Tuesday, May 31, 2005

is this you?

do you recognize yourself through the eyes of my computer? This is a simplified version of what you look like as you browse around the web, leaving trace evidence of yourself on every page you hit.
If you also have your own webpage or blog, perhaps your curiosity has caused you to wonder who is visiting. You learn to take a glance and notice patterns and referrals and comments and IPs, and to match them all up and eventually you can tell who hits your page and when.
All this ramble comes because early this afternoon, this lucky bloghopper became the 20,000th visitor to the cyberdeck. Virtual bells and whistles sounded and digital confetti fell and a crowd of cyber employees gathered 'round to sing a ridiculous song that I'll spare you from having to listen to now.
A tot board popped up and displayed the number, 20,000 and then listed a number of prizes to be awarded to the lucky person behind this IP.
Speak up, identify yourself, and claim your prize of a gift certificate of: 1)unlimited free visits to the cyberdeck, 2) 20,000 cyberdeckbucks to be spent in the cyberdeck cyberstore, 3) all you can drink Sumatra Coffee to be consumed in a visit to the physical deck upon which the cyberdeck is published.

In related news: the abbott will receive an assortment of cyberdeck prizes for being the referrer of the 20,000th cyberdeck visitor. Thanks for the assist, gdwill.


Monday, May 30, 2005

the voice of intimacy - being

Secretly, I’ve asked, and even in my blog I’ve wondered at why some relationships are draining and others fulfilling. Why, as a teacher, do I want to spend every moment I can helping some student with even the most basic concept that is tripping him up, but avoid an extra moment with another student? It may be most simply understood in the teacher/student scenario. I am interested in helping a student who is participating in the quest to grasp a concept. It has been evident to me, that this can’t simply be explained by writing off the draining relationships as needy friends who take and don’t give. In terms of relationships, there are friends who just want you to be there, but really aren’t interested in being with you, or even in you being with them, or maybe they just don’t know how to be with you.
Friends and I have dubbed this filling and being filled relationship as flow. It’s like electricity, the current finds a return path. It’s a circuit. But even this explanation is not entirely adequate; it suggests that filling and being filled balance the relationship- that one friend doesn’t only take from the other but also gives.
It has been my experience that a friend doesn’t have to give to keep you filled. Sure, a draining relationship only takes, but a filling relationship doesn’t have always to give. With some, one is filled by giving, not only in also being given to. One can give by receiving. I can fill myself by filling a friend. My friend can fill me by receiving what I give. This is a mystery.

Once again, last night’s Peterson reading speaks right into where I’ve been. He explains operating in the middle voice. The passive voice has us being done to or for. The active voice has us doing to or for, but the middle voice, has us participating in something that is being done. This is the voice of intimacy.
You give to a passive draining friend. An active draining friend takes from you. But a middle voice relationship allows the friend to participate in what you are giving him. He doesn’t take, he receives. The giver is given to by the reception of his gift by his friend. The friend doesn’t have to give in return. Ironically, the friendship does usually work both ways, but it doesn’t have to be simultaneously to still have flow.
Intimacy doesn’t come in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship. Intimacy comes when we scratch my back together and we scratch your back together.
Can you imagine if we all learned to relate to one another in the middle voice? Can you imagine if we learned to relate to God in the middle voice? To worship?
Intimacy with God doesn’t come from learning to avoid approaching him in worship to experience him, or in “giving” to him through sacrificial obedience to a discipline that we don’t enjoy or that we begrudge even. It comes in participating in his will, agreeing with him, and conforming our will to his.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

agricola - against the grain

a tremendous field
unfathomable acres
bulldozed and cleared
myriad buildings
millions of dollars
developer, planner, financier,
banker, management, broker,
supplier, contractor, sub-contractor
foremen, crew, realtor,

the very same field, elsewhere,
in waning daylight
a lonely man with
a single tractor
one row at a time.


Friday, May 27, 2005

language I - speaking

If I had a nickel for every time I've used the words groan, or moan to describe my prayer in the last six months... well I've used them a lot. And you've read them a lot. Oh, yeah, and "wisps of my heart." I've done a lot of moaning and groaning out here on the deck.
I know I've even mentioned to a friend at one rather difficult time that I didn't even feel like I could pray. My friend said that was ok, because sometimes that's what friends are for. That is true, friends have words when words can't be found. But what I only partly knew at the time was that words couldn't be found because there were no words to be found. Sometimes, if someone has a word for you, or a word to offer up for you, it's because they don't truly understand where you are, or what you're dealing with. If they did, they'd be without words too. But even that falls into what I have to talk about.
Often, on Sunday mornings I use David Crowder's "I Need Words". It is a wonderful expression of the inability to find the words to express an emotion. What is precisely not true in the song, is "I need words." I have come to realize that I don't need words. Moans and groans will do fine, thank you. I will continue to sing that song. It will express my desire to express. It will be a reminder to me and to everyone else that I still haven't found the words. If I did find them, I would define a God that can't be defined and I would insufficiently express emotion that can't be expressed.
There are times when any words used would be lies. Any. So why even try? Why not just feel? And be. And let God, who IS, Be. He will be for me, even when I can't cry out. When I grasp in the dark, there he is, being in the dark.
Eugene Peterson has summarized all he has learned into 3 types of language. The first type doesn't really use words. It's the language of emotion and need and intimacy. It's the first language we use. Babies communicate with parents and parents with babies this way. Tears and tunes and coos and moans. It is nonsense and it is understood. Lovers communicate this way, and praying worshippers do as well. The other two types are informational and motivational. They dominate society. They are the languages of schools and advertisement and ... unfortunately, the church. Conformed to this world. A loss of the emotional and spiritual. Sure, we tell heartwarming stories, but they are designed to be motivational. Sure we rehearse ancient, moving historical accounts, but they are designed to be informational. In fact, we're terrified of emotion and completely confused with spiritual. That's why everything is accomplished in five steps and spirituality is measured by five outcomes. Why would we so intentionally avoid the language of the Spirit himself? Moans and groans. Tears and tunes and coos and smiles. As Peterson notes, some people never quit using this language - a few lovers, some poets, the saints.
I embrace the language of surrendered moaning. I am helpless. Expressionless. Needy.
You know my inmost thoughts. I don't need words.


