allowance reduction

Bloged in art, culture by rod Wednesday June 30, 2004

It occurs to me that even priceless things are made possible by money. Art, for example, will reflect the maturity, intelligence and sophistication of its creators and consumers. It may even be that its consumers will begin to reflect its maturity, intelligence and sophistication. Therefore, when the mature, intelligent and sophisticated are the ones with the means to consume, the creators must be equal to the task. When the immature, careless, and superficial are given the monetary means of consumption, they will reject the mature, intelligent and sophisticated. They will create a market for immaturity, superficiality, and carelessness, and sound the death knell for all else.
Even when I was kid I felt “all grown up” listening to music that my older friends were listening to. Music that was targeted to them. Now music is marketed to younger and younger audiences. The only thing that will slow this trend is that even in America, there must be a limit to how much sex you can market to an 8-year-old.
There have always been pre-teens who would prefer boy bands and Britney, Christina, and Jessica to John Adams, Sting or David Byrne, but they’ve not always had the money to shape the market. I’m pretty sure I know 12-year-old girls whose allowance is at least equal to my salary.
So I’ve got a request. Please reduce your 12-year-old daughter’s allowance to bubble gum and soda pop levels so that some actual musicians can get discovered.

Naw… I’m just kidding ya.

going out and coming in

Bloged in cognition, life by rod Tuesday June 29, 2004

I never like to return by the same way that I came, that is unless, I’ve taken a wrong road. Then I have to turn around and retrace my path until I arrive at the right road. Otherwise, I always try to return by a different route. In this way, a simple ride becomes a trip. I don’t go somewhere and come back, that is not progress. I want always to move forward. I always want to be going somewhere, never coming back. Even if I’m wandering, no time wasted if I wander home by a different way.
I don’t even enter and exit the house by the same door. I never realized this about myself before. If I go out by the front door, I come in by the garage. Vice-versa.
Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes to get there and 2 hours to get home. Don’t worry, its biblical. The magi were told to return home by a different way.
I don’t go to the store and come home. I go home and stop by the store on the way – even if I was home to start with. I guess this is also how I justify pointless rides. Manufactured journeys where thoughts hit my head like bugs on my face shield. To come home by the same route would be a waste, for I’ve already collected all the thoughts along that road.
I never get lost, because I know the way home, and everything is on my way home.
Anyway, these are the thoughts that hit my face shield today while I was on my way home.

a lesson from gertrude stein

Bloged in family, life, love and marriage by rod Monday June 28, 2004

Well the internet is back up. The storm yesterday took the cable out so I had to dial in to a very unstable connection. I bet every roadrunner subscriber was dialing in. Anyway, I was able to write a post and paste it in during the moment I was connected. Now I’m back. Bebeep.
Al and Jack left for camp in Talledega this morning. I had to have Jack at church this morning at 6:45, and then Allison got home from work at 8:45 and left soon after. So it’s single dad with Will and Molly till Thursday night. Actually, since Al works all weekend, it really started on Saturday evening, but was unnoticeable until today, when I normally have her around. There is no food in the house. Can you imagine a guy with two kids and no food? I stopped and got cereal and milk this morning coming back from church. No, I’m not going to make them eat it 3 meals a day. There are other breakfast items I can make for lunch and supper. Tonight I made pancakes.
Last year when Al was in school, I made pancakes nearly every Tuesday night. The kids loved it! For a while. “Dad, please, no more pancakes.” “You don’t say that to mom about spaghetti, or burritos.” “That would hurt her feelings.” “Gee thanks.”
So I haven’t made pancakes for over a year. I know that because, evidently the electric skillet didn’t survive the move. It’s definitely not at this house.
So when Molly finished her dance lesson, she asked what was for supper.
“Gee, I don’t know, how about pancakes?”
“Sure that sounds fine.”
“Seriously?”
“Yeah.”
When we got home, Will agreed too.
No electirc skillet. No prob. I’ll use the big weird-bottomed frying pan. But wait - no ingredients. No prob. I’ll improvise. Who knows what these guys will taste like, so I’d better create a diversion.
Why is it that pancakes taste better when they are disguised as something besides pancakes? I made flounder cakes, serpent cakes, windmill cakes… and served them up in my best Bubs voice, “My pancakes, come back flounder cake, I didn’t mean what I said.”
The kids loved them. Actually, after all that, they tasted pretty good too.
So the moral of this story is, a pancake by any other shape, still tastes as sweet. or…
Pancake is a pancake is a pancake is a pancake. But the question is, which is Shakespeare, and which is Gertrude Stein?
So, day 1 down. Tomorrow… egg shaped omelettes.
Hurry back Mom and Jack.

