Wednesday, June 30, 2004

allowance reduction

It occurs to me that even priceless things are made possible by money. Art, for example, will reflect the maturity, intelligence and sophistication of its creators and consumers. It may even be that its consumers will begin to reflect its maturity, intelligence and sophistication. Therefore, when the mature, intelligent and sophisticated are the ones with the means to consume, the creators must be equal to the task. When the immature, careless, and superficial are given the monetary means of consumption, they will reject the mature, intelligent and sophisticated. They will create a market for immaturity, superficiality, and carelessness, and sound the death knell for all else.
Even when I was kid I felt "all grown up" listening to music that my older friends were listening to. Music that was targeted to them. Now music is marketed to younger and younger audiences. The only thing that will slow this trend is that even in America, there must be a limit to how much sex you can market to an 8-year-old.
There have always been pre-teens who would prefer boy bands and Britney, Christina, and Jessica to John Adams, Sting or David Byrne, but they've not always had the money to shape the market. I'm pretty sure I know 12-year-old girls whose allowance is at least equal to my salary.
So I've got a request. Please reduce your 12-year-old daughter's allowance to bubble gum and soda pop levels so that some actual musicians can get discovered.

Naw... I'm just kidding ya.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

going out and coming in

I never like to return by the same way that I came, that is unless, I've taken a wrong road. Then I have to turn around and retrace my path until I arrive at the right road. Otherwise, I always try to return by a different route. In this way, a simple ride becomes a trip. I don't go somewhere and come back, that is not progress. I want always to move forward. I always want to be going somewhere, never coming back. Even if I'm wandering, no time wasted if I wander home by a different way.
I don't even enter and exit the house by the same door. I never realized this about myself before. If I go out by the front door, I come in by the garage. Vice-versa.
Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes to get there and 2 hours to get home. Don't worry, its biblical. The magi were told to return home by a different way.
I don't go to the store and come home. I go home and stop by the store on the way – even if I was home to start with. I guess this is also how I justify pointless rides. Manufactured journeys where thoughts hit my head like bugs on my face shield. To come home by the same route would be a waste, for I've already collected all the thoughts along that road.
I never get lost, because I know the way home, and everything is on my way home.
Anyway, these are the thoughts that hit my face shield today while I was on my way home.


Monday, June 28, 2004

a lesson from gertrude stein

Well the internet is back up. The storm yesterday took the cable out so I had to dial in to a very unstable connection. I bet every roadrunner subscriber was dialing in. Anyway, I was able to write a post and paste it in during the moment I was connected. Now I'm back. Bebeep.
Al and Jack left for camp in Talledega this morning. I had to have Jack at church this morning at 6:45, and then Allison got home from work at 8:45 and left soon after. So it's single dad with Will and Molly till Thursday night. Actually, since Al works all weekend, it really started on Saturday evening, but was unnoticeable until today, when I normally have her around. There is no food in the house. Can you imagine a guy with two kids and no food? I stopped and got cereal and milk this morning coming back from church. No, I'm not going to make them eat it 3 meals a day. There are other breakfast items I can make for lunch and supper. Tonight I made pancakes.
Last year when Al was in school, I made pancakes nearly every Tuesday night. The kids loved it! For a while. "Dad, please, no more pancakes." "You don't say that to mom about spaghetti, or burritos." "That would hurt her feelings." "Gee thanks."
So I haven't made pancakes for over a year. I know that because, evidently the electric skillet didn't survive the move. It's definitely not at this house.
So when Molly finished her dance lesson, she asked what was for supper.
"Gee, I don't know, how about pancakes?"
"Sure that sounds fine."
When we got home, Will agreed too.
No electirc skillet. No prob. I'll use the big weird-bottomed frying pan. But wait - no ingredients. No prob. I'll improvise. Who knows what these guys will taste like, so I'd better create a diversion.
Why is it that pancakes taste better when they are disguised as something besides pancakes? I made flounder cakes, serpent cakes, windmill cakes... and served them up in my best Bubs voice, "My pancakes, come back flounder cake, I didn't mean what I said."
The kids loved them. Actually, after all that, they tasted pretty good too.
So the moral of this story is, a pancake by any other shape, still tastes as sweet. or...
Pancake is a pancake is a pancake is a pancake. But the question is, which is Shakespeare, and which is Gertrude Stein?
So, day 1 down. Tomorrow... egg shaped omelettes.
Hurry back Mom and Jack.


Sunday, June 27, 2004


We had a terrible storm tonight. It was a beautiful afternoon, and then it started to sprinkle. Within moments of the first drops, the storm blew in over head and just sat on our neighborhood. It was like something from a movie. The lightning was constant, and the thunder was simultaneous with the flashes. Actually, it was more like the lightning was the norm, but it was just flickering off like the sky's electricity was about to go out. Artillary fire, or the finale of an awesome fireworks display. I don't think I've ever been directly under an electrical storm like that before. It was terrifying. The severe storm warning expired at 8:15p, but the flashes and rumblings have been constant for the past 6 hours.
When it subsided a bit, and we felt like we could move about the house, Allison called down from upstairs, that she could smell smoke in Jack's room. I came up and went into the attic to look. The smell was strong up there, but I couldn't see anything wrong. I was worried that something might be burning in the walls, and was ready to call the fire department, so I went outside to see if I could see smoke. There was nothing coming from my house, but as the low black clouds raced across the sky, I could see billows of black smoke rising from up the street. I walked up a couple blocks before I saw other people hurrying around. It was another 15 minutes before the firemen arrived. They kept arriving for the next half hour. Two houses burned in our neighborhood.
I stood in the street in front of my house with neighbors until the smoke began to thin. It seems that everyone in the neighborhood had gone into their attics to check for fire when they smelled the smoke. We stood out there thinking of our own panic at the smell. The relief at not finding it in our own attics. No relief for those other families.
Our sympathy and prayers are with them.


