Day 10: Music

December 7, 2021

Day 10: Music

Music makes my heart sing. Seriously.

I was classically trained as a pianist when I was a child. My family was the odd family in my neighborhood. My parents actually listened to classical music – and enjoyed it. My father was an excellent pianist, and played Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy (among others). So, I grew up hearing my father playing in the living room as I went to sleep on the second floor of our little brick house in Chicago. He would often leave the windows open, and give the neighbors a regular concert, almost every night.

I had older brothers and sisters, and they all were musical, as well. The music of band and orchestra instruments as well as piano filled the house. What a wonderful thing, to have a house full of music.

As I grew older, I found my way into the church – the Lutheran church. What a glorious thing, to have Johann Sebastian Bach as one of the greats of church music! I loved hearing the instrumental music of Bach played in the church. Our church had an excellent organist, and she would occasionally play organ recitals. (Sadly, the church only had a small choir of amateurs. So, very little vocal music of Bach.)

Intuitively, I deeply felt the soaring melodies, the magnificent polyphony, the glorious harmony of church music – even before I was well into high school. And, as I took more and more music classes and realized what it was I was hearing, my heart rejoiced as I opened my ears and took the music in as a prayer. Yes! I was only vaguely aware of praying as I listened, but in retrospect, I often found myself immersed in prayer as I would listen to church music. And, not always with lyrics. Sometimes (often!) instrumental, too.

I realize as I prepared to write this reflection that I could find next to no references that spoke of instrumental music. That is, music without lyrics. Just about every reference to music concerns vocal music or hymn singing. (Which is a whole separate topic, fully worthy of its own reflection!)

After checking out some twenty different books of prayer, contemplation and meditation, I finally found a short reference to music, in general, by one of my favorite authors on prayer: Tilden Edwards. “Beethoven once said…music is a fuller way to God than words….Such intrinsic sound qualities have a way of opening us deeper into God’s mystery, before which all our words fall short.” [1]

This is just a brief mention from Edwards, but such a sentiment! This is the way it was for me, even as a teenager. Then, as I got an undergraduate degree in church music, my appreciation of church music became so much more well-rounded.

Since I am intuitive, and feel things deeply, I think I understand what Edwards was saying about music and sound being part of God’s mystery. Prayer, contemplation and meditation can all take place for me as I listen. As I play, too. My finger skills and technical facility have gotten rusty with lack of practice and age, as well as the onset of arthritis. But, I still enjoy producing music on the piano and organ!

I know the music that delights my heart is not the music for everyone. And, that’s okay! Perhaps you can find some music that delights you, that makes your heart sing before God. I hope and pray you can.

Please, pray with me. Dear Lord, thank You for music. Thank You for the melody and harmony of so many pieces praising Your name. Thank You for the music that wordlessly invites people into Your presence, too. Help us to be able to come before Your presence, when we are singing, or when not. It is enough to simply be in Your presence. Thank You, dear Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Edwards, Tilden, Living in the Presence (Harper Collins: San Francisco, 1995), 34.

Day 4: Meditation

December 1, 2021

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese island, photo credit Elizabeth Jones

Do you meditate?

Many people around the world meditate on a regular basis. Many of these people come from a variety of faith traditions. That is, vast numbers of people who practice meditation come from a faith tradition other than Christianity.

I did not know much about meditation when I was growing up. (I guess there were not too many Lutherans who were in the habit of regular meditation during the 1970’s, at least in my area.) By the time I really got interested about different types of prayer – which was during the late 1980’s – I found a number of books published about meditation and contemplation. And, these books came from a variety of different faith traditions.

If no one in your family or among your friends practices meditation, it might indeed seem different.  But, is meditation any more different than certain types of prayer that are practiced in many homes of devout Catholics in the Chicago area? Or, the types of prayer practiced by Orthodox acquaintances of mine around Chicago? This is an honest, sincere question. (I really would like to understand!)   

I love the simple definition given by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “Meditation is simply the practice of stopping and looking deeply.” [1] That means to me stopping and looking deeply – with no judgment.

A snap response might be: “Oh, that is easy!” But, is it? A non-judgmental, open, interested stop, with a deep gaze – this might indeed be a challenge, whatever your faith tradition!

Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say, “With mindfulness and concentration you can direct your attention to what is there and have a deep look. You can begin to see the true nature of what is in front of you.” [2] Isn’t this a way of looking at things (and people) the way God must see them? At least, starting to see them with God’s eyes?

I have practiced the different ways of meditation and contemplation this monk suggests in this small book. Mind-opening, to say the least. I cannot meditate on a regular basis, because my mind is too wedded to the written word. (I really enjoy praying with Scripture! But, more on that, later.) However, when I do try to meditate, I receive rich rewards. God knows that this is not my preferred way of praying, and I believe God honors that, and understands.

Yes, I have meditated, a number of times. I have been refreshed! And, I deeply respect and honor Thich Nhat Hanh, and his practice of coming before the Holy. This slim, little book holds a valued place on my bookshelf devoted to books on prayer, contemplation and meditation.

Please, pray with me. Dear Holy One, thank You for many different understandings of You and how You are in the world. How You relate to individuals, as well as how You might be as different people approach You in different ways. Thank You for helping me to open myself to new experiences in prayer. Thank You especially for this little book How to Sit. Help me glean words of wisdom and ways of prayer and meditation from its pages. In Your divine Name I pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Nhat Hanh, Thich, How to Sit (Parallax Press: United States of America, 2014), 18.

[2] Ibid.

Mission Statement

Have you ever felt fragmented and off kilter? I have.

To center myself and my mind, I have determined to journal every day, for the next few weeks. I found an excellent prompt (or series of prompts) – the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

I will be doing a daily Advent discipline of journaling each day in Advent 2021.

Contemplation, prayer and meditation help center and calm me. See whether these quiet practices might help you, too!

Want to join me on my journaling journey?