Sunday, January 31, 2010


Perhaps you can sing with me.

My friend, Mickie Davis, just passed away. The funeral is tomorrow (Monday). Mickie was one of the most kind people I’ve ever met. She reminded me of my grandmother. Mickie was always kind. She always had a smile on her face. I never heard her say an unkind word.

She will be missed. She died from Alzheimer’s Disease. She was 88 years old.

I learned at a very young age that this was a part of life.

I was doing some work on the internet the other day and came across an obituary in memory of my sister Sharon. The classmates from her high school put it up. Sharon died in 1969. Her friend Don was driving the car they were in and he died too. I was 5 years old.

In the picture she has a haircut sort of like you’d see in that Hairspray musical. It must be her graduation picture. I remember seeing this picture around the house growing up. More than ever I realize that she was just a kid, barely out of high school.

I remember the funeral like it was yesterday. They did funerals in churches back then. If I remember it right, she was in a funeral home for a day or two and then they took her body to the church for the service before driving to the cemetery. We were in the church, sitting on the front row. The sound of crying, wailing, all around. Our pastor, Pastor Nance, did the service, but I have no idea what he said. What do you say to the parents of a nineteen year old girl who dies from exhaust fumes leaking up into the car? How could any of it make sense to a five year old?

There’s something that scared me that day that I didn’t tell anyone about for a long time.

While the service was going on, just before they had us stand and go look at the body, I heard a strange noise. Sounded sort of like a grunting noise. I heard this noise and my little five year old brain instantly told me that my sister was waking up. I was sure, for a moment, that when I walked up to the casket, she would open her eyes and yawn and say something like, “ What’s going on?” At that point everyone would laugh and say, “Wow. We thought she was dead! What’s the matter with us?” But when I looked into the casket, she didn’t move and I realized the noise must have come from outside the church. Could have been anything.

I remember being nervous about them putting her in the ground. What if she were to wake up and not be able to get out? What if I wanted to talk to her about something?

All that week, people coming over, bringing food. There was so. much. food. Adults talked in their strange language. Southern accents floating in the air. People cried. People laughed. Sometimes all at the same time. Conversations were hushed. Some of it I could make out, other things were too quiet to hear or too cryptic to understand.

This thing that happened, it broke my mom. For a long time she was broken by this. There were a lot of things she couldn’t do without getting angry. She couldn’t go on vacation without getting angry. Holidays were hard too. I didn’t understand it at the time. I didn’t make the connection, but I understand now. We have to move on but we don’t have to like it.

Years later some women at our church were having a dinner. They were trying to find a speaker and I suggested my mom. I told them to have her talk about her life. She’s done a lot. She’s seen a lot. She’s been through a lot and still loves God in Christ. It really is inspiring.

She agreed to speak. I wasn’t there, but I heard she talked about a lot of things, including the death of her daughter. She met a woman there who had lost a son a few years before that. Mom was able to comfort in a way no one else could. They talked. They tapped into the reality that they weren’t alone in their brokeness.

It seems to me that my mom is different since that day. I’m not sure she would agree, but it seems to me she’s more relaxed, more at peace in life. She doesn’t seem broken anymore. Just wise.

Pictures of my sister are kind of haunting for me, but not in a negative way. They just bring up images, vague memories.

I remember her coming over to our house. She had moved into an apartment or something. She brought cookies with her. I remember her walking in the front door. I remember her smiling at me, opening the cookies and handing me one.

She thought to do that.

If you want to see that picture of my sister, you can find it here...

1 Corinthians 15:37-44

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Problem


I have this problem.

When I go to museums I always, and let me stress the word – ALWAYS – get into trouble. Last summer I went with my buddy Joe to the Detroit Institute of Arts. On the way in I warned him that I ALWAYS get in trouble when I go to a museum. I ALWAYS get yelled at no matter how hard I try not to.

I confess. I have this compulsion to touch the paintings. I know it’s baaaaad. I know they’re worth millions of dollars. I know I shouldn’t do it. I don’t mean to do it. I don’t try to do it. But in my heart I want to do it and as hard as I try not to, I discover that I’m doing it again when the guards yell at me to get away from the paintings. It happens every time. It happened with van Gogh. It happened with Dali and Picasso. And it happened again last summer. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

We went into the DIA. They had a display of paintings by Norman Rockwell. A very humble and kind man who was an astounding painter. If you ever get the chance to see his paintings up close and personal be sure to do it. The colors are amazing. The expression and realism are incredible. He’s a modern magical realist of the painting world.

