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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nothing to Say - FALSE (AP & SCC concert review)

I may finally be over my emotional high from Sunday night.  I might be able to string together a few sensible thoughts that have been converted into sentences. Or as close as I get to sensible thoughts.

Becky & I went to the Songs & Stories Tour in North Olmsted Ohio (south of Cleveland).  Playing was Steven Curtis Chapman, Andrew Peterson and Josh Wilson.  I have been to a fair number of concerts, and right now I can't think of a better one.  Randall Goodgame in our church was awesome.  Eric Peters has been outstanding.  Some duet around 1990 was hitting some incredible harmonies, "Phil & John" as openers for Phil Keaggy made an incredible night.

SCC has a way with a crowd.  I am probably close to having seen him play ten times and he has always connected.  I've seen him backstage and he has always been the same guy.  He lets you know him, and like him.  There was a brief intermission and he came in and played  "Cinderella" and "Heaven".  Heartbreaking, tearjerkers that turns the crowd into a mumbling mess.  I'm sure some shows are easier than others but he said "I can play these songs because I know someday I will dance with my princess in heaven.  I trust in a God who loves us.  It is either all true, or it's all a lie."  Profound.

I was vaguely familiar with Josh Wilson's work, primarily through what gets played on the radio.  "I Refuse" has a message that resonates with me.  It was the first time I caught his instrumental of Amazing Grace. Very cool.  He loves playing and singing, and if I'm ever stuck in a security lockdown I want him there.

Andrew Peterson, AP.  It is my duty to fully disclose that I am familiar with his music.  Similar to how Winnie the Pooh is familiar with honey; I eat it up.  I eat it all up and want more.  For the primary show he played "Many Roads", "Dancing in the Minefield", "Planting Trees" and tested out a new one which I managed to record.   I now know my camera SUCKS for audio.  It was a song to his oldest son as he finds his own way, to remember the ancient roads.

The show seemed over and all in all it was a great show.  There was much sharing about marriage, life, and family; 3 things I'm fond of so that worked out.  We saw some friends from Grove City up front so we starting wandering up to say "hi, have a safe trip home" and noted that James caught Ben Shive and his wife, Julie, caught AP.  So we all caught AP;  there was good chatter on background, and songs, Becky quizzed him about books (more chatter) and I gave a gentle request for an afterglow.  He pounced on the opportunity like a kitten on string.

It ended being about 10 people in a few rows while AP took requests from his perch on a folding chair.  The songs ended up being (I had the feeling it would have been awkward to record them):
All You'll Ever Need, Lay Me Down, Little Boy Heart, In the Night My Hope Lives On, Nothing to Say, and Fool With a Fancy Guitar. 

"Fool With a Fancy Guitar" is my current #1 song, so I was glad to catch it.  I have a twisted idea of working it onto ukulele because that's just funny to me.

I could've sat there all night but 45 minutes was enough, I still had to mumble through work the next day.

Something pours out of his music that I just lap up.  His songs contain wonderful word-pictures that often point to a specific story (Little Boy Heart - Narnia) or a deeper truth (Lay Me Down) and it ends up being layered and hitting you a new way with each listen.

Thank you again Andrew for your music and your willingness to put it out there, even for an audience of 10.  It was a great experience and put that evening over the top (better than a Sly Stallone movie).

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Origami Business Folded....

(I wrote this last week and finally got to the final edit)

On Sunday we had a wee one who was congested and coughing sufficiently to stay home from church.  So I had the duty this time and did what any parent does with some time to kill - pop in a movie and surf the internet.

I wanted sufficiently entertaining background noise and picked a documentary on origami called "Between the Folds" (via Netflix).  I didn't know what I signed up for - this was amazing.  So here's a review, but also something slightly more; a reflection.

Basically the art form has grown from simple critters for elementary school children to very complex and beautiful models.  The art has also grown in the analysis and supporting math.

This is from one sheet of paper (except the base).  It is called "Aragorn" crafted by Eric Joisel (

Eric was heavily featured in the documentary and with good reason; he's a master of his craft.

On top of wanting to make you get some paper and get to work - as all well captured art does - there was a story. I'm not sure the filmmaker intended to tell it, but covering people often ends up telling a story.

There is the usual tension of the artist loving his art and not wanting to part with it.  This reminded me of "My Name is Asher Lev" and how his sponsor basically raided his studio, collected his work, and set it up for auction.  It was too personal for him to go through that process.  Some of the origami artist have the same internal crisis.

