Sunday, July 19, 2015


Sunday Supplication - What Is Eternal and True

O God, we trust you and we ask for your protection. We are weak, and we need your strength. We struggle with sin, and we need you to make us holy. In your mercy, guide us, and rule over us. Help us not lose sight of what is eternal and true.

In our weakness and selfishness, we often fail each other, fail ourselves, and fail you. We recognize our need for forgiveness and we give thanks for the hope and power we have in 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.

We are sinners, O God. Have mercy us. You see our hidden faults and know our secret sins. Thank you for loving us where we are and for giving us the grace and guidance to rise above our weaknesses.

Help us to love you with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Grant us integrity that our lives might demonstrate our love and devotion to you.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Favorite - The Cactus Blossoms

The Cactus Blossoms are opening for the Charlie Daniels Band in Bayfield, Wisconsin 
tomorrow night at the Big Top Chautauqua. I sure wish I could be there.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Building Attention Span

Do you have the attention span to read something longer than a brief quote mentioned in a blog post? If so, or maybe even more importantly if not, you should check out David Brooks' recent opinion piece, Building Attention Span, published in the July 10 Washington Post. 

Here's a teaser excerpt to get you started...
The online world is brand new, but it feels more fun, effortless and natural than the offline world of reading and discussion. It nurtures agility, but there is clear evidence by now that it encourages a fast mental rhythm that undermines the ability to explore narrative, and place people, ideas and events in wider contexts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wednesday Words - On the Beach

Children playing on the beach,
Mad dogs running off the leash.
Babies eating small mudpies,
Poison puddles in disguise.

Surfers paddling out to sea.
Are there sharks? There well might be.
Children walking to and fro.
Are they wearing sunscreen? No.

Men who go without long pants or
Shirts are asking for skin cancer.
Naked women soon will be
Sent to chemotherapy.

Food left sitting in the sun,
Salmonella has begun.
Young girls talking to strange men
Who yesterday were in the pen.

The days get hotter,
Near the water
Here in Sodom.
Thank God for autumn.

"On the Beach" by Ramon Montaigne.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday Tome - Seeing Is Believing

I've added one more book about prayer to my sermon preparation reading list. I thought Boyd's perspective might have some helpful insights for the new teaching series at Valley.
Seeing Is Believing
by Greg Boyd

Publisher's description...
One of the most common problems with Christians in our modern secularized world is that they don't feel the reality of Jesus. Sure, they believe in him and love him, but he somehow doesn't seem to enter their daily lives in a real sense. Some might say, "You ought to pray more." Others would advise, "You ought to witness more." While this may be true, we don't get closer to God just because we "ought to."

Boyd believes that the way to true spiritual transformation and feeling the presence of God in your life comes from a little R and R: rest and reality. Boyd encourages readers to stop striving and learn to rest in an experience of Jesus as real. The best way to do this, he says, is through imaginative prayer. Experiencing Jesus will teach readers how to use God's gracious gift of creative imagination to know him better and feel his presence in their daily lives.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Music - The Wind

There's a dry wind blowing a tumbleweed–
My heart, my soul.
There's a storm-tossed ship on a restless sea–
My heart, my soul.
There's a swinging arm on a weather vane–
My heart, my soul.
There's the aftermath of a hurricane–
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows;
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes;
It's impossible for me to see.
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

There's a sound of chimes through the back screen door–
My heart, my soul.
There's a crashing wave on a rocky shore–
My heart, my soul.
There's a white cloud dancing across the sky–
My heart, my soul.
Red and yellow leaves learning how to fly–
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows–
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes–
It's impossible for me to see.
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

There are rolling waves in the golden grain–
My heart, my soul.
There's a windmill spinning above the plain–
My heart, my soul.
There's a line of clothes hanging out to dry–
My heart, my soul.
There's an eagle hovering in the sky-
My heart, my soul.

