I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it’s pretty warm here. I am thankful for air conditioning. Especially when I recollect sultry September days in grade school—windows open wide and not a breeze stirring, except for an occasional moment of fleeting relief when an oscillating fan at the front of the room pushed a tepid gust my way. The school dress code mandated long pants for boys and we guys all wore jeans. Why not khakis? Because any unusual item of apparel put you at immediate risk of ridicule. Blue jeans were the group-sanctioned uniform. Light, breathable slacks, no matter how practical, were not. It was better to swelter with acceptance than to dare a modicum of comfort at the risk of jeers.
While my discomfort rose in step with the mercury, suffering must have increased exponentially for the Benedictine sisters who taught us. Black habits covered every inch of them except faces and hands. For a little relief, some of the nuns would push their tunics and scapulars out and let them fall back, like gravity-operated bellows. I never heard those dear women complain. But I often heard their simple admonition: Offer it up. When faced with trials, they said, think of what our Lord endured on the cross, and anything becomes more bearable.
We also practiced mind-over-body control with imagery to help us “think cool.” Playing in the snow. Jumping into the pool. Wading into the river. In that same spirit, on this warm, June day, I offer a musical setting of what may be the most refreshing text ever penned, Psalm 23. Please feel free to print and share, and let me know if you decide to perform it publicly. (I have refrained from imposing dynamic markings; simply let the words guide your interpretation.)