Thursday, May 26, 2005


Allison and I were having a heavy conversation tonight, and probably of necessity, but in any case, to break the weight, she glanced at the French door panes that I’d recently washed and said, “You really got those clean. You’re amazing the way your keen eyes see streaks in the windows, that no one else would notice.” I responded that everyone sees streaks in the windows, it’s just that I refuse to tolerate them.
Of course that is not really true, (the part about not tolerating them) and the whole scenario is much more complicated than I made it sound. Truth is that my windows are as dirty as anyone else’s windows. Come over and see for yourself. From time to time, I look out into the backyard through fingerprints and spiders’ webs and long for a clearer view. I leave my cereal bowl on the table, grab the Windex and scrub away, inside and out. The perfectly transparent window makes all the others virtually opaque, and so I get at them too. But over (very little) time, the crud builds back up at a rate that is not immediately noticeable and there I am seeing less than I could be through smudgy glass.
Some of us notice the dirt and crud and are just too lazy to get up and clean it. Over time, the crud completely clouds our views and we just stop trying to look out. Someone could scrawl “wash me” on the window with a finger, and it wouldn’t even be noticed.
Others of us, have seen the crud for so long that we truly don’t notice it anymore, though we keep looking out, and get a distorted view that we don’t even realize is no longer real or clear. Beautiful, red Cardinals are just grey blobs and the oaks are indistinguishable from the maples and hummingbirds fly by unnoticed.
My windows are constantly getting dirty with fingerprints, spider webs, and just goo from the atmosphere, but thank goodness, all it takes is a little vinegar and water, and desire to see clearly.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Am I the only person who sees a problem with this?
Yes, I try to keep my mouth shut on certain things, so I won't blog the 6 pages I have to say why this bothers me.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

all in a day's ride

Jack and I took a nice big long ride today. No doubt the longest ride he’s ever taken on a motorcycle. The kids had a half-day at school and so everyone was home by noon. Allison was asleep, Will and Molly went swimming at a friend’s house so Jack and I took off. We tried to ride around the lake, but traffic was backed up all the way across the dam, so we pulled a Hughie in the middle of the dam and changed our flight plan.
We rode north for about a half hour and stopped for a cold beverage. Then we went to lake Monticello to enjoy them. As always, the lake Monticello was blustery. The water was choppy and the waves were coming in so hard it sounded like we were at the ocean. A perfect day for wind surfing, which is exactly what was going on. There were about half a dozen wind surfers out there riding back and forth in front of us. Jumping waves like they were in Australia. I couldn’t believe how fast they were going. I’m pretty sure there is a horsepower limit on lake Monticello due in some way to the nuclear power plant, but there is no limiting or controlling the wind. I have no doubt that these guys were going faster than a boat is allowed to go on that lake.
We got back on the bike and road to the Anderson granite quarry. This quarry has been inactive for a long time. I wanted to show it to Jack. On the way over there I stopped to show him two church buildings that were constructed in 1768 and 1780. When we turned off the road toward the quarry, there is a granite serpentine wall along the road. All the houses are granite and most have dated stones in the corner that show 1920s and 30s. We got off the bike and walked up into the quarry and looked down into the water filled hole and up at the square, cut sides. We played in the debris of old cables and granite blocks that were just abandoned all those years ago.
On the way home, we took a different route, of course and came back on tinier, more out-of-the-way roads. It was there that I saw my favorite sight of the day. As we motored down a country road I saw movement deep in the woods on the left, far ahead. This is one of my gifts. I can see things out there that most people miss. This ability is heightened on the motorcycle, because it is a good idea to see anything that might step, jump, or crawl out in front of you. Deep in the woods there was a different shape and line and a rustle upsetting the static scenery. I thought it was a dog at first, but when we got even with it, I could see it was a spotted fawn. I slowed, turned around and went back. Still there, and with its tiny spotted twin. I know, everyone sees deer beside the road, most of you probably have hit them. But I never have. I see them. And every single one fascinates me as much as the very first one I ever saw. Tiny spotted twins with tales flickering and heads turned back looking in the same direction as their backsides. Jack could see them too, after we stopped. We sat there a while and watched them and I thought of a time several years ago when the boys and I were fishing at Cranberry. We’d spent the morning walking way up the river and we hadn’t seen anyone for hours. We were all three standing in the middle of the river. I was fishing and the boys were in knee-deep water, catching crawdads. I saw something swimming across directly toward the boys. A deer. We all stopped to watch but the boys quickly went back to the crawdads. I told them that I understood that seeing a deer is something that happens every evening, but this one is different. How many people see one swimming across the river. AND, this one may have never seen a human before. He made it to within yards of where the boys were standing knee-deep, but his head was still sticking straight up. He couldn’t touch bottom yet. Finally he stood and stuck his nose up high out of the water and walked to the side. He was no higher than Jack’s knees, all spotted and wobbly. Now I was pretty sure that we were the first humans he’d ever encountered. And I’m not sure he ever knew we were there.
There is always something rare, special, or new in the every-day and mundane. We experience experiences based solely in our own perspective and umbrella the circumstances. And there’s always something plain and familiar in the new and fascinating. So there is always something fascinating and always something familiar. Often they’re one and the same. I guess it’s up to us to decide whether it is a fascinating experience or an every day occurrence.


