loren Eric Swanson: August 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mixed Taste! at The Lab

Last night I dropped by Mixed Taste--"Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Topics" sponsored by The Lab at Belmar (http://www.belmarlab.org/) in Lakewood. This was the last of ten summer meetings. Topics included "Tequila and Dark Energy in the Universe," "Soul Food and Existentialism," "Chinese Opera and Alfred Hitchcock," "Kurt Coain and Solar Eclipses." Last nights topics were "Marxism and Kittens, Kittens, Kittens." Great venue and great format for the intersection of unrelated ideas--which is often the birthplace of creativity. Each speaker spoke for 30 minutes. Then both speakers fielded questions from the front. Afterwards, there was an optional (for $10) "tapas, tapas, tapas" (Spanish for small snacks--meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, potato salad, etc).

I couldn't help but thinking how this would be a great format for emerging churches. 30 minutes on something from the Scriptures--30 minutes. by someone from the community, on an unrelated topic and then let the audience put them together and make the connections.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More thoughts on the sad plug

Recently I saw an interesting article about how our minds recognize and respond to facial expressions and features. There is a shape of the mouth turning upwards that conveys happiness and joy and a corresponding shape of eyes that are smiling (probably an Irish expression!) In the first picture we see a couple of pictures of President Bush. We can tell that the picture on the left has been altered but it still looks fairly attractive. That's because our eyes and minds perceive upwardly turned mouths as pleasant or attractive. Now scroll down to the inverted pictures.......





It's hard to believe that you are looking at the same picture, huh? Now let's go back to our plug. Sad faces are a downer. Smiling faces make us a bit more happy and cause us to smile. During the course of the day we see dozens of frowning plugs...little subliminal messages that say "Have a sad day!" Would we not all feel a bit better...a bit more happy and joyful if all our plugs were smiling?

No matter how messy YOUR car is....

Stopping in at a McDonalds in Chickashay, Oklahoma, I passed this car--every inch of the interior packed w/ papers, magazines, trash, clothes, bags, toys...and who knows what?
Even if this person wanted to save everything, how would he / she ever find it again under feet of other junk?

Why is the plug so sad?

It is a well-known fact that everything not found in nature is designed by someone. But what were they thinking when the three-pronged plug was designed? The recepticle looks so sad...or disappointed for being something so useful. The plug, after all, is the conduit to power--to usefulness. It converts passive potential into active energy. It is a conduit to warmth and cooling, of light and sound, of motion and entertainment. The "mouth" should be turned upward to express joy of being so useful to so many. Wouldnt it be great to see plugs everywhere that look more like the 1970s "Have a Nice Day" smiling faces than the current sad sack we have to endure? Why is the plug so sad?

Celebration Sunday at Calvary Bible in Boulder

Last Sunday was "Celebration Sunday" for Liz's and my home church of 29 years--Calvary Bible Church in Boulder Colorado--a church that was started in 1889 as a mission outreach to Swedish immigrants. Pastor Tom Shirk has done a great job turning the church inside out. A couple of Sundays ago I looked around our congregation and saw some of individuals who are making an incredible impact. There is Jean Wood, who leads our community in caring for / mentoring Lost Boys of Sudan (who are now young men). Several came with her to the celebration. Then there is realtor Judy Pitt who works with homeless in her "On the Corner" ministry along with her continued global impact in Africa. I saw Frank and Linda Goodmanwho sit with the homeless of our congregation. I see Ray Fanberg who brings 3-5 delightful men who are mentally retarded. They are a joy to have in our congregation. These folks have discovered their Ephesians 2:10 calling...and loving it!

During the outdoor celebration Associate Pastor, Adrian gave a little recap of Calvary's externally focused ministry

At Thanksgiving and Christmas time hundreds of you—all ages and both campuses--packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, delivered gifts to low income families through Angel Tree, and served meals for the homeless in our community.

In March, a team of volunteer photographers, editors, and writers, under the leadership of John Boyle and Kim Cleaver launched the first edition of Calvary’s Roots magazine… and hasn’t that been an incredible publication for sharing the stories of God’s work in individual lives?
Around that time the high school ministry launched "Wednesday Night Thing" in Erie—

On April 29th, our Erie campus celebrated our one-year anniversary with around to 300 people in attendance. An unbelievable congregation of committed, prayerful, selfless leaders who are reaching that growing community.

