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11/30/2006

FREE MUSIC

On December 1st only, you can download a song of mine FOR FREE at MyFreeMusicFriday.com (as well as one from Aaron Shust and another by Chris Rice.)

This is FREE free, not free-if-you-give-us-your-e-mail-address kind of free.

Totally free.

You CAN hand over your e-mail address though if you want to receive info about all future free music offerings from MyFreeMusicFriday.com and be entered in a drawing for an iPod.

MyFreeMusicFriday.com December 1st. Free music.

Check it out and please pass it on. Blog about it even. Thanks.


(PS. News2, I know you're reading this. And thanks for that. Do you mind saying a little something something about this deal on your blogtastic site? Thanks.)

TOP ALBUMS OF 2006

I'm making a list of the best ten albums of 2006 for Billboard.com. Jog my memory. What's your list look like?

PANTS

It's hard for a svelte man to find pants. In America. In Europe, not a problem. Japan, a sinch. But in a nation where the average waist size - I'm betting - dwarfs the average in-seam measurement it's not a breeze.

Twelve stores later I finally found a pair of 30/32 black pants that fit like my usual freakish 30/34's.

And Becky says they're navy blue.

Here we go again.

I'm having seconds at dinner.



NOTE: Shaun Groves loves people of all shapes and sizes. He cares more about being healthy than conforming to some contrived ideal standard body measurement. However, Shaun Groves envies anyone who can find a pair of pants in less than an hour at any mall in the U.S. and he reserves the right to dislike them. And to speak in third person.

ONE DAY

I'm meeting the head honcho over at indieheaven.com for breakfast this morning. Then quickly from there I head to Music Row up in Nashville to be interviewed by a man whose last name is "Thunder" - so he would have us to believe. Then it's off to buy pants for that wedding I practiced for yesterday - and look through Brody's shoes for a black pair anywhere near my size. (Again, this wedding stuff is not my shape.) And I'll swing by my publishing company to request a license to manufacture a disc with my own songs on it. (Huh?) And home in time for lunch, after which I have some book writing to do.

A friend of mine - Amy - asked me not long ago what my day looks like when I'm not out on the road. Well, here's half of one. They're all incredibly different.

And I'm off...

11/29/2006

DOTS AND DETAILS

This is the kind of music geekery I'll write more of on the new site, which will have a blog dedicated to music and musicians.

I biggest difference I hear at the moment between the mainstream music my ears gravitate toward and the "contemporary" music in so many U.S. churches could be described as a tonal one. Here's what I mean in geeky theory terms. (I have a degree in theory/composition so I guess this is where I get to use those four years.)

A chord is at least three notes separated by thirds. An "A major" chord, for example, would be spelled A-C#-E. In church you'd likely hear all three notes. To the audience, the chord is heard as obviously an "A" chord and obviously "major" even if the listener doesn't know to call it that.

By contrast, when Snow Patrol, for instance, plays an "A" chord in their song Chasing Cars, it's at best A-ish. They leave out the third (the second note of chord), which is the C#. One musician is bouncing between the notes "A" and "E" and another between "E" and the "A" an octave (eight notes) higher and the bass is pulsing out a steady stream of eighth notes on "A." Listen to this stripped down version of the song:



So? Well, the third, the C#, is what makes the chord sound major and not minor. Major feels very different to a listener than minor. It invokes a different mood and even a different meaning to the lyric. That third is very important. Leaving it out seems dangerous. But the sung melody uses the C# - sparingly, but it does occur - just often enough to signal to tell the listener's brian what it wonders: Is this major or minor? And the right emotion is triggered.

You don't have to tell us everything. You can paint dots and not details.

It's realism versus pointilism. Rembrandt gave us all the information about a human face, every wrinkle on every cheek, every hair it's own precise color. Beautiful. Especially in a day ruled by logic and to an audience infatuated with precision. Seurat, by contrast, gave us millions of dots. Each dot a single color. A canvas full of dots lacked the detail of a Rembrandt canvas but told us enough to get the point across. The brain filled in the gaps. Beautiful. Especially in a day ruled by romanticism and to an audience infatuated with ambiguity and relativity and new to the science of light.

Would your audience like dots or details? I know what I prefer.

DREAM WEAVER

I'm practicing for a wedding. I don't do weddings. Not because I'm above it but because I'm not that good. You have to be an actual singer to pull off a song you didn't write, in public, with any amount of confidence. Scary.

I wouldn't do this for just anyone. But for the Dream Weaver I'd do anything, as long as it's legal in the majority of states and doesn't involve clowns. Clowns scare me more than songs I didn't write. Dressing as a clown and singing a song I didn't write - now that's hell.

I called Jamie years ago when I was working in a cell (office) over at Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing as the archive guy - sitting for eight hours a day burning reels of Southern Gospel from the seventies onto CDs to be stored in a vault somewhere for safe keeping. I drove in rush hour traffic. I wore slacks. And a tie. I used a PC. I was miserable.

Jamie oversaw all volunteers at out church but also, I'd heard, had a knack for unsticking people - helping them figure out what they're true talents are and sending them off in a direction where those talents can be put to good use. Basically, she's a guidance counselor.

The guidance counselor at my high school offered little guidance. I walked into Mrs.Mosely's office my Senior year and agonized for an hour or more about the excruciating choice I had to make between art school and music school. "What about architecture? You get to draw and it's a more substantial occupation with a greater earning potential," she guided.

When Jamie took my first phone call she never mentioned earning potential. She listened. Then she promised to get back to me. She did. She used weird language I'd never heard from Mrs.Mosley. She wanted to help me find my "passion" and figure out what my "shape" is and then discover where that "shape" fits in the church and the world around me. And after just a few of these strange but enlightening conversations the fog cleared for me. I could see what I was made to be and had a good idea of what my next moves in life should be.

Three years later I was teaching a bible study at church, working in the preschool department on Sunday mornings and making music for a living. I signed a poster for her: "To the Dream Weaver." The name just sort of stuck.

Jamie's office is still a home away from home for me. She's a friend in the truest sense of the word - a no nonsense friend. She sits straight up at her desk, a pen and a legal pad at the ready and asks, "Tell me what to pray for. How are you really doing? Do you need money? How's your colon?" And when I'm being dramatic, she tells me. When I'm thinking too little of myself, she tells me that too. And when she needs something from me she asks without hesitation.

"I want you to sing at my daughter's wedding. Are you busy rock star?"

No. I'm not. Of course, I'm thinking now I should have just told her singing at weddings isn't my shape.

Time to practice.

11/28/2006

CHASING FRANCIS

My former label has launched a new marketing initiative: myfreemusicfriday.com There you'll get three songs every Friday for no money. (More about that later this week.) And you can stream three videos from Rocketown Records artists. And, lastly, you can read a "blog" they call "Our 2 Cents." (Can we get a ruling on whether this is a blog? What IS a blog by definition anyway?)

Anyway, my point - and I do have one - is that in this two cents area I just read an article by my friend and Rocketown president Don Donahue that made me think...and then made me want to buy a book. Don writes about how much he's gotten from the book Chasing Francis from first-time author Ian Morgan Cron - the "fictitious" account of a mega church pastor who begins to question the depth of the mega church movement and reasons for its growth.

Don writes this paragraph worth pondering:

The line that hit me the hardest in the book was Chase, reminiscing about the rapid growth of his church back home. He talks about what is expected of our "worship Centers" instead of Majestic Cathedrals, and says, "I realized I build Lights, Camera and Action rather than Father, Son and Spirit" Whoa! Convicting! I'm a guy who contributes to Lights Camera and Action! So here's what dawns on me: what good is the wide, expansive growth of 'the church' if our local neighborhood is not the better for it? What about depth? What about "showing" Christ instead of speaking truth?

Don's nothing if not honest.

Since the Our 2 Cents "blog" doesn't let us leave comments, I'm lending my blog for discussion. Go read it and talk about it here if it strikes you as something worth talking about. I'll get us started.

And, Rocketown, thanks for the music and the videos but, come on guys, get a real blog. If Don's "post" is any indication of the quality of stuff you all are capable of cranking out, I'd read it daily. Blogs aren't just a way to market product anymore; they are product.

I WANT TO GO TO A WHORE

"I want to go to a whore," he said, his four year-old brow furrowed by the weight of his sincerity.

"You want to what?" I kept my head down and continued to fervently work the tiny screws out of his broken car's underside.

"I want to go to a WHORE!" He pinched a tiny screw between his index finger and thumb until it sprang from his grip and bounced across the table and into the abyss that is the kitchen floor.

"What's a whore?" I asked, looking him in the eyes.

