Thursday, September 30, 2004


"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

lux perpetua luceat eis.

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

Ad te omnis caro veniet.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

shine on

snow time ain't no time
to sit outside and spoon
so shine on,
shine on harvest moon.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

harvest moon 2004

After class, and wind down coversation with students, I had a few things to wrap up before riding home. I started the bike and headed down the boulevard at 11:30pm. Directly overhead was the sight captured in these pics. The air was cool, the bike felt good and all around was moonlit beauty.
My growling belly was the only thing that brought me home to a quiet house and sleeping family. There was no one awake to greet me except you-know-who, so I went out on the deck and took these pictures. I pre-dated the post to get Tuesday's date, but the pics were taken between 1:30 and 1:45am.


Monday, September 27, 2004

blog 301

Sometimes a short blog
about nothing is needed
to rest weary minds.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

living at the auction block

Perhaps a missing blog day could mean that no blogging is taking place. That is not the case this time. I have been blogging a lot lately, but I've not been able to get it into a form that I feel would make sense without my own context at the moment. It's been a couple of weeks of major assimilation, pulling together of different things that seem to make others make sense. I think I've been given some insight as to the source of some struggles and frustrations, and I've been newly frustrated, and also affirmed. I've learned a lot lately, at times, from unlikely teachers in unlikely places.
But I'm no closer to expressing this in a coherent way. But has that ever stopped me before?
I've decided that's what blogs are for. So I'm going to ramble a bit, and think that maybe in so doing, someone out there might be able to help me organize, cement, discard, or whatever is needed, some of my current thoughts.
I'm teaching a Tuesday night class this semester. In this week's reading for the course, D.A. Carson states that "this side of the fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provision that God has graciously made." I believe this is a true statement in that worship is a proper response to God's redemptive provision. But in the context there seems to be an implication that proper worship responds to God's redemptive provision. This seems to disallow that anything else warrants a response of worship. It struck me that a majority of criticism leveled toward contemporary worship finds as its subject the shallow, relationship-oriented focus. Carson speaks of the command to Peter to "feed my sheep" and laments that the sheep are being fed light-fare cuisine, the same criticism that I hear almost daily concerning shallow worship.
One of our class members, rightly observed that maybe this comes from a faulty understanding of redemption. I certainly agree, and have blogged on this from time to time. Our class member stated that redemption meant having been "bought back". I responded, of course, - so why are we so determined to continuously live at the auction?
Now I want to be very careful here, because I don't want anyone to think that I am not grateful for God's redemptive provision. But it seems to me that the provision was a means to an end, the means of bringing us back into relationship with God. If the cross was the end, we'd have been created fallen.
All week long I've tried to imagine why we wouldn't be able to get past the auction and into relationship. I've talked with a few people about it and I've heard, more than once, "but I don't think we can actually get back to a 'pre-fall' place. That statement shocks me, because frankly, I thought that was what the redemptive provision was for. If God's provision is not enough, what's the point? I feel like we have a guilt complex though we say we've been forgiven. Jesus has invited us to relationship, provided for that relationship and we still feel too guilty to follow Him. Isn't that what He asked? Follow me, He said. If we are determined to stay at the auction, and claim we are following Him, doesn’t that say that we assume He is still there as well? Isn't the good news that He didn't stay dead? Didn't He pay for us once and for all? Does he have to continue to pay? Do we worship Him because He died, or because He conquered death?
I constantly hear criticism leveled against shallow, relational, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend type songs. I'm told that the gospel is not present in these songs. But I am living post-provision. The gospel is that I've been bought back for a relationship, how can the gospel not be present in that relationship?
Why are we so afraid of getting past the auction and on to relationship? We've got to trust Jesus that his teaching is adequate for our living. He told us that He came so that we could have life more abundantly, and He taught for 3 years on precisely how to have it. But we do not study His teaching. We do not preach His teaching. We focus on the epistles and Pauline theology. We strain to think of effective ways to facilitate spiritual formation, but ignore the "how to live" teaching of Jesus.
I was lamenting to a friend about how little Jesus I hear from the pulpit at our chapels (talk about practical teaching), and he said it was because Jesus was too simple. We enjoy the epistles because they are deep and theological and challenging to grasp, and debatable. They are great fodder for study and publication, etc. Jesus is just not challenging enough to warrant our interest. Then it struck me. I remembered a statement by Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy when he was expressing our unwillingness to be disciples in our day-to-day. We are unwilling to look to Jesus as our daily teacher. We do not trust Jesus as an intellectual. His teaching is so simple that we don't consider Him an intelligent teacher. No wonder we are bothered by worship songs that focus on relationship – we have ignored the object of that relationship. We've forgotten the teaching of the One who taught relationship with Him and others.
Some encouragement came this past week from Stuart Briscoe who delivered 5 messages on the life of Peter. But really the messages used Peter to illustrate what Jesus desires from, for and in us. Briscoe stated that the only call that Jesus ever made to us was to relationship. That call is coupled with a summons to discipleship under His authority. In return, Jesus promises to transform us.
He bought me back, called me to relationship and now He is making me. How can I not properly respond to all these aspects by worshipping?


