Friday, March 30, 2007

It Is Marvelous! Part 2

Yesterday I posted about a hymn I wrote...I've since had three separate requests to hear what it sounds like. Now Fridays are my day off, and I try to be as strict as I can about not going to the "office" on my days off...however, I was out and about today checking items off my weekly Friday "honey-do" list, so I made an exception and stopped by the church.

The only digital recording device I own is my camera, so not only do you get to hear the hymn, you also get to see almost 4 full minutes of an empty sanctuary as seen from next to the organ in the balcony! What a treat...

There's a short introduction at the beginning, and I didn't sing along, which will be a relief to many of you I'm sure. I also added the requisite "half-step festival keychange on the final stanza" (which isn't part of the sheet music, but which I think sounds nice).

And please be kind--while I prefer the sound of the organ for this piece, I'm a much better pianist than organist.

So, without further ado, I give you: the World Wide Web debut of It Is Marvelous!


Friday Five--Holy Week, Batman!

From the RevGals:

Well, the Clergy Superbowl is almost upon us, and so, I offer up this Friday Five (with apologies for the irreverent title):

1. Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated?
This Sunday will be palms only, mostly because it's also my congregation's 75th anniversary celebration, and from a logistics standpoint it's tough putting together a truly cohesive Passion Sunday service, nevermind adding all the additional anniversary "stuff" on top of it. (Plus, people don't want a damper put on their celebration with messy things like betrayals, beatings, and crucifixions.) In my perfect little world, Palm Sunday would be Palm Sunday only anyway. Just as Lent is a journey to Easter, so too should Holy Week be. Give me palms and hosannas on Sunday; footwashings, Seder and eucharist on Thursday; "Crucify him!" on Friday; and "He is risen indeed!" on the following Sunday. Trying to mash them all together in an hour takes away from the separate spiritual experiences of the separate parts of the passion, and more importantly takes away the time my brain and my heart have for processing them. That being said, I suppose if folks are only going to come to church on Sundays, giving them the full passion story on Palm Sunday is better than them not getting it at all...

2. Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss.
I've been to services where everyone gets their feet washed by the pastor (ick). I've been to services where everyone washes each other's feet (not as bad). I think footwashing on Maundy Thursday is a wonderful "bringing to life" of something Christ did for his disciples, and a powerful reminder of how we are called to serve each other. That being said, I think the best way to do it in a service is for the pastor to wash one preselected person's feet as an "exemplar" of everyone else. A lot of folks are very self-conscious when it comes to their feet, and you hate for the gospel message to get lost in thoughts of "oh my god my feet are so gross," even though ironically that very thought symbolically is at the heart of the gospel message.

3. Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience.
The Lutheran Student Center at UNL has had a tradition for a number of years of having a seder meal the evening of Maundy Thursday, followed by the Maundy Thursday service, followed by a prayer vigil. Students (and staff) sign up for half-hour blocks of time through the night. The lights in the sanctuary are dimmed, but there are candles going, and hymnals and prayer resources available in the front pew. All through the night, as Christ is betrayed and put on trial, there is at least one person continually praying. The Good Friday service begins at 7 AM and in the past has been a tenebrae service, with the candles that had been lit the night before being extinguished one by one. Very powerful--all of it.

4. Easter Sunrise Services--choose one:
a) "Resurrection tradition par excellence!"
b) "Eh. As long as it's sunrise with coffee, I can live with it."
c) "[Yawn] Can't Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?"

C. Definitely C. For me, Easter begins no earlier than 8:00. Yes, there may be a service before then, but you aren't gonna hear a full-blooded "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" out of me until at least 8.

5. Complete this sentence: It just isn't Easter without...
It just isn't Easter without the hymn "Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia!" (LBW#151). Anything else is optional. For that reason, since I have to play for both our traditional and contemporary services Easter morning, we're doing that hymn at both, genre be damned. Organ and trumpet at first service, piano, guitars, bass, and songleaders at second service. Now that's praise music!!!!!!!


Thursday, March 29, 2007

It Is Marvelous!

My congregation is celebrating its 75th anniversary this coming Sunday. Last year, before I came on board, they selected Psalm 118:23 as the anniversary theme. It reads, "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."

Some time ago, I set about writing a hymn for the anniversary. I knew I needed to incorporate Psalm 118:23, but with the anniversary celebration on Palm Sunday, I also wanted to make sure to reference that as well. I wanted the hymn to be celebratory, but not in a "yay, us!" kind of way...rather, giving glory to God for what God has done. And not just specifically for this congregation, but for all of God's people around the world and throughout time. I guess what I was hoping to do was write something that could be easily recognized as celebrating both the congregation's 75th anniversary and Palm Sunday, but still be "generic" enough to be usable at other times of the year and in other places. I also wanted something that would sound good when accompanied by organ, piano, or praise band. Don't know how well I succeeded in any or all of that, but I'm pretty happy with it.

So as I scanned the rest of Psalm 118, I found some really great words and imagery that I incorporated into the hymn (the psalms were written to be sung anyway, right?):

  • Psalm 118:1--"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!"
  • Psalm 118:22--"The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."
  • Psalm 118:23--"This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."
  • Psalm 118:26--"Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord."

There's some other Biblical references:

  • Matthew 21:9--"The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'"
  • John 1:29--"The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, 'Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'"
  • John 15:5--"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."
  • Matthew 5:14--"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid."
  • Luke 19:40--"He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'"
  • Isaiah 55:12--"For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all of the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
  • Isaiah 64:8--"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand."
  • Ephesians 2:8--"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God..."
Attached below is a "lead sheet" with notes, lyrics, and chords. Please feel free to copy, reprint, and use it yourself. I have a piano accompaniment part that I've written as well, though it's pretty basic. No royalties or anything--I'm not out to make money on the deal--but an email to letting me know you're using it would be cool, just for my own curiosity's sake. If you click on the music, it should come up nice and big for you. And if you're interested in the piano part, just email as well and I'd be happy to send it along.

Blessings to you as we approach the day of resurrection!


(Note: due to requests, I've now posted an audio "demo" of the hymn here.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three Beers

Received this via email from a friend:

An Irishman moves into a tiny village in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers.

The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers,which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the "Man Who Orders Three Beers."

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?""Tis odd, isn't it?"

The man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town were pleased with this answer, and soon the "Man Who Orders Three Beers" became a local celebrity and source of pride to the village, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening: he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all...."

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well. It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."


Monday, March 26, 2007

Apologies in advance

So much to blog little time.

So true on both counts.

