George Harrison isn’t typically thought of as a blues guitarist, but he definitely loved the form. He frequently had his old friend Eric Clapton play lead on his records – most notably All Things Must Pass, Cloud 9, and Live in Japan. And George is terribly underrated as a slide guitarist, generally taking a back seat to Duane Allman, Ry Cooder, Warren Haynes, Ben Harper, Derek Trucks and others but his slide work is creative and instantly recognizable.
Here’s one of George’s finest examples of slide work, from his swan song CD Brainwashed (which is an excellent addition to the Harrison canon).
I love the electric guitar, and I wouldn’t trade my Telecasters for much of anything. But it seems to me that the electric guitar is so mainstream as to be a respectable, establishment instrument.
There’s something punk about the uke. It’s very portable and can go anywhere. Heck, you can almost hide the thing. It’s not taken seriously as an instrument by most mainstream musicians or fans. It’s easy to start playing and you can play almost any style on it.
Yeah, the uke is punk rock. If you don’t believe me check out GUGUG on YouTube. It rocks.
My brother posted a Friday Five of bird songs, and I love them all. Let’s scour the catalog of history’s greatest band to see if we can find five songs about birds.
- And Your Bird Can Sing (from my favorite Fabs album, Revolver)
- Blackbird (how about some rehearsal footage of Paul!)
- Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
- Blue Jay Way
- Free As A Bird
There, that wasn’t too hard!
And a handful of solo bonuses:
I’m a people pleaser. There’s no good way around it. I don’t like conflict and I like for people to like me.
So when I was approached this summer to be the Spiritual Director for the Walk to Emmaus women’s fall walk, I couldn’t say no. I just couldn’t. Even though fall is a tremendously busy time for me. I have to get ready for all this ordination jazz. I’ve got kids playing sports. And it’s smack in the middle of Charge Conference season. Not to mention that I took my vacation in the summer, then promptly came home and had the flu run through my family, one member at a time.
I love the Walk to Emmaus. My own call to ministry was affirmed during my walk, and the times I have served as assistant spiritual director have been very, very rewarding. In particular I love working the women’s walks. Formation meetings with women are always fun because the women are generally pragmatic, constructively critical and open. Men’s formation meetings very often involve the men previewing their talks and the other men in the room responding like Hank, Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer. (“Yep.” “Yeah.” “Yup.” “Yep.”)
But being the SD is a lot of work! Getting other clergy to join in is difficult, especially when they’ve mastered the art at which I am a novice – saying no.
But I’ve got to learn. My wife told me, “You ever volunteer to work a walk in the fall again, I’ll kill you.” And she’s right – Fall is just too busy. And while Spring walks fall in the middle of my children’s birthday season, Spring is just a better choice for me.
And yet, in spite of all my shortcomings and the naked exposure of my growing edges in this process, the Walk was rewarding and fulfilling. I made new friends. I renewed old friendships. I prayed with new people and with people I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I saw God at work in the lives of women as plainly as I could see the rainclouds riding on the wind. I saw a woman engaged deeply in the process of letting go of bitterness she had clung to for nearly twenty years. I cried silently. I laughed heartily and deeply. I smiled to my core. I missed my wife, my kids, my puppy. I praised God.
I experienced grace.
And I learned something about myself. I learned that it is okay to say no when I need to. I kept my commitment and I was rewarded richly, but I would have been equally blessed had I said no.
Sometimes we have to be reminded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – I want my neighbors to be as blessed as I am. I want my neighbors to have the same quality healthcare and civil rights that I have. I want my neighbors to have fewer worries and more joy. But we also need to be reminded to love ourselves as we love our neighbors. Just as I don’t want my neighbors to overwork themselves and to take good care of themselves, I should want the same for myself. I need to be more intentional about self-care.
Little Egypt Walk to Emmaus #38 would have gone on wonderfully without me. I am grateful that I served. I am grateful that I said yes. And I am grateful that I learned the necessity of saying no when I need to.
