Comfort, Comfort, O My People

I was flipping through the Advent section of my hymnal the other day, looking for something to ponder this week, and I came across this song with music and words going back to the 16th and 17th centuries.  It’s not the type of music that we hear often – not something that gets recorded and arranged by all sorts of people at this time of year.  But it has stood the test of time.  It is a hymn that we often sing at my church during Advent, and I almost always, upon seeing it listed, have the immediate response of, “I don’t really like this one.”  I’m not sure why because, inevitably as I sing or play it, I realize that this is far from the truth.  It grows on me every time.  It is both strangely joyous and thoughtfully peaceful.  It is familiar, but not completely.  It comforts with its unusual rhythms and considered words.

Comfort, comfort, O my people, speak of peace, now says our God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load.
Speak unto Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them.
Tell of all the sins I cover, and that warfare now is over.

In the past couple of weeks, several dear friends of mine have been confronted by the deaths of loved ones.  These moments can be filled with darkness and sorrow.  Whether these passings are expected in old age or arrive far too soon, the emotions can be overwhelming.  It is not surprising that music is often used as a way to mark these passages, and that it provides comfort to those who remain.  Music is a remarkable thing.  It opens space for us to face life’s challenges.  It gives us these special rooms in which to mourn, to cry, to laugh and to celebrate.

As part of the preparation of the Advent season, this hymn acknowledges that things are not always easy and certainly never perfect.  But within that imperfection, we have a role to play.  We are reminded of our responsibility to the world right now, and our responsibility to a peace that has yet to arrive.  Our preparation is about possibility.  It is about giving comfort to those who mourn and speaking of the peace that we all crave.

Offering comfort and speaking of peace seem quite simple.  But, I suspect, they are not actually that easy to accomplish.  True comfort is given when we put ourselves aside and seek out what is needed by those living beneath their sorrows’ load.  That can be very difficult – we all think we know what is best! We are rarely able to fill every need, but there is something about choosing to truly see what the needs are that is a humble kind of giving; a generous kind of comfort.  And surely peace can emerge from this simply because it is a powerful thing to be heard.  Especially within our sorrow.

So we continue to prepare.  As we do so, listen for the needs that swirl around us.  When we hear them we offer more than a moment’s respite – we offer space in which peace can be found; space in which peace can grow.  And, we offer deep and meaningful comfort.

O Come, O Come, Immanuel

Advent begins this week and marks a time when the Christian church prepares for the birth of Christ.  Celebrating Christmas is common in Western cultures, and beyond, regardless of religious affiliations.  We prepare for this holiday in all sorts of ways.  We decorate our homes, listen to our festive playlists, watch our favourite seasonal movies, attend concerts, buy gifts, bake special treats, gather with friends and loved ones. There is much to do, much to get ready.  It is an exciting time and one that many of us treasure.

As I was thinking about which hymn to look at this week, I was actually mildly surprised to find that we had arrived at Advent again.  There is something about the past years of pandemic time that leaves me wondering where we are.  It doesn’t feel like this state of strangeness we’ve been walking through started very long ago, and yet it feels like it’s been forever.  For many of us, this may be the first almost normal Christmas season we’ve had in three years.  For some the pandemic is a distant memory, for others it is an ever present concern.  We are in many different places.  Preparing for something becomes unusual in this context.  We need to accommodate those who are excited to reinstate all their traditions, while caring for those that remain cautious, and sometimes bound by fear.  The balance of this preparation is challenging.

O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

O come, the Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here.Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

O come, thou Wisdom form on high, and order all things far and nigh.To us the path of knowledge show, and cause us in thy ways to go.

O come, desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind.Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease.  Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

When I read through the words of this haunting hymn written more than six hundred years ago, I was struck by the clear understanding of the contrasts to be found in our communities, our world and our hearts.  We are lonely, in exile.  Trapped, yet aware that there is a way out. We are overwhelmed with darkness and death’s threat, but can see the possibility of daylight cheering our spirits. We are aware that wisdom can guide and that the peace found in working together can put an end to our quarrels.

