Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cinematic Orchestra...

What a treat Montreal shared with us last night: a stellar performance by the Nu Jazz/ electronica band Cinematic Orchestra. We first heard them in London last summer and got totally excited by their mixture of jazz improvisation, techno/urban grooves and liberation lyrics from a decidedly urban realm. Jason Swinscoe has created a top notch group of artists who are committed to both blending improvisation with the new art of "sampling," and taking the experience of a concert to new heights of emotional, intellectual and spiritual community building.

To my clearly limited ear they sound like a fresh combination of Philip Glass, Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Roger Waters, John Coltrane and Jay Z with a UK sensibility and a ray of light amidst the darkness. Listen to this prayer/riff/jam/lament/ode to the Spirit and tell me you don't think God is alive and well and at work in our world...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walking Montreal...

One of the ways Dianne and I take a vacation involves walking and exploring: last summer it was London and this summer it has been the Berkshires and now Montreal. We have walked and watched - listened and laughed - a lot this summer. It has been refreshing in all the right ways. And now in these final days before Labor Day and the return to a whole different kind of energy back home, we decided to wander 250 miles north for a few days of being in a new place.

Montreal is a beautiful place with a rich multi-cultural history. It is very, very humbling and good for me to be in a place where my language is not a part of the dominant culture. Good because it pushes me into paying attention to others, being open to learning from others and genuinely trying to be a gentle guest. I learned French when I was a child, but chose Spanish as my other language of choice while living and studying in Central America, working with the Farm Workers Union and living in the the desert Southwest. To hear French again is refreshing... and to have to figure out directions and distances is a sweet challenge. Being with such tender bilingual people is also energizing and humbling. Makes me think of the stupid and fear-based arguments that have been raging in the USA for the past 15 years about "English only" and the anti-immigration legislation that has sprung up like a mean-spirited rash. Many (if not most) of the signs here include a smaller English language explanation for that is one way of expressing cultural hospitality. Yes, the Quebecois are the majority here, but they are a minority in Canada and there is something in scripture about "remembering when your parents were wanderers... in a foreign land" that runs deep.

I never would have thought it but apparently I look French because I am always being addressed as a Quebecois - I always thought I favored my Celtic roots - so this is kind of a hoot! (Must be the metro-sexual thing, heh?) We've walked all over the Old City and the Rue St. Denys today - stumbled upon the town's "Bowery" by accident, too - along with our exploration of the river front and major art galleries. Tonight we're headed out to "Club Soda" - a rock venue in the heart of the red light zone featuring one of our favorite Euro-bands, Cinematic Orchestra. Di said if she'd seen the venue BEFORE buying tickets she might not have done so as it is surrounded by sex shops and... "alternative businesses." Should be more fun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Connecting one generation with another...

Today I had the privilege of sharing some wine and stories with the children of one of my dearest mentors in ministry: Sam Fogal. To be with Karin and Tim, whom I knew when they were little babies and are now strong, wise adults, was a joy. Sam died in early July after a long year of illness. He was my youth pastor in the 60s and one of my inspirations to go into ministry. He was a man who helped me make sense of the Christian faith when American cities were burning and war was raging in Vietnam. Later, Sam took me on as a seminary intern and gave me a chance to preach and teach during the days of US intervention in Central America. He knew in his soul that God was unleashing something new in 1967... and I have never been the same!

We shared love, prayer, conversation and study for over 40 years. We wept together when Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down. We prayed and tried to understand what God was saying when students were beaten in the streets of Chicago in 1968. Sam encouraged me to bring contemporary music into traditional worship (and we did everything from the Mothers of Invention to Godspell) and gave me permission to explore a ministry with the Farm Workers rather than finish undergraduate school.

Sam always prayed for me and my ever changing family as my life matured. I had to miss his memorial service because our oldest daughter, Jesse, was being married. What made that day even sweeter is that one of our mutual friends, Malcolm Bell, was present for Jesse (her godfather) and we had the chance to hold Sam dear during the marriage. (NOTE: Malcolm was both my Sunday School teacher and Jesse's godfather - AND - he was the guy who broke the cover-up story about ATTICA while working as one of the state prosecutors!)

And now I get to rejoice with Sam's children as my friends. I can connect one generation with another and give thanks to God. Tim played drums at my ordination 27 years ago. Karin called me a few years ago after reading my doctoral dissertation with encouragement in my new direction of deep ecumenism. They are their own wonderful people - and a gift from Sam, too. Today was another blessing and I rejoice.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Things the grandchildren should know...

My church band met tonight to work on a unique worship gathering on September 7th: We are going to share a host of music - sacred, secular, jazz, rock, chant and folk - so that the people who are present will experience new ways to pray using music and the arts and the totality of their lives. My hope is that we can move beyond the rut of "holy words" - as good as they are - so that we can use real words to share our prayers with God and one another.

Some of our musical choices are obvious - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a prayer of lament and "A Thousand Beautiful Things" is an invitation to see the holy within the human - same is true for "I Think I See the Light" and "One of Us."

