Saturday, July 31, 2004


This afternoon, the deck got a new prime coat of Glidden oil base porch and deck paint. The previous owners slapped on some latex paint over pressure treated wood to make it look pretty for us to buy it just over a year ago. Like saw dust in the differential, ya know?
So Allison got most of the old paint off while I was in California. Not a drop of rain through the whole process. Then just as we’re ready to apply paint… Well a look at the past 10 days’ weather will finish that sentence. It has rained everyday. Some days a little and some days a lot. But we’re supposed to have 2 days of sunshine before the wood is dry enough to paint.
Yesterday, it was absolutely beautiful all morning and afternoon. Al and I decided to chance it because it didn’t look like rain was even possible. So I went into the garage to fetch the painting paraphernalia. I opened the door and lo and behold. It was raining. The sun was shining, mind you, but it was raining. I went back through the house to the deck and found Al sitting out there laughing. Of course, on this side of the house there were dark clouds. So you see how it’s been. It’s tough enough to get the wood to dry, and then to chance having no rain long enough for the paint to dry.
Yesterday’s surprise lasted only a few minutes and was fairly unproductive, so when today looked promising again, I decided things were dry enough. On went the prime coat and it’s been 5 hours and still no rain. Stars are out in fact. Maybe it will actually dry. But there’s a second coat to worry about. And then the point of all this ramble blog. I can’t walk on my deck for a week and can’t put furniture back on there for 2 weeks.
You should see it out there, all clean and beautiful. “Hey rod, come on out. The stars are gorgeous.” So I am confined to the cyberdeck for awhile.

My whole summer seems just like that. Summers are for projects, even if they are silly, unnecessary projects. But it seems as if I’ve not had a stretch long enough to even get a project started, much less completed. Same old unfinished things on the house, a year after we moved in. Same old rusty guitar chops. Same old messy garage.
I could really stand to drop some poundage and tighten up some sagination. But just like the paint, if I go to the gym, then I can’t for another two weeks, and it just renders my one trip ineffective. I wish I could just paint myself into shape, healthy. I wish I could just paint the mess away in the garage. I wish I could just paint music out of my heart and into my hands. I wish I wish I wish. But I can’t go out on the deck and find a star.


Friday, July 30, 2004


Well, my call for words about your daddy really wasn't intended for my kids. And I guess in fairness, Will's words weren't really an answer to the call. Yesterday the kids were buzzing and chasing around the house and Will was upset. I stopped them to ask what was the matter. Will said that they'd stolen his "permanent records" book and wouldn't give it back. Molly responded, "but he writes embarrassing stuff about us in there." I said, "cool Will, can I read it?" That got them all laughing, but Will sheepishly confessed, "Well, Dad, there is one thing in there about you." Then they all just rolled. I said, "Will, if you don't let me read it, I'm going to spank you." "I'll take the spanking," Will answered. Later though, he decided I could read it.
As it turns out, WIll's "Permanent Records" book is a very important thing. It is his journaling of observations of reality. His observations of other real people - their flaws and their humanity. Some people could do this, and it might be strange or unhealthy. Not WIll. It is a way that he is learning to put into proper perspective who we all really are and how we fit into one another's lives. I'll leave the explanation at that, but it is very important for him. For us all, for that matter. I have a very wise and intelligent son, with some skewed perpespective.
So he turned to an entry from several weeks ago that finds me as the subject. In my defense, we were all exhausted and starving and there was absolutely nothing in the house to eat.

Mom left, leaving Dad in charge. Oh boy. Fathers. They're good at cheering you up or fixing machinery. Fathers have never been good at cooking. I'm serious. All they can do is heat something up! Tonight is veggie burgers, peanut butter sandwiches or a nice hot cup of Go-to-bed-if-you-won't-eat. Guess what? I chose the cup!
Children are to be nourished with burgers or Mexican, or even Chinese water chestnuts, but not veggie burgers and peanut butter sandwiches!


Thursday, July 29, 2004

trimmed and burnin'

Summer is winding down and soon school will be starting. I’ve done a few weddings and stuff but have had to decline several because I’ve been gone so much this summer. Already though, the fall is filling up with more than the normal school and church responsibilities. I’ve got several classical concerts and gigs to prepare for this fall, some friends and I are talking about a possible trio affair with drums and bass, and last night I was asked to participate in a clinic that will include everything from jazz to classical guitar. It’s time to buff the nails, change the strings, break out some new music and pump some nylon. And I haven’t felt this ill-prepared and out of shape in years. I think it all came up in conversation last night because God is telling me it’s time to get it all back together. Talking about the trio, I worried that I can’t even play electric guitar anymore. Talking about the clinic I worried that I have nothing in my hands (though I have pulled some stuff out of my hat for weddings this summer). Nothing worthy of a performer or clinician though.
As it turns out, that conviction came in the form of a little reminder I got tonight while sleeping. It seems that while I was in California, the Rush concert wasn’t the only extra excitement. I can’t believe that I had repressed this whole ordeal until last night’s dream brought it all back.
When the conference was over on Friday afternoon, Russ and Carol Rhodes were headed up to Los Angeles with their family to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. They are all involved in worship at their church, playing various instruments, and singing. They came to CIU music department convocation and spoke and led worship. This is the same presentation that they were to make on the Tonight Show. So our conference entourage decided to head up to Burbank to attend the taping and lend them support. Since we were close friends of guests on the show, we didn’t have to wait in line as I had for the Rush concert, but were brought inside to hang in the green room and mill about the facilities while we waited for taping to begin. I ran in to Kevin Eubanks shortly after we got there, and was shooting the breeze with him in his office. I leaned over and picked up a bass that was sitting by the coffee table and began noodling as we talked. The bass, by the way, was a five-string that looked just like the guitar that he plays on the show. Of course I played some cool Geddy licks and some Tower of Power riffs I’ve been working on when no one is watching (Robert Shuler would be proud). Eubanks was pretty impressed, needless to say, and promptly asked me if I’d fill in for the show because Stanley had called in sick at the last minute. How could I pass up such an opportunity? I was a little worried about reading charts on the bass that quickly, but was assured I had a little over an hour to look them over – especially the theme song, which I kept confusing with Conan O’brien’s.
As I began getting hurried through set-up, sound check, stage placement, etc. I noticed that I was scheduled to play a classical guitar piece during the spot after the monologue where Jay usually does some lame bit like Jay Walking, or Headlines, or Correspondents. Now I was more than nervous, I was terrified. My guitar was out in the car, I hadn’t played it in weeks, the strings were dead, and I couldn’t think of anything I had in my fingers to play on such short notice. Normally, I’m ready for last minute things like this. I’ve landed some pretty cool gigs and radio spots because I’ve always got something in my hands, ready to go. Not this time. Now I was about to be thrust onto the stage where I’d been preceded by the likes of Christopher Parkening, Pepe Romero, and Liona Boyd. Surely Ross and Carol had set this up, but why hadn’t they told me?
Finally the show began. Edd Hall did the announcements, Jay walked out and began the monologue, I was struggling through the theme song. Panic set in. And that’s the last thing I remember. I didn’t see the airing of the show. I don’t know how I played, how successful I was at reading those charts, nothing. I hope I’ll get to see it in re-runs while Jay is on vacation. Meanwhile, I’m holed up in the practice room reading charts and playing scales.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004


