Friday, September 13, 2013

"Bless the Lord, O my soul."

My Joyful Voices singers are working on this anthem by Ruth Watson Henderson. Here's a performance by the Northfield, Minnesota, Youth Choir, Anima.

My girls--well, if I could clone the four of them several times over, they might sound something like this. They're good singers and they're growing up as artists and musicians.

The text is Psalm 103:
Bless the Lord, O my soul. All that is within me bless his holy name. The Lord is full of compassion and gracious. Long-suffering and of great goodness. He will not always be chiding, be chiding. . . 

To not always be chiding--that is indeed compassionate and wise. Constant scolding is tough on people, whether it's the "you did this wrong" variety or the "you still haven't done this, this, and this" variation. One's focused on the past, the other stresses over the future. Listen to that stuff all the time and it's pretty hard to bless the Lord in the present. There are studies that demonstrate this.

Of course the chiding that is going on in my head a lot lately is speaking in my own voice. The message is often attributed to others, but mostly the criticism is me on me. "Why don't you?" "Why can't you?""Why are you?"

There's a homemade wicker-weave basket sitting on the stack of books next to me on the table. This was only my second attempt at making this type of basket. The sides are woven in three-rod wale: three weavers, each in its turn going over two spokes and under one. Even if you don't understand what that means, your eyes would still see the regularity of the pattern. They would also notice the mistakes in my basket--places where the weavers went over three spokes, or just one. The glitches are all on one side--I was struggling to understand the "step-up," which is how you move from one row to the next without a break in the pattern. Breaks in the pattern stand out--like dissonance or syncopation in music. But these breaks in my basket were not planned--they stand out because I goofed.

The bottom of the basket has problems, too. The center is an eight-pointed star, with sides of the octagon made of four-piece bundles of reed. As the base gets bigger these groups of four swirl around, and weave over and under. Eventually they divide into groups of two which continue to weave and swirl. At some point, in the middle of a round, I lost track of which pairs had actually been woven into place and which ones had sprung into position--the wrong positions--on their own. After forty-five minutes of struggling to make sense of it all I decided to call it a learning experience and let it be--off-center and imperfect. I curved the spokes upward, wove the sides, and finished off the top.

Enough chiding for one basket. It's imperfect, and yet I keep it around. It's light and strong and the top border is pleasing. It can hold balls of yarn. I like to look at it. Even imperfectly, it blesses its maker.

Compassion and mercy--not just for baskets, thank God.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

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