Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Supplication - To Be a Living Demonstration

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. 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.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday Thinking - St. Augustine on Loving God

What is it then that I love when I love you? Not bodily beauty, and not temporal glory, not the clear shining light, lovely as it is to our eyes, not the sweet melodies of many-moded songs, not the soft smell of flowers and ointments and perfumes, not manna and honey, not limbs made for the body’s embrace, not these do I love when I love my God.

Yet I do love a certain light, a certain voice, a certain odor, a certain food, a certain embrace when I love my God: a light, a voice, an odor, a food, an embrace for the man within me, where his light, which no embrace can contain, floods into my soul; where he utters words that time does not speed away; where he sends forth an aroma that no wind can scatter; where he provides food that no eating can lessen; where he so clings that satiety does not sunder us. This is what I love when I love my God.

—Augustine of Hippo (354-430) from THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE, Book 10, Chapter 6, translated by John K. Ryan. Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1960, pp. 233-34. Here is the chapter at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Tome - After You Believe

Now that we're in the thick of the political season,  I'd like to suggest a good book for all my Christian friends about character and integrity. I often hear people criticize politicians for a lack of character, and while that is certainly understandable, I wish more Christians were concerned about their own integrity. Faith and character go hand-in-hand. Let's be sure we take care of the logs in our own eyes before we worry about the specks in the eyes of others. We can't help others with the specks in their eyes unless we take the logs out of our own.

After You Believe: 
Why Christian Character Matters 
by N. T. Wright

Publisher's description...
From the author of the acclaimed Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope comes a book that addresses the question that has plagued humans for centuries—what is our purpose? As Christians, what are we to do with that ambiguous time between baptism and the funeral? It's easy to become preoccupied with who gets into heaven; the real challenge is how we are going to live in the here and now.

Wright dispels the common misconception that Christian living is nothing more than a checklist of dos and don'ts. Nor is it a prescription to "follow your heart" wherever it may lead. Instead, After You Believe reveals the Bible's call for a revolution—a transformation of character that takes us beyond our earthly pursuit of money, sex, and power into a virtuous state of living that allows us to reflect God and live more worshipful, fulfilling lives.

We are all spiritual seekers, intuitively knowing there is more to life than we suspect. This is a book for anyone who is hoping there is something more while we're here on Earth. There is. We are being called to join the revolution, and Wright insightfully encourages readers to find new purpose and clarity by taking us on an eye-opening journey through key biblical passages that promise to radically alter the work of the church and the direction of our lives.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Instruments of Your Mercy

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.

You have shown mercy to us, O God. 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.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Favorites - Tomorrow Night in Hastings

Hastings Art Center (Tickets)
Saturday--July 23, 2016
(doors open at 6:30)
$15 admission at the door

The Roe Family Singers are a Good-Time, Old-Time Hillbilly band from the Mississippi-headwaters community of Kirkwood Hollow, MN. Led by wife & husband Kim Roe (Best Female Vocalist, City Pages/Village Voice) and Quillan Roe (Accident Clearinghouse), the band blends characteristic old-time sound with rock & roll urgency and influence.

Joined by as many as seven musicians, and featuring banjo, autoharp, guitar, and washboard, the band and family of fans have been regularly filling Minneapolis’ 331 Club every Monday night since 2005. In 2010 the band opened for both Doc Watson and Del McCoury, each playing at the Cedar Cultural Center; the Grascals at the MBOTMA Winter Bluegrass Weekend; and Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur at the National Jug Band Jubilee in Louisville, KY. In 2011 the band was awarded the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, and has previously won the title of “World's Best” at the 29th annual Battle of the Jug Bands.

With a mix of original music and contemporary takes on old-time, traditional, and gospel tunes, every performance raises a ruckus.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Campaign '68

This radio documentary was very interesting. Lot's to think about when it comes to political maneuvering and the marketing/messaging approaches of candidates. Looking at the past is a great way to gain insights for the present.


An APM documentary about a presidential campaign that was marked by surprising turns, tragic violence and a momentous outcome. The 1968 presidential campaign was shaped by an unpopular war and by fractious race relations. Donald Trump's advisors say he's looking to Richard Nixon's 1968 speeches for insights. The "Campaign '68" documentary was produced in 2008 by Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis. Now called APM Reports and a podcast called Educate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Words - Warm Summer Sun

Warm summer sun,
    Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
    Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
    Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
    Good night, good night.