spared?

Bloged in community, friends, life by rod Sunday June 27, 2004

We had a terrible storm tonight. It was a beautiful afternoon, and then it started to sprinkle. Within moments of the first drops, the storm blew in over head and just sat on our neighborhood. It was like something from a movie. The lightning was constant, and the thunder was simultaneous with the flashes. Actually, it was more like the lightning was the norm, but it was just flickering off like the sky’s electricity was about to go out. Artillary fire, or the finale of an awesome fireworks display. I don’t think I’ve ever been directly under an electrical storm like that before. It was terrifying. The severe storm warning expired at 8:15p, but the flashes and rumblings have been constant for the past 6 hours.
When it subsided a bit, and we felt like we could move about the house, Allison called down from upstairs, that she could smell smoke in Jack’s room. I came up and went into the attic to look. The smell was strong up there, but I couldn’t see anything wrong. I was worried that something might be burning in the walls, and was ready to call the fire department, so I went outside to see if I could see smoke. There was nothing coming from my house, but as the low black clouds raced across the sky, I could see billows of black smoke rising from up the street. I walked up a couple blocks before I saw other people hurrying around. It was another 15 minutes before the firemen arrived. They kept arriving for the next half hour. Two houses burned in our neighborhood.
I stood in the street in front of my house with neighbors until the smoke began to thin. It seems that everyone in the neighborhood had gone into their attics to check for fire when they smelled the smoke. We stood out there thinking of our own panic at the smell. The relief at not finding it in our own attics. No relief for those other families.
Our sympathy and prayers are with them.

after the rain

Bloged in life, poems by rod Saturday June 26, 2004

after the rain, the sky is cleansed.
it’s a catharsis of sorts,
the air is crisp and cool.
everything seems fresh and unfamiliar,
made new at the end of a steamy, humid day.
the fresh and unfamiliar are magnified by
mysterious pockets of misty fog in the twilight.
the haze is cleared and the
western horizon is aglow.
even from that glowing western sky
more storms will come.
but i always remember what it is like after the rain