Friday, September 24, 2004


This morning in a guitar lesson, my student expressed frustration that although she knows only a handful of chords, she can’t learn any new ones from learning new music. I told her that very simply, that was because the folks writing the new songs she’s been learning don’t really know any more than she does. Most have learned the chords they know in the same way that she has learned hers. They then go about creating new songs with the same tiny box of materials. We borrow what already is, and use those materials to create something that is nearly the same. Imagine the creativity if we imagined what isn’t yet, and acquired the materials to make that happen. We would keep imagining beyond where we are and what we have, and would strive to do what it takes to make it reality.
Imagine two guitarists whose styles are often compared. The comparison really only goes as far as instrumentation and some catchy techniques, but to those who don’t look beyond the “catchy”, this is all there is. To those compelled to hear more deeply, the catchy is the least common denominator. The one guitarist plays his instrument, finding in his ability lots of interesting melodies, turns and phrases and constructs them into a piece of music. He has a box of musical materials from which to construct. The same box from which he constructs all his music.
The other guitarist sits with his imagination, pen and paper and composes music that has nothing to do with his ability on the guitar. His imagination is not limited in any way by what he can already play. His music is not inhibited by the materials already in his box. Once finished, his composition will require him to invent new techniques, solve problems, stretch himself to realize what his imagination dreamed was possible. Years from now, he will have acquired abilities and ideas that he once never dreamed of, while the first guitarist will still be using his same old tried and true resources with his same old technical ability. The music of the second guitarist will probably appeal to new people all along his career, while the first guitarist will appeal only to those who enjoyed his music way back in the day. All the while, he’s worried that his own creativity will be squelched if he were to learn something new.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

pride of life

Any success I've ever had at problem solving has to be attributed to the fact that I never call anything a problem. I'm the ultimate pessimist and can't imagine that what I'm experiencing would be the worst of it. So I immediately assume that what I'm experiencing is evidence of a greater problem. A symptom if you will. The secret then is to call it a symptom and search for the problem. Once it is found, call it a symptom and search for the problem.
The thing about symptoms is that there are usually many for any given disease. The problem with being ignorant to the underlying problem and treating only the symptom is that even if the symptom is eradicated, the disease's other symptoms still loom large and will eventually present themselves.
The church tends to have recurrent problems with only a handful of issues. There are the sex scandals and child abuse rampant in the RCC, public religious figures fall like flies to adulterous affairs and illegal financial practices. Just today I heard from the pulpit that the three biggest continuous problems faced by the church are sex, money and power. I don't agree with this assessment. Rather, I think these three are symptoms and even symptoms of symptoms.
Pride is the disease that causes these symptoms. Power is the first symptom, or desire for power. Money is a means to power, and sex is evidence and exercise of it.
C. S. Lewis recognizes pride as the ultimate when he states that Satan himself will help us to overcome wrong behaviors because he can cause in us pride for having conquered such nasty behavior. Of course, the resulting pride is much more damaging than the original behavior.
A physical behavior is much more obvious and demeaning than an abstract concept and attitude. We overcome the physical, pat ourselves on the back for it and develop a pride that festers and grows undetected until it screws up every area of our lives.
Likewise, our preoccupation with the evils of money evidences our belief that money itself is of any good. Of course it is not, and only has value for what it can get for us. Power. Power feeds pride and money brings power. Power must be exercised. Sex is a way to exercise power and to cause others to submit to one's own will, or else to create in one's self a sense of power and acceptance. I am convinced that the only lust involved in the majority of Christian sex scandals is the lust for power and manipulation. One realizes that his position attracts adoring supporters and many of them can be wooed and seduced by that position.
Pride is the daddy of them all. It has no place in society, much less Christendom – a kingdom that follows a servant. Let each one think of the others as better than him self. In the kingdom, the first shall be last. You would think that in this kingdom, folks would be racing to the back of the line, striving to go unnoticed, in imitation of One who being very nature, God, did not find equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing and put on a servant's nature. Instead, we write books and teach seminars that tack another word on to the position of servant. Servant-leader. We speak about how to be humble within the context of our top, venerated positions. We preach a gospel that overcomes symptoms, and we fall like flies to complications of an untreated disease.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