The real challenge for some will be the Eels', "Things the Grandchildren Should Know." At first blush it sounds childish and the words are... weird or at the very least opaque. But, like so much of scripture, this song tells us that we are not only rooted in a certain history and culture that shapes and influences us beyond our awareness, but also that this continues unto the third and fourth generation. What's more, this song also reminds us that people change very, very slowly no matter what New Age gurus might promise. Mark Oliver Everett writes:

I go to bed real early
Everybody thinks it's strange
I get up early in the morning
No matter how disappointed i was
With the day before
It feels new

I don't leave the house much
I don't like being around people
Makes me nervous and weird
I don't like going to shows either
It's better for me to stay home
Some might think it means i hate people
But that's not quite right
I do some stupid things
But my heart's in the right place
And this i know

I got a dog
I take him for a walk
And all the people like to say hello
I'm used to staring down at the sidewalk cracks
I'm learning how to say hello
Without too much trouble
I'm turning out just like my father
Though i swore i never would
Now i can say that i have a love for him
I never really understood
What it must have been like for him
Living inside his head
I feel like he's here with me now
Even though he's dead

It's not all good and it's not all bad
Don't believe everything you read
I'm the only one who knows what it's like
So i thought i'd better tell you
Before i leave
So in the end i'd like to say
That i'm a very thankful man
I tried to make the most of my situations
And enjoy what i had
I knew true love and i knew passion
And the difference between the two
And i had some regrets
But if i had to do it all again
Well, it's something i'd like to do

Tonight, as we struggled to find the right key and the right groove for our little band, when we got it right (the key of F) Dianne's voice cracked as the meaning of this prayer grabbed her someplace deep within. She's had her own shit with her dad - like many of the rest of us- and she's come to see that she while she never really knew what was going on in his head and... there is a love that is bigger than the shit. She made me cry with the grace of it all...

Another prayer comes to mind... Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to your never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that you are doing for them better things than we can desire or pray; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tears of joy and gratitude...

Let me simply be clear: I am a sucker for America! I love baseball, I am a deep patriot in love with our history (warts and all) and I weep when people tell the American story in all its fullness. I stand up and sing when the National Anthem is shared and cross my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, too. So you can imagine how I am feeling after watching sister Michelle Obama at the opening of the Democratic National Convention. (I am sure I will have a similar moment come Labor Day and the start of the Republican show, too.) But let me be clear: watching Michelle's mother - that beautiful, dignified, strong and saintly old black woman who has endured the best and worst of America - as Michelle spoke turned me into a non-stop fountain of tears of pride and hope and sorrow.

When I was working with my African American colleagues in Cleveland for school board reform and was invited into the homes of these black matriarchs... when I was organizing with black Mississippi woodcutters in areas that were just a few generations away from share croppers... when I stumbled upon a woodcutter's family outside of Philadelphia, MS who had befriended Goodman, Schwerner and Channey back in the days of Voter Registration in Mississippi and told me their stories around a table of butter beans and cornbread with my 5 year old daughter... when they gave us a small cot to sleep on at the back of their house when I couldn't make it home after a day of organizing... I was blessed - and I saw all their faces again and more in Michelle's momma during tonight's speech.

All their sacrifice, commitment, faith, agony and strength... and I was so proud to have journeyed a little bit with them. And so proud that Michelle was now speaking on behalf of their deepest dreams... and that those dreams are my dreams, too. And then Richard Daley was on TV - it was 40 years ago that his daddy turned the dogs and hoses and troops on my friends protesting the war in Vietnam - and now his son was celebrating a genuine civil rights champion. It was a moment of hope and prayer for me.

Made me think of this song from the last election by John Mellencamp and Travis Tritt - a democrat and a republican - about maybe finding a way to realize our deepest dreams together.

It was a night of many, many tears for me... and I know many, many more were shared by those who have sacrificed far more than I can ever imagine. I give thanks to God that I have had the chance to walk with some of them and pray that we shall overcome.

Meditating with Contemporary Art...

In 1986, after a regional electronics manufacturer went belly-up, local arts patrons and politicians went to work transforming the old Sprague Electric plant into a state of the art performance venue for contemporary art too big for most museums. Thus, Mass MOCA - the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts - was born with the help of Williams College and the leaders of North Adams, MA - and came to life in 1999.

Now, contemporary/modern art is clearly not every one's cup of tea. Art historian, Roger Lipsey, makes the case that unless you can appreciate "the four keys that make abstract art sensible" - analogy and symbol, the energy of the image, style (playful or refined, etc.) and a works inner life - most of us will find modern art impenetrable. Indeed, the many cartoons in The New Yorker testify to the fact that a lot of contemporary art is not only misunderstood, it is garbage. What I find uniquely exciting about the totality of modernism as well as contemporary art, however, is the artist's commitment to freedom and her/his willingness to explore and fail.

This weekend we encountered three different experimental exhibits in the sprawling showcase in North Adams and each worked in its own unique way.
The BADLANDS: NEW HORIZONS IN LANDSCAPE was a collection of paintings and sculptures that exposed the contemporary American badlands of the 21st century with the same verve and honesty as both the Hudson River School of the 19th century or even the 1960s Earth Art

Three artists in particular grabbed my attention: Mary Temple painted a corner of a room in the shadow of a window; her work first constructed a life size room with two walls and then she painted the shadow onto the wall and floor in a way that looked as if the sun were, indeed, being blocked. It was so carefully executed - and subtle - that you couldn't not go back over and over.

Jennifer Steinkamp's video installation of a tree blowing in the wind - and moving through 4 seasons - was equally engaging and meditative. And Leila Daw used tapestry to create volcanoes and rivers that extended beyond the limits of a traditional frame so that the power and chaos of nature spilled onto the walls.

Two other exhibits spoke to both my head and heart, too. EASTERN STANDARD: WESTERN ARTISTS IN CHINA gave me a visceral awareness of the enormous changes taking place in this Olympic nation in ways that are both heroic and challenging. And JENNY HOLZER: PROJECTIONS took a football field size auditorium and turned it into a screen for two poems - and throughout the darkened room were overstuffed bean bag chairs for people to lay upon and take in the slow movement of the words - so that "the space was transformed into a meeting place where people, word and light interact."

