Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sound of Music

I know that at least one of the major television networks shows "The Sound of Music" every year around the holidays. For me it must be one of those things that is such a holiday staple I haven't really watched it all the way through or paid any attention to it since I was a child. And even at that, I admit that my memories of it are inextricably linked with the family I grew up across the street from. They were a naturally talented family. The three children loved "The Sound of Music" so much I remember they performed the "So Long, Farewell" song (with the choreography) at a neighborhood party which required each of them to play the part of at least 2 of the von Trapp children. I must have been memory is so vivid!

At any rate, I'm fairly sure I have not allowed myself to enjoy this classic movie completely in my adulthood. And that is a shame. I'm sure that I never fully appreciated the love between Maria and Captain von Trapp as a child. Or Maria's struggle between her faith and devotion to God and her unexpected love with the Captain. Not to mention the sensitive issue of political and patriotic loyalty as Hitler was brainwashing his followers...I mean the music is pretty but what 8 year old can fully grasp THAT! Or, for that matter, the beautiful truth that the Reverend Mother shares with Maria about climbing every mountain, etc. I, as a full grown woman who strives to live a God honoring life (while finding and living my dream), and who also longs to be a God honoring wife, find myself especially moved by their love, discovery of their love, and declaration of their love. And watching (as an adult) Maria and the Captain sing these lyrics:

"Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good"

Well, hearing those lyrics as an adult struck something primal in me and brought me to tears. I think that it struck a primal fear of feeling worthy. And as a Christ follower, it simultaneously reminded me of how truly amazing God's grace is. For here He is, standing here, loving me, whether or not He should. And it's NOT because somewhere in my youth or childhood (or adulthood), I ever did anything good. With faith in the truth and grace that Jesus Christ fulfills, I am worthy of His love - regardless.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Musical Reality Show Christmas

Santa delivered two things I love early! First of all, Team Lachey won the Clash of the Choirs and I am so proud! I am not only proud of how talented the Cincinnati Choir was, but the love THEY showed (including Nick) for Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital. I am truly impressed with the humility of all involved. I have a new respect for Nick Lachey... he handled the entire competition like a gentleman. Having lived outside of Cincinnati, I know the rest of the country doesn't seem to fully appreciate the greatness of Cincinnati. I think Clash of the Choirs may have been the best PR Cincinnati has had in years.

In other musical reality show news, the band I was cheering for WON on The Next Great American Band. The judges all agreed that The Clark Brothers brought authentic passion to every performance. They said that they had something that could not be faked or bottled. What The Clark Brothers have is deep faith in the perfect grace and truth only God can offer. For the final show they did an original song called "You are Still the Same" and it is one of the most beautiful love songs to God that I have heard in a long while. To watch a replay of the finale click below:

I highly recommend taking time to watch it as it is an excellent showcase of the diversity and talent of ALL the bands that made it into the top 10. Anyone who knows me knows how much I dig live music of all types. So, I was like a kid in a candy store every time I watched this show.

I thank God frequently for music- it is a significant source of joy for me. So it is fitting that I claim these two music reality show victories as two of my best Christmas gifts this year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lyrics Du Jour - Trouble Me

Today's selection is an oldie but goodie from 10,000 Maniacs. *Bit o' Em trivia: I got to see 10,000 Maniacs open for R.E.M. in the mid-80's before this song was even written. At that show Natalie Merchant was twirling on stage and twisted her ankle. After the show a few fans waited by the tour busses, some even tossed a frisbie with Bill Berry. And Michael Stipe carried Natalie out to the bus...very romantic moment.* Anyway, the lyrics for Trouble Me are pretty awesome in context of friendships in general. I know the first time I heard this song I got all weepy & grateful about some special people in my life. I mean, how can ya not? Check 'em out:

"Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and your worries.
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent.
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden
when my back is sturdy and strong? Trouble me.

Speak to me, don't mislead me,
the calm I feel means a storm is swelling;
there's no telling where it starts or how it ends.
Speak to me, why are you building this thick brick wall to defend me
when your silence is my greatest fear?
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden
when my back is sturdy and strong?
Speak to me.

Let me have a look inside these eyes while I'm learning.
Please don't hide them just because of tears.
Let me send you off to sleep with a"There, there, now stop your turning and tossing."
Let me know where the hurt is and how to heal.

Spare me? Don't spare me anything troubling.
Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Speak to me and let our words build a shelter from the storm.
Lastly, let me know what I can mend.
There's more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see.
Trust is what I'm offering if you trouble me"

And now I hear these lyrics as the words of Jesus. If I'm having a bad day, I imagine Jesus is singing this to me and I surrender to His grace which is sufficient for all my needs.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Morning

I love Sunday Morning! The show on CBS, not the specific time or day of the week. Although the actual time and day are pretty groovy, too. Back to the show (feel free to say that like Ed Sullivan) ...I grew up watching it with my dad. I was probably the only Charles Kuralt fan under the age of 18. And before I started attending my current church, I used to proclaim that watching it was better than going to church. Lucky for me, my church offers two service times that don't interfere with CBS' Sunday Morning. Or I could record it...whatever... the point is, I still love it! I don't love it more than God, but because it is full o' God.

Sunday Morning on CBS is technically a news show. Not only does it present current world news, it features profiles on artists, interesting "everyday" people, movie and music reviews, humor, and commentary. All of this is delivered by journalists with no mention of God (unless it's about God directly in some way). I say it is full of God because these stories demonstrate God's creativity and beauty. This morning's show had all of that. The commentary today was from Ben Stein (Bueller...Bueller...anyone) and, as usual, was deep and heartful. Seriously, his commentary has brought me to tears more than twice! And today was another like that. On the surface it was about consumerism and the holidays. But Ben put his spin on it and revealed the truth and grace of the season - succinctly with soul.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seoul Mates

My neck of the woods is preparing for a "winter storm warning" this weekend. That, in combination with the holiday season, has me pining for my all-time favorite "Christmas Episode" of any TV show ever. The Northern Exposure episode titled "Seoul Mates" with the original air date of December 16, 1991 takes the prize for me. And I know I'm not the only one with such affections for this episode. It won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing at the 1992 Emmy's. While I am a big fan of Northern Exposure (the writing, in general, was excellent) even still, that particular episode stands out. It was a grand showcase of all the cultural differences and quirky character traits and how the writers revealed the deepest truths of the character's souls in the most beautiful ways. And how, by the end of that episode, love and grace permeate every nook of Cicely, Alaska. (I get choked up just thinking about Holling singing Ave Maria and that song usually doesn't conjure such emotion for me)

Remembering Northern Exposure and that episode, has extra weight for me today as I'm going to a Christmas Party tonight given by the director of the clinic I support. One of the things I do love about working in a hospital is the unique blend of cultures that naturally display two primal forces in human life- the desire to heal and be healed. In the midst of that, my clinic co-workers will celebrate the spirit of this season together...coming from different religious beliefs, different age groups, different countries of origin, different opinions and reasons for attending the party. Some of us know each other well, and some of us have never met the others in person. I have no doubt that it will be a lovely gathering and that the peace of the season will prevail in the hearts of us all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All Summer in a Day

Yesterday afternoon my friend, Carrie, stopped by my office to steal me away for a cup of coffee. Rather than taking the tunnel to the new building on our hospital campus, we walked outside to enjoy the unusually spring-like weather in the middle of December. It was nearly 70 and sunny and Carrie was especially enjoying the sun after a week of rain. She suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder so the sun was giving her a natural high. While we were waiting for Antoinette to make our Carmel Machiatos (Carrie insisted on buying, thanks Carrie!), we were discussing the seemingly unending rain we had over the past week. I said, "Whenever there are more than 3 days straight of rain I always think of that short story by Ray Bradbury..." before I could finish my sentence Carrie blurted out, "When they lock the girl in the closet!" We were simultaneously delighted that we had found somebody else familiar with that story! I had read it in elementary school (which was more than 25 years ago) and still remembered it like I had read it yesterday. Carrie said it was the same for her. Carrie vowed to find it on the internet and she DID. Here's the link:

It's a very short story...less than 3 pages in my gradeschool textbook I think. But Ray Bradbury manages to convey so much in those few pages. Carrie and I both remember feeling incredible compassion for Margot, the main character. As an adult I can appreciate it on a different level. But mainly, it is about coveting another person's experiences and memories and how that can lead to cruel intentions and erase all traces of grace.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lyrics Du Jour - Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl was killed in December 2000 by a boat speeding through a restricted area where she was scuba diving with her sons in Cozumel. She had already shared her gift of music with the rest of us for many years prior to her tragic and untimely death. One song in particular stands out to me as it was played heavily on my favorite radio station in the 80's. The song "Walking Down Madison" was co-written with Johnny Marr (of The Smiths) and it's lyrics ring true for me as motivation for my volunteer work with OneCity (see link to the left). And, the lyrics can be a reminder to all of us to show grace to everyone we encounter, because in the big picture- we are not that different. Here is just a small taste of these poignant lyrics:

"See you give 'em your nickels, your pennies and dimes
But you can't give 'em hope in these mercenary times, oh no
And you feel real guilty about the coat on your back
And the sandwich you had, oh no

From an uptown apartment to a knife on the A train
It's not that far
From the sharks in the penthouse to the rats in the basement
It's not that far
To the bag lady frozen asleep in the park
Oh no it's not that far
Would you like to see some more?
I can show you if you'd like to

Within every city and town there's a Madison
Frozen lives for whom nothing's happening
Hungry children is a mother's dilemma
Dumpster diving to feed her baby Emma
So you walk on by like it doesn't affect you
The held out hand that you pay no respect to
Nickels and dimes won't even buy your guilt
Another wino dead burnt to death in his quilt
It's a cardboard city, newspaper metropolis
The system can't cope or keep on top of this
The authorities come as you're not for display
Do they solve the problem no they move him away
They're in a vicious circle of no fixed abode
The social won't pay 'em the money they're owed
When you got no money you can't pay rent
Hypothermia kills 'cos the system is bent"

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:31 NIV

The lyrics display truth, the scripture quoted is just one example of Jesus teaching grace.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lyrics Du Jour - Thing of Beauty

Today's selection is from the Hothouse Flowers. In the 80's they were the "next big thing" to come out of Dublin, Ireland after (the story goes) Bono "discovered" them in an Irish Pub. I'm just glad their records made it to the U.S. so I could fall in love with their lyrics...selfish, huh? Below is just a small sampling:

"Look out your window on a winter's morning
Your breath is steam and there's frost falling
And the sun casts a spell upon the road
A thing of beauty is not a thing to ignore
Great song of beauty

Stand by the river on a moonlight evening
Lovers are loving and grievers are grieving
And the water does a dance upon the stones
I sit and listen, I will not ignore

A thing of beauty is not to be ignored
Can't you see (can't you see)
In the secrets of the dawn? (thing of beauty)
Can't you feel (can't you feel)
Can't you feel it in the place that you come from? (thing of beauty)

Face up to morning
Face up to day
Face up to reality
And face up to your ways"

Here's to finding the beauty in everything!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ugly Love

When I first heard the premise for "Ugly Betty" I was lukewarm about the whole idea. It sounded cute, but it also seemed like it was trying to cash in on the success of "The Devil Wears Prada." And that, for some reason, annoyed me. So I ignored it. That wasn't too hard because for a long time I was always busy on Thursday nights. Well, I'm not sure how, but I started watching it every once in a while last summer (reruns). By the end of the summer I was hooked!

The best thing about it is the writing. I so appreciate good, clever, witty writing! It is hilarious without jokes or predictable timing. At the same time it is tender and heartwarming. It manages to combine wholesome quality relationships along with vicious, stinging, greed driven characters and it plays like a symphony. In any given episode I find myself laughing heartily one minute and all veklempt the next.

And all the hype about the character of Betty, I'm finding, is sincere. Despite the many distractions to tempt her into abandoning her truth for the flashy, "glamorous" life, she perseveres while offering grace to even the most self-serving characters.