Preparing to celebrate anything requires us to acknowledge the challenges that we face each day, the challenges that may never cease.  Celebrations that attempt to eliminate these challenges can feel quite thin and a bit artificial.  These words and the sombre music beautifully acknowledge that truth.  It was not a picture perfect world that this Christ child entered, it was a flawed one.  There isn’t a decoration, gift, event or jingle bell that will change that.  The beauty we seek at this time of year will never eliminate the pain, the struggles or the disappointments that we all encounter.  Nor should it.  For it is our moments of loneliness and the times we spend in darkness that give us the opportunity to really see the depth in beauty when it is offered.  As difficult as the act of choosing this view may be, allowing beauty to enter in despite our realities is also a powerful act. Beauty serves to offer us hope and inspiration, and in that way can become the ransom for our exile.

Perhaps that is why we can rejoice after singing through these melancholic words.  Perhaps that is why we prepare.  Perhaps that is why we celebrate – whether we are of this particular faith or not.  Understanding that there is joy to be found amidst the rubble of this world is important.  It gives us hope.  It renews us.

So we prepare.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Teach Me, O Lord

I seem to have inadvertently wandered into the Psalms on this latest bout of hymn exploration.  It wasn’t intentional, but it might be a path to follow for a while.  When I think of Psalms, I think of several things – our prayers, our praise – our need for comfort.  Through words and poetry, we find much in the Psalms: guidance, desperation, joy, hopefulness, suffering and peace.  Psalms are our sacred songs, offering us a way to sing the experiences of our souls.

Teach me, O Lord, thy way of truth, and from it I will not depart;
That I may steadfastly obey, give me an understanding heart.

In thy commandments make me walk, for in thy law my joy shall be.
Give me a heart that loves thy will, from discontent and envy free.

Turn thou my eyes from vanity, and cause me in thy ways to tread.
O let thy servant prove thy word, and thus to godly fear be led.

Turn thou away reproach and fear.  Thy righteous judgments I confess.
To know thy precepts I desire.  Revive me in thy righteousness.

This hymn is about learning.  About finding a way to walk fully in line with God’s commandments.  These words may seem a bit extreme in their use of concepts like obedience and righteousness – ideas that make us bristle in our era of self-care and individualism.  But, for me, there’s more to this poetry than the negative associations we can sometimes carry of religious imposition and rigidity.

These words are about the lifelong endeavour of being true to what one believes.  They are about learning to be driven by the integrity that keeps us on the path we choose to walk.  For some of us the struggle to find what we believe occupies a big chunk of our lives.  If we manage to find it, we are then challenged to live accordingly.  Both of these pursuits are hard.  It is clear from these words that the Psalmist also struggled, carefully outlining the challenges.  Seeking an understanding heart, anticipating joy that has not yet arrived, removing envy, avoiding vanity, releasing fear and being revived.  These are not the requests of someone who has found their way easily.  These are the requests of someone who understands the need to be constantly vigilant, constantly working.

It is this humility that I appreciate in these words.  Yes, they are in a context of a specific belief and reflect a particular set of guiding principles that we may or may not hold to or agree with.  But they are also encouraging in how they acknowledge both our weakness and our strength.  We can learn and grow if we choose to, if we seek ways to do so.  People have turned to these words for a thousand years – perpetually knowing that we must keep trying.  We must continuously seek knowledge and ways to live our beliefs; ways for our hearts to understand and our paths to be clear.

We live in a time when focus on our own thoughts, views, experiences and beliefs is constantly present.  We surround ourselves with like-minded people, we criticize others intensely.  We desire inclusion, but are masterful at excluding with our well-honed skills of judgment.  We are both vain and jealous, fearful and bold.  It is a strange time.

And yet, we can become much more.  These words remind me that when we commit to being taught, we open ourselves up to learning the vast wisdom that exists beyond ourselves.  Be it the wisdom found in faith or elsewhere, the act of seeking brings us closer to truth.  The act of seeking.  The knowledge that we do not have all the answers nor have we arrived, is powerful.  It requires us to learn.  It requires us to move.  It requires us to relinquish our fears, our envy, our vanity and our judgment.  And then, it revives our souls and opens our hearts.

