Saturday, April 30, 2005


Allison is at work and emailing me wondering why I haven't blogged
tonight. Today, we took a trip to Charlotte to eat lunch at Razzoo's
and stop in at the Apple store. We came home with full bellies and a
new toy tool.

I also discovered this new cool feature on blogger that allows you to
email your post in and automatically publish.

So here I am trying out the new feature with my new toy tool. It's way past my bedtime and I'm fading - as a matter of fact, I'm
backdating this post so you won't know how late I stayed up.



Friday, April 29, 2005

wherefor art thou?

Last spring, through the stress of the end of the school year, I took a lot of evening and night rides on the windhorse. Maybe you remember my incessant rambling about Venus. I'd shed the stress of the day by climbing on and riding west into the sunset or the setting crescent moon, watching the evening colors morph around the sparkling planet until all was dark on the backdrop.
I've really missed her in the evening sky this spring. I did some searching around to find out when she’d be back this year and was amazed that it wouldn’t be until late June. By then, the sky will have lost its spring clarity and will have accumulated its summer haze of humidity. She has the brilliance to cut through it all, but she will still be inhibited.
I’m embarrassed to say that I kind of expected her to appear every evening in the middle of March just like last year, and add an extra element to the gorgeous sunset. It occurs to me how short-sighted and insular my thinking is. Here I am, traveling around the sun at 365 days per orbit, the days here being measured by revolutions of my own planet. These are the occurrences that I use to measure time. So I figure if I travel out of sight of Venus, when I return to where I last saw her, she should still be there, right? As if all she ever does is hang around up there in the evening sky and wait for me to come orbiting back around. What really happens though is quite different. She is up there doing the same thing as I am, but going about it quite differently. I’m not even sure she uses days to measure years, because in fact, her day is longer than her year. She orbits faster than she rotates. But that’s not all, while I watch her set in west behind the sun, she watches me rise in the west because she actually spins backward from my perspective. For all I know, to her, North could be down and South, up. I don’t even want to figure out how many of our separate orbits we’d have to go through to match up the locations on March 23, where we found each other last year on March 23, for instance. Maybe we could calculate it and use that to define a common “year” between us. Like an Indian raga, we could do our measurements by the least common denominator, and thus measure time.
Well, all this rambling thought goo, just made me notice how often I do this with everything and everyone around me. It is darned inconvenient when everyone’s own life patterns, personalities, moods, and circumstances don’t remain constant so that when I get through the spectrum of my own patterns, personalities, moods and circumstances, I can return to find everything just as I left it, no worse for the wear, and everyone happy to see me back. In reality though, we are network of individuals, a soular system if you will, each orbiting and spinning at his/her own speed and direction. Any one encounter, interaction, transverse, alignment, eclipse, etc., is not a result of the effort or circumstances or location of any one of us at a given time. But it is a snapshot of the current motion of every one of us at a random moment.
This makes life incredibly difficult and rewarding and exciting. What good would it do if everyone around me were the same next time we gather? I wouldn’t be the same, and would therefore perceive my change and project it on them.
I wonder if when Venus returned to her March 23 position this year, she looked up and thought, why is he not there? Just as I did when I looked up on the same day. We were miles apart. In late June, right after supper, I’ll look up and see her again, and she will see me. But we won’t be anywhere near where we were when we saw each other last year.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

distentus et districtus

On Tuesday night my former guitar teacher gave a concert at Columbia College. As much as I enjoy hearing him play, and as much good as it does me, I haven’t gotten to go to many of his concerts in the past couple years because I always have something conflicting. Tuesday was no different. I knew about the concert, but had a meeting I had to go to. At lunch, several of my students asked if I was going, “Hey Dr. Rod, you’re going to the concert tonight, right?”
Back in the day, it was like pulling teeth to get my students to attend concerts. They didn’t even listen to music. If this is really what you’re all about, then why aren’t you all about it? It baffled me. Now I’ve got students who devour concerts, and I’m too busy to go. It all made me think of some wisdom that this very teacher dropped on me less than a month ago.
The context is that going to concerts is not the only thing I don’t have time to do anymore. I don’t have time to give them either. A couple years ago, I was gigging a few times a week, playing on concerts at least once a semester, etc. All of a sudden, all that grinds to a halt.
I think I’ve noticed a couple results long before I noticed their cause. First, my students seem to be less focused and inspired. The least bit of life pressure and their instrument is the first thing that is neglected, despite the fact that it is their major and should be at the top of their priority list. I was talking about this with a friend when it occurred to me that this semester was the first time in several years that I didn’t perform in a formal context where they “came out” to hear me play seriously and with other performers involved. I began to remember encouraging comments my students made after those performances, and how they seemed to be inspired in new ways. I think my failure to perform outside our context has had an adverse effect on the progress of my students. This realization seemed to be affirmed in the wisdom drop I mentioned above. The wisdom was this, and I quote, “Rod, over the years, I’ve found that if I am true to myself artistically, my students always benefit.”
There is a profound irony in the knowledge that my busyness and distraction is indirectly caused by the very same people from whom I’m being distracted. I have to advise them academically, and otherwise interact in myriad official capacities as a part of my responsibilities in being in a position to be a part of their lives. But when it all comes down, my main responsibility to them is the very thing I’m distracted from and too busy to develop. So when my students were pressuring me to get to that concert, I’ll say it had some clout.
Seems I remember a couple of sisters who were visited by Jesus. One of them busied herself making sure everything was just right, the house was clean, the food was ready, and every other detail, all for the sake of her visitor. The other neglected all to spend time with her visitor. Seems he’d come to hang with them, not to do a house inspection.
It seems to be the norm that we begin with something to offer someone. In going about creating circumstances for this giving to take place, we neglect our own source for whatever it is that we’re to give. We’re just brokers. Middlemen. We don’t manufacture this stuff. If I don’t have a supplier, I’ve got nothing to give. Soon we’re so busy minding the store that we’ve got nothing to offer the customer.
That wisdom/encouragement/challenge was very important for me to hear right now. I am easily depleted. I must constantly refuel. I can’t give what I don’t have or teach what I don’t know. Of course, this is true of the very essence of my make-up, my wiring, my intense introversion. Unless I’m refueled, I’ve got absolutely nothing for you. I can’t refuel myself, so my intense need for solitude drives me to fellowship with the one who can refuel me. I am never alone in solitude, nor do I wish to be. Solitude is a temporary escape from giving and a move toward welcomed receiving.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