"Where they fight people," he stared back matter-of-factly. "It's named a whore. I want to go there."

"There are a lot of wars you could go see right now. Which war do you want to see?"

"One with Elliot and Phillip and Uncle Brian and Brody and-"

"That would be a fight," I explained. "A war is when lots and lots of people fight each other. A big crowd of people from one place get together and they're an army. And then a bunch of people from another place get together and they're an army. And the two armies fight each other. You don't want to go see a war."

"What would happen if I see a war?"

And I paused. He's only four. He doesn't need to know more than this about war does he? He doesn't need to know about children dying in them as frequently as warriors does he? But he knew would he grow to become a better adult than I am? More compassionate? Less violent? I answered.

"There are some children who live near wars. And those children can get hurt. And sometimes they die. So you don't want to see a real war. It's dangerous. And sad. Do you understand?"

"I don't wanna get dead," he smiled, not fully grasping the meaning of the words either of us were speaking.

"I don't want you to either, so why don't you just stay here and help me fix your car and maybe tomorrow we can go to Uncle Brian's and wrestle Elliot and Phillip."

"And you!"

"We'll see."

"Is it tomorrow now?"

"ONE NIGHT IN KNOXVILLE" COVER



What do you do when you need a cover for a live album but you...

  • Don't have professionally taken high-resolution pictures from the show
  • Don't have the budget for a graphic designer
  • Don't have time to do much work on it yourself

    I called Tim Parker. I remembered the ten or so comp covers Tim designed for my Twilight CD. My favorite was this illustration in shades of orange of me on a horizon line with a sinking sun. It didn't get used. The marketing team at my former label wanted me to be more recognizable on the cover instead. I believe someone said the illustrated cover looked "indie" because indie artists often use illustration since they can't afford professional photo shoots. (Good point.)

    I asked Tim if he still had the cover I'd loved years before. He did and sent it over. (Thanks Tim) And my former label el presidente agreed to let me use the cover - a cover he paid for when Tim originally designed it mind you - for free. (Thanks Don)

    All I had to do then was add type and change it to blue - more of a night vibe I think.

    And there you go, the story of the One Night In Knoxville cover. Hope it works for you.

    (Note: If you look inside the packaging for Twilight you can spot the original orange cover hidden in the collage of photographs. Tim worked it in since we liked it so much. Rebel.)

  • 11/27/2006

    CLOUDS: AN EXERCISE IN POINTLESS REMEMBRANCE

    I've read a few book son writing, a few more blogs by writers, and they all mention becoming a better writer by forcing yourself to write every day. I do that. But I've run out of things to say. When that's the case, the experts recommend, we should go back in time to one moment in our life, maybe something seemingly mundane or ordinary, and write about it in detail. We're supposed to try not to make sense of it, try not to perfect it or make a point. Just write about that moment. That's harder than that it seems for a guy like me who's made a living and a life of making sense and making points. Here's today's attempt. Your turn.


    A thick-throated round man in a brown suit belted out a closing song. After the final firmata's release, the Wurlitzer and piano played us out of the sanctuary and into the lobby of the small country church. It was then that my search for the Candy Man began - a wrinkled deacon with shiny crisp palms always dispensing butterscotches and peppermints to any child brave enough to give him five.

    I was such a kid.

    He held my hand for what was probably a full minute, an eternity, asking what I'd learned in Sunday School and reminding me to be nice to my sister. The smell of coffee was thick on his closely spoken words.

    This was church.

    I was driven there every Sunday by two good smelling dressed up adults in their magic Ford LTD that always played Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and Barry Manilow on its radio. We stopped for donuts on the way. Sunday was a perfect day and church was a perfect place.

    It was a place packed with music and laughter and people older than me eager to point out how fast I was growing or how handsome I looked in my new blue slacks from Sears. It was a place of popsicle sticks and graham crackers, kool-aid and fried chicken, flannelgraphs and puppets. It was a kind of fairy tale land rippling with familiar faces and open hands waiting for slaps. Perfect. From wall to wall.

    With the exception of one.

    On that wall hung a painting.

    A city.

    A highway stretching from the distance to the foreground and on it, hundreds of cars. The cars collided, broad-siding buses and guardrails, throwing mothers and children to the asphalt. An airplane smashing into a skyscraper. A news helicopter diving into distant suburbia.

    Beside the highway, a graveyard. White apparitions rising from its soil. The same ghostly figures climbing from the wreckage on the roadway and the skyscraper, the airplane and homes on the horizon.

    All this under a frothy gray sky. On ray of light broke through. A silhouetted man with arms stretched out stood in the opening.

    I avoided this painting. I avoided this entire wall of the lobby, preferring the questions and generosity of the Candy Man and cheek pinching of the gray-blue-haired grandmother brigade.

    It left me afraid and deeply unexplainably sad.

    I could have walked away from the canvas petrified of highways, buses, airplanes or skyscrapers. I could have trembled at the thought of graveyards and ghosts or the suburbs or Jesus coming back. But no.

    Any other six year-old might have shed a tear or two over the puppy taken out by that van in the bottom right hand corner or buckled under the emotional weight of realizing for the first time the inevitability of his own death. But no.

    Clouds.

    For some reason, from the day I discovered that painting on I felt melancholic and sometimes even downright afraid at the sight of clouds. Not the white fluffy ones polka-dotting a cobalt Summer sky. No, no. The kind that rerender everything in grayscale, and smother the joy out of life along with its color scheme - like some intergalactic serial killer's massive gray pillow being pressed mercilessly down on the face of the earth.

    Those kinds of clouds.

    They sneak over the sun and I'm back in the car headed to the elementary school, begging my mom not to make me go to Mrs. Roosth's class. I'm fifteen and I've just broken up with Kim in the band hall before the day's first bell, and I'm feeling guilty and trying to wish myself into loving her. I'm eighteen and I'm on the edge of my bed writing my first song, about a girl at school who just passed away, a girl I didn't know but mourned anyway. I'm back in college and Becky's broken up with me and I'm walking across campus, very dramatically, in the rain, wondering what I did wrong. I'm looking out the window of a black Cadillac, watching an old man in a general's uniform standing at attention, saluting his sister's, my grandmother's, casket as it's lowered into the soggy earth. I'm back in the lobby of a country church, staring at the figure in the clouds, hoping He waits until I can drive before He comes back, or at least until I finish off the butterscotch melting inside my cheek.

    WHAT SHOULD YOU GET FOR THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING?

    What should you get for the person who has everything? Nothing.

    So why don't we give them that this Christmas?

    Seriously. What is it that keeps us from giving nothing to people who have everything...and people who have enough?

    KAMP KRUSTY ANNOUNCES THE ONE (PROFESSOR) CAMPAIGN TO END POVERTY

    My friend Brant over at Kamp Krusty writes...

    I don't know if he wrote that from his University office, or from his own home in the leafy, Urbana, Illinois neighborhood that we wanted to live in, but couldn't afford to. Doesn't matter. What is noteworthy is that we have become like those barbarians, who were apparently chiefly noted for their inequalities of income.

    He's right. But we need to think globally, too. That's why I'd like to propose a new global ONE campaign, a ONE campaign that ends poverty in Africa, one professor at a time.



    What's he talking about? Read for yourself. And be sure to click on every very informative link in the post.

    Reminds me of a proposal made to a prosperity preacher by Leaving Munster not long ago. Great minds blog alike.

    11/26/2006

    DO NOT ADJUST YOUR BROWSER

    Hey, heads up. Things may look weird here at SHLOG.COM for a little while this evening. It's all part of the move to the new site. So if the blog looks unusual, don't worry, it'll be back to normal soon. And soon after that we'll move to a better blog.

    Thanks,
    The Management

    11/25/2006

    PRAYING MAN AGAIN

    I woke up with a throat full of razor blades and the day didn't get better from there. I couldn't hear. I couldn't taste. I couldn't be nice. I was short-fused and longed to just be left alone.

    As is often the case when I'm emotionally and physically under the weather, my head filled with melodies and lyrical fragments. Inspiration always strikes me when I'm the least available to play along. I hung Christmas lights, blowing my nose every other trip up the ladder, and sipping hot herbal tea just as frequently, while a piano ballad plodded in my brain. Then a mid tempo alt folk thing. And another. And another.

    Songs have lost so much of their power for me. Music feels more and more often like a spreadsheet than a prayer. When inspiration erupts I feel more and more like a secretary taking dictation than a craftsman of any kind.

    But not tonight.

    When the house was still, the kids in bed and Becky at the store, I sat at the piano and prayed the melodies out. One by one. Nonsense words mixed with fortune cookie-like scraps of wisdom. Wrong notes rose from the old upright accompanying the right and beautiful progressions in my head.

