Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Favorites - Jeremy Denk & SPCO

I am looking forward to hearing Jeremy Denk perform Brahms, Bartók, and Beethoven tonight with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

SPCO Concert Information
With Artistic Partner and pianist Jeremy Denk, the SPCO winds show off their prowess, in a program that encompasses stylistic elements ranging from Classical through the 20th century. Beethoven’s Piano Quintet brings drama and high emotion, while Bartók’s Divertimento delivers tension and playfulness combined with elements of folk music. The sweetly sentimental theme present in the first movement of Brahms’ Horn Trio morphs into more melancholy tones in this piece, featuring three instruments the composer studied in his youth—violin, piano and horn.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Marriage Matters

This new report from The Brookings Institution indicates that marriage is better for society than cohabitation. Take a look at the positive impacts children experience when they grow up in a home where their parents are married.

Social Mobility Memos
In Europe, cohabitation is stable…right?
W. Bradford Wilcox and Laurie DeRose
Monday, March 27, 2017

"It is easy to see why some conclude that marriage per se does not matter. But here’s the thing: marriage is itself strongly associated with family stability."
"Our results suggest that there is something about marriage per se that bolsters stability. It could be the elaborate ritual marking the entry into marriage; the norms of commitment, fidelity, and permanence associated with the institution; the distinctive treatment of family and friends extended to married couples; or, most likely, a combination of all these things and more—that promotes greater commitment and stability."
READ THE ARTICLE (5 minutes)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Words - Such Singing

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them

were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

"Such Singing in the Wild Branches" by Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, © Copyright 2003 by Mary Oliver.

• • • • • • • • • • •

Minnesota Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina
In early spring, the fluting eee-o-lay song of the wood thrush resounds throughout the moist woodlands at dawn and dusk. In Minnesota, the bird nests throughout the state, except on the prairie and in the heavy coniferous forests along the Canadian border. It is partial to woodlands with swamps or streams. A heavy-bodied large-eyed bird, the wood thrush is easily recognized by its white eye-ring and light belly marked with black oval spots. A shy denizen of the woods, the bird is usually found alone or in pairs, foraging on the ground or low in trees. It feeds primarily on insects, spiders, and fruits. In Minnesota, the spring migration peaks around mid-May. Typically raising two broods each year, the wood thrush lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated for 12-14 days. Young remain in the nest for 12 days and may live as long as nine years. It departs for its wintering range in eastern Mexico to Panama between August and October.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Music - Tinariwen

These guys are playing at the Cedar Cultural Center on April 10. I wish I could go see them, but I'm busy that night. If you'd like to get in on an amazing cross-cultural artistic experience, this will be a good one.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Supplication - The Eyes of Our Hearts

Gracious Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ, the true bread of heaven which gives life to the world. Fill us with this bread that we might take hold of the life he gives.

Forgive us our sins, O God. And as you have shown us mercy, make us able to be forgiving and merciful to others. Help us to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help us to escape temptation.

Open the eyes of our hearts and enlighten us, O Father, that we may know the hope to which you have called us. Show us your goodness, and transform us by your great and saving power.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Favorites - O'Briens - Shakopee

Last Friday, Cheri and I enjoyed a St. Patrick's Day lunch at O'Brien's Public House in Shakopee. We had a very nice time and a delicious meal. Cheri ordered the shepherd's pie and I ordered the corned beef and cabbage. Both dishes were great! We'll be back.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Thinking - America and Exodus

The biblical story of Exodus is a foundational myth throughout Israel's history and a central metaphor for Christians throughout the New Testament. In his recent piece for the New York Times, David Brooks explores the importance the Exodus myth has also had on the American sense of purpose and identity throughout American history.

Puritans leaving England for America, circa 1635.
The Unifying American Story
by David Brooks · New York Times 2017.03.21

One of the things we’ve lost in this country is our story. It is the narrative that unites us around a common multigenerational project, that gives an overarching sense of meaning and purpose to our history.
For most of the past 400 years, Americans did have an overarching story. It was the Exodus story. The Puritans came to this continent and felt they were escaping the bondage of their Egypt and building a new Jerusalem.

The Exodus story has six acts: first, a life of slavery and oppression, then the revolt against tyranny, then the difficult flight through the howling wilderness, then the infighting and misbehavior amid the stresses of that ordeal, then the handing down of a new covenant, a new law, and then finally the arrival into a new promised land and the project of building a new Jerusalem.

