reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the view-master

a couple sundays ago i had the honor of speaking for a few moments to our church congregation.  normally, the hat i wear at trinity is a minister of music hat, but i was happy to speak a few words (ok, maybe more than a few…i am not the most succinct person on this planet) during that service.  the service was called “a joyful noise” sunday and it was day dedicated to a hymn sing.

taking into account the lessons to be read during the service and expanding on a recent writing, i prepared a few words on Joy.  a couple of  people have since asked me to publish this here and so, this is what i said:

IMG_0021This is a view-master. It’s pretty old-school.  Each time I push the lever a new snapshot is available to look at, to ponder. I recently realized that this is the way I write. And so, with respect, I’d like to offer a few viewmaster moments that make me think about joy.

It’s that time of year. There are pictures in the Kenosha News of students moving into campus at Carthage. Any day now there will be pictures of the first days of school at Unified. Nine years ago, right around now, i stood on the University of Minnesota campus. We had packed up the little Scion till you couldn’t even fit a Snickers bar into any of the spaces left. The entire car was glowing pink. The girl – that’s my daughter Kirsten – and her roommate were decorating in pink. Pink everything. Pink comforters, pink bins, pink rugs, pink shower pails. We unloaded into the dorm….traipsing with everyone through the halls, lugging huge futon boxes and armloads of clothes. Organizing the dormroom through the day I struggled to keep finding tasks, maybe to delay my leaving for just a little longer. We walked outside and started to stroll on campus when she turned to me and said, “I think I’m going to go.” “Where are we going?” I asked. “No,” she said, “I am going to go – to the union.” I realized it was time. Every word of wisdom I had wanted to relay to her dropped out of the synapses in my brain and I stood staring at her. I told her to go be her, to be amazing and I loved her. She walked away, with great anticipation, grace, excitement. With great joy. I stood and watched, tears in my eyes. My cellphone buzzed. There was a text from her. It read – “Don’t be sad, mom. Be ecstatic. I love you.” I drove home – alone. When I got there I put on laundry, cause that’s what my mom did when she was upset. In the putting on of laundry, I had to move one load into the dryer. I took out a dryer sheet and out of the dryer sheet box flew an index card. It read, “Thinking of you. With love from Minnesota.” The girl had hidden 31 of these around the house. Bringing joy.

Be ecstatic. Joy. Joy is our right. Joy is our responsibility.

My momma was rushed to the emergency room. Because we were there in Florida visiting her, we were able to meet her there at the ER. She had fallen and was in tremendous pain. At 93 a fall was dangerous and there was worry about her hip. For hours we were in the little examining room, waiting, watching, reassuring. It was the middle of the night and the attending nurse was obviously exhausted. She was a capable young woman, but had little patience and wasn’t friendly or smiling much. My sweet momma, in her pain, gazed up at her, smiled gently and said, “I wish I had your beautiful smile.” That moment. The moment that she brought joy to someone else, changed everything. The nurse was deeply affected by her words, which changed everything in the room, and, I suspect, in all the concentric circles that reached outward, including ours.

Joy. Our right. Our responsibility. Doesn’t one lead to the other?

When I interviewed for the job of minister of music here at Trinity they asked me several questions. Then they asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. (As you would suspect) I said that I did. I wanted to add that my mission as minister of music had formed through about 25 years of work in churches and with people volunteering to be a part of the music programs in those churches. The most important thing to me to tell them was that I feel deeply that the music and the music program in a church is about JOY. It is not about perfection. Like any musician (or anyone for that matter) I love when things go perfectly. But if perfection is the mission that they wanted at Trinity, I was not the right person. I have found if you expect perfection, you lose joy. If you expect joy, you find perfection.

We worship together and sing in community. Each of the songs we sing is a moment in time that we bring to worship, whether it is in a traditional hymn or a contemporary song. We offer songs of praise and songs of love and songs of yearning and songs of hope. We don’t come here expecting to get joy. We bring joy. And that? That begets joy. Our right. Our responsibility.

We were walking through Menards (like Home Depot, for those of you not in Menards-land)  and passed a sign that read “Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.” This immediately made me think of my best friend since the time I was three. This saying was what she had chosen to put in her yearbook under her picture. Somehow, forty years later, because I am ridiculously thready, I still remembered this. What was really funny was that when she and her husband visited this summer, she didn’t remember this at all. (I believe she just set about to live it.) These days we are surrounded by sayings and words of inspiration on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Menards. Sometimes they feel trite. But that’s only because they are so prevalent. They are no less real. No less worthy. They just flatten out because we see so much of them. We tend to not notice as deeply anymore. Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.