in the fifth year of king W's reign...

the easiest way to avoid the prophet is to deny that he exists.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

to a friend

a gasp of grief
a sigh of relief
the fear of vulnerability
the peace of surrender
conflicting simultaneous emotions
a prayer for healing answered with loss
supernatural strength imbued
emotional strength sapped
rest - both of you


Monday, April 25, 2005


Have you ever been told something in confidence? Someone shares something with you from the very depths of their being. Heart is laid out for you to know, and you are sworn to secrecy. A breech of this trust would ruin a relationship and damage a soul.
I believe that God reveals of Himself to us in confidence. No, I don't think it is stuff that he wants no one else to know, but it is stuff that can't be learned from another human being.
He has shared things about himself to me in this way. He didn't actually ask me not to tell anyone, but he told me in a language that can't be translated to speech or writing. I've tried, it can't be done. Others have tried, many, they too, failed.
Our attempts have fallen so short that we've created a God that behaves just the way we want Him to. When we describe this God to someone who wants Him to behave differently, they toss the whole idea aside. We feel they've rejected Him when really, they've just rejected the god that we've created and are pushed a little further from ever knowing Him themselves.
We have long since forgotten how to invite someone to get to know God. Instead, we box Him up, define Him, and try to sell Him like an infomercial.
I think God already gave us everything that could be translated into speech and writing. It's the deeper understanding, the focused bigger picture that he gives those in relationship with him. That is the nature of what is whispered into our souls when we speak to him. When we look up and groan in the vernacular, he whispers back in some wind-language that can't be spoken or written. It's a warm breath that carries meaning to where none could be found, a gentle breeze that finds the cracks in the walls we've constructed, and creates a draft that gently opens doors that have long closed off parts of us we've forgotten existed - the parts of us that understand language that can't be spoken or written.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

conlegium ecclesium regnum

It is like unto a fellowship of several men and women who dwelt together in a single house. The house, over time, had gone neglected by its landlord, and the roof had become all but gone. It allowed the hot sun to pour in at mid-day and in the evening, the rains were barely impeded from soaking all inside. As the roof had begun to leak, each of the men inside had begun to build himself a smaller sub-house to protect himself from the heat and the rain. Over time, the smaller, interior houses had become their sole shelters, and others who had moved into the larger house, had begun to shelter themselves in the smaller houses. The larger, original house, soon did nothing more than mark the boundaries of the dwelling.
Because all inside were protected by the shelters of their own construction, the landlord didn’t even notice his house was in disrepair. Many of those who had sought shelter in the smaller interior houses, and thus were kept dry and safe, found it amazing that in spite of the decrepit larger house, it still protected them. It was as if they didn’t even notice what was actually keeping them dry. And thus the community of dwellers continued in a somewhat prosperous manner thanks to the interior shelters.
One day, the landlord decided to take inventory of his investments and came by for a visit. He was pleased that all the tenants were dry and healthy, but he was appalled at all the clutter that had been caused by the construction of all the smaller houses within the larger house. One by one, he had them razed until all that was left was the larger, leaky, unsafe house. Then the rains came.


