Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Smile - Summer Biking

It's time to get the Hampton Cruisers ready to go for another summer of biking goodness, and that makes me smile. Cheri and I love our old fashioned bikes and hope to give them a lot more use this summer than they got in 2011.

We want to check out some new bike trails in the Twin Cities, and maybe we'll even get to go to Lanesboro for a few days. That's always a really fun place to go camping and biking.

Do you have some favorite bike trails you'd like to recommend to us? Please let me know in the comments.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Family - House of Mercy

Most Altered Faces readers know that my son, Page, plays music with his brother, Jack Torrey, and their band the Cactus Blossoms. What many of you may not know is that Page is also the music leader at House of Mercy church in St. Paul. It's a win-win situation as House of Mercy has always favored and featured old American roots music as its preferred genre.

In addition to their congregation singing splendid old gospel songs, HOM worship services typically include a performance from a local artist or two. Click Here to explore some of the music for yourself.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Politics and Religion

"We're seeing Americans becoming more skeptical" about the propriety of religious involvement in politics."

From Reuters -
March 21, 2012:

Americans are increasingly uneasy with the mingling of religion and politics, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, in the midst of a campaign season punctuated by tussles over the role of faith in the public square.

Back in 2001, when Pew first asked the question, just 12 percent of Americans complained that their politicians talked too much about religion.

That number has risen steadily ever since and hit a record high in the new poll: 38 percent of Americans, including 24 percent of Republicans, now say their political leaders are overdoing it with their expressions of faith and prayer.

And more Americans than ever, 54 percent, believe churches should keep out of politics. That's up from 43 percent in 1996, according to the Pew Research Center.

Click Here to Read More

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Words - The Donkey

The Donkey
by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Holy Week begins next Sunday, April 1. If you live in the Twin Cities, I invite you to join us for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services at Valley Christian Church.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Tomes - Poems and Preparation

I am enjoying a collection of poems, First Words (2010), by Joyce Sutphen. She is currently the Minnesota Poet Laureate and I have posted about her before in a previous edition of Wednesday Words. With poem titles such as "Zuchinni Bread," "Polka Revival," and "Breakfast," the collection comes across as a very personal, midwestern, down-to-earth memoir in verse. I just love it.

From Red Dragonfly Press:
Joyce Sutphen grew up on a working dairy farm, and her poems recover this lost world, with all its beauty and order. This collection traces a shift in the rural landscape from horses to tractors, from haystacks to hay bales---and watches as time ages and changes the people who make up the story. First Words is both elegy and celebration--ultimately its center is family, then and now.
I'm also reading a couple of books in preparation for an upcoming teaching series I'll be starting on April 29. The series title is You Were Made for This and will explore the topic of spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities, and what it means to find our places of ministry in the life and mission of the church.

The two new books I'm reading on this topic are: What You Do Best in the Body of Christ by Bruce Bugbee, and What Are Spiritual Gifts?: Rethinking the Conventional View by Kenneth Berding.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Music - Chamber Music with Søren

My wife and I have tickets to a couple different St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert series, but we've had quite a time getting to all the concerts this year. We've had to reschedule and exchange tickets on a couple of occasions due to personal calendar conflicts, and there have been a few times when Cheri has not been able to attend. Yesterday was one those.

However, a happy new development in our family is that my grandson, Søren, is now old enough to go to concerts with me when his Néné can't. So yesterday, after I got home from church, Søren and I went over to Bethel University to take in an afternoon performance. We stayed for two of the pieces. The first was String Octet by Romanian composer, George Enescu, and the second was Mozart's Adagio in E for Violin and Orchestra.

I'm a big fan of the SPCO. We're so blessed to have such a wonderful orchestra in the Twin Cities. I'm also enjoying my new opportunities to introduce my grandson, Søren, to classical music and the experience of live orchestra concerts.

If you'd like to get a feeling for our first 40 minutes of yesterday's concert, here is a video of Enescu's String Octet. It's not the SPCO, but it's the same piece performed at the Esbjerg International Chamber Music Festival 2011 in Denmark. Thank you, SPCO, for making this kind of music available in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Supplication - All Day Every Day

Almighty God, we come to you today asking you to help us to submit our wills and our desires to Yours. Help us to live stable lives with your direction and wisdom.

Help us to love your commands and to delight in your promises as we face the challenges and changes all around us. Give us your joy and peace in every circumstance.

Forgive us our sins, O God. Lead us away from temptation. You are so faithful to forgive and restore those who have sinned against you. Help us to be faithful to forgive and restore those who sin against us.

