Monday, May 31, 2004

montani semper liberi

So we're off to the mountains to sleep in the rain. As soon as Allison expressed the desire to go camping a major weather system formed in the Pacific Northwest and made its way across the continent. At the moment, it is stretched from coast to coast and WV is receiving far more than its share of thunderstorms. My parents had a window blow out the other night. So we're expecting to sleep in the rain until Thursday morning at which time we expect it to break bright and blue. It's groundhog day in WV, where every camping trip is a déja vu, or a glitch in the matrix. I'm not sure which. All I know is, a rainy day by a trout stream is better than a sunny day anywhere else. That is, for a limited period of time. When chafing occurs, or mushrooms grow, it's time to come home.
Welcome aboard Allison. Let's paddle our sleeping bags together.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

something new

Today I decided to attempt something that I've wanted to do for a long time. About a year ago, I stumbled across a project by lizzie everard in which she assembled a photo presentation inspired by the beatitudes from Matthew 5. I was fascinated by the idea and by the presentation. Her photos are gorgeous, artistic and deep. She also kept a sketch book and made a video diary while working on the project.
I thought a lot about that, about true Christian art. I wondered at its impact, about transformation of the artist. It occured to me that even if no one else was changed, impacted, entertained or amused by what she'd done, she had read, studied and meditated on Jesus' teaching. She had internalized it, been changed by it and expressed that change artistically. Just more evidence that the purpose and power of art is not only what we think it is. Obviously it doesn't have to be consumed to successful or effective. Art can be only for the artist. Here is testimony of how imitating God's creativity can bring us closer to Him through the process. We have no creativity on our own, we are entirely dependent on the Creator. The artist who realizes this can find Him by being creative.
It is the realization that art need not be consumed, understood, or popular to have worth that has spurred me to do much that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise. I think it is important that we be creative outside our normal creative outlet, especially if that norm is what we do for a living. So maybe it's possible for us to be most transformed, and impacted by the things at which we aren't as good. These endeavors require more thought, discipline, dependence. Perhaps I can speak to you more effectively through my gifts, but maybe I need new, challenging, less perfected pursuits to keep my mind and heart on their mindtoes and hearttoes. Therefore, the blog - and now, an attempt at an occasional photoblog. Here is my first attempt, inspired by lizzie. I am not a photographer, and this only represents a couple hours' fun. But I spent them with God and a camera and His creation that bears witness of Him. Here you will find an intentional progression of images and a thread running through. Will got it, but it is not necessary that anyone else does. It allowed me a few hours' meditational observation. (maybe that's observational meditation)


Saturday, May 29, 2004


I dreamt that it was raining
a slow, steady all-day drizzle
I awoke to sunshine, blue sky and birds
sometimes the rain is only on the inside


Friday, May 28, 2004

makes me wanna sing

I've got two more friends heading off to the mission field. They've been planning this for quite some time, and have taken many lengthy short-term trips while they've been raising support. Support is a tough thing to deal with for missionaries. It's very sad that God calls and it takes years to prepare to go.
So tonight some friends of mine held a fund-raising, mission support, get-them-to-eastern Europe-more quickly tribute to our 80s music influences concert. Many were involved – about 15 guitarists, drummers, singers, keyboard players, etc., so the mix of personnel on stage was constantly changing. There was also a good turnout to hear tunes that we haven't heard in 20 years. Actually, I doubt that many people there had EVER heard these tunes. Back in the 80s, Christian rock was WAY on the fringes. Consider the song by the 77s, "outskirts". Mike Roe and company were there already. Any 80s Christian rockers out there? Tonight we heard covers by The 77s, Steve Taylor, The Call, Adam Again, Keaggy, U2, Stryper, King's X, The Altar Boys, even Petra and Smitty (and Rocket Town never sounded so good and gutsy).
I gotta say that this was one of the most fun musical experiences I've had in a good long time – especially from the audience. I was proud to be reminded that there are tons of people in this town who CAN PLAY. There are scores of local bands here. Even scores of local Christian bands. But mostly it is just cool (maybe even necessary) to have a band. Playing and making music don't seem to be all that important, but being in a band sure is. It's ironic that the best players don't play in bands. Or maybe they have some friends with whom they get together when the mood strikes and set up a gig and go play. They aren't courting labels or shopping their product around. Most of them remember 80s music first hand. Most of the bands in town have some polished, over-practiced, same-every-time songs. These guys have some chops.
Anyway, I'll quit bragging on my buds. I just felt like I'd visited a festival gathering in some large city, but nope, it was just here in our own subterranean café. Wish ya coulda been there.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

