Friday, December 31, 2004


It has just come to my attention that, effective as of midnight tonight, the number, 5 will replace the number, 4 at the end of all my blog headings. I vaguely remember a similar mandate about a year ago, and squeak as I did, I never got the grease. I was perfectly happy with a 3 at the end of the headings, and though I was less than willing to have it changed to 4, I eventually accepted what I could not change, and have grown accustomed to it. Now that I have essentially quit thinking about it altogether, boom, they go and change it again.
I can also remember several times in grade school when I was force to change the number that I habitually wrote at the top of all my assignments. I would try to sneak by with the old number for a few months, but the teacher would always scratch it out and change it to the new number, and add some kind of scolding remark.
It seems we can't leave well enough alone. And you can bet that I'm going to be looking at other folks' blogs to find out if they too are getting kicked around like this, or if it is just me.
If it's just me, well, I'm switching blog hosts. At any rate, please enjoy the 4 at the top of this post, because it's the last one you're going to see for a while.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

time piece

went to the mall today. That's the second time in less than a week. Before that, I have no idea when was the last time I was in a mall. Ok, come to think of it, I think I told you about it. Anyway, today I went to look for a new watch.
My last watch was a wrangler watch from Wal-mart. I paid 14 dollars for it a couple years ago and it finally bit the dust a few months ago. Other than that, I've got a few Popeye watches that don't always seem to say what I want to say with my timepiece. They basically say, "I yam what I yam." But I need a watch that says that's not all that I yam. So with some gig money from Christmas time, I set about finding a one-watch-goes-everywhere watch. One of those manly/metro/I-won't-wear-just-any-ole-walmart-sundial watches. So Al and Will and Molly and I started browsing mall stores looking for such an item. When we finally made it to Watch World, the salesman said, "hey were you guys just down at the Sunglass Hut?" "Yeah," I said, "just a few minutes ago." So he reached behind the counter and pulled out a watch and said, "here's the watch you asked me to pull." "Oh, that wasn't us," I said. But I bought it anyway. It's a sleek, black, Skagen. Definitely the coolest watch I've ever owned, thanks to Christmas gigs. No doubt, the first watch I've ever owned with a lifetime warranty. And all for less than you'd pay for a fine guitarist at your Christmas special event.
So with watch on wrist, and more style than I know what to do with, I slipped by the hairdo place to get a haircut while Al and the wee ones grabbed some grub at the food court. Al thought I was so awesome with my new watch and haircut that she couldn't leave me alone, so we rented Bourne Supremacy, built a fire, sent the kids to bed, popped some corn and watched television together. We even held hands.


Monday, December 27, 2004

31 dollars

Yesterday, Allison and I gave each other same symbolic, meaningful gift which came to 31 dollars each.
Today I had to completely replace the brakes on her truck. The inside brake pads had disentegrated and totally scored the rotor discs, so they too, had to be replaced. On a 4x4 Explorer, one cannot just pull the rotor off without removing lots of fun 4 wheel drive stuff, and the fun four-wheel-drive stuff cannot be removed without a special, monster-sized socket that no one sells. So I spent the largest part of the day looking for said socket.
Right now, I am waiting for the bearings to dry so that I can repack them, so I thought I'd let you know the price list for my brake job today:

brake pads: 31 dollars
(driver side) rotor: 31 dollars
(passenger side) rotor: 31 dollars
special monster size hex lock nut socket: 31 dollars

I was going to charge myself $250 dollars for this job, but seeing the precedent that has been set, I am going to be rudely underpaid.
Maybe this is a good time to check out air fares.


Friday, December 24, 2004


the eve of incarnation brings
hopeful smiling winter blue.
we wait beneath the tangles
for the word that will make all things new.


