“Peaceable Kingdom” — a view of heaven from the book of Isaiah

louisa coverNOTE: I just found out my publisher, ACTA, is giving away 15 free copies of Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message in honor of our favorite author’s birthday. Go here http://actapublications.com/louisa-may-alcott-illuminated-by-the-message/ and type in code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout.

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I could not resist posting this video of my song, “A Shoot from Jesse” from my album, Wait with Me: Advent of the Promised Son. It is today’s first reading from the lectionary, Isaiah 11.

I invite you to listen to the song and read the lyrics for a look at a truly Peaceable Kingdom, the one we all long for.

lyrics to “A Shoot from Jesse”

I also invite you to visit pray-as-you-go.org for a wonderful 12 minute reflection on this reading.

We surely need a Peaceable Kingdom in our world. Christmas heralds its coming in the birth of Jesus, in history and in our hearts.

Here’s a sampler video from Wait with Me to put you into the mood. Enjoy!

Happy Advent. Come Lord Jesus, come!

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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The Feast of All Souls — a sense of “Going Home”

Do you believe that life ends here …

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or perhaps, somewhere else?

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Today’s Feast of All Souls gives me pause; I wonder …

  • My mom and dad are gone, but are they? Where are they?
  • Where will I be going? Where do I want to do?
  • Do I believe there is something beyond this life?

For some reason I have always had a strong belief in the afterlife; it’s what got me through the deaths of my parents. I remember looking at my mother’s casket covered in beautiful purple and white flowers and feeling a strong sense that she was safe and free from pain. It was because she was well loved whether she knew it or not. Her beautiful memorial service showed that love to the capacity crowd that was present.

I believe that love never dies.

Whether our loved ones live on in our memories or actually “live” someplace, perhaps today is a good day to think about such things. Let go of fear and allow the imagination to fly higher and deeper, to that place where we truly live forever with our Creator.

We are loved. And love never dies.

This video of one my favorite pieces from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” performed by Libera can perhaps lead you to such a place. The video provides the beautiful lyrics to this hymn.

May your reflection fill you with hope of things to come.

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Dedicated singers ease the journey home

NOTE: This story ran in the Catholic Free Press on October 21, 2016 in their Bereavement supplement.

Each Wednesday afternoon, eighteen men and women gather at the Congregational Church in Westborough to rehearse songs for performance. They have come from various churches, Catholic and Protestant, in Westborough, Northborough and Marlborough. Some come from the Westborough Community Chorus and the Assabet Valley Master Singers. The performances for which they rehearse are however, not meant for entertainment.

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(L to R) Jim Nolan, Mary Beland and John McCann are members of the Journey Home Singers and all are members of the St. Luke the Evangelist choir in Westborough, MA. Beland invited both men to join the Journey Home Singers.

The Journey Home Singers sing in homes, hospitals and nursing homes to hospice patients. “Our intention is to bring comfort, beauty, caring and compassion with our singing to anyone who wants us to visit,” said Kathy Todd, director of the Journey Home Singers.

Todd started the group in June of 2009 after attending a singing workshop in the Berkshires. During that gathering, flyers were distributed for a workshop involving hospice singing. Todd was immediately intrigued, inspired by her own personal experience with caring for a dying sister.

“We started [the Journey Home Singers] in June of 2009, which was about six months after my oldest sister died,” recalls Todd. “My sister Martha had been ill with COPD for several years, and had just entered hospice care at her home in August 2008. On August 19 she fell and broke her hip and was taken to ICU at St. Vincent’s in Worcester. About a month later, doctors determined there was nothing more they could do for her, other than having her live attached to a ventilator. My youngest sister and I kept a vigil with her that night after she decided not to go with a ventilator. Time spent by her bedside was the first catalyst that led me to realize a vision that became the hospice choir.”

The workshop was run by Hallowell from Brattleboro, VT. Their mission is to offer support to the dying by bringing comfort, calm and beauty. After attending, Todd felt compelled to start a group. “I thought about it for a long time, I had no experience as a director,” she said. She decided to call her choir the Journey Home Singers, inspired by a song she heard at the workshop, “Angels Hovering Round”: “We’re on our journey home…”

Todd began her search for members, beginning with her choir at the Congregational Church in Westborough. She expanded that search to other church choirs and community choruses. Mary Beland, member of the St. Luke the Evangelist Choir in Westborough, was one of the first to join.

“I received notice from Betsy Sowers (a friend of Todd) that the Journey Home Singers was just being conceived and Kathy was searching around for singers to join,” said Beland who is also a member of the Assabet Valley Master Singers. Recently she invited fellow church choir members Jim Nolan and John McCann to join.

