Friday, December 31, 2010

One Year to the Next

As one year flows into the next, I wanted to review some of the memorable quotes I recorded for myself in 2010 and share a few with you (again, perhaps).

If we don’t see ideas as the voice of God in us, how can we hope to know more of God in this world – and in ourselves. Joan Chittister, Living Well

The truth will set you free. But not before it is finished with you. David Foster Wallace

We seem to be forgetting about the soul, about what it is for thought to open out of the soul and connect person to a world in a rich, subtle and complicated manner; about what it is to approach another person as a soul, rather than as a mere useful instrument or an obstacle to one’s own plans; about what it is to talk as someone who has a soul to someone else whom one sees as similarly deep and complex. Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: why democracy needs the humanities

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.
Francis Bacon

Thinking one knows it all, thinking one knows something one doesn’t, one miscalculates reality.
Michael Eigen, Madness and Murder

Recently a friend sent an article to me about Judson Phillips, a founder of the Tea Party Movement, who would like to see The United Methodist Church disappear, calling it socialist and Marxist. The change of year is a good time to clear the air, make confessions, free the soul. I confess that I am enamored with Marxian wisdom. I cannot deny the truth Marx spoke when he said:

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx

Bring the new year in joyfully.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Friday, December 24, 2010

Bing and Bowie

November 30, 1977. I was 18 years old and in my first semester of college at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. That night Eric Servareid bid farewell as a regular correspondent on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. His parting words are worth watching and they can be found on youtube.
That night the Bing Crosby Christmas special aired. Bing had died October 14. One of the most memorable moments that night was the duet between Bing Crosby and David Bowie. There is some kind banter and then a lovely version of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” I posted this link earlier on my Facebook page. The song was taped September 11, 1977 – before September 11 was September 11. Anyway, I think I was watching that show that night, at least that is my memory. I was not a big David Bowie fan at the time, and Bing Crosby was nice, but kind of old school. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the song. It was and is a Christmas music favorite.
I have fond memories of Christmas music. My parents had a few of the Goodyear Greatest Songs of Christmas albums around the house. My wife, Julie, loves Christmas music, as do our daughters Beth and Sarah. I love the songs of the church for the season – especially It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child is This, In the Bleak Midwinter, and Silent Night. I also love many “secular” Christmas songs. In recent years I have burned some of my own “greatest songs of Christmas” and its three CDs contains these songs:

Pachelbel, Canon in D
James Taylor, I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Vince Guaraldi, Christmas Time is Here (vocal)
John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
Johnny Mathis, Do You Hear What I Hear
Paul McCartney, Wonderful Christmas Time
Bing Crosby, White Christmas
Nat King Cole, Christmas Song
Bruce Springsteen, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
John Lennon, Happy Xmas
Tony Bennett, My Favorite Things
Bing Crosby/David Bowie, Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
Vince Guaraldi, Christmas Time is Here (instrumental)
Louis Armstrong, Wonderful World
Mahalia Jackson, O Holy Night
Judy Garland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Julie Andrews, In the Bleak Midwinter
Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Joy to the World
Vince Guaraldi, What Child is This
Sarah McLachlan, What Child is This
Chicago, Winter Wonderland
Diana Krall, I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Sarah McLachlan, Christmas Time is Here
Louis Armstrong, White Christmas
Chicago, Christmas Time is Here
Sarah McLachlan, I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Diana Krall, Christmas Time is Here
James Taylor, River
Diana Krall, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Sarah McLachlan, River
Louis Armstrong, Christmas Night in Harlem
Sarah McLachlan, Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas
James Taylor, Baby It’s Cold Outside
James Taylor, In the Bleak Midwinter
Sarah McLachlan, In the Bleak Midwinter
Sarah McLachlan, Silent Night
Diana Krall, Sleigh Ride
Dianne Reeves, Carol of the Bells
Rosemary Clooney, Silver Bells
Perry Como, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
Andy Williams, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Meredith D’Ambrosia, Christmas Waltz
Mel Torme, Christmas Song
Ella Fitzgerald, O Holy Night
Sheryl Crow, There Is a Star That Shines Tonight

