Playlist: “The Soundtrack of My Journey in the Sacred Romance”

Prefacing Note:

A continuing education course at Garrett Evangelical (entitled “A Formational Practicum for Leaders”)  has me/us exploring contemporary prayer practices including:

        • Visio Divina
          with major motion pictures, shorts, and classical images.
        • Audio Divina
          with instrumental Native American flute music, Caribbean music, African drumming,
          and Latin American worship.
        • Meditative Movement
        • Covenant Renewal
          with the Lord’s Prayer Examen, Creative Writing of Haikus, Acrostic and Trinitarian Blessings.
        • Photo Pilgrimage 
        • Praying in Color

“Times they are a changing,” the course description declares (borrowing a line from Bob Dylan).  At the heart of the course is the question of how (in a world and culture of remarkable shifts and stress) we might “discover new [and relevant] ways of experiencing prayer in community.”

Amidst our engagement of “Audio Divina” this last week, this post [dated January 16, 2012,  from my old blog, “two left feet”]came to mind–conveying some sense of a playlist that had evolved–giving soundtrack to my spiritual journey.

You might want to grab a cup of coffee or tea… and take some time to enjoy some of the music!

Most folks know of my fondness for John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance.  It may be the single most influential book in my life (beyond the Bible) – what, for the ways it “connected” my heart with the Gospel… and helped me to embrace my love of media/movies as “means of Grace.”

In his workbook on the same, at the end of each unit, Eldredge suggests/recommends various songs, movies, books, even places as “windows” that he’s found useful in his “journey”… and which he believes might be helpful in our lives and walks along the path of the Sacred Romance.  Very early on, I found myself engaging many of these songs, downloading them, and creating a “Sacred Romance” playlist for my iphone.

Over time, the list has grown as other songs dear to my heart have been added – some (in the spirit of Eldredge’s original selections) overtly Christian though a good many “secular” in origin but with a very decided spiritual meaning.  (The list, in fact, has gotten long enough that I now divide it into “sections” reflective of “chapters” in my/our story as Christians: Creation [Eden], Crisis [Our “Fall”], Consolation [in/through Christ], Consummation [“Happily Ever After”].)

Altogether, it serves as a “soundtrack” for my life – something I return to regularly to remember the Story I am in (where I have been, where I am, where I am going).

I offer you, then, the “Soundtrack of My Journey in the Sacred Romance.”  (I’ve included sources for the songs I possess but acknowledge that, in some cases, there are many versions and that “it’s different strokes for different folks.”  In a few cases, I have even included links to youtube so that you might engage one or two of these.)  I offer it in the hopes that maybe you’ll find a song or two worth downloading for your own playlist, your own “soundtrack.”  I offer it in the hopes that maybe you have a song to commend to me and my “playlist.”  As much as anything, I hope it invites you to ponder the Sacred Romance we’re all in, the power of art, and the songs (and movies and places) that best define the “chapters” of your life.

Songs of Creation

  • End Title (You are Karen) (from Out of Africa soundtrack, track 12)
  • Life is Beautiful (from Michelle Tume’s “Listen”)
  • How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin)
  • Concerning Hobbits (from The Fellowship Of The Ring Soundtrack)

Songs of Crisis

Songs of Consolation (and Coming to Christ)

  • Healer of My Soul (John Michael Talbot)
  • These are the Days (10,000 Maniacs)
  • Show the Way (David Wilcox)
  • Slipping Through My Fist (David Wilcox)
  • Your Hands (JJ Heller)
  • Seize the Day (Carolyn Arends)
  • The Ludlows (from Legends of the Fall Soundtrack)
  • On the Tip of My Heart (Bebo Norman)
  • At Last (Etta James)
  • Gotta Serve Somebody (from Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming)
  • Aslan (Kendall Payne)
  • Only Love Remains (J.J Heller)
  • Beautiful Place (from Wayne Watson’s Signatures)
  • Captivate Us (from Watermark’s The Purest Place)
  • The Battle (from original score: Lion, Witch and Wardrobe)
  • One of Us (from Joan Osborne’s Relish)
  • You Are Everything (from Matthew West’s Something to Say)
  • God Blessed the Broken Road (from Rascal Flatts)
  • When I Think About the Lord (from Shane & Shane’s Carry Away)
  • Dare You To Move (from Switchfoot’s The Beautiful Letdown)
  • Everything (from Tim Hughes’ Holding Nothing Back)
  • Only Grace (from Matthew West)
  • I’ll Take Care of You (from Steven Curtis Chapman’s All About Love)

Songs of Consummation (and Our Destiny in Christ)

