Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Music - Words of Life

John 6:68-69
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Words of Life
What else can I do?
Why would I follow the blind?
Who else would I listen to?
How else could I find the way and the truth?
Where else can I turn?
What other place would I go?
How else will I ever learn?
Who else do I know with the words of life?

Sometimes your words are not easy
To understand or to hear;
Sometimes even harder when they're crystal clear.
And some turn away from your message,
Closing their hearts and their minds;
But I don't want to leave you, Lord,
I want to stay close by your side.

So what else can I do?
Why would I follow the blind?
Who else would I listen to?
How else could I find the way and the truth?
Where else can I turn?
What other place would I go?
How else will I ever learn?
Who else do I know with the words of life?

So many voices are calling;
So many hands point the way;
But only one hand can raise me on the final day.
I'm looking to you and believing
All you have said is true.
I know you were sent from the Father;
I know he has drawn me to you.

So what else can I do?
Why would I follow the blind?
Who else would I listen to?
How else could I find the way and the truth?
Where else can I turn?
What other place would I go?
How else will I ever learn?
Who else do I know with the words of life?
With the words of life?

Where can I go for the words of life?
Who do I know with the words of life?
Whose words alone are Spirit and life?
Where can I go for the words of life?
For the words of life?

©Words and Music by Dave Burkum.
Copyright 1992 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Supplication - When We Feel Like Running

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear us than we are to pray. Your readiness to provide for our needs is greater than our readiness to live for your glory. You remove our fears, you graciously bless us, and you draw us into fellowship with you through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Thank you for your promise to forgive and purify us. Thank you for being the one who saves. Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

When we are afraid, O God, help us to be still and put our trust in you. When we feel like running in the face of challenges and obstacles, give us the courage to stand firm. Be our help, our shelter, and our deliverer.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Family - LEAGUES

Paste Magazine has a nice new video featuring the band, Leagues. My son, Tyler, is a member of the band, and my nephew, Phil, is a frequent bass sideman for the band. Find out more about Leagues and their upcoming fall tour at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Community, Doubt, & Belief

In just two minutes, Dallas Willard considers why it is so important for fellowship to be open, how doubts can be good, and how the division of labor in community serves to increase knowledge. All good things to think about.

Want to give it some more thought?
Check out The Knowledge of God by Dallas Willard.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Words - Autumn

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

"Autumn" by T. E. Hulme.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Tome - What Good Has Christianity Ever Done?

My current teaching series at Valley Christian Church is called World Changer: The Difference Jesus Makes. My intention for the series is threefold: to expose some of the positive ways the world has be changed by followers of Jesus, to consider how following Jesus can change people today, and to challenge those who follow Jesus to join him in making a positive difference in our world today.

What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us?, by Jonathan Hill, is one of the resource books I'm drawing upon for this series. The book is not currently in print, but used copies can be found without much trouble.

Other books you might find interesting on this subject are: Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (Pelikan), The Rise of Christianity (Stark), The Victory of Reason (Stark), How Christianity Changed the World (Schmidt), and Who Is this Man? (Ortberg).

More about What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us?
From Amazon
What has Christianity ever done for us? What value is there in seeking to preserve its influence today? In this book, Jonathan Hill answers these questions with some questions of his own. For instance, why do we seal wine bottles with cork? Where did musical notation come from? How did universities get their start? And why was the world's first fully literate society not in Europe, Asia or North America?

As Hill tells the story of the centuries-long entanglement between Christianity and Western culture, he shows the profound influence that Christianity has had--from what we drink to how we speak, from how we write to how we mark the seasons. Employing a rich, narrative style packed with events and people and illustrated throughout in full color, he describes the place of Christianity both in history and in the present day.

What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us? is an enlightening and often humorous tour of culture and thought, the arts, the landscape, education, society, spirituality and ethics, and social justice. Here is a rich, entertaining and informative read.

