Saturday, February 27, 2010

Finish Preparation

It's hard to get out in the garage in the cold, so there hasn't been much work done on Clark's Zebrawood cutaway OM.  But one milder days when I get crank the heaters up a few hours ahead of time, I can get the temp around the workbench into the low to mid 60's and do some work.

I started sanding the back and sides a few weeks ago, but then stopped.  I had noticed that the rosewood binding on the top cutaway was really thin, and, after deciding that I could live with it, decided one night that I couldn't.  It's going out with my name on it, and while I don't expect perfection in my workmanship, I don't want to settle for something going out there that I know can be better with some more work.

So I ordered some more rosewood binding and some b/w/b purfling from LMI, and in the meantime removed the offending binding.  I used heat from an iron to loosen the glue and the peeled it off with a chisel.  I sanded down to bare wood in the binding channel since Tite-Bond doesn't not adhere well to dried glue. 

When the bindings arrived I got out the blow torch and bending pipes and bent the binding.  I've posted before about this process; you can go here if you missed it.

The side purfling and binding went on pretty well, and I was back to sanding.  I start with the back and sides, beginning with 100 grit, then moving to 150 and finishing with 220 grit.  This is a really important step, because a finish won't hide scratches, it will actually magnify them and draw attention.  Here are the basic tools:  sandpaper, a felt block, and a lamp positioned at a low angle to the surface.  (I also wrap the sandpaper around a 1" diameter dowel to reach the curved parts like the cutaway and waist.)

By raking the light across the surface at a low angel, defects suddenly appear that are invisible otherwise.  I move the light constantly as I'm sanding.  I really only do this when I'm sanding with 100 grit.  After that I'm just removing the sanding marks left by previous grit.  Like I said, I sand the back and sides to 220, but the top gets sanded to 320.  I go across the grain to remove scratches and defects, but then sand with the grain to achieve a nice smooth surface.

That doesn't include the neck, however.  We've decided to finish the neck with an oil finish instead of the glossy finish that will be used on the body.  If your hand gets a little sweaty it will sometimes get a little sticky on a neck with a high gloss finish.  Actually, "sticky" is probably overstating things, but your thumb, instead of sliding easily up and down the neck, feels like it is grabbing the back of the neck.  This doesn't happen with a nice oil finish.

The thing with the oil finish is that, instead of the finish providing a smooth surface and feel, the wood itself must be practically polished.  So I move from 320 grit to 400 and finally 600 grit sandpaper for the neck and headstock.

After the sanding, there is still a lot of work to be done before applying the finish.  In order to build up a finish, all gaps and pores must be filled.  Invariably there are going to be gaps around the binding; they are unavoidable.  Most of the gaps are very small and can be filled with a medium or heavy viscosity superglue.  Put some in the gap, level it with a razor, spritz it with accelerant, sand it level, and it's invisible.

However, there is one place on the binding that I just replaced where the gap is huge:

So I sliced off a sliver of rosewood binding, wedged it in there, wicked some super glue around it.  When it was dry I leveled the splice with a chisel and sandpaper, and here's the result:

Nice, huh?

When I finish filling all the gaps, I'll move to filling the pores of the Zebrawood.  More on that soon.  Hopefully soon.

