November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving in Pendleton

we hosted a large Thanksgiving gathering this year at our home in Pendleton. below are a few photos from the day.

Table set

Cornhole out back
(Neal, Jeff, Andrew)

Michael and Will

Let's eat!

Game Time

remodeling update

just in time for Thanksgiving, our new bathroom is all finished! all that's left are the finishing artistic touches.
and just in time for a cold snap, our new front door is installed. next step is to pick out paint colors.

November 12, 2007

music updates

my music production has been minimal as of late, mainly working on little things here and there at the church. here is a short list of things that are out there on the web that I haven't posted on here yet (I think):
  • Luke Morton, No More To Fear - Luke and I worked together for RUF in Seattle, and we produced Rare Sunshine together. Toward the end of my time there, he began work on a solo project of his hymn rewrites, and I had the pleasure of adding a few piano tracks. One of those cuts is available on his MySpace page; the track is called "Sins Underfoot".
  • Red Mountain Music, This Breaks My Heart of Stone - Red Mountain out of Birmingham, AL is one of the leading groups doing hymn rewrites at the moment; I think that their amount of output is second to none. I've gotten to know them through a few sources, let alone the fact that they've employed the talents of friends of mine from days gone by (Irwin, you know I'm talkin' bout ya!). For their latest album, I engineered a vocal track for them with Matthew Terrell singing. Matt has sung on their albums before, but was unable to meet up with them, so I stepped in with microphone in hand to save the day. This past August (?) Matt came over and sang in my closet. You can hear the results on their page; the song is #7 "God of My Life, To Thee I Call".
  • Indelible Grace, Wake Thy Slumbering Children - In the past, I've played accordion for a few Indelible Grace tracks. I've kept up with Kevin and the group by transcribing the new songs for songbooks and the RUF Hymnbook website. The new album is about ready to drop, and I'm working at the moment on getting the lead sheets ready.

November 10, 2007

new bathroom

we've started adding a bathroom... at least, we've hired a contractor who is doing it for us. we're turning a closet into a 2nd bathroom, closing up the old door and knocking out a new one so we can enter it from the kitchen/sun room. here's pictures of the progress thus far:

the first step: removing the door and cabinets

next step: cutting the new door and framing the new wall

next step: removing the window and placing insulation

latest progress: tiled floors, painted walls

October 22, 2007

october day... finally

it's a good day for listening to R.E.M., the quintessential autumnal soundtrack. the rain has come, making it finally the right weather for a fleece vest. coffee drinking is a must.

we saw Over the Rhine with Rosie Thomas in Greenville at the Handlebar on Friday night. quality acts; check them out. looking forward to Nov. 10 at the Handlebar - Derek & Sandra as early show; Nickel Creek as late show. unbelievable.

Saturday I DJed a 30th birthday party for a friend of ours. had a blast recalling the hits of the 70s and 80s... well, most of them at least. it's been a long time since I did that sort of thing; makes me wish I could do it more often. broke out the DJ mixer and the tapes; things made a lot easier with iTunes and a wireless connection, making any request possible!

September 11, 2007

let it fall

used as a metaphor, RAIN is typically used by songwriters to express
  • tears
  • sadness
  • loneliness
why isn't rain ever used to express joy?
  • we speak of water as being refreshing.
    • how about the amazing fact that refreshment falls from the sky?
  • we speak of water as being cleansing.
    • what about cleansing floods from gray skies?
  • we speak of water as being nourishing.
    • what about the renewal of the earth that doesn't rely on man's caretaking?
that's my deep thought for the day while sitting at Jittery Joe's, watching the rain coming down through large plate glass windows, the first sign that fall is arriving (today's high = 93; tomorrow's high = 80), and the first substantial rain we've had in a long time (drought conditions are everywhere we look - brown grass, yellowing leaves, clay dusty everything)

September 05, 2007

flannery o'connor on belief and fiction

Over at, Abraham Piper posted a great article dealing with the Evangelical approach to art, which he deems typically pragmatic. This sentiment states, "If I can't figure out it's meaning or if the meaning is something I don't agree with, then it is bad art." This approach fills nearly every shelf of your local Christian bookstore (there are some exceptions, Logos Bookstore in Nashville and Harvest Logos in Seattle (no connection between them, I checked)).

