• advent journal: keep me in your heart

    by  • December 18, 2008 • Uncategorized • 2 Comments

    We were scattered across the sanctuary, twenty-five or so in a room that will hold three hundred, the candles covering the Communion table offering warm light as the day surrendered to the darkness. In front of the altar was a small table with one place setting – plate, glass, coffee cup, napkin, silverware – and a basket full of place cards. Each of us entered and found a seat with room for the sorrow we had brought with us and we sang and prayed and talked about who and what had been lost this year. Tonight we had our Blue Christmas.

    After we had prayed and sung “In the Bleak Midwinter” and listened to a stirring version of “It Is Well With My Soul” by our music director and organist, Ginger explained why we had place cards.

    Write the names of those people or those things that will not be with you this Christmas and then, when the music starts, bring your card and place it on the table.

    I wrote my grandmother’s name (she died this year) and my aunt’s (she’s been gone a long time now), Hannah and Phoebe (Schnauzers I still miss), and then I began to name people who are still living but now are far away since we moved. The last name I wrote was my father-in-law’s because even though he is here he is not. While we were in the service, he slept in Ginger’s office because he can’t sit in church anymore. And he loved going to church.

    I put my card on the table first because I was to sing while the others came forward. The song was Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile,” from his album The Wind, which he finished recording just weeks before he died of cancer.

    Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    There’s a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    Sha-la la-la-la la-la-li li-lo
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    Sha-la la-la-la la-la-li li-lo
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
    Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
    You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
    Touch me as I fall into view
    When the winter comes keep the fires lit
    And I will be right next to you

    Engine driver’s headed north to Pleasant Stream
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    These wheels keep turning but they’re running out of steam
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    Sha-la la-la-la la-la-li li-lo
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    Sha-la la-la-la la-la-li li-lo
    Keep me in your heart for a while
    Keep me in your heart for a while

    We prayed together and then sang

    O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie
    above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
    yet in thy dark streets shineth an everlasting light
    the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

    The service ended with Ginger’s inviting people to stay as long as they wished and to leave in silence when it was time for them to go. We left still carrying the losses we brought with us (how can a loss be so heavy?), yet our loads were lightened because we were all carrying our losses together. We were keeping each other in our hearts.

    My friend Lindsey sent me a Henri Nouwen quote today in response to yesterday’s post:

    Prayer for others… is the very beat of a compassionate heart. To pray for a friend who is ill, for a student who is depressed, for a teacher who is in conflict; for people in prisons, in hospitals, on battlefields; for those who are victims of injustice, who are hungry, poor, without shelter; for those who risk their career, their health, and even their life in struggle for social justice; for leaders of church and state, to pray for all these people is not a futile effort to influence God’s will, but a hospitable gesture by which we invite our neighbors into the center of our hearts. When we come before God with the needs of the world, the healing love of the Holy Spirit that touches us touches with the same power all those whom we bring before him.

    We have all lost and we are found when we share the sorrow and keep each other close. Tonight felt closer to Christmas than anywhere else I’ve been this season.

    Peace,
    Milton

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    2 Responses to advent journal: keep me in your heart

    1. December 21, 2008 at 3:26 am

      Thank you for this post. I wish I had been at the beautiful service you described and heard that song. I lost my father two weeks ago and this post spoke to my heart.

    2. Anonymous
      December 24, 2008 at 2:53 am

      A friend told me about your post and I came to visit. I lost my son five years ago and your post was quite soothing to me as I feel such great sorrow that yet another year will pass and I will be without my little guy. He is surely missed and forever will be.

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