Saturday, June 28, 2008


I'm not a big baseball fan but I do enjoy going to a few games a year and I certainly appreciate the athletics that you sometimes see at a good game. check this catch out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I find the discussions regarding health care fascinating. I don't know anyone who is happy with their insurance. Everyone I know thinks it costs too much, covers too little, and places too many constraints on their medical care. Add to that an associated press article shows that HMO's in California made over $4 billion in profits last year with many of the CEO's making more than $1 million in salaries.

Still, as soon as the discussion moves to universal health care, many of those same folk who were complaining about their own insurance begin a litany - "we have the best health care in the world," "can you imagine if the government ran health care?" "do you want a bureaucrat making decisions about your medical care?" "we need choice in our health care," "the free market will take care of any problems we have if we just allow it to work."

Of course the answers are simple - No we don't. They run the highway system would you rather that be privatized? how bout the military? (oops it is being privatized) Bureaucrats already make the decisions except instead of being public employees with the good of society as their aim, they are private employees whose only goal is profit Choice? I don't have any choice. My insurance company tells me what care I can have and who will provide it. Some things should not and cannot be governed by the free market and health care is one of them.

I have no illusions that either a single payer system or a government run system would be perfect. I also don't doubt that wealthy people leave Canada to have procedures done in the US and avoid waits. But I also have no doubts that either a single payer or government run health care system would be better and cheaper than what we have now.

FWIW, I'm feeling a little unhappy with my insurance these days. Three years ago,Alexis had major surgery on her jaw that was medically necessary. Our very expensive insurance didn't pay a penny. We were lucky to be in a position where we could pay for it with loans against my retirement account. Some 25 years ago, when I didn't have any insurance, I needed a root canal. We paid for that but couldn't swing a crown for the tooth. The dentists said it would be more fragile and would break someday. It broke last week - below the gum line. I went to the dentist who said they could do "crown lengthening" which my insurance covers, but there would be less than a 40% chance that the tooth would not fall out. The periodontist said the same thing. Plus it would involve cutting back my gums and removing some bone around that tooth and the two adjoining teeth...making them less stable as well. The dentist highly recommended a dental implant. Guess what. My insurance doesn't cover it. And it doesn't matter that two dentists agreed it was the best and cheapest effective care for my mouth.

At least I'm not like the woman in the video. Nobody dies from lack of a dental implant. Still, it doesn't need to be like it is - supporting obscene salaries and a profit motive where people's lives are in the balance.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gig this weekend

This Sunday, June 22, 2:30-4:30 I have a gig at the Stearns Wharf Vintners Tasting Room on the wharf in Santa Barbara... and it's free!

I'll be playing with Jamie Green and Zak the Red on bass, plus Michele Moreno and Ali Handal (two wonderful singer/songwriters from LA) will be adding additional vocals. Stop by, watch the boats go by, enjoy a cool breeze off the ocean, drink some great wine, nibble on some cheese, and most of all, listen to some great music.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I have been a pastor since 1978 in three very different churches in radically different settings. I have a Master of Divinity from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University Theological School. I have done a reasonable job of keeping up with my continuing education and with reading. I know much of the latest church research and I know what the theorists say about churches and the people in churches. All that said... I don't understand why some churches grow and others do not.

This past Sunday, I took the Sunday off and we visited "The Big Church" in town. They have three services on Sunday for a total of 2 or 3 thousand people a week. When I ask the folk I meet whether they are part of a faith community, of those who say "yes," probably 50% say "The Big Church." So I thought there must be something great going on there. I went hoping to learn something about doing effective and engaging ministry in this community.

As I said, I don't understand. We arrived about 15 minutes early and easily found a parking space. We walked to the entrance... and didn't know where to go. There was no signage and nobody spoke a word to us. We followed some people and found the door to the worship space - a big old warehouse. It was dark with lots of pillars and the seating was benches like might be used as outdoor furniture with pads. Very uncomfortable. There was a loop of information, projected onto two places on the wall. From any place in the room, the image was partially blocked either by pillars or beams. On the platform, there was a piano, a drum set, a few microphones, a number of large potted plants, and a pulpit. The backdrop reflected the craftsman style architecture that is found in this area. There were no obviously Christian symbols anywhere.

