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Bloged in life by rod Saturday July 31, 2004

This afternoon, the deck got a new prime coat of Glidden oil base porch and deck paint. The previous owners slapped on some latex paint over pressure treated wood to make it look pretty for us to buy it just over a year ago. Like saw dust in the differential, ya know?
So Allison got most of the old paint off while I was in California. Not a drop of rain through the whole process. Then just as we’re ready to apply paint… Well a look at the past 10 days’ weather will finish that sentence. It has rained everyday. Some days a little and some days a lot. But we’re supposed to have 2 days of sunshine before the wood is dry enough to paint.
Yesterday, it was absolutely beautiful all morning and afternoon. Al and I decided to chance it because it didn’t look like rain was even possible. So I went into the garage to fetch the painting paraphernalia. I opened the door and lo and behold. It was raining. The sun was shining, mind you, but it was raining. I went back through the house to the deck and found Al sitting out there laughing. Of course, on this side of the house there were dark clouds. So you see how it’s been. It’s tough enough to get the wood to dry, and then to chance having no rain long enough for the paint to dry.
Yesterday’s surprise lasted only a few minutes and was fairly unproductive, so when today looked promising again, I decided things were dry enough. On went the prime coat and it’s been 5 hours and still no rain. Stars are out in fact. Maybe it will actually dry. But there’s a second coat to worry about. And then the point of all this ramble blog. I can’t walk on my deck for a week and can’t put furniture back on there for 2 weeks.
You should see it out there, all clean and beautiful. “Hey rod, come on out. The stars are gorgeous.” So I am confined to the cyberdeck for awhile.

My whole summer seems just like that. Summers are for projects, even if they are silly, unnecessary projects. But it seems as if I’ve not had a stretch long enough to even get a project started, much less completed. Same old unfinished things on the house, a year after we moved in. Same old rusty guitar chops. Same old messy garage.
I could really stand to drop some poundage and tighten up some sagination. But just like the paint, if I go to the gym, then I can’t for another two weeks, and it just renders my one trip ineffective. I wish I could just paint myself into shape, healthy. I wish I could just paint the mess away in the garage. I wish I could just paint music out of my heart and into my hands. I wish I wish I wish. But I can’t go out on the deck and find a star.


Bloged in family, life by rod Friday July 30, 2004

Well, my call for words about your daddy really wasn’t intended for my kids. And I guess in fairness, Will’s words weren’t really an answer to the call. Yesterday the kids were buzzing and chasing around the house and Will was upset. I stopped them to ask what was the matter. Will said that they’d stolen his “permanent records” book and wouldn’t give it back. Molly responded, “but he writes embarrassing stuff about us in there.” I said, “cool Will, can I read it?” That got them all laughing, but Will sheepishly confessed, “Well, Dad, there is one thing in there about you.” Then they all just rolled. I said, “Will, if you don’t let me read it, I’m going to spank you.” “I’ll take the spanking,” Will answered. Later though, he decided I could read it.
As it turns out, WIll’s “Permanent Records” book is a very important thing. It is his journaling of observations of reality. His observations of other real people - their flaws and their humanity. Some people could do this, and it might be strange or unhealthy. Not WIll. It is a way that he is learning to put into proper perspective who we all really are and how we fit into one another’s lives. I’ll leave the explanation at that, but it is very important for him. For us all, for that matter. I have a very wise and intelligent son, with some skewed perpespective.
So he turned to an entry from several weeks ago that finds me as the subject. In my defense, we were all exhausted and starving and there was absolutely nothing in the house to eat.

