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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I've moved to a new website:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Woody Guthrie has be an inspiration to so many folk and country singers. Living in the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, Woody was one of the first to write songs about the realities of the harshness of life. He wrote songs that caused people to think and his lyrics were witty and compelling. Woody keeps his songs simple, often using the same chords or melodies, and yet his music is timeless. When it comes to music, I don't think songs become timeless for any reason except one: timeless songs connect with our deepest emotions. In order for a song to be timeless, it must transcend experience, because we all have different experiences. It must transcend current trends, because trends come and go. It must transcend the times, because the times are changing. This transcendence in what makes Woody Guthrie's songs so great.

"I Ain't Got No Home" tells the story of a man whose lost everything due to the conditions around him. He is a hard working man and he is poorer than dirt. He's poor despite working harder than the men who are rich. You would think by this description that the song would be a sad sounding one. Maybe it'd be in a minor key. It's not. It's a major key, usually reserved for happier sounding songs. One of the interesting things about Woody is that he rarely used minor chords. He used major chords while singing about deep struggle. It makes me stop and think about how I perceive the struggles in my own life and challenges me to re-evaluate. Did Woody use major chords as a reflection of a deeper sense of joy despite external struggles? Or did he just not know any better? I see it as a reflection of a man who can abide despite the hardships he has endured, and that is the kind of man I'd like to be.

Unfortunately, "I Ain't Got No Home" can be under-appreciated for its happy sounding chord progression and "backwoods" lyrical stylings. The point of the song is sometimes lost, even to the point of being remade into a hokey and less artistic song "This World Is Not My Home." For fun I decided to see what the song would sound like and make me feel were it written using a minor chord progression. Would the words sink in deeper? How would people in our culture react now, compared to then? Below is my cover of "I Ain't Got No Home" where I placed the same melody into a chord progression that starts with a minor chord.  I hope you enjoy and that you look into more of Woody Guthrie on your own.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pumped Up Kicks is a really popular song but I feel like its artistry is overlooked. The song has a school shooter as the subject. It isn't in anyway siding with the school shooter or sympathizing with him and the song is not meant to be a violent inspiration for kids using guns. The song takes the perspective of the shooter to show that the root of the problem when it comes to school gun violence is often abuse and neglect for the child at home. This tradition of taking the perspective of the one we shouldn't emulate is often used in old folk songs to cause a stir in people to act. The interesting thing about this song is that the original sounds like it is in a "major" key, which is usually reserved for happier sounding songs. I see people sing and dance to this song, probably unaware of the dark words because of how happy it sounds.

When Jeff and I tried figuring out the chords to this song, we were having a tough time figuring them out cause we figured they were in a major key. Once we realized the key was in a minor key (usually reserved for sadder sounding songs), it gave us chills when we figured out the chords. You see, the original song is in a minor key but leaves out the notes that let you recognize it as a minor key (we naturally can tell when a song sounds happy or sad from those necessary notes). They leave out those notes, so it sounds happy even though its in a minor key. I'm not sure if the artist intended this but I'm sure they did. This tells a lot about our culture and a lot about the psychology of music. I think it also further drives home the point of the song. Abuse and neglect leads to this kind of gun violence, and though some may on the outside appear happy, there is something deeper and darker happening on the inside. Here is Jeff and myself performing our rendition of Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I am very excited to announce that my album, "Rambler's Redemption EP," is now available on iTunes, Amazon MP3, Spotify and more! Thank you to everyone who has listened to and purchased the album and to those who came out Thursday night to the CD Release concert.

The show was an amazing group effort that resulted in an incredibly fun night. The very talented Anthony Kyle and Tim Swanson opened the night with some original songs and some Christmas songs. The stage was beautifully designed by Nicole Petculescu. I was joined on stage by some of my best friends. Kyle Montanez played bass for a few songs, as did my own brother, Frank Thomas, who also played mandolin and designed all the artwork for the album. Jeffery Cummins Jr. played banjo and electric guitar and Mark Little played drums. This was such an exciting thing for me because Jeffery, Mark and I used to play shows together all the time back in High School as "Jonathan Thomas and the Jiggawatts" and although we all have jammed together often since then, we hadn't played a show together since we graduated High School. The show was attended by good friends, family and church members, some who drove even a few hours to get there.