Saturday, April 23, 2005


Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Originally, there were scattered T-storms forecast for most of the day. Then, Thursday night, the forecast changed to “isolated T-storms” and only for the evening. I would finish teaching at 5:00p and the morning was so beautiful, I decided to gamble and ride my bike to work for the fifth day in a row.
It was still beautiful at noon, so I decided to ride to lunch at the Village Idiot for a slice of New York style with a friend and some students.
When I finished teaching at 5, the sky was still sunny overhead, but there was a dark cloud rolling in across the river. I knew I’d better hurry or get caught in the storm. When I got down to I-20, the traffic was sitting still trying to make its way through the 3 shifted lanes at Broad River road and to malfunction junction. The wind was blowing so bad that mist from the river was blowing up across the bridge, but it hadn’t started raining yet. When I finally got to malfunction junction, someone opened the valve. All the sky poured out, and the wind tried to blow me toward the center divider. It was clear that I would sit on the exit ramp for 15 minutes or more waiting to get onto I-26, so I kept going in the driving rain to the next exit to seek shelter.
The rain wouldn’t let up, so I called Allison who came to pick up my backpack and bring my old shoes so that all wouldn’t be ruined on the ride home. We went across the street for an omelet and a waffle while I waited for the rain to slow.
Now none of this is all that big a deal. I get caught in the rain all the time. Last summer I rode 60 miles to check in on an intern, and got caught in a storm on the way home in the dark, out in the country, and rode it 50 miles home. Even my pancreas was waterlogged and frozen. But that was in the middle of the summer. This storm brought with it a front and a cool, breezy next day that cleared the air and intensified the visual of everything.
Last week I took pictures of the waxing fish moon, but couldn’t get a clear, crisp picture. I was doing everything the same as the crisp pics I took a couple months ago, but every one turned out soft and fuzzy. I know, no big deal, how many pics can one take of a round disk or crescent that looks the same from month to month? But that’s not true. Sure we see her same face all the time because she spins at the same speed that she orbits, but not exactly at the same speed, and she wiggles her head just a bit. So the features on her face move around and you can see parts of her forehead or neck at some times that you can see at others. But to see this, you’ve got to be willing to look more closely than the average person, and to pay attention to details. Do you notice when someone gets her hair trimmed or highlighted? So I’m obsessed with taking the same old, nothing but round disk, moon shots month after month. Remember, she’s fickle.
But none of that is what I’m writing about tonight. It’s just that the clarity of the sky tonight as opposed to my fuzzy pictures last week, made me think. Tonight we got a late, leftover, early spring cold front. It will still be around tomorrow – high of 60 and down to 37 tomorrow night. The crisp sky will soon be gone for the summer. In the heat of the lush summer months, a haze settles in with the 80 degree temps at midnight. The moist air sits unstirring and obscures the night sky. Yes, the long, lazy summer can be a glorious time of stress relief and relaxation, but in our lethargy, we can grow unaware of the accumulating haze. It can be stifling if one hasn’t taken advantage of the crisp, naked, clarity of the stark, cold, barren winter.
It took a storm to clear today’s sky and it takes cold and lonely clarity to survive the heated, hazy times. Growth still occurs in the cold lonely winter, maybe the most important growth, when all is exposed, the verdant façade is stripped away and all are made to deal with their lonely, naked selves. This is the clarity that teaches eyes to pierce the haze and see beyond. Eyes that see beyond the heat to comfort and beyond the cold loneliness to warmth and community.
Last week, the hazy moon shared the sky with a dim obscured big dipper. Tonight, there are a million stars shining brightly although the brilliant full fish moon is lighting up the night. The air is nippy, and though the wind has calmed, the Spirit is still swaying the trees and whispering around the corners of the house and occasionally gusts against my neck and tangles my hair.
There is Popayan, Sumatra, Sperl, Fuentes, and extra chairs on the deck.


Friday, April 22, 2005

holistic knowledge

It surprises me that lots of people are terrified of multi-sensory worship experiences. (sorry, did I just use the word experience? We’re even afraid to engage the spirit and so prefer the intellect. We prefer to learn rather than to know. We can’t trust our senses, our emotions, our feelings. It seems, at times, that even our own motto at work, “to know Him and to make Him known,” would be more appropriately stated, “to learn about Him and to teach others about Him.” When God uses the word know he is talking about the kind of knowledge that Adam had of Eve when children resulted. He is not referring to Adam’s knowledge that Eve likes tulips, drinks cream in her coffee, and enjoys warm bubble baths with soothing adagios played by string ensembles.
We’re too easily confused. Ironic that the bible is so chock-full of multi-sensory worship, the smell of a burning sacrifice, or smoke rising as prayers. Sensory metaphors are used to implant the understanding into the whole person. Taste and see that the Lord is good. The teaching of God is like honey on my lips. You can feel the effects of the wind, but you can’t see where it comes from or where it goes…”
In our fear of trusting anything but our intellect to approach God, we miss out on knowing Him as we could. We actually fall short of loving Him with our heart, soul and strength – our emotions, spirit and bodies.
God has even asked us to read the bible in a multi-sensory way. We are asked to connect with God’s jealousy and pain in His people’s wayward hearts, by using marriage and romantic metaphors. Our responses to these metaphors allow us to identify with God on some tiny level by calling upon our emotional, even physical responses.
Ezekiel, lay on his side with a pile of cow manure in front of his nose, staring at a model of Jerusalem for a VERY long period of time. It’s as if God is saying, “Get the picture? Now do you understand what I experience?” In the revelation, John describes what he saw, heard, smelled, and yes, that he had a complete emotional breakdown and wept uncontrollably when the search in all of heaven and earth for one to open the scroll seemed to produce no result. Isaiah describes the sounds in the temple, thunder, fluttering wings, smell of smoke; and he even has his lips burned by a hot coal from the altar. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the living water” while standing at a lectern speaking to sleepy parishioners, he was standing beside a river where a priest was wading with a pitcher and pouring out water. He was teaching an object lesson.
We have allowed ourselves to use language that refers to a more holistic God experience, but we have narrowed or co-opted their meanings. Though Jesus spoke of the Spirit as something that could be felt but not defined or understood, we don’t trust things that we feel and therefore try to understand Spirit intellectually. He said, “that which is flesh is flesh, but that which is Spirit is spirit.” In other words, “go ahead and try to explain the natural, but you don’t stand a chance with the Spirit.” The Spirit can only be understood with the spirit, a Jesus Himself said, can only be felt. I fear, that as a result, we don’t trust the Spirit. Too often, I feel that sola scriptura stifles our ability to hear and feel the Spirit.
In our frustration, we’ve changed the meaning of spiritual to refer to religious subject matter, morality, behavior, and theology – all things that can be outlined, codified, bulleted, and measured.
The problem with the spiritual is that it is too easily confused with the emotional. Neither seems as trustworthy as the intellect. But to know someone is very different from learning about him. We are told to memorize and learn and meditate on scripture. No doubt this approach will cause ownership and even knowledge of God. But Jesus also told us that there is more that He will later reveal to us through the Spirit. Sorry, but to acquire this revelation, one is going to have to deal with feelings and a greater amount of faith and discernment than is required of an umbrella trust in the validity of the written scripture. It is one thing to say, “God said it, and I believe it,” it is quite another to feel that your relationship with God is strong enough that you say, “though it was spoken inside me, I recognize that as the voice of God, and I believe it.”
Perhaps we will have to trust in the midst of confusion and access the spiritual through the emotional. Go ahead and check it out against the written revelation, but don’t close your heart to a living, breathing, speaking relationship in favor of an intellectual knowledge of someone who never speaks to you.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Smell the fragrance of Christ on His people. Feel the Spirit as it blows through the recesses of your soul. Hear the gentle, quiet whisper in a world of a earthquakes and fire.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