Mom left, leaving Dad in charge. Oh boy. Fathers. They’re good at cheering you up or fixing machinery. Fathers have never been good at cooking. I’m serious. All they can do is heat something up! Tonight is veggie burgers, peanut butter sandwiches or a nice hot cup of Go-to-bed-if-you-won’t-eat. Guess what? I chose the cup!
Children are to be nourished with burgers or Mexican, or even Chinese water chestnuts, but not veggie burgers and peanut butter sandwiches!

trimmed and burnin’

Bloged in apprenticeship, metaphor, random by rod Thursday July 29, 2004

Summer is winding down and soon school will be starting. I’ve done a few weddings and stuff but have had to decline several because I’ve been gone so much this summer. Already though, the fall is filling up with more than the normal school and church responsibilities. I’ve got several classical concerts and gigs to prepare for this fall, some friends and I are talking about a possible trio affair with drums and bass, and last night I was asked to participate in a clinic that will include everything from jazz to classical guitar. It’s time to buff the nails, change the strings, break out some new music and pump some nylon. And I haven’t felt this ill-prepared and out of shape in years. I think it all came up in conversation last night because God is telling me it’s time to get it all back together. Talking about the trio, I worried that I can’t even play electric guitar anymore. Talking about the clinic I worried that I have nothing in my hands (though I have pulled some stuff out of my hat for weddings this summer). Nothing worthy of a performer or clinician though.
As it turns out, that conviction came in the form of a little reminder I got tonight while sleeping. It seems that while I was in California, the Rush concert wasn’t the only extra excitement. I can’t believe that I had repressed this whole ordeal until last night’s dream brought it all back.
When the conference was over on Friday afternoon, Russ and Carol Rhodes were headed up to Los Angeles with their family to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. They are all involved in worship at their church, playing various instruments, and singing. They came to CIU music department convocation and spoke and led worship. This is the same presentation that they were to make on the Tonight Show. So our conference entourage decided to head up to Burbank to attend the taping and lend them support. Since we were close friends of guests on the show, we didn’t have to wait in line as I had for the Rush concert, but were brought inside to hang in the green room and mill about the facilities while we waited for taping to begin. I ran in to Kevin Eubanks shortly after we got there, and was shooting the breeze with him in his office. I leaned over and picked up a bass that was sitting by the coffee table and began noodling as we talked. The bass, by the way, was a five-string that looked just like the guitar that he plays on the show. Of course I played some cool Geddy licks and some Tower of Power riffs I’ve been working on when no one is watching (Robert Shuler would be proud). Eubanks was pretty impressed, needless to say, and promptly asked me if I’d fill in for the show because Stanley had called in sick at the last minute. How could I pass up such an opportunity? I was a little worried about reading charts on the bass that quickly, but was assured I had a little over an hour to look them over – especially the theme song, which I kept confusing with Conan O’brien’s.
As I began getting hurried through set-up, sound check, stage placement, etc. I noticed that I was scheduled to play a classical guitar piece during the spot after the monologue where Jay usually does some lame bit like Jay Walking, or Headlines, or Correspondents. Now I was more than nervous, I was terrified. My guitar was out in the car, I hadn’t played it in weeks, the strings were dead, and I couldn’t think of anything I had in my fingers to play on such short notice. Normally, I’m ready for last minute things like this. I’ve landed some pretty cool gigs and radio spots because I’ve always got something in my hands, ready to go. Not this time. Now I was about to be thrust onto the stage where I’d been preceded by the likes of Christopher Parkening, Pepe Romero, and Liona Boyd. Surely Ross and Carol had set this up, but why hadn’t they told me?
Finally the show began. Edd Hall did the announcements, Jay walked out and began the monologue, I was struggling through the theme song. Panic set in. And that’s the last thing I remember. I didn’t see the airing of the show. I don’t know how I played, how successful I was at reading those charts, nothing. I hope I’ll get to see it in re-runs while Jay is on vacation. Meanwhile, I’m holed up in the practice room reading charts and playing scales.