epitome of masculinity
model man for man-to-be

long of arm, short of words
slow to speak but always heard

leadership by servanthood
strong of back and fortitude

passed on to us your quirky traits
for Al and Cin to aggravate


Like me and your grandsons, I know you have a soft spot for rhymes and a touch of humor.
Of course there are hundreds of memories involving you that have shaped my life, but there are two relatively recent ones that will always stick with me because they seem to sum up all the others.
When I built the patio at the old house, you came all the way to South Carolina to mix my mortar. Then you’d sit and watch and encourage me while I tried my hand at laying brick. When I had to paint the soffit, 25 feet above the ground, you stood below for hours, holding the ladder.
That’s the kind of Dad I want to be.
Provider, equipper, supporter, encourager.
happy birthday dad


Monday, July 26, 2004

it's all gravy

I poisoned my friend last night. Actually, we all ate the same thing, and it was very good. Even the poisoned victim enjoyed it. At first. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing wrong with wheat. Even Jesus ate wheat. A lot. So what’s the big deal? Well, obviously there must be something beyond umbrella morality that dictates what we can and can’t do. I don’t know, maybe the morality has to do with what is permissible, and the beyond part has to do with what is beneficial.
I’m terribly allergic to poison ivy. I’ve reacted so badly before that my eyes were swollen closed, and my fingers unusable. There is lots of poison ivy to manage around our house. Our neighbors have English Ivy between our houses and it was being infiltrated with poison ivy. Of course I can’t do anything about it, so I just tried to avoid it. Then one day the neighbor comes out there and spends the afternoon in the ivy pulling out all the poison. No problem. If I’d have even thought of doing that, I’d have been bedridden.
Sometimes the intolerance is only caused by a bad experience or with the questionable substance being associated with a bad experience. Once as a kid I got sick after eating thin mint girl scout cookies. To this day, I can’t even stand the smell of those little devil baits.
Sometimes things that are wrong for you become less wrong as you mature or grow older. I have definitely become more tolerant of poison ivy as I’ve gotten older. Sometimes, as you mature, you cease to have a problem at all, though you once were completely incapacitated by the same thing. My son Will spent the first years of his life unable to eat anything with maltose in it. Easy right? How often do you eat maltose? In just about everything, actually. It is used as a sweetener and is in every loaf of bread, save one. As Will has grown, he seems to have very little problem with maltose anymore.
By the same token, sometimes as we mature, we develop intolerance to things that never bothered us before. Perhaps our bodies have felt the build up of seemingly insignificant unhealthiness and now simply have to avoid it. Perhaps we just witness abuse of harmless substances and witness the destroying effects of the behavior and choose to refrain.
I’ve met people who could die if they ate mints out of the same bowl that had previously held peanuts. Others can suffocate in less than a minute from eating a strawberry. Most of us have no struggle with peanuts, strawberries, wheat, or corn syrup. But for those who do, it may as well be strychnine or heroine.
Most of us realize this about one another though. Those of us who have no problem with peanuts don’t think less of someone who does. Probably we would help our friend to avoid eating something dangerous for them rather than trying to talk them into enjoying it with us. Surely we don’t consider ourselves superior because we have no problem with maltose, do we? Surely people don’t think less of us for having given some things up, or developed intolerance to things we once enjoyed. It’s hard enough to avoid the hidden poisons in the otherwise harmless stuff, without being pressured by our un-understanding friends to grow up and stop being bothered by non-sense.


Saturday, July 24, 2004


Today I rode my bike up to see my friend Chick. There’s a place I go that whispered serenity to me the first time I came upon it. It is quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Unbeknownst to the passer-by, it has a dark history and still reeks of contradiction and conflict. It’s named for a terrible incident that happened there over a century ago, and even in recent years and months it has stayed true to its heritage. Two years ago, just after Christmas, a lady was shot there. Chick watched a girl pull out a gun and shoot her husband in the field beside the pond. This past January, Chick and a friend were sitting and talking and spotted a body floating in the pond. A drug dealer from Columbia with a tricked out ’65 Impala, shot execution style.
It is in this place of conflict and confusion that Chick continues to heal from his stint 35 years ago in Southeast Asia. This is where he came all those years ago after being told he’d better talk about it or he’d never survive. This is where he found an old man 30 years ago sitting at a picnic table with a ready and willing ear. This is where I found him about two years ago sitting at a picnic table writing in a notebook. I’ve never been there when he wasn’t there. Even though he works and goes about life, and I’m usually not there when he is, he’s always there when I go. There is no doubt in my mind that it is arranged. We’ve talked for hours upon hours. He told me today that he had 1600 hundred handwritten pages of his story. It’s almost done. He said that he wanted me to read it, even though I’d already heard much of what’s in there.
Until right now, I think Allison is the only person I’ve talked to about Chick. He is an amazing man. He has compassion born of trouble. He has need and plenty to give. It is amazing how useful one can feel by simply being there. I asked him if he’d still remember me when his book is published and he’s a millionaire. He said, “Rod, when I’m a published millionaire, you’ll ride your bike up here and here I’ll be sitting at this picnic table.”
When I grow up, I think I might become an itinerate listener.