Friday, December 17, 2004

one shade the more

she walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; and all that's best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes... (byron)


Thursday, December 16, 2004


There are a couple days each month when the baby moon sets early enough to brave the cold December night to stand at the dam and watch her dip into Lake Murray. Al and I watched last night as she turned yellow then red as she disappeared into the lake. We even got to see 5 of this year's last Geminid meteors. So sorry to bore you with more moon pics, but she' s important to me.
The baby moon is born after a few nights of quiet darkness. She arrives early in the morning as a tiny sliver and begins to grow until she casts undeniable reflected light in the darkness.
Here she is as a waxing crescent over the lake last night. I'd say in people years that's probably about 12 years old. She looks like she's up there amazing people with wisdom beyond her years.
As I witness this, I'm amazed that there are only a few people to see it. Cars go by, but out there over the lake, quiet as the night, the lonely moon swells as it takes a deep breath before submerging.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004


what if they really were stars?
blazing across the sky
streaming tails
at this rate they'd all be gone by morning.
God, don't let the stars fall.


Friday, December 10, 2004

thunder in the desert

The morning rain can wash away the shadows like
the dawn washes away the dark
falling heavy, constant, sure; and
I respond like a child forced to bathe against his will


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

what does it all mean?

- last night someone hit livestock on the road in the front of campus.

- I dreamt this morning that all the white in my whiskers was just toothpaste that I didn't get wiped off from around my mouth.

- It is 70 degrees and brilliant blue on this 8th day of December.

- There is a very large beaver deceased and supine in the middle of the intersection out at the end of the boulevard.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ensuing thoughts

But wouldn't it be easier if that was all it took to show reverence to God? If all it took to satisfy God's desire for our love was a dress code, or some behavior. That would be a whole lot easier than loving people. A lot easier than feeling emotion for some hard to grasp concept. That's why love grows from relationship, and without relationship, God is just a concept and we feel like we've got to invent some kind of visible proof of an emotion we don't understand. Haven't you ever asked why God would create beings who were capable of not loving him? Why didn't he just create folks who had no choice but to go around doing as he wished?
God understands that though love may manifest itself in behavior, it is not a behavior. Though love may manifest itself in submission, other emotions could manifest themselves in submission. Fear for example. Most folks would submit to a man with a gun, but the submission is to the threat posed by the gun. The man won't get respect from waving a gun. The gun's potential will be respected and submission will result.
I know teachers who refuse to allow the students to participate in class in any way other than hearing what the teacher says because further interactivity erodes the respect for the teacher as authority. But these teachers aren't receiving respect, they are merely managing behavior.
What sane husband ever was satisfied by forcing his wife to behave according to his whims? What father ever felt love from children who were terrified not to do exactly what he demanded? What bully ever received what he'd been missing by terrifying someone else and forcing them to meet his random demands? Any lonely person who as ever tried to be loved by demanding it, can testify that it is empty and unsatisfying. Anyone who has tried to feel love from his television, to which he holds the remote and can turn it on and off as he wishes and switch the channels when it says something he doesn't want to hear, can certainly testify that a television's love is empty and unsatisfying.
We've sure made a bomb of love and respect. How could we ever confuse our own control with someone else's love for us? How could we ever have mistaken our inherent need for love as a desire for control?
But we have. And we impose our mixed up understanding on God. Some of us mistake his love for a us as a desire for control, and some of us even try to control him by demanding that he show his love to us by meeting our demands.