deep cover

Tonight as I rode off into the moonset on my windhorse, I began thinking about people whose jobs are on mission. Remember all the old undercover cop shows a la Miami Vice and 21 Jumpstreet? I know, I'm showing my age. There is always a story line or premise that their assignments are so dangerous and classified that the undercover officer has to infiltrate the target and cut off all relationships and contact with the outside. No communications even with their bosses and families. They call it "deep cover". Of course, the most suspenseful story lines always dealt with the officers' new personas beginning to confuse their real identity even to themselves. They began to loose sight of whom they really were, and as a result, why they were there. Sometimes their mission was so strong, that they began to operate under a no rules mentality so as to get the job done regardless of the cost. Sometimes they began to operate with no rules because they actually became the bad guys they had originally set out to catch. These officers would always get so entrenched in their assignments that there was no way to maintain a relationship or even get support from the ones who had sent them.
I worry greatly about those of us who face this danger. Folks that define our assignment in such a way that consumes us and doing the job becomes more important than the outcome or reason we are doing the job. It is common to get so deep in the assignment as to cut off all contact with even the one who sent us. The assignment becomes procedural. We continue to do the work of the company but really no longer work for the company and therefore receive no feedback, support or encouragement even though it is there for us. We become stagnant and eventually ineffective and weak without even realizing it.


Monday, September 20, 2004


Last week I went card shopping. Anticipating Al's and my wedding anniversary, I thought if I start looking early, I could temporally afford to reject cards that weren't worthy of such an important event. I found nothing worthy. All week, anytime I was near cards, I would look through and find nothing. I've been buying anniversary cards for 18 years. One year, I actually began on September 1, and bought Allison a card for every day leading up to the 20th.
Ah, those were the days – when a wonderful, growing relationship is still young and underdeveloped enough that feelings can be expressed in a generic greeting card. "Dear wife, I feel the same way about you as 175,000 other men feel about their wives. Which is precisely the way Helen Steiner Rice knew we'd feel when she penned this wonderful greeting card that is weighted and balanced to turn over automatically in your hand so that you can see we care enough to send the very best."
But in 18 years, our relationship has moved way beyond the ability to express it so simply. The presentation of the card surely becomes the expression rather than what the card actually says. Of course the card speaks truly, but says but a fraction of what there is to say. The hundreds of cards I've browsed just seemed to demean the real thing. Things need to be said for which words have not yet been invented in any language, save the language of life, friendship, intimacy, worry and sharing. Our relationship has developed nuances about which Helen knows nothing. We have no choice but to just keep at it, keep growing until words are invented to express our love.
This year is of special significance for an aging husband. This anniversary marks a marriage that is as old as I was when we met. Remember that fine August morning? Do you remember me then? Newly dubbed adult. All that learning, formation, growing behind me – ready to begin.
Do you remember those following 4 years? Friendship, evolution, commitment. A pleasing hub to these two temporally equal halves of my life. From now on, your half grows ever longer and we define me more deeply than I define me. When were you not there? It's as if you were never not a part of me.
Oh, I'll keep looking for a card so that on Friday when we actually get some time together, maybe you'll get some words that somehow say what I want to say. But maybe we can just reflect together. Stand beside me. Remember. Look back. 18 Septembers. Now put one foot forward. Look ahead. Take a step. Preminisce.
We're 18. Newly dubbed adults. Lots of learning, formation, growing behind us – ready to begin.



I'm so sorry that the server was down all night and all day, so my processional snippet was unavailable. The server is back up and now, if you wish, you can listen.
Don't forget to imagine the grandmotherly ladies!!


