Saturday, January 27, 2007

One and Two

I've been mulling over the words that a pastor friend spoke in a sermon last Sunday. In his beginning of a series on fasting, he said that we, as Americans and Westerners, are very individualistic in our faith. Kat and I have been, as some well know, wading through the often boggy waters of transition in searching out a church community. I can't help thinking, though, that there are foundations of knowledge that God is building in us during this time that we can't fathom yet, but the whole bit has caused me to look well at community.

A chord of three strands is not quickly broken, but I spend my time tying off my heart-strings one by one. My swordsmanship is not practiced in the company of the other squires, but we are told to talk about it when we sit at home, when we walk along the road. I have, in truth, spent very little time worshipping in community in comparison to the time I've spent bemoaning my lack of community. It is usually because I am quite afraid of the next man, as if his deep life-piercing scars were somehow either less destructive or more glamorous than my own. In my meetings with the other missionaries going to Scotland, I've realized how much I've avoided my own testimony as to the wonder of the Lord to show me mercy and breath the Holy Spirit upon me. My worry has always been that my testimony (as if I could squeeze even my life, especially what God has done for me, into even five minutes) is too non-descript. I've never really been wasted lying in a gutter and watched a glowing messenger of the Lord extend his shiny hand to me. And yet again, the most gossip-worthy parts of my life are things that I would not want my brothers and sisters, on the whole, to know about. But let me here say that part of Jesus making riches of my rags is the encouragement of the saints (even and especially the potential ones).

So why this aloneness? Why this silence at home and on the road? Why American Idol and American dreams instead of the beauty of how far God has walked with us, carried us, dragged us indeed kicking and screaming? The times I remember feeling the closest to Jesus were, to my memory, spent around and facilitated by other people. So why the isolation? Does it come of living in Suburbia with identical houses and televisions that give us filtered news about the other side of the world when we really need news to help our next-door neighbors with the things that make them weep? Does it come of too many movies about Arnold or Clint or Val being the one man against the world, bearing all his secrets and responsibilities alone? Does it stem from our failures as fathers and sons?

I think the answer might be yes, and no, to all. But let the truth be clear. We are not alone (wow, that sounds like I've been watching the X-files). We, at least in the Church, the Bride of Christ, are all members of one Body. We are connected in ways that we cannot imagine, and that make no sense in this Post-modern world where Material is god, but Gnosis is popular. Let me not exclude solitude, which has its place and is neither lonely nor alone. Read some Richard Foster for more explanation on that. But even in the times when we feel forsaken, we are, like Job, to cling stubbornly to faith that God is listening.


Richard Foster.

Ecclesiastes; Chapter 3, 4.

Deuteronomy; Chapter 6.

Frodo wouldn't have gotten far without Sam.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

New City Benefit

I cannot describe to you how happy and blessed I was to be playing at New City tonight. The benefit show went far beyond anything I could have dreamed up. It seemed I reached for the moon in planning it, and a star snuck up behind me with a kiss. God is most beautifully faithful! Thank you so much to everyone who came out tonight, and all the musicians and songwriters who made it such a blast - and especially, to Nathan and Britta who make my music take on a new and beauteous life of its own, and to Jen who patiently hung out with us and took up door money, served coffee, and ran the register. I have to say that, all in all, my favorite point in the evening was Stephen and Brantley Cox ending their set with 'Aidelweiss', sung a cappella. We all played new songs, and saw old faces. And, sure enough, the cafe pulled in quite a bit of money. But I think we were all blessed far beyond what we put into the evening. Through the company and the sharing of soul-baring music, we grew together like grafted tree trunks. Thank you again, all of you, for making the evening what it was.

...and ye shall not have room enough to receive it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Freeze Tag

I've been "tagged" by Adam Feldman. I've never really subscribed to chain mail, and I've always been great at ruining a good party, but we'll give this a try. Then I'm supposed to tag two other folks, as I understand it.

Five Random Facts
about me:

1) I consider the fact that I was born in Nashville as having at least some part in my love for music.