All this to say, I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has shown their support for me and my music. Whether by playing on one of the songs, coming to shows, buying the albums, praying or just saying "good job," you're support and encouragement means the world. And although I could never pay you back, I hope that this album serves and encourages you as well.
If you haven't yet, you can purchase the albums on iTunes. Also, if you have a moment, another great way to support the album is to write a quick review! You can download and/or review the album here:

Here are some pictures of Thursday night:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rambler’s Redemption
One of the things that drew me so closely to folk and bluegrass was the recurrent themes of rambling and redemption. These songs expressed the confusion I was feeling, as a teenager, of wandering and looking for purpose. Don Cusic observed, “Gospel is the conscience of country music, and woven into hell-raisin’ shenanigans many country artists sing about is the thread of belief in God and the forgiveness of sins. They seem to admit their sins and hope for a righteous life while at the same time confessing they can’t obtain it.” Folk, bluegrass and early country singers were authentic in their song writing, admitting the great struggle between grace and sin, truth and deception. Hank Williams is a prime example, who wrote the classic gospel song “I Saw The Light” while also writing “Ramblin’ Man,” a song where he admits that a life of aimless wandering is calling his name. This is why folk music struck a chord in me. I felt a real, authentic connection. My whole life could be characterized by a search for truth, yet I was fooling myself chasing after things that could never satisfy, trying to be someone I'm not, and trying to live two opposing lives. It was a vicious cycle of grace and sin; truth and deception. But I found truth and meaning in two things: Folk music and Jesus Christ and it changed my life. This album, Rambler's Redemption EP, is an expression of those struggles. It is a story of how and in Whom I found meaning.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?
I believe that the reason folk and bluegrass never goes out of style is because of its authenticity. Folk music seems to have waves of popularity. What started in the Appalachian mountains in early America, folk music was sought out and brought to the public attention by the Carter Family in the 1930‘s. It had a prominent following but exploded in the early 60’s Greenwich Village. Folk music is gaining large popularity today with bands like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, M. Ward, The Lumineers and more. Also contributing to this popularity are the directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, with their release of O, Brother Where Art Thou and the movie coming out this December, Inside Llewyn Davis. Once again, people are looking for something real. In a society ever growing in the pessimistic belief in nothing, people are searching for something. And they are finding it in folk music, because folk music is the music of the people. It is real, raw, and authentic; at once singing about the human condition and also singing about the search for God. People are looking for truth, and folk music delivers the perfect way to give it to them.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce a release of some of my original folk music through MV Music. For years I’ve been writing and singing folk music, but with life and college haven’t been able to give it much of a platform. At Moon Valley Bible Church, I’ve been so blessed to lead worship and record music with the folk and bluegrass style that I love. I’ve been blown away by the positive response I’ve received from so many people and want to continue to serve them through this art-form that is so personal to me. This EP, “Rambler’s Redemption,” will release digitally on December 10th, 2013. It will feature some of the folk and bluegrass songs that I’ve written throughout the years along with some hymns. My hope is that others will experience the authenticity of folk music and that it will lead them to the real Truth only found in Christ Jesus. 

Thank you everyone who has given me prayer and support throughout the years!

Monday, August 26, 2013

“Let me travel this land from the mountains to the sea
'Cause that's the life I believe He meant for me
And when I'm gone and at my grave you stand
Just say God called home your Ramblin' Man.”
- Hank Williams

In High School, I was drawn to folk and bluegrass music. It felt real, raw and authentic. It was something I had been searching for a long time. But most of all, I was drawn to the concept of rambling. This is the idea of wandering aimlessly, with no purpose. Often those who sang about rambling saw it as and inward struggle of knowing that it is a purposeless life, yet still feeling drawn to it though they couldn’t explain why. I loved songs like these and loved seeing images of hobos hopping trains, leaving the world behind. The reason I was so drawn to this was because I was wandering myself, looking for my purpose. But I feel many Christians are struggling and have struggled with the same thing. Including rambling' St. Augustine.