Bloged in family, poems by rod Tuesday July 27, 2004

epitome of masculinity
model man for man-to-be

long of arm, short of words
slow to speak but always heard

leadership by servanthood
strong of back and fortitude

passed on to us your quirky traits
for Al and Cin to aggravate


Like me and your grandsons, I know you have a soft spot for rhymes and a touch of humor.
Of course there are hundreds of memories involving you that have shaped my life, but there are two relatively recent ones that will always stick with me because they seem to sum up all the others.
When I built the patio at the old house, you came all the way to South Carolina to mix my mortar. Then you’d sit and watch and encourage me while I tried my hand at laying brick. When I had to paint the soffit, 25 feet above the ground, you stood below for hours, holding the ladder.
That’s the kind of Dad I want to be.
Provider, equipper, supporter, encourager.
happy birthday dad

it’s all gravy

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, community, friends, metaphor by rod Monday July 26, 2004

I poisoned my friend last night. Actually, we all ate the same thing, and it was very good. Even the poisoned victim enjoyed it. At first. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, there’s nothing wrong with wheat. Even Jesus ate wheat. A lot. So what’s the big deal? Well, obviously there must be something beyond umbrella morality that dictates what we can and can’t do. I don’t know, maybe the morality has to do with what is permissible, and the beyond part has to do with what is beneficial.
I’m terribly allergic to poison ivy. I’ve reacted so badly before that my eyes were swollen closed, and my fingers unusable. There is lots of poison ivy to manage around our house. Our neighbors have English Ivy between our houses and it was being infiltrated with poison ivy. Of course I can’t do anything about it, so I just tried to avoid it. Then one day the neighbor comes out there and spends the afternoon in the ivy pulling out all the poison. No problem. If I’d have even thought of doing that, I’d have been bedridden.
Sometimes the intolerance is only caused by a bad experience or with the questionable substance being associated with a bad experience. Once as a kid I got sick after eating thin mint girl scout cookies. To this day, I can’t even stand the smell of those little devil baits.
Sometimes things that are wrong for you become less wrong as you mature or grow older. I have definitely become more tolerant of poison ivy as I’ve gotten older. Sometimes, as you mature, you cease to have a problem at all, though you once were completely incapacitated by the same thing. My son Will spent the first years of his life unable to eat anything with maltose in it. Easy right? How often do you eat maltose? In just about everything, actually. It is used as a sweetener and is in every loaf of bread, save one. As Will has grown, he seems to have very little problem with maltose anymore.
By the same token, sometimes as we mature, we develop intolerance to things that never bothered us before. Perhaps our bodies have felt the build up of seemingly insignificant unhealthiness and now simply have to avoid it. Perhaps we just witness abuse of harmless substances and witness the destroying effects of the behavior and choose to refrain.
I’ve met people who could die if they ate mints out of the same bowl that had previously held peanuts. Others can suffocate in less than a minute from eating a strawberry. Most of us have no struggle with peanuts, strawberries, wheat, or corn syrup. But for those who do, it may as well be strychnine or heroine.
Most of us realize this about one another though. Those of us who have no problem with peanuts don’t think less of someone who does. Probably we would help our friend to avoid eating something dangerous for them rather than trying to talk them into enjoying it with us. Surely we don’t consider ourselves superior because we have no problem with maltose, do we? Surely people don’t think less of us for having given some things up, or developed intolerance to things we once enjoyed. It’s hard enough to avoid the hidden poisons in the otherwise harmless stuff, without being pressured by our un-understanding friends to grow up and stop being bothered by non-sense.


Bloged in apprenticeship, community, friends by rod Saturday July 24, 2004

Today I rode my bike up to see my friend Chick. There’s a place I go that whispered serenity to me the first time I came upon it. It is quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Unbeknownst to the passer-by, it has a dark history and still reeks of contradiction and conflict. It’s named for a terrible incident that happened there over a century ago, and even in recent years and months it has stayed true to its heritage. Two years ago, just after Christmas, a lady was shot there. Chick watched a girl pull out a gun and shoot her husband in the field beside the pond. This past January, Chick and a friend were sitting and talking and spotted a body floating in the pond. A drug dealer from Columbia with a tricked out ’65 Impala, shot execution style.
It is in this place of conflict and confusion that Chick continues to heal from his stint 35 years ago in Southeast Asia. This is where he came all those years ago after being told he’d better talk about it or he’d never survive. This is where he found an old man 30 years ago sitting at a picnic table with a ready and willing ear. This is where I found him about two years ago sitting at a picnic table writing in a notebook. I’ve never been there when he wasn’t there. Even though he works and goes about life, and I’m usually not there when he is, he’s always there when I go. There is no doubt in my mind that it is arranged. We’ve talked for hours upon hours. He told me today that he had 1600 hundred handwritten pages of his story. It’s almost done. He said that he wanted me to read it, even though I’d already heard much of what’s in there.
Until right now, I think Allison is the only person I’ve talked to about Chick. He is an amazing man. He has compassion born of trouble. He has need and plenty to give. It is amazing how useful one can feel by simply being there. I asked him if he’d still remember me when his book is published and he’s a millionaire. He said, “Rod, when I’m a published millionaire, you’ll ride your bike up here and here I’ll be sitting at this picnic table.”
When I grow up, I think I might become an itinerate listener.