From the Publisher
Describes the influence of Christianity on Western culture Shows the value of preserving the influence of Christianity today A rich narrative packed with people and events Illustrated throughout in full color Covers the arts, education, landscape, spirituality, ethics, social justice and more

From the Author
IVP: Why did you decide to write What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us?

Jonathan Hill: We hear a great deal today about the harm that organized religion has done over the centuries. Incidents such as the witch trials, the condemnation of Galileo or the Crusades are mentioned as if that were enough to damn all Christians by association. . .So I thought it would be worthwhile redressing the balance a little by looking at . . . [how] the Christians got things right--and in many cases we're still benefiting today.

IVP: What do you think is the general perception of Christianity today?

Hill: I think that varies very much depending on where you are and who you ask. I do think that one problem with popular conceptions of Christianity is that they often don't take into account its history. . .So another aim of this book has been to look at some little-known aspects of Christian history, and tell some interesting stories that many readers might not have heard before.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Music - Over and Over

Over and over again
The angels rise and then descend
Over and over again
They praise your name and never end

And over and over again
A brand new voice is joining them
For over and over again
Your sacrifice restores your children

How can it be that someone like me
Is singing along with them?
All I can do is look up to you
And be overwhelmed again

How can it be that someone like me
Is even allowed to be singing
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was who is and who will
Always be in love with me

Fireside: Worship & Scripture Songs, Words and Music by Dan Scott. © Copyright 2006, Small Circus Music.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Supplication - All Good Things

O Lord God, we recognize your power and might. We believe you are the author and giver of all good
things.  By your grace and mercy, place in our hearts a deep and true love for you. Help us to follow Jesus. Nourish us with all goodness. And help us to bear the fruit of good works as your Spirit does your transforming work in us.

We confess our sin and ask you to forgive us.  And beyond forgiveness, we ask that you would change us and strengthen us that we might overcome temptation and escape the sins that entangle and diminish us. We also ask for the grace and generosity to forgive others, even as you have forgiven us.

We thank you, O Lord, for saving and reaching out to us. Thank you for being a God of deliverance. Help us to embrace the calling we have in Christ and to find our purpose and fulfillment in him.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Family - Burkum Travelers

The Burkums are on the move this weekend. Grandpa Lowell and Grandma Dixie are visiting us for the weekend. Unfortunately, all three of my sons are on the road with music tours. Way back in the day, it used to be Grandpa Lowell who was touring and singing with the Watchmen Quartet. I guess there's something in that Burkum DNA leads to lots of music and miles.

But don't worry, we'll make sure Lowell and Dixie have plenty of good family time. They should have a chance to see nieces, nephews, grandkids, and great grandsons. Grandma Dixie might even get a chance to visit her sister, Betty, over in St. Louis Park. We'll see how much we can fit into a few days.

Missing the fun this weekend are my son, Tyler, and nephew, Phil, who are playing shows in Chicago with LEAGUES.

Also, sons Page and Jack are on tour to Bristol, Tennessee with The Cactus Blossoms.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Visiting Those Who Are Sick

Expressing care and offering support for sick friends and family members is something most of us want to do, but often find difficult. What should we say and not say? How long should we stay and how often should we visit? What are practical can we can come alongside our loved ones and offer our support?

I found a little piece online I think you would find helpful. It's called, Professional Patient Tip: 10 Tips for Visiting Someone Who is Sick.

Visits and support are important for our friends and family members dealing with serious illnesses and prolonged recoveries. Most of us know someone dealing with a chronic or terminal illness, and it can be especially difficult to know what to do or say in these situations. Maybe you have questions or anxieties about visiting someone who is sick, or maybe you'd just like some suggestions for doing more or doing better. In any case, I think you'll find some good advice in this short article.