The guiding premise for Piper's article is the work of Flannery O'Connor, the Roman Catholic author who composed her novels and short stories because of her faith. Her writing gives readers a new perspective on faith; not a wrong/different one from Orthodox Christianity, but one that could not be achieved by the propositional approaches that fill our bookstores.

As a musician, I struggle with this balance of writing what I see in the world. Does it have to be only about Christian subjects? Or can I write about the world with my understanding of it being illuminated by the Light of the World? Here's O'Connor:
Now none of this is to say that when you write a story, you are supposed to forget or give up on any moral position that you hold. Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.
That's a good statement to close on.

August 20, 2007

singing the blues in church

Visiting a church a few weeks ago, the service was called together with a statement that I have let slip from lips at times in the past, but now I struggle with its validity. "As we come to worship this morning, leave your burdens at the door. This is the time that we've come to worship God." I believe the sentiment is "leave your distractions at the door," which I'm sure some parents would love to do by leaving their kids out there, or at least the people sitting behind them wish that they would leave their distractions at the door. But to leave your burdens out of worship? Why on earth would you tell someone to do that? I guess you won't be able to use Isaiah 55 as a call to worship or sing Come, Ye Sinners in your service. There's no reason to deal with your sin in worship, I guess.

I am now of the belief that worship encompasses all of life, and our Sunday morning time of gathering as a congregation should have a taste of all of life: joy, tears, dancing, confessing, struggles, triumphs. All of this must be tempered by the grace and mercy of the God who has called us to his doorstep in the first place.

Do our worship services encompass all of life? The Psalms certainly do. The rest of the Scriptures certainly do. The result of our worship should be joy and comfort, but that doesn't mean that we should avoid dealing with the rougher edges of life. Worship leaders should be teaching their congregations how to sing the Hallelujah Chorus alongside the Blues. I came across this article by Scoti Old on CCLI's website recently, "Singing the Blues In Church".

Singing the blues in church is a matter of honesty. So many of us come to church with a big load of troubles. We want to lay them down in God's presence, spread them out in God's sight and know that He takes them up and sometimes does away with them. We need to be open about our sins, open to God, at least, and we need to hear a word of forgiveness about those sins.

August 01, 2007

paper finished

I was able to resurrect my laptop long enough to drag the important files off yesterday. I finished the paper last night before 10, and was able to make on last proofread before sending it in this morning.

guess this means I'll be in the market for a new laptop sooner than I expected. oh well...

July 30, 2007

dead laptop

so I'm up late, and my laptop has died. this normally wouldn't be a problem except for the following:
  1. I'm trying to finish a term paper to turn in by Wednesday
  2. It's the longest paper I've ever had to write, and it's almost finished
  3. I drank 2 cups of Earl Grey Tea, enough to keep me awake till at least midnight to keep working
  4. The laptop died at 10:30 pm
All of this adds up to being wide awake with words on the mind and only a hunk of plastic and wires to show for it, while slowly hearing the seconds tick away on the nearby clock. I can likely remedy the problem, but I'm not in the mood for a headache. . . at least not a bigger headache.

If all else fails, I providentially copied my file to a thumb drive before I broke for dinner. I can recover with that, and only lose about 2 hours of edits. At least, I hope that it hasn't died as well.

July 16, 2007


28 facts about the number 28:

1. Roman Numeral = XXVIII
2. Number of days in the shortest month, February
3. Years normally follow a 28 year cycle; the year 28 years ago should have the same calendar as this year (but this is broken by 2000)
4. Number of letters in the Danish, Swedish, Arabic, and Esperanto Alphabets
5. Part of several movie titles: 28 Days, 28 Days Later, and 28 Weeks Later
6. Number of Dominoes in a standard set
7. Number of Human Teeth (not including wisdom teeth)
8. Postal Code for Madrid, Spain
9. Number of Chapters in the Book of Acts
10. Length of time in years that a copyright would last in the early part of the 20th Century (pre-1964); could be renewed for another 28 years before a work would become public domain
11. Jersey Number worn by Seattle Mariner Raul Ibanez (formerly a player for the Kansas City Royals)
12. President: Woodrow Wilson
13. Vice President: Thomas R. Marshall
14. State to join the Union: Texas (1845)
15. Street in NYC has 3 local subway stations
16. Number of the next amendment to the US Constitution (none pending)
17. The number itself is a Perfect Number, where all of its divisors added together equal the number itself (1+2+4+7+14=28)
18. Atomic number of Nickel (Ni)
19. Number of years it approximately takes for the planet Saturn to revolve around the earth
20. Opus for Fredric Chopin's 24 Preludes
21. Name of a band located in Cape Cod, Mass.
22. Rank of Billy Joel's "My Life" on the Billboard Top 100 in 1979 (my birth year)
23. Rank of Otis Redding's song "(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay" on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs List
24. Rank of The Who's album "Who's Next" on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums List
25. Rank of Britney Spears' album "...Baby One More Time" on the Best-selling Albums in the US List (14 times platinum)
26. Rank of the film "Apocalypse Now" on the AFI 100 Greatest American Movies List
27. Rank of the film "The Empire Strikes Back" on the All Time Top US Grossing Films List
28. Episode Number of The Office show titled "Casino Night", the second season finale

And one to grow on... Number of candles on my cake last week

$600/pound coffee?

I don't recommend serving this at your next party, unless it's a party of your enemies.

Indonesia's kopi luwak is a rare delicacy of peculiar provenance -- beans plucked from the droppings of wild civets.

July 12, 2007

umm, what can I say

I was on iTunes today, looking to see how popular the Clemson Presbyterian Podcast was. turns out that it's the first choice that comes up if you search "clemson" in the iTunes store.

but that's not the crazy part.

just looking to see who else we were competing with in the search, I found TIGEROAR, a men's a Capella group at Clemson University. they were on some "best of college a Capella" compilation the past few years doing vocal-only takes on modern pop songs. (side note: I can't say that I am fan of this style, but it is a fun tradition around these parts)

I was interested in seeing what songs constitute a "best of" in this category. turns out, amongst covers of Maroon 5, Sarah McLachlan, and Matchbox 20, was a cover of none other than the Christian folk all-star himself ... Derek Webb!

I can't tell you how it made me feel to hear "Somewhere North of Here" as performed by the Dartmouth Aires. why not go listen to it for yourself?

not much in the way of commentary on my part, but I will say that I never thought I'd hear a Derek Webb song receive this sort of arrangement.

"no, Derek, tell us how you really feel..."

July 05, 2007

massive youtube upload

in June, I spent a few weeks in Flat Rock, NC, as program manager for some youth conferences. among my duties, I made videos... a lot of videos... that were supposed to make sleepy middle schoolers laugh out loud at 9:00 in the morning... still unable to figure out how to do that, we came up with a series of spoofs of MTV Reality Shows, so at least the leaders could laugh at their childhood... here are links if you want to see them all, including a Chuck Norris training video, but here is our take on The Real World.

June 28, 2007

June has been crazy hectic. I have some things brewing that I'm going to post here, but in the meantime, I'll post what someone else has already said better.

Part of my recent work has been for our Worship Team Sunday School class; quick teaching bits with a good bit of discussion. Recently I've been talking about how idolatry can sneak into our worship. This week we're talking about Worship Styles, so please pray for me as I prepare to touch this extremely sensitive wound in the Church today; pray that I might lend ointment to our discussion and not lemon juice.
I've been reading Bob Kauflin's blog a lot recently; his posts have gotten me started on a number of Sunday School lessons already. This past week he talked about that great debate about using the dreaded "personal pronoun" in our worship. In response he talks about the objective, subjective, and reflective aspects of our worship. You can read the whole post yourself, but here's a pithy remark to end my post:
A lot of times I see churches react to a perceived imbalance and end up being unbalanced themselves - either all emotion or all theology. God wants us to enjoy both. Our songs should reflect the passionate God-centeredness of the Psalms, filled with emotion, struggle, and personal language, but leaving no doubt as to the Creator-Redeemer around whom everything revolves. Praise God, there are an increasing number of songs, both old and new, that help us the balance in tension.