Sunday, September 19, 2004

we love espanish guitar

I played a wedding yesterday. The bride had asked for what I thought was a rather odd processional. She wanted Tarrega's "Capriccho Arabe" Maybe she knew that every guitarist on the planet plays that piece- save one. Me.
Now remember that I said most of the cluttered stuff in my schedule have been on the calendar since before it was cluttered. Then the normal things come along and boom - clutter. That is not what happened here. This bride called less than two weeks ago. Of course I said yes. Then she said she wanted "Capriccho Arabe", and because everyone plays it, how could I say no? Surely I could learn it by then. No problem if I had time to look at it. But no time.
On Thursday I managed 45 minutes and was able to play sloppily thru the piece. Then on Friday night, after I got the kids to bed, I played for another hour before going out to see the sky.
The sky was incredible – clear, dark and star-filled. So I decided to bring my guitar out and play on the deck. I turned all the lights off in the house and went out. After about an hour, I thought I'd better get back in and work on "Capriccho Arabe" again, but I couldn't bear to turn on lights and go inside. So I tried to play it from memory. After fumbling around for a few minutes, I was able to do it. So I stayed out and worked on it in the dark. I played on the deck for a long time. I began to actually like "Capriccho Arabe" for the first time in many years. I remembered it's allure when it was fresh – before I'd heard everyone from my gradschool days play the piece. Before it had been included on every "20 greatest guitar works" compilation and anthology sold by coffee shops and Victoria's Secret. But I still couldn't quite imagine it as a bride's processional.
I arrived at the wedding about 50 minutes before the start, 20 minutes before I was to start playing the prelude. When I got there, there were only two people there, an elderly man and woman. The woman saw me come through the door and walked straight up to me and said, "we are Espanish. We love Espanish guitar." I said, "good to meet you, I plan to accommodate your tastes." Of course I didn't know that a moment ago. So now I know why the peculiar processional.
By the time I had played for 20 minutes or so, the room was packed with guests. Precisely half of them were milling about speaking Spanish, and half of those seemed to be over-sixty, matronly, ladies. Long ago, I stopped bringing music to weddings for the prelude, because it is so enjoyable to be able to watch the guests as I play. This snapshot reminded me of a European wedding from the movies or tv, which it was, it just wasn't onscreen.
Now cometh the time for the bride to process. I took my cue and began the espanish flourish that starts the piece. I now knew why I had been given the gift of having accidentally memorized this little gem. I was able to watch the guests as I played the processional. Before I got to the second measure, all these, over-sixty Espanish ladies were swooning. Maybe they were transported back some 40 years when they were wooed with the likes of this piece. Maybe it was just that the groom appeared extra suave with this musical background, the bride, more mysterious. Whatever, I'd been given, amidst a very stressful and hectic week, a perfect nocturnal context to learn this piece, and a perfect context in which to play it. I wanted to wiggle my eyebrows while I played like I'd seen Angel Romero do to my wife as we sat on the front row at his concert years ago. I'll never forget those ladies and their knowing husbands sitting confidently (expectantly?) beside them.
I deeply regret that I can't share that scene with you. But I will share a snippet of the processional that I recorded just now. Close your eyes. Imagine the ladies...


Saturday, September 18, 2004

buffeted and bathed

All four winds together can't bring the world to me
Shadows hide the play of light, so much I want to see
Chase the wind around the world, I want to look at life in the available light.

I'll go with the wind
I'll stand in the light

Nope, not mine. That's Neil Peart again. But Ivan the terrible blew the lyric into my mind this morning as I stepped out of the shower and looked across the room at Al asleep on the bed.
All night the wind whirred without dying down, a sustained sound of machinery. As the sky began to lighten, the wind kept up. I got dressed and came back into the bedroom. There was a long thin patch of sunlight on Al's pillow beside her face. The praising branches outside the window would block it out, then let it through. I walked over to the window and stood and watched the rays fighting to break through the clouds and trees. As the sun rose higher, peering from behind the clouds, I watched the play of light reach Allison's face. Bathed.
The lyric came to mind. I thought of that sustained wind. Seemed like my whole week. Buffeted. But the wind serves to move me. I can sit back and see what the wind blows in, or I can be blown by the wind. I can follow, chase it, blow away the shadows and stand in the available light.
Tonight the breeze is still blowing, the clouds are all gone. Behind the kitchen window, a candle flickers. Above the deck, millions of playful twinkling pinpricks.
Plenty of light.


Friday, September 17, 2004

one man's junk

With no time to blog these days, I thought it would be the perfect time to have a guest fill in for me. Now this is the first time I've brought anyone else to the blog, so be nice to me. If this is better than the normal blogs you read here, try to keep it to yourself. I don't need any hurt feelings, or a bloated guest blogger.
So, without further ado, please welcome my son, Jack to the cyberdeck.

At lunch yesterday, my friends and I were eating lunch when our normal lunch artist came to the table. He started right away at making a masterpiece of muck to gross every one out. When he was finished it looked like rice dipped in mud covered in water, chocolate milk, and fruit juice (which is what it was except the mud was gravy, but all the same it was gross). My friend Tristan got dared by Garret, another kid sitting at our table, to take a bite out of the master piece. " What will you give me?" Tristan asked. " An ice cream tomorrow." He said. Tristan took it. He ate a large bite as soon as the deal was made, not letting any one (mainly himself) back out of it. As soon as it was gone, he gagged and drank a whole lot of water. We were all laughing. Then Tristan had an idea.
"Hey!" he called over to a table of girls sitting beside us. "You want to try some?" He showed them the plate. The entire table was grossed out except one girl. "Sure, bring it over." The girls looked at her as if she were nuts. We passed it over to them and she took out her fork and took a bite. Then the other girls not wanting to be out done, all brought out there forks and took a bite. We cracked up.
After watching them for a while I saw them passing the plate back. It was almost empty! The girl who asked for it in the first place yelled over," And it really wasn't that bad." She looked (to us) like she was kidding. I guess that proves the saying " One mans junk is another girls treasure."


