Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
For a week now we have been going through a checklist of items for Josh to take with him this summer. Everything has to go into one item of luggage. Given that he leaves Friday morning and has a long concert Thursday, everything needs to be packed by Wednesday night. Now that his brother has returned from Europe, Josh can start to pack.
With that in mind I gave Josh a towel, not just any towel but “the green towel”. As it is not overly large or plush, it will not take up much room and will not take long to dry. This green towel is not just any towel mind you, but “the green towel”, the surviving towel in a pair. This towel has been around our home for years. It has seen service in the RV, and before that used in our two pop-ups. Before that it was with us on camping trips when we tented. It has been used around the house for years, including helping to dry our dogs when we bathed them. It has gone off to camps for a weekend or a week, and even to Europe last summer. It has been used to wrap around fine dishes and crystal through one move after another. This towel which has a long history has been used to wipe up water from large spills, broken pipes and leaking washing machines.
Through it all it has remained strong without a rip or stain. It was never a plush towel but “the green towel” has provided yeomen service and will do so for Josh this summer. My only request of Josh is that he brings it home in good order where it can be again placed into its hallowed place in the closet.
No doubt you are wondering what in the world is going on my head regarding “the green towel”. I will concede that I am a little touched in the head, but after all this is my blog. Though you have been intrigued enough to read to this spot, let me explain the rest of the story about “the green towel”. Though “the green towel” no longer sees regular service, it has a long history of faithful service back to the days when along with its mate was first given to me by Mom back in 1975 when I went to college.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Evie and I share the same view, the general public sees the Church, particularly the conservative element of the Church in a far more negative light than it has in recent memory. Those outside the evangelical Church view evangelicals as narrow minded, shallow thinkers and not as having answers for societal problems. To sum it up, the Church and Christians, particularly the evangelical wing, are viewed as irrelevant.
The general public tends to view the failed policies of the current President as being the same as evangelical Christians. The blame does not rest with President Bush but the much of the more prominent evangelical leadership who worked at electing the current administration and advocating particular policies. The Church as an upright corporate citizen should speak out on issues, but speaking out on issues does not mean supporting a particular party and candidate.
People of faith need to be engaged in politics. We need people in all political parties. There are diverse opinions and positions within the Church. We are not a monolith. Our faith needs to shape the positions we take and our voting. The Church and its leaders should speak to issues and policies without being tied to a party or candidate. It needs to help its member wrestle with issues. That said, the Church should not say to its members that this position or that position is the Christian position. It is appropriate for Christians to vote against and even work against an evangelical candidate.
When the Church ties itself closely with a party or candidate it is putting politics ahead of the gospel and justice. When the Church aligns itself with a candidate, it will become reluctant to speak out against the administration when it does something wrong. The moment the Church does so it mutes itself, it becomes tied to any injustices and failed policies of the administration and thereby brings harm to the body of Christ.
Friday, May 25, 2007
1. Josh is taking final exams, albeit early.
2. We are going through Josh's needs, buying items for his departure next week.
3. Hotels are charging summer rates in DC and the Greater Hampton Roads area (Williamsburg and Virginia Beach).
4. Going south to Richmond on I95 on Fridays between 12:30 and 8:00, and Saturday mornings between 7:30 and 12:30 moves at a crawl the whole way. And you crawl east along I64 Fridays after 3 and Saturday mornings (beach traffic). Stephen learned this first handhand.
5. Traffic going to the office Fridays and Mondays has become lighter due to "Feddie Hours."
6. I have to call to get the camper in for inspection.
7. We are starting to clearn up the camper.
8. Oakton Band Boosters last night drafted the budget to put to the full membership at the end of year concert which is next Thursday.
9. Oakton Band Boasters has its executive slate for next year, including Evie as VP (they asked for one of us to take the position. I ducked that one as I am on the road too much) and the first Orkney meeting for the Marching Band takes place next week.
10. The DYS is rarely seen around DHQ.
11. On weekends I walking around in shorts and sandals.
12. The AC has been running constantly at the office and home for weeks.
13. College kids are back and filling positions around the community, including at DHQ.
14. Motorcycles galore on all major roads.
15. And lastly, the pool opens today.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Below are windmill generators I passed on the way home. These are located in PA. More of these farms need to be built to help diminish our dependence upon oil and gas, and even coal. There are people who argue against these windmills by calling them eyesores. A windmill farm was proposed just off shore in Mass but those with ocean property argued against them as they would ruin their views (even though they would be more than a mile out). One of the families that fought the windmill proposal was Ted Kennedy, who talks in the Senate about the need to cut our use of oil (hence in my view he is a classic NIMBY who talks the talk but does not walk the walk).
