When I was a little girl I wrote a poem entitled “Music Birds.” I wrote it in the pasture behind my grandma’s barn near the “play woods” and in view of the cow pond. We had a huge flock of sparrows that would dance together. They seemed to be one entity as they would swoop around in unison in a magical dance of which I didn’t know the purpose. I’m sure you’ve seen birds do the same thing. I was struck by the beauty, and a poem happened. It looked like Creation was playing music. (It’s called a murmuration.)
I guess I’ve always had a strong, emotional connection to music. I had over a decade of piano lessons, and my pre-teen angst spent a lot of time expressing itself through “Phantom of the Opera” and other emotive type pieces. My first crush as a teen warranted a cassette tape of country music I recorded from the boombox. As an adult, I love singing lullabies or funny songs to babies in my care. This morning, I came down the stairs to wake up my children with the song my mom sang, “Good morning, all my sunshines! How did you wake so soon? You scared the little birds awake and shined away the moon.”
As I reflect now on the role of music in my life, I remember 2010 when I spent time in RCIA and was seeking a new relationship with Jesus. “Times” by Tenth Avenue North was the anthem. “I don’t care where you’ve fallen or where you have been. I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends. It never ends.”
When my baby died a couple years ago, music became crucial to my prayer. As many of you know, despair and grief is so intense, it smothers out any words or coherent thoughts. I had no idea what to say to God. Imagine staring at the Tabernacle with a dumbfounded look on your face. My anthem became “I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North. I would listen to it on repeat and weep. Eventually, I would try to sing along. And in the music, the Holy Spirit would minister to my pain. “I have this hope in the depth of my soul. In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.”
While I’m at work here at the retreat center, I listen to a Pandora station all day long. It’s a good way to always be prepared to serve and minister, and, most importantly, it soothes out my rough edges. By the end of the day, I’ve heard the songs at least twice, and I have my favorites. There’s a song by Gungor that talks about God creating the world, “Let There Be,” that always seems to make my heart soar.
A song by Leeland, “Carried to the Table,” reminds me daily of the blessing of my faith and the truth of the Eucharist.
“How He Loves” by the David Crowder Band resounds in my mind every time I hear it. “I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”
Then “Oceans” by Hillsong United… “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, you’ve never failed me, and you won’t start now.” God is good, all the time.
I remember my first Good Friday service in the Catholic Church. I had a front row seat to the Cross veneration. The choir sang “Only in God is My Soul at Rest.” Embracing the wooden cross was highly important as I heard them sing, “My Stronghold, my Savior. I shall not be afraid at all. I shall not be moved.”
Taize’s “Nada te Turbe” (Let nothing trouble you) is wonderful to fall asleep to if you have anxiety. Thank you, St. Teresa of Avila.
When I was in formation to profess as a Secular Franciscan, my draw to Saint Francis was an image I had of him running through a field with his arms outstretched and his face beaming towards heaven in a state of ecstasy, joy and gratitude. He loved the Creator and His Creation.
Take a moment now and play with an idea I have. Creation, music and poetry are intertwined. As I look above my laptop screen, I see my office fern (Fernadette). Her fronds reach out and dip down. Musical notes do that as well. Poetry, with its careful words, can lift up your spirit to a high altitude and then let it settle into a calm peace (the Psalms are poetry, of course). A sunset changes color very slowly as the sun lowers and the sky reflects different spectrums of light. I love watching a snow storm and see the flakes come down or go sideways or twirl according to the wind pushing them.
Music in my heart. Right now my anthem is “It Is Well” by Kristene DiMarco and Bethany Music. “Let go, my soul, and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.”
I am grateful for my intimate relationship with music. It is such a blessing that instead of waking up worrying about the day ahead, I often have a song playing in my heart. Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” was a balm during a stressful time. “You are making me new. You make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things out of us.” Even my husband started waking up with it playing in his head.
Gungor’s “Late Have I Love You.” “I drew in your breath, and I keep on breathing. I’ve tasted and seen, and now I want more.” Thank you, St. Augustine, for inspiring that song and my personal prayer.
My time spent listening to worship music is my favorite way to pray. Some songs make me want to run through a field with my arms outstretched towards heaven with a beaming smile on my face. Others bring me to my knees or feel like I’m lying prostrate before the altar and the Blessed Sacrament. Sunsets do the same, and the breeze on my face as I rock in the hammock on a summery day.
“This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.”