Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guitar #002

This is me 2 1/2 years ago at the end of a 2-week workshop at Vermont Instruments. Along with four others, I built a guitar during that time. Standing behind us is luthier George Morris, the proprietor of Vermont Instruments, and just in front of him, with the beard, is my roomate Adam Buchwald.

The three other guys were there to build a guitar; Adam and I were there to learn how to build guitars--as much as you can learn in a concentrated two-week period.

Adam eventually was able to quit his job in Brooklyn and work in a vintage guitar shop, repairing guitars and building his own under the label Circle Strings Guitars. He has since moved to Vermont to work with George, expanding the teaching workshops (which are now three weeks) from three a year to eight or nine a year while continuing to build and sell his own guitars. It's the fulfillment of a dream for him, and I'm excited for him.

He has built more than a dozen guitars since our workshop; I'm just now finishing my first one on my own. It took a lot of time to get the necessary tools and build the necessary jigs, and there were a lot of fits and starts. Also, I can only work when I have time, and this time last year we were getting ready to move our church, so there were weeks when I didn't touch it. The eventual owner, Mike Jensen, has been very patient, even though I told him at the beginning not to be in a hurry because I wasn't going to be in a hurry. You can build it fast, or you can build it right, but you can't do both, and I'd rather he have an instrument he'll enjoy playing for many years.

Here are a few pictures of the process:

This is the back with the center reinforcing strip glued on. I've chiseled spaces for the back braces, which can be seen off to the side, to be glued on.

Below is the back glued onto the sides inside the guitar mold. You can see the back reinforcing strip and the back braces.

Here is the top ready to be glued on. You can see the top braces, which have to be strong enough to withstand the 150 lbs. of pull from the strings yet light enough to allow the top to vibrate and resonate.

The guitar is out of the mold and the binding has been glued on. Those are one-inch pieces of abalone shell which I've arranged around the guitar top to be glued in. Each piece had to be mitered with a file so that it would fit neatly with its neighbor, and then individually glued with epoxy. As you might imagine this took several hours, but it really dresses the guitar up.

Hammering the frets into the fretboard. You can see the decorative abalone shell position markers. After all the frets were installed the ends were cut off. Later I'll file the ends, level and polish each fret.

This is where I am right now. The neck has been attached and the body has been sealed with three very thin coats of epoxy. I'll level this coat with very fine sandpaper, and next weekend I'll head to the spray booth to apply the acrylic urethane finish. The neck and the bridge position have been masked off to protect them from the finish. The shiny swirling marks are a type of figure in the grain of the spruce called "bearclaw." In addition to being (in many people's opinion) beautiful, bearclaw figure is also stiffer than regular straight grain, which adds to the tone of the guitar. You can also see the abalone shell trim around the edge of the guitar as well as around the soundhole.

After letting the finish cure for two weeks, I'll sand and polish it to a high gloss, then take off the masking tape and glue the bridge on. After the tuners, nut and saddle are installed, I'll string it up, make the final setup adjustments, and it'll be ready to deliver to it's owner.

I'll post some more pictures so you can see what it looks like when it's finished.

On Tap

I'm cheap. I get it honest. Dad grew up on a south Mississippi farm, and he knew how to stretch a penny. He's also generous; he's just not going to through money away.

So I never understood why someone would buy a bottle of water when you could get it for free at home. OK, technically not free, but at a fraction of a penny per gallon it's practically free.

I always thought that bottled water was purer than tap, but that's not true. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water, is stricter than the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water.

Much stricter.

The EPA doesn't allow any bacteria in tap water. There cannot be any confirmed E. coli or fecal Coliform bacteria in tap water, while the FDA allows a certain amount in bottled water. Not enough, obviously, to get anyone sick, but that pretty much puts the nix on the purity argument.

Some people object to the taste of tap water, specifically the chlorine, but it's the residual chlorine in the water that ensures that the water is bacteria free. Bottled water filters all chemicals out, including chlorine. That may sound like a good thing, but many of the naturally occurring chemicals in our water are good for us, and filtering all chlorine out of the water means that any bacteria that may get in--through the plastic bottle, for instance--are not killed.

But all you have to do to eliminate the chlorine taste is put the water in the frig for eight hours and the taste will dissipate.