Sally’s momma’s farmhouse is for sale. Although, with a deep root there, she is able to find her way around the rooms, she doesn’t recognize it as hers anymore because she is in the throes of dementia. So when they were there, Sally said her momma saw the for sale sign and told Sally she’d like to buy it. Sally explained that then her momma would be far away – hours -from her grown children and they wouldn’t be able to be with her. She asked her momma what she would do all day. “Play the piano,” she said. “I’d play the piano.” Joy is not really complicated.

I read a striking CNN article about Hurricane Harvey and a man named Mr. Harding. I want to share part of it with you:
One of his sons is an avid piano player and was concerned the family’s piano would be destroyed by flood water. When Mr. Harding found the water hadn’t covered the piano, he sat down and began to play. “I decided to take a moment and play and take it all in,” he told CNN on Thursday. He posted the video of the moment on Instagram with the caption, “I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.” Joy.

Early yesterday morning we sat in bed, sipping coffee, early morning sunshine streaming in the windows, a cool breeze crossing the room. We could hear the birds, the squirrels, the sounds of our sweet neighbors John and Michele clinking silverware and plates, making breakfast. Babycat and Dogdog laid on the bed snoring. IMG_0024No matter the worries or sadnesses, challenges or problems that would befall us in the day or days to come, that moment was a picture of JOY.  A view-master snapshot of what is in our very fibre if we notice. Our God-given right. Our God-given responsibility.

 

 

 

 

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lemon meringue pie

a few days ago it was official lemon meringue pie day. now i don’t know who decides these things, but a day (especially right now in our world) dedicated to confection doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  and, seeing that in the paper made me think of my momma.

photomy sweet momma loved lemon meringue pie. no, that’s too mild….she adored lemon meringue pie. in the days prior to chocolate ganache cake (thank you, publix!) she would, sometimes, allow herself to have a piece of this bright yellow unicorn/rainbow/bubble sort of dessert. now, to be fair to other fruits, she also loved all other fruit pies. a piece of blueberry pie and a cuppacoffee made her smile; a piece of lemon meringue could elicit giggles. i mean, really, when is the last time you had that whipped confectionery sugar stuff stuck to your chin and the sides of your lips? you can’t help but giggle. such joy.

the book next to our bed is titled ‘the book of joy’ and it is next up on our read-it-aloud-together list. maybe we’ll start it sitting in adirondack chairs out back. maybe we’ll start it on a blanket on the beach. maybe we’ll start it sitting in the breezes that cross our bedroom, filled with soft light and treasured mementos, our favorite quilt, dogdog and babycat snoozing sounds. just the thought of reading this aloud together brings me joy. joy.

where do we learn joy from? is it something that we are taught? is it something that is inherent in each person on this good earth? is it reachable even by those who are in distraught times, in times of darkness?   is it a right? is it a responsibility?FullSizeRender(1)

my sweet momma was one of those people who was filled with joy. she woke me up every morning with the bright words “good morning, merry sunshine!” or “good morning, my sweet potato!” even in my grouchiest mornings i found it hard to resist smiling to that. i have no idea what she might have been dealing with at those times – her own life stuff with her parents, financial woes, words with my dad, a leak in the basement, personal disappointments or victories, worries about something in our family, what to cook for dinner, menopause or physical challenges, or a plethora of big or little things that were happening. regardless of whatever was in the docket in her mind, she made an effort (without making it look like she was making an effort) to bring joy.

momma’s level of excitement was contagious. she definitely leaned toward full spectrum on the positive side of the emotion band. her reaction to plans you talked about with her always met with enthusiasm…and often glee. the way she met life has set the bar high for me, making me cringe when there are others around me who don’t enthuse or act excited. i remember how she could make a bike hike even just to the dairy barn to buy milk sound like an adventure. joy.IMG_2785

today i am grateful to my sweet momma for teaching me how to lean into joy. this doesn’t mean i am always joy-filled. like everyone, i have my moments when i can be a raving …ummm… or i can feel sadness or grief with every fiber or i can be worried or disgruntled or fed up or overwhelmed by the details of life. but i truly think it was my momma who showed me, by her lifelong demonstration, how to pluck a joyous moment from a day and memorize it. IMG_2784how to write it down or pick up a rock (or a feather or a stick or a leaf) to remember it. how to notice joy and how to save joy. how to be thready about joy. how to lead with joy…in anything. how to own joy. how to be. joy.

there are too few days, i now know, over and over again, for each day not to be find-the-joy-in-today day.  it may be the smallest of things in a ridiculously complex, sometimes-driving-you-to-your-knees challenging world, but it’s there somewhere. i know it’s so. my momma taught me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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the faces of my life.

