Like almost everyone I know, I’m anxious and for many of the same reasons: the election, the pandemic, and the economy, among others. A lot of us are tired: of being remote from extended family, good friends, and colleagues; of Zoom gatherings; and of the inability to make future plans. To say the obvious, we weren’t meant to live in this kind of prolonged isolation and intense uncertainty. We can’t flourish in a cultural climate of mutual suspicion, bitter division, and deliberately polarizing leadership. Also, each of us is dealing with more personal challenges, some of them daunting-enough that we’re not sure how to meet them. 

This past week, Anita and I watched “A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration,” presented by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The concert was recorded in late 2019 as a celebration of Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary. It was delightful: Big Bird, Hoots the Owl, Oscar the Grouch, Rosita, the Count, Grover, Elmo, Bert, Ernie, and many others singing and dancing to the incredible music of Wynton Marsalis (extraordinary trumpeter and artistic director of the LCO) and his fellow players.

What kind of leverage does a Muppet who sings to his rubber ducky or another who encourages us actually to know our neighbors have against the serious weight of our times?  None at all and a great deal. Our world includes all the things we’re worried about, and it includes people like Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets; myriad writers, “behind the scenes” technicians and artists, and Muppeteers who have enchanted children of all ages for more than 50 year; and  Marsalis, who cares enough about music, children, and love to bring them together in a concert. I sang, laughed, cried, and gave thanks.

I recently downloaded Bruce Springsteen’s new album, “Letter to You,” a letter Springsteen sings, he wrote in “ink and blood.” The songs from this 71-year old musician and the reconstituted E-Street Band are remarkable for the way they kindle fires in the darkness. Rolling Stone says Springsteen’s voice sounds like “lived-in leather,” a worn and warm voice that sings lines like these:

In my letter to you
I took all my fears and doubts
In my letter to you
All the hard things I found out
In my letter to you
All that I’ve found true
And I sent it in my letter to you

Fears, doubts, hard things, and things found true: having an artist like Springsteen unflinchingly name what we experience in times like these is far more centering and strengthening than is the kind of superficial optimism which turns aside from what is hard, preferring to deny either its reality or downplay its seriousness. Springsteen reminds me that the old proverb is true—“the way out is through”—and encourages me to keep moving.  

I’m reading poetry and fiction by friends Terry, Wayne, and another Terry, as well as by Charles Portis and Fritz Wright; savoring fall; trying and modifying new recipes; pondering how to bless, encourage, and affirm the good work of younger leaders’ and learning how to communicate differently with our nearly-deaf 14-year old “puppy.”

Most of all, I cultivate silence in which I can remember that:

God is the artist who fashioned chaos into the bounty and beauty of creation and recreates us out of our brokenness and emptiness.

God is the liberator who sets slaves free and brings exiles back home; that same God unchains us from inner and outer oppression, unbinds us from shame and guilt; and welcomes us into the safe shelter of God’s own heart. 

God is the Life and Love made known in Jesus, life which is stronger than death and love which casts out fear.

Help comes from everywhere: Sesame Street. Springsteen. The creative gifts of friends. The changing of seasons. Good food. The inspiration of emerging leaders. A loyal dog. A faithful God.

Somehow, all shall be well.