    And when the garage door opened and rumbled the floor under my feet I stood to go downstairs and help unload the car. No less sick. No less grumpy. But stronger somehow. Empty and full.

    This is what I miss about making music. It's what hasn't happened to me in years. It's what I started out being: a person praying through a piano. I want to be that person again. Tonight I was convinced I can.

    11/24/2006

    TOO GOOD FOR A SIDE BAR

    You knew it would come to this.

    FOR FAILURE

    I'm thankful for family. I'm thankful that I've eaten and slept in some sort of bed and been reasonably healthy every day of the last 365. These are the usual things I'm thankful for. But this year, add to the usual something unusual: Failure.

    This year I officially failed as a Christian recording artist, defined (cynically, admittedly, and accurately I think by me) as "a person making music primarily for consumption by 3% of Americans: Christians who discover music primarily by listening to Christian radio stations and shop primarily at Christian bookstores." It took six years but I finally failed at being one of these. I failed badly enough that I no longer have a record deal, no longer appear on magazine covers, no longer get played on said radio stations, and am routinely out of stock at said bookstores. I miss being a successful Christian recording artist. I feel embarrassed sometimes that I failed so miserably (and publicly) at it.

    All of this is bad.

    This year I began succeeding at being something else. Maybe just a blogger. Just? A blogger is defined simply (by me) as "one who blogs." And blogging is all about connecting to people and spreading ideas I think. I started blogging more than a year ago but just this year the blog began connecting and influencing - getting me bookings, growing in traffic, and spreading ideas and my music beyond my old friends in the 3%. I enjoy the fenceless freedom of blogging (maybe a little too much at times.) The blogosphere has not yet been partitioned into "safe for the whole family" and "not safe for the whole family." It is still a place where everyone - even a "failure" - can connect to an audience again. I'm successful at this. I think. And it's helped heal my bruises.

    All of this is good.

    I'm thankful then for the new success failure has brought.

    I'm thankful for the boardies from shaungroves.com who came to this blog in the beginning and were the first to spread the word about it - and continue to pray for and support me in anything I decide to do.

    I'm thankful for every person who's shown up here and posted their two cents, who's told someone else about this place, who's added me to their blog roll, who's been kind enough to spend thirty seconds or a couple hours of their life with us here.

    I'm thankful for Kat (if that be her name) for the hours and hours of coding and talking and recoding that will soon result in a new place for us all to gather and do the same thing we do here - but on a whole new level.

    I'm thankful for you.

    My biggest fear this year hasn't been that I won't be a successful musician. My biggest fear has been that I won't successfully connect to an audience again. I'm thirty-two. I've spent years trying to pretend my motivations are more complex than they are, or that I'm a noble true artist doing all this for art's sake alone. Bull. I'm in this for influence - at home, on the road, on the internet. It's what drives me. What you say and do can influence me and in turn influence my corner of the world. Something I say or do can influence you and then your corner of the world. We're connected and the power to influence through those connections fascinates and fulfills me because I believe it can be wielded for good.

    Thanks to you and this blog I'm connecting and influencing (and being influenced) again. I feel useful again. I'm thankful.

    More to come.

    11/23/2006

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING...TENNESSEE STYLE


    11/22/2006

    TURKEY BREAK

    Thanksgiving blog beak time.

    The in-laws are here. The sister-in-law is arriving soon. Time to step away from the laptop. (I think I can. I think I can) And hang out with family.

    See you again when the ham and hashbrown casserole are gone.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    11/21/2006

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING, ANDREW

    Christianity Today has just published (on-line) their picks for the best ["Christian"] albums of 2006. Fellow blogger/indie folk-rocker Andrew Osenga is #11.

    And it reads...

    "If The Normals had only continued after 2002's A Place Where You Belong … well, it might have been as impressive as this sophomore effort from front man Andrew Osenga, who also serves as lead guitarist for Caedmon's Call. Though it's an independent effort, don't be fooled—the only shortcoming is a lack of distribution, currently only available at www.andrewosenga.com. As far as quality goes, it's a match for any other alternative folk-rock release this year, and a no-brainer for those who appreciate the refined style of Elliott Smith, Michael Penn, Neil Finn, or Gomez. Combine that with smart, honest songcraft reminiscent of Bob Dylan or Mark Heard, expressing a progression from regret to redemption through a series of metaphorical illustrations, introspective musings, and heartfelt confessionals. Too bad an album this good will go largely overlooked—but at least now you know about it!"

    Wow, Neil Finn. You're compared to Neil freakin' Finn. Congrats, Andrew. Much deserved.

    As for the rest of the list...

    Go here to judge for yourself.

    What's on your list of best albums or songs of '06?

    OUT OF LINE

    Too poor for a PS3 and too bored to make it through the work day? Check out Line Rider.



  • Play it/make it here.

  • See what's possible here.

    There's even a forum and a squidoo lens.

    Have fun. Link us to anything you make. If you're looking to record your creation on a Mac I recommend Snapz Pro.

    Hey, who needs Sony?

  • 11/20/2006

    MUSTACHE ROLL

    I made it. You can too.

    YOUR PASTOR'S HOT

    I stayed up later than I wanted to last night writing a pretty good post for the blog today. I finished and actually thought it might be something to send on to one of the magazines I sometimes write for. I was eager to get it posted here and get the discussion started. But I knew that my late night writing is even more full of misspellings than my day time writing, so I hit "save as draft.

    Doh! No, that was "delete this post."

    Yea, so this is what you get for today's post. A left over thought from a week or more ago, one I hope isn't so out of phase with current events that it bores you to unsubscription. Here goes.


    So when all the Ted Haggard stuff was going down, I read a few different blog posts and articles poking fun at the sex appeal of ministers. One in particular, which I won't link to because it was just so crass, sarcastically jabbed at the notion that pastors are sometimes sex symbols of sorts. "...becoming a pastor is a great way to meet women. (And men, I guess.) Apparently, the ladies think pastors are hot," it said.

    Well, they are.

    Stop laughing.

    They are. To some.

    As much as I'd love to think my wife was first attracted to my microphone stand physique, my six foot two inch one hundred and thirty pound physique, she wasn't. She swears she thinks I'm cute now, but back then she first liked me because she thought I was confident, smart and funny.

    Those aren't words I'd use to describe myself now or at nineteen when we met, but she was left with that impression when I got up to teach group of people or jumped into a conversation with a crowd she was in.

    Apparently there are a lot of women like her who don't care so much about what I look like, but come on to me after shows because of what I do on a stage or in a crowd after a show. They think I'm confident, smart and funny, Becky says, and for them that's a huge turn on. Apparently.

    A store buyer handed me her room key at a Christian Bookseller's Convention in Orlando years ago, inviting me to come up and have dinner with her. I was flashed by a college student at an in-store event in Tampa. I was propositioned by a female radio personality in the MidWest. And I've had to move more than a few south-wandering hands from my backside while posing for a picture in a church lobby somewhere.

    It's OK, you can laugh. It is strange that women would find me attractive - until we realize that some folks are drawn to the kind of confidence and personality that they associate with people able to command attention from a stage. Whether those people are pastors or soft rock stars.

    Which is why my father-in-law (a pastor) always keeps his office door open when counseling a female, and makes sure his secretary stays put at her desk right outside. It's why Billy Graham has someone search his hotel room for females before he'll enter and doesn't even go to the bathroom alone. It's why I travel with Brian, never meet with a female alone, always wear my ring and talk about my wife and kids with perhaps annoying frequency.

    It only takes one woman to say we did when we didn't and we're done.

    All of this of course really has nothing to do with the Haggard situation, but I'm glad it came up in the wake of it anyway. Laugh all you want. Your pastor's hot, to someone. Pastors, be careful. Women, back off. Church, pray.

    11/16/2006

    HONESTY

    I recorded two shows back to back for the live disc we're working on right now. And there's one song in particular that, well, honestly, sucked both times. Badly. I sang it horribly and played it poorly as well. The two takes suck in different ways though. So I've been stuck all afternoon listening to the two and trying to decide which one sucks least or in the most tolerable ways.

    So, as I do when I need some honest wisdom, I asked Becky to take a listen to the version I'm leaning toward using. When it's done I ask, "How bad is that to you?"

    "Well, that's how you sound," she says deadpan.

    Thanks.

    No egos allowed at home.

    THIS IS NOT FUNNY. THIS IS NOT FUNNY. THIS IS NOT FUNNY.

    Tickets had been sold-out three weeks before the much anticipated fight, which took place in the city of Kâmpóng Chhnãng [Cambodia].

