In the quiet early morning with frost upon the pane,
And evergreens in silhouette we greet the day again,
I understand anew the hymn, “When Morning Guilds the Skies”
Prayer satisfies my heart like dew, my soul awakening cries —
“Let Jesus Christ be Praised!”
I am not a morning person. It is easier for me to stay up until four in the morning than to get up at four in the morning. In my experience most people extol the virtues of early rising and I struggled to be a part of that superior class but could never quite measure up. It was welcome relief when I eventually heard night owls being spoken of with acceptance, as if it was due to a difference in biological make-up rather than unconquered laziness. I could start my day at seven or even eight o’clock and still be a productive member of society after all!
Now that I’m okay with the fact that I’m not one of those more noble morning people I find myself waking up early (around 5 a.m.) more often than I used to. On the occasions that I actually get up instead of trying to go back to sleep I haven’t regretted it.
There is a certain charm about the first quiet hours of the day. A hushed beauty that is not quite the same as the quiet of the night. It is a wonderful time for prayer and meditation. The almost imperceptible transition from darkness to light is like the gentle transformation God accomplishes daily, moment by moment, in my soul.
As the day dawns I am filled with clarity and vigor that makes me feel as though anything is possible. Like I’ll be able to zip through everything on my to-do list with utmost efficiency. A few early morning moments with my husband seem like a mini vacation. Probably because my infrequent early morning activity is associated with going or being on vacation. But alas, true to my night owl nature, this early morning optimism and energy is short-lived. By 10 a.m. I’m in need of a nap!
While driving past a park the other day I saw something that took me back many years to my youth. Days later I glanced down into a ravine and there it was again, immediately transporting me back to my first year in the Pacific Northwest.
We were Florida transplants, used to seeing palm trees and the concrete houses of our neighbors through the chain link fence surrounding our suburban Miami home. My brother, sister and I were now wilderness explorers in the woods beyond the little stream at the edge of our new back yard. We pretended to be younger versions of Lewis and Clark, though we were more familiar with Ponce de Leon. We delighted in hiding among the giant evergreens, finding bouncy limbs among the alders and skunk cabbage was an exotic new discovery.
In those few split seconds that it took for my eyes to recognize the emerging pungent leafy plant, I was transported to a distant time and remembering the pleasure of childhood discovery again. I felt that exciting sensation of being in a place where everything around you is new and full of wonder. I am fascinated by the way our memory is tied to our senses. How random sights, sounds, smells and even the feel of the air can cause us to recall experiences long forgotten with all their attending emotions. To that end, even the insignificant skunk cabbage can be a source of joy.
How many students are less than enthusiastic when urged to go into the next room for music practice? Can you imagine walking several miles each way, six days a week just to go to choir practice? Or tending to an infant and two other young children while practicing violin? I was moved to tears as I watched and listened to the recent CBS 60 Minutes story about a symphony that emerged from nothing but a dream and the deep desire in the human heart for beauty.
A Congolese pilot had been exposed to classical music on his ventures away from home. Due to circumstances in his war torn country he was no longer able to fly, but he had some sheet music and a dream of having a symphony in his home town. He invited members of his church to join him. He did not know how to read music and he had no musical training – none of them did. They had very few instruments, but amazingly the symphony evolved. They taught themselves how to read music and play a variety of instruments. They took turns practicing everyday on the few instruments they shared. Violins, horns, flutes and other instruments began trickling in, some in dire need of repair. They rebuilt and repaired the items they were given with amazing ingenuity and resourcefulness.
I was convicted when I considered my myriad of excuses for failing to learn to play the digital wonder that sits in my living room. These people overcame every kind of obstacle to create an oasis of beauty for themselves. Years of diligent effort individually and as a community has produced abundant blessing. What they pursued for their own edification and enjoyment in the midst of devastating circumstances has brought hope and happiness to not only them and their community, but to people throughout the world.
It was thrilling to hear the powerful voices, skillfully played woodwinds, strings and other members of this volunteer symphony perform complex classical pieces. The glory of the music was augmented by and reflective of the depth of beauty within the souls of these wonderful people. The sparkle in their eyes, the sweetness in their smile, the love and gratitude for the music shining in each face was inspiring. The reporter rightly stated that certainly there are symphonies that have played with greater skill, but none with greater joy.