pure of heart

Yesterday, my friend Sid and I, inspired by a blog we'd just read, were discussing a topic that I just keep re-visiting. I've half-blogged several times about this but never got it postable. DP and I attempted to bring it to discussion a couple times. Every time it comes up, instead of getting clearer and more concise, it just seems to loom larger and get more complicated. This attempt will be no different. Because all roads lead to where you are, I am often able to find where I am by following those roads. If you catch me on the road, it can be very difficult to follow where I'm going. This is true of me both literally and metaphorically.
So it's been playing around in my head all day and then tonight I come across another blog that makes the statement I've made a thousand times (but in other words). Purity is single mindedness. Pure of heart, then, means single-minded pursuit of God. Mea, at ignispati says, "i think it is almost impossible for us to truly trust in God, but it is not impossible to truly try continually to trust in God."
"Lord I believe, please help my unbelief."

We so easily give up on the impossible. The consequences permeate our lives. Because I can do nothing toward my own salvation, I become a lousy apprentice. Everyday, I see in my life, the failure to be like Jesus. This will always be, I can never be like Jesus. But I can continually try to be like Jesus. I cannot save myself, but I try until I realize I can't so that I can truly surrender to God's provision. Once He's saved me I can seek Him with all my heart. I'm asked to pursue Him with all my heart. So often though, we realize our inabilities and our weaknesses and just stop pursuing. We become satisfied with crashing at Father's house and never offer to help sort the laundry.
Maybe there's an easy way to say it all – of course I can't trust, believe, attain, but my friend Sid says it's the desire that God sees. The desire allows me to surrender so that He can do His things in my life. God called David "a man after His heart." If you read his biography, it's hard to understand how that applies to this man. But if you read his blog, you begin to see what God saw in David. Desire, longing, pursuit, contrition, single-mindedness.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

teenager moment

Way back in high school, I was getting on the interstate at the west end of huntington and had to change lanes. There was a camaro in the lane I needed to be in and he wouldn't let me over. I'd slow down, he'd slow down. I'm about to run out of lane so I act like I'm going to race him to the bridge. Of course I couldn't and didn't have to, as soon as he recognized the false challenge, he punched his camaro, made up for his lack of testosterone with fossil fuel exhaust, and disappeared out of sight. I got on the bridge without bother.
Today, I'm trying to get on I-26 and a MINIVAN won't get over. I slow down. He slows down. I speed up, he speeds up. Now if he were on two wheels and was a Ducati, or Beamer, I'd have just duped him like the camaro. But a minivan? Why play games? I'm about to run out of acceleration lane, so I found out how much acceleration lane is needed on my bike. Not much. I won't tell you how fast how quickly, but a minivan was no match.
See ya, vanagon. And here's an ear full of decibels. Stay off the autobahn.
Sorry mom.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Why do you fascinate me so,
against your field of pink?
(I think its pink, all soft and deep and feminine)
I follow you for miles until your field turns black
and you shine brighter blue.

Who hung you there,
draped on lunar shoulders
to steal the glances from the evening gown?
Would you tell the truth and
give the credit to the jeweler?

I cannot look away for fear that you will soon be gone.
It's the end of the day, you know.
Already your shine has dimmed and you will soon be whole.
It's the end of a season, you know.

Divine irony that as you grow more complete,
you seem to us to fade.
That as you're moving closer,
to us you're far away.

The mysteries of the changing seasons.


