An Election Day Meditation: Voting, Praying, Singing

It’s a grey day in the Shenandoah Valley.

The scene in front of me looks upside down.

The clouds are lower than the mountains.

The transition between sky and land, heaven and earth,

is not clear.

Threshold spaces are like this. Neither one nor the other.

Neither yet both.

The Allegheny Mountains peek out from a layer of clouds above and below.

The Allegheny Mountains peek out from a layer of clouds above and below.

Our country, too, stands at a threshold.

We are voting today.

My computer wears a new sticker.

My computer wears a new sticker.

It’s a day of anxiety, apprehension, and noise. Lots of noise.

After I voted, I turned off the TV and am not responding to social media notifications.

I am deliberately standing in the Threshold between fear and hope.

I admit to fear, knowing that regardless of the outcome of this election,

hate will not disappear.

We are being told today in high places that kindness is weakness.

That thresholds don’t exist. Only borders. Which require walls and soldiers and guns.

For protection.

Fortunately, there is another way, the way of love.

Love exists in and beyond all our transitions, and it inspires us to keep going when we ourselves can’t see the destination.

When the clouds cover the mountains.

When the bad news drives out good.

And when life itself hangs on a tissue of breath, a last sound in the ear.

This last threshold,

the transition between life and death, may help all of us through the other thresholds we face.

On this cloudy, uncertain, election day,

I rise up to sing, grateful for all that I have learned as a member of the

Blue Ridge Threshold Choir.

What have we learned by singing at the ultimate threshold, the one between life and death?

There are few words to describe the experience, but when my Threshold friends try, they choose phrases like

“I felt a heart tug. . .”

“Music soothes the soul at very vulnerable times . . .”

“These are holy and sacred spaces that we dare to visit with the dying . . .”

“Gentle music is the best language we have to extend God’s love and care.”

“I feel like I have come full circle. . .”

In most of the music we sing together, we begin in unison, trying as much as possible to blend all our voices into one.

Then, we add a layer of harmony. Sometimes two layers.

In the first clip above, the magic happens at the 33 second mark.

We sing most songs in three parts, with our leader Donna occasionally reaching down to the low notes to give us a fourth.

That moment, when we are seated at bedside, and the person is dying, will sometimes solicit an eye-flutter.

Or a tear. Or a smile. Some mouth words and some sing with us.

Sometimes the dying one gives no indication that they can hear.

No matter.

When asked, we come.

We open our mouths and make a cradle with our voices.

Then we rock.

As I wrote the words above, the clouds lifted. They are almost in their usual place above the mountain.

Mostly through the threshold, clouds lifted.

Mostly through the threshold, clouds lifted.

Across America, people are picking up ballots, marking them, passing by the competing red and blue signs.

Little acts of kindness are taking place — neighbors who disagree, nod and smile at each other.

Something invisible lies hidden but present.

I hear angels singing.

You can hear them too, below.

Shirley Showalter

24 Comments

  1. Jeanette Bontrager on November 6, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you for a moment of inspiration in these gray days.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Jeanette. The sun has peeked out here. Hope you are seeing some also.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on November 6, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Shirley — Thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 4:29 pm

      You are so welcome, Laurie.

  3. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on November 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Joining you in singing. Thank you.
    “America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law”

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      Now there’s a verse we all should be singing, Dolores. Thanks for reminding us here of the nature of true patriotism. I don’t think I have ever loved my country more than now. America the Beautiful. Sing it!

  4. Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 4:54 pm
  5. Betty Schrag on November 6, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    What beautiful word pictures about thresholds and actual photos! Thank you for these words of hope. The song, “Take my Hand, Precious Lord” moved me to tears. God’s hand is always waiting. Love the whole concept Threshold Choir too.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      Thank you, Betty. This hymn was said to be Martin Luther King, Jr’s favorite. It was sung at his funeral. It moves me to tears also and gives me courage.

  6. Janet Givens on November 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Perfect. Thank you Shirley

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 8:59 pm

      Thank you, Janet. Courage!

  7. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on November 6, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    We here in Canada are thinking of you today and praying for you and for your nation, Shirley. God is still in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Those clouds will lift and you will see the mountains again.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      What a beautiful thought, Elfrieda. You move me. Thank you.

  8. Marian Beaman on November 6, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Thank you for this melodic respite at the end of a trying day; I heard it twice. Through the treble harmony I could hear my Daddy sing, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” God is good! 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on November 6, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you, Marian. I never get tired of these songs. I hope you watched the four-minute video at the end also (especially the song “I’m Gonna Lift My Mother Up”). Your Daddy was a singer. Mine was tone deaf — except at the very end of his life. He crossed over the threshold after singing “Jesus Loves Me” without a discordant note.

  9. Tina Barbour on November 6, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you for blessing us with this post, Shirley. I needed it.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 7, 2018 at 6:24 am

      So glad it reached you, Tina. Blessings.

  10. Rhonda Enzinna on November 6, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    So glad I checked my email. I really needed this. I enjoyed the singing and the beautiful pictures but your words touched me the most. Thank you so much for posting this.

    Rhonda Enzinna

    • Shirley Showalter on November 7, 2018 at 6:25 am

      I’m glad those words found a home in you, Rhonda. Blessings.

  11. June on November 7, 2018 at 1:47 am

    Thank you for your gifts of singing. Thank you Threshold Choir.

  12. Dora Dueck on November 9, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Beautiful — words, photos, song.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, Dora.

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