The Puritans could survive hardship because they knew what kind of cosmic drama they were involved in. Being a chosen people with a sacred mission didn’t make them arrogant, it gave their task dignity and consequence...


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Words - Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

"Holy Sonnets: Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne (1572-1631) from Selected Poems: John Donne (Penguin). Today's post is dedicated to friends Steve and Mary with love and prayers from all of us at Valley Christian Church.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Tome - A Glimpse of Jesus (Manning)

This arrived today. Thank you, Dewey Roth, for the suggestion.  :-)
A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred
by Brennan Manning

Publisher's description...
Following his work on the unconditional love of God in The Wisdom of Tenderness, bestselling Christian writer Brennan Manning now turns to the life and work of Jesus to find an answer to what he believes is the most pressing spiritual problem of our age: self-hatred. The damage caused by this problem is immense. We project it onto God, believing God could never love us because we are unlovable, or we expect an unattainable perfection of ourselves and are left drowning in shame. But Manning warns us that we can't look to ourselves if we want to understand God's love: "The Love of the Father for his children plunges us into mystery, because it is utterly beyond the pale of human experience."

The answer to the problem of self-hatred is better understood when we look to the life of Jesus to illuminate the mystery of God's love and compassion. Manning shows us that our persistent self-hatred is rooted in a "script" founded in a faulty understanding of the nature of divine love and a lack of clear understanding of the person and message of Jesus. "In the eyes of the Master whom we have failed, we detect the infinite compassion of the Father and see revealed, in Jesus, the human face of God," he writes.

In bringing us a clearer glimpse of Jesus, he helps us to rewrite this script of self-hatred by patterning our lives after the examples of Jesus on earth: his healing work, stories of deliverance, liberating prayer, integrity of self-acceptance, and all-encompassing compassion. Manning also takes us beyond the personal predicament of self-hatred, asking, "What would the church be like if we erred from an excess of compassion rather than from a stingy and legalistic lack of it?"

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Supplication - To Think and Live as Christ

O God, you are everlasting and always faithful. We thank you for the grace and love you have proven to us by sending Son our Savior Jesus Christ into the world. He emptied himself, and he became one of us, and he suffered death upon the cross in order to free us from the penalty and the prison of sin.

Give us humble and thankful hearts. Help us to walk in his ways and to live by the power of his resurrection. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  And as you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Holy Father, though life is difficult and demanding, you are attentive and faithful. Though the world is entangled in the lie that everything is meaningless, you give us meaning, purpose, and hope. Thank you for the salvation, the strength, and the stability you give through Jesus.

It’s in his name we pray. Amen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Faves - Best News Story of the Week

From National Public Radio Story...
It sounds like the beginning to a buddy comedy movie: Two congressmen, whose opposing parties couldn't be more at odds right now, are stranded after their flights were canceled because of a snowstorm. In order to make it back to Washington, D.C., in time for votes, they rent a car and begin making the roughly 1,600-mile trek.

That's exactly what Texas Reps. Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat, and Will Hurd, a Republican, have been doing for the past two days, allowing anyone to ride along with them in their rented Chevy Impala via Facebook video stream. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday Thinking - Jesus on Facebook

Matt Ingalls has posted some helpful suggestions on the Missio Alliance blog for Jesus followers who are interacting with others through social media. I'd encourage you to read it. (5 minutes)

Doing What Jesus Taught—Even on Social Media
by Matt Ingalls
March 15, 2017 - Missio Alliance

"...I think it’s time to apply Jesus’ counter-cultural character to what has become our social media crisis. And so I humbly submit five upside-down ideas for your social media usage."

Read the full article to see what Matt says about these "upside-down" ideas...

1. Make a Personal Invitation.
2. Pray instead of comment.
3. Argue about the right things.
4. Post a prayer for goodness.
5. Defend the humanity of an opponent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday Words - A Short Testament

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.

"A Short Testament" by Anne Porter from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Growing Young

I attended a seminar for pastors at Bethel Seminary last week. The speaker for that seminar was Kara Powell, co-author of the book Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. The content presented was very interesting and I was glad to get some affirmation about the direction and strategy we've been moving toward in our church. In addition to a good seminar, I was given a copy of the book so I can read more on the subject.