what dreams may come

Bloged in apprenticeship, life, metaphor by rod Friday July 23, 2004

When the kids were tiny and I was still in grad school, they had to spend several afternoons with a sitter each week. I would go and pick them up on my way home from school or work or whatever the schedule had for that day. In the fall, at that time of day, the sun was just setting as we came down the street toward home. Up the hill, across the railroad tracks, and back down the hill to home. At the railroad tracks, we were on the highest point in the area and as we crossed every evening, the sky was on fire directly in front of us. Everyday, I’d say, look guys, look at the colors Jesus painted. As time went by, my tiny ones would anticipate the painting, and when we crossed the tracks, would say the mantra. Often we’d circle around the cul-de-sac and drive back up the hill, turn around and cross the tracks again.
Two or three years ago we were driving down the road and Will had his head bent over staring out the window, up at the sky watching the clouds. He said, “Dad, the sky is so amazing, everyday it is different, we get a new sky everyday.” Of course we do Willby, it reminds us that God’s mercies are new every day. We get new mercies every morning, just like we get a new sky.


This past winter I was sitting on the deck with a fire and reading The Divine Conspiracy. I was exactly where I needed to be while reading Dallas Willard’s discussion of Spirit. As I read about God speaking to Peter “out of the atmosphere”, or “out of thin air”, I stared up at that vastness with its gazillions of stars. I felt tiny, I had some new understanding of spirit and omnipresence. I felt the air out of which God spoke to Peter, and to Hagar in the wilderness. All around me. I breathed it in. Some say that prayer should be like breathing out and breathing in. My prayer didn’t have to go anywhere that night – I simply felt spirit and breathed the breath of God.


The Perseid Meteor Shower began this week. Though there are still only a few to be seen each night, the sky show will continue to intensify until August 11 when it peaks and we begin flying back out of the goo from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which left this stuff in our path during the Civil War, around 1865. Each night this week I’ve spent some time out on the deck staring up long enough to catch 3 or 4 shooting stars. Lying there staring up, feeling the vastness and mystery, and stealing a glance at a rock, or speck of dust, or piece of metal, burning up from friction in our atmosphere, one can’t help but feel vulnerable. The very air that we breathe, that oft used metaphor for emptiness, is the stuff that envelopes us and protects us from cosmic projectiles. It is only through God’s great love that we are not consumed. Spirit God everywhere, in every molecule in every atom, electron, speaking from the heavens, ‘out of the atmosphere’, burning up the fiery darts before they can cause us harm.


Tonight as I lie down (much too late), I close my eyes with the hope of new mercies, created while I sleep by a God who never slumbers. I grieve for those who can’t find sleep and who like Jeremiah have lost hope and deemed God a lost cause. I breathe a prayer to the God who fills my inmost being that also like Jeremiah, a glimmer of remembered faithfulness will be enough to hold to as they passionately wait, diligently seek, and quietly hope.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime and in the night,
His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

perchance to dream

Bloged in community, friends, poems by rod Thursday July 22, 2004

Who has emptied you Rose?
What foul wind has evaporated your hope?
What din drowns the song sung over
and over and over and over you?

Was there not once a glimmer?
I can see it behind your eyes, read it
between the lines –
the faint flicker, far and forgotten.

To whom was your prayer directed?
To whom did you lift your hands?
On whose shoulder did you lay your head back down
and pray to be only His?