O God, Our Help In Ages Past

One of the challenges I have faced when looking at hymns is how to reconcile the past with the present.  Old words; modern ideas.  Historic errors and wrongs; current perspectives and visions for the future.  Age old wisdom; fixation on all things new.  The evolution of language; the poetry and beauty of artfully crafted texts. The inconsistencies sometimes found in faith practices; the search for spiritual guidance that addresses concerns and inspires positive recognition of all. The good, the bad and the ugly, as they say.

It is an obstacle course, to be certain.  A delicate wander through places of discomfort, but also places I find deeply resonant and replete with wisdom and joy.

This familiar hymn has somehow escaped my gaze over all these years of hymn exploration.  I’m not sure why, as it turns out I quite like it.  The words are lovely.  I can only imagine that the image of a shelter in a stormy blast is one that is appealing to all.  It seems to me that is the entirety of what most of us are seeking throughout our lives – be it spiritual or literal; in our relationships of all kinds.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home;

Under a shadow of thy throne thy saints have dwelt secure.
Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defence is sure.

Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream soon bears us all away.
We fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the op’ning day.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.

When I read through these words, I find within them a beautiful reassurance that something great cares for us.  Past. Present. Future.  That is a remarkable gift.  To be cared for through a thousand ages is a mighty thing.  It implies our value – long before we were here.  Long after we are gone.  Time ceases to matter as it continuously rolls along, carrying upon it all those who came before and after.  We are all worth a great deal.

Sounds lovely.  But challenges remain.  For whom is this help intended?  The saints alone?  What about those who find themselves drenched in storms – without shelter and completely insecure?   What about those who seem to receive no help?  What about those who find the concept of God repugnant or unbelievable?  Whose God gets to be the hero in this story?

I suspect my modern mind is imposing these question – inserting challenges into these words.   Valid, I think, because we should question our belief systems and institutions.  They have been at the root of countless horrors throughout history – in some cases, they continue to wreak havoc.  We desperately need to clean our spiritual and religious houses.  But we also need to find ways to gain the sustenance that gives us the strength and courage to do the hard work of making amends, of moving forward, of adjusting and evolving.

These old texts need not be taken literally.  Like all written words they are of their context, planted in their own time.  They are as imperfect as we are – judged for their flaws as we will be judged for ours a hundred years from now.  But, they are beautiful nonetheless.  They are able to express beliefs, desires, needs, fears and sorrows.  For me, the value of that is immense.  Knowing that Isaac Watts wrote so eloquently about what sustained him – in 1719 – and that these words continue to represent things we’re all looking for, is remarkable.  We need shelter from storms.  We need help, we need home.  We are all aware that our time is finite, but the cycle of life carries on beyond us. Consquently, how we live and interact with others and our planet matters.

I have often found that these hymns remind me profoundly of how common our experiences really are.  Now, then, here, there.  Not the specifics nor the equity.  But the things that carry us.  It is this truth that offers inspiration.  It is this truth that requires us to both receive and provide help; to be conduits of hope for years to come.

Teach Me The Measure Of My Days

It has been almost three years since I thought about a hymn. Well, sort of. In that time I put together a book of the first year of this hymn project (These Songs We Sing available at https://www.pandorapress.com/#/), so was reminded of the beginnings of this project. But, a lot has happened since those beginnings.

For many of us, the past few years have been life changing. The COVID pandemic has touched us all – in big and small ways. A couple of years ago, we were in the midst of it, at a time filled with unknowns. Now it feels like we’re sort of at the end of it – even though it continues to impact many. The way we live our lives is different, somehow, even if we can’t quite define how. If I look at my own life, it is simply not the same. As a musician, some things temporarily derailed have returned, others have not. Some activities remain altered, some are back to normal. Some things have been casualties of the emotional and psychological impact of these strange times; casualties of people’s inability to recover from the fear, the devastation, the pain they encountered along the way. Understandable, yet difficult for those touched by these ongoing struggles and the behaviours and actions that can emerge.

