Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Back in the mid 60's a music revolution took place. My white suburban friends were listening to the British Invasion. It changed pop music for sure. I did listen to some of that music but it wasn't the only music that a city boy in an integrated neighborhood in Pittsburgh heard. WAMO was often on my radio and I was as likely to be listening to James Brown as the Beatles.
If this white boy ever plays funky music, at least in part, James Brown inspired it. Thank you James. I hope that you have finally found peace.


It has been a crazy Christmas season for me... I'll say more about it all in another post.

In this one, I'd like to share the lyrics to one of my favorite carols Some Children See Him written by Alfred Burt in 1951. Burt wrote a carol each year and included it in his Christmas card.

This one strikes me as having an aspect of theology that is unique to Christianity among all of the major religions - contextualization. One of the foundational ideas in Christianity is that God works in specific contexts. The incarnation is the primary example. Jesus was a peasant living in Israel under Roman rule subject to all of the cultural and historical constraints that implies. As Christianity grew, the incarnation was a model that allowed the faith to take different shapes in different cultural contexts. The specificity of the incarnation allows the faith to become universal and be expressed in every unique context. It allows the faith to adapt to different paradigms rather than force them to change. This was clearly seen when some of the early Christians wanted Gentile believers to become Jewish in order to follow Jesus, Paul argued that this was not necessary. The faith morphed for a new context.

Some children see Him lily white,
the baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
with tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
this Savior whom we kneel beside.
some children see Him almond-eyed,
with skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
and, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus' face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!

"tis love that's born tonight...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

war president chart

yeah... my politics comes out more often than it should but this piece was just too good.

It comes courtesy of Joan of Snark who picked it up at The Ironic Times.

Obama Announces

but it was the wrong announcement...

I'm still waiting, hoping, praying for the other one...


My friends Ryan and Heather had a new arrival in their household on 12/6 - Quinn Kingsley

I ran into them yesterday outside of Costco and it brought back a flood of wonderful memories and (dare I say it) terror with my children. Ryan and Heather truly can't know what to expect as this new little person throws their lives into turmoil. They cannot imagine the love and joy and pain and fear that he will bring into their lives. Such power in such a tiny, beautiful package.

My prayer for them is that God will fill full all of their dreams and that the potential we all see in Quinn will come to fruition and more.

Blessings Heather, Ryan, and Quinn!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Whooo Whooo, I Won!

I admit it. I'm a sucker for sweepstakes. If it is free, I enter it. A few days a week I go to Guitar Player Magazine and Bass Player Magazine and fill out the entry forms for their giveaways. I also go to a few sites of the big online music dealers and fill out their entry forms. Guess what! I won!

Here's my name as a daily winner at Sweetwater. And I even won something that I'll be able to use, a Zoom G9.2tt guitar processor. Up until now, my processing has all been very old school, using a variety of analog stomp boxes on this homemade pedal board.

This is the processor that I won.

This new processor is a mix of analog and digital and has the ability to program patches so I don't have to dance to get certain mixes of effects. It is also lighter in weight and a lot smaller (the photos aren't to scale). On top of that, it has a lot more effects than I have on my board... but we'll see how it sounds. I've spent a lot of time and money picking out my stomp boxes and I have some great sounding boxes. It won't be easy for the G9 to cover the sounds I have as well as I can at this point, but we'll see. It may make up for any deficiencies in sound by its flexibility and muscle. It will be fun to find out. In the meantime, the guy from Sweetwater called and left a message with my daughter and will call back again to get me.

Thanks Sweetwater!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Changing Evil

A Muslim friend of mine quoted their tradition the other day and the quote struck me. Forgive me if I don't get it exactly right...

When possible, change evil with you hands...
if you cannot change evil with your hands, use your tongue...
if you cannot change evil with your tongue, use your heart.
That is the least that is demanded by faith.

I'm struck that the quote goes backwards from my intuition. It seems that in each case, the force available is less than the instance before. What seems to be so is not also so. With each step, the individual is putting more of themselves into the task. Doing hand work requires less of a commitment than speaking out in public for what is right which requires less commitment than giving one's heart. It seems to me that it is rare that evil can be changed with your hands or your words... it is only when one is willing to give their heart that things change. And that is the least that is demanded by faith... your very self.


this came in the form of an e-mail on sojonet from Sojourner's Magazine. I find it interesting as I've been involved in a discussion about war and pacifism on a bulletin board for Christian Musicians.