If you have some additional resources or ideas of your own you, please share them by posting a comment. Thanks.
From 10 Tips for Visiting Someone Who is Sick:
Visiting someone who is sick isn’t always easy, but it can be an enjoyable time and it should primarily be a comfort for the patient. Many family members and friends find it difficult to visit someone who is sick. If the person is in the hospital, it may be more difficult for some to visit because of past negative experiences they have had at a hospital. Many visitors are anxious or find it stressful to be around a patient because they are dealing with their own fears of sickness. It is natural to hesitate in seeing someone you love or care about, who is in pain or seriously ill. Unfortunately, many people end up not visiting, because they do not know what to do or say to help.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday Words - To the Light of September

To the Light of September

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

"To the Light of September" by W. S. Merwin. 
© 2013 Poetry Foundation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The Case for the Psalms

My preaching series for Lent and Easter 2014 will be titled: Search Me, O God: Praying Reflectively with the Psalms. Each week, I'll be exploring ways the Psalms help us work through the issues and attitudes of our hearts. I'll show how the Psalms can be a faithful companion to us as we work through fears, guilt, hope, anger, doubt, relationships, questions, purpose, and more. As part of my preparation for that series, I'm reading N. T. Wright's new book, The Case for the Psalms.

I had the privilege of hearing Wright teach on the Psalms a bit at conference in Milwaukee last year. The conference was primarily about the New Testament book of Romans, but Wright made frequent reference to the Psalms. I'm guessing he was wrapping up the final touches on this new book around that time, and so the Psalms must have been very fresh in his mind.

There is also good video posted on YouTube of Wright lecturing about the Psalms and prayer. You can find it here. It's well worth watching.

The publisher's book description:
From the earliest times, the Psalms were the daily lifeblood of Christians. Yet in much of Christian practice today, these ancient worship songs and poems have become largely ignored.

One of the world's most trusted Bible scholars, N. T. Wright turns his attention to the central collection of prayers that Jesus and Paul knew best: the book of Psalms. Wright points out that the Psalms have served as the central prayer and hymnbook for the church since its beginning—until now. In The Case for the Psalms, Wright calls us to return to the Psalms as a steady, vital component of healthy Christian living.

Reading, studying, and praying the Psalms is God's means for teaching us what it means to be human: how to express our emotions and yearnings, how to reconcile our anger and our compassion, how to see our story in light of God's sweeping narrative of salvation. Wright provides the tools for understanding and incorporating these crucial verses into our own lives.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Music - No Easy Out

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:36

Too many times around the block, and you know it-
You sang the song, you danced the dance.
Found out that "freeway" was a
quick trip to the bottom;
You heard an offer for a second chance.
You heard that Jesus could make things new;
It sounded perfect- too good to be true;
Thought that would be the way to go.
You made the right decision
but you really need to know that it's

No pat answer, no quick fix;
No magic potion, no bag of tricks.
It's a lot of perseverance – stayin' on the right track.
It's pushin' forward – never, never lookin' back.
No bed of roses, no pleasure cruise;
No Sunday picnic, no guarantee you'll never lose.
It takes commitment 'cause it's an uphill climb.
It takes the Spirit helpin' you one step at a time.

You took Him at His word- took hold of salvation.
He gave His Spirit as a strength and guide.
Still you're frustrated with you own situation;
Sometimes in don't seem like the "old man" died.
You still got problems, you still got doubt;
Faith in Jesus ain't no easy out.
But you're makin' progress- it's slow but sure.
Remember vict'ry comes to the
ones who will endure 'cause there's

No pat answer, no quick fix;
No magic potion, no bag of tricks.
It's a lot of perseverance – stayin' on the right track.
It's pushin' forward – never, never lookin' back.
No bed of roses, no pleasure cruise;
No Sunday picnic, no guarantee you'll never lose.
It takes commitment 'cause it's an uphill climb.
It takes the Spirit helpin' you one step at a time.

Through the struggle the Lord will help you carry on!
In your weakness he'll hold you and make you strong.

Oh, but it's no pat answer, no quick fix;
No magic potion, no bag of tricks.
It's a lot of perseverance – stayin' on the right track.
It's pushin' forward – never, never lookin' back.
No bed of roses, no pleasure cruise;
No Sunday picnic, no guarantee you'll never lose.
It takes commitment 'cause it's an uphill climb.
It takes the Spirit helpin' you one step at a time.

