Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I did not know that "doneness" was a word until Lynnae pointed it out to me on a box of brownies. It said "Fresh baked brownies apear underbaked but cool to doneness." Apparently it is used often, as you can see in This website.

I'm going to try to use my new word more often. I'll start now: this blog post has reached full doneness.

Monday, March 27, 2006

things Bethany wrote: More Gender Essentialism from Conservative Christians

Bethany IMd me today and told me to look at the website for Wild At Heart conferences and pointed me to some particularly funny/interesting areas. I urged her to blog about it and she did. So go check out things Bethany wrote: More Gender Essentialism from Conservative Christians and visit the Ransomed Hearts website - pay particular attention to the mens' and womens' events. Note the images and the paragraph about child care that Bethany points to. Notice that there is no paragraph about child care on the mens' page.

Under the "advanced" heading it says "The Advanced retreats for men and women were intended – in our minds, at least – to help you go deeper in the message (help ensure irreversible change), and, by way of ripple effect, to help you better rescue the hearts of others and help them to stay with it." Irreversable change. Uh-oh

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Playing with Philip Yancey

I haven’t reported yet on the evening my kids and I spent with Philip Yancey.  This was an event for Zondervan sales reps about Yancey’s forthcoming book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference.  My kids and I were asked to supply music for the event.  Yancey talked a bit about the process he went through writing his book and led the people, about 40 or 50 total, in an exercise of writing in a journal, of leading them in prayer and of meditation.  We supplied the music in the background for these things.  We played about 40 minutes of music total, about ten of which was a solo guitar improvisation while Yancey led in prayer.  

Yancey’s book sounds like another winner.  He seems to hit some of the big questions about prayer head-on.  His talk was fascinating and I enjoyed listening to him.  I especially enjoyed playing music for the group.  We did mostly quiet meditative kinds of music which was a lot of fun – you could really feel that the people were with us while we played.  Bryan has gotten a lot better on guitar then he was before he left for college and Lynnae has never sung better than she did that night.  Meredith knocked their socks off when she sang “Who Am I / Grace Falls Down” (even though I played it a step higher than I was supposed to.)  It was a great night.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

response to "e~mergent kiwi: 7 things I learnt from Bono about worship leading"

It's been a while since I"ve had a post about U2 so here's one. There is an interesting discussion going on over at e~mergent kiwi: 7 things I learnt from Bono about worship leading.

The blogger, Steve Taylor, is an emergent church leader and author in New Zealand, and makes a somewhat typically emergent list of things that he sees Bono doing in concert (referencing the Vertigo DVD) which might be translated into a church worship environment. (At least I think it's typically emergent - I'll ask my more emergent-savvy friends and relatives to help me out.)

I'm not sure how much of his list really translates well unless one finds oneself in an environment where there is no community already established and where the starting point for the conversation appears to be contemporary worship. The sort of worship style that has thrown the liturgical baby out with the bathwater. I realize that much of the emergent work, in worship at least, is a reaction to what has happened in worship in the big nondenominational churches over the past 30 years but I'm once again struck by how, for example, "engage through familarity" can be touted as a new concept!

Nonetheless, it is always fun to see the connection between Bono and the church made more explicit.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Platinum Weird - new-old George Harrison

There is a new band named platinum weird (or maybe it's an old band) that seems to include Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics. I'm generally not a big Eurythmics fan but on their website they feature a new recording of an old George Harrison song, "This Guitar" with a never-before-released George Harrison vocal. It's a sparse arrangement with a very nice George vocal and you can download an mp3 of the song here. (There is another nice song here.)

The website claims that it's from 1974 but it's pretty clear from some of the sounds that much of the track was recorded recently and George's voice sounds more like his last album than it did in '74 so there might be some tomfoolery afoot here. The video on the website also has a Rutles-like quality to it so it could be that Platinum Wierd will only exist in order to spoof other bands. It could be that this really is a new band and Stewart is trying to generate interest. Either way, it's good to hear some new George!

EDIT: Apparently, this is a new band featuring Kara DioGuiardi, who is best known (if at all) as the songwriter behind hits by people who don't write - like Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, GWen Stefani, etc. She and Dave Stewart were put together by their management to write some material for the Pussycat Dolls and they did this instead.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Preparing for Philip Yancey

This week Wednesday my kids and I get to play at an event run by the publisher of Philip Yancey’s next book. Yancey is going to talk to the sales reps about his forthcoming book on prayer and my kids (Meredith, Bryan and Lynnae) and I were asked to supply the music. So last Thursday I get a call on my office phone from Philip Yancey saying “Hi Bob. This is Philip Yancey. I understand we’re going to be doing an event together.” We then proceeded to chat for a while about what was going to happen at this event.