In his book, The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, Roger Lipsey note3s that:

The spiritual makes itself known slowly in the course of (a work of art.) It needn't even be called "spiritual," but words of some kind will be found to describe an intelligence, a vitality, a sense of deliverance from pettiness and arrival at dignity that always seem a gift. It includes a perception of grandeur in the world at large, which cannot help but strike one as sacred, quite beyond oneself and yet there to be witnessed and even shared in. How everything fits together - one's own small life with the cosmos, one's own brief illuminations with whatever enduring light there may be... (p. 9)

As we wandered and watched - meditated and meandered - I kept thinking of something that was said about another contemporary artists, Mako Fujimara of NYC: "The idea of forging a new kind of art about hope, healing, redemption, refuge while maintaining visual sophistication and intellectual integrity is a growing movement... and Mako is in the vanguard."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sabbath rest...

One of the true signs a vacation has arrived for me is the 13+ hours of sleep that usually washes over me about day 3 - and true to form last night I was blessed by its sweet gift. Our daughter and new husband arrived in the early evening from NYC (just recently back from a month long honeymoon in Italy) so we had lots of grilled polenta, fish, eggplant and red wine. And then, after hearing a few of their honeymoon stories, this old man crashed - and slept and slept and slept.

What a great gift that first extended sleep of vacation is for me: no worries, no thoughts, no concerns. Just deep Sabbath rest as the Creator intended after a full year of creativity. I resonate with old Huston Smith that we Christians have lost something just and vital in giving up a deep and sacred Sabbath.

So, after tea and biscuits, walking through the garden and sitting on the deck to soak up the sun, we schlepped off to Mass MOCA for a long afternoon of exploring contemporary art (more on that tomorrow). Then telling more family stories, devouring excellent Mexican food and talking about our hopes for the year to come. I am always blessed when my children gather with us for stories and feasts - always! Two poems come to my Sabbath mind:
"You are old, Father William,"
the young man said,
"And you hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head - do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again." (Lewis Carroll)

And from "A Prayer for My Daughter" by William Butler Yeats:

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower...
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye disraught,
Of hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beaut a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right and never find a friend.

I have been blessed: thanks be to God. What's more, in addition to blessed children, I have a woman who loves and cares for me beyond what is fair and just and is all grace! I can't help but think of Bobby McFerrin's rendering of the 23rd Psalm...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Listening... and laughing... and learning

One of my favorite vacation adventures involves sitting at an outdoor cafe or coffee house and listening for the totally "odd" (read: bizarre/wacky) things people say to one another - they always make me laugh and I believe that laughing is often as good as prayer. Once, for example, while standing in line to use the restroom during the intermission at the movie, "Gandhi," I heard someone say (and this is a for God's sake honest quote): "I'm not White, but I eat that way." I looked everywhere for that voice, but alas, it was not to be found.

NOTE: I make it a point NOT to listen to sad or angry stuff because life is too short and, well, it is none of my business, right? At Dunkin' Donuts not long ago I heard one of our locals go on and on about Obama and his Arab backers - totally seriously - which reminded me that I can sometimes live a pretty elite existence with my head in the clouds (which is another good reason to sit and listen carefully.)

My current favorite, however, comes from a NY Times movie review which I had to say out loud to my wife - and which I wished I had originally come up with - because it caused us both to laugh out loud in chagrin at its brilliant irony (and it would have been too funny to have someone else overhear us cackling at our all too obvious humanity and failings!) In discussing a film about a young, troubled man we're told, "a simple truth about parents and children too rarely broached in American movies, particularly in an indie scene enslaved by juvenilla: There's more to your parents than you."

Sometimes you just have to stop, listen a bit... and laugh out loud. How did Bob Dylan put it: "It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry?"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Crazy ass dancers...

I LOVE modern dance - ballet, too - so today Di and visited Jacob's Pillow - the Berkshire's premier summer dance forum. I had wanted to attend one of the "ticketed" performances of the Trey McIntyre Project - a program that includes the world premiere of Leatherwing Bat, with music by American folk artist, Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, as well as a variety of other contemporary music - but at $58 per ticket we opted for the free early evening Inside/Outside show.

OH MY GOD... I pray that the little children who had to endure 45 minutes of dreadful dance and incoherent storyline will forgive their parents or grandparents for dragging them to this horrible post-apocalyptic SOMETHING...?!? The grounds of this dance school are gorgeous but this performance was so cliche bound and UGLY that it brought to mind this cartoon from a recent New Yorker...
(for those who can't read the cartoon it says: "Do you find it painful when I get funky?!")

Still, what's a vacation for but to explore a bit and take a few chances, yes? Tomorrow we are off to a farmer's market and Sunday to MassMocha - the region's premiere modern art museum. I can't wait!

Here's what I missed... great dancing at its best!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Poetry and prayer...

Before Dianne married me, I was a cretin when it came to poetry. I knew "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe: all mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe. 'Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!" but that was about it. She was a poet - and a fabric artist, too - and I was a moron when it came to art (except for music and movies and literature.)

Now, after many, many years (mostly beautiful and all blessed in their own curious ways)I find poems help me pray. One of the first poems Di turned me on to came from Pat Mora, Latina writer from El Paso, whose "Lesson I" continues to speak to me on so many levels:

The desert is powerless
when thunder shakes the hot air
and unfamiliar raindrops slide
on rocks, sand, mesquite,
when unfamiliar raindrops overwhelm
her, distort her face.
But after the storm, she breathes deeply,
caressed by a fresh sweet calm,
My Mother smiles rainbows.

When I feel shaken, powerless
to stop my bruising sadness,
I hear My Mother's whisper: Mi'ja

don't fear your hot tears
cry away the storm, then listen, listen.

I have prayed these words for years now - whenever I don't know what I am feeling but want to cry - this poem/prayer gives me permission to let the tears flow. And curiously, like rain in the desert which we adored for a decade, after the tears flow... clarity and a certain serenity surfaces.