About 1,700 years ago lived a man named Augustine. He is one of the greatest Christian philosophers who has ever lived. But much of his life, He was a rambler. He was born in Roman occupied Africa, now modern day Algeria. His mother was a Christian who would spend hours everyday praying for her son, weeping and crying out to God to watch over him. Augustine wrote, “Her prayers entered Your presence, and yet You allowed me still to tumble and toss around in the darkness.” When he was about 11 years old, Augustine was sent away by his parents to school and there gave up the Christianity of his mother and developed pagan beliefs and practices. In fact, he still believed in God, but wanted to experience life and fit in, telling God, “grant me chastity, but not yet.” But he always had this inward struggle between a belief in Christianity and the desires of the flesh. As he grew older, he began having lots of sex, even getting a prostitute pregnant, and pressuring the guys back at the frat party to get in the game, or else run the risk of being made fun of for not being real men. 

Before he was even 30 years old, Augustine got an amazing job, teaching rhetoric at the imperial court in Milan, one of the largest cities in Italy. Augustine loved philosophy but found himself floundering from one philosophy to next, never being fully satisfied with life. He lacked purpose. Augustine wrote later, “I fell away from You, my God, and in my youth I wandered too far from You, my true support. And I became a wasteland to myself.” He lacked purpose, and in doing so lacked effectiveness.

I believe many Christians try living two lives: one where they worship God and one where they worship themselves. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “But that new will which had begun in me freely to worship You and enjoy You, my God...was not able to overcome my former willfulness, made strong by long indulgence. Thus my two wills - the old and the new, the carnal and the spiritual - were in conflict within me, and by their discord they tore my soul apart.” Trying to live two lives or trying to worship two things at once can rip your soul in half. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24 ESV).” When we try to satisfy two gods, we find ourselves without a purpose, wandering aimlessly.

Truly, the god of ourselves is one that we can never satisfy. Its just human nature to want more and more of things that we enjoy. Naturally, when we experience something thrilling, our brain releases chemicals that makes us feel good. However, like any drug, the feeling starts to diminish and we need more and more. So we spend a lifetime looking for more money, more success, more fun, more sex, more stuff and never find ourselves satisfied. The god of ourselves is a god who we can never satisfy. Augustine wrote, “For wherever the human soul turns itself, unless toward You, it is enmeshed in sorrows, even though it is surrounded by beautiful things outside You and outside itself. For lovely things would simply not be unless they were from You.”

The beauty of Christianity is in redemption. All the other religions of the world will give you a big long list of what you need to do in order to satisfy their god. But if God is perfect, how can we, being imperfect, satisfy Him? We can’t. Redemption is the concept that God has bought us out of slavery in sin. God knows that we can’t save ourselves and instead of letting us live in wandering hopelessness, God came to earth Himself, lived a perfect life as Jesus Christ, and died on our behalf so that all we have to do is believe in Him. Unlike the god of ourselves, the God of Christianity can be satisfied. and has been satisfied by the sacrifice of perfect Jesus. He is satisfied in something as simple as belief in Jesus. And the moment we place our faith in Jesus, He sees us as perfect and there is nothing we can do to change that. 

After years of wandering without a purpose, Augustine could feel his strength failing him. Life was getting too hard and getting too heavy. He broke down and called out to God, asking Him for forgiveness. After this, Augustine went on to be an incredibly influential philosopher, apologist, writer and speaker. Despite all his wanderings away from God, God never abandoned him. As Augustine put it, “For Your omnipotence is not far from us even when we are far from You.”

Let us love Him, for He Himself created all [souls], and He is not far from them. For He did not create them, and then go away. He is within the inmost heart, yet the heart has wandered away from Him. Return to your heart, you transgressors, and hold fast to Him who made You. Stand with Him and you shall stand fast. Rest in Him and you shall be at rest. Where do you go along these rugged paths? Where are you going? The good that you love is from Him, and insofar as it is also for Him, it is both good and pleasant. But it will rightly be turned to bitterness if whatever comes from Him is not rightly loved and if He is deserted for the love of the creature. Why then will you wander farther and farther in these difficult and toilsome ways? There is no rest where you seek it. Seek what you seek; but remember that it is not where you seek it. You seek a blessed life in the land of death. It is not there. For how can there be a blessed life where life itself is not?
- St. Augustine, Confessions

Thursday, August 22, 2013

1. Pursue Excellence
Excellence is not about perfection, its about progress. Its about not short-changing God, ourselves, or those who are inspired by our music. Excellence in music is like integrity for a person. Integrity for a person is the “concern for consistency.” It is making sure that your beliefs are consistent with how you act. Excellence in art is a concern for consistency between what you’ve created and your ability to make it the best that you can. Get lessons, practice as much as you can, look up how-to videos on the internet or read books. There are countless ways to improve our craft, and we should never come to a place where we settle for “good-enough” with our music.

2. Roll With The Punches
One of my proudest moments was one of our biggest mishaps. The student band I taught and I were leading worship for a winter retreat. One of the students started the next song off. The song was suppose to be in 4/4 time, however, because the last song was in 6/8, without realizing it, he started the next song off in 6/8. Instead of stopping everything, creating an awkward moment, we rolled with it! The song finished and no one knew that we had made a huge mistake. To this day I am blown away that we actually pulled it off without any prior practice in a different time signature. Afterwards, in the green room, I expressed how proud I was of all them. Come to find out, none of them knew exactly what was wrong with the song. They all had a funny feeling something wasn’t right, but instead of just stopping awkwardly, they just rolled with it. 

There are bound to be mishaps. As a worship leader, I can tend to accidentally skip an extra chorus, or go over the bridge more times than expected, or be spontaneous and sing the chorus again, to the frustration of my fellow musicians. Sometimes the monitors can be too quiet, or they can cut out all together. I want my band to know enough and be confident enough that they are not taken by surprise, but roll with the punches. This is a priceless skill in all performance.

However, there will be times where the damage is too great to recover from, and at times like that I find it best to just stop, laugh it off and jump right back into it again with confidence

3. Less Is More
I had a music teacher who told our band once, “I am not interested in how much you are playing, but in how much you’re not playing.” One very simple tool can help radically change many worship bands: less is more! Many band leaders do not practice much authority over their band members, allowing them to play as much as they want as long as they hit the right notes and are on beat. Therefore, people lose a sense of unity and concentrate on what they are playing individually and not what they are playing collectively. If the drummer plays constantly with as many fills as possible, the keyboards don’t let one beat go by without a note, and the guitarists strum and pick with no style or change. This creates one chaotic sounding band!

We need space! Space! Space! Without space in a song, there is no room for anything interesting or creative, because no one will be able to discern it apart from the rest of the band. The best analogy of this comes from Arizona Christian University’s Tracy Williams (whose resume includes playing guitar for Ray Charles):

Let’s say all the parts of a band (the drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, and keyboard) are all placed inside of a box. If each instrument is being played as much as possible, there is no space left in the box:

However, if all of the instruments were to play less, paying close attention to what other musicians are playing as well, there would be more space for something interesting to happen:

Now with all of that space, if the electric guitarist wanted to do a guitar solo, it would sound interesting because it’s not drowned out by everything else, it takes advantage of the space in the box, while the other instruments stay back, making the guitar solo more distinct, thus making the song more interesting:

Musician and author Bob Kauflin said, “If I’m not the only member of the band, I shouldn’t play like I am. More notes rarely equals greater effectiveness.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are...Life is always a novel...Our existence is still a story...But in order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be decided for us without our permission. If we wish life to be a system, this may be a nuisance; but if we wish it to be a drama, it is essential...The reason why the lives of the rich are at bottom so tame and uneventful is that they can choose the events. They are dull because they are omnipotent. They fail to feel the adventures because they can make the adventures. The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect.
- G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1905 

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.

- G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered, 1908

“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”
“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam, “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”
“I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” 

― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Friday, July 5, 2013

My grandmother, Lena, was an incredibly talented painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer. My childhood is filled with memories, each with a painting of her’s hanging somewhere in the background. Often these paintings, dark and sad, depicted her childhood growing up as a second-generation Italian American in Brooklyn during The Great Depression. My grandmother, who was wise, compassionate, and inspiring, wasn’t just a painter. Though skilled with a brush, pen, or charcoal, she was more than a painter. She was an artist.

The Great Art Debate
It seems like the debate over what makes art actually art is as old as time. I have to admit, I do believe it to be rather subjective, but at the same time, somewhere down the road, art has to have some objective quality to it. For example, if you draw, is it art as long as you can tell what it is? If I draw a stick figure, you can tell what it is, but nobody is going to call it art. I believe, at some point, there must be some kind of objective quality to what makes something art.

The Marks of an Artist
When I think of “artist” I think of my grandmother. To me, she lived and breathed the standard of what it means to be an artist. Here is what she taught me, indirectly, about what it means to be an artist:

An artist has something to say: Every single one of my grandmother’s paintings told a million stories. Her life is full of history, heartache, trials and at the same time, joy and peace. My grandmother had something to say that could only be properly communicated through her paintings. I believe in order to be an artist, you must have something to say. You must have something that you need to communicate. It is a burden in you that can only be communicated through you’re specific medium.

An artist is intentional: Every painting, every brushstroke my grandmother made was made with a specific purpose. Whether practically or aesthetically, her paintings were made with intention. What comes to my mind is the many great writer’s and poets throughout history who wrote with intention, that every word and phrase was placed on the page for a specific reason. This is true of G.K. Chesterton and many of the classic turn-of-the-century authors. Their writing was not random, chaotic or stream of consciousness. Anyone can do that. It takes an artist to communicate with an intentional purpose.

An artist is authentic: The reason I started thinking about this is because I was listening to the country music station the other day. I love bluegrass music. I listen to it all the time, play it and write in that style. I love it. I also like a lot of country like: Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, and many of the other classic country singers. Therefore, I should like the country station right? No, sir. I find with 9 out of 10 of the songs, I like the song right up until they sing. I mean, am I the only one who hears a difference between Johnny Cash singing, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” and Justin Moore singing “it’s beer time!”? I realized that the reason I don’t like the country station is because the songs aren’t real anymore, they are novelties. Country music has become the tourist industry of music. I liken it to how many Americans probably believe Panda Express is pretty authentic Chinese food, but I’ve been to China, and believe me, there is a huge difference! Or even worse, going to an “American” restaurant in China. No comparison. That’s because it’s not the real thing, it’s a novelty. Every song seems to try to redefine what it means to be American and Southern: beer, whisky, trucks, backroads, and Jesus. But it isn’t real anymore, its just a novelty. You can tell what it is, but it isn’t art.

These novelty songs won’t be remembered because they aren’t a display of the singer’s real thoughts, feelings and struggles. They may be timely, but they aren’t timeless. I find it hard to believe that people will be singing “Red Solo Cup” as long as people have sung “Amazing Grace.” The reason is because “Amazing Grace” is real and authentic, it isn’t a novelty, but is true to the person who wrote it. It is art.

All of my grandmother's paintings were real. They told of her emotions, her family, her heritage and her life story. And in doing so, they connect to all of us personally in some way and her legacy lives on.

An artist strives for excellence: My grandmother never stopped learning and never stopped trying to improve. She tried all kinds of mediums, painting styles, colors, images, and she practiced regularly because she cared about her art, her message, and being the best she could be. But even better than that, she was humble about her pursuit of excellence. I remember very distinctly that, when I was still really young, she used to ask me what my opinion was on her paintings she was working on. She believed you could learn more from a child’s opinion than an adult’s or an art critic’s. For an artist, “good enough” is not good enough. I’m not saying that an artist should be a perfectionist who never completes a work, because excellence is not the same as perfect. Excellence in art is like integrity for a person. Integrity for a person is the “concern for consistency.” It is making sure that your beliefs are consistent with how you act. Excellence in art is a concern for consistency between what you’ve created and your ability to make it the best that you can. To create with excellence means that you give it your all, and you don’t short change yourself or those who admire your work.

An artist has something to say, is intentional and authentic, and strives for excellence. My grandmother taught me that these are qualities important to implement no matter what your craft: art, music, teaching, relationships, business, etc. I’m sure there are more things that make someone truly an artist. I also know that there are many who would say that none of these are what makes someone an artist. But as for me and my music, my grandmother set a really high standard for what it means for me to be more than just a musician, but to be an artist. 

Nothing sublimely aritstic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has arisen out of pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth. The principle of art for art’s sake is a very good principle if it means that there is a vital distinction between the earth and the tree that has its root in the earth; but it is a very bad principle if it means that the tree could grow just as well with its roots in the air.
-G.K. Chesterton

Photos by Frank Thomas - Visual Concept Media

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I realized that there is a huge shift in most every Americans life. This shift is often overlooked but seems deeply significant. You see, as a kid, when our parents would take us on a drive somewhere, we looked out the passenger side window, or the backseat window, or maybe even lay down and look up out the back windshield. With childlike wild eyes, we looked up at the trees as they passed by. We saw the birds swirling in rhythmic formation. We saw the clouds and the many shapes they made. We saw the sunsets, the stars, and the purple mountains capped with snow. We even saw the successes of man that God has blessed us with. The constant string of wire going up and down from telephone poles; their shadows draped on the ground. We saw the colossal giants of steel reaching to the highest heavens. The eerie upward climb of an airplane as man defies gravity. With childlike wonder we gazed out those windows. Life was a fairy tale. The world was mysterious, beautiful and full of possibilities. 
         Around the age of 16 we are thrown out of elfland and thrust into a rigid world of distractions. Suddenly, we aren't looking out the backseat window, we are looking out the front windshield, with our eyes on the road, the other cars, the signs, the lights, one shade of green, one shade of red, and one shade of yellow. Bumper stickers preach to us. Everything is gray and black and white. Smog. Everyone is in a hurry. It's every man for himself and everyone is angry. The wonder of God is lost. 
          The world tries so hard to suppress our childlike wonder. We are told nothing is real, life is a nightmare, and then you die. We are thrust into the driver seat of a grey dismal world with nothing more than a seat belt to protect us. False security.
          I wouldn't recommend this but as I was driving the other day, while listening to The Avett Brothers, when the road was clear, I looked through the pane before me, past the pain before me, and looked up. I saw trees, many shades of green. I saw birds swirling, and perching on to telephone wires. I saw clouds. I saw surrounded by the city, beautiful purple mountains. I felt like I was coming home. All this time I was looking for home, and I was here the whole time. The wonder of God passing by all around me, but I was too busy trying to be in control. I missed out on so much. I forgot how to see life through the backseat window. I forgot how to see the wonder of God. I forgot how to be a child.

Phillipians 4:4-9 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

In secular and Christian cultures, many assume that “science,” “philosophy,” and “religion” are completely separate worlds that can never meet. However, they are more closely related that most would assume. They come together like the sky meeting the ocean. Apart from "immediate knowledge" (e.g. the fact that I exist, the laws of thought). All people everywhere follow a pattern of science, philosophy and religion.

Webster’s dictionary defines science as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method and concerned with the physical world and its phenomena.” Science is the observance of the world through empirical means (the five senses) and the scientific method. Philosophy is defined as “a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means (Merriam-Webster).” Science can only be properly used in observation. The moment a scientist begins to make assumptions, he/she moves out of the realm of science into the realm of philosophy. Don't be fooled. the theory of evolution is not science, because it cannot be observed and tested. It is a philosophy. Philosophy is the process of making connections with our minds based on what we observe.

Religion is often defined as a belief in a deity, however this is not a sufficient definition because there are some religions and belief systems that do not have a deity, e.g. Buddhism or Atheism. A proper definition of religion is a set of practices based on our beliefs. In other words, religion is the action we take based on our philosophy.

Based on these definitions it is clear to see two things: All people, to some degree are scientists, philosophers, and religious and all three flow from each other. All people are scientists in that they use their senses to make many observances of the world around them. However, it is not true that knowledge only comes through the senses (empiricism), because that is something that cannot be known through the senses. All people are philosophers in that they take those observances and begin to make connections or assumptions with them using their mind. These assumptions build a person’s philosophy, worldview, or theology. Finally, all people are religious because it is only natural to act based on what we believe. What we believe about the world will greatly affect the way we act. I see (science), I think (philosophy), and I do (religion). Science, philosophy and religion are not separate worlds but a natural succession of seeking and understanding truth that applies to all humans, Christian and non-Christian.

Monday, January 14, 2013

About a year ago, I read a book that changed my life. At first, it was not a book I would have seen and opened willingly, in fact I had never even heard of it before. But considering that if I didn't read the book, I would receive a fairly poor grade in my Intro to Literature class, I decided it'd be best to give it a try. I soon found myself as a child seeing the world for the first time. Everything I ever thought about the world but had not the words to say it, were brilliantly depicted in the mystery novel, "The Man Who Was Thursday" by G.K. Chesterton. Soon after reading this book, I've endeavored to read as much G.K. Chesterton as I can get my hands on: Heretics, Orthodoxy, The Everlasing Man, St. Thomas Aquinas, and more.

