Monday, May 26, 2008

LILIES OF THE FIELD AND WOMEN AT THE WELL

At St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the bluff near Sewanee, Sister Lucy broadcast a pithy sermon yesterday; this time telling us “not to worry,” according to the Gospel -- pointing to the lilies of the field and their state of being unperturbed by anything, silently growing in the field. It reminded me of a passage in LEAVES OF GRASS where Whitman mentions “me imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature/Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational things,/imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they…” Whitman covered the whole span of human experience, including man’s expulsion from Eden, in his innovative masterpiece, and I think he’d have loved Sister Lucy’s homily.

Sister Lucy, as I’ve mentioned before, is near-blind and carries a notebook with the lessons printed in huge print so that she can read with ease. Yesterday, she lost her place in the Gospel reading and when she *resumed after a long pause, she said in her wry way, “Now where did the lilies of the field go?” She has such grace that we laughed with her and waited until she found the lilies. In her sermon, she talked about our need to express gratitude and happiness for things provided in the Holy present. She told us the story about Saint Teresa of Avila and her experience with a little nun who was always sickly and downcast about her condition. One morning, the nun looked particularly gloomy, and Saint Teresa asked if she had a headache, a frequent condition from which the nun suffered. “No, not today,” the little nun answered. “Well,” said St. Teresa, “why do you look so glum?” Without looking up, the nun forecast: “I might have one tomorrow.” And so, Sister Lucy enjoined us to consider our attitude toward good days, to take a long look at the natural world of flowers and trees and consider that we live in a blessed world. As Walt Whitman goes on to say, “…to confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs as the trees and animals do.”

I received an e-mail from a good friend, Brenda Lowry, one of New Iberia’s ambassadors, who says she’s looking forward to getting her copy of FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE. Brenda is a talented musician, songwriter, singer, psychotherapist, recording expert, and part of a duet with Bubba Murrell (a Grammy award winner). They composed a program called WOMEN AT THE WELL in honor of my ordination a few years ago and have taken it on the road to perform at retreats, churches, in private homes, and at women’s gatherings in several states. Brenda is seeking a venue in Tennessee, a great state for music, and wanted to know if I had any ideas for the Nashville/Sewanee area. I referred her to St. Ann’s in Nashville but this morning she e-mailed a refusal from a priest there, and I’m sorry that this talented duet won’t be performing in this area. WOMEN AT THE WELL features original music and lyrics written from the point of view of various women in Christ’s life and was heartily endorsed by deceased Bishop Willis Henton of the Diocese of Western Louisiana. You can learn more about these two musicians, Brenda and Bubba, at www.women-at-the-well.com. You’ll be amazed at the reservoir of talent showcased there.

About the lilies of the field, here’s a poem from my chapbook SOARING entitled “Morning on the Glass Porch:”

Lilies by the fence,
nodding invitation to stillness,
watch our notions of labor,
hours spent in frenzy,
cosmic disturbances called work.
And another way He said it:
“Consider the lilies of the field,
they neither toil nor spin.”
Consider Him, one of the first naturalists
building metaphors of rest and meditation
on observations of the natural world,
the kingdom of the spirit.
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