One More Time Just for Good Measure!!

Happy to report that all is well – except – I miss writing this blog and I know that it is important for me to get back to regular writing and posting. So here we go . . .

When I was doing my doctoral studies at the University of Oklahoma my composition professor taught me a valuable lesson. He said that I should compose, compose often, compose on a regular schedule, and never throw any of my work away. He followed that by reminding me that I would never know when the snippet that I had discarded would suddenly be just what I needed for another composition project. In other words, a composer learns to compose by being disciplined to practice the art of composition on a regular schedule – the very same exact lesson I learned and knew for so many years – if I wanted to be a proficient player of the piano I needed to practice daily.

I became an excellent sight reader because, thanks to my mother, I practiced sight-reading as a daily discipline. Starting during my junior high years (yes, people my age had no idea that we were really in middle school) my mother insisted that I begin my piano practice every day by playing through ten music selections that I had never seen. I did not enjoy it, and I certainly had no idea how it could ever benefit me. Yes – the result – over the years I became an excellent sight reader which saved my musical life on many occasions.

People often tell me that they do not read music. I respond, “You learn to read music by reading music, you learn to sight read by sight-reading, you learn piano by practicing – you learn to compose by composing. I am now old enough to state without any hesitation – a person learns to write (words) by writing. When I have regularly participated in the discipline of writing this blog at least every other day my writing has improved and when I have failed to do this my writing has regressed. So selfishly, and for my own benefit, I begin the writing of this blog again – hoping that those of you who may read it will encourage me to keep writing for my own benefit.

One of my past issues has been deciding on a subject that should be the focus of this blog. That is not who I am! Yes, I am a musician, a pastor, a husband, a grandfather, a cousin, an uncle, a fan of toy trains (both HO and N gauge), a sports fan (Baseball – St. Louis Cardinals; Football and Basketball – University of Oklahoma – BOOMER SOONER!; and the list goes on and on. I am always the happiest when I am faced with balancing a number of different paths to follow. So that is what you may expect by reading this blog – sometimes I may stick with a single focus for as much as a month or longer – and – often what I write about today will have no relation to what I write two days from now except that I will have written both of them.

Of course I invite you to join me on the journey – a journey to who knows where – remembering that what makes its way on these pages are a reflection of my life and who I am. All are welcome!


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A small word with a very large meaning . . .

Yesterday, October 25, 2015, churches in many locations celebrated Reformation Sunday.

The Latin phrase, Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda! is familiar to many people, especially people who have been part of the reformed tradition for a number of years. I learned it as “The Church reformed, and always in need of reforming!” Over the years I have learned that many people are happy to be part of “The Church reformed” – but often much less willing to be part of the Church “always in need of reforming.”

In my experience – More people like being right better than needing to change.

It seems easy to agree with the idea that is represented by the first part of this slogan, but much harder to find agreement with varying interpretations of the words following “and” – a small but important word defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as, Coordinating. Introducing a word, phrase, clause, or sentence, which is to be taken side by side with, along with, or in addition to, that which precedes it (Oxford English Dictionary).

My question for today is – what do we mean when we say Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda! or in English “The Church reformed, and always in need of reforming!” How should our actions respond to our understanding of the words?

It is my hope that a number of you will respond to this post to begin a community discussion – remembering that it is important that comments always be friendly and respectful.

On Wednesday I will write about the origins of this phrase as well as more of what I understand it to mean.

Please make others aware of this site, and join us in a continuing discussion. A community discussion requires more than a single writer.

Grace and peace


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To blog or not to blog – that really is not the question

This blog started in March, 2011, and since that date I have made 247 posts to this website. The name of the site – – refers to a book that I was writing at the time – Human Beings Anonymous – a 12 steps volume intended for people who think that they have no problem with addictions. The book is still not finished but it is closer to reality now than it was back in 2011. I am hoping that restarting this blog will push me on toward the finish line.

Along the way two other books entered in to the writing project list. One – a sort of autobiography with lessons I have learned during my life has the intended title of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pulpit. That project has also had a beginning or two, and is still waiting patiently for my return to the project. The third project as yet has no title but a lot of the content has already been written. It is to be a set of reflections on the current state(s) of music ministry in the church. The original inspiration for this book was an earlier volume that has always been one of my five favorite books. Published in 1981 by Westminster Press, it carries the title Faithsong: A New Look at the Ministry of Music and was written by Thomas L. Are, a person who had an immense influence on my work in music ministry from the early 1980s to the present. While everything in that volume is still valid, the church of today is not the same as the church in the concluding years of the twentieth century.