Monday, May 24, 2004


hid by its glory
a tiny crescent goddess
rises with the sun


Saturday, May 22, 2004


I know I visit this subject often, but I am still learning about it. About balance. About giving and receiving. About frustration and expression. Today one thing after another led Will up to an emotional eruption. Those of you who don't know this about him may be surprised. Those of you who've witnessed his sensitivity would be surprised when I say that he is incredibly strong for holding back so much before the eruption occurs.
It's all perspective. We can tag someone with a behavior and not even realize how much more than that they are able to hold back.
So I spent some time with Will, prayed with him, tried to bring him some peace. I talked with him about his gifts, his creativity and sensitivity that not only allow him to notice things that no one else would notice except that he show it to them, but also cause him to wear his heart on his sleeve. He expressed frustration at not being able to explain his sensitivity to people (mainly grownups) who are hurting him. I explained to him that people without his sensitivity wouldn't understand if he did explain it. I feel sorry for them. Often it is insecurity that causes people to be so egocentric that others' feelings aren't even on their radar screen, but this is very difficult to explain about adults to a ten-year-old.
As Will began to calm down, he connected the idea of gifting with Gardner's intelligences. "Dad," he said, "I know what your Gardner intelligence is." I asked him what he thought. "Musical," he said, "mine is spatial. That's why you're always telling me I'm your spatial child." I laughed. He is spatial you know. He went on to explain that people have more than one intelligence. There are some that everyone has, like either interpersonal or intrapersonal intelligence. Interpersonal people, he explained, have to be around people a lot. Intrapersonal people have to be alone a lot. He told me that intrapersonal people think a lot about things and how they feel and what causes it and stuff. Since they think about it, they can also understand more easily how other people feel and what causes it. I asked him then what was my other intelligence, inter or intra personal? "You usually know how I'm feeling," he said.

Yesterday I had a conversation that made me feel that introversion was a bad thing. Introversion seems to be something that should be overcome. It's anti-social. We have to learn to be more comfortable with people. I am a bit shy, but I'm not uncomfortable with people. That is, if I have time alone to fuel for it.
It is ironic that introversion can enable closer interpersonal relationships through sensitivity to feelings and a more balanced relationship. Extroversion can actually be an obstacle to intimate relationships because the extrovert's need for people can inhibit his ability to give personally. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm slamming extroverts, actually I'm envious of them. It's just that to me, an introvert, it seems that being fed in solitude leaves room to feed in community. If I always needed to be fed by other people, my ability to listen and give would be hampered. So if you're an extrovert, more power to ya. I wish I could be more like you. But please don't think less of me because I need some time alone. It helps me help Will. It helps me hear the divine whisper. It keeps me sane when you extroverts are all up in my space. (grin)
So the repeating moral of this tale is that I went to Will today hoping to make him feel better about himself. I hope that was accomplished. He certainly made me feel better about myself.

blogged with permission


Friday, May 21, 2004

the real world

It's been only a week since graduation ceremonies and a previous period of talk among seniors about being thrust into the real world, weddings, jobs – out of the bubble and into the field. I think a lot, as you know, about what constitutes the real world – how similar and separate we can be. I wonder constantly about what our students expect when they step out there. I think about what we teach and how we teach it, about preparing someone to live in the Kingdom, in the world. But all that is from the perspective of a student moving from a Christian education into a secular society.
Across the board, "into the real world" constitutes more of a get a real job, greater responsibility, fend for one's self situation. So our perspective of "real world" is secular and unbubblefied.
Let's say someone else is educated outside the bubble and embarks upon the next phase of their journey within our environment. Of course their perspective of "real world" is a new job and responsibility. From their perspective they are moving into the real world. From our perspective, they are moving out of the real world. I did it - from college, through a portal of public school teaching and into the bubble. I recently ran across the blog of another who is doing the same thing. If this real world inductee happens across this blog and would give permission, I'll point you to an already interesting blogumentation of this move.
I wonder if our students, always feeling bubbled, would be surprised that their bubble is the real world for many of us. At least for the moment. I am not talking about a naïve erroneous idea that we're living in the real world. I am talking about a fully informed, God ordained calling into the real life preparation of called-out, committed believers who don't yet know the extent of what they can actually obtain within their "bubble" for their ministry outside the bubble.
Perhaps our definition of "real world" is always formed within our own perspective. "Real world" is the other thing – the one I'm not yet a part of. Perhaps what really defines "the real world" is that move into a life in which our primary purpose becomes giving. Of course we'll still need to receive, but the primary purpose of our receiving will be to give. Some or our students have been in the real world throughout their stay in the bubble. Others will go out and still not find the real world. Some of them will come out of the bubble only to move right back in and find that it has become the real world.
Of course at some point we're bound to find that all the world is God's. It's all real. Surely it's our place in the world that makes it real for us – or not. When we follow His lead and find our place, it's real.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

the frog king

Standing here upon my terrace,
looking deep into the night,
I cannot tell the length and breadth
of the kingdom over which I rule.

