Tuesday, August 31, 2004

pics of Jesus

Tonight, for the first time since Allison returned from Manila, we got a chance to sit down and look at her pics together. I downloaded them from the camera, so I'd browsed through, but not with her and not with full attention. There were 340 pics on there. I wish I could post them all for you to see.
Allison went to help (wo)man a free medical clinic in the city. I've posted two pics of Jesus for you to see. Click them to see the bigger version. He doesn't look anything like the Shroud of Turin.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."


Monday, August 30, 2004

where has the lunar been?

So I’m sitting on the covered front porch in a rocking chair, and though I can’t see it from here, I’m enjoying the illumination of the moon, reflected off the clouds and making visible even nocturnal critters crossing the road. Wait a minute, why am I on the front porch? My deck is certainly “chair safe” by now. Could it be that in my resolution to move to the front porch during the deck’s unavailability I’ve gradually become satisfied with the lesser experience. You know for two weeks after the painting of the deck, I actually pulled a rocking chair out onto the sidewalk or driveway to get out from under the cover and see the stars. Here I am out front, blinded by streetlights and content under the roof. Gradually, I’ve drawn myself further from the real thing and with each step, remembered less of what I’m missing.
Then like a gentle tap of the breeze on the shoulder, my attention is turned to what I used to have on the back deck. I don’t have to be asked twice. I go back through the house, open the back door and step back into the real thing. Open sky, stars all around, moon through trees, swift, wispy, backlit clouds, frogs singing out-of-tune, “O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies, O they tell me of a home far away.”
How could I have become content with the lonely front porch and forgotten the embrace of the deck, the view of the unfathomable expanse that exposes my miniscule self? What am I that you care for me?
Back here under the moon there is a completely different kind of loneliness, a contented longing made bearable by promises, faith, trust, and surrender.
Above, the round, silver disk, a symbol of distant intimacy, calls out and encourages the reclamation of the real thing. Can you see the moon? Are you looking for it? Come see it with me. Let’s watch it together. Stand beside me. Hold my hand.


Sunday, August 29, 2004


a light drizzle
a light sky
a lazy Sunday afternoon

a gentle breeze moves
praising trees
a restful Sunday afternoon

a shallow puddle measures
the depth of cares
a reflective Sunday afternoon


Saturday, August 28, 2004

tolls for thee

We’ve all read books that seemed to be just a lot of words that didn’t say anything. Lousy stories. Decent stories, poorly written. Suspense that could put you on the edge of your seat, but resolution that wasn’t worth getting on the edge of your seat. We’ve read authors who had an incredible command of the language, perfect grammar, well-crafted sentences, but nothing to say. We all notice this because language, written and spoken, is merely a carrier, a vehicle, a means of expression or communication. Without something to express or communicate, the technique of writing is meaningless.
I’ve been thinking that maybe this is on the far side of a bell curve. Gradually moving across the line, we find shifting proportions of content and technique. We may expect most everyone to have some useful distribution of art or creativity and technique. It would seem that technique without reason would be meaningless, and it would seem that artistry without technique would be useless, because it can’t be expressed or experienced outside the artist.
We therefore seem to be most in awe of someone with an even distribution of technique and art, a creative, innovative artist with the ability to express or deliver his thoughts. We know quirky, creative people who can’t do anything. We know mechanically minded technicians who can fix anything, understand how things work. We know people who can play any instrument and awe us with speed, thick textures, etc., but absolutely can’t turn phrase. They bore us to tears with their meaningless virtuosic pyrotechnics.
Probably on that far technically side, are people who needn't art and creativity as we understand it, because they are given a gift of analysis, of troubleshooting, of taking what already is, and making sense of it. We ignore these people.
The problem is that while on one side of the bell curve, one can easily recognize the uncreative, artless, technician. On the other side, however, no art can be noticed in the most artistic because it has no means of expression for lack of technique.
Now why would God impart in someone the highest level of art, but not give him/her a means of expressing it? Could it be that this hidden art, known only by its creator, has been given solely for His enjoyment? Now I'm not talking about laziness that has kept the technique from being acquired, for someone with this level of artistry would desire greatly to express it. But content he would be upon realizing from whence his art has come and to where it should return. We ignore these people.
So anyway, there's no moral to the story. It just occurs to me that technique is required for evidence of art or its lack. It's easy to spot the artless technician, but impossible to spot the expressionless artist. We are bored with one and don't recognize the other, so we glorify those who are probably best at neither, but posses a little of both.


Friday, August 27, 2004

5 anapestic lines

The new navbars at the top of the blog pages are a welcome replacement to the old banner ads (however amusing they may have been). There is that "next blog" button that is really just a random hit on recently updated blogs. By clicking this button, I ran upon someone's blog as he was complaining about the way that button worked. He said that there was a lot of trash out there to accidently happen upon by clicking. Of course, I happened upon his in the same manner. I've clicked it a lot. Perhaps 50% of the blogs I've found were in Spanish. Another 30% were newly created and had no content whatsoever. 20% were in English and half of those were from Singapore. I've only found a couple blogs from Singapore that didn't warrant a read. Most are purposeful, clear and grammatically correct.
One such blog is scribbles. This blogger, MOW! plays with words like inkslinger to the nth degree. Mostly English words, but German and French aren't exempt. I read his lists of words, definitions, of synonyms and free association of meanings and then came upon his definition of a Limerick. I couldn't resist. I wrote for him a limerick and apparently beat his wife to the punch, as she was determined to do the same.
So here is my limerick, but you should also visit their sites. Very enjoyable.