I really want to write something about the absolutely amazing Taylor Hicks concert I went to in Sioux City this past Saturday night, although I do have my video from the concert posted below (thanks again for the tickets, Sweetie...I love you!). And about I was afraid in January that the show had finally jumped the shark, but now I'm relieved that it hasn't and think on the contrary it's gotten better than ever. And about the Lutheran student Center's Partner Appreciation Sunday worship and lunch that I went to yesterday. And about Kiddo. And about some "churchy" stuff--worship, education, music and such.

Unfortunately, no time for that today. In fact, my posting may be pretty spotty until April 9th.

Whay that date? Because it's the day after Easter. And while for most folks Easter is a holiday, for us church-types, it's the culmination of six weeks of above-average busy-ness, the last week of which is sheer craziness (schedule-wise, at least).

Add to the mix the fact that my congregation has its 75th Anniversary celebration this coming Sunday (Palm Sunday) and I have a ton of prep to do for that as well...and, well, you get the picture.

And I'm pretty sure Kiddo wouldn't mind seeing his daddy occasionally, and Sweetie would like to remember who her husband is.

So, while there may be some new stuff on here, for a couple of weeks it probably ain't gonna be with my usual regularity.

In the meantime, keep those cards and letters coming! God bless!


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Clean the Deck, Cinderella!

This morning, Kiddo decided our back deck needed a good, thorough cleaning. I wonder what the neighbors thought...


Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Five: Rivers in the Desert

From our friends at RevGalBlogPals:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

  1. Playing the piano in solitude. In those desert times, if there's a piano available and I can be alone with it for a time, I come away refreshed. Sometimes I'll play hymns, sometimes it's other "church" music, sometimes it's classical pieces, sometimes it's something by Billy Joel, Elton John, or Paul Simon. Sometimes I'll sing along as I play...sometimes not. It all depends on the situation and the mood, but whatever I play is balm to my wounded soul. And I have to be alone. No feeling like I'm playing for an audience (even an audience of one), no needing to explain what I'm playing or why I'm playing it. Just me, the music, and God.
  2. "Baptizatus Sum." Years ago, as a "prop" during a sermon, Pastor Larry Meyer handed out half-sheets of heavy paper with that Latin phrase printed on them. Mine hangs in a bookshelf in my office, and is a reminder to me in my desert times that "I am baptized" and that God holds me, carries me, sustains me, forgives me, and has made me a new creature.
  3. Watching Kiddo sleep. I used to be an incredibly sound sleeper. Sweetie used to kid that once I found my sleeping position for the night, I never even moved until our alarm went off in the morning. That changed when Kiddo was born. If I get up with him in the middle of the night, I can still often get right back to sleep afterwards, but more and more my body's been keeping me awake one, two, sometimes three hours after spending 5 minutes settling him down. One plus to this phenomenon is that sometimes I'll just sit on his floor and watch him sleep. He's so at peace and just gives me this strange combination of love and pride that just makes me want to burst. I know I don't have much longer that I'll be able to do that without it creeping him out (not too many 13 year old boys are keen on the idea of dad sitting on the floor watching them sleep), so I treasure these times now. Even if I'm tired as heck as a result during the day.
  4. Conversations with Sweetie. We love to talk. To each other. About anything and everything. Back when we were dating, before the days of kids and mortgages, we'd stay up until all hours of the morning just talking about stuff. We still do, but when the alarm's going to go off at 5:15 AM, a late night is 11:00, not 3 in the morning. She's my best friend, and it's so renewing just "hanging out" and talking.
  5. Reading. Put on some soft jazz or classical music in the background, grab a mug of coffee (if it's morning) or a glass of wine (if it's evening), settle into a comfy chair with good lighting, and just lose myself in a good book. The rest of the world melts away for a while, and I come away refreshed.


“Quo vadis, Domine?”

I saw a portion of the following poem on Kristen's blog, where she used it in a spoke to me so powerfully that I needed to find the rest. I'm not going to provide any commentary here--I think it speaks for itself. The name of the poem is My Easy Christ Has Left The Church, and it was written by Calvin Miller.

Okay, one tiny piece of commentary. (I'm sorry...I'm an English major...I can't help it.) I think it's especially telling and fitting that Mr. Miller doesn't just declare that Christ has left the church. Instead, he says "my easy Christ has left the church." I have a feeling that both the words my and easy are significant, and that it would be a mistake to overlook them.

Let those two words settle in your heart for a while after reading the poem.

My Easy Christ Has Left the Church
by Calvin Miller

My easy Christ has left the church.
Who can say why?
Maybe it’s because His video-logged apostles all
read diet-books, travel agency brochures
and Christian fiction thrillers
on how the world should end
But none read books on what the starving ignorant
should do until it does.
He left the church so disappointed that Americans
could all spell “user friendly”
but none of them could spell “Gethsemane”

Can we say for sure he’s quit?
Oh yes, it’s definite, I’m afraid:
He’s canceled his pledge card.
I passed him on the way out of the recreation building
near the incinerator where we burn
the leftover religious quarterlies
and the stained paper doilies
from our Valentine banquets.
“Quo Vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church,
walking out of town past seminaries where
student scholars could all parse the ancient verbs
but few of them were sure why they had learned the art.
He shook his head counfounded that many
had studied all his ancient words
without much caring why he said them.
He seemed confused that so many
studied to be smart, but so few prayed to be holy.

Some say he left the church
because the part-time missionaries were mostly tourists
on short-term camera safaris,
photographing destitution to show the
pictures to their missionary clubs back home.
I cannot say what all his motives were.
I only know I saw him rummaging through dumpsters
in Djakarta looking for a scrap of bread
that he could multiply.
“Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

He’s gone - the melancholy Messiah’s gone.
I saw him passing by the beltway mega-temple
circled by its multi-acred asphalt lawn,
blanketed with imports and huge fat vehicles
nourished on the hydrocarbons of distant oil fields
where the poor dry rice on public roads
and die without a requiem, in unmarked graves.

Is it certain he is gone?

It is.

We saw him in the slums of Recife,
telling stories of old fools
who kept on building bigger barns,
oddly idealistic tales of widows with small coins
who outgave the richer deacons of the church.

I saw him sitting alone in a fast-food franchise
drinking only bottled water and sorting through
a stack of world-hunger posters.
He couldn’t stay long.
He was on his way to sell his
old books on Calvin and
Arminius to buy a bag of rice for Bangledesh.

