Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Music on a budget

Read what my new friend, halfway around the world, has written. Hear her. It could change your whole way of being in the world--not all at once, but note by note.

Every time you choose to approach music as a practitioner instead of a consumer, you feed your soul. I kid you not. "Talent" has so little to do with it; it's about joy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


There's an interesting conversation going on at Search the Sea (and a couple of other linked sites) about Twitter and worship; check it out!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The case for working with your hands

This is interesting. It's got lots of important themes:
  • human agency
  • the importance of failure
  • location in a community
  • what makes a "good job"
Give him a listen!

Friday five: getting the heck out of Dodge

Mary Beth of the RevGals suggests, "Let's think about VACATIONS! I certainly am!"

1) What did your family do for vacations when you were a child? Or did you have stay-cations at home?

Fishing. Dad loves to fish; Mom's a fan, too. Often, Saturday DAY trips would start at 5 a.m. with a drive into Neighboring Cheese-oriented State, a day of fishing, and a return home after midnight. My sister and I were mostly resigned to this; I've always loved to read, so I got a LOT of reading done on those trips!

2) Tell us about your favorite vacation ever:

Two stories--

There's a small, family-run, 3-cabin resort in the northern middle of Neighboring Cheese-oriented State; various members of my dad's side of the family have been spending vacation time there since the 1930s. (It's on a "rent a cabin for the summer" basis now, so I haven't been there in a couple of decades. Bwaaa.) My family went, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and I got to bring Lori, my best friend. We (still!) have the sort of friendship in which we can find fun in a trip to the grocery store. A solid week together was fantastic; being at the lake with the swimming and the boating and the hiking and the canasta games and the chocolate-covered peanuts = fun, not to be measured with existing technology.

And then there's that whole "honeymoon" thing--Beloved and I got married, two Octobers ago. Immediately afterward, we spent a few days at a lake house belonging to friends, which was a welcome respite. Lovely and still. A month later, we went to Chicago for a long weekend--great pizza, great art, great theater, gorgeous hotel, terrific wife. WONDERFUL.

3) What do you do for a one-day or afternoon getaway...is there a place nearby that you escape to on a Saturday afternoon/other day off?

There's a lovely town on the nearby Very Big River...including fun shops and several lovely B&Bs, as well as its proximity to two excellent state parks.

Alternatively, the back yard hammock is good!

4) What's your best recommendation for a full-on vacation near you...what would you suggest to someone coming to your area? (Near - may be defined any way you wish!)

Our Major Metropolis is so full of world-class music, theater & art, good food, great parks, sports teams...there's something for every taste. Truly--it's hard to justify leaving it for a vacation somewhere else!

5) What's your DREAM VACATION?

I'm thinking we should start in Norway and make our way south. It would take a while, and also a chunk of change:
  • fjords and the culture of my rellies
  • Iona Community
  • London--significant stopover
  • German/Austrian music (and some Eastern European choral music) and the culture of Beloved's rellies
  • Paris--the obvious
  • Italy--eating our way through Tuscany, stopping in Rome for some history
  • Greece--continuing with the history, and ending up on a beach by some Very Blue Water before we come home
Bonus: Any particularly awful vacation stories that you just have to tell? ("We'll laugh about this later..." maybe that time is now!)

Oh, four or five leap to mind. The one I'll share happened when I was about five years old, and my sister was a toddler. My dad had borrowed his brother's tent and camping gear, and we were going to have our first family camping trip. It was early summer, nice and warm out, good weather forecast. Well, we arrived at the campsite, my folks got stuff set up and, just as Dad was pounding the last tent stake, Mom looked up to see my sister heading for the lake, full speed ahead. I'll sum up the rest of the weekend with these important points:
  • There was no beach. At the shoreline, the water was 6 feet deep.
  • Mari went for it. Mom jumped in after her.
  • Mom can't swim. Dad jumped in and fished both of them out, just as the sun was going down.
  • It got down to 25 degrees that night.
  • We packed up and went to the Holiday Inn in the morning.
I was the only person who'd had any fun at all camping, but the area chipmunks also seemed pleased when I shared my nutritious breakfast with them:

In addition to its 100% of minimum daily requirements of vitamins and iron, it was a great big bowl full of delicious camping metaphor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Be the change you wish to see

My denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will gather this August for our biannual Churchwide Assembly, taking place right here in my hometown. At this Assembly, the voting members will decide whether or not to adopt a recently-completed Social Statement on issues of sexuality. They will also be called upon to decide about some resolutions around the place of GLBT folks in the Body of Christ, with regard to ordination and blessing of same-gender relationships. I posted an analysis here when all were revealed in February.

I'm hopeful that there will be real and open conversation, as opposed to frustration, fear and finger-pointing. We're off to a pretty good start, from what I'm hearing.

To that end, Beloved and I have been part of a project that aims to tell the stories of people directly affected by these issues within our church. The participants here don't intend to argue scripture or doctrine, nor to label those on the other side of the "fence." Instead, we simply tell our stories as loving, Christ-following people who are geared toward same-gender relationships, or as pastors and family members of GLBT folks.

We're not scary. We're not Extra-Sinful. We're not hedonists, any more than our straight brothers and sisters can be so called en masse. And we're already part of the the Body of Christ. As one couple in the book describes it,

Both John and I attend these debate forums they have at synod assemblies.
We listen to some people talk using terminology such as
‘the gay lifestyle’ and ‘those gays’ and ‘them’
without knowing we’re sitting in the room right with them.
They talk like they’re authorities
when they have no clue about our lives or our relationships.
We work our butts off, take care of our family,
go to church, knit,
and fall asleep before the ten o’clock news is on.
That’s the gay lifestyle.

That made me laugh, because it's so representative of my life, too--well, except for the knitting part.

Read our story here (#9). Share it with anyone in your life who might be helped by hearing it, or any of the others in the book. If you are able and so inclined, provide a little bit of financial support to the committee that put it together.

Most importantly, invite a conversation with someone who sees these issues through a different lens than yours, whether or not either or both of you are churchgoers. Be open. Be respectful. Cultivate trust and understanding instead of hollering and name-calling.

Let's unbolt the doors we've slammed in one another's faces.

If you're wondering why marriage is important to us GLBT folks...Part The Second

I posted one reason last week. Here is another. Particularly harrowing to me is the fact that they had done everything right--got legal proxy paperwork done, etc.--and it wasn't enough.

Please, can we fix this?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Best retriever EVER

Wonder if I could get Linus & Lucy to do this...instead of, say, the not-quite-dead rabbit they slipped into the kitchen last night.


funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Dammit, Jim, I'm a blogger

I'm not a Trekkie, but I play one in this post.

First, I must cop to this: I have Shatner issues. Blasphemy, perhaps, but there it is. I liked TNG, and have seen some of the movies (thought "Nemesis" was pretty interesting). I know what a "red shirt" is, what a "tribble" is, and get the basic Kirk/Spock dynamic.

But we went to see the new movie, and I LOVED it. Seriously loved it. Clapped-like-a-second-grader-over-the-closing-credits loved it. This guy has said it so well, I need not say it all again. But read him. He's funny!

Live long and prosper...and go see the movie.

Mompriest meets Katie Couric: an interview with the Revgals

Mompriest had a fun idea, so I thought I'd play along. Here goes!

1. Where do you blog?

In our office/family room/guest room, for the most part; our Mac is at the center of the room, which is usually fairly quiet, but for the neighbor boys' ongoing basketball game in the next driveway, and the continuing orbit of my pups.

2. What are your favorite non-revgal blog pal blogs?

For random musings and civilized, smart political discourse (with which I often disagree, but the way they write makes conversation possible, and I really like that):
For political musings with which I generally do agree, as well as lots of techie goodness, I visit Mary Hess at Tensegrities.

For deeply spiritual storytelling, go to Gordon at Real Live Preacher.

Philip Copeland writes and syndicates lots of interesting choral music stuff at ChoralBlog, and from an instrumental perspective, Sam & Sarah at InsidetheClassics.

For background content to my favorite NPR program, Krista Tippett's wonderful Speaking of Faith, I go to SOFObserved.

Oh, and for pictorial hilarity, you can't beat the LOLCATS and dogs...and celebrities...

3. What gives you joy?

Sleepy/cuddly puppies, Beloved's smile, choir rehearsal, prose/poetry/music that manage to be both substantive and beautifully written, a cozy dinner with friends, a shady hammock on a sunny afternoon, my congregation singing their hearts out.

4. What is your favorite sound?

See the end of #3; the sound the pups make when they wake up, lapping waves, chirping birds, the word "hello" from someone I love.

5. What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates?

Welcome home. Choir rehearsal is down the hall; the puppy meadow is out back; the library's in that building over there. There's a line of people who want to see you when you've had a minute to sit down and here's a tall, icy diet Coke.

6. You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?

I'm thinking of an Oliver Wendell Holmes' quote:

Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!

7. Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.

She yawned, stretched, opened her eyes and leapt out of bed: today was the day.

8. What color do you prefer your pen?

Green felt tip, an increasingly rare animal. Beloved just scored a box of them for me! Woo hoo!

9. What magazines do you subscribe too?

Christian Century, The Advocate, National Geographic...and I read Time and Newsweek online.

10. What is something you want to achieve in this decade?

Retire a big chunk of debt! Not sexy, but it'd be a lovely thing, free-time-wise...

11. Why are you cool?

(laughing) Because I'm not, and I think I'm really OK with that.

12. What is one of your favorite memories?

I've already talked about the Big Ones in this blog (wedding, arrival of puppies, concerts), so I'm going with a simple one: a family vacation at the lake, the summer after junior year of high school. Lori (best friend) came along. We laughed more that week...

13. Anything else you've always wanted to be asked?

You should be spending more time creatively; can I hire you a personal chef/trainer/financial manager/housekeeper/assistant?


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Deliver us

I feel like Miriam today.

A variety of forces have been at work on me this week, bringing me through a difficult season and into a new peace. It culminated this morning at church: my choir outdid themselves; our larger community baptized Owen into the faith; we celebrated our graduates. We sang "Come, Lord Jesus--send us your Spirit; renew the face of the earth" and "Jesus loves me: this I know." And Wonderful Colleague drenched us (homiletically speaking) with great, dripping buckets of grace. He quoted two other wise souls, in so doing:

The arc of history is bent toward justice. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

The arc of the gospel is bent toward inclusion. --Walter Brueggemann

And so, it was a strange time for this phrase to jump out and smack me on the forehead while we prayed:

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Deliver us. Whatever it takes. Whether or not we know how much we need it.

Deliverance sometimes comes in a pillar of fire or a parting of the waves. More often, though, it's a messy, protracted business--often arriving just as we are truly tiring of the company of its advance party, Mssrs. Discomfort and Doubt.

Deliverance can be as sensational as a near-drowning, or as mundane as our pesky brother Moses continually clearing his throat in the corner of the room. But one thing is constant: it's born of a truth that insists on being heard, whether we really want to deal with it or--most likely-- not.

Deliverance comes when we muster the courage to bear witness to deep truth: by telling, by hearing, by doing. By not bowing down to our assumptions, especially when they exist to keep other people safely classifiable and under our control.

Like many of you, I've been blessed and privileged to bear witness to Cecilia's journey over the last year or so. This extraordinary woman has had a big week, coming out to her congregation and basically everyone she knows. And now she has been delivered from the burden of secrecy and some fear of the unknown, born into a new understanding of God's love and her own courage. Her congregation has likewise been delivered (whether or not they all know it yet) as she has invited them to a take another look at her, and at what they truly believe about the core meaning of life in the body of Christ.

In the last week, I, too, have been delivered from an aspect of anger and fear. It hasn't been as dramatic as Cecilia's story, but hey, any true deliverance is gracious and powerful. God kept on gently (and finally, more firmly...like Professor Dumbledore's mugs of butterbeer knocking at the Dursley's heads when they rudely refused his hospitality) prodding me to take a deeper look at a couple of challenging situations in my life. It was uncomfortable. Some repentance was required of me. That's well and good. Because I, too, have been just a little bit more fully delivered now, having inched farther along the arc of justice and inclusion in my own life. It isn't dramatic. It's incremental and incomplete, but it's real.

I often ask my choir, as I did today, to make arcs of melody that have an origin, a sweep, a peak and a falling away...arcs that sometimes intersect and hold the music aloft like this. The sweep and swoosh of the arcs are moments of fullest life: of awareness and, sometimes, of deliverance--whether you're the singer or the listener.

I'm awed.

I'm grateful to God for the unending canticle of deliverance, and pray that we may all continue to listen for it, and to try, as much as we can, to sing it in tune.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Short theologians at dinner

Repentance from the sin of heterosexism

My friend Mary has a wonderful post today, with compelling links, that suggests a fresh angle of approach to the conversation around GLBT lovin'. Terrific stuff.

Need to add a shout-out to Sarcastic Lutheran for a stellar sermon on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch: similar song, different melody. Wow!

Life at my house

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Perhaps the best argument against the closet EVER

Being What God Means Us To Be
--Thomas Merton

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.
For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God].
It 'consents,' so to speak, to [God's] creative love.

It is expressing an idea which is in God
and which is not unique from the essence of God,
and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.

The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like God.
If it tried to be something else which it was never intended to be,
it would be less like God, and it would therefore give [God] less glory...

This particular tree will give glory to God
by spreading out its roots in the earth
and raising its branches into the air and the light
in a way that no other tree before it or after it did or will do...

The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt
on this particular April day
in this field
under these clouds
is a holiness consecrated to God by [God's] own creative wisdom
and it declares the glory of God.

The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints.
The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road
are saints looking up into the face of God.
This leaf has its own texture
and its own pattern of veins
and its own holy shape,
and the bass and trout
hiding in the deep pools of the river
are canonized by their beauty and their strength.

The lakes hidden among the hills are saints
and the sea too is a saint
who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance.

The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God's saints.
There is no other like him.
He is alone in his own character;
nothing else in the world ever did
or ever will
imitate God in quite the same way.
That is his sanctity.

But what about you?
What about me?

Seriously. That's as close to the truth as I can get. When people suggest that I should have chosen to repress my gayness, this is the heart of my answer. Because to try to be other than what I am would be a distortion of what God created, when what's called for is a way to humbly honor God's truth in me as I understand it.

Oh, and a postscript to InVocation's concert weekend, to which I referred in my last post: it went very well. We had fun, the music was good, $ were raised for charity. It's really a gift to get to do this.

Despite the fact that yesterday, Beloved came home from tae kwon do using a cane. (I kid you not!)

I'm going to go and mow the lawn now. Continue to pray for me, please. ;-)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Playing injured

So...it's May, 2007.

The choir brought to birth so patiently and lovingly by the efforts of a truly exceptional bunch of people is about to sing its first spring concert season (we're excited, because the Christmas season went well!). The Wednesday before our first concert, my phone rings. It's the wife of one of our two tenors, calling from his hospital room. He's just had an emergency appendectomy. He's doing well, but you can guess where my head went next. Our concert is three days away, and this guy represents exactly half of one voice part.

Can you believe, he SANG the concert, plus the three that followed? Medal of Valor to him.

Fast forward. In the next three times around the track, our group of 12-14 people has had the following maladies occur within a week of the first concert of the season:
  • broken ankle
  • broken wrist (on the alto with a recorder solo)
  • virus resulting in complete laryngitis
Not to mention another member's discovery (and subsequent treatment) of cancer.

All of them--ALL of them--rallied. They did everything possible to sing/play the concerts; barstools, casts, pain meds, slings (and don't even get me started about the accompanying "arrows of outrageous fortune!"). And the rest of the group comes through for them by learning extra voice parts so that we have coverage.

There is much joking about the InVocation Curse, and we've been considering a traveling trophy (and maybe a supplemental insurance policy of some kind!).

I wonder how Chanticleer and Cantus manage this; they're our size or smaller, and divide into at least as many voice parts as we do. (Perhaps I'll e-mail and ask them! If any of you choral types out there have wisdom to share, please do so!) Not to mention the million smaller groups out there.

Anyway, we had two concerts last weekend. We finish this season with one more tonight and one tomorrow night, along with a church service beforehand. And now what, you ask?

Yesterday, one tenor had a fever of 101; another got HIT BY A CAR. (He's OK, but left part of his face on the street, and is referring to himself as the Phantom of the Opera.) Both are planning to sing.

As a director and fellow singer, I'm grateful to these amazing people for their willingness to tough it out. And I hope it's clear to them that I'm aware that it costs them something to do so. And I hope that they take good care of themselves, and don't push beyond what's healthy for them. And I wonder where the line is, and how to care for both "the needs of the many and the needs of the one," especially an injured one.

And I ask you, is it too much to ask that this good-hearted group of people get ONE concert season in which no one gets sick or hurt? This is not a full-contact sport; usually, pads and helmets are not required choral equipment. And there aren't that many of us--statistically and karmically, I think we've got one healthy season coming.

Right? Seriously?

I do so love my peeps, and wish them well--on SO many levels. :-)