I have this same reaction to George Harrison's, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I realized last night that I have been listening to this song - praying it and weeping it, too - for 40 years! And it never, ever grows old for me - especially Clapton's guitar prayer of lament that punctuates and then culminates the song - it always grabs my by the throat like Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me... have mercy on me and blot out my offenses; wash me again and again from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

This version of the song comes from Clapton's "Concert for George" and it always unglues me - for almost 120 minutes George Harrison's friend, Eric Clapton, pays sweet and tender homage to his old friend by playing his songs carefully and with reverence. Sure, Eric Idle and Micahel Palin do their Monty Python schtick, Badfinger does an incredible version of "Here Comes the Sun" and others sing, too, but Clapton plays it straight... until the end when he let's his heart break playing the guitar solo he first created in 1968: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

The concert took place on the one year anniversary of Harrison's untimely death to cancer... and when his dear friend - who ironically once wooed Harrison's wife, Patti, and wrote "Layla" about her - lets go with all the heartbreak and pathos a guitar can express, it is like God wailing for the wounds we create over and over again. It is a prayer of incredible prowess...

Makes me think of D.H. Lawrence who wrote:

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly,
that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time
can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance,
long, difficult repentance, realisation of life's mistakes, and the
freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

Tonight I give thanks for the time to rest and think... and pray the poems that heal my soul.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I am going on vacation...

One of the blessings of being a clergy person in my tradition (United Church of Christ) it that while we don't get paid lots, there is the understanding that we need time off for renewal and reflection. So, I am off for two wonderful weeks of quiet gardening, reading, prayer, art museums and a few music gatherings. It is GLORIOUS in the Berkshires right now - under 70 degrees but sunny - and it looks like it will stay that way, too.

I may find the time to blog a bit while I am on my down time - I'm going to have dinner and wine with the children of one of mentors in ministry who died earlier this summer as they, too, have become my friends and close to my heart, and, also head out to Montreal for some jazz and cafe society, too - but I'm not sure I will get to much writing either.

Still, before I sign-off for a bit I wanted to share this poem by Yehuda Amichai - a great poet of Israel - who spent most of his life fighting for his life: in the 1930s he fled German and the Nazis and fought in both WW II and the war of Israeli Independence only to live the rest of his life in conflict bound Jerusalem. His poem, God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children, really hit me:

God has pity on children in kindergartens,
He pities school children - less.
But adults he pities not at all.
He abandons them,
Sometimes they have to crawl on all fours
In the roasting sand
To reach the dressing station,
and they are streaming with blood.

But perhaps
He will have pity on those who love truly
And take care of them
And shade them,
Like a tree over the sleeper on the public bench.
Perhaps even we will spend on them
Our last pennies of kindness
Inherited from mother,

So that their own happiness will protect us
Now and on other days.

So many images from scripture, yes? Trees planted by the waters - my God, my God, why have thou forsaken me - the Lord is your shade - what does the Lord require? - so many more. One scholar notes that at the end... "we are one another's hope in violent times."

That is surely what I hope and pray for this ministry: that we might truly become one another's hope in these violent and uncertain times. I also pray that we might be part of the healing of America's culture wars that continue to wound and plague us - and the wider world. Like St. Francis, I ache for us to be instruments of God's peace.
Tonight, as I was driving home from my last commitment for 14 days, Lou Reed was singing, "Dirty Boulevard," on my IPOD, do you know it? Earlier I had heard brother Gil Scott-Heron's "B Movie" - the best rap/jazz song ever about American politics - and now Lou Reed's sad word picture of life on the streets of a poor, working class neighborhood in NYC during the Reagan years - but it is still as true in 2008 as it was in 1981. Lord, have mercy.

Listen to this: it is freakin' BRILLIANT... and a sad, sad prayer, too (with David Bowie thrown in for good measure, to boot!)

Rilke wrote:
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stand somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

So... I'm going out for a walk.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rock and roll prayers...

NOTE: From time to time church people ask me, "WHY are you so insistent on incorporating contemporary secular music into the fabric of worship?" Its a good question - not overly cranky and certainly one that deserves a careful reply - so what follows is the heart of it for me at this moment in time.

Many of us – dare I say too many of us – have been taught and trained to consider prayer as a mental exercise rather than an encounter with the Sacred. Consequently when we pray as adults, if we pray at all, it is either formulaic and ritualized or dry and devoid of emotional depth. As a result, a great many of us simply stopped praying – except in a superstitious or childlike way during moments of fear and anxiety – and part of our inner life became frozen in time. Trapped in immaturity, confused and unfocused.

To be sure, we still experience flashes of awe and spiritual delight – peak experiences of transcendence and peace – but they are random encounters with God rather than something born of regular intimacy. So we plateau, living lives filled with obligations and countless little details, frazzled and slightly over-whelmed by the demands of existence without a deeper awareness of grace. Further, while we know something is missing when we take the time to be still, we don’t know how to fill that hole with something satisfying and real. Our public lives have matured and become complicated, but our inner lives still feel childish – even unformed – so we abandon the quiet places and become busier still. And yet like Bob Dylan sang so long ago, there is a place within whispering: “Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

To add insult to injury, our tradition has neither adequately equipped us with the tools to explore this emptiness nor offered the emotional permission to embrace our questions: we feel somehow unfaithful in our spiritual inadequacy – judged for our doubts – and left to flounder by ourselves when we don’t fit in. And in an era like our own, which is filled with social, moral and ethical confusion – let alone the reality of terror – many grow resentful and tired of banging their heads on the walls of a church that fails to hear our cries.

We have heard Christ’s call – “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." – but most of the time our churches treat us like unwelcomed outcasts who crash the dinner party.