Also during the Spring, several Calvary families launched a new orphan care ministry that is currently supporting some 13 Calvary family who have recently completed or who are going through the adoption process. That ministry has simply been the result of a passion and leadership that God implanted in several women at our Erie and Boulder campuses.

In October, 14 of you went on a medical mission trip to Brazil. In June 30 high school students and staff built homes and cared for families in Mexico. And in July and August, 12 Calvary folks shared the gospel, and distributed goods, and built churches in Kenya.

eyond these short-term trips, we’ve had three Calvary families: Brad and Janis Winslow, John and Becky Singleton, and Dennis and Donna Walsh move to Germany, Kenya, and Belize for longer term missionary service.

In June, 700 of you partnered with 1,700 others from 18 churches for Sharefest 2007. In our biggest Sharefest ever, we partnered with the body of Christ in Boulder County and Erie to demonstrate the unconditional love of God to 10 schools and seven community agencies.

During Pastor Tom Shirk's message he talked about the diversity of our congregation. Now this is radically different from what kind of church we were 5-6 years ago.

We are Calvary Bible Church.

We are Young. We are Old. We are Teenagers; we are Old-Agers. We are Single ; We are Married. We are Divorced, Remarried, We are Widowed.
We live in the Mountains. We live in the foothills. We live in the city; we live in the suburbs. We are Happy to live in Boulder; we are Happy to live outside of Boulder.

Live in homes, mansions, townhouses, apartments, condos, shelters
Have Children, grand-children, wish we had children. (We wish we had no children.)

We are employed; we are unemployed. We’re retired. We own our own business.
We are Elementary Teachers; we are University Professors.
We are Electrical Engineers, we are Molecular Biologists.
We are Meteorologists, we are Real Estate Brokers.
Computer Scientists, Software Developers, Stock Brokers,
Bankers, Small Business Owners. We are Corporate CEO’s, we are College Students. We are plumbers, Electricians, Dentists, Developers.
We are Physicians, Physicists, Physical Therapists.
Managers of people, managers of money. Carpenters, carpet layers, Engineers of too many varieties to name. Musicians, artists, salespeople.
We are Calvary.

We send our kids to Public School, private School, Charter Schools, Christian Schools, we home School.
We Drive Subarus, we Drive Suburbans; We ride motorcycles and mountain bikes; we Skateboard. We Ski; We Snowboard.

We’re CU Fans. We….

Prefer plastic. We Prefer paper
We prefer Tofu; we eat Red Meat.
We like the Traditional service; we prefer Contemporary Music.
We like Drums; we’d rather listen to the organ.

We’re Independents; we’re Democrats; we’re Republicans.
We ‘re Calvinists. We’re Arminians.
We attend the Boulder Campus; We’re at the Erie Campus.
We grew up in this church; being at church makes us nervous.


Story by Robert McKee

A Good Story, Well-Told

There is one fundamental test of a good story; after it is over, one finds him or herself saying, “That was a great story.” There are two things every great story does. First it transports us to a world—a time or place, we are unfamiliar with, and second, once transported, we find ourselves in the story. If it is true, that every great story accomplishes these two things, this mean that we can listen to and look at the stories Jesus told and find ourselves transported to a setting we know nothing about, say traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and secondly find ourselves somewhere in the story—the wayfaring victim, the Pharisee, the Levite, the Samaritan, the innkeeper or even the donkey. A story, well-told, gives the audience what they want but not necessarily what they expect. Who would have thought that a despised Samaritan would be the hero of the story? It’s not what the audience expected. But it most certainly gave them what they wanted in answer to the universal question, “Just who is my neighbor?”

In every good story, we find ourselves asking, “Then what happened?” or “What happens next?” Events unfold that beg for solutions or resolution or irony, where life lessons can be learned or readjusted. In a badly written or badly told story we find ourselves asking, "Where is this thing going?"

