Friday, July 25, 2008

The Obamessiah

This has got to be one of the best pieces of satire I've ever read.

"Light To The World"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strength in Numbers

.....or a lack thereof.....

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Ajai Lall speak. Dr. Lall and his wife Indu, are the founders of Central India Christian Mission and have helped over 150,000 Asian Indians make decisions for Christ.

He is a faithful follower of Christ, in spite of the shocking persecution of Christians in India. He recounts tales of torture, beatings and rape which brothers and sisters in Christ have endured while delivering the Word to those who have never heard it. My heart and prayers go out to these brave people who share the love and saving grace of our Lord. Equally, I pray earnestly for those who have such hatred in their hearts that they seek to destroy those who would share God's love.

What really disturbed me last Saturday was the lack of participation by our congregation. Granted, it was 4th of July weekend and he spoke at our Valley Ranch campus; however, out of 2,000+ people in the congregation, there were only 50-70 who took the time to hear him speak. How immensely sad.

Here is a couple who have devoted their entire lives to Christ. It's a mission our church supports. Yet 97% of our congregation could not be bothered to hear what he had to say. This isn't a condemnation of my church, but merely a comment about all of us who profess to be Christians yet seem content to let the Great Commission pass by. Don't get me wrong, I love my church and have experienced immense growth in my walk with Christ. Granted I still feel like I am not connected, but maybe that's my fault (and a subject for a different post). However, when you say "mission" a lot of people are quick look the other way.

I think about what other people endure in order to accept Jesus and realize how incredibly blessed I am to have been born here. There are people who have never heard the Gospels, yet we live where they are readily available. We experience no hardships in order to read them, yet making it to church on Sundays is a pain. Taking time for a Monday evening for bible study requires too much commitment. Read the bible daily: why should I when I get snippets on Sunday? Isn't it enough to say I am a Christian and watch a televangelist? Sometimes I think we want a "convenience church." Church - where you can have it your way.

We attend, we give, we profess faith and love, but we can't be inconvenienced to take an hour on a Saturday of a holiday weekend to listen to someone who is serving Christ in a way we would never dream of doing or in a place we would never dream of going.

Wouldn't it have been wonderful for 150 people to show up at the Valley Ranch campus, pushing the occupancy limits of the building; giving props to Dr. Lall for the incredible work he does in India.

Guitar Lessons - Week 3

....performance anxiety....

So I can bang out the scales like nobody's home. Put me in a tiny room with my instructor and suddenly my fingers ties themselves into knots. Horribly frustrating.

I spent 5 minutes tuning the old girl up. Not me, the guitar. His tuner is faster, more responsive than mine. I'm not going to spend any more money on guitar stuff. Maybe when I buy a new classical guitar, I'll get a new tuner. Until then, just say no to music stuff.

I've got the scale down finally. No biggie. At least it wasn't until Jeff decided to take my pick away. Excuse me? I have to use my fingers on my right hand. Ok, so I'm running the scale down with my left hand and picking with my right hand. My brain is supposed to be smart enough to do two things at once? Really, this is nothing like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

I can do this....can't I? Scale with left and alternate picking between index and middle fingers. Ok, this isn't hard and it does sound better than with a pick. Whoohoo!

I've accomplished something, I feel great. Now for the weekly beat down. Let's read some music. Great. Black dot, black dot with a stem, and circle with a stem. 4/4 time, huh? This is going to be fun.

I can get the EAD open string strumming. It's all downward strums with the thumb. So Jeff says, "We're going to do a duet." I'm thinking, "Yeah, in your dreams." I played the bass notes although not particularly well. But I did it. Yay me! At least it's something.

Jeff suggests that I trot on down to Home Depot for some 600 grit sandpaper for my finger nails. What? I have already cut my once pretty solar nails down the the stub on my left hand. My right hand needs to have ramps...He says to continuing growing the nails so I can use them as picks. I'll look like a freakazoid. Then it hits me; ramps, what the !)%*(^? On ramps or off ramps?

He wants me to turn the nails on my right hand into ramps. Seriously, I think all the studying he is doing to get into grad school has adversely affected his brain. Can't you play guitar without ramps? Personally, I think they are unnecessary. Then again, this is only week 3 of guitar lessons. What do I know?