An acoustic guitarist, pianist, bass player, and drummer came out. The guitarist talked for a while... kind of rambling... and they began a set of music. The first three songs were very difficult to sing (and I didn't know them). It seemed that a few people in the congregation (which was slowly growing) were singing along but most were not. Those who were seemed to be in their own little worlds. The sound was OK but nothing special. The musicians were adequate but only the bass player impressed me (he was GOOD). They then led a few songs that I knew and I sang along. Still, the majority of the congregation seemed to be unengaged. Even the musicians seemed to be doing their own thing...

One of the pastors came up and explained their new online giving opportunities, made announcements including two fundraisers being held to support church programs, and called for the offering. Two of the musicians did a song to canned background. By this time the space was pretty full.

Then the senior pastor came to the pulpit. His text was James 3:13-18. His sermon wasn't offensive, but it also didn't excite me, inspire me, or challenge me. It was merely there... and it seemed long. He was personable enough but there wasn't anything there. Then it ended, he called the prayer team forward, the band did another song and people began to leave.

As we drove home, Cheryl and I talked and neither of us could understand why anyone would go back. I never experienced a sense of corporateness about their worship. When people were worshiping, they seemed to be withdrawn into themselves. There was nothing outstanding and nothing that made the experience easily accessible. I have heard better music in many other churches in the area. I have heard better preaching just about everywhere. I have heard that they have great youth programs but there was nothing that indicated that from where we sat. There were very few children present - presumably they were someplace else, and very few teens - maybe they were someplace else too.

Again, I don't understand why anyone would go back a second Sunday. Some may appreciate the anonymity that it offered but that could easily be found elsewhere. The pieces are all done better elsewhere. The only piece that it seems to have that others don't is sheer size and the Walmart like "something for everyone" programing. Still, like Walmart, it struck me that nothing was quite what it could have been.

Monday, June 16, 2008


it feels like I've been neglecting my blog recently... life has been crazy.

the deal on the condo in Buellton fell through so we're looking around to see what we might be able to find. We've looked at some places in Santa Barbara and Goleta and were very discouraged. Our price range really didn't purchase very much. Today we saw some units in Carpinteria (a little coastal town about 15 miles east of Santa Barbara) and saw some places that we really liked. They cost considerably more than in Buellton but the distance is much less and you're right on the ocean. The real down side is that the highway to Santa Barbara is often very congested in that direction and they are going to be working on it for about the next 5 years... making it worse.

Alexis received her masters degree from UCSB in Global and International Studies. Her interest has been the role of interfaith relationships in forming a civil society. Congratulations Alexis!

My GAS seems to have found a cure... I have agreed to purchase a Kenny Hill Crossover. Kenny Hill is a builder of high end classical guitars who also contracts with some small shops in Paracho, Mexico and in China to build guitars according to his designs. The crossover I'll be getting is from one of these small shops (I'm not sure where at this point). Most of the hybrid designs come from companies who specialize in steel strings and try their hand at a hybrid design so they can sell a nylon string to their loyal fans. For example, Taylor currently has a number of hybrid guitars and Martin has discontinued their design. The Hill company is coming from the other direction. They know how to build nylon string guitars and have designed one that is easier for steel string players to play. Theoretically, they do a better job of getting the guitar to sound like a real classical is supposed to sound. The word on the web is that the Hills do just that and sound amazing. It should arrive late next week. I'll write more about it then.

In the meantime, I've sold an amplifier and have an electric guitar for sale on e-bay and a violin on craigslist.

Saturday, my friend Jamie had a significant birthday and she had a great party... except I bit into a piece of a baguette smothered in a wonderful tapenade... and broke a tooth on a piece of olive pit. So, I'm off to see the dentist on Weds. It was still a great party with wonderful friends, great food, and fantastic music. Happy b'day Jamie!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

some more wonderful guitar playing

I was looking on youtube for some more African music and some examples of different nylon string guitars and came across this

It isn't really African (he's from Canada), it isn't a nylon string guitar (but isn't the tone amazing?) but I found myself listening to it again and again. Boy, I love Lowden Guitars

The artist is Andy Sheppard

Monday, June 09, 2008

GAS again

Well... I've got Guitar Acquisition Syndrome again.

I love the sound of a nylon string guitar. I've always wanted to learn to play bossa nova and some of the African acoustic styles that work well with nylon strings... but I don't bond with traditional classical guitars. I've owned three or four through the years. I get one, play it for a while and it just doesn't work for me... I don't like the neck shape or nut width. And the guitars I've owned didn't have as much sustain as I prefer (perhaps a more expensive classical would have but these didn't). There is something about the sound though... some styles really require it and there is just something there...

