Saturday, October 29, 2011


I miss fall... at least the kind of fall we had in upstate New York - when the air turns crisp, the leaves turn from green to reds and yellows and then brown, you put on sweaters and the first coats of winter, eat hearty soups,  maybe even a little snow falls that hints of what is coming, and the last deluge of produce comes forth, especially the apples and the products made from them - cider, apple cider donuts, pies, and crisps...  I feel it every year.  I see the apples in the grocery store and I'm not impressed.  They just aren't the same.  Literally, they are different varieties than we loved in Pennsylvania and New York.  The apples there were crisp and tart.  Many of the ones here, even at the farmers' markets, are sweet and mushy.

Of course, there are other signs of fall here.  The last of the grapes are picked and crushed and the new wines are beginning to ferment.  Many wineries bottle wines to free up space in the barrel rooms and sales are abundant because of the need for warehouse space for the new bottlings.

While the temperatures in the low 80's would never have betrayed it, today was a fall day here.  Cheryl and I jumped in the car and headed north to See Canyon in San Luis Opisbo county.  I don't know why they can grow good apples there, but they do.  And we have a favorite orchard - Gopher Glen - that grows 60 varieties of apples including some that we love from the northeast and some we enjoyed that were new to us.  Two weeks ago they were selling Stayman Winesaps - one of our favorites from Pennsylvania and we bought ten pounds.  They're all gone now.   Today we purchased ten pounds of an apple we didn't know as they weren't selling the Stayman Winesaps - Arkansas Black - and two gallons of cider (if you've never had fresh pressed cider directly from an orchard, you've never tasted cider).  It gives us a taste of the fall we know from our past.  Some warm cider donuts would have made me think I had died and gone to heaven... or at least to upstate New York.

Then we headed south, towards home and stopped at Core Winery in Orcutt to pick up a wine club shipment.  Dave and Becky Corey run a great little winery that is just fun.  The wines are quite good and very reasonably priced but it was the family atmosphere that pulled us in and inspired us to join.  So, we enjoyed some wines, talked with folk, picked up our three bottles (and bought three more) and headed home.

Yes, it was 80 degrees and didn't feel anything like an October day in upstate New York (where it was snowing today), but it still felt like fall... and that felt good.

goodbye Cathedral Music

If you look down at the links at the bottom right of my page, you'll see a link to Cathedral Music (my favorite guitar store).  After 16 years, Cathedral is going out of business.  Klem says that it is time for a new chapter in his life, which I understand, but I can't but imagine the economy has a lot to do with the timing.

Cathedral is a small shop that never had the largest inventory, but as Klem said, "we don't sell no junk," and every guitar at any price point that came out of that shop was at least a good guitar if not a stellar one. There was a period when my daughter was taking harp lessons about a mile from Cathedral and about 15 miles from my home so every week, I'd drop Alexis at her lesson and then head over to Cathedral to play some wonderful guitars (there are a couple that still haunt me) and chew the fat with Klem.  He never gave me a hard time about not purchasing anything.  I quickly learned to get out of the way when a real paying customer was there but never, ever felt pressured in any way.  I only purchased one guitar via Klem.  When my Lowden L25C was stolen, Klem was the dealer that worked with me on my O25C Custom.  I remember the experience of going to pick up that guitar as if it was yesterday... the anticipation as he brought the case out and the satisfaction of the first notes played.   So, he never made much money from me - I don't know that he made anything on that guitar at all - but through those days of playing wonderful guitars and visiting, we became friends and I have a very soft spot in my heart for that little store.   He is a man of impeccable integrity and was the kind of dealer guitarists all long to have a long term relationship with.   And now Cathedral is closing...

I will miss knowing that store is there but wish only the very best for Klem as he begins this next chapter of his life.  Good journey's my friend!

In the meantime, if you are looking for a guitar or a uke, Klem is having a wonderful sale on everything in his inventory except the consignment instruments.  Tell him that I sent you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cambridge Drive Concerts Video

well... not actually a video of a concert, but a promo video...

CD concerts
by: roy_d

it is my first fledgling attempt to use xtranormal.  The next one will be better but I feel OK abut this first one

Friday, October 21, 2011

Does Romney Understand?