Are those enough superlatives for you?

The thing is that paintings are tactile things. They are a product of touch. A brush is just an extension of the hand. And when you see a painting up close you see how it was so carefully touched. You can see the brush strokes and the movement used to make shape and shadow. Light and the lack of it imitated on a flat surface. On some of the paintings by Rockwell, you could almost feel his hand moving across the canvas. There were also tiny little lines where a brush wouldn’t work so he took a pencil or a pen and used that instead. Sometimes you could vaguely see the shape of his original sketch behind the paint on the canvas.

From a distance you can’t see any of that. So you want to move in. You want to touch the canvas like Rockwell did when he painted it. Well, maybe you don’t want to, but...

It’s like looking at the paintings of the impressionists. The paintings seem to be a splash of odd shaped pixels across the canvas to make an image. The farther you stand from the painting the more “concrete” the image becomes. But if you really want to enjoy the painting, you also need to see it up close and get a feel for how the image was formed, piece by piece. You have to get your eyes right on the canvas. Your hand just wants to . . . touch it.

Which is when the security guards start yelling at you. Trust me, I know. And it seems almost criminal to me that we would have an art form that is so tactile, but you can’t touch it! It’s like torture! Oh, the humanity! The colors cry out to my phalanges!

You can pray for me on this. I thank you in advance.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Complicated


I had a rare professor once at Eastern Michigan University who expressed amazement about creation. I don't know if it was on purpose or not, but he was talking about the structure of the human ear. He was taking us through the stunning, mind numbing complexity of it – the obvious “design” – when he stopped and said something like, “Anyone who says this happened by accident has no idea what they’re talking about.”

And it’s not just the inner ear. To me the human eye is another perhaps even greater example of this. And “color” is what really fascinates me.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by color. I’ve read about it over and over again, but it still leaves me in awe. The way I understand it is that color (the way light works) has been designed for the eye and the eye has been designed for color. They work together in a completely non accidental way.

Different colors are different “lengths” of light. Long “lengths” are red. Short “lengths” are blue. Green is in between. It’s how the surface of a thing reflects the light that determines the color. Depending on what it’s made of, the object will absorb some wavelengths of light, but it will reflect other wavelengths. If it reflects long light, it’s reddish. If it reflects short, it’s blueish. I’m not sure how orangeish comes about, but I imagine no color rhymes with orange.

But then our eyes have to pick it up. Our eyes are the “receiver” of these light lengths. And the human eye is MASSIVELY complex. We have rod and cone shaped receivers in each eye ball. They take the light that goes into the eye and translate the light into what our brains perceive as color. And please understand, that’s what they’re there for. Rods and cones exist to receive light and send it to the brain to be perceived as color.

You can learn more about the human eye at the link below. If you do, realize that this is a simple breakdown. Entire books could be written about any one design piece of the eye. Probably have been.

I’m thinking the prof was right. “Anyone who says this happened by accident has no idea what they’re talking about.”

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Godzilla vs The Hulk


In the monster noir wanted-to-be-but-couldn't-be-a classic film Godzilla 2000, one of the characters said something like, "There's a little bit of Godzilla in all of us." We laughed so hard at that.

Personally, I believe there's a little bit of the Incredible Hulk in all of us.

Here's a Bill Bixbyish verse from the Bible...

James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Here's a Lou Ferrignoish verse from the Bible...

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do.

Can I get an amen bruthas and sistahs?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reified Beans


I’ve been reading this book on economics called Wealth and Poverty by a guy named George Gilder. This is not my usual turf, but I was drawn into it by a bunch of different things it would take too long to explain. It’s a good book. Talks about distinctions between “supply” oriented and “demand” oriented economics and the philosophical ideas behind both. Yawn. But this book turns out to be pretty good because this guy is a good writer. He appreciates the taste of words.

What I’ve found especially interesting so far is this one section where the author goes over what he calls “fallacious modes of reasoning.” Even if you have no idea what he’s talking about, you’ve got to like that combination of words, don’t you think? Sounds like a song title from an east coast indie band.

So. One of those “fallacious modes of reasoning” he talks about is the act of “misplaced concreteness” or “reification.” I didn’t remember hearing that word before. It’s where you treat something abstract as if it was a real thing instead of an idea, and the worst example of this kind of thing is when we create a label for something we observe and then use the label as if it’s the cause of the thing. A common way of explaining this is with the idea of gravity.