O God, give us the eyes to see your goodness, and the minds to remember your faithfulness to your people throughout history. Give us hearts that are ready to worship you all day every day, and voices that are quick to sing your praise.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Smile - Tree Lobsters?

It looks like something from a J. R. R. Tolkein story, but this is a real place. It's called Ball's Pyramid and it sits off the coast of Australia in the South Pacific.

Why is this man smiling? And what does it have to do with ginormous bugs and Ball's Pyramid?

Robert Krulwich, of Radio Lab, tells the whole story on his Krulwich Wonders blog.

Check it out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Family - Rob and the President

President Obama visited the Copper Mountain Solar One Facility in Nevada yesterday. The visit was similar to a visit he made a year ago to the Electratherm facility in Reno, Nevada where my brother-in-law, Rob Emrich, is the vice president of sales. A local news channel in Reno asked Rob to watch and comment on how the speech President Obama made a year ago in Reno compared with the speech he gave yesterday at Copper Mountain.

Electratherm is a company that is developing technology for capturing and recycling heat lost from equipment such as engines, motors, boilers, etc. Heat is energy!

Click Here, to find out more about Electratherm.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Faith and Physics

My friend, Dr. Luke Corwin, is a particle physicist who keeps a blog called Great Are the Works of the Lord. He named the blog with Psalm 111:2 in mind: "Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them."

I first met Luke when he was a freshman at the University of Minnesota. I was the campus pastor with Christian Student Fellowship and Luke was one of the most active and faithful students in our group. Now, these many years later, it is a joy for me to see him doing so well with his work and to see he is still growing in his faith.

I encourage you to read his recent post reflecting on the spiritual aspects of neutrinos. Luke's perspective is a good reminder that faith and science are not opposed to each other. Here is a brief excerpt to pique your curiosity.

The idea that even inanimate physical objects can have properties beyond those discernible by science is one I had not considered deeply in a long time. However, I think God is using these passages from Lewis' writing to reactivate this line of thinking in me. Phrases like the elegant Universe, the God particle, and the handwriting of God may be echos of the great minds that Lewis mentioned.

Many poets and artists have pondered what a star is beyond its energy and plasma, so I thought it would be a good exercise to ponder the possible spiritual aspects of the particles I study: neutrinos.
- - -
Despite their ghostly qualities, they are necessary to several physical processes that are important to life on Earth. Without neutrinos, the sun could not shine as it does. With out the sun, the existence of life would be impossible. Nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons could not function as they do. Most of the energy of exploding stars called supernovae is carried away as neutrinos. Supernovae create and disperse many elements (such as iron and iodine) that our bodies require to function. Neutrinos are found throughout the Universe in great quantities.

Click Here to Read More

Two books by C. S. Lewis mentioned by Luke in this post are:
The Abolition of Man and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Words - Footnote to All Prayers

In January through February 2012, I preached a series called All Kinds of Prayer. I learned a lot during that series and enjoyed preparing and presenting each sermon. I sure wish I had come across this poem by C. S. Lewis before or during that time. I most certainly would have worked it in somewhere. When we recognize how limited our understanding, how insufficient our notions of God, and how inadequate our words, we will find ourselves humble and thankful at the throne of Grace.

Footnote to All Prayers
by C. S. Lewis

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

NOTE: "Pheidian fantasies" is a reference to the 5th century B.C. Greek sculptor and artist, Pheidias, who was renowned for his statues of Zeus and Athena.

This poem appears in the collected POEMS by C. S. Lewis.

A collection of Lewis’s shorter poetry on a wide range of subjects-God and the pagan deities, unicorns and spaceships, nature, love, age, and reason: “Idea poems which reiterate themes known to have occupied Lewis’s ingenious and provocative mind” (Clyde S. Kilby, New York Times Book Review). Edited and with a Preface by Walter Hooper.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Eat to Live

About six weeks ago, we started a new wellness ministry at our church called Weigh & Pray. There are about a dozen or so of us (men and women) who get together for 30 minutes every Wednesday evening to chart our weight loss and exercise goals. Everyone sets their own goals and keeps their own personal chart.

We talk about our challenges and our successes from the past week, and we share the things we're learning. We don't all follow the same plan or strategy, and none of us are experts on weight loss or exercise, but all of us are interested in hearing from each other and from others in our church who have had long-term success.

