Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Finding the Divine

July 23, 2019

If my memory serves me well, and sometimes it does not, I believe the experience was in my third year of seminary. We were required to participate in an emersion experience and we had two or three different options. I chose to spend a week at a monastery in southern Missouri as did several of my classmates.

I remember the first night we were there and attended the Mass where there was an extended time of silence for prayer and meditation. Following this service there was the Great Silence, where the monks, and we, were invited to be in silence until time to retire to our cells for the night. It was during the silence in the service I remember several of my classmates gave me a hard time, evidently, I had fallen asleep and according to their story I engaged in a bit of snoring. In my defense, it was the end of a long day of driving, however, I often find myself in this sleepy state when I attempt to meditate in silence.

This is not to say I do not relish my times of stillness and silence; I do. As a borderline introvert I need my time of quiet and rest. However, in terms of meditation, prayer, and connection with the Divine it has just never resonated deeply with me in that sense. I admire, perhaps even envy, those I know who are deep practitioners of silent meditation and prayer. I seek the practice enough that from time to time I revisit these practices and attempt to reenter those spaces via silence, meditation, labyrinth walking, prayer beads, reading scripture, however often I find myself unfulfilled and set these practices aside until I return to them another time. I find myself in the midst of these practices ever distracted, bored, longing for conversation, connection, interaction, and, well…noise. A colleague of mine shared a quote with me, I do not recall who said it, dealing with this ever returning to the practice when it seems not to work, the quote was something to the effect of, “How wonderful the opportunity to turn back toward God each time.” I think if this each time I return to these moments of attempted silent practice.

So, all this being said, where do I most profoundly connect with the Divine Presence, God, Eternal Energy, that Spirit, and Connection we have with all that is? Music, I love music, all kinds, though I am not particularly fond of country music. Music can move me to tears, bring laughter, a smile to my face, or simple serenity. Herein is the Divine.

Sitting at the bedside of someone who is ill or struggling for life are some of the most sacred and Divine Presence encounters I have experienced. Listening to the stories of life, good and bad, joy filled and struggles. Gathered around a table for a cup of coffee with diverse persons of differing beliefs, religions, political persuasions, those I agree with and those with whom I passionately disagree having civil and respectful conversation. Walking hand in hand with the love of my life whether on a busy street or along a wooded path. The laughter, tears, squeals, screams, constant motion, and playing of my three granddaughters. Listening to the stories and accomplishments of our two sons and their partners. Walking in a protest march for justice. Sharing a hug with life long friends or people I have just met. Walking through crowds of people, looking at their faces, making eye contact, sharing a smile or holding a door.

All of these examples and more speak deeply to my own connection with community and the Divine. You see, my cup is filled most profoundly via connection and relationship, my soul is fed most deeply in the presence of community. I believe, for me, community is ultimately the purpose of life and faith. Community and relationships, activity and the noise and rhythms of life are the place where God is most present for me. Not to the exclusion of those practices of stillness and silence, meditation, and a contemplative life, but all the above. For me, it takes all of us, a diverse, eclectic, messy, sometimes even chaotic community to see the beauty of God.

I am grateful for my colleagues, friends, and all those who are able to still themselves in silent contemplative practice. I need them to remind me God is not held in a particular box of practice, but is in all, with all, and through all things, a Spirit in whom we are immersed, who moves us in a variety of ways. We all bring diverse experiences of the Divine and life to this party of existence and we would do well to listen more broadly and expose ourselves to a variety of existence and practice. Our world would be a better place if we sought out others not for how we might change them but rather what can we learn. We would do well to encounter to other to learn and understand what it is they bring to the party and then share our own gift.

These are just some ponderings and thoughts that have been occupying my mind the last many days. Listen to your heart and soul and find that Way, that practice, that experience that nourishes your journey and join the party more deeply. It takes all kinds. It takes all of us to enrich this crazy world of which we are a part.

Be You. The world needs more of that.

