Day two of laryngitis – day two of not actually singing, and letting a series of YouTube videos sing for me (by and large, videos of high school choirs around the world singing this with a simplicity this middle aged voice long ago relinquished).

It is again a simple piece with deep complexity, a prayer from the Book of Lamentations 5:21: “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old.” (NRSV)

Hashiveinu, hashiveinu,
Adonai eilecha venashuva.
Chadeish, chadeish yameinu kekedem.

“Restored” can mean a lot of things – from simple sleep and rest, to remembering who we actually are, to being brought back to repent and renew. And while I know the prayer seems like it starts with the Divine – ‘restore us to yourself” – the very act of saying this prayer is the first step. We must be willing to ask, to use that pesky free will we have, to spiritually ask God to “open the door, please, I want to repent.”

Lately in Unitarian Universalist circles, there’s been some discussion about our lack of prayers of confession, and how, without our formally being able to say “we’ve messed up, we repent, and we seek forgiveness” means a lot gets bottled up, overlooked, swept under the rug. This happens amongst each other, in our congregations, and in our denomination. I know we aren’t a ‘confessing church’ – rather, we are much more likely to feel that if humanity is innately good, what have we to confess? We forget that good people sin too, and confessing isn’t necessarily about saying “I’m terrible and was born terrible” as much as the Calvinists would like us to believe. Rather, it’s about saying “I want to be restored to the goodness I know lives in and among us.” Our Universalist theology doesn’t say we don’t sin – rather, it says sin and evil are here on earth, and we must work hard so that love, freedom, justice, and compassion win. And part of that has to be confession. How can we be good, honest partners for each other if we can’t acknowledge the elephants in the room that keep us from one another?

Lord help me, I am about to quote a poem I want beyond want to forget – mostly because I had to memorize it for a class in seminary and it annoyed me – but for real, this is at the heart of WIlliam Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to each Other”:

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Hashiveinu calls us to reawaken, to see beyond the darkness, to talk to each other and seek restoration.

Ear Worm Alert!

This round is so common in Unitarian Universalist circles it’s hard to remember that in the scheme of things, it’s only about as old as the grey hymnal itself. Yet here it is, a standard welcoming song, even if it’s incomplete.

As my beloved colleague Lynn Ungar originally wrote it, this setting also includes a descant that captures perhaps the most important line of this Rumi verse: “Though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times.” To me, it’s the key to the verse – the chance to start anew. That no matter who we are and what we’ve been though, we can come back to this place, where we can find healing and comfort and inspiration.

Come, come, whoever you are,
wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair.
Come, yet again come.

I don’t think it’s a mistake that this one came up on Palm Sunday, either. I haven’t thought deeply about the connection yet, but it feels right that on the day we remember Jesus’s coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and ‘poke the bear’ of the institutions, I am singing a song that could in fact be his message too.

Fascinating how the universe works sometimes, eh?

“K21 Street” – painting by Jackie Carpenter.

I wish…

I wish I lived with someone, because I would have made them sing this round with me so I could revel in the fullness of this beautiful piece. Although there’s a good chance I would have gotten the pre-coffee stink eye, so maybe it’s just as well.

I wish the hymnal indicated that it’s Arabic. Not because most won’t figure it out, but it feels a bit like erasure to me. Maybe I’m a little oversensitive these days, but I am keenly aware of subtle methods of cultural erasure.

I wish I was less keenly aware of the Christian liturgical calendar that says we don’t sing alleluias during Lent, but then I remembered that I am not a Christian, the round is not Christian, and anyway, all those choirs rehearsing for Easter Sunday have to sing it over and over and over…

I wish I could articulate why, after this week that has shaken our institution, we should sing praises to God (however we understand “God”), but we should.

Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah,
Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

I wish I could hug you all right now, my gentle, loving, funny, insightful readers. It means the world to me that you find something to keep your interest, and even more when you comment here or on social media.

(I wish I hadn’t used “I wish” as my hook, because now I will be singing that piece from Into The Woods all day. There’s nothing worse than giving yourself an ear worm.)

Today’s photo is by my friend, photographer Jeremy Garretson – of the Milky Way over Orient Point, Long Island. Maybe this is a good reason to sing praises to God.

Today we get to the first of several pieces by Jim Scott, a prolific UU songwriter and performer. It’s interesting to me that while some of his songs are full on hymns (Gather the Spirit, The Oneness of Everything, etc.) we also get some short pieces that are the choruses of longer songs. That’s the case here, the joyful chorus of a longer song.

Now Between the Lines will only tell you that he is a singer songwriter who was part of the Paul Winter Consort. But in this interview with Northern Spirit Radio, Jim tells a longer story about this song, inspired by the people who walked for six months on the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament in 1986; having played concerts along the way, he felt inspired to join them in Baltimore, and then inspired to write this song, hearing the snippets of other music they were singing and knowing they needed a good 4/4 marching song for peace.

Nothing but peace is enough for me.
Nothing but peace is enough,
nothing but peace is enough!
Nothing but peace is enough for me.

Now I must admit, while I know Jim’s other songs in our hymnals, I didn’t know this one until this morning, and I really was baffled in a way by its notation in the hymnal. I’m not sure why…. but I couldn’t get the hang of it until I listened to it in that interview. Then it all made sense. So I recommend that whoever leads it should know it and have the hang of it – it’ll make it easier for the rest of the congregation.

Oh…and the sentiment. Nothing but peace is enough. I’m not sure it’s all I want it to be, and I could spend a few thousand words unpacking what that all means, but it’s a pretty good, simple sentiment for those seeking an end to wars and conflicts. So I won’t quibble, I won’t unpack, I’ll let it be.

And then I’ll go listen to the rest of the interview, because Jim has some great music and great stories to tell.

Photo from this flickr album by Dan Coogan of the Great Peace March. It is ABSOLUTELY worth looking through.