    The fight was slated when an angry fan contested Yang Sihamoni, President of the CMFL [Cambodian Midget Fighting League], claiming that one lion could defeat his entire league of 42 fighters.

    Sihamoni takes great pride in the league he helped create, as was conveyed in his recent advertising campaign for the CMFL that stated his midgets will "... take on anything; man, beast, or machine."

    This campaign is believed to be what sparked the undisclosed fan to challenge the entire league to fight a lion; a challenge that Sihamoni readily accepted.

    An African Lion (Panthera Leo) was shipped to centrally located Kâmpóng Chhnãng especially for the event, which took place last Saturday, April 30, 2005 in the city’s coliseum.

    The Cambodian Government allowed the fight to take place, under the condition that they receive a 50% commission on each ticket sold, and that no cameras would be allowed in the arena.

    The fight was called in only 12 minutes, after which 28 fighters were declared dead, while the other 14 suffered severe injuries including broken bones and lost limbs, rendering them unable to fight back.

    Sihamoni was quoted before the fight stating that he felt since his fighters out-numbered the lion 42 to 1, that they “… could out-wit and out-muscle [it].”

    Unfortunately, he was wrong.



    From the BBC.

    (HT: WG)

    DEAR MARRIED GUY

    Dear Married (about to be married) Guy,

    There is one simple nugget of wisdom that will dramatically improve your marriage quickly. I want to pass it on. It will transform you and your wife into people who love better and more freely and are easier to love in return.

    It's simple: Serve her.

    Wake up and think to yourself - What can I do or say to make her life easier or better than it is? It's that simple.

    But not really.

    You're human, man. And so you, like me, wake and think first, probably, What do I want for breakfast? Or, I've gotta go to the bathroom, take a shower, make some coffee, I have a meeting at 9, lunch downtown and then... And you're off, thinking about you. These aren't bad thoughts. They're even necessary thoughts. But they don't have to be first or top thoughts.

    I think that a lot of what we think is a habit. I 'm not even trying to think it. I just do. Change the habit. Wake up and make yourself think about her, and if you have them, your kids. Not how much you want and love her - you do that already - but how you can express that in a way that makes a difference in her day. Do this first. And all day.

    There aren't any girls reading this letter. It's just you and me, so let's talk about foreplay. Foreplay is one thing to a man and another to a woman. Be honest. What a man calls foreplay is whatever happens in the few minutes before the few minutes we call sex actually happens. It's the little bit of physical activity and words that show us we're wanted, appreciated, approved of, that turns us on enough to carry on with sex. It doesn't have to last long. We're easily convinced. A short investment of time and we're thinking She loves me, she wants me, good enough, let's move on.

    Not so with women.

    Foreplay for a woman lasts all day. The stuff that makes her feel wanted and appreciated, begins when her day does. Making breakfast and changing the baby's diaper, emptying the litter box, sharing a meal with her, laughing together, holding her, simply asking what you can do to help, emptying the dishwasher when you'd rather watch TV, keeping every tiny promise (I'll be home at six, for instance), listening, listening, listening - these things are foreplay.

    Let me put this in a way you'll be sure to remember and understand. Imagine you come home and greeting you in the kitchen is your wife wearing (or not wearing) whatever she wears in your most erotic fantasy. And she says something like, "Tonight's you're lucky night, big boy. The kids are sleeping at a friends house. It's just you and me. I want you...now." She attacks you, in a good way, and tells you what a great man you are and...well, whatever else you want to imagine here.

    Ok, back to reality.

    If that actually happened to you, what would you guess she feelt about you? And how would her feeling that way about you make you feel about you? And how would that change how you responded to her?

    Thinking about your wife first all day can have the same kind of effect on a woman. It communicates the same thing to a woman that physical and verbal foreplay communicates to a man - you're loved enough for me to give myself to you. Abandonment of self to her, of your plan for hers, of your time for her, of your attention for her, proves to her how you feel about her. (And when you don't do this it also proves to her how you really feel about her.) And how you feel about her affects to some degree how she feels about herself and you. When she tells herself she's lovable it's easier to believe if you're proving it by loving her all day. And when you say I love you it's easier to believe when you've backed that up all day.

    What's more, foreplay of either kind makes men and women want to give themselves away, want to respond. When we feel valuable, precious, wanted, we naturally unreluctantly give ourselves away intellectually, emotionally, physically etc. We want to be one in every way with the person who has convinced us were loved unconditionally.

    I'm not saying serve your wife so she'll put out. No, no, no! That's not service. That's not a marriage. That's prostitution. What I'm saying is take the way you feel for your wife and express it in a form she needs, wants and understands well. Selflessness can't be faked for long. She knows that. If you love your wife though you can put her first every day. You just have to train yourself to express love differently. She'll believe you when it keeps happening. And a person who believes she's loved is an easier person to love and a more loving person.

    One last thing. Confession time. I spent a few years thinking mostly about how not to mess up. Avoiding mistakes, saying something stupid or getting in the way distracted me from better thoughts about how to put her first. Guy, your job today isn't to stay out of her way and not do something wrong. Your job is to actively love her, to get in the messes and help, to reassure her when she needs it, to listen when she speaks, to be a friend and make her life better than it would be without you in it. If I come home from the road and my wife's life is harder - I'm not doing my job. If she looks forward to my return because the weight will be lighter, then I am doing my job.

    Best of luck. Women are too complex for us to figure out on our own. Any hassle-sparing advice you want to pass on to me, I'd love to hear. This is just the one thing I've got somewhat figured out about some women - my wife in particular. Hope it helps you and yours.

    -Shaun

    11/15/2006

    SCHOOL HOUSE ROCKIN

    I think I was more excited than Gresham and Gabriella when we filed into the Nashville Children's Theatre with a couple hundred other little people this morning. I was about to relive the Saturday mornings of my childhood.

    The Schoolhouse Rock Live show was great - bad sound - but great singing, and I learned what an adverb is all over again, not to mention how a bill becomes a law. If you have kids in your house or just want to walk down amnesia lane for an hour or so, I highly recommend the show. Go here for times.

    For those who can't make it, here's a flashback to the greatest Saturday morning cartoon ever:






    11/14/2006

    HOW MANY?

    Brian tells me we've had about 50 calls or e-mails about booking me for free January through March. And the phone's still ringing. Wow.

    So much of that response is from SHLOG readers who either called or e-mailed Brian or passed on the info to those who did. Thanks for all the help. We should have a full three month tour and hopefully free a lot of kids from poverty.

    Thank you.

    Brian's still taking calls and e-mails trying to get the best (and cheapest) routing of the tour possible. So pass it on to anyone who might be interested in booking me for free (or pretty close.)

    RAISING A LISTENER

    I'm Gabriella's (about to turn six) music teacher one day a week. She's mastered dynamics: She sings a song or plays the piano at forte or pianissimo and a few other other dynamics depending on what flash card I hold up. She's mastered half the notes on the keyboard: She put stickers on all the Cs, and the next week the D's and on and on until now all she lacks is three of the white keys. She's mastered rhythm: She can tap eighth notes while I tap quarters, half notes while I tap quarters etc. She knows the difference between a brass instrument and a woodwind and can listen to music and tell me about half the time three instruments she hears in the recording.

    She loves music and learning about it or I wouldn't bother filling her brain with this kind of pretty useless info. Or she liked learning about it. Until this morning when she was forced to listen to "bad" music.

    I don't believe "good" and "bad" music have absolute definitions. What's good to you might not be to me. We've talked about this here before. Every generation has it's elitists who are certain they know what good and bad "art" is. Truth is what we like or label "art" or "bad" has a great deal to do with where and when we live, what we believe, what we've heard before - all this and more affects how and how well we listen and what we call what we've heard. Thats what I believe anyway. I subtly started brainwashing Gabriella to believe what I believe today.

    My plan was simple. Listen to short samples of music together and talk about how they're different and the same, what we like and don't like and why we think that is. Start with ancient Greece, jump to 15th Century "chant", then on to an elaborate mass by Palestrina, then an organ prelude by Buxtehude, some Native American music, a little Samite of Uganda and finally - her favorite - a censored version of "Ain't No Other" by the American composer Christina Aguilera.

    She thought the Greek music sounded "scary" and "weird". She laughed at the chant. She wanted the mass to be in English and didn't believe me when I swore they were singing "Amen." She dug the organ music because it was "fast" but didn't like that it was always "loud" and never "soft". The Native American music was "noisy" and sounded "like dogs barking." The thumb piano of Samite reminded her of wind chimes and made her want to dance, which is something she finally just got up and did when Christina wailed about her perfect man.