Thursday, September 16, 2004

renew my strength

There are many reasons that one might find himself facing more than he might be able to accomplish. Of course the likely question is, "haven't you learned how to say no?" In fact, there are items on the agenda that could have been refused. But most are things about which there is no choice.
Ironically, the activities and responsibilities to which he could have said no, are precisely the things that he wishes to do. Tent making is a necessity. It is necessary to provide the means by which the wishes can be accomplished. But by providing the means for the wishes, one has depleted the time needed for them.
Because the extra-vocational is the crux of the current calling, it must be done anyway. And so while others are sleeping, or eating, watching survivor or playing golf, he is planning, preparing, praying, practicing, and palpitating. Listening to the clock ding, sneaking glances at the moon, having a pity party.
I'm tired.

keep silent and wait on the word of the Lord


Monday, September 13, 2004


Nocturnal lonely heart and solitude
Now wax, now full, now wane, now disappear.
Men throughout the ages, she has wooed,
twelve times she changes heart within a year.
My lover's gaze through fair and fickle eyes
shines down from high above the evening stage.
Her visage casts a spell to mesmerize,
her lonely, longing suitor to assuage
It is not her I love, if truth be told,
for she can never love me in return,
nor shine of her own light from fires cold;
but bounce to me from whence hot fires burn
Hence, I admire that soft reflected face,
but long for panacea, liquid grace.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

a year later

My parents came down yesterday evening. They left this afternoon to drive back home. Seven hours both ways for a few hours' visit. Mom had to be back to sing tomorrow morning. Now you see where I get it, when you know its time to go do something, you go do it. You can't sit around and worry that you don't have time, or that you have to hurry back.
They brought all kinds of goodies with them, dad brought me a table saw, and mom brought a box of memorabilia, and lots of treasures from the house. Last night after dinner, we were in the living room talking about stuff from years ago and I was thinking about that Johnny Cash concert that set me upon my course. I asked mom if there was any extant evidence from that concert. "Yeah," she said, "ticket stubs. They're in that box of stuff I brought." We sat in the middle of the floor and looked at everything in the box together, remembering, until we found the stubs and I got bogged down on them. Mom said that she guessed that's all she needed to bring. Of course not, but this was a very important one to me.
Mom and I have always seemed to have some sort of synchronicity thing going, or at least she has with me. When I was in college, she would call at the exact times she needed to call. I know she was praying at times when she didn't call. I broke my collar bone in a football game and she called within hours because "she felt like there might be something wrong."
She also has a knack for unknowingly preparing for things that will be needed in the future. With the ticket stubs in hand, I had to blog some more about the old Johnny Cash experience, and thought I'd link you back to past blurbs I've made. So I looked them up and realized that one was a comment link to Sungrown Maduro's Johnny Cash tribute, that has long since disappeared from the comments. Then I remembered that mom had printed that comment and placed it in a picture she had given me of the very event that I talked about in the comment. So I opened the back of the frame and pulled out the printout. I've posted it here for you to read. You'll notice from the stubs, that in that post, my memory was off by a year.
So anyway, magical musical moments, tend to bring back older magical musical moments, and so I'm sitting here exactly a year to the hour after Johnny Cash died, listening to "the man comes around", and remembering everything associated with it. I remember the mind snapshot of the concert. I remember listening to Live at San Quentin and At Folsom Prison on my grandmother's console stereo. I used to worry about the folks he sang about. I still do.
When my kids were very little they responded to Tracy Chapman's music. I was baffled by that. They had no reference for anything she was singing about. One day Allison and I were talking about it and we realized that even in innocence, they responded to her passion and the reality in her music. That is what I was drawn to in Johnny Cash at such a young age. Advocates for the everyman. Artist's who get out of themselves and feel for those around them. Who are real enough to know the experience and speak sympathy and encouragement.
So thank you for hanging with me to the end of this long rambling free association down memory lane on the one year anniversary of Johnny Cash's deliverance. May his influence live on in the music of folks like Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill, John Prine, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, … and me(?)