there once was a blogger named mow
who enjoyed a fun word then and now
who should care what they mean
if they look good on-screen
and for all who have seen, take a bow


Thursday, August 26, 2004


So I decided to set my blog to music. I don't know if that makes my blog a song, or if I've just forged into new territory as a blog scorer. You never know, soon maybe everyone's blogs will have a score, or a melody by which to sing them. Don't forget, the movies had music before they had words. It only stands to reason that blogs will eventually have music. I'm probably not the first, but you have to admit, most blogs out there are pretty quiet., save the occasional cheesy midi file that plays "muskrat love" while you read. This one is different though, it is designed to go with the blog. So there it is, if you're interested. Be forewarned, it's nigh upon 4 mb, so if you dial up, you may want to do it while you sleep. Don't feel pressure to listen, but if you don't, you'll just be getting half the blog.
Now I just have to memorize the words.

download blog music


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

bearings, my burden

Not that anyone would care, but surely someone noticed that my blog stood stagnant for two days this weekend. It is not uncommon for me to miss a day (my profile says that I average 5 posts per week), but two days in a row is a little more rare. So you must have known that my bike was down. Now we joke about that, that I can’t blog without my motorcycle, but there seems to be something to it. Truth is, I had tons to say on Friday and Saturday, but every time I sat to write it down, the words eluded me. I just couldn’t make coherent all the chaos in my nog and heart. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “that never stopped him before,” but at least I usually THINK I know where I’m going. It actually took me until Sunday night, 3 dry days, before I realized what the problem was. No bike.
I was riding Thursday night, way out into the country when I stopped at a crossroads and there was a man standing there in an Armani suit. He offered me infinite blog ability in exchange for… no, wait, that’s the wrong story. I was riding Thursday night, way out into the country when I stopped at a crossroads and heard a terrible grinding, growling, screeching that sounded as if it were coming from the front of my bike. I took off my helmet and pushed the bike back and forth and felt play in front end. Bad wheel bearing. When I finally made it home, I sat up and worried about it, but having ridden, managed a blog. A poem even! Dan said it was my best one!!!! But that was it, no more until I get my new bearings (if you will).
On Monday, I finally found time to make it to the Honda shop to find out that they didn’t have them in stock, and they were nasty expensive too. So I got my neighbor Chip the motorcycle man to help me get the wheel off (he has a bike jack), and we took out the boogered bearings. I took them to Bearing Distributors, Inc. and matched them up with some new ones plus seals for MUCH less money. Props to Bearing Distributors, Inc. Some grease, a mallet, a 22mm socket and torque wrench, and I'm back to blogging long, rambling, who cares, tiresome blogs.
So back in the blog stage, one begins to think through the path that got him into the short-lived, but unfortunate mess. When one begins to lose his bearings, what are the tell-tale signs? What did I notice about my ride that should have tipped me off to the imminent failure of that which keeps my wheels turning? I'd been thinking for a week that my ride wasn't tracking straight. My right arm was tired from subtly pushing the bike left. I felt like I was on the saddle crooked. Even my friends noticed things. On Sunday, E told me that she thought my tire was wearing unevenly. I noticed flat spots that night. Symptoms of a greater danger. Even the greater danger could have been worse. If not taken care of, the wheel could have been damaged or may have even seized while I was riding. Something's out-of-whack and it manifests itself in little things that should be noticed. Gotta stay in tune with all the little things. Monitor the symptoms. Keep your bearings.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

bless this house

(people who read this post also read writing with eight legs

Last summer, when we first moved, these guys were all over the place. We also had every variety of spider one could imagine, in abundance. Everywhere.
One Saturday morning when I went out to cut the grass, there were seventeen writing spiders in the bushes across the front of the porch as if the front lines of a blockade. Each in the center of her own orb, writing warning messages for all who may attempt to break through the line. Achtung! Avviso! Verboten! Attention! Warning! Posted! Some Pig! Terrific!
There was one nocturnal spider that I never got to see up close, though she could be seen from 30 yards away. Definitely the largest orb weaver (I learned that from WIll) I've ever seen. Every evening at dusk, she would climb the oak tree beside the porch and position anchors. Then she'd swing like Toby Macguire over to the porch and down to the bushes and anchor the other side. She'd work for awhile on a web large enough to catch bats, owls probably. You could watch her work from up at the street as this gargantuan spider appeared to casually walk through the air, eight legs waving. She'd write the evening prayer before settling down for supper. God, bless this house.


