Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Words - At the New Year


In the shape of this night, in the still fall
        of snow, Father
In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds
        and children
In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys
        and the lovers, Father
In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise
        of our cities
In this deep throw of stars, in those trenches
        where the dead are, Father
In all the wide land waiting, and in the liners
        out on the black water
In all that has been said bravely, in all that is
        mean anywhere in the world, Father
In all that is good and lovely, in every house
        where sham and hatred are
In the name of those who wait, in the sound
        of angry voices, Father
Before the bells ring, before this little point in time
        has rushed us on
Before this clean moment has gone, before this night
        turns to face tomorrow, Father
There is this high singing in the air
Forever this sorrowful human face in eternity’s window
And there are other bells that we would ring, Father
Other bells that we would ring.

"At the New Year" by Kenneth Patchen, from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1939 by Kenneth Patchen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Every Good Endeavor

I've have posted the dates for my next book club group which will be reading Tim Keller's book, Every Good Endeavor. You can view the dates and get more information at the Valley Christian Church book club webpage.

Thanks to a partnership with MacLaurinCSF at the University of Minnesota, and a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, the books will be free for the first ten participants. If you would like to be a part of this reading group, please let me know and I'll get a book to you so you can start reading.

    Session 1: February 2, 6:30pm -
        Part 1, Chapters 1-4
 
    Session 2: February 16, 6:30pm -
        Part 2, Chapters 5-8

    Session 3: March 2, 6:30pm -
        Part 3, Chapters 9-12


Book Description from the publisher...
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller shows how God calls on each of us to express meaning and purpose through our work and careers.

Tim Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, has taught and counseled students, young professionals, and senior leaders on the subject of work and calling for more than twenty years. Now he pulls his insights into a thoughtful and practical book for readers everywhere.

With deep conviction and often surprising advice, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about work today. In fact, the Christian view of work—that we work to serve others, not ourselves—can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life. Keller shows how excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship—not just of self-interest.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Music - Joyful, Joyful




Joyful, joyful, we adore you,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before you --
Hail you as the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

All your works with joy surround you,
Earth and heaven reflect your rays,
Stars and angels sing around you --
Center of unbroken praise.

Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowering meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!
Joyful, joyful we adore you. Joyful!

"Joyful, Joyful" words by Hen­ry J. van Dyke (1907), music by Dave Burkum, from the Breathe a Little Deeper CD, © Copyright 2002 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Supplication -

Eternal Father, you gave your incarnate Son, Jesus, to be our salvation. Place within our hearts, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Help us to extend forgiveness to each other and help us grow into a redemptive and healing community. Help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

Help us, O God, to find our lives in you. Give us faith that makes us able to commit all things to you. Give us hearts to love your will and to serve your purposes. Shape and strengthen us to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Whether by life or death, may Christ be exalted in us. Help us to press on to take hold of all you have in mind for our lives.

We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Christmas Hallelujah!




Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

And He shall reign forever and ever,King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Words - Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Tome - The Allure of Gentleness

http://www.amazon.com/Allure-Gentleness-Defending-Faith-Manner/dp/0062114085/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418658826&sr=1-1&keywords=the+allure+of+gentleness+by+dallas+willard
I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Day when I heard about this book. Can't wait to get The Allure of Gentleness. The book is scheduled for release in February 2015 and my copy is already pre-ordered. Just reading the title makes me happy. I'm so glad for posthumous books by Dallas Willard and hope there will be more.

Publisher's Description...
The revered Christian author whose bestselling classics include The Divine Conspiracy and The Spirit of the Disciplines provides a new model for how we can present the Christian faith to others.

When Christians share their faith, they often appeal to reason, logic, and the truth of doctrine. But these tactics often are not effective. A better approach to spread Christ’s word, Dallas Willard suggests, is to use the example of our own lives. To demonstrate Jesus’s message, we must be transformed people living out a life reflective of Jesus himself, a life of love, humility, and gentleness.