Our lives are much like stories. At this moment, events are unfolding before your eyes and you find yourself asking, “I wonder what is going to happen next?” As I’m putting these thoughts on paper, my family and I are in a “Then what happens” moment. My 24-year old son, serving in the Army National Guard was preparing for his second year-long tour of duty in Iraq six weeks from now. This week he got a call informing him that his National Guard unit was not being called up at this time. He re-enrolled at the University of Colorado where he is trying to finish his senior year. He is due to finish his 6 years of Reserve duty in March so there is a chance his unit will be called up. All of us find ourselves asking, “I wonder what will happen next?”

As I’m writing these thoughts, I am on a UAL 737 flying from Denver to Sacramento. It is the week after lowly Appalachian State knocked off #5 Michigan, at Michigan, in the opening week of the season. It has become the cover story for Sports Illustrated, complete with the headline, “Alltime Upset: Appalachian State stuns No. 5 Michigan. Quoting freshman quarterback, Armanti Edwards on what he was thinking at half-time when Appalachian State was leading 28-17: “We were up 28 points in the first half, in the Big House [Michigan’s home stadium]. I was thinking, How are we going to finish this up?” Armanti found himself in a story…no, better a compelling storyline that begged to be resolved. What happens next? If you must know, Michigan came back to take the lead, 32-31 with 4:36 to play in the game. “What happened then?” After the kickoff, Armanti Edwards threw an interception, seemingly ending all possibilities of a comeback. “What happened then?” After a missed field goal by Michigan, Appalachian State took over on their own 26 yard line with no timeouts and 1:37 left in the game. Edwards marched the team down to Michigan’s five-yard line with 20 seconds left. “Then what happened?” Kicker Julian Rauch kicked a wobbly field-goal through the uprights to take the lead, 34-32. “Then what happened?” After a decent kick-off return, Michigan’s quarterback threw a 46 yard strike to wide-out receiver, Mario Manningham and with six seconds left on the clock, the field goal kicker took the field. “Then what?” As the ball was snapped, Appalachian State senior, free safety, Corey Lynch, fought his way through the offensive defenders, flung himself into high into the air and into the trajectory of the rising football, blocking the kick. Recovering the ball, without breaking stride, he sprinted towards the end zone. His legs could not hold up. He was exhausted and was tackled short of the goal line but it did not matter. Time had expired and Appalachian State had won, pulling off what is considered one of the greatest upsets in College Football. The ending of the story was not what we expected but it was so satisfying because it gave us what we wanted (unless you are a die-hard Michigan fan). This story fits what screenwriter, Robert McKee, calls “classical design.” Look at his definition: “Classical design means a story built around an active protagonist (in this case the Appalachian State football team) who struggles against primarily external forces of antagonism (University of Michigan football team) to pursue his or her desire, through continuous time, within a consistent and causally connected fictional reality, to a closed ending of absolute, irreversible change.” Wow! Isn’t that the case? In Aristotle’s words, an ending must be both “inevitable and unexpected.” Isn’t this our case here?

Our lives are stories, but here is the difference: We are the protagonists who, wanting to accomplish something or obtain something, make choices that clarify our values and define who we are. We have the opportunity to serve as our own screenwriters. For a large part of our story, we get to write the last chapter with a satisfying ending.

The story of our lives, to be stories worth telling, must have certain elements and it is my belief that we can bring these elements into our lives or avoid these elements.
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, Reganbooks (1997).

Sometimes I'm asked what the best books I've read recently. Now that's an interesting question. Currently I"m listening to Ireland by Frank Delaney, and it is an incredibly written historical novel--greatly educational and entertaining. But "best book" has to have a different criteria. The books I find myself talking to others about are A Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and Story by Robert McKee. These are the best books I have read this year because they have shaped my thinking about communication and the need to invite people into a great story. Below are some excerpts that help define a great story.

The master storytellers give us the double-edged encounter we crave. First, the discovery of a world we do not know….Second, once inside this alien world, we find ourselves.

But story is not life in actuality. Mere occurrence brings us nowhere near the truth. What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.

Structure is a selection of events from the characters life stories that is composed into a strategic sequence to arouse specific emotions and to express a specific view of life.

A story event creates meaning change in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a value.