The documentary started with masters of the tradition forms.  Trying to convey some message with the paper model.  Animals (real and fantasy), people.  Incredible detail and accuracy (proportion) that simply blew me away.

Then there was also a modernist artist with the approach of how much can you make with one fold.  More shapes than form focused.  I lean towards appreciating the details of the form pieces more than shapes.  I think more gets translated clearly with a form rather than a shape that a viewer has to interpret.

Another sect in the origami world were the organic/naturalists/hippies.  They focused on crumpling and the art in the process more than the final product.

Another intriguing group was the scientist/math realm.  There were complex shapes, software to detail ideas, and real world implications (airbags and medicine).  These folks were doing cool stuff that made my head hurt.

What popped out to me the most (the climax) was a line from one of the artists - "I've been doing this for over 30 years and I find I fold much less now".  The artist matured into appreciating the folds he didn't make. He used to fill his time with the details everywhere, and now lets the flat paper portion speak; because that's the message he has.

"Christ was crucified upon a hill, and not in a cavern, and the word Gospel itself involves the same idea as the ordinary name of a daily paper.  Whenever, therefore, a poet or an similar type of man can, or conceives that he can, make all men partakers in some splendid secret of his own heart, I can imagine nothing saner and nothing manlier than his course in doing so." - GK Chesterton

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Words fail me, songs don't

I didn't even know the family; my heart still breaks for them.  At a local school (in Mercer, 15 minutes away) an 8 y/o girl just passed away.  She choked on a hotdog at lunch.

Words fail me. 

There will be trite comforts offered; I know people mean well, but silence would be better.  There will be questions of why "XXXX" wasn't tried; I know these folks wish it would have turned out different.  I hope there isn't a knee jerk program or policy to try to fix this "crisis".  It's a tragedy, not really a crisis needeing a teacher sitting beside every student to watch them eat.

I have no words of comfort.  I have a hollow spot that prays from fear "please God don't let that happen to us".  I feel guilty, and then hug my children.  I feel fear and let them go out into the world trying not to be paralyzed by fear.

I'm a fanatical Andrew Peterson fan, bear with me as I share his music.

when I have more questions than answers:

when I am reminded of the brokenness of the world:

when I wallow in it to the point of being swallowed by it:

finally - my ache for it to be fixed in one sweeping motion of love:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I like about GK Chesterton

"The Church never said that wrongs could not or should not be righted; or that commonwealths could not or should not be made happier; or that it was not worth while to help them in secular and material things; or that it is not a good thing if manners become milder, or comforts more common, or cruelties more rare. But she did say that we must not count on the certainty even of comforts becoming more common or cruelties more rare; as if this were an inevitable social trend towards a sinless humanity; instead of being as it was a mood of man, and perhaps a better mood, possibly to be followed by a worse one. We must not hate humanity, or despise humanity, or refuse to help humanity; but we must not trust humanity; in the sense of trusting a trend in human nature which cannot turn back to bad things." -GK Chesterton

I just saw this quote for the first time today.  Most of my postings of GKC quotes are ones that I had some vague familiarity with.  This one was well timed with something I've been pondering.

What I really like about GKC is he puts sharp and precise words to what I'm thinking.  Of course I'm wrestling with wild loose concepts and he bundles them together and tames them.  Sunday was a strange day as I had a decent online discussion regarding the mandate for contraceptive coverage expanding into religious institutions.  That evening I also attended a meeting on exploring other denominations since the PC-USA has been so fast and free with their doctrine; especially supporting more politically charged (rather than biblically charged) stands.

All of this had me wondering about the relationship with church in culture.  How do you plug in without getting sucked down?  How can you be a voice proclaiming the truth if you had just preached the heresies?

To me the mandate of tending to the poor and the widows has been a mandate to me and my church; it is not for me to support a government program that might try to do it.  Certainly not a calling to create a government program for it.  Beyond the inefficiency, it's numbing.  It is simply too easy to drop a twenty in the plate and then be numb and comforted by the thought that "I did my part".  That's without getting into the corruption potential once it leaves the sight of the giver.  Some government programs do exist that do good and help people, but the church should be better at doing it.  I simply trust the group of men assembled for God (however poorly it may be reflected at times) over the group of men assembled for governing men.

This quote struck me for how it captures the trick.  Humanity may swing to doing something good; allow it, support it - but do not trust it.  The only way humanity moves towards being less sinful is by refusing to call sins sins.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More to this blog than living and dying...

I'm old.  It brings aches and pains.  Pleasant smiles remembering days that seemed so recent and it turns out they were a LONG time ago.

Yesterday I bought tickets for Becky and I to go see Steven Curtis Chapman, Andrew Peterson, and Josh Wilson playing in the south suburbs of Cleveland.  This isn't my first time seeing SCC or AP.

Backstory.  Over 20 years ago I was a regular volunteer to setup Christian music concerts that rolled through Lancaster.  With a great springboard from station WJTL there are many concerts that hit that area.  At the time I was naive as to what a great opportunity this was.  To me it was just better than sitting bored at home.

This process generally went as follows:
  • Show up around 11am - setup chairs, tables, etc.
  • Unload a truck that rolled up around noon.
  • Setup speakers, lights, soundboard, drumkits, guitars, etc.
  • Soundcheck and we get to go eat.
  • Take tickets, run spotlight, be security, etc. during the show.
  • Tear it all down, pack it up, load it up.  Go home around midnight.
Now it was not expected, but about 50% of the time the artist or stage manager would gather the volunteers as the truck was almost loaded and hand out some swag.  This was t-shirts, stickers, cassettes or later in my volunteer career CDs.  It always felt like Christmas.

One of the regulars making stops there was Steven Curtis Chapman.  I was always a SCC fan.  I had a "More to this Life" t-shirt that was well worn through my late teens (thanks stage manager).  He put on a fun show with a nice variety in song pace and humor and heart.  I also had a side benefit.  I was a 13 y/o with a blonde mullet walking around with an official badge.  SCC would mention about his family and kids and I would shortly get asked "are you his son?".  I'm thinking it was about twenty times I have been asked that question.  Awesome everytime.

Also awesome because it was better to be asked if I was somehow related to fame rather than to be questioned on my gender.

For the record, this picture is embarrassing; but it is the best from the era (I was 15, my last year with a mullet), and the one when I was 13 was more embarrassing.

I'm now at the other end by strictly being a concert viewer.  I have a long history of seeing SCC live and am excited for the upcoming show too.  I get to see it with my wife.  Early in our college and dating time we went to downtown Pittsburgh to catch SCC playing. 

This time Steven is playing with my absolute favorite storysinger - Andrew Peterson.  I also saw him early in his career when he opened for Caedmon's Call at Grove City College ('97).  That was also a date with Becky.

It is good to look back on the magic moments and memories.  I can't think of a better evening enjoying two key musical elements from key times of my life and having my wife to share them with.

The Strange Music by G. K. Chesterton
Other loves may sink and settle, other loves may loose and slack,
But I wander like a minstrel with a harp upon his back,
Though the harp be on my bosom, though I finger and I fret,
Still, my hope is all before me: for I cannot play it yet.

In your strings is hid a music that no hand hath e'er let fall,
In your soul is sealed a pleasure that you have not known at all;
Pleasure subtle as your spirit, strange and slender as your frame,
Fiercer than the pain that folds you, softer than your sorrow's name.

Not as mine, my soul's annointed, not as mine the rude and light
Easy mirth of many faces, swaggering pride of song and fight;
Something stranger, something sweeter, something waiting you afar,
Secret as your stricken senses, magic as your sorrows are.

But on this, God's harp supernal, stretched but to be stricken once,
Hoary time is a beginner, Life a bungler, Death a dunce.
But I will not fear to match them-no, by God, I will not fear,
I will learn you, I will play you and the stars stand still to hear.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Wait, is that your stage voice.."

After being so heavy in posts, I've decided to share something that has had me chuckling for a little bit now.

This (and the whole series of them) are hilarity in a jar to me.


Monday, February 6, 2012

I authorized this message....

I've had a spell recently thinking about authority.  Doesn't everybody go through that?  It may have been topped off with managing a room full of kids briefly at Sunday school.  There was a general amount of goofing off and upityness that I can tolerate.  The class rose quickly to my threshold of misbehavior and after that it was quite a task to harness the cats.  Lots of repeating myself, isolating kids, and relocating troublemakers.  More than I wanted, more than there should have been.