Earlier this month Mitt Romney stated that he is in favor of a constitutional amendment stating that human life begins at conception.  I can only hope that it is a position he doesn't understand or hasn't really thought about.  It is a statement that could be made only by three categories of people... 1. the ignorant,  2. the political opportunist who doesn't really believe it but is hoping for votes, and 3. the insanely anti-abortion folk.  Here's why.

Conception happens when an egg and a sperm connect.  If at that point we have a human being, we have a number of issues to face.  Many fertilized eggs naturally do not implant themselves on the uterine wall.  If a human life begins at conception, every time that happens, we have had the death of a human being with all of the attending legal ramifications regardless of the cause.  Some women experience ectopic pregnancies where the egg implants somewhere other than the uterine wall, most often in the fallopian tubes.  This is extremely dangerous for the woman.  If the fertilized egg is not removed, she will die.  If the fertilized egg is a human being, we're talking about murder here... even though there is no chance that the fertilized egg would remain viable through an entire pregnancy.  A number of the most popular birth control methods do not stop the egg from being fertilized but rather from implanting in the uterine wall.  This would amount to murder.   Many couples find themselves unable to conceive in the normal ways and use in vitro fertilization which typically results in numerous fertilized eggs, some of which are discarded at one time or another.  Again, we're talking about murder if human life begins at conception.  We haven't mentioned instances of rape or incest where the morning after pill - which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting - would no longer be an option.   We also have raised other issues such as the mother's life, the health of the fetus, etc. etc. etc.  Regardless of how one feels in general about abortion, this stance is as radical as it can possibly be.

So either Mitt Romney doesn't understand how conception works and how it relates to pregnancy and birth control, he does know all of this and is just trying to get votes, or he actually believes what he said... in each case, the possibility that he could become president is just frightening to me and should be doubly so to any woman of child bearing age.

a smile

for you cat lovers - you'll identify... (just ask my wife about Espresso and her computer)

for you cat haters - you'll find more reason...

here's Simon's cat

Thursday, October 20, 2011

i love my car

We Americans love our cars don't we?  Back in 2010 I wrote a piece about cars being the modern equivalent of a household god... it was a fun piece and think the concept holds water.   Speaking of which, my first car was a 1964 VW Beetle.  It had it's issues.  It had rusted through in the wheelwells about half way up so when I drove in the rain, water splashed into the front of the driver and passenger compartments and would sit there until it dried out.  It sat there virtually all of the time.  I did drill a hole in the floorboard to allow it to drain but the hole would get plugged and the water would still sit.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, that meant that in the winter, it would freeze and for a few months each winter, I had an inch or two of ice on the floor of my car.  Air cooled VW's didn't do heaters either so I carried an ice scraper to scrape ice from both the outside and the inside of my front window.  It only had about 60K miles on it when I got it in 1971.  I loved that car and cried when the frame rusted through and I had to get rid of it in the winter of '73.

I've been through a bunch of cars since then.  Some I loved (a Fiat spider when it ran), some I hated (a Dodge dart convertible), most I just drove until we replaced them.

not my car but it looks just like this
I have a car I love again.  It is another VW - a 2002 GTI that I bought new when we moved to Santa Barbara.  In spite of the story (apocryphal?) of Bill Gates claiming that if automotive technology kept up with computers we'd be driving cars that cost $25 and got 1000 miles to the gallon, the technology has changed in incredible ways.  I think my bug had 40 horsepower and got about 25 mpg.  My GTI has 170 horses and gets 28-30.  It has nearly 140K miles on it and is still running strong.  Oh... the heater works really well (even though I rarely need it).  It is true that I don't live in a place where they use salt to melt snow, but I do live in a place where the salt breeze comes off the ocean all year round... and there isn't a spot of rust on the car.   With the back seats down I can carry all kinds of stuff - guitars, PA stuff, amps, suitcases, groceries, even furniture.  I have had to do very, very, very little in repairs beyond the normal replace the tires when they wear out stuff.   Yeah, I wish it got 50 mpg but I love this car.

The other day we were playing the "what would you do if you won the lottery" game.  You know the musician's answer - "gig until the money ran out."  I might consider that but I realized that I wouldn't replace my car!  I hope I can get another 140K out of it!  I love my car.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

word cloud

so here are the words I use most...