I will admit to feeling a bit out of sorts lately as a result. Feeling a bit like the life I had has been replaced by one that resembles it, but isn’t quite as it should be. There are losses that will not be regained. There are things gained that I wouldn’t trade. I suspect this is common. I suspect we are all looking to find our bearings at a time when the ground we walk on is extremely bumpy, maybe even a bit unstable.

So, I return to the words and songs of old. I have found comfort, wisdom and beauty in hymns in the past and I am certain I will find something of value again. I do not seek religious answers, I seek those nuggets of gold that are woven through time; bits of treasure found in the ideas left to us by those who have walked before. I am not concerned with the literal, but with the spirit of this kind of beauty that can sustain and inspire. I wish the same for you.

How to begin. After looking at so many hymns over the past eight years, I’m running out of favourites – both mine and those of friends and family. So I went on a bit of a random scavenger hunt. I came across this old hymn with a text based on Psalm 39, written by Isaac Watts in 1719 (the tune doesn’t have a known composer as far as I can find, but is listed as being in The Brethren’s Tune and Hymn Book, 1872. It was new to me until this week!). The words are a powerful reminder of the fleeting nature of life, and all within our lives.

Teach me the measure of my days, thou Maker of my frame.
I would survey life’s narrow space, and learn how frail I am.

A span is all we can boast, an inch or two of time.
We are but vanity and dust in all our flow’r and prime.

See the vain race of mortals move like shadows o’er the plain.
They rage and strive, desire and love, but all the noise is vain.

What should I wish or wait for then, from creatures, earth, and dust?
They make our expectations vain, and disappoint our trust.

Now I forbid my carnal hope, my fond desires recall.
I give my mortal int’rest up, and make my God my all.

These ideas are not new to any of us. The idea that our lives are about more than the trappings of day to day life is commonly taught. The idea that our focus should be on God (or whatever ideal/spirituality one holds to) is basic Sunday School teaching. We all know that nothing lasts and that we age and that the rushing around of our lives becomes meaningless if done at the cost of all else.

What struck me in these words was the way Watts describes our time. The narrow space; the inch or two. We are not here for long. We are, in the grand scheme of history, not that significant. And yet, how we live our lives can be remarkable and can have a lasting impact. These words are, after all, 300 years old.

As I ponder what this means in my own life, I am acutely aware that the details of what I accomplish are actually not that important. It can be very easy to get caught in the standards of this world – the idea that some accomplishments are better than others, or more important, or more valuable. We make these distinctions all the time. Some jobs get more attention, some pay more, some have prestige. In fact, almost all of our judgments on people’s successes or failures are employment, recognition and money related. We care very little for the notion of a vocation or the simple gifts, like kindness, as a valid life’s work. We evaluate our inch of time based on a fairly short list of easily recognizable and measurable factors.

But.

Life is short and really can only be measured in terms of the day we arrive and the day we depart. How we fill the intervening years is about something more than a resumé or profile or accolades or bank account. It is about the wisdom with which we walk in this narrow space. It is about the wisdom with which we adjust for our successes and failures, adjust for things we cannot predict.  It is about the wisdom with which we make ammends when we need to, and celebrate when we are able. We are frail and we are strong. When we learn to measure our days by both of these realities, we begin to live fully. And, we have much to offer.

Farewell…until we meet again.

For the past three months I have been posting a little something every day. When we began this season of isolation, it seemed like a good thing to do.  A way to connect, a way to offer a tiny bit of encouragement, a way to collect and express my own thoughts, fears, joys and creativity.

I have learned a few things.  The most important, for me, is understanding that we all feel insecure and afraid – about who we are, what we do, our talents, our skills, our security, our relationships.  When the foundations of our lives are threatened or shaky, we need each others’ reassurances, guidance and support. I’ve learned that kindness is an aspiration of many.  We are not always successful, but most of us wish to be kind and efforts are made in a multitude of ways, every minute of every day, to be better. I’ve learned that strength comes in many different forms.  It is not as we are told it is, residing in the loudest voice, most powerful position or most visible source.  It is beyond what the media suggests or our leaders proclaim.  It is soft and gentle; solid, resilient and clear.  It is that which carries rather than shoves, nurtures rather than schemes, gives rather than takes.