Once assembled, Todde sought to publicize the group. “I work for the Community Advocate (out of Northborough) and they were very supportive,” she said. The newspaper did a story on the Journey Home Singers in 2010 and granted Todd time off as needed to do the performances.

Because they seek to personalize their song selections for each patient, The Journey Home Singers offer a wide repertoire of songs taken from both Christian and Jewish traditions. Soon after the article ran, Todd connected with Mary Poole, once the hospice chaplain at Beaumont Nursing Home in Westborough who assisted Todd in in this effort by supplying the patient’s first name and last initial, faith tradition and condition (responsive/unresponsive).

Beland’s motivation for joining the group was similar to Todd’s. “I was already comfortable with the idea because I sat with my sister while she was dying. She and I shared the same love for music.” She knows that as a ministry, one may not always get feedback from a patient. “If you want applause, you might not get it,” she said.

Nolan feels it is a way to continue to have music in his life while helping others. He too understands that responses will vary although he has noted a “flutter of an eye, a tear, a raised hand” from those to whom he has sung.

McCann was motivated to join because of a rather involved experience he had years ago traveling to Guatemala with his then teenaged son only to return and discover that his brother had unexpectedly passed away. He recalled a moment when he was alone during the trip, surrounded by the wind, noting the quiet and sensing that something was happening.

“In Lo De Bran in the early afternoon, I was sitting alone by a well, on a wall. No one was near me. I was surrounded by a gentle soft warm wind which engulfed me. I felt a little different, but did not think much of it, other than it was very hot … I … felt a very quiet peace.”

When he learned when his brother had been stricken, he realized it had happened while he was sitting by that well. “The Good Lord kept Jim in our presence for three more days, allowing my son Aidan and me to return safely from Guatemala and to be with him. I could never explain how even in the horrors of Jim’s death that God can be so good so as to allow Aidan and me such special moments with Jim just before he died.” It was this experience that prompted McCann to minister to other such people through the Journey Home Singers.

Stories abound of experiences with patients. Todd recalls a man who kept a hymnal near his bedside but was unable to hold the book open due to his condition. “He was a singer – after one song, he joined in even though he really couldn’t hold the book. It made him so happy,” she said.

One experience involved a little girl. “We went into Boston Children’s Hospital to sing for a seven-year-old girl — one of our toughest. She was not conscious and had seizures three to four times a day. The whole family was there, so upbeat. They put their arms around her and sang to her – they would sing along with us,” recalls Beland.

The Journey Home Singers thus fulfills a much needed mission. “If can we talk about dying and be aware of our own death, we can become more comfortable with it and use the time have now in a much more effective, more beautiful way. We’ll live well,” says Todd.

If you are interested in joining The Journey Home Singers, you can contact Kathy Todd at lightsong60@gmail.com or call 508-335-1043.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Come Holy Spirit! In anticipation of Pentecost

This is my column for this month’s Catholic Free Press. May the Holy Spirit give you strength and consolation as he fills you with God’s love and leads you to new life.

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Towards sanctity: the Spirit’s call from fear to love

Sometimes I think I should have been born a house cat. Indoor cats crave comfort and security above all else and this is my priority too.  Have you ever noticed the lengths cats will go to find that perfect spot to sleep? It’s always on the softest pillow, the coziest quilt, the laundry basket full of clothes just drawn from a hot dryer.

jenny and rameses

That pursuit of comfort drives my actions. I will choose to look frumpy rather than wear clothes that bind me in any way. I opted out of going to a favorite spot to watch the spring bird migration because it was cold and rainy. Making comfort my top priority has turned me into a notorious homebody. I’ve become complacent and rigid.

This makes it all the more difficult for the Holy Spirit to affect change in me. How can I grow in sanctity if I am unwilling to give up comfort and security in favor of challenge and growth? Continue reading “Come Holy Spirit! In anticipation of Pentecost”

“Bathe yourselves in mercy” in this Song of Divine Mercy based on St. Faustina’s writings

Following on the heels of Easter Sunday is the Sunday of Divine Mercy. Based on the writings of Saint Faustina, here is “Song of Divine Mercy”:

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Life restored after a season of loss: “River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times” in word and song

This past Wednesday was a BIG day. This arrived in the mail …

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cover front only for webBut that was not all. I also got the final mix of my soundtrack CD for River of Grace from the producer. And I have to say he really outdid himself. I sent him a text back with 7 hearts – one for each song!