This beautiful model of life—this allure of gentleness—Willard argues, is the foundation for making the most compelling argument for Christianity, one that will convince others that there is something special about Christianity and the Jesus we follow.





Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Music - Glory to that Newborn King


Traditional Christmas Carols
Pete Seeger SFW40024

Not a fan of overly produced glitzy Christmas music?  This is a lovely collection of 13 traditional Christmas carols from French, English, Italian, and African American traditions. It captures the Christmas spirit with a primitive soul. The cover photo of a young Seeger singing and playing while sitting on the floor in front of an old fireplace pretty much says it all.

Year Released 1989
Record Label Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Source Archive Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Hearts and Minds

Heavenly Father, make us aware of your presence in our lives and purify our hearts and minds. We pray that we would find our identity and our home in your Son Jesus Christ as we await the Day of his appearing. Sustain us and shape us by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Thank you for your grace and mercy. Lead us away from temptation.  Deliver us from evil.  Forgive us our sins. And give us the grace and courage to forgive others just as we you have forgiven us.

Thank you, O God, for your promise to be with your people. Give us an awareness of your presence with us today. Grant us the strength and the faith we need to face the challenges and circumstances of our lives.

When we are frightened, guard our hearts and minds with the peace of Christ Jesus. Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us, by your Holy Spirit, through your Word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. 

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Favorites - Winter Trends Sunnier

My favorite news headline of the week came from Paul Huttner at the Updraft Blog...
Sun Returns as Winter Trends Sunnier
The good news for sun deprived Minnesotans? 
Winters trend sunnier historically as we move forward.

We’re moving past the cloudiest time of the year, on average, in Minnesota. November is the cloudiest month of the year historically with just 39 percent of possible sunshine on average. December sunshine run 42 percent, with January at 53 percent.

By the time we get to February 59 percent of all daylight hours are sunny historically.

Progress. Hope. Optimism.

Here are the percentages of possible sunshine for each month of the year from the Twin Cities National Weather Service and Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

READ MORE

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Your Inner Grinch


Today, I'm sharing a short piece by Amena Brown Owen posted on Donald Miller's Storyline Blog. Christmas comes rolling around every year whether you're ready or not. So what happens when your inner Grinch seems to be stealing the joy of Christmas? What can you do? Owen has some thoughtful suggestions.

How to Deal with Your Inner Grinch
by Amena Brown Owen

The Advent season is a time of remembering the miracle of birth, how Jesus entering the world became the greatest plot twist ever written. It’s a time of turkey, family, sugar plum ferries, ornaments, Christmas trees, and Charlie Brown. But sometimes the actuality of our life looks more like charred turkey, out of tune Christmas carols, and scantily clad tinsel. Sometimes life threatens to make a Grinch out of us. Sometimes pain, grief, hurt, disappointment, and loss, snuff out any candles of joy we had lit in our hearts. What do we do when we find it difficult or nearly impossible to be thankful during the season of gratitude?

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Words - The Hands that First Held Mary's Child


The hands that first held Mary's child
were hard from working wood,
from boards they sawed and planed and filed
and splinters they withstood.
This day they gripped no tool of steel,
they drove no iron nail,
but cradled from the head to heel
our Lord, newborn and frail.

When Joseph marveled at the size
of that small breathing frame,
and gazed upon those bright new eyes
and spoke the infant's name,
the angel's words he once had dreamed
poured down from heaven's height,
and like the host of stars that beamed
blessed earth with welcome light.

"This child shall be Emmanuel,
not God upon the throne,
but God with us, Emmanuel,
as close as blood and bone."
The tiny form in Joseph's palms
confirmed what he had heard,
and from his heart rose hymns and psalms
for heaven's human word.

The tools that Joseph laid aside
a mob would later lift
and use with anger, fear, and pride
to crucify God's gift.
Let us, O Lord, not only hold
the child who's born today,
but charged with faith may we be bold
to follow in his way.