Monday, August 23, 2004

if you can't do - learn

There seems to be a growing phenomenon of a thought process that says your ability is more amazing in inverse proportion to your knowledge. There are a few popular musicians from the 60s and ‘70s who expressed their intentional avoidance of the acquisition of any musical knowledge for the fear that their natural ability and creativity would be squelched.
You would not believe how often I hear how much more amazing someone thinks they are, or thinks someone else is, because they “don’t know what they’re doing”. I have to laugh out loud when I write this, but it is not uncommon for me to hear this, “I play really well, even though I don’t know what I’m doing.” Of course my inner response is, “then how do you know you play really well?” I hear things like, “he has to be one of the most gifted players I’ve heard because he can’t even read music.” The implication is that if you have to learn to read, you must not be very talented. So I guess that makes the intentionally illiterate more amazing speakers of the language.
Of course this carries over into areas other than reading ability or knowledge. I have had students tell me that they don’t listen to music because they don’t want their own creativity to be squelched, or to be influenced by other people. They’ve come to me for lessons, but refuse to listen to any music. It seems they want me to find what they already know and show them where it is so that they can use it. I’ve even had a student tell me that he had considered registering for lessons with me, but didn’t want ME to influence him. As kindly as possible, I told him that I thought he needn’t worry, I highly doubted that he’d ever be influenced by anyone. The irony is that any natural potential that these folks may have is not realized because their decision to remain dumb has rendered them ignorant of what is actually possible on their instrument. Also they render themselves unable to actually create in the sense that they could express something that they imagined, in their mind, and then assemble it for us to experience. Rather, because the mind is empty, they are left only to discover things on the instrument, and will never be able to imagine themselves doing anything more than they can discover that their hands can already do. No ambition, humility, goals or longing – only the need to prove how wonderful you already are.
I think the bottom line issue here is pride. If I can do it without being taught, or without the influence of others, then I must be better or smarter than those (including the teacher) who is dependent upon these crutches. Like the old frustrating saying, “if you can’t do, teach”, there is a culture of, “if you can’t do, learn.”
Of course, being a guitarist/teacher, I find this very frustrating and even humorous at times. But where I’m absolutely baffled by this mentality is among Christians, in the context of their faith and Christian walk. At times, it seems that those of us who desire, to think, and meditate, and ask, and seek, are accused of weak faith because we can’t just accept. But I never said that I can’t just accept. In accepting, I’m drawn, called to deeper understanding, more diligent seeking. I’m haunted by the Holy Ghost to learn how much farther I can go in my relationship with God. God commanded me to love Him with all my heart, soul, MIND and strength. He said if I seek Him with all my heart, I will find Him. How could anyone be so prideful as to feel that a desire to learn about God betrays a lack of faith? There is no doubt in my mind that generations of this mentality has produced a culture of non-believers who view believers as simple minded, lazy, unthinking, weak people in need of a religious crutch.
It is not ok to be intentionally ignorant. We grow prideful and never learn to see ourselves as who we really are. We are poor witnesses of the unfathomable mystery. We misrepresent Christ like Robert Mapplethorpe misrepresents art.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

a bit of serious silliness

Last year I heard a series of 3 sermons/lectures in 3 days discounting post-modernism and of course its simplistic definition, relativism. The 3 lectures took slightly different aspects as their focus, but the underlying purpose was to prove that relativism cannot exist. Everyone, of course, believes in absolute truth. If you insist that there is no absolute truth, then that is your absolute truth. I may be oversimplifying a bit, seeing how it took 3 lectures, but not by much. I can certainly see the point to this thought process, even though there are inherent problems that need to be addressed before this one. Not the least of which is that to call the denial of absolute truth, absolute truth, certainly lowers the bar on the importance of my own belief in absolute truth. And maybe of utmost importance, though simple, is that to claim that the denial of absolute truth is in fact unacknowledged belief in absolute truth, is to admit that one can believe in an absolute truth that is different than mine. By doing so, I’ve become a relativist. Strange loop, indeed.
Now, I should say here that I believe in absolute Truth. But I can hardly deny being a relativist. I don’t think anyone can. In a recent sermon encouraging evangelical unity, I was reminded of how important it is to major on the majors, so to speak. We should stand firm on the essentials, and be willing to compromise on the non-essentials. But to do that, don’t I have to be a relativist? I’m willing to bet that where I draw the line between the essentials and non-essentials is different from where you draw the line. It may be only a slight difference, but it may be great. But what might be slight for me may be great for you. So for the sake of unity, we agree to disagree on the non-essentials. Can we agree on what the non-essentials are?
So what has caused us to decide that we both believe in absolute truth if it is possible that our beliefs diverge? We don’t ask the questions that would reveal our disunity. So we stop seeking answers to tough questions. We are offended by those who are asking questions and we label them relativists.
So I conclude that a relativist who doesn’t ask questions is modern and a relativist who asks questions is a post-modern. No, wait a minute. No one is a relativist, so a modern whose absolute truth is that there is absolute truth is different from a post-modern whose absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.
Of course I’m being slightly silly here, but I do believe that it is a very different endeavor to convince someone that what they believe is wrong than to convince someone that it is wrong not to believe. If our apologetics consist of “God said it, I believe it, and that’s good enough for me”, we shouldn’t be surprised when it has no impact on someone that does not believe in God. We must always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in us. It seems to me that my responsibility is to convince someone to believe rather than convince them that they are wrong for not believing.
Why do I believe? That is another blog.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

too late

sleeping by the open window
fetal pose
twitching toes
long since gone where no one knows

descending from my upper room
down the stair
stand and stare
soft moonbeams upon your hair

lying down upon my pillow
hold my mate
cares abate
why did I stay up so late?


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

spend ‘em if you’ve got ‘em

Back to the old salt mine. Things are kicking back into full swing. Summer bunt is over. One of the great things about this time in the work year is that it can be assumed that all the budget money is still there. Yesterday in my mailbox, I had three sheets of paper informing me of 3 budget items for my use - new professional and ministry budget, a library new acquisitions budget and a book allowance. So last night I bought 11 books from Amazon.com, and still have 40% of my allowance left. I wish I could share it. I’d help realize some of my reader friends' wish lists. I also shopped the guitarsolo catalog for music to put in the library (that budget is twice the amount of my book allowance). And finally, I shopped travelocity.com for airfare to and from Montreal for October. This time it would be all music and no baseball. Did you know you can fly from here to Montreal, via Detroit, and back, for $267? After the registration price, if I eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner, skip breakfast, and sleep in the stairwell, I can come in under budget. It’s worth it.
I’ve got a few gigs lined up – maybe I won’t skip breakfast.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