My easy Christ has left the church.
I remember now where I last saw him.
He was sitting in one of those new
square, crossless mega-churches
singing 2x choruses and playing bongos
amid the music stands and amplifiers
with anonymous Larrie and Sherrie.
He turned to them in church and said
“I am He! Follow me!”
But they told him not to be so confrontational
and reminded him that they
had only come for the music and the drama,
and frankly were offended that he would dare
to talk to them out loud in church.
After all, they were only seekers, with a right to privacy.

I followed him out through the seven-acre vestibule,
where he passed the tape-duplicating machine
where people could buy the “how to” sermons
of the world’s most famous lecturers.

He left the church and threaded his way
across the crowded parking lot,
laying down those whips and cords
he’d once used to cleanse the temple,
and looked as though he wanted to make
key-scrapes on Lexi and huge white Audis
and family buses filled with infant seats.

He stooped and shed a tear after
and wrote “Ichabod” in the sand.
In a sudden moment I was face to face with him.
“Quo vadis, Domine?” I asked him.
“Somewhere else,” he said.

My easy Christ has left the church,
abandoning his all-star role in Easter pageants
to live incognito in a patchwork culture,
weeping for all those people who
cannot afford the pageant tickets.

He picked up an old junk cross,
lugging it into the bookstore
after the great religious rally,
and stood dumfounded
among the towering stacks of books
on how to grow a church.
“Are you conservative or liberal,” I asked him.
But he only mumbled, “Oh Jerusalem…”
and said the oddest thing about a hen
gathering her vicious, selfish chicks under her wings.
He left the room as I yelled out after him,
“Lord, is it true you’ve quit the church?
Quo vadis, Domine?”
“Somewhere else,” he said.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Books: Shelves #1 and #2

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to take a look at the books I've got on the shelf at home. (of course, I could be wrong. It might be extremely boring. If so, my apologies.) It's been a while since I've done an "inventory" anyway. I own a whole big ol' bunch of books, but I have half of them at home (the "non-religious" books) and the other half at the office (the "religious" books).

So these are from the "non-religious" category. I have a 5-shelf bookcase in the bedroom (one of those $45 Walmart "put it together yourself with the wood-colored cardboard in the back" deals), as well as books stuffed into the nightstand next to my bed.

This is what's on the top two shelves of the bedroom bookcase:

Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly (autographed, a gift from my parents)

Forever Red by Steve Smith

Me Talk Pretty One Day--Sedaris

The Little Prince--Saint-Exupery

In A Different Voice--Gilligan

Flight of the Old Dog--Brown (love this book!)

War and Peace--Tolstoy (yes, I actually HAVE read it in its entirety)

e.e. cummings: a selection of poems

The Hunchback of Notre Dame--Hugo

Black Like Me--Griffin


A Tale of Two Cities--Dickens

For Red Sox Fans Only!--Wolfe

Faithful: A Chronicle of the Red Sox 2004 Season--King (yes, Steven King...BIG Sox fan!)

Flowers For Algernon--Keyes

I Got a Job...and It Wasn't That Bad--Jim (a collection of comic strips...HILARIOUS in its understatedness)

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn--Smith

The Dialogues of Plato--do I REALLY have to list the author of this one? =)

Finn Family Moomintroll--Jannson (a gift from a friend...and apparently written for children on acid trips)

Night of the Hawk--Brown

The Pelican Brief--Grisham

Our Town--Wilder


Native Son--Wright

A Prayer for Owen Meany--Irving

It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It--Fulghum

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten--Fulghum

Snow Falling on Cedars--Guterson

Where The Red Fern Grows--Rawls

The Green Mile--King

The Death of Ivan Ilyich--Tolstoy

The Autobiography of Malcolm X--um....who else?

Bang the Drum Slowly--Harris

The Hunchback of Notre Dame--Hugo (dang it...a duplicate!)

Up From Slavery--Washington

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings--Angelou


The Color Purple--Walker

The U.S. Constitution

Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer Detective--Clemens

The MLA Handbook

Of Mice and Men--Steinbeck

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead--Stoppard (GREAT play...but ya gotta have a firm handle on Hamlet to "get it")

Concise Readings in Philosophy--Halverson

The Idiot--Dostoyevsky

Anna Karenina--Tolstoy

Fatal Terrain--Brown

Dr. Zhivago--Pasternak

The Philosophy of Aristotle--hmmm...who could possibly have written this?

In Cold Blood--Capote

Invisible Man--Ellison

AND...last, but not least on the first two shelves of my bookcase...

Wobegon Boy, by Garrison Keillor
(which apparently makes for good bathroom reading...)

Tomorrow, the next two shelves!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Well hello there, Mr. Maier!

In a very interesting sequence of events, the following happened:
  • About 10 years ago, a pastor lent me her copy of Paul Maier's A Skeleton in God's Closet, which I began reading that night at 10 PM and finished at about 3:30 the next morning. Couldn't put the thing down.
  • Since the book is about the importance of the resurrection (and is a good read to boot), I began making the reading of the book an annual Lenten discipline.
  • I host a book club (Logos and Latte) at my church on the first Monday of each month, and back in the fall decided to name A Skeleton in God's Closet as the selection we'll be discussing on April 2. For reasons both selfish (I'd be reading it anyway) and in the interest of the congregation (we'd be discussing some really important Easter-type questions right before Easter).
  • James Cameron decides to produce a special on some bits of half-assed research that airs on the Discovery Channel at the beginning of March, suggesting that the bones of Jesus may have been found...which is the basic premise of A Skeleton in God's Closet...which, incidentally, is a work of fiction written by the 2nd Vice-President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, so you can be sure that it all comes out right in the end. Of the book. Not the James Cameron Discovery Channel special.
  • Yesterday, on a whim, I decide to bring my copy of A Skeleton in God's Closet home from the office with me, since I have nothing going on at the church in the evening and think I might be able to do some reading.
  • Still yesterday at about 9 PM I check my email and see a message from a cousin of Sweetie's, letting me know that Paul L. Maier, author of A Skeleton in God's Closet, will be giving a lecture on the portrayal of Jesus in pop culture at Concordia University, about 20 minutes from my house, at 10 AM the next day (today).
  • At 9:05 PM I send an email to as many book club participants as I have addresses for, letting them know about the lecture too, but knowing that with about 13 hours advance notice, there's not much chance anyone will be able to come.
  • This morning at 10:00 I'm sitting in the second row of the balcony in the auditorium where Paul Maier is lecturing, listening to a very interesting talk, and taking notes on a couple of items he mentions about both The DaVinci Code and Left Behind, two books the book club will be tackling over the summer (editor's note: book selection doesn't necessarily indicate agreement with the book. Particularly in "Left Behind's" case, I'm strongly suggesting folks either check it out from the library or buy it used, so as not to fill LaHaye and Jenkins' pockets with more money from the garbage they've written. And, I'm following up the next month with Barbara Rossing's "The Rapture Exposed" to help continue the de-programming process.)
  • This morning at about 11:15 I walk up to Paul Maier, book in hand, to thank him for his talk and to ask if he'd autograph my copy of A Skeleton in God's Closet.