“The Hands that First Held Mary’s Child” by Thomas Troeger from Above the Moon Earth Rises, © Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Notable Children's Books 2014

New York Times: Notable Children's Books of 2014
The best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s book editor of The New York Times Book Review.

PICTURE BOOKS:
BABY BEAR. Written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 
THE BABY TREE. Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. 
HANNAH’S NIGHT. Written and illustrated by Komako Sakai.
HANSEL & GRETEL. By Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti.
THE JACKET. By Kirsten Hall. Illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova.
THE RIGHT WORD: Roget and His Thesaurus. By Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE. By Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
THE STORM WHALE. Written and illustrated by Benji Davies.

MIDDLE GRADE:
ARCADY’S GOAL. Written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING. By Jacqueline Woodson. 
EGG & SPOON. By Gregory Maguire.
EL DEAFO. Written and illustrated by Cece Bell.
HEAP HOUSE. Written and illustrated by Edward Carey.
THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS. By Christopher Paul Curtis.
THE PORT CHICAGO 50. By Steve Sheinkin.
RAIN REIGN. By Ann M. Martin.
THE RED PENCIL. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans.
SISTERS. Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Music - A Cradle Hymn


Elizabeth Mitchell's "The Sounding Joy" is one of our most-loved Christmas records. It's magical and deep and rich and fun. If you like old hymns and folk music presented with simple beauty, you will love this album. Especially if you like singing along.

Here is a of live performance of "Cradle Hymn" which features just three stanzas from the much longer hymn text by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Watts is most famous for the text of his Christmas hymn, "Joy to the World."


Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently stealing on thy head.

How much better thou art attended
Than the Son of God could be,
When from heaven He descended
And became a child like thee!

Soft and easy is thy cradle:
Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay,
When His birthplace was a stable
And His softest bed was hay.

Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,
Holy angels guard thy bed!
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently stealing on thy head.

from The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Recognizing Christ as King

O Lord, move in our hearts with your great might. Work in our lives with your power. Through your boundless grace and mercy, deliver us from the sins that entangle and destroy us.

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

Thank you, O God, for the forgiveness and life we have through Jesus. You have promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. May all who seek you find you, O God. Help us to recognize Christ as King. Help us to make room for his saving and shaping work in our lives.

It is in his Name that we pray all these things. Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Favorites - The Cactus Blossoms

My favorite outing this week was a chance to hear The Cactus Blossoms on Wednesday night. The Turf Club was packed and the boys sounded great.

The Blossoms sure are having busy month! This week, they're wrapping up work on a new record (which I cannot wait to hear), and then heading out to the east coast for another week of tour dates opening for Nick Lowe. I'm looking forward to hearing some good stories when they get home for Christmas.

"A Dollar Short of Happy" is a Nick Lowe Christmas song I'd like to hear the Cactus Blossoms cover. I think it would be a great fit for them, and it would serve as a nice souvenir to bring home from the tour. Maybe they'll sing it to old pappy on Christmas day...hint...hint.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Let Every Heart Prepare


Today I'd like to share a thoughtful post by Jim Friedrich, Ten Ways to Keep a Holy Advent, from The Christian Century Blog. Friedrich gives some practical ways to draw attention to the deeper meaning of Christmas and cultivate awareness of God's presence and work in our lives. These practices include interrupting, silencing, waiting, listening, watching, praying, reflecting, loving, giving, and receiving. You probably won't be able or interested in doing all ten, but you may find a few of them to be a good fit for you this year.

Ten Ways to Keep a Holy Advent
Dec 08, 2014 by Jim Friedrich

Advent is a time to keep watch for the unexpected comings of God, to prepare our own hearts to make room for the Blessed One, and to be ourselves signs to the world around us of divine compassion and justice.

In a month that is already far too busy and rushed, these ten general practices are not offered as one more to-do list to work through, but as ways to slow down, take a breath, pay attention, and make room in our lives for the birth of the Holy.

