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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Get the "Led" Out

The other night I found myself in a small crowded bar in Midtown Omaha to hear a band called "The Firm" Go ahead and check the link. I'll wait.




Done? No, not that "Firm." Now, I knew that going in because I know one of the guitarists of the band I went to hear. Sadly, he is not Jimmy Page.

I remember as a kid being fascinated by the guitar of Jimmy Page in a band he was cruising around with called "Led Zeppelin." You may have heard of them back in the day. They are kind of famous...

As a kid learning to play the guitar, I never tried to style myself after Page, in part because I never really understood what he was doing (to be honest, I still don't). But those sounds were fascinating to hear. There is something that he can make a guitar do that sounds, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, like "a fire crying in the sun." (Someday I'll write about Bob Dylan too, as he's also kind of famous.) It's a pretty distinctive sound, and most guitar players I've met over the years know when they hear Jimmy Page. Here's a song I've always liked called "When the Levee Breaks." It was great being a kid in the 1970s.

As I was listening to The Firm in Omaha the other night there were lots of kids from the 1970s (and the 1960s too.) We were all there to hear some songs from our childhood and to forget for awhile the adulthood we seemed to have attained with no effort at all, and no skill other than to survive. But I still remember the kid who listened to Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and all the others who provided the soundtrack of my life. And I wondered what title or label would be on my life?

You can't copyright titles and such, and every city probably has a band named "The Firm." (I hope they all know the irony, however.) They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can't also judge it on its initial response. Life is most acutely judged in the fullness of time. As I was sitting there listening to Beatles' covers, who knew "Strawberry Fields" would last?

I am writing this post on the day after Robin Williams died. I remember watching him on "Happy Days" helping Fonzie set Milwaukee right. I was probably 15 years old. I saw him live in concert in 2002 where he was 30 feet away from me at the old Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. I laughed a lot that night. To judge someone like him on just one or two years of his career, or one or two events out of his life does a huge injustice to the world we all live in. A person's life is more than just moments strung together, but rather a series of ups, downs, and plateaus that roll on until our last hour is strutted on the stage.

Jesus of Nazareth was a guy whose life, in total, meant more than just the moments he spent. Although many people seemed to appreciate those moments (especially the ones he reportedly healed), 2000 years after his death it's the whole scope of his life that brings reality to bear. How do you appreciate the moments in your life? How do the more worse moments of your life get "forgotten?" How are the better ones "remembered?" No matter how long our lives, no matter how many good or bad moments we squeeze into that life, the labels, the titles, the signs do not define us. What defines us is the lives we've lived, the people we've loved, and the memories we share. That's life. (Thanks Frank. Oh, and he's pretty famous too.)

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What a difference a couple of months make...

Here is a picture of my garden on June 9.  Here is my garden yesterday.

  What a difference a couple of months can make!

My bean trellis is pretty much covered in beans. You can see the corners of it. There are 20 pieces of rope hanging down, and every single one has a vine or two creeping up it.

The tomatoes? Those little bushes on the left side of the June picture are the bushes I am taking the August picture over. The wooden stake holding up the tomatoes are 6-footers. In the far back, those long things with yellow on the top are 15-foot sunflowers. And and although you can't see them in this picture, I have cucumbers all over the place.

I remember when I was planting the garden and wondering if anything would grow this year? I guess I have my answer. But now, as I contemplate the upcoming harvest (I hope), I wonder how does all this food get here? I mean, I already have put up 12 quarts of pickles. We've had a few tomatoes (I still have a couple of bags of last year's in the freezer!), and I've already cut down my oregano 3 times. As Clayton Chapman, owner of the Grey Plume restaurant  and neighbor encouraged me "Keep making that marinara!" Olive Garden doesn't use that much oregano in a year!

But there was no food there 2 months ago. Think how important food is, and the miracle that is a backyard garden. What I don't understand is why everyone doesn't have some version of a backyard garden? Granted, you may not be the world's greatest gardener, but it sure is amazing what happens...dirt, water, nutrients, and sunshine make a cucumber or a bean or a strawberry (my strawberries get eaten by birds before I can get them even pink--I am going to get one though, even if I have to get up at 4 in the morning!) and those become sustenance in my life.

And the wildlife! Rabbits run around my yard (but I grow food rabbits don't like but I do--like cucumbers, this keep my frustration with them at a low level), I have birds by the hundreds, butterflies, bees, wasps (the good kind that eat mosquitoes. Note: I have never even seen a mosquito in my backyard. It's August 5.), spiders, probably snakes (I say "probably" because I haven't seen one since I've started gardening, but I don't have any mice, voles, shrews, or other pesky rodents, so somebody's doing something!). It is a small little ecosystem that swirls around the back yard. The lone turkey wandering around last Spring was a bit of a surprise.

All this comes about in time. St. Augustine once remarked that he knew what time was until you asked him to explain it. How true! Time is the complex of reality that demarcates our existence.(Those of you philosophically inclined can work on that sentence.) I get older, but two months doesn't produce such monumental changes to me as it does to my garden which is, not aging, but growing.

I think it's funny that for years Christian congregations have had as slogans and statements phrases like "Growing in Christ." "Growing in faith." "Growing Disciples." Now those same congregations are complaining that all their members are old. What--exactly--did you expect? Aging in Christ. Aging in faith. Aging Disciples. I hope people get older in those processes. Who cares if a congregation gets old and goes to harvest? Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't that why we were planted in the first place? Growing is just another word for getting older. If you don't want to get older, don't make "growing" one of your core values...jeesshh...relax, God's not troubled by aging and harvest, why are you?

Here's the same angle of the picture I took in June. Tell me, is God amazing or what? 
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.