Friday, July 23, 2004

what dreams may come

When the kids were tiny and I was still in grad school, they had to spend several afternoons with a sitter each week. I would go and pick them up on my way home from school or work or whatever the schedule had for that day. In the fall, at that time of day, the sun was just setting as we came down the street toward home. Up the hill, across the railroad tracks, and back down the hill to home. At the railroad tracks, we were on the highest point in the area and as we crossed every evening, the sky was on fire directly in front of us. Everyday, I’d say, look guys, look at the colors Jesus painted. As time went by, my tiny ones would anticipate the painting, and when we crossed the tracks, would say the mantra. Often we’d circle around the cul-de-sac and drive back up the hill, turn around and cross the tracks again.
Two or three years ago we were driving down the road and Will had his head bent over staring out the window, up at the sky watching the clouds. He said, “Dad, the sky is so amazing, everyday it is different, we get a new sky everyday.” Of course we do Willby, it reminds us that God’s mercies are new every day. We get new mercies every morning, just like we get a new sky.


This past winter I was sitting on the deck with a fire and reading The Divine Conspiracy. I was exactly where I needed to be while reading Dallas Willard’s discussion of Spirit. As I read about God speaking to Peter “out of the atmosphere”, or “out of thin air”, I stared up at that vastness with its gazillions of stars. I felt tiny, I had some new understanding of spirit and omnipresence. I felt the air out of which God spoke to Peter, and to Hagar in the wilderness. All around me. I breathed it in. Some say that prayer should be like breathing out and breathing in. My prayer didn’t have to go anywhere that night – I simply felt spirit and breathed the breath of God.


The Perseid Meteor Shower began this week. Though there are still only a few to be seen each night, the sky show will continue to intensify until August 11 when it peaks and we begin flying back out of the goo from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which left this stuff in our path during the Civil War, around 1865. Each night this week I’ve spent some time out on the deck staring up long enough to catch 3 or 4 shooting stars. Lying there staring up, feeling the vastness and mystery, and stealing a glance at a rock, or speck of dust, or piece of metal, burning up from friction in our atmosphere, one can’t help but feel vulnerable. The very air that we breathe, that oft used metaphor for emptiness, is the stuff that envelopes us and protects us from cosmic projectiles. It is only through God’s great love that we are not consumed. Spirit God everywhere, in every molecule in every atom, electron, speaking from the heavens, ‘out of the atmosphere’, burning up the fiery darts before they can cause us harm.


Tonight as I lie down (much too late), I close my eyes with the hope of new mercies, created while I sleep by a God who never slumbers. I grieve for those who can’t find sleep and who like Jeremiah have lost hope and deemed God a lost cause. I breathe a prayer to the God who fills my inmost being that also like Jeremiah, a glimmer of remembered faithfulness will be enough to hold to as they passionately wait, diligently seek, and quietly hope.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime and in the night,
His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

perchance to dream

Who has emptied you Rose?
What foul wind has evaporated your hope?
What din drowns the song sung over
and over and over and over you?

Was there not once a glimmer?
I can see it behind your eyes, read it
between the lines –
the faint flicker, far and forgotten.

To whom was your prayer directed?
To whom did you lift your hands?
On whose shoulder did you lay your head back down
and pray to be only His?

Bare your soul, He knows who you are
Like me, He hurts for you tonight
and wants you to feel more than music.
He longs to fill you Rose.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

serve the church

Remember the movie Bull Durham? I like the scene in which Kevin Costner is being interviewed and just keeps offering phrases that he's been told work as answers. Stock nothings. Jargon. Cliché. One needn't be in the music business to have picked up on the industry lingo. Christian musicians, like all others, shop their product. They strive to create a broad market appeal. Narrow musical style to easily fit a format. Capture a wider audience. In my thinking, all this is fine and dandy for anything except music that claims to have been created to facilitate worship. So for what, you ask, should worship music writers strive? Well that's what I've been trying to get to.
This past week, I attended seminars by 4 Englishmen, Graham Kendrick, Martin Smith, Stu G., and Matt Redman. From all 4, I heard the phrase, "serve the church." Each one stated that they felt it their calling and strove to write worship songs that serve the church. Each of these writers spoke of writing songs for their own local congregations. If you know the Delirious? story, you know that this is how it started. This is how it still is. No record contract, but songs that have only the purpose of facilitating worship and growing stronger Christians. Delirious? had to fly back to England immediately after the concert to participate in a wedding at their local church. On Sunday, they were leading worship with children at their church.
Now I know that the church is global. It is made of all believers. It is beyond my local body. The intent of serving the church reaches all these. But the operative word is serve, not market. It breaks my heart to see the expression of anointed worshiping songwriters usurped by ark culture stars who turn the expression into industry that confuses the church who were to be led into worship by the humble offerings of these songs.
Immediately after Martin Smith's talk, a question came from the audience, "I've written dozens of worship songs, I think they're pretty good. Could you give me some advice on how to "get them out there". I don't know how Martin Smith kept from responding, "listen, you selfish idiot. Did you not hear a single word I just said?" Instead, Martin Smith patiently repeated himself, "just play your songs for your local church body to worship. If God wants them to minister further, He'll make it happen."
Serve the church. In so doing, we serve God. Lead your local community to worship.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Somehow, for a fleeting moment, I actually thought that I might be able to blog afterthoughts of my trip in some kind of linear reverse order from the long hurry up and wait flight back. Linear? When have I ever been linear? I've always been random access. Many of you can't figure out how I survive a brain like this, but it provides quite a useful tool called non-destructive editing. That is one reason I'm quite unafraid to try some new thinking. I know that if it proves wrong, I can simply click undo and return to the old way. On the other hand, if the new way proves right, I'll click save, and no matter how many times you try to reach over my shoulder and click undo, a dialogue box will appear that says, auto recovery function has been disabled from that outdated and erroneous process and I'll spend some time trying to soften the language of the dialogue box.
I've used the term assimilate several times this week to describe what I have to do to help you make some sense of my ramblings. Truth is, however, that the term defrag probably is equally as accurate. I took notes all week in MS Word format on my PDA. That's great if all you're doing is taking notes on the talk. But if you've got any kind of threaded response to the whole, it can be quite cumbersome to have only one file open at a time. So I'm bouncing back and forth between my PDA contained bible and the singular talk notes file and my linear threaded response among my random access brain files. My linear threaded responses find themselves fragmented in numerous separate files in the PDA that contain the notes from various individual talks that were delivered in well constructed linear fashion.
Now all that was intentionally confusing. But if you read it again thinking that maybe it can be understood, it might provide some insight into my processes. Maybe not.
Now the reward for living with a low IQ and an unorganized appearance is the ability in the end to compare things side by side and find connections, similarities and differences, conflicts and common ground, cause and effect, etc. I assimilate, therefore I am.
Well then. If anyone finds him/herself still awake, here comes the first and perhaps most important simple observation that this process has brought me thus far this week. I'll try not to make its conveyance here as simple as the concept.

