Sunday, October 21, 2012

THE ELEMENTS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT


12   A Song of Creation  Benedicite, omnia opera Domini

  Song of the Three Young Men, 35‑65

One or more sections of this Canticle may be used. Whatever the selection, it begins
with the Invocation and concludes with the Doxology.

Invocation

Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, *
   praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, *
   praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

I   The Cosmic Order

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
   O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
   praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
   all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and summer, glorify the Lord, *
 praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *
   drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *
   praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

A few weeks ago, The Rev. Barbara C. Crafton held a retreat at St. Mary Conference Center, Sewanee, Tennessee sponsored by the Sisters of St. Mary’s Convent. It was a day of quiet time, talks, and centering prayer. I had never read Barbara’s books or attended any of her lectures or retreats, and her presentation of “Winter and Summer, Glorify the Lord,” mesmerized me. The publicity preceding her appearance quoted her as saying “I love the idea of all the elements of our environment praising God in concert. It isn’t just about the weather, but about God’s care for us, no matter how bad things look.” She based her talks on the Song of the Three Young Men, Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, beginning on page 88 of Morning Prayer II in the Book of Common Prayer (shown above for those of you who want to read the canticles).
A tall, attractive woman with slightly graying hair, Barbara walked into the conference room, shook hands with each participant (35 people), then sat down in a tall director’s chair and began reading “A Song of Creation.” It was an arresting experience, and I didn’t record anything because I was so taken with the presentation.
The Rev. Barbara Crafton is an Episcopal priest, a spiritual director, and author of several books; e.g., The Sewing Room: Uncommon Reflections on Life, Love and Work, but the title she mentioned that drew my attention was Jesus Wept, her personal story of depression, coupled with the narratives of many people who have battled with, and overcome, this disorder. I ordered it for my Nook and read it in one sitting.
 In the preface, she writes:  “…  How hard it can be to heed and act on Jesus’ words, ‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ without either lying or sounding falsely pious…chronic fear is not about lack of information: it comes from within.  The same is true of chronic sorrow: it does no good to point out to the sufferer that she is really blessed in many ways, that things really aren’t so bad, that many other people have it much worse, even if all those things are true.  Depression comes from within, not from outside us…”  Barbara explains that internal woes are often authored by the brain’s chemistry and improve markedly with the right medicine, rightly managed.  She also talks about talk therapy or behavioral therapy as a treatment, and, in a subsequent chapter, the “beauty of prayer.”
Barbara currently directs The Geranium Farm, an online organization devoted to spiritual growth and practice. She was a chaplain at Ground Zero during the recovery effort after the attack on the World Trade Center. For many years, she has also worked as an actress, director, and producer, and her books and radio scripts have won numerous awards such as the Polly Bond Awards from Episcopal Communicators and the Gabriel Award for religious broadcasting. She has also been a commentator on “America at Worship.” You can Google Barbara Crafton online at her website, The Geranium Farm.
During one of the segments of the retreat that I attended, Barbara talked about death and how people in our American culture spend so much time denying death. In that talk she covered a bit of physics and explained that the energy in matter is never destroyed. Following the presentation about death, I went outdoors and sat on a bench near the bluff to write the following:
AN HOUR WITH BARBARA CRAFTON

We do not dread so much
the pains of hell
as the loss of personality,
the precious way we laugh
or talk or try to impress others,
and perhaps we will lose all of this.
She told us we decompose,
are recycled, never destroyed,
and we cannot help wondering
what form decomposed bodies will take,
if we’ll have any say
in the tomb of reconstituted matter.
Oh, how good it would feel
to be recreated as a bird,
a purple/black crow
strutting in the sun,
cackling his canticle of joy,
his revenge over death;
piloting the universe,
dropping in free fall,
then rising again with urgency
in the same fashion
as we would hope the dying soar,
free fall, and rise again,
exulting in the sphere of His love.

P.S.  Leaving my desk in Tennessee this Thursday, and the next A Words Worth will be sent from Louisiana after we settle in, which will be the following week.
P.P.S.  We’re leaving the skunks on the Mountain, but we had another invasion from a critter two nights ago.  Skunk?  Possum?  Coon?  Chipmunk?  Squirrel?  Whatever the animal is, it has caused me to give serious consideration to the idea of moving to the city.
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