Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Music - Aloe Blacc Needs a Dollar

Aloe Blacc and this video delight me in so many ways. It's a great song, this is an amazing arrangement and performance, and he's a very interesting guy.  After hearing him interviewed on BBC News, I wanted to learn more about him, his music, and his humanitarian projects. He's got a great voice and big heart. It's wonderful to see him harnessing the power of a hit song to make a real difference in the world.

His song, "I Need a Dollar" has become a vehicle for him to spread awareness and mobilize resources to fight malaria around the world. You can read more about him on the Impatient Optimist page on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website.  Click Here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Maturity and Purpose

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.

O God, help us 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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Family - My Dad and The New Way Singers

Way back in the summer of 1972, a little Christian college in Nebraska launched a summer choir program for high school kids called The New Way Singers. My dad was the music director who dreamed up that program for that small school, Nebraska Christian College, and I was one of the high school students who participated in that first group.

Years later, when the program grew to three choirs, my dad directed a choir, my brother, Joel, directed another, and I directed a third.  We all took our choirs on ten-day tours heading out in different directions across the country. Then, on the last last day of the tours, we would converge for one final concert on the NCC campus.

This year, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the New Way Singers, so Nebraska Christian College featured the program in it's 2012 Spring Newsletter. There are a number of photos in the newsletter, and a sharp-eyed detective might be able to identify the high school versions of Dave and Cheri Burkum. My dad wrote a nice little column for the newsletter, sharing some of his reflections and remembrances about New Way Singers. I've included it below.

You can download and view the entire newsletter HERE.

The summer of 1972 marked the beginning of the New Way Singers. The first group of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors consisted of eleven girls and fourteen boys from Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota. During the course of the short rehearsal week they became an outstanding performing group. But, more importantly, they developed a wonderful bond of Christian friendship which lasted and strengthened their personal witness for Christ when they returned to their homes. They had a sign made during the tour which we displayed on the bus. I think it set the tone for all the NWS groups in all the years since. The sign read, “NEW WAY SINGERS 1972 AND FOREVER.”

In those early years the number of singers increased, until with more than 120 students participating, we divided them into three groups (even four one year). They came from many states and even Puerto Rico and Sweden. One of the most memorable tours was the last year we had one large group in 1976. Our bus broke down in Viroqua, WI and I called the Antelope Hills church at Canby, MN to tell them that since it took all day to repair it, we would not be able to get there until at least 10pm or later so we would have to cancel our concert with them. But since several kids from their congregation and that area of Minnesota were in the group, the Canby church told me they still wanted us to come. So we did and were amazed to find a full parking lot and waiting congregation when we arrived. The folks had gone ahead with their fellowship supper, gone home and done their chores and returned for the concert which we began at about 11pm! Then they took the kids home and fed them afterwards. That event made the front page of the local newspaper and made an unforgettable memory for the NWS history.

Hundreds of young people have made decisions to attend NCC or other sister Bible colleges during their NWS experience. That had been my intent and dream when we started the New Way program. And many couples who later married and have been serving together in Christian ministry for years first met during their year(s) in New Way Singers.

It is gratifying to realize that after 40 years God is still using this program to bless and challenge young men and women to serve the Lord in the “NOW AND FOREVER!”

~ Lowell Burkum, former NCC professor an
founding director of the New Way Singers program

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Divided by God

Divided by God
New York Times - April 7

Ross Douthat is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. This very thought provoking op-ed column appeared in the New York Times on April 7 and was adapted and excerpted from his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

In the column, Douthat makes some astute observations that are helpful in sorting out the ways American religion has come to shape the nation's political tensions and discourse. The opposite direction of influence is also worth considering, and Douthat's insights shed light upon ways our national civic experience is influencing the general mood and perspectives of religious groups in America.