And that's how I ended up with the latest entry into my autographed book collection. (Way cool!)


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A sage observation from Ever feel like saying this to someone?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Evangelical Lutheran Worship

As I mentioned as a passing reference in a previous post, I'm on my synod's Evangelical Lutheran Worship introductory committee. For the past few months, we've been conducting introductory events across the state.

Saturday (that's right, St. Patrick's Day) was our final event.

This has been a wonderful experience for me. About this time last year, the pastor who's headed up the committee gave me a call and asked me if I'd be interested in serving as the designated layperson. They were shooting for a makeup of 2 pastors, 2 church musicians, and one "regular" layperson. Well, even though I'm a church musician now, at this time last year I wasn't--nor was it anywhere on my radar screen. I was, however, keenly interested in worship, and therefore by extension, the new hymnal. I've also always enjoyed getting to know other church folks and, for lack of a better term, "networking." Really, it's more conversation about life, faith, and the church more than networking in the business sense of the term, but whatever you call it, getting to meet new faces and potentially reconnecting with others was a big draw for me.

And I REALLY wanted to see what this new hymnal was going to look like.

So I came in sight unseen, hoping against hope that it wasn't going to be some monstrosity that I was going to have to act like I thought was a neat idea.

And honestly, I'm really happy with it. I think they (whoever "they" are) have done an excellent job of embracing both the past, present, and future of Lutheran worship, and have provided a good core that still is able to touch on the breadth of resources that are out there. They've righted some of the wrongs that were foisted upon us by LBW (I mean, seriously...Lo How A Rose IS GROWING? Give me a friggin' break! And the harmonizations of Amazing Grace? Sad, sad, sad.) and most importantly for me, have made ELW into almost a worship textbook. There's so many points throughout the book where the average layperson has the chance to read about what it is they're doing and why they're doing it. The tools are great. A 3 year daily lectionary, a section of prayers that's been expanded BIG-time, suggested services for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and the Tridiuum. The entirety of Luther's Small Catechism. A ton of service music in case you want to use something other than what's in the liturgical settings (including almost ALL the music to Marty Haugen's Now The Feast and Celebration liturgy...the only major piece I couldn't find was the Lamb of God). And the hymns--so many to choose from, and so many of them are wonderfully singable and have some good solid theology behind them.

And 10 liturgical settings? Dude.

I love that in the baptism service there's a 3-fold renunciation of the devil and evil to parallel the 3-fold confession of faith in the creed. And that the sponsors actually have a part to play in the service. I love the new "Introduction to Baptism," that gives the congregation the chance to formally express support for those beginning the training process. Any time you can ritualize a major life passage, it becomes that much more meaningful to those involved. Along those lines, I love the "Affirmation of Christian Vocation" on page 84 (no, I don't have the hymnal in front of me right now, but I DO have that page memorized). Another chance to affirm everyone in their daily life vocation.

Good stuff, good good stuff.

It ain't perfect. There's a few things that I've found that if it had been my decision, I would have done differently. But the folks that put it together were aiming for something that could serve most people most of the time. And I think, for the most part, they succeeded.

So, the introductory events are done. At least in the Nebraska Synod.

Pass the green beer, please!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lutheran Shirts

From the Old Lutheran website. Gotta love this for a confirmation gift...

Also a fan of this:

And this:

And quick...without looking them the LBW hymns THIS shirt is referring to (my LBW's at the office, but I'm pretty sure I know these...I'll leave a comment in the comments area with my knee-jerk answers):


Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Five

From our friends at RevGalBlogPals:

Well friends, this is one of those weeks when I simply must work today, which is normally my day off. I know, I know. We may tut-tut all we want, but the fact is, some weeks are like that. So, this week's F5 is simple.

Name five things you plan to do today.

Bonus: If today is about "have-to" for you as well, share up to five things you'd like to be doing today.

This is an easy one for me, since Fridays are generally my day off too, and Sweetie, knowing how scatterbrained I am, always leaves me a Friday "honey-do" list. Yes there's more than five here, but I've always been an overachiever (yeah, right). Here we go!

1) Get our niece's birthday gift
2) Reply to all emails that I haven't gotten my rear in gear and replied to yet
3) Recharge the digital camera and the video camera
4) Put away clean laundry
5) Take care of dishes
6) Buy some more tapes for the video camera, and some more milk
7) Call a couple of people
8) Pick up a prescription for Sweetie at CVS, don't forget the coupon to receive a $25 gift card for having a new prescription filled there (we usually go to Walgreens across the street, but for $25, heck yeah we'll send a prescription there!)
9) Call a church in town with a preschool where we're thinking of sending Kiddo to in the fall to see if there's a waiting list and ask about a tour
10) Finish cleaning out the file cabinet in the computer room
11) Go to my office and pick up my copy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship that I'm going to need to help lead a synod introductory event tomorrow, that I left on my desk due to my scatterbrainedness

Here's my add-ons to the above list:
1) Have a couple cups of coffee
2) Watch some basketball
3) Read a little bit of A Skeleton in God's Closet by Paul Maier (one of my annual Lenten disciplines)
4) Watch some more basketball
5) (Most likely) Curse at my March Madness bracket

Happy Friday!!!!


Flying Away

Gordon Atkinson is one of my favorite writers. He's better known on the internet as Real Live Preacher (or RLP for short), and has a blog that he keeps at I'm really stingy with bookmarking favorites on my computer, but his site is one that I've got bookmarked, and that I check just about every day.

RLP's a Baptist pastor from San Antonio, but personally I think he's a closet Lutheran. (It's okay, Gordon, we'll keep it our lil' secret.) He's very theologically sound, very articulate, and very much a "regular" person, on top of it all.

When I grow up, I want to be Gordon Atkinson.

Yesterday, he wrote a piece about his oldest daughter. It seems she's getting ready to leave the nest, and like most parents, even though he's happy and proud that she's growing into her own independent person, he still feels like a piece of his heart is being ripped out of his chest. It's a gorgeous piece of writing--whether you have kids or not, check it out here. I was a blubbering fool when I finished reading it for the first time yesterday, heartbroken at the fact that I only have 15 years left with Kiddo before he leaves the house.