Saturday, June 26, 2004

after the rain

after the rain, the sky is cleansed.
it's a catharsis of sorts,
the air is crisp and cool.
everything seems fresh and unfamiliar,
made new at the end of a steamy, humid day.
the fresh and unfamiliar are magnified by
mysterious pockets of misty fog in the twilight.
the haze is cleared and the
western horizon is aglow.
even from that glowing western sky
more storms will come.
but i always remember what it is like after the rain


Friday, June 25, 2004

a blue shirt story

Once there was a young man who took a job as a strength trainer. He showed up for his first day on the job in a blue shirt. Beneath the shirt were strong arms, chest and washboard abs. Man was he pumped. At one glance, the shirt did nothing to conceal the strength and stamina that was contained within. The blue shirt fit perfectly about his shoulders and magnified his strength. Some days he seemed to be less pumped than usual, but he didn't try to conceal that anymore than he tried to make the shirt cover the strength he contained. Everyone noticed it, but rather than be discouraged by this seeming chink in the armor, they were encouraged that he recognized it, took care of it, and returned to his normal pumped self. The trainees began to notice that his strength didn't lie in his lack of weakness, but rather in his ability to overcome those weaknesses. This is something very encouraging to the trainees who have plenty of weaknesses themselves. "Here is an exercise that I tried last night so that I could teach it to you. I wasn't able to, but I know it is possible, so let's learn it together."
Everyone who saw the young man working with his trainees, immediately recognized their great strides, the growing strength and fortitude and all-around good health that resulted. The owners of the gym admired the trainer's blue shirt. He looked so natural in it and filled it out so well. By now, most of the trainees had taken to wearing blue shirts, and they too, had begun to fill them out, to bulk up. Thus the observers assumed that his success with the trainees stemmed from that article of clothing. Just look at how they thrive while wearing that blue shirt.
By and by, the day came for the trainer to move on to gather and strengthen more trainees. The trainees were exceedingly sad, but as they felt the strength beneath their blue shirts and remembered how to overcome the less-pump days, they realized that they were actually glad to send their trainer out to grow others into what they were becoming.
The gym that the trainer left felt a deep void and began looking for a new blue shirt trainer. Many strong, muscular, and enduring trainers were available, but they wore green, red, aquamarine, burnt-sienna, or taupe, and all their respective colors hung nicely about their shoulders and showed their strength. But no blue-shirt trainers who seemed to wear the shirt like the original blue-shirt trainer.
So eventually, the gym hired a burnt-sienna shirt trainer, but forced him to wear the blue shirt. On him, the blue shirt hung awkwardly. It concealed his strength. He became very self-conscious about the shirt's poor fit, so much so, that the shirt began to consume his every thought. He didn't eat right or work out consistently. The shirt fit worse as time went on, though it was all he ever thought about. Eventually, he was emaciated and though he had once been strong and muscular, was now entirely unfit to train others to strength and stamina.
The emaciated trainer saw the blue shirt as the source of all his problems, the gym assessed that the trainer hadn't the strength to fill the blue shirt. Some saw the blue shirt as the source of success and some saw the same shirt as the source of failure. Only the trainees had seen the real strength of the Blue-shirt trainer, AND the strength of the Burnt-Sienna shirt trainer. They were deeply saddened and confused that the Burnt-Sienna shirt trainer had sacrificed all his strength to wear the ill-fitting blue shirt. The trainees who had come along after the Blue-Shirt trainer had no idea that things were ever any different.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

renew your mind

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember that this passage slapped me in the face a while back (well, with a little help from gwill). Now I think its time to slap some other folks with it. Be ye slapped so ye therefore may also slap.

I know I've told this story here before, but years ago, at my job, I was informed I had to wear a necktie to work because, "we strive to adhere to biblical standards, rather than the world's standards." For sure this was the biblical way of saying, "no jeans, no t-shirts, no slinger 'dos." There is surely nothing wrong with the powers-that-be mandating a dress code, but why do we feel the need to justify it by pretending it is a biblical standard? Shall we add our desires to the canon? Doesn't the canon itself warn against this? What does this say about our understanding of biblical standards when we think they have anything to do with wearing a tie.
The profound irony here is that wearing a tie to work is the ultimate adherence to the world's standards. It occurs to me that it is the ultimate ridiculous illustration of Oestricher's comment that evangelicals have "swallowed modernism so completely many find it impossible to separate modernism from Christianity." We have become so conformed to our culture that we think the Bible was its source. Ties – a biblical standard?

Oestricher's comment recognizes that modern evangelical Christianity has conformed fully to modern business culture, so much so that it considers that culture with its fashion, hierarchies, and paradigms to be biblical standards. Next step is to assume that any different fashion, hierarchies and paradigms are indicative of embracing the world's standards. Ok, I give up. I can't express how deeply ironic this seems to me.

