Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Year Added


Wasn't that just yesterday?

If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday

Still singing "Hallelujah!"

Many of us are familiar with the haunting and beautiful Leonard Cohen song, "Hallelujah." Making the rounds this year on You Tube and Facebook is an adaptation, approved by Cohen, of an Easter-specific version.


He is risen! Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus' fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.”
― A.W. Tozer, Preparing for Jesus' Return: Daily Live the Blessed Hope

Let the hope and promise of life be alive in all of us this Easter.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Silent Sabbath

Nothing to say. I am sure that's how the Disciples felt on that other silent sabbath.

They most likely did not go to the Temple or the Synagogue. Fear would have kept them at home.

They probably observed the Sabbath Laws as they were practiced in 30 AD: staying close to home out of fear of the authorities as much as fear of breaking God's Law.

They were shell-shocked, confused, defeated.

A day of silence when, for them, the world they had longed for, worked for, fought for was done.

Their hearts were as heavy as the stone which separated them from their master.

At that moment nothing, absolutely nothing, could have made them believe that they would ever be happy again.

That is what I ponder each year on the Great Sabbath.

How wrong they were and therefore, how wrong I can be when I believe that all has come to an end.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday 2014

The Way of the Cross
The Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorows)
A way of meditating on Jesus' walk to Calvary.
It is the way of Good Friday.

1. Jesus is condemned to death

2. Jesus carries his cross

3. Jesus falls the first time

4. Jesus meets his mother

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

7. Jesus falls the second time

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

9. Jesus falls the third time

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments

11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross

12. Jesus dies on the cross

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Memoriam: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of the great names in world literature. Amazing ability to describe the indescribable in a way that makes you understand and want more.

The opening lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point."

Maundy Thursday 2014

Three pictures to consider for today:

As I have done for you,
now do for each other.


The Bread of Heaven
The Cup of Salvation
Do this in remembrance of Me.

And when they had sung a hymn,
they went into the garden.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Passion Week Pondering

I know we more frequently call this week Holy Week, but I am still partial to the power of calling it Passion Week. It gets to the depth of the mystery of the week.

One other thing that has happened in recent years is combining Palm Sunday with the Passion. So last Sunday I sat in church and participated in the Gospel for the week. A few of the things I pondered.

  • At the start was the parade. All glory laud and honor to thee redeemer King. The service started in the parish hall with the Palm Sunday reading. The brass accompanied the hymn as the congregation moved (processed, paraded) into the sanctuary, led by the cross, where the Cross above the altar was covered in red. We were not just observers, we were there, singing praise and honor.
  • Then for the Gospel we heard a narrative reading of the Passion story. Voices called out to free Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. A stark reminder. Again, we were not just observers, we were there, standing helplessly by as the story unfolded.
  • There was no sermon. None was needed; none was called for. The Gospel said it all and the only thing left for us was to think on those things, pondering and keeping them in our hearts for the week ahead. I know that the response in many a Protestant church would have been dissatisfaction that the preacher didn't preach. But there is not much to say at that point. Nothing to do but pray. We were not just observers, we needed to be there.
  • Then we came to the table. Bread of heaven, cup of salvation. The reality of the Passion incarnate. We are not observers, we are there. No, He is here.
  • As the postlude played us into the world I remembered that this year is 50 years that I have been a Christian. It is 40 years as an ordained clergy. It is another Palm Sunday. Another Passion week. I realized I have even less understanding of what all this means than I did 10 years ago let alone 40 or 50 years. I have no idea about the meaning, no logical, reasonable explanation for this Passion Week.

But I am even more convinced than I was then,
of its importance 
in my faith and life.

After all, I am not just an observer. 
He is here. 
So am I.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Power in Performance

We were at The Guthrie this past weekend for their remarkable production of Othello. We are season subscribers and find that our 7 - 10 plays a year are some of the best use of our entertainment budget. This was no exception.

Every time we sit there before the show starts, I am struck by the sense of anticipation. It is similar to what happens when the opening titles start in a movie. But here, in the theater, we are about to see live actors on stage in front of us. These are actors who are about to have us suspend our sense of belief of the world we are watching and transport us to different places in different times right before our very eyes.