Bottled water costs anywhere from $.80 to $4.00 a gallon, while tap costs pennies per day.

And there are no plastic bottles which take thousands of years to degrade in our landfills.

So this is one of those times when being cheap is actually better for everyone, including the planet.

If you're in the habit of buying bottled water, try getting a filter instead, filling a Water for Christmas aluminum bottle before you go to bed so it will be both cold and tasty in the morning, and donating the savings vs. bottled water to Water For Christmas.

Just an idea that will help bring clean water up from the African ground.

Another Well

Last Wednesday Water For Christmas received enough donations to fund a second well.

Way to go, everyone. It took two and a half weeks for well one, and one and a half for well two.

Two wells before Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fighting the Right Fight

Sunday is the first day of Advent, which begins the Christmas season for Christians. (I know, for many it's all the sales on Black Friday; check out what Jody Landers has to say about that on her blog, to which I can only say, "Right. What she said.") For the last couple of years I have felt obligated to speak to Christians at the beginning of the Christmas season and implore them to supress their outrage at the way the secular world handles "our" celebration.

I'm speaking specifically about our indignation whenever we hear that public schools are no longer able to refer to Christmas trees as, well, Christmas trees. They have to be called "Holiday" trees. And the "Holiday" songs that they sing at "Holiday" programs are just the secular songs that don't reference the birth of Christ, like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" or "Jingle Bells."

It's easy for us in the Christian majority (?) to dismiss this as small-minded political correctness, although I'm not sure we would do so if our public schools celebrated the Muslim religious season of Ramadan and our kids were made to sing Ramadan carols (if there were such a thing.)

But it's another for us to be outraged and then start claiming persecution. Persecution? Please.

And it's also misinformed to claim that this violates our First Amendment rights to free speech. The Constitution does in fact limit free speech, specifically government-sponsored speech on government-owned property, and the limitation is that such speech must be free of language favoring one religion over another. A public (i.e. government-owned and operated) school-sponsored program falls under that restriction, and a Christmas program featuring songs proclaiming Jesus Christ as King and Lord is speech favoring the Christian religion, even if sung by 1st graders.

The fact that we got away with it for more than a hundred years doesn't mean that it's the right way to evangelize. We're not allowed to use the government to proclaim Christ, and the government is not allowed to favor one religion over another. The fact this has been happening since the advent of public education only means that we got away with it much longer than we should have. It also means that we made Jewish students deal with it for far too long simply because they knew if they said something about it they would be ignored at best and, at worst, would be made to suffer because of it. (When I was in elementary school one of my best friends was a boy named Frank Israel. It never occurred to me that he might not have wanted to sing about Jesus at Christmas. Then again, it's not the responsibility of a fourth-grader to think about these kinds of things; but what about the adults?)

We say a lot about ourselves by the things that we choose to be outraged over. I don't think it says anything good about Christians when we choose to be outraged that we aren't given privileged status in public schools or Town Halls.

I'm going to change my tactics a bit this year, though. Usually I'm telling Christians to relax, don't get upset, sit on your outrage. Not this year. We need to be outraged, but not about "Holiday" Trees.

About this: Spending on Black Friday last year: $20 billion. Total spending at Christmas last year: $450 billion. Amount experts say it would take to give clean water to everyone in the world: somewhere between $10 billion and 144 billion. (Yes, a big range, which makes you wonder what constitutes an "expert" in this area.)

I'm not saying we shouldn't give each other gifts. I'm giving gifts. I've saved up and I'm buying everyone in my immediate family multiple gifts, and everyone in my extended family one gift.

So, give gifts. That's fine. And I'm not saying that clean water needs to be your thing. There are other things that deserve to be your thing. Pick one.

But as American Christians, we ought to be careful what we are outraged over this Christmas, because when Jesus judges us it's not going to be because we refused to fight.

It's going to be because we fought for the wrong things.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

500 People Getting Water This Christmas

OK, that's figuratively, who knows when the well will actually be dug.

But last week WFC officially hit the mark of generating enough money to dig a well, and that's less than three weeks into the launch.

And that doesn't include what was received through $10 Friday the other day.

Good job, people.

So now we concentrate on the next well. That's how this is going to be done, one well at a time.

Regular people thinking of ways they can help.

