Posted in Reviews, Social Issues

Unprofitable Servants


Luke 17

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.


This is called one of my really tangent thoughts — on unprofitable servants.

As the scripture says, people in the servant role expect to be recognized and rewarded — for just doing what is expected of them. Yet, the real thing is to consider yourself unprofitable for merely doing your duty, what is required.

The point of scripture is that we do what we do in service for God in appreciation for what he has done for us, that nothing we can do can ever be more than what he has done for us. We don’t earn anything by our service.

But we can flip this concept into the work-a-day regular world. We make our influence out of what we do, and the recognition that is shown to us, or that we show to others. We are willing to work harder on a project or in a group where our efforts, even the ordinary efforts, receive notice and appreciation.

The flip side of this is being in a place where nothing we can do is deemed extra or extraordinary. No matter what you do, no matter how far above the norm, everything you do is just a part of the job. When the extraordinary is deemed ordinary, what reason is there to do the extraordinary?

Now, there is a drastic difference between the first example, and the second. In God’s case, we are motivated from the love he has already shown us. We are aware that no matter what we do, there is no comparison, and thus we deem our duty, our service, as nothing special. Our attitude comes out of our gratitude This is the lesson that warns us against the pride and hypocrisy of the pharisees.

But in the second example, the people we are working for or with have none of that beneficence already shown to us. So we have a different motivation. And nothing is more demotivating than to discover that what you do, no matter how much you attempt to excel, it makes no difference. The result, the recognition (or lack thereof) will be the same.Nothing is better created to ensure mediocrity.

Too many people create “unprofitable servants” and then complain about them. They fail to recognize their part in the process.


Posted in Music, Reviews

A Concert of Sacred Metaphors — Prophets

This fourth song from my 2006 concert is a compilation of references and images of old testament prophets. Michael Card uses those varying images to give us the variety of the prophets, while showing the singular source and core of their message.

From a performance standpoint this song is the roughest of the entire concert. There were a few too many page turns for the pianist, and she got lost a couple of times. We stopped once and got back together. The second time I went on doing an impromptu solo line until she picked back up at the closing accompaniment.

As they say, the show must go on.

Posted in Music, Reviews

A Concert of Sacred Metaphors — Fools

Whether you consider this paradox or metaphor, it is one of the word plays — and play on ideas — that is one of the things I like best about the works of Michael Card.

This third segment of my 2006 concert bridges the space between the Baptism (segment 2) and this song on God’s Own Fool, by noting that both the stone that makes men stumble in the Baptism and the idea of God’s own Fool draw on the scriptural idea that God’s ways are not ours.

In God’s Own Fool Michael Card chooses his own way to bust open the condescension of the modern-day pabulum that sees Christ as a “good teacher”‘ “a wise man”, “a kind prophet”. Card very emphatically shows that scripture doesn’t allow us any of those options.

Decades before C.S. Lewis did the same thing when he declaimed that  anyone who made the claims Jesus did could not be considered a “good man.” He had to be either a liar, a madman, or the Son of God. Michael Card gives this declaration a new formulation in God’s Own Fool — the more wise by God’s standard we are, the more out of our minds we will seem to the world. Jesus is our extreme example — and we are called to follow him.

Musically this song uses a straight head tone to deliver the best punch. Listening from eight years in the future I can appreciate the musicality of my lines, but realize I am reaching a bit, now and again, to hit those A4s that are the top pitch in the song — and there are a lot of them. Contrary to what you might expect, I know I hit them better with less effort today than I did then.

So listen and enjoy ….

Posted in Uncategorized

Kearney UMC Confirmation


Kearney United Methodist Church had its confirmation service for this year’s class of confirmands this morning.


Sixteen confirmands, including my nephew Isaac Gillespie, were presented. The service was the conclusion of a two-year program where they met regularly to review and discuss their understanding of their faith.

The service began with some congregational singing, which Lina Witulski, an exchange student staying with Isaac’s family this year, helped to lead.


That followed with a presentation of each confirmand and their parents, and then the questions to the confirmands. The pastor prefaced the questions by mentioning that the Methodist tradition believed in the use of questions and answers to help us know what we think and believe. The questions included questions about God and Jesus that were responded to with recitations of faith from the Apostles’ Creed.

In the service there was another moment that we as a family had become used to from Kearney confirmations: the confirmation video. Isaac is the third and youngest child of his family, so we had seen two other of these confirmation videos beforehand — a sort of music video encapsulating the journey of the confirmands through their two years and what it meant to them.


After that each of the confirmands had their own personal time of commitment where they came to the front and kneeled while their family prayed with them, and then they were presented with their confirmation stole.DSC03194 DSC03197 During Isaac’s time his sister Chloe carried a picture of his sister Sofia up with the family, so everyone knew that she was there in heart from Latvia (where she is spending the year as an exchange student).DSC03199DSC03228





After all the confirmands had their personal moments of commitment and prayer, My sister-in-law, Isaac’s mother, Carolyn Gillespie, made a presentation of appreciation from the confirmands’ parents to the leaders of the confirmation classes. She asked them how long they had been involved with the confirmation classes — either 7 or 8 years for each of them — and mentioned that for the past 6 years they had had one of her kids with them.