  • All Through the Night (from Shawn Colvin’s Holiday Songs and Lullabies)
  • On the Bright Side of the Road (Van Morrison)
  • The Buffalo Hunt (from Dances with Wolves Soundtrack)
  • May It Be (by Enya, from The Fellowship Of The Ring Soundtrack)
  • I Can Only Imagine (by Mercy Me)
  • Top Of The World (from Trevor Jones, The Last Of The Mohicans Soundtrack)
  • What Do I Know (from Sara Groves’ Conversations)
  • The Grey Havens (from The Return Of The King Soundtrack)
  • Into The West (Annie Lennox, from The Return Of The King Soundtrack)

Conversations at the Intersection of Youth Ministry and Spiritual Formation

I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately — working on a series of lessons related to an online Symposium on Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry via I’ll be joining Lori Richey, lead instructor in the Certification in Youth Ministry program — speaking to the ways that my focus in spiritual formation can inform considerations and best practices in youth ministry.

Schedule for the 2-week, engage-it-at-your-own-pace course will see us:

  • providing overviews of each of the certification programs at BeADisciple
  • taking a few days to spotlight overlapping concerns/foci from each program
  • concluding with a panel discussion and considerations of next steps for those participating

I am excited about this collaborative project. Considering implications for a specific audience (like youth and youth ministry) has helped me to focus my thoughts and presentations. Working with Lori has expanded my understanding of the universe of and the ministry to our youth and those who serve and surround them. I can imagine the benefit of these discussions for a variety of groups: those who are involved in ministries of spiritual formation and/or youth ministry as well as those interested who might be interested in hearing more about the content and focus of these two certification programs.

More information is yours…

    • via this facebook live video (produced a few weeks ago)

Spiritual Formation and Our Journeys Back to the Center That Holds

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
                                                                                         –William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

 They are words that seem like they could have been written this week or last, aren’t they?  But these words from Irish poet William Butler Yeats were written 100 years ago – in the early 1920s: a time of real turmoil and disorientation and strife in Europe and around the world.  His was a world and a time very much like ours – marked by uncertainty, a global pandemic, civil and social unrest.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.

The imagery of his words has a childhood memory coming to mind…

Ever before there were MP3 files and players, ever before there were CDs, ever before there were cassette tapes, ever before there were 8 track tapes, there were 45 records.  (So-called because they needed to be played at 45 revolutions per minute.)

By today’s standards, such a disk should contain a whole album—at least a dozen or two dozen tracks.  But low and behold, all it held was two songs—one on the front and one on the “flip” side.

And then, there’s the big hole in the middle.  It was important when you played a 45 record that you had an adapter or an insert disk which would allow you to properly position the record on the spindle (i.e., the rod, about the size of a pen or pencil, at the center of the record player’s “platter”).

This brings me to my memories—prompted by Yates’ words.  Here, I can remember early experiments with my sister’s record player (when she wasn’t around, of course)– trying to play a record without an adapter or an insert, trying to eyeball the center of the 45 around the spindle.  With the first few rotations of the record, things would play fairly well, but then things would become a little distorted (playing fast on one side and slow on the other).  In time, as the speed of the platter picked up, the distortion would become worse and, eventually, the arm and needle would be thrown off the record.

The message is clear: without a strong enough center (a center that will hold), things can disintegrate (now, there’s a word!) and ultimately derail.

Returning to Yate’s words, I am torn.  Yes, I’d agree: things can and do fall apart.  Yes, at the speed of life, things can and do disintegrate and derail.  But, I find myself countering, there is a center that can hold.  There is an inner core that can sustain us – even as we are thrust into the worst this world can dish out.

Here, the witness of E. Stanley Jones comes to mind:

I was talking to a bishop who had retired.  He was frustrated.  When he was no longer in the limelight of the bishopric, he was frustrated and told me so..  He wanted to know the secret of victorious living.  I told him it was in self-surrender.  The difference was in giving the innermost self to Jesus.  The difference was in the texture of the things that held him.  When the outer strands [of his life] were broken by retirement, the inner strands were not enough to hold him…  Fortunately, with me, surrender to Jesus was the primary thing, and when the outer strands [of my life] were cut by this stroke, my life did not shake…  You see, I need no outer props to hold up my faith for my faith holds me [from within].

Altogether, it offers me still one more metaphor
for defining spiritual formation…
and affirming its essential place in our lives and living:
Spiritual formation is
the graceful journey

of coming back
to the Center that holds.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” Re-Mixed… and the Scary Side of Storytelling

Was introduced to a host of “re-make movie trailers” on Youtube a few years ago. They are the product of what we might call “video photoshopping.” Take a regular movie (say, Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Willie Wonka), excerpt the “right” scenes, string them together. Viola! it’s a whole new creation. With the right bed of music and titles thrown in, a once innocent and wholesome story has become a real horror story!