holistic hearing

One of my students is working on “Fragile Forest” by Phil Keaggy. Now I enjoy and respect Keaggy and his music, but I probably am aware of more guitarists than the average person, and therefore, am aware of a lot more music, talent, etc. All that is to say, he occupies a proper place in my respected guitarist list and I enjoy his music for what it is. Now all that is to set up my next remarks so that maybe you can see how meaningful they might be in this context.
Fragile Forest is Keaggy’s finest creative moment. There is a phrase in the piece that is one of my favorite phrases from any composer in any style for any instrument. It is one measure long, and sandwiched so perfectly into the context, that I’m not sure it could survive apart from the piece. Keaggy is a very programmatic, imagistic player, but most of his works simply “fit” the image he is dreaming. This one actually paints the image. One actually takes a deep woods walk and experiences all the activity of the forest, full frontal and peripheral, obvious and subtle.
Now that I’ve so completely exposed my goofy response to this piece, I have to admit, that maybe it isn’t as wonderful if it is only in your ears as it is when it is in your hands and your ears. Perhaps that explains why I think I can play it better than he can. Perhaps that is why most of us players, once we’ve played a piece, always think we play it better than someone else. It is not that we think we are better players, but we enjoy hearing ourselves play because we also hear with our fingertips. We feel the music being made. To a degree, this could also explain a phenomenon that has always been explained in a different way. Maybe it is why we don’t enjoy listening to recordings of ourselves. Playback affects only our ears. Our fingertips only remember, they don’t feel in the same way. When one plays, he also feels the guitar responding against his chest and legs – different pitches vibrate more strongly in different parts of the instrument, thereby causing the player to experience a constantly shifting physical response to the music in addition to what his ears are hearing.
Perhaps it takes more than a single sense to experience the truly magnificent things in life. Of course when all the senses store their information about an experience, any of the other senses can access that information when the rest are absent. A photograph of a picturesque scene from last summer’s vacation, though only visual, will call up smell, sounds, a breeze, etc. Your friends will only see the photograph. Though my wife is beautiful, unless I’d held her face in my hands and felt the curve of her lips with my fingertips, a photograph could not tell the whole story. But even with all that stored, accessed knowledge and memory, it makes the one sense rudely inadequate.
So I’m able to listen to Keaggy play his phrase and actually feel it on my fingertips. I’m not talking about the feeling of fingerboard and frets and strings. I’m talking about the feeling of music. I’m talking about the feeling of a musical phrase. Just as I can enjoy hearing Keaggy play his phrase, I could enjoy playing it with earplugs inserted. One sense accesses the beauty that was stored by the others. Simply having heard it would not do it justice.
Most of us listen or don’t listen to music simply with our ears, or as with much pop music, only with our bodies. But in our everyday, not even our ears or bodies experience music. We hear it on the surface of our eardrums, we hear it in the back of the din of the day. We feel it in our feet, but we don’t feel it in our fingertips, or in our guts.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

previously thought thoughts

I’ve had zippo time to blog lately. In addition to my proper job responsibilities, there are many extras tossed in right now. Student advising (fall pre-registration), new, extra committees and task forces, chapels and talks - I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Last night I dreamt that folks were coming to see me all day and I had to set alarms to make them leave so that the next person could come in.
I know that it probably doesn’t matter to you, but it does for me. I’ve got all this stuff that just builds up in my brain and I gotta get it down somehow. If in fact, you do wish that there was something fresh here for you to look at from time to time, may I invite you back to the archives? Perhaps last spring – then you’d probably not even know that I didn’t write those this morning. A year is probably enough time to freshen up a previously read posting. I promise they are factory certified pre-read blogs, with VERY low mileage. A year ago, I think I may have been the only person reading, so these posts are definitely not worn out. Allison and I read some of them Monday night, and I have to say, I was not ashamed to claim them. Even now.
So if you’re all torqued that my index page has gone stale this week, look over to the right side of the page to the side bar and delve into the archives. April and May will feel current I think.
See you soon!


