The Language of God

In stages of glory, I grieve for you my friend. In surprising fashion as God always is, I grieve for you in the native tongue of our Lord. It is a deep expression of who we are as Jewish people, strong, glorious, deeply bonded to Him. I can find no other way to grieve but in the beloved language of my Lord Jesus. Thank you God for giving me words in a language that is too glorious for them.

For those that have never heard Adon Olam, I have included this beautiful rendition with the English translation. God is so beautiful in His native language, when He is unclothed, available and crying back out to us. When in doubt, praise Him, and praise Him again. These are the words I have heard from Him today.

Recently in my interview on EWTN, I talked about my prayer life in Hebrew and growing up in the conservative Jewish temple. I specifically spoke about my ability to read and pray in Hebrew but my inability to understand it. Yet, I felt closest to God when I was praying in Hebrew. I questioned whether God even understood English 🙂

I have realized that in our mourning we go back to what we know and who we are. It was no coincidence for me that I attended a Shiva last night after a friend’s mom died. Even though I didn’t join the minyan, I chanted in the back. It was chilling. But it wasn’t the mourner’s kaddish that moved me, it was the Jewish liturgical hymn “Adon Olam,” a praise song. Why did that connect with me? Why did that move me? I didn’t know it last night, but right after I came home from the Shiva is when I found out Susan died. And in the morning it was Adon Olam:

MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Adon olam, asher malach,
b’terem kol y’tzir nivra.
L’et na’asah v’cheftzo kol,
azai melech sh’mo nikra.V’acharey kichlot hakol,
l’vado yimloch nora.
V’hu haya, v’hu hoveh,
v’hu yih’yeh b’tifara.

V’hu echad, v’eyn sheni
l’hamshil lo, l’hachbira.
B’li reishit, b’li tachlit,
v’lo ha’oz v’hamisrah.

V’hu Eli, v’chai go’ali,
v’tzur chevli b’et tzarah.
V’hu nisi umanos li,
m’nat kosi b’yom ekra.

B’yado afkid ruchi
b’et ishan v’a’irah.
V’im ruchi g’viyati,
Adonai li v’lo ira.The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs diminion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

It is understandbly confusing how one could express their grief in a language they do not understand but completely understand. Every word touched me. And even though you may not be Jewish, if you listen to the words of Adon Olam, they will move you too.

There is a move of the Spirit in Hebrew that is undeniable, I can hear Jesus speaking. And as I recited the rosary this morning for my dear sister, I cried out in Hebrew afterwards to God as if I already knew the words. I think grief produces in us the ability to connect with a part of us we don’t necessarily understand but want to touch. When I look up at the crucifix, I could cry this out to Jesus, God you are my God, adonai , King of the universe, abba it hurts, it hurts abba…

But I am gratful. I am grateful for the words God wrote that I never could. I am grateful for words that flow off my tongue and have meaning besides consonants and vowels. I am grateful for the Blessed Mother who stayed with me during the sorrowful mysteries and cried with me, Adon Olam.

 

To Susan, I miss You

Susan, I miss you dearly. I will miss your words, your encouragement your grace, but most of all I will miss your unwavering acceptance of me for who I am, no more no less. Rest in peace my sweet sister, heaven has indeed become real for me today.

Does God hate the F word?

“We sat with “It’s Time” for a year or year-and-a-half. Sometimes you just have to let a song sit for awhile. “

-Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons

The full interview can be found here

I find that music can sometimes be so fabricated you can’t touch it. Tracks playing, other people penning the music. Lyrics can be catchy, but still and lifeless, produced in a backroom by someone who doesn’t know the artist or the story that they are trying to sing.

It took several switches today on the radio dial to find a song with some sort of message or purpose. Normally I would usually hum along to whatever Christian music was playing at the time since I had my kids in the car, but today was different. Today I needed more than manufactured fluff.

