Archive for January 2009

Sharing our Story

January 26, 2009


My wife and I went public yesterday. We shared our story to the entire congregation in a Sunday morning service. A story of addiction and a marriage on the brink – but also a story of grace, and recovery, and finding what true intimacy in marriage is all about.

Are you an addict? Is your spouse an addict? A family member? Maybe if you don’t have a problem with the “big five” (alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex addictions, gambling) you think you’re not an addict? Perhaps you’ll rethink that after you listen to the following clip. Morgan Young setup the morning this way (mp3):

My personal addiction is pornography. I was in it for a long, long time until I got into true recovery. Our pastor, Mark Malin, interviewed my wife and I about our story. You can listen to an mp3 of the complete interview here.

Other service elements:
Bulletin Insert: Addiction Resources: Page 1 (180k jpg) Page 2 (248k jpg)
Link to the Pete Wilson blog post I referenced in the interview

Songs that supported the topic:

We began the morning with “Landslide”, the tune made so popular in the last few years by the Dixie Chicks. The song has the quality of a bittersweet memory – something that’s sad and painful, but that was ultimately good. The song is a metaphor to me, of my addiction. Addictions are landslides. The earth falls out from under you and you find yourself up to your ears in mud. But the song also has a “resolve” about it that I really like. The songwriter talks about the passing of time and growing older (and hopefuly wiser). It was just a beautiful way to start the morning.

After Morgan’s awesome setup to the topic, special guest Cameron Sprinkle let it rip on a Linkin Park tune named, “Easier To Run”. I know what you’re thinking – they did a Linkin Park song in CHURCH??? Why yes, we did. The song just NAILS the dilemma that an addict faces. They hate the thing that controls them, yet they can’t break free. They would like to change, and to end the pain that it causes, and to get beyond it – but it’s just so much easier to run from it. Lyrics can be found here.

After my wife and I told our story, I sang a song that has been been really important to me in my recovery (along with Charlie Hall’s “Marvelous Light”). The song is Bebo Norman’s “Great Light Of The World”. Check out the lyrics to this awesome song here.

I asked our sound guys to play the song, “Whatever You’re Doing” by the band Sanctus Real as people exited the auditorium. If you’ve never heard it before, please take a listen. It’s an awesome one about surrendering to the real source of change.


My Heart Is Grieving

January 16, 2009


Read this today. Quote from the book, “unchristian” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

In virtually every study we conduct [speaking of The Barna Group], representing thousands of interviews every year, born-again Christians fail to display much attitudinal or behavioral evidence of transformed lives. For instance, based on a study released in 2007, we found that most of the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non-born-agains. When asked to identify their activities over the last thirty days, born-again believers were just as likely to bet or gamble, to visit a pornographic website, to take something that did not belong to them, to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone, to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk, to have used an illegal nonprescription drug, to have said something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did, and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.

No difference.

One study we conducted examined Americans’ engagement in some types of sexually innapropriate behavior, including looking at online pornography, viewing sexually explicit magazines or movies, or having an intimate sexual encounter outside of marriage. In all, we found that 30 percent of born-again Christians admitted to at least one of these activities in the past thirty days, compared with 35 percent of other Americans. In statistical and practical terms, this means the two groups are essentially no different from each other.

And lest you think that the term “born again Christians” is referring to the the broad group of Americans who self-identify with that term, the actual grouping came from Barna researchers, who ask the interviewees if they have “made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important and that the person believes he or she will got to heaven at death, because the person has confessed his or her sin and accepted Christ as Savior.” Pretty strict definition there.

“No difference”. That phrase is haunting me. What are we (as Christians and Christian leaders all across the nation) doing? Are we only interested in selling “Fire Insurance”? Is the art of making disciples completely dead? Have we forgotten how to walk arm-in-arm with people and do life together with them – loving them through lifechange? Are we so disconnected with the Holy Spirit that we wouldn’t recognize one of his works if we saw it?

Take it to the next level – make it personal? Would YOU have answered those questions any differently? If you were asked to report on your last 30 days of activities – would there be any difference between your life and the average non-believing American’s?

Dear God, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

New Year’s Resolution: Book Reading Challenge

January 11, 2009


Inspired by the story of Pres. Bush and Karl Rove having a friendly competition to read as many books as they could in a given year, I have decided that to read as many books as I can in a year is my New Year’s Resolution for 2009. Last year I read a total of 20 books. I want to see if I can make it at least 24 (two per month) and possibly more. Anybody with me?