Saturday, April 16, 2005

deeds of the day

I just looked at the site counter on my blog. Only 14 visits today. Yes, it was exquisite. An October blue sky, gentle breeze, clear as a bell and 67 degrees. Anyone would be punished to be inside, especially my children who just want to play video games. Surfing the net or reading blogs would be sin on a day like this.
Will ended up bagging the goo from Allison's raking and trimming. There were about 20 lawn bags full.
I wielded a chainsaw nearly all day today when I wasn't picking up or dropping off Molly according to her social schedule. My forearms are aching and my shoulders are vibrating. The house next door is still up for sale and they've had some contractors out fixing the place up. There was a hickory tree down in the backyard, so I asked if I could have it. Sure, we were just going to haul it away. So I went at it last week and sectioned it enough to roll it over into our yard. I've got to tell you, hickory is the hardest substance found on earth. I almost started a fire in the leaves when I tried to cut that tree. So next day, Allison took the chains to be sharpened. No problem now I thought, until I started cutting again. Now it just took 5 minutes longer to build up enough friction heat to catch the wood on fire while the saw just spins but doesn't cut. I've burned a tank of gas every evening this week and 3 today getting that tree cut to fireplace lengths. Finally done.
The guy in back of us is clearing a place for a garage to house his two '60s vintage Mustangs. When he saw me cutting the hickory, he offered me the trees he'd cut. So I ended up with another hickory, 3 oaks and a birch. All but the birch were already cut to length. After I cut the hickory, I went back in the woods and cut down a dead oak that was leaning way over.
I've got enough fire wood to last several years, I think. I burned two large oaks this winter.
Anyway, I was just telling you why my arms hurt so badly.
When I came inside and showered, I decided to sit on the front porch for a minute. I sat down in the rocking chair and looked over at the corner of the porch. There is a trumpeting flower bush of some sort over there that must have just bloomed today. I've never seen those flowers before. I don't think it bloomed at all last year. I thought to myself, the hummingbirds would love that. Just as the thought crossed my mind, I heard the buzz of what I thought was a very large bumble bee looking to drill in my porch rails. I looked up and there, a foot from my face was the year's first hummingbird, come to check out my trumpeting flowers of some sort bush. He stared into my eyes, checked out the top and both sides of my head to make sure I was the same guy who sat in that rocker last year, tried to find some nectar in the dry feeder and then flew off.
This is the VERY earliest I've ever seen a hummingbird. They usually make an appearance in early June and then disappear until late July when there are fewer blooms and they need my help.
So those are the deeds of the day. I've got a fire on the deck burning brush from my chainsaw, yard cleaning extravaganza and a clear sky to stare into. I've got to move again at midnight to go pick up Jack from his Atlanta field trip.
Back to the deck...


Thursday, April 14, 2005


I had to have Jack to the school at 6:30 this morning to get on the bus bound for Atlanta and his District Honors Orchestra field trip/concert. They'll return around midnight on Saturday night. As we lugged his gear across the wet parking lot in the dark morning rain, I asked him what about the trip excited him. He said, "we're going to Six Flags." I looked up at the busses as he said, "six flags", and had a flashback. I told him that I'd been to the very same Six Flags Over Georgia, on a very similar trip all these many years ago. "What did you do at Six Flags?" I rented a boat and took two pretty girls out on a lake. We had an hour, so I rowed us out 30 minutes and turned the boat around. As it turned out, I wasn't as manly as I thought I was - not even in a boat with two pretty girls - and so the rowing was somewhat more difficult on the return trip. I made the three of us late getting back. Jack smiled at my story so I added, "so the moral of this story is: Two pretty girls in a boat is way more important than what you're supposed to be doing." He laughed, but someday he'll see that I'm not joking. Mostly. I don't remember what I made us late for that day, or for that matter, anything else about the trip. I do remember rowing that boat though, chugging backward and facing my passengers.
A few years later, I pulled the same thing again. I took Allison on the subway to Staten Island. We were very late getting back to where we were supposed to be. But once again, all these years later, I don't remember where we were supposed to be or why. I remember every minute of that train ride beneath Manhattan with the love of my life.
I know that in any given moment, what you desire is likely not to seem like the responsible thing to do. Buckle up. Be responsible. Be dependable. But the truth is, most of those "given moments" are just that, "given moments. They pass. No one will ever think of them again. But if you're blessed, at the end of all those given moments strung back to back, the pretty girl will still be there. And as you look back through those given moments, the definitions of responsibility and dependability have somewhat morphed. What's important now? 'twould be a happy man who could say the same thing at both ends of his life. Don't you think?



refracted rays, through morning mist
diffuse colors across the eastern horizon.

the bright light of your eyes, come to say goodbye,
diffused through the mist of sleep
must light my day.

as the mist lifts
I feel your absence.
still lit by the morning's kiss,
my heart longs for your return.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


A question that I am hearing with increasing frequency as a changing culture begins to be noticed by the church is this: “Is the role of the preacher being taken over by the poet?”
This seems to be a strange question to me, for several reasons. First, it seems to imply that the poet is intentionally co-opting the role of the preacher. Second, since when have poets not been preachers? Third, where in the old testament are there preachers who aren’t poets? I can’t see in the scripture where poet/preacher/prophet aren’t all inter-related.
The confusion implied in this question is related to the narrow and oft miss-applied definitions and understandings of the work of each of these characters. The preacher is defined by standing in a pulpit, wearing a certain outfit, and delivering a message through an accepted, prescribed methodology. The poet is defined as “preparing people to hear the message,” “focusing peoples’ thoughts to till the emotional ground for the seeds of the message,” “creating an atmosphere or mood in which the message can be more easily heard,” “presenting general, generic ideas and truths before the specific truth is brought through a preacher.” Never is the poet seen as one who has a message. That is among those who are asking this question.
There is an anxiety behind the question. The methodology of preaching is equated with the dissemination of the gospel, and therefore a rejection of the methodology is seen as a rejection of the gospel.