And this is why I am so committed to exploring the way beauty in general – and music in particular – can help us cultivate a new /old worship experience that is broad enough to express radical hospitality and deep enough to nourish both head and heart. It is clearly why the story of the outcast woman pouring perfumed oil on the feet of Jesus continues to resonate within me for after being scolded by the insiders, Christ says, "She has done something beautiful for the Lord and wherever my story is told it will be shared in memory of her!" As Jesus makes room for those pushed to the periphery, so, too, does an expanded aesthetic of worship.

Too often our orthodoxies only honor beauty when it becomes translated into ethical living: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52: 7) But this is only half of authentic spiritual maturity; good works and ethical living must be nurtured, cultivated and softened lest they give form to “good people in the worst sense of the word” as Mark Twain cautioned.

Beauty – and beautiful music more particularly – waters what is parched in our heart and soul. It lures us towards compassion and encourages us with hope. Indeed, it is one of the ways we experience the promise of God in Psalm 85:

Show us your mercy, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what God the LORD will say for God promises peace to his people, his saints— but let them not return to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who are in awe of the Lord that his glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth meet together; compassion and justice kiss. Faithfulness and truth shall spring forth from the earth and right relations will fill us from heaven. The LORD will indeed give what is good and our land will yield its harvest. Compassion goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

Please be clear about this: the music we are now incorporating into worship is not about me and my quirky aesthetic preferences. That would be arrogant and ugly and unfitting to any worship encounter whether the music be traditional sacred hymnody or secular rock and roll. No, what we are attempting to explore is a new way of being prayerful. It is a style of opening ourselves to God in a manner that is spiritually embodied while at the same time conscious of culture, history and our lived experiences.

It is an experiment in giving Psalm 85 shape and form for adults of the 21st century where head and heart, heaven and earth, the holy and the human and the ordinary and extraordinary are held together in paradoxical unity and tension. In a word, it is a way of meeting God in heart, soul, body and mind with both our faith and our fears – a working understanding of faith that welcomes questions and doubts alongside of hope and love – so that the word becomes flesh within and among us.

Just as Stravinsky shocked the classical world by bringing the jarring tones of the industrial revolution – let alone the wild abandon of ancient mating rituals – into the high culture of his day with “Rites of Spring,” so this experiment in prayer incorporates contemporary popular culture in to the worship tapestry alongside traditional sacred music. It treats rock and jazz as equal partners in the marriage that is public worship and weaves the old into the new so that tradition and innovation becomes a unified garment. And when visual art – and dance and movement are added – then another level of integration and incarnation becomes possible. But always with a spirit of deep reverence and trust that if “God is really one of us” as Jesus said, then the historic wall of separation between sacred and secular must be destroyed and torn down as false and unholy.

People may prefer one style of music – or dance, sculpture, film and film making – over another, but let there no longer be that false and destructive pseudo-elitism in worship that relegates popular culture to the realm of kitsch and elevates tradition beyond its true significance. As the old hymn says, “In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth."

One guy who continues to help me put this all together is The Boss, Springsteen, who understand community, song, faith, hope and love and how beauty can save the world. Back in 1999 when he reunited his old buddies, the E Street Band, they closed their shows with a reworking of "If I Should Fall Behind." It was a little bit of soul, a whole lot of gospel and jazz and an embodied prayer of how this whole thing works. I have been blessed by Bruce in concert (U2, too) more times than in worship - sad, but true - but I don't give up. "For now we see as through a glass darkly..."

This experiment in worship takes St. Paul seriously when he tells us that in Christ there is “neither male nor female, young or old, neither Jew nor Gentile.” For by extension we might add: no “in” or “out” styles of music, no rock or classical, jazz or hip hop, high or low culture either, just one continuous expression of gratitude for a grace that sets us free. "Time makes ancient truth uncouth" our grandparents sang in the 19th century. Today, along with that old stand by, we also sing Gregorian chant, world music choruses from Africa and Latin America alongside U2 and Sarah McLauchlan. For just as Israel’s prayer book, the Psalms, included sounds of joy and sorrow, hope and anger, trust and profound doubt, so, too, our worship in the 21st century.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A paradox...

The poet, Alicia Ostriker, put it like this in, "The Story of Joshua."

We reach the promised land
Forty years later
The original ones who were slaves
Have died

The young are seasoned soldiers
There is wealth enough for everyone and God
Here at our side, the people
Are mad with excitement.
Here is what to do, to take
This land away from the inhabitant:
Burn their villages and cities
Kill their men
Kill their women
Consume the people utterly.
God says: is that clear?
I give you the land, but
You must murder for it.
You will be a nation
Like other nations,
Your hands are going to be stained like theirs
Your innocence annihilated.
Keep listening, Joshua.
Only to you among the nations
Do I also give knowledge
The secret
Knowledge that you are doing evil
Only to you the commandment:
Love ye therefore the stranger, for you were
Strangers in the land of Egypt, a pillar
Of fire to light your passage
Through the blank desert of history forever.
This is the agreement.
Is it entirely
Clear, Joshua,
Said the Lord.
I said it was. He then commanded me
To destroy Jericho.

(Based on Joshua 6: 2-25)

At the same time - at the same damned time - Greg Mortenson stumbles through Pakistan building schools (mostly for girls) and spreading hope, spiritual cooperation and genuine good will. He says, "everywhere I go I find there are good people. We fail to appreciate the fact that we can be optimists. We’re very pessimistic now. Americans need to form bridges and have relationships with the moderate Muslim majority who are our greatest allies there. And I also hear Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders all saying, “God is on our side.” Actually, God is on the side of the widow and the orphan and the refugee. But most of all we need to take care and have compassion and love those who need that the most."