Monday, May 23, 2005

finding beauty

it's a name for a girl...

it's also a thought that...

could change the world


Sunday, May 22, 2005

the mountains win again

Way back when I was a kid, dad used to take me hunting in the fall. I don’t know why I loved that so much, but I guess it seemed like a manly thing to do, and I could only do it with men. So I must have been manly. Dad gave me a .410, single shot shotgun for my 7th birthday, and let me use it. During the summers, he’d take us to the mountains to a cabin that he and his friends used during deer season, but I didn’t get to go hunting there with him until I was older. He also used to take us camping and fishing during the summers.
I don’t know how long it took me to realize that hunting and fishing were only excuses to get into the woods or a river. It also took me a long time to realize why every mountain and river experience made the next one more necessary. The mountains are absorbent, they soak you up and keep a part of you, and the river washes away a part of you and keeps it for itself – that is, if the mountain doesn’t soak it up as it runs down its side, the way a single tear rarely makes it to your chin, but is absorbed back into the tearful before it falls away.
I don’t think it really matters if you grew up among them, if the mountains get a part of you, you can never really leave them. As Rich Mullins observed, they’re lonely, even in paradise. You’ll look for every excuse to get back to them, to be near to that part of you that they absorbed, took from you, and kept safely among them. But when you go back to be with that part of yourself, they take more. They just keep absorbing you as long as you keep coming. When you find those parts again, they’ve become stronger than even the part of you you’ve kept.
Since I was a kid, a lot of new roads have been cut into the sides of the mountains, visitor centers have been constructed where there used to be nothing, and complete hills have been leveled for Walmart Supercenters and Motels. Those cut and leveled hills contained a part of me that some dump truck carried off and deposited somewhere else. It is still around, and I find myself looking for it up every hollow, under every rock in the river, around every bend in the path.
If you want to become a part of something as beautiful and old as time, to still be here long after you’re gone, lose yourself in the mountains. Find an excuse. Buy a fly rod and stand in the middle of the river. Don’t buy a boat and sit on top of a lake. Don’t stand up on the bank and watch beauty flow by. Stand in the middle of it and flow with it. Become a part of its beauty. Let it take a part of you and deposit it against the bank in the side of the mountain at the next river bend.
This is an exchange.
Montani Semper Liberi? Bogus. A mountaineer is never free from the mountains. Yes, there is a freedom in being owned by the mountains, but the freedom is only felt when you are in them. This paradoxical existence requires that you give yourself away and smile as you wave goodbye to yourself flowing over rocks and under hemlocks.
So if you’re not willing to lose a part of yourself there, stay away. Maybe you’ve got to travel through the mountains on your way to somewhere else. Stay in your car where you can catch a glimpse but not be caught. Look at postcards, read stories. Whatever you do, don’t get absorbed.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

under the three-quarter moon

Will went to a friend's house to play after school today and Jack got a call to spend the night and go see Star Wars with his friend. Molly had a dress rehearsal downtown for Sunday's recital. Will called and asked if he could just stay at his friend's house. The rain was scheduled to move out by 9, but it left around 6. So I jumped on the bike and took provisions for the night to Will and just kept going.
The night is exquisite. After the rain, the sky is cleansed and crystal clear. The moon is extra bright and crisp. The air is cool, even nippy, and there are patches of fog everywhere. The scent of honeysuckle is just hovering 5 feet above the ground. The bike feels exponentially more free on a night like this. The sky is higher for more headroom. The cool air hightens the senses. The bright moon illuminates the fields beside the road. With the fog, you actually see the air move around you. Speed and freedom. The honeysuckle assaults your face as you rip through the night with 1100 cubic centimeters of symphonic happiness. The road rises up to meet you like it is your only destination.
Anyone on a motorcycle tonight with an olfactory sense knows why this is called the flower moon.


Friday, May 20, 2005

coming down on a sunny day

I've been wishing the rain away for over a week now. I've wanted to spend my mornings on the deck with a cup of coffee, sit up late under the stars, and to ride everywhere I go. I've pretty much kept it all bottled up, because aside from few drops yesterday when I took Will for a short ride after school to help him blow away the days frustrations, the threats of showers and storms have been pretty empty.
Al and I sat out last night and watched the moon move in and out from behind clouds. Not there, veiled through transparent, wispy clouds, clear as a bell. That was the pattern. But eventually, when we came in, it was an all clear sky. I awoke to the drone of drizzle. A good hard hard soaking drizzle. Constant and sure. All the windows are open so it sounds and smells and feels like we've placed our bed behind an April waterfall on a lazy stream. It sounds exactly like the days of rain heard and felt from inside the tent at Cranberry whenever Allison decides to go with us.
Now we've been planning to go to Cranberry on Memorial day and spend the week. Normally, I'd be checking forecasts, praying for plenty of clear, cold water in the river and none in the atmosphere. Today I'm thinking, we'll take dozens of pairs of dry underwear, and drink in whatever weather greets us.
It's amazing how we intuitively wish for something that is all fine and dandy, but if it's all we ever get, we become malnourished, dusty, dull or even dead. Right now, I'm can hear the hard drone of millions of drops on the lawn; I can feel the moist air circulating through the open window. I'm dry inside the house, but like the dust and the pollen being washed from every surface outside, I can feel myself cleansed of so much that had built up while I wished away the rain all week in order to do things my way.