The Wind wills, the Wind blows–
I can hear it rushing through the trees.
The Wind comes, the Wind goes–
It's impossible for me to see.
But I feel its power,
I can feel it moving all around me.

“The Wind” by Dave Burkum, from So Far to Go.
© Copyright 1993 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Truth and Wisdom

O God, we believe you are the source of all truth and wisdom. We believe that you know our needs before we ask, and you know the needs we have but are unable to know. We look to you for compassion and provision and direction.

We confess our sins and weaknesses, Lord. We repent of the ways we have disobeyed and turned from you. Forgive us and help us to turn away from wrong.  Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds.  You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious toward others.

O God, give us hearts to look beyond our own needs and to see the needs of others. Dear Jesus, bless and multiply our meager resources so that we can bless and help others. When we feel too empty or weak to share, fill our hearts and hands with good things to give.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Favorites - Basilica Block Party

Gonna be enjoying myself at the PreferredOne Stage at the Basilica Block Party tonight!
Looking forward to seeing Tyler Burkum playing with Mat Kearney

Sun Country Airlines Stage
WEEZER 9–10:30PM
NATE RUESS 7:30–8:30PM

PreferredOne Stage
O.A.R. 8:45–10:15PM

Star Tribune Stage
ZOO ANIMAL 7:20–8:20PM
TYTE JEFF 5:10–5:55PM

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Thursday Thinking - What Are You Waiting For?
Is there something you've always meant to do, wanted to do, but just ... haven't? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Wednesday Words - The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

“The Vacation” by Wendell Berry. Copyright ©2012 by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Tuesday Tomes - Prayer Books

In just a few more weeks, we will be starting our final teaching series of the summer at Valley Christian Church. Here is an outline of the series...


Sunday, July 19, 2015 - WHY DO WE PRAY?
Sunday, July 26, 2015 - WHEN DO WE PRAY?
Sunday, August 2, 2015 - TO WHOM DO WE PRAY?
Sunday, August 9, 2015 - WITH WHOM DO WE PRAY?
Sunday, August 16, 2015 - WHERE DO WE PRAY?
Sunday, August 23, 2015 - WHAT SHOULD WE SAY? PART 1
Sunday, August 30, 2015 - WHAT SHOULD WE SAY? PART 2

To get the juices flowing for these sermons, I've been reading a number of books including the following...

When the Soul Listens
by Jan Johnson

Learn to find rest and guidance in God, opening yourself to God's presence and direction through this practical approach. If you are disillusioned, searching for something that makes sense, or experiencing spiritual dryness, When the Soul Listens offers a clear path to a fulfilling connection with God and helps you allow God to work change in your life through prayer.

by Timothy Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

Praying with the Church
by Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight, best-selling author of The Jesus Creed, invites readers to get closer to the heart of Jesus' message by discovering the ancient rhythms of daily prayer at the heart of the early church. "This is the old path of praying as Jesus prayed," McKnight explains, "and in that path, we learn to pray along with the entire Church and not just by ourselves as individuals." 

Draw the Circle
by Mark Batterson

In Draw the Circle, through forty true, faith-building stories of God’s answers to prayer, daily scriptures and prayer prompts, Batterson inspires you to pray and keep praying like never before. Begin a lifetime of watching God work.  Believe in the God who can do all things.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Monday Music - Wiggly World

The weatherman says, "Hey, it's gonna be nice!
If you're plannin' your weekend take my advice:
Call a few of your friends and fire up the grill,
The chance of thunderstorms is close to nil."
It’s a forecast from heaven – no precipitation threat!
Get the lawn chairs out and the volleyball net.
So now you're all ready, but it's all in vain –
When your friends show up it begins to rain.

It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
Like a greased watermelon on the fourth of July –
Like a hand that's always quicker than the eye.
It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
It's a zig-zag, runaway, loop hole, trick play,
Slippery, wiggly world.

