Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Grace and Purpose

O God, we give you thanks for our Lord and Savior Jesus, your only Son, who you 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 conflicts.

Show us your ways, O God. 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.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Brené Brown on Blame

CLICK HERE to view a fun animation of an excerpt from a Brené Brown talk on the subject of blame. For a link for the actual talk this was taken from, CLICK HERE. Dr. Brené Brown tackles the myth that vulnerability is a weakness. Instead, she argues, it is the clearest path to courage and meaningful connection, and has the power to transform the way we engage and educate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday Words - The Minor Prophets

     None of the minor prophets
knew that he was minor, of course. Habakkuk, I imagine,
     thought that his visions earned him
standing as Ezekiel's peer, if not indeed Elijah's.
     Then there was Obadiah,
who could be forgiven if he thought he might be a Moses.
     How they would be remembered
Providence concealed from them all, though they could see the future.

     Maybe it doesn't matter.
If you're on a mission from God, sent to rebuke a city
     or to redeem a nation,
where by canon-makers you're ranked may be inconsequential.
     Nor is the voice within you
any less authentic for not having a distant echo.
     Seers of the world, be heartened.
Even minor prophets can have genuine revelations.

"The Minor Prophets" by Michael Lind, from Parallel Lives. © Etruscan Press, 2008.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday Tome - Praying with the Church

Later this summer I will be presenting a teaching series I'm calling "Praying with Jesus." One of the books I'm reading in preparation for that series is Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight. I'm especially interested in some of the insights McKnight gives on the prayer practices common among devout Jews during the time of Jesus.

Here is a brief excerpt from pages 51-53...
What we find in the sacred rhythm and sacred prayer tradition of Israel is the wise recitation of those passages in the Bible most central to spirituality, passages we need to be reminded of daily because of their importance for how we are to conduct ourselves before God and with others. The reason psalms are repeated in the sacred rhythm of prayer is that they continue to teach us how to pray; the reason Shema is repeated so often is that it summons us to the central orientation of our heart: to love God with every molecule we can muster.

Jesus was spiritually nurtured by pious parents in a world where the sacred rhythm of prayer shaped spiritual formation. Jesus didn't adopt that rhythm without reflection or alteration. One might say that Jesus actually re-shaped the sacred rhythmical prayer practices of his world so that they would reflect his own kingdom mission.
Jesus as a pious Jew prayed both spontaneously and with others. In pausing throughout the day, he reminded himself daily of the importance of loving God by reciting the Shema, perhaps the Ten Commandments, and probably the Amidah.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday Music - One Lord, One Body

If player does not appear, Click Here

I need you, and you need me–
That’s the way it is in God’s family.
If you’re doing well, you’ll be my friend and guide;
If you need a hand, I’ll be at your side.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

And when I fall, you pick me up.
When I’m thirsty, you can fill my cup.
If you win, then it’s my gain-
If you’re hurting, I will share your pain.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

When you’re weighed down, I will share the load.
If you’re ever lost, I’ll help you find the road.
When I’m tempted, remind me what is right.
When I’m weary, please help me fight the fight.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

Together we’ll carry the light--
Shining like the stars in the heavens.
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body
One Lord, One Body / One Lord, One Body

"One Lord, One Body" by Dave Burkum from the album, Fireside.  © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Your Light and Presence

O God, on this Pentecost Sunday, we thank you for the light and presence of your Holy Spirit. We ask that by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit you would lead us, teach us, and transform us so that we might delight in your Word, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.

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.

