Sacred in the Secular: Day 1

Today we begin our journey of Sacred in the Secular!

My goal for the entire month of August is to post one secular song each day, and write about how I think that song shows us something about our faith.  God works in many mysterious ways, and saying that God is not speaking through secular music is just not fair!

But before I get to the first song, let me say that I am by no means the first person to do this. But it is intriguing and exciting to me, so I’m doing it anyway.

Second, let me define secular music. For the purpose of these blog posts, secular music is music that was written to be played/performed/listened to in a space other than worship.

Finally: There are a BILLION songs that could fill up these 31 days. I’m sure if you follow along you will start to think of some, and you might start to listen to secular music with an ear trying to hear a little piece of the divine… and that’s the point.  I hope you are able to find God working in all parts of life, and I hope that you frequently witness God outside of worship and church.

So without further rambling… here is today’s song:


Him, by Lily Allen.


Really, I’m starting with a softball.  Obviously, Lily Allen wrote this song about God, versus some of the later song that will be bit more obtuse.  But, Him is not written with the intention to be used in worship so it falls under my ‘secular music’ category.

So where is the sacred in this song?  I love the fact that Lily takes it upon herself to muse about God out-loud.  She is not shy about her opinion or her theology.   Hearing other people talk (or sing) about God makes me consider how I think about God too.  As you listen to the song, have you ever asked yourself any of those questions about God?

Taking the time to think and ask questions about God is totally a sacred moment.  We should all do it more often.

So thanks Lily, for making me ask questions about God and thanks for showing me a little piece of sacred in the secular.



See you tomorrow!

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one year anniversary

You guys.

It’s been one year!

One year ago today I had my first day in the office at CPC.

Wow! It seems to have gone by so quickly, but then I start to think of all my memories of the last year, and all the things we as a family of Christ have done together…

Fall retreats and my ordination…
Funerals and Baptisms…
A new IPNC and PNC…
Christmas and Easter…
Disciples confirmation and Caravans…
Jubilee Sales and late night session meetings…
New members at the manse and movies in the yard…
Thursday morning book group and singing with the choir…
Worship each Sunday and talks around the table…

You have truly adopted me as your pastor, and you have truly adopted my family as your own. Many of you have said that I had to jump into the deep end of ‘learning how to pastor’, and I did. I am still learning for sure. But for all the people who asked me “How are you doing this all by myself?” I have never have been. I have all of CPC right beside me in all my work and in all of my ministry. I am a blessed pastor to be able to say that.

I continue to take the challenges posed to me at my ordination very seriously: I am seeking out God in each of you and I hope we are able to continue this journey for a long time.

I am so so so happy to be here. I pray every day that we find a head pastor who thinks the same thing.

Here’s looking forward to our next year together!

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Lord’s Prayer

We finished our series on the Lord’s Prayer in worship this morning, so I thought I would post a prayer based on the Lord’s prayer for you to read. I love the idea of re-writing the Lord’s Prayer in to your own personal language… into something that speaks to you. I think it helps get over that “This is what we always say” feeling and helps turn those words back into a prayer.

This prayer comes from the New Zealand Prayer Book– Enjoy!

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.


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prayer of thanksgiving

Many folks in the congregation have asked about the prayer that I used during communion this past Sunday.

So here is a little reminder:  this prayer was re-discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 along with many other documents in clay jars.  Go here to learn more about those papers.

It has no known author, and the date cannot be specific, but it is probably from sometime between the 1st and 3rd centuries.  It was written in Coptic (more on the Coptic language here).

The translation I read comes from a book entitled The New New Testament, edited by Hal Taussig.  (Click here to learn more about this book. Or find it on Amazon, here.)

So after all that stuff… here is the prayer!


The Prayer of Thanksgiving

We give thanks to you,

every life and heart stretches toward you,

O name untroubled,

honored with the name of God,

praised with the name of Father.

To everyone and everything

comes the kindness of the father,

and love

and desire.

And if there is a sweet simple teaching,

it gifts us mind, word, and knowledge:

mind, that we may understand you;

word, that we may interpret you;

knowledge, that we may know you.

We rejoice and are enlightened by your knowledge.

We rejoice that you have taught us about yourself.

We rejoice that in the body you have made us divine through your knowledge.

The thanksgiving of the human who reaches you

is this alone:

that we know you.

We have known you,

O light of mind.

O light of life,

we have known you.

O womb of all that grows,

we have known you.

O womb pregnant with the nature of the Father,

we have known you.

O never-ending endurance of the Father who gives birth,

so we worship your goodness.