Last week, our friend, Michelle, visited the group and gave us some information about a special diet that seems to be helping her family eat healthier. Ted, one of the guys in our group, talked about a book he has read and the nutritional diet principles he's been following. He's had such good success in the first couple of weeks that I thought I would check it out for myself.

The book is called Eat to Live and is by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. After hearing Ted talk about it, I bought a copy for my Kindle. It's easy and informative reading. I'm only a few chapters into the book, but have already found it to be both informative and motivational. I'm going to have my wife read it too to see what she thinks. One thing is sure, I'm at a point in my life where I really do need to need to get a healthier approach to food and fitness. Maybe Eat to Live will help me with the food part of that equation.

If you've read the book or have reactions or opinions, please post a comment. Thanks.
Publisher's Weekly:
In this new edition, which incorporates the latest scientific nutritional data, Fuhrman's restrictive diet plan is designed for clinically overweight people who suffer from a spectrum of lifestyle/obesity-induced conditions like diabetes and heart disease and need to drop a significant amount of weight fast—about 20 pounds in the first six weeks.

The basis of Fuhrman's program is Nutrient Density, expressed by the simple formula health equals nutrients divided by calories. Fuhrman's "secret" to optimum health and permanent weight control is giving the body only what it needs. An aggressive six-week vegetarian plan segues into a regimen that includes a limited amount of animal products, like lean fish or egg whites once a week. Although proven and sound, this guidebook is not for someone who wants to lose those last 10 pounds or fit into her wedding dress; this is a serious undertaking for dieters whose umpteen previous efforts have failed and whose health is endangered.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Music - Matt Redman

This week, my son, Tyler, will be playing electric guitar backing up Matt Redman in concert at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Tyler played on Matt's 10,000 Reasons CD and is playing somewhere back in the shadows on this video (I think it's a live performance at a worship leaders conference).

Tyler is always enthusiastic and grateful whenever he talks about playing with Matt. He loves Matt's attitude and always comes away from those worship concerts feeling like it was an enriching and meaningful experience.

Psalm 89:8
8 Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Bread of Heaven

Gracious Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ, the true bread of heaven which gives life to the world. Fill us with this bread that we might take hold of the life he gives.

Forgive us our sins, O God. And as you have shown us mercy, make us able to be forgiving and merciful to others. Help us to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help us to escape temptation.

Holy Father, open the eyes of our hearts and enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us. Show us your goodness, and transform us by your great and saving power.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen

John 6:35-40
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Disruptive Wonder

I like the way creativity can confound expectations, reframe reality, and challenge our assumptions about the world. In other words, creativity can be a key to new ideas and critical thinking. Here is a fun TED Talk from Kelli Anderson that explores and illustrates these ideas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Words - Second Guessing Ourselves

Post Hoc

It happened because he looked a gift horse in the mouth.
It happened because he couldn't get that monkey off his back.
It happened because she didn't chew 22 times before swallowing.
What was she thinking, letting him walk home alone from the bus stop?
What was he thinking, standing up in the boat like that?
Once she signed those papers the die was cast.
She should have waited an hour before going in; everyone knows
salami and seawater don't mix.
He should have checked his parachute a seventh time;
you can never be too careful.
Why didn't she declare her true feelings?
Why didn't she play hard to get? She could be out at some
nice restaurant right now instead of in church, praying
for the strength to let him go.
It all started with that tattoo.
It all started with her decision to order the chicken salad.
Why was he so picky?
Why wasn't she more discriminating?
He should have read the writing on the wall; listened
to the still small voice, had a lick of sense. But how could he when he
was blinded by passion? Deaf to warnings? Really dumb?
Why, why, in God's name, did he run with scissors?
If only they'd asked Jesus for help.
If only they'd asked their friends for help.
If only they'd ignored the advice of others and held fast
to their own convictions, they might all be here, now,
with us, instead of six feet under; instead of trying to adopt
that foreign baby, instead of warming that barstool
at the Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge, wondering how it might all
have been different, if only they had done
the right thing.

"Post Hoc" by Jennifer Maier, from Dark Alphabet.
© Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.

The poetry of Jennifer Maier has appeared in Poetry, American Poet, New Letters, and elsewhere and has been featured a number of times on APM's The Writer's Almanac. The Academy of American Poets listed her debut collection, Dark Alphabet, one of "Ten Remarkable Books of 2006." She works as a professor of modern literature and creative writing at Seattle Pacific University and serves as poetry editor of the arts quarterly IMAGE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Mere Christianity / Surrender

Tonight, Tuesday, March 12 (7:00pm), I'll be leading the third and final session of the Mere Christianity Book Club at Valley Christian Church. You're invited to join us, even if you have not made it to the two previous sessions. There is really so much to discuss that we'll barely be able to justice to the section of the book we will be considering. Next week, our discussion will focus on the fourth section of the book (Book IV: Beyond Personality).