Help us, O God, to love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And help us to love our neighbors  as ourselves. Help us to follow Christ's selfless example, watching for the needs of others, and doing what we can to meet those needs. Help us to use every good gift you have given us to bless and encourage others.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Favorites - Como Dockside

I'll soon be checking out, Como Dockside, the new restaurant opening at the Como Park Pavillion in St. Paul. The owners also operate Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul and the 331 Club in Minneapolis, so they have a proven track record. They say they hope to appeal to young adults and serve up a menu with a New Orleans theme. Other features will include bocce ball, kayaks, a new outdoor performance area, dining space on the water, and a 30-foot electric dining boat.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday Thinking - The Far Shore of Aging

Earlier this week (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings), I have been speaking at Risen Son Christian Village in Council Bluffs, IA, where my parents live. I found it to be quite a challenge. I didn't want to be merely nostalgic or sentimental in my approach. I wanted to honor my audience by engaging some of the real issues they are going through and encouraging them during these tiring and difficult end-of-life years.

Krista Tippet's recent interview with Jane Gross was especially well-timed for me. For one thing, it gave me much to think about as I tried to share something meaningful with my elderly audience at RSCV.  But I also connected with the content of the interview in a more personal way as I am one of the growing number of baby boomers trying to help their parents navigate their final years. These are the years Jane Gross calls the "prolonged season of in-between" – that extended period of decline and dependence more and more people are experiencing these days.

Jane Gross is the creator of "The New Old Age" blog at The New York Times and author of A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents — and Ourselves. In her book, Gross shares insights from her own challenging experiences as caretaker for her failing 85 year old mother.

Krista Tippett interviews Jane Gross

It is a story of our time — the new landscape of living longer, and of dying more slowly too. Jane Gross has explored this as a daughter and as a journalist, and as creator of the New York Times’ “New Old Age” blog. She has grounded advice and practical wisdom about caring for our loved ones and ourselves on the far shore of aging.

Listen or Download / Transcript / Additional Resources

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wednesday Words - The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

"The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry, from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, © Copyright 1998.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Tomes - The Road to Character

As I posted last week, I'm currently reading David Brooks' new book, The Road to Character. I'm planning to use this book as a selection for a reading group in September. What follows is an excerpt from Chapter 1 - "The Shift."

...The self--effacing person is soothing and gracious, while the self--promoting person is fragile and jarring. Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time, but egotism is a ravenous hunger in a small space—-self--concerned, competitive, and distinction--hungry. Humility is infused with lovely emotions like admiration, companionship, and gratitude. “Thankfulness,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, said, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”

There is something intellectually impressive about that sort of humility, too. We have, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman writes, an “almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance." Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.

This is the way humility leads to wisdom. Montaigne once wrote, “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we can’t be wise with other men’s wisdom.” That’s because wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing what you don’t know and figuring out a way to handle your ignorance, uncertainty, and limitation.

The people we think are wise have, to some degree, overcome the biases and overconfident tendencies that are infused in our nature. In its most complete meaning, intellectual humility is accurate self--awareness from a distance. It is moving over the course of one’s life from the adolescent’s close--up view of yourself, in which you fill the whole canvas, to a landscape view in which you see, from a wider perspective, your strengths and weaknesses, your connections and dependencies, and the role you play in a larger story.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday Music - Morning by Morning

The Sovereign Lord has
given me an instructed tongue
to know the word that sustains the weary.

The Sovereign Lord has
given me an instructed tongue
to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me
morning by morning–
wakens my ear to listen.

He wakens me
morning by morning–
wakens my ear to listen
like one being taught.

"Morning by Morning" from Fireside, words (adapted from Isaiah 50:4) and music by Dave Burkum, © Copyright 2006 by Dave Burkum. Listen or Buy.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Honesty & Humility

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 15, 2015

Friday Favorites - The Cactus Blossoms: Upcoming Shows

I'm looking forward to upcoming local shows with The Cactus Blossoms.

May 16 / Grumpy's NE Art-A-Whirl Party / Minneapolis

May 17 / Minnesota Monthly GrillFest / St Paul

May 24 / Memory Lanes Block Party / Minneapolis

Jun 07 / Grand Old Day / Saint Paul


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Faith and Science

I enjoyed Krista Tippett's recent On Being interview with Margaret Wertheim. If you are interested in the intersection of faith and science, you may find it interesting too.

