Monday, August 31, 2015

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 have hidden your word,
hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

"Your Word" by Dave Burkum from Fireside, © Copyright 2003 by Dave Burkum.
Words adapted from Psalm 119:9-11.  Click Here to listen or download.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Help Us to Persevere

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

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

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

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Favorites - Blossoms at the Fair

The Cactus Blossoms
Minnesota State Fair
Schell's Stage at West End Market
Sunday, Sept. 6 and Monday, Sept. 7
8:00 p.m.

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum have been crooning country tunes as The Cactus Blossoms since 2010. Their hypnotic, timeless and unforgettable songs have made them favorites in the Twin Cities music scene.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday Thinking - Joy and Gratitude

Ever thought about the connection between joy and gratitude? Brene Brown sure has, and because of her research and personal experience she has come to believe that one precedes the other. Take just a couple of minutes to see what she has to say. Click Here or on the image below.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Words - August Morning

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect--
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

“August Morning” by Albert Garcia from “Skunk Talk” (Bear Starr Press) © Copyright 2005 by Albert Garcia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Tomes - Christian Prayer Books

Next Sunday I'll be wrapping up my current teaching series at Valley, "Praying with Jesus." In the final sermon I'll be sharing a number of prayers from Christians through the ages. In preparation, I've been going through a number of Christian prayer books that have been important through church history. Here are a few you might be interested in checking out...

The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle
Tickle has gathered one full week of fixed-hour prayers, providing an ideal companion for travelers, office-workers, people on retreat or pilgrimage, as well as newcomers to this age-old spiritual practice. As Tickle writes in her introduction, "prayer is always a place as well as an action, and the daily offices are like small chapels or wayside stations within the day's courses." Seven of these daily offices are offered for each day of the week, and each office contains the Call to Prayer, the Request for Presence, the Greeting, the Reading, the Gloria, the Psalm, the Small Verse, the Lord's Prayer, the Petition, and the Final Thanksgiving. Tickle draws her texts primarily from the Book of Common Prayer and the writings of the Church Fathers, and includes memorable devotional and meditative poems by Cleland McAfee, Charles Wesley, and others. Tickle also provides a chapter of "Traditional, Seasonal, and Occasional Prayers" in order to accommodate special dates like Advent, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving; major life-changes such as marriage, birth, death, and illness; and moments of special petition or thanksgiving.

The Book of Common Prayer
This is the standard Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church together with The Psalter or Psalms of David according to use in the Episcopal Church in the United States as authorized in 1979.

The Glenstal Book of Prayer
Reflecting the richness of two ancient prayer traditions: Benedictine and Celtic.This rich, nourishing prayer book draws on the strength of Benedictine and Celtic spirituality. It offers morning and evening prayer, night prayer, prayer for special moments during the day, prayers for special occasions, additional psalms for meditation, and a series of quotations from the Rule of St. Benedict.

Common Prayer: A Litergy for Ordinary Radicals
Common Prayer helps individuals and today’s diverse church pray together across traditions and denominations. With an ear to the particulars of various liturgical prayer traditions, and using an advisory team of liturgy experts, the authors have created a tapestry of prayer that celebrates the best of each tradition. The book also includes tools for prayer scattered throughout to aid those unfamiliar with liturgy and deepen the prayer life of those already familiar with liturgical prayer. It includes a table of days and readings for the morning prayers as well as an annotated list of saints and days to remember. Churches and individuals who desire a deeper prayer life–and those familiar with Shane Claiborne and New Monasticism–will enjoy the tools offered in this book as a fresh take on liturgy.

The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers
The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature.

Celtic Daily Prayers
Celtic Daily Prayer is the fruit of the spiritual life of a remarkable community. Its liturgies, prayers, and meditations are drawn from a deep well of spiritual experience that transcends fashion, culture, and denomination. Blending prayer and praise and building upon the ancient wisdom of traditional Celtic Christianity, this prayer book is extraordinarily fresh. At the heart of the life of the Northumbria Community, as well as this book, lies the Daily Office -- morning, noon, and evening prayers and a monthly cycle of meditations for individual or communal use each day. With words drawn from sources such as St. Patrick's Breastplate, Teresa's Bookmark, Columba's Blessing, and the Psalms, this cycle of daily prayers reflects the essential rhythms of life.

My Prayer Book (Concordia)
With more than 200 prayers for Christian living, this book is for family or worship, for marital difficulties, for servicemen or women, for the job, and for the lonely. Includes presentation page and a section on key chapters and stories of the Bible.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Music - Vintage James Taylor

I've been listening to the new James Taylor album in recent weeks. It's made me want to listen to some of his early recordings. Can't believe how good and consistent this guy is. Walking Man is one of my favorites from way back when.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Nourish Us with Goodness

O Lord God, we acknowledge your power and your holiness. You are the author and giver of all good things. Work in our hearts and teach us to truly love you.

Nourish us with goodness. Help us to live out true devotion and to worship you in all we do. Help us, by faith, to do the good things you have in mind for us to do.