These practices do not begin to exhaust the possibilities, but I hope they may stimulate your own thoughtful and prayerful responses. If anything here speaks to you, or prompts your own variation, try it out—for a minute, an hour, a day, and leave the rest to God. Let every heart prepare him room.
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Words - Disturbed by the Light

Disturbed by the light
while fighting sleep,
their eyes half closed,
half watching sheep,
the shepherds might
have turned away
and rested till the break of day:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?

Disturbed by the light
that marked the sky
where dark alone
once met the eye,
the magi might
have paused to test
the wisdom of their star-born quest:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?

Disturbed by the light
that draws us past
the world we grip
so hard and fast,
we might delay
our starting out
until we answer every doubt:

Why risk the night,
the winds that blow?
Why risk the way
we do not know?
except–
except our hearts
refuse to slow
and every beat insists we go.

"Disturbed by the Light" by Thomas H. Troeger, from Above the Moon Earth Rises, © Copyright 2002 by Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Thomas Troeger

Back in October, a friend of mine sent me a poem by Thomas Troeger he thought I would enjoy. He was right, and I have since purchased and read two books of Troeger's collected poems and hymn texts. There is much to appreciate in the way of insights and themes for Christians, and Christian community. Add to this the delightful possibility of being able to pair some of these contemporary texts with traditional hymn tunes for use in congregational singing.

Below are the titles and descriptions for the two books I have. Tomorrow, I'll share a sample of Troeger's writing in my Wednesday Words post.

Borrowed Light
Borrowed Light includes all the texts from Troeger's prior collaborations and other prayers and poems which he has written. There are 134 texts (poems, prayers, etc.) in all, grouped by images and patterns of association: Borrowed Light, Hidden Water, Wind and Flame, Melody Alone, A Spendthrift Lover, A Single Unmatched Stone, Fragmentary Prayers, and Disturbance of the Solid Ground. Endnotes and indices according to meter, theme and image, scripture, and first lines will aid clergy, church musicians, liturgists, and composers. An afterword provides further material for the creative process by exploring the literary and theological understandings that shape the texts.



Above the Moon Earth Rises
Above the Moon Earth Rises is an inspirational gathering of fifty-nine new hymn texts, anthems, and poems by the author of Borrowed Light (OUP, 1994) and co-author, with composer Carol Doran, of New Hymns for the Life of the Church (OUP, 1992), and New Hymns for the Lectionary (OUP, 1986).

Thomas Troeger is one of the most important American figures in the liturgical renewal movement and is in great demand for workshops, lectureships, and special worship services. His poems and texts for music are widely used by composers, even more widely adapted to standard hymn-tunes by parish musicians, and used by individuals and groups for private devotion.

This powerful new collection covers the entire church year along with a broad range of contemporary concerns and issues. The texts are conveniently indexed according to meter, theme and image, and Scripture.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Shining Demonstrations

Merciful God, we thank you every voice you’ve sent into our world to preach repentance and proclaim the way of salvation. Give us contrite hearts and help us to turn away from sin. And give us open and receptive hearts that joyfully welcome the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Help us in this Christmas season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light.  We confess our sins, trusting that you are faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to graciously forgive those who have sinned against us.

Restore and renew us today, O God. And make our lives a testimony of your power to restore and renew us. Help us to live by faith. And make our lives shining demonstrations of your promise to save and restore.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Favorites - Nick Lowe Holiday Revue


I just learned about Nick Lowe's new holiday record, Quality Street. If you've got Amazon Prime, you can add it to your listening library for free. It's a lot of fun. The first track is my favorite song on the album, "Children Go Where I Send Thee."

Nick Lowe is currently touring the country with his holiday concerts. It started in the Twin Cities with a performance on Prairie Home Companion and a concert at First Ave. The tour then heads to Madison, WI, then Chicago, and then off to the east coast where winds up in Brooklyn, NY on December 20.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Happiness: Memory vs. Experience


I found this to be really interesting. The insights about life, experience, memory, and reflection resonated with me. In this short talk, he doesn't get into matters of faith and meaning, but there also much to think about here in regard to how our beliefs might impact our sense of happiness and well-being. The way we think about our life stories is clearly important.



Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.

Widely regarded as the world's most influential living psychologist, Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel in Economics for his pioneering work in behavioral economics — exploring the irrational ways we make decisions about risk.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wednesday Words - Comfort and Joy


To all who walk in darkness
We bring a song of light.
The mouth of God has spoken–
There's hope beyond this night.
Good News we bring, Our Gracious King
Has come to set things right.
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy–
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy!

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy–
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy!

In weariness, unwelcomed,
Our Savior, Christ, was born,
And laid within a manger
That blessed Christmas morn.
The Word made flesh had come to bless
A world of sin and scorn–
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy–
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy!

Take heart in times of trouble,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember, Christ, our Savior,
Has won the final day.
We fly on wings like eagles,
We run and will not faint.
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy–
Bringing tidings of comfort and joy!

"Comfort and Joy" by David Burkum, © Copyright 2014 by Dave Burkum. 
Artwork by Jason Daum, © Copyright 2014 by Jason Daum.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Every Good Endeavor

I've have posted the dates for my next book club group which will be reading Tim Keller's book, Every Good Endeavor. You can view the dates and get more information at the Valley Christian Church book club webpage.

Thanks to a partnership with MacLaurinCSF at the University of Minnesota, and a grant from the Kern Family Foundation, the books will be free for the first ten participants. If you would like to be a part of this reading group, please let me know and I'll get a book to you so you can start reading.

    Session 1: February 2, 6:30pm -
        Part 1, Chapters 1-4
 
    Session 2: February 16, 6:30pm -
        Part 2, Chapters 5-8

    Session 3: March 2, 6:30pm -
        Part 3, Chapters 9-12


Book Description from the publisher...
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller shows how God calls on each of us to express meaning and purpose through our work and careers.

Tim Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, has taught and counseled students, young professionals, and senior leaders on the subject of work and calling for more than twenty years. Now he pulls his insights into a thoughtful and practical book for readers everywhere.

With deep conviction and often surprising advice, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about work today. In fact, the Christian view of work—that we work to serve others, not ourselves—can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life. Keller shows how excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship—not just of self-interest.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Monday Music - Comfort and Joy

Let the Christmas music begin! Here's a wonderful version of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" from Bruce Cockburn. CHRISTMAS is one of our family's all-time favorite Christmas albums.



God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

In Bethlehem, in Jewry
This blessed babe was born
And layed within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
For which his mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed angel came
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same
How that in Bethlehem was born
The son of God by name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas
All others doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Walk in the Light

Almighty God, we ask you to help us turn away from sin and darkness, and instead to embrace the light of your Son Jesus Christ who came to live among us in great humility. We look forward to the day when he will come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, and raise us to immortal life.

Help us in this Advent season to honor Jesus in thought, word, and deed.  Help us to follow him and to walk in the light as he is in the light. Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ Jesus.  Make us able and ready to give forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.

Save us, O God, from trouble and help us to trust you completely. Grant us a deep sense of your loving presence when the troubles of life threaten to overwhelm us. Remind us of your faithfulness. Calm our hearts. Help us to be still and know that you are God.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Favorites - Roseville Oval


The John Rose Minnesota Oval is one of the gems of Roseville. It's one of my favorite places to visit in the winter. If you like skating or enjoy winter sports, you should check it out. The facility has both indoor and outdoor ice, and is located near Lexington Avenue and County Road C.


The OVAL is a unique outdoor recreation facility with 110,000 square feet of refrigerated ice from November to March. The OVAL has a 400 meter speed skating track surrounding an infield ice area used for hockey or bandy.