vox bellus et formidolosus

Last week, Molly and I were teasing one another and arguing over who was prettier. I told her I was, but she promptly corrected me. She told me that all that was pretty about me was my muscles, my hair, my eyes, and my voice. I laughed loudly at the random choices of pretty items from my nine-year-old. But today, at least a week later, I asked her if she remembered what she said was pretty about me. Without hesitation, she rattled off all four just as she had before.
I started thinking about how beauty depends on perspective. I haven't exactly figured out the hair part yet, but I heard the prophetic voice in Molly's words concerning everything else. If you can interpret the hair, I'd appreciate your input.
To a nine-year-old little girl, Daddy's pretty muscles are a good thing. Even if he doesn't really have them, any trace evidence of strength is good. Daddy's arms provide protection, comfort and refuge. Dad's chest provides rest and peace more deeply than perhaps any other place. Maybe, in looking for your place in the pecking order, Dad's strength compared to other dads provides a partial measuring stick at a certain age. I know mine did.
But to a foe. Strength is something ugly, something to be despised. The same thing that gives rest and peace and protection to the little one, incites fear and avoidance in the enemy.
Daddy's pretty eyes see beauty, grace, promise and potential in his little one. They look through her eyes, into her soul, and tell her what they see. They introduce her to someone inside her that she hasn't met yet. They inspire her to become that person. But the same eyes that see the good in the good, look past the facade and charade and see the bottom line in the pretend and strayed. The pretty eyes are ugly when they see what is hidden.
Daddy's pretty voice speaks encouragement and reassurance. It sings silly songs for smiles and laughter, and lullabies for bedtime. It whispers prayers over sleeping children, and "I love you", to the broken-hearted. But to some, it speaks what the eyes see. Often what it says sounds discouraging, negative and terrifying. And the same voice that calls it like it is, sounds beautiful to some and terrible to others.
I feel terribly encouraged that the mouth of my daughter would be used to recognize the tools that I am to hone, repair, maintain, and protect. I don't know, maybe even the hair. Why would hair get mentioned if it weren't apt? Samson's hair was certainly important. I guess John the Baptizer probably had some pretty noticable locks.
I was made to think of other things that although one and the same, are pretty to some and to some, ugly - and for the same reason. I thought of the fragrance of Christ. One smell, perceived in opposite ways.
And at the same time as Molly speaks, there is another voice crying out in my yard. Who knows what he is saying with that terrifying voice. The voice of the apocalypse? The prophetic revelation? Sitting patiently. Wisdom anyway. I've expressed my desire to be the owl, to speak wisdom and truth. Not until now have I thought of how disturbing this often sounds. The barred owl in the back yard asks who. Yes, quite emphatically and challenging, but the question incites the contemplative and pensive listener to ponder. The screech owl speaks and terrifies.
Why has Otus come into my yard now? Is it to speak to me or tell me to speak?
Maybe both. Who is equal to such a task?


Thursday, May 19, 2005

otus asio

We have a new neighbor across the pond in back. Al and I first became aware late one night last week. I honestly thought someone was being stabbed or something. Every dog in the neighborhood was terrified and calling out in fear. I sprang from the bed and went out on the deck to determine from whence the horror came. Outside, I could hear the call more clearly and recognized a familiarity to it.
I remember when I was a kid and would spend the night with Mamaw and Papaw, I would often hear a very eery sound from down in the tobacco barn. I couldn't remember what it sounded like, but I remember the feeling it gave me. This was that feeling. So I went to the internet, googled Screech owls and listened to their calls. None of the calls were as scary and terrible as the one Al and I heard, but it was pretty obvious they were made by the same creature.
Tonight it's out there again. The dogs seem to be less afraid tonight. Maybe they've got a watchdog protecting them from those we do not speak of, or as I'd like to say, "those of whom we do not speak."
Anyway, our known owl neighbors have doubled as a tiny Screech owl has joined our trusty, nightly Barred Owl in ridding our yard of nocturnal rodents. The barred owl flies just above the deck from time to time to check out the activity. Maybe we'll see it joined by this little guy who delights in scaring the pajamas off anyone who hears him call out in horror in the middle of the night. I can't imagine that sound just outside my window. Gives me the shivers.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

the bearable heaviness of hearing

Though I've alluded to this before on these electronic pages, it is something that I hesitate to talk about, for fear that I might sound as if this is something I resent. In fact, I invite it. I am a magnet for people's stuff. Perhaps because I face head on and embrace my own happiness and pain, I feel deeply the happiness and pain of others and this presents me as a trusted ally to many who cross my path, someone who understands. I even have a symbol on my desk at work, as you enter my office, of my recognition and embrace of this. So if you're someone who regularly or who has ever shared your burdens with me, don't you dare hear what I'm not saying. If you were to stop, you would deprive me of a major part of who I am.
Usually though, people have to get to know you before they begin to tell their deep stuff, their pain, their struggles. I often hear it from complete strangers. Maybe everyone does, I don't know. But some of the things I hear weigh heavy. And the lightness of the things that we often try to fix for people betrays our ignorance of the weight of what is actually broken. As a faculty, at work, we discuss in meetings how to deal with issues that are so outdated and insignificant in the lives of our students. When I suggest that these are not the issues the students are dealing with, I am met with skepticism. When I say what some of them are, disbelief. Why would you think that? Because they've told me. What?
Recently a student, after sharing something with me, said, "I could never tell that to my psychiatrist, she wouldn't know what to do with it." Once, when I had a lunch meeting with a visiting perspective student I'd never seen before, he sat down across the table and immediately began spilling his deepest, darkest stuff. I just sat and listened. We never talked about the school, the major, or anything having to do with his visit.
But really all that is not the point. The point is, tonight I'm thinking about all this because I'm heavy. About an hour ago, I was craving a Dew so badly that I jumped in the truck and drove off to find an open store. I found one, went to the cooler, grabbed a Dew and carried it to the cashier. When I walked up to the counter, she didn't even look to see what I had, rather, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "today I found out that the woman I thought was going to be my new stepmom is not going to be my new stepmom, and she's having an abortion to get rid of the little boy or girl that was going to be my baby brother or sister. I even offered to take the baby." I felt tears begin to form in my eyes and she said, "Oh, I'm so sorry I just told you that." I didn't know what to say. Usually, I don't know what to say. I'll just allow it to weigh on me so someone will pray for me and the Spirit will know for whom it really is, and where to apply comfort.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

