Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Tune for "If You Could Hie to Kolob"

If You Could Hie to Kolob is one of my favorite hymns. The melody itself makes up a large part of that though I greatly love the expansive view of creation and existence that is brings to LDS culture.  I was surprised to hear the tune in unexpected places over the last few days. Sitting in the middle of my neighborhood bookstore, I hear a Celtic fiddle version of it and different lyrics being sung.

Its not surprising because I do know that many of the hymns are arranged to familiar and commonly used tunes. It just was surprising to me to find it popping up. This is the first time I can recall hearing a tune of familiar LDS hymn in a different context.

As I learned more about the tune (its named Kingsford in the LDS Hymnbook), I discovered three different versions of it telling very different stories (in addition to the words of Parley P. Pratt).

First is "The Seven Rejoices of Mary" sung by Loreena McKennit which tells the story of Mary watching her child, Jesus, grow up and the joy she experienced seeing him fulfill his purpose on the earth.

The next, which is likely a more original use of the tune is "Dives and Lazarus" which tells the story of the rich man from Luke 16:20-31 who turns away a beggar in life and then after death finds himself begging for relief from the same beggar he shunned previously.

The third is "The Star of the County Down" which is a Irish folktune, also performed by Loreena McKennit. Its a typical song of a renowned Irish beauty and her admirer's pining after her.

You can hear many versions of the tune I've mention by searching for them on iTunes. I think my favorite is the punk/ska version I found of Dives and Lazarus by June Tabor and the Oyster band. With my love of the RM and Single's Ward soundtracks for their rock/punk/ska/dance/R&B stylings of LDS hymns, its really no wonder.

The wikipedia page about the ballad's tune also lists a few more songs that have used the same tune and good for the person who created the stub, If You Could Hie to Kolob was included in the list.

Lastly, I'll link to this one of particular interest because of the testimony of Christ that is given in the world. O Sing O Sing of Bethelem would be a fitting Christmas or Easter song in LDS ward meetings, as well as for the sacrament hymn with its final verse, saying:
O sing a song of Calvary, its glory and dismay,

Of Him who hung upon the tree, and took our sins away.
For He who died on Calvary is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by Heaven adored, is mighty now to save.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse Family Home Evening

Monday night was the full moon and also that night was the lunar eclipse. Because of our effort to teach our children nature appreciation and to find the Spirit in the beauty of the earth, it was the perfect Family Home Evening activity and lesson.

We started by going outside to look up at the moon. We talked about how the moon changed appearance throughout the month and why that night, we could see the perfect sphere of the full moon.

We sang the hymn "For The Beauty of the Earth" and a la Heather at Mutual Approbation, we sang the verses like this:
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
God, Our Father, we now raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,
God, Our Mother, we now raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Christ, Our Brother, we now raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
After a prayer, the four of us went on a walk under the full moon.

We were fortunate that the clouds had cleared at this time because it had been cloudy earlier in the evening. After getting home, it was time for a treat and then bed.

My husband and I had been planning on getting the children to sleep so we could go outside and watch the lunar eclipse together, but Willem and Belle were not going for that plan. At a certain point once it started getting close to when the eclipse was starting, we gave up getting them to bed. Then, of course, Belle hit the point of "Bed, now!" right as it was starting. While Peter laid down to get her to sleep, Willem and I went outside and were able to watch the shadow of the sun cross the moon.

We had some sweet mama and son time while he sat cuddled on my lap and we watched the moon and talked about what we were seeing. I truly believe he understood (we had done solar system models of the moon/earth orbit with him before, and the Eric Carle book "Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me" helped him to understand the phases.)

Once the moon was completely covered by the lunar shadow, the clouds started to roll in. For 15 minutes or so, we could catch brief twinkles of the darkened moon from behind the clouds. Peter came out to join us and we sat happily as a family for a while until it became clear that we were not going to be seeing the moon again that night for the cloud cover.

We were able to reminiscence on the last lunar eclipse we had viewed together. (It was when Willem was a year old and we took a walk down to the edge of Lake Washington to view it.)

