a move to the woods…

It has been awhile since I posted here. My wife Marnie and I have moved to the Voyageur National Park in the far north woods of Minnesota. I have taken an appointment with the United Methodist Church to serve two small churches at Lake Kabetogama and Crane Lake. It is a beautiful, wild thing. I will be posting more after I get my canoe legs.

Lily’s Sharks and Boxes

My daughter, Erin Kate, has posted a beautiful note about her daughter (and my granddaughter) on her Facebook site recently. Here it is:

“…the almost-seven lillian james has been surprising me with intuitive and quirky insights as of late. i have been making a point of asking her questions, as she seems to be in the habit of answering honestly and immediately in full sentences. while putting her to bed tonight, i asked her “lillian, what’s in your heart?” she was a little unsure of what i was getting at (not surprising) and asked me to “go first.” this is a question i think about or ask every day and i was prepared to rattle off family members, places that i’ve lived, and things i’ve cared deeply about that i carry in my heart. she responded “i have everyone in my heart.” i pushed her a bit and asked if she had all the people in the world. she said that she did, that she had not only all the people of the world, but all things like “sharks and boxes.” it was at this point that i found it hard to keep a straight face, but kept my composure as she continued, “only sweet things, mom. not naughty things.”

she drifted off to sleep while i held her and contemplated her comical response delivered with such sincerity. i know she loves sharks. she has no fear of them and watches shark shows whenever she gets the chance. her favorite tee-shirt is the one we bought in south africa with a picture of a toothy great white. the boxes she was keeping in her heart were puzzling to me, though. until i realized that this child has helped me take apart, stamp, put back together, stack, empty out, and restack 900 tiny jewelry boxes in the past 6 months. she has become my helpful shadow. aware of my emotions, my opinions, and my values.

i hesitate to put deeper meaning to her answer, but i do hope that the sharks in her heart are symbolic of the travel and adventure she has experienced and grown to love. and that maybe, just maybe, the boxes are the adventure she experiences in her own backyard. the adventure of creating art and relationship. working side by side with me, the woman who carried her for 40 weeks and 2 days and prayed for her for years before we met.

i’ve struggled for years to put words to the depth of my emotion/devotion for my mother, her orphaned mother, the sister who died too young, and the sisters i never had. for the daughter i have and hopefully the daughters yet to come. i keep creating, trying to honor these women, wearing old photos of marian and marnie around my neck. fearing my daughter won’t love me the way i adore my mother: in that painful, aching, overwhelming, beautiful, and life-defining way.

in part, my modern locket was born out of this writer’s block. curating tiny meaningful collections to be worn close to my heart seems to work better than my words in this season of silenced song. and the process of helping other women create collections to express what their words fail to say. it eases my mind.

so, tonight, i might just have to make the first shark and boxes necklace known to man. to commemorate this moment in time with almost-seven lillian and her sweet sweet heart that carries the world.”

-erin kate duininck

After reading this, I remembered a song I wrote the year Erin Kate was born. I sang it in a few churches, but the one I remember the best is the arrangement I sang with the Woodbury United Methodist choir under the direction of Erin’s grandfather Stan Parrish, in the early 1980’s. I’ve updated the second verse to include Lily (the love for one girl) and I am reminded again of the self-understanding I have gained over the last few years…that the song in our family continues back in time and forward into the hope of the future.

Great love from Heaven (©flyertunes 1980)

If you could shake (If you could shake)
Great love from heaven (Great love from heaven)
And catch it as (And catch it as)
It did fall (As It did fall)
Still you would not have (Still you would not have)
The love for one man (The love for one man)
That Jesus had (That Jesus had)
For us all.

If you could shake (If you could shake)
Great love from heaven (Great love from heaven)
And catch it as (And catch it as)
It did fall (As It did fall)
Still you would not have (No you would not have)
The love for one girl (The love for one girl)
That Jesus has (Yes, Jesus loves us)
Loves us all.

A Baccalaureate prayer

Good evening everyone! I was blessed when I was asked to offer a prayer for our graduating seniors.

I would like us to acknowledge together that we are all standing on a threshold today. Graduates, you are standing in the doorway ready to…take off and fly! Moms and dads, we are here ‘grounded’ on this same threshold trying to hold it all together as we stand on tiptoe looking into the promise of the future. We are excited, proud, sad, tired, maybe a bit fearful—all these mixed up together—and dads, if you are like me you probably need your wife to tell you what you are feeling!

From here, we can see the future open with all its hopes and dreams. And the words that came to me as I prepared to offer a prayer:

Kyrie Eleison

Have you ever heard this phrase– Kyrie Eleison? It means ‘Lord, have mercy’ in Greek. It is a prayer that has been prayed millions of times back to the earliest days of our faith.
Lord have mercy, Kyrie Elesion.

For this prayer to have deep meaning, it must come from a grateful and contrite heart. And we stand here together at this threshold with full and thankful hearts for the 18 years we have had together in our families. We stand peering out into the hope of the future and we whisper: Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy.

Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers–Will you pray with me for these beautiful young adults in this most vulnerable of times for us? Let us pray together:

‘Father, as these young and beloved souls venture out into the world in these exceptionally dark, uncertain days, please protect their innocence, guard their faith and keep them safe.
Kyrie, Eleison, Lord have mercy.

Father, they have dreams—hope-filled dreams for jobs, families, homes, children, happiness, peace, and love. And they have hope that their generation might change the world.
Kyrie, Eleison, Lord have mercy.

Father, they have ambitions—to learn and grow and find work to become productive citizens in the world. Please lead and guide them and direct their steps.
Kyrie, Eleison, Lord have mercy.

