I got an 911 organist call at 7:40 this morning. The regular organist at my wife's church had a family emergency, and she needed me to fill in for her at the 11 a.m. worship service.
That set into motion at day of anxiety. Rushed to church. Practiced the hymns. Practiced with the choir and praise band. Played the service. Stayed for a potluck. (A Methodist motto: where two or three are gathered, there shall be food.) And then an afternoon and evening of grading.
Like I said, a long and busy day.
Two years ago, it seems I was having another long day . . .
April 29, 2015: Transcendent and Beautiful, Something Beautiful, Opportunities
[Ives] sat there in his son's room thinking about the time when he had experienced the presence of God, or of something, on Madison Avenue, for the life of him, he tried to imagine death as something transcendent and beautiful, as he had been taught to believe and had wanted to believe in those moments.
This paragraph appears in Mr. Ives' Christmas shortly after Ives' son, Robert, is shot dead on the steps of a church. Ives is full of anger and grief and confusion. He has lived a good life. Faithful husband. Doting father. Loyal friend. Devout Catholic. Yet, a few days before Christmas, he has to plan the funeral of his son, who was about to enter the seminary.
I struggle all the time when terrible things happen. Right now, in Nepal, thousands of people are dead and homeless because of an earthquake and avalanche. In Baltimore, residents are rioting in the streets against police and the National Guard. In my life, I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of my brother's death. My good friend, the head of the English Department, died the night before Thanksgiving. My sister is in a nursing home. My mother's health isn't great. My medical office job is unsatisfying. And my contingent position at the university is, as always, under attack from full-time professors and members of administration.
In short, my life feels like a big pile of manure.
Like Ives, I want the promise of something beautiful and transcendent. There's a hymn by Bill Gaither that we sometimes sing at my wife's church called "Something Beautiful." The refrain goes like this:
Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But He made something beautiful of my life
I don't understand why, in the space of twelve months, so much has gone awry in my life. I try to see some kernel of beauty in all that has occurred. I hope that something beautiful is coming my way. That's the job of a Christian, I guess: to believe and hope. I read a saying every morning by Blessed Solanus Casey: "In the crosses of life that come to us, Jesus offer us opportunities to help Him redeem the world. Let us profit by His generosity." I try to think of my struggles as opportunities.
Saint Marty is a little tired tonight of all the opportunities that have come his way recently.
|I truly believe this|
And a poem, inspired by Emily . . .
Praise for the Nun of Amherst
by: Martin Achatz
Lord—send the buzz of poetry
A fly—black as the grave—
Bless me with the gift of verse—
The ghost of Emily.
Fill my lines with feathers—Lord—
Song perches in my skull—
My spirit hops—It caws—It crows—
It fills the air with hymns.
If my psalm seems narrow—weak—
Thin fellow in the grass—
Pardon my unbraiding words—
They stumble into bog.
But if my music makes White Heat
Against vermilion cloud—
Take flight with me—My Heart—My Love—
Toward dim Eternity.