Ovation iDea

October 31, 2008

I was checking out MusiciansFriend.com yesterday and noticed an ad for a new guitar from Ovation – the iDea.

I have to say the iDea is a good idea.  They put mp3 players in sunglasses, guitar trainers, etc…  Why not in the guitar itself?

Why not, I ask you?

Enter the iDea.

The preamp includes a USB port and headphone jack to make use of the mp3 player.  Comes with built-in lessons and jam tracks.

Did this just sound like a sales ad?  Sorry.


What Worship Means To Me (guest post by Jeff Miller)

October 26, 2008

This is the last in the series of guest blog posts.  It comes courtesy of Jeff Miller.  Jeff is the worship minister at New Hope Baptist Church in Aubrey, TX, and is one of my bloggers.  If you check out his blog, Consuming Worship, be sure to read the disclaimer.  Funny stuff.

The cool thing about this post is that Jeff and I have never actually met.  We’re only connected thru the blogosphere and Facebook.  Next time I’m in Texas, I’ll have to figure out where Aubrey is…

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Growing up in a VERY legalistic church culture, nearly everything was seen as black or white. Is there black and white? Sure, but a realistic Christ-follower comes to realize that not everything can be placed in such categories. So much of life is amoral. So many things in life should be viewed as tools which can be used with equal facility for good or evil.

One of the problems with legalism is that it always strives to categorize everything, even the spiritual aspects of the Christian life. Prayer becomes something done ONLY with certain postures. Worship becomes the few minutes spent each Sunday singing tried-and-true hymns and gospel songs. Spirituality is contained within a realm with very narrow boundaries and justified by chanting “narrow is the way, narrow is the way.”

This kind of spiritual life is sterile and stale. It only seems healthy to the one living it out, but to the rest of the world it has no appeal. It’s like living in one of those sterile bubbles made to keep out all harm rather than going out to play on the playground, or at the beach, or hike through the woods.

Is living in the bubble more safe? Sure, but it’s not the way life was meant to be lived. As I’ve gotten older, I now see that a full relationship with God is anything but compartmentalized. Walking with Jesus is a crazy, dangerous thing, and hardly ever looks the same two days in a row.

There is greater danger in living the compartmentalized life. This is what happened to the Jews as a result of their striving to live the letter of God’s Law and not the spirit. When God commanded His people to take a Sabbath, they in turn began to add growing rules and regulations that made the Sabbath more onerous than the other six days of the week. What God meant for rest and refocusing became a legalistic endeavor to be more spiritual than everyone else.

Even under the Law, God never meant for the lives of His people to be this way. Now that grace has come, do you think God wants us to wall ourselves off behind a fortress of self-righteousness?

I think not.

This whole idea is somewhat similar to the woman at the well and her attempted misdirection of her conversation with Jesus. Rather than confront her own sin, she went off on the tangent of asking the Lord about the “right” place to worship. It seems to me that Christ’s answer to the woman is our answer as well.

Christ’s whole conversation with the woman was about the heart, and it really seems He could have cared less about the action—the how, when, where, and what. Jesus knows that if the heart is working in “spirit and truth”—the why—all the other stuff will automatically fall into place.

Ultimately, worship is an act of love. When you truly act in love toward someone, does it look compartmentalized? On the contrary, it’s pretty spontaneous and messy. If we are striving to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, can our worship possibly be so sterile?

I think not.

A real, holistic life of worship—one I’m still striving for—has a constant awareness of the presence of God. Prayer becomes something we do at any given moment regardless of posture. Worship is expressed in a life walking in His ways rather than just singing about it. Spirituality now becomes the norm and not the exception.

I think that this quote from Francis Chan in his book “Crazy Love” sums it all up:

“You have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week? When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe.”


Share-it Saturday, October 25

October 25, 2008

It’s halftime of the OSU – Texas game, so I thought it would be a good time to post today’s Share-it Saturday links.

Tune in tomorrow for the last in the series of guest posts.


Demotivational Pastor Butts

October 24, 2008

Today, someone found my blog by searching for “Demotivational Pastor Butts“.  I thought it seemed odd that someone would search for my pastor, Bryson Butts, like that.

Then I realized that it actually said “Demotivational Poster Butts” which makes much more sense…

Two vowels can make a big difference.


Radical Grace!