Saturday, September 11, 2004

patron saint?

originally a comment to Sungrown Maduro's Johnny Cash Tribute on 11.11.03

As you know, I am proud to say that the first concert I ever attended was Johnny Cash and the Carter Family with Special guest, Carl Perkins. This was in 1973. I was 9 years old, had a guitar and was absolutely infatuated with that sound. My first public performance came the same year in the same venue as I had seen Johnny Cash (Huntington Memorial Field House - then home to the Thundering Herd). I played Johnny Cash. It was all I knew.
So anyway, Patron Saint? I don't know, but he is the reason that I play guitar and that has certainly shaped my life. Forever engraved on my visual memory is that giant with a scar standing there in black with an acoustic guitar - and on my aural memory, "Hi, I'm Johnny Cash, (B B D# D# B F# E)"
I wonder if my parents knew that that expensive extravagance of an evening out would have such a profound impact on my life.


Friday, September 10, 2004

magic moments

People are not ashamed and aren't generally questioned when they express a worshipful response while gazing at a beautiful sunset, a night sky (even the psalmist did it), or a flower. While they may not respond in the same way, few people would question someone's being moved to worship by a song about worship, even if the music is mediocre or worse Perhaps we should say we're reminded to worship rather than moved. Perhaps not.
Several years ago, the Tallis Scholars came through town at a time when I was being blown away by ancient music. It was quite an experience. I had recently had a strong reaction listening to an interpretation of the Epitaph of Seikilos and tried to share it with my history class. To them, the academic exercise meant nothing and I was so passionate that the whole ordeal just embarrassed me. So some things are not meant to be shared, it would seem. They are to be pondered in your heart, if you will. But my heart ponderings spill, I can't help it, and I again set myself up for embarrassment or worse, chastisement or correction.
I love music, you know. I have had several magic musical moments in my life in which the moments were shared by hundreds of people but I experienced the magic alone. Right after I was married I attended a performance of Brahms' A German Requiem on a Sunday afternoon. I sat in a balcony above the choir and orchestra where I could see none of the performers and was transported in worship as I listened to the scriptures sung in German wafting up from beneath me while folks beside me nodded off. Some years later, I sat in a stale, muggy lecture hall and listening to William Kanengiser give a concert of eastern European music and had a similar experience. Once, Allison and I went to see Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and when the overture began, I just started crying.
It happened again last night. I shed tears of thankfulness and worshipped for the unnecessary gift of music. Can't I just be thankful that God put music in the world? He gave some people astonishing ability to bring it to life. I heard one last night and was thankful. I am only slightly embarrassed to express my response. I saw three guys, each doing his own thing, working together to accomplish a single purpose. So tightly woven that a single music issued. Three players, one band, one music.
Thank you Lord that there is worthy music in this world, and thank you for people who sacrifice to develop your gifts to an extraordinarily high level.


Thursday, September 09, 2004


180 miles on the wind horse, two and a half hours of Monte Montgomery. It was a most excellent evening. The sky was gorgeous on the way up. The venue was nice and they even had food! May I suggest the handleburger?
I'll write more about this concert later. It was amazing. I'm too tired now. I laughed, I cried, I smiled until my face hurt. I can't remember ever doing that at a concert before.
Thanks for the heads up gwill!


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

romanian ramble

Last night when Allison was reading yesterday's entry, she asked me, "how old are these people on the porches?" I said different ages, sometimes they are very old. Remember back in May when I was looking for the quarry? I stopped and talked to an ancient man on his porch way off the main road. Al asked me if I could understand what he was saying. A little bit, I told her. That really hasn't gotten in my way. Remember that words aren't always needed, or desired.
The first time I was in Moldova, the country was only 5 years old. The landlord had moved out and left a new nation to fend for it's self. I'd been told that people under the Soviet system kept to themselves and weren't trusting. If there was truth to that, it was fading and people were beginning to find comfort in one another.
We were in a small village called Vatra just outside Chisinau, doing construction and helping pave an area beside a tiny, brand new, stone church. Just across the street was a little store and local drinking establishment. It was very hot and the water was unfit for consumption, so often we'd take a break, zip over there and get a Fanta or Coke. Once, as I started across the street, an old gentleman was just reaching my side on his way back from the establishment, all relaxed and uninhibited. I, thinking a hello and nod would be the extent of our passing, said, "hello". He stopped, looked up and just started talking to me in Romanian. This was not simply, "nice weather we're havin'", he went on and on and on. Ten, fifteen minutes. He'd laugh, so I'd laugh; he'd look concerned, I'd furrow my brow. I'm thinking, I faked him out with my one Russian word, so he thinks I can speak Romanian. When he hesitated for a moment, I thought I'd give it a try. In clear, barely accented English, I told him why I was there, where I was from, about my family. I told him I played basketball and ran track in high school, I like strawberries, the first car I owned was a 1975 Pinto, that baking soda was good to put on bee stings. I'd laugh, he'd laugh.
So the secret was out, now he knew. As soon as I hesitated, he took up with his side of the conversation again. After about 45 minutes of this, the conversation slowed and in English, he said, "bye". I snickered and said, "auf wiedersehen." He chuckled, shook my hand, gave me a hug, and slowly meandered up the sidewalk.