I mean, just this morning, I was watching him get dressed...he had insisted earlier on picking out his own shirt, and now there he was pulling it over his head, making sure it was on the right way...putting on his own pants, socks, even his Superman underwear. I did have to tie his shoes for him, and I still have to get the zipper started when he zips up his coat, but other than that, it's his morning routine now. Dad's no longer the primary actor here, Dad's a cheerleader on the sidelines. Wasn't it just yesterday that he was this helpless little ball of crying and pooping cuteness?

Sheesh. If I'm this way now, just wait until Kiddo graduates from high school.


Great, I'm getting all verklempt again. I swear, nobody warns you ahead of time that becoming a parent turns you into an emotional basketcase when it comes to your kids.

But I suppose, even if someone had warned me, there's no way I would have understood the full depth of what they were talking about until I experienced it myself.

SO...on that note, here's a little clip of Kiddo from yesterday. I had just picked him up from daycare, and he decided that he wanted to play restaurant. So there we were in the living room, making those staples of fine cuisine--toast and mac & cheese--for the restaurant's imaginary patrons...a bear and a rabbit.

(The video is a little dark...there really was more light in the room than what it seems from watching! Even if you can't see much though, Kiddo's directions to me are fun to listen to!)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Prodigal Grace

For any of you out there who follow the lectionary on Sunday mornings, the Gospel reading this Sunday is the parable of the prodigal son. As someone who in many, many ways has lived out this parable, it's a very meaningful piece of scripture for me.

And I've got the perfect song for it.

You know, how when the son's on his way back, his father spots him at a distance and starts running out to meet him?

Well, this Sunday, sandwiched between the Gospel reading and the sermon, our pastor will sing (and I will accompany) the Phillips, Craig and Dean song Mercy Came Running.

So with the Gospel reading...and the song, the congregation's going to get to hear the Gospel proclaimed twice in a row...and then yet again in the sermon...and then yet again in the Hymn of the Day after the sermon--Amazing Grace.

Think we'll be driving the point home enough?

For those who are unfamiliar with Mercy Came Running, here's the words:

Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God's embrace
And I can almost see Mercy's face
Pressed against the veil
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With Justice no longer in the way

Chorus: Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Once there was a broken heart
Way too human from the start
And all the years left it torn apart
Hopeless and afraid
Walls I never meant to build
Left this prisoner unfulfilled
Freedom called but even still
It seemed so far away
I was bound by the chains
From the wages of my sin
Just when I felt like giving in

Repeat Chorus

Sometimes I still feel so far
So far from where I really should be
He gently calls to my heart
Just to remind me...

Repeat Chorus

May mercy come running to you,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Scrubs Quote(s) of the Week

Dr. Cox: I love this moment.

(later, in the same episode):

Dr. Cox: I love this moment so much, I want to sleep with it.

(still later, in the same episode):

Dr. Cox: By the by, this moment is so great that I would cheat on that other moment with it, marry it, and raise a family of tiny little moments.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Thursday Three

Last Thursday, my good friend Husker Teacher started something he's calling Thursday Three (which is like a Friday Five, except it's a day earlier and 2 items shorter).

Well, I didn't see the post until Friday, and haven't had the chance to post one of my own until today, which would be...Monday. SO, I guess that actually makes this a Thursday (Plus Four) Three? Would that then be a Thursday Seven?

I'm so confused...

This week's Thursday Three: Dreams often help us achieve more than we thought possible. They give us a goal, or perhaps put our engines into gear. Tell about three dreams you have. They can be attainable or outright unreasonable, it's up to you.

I've decided to go with 2 attainable goals and one outright unreasonable goal (I'll let you decide which is which)...and by the way, if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged--feel free to play along, and leave a comment with a link to your answers! Here's mine:

1) Someday, I wanna publish something. Whether it's a book, or music, or a book of music, or music about books, or something entirely different, it would be so cool to have something published.

2) Another dream of mine is to play and sing a duet with Billy Joel. Going back and forth on Scenes From An Italian Restaurant or Summer, Highland Falls or Vienna would be wicked cool. A corollary to this dream is that I'd also love to front a Billy Joel tribute band. We'd call ourselves The Strangers ("they're the faces of a stranger but you love to try them on...").

3) Sweetie loves Oprah, and it's a dream of hers to someday be in the studio audience for a show taping. My dream is to someday get her the tickets. I've tried for over three years now, and have been wildly unsuccessful in my attempts. Every month, there's one day where you can call in and request tickets for the following month. That's as far in advance as it gets. And the phone lines are so jammed, you basically spend eight hours not listening to busy signals, but listening to that damned "all circuits are busy now" message.

I hate the "all circuits are busy now" lady. I really do. Why does she have to sound so smug? Can't she be just the tiniest bit apologetic?


Sunday, March 11, 2007


This morning, while Daddy was still at "work," Sweetie and Kiddo went to the computer room to do a quick email check. Sweetie saw a news item on Yahoo News that interested her, so she pulled up the article, which included a photo of a cityscape at night.

Kiddo decided that the picture needed a story. So he made one up.

This is one of those very rare situations where kids and video cameras actually cooperate with each other. Sweetie seized the opportunity and videotaped his story.

And what a story it is! The plot's a bit muddy, but from what I can tell it's an epic tale that involves police officers and cars and getting bonked on the head and a fire station and lots of flashing lights. And traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. And traffic lights. With police officers. And cars. And more police officers. The whole saga lasts about three and a half minutes...enjoy!


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Guys' Day Out

Yesterday was a good day.

Kiddo and I got to spend the day together, since his daycare provider took the day off and Sweetie had to work. So, we had Guys' Day Out.

It rocked.

We took our time getting ready in the morning--by 9:00 we were ready to go. First stop was Jiffy Lube...the minivan was due for its first oil change. Kiddo thought it was really cool that there was a big hole in the floor and a guy standing up underneath our van--he watched the whole thing through a window in the waiting room.

Next stop was at the Lutheran Student Center, so we could drop off an RSVP for their Partner Appreciation Sunday luncheon and say hi to the folks there. Kiddo had told me he was thirsty on the way, and I knew we'd be able to get him some water too. Really cool "church professional dad" moment: the office manager asked Kiddo what he was doing that day, and just out of the blue he replied, "when I was a little baby, I was baptized." It had nothing to do with her question, but wow.