    I tried to explain through all her critiquing and nose wrinkling that when all this music was made it was liked. People went to church and heard chant and masses and cried and smiled. They loved it as much as she loves hip-hop flavored pop music and her brother Gresham (four) likes the Foo-Fighters and Lenny Kravitz today.

    "Music is always changing, " I said. "When you're old like Daddy music won't sound the way it does right now. Somebody thinks every kind of music is good. People in different places and different times make different kinds of music and like different kinds of music. Music always changes."

    "I don't want it too," she whined. "I like Ain't No Other. I loooooove it."

    That's essentially what an elitist is isn't it? Someone in love. Someone who doesn't want their true love to change, someone who swears, who argues vehemently that what they love is what's best, what's "good", what's "art." Someone who can't see past their own place and time and preferences. But I figure "art" is music for the loyal love struck minority who can't find anything lovable or educational or valuable in what others enjoy.

    Music is evolving, always, and all of it has something to say to us and about us. If we listen.

    So I'm trying to raise a listener.



    Choir Of Westminster Abbey & Simon Preston - Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli & Allegri: Miserere
    Click to listen to that mass I mentioned by Palestrina, my favorite.

    WELCOME COOPER TREY

    Congrats Brody and Kristen. And welcome to the cult-de-sac, Cooper.

    11/13/2006

    TWO THINGS

    I have only two things I MUST do today. I must cook for everyone in the legendary cult-de-sac food co-op. Pray for them. And I must listen to the live recording and decide which songs stay and which ones go. Imagine listening to 280 minutes of your voice on the answering machine. Yea, unpleasant.

    Not sure which is worse: Eating my food or listening to my music? Hmmm...

    11/12/2006

    HOME ALONE

    Becky has taken the kids to see her grandparents in Texas. When she first told me about this trip of theirs I confess I got more excited about it than she probably wanted me to be. I couldn't wait to be truly alone for the first time in years. No toys to step on. No whining. No questions. Just me and silence.

    I thought I'd rent some movies Becky would never want to see and eat stuff we never buy, and do things I tell the kids not to do: Leave my wet towel on the floor, leave my clothes wherever I take them off, eat all the Little Debbies I want. I'd be the bachelor I once was, I thought.

    But I haven't done any of those things. No fast food. No Little Debbies. No movies. No towels on the floor. No fun.

    What's happened to me? I used to be good at this alone thing.

    My first child was born just as I signed my record deal. The combination of fatherhood and working as a recording artist forced me to be perpetually engaged with other people...which I almost always like. There is no such thing as alone when you travel around making music, selling yourself to radio stations and book stores and audiences. And when I'm home? Well, only in the bathroom can a father of three be truly alone in his own house. Six years of constant company is a great thing for the most part. It's just that it may have left me incapable of being only with me for more than a few minutes.

    The silence is deafening. The freedom is paralyzing. Not sad. Not scary. Foreign. I don't know how to do this anymore.

    I miss my wife. I miss my kids. I miss noise.

    CAN YOU HANDLE IT?

    I just want to be like you, Brody.

    Only mustachier.


    11/11/2006

    THE POWER OF THE SHLOG

    Brian and I have marveled at the power of the SHLOG over the last two days. We've traveled from OK CIty to Lexington (where we're spending our second day today) answering Brian's cell phone over and over again, talking to promoters who want to book me for free. Every time Brian hits receive on his e-mail - DING - another promoter asking how to book me for free.

    "How'd you here about this free concert offer?" Brian asks.

    "Shaun's blog," is almost always the answer. Or, "A friend of mine pointed me to Shaun's blog."

    January is filling up. February and March still have empty weekends left. But the ball's rolling...quickly. So, thanks for all the inquiries and most of all for passing this offer on to friends who turned out to be interested. Did you forget anyone? Please, pass it on. Because, really, the power isn't the blog. It's all you blog readers spreading what you read here.

    No pressure. I suddenly feel like I need to be very careful about what I write. Yikes.

    And again, thanks.

    11/09/2006

    PECULIAR PATH

    That's Dusty Harris, me and Nathan Smith.

    Look at those guys. Look closely. Do they look special? Not special but special. Do they look like they have something (something non-viral) you and I don't?

    If I had to reduce everything I sing and speak and write about into one bumper sticker type phrase it would be this: We exist to know God and to make Him known. All of us. Not just those of us who tested well in high school or those of us who have read Good to Great and mastered the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. All of us. Even me and you...and those guys.

    Those guys, as normal (relatively speaking) as they appear to be, are doing extraordinary work. They are what I believe come to life. They're twenty. They were mentored by a man I met tonight named Mike. And when they, two non-skateboarders, had the idea to create a program of services, shows and facilities for skateboarding kids and their friends Mike said go for it.

    Tonight, a year later, these disciples who are making disciples, put on a concert to celebrate what'd already been accomplished and to generate support for phase two: the Peculiar Path building, a combo skate park, counseling center, youth hot spot. And I think they'll make it happen.

    I wish every cynic of the Church could travel with me and meet the inspirations I get to meet. The girl who left home to work at an orphanage in Ecuador. The addict who leads a recovery support group now. The guy who's building houses for the poor in Mexico every Summer. The student who leaves sandwiches and blankets on the dumpsters in her town every winter for the homeless to have. The doctor who sees 2% of his patients for no charge and pushes his colleagues to do the same. And Nathan and Dusty, two twenty year-old, slightly off guys who are changing skater kids' lives for the better and rallying their community to help them out.

    This is what I believe come to life. And meeting these guys keeps me believing.

    For more info on their infant ministry check out peculiarpath.org or call them to figure out how you can do something like this in your neighborhood: 580.280.1679 If you'd like to make any kind of donation I'm sure they'd take that too.

    ME FOR FREE

    For the last couple years hundreds of people have sponsored children through Compassion International at my concerts. No manipulation. No pictures of starving children. No pressure. Just more than an hour of music and seven minutes of me telling about my experience sponsoring a child named Yanci.

    It's a highly effective way of matching kids in tremendous need with folks willing to feed, clothe and teach them.

    To make certain our partnership with Compassion continues through those lean scary concert months of January through March, we're making you a deal: Me for free.

    The catch? All you have to do to book me for free is allow me to talk for about seven minutes about Compassion International and let me set up a sponsorship table. That's it.

    To be clear, the concert is free to promoters. I play for free. If you book me you will need to provide a hotel room and meals for the day. That's the deal. No fine print.

    Interested? Contact Brian quickly at 615.566.3232 or by e-mail at thehummingbirdagency@charter.net.

    A national magazine ad campaign launched this week to promote this offer so act fast. Calls are already coming in.

    11/07/2006

    NATIONAL WORSHIP LEADER CONFERENCE

    I'm teaching and critiquing and playing some tunes at National Worship Leader Conference in Austin, Texas July 23-26. Go here for more info and to register.

    Tex-Mex and music. What else do I need? Oh, yea, my wife. She's coming too! Now if we could just get some cool weather this might just be a perfect few days in July.

    See you there.

    EUROPE TRIP PICS 3: LONDON


    St.Paul's Cathedral, the first non Catholic cathedral. "Cathedral" means "seat." A cathedral is technically the seat of a bishop. No cameras allowed inside.





    Westminster Abbey. An abbey is a church associated with a convent or monastery.





    On the face of Westminster Abbey is a row of figures, a tribute to the martyrs of the 20th Century. They are men and women of different races and nationalities and representing many sects within Christianity. All are believed by at least some to have been killed as a result of their devotion to Jesus.





    Martin Luther King, Jr is the only American in the tribute. Was he killed for his faith or because of actions that stemmed from his faith? Is there a difference? Begs the question "What is a martyr?" Martin Luther King Jr died in pursuit of justice and peace, a pursuit he believed God lead him in.





    Oscar Romero lived in El Salvador during a time of great inequality, during a civil war. As the leader of the Catholic Church in El Salvador he was expected to side with the ruling administration but instead ruled against both sides of the conflict, chastising the rich for oppressing the poor and the poor for using violence to gain power. The rich ruling party hated this most and assassinated him during mass.






    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a controversial figure. A pacifist minister in Germany during the rise of Hitler, Bonhoeffer first wrote and preached against violence and war (read Cost of Discipleship) then joined forces with a group trying to assassinate Hitler. Hitler imprisoned him and he was killed in the camps after the war technically had ended, but before Allied forces arrived to free him. There is much speculation about what, if anything, changed in Bonhoeffer's theology to allow him to plot to kill Hitler and some question about whether he was a martyr killed for his faith or a political assassin killed for treason.