The study questions I provided at our last gathering turned out to be very helpful in our discussion. If you would like to get a copy of these questions prior to our next meeting, just CLICK HERE to go the our book club page and download the PDF file of the study guide available there (located on the bottom right side of the page).

Here is the closing passage from this special little book:
Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange?

The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity (pp. 226-227), Harper Collins.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Music - Leagues

My oldest son, Tyler, is headed to Nashville, TN today where he will be spending the next two weeks in the studio with his new band, Leagues. Last year, they recorded an EP. Now they're recording their first full-length album.

They've been having some intensive writing sessions over recent months. The picture above was taken during a week they spent writing together at a cabin in Wisconsin back in January. Tyler is really excited to be heading into the studio to flesh out their new song ideas into fully produced arrangements and recordings.

After their time in the studio, Leagues is going on tour with Jars of Clay and Matthew Perryman Jones. You'll find find confirmed upcoming shows on their facebook page. Tour dates include The Fine Line in Minneapolis on April 12.

Check out the Leagues Website.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Grace and Power

Almighty God, we know that without your grace we are powerless to help ourselves. We ask you to help us in heart, mind, and body as we seek to be your people. Save us from all those things threaten and tempt us in our bodies, and from all evil thoughts that hurt us in mind and spirit.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to die to ourselves and to live through you. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, O God, for salvation and life through Christ. Help us to surrender fully to you and to follow Jesus with whole hearts. Help us to know Jesus—to love him, to understand him, to honor him, and to draw near to him so that our lives are completely shaped and guided by him.

It’s in his saving name that we pray these things. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Smile - Coffee with Jesus

Coffee with Jesus is a quirky four panel cartoon strip that uses simple clip art images to illustrate Jesus talking about modern day issues and current events with everyday people. Each strip shows one of a small cast of characters having a casual conversation with Jesus over coffee.

It's amazing how much the folks at Radio Free Babylon (whoever they are) are able to accomplish with such a limited palette. The simple repetition of images pushes all the attention to the dialog which is consistently clever and sardonic. Like most humor, it's not for everyone. But as far as I'm concerned, it's simply brilliant.

Click on the images below to enlarge them.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Family - Taylor Burkum (Bark'm)

My oldest nephew, Taylor Burkum, has started a really creative and fun new business. If you know someone who would love to have an amazing water color or pencil portrait of a special dog, get in touch with Taylor.

Visit his website to see the beautful work he does.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Word-Woven Prayers

I recently came across an excellent article about prayer by Joni Eareckson Tada posted on the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website. It's called Speaking God's Language: How Scripture Can Add Power to Your Prayers.

Here is a section of that article I especially appreciated:

Word-Woven Prayers
Often I attend prayer meetings where various requests for healing, finances, safety in travel, or job promotions are divvied out. Naturally, we desire prayer for such things. But a closer look at God's Word would reveal deeper and more divinely inspired ways to pray for friends and family.

Is there a cancer? Yes, prayer for healing is in order, but so is prayer for the robust blessings of Ps. 119:140: "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them." How rich to pray, "Lord, this cancer is testing Your promises in the life of my friend who is ill, but You are faithful to every promise You've made to her. May Your servant love Your promises through this time of testing."

Is there a need for finances? Yes, prayer for needed money is in order, but so is prayer for the rewards of Prov. 15:17: "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." How invigorating to pray, "Lord, financial blessing isn't the focus; Your Word says that love should be. May we learn to live on little if it means leaning harder on You, as well as each other."

When I pray for disabled children I know, I intercede with Mt. 19:14 in mind: "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' " In verse 15 we're given a picture of Jesus tenderly placing His hand on each child. "Lord Jesus," I'll say, "Your heart went out to children when You walked on earth. I can picture You tousling their hair, bouncing them on Your knee, and laying Your hands on their heads to bestow a blessing. If Your heart went out this way to the boys and girls who could walk up to You, how much more must Your heart overflow toward little Jeanette with spina bifida or Benjamin who has cerebral palsy? Today, may they feel Your hand of blessing on their heads."

