Monday, September 01, 2014

Monday Music - Penny Annie

She took a penny-
Hid it at the bottom of that tree.
She loves a mystery-
Loves to pique my curiosity.
White chalk arrows on the sidewalk
Say hidden treasure lies this way.
She’s got a childlike kind of wonder,
It’s something more than childish play.
And I’m sure to find that penny
If I look around with eyes that see like Annie.

Stillness and starlight,
Dragon helicopters in the reeds.
Earthworms and planets,
Mantis prayers and long forgotten creeds.
I can lose myself in wonder,
I can lose the time of day,
But if I ever lose the mystery
I will surely lose my way-
And the key to finding pennies
Is living life with open eyes that see like Annie.

Are you a pilgrim?
Well, I’m a pilgrim too.
Are you finding pennies?
I've found quite a few.

We can lose ourselves in wonder,
We can lose the time of day,
But if we ever lose the mystery
We will surely lose our way-
And the world’s a shiny penny
For anyone with open eyes that see like Annie.

Yes, the world’s a shiny penny
For anyone with open eyes that see like Annie.

"Penny Annie" words and music by Dave Burkum, from the album, Breathe a Little Deeper, © Copyright 1999 by Dave Burkum. 

The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
by Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence." Her personal narrative highlights one year's exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays King of the Meadow with a field of grasshoppers. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Lives of Love and Reverence

Help us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts. We humble ourselves before you. We know we cannot rely on our own strength, and we rejoice in your mercy. Thank you for your promise to forgive and purify us. Thank you for being the one who saves.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Remind us, O God, of your promises and help us to persevere in our lives with love and reverence for you. Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit. Bring us safely through this day and all our days to come.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Smile - Viral Video Research

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites - State Fair Grandstand

I'm looking forward to hearing The Cactus Blossoms at the State Fair Grandstand on Saturday, August 30, 4:00pm.

MN Music On-A-Stick, presented by 89.3 The Current, is a musical evening celebrating artists with roots in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. This one-of-a-kind event returns to the Grandstand for the third year in a row with a new group of Minnesota artists. The 2014 lineup includes Brother Ali, Doomtree, Bob Mould, Cloud Cult, Har Mar Superstar and The Cactus Blossoms.

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum grew up in northeast Minneapolis and have been crooning country tunes as The Cactus Blossoms since 2010. Their hypnotic, timeless and unforgettable songs have made them favorites in the Twin Cities music scene. Their latest album, Live At The Turf Club, blurs the line between old and new as they sneak a few originals into their repertoire of early country and Western swing.

Here's a great video of a recent performance at the Sioux River Folk Festival 2014...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Affluenza and Immigration

Last month, Roger Olson posted a very compelling piece challenging Americans in general and Christian Americans in particular to think ethically, not politically, about the underlying causes of the current child immigration crisis. I encourage you to give it your thoughtful attention.

Illegal Immigration of Children: The Underlying Problem Nobody Seems to Talk About
July 24, 2014 by Roger E. Olson
"According to news reports, about sixty thousand unaccompanied children have arrived in the U.S. from Central America via Mexico in the last one to two years. Some have died in the desert attempting to cross the border alone. Many are being smuggled to the border by “mules” who charge their families large amounts of money. (Why this is not being labeled a form of human trafficking by anyone is curious.) Once the children arrive and are caught, they are warehoused in cramped, crowded facilities indefinitely.

These children have become the ping-pong balls in a partisan battle of words between Democrats and Republicans. Instead of banding together to find viable, compassionate, humane solutions, both sides are digging in and arguing ferociously..."

Click Here to Continue Reading...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Words - Blackberries for Amelia

Fringing the woods, the stone walls, and the lanes,Old thickets everywhere have come alive,
Their new leaves reaching out in fans of five
From tangles overarched by this year's canes.

They have their flowers too, it being June,
And here or there in brambled dark-and-light
Are small, five-petaled blooms of chalky white,
As random-clustered and as loosely strewn

As the far stars, of which we now are told
That ever faster do they bolt away,
And that a night may come in which, some say,
We shall have only blackness to behold.

I have no time for any change so great,
But I shall see the August weather spur
Berries to ripen where the flowers were—
Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait—

And there will come the moment to be quick
And save some from the birds, and I shall need
Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.

"Blackberries for Amelia" by Richard Wilbur, from Collected Poems. © Harcourt, 2004.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Friendship is Learned Behavior
In a few weeks (September 14), I'll be starting a new Sunday morning teaching series at Valley Christian Church. The series, You Belong Here, is aimed at giving people dozens of helpful and meaningful ways to connect with others in their church.

Though it's often assumed that making friends is something that comes naturally to people, my pastoral experience has shown me just how surprisingly difficult it is for many people––maybe even most––to make, keep, enjoy, and deepen friendships.  I've come to realize that being a good friend is a learned behavior.

If a church is going to experience true community, then the church must do all it can to cultivate and teach friendship skills. Learning to connect with others, to appreciate different kinds of friendship, and to guard and nurture relationships is a must for Christian maturity. So we're going to spend nine weeks talking about it and taking intentional steps.  Get complete sermon series info HERE.

Two books I'm recommending to people as companion resources for my new series are: Everybody's Normal by John Ortberg, and To Be a Friend by Jerry and Mary White. We'll have a few copies available at the church resource center, and we may have some reading groups.


