Break Out In A Song

We left feeling better than we had felt in a while – actually almost giddy with musical notes playing over in our minds and warming our hearts. We had been singing Christmas carols with good friends. One sang the traditional command performance solo, another challenged us with a new duet, and most of us hit wrong notes as we sang and laughed and loved each other.

The next day I still felt better. Energized. I smiled and remembered and worked through the day with those songs playing again in my head and my heart.
What is it about singing that makes us feel so good? Victor Hugo said,” Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”All the pent up things we can never say, we can belt out in a song.

music-quote-leonard-b
There are benefits of singing. Singing releases the feel-good brain chemicals and pain-relieving endorphins; singing helps us breathe better because we improve our posture and our lung capacity increases; singing improves our mental alertness and tones our muscles; singing increases our confidence.
As my Advent journey continues, I imagine when Mary first heard from the angel she needed a very large dose of confidence. Her visit to her cousin Elizabeth encourages her. Mary is strengthened in her faith, recognizing that she will play a part in the change of human history. Overwhelmed, what does she do? She breaks out in song:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has
regarded the low estate of his handmaiden
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the empty with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke
to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.”

How does our soul magnify God? No one can hear our soul sing- only God. But if our soul is busting with joy at the news of Jesus this Christmas, it will be impossible, like Hugo say, to be silent about it.

Creator of my soul, fill me with such wonder of you that I cannot keep silent. Let me break out in song!

Morning Stillness

sunrise

Why is the morning so still?
Why is the time between darkness and dawn so quiet? The night voices begin to quiet themselves and the morning voices are reluctant to speak.
Stillness.
I open my eyes and leave the warm space to listen and wait. As the first rays of light peek through the trees, the morning noises, one by one, increase their volume. Another day. Another new morning reminds me of the words from Isaiah, “Morning by morning He wakens – wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.”(Isaiah 50:4)
I am discovering the quiet before dawn is what rescues me from the perils of the day. Stillness and quiet waiting help me to hear the voice of God, assuring me that the One who brings his first rays of light to creation is also bringing me a ray of light, a ray of hope, a ray of guidance. “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went to a deserted place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35.) The Christ child teaches us.
I cannot help but wonder about those who miss the quiet before dawn. Admittedly, sometimes I am one, but choosing to miss the lonely, quiet place of silence is dangerous.
Henri Nouwen, in his book Out of Solitude says: “Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures.”
Where is the place of “somewhere?” The answer lies in my Advent reading for today.
“God wants to open the heart before it opens itself to the world; before the ear hears the innumerable voices of the day, the early hours are the time to hear the voice of the Creator and Redeemer. God made the stillness of the early morning for himself.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger)
Open my heart, God, to your day and let me always show up as you wait for me in the stillness of the early morning. Amen

Eyes To See


The words from the first day of Advent replay in my mind:
“I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power….Our temptation is to be distracted by them….When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence…. I will always remain tempted to despair.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Gracias! A Latin American Journal)
Loud and impressive events call our name – especially from the Thanksgiving holidays until we greet the New Year. Why is that? We attend concerts , home tours, light displays and parties. We celebrate at church with extra events, musicals and services. We plan outings and shopping sprees before dawn ( I only did that once). We look around to see if we could just add one more “touch” to our already over-decorated homes.
We don’t mean to be attracted to the loud and impressive but we are. One year I returned from a visit to the largest private home in North America – the beautiful Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. Wowed by the decorations and number of Christmas trees, I came home convinced that I, too, should have something festive in all my rooms. Maybe, I thought, I could just add a small touch to each room—a vase of evergreens in my own, the Christmas “Joy” pillow in one daughter’s chair, the outgrown Nutcrackers guarding my son’s dresser and a stuffed Frosty The Snowman snuggling on another child’s bed. All small signs of the season I love. All small signs of this season of joy— anticipating and waiting for the celebration of Christ’s arrival again this year.
Do we have eyes for the small signs of Jesus this Christmas? Can we see one small sign of God every day? Today it was a friend who asked me to pray with her. We sat by her fire and thanked and requested and praised—and wondered about the small child who grew up and changed eternity, and then changed us. Quiet and unimpressive to the world, this small sign of eternity went quietly about the business of his life and I am the recipient of His wondrous love.
This small sign comes to all of us. Where will we see Him this Advent?

Dear Jesus,
You come as a small child, helpless, defenseless, homeless… and yet your small hands flung the stars into space and cast planets into their orbits. You came that I could live. I want to see you every day. Amen

Colossians 2:2-3
“I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Advent Comes Again

A different journey has begun. Advent. That time of year when we turn our hearts toward expectation, hope, promises fulfilled, and yes, celebration.

These devotionals were written several years ago and have rested, unpublished and unedited since then. Maybe some of you have read them last year, or when they were originally put on my blog in 2009 – so long ago. Every year since, I open up the file and reread and remember and reflect, editing here and there.

This year, I offer them to you again and invite you to journey with me through the season.

Soli Deo Gloria

Killarney in County Kerry to Kinsale in County Cork

After a most difficult day of golfing at Waterville, where water drenched us golfers for 10 minutes and high winds nearly blew us over, we relaxed and enjoyed our final night in Killarney. It’s date night and all three couples go in different directions – one to a concert, one to a pub, and one to a restaurant, all returning to pack up and head for our final destination.

