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Contemplative Music for the Journey

The ten songs on my 2013 album Go in Peace are available on iTunes and Amazon, or you can buy the whole CD directly from me for $10 plus shipping. If you’d like to learn more, check out these listening samples and lyrics for Go in Peace.

April 12, 2013

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Grounded by the bare copper cross (Lent)

Candle and copper cross

I have a vivid memory of being shocked when I was 11 or 12 years old. We’d just shampooed the livingroom carpet, and it was evening. In my bare feet, in the dark, I shuffled across the wet carpet to a lamp. I fumbled with the switch, but the light didn’t come on. Maybe there wasn’t a bulb in the socket? I felt around under the lampshade to check, and when my finger went into that empty light socket—wow. In recent years my husband Gene has done a lot of electrical work on our house, and he’s told me about the role of ground wires. Copper conducts electricity beautifully, so it’s often used for all the wiring in a house, including the ground wires. Let’s say a live wire comes loose in a lamp and the wire is touching the metal of the light socket. And now let’s say someone sticks […]

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If I repair a little of myself

“…Those wounds stay with you, and you turn them into a language and a purpose.” Gesturing toward the band onstage, he said, “We’re repairmen—repairmen with a toolbox. If I repair a little of myself, I’ll repair a little of you. That’s the job.” —Bruce Springsteen, as quoted in The New Yorker.* When my aunt Marjorie was dying of lung cancer in January 2006, there was one message I wanted to give her: Go in peace. I wrote my message into a song that I sang with my sister, cousin, and niece at Marjorie’s memorial service. Creating and offering the song helped me move through my own sadness at losing my loving, funny, irreverent aunt. It gave me something to do with my sadness, someplace to put it. I repaired a little of myself: Go in peace. Late in 2006, I recast the song so it wouldn’t refer specifically to the […]

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Undecorated

(Irony alert! I’m about to use words to describe the wordless.) When I went to Sky Farm in April, I was afraid God wouldn’t meet me there, and in a way, God didn’t. I arrived uncomfortably full of other people’s words about God. I needed interior privacy, a time to let other people’s ideas wait outside. “I needed the silence to be deafening,” Jennifer Knapp once said in an interview, and I can relate. (I wish the interviewer had asked her more about that silence.) Part of me was ready to abandon the whole idea of a God who can be known. What are we playing at, hanging words all over God? Maybe arriving with that question is what opened me to the one who did meet me at Sky Farm: the Great One, plain and powerful. A silent and undecorated presence, pouring out life—life that includes death. Near this presence, I knew myself to […]

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The graceful pace

Plants and animals live in peaceful concord with the movement of the days and seasons, and I doubt that time stresses them out. They just live inside it. I, on the other hand, speak as if I were able to use time, make time, kill time, and even save time. Maybe time threatens me. At Sky Farm, I took an afternoon to reflect on the past year by looking back through my calendar. I faced a window that opened onto a wide green meadow, oak trees, and a denser forested area about 50 yards up the hill. A flock of wild turkeys took dust baths and rested in the long grass with their heads poking up. A window to my left let in a warm, gentle cross-breeze that brought me the smell of growing things. But! during my twenty minute march through my calendar, I didn’t once look up at or listen to or smile at […]

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That one thing…

Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” At Sky Farm, I would set the meditation timer on my phone, then just sit. Or kneel. But what then? During the first few days, these silences were about letting the words drain away—or trying to, anyway. Words about God and prayer and Christianity. Words from books, sermons, blogs, videos, stories, songs, classes, conversations. Millions of words, accrued to me over decades. So I tilted my head to one side to let them pour out of my ear and into the ground. I knelt with my forehead to the carpet and let the words fall out the top of my head and disappear into the silence. Sometimes words are just clutter, something that blocks our view. In The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton […]

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A trip to Sky Farm Hermitage

All I do is find my thread, you know. ….—Father Dunstan, the monk who inherited Sky Farm Last week I had the chance to spend five nights at Sky Farm. Deep solitude. Deep silence. By deep silence, what I actually mean is the wind in the oaks, the California quail yelling chi-CA-go!, chi-CA-go!, the wild turkeys clucking and purring outside my window, the acorn woodpeckers jingling the birdfeeder as they gripped it with feet and tail to peck at the sunflower seeds. And under all these, a baseline silence, full, weighted, and strong, like an enormous magnet inside the Earth. Like gravity itself—I could hear it at Sky Farm. Bird calls and cicadas and wind above and in sync with the silence during the day, and in the night, inside my hermitage with the windows shut: silence. Blank and heavy, molten and rolling. On my first day, a quiet interior voice gave […]

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What’s *that* doing here?

I’ve been walking outdoor labyrinths lately—I love doing this! I’ve experienced these labyrinths as enclosed, safe containers that hold me and all that’s growing in me… …spaces that honor interior privacy, thanks to the custom of silence and the narrowness of the path… …sources of nonlinear reverses and surprises that take me close to the center even when I have a long way to go… …patterns that guide people into nonhierarchical configurations, because the person who started in front of you is now next to you, now behind you, now in front of you again. An outdoor labyrinth is a holding space held by the larger holding space of Nature, which is held by the larger holding space of the Creator. It’s hard to escape the feminine imagery in all that I just wrote. When I’m open to receiving this generative aspect of the labyrinth, quieting my “how does it work” […]

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God breathing

Psalm 33:6, ICEL God speaks: the heavens are made; God breathes: the stars shine. About 10,000 galaxies appear in the Hubble ultra-deep-field image. A detail is shown to the left, and the full image is at the bottom of this post. It’s a real picture, not an artist’s rendition, and some of the galaxies in it are more than 13 billion years old. Last week I had a dream in which I’m walking steadily up a hill, and I’m about five paces from the top. But no matter how many steps I take, I can’t crest the hill. The view stays the same: under my feet it’s an empty, dry-grass hillside. Everywhere else, space. Galaxies, stars, and nebulae are laid out before me, with inky blackness between them. No trees, houses, telephone poles, or mountains are on the horizon, and no clouds, moon, haze, or planets are in the sky. […]

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Strong the love embracing us

Praise! Give glory to God! Nations, peoples, give glory! Strong the love embracing us. Faithful the Lord for ever. (Ps. 117, ICEL) The ICEL Psalter, published in 1994 “for study and comment,” bears the imprimatur, a declaration from the Catholic church that a book is free of moral and doctrinal error. The imprimatur was revoked in 1998, apparently because of the translators’ use of gender-inclusive language. That was the end of the road for study and comment, as far as I know. The ICEL Psalter is out of print, and existing copies are expensive. What a shame. If you happen be one of the 38 people who worked on this beautiful and reverent translation (begun in 1964!), I thank you. Your work blesses me deeply and leads me closer to the living God.

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