Margaret Wertheim — The Grandeur and Limits of Science

From Krista Tippett's ON BEING website...
A passionate translator of the beauty and relevance of scientific questions, Margaret Wertheim is also wise about the limits of science to tell the whole story of the human self. Her Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles reveals evocative, visceral connections between high mathematics, crochet and other folk arts, and our love of the planet.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Words - My Grandparents' Generation

They are taking so many things with them:
their sewing machines and fine china,

their ability to fold a newspaper
with one hand and swat a fly.

They are taking their rotary telephones,
and fat televisions, and knitting needles,

their cast iron frying pans, and Tupperware.
They are packing away the picnics

and perambulators, the wagons
and church socials. They are wrapped in

lipstick and big band music, dressed
in recipes. Buried with them: bathtubs

with feet, front porches, dogs without leashes.
These are the people who raised me

and now I am left behind in
a world without paper letters,

a place where the phone
has grown as eager as a weed.

I am going to miss their attics,
their ordinary coffee, their chicken

fried in lard. I would give anything
to be ten again, up late with them

in that cottage by the river, buying
Marvin Gardens and passing go,

collecting two hundred dollars.

"My Grandparents' Generation" by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Tomes - The Road to Character

David Brooks' The Road to Character is my current non-fiction popular culture reading selection. Other current reading selections include: Novel - All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr), Discipleship - Praying with the Church (Scot McKnight).

From the Publisher...
“I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”—David Brooks
With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous bestsellers, David Brooks has consistently illuminated our daily lives in surprising and original ways. In The Social Animal, he explored the neuroscience of human connection and how we can flourish together. Now, in The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.

Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so that she could be an instrument in a larger cause. Dwight Eisenhower organized his life not around impulsive self-expression but considered self-restraint. Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic convert and champion of the poor, learned as a young woman the vocabulary of simplicity and surrender. Civil rights pioneers A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin learned reticence and the logic of self-discipline, the need to distrust oneself even while waging a noble crusade.

Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth.

“Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday Music - Somebody's Child

Blame... I'm tired of the blame
And pointing fingers.
Hurt... I'm weary from the hurt
And the bitterness that lingers.
Turns... You made some turns along the way-
So wrong they left me crying.
Time... There's a time to forgive
And it's time I started trying.

It would be so easy to lay all the guilt on you.
And I could blame it all on what you did and didn't do,
But I can't forget the good times,
the times you got it right,
The times that I have loved you,
the times I think you tried.
And there are ways that I don't know you,
or the things that you've been through.
I wonder how much of my childhood
was handed down to you.
Instead of throwing stones maybe some mercy's overdue,
You were somebody's child too.

Words...I want to say the words
That lead to healing.
Fears...I want to put aside the fears
And the peace that they've been stealing.
Past... I want to let go of my past
and all of its distractions.
Truth...I want to speak the truth in love–
In love and in my actions.

It would be so easy to lay all the guilt on you.
And I could blame it all on what you did and didn't do,
But I can't forget the good times,
the times you got it right,
The times that I have loved you,
the times I think you tried.
And there are ways that I don't know you,
or the things that you've been through.
I wonder how much of my childhood
was handed down to you.
Instead of throwing stones maybe some mercy's overdue,
You were somebody's child-
You were somebody's child too.

“Somebody’s Child" by Dave Burkum.  © Copyright 1994 by Dave Burkum, from So Far to Go. Listen or Buy.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Our Good Shepherd

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

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

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

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday Favorites - Basilica Block Party

The 2015 Basilica Block Party has announced this year's line-up of performers. Looks like I'll be going on Friday night. It will be fun to see my son, Tyler, perform with Mat Kearney, and then I hope to get in on some Matthew Sweet and Weezer. Time to start praying for good weather!