Next we drove downtown and I found a parking meter with 20 minutes left on it. We got out and just walked around for a while, looking at the big buildings, the sidewalk sculptures, all the cars driving by, etc. From there it was a short drive up to Memorial Stadium. We found a parallel parking spot right across from the stadium with 30 minutes left on the meter, and walked to the northwest corner of the stadium, where the players take the field. Even from outside, you can still see part of the field. Kiddo was amazed that he was looking at where the Huskers played football on TV. He asked if he could see more, so we strolled over to the new Tom Osborne Athletic Complex. THe guy working security said we were welcome to look around in the lobby as well as a separate room off to the left that led to the new (and HUGE) weight room. So we checked it out, and Kiddo spent about 5 minutes watching a few football players "exercising" (as he called it) in the weight room.

After returning to the car, we returned a video to Blockbuster, went to the bank, and picked up some milk at the grocery store. On our way home to drop off the milk, Donna Lewis's song I Love You, Always, Forever was on the radio. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

Kiddo: What's the name of this song?
Me: I Love You, Always, Forever.
Kiddo: That's what Jesus says!
Me: (heart bursting) Who does he say that to?
Kiddo: Everybody!
LH's Heart: ka-BLAMMMMM!!!!

Well, after that, he had me wrapped around his little finger (as if he didn't before!). My plan had been to drop the milk off, grab a quick lunch at home, then go to Kiddo's haircut appointment at 1:00, but from looking at the clock, we were running a bit short on time. SO...I told him if he was a REALLY good boy getting his haircut that just MAYBE we could go to McDonald's afterwards for lunch for a hamburger and some friench fries (which was very works-righteousness of me, but was an example of Luther's lesser known Fourth Use of the Law for Three Year-Olds). His response?

Kiddo: I don't like hamburgers very much...but I'll have some chicken nuggets!
Me: Sure!
Kiddo: And can I have chocolate milk too?

So we got his haircut, and went to McDonalds. It was cool just hanging out at the restaurant, talking about important things like balloons and dinosaurs and the melting snow. He fell asleep in the car on our way home and slept for an additional 45 minutes after we got back, but after waking up from his nap wanted to go back outside. It was simply gorgeous out today--got up into the 50's, so he and I took a long walk together, and we were able to get out his windbreaker for the first time since fall. It's red and has a hood on it--he pulled up his hood, looked in the mirror, and said, "I look like Little Red Riding Hood, Daddy!" I snorted so hard at that I had to grab a tissue.

We went on a long walk together, each had a big cup of water when we came back inside, and worked together to clean up the house before Sweetie got home.

Yes, yesterday was a good day. Nothing momentous, other than a dad and his son getting to spend the day together, doing stuff, talking and having fun.

On second thought, maybe it was momentous.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Five

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Matters of Taste

My mother loved figs.

I only like them in a Newton.

It's all a matter of taste.

Name five things you like a lot that some close relative or significant other did/does not like. This could be food, movies, hobbies, music, sports or whatever springs to mind.

1) Moxie. It's a soft drink that I l-o-v-e!!!! I love it. Love love love it. HOWEVER, Sweetie and my good friend RevScott share the opinion that it tastes like Robitussin. I did a blog post not too long ago about Moxie--you can read it here.

2) Well, since RevScott mentioned The Statler Brothers (who he loves but I can't stand) I've gotta mention The Carpenters (who I love but he can't stand). Sweetie's with me on this one, both concerning the Carpenters AND the Statler Brothers. Personally, I think most people are closet Carpenters fans, whether they admit it or not...kinda like that scene in Tommy Boy where a Carpenters song came on the radio...trying to act all cool, Chris Farley said, "you can change the station if you want," and David Spade said "that's okay, YOU change it..." then next thing you know they're roaring down the highway together, crying and singing "don't you remember ya told me ya loved me babeeeeeee....ya said you'd be comin' back this way again baby baby baby oh baby.....I love you....I really do...."

3) Prairie Home Companion. Love it. Love Garrison Keillor. Love the sketches, the music, the greetings to folks back home from people in the audience, Lake Wobegon, you name it. Of course it helps that just about every Saturday evening from 1981 until 1992 (when I left home for college) my family would have PHC on the radio as we ate supper. Sweetie? Thinks it's both hokey and boring.

4) I love to read, though I don't read as often as I ought or would like. My parents told me growing up that when I was sent to my room for being naughty, they had to specifically tell me "no reading!" as part of my punishment. Otherwise I'd be happy to stay in my room for hours. They couldn't believe that they were actually telling their child not to read, but there you go. Sweetie's not a fan of the whole reading bit.

5) I LOVE keeping score when I go to baseball games. It just ain't a real game if I don't have a scorecard and pencil (preferably a mechanical one). Sweetie wonders why I just can't watch the games. I'm looking forward someday to teaching Kiddo the fine art of keeping score, which was passed down to me from my own dad.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Okay, one last American Idol post today...

...I promise, this will be the last one today. Really.

Back to Melinda Doolittle for a moment. I found a clip of her performance of I'm a Woman, W-O-M-A-N from last night. Watch it, and compare/contrast with her performance of My Funny Valentine that I have linked here.

Both are equally brilliant, but in such different ways. The stylistic range she shows is incredible.

If you have a moment, continue watching the I'm a Woman clip after she finishes singing. Pay particular attention to her reactions when the judges praise her. The woman's honestly bewildered by the gobs and gobs of praise being heaped on her. Like I said in my other post, she has no idea how amazing she is.

I love it. I freakin' love it. No matter what happens in the coming weeks on American Idol, Melinda Doolittle is gonna be a star, and it honestly couldn't happen to a more deserving person.


Did I just hear 311?!?!?!?!

On the subject of American Idol (see the post below), Sweetie and I were sitting in the living room, watching the guys sing on Tuesday night. Blake Lewis was up to sing first.

I immediately recognized the song, but was having trouble placing who it was that originally sang it.

Then it dawned on me. We were listening to a 311 song!!!!

When I was in high school, 311 was a local group in Omaha that was well-known in the area. It was a group of kids from, if I remember right, Westside High School who were a couple of years older than me...and they rocked. Unfortunately, the vast majority of their shows were in "over-18 only" venues, and since I was under 18, that meant I only got to see them once. At a place in Omaha (now closed, I think) called the Ranch Bowl.

Yeah, I was under 18 at the time. I'm such a rebel. Pffffft.

But anyway, they got a record deal sometime in the mid-90's and have been pretty big with the high school/college set since. They have kind of a Red Hot Chili Peppers-meets-Jamiroquai sound to them. Funky, not quite reggae but almost sometimes, not quite rap but almost sometimes...sometimes hard rock, sometimes not-so-much...they're hard to really put a label on. It was cool to see one of their songs done on American Idol in a "hometown-kids-make-it-sorta-big" kind of way. I'll try to ignore the fact that not a single one of the judges recognized the song.