We worship and seek Christian community in a business model CEO paradigm, we get leadership advice from best-selling fortune 500 CEOs, we model evangelism strategies after successful business ventures, and we attempt discipleship like corporate in-service training programs.
We copy every nuance of style from the music, fiction, and cinema of the culture and then market, consume and enjoy it completely segregated from the culture from which it came. We are conformed to the culture, yet live outside it. We are so 100% conformed and segregated that when someone among us wishes to step back into it and to contribute to the culture from a Christian perspective, he is suspected of having become worldly and fallen away. It is not content, or style that differentiates the culture from the parallel culture, it is simply to whom it is marketed. In terms of music, if you market Christian stuff to a secular audience, it is no longer Christian. But if you market secular stuff to a Christian audience, it becomes Christian.

So what is meant by avoiding comfort in your culture? The answer is there in the same passage. Fix your attention on God. In other words, be conformed to the culture of the Kingdom of God. Surely we don't think the culture of God's Kingdom has anything to do with fashionable apparel, or architecture, or hair-dos. All that stuff will be burned up. Surely Mr. White shirt, black tie, white wall pompadour is no more or less fit for the kingdom than Mr. Tattooed arms, torn jeans, skateboarding, walkman toting, flip-flop wearer. Surely it hasn't anything to do with our personnel hierarchies. He who is first shall be last and he who is last shall be first.
Surely the culture of God's Kingdom is recognized by our relationship with God and other people. Love. Love Him, love them. Obedience to Him, service to them. In the world but not of it? In a world that needs love, of a world that has it to spare.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Weber-Fechner law part 3

If you think I've been all over the place lately, then you'll really see that here. I really didn't mean for my metaphor yesterday to be so abstract and veiled. Actually what I'm saying is nothing new or profound or unfamiliar. It's just that as we attempt to find ways to make things more meaningful, we consistently clutter them with things that obscure their meaning. We're bombarded with articles, books, mailings, newsletters, seminars, lectures, etc. about creating "meaningful" worship experiences, engaging a greater percentage of the congregation, facilitating congregation response and participation, creating energy in the worship sequence, dot dot dot. Advertisements for pre-prepared worship sequences complete with written-out modulations, transition prayers and spoken blurbs are everywhere. Enhance your worship experience with Volume 79 of our worship DVD series complete with ppt and pictures of worship facilitating barns and sunsets and snow-capped mountainscapes with spring flowers in the foreground, or abstract morphing colors and designs with 68% opacity lyrics fading on and off the screen. If I hear the phrase, "enhance your worship experience" one more time in an advertisement, I'm going to wet myself. If I read another bulleted article on sequencing keys and tempos and styles to engage the congregation I'm going to scream. Gene Simmons could give a seminar on creating an engaging arena experience and it would contain the same advice as that given for 'worship'.
I know, this is the millionth time this has been said. I'm sorry. But why, when fewer and fewer people actually understand worship, do we bury it further beneath clutter? When do we begin to model what we say worship is rather than explain it one way and attempt to practice it another?
The Weber-Fechner law applies here in that two things are moving in the opposite direction from each other and the opposite direction than they should be. The more we try to manufacture a "worship experience", the less we understand what worship is. So many candles have been lit, that we no longer notice each subsequent, confusing candle. As with my guitar playing, we've got to blow all the candles out so that we can see just how many we need to actually do what we've been called to do.
This is true across the board. We need to strip the Gospel down to what it is. We need to strip apprenticeship down to what it is. We need to strip prayer down to what it is.
I'm not even saying that all this stuff that has cluttered is wrong, or that it can't be reclaimed as helpful. Somewhere in the midst of all these candles, is the one light that deserves our focus. If we blow out everything else and locate it again, perhaps we won't lose sight of it as we re-light our candles.
So I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to turn into a rant. Please forgive me.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

worship with 100 candles part two

The intensity of a sensation varies by a series of equal increments (arithmetically) as the strength of the stimulus is increased geometrically; if a series of stimuli is applied and so adjusted in strength that each stimulus causes a just perceptible change in intensity of the sensation, then the strength of each stimulus differs from the preceding one by a constant fraction; thus, if a just perceptible change in a visual sensation is produced by the addition of 1 candle to an original illumination of 100 candles, 10 candles will be required to produce any change in sensation when the original illumination was one of 1000 candles.
It's the old frog in the boiling water illustration. As each candle is lit, it affects the overall illumination less than the one before it did and is eventually imperceptible. The reverse must be true – often at the end of the day, I find myself sitting at my desk oblivious that I'm straining to see when someone comes to my door and says, "why are you sitting in the dark?" Thus, I allow unwanted things to accumulate and clutter and distract, while I fail to notice the slow, incremental disappearance of necessities.

In learning and teaching the guitar, one of the greatest obstacles to overcome is tension. Tension contributes to poor tone and intonation, inefficient movements, lack of finger independence, fatigue, and injury. Tension most often results from failure to rid one's self of the effort needed to perform a previous movement. Therefore, the effort needed for each subsequent movement is added to the effort used for the previous until there is so much isometric effort taking place that I am fighting myself and motion stops. We feel this in our day to day as the build-up of tension and stress as our daily tasks are piled on top of one another.
In my guitar experience, I've found that once an efficient and healthy level of tension is surpassed, it is virtually impossible to release just enough tension to return to a productive level. According to the Weber-Fechner law, those increments are imperceptible. So it requires a little more effort to use less effort. I must release all tension and then add it back in perceptible increments until I am using no more than is needed to perform the task. In that way, I monitor the amount of tension, and control it, rather than letting it control me. In the end, I find that little is needed. It is a major part of my training to learn to use only what is needed and maintain that level. Ironically, one of the most popular devices sold to guitarists who combat fatigue is designed to build up hand strength, and thus allow the guitarist to play with more tension, indeed, even create more tension. Unthinking players then will actually intentionally accumulate that which impedes their ability to perform the desired task.

