Sunday, May 30, 2010


The title is actually a Swedish tune name given to a text sung by children all over Sweden every spring as school terms end for the summer. The English text, translated by my late brother Zenos under the title Now Comes the Time for Flowers, is included with the tune in The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook (Covenant Publications, 1996), No. 646.

The rebirth of nature is celebrated throughout the hymn--flower'd meadows, tilled fields' noble seed. rich herbs laid out in windrows, green pastures sedately treed, etc.--all wonderful reminders of God's good Kingdom strong ... that spans the whole year long.

...The bird song ringing a many-throated laud queries our own need to be singing God's praises as well, and ends with a prayer to Jesus well worth repeating out loud, even as it is set before you: You gentle Jesu, Christus, our radiant sun, our shield, your light, your arm protect us, to you cold senses yield. Bring fires of love internal, but dump the heats of lust, prevent all hurt infernal, teach us your hand to trust.

The many-splendored flowers displayed above on our back deck in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, hanging under a beautiful ceramic bell hand crafted in Guatemala, signal the fact that every tribe and nation is both blessed by God and called to honor him as Creator. Spring and summer may come at different times in different climes and flowers may vary, but they all come nonetheless, as do fall and winter. To the only true God who was and is and will ever be we owe our lives, all things bright and beautiful surrounding, our own creative powers, and consequently our heart-felt praise.

May he save us from ever imagining that life can be as fulfilling without him as it is when we recognize and thank him for his presence beside us and within.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stopped Short!

Can you imagine
how mesmerized and
inspir’d over time
this human being
renders her grandpa?

How can it now be,
at seven years and
an added six months,
with but half a heart?
She is an ath’lete!

At shortstop no less,
eagerly waiting
and ready to grasp
whatever may come
toward her domain.

Bless all the children
she here represents,
whose vitalities
are not diminished
by limitations.

And bless us, O Lord,
far less limited,
who all too often
are full of complaints
and much less hearty.

Place us at shortstop
and ready us there
to grasp eagerly
whatever may come
toward our domain.


Friday, May 21, 2010

A Veteran Covenant Missionary's Story

This is the latest in my video interviews of various Covenant leaders and lay people whose stories not only have impacted my life but the lives of many others as well. More and more as I ask people to tell their stories, I realize how little we really know about each other, even those we go to church with in our local congregations, not to mention colleagues over years in ministry.

Listen to this veteran Covenant missionary David Dolan's story, and join with me in prayer for him, his lovely wife Judy, and their extended family, as health issues are requiring him to step aside from being Regional Coordinator of Covenant Missions in China.

Perhaps someone listening will sense God's call to ministry or missionary service as the Dolans both did years ago, while hosting an elder missionary themselves. In any case, let their story inspire you as it has me to renew your commitment to God and his will for your life.

Dave Dolan from rooted wings on Vimeo.

A veteran Covenant Missionary shares his life story.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blessed Charity!

Eugene Peterson tells a wonderful story about "a plump, bold, cute, and highly verbal five-year-old" friend of his named Charity and her two grandmothers, both devoted Christians, who recently paid consecutive visits to her home in the Midwest.

The first grandmother, a devout Christian who took her spiritual grandmothering duties very seriously, evidently offered little Charity a lot of spiritual advice over an extended visit. The first morning after her other grandmother arrived, Charity crawled into bed with her at five a.m., cuddled up, and said, "Grandmother, let's not have any godtalk while you are here, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let's just get on with life."

Knowing Charity personally, having been in her home, Peterson was sure the five-year-old's plea was not to dismiss God out of hand. It was only, believing he is everywhere, to subvert too much talk about him and "just get on with life," which at that point for her meant getting on with her grandmother, also a devout Christian.

Telling that story at the conclusion of an Ex Auditu conference on spiritual formation at North Park Theological Seminary in 2002, Peterson's parting word to theologians and pastors gathered from around the world was this: all they had been discussing from various points of view and disciplines cannot be done in a hurry, forced into a schedule, accomplished by spiritual sound bites, i.e. godtalk. It requires the recovery of classic Christian contemplative traditions that have languished far too long among evangelicals, of listening together and waiting before God in the midst of life, attending and adoring more than speaking and advising.