    Changing directions drastically....



    Look kids, Big Ben!






    That's a horrible picture of Brian, a fraction of his wife Amy, Ashlee Simpson, Becky, Tina and Joe Simpson (Amy's former youth pastor) and me. Quite a diverse day: from martyrdom to backstage at Chicago the musical. Whiplash.

    GRIEVED

    I haven't posted about the recent headlines regarding a very public Christian leader's now very public mistakes because I'm grieved. I should be. Blessed are those who mourn, who don't make jokes or place blame but simply mourn that sin exists...in us all, and that all sin in any Christian's life is truly tragic because it ultimately damages the God they represent.

    My friend Dwight Edwards said it best in his book Revolution Within when he wrote, "The great tragedy and heinousness of our sin is not primarily the destruction it brings to our lives but the crippling it brings to God's name. Whenever a believer sins - whether it be the godless hedonism of license or the cold hardness of legalism - the worst result is that the glory of God is for that moment obscured; His name is made to limp. When our conduct nullifies our profession of God's greatness, when our lives fail to reflect the presence of resurrection power, we profane God's name."

    My smallest sins deserve outrage of the magnitude the sins of public figures often receive. Measured against the sins we call the worst, mine weigh the same. They result in the same tragedy: the humiliation of God. Any commentary made about anyone else's sin is a commentary on my own. I grieve it like my own. And that's really all I can do about it right now.

    THE NEW ATHEISM AND US

    On the way to California this past weekend I finished reading the latest issue of WIRED - my favorite magazine. (Thanks Randy for recommending it to me years ago.)

    Fascinating. In a geek meets theologian sort of way.

    The issue is titled "The New Atheism: No Heaven. No Hell. Just Science." And it's main story The Church of the Non-Believer is written by a self-desribed spiritually undecided journalist researching the claims of what he calls the "New Atheists." The new atheists he meets could also be called religious extremists. And this shoe swapping makes for an interesting read. The journalist may be entertained by the similarities between the extremists within religion and non-religion too, because he seems to be subtly drawing parallels between them. Or maybe that was accidental. What do you think?

    Richard Dawkins, for instance, whom the article calls the "leading light" of this new atheist movement, wants atheists in places of power. (We call this Constantinianism in the Christian faith) He wants to spread atheism by taking entertainment, congress and even the White House. But he sees atheists as an unloved minority incapable of being accepted in politics, kicked out of public schools (by intelligent design) and not allowed to be spoken about in the town square. (Sound familiar?) "Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists," he says. "Not a single member of either house of Congress admits to being an atheist. It just doesn't add up. Either they're stupid, or they're lying. And have they got a motive for lying? Of course they've got a motive! Everybody knows that an atheist can't get elected."

    Dawkins, while liking to play the minority card, also talks out of the other side of his mouth equally well, claiming that atheists are a larger group than most realize and growing. Look at how many col people are atheists, he seems to be saying. Look how popular we are. "The number of nonreligious people in the US is something nearer to 30 million than 20 million," he says. "That's more than all the Jews in the world put together. I think we're in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people had the courage to come out. I think that's the case with atheists. They are more numerous than anybody realizes."

    The most non-pretentious and everyday brilliant of the bunch seems to be Glen Slade. He, like any extremist, blasts the moderates who take the cause less serious. And he, better than anyone, makes the obvious parallel to the Christian faith, which shares the same sociological problem the new atheists face: the vast moderate of "followers" in any movement are moderates, those who agree with a handful of basic tenants but do not adhere to any doctrines of the movement which would require non-comformity to culture at large. "Moderates give a power base to extremists [he says, not realizing he himself is an extremist in the atheist movement]," Slade says. "A lot of Catholics use condoms, a lot of Catholics are divorced, and a lot don't have a particular opinion about whether you are homosexual. But when the Pope stands up and says, 'This is what Catholics believe,' he still gets credit for speaking for more than a billion people."

    So the pope gets "credit for speaking for millions who in reality don't know or care about the pope's every pronouncement and attend church rarely if ever (Stats back this up, not just for Catholics but for Baptists and other denominations as well) and the new atheists speak publicly on behalf of millions of atheists world wide who, in reality, don't follow the new atheist teachings or agree with their modus operandi.

    What is the new atheists' plan? In a word, conversion.

    "How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?" Dawkins asks. "It's one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?"

    What's the solution? The new atheists, a tiny minority, are trying their darndest to ween you and I from the opiate of the masses. They're holding meet-ups and establishing what look to be churches, gatherings of atheists preaching the virtues of atheism, encouraging one another to stay the course, claiming familyhood with atheist celebrities like Keanu Reeves and then going out to preach the "good news" to their families and friends.

    The movement even has it's eschatologists akin to our Tim Lahaye or Hal Lindsey, those who preach that not stopping the opposing forces to their ideology will undo the entire human race, probably with a great war. Sam Harris, not the Star Search winner from two decades past, released a book two years ago called The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. It sold well. Very well. In his latest book, Letter To A Christian Nation, he writes to Christians saying, "Nonbelievers like myself stand beside you, dumbstruck by the Muslim hordes who chant death to whole nations of the living. But we stand dumbstruck by you as well – by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God."

    Now, I'm not writing this post defensively. In fact, I was reluctant to write it at all because of the knee-jerk reactions from Christians I just knew would appear instantaneously in the comments. You know the ones. The slightly more adult versions of "I know you are but what am I?" With a "God Bless" thrown in at the end of course.

    No, I'm writing this because I'm agry. I'm not. No, I think hearing the words of any religious movement, even the non-religious movement that doesn't realize it is a religious movement, gives us the opportunity to experience what it's like on the outside of a collection of devoted religious converts. We can hear their sermons and read their plans and experience, maybe for the first time, what it's like being them when we discuss our faith and when they discover our plans..even if that faith and those plans actually only belong to the minority at the fringes.

    I have no real point other than that. I'm not anti-fringe. In fact, I think I'm on one, just a different one within Christianity that doesn't get much press. If anything I empathize with the new atheists, disagreeing totally with their core beliefs, but understanding their frustration with those in their flock who gravitate towards culture at large in an effort to be accepted and appear humble. The moderates that frustrate, whether Christian or atheist, speak the same language. The language of democracy. "I think I'm right but who knows? I might be wrong? What do you think? Am I right?"

    It's the language of this WIRED article's last paragraph. If we reject [the New Atheists'] polemics, if we continue to have respectful conversations even about things we find ridiculous, this doesn't necessarily mean we've lost our convictions or our sanity. It simply reflects our deepest, democratic values. Or, you might say, our bedrock faith: the faith that no matter how confident we are in our beliefs, there's always a chance we could turn out to be wrong.

    Of course respectful conversation is a great thing. But, as extreme as this may sound, there are things which we should believe we are not wrong about. And to say we know these things is admirable no matter how non-democratic doing so is these days.

    Of course a respectful conversation to some is one that contains no absolutes - unless they are scientific laws - and always ends with "but that's just my opinion, what do you think?" To have that kind of conversation about, say, my belief that there is a God, would be like having a conversation about the time of day that goes something like "...it might be daytime but I'm not sure, so let's keep discussing it or, hey, better yet, let's just do away with the concepts of night and day and live instead in perpetual twilight. I'm happy. Are you happy? Are you happy with me?"

    Moderation that brews up this new kind of "respectful conversation" is our common enemy Mr. Dawkins. To most folks our disdain of it makes you and I the same. We're religious. We're narrow minded pricks who disrupt the peace with our side-making absolutes. Welcome to religion, Mr Dawkins.

    11/06/2006

    LEAVES, SLUSHIES AND A FUTURE ROCK STAR

    It's Monday and Mondays are kid days. Remember the whole cult-de-sac food co-op thing? Yea, Becky cooks on Monday afternoons and I take the kids of her hands in some way.

    Today, as promised, we made a bog pile of leaves outside this morning and jumped in them. Twice. Then the spider showed up. Party over.

    So we moved the party to the car. We played Gresham's mix CD, a disc I made for him full of his favorite songs. We played it loudly. Very loudly. Windows open. Me and my three kid posse dancing beyond our race's supposed potential. Maxima bouncing to the beats.

    Then it was mac and cheese and yogurt and hot dogs for lunch. (I'm no chef. Back off.) Then the littlest person took a nap while the two oldest went to the mall with me. They brought their stash of cash saved up from birthday cards and couch cushions. We bought slushies and road a carousel and a few overpriced slowly bobbing trucks and cars and helicopters. We watched the ferrets fight in the pet store window and made up names for the puppies. Then we rode the escalator for fun at least a dozen times.

