Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Daily Prayer Time

What does daily prayer do?
It provides an opportunity to speak and, more importantly, listen to God.
It brings us into the transforming presence of God.
It connects us with a community of praying people, each seeking to accomplish the mission God has given to it as a whole.
It makes us aware that we are connected to something much larger than ourselves.
How do I make time? It’s not difficult if you believe it’s important.
Consider praying when you first wake up, and when you just go to bed. That’s twice a day.
Pray before meals, that’s likely three more times a day.
Pray after each meal, that’s three more.
That’s eight times a day, and it’s doable! :-)
Do you have a watch or cell phone with an alarm function. Set it for certain times a day, whenever and however many you like.
When the bell sounds, pray. That’s one reason church bells were invented, to call people in the surrounding area to stop and to pray.
Daily prayer is an expression of whose we are in Jesus Christ. It is one mark of being his disciple.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dancing With The Stars

Sally and I were at the live taping of Dancing With The Stars for the premiere of Season 12 Monday night, March 21, 2011. Our faces were onscreen very briefly. The recap and results will be broadcast next week. Maybe we’ll get our milliseconds of fame again.
We were offered tickets by someone we know in the business who knew that Sally had studied at Juilliard and in France, and now teaches liturgical dance and movement as a Christian expression.
We were told to report by 3:30 p.m. Monday, March 21st, to a gate at the sidewalk next to the studio where the show would be taped. We arrived at 3:05 p.m.
We went through security, got scanned, checked our cell phones, and were ushered inside where we were highly encouraged to use the facilities. We were then told to go back outside where we waited in another line.
We were soon ushered into the set. I grabbed Sally as we crossed the dance floor, spun here around and we danced a couple of steps so that we could say we danced at Dancing With The Stars. We then found our way to seats with our names taped to their backs.
The set looked smaller than I had imagined it would be. The miking was clearly not designed for those in the studio, which made it difficult to hear anything clearly, including the fabulous band.
We were located across from the judges, on the dance floor, in the fourth row back. Former DWTS dancers and their guests were in a banked section of seats to our left. Friends and family of the celebrity dancers were seated in the first row in front of us and across the dance floor.
A staffer whose job it was to whip the crowd into a suitable frenzy for live television was sent in to work the crowd before the taping, as well as during commercial breaks. He offered T-shirts that would admit the bearers backstage after the show to meet the cast, with martinis, to those who showed the most love and enthusiasm during the warm-up. We didn’t want martinis, and I have plenty of T-shirts, so I showed my normal appreciative but restrained Norwegian and Lutheran enthusiasm. Needless to say, I didn’t get a shirt.
As the time to start the show approached, “Live at five!”, the celebrities rolled in. We were four rows behind Dana Delaney and friends. Around us were current and past football players from the team beaten by the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl this year (was it the Steelers? I forget.), including Franco Harris. They were there to support a teammate in the dancing competition.
Within 20 feet to the left of us were Steve-O, Corky Ballas, Florence Henderson, Jennifer Gray, Buzz Aldrin, Brandy, Joanna Krupa, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Kyle Massey all from previous shows.
And, of course, we were four rows back from the dance floor, where we would see the current celebrity and professional dancers.
The three rows directly in front of us were filled, front to back, by Hugh Hefner, one or two of his women, an older woman, and two or three body guards.
As it came time to start the two-hour live taping, one of the interns came around with a plastic cup and asked everyone chewing gum to spit it out.
It was wonderful to see the professional dancers doing what they do so close, even though we only saw bits and partial pieces of them in between the heads and shoulders in front of us. Instead of spray tans, many of the dancers seemed to have something sprayed on to resemble their own skin tone, only with a surface that would be picked up better by TV. Kind of like stealth airplane technology, but in reverse.
Mr. Hefner was there to support one of his former girlfriends, a contestant. After she danced, the cameras turned to him for a reaction shot, and then another. There in the background were first, Sally, and then David. Us!
And then it was over. The judges’ votes had all been cast. Since we were in the “special” section, but not among the “VIPs”, we were gently and professionally asked to first leave the building, and then the lot.
We got home in time to catch all but about the first forty minutes on TV. It’s disorienting to hear a show in L.A. start with the word “Live!” and then see yourself on it in your own living room. It’s taped live, and then shown to take into account various time zones, I suppose.
What I liked best was something you can sometimes see on TV, but not feel as intensely as when you see it in person. That was the look many of the professional dancers gave their celebrity partners just before the music started. That look of strength and encouragement, begun with laser like eye contact, said “You can do this.”
Sally and I also enjoyed our conversations before, during and after the show with a young woman seated next to Sally with whom we found many things in common, including our faith. We had an exceptional experience at the taping of Dancing With the Stars, and found once again that the most enduring thing in life is the human connection that God gives us in our common faith in Jesus Christ.
As the three of us walked back to the parking lot, we talked a little about the show, but more about the state of the world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Where I live, I can see nearby mountains and foothills, covered with a skin of snow or foliage, depending on the season.
Jesus grew up close to a small mountain (is that an oxymoron?) near Nazareth. It is the traditional spot for his transfiguration. When Jesus went up there (Matthew 17:1-8) and Moses and Elijah appeared with him, he was transfigured, he “shone like the sun” with his heavenly glory.
Peter, one of the disciples along with James and John, whom Jesus had brought up there, wanted to build something to commemorate the event.
But, when God spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” they were “overcome by fear”. Jesus said, “Get up and do not be afraid”, and he led them down the mountain.
They had seen a vision beyond time. The event took place in the present. Moses and Elijah represented the past, life under the law and the prophets. Jesus shone in his future heavenly glory as the one who could, and would, save the world by his sacrificial suffering and death. In the end, Jesus stood alone.
I’ve been to that actual “mountain” top in Israel. It’s just a really big hill, but it stands out on the flat plain all around it. You can see a lot of that surrounding plain from there, though.
And, I’ve had mountain-top experiences. The stand out from ordinary life because they have allowed me to see the bigger picture of things.
Like Jesus showed his disciples, we can’t live in those mountain top experiences. At least, not yet. And, we can’t really commemorate those events. They are, by definition, singular experiences.
That is the way it should be, I think.
I look at the mountains near me and I know why. Nothing grows at the top of the really tall ones. Growth takes place in the valleys, where the fertile soil is.
Mountain top experiences give us a vision for what is now, and what is to be, in the Kingdom of God. Change, transformation and growth happens now, down in the valleys of life, where God makes things grow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Shapes You?

Daily Prayer is one of the Six Marks of Discipleship.
We have many things that fill our time, and we try to get control of them. In the end what we chose to do with our time shapes who we are.
That is why it is so important to fill our time with things that build us up in positive ways, like a healthy relationship with the living God.
The primary way God speaks to us is in reading the Bible.
The primary way we speak to God is in prayer, and even in prayer, God may speak to us.
The time we set aside for prayer, therefore, has a lot to do with the quality of the relationship we have with God.
You may have had a different experience but, like eating or exercise, I think it’s best to spread prayer out over time, and not try and pray long prays just to make up for lost time.
That way we do not have to be concerned about shaping our prayers, or even what we will say. Time ceases to be a factor. Prayer ceases to be an obligation, and becomes a blessing.
Daily prayer shapes us by building our relationship with the one true living God in a natural way. It is both an expression of and a builder of who we really are.
We are shaped as persons by how we spend our time. What shapes you?