mornblog - lauds

The morning was beautiful. I thought it would be nice, since this is the cyberdeck, to invite you to the virtual deck for a moment as I enjoyed a cup of Sumatran and captured some morning thought. My new OSX Tiger has a feature that recognizes fresh morning thoughts, boots up and reads your mind while the clouds break, morning sunlight peeps through, and the coffee clears your misty head. It doesn't fix your bedhead though. That will be new in OSX Lion.
Can you smell the joe, hear the birds, and feel the morning breeze?
That's where you'll find me.


Monday, May 16, 2005


Sometimes I sit and look down
and ponder the tiny creatures moving about my feet
in the dirt, under leaves, through the grass.

Sometimes I look up
and ponder myself, a tiny creature moving about on feet.
Made of dirt, covered with blood, a blade of grass.

Even the waxing flower moon has gone to bed now.
The clouds have moved out and the temperature has dropped.
My breath wisps in front of my face and disappears as it rises
up toward myriad stars.

What am I that you would consider me?
That you would feel the wisps of my heart
rising up and dissipating in the atmosphere
that is you?


a thousand words

Sometimes I’m startled by your beauty.
Taken completely by surprise.
Memory turns my eyes to your face,
but memory proved inadequate a picture.



I glance at the intricate shape of your smiling eyes and
realize that you’ve abandoned all care
-for the moment.
I came back from there
to worry with you
and found that you’d
found your way there
to be with me.
Here we are then, traded places.
But abandon in another’s eyes is
the surest path to follow.



I woke to find you gone.
I drifted off without you too,
but found you there, beyond my dreams
A distant noise, a muscle twitch,
I woke to find you gone.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

trimmed and burnin'

Well yesterday marked the official end of the academic year. That is in the eyes of the observer. In the eyes of the prof, it marked the beginning of countless hours grading projects, correcting exams and averaging grades. As is typical, I played a wedding in addition to commencement participation. Seems like too many big events for one day, but I understand that graduates have their families all gathered, so it’s as good a time as any to get married.
So I got up early on a Saturday after an incredibly long, hard week of little sleep, donned a suit and tie, and wore it for 13 hours. A suit for 13 hours.
The commencement went by without a hitch, and I hung with students for awhile before going to lunch with a former theory student. We had a great conversation which made me late for a rehearsal for the wedding. It didn’t matter, because I made it to the wedding on time, set up, and began playing my 30 minute prelude that turned into 90 minutes. The longest captive audience I’ve ever had.
The wedding was outdoors, at a park, and the bride arrived 60 minutes after the wedding was to have begun, so I covered for her with tons of improvisation which resulted in some fairly decent musical germs that I think I might be able to flesh into a piece. One idea stuck with me and I kept coming back to it. I woke this morning with it running through my mind, so hopefully tonight…
I think I’ll call it trimmed and burning for reasons related to its birthplace and the circumstances in which it was born.
When finally the bride arrived, everything went quickly and smoothly. The evening was beautiful the wedding party was beautiful, the bride was beautiful and the groom, proud.
I rushed home to take off my suit, feeling like a dishrag, put on some trusty blue jeans and climbed on the bike for a dusk ride.
Thus, the 2004/05 academic year is concluded. I’m ready for a deep breath, a fishing rod and the resurrection of many tabled projects and ideas.


imitation update

Yesterday, I mentioned the idea of being drawn to being a pastor rather than to pastoring, and being drawn to being a worship leader rather than to leading worship.
This is certainly true among guitarists. I find many students come to my studio because the want to play the guitar, but are quite disinterested in music. That they have to play music on the guitar is an inconvenience.
There is a huge difference in needing to speak, and therefore, searching for something to say, and having something burning in you that has to be said, and searching for a medium to say it. It quite different to want to play, and looking for music to play, and having music that needs to be expressed and searching or an instrument that will do it justice.
Today, postsecret blog had this entry in this week's postcards. I thought it was timely and representative of a common motivation.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

the garden

I rested at the edge of the garden.
the gentle breeze caressed and carried the warm scent of the flowers and woke me.
the powdery sweet breeze turned my mind to myself.
I rose and walked among the flowers, overwhelmed
with myself.
I spoke to them, pleaded,
look at me, I begged, as if the irises should enjoy me.
when my thoughts had come 'round,
I saw them again, smelled them again, enjoyed them again.
they lifted their blossoms, opened their petals, smiled at me, and
invited me to become a flower.


