Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My daughter's poem - A Slice of Heaven

I walked through the door last night after work and my daughter handed me this poem:

A mom is nice,
A dad is good,
Daughters are pretty,
Sons are understood.

Pet dogs are wonderful,
Pet cats are colorful.

But if they are all together,
they are fantastic no matter what the weather.

I love this.  Not only because it was from my daughter, but there is an underlying truth that rocked me. 

All daughters need to know that they are pretty, and all sons need to know they're understood.

At some point I may get creative and wrap this into a song (I'm terrified I'd wreck it); but for now it can stand on its own merits.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Old Wisdom - Hosea 11

I was listening to a Thomas McKenzie sermon ("Insulation") and he pulled out a portion of Hosea 11 that hit me.

It was just full of images of God loving his people in a very personal and real way.  It isn't something you see as often in the OT, especially beyond Psalms.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up in my arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
 I led them
with bands of human kindness,
with cords of love.
I treated them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks;
I bent down to them and fed them.

Then he acknowledges how Israel has strayed and the anguish that causes.  It is just some great stuff.

Mostly I wanted to capture the thought somewhere before it runs away. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hosea%2011&version=CEB

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Uke Can Call Me Crazy...

Sometime back in February I shot an e-mail to Brad Donaldson to get on the list for one of his ukuleles.

I've noticed that somehow I reside in the purgatory between "jack of all trades" and "jack-wagon".  I have a tendency to get neck deep into projects and hobbies and churn/burn long enough to remove the magic of how it works.  Then I'll flit onto the next interest.  They've been unicycle, juggle, disc golf, soccer, ultimate frisbee, mountain biking, guitar, kites, theology....

I'm now nearly 2 years into ukulele and I still love it.  It is just so easy to pick up and strum.  Guitar took some setup time, space and hoping kids would show up with roaming interrupting hands.  Ukulele is just quick, easy, and the learning curve matches.  It's fun and happy.

We'll I've gone far enough that I'm taking the plunge into it being the next level of hobby.  I have a Kala CEM which is a beautiful concert size Mahogany.

Brad is building a tenor size, Bearclaw spruce with myrtle sides and back.  It has been a long wait and I hope to have it before Christmas.  Here are the few progress pics I have, I'll post final pics when it's in hand.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"The Man who Shot Liberty Valance" - review and thoughts

Over the weekend we watched "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance".

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance PosterI heard it was a good classic movie and kicked it up after we got the kids to bed on Saturday.  I can say that we enjoyed the movie and I would recommend it.  It is a good story (and story telling) more than an action western.

The acting is good (Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne) and some of the action and scene shots bear the fact that they were done in the 60's.  Wider views (which I like) and some camera angles that aren't natural to the story (which I don't like).

There are great layers into the story - romance, political statehood, and the power of legends.

The brief story - (beyond this spoilers may abound and wikipedia tells it further and better)

Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is a US Senator returning to a smalltown for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).  The local press corner him for an interview and he tells a story (flashback 20-ish years). 

Ransom is a lawyer heading out west.  As he was approaching Shinbone for the first time he gets mugged & beat by Liberty Valance.  Liberty is the lead thug supported by the big ranchers.  The only person tougher is a horse trader, Tom Doniphon.  Ransom is nursed back to health and after some time is one of two delegates for a convention regarding statehood of the territories.  Liberty beats the other delegate and forces Ransom into a shootout.  Ransom can't shoot.  He can but it's similar to playing football with a 4 y/o; no competition.  Liberty toys with him and somehow Ransom shoots him dead.  At the statehood convention Ransom is nominated to be a delegate to US Senate.  He ducks in back and is packing to leave when Tom corners him.  Tom tells a story of his own....he was in the side alley and Tom shot Liberty Valence, not Ransom.  Tom tells Ransom to man up and go be a force for good.

Back to the present day and the press scraps the notes from the interview.  The newspaper chief tosses the notes into the stove and says "When the legend becomes fact; print the legend."

Ransom and his wife are on the train heading back to Washington.  The conductor passes along some strings that they pulled to expedite the Senator's travel.  Ransom expresses his thanks and the conductor replies "nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valence".

The Gospel of the story -
I've been thinking a few days about this story.  Ransom's career and his life is built on a lie.  Even the newspaper would rather hold to the legend rather than tell folks the truth.

There is a basic law at work in the story.  Ransom has no arena (or court) in which he can win against Liberty.  Ransom tries desperately to hold to the law of the books but that has no authority over Liberty.  He refuses guns frequently and starts to try to train with one knowing that the showdown will someday happen.  Ransom isn't good enough though.  Tom had to fulfill the law.

Ransom rides on the coattails of the victory.  He rides into Washington as the legendary man who shot Liberty Valance.

There is something required of us that we can't measure up to.  I know there is good and I don't measure up; my words, thoughts and actions don't measure up.  There is an enemy waiting to kill us and let us die under the law.  But there is also a real hero who is ready to save us.  He doesn't destroy the law he fulfills it and we can rejoice in the victory.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Concert Review - AP & Caleb

Saturday (10/6/12) Becky & I trekked about 1.5 hrs to enjoy Andrew Peterson and the band Caleb playing in Wadsworth Ohio.  I had my expectations fairly high for this event and was only slightly disappointed.  My disappointment - it had to end.  Also we are old and couldn't hang around to pull AP aside to extort an afterglow out of him.

It was a great concert for a few reasons, Andrew Peterson & Caleb were playing.  Andrew is a seasoned performer and played great music with engaging set-up stories and humor.  Caleb consists of Caleb Chapman on guitar and belting out raw emotion and Will Chapman on drums driving the songs home. 

It was my first time seeing Caleb performing live and I was blown away.  They are excellent musicians and are still cutting their teeth as performers.  They had a 3 song set and certainly won some fans out of it.  The songs were good, really good.  Not necessarily happy or easy songs, but evoked emotion and connected on a deep level.  It feels like that brief description of "good" and "evoking emotion" is like calling E.T. a good movie about an alien.  There is just so much more to these guys.  Awesome stuff.  My rock&roll days are mostly behind me, but I look forward to hearing much more from them.

Andrew played a mostly somber set which falls in line with "Light for the Lost Boy".  (I reviewed the album here.)  The album is about the ache of growing up.  It is painted from a parent's view at a child; a grown-ups view longing for the lost childhood; and a mature view of how that experience can (and should) change us to being thankful. 

It is somber, but it is also hopeful.  The contrast of something being lost against what is found. 

My takeaway line (paraphrase) - "As parents we work to preserve Eden for our children, but the snake is going to get into the garden."

All of this echoes of a few parts from GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy:
Catholic* doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.  Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism.  We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea.  So long as there was a wall round the cliff's edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries.  But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.Catholic = universal
 We setup rules (and to an extent Law itself) to protect and preserve.

