Thursday, May 05, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Becoming Wise

Failure and vulnerability are the very elements of spiritual growth and personal wisdom. What goes wrong for us as much as what goes right — what we know to be our flaws as much as what we know to be our strengths — these make hope reasonable and lived virtue possible. They are part of our gift to the world.

Brené Brown has become a sought-out teacher in all kinds of settings, at every level of leadership, on this ancient, basic truth that had been lost from our common vocabulary for generations.


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Wednesday Words - Spring

In the north country now it is spring and there
Is a certain celebration. The thrush
Has come home. He is shy and likes the
Evening best, also the hour just before
Morning; in that blue and gritty light he
Climbs to his branch, or smoothly
Sails there. It is okay to know only
One song if it is this one. Hear it
Rise and fall; the very elements of you should
Shiver nicely. What would spring be
Without it? Mostly frogs. But don’t worry, he

Arrives, year after year, humble and obedient
And gorgeous. You listen and you know
You could live a better life than you do, be
Softer, kinder. And maybe this year you will
Be able to do it. Hear how his voice
Rises and falls. There is no way to be
Sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are
Given, no way to speak the Lord’s name
Often enough, though we do try, and

Especially now, as that dappled breast
Breathes in the pines and heaven’s
Windows in the north country,
Now spring has come,
Are opened wide.

"Spring" by Mary Oliver from House of Light,
© Copyright 1990 by Mary Oliver

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Renovation of the Heart
This week, I'm re-reading chapters three and four of this helpful book by Dallas Willard. Always good to have some fresh reminders and solid direction about spiritual formation. Willard was a master teacher and faithful Jesus apprentice. I'm thankful that he invested the time and effort to write and communicate his insights.

Renovation of the Heart
by Dallas Willard

From the publisher's description...
Only by God’s grace can we be transformed internally. Renovation of the Heart lays a biblical foundation for understanding what best-selling author Dallas Willard calls the “transformation of the spirit”―a divine process that “brings every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God.”

This fresh approach to spiritual growth explains the biblical reasons why Christians need to undergo change in six aspects of life: thought, feeling, will, body, social context, and soul. Willard also outlines a general pattern of transformation in each area, not as a sterile formula but as a practical process that you can follow without the guilt or perfectionism so many Christians wrestle with.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Follow Wherever He Leads

O God, we thank you for your Son Jesus, our good shepherd. Help us to hear his voice, and know him as he calls us by name, and to follow him wherever he leads.

Lead us away from temptation. Free us from selfishness and pride. Give us the honesty and humility to recognize our need for your grace and mercy. Forgive us our sins and make us ready to forgive others.

Help us, O God, to press on and to strain forward that we might know you more and more. Help us to take hold of the maturity and purpose you have in mind for us.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Favorites - Hastings Old-Time Music

The Hastings Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival is happening this weekend. There are guitar and fiddle workshops, a Saturday night jam session, and several performances on Sunday.

Check out the Bravo Bluegrass Concert at the Hastings Art Center this Sunday. I arranged three of the orchestrations for the Sunday afternoon performance with the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Are You Ready for Sermons?

The Thom S. Rainer blog recently had a recent post on "Seven Ways Church Members Should Prepare for a Sermon." Here is an excerpt with the seven suggestions...

Pray for the sermon. For a few minutes, the church member should pray for the upcoming sermon. That prayer might take place during the week, the night before the preaching, or the morning of the preaching.

Pray for the pastor who is preaching. Pray that the pastor will understand God’s message for that text. Pray that the pastor will have no distractions. Pray that God’s Spirit will fill the pastor in both the preparation and delivery of the sermon.

Pray for yourself as you prepare to hear the sermon. Pray that God will speak to you through the message. Pray that you will not be distracted. Pray for clarity of mind and an open heart to receive the message.

Read the biblical text before the sermon is preached. If possible, read the text from which the pastor will preach. Read it thoroughly. Read it prayerfully.

Take notes. Take notes as the pastor preaches. You will have a greater focus and greater retention. Review the notes at least once during the next week.