a blue shirt story

Bloged in church, metaphor by rod Friday June 25, 2004

Once there was a young man who took a job as a strength trainer. He showed up for his first day on the job in a blue shirt. Beneath the shirt were strong arms, chest and washboard abs. Man was he pumped. At one glance, the shirt did nothing to conceal the strength and stamina that was contained within. The blue shirt fit perfectly about his shoulders and magnified his strength. Some days he seemed to be less pumped than usual, but he didn’t try to conceal that anymore than he tried to make the shirt cover the strength he contained. Everyone noticed it, but rather than be discouraged by this seeming chink in the armor, they were encouraged that he recognized it, took care of it, and returned to his normal pumped self. The trainees began to notice that his strength didn’t lie in his lack of weakness, but rather in his ability to overcome those weaknesses. This is something very encouraging to the trainees who have plenty of weaknesses themselves. “Here is an exercise that I tried last night so that I could teach it to you. I wasn’t able to, but I know it is possible, so let’s learn it together.”
Everyone who saw the young man working with his trainees, immediately recognized their great strides, the growing strength and fortitude and all-around good health that resulted. The owners of the gym admired the trainer’s blue shirt. He looked so natural in it and filled it out so well. By now, most of the trainees had taken to wearing blue shirts, and they too, had begun to fill them out, to bulk up. Thus the observers assumed that his success with the trainees stemmed from that article of clothing. Just look at how they thrive while wearing that blue shirt.
By and by, the day came for the trainer to move on to gather and strengthen more trainees. The trainees were exceedingly sad, but as they felt the strength beneath their blue shirts and remembered how to overcome the less-pump days, they realized that they were actually glad to send their trainer out to grow others into what they were becoming.
The gym that the trainer left felt a deep void and began looking for a new blue shirt trainer. Many strong, muscular, and enduring trainers were available, but they wore green, red, aquamarine, burnt-sienna, or taupe, and all their respective colors hung nicely about their shoulders and showed their strength. But no blue-shirt trainers who seemed to wear the shirt like the original blue-shirt trainer.
So eventually, the gym hired a burnt-sienna shirt trainer, but forced him to wear the blue shirt. On him, the blue shirt hung awkwardly. It concealed his strength. He became very self-conscious about the shirt’s poor fit, so much so, that the shirt began to consume his every thought. He didn’t eat right or work out consistently. The shirt fit worse as time went on, though it was all he ever thought about. Eventually, he was emaciated and though he had once been strong and muscular, was now entirely unfit to train others to strength and stamina.
The emaciated trainer saw the blue shirt as the source of all his problems, the gym assessed that the trainer hadn’t the strength to fill the blue shirt. Some saw the blue shirt as the source of success and some saw the same shirt as the source of failure. Only the trainees had seen the real strength of the Blue-shirt trainer, AND the strength of the Burnt-Sienna shirt trainer. They were deeply saddened and confused that the Burnt-Sienna shirt trainer had sacrificed all his strength to wear the ill-fitting blue shirt. The trainees who had come along after the Blue-Shirt trainer had no idea that things were ever any different.

renew your mind

Bloged in apprenticeship, culture by rod Thursday June 24, 2004

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember that this passage slapped me in the face a while back (well, with a little help from gwill). Now I think its time to slap some other folks with it. Be ye slapped so ye therefore may also slap.

I know I’ve told this story here before, but years ago, at my job, I was informed I had to wear a necktie to work because, “we strive to adhere to biblical standards, rather than the world’s standards.” For sure this was the biblical way of saying, “no jeans, no t-shirts, no slinger ‘dos.” There is surely nothing wrong with the powers-that-be mandating a dress code, but why do we feel the need to justify it by pretending it is a biblical standard? Shall we add our desires to the canon? Doesn’t the canon itself warn against this? What does this say about our understanding of biblical standards when we think they have anything to do with wearing a tie.
The profound irony here is that wearing a tie to work is the ultimate adherence to the world’s standards. It occurs to me that it is the ultimate ridiculous illustration of Oestricher’s comment that evangelicals have “swallowed modernism so completely many find it impossible to separate modernism from Christianity.” We have become so conformed to our culture that we think the Bible was its source. Ties – a biblical standard?

Oestricher’s comment recognizes that modern evangelical Christianity has conformed fully to modern business culture, so much so that it considers that culture with its fashion, hierarchies, and paradigms to be biblical standards. Next step is to assume that any different fashion, hierarchies and paradigms are indicative of embracing the world’s standards. Ok, I give up. I can’t express how deeply ironic this seems to me.

We worship and seek Christian community in a business model CEO paradigm, we get leadership advice from best-selling fortune 500 CEOs, we model evangelism strategies after successful business ventures, and we attempt discipleship like corporate in-service training programs.
We copy every nuance of style from the music, fiction, and cinema of the culture and then market, consume and enjoy it completely segregated from the culture from which it came. We are conformed to the culture, yet live outside it. We are so 100% conformed and segregated that when someone among us wishes to step back into it and to contribute to the culture from a Christian perspective, he is suspected of having become worldly and fallen away. It is not content, or style that differentiates the culture from the parallel culture, it is simply to whom it is marketed. In terms of music, if you market Christian stuff to a secular audience, it is no longer Christian. But if you market secular stuff to a Christian audience, it becomes Christian.

