Friday, October 30, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

On my last flight out of town this month (I have one more next month) I flew to Asheville, North Carolina for a meeting at the Lake Junaluska Assemby. This lovely retreat center is owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. Nestled outside of Asheville in the Great Smokey Mountains, it is a great place to visit.

My flight left Duluth early Thursday (6:30 a.m.). I flew first to Detroit and then on to Asheville. It was on my way to Detroit that I was greeted by a beauty wholly unanticipated, and experienced a serendipity of grace.

It had been cloudy leaving Duluth, but on our way to Detroit we flew above the clouds and between the clouds. Looking out my window, the sun was rising – or rather peering through holes in the walls of clouds off in the distance. With the light of this fiery red sun illuminating them, the clouds below looked like a warm cotton blanket. It was all a feast for the eyes.

I was also reading, coming toward the end of a book I began earlier this month, Jacob Needleman’s Money and the Meaning of Life. In his final chapter, Needleman quotes poets Rilke and Rumi. They were the perfect accompaniment to the beauty I was witnessing from my airplane window.

Isn’t the secret intent
of this taciturn earth, when it forces lovers together,
that inside their boundless emotion all things may
shudder with joy?

Earth, isn’t this what you want: to arise within us,
invisible? Isn’t it your dream
to be wholly invisible someday? – O Earth: invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your urgent command?


Deliberation is one of the qualities of God.

Deliberation is born of joy,
like a bird from an egg.


And so there was beauty and in that invitations to deliberation and to shudder with joy. Serendipitous grace, a grace wholly gratuitous.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meeting Madness Month

October is meeting madness month for me. To date: Minnesota Conference Budget Process Team, Minnesota Conference Common Table, Minnesota Council of Churches Nominations Committee, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Twin Ports United Methodist Ministry, Minnesota Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, Minnesota Conference Episcopacy Committee. Up-coming: North Central Jurisdiction Religion and Race Event, Commission on Theological Education review of Garrett-Evangelical Seminary, Committee on Faith and Order. This list does not include the meetings of my congregations Staff-Parish Relations Committee, Church Council, Finance Committee, or Nominations Committee; nor the great event I attended Sunday night with area United Methodists and led by Dan Dick. Nor does it include the presentation I made earlier this month at the College of St. Scholastica on “What Do Methodists Think About Perfection (process and results), the meeting I facilitated last week sponsored by Churches United in Ministry to discuss the elimination of Minnesota’s General Assistance Medical Care Program, the presentation I am making Wednesday to our United Methodist Women on “Living the Sacred,” the presentation I am giving at St. Luke’s Hospice on Thursday, nor the panel I am speaking on next week at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School on the topic of abortion.

This is an unusually busy month – did I mention the two funerals I have officiated at in the past week – both for delightful people, women whose combined age was 190! I am not complaining about any of this (after all, at some point I said “yes” to it all), just reporting, and letting you know why I have not written much this month. However, I enjoy keeping this blog going, and so will fill the remaining space this time with a couple of quotes from things I have read in the past months.

Something at the center of life incredibly beautiful, precious, holy, a sacred sense at the heart of life
Michael Eigen, Conversations with Michael Eigen, 77

To be a questioner is important. To be a critic, a questioner. To be ignorant. Does one have to sacrifice this need if one also feels God? Does one have to sign on a dotted line?
Michael Eigen, Conversations with Michael Eigen, 3

The contradictions of man’s earthly situation cannot be resolved by easy belief or by reflexively relaying the meaning of it to God. Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem. The ideal critique of a faith must always be whether it embodies within itself the fundamental contradictions of the human paradox and yet is able to support them without fanaticism, sadism, and narcissism, but with openness and trust.
Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning, 198

With Faith and With Feathers,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pray Within Me

I enjoy writing, and my blogging is one evidence of this. Over time, I have written some poetry, most of which I keep to myself. Occasionally I have had an inkling to write new words for hymns, but have never really followed through on this.

Last Thursday I read a brief devotional thought offered by Brother Roger of Taize, based on Romans 8:26-27. As I was closing the book, words began to form – “pray within me.” A tune attached itself to the words. I looked in The United Methodist Hymnal to find the tune – Tallis’ Canon. The thought of this “hymn” kept at me all day, until by day’s end, I had most of what follows, though I have revised it slightly in the days since.

In the coming weeks, we may try this in the church where I am pastor.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Pray Within Me

Pray within me
God this day
in all I do
in all I say.
Let even silence
speak your name.
Pray within me
God this day.

Within without
let all be prayer,
the loving heart,
the soul laid bare;
acts of justice,
deeds of peace,
Pray within me
Spirit please.

Transform the world
transform my heart,
rekindle faith
let fear depart.
May joy and loving
grace my life.
Pray within me
Jesus Christ.

Tallis’ Canon (682)
Gift of Love (408)

David A. Bard, 2009