"One Step at a Time" Words and Music by Dave Burkum.
© Copyright 1992 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Life, Meaning, and Purpose

O Lord, help us to not to be stressed out over earthly troubles, but instead trust that you will see us through.

Even now, as we live among things that are passing away, help us to hold on to the things that last forever.

We confess our sins and we thank you for your faithfulness to forgive us and purify us. And as your grateful children, teach us and help us to be faithful to forgive others.

May the grace of Jesus help us restore relationships, heal wounds, calm fears, forgive offenses, and resolve conflicts.

Help us, O God, to find our life and meaning and purpose in Jesus. We desire to surrender to him more and more. Give us the wisdom and the will to submit ourselves to you as we follow Him.

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Friends - Sheridan School Benefit

Some of my friends are part of the Mill City Church which meets at the Sheridan school in NE Minneapolis. When some realized that kids were hoarding food to take home for the weekend, The Sheridan Story Backpack Program was created to fill bags with food to send home. They didn't want the kids in their neighborhood should to be hungry. The program is growing to other schools and amazing things are happening. 

Now you and I have a chance to hear more about the story and join them in their efforts. Tickets go on sale this morning for a benefit concert with Dan Wilson. Find out more and buy tickets at Enjoy a night of great music and be part of fighting hunger!

Dan Wilson - a Benefit Concert to Fight Child Hunger
November 9, 2013 - 7:00pm
Sheridan School Auditorium
Northeast Minneapolis
Event in support of The Sheridan Story.

More info and tickets available at:

Dan Wilson is a Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. He is both a solo artist and the lead singer of the band Semisonic, for which he wrote the hits "Closing Time" and "Secret Smile". He was also a member of the psychedelic folk-jam band Trip Shakespeare through the early 90s. Dan has released two solo albums, "Free Life" (produced with Rick Rubin) and "Live at The Pantages".

Wilson is well known as a songwriting collaborator and producer, having worked a diverse group of artists including Adele, the Dixie Chicks, Nas, Pink, Dierks Bentley, Josh Groban, John Legend, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Weezer, Taylor Swift, James Blunt, Lily Allen and many others. Wilson contributed three songs to the Adele album, 21, including the hit "Someone Like You," which he also produced. Dan took home a Grammy for Album of the Year for his contributions to 21. Wilson co-wrote six songs on the Dixie Chicks’ award-winning album Taking the Long Way, including "Not Ready to Make Nice," which earned Wilson a Grammy for Song of the Year.

Dan has just completed the recording of a new album which will be released in the Spring of 2014.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Income Inequality

Do you think that growing income inquality accompanied by persistent high unemployment is a problem for our country? If so, what can be done to change it? The statistics indicate that this is, in fact, the reality of our current economic situation.

Paul Wiseman wrote an interesting piece on this subject posted on the MPR News Blog earlier this week. A few excerpts appear below. Read the complete article HERE.

Postscript 2013.09.14
Please be sure to read the first two comments left by good friends.
Feel free to add your additional comments.
 • • • • •

Richest 1 Percent Earn 
Biggest Share Since '20s
September 10, 2013 by PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer

The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it's been since the Roaring '20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country's household income last year -- their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

- - -

The top 1 percent of American households had pretax income above $394,000 last year. The top 10 percent had income exceeding $114,000.

The income figures include wages, pension payments, dividends and capital gains from the sale of stocks and other assets. They do not include so-called transfer payments from government programs such as unemployment benefits and Social Security.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday Words - Followers

Since his recent death, I've been reading the poems of Seamus Heaney. Specifically, I've be reading through Seamus Heaney: Poems 1965-1975. What a treasure of meditative verse!


My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

"Follower" by Seamus Heaney. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (1981) © Copyright 1980 by Seamus Heaney.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The Theology of Dallas Willard

I'm really looking forward to the arrival of this new book. Judging from the table of contents viewable on Amazon and some of the reviews I've read, the book will be most interesting to those of us who have been greatly influenced by Dallas Willard as we've read and followed him over years. As readers of this blog are likely to know, I'm smack dab in the middle of that demographic.

