Open My Window, Birds Still Sing

“Comfort, comfort, ye my people,” says our God.
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40

When Sarah Jarosz sang “open my window, birds still sing” from her new song on NPR’s Morning Edition last week, I felt like a mother eagle had flown into my COVID-19 heart and carried me on her wings. “Up In The Clouds” is a poignant, joyful, reminder of hope in the COVID-19 era. (Hear Grammy-nominated Jarosz’s “Up In the Clouds” and her interview with David Greene here.) As we stare into the next surge of Coronavirus, let us notice our resilience and celebrate the birds that still sing.

Month after month, we kept going. We cleaned pantries and garages when the pandemic began, baked bread, put Teddy Bears in windows, planted gardens, and drew with chalk on sidewalks.

In the beginning, we stitched thousands of masks at our kitchen tables and gave them away for free. We thanked essential workers for risking their health on our behalf. We eagerly awaited summer so we could be outside the confines of our home.

We closed our businesses. Cared for our sick. Buried our dead. Learned how to worship, meet, and chat on Zoom. We have been resilient.

And yet, the Coronavirus is not finished with us yet. More isolation and sorrow await us this winter.

Like the Psalmist, we plead for a word of hope, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

“Open your window,” says the Eternal One. “Birds still sing.”

All is not lost. There is still love. And goodness. And God who, like a mother eagle, catches us when we fall.

Squirrels still bury nuts in my garden, and my chickens still lay eggs. Eyes smile above face masks. Snow sparkles today on mountain peaks. Vaccines will come in the new year.

Birds still sing. Beauty is still being created, music sung, and laughter heard. Wrongs are still being righted, broken relationships mended, people comforted, hungry folk fed. A world is still being born.

This pandemic will mark us for the rest of our life. Some of us will bounce back quickly. Others will take a long time to fly again. Some will be gone.

Those who make it through will say when facing a new challenge, “If I made it through the Great Pandemic, I can handle this ____.” We will celebrate how strong we are and how resilient we have become.

Every morning it’s the same. Coffee and memories fill my cup.
And I’ve been thinking that I should learn how to do something new with my time – dig my hands in the dirt, build something that works, get all my loose ends tied.
Open my window, birds still sing.
I want to learn all of their songs, sometime this century till the water washes us away.

From “Up In The Clouds” by Sarah Jarosz

A Message From My Mother

One of the joys of sorting my mother’s papers after her death last year was reading through the prayers, articles, and sermons she had saved. They were a window into Mother’s faith and a gift that my sister and I carry forward. I rediscovered one of those papers last week and reread it each day in these anxious, depressing times. Here it is, with my hope that you find it helpful, too.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. For the restful moments of the night now ended, I am grateful. For the sleepless moments when I tossed and turned, I am grateful, too: It’s good to have issues that need to be addressed, challenges that demand attention, and a desire to deal with them.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Yesterday wasn’t exactly what I expected, but today might be different. Who knows what tasks might be accomplished, what new directions might be traveled, what hurts might be healed, what kindness might be offered, what love might be shared.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Each day is an adventure, a new beginning. Sure, there will probably be some detours I didn’t expect, some turns I didn’t anticipate, some potholes I wont appreciate; but that’s part of living. Not doubt, there will be moments of smooth sailing, too; that which turns out much better than expected, a few pleasant surprises, times of laughter and joy.

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. This is the day you have made. The Psalmist declared that long ago, and it’s still the truth. Let me rejoice and be glad in it. Your love is a source of strength and a fountain of hope. You provide what I need. What more could I ask?

It’s a new day, Lord, and I’m glad it’s here. Help me make the most of it, whatever it may bring my way.

By The Reverend Eric P. Wogen

Lord, hear my prayer.

A New Birth of Freedom

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I, said Gandalf, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” .

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings)

Reading biographies and histories during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been struck again by how ordinary people’s actions affect the arc of history. Whether they went to the front lines of battle or protest, prepared meals or tended the sick, wrote letters or lobbied, planted Victory Gardens or registered voters, made bandages or masks, or organized neighborhoods–or on the other hand, closed their eyes to everything beyond their needs and wants–our forebears’ actions affected the world for good or ill.

Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Now it is our turn to decide what to do with the time we have been given, to use it for good or ill. Will we speak and act for good? Will we do that which is uncomfortable or costly or boring or dangerous to help ensure that goodness, freedom, justice, and democracy win? Will we take time away from what we would ordinarily do and add our weight to the scales of justice and goodness? Or will we think our participation is so minor that it won’t make a difference if we let the moment pass?

I know. All of us wish we could live now as it were 2019: seeing friends and family, tending our gardens, volunteering as usual, and watching The Great British Baking Show. But it isn’t, and we can’t.

This Is Our Time

It is 2020, and millions of lives, the climate, a racial reckoning, and the future of American democracy are at stake. It is not overly dramatic to say that the November election is crucial to America’s survival as a free, democratic country. It is also crucial for controlling the coronavirus, saving lives, education, the economy, and dreams. It is crucial to saving the climate and healing the planet. Need I say it again? The American journey towards a more perfect union is on this year’s ballot.

With this in mind, President Abraham Lincoln’s words carry a new meaning for me this year. The fight of which I hear him speak is no longer on an American battlefield but at the ballot box and in the court.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1883

It is our turn to ensure that the American Experiment survives the forces that would destroy it from within and without. It is for us, the living, to protect and preserve in our time the freedoms for which our forebears “gave the full measure of devotion . . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Please join me in this effort by doing one or more of the following.

Decide What To Do With The Time That Is Given

  • Vote
  • Pledge to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day. Tell five friends to do likewise.
  • Volunteer with Reclaim Our Vote (here) to ensure people of color in voter-suppression states are registered and know where to vote.
  • Be a poll worker if your Covid-19 risks are low. Poll workers are in short supply this year.
  • Host or join virtual house meetings for a candidate you support.
  • Make financial contributions to candidates, the NAACP, or the ACLU.
  • Contact your Board of Elections to clarify where you can vote this year and the dates of early voting.
  • Request an absentee ballot immediately (if requests are necessary for your state) if you plan to vote by mail. Tell five friends to do likewise.
  • Talk to friends, family, and acquaintances about what is at stake and enroll them in the effort.
  • Share this post with others.
  • Pray. And when you pray, move your feet.