Then that incorrigible Irish poet, Patrick Kavanaugh, has to have his say:

I saw Christ today
At a street corner stand
In the rags of a beggar he stood
He held ballads in his hand

He was crying out "Two a penny
Will anyone buy
The finest ballads ever made
From the stuff of joy"

But the blind and deaf went past
Knowing only there
An uncouth ballad seller
With tail-matted hair

And I whom men call fool
His ballads bought
Found him who the pieties
Have vainly sought

The mystical Jewish Buddhist, Stephen Mitchell, too, in his commentary on Job: After crying out to the One who is Holy about his suffering and pain - after pouring out his heart in grief and confusion - "Job's response is awe. He can barely speak. He puts his had over his mouth, appalled at his own ignorance... The Voice (of God) now, in a series of gruff, most ironical questions, begins to speak explicitly about god and evil. Do you really want this moral sense of yours projected onto the universe? Do you want a god who is only a larger version of a righteous judge, rewarding those who don't realize that virtue is its own reward and throwing the wicked into a physical hell? If that's the kind of justice you're looking for, you'll h ave to create it yourself because that is not my kind of justice..." And Job becomes quiet - surrenders, actually - but not in defeat or depression but in a "wholehearted giving-up of self... the ultimate act of generosity and poverty... He has faced evil, has looked straight into its face and through it into a vast wonder and love."

Joan Chisttister says: She who is centered in the Tao can go where she wishes, without danger. She perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. And my boys keep playing, "Please, please, get up off your knees..." and that is the only thing that makes sense to me as we live into this paradox. Get up off your knees... leave your small vision of the Holy behind... see the one filled with beauty right here... and love them with all your heart.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blowin' in the wind...

I watched Rick Warren’s hyper-objective and honest conversation with the candidates for the US Presidency tonight – and it was illuminating in four key ways:

+ First it showed America (and I hope the wider world) that the evangelical church – and Christianity in general – is both more diverse than the Religious Right and more compassionate than some of our former public incarnations. The fact that Pastor Warren can authentically speak of both McCain and Obama as his friends is an important distinction; it is clear that ideologues like Dobson et al seek to demonize those they disagree with – and the new culture of evangelical Christians oppose this with passion and vigor. Indeed, TIME Magazine is right: the new generation looks more to Bono than Focus on the Family.

+ Second tonight’s broadcast spoke to the need for healing in the American body politic: Pastor Warren made it clear that just because good people disagree – and both Obama and McCain disagree profoundly – does not make one good and the other evil. Indeed, Warren stated that the time has come for America to move beyond the ugly demonization of our recent past – a sin both political parties have played with in spades.

+ Third, if there was any question about how these candidates differ – and which issues they sense are the most vital to their hearts and the soul of our nation and world – this conversation was clarifying. When asked which Supreme Court justice he would NOT have ratified, McCain said, “Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy and Sutter” while Obama said, “Thomas, Scalia and Roberts.” Very interesting, yes? You may draw your own conclusions about why these folk were picked by each candidate – and their clarifying comments are worthy of study – but they clearly show a very different direction and worldview and this distinction matters. Further, when asked about the nature of evil in the world, Obama spoke of walking with humility, knowing and owning the horrors that have sometimes come when trying to end evil only to create more and the faith that ultimately evil will be overcome by God, while McCain spoke solely in terms of terrorism, national interest and the war. Again, this is a distinction worth serious and even prayerful consideration.

+ Fourth, both men – Obama and McCain – are good men in the best sense of the word. For 10 years I enjoyed the work Senator McCain did for both Arizona and the United States when we lived in Tucson. He is a man of conviction and true commitment. Yes, he has his faults, and the old Barry Goldwater Republicans in my church loved to tell stories about him and his failings. Senator Obama has a proud record, too. I have worked with the church-based community organization that trained him and know what this means – and I have heard their stories of his less than righteous attributes, too. I guess it is fair to say that both men carry their treasures in earthen vessels – and this should be a part of our prayers for them both.

During the broadcast, Mr. Obama used more scripture than Mr. McCain while the Senator from Arizona drew more applause from the Saddlebrook Church audience than the Senator from Illinois. Interesting for a church, yes?

Yesterday, the polls put both men at 44% with 10% undecided. This is a fascinating year – one pregnant with possibilities – and ripe with danger. As a pastor, it is neither my place to publicly endorse or encourage one candidate or another (although back in the earliest days of Massachusetts clergy, the minister regularly preached election day sermons and clearly spoke about which candidate was the man of God!) Rick Warren got it right when he said that there IS a public and important connection between faith and public policy - it is not a private matter as some like to suggest - it is a matter of worldview.

Richard Rohr speaks of faith as a worldview - a commitment and trust tha God's justice, compassion, hope and integrity will prevail even with the evidence is obscure - and I think he is right. As this election matures, my prayer is that we will all look towards the very clear Biblical mandate when it comes to claiming our worldview: “to love justice, to act with compassion and to walk with humility with our God” (Micah 6:8) and pick accordingly.