I have some friends who will read this post and ask, “So what is the problem?” or “So why did you stop writing” or “Why can’t you settle on a single project?” The only honest answer I have is “I don’t know.”

But I do have some thoughts on the matter.

My original design for this blog was to write a post every other day, to invite readers to join in a community discussion, and for us all to engage in a group learning process. My rule has always been the same – I am happy for people to disagree with what I write but I do insist that we engage in civil and polite conversation. Many of the most important things I have learned in life have been from people with whom, initially, I completely disagreed. I could see no possibility for us ever to agree, but with further discussion and time, sometimes I completely changed my mind so that I agreed with their conclusions. However, sometimes neither of us could find a way to change our opinions, but we always managed to move forward with great respect for the other person and their conclusions.

I know that people have read what I have written – a few have commented – a few responded that they like the blog the next time I saw them, but there has been very little community discussion of topics. Generally, I write about things which still perplex me – leave me uncertain – topics that I have already had one or more complete changes of what I believe. It has never been my intent to write as if I even had any of the answers.

So here we go yet another time. All of the blogs are still available to read if you would like, or if you would like to suggest a topic I will make an attempt to start a discussion on that topic. But – I do not want to be the only person writing my conclusions on the subject. I hope that some of you will assist me in this endeavor. A quick perusal of the previous posts will open some doors to ideas and issues that I think could benefit from community discussion and learning. So – you have my invitation. On Monday I will post something about something and then we will see where this journey takes us together.

Grace and peace

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This blog is resuming active status . . .

With pleasure we announce that this blog site will resume active status this coming Saturday – October 24, 2015.

We are grateful for the people who have followed the postings on this site in the past and we hope you will resume with us. Also, please inform your friends that this blog exists – all are encouraged to join in the discussions by commenting on the material found here.


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Apache Stronghold Stops in New York City Before Making Its Way to DC

 Apache Stronghold

NEW YORK—The Apache Stronghold is taking its message to the steps of the U.S. Capitol today and tomorrow. The message is strong one. They are angry that about the land exchange that was tucked into last December’s $585 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 that was passed by Congress.

The Act gives land at Apache Leap and Oak Flat in southeastern Arizona to Rio Tinto, foreign mining company, to mine copper without any environmental impact studies or without consultation with San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe maintains the mining by Rio Tinto will be on sacred ancestral lands where tribal members have historically performed ceremonies and buried their ancestors.

“Since the time of immemorial people have gone there. That’s part of our ancestral homeland, we’ve had dancers in that area forever-sunrise dancers-and coming of age ceremonies for our young girls that become women. They’ll seal that off. They’ll seal us off the acorn grounds, and the medicinal plants in the area, and our prayer areas,” Chairman Terry Rambler told the Huffington Post last December.

The group left their reservation in early July and made its way to Washington.ProtectOakFlat5 (1)

This past weekend, the group was in New York City to bring awareness to the travesty committed by Congress.

This is directly related to my last post!

Mitakuye Oyasin

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Home . . .

The foundational metaphor of spatiality in Indian culture also begins to clarify the extent to which Indian notions of creation and Indian existence are deeply rooted in our attachment to the land and to specific territories in particular. Each nation has some understanding that they were placed into a relationship with a particular territory by spiritual forces outside of themselves and thus have an enduring responsibility for that territory just as the earth, especially the earth in that particular place, has a filial responsibility toward the people who live there. Likewise, the Two-Legged people in that place also have a spatially related responsibility toward all people who share that place with them, including animals, birds, plants, rocks, rivers, mountains and the like. With knowledge of such extensive kinship ties, including a kinship tie to the land itself, it should be less surprising that Indian peoples have always resisted colonial pressure to relocate them to different territories, to sell their territories to the invaders, or to allow the destruction of their lands for the sake of accessing natural resources. Conquest and removal from our lands, historically, and contemporary ecological destruction of our lands have been and continue to be culturally and genocidally destructive to Indian peoples as peoples (Kidwell, 45*).