being together

Sometimes words really get in the way of conversation for me. Sure, sometimes it’s just hard to find the right words to say, or even the right the things to talk about, but sometimes it’s just that words aren’t needed at all. Some of the deepest conversations are possible because they don’t require words. When we don’t understand this, we can sabotage some of the greatest conversations by using words. Now you know I like to talk, but only if words are required.
I’m an experience kind of person I think. And as much as I like and am fueled by being alone, the alone fuel is no good without someone to spend it on. I like to experience with other people. Sometimes the experience is conversation with words. Sometimes the word conversation distracts us from the experience. Maybe the experience is something that we share. Maybe the experience is each other.
Yesterday, I was in faculty workshop from 8:00am to 4:15pm. Words aplenty. Discussion galore. When I got home at 4:30, Allison was taking Molly to ballet. The boys were here doing their homework. Will was spinning his wheels, so I got down in the floor to help him. Two hours later we finished, after many words and pleadings.
Now Will and I had father/son time scheduled. It had been postponed from the previous night when our plans were unavoidably thwarted. Believe it or not, I was still looking forward to our evening out, even though I was pretty much devoid of focus or conversation by then. We went to Little Mexico for supper. Will had a taco with rice and beans. I had a chimichanga with shrimp, scallops and crab, and potatoes on the side. I prepared myself for the non-stop battery of focused, one-on-one attention. It didn’t happen. We sat quietly, relaxed, exchanged the occasional nicety.
After dinner, Will went up and tried to pay Ramone with some Filipino coins that Allison had brought back. That made Ramone’s day. Before we left, he’d offered us a place to stay with his brother in Manila who is an avid senior citizen Harley fanatic.
When we got in the truck, I asked quiet Will if he was ok. "I’m fine Dad." When we got home, he said, “Dad, I really enjoyed our time. That was really great.” “It was for me too, Will.”
Later, after a while out under the clear sky, I thought, wow, I might have stored up some words for Allison. She came out and sat opposite me. Still no need for words. We just experienced the evening together. Experienced each other. Stayed in the moment.
When we finally went into the house, I felt very satisfied.
Thanks family for just what I needed. I enjoyed the evening.


Monday, August 16, 2004

second birth day ramble

I had a birthday of sorts on Friday. Yes, Friday the 13th. Well not really a birthday. My birthday of sorts would have been August 3. Of course that was my second birth day, (not my second birthday). So maybe Friday was the anniversary of my Christening day. That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit. I was born of the flesh on February 10, 1964 and I was born of the Spirit on August 3, 1972. Maybe I should call it Spirit day and wear my colors. Well, all this ramble has to do with verbiage. Way up there in sentence two, I was getting ready to say I’ve been a believer for 32 years. But that’s not right – I’ve been a believer since I was old enough to choose. So maybe I should say I’ve been a committer for 32 years. But that’s not really right either, there have been times since 1972 when I wasn’t all that committed. Follower? Sometimes I lost sight of the leader. So all this other ramble has to do with the fact that our verbiage doesn’t necessarily reflect our theology. Before I could read I was told that Jesus was God’s Son and that he died for all the wrong stuff I’d done and would do so that I wouldn’t have to, and that he rose from the dead. I believed it. So I was already a believer. What happened that night? What happened a couple of Sundays later when I got dunked in the pond? I know what I believe, but I wonder if the words I’ve inherited to talk about it really describe it. Those words are certainly biblical. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.
As we search for words and phrases that sound less Christianese and yet describe accurately and perhaps more understandably what we believe, we have developed our own kind of political correctness. Theological correctness. Of course theological correctness is of utmost importance. And if one were writing a thesis, the words chosen would also be as important. But when we are casually conversing, or speaking from our hearts? We split hairs over the perceived and literal meanings of words. Jesus seemed to be less worried about these things. Nicodemus asked him how a man could be born a second time. Surely he can’t go back into his mother’s womb? Once He told a bunch of people that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Know what they said? “Man that’s a hard word. Who can accept it?” Many of his followers turned away that day.
I can sit with someone and talk like Jesus did with Nicodemus. I could completely detail what Jesus has done in my life. I could explain who I was and who I am and what Jesus had to do to make me that way. But if I didn’t use words like redeem, atonement, propitiation, and sanctification, many would say that my soteriology was off, and that I hadn’t properly “witnessed”. We’ve even got standardized questions designed to assess someone’s soteriology to determine if we think he’s been saved.
It seems we can’t trust the spiritual. Even when Jesus said that which is born of Spirit is Spirit. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You can hear its sound, but you can’t tell where it goes or where it comes from. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. It’s a mystery of mysteries folks, I'm not capable of understanding it.
I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible that it says that we’ve got to be able to describe how it’s accomplished to have it accomplished in us. Jesus described it much more simply than that. We get it through faith. We gotta be pretty foolish to believe it because God’s wisdom is foolish to people. Maybe we can even laugh at our foolishness that fuels our faith like Sara did when she was told she was pregnant at 90. I used to know a man named Elmer who sat over behind the organ and laughed himself silly in every service.