The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis does it better than most and as good as any of the best. It is a top-level performance. Always.

So as I sat there on Saturday, the lights very slowly dimming and tense music filling the theater, I sat back ready for the experience. I have never seen a production of Othello. (I have seen many Shakespeare performances at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, and the Guthrie. This great tragedy has not been one of them.) I found myself anticipating the story, the intensity, the way Shakespeare can always take your emotions and twist them into pretzels as you love every minute of it.

Othello was no exception. Raw energy exuded from the stage. I was being swamped by a tsunami of power and evil. Iago is the quintessential villain, the paradigm of evil, manipulating Othello and all around him for his own ends. The two characters are in this struggle from the opening scene although Othello doesn't know it until it's too late- at the end of the play. I was put through a wringer for the three hours of the production. It never let up and the two actors commanded the stage every moment.

In the second half of the play the two women, Desdemona and Emilia, have their chance, but the two leads are a force of nature onstage. There is little in the way of comic relief. Shakespeare built the play around these strong personas and, in comparison, all but the two women are just part of the scenery. An amazing feat.

All this by a playwright who lived 400 years ago and spoke an "ancient" version of the same language I do, while inventing portions of it as he went along. Issues of love and hate, prejudice and jealousy, power and its consequences never change, however. They are as devastating in the 21st Century as they were in the 17th.

To watch this being enacted in front of me, by real people, is an amazing experience. It is drama at its best. You don't, in a Shakespearean tragedy, get to the end and all will be well as they live happily ever after. Shakespeare lived in a world where the Plague could shut down the city for months on end. He lived in a world many never had the chance to live happily ever after. In his great tragedies he expressed the image of that experience.

 We walked out of the theater truly exhausted by the intensity. At the same time we were better for having been there, wiser in the ways of the world and given a view of the places the human soul can go when taken over by hatred or evil.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Destined to be Great

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
from their most recent album
the title song, "That's It!"

And is it ever!

I can't stop listening to it and being completely blown away at the virtuosity, power, beat and wonder of this remarkable production. It is GREAT!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday 2014

Between now and next Sunday Christians will ponder the mystery of Holy Week. The beginnings of the Eucharist in Holy Thursday's Last Supper, the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, the day of silence on the Great Sabbath and finally there will again, as always, be the empty tomb.

A few weeks ago a line from a hymn caught my attention and it seems right to start this Holy Week with the idea I found in it. The hymn spoke of the fact that

Grace chases evil away.
I was struck by the seeming incongruity of that statement. Not because I don't believe in grace- I depend on it day in and day out. But we don't think of what happens this week as "grace." Not in the sense that grace itself is the action that defeats evil- and will continue to defeat evil in our own lives and world.

Grace- the free, unencumbered gift from God.

If we have to earn it,
it isn't grace.
If we have to pay for it,
it isn't grace.
If we have to be good enough to deserve it,
it isn't grace.
How does that chase evil away? How does that defeat evil?

Then it came to me, evil wants us to think we are powerful
or have to be good
or earn the love of God.

Evil wants to undermine the idea that God loves us
just as we are.

In the depth of our soul we know that we can never be good enough, or strong enough, or wise enough to get the love of God
by our own actions.
As a result we end up pursuing control, looking for power.

The Evil One tells us that God will destroy us
or turn us out of paradise.

Grace calls BS on the words and works of evil.

Grace simply says
Come on in. I'm right here.
Let THAT sink in as you go through this Holy Week.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Writer With Extraordinary Skill

Any good book will grab you and take you into new places. Each good book does it in its own way. The other week I finished one of those special books, Daniel Alarcon's At Night We Walk in Circles. Alarcon is a powerful young writer. He is of Latino background and writes of an unnamed South American country. He is part of a new Latino literature building on the work of many of the greats of the last 50 or so years.

