Tag Archives | music

Everything is Holy Now

Sometimes I find a song that I just don’t want to lose track of. Susan included this in her Creo en Dios post this morning. It very much speaks to where I am on this journey. And the best way to keep something for real is to share it:

Thanksgiving – delayed reaction

On Thanksgiving Day I opened my email to find a note from my husband’s youngest cousin. It was a blessing that I was unaware of what was going on until it was mostly over. She and her fiance were staying on the 15th floor of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai when the terrorist attacks occurred. The email was to let family and friends know that they had been evacuated and were safe. So, I could relax a bit, even before I had a chance to worry.

The statement that sticks with me is “As my mom said, We have a lot to be thankful for.” Amen.

This news came on the heels of another friend losing her youngest cousin (a NY firefighter) in a house fire, and another friend’s great-nephew coming oh-so-close to going down in a plane crash. And so, it has taken a week or more to absorb all of this.

It puts me back to that spot that I visit so often: Bad news knocking at the door. Wars and rumors of war, fire, accidents, havoc all around. And the same time, the sheer joy of spending a few days with my granddaughters and family. I was immersed in giggles, glorious weather, good food and fellowship even I the bad news kept knocking at the door.

It makes me thankful – not just for the good things, but for the knowledge that God loves me through it all. It makes me thankful to be able to accept with grace the words of Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” It even brings to mind words of one of my favorite hymns (How Can I Keep from Singing):

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear clear, yet far of sound
That hails a new creation

Through the tumult and the strife
I hear the Music ringing
If Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth
How can I keep from Singing?

Flash back

November 22 – St. Cecilia’s feast day. I’m a church musician and I have visited the catacombs outside of Rome where Cecilia died. I pray not to die a martyr’s death, but I also know that music and singing stand a good chance of being a comfort to me whenever God calls me home.

November 22, 1963… I was in the 5th grade. I was being raised a good protestant Christian in a part of the country where a Roman Catholic president was regarded with suspicion at best, and disgust more likely. I had a friend whose parents took us to hear Kennedy speak when he came to the area. The local airport didn’t have a runway that could accomodate Air Force One, so they had to land in Huntsville about 70 miles away. He didn’t seem so strange.

Coming in from the playground (PE class?) I remember the day being gray and the flag at half mast. I’d never seen a flag at half mast — none of us had. And then the teachers had to explain that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. I remember watching the funeral mass on TV and talk about the color of the vestments (not black? did priests ever wear black? I don’t know). I remember little John Kennedy trying to comprehend what was going on.

I’ve been a practicing Catholic for more years now than I was a protestant. I’m a totally Vatican II type. I’m not sure I could have made the leap into the pre-Vatican II church. Today I was trying to read some documents on liturgy because of a comment made by one of our musicians today. And I sat and thought — these rules and guidelines are all well and good. But, I’m sure they matter much more to human beings than they do to the Creator. I can only maintain my sanity when I read through them and dig deeply into the underlying message. The message that reminds me that prayer is not just words, but action and attitude and listening. The message that reminds me to do my part to make a space for prayer not only for myself but for those I serve.

November 22 is a day to remember.

Pachabel: Canon in D

Soul Music. World Music. Music of the Universe…

The opening measures of the cello repeat throughout the entire piece, like the eternal music of the soul. Deep, grounded, constant. And then the higher strings chime in and begin to move atop the solid foundation. They get lighter and more joyful until the notes are dancing and flying into the air.

This is music that induced a deep, meditative state in my. I can hear the cello anchoring me. Giving me rest. And from that deep place the other strings begin to vibrate. I feel the joy of being so grounded that I can dance and fly and laugh — all without fear. Anchored, and yet free to move and bloom.

How does that happen? The music is the most vivid image of Life in Christ to me. So grounded, so calm, so steady — It’s like the gospel from last Sunday: Be not afraid. I am with you. I will be there, eternal and loving. Go forth, and don’t be afraid. No matter what happens, good or bad, flat or sharp or right on key, I am here, under it all, constant but moving. Only fear that which can cut you off from this grounding, from your own soul. Now go forth to love and live and vibrate like the strings of the violin.

Soul music. World music. Music of the Universe…

How Can I Keep from Singing?

There’s an old (Shaker?) hymn that has been keeping me company of late:

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of Heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—
How can I keep from singing?

Usually I sing the modified words that Pete Seeger wrote, where the Savior is Truth, Christ is Love, and the refuge is rock, etc. But the essence if still the same and it leads me to that quiet place where I am in touch with Love and Truth and the powerful Presence (of God) that is the underpinning of all creation. Once there, How can I keep from singing?

How can I keep from singing?

It’s been a day. Started by spilling coffee on my shirt when I transferred it to the travel mug so I wouldn’t spill it. Change shirts. Load the dogs up to go to the groomer’s. Spill coffee from that stupid travel mug on shirt number 2. Get to the groomer’s, and Cooper manages to soak my pants with what’s left in that ever inefficient travel mug. Call work – I’ll be a few minutes late. Run home, change clothes (that shirt 3, pants 2) again. Get to work just before 8:30.

Give me patience Lord. I was so not at peace before 8:30 am. And work was not exactly a calming experience either.