1. We notice that when we let go of a pencil it falls to the ground.
2. We call the “pull” that takes the pencil to the ground “gravity.” “Gravity” is the label.
3. Someone says, “why does the pencil fall to the ground?”
4. We respond by saying “gravity.”
5. No real knowledge or understanding has taken place. Nothing has been explained. A label has been falsely used to “explain” something. The label of “gravity” has been reified.

Here’s the truth. No one really knows what pulls the pencil down. We can only explain the conditions under which it may fall.

I heard a theologian at a conference once say, “You say it’s gravity. I say it’s God.”

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Wisdom of Elvis



I’m proud to say that my kindergarten daughter is an Elvis fan. She loves Elvis movies, which we watch together, she listens to Elvis music, and she also has an Elvis calender with a different Elvis picture for every day of the year. The fact that she likes Elvis so much shows me I’m doing at least something right as a parent. If I can get my kids to like Drive-In movies from the 50's it’ll be a home run. But there is a fun thing in the Elvis calender. On certain pages it says Thoughts by Elvis, and it has a quote of some kind. And some of the quotes are pretty interesting.

Here’s a thought from Elvis that I especially like...

“Singers come and go, but if you're a good actor, you can last a long time”

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Taste of Music


I’m on the verge of a new band to listen to. Not that they’re a new band, just new to me. Happened across the name on a Blog by a singer I like. The name seemed familiar to me. I think a friend mentioned the band a little while back and I forgot about it. The band is called “Carbon Leaf.” At this point I’m only at the “interested” stage, but I like finding new music to listen to. It’s getting harder and harder to do as the years go by. You just get cynical and bored.

So I start to check out their music. They have a Facebook page and a website. They’ve been around a long time, indie, but were signed in the last few years. I like the tone of what I’ve heard so far, but it feels a little flat. But sometimes you have to hear a band for a while to get it to feel more alive. Like I imagine learning a new language might be. At first it’s just words, then you start to get the associations, and finally the thoughts behind. Discovering good music is like that.

Sometimes, and I think this is true for most people, there are songs or sounds that just hit them and it appeals to them. This is how you account for a lot of what is popular music. It’s sweet and simple enough to grab people’s taste right up front. Like people want life to be. It’s a kind of "folk" music in a strange way, but not necessarily the kind that lasts. And that’s fine. The slickest pop bands and the simplest songs have a lot to be said for them, even though they can overdose you on sweet very fast. I’m living in a house where the kids listen to Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, so trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Some of the greatest pop songs have been passionately simple and yet well produced in their day. This is true of the Sun Studio recordings that Elvis did. Sam Phillips didn’t produce it like a Nat King Cole record – he couldn’t if he wanted to because he didn’t have the gear – but he produced in a way that caught the energy of a performance, and that IS good production. I think the same thing can be said of Rick Ruben and his production of Johnny Cash’s final season of recordings. The music wasn’t slick, it was simple and spare, swimming in a sea of slick all over the radio. It was raw and real and in my opinion some of the best music ever made. But slick isn’t all bad. Coldplay is slick. They also happen to be great. Classical chord changes. Compelling imagery. Simple sub beats and rhythms with complex chord progressions. Still, very slick pop music. And their sound is so associated with how they’re produced that making changes to the sound is hard for them to do. This has been true of U2, but they pulled it off to some extent.

If you haven’t become pointlessly angry about commercialized pop and how it’s “over produced,” then you just hear it and occasionally appreciate the basic melodic simplicity and clarity of production that catches people’s ears. The words are usually the hardest thing to bear, but so what? If you see him, ask John Lennon what’s so deep about wanting to hold someone’s hand. In most fluff pop songs, the vocals are just another instrument, but it can fit well with the structure – not to mention that it has a good beat and you can dance to it. With a good hook that catches people’s fancy, you can have half the country singing your dumb song with almost no idea of what it’s about and they don’t care because it doesn’t really matter anyway. Most people don’t demand to know the ingredients in their soda pop, they just like it or they don’t. These songs are the same way. And there’s a lot of talent in it, no matter what anyone tells you. Fluency and polish in music takes talent and experience, and some of the producers of the slick pop stuff are extremely knowledgeable and experienced. It’s nothing new. Consider Vanilla Ice or Milli Vanilli or go way back to that really old song about how much some doggie in a window was going to cost. Ewwww. But that stuff was craftily produced and it connected with people who don’t think of music as the core of their life. It’s something in the background while they do something else. It helps pass the time. It lightens the mood. In the moment, people were having fun with it. It wasn’t life changing or defining. It wasn’t meant to be. It had about as much lasting value as a piece of candy, but hey, sometimes you really just crave a piece of candy.