I am king o’er all I see
I cannot see beyond the rail
but in the distance subjects cheer
as I speak forth and am proved a fool

Even so, their cries grow louder
I speak the thoughts I cannot say
to anyone but those who live
and work around the reflecting pool


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

función de noche

on the gradient
a single jewel shines bright
a crescent goddess


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

important fact

Motorcycles do not run on diesel fuel!

What's with all these new-fashioned gas pumps anyway? I fully expect that soon you'll pull up to the pump, read about three pages before being required to click "I agree with the terms and conditions herein inscribed upon this dispensor of fossil fuel" before pumping. Already, you have to choose grade, type of fuel, credit or debit, receipt or not, car wash?. Any number of buttons to push and one can only pray that he hasn't just contributed to OPEC fund through his credit card, or agreed to purchase the station attendent's car by debit from his visa. I wish I could push a button that would change that Travis Tritt song that is blaring over the loudspeaker. I think that is to discourage loitering. Push this button, 87 octane. This one, 89. This one, DIESEL!!!
Choose wisely, Dr. Jones.
An Angel stayed my hand at 12 cents of diesel. At today's market price, that's .07 gallons. Best I can tell, a little more than half a pint. That's a lot if you're a first grader in the cafeteria, but hopefully not that much when cut with 4 gallons 89 octane regular gasoline. I went ahead and rode the 10 miles home, drained the tank, and refilled with gas. At 180 miles hence, I've noticed no dire side effects.
I figured at 64:1, gas to diesel, and 50 mpg, 10 miles home, I used .2 gallons of FUEL. That roughly translates to less than an eyedropper of diesel. Divide that between two carburetors and you have a very small amount of worry.
That is a lot of worry for me. I humiliated myself with every mechanic I could think of today and was assured that all should be well. If there was enough diesel to hurt my bike going into the carburetor, it would have stopped firing. Instead, my bike is running fine and my heart has now returned to normal rpm.
All's well that ends well. I guess.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

internet free day

With Grad ceremonies this morning and an exquisitely beautiful day, I hardly came in the house, much less got on the internet. I did sit down at the computer in my office for a few minutes after Graduation when I went back there to rid myself of my regalia before riding home. I sat down and posted what I'd written in my PDA during the ceremony. Other than that, I didn't turn on a computer. Instead, I fought traffic home that was still backed up from the tractor-trailor fire. I changed clothes and cut the grass and then went for a very long ride where there was no traffic. I passed an old old man sitting on his porch when I rode down a narrow dirt road in Fairfield county, so I stopped and visited his porch for a while. When I left, he walked me back to my bike and bid me farewell as if I was a long lost friend. I eventually came home and took the remnants of the Fam to Little Mexico for supper. Will had the taco salad, Bing, the numero uno, and I had the Macho Chimichanga.
When we got home, two friends were visiting on my porch. So I went for another ride. Off to the river to enjoy the mist.
So I come in, look at the clock, date changed, and check my email. Practically nothing. Well, there are 5 spam mails. Like me, even the spammers have taken the day off. Then I look at my blog. Saturday, May 15, 2004 is the first day since I started blogging that absolutely no one visited my blog. No stranger, happenstance hits from Russian Federation time zone, or China Coast time, no chance hits from new blogger updates, no blog community hits from my supporting friends. The cyber deck stood empty all day long. I hope you were out enjoying the day like I was.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

and its not yet 2:00pm!

Graduation Day. 155 graduates shriveling from boredom while their parents bubble with pride and stress over making this day special. Then it's over and life commences.

the struggle for punctuality

On my way here this morning, my bike broke down. I pushed it to an Exxon station to be repaired, and sat to wait in the service area hospitality room. While I sipped my service station coffee, the CIU ministry teams sang for us while we waited. "El Shaddai, El Shaddai, El, Elyon na Adonai." Finally, the mechanic came out to tell me what was wrong with my bike. "the pans are plugged, that's what the problem is. Just unplug the pans and everything will be fine." When I woke up, I was dissappointed that I couldn't ride my bike today, but I finally realized that what is broken in dreams, isn't necessarily broken in real life. So I rode to graduation.