Here are a few short excerpts from the piece to spark your interest:
Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum all identify as Christians, but their theological traditions and personal experiences of faith diverge more starkly than any group of presidential contenders in recent memory. These divergences reflect America as it actually is: We’re neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular. Instead, we’re a nation of heretics in which most people still associate themselves with Christianity but revise its doctrines as they see fit, and nobody can agree on even the most basic definitions of what Christian faith should mean.
- - -
But there are costs to being a nation in which we’re all heretics to one another, and no religious orthodoxy commands wide support. Our diversity has made us more tolerant in some respects, but far more polarized in others.
- - -
Americans have never separated religion from politics, but it makes a difference how the two are intertwined. When religious commitments are more comprehensive and religious institutions more resilient, faith is more likely to call people out of private loyalties to public purposes, more likely to inspire voters to put ideals above self-interest, more likely to inspire politicians to defy partisan categories altogether. But as orthodoxies weaken, churches split and their former adherents mix and match elements of various traditions to fit their preferences, religion is more likely to become indistinguishable from personal and ideological self-interest.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Words - Frost and the Speck

A Considerable Speck (Microscopic)
A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink,
When something strange about it made me think.
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt;
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn't want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept.
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept.
I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise.
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.

by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost
© Henry Holt and Company, 1969.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Born Again / Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson Dead at 80
Obituary written by Sarah Pulliam Bailey
(Christianity Today, 4/21/2012)
The infamous convicted Nixon adviser became famous for prison reform, evangelical-Catholic dialogue, and his Christian worldview.
Charles Colson, respected evangelical leader and former President Nixon adviser, died Saturday afternoon at age 80 from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.

Over the span of several decades, Colson became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices within the movement and to the broader culture. Observers suggest Colson will likely be best remembered for his prison ministry, behind-the-scenes political involvement, work on evangelical and Catholic dialogue, and his cultural commentary.

In many ways, Colson's life encapsulated the eclectic nature of evangelicalism. His example shaped how evangelicals would promote ministry and social justice, evangelism and ecumenicism, cultural and political engagement, radio and writing, and scholarship and discipleship.  READ MORE...

Born Again (Chosen Books)
Publisher's Book Description
In 1974 Charles W. Colson pleaded guilty to Watergate-related offenses and, after a tumultuous investigation, served seven months in prison. In his search for meaning and purpose in the face of the Watergate scandal, Colson penned Born Again. This unforgettable memoir shows a man who, seeking fulfillment in success and power, found it, paradoxically, in national disgrace and prison.

In more than three decades since its initial publication, Born Again has brought hope and encouragement to millions. This remarkable story of new life continues to influence lives around the world. This expanded edition includes a brand-new introduction and a new epilogue by Colson, recounting the writing of his bestselling book and detailing some of the ways his background and ministry have brought hope and encouragement to so many.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Music - Levon Helm

MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press

Levon Helm, The Band's commanding drummer and singer, whose solid beat and Arkansas twang helped define classics from the tragic "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" to the playful "Up on Cripple Creek," died Thursday. He was 71.

Helm, who was found to have throat cancer in 1998, died peacefully Thursday afternoon (April 19), according to his website. On Tuesday, a message on the site said he was in the final stages of cancer.

Helm and his band mates -- Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel -- were musical virtuosos who returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other rockers veered into psychedelia, heavy metal and jams. The group's 1968 debut, "Music From the Big Pink," and its follow-up, "The Band," remain landmark albums of the era, and songs such as "The Weight," ''Dixie Down" and "Cripple Creek" have become rock standards.  Read More...

Here is an 2007 Levon Helm interview with Terry Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Supplication - The Faith to See

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.

O God, help us 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 20, 2012

Friday Family - Cactus Blossoms on BBC2

My sons, Jack and Page, The Cactus Blossoms, were featured on BBC2 Radio yesterday on the Bob Harris Country program. The song he played was, "Traveler's Paradise," which was written by Jack. You can hear it HERE at the 51:50 point in the program (this link is only good through April 25).

Bob Harris mentioned that the Cactus Blossoms are from Minneapolis and gave their album a five-star rating. Pretty cool to see their music making it's way across the Atlantic.

You can celebrate National Record Store Day and hear the Cactus Blossoms at Hymie's Records on Saturday, April 21, 12:30pm.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Women and Church

The church I'm a part of is blessed by the many energetic, gifted, hardworking, and spiritually deep women. Valley would certainly not be able be what it is without them. Our Christian sisters serve, teach, lead, care, pray, sing, give, sacrifice, coordinate, communicate, and so much more. I'm so grateful for all they are and all they do.