Story values are the universal qualities of human experience that may shift from positive to negative, or negative to positive from one moment to the next.

A story event creates meaningful change in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experience in terms of a value and achieved through conflict.

A scene is an action through conflict in more or less continuous time and space that turns the value-charged condition of a character’s life on at least one value with a degree of perceptible significance. Ideally, every scene is a story event.

A beat is an exchange of behavior in action / reaction. Beat by beat these changing behaviors shape the turning of a scene.

A sequence is a series of scenes—generally two to five—that culminates with greater impact than any previous scene.

An act is a series of sequences that peaks in a climactic scene which causes a major reversal of values, more powerful in its impact than any previous sequence or scene,

A story climax: A story is a series of acts that build to a last act climax or story climax which brings about absolute and irreversible change.

To plot means to navigate through the dangerous terrain of story ad when confronted by a dozen branching possibilities to choose the correct path. Plot is the writer’s choice of events and their design in time.

Classical design means a story built around an active protagonist who struggles against primarily external forces of antagonism to pursue his or her desire, through continuous time, within a consistent and causally connected fictional reality, to a closed ending of absolute, irreversible change.

A story climax of absolute, irreversible change that answers all questions raised by the telling and satisfies all audience emotion is a closed ending.

A story climax that leaves a question or two unanswered and some emotion unfulfilled is an open ending.

An active protagonist, in the pursuit of desire takes action in direct conflict with the people and the world around him.

A passive protagonist is outwardly inactive while pursuing desire inwardly; in conflict with aspects of his or her own nature.
Setting: A story’s setting is four dimensional:

Period is a story’s place in time
Duration is a story’s length through time
Location is a story’s place in space
Level of conflict is the story’s position on the hierarchy of human struggles

Creativity means creative choices of inclusion and exclusion.