Small acts of beauty - redux

After spending the morning in a canoe on the Housatonic River pulling up garbage, whiskey bottles, Styrofoam and God only knows what else with Liz... and seeing my church mates plugging way at tires and all sorts of other human debris in this once and future beautiful river, my mind drifted to this moment in the TV show, "Northern Exposure." I think Chris says it better than I ever could so just enjoy knowing that small acts of beauty - even the outrageous ones - matter. I love living in a place where people still care and act like it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A one year anniversary

This weekend will mark our first anniversary in the Berkshires: what a blessing! (In reality, my first Sunday here was at the end of August but... we arrived a year ago and we'll be on vacation for the last two weeks of the month.) What a bunch of changes have come into our lives: a move from the Southwest to the Northeast, the marriage celebrations of BOTH wonderful daughters - first Michal in September and then Jesse in July - new jobs for both Di and myself - WINTER (omg!!!), selling one house and buying another just before everything tanked, surgery for Dianne and the start of a church renewal commitment that is both exciting and challenging. Today we celebrated by getting our bedroom organized and cleaned: FINALLY! Only one year in the making - but it looks great. We did a little more home organizing then went to the Clark Art Museum and topped the day off with the best Mexican food we've had since leaving Tucson at El Coyote Flaco in Williamstown. They boast 86 varieties of tequila, too. It was a grand late summer day in these lovely hills (although some of the leaves on the tress are already turning... can autumn be far off?) Made me think of this poem by Jane Kenyon:

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Tomorrow our church will join with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team for a morning of river clean-up along the Housatonic. It will be fun, hard and good all at the same time with the sun out and about 75 degrees - then church on Sunday - and some vacation time. It is a good season to be alive. I am grateful. I have come to work with some very dedicated, faith-filled, creative and totally delightful church folk, I have made new musical friends who have helped me create some of the sounds inside my head and heart - and I have had one of the best years in my married life. I rejoice... and give thanks.

Good-bye ol friend...

I just heard the news that an old musical friend, Tom Hunter, has died. When I was a student in the Bay Area, Tom was a local minister/musician - I saw him open for Tom Paxton once in San Francisco. I enjoyed knowing he was doing his ministry of love and hope through music but had lost touch of his doings... and now he is gone. His wife posted this poem by Mary Oliver - so good - so sad - so true.

To live on this earth you must be able to do three things:
To love what is mortal;
To hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it;
And when the time comes to let it go,to let it go.

It made me think of another sweet singer also gone... Eva Cassidy. Here's her version of a song that has always been dear to Di and myself: Time After Time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Creativity and the image of God within us...

NOTE: This is the fith and final collection in my series of sermon/conversation notes about the role of beauty in the work of our congregation's commitment to compassion and justice.

I was getting into bed a few nights ago – returning thanks for a full and satisfying day – when a song popped into my head: “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” by Cat Stevens. Do you know it? It comes from that totally strange and beautiful movie, “Harold and Maude,” which I loved when it came out and still enjoy it today. It’s a song about how we become our best selves – our truest selves – not a phony or a fake, but the soul God aches for us to become when we live creatively. It goes like this:

Pretty simple – very 70s – and refreshingly honest and beautiful, too, in a gentle, hippie kind of way – and that is what I want to consider with you this morning: living creativity and gently into the image of God so that you – and you and you and me and all of us – bring healing and hope into the world. The artist, Makoto Fujimura, whom I hope we will bring up here from NYC, put it like this in an essay called “Redemptive Culture.”

Creative acts reveal to the world what is missing – or broken – or wounded… so our art needs to reflect generative creativity, creativity that envisions realities beyond our exilic wastelands… Redemptive culture, therefore, is more than reparative: redemptive culture is generative. We need to not only engage in the culture at large, repairing the damage caused by our fall, but also to create out of Jesus’ redemptive entrance onto the stage of human history a vision of a world that ought to be… reparative work uses the existing language and methods to do “patch work” and is imitative; generative creativity is unique to each human being. Reparative work tends to be limited to utilitarian needs; generative creativity seeks deeper roots of beauty.

Hmmmmmm… beauty can heal and save the world? Let’s think about that: “creative acts reveal to the world what is missing – or wounded – or broken.” That is why, you see, the Bible begins with a story about God’s creativity and what it brings to birth within and among us. It was an editorial decision to kick scripture off with a story about God’s first act of creativity and beauty and how that creativity and beauty has also been placed within us who were created in the Creator’s image and likeness. Peterson restates Genesis One like this:

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: "Light! – and light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, and named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning— Day One…

And then God: "Let us make human beings in our image, make the reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." So God created human beings; created them godlike, reflecting God's nature; created them male and female. Then God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth." God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good! So it was evening and it was morning—Day Six… so God rested.

This is, of course, not literal history: our best scholars have noted that this portion of scripture comes from the 6th century BCE when Israel was held in captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. As the priests began to rethink and reform their ancient traditions – literally learning how to sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land by the waters of Babylon – they began to tell their people how God brought order out of chaos in the beginning: the world was formed from the start in a clear and creative way by a loving and creative God. And, the priests were clear to say, what was shall also be true again. It was a message of hope and reassurance in chaotic times that God’s spirit would eventually bring order and creativity to God’s people as it was in the beginning.

Are you with me here? Is that clear? This first story of creativity, beauty, life and order being wrought from the chaos is a grand and theologically reassuring poem that sets two deeper ideas in motion:

First, that it is the nature of God’s Holy Spirit – ruach – to be both creative and orderly at the same time. What does the text tell us: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form and void...some versions say that the earth was unsightly and unfurnished suggesting complete chaos. So God said: let there be light – and an ordering process began upon the deep – another ancient symbol of chaos – and there was night and there was day and creation began to take shape. The first insight is that it is the very mission and work of the Holy Spirit to creatively bring beauty and order into being according to God’s will.

And second, that we, too, have been created, formed and filled with this same drive for creative order and beauty within us by the Lord because God said: let us make humanity according to our very likeness. In fact, both creation stories in Genesis are clear that not only is our nature created in the image and likeness of God the Creator but that after fashioning us… “The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the human being became a living being.” God put the Holy Spirit – who brought order and beauty out of the chaos – into our beings so that we became nephesh chayah – a living soul filled with God’s spirit or breath of life.

So, based upon this foundational poem, would it be safe to say that our tradition understands human beings to be created by the Creator – and filled with a creative spirit – in order to bring beauty, creativity and order to the world? What do you think about that? As an old, old Nancy Sinatra song put it: how does that grab you darling?