Often it's good to quote an entire passage, substituting a person's name for the pronoun in the passage. Colossians 1:9-12 is a good example of scripture to pray this way: "I ask God to fill Susan with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I pray this in order that Susan may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work she does, being strengthened with all power, so that she may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father."

Remember, God's Word is alive, active, and powerful. Prayers laced with the Word of God not only bring about fundamental changes in people and situations, but such prayers keep us in touch with God's priorities. Weaving God's Word into our prayers brings His purposes to the forefront of every request.

Read the Entire Article

Joni Eareckson Tada is president of JAF Ministries, an organization that accelerates Christian ministry into the disabled community around the world. She is also author of several books, including When God Weeps (Zondervan) and More Precious Than Silver (Zondervan).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wednesday Words - Revival

Luci Shaw was the first serious poet I ever connected with. I don't remember where or how, but during my college years I came across a book of her poems, The Secret Trees. I loved it.

As a young singer-songwriter in those days, I had focused most of my literary attention to the lyrics of songs. Luci Shaw was the first poet to make me love poetry--to hear music in the words themselves.

I guess it's not surprising that I would turn some of her poems into lyrics, and so I did. During my graduate school years, as a musical composition student, I used several of her short Christmas poems as the text for choral pieces. And as recently as I few years ago, I put one of her poems about the aurora borealis to music. I hope to record that song sometime soon, provided I'm able to get permission.

Today, some thirty-five years after discovering Luci Shaw's poetry, I notice that the poets I have subsequently come to love usually have something in common with her spirit and style. As I write this post, I realize just how much of a gentle yet important influence she has had on me, and I consider that to be a very good thing. Thank you, Luci.

Here is a perfect Luci Shaw poem for today:

March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn't softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night,

but as the light lengthens, preacher
of good news, evangelizing leaves and branches,
his large gestures beckon green
out of gray. Pinpricks of coral bursting
from the cotoneasters. A single bee
finding the white heather. Eager lemon-yellow
aconites glowing, low to the ground like
little uplifted faces. A crocus shooting up
a purple hand here, there, as I stand
on my doorstep, my own face drinking in heat
and light like a bud welcoming resurrection,
and my hand up, too, ready to sign on
for conversion.

"Revival" by Luci Shaw, from What the Light Was Like.
© Word Farm, 2010.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Mere Christianity / Christ-Life

Next Tuesday, March 12 (7:00pm), I'll be leading the third and final session of the Mere Christianity Book Club at Valley Christian Church. You're invited to join us, even if you have not made it to the two previous sessions. There is really so much to discuss that we'll barely be able to justice to the section of the book we will be considering. Next week, our discussion will focus on the fourth section of the book (Book IV: Beyond Personality).

The study questions I provided at our last gathering turned out to be very helpful in our discussion. If you would like to get a copy of these questions prior to our next meeting, just CLICK HERE to go the our book club page and download the PDF file of the study guide available there (located on the bottom right side of the page).

Here is an interesting passage from the section of the book we will be discussing next week:
If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third Person and work backwards. God is love, and that love works through men—especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and the Son.

And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?

But how is he to be united to God? How is it possible for us to be taken into the three-Personal life?...

...We are not begotten by God, we are only made by Him: in our natural state we are not sons of God, only (so to speak) statues. We have not got Zoe or spiritual life: only Bios or biological life which is presently going to run down and die. Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). Mere Christianity (p. 177). Harper Collins, Inc.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Monday Music - Cactus Blossoms at the Dakota

This ought to be a fun night of music downtown at the Dakota.
With only an $8 cover to boot!

March 8, 2012 7:00 pm
Cactus Blossoms with
Foghorn Stringband

7:00pm $8 Cover
Classic Country & Old-Time Music
Call 612.332.1010 for Reservations
DAKOTA • 1010 Nicollet Avenue • Minneapolis

“It’s easy enough to phone in a cornball imitation of old country … It’s another thing entirely to live and breathe the craft of writing and singing a good country and western song as The Cactus Blossoms have done” -City Pages, Best Minnesota Albums of 2011

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum write songs like Hank Williams, weave sweet harmonies like the Everly Brothers, and their earnest performances revive the sound of country and western’s early days.

In the summer of 2010 Jack and Page won first place in a duet contest at the MN State Fair, which led to a guest performance on A Prairie Home Companion. In the boys’ introduction, Garrison Keillor proclaimed “This is just the beginning of big things for you.” Just a month later they found themselves opening a sold out show for Marty Stuart. Maybe Keillor was right!

