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Thursday
Nov102016

A Brief Review of Rev. Nat Dixon's new album "Made in New York"

I had the great opportunity to review a new cd by New York-based jazz saxophonist and United Methodist Minister, Rev. Nat Dixon. It's a beautiful album! Here's a link to the article containing a few of my thoughts on the project:

http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/jazz-playing-pastor-keeps-the-faith-and-the-beat

 

Saturday
Jul092016

A prayer for worship after a week of shootings...

Oh God, we come before you again with broken hearts, with a heavy burden, and with tired souls. We find ourselves joining the ancient prophets who asked you the question we now ask: “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

         How long will humanity continue to believe in the myth of redemptive violence? Jesus your death on the cross shattered once and for all the temptation to believe that violence is our only answer to the wrongs of the world.

         How long will we misunderstand your will for us, which is to be one people, the human family, united in the strength and beauty of the diversity that you authored in each of us?

         How long must we all, black, white, yellow, red, and brown, endure the horribly alienation and tragedy of the racism inherent in our society?

         How long will the black men in our country feel hunted?

         How long will our law enforcement officers have to live in fear at every traffic stop they make?

         Enough is enough.

         How long, oh Lord? How much longer must we wait?

 

         And yet…we must now embrace the pain, the loneliness, the isolation, the anger, and the rage, which we feel. We must embrace it, sit with it, and live with it for the valid human experience it is. Through this pain we can be taught deeper lessons of compassion, even wisdom.

 

         And then, oh God, after sitting with it, after reckoning with this week, move us to be a people who take up the ministry of reconciliation that you, Jesus, have entrusted us. We are to be your hands and feet in the world.  We must work with you for change in our hearts, in our lives, and in our world. The only way these emotions can truly and permanently hurt us is if they do not lead to action. Help us God, empower us Spirit, guide us Jesus, as we seek to be the peacemakers that you call us to be.

 

         We pause now, in the silence of our hearts, to pray the prayers we need to pray….

 

Give a few minutes of silence….

 

Together we lift these prayers as one people, praying the prayer Jesus, the crucified and risen one,  taught us to pray, saying, “Our Father…

Saturday
May072016

Packing for the City of Roses, GC 2016, or Maybe it's About What You Leave Behind

A disturbing amount of neckties…check. Suits & clergy collars…check. Funky socks (got to have some vibrancy somewhere amidst this sartorial sea of black!)…check. Horn, fresh reeds, mouthpiece, etc. (stoked to play some Brubeck with the great Dan Damon on Saturday, May 14th in worship)…check. Kala Brand Music Co. ukulele, pedalboard, sweet hat, etc.(still can’t believe we have 30 people coming to jam with @GraceAveUkes the last day of General Conference at lunch!)…check. Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions…check…

Rain Jacket…definite check!

Hope (and a massively notated and crossed-off checklist) that I’ve remembered everything at home and @GraceAvenueUMC so that no one has to do too much extra work in my absence…check.

A prayer-soaked attitude that God isn’t done with us Methodists yet, coupled with the hope that we will leave Portland in two weeks with a church that truly lives up to its advertising slogan of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”…check!

The time has come to pack for General Conference 2016: the plane is wheels up 12:25pm Monday. Packing for two weeks away, as a member of the North Texas Delegation and as a musician who will play a few times at GC, is complicated. How am I going to get all this stuff into a manageable arrangement? I remember having this same feeling when I played bass and soprano sax in the house band in 2012. What can I leave at home? What are the essentials?

Over the course of the last four years I’ve become a bit obsessed with traveling light: this recent obession may or may not have something to do with doing more gigs on the ukulele! Perhaps packing light is a good metaphor for all that is to come in Portland.

How can we travel lightly in heavy times?

Continuing my packing list, I’m packing conviction, hope, a passion for justice and inclusion and a healthy sense of humor, to be sure. I’m also packing my ears: the opportunity to listen to many people abounds. Perhaps wisdom may be found? I’m packing an open heart and a prayer that the Spirit will continue to open the church to new ways of being, of loving, of pursuing justice, of sharing the good news of the Reign of God in the world. I’m packing light because I hope to be able to fill up my bags on the way home with some hard-earned wisdom, hope and evidence of a changed church, and a deepened compassion for all of God’s people.

Thankfully, the aforementioned pieces will not count against my 50lbs. weight limit!

Maybe it’s what we choose to leave behind that really matters.

As Miles Davis, B.B. King, and so many other masters of improvisation were quick to point out, it’s about the notes you choose NOT to play…

I’m not going to pack a heart filled with judgement for anyone. I am not packing the need to demonize those who disagree with me. I’m not going to pack one of my favorite Gen-X indulgences: that easy and, at times, lazy cynicism that is so comforting. (I would love to promise I won’t be purchasing any for the return flight when I’m up there but it is a habit that has been three decades in the making.) I’m not bringing plans for finding time for a lot of sleep. And I’m not going to pack my (at times substantial) pride in my point-of-view. I wonder, if all of us traveling to Portland could steep ourselves in prayer, listening to one another’s stories, and humility, perhaps we could discern the movement of God’s Spirit among us, muster up the courage to find Jesus out in the world, and join in the work that he is already doing? I’m also going to leave at home that crushing feeling, that horribly heavy sensation, that nothing is going to happen in Portland. Yes, the UMC is a big ship and it takes time to turn a big ship but big ships ARE capable of turning, and in the right set of circumstances, big ships can turn quicker than we might be inclined to think.

It’s time for us to pack light, to be open to new movements, to humility, wisdom, kindness, and improvisation. God isn’t done with us yet!

Tuesday
Feb022016

New Year, New Skills

Happy Groundhog Day!

We are officially through the first month of 2016. How are those New Year's Resolustions going for you? I hope well! I firmly believe we need to add new skills to our repertoire every year. This year I am so excited to be learning the art of DSLR photography! So far this new adventure has been absolutely life-giving to me. What new skills are you working on this year?

Monday
Jan182016

The Transformative Power of Story

They recently had the privilege of being asked to write an article for the magazine "WorshipArts" The publication of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, about the transformative power of story in worship. Check it out here: http://content.yudu.com/htmlReader/A3y8vk/WAjanfeb2016/reader.html?page=5