I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it, when it's all about You.


Monday, June 21, 2004

cute & confusing part one

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing worship music that we miss in our services – music that means a lot to us for various reasons. I blogged before about the need to assess why certain hymns, songs, etc. are important to us. Nostalgia based emotion can be a very deceptive feeling that can replace worship because it feels so good. Even this response can be legitimate in that memories can be encouraging and solidify our walk and faith. As an expression of worship though, it can be very confusing. Of course, if this music is all we do, it is not based in nostalgia, and therefore, doesn't constitute the same threat.
When we speak of stylistic variety in worship, I often hear it said that we should include more gospel, country, even bluegrass. Of course that would be entertaining, but would it facilitate worship? Personally, I have a hard time worshipping through music that is not a part of my true experience. Fortunately, my sincere experience includes a very wide variety of styles. Many people though, have a far less varied musical experience, but are entertained by styles on the fringes of their experience. Barbershop, bluegrass, celtic, and gospel spring to mind as styles that have become very popular outside their indigenous context and are even presented as cute or lighthearted relief in otherwise serious musical sequences.
I grew up around musicians who played a bluegrass style no matter what the song. It was their style and everything was expressed that way. If I were to break into a bluegrass version of "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" at my church, everyone would be entertained, or tickled by the style, but would cease to be singing it for the same reasons they would be if the style were unaltered.
My backdoor neighbor is manager of Gospel music radio stations. He once told me that he was jealous of "our" Christian music because it was more sophisticated and theologically deeper. I was astounded. I told him that I was jealous of "their" music because I felt it was one of the last musical Christian expressions that truly expressed Christian faith from an authentic cultural experience. But this is only true in its legitimate context. Bring that music and worship style to my church and it becomes cute, entertaining and unreal. It is no longer an expression, but a consumption.
Consumption of wholesome, heartfelt, encouraging stuff is a good and legitimate activity perhaps, but we have confused consumption with expression, feel-good entertainment with facilitated prayer. We have allowed the package to distract us from the contents.


Saturday, June 19, 2004


here we are,
where we were,
back from where we've been
Once we did,
still we do,
and will someday again.


Friday, June 18, 2004

all the law and the prophets holiness, part four

Blogging from Kid's Camp at Ridgecrest Conference Center, North Carolina. Can't post though, until later. Imagine spending a couple of weeks dealing with holiness and the law and grace, staying up late into the night to get thoughts down before leaving for camp with 3rd and 4th graders, and then arriving at camp to find that the theme for the week is the next step in the ongoing dealings with this subject. Was I ever primed to teach and learn with these kids.

So I can be holy. Following God's law is required to make me holy. The law has made my sin evident to me. But despite my knowledge of it, and my sincere desire to follow it and be holy, I just can't do it. No matter how bad I want it and how hard I try, I break the law. I'm doomed. But Jesus comes to fulfill the law. In other words, He keeps the law for me. He follows the law to a T, and then receives the punishment spelled out for not following it, in my place. That is law fulfilled. I'm made holy.
So what does a holy person do? We know what he doesn’t do, read Leviticus. But wait, that doesn't make sense – the scripture says that I can't follow the law, but Jesus in me fulfills the law, so my holiness can't possibly be evidenced by what I don't do. So it must be what I do that evidences my holiness. Better find out what it is. Maybe I can keep part of the law, maybe just the most important part.
Hey Jesus, what is the most important commandment? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The next is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. ALL God's law and prophets hangs on these.
There is a profound relationship between these two commands. These two things that evidence holiness. Maybe they do more than evidence holiness, I'm thinking maybe they are the ONLY thing that can make someone holy. I don't know. But I do know this. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. God gave us the law so that we could be holy. And all the law hangs on two commands. So it seems that our response to Jesus fulfilling the law for us must be that we follow these two commands. The profundity comes in that we CAN'T obey the most important command without also obeying the second most important command. That is why they are presented almost as if they are one command. Failure to obey the second, proves that we don't obey the first. John tells us that if we say we love God, but we don't love people, then we are liars. Actually, the whole deal is explained right there in John, chapter 4, but that's not the only place these things are found. God loved us, so we love Him back. IF we love Him, we love people. If we don't love people, we don't love Him.
So if our love for God is shown in obedience, and He commands us to love people, then to obey Him (his most important command) is to love people. Failure to do so, proves that we don't love Him.
Where then do we get the idea that being holy – set apart – means spewing venom toward and avoiding people, when in fact, being set apart means embracing and loving those people. Why do we call ourselves Jesus followers and intentionally do the opposite of what He commands? How can we follow by going in the opposite direction? Why do we think we are clean by avoiding dirty people, when in fact, our cleanliness is accomplished by loving dirty people?
Yep, Jesus is a weird one. And He only ever said what His Father told Him to, so the Father must be a weird One too. The Holy Spirit works in us to accomplish this non-sense, so He must be a weird One too.
Man I want to be a weird one.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

out of place holiness, part three

Ok, I'm not trying to be funny here, but I wonder what we can learn even about ourselves by following the developing saga of the Christian exodus from Texas to South Carolina to start a sovereign state and secede from the union.
I think as we get our minds around why those guys seem so strange to us, we may be able to better understand what it means to exercise "internal leaving" as Greg is pointing out over at Oak Pollination.