IMG_1991“…in the nighttime of your fear…” the lyrics of this hymn jump out at me. how many times have i been awake in the nighttime…wrapping my arms around fear of some sort. how many times have i been awake in the daytime with ‘the nighttime of my fear’? being awake with fear makes every muscle aware, every hair stand on end, every emotion close to the surface. and the fear doesn’t have to be physical…sometimes it is fear of the unknown, fear of change (no! really?), fear of differences that set you apart. any way you slice it, fear becomes visceral and, as carol used to always say, you can taste the adrenaline. in these moments, there are voices i pine for, people i want to be near, reassurances for which i yearn. how many times have i told david i wish i could just talk to my sweet momma. how many times have i asked my dad aloud – hoping for a sticky note to float down from heaven – for his words of wisdom. i’ve asked my brother wayne for car and fixing stuff advice; i’ve asked my friend richie for a tad bit of his sense of humor in a tense moment. the list of people on the other side extends out, in ever-larger concentric circles, as i realize how much i miss their words of wisdom. the faces of my life. and then, often in an awakening moment of grief, i realize that there is indeed wisdom and reassurance all around me.

the ukulele band rehearsals are at our house in the summer. most often outside on sometimes-warm-sometimes-cool summer nights on the patio, last night was inside with impending storms in the area. i had broken my little baby toe earlier in the day and was limping around a bit (and maybe whining also.) betsi and jay offered advice, carol and helen grimaced with me, remembering breakages of their own, david jokingly spoke of designing steel-toed flip-flops. a posse of people making my little toe feel better. there were conversations about dietary/lifestyle changes, inexpensive backyard solutions, growing herbs, new albums out, nitrate-free bacon, up north… really, anything you might want some solid talk-talk about was possible. the faces of my life. “…we are pilgrims on a journey, we are travelers on the road.   we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…”

in conversation with susan or linda or jen or heidi, we talk about loss of a parent or we talk about children growing up and away or we talk about where we are in life…they have been there when i’ve cried…they have shared tears with me. they have laughed with me till it hurt. powerful moments of empathy. with david, the sharing of raw emotion, the frustrations and the bliss of being “too close”, the tears and the laughter are full spectrum. the faces of my life. “…i will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh i’ll laugh with you…”

we were standing on the opposite side of a stream from where we needed to be. three times while we were in the mountains this was where i found myself.  (well, metaphorically, i suppose that would be countless times, but who’s talking in metaphors?) the first time, david crossed over, using stones and a wayward log that had fallen. even now, my feet tingle thinking about it. he quietly told me that i could do it and reached out his hand to me so that I could grasp it as soon as i was within reach. his eyes, unwaveringly gentle and reassuring, convinced me to work with the fear i felt and move forward. “…i will hold my hand out to you..” IMG_2744one of the other times becky, david and kirsten (the girl) had already crossed the stream. it wasn’t a huge chasm, but it was enough to make me think about going the “other way”. and yet, it was their faces on the other side that helped the nugget of fear i felt go away.   the faces of my life.

” …i will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through…” our time on this beautiful earth is forever and fleeting. both. this journey is filled with design of the universe and gorgeous wisdom and warm reassurance. the faces of our lives. on this side and on the other side. they will hold us in ‘the nighttime of our fear’. they will hold us in the moment.  we are never alone.