So what happened on August 3, 1972? Maybe I realized that what I believed about Jesus applied to me. Did I understand? I don’t think so. Do I understand? I still have to come as a child. How do I know 32 years later that anything happened at all? I can hear the God-wind rustling the trees. I can feel it, smell it, be refreshed and comforted by it. I’m born of the God-wind. Happy secondbirth day to me.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

prayer patter

Once, at a baptismal service I prayed for those who had been “baptized into the kingdom”. I was corrected because it is not baptism that brings someone into the kingdom. My thoughts were, of course not, but why do we baptize? It is a symbol of what brings us into the kingdom. Another time in a public prayer, I mentioned finding God. I was strongly corrected that we do not find God, He was never lost. God found us. But of course. But why does He tell us that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him?
I pray in front of a congregation at least once in every service. Today I prayed 3 times. All this has me thinking about the purpose of public prayer. About Jesus’ warning against praying flowery prayers to impress. About asking folks to stand and speak loudly to the largest part of the room so that we all may agree with your prayer. Need we hear to agree? Or should we be praying? I haven’t the answers. But I know that lately after I’ve prayed publicly, I try to remember everything I said so that I can run it through a theological filter and see if I said anything wrong. To see if I said anything that confused what I meant. I’m praying, and God knows what I’m saying. Why do I feel like I’m teaching? Is this what’s expected of me, or is it just an obstacle I’ve imposed on myself?


Saturday, August 14, 2004

only you

Silly, silly girl.
Isn’t it odd?
So easily fooled by façade.
A clean house and three well-fed kids,
as if life goes on without you.

Silly, silly girl.
Do you not know?
It isn’t the outside that shows
the emptiness here where it’s hid.
It cannot be filled, but through you.


Friday, August 13, 2004

billy joe and bobbi sue

By the time I took Jack to school this morning, the rain had stopped and a colorful morning sky was glowing with remnant rays. Everything was moist and shiny. It didn’t take long to kick back in though. The morning held several hours of strong rain and an occasional crack of thunder, sometimes very close. The kids lost electricity at school and there was hail at the elementary school. There were several tornadoes around the area and several houses destroyed, but not near us. Most of the day for us was wet, but pleasant.
The thing about this storm is that its name is Bonnie. I know from a lifetime of experience that Bonnie is less to be feared than respected. So true to form, after a period of drenching showers, she was overcome by compassion and smiled her lovely smile upon that which had been enriched even in her fury. Bonnie has been moody all day. Periods of rain followed by periods of soft, moist sunshine. The grass is once again green and growing.
So all in all, an aptly named tropical storm. The problem is that Bonnie is paired with another storm. A hurricane even. So just as Bonnie’s anger subsides, enter round two. A “wait until your dad gets home” sort of scenario. The dad half of the equation is always worse.
I think Chris is right when he says that storms are probably named by computers, how else can you explain this major faux pas in storm nomenclature? For years the namers seem to have done quite well. Remember Floyd, who mumbled his away across the southeast on his way to Mount Pilot? Remember Hugo, who took out most of our state and gave us two arrogantly shabby Pawley’s Islands? Well who could have missed such a rare chance at naming the storm to follow Bonnie? Had this storm, now a category 2 hurricane, been named Clyde, the attitudes of everyone in the southeast would have been very different. We would have greeted them with excitement, would have stood along evacuation routes hoping to get autographs. Would be less surprised at the destruction in their path. But as it is, it sounds like the names were licensed and royalties were too high to use real names. Or maybe the two are still out there evading capture and the names have been changed to protect them. Anyway, we’ve got a shoot’em up movie with a knock-off rebel couple hiding out on either side of Florida, poised to meet up somewhere up the coast. No doubt they’ll hit a couple banks on their way and keep us all on the edge of our seats. Already, those who’ve seen them coming are boarding up their windows and heading inside.
Like we’ve done with Hugo and Floyd, years from now, we’ll say remember when Bonnie and Charley came shooting their way through town?


Thursday, August 12, 2004

who ministers to whom

Over my house, cloudy all night. Sure the "traditional peak" of the meteor flurry happened just as forecast, but unavailable for viewing in my area. Blackout. Pay-per-view? Closed-circuit? I don't know, but evidently I forgot to order it. I went out every 30 minutes until 3:30a, but always cloud cover, like the white noise on a scrambled channel. When I went out at 3:30a, they were playing the national anthem, so I knew I had to go to bed.
I set every alarm clock in the house so as not to make the kids late for their first day of school. Jack was up after midnight "showing work" on an Algebra pre-test that was due today. Will was up just as late worrying about the first day. "Dad, I'm exhausted but I can't get to sleep. Molly was fast asleep and peaceful, as she had been since 8:30.
When I woke up at 5:45, the whole house was a-flurry. All the lights were on, the air was charged with adrenalin. Jack was in the shower, Will was running all over the house in a panic, looking for his shoes. Molly was quietly sitting at the kitchen table calmly eating a bowl of cereal. Once Will found his shoes, I brushed his hair with Molly's brush, then couldn't find it to brush Molly's. Later, Jack found it in the cereal cabinet when he was ready to eat.
All this time, it is raining you know. WIll and Molly were ready 15 minutes before the bus was to arrive and headed out the door toward the stop. I made them wait at the front door to stay dry. Longest 15 minutes of their lives. It quit raining at just the right time, and off they went toward a fresh start, a new beginning.
Jack wanted me to drive him so that I could help him find what needed to be found at his new school. He pumped me up by telling me how he'd needed me last year, and how he was so proud that I'd helped all those kids learn to open their combination locks. So I agreed to drive him. "What time does school start," I asked. "I don't know," he replied. We scoured every page of "important info" that had been sent home, or picked up at registration. Nada. We looked for schedules on the internet where you can find anything you need to know about Irmo Middle School - except what time school starts. I decided to go the old-fashioned route and pick up the phone and dial into the queue and await an actual person's answer at the school. No such misery. A live person answered and informed, and we're off. Jack's home room was within 25 yards of where I parked the car. As we crossed the parking lot, I told him I had to keep checking myself to keep from reaching over and grabbing my 7th grade son's hand. He looked up at me and smiled and reached out and grabbed my hand, which he held all the way to the front door.
No little girls' lockers to open. No chasing the clock to find a classroom. Just the paradoxically proud and difficult task of sending my first born on to yet another chapter of life. Who ministers to whom when a hand reaches out to grab another?