to be continued


Monday, July 19, 2004

topographical return

I know, I said that a topographical metaphor wouldn't do for my life. I know, I said that the weather worked better because its changing can be both linear and contemporaneous. The big picture holds the secrets. Yeah yeah yeah. But I wasn't thinking about the big topographical picture. The thing about topography is you've got to experience it one step at a time. But you can still know that you are not experiencing the only terrain there is. I blogged about this the other day in response to Bishop Garlington's talk. Like when Jesus was baptized, He was led into the wilderness. We often use the phrase, in the middle of the wilderness.
Yesterday I saw the middle of the wilderness, but I got to see the middle of the wilderness without having to be in it, from 37,000 ft. That's the big pic ya know. So guess what I saw in the middle of the wilderness. It also spoke to my statement last week that I felt if you are in the sunshine only, you deny the presence of the storm. Had I been on the ground, but a couple miles from that beautiful blue, I would have had no idea what lay just ahead. There in the middle of the blue, one could be amazingly oblivious to the barren nothingness all around. Oh but for the grace of God, I could be out of the blue. While I am in the blue, fragile ecosystems and all but extinct plants wither and die, never to return. For the want of a bucket I could carry from the blue.
Henceforth, I shall embrace both topographical and meteorological wide angle metaphors for my walk and being. Sometimes I'm wet and sometimes dry. Some times saturated, sometimes wrung out. Cool and hot. Sometimes I'm above it all and sometimes I'm standing in it.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

flight plan

Don gave me his upgrade to first class. I rode from Orange County to Atlanta in first class. I've never heard the words, "would you like something more?" so much in my life. The flight over the desert was amazing. The rest of the day made up for it. Even that wonderful leg of the trip left the runway an hour late. But that was nothing.
We boarded in Atlanta at 6:50pm. We sat on the tarmac until 8:40pm waitng for a light bulb to be changed. While we waited, storms moved into the Charlotte flight field. So we flew our 37 minutes to Charlotte and circled around until after 10pm and had to land in Raleigh to get gas. We sat on the plane in Raleigh and finally took off at 11:30. We landed in Charlotte at midnight and finally got our luggage at 12:45am. Granted, that's 9:45 Pacific time, but it's still a 13 hour trip from Orange County to Charlotte, and then we had to drive to Columbia. Have you ever had to stop and refuel on a flight from Atlanta to Charlotte?
Summary comparisons: The trip from Atlanta to Charlotte took longer than the trip from California to Atlanta. The wait for baggage took longer than the flight time.
We could see lightning bolts beneath the plane. A lot of potholes over Charlotte. But we're back. Back in the land of thunderstorms and humidity and 100+ degree days.
Larry said to be sure and blog this harrowing day. I said I was too tired to think. He said go ahead and just give an account, so there it is. Nothing ever goes as planned. Didn't I just say that the other day?
Please turn off personal electronic devices and stow them and be sure your seat and dinner tray is in the upright position and that your seatbelt is fastened low and securely around your waist. We will begin our initial descent within the next 48 hours.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

stay vertical

More vertical focus today. The schedule was all askew today which helped make things a little fresher. I went to two seminars - Paul Baloche and Matt Redman. After lunch Louie Giglio delivered an amazing talk from his new book, "I am not, but I know I AM." The general session talks have been fantastic all week - Rick Warren, Bishop Joseph Garlington Erwin McManus, and Louie Giglio. After the talk, Matt Redman led in an hour of worship and then it was over. All over but the assimilating.
We went to Outback for supper. No rules, just right. One word for ya - Queensland Chicken and Shrimp.
After supper we went back over to Irvine Center to see a movie. I opted out and talked to Allison on the phone and cruised around watching people - little kids in fountains, punks, flamenco musicians, latin dancers, singer songwriters with acoustic guitar slightly more life-like than the day stage ones I've heard all week, and cartoon-like anatomical enhancements. It's Southern California, ya'll.
Oh, I found for Jack a gorgeous Latina. I was taking her baby brother's pic sitting on a fountain turtle. She had to know who I was and where I was from, did I have kids? How old are they? Is the 12-year-old A BOY? What's he look like?
Look out dad, the times they are a changin'.
It's off to the airport at 6:45, so I'm off to bed. See you tomorrow night.


