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5 minutes reading time (1027 words)

Trouble Don't Last Always

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As I was seeking a congregational hymn appropriate for our Jazz Vespers for the Holidays service, Rev. Cayer suggested the song, “Hush”. This particular service focuses on “stillness” so it seemed to make sense, in a way. But the truth is, I initially decided to go with it because I love when Ms. Joan Tilghman leads us in the song, and she was our cantor for the service.

I know it's a song we often sing when we want to make a strong point about justice, and not quite the tune that readily comes to mind for the winter holidays. Though we can arguably say that this is as good a time as any to turn our hearts toward justice. After all, there are issues of justice permeating the story of the manger that we hear told during this season.

But just wondering, I opened the teal hymnal, Singing the Journey, and took a look at the lyrics. They suddenly seemed to speak directly to the year I’ve had —we’ve ALL had— in 2020 in ways I had not previously thought of.

 Hush, hush, somebody’s calling my name….

Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord, what shall I do?

I certainly felt called in a way I did not expect nor desired as I grappled with the reality of cancer in my life this year. Oh my Lord, what shall I do? I kept asking it, “Why are you here?” and “What do you want from me?” I really did. I chose to become still and listen for the answers.  I am happy that I am now so completely and gratefully recovered that cancer seems so far away, as though last year this time I was not sitting and holding my heart in my hands.

 Sounds like freedom, somebody’s calling my name…

Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?

I am always thinking about freedom, and what it means to truly feel and be free. These thoughts were brought to a new dimension as democracy seemed so threatened in ways I suspected it could be but always hoped it never would be in my lifetime. Oh my Lord, what shall I do? What shall WE do? I found myself—and still do— thinking a great deal about my ancestors and calling their names aloud as I consider all they went through. How they chose freedom and democracy by the very act of choosing to exist because they valued their lives even though others did not. They also valued the promise of this country, though so much around them belied their trust. I am here because they chose not to cease existing. And what I shall do is to continue.

 Sounds like justice, somebody’s calling my name…

Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?

Unlike the public lynchings of Black people in the past, where participants sometimes put on their Sunday best, brought along their children and took photographs in a carnival-like atmosphere (yes, I am with you that this was appalling), George Floyd’s 21st century public lynching so sickened us that it was clear that justice was calling our names. Oh, my Lord, what shall I do? People took to the streets in protest all over the world. And those of us who could not do that educated ourselves and demonstrated our outrage and support for justice for Black and Brown lives in the other ways we could. It all does something, I do believe. And we must not stop.

 Soon one mornin’, death come creepin’ in my room...

Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?

The pandemic has made this so real for us in 2020, has it not? Even if we personally don’t know someone who has died of COVID-19, the daily death count enters our rooms through the news each morning. Oh, my Lord, what shall I do? Wear my mask. Maintain social distance—even when it’s hard around the people I love so. And it might be my imagination, but it has seemed to me that so many folks have become our ancestors this year, even if their deaths were not a result of this particular coronavirus. I light a candle. Say a quiet prayer. Hold in my heart their memory, or allow the grief of those I know who are holding a memory, to enter my heart.

 I’m so glad trouble don’t last always….

Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?

It was this line that had me realize that this was the perfect hymn to punctuate the grievous energies of 2020. We’ve been living in one heckuva heap of trouble and, oh my Lord, I am so glad trouble don’t last always….Perhaps this understanding was what allowed my ancestors to keep on movin’ forward, never turning back (and that’s another hymn).

 I have no idea whether trouble will be gone from us in 2021...I suspect we’ve got a ways to go before it retreats, even if our personal lives seem okay. If we’ve learned nothing else, I suspect we’ve come to some sense of how very connected we all are. And perhaps we’ve learned some sense of “none of us is free until all of us is free.” Or maybe we haven’t.

Oh, my Lord, oh my Lord, what shall I do?  I am choosing to cultivate a small joy each day because my heart needs it. Joy in the delicious chill of my morning walk... in my neighbor’s beautifully lit Christmas tree in her front window which makes me smile every time I see it… in buying children’s books for my great-niece…or journals for my sons... in giving a homeless man a few dollars for a small moment of ease… or as I gaze at the night sky and imagine how Saturn and Jupiter are communing in the greatest visible conjunction in 800 years.

And I’m resting in the holidays. Whatever they bring. At least for now. Resting in the knowledge that we are in community together, and how beautiful this is that we’ve got. And that was one of the best gifts I received this year.

 Palms together,

Rev. Jacqueline

Take Joy
The Pandemic Comes Closer 

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