These days, there are a number of companies that build a hybrid style guitar with nylon strings, bracing similar to a classical guitar, and a neck similar to a steel string guitar's neck. I think that should make the difference for me. So, I'm selling a few pieces of gear and beginning the search. Godin and Guild build guitars of this style that are in my price range.

In the meantime, here's a video of Sara Tavares playing a nylon string guitar. She does a wonderful mix of Brazilian, African, and Portuguese music. If you search my blog, there is another video of her doing a tune called Balance that I love.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Well, I read her speech from last night and it seems anything but a concession. I went to her website to leave a note telling her what I think she should do, only to discover that she already began the note for me - "I'm with you Hillary and I'm proud of everything we're fighting for."

I'm not so I didn't leave a note. She'll have to read it here. Hillary needs to concede immediately and spend every waking minute of every day telling her supporters that she lost the race fairly and squarely and that they ought to throw all of their support behind Obama. She should campaign for him in Appalachia. She should campaign among Latinos. She should visit every gathering of feminists and shout from the rooftop that this is not the time when we will have the opportunity to vote for a woman for president. That day is yet to come (and it will come). In the meantime, vote for Barack Obama.

There are those who argue that she should become VP. They argue that she deserves it and that if she is not on the ticket that a large percentage of her supporters will vote for McCain. They present Hillary and Obama as a dream ticket. I think this is a mistake for a lot of reasons.

1. Hillary has HUGE negative ratings. Yes, there are folk who love her but there are huge numbers who just plain hate her. It doesn't matter what she says or does, they just hate her. Having her on the ticket will energize those folk to get out to vote for McCain, a candidate that they're not excited about and who, without some other issue going on, may inspire them to stay home on election day.

2. She has alienated a lot of democrats during this campaign, especially in the African America community.

3. If Hillary concedes with grace and honesty, and then campaigns furiously for Obama, she can deliver many or most of her supporters to him.

4. Bill Clinton. Do we really think having him back at the white house is a good thing?

5. Don't we remember what the Republicans did while Bill was president? Don't we remember all of the ugliness and attacks. Don't we anticipate they'll pull out the same issues all over again?

6. There are positions where Hillary can make more of a difference than as VP. Put her on the cabinet, working on the health care mess. Let her run for governor of New York and let Obama help heal the wounds that she has inflicted in the black community by campaigning for her. Let her continue in the Senate where she could exercise significant leadership.

7. Having her on the ticket just feeds the frustration of her supporters and impede the healing that is needed in the party.

8. Most importantly, Obama has promised a different kind of politics. As far as I can see, he has exemplified this in his campaign. Hillary's campaign has been politics as usual. How can she possibly fit into his ticket?

So Hillary, do what you should have done as soon as the numbers became clear weeks ago - pull out and throw your support behind Obama. Stop the veiled threats. Stop calling into question the integrity of the process and its results. Stop playing games and move on. If you need to attack someone, go after McCain.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

two of a kind

I love paradoxes. Indeed, I think paradox is at the core of any Christian theology worth doing.

As I look at John McCain, I feel a paradox. As the funny video below says, he really promises to be just like George Bush. That represents my greatest hope - because if people actually know and believe that he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected and my greatest fear - because if people don't see that he could be elected and we'd have 4 more years of the same. I don't think the world can take that.

In the meantime, have a smile courtesy of MoveOn...

Monday, June 02, 2008


finally, a photo of the pot at the end of the rainbow has been traveling around the internet

doesn't that feel just like the way life goes sometimes?

Sunday, June 01, 2008


I finally watched the HBO film, Recount this evening. It was painful to relive those days. As I watched, I kept wondering how those main characters feel now. Is James Baker proud that he engineered the election of W? Do the Florida officials feel that they were faithful to the law? Do the Supreme Court Justices still feel that they served the constitution? Does Al Gore still believe that he did the right thing by not continuing the fight? And I wonder how things would have been different? Would 9/11 still have happened? And if it had, how differently would Al Gore have reacted as president? Where would we be now?

Obviously, we cannot know how things would have been different. We do know how critical these kinds of decisions are not only for the United States but for the entire world. We do know that politics at the presidential level is not a game to be played and that ego, blind ambition, and partisanship are not worthy motivators when it comes to counting votes.