Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In my first post about NAMM, I showed some photos of the Lowden booth and a photo of my friend Thomas Leeb, who is both an amazing player and an endorser of Lowden Guitars (and a great guy too). Now NAMM is not a place for subtlety. It is all about flash, about catching your attention and grabbing you as you walk by. Add to that the fact that the volume police are always around to be sure that nothing rises above the general din of the place. Demonstrators have a fraction of a second to catch someone's attention above all the flashing lights, skin, noise, crazy hair, tattoos, and more skin. Thomas can play with as much beauty, grace, and subtlety as anyone out there but if he did at NAMM, nobody would stop to listen. Thomas can also do the flash thing better than just about anyone on an acoustic guitar. The video below is of a performance at Tone Merchants with Thomas playing a piece that was very popular at NAMM and always gathered a huge crowd which blocked the walkway. Talk about flashy playing.

For anyone who cares, he is playing a Lowden F35 with maple sides and back and spruce top. And yes, there is an added piece of wood there at the cutaway to help stop him from wearing through the top of the guitar.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Favorite words

Once a month I have breakfast with a good friend who is on a spiritual search. She struggles with some of the traditional doctrines of the Christian Church, can't completely abandon her upbringing in the Christian Science Church, is both attracted to and repelled by tradition, and just can't ignore Jesus.

As we eat, we usually talk politics, gender issues, and it always come to questions about faith. I think I puzzle her when I don't embrace all of the doctrines that she thinks a good Christian is supposed to believe. I find myself coming back again and again to my two favorite words in my theological construct - paradox and contextualization.

She asked me about the trinity the other day. I'm not sure that I believe it in a way that would make most fundamentalists happy but I do believe in that doctrine. I haven't a clue as to how to conceptualize it though. I fall back on the first word - it is a paradox. Some might say that is a cop out but, I believe that paradox is central to faith. As I understand it, Christianity is full of paradoxes. I believe Jesus is the only way to God... but I don't believe everyone else is going to hell and I believe God is revealed to one degree or another in virtually all faith systems. I believe that Jesus is fully human ad fully God at the same time... make sense of that one. I believe God is all powerful and all loving and is personally concerned with individuals but I also see the problem of evil in the world. The list could go on. Bottom line is that God is too big for my understanding. The universe is too complicated for me to hold it in my mind. The result is paradox.

I love when my friend says that she cannot ignore Jesus. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the primary self-revelation of God to humankind. But he was clearly a male, first century Jew living in a remote corner of the Roman Empire. His experience of life was about as culturally different from mine as it could possibly be. Here's the rub... You can't have incarnation with contextualization. For Jesus to identify with all of us, he had first to identify with a specific group of us. To be human is to live in a cultural context that shapes everything for us from the way we experience God even to the way we count (heard that on NPR the other day... a language that is disappearing that counts both in base 12 and base 20!) Had Jesus been above his context, he would not have been able to identify with us or we with him and he would be meaningless. God speaks to us and encounters us in the context in which we live. It is a paradox that the most personal is also the most universal. Without a specific context, there is no universality.

And this concept of contextualization/incarnation is the pretty unique in Christianity from what I know. Sure other religions have gods that put on flesh and walk the earth but they always stand above the realities of life. Jesus becomes one of us. And he continues to become one of us in our various contexts. Christianity is the only major religion in which we do not speak the name of God in the language of the founder of the religion and in which the scriptures are read in indigenous languages rather than the language of the founder. This serious stuff as language represents the way a people conceptualize the universe. In Christianity, God comes to us, where we are.

So paradox... and contextualization... love those words! What do you think? And do you have any favorite theological words?

its been a while

it's been a while since I've posted something faith related... too much politics and way too much music gear stuff.

so here is a quick one

C Wess Daniels has started a good discussion regarding a typology for the emerging church. It has been a good discussion there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Toni asked whether I got to see the rest of NAMM or if I spent the entire time at the Lowden Booth... I did get to see the whole deal (I even think I saw Bono at one point). I didn't take any photos of people other than the one of Thomas and maybe two of some very strange looking folk...

This year, NAMM didn't seem have as many innovative products as some other years but there were some interesting products and some changes. It seemed there were more ethnic instruments with lots of ukulele companies that I don't remember seeing before. Also, every year there are some wood dealers but it seemed there were more of those too. There were a few small products that looked cool such as a new Kyser capo.