Monday, December 06, 2004


I know that this is probably hard for you to believe, but I am often questioned about my hair, my clothes, my music, etc. Why would you…? Well, mainly because I love people who wear this, or have that. I don't want to make those people feel uncomfortable around me. Ever wonder why leather clad, tattooed bikers don't feel comfortable in a room full of charcoal suit evangelists? Or why jeans and t-shirt folks don't feel comfortable with a bunch of sweater vest and khaki clad promise keepers? I know, you're thinking, "but you're just trying to please people." But that's just the opposite of what I was trying to do. I was trying to make people feel accepted and not confuse them as to what is important. Ever wonder why the creator of the universe put on an earthsuit to come down and hang out with people?
A lot of people I know feel like the clothes you wear to church show reverence for God, that God perceives and understands, and demands respect in the same way that the Queen would, or the Pope. And that God demands a superficial submissive show of respect in the same way that culture demands that we bow to the whims of protocol for an audience with the Queen or the Pope. We have to dress accordingly, look down, and kiss his ring.
I guess the Queen or the Pope can't really know if we respect them unless we show it by our submissiveness to meaningless, superficial things. They can't see if, deep inside, there is any substance to our procedural show of submission. They probably don't care if, deep inside, there is any substance to our procedural show of submission.
I also know people who understand that this is goofy thinking – that God feels respected only if we dress to impress him - however, will forego attending a gathering for which they feel they are inappropriately dressed. I've done it – felt self-conscious about what I had on, and so skipped out. This is probably fine, when it comes to restaurants, but for a worship gathering?
Truth is, I think that even if God didn't simply know our hearts, without any outward behavioral act, and he did need us to do or behave in certain ways before he would know that we respected him, I think he would use very different criteria by which to decide whether we were true. I think he would know because we chose to do what he asked, rather than some made up thing that really had nothing to do with what he had expressed as his desires. I remember that when Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he answered, "love God and love people." We are also told that if we say we love God, but don't love people, we are lying. So let's just say that God does need us to do something so that he'll know we love and respect him. It has to be loving people. We can put on whatever clothes we want when we go to church, or sing whatever songs we want, but if we don't love people, God is not going to be duped into believing that we love and respect him.
But there is a deeper irony. When we exclude people by behaving in a way that we mistakenly believe shows reverence for God, we are missing the point. You can't love people and exclude them. And you can't love God without loving people.
Just Sunday morning I was part of conversation that was discussing the kids' dress for church. During the conversation, someone said, "I just feel strange letting my kids wear that to church, my mom would have a fit!" Ah, but no one really seemed that concerned about whether God thought it inappropriate, which is also ironic because this is the very issue that I mentioned in the opposite context at the beginning of this ramble. If by "dressing down" you are trying to please people, and by dressing up you are trying to please people, it makes sense then that God would use other criteria to judge our love and reverence for him. It certainly explains why he created naked people in the Garden of Eden.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

what's it all about?

