Don’t Be a Dursley

A little over a week ago, I preached my first sermon as Pastor of Orlando Presbyterian Church.
I was a little nervous and worked diligently to choose the best words I could find to begin my time in Orlando and try to communicate with my new congregation. I chose these words…

   Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

Those are, of course, the first words of the first book in the Harry Potter  series. I thought those words authored by J.K. Rowling had worked well for her, so I thought they would work well for me and mine as well. Continue reading “Don’t Be a Dursley”

The Power of Imagination

From Moses and Mickey Mouse – How to Find Holy Ground in the Magic Kingdom and Other Unusual Places  – recently re-released.download (1)22
As soon as the school calendar paroled my children: Cayla, the eldest, fourteen; Abbie, nine; Nathan, seven; and our nephew, Jared, twelve, we packed ourselves into the van along with a sizeable portion of our belongings and headed to Florida for several days at Disney World. It turned out quite a few other people had the same idea.
As I moved through the masses of the different parks, I was amazed at just how many people were there. I did quite a few genetic observations while people watching, “So, this man and this woman produce these offspring. Fascinating.” Or, “Wow, you picked him for a mate. Was there alcohol involved?”
Then I asked myself, “Why do so many people come to Disney World again and again, bearing the cost, the hot Florida sun, the miles to get here, the congestion?” The answer seemed and still seems obvious – wonder, collective, shared, wonder.
Wonder is the Holy Grail of the Magic Kingdom, draped in a surprise, a thrill, nostalgia, or sweet sentiment. Whatever the form, Disney packages wonder, and our hunger for wonder draws Disney lovers from across the globe, into the parking lots, on the trams, through the gates, in lines, and on ride after ride.
I experienced that wonder on our trip to the Magic Kingdom. The rides and my children showed me the way, especially on my favorite ride, Peter Pan.
Peter Pan called out, “Here we go!” as our pirate ship left the boarding station with the long line of people behind us. Abbie yelled, “We’re flying!”
We sailed into the bedroom of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling
“We’re flying! Dad, how do they do this?” Abbie asked.
I started to answer, my hand pointed up at the rail above our heads, which attached ship to ceiling track, but I resisted, certain she’d figure the mechanics out soon enough. She did. She looked up on her own, saw the rail, but chose to ignore it as we flew like Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael, sprinkled with pixie dust, thinking our happy thoughts, through the bedroom window and into the night sky.
“It’s London!” Abbie squealed as we sailed around Big Ben.
“The cars!” she cried out pointing to pairs of lights moving along dark stripes on the floor.
I looked. I saw. The dark stripes became roads and the pairs of lights became headlamps. My daughter spoke. I heard her voice. And I believed.
She did for me what Peter did in the book, the movie, and the ride. She took this aging child, struggling to find his imagination, and gave me wonder. She took this land-locked, bed-bound child, and helped me fly.
By the end of the ride, with her as my guide, I heard the tick-tock of the pirate-hungry crock, fought with Hook, ran with Smee, danced with Tiger Lilly, and swam with mermaids. I was young again; I was amazed; I was flying.
Like my daughter, I saw the rail but chose to ignore it. We were flying. With her, I was sky high, and it was wonderful. Continue reading “The Power of Imagination”

Through Your Hands

In Nashville, when you’re helping a friend move, it always takes one more person than any other town. Because almost everyone is musical most have a piano, and becauseJon Coleman everyone is musical, while you’re moving this heaviest of instruments, one of the movers is going to stop carrying and start playing as you strain along the sidewalk toward the U-Haul truck.

My favorite keyboardist, perhaps with the exception of when we’re helping someone move, is Jon Coleman. Jon plays with the physical energy of Jerry Lee Lewis but with more talent. He is something to hear and see. The road has taken Jon out through the states this summer, and I haven’t seen him in too long. At his last posting, he was in Fargo.

