T-Minus Five Days

Race Number!

My racenumber for the Peachtree Road Race arrived a copule weeks ago and I’m ready to run next week!

My race times have been a little disapointing. I had hoped to be in the ten minute mile range by the time the race started, but a race time of 66-68 minutes is probably going to be more realistic. Regardless, I feel better right now than I’ve felt in a long time and my weight is almost down to my college weight. Just a few more pounds to go! Hopefully, I will be able to sustain it after the race is over.

I’m not taking the race too seriously. I’ll be taking a disposable camera on my run and we’ll see if I can get some good pictures during the run.

Musical review

Time to look back on some of the CD’s I’ve been listening to lately:

The Violet Burning: The Loudest Sound Of My Heart
If I had my choice, I might have picked a show where the band featured the background vocals of Melissa Barnett or the amazing guitar of Andy Prickett, but this is a pretty accurate representation of what The Violet Burning sounds like right now. The setlist is a high energy set with all of the concert staples (the live versions of “Moon Radio” and “Berlin Kitty” make the cuts on Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic seem dull!) The show also features more organic versions of the program heavy songs from The Gravity Show This CD is a great snapshot of a live Violet Burning experience.

The Choir: O, How The Mighty Have Fallen
The song “Fine, Fun Time” describes four old friends sitting around the pool laughing and sharing old memories. That’s an accurate description of the whole album. The Choir doesn’t feel the need to prove anything. They already had their five minutes of fame and garnered their accolades, so they are content to simply produce music they like. The album meanders through effects-laden guitar through songs that describe the ups and downs of life, from the heartbreak of divorce, the pain of comforting a hurting child, the faithfulness of God, and the joy of old friends. The addition of Marc Byrd to the band adds another dimension of shimmering guitars and vocals. I would’ve liked to heard some more up-tempo tracks, but “Mercy Will Prevail” and “To Rescue Me” are two of my favorite closing tracks off of just about any CD.

Coldplay: X&Y
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this CD. All of the magazine reviews and such seemed to proclaim their greatest work ever and that this album would vault them to heights that only bands like U2 reside in. I don’t know if X&Y is that good, but it is a very solid effort. The CD reminds me more of Parachutes than A Rush Of Blood To The Head. I quite like “Fix You”, “What If”, and “Talk.” Hopefully, the wonderful single “Speed Of Sound” won’t be brutally overplayed by radio, because I really like it.

Copeland: In Motion
Since I’m missing Cornerstone, I picked up a couple CD’s from bands at Cornerstone. This album is so slick, it’s amazing. The vocals are so smooth, it just doesn’t seem right for a rock band to sound that good. Beautiful harmonies and a vocal sound that reminds me of Freddie Mercury. And the CD rocks, too. Some of it is a little too aimed at the teenage market, but the intensity of songs like “Don’t Slow Down” and “You Have My Attention” make it totally worth it.

Mae: The Everglow
This may be the best CD that I’ve picked up in 2005 so far. What an incredible surprise. I sampled it at a bookstore (another Cornerstone band) and picked it up immediately. Typically, bands fail to meet expectations on their sophmore album, but The Everglow destroys their debut album. It’s got everything I like in an album, it’s melodic, it rocks, it tells a story, and it’s got a very creative theme and packaging with the liner notes made to look like a children’s book and record. After a cute “childrens book” intro and “We’re So Far Away”, the album takes off and stays strong through four to five phenomenal songs. There is a slight swoon in the middle and then the closing tracks pull everything together. Great album.

And then God shut my mouth

The book of Luke records that God silenced Zechariah before the birth of his son John, and sometimes I wonder if He did the same to me during my final year of high school when it came to girls. By this time, I had been out on a couple dates, so it would seem that I would be over getting cold feet when it was time to ask a girl out on a date. (though, I suppose most single guys don’t ever get over the anxiety of asking a girl out for the first time, I know I never did.) I would’ve thought so, too, but that last spring proved otherwise.

On more than one occasion, I would be talking to a girl, sometimes even when we were alone, but the words would never come out of my mouth and we’d go our seperate ways. I can even remember having conversations with girls about dances (homecoming, prom, whatever) and the conversation would seem to lead into a perfect transition to asking her out! But, no, for some reason there was always a hand on my shoulder and a voice in my ear saying “no, now is not the time.”

