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March 2015

"Truly blessed and duly grateful"

My cd collection series continues with this, post number 35.

Tom Nix would occasionally play special music at Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City.  Tom would play piano and sing.  Once he sang this song: 

I liked it so much that I began to request it.  Eventually Tom gave me the cd Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino.  A variety of stars from Art Garfunkel to Liza Minnelli perform the songs on the album, all written by John Bucchino.  They are easy listening with smart lyrics.  This is not the music I normally listen to.

But when we drove a few weeks ago to meet the woman who had selected us to adopt her child, I grabbed a bunch of cds that I thought would be relaxing.  This was one of them.  Michael had never listened to it before.

As we drove back from the meeting, I played this song "Grateful" and then the song "This Moment" sung by Kristin Chenoweth:  

Since then, I have played these two songs repeatedly as I've imagined holding my newborn son. 

"For once in my life I have someone who needs me"

This is the 34th post in my cd collection series.

As I've written previously, my generation fell in love with the music that our Boomer parents had largely rejected, the American songbook of our grandparents.  Harry Connick, Jr., who was big when I was in high school, helped with this.


In the early 21st century Michael Buble emerged sounding even more like Sinatra.  I initially bought his first , self-titled album after hearing it at a party because I thought it was sexy.  It opens with "Fever." 

But I was like most about listening to this album now is dancing with my husband.  I like to put it on in the kitchen when we are cooking together and during "For once in my life" I'll grab him, and we'll dance around the kitchen. 

My favourite part of that song is:

For once I can say; this is mine you won't take it
Long as I know I have love I can make it
For once my life I have someone who needs me

Becoming Whole

Becoming Whole

Ephesians 1:3-14

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational UCC

29 March 2015

    This is a hymn of praise to God. Blessing God for God's salvation. This is poetry. This is song.

    And the lyric asks us to use our imaginations to envision a God who, according to Boston College professor Pheme Perkins, "encompasses the whole cosmos and who is active in all of creation."

    Just imagine—all those images of deep space, of supernova and pulsars, of stars being born and galaxies colliding. Imagine the workings of a cell—the mitochondria, the DNA replicating itself. Or the sub-atomic level—the electrons snapping around their fields of probabilities, the mysterious Higgs Boson, the fundamental forces and particles of existence.

    The One who encompasses all of that desires our salvation. Desires that we be whole. That we be our best selves. And in order to achieve that, God has reached out to us, offering the path of holiness as the way to salvation.

It is in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One that the redemption of God has been made manifest. The profound claim of this song of thanksgiving is that the entire cosmos has been ordered according to the Body of Christ. Everything from those fundamental sub-atomic particles to the supernova have been shaped by Christ. For, as the song tells us, it is in Christ that God will gather all things together. It is in Christ that we can hope. It is in Christ that we are delivered unto glory.

The Quaker pastor Richard Foster, upon whom I have relied throughout this Lenten sermon series, wrote that "Holiness gives us our truest, fullest humanity. In holiness we become the persons we were created to be." Holiness is the transformation of our inner selves, our character, to be closer to God. We are invited to follow the path to holiness laid down by Christ so that we too might participate in God's dream and become whole.

Like these cairns, which many cultures use to mark paths, Christ is the trail marker for us our journey to being whole. We follow the path marked by Jesus of Nazareth, who demonstrated what it means to be divine by demonstrating what it means to be a human being. His life of love, joy, healing, and hope is our model. As we imitate and participate in the life of Jesus, we are drawn closer to God and we become whole.

    "A holy life," Foster wrote, "simply is a life that works." It works because it is a life in touch with reality. For a life modeled upon Jesus is a life in tune with God's design of the cosmos.

    Holiness, then, is not about rules and regulations. Not otherworldly. Not ascetic or perfectionist or pietistic or exclusive.

    Rather it is the world-affirming, harmonious, gracious, incarnational, attentive, disciplined, joyful, habitual, and loving embrace of the way of life that Jesus revealed. A life that transforms us into our best and truest selves.

    The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins expresses this theme in his own song of praise:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.


I say móre: the just man justices;

Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —

Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men's faces.

    Christ plays in ten thousand places. The holiness of God is manifest in each of us and in the beauty of the cosmos—in the birds and insects and stones tossed down wells.

    And the one thing we must do to become truly ourselves, Hopkins sings, is to let loose the Christ that dwells within.

So be in Christ for Christ is in you. Take up our crosses and challenge everything that opposes God's reign. Become God's agents of love and forgiveness, justice and hope, that God's will might be done on earth as it is in the heavens. And you will be transformed.

On this Palm Sunday and throughout this Holy Week, God beckons to you "Be holy that you might become whole."

Take Five

The 33rd post in my cd collection series.

My more serious acquaintance with jazz began in the late nineties when I would attend jazz nights at the favourite local coffee shop in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  The coffee shop went by various names over the years as it changed hands, but it was a regular hangout throughout my college and grad school days.  It felt very grown-up to hang out at a coffee shop with cool music playing.

I liked the jazz music, but was ignorant of it, so I was quite excited when Ken Burns announced the upcoming Jazz documentary series on PBS.  I would use that series to introduce me to the genre, its history, and major stars and movements.  Once the series was over, I began to collect the major works of the genre and others that I'd really liked from the TV show.  So, as this blog series continues, you'll see more of those jazz greats appearing (I've already written about Louis Armstrong).  