One of Jon’s friends is John Hiatt. Jon thinks so much of him that he named his son Hiatt. Because of my esteem for Jon, I started listening to and appreciating John Hiatt’s music and lyrics. Hiatt’s writing is meaningful and often mystical touching deep mythic themes of the soul which are too often lacking in Music City. One jewel that I have uncovered recently is Through Your Hands. Here are the lyrics and a link to John Hiatt singing it at the Franklin, TN Theater. It’s a fresh water spring for all of us travelers on life’s journey. Blessings on all you musicians traveling this summer…

Continue reading “Through Your Hands”

Beyond Tulsa Time and Past Being a Burden

Danny Flowers has been an inspiration to me for some time. He shares part of his story in this episode of Songwriter.

Danny holds the prestige of being the only person I know who received a standing ovation in a Presbyterian Church. I think a lot of the congregation understood the story and circumstances behind Danny’s song, I Was a Burden. Here are probably the best 11 minutes you’ll spend today.

 

Music in The Moment

For The Moment, Etta and Bob Britt and I have celebrated Nashville singers and songwriters for what they are – poets! So many of the great writers we’ve come in contact with have not only been great performers but written marvelous prose and poetry that stands alone. To celebrate both their lyrical and musical talent, I put together a youtube playlist of the performances I could find of the songs referenced in the book. At least, that’s the way it started. Then I added songs and artists who sang at The Moment. Then I added songs like Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” which Etta sang. Then I added songs by Paul Thorn because Jeffrey Perkins plays drums with him. Then a few more just because. I hope you cherish their words, music, and the people. To see the playlist on youtube, click on the picture below. For more information on the practices and practices from The Moment, see the link to the book on the left of my homepage.The Moment Music1

Leadership in an Anxious Age

I learned a lot about leadership from coaching my children’s sport’s teams. Recognize these groups?

soccer youngerI’ll give you a hint, they gather regularly in streets, yards, and fields across the world. They can organize themselves or be in a community structured league. This crowd is a frenzied pair of five year old children’s soccer teams (to use the U.S. term for the game).
Perhaps you are familiar with beginners playing soccer and their tendency to swarm around the ball, chasing it around the field, merging into an active, passionate, emotional herd. If not, I hope you can imagine it for those herds show many of the characteristics that groups including families, congregations, and all forms of crowds can exhibit.
Here is another image. These two groups aren’t crowds at all. These are older, more experienced, more mature players who have a better understanding of the game, how it is played, and their personal roles on their teams. soccer mature

If you look at the two diagrams, you can see the difference between the five year olds in their herd and the mature players in their teams. The most obvious difference between the two is spacing. The more mature players understand that space between them is important. Space between players in soccer is as important as space between musical notes in a song. If there is no space between notes in music, there is no distinguishable rhythm, tempo, or song, only a long blurry noise. In the younger, less mature groups, there is a lot of rampant activity, a lot of bumping, and kicking, but little soccer actually happens because they have not yet learned the importance of roles and spacing required in order to function as a team. So, too, is it in your life. If you are going to live out your particular calling, your particular self, your particular identity, you need emotional, intellectual, and social space between your self and others. Without healthy spacing and clear boundaries distinguishing you from others, your music, your song, your life, your role will be smothered, absorbed, blended into the greater group, the crowd. In the fused team, everyone is chasing the ball, there are no roles, and likely the team with one superior athlete will win every game. In the mature team, the roles are clear, they are quick but don’t hurry, and stick to their plan.

 Besides spacing, another difference is in the fused team, everyone is chasing the ball, there are no roles, and likely the team with one superior athlete will win every game while in the mature team, the roles are clear, they are quick but don’t hurry, and stick to their plan. Continue reading “Leadership in an Anxious Age”

USians and Themsians – a Hyponym View of Matthew 25

What would it mean to drive like Jesus?

Jesus sets forth his ‘way’ in the parable of The Sheep and The Goats in Matthew 25. In this moment on the Britt’s farm, I give it my best shot at envisioning a world where people see beyond “us and them” categories to viewing ourselves and others as beloved children of God.

Here is a link to just the audio which is much clearer – click picture below.

The Moment 2014 USians podcast1

 

 

 

Being a Now-ist in The Moment

While working on The Moment, I encountered this Ted Talk by MIT Engineer Joi Ito who suggests that the key to future creativity is to be a Now-ist. Here are some excerpts from Joi Ito: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”

I’m a three-time college dropout, so learning over education is very near and dear to my heart, but to me, education is what people do to you and learning is what you do to yourself. And it feels like, and I’m biased, it feels like they’re trying to make you memorize the whole encyclopedia before they let you go out and play, and to me, I’ve got Wikipedia on my cell phone, and it feels like they assume you’re going to be on top of some mountain all by yourself with a number 2 pencil trying to figure out what to do when in fact you’re always going to be connected, you’re always going to have friends, and you can pull Wikipedia up whenever you need it, and what you need to learn is how to learn…

So I think the good news is that even though the world is extremely complex, what you need to do is very simple. I think it’s about stopping this notion that you need to plan everything, you need to stock everything, and you need to be so prepared, and focus on being connected, always learning, fully aware, and super present.

So I don’t like the word “futurist.” I think we should be now-ists, like we are right now.

Here is the whole Ted Talk Continue reading “Being a Now-ist in The Moment”

Now Church

What time is church?

The best answer is, “Now.”

When we first started meeting for worship in The Moment, we took up an offering. Instead of passing a plate, we asked people to come forward. The physical movement was to help take us out of the spectator role of an audience and into the place of participants. It also served as an example of what we are called to do as followers of Jesus, step out into the world.

While getting up and coming forward to give an offering is the norm in some traditions, it was not in ours. Whether in a sanctuary or a bar, whether the person was six or sixty, if called to come forward for the offering, everyone would look around and wait for one thing to happen before they would move. Someone had to go first. In a crowd of five or five hundred, if something new is started, people will look for someone to go first before they move. For our offerings, usually a mother would push her child into the aisle. As soon as the child would venture out, then everyone would follow. It always took the one. Continue reading “Now Church”

Seek Don’t Get Stuck

I grew up in a textile mill neighborhood in South Carolina where the language we spoke was far from prose, yet it had a poetic cadence and was often quite colorful. Returning to my roots, here is my retelling of Saul’s conversion in Acts chapter nine.

There once a fellow named Saul. He was going about, hounding all of Jesus’ followers in the early church, throwing them in jail as the lawbreakers he thought they were. He’d even promote a lynching or stoning if there wasn’t a prison close by. Saul believed in God, and in a way that the confident often are, he was certain he was carrying out God’s will by preserving the right, the true, the holy tradition.

The risen Jesus was getting tired of Saul’s shenanigans. While on the road to a place called Damascus, Jesus caught up with Saul and smacked him to the ground. Jesus appeared in a blinding light, the kind of light you go toward when you’re dying but don’t want to see until then. Then Jesus spoke, “Saul, what the hell are you doing? Why are you being such a pain in my backside?”

Saul didn’t have any idea who would smack him down in such a way and then accuse him of doing wrong when he was so sure he had been in the right persecuting all of the followers of Jesus and shutting that movement down before it could get going good.

Saul asked, “Who is this?” Continue reading “Seek Don’t Get Stuck”

Pray to Your Audience of One

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I have a vague memory from my childhood when I prayed in a family or other group gathering. Someone, perhaps a sibling, snickered at the words I chose in my prayer. My mother, the ever protector, responded quickly, “He wasn’t talking to you.”
Jesus taught that prayer was never a public performance but a private one. Here are his words again from The Message and Matthew 6,

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Instead of doing a dance for the world, you do your dance for God, your audience of one, The One. Instead of proclaiming your righteousness, you seek alignment with the heart and desires of God. Paul Thorn offers a great image for when God is your target audience and simple prayer in a phrase in, I Hope I’m Doing This Right, Continue reading “Pray to Your Audience of One”

Make God Your Target Audience

I’ve spent a good bit of time with songwriters in Nashville. Like writers of books, a question they are commonly asked is, “Who is your target audience?” The question presents a challenge to any artist seeking the approval of others for a work that contains their personality and soul. However, the question does present a wonderful opportunity for reflection. Consider this image of a theater.

