Friday, June 29, 2007

Soul of a Man by Bruce Cockburn

Here is a great live version of one of my favorite Bruce Cockburn tunes, "Soul of a Man." Cockburn is an extraordinarily gifted and prolific songwriter and this is one of the few songs that he has recorded that was not written by him. He purportedy adapted it from a 1930 recording by Blind Willie Johnson. It appears on his excellent 1991 album, entitled Nothing But A Burning Light.

Here are the lyrics:

I'm going to ask the question
Please answer if you can
Is there anybody's children can tell me
What is the soul of a man?

Won't somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won't somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?

I've travelled different countries
Travelled to the furthest lands
Couldn't find nobody could tell me
What is the soul of a man


I saw a crowd stand talking
I just came up in time
Was teaching the lawyers and the doctors
That a man aint nothing but his mind


I read the Bible often
I try to read it right
As far as I can understand
It's nothing but a burning light


When Christ taught in the temple
The people all stood amazed
Was teaching the lawyers and the doctors
How to raise a man from the grave


I love this song. Take a listen and tell me what you think about it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Willow Creek Arts Conference-Glimpses #1

One of the very first blessings to manifest at the Willow Creek Church Worship Arts Conference I attended a couple of weeks ago occurred in the first general meeting session that took place in the main auditorium. All attendees were invited to stand up and meet-and-greet other people around us. There were roughly 5000 people in the auditorium, from all over the globe.

Sitting to my immediate right was a worship pastor from Waxahachie, Texas. It turns out that he and I know people in common, including one of the best friends I've ever had, Christopher Cole. Chris, his wife Lysette, and their family also live in Waxahachie where he runs a couple of successful businesses, as well as writes and records music and leads worship in their church from time to time.

While I was talking to this guy, I become aware that Nancy is tugging urgently on my arm. I turn around and find that she is talking to a woman in the row behind us who happens to be Amy Riley, a good friend from some 10 years ago when we lived in Texas. She, her husband Ricky, and their family have been living in Austin, Minnesota for a number of years now and she is a volunteer worship leader at their church. We really liked them. Interestingly, barely a month before, Nancy and I had been remembering them, discussing an especially powerful ministry story that had occurred around the Riley's at the time we knew them in Texas. It was really encouraging catching up on their lives and seeing that they were doing well.

What are the odds? It is a small world, after all.

For me, one of the most arresting truths about eternal life is that, from 10 years ago to now, and through forever, there will never be a time when we don't know Amy and Ricky. They will never be strangers to us even though, and it is likely, we may never see them again in this life. Believers in Jesus Christ ultimately spend eternity together, regardless of what temporary separations occur here on earth. It is a mysterious and remarkable feature of life in Heaven that we will have the freedom to know and enjoy the rest of God's children, all of the other inhabitants of His Kingdom, who come in droves, and yet one at a time, from the annals of history from Adam until the end.

Monday, June 25, 2007

High Power Line Maintenance

This guy has an amazing job. I certainly couldn't do it. Not for any amount of money.

I know a couple of guys who climb radio transmission towers for a living and that is a daredevil's job, too. But this is just insane.

This is my first attempt to uploading video via Blogger's draft version. Let me know if it works for you. It looks great on my computer. So far, I'm really impressed with this new Blogger tool.

Americans Give Almost $300 Billion in Charity

Here are the highlights for me:

"Donors contributed an estimated $295.02 billion in 2006, a 1 percent increase when adjusted for inflation, up from $283.05 billion in 2005. Excluding donations for disaster relief, the total rose 3.2 percent, inflation-adjusted, according to an annual report released Monday by the Giving USA Foundation at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy."

and to silence the inane but predictable chatter about the duplicitous designs of Big Capitalism and the Evil Military-Industrial Complex, there's this:

"Individuals gave a combined 75.6 percent of the total. With bequests, that rises to 83.4 percent."

and finally, from the rest of the world:

"Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7 percent. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73 percent, while France, with a 0.14 percent rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany."

Not that generousity and benevolence should necessarily be some kind of international contest but, still, this is telling. Now, why it is that America is so reviled by the rest of the world? Exactly where does the term "Great Satan" come in to play?

Europe needs to just shut up. And I really don't want to hear anything out of the French ever again. Unless it's "May I recommend the leg of lamb, monsieur."

Here's the article, from CNN via the AP.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Missing You

Allison Krauss and John Waite singing one of my favorite 80's rock tunes.

Point Pleasant, WV


Today I acquired a new customer in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

I have friends, customers, and clients all over the world and one of the interesting things about my job is hearing about where they live, what their life is like, etc. The lady I spoke to was very friendly and, when I asked where Point Pleasant was, she told me and then asked me if I had ever heard of the Mothman.

Of course, I exclaimed!. So I quizzed her all about that for a bit, stopping just shy of becoming a nuisance. As a teenager, I had read the book, The Mothman Prophecies, by the eccentric (at least) John Keel, originally published in 1975. And I have seen the movie several times. It is a genuinely creepy, fascinating story. Point Pleasant has a substantial tourist industry based on this singularity, too. I really must visit there sometime.

When I get to Heaven, among other things, I hope to ask somebody, "Hey, what was up with that Mothman thing?"

Rick Lee reminds me that he has been there, done that, and got the pictures to prove it. And his pictures are much better than my little purloined thumbnail above.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Phone Salesman

Who we are is not what we do.

Here is a story reported in the Australia Courier-Mail about a mild-mannered cellphone salesman in Britain performing in a contest before an icey Simon Cowell and a couple of other judges in an "American Idol" style competition. You simply will not believe what happens.

As you watch the demeanor of the judges and witness the spontaneous response of the audience, you will see how the astonishing transformative power of art can bring about a seismic upheaval in the human heart.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Because I Can...

I am sitting in a seminar with Nancy's computer at the Willow Creeks Art Conference entitled "Got Blog", conducted by Kem Meyer. She is really doing a delightful job, covering many aspects of blogging, from basics to advanced. So far, every session I've attended has been excellent and this one has really been highly informative and a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps

The big news around here is that my son, Jordan, was invited to join the Cavaliers, the world champion drum and bugle corps based out of Rosemont, Illinois, which is part of Chicago.

Last week he participated in a select invitational music camp that the corps conducted at Eastern Illinois University, in Charleston, IL.

It was a high-energy, intensive training, combination boot camp and band camp experience for some 100 or so young brass and percussion players. On Thursday, near the end of the camp, the directors of the corps asked Jordan and three other young men if they would serve as alternates for the 2007 performance season.

Jordan has wanted to be a member of this elite organization for probably 5 years; pursuing it seriously for the last couple of years, so to say that he is very excited is an understatement. It is a fine achievement and the realization of a dream he has held for nearly a quarter of his life.

I don’t recall the exact statistics, but I do know that several hundred players, from all over the world, traveled to one of four American cities to audition for this year's season. The many benefits of this experience will follow him throughout his life and career. We are very, very proud of him.

Nancy and I traveled there on Friday to attend the activities of the final evening, which included performances by the 100+ camp attendees, plus a preview of this season’s show by the 135-member Cavaliers. Composed of young men between the ages of 16 and 22, this 59-year old organization will criss-cross the nation by bus over the next couple of months in a very rigorous touring schedule, living a Spartan and focused existence, concentrating on little more than music and marching. You can see their full schedule here and, if you can make it to a performance, you will be glad that you did.

They are performing a selection of remarkable arrangements of the hit songs by pianist Billy Joel, and both the music and the field presentation are outstanding. This is what your high school or college marching band would have been like if it were composed of the best young players and athletes from all over the world. This is marching band on steroids amped up well beyond what most people would believe possible.

Here is JP and his mom as we are waiting to hear more about the Cavaliers summer schedule from one of the directors. It is from her, of course, that he gets much of his ability. She is an excellent musician and teacher, and was an outstanding, successful band director when we lived in Texas.

This will make for an exciting, action-packed summer.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sara Groves on YouTube

Sara Groves is one of the my favorite singer/songwriters in music today. Here are a couple of YouTube selections. The video quality is marginal at best, but the song is always the thing. Transcendant lyrics, minimalistic arrangements, and a voice that is at once powerful and tender. All of her albums are excellent, and each has its own character.

First, a powerful song called "You Are The Sun" from her album, Add to the Beauty.

Second, "Something Changed," also from Add To The Beauty. This version is excerpted from the trailer to the new movie, "The Ultimate Gift".

Here is a live video version of "Something Changed," too, recorded at The Crystal Cathedral. It's slightly different and a little less polished, and her vocal is more fragile, but that is not a criticism. I like both versions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

90 Minutes in Heaven

My Dad recently gave me this book and recommended it highly. I read it and liked it a lot, for a number of reasons, and wanted to recommend it.

There is an old idea that I have heard expressed in various ways, formerly in my own brain as well as from the mouths and pens of other people, that goes something like, "If only someone who had died and gone to Heaven were somehow able to come back and tell me about it, then...then I could believe..." Well, Don Piper is that guy.

This book is his account of the aftermath of a terrible automobile accident in 1989 in which Piper died, mutilated and crushed by a truck. Some 90 minutes later, miraculously, he came back to life. He was not resuscitated at the fact, the paramedics had examined him and then covered up his body, hopelessly pinned in his crumpled car. And yet, he came back to life.

Both factually and spiritually compelling, this concise 200-page narrative describes his long physical and emotional recovery in uncompromising detail. To this day, Piper struggles with chronic pain and mobility issues, but his story is definitely a story that encourages, that gives hope in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds

And Piper describes with certainty where he was and what he did for those 90 minutes. I'm not going to give that away or attempt to characterize it here. This is a book recommendation, not a review. My advice is to suspend any disbelief, disconnect any latent skepticism or preconceptions that you may have about such things until after you read the book. This really is not your typical "near-death experience" sensational account. You should read it and decide for yourself. Everyone should.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rural Route #2: Country Churches

More pics from Rural Route #2.
Rural Churches in southern Randolph County.

Carlos Christian Church

Carlos United Methodist Church

Martindale Friends Church

New Liberty Church of Christ

Spartansburg United Methodist Church

Monday, June 04, 2007

Public Service Announcement: How to reset your iPod

This is a handy bookmark. Every couple of months of so my wife's iPod locks up. Here is the quick, easy how-to-fix-it. Newbies need to note the difference between "reset" and "restore".

Sunday, June 03, 2007