I do not find them that offensive, and there is a type of beauty to them. Frankly they are far less offensive than most highrises that line the lake/river shores of Toronto, New York, Cleveland and Chicago.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Tomorrow will be the funeral for Jerry Falwell. In Lynchburg VA he is either loved or hated…there are few who are in between both extremes.
Though the pastor of a large church, Falwell was not a particularly gifted speaker, Nor was he an outstanding worship leader. His success rested in his ability to connect with people on an individual and small group level, to articulate in a cogent manner a vision and then sell people on the grand vision being God’s will. Part of that vision was attempting to stem the tide of liberalism. Some of what he called liberalism others called progressive and appropriate justice.
He was a controversial man who spoke on daily issues. A conservative to the core he often held firm to positions and would often modify his positions long after the majority had moved beyond his earlier position. He held onto segregation and fought against integration long after integration was common place. His opinions and positions on various issues evolved and changed over time. He was just slower than most people. Today his congregation and university shows no sign of segregational thought. The same can be said on his views on the roll of women in the workplace and church, South African apatite policies, public education, and welfare reform.
While I would disagree strongly with his work in helping to create the religious right and tying it to the Republican party (blog for another time), his work did help give the church a hearing in public dialogue. The church is a public citizen and as a citizen it too needs to speak out of on issues, but without being tied to any candidate or party….and that was where I take issue with Falwell.
There are radio commentators and newspaper writers who call Falwell in this country who call him a perpetrator of hate. While we may disagree on issues, take a contrary stand does not make on perpetrator of hate. To use such language is a purposeful effort to demonize one with whom you disagree and to marginalize them in the process. Such language is not the language of civility but rather doing that which you are saying the other does. What was regrettable is that some of these commentators and writers who claim Falwell was a hate monger openly celebrated before the public over his death and proclaimed that it was a great day for America when he died. Their actions cause us to ask, what are you doing differently than what you charge Falwell as doing?
Falwell can be faulted for being controversial, for being overly political, for speaking sharply and at times unwisely on issues, but hate was not part of his character. I may not agree with his theology, his defining as God’s will and political action, but I will not judge his motivation or passion for the His Lord.
Rest well Jerry Falwell in the arms of Christ.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Today my mind starts to transition toward the other end of life, to celebrate the joining of two young lives as one. It is my prayer that Jason and Alyson will have a rich and fulfilling life together. My desire is nothing short of what I have been fortunate and blessed to experience with Evie, my life’s partner and best friend. Having a partner with whom to journey through life is not only a comfort but a joyous blessing.
I hope that Jason and Alyson will have the experience I have discovered again and again. The day I stood before the alter watching my bride come down the isle I could say with confidence that I loved her completely and fully. Yet as the time passed I came to realize that the love I had then paled to the love I had for my dearest five years later and ten years later. By the time fifteen years passed I realized that my love for my wife had deepened so much that the love I had for her 9 June 1979 seemed so shallow. Today, I can say that not only that about the love for her I had in 1979, but the same applies to the love I had for her in 1989, 1999, and even in 2004 when we celebrated our 25th.
Love is dynamic. It is rich and full. It expands and matures as we live through our conflicts and work to have a common life together. It is the surrendering of the self for the good of the other. It is seeking their best and joys above self. The passions may not be as intense as in the days of one’s youth but the appreciation and love of one’s soul mate remains deep and enmeshed to one’s heart. Such entwining of lives, of goals, desires, joys, pains, and dreams is what I believe stands at the heart of what Scripture calls, “and the two shall become one.”
Jason and Alyson, I know you will not read this until long after your day of joining and I wish I was a poetic wordsmith to I could say this with greater clarity, but on this wedding eve my prayer is simple, that God will grant you the same joy and life together as I have enjoyed with my life’s partner and best friend.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
4. Developing young players hindered: Young players are hindered in a variety of ways. In some Corps the youth are not allowed to take instruments home to practice. Little progress is therefore made.