Let me just say golf in Ireland is not for the faint of heart, Was I crazy to think I could play these courses? Maybe, but I am so glad I was brave enough to forge ahead. Having a caddy is a tremendous help and although they want you to play well, they keep their utter dismay hidden and cheer me to the finish. It’s all worth it.

Our time completed in Killarney, we left the Ross Hotel and headed to Kinsale, a lovely smaller town on the coast. Bright, colored buildings and sparkling water greet us as we arrive at the Perryville House Hotel, a beautiful pink palace, almost 200 years old. 

  It had orginially belonged to a pirate who brought all of his booty into his home before heading back out to sea to plunder again. Fortunately, for us it has been restored to a most comfortable home away from home for us for two nights. Small gardens appear from hallways and windows. Several staircases can lead one to the wrong hallway. With only two days how can we sit in every room and see all there is to see. 

    

 

The next day refreshed and ready to go, all of us head to The Old Head as the forecast is for sunny and mile weather.  

 From the moment we turned in we were wowed by the beauty of the grounds, clubhouse, and course.  a good round was had by all and we enjoyed the luck of our day. 

    

  

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a 9/11 Memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives. A moving, tree-lined field overlooking the beauty of Kinsale. 

  

 

Kinsale is known to be a foody town. We found a few…Fishy, Fishy which was fun…and fishy. Blue Haven…a good place for a gin and tonic (Irish, that is) and Finn’s Table, an upscale and family-run business and last but not least, The Spaniard, a colorful pub at the top of the hill. 

  

Too bad we had to leave  when we did. I just read that this year’s Abroad Writers’ Conference is being held in Kinsale…..beginning tomorrow! Who wants to go with me?

 

 

The Dingle Peninsula

Today we are tourists. We hop on our very comfortable motor coach and away we go. Sean, our knowledgable and friendly driver has planned a day of “knock your socks off” scenery around the Dingle Peninsula, even to the very most western point of Ireland. Remote, wild, green, expansive all describe our view.

  

We stop at a prehistoric dwelling of the very first humans on the island – somewhere around 1200 BC. It’s a small rock stacked stone dwelling, with underground passages and ventilation. Every thing has been thought of to ward off incoming visitors. 

   

WWe are a happy congenial group  and you can tell the weather is balmy and beautiful. 

   

Lunch in Dingle is a wonderful treat of meat pies and gin and tonics  in Dingle.  

   What a way to spend the day!!

Ballybunion Golf Course

Not many photos today.  Busy working our way around the Ballybunion Golf Course. And when one plays well there is an instant liking to the golf course. 

Great weather and fun junior caddies made for another spectacular day of golf. The dunes aren’t quite so scary and bunkers not an issue. Jus trying to hit them all straight through the dunes that flank the fairways is the greatest challenge. 

Gap of Dunloe or Golf at Tralee – Two Excellent Choices

The weather continues to amaze and please us. Sunny, warm days and cool nights. It seems the rains come during the night and our activities are only enhanced by the perfect weather. I make a wise decision to not play golf three days in a row. Dunes and bunkers have gotten the best of me. Today (yes, I am two days behind and trying frantically to catch up) I join the girls for a day sightseeing in the Irish mountains.

The Gap of Dunloe was formed two million years ago, whenn slow-moving ice carved out this mountain pass between the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain. Queen Victoria visited these mountains and deemed them worthy of preservation.

We have a choice of how we will manage the eight-mile trek up and through the pass – horseback, on foot, or a jaunting cart. We opt for the cart with Bluebell, who will pull us through the pass.

   

 

There are places where we are asked to hop out and give our horse a break. We don”t mind as we are swept away in the grandeur of this place.  

   Yes, these sheeo have been painted putple – typically farmers put a bit of color around the neck or back of their animals to distinguish them from other herds as they often graze together.  

We move through the pass and head down toward the spot where we will pick up our boat for our final way home. We decide to walk the final mile or so and say good-bye to our cart and driver. We grab a quick lunch as we wait for our boat captain to pick us up. 

   Away we go. I can’t help but think what might happen should a storm pop up, Too late now as we moved downstream to what  seemed a never -ending journey. Exhilirating,  finally reaching Ross Castle.

 The guys had another wonderful day on the links, this  day playing the course at Tralee along with Arnie. 

 

Lahinch

A few miles down the road is the seaside village of Lahinch. The famous golf course is located between the road and the sea. All roads lead to golf it seems. 

Paddy, the caddy, has been a member for 35 years and could spot a ball a mile away. He could even find a ball in deep grass over the hill. The Irish have great vision! Paddy is the guy on the right. On the 17th hold he tears up and tells me that a year ago today he had a massive stroke and never thought he would walk a course again. He raised is left arm high and said thanks to his sister doctor and great therapists he is alive and well. It was a moment of •real” conversation and my par on the 18th did not matter.

It was another day of sunshine. The course is very similar to Doonbeg with some amazingly tall dunes. One can feel very small on this course. 

The beauty of traveling with flexible friends is that all days are not spent holding hands. This was a day where two rested, one went for a private tour with our driver and the rest of us golfed 

Let me back up. I forgot to mention the  Cliffs of Mohr, a spectacular geological formation of cliffs jutting out into the sea. 


The world is a beautiful place. Flowers and puffins, cattle and dogs. All God’s creation and we get to witness the beauty. Grateful.