Of course there are plenty of people preaching who aren’t preachers and there are plenty of people poeting who aren’t poets. This is because when we define the gifts, we inadvertently define methodologies rather than gifts. Maybe I could say context rather than methodologies. If we determine that someone has the gift of preaching, we assign them to a specific methodology determined by our tiny, short-sighted approach to doing church, evangelism, missions, etc. If someone is determined to have the gift of teaching, we assign them in the same way. This year, I’ve been leading worship for a series of lectures/sermons on “the activities of the Holy Spirit.” On the day that the topic/activity was “Gifting”, I stepped off the stage and one of the first comments from the speaker was that people are NOT gifted as worship leaders. I tend to agree with him, so in context of what he was talking about, I thought little of it. Shortly thereafter, I “guest speaking” to a class when this comment was brought up. This time, in context of what I’d been doing when the comment was made, I gave it more consideration. I wondered at what the speaker might have thought my gift was. I thought about the possibility that mine and his were the same. But my context was “opening” for him, his context was “bringing the message.” In light of our same gifting, if our talents were similar, we could switch contexts. An ironic moment came some time later when my comments to this class sparked my being asked to speak on the subject in an event involving the entire university community. When my name was seen listed among speakers, an inquiry was made as to what I’d be doing. The enquirer was told that it wouldn’t involve music and panic ensued. Heaven forbid that I practice my gift outside the context of the expected methodology. I find this very amusing and it actually punctuates my point. I can go about within my own context, unnoticed by those with narrow methodologies, and speak forth my message. But if I momentarily enter their realm it is feared that what I have to say will be damaging. In light of their other fear, that my methodology is pushing aside theirs in a changing culture, I would think I would inspire more worry within my own context.

I feel that our methodology is narrow, that we assign people outside of their gifting because we don’t have a methodology that accommodates what God has intended for them to be doing. We certainly don’t have a methodology that accommodates them doing it in the way that God intends them to do it. If someone has the gift of preaching and is a musician, he is assigned to “open” for the pastor who may have the gift of shepherding but not preaching, but is going to deliver the message nonetheless, after the preacher/musician warms up the congregation for him. Perhaps the pastor has the gift of teaching, but not preaching, or he is a gifted speaker, but not a gifted preacher.

In the contemporary church, methodology has become the liturgy. Certainly we would see the account of Paul on Mars’ Hill as an example of preaching the gospel. But if I were to sit in the Horseshoe at USC and share the same information I would be seen as sunbathing, relaxing, conversing, socializing. Never preaching, because preaching involves a pulpit, 5 points, and a book. Though a song can involve a singer a listener and the gospel, it is not preaching for the aforementioned reasons. It can contain the gospel as fully as a book, but if the book is seen as the gospel rather than a vehicle for the message of the gospel, no other vehicle will ever be accepted as real. That is, except to those who need to hear it. This thought speaks to the feeling that poets intentionally take over the preaching. Truth is the “preacher” and the “poet” and the poet/prophet have always been there operating within whatever the given culture. The culture determines to whom they will listen.


Sunday, April 10, 2005


Dan and I went on a ride this afternoon. The weather was perfect, about 73 degrees, blue sky, sunshine... Of course we just went to ride around, didn't have anything to do with any flowering plants that one has promised to stop blogging about. Oh, sure, they are out there, expecially on a day like that, but I don't really have any interest in them.
We did both take cameras, and mostly just took pics of each other. Here is a picture Dan took of me taking a picture.


Saturday, April 09, 2005


I gave a talk today to about 40 high school students mixed with 8 or 10 college folks. It was seminar as part of a conference for HS students that the college student life people put on every year. Supposedly about 400 students attend the conference.
My topic was Religion and Relationship. My title was "Escape the Trap of Morality." I thought the title might scare everyone away, but the room was filled. I think I felt like I imagine some college professors feel when they stand in front of a classroom of 20 year-olds without a clue as to who these people are, what they need, what they struggle with, what their lives are like. Here I was in front of a bunch of 17 year-olds, wondering if I too was way off the mark in my assumptions.
What kind of high school kid spends his weekend at a conference anyway? So I figure I know a bit about their backgrounds, family culture, church culture, probably even beliefs. Maybe not. I wondered if I'd see the group sit there rolling their eyes because this stuff was so far beneath or behind them, or if I would see a group with shocked faces to hear some heretic say that neither Christianity nor the Gospel was supposed to be about avoiding things. Actually I saw a mixture of caution, concern, ahahs, and of courses. Even a few sighs of relief. I'd written a rather lengthy parable to tell them to get the whole thing started and it was like magic watching the look of recognition spread across the room as they started to realize what I was talking about.
I'd brought my guitar to sing for them Switchfoot's "On Fire" as a closing word, but I ran out of time. A handful of students hung around to chat and hear more afterward, and I finally Switchfooted for them.
It was a great experience for me I think, one I wouldn't mind repeating.
Next week, I have to do the same thing for a college group as a set of break-out sessions. I'll be giving the same talk 5 times. I haven't chosen a topic yet, so no scary title at this time.