Everybody's Normal
by John Ortberg

From the Publisher's Description...
...How do flawed, abnormal people such as ourselves master the forces that can drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for?

In Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg zooms in on the things that make community tick. You’ll get a thought-provoking look at God’s heart, at others, and at yourself. Even better, you’ll gain wisdom and tools for drawing closer to others in powerful, impactful ways. With humor, insight, and a gift for storytelling, Ortberg shows how community pays tremendous dividends in happiness, health, support, and growth. It’s where all of us weird, unwieldy people encounter God’s love in tangible ways and discover the transforming power of being loved, accepted, and valued just the way we are.


To Be a Friend
by Jerry and Mary White

From the Publisher's Description...
Friendship is not a rational process. While reasoning and discerning play a part in our choices of friends, feelings and emotions are strong elements as well.

Much of the conscious development of our circle of friends rests on an understanding of the elements and foundations of friendship. There is no magic formula. Friendship choices rest on principles and concepts. Friendships take effort. They hold a bit of mystery. They can’t be manufactured. But they are priceless.

Walk with Jerry and Mary White in To Be a Friend as they probe and discover together the great adventure of being and having friends.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Music - One Body

This song has been running through my head as I'm preparing my next teaching series at Valley. The series is called You Belong Here and will be filled with practical ways to build meaningful relationships.

I need you, and you need me–
That’s the way it is in God’s family.
If you’re doing well, you’ll be my friend and guide;
If you need a hand, I’ll be at your side.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

And when I fall, you pick me up.
When I’m thirsty, you can fill my cup.
If you win, then it’s my gain-
If you’re hurting, I will share your pain.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

When you’re weighed down, I will share the load.
If you’re ever lost, I’ll help you find the road.
When I’m tempted, remind me what is right.
When I’m weary, please help me fight the fight.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

Together we’ll carry the light--
Shining like the stars in the heavens.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

"One Lord, One Body" words & music by Dave Burkum from the album, Fireside.  © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Nourish Us with Goodness

O Lord God, we acknowledge your power and your holiness. You are the author and giver of all good things. Work in our hearts and teach us to truly love you. Nourish us with goodness. Help us to live out true devotion and to worship you in all we do. Help us, by faith, to do the good things you have in mind for us to do.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us as we extend that same forgiveness to others who have sinned against us. Help us become a community called grace. Help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

We thank you, O God, for life, and hope, and salvation. Lead us away from temptation. Deliver us from evil. Provide for our needs this day. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.    

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Smile - Back to School

It's amazing how things change in 12 years!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Favorites - Jax Cafe

Cheri and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary this week! We had a lovely evening on the town. We tried to get in on the Walker Art Center mini-golf, but there was a line with a 90-minute wait when we got there in the late afternoon. So, instead of mini-golf, we just used the time to enjoy the Walker sculpture garden.

Next, we made our way to Jax Cafe, one of the venerable and iconic restaurants in good old NE Minneapolis. We lived in NE Mpls for years (our kids pretty much grew up there) so we've driven by Jax thousands of times. Unbelievably, though, this was our first time to ever set foot in the place.  We finally got the chance to go and I must say we were not disappointed! Cheri had the squash ravioli and I had the half-rack of BBQ ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes. Delicious!

Jax has great food, a gorgeous old wood-paneled dining room, one of the prettiest and tasteful walled garden dining areas I've seen in Minneapolis, and the service was wonderful.  We'll be back!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Churches in Ferguson

As the sad story of Ferguson, MO continues to unfold, it's worth considering what Christians and churches in Ferguson are doing. That angle may not be a story that gets front page coverage, but it's certainly worthy of our thoughtful and prayerful attention.

The Christ and Pop Culture blog has a good post that may broaden your perspective and motivate you to pray for those Christians who are striving to live out the gospel in the midst of this challenging crisis. It may also give insight into some ways and whys you and your church can be working for social justice in your own community.

The Other Side of Ferguson: Local Churches Fighting Injustice
Thousands of Americans in over 90 cities have marched in outrage over the seemingly unjust killing of rising college freshman Michael Brown. Many demand justice for a young man who was apparently killed, defenseless, in broad daylight, his body left for hours uncovered on the street. But demonstrators most desire a more far-reaching change.

Meanwhile, similar to most wars—both global and civil—the church has quietly worked from dawn until dusk without much notice from the press. Many of Ferguson’s citizens recognize a narrative missed by the press.
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday Words - The Sun

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

“The Sun” by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume One, © Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tome - A Poetry Handbook

After years of reading poetry and growing in my appreciation for it, I am now collecting books by poets on the art and craft of writing poetry. I'm starting with those written by poets I especially enjoy.

On a beautiful summer day last week, while sitting beside Flour Lake on the Gunflint Trail, I began reading A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver. Her reflection and instruction are both thoughtful and practical. And though the subtitle for the book is A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry, her prose is so lovely to read aloud that often (much to my delight)  it approaches the quality and grace of her poetry.

"Poetry is a river; many voices travel in it; poem after poem moves along in the exciting crests and falls of the river waves. None is timeless; each arrives in an historical context; almost everything, in the end, passes. But the desire to make a poem, and the world's willingness to receive it––indeed the world's need of it––these never pass."  [A Poetry Handbook, Chapter 1, p.9]