Wordle: thin places

What DO Progressive Christians Believe?

Often Christians who are labeled as either "progressive" or "liberal" are described as having wishy washy faith systems or theologies that change at a whim.  Try reading most of the professional theologians who represent that side of the spectrum and you're likely to find dense and difficult going, far beyond the commitment of a layperson and even many pastors.  Pastors, if they understood it, have not done a good job of communicating it to their congregations.  As a result many lay folk who fall outside of the conservative camp are not particularly articulate about what they believe.  They are only able to tell you what they do not believe in conservative theologies.

One subset of progressive theology is process theology... a form that I find particularly attractive but also often particularly difficult to understand as it is articulated by many of it's primary thinkers.  More recently there has been a movement to bring process theology into the local churches.  Philip Clayton of the Claremont School of Theology  and his Transforming Theology initiative has been particularly important in that movement.   They describe the mission of the initiative thus:
Our goal is an ambitious one: to rekindle powerful Christian theologies that have a transformative effect on church and society. It is widely believed that only the conservative church knows how to speak in a distinctively Christian voice, that only conservatives are qualified to represent Jesus' message and mission. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is far more complex, far more interesting, and far more relevant than what the Religious Right has offered for consumption in recent years.

I have found Clayton's book Transforming Christian Theology for Church and Society particularly helpful.

Bruce Epperly is another writer/theologian/pastor/academic who has tried to make process theology accessible to a wider range of folk.   At Cambridge Drive we have used his book Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living for a study/devotional series and found it just wonderful and a much, much better fit for us than the other 40 Days books.  One of our lay members was so excited at the end of the 41 days.  He told me that every day he found himself identifying with the book and better able to put words to what he had known in his heart all along.  (I highly recommend this book for a small group study/devotion series)

My friend, Bob Cornwall, just posted a piece by Bruce Epperly on his blog where Epperly gives a short capsulation of process theology. If you have ever looked for a good short explanation of process theology, here it is.  If you haven't, read it anyway.  Take a read and let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

worship songs - again

Last November I posted a piece about my struggle with theology in worship songs... that often I cringe at the theological implications or statements in a song but the music or another part of the song really works for me.  I'm facing it again.  In that post, I shared my fear that people get more of their theology from the songs they sing than anywhere else, so my song choices are doubly important.

Next week we're having a missionary - Corenne Smith -  visit us and share her work.  (She and her husband Philip have a wonderful ministry in Brazil. Check it out in the link on her name and the video below.)  So, I asked her for suggestions for songs and she gave me one - God of This City.  I really like the general message of the song - that God is at work and has a vision for what we will become in this local.  Except the first verse really grates on me.  "You're the God in this city."  I don't know what city they're talking about but I've never been in a city without multiple "gods" and certainly have never experienced one where God is truly seen as God.  Still, I could almost let that line slide.  "You're the King of these people."  Same argument, but much stronger.  Again, I might let it slide, thinking that it is referring to the people singing the song.   "You're the Lord of this nation."  That one is just untrue... and as a true believer in separation of church and state, really makes me squirm.  I don't want it to be true.  For a slew of reasons, I just can't sing that or have the members of Cambridge Drive sing that.

On the other hand, I love verse 2
You're the Light in this darkness 
You're the Hope to the hopeless 
You're the Peace to the restless
And I love the chorus...
For greater things have yet to come And greater things are still to be done in this city Greater thing have yet to comeAnd greater things are still to be done in this city  
So... what do I do?  Just delete the first verse?  Maybe.  Or change the words a bit... it is tricky to make them fit but work for my theology.  "You're the God who loves this city" for example...  Still, it feels a bit parochial and requires a few more syllables to get squeezed in...  Maybe, "God is in this city... God loves these people... God loves this nation..." or do I just skip the song?  What do you think?

here's a video, sharing Corenne & Philip's work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

prayers, imaginations, and intentions

The other day, my daughter called me on the carpet.  She was in town for the weekend and attended Cambridge Drive Church.   During lunch she raised a bunch of good questions about the direction of the church but the most important ones had to do with prayer, with imagination, and with intentions... and I think the three are tied together in an intimate way.