I got agitated with every rhythm and turned back and forth between the Coffee House channel and Classic Vinyl, but nothing seemed to give way. Usually Paul Simon may do it for me, but not today. No; I needed something much deeper than that…

And so a song came on that I hadn’t heard in awhile, Imagine Dragons’ “It’s Time”, whose lyrics began to remind me of a more complicated time in my life. And although I wanted to turn it off, I couldn’t. Even with the polished track, you could feel and understand the songs depth and overreaching power to remind us that we are who God created us to be.

I wondered if the song wasn’t quite so manufactured, if it was in its most raw and pure form, if it would affect me differently. I quickly found the acoustic version to test out my theory, which quickly proved true. Unadulterated and unfiltered, unmanufactured, imperfect, pure voice and rhythm, I couldn’t help but think that this was such a metaphor for the lives we live.  If we could live our lives acoustically, real, no cloudiness, extras, filters, in our purest most honest form, wouldn’t the music sound so much sweeter?

I realized how afraid I was of living like that. Of continuing to expose who I am and how God is changing me. Exposing my faults, talking about my troubles and complexities. I realized just how hard it was to be a raw and honest human.

When you read or listen to the words of those people who you know are being completely honest, it reminds you how hard it was for them and that we are not alone. The song, the writing sounds different, almost uneven and uncomfortable. There are trembling voices, unsteady words, awkwardness and how could you’s. The reality is what makes us uncomfortable, or as Dan Reynolds puts it, “When a song is most honest and most raw that’s when you know you’re doing something right.”

And I want my song to be like that. I want to be like that. Completely transparent and open, not holding anything back, “Packing my bags and giving the Academy a rain check.”

I am terrified. Terrified to just be who I am, terrified I’m not good enough, terrified that maybe I’ll be a terrible failure at Christianity, for the road is oftentimes fraught with rockiness and heartache. I remembered yesterday when I asked God, no, no rather I screamed out loud, “Where the F are you??????”

But I cannot be anything else than who I am. I can’t be a boxed in Christian. I am not a saint. I am just trying to be me.

Jesus lives at Starbucks

When I read the words, Ubi tres, ibi Ecclesia, Where three are, there is a churchI imagined us. It’s based on Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus’s non-traditional notions of “church” were in direct contradiction to the requirements of the Jewish law to have ten men present to make a congregation.

Did he say it just to contradict the teaching of the religious or because there was something far deeper? Christians use this verse many times when praying, but this also contradicts the idea that Jesus is always with us, even when we are alone. 

There is a bigger and brighter idea here. A concept that breaks through all religious notions and rules. There is no number of times a day to pray, no specific place, no time of day. There are no correct words. The concept of two or three is to remind us that even in the midst of the smaller number of two or three, we form a church, a body, a moving being. We don’t need a building, or a denomination or seventy-two ministries to call ourselves Christians. We just need a good friend, an open hand and our loving God.

There is a great treasure to be found in the power of two. It is more than just ourselves. It is another person holding us saying it’s going to be ok. It’s another image of God staring at us. It’s God picking us up when we are unable to pray. It’s creating a congregation in a house, in the midst of a work-space or out here in the abyss of cyberspace.

I have had church in closed-door meetings, the floor of a friend’s house, in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the kneeler. Some of my most profound prayers have been prayed in the most unlikely of places. You don’t have to be in church to lead someone to Jesus, and for me, Starbucks seems to be the place where He appears the most. Maybe there is something about a cup of hot coffee and God. Or maybe it is the place where longer conversations can take place, philosophy still exists and people go to gather and meet and not just sit behind computer screens pretending other people are not there.

Don’t get me wrong, the mass is holy and reverent and the place you’ll find me on Sunday mornings. Not because God makes me, but because my heart implores me. And sometimes the mass contains moments that are prayers without words. Like feeding the eucharist on the tongue to a woman whose eyes are filled with tears, or hands that are wrinkled and clammy and needing His body or blessing a small child who longs for the wafer they are drawn to but know nothing about. For me being Catholic isn’t about the kneeler, it’s about the others on the kneeler with me, looking up at the same crucifix. 

If you are alone today, not religious, not part of a church, there is no need to worry. You are not alone. Grab my hand and let’s pray. Let’s have coffee