Friday, July 16, 2004

go vertical

Worship today turned a corner.  This is not to make a value judgement on any worship leaders or performers who have played previously this week.  Obviously, I've enjoyed them all.  But today the worship took on a new focus.  The entire conference attendance responded to it.  Chris Tomlin started it at 11:00 this morning.  His set was God focused, prayerful and sincere.  Also, he very enthusiastically introduced and presented a brand new song that is very familiar to me and will be on his new CD.  As a matter of fact, I played guitar on its CD release premier performance at the Shaun Groves concert.  Nana nana boo boo.  Yes, it was Laura Story's indescribable.  It was extremely well-done and extremely well received. 
This evening's concert opened with an hour of Paul Baloche.  He continued the vertical focus, leading us in an hour of musical prayer before Deliriou5? took over.  I've posted a pic for the benefit of my student, T. E. S. James, in Paris.  Surely he'll be jealous when he sees it.
Deliriou5?  What can I say?  I have always admired these guys' hearts, tonight was no different.  Intense worship time introduced to a lot of people the ability to get out-of-the-box and still have a very meaningful spiritual moment.  A certain someone who shall remain nameless actually "danced in the river" as a form of prayer.  You wouldn't believe it if I told you who, so I won't.
During the Paul Baloche portion, he asked us to reach out and grab the hand of a spouse or team member as we all prayed together. I reached out to the right and grabbed Larry's hand, and to the left and got an older lady's hand who was all alone. She seemed to start at the touch, and I wondered if I'd made her uncomfortable. After the concert, she said to me, "thank you for including me in your touch tonight. It is really hard to travel and spend the week alone. You are the first person who has touched me in 4 days." Wow. In the midst of a completely vertical day, a horizontal connection is made. Didn't I just blog something about that yesterday? Our human fellowship is deepened by our growing focus on God. It was quite an experience to feel such a strong sense of community among so large a corporate body with unified hearts singing upward songs of praise, thanksgiving, confession, begging, hope and distress. That is the paradox of the spiritual. God heard love and spoke back to us. And the noise from so large a crowd, some crying, some singing, some joy and tears, so that in the ears of the people, the cries of joy were mixed with the sound of weeping; for the cries of the people were loud and came to the ears of those who were a long way off.
I have deep emotions and thoughts about tonight's concert, but I have no idea how to verbalize them.  You'll have to wait until I've pondered and processed.
So I apologize for the journal entry style conference blogging. Each night I am just too tired to assimilate. It's in there though. Maybe when I get home I can revisit the whole thing with a bigger perspective. Be patient.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

community, lament, peace - 3-in-one

Thinking about the Trinity in my context here in So.Cal. makes me remember a comment Greg made about solitude months ago. That Jesus didn't go off in the wilderness to escape people, but to feel more fully His perfect community in the Trinity. Of course, I say, Solitude is not an escape but a refueling, a visit to the prayer closet.
Today Joseph Garlington mentioned that when Jesus was Baptised, and God said, "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased," Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted. So if one finds himself in the wilderness, does that mean God is pleased with him?
I recently blogged about hope and faith stengthened by adversity. But I'd never thought about how the beautiful music of our fellowship with the Trinity, could actually be born of adversity. That Spirit pulls us there to fellowship with us. Our growing faith is born of the struggle of fellowship. Maybe our most beautiful music is that which speaks of the struggle and paints an authentic picture of the struggle that God overcomes in us. Our inauthentic, always happy Christianity sells short God's ability to move in our lives and defeat the overwhelming stuff that actually creates fellowship with Him. The pop Christian happy life leaves no room for us to discover Joy in Him, because our happiness is an attitude, a constant decision to look on the bright side. That is our own stuff, a happiness that we try to create because we don't trust God to give us joy amidst the tough stuff. We don't want joy, we want optimism. We adhere to the power of positive thinking a lot more than we'd like to admit. We are afraid that our expression of struggle will indicate a lack of faith, when it is actually a testimony to it. Evidence of God's unimaginable power. Of right fellowship and favor with Him.
Do we ever say that Jesus had a lack of faith? Why do we try so hard not to be like Him?


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

at least it makes a good story

It was my plan to treat you tonight with the set list from the Rush concert I went to. But nothing ever goes as planned. It's a heckuva notion. So the bottom line is, I'm an idiot. I bought a ticket, was delivered to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine, and thought I could sneak my camera in. I always do. Not in California. Here, you can't even sneak you keys in. Empty your purse and pockets and every soul gets patted down. All 15,000 of us at the sold-out concert. The line for security was at least three-quarters of a mile. This time I'm not exaggerating. If you don't believe me, I stood in it for 60 minutes until Rush had been playing for 45 minutes, and my camera was discovered and I was told I had to leave it in the car. But I don't have a car, I pleaded. I'm from South Carolina and have traveled 3,000 miles for this concert because I missed them in Charlotte on May 28. My friends dropped me off here and I can't leave my camera in the car. Sorry, SIR, you can't bring it in. Can I check it somewhere? Leave it with an officer? At the box office? In the bushes? Sorry SIR. But... I'm a nice guy! Am I not meant to see the 30th anniversary tour? I've missed 2 opportunities! I haven't missed a Rush tour since 1981! Count'em. That's a lot of Rush concerts. Charleston, Pittsburg, Columbia, Charlotte, Greenville, Irvine. Having missed 45 minutes due to the over zealous security, terrified that one of us 40 somethings with our children and grandchildren in tow, might try to sneak in some paraphernalia, or try to shoot someone with a camera, I made a quick decision to sell my ticket and walk back to Irvine Center for a long chat on the phone with Allison. At least I got to hear 7 live Rush songs from across the fence, including Subdivisions, and Animate.
And I missed Jars o' Clay for this? It was worth it. Experience California.
Sorry Neil, Alex and Geddy. I tried. Again. I'll see you in Atlanta!!!!
Tomorrow night it is Deliriou5? I'm really looking forward to that.
Oh, yeah - lots of cool conference stuff today, but I'm too tired to blog it. Maybe tomorrow.
I'm going to go get a cookie. d:liciou5?
And head to bed.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