I swear, they're so out of touch.

Hadn't they ever been to the Ranch Bowl?


Melinda Doolittle

Ladies and gentlemen...your NEXT American Idol...
...Melinda Doolittle!

That's right. Please, executives at Fox, 19 Entertainment, Simon Fuller, whoever might have a say in this...just end the American Idol competition now.

In its place, I'd like a weekly 2 hour Melinda Doolittle concert, please.

This girl doesn't just sing. She can SANG!!! (That's "sing" with attitude...say it out loud to get the full effect of the word.) And the way she commands the stage--good lord, she's a lil' bit Tina Turner, a lil' bit Aretha Franklin, and a lil' bit Gladys Knight.

Would it be sacreligious to say I'd rather listen to Melinda Doolittle than any of those three?

Not that there aren't other extremely talented folks in the competition. There's a few, that in other seasons, I'd consider front-runners.

But this just ain't fair. Melinda's in a league of her own.

And the best part about the whole thing? She's so doggoned humble about the whole thing. And it's not fake humility either, you know, the kind where it's obvious the person knows they're amazing but they're saying all the right things to sound nice. She looks honestly surprised whenever the judges praise her after each of her performances. No, Melinda still has no idea what a gift she has.

Or for that matter, what a gift she is.

Seriously, if you have DVR or a VCR, record American Idol. If you're not a fan of the show, feel free to fast-forward through the other contestants' bits. There's 3 or 4 other folks that are definitely worth listening to if you're so inclined, but I understand if you're not. At the very least, find Melinda Doolittle's song and listen. You will not spend a more enjoyable 4 to 5 minutes in the rest of your week.

Here's a clip from last week's show. Melinda's singing My Funny Valentine. Enjoy.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Funeral Stuff

I'll be attending a funeral this afternoon, and it got me to thinking about my own funeral. What I want it to be like, to look like.

Morbid? No, actually, I don't think so.

I don't anticipate having my own funeral for a long, long, time (though of course one never knows), but when the time comes, I want it to be an Easter celebration. I want songs of victory, words of resurrection and life. I want those in attendance to be invited to share in the Lord's Supper. I want some sort of baptismal remembrance.

I want the congregation to sing Jesus Christ Is Risen Today (the one with the Lyra Davidica melody, NOT Llanfair...for some of you, that may sound like babble, but you musicians out there know what I'm talking about...oh, and for the record, I don't care if my funeral's during Lent and the hymn is full of Alleluias...sing it anyway, dammit!!!). And A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. And Thy Strong Word. And Crown Him With Many Crowns. And We Know That Christ Is Raised (the words are here).

With everything I want, it's gonna last for hours. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.

I want a church with a big ol' pipe organ and someone playing it who's not afraid to blow the congregation out of the pews.

I want bulletins with the verse "I am the resurrection and the life."

And I want one hell of a rip-snortin' sermon. One that points to the cross, and the empty Easter tomb, and our baptism into the cross, and the dying to ourselves and new life in Christ. Once, while I was getting ready to be the guest preacher at a certain church that was known for being legalistic, Pastor Larry Meyer gave me some good advice that I'd want the preacher at my funeral to follow as well. He said, "Hit 'em so hard with grace, that they think it's law."

I want scripture that does the same. I want Isaiah 25:6-9 as an Old Testament lesson, I want Romans 6:3-10 as an epistle lesson, I want John 11:21-27 as the Gospel reading. If there's an appropriate time and place, I'd also like Ephesians 2:4-9 and Isaiah 40:3-11.

I don't enjoy death. I grieve when loved ones die, or when I see others grieving their loved ones. But when the cross is the focus of a funeral, there's no more powerful reminder that nothing...nothing...can separate us from the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly king, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
Praise him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!


Monday, March 05, 2007

Xterra Sighting

This past August, Sweetie and I traded in our 2001 Nissan Xterra for a more practical Chrysler Town and Country minivan.

I think I saw our old Xterra on my way to work this morning.

It was the right color and the right year, it had a dealer ad on the back for the Chrysler dealership we traded ours in to, and I could tell from looking at the license plate that it had been registered in September.

There weren't any lasting "identifying marks" to let me know for sure that it was the one we used to own, but if it wasn't, it was one heck of a coincidence.

Now, I'm not one to get overly attached to cars. But as much as I do honestly enjoy having our minivan, I felt a twinge of bittersweetness seeing the vehicle that we had discarded. Can't say it was guilt, maybe just a vague collection of memories attached to it.

There was a young woman driving, looked like she was maybe in her early to mid 20's. I thought about pulling up alongside and trying to get her attention to tell her that the SUV she was driving used to be mine.

Yeah, that probably wouldn't have been the best idea. I may be a number of things, but "weird stalker" isn't one of them.

Still, it was cool getting to see the ol' Xterra again.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Oh crap...

Well, it took over three years to happen, but tonight it finally did.

Kiddo pooped in the bathtub. While I was on bath duty, no less.

There we were, making his toy ducks sing Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head when all of a sudden, he looks up at me with panic in his eyes and says "uh oh, Daddy...uh oh!!!"

He and I both looked down at the same time, at the same place, and well...there it was. Just a couple of little pieces.

"No problem," I think, and I pick him up to lift him out of the bathtub, and there in midair he drops the Atomic Poop From Hell. I kid you not, this thing was almost as big as my fist and he let 'er fly from about two feet above the bathtub. And it landed with FORCE. Ever see a someone do a really good cannonball off a diving board? Picture that, only with poop.

Impressive, it was.

Not knowing what else might be coming, I quickly got Kiddo on the toilet and did what most dads would do in this situation: I called for my wife. I don't know why...there's nothing really she could do (or needed to do) by this time. The situation was under control. Maybe I just needed reassurance that there wasn't anything else obvious that needed to be done right away that my little pea-brain had overlooked.

Besides cleaning the bathtub, of course.

After Kiddo got off the toilet, Sweetie took him into his bedroom to dry him off and get his pajamas on. I looked at the bathtub, where the Kiddo Droppings had already begun to break down and spread out.

I'll spare you the rest of the details, but fear not, our bathtub is now clean.

On a completely different subject, we sang Sing of the Lord's Goodness at our contemporary service this morning. While rehearsing it this past Wednesday night, our praise team's bass player pointed out another song that it reminds him of--Everything's Alright from Jesus Christ Superstar. And you know what? He's right. Of course, there's not a whole heck of a lot of songs out there written in 5/4 time, so when you run across one that is, it's bound to remind you of either Take Five or Everything's Alright, but there ya go.

