I'm With Her


REMEMBER THAT SONG BY THE NEW SEEKERS? The one the Coca-Cola® marketing department borrowed and mashed up with their own theme song? It seemed so hip in ’71, now it looks like maybe their coke bottles could have been filled with “Kool-Aid”. No wonder the Greatest Generation thought the Baby Boomers were all going to march off the cliff together.

I'd like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

Let’s dial back the idealism for a minute; forget about the apple trees, honey bees and snow white turtle doves. Let’s just shoot for a bit of harmony, even if it’s not pitch perfect. 

Before we can talk about metaphorical harmony, we need to spend some time listening to the magical, musical world of real harmony. Let me suggest:

Pentatonix: “Can’t Help Falling In Love”
The Beach Boys: “In My Room” and “Good Vibrations”
The Beatles: “Because” and “Nowhere Man”
The Everly Brothers: “All I Have To Do is Dream”
Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Helplessly Hoping” and “Suite Judy Blue Eyes”
Simon and Garfunkel: “The Sounds of Silence”

I want to give a shout out to my main music sage, Gene “Pops” Chapman. The musical tastes of Gene and myself are in near-perfect harmony, so whenever he makes a recommendation like the one to check out this all-girl trio, I did and was amazed. Click and listen to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert of “I’m With Her”.

Now, can we draw some lessons from the beauty of musical harmonies and apply them to our worlds and the world? Here are a few thoughts I’ve had: 

You must have at least one other person to harmonize with, am I right? Sure soloing is great sometimes, but we’re talking harmonies here. All of the people in the group have to sing the same song for a few minutes at least. They have to sing in the same key and at the same tempo. The notes though, while different, the common notes of the correct chord, have to be present. This is the magic. It’s as simple as one note and the note a third above it and maybe the fifth, and somehow it just seems right, and rich. There is a peace to it all, you can sense the beauty of the divine design of it. 

Unfortunately, today, at times at least, it seems people only know one note, and even if they know more, they just want to sing their one note, really loud. I’m that way sometimes. There are some people I just don’t seem to be able to harmonize with and others I have no interest in harmonizing with. I don’t like the song they’re singing. Usually my song is better (or so I think). 

When you watch a really good vocal duet or ensemble singing in tight harmony it’s sublime. They are synched and connected. And, at the end of a song, there is, at least for me, a sense of purpose, of completion, something worthwhile that makes us all better for having been there.

Sometimes though, singing or playing in unison can be harmonius. Yesterday for example, one of our Grand-Girls, Harper, and two of her friends comprised a cello trio. They sang and played “Jesus Loves Me” in “big church”. There was no harmony, yet there was nearly perfect harmony among the three. You could see it in their six year-old silliness before the service started, in their total trust and dependence on their teacher, and in their common mission. Banded together, there was no stagefright or limelight. Just harmony in unison.

Not to say there isn’t a place for occasional dissonance. This is where I often come in—sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. 

One thing about dissonance: it is so sweet when it resolves, steps back into harmony, and even still amazing when it doesn’t. Listen to “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles. Click this and watch if you want to geek-out on all of this.

One more thing: Watch this video. It’s two sisters from Stockholm, Sweden, singing together a song they wrote, a song about having someone to sing with like Emmylou and Gram Parsons singing “Love Hurts” or Johnny and June singing “If I Were A Carpenter”.

Be Still and March

IT WAS MONUMENTAL. Can we all agree on that? I would even go so far as to say it was momentous.

I wish we could separate the event from the issues that prompted it for just a minute. Of course that’s not possbile; the matter is too emotionally charged.

As if providentially, my watch just pinged, reminding me it’s time to take a few deep breaths. Seriously. Join me. Deep inhale… Exhale. Six more. My watch now tells me my heartrate is at 61 BPM. That’s down from 318 when I started writing this after spending a few minutes on Facebook.

Why does a love for the First Amendment mean you want the Second stricken and vice versa? I love them both. I am happy we have both, and the others as well. I wouldn’t go as far as I heard one citizen opine: “I think the president should switch them and make the Second Amendment number 1, because without guns we wouldn’t have any other freedoms.” But, he has the freedom to say it.


For me and for this essay, I just want to celebrate the essence of the "March for Our Lives" for a few minutes and words. The “essence”?

Sometimes the most wonderful outcomes of something like this are things that were unexpected and unintended. I worked with teenagers for more than 30 years, and I have to say that any time you can get them to raise their eyes from their smartphones, open their ears and pay attention, something good can happen. It’s an opportunity to awaken a bit, to march on from apathy, narcissism and naivete´.

When you make a poster, join the march, become a part of the conversation, you begin to form a worldview and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you take a giant step up Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs from safety and security needs, to belonging needs, to esteem needs, to self-actualization.

I know this from intimate experience of working with hundreds of teens and from my own personal experience.