Another hindrance is that we have few of skilled players to take our young people beyond a grade two level. Even when skilled players are available, I have seen too often promising players between the ages of thirteen and seventeen not being mentored and left to learn on their own and via group rehearsals. The best band programs rest upon skilled players intentionally giving individual lessons to their teenagers.
Related to point four, few Corps have a consistent mentoring program that foster musical development. By the way, staff bands holding clinics and music camps are not mentoring, they are momentary teaching moments.
For far too many of our youth hit a glass ceiling between the ages of thirteen and sixteen and their musical potential withers. Sometimes it is due to a lack of mentoring. For some, the ceiling is created because their participation in the adult groups is delayed. For others, the ceiling has to do with adults not accepting their questions or adults expecting young teens to behave older than their years.
5. Nature of Salvation Army music: In college there was a debate over the nature of Salvation Army music not being at a level that challenges our strongest players. The most challenging music within the Army is found in the General/Festival Series and even then it is contained within a handful of parts. One of my friends from college, who went on to play in two Staff bands, argued that those who seek challenging music throughout all parts would have to look outside the Army.
At the time did not accept that evaluation. In the last fourteen months my view have changed because of a question I asked Josh last March as we returned from the NYB All-Star weekend. He enjoyed the weekend but when I asked him how the music compared to what he was playing at school I anticipated hearing him say that it above what he played at Oakton as they were playing items from the NYSB repertoire. Instead he said it slightly less challenging than what he was playing at school. Last year Josh was playing mainly grade 5 music in Concert I. This year he is playing exclusively grade 6 in Symphonic Band (grade 6 is college).
What is interesting is that an event intended to help instill greater interest in TSA banding was one of two triggers to cause Josh to move away from TSA banding. Following that weekend that Josh started to take greater interest in other music. Looking back, Evie and I can readily see that between March and August 2005 was the period when our son’s interest in playing in TSA groups beyond the congregational context died. One of the greatest indicators of the shift was when he stopped working on a TSA composition that was close to complete (it was a demanding item that needed only the percussion part added and would be ready for a first play). He stopped working on it because he tends to write for the type of groups he foresees himself playing in. Hence, setting the item aside was the indication to us that he had no interest in playing in the Cap Band or DYB. We do not see his interest beyond the local Corps changing for years to come. In February the subject of the Army banding came up and he stated that the Army is part of his heritage and he values it but he does not see it as a significant part of his future. He has no intent in playing in the Army outside the congregational worship experience.
While the chances are higher now than in the past that Josh will be lost to the Army within ten years, his parents primary goal is to help him to remain a faithful churchman committed to Christ regardless of what tradition to which he attaches himself. The Army is secondary to being a committed churchman.
We cannot unduly fault Army for Josh’s progression. He is more the exception than the rule. We cannot fault the Army’s music for its lack of challenging strength across all its parts. Only a handful of Corps bands have the depth to have demanding music across all parts. The Army’s music appropriately allows for broad participation and that should not change. The downside is that some of our strongest youth will need to look for challenges outside the Army sphere. We must accept this weakness or risk diminishing musical participation.
The challenge for the Army is to encourage our young musicians to develop musically and as people of faith. Given internal shortcomings this would mean encouraging our strongest young people to participate in outside groups, groups that would help stretch and hone their skills. At the same time we too need to intentionally make a systematic effort to keep them bonded to the Army, to foster their spiritual and musical development through an intentional mentoring process. We need to make them to have a sense of ownership of the Army’s life and that they are part of its vitality. We appreciate our COs for their sensitivity on this. They both recognized the significance of Josh not playing in DYB this year and Josh has valued their support and interest. The encouragement of the COs and two other band members have helped to keep Josh bonded to the Army as his faith expression.
Such encourage and sense of belonging must not be done with words but also given by providing them opportunities to grow. It means pushing them to the next level and including them sometimes in a group or activity before they fully meet the standard that we as adults set and expect for ourselves. We will be surprised to find that when such opportunities are given that they will rise to the challenge and that their growth increases. I only have to look at what took place in Brampton during my youth to see the effectiveness of mentoring and bringing young people at an early stage into adult groups and given leadership opportunities. Without intentionality in dealing with our youth, many of our young people will drift away from us in their mid teens to early twenties. We must remember that often we loose a person within the heart and mind long before we loose them in body. We have too few young people with leadership and musical potential to not taking an intentional and invested interest in them.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Since that luncheon conversation my thoughts have distilled by drawing upon four decades of observations and personal experience with banding. To that I add what I see in the lives of my two sons, each of whom has been moving in different directions regarding Salvation Army banding. The one son became more tied to the Army through banding while his younger brother a declining interest in Army banding.
