I got rhythm

Posted: Sunday, July 05, 2009

God only knows how many summers have come and gone before this one came along.

Every year, the summer solstice marks a rhythm of the ages - at least as far as the age of the earth is concerned. The sun and moon have their own rhythms, as do galaxies, salmon and crystals of quartz.

All creation, large and small, abides by a single yet vastly diverse score that assigns all things their natural beats and paces to keep. In fact, the most powerful energies we know of in the universe come from objects named and known by their rhythms: Pulsars.

When Ira Gershwin wrote "I Got Rhythm," perhaps he knew he was creating a song that the entire universe could sing.

I have become more aware recently of the natural rhythms within me and about me. My family and I are about to move from Southeast Alaska to southeast Iowa, where some rhythms will fade in prominence and new rhythms will emerge.

Here, in my work as a pastor, it's common to make hospital visits with a tide book in my pocket. In Iowa, which is a bit distant from the sea for tides to matter, other rhythms will move to the fore. The rhythms of plowing and planting, of spring floods and of fall harvests, will guarantee - to borrow another song title - that "the beat goes on."

As I think about changes in the rhythms that surround me - and probably because I'm getting older - I realize not only that I got rhythm, but that rhythm's got me. At every stage of life, I have grown accustomed to its dominant rhythms, and I also have been resistant to seeing those rhythms change.

As a child, I gave up sleeping late on summer days and started rising early for school, only with the sure guidance of parents. As an adult, I need less parenting, but I find that just makes accommodating new rhythms more difficult. Now, I don't have parents to blame when I'm late for the bell.

We can tap our toes to a particular beat only so long. Every few days, for instance, we need to interrupt the pace by keeping Sabbath. And sooner than we might wish, another summer also will end. I'm sure I will miss the rhythm of the tides, but mostly I will miss the rhythm of the hearts that beat in the people of Southeast Alaska.

Still, I am confident that the rhythms left behind, and those just ahead, all share a common theme and that some rhythms will remain in place. The solstice arrives for Iowans and Alaskans at the same time, and while our Sabbaths may be separated by a few hours, they are never off by a few days. Changing strides doesn't necessarily take us out of the human race.

Because of the distance I'm moving, I expect a number of my rhythms to change, but life's rhythms can change for all sorts of reasons - some we may anticipate and some we may not. We may, for instance, lose or gain a spouse, a job, a home or health, and with each change new rhythms will take the lead. The heart beats faster, and sometimes slower, as summers come and go.

Yet as sentimental as it may sound, the rhythm of God's love is eternal, and it sustains us by providing a steady beat for us to walk by when we no longer know the dance. Whatever rhythm we got, and whatever rhythm's got us, may God's heart of love always be our steady guide.

• Jessy Perry is the pastor at Northern Light United Church.

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