We're listening to Orson Scott Card's book, Xenocide, in the car.  It is an interesting and philosophical read - indeed, some folk have complained that it is too philosophical and needs more action.  In the book the Hive Queen describes the way new queens are formed as an imagining of what could be and a calling into the chaos for something to come and give shape to the pattern imagined.  In some ways, it recalls the New Agey idea of dreaming something hard enough and it happens.  It got me thinking about the role imagination plays in prayer... and how intentions are lived out when we have the courage to imagine them as real, present them to God, and live them out.

I have to admit that I've not had a very fertile imagination lately.  Cynicism has been more likely to hold sway in my heart than wonder and expectation.  That's not good.  It isn't helpful to the folk who are members at CDCC and it isn't helpful for those who need just the kind of community we are and should be becoming.  So... my task is to get imagining... to get intending... to get praying... and to see God's yearnings for us - wonderful, beautiful yearnings - filled full.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


I love that symbol... Less equals more... stands in direct contrast to the advice we got after 911 from President Bush, "Go shopping!"  It stands in contrast to the common wisdom of the day as to the best path to repairing our economy - consumers need to be spending so producers produce and make more jobs for more consumers to spend more...

A more important question is whether it works on a spiritual level.  Does having more really make us happier?  Our guts tell us "yes."  Bumper stickers remind us that "he who dies with the most toys, wins."  I live in a place where 10,000 square foot homes with multi million dollar price tags are not unusual.  Still, our experience tells us that more doesn't make things better.  The person living in that 10,000 square foot home is no more likely to be happy than the one renting a single 300 square foot room a few miles away.  Having more toys only tells us one thing about you - you have more toys.

I've written before about GAS and how guitars players (read me) constantly search for the perfect instrument that will make their playing shine.   Of course, it isn't the instrument at all, it is the player, so they go through guitar after guitar after guitar searching for the one that doesn't exist.  I'm not so caught up on the guitar merry-go-round... I know a guitar won't make me a better player and I actually have an electric, a bass, and two amazing acoustics that I am more than thrilled with... but there are always pickups and microphones and recording interfaces and capos and tuners and gig bags and amplifiers and and and

When I was a bit younger I was also concerned about other things as well... but I am getting better.  My car is 9 years old and has almost 140,000 miles on it... and it runs fine and I love it.  I don't think I'd replace it even if I hit the lottery.  I love our condo, although I do wish I didn't have to commute so far.  I have more than enough clothing.  We eat well and have a nice little wine cellar.  Life is good... but I could still do with less and it wouldn't hurt me a bit.  Maybe I need to do some ruthless editing?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

St. Francis Day

Today is St. Francis of Assisi Day.   St. Francis is one of my heroes... and not because he acted like Dr. Doolittle and talked to animals.  Well, actually it is because he talked to animals.  The story tells us that Francis' first sermon was to his brothers and sisters, the birds.  He ended the sermon by telling them, "Now go off, because I've told you who you are."  And who they were was children of God, who by being who they were, brought glory to God.  He preached similar sermons to a wolf, a lamb, fish, even worms and bees.  He saw the presence and glory of God in the creation that surrounded him and knew himself to be but a part of that wondrous creation.
Brazilian Cardinal

A few weeks ago we vacationed in Kauai and had a wonderful time.  It is a place of astounding beauty and heartbreaking stories.  One day, I had an experience that made me think of Francis.  We were wasting some time while waiting for a reservation at a restaurant and saw a pair of Brazilian Cardinal's doing their mating thing.  The male had found a piece of popcorn.  The female  would shake her feathers, call, open her mouth and wait and he would pick a piece from the popcorn and feed it to her.  This went on for a bit... and then a second female decided she liked this guy who was obviously a good provider.  He had a piece of popcorn!  So, she flew nearby and began the same thing... shake her feathers, call, and open her mouth.  Back and forth he went, feeding both of them.  Each competing for his attention and him not willing to choose.  We watched until we had to go to our reservation... and have no idea how things ended.  I wnder what Francis might have said to brother Brazilian Cardinal with his gorgeous red head...

Church & State... never simple

Justice is a central pillar of my understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.  I believe in civil rights for women, racial minorities, sexual minorities, religious minorities and, especially, any minorities I missed.  I believe in the role of the law in enforcing anti-discrimination laws.  Indeed, if anything, I believe they should be stronger than they now are... except...