if you can dream it

This morning we had a leisurely continental breakfast at the hotel. Someone called my cell phone at 6:02a and I couldn't go back to sleep because it was really 9:02 on my body clock. So I showered grabbed an everlasting cup o' joe and sat around for 2 hours thinking.
More thought was provoked by a trip down to Anaheim to visit the Crystal Cathedral. We actually took our time and walked around. We visited the museum and gift shop and cemetery as well as the main glass "cathedral". A monstrous wad of capital spent in creating an incredible space in which to view the history of the crystal cathedral. Pretty cool beginnings though, standing on a roof and preaching to people in their cars at a drive-in theatre. That was truly innovative.
In the gift shop, they had "Crystal Cathedral Mints" in little round tins. I quipped that they should say, "Curiously Powerful Mints".
Back at saddleback, I tried to anticiptate what the focus of the first general session might be. I thought about all the blogs where I've complained about musical worship as a means of fellowship while I wondered what I was about to experience. While I was waiting on the conference to begin, I decided that there is a big difference between worship through fellowship and fellowship through worship. The latter grows our love for our brothers and sisters by our growing love for God. The former uses what is intended to be an expression of love for God as a means to feel fellowship with humans. It's all a matter of focus and intent. We can grow closer to one another by growing closer to God, but it is very difficult to grow closer to God when our focus is on us.
Once the conference began, I heard Rick Warren deliver what I think was one of the best LONG sermons on Christian Community that I've ever heard. I believe God was preparing me for that with what he'd put on mind all morning. That was very heart-warming. Will definitely affect the way I filter this entire week. Thanks Rick Warren.
Even though these two words are often used interchangeably (even today), I decided that there is a big difference between unity and community. One does not completely require the other. Maybe you should comment along these lines. Expect a nuance series blog soon.
Tonight we had a fantastic concert that was supposed to have included Abe Laboriel who stayed home to care for his extremely ill wife. It did include Lincoln Brewster, Abe's band, John Tesh(!), Morris Chapman, and tons of others. Oh yeah, a fire alarm brought all 3,500 out of the building in the middle of the concert.
Pretty cool day.


Monday, July 12, 2004

where are all the oranges

Arrived safely at Orange County Chon Wang airport at 2:30 local time. That is about 7 days since last I slept. I'm exaggerating again. But I am tired.
No doubt most of you have been here, but I never have, so I'll just say, it's very different. Beautiful in fact. In a different way. We ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant overlooking the ocean. There was a huge rock out there with literally hundreds of Pelicans sitting on it. Here is a pic from our dinner table.
I had a beef enchilada and a fish taco with rice and beans. Best I've ever had. New flavors. New sights.
The air is crisp and cool and the breeze is invigorating. Oh yeah - gorgeous sunset. Sorry I didn't get a pic of that for you. Maybe tomorrow.
Conference starts tomorrow. I'll try to be a more interesting, rested blogger by then.
Over and out.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

with an aching in my heart

So we rolled in from Florida at about 12:45 this morning. It took me a while to shake off the road spins and settle down and prepare for church this morning. We left yesterday afternoon at about 2:00 and stopped in St. Augustine to quick-see the nation's oldest European city with the kids. Pretty cool.
Back on the road by 7:00 and well, we got home.
Yesterday, as we were climbing in the car, I got a voice mail from Mom and Sis. They were in SC, looking for us. My cousin Joanne died Thursday night and they were down for the funeral. I'd been asked to sing, but wasn't home to know. You can step out for a moment and everything can change. Play at a wedding and miss singing at a funeral. But the funeral still happens. Sunshine rain. Weather is inevitable.
So it's off now to California. Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard as it seems.
I plan on finding a connection and attempting to blog this week. If the connection doesn't happen, I'll blog in my PDA and bombard you all at once when I return.


Saturday, July 10, 2004

in every forest

Today the kids and I drove over to clearwater to swim in the gulf. I-4 thru Tampa looks and feels like it's been bombed out and a bulldozer has come through and cleared a single lane in the rubble for precisely 100 million cars a day to pass through on the way to the airport and the causeway across the bay.
but I exaggerate...
Just as I was about to come to the end of I-4, I got a phone call from Austin and somehow, who knows?, I ended up sitting in a parking lot on the west side of Clearwater ready to climb out and into the Gulf of Mexico. The phone call was just what I needed. How do you do that gwill? I've missed your calls before and merely a message or an appearance on my callerID, has been a boost to my moment. Today I got a complete conversation with gorgeous scenery.
But I digress...
While I was hanging out in 4 feet of salt water and Molly was hanging on me and the boys were swimming all around and between my knees... I was thinking about yesterday's sunshine rain thing. Now we've all, at some time or another, experienced a shower, or even a storm, while the sun shone down from the periphery. But this is usually momentary, just as the storm approaches or as it is moving away. But a constant barrage of storm for hours, while the sun beats down? This is odd. Sure at any given time, some are experiencing a storm and others, a sunny day. That's not odd. But the same guy, at the same time? For this you have to see the big picture. I've never lived anywhere that I could see weather beyond what I was experiencing. If there is a storm overhead, that's all there is. Who knows what's on the other side of the hill?
Last August, the fam and I stood atop the Devil's Courthouse along the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Asheville. We climbed up there in the rain on a chilly August evening. Spits of sleet tingled on our skin as we reached the top. From here, at 5,720 feet, one can see 360 degrees into North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Far below, and for miles, are the peaks of mountains. We saw fog, rain, lightning, blue skies and sunset from up there. Big picture. Its all going on. At the same time. That's life. Will stood there with icy rain hitting his face and said, "dad, I've never felt so close to God." Half frozen, exhausted, but with a clear view of the big picture. You can see how Good He is. It wasn't a topographical experience, it was a big picture experience.
That Georgia to Orlando storm was a big picture experience. Weather. Two extremes. Simultaneously. This is how it always is. If you don't feel the rain during your "good times", you're in denial of the storms. If you don't feel the sunshine during the storms, you deny hope. That's what I was talking about in my hope post the other day.

Maybe that's why weather comes up so often for me. Weather seems like a much better metaphor for my life/walk than any topographical description I've heard. The highs and lows, mountains and valleys. Those just don't cut it for me. As if I'm either up or down, or even if I'm halfway up, I'm either up or down. I admit that I usually behave that way. Up or down. But deep down inside, somewhere, I know that both exist, at the same time. I know that even Jesus experienced it when for the joy set before Him he endured the cross. I know, but don't understand how it pleased the Father to bruise His Son. But, I believe that what pleased the Father was the same joy that was set before the Son. That's enough weirdness to cause me to seek, and embrace the big picture. Most often, I can't see the forest for the trees, and its at those times I see the snake rather than the apple of my eye.