Christian Soldier Returns to Front Lines Unarmed
By Will Braun, Editor, Geez magazine

On the phone, in between his duties at Schofield Army Barracks in Hawaii, Sergeant Logan Laituri tells me he wants to "live radically for Christ." Normally I stumble over that sort of fervor – couched, as it is, in terms I would usually consider vague and cliche – but if following Jesus means telling your captain that 9/11 didn't absolve you of the need to love your enemies, I'll keep listening.

Laituri came to Jesus, as they say, at a dramatic time in his life. He was back from 14 months in Iraq as a front-liner in the U.S. Army, and scheduled to return. It was spring, 2005.

His new girlfriend's family welcomed him with a Christian love so genuine he couldn't resist. He ended up in a New Testament history class at a local college, and was also faced with the incisive questions from his philosophical brother and roommate. Soon he found himself immersed in scripture, filled with the spirit and brimming with passion.

The 25-year-old Laituri grew up the son of an agnostic Vietnam Vet in Orange County, California. In 2000, he joined the Army, hoping for education and travel. After a first term, he re-enlisted for an assignment in Hawaii, looking forward to some good surf. Throughout his six years in the military, Laituri had identified as Christian. "I had all the stickers and stuff," he says of his earlier faith, but that was about the extent of it.

His conversion brought change. He started heeding his college instructor's directive to let the Bible shape his opinions, rather than his opinions shaping it. Again, I'd dismiss this as tired religio-garble, if he weren't talking about his "place in geo-politics" at the same time.

"I realized I had to figure out what it meant to me to be a soldier," he says. "How do I act in my particular job and still follow the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself? Ya know, how can I do that when I'm asked to basically lay waste to kinda large scale areas?"

- - -

"We do know [Jesus] preaches peace," says Major Norman W. Jones, an Army Chaplain whom Laituri consulted at one point, "but it did not mean [Jesus] was against a nation going to war." Major Jones – whose tone is open and entirely gracious – tells me the "sticky point is where [Jesus] says 'do not kill,'" and that's where Just War theory comes in. Though Jones sees faith and military service as compatible, he says he would have sympathy for a soldier whose faith convictions led to the conclusion that the U.S. war in Iraq is not just. "I'm here to support the soldier," he says, convincingly. Jones, who studied at Dallas Theological Seminary, points to the Biblical command to obey the government as the bottom line, though he adds that obedience to God trumps duty to one's nation.

Laituri – who punctuates conversation both with Bible verses and mini-rants about the sins of nationalistic ego – also looks to the good book as the source of "absolute truth," though it leads him in a different direction. When it says love your enemies, he says he "can't kill someone in love."

As his infantry company started gearing up for a return to Iraq, Lairturi was busy asking people about faith, war, and the decisions he faced. In response, he got a lot of Just War theory, and rationalization for the the necessity of violence. People told him it was morally wrong to do nothing about the nation's enemies. One commander, who is also a Baptist preacher, assured Laituri that since he was a Christian, Jesus had died for all his sins, and therefore he was already forgiven for whatever he would do on the battlefield.

The people who had welcomed him to the faith did not welcome his questioning of military morality. His then-girlfriend's father told Laituri he was part of God's hand in bringing judgement to Muslim extremists. The views he heard didn't fit with the convictions he felt, and his company was set to leave for a training session in California before heading back to Iraq.

Logan Laituri sat in the bus, he and his colleagues headed to Honolulu airport for their flight to California. It was April 20, 9:40 in the morning. Headphones on, local Christian band Olivia playing a song called "Heaven," and his thoughts on what in the world to do about his beliefs. Then, for a moment, heaven itself seemed to open.

"I felt like somebody was showing me something," he says of the "short video clip" from above that followed.

"I saw myself in the Middle East, I'm pretty sure it was Iraq," he says, describing the emotionally vivid experience. "What struck me were two things: number one, that I did not have a weapon." The second thing was a feeling of "confidence;" the confidence that he was "doing what was right."

It was his calling. He would go to Iraq, but without a weapon. At first he thought he might be able to do that as a non-combative member of his company. So after prayer and consideration, he applied for Conscientious Objector (CO) status, as per the Army regulation allowing a soldier to request discharge for reasons of conscience, as long as military officials deem the applicant "sincere" at the end of the stipulated process. He was ready to go to prison if need be, which, in today's for-us-or-against-us climate is a real possibility for CO applicants. Major Jones says the majority of CO applications are denied.

At that point Laituri was not actually trying to leave the Army, because he saw the human anguish within military ranks, and didn't think it was Christ-like to just abandon people in need. He just wanted to have the right to refuse to bear arms.