Friday, May 13, 2005

imitation vanilla extract

So where did it all go wrong Rod? The problem is in imitation, not that imitation itself is wrong, but misunderstanding what to imitate is the problem. Some time ago, I can’t remember when, I blogged about “artarchetypes” a fun play on a play on words that categorizes personalities, current levels of growth and maturity, etc., and refers to Jung’s archetypes. My play on words referred to something that we unpacked in graduate school concerning levels of artistry. We called them, for our context, guitarchetypes. Of course, these apply to any discipline in the pursuit of art, and for that matter, life in general, I think. The three guitarchetypes were imitator, musician and artist. These three are hierarchical and mutually inclusive, each of the lower levels are included in the higher levels. Someone who is only an imitator, cannot be a musician though they play music, but even an artist is an imitator, but on a very different level because what he imitates if very different than what an imitator imitates.
In fact, Jesus said only what the Father told him, and did only what he saw the Father doing. So Jesus, himself, was an imitator. He also told us that apart from him we can’t do a thing. So we, too, are expected to imitate. Paul felt confident to ask the churches to imitate him because he was imitating Jesus.
But when you imitate someone, what exactly do you imitate? The way he walks? His voice? The way he dresses? His activities?
Just this morning I was talking to a friend about some musical things and we began to compare certain artists with others. Ok, I’ll confess, it was Led Zeppelin and Dream Theatre. The issue was groove. We lamented that despite the fact that we can listen to a flawless recording these days, most have absolutely no soul. Things are so pieced-together, punched-in, pro-tooled, and phixed that when all is said and done, there is really no connection to the person who’s name is credited and the music that is heard on the recording. Back in the day, people actually played and made mistakes and injected the music with life and character. He brought up Ingwe Malmsteen. You would get the obvious dropped notes now and then, but it had life. All the subsequent imitators polished their Ingwe chops but forgot about the music. I mentioned that I’ve noticed this in countless other innovative musicians. A great musician starts with music and layers their innovation on top of it. It’s the icing on the cake. Player/fans lick off the icing and leave the cake. It happened with Eddy Van Halen, who actually played solos between his two-handed hammer-on licks, but all his imitators were just infatuated with that new lightning fast technique and so forgot to insert it into some music. The magic I felt when I first heard August, and everything after was quickly forgotten when I heard a dozen subsequent bands, whine their way onto the radio for the next few years. I even heard a quote from a famous mid-20th century composer who was asked why he hated Claude Debussy so much. He answered that he liked Debussy just fine, it was all his second rate imitators that he couldn’t stand to listen to.
Certainly all these folks were worth imitating, but few actually imitated anything more than the superficial and fewer still applied what they imitated to anything that was already their own. We are left with lossy second and third generation copies that no one cares to bother with anymore. In the music world, it has become so bad that the imitation is not of music at all anymore, but more often, hairdos and fashion.
An artist on the other hand, can imitate B.B. King and end up with “White Room”, or imitate Bob Marley and produce “Roxanne”.
Maybe I could say that an imitator lifts, verbatim, a riff or solo. A musician imitates a style and infuses his own. An artist imitates innovation and comes up with something completely new. Jesus didn’t come with anything new. He came to fulfill the law. But the result was teaching unlike anything anyone had ever heard.
Let’s say that every year I help the Missionaries of Charity for a couple of weeks in the summer. I could get my trip underway and each of the three archetypes would observe what I’m doing in three different ways. The imitator would say that I’m flying in a jet. The musician would say that I’m headed to Calcutta. The artist would say that I’m ministering to homeless people. Each of these would imitate me in drastically different ways.
It is very sad that most of us are imitators only. We rarely get beyond imitating methodology. If we see someone being successful, we imitate the most obvious superficial aspect of what they do. Usually the medium or the method for what they are actually doing.
A few years ago revival broke out outside the church. It happened in England in warehouses, and other unlikely meeting venues, it happened in North America in college gatherings. Great things were happening in terms of new found relationships with God. This naturally manifested itself in the music born of the worship revival. The new excitement was noticed by the Church of Waning Excitement and desired to have the same thing within. So they reached out to embrace the most obvious thing that resulted from the revival. Music. That, of course, is much easier than imitating what was actually behind the revival, because who would buy a CD of prayer? Who could market recordings of a solitary person crying out to God in the middle of the night? How could you demographically target a recording of confession and restoration. So no one understood what the music was born of, what spiritual excitement had spawned the music, They just wanted the music. So they brought it into their unrevived churches where it represented nothing, expressed nothing of what already was, and in fact, exposed how far adrift things had already gone. Since it was music, this new kind will obviously have to replace the old kind. No other conclusion could be reached if you think that the music caused the excitement rather than having been a result of the excitement. If you want to have a worship revival in your church, you’ve got to pray, not borrow the coolest, hippest, newest music about whose expression you know nothing. The question should never be, “what are they singing?”, but rather, “why are they singing?” Peterson says, “I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.”

Imitation of methodology results in meaningless doing that produces church addicts and lifestyle-righteous, consumeristic congregations. People come to church to be a Christian rather than coming because they ARE Christians. Too often, people are drawn to being a pastor, not to pastoring. Or to being a worship leader, not to leading worship. In the church, entire careers hang on methodology. A preacher’s entire career can falter when a methodological shift occurs, even though the purpose of the new is the same as that of the old. A guitar playing worship leader will be left out in the cold when the music once again becomes piano driven. But if the preacher’s drive is to get the message he’s been given to be heard, he will embrace whatever means is required to get that done. If the worship leader’s drive is to play guitar and sing hip songs, a stylistic change will leave him in the dust trying to do what he has already been trying to do, but no one will be listening.