True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure—the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature…. As he chooses, he is.
Two ideas bracket the creative process: Premise, the idea that inspires the writer’s desire to create a story, and the Controlling Idea, the story’s ultimate meaning expressed through the action and aesthetic emotion of the last act’s climax. A premise, however, unlike a controlling idea, is rarely a closed statement. More likely, it’s an open-ended question: What would happen if…” What would happen if a shark swam into a beach resort and devoured a vacationer? Jaws.
Storytelling is the creative demonstration of truth. A story is the living proof of an idea, the conversion of idea to action. A story’s event structure is the means by which you first express, then prove your idea…without explanation.
A controlling idea may be expressed in a single sentence describing how and why life undergoes change from one condition of existence at the beginning to another at the end.
Progressions build by moving dynamically between the positive and negative charges of the values at stake in the story.
Ironic controlling ideas—The compulsive pursuit of contemporary values—success, fortune, fame, sex, power—will destroy you, but if you see this truth in time and throw away your obsession, you can redeem yourself. Second, the negative irony: If you cling to your obsession, your ruthless pursuit will achieve your desire, then destroy you.
The protagonist has a conscious desire. The protagonist may also have a self-contradictory unconscious desire. The protagonist has the capacities to pursue the Object of Desire convincingly. The protagonist must have at least a chance to attain his desire.
The protagonist has the will and capacity to pursue the object of his conscious and / or unconscious desire to the end of the line, to the human limit established by setting and genre.
The protagonist must be empathetic; he may or may not be sympathetic.
In story, we concentrate on that moment, and only that moment, in which a character takes an action expecting a useful reaction from his world, but instead the effect of his action is to provoke forces of antagonism. The world of the character reacts differently than expected, more powerfully than expected, or both.
Life teaches that the measure of the value of any human desire is in direct proportion to the risk involved in its pursuit. The higher the value, the higher the risk. We give the ultimate values to those things that demand the ultimate risks—our freedom, our lives, our souls. This imperative of risk, however, is far more than an aesthetic principle it’s rooted in the deepest source of our art. For we not only create stories as metaphors for life, we create them as metaphors for meaningful life—and to live meaningfully is to be at perpetual risk.
The measure of the value of a character’s desire is in direct proportion to the risk he’s willing to take to achieve it; the greater the value, the greater the risk.
The story is a design in five parts: The inciting Incident, the first major event of the telling, is the primary cause for all that follows, putting into motion the other four elements---Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax, Resolution. To understand how the Inciting Incident enters into and functions within the work, let’s step back to take a more comprehensive look at setting, the physical and social world in which it occurs.
What are the values in my world? What do my characters believe is worth living for? Foolish to pursue? What would they give their lives for?
The inciting incident radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life.
The protagonist must react to the inciting incident…..What does anyone, including our protagonist, want? To restore balance.
For better or worse, an event throws a character’s life out of balance, arousing in him the conscious and / or unconscious desire for that which he feels will restore balance, launching him on a quest for his object of desire against forces of antagonism (inner, personal, extra-personal). He may or may not achieve it. This is story in a nutshell.
What is the best thing that could happen to my protagonist? How could it become the worst possible thing?
Writers at these extremes fail to realize that while the quality of conflict changes as it shifts from level to level, the quantity of conflict in life is constant. Something is always lacking. Like squeezing a balloon, the volume of conflict never changes, it just bulges in another direction. When we remove conflict from one level of life, it amplifies ten times over on another level.
A story must not retreat to actions of lesser quality or magnitude, but move progressively forward to a final action beyond which the audience cannot imagine another.
If the depth and breadth of conflict in the inner life and the greater world do not move you, let this: death. Death is like a freight train in the future, heading toward us, closing the hours, second by second, between now and then. If we’re to live with any sense of satisfaction, we must engage life’s forces of antagonism before the train arrives.
This dilemma confronts the protagonist who, when face-to-face with the most powerful and focused forces of antagonism in his life, must make a decision to take one action or another in a last effort to achieve his object of desire.
Meaning produces emotion. Not money; not sex; not special effects; not movie stars; not lush photography.
Meaning: A revolution in values from positive to negative or negative to positive with or without irony—a value swing at maximum charge that’s absolute and irreversible. The meaning of that change moves the heart of the audience.
William Goldman argues that the key to all story endings is to give the audience what it wants, but not the way it expects.
In Aristotle’s words, an ending must be both “inevitable and unexpected.”
True character can only be expressed through choice in dilemma. How the person chooses to act under pressure is who he is—the greater the pressure, the truer and deeper the choice to character.
An image system is a strategy of motifs, a category of imagery embedded in the film that repeats in sight and sound from beginning to end with persistence and great variation, but with equally great subtlety, as a subliminal communication to increase the depth and complexity of aesthetic emotion.

I read someplace recently that in every story where someone enters a new world the first thing they do is see if they can breathe. Once they discover they can breathe say, "Lets have a look around." They are poised for the adventure.

Friday, August 24, 2007

59 year-old making come back

Mike Flynt, 59, defied the odds and made the roster of Sul Ross University's football team as a linebacker.
I love this story! But wouldn't you think the coach would have assigned him the number 59--to correspond with his age? I mean, he's inelligible next year....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saving a Billion People--Not a bad legacy!

Flying from LHR to ORD yesterday I read the July 30, 2007 issue of Newsweek (p. 39). A one-page article featured Norman Borlaug who at 93 should feel pretty good about how he invested his life. You see Borlaug was the man, who in the 40s and 50s developed a hybrid called "dwarf wheat" that tripled grain production, which has drastically changed the yields of wheat production in China, India, Mexico, etc. "An elderly agronomist doesn't make news, even when he is widely credited with saving the lives of 1 billion human beings worldwide, more than one is seven people on the planet." The difference he made? "In 1960 about 60 percent of the wolrd's people experienced some hunger every year. By 2000 that number was 14 percent..." Newsweek writer, Jonathan Alter notes, "Borlaug's success in feeding the world testifies to the difference a single person can make." There are many great discoveries out there that are yet to be made whether one is given credit or profits from such discoveries. What big things keep us awake at night? What is God asking us to join his hand, and give ourselves to?

Celtic Book / Source Quotes

I'll reserve this for various book quotes that I read or things I heard.

"Times were so bad that all the people in the pubs starting going to church....and all the people in the church started going to the pubs." Jack Drennan, Presbyterian pastor in Belfast, on "The Troubles" of Belfast.

