Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quasi-Niebuhrian moment

There's some intersection of Christ and culture here, but I can't quite put my finger on it. :-)

Hat tip to my friend Erik!

Edited to add: having trouble with the embedding? Try this link instead.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Five: play that funky music, white girl

Mary Beth of the RevGals writes:

The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...

1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child - this would likely have been determined or influenced by your parents? Or perhaps your family wasn't musical...was the news the background? the radio? Singing around the piano?

Mmmm...earliest memories include my Close-n-Play, guitar lessons, hearing my mom's accordion ("Lady of Spain," anyone?) all through the house, and looking forward all week to music class at school. Mrs. Ewald, my teacher, was really creative about getting us "hands on" with a variety of instruments, and we sang all the time. In fact, the first songs I ever really took notice of, listening to the words and how they fit with the music, I learned in music class. Here's one of them:
There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free

Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live

In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea

And you and me are free to be you and me

Which says to me that I was a sort of utopian, social-justice oriented kid from w-a-y back, ready to be part of the Lesbian Musical Earnestness Wave, a la Indigo Girls, from age 7! :-)

2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" (or whatever it might've been called where you lived") to you?
So MANY. So much CHEESE. :-) The list is long and embarrassing. This is more 6th grade, really, but I remember dancing around my bedroom, singing into my Tickle deodorant, to this one. I was pretty sure that I'd grow up to be one of her backup singers.

3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day? (hint: go to www.pandora.com and type in a performer/composer...see what you come up with!)

Hmmm...again, LOTS.

Stevie Wonder--Sir Duke
Elton John--Tiny Dancer
Gustav Holst--finale from St. Paul's Suite
Aretha Franklin--Natural Woman
Indigo Girls--Get Out the Map
Beethoven--last few minutes of last movement of 9th Symphony ("Ode to Joy" part)
Billy Joel--Just the Way You Are
Captain & Tennille--Song of Joy (no link, sorry)
Patti LaBelle--Ready for a Miracle
Sarah McLachlan--Ordinary Miracle

And, of course, any really good choral music (soft spot for spirituals), cranked up LOUD. Beloved and I used to sing with this group, and had the privilege of singing this particular piece under the baton of its composer, in his guest stint with us. We had a group of friends sing it at our wedding.

4) Who is your favorite performer of all time?

There's been so much brilliant music...where do I begin? I love Jessye Norman's ability to completely mesmerize an audience; YoYo Ma's joy; the way music seeps from Bobby McFerrin's pores; the Indigo Girls' laid-back honesty; Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and Keb Mo's effortless cool and amazing musicianship, Aretha Franklin's willingness to leave everything on the stage. Basically, anyone with the chops to write a lyric that says something honestly and poetically, pair it with an evocative musical setting and present it unabashedly and artistically has something to offer that I want to hear. I can't possibly pick just one.

5) What is your favorite style of music for worship?

Almost all of them...from great, crashing organ music to soaring choirs to joyful Latin/African drums to gospel to one little kid lisping out "Jesus Loves Me" to jazz to Taize to a whole congregation cranked up on "Amazing Grace" to the sound of silence. I can't do a steady diet of vapid, simplistic stuff, and I don't really get the rap thing--but I'm willing to try almost anything once, as long as it points to God instead of itself and finds that taproot of reality and joy. I'll leave you with this:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What channel should I be watching?

In order to find advertising like this, I mean? Good grief, it's an art piece! Lovely.

Hat tip to Philip Copeland at ChoralNet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

Andrew Sullivan--whose coverage of the Iran crisis has been terrific, BTW, posted this lovely morsel this morning. Check it out.

Choristers as citizens

Thank you, CBS Sunday Morning, for this!

And, according to Chorus America, there are 10,000,000 more choral singers in the U.S. than there were in 2003.

Excellent trend!

Oh, and for more information, our local public radio station has a story.


Something occurred to me last night, as I was awaiting the Sandman, and it got me giggling uncontrollably.

The reason for the gathering I'd just posted about was the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of Beloved's parents. The five kids all put their heads together and decided that they'd cook the Big Dinner, and that it would be shrimp for the kids, and filet mignon with lobster tail for the adults. A pretty big splurge for this family; no one's got a lot of money, so it was a gift of love and honor for their folks.

And it was an abomination. Which means that the abominable playing field has now been leveled.


Verb: that's what's happening

Jan of the RevGals writes:

Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
  • Say yes.
  • Be generous.
  • Speak up.
  • Love more.
  • Trust yourself.
  • Slow down.
As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?

The pups are good at it--Linus has a special beagley "rowl," combined with a grin, that says "Get out of your head! Let's play!" Lucy hops up on the couch and curls her warm little body against me, as if to say, "Pet me, please. Mmmmm." It's great--they insist, in their delightfully individual ways, upon being heard, upon bringing me back into "now."

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?

Beautiful trees, a cardinal's nest, the neighbor kid on his way down the street, heavy clouds, a squirrel just managing to cross the street without being run over.

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?

Open, offer, receive, trust, try, love.

From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?

13? Oh, yuck. What a horrible year. I was studious, lonely, and insecure. My family was having trouble and I didn't yet know who I was. That kid is mostly grown up; she peeks around a corner from time to time, but her suffering has been eased.

5. From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

Assuming we're talking about music here--what's the closest thing to play in your life? What absorbs you?

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."

Raindrop. Ummm...another raindrop. :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interstitial living


It's been a while since I've posted...sort of a "between time" for me. The end of May meant the end of the choral season, the end of the heavier church season, and a brief lull before a Big Event that marks the real beginning of summer for me (more on this below). I'd come to a point at which some re-evaluation was needed; I was beyond exhausted from the pace I'd been keeping, and needed some recovery time. In that interim, I also needed to do some serious thinking about the ways in which I spend my time...where my gifts are, where I'd like to put my energy. I didn't have a lot to say, blogolistically (?) speaking; was feeling the need to shut up and listen for a while.

And so I did. And it was good.

I've made some changes--spoken the truth about what I really want, to myself and--where needed--to others. I also did some difficult things I've been avoiding, and I'm feeling better.

One of the many changes that's come about recently is a new boss at my day job, and in our "getting to know you" meeting she described my role in our office as "interstitial." I loved that. First, because she has an interesting and creative vocabulary; second, because it's pretty apt. I move in the spaces between things. My job lives there, and I'm energized there. Besides which:
  • I joke about being a "BuddLutheran" because my deeply-rooted Lutheranism is seasoned by Zen, and the two are so different from one another.
  • I'm both a church geek and a lesbian; I live somewhere in between church culture and GLBT culture.
  • I'm a musician, a writer, a minister and a teacher, bouncing around those mini-vocations like a pinball.
I live in the spaces between. And so, I present (interstitially) the following, for fun; we'll be right back after this:

I heard a podcast of a rather terrific sermon on John 14 today, in which the preacher refused to try to neatly "resolve" her difficulties with the "I am the way" statement, in regard to the ways it has been used by Christians to perpetrate judgment and cruelties upon people of other faiths. She said instead,

I stand in front of you with fragments--
pieces of ideas I find compelling in relation to it--
but I cannot solve it...I prefer
to live it its interstices,
the hard places,
the ruptures that this text opens up.

She then presented several of those fragments, and they illuminated the text for me far more fully than any pat answer would have.

We stand with our fragments; sometimes, that's all we can do.

And there's that word again: interstices. The places between--between answers encased in smooth little shells, between rocks and hard places, between comfortable definitions, between "now" and "not yet," between, between, between.

I've begun to believe that this is where most of the good stuff is.

I spent a part of last week at a family reunion with Beloved's family...almost all of them. Most of them, I was meeting for the first time since Beloved and I got together 11 1/2 years ago.

It was illuminating.

Because, before last week, I thought that most of the barriers in our not-really-developing family relationships had to do with the fact that Beloved and I are gay, and together. I thought I was regarded as sort of the Evil Influence Upon their Treasured Youngest Daughter, and therefore persona non grata. I don't think that any more. It's perhaps a little piece of the puzzle, but by no means the whole thing.

I think we have the same problem that most people have. I think that what we have here is a failure to communicate. And much of that failure results from an unwillingness to even visit the interstices--places of doubt, of vulnerability, and so all we can do is carom off each other's hard little shells.

Don't get me wrong--it wasn't miserable or anything; some parts of the trip were quite nice, and I was glad to be included. That was a big step.

I'll approach this situation differently now. I'll try to help create some safe interstitial space between us, so that we can perhaps bridge the chasm. Maybe it's possible to build a little bit of trust with some of them.

At any rate, I'm going to try to be open to the possibility.

A gifted hymnwriter once told me about a song she was working on with her writing partner...they were arguing about one word in their new text based on Isaiah 2, a song about real and lasting peacemaking. They had the swords being changed into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks and all that lovely imagery. There was a verse in which they re-stated the lowering of "sword and spear," and she wanted to change "spear" for "shield."

Because, as she said to me, true peacemaking requires vulnerability. True peacemaking sometimes requires a solitary walk across the interstitial space between two armies, in order to shake the hand of the other side's representative.

I'm wandering with my fragments, looking for that space. And it feels good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The importance of the right spokesperson

'Cause if this was a conversation between Bert & Ernie, it would have smacked of "agenda."

Bwa ha ha...