Received this email on Saturday from FBC member Wendy Hickman:

I am attending an anniversary party later today. Instead of a gift I made a donation to Water For Christmas in honor of them. I also just purchased several of the water bottles that I will use as gifts for coworkers this Christmas. As an afterthought, I sent the information about the Water For Christmas on to everyone in my email address book. (Lots of Volleyball players who use water bottles!) Hopefully this will spur others to contribute. This is just a start for me. I plan to continue to seek out ways that I can help.

Got another email from an FBC attender who wants to put together a benefit concert and/or a "gently-used" market with proceeds going to WFC. Will keep you posted as this develops.

A lot of people doing something. Big or small, it doesn't matter.

Every dollar makes a difference.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Water Pub

The Quad City Times, near Jody and Andy's home in Muscatine, Iowa, wrote a good article about Water for Christmas last week. Check it out here.

Will let you know where we stand on WFC donations totals as soon as I learn.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dancing For Water

The things people will do for water.

If you want to see something cool, go to, where you will see people dancing for water. Some are pretty good. Some aren't. There's a couple who have been married for 38 years dancing and singing to each other. All to raise awareness of the need for clean water, and raise money for wells.

I admire these people. To not only dance, but put it on the web. Sorry, but there are some things that people just shouldn't see, and me dancing is one of them

It's ugly, it really is.

I toyed with the idea of threatening to dance if a certain amount wasn't raised. Kind of a Not Dancing For Water. But you'd withhold just to see me do it, and the point is to gather donations, not discourage them.

So give. Please. Tomorrow is the second $10 Friday. Let's dig a well.

And maybe you ought to think about dancing for water yourself. Me, I'm buying a WFC t-shirt.

Southpaw Brothers

My parents had three sons, and two of us are left-handed. Neither of my parents are left-handed, so that are the odds that their first two sons would be? Somewhere between 90-93% of all people are right-handed, so the odds have got to be extraordinarily small. Yet here we are.

Hand orientation can be detected in unborn children by observing which hand is predominantly licked or held close to the mouth, indicating that hand orientation is genetic or at least influenced by prenatal factors. Researchers have located one gene that seems to be linked to a tendency toward left-handedness. Some researchers think that high levels of testosterone in the womb can lead to left-handedness.

Yeah. Real men are left-handed.

Most left-handed people do some activities right-handed, and many show some forms of ambidexterity. For instance, in such sports as tennis or racquetball I feel comfortable holding the racquet in either hand.

I'm equally bad no matter which hand I use.

OK, maybe that's a bad example.

But being left-handed in a right-handed world forces us to learn how to do some things right-handed just to make it. I'll bet you never realized that all cameras are right-handed. All the main controls are on the right side; there are no cameras made with the controls on the left side. Same with video cameras. So we learn to take pictures right-handed, and the videos of our kids are a little more shaky than if we could use our dominant hand.

Since most of the people who teach us to do things are right-handed, then especially in those things we learn to do by imitation, we'll do those things right-handed.

My brother and I both play the guitar right-handed. We had to, because, though they make left-handed guitars, they have to be special-ordered. I don't think I've ever seen a left-handed guitar in a music store. (Because of the bracing of an acoustic guitar, it's not just a matter of reversing the strings. Putting heavier strings where the bracing is designed for lighter strings will eventually result in cracking the guitar top.) Bill Kelley just turns the guitar upside-down and frets everything in reverse, but most left-handers just play it like everyone else. It probably helps us since our more dominant hand is doing the more complicated work on the fretboard.

What's interesting about my brother and me is that everything he does right-handed, I do right-handed. He throws left-handed but bats right-handed. So do I. He kicks with his right foot; so do I. (Yes, begin left-handed generally, but not always, means you are also going to be left-footed or, more accurately, left-sided.) IN my adult years this has cause d me to wonder whether I'm naturally left-handed or whether I became so by imitating Mickey, who is 2 1/2 years older. When I was little I always admired Mickey and wanted to be just like him. I still have the baseball glove Mickey used in Little League in Alabama; it got passed down to me, and I even used it playing intramural softball in college. Hand-me-down clothes never bothered me when I was little because I got to wear Mickey's clothes. Maybe we both bat right-handed because Dad didn't know how to teach his left-handed sons how to bat left-handed, but it's not out of the question that even as a toddler I was striving to be just like my big brother in every way, so if he did something left-handed, then that's what I did, and if he did it right-handed, so did I.