So what is meant by avoiding comfort in your culture? The answer is there in the same passage. Fix your attention on God. In other words, be conformed to the culture of the Kingdom of God. Surely we don’t think the culture of God’s Kingdom has anything to do with fashionable apparel, or architecture, or hair-dos. All that stuff will be burned up. Surely Mr. White shirt, black tie, white wall pompadour is no more or less fit for the kingdom than Mr. Tattooed arms, torn jeans, skateboarding, walkman toting, flip-flop wearer. Surely it hasn’t anything to do with our personnel hierarchies. He who is first shall be last and he who is last shall be first.
Surely the culture of God’s Kingdom is recognized by our relationship with God and other people. Love. Love Him, love them. Obedience to Him, service to them. In the world but not of it? In a world that needs love, of a world that has it to spare.

The Weber-Fechner law part 3

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, worship by rod Wednesday June 23, 2004

If you think I’ve been all over the place lately, then you’ll really see that here. I really didn’t mean for my metaphor yesterday to be so abstract and veiled. Actually what I’m saying is nothing new or profound or unfamiliar. It’s just that as we attempt to find ways to make things more meaningful, we consistently clutter them with things that obscure their meaning. We’re bombarded with articles, books, mailings, newsletters, seminars, lectures, etc. about creating “meaningful” worship experiences, engaging a greater percentage of the congregation, facilitating congregation response and participation, creating energy in the worship sequence, dot dot dot. Advertisements for pre-prepared worship sequences complete with written-out modulations, transition prayers and spoken blurbs are everywhere. Enhance your worship experience with Volume 79 of our worship DVD series complete with ppt and pictures of worship facilitating barns and sunsets and snow-capped mountainscapes with spring flowers in the foreground, or abstract morphing colors and designs with 68% opacity lyrics fading on and off the screen. If I hear the phrase, “enhance your worship experience” one more time in an advertisement, I’m going to wet myself. If I read another bulleted article on sequencing keys and tempos and styles to engage the congregation I’m going to scream. Gene Simmons could give a seminar on creating an engaging arena experience and it would contain the same advice as that given for ‘worship’.
I know, this is the millionth time this has been said. I’m sorry. But why, when fewer and fewer people actually understand worship, do we bury it further beneath clutter? When do we begin to model what we say worship is rather than explain it one way and attempt to practice it another?
The Weber-Fechner law applies here in that two things are moving in the opposite direction from each other and the opposite direction than they should be. The more we try to manufacture a “worship experience”, the less we understand what worship is. So many candles have been lit, that we no longer notice each subsequent, confusing candle. As with my guitar playing, we’ve got to blow all the candles out so that we can see just how many we need to actually do what we’ve been called to do.
This is true across the board. We need to strip the Gospel down to what it is. We need to strip apprenticeship down to what it is. We need to strip prayer down to what it is.
I’m not even saying that all this stuff that has cluttered is wrong, or that it can’t be reclaimed as helpful. Somewhere in the midst of all these candles, is the one light that deserves our focus. If we blow out everything else and locate it again, perhaps we won’t lose sight of it as we re-light our candles.
So I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to turn into a rant. Please forgive me.

