Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Teach Us Your Ways

O God, we give you thanks for our Lord and Savior Jesus, your only Son, who you have have exalted and given a name above all names. Help us to walk in his ways, to honor him as Lord, and to live in the grace and purpose of his Kingdom. Strengthen and comfort us by your Holy Spirit, and teach us to walk in your ways to the glory of your name.

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 resurrection power and grace of Jesus help us restore relationships, heal wounds, calm fears, forgive offenses, and resolve strife.

Show us your ways, O Lord. Teach us your paths. Guide us in your truth. Give us the humility and wisdom to live for you and to follow you. Help us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday Smile - Could Things Get Any Worse?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Favorites - Great China Restaurant

Great China located in Arden Hills is our new favorite restaurant. Every dish Cheri and I have tried has been simply fantastic. We love the calm atmosphere, excellent service, incredible pricing, and a the delicious food. My favorite dish so far is the spicy chicken with green beans and cashews.

Great China is a locally owned and operated Chinese restaurant. Their traditional Chinese dishes are made fresh using quality meats and fresh vegetables. They use their own family recipes to create unique tastes, they take pride in what they serve, and they strive to provide a quality dining experience.

Give them a try, you won't be disappointed. Call me first, though, because I live really close by and it's highly likely that I'd like to join you.

Great China Restaurant
3547 Lexington Ave N
Arden Hills, MN 55126
(651) 481-8100

Hours & Location

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About Commencement Speeches

It's that time of year. Lots of people will be listening to commencement speeches over the next couple weeks. A number of people will be called upon to give them. If you're in the latter group, you may need some inspiration. If you're in the former, you may need a some better speech than the one you're likely to get. In either case, you're in luck. National Public Radio has compiled what they're calling "The Best Commencement Speeches Ever."


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday Words - In Praise of Self-Deprecation

The buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.
Scruples are alien to the black panther.
Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.
The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.

The self-critical jackal does not exist.
The locust, alligator, trichina, horsefly
live as they live and are glad of it.

The killer whale's heart weighs one hundred kilos
but in other respects it is light.

There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.

"In Praise of Self-Deprecation" by Wislawa Szymborska from A Book of Luminous Things (ed. Czesław Miłosz).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Scripture and the Authority of God

N. T. Wright's Scripture and the Authority of God would serve as an excellent companion resource to my current teaching series at Valley. We have been exploring and memorizing seven key passages in the New Testament, and considering the importance of reading and interpreting these passages in the context of Christian community, not just in some sort of individualized quest for salvation or spiritual insight. Wright's book complements our series by helping us understand just what the Bible is, by guiding us to how and why we should read it, and by helping us to think about the relationship between scripture and God's authority.

From the Publisher:
That question has echoed through a thousand debates in the life of the worldwide church. All churches have officially endorsed strong statements about the centrality of scripture and its authority in their mission, life, doctrine, and discipline. But there is no agreement on what this might mean or how it might work in practice. Individuals and churches struggle with how to respond to issues such as war, homosexuality, and abortion, and especially how to interpret biblical passages that discuss these topics. These disagreements often serve to undermine our confidence in the authority of the Bible.

Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on how to read the Bible today, restoring scripture as a place to find God’s voice.

In this revised and expanded edition of the previously titled book The Last Word, Wright provides two case studies that delve into what it means to keep Sabbath and how Christians can defend marital monogamy. These studies offer not only bold biblical insights but also showcase Wright’s new model for how to interpret scripture and restore its role as the church’s main resource for teaching and guidance. Removing the baggage that the last 100 years of controversy and confusion have placed on this doctrine, Wright renews our confidence in the Bible and shows how it can once again serve as the living Word of God for our lives.

Table of Contents:
Preface to the American Edition  ix
Prologue  1
Chapter 1. By Whose Authority?  21
Chapter 2. Israel and God’s Kingdom-People  33
Chapter 3. Scripture and Jesus  41
Chapter 4. The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church  47
Chapter 5. The First Sixteen Centuries  61
Chapter 6. The Challenge of the Enlightenment  83
Chapter 7. Misreadings of Scripture  107
Chapter 8. How to Get Back on Track  115
Chapter 9. Case Study: Sabbath  143
Chapter 10. Case Study: Monogamy  175
Apendix: Recent Resources on Scripture  197
Scripture Index  201
Subject Index  203

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Music - Remembering Forgiveness

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill,
But also those of ill will.
And do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us;
Remember the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering-
Our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility,
The courage, the generosity,
The greatness of heart...
The greatness of heart which has grown out of all of this...
Which has grown out of all of this.
And when they come to judgement
Let all the fruits that we have borne be...
Let them be...
Be their forgiveness.
Amen,  Amen,  Amen.