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holy moments.

sunintreesCALIFit’s holy week and, from the perspective of a minister of music, this is kind of a busy time (understatement lol). throughout lent our church has had a wednesday night service preceded by a simple soup supper (i love that alliteration!), with choir, ukulele band and handbell rehearsals sandwiching around these. although a scheduling challenge, rather than feeling overwhelming, it is a breath of fresh air. full of holy moments.

each wednesday evening the congregation gathered sings a service called ‘holden evening prayer’ written by marty haugen. (now, marty -my pal, even though we have never met, spoken or communicated in any way- is prolific and his compositions are gorgeous – meaningful lyrics with melodies and especially harmonies that resonate and are relatively easy for people to sing.)

his evening hymn begins:  joyous light of heavenly glory, loving glow of God’s own face, you who sing creation’s story, shine on every land and race. now as evening falls around us, we shall raise our songs to you.  God of daybreak, God of shadows, come and light our hearts anew.

in the stars that grace the darkness, in the blazing sun of dawn, in the light of peace and wisdom, we can hear your quiet song. love that fills the night with wonder, love that warms the weary soul, love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole.

you who made the heaven’s splendor, every dancing star of night,  make us shine with gentle justice,  let us each reflect your light……

gorgeous, right? “light our hearts anew” “set us free and make us whole” “let us each reflect your light”  – words to make you stop the craziness, get off the complaint bandwagon and feel the holy moments.

in another piece, the psalmody, the lyrics “let my prayer rise up like incense before you…” powerful words, magnified by haunting melodies. so visual. so visceral. holy moments.

as we rehearse through this season, i can feel each of the groups ready for a bit of a break, all volunteers dedicating their precious time to this music. i appreciate them more than they know. but there is something that keeps us all going. for in the middle of rehearsals, there is, inevitably, something that makes us laugh uncontrollably, something that makes us in unity say “awww” or something that, invariably, makes me/us want to cry…in a good way. these communities of fabulous people, joining together, to create joy. music is secondary. holy moments.

a small group of the ukulele band decided to go to a concert recently. held in a huge arena, it was louder than we thought it was going to be. much louder. like the guy in the souped-up car behind you at the traffic light with the huge woofers under the dashboard or on the rear deck (the place where you put bobbleheads) was right inside your chest pounding. but when matt maher got up on stage and sang Lord i need you….oh wow.  holy moment. not because it was “holy”, but….because it was holy.

we had seen matt sing at red rocks in colorado. redrocks(2)outside, surrounded by mountains and the setting sun, the sound echoing off huge red rock, everyone linking arms with the person standing next to them, whether or not they knew them, was unforgettable. i can’t sing that song without that vision in my mind’s eye. he didn’t say much. he didn’t have to. he was one of the rare wise ones who knew that the holy was in the moment, not the stuff he might over-say. yes. holy moment.

the girl-i-have-adored-forever, my beautiful and amazing daughter, and her girlfriend, also beautiful, amazing and adored, called the other night to share some insanely cool news. we laughed and talked and ultimately, i managed to get my daughter to roll her eyes at me, yet again. such a gift of a conversation. holy moment.

the boy and his boyfriend, two fantastic urban young men who i, yes!, adore, left me a sung birthday song message and, another day, texted pictures of a chamber ensemble concert they were at. sharing with me. holy moments.

spring is returning to our backyard.  early morning birds wake and the cardinals are feeling the spring juju.  they swoop and sing and remind me of my sweet momma and daddy.  holy moments.

late on a spring-rainy afternoon we sat on the bed and read aloud together. babycat joined us and then dogdog. all four of us, on the raft. holy moment.

a time of lent, of preparation. another time for recognition of the holy.   the “holy”, the holy.  the Holy.  moments indeed. they are everywhere.

original holy holy framed jpeg

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“hygge”

img_0576in today’s paper there was a brief article about “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-ga”) a danish word that means “the concept of coziness, the absence of worry.” it referred to sitting under blankets, gazing at a fire, watching the snow fall outside, lighting a candle, reading a book…all seem to embrace the moment, not obsessing or feeling guilty about the options we didn’t choose for those moments, but making a deliberate effort to self-care.

we are reading a book together. it is about the quaker way of life. we are only a few chapters in and i am stunned at how it resonates with me…living in the tenets of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality…quite frankly, the bottom line of the very takeaways i feel in any religious organization with which i have participated. i’ve been a minister of music for churches for about 27 years now, on and off through the years.   and the bottom line for me in each of those places, the faith in my heart, is summed up best by the words i just listed. the love of each other in a community joined together by joy and common basic tenets for living.

coziness in the way it was described in the newspaper article speaks to that simplicity. coziness doesn’t come from too much stuff gathered around us…that would seem to beget confusion…instead the quilt, the fire, a simple candle, mother nature…the things that are right there waiting for us…are the things that bring me the most joy.