Charity was right, Peterson avers. "Our great evangelical heritage is becoming more superficial by the decade, shallow and trivialized, noisy and glitzy with godtalk." People are hungering for something deeper, more substantive, more lasting from us. It's God they need, not our godtalk.

"All through the church and culture," Peterson concludes, "there are prepared and listening ears for every word we write, every lecture we give, every sermon we deliver, ready to ... join us as we walk, loiter, stroll, wander, and meander in the Spirit and with Jesus in the land of the living."

Ouch, and Amen!        

Monday, May 10, 2010

'Magnificence in Solemnity, Obedience in Acendancy'

The phrase is from a Florence Johnson poem on "Transfiguration," set in anthem form by Robert Berglund and sung last night in the St. Paul, Minnesota Cathedral by the Northwestern College Choir.

Everything about the event was magnificent--the cathedral setting itself, the gathering in and filling of that setting by Protestant Christians, the disciplined merging of musical technique with an amazing range of offerings in several languages, and at the heart of it all the obvious devotion of the singers and instrumentalists themselves.

The concert both addressed our human condition and offered hope. It drew together strands that tend too much these days to be separated and fragmented. Quiet tender harmonies and loud burts of song were continually multiplied by their echoes in the cathedral nave and dome.

Thank God for musicians--composers, conductors, and performers alike--who bridge in faith the gaps within and between us that only divide. Florence Johnson's poem quoted above carries within it a sacred reminder for Christians everywhere in this world to embody the legacy we have been given within the church of Christ and spread its glory throughout the world.

Out of the scars of wretchedness languid boughs turn again upward. / Tracing the careful intention of a beauty emended by love / A life meant to reach heavenward, a monument of creation / Rising o'er earth's constriction to freedom and splendor above.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh to Be a Child Again!

Life is full of wonder--and joy. No matter the news that shakes and concerns us, seen in larger perspective life is good.

Our latest grandson, Carson Gustaf, looks out on me as if from realms on high. I wonder as I gaze on him what he is wondering. Can you tell?

He is a good baby, I am told. Incredibly good. He just is. That's all. Present. Content. At peace. Himself.

How refreshing and delightful, given all the convolutions of life swirling around him and us. Does he know something we don't know?
Has he come to remind us, perhaps, of things we have either forgotten or tend not to notice?

His gaze is pure and he seems almost ready to speak. No words yet. Just coos--ohs and ahs, the natural language of little ones newly born.

May the Lord bless you this morning, Carson Gustaf, as you are blessing me. May he also make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. And may he lift up the light of his countenence upon you always, and give you peace.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Public Good and Private Shame

I learned something this week that deeply disturbed me about public life and our personal responsibility within it. The lesson came in the context of a certain car company's attempt to better serve their customers by holding their sales forces accountable to the general public.

The company's policy--which is good because it aims at protecting customers from unethical manipulation by their sales people--centers on follow-up surveys by phone and internet to rate a customer's sense of the service they render. All to the good, given the  less than favorable reptuation that some sales people have left in their wake for others who have been transparent and fair.

What shocked me was how unfairly a good sales person might be treated by a customer--and in turn by the company--in light of a single thoughtless response to the surveys. In one instance, based on a customer's unhappiness with a local agency's hours for service, the sales agent was charged a penalty fee for not putting the customer first, i.e. for a dealership policy over which he/she had no control.

Rightfully disturbed over how we as the public are sometimes treated as customers by pushy sales people, we surely ought be equally as concerned about our own attitudes in the negotiating process--not to mention company policies that punish good employees for customer concerns for which they, not their sales personnel, are responsible.

Here one sees in bold relief the sad things that emerge out of our failures individually and communally to heed a basic biblical principle, i.e. to "do unto others" at every level "as you would have them do unto you."