There was also a time where the pastor gave his charge to the confirmands and the congregation, and then they recited the affirmation of membership and were welcomed as members of the church.

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After the service the confirmands had a few group pictures, and then went to celebrate with family and friends. We went to the Gillespies where they provided a nice sandwich buffet and cake, and we all got to express our wishes for Isaacs future with the presentation of our cards and gifts.

Lina’s gift to Isaac was something that came from her confirmation in Germany, a “tradition” that we were able to share in — A board with sayings on it (in Isaac’s case fact — since he likes to share facts all the time) — where we each were able to write something we wished for Isaac in his future.

Isaac straightening Nathan's Bolo.
Isaac straightening Nathan’s Bolo.
Nathan straightening Isaac's tie.
Nathan straightening Isaac’s tie.
Lina’s gift to Isaac.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Corporate Challenge Kickoff

The Kansas City Corporate Challenge kicked off Friday afternoon at the Truman Sports Complex with the kickoff walk.


The whole event is a family fun walk and celebration. The participating companies sponsor tents for their employees, many with live music, food, etc., in the middle of the annex parking lot. The competition portion of the event is a mile-long walk around the parking lot, where company employees earn points by walking, and many bring spouses and children to participate in the walk.

It is a fun, festive way to encourage exercise and participation by people of all ages and activity levels.


The walkers pick up a card at the start of the walk, where they write their name and their company name and then deposit their name in a barrel at the end to be counted for the walk to earn their points.


This year there were a couple of new things. At least while I and my family walked by on the first portion of the walk, there were people from one company in red shirts passing out bags of cheez its to the walkers.


On the far side from there, about three-quarters of the way around, there was Bobber, the water safety dog, encouraging us to always wear our life jackets around water. My son started joking after that about seeing a puddle and needing a life jacket. We did get a nice picture taken with Bobber. They were also giving out flying discs made to look like a life-preserver with water safety information on them.


After completing the walk, we went to the company tent for food — hot dogs and hamburgers for us, and no music (there was plenty of that from neighboring company tents). Got to meet a lot of people from work that we don’t normally have time to mingle with.


A few companies were also passing out various freebies advertising themselves. If you roamed around you could find various things. We didn’t check that out this year, and I got the feeling there was less than previous, though we did get a couple of nice things.

The competition walk is about a miles, but you put in at least twice that amount of actual walking by the time you also walk to and from the parking lot, and around the tents to and from the company tents. So it does give a lot of encouragement to having a “good stretch of the legs” as well as a fun celebration kicking off the challenge competition.



Posted in Education, Twin Tiers Baptist High School

Journey to a High School Reunion — 8th Grade

As I recall from our TTBHS years, 8th grade was always the year that the staff found the various classes the hardest to handle.  I don’t remember the full theory behind that fact. What I do remember (whether correct or not), is that our class didn’t end up with that wild streak that most other classes did during their 8th grade year.Scan0034

The 8th grade yearbook was dedicated to Mrs. Snyder. I wrote a bit about her during my blog on 6th grade. But the significant thing was her teaching, both in piano and vocal, was the foundation of the musical skills I have used ever since. Without her dedication in teaching, I wouldn’t be doing the organ playing I am.Scan0036

There is a picture missing from our class pictures — Darla Kramer. I don’t know if her family was attending my church — Caton Bible Chapel — during our eighth grade year.  Actually I am pretty sure they weren’t. Seems I would have remembered if anyone besides my family was attending our church and going to TTBHS. But she, or more directly her brother, had a connection to my life when I moved to Kansas City. Scan0037

The same year I joined Madrigalia Bar Nonne, A Peggy Chilson joined. Not long afterwards Peggy figured out that she and I had attended Caton Bible Chapel at the same time during our teen years — she because she was attending with Darla’s brother Gary. Darla’s mother like to call Peggy a “heathen” — something Peggy continued to remember years later, and recount. Just shows you never can tell where you will find a connection.Scan0038

One other thing I remember from these 8th grade pictures is an incident from chess club. Despite my brains, I seldom won chess games against the other players most of whom were older and more experienced.  But one time I managed to eliminate all of Dan Thorp’s men, and was chasing his king around the board with my limited men (just 2 or three pieces), to find a way to put him in check. Then suddenly he declared it a draw.  Seem he knew about this rule that it is a draw if you cannot checkmate the other person in a certain number of moves after he has only his king. Of course I was unaware of the rule, and so didn’t realize I needed to mate him quickly. I had been already to win, when Dan made sure I didn’t by pulling a technicality that he knew I didn’t know.Scan0039

Posted in Fitness

Songs of Personal Trainers — But Not For Me

Been awhile since I did an update on my fitness workouts. As previously mentioned, I had a personal trainer at the community center last year, then had my hand injuries, and by the time I got back three months later, he had his own studio, and was no longer working at the community center.

But before I’d injured my hands I had purchased a PT package of 6 hours, and still had 90 minutes on the previous one. I wanted to get my money’s worth, so I applied for a new PT.