May 31, 2007

summer plans

back from memorial day weekend, I'm getting started on my summer schedule. through August I will be consumed with an online course on Christian Education, improving my internship at Clemson Presbyterian, and teaching myself Latin so I can teach it to a group of home schoolers beginning in the fall. in between, I will be interrupted by regular yard work (but not much if the drought continues), a 2-week stint at Bon Clarken for youth conferences (ARP retreat center in Flat Rock, NC), and hopefully a trip or two to the beach, Atlanta, Greenville, and the library.

so what are you up to this summer?

soof on a roof

Seems like Sufjan continues to be magically prolific... this time on a roof, covering one of his (and my) favorite songs, the innocence mission's "Lakes of Canada". (click below to play; if the audio doesn't work, click the volume bar)

#50.2 - Sufjan Stevens (MusicNow) - The lakes of Canada
Video sent by lablogotheque

May 09, 2007

hitchens vs. wilson @

Christopher Hitchens is the author of the recent publication, "God is not Great", an atheist author trashing all organized religion, especially Christianity. In my mind, there is no need to give credence to this sort of writing, as it is uniformed and just goes to show the validity of Romans 1:18-ff. But then again, dialog of opposing viewpoints can serve some good, if to at least foster the faith of the believers. Christianity Today's website is now publishing a series of letters written between Hitchens and Douglas Wilson, an author and pastor from Moscow, Idaho. This is fascinating, and I recommend that you read the whole thing (so far only one letter and its response has been published). Go here to read.

For the chronologically- or attention-impaired, here's a quote from each:

I cannot, of course, prove that there is no supervising deity who invigilates my every moment and who will pursue me even after I am dead. (I can only be happy that there is no evidence for such a ghastly idea, which would resemble a celestial North Korea in which liberty was not just impossible but inconceivable.) But nor has any theologian ever demonstrated the contrary. This would perhaps make the believer and the doubter equal—except that the believer claims to know, not just that God exists, but that his most detailed wishes are not merely knowable but actually known. Since religion drew its first breath when the species lived in utter ignorance and considerable fear, I hope I may be forgiven for declining to believe that another human being can tell me what to do, in the most intimate details of my life and mind, and to further dictate these terms as if acting as proxy for a supernatural entity. This tyrannical idea is very much older than Christianity, of course, but I do sometimes think that Christians have less excuse for believing, let alone wishing, that such a horrible thing could be true. Perhaps your response will make me reconsider?
In your concluding paragraph you make a great deal out of your individualism and your right to be left alone with the "most intimate details of [your] life and mind." Given your atheism, what account are you able to give that would require us to respect the individual? How does this individualism of yours flow from the premises of atheism? Why should anyone in the outside world respect the details of your thought life any more than they respect the internal churnings of any other given chemical reaction? That's all our thoughts are, isn't that right? Or, if there is a distinction, could you show how the premises of your atheism might produce such a distinction?

March 13, 2007

2 New Videos I've Made

As Sarah and I are nearing completion of the first stages of redoing the kitchen and bathroom, we're putting together a sequel to "Painting a Room in 1.5 Minutes", but this time we have a larger cast, bigger budgets, and more angles to shoot!

But in the meantime, I've put together 2 videos in the past few weeks of other things, and I thought you might enjoy them:

1. CPSki 2007 - I went in February with our High School Youth Group to ski in North Carolina.

2. Erskine Seminary Coffee Machine Video - This is an instructional video I put together for our long-awaited new coffee machine (I can feel your enthusiasm)

So what'd you think?

March 08, 2007

new album from Patty Griffin

This past Saturday, Sarah and I spent the afternoon in Ashville, NC. We really enjoyed shopping and enjoying coffee and dinner. I've been trying to track down the latest from Patty Griffin, "Children Running Through," for a few weeks, unsuccessfully slogging through the shops of South Carolina. We left town that night viewing the lunar eclipse over the mountain tops, listening to another masterpiece from Patty.