I have to say I cringe even as I write this, except when we're talking about religious institutions.  Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear a case involving a Lutheran school in Michigan who fired a woman.  She says it was because of a disability.  They say that the government has no say in hiring and firing of people who transmit the values and teachings of a religious institution and that her behavior showed that she was not fit to do just that.  That principal is broadly accepted when it comes to clergy.  It makes sense there.  If a religion believes that one must be Jewish to be a Rabbi, it is understandable that they will discriminate against non-Jews.  Ditto for a group that believes women cannot be priests not being held legally culpable for not hiring women priests.  It makes sense that the leader of a religious organization can be required to fit with all of the tenants of that faith, whatever they might be. What happens, though, in a situation where the person under consideration is not clergy and may even have a majority of responsibilities that could rightly be described as "secular?"  In this case, the woman was a teacher who taught primarily "secular" subjects although she did lead prayers and perform other religious duties.  

The case has brought together the strangest bedfellows ever with everyone from the Southern Baptists to The National Council of Churches, Yoruba, and Hare Krishna's supporting the Lutherans.  The Baptist Joint Committee , has filed a brief in support of the school, arguing that 

Indeed, questions that might seem facially nonreligious take on a religious coloration in a dispute between a religious organization and one of its ministers. ...
This case exemplifies how theological or religious issues are almost impossible to avoid in cases involving employees with spiritual duties...  
Ultimately, the church congregation terminated Perich‘s commission because, given her behavior surrounding the request to return, it had lost confidence in her ability to represent the school‘s purposes to children... [I]t is up to the Church, not a jury or judge, to decide whether she could be effective.
It is true that allowing for such a broad interpretation of the current law regarding "ministerial exemptions" may open the door for serious abuse by religious organizations.  Still, a more narrow interpretation impinges on their ability to live out their faith.  The government has no right to do that.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

gonna party like it's my birfday. it's my birfday!

It's my birthday.  That pulls together a bunch of different threads for me.  On the one hand, it is a day like any other day.  'nough said...  but it is good to set time aside to be aware of the passage of time, of people and places and experiences that are important to us and to celebrate and commemorate.  It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate.  It just needs to be.

So we're celebrating.  And it won't be expensive or elaborate.  We blew way more money than we could afford on our recent trip to Kauai so it can't be either.  I'll be thankful for family and friends, for technology that kept me alive way beyond most of the men in my family, and for blessings too numerous to even remember let alone list.

Cheryl and I started last night by stopping by a wine bar in Lompoc called D'vine.  It was our first time there.  We'll be sure to go back.  We had some nice local wine and heard some great music by Owen Plant (who we have coming back to the Cambridge Drive Concert Series in January).  We weren't planning to eat anything but they had this desert that wouldn't let us not try it.  It was a dark chocolate chili tart with candied apple smoked bacon.  It was soooo good and was just perfect with red wine.

Today... I'm beginning by trying to put off finishing my sermon.  It is not an easy passage (Matthew 21:33-46) and I've never preached on it before so I can't even cheat and pull out an old sermon.  So, I blog first and then I'll get back to it.

For dinner, like many folk, the birthday person gets to pick either a favorite restaurant or a favorite meal.  Cheryl is an amazing cook.  She can do sophisticated and fancy and she can also do peasant food.  I like both.  We can get sophisticated pretty easily in Santa Barbara and some kinds of peasant food, especially Mexican, but other peasant foods are just not available.  Good pizza is very difficult to get on the west coast period and the people's Italian food is almost as difficult to find.  Back in Philly and Pittsburgh, every few blocks there was a knock you off the bar stool neighborhood Italian restaurant.  Here... there just aren't.  Cheryl makes a red sauce, called gravy in Philly, that is as good as any I've ever had anywhere  and a killer meatball.  So that is what I requested.  We'll have a nice super Tuscan, the Tocata Riserva from Mandolina and some store bought deserts.  Cheryl also makes some amazing deserts but if she made an entire flour less chocolate torte I'd eat it.  So we bought deserts from a local bakery.  They won't be as good as hers, but I'll be finished with it this evening and won't have all of those evil calories calling me.

Now... back to the sermon.  Thanks for the diversion.