1. Cultural changes: Many people are too quick to point to fault cultural changes. If culture is at fault, whey do high school and college band programs with good music programs still have robust programs.
Cultural impacts upon musical expression within the Church cannot be doubted. Its impact is more upon styles and expression than upon the number of young people learning to play brass instruments. Every generation of Salvationists has faced changes in musical styles. When they changes have been embraced and our musical styles found exciting young people have wanted to be apart of banding. I would not agree that culture is one of the top factor behind the decline of Army banding.
2. Canadian Staff Band (any Staff Band): Apparently some fault the CSB for the decline in the Toronto. To those who hold such a view I would ask, if the CSB is to blame, why then the significant decline in banding across the country and in the USA which are well beyond the CSB's immediate sphere of influence? The CSB is an easy escape goat, but a fallacious one. Granted, the decline has taken place subsequent to the reestablishment of the CSB. The CSB has not created a decline in Corps banding any more than the National Capital Band is the cause for the poor state of banding in the Washington area. The Cap Band, nor any staff band’s mandate is to train and equip young brass instrumentalists. Such bands are at the top of the food chain and they will be as healthy as the system that feeds them, as system which is clearly in decline.
3. Decline in brass players below the age of thirty is a demographic shift: The Salvation Army’s music program rests upon a large cadre of men and women who view banding as an avocation and as an expression of their spirituality. This pool has decreased as the average ages in our congregations have increased. Banding is declining because our congregations have declined. Historically, far more young people were still playing into their middle teens than adults who were retiring. And within the pool of players rising in the ranks to fill bands were a sufficient nucleus of good to excellent players. This is pattern is no longer taking place.
4. New congregations lack an emphesis upon banding: This is a cause but not a sole cause. Our newest congregations tend to have contemporary worship styles where bands are not stressed. Such contemporary groups could utilize brass players and such congregations could still foster music development via solos and other small ensembles but elect not to do so.
To be continued next blog
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Now she has changed her strategy by asking her fans to flood California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon her because she provides "beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives." Wow, what a defense. She is too beautiful to go to prison. Being in prison people who rely upon seeing her would be denied such pleasure and would wallow in a joyless life without her. The reality is that Ms Hilton is a spoiled rich brat who has believed her own publicity material, who thinks that she lives by a different standard and that the laws of the land do not apply to her as they do to others.
Hopefully prison life for 45 days will burst her bubble and cause her to get a life. Unfortunately, I fear that she will forever maintain how unfair she has been treated. She will remain arrogant, haughty and aloof. While I blame her for her arrogant, haughty aloof self-important attitude, in statements made by her parents I find myself blaming them as well having attitudes that lead to their daughter’s thoughts.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Below is one of the latest pictures of the band that I took in the lobby of National Headquarters.
Friday, May 11, 2007
I spend hours at a time traveling the highways and listening to XM radio. When I want a good laugh I will listen to talk radio. The other day I listened to one show on terrestrial radio. He pontificated and joked with his audience regarding the quality of his intellect and the correctness of his views. He belittled those of the opposite side with degrading comments and oversimplifications. Those with opposing views were demonized. He repeatedly took a statement made by a Democrat and extended to be applicable to all Democrats. He argued that there is a great conspiracy afloat that he is seeking to expose. If a caller called to question a point he would cut him off before the caller could finish his/her point by peppering the caller with tangential and irrelevant questions. All the while the person spoke of the lack of civil discourse in Washington.
That same day I listened to another person on XM who was doing the same thing. Repeatedly she railed on and on about the viciousness of the conservative talk radio. She demonized them and would take wild comments by a Republican as Republican dogma.