When I was in grad school I played in dozens of masterclasses. A masterclass consists of a public lesson in which a student performs for a master teacher and the audience, and then the teacher gives him/her a lesson based on what he has just heard. It is really a good opportunity to play in these classes. Often it is a quite famous, revered, or magnificent player who is playing the role of master teacher, and to get a lesson from such a person is a rare treat. Combined with that is the performance opportunity that is extra helpful because added to the normal audience induced stress is the fact that you're sitting on stage being scrutinized by a professional, respected, master of the instrument. Over time though, I began to notice a few consistent things about masterclasses. Though not always, often, the class seemed to be more about the teacher than the student. Often it was quite obvious that the teacher was not equipped to notice what was missing from a student's performance, but would merely observe what the student WAS doing and suggest that he do that. The student, no doubt, would think to himself, "but I thought I was doing that already, or at least I was aware of it and was trying." But the audience wouldn't be so tuned in to the student's performance until the teacher began to point things out. So the teacher would make his suggestion (that the student was already doing) and the student would play the passage with the supposed goal of incorporating what the teacher had just suggested. Because the student had already been doing it, he was quite successful in doing it again at the request of the teacher. But this time it had been brought to the attention of the audience who now thought that the teacher had just extracted brilliant artistry from a struggling, undirected student. This would go on for 45 minutes and the student would leave the stage as the audience cheered for the teacher and his uncanny ability to find the diamond beneath a pile of rocks.
Other teachers would not even be able to notice what the students WERE doing, and so would simply mask their inability to help by talking about themselves, or dropping names of famous guys as "friends", or playing fancy passages while having a casual conversation with the audience while the student sat patiently beside him onstage. I was once in the audience when my friend gave a dazzling performance of the prelude from Bach's "Prelude, fugue and allegro", BWV, 998. The teacher took most of his lesson time talking about how odd it was that not only was he a black classical guitarist (how often do you see that?) But he was a left-handed black classical guitarist. Take a good look, you may never see this combination again.
But I digress.
Probably one of the most common uninformed mistakes I heard teachers make in these classes, was to make a statement, especially of technical philosophy, that was just not good for the lesser developed students in the audience. These statements were usually completely different from what students were hearing week after week from their regular teachers. The students struggled along a slow, steep path and then heard this "completely different" statement from this famous guy. Surely this must be the secret that has eluded me. "It's the prayer of Jabez, but for guitar. I've been doing it all wrong, led down the wrong path, wasting my time, but now I can focus my efforts on something that will make a difference." What everyone involved could fail to realize is that no matter how true it might have been for the teacher, who had been playing for decades and was obviously in a different league than the student, that didn't make it true for the student who was struggling to play in tune and keep a steady tempo, and not damage his hands in the process.
When we find ourselves in a place where other people would like to be, it is very easy to just invite them to be there too, but not bother to show them how to get there. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place and have no idea how to tell someone else to get there. Sometimes we remember how we got here, but upon arrival begin to lose some of the humility that brought us here and immediately reckon that we could have gotten here by a different route. So we go about telling people about the different route, rather than the one we took ourselves. Consequently, folks who look to us for directions, never get there. Sometimes we enjoy the elevated, revered, elite feeling we have being where other people want to be, and so we intentionally give them bogus directions to keep ourselves above or beyond them.
I used to be very suspect of people who give bad directions to a place they claimed to have been or claimed to be. I would hear the bad directions and think, obviously they've never been there, or they'd know that you can't get there by those directions.
Once, a famous recording artist visited our school and gave a concert. During lunch with a member of our community, it was discovered that this famous recording artist had been a music major in college. The famous recording artist was asked how this course of study had helped prepare for this career. You already guessed the answer. "Not at all," was the reply. My initial response to hearing this was, "what kind of arrogance allows someone to study something for four years, go into a career directly connected to that course of study, and then say it did nothing to help them?" What student can assess how badly they sang out-of-tune, or how bad their sense of rhythm was, etc. four years ago? It is so easy to view yourself where you are and assume that you have always been there and obviously you didn't need the people who thought they'd helped you arrive.
But my second response was to all the current or potential music students who thought they were preparing for the same career as this famous recording artist. The artist has arrived and didn't need the training that she received, I, then, will not waste my time on such pursuits. Bad directions. Followers don't arrive.
I've heard Christians teaching methodological approaches to spiritual growth, salvation, effective leadership, etc. I suspected the reality of their own spirituality because of the misguided way they try to lead others to that place. Often after I get to know them, I see that they are for real, but that they've just confused the path they took. In sincerity, they've tried to codify a method to a mystery that has no method. They've tried to make relationship into something you can have by following some rules, or saying some words, doing some things, or going some places. Probably because once they themselves had a relationship, they began to follow some rules and say some words and do some things and go some places. But those weren't what began the relationship. And they've forgotten. The sad thing is that the next generation follows the method and having never had the relationship, don't recognize that it is missing. They must think, "I did everything right, so this must be it." The bad directions get perpetuated and nobody ever gets there because they don't know where they're going. The directions have become the point and the destination has been lost.


Friday, December 03, 2004


I used to think that education was the key to everything. I believed that when people didn't think like me it was because my thoughts had never occurred to them. I was sure that as soon as they heard and understood my point of view, they would quickly adopt it. I've only recently realized that this isn't usually true. One main thing that has caused me to realize this is my own aggravation with others trying to educate me into their point of view. I get angry when other people think that my thoughts, beliefs, and convictions are rooted in ignorance.
I always thought that my own views were simply better ideas and insight - other folks just did things out of habit or tradition. A little education will enlighten them to the more effective and productive way. Man, was I surprised when I realized that people's ridiculous ways were actually founded in their own convictions, regardless of how misguided I knew them to be.
It is very disheartening to realize that someone intentionally and thoughtfully does something that you feel is ineffective, counter-productive, or even damaging. No simple exchange of information is going to close the chasm.
So, how, I would ask, do you expect to accomplish our goal with that approach? Then the biggest shock of all – we don’t even share a goal. It is one thing when you feel that people are purposelessly going through motions with which you don't agree, it is quite another when you realize that it is not only the procedures that separate you, but in fact, they do have purpose, and it is the bottom line that separates you.

