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The Word of Restoration

Words have such power to draw longings from us. The word RESTORATION has the capacity to set us to dreaming of what we might be if it were to happen to us.

God’s restoration is guaranteed, but it falls between the now and the not yet. We are known, but do not yet know fully. We are redeemed in our spirit, but the flesh lags behind. We are saints and sinners at the same time. This present life weighs on us because it’s only a shaddow of what is still yet to come. And so, the word RESTORATION is spoken by the Lord and it awakens our deepest desires. It kindles a fire we cannot ignore.

God’s word teaches us to take care that we don’t confuse restoration with escape. Jeremiah 30 calls escaping from God a grievous wound. Trouble is that we live in a world that doesn’t know the difference: self-gratification is the new spirituality.Restoration starts with repentance, continues with forgiveness, and is lived out in authentc living. Authentic living for a follower of Jesus means to feed our souls with his word, occupy ourselves with service to others, and to engage in a lifestyle of worship. We worship God when we believe his promises, receive his gifts of grace with thanksgiving, and set ourselves apart as vessels for his use.

Restoration is not hedonism in a white cloak. It is returning to who we really are as God’s creation, losing ourselves in love, wonder and service.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mt 10:39

 
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Posted by on 4 February, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

This Calls for a Response…

“This action of God surely requires a response. And the response extends over the lifetime of the one baptized, expressing itself in a desire to die in order that one might live. For the life that is ready to die is the kind that lives by faith in the forgiving and life-giving Word of God”  Luther’s Works: 35.34

Why is it that when Christians talk about “surrender” it usually means doing something? I’ve been guilty of this.

According to the dictionary, to surrender means to yield to possession by a greater power. The act of surrender is yielding for the purpose of  being acted upon. Pop-Christianity has redefined it to mean to demonstrate one’s love and devotion to God. What if true surrender had less to do with convincing God of my love for him, and a whole lot more to do with him convincing me of his love for…me?

Luther’s quote above calls for a response, but the kind of response he calls for is different than we might expect. The response is a desire to die to sin and self so that there can be a resurrection. The resurrection is all God’s work.

I have no issue with the biblical mandate that we bear fruit in good works. However, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about God being the subject of the sentence, rather than all that I’ve done to surrender my life to Him. Could be I’m not as important as I’ve imagined all these years…

If we get uncomfortably honest [which is the whole point of this blog] too much attention paid to surrendering leads to some weird stuff. You create a spiritual class system. Sooner or later there will be more and less surrendered people: folks who’s lives would be a heck of a lot better if the would just SURRENDER MORE. The really surrendered folks will gravitate toward leadership, and the rest of us are the dead weight they’re dragging toward enlightenment.

If all of us were spiritual beggars, think how much less time we’d spend diagnosing someone’s gimpy walk with God, and how much more we’d be struck down in heartfelt worship.

Guilty as charged and in need of grace.

 
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Posted by on 29 April, 2011 in christian culture, discipleship

 

Of course it’s hard.

There was a time when I was more “understanding” in my response to those who felt that Jesus was asking too much of them. The signs of the times have made me less so. As our culture spirals out of control into consumeristic hedonism, this has become a matter of conscience for me. Do we have the luxury of remaining silent while the world continues to rob and murder souls?

It’s always been troublesome that Jesus calls us to come with him and die. Remember the rich young man from the Gospels? Jesus asked him to sell his possessions and come follow. The young man couldn’t do that…his heart was buried deeply in his stuff.  The Christian life is not meant to be convenient, or easy, or entertaining. Our reward is not in this life-and though the Lord does give us many blessings and a few wonderful surprises along the way-the best is yet to come. The trajectory of a life lived in Christ is toward sacrifice and self denial for the sake of a dying world. Yes, it is hard. It is a path spattered with blood, sweat and tears. But those who take this road less traveled see more of Jesus: because we need more of Jesus.

I propose that we need to boldly [and honestly] proclaim that the Kingdom of God brings us outside our comfort zones. Sects within high-profile American Christianity have made the Gospel into a “quality of life” choice, and have birthed a no-commitment spirituality. We need to tell the truth about losing our lives for Jesus. We need to tell our people to seek first the Kingdom of God, and trust Him to take care of the rest. God help us to be faithful.

 
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Posted by on 6 March, 2011 in christian culture, discipleship

 

Getting strung up

There’s been quite an improvement in guitar strings in recent years. Quality has gone up with more sophisticated string winding and better quality wire. We have our choice of strings that capture a particular tone for a particular use: bluegrass, fingerstyle, dropped tunings, etc. Some are warm, some are clear, some have longer sustain, some feel more or less stiff to the fingers, and some are more musical sounding. Depending on the top of your guitar, some strings will sound “great” and others not good at all. Let’s start with matching tops to string gauges.