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 become a community called grace. Help us to have a redemptive and healing impact on the world around us.

We thank you, O God, for life, and hope, and salvation.

Lead us away from temptation. Deliver us from evil.

Provide for our needs this day.

Protect us from discouragement, and encourage us by your Spirit through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Favorites - Blossoms at the Fair

The Cactus Blossoms
Minnesota State Fair
Schell's Stage at West End Market
Sunday, Sept. 6 and Monday, Sept. 7
8:00 p.m.

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum have been crooning country tunes as The Cactus Blossoms since 2010. Their hypnotic, timeless and unforgettable songs have made them favorites in the Twin Cities music scene.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Thinking - The Nitty Gritty Saintly Life

Allan R. Bevere has a thought-provoking piece posted on the Christin Century blogs network. It's worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Here's a short excerpt to whet your interest...
What makes Christians saints is not that they are above it all, but that they in the middle of it all—working, serving, and ministering. Saints, just like the Lord they serve, are not afraid to get their hands dirty for the cause of the gospel, are not discouraged by the almost unmanageable need they see each day, and will not be influenced by those who find scandalous their willingness to associate with the kinds of people Jesus spent time with in his ministry. Saints are holy because they are worldly—that is, they engage themselves in the realm God in Jesus Christ has come to redeem.
Click Here to Read It All

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Words - Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

"Sleeping in the Forest" by Mary Oliver, from Twelve Moons, © 1979 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Tomes - Finished / Started

Praying with the Church
by Scot McKnight

I finished Scot McKnight's Praying with the Church while on a camping trip on the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais this past weekend. I especially appreciated the two chapters that talked about the Jewish prayer traditions and practices during the time of Jesus. I'll be incorporating some of that information into my sermons the next two Sundays.

Tokens of Trust 
by Rowan Williams

On that same trip, I also began reading a beautiful little book by Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Williams writes beautifully and accessibly. Introducing the basics of Christian faith is actually a pretty complex thing to do. Williams not only has the breadth of theological understanding to present his ideas with clarity, he also has the cultural and pastoral sensibilities needed to speak in a way that takes questions, objections, and preconceptions seriously.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Music - Better Day

Abel made a sacrifice.
Enoch somehow never died.
Noah built an ark
And left the world outside.
Abraham didn’t have a son,
But by faith he traveled far.
His children now outnumber
The stars.

Take another step,
Breathe a little deeper,
Straighten up and take a stand.
Walk another mile,
You’re headed for a better land.

Isaac blessed and prophesied.
Jacob worshipped, staff in hand.
Joseph spoke of exodus from
Egypt’s land.
Moses chose to be mistreated--
Pharoah’s pleasures he would deny.
The Red Sea parted and the ground the children walked
Was dry.

Take another step,
Breathe a little deeper,
Straighten up and take a stand.
Walk another mile,
You’re headed for a better land.
Think about the joy,
Don’t forget the promise,
Let the Spirit lead the way.
Tomorrow’s gonna come--
It’s gonna be a better day.

Gideon, Barak, and Samson--
There’s not time enough to tell
Tales of Jephthah, King David,
And Samuel.
There were those who closed the mouths of lions;
Those who quenched the fury of the flames.
They suffered this world’s hateful scorn
And shame.

Still they took another step,
Breathed a little deeper;
They weren’t afraid to take a stand.
They walked another mile,
Headed for a better land.
They thought about the joy--
Thought about the promise;
They let the Spirit lead the way.
They gave a little more,
Hopin’ for a better day.

So take another step,
Breathe a little deeper,
Straighten up and take a stand.
Walk another mile,
You’re headed for a better land.
Think about the joy,
Don’t forget the promise,
Let the Spirit lead the way.
Tomorrow’s gonna come--
It’s gonna be a better day.

"Better Day" words and music by Dave Burkum from Breathe a Little Deeper
© Copyright 2000 by Dave Burkum. Listen / Download / Purchase

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Supplication - A True Community of Grace

Help us, as part of your Church, to be a living demonstration of your power to save and transform and renew. Make us a true community of grace.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to turn away from darkness and to love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, Lord God, for Jesus, who did not regard equality with You a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and became a servant. Help us, like him, to reach across barriers, to welcome the weak, to serve, and to look to the interests of others.

It’s in His name that we pray all these things. Amen.
O God, we are so thankful for your mercy and love. We thank you for your Son, Jesus, and for the life and salvation he has made possible for us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Favorites - Gunflint Trail

I'm enjoying a few days with friends at Golden Eagle Lodge up on the spectacular Gunflint Trail. The North Shore of Lake Superior and the Gunflint Trail are lifetime favorites of mine.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thursday Thinking with Sam Berns

Sam Berns gave a wonderful TED Talk a couple of years ago when he was a high school student. In just twelve minutes, his amazing and winsome young man gives some simple, yet powerful perspectives that help him live with purpose and happiness. 

