“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13
I find it so interesting that ringing bells can be a spiritual exercise!
The other day, some of us were learning the process of “ringing the bells up.” This can be a frightening experience because if you don’t do it properly, you can have an accident. As the Lord is accustomed to doing, he taught me a lesson in the process.
I was so stuck in my fear, that I was doing things that blocked me from going forward in the process. I wasn’t breathing, my knees were locked rigid, and I couldn’t even hear Br. Matthew’s instructions he was giving me to help me. I had been quietly saying out loud, “Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.”
To my surprise, all of a sudden, I found myself saying, “Br. Matthew, I trust in you.” When we stopped ringing, I had a good laugh with those ringing with me, but realized, sometimes my lack of trust isn’t just a lack of trusting Jesus. It’s not trusting my friends around me that want to help and that the Lord has put there for me. I realized I allow my fear to block myself from going forward. Things don’t always have to be as difficult as I allow my own sin to make them.
We had the privilege last week of having 2 interesting guests drop in to see our bells and our tower: Benjamin Sunderlin and his wife, Kate. It’s not often that people come to Cape Cod in the bleak midwinter, and even more seldom when they are interested in and knowledgeable about bells! They are the owners of B.A. Sunderlin Bell Foundry in Ruther Glen, VA, which is a “full service foundry that provides the highest quality, traditionally made, bronze bells in the States.” It was nice to show someone our bells and have them appreciate the way they were made and the sounds that they make – their personality! Ben’s interest in bells has taken him all over the world in order to research the different techniques for bell making. They have the unusual ability to cast bells right in your yard or parking lot and turn this experience into a cultural event for the local community, complete with a lesson on the history and craft of bell casting.
I logged on to the Sunderlin Foundry website and watched the sad video on “The Death of a Bell”…don’t miss it if you are a bell ringer and need a new found appreciation of how bells contribute to the voice of the church, and how we as bell ringers should bring out the best in our monolithic instruments! Don’t miss the brief video on Benjamin as “Notre Dame’s Bell Maker” and find out why he describes a bell as a “culturally charged object”!
Our best wishes accompany them both on their ambitious and much needed vocation. Thanks for stopping by!
Ben Sunderlin (above) and Kate Sunderlin (right) at work in Ruther Glen, VA. Images courtesy of B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry Facebook page.
Yesterday was the funeral celebration of one of our Clergy whose family had moved to the community 40 years ago.
Ed was a farmer at heart and he loved taking care of the vegetables, flowers (roses were his specialty), and all the animals. One of the hymns sung during the liturgy, “In the Garden” (based on the scripture Genesis 3:8), says it all for Ed: “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden….”
One of the post-funeral traditions we hold dear is going to the cemetery after the funeral, to place our loved one in the ground. Each person takes a shovel full of dirt to lay on the coffin. The Community family takes care of the body from the moment of death — keeping vigil by the coffin — to the laying of the sod over the coffin when the last shovel full of earth has been laid.
Another custom, while we are filling the grave, is to share any remembrances of our loved one. All ages enter in — from the 10-year-old who remembered Uncle Ed always giving the children lollipops every Sunday, to a landscaping manager who got his first love of landscaping from Ed, to the fellow community member who remembered when he was struggling spiritually being told by Ed, “Come into my office (which was under a shade tree) and let’s talk.”
What a wonderful way to say goodbye to a fellow traveler on the road to our eternal home!
Recently a sister wrote about learning to leave well enough alone—learning not to straighten the crooked picture. That’s not my bent. My struggle is careless inattention to detail. I’m more apt to say: “crooked picture? what picture?” We are all different, and we all need help.
Scripture calls us “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). Some are smooth, others rough. Some are perfectly round, others have interesting shapes. We are all needed, and this is what makes community.
A month ago today Yoshio Inomata, one of our vowed brothers, entered the paradise chapter of his life. Yoshio is from Japan, so in addition to the usual monastic traditions around the liturgies and proceedings, we knew there would be special touches – flowers in the church, food at the reception – from his homeland. At the graveside, we always have a special time of telling stories and placing flowers as we fill the grave. In the middle of December flowers are rare to be found, so some of us had the idea of having the kids make paper cranes for Yoshio. They did a beautiful job, and we had baskets full of the brightly colored birds they passed around to all of us gathered there. As I watched everyone place their birds in the earth with Yoshio, the antithesis struck me: Yoshio’s soul and spirit were flying to heaven even as his body was placed in the earth, and these birds—meant to soar—buried there with him. I suddenly remembered this poem that another of our members had written years ago. Requiescat in pace, Yoshio!