I really can't explain what I mean by this, but I've talked before about how I've always felt that I've grown up in the seams of two generations and while feeling out-of-place, it has afforded me a sort of "outsider's" vantage to the workings of mindset, worldview, etc. of both generations.
I spent 10 years in grad school where I was always considered among the younger ones. At the same time, I was teaching where I was assumed to be one of the older ones - same thought processes, preferences, etc. Two worlds.
I doubt you can see where I'm going with this, but somehow, sometimes, I feel I've got a really clear picture of certain strange concepts that is formed by my own peculiar situation. At times, fleeting moments, I feel I get a glimpse of understanding of living in the world but not of it - that internal flight, within physical presence.

In our paper today, there was a piece about the Texas group who wants to move to South Carolina and secede. There were some very interesting remarks and observations by USC historian Dan Carter. Carter observed that the Amish, though "inwardly focused" are amicable to the outside world.

"But whereas the Amish are not concerned with what’s beyond them, this group is obsessed by it,” Carter said. “(The group) is looking to transform the ungodly."

Then the comment by Carter that I think gives us reason to take ridiculous notions like a Christian state secession seriously, because of what it causes the world around to see in us.

"Ever since the evangelical movements of the 17th century, we’ve had groups of Americans who are repulsed by worldliness and secularism. But it’s only recently that we’ve seen such groups spew such venom and hatred toward that world."

I think of Jesus' prayer for us, that we not be taken out of the world but protected from the evil one. He prayed, "they are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by Your truth: Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

God help us when we begin to think that being holy means being of or like the world, but not in it.


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I don't do what I want to do holiness, part two

I've been writing a song for about 3 years now, based on Romans chapter 7. You're bound to know me well enough from my blog to know that this chapter describes me. But I guess I've not known exactly how it applied to me. Until now, maybe it just described this daily fight between the desires of my mind and the desires of my body. About half way through my attempt to write this song, Doug Pinnick writes one that says, "I don't want to do this anymore, I really want to do it." Then when we talked to him after a concert, he blew it off as if he didn't deal with this heart's desire to be obedient battling a sin nature. Well I deal with it.
Why didn't I read Leviticus before when trying to grasp this chapter? Why didn't I read Leviticus as a part of the quest for holiness? I'm not saying that I understand it now, just that I have new, more productive questions. But maybe I do finally understand what Jesus meant when He said that He'd come to fulfill the law.
So God gave us the law, and tells us why, "for you must be holy, as I am holy." Paul points out that the law made sin obvious to us. Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, "Do not covet," produced in me every kind of covetous desire.
So I arrive at a place where I'm giving a command that I cannot carry out. I now see that I can't be holy, no matter how I try. I have to depend on God, because while I truly desire to be obedient, my nature is to disobedience. I do what I don't want to do and I don't do what I want to do.
From the perspective of my sin nature, it is not I who is holy, but God who works in me. But if I do what I don't want to do, it is not I that does it, but sin in me. In my heart of hearts I want to obey God, but the law of sin is at work in my body. I am dog poop. Who can rescue me from this downward spiraling body of death?
Thanks be to God – through Jesus.
Through the law, we are made to know of our sin. Through our trying, we are made to know of our inability. Through our inability we are made to know of our need. Through our need we are made to call on Jesus. Through Jesus, we are made holy as He fulfills the law by being perfect and obedient in us. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

I do what I don't want to do an exploration of holiness,part one

There's a thought that has been haunting me for a long time now. I've alluded to it a few times, but have not quite blogged about it yet, and still won't now. But it falls under a category of our role and God's role in our salvation and lifestyle. It frightens me that in our effort to avoid anything that would seem that we think we can have anything to do with our salvation we avoid Jesus' teaching and God's commands. I know that statement is bold and requires explanation. I'm working on it. Where this thought sits with me now is different than it was even a few days ago.
We're in the middle of a sermon series on holiness. In planning and preparing worship sequences for this series, I've had some big questions raised by the scriptures I've been dealing with. As much as I hate to admit it, often, I scour the scriptures looking to refute or correct something that I feel people have come to adhere to without thinking. Usually these things grow out of a truth, but become applied where they don't belong. God is God and we are not. This is true. But there are things that can be said about God that can also be said about us. We are terrified of this statement because we try to avoid anything that sounds like we are trying to put ourselves on God's level. But can I not say, "God thinks and I think." God exists and I exist. These may not be too scary. But I hear, "only God is holy." Why then does God command us to be holy? Surely, there must be a level at which we can be holy, or set apart, or as Greg recently put it, called out. I understand that my holiness and God's holiness are very different in that God is set apart even from those who are set apart. He's the holy ONE of a holy nation, the King of kings, Master of masters. God's command of us to be a lower case something that He is, doesn't assume equality with Him.
I have thought about the way we use, "holy", "sanctus", "sanctified", "set apart", constantly for a couple weeks now. I tend to think of sanctus and holy the same, but "sanctified" implies something that has to be done for us. I've had trouble reconciling our use of "holy" and "holified". A couple weeks ago, this presented no problem for me. I assumed that only God could make me holy and it had nothing to do with my ability or behavior. Then I had to deal with how God seems to be defining the term in various scriptures. At first I was just proving to myself that I, a man, could in fact be holy. I find that not only can I be, I'm commanded to be. Throughout Leviticus as God is giving the law, He continually states that the rules are given because Israel must be holy because God is holy. Following these rules sets Israel apart. God's ubiquitous phrase, "… for you must be holy, because I am holy." There are instances when God says, "I am the LORD, who makes them holy."
So in some way, obedience is a part of being holy, and that is something that I have to do. But at the same time, it is God who makes us holy. Does this mean that He enables us to be obedient? Or in our obedience He will make us holy? Why is it all confusing? Simple, you say? Just one of those things that we chalk up to our inability to understand the sequence of God's call, our response, His enabling, our doing? Did I use a dirty word - doing?
It seems to me that our positions on such issues and concepts are always extreme. We reside at the far reaches of the pendulum swing. I feel that residing in the center of the swing is not the answer either. Our problem is that we don't understand the concept of an interactive relationship with the Holy One.
God asks of us things that we can't possibly do, but enables us do them. He requires of us the impossible, but makes it possible. In our inability, we find excuse to stop trying. We don't allow God to work in and through us.
These thoughts took me from Leviticus to Romans, chapter 7 as I prepared for this past Sunday. That is where I'll take up tomorrow…