the ride in
On the way here this morning, traffic slowed to a crawl on the interstate as everyone stopped to gawk at a burning tractor-trailer on the opposite side of the interstate. The trailer was burned out, much the way a house looks when its been gutted and some holes have been burned through the outside walls. Each section of the trailer between the braces had burned through. But the cab... was gone. Nothing recognizable as a vehicle of transportation. Not even the engine. A large heap of molten goo without shape lay in front of the trailer. Thick smoke rising straight up. Firefighters circled. I never knew that a fire could literally consume a truck.

separation anxiety
As I don my regalia and process toward the stage, Jack walks out on stage in Orlando with his fiddle. Allison sent me a text message just as we were starting down the aisle. "Jack is walking onto the stage. Please pray."
"Dear Jesus..."

a glimpse of Jesus
My seat at graduation was on the edge of the stage beside the photographer. As each graduate received his/her diploma, about 4 feet in front of me, they turned to be photographed with the president. I got a living snapshot of joyful personality as each one was captured. This was the first graduation ceremony I've ever enjoyed, including my own. Students I've known as serious, let escape a playful part of themselves as the smiled for the camera. Students I've known as cut-ups and clowns showed a grateful, humble soul as the smiled for the camera. Quiet, shy students flashed a playful smile. Loud, obnoxious students, quieted themselves.
Today on the last day of college, I glimpsed past the mask of dozens of students. I looked through the bubble induced, Bible College facade and saw real people. Now I want to start again, let's do this whole education thing again now that I know who you are. I caught you off guard. Look, I'll smile for you. Now do you see Him? Keep that look. Continue to escape. Lose the mask. The real Jesus shone in that instant. I want all your pictures in my office. He looked a little different than the picture of Him that we've painted on our faces. The real one is much more beautiful.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

those who can

Well, we're almost there. Papers, projects, and exams are trickling in and tomorrow afternoon there will be nothing left but the gradin'. I had a really hard semester back in the fall of '96 when I filled a sabbatical hole as well as my own responsibilities. The last week of the semester found me kicked and spending all my time at the hospital having tests run. This semester has been just as busy, nay, busier. More students, more committees, church responsibilities, a third wee one. But the stress of it all, tough as it is, doesn't stick as much as it used to. What's the difference? Age? Wisdom? I doubt it, especially the latter. Perspective? Priorities?
I think it is the students. They give. Well, maybe that is where wisdom and perspective on my part, play a role. Maybe the students have always given, I just had to learn to receive. That's certainly a viable explanation. But in the past I always came to the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the semester, drained. Spent. Now I usually come to the end exhausted, but filled. Hopeful. Heard. It is much easier to recover from physical and emotional exhaustion than from drained emptiness.
Surely teaching and learning are supposed to be shared by both the teacher and the learner. When it doesn't work this way, the teacher merely dispenses and the student merely gathers. When it works the way it should, the teacher learns and the student teaches and we all grow smarter and wiser and more effective.
Teaching is an art. Like all the arts, there are people who are not artists attempting to participate, but those who make a difference and for a whom a difference is made, are artists. What could be more creative than painting pictures of abstract concepts in the mind of a student? What could be more rewarding than seeing understanding take shape like a statue by adding knowledge to knowledge or stripping away extraneous goo.

An artist can't speak of what he doesn't know, but through his art, he can ask questions that will allow the observer to grow toward more than either one understands. A teacher can't teach a student more than he knows, but he can teach a student to learn so that the possibilities are limitless. A teacher can't lead the student past where he is himself, but he can send the student beyond. Pride can sabotage this power of the teacher, but as with all art, both teacher and learner are empowered in humility.

So as we reach the semester end, a big thank you to my students. You teach me well. I pray that I've given you a little something in return.
Much obliged.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

and now, for something completely different

Another skill that I’ve noticed diminishing as I get older is my ability to give a polite nod (or boldfaced lie) to the status quo when unwittingly asked something about which I am passionate. I think the habit of blogging has hastened the loss of this ability because I have systematically dealt with so much of my stuff. The result then is that most of the time I don’t merely have a complaint or frustration, I’ve often got what I think is a solution. So be careful, don’t ax me unless you’re willing to hear my answer. Now I’m not saying it will be mean, contradictory, mutinous, radical, or costly – just long.
Yesterday, I was interviewed by a very important person in my sphere. He asked me some specific questions that just happened to be things I’ve thought long and hard about. This is a man I love, respect and trust, and so he got the long version. I think he may have been surprised that I was so ready to voice my responses, and he seemed surprised at their specific nature, but he was definitely ready to hear them. He listened intently for quite some time.
The most encouraging thing happened at the end of the interview, when he summarized several of my points and expressed agreement. He had not just been “going through the motions”, but had sincerely wanted to hear. And he did.
I left the meeting feeling very encouraged that great strides would be taken towards effectiveness and growth. I feel that we may think deeply about our relationships with the students and how we can truly begin to make a difference in their lives. Maybe we as a faculty may even begin to realize what the students have to offer us.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