The Guidant John Rose MN OVAL will remain open for activity unless the windchill is -25 degrees or lower. When the OVAL is closed an Alert Box will appear on the Skating Center main page. The OVAL is also used for inline skating and hosts an aggressive skate park from May to September. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About Thanksgiving


“Thanksgiving isn’t just a way of being a bit less grumpy and a bit more cheerful. It is a habit of the heart which indicates the nature and particular shape of the worldview. It is closely associated with joy, which for Paul is one of the primary signs of the Spirit’s work.”
––N. T. Wright, from Paul and the Faithfulness of God

“When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves--that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.”
― N.T. Wright

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
–– Thomas Merton

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” 
–– G.K. Chesterton

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."
––Psalm 95:2

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."
––1 Chronicles 16:34

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Words - Death, Be Not Proud

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.

by John Donne (1572-1631)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Tome - A Poetry Handbook

Are you interested in reading and perhaps even writing poetry? Mary Oliver's short little book, A Poetry Handbook, is well worth reading. If you enjoy Mary Oliver's poetry, as so many do, you will also find this book to be a window into her thinking and writing.

Here are a few brief paragraphs from the conclusion of the book:
Early in my life I determined not to teach because I like teaching very much. I thought if I was going to be a real poet––that is, write the best poetry I possibly could––I would have to guard my time and energy for its production, and thus I should not, as a daily occupation, do anything else that was interesting. Of necessity I worked for many years at many occupations. None of them, in keeping with my promise, was interesting.

Among the things I learned in those years were two of special interest to me. First, that one can rise early in the morning and have time to write (or, even, to take a walk and then write) before the world's work schedule begins. Also, that one can live simply and honorably on just about enough money to keep a chicken alive. And do so cheerfully.

This I have always known––that if I did not live my life immersed in the one activity which suits me, and which also, to tell the truth, keeps me utterly happy and intrigued, I would come someday to bitter and mortal regret.
- - - - - - -
Poetry is a life-cherishing force. And it requires a vision––a faith, to use an old-fashioned term. Yes, indeed. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Music - The Least of These




She was begging out in front of the Burger King,
Deep blue hair and a gold nose ring.
She held out one hand and asked me for a dollar-
Somebody's sister, someone's daughter.

Friday night down on Riverside Boulevard,
Where the streets are cold and the times are hard,
There's a tatooed boy living on the run–
Somebody's brother, someone's son.

O Lord, forgive us I pray,
Oh, for every child we've thrown away–
Oh, for tearless eyes that will not see–
For giving up on the least of these.


They shouted whore or they threw a stone,
So she was always careful to come alone.
A daily trial just to get some water–
Somebody's sister, someone's daughter.

A thousand demons were in control;
They filled his mind and they ruled his soul.
A crazy man feared by everyone-
Somebody's brother, someone's son.

O Lord, forgive us I pray,
Oh, for every child we've thrown away–
Oh, for tearless eyes that will not see–
For giving up on the least of these.

"The Least of These" by Dave Burkum, from If I Close My Eyes, © Copyright 2003 by Dave Burkum. Listen or Buy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Fruitful Lives

Almighty God, we ask you to help us turn away darkness and to put on the armor of light. Today, as we live in this place and in this time help us to hold fast to Jesus. Thank you that he came to live among us in humility. Thank you for the promise that he will one day come again in glory and raise us to eternal life.

Forgive us for the sins we’ve committed. Relieve our guilty consciences. Purify our hearts and transform us that by your Spirit we might turn away from what is wrong and, instead, love to do what is right. Make us ready and able to forgive those who have sinned against us. Make us merciful and forgiving toward others, as you have been merciful and forgiving toward us.

Thank you, O God, for the fruitful lives we are able to live through Christ. Help us to stay connected to Jesus.  By your power and grace, lead, teach, transform, shape and strengthen us, that we might delight in your will, and walk in your ways to the glory of your name.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Favorites - Blossoms Toast to Pacer

Get your friends together for a fun evening in support of PACER’s Simon Technology Center, which works to make assistive technology more accessible to children with disabilities.