Friday, April 08, 2005

wave and particle

It is very aggravating to me that within the Christian community, Post-Modern culture has been defined as a belief system but not in opposition to or compared to Modern culture as a belief system. It appears to me that the only difference in this area between these cultural paradigms is that the post-modern acknowledges what the modern doesn’t believe. That’s it. I can’t see much difference other than thinking and doing.
Okay, granted, that’s a big difference because everything in my life revolves around how I think and what I do. I can believe the same thing as you, and certainly believing or not, the same things are true or untrue for both of us, but we will always butt heads on the thinking and doing part. So it’s true for both of us, but we respond to that truth differently in how we process it and how it affects our doing based on our perspective.
The modern mind has proven both absolutes and relativism concerning precisely the same subject.
Light would probably be a great metaphor for absolute truth in the post-modern mind, because we can prove modern philosophy and post-modern philosophy with a single subject. Both wave and particle. Observe it as a wave, it is a particle, observe it as a particle, it is a wave. It changes depending on how you look at it.
Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. That’s true. But what that means is relative to how it is observed. If you, on your motorcycle, chase a light beam at 185,000 miles per second, and I watched you from the side of the road, I would see the light beam moving away from you at 1000 miles per second. But you, from your motorcycle would see the light beam moving away from you at 186,000 miles per second. The truth is that light travels at 186,000 miles per second, but what that means to me on the side of the road is quite different than what it means to you on your motorcycle. That is, how it affects what you are thinking and what you are doing.
I might be cheering you on, “go go go you can catch it, it is only going 1000 mps faster than you.” But you are apt to give up and quit, seeing it going 186,000 mps faster than you. You would probably think I was lying to you about how much faster the light was moving. No, you would know I was lying to you, because you can see it for yourself.

Yes, the gospel of Jesus is truth. The details are invariable, like the speed of light. But what it is about is a relationship. My relationship with Jesus probably looks a bit different than yours. That doesn’t mean that what I believe about him is different than you. Especially not the means to the relationship. But the relationship certainly plays itself out differently. If you have ever had a relationship with another human being, it is obvious that any book you read about relationships is going to be mostly wrong when applied to yours. I could write a book right now explaining all the reasons why. The modern mind writes a book that is assumed to apply to all. Men are from Mars and women… But the truth is, some men are from Neptune and others from Mercury. Some women are from Saturn. There are only about three venusian qualities that all women share. These are all anatomical, and have nothing to do with relating to them on any level other than the physical, and even the physical is dependent upon perception from the deeper levels. Everything else is a mystery. A wonderful, beautiful, worthy mystery that must be approached as unique and responded to spontaneously on a level much deeper than the facts about people and Robert’s Rules of Order.
Of course it is much easier to codify and define the invariables, the things that despite the differences of perception, remain true. But the speed of light doesn’t define light. Its particle nature doesn’t define its opposite, wave nature, nor vice versa. The paradox is a mystery. My soteriology doesn’t define my relationship with God, though my soteriology can be defined. My relationship and how the events caused it to be accomplished is the paradox, the mystery. I can believe and understand the particle aspects (the physical events that took place to make it possible), but I can never explain to you the wave aspects (the living, breathing, interactive nature) of my relationship or what the physical events accomplished to allow it. You wouldn’t understand it, as I wouldn’t understand yours. Sure, God is eternal, infinite and unchanging, but I am not. And I am not like you, so God interacts with me a bit differently. If it is not possible for an unchanging God to interact differently with different people why did he not make us all the same? When Peter questioned Jesus about the rumors that John would live forever, Jesus practically answered, "what's it to you how I interact with him?" To say that his unchanging nature requires that he interacts with all the same, is to define him and make him finite.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

one syllable melody

even my own common name
from your lips -
a sweet, whispered sonnet, a song.
Rod, would you do me a favor?
Bring home milk?
Rod, have you seen my keys?
Hold my hand.
Rod, hold me tight, kiss my cheek.
oh, Rod.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Ok, I promise I shall soon shut up about the wisteria. But not yet. I took a bit of a ride tonight after practice and took in lungfulls of wisteria. When I got home, it still hung in my olfactory. I went into the bedroom to change clothes and found that Allison had swiped some from behind Kroger, and placed it on my table beside the bed. In no time, the whole room smelled of purple. She said she'd planned to get a lot more and filll every vase in the house with it. We have a lot of vases. Living room book shelves, mantle, kitchen counters, dining room. But alas, she didn't have time to gather enough, and probably all our sinuses would have swollen shut. As it is, of the five most awesome things Al has ever done, this is either number 2 or 3. I'm not quite sure. If she'd have filled the house, definitely 2 - maybe 2 anyway. But at least 3. It's tough, she has come up with some pretty awesome things, some planned and some impromptu. Maybe I should make two categories of awesome things - planned and impromptu, because in the impromptu category, this may be number 1. I'll have to check. She tuned in to my right now and got on board.