I played a few guitars and one amp and looked at a few that gave me GAS... The one product that is getting attention from me is an electric guitar that also can produce accurate acoustic sounds. Thus far, every one that I have played seems to compromise one or both of the sounds so we aren't there yet... but when we get there, I'll be ready with my wallet open. I also have some interest in solid body midi/acoustic guitars... Those have arrived and some look amazing (see the Rolf Spuler below). One of these days, I'll either buy one or build one. Here are a couple of guitars that caught my eye.

This guitar by Rolf Spuler was the coolest design. Unfortunately I didn't get to play it... but from looks alone as well as a well thought out design, it gives me serious GAS.

I played this guitar from XOX Audio Tools. It played great and sounded good (as much as one can tell at NAMM). It gave me a little GAS... but not enough to worry my wife.

For any shredders out there, Gary Kramer has some cool looking designs aimed just at you. I'm not into shredding but the design seems to well though out...

For the purest, Nik Huber builds some amazing guitars... the woods and the workmanship in these guitars is awesome

A number of acoustic companies have entered the electric market - Taylor and Collings are both building fairly traditional looking electrics. Breedlove never built traditional looking acoustics and their entries into the electric market looks equally unique. Again, I didn't get to play this guitar but the design really caught my attention.

There were scores of great acoustic guitars around but unless you really are into them, the photos don't tell much... This one however deserves a look. Every NAMM, Martin brings a few incredibly garish guitars with WAY too much inlay to show that they can put more pearl and abalone into a plate of wood than anyone. The workmanship is stunning. The guitar is just ugly and incredibly expensive.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Obama Preaches

Barack Obama preached at Ebenezer Baptist Churchin Atlanta - the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor - this past Sunday. While he is obviously there as a politician who is running for office, his words still carry the weight of the Biblical text and the dream of the prophets both of the Old Testament and of more recent years.

It is about 30 minutes long but is worth listening to...

Geek Quiz

I'm only 56% geek... I don't know how I feel about that...

56% Geek

Monday, January 21, 2008


Every January, the world's largest music merchandiser's conference takes place in Anaheim called NAMM. It is a big deal in that world and every year includes all of the new products from major manufacturers and many small ones. The halls of the Anaheim Convention Center are filled with an odd mix of Asian business people representing huge manufacturers, American companies large and small, representatives of music stores, old rockstars living off past glory, a few current rockstars checking out the new gear or signing autographs at booths where they endorse gear, lots of lookers with tenuous ties with various of the above, and "product placement specialists" i.e. attractive women with very little clothing at the vendors who aim at young male wannabe rockstars. And all of those people are moving to the cacophony of sound coming from thousands of drums, guitars, keyboards, wind, and string instruments being demonstrated or examined.

The last few years, I got to attend as a guest of Lowden Guitars. Again this year, George outdid himself with some amazing instruments.

This O50 made me drool... look at the gorgeous koa... and the sound and playability was just as wonderful as the craftsmanship.

and one more... a Brazilian rosewood S38...

All the while, Thomas Leeb was dazzling the crowds with his amazing playing on his Lowden F35C.

The baritone that appears on the new Lowden website was also there and was just stunning. Another player friend who was present referred to it as "the best baritone he has ever played or heard." Thomas just said, "it is MINE."

I also got to see and hear lots of other guitars and amps and I think I even saw Bono walking by but the best part was getting to spend a few minutes with George and Florence Lowden (such incredibly gracious people), seeing Thomas again, meeting Aaron Lowden (the youngest Lowden working for the company), and connecting with a few of the other folk who work with Lowden.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


another little test...

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Roman Catholic


Reformed Evangelical




I guess it isn't likely that I'll fall into fundamentalism.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Bank of America has announced plans to purchase Countrywide Financial, one of the lending institutions that is most affected by the crisis in sub-prime mortgages. Angelo Mozilo, the exec of Countrywide led that bank in an 82% loss in the value of its stocks, yet according to the LA Times, his severance package will be worth about $115 million and includes free use of a company jet and covers his country club dues through 2011.

Nobody is worth that much compensation, especially a failure as an exec. How about this as a suggestion... lets have a maximum wage in addition to a minimum one. It could be set at 10X the lowest wage of a worker for a given company... Or even just a 90% tax rate on any income over a certain amount, say $1 million a year.