"When Moses went up on the mountain and met with God--that was spirituality. When he came down and told the people what God said--that was the beginning of religion."

Rediscovering the Celts by Martin Robinson

Robinson, Martin. Rediscovering the Celts: The True Witness From Western Shores; Fount (an imprint of Harper Collins), London, (2000).

Conversion of the English—the use of Story

Edwin became King of Northumbria in 616. “The drama that accompanied his conversion included the famous incident when Edwin called a council of advisors which included political and religious leaders. During the council, one noble told the story in which he compared human life to a sparrow which flew into a lighted hall from the winter darkness. During its short flight through the warm hall it experienced a brief moment of light and warmth before entering the winter darkness again. The suggestion was that Christianity might offer hope of light in the darkness of the afterlife.” P. 35

These (monastic communities) were centers of learning at a time when education was a remote possibility for most Saxon society. Those who lived within them had a reputation for holiness, asceticism and the life of prayer, which brought its own appeal. Moreover, their ability through hard work, discipline and skill to bring back into productive use a landscape which had been devastated b invasion won the respect of nobles and peasants alike. Their commitment to poverty and charity won the hearts of the poor as much as it excited the devotion of royals. Their mission was not just a new set of moral and social values to reshape the whole of society in a Christian image. Their purpose was both to cast a vision which would capture the imagination of a whole society and live out that vision in practical demonstration. P. 60

A person entering a monastery or convent was expected to leave family behind and view the new community as their new family. Traditional cultural ties of kinship, obligation, and even of inheritance were transferred to the new family. The novice was expected to choose a “soul friend,” the anamchara in Ireland and periglour in Wales. The soul friend was tutor, mentor and confessor. The relationship involved a high degree of affection and closeness. P. 62

It would be possible for those who have ceased to be concerned for the material to be blind to the material needs of others. Yet the Christian practice of spirituality has rarely taken such a path. Service towards and compassion for the poor, the outcast, the suffering and the needy has always been an integral part of the spiritual life for Christians of all traditions. In the case of the Celtic saints, their concern for the poor became a significant feature of their ministry and renown. This aspect of their life Is discussed in more detail in Chapter 0 The stories of their generosity towards the poor are numerous, characterized by the occasion when the king gave Aidan a fine horse, for urgent or difficult journeys, only to find that Aidan gave it to the next poor person whom he men, such was his compassion for others…. “What are you saying your Magesty? Is this child of a mare more valuable to you than this child of God? P. 64-65

Leslie Hardinge suggests that occasionally a threefold (and sometimes a fourfold), system of interpretation was used. The three would be the literal meaning (stoir), the mystical or allegorical meaning (sens) which related to its eternal significance, and the moral (morolus) which had to do with its present practical meaning. P.98

Though never formally Pelagian, the Celtic Church’s embrace of creation and the divine spark within human nature allowed for a prevailing sense that the gospel was strongly echoed in creation. The created order spoke of the goodness of God. For those with eyes to see, the God of the Bible was to be found speaking through creation. This was the very way in which Patrick introduced the ‘new God’ to the daughters of the High King of Tara:
When these questioned him as to who the New God was, and where he dwelt, Patrick replied, ‘Our God is the God of all men, the God of Heaven and Earth, of sea and river, of sun and moon and stars, of the lofty mountain and the lowly valley, the God above Heaven, the God in Heaven, the God under Heaven; He has his dwelling round Heaven and Earth and sea and all that in them is. He inspires all, he quickens all, he dominates all, he sustains all. He lights the light of the sun; he furnishes the light of the light; he has put springs in the dray land and has ste stars to minister to the greater lights….’. p.113

Nature represented a second boo, alongside scripture which could be read by those who knew how to look. This is not the same as mere natural religion because scripture, with its divine revelation of the incarnation, represents the key by which the second book of nature is opened and read. Philip Sheldrake quotes Celtic literature to this effect: Seek no farther concerning God; for those who wish to know the great deep must first review the natural world. P. 115

St. Patrick's Breastplate

The following is called St. Patrick's Breastplate--written down in the 6th or 7th century, and if not the words of Patrick, certainly expresses the manner in which he prayed.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise todayT
hrough the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,God's ear to hear me,God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Prayer of Manchan (AD 450-550)

We've prayed this prayer a few times while on the Celtic Trail--it expresses the spirit of the ancient Celts--to be in community with others coupled with a time to be alone in contemplative prayer. There is balance and industry....and dear friends.