The most beautiful thing about wisteria is its personality - its character.
Look at the weeping blossoms. Dripping purple tears down the side of the vase. Even in its sorrow, it brings joy to all who see it. It looks like a visual version of a Monteverdi madrigal.
I can connect with wisteria. I know what it's feeling.
It rarely grows by itself, it needs another to support it. It hangs on to trees and fences and poles. It is not a parasite, it just needs support. Can't quite do it alone. There is a place inside me that is the color of wisteria. All my outside is khaki and green, then seasonally, somewhere out of the earthtones, a flow of purple. I'd have never guessed it.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

olfactory oratorio

This morning as I was riding in to work, the wisteria along I-20 at malfunction-junction looked like a purple waterfall cascading from the top of the trees. Deep purple torrents flowing down with light purple spray as it crashed against the imaginary rocks. Thick, spring thaw water, all purple with the colors of spring. The crisp, morning air left most of the joy to the eyes.
I got back on my bike at lunch time to meet Allison at The Boy for lunch. This time, the air was warm and there was a breeze. As I started down the hill to the freeway, the spring smell was so thick I could feel it entering my nostrils. Warm, floral, jasmine; I could smell the colors as they wisped around my head and found their way under my helmet and just hung behind the face mask. My eyes had to share the vernal happiness with my nose. Oh, the smell.
I took this pic as I rode by on my bike tonight on my way home from work, so it doesn't even come close to representing the real thing. I had to try to capture it though.


Monday, April 04, 2005


On Friday morning, the wisteria had bloomed all over town. The Azaleas were blooming by the time I started home. The Dogwoods in our front yard are fully open. I don't think everything happened at once like this last year. Colors everywhere.
This morning Allison has a meeting at the hospital that started at 8:30am, 30 minutes after her shift is over. I've got meetings from 1:45p to 5p. So I thought I'd catch a quick breakfast with her before her meeting started. It didn't really work out, as I fought traffic and got there just as it was time for her meeting to begin. So I kissed her, took the coffee she'd bought for me, walked her to her conference room and drove back home.
Crisp, clear morning air. Gentle breeze. Ah, those colors actually smell. I know they sound. At night, when they can't be seen, they sound like frogs, chirping in the darkness. During the day, they sound like chicadees and mocking birds. But I'd forgotten that they smell. I was overwhelmed walking to my car this morning in the hospital parking lot, with the window down, driving up Bull street. I wish I could put scratch-n-sniff on my blog. But, I suspect you have or will soon have the same colors, sounds and smells as I have today. I just thought I'd encourage you to open your eyes, take a quiet walk and a deep breath.
Don't forget your Claritin.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

true story

When I was a kid, there was this guy of whom everyone was afraid. Several of us decided to try to become friends with this guy in order to feel more confident that he wouldn't beat us up. This guy, by reputation, seemed so angry and distant that it was difficult and scary to try to talk to him. So instead, we tried to learn what he liked and disliked from a few other folks who were also trying to befriend this guy for their own safety.
This guy was assumed to have been responsible for so much unpleasantry and to have been so controlling and hot tempered, that we wanted to be sure we didn't do anything to upset him.
When we felt we had a pretty good idea of what kept him stable, we pretty much spent all our energy avoiding the things that made him mad. This served a couple purposes. Namely, we didn't have to actually do friend things with him – we didn't have to talk or hang. We were very careful because we knew that although we thought we were friends, he'd still beat us up if we made him mad.
Of course, our efforts to behave this way were noticed by everyone. The irony here is that it was our effort rather than our behavior that caught people's attention. It was as if they could tell that we were just trying to appease him. It furthered the harsh reputation of our friend, and it became our own identifying factor.

What none of us realized was that this guy was nothing like we thought him to be. He was attractive, so he seemed unapproachable to most of us. He was strong, so we assumed him tough. His reputation preceded our knowledge of him, and because we were intimidated, we never got to know him and his reputation prevailed. People who came along after us knew of him through us and so his reputation remained.
Ironically, our association with him didn't cause us to be seen as powerful like him, because it was evident why we were associated. So we were viewed as weak, manipulated, fearful, and pitiful.
So other folks, resolved not to be like us, just decided to take their chances with the guy and take their lumps if it came to that.
Now and then someone would show up at school bruised or with a black eye. They never said so, but we knew that our friend had done it. Instead of hurting for these bruised and broken people, we talked about them amongst ourselves and thought little of them for refusing to behave like us. In fact, we worked so hard at it that we were nearly angry with them for ignoring it. Our anger caused us to feel that they deserved their bruises and we began to wish bruises on people who behaved differently than us, but seemed to be doing ok anyway. We knew their lumps would eventually come. Some of them even seemed to get preferential treatment despite the fact that they behaved differently than us. This caused anger toward not only these other people but also to our friend who seemed to be terribly unfair to those of us who worked so hard to please him. But since we didn’t know him very well, we didn’t feel comfortable approaching him with our feelings.
Eventually, we got kind of fed up and quit thinking about him altogether. Out of habit, we continued to behave in pretty much the same way we’d been accustomed and so were still identified in association with him, but we really weren’t motivated by him at all. Really we just enjoyed being different, so we just pretty much kept to ourselves and enjoyed camaraderie amongst our like-minded friends.