worship with 100 candles part two

Bloged in worship by rod Tuesday June 22, 2004

The intensity of a sensation varies by a series of equal increments (arithmetically) as the strength of the stimulus is increased geometrically; if a series of stimuli is applied and so adjusted in strength that each stimulus causes a just perceptible change in intensity of the sensation, then the strength of each stimulus differs from the preceding one by a constant fraction; thus, if a just perceptible change in a visual sensation is produced by the addition of 1 candle to an original illumination of 100 candles, 10 candles will be required to produce any change in sensation when the original illumination was one of 1000 candles.
What?
It’s the old frog in the boiling water illustration. As each candle is lit, it affects the overall illumination less than the one before it did and is eventually imperceptible. The reverse must be true – often at the end of the day, I find myself sitting at my desk oblivious that I’m straining to see when someone comes to my door and says, “why are you sitting in the dark?” Thus, I allow unwanted things to accumulate and clutter and distract, while I fail to notice the slow, incremental disappearance of necessities.

In learning and teaching the guitar, one of the greatest obstacles to overcome is tension. Tension contributes to poor tone and intonation, inefficient movements, lack of finger independence, fatigue, and injury. Tension most often results from failure to rid one’s self of the effort needed to perform a previous movement. Therefore, the effort needed for each subsequent movement is added to the effort used for the previous until there is so much isometric effort taking place that I am fighting myself and motion stops. We feel this in our day to day as the build-up of tension and stress as our daily tasks are piled on top of one another.
In my guitar experience, I’ve found that once an efficient and healthy level of tension is surpassed, it is virtually impossible to release just enough tension to return to a productive level. According to the Weber-Fechner law, those increments are imperceptible. So it requires a little more effort to use less effort. I must release all tension and then add it back in perceptible increments until I am using no more than is needed to perform the task. In that way, I monitor the amount of tension, and control it, rather than letting it control me. In the end, I find that little is needed. It is a major part of my training to learn to use only what is needed and maintain that level. Ironically, one of the most popular devices sold to guitarists who combat fatigue is designed to build up hand strength, and thus allow the guitarist to play with more tension, indeed, even create more tension. Unthinking players then will actually intentionally accumulate that which impedes their ability to perform the desired task.

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You.

cute & confusing part one

Bloged in worship by rod Monday June 21, 2004

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing worship music that we miss in our services – music that means a lot to us for various reasons. I blogged before about the need to assess why certain hymns, songs, etc. are important to us. Nostalgia based emotion can be a very deceptive feeling that can replace worship because it feels so good. Even this response can be legitimate in that memories can be encouraging and solidify our walk and faith. As an expression of worship though, it can be very confusing. Of course, if this music is all we do, it is not based in nostalgia, and therefore, doesn’t constitute the same threat.
When we speak of stylistic variety in worship, I often hear it said that we should include more gospel, country, even bluegrass. Of course that would be entertaining, but would it facilitate worship? Personally, I have a hard time worshipping through music that is not a part of my true experience. Fortunately, my sincere experience includes a very wide variety of styles. Many people though, have a far less varied musical experience, but are entertained by styles on the fringes of their experience. Barbershop, bluegrass, celtic, and gospel spring to mind as styles that have become very popular outside their indigenous context and are even presented as cute or lighthearted relief in otherwise serious musical sequences.
I grew up around musicians who played a bluegrass style no matter what the song. It was their style and everything was expressed that way. If I were to break into a bluegrass version of “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” at my church, everyone would be entertained, or tickled by the style, but would cease to be singing it for the same reasons they would be if the style were unaltered.
My backdoor neighbor is manager of Gospel music radio stations. He once told me that he was jealous of “our” Christian music because it was more sophisticated and theologically deeper. I was astounded. I told him that I was jealous of “their” music because I felt it was one of the last musical Christian expressions that truly expressed Christian faith from an authentic cultural experience. But this is only true in its legitimate context. Bring that music and worship style to my church and it becomes cute, entertaining and unreal. It is no longer an expression, but a consumption.
Consumption of wholesome, heartfelt, encouraging stuff is a good and legitimate activity perhaps, but we have confused consumption with expression, feel-good entertainment with facilitated prayer. We have allowed the package to distract us from the contents.

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