This is the prime paradox of our religion; something that we have never in any full sense known, is not only better than ourselves, but even more natural to us than ourselves.
I don't think it's a stretch to say it's something that children are closer to than us; but we can take joy in that it will be regained.

It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening,
"Do it again" to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Christian Story.

From Tim Keller's website (Aug 8, 2012):
At some point you need tell the Christian story in a way that addresses the things that people most want for their own lives, the things that they are trying to find outside of Christianity, and show how Christianity can give it to them. Alasdair MacIntyre said this about narratival apologetics: ‘That narrative prevails over its rivals which is able to include its rivals within it, not only to retell their stories as episodes within its story, but to tell the story of the telling of their stories as such episodes.’ Read that sentence again.
There is a way of telling the gospel that makes people say, ‘I don’t believe it’s true, but I wish it were.’ You have to get to the beauty of it, and then go back to the reasons for it. Only then, when you show that it takes more faith to doubt it than to believe it; when the things you see out there in the world are better explained by the Christian account of things than the secular account of things; and when they experience a community in which they actually do see Christianity embodied, in healthy Christian lives and solid Christian community, that many will believe.

I enjoyed this and thought it worth preserving somewhere that I can get to quickly.  Carry on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Word-Nerding - Zechariah 7

I'd define word-nerding as enjoying words - their sounds, definition and/or linking together.

I'm generally not an extroverted word-nerd.  I enjoy smart words and word play; and know a fair share of them but if it isn't the proper word for transmitting the point it may be coming from pride.  That's probably a separate thought for another day.

Instead of saying "good bye" I'd love to say "godspeed".  I love the meaning but it just sounds out of place, I don't say it.  One of the great aspects of "Cry the Beloved Country" is the language throughout the whole book, specifically they depart with a "go well" and the appropriate response "stay well".  So much richer than "good bye".

The other end of word-nerding is tying words together in a way to make the perfect point.

Generally word things (movies, shows, songs, stories, books) plod along from point to point and the words are just a sidewalk to be the path.  They journey to some view but need to be not broken and disjoined as to cause tripping.  Occasionally the sidewalk is crafted in a way that it deserves attention more than just what it leads to; the steps in the journey being just as beautiful as the final destination.

So I had some quiet time before church the other week and was digging back into the Biblical minor prophets and hit Zechariah 7.  Don't think I am as studious as a should be; this is more of a rare thing than a regular event.  I have a New King James and was powerfully struck by the passage.  It's a good passage give it a quick read, and it'll only take about 3 minutes.

The people are asking if they still need to keep the old feasts and fasts.  God responds with asking them if it was for Him or themselves that they did this.  If you want to serve Me seek justice and show mercy.

It also tied into something at Sunday School so I dug up the available NIV and shared it with the class.  It was still good but something was missing.

Here's the NIV (particularly verse 5):
5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?

The missing something?  Here's the NKJV:
“Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?

I don't think I'm nerding too much by saying that second for Me adds to the verse.  Still effective without it but how did it get there, or how get left out.  Asking very directly if it was for Me moves the conviction of it from being unsettling to causing weeping.

Young's Literal Translation:
5 `Speak unto all the people of the land, and unto the priests, saying:
 6 When ye fasted with mourning in the fifth and in the seventh [months] -- even these seventy years -- did ye keep the fast [to] Me -- Me?

I went to biblegateway.com and checked many translations.  It was there in the original text and most easy to read translations drop the emphasis of it being asked a second time.  Not all, but most.

I won't say they are awful translations, it just seems for this passage in particular it is fuller with the more personal questioning of God to his people.  I think it also reveals something of God's character.  Pushing past the point of fasting/feasting as a "religious" practice and into loving God's people - love God as God.  Give him the personal love he is due.  It convicts me to be more than just thankful about the world and his people; but also to be thankful and lovingly obedient to Him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That's how I roll - Rollaball

Rollaball looks compelling to watch.  No it's not the 1975 film starring James Caan or the 2002 remake.

I saw the 4-min trailer today care of 22words and it is a Kickstarter documentary. 

A few notes:
Sports Unite.  It unites players on teams, it unites crowds.  Look at the audience watching.

Everyone has hardships - with some it is more obvious that they struggle, but everyone aches.

Hardships are not who you are - A person isn't flat and defined by their struggle.  They are sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and teammates.  Hardships can mold you and forge you but they are not who you are

Life is worth living - people want to get up and celebrate.  Joy wants to burst out in every person in every situation. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Free Music Review - Andy Osenga

An idea hit me this morning - I need to share more.  Music that is, stay away from my kettle chips.

I've been enjoying free music for sometime now and I need to share it more.  I recently had a conversation with someone where I plugged an artist, and at one time they had an offering of their music on Noisetrade (it has since expired).

I'm hoping 1x a week (Tuesdays?) to share a nugget that is available for free.  I had this thought and then Andy Osenga just posted on Noisetrade an oldy of his that I got for free the first time around.  Letters to the Editor, Vol 1.

The timing is also neat in that Andy O is the perfect example of how this process works for the musician and the listener.

Noisetrade artists put their music out there for free and it can be downloaded and enjoyed.  The cost is your e-mail address and zipcode.  The artist gets to build a listener connection.  I say listener because in using these things I've been a listener to many singers/groups and have grown into a fan of a few of them.    You can choose to leave a tip which I have done about 10-20% of the time. I am now an Andy Osenga fan.  I supported (and greatly enjoy) his most recent album "Leonard the Lonely Astronaut".  It's a stretch for my genre preferences but I find the album very moving.

That's how it works.  Something out there for free.  Sometimes artists giveaway music on their website directly so this won't all Noisetrade but that will dominate the idea.

Andy Osenga - Letters to the Editor Vol 1.
The album has songs that are from some fan letters that he converted into songs.  Guitar and vocal layering but a fairly low production amount (which can be a very good thing).  "The Ball Game" is one of my favorites; not just of this album but a favorite song all around.  It's catchy and I like the pace.

A bonus on this offering is "Firstborn Son" from the Leonard album.  It is one of my favorites from the Leonard album.  That song holds the gem of a line "God help the man who helps himself, he needs no other devil".  That line is magnifying glass melting my pride under the light of God's holiness.

So check out this free offering while it's still around.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Praying with Lior" - review

This was sitting in the draft status for some time now - I dusted it off changed a word or two and cleared it out of the queue.

Over the weekend I scored with Netflix, "Praying with Lior."  There is a large volume of items on Netflix and I have been chasing documentaries and enjoying about 80% of them.  The enjoyment I draw is from getting information, hearing someone's story, and then pondering those two items and their combination.

Lior is a boy with down syndrome in an Orthodox Jewish family.  As a toddler on his mother's knee, he sought songs of prayer over "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" or the ABCs. 

The film builds to his Bah mitzvah where he must lead a prayer.  Throughout there is interactions with Synagogue members, classmates at the Jewish school, and with his family. 