And now, I am encouraged, but I am tired.  It is time for a break.  I hope these posts have been of some comfort.  Perhaps I will return at some point, but for now I wish only the best in the midst of a strange time.  Look for kindness in the faces of everyone you meet.  Allow it to shine through your eyes, your hands and your heart.  It is worth the effort and will not leave you disappointed or alone.

*

We have come to the end of my year of song. So I give you a doxology. The word doxology comes from two Greek words – doxa, which means ‘glory’ and logia, which means ‘saying’. So it combines to mean a short statement of praise usually added to the end of canticles, psalms and, fittingly for this situation, hymns.

This has been an interesting year. When I began this project I really didn’t consider it to be anything more than a means to motivate myself to do music. A deadline, of sorts, that would force me to work at something I wasn’t obligated to do – having no boss to please or paycheque to earn for my labours. Well, it did that, and then some.

I have learned many things this year.

I have learned that people love hymns. They are old and some may find their words and music outdated, but many of us love them anyway. Many of us are comforted by their familiarity; by the depth of their texts and by the history that has carried them to us.   There are truths to be found whether we agree with every word or not. This is one of the great beauties of art – be it musical or poetic, visual or literary. There is more there than appears on the surface.

I have learned that it is possible to find beauty in places I had thought ugly. Some of these hymns were not my favourites. In asking others for their suggestions, I hadn’t considered what I might receive! To be perfectly honest, I genuinely disliked some of these hymns when I started. I didn’t like all the tunes and I definitely had serious challenges with many of the texts. But in the end, I am deeply grateful for having been gifted with the task of finding meaning despite my personal tastes, beliefs and perspectives. What a valuable lesson.

I have learned that I am part of a community. One that is both easily and not easily defined. One that has become a little larger over this year. It contains both friends and strangers; people with diverse beliefs. It has overwhelmed me with support. Time and again I have received incredibly kind words from many of you. Continued sharing of personal experiences related to these hymns. Encouragement regarding both the arrangements and the thoughts I’ve shared. Endless positivity.   In a world where one often hesitates to read a ‘comments’ section, I have had exactly zero negative or critical responses to this project.

So beauty, community and the a shared appreciation of these hymns. Pretty good reward for the task. Pretty good flow of blessings.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Evening

The end of every day is a time to release what has happened, and move towards what will be.  Easier said than done.  When our lives are filled with questions and empty of normalcy, it is difficult to lay down our worries and rest peacefully. Problems abound – be they related to a pandemic, or simply the realities of our circumstances, our health, our relationships.  Yet, every new day offers us the opportunity to begin again; to spend time being grateful and to look for ways we can grow and improve.  The evening signals both the end of this day and the approach of the next.  It is a time to reflect, or just breathe. We look for peace and strength to carry on, places of rest and safety.  Each day is a gift, each evening a reminder.  May you find whatever it is you are looking for, may you be blessed and may your life be filled with kindness.

*

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

I love the evening. The calm found in darkness. The night sky, stars and the moon. Although I don’t often have the luxury of doing so, there is nothing better than playing piano late into the night when it feels like the rest of the world is sleeping. There is something about filling that kind of silence with music that brings to mind a space far greater than the room I’m in. This hymn reminds me of that space. Of the world out there that carries on when we sleep. Of the world that needs to be cared for whether we can see it or not.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

The words to this hymn were written by John Ellerton in 1871, reportedly on his nightly walk to a teaching position he held.   Not surprising to those of us who enjoy late night walks, it is easy to imagine how creativity can emerge from this activity. It is easy to imagine that creativity should emerge when we come to the end of the day. The cycle of day to night and night to day is so much a part of us and this hymn reflects that. Reflects the understanding that every end is also a beginning.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So as I relish the evening, I need to consider what follows. All the possibilities that emerge from the end of one day and the beginning of the next. And the thing that flows between; the thing that hold us together as we pass from night to day and back. This is our treasure. Find it and let it share the calm space of the night, and the joy of the new day.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

 

Moments

There is a reason we are encouraged to take vacations from our jobs. There is a reason employers are required to provide this time, or if they are not,  there are reasons why they should.  We need respite.  Moments that allow us to rejuvenate and find ourselves.  Moments that allow us to be reminded that we are more than the circumstances we find ourselves in, more that the jobs we do or the stresses we encounter.  These breaks are needed in all aspects of our lives.  So find a moment and breathe.  We are, each and every one of us, worth this little bit of time.