Talking about the role of women in the life of the church is an easy way to stir up controversy, especially in conservative Christian circles (whether Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelical). I'm not looking to provoke an argument today, but I would certainly like to provoke some constructive thinking on the subject.

To do that, I'm passing along two short and surprisingly thorough videos from New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington. He covers a lot of ground in a tiny amount of space. He obviously doesn't answer all the questions, but he certainly demonstrates that the questions are more complex and have more possible answers than many people have considered. Then, as a humorous and thoughtful poke in the ribs, I'm also passing along a list of 10 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained that Tim Stafford posted on his blog a couple months ago.

Just a reminder, I moderate all comments for this blog and won't be publishing anything unedifying. I do welcome thoughtful, respectful, and helpful comments and questions.

Ben Witherington - Video 1

Ben Witherington - Video 2

Tim Stafford's Blog - 10 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained (by Paul Neeley)
10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Words - Introduction to Poetry

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
...and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Read More about Billy Collins and His Poetry...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Tome - GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is one of the writers whose books I have been looking forward to reading. I have read a few of her essays and seen her interviewed several times, and my wife has read and raved about several of her books, one of which was the novel, Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

This past week I started reading Gilead and I am truly enjoying it. I've read about a third of the book so far and find the experience similar to reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Barry. This is, from my point of view, a good thing, as Jayber Crow may very well be my all-time favorite.

Gilead (at least what I've read so far) is a long letter from an old man, a pastor, who because of his declining health and approaching death has decided to write a memoir of sorts for the future adult of the now seven-year-old son whom he had late in life. Here is an example of Robinson's exceptional writing in the voice of the aged Congregationalist minister, John Ames.

There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn’t. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don’t know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it. My list of regrets may seem unusual, but who can know that they are, really. This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.

Robinson, Marilynne (2004-11-15). Gilead: A Novel (Kindle Locations 367-373). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

When I finish Gilead, I hope to read Robinson's newest book, a collection of essays entitled, When I Was a Child I Read Books. Here is a recent Big Think video interview with Robinson.

Here is a wonderful appearance Marilynne made on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart promoting another book of essays entitled, Absence of Mind.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Movie - Forks Over Knives

In recent weeks I've told you about the book, Eat to Live, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I found it to be a very helpful, enjoyable, and motivational. While reading it, I made a decision to change my whole approach to food. Already, within just three or four weeks I'm seeing some very good results.

I was talking about the book with a friend and she told me to watch the documentary, Forks Over Knives. It's available on the Netflix instant streaming list, so I was able to watch it right away. Wow, what an eye opener! It presents a radical challenge to the typical western diet, but, as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn wryly observes, it's not as radical as having your chest opened up for bypass surgery.

The movie is so full of statistics and information that it's hard to take it all in. I'll probably watch it again with my wife. Forks Over Knives made me even more convinced that the changes I've made will lead to a healthier and happier life.

I want to say a big thank-you to my Valley Christian Church friends who are part of the Weigh & Pray group that meets on Wednesday nights. It's been great to have the encouragement and to experience the team spirit as we all strive to be better stewards of our bodies. Thanks, also, to my friends Ted T., Mark H., and David H. who are all cheering me on toward realistic nutrition and exercise goals.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Saving the Nations

Almighty and everlasting God, we give you thanks for the hope and reconciliation you have given us through Christ. Help us to live in the resurrection power of your Spirit. Make our lives a witness to the faith we profess.

We confess our sins and weaknesses, Lord. We repent of the ways we have disobeyed and turned from you. Forgive us and help us to turn away from wrong. Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds.

You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious toward others.

Thank you, O God, for sending your son into the world to save the nations. We worship Christ Jesus because he is worthy, for he has redeemed, by his blood, people from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation.

It’s in his saving name we pray. Amen

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Family - The Carlsons

On Facebook, a cousin of mine recently posted this picture (c. 1930) of my grandparents, Helen and Walter Carlson. They look kind of sad, don't they? My mother was their second of four daughters.

I knew them well as a child because we lived only about five or six blocks away from them in Norfolk, NE. I spent a lot of time at their house.