CLICK HERE or on the image below to watch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday Word - Honey

Only calmness will reassure
the bees to let you rob their hoard.
Any sweat of fear provokes them.
Approach with confidence, and from
the side, not shading their entrance.
And hush smoke gently from the spout
of the pot of rags, for sparks will
anger them. If you go near bees
every day they will know you.
And never jerk or turn so quick
you excite them. If weeds are trimmed
around the hive they have access
and feel free. When they taste your smoke
they fill themselves with honey and
are laden and lazy as you
lift the lid to let in daylight.
No bee full of sweetness wants to
sting. Resist greed. With the top off
you touch the fat gold frames, each cell
a hex perfect as a snowflake,
a sealed relic of sun and time
and roots of many acres fixed
in crystal-tight arrays, in rows
and lattices of sweeter latin
from scattered prose of meadow, woods.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

"Honey" by Robert Morgan, from A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, edited and with an introduction by Czeslaw Milosz, © Copyright 1996 by Czeslaw Milosz.

Also appears in The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems by Robert Morgan, © Copyright 2004 by Robert Morgan.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Tome - Praying with the Church

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." Praying with the Church is written for all Christians who desire to know more about the ancient devotional traditions of the Christian faith, and to become involved in their renaissance today.

With his trademark style of getting right to the heart of theological concepts through practical, witty, and memorable examples from everyday life, Scot invites readers to explore: How Jesus prayed, How the Psalms teach us to pray, How Orthodox Christians pray, How Roman Catholics pray, How Anglicans pray, How The Divine Hours of Phyllis Tickle teaches us to pray, And, how praying with the church is an essential part of spiritual formation.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sunday Supplication - Wisdom to Take Hold

Almighty God, you have sent your only Son into the world to save us from sin and death. We thank you for his sinless life, his selfless sacrifice, and his example of godly life.

Give us the wisdom to take hold of all Jesus has so freely given. Thank you for his redeeming work in our lives and in our world. Help us to follow daily in his steps.

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 and forgiving toward others.

O God, you have shown mercy to us. Give us the attitude of Christ Jesus that we might be a testimony of your grace and instruments of your mercy to everyone around us. 

We pray in the name of Jesus, our merciful Savior. Amen.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Thursday Thinking - 5 Reasons You Should Walk

From Health Essentials - Cleveland Clinic...

People who walk regularly swear by the health and psychological benefits of their daily jaunt. Here are five reasons why they’re right.

1. Walking reduces stress, cheers you up and increases self-esteem

2. You can lose weight by walking just 30 minutes a day

3. Regular walking lowers blood pressure, improves sleep 

and energizes you

4. Walks can be easier and more fun with a pedometer and a pal

5. People experience a major dip in snack cravings during 

and after a 15-minute walk


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wednesday Words - Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

"Neither Out Far or In Deep" by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost.
© 1969 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Tuesday Tome - The NIV Study Bible

We're getting near to the end of the 2014-2015 Bible Reading Plan at Valley Christian Church. This is the reading schedule I follow while blogging at Useful Breath. It's also the plan many people use in my Pathways Class on Wednesday nights at Valley (which starts up again on September 16).

If you're thinking of reading through the Bible with me in the coming year, now would be a good time to start getting ready. The first step would be to make sure you have a good study Bible. The one I recommend is the NIV Study Bible from Zondervan. I would suggest getting the hardcover edition and a Bible cover that zips shut.

I will soon be putting together the 2015-2016 reading schedule. I invite you read along with me and follow my Useful Breath blog. If you live in the south metro of the Twin Cities, I hope you will consider being part of my Wednesday Night Pathways Class.

Publisher's description of the NIV Study Bible...
The NIV Study Bible is the #1 bestselling study Bible in the world’s most popular modern English Bible translation―the New International Version. This best-loved NIV Study Bible features a stunning four-color interior with full-color photographs, maps, charts, and illustrations. Since its first release in 1985, the Gold Medallion Award-winning NIV Study Bible has become the treasured and trusted companion of over nine million Bible readers. The in-depth notes are coded to highlight notes of special interest in the areas of character study, archaeology, and personal application. Visually arresting section breaks help you find your bearing in the Bible. Full-color photos, maps, and illustrations make this study Bible accessible and friendly. Referred to daily by millions of pastors, students, church leaders, and other Bible readers around the world, the over-20,000 NIV Study Bible notes are the handiwork of the same translation team that produced this Bible’s text. The very best evangelical scholarship that brought you today’s most popular modern English Bible also contributed to the most celebrated and widely used study notes in existence. All of these features, and more, also make it perfect for homeschool use. Like no other Bible, the NIV Study Bible places an entire resource library for Bible study in your hands. Features: • Full text of the world’s most popular modern English Bible―the New International Version (NIV) • Over 20,000 study notes, with icons to make important information easy to spot • Introductions and outlines provide valuable background information for each book of the Bible • In-text maps, charts, diagrams, and illustrations visually clarify the stories in the Bible • 16 pages of full-color maps plus time lines and presentation page • Words of Christ in red • NIV concordance plus subject and study notes indexes

Monday, August 03, 2015