Thursday, June 30, 2011


It's been a good week. Seeing old friends and making new ones. Enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Witnessing the fruition of long-worked-on dreams and plans. Playing with the family. Being surrounded by the wonderful people who are the Covenant Church. It's been good.

The Feast was marvelous. Individuals and families experiencing the Spirit through learning experiences, worship, and play. Friendships breaking out all over. From early morning to late at night, people took advantage of opportunities to try new things out, to relax, to learn, to rest in the Lord. My part (Awakenings and Spiritual Learning Experiences) pretty much met or exceeded our expectations. Families did dress-up bible stories. Some learned of prayer through the music of Johnny Cash and Ralph Stanley. Others learned how to use a camera as an avenue of meeting God. Ancient prayers and prayer in a wired-world held the attention of small groups. Some met Christ in the pool, others on a morning jog. Attention was paid to the Spirit's presence along a mountain trail. And some learned better how to see God in the people around them. My only sorrow is that it was all over so soon.

The Covenant Annual meeting has been good, as well. We are a blessed people. Mission is strong, the budget is healthy, the leadership maintain a strong dependence on the Spirit. Worship remains rich. meetings are punctuated by lightheartedness. Yet there are painful moments - the list of those being removed from ministry roles included friends of mine. Time has been spent remembering ministers, missionaries, and spouses who have died in the last year. Churches have been closed.

Through it all, a strong spirit of unity prevails - that great Covenant freedom in unity.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns; random conversations lead to entirely new worlds. I could be just about anywhere right now. And I find myself wondering how I am so blessed to be part of this great Covenant mission. How marvelous, how wonderful, is my savior's love for me.

Archived pictures of the Feast can be found here:

Archived video of the Feast (including the highlight video) can be found here:

Photos of the Annual Meeting can be found at:

Video of the Annual Meeting is being posted at:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Speaking of gospel: an album review

I've been listening to Patty Griffin's Downtown Church for the last week.

She gets it. From the rocking gospel blues of Move Up or Wade in the Water, to the wistful We Shall be Reunited, this album is a marvelous collection of spirituals performed by an amazing group of musicians.

It's not all gospel, though. Broken relationships make an appearance in the angry I Smell a Rat. And high church shows up in the finale, All Creatures of our God and King. The pain of broken families and hope of restoration pours forth on Waiting For My Child. But mostly it's the old gospel of Never Grow Old and Death's Got a Warrant.

It's the kind of music you want to put on on a Sunday afternoon while sipping your iced tea on the back porch; it's the kind of music that makes you want to dance just a bit. It's church music for the big wide world.
And it's marvelous.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Movie Review: Rejoice and Shout

One of the most beautiful things about human life has to be our ability to soar above circumstances, to survive through trials and tribulations, to thrive even in the midst of great sorrow, to sing even in the darkness. Gospel music is a testimony to the Spirit at work in and through people who never seem to get a break, people who struggle under oppression, people who face death and sadness and injustice, yet people who refuse to give up, lose their hope or lose their dignity.

Rejoice and Shout (Magnolia Pictures) is a testimony to that gospel spirit, telling the story of a people's song as they traveled the difficult road of slavery, racism and oppression in the United States. It is also a veritable feast for the eyes and ears, using more than ample vintage audio, photography, and video. It's a history lesson into this wonderful music, taking the audience hundreds of years into the past when gospel songs were sung on plantations, up through the creation of early gospel quartets at the turn of the (last) century, right up into the gospel resurgence of the 60s and 70s and new gospel today. Old favorites are here, in the form of Mahalia Jackson, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Thomas Dorsey; in addition, newer additions to the genre like Andrae Crouch, the Winans, and Kirk Franklin make an appearance.

It's a story of hope, of journeying toward a blessed reward for suffering faced here. The church plays a prime role, and gospel preachers get their say. The interplay of music, revival, and Pentecostalism is explored. Ecstatic experience gives way to exuberant singing, and joyful singing gives hope and joy to those experiencing it.

Especially important are the interviews with the men and women who lived through Gospel's growth in the mid 20th Century. Interviews with Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples, and so many others give a unique view of the fertile ground out of which this beautiful sound grew. Their joy as singers and songwriters gives proof that gospel is first and foremost a music of the heart, and that those who have the privilege of participating are all welcome in the family.