In the theater to the right, where would you place the following?
sanctuary
Preacher
Choir or Singers and Musicians
Congregation
God

The common response is to place the preacher, choir, and musicians on stage, the congregation in the audience, and God everywhere. We discuss worship as in any theater. My favorite complaint about a preacher came from my aunt, who is a Methodist, after they had just had their first Sunday with their ‘new preacher’ appointed to their church by the Bishop. She was very frustrated because he preached past 12:00 committed an even greater transgression, he started talking about food. “Now David,” she said to me, “you don’t preach about fried chicken after 12:00 when everybody is hungry and thinking about lunch.” She complained to me as if pastors were all part of a Union, and I might be able to take care of their long-winded preacher problem for her.
Soren Kierkegaard challenged our thinking of worship and said that we have the audience wrong. The congregation is not the audience. God is the audience. Those who gather for worship is on stage. The preacher, singers, and musicians are all backstage prompting the congregation. It is not our pleasure which is the final judge but God’s. It is not whether or not we consider a service meaningful but whether God finds meaning in our service, in church and out, on holy days and every days. Continue reading “Make God Your Target Audience”

Let it Go

My body breathes naturally, inhaling and exhaling, taking in air and letting it go to make receiving the next breath possible. What my body does naturally, I find quite challenging. I take in life, counting my many blessings, naming them one by one, then grasping tightly for all I’m worth. When I need a little help remembering how important it is to release in order to receive, I look to two of my favorite and most encouraging songs both which have the same title, Let it Go.

Two of my favorite and most encouraging songs have the same title, Let it Go.

Continue reading “Let it Go”

There You Are!

A common classification for the world’s population is that there are two types of people in the world: people who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and people who enter a room and say, “There you are!”

In John 21, the risen Jesus comes to Peter and asks three times, “Do you love me?”

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

read more… Continue reading “There You Are!”

Ben’s Boy – Happy Father’s Day, Dad

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Back in my hometown of Anderson, SC, Carrie and I were in that auto line of cars following a funeral. I was trying to figure out my position in line behind the hearse. A man I had met earlier came up to the car. I rolled down the window. “Are you Ben’s boy?”
“Ben.” I had not heard that name in so long from anyone outside my family.
As the manager of a textile mill, in my childhood neighborhood, my father had been the king, the patriarch, but I long ago moved from there and from then. I switched towns and states. No one knew me as “Ben’s boy,” or “Ben’s son.” To hear that name washed over me and I was twelve years old again.
“Yes, sir,” I said with pride.
My father died when I was 18, three decades ago. I have moved far from anyone who knows him, but this man did. This man in a way knew me that others don’t, not even Carrie. He knew me as “Ben’s son”. With pride I said, “Yes, sir.”
As a youth, my father and I fought. He had an image from me as a future man far different from the one I was trying to become. In my mind, it was an either or proposition.
As I’ve gotten older, I see my relationship with my father as a both and, I am “Ben’s Boy,” yet at the same time, “My Own Man.” I have become far different than either of us envisioned, but now I can claim them both.
A Father’s love enables and empowers us to become both claimed by our Dad’s, and at the same time, grow unto something more than the images our father has for us or we have for ourselves, we can become the Imago Dei, the image of God, Our Father who art in heaven, and on earth, and in us, hopefully more and more each day.
“Are you Ben’s boy?”
Yes, I am.
“Are you God’s child?”
Yes, I am.
Prayer: Gracious God, on this Father’s day and every day here after, may I give my own son an example to follow and the freedom to find his own path. If it’s not to much to ask, could you arrange for my own father and I to have ‘a catch’ in a mystical corn field/baseball diamond in Iowa? Until then, tell my father I said, “Hello,” and that I’m still proud to be Ben’s boy.”

 

Reaching Out

 

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Preaching a sermon is often no easy task, but it’s great when you can share one with a friend. I appreciate my friendships that have lasted over time. One I’m especially proud of is my relationship with Rodney Beard. Rodney started a Bible study at the Saturn Plant in Spring Hill. He took a bold leap of faith and began Living Word, a church that has been in at least five different locations since and has outlasted the Saturn factory. Here is the only sermon I’ve kept on dvd and recently figured out how to post it on youtube. May you each have a friend like this who you share a common vision for what the world might be, praying in unison, “Thy Kingdom Come!” while you reach out together.