there is a quilt that came out of my hope chest (how’s that for an old-fashioned term?) that is now gracing our bedcovers. there is something magical about this quilt. we have other quilts as well and have used them, but for some reason, this quilt has brought us sound sleep, deep rest, a warmth that is unparalleled. i believe it came from my sweet momma’s mom – my mama dear, as we used to call her – and it is a combination of

handsewn work and machine seaming. it was created in a simpler time and maybe it’s that history that makes it magical. it is like sleeping at linda and bill’s house…in a quiet room, in an antique bed, under gorgeous old quilts…true indulgence. this old quilt on our bed is one of the joys in my life.  simple stuff.

now, don’t get me wrong. i am one to definitely appreciate the things that this modern world offers us. the posting of this post is evidence of that. last night i was totally reliant on my cellphone as the girl traveled many hours through mountain roads in the cold night. when your (stubborn and fiercely independent) daughter is driving over mountain passes and there is snow and ice, the ability to have her check in with you is priceless – sending a text from points along the way, reassuring me that all was going well. and, like any mom, i would have fought to the carpet had someone taken away my cellphone during that. the moments that i can facetime with the boy or the girl are gifts beyond needing explanation. modern is good.

but i appreciate the balance and i feel, as i am getting older, more a desire for time spent in the simplicities.

i am finnish and norwegian (as well as irish and a little tiny bit of english) in ancestral background. as much as scandinavians sometimes draw lines of distinction, i am wondering if somewhere in there…is some danish….because i have to tell you, HYGGE really makes sense to me.

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GOOD MOMENTS on itunes: kerri sherwood – track 2 on THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY

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take the back road and make your own roses

back road cropped copythe sun is shining brilliantly outside and somehow i find myself wandering through the corners of my memories that take me back to long island – my earlier days. i see myself driving my little blue vw bug all over and, even though i wonder now if i would remember where all those little back roads might end up, i am taking all the little back roads. i’m kind of a back road person. ok. not kind of. i AM a back road person.

growing up with my sweet momma and daddy i was the youngest, separated from my brother and sister by enough years that put them all grown up and out of the house when i was a teenager. and so i would be in the car alone, or with my bestest friend susan, on sunday drives with momma and daddy. momma was good at picking destinations. nothing fancy. an apple farm. or a park on the water, way out the island. upstate somewhere. just enough to make you feel like you got away. and never on the highway, if she could help it. always the back roads. for momma, that was the point. my dad was an ace at seeing groundhogs sitting on the side of the road or spotting special birds. my mom was an ace at navigating for him – my poppo didn’t pay much attention to the signs and such; momma did that for him.

i’m sure i learned about back roads from them. and i’m sure i learned about the point of back roads from them. each and every moment a treasure of what might be around the next bend. the curiosity of a back road. the mystery (without a gps) of not knowing if the back road you were on might become a dead end. the laughter accompanying a three-point turn at the end of that back road. the not-knowing. we never set the bar high on these jaunts. we just traveled together and sang songs. or chatted. or were quiet. or we looked out the window. and because the bar wasn’t set too high, we had extraordinary times – moments i still remember to this very day. feelings i still remember to this very day. and the lure and joy of a back road that i still hold close to me.

so often we set the bar high. too high. i’m all for visioning a wonderful life. but not at the expense of losing the moment we have right now. not at the expense of only having this very moment because we are planning the next. or because we think the next depends on this one. not at the expense of missing the back road.

valentine’s day was this past weekend. people have really high expectations of this made-up holiday. we decided ahead of time that we were to buy nothing. anything we did had to be made. by our own two hands. the back road.

and so i made a little book for him, created out of brown paper and jute. accompanied by a teeny painting. i couldn’t wait to give it to him. i ended up giving it to him the same day i completed it. back roads are like that.

he wrote me a poem and rolled it into a scroll, tied with raffia. and he gave me a piece of brown paper, with lines on it and many folds that had been folded.

later on valentine’s day, i found some origami paper in the house (easier to fold, he says – from his experience of trying to make a rose from brown paper) and we sat in front of the instructions on the computer. together. with music on in the background, we sang. we chatted. we were quiet. we looked out the window.  snow falling.

and, literally giggling at our clumsy hands, we made purple origami roses together.   we placed them, along with candles, as our centerpiece for the dinner we made together.

it was extraordinary.

purpleorigamiroses

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itunes: kerri sherwood