The Almost Rev. Kevin DeBeck Welcomes us to a Month of Curiosity

One of my favorite stories I like to tell from my early days of dating my now wife is from the first spring she ever spent in Maine. We had met in the fall of 1996 and started dating each other in January of the following year. That spring was very much like this year—cold and wet. Amy kept asking me when it was finally going to warm up. I kept reassuring her that by the end of April, the snow would finally stop falling and the warm weather would finally arrive. Mother Nature proved me wrong that year, as it snowed on the first day of May. It was the first time in my life that I had seen that happen. Sure, I’d experienced blizzards in April where one day it was 70 degrees, and a few days later there was 2 feet of snow on the ground. But I had never seen it snow on May 1. I felt like Mother Nature had punked me. At that point in history, there was little talk of the effects of climate change—we all just figured it was springtime in Maine. And perhaps it was just a strange weather pattern that year. Perhaps if the powers that be had been a little more curious about why that was happening, there would be solutions for climate change taking place now. It’s hard to say. If a solution is to be found, and it needs to be found sooner rather than later, it will be scientific curiosity that will save us, and all the living things that exist on this planet. The Soul Matters theme for this month is curiosity. Curiosity is built into the DNA of Unitarian Universalism—without it, our faith literally wouldn’t exist.  Over the centuries it was the curiosity of philosophers and theologians that wanted to expand the knowledge of humanity that led us to where we are today. Many of them suffered and died to satisfy this curiosity. People like Francis David, Michael Servetus, Jan Hus, Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb. Curiosity led them to express new ideas and to take a stand for those ideas. As our faith allows us to think in different ways which helps us to become more enlightened, so to we honor those who fought and suffered to bring us those new ways of thinking. So, as you’re waiting for the warm weather to finally arrive, remember that free thinkers haven’t always been appreciated. Perhaps offer up a silent prayer and a thank you to those who helped advance human knowledge. And know that the snow will stop falling, eventually.

In peace,

The Almost Rev. Kevin DeBeck

Curiosity Does Not Kill the Human

Sunday, May 12, 2019, 10:45am

It’s been said that Curiosity Kills the Cat. For the rest of us, curiosity is a part of the normal human experience. On this Mother’s Day, the Almost Rev. Kevin DeBeck discusses the benefits of curiosity both inside and out of Unitarian Universalism.

There will be special music in honor of Mother’s Day and we will take our Second Sunday collection for CASA whose mission is to support and promote court appointed volunteer advocacy in McHenry County which provides abused and neglected children a voice. We will also have a foster care representative to give information on how to become a foster family for our counties’ vulnerable children.

Asking Questions

Sunday, May 5, 2019 10:45am

M.E. Tanabe

[People] go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering [at all].  — Saint Augustine   

  It’s always a good time to have wonder and to ask questions about ourselves – from within a heart of wonder, there are ever deeper places to explore.  …. questions create the framework of our experience. 

Green Sanctuary and Something Different

Sunday, April 28, 2019 10:45am

The Green Sanctuary and Music Committees have collaborated on a special service to honor Unitarian Universalist’s seventh  principle to maintain and develop a strong connection with mother earth and the web of life.  The musical group, Something Different, will play their own nature- inspired compositions, with Pat Smith and Karen Tlusty-Rissman on Native American flute, John Rissman on guitar, and the whole trio on a variety of unique instruments.  Their original performances draw from many musical cultures and genres and are enhanced with thought -provoking visuals.

Something Different

In Music there is Joy and Learning

Throughout history and on every continent, people used flutes to express experiences, conduct ceremonies, tell stories and unite their people.  The oldest instrument ever found is a flute.  It is estimated to be 40,000 years old and was made from a bird’s bone.  On this continent, Native Americans used the flute mainly for courting, personal expression and ceremonies.  In recent years, the Native American style flute has evolved to be compatible to play with other instruments.  It is now used by individuals and groups, with or without accompaniment.  Its lovely, soulful sound has been shown to reduce stress, promote relaxation and encourage healing.

Something Different is comprised of Pat Smith and Karen Tlusty-Rissman playing NA style flutes and John Rissman, all things with strings.  Together they showcase the versatility of this exquisite instrument with music of the world.  Original compositions draw from blues, ballads, Latin, Middle Eastern and other musical genres.  To further enhance these expressions, unique instruments such as didgeridoo, tank drum, gong, singing bowls (and more) are used.  Listeners are exposed to new sounds and new cultures.

Programs have been cultivated for Celebrating Illinois History, Honoring Native American History Month, Musical Road Trip through the World of Music, Celebrate the Earth and Something Different in Concert.  New songs are always being added making each performance truly Something Different.


Music Links: – Maiden Voyage CD © 2014. – Spirits Rising CD © 2017 – Soul to Soul Interview with the band “Something Different”

Who are we?

Pat Smith – Native American flute, clarinet, saxophone.  In addition to teaching Native American Flute classes and participating in two flute circles, she plays in the Big Ballroom band and the Naperville Municipal Band.  She grew up in a musical home so playing in band and singing with the Purduettes during her school years was natural.  In 2012, she completed the Certificate of Musicianship from Clint Goss’ Flute Haven Native American Flute School.  Her soul sings with the improvisation of the wooden flute.


Adam Reviere, NAF style flute, didgeridoo, world percussionist, recording artist and engineer

“You bring a talented group playing a variety of instruments and you deliver three different voices with two flutes and a string instrument.  Your styles are everywhere from world fusion, classic rock inspired, jazz, etc. You have an awesome sound that is very welcome and enjoyable bringing a cornucopia of emotions, imagery, and color.”

Roz Topolski, Community Engagement Program Coordinator, Vernon Area Public Library

“Thank you for a wonderful performance at our library yesterday. Everyone really enjoyed learning and enjoying the music. Please pass along my sincere thanks to all of your band members for preparing and performing such a great concert.”

Joyful Journey

Sunday, April 14, 2019 10:45am

Put our statement of purpose into action and join us as we celebrate journeying as a family. This rite of passage has become a Tree of Life favorite over the years; our Joyful Journey students will share their first Faith Statements! Come see what our 7 principles mean to our students and take the opportunity to reassess and reaffirm your own relationship to the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism.

Soul Matters at Tree of Life: Being a Community of Wholeness

This month while looking for an image to represent wholeness, I kept running across the Zen Buddhist enso – like the one pictured here with this blog. According to Wikipedia, these Japanese circles symbolize “absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void.” Although there are a myriad possible meanings implied with the enso, when the circle is created with an opening, like this one, it usually symbolizes that the circle (and endeavor) is part of a larger whole and it also encourages the understanding that space is needed to continue growing towards perfection.  When seen from this symbolism, wholeness is both a work in progress and also part of the Life that makes space for it to unfold and be recognized.

            I’d like to share 2 quotes from this month’s Soul Matters packet

We don’t really know our own wholeness until we see the wholeness of another or work to  serve wholeness in our world.  Wholeness, a sense of our own fullness, a spiritual realization of our own strength and beauty, is given when we give of ourselves… We heal our own aches by healing the aches in others.  We put back the pieces of our own souls by helping others redeem their own wholeness.     —  Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael

            You are not a drop in the ocean.  You are the entire ocean in a drop. —   Rumi

                The April Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning of “wholeness” – as we consider how we experience it in our lives and how it is a part of our experience in community.  We use this theme for worship and for faith formation in our RE program and chalice circles. The Soul Matters resource packet can be accessed here If you need a printed copy, please feel free to take one from those available in the fellowship room or ask for a copy, if they have all been taken.  You might also like joining a chalice circle to share your insights and hear what others are saying – there are chalice circle flyers in the fellowship room with information about this program.

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. Tanabe

A Sweet Goodbye

Dear Congregation and Friends of Tree of Life,

I am writing this letter to notify you all of my intention to resign my role as Music Director here at Tree of Life at the end of this summer. I have been applying to graduate programs in the hopes of resuming my education with the ultimate goal of completing a doctoral degree in period performance practice and music cognition. I am thrilled to announce that I have been accepted to my first choice school, the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, with a full ride and assistantship. While I am so excited about this opportunity and a wonderful new journey, it will be with great sadness that I will say goodbye to the community here at Tree of Life.

Shortly after I stepped into my position, I stated that I took a job, but found a family. I meant that and continue to mean it to this day. I have had so many wonderful experiences here at Tree of Life and cannot thank everyone enough for your warmth and beauty. I absolutely wish for the continued success of the Tree of Life community and will do everything I can in these coming months to assist in the transition to a new Music Director, so Tree of Life’s vibrant musical community can remain strong and robust.

All this said, I am not leaving just yet and am truly excited to continue on to bring innovative programming and exciting music to all of you over these next few months! Let’s keep growing and strengthening our community through music together!

With love,

Forrest Ransburg