Friday, July 09, 2004

sunshine rain

ah, the sunshine state. Only here can you drive for 4 and a half hours in the driving rain so thick you can hardly see the front of the car, and yet have the sunshine beating down on you the whole time. Welcome center to Jax, simultaneous rain and sunshine. Jax to Daytona, simultaneous rain and sunshine. Daytona to Orlando, simultaneous rain and sunshine. Quite a beautiful thing actually. To be cooled and cleansed and enjoy the sun at the same time. And a horizon full of lightning bolts opposite the blue.
Oh, don't forget the rainbow. Arcing over Orlando, ground to ground. I thought we'd turned wrong and had come upon St. Louis.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

not one

no one is righteous
not one


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

reawakening puritanism in america

It is a great day in the history of American politics. The Veep candidate is announced, and it is none other than old John Edwards. While there are some fearful and disapproving cries from the GOP, and conservative groups across the country, already some major conservative figures have been very verbal in their support for this man. As for myself, I can't imagine the impact that would be made on this nation if for an inaugural speech, he resurrected and delivered his famous, "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God." Can you imagine? But I'm not the only one. Consider this stroke of support from Charles Colson,

It is my belief that the prayers and work of those who love and obey Christ in our world may yet prevail as they keep the message of such a man as Jonathan Edwards

—Charles Colson.

And consider this statement from John Piper,

No one in church history that I know, with the possible exception of St. Augustine, has shown more clearly and shockingly the infinite-I use the word carefully-importance of joy in the very essence of what it means for God to be God and what it means for us to be God-glorifying. Joy always seemed to me peripheral until I read Jonathan Edwards.

And in a country that fights day to day over the obtrusive fingers of the government into religious freedom, and the sometimes forceful intrusion of religious figures into politics, here we have a VP candidate resolved to a God-entranced vision of all things and radical single-mindedness in our occupation of spiritual things. Consider these resolutions from Edwards himself.

# 44, Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all in any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it.

# 61, Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it . . .

Though a Catholic denied the Eucharist and a staunch Calvinist seem to me to be strange ticket fellows, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out against a Texas Methodist in this volatile spiritual arena which is America.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

at hand

Yesterday, I commented twice on this post. Both times I came back to the computer later to find that it "didn't take". So I thought this time I'd just bring it to my page and attempt a response post of my own.
Well, we certainly are pendulum riders. All of American Christendom seems to swing way in one direction as a correction to some perceived drift in the other direction. Finally our swing is sensed as a drift and we swing back. My favorite part is right there at the top of the swing where we actually cease movement and start back the other way - when the outside of your body heads back, but the inside hasn't yet changed direction and one's pancreas gently crashes into his belly button before it is shoved back into the direction of the rest of the body.
The two big phrases are, "he's too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." or - "he's too caught up in the day-to-day to think about eternity." The interesting thing about these two positions is that those in them often are motivated by a less than right reason for being there. There seem to be two strange mindsets that are confused with "heavenly minded". The first seems very focused on self. The world to come will mark the end of my troubles here. The second, and I know that this is a beaten and dead horse in my ranting, is to confuse being "heavenly minded" with the escape from fire. Those most passionately evangelical are often seen to be most focused on the next world, but in fact are fueled by fear. As King's X so aptly put "scared of hell?" Hell must definitely be something to fear, of course, but in our fearful zeal to save people from eternal torment, we forget to point them to anything else. Most of our astounding testimonies deal with what God has saved us from rather than what He has brought us to. We snatch someone from the fire (or think we have) and then leave them, while we move on to snatch the next person.
So perhaps my response to the here and there dilemma is to be kingdom minded. May I say that most of us are either too heavenly minded to be any kingdom good, or too worldly minded to be any kingdom good?
Of course C.S. Lewis paraphrases the scripture when he says, "aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in, aim at earth and you will get neither." Seek ye first...
But after the ellipsis lies the difference in our interpretation. Kingdom. And His righteousness. We interpret kingdom to mean the hereafter, because we can't be righteous this side of heaven. But we can. Our righteousness is not of ourselves but Christ is our righteousness. We have Him NOW. And the kingdom? Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, it is from another place. He didn't say it IS another place.
So I'm assuming that I have citizenship with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining not only of some future land which will deliver me from this world, but of a kingdom here and now that causes me to live in this world quite differently than I would otherwise. It enables me to see things that are and things that are not yet, from quite a different perspective. It allows me to be unaffected by things that would otherwise destroy me, it allows me to affect others that might otherwise be destroyed. It allows me to affect people who have the same citizenship as I do, but haven't yet moved to the kingdom.
Yo, the Kingdom is at hand.
After all, to live is Christ.


Monday, July 05, 2004

hope and promises 2

Hope. It's really all there is isn't it? Sure there are a lot of different words that play together here to help us form this part of our theology. Faith, trust, hope. Seems like we kind of use these words interchangeably in our Christianese. However, when we go into bi-lingual mode, each word seems to have a different spin.
Faith is a word that rarely gets used as a secular term. So, once heard enough times, and taken in context, it seems that it refers to the confidence that what you believe to be true is true. Trust is tossed around in all circles. This word seems to mean some kind of negative faith, to refer to the confidence that what you believe someone won't do, they won't do. We usually have faith in something and trust people not to behave inappropriately. Hope seems to be the weakest of the three. It appears to have less to do with confidence and more to do with desire. "I hope it doesn’t rain on Thursday." "I hope we have something good in the cafeteria today." We use the word hope when we seem to know that our desired outcome is based on chance. If we're lucky…

Entire cultures have been built and strengthened and maintained based on hope. Faith is strengthened when hope is exercised when there seems to be no hope. I think of African-Americans in slavery. An entire culture based on hope. What more was there to cling to? What stronger understanding of blind faith than to believe God's promises when there is no foreseeable way they could be accomplished? Even today while mainline evangelicals are listening to sermons about how to manage finances, live in peace, manage stress, the African-American church seems to be more focused on what God has promised for the future. Who could have a greater understanding of freedom in Christ? As a result, as a Christian community, they are less impacted by cultural trends, changing worship styles, and perceived needs.
Ironically, sometimes when hope is realized and faith bears fruit, trust is lost or taken for granted. I think of Israel in captivity in Egypt. All hope seems lost, but they cry out to God until He answers. They are delivered and their faith begins to dwindle. They worship idols in the wilderness, they gather extra manna, they believe the giants in the land are too much for them.