Willard was a rare blend of spirited intellectual, gifted academic, humble disciple, and skillful communicator. He possessed an amazing gift for saying huge things in simple and approachable ways. As a teacher, he was always stretching up to the big ideas on the top shelves in order to bring them down and arrange them on lower shelves where simpler folks like me might be able to reach them. And many times, Willard helps me by articulating concepts I know already on some experiential level, but have found difficult to identify or put into words.

The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Protoevangelical Faith was written by Gary Black who chairs the Department for Advanced Studies and directs the Doctor of Ministry program at Azusa Pacific University School of Theology. This new book appears to be the result of his Ph.D. dissertation which was the first serious academic attempt to organize and track the influence of the noted philosopher, theologian, and spiritual formation writer/speaker.

The APU website says this about the author:
"Dr. Black's theological specialization focuses on the changing nature of American evangelical theology and the effects and opportunities that exist for the Church during the transition toward an increasingly post-Christian culture. His passions lie in helping current and future church leaders navigate the evolving realities of our world while discovering and achieving their own discipleship through the process of spiritual formation, leadership development, and transformational scholarship."
Here is the book description from the publisher:
Evangelical Christianity in the United States is currently in a dramatic state of change. Yet amidst this sometimes tumultuous religious environment a rather unique blend of both ancient and contemporary Christian theology has found its way into the hearts and minds of emerging generations of Christians. ''The Theology of Dallas Willard'' both describes and conveys the essence of this increasingly popular and perhaps mediating view of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Blending both a prophetic critique with pastoral encouragement, Willard's unique understanding of the reality present within a life lived as a disciple of Jesus in the kingdom of God is attracting both new and traditional Christians to reconsider their faith.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Monday Music - Abundant Life

Laura Veir's new album, Warp and Weft has been my soundtrack for the last week or so. The more I listen, the more I love it. For my own musical tastes and temperament, this a perfect CD. Thoughtful, yet minimalist lyrics -- gorgeous, tasteful, and enchanting arrangements of absolutely wonderful tunes -- this is a recording I could and will listen to over and over again.

Somehow, listening to the music of this album is like getting a strong dose of existential goodness injected directly into my heart. This induces deep feelings of hopeful mystery and sweet melancholy that make me feel strangely better than usual. I've enjoyed it while taking walks and while sitting by the campfire on my patio in the evening. I hope to enjoy it again while laying in a hammock in the late summer breeze, staring into the sky through the branches hovering above me, savoring the final lyrics as they fade away with the phrase, "Abundant life, that's this life."

CLICK HERE for a nice review from Slant Magazine.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Ways that Restore Lives

O God, we need your help to be the people you want us to be. We ask your Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives to transform us and guide us in all ways. Help us to trust you with all our hearts.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to leave the darkness and love the light. 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.

Help us, O Lord, to be a good stewards of all you have given us. Grant us the wisdom and the will to guard our hearts, feed our spirits, stimulate our minds, and care for our bodies. And help us, by faith, to do the good things you've prepared in advance for us to do.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Saturday Smile - Who's Next

It's a crazy world out there, friends. So this morning, for a little geopolitical historical perspective, let's watch this Tom Lehrer video from way back in 1965. This song appeared on his amazing record, That Was the Year That Was. Boy, does this take me back!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Friends - Brunch and Bluegrass

Cheri and I are having brunch this morning with our old friend, Stanley, at the Colossal Cafe. Cheri and I have known Stan since he was in high-school, and Cheri and Stan were in college together. Somehow we've managed to keep in touch over the years. It will be nice to catch up.

• • • • •

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Why not check out the Washington County Bluegrass Festival. It's fun and it's free! The Cactus Blossoms (my sons, Jack and Page) will be performing Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm.