"Forgiveness" by Dave Burkum, from If I Close My Eyes, © Copyright 1993 by Dave Burkum. Words: Author Unknown, adapted by Dave Burkum from Lord of the Journey (Roger Pooley and Philip Seddon, eds. / London: Collins, 1986, p.349), Music by Dave Burkum. 

NOTE: When Allied troops liberated Ravensbruck concentration camp in 1945, they discovered the horrible atrocities and human loss the Nazi death juggernaut had left in its horrible wake.  At Ravensbruck alone, 92,000 women and children died. The faith, strength and noble spirit of those who endured this incomprehensible persecution is surpassed only by the incredible capacity some of them had to forgive their oppressors. The words of this prayer were found at Ravensbruck, written on a piece of wrapping paper near the body of a dead child.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Restore, Nurture, Create

O God, we thank you for your love. Because you have given us your Son, we trust that your goodness toward us is greater than we are able to comprehend. We ask you to help us love you above all else. Help us to love you in all things and in every circumstance. We trust you to keep your promises and we ask you to shape our desires.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to turn away from what is wrong and teach us to do what is right. 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, Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. In all our ways—in every aspect of our lives—teach us to acknowledge you. Direct our paths and make our ways straight. Cause our faith to grow stronger and help us to enjoy lives that are filled with contentment, purpose, and hope.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Like a Child

In their new book, Think Like a Freak, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt describe how thinking like a child can be very fruitful.
 LEVITT: I think the beauty of thinking like a child … is that sometimes doing things differently and simply and with a kind of joy and triviality leads you to a really special place that as an adult you don’t get to go to very often.
Kids are relatively unbiased; they don’t carry around many of the pre-conceptions that adults do. And, as we all know, kids don’t “pay attention” the same way that adults do. This makes them more likely to notice or care about things that the rest of us don’t...

If the player does not appear below, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday Words - Gardener's Blessing

May God grant thee
Enough sun to warm the earth,
Enough rain to make things grow,
A good strong back,
A wide brimmed hat,
And a good sharp goose-neck hoe,
Strength for a day of toil
And some quiet evening hours,
With a sip of tea
And a gentle breeze,
And may all your weeds be wildflowers.

“Gardener’s Blessing” by Ralph Emerson Purkhiser, © Copyright 2004 from GreenPrints Magazine: Summer 2004, Issue 58.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Explore the Bible Yourself

Every Wednesday night during the school year, I teach the Pathways Class at Valley Christian Church. It's basically a support and training session for people who are trying to become daily Bible readers. We follow a reading schedule (you can find it at and work on understanding the text, identifying relevant insights, and journaling responsive applications and prayers.

Last Wednesday, we wrapped up our final regular session for the year. This week's Celebrate the Word program at Valley will serve as our final Pathways Class event for the year. If you live in the area, I hope you'll consider attending. The entire program is comprised of scripture songs, recitations, and testimony.

With all that in mind, I decided that for this week's Tuesday Tome, I would share a helpful little book Pathways class members and other beginning Bible readers. You might want to work through this tiny tome over summer months. It's by Rick Yohn and it's called Explore the Bible Yourself: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding the Scriptures.
From the back cover:
Your new start in God’s Word Begins Here. You’re no Bible scholar or seminary theologian. Yet it’s your heart’s desire to be the kind of Christian who loves to study the Scriptures. To find out what God is really trying to say in His Word. And to bring some needed changes into your own life. Here’s the guide designed to get you started in meaningful Bible study—and keep you going. Author Rick Yohn believes there’s nothing more rewarding than the firsthand discoveries you can begin to make right now in any book of the Bible. You’ll learn to observe a passage. Interpret it. And then apply it. All without the need for commentaries or someone else’s “expertise.” God Himself becomes your teacher. When you or your group are ready to experience God’s Word in a new way, here’s where you’ll want to begin.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Music - God's Workmanship

For we are God's workmanship
Created in Christ Jesus
To do good works which God prepared
In advance for us to do.

For we are God's workmanship
Created in Christ Jesus
To do good works which God prepared
In advance for us to do.

For it is by grace
You have been saved through faith–
And that not of yourselves
It is the gift of God–
Not by works so that no one can boast.
No one can boast...

For we are God's workmanship
Created in Christ Jesus
To do good works which God prepared
In advance for us to do.

"God's Workmanship" by Dave Burkum (lyrics adapted from Ephesians 2:8-10), from This Is the Testimony: CSF Scripture Songs, © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Encouragement and Prompting

Almighty God, we give you thanks for the everlasting life we find in you. Help us to recognize your son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life. Make us able to follow his steps and to walk in his ways to the glory of your name.

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, you are faithful to your promises. Help us to remember your promises and cling to the hope we have in you.

Surround us with Christian friends who can encourage us and push us toward righteousness. Help each of us to be a source of encouragement and prompting for one another.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Favorites - Darling Maybe Someday

This week, I've been listening to and enjoying this wonderful album. It's one of my favorite CDs and it's from one of my favorite people. My favorite tracks are "I Need Your Love," "Hurricane," "Too Far Gone," and "Gales of November."


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Apologetics: Then & Now

I really enjoyed reading Francis Spufford's book, Unapologetic, and blogged about it here. So a few days ago, when I came across a video of a talk he gave at the 2014 Mockingbird Conference in New York, I was eager to watch it. I found it to be really interesting, so I'm passing it along to you for this week's Thursday Thinking post.

In his talk – "On Not Being C. S. Lewis" – Spufford shares some very good insights into why and how making an effective defense of Christian faith is much different today than it was during the time Lewis wrote Mere Christianity. It's refreshing to hear both his appreciation for and critique of Lewis. Toward the end of his talk, as a contrast to Lewis and to illustrate his own approach toward apologetics, Spufford reads a short excerpt from Unapologetic, one of my favorite passages in the book.

On Not Being C.S. Lewis ~ Francis Spufford from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday Words - Joyful, Joyful

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
opening to 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 Thy works with joy surround Thee,
earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
in the triumph song of life.

"Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" by Henry J. van Dyke, 1907.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Summer Reading

I'm putting together my 2014 summer reading list. Do you have any recommendations for me? My non-fiction list is already full, but I'd love some suggestions for fiction.

Please send me the titles for two or three of your favorite novels or short story collections. I'll consider them for my list. Next week, I'll post my book picks for 2014 summer reading.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Music - Your Word

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living, by living according to your word.

I seek you, Lord, with all my heart–
Don't let me stray from your commands.
I seek you, Lord, with all my heart–
Don't let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word–
Hidden your word in my heart–
That I might not sin against you.
I have hidden your word–
Hidden your word in my heart–
That I might not sin against you.

How can a young man keep his way pure?

"Your Word" by Dave Burkum (lyric adapted from Psalm 119:9-11), from the Fireside CD, © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum. CLICK HERE to listen or buy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Supplication - More and More

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

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

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

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday Favorites - Cactus Blossoms

The Cactus Blossoms made the City Pages "Best Of" awards again. Congratulations, guys!
From the City Pages 2014 Best of the Twin Cities Awards...
Leave it to the Cactus Blossoms to take a Beatles song back in time to before it was even written. Originally a John Lennon-led attempt at a Smokey Robinson-esque tear-jerker, "This Boy" was the 1963 b-side of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and eventually ended up on Meet the Beatles! In the capable hands of Blossoms Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, the harmonies of "Boy" are refined and deepened for an even more melancholic result. It could've risen out of Nashville decades prior to the British Invasion, and it's hard to unhear the slow pedal steel whining in the background as they retell the tale of how "This boy wants you back again." 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Praying in Civic Spaces

I'm baffled by this week's Supreme Court decision regarding legislative session prayers. In the Town of Greece case, the Court ruled that legislative session prayers, even explicitly Christian prayers, are not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Justice Kagan's dissent written on behalf of the four dissenting justices makes much more sense to me. I daresay a lot more people would find her dissent sensible had the sectarian prayers in question Muslim or Hindu prayers.

Mark Movsesian of St. John's University School of Law had a good opinion piece about the Supreme Court decision on the First Thoughts Blog. I give you Movsesian's closing paragraph as an incentive for you to read the entire article.
In my law and religion seminar, I tell students that most of our fights about the Establishment Clause boil down to this: What can a religious minority reasonably require of the majority? Or, put differently, how far must the majority go to accommodate the sensibilities of the minority? Here, the Court seems to be saying, if a town is overwhelmingly Christian, non-Christians cannot legitimately expect that legislative prayers will be anything but overwhelmingly Christian. To insist on something else would be unreasonable. What about those few citizens who do object to the repeated recitation of Christian prayer at town meetings, who feel genuinely offended? What word does the Court have for them? Well, there are other towns.
Keep Reading...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Wednesday Words - Bird Watching

Oh, large brown, thickly feathered creature
with a distinctive white head,
you, perched on the top branch
of a tree near the lake shore,

as soon as I guide this boat back to the dock
and walk up the grassy path to the house,
before I unzip my windbreaker
and lift the binoculars from around my neck,

before I wash the gasoline from my hands,
before I tell anyone I'm back,
and before I hang the ignition key on its nail,
or pour myself a drink—

I'm thinking a vodka soda with lemon—
I will look you up in my
illustrated guide to North American birds
and I promise I will learn what you are called.

"Osprey" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House, 2013.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Playing God

Last Thursday night, I attended a benefit dinner for MacLaurinCSF at the University of Minnesota. The keynote speaker was Andy Crouch, editor of Christianity Today magazine. Some of the ideas he shared with us were taken from his new book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. Based on those comments, I'm expecting the book to be an interesting read. Rather than thinking of power in terms of control and domination, Crouch suggests that power be understood in terms of desire and action that leads to the well-being and flourishing of its object.

Complimentary books were available for everyone who attended the event (Definitely my kind of event!), so I was pleased to be able to get a signed copy. Here's how Playing God is described on Crouch's website...
Power corrupts—as we’ve seen time and time again. People too often abuse their power and play god in the lives of others. Shady politicians, corrupt executives and ego-filled media stars have made us suspicious of those who wield influence and authority. They too often breed injustice by participating in what the Bible calls idolatry. Yet power is also the means by which we bring life, create possibilities, offer hope and make human flourishing possible. This is “playing god” as it is meant to be. If we are to do God’s work—fight injustice, bring peace, create beauty and allow the image of God to thrive in those around us—how are we to do these things if not by power?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Monday Music - Love the Lord

Hear, O hear, O Israel–
The Lord, our God, the Lord is one.
Hear, O hear, O Israel–
The Lord, our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord, your God
With all your heart,
And with all your soul,
And with all your strength.

"Love the Lord" by Dave Burkum (lyric adapted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5), from This Is the Testimony, © Copyright 2005 by Dave Burkum.

Click Here to Purchase

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Possibilities and Purpose

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

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

Forgive us our sins, and make us ready and able and quick to forgive others, even as you forgive us.

Help us, O God,  to delight in your will, and to walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Open our eyes to your presence and work in our lives. Give us the faith to see the possibilities and purposes you have for us at our work, in our homes, with our families, and with our neighbors, and in our church.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Saturday Smile - Dylan Does It Again,17699/

Rock Fans Outraged As Bob Dylan Goes Electronica

NEWPORT, RI—Audience members at the Newport Rock Festival were "outraged" Monday when rock icon Bob Dylan followed up such classic hits as "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Maggie's Farm" with an electronica set composed of atonal drones, hyperactive drumbeats, and the repeated mechanized lyric...

CLICK HERE for complete article...

Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday Favorites - Guthrie Goodness

My favorite outing of the week was a play at the Guthrie at the invitation of my friend, Jordan. I'm not very enthusiastic about live theater, but I try to give it a chance from time to time. In this case, I had a great experience and found Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to be quite enjoyable.

The play itself is extremely clever, well-written, and filled with all sorts of witty approaches to existential and philosophical perplexities. It's a feast of great dialog and smart humor. Of course, there is always, it seems with theater, an obligatory bawdy and juvenile scene to be endured (insert huge eye roll and sigh here).

The overall performance was very good. The two lead actors were terrific. The staging, though simple, was effective. The theater space and the Guthrie complex itself are beautiful. And the best part of all was the time spent with a friend.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

The Acting Company in association with
the Guthrie Theater presents
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard and directed by John Rando

April 22 - May 04, 2014 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage

The partnership between the Guthrie and The Acting Company enters its sixth year and provides an amazing training ground for up-and-coming actors to showcase their talents. Hamlet – Shakespeare’s story of a Danish prince’s search for vengeance, justice and truth – will play in repertory with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a reworking of the same tragedy from the point of view of two minor characters and their static existence in a world beyond their comprehension.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Bad Religion, No Religion, or Good Religion

Earlier this week, Scot McKnight posted about a new book by Martin Thielen, The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion: A Guide to Good Religion for Seekers, Skeptics and Believers. McKnight calls Thielen and master storyteller and summarizes the book's thesis as follows:  "...the solution to bad religion — marked by anger, judgmentalism, divisiveness, etc — is not no religion, or the religion of the Nones, but instead good religion."

Thielen's 10 marks of good religion:
1. Life-Changing
2. Love-Centered
3. Service-Focused
4. Prophetic
5. Community-Building
6. Hope-Filled
7. Open-Minded
8. Reconciliatory
9. Grateful
10. Relationally Evangelistic
CLICK HERE to read McKnight's full post on the Jesus Creed Blog.