How does one keep his faith when all around there seems to be no evidence that it has any substance? How do we hope when there seems to be no chance? It seems that often, the psalmist retained faith when he felt all hope was lost. We can trust God's sovereignty. I trust God to take care of me, even when it's completely different than I'd anticipated. Job said, "though He slay me, I'll still trust Him.
The bible speaks of hope quite differently than we understand it. The apostle Paul's use of the word hope was not aleatory. We hope in what has been promised. Our hope goes far beyond what we can foresee. We hope based on what we think we can withstand. God promises based on what He can get us through, and what He has for us at the end of hoping.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

independence day

boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, bam, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, kablooeyboom, boom,


boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, kablooey, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, bang, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, bang, pop, scream, kablooey, bang



Saturday, July 03, 2004

one-sided conversation

Have you ever had a conversation with an insect? I did today. Well, the conversation mostly consisted of a staredown and "what are you thinking right now?" I know that insects can read the minds of humans. If you don't believe me, just surprise a roach or palmetto bug on your driveway some evening. If you just look at him and don't think about killing him, he'll just sit there or wander around. But if in some distant recess of your mind, a thought of aggression enters, he'll zip away before you even realized you were thinking of it. Just mind your own business and stare straight at him and think about cotton candy, or monorail transit systems, and he and all his buddies will just wander around your chair - around your feet even. But stare up at the sky and don't move a muscle and entertain the notion of bug assassination deep in folds of your gray matter, and zoom, they are gone to bug bunker until you think again about public transportation.
So I don't know what this dragonfly was thinking, but he was intrigued by me as much as I was with him. And he knew exactly what I was thinking. He was flying around the yard when I came out with my camera. I sat down on the sidewalk to take a mushroom picture and he sat down on a lilly stem about 10 feet away. Then he flew a little closer and a little closer until he was within whisper distance.
At each stop, he would turn and face me and stare right into my eyes. If he landed with his tail toward me, he'd turn. I wanted to get a profile of him, because he was very colorful, but of course he knew that, and kept turning to face me. So I settled for a full on face shot until he read all my thoughts and realized he could trust me.
Finally he agreed to the profile, and then we sat and talked for a few more minutes until I had to go in for supper. He knows what I had - black beans and rice and corn - but I have no idea what he had.


Friday, July 02, 2004

for the sake of clarity

And having refuted Ms. Stein, if you don't get it, I'll let her come to my rescue:

Clarity is of no importance because nobody listens and nobody knows what you mean no matter what you mean, nor how clearly you mean what you mean. But if you
have vitality enough of knowing enough of what you
mean, somebody and sometime and sometimes a great
many will have to realize that you know what you mean
and so they will agree that you mean what you know,
what you know you mean, which is as near as anybody
can come to understanding any one.

I feel much better now

That's from Four in America, (1947).


Thursday, July 01, 2004

bloogle banner ads

so before you continued reading, look up about 3 inches. See it? That ad at the top of the page? Probably, you've ceased to even notice it, because its always there. For about the first 3 months of my blog, it aggravated me badly, I considered posting by ftp to my own domain so that the ad would disappear. Messes up the look of the page, annoying, intrusive, and commercial. At some point though, I started enjoying it. It is always entertaining to see what reference has been grabbed from my blog and turned into a commercial for some strange product. My favorite, though, by far, is when I actually beat the system, and it posts, "this blank space brought to you by google." So from time to time, I might try intentionally to beat the software, but right now I'm going to just toss out a few things and see what sticks.
So humor me, ok?

Today while I was cutting the grass, a cricket jumped out onto the sidewalk. The game lasted 6 hours before it was squashed by a stump mallet, which threw the politician off and he landed on his democrat.

ok, so this is really just a solicitation for comments. While I'm writing this the ads at the top of the page are for breakfasts and pancake mix. When you read this post, please list in the comment box, what the banner ad is.


hope and promises 1

Having made a reference to Gertrude Stein and receiving no feedback, I became worried that maybe I'd erroneously attributed that quote to her. It has been a long time, you know. So I looked it up. Of course I was right. (grin). I also found the following quote, that refutes a blog I wrote yesterday, but haven't posted. I will post it by and by, but first, I thought I'd have some fun and try to refute Ms. Stein in her own style. I'm no writer, and I really enjoy reading her stuff. So don't expect a writer to emerge here, or an apologist for that matter. Just having some Steinlich fun with a very serious and passionate subject.
Here's the quote:

It is natural to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes to that siren until she “allures” us to our death.

And here is my attempted Steinlich response:

See, that's just utter non-sense. But self-fulfilling prophecy. Without hope, what else is there. At any moment, there is hope, there is no hope, and there may or may not be that which is hoped for or not hoped for. Let's say that the hoped for are promises. Then there are the hopeful, but without promise. There are promises that few dare to hope for and so are seldom claimed. There are promises hoped for and kept.
So there are a bunch of people existing together on the same planet, lives overlapping, paths intersecting. Some hope for what is not promised, others dare not hope for what is promised, and some hope and are rewarded.
He who hopes in the hopeless, at least may be led to the hopeful, if only by having a heart that is capable of believing. He who does not hope, misses not only the reward, but any relief that could be acquired by looking beyond.
So how does one know what is worth hoping for. Seek testimony on the promises. There are promises yet to be kept that can be trusted because of the historically proven trustworthiness of the promise maker.