Case in point: Mrs. Doubtfire. Just look at what one individual has done to this story of a father’s love for his children and his desire to be with them:

Hard to see the original story in it at all, isn’t it?

Amazing, in fact, what can happen to a story if you accentuate some things over others… and inject enough other elements?! A story of love and dedication can be distorted into a nightmare! (And, in some cases out there, the opposite happens – when, e.g., “Silence of the Lambs” and “Schindler’s List” are reframed as comedies!)

For lack of better words, my initial responses to such remakes were “enjoyment” and “appreciation.” (After all, it takes some real creativity and talent to be about such remakes!)  

However, it wasn’t long until I found these first impressions yielding to a stronger sense of disturbance.  And, it goes beyond the dark humor that makes good bad and bad good.  

No, what I found (and find) most upsetting is the way that this kind of editing and morphing of stories is happening all around us—in ways we do not see… and with stories of much greater value and import.  Of course, there’s the media (at both ends of the spectrum, liberal and conservative) and what it does with stories.  

But, here, I am especially thinking of that Story which I consider most Sacred and ultimate: the Love Story revealed in and through the Christian Scriptures. Like Mrs. Doubtfire, it’s a story of a Father who simply wants to be with His children – going to great lengths to do so. Like Cinderella, it’s the story of a soul rising beyond the shaming voices all around – recognizing her true beauty and worth as a Princess. Like Mary Poppins, it’s a story that declares the blessedness of the beasts and the children over and against the material things of this world. But, oh how sad and tragic and disturbing when the Story falls into the wrong hands and hearts and minds—when love is turned into obsession and pursuit is turned into stalking and Heaven becomes Hell!!!

God and Truth dance in a thousand places (and more)!  And we—we who would seek to join that dance and these partners—must be sensitive and careful lest the Song of joy, peace, healing, and life become one of fear, doubt, and fire!

In an “authentic dance” with neighbor and world, it is true: “theirs” (these “others”/”outsiders”) is the burden of joining in—to open their ears and hear the Story and the Song. (We cannot force anything on them as much as we can and must extend – in word and deed – an invitation to them.) But, what chance do they have of really hearing that Story/Invitation and of really wanting to respond to it, if we’re not giving it the fair sounding (and rendering )it deserves and demands through our lives and living!?!

The Parable of the Tiger and the Goats: The Necessity of Spiritual Formation in Personal and Parish Renewal

In a sermon on “The Church’s Search for Identity,”
Bishop Kenneth Carder shares a most compelling metaphor/parable:

The nineteenth-century Hindu philosopher Ramakrishna told a fable about a tiger cub who was separated from his mother and fellow tigers. He was adopted by goats who raised him as if he were a goat. So, instead of roaring with a voice that shook the forest, the tiger bleated softly in sounds heard only by his adopted family. Instead of eating red meat, the tiger grazed on the soft grass and ate bark from tender saplings, which caused him to lack the robust strength characteristic of well-fed tigers. Instead of roaming the lofty peaks and leaping the treacherous mountain crevices, the tiger who thought he was goat roamed the paths of the lowlands. He didn’t know who he was. His only image of himself was taken from the world around him, a world of goats rather than of tigers. He was less than a tiger because he had no understanding of what it meant to be a tiger. He had been cut off from his true identity.  (Carder, Sermons on United Methodist Beliefs, p. 15)

So that no one misses his point, he goes on to conclude – with words that undoubtedly have meaning in any number of denominations and congregational settings:

The church suffers from a similar malady. We have been orphaned by our broken connection with our biblical and theological parentage. Our failure to stay in daily contact with the images of the church as found in the Bible and in historical theology has left us with the inadequate images of the world around us as our models of being and doing. The business world, civic clubs, and social and political organizations have become our patterns. Consequently, the church is treated as an institution among institutions—an organization among many organizations to which we belong, in which we find fellowship, and in which we engage in endless activities.

The result is that we wander around on the smooth, well-worn lowland paths, grazing on tasty but unnourishing pious junk food. No one trembles at our blah messages or pays much attention to our bleating pronouncements. We hear the echo of a distant roar which temporarily strikes a responsive curiosity. We have a vague hunger that is not satisfied by palatable pious platitudes. Occasionally we glimpse a lofty height, or a Christlike image falls momentarily across our path, giving us a nudge to be more than we are as a church. We go through the motions, but our hearts are elsewhere. We know deep down in our souls that there is more to this church thing than going to meetings and promoting an institution. (Ibid)

It’s just one more way of framing
the general ministry of spiritual formation
and our mission of Zoe-Life Explorations:
facilitating discussions and explorations
of those spiritual dynamics and rhythms
by which God equips the Church
(and its leaders and members)
to recover true identity, calling, and voice in Christ!