Just after my college years, around the time I got married, my grandmother got angry at my parents for something and held an awful grudge against them. From that time on, Helen and Walter wouldn't have a thing to do with us. I was twenty-three years old, I never saw or spoke to either of them again.

A Room in the Past
It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.

Ted Kooser, “A Room in the Past” from One World at a Time.
Copyright © 1985 by Ted Kooser.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Caine's Arcade

I love the place where beauty, depth, and everyday simplicity intersect, and I appreciate it so much when someone points me to that place. This little film is fun, sweet, and profound all at the same time. It made me smile with a lump in my throat; it made me happy and put tears in my eyes. I want you to watch it--all 11 minutes--and I promise you it will be worth every second. It will move your heart and stir your mind toward some really good thinking.

Below is a list of some feelings and thoughts this video stirred up in me. There aren't any spoilers in the list, so you can read it before you watch. But once you have watched the video, read my list again, and then add some of your own thoughts and responses in the comments section.
1. Kids are beautiful and should be treasured.
2. Parenting is a very special opportunity and the dad in this story clearly gets this. He's making the most of his opportunity and deserves kudos.
3. The spark of creativity should be fanned into flame. Always encourage it!
4. If you have eyes to see something special, you can make it even more special by embracing it and contributing to it.
5. Taking the time to play with others is important. You can bless others just by noticing and loving the good they do.
6. A toy store will never take the place of old cardboard, tape, and cast off junk.
7. There are thousands of people in this world who are just waiting to hear a good story. This is a vast and mostly untapped resource for good.
8. Sometimes the most beautiful things are in very unexpected places (for instance, a salvage auto-part store).
9. One man's junk is another kid's gold mine.
10. I want and need to keep my eyes open for beauty.
11. I want and need to be good to children.
12. I want and need to do things that encourage and bless others.

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Words - The Calf Path

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

"The Calf-Path" by Sam Walter Foss. Public Domain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Present Perfect

I'd like to invite you to join me in an upcoming Book Club that I'll be leading. We'll be reading and discussing Greg Boyd's new book, Present Perfect. I've included the publisher's book description below.

Let me know if you plan to participate. Mark your calendar for all three session dates. Please feel free to participate even if you are not able to make it to all three sessions.

May 29 - Chapters 1 & 2
June 12 - Chapters 3, 4, 5
June 26 - Chapters 6, 7, Appendices

If you have any questions, please contact me.
You can order your copy at Amazon. It is available in both print and Kindle editions. Copies will also be available at the Valley resource center.

Book Description:
A 'Holy Habit' That Will Change Your Life!

Experience true spiritual transformation: invite God's presence into your life! Popular author, theologian, and pastor Gregory Boyd shows you how---simply, practically, and effectively---in this thoughtful and accessible book. Discover: * How to pray continually * What it means to 'take every thought captive' * How to wake up to God's ever-present love God is closer to you than the air you breathe.

He is present in every given moment. Wake up to his presence! Turn off the mental chatter that keeps you from seeing his glory. Embrace the holy habit of inviting God's presence into your life, and be transformed! Wake Up to God's Presence!

We long to be transformed. Yet our minds are filled with endless trivia and self-centered chatter. To-do lists. Worries about the past. Speculation about the future. We forget to live in the present moment ... and to invite God to be with us there.

After reading classic contemplative authors Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and Frank Laubach, theologian and pastor Gregory Boyd longed to experience the presence of God for himself. For two decades, he's attempted to implement the 'practice of the presence of God' in his own life ... sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. What he's learned as a fellow pilgrim on his spiritual journey can help you find true spiritual transformation as you begin to practice the discipline of inviting God into every moment.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Monday Music - LEAGUES @ The Fine Line

My oldest son, Tyler, is playing with a new band called LEAGUES, and they are starting a little nine city tour this week with Jars of Clay and Matthew Perryman Jones. The first show will be in Minneapolis at the Fine Line, this Thursday, April 12. That, of course, means that I'll get to be there. Yay!

