This year we are continuing our focus on a spiritual practice the last week of each month. This week we will look at how music an be used as a spiritual practice connecting us with the divine.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato
Music has a way of connecting to our inner being much like silence. It moves us beyond words and expressions to feel and communicate something that ultimately cannot otherwise be stated. Our bodies begin to move and sway to the beat without even thinking as a natural rhythmic way of connecting. We are transported to a higher dimension of connection with ourselves and God.
Even with my inabilities in making harmonious melodies and constantly fumbling on rhythm, I'm still enlivened at the sound and feeling I get when something connects with me. It makes me aware of the spirit that is moving within me at all times. Often I have a joyful response to the sound I hear, while other times it causes me to introspectively think and search my innermost thoughts and feelings. Both responses open me up to understanding how God is moving in my life in ways I may not have experienced before. Let's examine closer ways music can be used as a spiritual practice.
Ways to Use Music as a Spiritual Practice
The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” - 2 Chronicles 5:13
There are many ways to use music to help you connect spiritually with the divine. Here are a few ways that might be beneficial to you and your spiritual journey.
1. Freeing and Healing - If we allow ourselves to experience music it can be cathartic. We can have a physical and emotional response. This alone can cause us to release tension, stress, and emotional baggage that has built up over life's overwhelming circumstances. There have been many study's which show the healing power of music, aka "Mozart Effect". So allow yourself to hear the music and move your body in whatever way it is speaking to you.
2. Introspection/ Meditation - Music can be an incredible way for us to become aware of our true feelings and thoughts. The music can carry us to our own sacred place away from the hustle and bustle of the world. We can let go of the noises around us and the constant jib jab in our head to focus on the sound and the stillness within. Find yourself a slower tempo song which will decrease your brain activity and create more calming effects. You can utilize many meditations on youtube, or sounds that relax you.
3. Playing/ Creating/ Developing - Playing music can also bring about spiritual connection. Sometimes this is through connecting with others they play with. Sometimes its about giving the talent so others can connect deeper with the divine. The act itself can be balancing and allow musicians spirit to speak. Playing ultimately can lead to creating something original that speaks about you and your God. If you haven't played for awhile pick up your instrument and allow yourself to play. If you don't know how I suggest you start taking lessons to develop a new skill.
4. Praying -The lyrics we sing can be our prayers we carry to the world. So when we speak of justice, love, and peace we send our voices out to God. Allow yourself to see this time as a way of praying to God with the words that are before you.
Let's end today with a praise song which really is a prayer to God!
Thank you to all those who continue to support this blog and share it with people they know.
This week use music to connect deeper with God.
“Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." - Amos 5:18-25
Do you ever see injustice happening and wonder where God is?
Have you seen people hungering for food or shelter and wondered where they will find it and how will they get it?
Have you noticed those running from the experiences they have had in fear of the emotional pain and baggage they carry?
If we are honest with ourselves and really take a good look we have probably noticed and witnessed others who are struggling to navigate this life. And if we look real hard we may even notice ourselves in the mirror. Often we wake up and move forward with our own priorities not batting an eye at the injustice present in this world. It takes time to truly recognize and understand the complexities of problems which is difficult in our busy lives. We have to ask what truly matters. This challenge before us is exactly what the old Testament Prophet Amos faced.
The Old Testament Prophet Amos was a citizen who owned sheep, cattle, and goats in a small town called Tekoa. He lived a safe and comfortable life taking care of himself and his animals. But then something life changing happened. Amos opened his eyes and noticed those around him. It was in the action of seeing, where he heard God calling him to be the voice for those who did not have one. He was propelled to action leaving his safe, comfortable home to speak God's words of justice to the people of Israel.
Not being from a prophetic guild Amos became the first independent prophet. He boldly and harshly spoke out against the transgressions happening in Israel. The text is not cheerful at all as he throws insults and criticizes the people. So why in the world would this be a scripture to focus on?
What this text does not tell you is that the poor are being used as slaves to pay off debts, wealthy people falsified weights and traded dishonestly, and even the courts were corrupt because the judges were being bribed to cheat out the poor of what was rightfully theirs. They had injustice in their society and the people turning a blind eye.
The wealthy got wealthier and the poor got poorer. People turned their heads and acted like nothing was happening. The people looked the other way and neglected to really look around them. Have you turned your head? Have you looked away pretending you didn't see anything? Everyone thought they were people of God because they followed the rules and rituals of the covenant. However the covenant made by their ancestors, was to pursue justice and righteousness, not to follow the exact rules given. Rituals were a response to God’s mercy in their lives not an ongoing act to be used over the values they symbolized.