The Blossoms’ debut record came out in October 2011, and features fiddler Mike “Razz” Russell (Mark Olson, Creekdippers, Joe Henry), steel guitarist Randy Broughten (Gear Daddies, Trailer Trash) and bassist Liz Draper (formerly of DitchLilies).

“Portland’s Foghorn String Band stands at the top of today’s vibrant old-time music revival and a fine example of what an unending revival it is. Each album finds them deeper into the tradition, more familiar with the rich resources of roots music, and more focused, but still propelled by that undercurrent of punk energy.” —Art Menius, WMMT

Wowing audiences across the country and across the pond playing over 200 days a year, Foghorn String Band is one of the most sought after acts for festival stages and music camps, and are band mates for world renowned master old-time musician Dirk Powell and Cajun legends Joel Savoy and Jesse Lege.

Their material is drawn from the tunes and songs of the American South, from the hollers of Appalachia to the early days of country music. Together, they blend voices, repertoire and instruments to create a diverse performance true to the roots of American music, throwing some Cajun songs and Caleb Klauder’s vintage sounding originals in the mix. Performing live, these multi-instrumentalists gather around a single microphone in the middle of the stage.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Steadfast Faith

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy.

Please be gracious to us when we go astray from your ways. Bring us back to you. Give us humble hearts and steadfast faith. Teach us to hold fast to the unchangeable truth of your Word. Help us to follow Jesus Christ your Son.

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

O Lord, renew us and save us from the things that afflict us. Give us the strength to persevere, and give us hope as we cling to your promises. Forgive us our sins and deliver us from evil. Make us vessels of your grace in a weary world. And as we are surrounded by so much suffering and hate, we ask you to make us a testimony of your saving and transforming love.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Saturday Smile - Demetri Martin

Comedian, Demetri Martin, makes me smile with his nerdy humor, cartoons, and graphs. It also makes me smile to know his father was a Greek Orthodox Priest. Yep. That's not something too many people in his line of "work" can say.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Friends - Muffaletta

Tonight, Cheri and I will be going out for dinner with friends. We're going to Muffaletta on Como Avenue in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood near Luther Seminary and just across the street from a beautiful old library. My old CSF office was also close by over on the UMN St. Paul Campus.

We first discovered this wonderful little place back in the mid-90s a few years after we moved to the Twin Cities. We loved the neighborhood, the quaint old buildings of Milton Square, and the wood-paneled dining rooms of the restaurant. It has a warm and inviting atmosphere perfect for good conversation and fine dining.

We've had a lot of sweet times at Muffaletta that include Valentines Days, anniversaries, wedding dinners, Sunday brunches, and special meals with visiting out-of-town friends and family. We even met our daugher-in-law, Sara, there for the first time. She was our server there on one or two occasions. Little did we know that several years later, she would meet our son, Page, and eventually marry him. Kinda crazy!

It's been a little too long since we've been to Muffaletta, so we're excited about going there tonight. From what we've heard and read, it's better now than ever before. We're looking forward to finding out for ourselves.

Here are a few paragraphs from a 2005 review in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The relaxing and unpretentious neighborhood restaurant, named after a sandwich invented in New Orleans, has been one of St. Paul's favorite dining spots for 27 years. Sure, it has gone through an ugly-duckling phase, but now it's better than I remember and shows no signs of slowing down.

The longevity can be attributed to the owners, the same group of guys responsible for longtimers Manny's Steakhouse, Figlio and the Good Earth. They have the uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of their customers. In Muffuletta's case, earlier this year, they spiffed up the room with a coat of paint and some new art and moved a chef over from one of their other restaurants to tweak the menu.

JD Fratzke, former sous chef at the mega-popular Asian-influenced Chino Latino in Minneapolis, added such dishes as Moroccan tagine and mahi mahi with curry sauce to the roster of American-bistro favorites.

Kathie Jenkins, St. Paul Pioneer Press
January 13, 2005

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Future Housing?

IKEA, known for their ready-to-use home design solutions and functional furniture for urban living space, is now going further and is introducing AKTIV, the first project in a new line of dwellings. To do this, they have teamed up with the Oregon-based company, IdeaBox. Read more about it.

I've checked out Ideabox and also a number of other micro-prefab house builders. I love the idea of building something small and beautiful in a quiet spot somewhere for my retirement years. I've even been considering the possibility of building a house out of old shipping containers (check these out). I don't know if I'll ever do it, but the idea is very very appealing to me.

Check out these wonderful IDEABOX designs.