"Warm Summer Sun" by Mark Twain.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday Tomes - Tekiela Field Guides

These field guides by Stan Tekiela have been super helpful and fun for me in recent years. They are simple and focused on the Minnesota region, so it's easier to find what I'm looking for. The latest addition to my set is the Minnesota tree guide. Now that I live in Burnsville among hundreds of trees, I'm trying to get a better idea of just what kind of trees they are. I use all three of these guides every week. There are two or three other Minnesota guides by Tekiela that I have yet to add to my collection. For now, birds, trees, and flowers are MORE than enough to keep me busy.

by Stan Tekiela

You've seen Minnesota's beautiful wildflowers. Now learn to identify them. This is your field guide to 200 of Minnesota's wildflowers. Full-page photographs and an easy-to-read format present the information that's critical to accurate identification. And the species are organized by color, so when you see a purple flower, simply turn to the purple section of the book. Wildflower identification has never been easier!

by Stan Tekiela

Make bird watching in Minnesota even more enjoyable! With this field guide, bird identification is simple and informative. There's no need to look through dozens of photos of birds that don't live in Minnesota. This book features 111 species of Minnesota birds, organized by color for ease of use. Do you see a yellow bird and don't know what it is? Go to the yellow section to find out. Fact-filled information, a compare feature, range maps and detailed photographs help to ensure that you positively identify the birds that you see.

by Stan Tekiela

Trees are all around, but how much do you know about them? With this handy field guide, you can make tree identification simple, informative and productive. Learn about 93 Minnesota trees, organized in the book by leaf type and attachment. Fact-filled information contains the information you want to know, while full-page photos provide the visual detail needed for accurate identification. Trees are fascinating and wonderful, and this is the perfect introduction to them.

Naturalist, wildlife photographer and writer Stan Tekiela is the originator of the popular state-specific field guides such as Mammals of Minnesota Field Guide. For over two decades, Stan has authored more than 100 field guides, nature appreciation books and wildlife audio CDs for nearly every state in the nation, presenting many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, trees, wildflowers and cacti. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural History from the University of Minnesota and as an active professional naturalist for more than 20 years, Stan studies and photographs wildlife throughout the United States and has received various national and regional awards for his books and photographs.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Music - If I Can't Win
Published on Jun 27, 2016
The Cactus Blossoms perform “If I Can’t Win” from their J.D. McPherson-produced album, You’re Dreaming. With a pair of National guitars – a 1951 National flattop and an electric National from the early ‘50s plugged into a retro-inspired Tyler amplifier – the duo obviously have a love for all things vintage. But what struck us the most was all the timeless and fresh their harmonies sound in 2016.

Recorded at the Fretboard Journal magazine.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Supplication - Ready to Forgive

O Lord, we praise you and ask that by your Holy Spirit you would shape our hearts and minds to think and do what is right. Provide for our needs and preserve our lives. Make us able to delight in your will and walk in your ways.

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.
Give us the courage and the grace we need to restore relationships, heal brokenness, sacrifice our rights, and humbly consider the needs of others.

Save and protect us, O God, from the things that threaten to consume and destroy us. Help us to look faithfully to you in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, our Lord, who for our sake and our salvation came down from heaven. Help us to love you with heart, soul, mind and strength.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thursday Thinking - Race and History

Aspen Ideas Festival: Bryan Stevenson on Race and History

Bryan Stevenson speaks on the importance of learning our racial history in America and the need for truth and reconciliation. He says the great evil of American slavery wasn't involuntary servitude, it was the narrative of racial differences that we created to sustain it. He believes this led to terrorism, then segregation, and now a presumption of "dangerousness and guilt."

Stevenson is founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He spoke with historian and Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust at the Aspen Ideas Festival June 29, 2016.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday Words - Neither Out Far or 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, July 12, 2016

Tuesday Tome - Face to Face

Tim Keller's Encounters with Jesus is a good companion book for my current preaching series, Face to Face. Actually, my teaching series is a good companion for the book. The outline of the teaching series follows the outline of Keller's book, but the content of each sermon is different.

Encounters with Jesus
by Tim Keller

The people who met Jesus Christ in person faced the same big life questions we face today. Like most of us, the answers handed down to them didn’t seem to work in the real world. But when they met Jesus, things started to change immediately for them. It seems he not only had the answers — he was the answer. In Encounters with Jesus, Timothy Keller shows how the central events and meetings in Jesus’ life can change our own lives forever.