Peace and Light for Our Journey.  ~ Kent


Side by Side

January 4, 2016

TruDee and I attended Arri Simon’s concert Sunday evening at the Unitarian Universalist Church. He is so very talented, gracious, and just a joy to hear and be in his presence. One of the songs he has written was entitled, if I recall correctly, Side by Side. I was moved to tears, a song calling us forward to our common journey, our common presence on this good green earth, the common air we breathe, our common humanity; a reminder we are all in this together and with all that is going on in our country and world today, it can seem all too often we have forgotten we are all on this train together. It was a beautiful call to peace and harmony.

It reminded me of my time at the Mosque this last Saturday I referenced in my sermon this Sunday, the song reminded me of my being invited to stand, kneel, bow, and sit side by side with my Muslim brothers in prayer, reflection, meditation, and fellowship. It reminded me of that longing deep in my heart and soul for that day when we will all stand side by side in our diversity and yet stand as one, with one voice, and one purpose of the common good for all.

At the request of a couple of folks at church Sunday I am going to share that telling of my time at the Mosque and the hope for a world and a humankind, side by side, in search of peace, understanding, and love. It is as follows.

I was back at the West Mosque early yesterday at the morning prayer gathering. I arrived a bit early and sat at table visiting with the others who were early birds like me. I have been there many times before to share in conversation, prayer time, some food, and building friendship. Each time I go I learn just a little more not only about Islam, my friends, but about myself as well.

Yesterday would prove no different. A number of things struck me yesterday morning as we gathered. One was the leader of the newest Mosque on McCormick who is almost always there as well, when he arrived I stood from my chair to greet him and he smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Good morning brother Kent.” It was not a huge thing, other than it was the first time I remember him, or any of them using the language of brother. I have always felt nothing but welcome and inclusion when I gather with my friends in the early morning light, but there was just something about the term of endearment yesterday morning that nourished a bit of my heart and soul.

When it comes time, they always gather together in a straight line facing the east for morning prayers. I have always joined them, only not in their line, I have always stayed just a respectful few feet behind them with my cheat sheet, an English translation of the Arabic language in which they chant their prayers to God/Allah. As they created the line, one turned to me and motioned me to stand next to him, “Come, join us here,” he said. The one leading the prayer motioned as well and said, laughing, “It’s my responsibility to make sure the line is straight though…” Another gesture of inclusion and welcome that nourished my heart and soul.


I had forgotten my cheat sheet yesterday so I simply joined the group, side by side, and listened, standing when they stood, kneeling when they knelt, bowing when they bowed, and finally sitting quietly when they sat. Some of the Arabic I recognized from watching my sheet before, “Allah is great. Praise be to Allah.”

There is a melody to the prayer each time, a cadence, a reverence that sounds almost identical regardless of which one leads the prayer. Something about the time in prayer resonated with me, though I did not understand the language, yet still felt in prayer with my brothers yesterday morning. We then spent time around the table snacking on cheese, crackers, and drinking coffee, laughing, sharing stories from our faith, talking politics, theologies, traditions, and practices.

We, CHUM, will be invited to their celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday when they get a date set. One said, “Not all Muslims celebrate the birthday, but we are ones who celebrate everything!” I said, “Well, not all Christians celebrate Christmas either, but we at CHUM tend to celebrate everything as well!” To which he said, “Oh, maybe you Christians are not so different than we after all.” Lots of laughter followed.

Maybe we are not so different after all…echoed in my mind. We all share the same sun, breathe the same air, we’re all on this train together, were some of the words to Arri’s song. I was moved to tears thinking about all the anxiety, fear, hate, anger, and violence that faces my Muslim brothers and sisters, all those who have somehow by some been deemed as different, unworthy, lost, or outside of God’s grace because of their sexual orientation, religious belief, non-religious belief, gender, race, age, healthcare choices, immigration status, and the list goes on and on of those who are considered other.

Thank you Arri for your light and calling us all forward through your gift of music. I hope and pray this New Year carries us closer to that reality of grace and justice for all, a compassionate and just world where difference is honored and celebrated and the common good of all is sought by those who are willing to make a difference. I pray you will join me on this journey toward love and let your light shine in all the dark places of the world. It is time to get on this train of peace, understanding, hope, and love.

Such is a way we seek to be mindful of the Spirit and our world here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. An Extraordinary Church with a Place for You. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peace and Light on Your Journey,
Pastor Kent