Did you catch that? Philip Yancey called me and it wasn’t a wrong number!

So we’ve been busy here at the beginning of spring break getting music ready and practicing. I wish Bethany could be here to join the fun but we’ll just have to make due without her. We’re pretty excited.

Monday, March 13, 2006

For better or Verse

Thanks to Snopes, here is a fun little story of a Bible verse mix-up:
A young and nervous bride planning her wedding was increasingly terrified about her upcoming marriage. To calm her nerves, she decided to have a Bible verse which had always brought her comfort (1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love; for perfect love casts out fear") engraved on her wedding cake. So she called the caterer and all arrangements were made. About a week before the wedding, she received a call from the catering company. "Is this really the verse you want on your cake?" they asked. Yes, she confirmed, it was the one she wanted, and after a few more questions they said they would decorate the cake as requested. The wedding day came, and everything was beautiful ... until the reception, when the bride walked in to find the cake emblazoned with John 4:18: "For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Simpsons Seventh Season DVD

Reviewing a particular season of the Simpsons is tricky since ones enjoyment of the Simpsons is generally in two units – you either like them in general or you particularly like certain episodes. So the question of how a particular season is comes down to a few key episodes. In that regard, my favorite season is still probably Season 4 – any season with “Homer the Heretic” in it is a good one. So, are there any great episodes in Season 7? Oh yes.

  • First of all, Paul and Linda McCartney show up in the “Lisa the Vegetarian” and, while it’s a bit preachy, I did like that they say that they visit Apu’s garden whenever they’re in Springfield.
  • “Two Bad Neighbors,” an episode in which Former President George H. W. Bush moves in across the street to the Simpsons is lots and lots of fun. Homer and George get into a real feud.
  • My favorite of the season, however, is “Homerpalooza” – not because it’s such a fabulous episode, but because the kids think their dad is so incredibly square when he explains all about old rock bands, who they were and who played with whom when old rock music comes on the car radio. It’s so much like me it’s scary. Of course, I never joined a rock tour and caught cannon balls in my stomach so it’s not entirely based on my life – but its close.

There are few clunkers in this season. Most of the episodes fit into the “another good Simpsons episode" category. Basically, if you like the show, there’s not reason not to like Season 7 – especially when you can buy it in a hollowed out head.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Curriculum Consultation Day

Yesterday Laura and I had a wonderful day with about 30 Christian school teachers from across North America. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship brought them to Grand Rapids to learn about the curriculum about worship for 5th grade that the two of us wrote this past summer and fall. These teachers have all agreed to pilot the curriculum and give us feedback by the end of the school year so that we can revise and continue work on this project.

The consultation actually started on Thursday evening with a reception and a brief worship time. We got rolling right away on Friday morning when John Witvliet led us in an hour intro to thinking about worship – what he calls "Worship 101", plus a bit of his "Worship 301". Then, after going to Calvin’s chapel service all of us returned to the Prince Center and Laura and I introduced the curriculum, Together We Worship, by talking about what we were thinking as we wrote this, why we made the choices we made and by quickly walking through one of the lessons.

After lunch, we talked a bit about resources and Ed Seely made a pitch for the Minstry Resource Center in the Hekman library. Then Laura did a short presentation on one way of doing drama and I did an hour on Spiritual Development. After which we wrapped up the day with a few questions, some nuts and bolts about how this pilot project would work and ended with a song.

The teachers were great. They came with a wonderful spirit of cooperation and a willingness to look at what we had prepared, work with the materials that we gave them and to give us the feedback that we need. The support from the Institute staff was wonderful also. Kristen VerHulst and Betty Grit were with us all day and made sure things ran smoothly and that we all had what we needed to have a good day. We were even allowed to invite some Calvin Education students to sit in and learn from this fine collection of teachers. We had a great time.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

'Girl Meets God' by Lauren Winner

I finally got to finish reading Lauren Winner’s wonderful book Girl Meets God. Quite simply, this is one of the most well-written books that I have read in a very long time. This memoir is a series of short meditations on various aspects of life and faith which seem like what one gets if a very literary person does stream of consciousness writing. It’s clear though, almost immediately, that this book is not just a jumble of random thoughts. Winner’s writing is crisp, elegant and insightful. The arrangement of the various episodes in the book help us get to know her, understand her faith journey and learn things about God’s word and about ourselves along the way.