rod steward ship

Okay, I can’t refrain from talking about this any longer. I’ve committed to honesty and confession and transparency as a force in my blog, so as long as it hurts no one but me, I’ve got to try to talk about it. I have weird money issues. I know that some of you know this. I don’t know that some of you know this. I have issues with my money. I have issues with other people’s money. For most of my life, I’ve had no extra money. There is certainly no issue there. As long as one can provide for his family, it seems he can be pretty comfortable and uncomplicated without the extra baggage. I used to really enjoy driving up to a gig in my old pick-up truck and pulling out my guitar and playing for extremely wealthy people while they wasted money. It always fascinated me and gave me a sense of (sinful) pride that if these people met me in the grocery store they wouldn’t give me the time of day, but here, they knew that I had something that they couldn’t buy and they would flock to talk to me when I would take a break and often even interrupt me to start up a conversation. All around the room, there was a hierarchy of monetary worth that determined who talked and sat with whom, but I was somehow, by virtue of my instrument, outside all of it. But it would never have been these people I would have chosen to hang with. I would be much more comfortable around people who had little, among whom I didn’t have to be proud of having little. I’ve even confessed on these cyber pages of the weird sinful pride of driving an 11 year-old truck with no door handles.

On Wednesday evening, I bought a new bike (new to me). My old bike is too small for me and gets very uncomfortable with my knees practically up to my ears. I’ve wanted to get a bigger bike for some time, but lo and behold, bikes cost money. Well, I finally found a dream bike that didn’t cost as much money as it should have, so I did the necessary number crunching and figured out how to have it.
I want that to be a sufficient explanation, but I’m constantly fighting the compulsion to explain to everyone how little the bike cost and how I came by the money. Honestly, in defense of myself, I’m not really the source of the compulsion. I was asked three times at church Wednesday night how much the bike cost. I want to say, “not very much”, but that’s relative, isn’t it? I thought about saying, “why? are you thinking of buying it?” I want to explain that for the past two years, I’ve spent one-third as much on gas just by riding to work. Right now, that amounts to a savings of about $75 dollars a month, which would be more than enough to make the payment on the bike, had I financed it; but that’s not the money I spent on the bike.
You wouldn’t believe how many things I want to say about this, but because in my heart of hearts I know that it is not right that I should have to justify it, I am biting my fingers to keep from typing it.
I think I know from whence all this fascination with price comes. Motorcycles must be the ultimate in conspicuous consumption. A sunny Sunday ‘round here brings out millions of dollars worth of glow-in-the-dark V-twins. I’ve long suspected that most Harley owners don’t live to ride, but live to own. Then I realized that they are willing to spend way more than is necessary, because it is necessary to spend way more. How cool your bike is is less important than how much money you spent to make it that way. I know a guy who’s chrome Harley bolt caps cost more than my old bike, and whose saddlebags cost more than my truck. And he’s happy to tell you. I have an issue with being associated with this.
But see, I’m doing what I don’t want to do. I’m back where I was in grad school, sinning in pride of being different from “those guys”. That is my confession.
And here is my question, is it wrong for me to want just to ride and enjoy my bike without having to tell strangers how much it cost?
I have two hobbies now. And one pays for the other. Is it ok to ask me how much I make at one hobby? Why is it ok to make the other about how much it costs or doesn't? Why do some have to be proud of expenditures and consumption? Why do I have to be proud of the opposite - of non-expenditures, or embarrassed by spending money?
So, there is some insight into the quirky mind of Rod.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

human interaction or.... "a ray of hope"

