Saturday, December 30, 2006

Do you feel safer?

Saddam is dead; hanged before sunrise this morning. But we are still at war in Iraq, there are still Americans over there being shot at by an enemy they cannot always see and cannot tell from normal Iraqis on the street. Do you feel safer? Oh, and as far as we know, Osama Bin Laden is still alive and well and hiding in Pakistan. One down, God knows how many to go.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Funk Connection

With all the tributes pouring in this week to James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, I wanted to add mine to the mix.

He was the fountainhead from which several very funky streams flowed. Without James Brown, there would have been no Parliament, no Funkadelic, no Prince, no Michael Jackson. There would have been no one to sample, no one to play really loud in sports stadiums, no way to tighten up. He also kept the lid on a racial explosion here in DC when MLK was assassinated, and was a leading figure in Muhammad Ali's Rumble in the Jungle in 1974.

He had his problems - drinking and women among them. But he was- and will always be - the Godfather.

I got the chance to interview the Godfather at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. (Actually, my funk meter was way beyond full that day, because I also interviewed George Clinton on the same day).

But here I am - country club, white boy, pale face - sitting in the House of Blues in Atlanta, Georgia. The room looked kind of like the Temptations described the "Psychedelic Shack" - carpets on the walls, incense, low, billowy couches to crash on. And I'm there waiting after the young lady who arranged the interview left me to find the Godfather.

And then, he came in.

He was smaller than I had imagined, but his presence filled the whole place. James Brown was wearing a blue double-breasted suit, no shirt (it was hot in Atlanta) black cowboy boots with silver toes, and his trademark hair and smile.

We shook hands and sat on one of the low couches for about 15 minutes to talk. I had to get over the "Oh my God, it's James Brown" reaction and try to ask intelligent questions. The fact that I was in the room with my soul hero was enough to make my trip worth the trouble.

But he was forever cool, and after the interview we shook hands, and he autographed a CD of a remix of several of his hits for me. I double checked my tape (yes we used tape in those days) and then sent the interview back to Washington for one of our music reporters to work with. It was a brush with greatness.

Rest in Peace Godfather. Make it Funky.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hope ya got ryddim .....

cause 'tis the season to be fat. Unless you can dance like Emmitt Smith and his partner on Dancing With the Stars then you will need some other forms of exercise to burn off that holiday cheer. I read an article (click the title of this post to read it yourself) that listed some of the activity it would take to burn off different holiday foods. It made me want to say "bah humbug!"

The article is by Charles Stuart Platkin, the author of The Diet Detective's Count Down , who came up with a formula to calculate how much exercise would be needed to burn foods.

For six ounces of honey glazed ham: 26 minutes of swimming.

For four bite-size mini pizza? 23 minutes running.

For a candy cane? 19 minutes of yoga.

For one slice of fruitcake (the eternal Christmas food)? 55 minutes of dancing.

For one small (they didn't say what "small" means) of pecan pie? 54 minutes of biking, or an hour of swimming or a one hour, 11 minute run, or two hours and 10 minutes of walking.

See what I mean about the bah humbug!?

I saw comedian Carlos Mencia on "Mind of Mencia" the other night who was busting on fat people. He was merciless. An example: "Happiness is defined as doing what you love over and over again. You're fat, so?" Or another "The reason you're fat, and I'm no doctor, but I think it's because you put more in here (pointing to his mouth) than came out here (pointing to his backside). But again, I'm no doctor."

But we will all eat too much this year. Regardless of what we know about starving children in Africa (or Asia or South America). Even today, a guy at work brought cookies - home made Lithuanian cookies - and laid them on the table. And of course, I had a few. They were great with coffee. I plan to do some high-stress Christmas shopping to work them off. Maybe a few laps around the mall will be enough.

B'Bye

I deleted the reference to a blog to save Voice of America English broadcasts. I got tired of smashing my hand with a hammer. It appears that unless Congress cares - the American people surely don't seem to - that the Broadcasting Board of Governor's plan to turn off VOA English radio broadcasts will continue to creep forward.

That's at a time when All China Radio, Al Jazeera and a bunch of other foreign broadcasters are starting - and paying for - new radio and television programming in ENGLISH .

But Ken Tomlinson and the Board - all of whose terms have expired but they keep serving until they are replaced - have decided that the world doesn't need to hear English from America any more. I guess they figure people will turn to Al Jazeera if they want objective, balanced news coverage.

So RIP VOA English. After defeating the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Communists, you have been killed by a predator much more violent and rapacious - the uncaring American.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Well, I guess that's okay

It turns out that I didn't exactly kill the systematic theology final. I thought I knew almost all the answers, but I got my grade back - it was an 87!

Which is a B, (but, in my family B stood for "better than a C but not an A." I still struggle to get past those horrible words "I'm just disappointed, son." Thanks Mom and Dad!)

But upon reflection, their opinion is not the final arbiter of success; God's opinion is what counts, and He's not disappointed. He knew my grade before I did, and my acceptance by Him is not based on how well I do in school! Thanks Father!

But my overall grade for the course was a B+ (91.15% or 577 out of a possible 600 points). Which isn't bad. Funny, the two systematic theology courses I took at Regent both got the same grade, B+. And both were taught by "take no prisoners" professors. So, I guess that points out an area for further learning, huh?

That being said, I still will graduate in May. Thank God. It feels strange, though. After four years, I don't have to drag big heavy books around and study for finals or do papers. I still want to learn; that part hasn't changed. The motivation is different, though.

I can exhale; but the learning never stops.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's that time of year ....

when people go absolutely butt-wild spending money for Christmas. I don't know if it's because of the time of year or because financial writers tend to focus on these type of things when they don't have Fed reports to talk about, but MSN Money reports that if you have $2,200 dollars in net worth you're in the top half of the world's wealthiest people.

The report quotes a global study of the wealth gap, with half the world's population, more than three billion people, living on less than two dollars a day. My Starbucks coffee costs that much!

And even relatively developed nations have low standards of wealth. In India, people have per capita assets of just $1,100! In Indonesia, capital amounts to $1,400 per person.

The type of assets owned varies from country to country, with Asian and developing nations favoring savings accounts and Western nations prefering stocks and other financial products.

The worlds total wealth is valuated at $125 trillion dollars. North America has only six percent of the world's population, but accounts for 34% of household wealth. The average wealth in the United States is $144,000 per person. In Japan it's $181,000. People in North America, Europe, and wealthier Asian-Pacific countries account for 90% percent of total wealth.

And the super rich? Guys like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu have more money than the 48 poorest countries combined.

Something to think about this Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Killed it

So I killed the test. I was scared it was going to be REALLY tough, because after all it is systematic theology. But it wasn't as bad as I thought. I almost didn't take it because it wasn't loaded into the computer program. And when I called to find out why, there was no answer because everyone was at the CHRISTMAS PARTY!

But God bless them, I finally did get through to a human being. And the test was posted. And I killed it. So now I will be eligible for graduation. Soli deo gloria. Two words: NOW WHAT?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the last midnight

Tonight I take my last final exam for graduate school. It's in systematic theology.

AGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!


If there's any "ism" that this course hasn't covered it's because it doesn't exist. But I can explain what dynamic monarchianism is, even though I don't know if I will ever use it.

After this test I will be eligible for graduation and all I will have to do is get the funny hat and robe and walk down the aisle in May. It's a little sad. But it's also a relief. One thing I have learned is that I don't know very much.

It's very humbling to sit in a classroom and think you know some things and then learn that your professor doesn't read the Bible in English - he reads it in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. That'll knock you down a notch if you think you know some things. But it has been worth the effort (not to mention the money). I have no idea what comes next.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Make it FUNKY!

I got my funk on Friday night. Okay, before you start thinking something prurient, I mean I went to see Victor Wooten's Soul Circus at the 9:30 Club here in DC. My bass teacher Anthony Wellington is a member of the band (that's him on the left in the hat) and I have been in the presence of the Masters. These dudes rock it until it breaks apart, and what comes out is pure funk.

I had seen Victor in concert back in 2004 at the Birchmere in Arlington, Virgina, with Steve Bailey and Otiel Burbridge. And that was very funky. But, this show was deeper into the deep end than I have been in a while. The Soul Circus CD is definitely one to bounce on the car stereo. But this show rocked on.

The band featured Victor's brother Regi (AKA "Teacha") on guitar - ride the lightning, brotha - and "the knee baby" his other brother Joseph on keyboards. They were joined by a beautiful singer, Saudra Williams, and Derico Watson on drums. And of course Anthony. And they set that joint on fire.Regi Wooten (foreground) and Saundra Williams with Victor Wooten in the background at the 9:30 Club

The show rocked for a long time - they opened with the number "Victa" from the Soul Circus CD, but also featured several solos by band members. Of course Victor is like Yoda on the bass, and he just TORE IT UP.

But this band brings a definite throwback kind of funk to the groove. Accentuated by Victor's lightning-fast playing and Saundra's sultry vocals, the Soul Circus will make even a 40-something white boy's head bob.

Friday, December 08, 2006

It is finished

Well, kind of.

I just finished the last term paper I will have to write to get my Masters Degree in practical theology from Regent University. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don' be like dat!

Goats by pixelPerfectSometimes, I find myself regretting things a lot. Things I have said, things I have done, you know - what you should have done goes undone and what shouldn't happen is what history records. Today I have done both. I guess its a way to remember that I really don't have control over things. It's cruddy, but at least it's true. I often wish I could have a seven second delay on the things I say. Sometimes they come out of my mouth and as they are flying across space at more than 600 mph, I wish I could disintegrate them and say something else. But my hands ain't that fast.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who's got a grip?

Bonfire by PixelPerfectToday I walked from my office to the local Borders book store to buy a copy of the 2007 ESPN Sports Almanac. My job used to supply them, but no longer. If you want one, you either have to go through three levels of bureaucracy to get one or you have to buy it yourself. I chose the latter because I need the book now. It felt like parents that don't provide when you're a kid - no my brother you must buy your own. So I did.

Also I had an opportunity to shoot a tv piece on Victor Wooten - the bass player for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - who has a new band "Soul Circus" of which my bass teacher is a member. I floated the idea past the powers that be - no go. They didn't want it.

That's fine, but it feels like a missed opportunity - for me and for them. But hey, that's the Government.

I also found out a co-worker with whom I sometimes clash has a serious health problem. This person rubs me the wrong way sometimes, and I give it back to him in spades. But now I feel bad for being a prick to him. I will have to tell him that.

I am working on my last term paper for Graduate School. The last one. Finish this, take the exam and I have a Masters' Degree. It's strange, but it's here. I'm almost sad. I know the learning will not stop until I die, but this season of it has ended. It's almost tempting to become a full-time professional student, but I know that's not what God has for me.

I have been reading a book (actually several books, several magazine articles, scholarly journals, ad nauseum) on Theodicy - how to justify God's goodness in the face of evil. You know, like why did this happen to me? Any of them fall to pieces in the face of the natural disasters and the human cruelty that come across the TV screen every day. But God is good; sometimes His people aren't. It does teach you to number your days, though.

With that, I will get back to my books, back to work. Don't want the bossman to get too nervous - although all he's doing is watching television and reading the newspaper.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks again

This is another photo of my classmate Tim, who is currently deployed with NCIS in Djibouti, east Africa. Thanks guys.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Now is the winter ....

I changed the background image and the header on this blog to more reflect that Winter is coming. I took the photos a couple of years ago and processed one of them through PhotoShop. The image in the header is not the same one as the background, but it sure looks like it. My wife says the photos look like Lanternwaste in the Chronicles of Narnia book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Not bad company, C.S. Lewis and all that.

*%&$#$&#$@&#!@

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSo this is me today. I let some friends of mine park their van in my driveway so they won't be charged for storing it at a storage area. When I said yes, I was told that all I needed to do was start it every now and then to make sure it didn't run the battery down. HA! Now it's a load of responsibility for something that isn't even mine. It taps a root of anger that reaches way back. And I'm tired of it.

The thing is, I really like the people who own the van. They are a music group that is based in England and they use the van to travel the U.S. when they come here. But I don't drive it. I don't own it, it is not mine.

And there is this gigantic oak tree that's dying in my next door neighbor's yard. It's right above the van, which is parked in my driveway.

Today that neighbor has a crew of people taking the tree down, and he asked that I move the van so they could park the cherry-picker there. (The tree is so rotten that climbers cannot get to the crown because it will fall in with them.) SO I go to start the van (after having had $1,300 worth of work done on it - for which I have not been paid yet - just last week!) And it groans at me, sputters and dies.

AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHHGH!!!!!!!!

I tried jumping it with my car, but the battery in a VW Passat is no match for the electrical needs of a GMC Custom van.

All of this before I am trying to get to work. But, providentially my neighbor down the street, who has a garage to make Tim Allen drool, is walking his dog with his wife as I am trying to start the monster. He says he has a battery charger if I want to use it. I say yes, go get the charger, hook up the battery and eventually start the big blue monster (did I mention the van is blue?).

I call my editor and ask to come in late. He is cool with it because there is not a lot going on right now. Then my wife comes home from the gym, follows me to the dealership, we drop off the van and the dealer is looking at it to see what is wrong. And our neighbor lets us park in his driveway so we can be out of the way of the tree-cutters when they come. And they did come. Right after I left for work.

I check my e-mail and what is there? Two notes from the music team about the van. Needless to say I laid it all out for them. But the van was out of the driveway by the time the tree cutters got there, the dealer is looking at the electrical system which he had told me was okay just 7 days ago, my wife got to work, I got to work, and the dead tree will be gone by the time I get home. So it worked out.

But it tapped into an old root that I have had enough of. Taking responsibility for other people's S***. And that's what it is - refuse, crap, garbage, dung. And I have had a plate full. My responsibility is to deal with the resentment I feel over accepting a plate full of s***. Resentment against the people who gave it and anger at myself for taking it - again and again.

So that was my morning. How was yours?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Playing



So I took an image from flickr, (be sure to click on the title of this post to see the striking original image. The guy who shot it is a true artist!) Anyway, I am learning to do all kinds of tricks with Photoshop elements, and this is one of them, making a line sketch out of a photograph. Thanks to Bikeracer for the beautiful redhead who was the model. Thanks also to the tutorial writer on the web who gave the free lesson.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reflections

Hammer and Anvil(c) NostrildamusI have been reading C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain as part of my research on theodicy. He has some things to say that might relate to the recent scandal involving Ted Haggard.

According to Lewis: Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We 'have all we want' is a terrible saying when 'all' does not include God.

We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, 'God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full - there's nowhere for Him to put it.' Or as a friend of mine said, 'We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.' Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will surrender it to him. What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness? It is just here, where God's providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest, most deserves praise.


Lewis says elsewhere that God 'whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.'

I had a professor of Spiritual formation say once in class three years ago that God had told her 'You will know me in one of two ways: through prayer or through suffering.'

I don't mean to sound like some self-righteous idiot about all this. The circumstances have to be devastating to Ted Haggard, his wife and his children. It is also devastating to his church. But at the same time, it can be redemptive. Like a father who brutishly snatches his child out of the path of an oncoming truck, perhaps this public scandal is evidence not of God's anger but of His love. He loves Ted Haggard - and the rest of us - too much to allow us to remain complacent with evil.

We would not hesitate to slap a child's hand if he were about to drink deadly poison. The slap might hurt, and the child might cry, but he would not die. Is the slap because we are angry with the child? Or is our anger aroused because of the threat to someone we love? And that anger motivates us to act, to remove the danger from the beloved.

But here again, I haven't finished the book. Or my learning.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote for Me and I'll set you free ....

I voted sticker (c) dbyrdIt's just a little sticker. It's not much bigger than a silver dollar (for those of us who remember when there were silver dollars). You could probably order about 1,000,000 of them for less than $100.

But it stands for something - something that I realized today is what makes America the greatest place on earth to live. Even with the war in Iraq, the Congress's ongoing lack of spine and action, the Foley sex scandal and the self-aggrandization of our so-called leaders, I would still rather live here than any other country on earth.

The little sticker I'm talking about is the one that said "I voted." I've already thrown mine out, but when the lady at the local elementary school put it on me, I thought it was something special. I had a couple of object lessons about voting today - one from someone who couldn't and one from someone who couldn't wait.

My music teacher is from South Africa. She and her husband are here working in the United States, but they are not American citizens. Their son, who was born here, is. I found it ironic that a 23 month old boy possesses more rights and protections as an American citizen than his parents, both of whom work, pay taxes, and contribute to the U.S. economy.The U.S Capitol Dome

Then when I was at the polls, there was a family with a young girl who was voting in her first election. I assume that she had just turned 18, but her mom and dad seemed quite proud that she was taking part. They were taking pictures and the girl was smiling and seemed very proud to participate in the democratic process.

And that's what made me think about the greatness of the system. People who live here are accorded certain rights because they are Americans. We don't cut people's heads off if we disagree with them; we don't send death squads in the middle of the night to kill people; we don't have the military overthrow the government and install one of its generals to lead the country. If we don't like our leaders, we unemploy them . If the people voted into office today don't do a good job, in two years, (for Congress) we can throw them out of a job.

If we don't like the President or the people he puts in charge of the executive branch, we vote them out of office and get a new bunch of people in there. That's what makes that seemingly worthless little sticker special - it represents the freedom to say "I don't like what you have been doing; you no longer work for me."The White House

And that's one thing I think is important to remember - our system of government (in theory at least) derives its right to govern from the will of the people. If the people don't like the leaders, they throw them out using something much more powerful than force - a ballot.

Who did I vote for? None of your (@*#$& business. But did I vote? You had better believe it. And I plan to in two years, as well. And for as long as I can.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Haggard gone; search begins

Ted HaggardThe Board of Overseers for New Life Church in Colorado has dismissed former pastor after he was found guilty of "sexually immoral conduct."

A statement from the church issued Saturday said that the overseer Board of New Life Church concluded the deliberations concerning what it called Haggard's "moral failures." The Board said Haggard's statements to the media - including admitting that he had contacted a male prostitute for methamphetamine and for a massage - proved without a doubt that Haggard was guilty. A letter of apology and explanation is expected to be read to the 14-thousand member church at it's services Sunday.

According to the statement, "In consultation with leading evangelicals and experts familiar with the type of behavior Pastor Haggard has demonstrated, we have decided that the most positive and productive direction for our church is his dismissal and removal."

The statement said the Overseers would continue to investigate the "depth of Pastor Haggard's offense so that a plan of healing and restoration can begin."

Haggard and his wife have been informed of the decision and agreed that a new pastor should be sought. The Overseers said that the search process will begin immediately and they hope a replacement can be found by the end of the year.

The statement also asked parishioners to continue to pray and stand strong together "for the kingdom of God." According to the statement "we will get through this together. Remember, New Life Church has never been a man, or a building or anything else -- we are a family."

Friday, November 03, 2006

AGGGGHHHHH!!!

So I just saw an interview with Ted Haggard with CNN affiliate KUSA, admitting that he DID buy Meth from Michael Jones and that he went for a massage with Michael Jones. So it appears that the charges are true - at least about trying to buy meth, (which Haggard said that he threw away - and Ted said it was for personal use) - and for calling Jones to get a massage! AGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

But in talking with a colleague, I said Christianity is a religion that says as one of its core tenets that all men are sinners. And Christianity is a religion of forgiveness, where there is redemption for all of us.

But she said "yeah, but they are so high-horse about it. You have to be careful when you are on your high-horse that you don't fall off."

UGGGHHHGHGHGHGHGH.

So it turns out that the male prostitute was telling at least part of the truth and the Preacher was lying. If you watch the video of Ted Thursday night, he says "I don't know Mike Jones; I have never had a gay relationship with anyone."

But that at least that part - by Haggard's own admission - was a lie. He did know Mike Jones - at least as a drug dealer. Haggard says he was tempted, bought the meth, and never used it. But he said that he didn't even know Mike Jones. He admits that he called Jones for a massage when he was referred to Jones at a hotel in Denver.

Jones says Haggard paid him for sex and used meth with him. Ted admits to buying the meth but says he did not use it. So what's next? It's sounding a little Clintonesque. Kind of like "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

The best thing Ted can do now, is admit ALL that he has done, not in grisly detail, but at least to his board of overseers, and then get in counseling and try to recover his life; no doubt this has damaged his family and it has shattered his reputation. But it has not ended God's love for him, and while it might be damaging, the Body of Christ needs to make sure it doesn't kill another wounded one.

That's just nuts!

Ted Haggard (c) Getty ImagesThere are news reports now out of Colorado, that the Rev. Ted Haggard, the head of the National Association of Evangelicals has been living a double life. A male prostitute accused Haggard of carrying on a three-year sexual affair with him in Denver. Haggard has denied it, saying that he is faithful to his wife, and never had a gay relationship with anyone. The announcement came as Colorado is considering a marriage amendment - similar to the one in Virginia - in Tuesday's elections.

Haggard has also taken administrative leave from his church in Colorado Springs, New Life Church (http://www.newlifechurch.org). A statement from the church says that Haggard is "voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity." The Denver Post also reports that Haggard's accuser has failed a lie detector test. Is that a big surprise?

According to a profile in the Denver Post, the prostitue - Mike Jones - knew Haggard as "Art." But why do we believe this? Granted, everyone has foibles, flesh and sins. But why should we take the word of someone who breaks the law for a living? Is he reliable? And apparently Haggard has admitted to some indiscretions, but they were not enumerated.

In an email to church members, Ross Parsley, whom I studied worship with three years ago, sent this e-mail to church members.

Dear New Lifers and friends of New Life Church,

Many of you have expressed concern about today's news regarding our pastor. Thank you all for your prayers and support, and for your concern for our church family.

As you've likely heard by now, Pastor Ted has voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave as New Life's senior pastor to allow our external board of overseers to work effectively. Below is the statement that we released to the media on Thursday afternoon.

Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.

I am serving as the acting senior pastor of New Life Church. I met with the pastoral staff and elders Thursday night, and I assure you that the leadership team is strong and united. We remain resolute in our commitment to serving New Life Church and the people of our community.

Please continue to keep Ted and Gayle and their family in your prayers.

I love serving God with you all,

Ross Parsley

November 2, 2006



I remember when Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart had their moral laxities in the mid 1980s. One refused to get counseling and undergo church discipline (Swaggart) and the other spent time in jail (Bakker). I remember how shocked we all were when the news came out about Swaggart cavorting with a prostitute and Bakker having a torrid affair with Jessica Hahn. It sent shockwaves through a community that had supported both men.

Jones says Haggard was one of his "holdover" clients after he stopped turning tricks two years ago. Nevertheless, Jone's add for "massage" - a kind way of saying gay sex - was still in the November edition of "Out Front" magazine, a gay publication. he also field for bankruptcy in APril with $100,000 dollars in credit card debt.

Some reports have said that the accusations have political overtones because Haggard heads the National Association of Evangelicals, which supports a ban on gay marriage.

Either way, it is a sad day when (1) such an accustaion would be brought, although with the Catholic Priests scandal we probably should not be surprised when anyone falls; (2) that we would so readily believe it to be true; (3) that someone would take this incident and use it for political gain. But who am I kidding. What world do we live in? Oh yeah, that's right, this one.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Evil in God's world

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis photo of the moon behind a pine tree in my back yard was taken - some would say appropriately - on Halloween. The skies were slightly foggy, but I could still see the stars, the moon was about 1/2 full and the temperature was warm. The wind was blowing slightly, just enough to make the dying leaves on the trees rattle. I don't celebrate Halloween - there's too much attached to it for me, and as a Christian I oppose much of what it stands for. But how do we define evil? What do we call it? My last paper at Regent is an exploration of that and similar questions.

Right now, I am in the preliminary stages of studying theodicy, which can be defined as defending God in the face of evil. It's kind of like when people ask "how can a loving God allow little children to die in (pick one, Indonesia, Pakistan, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, etc)."

The argument comes down to if God is all-powerful, how can all this bad stuff happen. The real question seems to be how can God allow evil to be perpetrated in His world if He is Almighty? Is it that He is not good? That He gets some kind of pleasure out of sufferings?

Or is He indifferent - this is what the Deists argue - that God made the watch, started it and then left it to run on its own.

Or maybe He is not all-powerful; perhaps He doesn't control everything.

So far I keep running into a couple of terms that everybody seems to be using.

Natural evil - the bad stuff (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, floods, etc) that happen in the earth. Some of what I have seen says that this is the result of (a) living in a broken world; (b) man's inhumanity to man by building houses on earthquake fault lines or shacks near the ocean; (c) the direct action of the devil.

Moral evil - the bad things that men do to one another - killing, raping, looting, shooting, burning, cheating them out of their money, etc. These are the things that are under our control. Stuff that we don't have to do, but choose to do.

Religious evil - this one seems to come up occasionally. This is the bad stuff that we do towards God - which includes ignoring Him, denying Him, worshipping someone or something other than him, and the bad things we do in His name - think Jihadists or those who shoot abortion doctors as an example.

As I said, I have just begun to explore this stuff. But it's a lot more serious that spooks and candy.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Freedom Fighter

Tim & Friends in DjiboutiThis is a shot of a friend of mine, Tim, with some guys in his unit in Djibouti. I wrote about him earlier (Now it's Personal). Tim is a member of the NCIS and has been deployed for a year. That means that he won't see his wife Alexis, and his kids for a while - 525,600 minutes. Tick, tick, tick.

I stayed with Tim and his family and drank beer next to his fire pit and talked with his kids and slept in his basement when I was doing an internship this summer. We have also had several classes together at Regent University.

Now he's in the middle of bleedin' nowhere and I'm in DC making a living. It was stunning to see his uniform hanging in his closet when I was at his crib. It reminded me that my friend is in a dangerous buisness. Keeping me, and the rest of us, safe. Thanks, Tim. Come home soon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Kill People, Break Things

cluster bombsA couple of my colleagues and I got into a slightly heated discussion about Israel's use of cluster bombs in Lebanon this summer. Granted, the Israelis used these things two days before a cease fire.

And God help us, they don't always go off, and that means that people who live there or are trying to rebuild southern Lebanon hit them and die when they do. The things that we have to ask outselves is why do we make - and supply - them to Israel and other nations. And come to find out, Hezbollah also used them, according to Human Rights Watch.

See we're not the only ones who make these things. The Chinese also make them, and because China needs hard currency, and Iran - which backs Hezbollah - has plenty of that and is willing to spend it to supply its "brothers" then Hezbollah gets its hands on cluster bombs.

But I don't hear anyone with their knickers in a twist about Hezbollah firing these instruments of death at Israel.

And don't think this is just "the big. bad U.S. supply instruments of death to their subordinates in Israel." Not so dear reader. Here's a partial list of the countries that possess - and use - these weapons.

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Italy, India, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Syria, Sudan,Thailand, United Arab Emriates,United States, United Kingdom.

And war is "kill people and blow up things." The thing that makes me upset is that these type of weapons have a place in our world. It's a much more brass-knuckled place than I would like, but it is what it is.

What really upset me is that one of my colleagues was stupid enough to say that these munitions are painted yellow or flourescent green so they would attract children. Please, don't flog me with your stupidity. These munitions are to be used against military targets. But this woman is Lebanese-American and just got back from Northern Iraq. So maybe she has an ax to grind.

These are horrendous weapons. And Israel dropped a shitload of them on Lebanon. But let's be real. If there weren't people in the world who wanted to do us harm, we wouldn't need these perfectly crafted killing machines. That doesn't mean dropping them on civilian areas is right.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Autumnal musings

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe days are turning cooler here in Northern Virginia. The leaves have begun to change color, and the nights are getting crisp. The smell of burning leaves is already in the air and the school buses gather and discharge their daily loads of chattering children. The sunlight has turned from the bluish white heat of summer to the golden longing of autumn. Soon there will be pumpkin pies and fires in the fireplace and the long nights turning colder. Orion will be visible and the big dipper will drop low in the sky.

This autumn marks seven years since my loving wife and I were married. It also marks her birthday (don't even think I'm going to tell you which one!) This year I will get the Masters degree that I have worked (and spent thousands of dollars) for.

This year we have changed churches, and we are finding some of the same problems at the new one as at the old one. No church is perfect, because no person is perfect.And the leadership at this church seems more open to change. We are still learning people's names, but we are excited with the new fellowship.

My job has continued for now and whether the Mark Foley scandal will be enough to give the Democrats the House remains to be seen. I have worked in Democratic Administrations and Republican Administrations. They are both equally useless.

There have been some internal changes this autumn. God is working on my heart. Old beliefs are giving way to new ones. Old habits are dying and new ones are sprouting.

There have been days when I thought I could barely make it through I was so tired. There have also been days I wanted to bottle and hold and save. I have cried some days and laughed so hard other days I thought I would break open.

The Redskins suck. Again. But people keep hoping that they will be like the teams that won the Super Bowl. Hope springs eternal for some.

One of my good friends from school is in Djibouti. He misses his wife and kids and they miss him. Desperately. Yet his wife seems to have a strength that I admire. Somehow, she makes it through without him, waiting for him to come home.

I still have dialup Internet, which makes loading photos or other big documents slow. I hate it. But I don't want a $100 cable bill to speed things up. So we get through. Slowly.

I wish I could take days like today and absorb them, like the ground does the dew. Then when the world was cold, or cruel, or ugly, I could let out some of the beauty that surrounds me. Then the world would seem better, if only for a little while.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Just for giggles

I saw this ad while watching Desperate Housewives last week.

This is the FUNNIEST ad I have seen in a long time. The baboon is hilarious.

Click the title of this post to see it. And make sure you're not at work, because folks will think you're nuts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The End of the Year

It was one of those days today in DC - the kind of day when playing hooky looks like the most redemptive thing that you can do. When being a responsible adult just doesn't fit your idea of what God had in mind for you.

But who am I kidding?

They don't pay you for indulging your childlike whims - the desire to run and play and fall into a pile of leaves or lie on your back and look at the sky. So I did the next best thing - I took pictures.

This image is of the World War II Memorial on the Mall just after sunset. I had no idea it was so beautiful.

I love DC this time of year - partially because the Congress has done us all a favor and gotten out of town so the traffic is lighter - but most of all because it is the time of year when the city looks its best. The air is not as humid as in the summer, and so you can see farther. The colors of the leaves are beginning to emerge, so there is a diversity of brilliant hues covering the city. Even today, some of the yellows were visible in the tops of trees along the Mall.

They had the Library of Congress National Book Festival on the Mall today too. Thousands of people lined up to buy books, hear talks by authors on various subjects like mystery or biography or children's books. But by far the biggest line was for the book signings. And the most popular line was for Bob Woodward to sign his new book about the Iraq war and what a shambles it is. There were a lot of people in line with that one.

Is it one of the tyrannies of our time that you don't appreciate where you are, but always want to be somewhere else? Walking down the street today, I saw people of all kinds, young, old, families, children, all races and all out for different reasons. I was like a mosaic or a tapestry - but all of us were under the same glorious golden sun. Flower at the Botanical garden

A new part of the Botanical Garden opened today near the Capitol building. (Actually they had the big shindig for it yesterday, with Mrs. Bush there along with several Capitol Police armed with automatic weapons guarding the place). It looks like a landscaper's dream yard. I couldn't get into it today because it had closed, but I will.

Then there was the sunset. Sometimes sunsets are almost sacred. I remember sitting on top of Cooper's Rock outside Morgantown, West Virginia when I was in college and watching the sunset. The sun was a flame orange ball that slowly sank over the horizon. The Cheat River below us turned from a bright green to a dark gray and then the nights this time of year would get cold.
So cold you could see your breath. Sunset in DC Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWear a sweater or a coat cold. Curl up with your honey next to the fire kind of cold. Not bitter cold like Winter; just cold enough where you knew Summer was over and it was time for fires and wine and friendship.

There was one of those sunsets tonight here too. I didn't get all of it in my camera, but I got a little bit. Like I said - it was one of those days.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Land of Butterscotch Sunlight

I've never known anyone yet who doesn't suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around... We're all eight years old again and anything is possible. --Sue Grafton

I made a change to the masthead because it's autumn now. I love autumn. It is absolutely my favorite time of year. I know winter is next, but right now, every day seems like you would want to capture it, hold it, take it into yourself and become part of it.

The colors are more vibrant. It's not that the grass wasn't that green before. The angle of the light just wasn't right. But it is now.

If you would like to see the whole image used for the masthead and footer - taken last year at Big Walker Mountain in North Carolina - please click here

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What WILL they think of next!?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI hear about this and I still - sadly - can believe DC will probably have them by Christmas. There was a story in the Wall Street Journal about Pacific Grove, California, where they have installed so-called "smart" parking meters.

These things sense when your car is there and when you move - even if there is a lot of time on the meter - they zero themselves out. That means the person who pulls in behind you will miss the thrill of getting something for nothing - time on your dime.

This particular beast pictured here takes a hi-res photo of your ride and sends it to the government if you run out of time. And you can tell it to call your cell phone if it is about to run out of time. Oh, and you can't feed these things - they can tell you haven't moved your car, and they will not take any more money until the space is empty!

Who gets it? The city! The godforsaken city government, where profit is everything!

DC will have to have these things soon, and they will send the taxpayers the bill. It's hard enough to park here in the city, but now they are going to ask more for it.

And of course the city officials are ALL for it. It would mean basically a free dollar or two for them. It already costs $.25 for 15 minutes in downtown DC, so why not gather up all those quarters people have in their cars anyway.

Get your bicycles ready, yo. The Chocolate City's coming to take another bite out of your wallet.

Maybe the American people should implement a system like that for the government. You know - charge the Congress for every time they write some usless bill or staple some amount of pork projects onto a vital piece of legislation.

Or maybe we could revoke a lawmaker's - or the president's - right to govern every time they did something stupid.

"Too much money wasted - oops sorry, you're no longer in Congress."

" No weapons of mass destruction - ching - you're no longer president."

" Too much influence from rich white men - ching - you're out of office."

You know, their reign is over; they're no longer king.

Oh, that's right we can do that! We can do it in November. We don't need guns or bombs, we have ballots. So let's make sure we exercise that privilege - be as automatic in the ballot box as this stupid parking meter is about your car. If you have overstayed you're welcome, the next guy doesn't get a free ride - he has to prove he belongs there, and it has to cost him something.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In the footsteps of a giant ...

Ernest Hemmingway (c) www.florida-arts.org I just got finished reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

I don't know why I got on that kick other than I had seen a PBS broadcast about Hemingway's coverage of the Spanish Civil War and his work during WWII as a war correspondent.

This was the first of three books by Papa Hemingway that I planned to read. The other two are A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls . But in this work, Hemingway wrote like a lost soul.

It fit the subject matter - the Lost Generation after WWI, in Paris and especially in Pamplona, Spain. It was a quick read, primarily because it doesn't have too many run-on sentences. The writing is compact, declarative and to the point. The imagery paints definite pictures in your mind, and it does what my professor said once all good writing does - take you there.

But I must confess, my ignorance of history - particularly Europe in the 1920s - and Paris geography probably deprived me of some of the emotional impact of the work. But it was a joy to read Papa again.

Friday, September 08, 2006

B.S.U.R. . . U.C.I.M. Part Deux

I have updated my earlier post on Victor Wooten's clinic last month at Prince Frederick Library in Maryland.

I added some shots from the real clinic by a fellow student - and master luthier - Doug Pettway. Check them out and be sure to check out Doug's webpage top see some of his fine instruments.

Isn't it fantastic to see how varied and wonderful the creativity God grants us is?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My wife would have me examined!

My editor at work sent me a copy of an article from the 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly Magazine. Granted this was 51 years ago, but some of the "recommendations" in this article sound like they were written by the Taliban. Among the real goodies:

"Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day."

"Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice."

"Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction."

Did I mention that this rag also said "Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax." (Oh and they forgot to add, make sure you are the Virgin Mary when it comes to raising the children, but Lady Chatterly in the bedroom, any time he wants, as much as he wants, regardless of how sh**ty he treats you!)

I laughed out loud when I read this crap! Who in the world came up with this? And you know what the last one was? "A good wife always knows her place."

Now wait a minute! I have been married for almost seven years now. While I would agree that the work-a-day world can sand the life out of you, no way can I expect my wife to have everything perfect when I come home. And my wife is a conscientious woman, she keeps a great house (on top of working her hands off at a hair salon). But I'm not one of those Homer Simpson-types, sitting around doing nothing.

Frankly I have found that there's no such thing as "woman's Work" or "man's work." There's just the work. Laundry, dishes, garbage, yard work, bills - they are equal opportunity tasks.

But the sad thing is - some people still believe this backwash! Don't mistake the biblical passage about submission to authorize this kind of hoo-hah. Please.

Let's see - maybe we could give the "Good husband's Guide."

"Remember that your wife is a gift from God; you are not entitled to her affection or presence, so do everything you can to make her feel appreciated."

"Never be abrupt or harsh with her; she is God's daughter and He will ask you why you treated her that way."

"Love her with your very life. If it comes to a choice between your life and hers, yours is over. Always remember that she is a gift, not a right."

"Work hard to provide for her and help her with the children. She has been working just as hard as you, and has handled stresses that you do not on a daily basis. Your commute, your job, and your paycheck do not entitle you to be a bastard."

"Listen to her, even when what she is saying doesn't make sense to you. And don't try to fix things for her. Sometimes she just wants you to listen, and not act."

"Never make anything - your job, your friends, Superbowl tickets or the NCAA Final Four - more important to you than she is. Always treat her with respect, acknowledging that God gave her a mind too, and she can say something of value."

"Remember, a good husband always knows his place."

Wonder how many of us guys could live up to even one of those stipulations. I couldn't. I screw it up all the time. That's why I need Jesus.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz

Sleep and Night by Evelyn De MorganI don't get enough sleep. I often stay up too late, either watching television, talking to my wife, or studying. When I do lie down, I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep because I have "twitchy leg" or gas or the neighbor's dog is barking or something. It tends to wear me thin. But it turns out that thin is something I might have trouble being if I don't get enough sleep.

According to sleep-deprivation.com, there are several causes for sleeplessness. One is lifestyle choices (others include medical conditions, sleep disorders, and medication). That tends to be what shoots me down.

According to this webpage, lifestyle choices include shift work - which often interrupts my sleep patterns - jet lag and travel (which I don't experience much) and caffeine, alcohol and diet, and emotional disturbance or stress (all of which I have from time to time).

And one big bugaboo about this whole thing is it can play into an addictive cycle. You don't get enough sleep, so you're tired (like me) so you have a cup-of-joe to wake up, but it only lasts a little while, so you have another. Or maybe you eat late at night (shift workers) and then you can't get to sleep because you're too full.

Or maybe the day just won't go away. Maybe things haunt you and you cannot seem to turn it off. These things come like a guest unbidden and stay like the Thing That Wouldn't Leave.

All of that can contribute to weight gain because it causes a depletion of one of the hormones that tells your brain that you're full. It also causes mental impairment, which can lead to bad decisions, sloppy work, irritability, and stress. Which of course can lead to sleeplessness. I hear the cycle spinning.

And there are also the very real dangers of operating a car or other machinery when you'd rather be snoring. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 100,000 car accidents are caused each year by driver fatigue. Of that number, more than 1,500 die and 71,000 are injured. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So what are we walking zombies to do?

There are some steps to take. The first one is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, regardless of whether it is a weekend or you are on vacation. Every day - up and down at the same time. This helps the body's rhythms and contributes to deep sleep.

According to the website, others include:

Exercise.
Regular exercise improves sleeping habits. Exercise between twenty to thirty minutes a day for the best results, but take care not to exercise within five hours of bedtime.

Don't Lie Awake. If you cannot fall asleep, don't lie in bed awake. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake. Get up and do something else until you feel sleepy.

Eat and Drink Long Before Bedtime. A heavy meal before bed can cause indigestion, which can keep you up. Drinking fluids before bed can interrupt your rest by causing you to get up to urinate. Try to avoid both food and fluids for at least two hours before bedtime.

Relax. Spending some down time before bed can relax you enough that falling asleep comes easier. Meditation, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques may all work. Relaxation could be as simple as a warm bath, or quiet reading (not in the bedroom, though).

Keep the Bedroom for Two Things. Watching television, paying the bills, reading a book, and listening to music in the bedroom are not recommended. By doing so, you create the expectation in your mind that the bedroom is for activities other than resting. Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex. (WOO hah, now that's what I'm talkin' bout.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sunset, August 22, 2006

I shot this on Tuesday, August 22, 2006 near my home in Virginia. Click on the photo to get the full effect

Friday, August 18, 2006

Metro Musings

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNear my job, there is a Starbucks Coffe Shop, and this one happens to be right above a Metro Station in Southwest DC. I was waiting for the PGA to end today, so I jetted down to 'bucks to get a brew. To my surprise, no one was sitting in the large chairs next to the window that look out over the escalators that lead down to the Metro station. It gave me a great perch from which to people watch.

There was this guy standing at the top of the escalators, wearing a blue Washington Nationals monogram cap, a white t-shirt, and jeans. He was skinny - not just skinny, but "I-just-got-out-of-a-Chinese-reeducation-camp-in-Xinjiang" skinny. And this dude was begging people for money. Not the shake-the-cup-and-play-on-people kind of begging. Just putting out his hand, and asking for money as people went down the escalator.

Most people ignored him. Some gave him money. Some looked nervous and glanced away as they walked by and shook their heads. He lit a smoke and kept begging. He was there the whole time I was.

About 10 feet away was a guy selling flowers - roses and mixed bouquets for $4 and $6 respectively. Every now and then he would call out "Don't forget your flowers," or "don't forget your roses."

A pretty brunette in black pants and a blue-and-white striped top stopped and bought a half dozen red roses. She also gave the beggar some change when she went down the escalator.

Then there was the family of tourists - they might as well have been wearing "WERE NOT FROM HERE" on their shirts.

The mom and the daughter came into Starbucks to use the bathroom while the rest of the group waited out by the escalators. Mom and the daughter emerged a few minutes later, but only after mom had looked at a water bottle that Starbucks wanted $10 for.

I don't know if she really wanted the bottle or whether she was just trying to assuage her guilt. Either way, she and the daughter left and went down the escalator to the Metro with the rest of their troop.

A pretty, auburn-haired girl came in an ordered a Venti Vanilla Latté and sat by the window and talked on her cell phone. A large fat, bald guy in a pink shirt and brown pants passed the beggar and went down the escalator. He looked like a man who didn't want to be bothered.

People came and went, passing this guy begging and the flower guy and me in my perch behind the glass.

There was one girl who looked like she had Cerebral Palsy. She was making her way from the Health and Human Serives Building to the Metro. It took her a long time to get across the street

She made it though. She passed the guy begging for money, and as she did it looked like she aimed her body at the escalator, just trying to make sure she could grasp the rail and get down the stairs. As it carried her down towards the trains, she looked at me. I smiled, but I don't know if she saw me. She was probably the bravest person on the street.

A large, muscular Metro bus driver came in and bought coffee. He was a black dude with a pigtail hanging out from under his "Metro" baseball cap. The pretty girl at the window talked on her cellphone, the beggar lit another smoke, the flower guy kept calling out.

Outside people were making their way home, or coming into the city for whatever adventures they were on. And the PGA still wasn't finished.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

B.S.U.R. . . U.C.I.M!

Photo (c) Doug Pettway, image hosted by Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThis is an updated version of my earlier post featuring some of Doug Pettway's photos from the clinic Click here to see more on Doug's site. Also, check out some of his handiwork - the man is a luthier of the first order!) I had a unique opportunity today - I got to attend a bass seminar with none other than Victor Wooten of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and the Victor Wooten Band.

I had the chance to videotape most of the seminar for Victor and my bass teacher Anthony Wellington, Victor's former bass tech and a member of the Victor Wooten band (and a fine player in his own right).

Victor started by talking a little and then he just started to play. The brother played for 15 minutes of non-stop, I-just-made-this-up-in-my-head thumping. What a masterpiece. But he also had some really cool - and thought-provoking - things to say.

I couldn't stay for the whole seminar, but for what I could attend, Mr. Wooten laid some heavy stuff on us all. There were about 50 people there - all of them players and I believe all of them were - like me - Anthony's students.

After he blew us all away with this improvised piece, Victor answered a question about playing and I thought his answer was profound.

"We're not really concerned about playing," he said. "We're concerned about what people will think about the way we play. We don't seem to be afraid to play well in front of people. We lose it when we make mistakes."

"But whether I am a good player or a good musician does not depend on you," he said. "I can speak whether you like what I say or not, but my value, and my ability to speak is not determined by what you think of me," he added.

Good stuff, huh. I like how he also related playing music to speaking - it's a voice.

"We don't all speak English the same way," he said. "You don't talk like me, I don't talk like you. Don't expect to play like me when you play bass."

"You can't do what Marcus (Miller) or Stanley (Clarke) or any of those guys do, but that's because you're not them. You are you, and you need to speak the way you talk," Vic said.Vic and Ant Jamming  Image (c) Doug Pettway

I thought that was way cool, because often times we aspire to be like other musicians, but what he was saying was that we don't have to do that. You can be you. And you can express yourself through your instrument, and you don't have to worry about expressing someone else. And when you express what's in your heart, you will not sound the same way as someone else.

But Wooten reminded us that there is always pressure to conform.
"There's not much reward for individualism," he said. "Society doesn't like it, religion doesn't like it, and often we feel we are supposed to play music exactly the way it has always been. But that's not really being true to who you are." Especially if you have the talent and 39 years experience like Victor!

I asked Vic about a statement that Carlos Santana made in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning - he said that he is in the business of putting people in a trance. Vic agreed, noting that Carlos sometimes refused to play indoors and to wear shoes because he wanted to be in contact with the universe.

And he also mentioned talking to your instrument - literally having a conversation with the bass - like "why are you fighting with me!" He told the story of one player - a famous player he did not identify - who sat down and talked to his bassandd thanked it for being what it was. The strings, the tuning heads, the pickups, etc. And when he went to pick up the bass, it almost felt like it jumped on his shoulder. A little cosmic, I know, but there is something to the fact that the created order was made by words - but that's for another post.

Another goody Victor laid on us is when he said that we need to realize that we are all musical, otherwise we would not know what we considered good music. Playing (or singing) is only part of being musical.

In response to another question, Victor said that sometimes it's good to walk away from the instrument. Someone had asked why do players burnout. Vic's answer?

"Have you ever been in a relationship? You have a relationship with the instrument and like all relationships, it can get stale. So sometimes its best to walk away and then when you do come back, you have that fire, that passion."

Wooten said that if he could - if he could support his family another way - he would walk away from the bass for a couple years, simply because he is missing parts of his children's lives that he would like to be there for.

Victor Wooten Image (c) flecktones.comVictor also passed on some practical wisdom about just playing - we often want to play things that are patterns - scales, arpeggios, etc. But we get anxious about making mistakes and when we do, we lose the ability to play the rest of the tune because we are so upset. Vic's advice?

"I sometimes just play wrong notes on purpose," he said. "Sometimes, I will just sit down with the bass and play random things, no pattern, no scale, just jumping around on the fretboard." He illustrated that by doing just that while he was talking.

"If you can get that random thing clean, when you go back to your patterns or scales, they will be really clear," he said. It was great.

Victor also did not seem to care what other kids thought about his playing growing up. He had his brothers, and their input was far more important than his peer group. And his parents also had a big influence on the whole family.

"And they're not even musicians, but they are musical," Wooten said.

Vic was more than willing to answer any and all questions. The seminar was in the Prince Frederick Public Library, and the room was pretty much packed out with players. I don't know what will become of the video tape. I would love to sit down with Vic and a crew and do a seminar like that. Kind of like James Lipton and Inside the Actor's Studio, or like Dr. Billy Taylor used to do on Live From the Kennedy Center

As I said, I had to leave early. But my heart stayed there and will probably be gleaning from this brush with the master for a while. Who knows what will become of it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Credit Where Credit's Due ...

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI recently did something that was pretty painful. The thing itself was necessary (ending a longstanding, but toxic relationship), it was just the way I did it that I sometimes wish I had handled differently.

It made me look at why I do things the way I do, and come to find out - NEWSFLASH - it has something to do with the way I was reared. But thanks be to God, even though my childhood sucked pretty much, I can start over.

I have noticed a pattern in my life - I tend to get into situations where people are emotionally unavailable and abusive - in a kind of velvet glove kind of way. They don't hit me or anything like that - no their abuse is much more subtle. It tends to come off as dismissive - you know, "oh isn't that nice, now get the F*** out of here."

Oh they wouldn't have the fortitude to actually say that. No, it's more nice than that. It usually sounds like "oh, okay, thanks," and then they go and do what they want to and my input is discarded like so much trash. And I guess that's what people do, but where I get hung up is that I try to get approval from these abusers! And why is that?

You got it, mommy and daddy.

Now I don't want to be like the car commercial where the guy with the megaphone is yelling "because daddy never loved me." My parents did the best they could; they just didn't have anything to draw from. So they passed on what they knew - which was toxic waste. And that's why I want to get healed. Because see the insidious thing about abuse is that if you don't get well, you pass it on even if you don't mean to. Even if you say within yourself "I'll never do that !" you end up doing exactly the same thing.

So that's what I am about now. Getting healed. It ain't easy. I find the monster in every corner of my life - situations where I have been acting the same way I learned how to as a kid, but where those reactions don't work any more. It's like the old story of the Tar Baby. The more you hit it, the more you get stuck. But now it's time to get unstuck. Now it's time to be free. And free is much more pleasant than stuck.

I read something one time that said no tyrant ever surrenders territory unless one stronger than him forces him to. Sounds like my life. Sounds like the battle ahead. And I have a role to play in it. But thanks be to God, I am not in this alone. My Liberator is with me, and He will bring it to pass.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

When sorrows come ...

they come not single spies, but in battalions. William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately, and I don't really like all that I find. There is a lot of crap inside that goes back many years. But like a tree that has been struck by lightning, even though stuff grows over top of the wound, the damage is still there.

Right now I am dealing with the feelings of neglect. See my family was the poster children for dysfunction. Not to weep a puddle in the middle of the floor, but I find that the toxic crap that went on there affects me now.

Many of the survival techniques I learned as a child, I kept. Albeit they no longer work, but old habits are hard to break. Like a bad golf swing. You have to concentrate on doing the new thing, and let the old thing fade away. But changing your thought life is not as easy as changing your five iron. Thoughts - memories, habits, pains - come unbidden and often at the least opportune time.

And when the current situation mirrors the painful one from the past, I often employ the same strategy. Maybe I get angry and threatening, maybe I run away, maybe I feel depressed. Maybe I lash out. But none of that is what I know I am supposed to do.

So I am having to learn. I'm in therapy, and I am reading a lot of books. And I am having to learn new habits. That's not an excuse, it's just what is.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Now it's personal.

firing an M-4 carbine (c) defenseindustrydaily.comA friend of mine and a classmate at school is getting set to deploy with his military unit. I'm not entirely sure where he's going, but it brings the whole conflict (in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East) into focus for me. He wrote on his webpage a couple days ago:

We spent all day yesterday at the range to brush up on our firearms skills, which will be very helpful in prep for the ten full days of firing we will get in Georgia, mainly with the M-4 Carbine (primary weapon) and the Sig Sauer 9mm (secondary). Should be a tough four weeks total as we'll be in hot August GA weather with level 4 body armor for most of the time from what I understand. Hopefully I'll have internet/email access while I'm down there so I can post and talk to friends and family.

Makes the common everyday stuff we bitch about seem a little small, huh?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Good fences make ....

a path. Sometimes we need fences. Some people call them boundaries. I didn't have many as a kid. I am having to learn to build them now, and it's not the easiest process in the world. Sometimes when you have been functioning in dysfunction for a long time, starting to get back to "normal" feels disquieting. To yourself and to others.

I have been reading a couple of books about spiritual abuse, and about boundaries. One thing that keeps coming back to me is that I cannot say "yes" unless it comes from my heart - not because someone else thinks I "ought" to.

So I have had to make some decisions. I realized there's a lot of F****ed up stuff inside me and I keep looking to redo life through a series of toxic situations. Work, church, the way I relate to myself and others.

So I have to step away from some things for a while. And I have to learn not to care what other people think. So many times we try to get approval from others and we lose ourselves in order to get it. I got to the point where I didn't want to do that any more.

But that doesn't mean it will always be easy. But my wife is reading a book called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. One thing it mentions about the passage that "he makes me lie down in green pastures," is that sheep will stay in the same place until someone leads them away. They will literally eat ruts in the earth - even when there's nothing in them - and stay there because it is familiar. Sounds like some relationships I've been in.

But the Good Shepherd is too loving to let his sheep eat dirt in ruts. And another thing the book mentions is that once they get to the green pastures, even the old ewes will kick their heels at the rejoicing of being in a new pasture. Boy am I looking forward to that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Redemption, part one

Amy Grant (c) Realitytv.comThe evil that men do lives after them;The good is oft interred with their bones - William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

I came across an article about Amy Grant's new album release later this year. Amy has a new disc called Time Again ... Amy Grant Live . It's a further sign that things have turned - that the pain she has lived through is healing.

I have a friend who is friends with Amy, Michael W. Smith, and Amy's former husband Gary Chapman. She was one of the people who knew directly that Amy and Gary were going to split up back in the 1990s. She told me about it, and having been divorced earlier in my life, I could relate to the pain. It's tough - tougher than a spouse dying because if they die, at least you can say to yourself "well, they're gone; that's it."

Amy is now married to country crooner Vince Gill, and they appear to be very happy together. And that's what struck me about the article announcing her live album release - that nobody mentioned their past. I thought that was kind of cool, and it reminded me that the grace of God is a country the boundaries of which stretch an awful lot farther than we think.

Many times preachers will try to scare people into doing what they want with a kind of "God's gonna getcha" philosophy of preaching. It usually has to do with hell, damnation, and eternity - all of which are real. But someone going to hell is a tragedy, because it means they missed the abundant provision for redemption that is available.

And believe me, we ALL need redeeming. I have done some terrible things in my time - okay, so I haven't murdered anyone, but I have been a pretty rotten guy. And I know some rotten guys. And I know some rotten women, too. But that's not the point - we're all rotten. That's what Jesus meant when he said "I haven't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." The idea is that no one can earn God's favor, because no one is good enough.

That's why a Redeemer had to be provided. And that's what Jesus is and brings - Redemption.

And that redepmtion doesn't just stop with what is called "getting saved" - coming to rely and trust in Jesus. The redemption is much wider than that, encompassing all of life.

So maybe I'll get a copy of Amy's new DVD. I know my wife will enjoy listening to another high-profile singer who knows about redemption - Sandi Patti - at the Women of Faith Conference. Sandi's another one who can tell you the border of God's grace is a long way away. So maybe ol' Will Shakespeare was wrong; maybe the evil that men do is the thing interred with their bones.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I have called you friends

chain gangIt was the kind of news you don't like to hear. A former colleague of mine - a professing Christian - has been convicted and sentenced to a year in jail for possession of child pornography. It made the papers today.

I worked with this guy for several years, and I knew he had been "allowed" to retire from the Federal government after being caught with porn on his computer. The last thing I said to him was "get the help you need." I hope he does. For now, my friend will have to serve his time in jail. From there, who knows.

I hope the church can get past his past and see that Jesus has not given up on him, as He does not on any of us. We all have chains that need to be removed; some of them are just more visible than others.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Now that's just sick....

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'm at the gym the other day trying to sweat off a few pounds on the stair climber and the treadmill and other trainers and what does ESPN have on the tube? The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for this year. Again, this guy, Takeru Kobayashi, won the thing by eating 53 3/4 hot dogs in 12 minutes. To watch this guy cram Nathan's dogs (and the buns) in his grill in 12 minutes was something else. It was like watching a car wreck.

I have to watch what I eat. I can't eat just anything and hope to stay in my clothes. And I have to work out - at least three times a week just to maintain my weight. But I love good food. So to see these dudes - and ladies I might add - shoving dozens of hot dogs down their throats and dipping the buns in water or lemonade or something else to help them choke down the sausages, was a bit much.

There was an American guy - Joey Chestnut - who ate 52 dogs and a diminutive woman known as "the Black Widow" aka Sonya Thomas who ate 37 of the frankfurters.

Bread for the World International and the World Food Program say that of the nearly six-and-one-half billion people in the world today, 852 million people across the world are hungry, up from 842 million a year ago. Of that total, more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds.

The World Food Program has a map that shows some of the places in the world that are most in need of food aid. It's telling, and it's in color.

WFP also has something called "Counting the Hungry" which is an interactive tool that illustrates and illuminates the world hunger problem.

I wonder what it would look like if on our computers, every five seconds we had a graphic where a child's face turned to a skeleton and disappeared. And we couldn't get rid of it. It just stayed there. I wonder how long we would watch - or God help us if we would become hardened to it and not even notice after a while.

Look, I don't want to sound condemnatory; I was just repelled by watching Kobayashi stuff his grill with enough food to feed a village - even if it is crappy food. Some say the problem is not a food problem - we have enough to feed people. The problem is distribution of the food we have. But I have to ask myself "what have you done to solve the problem?"

Now THAT's a thought

Zendik.org bumper sticker
I had seen this bumper sticker on a car on the Beltway several months ago. I laughed out loud to see it, because it conveyed a truth that I think I need to learn. So often it is easy to complain, to whine - to bitch - but not have the courage to do something about it. I finally got one of these stickers, and the accompanying t-shirt, this week.

I was on an errand to get a piece of equipment for work when I came across a buxom young blonde in a spaghetti-strapped top with this slogan on it. She was standing near the E-street Theatres on 7th St. NW in DC, and I told her "I have got to have one of those. How much are they?"

The young woman, who was wearing camo pants, the t-shirt, boots and gold eye shadow, smiled and said "they're free, but we ask for a donation."

Seems that Zendik.org is an artistic farm commune in West Virginia. The Washington Post did a slide show and story on it in the January 22nd Style section this year. I tried to look it up on Washington Post.com. I also found an on-line article from Washington City Paper, which you can read here. Also there is the Wikipedia entry here.

But what did fascinate me was the philosophy embodied in the bumper sticker. (I know - simple ideas are on bumper stickers - like "My Karma ran over your Dogma"). But something about the phrase stuck with me - stop bitching, start a revolution.

The phrase apparently has a whole series of workshops and other stuff that go with it, but the idea is pretty simple and that's what appeals to me about it. Stop bitching - stop complaining, stop thinking that somebody else is going to make your life work, stop thinking that your being screwed up is somebody else's responsbility to fix, OWN your life.

Start a revolution - a revolution is something that upsets the status quo, it confronts the way things are and says "let's do something different." I like that.

(NOTE: My agreeing with the slogan in no way implies an endorsement of the philospophy of Wulf Zendik, the Zendik Art Farm, its affiliates or associates. I have not read Wulf's book, nor do I necessarily support the ideas contained therein; however, I do think he came up with a cool phrase).

Okay so now that the NSA can call off its watchdogs ... apparently the Zendiks started a commune in West Virginia to live out their philosophy. Wulf Zendik wrote a book AQuest Among the Bewildered which is largely autobiographical in its content when he lived in Paris and California in the 1950s. He was part of the beat generation, and mingled Christian ideas with Buddhism and beat philosophy. You can see photos of Wulf, Arol and others at the commune here.

PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Make sure you spell the name right. If you happen to type in Zendick you go to a porno site that features "adult entertainment." And that's the LAST thing I would want to point you to.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Say what?!

Osama Bin Laden (c) der SpiegelSo news reports say that Osama Bin Laden has been downgraded from the CIA's most wanted list. The reported mastermind of the 9-11 attacks on the United States has apparently been downgraded because Al-Qaeda is no longer considered the organized threat that it once was. The CIA says most of the organization's senior leadership has been wiped out, and it's structure is so fractured that it is not the threat it once was. I think they just handed the case over to this guy.

Monday, June 26, 2006

So when do the pairs of animals come?

Lake Drive in Manassas, VA flooded by Bull Run CreekOkay so maybe that's a little extreme, but it has been raining a lot here in the DC area this week. This photo is one I took of the road near my house when it was closed because of a flash flood.

The water was careening over the road so fast that the fire department had no choice (apparently) but to close the road.

Maybe it was the ten tons of crap in the creek - tires, chairs, lawn furniture, tree limbs and other stuff - that blocked the drains. But it finally got the illuminati from VDOT to come down and take a look at things. I hope it wasn't too little to late.

They had the road blocked on both sides of my house. Cornelia and I had been out to some appointments and when we got home, we couldn't get to our house! It was such a helpless feeling, and there was really no way to get past the fire trucks - or the water. This was a flood of the first degree, muddy water rushing over the road and down the (too small and clogged) culverts in our neighborhood. And there was nothing we could do to get past, so we decided to go to lunch and wait to see if the water would subside.

But an hour later it had not. So we parked the car and decided to go around. We went to a higher street in our neighborhood, and walked through the woods - getting quite soggy in the process I might add - and finally emerged beyond the creek and behind a neighbor's house. Our main concern was getting home because the dog had not been let out for almost six hours by the time we got home. We saw that the road had cleared enough for us to retrieve our car and then we drove home and felt quite relieved.

But the feeling of helplessness was really crappy. I can't imagine what it would be like if we were in the situation some folks have encountered in DC and other areas - with building inspectors tagging their houses with "Condemned" stickers. That would be unbelievable. I had a sh***y attitude today even though we made it home. But I cannot imagine if we had to leave the house and not come back until it was all cleaned out and cleared by electricians and building inspectors and gas company people.

And the forecast is for more rain and thunderstorms for at least a couple of days. Now watch, some idiot will say this is God's punishment on America for wickedness or something stupid like that.

But right now I am thanking God that I made it home and that my wife - and my dog - are safe.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Back from the Beach

Sunrise, Virginia Beach, Va (c) DbyrdSo I just got back from Virginia Beach, where I was taking a class. The sand and sun are just heating up, and the water is still below 70 degrees, but it was the BEACH. Now if you want to preserve that beach body, I have found something that will help - Weight Watchers chocolate chip muffins. That's right, muffins.

These things are as chocolaty as you would want, and they are lower in calories that your standard comfort food. But the only place I could find them was Farm Fresh in Virginia Beach! Needless to say, I loaded up. But Weight Watchers' website says that Safeway sells them. I will have to find out, because my lovely wife LOVES chocolate, but like me, she has to watch it or the weight monster will jump on her back.

So we have taken to eating the Weight Watchers stuff, and believe me, these things help preserve your sanity. If chocolate is not your thing, they also have them in Blueberry and other flavors. But the main thing is that they help drive away that "I've got to have something SWEET" feeling that you get.

So eat up, and enjoy. They are great with coffee, especially if you nuke them in the microwave for 15 seconds and put a little fat-free Cool Whip topping them. Bon Appetit!