And if as a culture we don't do that, here is my announcement to all of the corporations out there. I don't have any experience as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company... but I've got common sense and I'm good with people and I doubt I'd do worse than Mozilo. And if I did worse and you have to fire me, I'll take a severance package 1/4 of his.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sara Tavares

I came across a wonderful musician the other day that I wanted to share with you all... Sara Tavares. Her music just feels so right for Santa Barbara...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


A friend passed on this editorial from The Philadelphia Inquirer, dated December 27. I agree. I have sent an e-mail to Representative Wexler

Impeach Cheney now
The allegations that he abused power are credible.

U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler (D., Fla.), Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) and Tammy
Baldwin (D., Wis.) are members of the Judiciary Committee

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of
impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As members
of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important
hearings should begin.

The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible
allegations of abuse of power that, if proven, may well constitute high
crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution. The allegations against
Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the
revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and
the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated
that the vice president and his staff purposely gave him false information
about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the
American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what
may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call
McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to "unknowingly
[pass] along false information." In addition, recent revelations have shown
that the administration, including the vice president, may have again
manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction -
this time about Iran's nuclear capabilities.

Some of us were in Congress during the impeachment hearings of President
Bill Clinton. We spent a year and a half listening to testimony about
Clinton's personal relations. This must not be the model for impeachment
inquiries. A Democratic Congress can show that it takes its constitutional
authority seriously and hold a sober investigation, which will stand in
stark contrast to the kangaroo court convened by Republicans for Clinton.
In fact, the worst legacy of the Clinton impeachment - where the GOP
pursued trumped-up and insignificant allegations - would be if it
discourages future Congresses from examining credible and significant
allegations of a constitutional nature when they arise.

The charges against Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the
actions of this administration, and deserve consideration in a way the
Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a
majority supports hearings, according to a Nov. 13 poll by the American
Research Group. In fact, 70 percent of voters say the vice president has
abused his powers, and 43 percent say he should be removed from office
right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been
done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to
catch up.

Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee cannot proceed with
impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing
important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not
tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will
not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings
involve the possible impeachment of the vice president - not of our
commander in chief - and the resulting impact on the nation's business and
attention would be significantly less than the Clinton presidential
impeachment hearings. Also, even though President Bush has thwarted
moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of
Americans - including children's health care, stem-cell research, and
bringing our troops home from Iraq - the Democratic Congress has already
managed to deliver a minimum-wage increase, an energy bill to address the
climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for
college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to
deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously
fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing
whether Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence -
not politics - should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not
lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is
important for the sake of history. For an administration that has
consistently skirted the Constitution and asserted that it is above the
law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this
dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of
impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using

E-mail Rep. Wexler at

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I think eschatology is an important issue in theology... so I took this little test. I think a number of the statements needed another choice beyond the agree/disagree poles... something like "what a ridiculous idea..." But since that wasn't an option, I just went with disagree. Because of that, I'm not sure how accurate the results are.

I think I probably fall closer to the Moltmannian view which is described thus: "J├╝rgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God's plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present."

What's your eschatology?
created with
You scored as Amillenialist

Amillenialism believes that the 1000 year reign is not literal but figurative, and that Christ began to reign at his ascension. People take some prophetic scripture far too literally in your view.



Moltmannian Eschatology










Left Behind


Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama Wins in Iowa

I have to say that Obama is not my perfect candidate... but he has a quality or two than none of the others have. He brings the possibility of substantive change and he has the ability to inspire. I thought Bill Clinton had the possibility of substantive change (didn't work out that way) and he certainly inspired some folk, but Obama brings a lot more of both to the table. And both are qualities I think America and the world desperately needs right now.

Last night I switched the channel to see where things were in the Iowa caucuses and got really lucky. Obama was speaking and his speech was electrifying. If you haven't seen it. First two quotes that stand out...

"We are one nation and one people and the time for change has come!"

"We are choosing hope over fear... change is coming to America!"

Here's the entire speech.