Lyrics Du Jour

This may be a recurring topic/post. Today's "Lyric Du Jour" selection may date me. Or it may be a surprise, considering my Listening Loves List over to the left of the page. However, these lyrics give me grace. They give me grace to create yet another blog in a cyberspace full o' blogs.

As a page that aches for word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
While the sun God will make for your day
As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the one God will make for your day"

-BE by Neil Diamond from the Soundtrack for "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Spring Awakening

When I returned from a recent road trip to visit friends in the NYC area (I used to live in that neck of the woods), I composed a "newsletter" to summarize my trip. I think anyone who read it noticed that aside from seeing several great friends (who I hadn't seen in at least 5 years), my favorite part of the trip was going to see "Spring Awakening" on Broadway. I'll admit that the first I'd heard of it was while watching the Tony Awards many months ago. I had already started planning my road trip back then and after the cast performance on the Tony's I KNEW I had to see Spring Awakening while in NYC.

WOW! What a great show! It is not for the easily offended, but other than that I highly recommend it to everyone...even if you hate Broadway Musicals. I don't think my words can do it justice; it is a deeply emotion evoking experience. The plot was written by a German playwright in 1891 and it is brilliantly set to modern music by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.

How does this work without being a train wreck or cheesy? The songs are the internal dialogue of the hormonal teen characters. The lyrics are poignant, clearly conveying the complexity of emotions surrounding their sexual desires, questions, doubts, and angst. In about 2 hours this show deftly addresses sensitive issues including lust, self gratification, a first experience of sexual intercourse, sexual abuse, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, the importance of adult friendships/mentors with teens, academic pressures, ...I could go on, I'm sure. All these issues are presented in a humorous, heartwarming, heartbreaking, intimate and even fun way that is completely captivating. Did I mention the amazing emotionally accurate lyrics? They are chock full of both truth and grace. I'm tempted to share some to demonstrate- but I won't.

Finally, the production aspects are at once frugal and fresh. There is no orchestra pit- the band stands center stage at the back of the "set" (there is no set, really... not a typical set). There are about 20 chairs on the edge of stage left and stage right that hold equal parts audience, cast, and understudies. When a cast member is not an active part of the scene, he/she just sits in one of those side seats and may or may not add back-up vocals to whatever song. All adult roles (mother, father, teacher, piano instructor, doctor, etc.) are played by the same man and woman throughout. There are no costume changes. No big traditional dance numbers. It is riveting.

50 First Dates

Recently, I finally got to see that Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler flick "50 First Dates" for the first time. I had heard it was pretty cute. But I wasn't expecting to end up in tears! Well, you could blame it on the cliche scape goat for women...hormones. However, at least hear me out.

In the movie Adam's character is trying to woo Drew's character, but Drew's character has a special kind of amnesia due to a car accident. Don't be too analytical and just roll with it! So for 3 years her father and brother have been re-creating the same day (the proposed day after...or was it the day before... the accident- not really important) to protect her from the horror of re-discovering her memory loss and the cause of the memory loss every day. That in itself is pretty sweet. Then Adam's character proposes something different. He takes the time every night to make a special video for Drew's character to fill her in. They estimate that it took her about an hour to cry it out every day, but then she could go on living a NEW DAY every day...instead of the same one over and over. Well, the fact that Adam's character loves her enough to do this is pretty amazing. Even though she wakes up every day having no clue who he is, he pursues her heart and makes her fall in love with him EVERY DAY! My first thought was, "What an AMAZING guy! To go to such lengths to pursue her heart in a new way every day!" And then it hit me...

...that is EXACTLY what Jesus does for me (and YOU) EVERY DAY. He's doing it whether we notice it or not. He does it even if we don't want Him to...I can personally attest to that! Well, that made me cry even harder. And the tears were absolutely tears of joy. It was, to say the least, a few moments of pure praise. All brought on by a "date movie" I watched alone on a cloudy day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Maiden Voyage

Well, here it is. After many nudgings, winkings, and is the beginning of something intended to be beautiful, bold, and blossoming. Stay tuned...