This British journalist, essayist, novelist, theologian, philosopher, poet, critic, dreamer, optimist grew up in an age where pessimism and skepticism were abounding in London, much like America today. After wrestling with life's biggest questions Chesterton found himself in a demonic torturous nightmare of skepticism that haunted him. Suddenly, by the grace of God, Chesterton found himself in world much like a fairy tale: where the mundane is magnificent and what we perceived as magnificent turns out to have been mundane all along. Chesterton saw the world as we should aspire to see it. His writings continually inspire me. Below I've put together some of my favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes. I admit this is a difficult task, considering almost every line of every Chesterton book is quotable. However, I hope this will serve as an inspiration and motivate you to look into these things yourself. This post will be continually updated as I continue to read Chesterton's books and go back to books I've read to find quotes.

But in order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be decided for us without our permission. If we wish life to be a system, this may be a nuisance; but if we wish it to be a drama, it is essential...The reason why the lives of the rich are at bottom so tame and uneventful is that they can choose the events. They are dull because they are omnipotent. They fail to feel the adventures because they can make the adventures. The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect.
- Heretics, 1905

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
- All Things Considered, 1908

“It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!”
- The Man Who Was Thursday, 1908

Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.
- The Defendant, 1901

There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.

The highest and most valuable quality in Nature is not her beauty but her generous and defiant ugliness...She is as top heavy, as grotesque, as solemn and as happy as a child.
- The Defendant , 1901

When last I saw an old gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park I told him that a heart so benevolent as his ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the thought of how much unaffected pleasure his every gesture and bodily attitude were at the moment giving the crowd.
- All Things Considered, 1908

When a cow came slouching by in the field next to me, a mere artist might have drawn it; but I always get wrong in the hind legs of quadrupeds. So I drew the soul of the cow; which I saw there plainly walking before me in the sunlight; and the soul was purple and silver, and had seven horns and the mystery that belongs to all beasts.
- Tremendous Trifles, 1909

The word "heresy" not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word "orthodoxy" not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing, and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right.
- Heretics, 1905

Reason itself is an act of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

We have looked for questions in the darkest corners and on the wildest peaks. We have found all the questions that can be found. It is time we gave up looking for questions and begin looking for answers.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything - even pride.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

I am not concerned with Rudyard Kipling as a vivid artist or a vigorous personality; I am concerned with him a a heretic - that is to say, a man whose view of things has the hardwood to differ from mine. I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a heretic - that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong.
- Heretics, 1905

He may even go mad; but he is going mad for the love of sanity. But the modern student of ethics, even if he remains sane, remains sane from an insane dread of insanity.
- Heretics 1905

It is a fundamental point of view, philosophy or religion which is needed, and not any change in habit or social routine.
- Heretics, 1905

Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.
- Heretics, 1905

When the London Times asked a number of writers for essays on the topic "What's wrong with the world?" Chesterton sent in the reply shortest and most to the point:
Dear sirs:
I am.
Sincerely Yours,
G.K. Chesterton

Most modern philosophies are not philosophy but philosophic doubt; that is, doubt about whether there can be any philosophy.
- St. Thomas Aquinas, 1933

We should be rather surprised if a chorister suddenly began singing "Bill Bailey" in church. Yet that would be only doing in music what the medievals did in sculpture.
- A Miscellany of Men, 1912

If it be true that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution simply to deny the cat.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained the knowledge of good and evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains.
- Heretics, 1905

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

For progress by its very nature indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least bit doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress.
- Heretics, 1905

We admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons.
- Heretics, 1905

The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth; so for me at least it was not earth that criticized elfland, but elfland that criticized earth.
- Orthodoxy, 1908

Aquinas turns the whole argument the other way, keeping in line with his first realization of reality. There is no doubt about the being of being, even if it does sometimes look like becoming; that is because what we see is not the fullness of being; or we never see being being as much as it can. Ice is melted into cold water and cold water is heated into hot water; it cannot be all three at once. But is does not make water unreal or relative; it only means that its being is limited to being on thing at a time. But the fullness of being is everything that it can be; without it the lesser or approximate forms of being cannot be explained as anything; unless they are explained away as nothing.
- St. Thomas Aquinas, 1933