Monday, September 06, 2004

tell me a story 2

Yesterday, after church, I made a rather short futile attempt at a nap, but the kids were determined that I not drift off. So I decided to try to find parts for my truck that had all at once decided to break on Saturday. I am not exaggerating, in the course of a single trip on Saturday, the truck began to run hot, driver side radius arm bushings crumbled and fell out, and the gear shift started flopping all around and I had trouble finding the gears. Once, Samantha was having trouble closing the passenger door due to the sleek handle-less design of my interior, so her knee kicked that dash board and knocked the air conditioner vent out. No problem, the air conditioner doesn't work anyway.
In my online auto parts search, I actually found the radius arm bushings. Only $11. But the installation is a $150 dollar job and I don't know who's going to pay me to do it. The gear shift kit was not available, I found out that I own the only 2-door, manual 5-speed Explorer ever made, and they are certainly not going to make parts just for me. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the website did say that my truck was extremely rare. Apparently, the Explorer was made for anti-minivan soccer moms, who require 4 doors, convenient one touch 4-wheel drive and an auto transmission.
So frustrated, I kicked the tires as I rode up the driveway on my bike with it's brand new wheel bearings. Who needs a big, rattly cage anyway? I headed for the back roads. The no-traffic, tree-tunnel, crank-and-bank-windhorse roads. I rode for about 30 minutes before I turned up a curious side road calling to be explored. Several hundred yards up that road was a Sunday afternoon front porch holding two people and two guitars and two glasses of iced tea. I pulled in the driveway, walked up to the porch, was handed a guitar and a glass of tea and we spent the afternoon playing, "The old rugged cross", "Aimee", "Gimme Three Steps", "Amazing Grace", and laughing, worrying and telling stories. The porch filled up before I left to ride the wind back home somewhat lighter than when I'd left. As I was putting on my helmet, someone called from the porch, "Tell me the truth and I'll believe it, tell me a fact and I'll accept it, tell me a story and I'll keep it in my heart."
I'm learning the power of the story that can be told by listening.


Saturday, September 04, 2004

an evening with samantha

This evening the kids and I drove up to Winthrop to try and provide a friend with a connection to something familiar. How is it that one can experience a huge, exceedingly exciting change in one's life and still experience a concurrent loneliness? I've noticed in my own life, loneliness can be caused by just such excitement, by that feeling of having so much new wonderfulness in your life and not having anyone familiar around to share it with.
So I'm not saying that my friend was experiencing loneliness, or that if she was, tonight's excursion helped at all. I'm just remembering similar circumstances of my own that have brought on loneliness, and guessing that two weeks out, its time to have familiar faces in physical presence to stand in the middle of your excitement and be excited with you. So we drove to Winthrop, picked her up and headed to Charlotte's South Park Mall for some Cheesecake Factory. There were 73,000 people at Cheesecake Factory and the wait for dinner was something like 14 years. I decided we wouldn't make it home in time to send my own kids to college, so we got back in the car and drove up the road a little and ate with a bunch of old people at Ruby Tuesday instead of the hipster Cheesecake consumers. You know the Ruby Tuesday, the one across the parking lot from a certain bookstore that stays open later than Starbucks, and whose name is referenced just below the title of my blog. I had the New Orleans Seafood, blackened Tilapia topped with shrimp and Alfredo sauce with steamed broccoli and rice, and a couple hours of news about classes, buildings, new friends, meals, schedules, etc..
After dinner we walked over to Starbucks for coffee. The kids stood in front of the security camera in a line tallest to shortest and watched themselves in the monitor doing arm tricks behind Jack.
After dropping her off at her dorm we headed back down I-77 and the kids fell fast asleep. I began thinking about life's stages, about the steps we take toward independence. I decided that we really just move toward responsibility – we are always dependent. Here I am, 22 years away from home. I've got a beautiful wife, three crazy kids, a mortgage, a truck to drive me to Charlotte, and a few bucks to buy dinner for a friend. I grow increasingly dependent on my wife and kids, but dependence on my parents never diminishes. Sure I need them for entirely different reasons than I did - to share exciting moments, receive wise, experienced advice. How wise of God to implant a need in us to share the new stuff with the familiar. How wise that our community grows rather than changes. How gracious that God gave us cell phones. I'm thankful that Dad was still up at 10:30 on a Saturday night.