Similar to the highly charged arguments of the day that fill our common air like so much smog, the causes I marched for and against in my day were equally divisive and misunderstood. I wrote about it in a post a few years back. Here’s a snippet:

The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds on unarmed college students on Monday, May 4, 1970, killing four students and wounding nine others.

As a result, student protests were organized across the country. Hundreds of universities cancelled classes and locked down buildings. I was proud to be a part of the event at OBU. But as we sat through the day and overnight on the OBU Oval, wearing black arm bands, discussing the state of our country and world, and wondering whether we could make a difference, it all seemed a little silly and isolated. Maybe we did make some difference though. At least I was different. I wanted to DO something. I still do.

Don't skip this part. Back then, no doubt I had delusions of importance and occasional altruism. The fact is I was pretty self-absorbed; oh, not in a Justin Bieber brand of narcissism kind of way, but in a way that dictates at least this: for all of those who knew me back then, please forgive me. Maybe the Washington Elite was right--maybe I was too stupid to vote at 18. The dean of students who encouraged me not to return to OBU for my sophomore year certainly would agree with that.

My intent here is not to romanticize those days, but if I have, well... After all this was my first Coming-of-Age. It should be a bit romantic, right?

There was a recurring experience in youth ministry that I dreaded and hated. I still do. It is the experience of seeing the passion and enthusiasm of youth crushed or belittled. Let me try to explain with a couple of examples:

Every summer I would return home from summer camp with a group of students recommitted and energized to make a difference. I knew that soon they would be met with an indifference that would suck the wind from their sails. There would be patronization and diminishment and “reality”.

Another example. Numerous times in my years of youth ministry there would be a young woman with a strong sense of calling to leadership in the church. I knew full-well that the predominate attitude among baptists was that the role of women was to be a submissive wife to their husband—not a leader in the church. I hated the moment when they this ugly fact would become real for them.

When you pat an energized young person on the head and dismiss them, you plant a seed of cynicism, hopefully seeds of determination and vision will grow strong and choke those out.

You may see their efforts as being misguided, even dangerous, but I am telling you there is value in the experience for them. And who knows, maybe they will survive, get in line, register to vote and fight for a more acceptable cause someday. 

Look at me: I’m still a rebellious liberal, but I’m a functional liberal. And while I love the First Amendment and the Second, and the rest, I believe there is a higher calling, a higher freedom than any a govenment can legislate. It goes something like this:

Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. --from the Bible, Micah 6:8, sort of.

I could write that on a poster and march around the capital, the courthouse, the church, and the marketplace; if only I wasn’t so tired and cynical. In the meantime...


70 Times 7

I FIRMLY BELIEVE that there are spiritual realities that are beyond human understanding. Here, here’s an example: “…God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand…” [from Philipians 4:6 The Living Bible]

Of course that doesn’t stop us from trying to understand, to seek meaning, to boil it all down to an unequivocal absolute. The danger there is that we might strip away the beauty, the mystery and the wonder. We’re left with someone’s interpretation, and in our desire to comprehend the incomprehensible, we settle for the opinion or worldview of another; for better or worse.

Forgiveness. That’s a tough one. In my sixty-some years of Sunday school, sermons, and scripture reading; not to mention prayers for wisdom and simple answers, I still don’t understand Forgiveness. I believe it is right up there with Peace in being “far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

Jesus was pretty clear on the subject, at least regarding the relentlessness of Forgiveness.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
—Matthew 18:21-22 New Living Translation

So, what is it? Exoneration, making amends, mercy, absolution, forgetting about it? Let’s just say it’s complicated. Here’s an example:

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Brandi Carlile. I have all her albums except for her newest which is to be released on February 16. I have heard the album and it is amazing. It’s called, “By The Way, I Forgive You”.


In learning more about the album, I’ve learned more about Brandi. As a part of the album’s release, she and a couple of her bandmates decided to talk about their forgiveness stories and encourage others to do so as well, even going so far as to use social media and the hastag #ByTheWayIForgiveYou to provide a forum of sorts for sharing.

One of the stories from the Twitter thread was in video form, a young lady granting forgiveness posthumously to her father who died of alcoholism when she was only eleven. It is all extremely moving and affirms the fact that the process of forgiving and being forgiven is deeper than our understanding.

It all caused me to think about my personal encounters with the concept. Without a doubt, if the thing is a dichotomy with Forgiving on one end and Being Forgiven on the other, by far I have been on the Need-to-be-Forgiven end than I have the Need-to-Forgive side. 

Back to Brandi Carlile and her story of the gnarly, knotty, beautiful, spiritual affair of Forgiveness. Her story rang so true and relevant for me. Here, in her words:

I would like to forgive Pastor Tim.

I forgive you for deciding not to baptize me when I was a teenager for being gay.