We also had our first go at a new liturgical setting at the early (traditional) service. This congregation switches liturgical settings about every 3 or 4 months, so they're used to switching. This was something new, though. We're technically using Setting 6 from With One Voice, but if you look at it, that's the one that basically tells you to use various hymns as the parts of the liturgy. This congregation has used settings 1 and 2 from LBW, as well as setting 5 from WOV, but this was their first crack at something other than those or LBW's Service of the Word.

It didn't go all that great, to be honest with you.

It didn't go badly either, but the pastor got confused in a couple of spots and completely skipped both the hymn of praise (which I had a cantor up in the balcony with me all ready to sing the verses of) and the entire Great Thanksgiving before the words of institution. In his defense, thanks to the snowstorm this week we hadn't had the opportunity we had planned on to run through things, but eek. I just hope folks are willing to give it another go next week.

I'm excited about the songs we're using for the parts of the liturgy, but since it's not all there in a real linear form, it can be a bit confusing at first for the average person in the pews. When you add in parts being skipped, it can be very confusing, which can easily turn to frustration, which isn't exactly worshipful.

We'll get our act together, and I'll fill you in on how it all goes next week.

I realize I've begged the question, "so what are you using for the parts of the liturgy?" I'm writing this at home without the aid of hymnals, so I'm going off the top of my head with the hymn numbers, but here's the order of service for the communion liturgy...the parts that have music, at least:
  • Kyrie: Kyrie by Marty Haugen (ELW #157, I think). It's the Kyrie from his Now The Feast And Celebration liturgy. We had it as a bulletin insert.
  • Hymn of Praise: Now The Feast and Celebration (#789 in WOV???) One of my favorite hymns ever, but the verses can be tricky at first. I had a cantor lined up to do the verses, with the congregation coming in on the chorus...unfortunately, it got skipped.
  • Gospel Acclamation: Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil (WOV #713), by Handt Hanson. GREAT hymn to introduce a scripture reading.
  • Offertory: As The Grains of Wheat (WOV #705).
  • Holy Holy Holy: Holy, Holy, Holy Are You from Marty Haugen's Now The Feast And Celebration liturgy (we had it in a bulletin insert...on the back side of the Kyrie's also in the ELW hymnal). Sensing a theme here? I tried to keep a relatively unified sound. Unfortunately, this also got skipped this morning.
  • Lamb of God: Lamb of God from Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation. It's in the Service Hymns section of WOV, not sure of the hymn number.
  • Post Communion Canticle: Praise To You, O God of Mercy, from Marty Haugen's Now The Feast And Celebration. WOV #790.

I think all the pieces are there for a good service that flows well and through which God's word is proclaimed to the congregation. I'm not so stubborn as to insist that we keep doing it for 3 or 4 months if it's not effectively reaching folks, but I am stubborn enough to insist that we do it for at least a month. We'll evaluate then and see where we're at.

If I wanted to be all theological and everything, I'd go back to Kiddo's crap story at this point and say something about our own crap as human beings (even when we try to worship), and how all we can do is muddle through it all and how God reaches his hands into the dirty bathwater of our lives and cleans us up out of nothing more than sheer fatherly love. And in a way that we'd never be able to do ourselves, because we are, quite literally and figuratively, full of crap.

I could say all of that. But it's late. It's time for bed.

And tomorrow, there's work to be done.


Friday, March 02, 2007

You're On Notice!

That's're all on notice! Even you, Mr. HyVee Guy who cut in front of me in the "12 Items or Less" line to get to the other register even though there was an unspoken rule amongst us line-dwellers that there was only one line for both registers...and I counted at least 13 items in your basket...I'm sorry, but 2 loaves of bread counts as 2 items...not one. Mr. HyVee Guy, wherever you are, you earned your place right above Non-Liturgical "Lutheran" Worship...

...but don't worry, you still have a long way to go before you even begin to approach the Yankees.


A surprise visit

Paul Simon (the musician, not the politician) was at my church Wednesday during our Lenten worship service.

Let me explain.

I had planned to play a generic Lenten piece as a piano solo during the offering Wednesday night (In The Cross of Christ I Glory, I think). During the pastor's sermon, though, something started tugging at me. We're doing a 6-week series called The Valleys of Lent, which looks at some of the "down" times in the Bible and in our own lives, and how God walks with us. This particular sermon discussed the story of Joseph (you know, the one of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) being sold into slavery by his brothers, and their eventual reconciliation. The general theme was the pain caused by others being transformed into the cross of Christ.

Something told me I needed to look for another song. And it needed to be sung as well as played. Not that there's anything wrong with what I was going to do, I just felt compelled to look.

So look I did (yes, during the sermon...sorry, Pastor!). And I found, in my ELW Accompanist's Edition, hymn #703, O God, Why Are You Silent? The tune is a familiar one--O Sacred Head Now Wounded, but the words are newly-written ones by Marty Haugen. It was too perfect. So I quickly set up a microphone by the piano (thank goodness I was by myself in the balcony) and accompanied myself while singing it during the offering. There was a relatively small congregation in church Wednesday night, so I just did the first and last stanzas, which were the most appropriate anyway. Here's the words of those verses:

O God, why are you silent? I cannot hear your voice;
the proud and strong and violent all claim you and rejoice;
you promised you would hold me with tenderness and care.
Draw near, O Love, enfold me, and ease this pain I bear.

May pain draw forth compassion, let wisdom rise from loss;
oh, take my heart and fashion the image of your cross;
then may I know your healing, through healing that I share,
your grace and love revealing, your tenderness and care.

Good stuff.

So what does Paul Simon have to do with all of this? Well, I didn't want to sound like I was just playing something generic out of a hymnal, even though that's exactly what I was doing, so I arpeggiated the accompaniment, changed up the rhythm of the lyrics a little bit, and when I got to the "the image of your cross" I took the melody high. It was spontaneous, yet there was something about it that felt right...comfortable...almost familiar. I finished it pleased with the song itself and how it had gone.

Then, a couple of hours later, driving home alone in my car, it hit me why it all felt so familiar.

I had just, in the changing of accompaniment and rhythms; as well as changing the melody in that one phrase, unconsciously imitated Paul Simon's song American Tune, which itself is based on O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

The Spirit does work in mysterious ways...apparently, one of them is through Paul Simon.

And that's how Paul ended up in my church this past Wednesday.

BTW, for those who haven't heard it, here's a clip of American Tune: