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The Dichotomous Nature of Life by Michelle Cook

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Two: The Magnificat

Monday, December 11

Psalm 27

I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

When you are eight and alone in the sanctuary of a church that might as well be St. Paul’s, you become exceedingly grateful for a sea of welcoming souls. When you are eight, smiles and words matter. 

When you are eighty, I suspect you more fully understand why they matter.  Although I am half that now, I have never read one of his history books, nor did I ever sit in one of his classrooms, yet I am a part of him and he of me.  All these years later I remain thankful to a gentle, bespectacled man who took a few precious moments during worship to lean in and say, “Well now, looks like we’ve got a singer here. You sit up here and sing and don’t be afraid to let yourself be heard. I’ll be right here listening!”  I remain both grateful and profoundly responsible for this gift given me by Hubert Inman Hester.  Being seen and heard in a world that seems so vast can allow one to feel the deep, sacred mystery of God.

As a child of both sound and silence, I often marvel at the dichotomous nature of life.  My own tapestry is thickly woven with the connective thread of the arts, in which I find a mouthpiece for my sincerest joy and most profound grief. I am the sort of person who will cry without shame on an airplane while listening to Rachmaninoff, or lift my hands to the sky while reading the poetry of Oliver, Rilke or Neruda.  Some days when I paint, I literally feel bathed in a buttery wash of colors; as though I am being lifted by unseen strings. There is so much beauty and pathos in the world waiting to be noticed.  Absorbed. Shared. What an astounding opportunity in which to meet God each and every day.

I can so clearly hear the music of the Psalmist David thrumming with interlocking melodies of crisis, grief, the faithfulness of God and the blissful elation that comes when one begins to see God in absolutely every facet of life. I do feel like I am saved daily by the ineffable beauty of our world.  Mary Oliver captures this so perfectly in her poem “Something.”

“Sometimes I dream that everything in the world is here, in my room, in a great closet, named and orderly, and I am here too, in front of it, hardly able to see for the flash and the brightness-and sometimes I am that madcap person clapping my hands and singing; and sometimes I am that quiet person down on my knees”

Hubert Inman understood, and for this I am grateful.  And I am still singing.

Michelle Cook