Archive for March, 2014

Lounging Through the Storm

Posted: 2014/03/12 in Odds & Ends

Woke to a big-time snowstorm that has made driving much more exciting than it should be. It’s a good day to stay home. My cat has the right idea – riding out the storm lounging on the sofa . . .


As I preached, last Sunday (3/9), the first in my Jazz Christianity series of sermons, I used the list found in Matthew 5:3-11 traditionally called “The Beatitudes.” I use the Common English Bible (CEB) translation and it presents 5:3 as follows:

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

The NRSV, as well as a number of other translations render the same verse as follows:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Both translations present problems. The traditional “Blessed” is archaic enough that it is functionally meaningless. “Happy” just doesn’t sound right since we we tend to think of happy as the way one feels when having fun. So. . . how what did Jesus/Matthew intend to say?

The Greek word, makarioi, can be translated as either happy or blessed, yet neither quite fits. And “happy”, as it is used in our vernacular, misses the mark by a fair margin. Rather the word means something a bit more complex—a sense of joy and feeling of well-being.

It also helps to read 5:3-11 with a little care and sophistication. Let me explain using 5:3. . .
People are not or ever happy to be hopeless, nor can we say that the hopeless are blessed by their hopelessness. To read 5:3 this way is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Rather the joy or blessing comes from God’s response to our hopelessness (or, traditionally, being poor in spirit), which is the promise of a place in the kingdom of heaven, which is good news indeed! Thus the happiness/joy/sense of blessedness and well-being is only now in part, because it is just promise, but will eventually be experience in full as the promise is realized.

We can work our way down this list this way and it makes sense.

(In an interesting interpretation of 5:3, Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony Bloom contends that we are indeed blessed/happy to poor in spirit in terms of poverty of possessions and attachments such that the love of God can fill us. See “Beginning to Pray” pp.40-41)

It all sounds a bit like academic Biblical studies nitpicking, but it isn’t. The so-called Beatitudes have always been a little tough to interpret, especially the first one, and because of the difficulty strange errors can creep in. For example, one might read 5:4, “Happy are those who grieve, because they will be made glad,” and then oafishly tell someone grieving the loss of a loved one that they are truly blessed or should be happy.

Like any other form of communication, as the Bible speaks, we need to listen carefully.

After a career working with computers and lots of other high-tech and cutting-edge stuff, it’s ironic that I’m back into the vacuum tube biz. It’s been decades since Dad and I took lunch bags of suspicious tubes to the local drugstore to test them on their console tube tester. What goes around sometimes comes back.


Since I bought an Ampeg tube amp from a fellow guitarist, I’ve learned more about those finicky, fragile, lethally high-voltage tubes than I ever expected to know. Here’s my latest observation:

My amp has two EL84s in the power stage, is rated at 15 watts output, and is just plain loud. I toned it down a bit with a pair of EL844s (a lower output version of the EL84). They sound fine and breakup occurs just a bit sooner.

I tried to adjust the pre-amp stage as well by replacing the one 12AX7 with a 12AY7, a tube with a lower gain factor. This swap hasn’t gone as well as the EL844s. The 12AY7 makes the amp sound oddly soft in terms of response and overall sound (can’t think of a better way to describe it). Having gone back to the 12AX7, the amp sounds better.

Back to work (on tomorrow’s sermon) and maybe a little time later for some guitar . . .