On the continuum of guitar top woods, softer woods need less string energy, while stiffer tops need more energy to produce sound. Western red cedar is on the softest end of the scale. From there: redwood, engleman spruce, sitka spruce, the hybrid spruces like Lutz spruce, european spruces that grow stiffer as you go up in altitude, and then adirondack spruce at the high end of the stiffness scale. For example, my cedar topped guitar just  needs light strings to get the top moving. My Goodall jumbo has a tight grained German spruce top that absolutely must have medium gauge strings to get it moving. Otherwise, the bass overpowers the mids and trebles. Pay attention to manufacturer recommendations. Some softer tops cannot deal with the higher tension of mediuem gauge strings without warping at the bridge!

Tops have tonal color. So do strings. Softer tops are often characterized as warm, while stiff tops sound cool to our ears. I suggest using strings that complement the inherent tone of your top wood. Some of this is trial and error: try several makes of strings, and find what you like. Phosphor bronze strings tend to sound warmer, and have a more complex sound that includes more overtones. Bright bronze or 80/20 bronze bring out more clarity and individual string separation, while sounding less warm. For example I tried a set of the excellent Newtone strings on my adirondack [very STIFF]  top Lowden. They sounded cold! The extreme clarity of this topwood needed a warmer string to bring out it’s best. The tonal signature of this particular brand of string would likely work better on a softer top. Many folks believe that sitka spruce is rather neutral, and will tell you that the string choice contributes more to the tone of your guitar.

One final thought. If you like to experiment with open or dropped tunings, consider using medium gauge strings. As you detune, string tension decreases-and it’s easy to get flabby bass or buzzing treble strings. Medium gauge strings have a higher tension and help avoid these problems. I use medium strings on my Lowden and tune it half a step down from standard. This is what Phil Keaggy does…who can argue with that?!

My favorites in no particular order:

  1. GHS Laurence Juber Signature…warm, wonderful loose feel, rather bold sound, really cool brass plated trebles
  2. Wyres Pierre Bensusan DADGAD…long life coating, complex sound, nice feel, long sustain
  3. Elixer Nanoweb phospher bronze…long life coating, very delicate sound for quiet passages, warmth and sparkle
  4. DR Sunbeam phosphor bronze…super sustain on a round core, VERY nice feel…really unique tone
 
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Posted by on 5 March, 2011 in gear, guitar, worship music

 

Lowden Pierre Bensusan

Rather glorious, don’t you think? I found that I just wasn’t playing my Goodall classical much-fine instrument…but I’m a steel string player at heart. So I traded. Adirondack spruce over honduran rosewood, arm bevel for playing comfort and a 25.65″ scale for low tunings. The voice is powerful due to the adi top, but the guitar is so responsive that I can go from clouds [brushing the strings] to thunder [really digging in] in the same song. In a word HUGE DYNAMIC RANGE. [Okay that was three words.] I’ve not been inspired by an instrument this much in years: firm, tight bass with crystal highs. DADGAD tuning will make a grown man cry. 

This may be the most complete guitar I’ve ever played. The fundemental notes are pure: the stiff adi top and the flame maple neck bring out vast sustain. The overtones are a sweet halo…present, but not overbearing. The sound is complex, but it all works together well. After changing out the stock saddle to fossil ivory the clarity and overtones increased. There’s no mud in the bass until I detune to B.

I recorded it last night: Baggs IBeam active into a solid state presonus mic preamp. Very wonderful results. Later today I’ll mix the pickup with my Rode tube mic. I’m guessing this will be my “go to” recording guitar.

Isn’t it just like God to drop something in your lap while you thought you wanted somethig else? After some rough years where Lowden Guitars struggled, the new workshop is producing incredible guitars.

Simply breathtaking.

 
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Posted by on 8 February, 2011 in guitar, worship music

 

Who woulda thunk it?!

I found out yesterday that my baptismal song “Heaven’s Story” will be published and marketed [short term] by Concordia Publishing House. I had just about given up on this project after the reorganization of the national leadership of our church body. I was working hard at being philosophical about promises that would not be honored. But then…bidda-bang, bidda-boom: the whole thing gets resurrected.

The deal is that the song and lead sheet will be posted on-line and also sent to the 6000+ congregations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Concordia will market the song for 3 months with the hope that the contributing artists on the project will get some exposure and a few nibbles. Super-special thanks to David Johnson and his energetic committment to this project.

 
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Posted by on 12 January, 2011 in worship music

 

Songwriter conference

My song “Christ My Treasure” won a national worship song competition and I got invited and flown out to St Louis to spend time with a small group of writers April 21-23.

Best idea from the conference: write a very simple song. Great exercise! Say it with fewer words.

Best encouragement: permission to call myself a songwriter. Along with this has come a desire to write every day-but with a new freedom. Writing as a process is about writing whether or not lightning strikes or the Spirit moves. Instead of jealously guarding a creative moment and hermetically sealing it into plastic…we can edit, re-write, whatever.

 
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Posted by on 4 May, 2010 in worship music

 
 
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