Archive for March, 2009


too young, too old

Here are the lyrics to the jazz song that I wrote about the life of Jesus:

“Too Young, Too Old”

Copyright 2001 Michael Carlson and Dave Seely


C7   D7+5  B7+5    Em


Em7                                Bm7

“He’s just a boy!” That’s what the elders said

Em7                         Bm7

“Who put this wisdom in his tender head?”

Am7                        C7

They were amazed at all he had to say

        Em/B              B7+5

`Til his mom burst in and drug him away.


       Em  Em/D    A7/C#   Am/C

He was ang-rily collected;  

   Em     Em/D   A7/C# Cm/A

Embar-rassed and confused.

    Bm7             Em7

Too young to be respected,

     C7  D7+5  B7+5     Em

too old. . . . .to be excused.


Em7                  Bm7

Years later, home in Nazareth.

Em7                    Bm7

As a man he spoke with heaven’s breath.

Am7                            C7

But when he challenged ancient prejudice,

    Em/B                       B7+5

The tried to throw him off the nearest cliff.


        Em   Em/D   A/C#  Am/C

He felt lone-ly & rejected;  

Em   Em/D      A/C#   Cm/A

Aggressive-ly refused.  

    Bm7            Em7

Too young to be respected,

     C7  D7+5  B7+5     Em

too old. . . . .to be excused,


Em7                      Bm7

He gained a following in later days.

Em7                         Bm7

That drove his critics to a jealous rage.

Am7                       C7

At thirty three he was condemned to die;

     Em/B                 B7+5

They nailed him down, and hung him high.


       Em   Em/D          A7/C#  Am/C

It was just. . .as he’d expected, 

    Em  Em/D    A7/C#  Cm/A

His innocence  accused.

    Bm              Em7

Too young to be respected

     C7  D7+5  B7+5     Em

too old. . . . .to be excused.


GMaj7                   CMaj7

Maybe you say you’re misunderstood

GMaj7                  CMaj7

Other folks think that you’re no good

Bm7                       Cm7

There was another one who suffered long

Am/C    A7/C             D7         B7

And rose again to sing a sweet love song


       Em  Em/D       A/C#  Am/C

You’ll soon. . .be resurrected;

     Em  Em/D             A/C#    Cm/A

When God heals. . . what’s been bruised

    Bm              Em7

The Young will be respected,

    C7  D7+5  B7+5     Em

The Old. . . . .they will be, too.



jazz vespers: making something beautiful for God

Tomorrow I’m going to another planning meeting for the jazz vespers service at the 1st United Methodist Church in town.  

I’ve been involved in a few jazz worship projects over the years.  At a big church in Louisville, Kentucky, I served as “Minister of Fine Arts.”  The senior pastor had arranged for jazz musicians to provide music for a Saturday evening service on a quarterly basis.  That was my first experience with jazz in worship.

The musicians played jazz arrangements of traditional hymns, but the structure of the service was pretty much the same as a traditional worship service.  The freedom and spontaneity of jazz music was contained by the rigid structure.  The music was great, but it seemed to fight the reigns and tried to go its own way, only to be restrained once again.  Even so, it was the only time a person of color was involved in worship as far as I can remember at the Saturday evening service.  (The bass player was African-American.)

For me, one of the most important aspects of jazz in America was the powerful force it represented for integration of cultures, be they white, African-American, Hispanic, or others.  It seems to me that jazz takes the best of all worlds – the advanced harmonies of European traditions, the advanced rhythms of African and Caribbean styles, and provides a context for the cultures and people thereof to create something beautiful.

To me, worship is creating something beautiful for God, so jazz seems a perfect medium to experience multi-cultural worship.  

Of course, the jazz era wasn’t all roses.  The white crime bosses of Chicago and other major cities held the most talented African-American musicians under their thumbs well into the 1940s.  But even threats of violence and the lure of big money couldn’t restrain the reconciling force of the music.

So, it’s especially meaningful for me to help plan the jazz vespers now, and to help give the whole service itself more of an interactive, spontaneous structure to complement the vitality and fluidity of the music itself.  I even get to share an original song that I’ve written titled ,”Too Young, Too Old.”  I’ll post the lyrics in a separate blog entry.   

Along with helping in the planning for the jazz vespers service and leading the singing, I’m auditioning singers for a new a cappella jazz singing group as well.  I’ve heard several singers so far, and haven’t quite found the right voices yet.  But give it time, and the music will again prevail, with God’s help.


organ donation, removal, and sequestration

One of the most difficult parts of ministry, and the most honorable, is presiding at funerals for beloved church members.  But I’m not going to talk about that in this post.

What I want to talk about is the obligation of accepting donated items to a church, and then deciding about their disposition when they don’t really contribute value to the life of the congregation.

This is a touchy subject, so I’ll try to be sensitive.  It seems, however, that when something is given to a church, and later a plaque is attached to it saying “Donated in memory of <blank>,” or “Given by <blank> in honor of <blank>,” some sort of emotional force field is activated that prevents anyone from critizing the item or suggesting that it might have outlived its usefulness.

In one church that I served as pastor, there was a rocking chair in the nursery that had been there for years.  Only a few of the members of the church remembered the woman in whose honor the rocking chair had been dedicated.  Her name was on a small plaque on the chair’s back.

The chair had been repaired several times over the years by one of the members in the church with carpentry skills.  But the leg braces were still a bit loose.  I had put them back in place a few times, and had discovered that the chair was a bit unsteady, but didn’t really think too much about it.  Every now and then someone talked about getting rid of the chair, but then someone would repair it again and there it would sit.

Our second son was of the age to be spending time in the nursery, and one morning one of the matriarchs of the church sat down in the chair holding him, and the chair completely fell apart.  She wound up sitting on the floor on top of the shattered pieces of the rocker, holding Peter up in the air above her.  Luckily, no one was hurt.  Needless to say, the pieces of the chair were in the dumpster in a matter of minutes.

There were also toys in that nursery that had been around for decades.  I am honestly not exaggerating, because the chair of the board of the congregation remembered playing with some of the toys when she was in the nursery herself over forty years ago.

So, in an audacious act of bravery, the young women’s group (who called themselves the Other Circle), decided to make it a project to clean out the nursery.  Books were tossed.  Toys were cleaned or replaced.  Later on, my wife and I found a garage sale with tons of pre-school toys and books, and we bought $75 worth and filled the nursery with cool new toys.

Someone also donated an old pipe organ to that church, which had some challenges.  First, we had to pay $500 to have it delivered to the church.  Then, we had to pay to have it repaired.  So, the donation soon became and obligation.  It was nice to have an organ in the chapel, but it was rarely used.

So, the other day when a family decided to donate an organ to the church here in town, in my mind I thought, “Here we go again.”

This electronic organ was in the home of an elderly member who was going to be moving to a nursing home.  One of her sons decided that the organ belonged in a church, and offered to donate it.  As an act of pastoral care, the pastor (my wife) agreed to accept the donation.

So, I was recruited to help remove the organ (from the member’s home, that is).  Luckily, the family had access to a truck with a lift, a piano dolly, and two strong young men.  That made it much easier.

When we got it to the church, I made sure that we found a home for the organ behind a partition in the fellowship hall.  Setting it up in the sanctuary would have been problematic, since we are hoping to diversify the music to include more “contemporary” music.

I had a lot of fun updating my status on Facebook that day with posts like:  “Michael is removing an organ this afternoon,” “Michael has placed an organ behind a partition at church,” “Michael hopes no one discovers the hidden organ at church this morning!” And, my favorite was: “Michael is so glad that the organ remained unexposed at church.”

It gives the whole idea of organ donation a new meaning.  So remember, don’t donate an organ unless you know someone needs it, and will really use it.


the magic kingdom (not camelot)

As you may know, Disneyland has a promotion this year where you can enter the park for free on your birthday.  Isaiah turned 8 on Sunday, so I took him.  

It was free for him, but 69 bucks for me!  We spent 13 hours there being overstimmed by rides, people, characters, and so forth.  So, I guess that’s about $2.65/hour for the two of us.  (The longer you stay, the better the deal.)  A movie costs around $15 these days for a child and adult, and lasts 90 minutes or so.  That works out to $5/hour.  So, in a twisted sort of way, Disneyland is a lot cheaper than a movie (not factoring in gas, food, etc.).  I guess that’s how i justify going to Disneyland with our present income.  

But it was great.  Isaiah had been there once before about two years ago with two of our friends.  The ride that he remembered as his favorite was the Buzz Lightyear Astroblaster, where you ride through in one of those big, slow bucket seats and blast targets to defeat the evil Zurg.  So, when we first got in the park, this was the first and second thing we did.  THEN, we rode Space Mountain, and whole new world of amusement park experience opened up in Isaiah’s life.

I have to admit, I was sort of nervous in Space Mountain when it was pitch black and I couldn’t see him.  I sort of put my hand on his knee to make sure he hadn’t flown out into space.  At the end of the ride, the expression on his face was somehow dazed, shocked, and excited at the same time.   Then, he broke into a huge smile, threw his hands in the air and said, “That was AWESOME!  Wicked!  Let’s do it again!” 

So, we did.  He now has a new favorite ride. 

Since Isaiah has some mild cerebral palsy, we also got a pass to go up the exits and not wait in line for so long.  That made for a much easier day, and is probably why we were able to stay as long as we did.  And, it really helped that a friend came and joined us at dinnertime for the rest of the evening.  She has a season pass, and we were staying at her house while in SoCal.

It’s funny how quickly the atmosphere changes at Disneyland after dinnertime, though.  The screams of delight and family hugs are somehow transformed into wails of despair, punches and pinches between siblings and sometimes even parents.  I think walking through the magic kingdom after dark reveals a lot about how comfortable the grown-ups are with being grown-ups.  Kids will be kids, after all.  Grown-ups have more choices about how to behave, and we don’t always choose wisely.

My favorite attraction at Disneyland is Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “Where the birds sing words, and the flowers croon!”  There are animatronic birds and flowers that sing songs.  There are wooden carvings of Hawaiian gods and goddesses that talk about there place in their culture.  The detail is incredible, the music is fun, and one of the parrots even has my name.  What more could you want?  I remember going there when I was a kid with my parents, and everybody enjoyed it because we had been to Hawaii.  It’s got good memories attached to it, and now even more since Isaiah liked it, too.  

I was REALLY proud of him.  He lasted until about 8pm (his bedtime is usually 7:30), and then said, “Maybe I am getting a little tired.”  There was very little whining.  He fell asleep almost immediately when we got back to the car.  The last ride of the day was the quietest, if not the safest.  The freeways in Socal are probably more dangerous than any of the rides at Disneyland (even those treacherous teacups in Fantasyland!).  And after a good night’s sleep at a friend’s house, we headed north for home.  

On another note, Laurie and I also decided that since it was six hours both ways to and from Disneyland, and since Isaiah was turning 8, it would be a good opportunity for us to have “The Talk.”  So, I went to the library, got some books, and he read them on the way there and back.  Since he’s reading at the 6th grade level or above, he learned a lot of the science of things, and cleared up a few questions that he had about himself.  

It was great to experience Disneyland with him while he can still appreciate some of the “magic” of it.  I know there will be hard lessons to learn in life, and difficult choices for him to make.  Disneyland may be the magic kingdom of make believe, but the realm he will be entering will be fantastic in a very real way, and I want him to have all the info he needs to face the changes ahead.