There are definitely perks to being the CEO at Beatitudes Campus! Really. What other executive can expect to walk into her office any day of the year and find a note or a token of affection far more often than she finds a letter of complaint or a problem to be solved? I've learned to smile when I see an envelope with the simple address "Peggy" handwritten across the front. Such was my reaction when I opened a small manila mailer from our own Rev. Harold Byrn. What I guessed was a thick letter folded in half, turned out to be a gift that I will treasure forever.
"Seasonal Soulscapes" is a small anthology of poems Harold wrote over the last two decades that reflect upon the season of life he is experiencing now, the season of aging that so many Americans choose to deny or refute. Through his writing, Harold takes another approach, that of quietly observing what his mind and heart are teaching him at this fertile time. Many of his poems are philosophical in nature, others whimsical. My first reading through the collection tells me that all of them make a point and turn the reader subtly and gracefully to the lesson at hand.
With Harold's permission I wish to share one of his works with you today. It comes near the front of his anthology, which he has arranged in keeping with the liturgical calendar. (Of course a retired Methodist minister would organize his work in keeping with the cycles of the church!) As we enjoy the season, Cradlesong for an Aging Soul has much to say to us:
A Christmas sonnet hides within my mind,
a song of peace, some tune of new life news,
an ancient poem of a different kind
which gives to me more satisfying views
than Rudolph or the sound of jingle bells,
or even tinseled garland on a tree.
It is as if the song within tells
of some old sin from which I may be free.
Within the darkness of each winter time
I sense the presence of a guiding light;
also, I hear a sweet poetic rhyme,
a synthesis of hopeful sound and sight.
I hear a cradlesong within my soul,
a lullaby retrieved from ancient scroll.
"Cradlesong." What a lovely word to think upon, to hold fast during this beautiful time of year that can move from calm to chaos without warning. Which of us cannot close our eyes and conjure the image of infant held close to mother with her voice soft upon us, only us, for just a brief moment of time.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her classic reflection "A Gift from the Sea," writes of that time when, in spite of how many other children were in the house, each of us was the baby for just a brief interlude, and the blessings to mother and child both that are given in that space behind the nursery door.
Harold has not only given me a word for that sacred time, but has also reminded me that I can find it again, at any and every age, if only I will pause and reflect on my place and time in the universe around me. I can still hear my Mother's cradlesong to me, still be swaddled within the arms of a loving Presence while her gentle lullaby assures me that I am loved. This intimate knowledge is a gift of the mature mind and heart, and I doubt that it can be fully understood by anyone not yet at home with the wisdom born of his or her aging.
This Christmas, let us find an opportunity to return to the "lullaby retrieved from ancient scroll" for therein lies our hope for the peace, the sense of shalom, that is the promise of the Christ Child whose birth we celebrate once again.
Christmas blessings now and through the days ahead to each of you, and special thanks to you, Harold, for Cradlesong and so much more.
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