    And walked hand in hand back to the parking lot.

    It began sprinkling just as the van door closed. The spent little people nodded off in the back seat on the long drive home.

    The cousins - all four of them - came over tonight for dinner so Brian and Amy (Becky's sister and her husband) could go on a date. Tomorrow's our turn.

    As bed time neared, Becky stayed at our house to get our three bathed and read to and prayed with and laid down and I took Brian's four to his house for the same. But Brian's kids didn't stink to me and, well, I'm the uncle so I can do what I want. So only the two who wanted to took a bath. The oldest read books in her room and poured her savings out on her bed so she could "figure out if I gave ten cents to the offering every week, how many weeks would it last?" (She makes us all look very unspiritual.) And the seven year-old, Phillip, and I wrote songs on the piano.

    A few years ago, when he was probably five, Phillip came to one of my concerts. A few songs into it he ran to his parents and shouted, "I know what I want to do when I grow up!! I want to do that!" I'm doing my best then to train him up in the soft rock star way he should go. And he's well on his way: Long hair. A guitar. His own band. (Actually, he's on his third. Artistic differences.) Writes poetry. Sings. And tonight he learned how to make chords on the piano. We dueted while the spiritual child counted and the youngest pair bathed.

    It's still raining outside. Sure to make sleeping easy. Not that I need the help. I'm tired in the best way. And this, my friend, is a perfect day.

    LIVE FULLY

    I reluctantly watched Kyle's film last night on the long plane ride home from California. The film makers sent it to me a couple weeks ago and I've been scared to watch it - scared to grieve all over again.

    I was surprised and pleased though at how not melodramatic and not sad it was - to be either of those things would not reflect who Kyle truly was. Instead, the film is two short films in one: The first using the words from Kyle's final unpreached sermon and images to inspire viewers to live fully. The second compiles video and snapshots of Kyle's life, provided by his family, chronicling his years from his own birth to the births of his three children, again inspiring viewers to live fully.

    So I'm about to walk into my kitchen and pour bowls of cereal. Then I'll get my kids dressed for the day and then we'll build a fort out of couch cushions and blankets or jump in a pile of leaves or swing at the park or paint and color together. And hopefully get a few squeezes and kisses and conversations with Becky along the way. I've worked all weekend. Today's my day off and I'm living it fully.

    What does that mean for you today?

    11/04/2006

    BECAUSE I WASN'T JACKED UP ENOUGH ALREADY

    I flew to California this morning because my body wasn't jacked up enough already. I'm still waking every morning between four and five and forcing myself back to sleep - my body thinking it's ten or eleven and about to sleep through lunch. Now I've added a couple hours to the disparity just to see what happens..and because I have no choice. I have a gig out here.

    A great gig.

    I'm playing for a convention put on by Youth Specialties, a gathering of hundreds of youth ministers and workers. I played the National Pastor's/Emergent Conference they put on a few years ago and unexpectedly got a lot of work from it. These things are showcases of sorts I guess, a chance for folks to hear musicians and speakers they haven't before...hear twenty minutes of a musician anyway. I get twenty minutes!

    That's a challenge.

    I think it's lunch time. Or is it breakfast? All I know is I'm hungry. I'll write more later...probably in the wee hours of the morning.

    11/03/2006

    NEW SHAUNGROVES.COM

    A quick update on the new shaungroves.com/shlog.com site. It's my fault; I left the country as we neared the aimed for launch date of the new site. We're close but not there yet. I have a few more files to finish up and get over to Kat, who'll then load them in and begin testing everything out to make sure it works as it should.

    In the meantime you can help me create more content for the new site. If you have any...

  • Pictures or videos from shows or at all related to me or my music we'll post them. Just e-mail them to me at shaunfanmail@bellsouth.net. If you're a pro photographer let me know your url and name and I'll put that info on the pics.

  • Questions pertaining to me, music or books or writing or ninjas or anything else you'd like answered, that'll give me something extra to write about for the new site.

  • Audio files from any live shows, interviews etc are welcome too.

    Send everything you've got to shaunfanmail@bellsouth.net.

    Thanks for your patience. The new shaungroves.com is coming soon.

  • WHY? THAT IS THE QUESTION






    EUROPE PICS 2: SCOTLAND

    Some more pics from the European tour/vacation. After playing two shows in Ireland, we left our cushy promoter provided hotel rooms, took a ferry to Scotland and moved into a two bunk bed room at a hostel. It was dorm-like living, four adults, one shower, no frills living. So we spent little time in our rooms and much time seeing the city of Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough).



    The Globetrotter Inn - a hostel actually - we shared with dozens of bearded college students on vacation. A pretty nice place, just without the amenities of a hotel. It's a bed, a shower and two pieces of toast, jelly and cereal for breakfast...for very very cheap. And right on the coast.





    My picture of the Edinburgh Castle from far away didn't turn out so well so I scooped this one from the internet. You get the idea though. It's a big ole castle on a hill overlooking the city.





    From one of the many layers of the castle. I can't imagine being a foot soldier with only a sword, storming gigantic wall after wall during the Lang Siege. The Lang Siege is a year long attack on the castle that was the result of a religious argument. Queen Mary of Scotland was Catholic but married a protestant James Hepburn in 1567. Much of the Protestant nobles rebelled against her. She ran away to England/was taken as a prisoner to England. Her son, the infant James, become the new King of Scotland - King James VI. A few nobles remained loyal to Queen Mary and they held the castle until 1572 when King James (actually his regent) asked Queen Elizabeth of England for back up (she's Mary's cousin and a Protestant). Mary's cousin the Queen sent England's heavy guns to the castle and the already year-long siege ended ten days later in 1573. Mary was ultimately convicted of treason, , a charge brought by Elizabeth, and was beheaded in England in 1587. She's now buried with her rival cousin in Westminster Abbey.





    The view of Edinburgh from the castle.





    A chapel inside the castle decorated with images of nobles like WIlliam Wallace and Robert the Bruce.





    The castle was used in part as a prison in the 1700s. Inmates from many countries and from Scotland were housed there and given a ration of food and clothing. But the Americans got less than any of them. They were considered pirates, people with citizenship in a nation not recognized as legitimate at the time. Doors from the prison have been preserved, complete with graffiti carved by inmates. This is an American flag left behind by a "pirate."




    Again, my pictures aren't so hot. Pics of London are next.

    11/02/2006

    CALLING ALL SEMINARIANS AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO KNOW LOTS OF STUFF ABOUT GOD AND STUFF

    I know there are quite a few seminarians lurking around this blog and I need your help - and the help of anyone else who's interested (aka bored and ridiculously smart).

    I'm needing to learn up on "Liberation Theology" - I've been accused of being an espouser of it and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, if it's true or false. I've read what I can on-line about it and it's not clear what this is. (Newsflash! Wikipedia is useless often inaccurate drivel!) I mean, are you a liberation theology guy if you think the Church has a role to play in ending poverty, sickness, injustice etc? Is that all? Or do you have to see this as the ONLY or the MOST important aspect of Jesus message and Christian living?

    I'm not one to care what my label is so that's not the issue. I'm not feeling a huge need to figure out what I am. (I'm a song writer/blogger with four chords, a hot wife, a svelt figure and good hair and that's enough for me thanks.) I just realized when the accusation came - and I think it was an accusation and not a compliment - that I'm clueless about what this term means.

    So, anyone care to clear the muddy waters for me? Or point me to a book or source that can? Anyone? Bueller?

    Thanks.

    WRITING INSIDE THE LINES

    I've written and rewritten large chunks of my book five times now. I'm doing it again.

    My fear of failure and inability to finish anything that I know won't be perfect are mostly to blame - along with poor time management skills, a lack of discipline and a dozen or so more character flaws that I'll keep between me and the other folks in my head.

    But then there's this too...

    Seth Godin writes about my predicament today in a piece called Coloring Inside The Lines:

    People who want to do a good job are more likely to follow instructions that they know they can successfully accomplish, while they'll often ignore the 'softer' tasks if they can.

    If you’re marketing a product or an idea to a group of people and you juxtapose two ideas--one obvious and simple while the other is challenging and subtle, you can bet the mass of people will grab the first one (if they don’t ignore you altogether).

    Example: it’s easy to get people to wake up early on the day after Thanksgiving if you offer them a TV at a discount, the way Wal-Mart does every year. It’s a lot trickier to challenge consumers to figure out which one of the eighteen refrigerators you offer is likely to offer the best price/performance ratio.

    The first task requires nothing much but effort and that effort is likely to be rewarded. The second task takes judgment, and the opportunity for failure is much higher...