Such is the power of influence, particularly with little kids. they watch, they imitate, they listen, then learn. As independent as each child is, they are not predominantly so. None of us are. We are influenced by other, and everything we do, everything we say, influences others for good or for bad.

I wish Christians would get this, especially those who make it on the news or get interviewed by Larry King. They often say things that are so backward, so hurtful to people who don't fit their definition of living or believing right. You get the feeling that they are trying to force everyone to be "right-handed" like them. Wouldn't the world be easier if everyone was "right-handed?" Maybe. But it's not; and we are Christians, whom Paul called "a peculiar people," should be the last ones to insist that it should be.

I like being left-handed. It makes the world more interesting. and if I'm left-handed because I admired my older brother and wanted to be just like him, well, that's kinda cool too.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks

Saturday, November 15, 2008

$10 Friday Reboot

OK, I misunderstood some stats. My bad.

$3,200 is the total amount given through Water For Christmas thus far, not the amount generated through $10 Fridays. Yesterday about $800 was generated through $10 Fridays. That's cool. 80 people gave $10 yesterday, and didn't miss it. Let's double that next week, and then again the week after that, and by Christmas we'll be digging wells every Friday.

$3200 in less than two weeks since the official launch of Water For Christmas is pretty impressive, especially considering the fact that this wasn't conceived by a bunch of professionals with a grand marketing scheme. Just some moms with laptops.

Pretty cool.

Don't you just love moms?

The Day After

The first $10 Friday generated $3200, not quite enough for a well, but getting close!

Think about it: 320 people gave just a little, and now 160 people in Liberia will be drinking clean water for the next 20 years.

That's not nothing.

If 180 more people will join the 320, then next Friday will dig a well. And that's on top of the 160 people.

Pass the word. We can do this.

Friday, November 14, 2008

$10 Friday

Today is the first "$10 Friday."

Someone started a "Water For Christmas" group on Facebook, and soon thereafter 500 people joined the group. Then someone got the idea that if everyone in the group gave $10 on Friday, a well could be dug.

And if that happened every Friday between now and Christmas, that would be 6 wells. Nice.

Well, the Facebook group has doubled to 1000. That's 2 wells each Friday if everyone participates. And you don't have to be a member of Facebook to participate (I'm not.) So it could be even more.

$10. Most of us will spend more than that tonight going to the movies, Ruby Tuesdays, or Blockbuster and pizza.

$10 Fridays. Use the "Donate" link on the left to go to the Water For Christmas website, then hit the red "Donate" button there so we can track the giving.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Water4Christmas Update

It’s fun to be part of a grassroots movement. That’s exactly what “Water for Christmas” is. Jody Landers has apparently taken a little heat for not knowing what she is doing or not doing it professionally enough. Experienced fundraisers have told her that she needs to set a goal. She thought that providing clean drinking water for entire Liberian villages was enough of a goal. It was all the motivation she needed.

Same with me, and apparently with a lot of other people. It’s amazing to me what regular people “who don’t know what they are doing” are in fact doing.

One person, a graphic design major at the University of Missouri, has created three different “Water For Christmas” t-shirt designs to sell for $20, shipping included. All the profits go for water. She raised $330 in the first 12 hours after the shirts were offered; $440 in the first day. You can get one online at

Another person designed a “Water For Christmas” aluminum water bottle, selling for $15, all proceeds going for water. Available at the Water for Christmas website

Another person started a “Water For Christmas” group on Facebook, which quickly grew to over 500 members. Then they thought, if every member donated $10 on Friday, that would dig a well. So every Friday between now and Christmas will be “$10 Friday.” I wonder how many wells will be dug just from that?

Here are some other stories, shamelessly taken from Jody’s blog :

“One of my Mom’s friends had the phone to her ear to schedule a massage appointment. She hung up and decided to save the money for Water.”

“My sister and her kids set up a Water For Christmas table in their restaurant. In the first 30 minutes, they had $60.”

“My husband’s Dad was inspired by Water For Christmas and is going to set something up in his shop. He is going to put up one of those big water bottles and collect money in it along with having cards and hand outs available for customers.”