Monday, June 14, 2004

open letter to randy borawski

Dear Randy,
we the fans of the hot new band, "faith turtle", do humbly request that their picture be added to the band gallery at jammin' java. We see no reason that you should ever allow them to play at your fine establishment, but we think that your reputation could be greatly expanded if it could be erroneously concluded that they had once played there, though no one actually remembers it, or has any idea what their music sounds like. In all honesty, at one time or another, we've been sitting and enjoying a fine midwest melt and a cup of joe wishing that the music filling the room were nothing more than a signed photo on the wall. Granted, this does not happen very often, but no doubt, it would be the case were faith turtle to actually play at the subterranean cafe. So avoid the inevitable onslaught of cards and letters requesting a gig by faith turtle and merely add their picture to the gallery. Then when asked to book them, you can just point to the pic and say, "sorry, you missed them."
We appreciate your consideration and support of this band.


Friday, June 11, 2004

band promo pic

Several of us arrived early tonight for Paul's and Amanda's rehearsal dinner. Trying to avoid eating the desert before anyone else got there, we decided to climb into a phone booth. David Sykes took our picture with JD's clie and then beamed it to me. We decided it looked like a band picture, so we're going to start a band so we can sign it with some clever quip and have it hung up at Jammin' Java.
Pictured are:

DP - drums and airplane noises
JD - bass guitar and sprechstimme
Eric - lead vocals
Me - chapman stick and theremin

we won't be wearing no superman capes.


Thursday, June 10, 2004

of birds and baby people

Only a couple weeks ago, when I went into the garage to get my bike, I scared a Carolina Wren. I thought that she'd just flown in and I'd surprised her. A couple days later, Will and I were out there getting rakes to spread sand in the front yard and she came to the door and started swearing at us. She hopped around, squawked and kept tossing her head at us, but wouldn't leave. Finally she came on in and just hopped up on things and crawled under things and flew around. I think she was trying to run us on a wild wren chase because when we stepped out of the garage she flew up to the top shelf and made sure we weren't looking (we were) and hopped into a plastic Halloween pumpkin that was sitting up there. The pumpkin was sitting on it's side with the hole in it's top facing outward just like an orange bird house. When Will and I finished the sand, I saw her fly back out so I snuck in and peered into the pumpkin. Three tiny eggs. I left the door open so she could come and go, but honestly, she didn't spend much time at home. Allison assured me that it was warm enough in the garage. A few days went by and I began to see her coming and going more frequently, so I peered into the pumpkin again. Three tiny naked avian miracles with huge mouths open to the sky. In fact it was those birdlets that inspired my photoblog, but I couldn't get a pic of them. Two more days and we left for the mountains. I left the garage door cracked at the bottom so momma wren could come and go.
Come and go she did, for when I got back, I parked my bike and climbed up to peer into the nest. Three clothed avian miracles relaxed on top of one another. All yesterday afternoon the mother hopped in the driveway calling to her babies. They wouldn't come. I remembered a mourning Cardinal when I was a kid and Dad cut down some shrubs beside the house. So I peered in again last night. No movement. I was sure that I'd have to clean out the nest. Then this morning mom was back calling to her babies. Nothing. All afternoon. Then finally, tired of the nagging, one scruffy, hippie-haired wren attempted the impossible… and succeeded. In a few minutes we had three baby wrens fluttering around the garage crashing into walls, falling down behind boards, landing on bicycle pedals and turning upside down. In no time, they seemed to master aviation, but finding their way out of the garage was another story. Sometime during church, mom got them all out and off to college. They're probably married by now.
Tonight when I kissed the kids goodnight, I thought about how fast they're growing up. I have a rising seventh grader. One flap of the wings, and he's in Middle School. It all goes so fast.
I'm so glad I'm not a wren.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