To qualify, it has to be an actual BOOK…no pamphlets, no tracts, operation manuals, romance novels, or “graphic novels”, none of that nonsense. Personal growth, spiritual topics, history, biographies, leadership, current events, bona fide novels, etc. are the preferred format here.

I will begin with the books on my nightstand that have been sitting there in various stages of un-read-ness. Since I assume most of us have some books lying around that we’ve started and not finished, I will make a judge’s ruling that any book FINISHED in 2009 will count towards your total.

We’ll be on the honor system, ladies and gentlemen. I have no desire to try to keep track of all your reading lists and progress! Just comment on this post, letting me know you’re in the challenge. Every so often, I’ll make a new post and we can share how we’re doing.

What’s on my nightstand right now:

  1. UnChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabriel Lyons
  2. Robin Hood Marketing by Katya Andresen
  3. The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
  4. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker
  5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Let’s do it and have some fun!

[UPDATED 1-15-09 9:25pm]

  1. Jeremy Carter
  2. Eric Hollering
  3. Avin Kline
  4. Julie Baldini
  5. Shelia Miller
  6. Niko Gruber
  7. Jerry Renkenberger
  8. Jason Lee
  9. Jason Braun
  10. Lindsay Weed

The Best Electric Guitar Soloists of All Time

January 2, 2009

Many of the major guitar magazines have attempted this, but have fallen way short. One major reason for that is that guitar mags are generally read by teenage and college age boys – and frankly – what the heck do they know at that age? I mean, really? They flood the magazine polls with votes for guitarists who have no business being on the list in the first place.

My criteria for selecting these guitar studs are as follows:

  1. talent/artistic merit: does the dude have the God-given ability to translate art from his head to his fingers?
  2. the woodshed: has the player put the work and time in to developing his raw abilities to his maximum potential or is he lazy, resting on raw talent to pull him through? It shows in the playing if someone has “been sheddin it” or not (Keith Richards).
  3. stylistic and technical diversity: is the player well-rounded, a complete player, a true professional? Or do they get tragic myopia that their genre is the ONLY genre and there’s nothing they could possibly learn from any other styles or players.
  4. Melodic construction and musical phrasing: 24 straight bars of 32nd notes does not make me think you are a good player. it makes me think you are an insecure, lonely music geek who needs constant attention (Yngwie Malmsteen.)
  5. Balance of technique and passion: If you are strictly technical and cerebral, you lose my heart and any emotional connection I have with you So if you don’t care enough to put your emotions in your playing, I¬† won’t care too much about you (Mike Stern.) But too much the other way, and I come away unsatisfied – like you’re just coasting through and not giving it your all and staying challenged (B.B. King and Buddy Guy).
  6. wow factor: does the player offer “jaw-dropping” moments of brilliance? If they are to be considered among the best ever, then there needs to be plenty of wow moments.
  7. continuity/playing through the changes: it’s fairly easy to rip a cool lick here and there, and fill in some junk in-between. It’s much harder to play through various chord changes, adapting what you’re playing through them, and then connecting it all with a melodic thought process.
  8. accessibility: I’m sure you jazz cats love your whole tone scales and your weird Chick Corea-inspired soloing exercises, but honestly, the percentage of the general population who can appreciate that kind of playing is infinitesimal. (Pat Metheny, John Scofield)
  9. longevity: unless cut short by an early death, the player needs to have made significant artistic contributions over the period of at least a few years – not a single miraculous song or album. It’s important to see an artist grow and develop.

The List
In my personal order of preference – because hey, it’s my blog. If you don’t agree – go write you own dang blog!
(Considering varying genres and styles, I basically consider the top six a tie for #1 – it’s hard to pick an absolute best at the neglect of the others. I love them all. But I’m pretty confident that given a cold-audition situation, Larry Carlton could play any style, any genre, any way you want and solo his brains out over top of it in a way that would make you smile. That makes him #1.)