One wish we ask: we wish to be protected in knowledge.

One protection we desire:

that we not stumble in this life.

     [and then one more line I did not read in church because it would have been a tad confusing]

When they said these things in prayer, they welcomed one another, and they went to eat their holy food, which had no blood in it.


Enjoy this ancient prayer, and how it still speaks to many today.


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snippets of study leave.

So this past week I used one of my ‘study leave’ weeks.  I traveled to the far off land of Ohio, and dug my nose into books, articles, meetings with other pastors, and also had amazing ice cream.

Maybe too much ice cream.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some snippets and quotes and notes I jotted down from various things during the week.  There is no rhyme or reason, but I think these sentences will give you something to think about, and help give you a little window into my brain and what I think about during the week.

(and the weekends.)

Not everything here I mention because I love and agree with.  I mention it because it holds my attention, and because these things intrigue me.  If something catches your eye, let me know.

We’ll talk.



  • “The church can offer what no marketing campaign can—relationships.”–Jeffrey A. Schooley
  • “Conflicted home lives mean that using the family metaphor for the church will not always be received positively.” –Jeffrey A. Schooley
  • “In a very real way, then, the hymnal committee constructed a playlist for the church—a playlist with a meaning and purpose… Rather than basing selections on popularity, they chose hymns that respond to a divided, anxious church.”—Kendra Buckwalter Smith
  • “Connecting the whole church, millennials and all, through worship is not about offering a style for each age group; it’s about creating a culture of authenticity that welcomes everyone as they are… My grandma would sing a hymn that I love, and I want to sing something she loves… And so I pray: let the grass praise God in its greenness, let the birds praise God in their song, and let my praise God by being me.”  Nathan Proctor
  • “For many young adults, the experience [of worship] is more like passive ‘pew warming.’  Either we are not living up to our theology, or culture has changed so significantly that what once made worship feel like a shared experience (through hymns and collective prayers, for example) is no longer effective.  There might be truth in both explanations.”  Dominique A. Robinson
  • “In the past, he* says, we knew God by just having someone tell us about God.  Well, I don’t think that’s how it works anymore…. Congregations have to be thinking about an experience.”    *Rodger Nishioka, associate professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary
  • “Facebook is the third-largest country behind China and India.  This begs the following questions: Why are we not sending missionaries to that country?  Why are we not planting churches there?”  Phil Cooke
  • This video entitled “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus”… which has over 27 million views.
  • Evangelism according to D.T. Niles:  “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”.


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social media: look up or look down?

Just a little something to get you thinking on this muggy Tuesday…

I know you’ve heard the debate: social media is a curse for human interaction vs. social media is a blessing for human interaction.  The new voices in this debate are popping up in youtube videos.

The first video is titled “Look Up”, and argues that social media is ruining how we interact with people.  Watch it here:  Note, it has almost 40 million views. It runs about 5 minutes.

Here is a response titled “Look Down”, and this video argues the opposite side of the argument.  It runs about 4 minutes:

So what do you think?  Is social media for good or for evil?  Does it depend on how we use it, or is it beyond that point?



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Pick a girl to pray for…

My post-Easter relaxation turned into 2 retreats turned into confirmation and here I am after neglecting to post things.

Today in our Thursday Morning Devotional Class, we talked about the girls from Nigeria.  It’s been almost a month since they were taken.  The uproar is getting louder to be sure, but it’s been a month.  I mentioned to the class that a colleague and friend of mine who works for the Pres. of Chicago suggested that we all make a commitment to pray for one girl.  180 names of the 276 girls have been released.


[image source]


Jan writes, “Praying for 180 girls by name – much less 276 girls – is overwhelming to me and my pathetic commitment to prayer. But I can pray for one Nigerian schoolgirl.  And I am asking you to pray for just one girl as well.”

I’m praying for Ladi Joel.  Please consider praying for one of these girls, and maybe the unnamed friend sitting next to her.


