Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Energy and Music

Music is important to me. I would not consider it a driving passion as it is with many, however, I enjoy both listening and performing music.

I like many kinds of music. It often depends upon my mood.

I also enjoy silence, or the "music" of nature. Yesterday, I ate lunch at the park. The birds sang continuously.

I'm not one that must listen to music constantly. I don't go around with an iPod and headphones. Nor do I constantly play CD's or the radio as I drive -- and I drive a lot.

I am very particular about music. I like for it to be well executed. However, in a live performance, I do not expect perfection -- which brings me to the reason that I am creating this post.

Music in church.

There are two basic styles of worship music. There is Choral and there is Praise and Worship. I enjoy both when executed well. Therein is the issue.

What does it mean for music to be well-executed in a live performance? To me it is a combination of factors but the underlying strength of the performance resides in "heart." If the performer doesn't put their heart into the music it will lack energy -- even if executed flawlessly.

Our church choir generally puts a lot of heart into its performance -- especially the choir special or a special performance. There is a wide variety of levels of talent within the choir -- from exceptionally gifted to "nothing but heart." The thing that sets the choir apart however, is heart. Each of the individuals come together in a common concert of worship as they pour their hearts into the music -- not the performance. With rare exception, the performances generate energy. It is the result of each one pouring his heart into the musical offering. It is the product of the emotion.

Our Praise Team on the other hand is blessed with very gifted musicians. Each one does an exceptional job of executing the music. Therein lies a problem. When each of these gifted musicians performs on the "team" they are performing individually and concurrently. A couple of them put a measure of "heart" into their performance but they often are each "performing" individually and not pouring their heart into a worship experience. The result is often one in which it feels as though energy is being "sucked" out of the congregation. It becomes a draining experience rather than one in which we are energized.

Now I must clarify somewhat. The musicians playing instruments come together as a Team. The problem lies in the vocals. They each perform wonderfully -- but NOT as a Team. They are performing as individuals.

If any of those individuals should read this, I pray that it will be accepted not as a criticism of their skills, talents or performance. It is an offering from my heart of a desire for them to experience the power of worship as a team -- the power of worship as the body of Christ. When that happens in corporate worship the result is an amazing, energizing experience.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bovine Disposition

The Bovine Disposition

The bovine was designed by God
To be food for those that prey
That's why his eyes are on the side
So he can see all ways.

He tends to congregate in herds
And follows without thought
The flighty actions of the ones
Who dash in fits and starts

At any sound or movement
That catches their attention.
That's why they're easily gathered
Into pens where they are caught.

They blithely go about the day
Just eating grass or hay
Or lying about and chewing their cud
Content in every way.

They have no powers of reason
So it really makes no sense
To wonder what they're thinking
Because they really can't.

It reminds me of the people
Whose voting majority
Brought into power the leaders
Of the current Administration.

Neither realized that they
Both will soon fall prey
To the predators
Who herd and feed and keep them.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Indian Blanket

The Indian Blanket or Firewheel, is probably my favorite wildflower. Its scientific name is Gaillardia pulchella and it is native to the central U.S.

The photo above was taken near the Canadian River in the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle. We are just coming to the end of its season. It is a great time to gather seeds in order to establish new colonies of them.

According to The Tulsa World, the following is the legend of the Indian Blanket.

"There once lived an old Indian blanket maker," he said, "whose talent for weaving gorgeous blankets was greatly admired among Great Plains Indians. Indians would travel many miles to trade for one of his colorful blankets richly woven in patterns of red and yellow.

"When the old blanket maker realized that his time was short, he began weaving his own burial blanket. When he died his family lovingly wrapped him in the blanket, which was his gift to the Great Spirit.

"The Great Spirit was pleased with the gift, but saddened that only those in the Happy Hunting Grounds would be able to appreciate the blanket maker's colorful creation. He decided, therefore, to give the beautiful gift back to those that the old Indian had left behind.

"The following spring gorgeous wildflowers bearing the same colors and design as the old Indian's blanket appeared in profusion over the blanket maker's grave.

The lovely flowers (Blanket Flowers) quickly spread across the plains for all to enjoy."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trust, Water and Government

Storms once again rumbled across the Southern Plains today. They have brought much in the way of promise but delivered little to my little corner of the world. The rains to the east have been a blessing to others.

This morning our pastor used rain in an illustration. I wish that I had made notes because now I struggle to remember it. I do recall that if a rancher receives a 1 inch rainfall on a section of land (1 square mile or 640 acres), he would receive a total of about 17,378,560 gallons of water. If you owned a home on 1 acre of land, 1 inch of rain would equal about 27,154 gallons of water.

Now, I don't know about you, but I know that my water bill each month -- especially in the summer -- can be significant. I am fortunate that I live in the country and have well water which basically costs the electricity to pump it and the amortized investment in the well and pump along with the average annual repair bill. It is still less than the cost of city water.

I live in an area with about 18 inches of average annual rainfall. I have 4 acres of land. That calculates to 1,955,088 gallons of water that I receive each year on my small acreage. I live approximately 550 miles from the Gulf of Mexico -- the nearest ocean. Our rainfall is typically a function of moisture from the Gulf meeting a cold front coming in from the north.

The average cost of tap water in the U.S. is approximately $1.50/1000 gallons. My expected annual rainfall of 1,955,088 gallons of water would cost me around $2,932 if delivered from my tap at the U.S. average cost. If you considered the fact that the water likely came from the Gulf of Mexico and was purified along the way, you would need to add the cost of a filtration system, a desalinization plant and transportation costs. I won't begin to guess what all of that would cost. The transportation alone is enormous.

The thing that interests me most though, is that God does all of that for free. I wonder then why it is that we trust our government for all of the wonderful services that we enjoy and pay exorbitant prices for them when God can do such amazing things for free....

Maybe instead of putting our trust in the government we should put it in God.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Harem

The Harem

Quality is the name of the game
For purebred cattle herds
So no expense is spared acquiring genes.

They arrive in tanks of nitrogen
In something we call straws
And delivered in a way that seems obscene.

It is the most efficent way
For improving of the herd
Because the best blood is often far away

So modern technology
Has taken the place
Of the purebred herd bulls today.

However, there are those
Among the lucky few
Who don't face humiliation in a cone

They get to roam the pasture
With the chosen of the crop;
They're like a king who sits upon a throne.

With their harem on display
They stand by the road all day
With an attitude of, "Hey, you -- look at me!"

You know it's just their job --
Passing traits on to the mob --
And it's just the way that it was meant to be!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fort Williams -- Glasgow, KY

Last week in my Kentucky travels with Neal Odom, we came across Fort Williams in Glasgow. At first glance it appears to be merely a well-tended hill. However, it was the site of a Civil War battle.

Below are photos of the plaques describing the situation, the people and the battle. You can click on the images for a larger view.

The 6-pounder canon below overlooks the cemetery which contains a number of markers honoring individuals who were involved in the battle. The obelisk just to the left of the barrel is a monument to General Joseph H. Lewis, Commander of the Orphan Brigade which defended this site.

As we walked about the hill, it was interesting to note the placement of the artillery pieces. The hill was well defended from all but one approach.

The fortification consists of an earth berm supported by planking on the inside of the wall. A number of gun ports were cut through the bank and stabilized with planking.

Fort Williams was named for General Thomas Williams.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Detour on the Bourbon Trail

Last week's travels once again were in Kentucky. Neal Odom and I were traveling together making sales calls in the Central and East Central part of the state. One afternoon we found ourselves near the little town of Loretto and decided to drop in on one of the state's historical sites.
The entrance to the Still Room can be seen above. The first site is of the copper tanks where the distilled product goes.
The first step in creating Maker's Mark is to run the carefully selected grains through a roller mill. Then, the crushed grains are added to a pressurized wash tub which is seen above. This begins the process of converting the sugars and starches to alcohol.

From the pressurized tanks, the slurry of grains is then transferred to the open wooden vats seen above. This is where the first fermentation occurs. It is interesting to see the bubbles forming on top of the slurry from the gases produced in the fermentation process. Each batch contains a small amount of the previous batch which acts as "seed" for the new liquor.

From the open vats, the slurry is then pumped to a 5-story tall copper distillation column. This is where the 12% alcohol slurry is distilled to a higher concentration. The distillation column sits to the right of the tanks in the photo above. Most of it is out of sight as it goes up through the floors of the Still House.

The distilled liquor is further refined and the proper amount of water is added to reach the final "proof" for the fresh bourbon. It is perfectly clear until aged in specially made white-oak barrels which are seen above. There are numerous warehouses storing the barrels of liquor in various stages of aging.

Today, the finished product is bottled on site in the signature bottle dipped in red wax. In the earliest days, it was transported by wagon.

To learn more about the little distillery at Loretto, Kentucky, go to the Maker's Mark website linked here (warning, you must be 21 to enter).