It was one of those rare, extraordinary days that sends you into orbit and you just want to cling to that feeling forever. I will write about it in my journal so I can go back and bathe in that grace, that pure gift from God whenever discouragement knocks on my door.

Now, I would like to share what God gave to me with you.

00 cover drop shadowRiver of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times is a spiritual memoir that reveals how several major losses helped me rediscover creativity and faith. Published by Ave Maria Press, it is described as “Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace–in the Mass and the sacraments, nature and grief, and even through the life and works of Louisa May Alcott–River of Grace guides readers in strengthening their faith, discovering their own hidden gifts and restoring a joy in living during and after tough times.” It contains lots of practical spiritual exercises called Flow Lessons that lead you there. (Some of the Flow Lessons are on this site–check them out here.)

Losing a part of yourself

One of the losses I experienced was that of my singing voice. Yet throughout the writing of River of Grace, I kept thinking of songs that would fit with each chapter. While writing the third chapter on the loss of my voice, I experienced a miraculous healing after receiving a throat blessing on the Feast of St. Blaise.

This song was playing in my head; here’s a passage from chapter 3 on why:

How Can I Keep from Singing • Traditional Quaker hymn
“Instead of being raw and fragmented, I began to feel whole. A sense of wonder and deep gratitude welled up inside. The following Sunday as I entered the church to go to Mass I was immediately struck with the knowledge that I had received a significant healing with that throat blessing. I couldn’t wait to tell the priest.
Thereafter during Mass I noticed that it became easier to sing the hymns. Buoyed, I pushed my voice a bit further each week. One day while driving home after Mass I sang some of the most challenging songs in my repertoire including “I Know That My
Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before. My voice had been restored. I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (from chapter 3, River of Grace)

New life after loss

River of Grace is also about new life. In the writing I learned that creativity is far more than being able to sing, dance, paint or write. Creativity is all about intention. As the Lord led me on my journey towards a new creativity in my life, I thought of Psalm 103, traditionally read during the Easter season, and this song:

Lord, Send Out Your Spirit (from Psalm 103) • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©2001 Susan W. Bailey
“If you recognize and accept the presence within of God’s Spirit, you will live a creative life. Since God is limitless, the possibilities of creativity are limitless too. You only need to believe it and take your own deep dive to discover the authentic person within, the one created in the image and likeness of God, the person you are meant to be. Nothing is too small or too insignificant. Nothing is too foolish or crazy. No effort is wasted. God has placed the capability in every person to be “great” even if that greatness is quiet, unassuming, and shared within a small circle. … Broken as we are, we can be made new, made whole though likely we will never be the same again … By being immersed in the river of grace, we can go on the adventure of a lifetime.” (chapter 5, River of Grace)

Working through fear

River of Grace is also about overcoming fear; stepping out and seeing life as a glorious adventure. Seeing obedience to God’s will as a series of wonderful “yeses” rather than onerous no’s.

This song came to mind:

Touch the Sky • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©1998 Susan W. Bailey
“I saw yet again that working through my fear was necessary in order to find and then be my authentic self. I could be like Gloria: passionate, confident, joyful, and enthusiastic, affecting those around me as a result. By believing in God’s love for me I could then become his emissary. I didn’t have to travel to Haiti; I only had to travel within to discover where the river of grace was leading me, and then commit to the journey. I had to get used to living with the uncertainty that is the fundamental part of self-discovery. It required being alert and awake to that quiet voice of God inside of me, his gentle hand nudging me this way and that. It gave new meaning to the scripture to “Beware, keep alert” (Mk 13:33). We must be alert and awake at all times to God’s call. This is what it means to be truly present to each and every moment. And if we pay heed to such moments, we won’t have the time to worry about the future or regret the past.” (from chapter 6, River of Grace)

So that’s the big reveal! This project has been my life for the last two years and a lot of the transformation I write about happened as I was writing the book. Gotta love the immediacy of the Holy Spirit at work.

Ave Maria Press is everything everyone said it would be. Totally professional, really helpful, and daring, taking chances on newbies like myself. I am so honored to have a book published by them.

You can order River of Grace (the book) through Ave Maria Press and Amazon. Don’t forget to write a review after you’ve read it!

The CD will be available by the end of October; I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Fundraiser almost over; still need your help

I hope you are enjoying these clips from the new CD. With the deadline of October 15 looming just around the corner, I still need much help in meeting the goal of raising $1600 to pay for the making of the CD. You can donate at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey. Every dollar counts. If you can only give $5 or $10, I will be so grateful. And for those who can give more, I am offering some rewards which I think you’ll appreciate.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Preview from the River of Grace Soundtrack: “Spirit of Life:” Ever wonder how a song is recorded?