 

Brain Storms

What to do in a brain hurricane – Say, “Be still,” to Stormy Thinking

There are times when your thoughts and emotions can possess you, and you do need to respond. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” When anxiety takes over, or when any thoughts or emotions dominate, telling them to “Be still,” is a helpful practice. This isn’t an act of emotional condemnation telling them, “You’re a bad emotion,” or telling yourself, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” but just instructing the turbulence in your mind to, “Be still.” It is recognizing that your peace must begin within as Robert Allen described,

We can only help make our lives and our world more peaceful, when we ourselves feel peace. Peace already exists within each of us, if we only allow ourselves to feel its comfort. Peace of mind begins when we stop thinking about how far we have to go, or how hard the road has been, and just let ourselves feel peace. Peace of mind gives us the strength to keep trying and keep walking along the path that we know is right for our lives.           (read more…) Continue reading “Brain Storms”

What is a Moment?

Moments Are Experiences of Time

The Moment Cover 1 front1

A minute is sixty seconds and an hour is sixty minutes no matter where I am or what I am doing. However, my experience of sixty seconds or sixty minutes is quite different depending on where and how I am. If I am at home, in bed, asleep, sixty minutes seems like no time at all, but if I am outside on a cold night without enough clothing to keep me warm, then sixty minutes seems like much longer. There is the never changing measurement of time, but there is also how we experience it.

We can’t experience a minute, feel an inch, or taste a gram. They are all measurements. Albert Camus gives some simple ways to become aware of the difference between time experienced and time measured,

By spending one’s days on an uneasy chair in a dentist’s waiting-room; by remaining on one’s balcony all of a Sunday afternoon; by listening to lectures in a language on doesn’t know; by traveling by the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course standing all the way; by lining up at the box-office of theaters and then not buying a seat; and so forth.
Continue reading “What is a Moment?”

Flood Words

This past Sunday, a group of us gathered for The Moment at Boyd Mill farm. We listened as Carol Warren and Dale Whitehead told us about the waters that covered their farm four years ago and the emotional response that comes with such trauma. As song writers, they found the lack of words difficult and challenging, so that’s what they sang about.

Words Won’t Come        Nov. 2010
Carol Warren and Dale Whitehead

The landscape changed while I was away
Found it just re-arranged, nothing more to say
Barn in the trees, the water left it there
Things that it held- like other memories- scattered anywhere…

And words won’t come
Words won’t come

Breathe in the bottom land, and then ask me why
Stir up the sand, unpredictable skies
Dig in the dirt, then carry the tune
We’ve known hurt, but always knew what to do….

Now words won’t come,
Words won’t come
Words won’t come,
words won’t come

Now I’m mapping the route, and washing the blood
Drank through the drought, and swept out the flood
Lost half the crop and most of my mind
No pen to paper can save me this time

Cause words won’t come
Words won’t come
Words won’t come
Words won’t come
Continue reading “Flood Words”

Out of The Crowd – Introduction

Out of the Crowd front  cover 21

The common assumption from Sigmund Freud to Thomas Jefferson is that we are each born into the world as autonomous individuals.  Contrary to popular belief, we are born into families, communities, histories, and cultures. We are so apart of these groups that to become a mature individual, claiming our place in the world, finding meaning in our lives, and our calling from God takes a lot of work and courage. We are not born as single souls but part of crowds as small as a family of three to as large as a global cultural crowd. Though referred to by other words like collective, system, herd, mass, mob, enmeshed system, fused emotional group, and the world. I’m used crowd as did the writers of The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as philosophers like Tactitus, Epicurus, and Kierkegaard, along with Sociologist Gustave LeBon, and Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The purpose of the book is to help individuals come out of their crowds and into their calling, not just for the hope of each life, but for the sake of the world. Change on a large-scale starts in a very small way. I call it the Rosa Parks Philosophy. When she chose to take a stand by keeping her seat, the world started to change. A great movement began with one person. Scott Peck referred to the power of the individual this way,

The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual…. For it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost. 

Inside this book, find out home to come out of your crowds and become a life that can help change the world. Read the first chapters by clicking on the book cover.