Grant me sweet Christ the grace to find---
Son of the Living God!---
A small hut in a lonesome spot
To make it my abode.

A little pool but very clear
To stand beside the place
Where all men's sins are washed away
By sanctifying grace.

A pleasant woodland all about
To shield it from the wind
And make a home for singing birds
Before it and behind.

A southern aspect for the heat
A stream along its foot,
A smooth green lawn with rich topsoil
Propitious to all fruit.

My choice of men to live with me
And pray to God as well;
Quiet men of humble mind---
Their number I shall tell.

Four files of three or three of four
To give the psalter forth;
Six to pray by the south church wall
And six along the north.

Two by two my dozen friends---
To tell the number right---
Praying with me to move the King
Who gives the sun its light.

A lovely church, a home for God
Bedecked with linen fine,
Where over the white Gospel page
The Gospel candles shine.

A little house where all may dwell
And body's care be sought,
Where none shows lust or arrogance,
None thinks an evil thought.

And all I ask for housekeeping
I get and pay no fees,
Leeks from the garden, poultry, game,
Salmon and trout and bees.

My share of clothing and of food,
From the King of fairest face,
And I to sit at times alone,
And pray in every place.

Celtic Prayer--The Heavenly Banquet

Celtic Christianity has been called "Christianity intoxicated." Celtic Christianity kept the spirit of the Irish people. Here is one called:

The Heavenly Banquet

I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house:
With vats of good cheer
Laid out for them.

I would like to have the three Marys,
their fame is so great.
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven.

I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking,
I would like to hav Jesus too
Here amongst them.

I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching heaven's family
Drinking it through all eternity.

Christianity did not take out the winking eye, playful spirit and story-stretching habits of the Celts. Theirs is a celebratory faith. (Of course then again, this poem may have been copied from a wall in an Irish pub).

Unpacking Celtic Christianity

I will use this space to begin unpacking my thoughts on what I can take away from the Celtic Trail experience and the defining characteristics of Celtic Christianity.
Legacy of Celtic Christianity: Theology of Place
1. Thin places--places where the line between heaven and earth is very thin and permeable.
A Celtic prayer is
Bless, us, Lord, this day with vision.
May this place be a sacred place,
a telling place,
where heaven and earth meet.
2. God is in everyplace so we dont bring him into a place...we find him there.
3. Christianity is grown from the bottom up not the top down.

We're back--Last Night--saying farewell to Scotland

Till We Meet Again
May the road rise to meet you;
may the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and teh rain fall softly on your fields.
Until we meet again
may God hold you
in the hollow of his hand.

Since Liz and had a five hour layover at London Heathrow we decided to take the 15 minute express train into Paddington (NW London) and then take a double decker tour bus around London. It's the way to go, though we did have to hustle to catch our connection to ORD-DEN. But it was worth it.

Friday evening, after a full day at Iona we came back to Dunblane's Scottish Churches' House for dinner and a kaylee--a farewell party that was part talent show, folk dance, concert and all around good time--closing with the Scottish song, composed by Robert Burns--Auld Lang Syne. We've really created a wonderful community with the 32 folks who have been part of the Celtic Trail. We experienced the hospitality of our hosts and not one of us will forget the times we've had and the things we saw. It was especially good to travel with old friends--John and Nancy, Johnny, Don and Mel, Sam and Nancy, Jeff and Debbie Hetschel, Glen and Cathy Barth and then...as a part of a true pilgrimage to walk alongside new friends--each with stories of God's hand and God's grace in their lives.
A special thanks to Judi Melton, Robert Calvert, Jack Drennan, and Jock Stein for putting together such a great week. Thank you dear friends.
"Would it not be the beautiful thing now, if you were just coming instead of going?"
Irish blessing