Washington County Bluegrass Festival
Lake Elmo Park Reserve - South Picnic Shelter 3-7 p.m.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Kindle Matchbook

For your consideration today, I submit a no-brainer idea that Amazon is finally going to do. It's good news and think it's going to be a very big deal. I'm surprised it took them so long!

In October, Amazon will launch a new program called Kindle Matchbook through which customers will be able to buy cheap e-copies of books they’ve already bought in hardcover or paperback. YAY!

The most expensive titles will sell for $2.99; the rest will be $1.99, 99 cents or, in some cases, free. HarperCollins is reported to be the only large publisher on board at the launch of the program, but I'll bet other publishers will be joining the party soon once they see HarperCollins making gobs of money.

One question: What about the titles for which I've already purchased both the paper AND Kindle editions at full-price? Hey Amazon, could I get some Kindle Matchbook points for something else? Maybe some Amazon bucks for an ebook bargain bin?

You know, I recently decided to sell my Kindle Fire or give it away (the Kindle app for my smart phone and computer were good enough for me). But with Kindle Matchbook, I guess I'll hold on to it. Over the last year or so, I came to the realization that there is simply no way I'm ever going to give up paper books. However, being able to have both the paper and digital versions of the same books is a game-changer for me.

Read more about the new Kindle Matchbook program HERE.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Wednesday Words - Digging

Lauded Irish bard, Seamus Heaney, who died last Friday was eulogized at his funeral in Dublin on Monday. His body was buried in his native Co Derry in the local Catholic church in Bellaghy village.

Between my finger and my thumb  
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound  
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:  
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds  
Bends low, comes up twenty years away  
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills  
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft  
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.  
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist
© Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney.

At Ireland’s national celebration of Heaney’s 70th birthday in 2009, it was announced that two-thirds of the poetry collections sold in the UK the previous year had been books by Heaney.

Christ and Pop Culture blogger, Ethan McCarthy wrote:
Such popularity for a contemporary poet, especially a traditionalist like Seamus Heaney, was and remains truly remarkable. By all accounts, he bore his fame with grace and self-deprecation, but his legacy is immense. His poetry is pitched to invite us into a world where the right things — home, nature, history, moral choice — matter, and where they’re shown up in all their complexity, mundanity, and transcendence. He is gone, but his poems will only grow more lovely with time. 
For more about the poet, click here (Poetry Foundation) and here (Wikipedia).

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Who Is this Man?

In a couple of weeks, I'll be starting a new teaching series called World Changer: The Difference Jesus Makes. As a complement to that series of sermons, I'll be leading a Valley Book Club with John Ortberg's Who Is this Man? as our reading selection. I'll post more information about the book club next week. Copies of the book will soon be available at the Valley Christian Church resource center.
Publisher's Description:
Jesus' impact on our world is highly unlikely, widely inescapable, largely unknown, and decidedly double-edged. It is unlikely in light of the severe limitations of his earthly life; it is inescapable because of the range of impact; it is unknown because history doesn't connect dots; and it is doubled-edged because his followers have wreaked so much havoc, often in his name. 

He is history's most familiar figure, yet he is the man no one knows. His impact on the world is immense and non-accidental. From the Dark Ages to Post-Modernity he is the Man who won't go away. And yet . . .you can miss him in historical lists for many reasons, maybe the most obvious being the way he lived his life. 

He did not loudly and demonstrably defend his movement in the spirit of a rising political or military leader. He did not lay out a case that history would judge his brand of belief superior in all future books. His life and teaching simply drew people to follow him. He made history by starting in a humble place, in a spirit of love and acceptance, and allowing each person space to respond. 

His vision of life continues to haunt and challenge humanity. His influence has swept over history bringing inspiration to what has happened in art, science, government, medicine, and education; he has taught humans about dignity, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Monday Music - Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be a hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. You've enclosed me behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, and too high to attain it. (Psalm 139: 23-24, 5-6)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Help Us to Persevere

Help us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts.

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

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

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

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.