Bare your soul, He knows who you are
Like me, He hurts for you tonight
and wants you to feel more than music.
He longs to fill you Rose.

serve the church

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, worship by rod Wednesday July 21, 2004

Remember the movie Bull Durham? I like the scene in which Kevin Costner is being interviewed and just keeps offering phrases that he’s been told work as answers. Stock nothings. Jargon. Cliché. One needn’t be in the music business to have picked up on the industry lingo. Christian musicians, like all others, shop their product. They strive to create a broad market appeal. Narrow musical style to easily fit a format. Capture a wider audience. In my thinking, all this is fine and dandy for anything except music that claims to have been created to facilitate worship. So for what, you ask, should worship music writers strive? Well that’s what I’ve been trying to get to.
This past week, I attended seminars by 4 Englishmen, Graham Kendrick, Martin Smith, Stu G., and Matt Redman. From all 4, I heard the phrase, “serve the church.” Each one stated that they felt it their calling and strove to write worship songs that serve the church. Each of these writers spoke of writing songs for their own local congregations. If you know the Delirious? story, you know that this is how it started. This is how it still is. No record contract, but songs that have only the purpose of facilitating worship and growing stronger Christians. Delirious? had to fly back to England immediately after the concert to participate in a wedding at their local church. On Sunday, they were leading worship with children at their church.
Now I know that the church is global. It is made of all believers. It is beyond my local body. The intent of serving the church reaches all these. But the operative word is serve, not market. It breaks my heart to see the expression of anointed worshiping songwriters usurped by ark culture stars who turn the expression into industry that confuses the church who were to be led into worship by the humble offerings of these songs.
Immediately after Martin Smith’s talk, a question came from the audience, “I’ve written dozens of worship songs, I think they’re pretty good. Could you give me some advice on how to “get them out there”. I don’t know how Martin Smith kept from responding, “listen, you selfish idiot. Did you not hear a single word I just said?” Instead, Martin Smith patiently repeated himself, “just play your songs for your local church body to worship. If God wants them to minister further, He’ll make it happen.”
Serve the church. In so doing, we serve God. Lead your local community to worship.


Bloged in cognition, culture by rod Tuesday July 20, 2004

Somehow, for a fleeting moment, I actually thought that I might be able to blog afterthoughts of my trip in some kind of linear reverse order from the long hurry up and wait flight back. Linear? When have I ever been linear? I’ve always been random access. Many of you can’t figure out how I survive a brain like this, but it provides quite a useful tool called non-destructive editing. That is one reason I’m quite unafraid to try some new thinking. I know that if it proves wrong, I can simply click undo and return to the old way. On the other hand, if the new way proves right, I’ll click save, and no matter how many times you try to reach over my shoulder and click undo, a dialogue box will appear that says, auto recovery function has been disabled from that outdated and erroneous process and I’ll spend some time trying to soften the language of the dialogue box.
I’ve used the term assimilate several times this week to describe what I have to do to help you make some sense of my ramblings. Truth is, however, that the term defrag probably is equally as accurate. I took notes all week in MS Word format on my PDA. That’s great if all you’re doing is taking notes on the talk. But if you’ve got any kind of threaded response to the whole, it can be quite cumbersome to have only one file open at a time. So I’m bouncing back and forth between my PDA contained bible and the singular talk notes file and my linear threaded response among my random access brain files. My linear threaded responses find themselves fragmented in numerous separate files in the PDA that contain the notes from various individual talks that were delivered in well constructed linear fashion.
Now all that was intentionally confusing. But if you read it again thinking that maybe it can be understood, it might provide some insight into my processes. Maybe not.
Now the reward for living with a low IQ and an unorganized appearance is the ability in the end to compare things side by side and find connections, similarities and differences, conflicts and common ground, cause and effect, etc. I assimilate, therefore I am.
Well then. If anyone finds him/herself still awake, here comes the first and perhaps most important simple observation that this process has brought me thus far this week. I’ll try not to make its conveyance here as simple as the concept.

to be continued

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