Thursday, May 19, 2011

Conversations With My Soul

There are thoughts which are prayers. There are
moments when, whatever the posture of the
body, the soul is on its knees....Victor Hugo

For years I have pondered the fact that there are some experiences – religious and not blatantly religious – that seem to speak to me in ways that cannot be communicated with words. I have written about this in at least one previous post. Recently, I had the experience of being a part of a musical a church. I took only a small role, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The music was good, the musicians were gifted, and the choir phenomenal, but it was not the music itself that moved me. In one of our final rehearsals, dancers from the Ballet Magnificat were added to the musical and it was like a two-dimensional image all of a sudden sprang into 3D. I have never been one to appreciate dance in this way, but I was moved to tears as I watched the graceful movements of the dancers and the way they interacted with the actors on stage.

I have a similar experience each time I have seen the musical, Les Miserables. I first saw the musical in London in 1987 and have seen it several times since. I have the 3 CD “Complete Recording” of the musical and listened to it dozens and dozens of times. Each time I see the stage performance of hear the music, I feel I experience something brand new and comfortably familiar all at the same time. Though I know what is going to happen in each second of the show, I never fail to cry at certain times. I can offer analysis of the many things I love and appreciate about the musical, but the moment that I do that, I begin to move away from the experience I have when watching or hearing it. (I am looking forward to seeing Les Miz again tomorrow night.)

It is the reflection on analysis vs. experience that has led me to new insights into my emotional/spiritual experiences. I am a bit of a jaded person. I am often suspicious of others and their possible motives. I fear being taken advantage of. I have spent years trying to work out an understanding of God that makes sense to me (while acknowledging that there is a God out there that exists beyond my ability to comprehend.) I have cautiously sought to let down my guard and connect in new friendships. An all of this occurs in a (mostly) reflective, rational, and meticulous way. When I am in this rational, intellectualized place, I am often comfortable, but emotionally “safe”.

Then there are those moments when hearing a gifted musician, seeing a beautiful painting, singing an old familiar hymn, or watching a magnificent play or movie can bypass all that intellectual horse hockey and speak straight to my soul. In those moments, I can find myself moved to tears before I even realize what is happening. There are times when this has been unsettling, but for the most part I have come to accept that even in “secular” setting, these moments are moments of spiritual awareness. In these moments I feel closest to God and to others. In those moments I feel more connected with myself. I sometimes eventually can gain some understanding of what is so moving about a particular experience, it is often the case that these experiences continue to defy explanations that are logical, rational, or verbal for that matter. I thank God for these moments and I pray that in some way, I can be a conduit for others to have these experiences with God.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One Year After the Nashville Floods

As I remember the events of one year ago today, it is greatly disturbing to see the images that are coming out of Alabama and a little frightening to hear of more possibilities for flooding in the Nashville area. Though my family is definitely on a path of recovery from the storms, I am reminded how much our lives can change in the blink of an eye. I could have never dreamed the journey that my family has made in the last year and hurt for those who are now dealing with all kinds of losses. I know so many who are still recovering from the storms of last year, those who are affected in some way by the storms of this year and even as I am writing this a friend of my daughter is in the hospital with a fractured skull. Illness, disaster, accidents, injury and death are all terrible things that often occur without notice and forever change our lives. Some wounds heal and some do not. Physical injuries often leave scars, but too often we do not attend to the scars left on our hearts and souls by such things. Too many times in the last year people (with good intentions) have asked if we are back to normal yet. I am sure others in traumatic circumstances have been asked similar questions. My family is on a path of economic recovery. We are in a new place to live, but the members of my family still have struggles related to the things we have been through. I do not know when we will be back to “normal” though.

Whenever I talk about these things, however, I feel compelled as the Psalmist did to also affirm that in the midst of these challenges, there is a goodness of God and a kindness of others that has been wonderful. Being able to affirm these things does not change our circumstances or magically fix all that is wrong, but it is a reminder that we are not alone. I have been inspired to try to give to others as much as I can – to be that presence for them. At the Pastoral Counseling Centers of Tennessee, where I work, our slogan is “Seeking to Embody the Healing Presence of God”. I believe that we do that in our work, but so many have been that kind of presence for me through the years and specifically during the last year. How wonderful it would be if each person thought of their purpose in life as to seek to embody the healing presence of God. There would probably be a lot less division and hatefulness, a lot less war and strife, and less poverty and disease.

Yes, it has been one year since the rains in Nashville took our house. We continue to bear the scars on our minds and souls. We continue to struggle in other ways too, but in the midst of the struggles, there is a peace and a joy that can only come from being grounded in the ever present love of God. Thanks be to God for those who have sought to embody God’s presence for me and my family. May God use me to embody that presence for others in the years to come.