Still, some of the best bands and musicians and styles of music take a little more work. Some take a lot of work. Most people aren’t willing to do it, and that’s okay, but they are missing out I think. Things like jazz and more complex pop and rock and even most classical music, it’s not so sweet to the taste up front, so you have to keep chewing on it for a while and develop a taste for what they’re doing. Gain some understanding. Sometimes you actually have to stop and meditate on the words to get a feel for what’s being said, or at least how you interpret it. If it’s a foreign artist and you don’t know the language, you have to interpret the vocals as an instrument apart from the meaning of the words. Sometimes you have to live with it for quite a while before you start to get your bearings. But when you do, it can be like a whole new world opens up before you to explore and enjoy.

Carbon Leaf. We’ll see.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Daddy Daughter



I have a Daddy Daughter Dance tonight that my oldest daughter can’t go to because she’s too old, even though she’s only eleven. It’s a school thing. She’s not in elementary anymore. Of course, she’s not happy about it, but I tried to make up for it by taking her out last night. We had a great time. Went to see a movie at the dollar show. It’s a dollar fifty now, but we still call it the “dollar show.”

I remember the first of these dances we went to. It was just me and my little Kindergarten daughter who looked absolutely glamorous. She was very elegant. Classy. A kindergarten Audrey Hepburn.

Thing is, she’s more beautiful and elegant now than she’s ever been.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010




Pray for the people of Haiti, then do what you can to help. In case you don’t know, Haiti is about halfway between Florida and South America in the Caribbean, just south-east of Cuba. You can help out financially in the name of Christ here...

You can see a map of Haiti here...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010



So. This morning I take the time to go to Facebook. Things have piled up because I rarely go to the site. I get a dose of what’s going on with people and I’m not sure what to do with it all. It’s fun to see what people are up to but, man, it’s a lot of information.

Sometimes I feel a little bad (very little) about not keeping up with Facebook. Sort of like the neighbor who doesn’t show up for the neighborhood cookouts. Do people think you’re a snob? Do they think you don’t care? But it’s none of that.

Like an old radio where you tuned in a station with a dial to get it clear, working it to get the static out of the signal, I’m trying to get focused and stay there. I can’t forget that I’ve got people who need me. People I love are in the hospital fighting cancer and other illness. I’ve got friends trying to keep relationships together and find healing in hard times. I’ve got a wife who needs more of me than she’s getting and kids who circle me like satellites with constant questions and wonderments. I’ve got a Bible to read and music to make.

That’s the frequency, Kenneth.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Everything Stops



So, right around 10 pm, one of my kids is sick and everything stops. From 10pm to 5 am it’s all about the kid. Nothing exists but the kid. My wife and I are up all night with sounds of sickness. Some sounds just don’t have a musical ring to them. Now I have to deal with my don'twanttogetsickaphobia. I'll be washing my hands so much they'll bleed.

When stuff like this happens, it doesn’t matter that you’re tired, it doesn’t matter how you feel, the kid is sick so you do what you have to do. This morning, everything is all right, but we’re exhausted and the day still has to happen. Forge ahead.

There are things in life that cause everything to stop. A birth. A death. An illness. A good story. A flat tire. The routine is brushed away and the illusion of control is lost. What I’m finding is you never learn to like it, but you do get a little more used to it. Stopping becomes part of the routine.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010




Sooooooooooo. I’m starting here with my weBlog, web word. The dad in Big Fat Greek Wedding was right. Greek is everywhere.

My intention is to have some fun with this. I think I’ll mostly be talking to myself, and if anyone else wants to tune in, that’s copacetic. Hopefully it will be somewhat comprehensible.

Understand up front that I like words, a lot, but I’m wary of them. They can be very deceitful sometimes, even when they’re true. Not to mention hurtful and manipulative, even with the best of intentions. Like Suzanne Vega said in the song Language, how words so often fail to communicate what you're really trying to say. Even the right word spoken at the wrong time can make a big mess. Sometimes. But sometimes they’re all we’ve got. My intent here will always be kindness.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010