Hot off the press it’s medical alert!
You’d better change your ways or you're gonna get hurt.
Cholesterol,  sodium, and saturated fats
Have been found to cause cancer in laboratory rats.
So you buy yourself a treadmill and a juicer to boot,
You're chowing down on the broccoli, loading up on the fruit.
Next week on 20/20 it's different song,
A new study shows they might have been wrong!

It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
Try to hold that answer, lock it away,
But I bet they change the question the very next day!
It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
It's a zig-zag, runaway, loop hole, trick play,
Slippery, wiggly world.

Smiles and banners on the campaign trail,
And promises to cure all your government ails.
He says, “I can solve your problems. Let me give you the facts–
I can raise the GDP, I can lower your tax.”
“This ain’t political jive, it’s a workable plan!
Let me kiss your baby, let me shake your hand.”
November comes around, you cast a hopeful vote –
But you find yourself in the same old boat.

It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
Like a greased watermelon on the fourth of July –
Like a hand that's always quicker than the eye.
It's a wiggly world – a wiggly world.
It's a zig-zag, runaway, loop hole, trick play,
Slippery, wiggly world.

“Wiggly World” by Dave Burkum, © Copyright 1994 by Dave Burkum, from If I Close My Eyes. LISTEN / DOWNLOAD / BUY

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Hearts and Minds

O Lord, we trust you to hear and answer the prayers of your people as we call upon you. Please help us to know and understand what things we ought to do. And give us the grace and power we need to actually do them.

Your mercy and forgiveness toward us is so great. O God, make each of us merciful and forgiving to those who have sinned against us.  By your Holy Spirit, help us to turn away from sin.  Give us patience with each other, and give us honesty about our own weaknesses and needs. Renew us and strengthen us to walk in your ways.

We want your ways to be our ways, O God. We want our hearts and minds to be controlled and shaped by you and the truth. Guide us, give us wisdom, and transform 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, July 03, 2015

Friday Favorites - Lowell & Dixie 60th Anniversary

We had a good time with family last night celebrating my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. We're all thankful that they were feeling good enough to enjoy this big event. The last four months have been difficult for them, and the challenge is going to continue in the months ahead. We'll be taking things a day at a time.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers. Keep 'em coming.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Belief and Secularism

Marilynne Robinson, one of my favorite novelists, is also a thoughtful and articulate essayist. Last week, The Christian Century posted a piece by her titled, "Sacred Inwardness: Why 'Secularism' Has No Meaning." What follows is a brief excerpt. If this grabs your interest, I hope you will go to the CC website and read the entire article.

We presume to know more than we can know. In periods and places where religious doubt is criminalized, unquestioning faith is likely to appear universal. Where religious faith is treated as naive and intellectually indefensible, few will confess to it. Where it truly is naive and intellectually indefensible, those who can’t identify with it are often treated as having actually rejected faith, and may believe this of themselves.

So let us call this inability to know the state of our fellow’s soul a veil dropped down between his or her sacred inwardness and the coercive intrusions to which the religious and the anti-religious are equally tempted. If the fate of souls is at the center of the cosmic drama, is it difficult to imagine that it will unfold, so to speak, in a place set apart, a holy of holies—that is, a human consciousness? Where better might an encounter with God take place? If God is attentive to us individually, as Jesus’ saying about the fall of a sparrow certainly implies, then would his history with us be the same in every case, articulable and verifiable, manifest in behaviors that square with expectations? Would it be something we should be ready to talk about to pollsters or journalists?

Perhaps the real lack of faith in modern society comes down to a lack of reverence for humankind, for those around us, about whom we might consider it providential that we can know nothing—in these great matters that sometimes involve feigning or concealment, that are beyond ordinary thought and conventional experience, and that can in any case be minutely incremental, since God really does have all the time in the world. Perhaps it is a gross presumption to try to imagine a God’s eye view of things, but I can only think these encounters, every one unique, must be extraordinarily beautiful. If it is hard for us to believe that the God who searches us and knows us also loves us, perhaps we should learn to be better humanists.

Read More

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wednesday Words - The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems: Volume 1,
© Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.