One of the albums I bought after the Ken Burns documentary was Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Take five

Time Out includes "Take Five" the biggest-selling jazz single of all time.  Here is the description on Wikipedia:

Written in the key of E-flat minor, it is famous for its distinctive two-chord piano vamp; catchy blues-scale saxophone melody; imaginative, jolting drum solo; and use of the unusual quintuple (5/4) time, from which its name is derived.

Just listen to this fantastic piece of music: 

Poco allegretto

Post number 32 in my cd collection series.


I've never been quite as captivated by Brahms as I have been by some of the other great composers, though I did write once after hearing the Omaha Symphony perform his "Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra" with Andrew von Oeyen on piano and my friend Paul Ledwon on cello that the third movement "sounded like the piano and the cello were making love."  But I don't own a copy of Concerto No. 2.

We do own The Complete Symphonies.  So, on occasion I get to listen to the melancholy, moving third movement of the 3rd Symphony, the poco allegretto: 

"You've got to take this flight"

It's post number 31 in my cd collection series.

In the summer of 2001 I was twenty-seven years old, and I was a brand new youth minister at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  For my first Wednesday night activity I wanted to talk about faith as a journey and decided to play some popular music that helped to convey that theme.  I opened with "Airline to Heaven." 

Two of the greatest albums of my young adulthood were Mermaid Avenue volumes 1 and 2.  Recorded by the British singer Billy Bragg and the American folk rock band Wilco, the songs were unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics.  The albums are an incredible artistic collaboration.


Take "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" for instance.  For one, that's an incredible song title.  An incredible English clause.  Then listen to what the musicians do with the song. 

 Though these albums remain in regular rotation in my listening, I associate them most closely with the turn of the millennium and the period of my life when I was first working with youth.  I associate them with Tim Youmans, particularly, and our friendship.  I'm pretty sure I had the albums before Tim and I met.  They may have been part of how we related to one another.  

Tim came to Shawnee near the end of the 1990's to be the youth minister at First Baptist Church.  About that time I was getting bored at church and my previous leadership role of directing the college program.  Tim enticed me to do something I never thought I'd do--work with youth.  Part of what intrigued me was a different way of doing youth ministry than what I'd seen growing up.  Tim's approach was thoughtful, edgy, and incorporated great music.  

Guthrie's lyrics speak in the grassroots, populist, evangelical religious language of Oklahoma, while proclaiming how liberal the gospel is.  For example, from the song "Blood of the Lamb:"

Have you learned to love your neighbors? 
Of all colors, creeds and kinds? 
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb? 

I've learned to love my peoples 
Of all colors, creeds, and kinds 
I'm all washed in the blood of the lamb 

I am washed, yes I'm washed 
I am washed in the blood 
I'm all washed in the blood of the lamb 

Or the catchy "Christ for President:" 

 These songs were a great soundtrack as my experience in full-time ministry made me more progressive and liberal.

"It's so hard to say goodbye"

This is post number Thirty in my series listening to our cd collection.

Senior Talent Show

It was May 1992 at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful in downtown Miami, Oklahoma and the graduating class of Miami High School was coming to the end of the annual Senior Talent Show.  The class spilled out onto the stage and standing side-by-side began to sing one of that year's biggest hits, Boyz II Men's "It's so hard to say goodbye." 

I must say that I find these early '90's styles to be hilarious. 

I think we forget how big they were.  Their dominance of the top of pop charts is only rivaled by the likes of Elvis and The Beatles, as you can read in their Wikipedia article.  

I bought their album II which had a number of big hits on it, including these two sexy and romantic songs. 


That night of our senior talent show, I remember the emotion, as we were saying goodbye to one another.  I loved high school, and though I was looking forward to college with great excitement, I knew I would miss my friends and activities.  

Since I did love it, I'm one of those who enjoys reunions.  In 2012 we gathered for our 20th, and it was a blast.  Though I don't remember that we played any Boyz II Men.

20th reunion

"Everyone says hi"

Post number 29 in this series based on listening through our cd collection.


In the summer of 2002 I bought my first David Bowie album, that year's release Heathen.  It was my favourite album of that summer, my soundtrack for those months.  I had lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas for year.  I was settling in and things were going well at the church I was working at.  Routinely I made it back to Shawnee to hang out with my grad school and college friends still in school there, which is one reason that maybe "Everyone Says Hi" was one of my favourite songs off of the album. 


Post number 28 in my cd collection series.


It was December 2005, and I was finally moving into my own place in Oklahoma City.  In April I had left my position as Associate Pastor for Youth and Education at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and began working as Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City.  My Mom said, "Why don't you move in with us until your house sells."

It took eight months.

Living with your mother and step-dad at 32 is not ideal.  But on my reduced OKC income, I couldn't afford to keep paying for my Dallas house and a place to live in OKC.  We made the best of it.  Also, because CoH-OKC didn't have a building or office, my mother's home office became the surrogate church office.

It was while we away for Thanksgiving, trout fishing near Broken Bow in southeastern Oklahoma, that I got the call from Jo Ferguson, my realtor, that we had an offer on the house.  

Mid-December I found 324 NW 30th Street.  It was a 2000 square foot flat in a two-story 1929 brick house.  The crown molding was over twelve inches.  The doors were arched.  There were even arched French doors.  The fireplace had custom tile work.  There was even room for my pool table.  There were built-in bookshelves for my library.  The sunroom was my favourite.  The whole place cost me only $725 a month.

As I unpacked and decorated and prepared to host a New Year's Eve Party my second week in the house, there were two albums that I listened to often.

One was The Best of Blondie

The other was David Bowie's Hunky Dory. 

Part of moving back to OKC was coming out fully and publicly, and that year I embraced much of gay culture, including enjoying some of the iconic artists and songs.