Seek an application to your life. Ask God for discernment to help you understand how the sermon should change your life. Seek to understand the sermon not only in its biblical context, but in your life as well.

Share with the pastor “one thing.” If possible, share with your pastor one significant takeaway from the sermon. Pastors hear countless “good job, pastor,” or “nice message, pastor,” but they long to know if God really made a difference in the lives of the church members through the preached word. If you are able to communicate just one takeaway from the sermon in person, by email, or in social media, your pastor will be greatly encouraged.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday Words - Monotone

The monotone of the rain is beautiful,
And the sudden rise and slow relapse
Of the long multitudinous rain.

The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.

A face I know is beautiful--
With fire and gold of sky and sea,
And the peace of long warm rain.

"92. Monotone" by Carl Sandburg from Chicago Poems.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Tome - The Bible Cause

I'm looking forward to reading this new arrival...

by John Fea
Publisher's Description...
Endorsed in its time by Francis Scott Key, John Jay, and Theodore Roosevelt, the American Bible Society (ABS) is a seminal institution for American Protestants. The group was founded in 1816 with the goal of distributing free copies of the Bible in local languages throughout the world. Today, the ABS is a Christian ministry based in Philadelphia with a $300 million endowment and a mission to engage 100 million Americans with the Bible by 2025. In The Bible Cause, noted historian of American religion John Fea demonstrates how the ABS's primary mission - to place the Bible in the hands of as many people as possible - has caused the history of the organization to intersect at nearly every point with the history of the United States. 

For the last two hundred years, the ABS has steadily increased its influence both at home and abroad, working with all Christian denominations in the US and internationally, aligning itself whenever possible with the gatekeepers of American religious culture. Over the years ABS Bibles could be found in hotel rooms, bookstores, and airports; on steam boats, college and university campuses; the Internet; and even behind the Iron Curtain. Its agents, Bibles in hand, could be found on the front lines of every American military conflict from the Mexican-American War to the Iraq War. However and wherever the United States developed, the ABS was there.
From Publishers Weekly...
This comprehensive history, written to commemorate the American Bible Society (ABS) bicentennial, explores the ABS's roots, guiding philosophies, evolving mission, and influence domestically and internationally. Founded in 1816 by prominent philanthropic nationalists to widely distribute the Bible "‘without note or comment,'" the ABS believed it "imperative that the United States be unified... around Protestantism and the social virtues that logically flowed from its teachings." American history professor Fea (Why Study History?) examines campaigns of different eras: the "General Supply," an early endeavor to give every family a Bible; the pre-Civil War emphasis on "defeating the Catholic threat"; efforts to bring Bibles to Native Americans, freed slaves, new immigrants, and interred Japanese-Americans; and the ABS's role in 20th-century ecumenical and evangelical movements. Fea references "sensational accounts of the struggles faced in Bible distribution" included in ABS publications, and highlights individuals such as Frances Hamilton, ABS's first female agent, who stayed in Mexico through the 1910 Revolution, and "Aunt Sue," an African American ABS volunteer who in 1943 boarded a bus full of whites to explain how the Bible would bring racial harmony. These stories put a human face on this national movement. (Apr.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Music - Bravo Bluegrass

You can hear Gretchen May and Tim May play this song with the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, May 1, at the Hastings Art Center. Should be fun!

Click Here for More Concert Info

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Faith to See the Possibilities

O God, open the eyes of our hearts. Give us the faith to recognize you and to join you in your redeeming and healing work in our world.

O God, we humbly recognize our need for forgiveness and restoration. In our weakness and selfishness, we often fail each other, fail ourselves, and fail you. Thank you for the hope and power we have through Christ.  Raise us and transform us by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

Forgive us our sins, and make us ready and able and quick to forgive others, even as you forgive us. Help us, O God, to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open our eyes to your presence and work in our lives.

Give us the faith to see the possibilities and purposes you have for us at our work, in our homes, with our families, and with our neighbors, and in our church.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Favorites - Bravo Bluegrass

Check out the Bravo Bluegrass Concert at the Hastings Art Center this Sunday. I arranged three of the orchestrations for the Sunday afternoon performance with the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra.