Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Frederick Polley - New York City

Frederick Polley was exceedingly gifted in drawing architectural subjects, and he demonstrated a special appreciation for historic churches, in particular. Many of his works feature buildings and typically one sees that he strives to capture not merely an accurately rendered image, but also to reflect a sense of identity, character, and even history associated with his subject.

This lithograph was made from a drawing entitled "Little Church Around The Corner". I don't know which church this is in New York City, or precisely when it was drawn, but there are several things to appreciate. I like the open gate and the pastoral tone set by the shrubbery wall and courtyard, juxtaposed against the subtle backdrop of skyscrapers and penthouses in the near background.

When possible, my family collects the works of Frederick Polley.
If you see any, please let me know!

Listening: Lachrimae Pavin by John Dowland

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Scourge of the Yard Varmints

Personally, I think the .17 caliber round is a worthless thing, but I really like what these guys have done with it.

Yes, I want one...the world's smallest machine gun.

When I Don't Know What To Do

As a worship leader and musician, every now and then I come across a song that sings from my heart as though I myself had written it. As a songwriter, I usually really wish I had written it. Its not envy...well, not on my good days, anyway. Its just that there are some few songs that resonate strongly with who I am and what my life is about, such that I just want to make them my own.

This is one of those songs. Here are the lyrics, and here is a link to iTunes to download it. For 99 cents, about the cost of a Snickers bar, you can receive a much sweeter blessing. This song wants to be played loud, by the way.

When I Don’t Know What To Do
Tommy Walker WeMobile Music ©2005 CCLI #4556332

Lord I surrender all to
Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust your perfect plan

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace, Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me

By the way, this whole album is excellent. One of Tommy Walker's gifts is that, regardless of whether you are musically inclined or not, you will know this song after hearing it one time. You will be singing along by the time it gets to the second chorus.

I really hope you will do this and then tell me what you think.

Friday, November 24, 2006

They smile in your face, all the time they wanna take your place, the back stabbers...(falstetto: Back Stabbers!). The Gospel according to the O'Jay's

An article in the December online issue of Christianity Today reveals some big changes at the Purpose Driven Life organization, the adjunct ministry started a couple of years ago by Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, as an extension to his best-selling book. While the sale of the book that started the popular wave of teaching on church health, personal growth, evangelism, and outreach remains strong, evidently the corporate entity itself has had trouble sustaining its function of support and implementation to churches. In the last few months it has been compelled to cut staff by 35%, downscale efforts, and consolidate its leadership under the church’s oversight. While the reportage in the CT article seems, to me, balanced and nonjudgmental, predictably, some of the response around the blogosphere is decidedly less so.

Rick Warren, like every outspoken pastor before him, has never suffered from a lack of critics among the faithful. While a man may be blameless before God with Christ as his Savior, if he finds his efforts in the realm of ministry blessed by the Lord to any significant degree, it is a fact as sure as Jesus is coming again that he will be pulling arrows out of his back. It would seem obvious that there is no man or church in possession of perfect theology, in either doctrine or practice, but yet, since Christian theologians thrive on sputtering about the distinctives of their traditions of belief rather than focusing on the overarching commonalities, it is not surprising that there are many who find fault, even grevious errors, in Warren’s writing. And I do not doubt that some errors likely exist. But does that explain or give justification to the self-righteous tone that pervades in the wake of what, for the dedicated workers at PDL, is likely a disheartening turn? Why do we exult, even quietly, in this kind of misfortune?

The Purpose Driven Life, by even the most cynical estimates, has had a significant transforming impact on contemporary culture. There are hundreds of churches and many thousands of individuals who will testify to the positive impact this book has had on their spiritual life. I am one of those people and my church is one of those churches. Has it been 100% effective everywhere for everyone? What do you think?

I am always surprised and dismayed at what I see in the Christian community when a successful or prominent ministry suffers what seems to be a reversal of influence or a change of direction. Inevitably, the sniping begins in earnest, with assumptions and insinuations of impropriety or bad theology as the root cause for such a “downfall”. As the influence of Promise Keepers, another high profile, effective, and culturally engaging evangelical outreach, began to fade several years ago, the media earnestly tracked its “downfall” as it condensed in size, scope, and impact. Within many Christian circles there was dismay and disappointment and, sadly, a smug satisfaction among others.

In the secular business world, downsizing and loss of market penetration is truly a bad sign. It is intuitively obvious that negative growth in commerce ultimately spells doom for a company that can’t change or reorganize itself in time. And when they are successful, they are lauded, are they not? To some extent, this model may apply to churches and ministries, too, at least in the sense that as resources decrease so does impact. Yet the prevailing attitude of many towards ministries is the notion, completely unsupportable from scripture as far as I can tell, that simply because a ministry is large, or has a plan for growing large, it must be, ipso facto, theologically flawed. Then, if and when this suspect ministry wanes, suffers a setback, or repurposes itself, the critics point to this fading as “proof” of defect. Could it not be, instead, that like individual believers, a ministry is called by God to be effective for a season, to fill a specific and focused purpose, to meet a certain need, and then to fade or recede into a less visible role? It is hypocritical and illogical when these exulting critics point to both the “success” and the “failure”, dubious terminology at best, as proof that the target ministry was truly worthy of their holy disdain.

By way of further example, witness, too, the criticism that has been aimed at Willow Creek Community Church or Lakewood Church whose principal sins appear to be that they are too large and too effective at reaching out to their communities. In recent decades past, the targets have been the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard Church movements. And, oh yes, their theology is bad, too. Billy Graham, John Maxwell, Max Lucado, and John MacArthur have all been criticized for, in effect, being too popular and, of course, having bad theology. And what of a truly controversial ministry like Trinity Broadcasting Network? TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith-based channel. They offer commercial-free inspirational programming 24 hours a day with shows aimed to appeal to people in a variety of Protestant, Catholic, and even Messianic Jewish denominations. You know that is bound to piss some people off, right? Sure, a lot of it isn’t great television and you can definitely find some questionable individuals espousing bad theology. But what about the thousands of people who have reportedly come to know Jesus through the efforts of TBN and all of these other aforementioned high profile ministries?

Where are the measures of charity and love to balance this pathetic urgency to denigrate and belittle other believers because you are right and they are wrong? Is it simply envy or professional jealousy? Is it some delusion of denominational superiority, some misguided notion that you are the recipient or repository of doctrinal purity? Honestly, I don’t even care where this hateful spewage comes from. There is something sick and perverse, something truly sinful, at work in us when we find ourselves either indifferent to or secretly relishing the distress of others or the demise of a ministry simply because it is not of our preference.

It begs the convicting question posed by yet another oft-criticized youth-oriented evangelical movement…WWJD?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

North Christian Church - Lynn, IN 1909

This is a real-photo postcard that my wife (the antique dealer) found. It is a picture of the North Church of Christ in Lynn, Indiana. It was located on the corner of Sherman St. and Main (US Hwy. 27). I'm not sure when it was built but, as notated on the photo, this picture was taken in 1909. This congregation eventually built a new building to the north of town (in the 1960's, I think). This building was then purchased by my grandfather, George H. Polley who added on, remodeled and converted it into "Polley Farm Service", a very successful business in the sale and service of lawn, garden, and farm equipment.

My grandfather retired in 1976, selling the business and the building to a couple of good guys that had worked for him for years. In March of 1986, a tornado whipped through Lynn, destroying numerous homes and other buildings, including the Randolph Southern School, which combined K-12 grades and was located adjacent to Polley Farm Service. This building was literally flattened by the tornado, with the walls blown out and the ceiling crashing down. Miraculously, neither of the guys working there were killed nor seriously hurt. In fact, in spite of a couple of million dollars worth of property damage, no one was injured.

It is not uncommon for buildings to far outlast those who designed or built them. When I drive through an old town I always like to look at the names and dates that so often mark the buildings from the 1800 and 1900's. I live in a house that is at least 130 years old. It is a very strong, old tw0-story brick Italianate farmhouse that has seen many generations come and go. But nothing lasts forever on this earth and it is only by God's mercy that this old house was not touched by the tornado that angled its way through Lynn that cold day in 1986, less than a mile away. One day, it too will fall, though, of that I am certain.

Though we seldom consider it, Man's greatest achievements and most revered monuments are never more than a breath away from complete destruction. It is likely that from the pulpit of this old church, many people through the years heard sermons encouraging and exhorting them to store up their spiritual treasures in Heaven, rather than trusting in the fragile and temporary security of physical things here on earth. For we are all just passing through this life and everything we leave behind will one day fade, fall, or burn. This picture is a testimony to that truth.

As for what comes next...Life after Death...it is less a question of if there is such a thing, but rather where are we going to choose to spend it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

10 Thoughts In Passing

1) I am working night and day this week so I'm behind on important things like blogging, art assignments, guitar practicing, home maintenance, computer audio card installation, Romans 6:1-12, and figuring out how to make my cellphone behave.

2) My Ford F-150 was a really, really good truck, may it rest in peace. With nearly 200K miles, many of them hard miles, I can't complain. It served faithfully for many years.

3) Sadly, since I will soon be buying another vehicle, all friends and relatives can expect lovely jars of homemade carmel corn for Christmas this year. Oh come on, its the thought that counts!

4) Remind me never to use the words "cannonball baptism" again. I can't believe how many hits I've been getting off of that stupid Youtube post. Yeesh.

5) Its more fun to deliver mail in the summer than it is in the winter. And some people just get way too much mail. You don't need ALL of those stupid catalogs. No. You don't.

6) I don't watch that much television, but I do like that show "Shark" on Thursday nights. I think James Woods is an exceptionally gifted actor, if homely. And Jeri Ryan...well, she has gifts, too. The writing is pretty good.

(7) It is odd to me that I don't write much about music on my blog. I've started to a couple of times, but I haven't been happy with what I wrote. Music means so much to me and it is my principal and most beloved means of artistic expression. It has been said, famously, that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture". That is a true statement, I believe.

(8) The above quote about music supposedly originated with Elivis Costello in 1983 in an interview in the now defunct Musician magazine. I like Elvis, and especially his music from that period, but I am dubious that he made that up himself. One thing I am sure of is that Elvis Costello is married to Diana Krall, who is one of the best jazz vocalists of our time. She is due to bear twins soon. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. He could be that smart after all. Once, back in the early 80's, Elvis said something inappropriate at a party and Bonnie Raitt clocked him. Knocked him clean out cold, from what I understand. I like Bonnie Raitt, too, but I've got to move on...

(9) I'm really digging this English Renaissance music I've been listening to. I am co-coaching the Fine Arts Academic Team at the local high school. In spite of our school district's very small size, we have one of the most competitive teams in the state. This is the second year that I've helped out by teaching the kids music history. It is a lot of fun and I think they are just starting to appreciate some of the hot tunes from the 1500's. This next week we are going to be dissecting William Byrd's "Mass For Four Voices" and then checking out a gaggle of Thomas Morley's secular motets.

(10) G-man, buddy, we will be praying for you this week as you go through your trial by dentistry. Be strong. This too, will pass. We love you.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Frederick Polley in New Orleans No. 1

Click to enlarge

Frederick Polley loved New Orleans and made a number of excellent drawings while visiting there. He seemed to appreciate the intrinsic uniqueness of the city, how it was unlike any other that he had seen in his considerable travels. This, and several pictures to follow, were published in the Indianapolis Star back in the 1940's. Customarily, for all of his published newspaper work, he also wrote a by-line describing the location, maybe its history, sometimes the occasion of his visit, etc.

Listening: Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis (b. circa1505-d.11/23/1585) This is a hauntingly beautiful piece, unique in its use of 40 voices, divided into 8 5-voice choirs, each singing a unique part. This very popular work is presumed to have debuted at Queen Elizabeth's 40th birthday and it has had an interesting performance history, including a special BBC performance this year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veteran's Day

NPR's radio program "Day to Day" had the idea that a good way to honor veterans on Veteran's Day is to have Alex Chadwick do a politically-tinged little pseudo-essay, complete with sound elements from a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Predictable and powerless to resist the urge to connect the recent mid-term elections to the memory of our honored dead, the bumper to the segment nevertheless included some interesting historical information.

According to NPR, there are now 14 surviving American veterans of World War I. The youngest is 105 years old and the oldest is 115. It is fascinating to consider all of the things that these men have witnessed, both in that first "modern" war as well as in these intervening years.

I am deeply grateful to the men and women who have served in our military, now and in the past. Without their resolute sacrifice, we would all have far fewer freedoms which we could take for granted. And I am thankful, too, for those who are even now stepping up, volunteering to serve their country in a difficult and unpopular conflict. May America's prayers go strong before you and her gratitude stand firm behind you.

This beautiful painting of the American flag is by Gayle Curry.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gifts From Over The Mountains and the Far Sea

Nancy, and her sister, Mary, returned yesterday after spending a week vacationing in Portland, Oregon. There is a third sister, Annie, the middle one, that lives out there and a glorious assortment of nieces and nephews and other various relations. Mary’s daughter and her family live there, too, and are responsible for bringing us this guy, one of my nephews:

Now this is one fine-looking young man.
Click on it and check out that smile in closeup.

No, I didn't get to go this time because, well, because somebody needs to stick around and get some work done around here. But, my ever-thoughtful wife returned with magnificent presents, which I will now catalog in detail:

1 lb of Stumptown French Roast coffee (black gold, this...perhaps the best coffee in America).

Books from one of the most wonderful places in the world, Powell's Books, in Portland. Titles include:

Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz, of which I am a fan)
The Right To Write by Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way, of which I am a fan)
Zappa, A Biography by Barry Miles (about the late, great, profound, and profane Frank Zappa)

And, of course, she brought the great picture above as well as tales of exotic adventures, of sushi, of clothes and shoes, of live comedy, and coffee shops, and a prodigious amount of shopping. And she brought good reports of loved ones afar off whom we very seldom see.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Go Ahead, Say It Out Loud

Since mid-October, when driving south on US 27, just before entering the next town south of where I live, I have seen an unusual sign posted at the end of a residential driveway. It is clearly observable en passant that the people who live there have an abundant quantity of a popular seasonal gourd and they are desirous of selling them to anyone who may drive by.

You know the one I mean...it is Halloweeny and it makes a really good pie. I like pie.

But I digress.

This is what the sign says:


Now, this is not just about an unfortunate mispelling. This sign has been up for weeks! And here's the odd thing...okay, one of the odd things. The "N" was obviously added to this sign as a corrective afterthought, for it is a different color marks-a-lot than the other letters and it has been shoehorned akwardly in between the "U" and the second "P". I really want to know if the sign-making part-time produce marketers don't know, or if they don't care?

Go ahead, try to say it. If you are not from Estonia, or one of Tolkien's Elven folk, then you cannot readily pronouce this word. Just one letter of the alpahabet off and phzzzzzt! This word is no longer in English. But it is funny...no, really, it is. I promise.

Your assignment is to work this word into casual conversations for the next week. You people with children, get your tykes to say this word. That should be good for lots of laughs.

Listening: "Flow My Tears" by John Dowland (b. 1563-d.1626) I'm really into English Renaissance music at the moment. More on that later.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Frederick Polley, American Artist (1875-1957)

Frederick M. Polley. Painter, Printmaker, Illustrator, Writer and Teacher. Indianapolis, IN. Born 15 August 1875 in Union City, IN; died 9 Sept 1957, Brown County, IN.

Studied Indiana University, Corcoran Art School, Washington, DC.

Teachers included James R. Hopkins and William Forsyth.

Exhibited: Society of Etchers, Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia Society of Etchers, Library of Congress 1944 and 1945, Carnegie Institute 1945, Delgado Museum. Prizes include Hoosier Salon 1942 and 1943, Indiana Art Club 1939, 43, 45, New Orleans Art League 1943, Herron Art Institute 1934.

His work is contained in the collections of the National Museum, Washington, DC, Herron Art Institute, Iowa State University, University of Pittsburgh. He was author/illustrator of "Our America, Historic Churches in America" and illustrator for "Indianapolis Old and New".

Polley was illustrator for the "Indianapolis Star" (Sunday edition) 1924-47. Also illustrator for "Ladies Home Journal" and "Esquire". Taught at Herron Art School, Indiana University and Arsenal Technical High School, 1917-1941. He headed the graphic arts department of Arsenal Technical High School for many years.

When possible, my family collects the works of Frederick Polley.

If you see any, please let me know!

Thursday, November 02, 2006