covert navel operation

A rant from a sensible curmudgeon

I’m pretty sure that when I was a kid, we saw just as much skin as is seen today, but it was different skin. Back then girls’ jeans rose to above their belly button. In the summer, some would wear halter tops that showed their “midriffs”. Dress code at school was “no bare midriffs”. I looked up "midriff" in the dictionary. "the area of the human body between the chest and the waist."
Of course, these days, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. No self-respecting girl would show her midriff in public. In fact, no self-respecting girl would show her belly button in public. But the area between the belly button and below – public viewing acceptable. So I used to think there were certain parts of our bodies that other folks weren't supposed to see. Now I know that's not true. Actually, any part of the body is ok to see, just not all at the same time. I'm pretty sure you could photograph the same girl in two different outfits and make a composite of a completely naked girl.
The sad thing is that girls who don't wish to have a composite made of themselves are pretty helpless. One seemingly can't purchase clothing that covers what one would like covered. The only solution then, is to purchase what is available and then use two hands at all times - one to tug and pull swathes of fabric out of uncomfortable places where you don't want it to be, and the other to tug and pull it over places you wish were covered, but aren't listed in the policy. Most people think it is awkward to see skin, but I think it doesn't compare to the awkward feeling of those who must constantly pull shirts down to cover below while exposing above. This is followed by tugging upward to cover above while exposing below. Seems the solution then would be to pull up on both the shirt and the jeans, but the jeans will only come up so far before they bottom out. And so the saga continues. In fact, I feel quite awkward watching the tug and pull dilemma while I try to teach, have a conversation, or lead worship. No wonder charismatically inclined women wear denim jumpers. Today's fashions don't allow for arm wavers. Something's got to be done. I've recently noticed that we've got a "Future female plumbers of America" chapter with a lot of members at our own school.
So a couple weeks ago, the Louisiana legislature tried to remedy the problem. They tried to make it a crime to wear jeans that expose undergarments… and three other things that it is already a crime to expose in public. The bill was defeated 54-39. The bill's sponsor was mocked and laughed at by other lawmakers. So my question is, is it now legal to expose those other three things in public? Do the traditional public indecency laws specifically list these things?
One good thing though – no MLB player should ever be ridiculed again. At any given moment in the stands, 98% of female fans will be digging, trying to pull something out of somewhere that it doesn't belong.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

sacred space between my ears

A couple weeks ago, Greg posted a blog on "sacred space" and linked to TallSkinny with likeminded thoughts. I commented to Greg that I was working on a blog along those lines - and I have been – I just haven't been able to bring it to fruition. So this post will make no observations perhaps, but ask more questions. The topic is fresh again, and I need to visit it from my own aging questions and observations. So bear with me as this won't be organized or intentional. It's just me tossing out some thoughts and admissions. Eventually, I think I'll hit on topic, but I've got to start here.
Several months ago, I responded to another blog that was questioning the waning of commitment to a specific congregation. Those old thoughts have come back as I've thought all this through, because when I listen to the conversation, I'm struck that our perception of waning commitment, seems to stem from our changing paradigm of what constitutes church and community and expressed Christian spirituality.
Personally, I struggle with understanding the simultaneity of an intimate relationship existing in community. I live in a world where I belong to two gargantuan Christian organizations who are continually striving for a sense of community among the whole. Sometimes I feel a tug-of-war between allegiances to either organization while I strive for community with both. Even within both, there is tug-of-war between overlapping involvement in different specific ministries. Certainly the growth I achieve in one context affects me, and those around me, in the other, and I, therefore, am a tiny link in a community connection between the two. I feel that there should be many tiny links between these two, but somehow we tend to compartmentalize. There are areas of my life that I wish I could compartmentalize, but this is not one of them. Here, I am a Christian among Christians and there I am a Christian among Christians. I think I am the same guy in both places. I am not a Baptist in one and non-denominational in the other. I am a Jesus follower among Jesus followers in both contexts.
All that being said, I really don't feel a strong sense of community with the whole, in either of these large contexts. I do feel community with small groups of friends in both. It bothers me that it could be scary that I can be a link to a small community of believers that draws from both contexts.
This brings me to Greg's post. I have certainly felt a part of Church in the context he describes. No doubt we had church the night we basked in the openness of our borders in Charlotte. I'd even stretch to say we prayed – hard – in the context of the whole conversation, each one seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the counsel of others seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is church and this receives my loyalty. I want to bring this as an expression of corporate prayer to both my large contexts.
This must be fueled by individual sacred space as well. My fuel comes from personal time seeking, asking and listening. Each of these endeavors is done in many ways. Scriptures, prayer, scriptures, prayer. I listen a lot on my bike. Vast and intimate. Ironic that I sense strongest community with you other introverts with whom I feel that community is learned by intimacy with the Holy Spirit.
Ok, now I am rambling beyond your ability to think. I do want this to be a conversation, so I'd better shut up.


Monday, June 07, 2004

my mistress' eyes

As you know, the moon does not have light of its own. It merely reflects the light of the sun upon the dark side of the earth. When the moon is on the sunny side of the earth it is barely visible, and then only in the evening. The sun itself shines so brightly that a body simply reflecting its light is outshone. Those in the light will see only the source of the light.
But on the dark side of the earth, the moon, reflecting the light of the sun, is quite bright and noticeable. This reflected light is enough to illuminate dark paths and traditionally has piqued the interest of those curious enough to seek the source of the second-hand light of the moon. "Eerie" creatures are particular troubled by its light. Coyotes and wolves howl, some mental hospital residents become restless and disturbed. Those who feel more comfortable in the dark are made uncomfortable even by the reflected light.
In early autumn, the full moon illuminates the fields so much that farmers have dubbed it "harvest moon" because they are able to continue working by its light late into the night as they race to harvest while the fields are still white.


