!


Tomorrow during worship we will name the saints of our church who have died in the year gone by.

We will name them and see their faces and feel their continued presence in our midst and we will know for our own selves the reality of our own naming someday.  We too (we pray) will be remembered by a community that acknowledges the witness we bore through the gift of our life.

I am mindful of the power of teachers.  This morning I met a beloved teacher for coffee.  We had not seen each other for nearly a decade.  Life happened and while we stayed connected the chance to savor each other’s presence in the flesh has been long in coming.

Mary is a few years older than I.  When I began college I auditioned for the choir there.  I had always been a band geek but was encouraged to see myself as a singer.  Wonder of wonders, I made the top choir and was terrified and amazed at the full-body miracle that is singing in the midst of talented and soulful singers.  I remember yet the first rehearsal I went to.  I was born again.

Mary was the queen of the sopranos; not in the Pit-Bull with jewelry on sort of way, but in such a way that the grace of her being sang through her body.  Her voice was (and is) sublime.  I wanted to be like her.  I wanted to sing that freely and laugh that fully and practice grace that deftly so I apprenticed myself to learn this way of voicing soul.

She taught me well.

She still does.  Encountering a kindred with whom beers and tears and so much life have been shared is like entering sanctuary.

Did she know she was my teacher?  Probably not, and therein lies the power.

St Francis enjoined fellow disciples to “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words”.

We are preachers, each one of us.  My prayer is that our lives are witness to the power of the gospel.  As we sing and scrap and love and bumble, may we preach grace.

Some day our name will be read and our spirit will echo with the sound of a bell rung to mark our passing.

May we also be a place in hearts we have touched and taught.  For surely, as a gospel preaching people, we know the power of resurrection.





Tomorrow my eldest turns 28.

I was 28 when she happened into my heart.

I look at her face and savor her being and realize gratitude so exquisite it pains my heart.

Leah’s was a scary delivery.  Not too many details, I promise, but by the time they had decided it was time to deliver her via surgery her vitals were compromised and as they put me under in the midst of great consternation all I could do was pray.

When I awoke there was this baby.  A girl baby healthy, blond-fuzzed, inquisitive and somehow grounded and she was alive alive alive and my heart has not ceased its gratitude song since.

Parenting is a most holy act of stewardship.  Our days are marked with the unfolding of miracle celebrated in the mundane: smiles and steps and words and hugs.  Small hands held in our own grow to reach out into the world touching in ways powerful and unique.

This morning I shared birthday brunch with my three babies and the birthday girl’s beloved.  Leah’s posse basked in her beauty and celebrated her being.

Following the feast, Leah and I went shopping for suitable clothes for a woman newly hired in a job tailor-made for her (she is working for Woman Venture, an organization that provides support for women starting businesses).

As we walked together on an amazingly fine October morning, she put her hand in mine.

Oh, for a thousands tongues to sing.


There is an old spiritual whose words and melody conspire to rip my guts out every time:  “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”

Every year when Good Friday comes around my soul must have that sing.

And it is feeling that need on this day.

On Sunday we will gather in a mostly racially segregated church to name, among other things, the way that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message was sprung from the teachings of Jesus.  We will hear some of his words and sing songs that harken back to a time when the church took blinders off and took action based upon the teachings of Jesus.

Today I was engaged in an electronic conversation involving some of the clergy who have signed a document saying that we no longer feel bound by a church teaching that conspires to barricade grace from same-sex committed couples.  The conversation had to do with how do we as clergy and lay advocates for full inclusion open dialogue and how do we maintain a conversation space free of hate speak and how do we move this crucial conversation out to a world sore weary for want of grace and I want to sing “Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble” because we ARE there every day, positioned at the foot of the cross where our sisters and brothers in Christ are crucified crucified crucified by the unwillingness of God’s people to rise up and say that we will no longer collaborate with the forces of fear.

I am a tired and heart-sore singer needing a good wail and tremble is so real.

Wail I will, and then I will get up, pick up my voice and my heart and search for others who long to do the same and together we will overcome.  We will overcome.

Because the heart of God demands our response.

Heaven help us if we sit through tidy and safe commemorations of MLK without turning to now, to us, to what is, and asking ourselves how it is we can go along when so much is yet to be.

May the blinders be banished and our hope and fury be sung from belly and pulpit.

woman song

“Today at Jeanne Audrey Power’s apartment we saw all her shelves of feminist theology books and on the female face(s) of the Divine–was it all a dream? What about the last 50 years of women’s voices? Does feminist theology matter anymore?”  Facebook post.

The above Facebook post sings out at a powerful time in the church calendar.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we turn our ears and hearts to the song of Mary:  the Magnificat.  It is a song taught her through the voices of her ancestors, since her kinswoman Hannah generations before sang much the same song when she found she was to bear an unexpected son, Samuel by name.

The song resonates with the voices of God’s prophets through the ages:  God uses the least in order to proclaim that the vision of the Holy images fullness of life for all.  The mighty are brought to the level of the least.  The poor are filled with the food of life and soul that integration into community can bring.  The world can and will turn from scramble for power over to cultivation of power with in order that all might know grace.

And, Mary marvels, God calls her blessed in her decision to magnify the Holy. A thirteen year old girl who says “yes” to bearing the Word Made Flesh is called blessed.

Her song is sung and it resounds in our midst yet.

And, the song of woman is strangled yet.  A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune shares this sobering fact:  one in three women in this nation have experienced violence directed at the Word Made Flesh of their bodies.  Women are targets of violence meted out through fists, through advertising, and through the sorts of systemic violence that creates a culture in which women who lead and women who sing are subjected to derision and barbed-wire ceilings.

Was it all a dream, the Facebook poster asks?  Can it be even timidly conjectured that Feminism has wrought the sort of systemic change it sought to name and challenge?  Does anyone care?

Who is singing woman song any more?  And why is it there seems to be a “there, we did that” sense that the song is needed no more?

The ways we language through worship and public discourse is bound yet by images of the Holy as male muscle-flexer.  Introducing inclusive language through mindful choice of prayer and hymnody can make for exquisite challenge.  The resource aren’t much there.  And the push back is relentless.

The song is more powerful than our cultural penchant for ostrich-stance.

I care.  My daughters care.  My men-beloveds care.  The Holy cares.

The song of woman is the song of life and thousands of years ago a young woman took up the song and the world was changed.

Oh, that we would carry on the song of the Word.  We are called to magnify the vision of God.

We are blessed.

bell tones

Music during this season of Christmas makes every pore in my body gasp.

I spent decades as a soprano in church choirs, college choirs, and semi-professional chorales.  One of my favorite seasonal gigs was singing with the Rittenhouse Inn singers in Bayfield Wisconsin.  I’d motor over from Duluth and spent a night, singing multiple concerts in the dining rooms there.  I was a first soprano, one of the blessed (I would say) who get to take lofty flight through vocal chords.

Hearing the MPR offerings and experiencing the gift of singing in our church choir, I am home.  I have body memories of where I was when I was able to wrap my voice around various choral works.  I feel gratitude gratitude gratitude.

And, I feel some nostalgia.  I am no longer a first soprano, and maybe not much of a real soprano any more.  I don’t devote myself to singing as I once did.  I am a rusty and less confident member of the corps.  My life has taken me into other sorts of ways of using my voice.  What was is no more.

But for a time, I soared without fear.

Do I long sometimes for the opportunity to sing as I once did; often and in fabulous company?  Of course.

But the voice that used to join with others to create beauty sings yet in this body and life that has seen some changes.

And that is enough.