Thursday, May 12, 2005


...I no longer want be the apologetic prophet. I want to be who I am, the apologist prophet. I am the subversive pastor. I will no longer quietly tolerate the status quo. I don’t need to demand that my stuff be recognized and taken seriously. No one ever thinks I mean what I say anyway. I'll accept this as my predecessors have. I’m just cynical, or they have no idea at what depth I feel what I am expressing, what pain I feel when I express pain. Does anyone identify with Jesus’ upset stomach when he looked out over Jerusalem? Who sheds a tear? How do shed tears translate into pulpit jokes?
This is serious business. I’ve got a rising phoenix tattooed on my angel bone. I am a subversive. I will speak parables. I will live a parable. I will hear the still small voice after the wind and fire and earthquake. I will be the still small voice after the wind and fire and earthquake.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

dry bones

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to give a talk for the breakout session rotation on prayer day at work. I’m not sure if I mentioned the specifics or not, but I did blog some of the ideas as I was preparing the talk. The main point of my blogged rambles then was the definition of spiritual gifts as methodology, the interplay between the natural and supernatural gifts, and how that had come up as I had brought a question to a class that I was guest in a few weeks before. The original question was, “is the poet taking over the role of the preacher?” In the original class, I brought the question jokingly with a ridiculously alliterated stream of methodological titles, Poet/Prophet, Pastor/Preacher on which I eventually had a blast expanding when standing in front of a much larger group in the prayer day breakout sessions.
While most of the feedback I’ve received from those talks has been encouraging, as I had anticipated, I frightened a lot of people who have one-by-one, come to see me with offerings of their own teaching, electronic resources, or just to ask if I would be willing to sit down with them and discuss this further.
In my sphere, those three hours standing in front of 5 different large groups of students, peers, colleagues and superiors, required more guts and resolution than any single thing I’ve done since I started teaching. Sure I rant to my friends, defend an idea in a small group, and boldly speak my convictions in a class of my students, but these are relatively safe conditions and otherwise, I play the role of the apologetic prophet and try to muster the guts to toss out a conviction as if it is just a passing thought on which I’d like to get an opinion. Of that, I am ashamed.
The whole experience has resulted in affirmation in a couple of settings. A very well-respected apostle whose sermon provided much of the context for my remarks that day, stopped by after my talk and not only stamped what I’d said, but specifically affirmed that I was accurately working in my own gifting and that the context in which I was doing it was not only legitimate, but actually the context in which it is found in the Bible. He also spoke into my understanding of what level that needs to play in my own day-to-day. I left that day with probably the most encouraging words I’ve received concerning these things and a new confidence that what I was saying was not contrary to biblical teaching on the subject despite the methodological definitions that have been embraced by many of the scary well-learned theologians who were in the audience, and to whom I would have to defend my remarks in the weeks to come. The affirmation that was made to me that day served basically to tell me that I, in fact, could identify a blindspot, narrowed understanding among many who are much more learned and experienced than I am, and because I can identify it, I have a responsibility to say it – same as these others have a responsibility to show me my own blindspots.
More affirmation came today, but also with a dose of humility. The affirmation came as I read exactly what I’ve been preaching for years in the words of Eugene Peterson, in his The Contemplative Pastor- the humility, in that it was all contained on two pages and was written 16 years before I gave my talk. It also shed light on my one-sermon brain, by showing me how yesterday’s post is directly connected to all this other stuff I’ve been rambling about. He warns the pastor of carelessly or even cunningly using words and using the role of pastor to compensate for inane speech.
Peterson asks exactly the same question that I asked in front of all those people that day,“ is it not significant that the biblical prophets and psalmists were all poets?” He goes on to say, “it is a continuing curiosity that so many pastors, whose work integrates the prophetic and psalmic (preaching and praying), are indifferent to poets.” Do you remember my original question? Is the role of the preacher being taken over by the poet? Peterson was probably right 16 years ago when he used the word indifferent, but I think today, indignant would hit closer to home.
In my other post, I stated that culture will decide to whom they will listen. The poet is speaking to them. The problem inside is not only that the preacher is indifferent to poets, but that he has become indifferent to the poetic. The integrated, old testament man of God, has been dissected and parts of him have been cast aside. Those parts are rising up, acquiring flesh and dancing around, and the world is ready to listen...


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

principle numbers

In this week's email subscription receipt from a nationally known minister, I was particularly intrigued by the wording of a subtle manipulation of the title of one of the teaser paragraphs linked to a "full article." In reality, the "full article" is 11 bullet points each consisting of a short blurb of explanation for the short, catchy bold-type heading. I find it interesting that in the case of the title, a word is used that currently has a specific meaning to the readership of the article, a meaning that is implied in the use of the word in this particular context, but that is in direct opposition to the same context. The opposition is downplayed by using only the initials of the Trademarked term for which the word is acting as an adjective. The use of the co-opted word, the hiding of the trademark phrase, and the teaser placement on the front page, all speak volumes. But the strangest thing is that the word inside the article to which the teaser is linked is not used in the same way at all. In fact, the word "emerging" in the teaser is used to modify the word "church", but in the article, the same word is used only to describe characteristics of the church. The words, "purpose driven" are hidden behind the initials, PD while term emerging is brought to the front. Emphasis the cool, hip, nearly used-up term, and downplay the term that has lost its cutting edge.
Anyway, I could write for hours, unpacking the co-opting of terms and language that completely lose their soul when misapplied. But instead, I'll just have some non-sense fun writing a meaningless, random blog in the style of enumerated, bullet pointed sound bites that are just clever enough to draw the interest of the unsupecting reader. Sorry to be so cynical, but I just get aggravated.