I'm about to ruin the documentary with some of the inner details.  I shouldn't say ruin but it will inoculate you or probably lead the emotional train down the tracks I'm about to lay out.  I thought this was well done and I felt for the people.

Synagogue folks seem to look on him with awe and admiration.  That there is some blessing that he has the inside track on.  They ask for his advice on spiritual matters.  To many he is a prodigy.  Later the documentary has the father working with Lior on his prayer.  In some of the basic questions it is very clear that Lior is parroting back things he has heard and isn't really processing them.

The classmate interactions are rough.  Lior leads them in a rousing prayer/song where I was amazed by the emotion and energy everyone was putting forward.  I can't imagine my middle school soccer team being that enthusiastic about anything.  Later some of the classmates talk about the difficult interactions with Lior.  He's the last pick at games; the social cliques seem nice out of pity or even one joke shy of ridicule.  An outsider.

The family is where the heart of this documentary rings out.  Lior laughs, teases and is teased by his siblings.  Lior plays video games and ignores his brother getting ready "yeah, you look great" which his brother rightly calls him out on.  Then Lior stops, fixes his brother's hair, and tells him "it is perfect, don't let anyone touch it".  There is also a special bond that Lior holds with his stepmother (his mom died when he was about 5) and she realizes (and so does he) that she isn't a replacement but a new mother to love him just as much.

Probably "No prophet (or prodigy) is welcome in his home town" and I'm also thinking "there is no welcoming home, like a home with a loving family". 

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Light for the Lost Boy" by Andrew Peterson - review

Saturday was a great day, we had a small birthday party for our youngest; 4 years flies by and I have the cutest kids in the world (it's true).

Also on Saturday the latest album from Andrew Peterson arrived at my doorstep - "Light for the Lost Boy" (LftLB) available at the Rabbitroom.

Shocker here - I love it.  I'm still unpacking it mentally.  It is more of a thematic album aimed directly at crossroads.  AP has written before about the joy of childhood (Little Boy Heart, Good Confession).  Wrapped in that emotional element is the joy in the life adventure before you (Canaan Bound, Nothing to Say).  LftLB is written at one of the next life stages - crossroads is the only word I can come up with.  Not that AP is in that lifestage or done with them, but it is directed at that lifestage.  Counting Stars (especially 'The Reckoning') touched on this theme that now has an entire album putting words to it.

This album touches on the same crossroad as the "coming of age" story.  I read The Yearling about 8 months ago and it is one of these stories, and so much more.  That point of moving from innocence into maturity.  I enjoy this album since this pain never ceases in life and defining it makes it easier to  process.  Maybe pain isn't the right word. 

I don't think we ever stop hitting those crossroads or feeling the heartbreak of people at them currently.  Recently I sat with my youngest as some dental work was done.  My heart broke for her and yet she did great.  It was the pain at seeing the cruel world where teeth rot and pain happens.  Dogs kill rabbits; winds shake bird nests from trees and the eggs break; infants get cancer.  I hate it and something about it is unfair.

Somehow LftLB walks into the mire of a broken world and exits the otherside without whitewashing the pain, dismissing the brokenness, or being trite.  It stands mud-caked on the far shore ready for the washing that will come.

Come Back Soon
This song wrecks me if I let my emotional guard down.  Two lines get me -
1) The boy grew up and the yearling was dead
2) and wept for the death of his little boy heart

The Cornerstone
There is much about this song I enjoy, but primarily it is touching on the paradox of Christian faith.  You never move, but I cannot seem to catch you.  This stone that can be a stumbling block, a true foundation or you spend effort to move to a better location for you and it remains a rock to build upon not move at my whims.

Rest Easy
This is the "radio song" from the album.  It may get some airplay and hopefully reaches people in a meaningful way over the FM waves.  It is lighter than the other songs on the album which still leaves room for it to be powerful.  There was a contest for user videos and this wonderful video won.  Warning! it may make you cry.  It pulls at the heart strings enough to get you and not so much that it is too sappy.  If a star would've twinkled back at the end I would have hated it, the mom pulls through and I'm a wreck.

The Voice of Jesus
This maybe my favorite song.  A message from a parent who knows the inevitable heartache that every child grows to experience, and where the answer is.

The Ballad of Jody Baxter
I read The Yearling so I knew the reference material for this song.  It is a great story of simple life and getting by.  For me it was especially touching as I related to the boy and the father in the story.  This song brought it all back and more.  It puts words to the real heartache of the story Is there anyway that we can change the ending of this tragedy?

Day by Day
I want to call this the bridge of the album, maybe it's more of the pre-bridge.  It transitions from one movement to the other.

Shine Your Light on Me
Another song of AP crafting his heart.  It captures so much of the mystery of hope, hope when things are hopeless.  They were singing out my song, when the song in me had died.

Carry the Fire
This is from the story The Road, which I have not read.  When I'm ready for another book to punch me in the gut it'll be at the top of the list.

You'll Find Your Way
This is a father's message to kids for the road that lies ahead.  It is a road that they must walk on there own and I hope/pray that I've prepared them.  That they remember lessons.

Don't you Want to Thank Someone
This song is long but it is the icing on the cake.  Maybe it's a better thing...../ To be more than merely innocent / But to be broken then redeemed by love 

So much reminds me of GK Chesterton -
The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom.
Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets.  Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs?  We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers.
Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?  -Orthodoxy
It is a great closing to a very enjoyable album.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"It is the nature of love to bind itself....' GKC

Today is our 14th Anniversary.  I figured I'd throw some GKC at the subject (since he threw himself at it first)

"The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words—'free-love'—as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants." -The Defendant
The Defendant is truly a great book presented as a line of defenses of common things that were fading or being attacked in Society in 1901.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Insight

With the Olympics over and the daily visual reminders of physical fitness gone, I thought I'd pass along an interesting statistic - 40% of wives think their ass is too big; 35% think it is too small; the remaining 25% love their husbands just as they are.

(I posted this on FB but wanted to preserve it here too)

But since I mentioned Olympics let me share this tremendously funny video too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Like yeast - The Dark Knight Rises

The other night I watched "The Dark Knight Rises".  It was a great wrap up to the trilogy.  I saw it then watched a review from Thomas McKenzie who is very insightful. 

 Now some deeper thoughts (spoilers will follow):

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why do good?

I heard the same message 3x now which might amount to more than coincidence.  Why do "good" things?