That which I heard from the liberal talk radio personality was along the same vein as the conservative personality. Both individuals had wild uncontrolled passion filled bitterness and anger. Fortunately, there are few commentators and personalities who are of such extremes as Rush Limbaugh and Randi Rhodes. Both need to get a life and stop taking themselves seriously. Unfortunately, talk radio does not have enough commentators who help foster civil discourse and seek to bring clarity to issues. Though they are not good sources of news and truth or civil discourse, they are good for a laugh and outside the criminal realm serve as good examples of the baseness of human life.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Faith if properly understood is more than piety. Faith is part of one’s life. Faith shapes one’s values and passions. It challenges us how we interact and treat each other, and how we conduct business. Faith calls for justice, both in the courtroom and in the boardroom.
The faith community is part of the overall community. It is a corporate citizen that like any other body should speak out. What the learned and informed Mr. Dobbs seems to have overlooked is that there are a host of those in the religious community, including religious leaders, who hold his views.
Faith if it is to be dynamic and true must interact with the issues of the day. Its practitioners must listen with there heads and hearts to the dialogue. In faithful reflection they must weigh out sets of biblical principles and interpretations in seeking how one should look at an issue.
Lou Dobbs is alarmed when religious leaders speak to the faithful and encourage their people to take a look at an issue from a particular point of view. He sees that the Church are interfering improperly in the business of the nation and that such interference is not only improper but insane.
He and his staff even push pulled a survey to demonstrate that 93% of viewers hold that religion should not be involved in pushing a political agenda. What would be the result if the church had not been involved in political debate and pushed particular issues in the last two hundred and fifty years. It was the faith community that pushed and political agenda for the funding of public schools. It was the faith community that pushed the agenda end slavery. It was the faith community the promoted and pushed the need for higher education. It was the faith community that pushed public hygiene agendas and public health. It was the faith community that pushed the agenda of limiting unfettered monopolies and robber barrens. It was the faith community that pushed the civil rights agenda, including voting rights and school integration. Would Lou Dobbs wish to argue that the nation would have been better off if the faith community had not spoken out on these issues?
The faith community nor its leadership is a monolith. I cannot concur with the Dobbs on this issue and hold that his position is untenable when understood within the context of history. The Church should not determine political outcomes or seek to rule. Yet its voice should be heard just as Mr. Dobbs’ voice and positions are heard across the airwaves. In conclusion of my views of Lou Dobbs’ position I would use one of his common phrases, “that is insane.”
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Evie and I continue to carry forward the impact of living in Kentucky. Every year since we have been married we have celebrated Derby Day. We plan our meals and day around the event. We sit look at the ungodly hats and pick a horse or two to cheer (one of the favorites and one not so favored). I am pulling Noviz Like Shobiz and Imawildandcrazyguy (what a name). And when the University of Louisville band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” our heart is stirred.
Happy Derby Day to one and all.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Pearson asked $1,000, the full price of the suite. A week later the Chungs found the pants and refused to pay and give Pearson the pants. That is when Pearson decided he would sue for $65 million and represent himself in the court.
When the Chungs offered $3,000 and then $4,600 Pearson refused. As Pearson no longer wanted to use his neighborhood dry-cleaners he wanted $15,000, ten years of weekly car rental fees to transport him to another dry-cleaners. He feels he has the constitutional right to use the local cleaners and as the Chungs have made that impossible, they should pay to transport him to a cleaners of his choice.
Pearson says that the Chungs are in violation of the DC consumer protection law because they have a sign that reads “Satisfaction Guarantied” and “Same Day Service”. Pearson claims he is not satisfied and that not all items are completed in the same day. Hence Pearson argues that law allows for violators to pay $1,500 per violation, per day. Pearson is claiming twelve violations each day over 1,200 days.
Pearson is not out for justice. He is openly perverting the justice system for his own gain. Unfortunately the courts are allowing the case to move forward to trial. This is the type of case demonstrates the glaring shortcomings of the American legal system. Far too often justice is not the focal point of a case. Instead it is a legal system filled with games with self-serving individuals using and perverting the laws.
Every legal case depends upon the wisdom and cool reflection of the presiding judge. Judges, at least according to legal theory, are to seeking balance and help restrain over reactions and undue passions, to limit the perversion of the legal system and the law. The action against the Chungs also brings into question that entire theory as Roy Pearson is a judge.
Even with pro bono work by some parties on their behalf, the Chungs have had to go into debt to defend themselves against this horrible filing. Fortunately, there is a growing cry within the legal community for Pearson to be removed from the bench and disbarred. Yet, the case moving forward to a 11 June trial date speaks volumes.