Sunday, November 29, 2009

We Thank Thee, Oh Lord

For balmy sunshine
For nourishing rain
Dear Lord and our Father
We thank Thee

For food and Thy care
Rich blessings we share
Dear Lord and our Father
We thank Thee

We thank Thee oh Lord

Those are the lyrics to a prayer-song we used to sing when my sisters and I were young. Last weekend, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Maine with our parents. My mother wanted to sing that prayer, but it's been a long, long time since we've sung it, and the young ones didn't know it at all, so it didn't go as smoothly as it used to. I've thought of the words since then, though. Simple words, but they encompass nearly all that I need and am thankful for. If I were to ad a verse, I'd add something about family and friends, a thriving school, and a caring church community. That would pretty much sum it all up then.

My middle sister and I planned the Thanksgiving Church Service for our church. It was something like one long responsive reading with a dozen readers, congregational responses, eight congregational hymns (we sang selected verses from most of them, complimenting the readings), three instrumental meditations (one of which was my niece playing "We Gather Together"), and a vocal solo--all intertwined and interspersed. Right before the final hymn (Now Thank We all Our God), the congregation had opportunity to share their praises and thanksgivings. Everyone seemed to love it, saying it was such a lovely way to acknowledge all the blessings God has given us And there are many.

Thanksgiving day itself, our immediate and
extended family gathered at that same sister's house for the afternoon. We had a couple dozen or more people there all told, and of course quite a bit of excellent food. After the meal and pies, we were treated to some music, as tends to be the tradition at these gatherings (there are many musicians in the family). This time, my sister's family cello quartet played her arrangement of "It is Well with my Soul" and then her sister-in-law's arrangement of the "Navy Hymn" (three there had been in the Navy and one is currently in the Army Reserves). I always enjoy this part of our time together.

Now, the next few weeks will be packed (for me) with meetings and hard work. One bright light between now and Christmas break will be a very quick trip down to TN for my niece's graduation from college. Time's going by much too quickly! Just yesterday we were excited about her birth...I thankful for it all, though. No matter how quickly it goes...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Literary Afternoon

I treated myself to a lecture today. No, not the scolding kind. Not the boring fall-asleep-in-your-seat kind. The fascinating kind. The thought-provoking kind. The kind I haven't been subject to for a number of years, since the last time I took a literature class. Lately the only kind of classes and seminars I've been taking have to do with administra- tion and are, on the whole, not all that exciting. There have been the occasional leadership workshops or writing seminars which have fed my creative or spiritual side, but not very often, and not often enough.

Wednesday, when the clerk at the Concord Bookstore told me about the Jane Austen So
ciety meeting today, I gave it brief consideration. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go, so this afternoon found me driving through Boston and then Brookline looking for Wheelock College where the meeting was to be held. I got there a little early and was walk around the campus taking pictures of nooks and crannies (and trees) that caught my fancy.

When I walked into the meeting room, I was greeted by my friend from the bookstore. She was so pleased I had come. I was pleased she remembered me. She introduced me to several of the ladies, all of whom were delightful and friendly. The afternoon's topic was "Austen, Scott, Bronte...and Zombies" and was an interesting comparison of three sets of books: Emma/Ivanhoe, Persuasion/Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice/Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. The presenter teaches at Boston College and I found myself wishing I was back in school taking a class from her.

After the "lecture," there was time for Q and A. I was impressed that the lone man in the crowd dared to ask a question...and it was evident he had actually read Austen! There was a little reception afterwards. Again, I was impressed with the friendliness of the group. I'm already looking forward to the next month when we celebrate Jane's birthday =)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Gift Outright

The Gift Outright
Robert Frost
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

I visited Lexington and Concord today, a Veterans' Day tradition I've been keeping for most of the past two decades. I often start my Christmas shopping in these two lovely colonial towns, but I mostly go there to remember...remember my way-back heritage (my mother is a Daughter of the American Revolution), remember what "they did here" that we might freely live here in this country we love that embraces democracy so fiercely and proudly.

I walked around the Lexington Green listening to a Veteran of much later wars play tribute (bottom right hand corner of the picture) on his trumpet ("Taps," "Star Spangled Banner," "The Navy Hymn," and other appropriate pieces). A moving experience, walking through the November winds with the haunting melodies floating over the fallen leaves.

I stopped by the homes of inspiring American writers (Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Alcott), by the rude bridge that arched the flood, by the homes of those who gave their lives that others might live.

I ate lunch at my favorite Market Cafe in Concord and went to my favorite local book store, The Concord Bookstore. There, I gave in to temptation and bought yet another Jane Austen-related book, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why we Read Jane Austen. The clerk asked me if I belonged to the Jane Austen Society. When I answered "not officially," she told me about a MA chapter of the Society that was meeting this coming Sunday and said I ought to go, that I would love it. She is a member herself and said she'd look for me there! Dare I say I am going?!

In all, it was five hours of refreshment, both physically and spiritually. In all, it was exactly what I needed this day. A Gift Outright...

Sunday, November 01, 2009


"The leaves are falling, falling as from way off,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with denying gestures.
And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.
We all are falling. This hand falls.
And look at others: it is in them all.
And yet there is one who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson,