© 2017 Christina Chase
© 2017 Christina Chase
My father sings barbershop. Yup. Even worse, he’s a baritone. What does that mean? Well, in this four-part harmony, the lead sings the melody, the tenor takes the high notes, the bass takes the low notes, and the baritone gets the leftover bits and scraps. To make the specific “barbershop sound”, sometimes those odd bari notes sound downright terrible. Hearing him practice singing his part alone can be an exquisite irritation.
But, sing it he must.
As one of the members of his barbershop quartet reminded him, “You’ve got to sing your song. Your part is your song. It’s not anybody else’s, so you’ve got to learn it and make it yours. Don’t worry about what other people are singing – sing your song.” This is very good advice. And not just for singing harmony – but also for living life.
We are all part of this world, this life, and God has given each of us a specific song to sing. Just randomly making up our lives as we go along will not allow us to become part of something greater than ourselves. The song given to us is suited to our distinctive talents and abilities. I am unique and my song isn’t like anybody else’s. Of course, there are many similarities to others’, for we humans share many things in common. There are only a finite number of notes, after all – but with myriad combinations to make unique sounds. We need to cooperate with God, thoughtfully, to find those combinations, discovering our true songs and striving to excel at singing them.
Sometimes, someone’s true song can be beautiful on its own – but, when others join in with their complementary songs, the sound of that first individual becomes deeper and richer than it was by itself. And, then, there are those songs that just shouldn’t be sung all by themselves. (I, a bit odd with my crippling disability, am certainly no good alone.) However, what sounds awkward and aberrant when alone gains belonging and importance when joined by community.
The fact is that there is no barbershop harmony, there are no magical barbershop chords, without the odd and sometimes jarring song of the baritone. In conversation with my father last week, we both recognized how this truth can be a lesson for everyone: we sound better together when we are true to our own songs. A tenor can’t sing the bass’ part and a lead isn’t going to sing a baritone’s part for him. If you are true to the song that is given you and sing it with heart, then you have done your part and done it well. And if your true song seems pointless, weird, or lacking, then you must seek out others who need your song – who need it to make the music complete.
Maybe this little life lesson that my dad and I stumbled onto will make me better appreciate, and even come to love, the baritone part of barbershop being practiced all by itself. Maaaybe…
© 2017 Christina Chase
Trust is not something that I’m very good at. I like to be in control, feeling that I can manage the outcome to my liking. But, of course, I can’t always do that. Some things are out of my hands – almost everything is out of my hands.
When I first became a Christian, I was actually glad that I didn’t control everything. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t responsible for everything that happened in my life and the lives of my loved ones. I can’t say that it was a relief to know that everything is in God’s hands – that actually scared me quite a bit. But, if anyone is going to be in control, it should surely be the Creator and Master of the Universe – the One who knows best.
During my recent health odyssey, my problem with trust was made clear again. I prayed for recovery, for the end of new illnesses – but I also worried every time a new illness appeared. Legitimate concern is not a bad thing at all, for I do need to think about my body and make good decisions on taking care of it. But, worry – well, there is no room (and really no need) for worry in the life of a person of faith. And I worried a lot.
Sometimes, a song, poem, book, movie, or TV show can challenge our faith and inspire us to a better and closer relationship with God. I discovered the song below during my health odyssey (which is not quite over yet) and it cut to my heart. It is a challenge for me in my struggles – and a good inspiration to trust…
“Jesus, I Trust in You…”
© 2017 Christina Chase
By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs. What was your first playlist? Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two. Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.
Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.
You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.
When you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes. All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.… Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”
© 2016 Christina Chase
from an original post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org
Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66
The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php
Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)
The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf
 Job 33:15
When you were this age, you, too, looked a lot like this picture!
With your eyebrows nearly complete on your little face, the hair on your scalp was beginning to grow. All of your skin layers and hair follicles were present, ready to sprout. You also had all of your glands by this age and your skin began to be covered in a creamy white substance, called vernix, to protect its new stage from the amniotic fluid until just before birth. Your mother’s body was beginning to grow and show her pregnancy, midway through, as she felt you move about more often.
After just five months in the womb, you had developed a pattern of movement, heart rate, and breathing activity that followed daily cycles. Called circadian rhythms, these cycles continue to be part of your biological life. Small, hidden, and utterly dependent as you were, you followed the laws of life… a time to wake and a time to sleep, a time to exercise and a time to rest, a time to listen and a time to speak… For, as we know, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….”
A time to listen and a time to speak? Yes!
Sound became part of your life experience. Your cochlea, in your inner ear, was fully developed and you were already responding to a variety of noises. You were continually surrounded by the sound of your mother’s heartbeat, as well as her digestive system, and the swishing noises of fluid in the womb. Loud noises beyond the womb startled you. But even gentle, sweet, and melodic sounds coming from the world outside could be detected by you, as little as you were, and change your heart rate and movements. Repeated sounds that you heard in the womb started to become familiar to you – like your mother’s voice, lullabies, and the cadence of a particular story – and continued to sooth you after birth… as they can still comfort you even now.