  1. Larry Carlton. From Steely Dan, through his jazz stuff, to his rock and blues, the man makes the guitar sing.
  2. Steve Lukather (Luke live in Paris)
  3. David Gilmour (Comfortably Numb solo live in Poland!)
  4. Stevie Ray Vaughan (Testify live at El Mocambo)
  5. Eric Johnson (watch Eric shred the intro to “Cliffs of Dover”)
  6. Robben Ford (checkout cool solo snippets from 1979)
  7. Eddie Van Halen (prehistoric version of “Eruption”)
  8. Jimi Hendrix. Need I say more?
  9. Slash (the awesome “Sweet Child” solo live)
  10. Dickey Betts (doing one of his signature tunes, “Jessica”)
  11. Jimmy Herring (watch Jimmy smoke with ARU)
  12. Wes Montgomery (mid 60’s clip of Wes tearing it up)
  13. Junior Brown (country, blues, rock, surf – the guy can do it all, although he can get sloppy and is close to violating criteria #2)
  14. Steve Vai (perfect example of the fire and the passion intertwined)
  15. Trey Anastasio (cell phone video of Stash live)
  16. Johnny Hiland (watch Johnny pick it clean!)
  17. Don Felder. I always thought Joe brought the guts, and Don brought the beauty. (Hotel California live 1977)
  18. Tom Morello. He’s effect-heavy (esp. Whammy pedal) but he’s not covering up any lack of technique with it (solo mashup)
  19. Stanley Jordan. A true one-of-a-kind talent. (watch Stanley play “Autumn Leaves”)
  20. Joe Bonamassa. Seriously. What can the dude NOT play?
  21. Les Paul. I changed my mind on Les after I watched the documentary, “Chasing Sound”. He definitely belongs on the list.
  22. Jeff Beck. I went back and re-listened and watched stuff on YouTube. Yep – he belongs.
  23. Charlie Christian. One of the dudes who started it all. A mastery of melody.
  24. Django Reinhardt. In addition to a great sense of melody, he brings a sense of flash and style that predicted the future of the electric guitar.

Great Guitarists Who Don’t Appear On The List:
The following artists are well-known guitarists who, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut on my list. I’ve listed them with a short explanation of why they’re not on the list. (I have not repeated the ones I mentioned in the Criteria section.)

  1. Chet Atkins – an outstanding guitarist whose thumbpicking walking-bass style, while impressive, does not meet the criteria for “soloist”. Chet’s solos always seemed like variations and arpeggiations of the chords of the song, not a distinct and seperate statement.
  2. Eric Clapton – a very popular and likeable guy, whose main accomplishments are in the area of writing and arranging great songs, and the ability to make the most out of a simple blues-based soloing style. He’s good at what he does, but he’s not a great soloist.
  3. Jimmy Paige – a guy who is a riff-master and incredible hook-creator. But as for his soloing? sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
  4. Chuck Berry – the godfather of rock-n-roll guitar – he’s an absolute legend. He’s an innovator. Trendsetter. Originator. but good soloist? uh…not so much. They simply do not stand the test of time and sound rather one-trick-pony-ish today.
  5. Dimebag Darrel – Pantera’s crunchmeister is a powerful player, but his solos lean on a lot of flash, speed, repetition and effects, not musicality.
  6. Joe Satriani – This one is going to get me villified, but really, I always thought his stuff lacked heart. It doesn’t move me or inspire me. Sure, there’s some “wow” moments, but it’s just an appreciation for his technical mastery – and that’s all.
  7. Peter Frampton – Great singer/songwriter/guitar player. But not an elite soloist. Not a virtuoso.
  8. Brian Setzer. He’s hip. He’s cool. I like him. He brings energy and retro vibe. But there are tons of better rock and jazz guitarists.
  9. The guitarists of Lynyrd Skynyrd – I absolutely love their music, but unfortunately, you can’t really point to a single person here and say, “He’s the guitar god”. LS has seen a lot of players come through there and has cumulatively made an extremely nice group effort.
  10. George Benson/Earl Klugh/Norman Brown – great jazz guitarists – but not up to the caliber of Wes Montgomery.
  11. Lee Ritenour/Russ Freeman – see comments section below.
  12. Steve Wariner/Vince Gill/Ricky Skaggs/Brent Mason/Brad Paisley/Albert Lee – these “New Nashville Cats” (and old cat Lee) are extremely impressive, and can chicken-pick their faces off, but I think Johnny Hiland and Junior Brown are simply a cut above.
  13. Randy Rhoads/Ritchie Blackmore/Kirk Hammett/Zakk Wylde/Jerry Cantrell – Sorry. Too one-dimensional.
  14. Billy Gibbons/Carlos Santana/Brian May/Angus Young/Joe Perry/Prince – there’s a few great gems, but simply not enough.
  15. Billy Corgin/Dave Navarro/Mike McCready/Johnny Greenwood – sorry, guys. just not enough of the criteria.
  16. Pete Townshend/Ace Frehly/Neil Young – are you kidding?
  17. Kurt Cobain – I will punch you in the face for each time you mention him as a great guitarist.
  18. John Frusciante, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Nels Cline – now THESE guys all actually have potential to make it on the list. Give it some time to build up some catalog and some life experience. I give them probational acceptance.