It was not so much that you wouldn’t or couldn’t do it because of the tenets put in place by the baptist rules and traditions, but because you waited until all my family and friends were present and waiting in the pews for the ceremony.

I don’t believe you did it to humiliate me - I think you struggled with the decision and simply ran out of time... I think you probably still do struggle with it.

I’d like you to know that I still love you and that I understand we’re all on a journey together, trying our best to walk through the world with honor and dignity - but what I want you to know most of all is that you did not damage my faith. Not in god, not in humanity and not in myself.

The experience inspired me to help other gay kids and my spiritual LGBTQ brothers and sisters come to terms with the disappointments they’ve endured on the rugged road to peace and acceptance. I think you’d appreciate that process.

You’ve helped far more people than you’ve hurt and you helped me too.

Thank you



I don’t know Pastor Tim, but I do know “Pastor Tim” in the sense that he could be so many other well-meaning, God-fearing humans making human messes in God’s name. I would love to visit with him to see how he feels all these years later about that day, about Brandi’s amazing grace-full statement of forgiveness. I hope he feels somewhat healed by it and that he can hear her saying that she is somehow healed by it too.

Notice that she seems to have come to terms with the understanding that he might have made the decision based on doctrine, dogma, or reductionist religion, but the thing that hurt her most was waiting until the moment she was to take a step of spiritual obedience into the waters, with her family and friends gathered to celebrate with her, before he said, No. Not now, not like this.

And then her words, baptized with grace, “I’d like you to know that I still love you and that I understand we’re all on a journey together, trying our best to walk through the world with honor and dignity…”

Maybe that’s what forgiveness is: understanding. understanding we’re all on a journey. a journey together. trying our best.


because like Jesus affirmed to his Father while on the cross, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

For more on Brandi’s project click here.

The Stat Sheet

I’ve noticed a turn of phrase used by sportscasters and commentators these days, they speak of players that “do a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”

If you watch OKC Thunder basketball games on TV you’ll hear them make this comment about guys like André Roberson. He doesn’t score many points at all, and in fact when he shoots he seldom even hits the rim. Yet, he’s a starter. Why? Because his contribution doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. No one on the Thunder team works harder, gives more or defines team-player more than André. His defensive effort is relentless.


Our culture, more than ever, however, prizes and praises those that light up the stat sheets, and not just among athletes. We have data and stat sheets on everything. Even our current POTUS loves to brag about his own stat sheet. Metrics matter; to some.

I use a web service called Squarespace to publish this blog. In the Squarespace tools are analytics where you can see how your blog is doing in terms of traffic to the site. I seldom look at the reports because I’m not trying to reach the masses. I’m too out of touch to be a masses kind of guy, and anyway, at the risk of sounding like the grapes are sour, the masses are a fickle lot.

However, the other day I got an email from Squarespace telling me about a new analytical tool where I can see geographically where the readers of About POPS are located. Now that’s just interesting. I assumed that there would be two dots: one at my house and one at my mother’s house.

Boy, was I surprised. Here’s the latest report:


I’m assuming that all the visitors from China on down with the exception of maybe France and Australia, are probably dark web hacker types out to steal my identity and dignity.

Let’s talk about Christmas, the birthday of a King, the type that had to have been a huge disappointment to those expecting a big stat sheet kind of king. A big-league, loud, in your face, flamboyant kind of dude. (I started to add that they expected one of those tell-it-like-it-is kinda guys, but He was that and it turns out they didn’t really want to hear-it-like-it-is; and we don’t either.)

Remember the Ray Stevens song, the one with the chorus that went (asking about Jesus):

Would He wear a pinky ring, would He drive a brand new car?
Would His wife wear furs and diamonds, would His dressin' room have a star?
If He came back tomorrow, well there's somethin' I'd like to know
Could ya tell me, would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show?

Without a doubt, my favorite painting of Mary and Jesus is the one painted by Caravaggio called “Madonna di Loreto”.


I love it because of the humanity of it. The realness. The rawness. Two pilgrims, not bearing gold, frankinscense, or myrrh; just two people, who likely won’t show up on any stat sheet other than the one thats says they were born and they died, kneeling in a moment of awe of a baby who would one day be their savior. And, He was a lot like them… human, poor, frail and humble; just the way God planned it, and of whom it is written:

Jesus Christ, Who, being in very nature God,
        did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
        but made himself nothing,
        taking the very nature of a servant,
        being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man,
        he humbled himself
        and became obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

The other day, prompted by a friend, I wrote this in my journal:

Christmas—it has been:
And now politicized
If only it could be realized.

To culturally update Ray Stevens song: Would Jesus care how many Twitter followers He had? Maybe he’s looking for a different kind of follower—the kind that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.

PEACE Everyone across the USA and beyond, and to you 11 Aussies.