Verse – It Works with Congress

Some think a score-keeper’s in heaven.
They say that it simply must be.
For life here below,
It’s easy to show,
Is not fair for you or for me…

You’re sweet and always kind-hearted,
But also as poor as a bird.
I’m mean as a snake,
But I always make
So much money, it’s simply absurd!

You work-out, but never are healthy.
I drink booze and lounge with TV.
I’m never unwell,
And all can just tell
I’ll out-live you, just wait and see.

Some say Justice waits till here-after.
The scales must be balanced up there.
I hope that a BRIBE
Will get me inside,
And that Heaven will still not be fair!

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Nov. 12, 2015

You might not believe this

Mark Andrew after shopping at the Mall of America

Mark Andrew after shopping at the Mall of America

A year ago Mark Andrew was beaten within an inch of his life. We commented on the assault at the Mall of America at the time and are moved to comment now on the unusual sentence handed down yesterday in the case of his primary assailant.

Click “Young woman who beat Mark Andrews receives no jail time – at his request” – for the story aired yesterday by All Things Considered on Minnesota Public Radio.

Mark Andrew, man of compassionate wisdom

Mark Andrew, man of compassionate wisdom

There is judgment and there is mercy. Mark Andrew is a man of faith. He was taught and he believes that God’s judgment is always a function of God’s love, and, as Cornel West puts it, that “justice is what love looks like in public.”


Remembering Will Campbell

Will Campbell

Will Campbell

Will Campbell (1924-2013) is unforgettable. Beyond unusual, he was idiosyncratic. In death, he calls us to the deeper selves we so easily lose.

Will Campbell was that rare person of integrity who seemed to fulfill the hard calling described once by his friend William Stringfellow – “to be the same person everywhere all the time” – and his different places still blow the mind.

He was idiosyncratic. Who else would or could march at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, once the law was changed, turn his ministry to sipping whiskey with the Good Ol’ Boys on the front porches of the Ku Klux Klan?

Campbell was a son of the Deep South, a white Southern Baptist preacher raised in Mississippi, who betrayed his white privilege as a matter of Gospel discipleship. He became one of the closest friends of the youth Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that led the charge for Civil Rights in America. He was trusted that much.

His life was threatened repeatedly. He gained national prominence as a field worker for the Department of Racial and Cultural Relations of the National Council of Churches, the nation’s largest ecumenical council that suffered heavy criticism from anti-civil rights forces across the country, but especially in the Deep South. The National Council of Churches and Will Campbell were to their critics what the KKK was to those who worked to eliminate segregation in America.

When the nine black school children walked through hostile crowds to integrate the public school system in Little Rock, Arkansas, Will Campbell was one of four people at their side.

He became Director of the Committee of Southern Churchman, a position he used to promote racial reconciliation, his vocation until the day he died.

With the passage of the Civil Right Act, the man who spent his ministry to help win freedom for blacks did something no one could have imagined. He chose to re-direct his ministry to the new lepers of society, the defeated hooded enemies of integration, the Ku Klux Klan.

No one but Will Campbell would have done this, and few others could have done this. But he did. He became known as the chaplain to the KKK. Campbell wrote in Brother to a Dragonfly, one of 26 publications that bear his name:

“I had become a doctrinaire social activist without consciously choosing to be. And I would continue to be some kind of social activist. But there was a decided difference. Because from that point on I came to understand the nature of tragedy. And one who understands the nature of tragedy can never take sides.”

Will Campbell was not a hater. He was a reconciler who loved people. All kinds and conditions of people, even his ‘enemies’. He was the same person everywhere all the time.

He confused his critics – first the Right and then the Left – by insisting that his soul did not belong to any team – racial, political, religious, cultural. It belonged to the Kingdom of God. There was only one team, and that was the family of ALL God’s children everywhere. Compassion came first in his hierarchy of values. Compassion led him to campaign for justice in the Civil Rights Movement, and compassion led him to sip whiskey with the cross-burners in the rocking chairs on their front porches. His was a ministry of reconciliation, a living, idiosyncratic expression a bold declaration of the biblical gospel that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s own Self.

The notice of Will’s death (June 3, 2013) at the age of 88 in Nashville, Tennessee reminded me of just how hard it is to be a disciple of Jesus, how hard it is to love my neighbor as myself, especially when the neighbor is the enemy of my own claims to righteousness. Would that all of us were as idiosyncratic as Will.

Jazz – the language of love and awe

“Who is your favorite jazz pianist?”