2) I stood on stage and shook Sandi Patti's hand at a concert in Charlotte, NC when I was in grade school.

3) I hate the spin-and-puke rides at amusement parks, but my wife loves 'em, so I ride anyway. Haven't puked yet though.

4) I've always been pretty good at Rock-Paper-Scissors (but I haven't played in a while).

5) I don't think I'll ever grow out of being a fan of Dragonball Z, and I still have some figurines.

Okay, that was relatively painless. Sort of like a boring, off-brand Post Secret. I suppose I'll tag Greg Adkins and Jared Lucas.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Wild Man's Country

Many thanks to everyone who came out to the Ground Effects show. I consider the whole bit a legitimate success. And thank you to Randy and the staff for again being such gracious hosts and making me a Washington Fields to drink.

The trip back was enchanting, driving along Cumberland highlands looking down from Jellico Mountain, watching vast seas of concrete parking lot go by. So far removed, I am able to imagine that their halogen lights are stars below, a blurry reflection of the stars far above. I can't help but think that those are the places that God treads. Riding along the tops of the earth, he is that Wild Man that you might meet, carrying the trappings of ten thousand journeys. I see him leaping from peak to peak as his scraggly beard whips about, laughing and playing with the wind as it joys in his Glory. Of course, I don't know what God looks like, but the wildness of his Spirit gives gives vast possibilities to the mind's eye.

Perhaps that's what draws me there. I feel that he's up there, in the lonely places, where Jesus could be found in the dark hours of the morning. And in answer to my great desire to sit at the bar and talk with a friend, is my desire to go to the highest and loneliest place I can find and listen.

Somewhere on the Appalachian Trail, between Charlie's Bunion and Peck's Corner, between Carolina and Tennessee, there is a stone table, facing East.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Kat and I went to Pinnacle 18 to use our free pass tonight to see The Pursuit of Happyness. After hearing on the radio about Will Smith's exuberance for the script and storyline (he received it while filming I, Robot and called them back the next day), this was one I had to see for myself, and it did not disappoint.

Smith portrays Chris Gardner, founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings, in his story of chasing the American Dream (ironically, yesterday was the birthday of Horatio Alger, Jr., whose 100+ novels are greatly responsible for the idea of the American Dream). I have never seen seen Smith at this level. This is such a far cry from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He's becoming one of my favorite actors to watch. The cinematography in the film is good, but not especially spectacular, but that's alright since the film is more about the story. The soundtrack plays very well with the movie, ranging from Paul Simon, to Stevie Wonder, to the credits rolling to Seal. Plus the previews give you a glimpse of Reign Over Me with Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler in a wonderfully different role for him. His comedy's not exactly my brand of humor, though parts of Click were hilarious (especially the 'tongue' thing), but I loved Spanglish more than I thought I would.

As for review #2, some of the guys from Portland Studios are starting a business called 12 Stone Art. I'll let the work speak for itself, though, out of respect for the artists, this is only a preliminary sketch from their site.

But you need to go and check out the final product in a big way.

The Pursuit of Happyness

12 Stone Art

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Drive Through Lessons

In the midst of a Culinary Corn Fritter Failure (while I heal my burn and wait for the skillet to cool), I shall pull out the ol' blackboard. Let's begin.

Nope. I'm not spelling it "Thru", because that's wrong.

But as one who works in the 'service industry' (in my arena, shorthand for Fast Food), and who operates this domestic anomaly (nope, they don't have them in other countries - don't know about Canada, though), I shall now take time to write out the established, thus far unwritten, and perhaps unknown (if you are 'that' person) code of etiquette for utilizing a drive-through service.

*As for a disclaimer - no, I'm not disgruntled. But this knowledge is important for you, dear consumer.

The Rules by Which to Play:

1. Overarching and foremost is the theme of personhood. On the other side of that speaker is a living, breathing, competent (we hope) human being, just like you. That person's job is to serve you with a smile (and a meal or some dry-cleaning or a receipt). Don't make it difficult for them.

