Tuesday, February 28, 2006

great quote

I pulled this Bono quote off my friend Zach's blog. Pretty amazing stuff.

"6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drugstore. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality. Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe."

Monday, February 27, 2006

d is for discipeship

I spent the weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, playing for a youth retreat. It was one of those affairs where the students spend the night in various homes around the city and in the interest of planning meals, the church split the band up and put us in houses with the students. My room was hot pink; jealous? I thought so.

As I sat in on the group sessions and at a city wide event the second evening, I found my capactiy to participate waning. Not that I was being lazy and didn't want to be there, but I slowly became discouraged by what I was witnessing. It's not like they were performing cult rituals or anything, but the overwhelming impressions of the weekend is that we don't care about our students. The leader of our house session simply sat and read out of the guide book like a father reading to his 3 year old a new book he's never read, minus the loving attention. Shallow answers were encouraged by hasty discussion, scripture references were skipped to save time, and phrases like, "We aren't going to take the time on this one, but just trust me when I say..." abounded. And for five sessions, the students were given weak theology, encouraged to mindlessly except everything being thrown at them; not encouraged to ask questions, to dig deeper, or to develop a faith of their own. This was the very thing that nearly killed my faith as a teenager.

The city-wide event was equally discouraging. The music was awkward and difficult for the students to be involved in (I'm not just being an anal musician). The teacher was more comic relief than content, often inappropriate and giving a message that was both contradictory and mostly irrelevant. The service was emotionally manipulative with two separate invitations, one of which had half (no exageration) of the 1000 students at the altar. Don't get me wrong, I want to see student's lives changed, but we aren't doing them a favor by teaching them content that insults their place in life and manipulating them into a lifestyle Christ wants us to experience with joy and love. There was no joy or love in this place and I couldn't help but feel like there was nothing there that would make me want to be a Christian.

These things sadden me because it shows the church's willingness to give our students anything but our best. It's kind of like we say, "Oh, they're just teenagers (or children)," and carelessly execute student ministry. The youth deserve outreach and discipleship with the best of our ability, our most intention, just as we the believers should approach everything with excellence. Even in my own church, the youth and the youth workers are treated like they aren't a part of the church, which just blows my mind. I say this not of my own opinion but of the opinions of several workers and students I've been around, worked with, and lived with. I just hope these kids don't feel like they don't matter. I will say that the youth minister of this church in Montgomery shared the same thoughts about the weekend and is trying his best, but it's a big task and he needs a lot of help and the help must be leaving him frustrated.

On another note, the speaker cabinet for my new amp shipped today! This is a pleasant surprise, considering the builder's normal turnaround for an amp is about six months and this took less than a week and the amp itself about a week. Plus it's pleasantly warm outside and I believe a jog is in order. Cheers!

Monday, February 20, 2006

my potentially confusing and almost certainly hypocritical rant of the week

I'm sitting at Portland Brew, as I do every Monday, musing at a couple of things. I'm reading George Orwell's "1984", something I somehow got through school having never read, and I can't help but wonder about life in the US versus somewhere else. I know that I have nothing to say that would be new on the subject or the book, plus I've only just read the first chapter, so I'll save my commentary. I can't deny the bubble that has been placed around us, the way we add to that bubble with our social and political ignorance, and the lengths we go to the keep the bubble in tact.

In my immediate bubble, two men are sitting at a table to my left. One of them is passionately sharing about how China's next move in the not too distant future will be to annihilate us. He said they share geography with Russia and both countries will combine their powers to destroy America, removing our hands from the proverbial cookie jars. While he didn't say cookie jars, I kind of laugh as I picture China as one of those containers that looks like a lion and roars, "Get your hand out of my cookie jar!" when you open it. Or maybe not. He talked about how 50% of all TSA workers in airports are middle eastern and how a transportation takeover and 9/11 repeat are entirely inevitable. The man's tone showed apparent loathing for our country and also for minorities and their presence here. His friend utters not a single word and is visibly uncomfortable. I felt both threatened and sad.

To my right, three women, who are obviously members of some musical group, are meeting with a designer, discussing album art. They are all dressed nearly identically, wearing what look like Army caps, expensive outerwear and what are almost certainly $300 jeans. One of them wears a bracelet that says "Live to love." I can't help but wonder if the greater act of love would be to spend money on somebody else. Yes I am a hypocrite, I know, but this is something I'm dealing with. I certainly don't know who these women are and I would assume they are just one of many artists in Nashville, living with the appearance of success while struggling to get by. I wonder if people can tell I'm a musician struggling to get by when they look at me. I honestly hope they can't.

It is as if these three women are living the exact opposite of the American experience than the man on my left. I might be passing an unfair judgment but I see so many people in this city living expensive lifestyles under the shelter of American life. To be relevant and therefore useful to the popular culture, we must spend all kinds of money. And what kills me is that the mediators of this consumer message (MTV, Time, etc.) tell us to be aware of the world, to get involved and make a difference (just watch the self-centered advertising on cable stations), but they are the very merchants of this consumer ideal, almost as if they are justifying our excessive consumption while simultaneously selling cool to us, making us feel like we are aware and that we care how many people die of AIDS every year. Both the man and the women are living in the shelter of our country but one seems to resent it, even fear it, and the others seems to embrace it completely.

I am grateful to live here but I am also aware of how fantastically wealthy being an American makes me, even though by the standards of our government I live under the poverty line. I have a lot of other factors that contribute to my quality of life, such as generous parents or the miracle of my doubtless living. I certainly live comfortably, just paycheck to paycheck, and I have to tell myself there is nothing wrong with this! I want to be responsible and save so that I can provide for a family eventually, but I also don't want to live like I am not aware of how much I already have. After all, Jesus was homeless, and I openly proclaim my allegiance. I sometimes wonder if I am doing him a dis-service. It's all so much to digest but my role in faith and the global landscape is something I will spend my entire life working out. It's tough stuff but it's exciting to think about because I believe it matters.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

a correction...

This is a correction with regards to my Valentine's Day blog post. My mother has discovered my blog and set the record straight. I must humbly acknowledge that I'm an ungrateful and overly sarcastic brat and that my mom is quite simply the best mother in the world. If you feel the need to dispute, don't, because you are wrong. I love you mom!

Friday, February 17, 2006

for crying out loud!

I just read a Reuters feed saying that a Pakistani cleric has offered a $1 Million bounty on the person who drew the Muhammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper. I don't know what else to say right now but wow. I realize religions have been criticized and satirized for years, persecuted to all kinds of degrees, but I never thought I would see leaders in a faith offering a fortune for someone's head. As a Christian, I realize we are by no means innocent of blood shed and viscious over-reaction, but I never expected to hear that in this modern world. For deeper thoughts, check out Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven". It's a look into Mormon fundamentalists, which is quite similar to Islamic fundamentalism in ways, and also has some thought provoking discussion on faith at extremes.

On another note, I recently picked up Duncan Shiek's new record, "White Limosene". If you've never listen to him, he's a terrific songwriter who writes unorthidox pop music that's easily digested. Plus, his band is terrific, including one of my favorite guitarists, Gerry Leonard. Another cool thing about the record is that he included a DVD-ROM of the record with it that allows you to remix the record on your own computer. Pretty cool stuff. Alrighty then...happy friday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

caving in...

I went to Atlanta today to play for a Valentine's banquet. It was at a church in which an old roomate and dear friend of mine is working as the interim youth minister. The event was fun but a bit strange as well. I played solo guitar for about 45 minutes while people ate dinner and no one said as much as a word to me when it was all over. I'm not desperate for affirmation by any means, but I guess I was expecting some. I feel like I played well, considering my un-practiced state, but it was a bit discouraging to feel like no one listened.

We stopped at my parent's in Chattanooga on our way home, which is always nice. My parents are terrific people and it's always a joy to share them with others as my traveling companions had never been there before.