Amos courageously spoke up with an unpopular message. A message that God cares and is concerned for all of God's children. It's not about prosperity its about equality. He was hoping people would open their eyes and see the oppression happening to their brothers and sisters. He calls them to pursue justice and righteousness, by making right and equitable relationships while seeking wholeness with the divine.
Today the message still applies to us. "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." This powerful metaphor of unbelievable hope can be the force to change who we are and what we see. It's an invitation to find wholeness with God in our lives while seeking the best for those in our community. Will we not move out from our safe and comfortable environments to loudly proclaim all have worth? Will we not carry the unpopular message to ensure our brothers and sisters are treated fairly?
Open your eyes to the injustice happening around you today. What inequity do you notice? How will you stand tall and courageously speak justice into the world? Let our voices bind together like drops of water to flow downstream as a powerful river. May the raging waters cleanse each of us and be the vessel to heal the brokenness we see. Let us be fearless. God is calling you to stand. What will your response be?
Many years ago, when I was working at Community of Christ in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we had a woman come in the center with her three boys, all elementary age. She had never been to the church on the corner of Glass and Chamberlain but had passed by many times. The center is located in the heart of the old part of the city that was now ravaged with poverty, drugs, and gang life. The church had a reputation for being a safe place among the violence surrounding it. This woman just felt the need to stop in and share with us.
The woman said she had made a lot of bad decisions in her life including drug use, relationships, etc. which had impacted her and her kids. While sobbing she said, "I somehow lost sight of God and today I realized I needed to make time for him starting now." She raised her wrist and had her boys do the same. On each wrist laid a watch they just purchased as a symbolic action of making time for God today and everyday moving forward. Looking at the watch was a reminder for each of them to create time for God.
After she shared we welcomed each one of them and gathered up in a circle. Each one of us gave a prayer of blessing for this family and what this new journey would be for them. They ate lunch with us, the kids played basketball and then they headed out into the world again knowing there was a place they could turn if it becomes too much.
Life can be stressful and overwhelming as we juggle the various responsibilities we have. Sometimes we lose sight of the journey God has for us. Have you lost sight of where God is taking you? When you make time for God you further your spiritual journey. How are you finding time for God in your life? What does that look like? Let's explore further what this means for each of us.
How to Make Time For God
Life is busy! There are multiple commitments and for some people they are running from one thing to the next. So how do we take time to find God in our lives with so much busyness? It seems to me that we have to be intentional about what we do and why we are doing it. It also means we have to find practical ways for us to connect with the divine.
Here are 5 practical ways to make time for God:
1. Assume God is Always With You - Thinking this way changes our perspective and our internal voice. Sometimes we put such high expectations on creating certain moments to heighten our spiritual senses that we miss the everyday divine spirit that walks with us. Incorporate your prayers, questions, and internal dialogue with God throughout the day and seek God in the actions that happen around you and the people you meet.
2. Seek Silence - Find times to be quiet and void of the noise that surrounds us. These moments of quietness are essential to focus thoughts and senses on what is really happening within us and how God is speaking into it.
3. Use Apps/ Podcasts - There are apps and podcasts out there for everything. Maybe you want one to assist with meditation or one to help focus on some new spiritual thoughts. You can also find some to help prioritize your time.
4. Make time for a Spiritual Practice - Spiritual practices are specifically designed to help us focus ourselves on our own spirituality. Check out the spiritual practices I have blogged about already and see if one might fit you. It's about finding what helps you connect with the divine more.
5. Set Yourself Up - Reminding ourselves by putting things in place gives us a greater opportunity to create moments for us to heighten our focus. This may be setting your bible on your night stand, leaving your guitar in the living room, putting a scripture next to the TV, or hanging a cross from your rear view mirror. When we intentionally set ourselves up with reminders or easier access we will be more successful.
However you chose to make time for God just to start small. Set realistic, accessible goals for yourself that creates balance in your life. Going overboard on will only cause you to burn out and become unsuccessful in reaching your goals. I wish you the best as you make time to be with the divine on your faith journey.
Happy New Year! I hope all of you have started the first few weeks with an excitement for what may come this year.
This week evaluate your priorities and how much time you are making for God in your life.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.