Here on the home front, members of the First Family are getting involved. Chip and Marcie have decided not to buy a Christmas tree and instead give that money to Water For Christmas.

Mike and Beth Jones’ family has decided not to exchange gifts with each other but instead use the money for water. They are scaling back Christmas so others can have life. They are writing to friends and family asking for WFC donations instead of gifts. Joce Wetzel is doing the same thing.

What I like about this approach is that no one is being asked to give any money on top of what they would otherwise spend on Christmas. The giver is not being asked to make a sacrifice, just the would-be recipient. But I can tell you this: it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It feels like it’s going to be the best Christmas ever.

My wife Pam and my daughter Angela are investigating setting up a WFC stand at the Shell station here on Rt. 40 and at the FSK Mall during Christmas. It’s a great idea for involving others in the project and informing people about the need and the opportunity. Wouldn’t it be cool if the movement spread throughout Frederick?

I know that since the Spiritual Renewal Weekend others of you are considering taking some kind of action. I would like to know who you are and what it is that you have decided to do. Shoot me an email at when you get a chance. As I hear from you I'll post your plans so that others can be inspired to take action.

This feels very authentically like what it means to be church. There’s no real vision statement, no real organizing committee, no bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Just ordinary people seeing a need and doing what they can to meet that need, feeding off each other’s excitement, encouraging each other when silly criticisms are heard. Maybe it’s a little na├»ve, maybe it’s idealistic, maybe it’s even a little reckless.

But don’t tell me these people don’t know what they are doing. They know exactly what they are doing.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jesus/God, God/Jesus

Ask most Christians today to describe God and invariably you'll get some version of the omni's: he's omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (everywhere all the time). Throw in immutable--unchanging and unchangeable--and all-loving (omniagape?) and you've pretty much got the definition of God that has prevailed in Christianity for more than a thousand years.

Ask 1st century Jews to describe God, and they would say, "Well, let me tell you a story."

There's a big difference.

The "omni" school of defining God came out of theological and philosophical reflection and reasoning. Really smart guys sat around asking, "If there is only one God, and he created everything, then what must he be like?"

Now, I'm not saying that Creator God is not omniscient, omnipotent, etc., just pointing out that those are not the terms that the Bible uses to describe God. The Bible tells stories of God's interaction with humans, and from those interactions you learn something of the character of God. And those stories are very anthropomorphic i.e. they describe God using human terms (he walks, he talks, he smells aromas, etc.) Whatever the omni's are, they aren't anthropomorphic.

Which is a problem when we get to Jesus and declare that he is God, a part of the Trinity, no more and no less God than the other two Persons of the Trinity.

Anthropomorphic terms are appropriate in describing Jesus because he is "anthropos", the Greek word for "human." There is no other way to describe Jesus. But when you say that Jesus is God, and God is omniscient, things get confusing. Jesus knew all things? He knew that the earth wasn't flat, as was the prevailing view in his day, but in fact round? You've probably never thought about that, but I've heard and read people say, "Yes, Jesus knew the earth was round because he was God."


OK, so here's the problem with that, as I see it: if you assert that, you can say that Jesus was human, but not like any of us are human. He's, like, super-human.

"Well, yeah, no other human was also God." Fair point.

My thing is this: when you cease to describe God in anthropomorphic terms, doesn't that make him seem more distant, less available, less personal? In theological terms that's called "transcendence", and it's true--God is utterly "other" and different. But even when you assert that God is "immanent"--that he is close and personal, there's still a distance to that closeness.

And don't you in prayer wonder what you have to tell a God who knows everything? And why you have to ask for something good before an all-loving God will give it to you? And why an all-powerful God seems so impotent or unwilling to address the cruelty and injustice of our world?

I'm sure that the theological/philosophical reasoned-out definitions of God are true, but I'm not sure that they are all that helpful. (Remember, the description of this blog says that I'm thinking out loud, so cut me some slack, OK?)

And then, when we use those categories to describe Jesus' "Godness", we get into even more difficulty. Paul says in Philippians 2 that Jesus, though he was God, emptied himself in order to become human like us. But isn't it true that what we have done is empty Jesus of much of his humanity in order to somehow get him to conform to a definition of God that is "other" and different from the rest of us?