Great Books I've Never Read

I was staring at my one of my bookshelves in my office today, not really looking for anything, just thinking, really, when my eye stopped on a book that I have never read.  Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World by Lee Camp.  I honestly don’t remember how I came to own this book; I might have bought it myself, but most of my books have my name stamped both on the inside cover as well as on the top edge, and this one doesn’t.  Someone might have given it to me, but I am pretty sure I would remember that.  I can look in my library at every book that was a gift and remember with fondness the giver.  I sometimes will get a book sent to me for free from the publisher, in the hopes that I will read it, like it, and recommend it the congregation, but a lot of those books are very forgettable.  There’s a reason they are free; no one would pay to read them.
But as I browsed through the pages of this book, I can see that it is good.  The chapter titles are compelling, and every random page I turn to and read is filled with good stuff.  So now I’m wondering, “Why haven’t I read this book?  Why is it just sitting on my shelf?” 
Almost all of the books in my library I have read, but there are some that, for a variety of reasons, I just haven’t gotten to, and then they’ve been forgotten as I’ve moved on to newer stuff that has attracted my attention.  So that got me to thinking: what are the best books that I have never read?  Mere Discipleship is obviously on the list.  Here are some others.
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder was first published in 1972, and while it may be a stretch to call it a classic—I’m not sure thirty-eight years is long enough to establish that something has stood the test of time—it still seems to show up in the bibliographies of a lot of books that I have read the last few years.  It obviously had influenced a lot of people, and I didn’t even own a copy.  So a couple of weeks ago I decided that I needed to read it and ordered it from Amazon.  I just got it the other day, and it has been placed up toward the top of my book queue. 
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright is the third and final volume in Wright’s trilogy, “Christian Origins and the Question of God.”  I’ve read the first two volumes: Jesus and the Victory of GodThe New Testament and the People of God, and they are good but long (650-750 small-print and footnoted pages) and very, very dense.  Wright can never be read quickly, but that’s especially true for his scholarly works, which this is.  It took me 4-6 weeks to read each of the previous two books, and it’s like finishing a marathon in that you’re glad you did it but are exhausted and in no shape to run another one right away.  It’s been a couple of years since I read the second volume, so maybe this summer I’ll tackle this one. and
There are books that it seems that everyone but you have read, and you feel like a doof when someone in amazement says, “You mean you’ve never read ___________?!”  OK, so here’s my confession: I have never read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  Yes, I know, I know, and I am sorry, I really am.  Everyone says how good they are, how Christian, how everything, but I just never felt all the compelled to read them.  I own a set of the books.  Doesn’t that count for something?  So, yeah, someday I’ll get around to them.  Probably.  Maybe.  If enough of you shame me into it.  Richard has tried, but I’m used to ignoring him, so….
As long as I am confessing my literary sins, here’s another one: Philip Yancey has written some really good books.  What’s So Amazing About Grace, The Jesus I Never Knew, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference among them.  They are really good, really insightful, and really popular.  I have even recommended them to others.  OK, here’s my confession: I have never read any of them all the way through.  I’ve started each of them, read substantial parts of them, even liked what I read, but I’ve never been able to finish a Yancey book.  I’m sure it’s me, not him, but for whatever reason I lose momentum and interest about halfway through.  It’s wrong, I know.  I need to read the last half of these really good books that I highly recommend to you.
One final Good Book I’ve Never Read: John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.  I really feel bad about this one, seeing as I am both a Christian and an English major, but it is one of those that was never assigned to me and never really made it on my radar, but it is both a Christian and a literary classic, so I am going to repent of my sin and add it to my reading queue.  Here, I’m going to stop writing right now, go over to the shelf and pull out The Pilgrim’s Progress.
There.  It’s officially in the queue.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


On Sunday Pam and I went with Austin to the Marine Recruiting office here in Frederick.  Since Austin enlisted back in December he has been known as a "pullee"--I don't really know how to spell it, so this is my best guess.  Recruits who haven't started basic training yet are called that because they are being pulled from civilian life.  The military is running over-capacity right now, so no one in any branch of service enlists and then immediately boards the bus for basic training.  Austin's "ship-out" date upon enlistment was May 25 or so, but he asked to be put on standby beginning in February, which means that he would be called up when other pullee's dropped out or had to delay shipping out for one reason or another.

He was originally set to go to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) on Feb. 8, though still on standby.  His recruiter, Sgt. Armstrong, was confident that a space would open up, but it was moot because of the blizzard.  No one shipped out that week.  The following week Parris Island wasn't scheduled to receive any recruits, so the earliest date became Feb. 22.  In the meantime someone did drop and so Austin went from being on standby to definitely leaving on the 22nd.  That was helpful to all of us because we knew our goodbyes would be real.

So Sunday Sgt. Armstrong took Austin and another pullee to a hotel in Baltimore.  Here's Austin and Sgt. Armstrong at the recruitment office.  They've built a good relationship over the last six months, and we think a lot of the Sergeant.  He's a good guy, and should hear soon of his promotion to Staff Sergeant.  


Monday morning all the pullees were taken from the hotel at 5 a.m. to MEPS at Ft. Meade, where they had final checks on paperwork and a physical exam.  In the meantime, Pam, Ariella (Austin's girlfriend) and I headed to Ft. Meade for the swearing in ceremony, arriving just before 10.  All branches use the same MEPS to swear in and ship out their recruits.  We got to watch some Army recruits get sworn in, and then the Marine recruits came in.  Here's Austin "at-ease" after they received some instructions and while waiting for the swearing in to begin. 

Then the families were allowed into the ceremony room.  A non-commissioned officer came in, welcomed us all, and made some introductory remarks.

(He was actually from the Army, but the oath didn't sound particular to the Marines, so I guess it didn't matter.)

Then Austin raised his right hand and was formally sworn into active duty for the United States Marine Corps.

Then we had to wait.  We took some pictures in the Ceremony Room (and Austin is hating every moment of it), then had lunch, played a little pool, and waited.

Finally the recruits were called into a briefing on their travel, which we were told would last about twenty minutes, but within ten there was an announcement that the shippees were heading out, and all of a sudden here they came.  I didn't have my camera ready, but at least Pam and Ariella were able to be by the door as Austin went by.  (Pam made him give her a hug, which, once again, Austin just loved since she was the only mom pulling their kid out of the line, but Pam was going to get her hug one way or another!)