miniature metallic momentos

I'm sorry about your dog tag cisco. Early during my second trip to Moldova, we had a bit of time one afternoon to shop around an outdoor market of artists and craftsmen and seamstresses and the like. I happened upon a silversmith who had a single ring that I liked and it happened to be the only ring that fit me. Several others with me ended up asking the guy to make rings for them and they picked them up later in the week. I really liked this ring. It was wide and embossed or carved, or whatever you would call it, (raised lettering) all around it had an inscription. I turned to my Russian translator and he said that it read, "rescue me" me in Rumanian. Well that settled it. I wore that ring constantly for a year. It became a constant reminder of those needing what I had to share. It was a physical reminder of a dream I'd had after my first trip over there. It was a symbol of a call on my life. The next summer, the ring broke, nearly coincidental with my next trip to Moldova. I asked jewelers about having it repaired, but was told that the silver was probably poor and that it couldn't be repaired without destroying it. For a long time, it sat beside my bed still a symbol, but somehow removed from me. Finally, I thought, I can't wear it now, so what's lost if it is ruined. I took it in for repair and signed a waiver that said that I was aware that it probably wouldn't survive. Four days later I picked it up, good as new, on my way to the doctor. The bill was $11.00, about 3 times what I'd paid for the ring. I was elated. I stuck it on my finger, went to the doctor and when I got home, no ring. I searched my truck, in crevices, under the carpet, called the doctor's office. It was gone. I mourned my misfortune. I carried a memory of a symbol of a memory. Memory is still there. Call is still there. Need is still there.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

perseid party

The deck was re-commissioned last night in honor of the Perseids shower. We still can’t put any furniture up there, but it can be occupied. The kids and I had planned to spend the night out, somewhere, to view the meteor shower. This is becoming a tradition that started in the bed of Max, my old Mitsubishi pick-up and last year took us up to Cherokee, NC to lay in the middle of a field by a fire and stare up at the sky. It is a good way to say goodbye to summer just before school starts back up. I scouted dark, open areas yesterday, but we ended up staying home because of the overcast sky.
We spread the sleeping bags on the deck, built a fire in the back yard, got some crackers, Hershey’s, shmallows, and reeses and sat down there by the fire. D and E came over at about 10:30 when her birthday was winding down. The sky cleared slowly all night long until at about 4:30 it was crystal, but there were very few meteors. A few really nice ones though.
At about 4:45, Jack went up to the deck to lie down and D and E left after hours of silence and conversation. Will had gone to his own bed at about1:00 because he'd seen a roach on the deck. Molly fell asleep reading at about midnight, but woke up at 3:15 and came back down into the yard. She zonked back out at about 4:30 too. By 5:00 I was the only one left and I lay on my back and saw a few more long streaks of cosmic artillery and watched the sky lighten and the moon rise.
Just after the moon, was Venus, just before the sun. Venus was brilliant. The morning star. I don't know why, but because it had faded and eventually disappeared from the evening, I didn't expect it to be bright in the morning either. There it was in all its glory, overcoming the leaves that tried to hide it. Maybe I need to switch to morning rides and head east until the evening is once again graced with her beauty.
I fell asleep between Jack and Molly soon after the sun came up, pondering that God is not out there watching me, nor is He in my heart, but omnipresence means just that, as scary and mystical and other-religionly as it might sound. In every thing - matter, substance, non-matter, space - in every cell, molecule, atom, electron and quark. He was before all things and by Him, all things are held together. He is the atomic glue that keeps the electrons from flying off, the gravity that overcomes inertia that might send us off into space and the inertia that keeps us from falling into the sun. He is in everything everywhere. Here and there and He focuses himself in specifics rather than appearing there. His glory falls because He chooses to manifest His power in a specific way in a specific place.
He is the glue that holds my stuff together. Despite my quarky personality.


Monday, August 09, 2004

johannes and paulo pondered

There they are folks. The cyberdeck inhabitants in the physical flesh (save one) without a deck. The gathering happened on the front porch and cisco was deeply missed. The photo was once again taken by David Sykes of Faith Turtle fame, the night after the gathering.
It is good to turn the virtuality of this community to physicality, if even for moments. So for now, put your message in a modem and throw it in the cyber sea.


Sunday, August 08, 2004

two fine days

The first week of August finds the South Carolinian unable to recall the feeling of the crisp air of evening and a clear sky. Though the return of such is barely more than a month away, our memory of the future is even less reliable than our memory of the past and it has been long hot months since even midnight has brought anything but stifling humidity coupled with 90 degree heat. In fact, the middle of last week brought daily thunderstorms to break the 100+ degree afternoons.
Enter the rare gift. After a nasty hot day on Thursday, a brief windy period in the evening ushered in cooler temperatures that have survived the weekend. I’m talking-long-sleeve-bike-rides, cut-the-grass-in-the-middle-of-the-day, sleep-with-the-windows-open kind of days. Bright blue skies and friendly sunshine. The air is like switching from rabbit ears to digital cable. Everything is sharp and clear and vivid. Today was only slightly less than yesterday and there have been three equal nights with lots of stars and plenty of meteors.
As always, for those who are willing to notice, the Holy Spirit is thicker than the normal humidity, and I have been immersed in an interactive divine conversation for a week. I really feel like I’m being taught, am being given small doses of insight and understanding. Clearing skies, clearing mind, clearing heart. There is nothing like an evening breeze as it goes where it wants, carrying on its breath the fragrance of life and the exhalation of the day - to sit and feel it and wonder from whence it comes. To give up trying to figure it out, and simply rest in the peace it brings. Trust.


Friday, August 06, 2004

forward motion

That little red wagon
at the bottom of the hill, on its side.
Single wheel continues in the same direction
they all were going when the wagon upended
single wheel suspended
horizontally, wobbily orbiting the axle

Once shiny, new and red
Now rundown, rickety and rusty
held together with duct tape and wire,
it begrudgingly gave a bonus period of
wary fun

I sit at the bottom of the hill
battered, bruised and broken,
held together with memories
and wonder if Dad can fix it again

I've got to go catch that wheel


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

there goes my girl

This morning I blogged more thoughts about the r30 concert, then changed my mind and decided to spare you my normal post-big-event-blog-series. I can’t help it if I’m wired that way. Nothing just happens in my life, I have to dwell on it for days afterward. So I’m still dwelling and blogging, but today I’ll give you a break. Instead I’ll tell you what’s going down here.
Allison left this afternoon for Manila. Right now she’s sitting in a chair in the airport in LA. She’ll leave for Taipei at 1:30 PDT, and then sit in Taiwan for a long time before leaving for Manila. She’ll arrive in Manila on Friday morning at 11:00am local time. Man, that’s a chronologically long journey. Don’t worry though, I’ve got three kids here to take care of me. I’m thinking of making the kids stay up into the night so that I won’t get lonely after they go to bed. I’m used to sleeping single in a double bed for 2 nights each week, but 10 nights in a row? I might make her get her own room when she gets home. Ha, just a little sarcasm.
Al will be doctoring while she is there, as well as some other things. She’ll have email access, so hopefully I’ll stay updated.
So tonight I pray:

Lord, take Allison safely to the task You have for her. Over desert, mountains, ocean and culture. Show Yourself to her at every turn, in every face. Show her where to be, what to do, and what to say at every moment. Inform her diagnoses and treatments. Overflow her with humble compassion. Expand her capacity to love and comfort as she ministers to strangers who need You just like we do. Draw her attention to You so that she can recognize You as You come to her to be cared for. Teach her what You have for her to learn.
Bring her home safely to me.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

community, part 30

You walk into a gathering of thousands of people. There is a sense of community obvious in the air because everyone is there for the same reason. It is a commonality of purpose that draws and connects thousands of people who have absolutely no other connection or even knowledge of one another. Though everyone has come with their own friends and family, they are busy talking to strangers, introducing themselves asking questions, learning about each other. Some are dressed in Khakis and Polo shirts, others are wearing cut-offs, no-shirts, Gothic kilts. Some have no exposed un-inked skin. There are shaved heads, Mohawks, long hairs, blue, green, black. People of every bent, size, shape, color and age group, all gathered for a single reason.
No one from the stage directs them to introduce themselves to one another. No one asks them to join hands and sing together. But they do it naturally, driven by the same purpose.
Oh, I’m sorry, you thought I was talking about church? How embarrassing. I was talking about the Rush concert again.
Why does this not describe the church? I’m sorry that this answer is going to sound simplistic and offensive, but I believe it is the bottom line reason. We are not all there for the same reason. In the above scenario, unity of purpose has resulted in community as a by-product. Many people go to church solely for community. But community doesn’t result because there are myriad different reasons why everyone else is there. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the difference between feeling a horizontal connection from worshipping vertically, and worshipping with the desire to connect horizontally. The former results in both while the latter results in neither.
When I feel such a strong sense of community among strangers in a secular situation, it breaks my heart that Christians who know each other can’t even manufacture a similar oneness.
So I’m sorry to be so ugly. Maybe we should take a poll and ask every one why they’ve come to church today. To worship? Oh, really?


Monday, August 02, 2004


Finally! I made it. The Charlotte concert flew under the radar, I blew the Irvine excursion and just listened from across the fence, and thus missed Jack Black on stage in his boxers after tossing his clothes into Geddy’s Maytags and posing as the man in the star. But I made it to Atlanta, and was duly rewarded.
I decided there is no way I can describe it for you. So I decided to chronicle my own Rush concert attendance and give a nod to their 30th anniversary by remembering some of my own experiences and those who shared them with me. Here they are, with some thoughts about each. Some of these memories will seem really random and weird, but they are just what has stayed in my head, ya know.
Warning: this is a long post, it might take you 30 years to finish.

March 29, 1983 – Charleston, WV

Signals Tour (New World Tour) (w/ Jon Butcher Axis)

I’m pretty sure that this was just Mark and me. We sat way up high, stage right looking down at Alex. We were above the suspended speakers and the sound was bad. At the beginning of Subdivisions, I couldn’t make out the pitch of synth, so when the chords began, they sounded like they were in the wrong key. I also couldn’t hear Alex’s guitar solos. He broke a string in the middle of the solo for “Closer to the Heart” and Geddy started playing a quick improv on pedals.

November 1, 1984 – Charleston, WV

Grace Under Pressure Tour – (w/ Y & T)

This was Allison’s first Rush concert. We drove down from school with Toni and Jamie in Toni’s yellow car. I was slow in getting this album, so I didn’t know it very well. The concert included 9 songs from the new album and I was disappointed because I didn’t know them. It kind of tainted my “Grace under pressure” experience and I had a hard time warming up to the record. Of course, Allison loved every minute of it, and to this day, that is her favorite recording. I’ve come to like it a lot too. But years later, I heard an interview with Geddy in which he said that he just never warmed up to “Grace Under Pressure”. Weird. After the concert, we exited the opposite side of the civic center from where we’d entered, without realizing there were parking garages on both sides. We looked for Toni’s yellow car until the garage was completely empty before we realized we were in the wrong garage.

