Prayers for Pastors

Like a boss (a prayer for pastors)

Weekly, dear God,
I think about how to sing you into being.
I flip through books and
also memory
considering broad themes –
Love! Peace! Discipleship! –
or familiar phrases –
“God in three persons”
“Joyful, joyful, we adore thee”
“Immortal, invisible” –
or timeless images –
Mother. Father. Shepherd.

I think about how to sing you into being,
in the body of the faithful,
and the minds of the questioning,
and the voices of the no-place-else-to-go-today,
using the best of what’s available to me.

I want the words to mean something,
and I drift to the familiar,
for the sake of the singing,
and the untrained among the singers,
and for me it works beautifully,
most of the time.

Yet there are phrases,
and images,
and broad themes unexpressed
by classical chords
and texts of another time.

Last night I watched a pitcher
whose mood and work
can be best described as
“like a boss.”

And I wonder, if we sang about
our gratitude as if you were
our hero,
in our modern parlance,
how it might sound.

(No using words like parlance.)

Would we go out
with shouts of joy?
Praise God in the sanctuary?
Ascribe to the Lord?


We need a hero, Lord,
and you save us,
need to hear things over and over,
and you keep teaching us,
can’t get our heads in the game,
yet you keep chucking the ball
right over the plate.
Like a boss, O God.
Like a boss.


Partially inspired by Music Sunday, and partially by the following filthy pitch.



Men At Work, Music, Sons

The World is Waiting for the Sunrise

While #1 Son was home last week and sleeping in his old room, which is now the den/guest room and favored practice room for clarinet, Snowman went over to TFoMC's house to practice. Now that the room is again available, we get the pleasure of hearing him play.

Tonight I came in from walking the dog and could have sworn Benny Goodman was in my house! I heard his characteristic runs.

And here's what Snowman has been doing. He's preparing the Copland Clarinet Concerto for the placement auditions at Beantown Conservatory, and since Benny Goodman commissioned the concerto, he thought he could prepare better by learning more about how Benny Goodman played. He listened to a recording of "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise," and using the chords in his Jazz Real Book, he transcribed Goodman's interpretation from the recording.

Now that the transcription is complete, he is playing it, Goodman-style.

I wonder, do I ever break down a task the way he did? Considering the influences and working through the possibilities with such diligence? I tend to float through life relying on intuition and inspiration. I might have considered his technical approach to be overly intellectual, if I hadn't heard him explain it. I understood completely, and I heard what he took from it, both in the jazz piece and in his playing of the Copland.

It was hard to let him go away two years ago. But when I hear what I heard tonight, the music and his underscoring thoughts, I know we did the right thing.

Here's Benny:

Children, Interim Ministry, Music

But Like a Child at Home

My shepherd is the living God,
I therefore nothing need;
In pastures fair, near pleasant streams
you settle me to feed.
You bring my wandering spirit back
when I forsake your ways,
And lead me for your mercy's sake
in paths of truth and grace.

It can be hard to tell some stories about your children–their accomplishments or their gifts or their good fortune or happy moments in your relationship with them–without sounding like Hubris just begging Nemesis to stop by for coffee.

But I'm going to risk it.

Because #1 Son either shared or grew into my delight in singing along while listening to vocal music of one kind and another, we've done a lot of singing together. I got to hear his voice a lot. Mostly we loved singing along to musicals, and even today when I listen to the favorites in our collection, I imagine the parts he could play. On the trip to take him to college in 2004, we lined up our favorites and sang them with gusto, as if the chance would never come again.

Snowman joined in as a little fellow, although he became more of a listener when he began to pick apart the orchestrations in his mind. Still, even when he didn't want to sing so much himself, he didn't seem to mind if we did.

But we could not get LP to join us. She liked to hear the music the way it was supposed to be and still only tolerates the singing along sometimes. My days of singing in the car with a child seem to be over, and I miss it; I cannot tell a lie.

So I haven't heard our voices together much, except on the rare occasions we stand next to each other for a hymn on Sunday morning. I seize those moments when I can, but usually I am far away.

Last week, as I looked ahead to this final week in Freeport, and thought about the music based on the 23rd Psalm, I asked her if she would be willing to sing something with me for church. She surprised me by saying yes, and I suggested an adaptation of Isaac Watts' "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," set to the good old tune from Southern Harmony, Resignation. We used the words in the New Century Hymnal, mostly because it seemed less complicated to be singing exactly what the organist would be playing and we had limited time to rehearse. We agreed this tune should work, even for two altos, one long-time and the other newly-minted.

This morning we got to church early to practice. It's kind of a strange thing for me to be the "Special Music," and I wondered if I would regret it. I sometimes sing in the body of a sermon if it feels like the right thing to do, and I sang for a while with the choir at Small Church. Back then we got a friend of #1 Son's to come and play guitar once or twice a year, and we formed our own little family folk group with the young music director there.

But this felt more exposed and I wondered if we would work, or for that matter sound, well together. But I talked with the organist about the introduction, and we began to sing together.

When I walk through the shades of death,
your presence is my stay;
A word of your supporting breath
drives all my fear away.
Your hand, in sight of all my foes,
does still my table spread;
My cup with blessing overflows,
your oil anoints my head.

It felt good.

Oh, we made a few changes after the first time through. I had to think about whether to sing all the lines in two parts, and eventually made some of them unison. LP asked for a slight pick-up in the tempo. We worked together to find a cut-off that gave us a chance to get our breath at the end of each verse.

Mostly, it amazed me how nice our voices sounded together. I managed to mangle a note or two when it came time to sing in the service, but really the whole thing felt wonderful.

I loved singing with my daughter.

The sure provisions of my God
attend me all my days;
O may your house be my abode,
and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
while others come and go
No more a stranger or a guest,
but like a child at home.

As we began the final verse, I had that feeling of relief I sometimes get on the last page of a sermon–almost home!!–and realized I knew the last bit well enough to lean into it and not be so focused on the page of music in front of me. I felt the peace of the settled rest, although it will not be in that particular church.

And it's funny, I've been preaching for more than a year about the lack of importance of a set place to be present with God, at the same time I've come to hope for my own ministry to be settled again. And I don't like where this is headed, but I suppose the truth for them is also the truth for me. I meet God in those moments when I get my eye off the page and feel the presence.

O, may God's house be my abode, and all my work be praise.