Music and the arts can play a vibrant role throughout congregational life. They can express our joys, our sorrows, and our wonder. The arts can be used to explore the complexities of the human experience, and to tell our own stories. They are powerful tools for truth-telling about the way things are and for envisioning how they might be. I delight in working with the talents present in the congregation and community to enhance worship. I also like to create opportunities for all people - regardless of perceived talent -
to use the arts for spiritual exploration and growth. Creativity is a force of healing, beauty, insight and empowerment that can benefit us all.
Personally I have a strong affinity for both music and poetry. I have always been a singer and also dabble in songwriting. For the curious, here are scores for a few simple pieces I have written that might be used in church life:
During seminary I wrote a piece that was more of a ballad. The song, "Do You See the Worth In Me?" was my way of processing and sharing what I had witnessed, when I offered a pastoral presence in a day shelter for homeless people. Click the "play" button on the image to hear the song and watch the music video.
Though I don't write as much poetry as I used to, I still enjoy this form. Once in a while my poetry finds its way into worship. Mostly it's just for me. I do like to write original words for worship, such as opening and closing words, poetic readings, guided meditations and prayers from the heart. (You can find a few of them on Worship Web.) Following are several of my poems that are simply poems.
Hunting the Wild Inside
I walk through the luke-cool air
in the secretive green of full-foliaged trees
in early summer. What will I see around
the bend? Is that a mushroom in the shadows,
amid the may apple umbrellas and sassafras?
How I love to discover wild food, free for the picking.
Mulberries sweet and round-globuled on my tongue,
the sticky juice coating my mouth,
staining my hands. My true object is more
elusive than the overtaking honeysuckle.
(White and yellow-orange blossoms on each bush,
a pair of each color.)
I can almost smell
what is calling me –
I want to squeeze some honeyed
goodness out of the flower and taste it –
but I don’t see my native desire anywhere.
She is restless, running through the forest,
hiding in plain sight under the overcast sky.
Oh soul, where are you leading me?
You know I can’t help but follow.
Over the waterfalls, up the climbing walls.
Is it a test or a marathon? It does not feel like
a choose-your-own-adventure. This path has
chosen me. And I just keep going to the next curve
of the trail, the next T in the road, the next resting
bench, never finding a clear trail marker.
But was I really expecting one?
It’s more about trust than trail maps,
this inner topography.
Will I be a food-gatherer, after all, or a guide
to this terrain that we all must traverse,
sooner or later? Couldn’t I have just a taste
of that fruit that awaits? Just a sip
from that pure stream? I look down
through the clear water and see my toes,
pale and firm, against the round stones
at the bottom. It flows all around me.
And the birds flit across the canopy,
calling in their cryptic circles as I wait.
Shrouded in the shady silence, I see that
this current has carried me all along.
The more I cease struggling and turning,
grasping and gulping, the friendlier the ride feels.
Suddenly I am thrust out of the dappled surface
into the bright sun. I soak up the light – pure energy,
pulsing on my skin, feeding my soul. Yes! Yes.
(A journal fast-write, formatted into poetry. From prompt: Take a walk outside. What draws you in… detail what you SEE outside. What do you see on the inside while walking? June 2-3, 2014)
I am looking to really see. Not to see
what I already expect to find, but to peel back
a few layers and get to the essence, the pit
underneath the skin, the fleshy fruit and juice.
Where did it begin? What will it become?
Who are you – creature that I watch with listening eyes?
I want to drink you in through my irises, wordlessly.
To hear in your face what is happening in you, to see
in the flexion and creasing of your skin, the crinkling
of your eyes, the unconscious tapping of your foot or finger,
what is going on deep inside. Show me the layers
of your history. I am a geologist of the soul.
There are eons in you. There is coal and oil, ready to burn
once released. There are fossils from another age of you –
fascinating to display. There are precious sapphires
and emeralds folded deep within. Bring them out so
that the light may sparkle and shine on their angular surfaces.
You have treasure deep within. Did you know?
Let us put on our gloves, get out all our excavating tools –
pen and fresh white paper, an open heart, curious mind.
What a one-of-a-kind dig you are!
We can sort and clean the specimens later. Let someone else
analyze and categorize them. This is your time to play!
Who knew inner space would be more infinite and strange,
more beautiful and beguiling than the world without?
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s got nothing on you.
What if we dig into a pit of snakes? Slithering like a moving
mountain within you? That is just your longing for change,
for newness. Don’t let it frighten you. What if the gnarly roots
of sky-high trees catch on our limbs and slow us down?
There is no need to hurry. Rest on those roots. They are yours.
And water – will we find a hidden river, an underground ocean?
You’ve got the Marianas Trench in you. It might be the source
of life on earth, you know. Those steamy volcanic vents
might just show you what you could become next.
There’s no sound of talking. Just the creak of rock, slab on slab.
Just the squeak of bats awake in your night. Just the silence
June 3, 2014
(Fast-write, formatted into poetry, from the prompt: Where my looking leads me is…)
It has a replenishing power, solitude. A freedom
and acceptance. Have you noticed the trees
lately? Surely. They are so beautiful, so elegent with their filigree
of ice, catching the sun like a grove of chandeliers
growing out of the pure white earth, translucent fingers
thirsty for the sun, the sky, their kindred clouds.
There's a cleanness, an austere kind of beauty that's breath-
taking. A stillness without
that settles one within.
Feb. 15, 2007 (journal fragment)
I was terribly troubled by not only 9-11, but by our nation’s knee-jerk response to those events. During this period I had several spiritual experiences which left a lasting influence on me. One such incident occurred in the summer, when I was out walking with a heavy heart. I described that experience in this poem.
I am walking, seeking solace
in the twilight from the smallness
of my life and the big brokenness
of the world.
Dark woods soothe the ache
and as the path opens to meadow,
countless fireflies signal life mysterious,
winking among the wild nodding brown-eyed susans,
wandering through swaths of Queen Anne’s lace,
seeking in the tall rustling grasses.
Amidst the cricket song and cool breeze,
Oneness alights in me
and I feel the holy infinity
that is my true being,
that is all Being.
Only in my skin and skull am I small.
The primordial Love blossoming through me
is all powerful and healing -
the quiet force of peace
in the world, of joy
June 27, 2002