2. Do not be on your cell phone. If the call is important enough that you may save someone's life by maintaining an open line, why are you pausing for a burger/latte/pressed shirt? Understand that the nod-smile-and-index-finger approach does not constitute civility or conversation. That's like trying to work on your overhand swing while having a chat with your spouse about the unbalanced checkbook. That could get ugly fast.

3. Your music and car stereo are not, in a general restaurant sense, enjoyable. One or two people at the window might groove along with you, but further indoors, patrons and employees are thinking the word, "Jerk."

4. If you are mostly illiterate, please do not attempt to hone your skills on the menu while three cars are behind you. They're paying as well, and the staff can help you decide what your wanting. Furthermore, if you've never been to the restaurant or business, come inside. Get acquainted. Have a sit-down. Aren't those beeps, voices, and mechanical hisses coming out of the speaker intriguing? Find out what they really come from. You wouldn't set up a bank account over the drive-through speaker, now would you?

5. If you, in the case of restaurants, are ordering for your private army, House of Commons, or Hillary Duff Fan Club, it is best, again, to come inside. It takes a long time to squeeze twenty-five different beverage combinations through that two-by-three foot hole in the wall.

6. If you are a difficult customer (you know who you are), tip in the clearly visible tip jar, or at least donate to the Ronald McDonald House plexi-glass box.

7. Take heart. The employee might enjoy the thirty seconds of the day when he/she gets to meet you. The smile might not be fake. Enjoy meeting them too.

8. SEE, The Golden Rule.

Aha! The smoke has finally cleared from my first attempt at making corn fritters. The first three were great (because I ate them). The remainder need some evangelism to convert to corn fritter status (and that's more my spiritual task than gift). I'll get you next time, Corn Fritters! Next time!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Love and Rain in January

The drive from our family's house in Florida today was a bit wearying, but in a good way. The January rain played a persistent peacetime snare on the car windows, sometimes crescendoing in great applause of the old year and it's graceful adieu. I thank you, reader, for patience as we enter this often-mourned season of silence. I must, however, interrupt the pensive smiling snap of gloomily rain-soaked branches, with news that I finally feel free to tell you.

God has, for His Glory, provided that I should go to Scotland. For a few days in March, I will join about fifteen other gracious and joyfully surprising folks to edify the Church in a foreign land. May this be the first of many times. The Lord has already provided more than enough funding for me to go. I'm also to be in charge of all things musical on this trip. Right now, I'm walking the dark steps behind the drawn curtains of knowing exactly what lies in store, of knowing exactly the work to be done. I pray that the whole crew of us will be quiet in heart and compassionate in spirit. We are poised to be amazed as the cripple who leaps out into open space to find wings that weren't there before.

And in the realm of being amazed, I'm learning my place more as a dabbler on this artistic palette. I finally felt at peace in taking photographs the other day. I drove again across the fog-scattered farmlands of this town and watched the telephone lines pass by in shadow like something from Steinbeck. And I understood. I understood that I see beauty in ordinary things so that I can show that same beauty to others who see the world differently. I feel that beauty in the lines of knuckles and in the squelch of shoes in mud beneath long grass and in tattered thread trailing from old shirts and in the thousand smells that grace every breath. I take photographs to beg and to plead with Johnny Q. Passer-by to see the smallest things. To stop and listen to the quiet. I hope this shred of understanding spreads to all the other messes into which I dig these clumsy fingers.

I'm getting ready to start recording another album. I am so excited and apprehensive about this whole process. It's certainly something that I have to relinquish control over, considering I've never had control anyway. I can't wait to see what comes of all this, and I hope it's something as wonderful as it will be surprising. I'm hoping that I can be quiet and easy enough to delve into the Incomparable Depth of the Peace that rests within me - that you may drink up and share it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Also, I must relate this to you. I really have no idea how to read it and what it means except that it's a good thing. I just woke my wife up to tell her that my name is on somebody's radio chart. Many thanks to WOTR for thinking that my music is worth playing. You guys really have a heart for the little guy. I'm going to bed before my head gets too big.

Enjoy your January my friends. Albra gu brath.

...but I would never turn my back on your love.
                              The Blue Nile