This is her 5th studio release. With each successive release, she has improved her sound and fine-tuned her voice and songwriting craft. I first got into her music after her first two albums were already out, and I was floored by both of them. The passion in her voice and words cannot be ignored. When her 3rd album, "1,000 Kisses," came out, I was moved. I was at a major point of transition in my life, graduating from college and taking my first professional job. That album became the background of a major change in my lifestyle and perspective. Her next album, "Impossible Dream," was released during my first year in Seattle, a few months before Sarah and I were married. Once again, a major point of transition was wallpapered by the longing vocalizations of Patty, the backup singer to my thoughts and struggles.

So now, she's released another album. After a few listens, I can say that it is at least as good as every one of her previous releases; actually, it seems that she has successfully married the sound and feel of all 4 of her works, creating something wholly new and truly unique. (Who is making music like this out there today? Why aren't more people listening?) It is going to continue to have heavy rotation for at least the next year, maybe more. What I'm left wondering is what major changes will be coming that Patty will likely be accompanying?

February 16, 2007

Tech Support

I feel like I've had this conversation before. It's practically like deja vĂș all over again. Update: Fixed link!.... Urgh, double fixed!!

I apologize for all those who have tried to view this and have shaken your fist at me because it didn't work. The first link went down after a few days (thanks Brendan for pointing this out). The second link that I posted lacked the English subtitles. Hopefully the current link will stay live for the rest of you to enjoy!

January 04, 2007

How to paint a room in 1.5 minutes

Sarah and I recently completed our first house project: painting the bedroom. We documented the process, and I whipped up a nice little video to show everyone. Enjoy!

January 02, 2007

goodbye 2006

I'd love to post my opinions about the 10 best albums, 10 best films, 10 best books, 10 best hamburgers, etc. of 2006, but I don't have the time and/or money to come up with even 1 worthwhile Top 10 list. in light of this fact, I am going to ramble off a haphazardly numbered list of what I remember liking about 2006:
  1. The New World – was it the best film of 2006? or 2005? depends on who you ask, but most intelligent folks that I follow would say this is the best film of 2006. I haven't seen a film like this in a while, or ever. Comes close to Wings of Desire if you've seen that.
  2. Sufjan Stevens in concert – I'm still at a loss for words on this one. Unbelievable night of songs, strings, and beauty. My Brightest Diamond (the opening act) is one not to miss.
  3. New York City – My first visit to the Big Apple is one that I don't plan on forgetting, getting to see major landmarks, visiting numerous art galleries, and eating great. Can't wait to go back.
  4. Washington DC – Not as much time as I spent in NYC, but Sarah and I had a great day trip into the District. Got to see some amazing Rembrandts and El Grecos.
  5. Andrew Peterson Christmas Concert – A free show in December outside of Greenville. Wasn't sure what to expect, though Joel has been raving about this show for years. Needless to say, Sarah and I were both floored and plan to never miss another tour again.
  6. The Office (BBC & NBC) – I can't get enough of this kind of uncomfortable comedy. It drives Sarah up the wall. I got NBC Season 1 for Christmas and already have Season 2 on order from Amazon.
  7. Rembrandt – currently my favorite artist. I read 2 interesting biographies on his life and work.
  8. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere – This is crazy pop music at its best.
  9. Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
  10. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife – Just got this for Christmas but it's already getting heavy rotation
  11. Sufjan Stevens - Music For Christmas – I already had vol. 1-3, and 4 & 5 are a great addition. *honorable shout-out goes to The Avalanche, Sufjan's collection of outtakes from his incredible Illinois album. good stuff, but worth just getting the good stuff from iTunes.
  12. Alexi Murdoch - Time Without Consequence
  13. Theolonius Monk with John Coltrane - Live at Carnegie Hall – I got this in early 2006, though it was released in mid-2005. Gosh, what a brilliant find! Can you imagine being the guy at the National Archives who dusted this thing off and played it back for the first time?!?
  14. Junebug – don't miss the performance of Amy Adams (nominated for an Oscar last year)
  15. Movies about words – We rented and liked from best to worst: Wordplay, Spellbound, Akeelah and the Bee, Word Wars
  16. TV on DVD – We've watched a lot of Monk, Scrubs, and House M.D.
  17. Netflix – without this, we probably would have watched reruns of That 70s show the whole year
so here's to 2006! (see Sarah's blog to get more about our lives this year)

hello 2007!