The drive back was my shift behind the wheel, the perverbial graveyard. As we passed from the vacant and rolling farmland of middle Tennessee, shadowy from a brilliant moon, into the luminous freeway that expands into the outskirts of the city, a feeling came over me I'm quite fond of. This particular stretch of road was newly paved and the overhead lights reflected on the tarmac, giving me a sense of sterility I've often associated with sprawling 21st century cities. That might not make any sense so I'll word it again. At night, the outskirts of a city, with the warehouses and intermittent darkness, can seem so vacant and lonely, but not an unwelcome loneliness. My new Death Cab cd was playing on my iPod and as I experienced the songs for the first time, I felt the sky above me open into the darkness as if all the lights above me, moon, stars, and lamps, disappeared and a great warming expanse opened before me. In the emptiness, it seemed my heart swelled and my chest caved in around it; it felt devine, it felt like love. I thanked God for a moment of serenity and beauty in the industrial landscape, and for music.

Eventually, my companions stirred and the moment faded, but I thought about those unexpected moments where you connect with God and your heart seems to just pull right out of your chest. It's a restless feeling, welcoming and illuminating, reminding me of how alive I really am. These moments happen at night while driving more than any other time and I relish them always. I truly hope you relate on some level. Blessings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Valentines’s Day, V-Day, Singles Appreciation Day (SAD), whatever people call it. I say it’s just another day. I can’t help but think there are a lot of days in the year in which it would be appropriate to shower the person you love with flowers and candy, get a nice meal, light some candles, etc. I don’t see what’s so special about this day. The way I see it, Valentine’s Day is good for two things: boosting the sales of certain specialty products and making single people feel like crap.

It’s kind of cruel, in my opinion. I’m sure that somewhere out there my mother is thinking about how unfortunate it is that I’m celebrating my 23rd consecutive, dateless, Valentine’s Day. Plus the name V-Day kind of implies something a little more destructive and sinister. But worry not, my mother, I am not cowering in singledom but rather enjoying an nice afternoon and evening with friends. I willfully choose to treat today like any other day, not feeling worthless or lonely. I say, don’t wait for a greeting card or jewelry company to tell you to appreciate the one you love; I think your relationships will be all the better for it. I realize I’m not the best person to give relationship advice, but it’s just a thought.

This past weekend was a tough one. I went to Ohio Saturday morning with my friends Sara Beth and Emmett to do some music at a church. The drive up was beautiful with snow covering much of the farmland that lies between Nashville and Southern Ohio. We sat up at the church and shortly before we play, Emmett’s wife, Wendy, called and said that she was in a lot of pain. She was currently five months pregnant and had been dealing with some intestinal pain for about the last week. We played and when Emmett talked to Wendy again, she had been taken to the hospital and informed that she needed to have an emergency C-section. As Emmett dealt with the news, we quickly realized we needed to get Emmett home.

Within minutes, Emmett and I had taken Sara Beth’s car and headed for home. The car ride was tense for a bit until Emmett received the news that Wendy and the baby had both come through the surgery and were doing fine. Conversation started up and the tension eased a bit.

Within a few hours, the snow we had admired on the way up quickly turned into a curse, refreezing and sticking to the roads. It wasn’t long before we had to get off the road and check into a relatively shady motel operated by a middle-easter man. Behind the counter sat a black and white photo of a woman with a bullet hole in her head; I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the place.

The next morning, we drove the rest of the way home with the pleasure of a new-fallen and beautiful snow. I left Emmett, went home for a shower and returned to Ohio to finish the weekend at the church and give Sara Beth a ride home. When we got out of bed the next morning, we had the news waiting that Emmett and Wendy had lost their baby.

I’m broken hearted for Emmett and his wife. I cannot imagine a loss like this as I have no way to relate, which is a hard thing to realize. You want to help people you care about but I am finding I have nothing to say to them. I guess presence is the important thing, the thing that people remember the most. I pray for Emmett and Wendy and if you read this, I hope you will too.