With that, and by that time, Willem was really showing signs of needing to sleep, we all went inside to bed. Later in the night, I went back out to check if by chance I could see it as the shadow moved away but by that time it was cloudy and rainy.

So the next day, I had to content myself from seeing the eclipse in time-lapse from the perspective of a Floridian:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Observing the Winter Solstice

I was very excited when last week my husband and I were having one of our late night conversations and he showed a great deal of interest in the Pagan ideas I had recently been exploring. We agreed on the goodness that would come from teaching our children about nature and science through experiential learning. I had been drawn to celebrating the Wheel of the Year as I learned about gardening, pregnancy and childbirth and the origins of our cultural traditions. Together, my husband and I committed to observing the wheel of the year in order to teach our children, incorporate ritual and tradition into our family life and to give thanks and praise to God for the earth.

The following is a description of how we observed the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Using LED candles (because I know my kids would attack fire and wax if given the chance!), I created a circle, with one candle in each direction. At north, south, east and west, I placed an object representing one of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. To the west (water), I placed a vial with water in it, to the north, a pumpkin as a product of the earth, to the east, a balloon filled with helium (air) and to the south, a lighted wax candle (fire). This was done to provide contextual evidence to small children what these abstract ideas are in a concrete reality.

That's Willem, waiting excitedly for the ritual to start.

We started by going around the circle and describing how each element is necessary for our continued survival on the earth and that we are thankful for each one of them. I truly believe because it was illustrated in such a concrete way, Willem understood it.

After naming and describing the elements and expressing our gratitude for them, we went around the circle again, this time reading a poem for Solstice at each element.

I read them in this order, each poem at a different element:
The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.

As the earth grows colder,
the winds blow faster,
the fire dwindles smaller,
and the rains fall harder,
let the light of the sun
find its way home.

Ending on fire, and to celebrate the return of the sun, Willem repeated after me as I read the following lines:
The sun returns! The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.
To close, my husband offered a beautiful prayer giving thanks for the elements and the earth and to God for the creation of it.

In the end, it was short (probably only 10 minutes) but simple and effective. The Spirit was in our home in a special and meaningful way that night. It was just the encouragement I needed to continue building on this tradition with my family.

And for some additional cuteness, Belle was certainly interested and excited to be apart of it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christ's Birth

I found this tonight which I think is interesting:

December 8th: Immaculate Conception of Maryis celebrated in many Latin countries as, according to Catholic doctrine, the day of the conception of the Virgin Mary. The doctrine says that God had preserved Mary from original sin, giving her his grace, the divine life of Jesus Christ.

This is actually referring to Mary's conception and birth but my mind immediately went to thinking about Christ's conception, and Mary's pregnancy with him. Fitting as its Christmas time and all.

We know that Christ wasn't actually born at Christmas time with most scholars thinking that he was actually born early to mid-Spring. Latter-day Saints believe he was born in April. Using the date, April 6, I thought it would be very cool to know the date of his conception AND birth.

If he had been born at 40 weeks gestation exactly, he would have been conceived in mid July. Using the birthing window that many women not ever faithful in their calculated due date, He may have been born between 37 weeks to be full term and 44 weeks at the outside, meaning he could have been conceived as early as mid June or as late as early August.

Wit that, I then ponder what those last few days of Mary's pregnancy was like based on those 2 scenarios.

First, birth between 37-39 weeks:
The Mary is compelled to go to Nazareth with Joseph to pay the taxes decreed by Cyrenius and she was full-term but not quite to 40 weeks. Maybe she was 37 or 38 weeks pregnant. She hopes that on the trip the baby will not be born and she can return to her home in Galilee to give birth after the tax collecting is done.

The long, arduous, dusty and dehydrating trip caused contractions to start before her due date. As she arrives in Nazareth and they are looking for an inn, she is having contractions and they are increasing in intensity and regularity. If she were me, she'd been freaking out a little. They settle into the stable and within a few hours, Christ is born into hers or Joseph's hands.