Father, they have love to give—May they find people who will love them and people with whom they can share the love you have given them to give.
Kyrie, Eleison, Lord have mercy.

And as these wonderful young adults go out into the world, Father, please bless our children–for we love them dearly.

We rejoice that You are their heavenly father and you have known them even before they were born. And so we entrust these precious ones into your care. As parents, we release our children into your faithful, everlasting arms.

And even as we pray for their safety, we pray beyond safety for them. We pray that Your will may be done in their lives for Your kingdom’s sake.
Kyrie, Eleison, Lord have mercy. Lord, hear our prayers.

For it is true as Jesus, our Lord, taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive
those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory.
Forever and ever. Amen.

Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy!

Post 7-Original blessing or original sin

A man’s born into trouble
c flyertunes 2008

Drag on a cigarette
Take a peek at porn
Crack hits the bloodstream
The day a man is born.
Hate a man for his color
Dream about his wife
Steal a mother’s money
Make an easier life.
Medicate the pain
Sweet potato pie
We can’t help ourselves
And we don’t know why.

Original blessing
Or original sin
A man’s born into trouble
The day he breaks in…

Slither from the skin
Leave it on the road
Grow into the new
Like a born again toad.
Mama, pay the piper
Give the dog a bone
Thrown into this world
Gotta fly away alone.
They say the Spirit
Make you shiny and new
Like a new born baby
Little boy blue.

Original blessing
or original sin
Woman’s born into trouble
The day she breaks in…

Parker Palmer in St. Paul

OK, I admit it.

I’ve been looking for a hero since I cut Spiderman/Peter Parker loose in 1963 when I was 10. I’ve been looking since my dad died suddenly when I was 22 in 1975…hmmm…then since my pastor/father figure bilked the church in 1980. Shoot…not since Kirby Puckett went dark side human in 1995.

And in my 50’s, I’ve found my hero in a mellifluous, profoundly wise Quaker. Not a superhero, not my dad, not a World Series hero-but a legitimate sage, saint and hero–from Wisconsin–ta da his name–Parker Palmer.

What–never heard of him?

Just wait…

Yearning for the cabin

I wrote a song about ten years ago called Water and the Woods…

In this world of schedules and shoulds
how I yearn for the water and the woods
In this world you must deliver the goods
how I yearn for the water and the woods.

How I often drift there
How often I dream
My heart is only singing
Bring me peace.

In this world of vigilante neighborhoods
how I yearn for the water and the woods

Sweet soul music

My friends Andy and Michelle gave Newsboys concert tickets to their daughter Nicole for her birthday, but they’d already booked a cruise for the last week of January and asked me if I might take Nicole to the concert.

So it is that I was sitting (er…standing) in a sold out auditorium listening to one of Christian music’s biggest acts with a 10 year old. The Newsies were in ‘tour’ mode. “Hello Minnesota! It sure is cold here! ” (Roar from the crowd…) “You guys are the loudest crowd ever!” (Bigger roar…Ow, my ears. don’t DO that!) News alert to Newsboys: It’s January in MINNESOTA! and we are lLOUD because it is January in Minnesota and we are ANGRY that some people are on cruises and we’re not. (Oops, sorry Andy and Michelle. JK, sort of.)

You know you’re old and cranky when you are the only guy in the crowd who pops in earplugs after the first song. Nicole liked it. She pumped her arms up and waved them around with the other couple thousand people when the Newsboys leader commanded, “Everybody, put your hands in the air!” How did you like the show Nicole? “It was good. I liked the spinning drums.”

As for me, I loved the soulful opening act…OneWorldSon. Very funky young band and a really soulful lead singer. A twenty something white boy from Niagra Falls!? who’s channeling a little Bob Marley, James Brown and Bill Withers.

Interview on KTIS

This Friday I will be playing 2-3 of my songs and I will be interviewed on KTIS, the major Christian radio station in the Twin Cities. http://www.kimjeffries.com

In addition to the music and its content, my story may be of interest to many because I am one of the thousands of former evangelical christian pastors who are not currently engaged as a leader in a local congregation.

What are all these ‘recovering pastors’ doing?

Great question.

The short answer for many of us–at least for me: I don’t know!

Tune in to KTIS from 1-1:30pm this Friday to hear what I say (I’m not sure what that will be! But I pray that I will be humble, loving and gracious.) I hope to get a podcast of the interview for those who aren’t able to tune in then.

Where the road takes a turn

I wrote a song called ‘Where the road takes a turn’ in 1996. It was meant to be a literary tip of the hat to Pilgrim’s Progress, Robert Frost, Dante’s Inferno. I was earnestly moving into my 40’s, keenly aware that my life was about to change, but blissfully unaware of the depth of the woods I would soon be entering.

More than ten years later, backing into my mid 50’s, my own song is ‘prophesying’ over me. ‘I will get what I came for if I listen to what I learn’…

I am one of the thousands of professional pastors who have been shaken out of the institutional church and I find myself sitting on the side of the road with a broken shoulder, jobless, mortgage due, winter approaching–setting out on a new course as a singer-songwriter, a bohemian road well suited for a man of 25, but Halloween scary for a man of 50 something.

And so my question is: ‘Who will go with me?’

Where the road takes a turn is cut #7 on the new CD. You can listen to it by clicking on the myspace link on the right side of the page and then clicking on the song in the rogerflyer/myspace page player.

songs hidden in eggs is here!

Roger has served full time as a pastor the last eight years, and now, with the release of ’songs hidden in eggs’, he hopes to connect with people who have found themselves wandering in spiritual exile and those trying to find their way back home in these rumbling times. The songs explore themes of spiritual crossroads, personal responsibility, human destiny and radical trust in God.