But the military is not going to send someone to war without a weapon, and, as it turns out, it may not treat you very well if you make such a request. With re-deployment looming, Laituri's superiors dragged their feet on the CO process, missing stipulated procedural deadlines without explanation.

Laituri talks of theological discussions with commanders, hostile rumors, and bureaucratic tangles. One superior berated him, saying his actions benefitted the enemies of America – an insult Laituri took as affirmation, given Jesus' invitation to love the enemy.

Military command seemed determined to stall his CO application, but they didn't want him in the battlefield either. Eventually, with his term of service drawing to a close, he was re-assigned to a detachment that would not deploy overseas. He surrendered the CO process in favor of simply letting his term of service expire.

As of October 19, Laituri became a private citizen.

- - -

Major Jones says debate about the morality of war seldom comes up in his work, and CO applications are rare. However, according to the United Church Observer, 8,000 members of the U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began. During World War II, nearly 43,000 Americans refused to fight for reasons of conscience, and during the Vietnam War 170,000 COs were formally recognized. In addition, 25,000 to 30,000 so-called draft dodgers fled to Canada in the Vietnam era.

Currently there are about 175 U.S. military "deserters" living illegally in Canada, hoping to escape repercussions back home. If Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board starts sending them back to the U.S., Canadian churches will have to decide whether or not to grant them sanctuary - a custom whereby churches allow certain failed refugee claimants to live on church premises where law enforcement officials are hesitant to forcibly enter to arrest someone.

Logan Laituri doesn't have to worry about fleeing his homeland now that he is out of the Army, but he does have his eyes on distant lands. He feels called to be a missionary to the Middle East. So, last Sunday he left for Israel/Palestine on a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams, the violence-reduction organization now famous for the four of their members abducted in Baghdad a year ago.

Not sure what someone who sounds like a cross between Noam Chomsky and an evangelical youth pastor means by "missionary," I asked what message he wants to bring to the Middle East.

"Jesus loves you. I love you," he says, proclaiming his desire to "radiate love" even if he doesn't convert a single person.

So off he goes, back to the front lines, disarmed and disarming, an "attitude of active compassion" at the ready. With the courage of a warrior and the love of God, he's living radically for Christ.

Will Braun is editor of Geez magazine ( A version of this article appears in the current print edition of Geez. For more, see and Laituri's blog: .

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

bah humbug!

bah humbug!

If I'm truthful... I really dislike this time of year. I want Advent to be Advent. I end up in a disagreement with church members every year about the appropriate music for the season. I'm not crazy about Christmas lights. I think the battle over "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" just about sums it up. Christmas has been co-opted and turned into a secular celebration of materialism... and it doesn't even happen in Christmastide, it happens during Advent!

Earlier today I was in my car listening to yet one more advertisement trying to entice me to purchase something amazing for a loved one when they went the next logical step... "Indulge yourself too. You deserve it!" Well, frankly we don't deserve it, especially in a world so marked by poverty and need. Second, it concluded the co-opting of Christmas. At least before it was about gifts - giving and receiving stuff - but still about gifts. This advertisement even removed the gift part and made Christmas just about stuff. bah humbug!

And as I said, it isn't the Christmas season yet. It is Advent, the season when we prepare for Christmas. Christmas begins on December 25th. Now is supposed to be a penitential season, a time for reflection and prayer, a time to ready our spirits to receive the birth of the Christchild. It isn't supposed to be busy and filled with enticements to buy, buy, buy. The music is supposed to be soft and contemplative, not celebratory and joyful (after all, the baby isn't born yet). And then when Christmas does come, I want to sing Christmas Carols and celebrate, and everyone else is tired of them and just want to return the gifts for what they really wanted.

So this is my official take on this time of year - bah humbug!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

In memory of John Fischer

This week a friend of mine named John Fischer died. John and I served together on the Ministers Council Senate of the American Baptist Churches a few years ago. We got to be friends and roomed together a number of times during our meetings.
John was a man of integrity, compassion, humor, and strength.

John did one of the most creative sabbaticals of any pastor I know. He decided that since many of his parishioners were blue collar workers, he needed to understand their lives. He spent much of his sabbatical doing day labor and experienced a side of life that he had not known before. Church politics then went there way and John ended up leaving the pastorate but he was always a minister of the gospel.

One thing that always struck me was the way that he spoke about his wife Terry Sue. He delighted in her and I can't imagine that after years of marriage he was any less excited about seeing her each evening and holding her in his arms than he was the day they married.

God blessed me through my friend John. I trust that right now and forever, God is cradling him in arms of love. He will be deeply missed. Blessings my friend.