With hollow bones a bird learns how to fly Not once despising frame all delicate, But pushed without the nest his wings to try, Fast finds the air till flight’s inveterate – And pauses not to ponder nor to care How fragile are his limbs amidst his flight, But boldly lifts his wings against the air And mounts the wind all ignorant of fright. And so each day, until he dies, he lives. He soars aloft, aloud, and all replete, Content with gifts that his Creator gives, His weakness making all his life complete. Who curses frailty wisdom needs implore, For only those whose bones are hollow soar.
In the Lauds reading today, it was quoted, “Heat makes things expand, and in the same way, love expands the heart.”
Well, I thought to myself, how appropriate! Last week I had just been confessing to a wise friend of mine (and asking for some help) about the lack of love in my heart for someone. I was so frustrated with my complete lack of control to expand my heart, to “grow my love.”
My friend listened to me, and after a minute said, “It’s not up to you to put the love in your heart. That’s God’s job. Your job is to confess and get rid of the anger, hatred, hurt, and anything that takes space in your heart that blocks God from being able to bring His love in.
I’m sometimes tempted by the concept of “alone.” It’s very appealing (and elusive) to one who’s called to live with sixty sisters! While being alone has benefits, when demanded, it seldom produces the hoped-for result. (That is, continued peace and tranquility.) Jesus called twelve men to participate in His earthly journey, not for His sake, but for theirs. They were of varying temperaments: Andrew, who introduced his brother to Jesus, was optimistic and content in second place, while Peter became the gregarious spokesman for the Twelve; Bartholomew was a scholar, James the Elder, a man of courage and forgiveness, and the fiery tempered John, beloved for his devotion. Like all friends, they arrived with individual attributes and deficits. They needed each other – we need each other — both as support beams and sandpaper.
I have great admiration for those who fix broken things. Carrying a metal box filled with mysterious objects, they arrive prepared for any task. The Psalmist speaks of a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart, sacrifices that God finds acceptable. We’re also assured the Lord is near the broken hearted and delivers those who are discouraged (some translations say “crushed in spirit.”) So then, what’s in His tool box? I suggest the following:
Hymns of recollection and hope
Scriptures that inspire
A small prayer answered
A moment of solitude
A friendly interaction
A change in direction
We’re surrounded by God’s intervention. He’s in the repair business, eager to make us whole, and waits for us to recognize His presence.
In Eugene Peterson’s Idiomatic translation of the Gospel of Matthew, many of Jesus’ words come alive in a somewhat shocking way. I pause to re-read and re-acknowledge the awesomeness of what Jesus brings us, and the duty that he calls us towards. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us:
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love you enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves…If you simply love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?…”In a word, what I’m sayings is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
I’m slow to listen to Jesus’ call to “Grow up.” I’d rather nurse old hurts, take jabs at my enemies and not work to give energies of prayer and peace to others, especially those people or circumstances that I would normally shy away from. God desires so much more fulfilment for my life then I can comprehend. After re-reading this whole chapter from Matthew, I’m shockingly aware of how much possibility there is for an outrageously fulfilling, adventurous, and hope-filled life. God offers such a life to us, if we choose to live inside His kingdom.
One of the Sisters suggested I write a blog called “bloom after pruning,” and she even provided a great picture! She referred, of course, to the parable that portrays Jesus as the True Vine and God the Father as the Vine Dresser. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2, that He’ll remove every branch that bears no fruit, and prune the fruitful branches so that they bear more fruit. It’s a scripture I approach with caution, and not an experience I wait in line for. When one of my irregular branches is trimmed, usually through circumstance, I then have difficulty identifying who I am. I’m like a wibble-wobble toy without a fixed foundation — no idea how or where I’ll land. Advice to me: keep reading. In subsequent verses, Jesus counsels His branches to (paraphrased), “Abide in me, abide in my love, until your journey is complete. Follow my commandments, as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and if you do, your joy will be complete.” It’s a passage more about relationship than pain–an intertwining of love, obedience, and joy — each dependent on the other — until we become not servants, but friends. So I’d like to modify my friend’s suggestion ever so slightly to say it’s possible to bloom during pruning.