When one sets aside his blog for nearly a week, where does he re-enter? Probably by making excuses for his absence and begging forgiveness for unanswered emails and voice messages. Truth is, I’ve had plenty to blog, and have, just haven’t been compelled to put it out there. Instead, it’s been a week of actual human interaction rather than cyber thinking, theorizing, and thought pinging. Friday for example, I taught my theory class and 8 private lessons. Thursday, in addition to my normal schedule, I taught one of my Tuesday classes, presided over convocation, and taught two of my Tuesday and Wednesday private students. The day shift was done to free up some of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning for preparation and recording of a live worship CD with 19 songs. That whole project took six and half hours (I hope that was enough). Otherwise Tuesday and Wednesday were normal teaching schedules and church rehearsal. Monday consisted of three meetings for six hours.
On Monday evening, I met a new friend, Ray. Ray is a big guy, my age, with a six-day-old cobalt blue Road King 1450. It looks like a limousine. He lives in a 200 year old house that belonged to his wife’s (Sonja) great great great great grandmother. There is a Magnolia tree in the side yard that is 125 years old. I can’t express how large and magnificent this tree is. The house had a detached kitchen in back as was the custom back in the day, to reduce the chance of fire in the main structure. There is also a slave house on the property. Ray doesn’t have any slaves though. Ray has moved the kitchen into the main house and turned the old kitchen into the master bedroom, with a covered deck/walkway connecting it to the main house. Awesome. He remodels houses.
Ray is perhaps the first person I’ve ever met who is actually described by the new term, “pre-Christian”. I’ve had problems with that term because it always sounded just shy of universalist to me. I think it probably was coined as an attempted update to “seeker”, but I always felt that “seeker” implied the need for direction from the “found” who were using the term “seeker”. “Pre-Christian” just sounds to me like it’s inevitable and we can just watch it happen. Anyway, that’s just how I am; but I always feel that our sometimes careless use of words, and their interpretation by others, may speak to our theology things that we don’t intend. Words carry weight among thinkers and non-thinkers, among seekers and pre-Christians, and we should be very careful to make sure they fall in line with our theology of the Gospel.
Ray, though, is definitely a pre-Christian seeker. He’s been to church 5 times – in a row. I am a seeker, but what he knows he is looking for, I’ve found. What I am looking for, he will begin presently. He told me about changes he’s made, about changes he’s trying to make. I wanted to sing for him my song, “give up”. I wanted to quote C.S. Lewis and Apostle Paul, who inspired the song. I wanted to say, “go on with your bad self until you realize you can’t do it”. The one who can, will become evident. But I just listened instead. There will be plenty of time to say those things, because Ray and I will become tight. I can sense it. Meanwhile, he’s seeking with all his heart and God promised that in doing that, we will find Him. He promised. I have a responsibility I know, to love Ray to belief. Ray seems to be asking the Mellencamp question. “Is this all that we’ve learned about living?” I’m going to show him some stuff I’ve learned about living and let him watch me learn some new stuff.
So fire up that Road King, Ray. I’ll introduce you to the King of the Road (ok, I know that was cheesy, but I’m 40, and its late.)
Pray for me and pray for Ray.


Monday, May 03, 2004

radical reversal

A few weeks ago I began to notice a drastic change in one of my students. I blogged about it, but decided not to post it. I worry about expressing the observed growth of humility, because it may sound like a suggestion of previous arrogance. In fact, the shift that I observed was from the desire for humility to actually being humbled.
The ramifications of true humility impact all areas of life. One becomes more sympathetic, understanding, teachable. This particular student was learning faster, responding differently, and even playing better. I told him that I sensed a change in him. He told me that he had realized some things lately that had really changed his outlook. What he said will sound obvious and old to some of us, because it is something that we have learned and live by. To others of us, this will sound obvious and old because it is something that we’ve always heard. But when we actually learn it and live by it, it will be all new again. An aha moment.
“I will never be able to figure out the ways of God”, he told me. “If I try to make myself look good, help people to see my talent, speak highly of myself and try to lift myself up, I will always be humiliated. But if I am humble, others will lift me up and encourage me.”
Well, of course. This is what Jesus taught practically every time he opened his mouth. The last shall be first. Even the Son of Man came to serve. Paul recognized this paradox in Jesus when he told us to model Him who being very nature God, did not try to grasp equality with God. He made Himself nothing and put on a servant’s nature. Jesus’ servanthood was turned into Lordship. His humility became glory. All through obedience to His Father.
Of course it’s a matter of heart. Jesus knows our hearts. Even people can usually discern false humility. So of course it is no good to feign humility in order to be lifted up. Some call this “fishing”. Motives are all wrong. Self-centered. Selfish. It’s amazing how confusing this can be. It’s amazing how we can get it all completely backward and try to behave rightly for totally wrong reasons. I have seen many Christian marriage videos and books that are entirely designed to teach you how to behave toward your spouse so that you can get what you want. How many times have I heard someone encourage kindness by explaining that it makes one feel good about him self. Jesus warns us of wrong motivations. It seems He offers us the choice between being rewarded now and being rewarded later. Evidently later is much better.
The real thing happens when one is motivated to humility by an honest understanding of him self. It is when someone is motivated to kindness by compassion and love rather than desire for reciprocation. It seems he will get it only if it’s not what he is after.
So I guess all these thoughts have been spurred by the response to my desire to encourage. I try to encourage Chris and then ride all day on the return strokes. In my heart of hearts, that is not what I was looking for. I was looking to comfort. BUT, I can sure imagine the temptation next time to anticipate the volley. Wow, what a fine line between feeling encouraged because someone else has been encouraged, and encouraging to be encouraged. Yes, it is the function and purpose of community that we are each comforted and encouraged by one another. Purely, this is a result of a community of selfless people under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, caring for the needs of one another. Just another one of those things we’ve got to learn from the Master.


