‘Apapane Solo

Once a young ‘apapane learned to sing (which is not unusual).

He grew up to sing with his family, with his friends, and with pretty much any other ‘apapane around. They liked to sing to each other in the trees as they sought the nectar from ohi’a lehua.

Singing just made this little bird feel good. Hearing the songs of the other birds around him made him feel even better. He wasn’t alone. He wasn’t forgotten. He was part of a flock, and they loved and cared for each other as they sang.

As ‘apapane go, he was an adventurous one. He would fly some distance away just to see what was there. He wanted to see new things, and discover new things, and (of course) going to a different part of the forest helped him find ohi’a that was in blossom.

The rest of the flock liked it when he’d explore, and they liked it when he came back, because he often could lead them to the next stand of trees bearing the bright red blossoms that sustained them.

One day, though, he went farther than usual. He was gone far longer than he’d been before, and while he was gone, the other ‘apapane realized they had to move on. The lehua on their stand of trees were going to seed. Making the best guess at the direction he’d taken, they set out after him.

They guessed wrong. Where he flew mauka, up the mountain, they flew makai, toward the lower slopes. They were sure he’d catch up, or they’d find him. But they didn’t.

When he made his long flight back to the ohi’a grove he’d left that morning, he found himself alone.

Sitting in the last tree with fading flowers, he felt very sorry for himself. He took a sip of the last nectar, and munched on some incautious insects, but mostly he felt alone. He opened his beak to make a sound something like a sob. It was a very sad noise.

In a moment, though, it shifted, because all his life he’d sung the ‘apapane song. His lungs and throat and beak all took that shape, purely by reflex, and he began to sing. He sang solo, no other ‘apapane replied, but in the song he realized that he still carried the ‘apapane music with him. His flock was with him, even if he had no idea where they were. They were with him in the song.

He carried on singing until he fell asleep.

The next day, he made a guess at which way the flock had flown, and they made another guess about where they might find him. They’d fly, and settle in the trees, and sing the ‘apapane tune. This time, good fortune was on the wing. He heard them first (there were more of them to hear, after all), but they soon heard his merry reply.

And so they sang once more together.

There is always something connecting us. Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a feeling. Always, though, it’s love – aloha – that links even people who are very far apart. Even when it seems that we’re at our loneliest, there is always someone who loves you, and best of all, there is always God who loves us best.

The video comes from the American Bird Conservancy’s YouTube channel.

 

A Musical Prayer

On November 13, 2016, Church of the Holy Cross UCC celebrated “Sing Praise Sunday,” a service with very little speaking and plenty of music. Children sang, the choirs sang, the people sang (their favorite hymns, so they sang right out!), and the pastor couldn’t quite see speaking a pastoral prayer, so, there was this:

 

Here are the lyrics:

Creator God be with us.
Send us rain and shine upon us all.
In steadfast love incline our hearts to justice.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.
Raise us when our weary spirits fall.

Savior Christ be with us.
Heal all those suffer, those who sigh.
Forgive us when we serve ourselves, not justice.
Raise us to eternal life on high.
Raise us to eternal life on high.

(Chorus)

God, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear our prayer.
Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.
Bring your grace
To your world.

Holy Spirit be with us.
Guide us as we find our way.
Fill us with the fire of your compassion.
Inspire your children as we pray.
Inspire your children as we pray.

(Chorus, repeat third verse)

When Did God Create Music?

IMG_1373Well, I don’t know when God created music.

I’ve sometimes liked to say that God created music on the fifth day of Creation (as it’s described in Genesis): “And God created the birds of the air (who sing!) and the fish of the sea (who sing in water!), and it was morning and it was evening, and it was choir night: the fifth day.”

That, of course, comes from spending time in several churches whose choirs rehearsed on Thursday night.

But in truth, I like to believe that God created music first.

I like to think that God created music by singing first into the vastness of the universe, one voice ringing in the void.

I like to think that the stars and galaxies came to be so that the music could echo from them – and become the music of the spheres.

I like to think that when the planets formed, the sighing of wind and waves carries the songs of God.

I like to think that birds began to sing so that they could join the melodies of God.

I believe that you and I exist so that we might harmonize with our Creator, that we might make the music even greater.

Sometimes we’ll join with instruments or voices, blending with each other to swell the chorus of the ages. Sometimes we’ll join with dance, with swaying bodies or lilting hands. Sometimes we’ll join by building other harmonies: with kindness, compassion, love, and care for people, creatures, and this created planet of ours.

I believe that when we make our harmonies, God smiles…

And keep on singing.

With a Grateful Heart

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The youth rejoice.

In company with many of my fellow citizens, I’ve felt a lot of sorrow this week, and a burden on my soul. The deaths of Alton Sterling, then Philandro Castile, then Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, came as a relentless beat of violence. They laid bare once again how incomplete is America’s effort to eradicate racism from its society, and how overly ready we are to turn to force – deadly force – when fear and rage drive us.

 

On Saturday, I took the road south from Hilo to another UCC church, Kalapana Mauna Kea First Congregational Church, as they were celebrating their 193rd anniversary and holding a Ho ‘Ike, a musical celebration including musicians from a number of congregations around the island and a 90-person group of young people doing service projects at local churches across Hawai’i.

As I was watching liturgical hula for the first time (video below), I felt my soul rise. It was exactly what I needed.

Later on, I joined the kahu (pastors) and other church leaders in the house for an impromptu rendition of a Hawaiian song. Well, I’ve only been here three months, my Hawaiian can be generously described as minimal, and I simply didn’t grow up with the songs – but when you don’t know the melody, you can harmonize, and when you don’t know the words, you do your best with the vowels as they come along.

So thank you, Kalapana Mauna Kea, Kahu Mike Warren, and all the leadership and musicians of the day that made it so special. I’ve been richly blessed. May God bless you even more.