I was reading some Old Testament and hit this in Zechariah 7:4-10 (bold added):
4 Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’”

8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

Two days prior Troy Polamalu posted this quote on facebook:
"There are many human activities that are good by nature, but cease to be good when done for ulterior motives. Works such as fasting, vigil, prayer, psalmody, almsgiving and hospitality are good by nature; but not good when done out of vainglory." - St. Maximos the Confessor

And then sometime prior to that (but I was re-hit recently) GK Chesterton struck me with this:
Many people have wondered why it is that children's stories are so full of moralizing.  The reason is perfectly simple:  it is that children like moralizing more than anything else, and eat it up as if it were so much jam.  The reason why we, who are grown up, dislike moralizing is equally clear: it is that we have discovered how much perversion and hypocrisy can be mixed with it; we have grown to dislike morality not because morality is moral, but because morality is so often immoral.  But the child has never seen the virtues twisted into vices; the child does not know that men are not only bad from good motives, but also often good from bad motives.  The child does not know that whereas the Jesuit may do evil that good may come, the man of the world often does good that evil may come.  Therefore, the child has a hearty, healthy, unspoiled, and insatiable appetite for mere morality; for the mere difference between a good little girl and a bad little girl.  And it can be proved by innumerable examples that when we are quite young we do like the moralizing story.  Grown-up people like the "Comic Sandford and Merton," but children like the real "Sandford and Merton."  -'Daily News'

Sandford & Merton was a very popular children's book that has Tommy Merton growing from a spoiled six year old into a virtuous man.  (thank you wikipedia).  GKC's last point was regarding adults looking upon the silliness of the children's book, while children enjoyed it straight forward.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mum's the word - Mumford & Sons

I'm late to the party - I just discovered Mumford & Sons.  Okay, I vaguely knew about them but just bought the album (a $5 well spent).  I'm 2 days into it so here are some raw quick thoughts.

Some quick thoughts:
1. Moving music moves every man.
I had this playing in the background at work when one of our assembly guys came in.  Tommy is a "salt of the earth" kind of guy.  I've seen him bring people to tears with heartfelt actions and then bring tears with terrible gas.  Tommy lived the hard life for a while and is now doing what he can to get bye and have laughs along the way.

Tommy comes in with a question regarding a drawing and simply says "Mumford & Sons".  I thought it was a question regarding a youtube video title but he was identifying the music.  It is the first time anyone has known any of my work background music short of a briefly playing "Don't Worry Be Happy".

I had it playing while driving to an ultimate frisbee game.  I was giving a fellow player a ride and I've tried many times to strike up a conversation and nothing has stuck yet.  He pounced on M&S which he first heard 3 years ago (again I'm late to the party).

2.  Music can tell the truth with out being "christian" and "christian music" doesn't always tell the truth.

On first listen I was wrapped up in the level of emotion that was being drawn out of me.  I listened to this while driving and found myself speeding quite a bit.  These songs are digging out some deeper thoughts and feelings that are true. 
-the journey is part of the adventure.
-I screw things up and feel sad.
-the joy of a WAKE-UP moment.

I think they are tapping some deep truths in an honest way (not formula for radio play).  It is their own songs that they want to play.  They also aren't just dwelling angst or brooding, it has some element that seems to say "get moving and fix it".

3.  My music snobbery would likely have robbed me of this.
Confession - I am a music snob.  I don't want to be, but I am.  I am getting better.  Something in me rises up and wants to hate popular music.  I generally don't join the bandwagon, I throw rocks at it.  I've gotten better in that I no longer cast stones or dispersions at it.  I do ignore it though.  Had I known they played at the Grammies I may have skipped out.

There is something about earning your credibility as a fan of anything.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have a great crowd this year now that they are winning.  The true fans (the people that love the team) were with them through the years (decades) in the basement and know the joy of being in the glory after dwelling in the dark.  I am more ambivalent as a baseball fan and am happy for the die-hard fans and the new fans.

In highschool a close friend was working at the mall and I ran an errand for him of going to a t-shirt shop and getting a Nirvana shirt.  Adam had credibility as a Nirvana fan, he just wanted another shirt.  I enjoyed them vicariously through him but I had my own bands to follow.  Some typical teenage lads were hanging out and started heckling me as a bandwagon jumper since Nirvana had recently caught some popularity.  I can still hear them saying "Oh, maybe you should get a Pearl Jam shirt too!".  Pearl Jam was long considered, rightly or wrongly, as the music industry's formula push into the grunge genre.  I remember making the same jokes about Pearl Jam.  Bandwagons and credibility.

Oddly I will gladly help people hop onto any bandwagon when I have credibility.  I have long been an Andrew Peterson fan;  I rejoice for any new fans.

I don't know if I have some desire to not follow the crowd, to find my own thing, to be the first (or an early) discoverer.  Sports (playing), books, music, tv-shows - I seem to innately migrate towards a niche which isn't the popular crowd.

Somewhere I started learning the lesson, and I still continue to learn, that I can passionately enjoy what I enjoy and let others do the same without casting the stones.  Maybe I'm older and just don't care, maybe I'm maturing.  Nah, Pearl Jam still sucks.

Monday, June 25, 2012

$0.02 on "Brave"

We went and saw "Brave" on Saturday.  It was our first attempt as a family of 5 to get through a movie - it was a success all around.  This movie is wonderful.  Some scary parts but a great movie.

There is a big scary bear, immediately. It's a key part of the story so it isn't there for no reason or merely to startle. To me this was similar to "Up" being incredibly sad in the first 10 minutes. It would be unnecessary in a kid's movie, but this isn't a kid's movie - it is telling a story and it is part of the story. A key part that is built upon.

Pixar is masters at story telling.  They have made one movie that I thought was poor (Cars 2), not terrible but they have set the bar so high that it was disappointing when they missed.  That experience left me curious if they could still deliver or had somehow been tainted by Disney.  Did the Disney machine, which is relentless in churning out pointless sequels and cheap Tinkerbell movies, grind up Pixar and make them assimilate?  The answer is NO.

Beyond the previews leading you to believe this is a just a tom-boy struggle to fit into a Scottish clan society this is really a movie about family and pride.  It is a tale of being stuck in your pride.  The men are full out buffoons but it is still a great story of family.

I also thought it is a monumental leap for being a mother-daughter movie that every guy will enjoy and appreciate too.  The father-son movie has been done well ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", "How to Train Your Dragon") in the kid movie realm and outside.  I can't think of any mother-daughter movie that didn't firmly drop in the realm of "chick flick".

Pixar has been nominated before for "Best Picture" which I think was just a gesture of kindness to "Toy Story 3" and the full saga.  I think that "Brave" could be a strong contender and at the very least might make Hollywood reflect on what their main business should be - telling stories.

And elsewhere, and in all ages, in braver fashion, under cleaner skies, the same eternal tale-telling still goes on, and the whole mortal world is a factory of immortals. -GK Chesterton

Friday, June 22, 2012

Engineer's Theme Song - Elmer's Electric Tricycle by Phredd

I consider this my engineering theme song (or at least one of them when I'm really motivated)

I can quickly think of 5 reasons why this song rocks -
1.  It's catchy
2. It's on ukulele
3. Phredd (Fred) and Keilah sound great.  I hope to built father/daughter moments like this.
4. "workin' not shirkin'"
5. It reminds me of "Andrew Henry's Meadow" which is just a fantastic book.

Enjoy the song!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

...on Father's Day

This past Sunday was Father's Day.  Often a "Father's Day" sermon consists of one of two messages (sometimes both).
1) "you suck, get in the game" - a message of how important fathers are; meant to motivate you because you aren't doing it good enough.
2) "let me tell you how to do it right, because you suck" - a message with the 5 skills, or 3 attributes of a good father.

I find it imperative to quickly note that I have failed at being the perfect father, I will fail at doing it today and tomorrow too.  I used to try for that perfection - now, if I have my wits, I don't try.  Not that I don't do the "good dad" things, I just don't try to measure up to that perfection.  Trying to measure up to an impossible standard is a formula for failure and guilt.  I am still getting my head around not trying (in pride) to establish things on my own strength and then failing, rather than completely yielding to God.  Motivated by joyful obedience rather than rules.

Sunday was a different "Father's Day" sermon.  Our pastor shared from his life about his grandfather's chair and the joy of being gathered around it.  It was simple reflections on a good father.  It then segued to "if you had a good father or not, you have a great heavenly father".  This got me dwelling on two things.  Rather than dwelling it was more that it fueled one fire and started another blaze altogether.

1) Stories. 
Stories connect.  Generally stories work by either relating to you somehow, or expressing some truth that is slippery to get exact words around.  "The kingdom of heaven is like.....".  The nature of truth is that it rings something within us, so in a sense truth works in the same way; it relates.

I hear (and have myself) people who struggle with "sharing their faith" because they do not have the perfect words, or don't feel knowledgeable enough.  The simplest solution - instead of formulae or methods - is to simply share your faith.  What has God done for you?  What difference has Jesus made to you (in you)?  The reasons for belief are important but are not a substitute for the faith.  Tell your story.

I've lately (6 months?, 1 year?) been dwelling more and more on the Bible as one continuous story.  I don't think it is said outright but the Bible gets cornered into Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and/or a collection of examples (good and bad) in which God reveals how we should live.  Pushing King David into a story about adultery flattens him from being a real person who was after God's own heart.  He was great and greatly flawed; he was human.  I've been trying to see Genesis to Revelation as the unravelling of one story.  It has been overwhelming as it has worked together.  This is probably why "The Jesus Storybook Bible" has become one of my favorite books.  The Bible relates in new ways.

2) Fathers as the everlasting story element. 
Not unrelated to item 1 is that everyone can relate to a story with a father, or a lack of one.  All verbal descriptions of God will fall short, but they can help us understand a facet of Him.  But when he is described as the Good Shepherd; I miss out. I've never tended sheep.  I can understand protecting, leading and feeding; but that is a far cry from doing it.  Understanding how to ride a bike is greatly different from the experience of riding a bike.  So that if something was called not just a good bike, but The Good Bike.  It will ride fast and leisurely, smooth in all terrains, effortless to navigate and manage.  Wheels grip, grips stay on handlebars, bars do not bank you in nasty spots, pedals will not break, and brakes always work even when wet.  Having ridden a bike (and failed with resulting bloody knees) I have a deeper understanding.  The experience and trials of where it has fallen from the standard helps me understand how great that level of perfection is.

Now having some years as a father I understand the importance of a father and how to do it right.  Most importantly is to help my children to understand that their hunger for a good father needs to go beyond me.  There is a Father much more important, and who does it better.  He loves perfectly.  Once grasped it is like riding a bike, you never forget.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Give me a ticket for an airplane.....

I was digging thru a few draft blog posts and came across this.  It is rather meaningless but here it be.

I was flying back home from Bakersfield and started to wonder how much I've actually flown.  It felt like a great amount.
So here's my list from the best of my recollection -

Lancaster-Florida - Disneyworld (8? y/o)
Lancaster-Boston - mission trip & amusement park (16?) -
Pgh - Guatemala - mission trip - incredible
Pgh - Birmingham - construction equipment seminar
Pgh-Kansas City - TWA interview
KC - Wash. DC - camping trip with friends
KC - Lancaster - family visits
KC - Wisconsin - ultimate tourney
KC - Phoenix - ultimate tourney
KC - Pittsburgh - family visits
KC - Seattle - Boeing training
KC - Seattle - Boeing training (composites)
KC-WV - Bombardier interview
KC-Pgh - USAir interview
Pgh - LA - aircraft training at UCLA
Pgh - Harrisburg - family visits
Pgh - Cancun - vacation
Pgh - Cedar Rapids - friend's wedding
Pgh - SanDiego - friend's wedding
Pgh - SanFran - Becky had training
Pgh - Minnesota -
Pgh - Florida - Becky had training

Pgh - Wisconsin - work, install
Pgh - Saskatoon - work

Pgh - Houston - evaluate equipment
Pgh - Chicago - ERP evalaution
Pgh - Edomonton - equipment evaluation
Pgh - Bakersfield - equipment startup part 1
Pgh - Bakersfield - equipment startup part 2

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pitt is the Ultimate Champions

One of the highlights of my weekend was watching Pitt play for the USA Ultimate college championships.  They defeated Wisconsin 15-10 in the finals.  Go Pitt!

This warmed my heart for many reasons.

1. I love ultimate & I went to Pitt.  The club team started the 2nd half of my senior year (spring '98) by Kirk Edleman.  Despite already being hooked by the sport I had no part of the college team, so it's just an alum cheering for his namesake.

2.  When I did start playing ultimate ('97) there were a few highlights of that team (Mountaineers). 
A) Running deep to have a disc float down into my lap - thrown by either Henry Thorne or Evan Schmidt.  Every speedy rookie should have the joy of chasing a perfectly thrown disc to help them learn to cut.
B) For halftime at games Henry & Karen's kids would take the field.  Watching 6 y/o Alex Thorne toss wobble free flicks 40 yards to his 4 y/o brother Max.  Amazing for 2 reasons. 1) These youngsters were physically too small to throw a backhand.  They couldn't bend their arms while holding a disc and get any velocity; so they only threw flicks.  All rookies struggle making a flick happen and these kids were effortless with it.  2)  Catching.  They didn't do sloppy pancake catches to protect their face; it was an automatic grab of the rim regardless of velocity or location.

Alex & Max both played a major part in the Pitt program accomplishing this feat.  Congrats to them and their proud parents.

3.  In many ways this is the purest and hardest fought championship in sport. I would watch the championship game regardless of the teams on the field.  It is still an underground sport where the "pro" league (just started this year) may end up paying you $200/game.  FYI, that isn't enough to live on.  Every college team is hungry for the title.  They work hard, they practice hard, and they play hard.  The players work to be the last team standing when the fields are cleared of those who didn't measure up.  There is one championship and one champion.  Not computer selected, not controlled by a political structure with TV contracts; it is purely who played the game best and won.  Better than every other team out there.

There are not really scholarships for ultimate.  Pitt has one (not a full-ride) and I'm not aware of any others.  Ultimate battles for athletes with the "real" sports for players.  I'm not sure there will ever be an ultimate coach sitting in a living room trying to convince some parents that their school is better than all other schools for their precious child to go play ultimate at.  No university is paying ultimate coaches.  I've heard the "real" sport coaches deride any participation and leverage against it.  Ultimate is played by folks who love the game and play it at the highest level for the love of the game.

Go Ultimate!  Go Pitt! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

GKC on birthdays

On this day in 1874, GK Chesterton was born - I nearly let it slip without a quote:
The first fact about the celebration of a birthday is that it is a way of affirming defiantly, and even flamboyantly, that it is a good thing to be alive….But there is a second fact about Birthdays, and the birth-song of all creation, a fact which really follows on this; but which, as it seems to me, the other school of thought almost refuses to recognize. The point of that fact is simply that it is a fact. In being glad about my Birthday, I am being glad about something which I did not myself bring about.

Friday, May 25, 2012

You'll Find Your Way - AP Song

Andrew Peterson will have a new album coming out this fall.  I caught this song a few months ago (live) and I'm still excited for the album which will hold it.  This video hit the y-tube recently, so I thought I'd share it.

Jeremiah 6:16, which is referenced:
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Watch the first 0:52 (below) for a good introduction :

Then watch here for the song:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Behind the Times

Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities.  When Italy is mad on art the Church seems too Puritanical; when England is mad on Puritanism the Church seems too artistic.  When you quarrel with us now you class us with kingship and despotism; but when you quarrelled with us first it was because we would not accept the divine despotism of Henry VIII.  The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer.  It keeps the key of a permanent virtue. -GK Chesterton (The Ball and the Cross)

Friday, May 11, 2012

What a bunch of Hippocrats

The other day I listened to "The Hippocratic Oath".  It was part of a librivox.org collection of Non-fiction. 

Today I heard someone make a boldly stupid statement of "doctors performing useless amputations for profit" and it reminded me of the Oath.  There is now modified/modern versions but I find the history and ethic weight of the original the most compelling.

The original Hippocratic Oath (thanks wikipedia)

I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this art to my own sons, and to my teacher's sons, and to disciples bound by an indenture and oath according to the medical laws, and no others.

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

California - part 1 - The Work

I recently had a work trip to Bakersfield California.  It's a nice enough area.  In Bakersfield pocket communities are all over and they have decent highways to get everywhere.

A customer has a new plant starting up and I was there to help my company's equipment tie in and run perfectly.  Nothing like this remotely happened but it was still worth a shot.  3 levels of things went wrong from 3 different areas. 

Failure #1 was that we had an assembly problem (Assembly, read the drawing) and put two pulleys on backwards in Ellwood City.  I was burned by this for 2 months at the last startup so I managed to check and find it in 10 minutes.  The work pace is slower in CA but it managed to get done and things looked good to go.

Failure #2 was that we (Engineering, know your application) had v-belts delivering the motor power to the turning straightener.  I'm sure that isn't understood by most of my readers but that was the plan.  Well this machine needed to deliver a high amount of torque at a low running speed.  That is something v-belts aren't particularly good at.  It ran fine at our shop and through programming but at testing material being produced the belts slipped.  In the machine world this is technically known as "not having enough ass".  It took me some scrambling and working with a local supplier who is trying to get in the door but we got some parts, at a hefty price, delivered the next day.

Failure #3 was the motherload.  We implemented a customer design and it had some parts that ran very close to each other - 0.003" (which is about the thickness of a hair).  It was fine until some material was being worked and this clearance disappeared.  When moving metal hits non-moving metal it doesn't last long.  Friction, heat, and it seizes/welds itself into place.  We identified the problem in about 10 minutes, but it'll take a good 2 weeks to fix everything and get it back into running condition.

All of this took a 3 day trip and stretched it into a 6 day trip.  A long 6 day trip.  It wasn't hard work; I actually enjoyed much of it.  The people were great to meet and work with.  The town was good.  The hard part was being 6 days away from family and friends.  Being away from home.

There was nothing "freeing" in the trip.  I tried disc golf and one course could fit inside my garage and the other was like navigating the labyrinth and a creepy David Bowie-ish figure was even there.  I quit after 3 holes.  I watched some TV, ate at a few restaurants, read, and wrote a few things.  I have a new understanding for those who have to travel alone often for work.  Road life can be the pits, or at least full of potholes.

"For a plain, hard-working man the home is not the one tame place in the world of adventure.  It is the one wild place in the world of rules and set tasks.  The home is the one place where he can put the carpet on the ceiling or the slates on the floor if he wants to." GK Chesterton

Friday, April 13, 2012

Letter to the Center Presby Church Congregation

(following is the letter to be sent out to the congregational members of our church.  It makes for an easy blog post)

Dear Center Church Family,
This letter is notification of a congregational vote scheduled for Sunday May 20th 2012 immediately after the Sunday Worship service.  The vote is “Should Center Presbyterian Church explore separation from the PC-USA?” 
How did we get here?
Center Church was formed in 1801 and called its first pastor in 1802.  We have a long history of steadily seeking where God is leading us.  We moved with the United Presbyterian church when it merged with the southern Presbyterian Churches in the United States and established the PC-USA in 1983.
For about the past 15 years the PC-USA has drifted away from a high Biblical standard.  Much of this seems to have been an effort to be more inclusive and this has led to an erosion of Biblical authority.  Being inclusive while forgetting our call to be the Body of Christ is too high of a cost.  Last year, Amendment 10-A was passed by the Denomination.  It allows the standards for Ordination to be determined by the local church and Presbytery rather than the national body.  This is counter to the understanding of a united body of believers.  This has already resulted in the Ordination of practicing homosexual clergy, elders and deacons.  There have been concerns over this and other policies and stances made by the PC-USA.  This last step in the drift is beyond reconciliation and there are insufficient means to undo the Amendment.   Loving your neighbor and reaching out to a fallen world does not have to mean losing your footing on the solid foundation of God's Word.
Where are we now?
Discussions regarding the “if”, “when” and “how” of leaving have occurred informally many times in the past.  In November of 2011, the Session unanimously voted to explore separation and notified the Shenango Presbytery.  A Task Force of Center Church Members has been assembled to assist in the research, information collecting, and leg work of the process.  We are following the Presbytery process of Gracious Separation and this congregational vote is the next step. 

Where do we go from here?
We see this as a crucial time to move where God may be leading us.  As we proceed, we are seeking a few requirements for our future denomination decision.
  1. Affirm Jesus Christ, God the Father's only begotten Son, as our only Lord and Savior.
  2. A high view of Biblical Authority.
  3. Property and assets to be held by the congregation.
  4. Affirm the sanctity of marriage and human life.
There are a few leading options to consider (Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Covenant of Presbyterians) but the first decision is “Should Center Church consider separation from the PC-USA?”

Please keep the denomination, our Presbytery, and our Church in prayer; and please plan on attending the vote on May 20th.  If you have any questions or concerns there will be a discussion forum on May 6th following the worship service.  There will also be information available in the Narthex or feel free to talk with Pastor Woodman or any of the Elders.

By His Grace,
Center Church Session

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Music to My Ears

Just a simple posting of a video that shows the power of music.  I'd say more, but I don't need to.  Such a happy clip.
(this is yet anothe reason I like 22words who originally posted it)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shhh - I'm reading (A review of "Silence")

I had much material to potentially write a quick review on (The Hunger Games (movie), The Yearling) but the grand winner is "Silence" by Shusaki Endo.

This book is stirring.  Imagine seeing an 8-month old tiger and an 8-month old bear tossed in a pen and fighting to the death.  That's how this book feels.  Things that you know get dangerous as they matured but seem manageable when they are small.  There are ugly questions and ugly answers.  But they are important questions that can't be ignored.

The tough questions -
Torture - How much could you take for a cause? How much should you allow others to take for your cause?
Judas - Was Judas happy with what he was doing in betraying Jesus or did he have an internal turmoil?  Did he suffer?
Is God silent in the suffering of the world?  In our personal suffering?

This book is not a ray of sunshine, but it isn't all clouds either.

Written in the 1960s, it starts as a collection of letters and then a narrative picks up from there.  In the 1600s two priests are sent to Japan to explore the sudden decline of what was a successful mission field.  They are also seeking any information about the reported apostasy of a renowned Father who had been working in the country for 20 years.

There are spoilers that follow.  I will say that I knew the ending before reading and it was still riveting to read.  3 days which isn't my usual pace.
I knew of this book from a sermon by Thomas MacKenzie (found here).  That too is worth investing some time (20 minutes) as it's a good sermon.  So I heard that sermon and was interested, then the Rabbitroom covered this book.  I took the plunge and I'm still soaking it up.    Knowing the ending didn't ruin it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This review is B.O.R.ing

Two days ago was the official release of Birds of Relocation.  This is the latest album by Eric Peters.
I've met Eric a few times, he's even stayed at the Kulp B&B.  He is a regular on the RR and that place is a gateway drug for good music and stories.  My first real introduction to his music was hearing him play "Chrome" at Hutchmoot; I had bought the cd earlier in the day.  In typical fashion for that collection of artists it was a story of the song followed by the song.  This makes you listen to every word.  I listened and I was hooked.

Since then he has played at our church twice and each time was followed by good conversation, good food and good beer at the North Country Brewhouse.  Some tall crazy WV'er was around for one of these too (S.D. Smith who wrote an excellent BOR review at The Rabbit Room).

Also for each concert, James Witmer and Vince Anastasi provided an opener.  There's been an odd forging of friendships over this music.  Truly a wonder and a blessing of meeting new people who you may not have met otherwise. 

Enough back-story (and name/link dropping; I dropped so many links you'd think I worked at a chain factory), onto the review.

I like "Birds of Relocation".  I liked "Chrome" too, but it was dark and heavy.  Chrome put words to points of lost anguish.  Sometimes that is music to fit the bill.  BOR took a different turn because it is written from a different place.

I was thinking about this while driving.  My mind kept coming back to Jonah.  It seems like the "Chrome" album was written from a point of being inside the fish.  BOR is from the sandy beach.  Having been vomited onto the shore for the task, now ready to do it.  Yes, Eric was just compared to sand-crusted whale vomit.  I'm sure I could parallel "Scarce" and "The Miracle of Forgetting" to early aspects in the Jonah narrative.

I like EP music because it is written with heart.  "Chrome" had the heart of Jonah in the belly of the fish.  I want to have hope, I know where my hope comes from, I just can't see it.

BOR has survived the ordeal.  It is thankfully rejoicing in the sunshine.  It is a proclamation of grace and redemption; of hope fulfilled.  There are still monumental tasks before you, that you are called to; but the path is lit, and it is beautiful.

So yes, I recommend BOR.  I recommended "Chrome" usually with a warning that it was heavy.  Musically it flowed but before long you were wrapped in the struggle.  Sometimes that is music I need.  Eric delivers great melodies again but BOR delivers the other side of that struggle.

Monday, March 26, 2012

PC-USA, one more step removed

This will show up in the April newsletter for Center Presbyterian Church.  It makes for a quick blog post, and work is draining my today so this is all the effort my blog will receive.

Gracious Separation Update

"The hammer-strokes are coming thick and fast now; and filling the world with infernal thunders; and there is still the iron sound of something unbreakable deeper and louder than all the things that break." GK Chesterton

We are a few steps further into the process of Gracious Separation from the PC-USA.  We are following the process from the Presbytery and here are the upcoming items.

The CPC Session is slated to meet with the Dismissal Team from the Shenango Presbytery on April 10th.  From this meeting Session must meet 2 more times prior to a congregational meeting.

Most likely, sometime in May we will have a congregational meeting to decide "Should Center Presbyterian Church explore dismissal from the PC-USA?"  A quorum needs to be present for the meeting and 80% majority vote is required to pass the measure. 

We are thankful for the many conversations and much prayer that have surrounded this process.  A few more opportunities are being planned to answer any questions and allow for further discussions.

Following the first vote a new denomination can be selected and a second congregational vote will proceed to determine if we want to affiliate with the chosen denomination.  80% majority is once again needed.  Please continue to pray for Center Church as we seek to continue serving Jesus in this new opportunity.
Colossians 2:6-8
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sounds of the times

"The hammer-strokes are coming thick and fast now; and filling the world
with infernal thunders; and there is still the iron sound of something
unbreakable deeper and louder than all the things that break." GK Chesterton
This was a passage I hit on the drive.  I've been back to it many times since because it just sticks in my head.  Well written and revealing such  a great understanding of the existence of Truth beyond (and before) the modern fads and fashions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Notes: "Superstition of Divorce" by GK Chesterton

This will be more than my normal review because this book has hit me as more than a normal book.  It is a solid declaration for reason.  So it seems reasonable to not just review but also to provide an overview.

I initially avoided this book because it sounded old and dated.  In some ways it is because people don't think like this anymore.  It's hard and I'd rather be lazy.  Also reading about divorce just doesn't seem appealing; and how is it a superstition?

Now a note/warning.  This is about divorce, and much more.  If that is an open wound or a point of suffering you may want to skip this; maybe not.  GKC does hit many aspects of divorce and he does not coddle to people, nor does he abandon them.  If compassion seems lacking in my write up it is probably something that I missed rather than he.  He was a vigorous defender of the "common man" putting eloquent words and powerful arguments to the basic principles that every man and woman knows.

So here goes.  This is lengthy and quote heavy, but lighter than reading the 150ish page book.  Mostly I've collected some of the key passages in hopes of passing along a glimpse of the arguments.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jason Gray - The Golden Boy & The Prodigal

I've had this song playing all weekend.  I bought a collection of Jason Gray cds sometime ago and I remember thinking "eh, it's okay" and put them on the shelf.  He struck me as a having a "pop" feel which I tend to back away from.  Whether it is trying to be counter-culture, a rebel, an individual apart from the mob, a snob, - I do it too often and too quickly.  Generally I run from music that has "ooo-s" or "whoa-s".  Jason does it often.  After hearing (and actually listening to) a few more songs I had to dig out those old ones.  There is something truthful here and the more I listen to Jason the more I like him.  He is incredibly personable and vulnerable on stage, and it is good music.  He sings from points of hope in brokenness.

Back to the song.  This is a good version of it.  Jason Gray is really good at telling a story and the introduction is the key that unlocks the song.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"The Secret People" by GKC

This is simply a cut and paste of GKC's poem "The Secret People".  It lands on many sentiments that resonate with me currently. 

The Secret People
Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,
For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet.
There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Table the issue....issue the table

This will be more of a photo-blog session; except I'm not a photographer.

There it is.  It doesn't look like much, but trust me it's there.  Behind the tree?  No.  It is the tree.
Just after we moved in the borough came through and widened our street and poured new sidewalks.  I asked the contractors to drop the logs out back and they were happy to comply and have less to haul away.  So some monster logs sat beside my garage for about a year.   A co-worker was into wood and had a portable bandsaw.  He hauled the logs away and brought them back the next day as rough sawn lumber.

So I had logs drying in my garage for about 2 years until I finally came around to building something.  First was a TV stand.  My latest was a coffee table.  It is done and I've had many comments and questions so I figured I'd write more about it.

Early on I was bouncing ideas off of Becky and decided to let it be a conversation piece. 

So instead of a square finished top, it ended up being rough bark outside that is the shape of the log. 

It is about 1.75-2" thick top portion.  20" at the thickest and 50" long.  I zipped off about 10" from the flatened end because the bark came up to a very thin section.  I just thought that would separate and cause heartache later.  That top piece weighed about 60lbs.

I brough the table upstairs to burn in the heart.  The heart was Becky's idea.  I pondered it for a while before locking into it; but it was already a special piece of furniture for us, now just more so.

It was also temporarily upstairs for sizing and to see if the botttom shelf passed muster.  It's hard to tell, but I messed up pretty big.  The legs ended up being a rhombus.  They were square but ended up being skewed by about 1".

  That makes a rectangular shelf about as useful as an outie belly button.  It was obviously not centered. and caused me MUCH frustration.

So I got creative.  This is where I like woodworking.  I take a general shape and plan and have room to adapt for mistakes, but more often an idea that develops as the piece starts taking shape.  I'd hope it is room for improvements instead of corrections, but you deal with what's in front of you.

So the bottom shelf has two tapered ends and a perpendicular piece that is rabbeted in.  It's sort of like a bowtie.
I'm really happy with the grains and swirls that pulled through.  The log was cut where the a branch-off started.  That made it real tough to plane.  I hand planed the top until my frustration threshold got to match my level of acceptance.  This piece moved from tough knots to smooth well established grains to soft as butter spalting.  It was difficult to find a smooth swing that was making chips without digging in.

 I ended up with 4 coats of Helmspar Exterior Urethane.  About once a week I look at the reflection of the top finish and think about roughing it up and putting in another coat.  There are just a few puckers that could be coated better.  I filled in the big knot in the middle just so it wasn't a huge dust hole.

This shows off the shelves slightly better.  I have a "Bible Shelf" that is about 5" below the top.  There is a center support rib in the middle turning it into a front/back shelf area.  I thought this would be great for rigidity and also hidden screws.  Counterbored screws attach that board to the top, 4 screws through the shelf into the board. 

We are still Center Presbyterian Church

I am on the Gracious Separation Task Force at our church.  The team is to know the gracious separation policy that has been approved by Shenango Presbytery and help session with the process and legwork.  This is an article that was included in our church's monthly newsletter.

We are still Center Presbyterian Church

"14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ephesians 4:14-16

We are a Presbyterian Church.  Presbyterian denominations differ in some basic characteristics from other Protestant denominations.  We hold to a defined doctrine, organization (governance) and worship.  There are about 10 Presbyterian denominations in the United States.


We are a confessional tradition.  This has the implication that not only are we expressing our faith, a "confession of faith" which has authority; but we also unite with other churches on the theology.  It is not an individual matter.  Individuals should understand Scripture and carry out their confession with the body of believers.


The government is by councils of elders elected at the congregational level.  The congregational elders report and work with the presbytery which works with the synod which unites at the general assembly.  This structure helps to maintain discipline, united theology, and connection across the larger body.  Large missional work (disaster relief, famine, etc) would be a prohibitive burden for a small congregation - but as a united body the Gospel is spread worldwide.


Presbyterian worship can vary across the denominations under the Presbyterian umbrella.  All adhere that only two sacraments are administered - Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  They vary on music  (type and instruments) and Liturgical elements (benedictions, doxologies, confessions, prayer, creeds, scripture).

With that background in mind we are at a crossroad.  We have been affiliated with the PC-USA sits its formation in 1983.  The PCUSA denomination has shown a steady decline of adhering to some beliefs held essential by Center and other churches.


  • 1983 positional paper on the "test of Authority" - "...all theories of the authority of scripture are tested by the effectiveness and usefulness of the the interpretation that they involve."   Using the test of authority by "usefulness and effectiveness" rather than the fact of God speaking to us through the scriptures.
  • 1994 (and 2001) overtures which expressed opposition to partial birth abortion were rejected.
  • 2001 General Assembly reacting to a minster quoted as saying "what's the big deal about Jesus" a motion to declare Jesus Christ "the singular saving Lord" was debated.  The Assembly refused to make this statement rather it declared Jesus is "unique".
  • 2008 General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission found that "It is not improper for ministers of the Word and Sacrament to perform same sex ceremonies"
  • 2010 General Assembly passed a Book of Order Amendment removing the clause "fidelity and chastity" from ordination standards.  This was the fourth attempt to change this clause.
  • 2010 the PCUSA was one of 16 signatures to a letter sent to the White House in support of health care reform that does not create new restrictions to abortion.
With the erosion of holding to essential doctrine and the slide of steady governance Session has voted to explore separation.  Shenango Presbytery has established a process for Gracious Separation and we are a few steps into that process.  Over the next few weeks and months we will continue forward by meeting with Presbytery Representatives, Special Session meetings, and a congregational meeting specifically asking "Should Center Church explore separation from the PC-USA?".  The process approved by the Presbytery has rightly set a high bar of 80% approval within the congregation for this measure. 

To help guide the process, assist with leg work, and report to session a task force has been formed.  The team consists of Jason Dunn, Dan Kulp, Harold McDowell, Jean Richardson and Pastor Bill Woodman.  We are excited for this opportunity before the congregation.  It should not be a church dividing item it should be a life giving opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work through us as individuals and as a body.  We look forward to where God is leading us.  Please pray for us, our congregation and our denomination as we continue forward.

Thank you on behalf of the Session and the Gracious Separation Task Force,

-Dan Kulp