Jesus became human so that we could see God's immanence, and we have insisted on making Jesus super-human i.e. transcendent.

Might I suggest that we are looking at this whole thing backwards? Instead of using our reasoned-out definitions of God to somehow come to an understanding of the divinity of Jesus, that we instead use our understanding of Jesus to understand God? Isn't that the whole point of the incarnation? That we would look at Jesus, what he did, what he said, and from that come to an understanding of who God is?

I did this recently with my Wednesday night study group. We listed on the board all the characteristics and actions of Jesus that we could come up with, and then said, "OK, based on this, who is God?"

I suggest you do the same thing. And I suggest that you start with the statement, "Jesus suffered and died on the cross," change that to "God suffered and died on the cross," and see where it takes you.

Yes, I know, you can't reconcile that statement with any idea of God being omnipotent, ominpresent, or, especially, immutable, but that's kinda the point.

And I don't know about you, but when I'm hurting, it's easier to pray to a suffering yet victorious God than one who already knows about it, could do something about, but hasn't yet and might not ever, no matter how much you ask.

My friends Jody and Andy Landers say that they learned to run to suffering rather than from it because that is where the blessing is. Suffering is where God is.

Omniscience says that God is everywhere. Jesus on the cross says God is where suffering is. Both may be true--but maybe one is truer than the other.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Reflection

I recently finished reading the Pulitzer Prize winning book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have read numerous books on the Civil War, and Lincoln, of course, is prominent in each of them. Over the years my interest has been moving from reading about the war itself to reading about Lincoln, for he is a fascinating person. He was a man of great character, and part of that greatness was that his character grew and developed. It was a product of the times yet his character grew to transcend the times. Though self-educated, his knowledge and intellect were surpassed by few in his day. He had a way of communicating with the common person yet is acknowledged as among our most eloquent presidents. In my opinion, Washington is his only rival for the designation greatest president, and I give Lincoln the edge.

When I read about Lincoln, however, I am struck not only with his genius, but also with the ugliness of the times in which he lived. While it is true that our country was founded on both Christian principles and Enlightenment principles (which often conflicted with each other), a cloud hovered over our early history that contradicted both of those pillars. It was neither enlightened nor Christian that slavery was permitted to blight our land and our history, nor was it enlightened or Christian that it took a war to rid us of slavery. That Christian men of Enlightenment thinking could define a black person as only 3/5ths of a person and enshrine that in our Constitution is shameful. Maryland’s own Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, reflecting on the views of race prevalent, not just in America but also in Europe in the days of our country’s founding, wrote in the opinion deciding the Dred Scott case:

It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Earlier in the century Taney actually emancipated some of his own slaves, gave pensions to slaves too old to work, and wrote that slavery was “a blot on our national character.” Unfortunately, his views did not continue to evolve as did Lincoln’s, but rather his position on slavery hardened.

These are just a few of the examples that can be drawn from history to show that slavery afflicted more than just Africans. Without making light of the actual experience of slaves, we need to recognize that slavery eroded the souls of non-slaves as well. We all needed to be freed. What Lincoln did for the slaves, he did also for the benefit of the slave owner. What Martin Luther King, Jr. did for Blacks, he also did for the rest of the country. We no longer had to put a mental asterisk by the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” We were free to live out that ideal.

The United States of America elected an African-American to be our next president. Regardless of whether you voted for him or not; regardless of whether you think he will be a good president or not; regardless of whether he turns out to be an excellent president, a poor president, or, more likely, somewhere in between; regardless of whether you are Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, or just disillusioned with the whole political process; all Americans have reason to be proud. Tuesday night both Republican and Democratic pundits recognized the significance of this election, and I hope that each of us do as well.

Historians may look back at this moment as just a blip on race relations in our country, a momentary interruption that didn’t produce any lasting change. I am hopeful, however, that future Americans will look back at this moment and see that it was the time when we finally closed the book on a part of our country’s history that cast a pall on the legitimate good that America has done, and that it was the beginning of a new American history in which we were truly able to live out both the Christian and the Enlightenment sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks

Monday, November 3, 2008

Water For Christmas Update

Jody officially launched Water for Christmas this morning. It's worth reading. Check it out here.

Ears Ringing, Heart Singing

I experienced something remarkable last night, and, no, it wasn't the deacons meeting.