Part of my wondering about authority is around this - I'm digging into past theological writings and thinkings, and they are fresh water to me.  I've been hungry for this all my life and am only finding it now.  Some solid pounding out of points and why it is right; not wishy-washy trying to convince that this view is slightly better. 
I think it's obvious that there is an erosion of authority underway and there are many implications.  I don't know when the erosion began, it's easy to say the 60s; but it is probably a problem as old as human history.  Will you really die if you eat the apple?

Probably the most subtle shades of the recent authority erosion is that it is tied with being told and believing "everything is okay, you aren't that bad".  Lose original sin and you don't get repeated sinlessness in a spiral upward, you get repeated denial in the handbasket to hell.

Erosion of the Family -
TV, books and education seems to offer a very solid front of "your parents are dumb."  It is no longer Ward Beaver setting the Beave straight.  It moved to Al Bundy, Dan Conner, and Raymond.  While this truly more realistic, the pendulum has swung past reality (I make mistakes, I'm learning how to be a father) to the father being consistently stupid and wrong.

Erosion of the Church -
The church has been equally isolated.  And by isolating it to a weekly club of good advice it is immediately minimized.  There is constant media coverage of Westboro Baptist idiots and silence about the 99% of other churches that pray and love their enemies.  The churches that understand there is a difference between a call to holiness and a witch hunt.  It isn't that culture has "killed God" in society (and not for a lack of trying by some extremes); they have sought to make him manageable.  We have moved from "remember the sabbath and keep it holy" to "remember that Sunday is only one day of the week".

Implications -
I don't think the attackers of home & church authority had any idea where the tracks they laid would lead.  In saying our parents can't tell us what to do we get left with nobody know what to do.  It takes four years of bad education at the hands of the badly educated to realize we need to go out and learn to use our skills and truly find ourselves.  We find ourselves in

Without the bedrock of family or church there is a general search for where our worldview gets grounded.  I need some solid rock to stand upon and make this sense of the inner question of what is the point?  There was brief period where it could be filled by the big institutions - government, banks and big causes.  Propaganda easily paints these as a source of worldview.  Captain Planet to the rescue.  But these which should have been mistrusted from the first, have become the collection of much belief that has discovered they are bankrupt.  They should be mistrusted since they are merely a collection of men.  They are bankrupt because being bigger doesn't mean they are better; it means that the corruption is bigger and faster to affect everything.  The only efficient element of the government and large banks is how quickly they can help themselves.  They have even risen one level further in helping each other.

All of this has left the individual alone and finding his own way.  The biggest output of eliminating authority is that I rise to my own authority.  "Me" as my own authority results in poor guidance with no way of coming back to reality.  Without fertile ground for reason to take root we are swayed with the winds of fashion.

I am not a king on my own island.  The truth is I am not alone.  I do not know it all.  There is no span of emotion that David has not first expressed in the Psalms.  There is no high level of mental strained searching that Job and Solomon has not faced first.  There is a God who cares for the birds of the field and for his people.  I can rest in His hands.

"The authority of priests to absolve, the authority of popes to define, the authority even of inquisitors to terrify; these were only dark defences erected round one central authority, more undemonstrable, more supernatural than all the authority of a man to think.  We know now that this is so; we have no excuse for not knowing it.  For we can hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne." GK Chesterton 'Orthodoxy'

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Heir of the Dogma

"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man."  -GK Chesterton

I love this quote for a few reasons.   

1. It says much for the founders of the US and their understanding for power, origins of power, and a greater power - God.  Not a king, not an elected official.  For they are not God.

2. I think most believers in evolution would be hesitant to say that Warren Buffett is rich because he is a better evolutionary product.  It can be said he was lucky or smart; but to even make the claim that he is living "the high life" (although I doubt he drinks Miller) is making a claim for a score keeping system of somekind.  An inherent sense of good; right and wrong.  It is the love of life that tells us that the cat won when it eats the mouse, it is the same love that misses the hamster when it loses to the vacuum cleaner.

3.  The basis for a pure democracy is the equal value of each man.  The image of God born by every human. 

Side note:  In a few places Chesterton expresses his frustration with the upside-down arguments against women's suffrage.  It is not that women were beneath the vote; the vote (taking part in a mob action) is something that a woman should not be asked to descend to take part in.  It was the same as them not taking part in clearing roadkill - the task is under the dignity of the holders of such beauty.