So everyone, have a good day, regardless what meaning we are told to apply to it. Life continues, with all its joys and pains, and that is the important thing to me. So on this Valentine’s Day, I’ll enjoy this dvd of 24 I’m currently watching, and I’ll have dinner with a friend, and nothing is going to make me feel any different, no matter what my TV says.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here goes...

I recently came to the conclusion that most people don't know me as well as they think they do, or so I think sometimes. I say this not to insult anyone but to recognize something within me that keeps others at a certain distance, protecting myself with sort of self-directed maternal instinct. Maybe that's wierd, I don't know. With this in mind, I've decided it is time to speak out, if only in a whisper, and share a litte more of the details, actions, and rants of my daily life. I think my mind is a little too active for my own good so maybe this is the healthy thing to do. Whatever the reason, thanks for reading.

I hope this blog is a place where I can share thoughts on a lot of different issues (spirituality, politics, music, etc), make you, the reader, aware of various bits of information or news I might have, and hopefully make myself a little more vulnerable than the norm. That being said, feel free to check in as frequently as you like; I'll try to update several times a week. And with that being said, I was in Portland two weeks ago at a conference having a moment of "what does it all mean", 20-something frustration. It's late and I don't feel like writing anything new so here are some thoughts I worked through at the conference. Enjoy.

Sometimes I hate being a guy. Not so the much the just being a guy thing but being a single, unemployed, 23 year old guy. Actually, all of these things have their perks but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m living in a time in which a lot of my friends are getting married or acting like they’re married. They’re taking jobs, moving to Charlotte or some other place where I could never find one. They’re acting like someone significantly older than I feel, or maybe I’m acting younger, or maybe they’re faking it. I don’t know.

It’s just a hard age and time to turn off the whole analytical mind thing. Every single girl is a marriage prospect. Every friend who has a job has connections to get me one. Basically, I’m seeing everything as an opportunity.

But when I really think about, I don’t want any of these things to be opportunities. I like being single. I have terrific friends who I thoroughly enjoy spending time with. I’m a musician, which even though it isn’t really work, is the best job in the world. I play guitar for money. I use that money to buy more guitar things. It’s great.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard someone say something about how we always want the things we don’t have. It’s true, yes, but I’m thankful for what I have now and I need to remember that.

So why am I bringing this up? Glad you asked...I’m at a conference, working I might add, and I spent lunch hanging out with some people, including this terrificly charming and beautiful woman who just happens to be from the same city I live in. She’s the kind of woman you want to like you because it would be wonderful boost to your self-esteem and your friends would pat you on the back while secretly cursing your new-found luck. But as I’ve always been painfully aware, I am shy, maybe even awkward, and I don’t always make the best first impressions. The two guys with me, however, are funny, out going, and hitting it off with her. But this doesn’t bother me.

The job I’m here for is a connection from a friend who works for the company I’m with. He knows I’m bored and poor (this is a relative term) and he put in a good word for me. I’m thankful to have been set up with a job, having done nothing to get it. This doesn’t bother me.

I am acutely aware, however, of one thing, tracing through all accounts. Nothing is going to change. Things happen for me, which is nice, but again, nothing is going to change. I’m not taking any steps in my life to make anything change and this bothers me. I want to play guitar for a living but I’m not really playing with any bands I could see myself investing in. What’s to keep me from seeking those people out and putting myself in a position through my relationships to play? I’m likable, easy going, and I can use that to my advantage. And as for the ladies, I could actually suck it up and ask someone out. I’ve done this before and it might work for me one day. Why shouldn’t it? And I’m not going to ask this girl out, if that’s what you’re wondering; that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

My life is often an issue of vacancy and finding ways to fill it. It is much easier to let other people fill my vacancy: make dinner plans, ask me to a movie, invite themselves over, even. It’s sitting behind my booth at this conference, listening to music and typing just to pass the time. It’s easier than talking to someone.

Invest in my life: apply within. Sounds ridiculous but it’s been my working model for a while now. What harm would there be in investing? It’s a stretch and it makes my palms sweat. Being shy has it’s advantages, don’t get me wrong, but I need to be more effective at pushing my boundaries and without feeling so awkward. Just a thought.