Saturday, June 05, 2004

teo torriate

As of late, it seems I've been extra fascinated by the night sky. I've bored you with blogs and poems about the moon and venus. I even used Venus as a metaphor for my Granny-in-law. But I don't think I've ventured there yet with the moon. So far, just admiration and fascination. When Allison and I were in college, I had to be without her nearly every weekend and summers while I was on the road. That was back in the day when there were no such things as cell phones and email. Communication was slow, and I was never in the same place two days in a row. We developed a ritual. Every night at 10:00, we both vowed to go outside and look at the moon. We adopted an old Queen song, "When I'm gone, no need to wonder if I ever think of you. The same moon shines, the same wind blows for both of us and time is but a paper moon." It's great comfort for a 20 year-old, alone and in love, to know that he is doing exactly the same thing and thinking the same thing at exactly the same time as his distant love. I had a sense of security and truly felt that we were together during those moments. "its just as though I hold the flower that touches you."
Twenty years have passed, and the same moon shines. Now we're together a lot. But not enough. Wednesday night at about midnight, the moon managed to peep over the mountain and through the clouds. Allison and I were sitting together by the fire under a gigantic poplar tree. For a couple hours, the moon would peep out of the clouds as it hovered just above the mountains. It lit the dark night like headlights shining into the forest. You could read by it.
The clouds never leaked all night nor all day Thursday. We enjoyed a wet, smokey fire and drank in long needed, sleepy togetherness. Great comfort for a 40 year-old in love to know that his girl will still sit out under the moon with him - will still fight drowsiness to stay up way too late to speak in his language.
Goodnight babe, goodnight bears, goodnight lovers everywhere.
Goodnight moon.


Wednesday, June 02, 2004


A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Christy the story teller. He talked about his family and childhood and environment. He said that once when he was talking about these things with someone, they made a comment that they could understand why he was always so peaceful and content. They had noticed his deep connection to everything around him, his people, and even the places. I told Christy that I understood what was meant by this. When I come home, the load is always lighter, the weight of the world lifts temporarily. But there have been several occasions, all here in WV, that really stand out it in my mind as tension-relieving, peace-drinking moments. Years ago when my cousin Cheryl was married, she had her wedding reception on their farm, in a field with burgers and dogs and a mountain music band. I remember sitting in that field, listening to banjo and fiddle play ancient mountain songs that reeked of saudade, but having none of my own. Feeling all my longings fulfilled. There was such an intense emptying of stress there in the crisp, clean air, with the mountains and family around, that the sensation lingers still, like the scent honeysuckle, or pretty-girl perfume, or a sweet melody. It's indescribable - peace. We tend to think of it, or describe it as the absence of stress, worries, or problems. But it is more than that. It is something all to itself. It is its own thing like stress is its own thing. It's not the opposite of stress, that would be boredom. Peace is not boredom. One doesn't have peace from removing unpeaceful things. In fact, because it is something that fills you, instead of something you get from being emptied of other things, you can have it even in the midst of worries and problems.
Back in the fall, I experienced this again for a little while as I sat on the porch of brother's unfinished new house with my mom and dad. We talked a little, and sat quietly. Looked and listened. I thought about how peaceful it was here on this porch. Then I realized it had little to do with the porch. It was the company. Later that day, I sat on my Grandmother's patio with her. Just the two of us. We remembered together. I remembered 40 years, she remembered 80. I was connected to more than I even knew. A lot of my connection had to do with these people and this place. There is comfort and familiarity in having a place among of line of people in a place that is the setting of their stories, of their lives.
Peace today as I sat on Scott's porch quietly with Allison. With her, I broaden the connection, broaden the source of peace. Even my kids feel connected to this place and these people because they are connected through me.
So the realization? The secret to vacation is not to attempt an escape, or to be rid of the day to day. The point is to be filled. It's a catharsis. The idea is to be filled so that everything else is forced out. Much in the way that the Comforter fills you so that all else flushed. The way that the lack of bad stuff doesn't make you good, but being filled with good stuff does.
I'm rambling. I'll stop.


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

from the road

We're at my parents' house in WV. We got started late from Columbia yesterday for several reasons. I'm going to stay here two days longer than the fam, so we needed to bring the bike so I could get home. I didn't want to borrow a trailer because Allison would have to haul it back empty, and Uhaul is only available for local rentals. So I'd have to ride up. Allison had to work Sunday night and didn't get home until 9:00 yesterday morning. You can imagine her trying to drive 400 miles on no sleep. So I sent her to bed, changed the oil in my bike, and checked hourly forcasts for every town along the route. I managed to plan our departure for a time when I could potentially thread the bike through the thunderstorms, and succeeded. According to my storm dodging itinerary, I should have rain in Wytheville, Virginia only. That is exactly what happened. We stopped there to eat after a lovely 4 hour ride. I put on my rain britches. It started raining. It rained until I got to the other side of Wytheville and cleared up. I stopped, took off the rain britches and rode under clear skies the rest of the way.
I realized some things on the way up. Time doesn't pass on a motorcycle, only miles. The secret to deep space travel is the motorcycle. One can cover great distances without losing time. On a bike, one could travel to distant galaxies and arrive while still young. When science makes this discovery, we will no longer measure distance in light years, because it will make no sense. Measuring distance by time? When time doesn't pass, this measurement means nothing. Measure by tanks of fuel, or potty breaks. This must be similar to eternity. I rode for hours and was surprised when it got dark. 250 miles and no time passed. This also explains why mid-life crisis can be overcome with a bike.
Though the threat of storms still loomed, most of today was exquisite - about 70 degrees and blue. This evening though, two big storms blew through. We had decided to stay here and visit before going to camp. The kids weren't ready to leave Mamaw and Papaw. I wasn't either. Its about 3 hours to cranberry (by car) so we decided we'd leave early in the morning and set up camp, enjoy the day and prepare for the deluge of water and wind. We've had a great day hanging with Mom and Dad, bro and sis. Tomorrow, we're off.