October 24, 2008

John 8

1 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, 2 but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. 3 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone 4 and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. 5 Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”

6 They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. 7 They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. 9 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 10 Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

 11 “No one, Master.” “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

… from The Message.


David Foster Wallace

October 22, 2008

Today, you are in for yet another special treat.  To begin with, it is the first blog post under a pseudonym.  Second, it’s better than what I was going to post today… nothing.  The author is a lifelong (or close enough) friend who we’ll just refer to as Jack Thunder.  “Jack” and I have known each other since junior high.  We were college roommates during our freshman year at OSU.  And he was best man in my wedding. When I started thinking about people to write a guest post, he was one of the first that came to mind.  You’re about to read why…

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I’ve been reading Ronnie’s blog for a while now, and when he invited me to write a guest post I knew it was because we were old friends and not because I was an expert in one of his normal blog topics—the top five being, according to my rough count:  the mandolin, aviation, rocking out, management theory, and inspiration.  In fact, I’m not really an expert in anything, except maybe the topics of toaster oven usage or zen pragmatism, both of which I had to create.

But I’ve actually had a rush of inspiration, lately, so I think I can be relevant, after all.  This inspiration is the religious kind, full of wonder and amazement and transcendental heart-warming feelings of happiness and hope, though it’s not about religion.  In fact, it all started a few weeks ago with a hurricane, a dim view of current events, and a death. 

I want to tell you about my favorite writer, David Foster Wallace.  

Another reason I want to do this here is that this blog is a very pro-Christian venue and DFW demonstrates the most solid Christian values in very creative ways.  This is not how he’s best known, and don’t go looking for him in your Christian bookstore, but I’ve read almost everything by him and just trust me on this one. 

But before I get to that, I have to address his textual side and how he will blow your mind.  DFW’s writing is the main reason I gave up ever aspiring to write seriously.  I can’t find enough superlatives for his talent.  It is virtuosic.  It is inconceivably impressive.  I find other writers impressive and wonderful, but I can always understand them as exaggerations of a plain-old-good writer; DFW is incomparable. 

It’s not just his linguistic facility that’s incomparable but his breadth of knowledge and thought, too.  In his nonfiction, he wrote in great depth on the subjects of language, math, tennis, pop culture, politics, and more.  Perhaps my favorite essay of his is a 60-pg book review of a new English usage dictionary.  The essay confirmed for me DFW’s linguistic genius but also demonstrated his unashamed love of language and unhip desire to be earnest.  His most famous essays discuss the culture of state fairs and cruise ships (see, “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” respectively). 

But that’s just the nonfiction.  He’s probably best known for fiction, especially his 1,000+ pg. novel Infinite Jest.  His nonfiction is a little more relevant to my point here, but the fiction is of course mindbending and great.

Hopefully someone’s still reading all this.  Okay, I’ll get to my point:  I challenge anyone to find an artist more intelligent and talented and with better values. 

DFW’s work strives to make sense of the world fully knowing that language can only communicate a fraction of what we all feel and that irony and sarcasm, while major cultural currencies (well, in the ‘90s, anyway), distance us from the truth.  His work shows a compassion and populism that I’ve never seen in anything a tenth as thoughtful. 

DFW has been on my mind ever since a bad night two months ago when hurricane Ike was about to make landfall, the political news was awful, and I heard that DFW had killed himself.  For some reason, I wasn’t very shocked.  His talent was so exceptional and transcendent that his death almost makes more sense than his life.  That’s what it’s like to be inconceivable. 

Over the next week or so, tributes rolled in from every corner of the book world in words more glowing than the previous oft-guarded book reviews.  Finally I was able to see reviewers acknowledge what I had always loved about his work:  that it combines brilliance and earnestness like nothing else. 

DFW was the only writer of my generation I loved and respected equally, and I had looked forward to reading his work for decades.  I am consoled, though, by what he left behind and know that its quality and density will keep me rereading. 

Let me close by being very explicit and unliterary.  If you’re like me, an important activity in your life is looking for proof of a higher power in the world around us.  This author’s work is clear proof to me.

Recommended reading (in rough order of my pref.):

–two short tributes HERE and HERE from the NYT and Salon, resp.

Consider the Lobster (nonfiction collection)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (nonfiction collection)

–commencement address, 2005, HERE

Girl With Curious Hair (short fiction collection)

Infinite Jest (novel)


Share-it Saturday, October 18

October 18, 2008

This week’s list of links is short, but sweet.