Sun Country Airlines Stage:
Weezer / Nate Ruess / Motion City Soundtrack
PreferredOne Stage: 
O.A.R. / MAT KEARNEY / Matthew Sweet Stage: 
Zoo Animal, Rupert Angeleyes, TYTE JEFF

Sun Country Airlines Stage:
Wilco / Jason Isbell / Jenny Lewis / Fly Golden Eagle

PreferredOne Stage:
Fitz and the Tantrums / Echosmith / Rachel Platten Stage:
American Scarecrows / Southside Desire / TBD

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Adam Zyglis on Editorial Cartooning

Adam Zyglis, news editorial cartoonist for the Buffalo News, won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons. He joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to talk about his work.

CLICK HERE to view the program page which includes a few examples of Zyglis' work and a player for listening to the 10-minute interview.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Wednesday Words - Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

"Prairie Spring" by Willa Cather from Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. © Library of America, 1992.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

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Tuesday Tome - Revolution of Character

I have gained so much from Dallas Willard's writing and teaching. His books, The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart, are two of the most helpful and practical spiritual formation books I've ever read. I've recommended these books to many people at church, but many, sadly, tell me they have found them a little too difficult get through. Fortunately, there is another helpful resource that can help bridge the gap.

Don Simpson has done us all a favor by distilling the main ideas from Renovation of the Heart into a the little book Revolution of Character. While Renovation is not really all that difficult to read, there is no doubt that Revolution will be much more accessible for the average church goer. It's one I will be recommending often.

From the back cover...
Heart, mind, body, social life, and soul. God is ready to transform every aspect of your life. Perhaps your spiritual life is not all you want it to be. Your sporadic successes, plateaus, and dry spells only lead to more frustration. Spiritual master Dallas Willard believes the main reason we fail in our spiritual life is that we don't examine carefully the roles played by all five elements of our person: heart, mind, body, social life, and soul.

Real change comes when we give each element thoughtful and prayerful exposure to God's transforming work. In Revolution of Character, Dr. Willard enables you to dwell meditatively on each of the five elements, understand its role, train it in new patterns, and seek God's transforming power. This powerful, holistic approach will produce new ways of responding to life and will result in profoundly changed character.

Table of Contents:
• A revolution has begun
• The heart, center of our life
• A magnificent ruin
• Restoration of the soul
• Christ's pattern for spiritual transformation
• The battle for our thought life
• Educating our feelings
• Transforming our character
• The body, our primary ally in christlikeness
• Changing how we relate to others
• Transforming the soul
• Being the light of the world.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Monday Music - Good Medicine

As many readers may know already, my dad has been very sick for the last six weeks. He's dealing with an aggressive cancer in his bones and has been pretty miserable.

It was great to be able to visit my Dad last week and to have all three of my boys there with me. They did a little concert right there in Dad's room.

We sang a few gospel hymns and a few fun songs the boys sing when they're in concert. It really cheered him up. Dad said it was the best medicine anybody could give.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Your Presence and Work

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.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Friday Favorites - Before this World

James Taylor has a new recording coming out this summer and I'm looking forward to hearing it. I've been a fan for a long time, and "Walking Man" (1974) is still one of my favorite records of all time. Hope this new album has some new JT goodness as good as his early stuff. What follows is from Rolling Stone Magazine...
James Taylor's Mellow Rebirth: Inside 'Before This World'
The songwriter emerges from a songwriting break with first all-new album since 2002
By Andy Greene March 27, 2015

The last time James Taylor released an album of new material, Tower Records was a multi-million-dollar business, Tobey Maguire was the brand-new Spider-Man, and the Iraq War had yet to begin. "I got out of the habit of writing songs for about 10 years," says the singer-songwriter, 67. "I just never prioritized it."

That changed for Before This World (due out June 16th), Taylor's first all-new LP since 2002's October Road. About two years ago, concerned that he might never release another album of new songs, he decided he needed to cut himself off from his everyday life...