Have you ever wondered just how a song is recorded? It’s rather like building a building from the ground up, or making a layer cake. Here’s a simple demonstration from the recording of “Spirit of Life” (written by Carolyn McDade, Surtsey Publishing Company) for my River of Grace Soundtrack CD:

Recording is a long and tedious process of such layering but it’s fun and rewarding too when you hear the final product. Besides the layering of vocals, instruments are added in (more than you can imagine!). Then the engineer (in this case Ron) makes sure every little piece can be heard – this is done by something called panning. When you listen to a stereo recording through headphones you can pick out how there’s a little guitar here, a little percussion there … it’s all quite fascinating to figure out just what is in a recording of your favorite song.

Special effects are added in as well (such as putting a little echo into the voice, known as reverb. Without reverb, it sounds like you’re singing in a small room. With reverb, it can sound like you’re singing in a cathedral with slate floors (or something a little smaller).

This is just the beginning of the process for “Spirit of Life;” very soon I can show you the final result.

By the way, here’s a peak at the cover for the CD. Longtime readers of Be as One will recognize it:

cover front only for web

8 days left … need your help!

With just 8 days left in the campaign I really need your help! Please visit my Indiegogo site at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey and contribute what you can. And thank you!

Thank you to all who have pre-ordered River of Grace! You can find it on Amazon.com.

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Announcing a musical soundtrack to my upcoming book, “River of Grace”!

I’m getting pretty excited; the launch date for River of Grace is a mere 7 weeks away! (It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon at a reduced price!) But there’s something else in the works too.

  • Imagine that you are reading River of Grace and you find it really speaks to you.
  • Now imagine that book accompanied by a musical soundtrack.
    • A song for each chapter that will play in your head as you think about what you read.
    • A way to carry that book with you all throughout the day.

I dreamed a dream …

susan with book coverEver since I received the healing of my singing voice I have dreamt of having a collection of songs recorded to go along with River of Grace. These were the songs that came to mind as I wrote the book. Summarizing the stories and lessons, these songs are a great way to ponder and pray on the message of River of Grace, a message of the creative power of life and how each day can become an adventure even in the worst of circumstances.

Second chances

Each time I sing I am amazed at God’s mercy in granting me a second chance to serve him through song. This is my first CD in 7 years and one that I never thought I could make.

The CD will contain my take on two classic hymns, “How Can I Keep from Singing” from the Quaker tradition and “Spirit of Life” (my mother’s favorite hymn and a standard of the Unitarian hymnal). I am re-imagining three old favorites, and, I have two new songs I’ve written. Each song relates directly to a chapter in the book. Learning the song and listening to it in your head (or even singing it) is a wonderful way to think about what God is teaching you.

How you can help

Recording a CD involves a lot of work and expense. While you can’t help with the work, you can help through your contribution to my Indiegogo campaign.

The campaign

IGG_Logo_NEWI am looking to raise $1600 in 30 days to cover the cost of producing this CD. No contribution is too small – $5, $10, whatever you feel moved to give. I’ve included some cool rewards for those of you who wish to contribute more—you can see it all here on my Indiegogo campaign page.

If you can’t contribute, you can still help by spreading the word to everyone you know—there are easy ways to share on my campaign page.

Campaign video

The campaign is introduced by a short video where I explain the project and provide samples of songs on the CD. I will be updating my progress on the CD through the 30-day period with additional videos and sound bites.

Excited? I am! Come on over to my Indiegogo campaign and let’s get started!

00 twitter profile 400x400River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Thankful for simple gifts

This is a teaser to my monthly column on Catholicmom.com.

Some of the most wonderful gifts from God come in the form of whispers.

They are the small gifts. The gifts for a particular moment, not to be grasped at, but merely accepted. And if the taker is alert and awake, the heart will swell with gratitude.

On a Sunday not too long ago, I was the fortunate recipient of a bevy of such gifts.

First, a little background. For most of my life, I was a vocalist and songwriter …

The greatest joy as a vocalist was leading the singing at Sunday mass. My parish, St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, MA is a blessed community full of active, generous and loving people.

The church building is a minor cathedral, acoustically perfect with high concrete ceilings, carved pillars supporting graceful Corinthian arches, and shiny slate floors. Voices ring and linger in that sacred space.

Each Sunday I enjoyed the privilege of choosing the music and leading the congregation in prayer through song …

I led music for most of my adult life. In 2010, all that changed …

Click here to finish the post on Catholicmom.com. Feel free to post comments there.

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