December 18, 1985 – Pittsburgh, PA

Power Windows Tour (w/ Steve Morse)

I don’t remember much about this concert except the animation of the marathoner and the lasers drawing him on the screen. I really love this record – the songs, the epitome of 80s production, all the trance and atmospheric Alex stuff.

December 16, 1987 – Pittsburgh, PA

Hold Your Fire Tour (w/ Tommy Shaw)

First Rush show after marriage and Allison couldn’t come. I had to drive over to Pittsburgh to meet Mark and Fred after work and was a few minutes late. I walked into the civic arena just as Tommy Shaw was singing, “Oh momma, I can hear you a-crying, you’re so…”
It has started snowing as soon as I got on the turnpike and soon I could not see the road in front of me. I snuggled up behind a semi so that I could follow his lights, and drove for 3 hours in sheer terror. I was determined to get there. After the concert, I thought it might be safer to drive down to Morgantown and go home via route 48 because there would be less traffic and I was less likely to be run over by a tractor-trailer. It was worse because there was no traffic. No visible tire tracks in the snow on the 4-lane and when I got to Maryland, I was driving about 10 miles an hour on the interstate. Once, just before Cumberland, forward motion stopped and I began sliding backward down the mountain (on the interstate!!!!) with my brakes applied. I had to attempt that hill several times to find a path with traction. I made it to Hancock and found no snow at all. I got home, rattled to the bone, just before it was time to be at work.

February 15, 1990 – Greenville, SC

Presto Tour – (w/ Mr. Big)

First Rush show after the SC move. This was opening night on the Presto Tour, in the tiny Greenville Memorial Auditorium (now replaced by the BiLo center). Greg Gillmeister drove down and went to the concert with Allison and me. I enjoyed the giant inflatable rabbits in the hats. Al bought a t-shirt. It has paint on it now.

March 5, 1992 – Columbia, SC

Roll the Bones Tour – (w/ Primus)

Allison and I went to this concert together when Jack was 3 weeks old. I’m pretty sure this was the first time we’d left him. I think he stayed across the street with Karen Foreman. Only three weeks out, and it felt like we were pardoned for a moment. We wore the rose of romance, an air of joie de vivre. (they opened with “force ten”)

February 25, 1994 – Charlotte, NC

Counterparts Tour – (w/ Candlebox)

Will was 4 days old, fresh home from the hospital, and I felt really strange leaving him lying on the couch all wrapped up in bili-lights. Al blessed my departure and her mom was there to help.
The intro was the nut and bolt animation with “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as the soundtrack. I loved the big fat guitar on “Driven”, and later mimicked it as a nod on my own song on “Habby was here” when it was my turn to drive.

December 12, 1996 – Charlotte, NC

Test for Echo Tour

The return of the two-and-only, college roommates, By-tor and the Snow Dog, concert togetherness. Mark drove down and we met in Charlotte for the concert. Afterward, he followed me to Columbia to spend the night before driving back home.
This was the first tour that became, “an evening with Rush”. No more opening bands. Just two fat sets with an intermission. I remember the video for “half the world”, the video of the rock climbers scaling the big rock man, and the old shots of the band as kids with their early instruments. I bought a tour book. But I don’t remember much else about this concert.

July 1, 2002 – Charlotte, NC

Vapor Trails Tour

Allison and I planned a mini escape far in advance for this concert. We bought incredibly good seats, and booked a room at the University Hilton for the night. The room wasn’t all that special, but the concert was great.
We drove up early and ate with the gang at Razzoo’s. I think it was gwill, cisco, caruthers, brandon and mitchy. We all bonded with rat toes. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. I had the shrimp brushette and sweet tea. We were just late enough to the concert to have to listen to "Tom Sawyer" as we were walking across the parking lot.
The concert was amazing. It was great to sit up front and see and hear so well. Fun to watch the folks come out and switch the laundry and re-feed the Maytags. Alex, began the new tradition of Lerxt’s Rants, during “La Villa Strangiato”.

R30 Tour - July 14, 2004 - Irvine, CA

August 1, 2004 – Atlanta, GA

R30 Tour

With me for this road trip were 3 newbies – my son Jack and Dan and Esther. Pretty cool to join all the other old geezers at the concert with their sons. I hope Jack enjoyed going with me as much as I enjoyed taking him.
Right before the concert began a large owl flew down from the light rigging and sailed through the rafters and landed right in front of Jack and me. He sat there for about 90 seconds and then flew out toward the lawn, banked left and out of the amphitheatre. I’ve searched for discussions of the r30 tour’s previous concerts and no mention is made of an owl. So was it just weird coincidence? Is that some subform of serendipity? Then after the concert, there was an awesome fireworks finale over the lawn.
So all day, I’ve been trying to think of some way to express how cool this concert was, how unbelievably subtle and connected the abstract animations were to the meanings of the songs. How well woven the animation and video were. THE LIGHT SHOW! Lerxt’s rant (no story this time, just scat laughing and crying – he even made Neil laugh). I thought I’d post a set list, but realized that would be just a bit silly since it was a 3 hour experience rather than a succession of songs. They played 30 though, from every album except Presto ( I missed “the pass”), plus the Overture. The included covers were “Summertime Blues”, “The Seeker”, “Crossroads”, and some Alex references to “Day Tripper”, and “I feel Fine”. Two apt songs to explain what we were doing and how it made us feel.