Mood Music

Music. I’ve always known it can make me feel happy or sad, energetic or mellow. But today (Sunday), in church, I felt it heal me, and I can’t say that I’ve really felt that before. The morning started pleasantly enough but ended with me in a horrible mood. The whole weekend had been horrible – the worst I’ve had in a long time. I won’t get into all the sorry details — most of it was probably my fault — but I will set this morning’s scene:

Today begins the first day of the Coming of Age (COA) program for the 9th and 10th grade youth, and they will meet for three hours after the church service from today through the middle of May. Our church is all the way across town, about 35 minutes by freeway. Too far to go home, too far to go to my mom’s — especially with the price of gas. My husband is on his way to Oklahoma, so I will have to entertain myself. I plan to spend the time in Barnes & Noble.

I check email before breakfast and discover that the first COA meeting is taking place at a park in Tempe. But the directions in the email are cursory because most program participants live on that side of town and know where they’re going. However, I am the world’s worst when it comes to figuring out north from south, east from west, left from right, up from down. So, I Google. I Mapquest. I cannot figure out how to get to this park, and combined with other events of the weekend, I totally, unreasonably, flip out. I cry. I’m mean. I make us late. Ugh. I am way over the top, and I know it, but I find it hard to stop my momentum in mid-flip. My husband, great guy that he is, calmly helps me figure out where I need to go. Christian looks at me as if I were from another planet.

Flaming Chalice

The flaming chalice, symbol of Unitarian Universalism.

In church, I realize the service is multigenerational when Christian slips into the seat next to me. That means no regular Religious Education classes and no sermon, but instead a service geared toward younger children. We could have stayed home until COA time, I think grumpily. But, I see in the Order of Service that today is all about music, with related Children’s Time interspersed. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

We started with a rousing number, **“When the Spirit Says Do.” I don’t know it well, but it’s easy, and I try to sing along, although I’m not feeling it much. Christian stands there and looks at everyone swaying and clapping as if they were from another planet.

After the announcements and offertory, the tempo slows with “Voice Still and Small”:

ICDahl, Bjerk i stormVoice still and small, deep inside us all I hear you call, singing. In dark and rain, sorrow and pain, still you remain, singing. Calming my fears, quenching my tears, through all the years, singing.

I feel the storm inside me begin to subside. I am calmer, which is the exactly the purpose of this Caring and Centering part of the service. Christian has taken advantage of the “centering” to close his eyes, but not in meditation.

Next comes another energizing song, “Thula Klizeo,” a Zulu song, the words of which translate into “be still my heart, even here I am at home.” The song has motions to accompany it. I sing, but no way is Christian singing in a different language and pantomiming. I smile.

Sitting now. Slow again — a tranquil song. “Meditation on Breathing” (Sarah Dan Jones):

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

When I breathe in, I breathe in peace.

When I breathe out, I breathe out love.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in breathe out.

I feel quiet. Christian is practically falling asleep, with his head leaning on my shoulder. But now we stand and sing, in the same meditative spirit, “When Our Heart is in a Holy Place”:

English: Independant Christian Church, Unitari...

When our heart is in a holy place,

When our heart is in a holy place,

We are blessed by love and amazing grace,

When our heart is in a holy place.

 Then we have to jazz it up before all the kids fall asleep. They gather at the front of the church to teach the congregation, “I am a Unitarian.”

I am a Unitarian. I’ve got my badge right here (place your hand over your heart).

I am a Universalist, every day, every week of the year.

Now, I am happy. Christian is singing along, but under his breath — you know those teenagers. But he is smiling, and putting his hand over his heart when he’s supposed to.

And finally, we sing one of my favorite songs in the whole world — so beautiful, so spiritual. I sing. Christian sings. The choir and the whole congregation lift up their voices, because this song also embodies our principles, the way Unitarian Universalists feel, whatever faith or non-faith they claim: “Blue Boat Home,” written by singer/songwriter Peter Mayer.

Though below me I feel no motion, standing on these mountains and plains,

Far away on from the rolling ocean, still my dry land heart can say

I’ve been sailing all my life now, never harbor or port have I known.

The wide universe is the ocean I travel, and the Earth is my blue boat home.

clouds of glowing hydrogen where stars are bei...

Sun my sail and moon my rudder, as I ply the starry sea

Leaning over the edge in wonder, casting questions into the deep

Drifting here with my ship’s companions, all we kindred pilgrim souls

Making our way by the lights of the heavens, in our beautiful blue boat home.


I give thanks to the waves upholding me, hail the great winds urging me on

Greet the infinite sea before me, sing the sky my sailor’s song

I was born upon the fathoms, never harbor or port have I known

The wide universe is the ocean I travel, and the Earth is my blue boat home.

The service is almost over. Christian and I smile at each other. I feel so peaceful. I don’t know how long it will last, but right now it’s all good.

(**I wish you all could have heard and felt the mood music this morning. Here are links to some of the songs, if you care to listen. If you do nothing else, click on “Blue Boat Home.” It will be worth your four minutes, I promise. I will edit this post next week with credits for the songs after I get the information from the hymnal.)

When the Spirit Says Do (Civil Rights era African-American spiritual)

Thula Klizeo (a South African song by Joseph Shabalala)

When Our Heart Is in a Holy Place (words by Joyce Poley)

I Am a Unitarian

Blue Boat Home (words and music by Peter Mayer)

*2/14/2012 – edited to add credits, still a couple yet to get.

About Jeannette Monahan

A writer sidetracked by life, with a husband and two boys who shine brighter than Arizona sunshine. Visit me at my blogs: or You are always welcome.
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4 Responses to Mood Music

  1. emjayandthem says:

    This was beautiful; thank you for sharing how the music personally lifted you up and out …. I will definitely check out the links 🙂

  2. I hope you like the music, though some of the video is amateur. I have to say that for me church is usually a take it or leave it thing, but sometimes it right where I need to be.

  3. mj monaghan says:

    So glad the music spoke to you. It often does to me as well. It transcends the skin and bones, doesn’t it?

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