Publisher's Description...
All churches grow old. Strategic churches grow young.
Across the United States, churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation's leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults. It profiles innovative churches that are engaging 15- to 29-year- olds and as a result are growing--spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically. Packed with both research and practical ideas, Growing Young shows pastors and ministry leaders how to position their churches to engage younger generations in a way that breathes vitality, life, and energy into the whole church.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Peace in Every Circumstance

Almighty God, we come to you today asking you to help us to submit our wills and our desires to Yours. Help us to live stable lives with your direction and wisdom. Help us to love your commands and to delight in your promises as we face the challenges and changes all around us. Give us your joy and peace in every circumstance.

Forgive us our sins, O God. Lead us away from temptation. You are faithful to forgive and restore those who have sinned against you. So help us to be faithful to forgive and restore those who sin against us.

Give us the eyes to see your goodness, O God, and help us remember how faithful you have been to your people throughout history. Give us hearts that are ready to worship you all day every day, and voices that are quick to sing your praise.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Thursday Thinking - What Gets in the Way

What is the point of life? What is the point of it all? What is the highest good for being human?

In this short video excerpt, Greg Boyd explains that the Christian answer to those questions is for us humans to enjoy loving God and for God to enjoy and love us. This is the Christian vision of the blessed life. But of course there are some basic things that stand in the way of this ultimate goal.


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

"The Trees" by Philip Larkin, from Collected Poems: Philip Larkin, © Copyright 2004 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Peterson: Answering God

As I've posted before, my wife and I are reading this book aloud together and finding it to be very helpful. We're finding Peterson's insights to be very helpful and interesting. We know it is making us appreciate the understand the Psalms in new and deeper ways.

Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer
by Eugene H. Peterson

Publisher's Description...
Eugene H. Peterson speaks to Christians who realize the necessity for prayer and yearn for it but who find their prayer unconvincing and unsatisfying. Addressing the causes of this dissatisfaction, Answering God offers guidelines for using the Psalms as dynamic tools for prayer.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Show Us Your Goodness

Gracious Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ, the true bread of heaven, which gives life to the world. Fill us with this bread that we might take hold of the life he gives.

Forgive us our sins, O God. And as you have shown us mercy, make us able to be forgiving and merciful to others. Help us to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right. Help us to escape temptation.

Open the eyes of our hearts, O God, and enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us. Show us your goodness, and transform us by your great and saving power.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen

Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Faves - Palace Theater: CBs & Jayhawks

Saturday, March 11, 2017, 7:00 PM

The Jayhawks with The Cactus Blossoms

Palace Theater
W 7th Pl.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Thursday, January 19, 2017, 10:00 AM, The Current's pre-sale
Friday, January 20, 2017, 12:00 PM, public


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thursday Thinking - What the Pastor Feels When People Leave

Thanks to a nice article by my friend, Deacon Godsey, you have an opportunity to peek into a pastor's heart to see what it feels like when people leave the church. I would have to say it's also the way my church elders feel too.

Deacon Godsey
Pastor, Vintage Church

Over the last 6+ years of serving as a Lead Pastor in a local church I like to think I’ve grown as a pastor, preacher, teacher and leader. I’ve expanded my skill set, broadened the pool of voices that speak into my life, and deepened my theological education. Unfortunately, one of the things I often feel like I’ve done most effectively is develop the “spiritual gift of ecclesiastical repulsion,” or “the ability to cause people to leave your church at an alarmingly consistent rate” (#NonTraditionalSpiritualGifts.)

I emphasize the word feel here because, while I logically know this isn’t completely accurate, the emotional side of the equation makes it extremely difficult to stay in a place of reason over emotion. As a pastor, when someone leaves the church you try not to take it personally or have it affect you on an emotional level, but unless you wall yourself off and become spiritually bitter and relationally isolated, that strategy just isn’t feasible over the long haul. I can’t speak for all pastors, of course, but the truth of the matter is – for me – whenever someone leaves the church it does feel personal, whether I (or my wife) want it to or not, and this gets compounded over time.

CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING (Less than 5 minutes)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Wednesday Words - Ash Wednesday

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

“Ash Wednesday” by Malcolm Guite from Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press, © Copyright 2012 by Malcolm Guite.