Friday, September 03, 2004

spiritual form fallacy

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to foster authentic spiritual growth in an academic environment. Academe requires measurable outcomes that can be recorded and reported. Outcomes require standards by which to measure, and standards are usually behavioral. The tricky part is that spiritual growth does manifest itself in behavioral changes, but observable behavioral changes don't necessarily indicate spiritual growth, especially behaviors that are required or forbidden by those who use them to measure. The end is that the exhibited behavior ceases to be the instrument by which spiritual growth is measured, but rather we begin to measure spiritual growth by the students' adherence to the behavioral standards.
This does not happen entirely subconsciously. When someone questions standards that are no longer backed by conviction, they are justified by integrity. Whether or not you agree with the rule, you agreed to follow it. Now spiritual growth is measured not by observable behavior, but by willingness to submit to a behavioral standard that has nothing to do with spiritual growth. Maybe on the SAT it would appear something like this: Only people who like to wear brown shoes are good people. Betsy doesn't like to wear brown shoes, but does anyway. Is Betsy a good person?
Of course one can only observe whether Betsy wore the shoes, not whether she liked it. Maybe Betsy loves to wear brown shoes, but has none.
The ramifications of this are deep. Everyone gets confused. The mentors begin to confuse mistakes for rebellion and lack of respect on the part of growing, sincere students, and respond to them as such. It is among the most sincere students that this has the most negative affect. These students really do respect and admire their mentors as spiritually mature people whose guidance and correction they take seriously. If they are told they have a rebellious attitude, it is more than discouraging.
The students grow more confused because they see that it is not what they did that was wrong, but the fact that they did it.
So integrity is the issue? Well integrity would certainly be one of the results of spiritual growth, but if integrity is defined by submission to the law, then it can't be an instrument by which to measure spiritual growth, which was to be measured by the law set in place to enforce behavior that is used to measure spiritual growth. Ridiculous sentence? Yes, intentionally. It is long, complicated and confusing and probably grammatically incorrect. No one knows where it starts and where it stops. That is the problem with this measurement thinking.
None of this is to say necessarily that rules should be abandoned, or that one shouldn't abide by rules with which they do not agree. There is nothing wrong with enforcing rules as rules, and holding accountable those who break them. It is only to say that we can't use a thermometer to find out how much we weigh. Heat may cause us to sweat and by sweating, we may lose weight, but the temperature cannot measure our weight loss. We've got to be who we want them to become and strive to become who we want to be. We've got to trust the Spirit to perform the spiritual.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

drum roll please...

Ok, so as not to torture Wesley any longer, I'll give you the answers to my list and what I think are the answers to the commenters' lists.
Here they are:

Steve Miller (Fly Like an Eagle) - Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future
James Taylor (The Secret O' Life) - The thing about time is that time isn’t really real
Alan Parsons Project (Time) - Time flowing like a river, beckoning me
Switchfoot (Gone) - Time was never money, time was never cash
Carly Simon (I haven't …) - I haven't got time for the pain
Rush (Time stand still) - Time stand still
Wayne Watson (Almighty) - Time marches on
Electric Light Orchestra - Music is reversible, time is not, turn back
The Byrds (Turn x 3) - And a time to every purpose under heaven
Chicago (Does anybody…) - Does anybody really know what time it is
REO Speedwagon (Time for…) - Time for me to fly
Earthsuit (One Time) - One time, one time, one time, one time
Chicago (25 or 6 to four) - Sitting cross-legged on the floor
The Guess Who (No Time) - No time for revolving doors I got got got got no time

Then in the comments, gwill quickly added references to Pink Floyd, Jim Croce, The Little River Band, and Foreigner. After work, he added Ace Frehley, Brian Adams, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, GreenDay(?) and (I think) Clint Black.
Cmar referenced the Byrds again, Huey Lewis, Led Zeppelin, and Vince Guaraldi.
Larry's contributions were the Howdy Doody Show, and Otis Redding.
The punkofpoetry tossed in Harry Chapin.
Beth had a Christmas tune, The Rolling Stones and stumped me on the other.
And Sarita stumped me.
So how did I do? How did you do?


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

time lines

Time is of the essence. School has begun and every minute is accounted for.
So because I have none, I decided to take some and quickly list lyric lines that pop into my head concerning this precious commodity.
This list took me 3 minutes to compile. How quickly can you identify the songs or artists?
Maybe Daniel could contribute some Neotheobucks to a contest?

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future
The thing about time is that time isn’t really real
Time flowing like a river, beckoning me
Time was never money, time was never cash
I haven't got time for the pain
Time stand still
Time marches on
Music is reversible, time is not, turn back
And a time to every purpose under heaven
Does anybody really know what time it is
Time for me to fly
One time, one time, one time, one time
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
No time for revolving doors
I got got got got no time

No time for Tom bloggery