The Buddha Kicked My Butt

My little church, the Open Prairie United Church of Christ, is probably the only church for a hundred miles where I could sing this song on a Sunday morning. (It followed my sermon.) Be the Light, Merry Mystics!

2024-07-07T13:15:21-05:00July 7, 2024|7 Comments

Love Small

I love my small town: Princeton, Illinois. At least, I love it now. Hated it when I first moved here…

2024-04-21T10:18:07-05:00April 21, 2024|10 Comments

Me and Joe and What’s-His-Name

Here’s a song I wrote, inspired by a story from the Gospel of Luke. I performed this at the close of our Sunday morning soulcare at the Open Prairie United Church of Christ on Palm Sunday, 2024.

2024-03-24T13:22:07-05:00March 24, 2024|0 Comments

Surely You Know the Change I Need

I wrote a new hymn for the first Sunday in Lent. (It goes with my sermon, “Time for a Change“.)

Exhortations to change are a big part of the Christian tradition: change your heart, change your mind, change your life. Traditionally we’ve used the word repent for that; repent is the usual translation of Jesus’ exhortation in biblical Greek, μετανοεῖτε, which presumably was a translation of something Jesus said in Aramaic. But however we ended up with that word, I think it’s inadequate. Repent has all kinds of sorry associations: it’s what one does while sitting in sackcloth and ashes, overcome with remorse, perhaps punishing oneself for one’s misdeeds. And sometimes, yes, change begins with remorse—but not always.

These are the words of the hymn:

Surely You Know the Change I Need

Surely you know the change I need;
help me to know it too.
Free me of all my lethargy
and show me the path to you, to you,
and show me the path to you.

When I am wrong, oh help me feel
fully a right remorse.
Then help me leave remorse behind
and find me a better course, a course,
and find me a better course.

Mover of all, may I be moved,
cherishing every chance,
Ready to hear you say my name
and call me to join the dance, the dance,
and call me to join the dance.

Ready to fly, the wild goose waits,
ready to sprout, the seed.
So make me ready, God of life
for changes you know I need, I need,
for changes you know I need.

As always, sheet music for Surely You Know the Change I Need is available in our Free Stuff Area. Also, you can see and hear it being sung for a church service here.

2024-02-19T10:00:07-06:00February 19, 2024|0 Comments

Keep My Head above the Wave

A merry and mystical new year to all!

I wrote a song this week, a song I’d like to share with you. It’s partly a prayer for God’s help in not drowning. (My daughter is now serving in the USCG, so I always pray “for those in peril on the sea.”) But it’s also partly a prayer for God’s help in another kind of peril: coping with depression.

However you hear it, I hope it will bless you.


2024-01-07T12:27:34-06:00January 7, 2024|2 Comments

O Mother of Music

Hello, Merry Mystics! Here’s a new hymn for Advent. You can learn more about the O Antiphons here, and more about the hymn tune Ebenezer here. The words of the hymn are these:

O Mother of Music

O mother of music! O father of harmony!
Lost in a cacophony to thee we cry.
Though roughened our voices by noisy iniquity,
Hear, singer and savior, our sibilant sigh.
Come, sing us again the song we have forgotten,
Come, teach us again our high, heavenly parts!
Your hand on the harp-strings, your touch on the tuning pegs,
Your beautiful music infusing our hearts. 

O water of healing! O fountain of love and life!
Unbearably thirsty, for mercy we cry.
Once growing and green, we wilt under the sultry sun,
Once gracing your garden, we harden and dry.
Come now like a rainstorm, rise now like a river,
Soak into the soil and reach into the roots!
Your heavenly fountain, mounting to eternal life,
Your waters arriving, reviving green shoots. 

O light of the dawning! O hope of the weary world!
We wander in darkness, in need of your aid.
Grim now is the heart and faint under the force of death,
Cold, heavy and hopeless, alone and afraid.
Come, brighten the night with your radiant wonder,
Come, guide us along with your heavenly light!
Let never again our way wander away from you,
Let hope to our hearts return, let it burn bright. 

And, as always, sheet music for O Mother of Music is available in our Free Stuff Area.

2023-12-05T12:43:43-06:00December 5, 2023|0 Comments

Confessions of a Heretical Author

Hello, merry and mystical friends!

In this video I make an embarrassing confession, and then I introduce my new book: My Burden Is Light: A Pastor’s Plea for Rationality, Honesty, and Humility. The book was a labor of love; special thanks go to the reading group at the Open Prairie United Church of Christ in Princeton, Illinois, who read and discussed an early draft. They put up with me as their pastor, even though I am both a wild-eyed Christian mystic and a skeptical and irreverent heretic. (But I don’t suppose Merry Mystic subscribers will be surprised on either count!)

2023-11-07T08:05:54-06:00November 7, 2023|2 Comments

New Book: My Burden Is Light

Hello, friends! I have a new book just out: My Burden Is Light: A Pastor’s Plea for Rationality, Honesty, and Humility. I’ll be releasing a Merry Mystic video which introduces the book. Following that, I’m making a series of posts with some short excerpts from the book.

But in case you just want to read it now, you can find it on Amazon here.

2023-11-06T10:18:16-06:00November 6, 2023|2 Comments

Come and See

Hello, Merry Mystics!

I’ve been working as a pastor, and part of that work is writing and delivering a new sermon every week. But there’s a paradox at the heart of all such work, and all religious teaching: the very thing we most want to communicate is a thing that can’t be put into words. Sometimes, as Philip said to Nathanael in that story at the start of the Gospel of John, you just have to come and see.

Here’s a (typically wordy) song about that: Come and See.

2023-10-01T13:16:32-05:00October 1, 2023|5 Comments


Hello, Merry Mystics!

I’ve been participating in an online Lenten retreat at the Abbey of the Arts. This week, there was a beautiful song called “You Can Rest Now” by Trish Bruxvoort Colligan, with a lovely interpretive dance by Betsey Beckman (from her “Monk in the World” series). It got me thinking about rest.

Now, maybe I shouldn’t be writing to you about this subject, because when it comes to rest, I suck. I usually take Mondays away from my job at the church, but I have a long to-do list at home. On Monday last week, however, the first thing on the list was going to Peoria to see a specialist about the arthritis in my hands. He gave me some injections, which made my hands feel even worse, temporarily: tender and achy. So when I got home, I thought, “Well, I should train—but I can’t, because of my hands. I should lift weights—but I can’t, because of my hands. I should practice the piano—but I can’t, because of my hands. I should fix the hot-water intake on the washing machine—but I can’t, because of my hands. I should do some writing—but I can’t, because of my hands.” Finally, I just got myself a glass of port, and sat in a chair, and read a fun book. The cat came and sat in my lap, and I petted her, gently. And that was the rest of my day.

Now I’m ashamed to tell you that story—ashamed to admit that I needed to be temporarily disabled in order to justify really resting for half a day. But: do as I say, not as I do! Don’t be like me—and if you’ll do that, I try not to be so much like me either. To help me turn over a new leaf, I wrote this hymn about rest, sending myself the message I need to hear.


I claim this calm and quiet space
    and snuggle, sure in your embrace,
    beneath your warming sun.
In gratitude I let me rest,
    as you did on the day you blessed,
    when all your work was done.

It’s not because I’ve earned a break
    by all the rest I never take,
    or all that I achieve.
It’s just a gift God gives to me,
    which I must never claim to be
    too busy to receive.

God loves us when we run our race,
    and make the world a better place,
    and triumph in the test.
But love can never be reduced
    to things achieved or goods produced:
    God loves the soul at rest.

Like bee beneath the cowslip’s bell,
    like otter on the ocean’s swell,
    like robin in the nest,
like baby taking peaceful nap,
    like cat asleep in sunny lap,
    I too may take my rest.

As always, sheet music for this hymn is available in our Free Stuff area.

Restful blessings!

2023-03-17T13:13:01-05:00March 17, 2023|2 Comments
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