Then they loaded on the buses, the Marine recruits in the first bus, which would go straight to Parris Island, and the other services on the second bus which would take them to BWI where they would fly to their basic training sites.  We expected most if not all of the Marine recruits to fly as well, but we don't know why they all went on the long bus trip.

One last wave goodbye through the window:

 And then he was gone.

I hope he got some sleep on the bus, because upon arrival at Parris Island around 2 a.m. that night they went  through processing and didn't get to bed until last night (Wednesday).  Processing continues the rest of the week, with physical and dental exams, issuing clothes and equipment, initial fitness tests and who knows what else.

But boot camp hasn't started yet.  It doesn't really start until Saturday when the platoon is introduced to their three drill sergeants.

Then hell will break loose and Austin will be on the way to becoming a Marine.  Before then, though, he and every other recruit will wonder what in the world were they thinking when they signed up for this.

I smile whenever I say that, but I am very proud of him and can't wait until Friday, May 21st, Graduation Day, when he is no longer called Recruit Eubanks and is called Private Austin Eubanks, United States Marine.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It Matters Where You Start

What is the starting point in your understanding of salvation?  For some, the starting point is sin, and that’s understandable.  Without sin, there is no need for salvation.  Before sin entered the world, there was no rift between God and humans, but when sin entered, so did enmity toward God.  Being separated from God, humans needed something or someone to heal the rift and save us from ourselves.  God therefore sent his son to become human, live a sinless life and die so our sins could be forgiven.  That’s the plan of salvation.
The problem with this understanding is what it does to our view of both people and God.  Let’s start with people.  With sin as the starting point, people are labeled sinners.  That become our identity.  We come up with theological concepts such as the “total depravity of man” which says that humans are not only sinful but that sin has rendered us totally depraved i.e. there is no good in us at all, nothing to be commended, nothing worth salvaging.  Now, it’s one thing to believe that about yourself, but the problem comes when we believe that about others.  When you believe that people are utterly depraved, you lose your sense of responsibility toward them.  You are no longer your brother’s keeper, because your brother got himself into this mess, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  The poor are poor because they are stupid/lazy/alcoholic/uneducated/won’t learn our language/some combination of these plus others.  It’s their fault; I’m not responsible.  I’m responsible for my sin, you’re responsible for yours.  I don’t bother you with my problems, don’t bother me with your problems.  Except when your problems become my problems.  Recently a prominent Christian blamed the Haitians for the earthquake, saying that years before they had made a pact with the devil.  It’s their fault, so why should we send aid?  After 9/11 another prominent pastor said that the terrorist attacks were God’s judgment on America for being lax on homosexuals.  It’s those utterly depraved sinners fault!
And that’s how God is viewed when sin is the starting point.  He’s the angry judge, zapping the utterly depraved sinners for their utter depravity, and he refuses to be satisfied until someone has been punished.  God is mad as heck and somebody’s got to die.

Let me make a wild suggestion.  If the Bible is God’s plan of salvation, then we should we start where the Bible starts—Creation.  After all, there are two accounts of Creation before Genesis ever gets to an account of sin, so that seems to make sense.
So what does Genesis 1 say?  That all creation, including humans, was very good, and that the humans were created in the image and likeness of God.  Whatever sin may change, it did not and does not change our origin.  We are created in the image and likeness of God, and in that creation God is very pleased.  We were created for relationship with God, and that has not changed. 
And when we see another person, we shouldn’t see just a sinner, we should see a person created in the image of God.  A poor person is one of God’s creations.  So is a  homeless person, an earthquake victim, and an illegal immigrant.  As is a terrorist; how else could Jesus tell us to love our enemies if God didn’t find something worth loving in them?
And that is how God is viewed with creation as the starting point: he is the Creator God who loves all of his creation (and not just the humans, which is why care for the earth can’t be subject to mere political or economic concerns; it’s a sacred trust).  And this God will not let anything stand in the way of his relationship with his creation.  He refuses to have our sin have the last word.  So he will do whatever it takes to get us to return to him, even if it means becoming one of us.  Even if it means sacrificing his on Son—sacrificing himself—to win the victory over sin and death.
Whatever it takes.  That’s the plan of salvation.  That’s what Jesus was willing to do, and it’s what he calls his followers to do so that all of God’s creation can be restored, renewed, transformed. 
Whatever it takes.  You in?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Well, another epic snowstorm--on the weekend when church services are affected. No decision has been made yet about services tomorrow, but it's not looking good at all. What the deal with snowstorms on the weekend? I already lamented this back in December, so no rants today. It is what it is.