In this latest book, his 2nd novel, he has honed his craft brilliantly. His language flows with beauty and depth. His descriptions are simple and simply engaging. His ability to build a story and release bits and pieces of characters and information is almost mystical. It unfolds like a mystery revealed, one page, one sentence at a time.

His earlier novel, Lost City Radio held the promise of his excellence. He brings it to light in Circles. Don't miss it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Truth Spoken

Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
--Jean de La Fontaine

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three Cheers for Signs of Spring

Pussy willow is a name given to many of the smaller species of the genus Salix (willows and sallows) when their furry catkins are young in early spring.
Or as I would put it:
Hooray! At last the victory signs of spring are beginning to take over!

Both pictures taken this very day, 4/11/14 in Rochester, MN.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

This is What You Shall Do

Some leaves to ponder from another century,
but valuable in any year.

Think upon these things

"This is what you shall do;
  • Love the earth and sun and the animals, 
  • despise riches, 
  • give alms to every one that asks, 
  • stand up for the stupid and crazy, 
  • devote your income and labor to others, 
  • hate tyrants, 
  • argue not concerning God, 
  • have patience and indulgence toward the people, 
  • take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, 
  • go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, 
  • read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, 
  • re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, 
  • dismiss whatever insults your own soul, 
  • and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
-Walt Whitman, from preface to "Leaves of Grass"

(Formatted for emphasis with apologies to Whitman.)

Monday, April 07, 2014

It HAS to be Spring. It Just Has To Be!

After nine to ten inches of snow on Friday, things have warmed up. Good thing, too. Today is the Twins home opener.

At the end of the 2011 baseball season I posted a video of the season's pre-game video along with the 7th inning memorial to Harmon Killebrew.

So, with nostalgia and hope for the season, here it is again!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Spring Waits Somewhere

Got my first chance this spring to go to Whitewater State Park yesterday. A beauty of a day. High in the 40s. (Barely up to normal.) But the sun was out, the mud was deep, and the snow disappearing. I went looking for signs of spring. Not much luck.

It is still tightly wound up, embraced by the protective core that allows winter survival.

But the sky was blue, water muddy, and snow was on the paths. No snowshoes needed.

How is this different? Well, here is yesterday, 4/5/2014.

And here is April 1, 2012. No fooling. Probably about two weeks difference in growth. Will check back in a couple weeks and see if we have caught up.
Actually, I also checked back and 2010 and 2011 look more like this year than 2012. Although there were signs of trout lilies in those years. This year- nada!
Anyway, here are some more pictures from yesterday. It is always possible to find things and places to photograph. What a wonderful world.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Ending Phase One

“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
One of the first goals I set for myself back when I went into semi-retirement was to get eight years of notes for a book out of the Moleskines and onto the computer. I started that while we were in Alabama in February and was surprised by some of the other thoughts and notes I discovered. I did not get sidetracked (much) and kept at it when I returned to winter in Minnesota last month. Even returning to full-time work didn't slow things down much at all.

Thursday evening, sitting at Caribou Coffee I finished the transcribing and reflections. At this point I have a little over 20,000 words of the memoir/book that I have been percolating for these past eight years. THAT surprised me. I hadn't realized how much I had already written and where some of it went.

But in good writing style, this first draft is everything Anne Lamott called it. It is a crappy, chaotic first draft. As first drafts often are. After all it was written in bits and pieces in journals with no rhyme or reason, just what happened to arrive in my consciousness at that point. Sure, it started with planning and doing my 60 miles for 60 years bike ride in 2008, but it went a number of other places in no particular order.

Now comes the next phase, figuring out what it all means and where it's going. I am aware of many inconsistencies, repetitions, and just plain awful writing. I have to get it in some kind of order, find the holes and work on discovering the threads that will tie it together and give it a direction.

Sounds like fun for the next months.

If only I can stay away from the other distractions I found that Paul Rudnick didn't mention.

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Maze or a Beauty?

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
--Joseph Campbell
La Alhambra
Granada, Spain
April 2002

Thursday, April 03, 2014

After the Rain

Comes the sunset.

And more.

Monday evening, March 31, 2014
Rochester, MN