The other scenario, birth at due date or over due:
She's past her due date like the majority of first time moms, the baby hasn't been born yet and they have to get to Nazareth to obey the decree of the governor. She hopes that either the baby will wait until after they get back or that the baby can be born before they leave. In most mother's minds, anything is better than laboring on the back of a donkey or giving birth far from home without the presence of wise women: mother, aunts, sisters and cousins. She doesn't get her wish and contractions start during the trip. She's contracting while trying to find a place to birth her baby. The stable does the job and the Christ child is born there.

Either way, my heart goes out to this young girl who gave birth far from her family and home amongst animals and hay. Maybe she was as Zen about it as she is portrayed in the scriptures, but maybe that was a very stressful and upsetting situation for her to be in. Either way, I've been in both of the situations described above. And honestly, I think the over-due scenario would be worse.

Though its not mentioned, I do guess that Mary and Joseph would have been able to locate a midwife to attend the birth if they so chose. Though perhaps it was in the day when the midwife only was called when assistance was needed after some concern or complication arose. Whether Christ's birth was attended by a midwife or unassisted is a toss-up. The unassisted birthers like to claim that Christ was an unassisted birth, so for the sake of not knowing, I won't rain on their parade.

Alright, end of birth geek mode at Christmas time, that's what you get from a midwifery student...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding the Goddess

I'm starting to read the book "When God Was a Woman." I picked it up from D.I. and its exciting to me to once again pursue my interested in the Goddess. In high school, before I started investigating the LDS church, I was interested in learning about a Deity with whom I shared the same gender. At the time, I rejected Goddess worship because I felt the Male was marginalized. Choosing to worship her would have been no better than what obviously happened at some point in history, there was a choice to put one before the other. All I wanted was to find a tradition where both Male and Female were valued together where they ruled and reigned together in perfect balance.

To be honest, the closest I have come to finding that in the LDS Church. Mormons at least believe that a Mother in Heaven exists, even if she is marginalized and preference is given to God the Father. The potential is there, however, for both to be found together and honored together. Unfortunately, it requires some pretty independent thinking to appreciate that union. In my experiences as a Mormon, I have come to know my Heavenly Father very well and love him deeply. As I ponder on my Mother in Heaven, I am led to believe that all along She too has heard my prayers and though they may have been directed to Her husband, that She has heard all those prayers, been an active player in the answers I've received and the divine guidance given me. In short, I feel She has loved me too. I can envision her side by side my Father in Heaven, counseling with him in how to minister to me and in whatever way she can giving me all I need.

So, how then did she get so hidden from us? How is that she can be one of the active listeners to our prayers but the world over few know she is listening?

I learned from "When God Was a Woman" that early peoples of the earth did not know that sexual intercourse between a man and woman led to the production of off-spring. They thought that woman was magic; that somehow she created a child within her body, grew it and then birthed it. Man was marginalized in the society. His equal role was not recognized or understood. Because woman was seen to be the Creator, the deity worshipped was woman. Man was left out entirely. Women today know what that is like so its relatively easy to be sympathetic.

So from long ago, the people of the earth inherited an imbalanced, less that correct view of gender and God. The pendulum was all the way as high as it could go on the woman's side. As with all pendulums, it was going to swing and its not surprise that next it went all the way over to the other extreme with man. I can't say that cultural shift is happening, and if it is, I'm coming in the fore-end of it, but next that pendulum will shift again and hopefully, if us humans can be intelligent enough, that it will rest in the middle. With Man and Woman recognized as God and Goddess, Father and Mother. Whatever the world around me says and does, that's what I'm working for--a balance between gendered deity which I believe is more reflective of the true nature of God. Someday, the truth will be seen though our vision now is imperfect as we strive on the earth.

I likely will have other insights as I read the book which you can count on me to blog about some of them here.

As I integrate these beliefs into practice, I am seeking to know how to relate to either parent separately. Is that necessary? Or is their union so complete that they truly are one? Perhaps, being separated by the veil, they are not separate in prayers. A prayer to one is a prayer to the other? If that's the case then praying to God or Father in Heaven, is also a prayer to Mother in Heaven and no one needs to be the wiser that a person seeking Heavenly Mother is finding her in prayer.