Let’s take each part separately: 1) we have been created by a creator; 2) filled with a creative spirit and 3) inspired (which is what breathed into means) to bring beauty to a broken world.

Created by a Creator: to me this speaks about God as revealing our purpose in life, yes? Before there is any discussion of the fall or sin – before there is any mention of the brokenness we create in the world – we are told about beauty and order and creativity from the very source of life itself. Why do you think this is important? What does it tell us about meeting God through discovering our purpose in life?

Filled with a creative spirit: Have you noticed that a lot of people don’t think they are artistic or creative? “I can’t play the guitar like you do” – “I can’t make music on the organ like Lou” – or “paint like Avery and Frances” – or “cook like Emeril” – or sculpt like Rodin… or doing anything really artistic like… who are some of your favorite singers? Composers? Artists?Movies?

Well, we are bound to feel inferior or uncreative or just klutzy if we are comparing our gifts to stars and professionals – but that isn’t what our tradition teaches. The scripture doesn’t say: in the beginning we were all filled with the Holy Spirit to be like Beethoven or Bach or Picasso or my favorite Impressionist Claude Monet – or Gorbachev – or Bono – or Mother Theresa or Franz Kafka, Martin Buber, Georgia O’Keefe… right? Rather the scripture simply says: God created human beings; created them godlike, reflecting God's nature; created them male and female.

St. Paul builds on this essential insight in two places: I Corinthians 12 and Galatians 5. In his letter to the church in Corinth he gives us the image of the Body of Christ: just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members are a part of the body, so it is in Christ. We are one in the Spirit – though different – and one in the Lord. At the same time there are different parts of the body all with unique work to perform: a foot, a tongue, a head and all the rest. And in Galatians he says: look we are all one but we have different jobs and different gifts – some are filled with love and others are filled with joy, or peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And guess what? We need all of these gifts… so let the gifts of the Spirit guide you and help you realize your purpose.

First there is our purpose – God given and real – second there is our gift – our unique and Christ-like blessing that we have been called to share freely within the body – and then there is the work of beauty – the very inspiration of the Holy Spirit in time, history and culture. I think this is where the second text – and the words of Mako – takes form and substance for us. Here Jesus is looking at what passes for religion in his day – he calls it a religious fashion show – and he takes on those in power who like to control other people and make them jump through hoops of guilt and control. In chapter 13 of Matthew he tells us:

Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ. "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. Now listen carefully: "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars… Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either.

Now let’s be clear: Jesus is not bowdlerizing the faith of our sisters and brothers, he’s ranting against hypocrisy and every religious tradition has its own share of phonies and fakes. What’s more we all have some of that within ourselves, too. And this comes into focus when he turns his eyes on the holy city of Jerusalem and literally weeps:

Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"

He’s heartbroken – the place that should be filled with beauty, hope, shalom and order is in chaos – it is broken, wounded and degraded like so much of life: think Iraq, think Washington, DC, think Russia and Georgia, Israel and Palestine, Zimbabwe or China. So he speaks a word of creativity – how often have I ached to embrace you the way a hen gathers her chicks – it is a poem – a creative image that makes it oh, so clear what is missing, yes?

That is what beauty, art and creativity can do in a broken world – for as Mako said so clearly – art “needs to reflect generative creativity, a creativity that envisions realities beyond our exilic wastelands… and then go beyond “patchwork” so that we can repair the damage of sin, fear, hatred and chaos. Let that sink in for a moment as my friends speak to it through music:

For the past month I have been outlining the broad ideas of why a spirituality of beauty is essential to our era: it heals, it comforts, it challenges and inspires us. But it also puts us in touch with our truest selves – an identity born through a Creative God for creativity, beauty and order in the world– so that our lives have purpose, form and shape – and bring healing and hope to the world.
I want you to take this into your heads and hearts deeply – I want you to wrestle with it and embrace it – I want you to get creative with these ideas. I’m going to go on vacation later in the week – it has been a year since I came to join you in this journey into faith – and I’m going to take a little break to seek out some beauty. I’m going to sit in my garden, I’m going to hear a few concerts, see a little Shakespeare, play a little guitar and take in a jazz show in Montreal.

And when I get back, we’re really going to get down to it because God is at work among us, dear friends; at work bringing order out of the chaos, pushing us towards order and beauty and helping us show an alternative to the brokenness that continues to wound the world.

+ Already we've been asked to bring our little band back to PCTV for an hour show - and we're going to do it.

+ On the first Sunday I am back - September 7th - we're going to bring to you a whole new way of imagining worship as my friend and jazz pianist, Jessica Roemischer, joins us to mix jazz, traditional and contemporary music with visual images in a retelling of the Christian story and Holy Communion that will blow you away... (check her out at:

+ I've begun conversations with theatre people and other local musicians who are asking us to put on a production and revival of the musical, "Godspell" for this generation (it is already being revived on Broadway starting this fall!)

+ And my friend and colleague, Luther, has suggested we think about hosting a Festival of International Music of the Spirit later in the spring as a way of bringing the regions artists and performers and composers together.

Dr. King once said that every generation is given a moment to make a difference - a moment that can bring healing and hope - but that moment doesn't last forever… It could well be that this is OUR moment, so let’s take a moment to reflect as we move into our morning prayers:

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me – Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me: melt me, mold me, fill me, use me: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me

PS: for a real treat check out my friend's poem and reflections at: The Velveteen Rabbi

playing for our lives: a concert to combat local homelessness June 15 @ 7 pm

In an interview with Krista Tippett a few years ago, the late Jean Vanier gave contemporary people of compassion his antidote for despair:...