“Bill Evans,” came the quick reply from Ted Godbout, the jazz pianist who came to us out of the blue as a candidate for the music position at the little church in Chaska, MN where jazz is the language of love and awe.

In the news Michael Jordan is defending himself against a young man’s claim that he is Air Jordan’s “love child” who deserves more of Michael’s time. Listening to Ted Godbout at his audition, I wondered….

We sent Ted’s DNA to the lab for testing :-). He’s that good. And only 29! Ted leads the music at Shepherd of the Hill for the first this Sunday, March 10.

Extracts from the Visitors page of the church website speak of the language of jazz.

Imagine a place…

a church, actually, your church,……

where it is a safe place to land, for a bit of time

while you marvel….

and wonder, and revel in


and justice…..

and mercy….

where the questions get clearer and

better questions replace them….

where your heart burns to return

Again and again……

where jazz is the language of love……

and love, the language of


where God is a three letter word again….

spoken to soothe your tired feet…

On your journey of becoming

more of who Love intended you to be,

(since you have heard it said, “fear not….”)

The Legacies of Joe Hill and Doug Hall

You who hold us in the hollow of your hand,

Who hold us in the curve of a mother’s arms,

Whose flesh is the flesh of hills and hummingbirds and angleworms,

Whose skin is the leathered skin of the barge-toter and the old Indian Chief and the smooth skin of a newborn babe,

Whose color is the color of the zebra and the brown bear and the green grass snake,

Whose hair is the aurora borealis, the rainbow and nebulae,

Whose eyes sometimes shine like the evening stars, and then like fireflies, and then again like an open wound,

Whose touch is the touch of life and the touch of death,

Whose name is everyone’s, each and all alike, for just a fleeting moment on the shore of time, the hem of your eternity:

Grant us to see ‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.’  Let Your healing balm salve the tender wounds of grief and turn the tears of mourning into tears of unshakable joy.

God of the sparrow, God of the whale, God of the pruning hook: You ask only that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with You.  Lead us to take the claims of justice, mercy and humility into the palaces and chambers of power where public policy is made and administered.  Give us confidence that, though truth still sways upon the gallows, yet it is truth alone that is strong.

Let our lives flow in endless song above earth’s lamentations.  Let no storm shake our inmost calm.  No tempest dim our vision.  No noisy gongs or clanging cymbals of ignorant armies clashing by night drown out the gentle sounds of the flute and the dulcimer, the quiet chords of love.

For this work and this alone, raise us up on eagles’ wings to follow Wamble Pok-he, our lead eagle now departed, and to see him standing there, like old Joe Hill, as big as life and smiling with his eyes.  “What they could not kill,” says Joe, says Doug, “went on to organize, went on to organize.”   “I did not die,” says he.  “I did not die.  Where workers strike and organize,” says he, “You’ll see Doug Hall,” says he, “We’ll see Doug Hall,” says he.  How can we can we keep from singing?  Amen.

– GCS, pastoral prayer at Doug Hall’s Memorial Celebration, Wabasha, MN.

Stephanie Autumn and Clyde Bellecourt honoring Doug with Indian blanket

Stephanie Autumn and Clyde Bellecourt honoring Doug with Indian blanket

Doug was the definition of “the street lawyer.” The farewell to Doug was attended by the people he had defended over many years, the founders of the American Indian Movement, African-American activists, U.S. District Court Judges, MN Supreme Court Justices, Indian drummers, and “America’s troubadour, Larry Long.” Doug was an important figure in the standoff between the federal troops and the AIM members who occupied Wounded Knee. He served as Director of the Legal Rights Center, and, in the last decade of his life was a leading figure in the state-wide movement for restorative justice. He was the Honorary Chair of the Minnesota Restorative Justice Movement.

Joe Hill, Swedish-American labor organizer, songwriter, (1879-1915)

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me.

Says I,  “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”

“I never died,” says he,

“I never died,” says he.
“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,

Him standing by my bed.

“They framed you on a murder charge.”

Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,

Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,

They shot you, Joe,” says I.

“Takes more than guns to kill a man.”

Says Joe, “I didn’t die,” Says Joe,

“I didn’t die.”

And standing there as big as life,

And smiling with his eyes, Joe says,

“What they forgot to kill Went on to organize,

Went on to organize.”
“Joe Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,

“Joe Hill ain’t never died.

Where working men are out on strike,

Joe Hill is at their side,

Joe Hill is at their side.”
“From San Diego up to Maine

In every mine and mill,

Where workers strike and organize,”

Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”

Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Alive as you or me.

Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead.”

“I never died,” says he,

“I never died,” says he.