    ...People want to feel successful, but they’re often unwilling to invest the time in doing something that might not pay off. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it works.


    I've read dozens of books on the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and I've been unable to pair it all down to "eight steps to a better life" or "your best life now." There are books calling the beatitudes a ladder to success but they're written by therapists and ignore large amounts of writing on the subject dating back more than a thousand years.

    Truth is the beatitudes aren't linear. Well, they are and they aren't. You start at the first blessing sure and move to the next but you keep a leg on the first as you progress to the second, and on the first two as you progress to the third and on and on and in the end you're a big eight-legged freak walking up and down and all around the ladder of the eight blessings (beatitudes).

    It's just not simple. It's not this step then that then that...

    There's no tangible right now kind of pay off I can promise readers either. Except persecution and an invisible kingdom in your heart and maybe, hopefully, someday here on earth. Live the beatitudes to some degree and you'll imitate Christ to some degree - I can say. That's all.

    And there's no litmus test, no true false quiz to help us determine if we are or aren't living the beatitudes either. It's more mysterious than that, a bit more like reading reams of the Consumer Reports to compare the functions and durability of refrigerators than going to WalMart and getting the cheap TV clearly marked for us with "SALE."

    No wonder I'm tempted to reduce our mysterious and complex faith to God saving me from a future hell for a future heaven. No weirdo kingdom talk. No disciple business. No denying self. No difficult mercy showing and peace making and ambiguous purity of heart nonsense. No paradox: God is loving Father and God is demanding Master. Keep it simple - I want to say. But I can't. I know simple isn't the whole truth.

    How do you write/communicate in any way the mysterious, hard to swallow, sometimes confusing, delayed gratification and truth of God to a species that loves the path of least resistance, that wants to act now with as little thought as possible, that's drawn to the easy money, the quick fix the linear spelled out programmed four step approach to happiness? How do you do that when you're the same way? How?

    EUROPE PICS 1: IRELAND

    Between us we took three cameras and mine is the worst of the bunch. Even so you can still get a feeling for just how beautiful Ireland is.


    And old church from the 1700s. This sort of stuff is just strewn around Ireland, nothing written about it, no historical markers. "1700s? That's not old!" It is in America.



    More from the old church.



    Beck and me (I'm the tall one) near the Giant's Causeway.



    Becky and Amy being loud Americans at the ferry station waiting to go to Scotland. Or, this is two overworked moms relaxing before their cruise to Scotland.



    The Giant's Causeway. A giant, legend has it, named Finn McCool fell in love with a lady in Scotland and build this causeway to reach her. There's a rock off the coast of Scotland he's said to have thrown at an enemy over there.

    Pics from Scotland and London coming up.

    REVIEW: WHAT ABOUT HITLER?

    On the very long flight to Europe I finished reading WHAT ABOUT HITLER?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World.

    Here's a little about it.

    Now, I usually read books twice: Once to get the basic gist of it and the second time with a pen in hand underlining, writing questions in the margins, writing disagreements in between lines, circling things I'd like to learn more about. I've only read this book once so far, just enough to know what I like and don't like about it in very general terms.

    WHAT I LIKE:
    My favorite section is on our tendency as nations to "Hitlerize" our enemies. No one in their right mind, it's presumed, would argue against fighting Hitler, the personification of evil if there ever was one. So many nations since WWII have cast their enemies in his image. The author cites numerous examples. The US has done this to BinLaden and Hussein. And they've done it to us. Yea, they make the same claim - that the US is just like WWII era Germany.

    The author includes a letter written by Osama in which he makes his case. And, it's a good sounding case. The author also cites US writings making the case that Osama is a Hitler. And it's a good sounding case as well. The point? If Hitler - or a Hitler-like enemy - is the only enemy we're justified to kill then watch out, because any enemy can be spun to resemble Hitler in some way. No one's safe. In a sense the US, then, is reaping what it has sown in that our enemy is now doing to us (casting us as a Hitler justifiably destroyed by any means necessary) what we have done to so many enemies since WWII.

    DeVitoria was right. It's possible for both sides of an armed conflict to be "just" using the same criteria but having two different perspectives.

    I also like that this book is written differently than any other I've read before. The form is different. The author, Robert W. Brimlow, writes a "meditation" before every chapter. Each meditation begins with a passage of scripture and is then followed by a ruthlessly honest conversation with God about it. It's as if the pastor's turned his microphone on too early, when he's still at home having breakfast with his wife, pouring out all his doubts and confusions to her before donning his Sunday best and stepping into the pulpit to deliver a much more confident and questionless sermon.

    "You see, Lord," he writes in the first meditation," you have me very annoyed here. First you tell me I shouldn't pursue the power of the world but should serve you. Then, when serving you puts me out on a limb with nowhere to go, you tell me I shouldn't put you to the test. You are driving me crazy with this. I didn't want to be stuck there in the first place, and you expect to take your sweet time doing whatever else you have to do while I wait, afraid out of my wits, and eventually fall off. My faith is not that string that I can take this easily."

    Then these mediations are followed by full fledged chapters that are much more academic and thought out, but still very accessible. Each begins with a "prologue" which is a short story that stands alone but makes more sense when the entire chapter is read.

    The chapters didn't tell me anything I hadn't heard before, but put the information in new and better ways most of the time. One exception though was chapter one, which argues against Augustine's theology, which greatly influenced his contributions to the philosophy called Just War. I hadn't seen this dissected so well before and I learned a lot from it. Basically, Augustine's Just War theory is based on his very Catholic theology regarding what good and evil is, and it is not theology I agree with. This helped me understand some more of what I don't agree with in Just War theology. I couldn't pinpoint it before.

    WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
    The author says there are alternatives to war but fails to detail all that many. He discusses prayer. He discusses forgiveness. But what about mercy and peace making in the biblical sense? What about the importance of the worldwide church being attached to itself and mobilized to aid itself? He hints at these solutions and preventative measures but fails to detail an ideal worth striving for.

    He does a poor job answering the question "If we're not to kill Hitler, what are we to do about him?"

    He alludes to, and I'm looking into it more on my own, the rise of Hitler being made possible by the German Church, for instance. Lutherans, mostly but not exclusively, supported Hitler in the beginning because he was a great leader doing great things for the nation. It's Reagan's "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" They answered, "Yes." With Hitler in power all citizens, including Christian Germans, got better schools, the first highway system in the world, a tax break, etc. Then he promised he could do even more for them if it wasn't for the pesky immigrants taking up all the jobs and putting such a burden on the economy and the government and the infrastructure and...you get the idea. (This is already more detail than the book gives actually and I was hoping for more information than this.)

    The Church supported Hitler. Maybe some of their motivation was fear. Maybe it was greed. Maybe it was pride. We don't know for sure. But the Church was so large that had it decided - every member of every church - that it would not support Hitler, would not fight for Hitler, would not rat out government enemies, would shop at Jewish stores, would flee the country if he remained in office - well, Hitler would have had a tiny population left to lead, a miniscule army with which to fight. Europe would have been safe. Of course many many Christians would have left the life they'd always known and struggled to find a new nation willing to accept them as citizens...unless the Church in the nations surrounding Germany demanded their brothers and sisters be welcomed etc.

    Again, the author only alludes to this reality - the power of the Church. And this is too bad. Because this is the best answer in my opinion - the center of every answer I think. What about Hitler? Non-violently prevent him from coming to power in the first place. If he's in power, refuse to follow when he leads away from God's law, no matter what goodies he offers. If he fights, refuse to fight with him. Love his enemies. Shelter them in your home. Give your life to save theirs. If the worst happens, if it seems he can't be stopped, flee. He'll have no one to lead, no one to use in battle. Hitler existed because the Church did not. The church became obsessed with material gain, self-preservation, and conformity. It became Hitler's voice and eyes and hands, not Jesus'.

    The biggest problem with Hitler then, I think, is the question we ask regarding him. If the question we ask is "What SHOULD we have done to stop Hitler from killing the jews?" then we've started asking too late. And that's our problem - the real problem. We had our heads up our proverbial backsides and only started asking questions about his madman AFTER we put him in office, and fought in his army, and escorted Jews into the gas chambers for him. And I wonder how much of that is human nature: We tend, I tend, to ask questions when the threat is big enough, when there are imminent consequences to not asking them. I wonder how the church and parents and friends can help us all be more discerning and careful (not fearful) and critical (not mean) and allegiant to Christ ALL THE TIME so another mad man doesn't dupe us into being his goons. That's a book I'd like to read. How to prevent Hitler.

    This book is a good primer on Christian non-violence, offers loads of food for thought, but fails miserably at detailing any real alternative to violence.