Sunday night there was a Christian concert in our Worship Center. It was originally scheduled for the Delaplaine Center, but they canceled and the organizers were left looking for a place. We were glad to help. I don't know what they like to call themselves and their music, but I call them "scream bands," for their most notable feature is that the lead singer literally screams. Unlike rap music, in which I can understand the lyrics but don't want to, I try to make out the words but can only decipher one or two here and there.

At least those words were "Jesus" and "Hallelujah."

A typical concert for this type of music will last 5-6 hours and feature 4-5 bands.

Cool thing #1: I arrived for the 6 p.m. deacons meeting during a break between bands, and Betsy Devilbiss and Elisa McCoy were in the Worship Center talking with some of the teenagers.

Cool thing #2: The music became a rather surreal background for the deacons meeting, but nobody objected or complained about the noise or the music. They understand that we are not going to reach an unconventional group of kids by conventional means.

As soon as the meeting ended I headed downstairs and waded into the crowd of kids gathered in front of the band. The band wasn't on our stage; it seems that intimacy with the audience is a vital part of this scene. The bands performed on the floor under one of the basketball goals, and often the performers and the first row of listeners were only separated by an inch or two.

I quickly learned that I couldn't stand on the directly in front of one of the speakers. Front and center seemed to be the safest place. Still, I was hit with a frontal assault of sound. I could feel the pulse of the music on my chest. I am struck, however, by the musicianship of the band. No matter what you may think about the music, these aren't kids who bought a guitar at a pawn shop,went home and started a band. These guys are serious musicians, they play their instruments at a high level, and the music is not easy to play. The drummers are particularly impressive.

When the next band, Aneirin, for whom this concert is a CD release event, starts playing, I position myself to one side behind the band. I can better see both the band and the crowd this way--and, frankly, it's not as loud from that position. Though I have no idea what they are singing, from this vantage point I can see that a lot of the kids know the lyrics and are singing along with the band. There is something going on here, but I don't understand it. (I'm 49 years old; I have a feeling that if I understood it, they would change it.)

Between songs the lead singer says things like, "You guys are a blessing," "The Holy Spirit is in this place," and even quotes John 3:16. Dan Haight, one of the concert organizers and a member of our Praise Team, comes up and stands beside me. "This will probably be their last song; watch what happens after that." As the song ends, some of the kids in the audience join the band. Some kneel, hands raise, others with their faces on the floor. Some stand with the hands raised to God, others with the eyes closed and faces lift up. Kids hug each other.

And there is silence except for the hum of the amplifiers. Eventually someone turns them off too.

The lead singer talks briefly about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. Then more silence. Then someone starts praying. Prayers are voiced spontaneously, and they are not unlike any prayers you might hear in one of our Sunday morning services.

I am, frankly, an observer and not a participant; I'm still trying to get my head around what I'm seeing. And then something happens that blows me away.

One voice starts singing:

How great is our God,
sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God.

Others join him, and soon the room is filled with hundreds of young voices singing prayerfully, earnestly, intensely. It is a very holy moment that brings me to tears.

When it's all over Dan tells me that most of these kids don't go to church anywhere, not because they don't want to go to church, but because they can't find a church that will have them.

"Why?" I ask.

"They think differently, they question things, they have tatoos and piercings, other dumb reasons, who knows?" he says.

C'mon, Church.

Dan introduces me to some of the band members. They are nice kids, polite and gracious, and each of them thank me for letting them have their concert at our church. Dan introduces me to Dalton Perry, one of Aneirin's guitarists, and says that Dalton is going to help him with the worship service that we are going to start for these kids on Sunday nights. Dalton tells me how excited he is to be a part of it. He gives me one of their CD's and asks me to tell him what I think of the lyrics. I joke that I'll read the lyrics but will probably give the CD to my son, but I actually listen to it on the way home and, in a weird kind of way, sorta enjoy it. Kinda. I mean, it may never make it to my iPod, but now that I see these guy's hearts I appreciate the music more than I ever thought I would.

I came in thinking there was a concert at our church; I went home at a loss to completely explain what I witnessed but knowing that it was more than a concert, and, though it wasn't worship as I ever envisioned it being, it was most definitely worship.

© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks