Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Praying at the Piano

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music. - Psa. 101:1

Last night I had a great time of prayer at my piano. Sometimes the world gets so overwhelming that you just have to stop, take a step back, and block it all out and pray. Last night was one of those nights for me.

So I lit a candle, turned out the lights, and went into my library.

I sat there for a while just taking in the quiet, and then I got up and went to my piano and sat down. I began to pray and play, letting the music speak for my heart, working through each piece of music over and over again. A lot of it was original, spur of the moment compositions, lost forever to the world but given to God in that moment. Other times I played simple songs like "Father I Adore You" and "I love you Lord."

I don't know how long I was in there, but my fingers hurt when I was done.

My heart felt great.


Thursday, May 10, 2007


Once upon a time this was a vast and diverse country. The houses in one region looked distinctly different from the houses in another region. The language was different, the food was different, the culture was different from state to state, and even county to county or city to city.

And then came television. And with television came advertising. With advertising came giant corporations with huge economies of scale. And suddenly we began to see a homogenuity to this nation take hold.

When I go to Chicago I want a fantastic deep dish pizza, not dominos. But if you look for Dominos or Pizza Hut in Chicago, there are tons of them. A friend of mine told me of how he was in Baltimore on a business trip and he wanted crab cakes. When he and the client went to lunch, the client took him TO MCDONALDS for crab cakes. They didn't have them, so they ended up just eating big macs.

Big housing companies are building the same house in every state. Local flavor is being replaced by ubiquitous subdivisions that all look the same. You could probably move from state to state and always buy the exact same house if you looked hard enough.

Local shops that carry local goods have been replaced by Wal-Mart. The small company that produces a niche good has all but been priced out of the marketplace by large distributors hawking cheap stuff from china. Innovation has been reduced to copying the designs of a few and mass producing it as cheaply as possible.

Artwork is now a commodity. You can buy a Thomas Kincaid in fifteen different varieties at various price points. Forget the art school graduate who lives in your neighborhood, rush to get the latest copy of mass produced artwork! Swap Meets and Flea Markets now sell mass produced hand painted copies of well-known paintings. Originality and expression of the artist have given way to looking at a picture and copying it as fast as possible.

There are still local differences, but they are like a grape in front of the ever growing steamroller we call Generica, threatening to turn this country into one big fat mass of sameness.

I can't do it anymore. I am all done with Generica. I am seeking out original artwork for my office and home. I am fortunate to live in a custom home that is very likely one of a kind. I make every effort to eat exclusively at restaurants that are not national chains. I drink coffee that I roast myself, not mass blasted starbucks or anything that comes in a can. I drink only California wine where I can visit the winery, talk to the people, and taste it before I buy it. Anywhere I can choose the small over the big, the unique over the same, the local over the national, I will do it.

Down with Generica. Viva America!


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Is it possible to have too much coffee?

Today I went to the SCAA national conference in Long Beach. SCAA is the Specialty Coffee Association of America. I have no idea how much coffee I drank, but I tried coffee from Thailand (woof!), El Salvador, Brazil, Kenya, and what seemed like a hundred other countries. We looked at roasters, bags, teas and a million other things. In between all of the caffeine from the coffee we had chocolate, just to be sure we didn't fall asleep.

Needless to say if I ever get to sleep tonight it will be a miracle. On the whole the show was a good experience, but I think I enjoyed the smaller, more homey feel of Coffee Fest last year in Las Vegas. One of the things church tasked me with was finding Tea. I think I will be successful there. I made plenty of good connections, the trick is choosing one.

I feel like writing more, but I have nothing to say. My stomache is reeling from the effects of all the coffee, followed with a nice steak dinner at Northwoods Inn. It was all great, but I'm stuffed and jittery...


Friday, May 4, 2007

Created for a Purpose

My son likes racing. That is not unusual among six year old boys, but what is unusual is that he lives in a NASCAR-free household. We watch formula 1, champ car, the paris-dakar rally, LeMans and the odd miscellaneous race now and then. Jacob likes to ask daddy about racing and think through theoretical situations involving cars from different series.

A couple of weeks ago while we were watching an F1 race he asked me what the fastest cars in the world are. I told him that in a straight line it was a Top Fuel dragster, and if there are turns involved it is Formula 1. Having never seen a drag race, he was curious about Top Fuel, so we tivoed a drag race for him to watch.

Jacob began asking questions. Which would win, an F1 car or a Top Fuel Dragster? What if the race didn’t have any turns? What if the race was a mile long instead of a quarter mile? I told him the F1 car would win because a dragster blows up after 1/4 mile.

That got me thinking. Put an F1 car in one lane and a Dragster in the other, and the Dragster will win every single time, no contest. But extend the race to 1/2 mile and the dragster will never even make the finish line. Why? Because a top fuel dragster is a very precise piece of equipment, designed to do one thing extremely well.

As if on cue, they ran a video of a driver whose throttle stuck open. The engine of the dragster exploded about 100 feet past the finish line. Dragsters define the term “purpose built machine” and if they are not being used for that purpose, there is no more useless piece of machinery on the planet.

That got me thinking about our relationship to God.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

God designed us to glorify Him, and we do that by doing good works. What does Paul mean by good works? This is one of those verses where studying the Greek can really help us understand what Paul is saying. The ESV translation above is a good one, but it fails to capture some of the subtleties of Greek that really bring out the meaning in this passage. Let's take a look:

The phrase Paul uses that is often translated "good works" is ergois agathois. A look at the UBS Greek Lexicon on the word agathois (here translated good) is very illuminating. The Greek term applied in this manner means "good, useful, satisfactory for one's purpose, fitting, beneficial."

Now let's look at the word used for "workmanship" which is poiema. This word means "That which has been made" or "a work of the creator." Certainly workmanship is a good translation, but it's not a word that we use often. This might better understood as creation, although the phrasing in English gets a little awkward with "creation created" back to back. Still, we aren't translating for posterity, only for understanding, so we'll use the awkward phrasing.

The last word we need to look at is peripatesomen. This is translated "we should walk" by the ESV. This word can also be used to indicate "to live or behave in a customary manner, with possible focus on continuity of action"

Thus if we think about this verse with the Greek in mind, we see what Paul is saying "For we are his creation, created in christ Jesus to do things that fulfill our purpose, which God prepared beforehand, that we should live doing these things regularly"

When we are done we have a very message-esque translation, in that you cannot pin the words back to the Greek very easily, but we have unpacked this passage and have a much clearer picture of what Paul is trying to communicate. God created us with things in mind for us to do. These things are predetermined and they are our purpose in life.

A quick look at Romans gives us a picture of what that means for us:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,* for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

God created us for a purpose, which he has pre-ordained for us. When we live for that purpose, when we love God and seek to do His will, he promises that he will work things out for us. On the other hand, when we deviate from that purpose we become as effective as a top fuel dragster trying to take the famous corkscrew at Laguna Seca. The end result is disaster.

You are made for a purpose. Are you living for it, or are you doing something else?