Merry Christmas
With Faith And With Feathers,


Friday, December 10, 2010

What Does It Take

This week, an acquaintance of mine, Adam Hamilton, posted a question on his Facebook page and invited responses to it. What are the five most important qualities of pastoral leaders that create or lead vibrant, alive churches? To be honest, I am not sure any short list captures everything that needs to be said here, but it is a question about which I have thought deeply. In short order, I typed out my list and posted it:
• Character/integrity/genuineness/authenticity (o.k. a lot for one quality)
• Deep relationship with God in Jesus
• Vision for ministry
• Passion for ministry – including ministry to the community
• Joy and humor

While I like the list, I did not feel it was quite adequate. I did not think it captured all that I might want to say in response to the question about the important qualities of pastoral leaders leading vibrant and alive churches. I began to play with the idea of intelligences. What sort of intelligences are needed for effective pastoral ministry? I reframed my list in terms of six “intelligences.”
1. Spiritual intelligence (I really don’t like that word here, but, hey, I am trying to work with a theme): has a deep spiritual life, a living relationship with God in Jesus
2. First-rate intelligence. I have long appreciated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation: “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function” (“The Crack-Up”). These days we need pastoral leaders who can be comfortable with ambiguity, who exercise imagination, who can help navigate adaptive challenges, who can think theologically.
3. Emotional-Social Intelligence. People skills matter and they were not well represented in my initial list.
4. Vocational Intelligence. We have to be able to do the work, including having some vision for ministry that is intellectually, emotionally and spiritually rooted and compelling.
5. Communication intelligence. Pastors need to be able to communicate orally and in writing, including the use of electronic media.
6. Pedagogical Intelligence. We need to be able to teach.

And if I have something approaching a first-rate intelligence, I know this list will continue to be reshaped.

With Faith And With Feathers,


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Francis Bacon Squared

Last week I watched the movie Amazing Grace, a film about the life of William Wilberforce. I thoroughly enjoyed its portrayal of the combination of deep faith and a passion for changing the world. I also appreciated the Francis Bacon quote.

It is a sad fate for a man to die too well-known to everybody else, and still unknown to himself.

I recalled it well-enough from the movie, but wanted to make sure I had it just right, so I typed “Francis Bacon” into a search engine and came up with a number of wonderful Francis Bacon quotes, including the following:

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.

Then I discovered that there is more than one Francis Bacon. The Francis Bacon quoted in Amazing Grace was a British philosopher, person of letters, politician who lived from 1561-1626. The Francis Bacon who wrote about the artist was an Irish painter from the twentieth century. A sample of his work is found below.

While having my Francis Bacon squared this week, I also found my way to a William James essay from 1898, “Philosophical Concepts and Practical Results.” In it James wrote:

Philosophers are after all like poets. They are path-finders. What everyone else can feel, what everyone can know in the bone and marrow of him, they sometimes can find words for and express.

At our best, perhaps pastors are like that, too. We give words to what can be felt and experienced in the bone and marrow of human lives. We point a way forward into a richer life and a deeper experience of self, others, the world, God. We aid the journey of self-discovery, for we, too, consider it tragic that a person should die too well-known to others and unknown to herself. Yet though we put words to experience, serve as path-finders, encourage self-knowledge, we do that within the wondrous mystery that is life as a human being.

James also wrote in his essay, “Philosophers, let them be as queer as they will, still are men in the secret recesses of their hearts.” Queer often means something different than what James meant, and he did not use inclusive language. Taking these into account, I hope what he says here is also true of pastors – be as odd as we will, we are still human in the secret recesses of our hearts.

With Faith And With Feathers (and deep in the mystery),