Deborah ​Abge, Awa ​Abge, Hauwa ​Yirma, Asabe ​Manu, Mwa ​Malam Pogu, Patiant ​Dzakwa, Saraya ​Mal Stover, Mary ​Dauda, Gloria ​Mainta, Hanatu ​Ishaku Gloria ​Dama, Tabitha ​Pogu, Maifa ​Dama, Ruth ​Kollo, Esther ​Usman, Awa ​James, Anthonia Yahonna, Kume ​Mutah, Aisha ​Ezekial, Nguba ​Buba, Kwanta ​Simon, Kummai ​Aboku, Esther ​Markus, Hana ​Stephen, Rifkatu ​Amos, Rebecca ​Mallum, Blessing ​Abana, Ladi ​Wadai, Tabitha ​Hyelampa, Ruth ​Ngladar, Safiya ​Abdu, Na’omi ​Yahonna, Solomi ​Titus, Rhoda ​John, Rebecca ​Kabu, Christy ​Yahi, Rebecca ​Luka, Laraba ​John, Saratu ​Markus, Mary ​Usman, Debora ​Yahonna, Naomi ​Zakaria, Hanatu ​Musa, Hauwa ​Tella, Juliana ​Yakubu, Suzana ​Yakubu, Saraya ​Paul, Jummai ​Paul, Mary ​Sule, Jummai ​John, Yanke ​Shittima, Muli ​Waligam, Fatima ​Tabji, Eli ​Joseph, Saratu ​Emmanuel, Deborah Peter, Rahila ​Bitrus, Luggwa ​Sanda, Kauna ​Lalai, Lydia ​Emmar, Laraba ​Maman, Hauwa ​Isuwa, Confort ​Habila, Hauwa ​Abdu, Hauwa ​Balti, Yana ​Joshua, Laraba ​Paul, Saraya ​Amos, Glory ​Yaga, Na’omi ​Bitrus, Godiya ​Bitrus, Awa ​Bitrus, Na’omi ​Luka, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha ​Silas, Mary ​Yahona, Ladi ​Joel, Rejoice ​Sanki, Luggwa ​Samuel, Comfort ​Amos, Saraya ​Samuel, Sicker ​Abdul, Talata ​Daniel.
Rejoice ​Musa, Deborah ​Abari, Salomi ​Pogu, Mary ​Amor, Ruth ​Joshua, Esther ​John, Esther ​Ayuba, Maryamu Yakubu, Zara ​Ishaku, Maryamu Wavi, Lydia ​Habila, Laraba ​Yahonna, Na’omi ​Bitrus, Rahila ​Yahanna, Ruth ​Lawan, Ladi ​Paul, Mary ​Paul, Esther ​Joshua, Helen ​Musa, Margret Watsai, Deborah Jafaru, Filo ​Dauda, Febi ​Haruna, Ruth ​Ishaku, Racheal Nkeki, Rifkatu Soloman, Mairama Yahaya, Saratu ​Dauda, Jinkai ​Yama, Margret Shettima, Yana ​Yidau, Grace ​Paul, Amina ​Ali, Palmata Musa, Awagana Musa, Pindar ​Nuhu, Yana ​Pogu, Saraya ​Musa, Hauwa ​Joseph, Hauwa ​Kwakwi, Hauwa ​Musa, Maryamu Musa, Maimuna Usman, Rebeca Joseph, Liyatu ​Habitu, Rifkatu Yakubu, Naomi ​Philimon, Deborah Abbas, Ladi ​Ibrahim, Asabe ​Ali, Maryamu Bulama, Ruth ​Amos, Mary ​Ali, Abigail Bukar, Deborah Amos, Saraya ​Yanga, Kauna ​Luka, Christiana Bitrus, Yana ​Bukar, Hauwa ​Peter, Hadiza ​Yakubu, Lydia ​Simon, Ruth ​Bitrus, Mary ​Yakubu, Lugwa ​Mutah, Muwa ​Daniel, Hanatu ​Nuhu, Monica Enoch, Margret Yama, Docas ​Yakubu, Rhoda ​Peter, Rifkatu Galang, Saratu ​Ayuba, Naomi ​Adamu, Hauwa ​Ishaya, Rahap ​Ibrahim, Deborah Soloman, Hauwa ​Mutah, Hauwa ​Takai, Serah ​Samuel, Aishatu Musa, Aishatu Grema, Hauwa ​Nkeki, Hamsatu Abubakar, Mairama Abubakar, Hauwa ​Wule, Ihyi ​Abdu, Hasana Adamu, Rakiya ​Kwamtah, Halima ​Gamba, Aisha ​Lawan, Kabu ​Malla, Yayi ​Abana, Falta ​Lawan, and Kwadugu Manu.


Need a prayer to get started?

God of power and strength:  You make us in your image and today I call on you to share your power with [name].  She is in need of strength, perseverance, and courage.  [Name] is your beloved child, draw near to her.  Help me, Lord, to actively create a world where people can seek education without fear of persecution, a world where no one is sold to a ‘husband’, a world where your peace reigns.  God, help [name].  Bring her home.  Give her endurance, a strong will, power, nourishment, and her life.  Give [name] her chance at her life.  Amen.


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