This morning on my way in to work, I thought of the 3 identifying factors of a truck.
• It has 4 wheels
• It has a special area in which to haul stuff
• It has a steering wheel
Now of course, this caused me to think about the 2 questions that arise on any given morning in which I would find myself going in to work.
• Will I ride my motorcycle?
• Will I drive my truck?
Often these questions must be answered with other questions. For example the first question leads to the 3 questions concerning riding a motorcycle to work.
• Is it raining?
• Is it very cold?
• Can I carry everything I need to take to work?
Obviously these questions are directly related to the 4 identifying factors of a motorcycle.
• It has 2 wheels
• It has no roof
• It has no area in which to haul things
• It subjects the rider to the temptation of never arriving at the work place.
These characteristics of the motorcycle require 5 principles to be applied by the rider.
• Focus on arriving at work
• Don’t be distracted by intriguing side roads.
• Avoid the urge to weave in and out rush hour traffic while laughing at the caged drivers
• Try not to release the throttle to hold both hands high in the air and yell, “yeehaw”
• Do not, under any circumstances, grab the mirror of the car that cut you off.
When applied, these principles produce a ride to work that results in a productive, relaxed day in which 7 factors will be observed in the worker.
• Hairdo looks a bit tangled and disheveled.
• Permanent smile
• Slightly spread, vibrating teaching stance
• Bug splatter on shirt
• Oil spray on pant leg
• Question seemingly out of nowhere, “is that ringing sound an E or E-flat?”
• Impatient need to run errands that require off-campus trips.

Of course, these are only a few of the 6 degrees of the 11 characteristics of the 5 alliterated acrostic principle categories related to the circumstances of riding a motorcycle to work, but when followed, these will set the serious rider on a road to observing the 11 characteristics of an emerging motorcycle driven worker.


Monday, May 09, 2005

and there was evening...

Did you ever notice that in the Bible, the day starts in the evening? And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. The Jewish Sabbath begins in the evening. We, on the other hand, end our long hard day by retiring to sleep. We lay down at the end of an exhausting day, rather than at the beginning of a promising day.
Of course God does neither. He never slumbers or sleeps. What does God do then while we doze? He prepares our day for us.
Seems like from our perspective, sleeping at the end of the day, that God probably just cleans up our messes and fixes our mistakes from the previous day. That’s what I do. After the kids go to bed, I pick up after them, wash dishes, put things away. I get to work on the things I couldn’t get done in the hoopla of everyone moving about and doing. But that’s not what God does. He gets right to work on tomorrow for us (today for him). And there was evening and there was morning.
We sleep away the first half of everyday, and wake to join the day that God already has begun for us.
I think when one is up half the night he can’t help but think on these things. Lots of rabbits can be chased at 2:00am. When we are told not to let the sun go down on our anger, could it mean don’t begin the day with anger, rather than don’t let the day end with your anger still intact?
In the middle of the day, when all is underway, it is hard to hear God – even notice him. It amazes me that an all-powerful, everywhere God would be so subtle. He puts things into our paths and takes things out of our paths, he puts thoughts into our heads and takes thoughts out of our heads. Often, in the hurry of the day, we push aside the things in our paths, we bury the thoughts in our heads. The subtlety, the mystery of the all-powerful God is outshone by our own stuff in the middle of the day. I believe he wants it that way, otherwise, he’d do it big all the time. But at night, when God continues to work, he is more visible, subtlety is more obvious and whispers seem louder, thoughts linger and time slows down, hearts long and minds wander.

Over time, even the busiest person might notice the accumulation of little things that have made a difference in the day to day, but it is terribly exciting to see and feel the work as it is being done.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

mother of me

Patience of Job
Love of Jesus
Wisdom of Solomon
Beauty of Venus
Hope of Paul
Perseverance of Noah



mother of my children

a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Maybe one of the most awesome things ever is that of that union, the two become father and mother. You, my love, have borne three children for me. I’ve seen, experienced, and felt all your feminine glories, but no glory has been as great as the births of our 3 wee ones. To have seen the damage, the work, the violence, and the pain suffered to bring them into the world and to have witnessed the love and tenderness immediately poured out as they were laid in your arms.
I watched you be their sole caretaker for 9 months and then deliver them for me to share in your glory. I cut their cords and severed your physical connection but watched the emotional connection grow and be returned by tiny, loving, needy faces. I felt the frustration of not being mommy at 3:00am while you were at work, but via a phone call, you mothered us both and provided a means for a bonding that many never have with their fathers and many fathers never experience.
Thank you for choosing me to be the man that made you a mother, for allowing me to father your children, and for trusting me to share both our responsibilities as parents.
Never were there three more beautiful children born of man and woman.


prodigious progeny

today's a very special day in which to dedicate
to that very special person that stresses and concentrates
on feeding and clothing and cleaning and cooking
and never not peeking and never not looking
and always works (despite the noises)
and always takes care of little girls and boyses
and buys all the newest and coolest toyses
let's all hear it for Moms!


God made the green grass grow
and the sky so blue
But what I'm more thankful for
is that God made you!


A lways caring
Looking out for us
Loving us
Incredibly hard working
Opposing evil
Night Owl

Old? (just kidding)
Most awesome mother

to us she's known as two different things, but that's so we can love her twice as much



Wednesday, May 04, 2005


last to be visited by evening.
peer across the water into afternoon,
now leaving.
sail on, chased by night,
persuing light in seemingly
perpetual twilight.

from there, one peers across the water
into darkness, and feels it bearing down.
why do I run from the very place you said
you'd meet me?