Sunday, May 02, 2004

ramblings from an aging mind

Can anyone explain why when you get older and can’t remember why you walked into a room, details of insignificant things from 25 years ago just pop into your head uninvited. Phone numbers of old junior-high girl friends. Haven’t dialed them or thought of them for 25 years, but could pick up the phone right now and say hello to their parents without a hesitation on the keypad. I guess they’re not really uninvited. It’s just that they’re invited by a third party. Some arrangement of numbers will trigger the memory, maybe an answer on the kids’ math homework. I can’t remember what my zip code was for the first two years I was married, but not to worry, give me 10 more years and it will just pop into my head for no reason.
Usually it’s a song lyric that pops into my head though. You’ve had to deal with this in two recent posts and several older ones. Some “now” thing will trigger an old tune from the past and it just lies there in my ear until another nudges it off the edge. There used to be a television series where a guy thinks of a movie scene for every single thing that anyone says or does. I can’t remember the name of that show, but that is me – only with songs. Some of you noticed this about me long before I ever did. You’ve given me a hard time.
But I think there is also a fourth party involved. Usually the songs that seem to be randomly conjured by some unwitting thought stimulus, seem to be connected to more of the now situation. Or perhaps, I just manipulate their meanings and apply them to my current stuff as I did last week when I confused Dave with my manipulation of the Bob Seger. Some of these songs could not possibly have had this kind of context in my life way back in the day. I’m fascinated that they come back and speak into the present with meaning that they never had before. If plain old human expression can hang out and mean something after so long, imagine what the scripture can do when we take David’s advice and meditate on it and fill our minds with it and store it and wait for the Spiritus Sanctus to bring it to life in our moments.
Most recently, like one hour ago, I’m walking D and E out to their jeep and decide to hang on the porch for a moment. I’m listening to the fine drizzle (so light yet endless, like a soft spring rain – an English rain [but I digress]) in the yard and the drips down the drainpipes at the side of the porch. I’m thinking about recent blogs about sharing burdens, empathy, and prayer. I’ve just today acquired a new burden to share and desire to encourage. A terribly obscure song pops into my head:

It's raining outside
But that's not unusual
But the way that I'm feeling
Is kind of unusual
I guess you could say
The clouds are moving away
Away from your days
And into mine

(I’ll buy you a cup of joe if you can identify that song and its source)
At first I think it’s just the rain that brings that 32 year-old obscure song to mind. But then I realize what I could not have known back then – it’s about sharing burdens and empathy.
Which stimulus calls to mind such an old and obscure commentary? Is it the heavenly tears that nourish the parched earth, or the sharing of tears that lightens the burdens of both the bearer and the sharer? Praying for shared burdens brings one to his knees where he can also be ministered to, can be encouraged, convicted and rid of hidden goo that he was unaware of or had hidden from himself.
Rain down. Wash me. Pour out. Run-off. Spill over. Splash on. Flood.

Back to the start, my heart is heavy
feels like its time to dream again
I see the clouds and yes, I’m ready
To dance upon this barren land
Hope in my hand

Do not shut the heavens, but open up our hearts