The wide river of life

I seek spiritual/worship music that covers the gamut of human emotion and life experience. Like the Psalter of 150 psalms which are 1/3 laments such as #22 “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me…”

In the 20th Century Christian hymnals, they put in the back often some psalms as congregational litanies. They were only the psalms of praise. None of the laments. This thus excluded folks who were feeling the pain of life, from worship, which our ancient ancestors had intentionally included.

My concern from both mainline Christian hymnody and contemporary Christian praise music is they both exclude the lament…such as many are feeling corporately in the Western world today due to the attacks in Belgium (but such pain and suffering is too often repeated outside Western media markets and ignored because we do not know how to express and carry such a full heavy load of suffering and pain. And thus we isolate and identify with those hurting who look like us and not others. I think this is what breeds the loud narrative of protecting ourselves over against “them” at all costs which is so prevalent now around our world.)

As one psalm says, “how do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (which Sweet Honey & the Rock have made famous in our time in a song) from the time of Babylonian exile in 6th Century BCE. What do we sing today? Do we have the repertoire of humble, powerless and honest emotion in worship, song and poetry for this day and/or come this Good Friday “were you there when they crucified…?”

Our ancestors didn’t have mental health facility as separate from the mainstream of culture. The psalmic laments included it in corporate worship unlike the modern church which has sanitized human emotion to be “uplifting” and thus isolate those who feel otherwise.


I live in Akron, Ohio which has had its share of ups and downs as a community in recent decades. It does feel like things are turning around, though. Especially via younger adults who have surfaced in the last few years with new businesses, community development and social service initiatives.

There has been for a long time a program to attempt to develop community leadership called Leadership Akron. I have thought that it is a nice community service type program which basically has developed leadership for the status quo. It has enrolled folks already part of the local glitterati and helped initiate some other folks to become part of the illustrious of our urban area.

With the younger folks starting up stuff, they have developed their own leadership type things. And I am noticing already that there is developing this same illustrious more elite group of folks among them as well. There is a lot of notoriety.

We have just been through a tumultuous time of a multiple decade mayor who has serious anger problems attacking anyone personally who disagreed with him. Surprisingly, he resigned in the spring of 2015 as things got more and more out of hand for him. We have had an interim mayor who has been very good in quieting the waters yet while cheering on the community. We elected a new mayor for the 1st time in 3 decades in November and he takes office today. Knowing some of the people around him, I think he will be a great counter-point to his elected predecessor and continue the style of leadership that the short-term interim has exhibited.

So, just when we thought we were going to usher in a new era of community tranquility, the new president at the University of Akron, along with the university board of trustees began making immediate decisions about a number of things around the university which greatly impact our community. It was done in the name of economic necessity. However, there was no conversation with our community about these cuts for instance the major concert and public speaking facility of our community. That is just the top of the ice-berg. The community has been in an uproar over this almost filling exactly the time of tranquility that we were expecting when the previous mayor resigned.

There then evolved an ad debate in our local newspaper between two groups of community and business leaders. One via 5-6 ads severely chastising the university leadership for its decisions without communication or collaboration with our community. Another group saying we all need to come together for the good of the university and the community. However, the latter group basically said we should trust them to help the university leadership realize its mistakes and get back on track. These two groups of leadership are social, community, and business colleagues presenting to the public competing ideologies.

I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bio of Abraham Lincoln called “A Team of Rivals.” Lincoln put together a cabinet of leaders who had run against him, attacked him, or at least thought he was not up for the job. All of his cabinet would have been candidates for Leadership Akron, the young upcoming leader types here in town and those who are trying to help right the university ship from competing positions. Lincoln would not have been a candidate for any of those groups.

The same could be said of Jesus and all of his disciples. Especially in the Gospel of Luke. If there had been community vetting for the roles, none would have have made it to even the application process.

I think a major problem in our community and in our nation is we have so institutionalized the process of leadership development, that true transformative leadership is which comes along every once and a while is now shut out.

We can think of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks as some of those who surfaced outside of established leadership development avenues. There was great optimism that Barack Obama would clean out the cob webs of the presidency. But we have seen that there was only so much he could do. The President of the US will not be a transformative leader. Ironically, the last transformative President, Lyndon Johnson, who went beyond any expectations in regards to race and poverty, was also buried by the office in the quagmire of Vietnam.

Long before Citizens United opened the floodgates of big money having free reign for politics, the institutions themselves were stuck in cement so that no real change was going to happen anyway.

So today, rather than substantive changes on the horizon, we flock from one flamboyant personality to another as the great hope for “making things better” (whatever that would mean for each of us.)

Is there hope? I don’t have a clue! But I know we got a heap of trouble. And I know there are some great leaders already at work among us. They just aren’t part of the daily news cycle, social media or illustrious people that we keep expecting to show us how to fix things.

Adventing a new world

As one who follows Jesus, I am practicing the time of the season of Advent. (It won’t be the season of Christmas until December 25. Old counter-cultural, Christian disciple that I seek to be.) In this season of preparation for the coming again of the Savior of humanity, I will acknowledge the hate in the world and inside myself. I will practice the language of peace.I will allow God to have more time in this season to transform my/our hate to God’s heavenly peace…which I believe has and will break into our crazy world. I will ask God to forgive me for obsession over the season of Christmas more than devotion to the birth of God’s child. I will ask God to give me the courage to live not by the power of materialism, but by the power of the Spirit. I desire for God to give me patience in the face of evil rather than alarmist name calling and meme posting.🙂

a long time passing

Through my yoga and walking with my dog Winston, I am becoming more aware of the contentedness of living. I realize that as my retirement has gone on, I have become too busy, even though much of my activity is helping others. I focus more and more on accepting the peace and contentment that God gives us. I have come to learn that to accept that peace and contentment takes effort.

Every morning my waking up time is important. Instead of grousing as I roll out of bed, I lay in bed for 10-15 minutes focusing on my body, my thoughts, and reaching for contentment. I read a meditation either from Fredrick Buechner or Eugene Peterson, two of the best Christian reflectors of our time. I reach a scripture as I read through a book of the Bible and read one Psalm. Then I feed our two dogs. And then spend some time in stretching and yoga followed by a healthy breakfast. Often a Green Smoothie of cucumber, celery, romaine lettuce or spinach, green apple, frozen banana, lemon juice, and chia & flax seeds. Sometimes I add turmeric, cinnamon and/or cayenne pepper which help joints and blood flow.

All of this takes no more than 1/2 hr to 45 minutes. It helps me immensely in realizing the resistance both in my body, in my mind and in my spirit to listening to God and to doing the things that are healthy physically and emotionally.

Heart talk

Pope Francis’ words here in the U.S. in the last days encourages us to recover the vocabulary of the heart. It is shaped by love, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, humility, patience and peace. Those of us who follow Jesus should know this language as our native tongue. Sadly too many of us have forgotten or lost our mother tongue in this vein. God sends us missionaries like Francis to recover it. And it begins in our hearts.

one of my most favorite songs, just right for now

“Come Let Us Cross Over the River” comes from the recorded words of General Stonewall Jackson as he was shot and dying during the Civil War. Song was composed and sung by Robin & Linda Williams.

Come Let Us Cross Over the River

Last Loar family pic before Dad died in 1977