I had my first appointment, he took my slip for the 6 hour package plus 90 minutes, and drew out a list of slots — one per session. Then he forgot my second appointment, didn’t write me in. We got through that — he said he’d give me an extra slot. But after using the 90 minutes, and the extra, he mentioned that we were through.

What happened to the 6 hours I’d purchased and given him the paperwork for? I just didn’t feel like trying to correct him, after working so hard to get him already trying to explain why I was doing the sessions (supporting my swimming strength and general health — and someone to help motivate and show me how much more I can do that I think I can do).

So I let him call it quits, and called the fitness coordinator, to ask for a new PT. She said she would have someone call me, gave me a name. I waited two weeks and called back. He finally called and left a message saying he had called me before and was waiting for my response.  I don’t get that many phone calls so I checked — I hadn’t gotten a phone call from him — but that wasn’t a problem, he might have misdialed and thought he’d left me one — the thing is we were talking now. But when I called him back I mentioned my best times are early mornings, and after that I can do evenings after work, it is just harder to control my work schedule for getting out at a set time.

He responded with his not being available early mornings — getting in at 9 a.m. — so would go back to the fitness coordinator to see what to do. But the fitness coordinator knew my availability — I had mentioned it to her — so why would she have someone call me whose schedule didn’t work with mine.  Of course, he totally overlooked my afternoon availability.

Either way, it has been two weeks since my last session, and I still haven’t made a connection with someone. I’ve been contemplating seeing who I need to talk to about turning in the package and getting a refund at this rate. I didn’t think it would be this hard to use my PT package.

In other fitness news, During those two weeks, I had my first swim lesson since coming back from the hand injuries.  I get my lessons from the aquatics center coordinator, and she is a very good person to train with and get lessons from.  I have taken lessons from her for at least 3 years. She gave me a good workout routine to help train for the Individual medley and the one lap single stroke events. I found my times shrink instantly after my lesson — not to where I was before the injury, but much closer than I was before the swim lesson.

Wednesday was a swim day, and I found that while my times were close to normal, they were a little slower. More than that, while I was getting the strength out of my strokes, I was feeling a little fatigued, and I wasn’t “feeling” the water like I have been. It is a hard thing to teach or explain, but you need to develop this “feel” for the water to really be able to swim well. I could tell my feel was off yesterday. But I kept driving myself through my drills — concentrating carefully on form and technique. (I have learned sometimes, if the form really falls apart, it is best to stop, rather than to keep practicing the wrong thing.)

I have a swim book that encourages you to practice your form out of the water, to have the right form in the water.  I had it before my injuries, but neither then, nor now, have I been able to get together with a PT, show them the materials, and have them help me develop a workout that would give me that training that I want. The equipment specifically made for swimming technique is expensive, and it takes a little planning to “jury-rig” other equipment to give you the same effect. I haven’t been able to have someone help me put that together — part of the reason being I don’t fully understand what my book is saying — the other part being I can’t get a PT person together with my swim coach to make sure they understand the swimming ideas when designing my PT training.

I’ll update more in a week or so when hopefully i have more fitness news to report.

Posted in Music

A Concert of Sacred Metaphors — Water and Stones

As I mentioned on the previous blog in this series, the prelude flows straight into the first song. This one, by Michael Card, is called “The Baptism”, and talks about the Baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan.

I love the sense of flowing water you get from the accompaniment.  Listen closely and feel it bubbling by.

The lyrics also talk about Christ as the Stone that makes men stumble, and the rock that makes them fall. Listen for how the metaphors are used.

Posted in Music

A Concert of Sacred Metaphors — Prelude

It is now over 8 years since I did my one solo concert at a church in a Congregational Church in Wisconsin. I was fortunate enough to have a Kodak camera with decent audio, and filmed the whole thing. So every so often I pull out the video, or the audio clips I ripped from the video, and watch/listen. It is half appreciation and half grimace at the things I hear myself do.

The concert was titled: A Concert of Sacred Metaphors. I chose each of the pieces because of the metaphors used by the song-writer. The first half of the concert featured composer Michael Card; the second half featured classic hymns, half of which were by Fanny J. Crosby.

So today I am going to start pulling out the clips for the blog — create a sporadic mini-series. This first clip is the prelude. Title is Meditation. I don’t sing on this track, but it musically flows straight into the second track, where I do sing — but that is getting ahead of myself. You will have to wait and hear about that when I feature the next track.

I had a good pianist — she worked well with me, but she wasn’t as flexible as my favorite pianist. I got spoiled growing up and in my early adulthood by living near my sister, and having her as a built-in accompanist (as I was her built-in accompanist).

For the concert 8 years ago, the pianist did a nice job on Meditation, but I would have upped the tempo, and the push-pull of the rubato, more than she did. Never quite convinced her to my way of feeling this piece.

So here it is:

Posted in Politics

Beware one-size-fits all programs

Just a quick quote for thought today:

“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to
do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow
and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward
forces which make it a living thing.”
“Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure,
their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different
physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity
in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of
happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of
which their nature is capable.”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

This is why the type of equality we pursue is important.