Music: The Spirit’s Playground

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“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.”  –Prince

I grew up listening to Prince. His creativity, ability to avoid being put in a box (both personally or musically), and his capacity to continue to be innovative always intrigued me. In recent years I have become impressed with his deep connection and commitment to Minnesota.

Prince’s untimely death this last week has clearly had a significant impact on people both here in Minnesota and across the globe. For those who are not long term, deep devotees to Prince, the outpouring of grief for someone they did not know personally may appear odd.  I would suggest that this is the power of music.

You’re driving along in your car, a song comes on the radio, and you are immediately taken back to a time, a place, a person—an experience. Music has that power. A song or hymn, as you hear the lyrics give voice to something you believe, you have encountered, or you have been trying to articulate. A wonderful instrumental piece of music begins to play and it begins to feel like an out-of-body experience that takes you to another reality. That is the power of music.

Music, in its myriad forms, has been a part of worship potentially from the beginning of creation. So central is it to the worship experience for many individuals that when it changes it can be significantly challenging. And for many, central to their faith journey, music has been life changing. That is the power of music.

Sacred or secular, instrumental or filled with lyrics, the power of music lies in its capacity to be transformative. In fact, I heard a saying once that resonates with me, “music is the Spirit’s playground.”

A Camp Counselor as President?




Who will our next President be? Will he or she really be the most powerful person in the world? The candidates clearly have their own beliefs of how they will “live in” to their assumed power.

One of my political science professors used to say something along the lines of, “Power: is it being used to benefit the most or is it mostly being used to benefit the person who has it?” Ever since that class I have utilized that question as a lens to observe those entrusted with some level of power.

Albeit quite systemically simple, years ago one of my favorite examples of observing people with power was the brand new, young group of camp counselors. For many this was the first time they had positional power – power over others. Inevitably, they would ‘lord over’ the young campers for whom they were responsible. The main reason I appreciated this situation was because it provided an excellent opportunity to walk with young leaders in how to navigate the waters of power.

Clearly some in leadership positions today never were camp counselors. Every day, regardless of the organization, we witness individuals who have chosen to use the power they posses to benefit themselves and/or their particular agenda. We witness those who were oppressed by others, once they gain power, become the oppressor. In my experience it does not matter to what demographic a person belongs, once in power, many begin to use it solely for their benefit.

Jesus always modeled a different way. Jesus healed, fed and even washed the feet of others, all a witness to how he used his power in service to others. Jesus was present with others, found a teachable moment and then sent folks out, fully empowered to share…including their power. All is still true today.

Whether you’re the President or you’re a camp counselor, how we use power that has come our way says a lot about who we are and who we have chosen to follow. Is the benefit for self or for others?

God’s Grace Shows Up



As many of you know, my father died when I was 13 years old. His death marked the first person I actually knew who died. My family, friends, and most particularly our priest were critical in this very challenging time.

Fr. Jack walked with me through my endless questions, sat with me in silence and would give me big bear hugs when I cried. I had spent a lot of time with him the previous year in Confirmation class, and he would often refer back to our conversations about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

By the time I graduated from high school a half dozen of my friends and classmates had also lost their lives in a variety of circumstances. For most of my surviving friends I was the only person they knew who had lost someone close to them, and as such would often want to share their grief and questions with me.

Over the decades since my father’s death, I have also experienced the death of my grandparents, my mother, numerous relatives and a great deal of friends. I have also walked with others in both the sometimes sudden and sometimes slow experience of death. Each experience, whether it be one of my beloved or others I was called upon to walk with, has been painful, sad, and holy.

In some instances the sense of the holy is palpable in the moments of the last breath and others in the moments, days, weeks that follow. Either way, God’s grace has forever entered the void that always accompanies death.

This coming Sunday I will travel to participate in the celebration of the life of Patrick and Logan. These are the two young sons of a dear friend of mine, about whom I previously wrote when they tragically died in a house fire. The moments and days since this horrific situation have been painful, sad and holy. God’s grace has showed up over and over and over again.

The loving arms of the  “extended family” have been listening to each other’s questions, sitting together in silence, and wrapping each other in a big bear hug…just like Fr. Jack did for me oh-so-long ago. And we will continue to do so when we gather together on Sunday in person.  We will sing, pray, listen, break bread together, and I am completely assured that God’s grace will show up.

Life, death, resurrection to new life…the journey.

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