This class was sponsored by Bakke Graduate University and is part of their "Pilgrim Trail" experiences. Although I have highlighted some of the sight seeing, for the students, the class consists of 3000 pages of reading before arriving, a daily reflection paper followed by a 30 page "application to my ministry paper." But the idea is built around reflective and experiential learning. Last year the "trail" experience was "From Trent to Rome" and next year's trip will be from Constantinople to Romania.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Day in Edinburgh and Lindisfarne

I'll write more later...just got back from Lindisfarne in England--home to St. Aiden who was the key figure in bringing the gospel to the English from Ireland. Great place. Heard a couple of lectures from Ray Simpson....great guy. Spent the day yesterday on our free day in Edinburgh...great city.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A day in Iona

Iona is one of the sacred places of Scotland, founded by St. Columba in the 6th century. It is one of the "thin places" meaning that the vail between heaven and earth is very thin here and it is easy to sense the presense of God. The early Celtic believers thought of God's creation as a clear testament of God's goodness and character. We spent much of our day taking a pilgrim walk around the island guided by a couple of residents from the Iona Community. I'll post a few pics just to see some of Iona's beauty.

J. E. Appleseed Praise Music

We just had a great day on the Island of Iona in the Hebrides (Scotland). We got back from a long bus ride and a couple of ferry crossings and sat down to a lovely (as they say here) dinner. When it came time to have a blessing over the meal, our Scottish leader suggested we sing a short praise song before the meal. And what did he pick?

Oh, the Lord's been good to me. Here's a picture of Don Wilcox putting on Appleseed headgear.

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need:

The sun, the rain and the appleseed;

Oh, the Lord's been good to me.

Oh, and every seed I sow

Will grow into a tree.

And someday there'll be apples there

For everyone in the world to share.

Oh, the Lord is good to me.

Oh, here I am 'neath the blue, blue sky

Doing as I please.Singing with my feathered friends

Humming with the bees.I wake up every day,

As happy as can be,

Because I know that with His care

My apple trees, they will still be there.

The Lord's been good to me.

I wake up every dayAs happy as can be,

Beacuse I know the Lord is there

Watchin' over all my friends and me

The Lord is good to me.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ireland--the class has begun

Great couple of days as "The Celtic Trail" class has begun--Professor of Record, Robert Calvert, from the Scottish Presbyterian Church, says this is one extended walking conversation. We'll be looking at Celtic Christianity--whose roots go back to Patrick and Columba. Last evening we took a walking tour (4 miles or more) of the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods we are staying near. Ireland has had relative peace for three years but it is interesting to hear about "the troubles" as the ongoing war (since 1969) is called.

This morning we attended a Presbyterian Church and then took a bus to the St. Patrick Center and on to couple of historic Irish Churches.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ireland--the first 5 days

Celtic Prayer for a Journey
Let me not undertake this journey begrudgingly,
but instead with love and thankfulness, saying,
as Columba said:
I thank you for this, my God:
I am a traveller
and stranger in the world,
like so many of your people before me.

We've been having a wonderful time here in Ireland since arriving in Belfast on Tuesday morning. After a couple of hours of driving up the coast to the Giant's Causeway, I figured out that the right way to drive is on the LEFT side of the road. I just thought these Irish folk were horrible drivers. Liz and I are here with our dear friends John and Nancy Lamb, their son John and Don and Muriel Wilcox for a class on Celtic Christianity that begins tomorrow but we came in a few days early to have a look around before the one week class begins. We've driven nearly a thousand mile in the past four days from Port Rush in the North to Cobh in the South--mostly on narrow country roads with poor signage. We've bunked together in small Bed and Breakfasts places in tight quarters. To commemorate our time thus far we came up with a little rhyme inspired by the town of Limerick.

There once were three couples from Boulder

Who traveled to Ireland when they got older,

They argued 'bout directions all the way...all night and all day

But the time...Oh it couldn't have been golder!

It HAS been a great time! And the sights we've seen! Our motto has been, "We pass this way but once...unless we get lost...and then we find ourselves passing the same places over and over again. And the food has been magically delicious. I'll attach a couple of pics so you can see the beauty of this country.
In the five days we were on the road, we traveled over a thousand miles and saw some beautiful country and historic sites.