Monday, February 28, 2011

Music for a Monday: Bring Him Home

So last week, I mentioned the concert we sang in, and promised to feature songs from it.

But because we just saw Les Misérables, I feel compelled to share a few gems from that musical.

(Have I mentioned you should go see Les Misérables?)


This song is a favorite for several reasons, some of which are hard to write about. But I will say this: there were several months when silently singing the chorus of this song was the only way I could pray for my son. Now, every time I hear it, the song reminds me of God's faithfulness in answering my prayer, even when I couldn't muster the faith to pray it.

(Valjean is standing over Marius at the barricade)

God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there

He is young
He's afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.

Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy

You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.


Friday, February 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 31

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

Today is mostly about The Windy City (which, according to my husband, derives from the political climate, rather than the actual weather... but my hair would beg to differ), plus a couple of bits of random weirdness just to keep you off-balance and remind you of the true purpose of 7 Quick Takes.


We just got back from a quick trip to Chicago.

And of all the things there are to love about living in our current location, the fact that we can take a "quick trip to Chicago" is right near the top.


This time, what made the trip even better was getting there by train. Sure, it takes a little longer. But not having to 1) drive in the insanity that is Chicago traffic or 2) sell a kidney to pay for parking made it totally worth the extra time.


The main purpose for the trip was to see Les Misérables (see take #6 here), but we also managed to pack in a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Both were great — but if you've never seen Les Misérables onstage, you need to do so. Posthaste.

Seriously, buy your tickets now. Right now. Take #4 will still be here when you get back.


So, reading about last weekend's concert, plus this week's theatre and art museum visits, might lead one to believe we are big culture snobs.

In reality, the closest we usually get to culture is yogurt.


Need proof? Between the hotel and the museum, we took a quick trip through Milennium Park, where we walked through Cloud Gate (aka, The Bean) (OK, that still sounds a little culture-snobby)... and watched the Zamboni groom the ice rink.

And between the park and the museum, the topic of conversation was Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


Moving on from the Chicago trip (for now)... have you ever wondered why we say "OK"?

Or how to spell it?

There are many theories as to the expression's origin.

I learned about the "Old Kinderhook" theory in junior high school, and that's why I always spell it the way I do (initials only, no punctuation).


And now... for something completely different:

Happy Friday, friends!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Joining the conversation

Author and speaker Rachel Held Evans
Early this month, Rachel Held Evans visited Baylor University's chapel to speak on her current book project The Quest for Biblical Womanhood.

It's a really great talk, and worth listening to all the way through.

Some memorable excerpts:

"I hate seeing the Bible reduced to an adjective."

"Here's the thing: I have immersed myself totally in biblical womanhood. I have studied, I have read commentaries; I have looked, and I have found no blueprint in the Bible for how to be woman, or how to be a wife, or how to be a person of faith. And just when I think I've found one... a woman comes along in Scripture and she's praised for breaking it."

"God chose not to communicate to us in bullet points. Instead, he uses poetry, history, letters, laws, philosophy, proverbs, traditions, and mostly, story. With the exception of Noah's ark and the temple, there just aren't a lot of blueprints in the Bible, and there's certainly no blueprint for how to be a woman."

"The Bible is meant to be a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender."

"We're part of this dynamic, centuries-old conversation with one another and with God because the Bible is hard to understand. And I think God wants us to struggle with the Bible because He wants us to be drawn into community with each other and with Him. I think He wants us to have conversations, because faith isn't about being right, it's about being a part of a community."

"We can't really have constructive, helpful, dynamic conversations about the Bible unless we're willing to admit that our interpretation of the Bible is only as inerrant as we are."

"We all pick and choose."

"Questioning somebody's motives is a bad way to end any conversation, especially one about the Bible."

"The best way to engage in better conversations about the Bible is to ask better questions. And I think the Evangelical community has kinda dropped the ball on this one in recent years. We've been so concerned about being ready to give an answer in defense of Christianity that we've forgotten that the Bible is teeming with questions."

"The Bible is a great conversation-starter because it asks the questions that are most important to us as human beings, without providing neat and tidy answers."

"Being willing to look at the Bible from another person's perspective represents a strength of faith, not a weakness of faith."

And possibly my favorite:

"I figure that if the gospel can bring together zealots and tax collectors, and pharisees and prostitutes, and Jews and Gentiles, it can bring together Arminians and Calvinists."

(And maybe, just maybe, it can even bring together complementarians and egalitarians.)


Monday, February 21, 2011

Music for a Monday: Christus Factus Est

Yesterday, the community choir I sing with gave a concert.

It involved several "firsts" for us: our first time giving a concert in February; our first time with a small ensemble from the group; our first time performing a nearly-all-a capella repertoire; our first time singing in the city's Catholic cathedral.

And we sang some incredible music — so incredible that I can't help but share it with you.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be featuring some of the music we sang, using videos from YouTube of other groups singing the same pieces we did.


One of my favorite passages of scripture is Philippians 2:5-11. The text for this piece comes from verses 8 and 9 of that passage.

Christus Factus Est
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem autem crucis.
Propter quod est exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen quod est super omne nomen.

Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to the death of the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a Name which is above all names.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

A burning musico-culinary question

After mentioning Nat "King" Cole in Friday's post, I went onto Grooveshark and lined up a bunch of King Cole Trio tunes, then went into the kitchen to make dinner.

I was chopping veggies when "The Frim Fram Sauce" came on:

"I want the frim-fram sauce with the ausen fay with chafafa on the side."

Can anyone help me understand what these menu items are, or in which aisle of the grocery store I might find them?



Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 30

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

Today's installment of 7 Quick Takes is a bonanza of February fun! Enjoy, and Happy Friday!


This weekend, the community choir I sing with is giving a concert.

Usually when I'm singing, I'm too focused to notice people's cellphones (etc.) making noise. But when I'm in the audience, it's a huge distraction.

That's why I loved this picture:

And look! They even supplied the bassoon!


As to what I'll be having for breakfast on concert day, well...


Rachel Held Evans wrote a great post on Valentine's Day. Here's a sample:

Back when I was single, I imagined that Valentine’s Day was the happiest day of the year for couples. I just assumed that they floated through the day in uninterrupted bliss, their hearts full of joy and peace, their lives as sweet and orderly as a box of Russell Stovers.

I figured I’d be happy once I joined their ranks.

Same goes for publishing. Back when I was an unpublished writer, I watched in envy as online friends nabbed book deals. I offered congratulations and emoticons with the same forced smile I gave the cheerleaders walking down the hall with a carnation of every color.

I figured I’d be happy once I too got “the call.”

And now I’m a published author with a wonderful husband and a burgeoning speaking career and I’ll I can do is hate poor Ann Voskamp for selling more copies of her memoir than I’ve sold of mine.

I figure I’ll be happy once I’m making a decent living at this, once I don’t have to worry how we’ll pay the bills, once I see my name in Amazon’s Top 100, once I’ve stopped doubting, once I’ve figured God out.

I’ll be happy once….

I suppose we’ve all got something with which to finish that sentence—even the richest, most successful, most put-together among us. We’re all waiting for happiness to come to us, for joy to arrive in a bouquet of flowers or letter of acceptance or little pink plus sign on a pregnancy test.

But every now and then I catch a glimpse of the surprising places where joy actually resides.
Read the rest of Rachel's post here.


In other February news, Melanie (aka, Big Mama) wrote a post about a rodeo-season weekend in San Antonio.

It's just a sweet little photo-album-with-words about a Texas family's weekend, but there are some humor gems tucked in here and there amidst the fair rides and funnelcake.

How is that February-related? I'm so glad you asked. Read on...


When I was a kid growing up in Tucson, every February brought Rodeo Days: a four-day celebration of calf-roping and bull-riding.* It was big.

So big, in fact, that schools were closed for that Thursday and Friday. Plus, on the first three days of Rodeo Week, we were allowed to wear jeans to school!

That's BIG.

Not as big as the state-fair-carnival-extravaganza in San Antonio, but still, big.

* No bull-riding or calf-roping for me. I'm a musician, remember? For me, this annual event meant marching with my junior high school band in the Rodeo Parade, wearing white jeans and white canvas sneakers that, thanks to the many horses preceding us on the parade route, would never be white again.


But you know what February holiday has never made sense to me?

Groundhog Day.

OK, so if the groundhog sees his shadow, it's six more weeks of winter, right? Which means Spring arrives roughly mid-March... and that's where I get confused.

Is that a bad thing, or a good thing? Do we want Punxatawny Phil to see his shadow, or don't we?

It's probably my Southwestern roots getting in the way. In my hometown, Spring typically arrives well before mid-March, regardless of what Mr. Phil has or hasn't seen on Feb. 2.

And in my current location, Spring arrives well after that date.

So can someone with a better understanding of Groundhog Day explain it to me?


Tuesday was the anniversary of the passing of Nat "King" Cole. I'd like to remember him with a full-length post on his birthday next month.

Still, February is Black History Month... and he is certainly a figure in Black history.

Thanks, Nat. Your contribution to American music can hardly be overstated. You are truly Unforgettable.

[Edited: Originally, I'd posted a video of Nat singing this song on his variety show, but that video was removed from YouTube. Though I really wanted to show him singing it by himself, I'd forgotten how sweet this tribute version with his daughter Natalie is. And once the photo album montage starts, well... if you don't need a tissue at that point, you're made of sterner stuff than I am. Enjoy.]


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

All of life's riddles are answered in the movies*

For Joe Fox (the role played by Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail), The Godfather was the sum of all wisdom, the answer to any question.

For me, it's The Princess Bride, sharing top honors with Steel Magnolias.

So, if you ask me what to pack for your summer vacation, I probably won't tell you to leave the gun and take the cannoli. But I may very well advise you to remember a holocaust cloak.

Either that, or I'll remind you that the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.

Just thought you might want to know ahead of time.

* Oh, the title? It's a line from (what else?) a movie — Grand Canyon, an otherwise forgettable film. (And I don't really believe it.)


Friday, February 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 29

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.


We begin today's 7 Quick Takes with a video that explains the difference between England, Britain, the U.K. and much more:

The United Kingdom Explained from C. G. P. Grey on Vimeo.


After watching that video, I don't know if I'm better informed or more confused. Which brings to mind a favorite quote:

“Before I came here, I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture, I am still confused – but on a higher level.” — Enrico Fermi


In anticipation of Valentine's Day, here's a lovely post from Cake Wrecks.


Yesterday, I posted on the tendency we have (OK, I have) to limit ourselves (myself) to one viewpoint when we (I) read.

While I was looking for an image to capture that idea, I ran across this on Geekologie:

The Cave, by Sakura Adachi, Yanko Designs

I think this design is really cool, but something was nagging at me about the shape of the seating area. I just now figured out what it reminds me of:

What, you don't see it? OK, try this: cover the right half of the illustration.

There it is.


Though I am not from the South myself (the Southwest doesn't really count as the South... except for Texas, which is somehow both), I thoroughly enjoy the wit and wisdom of several Southern bloggers.

One of these is Crazy Aunt Purl, who can even find a lesson in a trip to the grocery store. And then tell the story as only a Southerner can.


Speaking of trying to make a good decision in the grocery store...

Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness
The other day, I was out running errands between a class at school and another class at the Y. It was late afternoon and my energy was flagging, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it through my workout without some nutritional help.

If I'd been thinking ahead, I would have packed an apple and a handful of peanuts. If I'd been home, I might have whipped up a Popeye Smoothie.

Well, I hadn't thought ahead, and I wasn't anywhere near home, but I was near a big grocery store, so I went in looking for something healthy. I tried this stuff, and it is amazing. A little pricey, maybe — though no worse than a latté (which might have been my selection if the afternoon's plans had included a comfy chair and a book rather than a pool and a yoga mat) — but really tasty and full of good things, including "phytonutrients" (whatever they are).

With this stuff and a few roasted almonds, my energy rebounded strong enough to get me through an extra-long workout.

(This is not a paid testimonial for Bolthouse Farms or Green Goodness. Bolthouse Farms doesn't know me from Adam. Or Eve. But if they would like to send me a case or two of their product, I would be happy to accept it.)


And while we're on the subject of good grocery store decisions...

When I walked into the store that day, I forgot to take my canvas bags with me.

Now, if you go to the grocery store this weekend, maybe you'll do better than I did.

Happy Friday, friends!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Turning the page

I'm often struck by how we tend to limit our scope when we read.

Like choosing the same item every time we visit a favorite restaurant, or taking the same vacation every year, it's a little like reading the same page over and over again.

It's easy to point fingers here, but I'm just as guilty.

I'm not saying it's wrong to have favorites. But we tend to read from a single pool of authors (and as tempting as it is to name names, I'm going to resist), all with similar viewpoints and similar emphases.

Those outside that pool are met with suspicion, or even outright contempt. Their work might be read, but only for the purpose of poking holes in it.

Again, as I point a finger at others, three are pointed directly back at me.

I recently looked at a friend's posted reading list, and found myself bristling at one of his selections. Even worse, the title intrigued me, but I cringed when I saw the author's name.

That tendency to limit oneself to reading from a single viewpoint is something that really irritates me when I see it in others. And it's far more annoying when I see it in myself.

More frustrating still is my tendency to quickly justify my reaction: I only have so much time for reading. Why would I choose to read something by that person?

I think of myself as pretty broad-minded. Clearly, I can be just as narrow as the people whose narrowness bothers me.

Maybe it's time to challenge our thinking by reading something from a different pool of authors.

Maybe it's time to turn the page.


Friday, February 04, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Volume 28

The idea of 7 Quick Takes Friday comes from blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts it weekly at her site, Conversion Diary.

This week's 7 Quick Takes are all about making new friends and keeping the old. (Thank you, Girl Scouts of America. Your cookies last but a moment, but your songs last forever.)


I've made a new blog discovery: smart and articulate, Sarah writes thought-provoking and artfully crafted posts about parenting, faith, and social justice at Emerging Mummy. (Her blog's name has nothing to do with some B-movie from the 1950s. She's a female parent and a Canadian — that explains the "mummy" part. And she explains the "emerging" part at the bottom of this post.)


Speaking of moms who write about social justice issues, it's been a while since I last mentioned Elizabeth's blog, Things Bright. Her posts describe her life as a mother, a crafter, and an activist. (And by "activist," I mean "someone who is actually working to end an injustice.")

Here's a recent post reflecting the last item on that list — including a don't-miss clip from The Colbert Report!


It's also been a while (more than two weeks!) since I've linked to a favorite Stuff Christians Like post. It's time.

Jon Acuff recently wrote on creating your own "Love Languages." It's brilliant. And I'm not saying that just because my own special love language (which I prefer to think of as a spiritual gift, really) is listed there.


I learned from a friend that yesterday began the Year of the Cat in the Vietnamese zodiac, which of course made me think of this song:


My friend Page Turner (not her real name, but isn't that a great nom de plume for an avid reader?) recently reviewed the book Les Misérables on her blog Lines from the Page. (You might remember I posted on the book and the musical a few months back.)

Page's review is excellent, and challenges a widely-held view on the book's central theme. It's a thought-provoking review, and even more impressive because she read the mammoth tome in a mere 28 days.


In related news, later this month my husband and I will be seeing the musical Les Misérables in Chicago. This trip was our Christmas gift to each other, and came about because of the research I did for the post I wrote in November.


And just for giggles:

In case you've missed it, here's the (extremely catchy) song being spoofed in the above video:

Yes, extremely catchy. You might want to scroll back up to take #4 and play The Year of the Cat again just to make sure you don't go to your next important meeting sounding like the animated guy in the "song pitch" video.

As for me, after watching this a couple of times, I'm giving serious thought to using Willow Smith's painting technique on my living room walls.

Happy Friday, friends!


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ending the silence

I've been working on this post for weeks.

Something bad happened recently, and I feel completely inadequate to comment on it myself. Articles and blog posts about it are all over the internet. I keep hoping to find something about it from Christian therapists and writers.

I wish one of them would write about it, so all I'd have to do is link to their article with a few comments. But either I'm not looking in the right places, or they're remarkably silent.

Bill Zeller (photo: The Daily Princetonian)
Just after the first of the year, Bill Zeller took his life.

Zeller was 27 years old, a PhD student at Princeton, a computer application developer whose projects included Graph Your Inbox and myTunes.

From all appearances, he had everything: youth, talent, education, and a promising future.

But the suicide note he left on his blog tells a different story.