Featuring The Cactus Blossoms
Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum grew up in northeast Minneapolis and have been blending their voices as The Cactus Blossoms since 2010. Their hypnotic harmonies and unforgettable songs have made them favorites in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul music scene. Their latest album, Live at the Turf Club, blurs the line between old and new as they sneak a few originals into their repertoire of early country and Western swing.

Sample the best Minnesota’s local brewers and winemakers have to offer at “Raise a Glass – A Toast to PACER,” a beer and wine tasting event Friday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m., at Muse Event Center, located at 107 3rd Ave N., in Minneapolis. Tickets are $30 before the event and $35 at the door, and include a signature tasting glass.

Tickets for non-drinkers are $15. Purchase tickets online or call (952) 838-9000. Attendees must be 21 or older.Show Your Support

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About the Least of These


It's Community Action Week at Valley Christian Church. Here are some wonderful Bible resources from World Vision to help Christians think clearly and Biblically about people in need.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
 
What Does the Bible Say About Poverty?
Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people. We love the way Jesus cared for the poor and oppressed — and the way he showed us how to listen to children and how to look out for widows and orphans. See what the Bible has to say about poverty and God’s heart for children and families living in great need.

God’s Heart for the Poor
Deuteronomy 26:6-9
“But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Job 5:8-16

“But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.”

Job 34:17-19
“Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One? Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’ who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?”

Psalm 10:14
“But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 12:5
“‘Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,’ says the LORD. I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Psalm 140:12
“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”

Isaiah 25:4
“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall.”

Isaiah 41:17
“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”

Amos 5:24
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

Luke 1:52-53
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Luke 4:16-21
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

Luke 6:20-21
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Luke 7:22
“So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’”

James 2:5
“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Words - Poverty



I saw an old cottage of clay,
   And only of mud was the floor;
It was all falling into decay,
   And the snow drifted in at the door.

Yet there a poor family dwelt,
   In a hovel so dismal and rude;
And though gnawing hunger they felt,
   They had not a morsel of food.

The children were crying for bread,
   And to their poor mother they’d run;
‘Oh, give us some breakfast,’ they said,
   Alas! their poor mother had none.

She viewed them with looks of despair,
   She said (and I’m sure it was true),
‘’Tis not for myself that I care,
   But, my poor little children, for you.’

O then, let the wealthy and gay
   But see such a hovel as this,
That in a poor cottage of clay
   They may know what true misery is.
And what I may have to bestow
   I never will squander away,
While many poor people I know
   Around me are wretched as they.

“Poverty” by Jane Taylor (1783-1824).


It's Community Action Week at Valley Christian Church. CLICK HERE to discover ways you can join us this week in confronting poverty as we partner with The Open Door Food Shelf, Sandwiches for the Homeless, HopeKids, and Feed My Starving Children.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Vanishing Grace

Advent Season begins on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. That means I'll be starting a new teaching series at Valley Christian Church which will take us from November 30 through December 28. The central theme of the series, Comfort and Joy, is to assert that as the people of God, the community of the redeemed, the church should be an abundant source of joy and comfort in a world where so many are weary and broken. We will explore ways to receive and experience the grace of God and at the same time be a wellspring of that grace for others.

Philip Yancey's new book, Vanishing Grace, is one of the books I'm reading to challenge and inspire me as I prepare these sermons. I'll be drawing upon some of his ideas and recommending the book as companion reading to my series. Below is the publisher's description of the book.

Yancey’s writing has focused on the search for honest faith that makes a difference for a world in pain. In his landmark book What’s So Amazing about Grace he issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs.

But people inside and outside the church are still thirsty for grace. What the church lacked in its heyday is now exactly what it needs to recover to thrive. Grace can bring together Christianity and our post-Christian culture, inviting outsiders as well as insiders to take a deep second look at why our faith matters and about what could reignite its appeal to future generations.

How can Christians offer grace in a way that is compelling to a jaded society? And how can they make a difference in a world that cries out in need?

Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing  them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world.  A similar question applies to evangelicals in America.

Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel.  He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics.  Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith.