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Following the Two Spies

April 16th, 2012

Relief is in Sight

As usual, too much is going on to write about.

First of all, I finished the JTM45 clone I was building for my friend Joe. The JTM45 is a Marshall amp which is a pretty faithful copy of the Fender 5F6A Bassman. The version my friend chose uses KT66 tubes, which are fundamentally similar to the Bassman’s 6L6s.

We had a number of problems. He bought a Mojo Tone chassis, and it didn’t fit the Classictone transformer he chose. I’ve been getting help from amp builders, and they have convinced me that Mojo is not a good place to get chassis. The cutouts and round holes are not well thought-out, so you can end up with things that don’t fit.

To make the power transformer work, I had to enlarge and move the existing opening, and I had to machine (from scratch) an aluminum spacer to connect the transformer to the chassis. This was a lot of aggravation, but the result was beautiful. Looking at the amp, you would never know the transformer didn’t fit. I’ll repost a couple of photos.

I also had a problem with one of the power supply capacitors. The JTM45 is a box of components that sits in a wooden cabinet with a flat bottom. The box is supposed to rest directly on the wood. But Mojo predrills holes that situate the capacitor below the box. It projects down out of the box about half an inch. This is just crazy. There is no way on earth to make it fit the cabinet (which Mojo makes). Last week I got the amp running, and Joe brought me the cabinet. I had never seen a JTM45 cabinet before. I just assumed there was a way to make it fit. But incredibly, there was not.

We looked at the chassis for a while. I loosened the screws holding the cap, and I swung it up out of the way. It fit perfectly. Here is the mystery: why didn’t Mojo drill screw holes that put it in this position? I thought there had to be a reason, but I couldn’t see it.

I got out a punch, and I made two dimples on the inside of the box. Then I used my Jobmax right-angle drill, some WD40, and a nice cobalt drill bit to make two new screw holes. We screwed the cap in place, and everything was fine. What a relief. If it hadn’t worked, we would have had to use different capacitors, or I would have had to undo a bunch of wiring and move the cap across the box.

We put the amp together, and Joe fired it up. The sound is incredible. Maybe as good as the Bassman. It’s clear. It’s pretty quiet. It’s sweet.

We had some noise problems at first, and that scared me, but it turned out the JJ 12AX7 in V1 was the issue. Evidently these tubes are inherently noisy. Joe put a Tube Amp Doctor 12AX7-SC in there, and the noise dropped, and the amp also sounded better. It had a sweeter, creamier tone, somewhat like a 12AY7. Lesson learned.

Here are a couple of photos I took that day.

The other guy in the photos is Zach. He’s a blues guitarist. He wants to build a Trainwreck clone.

I’m not totally sure what my next project will be. I want to build a Bassman-based amp with 4 6BM8 output tubes. A guy who calls himself “Da Geezer” designed a 6BM8 amp called the Little Wing, and it’s based on the Bassman, but it lacks the second channel and added inputs. It’s limited to 7 watts because it only has two output tubes. He says I can put the Bassman front end back and add extra tubes so I can have more juice when I want it.

I’m also looking at a wrecked Fender “The Twin” red-knob amp. This is a 100-watt amp with a switch that cuts the power to 25 watts. They were not popular, but they’re very good amps. I found one on Craigslist for $200. It needs about $320 in parts to get it working. I’m considering offering $50. I don’t think anyone else will buy it. It’s too messed up.

It’s nice to be able to rebuild and redesign basket-case amps. It really doesn’t matter what I buy, because I can turn anything into a good amp.

I’m also considering moving to a new church. One of my buddies–the head Armorbearer at my church–had some issues he had to address. His wife is a very nice lady, but she felt my church was too cliquish. She couldn’t really connect, even though her husband had a position of prominence. This is not a big shock. Our church tends to promote young, good-looking, hip people, as well as people who make money or have connections. There is a big concern with what’s cool and trendy. And it also helps if you can do something the church really needs. I don’t think she fit in the desired categories. She’s not an MTV type. So she may well have been excluded.

She found another church, and she started attending, even though her husband was still volunteering at Trinity. I started hearing good things about it. Lots of prayer during services. Focus on the Holy Spirit. No yammering about self-help and money. I envied my friends, but I thought the church was near their home, up in Coral Springs. I was not going to drive that far. Also, even though I’ve become completely disconnected from the teaching at my church, I have strong attachments to the people, and while I wasn’t receiving much from the church, I felt fulfilled with regard to giving and interacting with others.

Now my buddy is done with Trinity. He’s cutting ties and moving. And this weekend, he told me the church is in North Miami. I was shocked. How could I have been unaware of this? It’s a shorter drive than the one I make now. When I heard that, I felt like a weight slid off my back and a door opened before me. Maybe God had been preparing this place for me during the months when I was praying for a better church.

I had assumed that God wanted me to stay at Trinity for at least a few more months, and I was content with that. I love the people. It’s not like I’m miserable there. But it’s wonderful to know I may be able to get out sooner. I’m visiting the other church this weekend. I have very high hopes.

Ending a relationship is funny. Until you make the decision to quit, you may not realize how much you’ve wanted out. I still remember dumping a maladjusted girlfriend when I was in law school. Before the breakup, she didn’t seem all that terrible, but after I pulled the plug, I realized what a mess she was, and how annoying her nasty side could be. I had stifled those thoughts when we were together, in order to make it work. I guess the same thing happens when you leave a church. You realize it’s okay to feel relieved, so the stress just melts out of you without warning. Suddenly you feel like you’re standing straighter.

I can tell you what I look forward to.

It will be nice not to have to hear Steve Munsey’s self-serving money-based doctrine. There are no authentic lists of “seven blessings” associated with giant cash offerings at Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur. That’s something he made up, and we hear about it all the time. Jews never had to give big cash offerings on the feast days, and they were never promised “seven blessings” in return. If your church is in debt, the answer isn’t manipulation, legalism, Judaizing, and gimmicks. The answer is to please God and obtain his help. My church can’t get prosperity the way we’re supposed to, so we’re trying to do it the Munsey way. And it doesn’t work. We still have debt.

It will be nice to be able to talk. Kids run our sound and media department, and a young, headstrong pastor is in charge of them. That means we hear obnoxious disco music even between services. It drives people crazy. Many, many people complain about it. People come to church and leave on the first visit because of it. It’s probably killing our growth. The new place has loud music, but they shut it down after worship, the way you’re supposed to.

I look forward to having my freedom back. If I were doing what was demanded of me, I would be serving at two services on Sunday, attending a Saturday service, attending a volunteer “DNA” meeting once a month, attending a 6 a.m. Armorbearer training session once a month, serving several days in a row at our yearly Rendezvous conference (for which I would be expected to buy a ticket), serving extra days when asked (with short notice or no notice), and cooking on demand. That’s too much. We’re told we have to tithe our time. Well, I pray two to four hours a day. That’s 14 hours right there, minimum. I guarantee I spend at least 16.8 hours a week with God. So anything I give my church is above the tithe. And prayer is much more important than anything I do at church.

I’m hoping I will never have to hear the word “VIP” again. It’s disturbing that I ever heard it in church. We reserve seats for holy people like Luther Campbell and Tim Hardaway (a basketball player). We chauffeur visiting speakers around, and it’s understood that we’re not supposed to talk to them too much, because…they’re VIPs. Which makes you wonder what we are. I call us “VUPs.” Figure it out.

We have actually had secure areas for VIPs, with special food other people can’t have. Aren’t VIP areas for strip clubs? Am I crazy? Why would you have one in a church? I can understand having a place for people to put their feet up and collect their thoughts. But that’s not the same thing. We have never had a lounge for volunteers, even when we worked 15-hour days.

I hope I’ll actually be able to talk to a pastor once in a while. And I don’t mean talking about volunteer work. I’d like to KNOW these people. Right now, I don’t talk to any of our pastors. They’re busy. Half the time, they’re on planes or staying in other cities. And they have no interest in talking to me. They say hi and so on, but when I go home at the end of a service, I know for a fact that I won’t have any communication with a pastor for seven days.

I would like to know that I won’t be badgered for money. Christians talk a lot about tithing. Here’s a terrible secret: God doesn’t require us to tithe. Preachers hate hearing that, but it’s true. Tithing comes from the Jewish law, which does not apply to us. It’s a good IDEA to tithe. But really, you’re supposed to develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and you should give (or withhold) as he directs. I am really tired of being goaded. Every Sunday, we put a pastor on the stage to give a pitch, and they tell us God will give is a big ROI. I realize we have a lot of cheap people who need to learn to give, but if we introduced them to the Holy Spirit and helped them grow, the giving would come naturally. We wouldn’t have to jawbone them like reluctant car buyers.

I want to hear about the Holy Spirit, and I want to experience his presence in church, as I do at home. I’m tired of backward self-improvement nonsense masquerading as doctrine. I can’t believe we let Brian Klemmer come to our church and teach the same stuff they used to teach at EST seminars. Find that in the Bible for me. I’ll give you a hundred years to look it up.

I guess this is a horrible thing to say. Brian Klemmer came to our church (selling expensive secular self-help seminars), and he told us he had a 500-year plan for his life. As a Christian, he had plans for what he would be doing hundreds of years into the future. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but can anyone seriously believe that right now, he’s working on that plan? He died from a torn carotid artery a while back. Is he really in heaven, carrying out a plan his tiny human brain made, in a place he could not understand when the plan was made? Is anyone stupid enough to believe that? But we sat there and lapped it up.

I know there are no perfect churches. But not all churches are sick. There are ministries you can support and be part of without feeling like a sucker.

The main thing that bugs me about my church is that I can’t recommend it to people. New people come in, and I’m glad they’re trying to get to know God, but I know they’re headed for some serious disappointments if they stay. I have friends who get discouraged. I can’t tell them to stick it out. Not in good conscience.

I’ve been praying for the church to change, and my faith has been telling me it will, but I still think I’m leaving. I think a bunch of us will leave. Two Armorbearer families are gone. I’m on the way. If it works for me, I’m going to go after my friends who are discouraged. Maybe the heart of the church will leave, and that will provide a much needed wake-up call that leads to restructuring under new leaders.

Man, I look forward to dropping the loads I’ve been carrying. I want to be in a church where I can support what they’re doing. I don’t want to bite my tongue all the time. I don’t want to have to tell my friends what they’re hearing is wrong, or that they’re right to feel used or mistreated.

I told the Armorbearers I would not be in church next week. I have learned not to ask permission. I informed them I would not be there, and I said it would be nice if someone filled in. One of the young guys volunteered. I’m covered. At our church, there’s a lot of pressure to show up and work, as if it were a job, so we really feel like we have to get approval to take time off. I managed to get over that.

I may not be able to wait for Sunday. There’s a Tuesday night service. While the kids at my church are dancing to secular music and trying to hook up, I may be at a normal church service.

Here it is, the week after Passover, and I may be on my way from a place of profitless servitude to a place where I can work for God. How appropriate.

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3 Responses to “Following the Two Spies”

  1. aelfheld Says:

    “I’ve been praying for the church to change, and my faith has been telling me it will [...]”
    Pardon my cynicism but more often than not change is not for the better.

  2. Steve H. Says:

    I can’t criticize your view of human nature, but if God says it will be, then it will be.

  3. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    James 2

    James 2:s1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
    2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
    3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
    4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

    James 4: 13Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
    14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
    15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.