Until we realize that things might not be, we cannot realize that things are.
- Heretics, 1905

The strong cannot be brave. Only the weak can be brave; and yet again, in practice, only those who can be brave can be trusted, in time of doubt, to be strong.
- Heretics, 1905

And it is surely unreasonable to attack the doctrine of the Trinity as a piece of bewildering mysticism, and then to ask men to worship a being who is ninety million persons in one God, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the parts.
- On worshiping humanity from Heretics, 1905

Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed get up the night before.
- Tremendous Trifles, 1909

Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.
- Tremendous Trifles, 1909

Materialism is not a thing which destroys mere restraint. Materialism itself is a great restraint.
- Heretics, 1905

Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.
- Heretics, 1905

The great journalistic maxim - that if an editor can only make people angry enough, they will write half his newspaper for him for nothing!
- Heretics, 1905

The missionary comes to tell the poor that he is in the same condition as all men. The journalist comes to tell other people how different the poor man is from everybody else.
- Heretics, 1905

No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all, unless he thinks that he is in truth and the other man in error.
- Heretics, 1905

I could never reconcile myself to carrying an umbrella; it is a pompous eastern business, carried over the heads of despots in the dry, hot lands. Shut up, an umbrella is an unmanageable walking-stick; open, it is an inadequate tent.
- The Miscellany of Men, 1912

Monday, June 4, 2012

If its in your budget, arranging your own pedal board can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. It can also be frustrating and a hassle trying to get everything to sound right. I used to think arranging your pedal board meant just making sure everything fit and was plugged in. I was definitely wrong. Here are some tips on how to get the most of your pedal board.


First, you need to figure out which pedals will serve you best. There are TONS of pedals out there that drastically effect the way your guitar sounds varying in a wide range of prices. Go to guitar shops, read reviews online and figure out which kind of pedals you need for your sound. Do you want your guitar to really echo like its in a large cathedral? Do you want your guitar to sound really clean, crunchy? Are into metal, jazz, folk? Figure out your goal sound. For me, I was shooting for a dreamy sound with crunchy overdrive and lots of echo. Go to your local guitar shop and tell them what kind of sound you're looking for and they should be able to guide you in the right direction.

Order Matters

You have to remember that from the moment you strum your guitar, it sends out a electrical signal that has to travel through all your pedals before it comes out of your amp, greatly affecting the sound. The goal therefore is to make the electrical signal travel through each pedal in a way that it won't be limited by other pedals. Here is the most logical order to place your pedals:

  • 1. Tuners - The tuner pedal must be the first pedal that you directly plug your guitar into. It is important that the signal going into the tuner is unaffected by any previous effects so that it will give you the most accurate reading.
  • 2. Filters - this includes wah pedals and envelope filters. These go as early as possible or else they can be greatly affected by previous pedals since they are triggered by the electrical signal.
  • 3. Compressors - Compressors can be very noisy the farther along in the chain they are, so place them early in the chain.
  • 4. Overdrive/Distortion - Overdrives are placed before modulation pedals because a modulated signal greatly affects the overdrive and the over-arching sound you are trying to create.
  • 5. Modulation - Modulation pedals include flange, phaser, chorus and tremolo pedals. 
  • 6. Volume - The volume pedal goes here so that it will actually work! Most of the previously mentioned pedals have volume level controls on them, so if the volume pedal is before them, you will still hear some sound even with the pedal in the up position.
  • 7. Reverbs and Delays - These are last so that even when the volume is in the up position, it allow the effect to finish the echo smoothly without ending it abruptly. They can also negatively effect your overdrive pedals if placed in front of them.
Map It Out
Once you know what you want or have all the pedals you need, to save yourself some frustration, try drawing it out first to see how your pedals will fit, if they will fit, and how to arrange all the cables.

Spend Time

Once everything is connected, spend some time just sitting down with your guitar and everything plugged into your amp. Mess with all the settings and get to know what they do and how they affect the sound and start creating the sound you want. This can be a long and tedious process but is exciting at the same time. Have fun with it! It is a lot of work but is truly rewarding in the end.

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