Jeff seems to think I'm particularly determined to succeed. He's right, so I'm willing to practice. This was the last lesson before summer break. He made a few copies of lessons to keep me busy during the three weeks we are off.

I will go back in August. Meanwhile I continue to practice for 30-45 minutes a day. Maybe by August I'll be able to read the treble notes.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Guitar Lessons - Week 2

...I still suck....

But not as bad. I know the name of all the strings. EADGBE or as Jeff said, "Evan Ate Dynamite Good Bye Evan." I can tune my guitar (thank goodness for electronic tuners).

I was struggling with playing the scale. My fingers don't want to work. Either I get mushy fingers, which is apparently a technical teaching term and my pinkie is retarded. So Jeff, with his endless patience, helped me with it for the entire lesson. guitar is a full body guitar so getting my arm over the guitar to pick while trying to get my fingers up and doesn't compute. So what does Jeff do? He retrieves his electric guitar. Ok, first warn me the darn thing is 20 times as heavy as my acoustic. All I can think is don't drop it.

I bang out the scale with nary an issue. I rock!!! So he takes it back and jams some cool riffs. So back to mine...still dorking it up a bit. He then hands me his hand-made Alvarez (classical). YIKES!! I'm holding a $2,000 plus guitar in my grubby paws. I'm not worthy, but wow, I can make it work a bit better.

The body is smaller than a steel string acoustic. And the sound...the sound...

So here I was all jazzed that I could play the electric better than my acoustic and I said, "so why do I want to play acoustic?" and he showed me. He played Bach on his guitar and it was all I could do not to weep. The guy can play. Amazing.

We put my acoustic in a classical guitar position, neck at 45 deg angle with side resting on my left leg and the bottom resting on right. Guess what, I can do my scales. It's more of an arm motion now to get the pressure on the strings.

I'm one step closer to sucking even less.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Guitar Lessons - Week 1

...I suck....

Can I be any more clearer than that? I have the musical ability of a two year old. For a while, my little space on the blogosphere will be a retelling of my weekly adventure in steel string, acoustic guitaring. Is that even a word? Maybe I'll make up a few along the way. Anyway...

I'm taking lessons at "The Master's Touch School of Music and Performing Arts". Me, at a School of Music and Performing Arts. Me, finally taking guitar lessons. I've lost my mind, but my friend Mike would tell you that perhaps I've finally found it.

My instructor is a sweetheart of a guy named Jeff. He's all of 32, but has been playing for 20 years. Don't I feel like a retard. I've wanted to do this since I was sixteen years old. I can't remember when music wasn't a part of my life. I've always listened and enjoyed music at a much deeper level than most of my friends. Music speaks to me, well crafted music that is.

I walk in and as feared, the first question is, "What do you know about music?" Well I like it, I have over 300 CDs in my collection and it is hugely varied. So I told him, think of me as a two year old with a well developed brain.

And the second question, "What kind of music do you like?" Talk about impossible to define. My all time most favorite ever band...The Monkees...Have you listen the depth of feeling conveyed in "Last Train to Clarksville"? There are days I sing, "Here we come, walkin' down the street, get the funniest looks from everyone we meet. Hey, hey we're the Monkees and people say we monkey around. We're too busy singing, to put anybody down." It's a song about relationship building, looking past prejudices and pre-conceived notion. It's about living life to its fullest potential in spite of difficult odds.

HAHA!! Had you going for a moment. My favorite band is U2. I love Celtic music. I like metal, rock, pop, country, Christian, oldies, flamenco, classical guitar....see it's endless.

A brief recap of my first lesson: finger on the 5th fret and work the scale. Index finger - 5th fret. Middle finger - 6th, Ring - 7th, pinkie - 8th. From high E to low E. I was to practice that until Week 2.

I did...I was going to commit to 30 minutes a day, with Sunday off. In a word...stupid. I practiced so hard on Thursday that I actually had to ice down my fingertip. Mike said I was a wuss, and while he was joking, I felt like one. Then again, my fingers have never pressed steel strings against the fretboard before.

While I think I suck and I'm sure somewhere in the back of his mind, Jeff is wondering why he got stuck with me, I'm keeping in mind it's only been a week.

And I can't stop whining about having to cut off my nails. Ah, what we must sacrifice for the sake of art.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lakes of Killarney

Photo was taken using a "stitch" feature on my digital. Click on the photo to scroll.