Doors open at 7:00pm and the music starts at 8:00pm. Leagues will be the first to take the stage. Buy tickets here. Cost is $20 for advance tickets, and $25 the day of the show.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Resurrection Sunday

O God, you gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross for our redemption. And by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of our enemy. We pray that you would help us die to sin so that we might live eternally with him in the joy of his resurrection. By your glorious resurrection power, deliver us from the power of evil.

We confess our sins and weaknesses, Lord. We repent of the ways we have disobeyed and turned from you. Forgive us and help us to turn away from wrong. Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds.

You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious toward others.

God of Truth, we believe that Jesus, your son, is the way, the truth, and the life. Help us to know him and to follow him closely that we might walk in your truth and grace.

It’s in his name we pray. Amen.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday

Sabbath Rest
by N. T. Wright

On the seventh day God rested
in the darkness of the tomb;
Having finished on the sixth day
all his work of joy and doom.

Now the word had fallen silent,
and the water had run dry,
The bread had all been scattered,
and the light had left the sky.

The flock had lost its shepherd,
and the seed was sadly sown,
The courtiers had betrayed their king,
and nailed him to his throne.

O Sabbath rest by Calvary,
O calm of tomb below,
Where the grave-clothes and the spices
cradle him we did not know!

Rest you well, beloved Jesus,
Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
In the brooding of the Spirit,
in the darkness of the spring.

From EASTER ORATORIO, Translation and libretto by Tom Wright, Music by Paul Spicer.

Saturday Smiles - Jesus and Merle Tell It Straight

Coffee with Jesus - Click for Larger Image
More Coffee with Jesus

Here's Merle Haggard's version of an old Woody Guthrie song.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday Friends - Taking Up Our Crosses

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." He calls us his friends, and he demonstrates his great love for us by laying down his life to save us.

This afternoon I'll be baptizing two of my newest friends at Valley. I'm pretty sure it will be the first time I've baptized someone on Good Friday. Then, later tonight, I'll be worshiping with a whole crowd of friends at Valley's Good Friday Service.

Have you ever considered how well baptism and Good Friday go together? The connection is profound and it's worth thinking about. It's actually pretty surprising that more people don't get baptized on Good Friday!
Here are a couple of scriptures to get you thinking...

Romans 6:1-4
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Colossians 3:2-3
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Matthew 16:24
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

I'll be exploring this theme more during the teaching time in tonight's service at Valley. The two texts I'll be teaching from are 1 Peter 3:18-22 and Micah 7:18-19. If you live in the Twin Cities, it would be so good to have you join us.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Thursday Thinking - Everyday Resurrection

As a pastor, I have found Eugene Peterson to be a most helpful writer and thinker. He has helped me understand my role and development as a pastor, and has helped me think more shepherdly about the people I serve. I find him to be both encouraging and practical. He inspires hope and at the same time is ruthlessly realistic about life and the world.

Here is an excerpt from his book, Living the Resurrection, that appeared in Christianity Today in 2006. Do yourself a favor and read the entire article, and then maybe even buy and read the book. Christianity is ALL about resurrection and life in the here and now. God bless you as you observe Good Friday and then celebrate Resurrection Sunday! Looking for a place to worship? Join us at Valley Christian Church.

From "Life in a Country of Death" by Eugene Peterson:
The land of the living is obviously not a vacation paradise. It's more like a war zone. And that's where we Christians are stationed to affirm the primacy of life over death, to give a witness to the connectedness and preciousness of all life, to engage in the practice of resurrection.

We do this by gathering in congregations and regular worship before our life-giving God and our death-defeating Christ and our life-abounding Holy Spirit. We do it by reading, pondering, teaching, and preaching the Word of Life as it is revealed in our Scriptures. We do it by baptizing men, women, and children in the name of the Trinity, nurturing them into a resurrection life. We do it by eating the life of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. We do it by visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, working for justice, loving our enemies, raising our children, doing our everyday work to the glory of God.