Yesterday, July 16, 2015 a post appeared on my Facebook page credited to Occupy Democrats. Linked to the post is the complete text of an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times, dated May 29, 2015, written by Lydia Miller. The following link takes you to the complete text version of that article:

Following is the text from that post that accompanies pictures of Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake:

At the very last minute, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake just snuck a provision into a must-pass military funding bill that gave away holy Apache land to an Australian-British mining company that plans to turn it into a 1,000 foot deep crater. It is the first time in American history that Congress has handed over a public, sacred Native American site to a foreign owned multinational corporation.

Is the motivation for this last minute provision to honor the best interest of all the people, or to honor the money that helps keep these two Senators in their elected positions? In my opinion that answer is fairly clear – and – it is not the first of those two options.

I am in the process of contacting both Senator McCain and Senator Flake as well as Congressman Raul Grijalva, Democrat representing Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District concerning this matter. I hope that other people will raise their voices in opposition to this and similar callous actions.

The following words are from the Op-Ed written by Lydia Miller, published in the New York Times:

The land grab was sneakily anti-democratic even by congressional standards. For more than a decade, the parcel containing Oak Flat has been coveted by Rio Tinto, Resolution’s parent company — which already mines on its own private land in the surrounding area — for the high-value ores beneath it.

The swap — which will trade 5,300 acres of private parcels owned by the company to the Forest Service and give 2,400 acres including Oak Flat to Resolution so that it can mine the land without oversight — had been attempted multiple times by Arizona members of Congress on behalf of the company. (Among those involved was Rick Renzi, a former Republican representative who was sent to federal prison in February for three years for corruption related to earlier versions of the land-transfer deal.) It always failed in Congress because of lack of support. But this time was different. This time, the giveaway language was slipped onto the defense bill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona at the 11th hour. The tactic was successful only because, like most last-minute riders, it bypassed public scrutiny.

At this point in time, all I am able to say is mitakuye oyasin – please see my post from July 15, 2015.

* Kidwell, Clara Sue, Homer Noley, and George E. “Tink” Tinker. A Native American Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.

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A blessing . . .

American Indians and other indigenous peoples have a long-standing confidence that they have much to teach Europeans and North Americans about the world and human relationships in the world.  They are confident in the spiritual foundations of their insights, confident that those foundations can become a source of healing and reconciliation for all Creation (48).

These words and the ones that follow are taken, with deep gratitude and respect, from A Native American Theology by Clara Sue Kidwell, Homer Noley, and George E. “Tink” Tinker (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001).

The circle is a key symbol for self-understanding in these tribes, representing the whole of the universe and our part in it. We see ourselves as co-equal participants in the circle standing neither above nor below anything else in God’s Creation. There is no hierarchy in our cultural context, even of species, because the circle has no beginning nor ending. Hence all the createds participate together, each in their own way, to preserve the wholeness of the circle.

When a group of Indians forms a circle to pray, all know that the prayers have already begun with the representation of a circle. No words have yet been spoken and in some ceremonies no words need be spoken, but the intentional physicality of our formation has already expressed our prayer and deep concern for the wholeness of all of God’s creation. There is no need to hold hands because we know it is enough to stand in the circle already joined together, inextricably bound, through the earth which lies firm beneath our feet, the earth who is, after all, the true mother of each of us and of all Creation.

The Lakota and Dakota peoples have a phrase used in all their prayers that aptly illustrates the Native American sense of the centrality of creation. The phrase, mitakuye oyasin, functions somewhat like the word “amen” in European and American Christianity. As such, it is used to end every prayer, and often it is in itself a whole prayer, being the only phrase spoken. The usual translation offered is: “For all my relations.” Yet like most native symbols, mitakuye oyasin is polyvalent in its meaning. Certainly one is praying for one’s immediate family: aunts, cousins, children, grandparents, etc. “Relations” must also be understood as fellow tribal members or even all Indian people. At the same time, the phrase includes all the nations of Two-Leggeds in the world and, in the ever-expanding circle, all the nations other than Two-Leggeds – the Four Leggeds, the Wingeds and all the Living-Moving Things of the Earth.

A translation of mitakuye oyasin would better read: “For all the above me and below me and around me things.” That is, for all my relations. (50-51).

From this point forward, at least in coming days, each post will conclude with these words: mitakuye oyasin.

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