Call me back, Lord. Remind me that You are the wind beneath my wings, that you are the Rock that I stand on. And most of all, help me slow down and take a minute to talk with You.

And yet, as twitchy and unfocused as I was, ocasionally I could hear those words:

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear the Music ringing
If Love is Lord of Heaven and Earth
How can I keep from singing?

I have been given many gifts in this life – music is one of my favorites. I’ve not been gifted with a glorious voice, but I can make my guitar sing. I hear music in my head. Music calms my soul. Music feeds me and gives me energy to go on. Some weeks, by Thursday, I’m ready to throw in the towel. And then we congregate at church for what passes for choir practice, and I am renewed.

It’s so amazing that God can find so many different ways to be present to us — if I just pay attention, I can see and hear Her. In people, in nature and in music.

How can I keep from singing?

A Need to Sing Praise

Yesterday I got a call asking me if I knew the praise song “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” and if not, could I learn it. I’d heard it, so I went out to iTunes to get a copy so I could learn it. There were 107 different versions of this song. So, I picked the one that seemed most popular, bought it and proceeded to learn to sing and play it in a matter of minutes.

If you aren’t familiar, the words go like this (I hope I’m not in copyright trouble here):

Lord, I lift your Name on high
Lord, I love to sing Your praises
I’m so glad you’re in my life
I’m so glad you came to save us

You came from heaven to earth – to show us the way
From earth to the cross — to pay my debt
From the cross to grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord, I lift Your Name on high

I can’t get it out of my head. It’s swirling through my brain and has been for hours. I can only conclude that something about the words and the melody have (forgive me) struck a chord. There’s something inside that needs to praise the Lord. As it runs through my brain I am reminded of the idea that to sing is to pray twice.

And so, I’ll just continue to sing praises. That is quite the foundation to rest on when I’m wrestling with knotty questions and fuming about things I don’t understand and disagree with. It’s good to sit back and offer a good song of praise.


I could go off on a lot of tangents this morning, but the gospel is pulling me back to shepherd images. When I was a teenager, someone gave me the following (I don’t know the author – does anyone else have a clue?)

Shepherd, shall I tend your sheep?
I with scant shepherd’s skill?
But I see them weep and weep.
And if I do not go who will?
They don’t belong to me
And I’m not sure where the sheepfold is.
But as I look around I see
In a world that is not mine but His
None to go save such as I
So when in the dark I heard them cry
There’s only one thing left do
Look for Your light to lead them to.

I must have been meant to remember those words as that was probably the first thing I every set to music. I sat one afternoon with my guitar and learned the song that played in my head. And now , nearly 4 decades later the words are still clear in my head. Of course I sing it to myself when I try to type it out as the words and melody are now intertwined.

With all the publicity about the Pope’s visit to the US I am bombarded with words and images of Benedict as the [Supreme] Shepherd. We must remember that only Jesus is the Shepherd, and we (including the entire hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church) are the much more like the voice in this Shepherd Song: Looking for the Light to lead them to. May the Pope know the Shepherd’s voice, and may the Light shine brightly for him.

Picking Up Stones

At the Foot of Knocknarea (Cathie Ryan:The Music of What Happens) is a song about a woman carrying a stones to the top of Knocknarea to leave at Queen Mave’s (sp?) cairn – a stone that bears all her troubles. I’m picking through the stones I’d like to leave at the tomb, or the cross.

One stone is regret (and guilt) over being silent and fearful. Not listening to my soul. Hiding my feelings so deep they were hidden from myself. To be honest, I can’t name those times. I can name a few times when I was brave, wasn’t silent. So – I’ll leave the un-named stones for healing and remember being brave and what it meant.

Many years ago, neighbors and family were at my house for dinner or some such gathering. We were standing in the kitchen. I think my sister and brother in-law were there, and the folks across the street. The conversation had to do with the others recently joining a local club (think a large relative of the whitetail deer). Only the men could/can join as it’s a men’s organization. (I really don’t have as much of a problem with men’s only organizations as maybe I should, because if women need to be free to have sisterhoods, then men probably need brotherhoods…. but that’s an aside to this story. ) They were encouraging my husband to think about becoming a member. The lodge has a nice swimming pool and the kids could go there to swim during out brutally hot summer. And – this is the part that got me rolling – when the kids went there you didn’t have to deal with the blacks like you did /do at the city pool. Something snapped. I heard myself proclaim the “John wouldn’t ever be joining any a racially prejudiced men’s club.” The room went silent. My heart pounded. Then the conversation slowly restarted – on a different topic.

Fear is a powerful thing… overcoming it is also powerful. However, I still need to learn to accept my own spot when I do find my voice…. and not feel guilty about succeeding.

On Eagle’s Wings

I think I might just sing the refrain differently if I don’t watch it:
And She will raise you up on eagle’s wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of Her hand.

I’ve been listening to “On the Wing” on the Radio Reader for a couple of weeks. One observation that the author/narrator makes is that in the bird world the females are often larger and stronger than the males. The particular birds he was referring to are Peregrin Falcons, and he goes on to observe that the females fly slightly later than their brothers — probably because they have more growing to do than the males. So, why wouldn’t those eagle’s wings be Hers? And, perhaps the slowness in realizing my full potential is because I have more growing to do to get there.

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