Also, at this age, amazingly, you began efforts to make your own verbal sounds! Ultrasound imaging shows movement within the voice box of an 18-week-old fetus that are distinctly similar to those required for speaking. Think of it… when you were no bigger than a cantaloupe, your Creator began to draw sound from out of your mouth, there in the watery world of your first forming. “He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God”!
© 2016 Christina Chase
originally posted on my parish’s website http://www.CatholicSuncook.org
Sources for the science – see:
The Endowment for Human Development, https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit14.php
 Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
 Psalms 40:3 (NKJV)
What does God’s love feel like? Is it warm and fuzzy? In opening our hearts to let God love us, do we experience pleasant sensations, like an encouraging embrace?
I don’t think so.
We are creatures of flesh and what we understand most easily are physical sensations. If something feels good, then we are inclined to do it. If something is painful, then we tend to avoid it. Although the knowledge/experience of divine love is so deeply wonderful that we desire it always once we know/experience it, getting to that place, coming to that state of being where we are peacefully joyful in God’s love… well, that isn’t always a pleasant journey. In fact, I would venture to say that opening ourselves up to let God love us is hardly ever a pleasant journey.
But, oh, what a destination.
God’s invitation to receive the endless bounty of His love is an invitation to walk through fire. Like in the song, Holy Darkness, God declares to us:
“I have tried you in fires of affliction; I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness, there I will plant my seed.
I have taught you the price of compassion; you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves.”
This is the love that saves us from failing as human beings. This is the love that heals the soul, brightens the mind, satisfies the heart, leads the will to eternal destiny, and emboldens loving action. But, it cannot be known through the surface things of the world. We cannot see God’s love with our eyes, hear it with our ears, smell it, taste it, or touch it with our skins. We don’t physically sense Divine love, but we can know/experience what it does. God’s love, agape, transforms burdens into blessings, difficulties into opportunities, disappointments into fulfillment, sorrows into joys, and death into life. If only we would let God love us…
It is this “letting” that is the most trying and painful part of salvation. How are we to receive God’s love? Christ’s human arms are opened widest to Divine Love when they are stretched apart and nailed to the Cross. “Take up your cross and follow me,” he tells us.
Those moments in our lives when we are suffering in the world, when we feel that God has abandoned us – those are the times that we are being crucified with Christ.
Will we fight these moments of suffering and receive nothing from them, nothing but frustration, anger, agony, and misery? Or will we accept these moments on the Cross, even lovingly embrace them, and receive from them the endless goodness, courage, healing, and peaceful joy of God’s love?
“In your deepest hour of darkness I will give you wealth untold. When the silence stills your spirit, will my riches fill your soul.”
When we suffer, with “Heaven’s answer hidden from our sight”, we are on the brink of glory. There will be no fanfare, no fireworks, no parades, no exciting revelry when we are opened and receive God’s love – just as there were none on the first Easter. The glory will be beyond what we can think, what we can imagine, and what we can experience through our physical senses. God loving us does not feel warm and fuzzy, but, rather, deeply abiding, never ending, pure, and truly and fully good.
It isn’t all happy, happy, roses and sunshine all of the time. For, every glorious rose has a thorn and every sun that rises must also set. Let us not fear the dark nights of the soul. Rather, may we remember that, although everything else will fall away, God’s love is eternal. Let us allow Him to embrace us in the Holy Darkness.
In the season of Lent, when we more profoundly examine ourselves and our relationship with God, I will be taking this song and the truth that it expresses as my faith facilitator for this First Friday of March.
Oh, Sacred Heart of Jesus,
you bear the burden of my sorrows
and take my pain as your own;
Break open my heart with yours
so that it will not be merely aching,
but rather flooded by your grace,
with the sacred strength of weakness.
Then, may I,
broken and battered in this world,
in the stillness and silence of the night,
receive the gift of your everlasting love,
lifted up in your everlasting life.
© 2015 Christina Chase
[This is part of the Faith Facilitators series. For more, click here.]
 Holy Darkness, © 1988, 1993, Daniel L Schutte. Published by OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213
Better late than never…
I’m grateful that I was able to observe this First Friday by participating, sacramentally, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In other words, I got to physically go to church. My parents and I were a little late getting there, so, when we came in the ramped side entrance, the congregation was already standing and the priest was already entering at the altar. So, we stayed in the seats of that side apse.
I have never watched the consecration from the same level of the sanctuary – and, since the church we attended has a large crucifix suspended from the ceiling above the altar, I gazed upon Jesus on the cross from the side for the first time. I thought to myself, it’s like seeing Continue reading