Winner converted to Orthodox Judaism as a teenager and, while studying in England, converted to Christianity. Her understanding of Christianity is formed by her rich background in Judaism, her love of literature and books and her ability to see things as bigger than they appear. It’s really intimidating to write about such a wonderful book – I feel like I should just say very little because I don’t want my writing to be held up to her standards. So I’ll just suggest that this is a book that is really worth reading. One of my all-time favorites.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Indelible Grace 4: Beams of Heaven

Kevin Twit, campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University in Nashville noticed that many of the young people in his care were longing to connect with something deeper than the praise choruses that were often used in worship services featuring contemporary music. You can read a bit about that here in an article that Twit wrote for Reformed Worship. He did something about this by presenting a book of hymn texts to many of the singer-songwriters he worked with and challenged them to turn these lyrics into songs that would relate to people with contemporary musical tastes. The result of this has been a wonderful series of albums in the Indelible Grace series. I’ve had a chance to spend some time with Kevin on a few occasions and, when I saw him last January at the Calvin Symposium on Worship he gave me a copy of the fourth album in this series, Beams of Heaven. This album is another fine collection of songs sung by a variety of artists including Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken and Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine. The writers use modern folk styles to beautifully compliment these hymn texts.

My favorites on this album are the infectious “His Love Can Never Fail” which Derek Webb sings, Laura Taylor’s beautiful version of “To Christ the Lord” and Sandra McCracken’s sparse and compelling arrangement of “Jesus the Lord My Savior Is.” Overall, this album really covers no ground that hasn’t been covered by the first three albums but I’m not sure that’s a weakness. Aside from listening in the car and the office I use these albums as a source of music for use in worship and they have been wonderful for that. I like being able to bring songs to worship (or to sing at baptisms or other special occasions) that have some textual heft to them. These albums raise the bar on what we should expect from worship music. Do we really need a fourth Indelible Grace album? I think we need even a few more. This album can be purchased online at igracemusic.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

'Walk the Line'

I don’t usually buy DVDs on a whim. Usually I think about it for a while or at least have some on a mental list (and yes, in this case list is only in my mind, not on my palm pilot) so that if I see it on sale I will buy it. Last Tuesday, though, I was in Best Buy picking up the new Corrs album and Pride and Prejudice (mostly because Laura and Lynnae wanted it – although I’m sure I’ll enjoy it too) when I saw Walk the Line, the film about the early career years of Johnny Cash, and, on a whim, I bought it. I made a fine choice. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both do a remarkable job as Johnny Cash and June Carter. The academy award nominations are certainly justified. Phoenix and Witherspoon have the singing down so well that, when the film plays an actual duet from Cash and Carter over the credits, I wasn't sure if it was really them or not.

I generally like movies about musicians because I like seeing the ins and outs of the business and also the creative process. This film actually doesn’t show a whole lot of either of those, although I really enjoyed the early Sun Studios scenes and seeing Cash's relationships with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and his band. It also shows that Cash was a Dylan fan - he sings one of his songs and has Dylna's musis playing in the background often. The film mainly focuses, though, on the relationship that Cash had with June Carter. I have mixed feelings about their relationship though. Clearly, Cash was smitten with June early on and it was she who rescued him from an addiction to pills and a self-destructive lifestyle. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for Cash’s obsession with June Carter, his marriage might not have fallen apart. I found it hard to cheer for their getting together when I saw that, according to this film at least, Cash was really responsible for the end of his marriage.

I know the end of the story; how Carter helped Cash come back to recognizing Jesus as his Lord and really helped him become much more than just a rock and country star – things that happened after the end of the film and are really only hinted at. But there is something in the way that they got together that is troubling. Cash’s first wife, Vivian, is just sort of cast off when Cash pushes her beyond the limits of what she can stand. Yes, I know that she left him but, realistically, he left her long before that. Nonetheless, this is apparently what happened in Cash’s life (the director spent a lot of time with the couple before they died) and the film does a fine job presenting it. What I'd really like to see now is a film to finish the story. I want to see how Cash made the rest of the transition to the thoughtful Godly man that he became for the last half of his life.