This week Katy and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. We flew into Miami and drove down to the Florida Keys, spending four nights at Hawk’s Cay Resort on Duck Key. We went to Key West for a day of LobsterFest and enjoyed good food, good music and each other’s company. Twenty years ago when we got married we were young, naïve, broke and couldn’t afford a proper honeymoon so for our twentieth we decided to get away and enjoy the honeymoon we never had.
I needed this vacation and so did she. It felt great. No alarm clocks, no bedtimes, no sermon preparation, no patient phone calls (for Katy), no schedule. The restaurants on the grounds of the resort are at least as good as any other for several miles. The resort even had two separate swimming pools – one family friendly pool and one in the adults-only tranquility area. And if you’ve never been to the Keys, you need to know that the people carry a very laid-back attitude. Hakuna Matata, baby. You never feel pressed for time, harassed by speeding drivers or bound by the tyranny of unrealistic expectations.
And as I celebrated twenty years of marriage with a truly amazing woman, I couldn’t help but reflect on what it takes to be married for that length of time. If you are married for twenty years there will be moments of absolute bliss, pleasure bordering on paradise. There are also moments that feel like pure hell. There is profound grief. There are purgatorial seasons of repentance and shame. There are times you realize you’ve done something so stupid you can hardly imagine yourself doing it, and would never admit to anyone you know. There are arguments you lose. There are arguments you win. There are arguments you win and feel crappy about the way you won them. Mostly there are arguments that nobody wins. Your flaws, your foibles, your quirks and habits, your successes and failures are no longer your own but shared with your spouse.
And yet, in order to be married for twenty years there is a grace that transcends all of that. Grace you give, grace you receive, grace you share. And that grace is not easy. Transcendence is tremendously difficult business. I bear Katy’s secret shame within me, and she bears mine within her. We share those burdens together. She forgives behavior on my part that is thoughtless, stupid, habitual, and occasionally mean; and I do the same for her. In spite of all of our human brokenness I look at her knowing she is a person I’ve chosen, and she knows she has chosen me. Transcendent grace requires work – lots and lots and lots of work.
Because great relationships are not formed but forged – forged with tremendous heat, sweat, pressure, hard work and time.
And that causes me to reflect upon my relationship with Christ. His grace is a grace that transcends my brokenness. Not in an easy way but in a profoundly more real way. My brokenness is known and received – received with love and difficulty and worry and desire. I know he desires that I do better, that I be better, that I grow and become more. But that difficult, gritty, reality-based grace; the grace that transcends my shame, my flaws, my goofy me-ness; that’s what it’s all about. Christ’s love, like Katy’s, drives me to become a better man, a better human being, a better me.
Thank you, Katy, for twenty great years. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for loving who I am while hoping I will grow. Your love embraces, heals, and transcends my brokenness. I love you.
We were standing in the kitchen and my wife looked me in the eye. “You’re in love, aren’t you?”
I broke eye contact. I had to admit it. “Yes.”
She smiled and let out a little laugh. “I knew it!”
It’s true. I have fallen in love, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Yadi the Wonder Puppy has stolen my heart.
A couple of weeks ago our family was doing some outside work – weeding the landscaping, rearranging the garage. And we discovered the most adorable puppy we had ever seen. Okay, every new puppy is the most adorable one you’ve ever seen. He looked really hungry and shy. He found a little cove between some boxes in the garage and watched my family as we swept and hung hooks and rearranged containers. He made his way to the back yard where Ogre the Extremely Hyper Lab mix (who howls back at the trains at night) shared his food and water, and wrestled and played a while.
Was he a neighbor’s pup? A stray? Did someone dump him? We don’t really know. What we do know is that the next day, Saturday, he hung around our yard again. And on Sunday he greeted everyone next door at church. The ladies in the nursery brought him upstairs and let the kids play with him. And after church Katy decided he could come into the house.
And I fell for him. So did the whole family.
We decided to name him Yadi after Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Gold Glove catcher. We are big Cards fans in this house, and we especially love Yadier Molina. Both of our boys spend lots of time behind the plate in catcher’s gear, so they love trying to learn how to pick off base runners by watching the best in the business. Also, the name Yadier has a Hebrew root meaning friend or companion. Could there be a better meaning for a doggie’s name?