When I go through a list like that, the first thing that strikes me—and I hope you—is that it's all pretty ordinary. It doesn't take a great deal of training or talent to do any of it. Not the training of a brain surgeon, let's say, or the talent of a concert pianist. Except for the preaching and sacraments part, children can do much of it as well or nearly as well as any of us. But—and here's the thing—all of it is life-witnessing and life-affirming work. And if the life drains out of it, there is nothing left: It's just Godtalk.
Read More

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday Words - Death Be Not Proud

Hosea 13:14
“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Psalm 22:22-24
22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
By John Donne (1572–1631)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

From the Poetry Foundation website:
The history of Donne's reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long and been generally condemned as inept and crude. In Donne's own day his poetry was highly prized among the small circle of his admirers, who read it as it was circulated in manuscript, and in his later years he gained wide fame as a preacher. READ MORE

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday Tome - Ministry and Gifts

On Sunday, April 29, I will be starting a new teaching series I've entitled: You Were Made for This. The series will be an exploration of calling, ministry, spiritual gifts, and the role of each and every believer in the body of Christ. One of the books I've been reading in preparation for this series is What Are Spiritual Gifts?: Rethinking the Conventional View by Kenneth Berding. It's been a very readable and helpful study.

Berding is a professor of Biblical Studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, and in this book he suggests that most Christians have a basic misunderstanding of spiritual giftedness as described in four key lists in the New Testament. Berding presents a very straightforward and thorough investigation of the original language, the textual context of each list, the Apostle Paul's idiomatic use of certain words, the key themes, and the pastoral intent of each of the four passages. The result for the reader is a richer and more accurate understanding of ministry and gifts.
Here is an excerpt from the preface:
Spiritual gifts have commonly been referred to as being the items that Paul lists in Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; and 1 Corinthians 12:28-30.1 But what are the items in those lists? This book addresses a crucial question about these items: Does the Holy Spirit give special abilities that we must discover-as many suppose when they look at Paul's lists-or does the Holy Spirit call and place us into various ministries that build up the community that he has formed? What is, after all, Paul's central concern in these passages? Is it that believers try to unearth their hidden spiritual abilities, or that they be guided by the Holy Spirit into activities and positions of ministry that build up the community of faith?
In case you're interested, here is the outline for the upcoming series:

You Were Made for This
Finding Your Place and Purpose in the Body

Sunday, April 29, 2012
Shaped: What You Do Best

Sunday, May 6, 2012
Stretched: What Must Be Done

Sunday, May 13, 2012 (Mother’s Day) – Sheri Lynch
Assigned: What Only You Can Do

Sunday, May 20, 2012
Trained: Learning to Do More

Sunday, May 27, 2012 (Pentecost Sunday) – Wototo Choir
Blessed: Giving Thanks for What Others Do

Sunday, June 3, 2012
Proven: Dependable in Doing Your Part

Sunday, June 10, 2012
Fulfilled: Loving What You Do

Monday, April 02, 2012

Monday Music - Earl Scruggs 1924-2012

Last Wednesday, Earl Scruggs, the banjo player who did much to define the sound of bluegrass, died at age 88. Scruggs, was just four years old when he started to play the banjo. He came up with his own three-finger style of picking that became the sound and style every other banjo picker began to copy.

I grew up on a musical diet of old-time southern gospel hymns and quartet music, but banjos didn't figure into that too much. My earliest encounter with the music of Earl Scruggs was the theme song of the Beverly Hillbillies back in the mid-1960s. That was, in fact, the first time I can remember ever really hearing blue grass music. Thankfully, bluegrass is bigger and more popular today than it was back then.

Earl has passed on, but the Scruggs sound will continue to live on for years and years to come. If you've never heard much of Scruggs' playing, it's time to do something about that.

Click Here to read and listen to more about Earl Scruggs.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sunday Supplication - Attentive and Faithful

O God, you are everlasting and always faithful.

We thank you for the grace and love you have proven to us by sending Son our Savior Jesus Christ into the world. He emptied himself, and he became one of us, and he suffered death upon the cross in order to free us from the penalty and the prison of sin.

Give us humble and thankful hearts. Help us to walk in his ways and to live by the power of his resurrection. 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.

Holy Father, though life is difficult and demanding, you are attentive and faithful. Though the world is entangled in the lie that everything is meaningless, you give us meaning, purpose, and hope. Thank you for the salvation, the strength, and the stability you give through Jesus.

It’s in his name we pray. Amen.