I have to say that I was leaning his way before tonight. Now, I pretty solidly in his camp. I'd vote for any of the Dems over any of the Republicans but wouldn't vote for at least one of them happily. At this point though, for me, it is Obama in '08!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fragility of Community, the scrolls #3

As we listened to the story of the Qumran community, I was struck with a sadness at the fragility of community. I know they lasted for a long time but they didn't last forever. Were it not for a shepherd throwing rocks into a cave and hearing clay jars break, we would know next to nothing about them. Their work would still be in a cave. The ruins would still be unexplored. (Almost all of the excavation at Qumran has taken place since and because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

The reality is that we still don't know a lot about the folk who lived there. Scholars disagree whether or not they were Essene or some other religious group or some other type of settlement altogether. The Wikipedia article on Qumran gives a good summary of some of the arguments.

Still, it seems pretty clear to me that they were a community gathered for religious purposes and that they took those purposes very seriously. And now they are gone.

As we drove home and came through Ventura, I thought of the Bridge Community there. It was a church community that deeply impressed me... They took their faith very seriously and tried to live it in concrete ways in that small city. They took their relationships with one another seriously and tried to truly be a community of faith together. After the death of one of the leaders, difficulties with landlords, struggles with how to spend time and resources, they dissolved. While I never was able to participate in the community and only got to know a few of the participants, I mourn the loss. It was nice to know that they were there and that they were doing church in a way that I would like to try.

All of that got me thinking... community is fragile. It is hard work to keep the relationships going and the struggles of relationship are never easy. It exists in a context and either disappears or changes when the context changes. It relies on a mix of personalities and gifts and circumstances that do not last forever. And then it is gone. And that is OK because it fulfilled its place in the universe and then made space for something new. If it did its job well, it leaves behind influences that live on for years to come. Qumran did. The Bridge did. Hopefully the communities that I am a part of do so as well.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

May God fill this new year full to overflowing with wonder, with blessings, with possibilities...

to you and yours,

Happy New Year!

Eschatology & Religious Radicalism, The Scrolls #2

As you enter the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at The San Diego Natural History Museum, you begin by walking through a stunningly beautiful display of photographs from Israel. Frankly, I never had any real interest in visiting Israel... but these photographs really piqued my interest in going there... just breath-taking.

As we were looking at the photographs, a church group - about 20 high school kids and their leader - were just in front of us. The leader had been to Israel. At each photograph he made comments. Some were helpful. Some were personal. Many interpreted the photographs in light of a specific kind of eschatology that was looking for a literal war of Armaggedon which he obviously expects any day and looks forward to with some excitement. As the leader commented that he thought that one of the photos was of the plain of Megiddo, a young man asked, "Isn't that where the blood will come up to the horse's heads?" The leader answered, "to their bridles," and held his hand at about the height of a horse's bridle. There was some excited chatter among the youth. The leader reads those scriptures as specifically refering to his time and no other. His generation of believers are somehow special in all of history and chosen by God for this particular time when good and evil will face the ultimate confrontation and evil will be destroyed. It will be violent and bloody and glorious.

As we got to the scrolls part of the exhibit and learned a bit about the community that lived at Qumran, it was fascinating to hear that they believed almost exactly the same thing. They were waiting for the same confrontation. They believed that every sign in the world, in the scriptures, in the universe, pointed out that they were the ones chosen by God for that particular time in history when the end of things as we know them would come. I could imagine a teacher from Quran saying almost exactly the same things as this youth group leader.

From my youth I remember the book, The Late Great Planet Earth, which all but guaranteed Armageddon before 1987 (one generation after the founding of Israel) as it told us all of the secrets of Revelation and Daniel and how they were meant specifically for that time, our time... if it happened, I missed it.

What is it in some theological orientations that requires that w be the most important people in all history? So important that entire sections of the Bible are meaningless for everyone else in history because they speak of specific historical events that will take place in our day, now thousands of years after the words were written? How is it that every age has folk who believe those exact same things, only for us to discover as we look back, that they were wrong in their interpretation. Why is it that folk with that particular kind of religious radicalism never ask the question, "Is there another way to interpret these texts that makes them meaningful to the folk who wrote them, the folk in the past, to us, and for all time?" Instead they look back and shake their heads and wonder how those folk missed that the words did not speak to their time. "If only they had seen us now, then they would know what those texts really mean."

Qumran did have it's confrontation with Rome. And time did end, for them, but it was not the ultimate struggle between good and evil. That struggle continues every day. In every place. It is not decided with swords on the plain of Megiddo... but in every heart, in every relationship, in every interaction, in every vote, in every purchase, in daily life. That battle is much more subtle, but also much more difficult than one between armies filled with bloodlust.