Nobody has come looking for him to claim him. There are no “missing puppy” signs in the neighborhood. And make no mistake – he’s ours. Actually, given the way he hung around for three days before we made a decision I think he adopted us. If anyone comes looking for him now they can’t have him back.
Well, we’ve taken him to the vet and got his first round of puppy shots. He’s about 10 weeks old now and already weighs over 19 pounds. I taught him to sit and to lie down on command. Our older son is working on “stay,” which is working out very well. Our younger son loves to take him on his daily walk. He’s housebreaking quite well – we’re using a crate method and he’s doing great with very few accidents. He’s clearly a very intelligent puppy.
As he gets bigger he gets more of a German Shepherd look, which is bittersweet for me. When I was in 7th grade my art teacher gave me a German Shepherd pup who only lived for a few weeks. I loved that pup, and I was the one who found him dead. I was devastated. Since then I’ve always admired German Shepherds but I was always reminded of the heartbreak that I experienced with Zeus. So maybe that experience has predisposed me to fall hard for Yadi.
Last night as Katy and I were getting a few essentials at the store for our vacation we passed by the pet supplies. I stopped at dog toys and said, “Yadi stuff!” (I can’t go to the store without at least looking at Yadi stuff). She said, “You’re going to miss that dawg more than you’ll miss the kids!” Not true, but I will miss him. And when we get back I’m sure he will look huge to us. He has gained more than four pounds over the last week, and he still looks lean.
I’ve fallen in love with a puppy. He’s my babydog. Before long I’m sure he’ll be a 120-pound lap dog. And I’ll love every minute of it.
Wow. I’ve been bogged down with an awful lot of busy work lately. Having a two-point charge, CPE, a wife with a large family, three active children, and a partridge in a pear tree can keep a fella running. There have been days lately where there are three places I’m supposed to be at the same time.
So I’m sitting at Annual Conference. I wondered what it would be like to walk into the building given my newfound notoriety. I was aware that with my recent posts I was bringing not peace but a sword – and that has been affirmed. I know there are members of the BoOM who agree with what I have stated, and there are those who disagree with me strongly and may have even been offended by my assertions. I was approached by one member of the board who told me that the Bishop is dedicated to looking critically at the ordination process in our Conference and making the relationship between the board and candidates less adversarial and more helpful.
Thanks be to God.
It is a different experience to walk into Annual Conference without the degree of anonymity I used to enjoy. Oops. Fame (or infamy or notoriety or whatever) has its costs, I suppose. But I’m glad I rocked the boat. A healthier conversation has emerged regarding the troubles candidates have in navigating the obstacles on the course to ordination. Hopefully we can put an end to the dissemination of inaccurate, outdated information and begin to recognize the gifts, graces, life situations and experiences of individual candidates.
I’ve been asked if CPE was a complete rehash of my own experiences. To be honest, it was very much like a refresher course in counseling and pastoral care. It never hurts Albert Pujols to take batting practice or to work with a hitting coach, so it couldn’t hurt me to do more on-the-spot crisis ministry. It was helpful to me in that regard. And I have no doubt that some clergy candidates benefit greatly from the experience of CPE and should be required to take it. I used it as an opportunity to practice the ministry of non-anxoious presence, to hone my “in the moment” prayer verbiage, and to sieze teaching moments with the other residents. And our groups gave me a safe space to complain and moan about my ordination woes. The experience did affirm, however, that I was correct in my appeals to the board. The experience was, to a large degree, redundant for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked it. I met tremendous people. I enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the hospital. Two residents were Seventh Day Adventists, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about their denomination and beliefs.
During the first week I found a quote from Thomas Merton that I held onto for the experience. The quote came from Learning to Love as he reflected upon his personal turmoil regarding his affair late in his life. That quote got me through CPE, and is getting me through being a bit notorious in the big room today.
“Hence, the only thing to do is to take all of it with a good heart and joy, and not fear the pain that must come with it.”
Amen, Brother Thomas, Amen.