Thing is, I developed a head cold last night that is making me near miserable.

I grilled hamburgers in the snow yesterday afternoon. Austin wanted some of my epic burgers before leaving for basic training, so Angela and Matt came home also. There was already about 4" of snow on the grill when I started around 4:30. I pulled the grill up to the patio door so I could stand inside and cook. So the snow that's on the grill in this picture is what accumulated after the grill cooled off.

We had to do some shoveling just so Kobi could go outside and do his, you know, business.  The snow is two Kobi's deep, as you can see.

The tail is waggin', but he's not really having much fun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Being Good News

Our church has a partnership with Waverly Elementary School, which serves some of the poorest people in the area.  I have mentioned to our people numerous times that our approach has continually been “service without strings” i.e. we don’t have any ulterior motives in wanting to serve them.  We aren’t trying to get them to come to our church, though we’d be happy if any of them did; we aren’t angling to find an opportunity to give them a gospel presentation of how to accept Christ, though if they asked I wouldn’t pass; and we aren’t serving in the hope that they will talk us up and enhance our reputation in the community, though we wouldn’t mind that either.  There are a number of reasons for this.
First of all, and I hope this isn’t too cynical, but it seems to me that we live in a world where there is too little done with no expectation of return.  You pick up the tab at lunch this time, it’s usually understood that I’ll pick it up next time.  You scratch my back and it’s understood that I’ll scratch yours.  A favor done out of the blue without asking is often looked at with suspicion.  We immediately think, “What do they want?”  Such cynicism is widespread; it’s almost counter-cultural to serve without asking for anything in return, and if the Church is supposed to be anything, it’s supposed to be counter-cultural.  We’re to be subversive to the forces of cynicism.
Second, I believe that there is intrinsic value in doing good.  No other reward is needed, and none should be sought.  Doing good isn’t a self-help program to build self-esteem, although it does seem to help with that.  But that’s a happy byproduct; serving others and helping our community is simply the right thing to do, and we should be doing it.
Third, it’s Kingdom work.  Whatever the Kingdom of God is going to look like, it is going to be good, and people will be doing good things for each other, for the poor and disenfranchised, for the building up of relationships in community.  Anything that anyone does now that is good is a precursor of what life will be like all the time when the Kingdom comes in all of its fullness.  When the Church does good, that by itself is a witness to the Good News of the Kingdom, for it bears witness to how good our God is and how good his Kingdom is.  And it demonstrates why the Kingdom—and the King—is worthy of our devotion, our service, and our sacrifice. 
Ultimately, Kingdom theology is incarnational theology.  When Jesus said that the Church was his body, he wasn’t being metaphorical.  He meant it.  When Jesus was alive on earth, he had a body; after he ascended, the Church became his body.  Once again, this isn’t a metaphor, it is a spiritual and a physical reality.  In a very real way, the Church out serving and ministering in the world is the very presence of Christ.  I can’t say this enough—this isn’t symbolism, metaphor, or hyperbole, it is the way that God designed things to be.  When Jesus walked this earth he bore witness to the love, the forgiveness, and our acceptability to God by what he said and what he did, and when we, together, do good out in the world, we bear witness to the God’s love for the people we serve as well as his forgiveness and acceptance of them as well. 
        In the Roman world, The Good News or gospel was an imperial term; it was an announcement that the rule of Caesar was coming to a territory.  When Jesus, being more politically subversive than he is often credited for, announced the Good News of the Kingdom of God, he was asserting that the rule of God had come—and, unlike the rule of Caesar, God’s reign really was good, and it was good for all, including the poor, the immigrant, the uneducated, the underemployed, and those discriminated against.  But the Good News wasn’t primarily a message about God, it was primarily the presence of God, in the person of Jesus.  That was Good News, that God was present.  “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”  (Rev. 21:3)
I’m not being slick or innovative here; this is the understanding of the earliest Christians as well as the teaching of the Church from its inception.  We are the Body of Christ, his very presence in the world, and when we are out there doing Kingdom work, we proclaim the Gospel.  And, if necessary, we use words.  (See Assissi, Francis of.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Going Away

Our son Austin has enlisted in the Marines, and though his ship-out date to go to basic training in Parris Island, SC isn't until May, he requested to be put on standby beginning in February.  His recruiter told him it was likely that he would be leaving in the first two weeks of this month, so we decided to get the family together for a going-away celebration at my parent's house in Rockville.

Angela, baker extraordinaire (see her baking blog at left), did the cake:

Boy, I totally blew my diet that night!  But it was good!

So here's one of Austin's family: parents, sister, and grandparents (my folks on the left, Pam's on the right):


And with his girlfriend, Ariella:

I'll let everyone know when he goes.