Welcome to my Blog

This Blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences as a music therapist and human being working with people at the end of their lives in hospice. In my experience I have seen some amazing things- things that have given me a glimse of something bigger. I have learned that in our suffering, in our doubt, there is also room for beauty and a deeper sense of the divine. Music taps into the rhythms of the earth and at the same time transcends it. I want to share my experiences from the past and from each day moving forward. Hopefully one or two people will find it interesting. Please visit my Web-sites at http://www.nielsenmtbc.com/ or http://www.musictherapycd.com/

Please note that I take client confidentiality very seriously. Names and sometimes other details have been changed to protect the identities of my clients.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Waiting for the Light

This was a message I've delivered a few times for "Blue Christmas" or "Service of the Longest Night" services. It seems even more appropriate to share in light of recent tragic events.

Joy to the World…
Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly…
We Wish you a Merry Christmas…
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, it’s the best time of the year…
You better not cry… I’m tellin’ you why…
These are the messages that surround us at Christmas
Messages that we should be happy- that no matter what we are feeling,
No matter what we have been through
We should just get over it and be happy
A message mixed with another message- a message of consumption
A message that if we just buy this toy or that big screen TV or that piece of jewelry we can make the ones we love happy
That we can make ourselves happy
So what happens when it’s not enough?
What happens when material goods cannot fill the empty places?
Joy to the World… but how can we be joyful when we have lost someone we’ve love?
Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly… but how can we do that when it hurts too much to move?
We wish you a Merry Christmas… but I’m just too sad every day, why should today be any different?
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas- How can I do that if I am diagnosed with a serious life-threatening disease?
You better not cry… I’m tellin’ you why… But how can Santa come to town when I’ve lost my job?
How can we talk about heavenly peace in a world of war, in a world where bridges fall down, in a world where there is poverty and disease, in a world that can sometimes seem so broken?
What if we want the perfect "White Christmas",
But we are left with this aching, imperfect "Blue Christmas?"

Where do we find light when we are surrounded in darkness?

We remember another time of darkness when the world waited for its light.
Jesus did not come into a happy world of sugar plums and tinsel
He did not come to a world of ornaments and presents
He did not come to a world where we wait in the dead of night for a $299 laptop computer
-or an Ipad
He came to a world where people searched the night sky for a sign of hope
He came into a world filled with darkness, oppression, and tyranny
A world of those who had and those who had not
A world of sickness and disease

Think of the frightened young mother having to explain her pregnancy to her fiancé
Think of this young couple with child, having the burden to travel great distance
Only to have this child born in a dirty barn
Remember the tyranny of a king, willing to kill children for fear that one child could threaten his power
The family of refugees that had to flee their homeland so that their child would not be killed.
It is the story of one sent to bring peace, but who was sentenced to death.
Of light that was brought to the darkness, but that the world tried to snuff out
But that light shone in the darkness… in the form of a child, and a star shining in the east
A light of healing for the sick

A light to free the oppressed and sick at heart
The light of God’s love and acceptance
A light of forgiveness
A light to make us whole when we are broken
A light that transformed the world

Who were the first to see and feel this light as it shone around them?
It wasn’t kings or heads of state
It was not the rich and comfortable
It was a group of poor shepherds watching their flock in the cold night
Wise men and kings came later, following this light
And this light would shine for thousands of years, despite so many attempts to put it out,
…and those that would exploit that light

Tonight we are as these shepherds and wise men were
Feeling alone and in the cold
We feel the pain of loss, the pain of despair, the pain of living in darkness
We search these long nights for the same hope
Tonight we will light these candles, not just as a representation of what we have lost or the pain we feel
But as the light of our hope, no matter how small
Jesus did not come to promise us a perfect world
But to promise us that there is always hope, even through the darkest night
To set an example that we should care for others as we would want to be cared for
To remind us that, even when we are lost and suffering, even when we are dying,
He is there, and that we are surrounded by His multitude of angels

If we step away from all the noise of the holiday season
And take time to listen to the Silent Night
Just as a child listens in wonder for the sound of hooved feet
We just might hear it
We just might hear the voice of the angels speaking to us
If we take time to listen to our hurt and pain and not hide it away
Then we give ourselves the chance to be transformed

We can’t ignore this these feelings of pain
Right now, for whatever reason, we need to embrace the feelings of pain we feel.
We need to make this tree, these feelings of sadness or frustration-  a part of ourselves
We need to honor those feelings
and honor this part of ourselves in order to find our way back to the Christmas of Joy
Just as Jesus honored the pain of those he healed.
We read in John that later in his life, when the disciples asked him who sinned to make the man blind, Jesus said:

 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned… but this (blindness) happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

The gift of Jesus is that it is not about our sins and wrongdoings
But rather it is about allowing the light of hope into the world and into ourselves
Through this gift given to us by God the world was transformed
And we can be transformed as well
And through that transformation we can be healed, we can be whole, we can be free
Free to accept this gift so silently given
The gift of new life, new light, and of resurrection and rebirth.
The gift not of boxes and tags and bows
But the gift of eternal and ever renewing life.

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