*

There are times in all of our lives where we just need to take a moment and find some calm.  Times when we need to allow ourselves to find peace – even if momentary – in amongst the stresses and challenges of our lives. Times when we give ourselves permission to spend time nurturing our souls so we can regain even a tiny bit of strength to carry on.  Because, life can be hard, and facing all it entails can be draining and debilitating.  For some this is about meditation or prayer. For some it is about exercise or going for a walk.  For some it is about taking a nap or listening to music.  Whatever it is, these times are necessary tools of rejuvenation.

The words of this hymn were written around 1845 by William Walford.  He was an uneducated wood carver who happened to be blind.  Apparently, he was a deeply religious man who spent a great deal of time memorizing Bible passages and eventually became the minister of a rural church in England. He wrote poetry, but relied on others to write it down as he could not.  This one was relayed to an acquaintance and, sometime later, was published by The New York Observer.  It was subsequently set to music by William Bradbury and has remained a popular hymn ever since.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, 
that calls me from a world of care, 
and bids me at my Father’s throne 
make all my wants and wishes known. 
In seasons of distress and grief, 
my soul has often found relief, 
and oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
by thy return, sweet hour of prayer! 

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
the joys I feel, the bliss I share, 
of those whose anxious spirits burn 
with strong desires for thy return! 
With such I hasten to the place 
where God my Savior shows his face, 
and gladly take my station there, 
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer! 

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, 
thy wings shall my petition bear 
to him whose truth and faithfulness 
engage the waiting soul to bless. 
And since he bids me seek his face, 
believe his word, and trust his grace, 
I’ll cast on him my every care, 
and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

I’m pretty sure I’ve never spent an hour in prayer or meditation.  In fact, the times I feel closest to that kind of communing with my own spirit and my own understanding of the Divine are usually when singing. Sometimes this communion is found when I experience some kind of beauty – be it natural or human made.  I have known many who take this kind of time to consider their concerns and joys – I remember hearing that my grandmother would get up at around 4:00 a.m. every day to pray for a long list of people, myself included.   I know these words speak to this kind of prayer.

There are a few words in this hymn that strike me.  First, the idea that we are anxious spirits.  The second is that we are souls waiting to be blessed.  There is something powerful in the combination of these two ideas.  Yes, we are anxious and yet we can be blessed. I’ve been thinking about this a fair amount recently.  The notion that our anxiety may well be permanent, but this doesn’t rule out our capacity to find blessings in this life.  There are a multitude of reasons for our anxiety – some with solutions, others without.  There are long lists of justifiable reasons to be dissatisfied, frustrated, disappointed and unhappy.   Is it possible to find peace in a mere moment of calm?  I think maybe it is.

When we take time to breathe only for ourselves, we can access our essence.  That part of us that came before the circumstances, the illnesses, the stresses, the pain.  It is not easy to find this place.  There are so many layers between reality and this deepness.  I suspect my grandmother’s daily practice of prayer didn’t come naturally but was a skill developed over many years – and there were probably days she could have used more sleep instead.  I suspect there are times in our lives when laying aside our struggles is a monumental task, sometimes impossible without assistance.  This hour of prayer practice is one that requires immense commitment.  But, perhaps it is worth it.

Spending time rejuvenating one’s soul is a valuable act.  It allows us to live.  How we choose to do this is very personal and will vary for each of us.  In this hymn, the sweet hour of prayer results in wings that bear our petitions.  What an idea. The act of taking this time to be calm within ourselves, can result in something that then carries us forward. Not with solutions, or even answers, but with wings that help us bear the weight.  It is a beautiful image.  It is the flight of the heavy ladened made a tiny bit less burdened.  Take an hour, a few minutes, a moment to find these wings.  And then, fly.