I worried about the way things were and how I thought they ought to be, and saw no way that they could become that. I thought about the 100th monkey lesson and how 3 contemporary generations reacted to the new practice of washing their potatoes in different ways. The youngest generation didn't even have to learn, they simply washed their potatoes as if it was "just how it was done". The middle generation slowly started adapting to the new practice, though not all of them did it. Washing potatoes was just an alternative to not washing potatoes. But none of the older generation washed their potatoes. They simply refused to consume their tubers in a way that was any different than they ever had. No doubt, they were sure that washing would rid the potato of all its nutrients. It was not until all those old monkeys were gone, that the culture completely adopted the practice of potato washing.
I began to feel that there was no hope until I realized something else. Old stuff can't become young, but it can become new. All things can be made new. I remembered that John, the Revelator hadn't seen a changed heaven and earth coming down. He saw a NEW heaven and a NEW earth.
I can't do it. I can't make me, or anybody else young or new. The author of the letter to the Romans doesn't say, "transform", he says, "be transformed". Be made new.
I began to think about the legend of the phoenix. In most cultures' versions of this fabled bird, it is immortal. But its immortality doesn't save it from death, it actually requires death. The bird builds a nest of fragrant herbs and sets itself on fire. Out of the flames or ashes, it is reborn. It requires a willingness to destroy the old and be made new.
Sometimes my cynicism has trouble with this as well. Where do we find the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the new? Then I remember the monkeys, and Gameliel's advice, and Simeon who waited an insufferable long time for the new to come. Even John the revelator saw what was to be, not what was. Patience. Waiting. Come quickly.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

mmm mmm good

So what do pork ribs, chicken, shrimp, scallops, beef, asparagas, carrots, rice noodles, carrots, celery and a score of other tasty treats all have in common? All were ingredients for the fine gourmet Filipino cuisine to which we were treated this weekend. How is it that a family can travel 5000 miles, spend the night in your home and end up being the hosts? Ambassadors of a culture who, as gwill has pointed out, are known globally for their hospitality par excelence.
You met this family in a post I did back in January. This weekend I got to see first hand why they are so well loved. We spent Sunday afternoon in tortuous anticipation caused by the aroma wafting from the kitchen. We spent Sunday evening sampling sundry items of culinary delight until we could hold no more. Conversation into the night. Monday morning filled with numerous stories like the one I shared with you in January. And a lunch that was on par with the dinner we were still recovering from. We have lumpia in our freezer to last quite some time. I have dined on leftover ribs and pancit twice since Monday.
But no matter how good the food, and how much you eat, stomachs will again be empty. Not so with hearts. Filled hearts stay filled. They spill out and get on those who have filled them and other people as well, but don't empty.
Yes, different cultures. Different languages. Different generations. But a kingdom in common.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

highly irregular

I've accidentally discovered a way to find out who's reading your blog. Don't post for five days. Obviously, this method, if abused, could result in a loss of reading friends, but it seems that 5 days is just enough to make all the lurkers come out of the woodwork and ask, "hey, why haven't you been posting?" Mom even called last night to ask if I was ok. So the answer to all the questions is yes, I’m ok. It's been a crazy week. Having taken the time to run away for thanksgiving to be with my peeps meant that I wasn't preparing for this week, and thus started the week behind in my prep. When we got home Saturday evening, Allison went to work and I had to work hard to get ready for Sunday morning and the arrival of houseguests Sunday afternoon. We had an incredibly wonderful Sunday and Monday with our guests and then I had to scramble to be ready for classes on Tuesday and then classes and rehearsal on Wednesday. That's the short version of the missing five days. Nonetheless, I HAVE written some, and thought MUCH, it's just not yet ready for prime time. I want to tell you about our time with our guests. It's coming. But I'm still playing catch-up.
So bear with me, as if my silence and lack of rambling actually mattered, and I'll be back to clicking away forthwith