Rejoice and Shout is open in limited engagements, so you'll have to check out the website to see if it's playing near you. If you have the change, do go and enjoy this marvelous film. You'll be educated, entertained, and uplifted' probably, if you're like me, you'll come away with a song resonating in your heart.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Why I love living in the woods

Late yesterday afternoon I realized the well pump wasn't working. The lowering pressure meant water was slowing to a trickle coming into the house. That's bad enough. But our well also provides water to the church. If we didn't get this fixed, it would be difficult to expect people to come to church when you couldn't provide the basic necessities like flushing toilets. And coffee.

But it was Saturday afternoon, and time was running short. So I called Doug, the building and grounds guy for the church, and a man able to fix just about anything. No luck. So I called the church chair, just to give him something to panic about. Turns out he knew where Doug was. "He's out in his backyard on the tractor." That's the thing about small communities. Somebody always knows where to find the person you're looking for.

I drove to Doug's and went around the back, where I ran into Doug's lovely wife. Which afforded us time for a brief how-do-you-do. She pointed me over to the neighbor's yard, so I headed that way. Where I ran into the neighbor. I hadn't seen him since last year, when I was called over late at night after he had come home to find his father dead in the backyard. So we had a nice chance to catch up, and I was glad to hear how he was keeping his life together and making meaning of his father's death. And sad to hear that his dog is dying.

Finally Doug came around the corner; the problem was explained, he grabbed some tools, and back to our place we came. But not before I had the chance to play a couple of banjos that Dorene had been telling me about. Anyway, Doug got right to work and diagnosed the problem, but didn't have the parts to fix it. We called, but Home Depot didn't have the parts either. So he figured he'd go cannibalize the parts from his own well and see if that got our pump working. First, though, Ron showed up for dinner, so he got in on the conversation. And Megan showed up as well (for dinner), so she got to hear the whole story and to meet Doug as well.

Doug took off and I got to charring meat on the barbecue. Then Gene (the aforementioned chair), his wife, and the little girl they babysit showed up to get in on the action. We had a wonderful conversation before Doug came back. Then Gene and I watched Doug install the new power supply. Power was restored and we all rejoiced at the hum that marked the pump kicking back into action. Disaster averted, we had water, and church could go on.

For the record, all that means that just because the well pump went out, I got to spend quality time with Doug, Dorene, Steve, Bonnie, Gene, and Amber. And Doug got to spend quality time with Gene and Ron and I. Etcetera. It turned into a regular social event.

Oh, and this. Doug called the well pump repairpeople from his house. Their tech called him back. Doug described the part, and the repairman said "yep, I got one of those." So Doug said he'd run up to Port Orchard (40 miles round trip) to pick it up. But the repairman offered to bring it by. So they started exchanging locations. Turns out the repairman lives all of 2 miles from Doug, and was only 3 miles from home. So faster than you can say "How about that?" the guy got to Doug's house and dropped off the part. So nothing had to be cannibalized, and we got a brand-new part without having to drive 40 miles on a late Saturday afternoon.

That's why I like living out in the woods.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Book Review: 10 Power Principles for Christian Service (2nd ed.)

This has to be one of the worst titles for a book ever. I don't know about you, but 10 Power Principles brings to mind door-to-door insurance sales people, used car sales people, or multi-level marketing schemes. A title like 10 Power Principles reminds me of one too many seminars I've attended, promising magical practices that will transform my work and turn me into Joel Osteen.

And this book is nothing like that.

Instead, it reads like the wisdom collected over a lifetime of faithful ministry, of lessons learned through deep struggles and challenges, of basic, necessary, obvious and yet so often neglected practices at the root of God-pleasing ministry.

There's nothing surprising here. It could all be summed up as "Pray, spend time in the Word, rely on the Spirit, expect pain, rejoice when trials lead to growth, submit to God and his people; in other words, be like Christ." Written in the gentle, winsome tone of a seasoned minister, filled with stories that set these principles at home in the hearts of ministers, 10 Power Principles is one of the best books I've read on ministry and the necessary heart-work it requires. There is nothing here about church growth or magical successes, no promises of winning thousands to Christ, no lessons on marketing or sermon-writing or website development. Just a call to return to the foundational work of prayer. Of spending time in the Word. A call to lay aside dreams of comfort and prestige, replacing them with sacrifice and service. A challenge to live lives of honesty and integrity before God and others. And a reminder that our entire work is to bring people to growth and maturity in Christ.

This is one of those books that probably needs to be read every 5 years or so; especially when discouragement sets in, or the mailbox fills up with promotional material for one more ministry scheme, or when we've lost our way in the fog of herding ornery sheep. It's one of those 'reset' books, that reminds us who we are and what we're supposed to be doing. I certainly needed it right about now, and I do believe I'll be passing along copies to a pastor friend or two in the days to come.

Friday, June 03, 2011