For my senior prom, I even short-circuited any opportunity to start any new romance by asking my good friend Tracy Rollo to go with me. Going to prom with Tracy was a safe alternative to an expensive first date with someone and it provided two big benefits. 1.) The evening would be expectation and stress-free. There was no worrying about how the night would end. 2.) We could be total fools and have fun without caring what the other thought. (The night also gave an unexpected benefit when I brought someone totally outside of my high school’s sphere of influence because tounges were wagging about the mysterious, unknown attractive girl that accompanied me all night. It was nice to have people gossip something good about me for once.) But regardless, it meant that romance was something that just didn’t happen at the end of my high school term. It was just as well, I supposed, for I would be meeting college girls next year! (More on that later)

I really did have a lot of fun my last year of school and it was nice to be free from entangling relationships and enjoy my time with good friends. I’ve always wondered if God was steering me clear of trouble by making me so fruitless in my dating endeavours during those final months before college. I tend to be a person who speaks before thinking and sometimes the things I say have drastic and dire results. It would seem that there have been several periods in my life where I have felt the hand of God clapping over my mouth just as I’m about to say something devestatingly hurtful or malicious (sometimes I beat Him and it still gets out.) I don’t know any other way to describe it than the work of God, because if it were up to me, I might not have kept my big mouth shut.

Of summer jobs and wooden cigars

After I graduated from high school and before I entered college at Georgia Tech, like most kids my age, I worked a minimum-wage job for the summer to keep out of trouble and make a little money. Unlike most summer jobs however, I really liked my job. I worked on a sign engraver for the Georgia Building Authority, making signs and then installing them in various government buildings around downtown Atlanta. I got to play with an expensive sign engraver and when I needed to get out of the office and get some fresh air, I’d grab whole bunch of signs and a drill set and install them in their designed locations on the walls of different buildings. This afforded me opportunity to wander around downtown, but still have an office to occasionally catch my breath while engraving the next sign.

One of the managers that I worked with was a friend of my father’s named Scott Oliver. Scott had glasses and a mustache and was never far from his next cigarette. When I started working at the Building Authority, Scott was trying to quit smoking and my father carved him some wooden cigars which he could place in his mouth when he got the craving for a cigarette. My father told me this past weekend that Scott had passed away. I was sad to hear that, because he was a good man. I really enjoyed working with Scott along with everyone I met at the Building Authority before starting school and I gained some valuable work experience that carried on to my first job at IBM. I’ll always remember that hot, carefree summer and Scott with a wooden cigar sticking out of his smiling face.

Family Worship

A couple months ago, I was going into the sanctuary of my church for Sunday service and I when I entered, I noticed the church was completely packed. Seats were full all the way to the back and people were even sitting in the aisles. What is this? I wondered to myself. It’s not Easter or Christmas. I looked around and noticed everyone had their videocameras and digital cameras at the ready and then…. I knew.

In a single file line, our church’s first and second graders all filed into the front of the sanctuary and lined up in neat rows. When they all found their place, all of the cameras switched on and flashed and suddenly I felt like I was in a press conference as lights strobed all around me. The young children squeaked out a couple of cute songs and then when they finished, they filed out the same way they came in so that the Sunday service could continue.

After the children finished many of the people there, presumably parents and relatives of the children, packed up their cameras and left right in the middle of the Sunday service! I stood there speechless with my mouth dangling open as we were instructed to turn to our first hymn in a now half-full room. These people had not come to worship, they had come here for their children. (I can only assume, based on our church’s extensive children’s church that it’s *not* like the children had nowhere to go after their singing.)

I can’t fault our church’s leadership. Presenting the children to sing a cute, charming praise song certainly isn’t out of place in a worship service, but I was troubled by what I saw. I fear that many of the members of my congregation are falling prey to worshipping a new idol, their very own families. The American church, I fear, is exchanging worship of a Holy God for “a good family time.” I’ve heard several people comment about my church, “well, we go there because of their wonderful children’s ministry.” I’m not sure I can comprehend those kind of priorities. Is the church that has the coolest youth group really the driving factor in choosing your church? I hope God is at least a factor in coming to church, but sometimes I wonder if some parents are merely here just so they have a safe place they can drop their kids. Even our local Christian radio station’s billboards in Atlanta now say “Safe For The Whole Family” and save a fish logo, would give you no indication that they have anything to do with God, Jesus, or anything relating to Christianity.

I don’t have children, so obviously I don’t understand the struggles that parents face in protecting their children and I know it’s a struggle. But I fear, in our over-reaction to the world which cares not for God, we are too eager to exchange good for safe, and our God is not safe. I hope I don’t one day have to choose between a church where God wants my family to be and where my children want to be, but if I have to make that choice….