Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Good Company

Sooooo... I was thinking some more about what I posted yesterday, and I wanted to add a couple of things. First, as I said, I am no longer judging people according to their musical tastes... AND I am also not judging anyone according to their relationship to the Almighty... That's really not my thing. I was just saying that it was silly of me to rate my own worth – or anyone else’s – according to musical preferences... 

Also, a great bonus of having a deep interest in music is the people you meet who share it – it’s like being in a foreign country and finding someone who speaks your language. You may be sitting at the weird kids table in the lunch room, but you’re in pretty good company!

Here are just a few examples: 

• With my junior high friend Allison, I listened to Elton John non-stop and attended my first concert – that’s right, Elton John. 

• In college, my friend Suzanne and I listened to the Rolling Stones and discussed the Glimmer Twins at length. It was with Suzanne that I first put my toe into the local music scene with visits to the Pier. (Howdy, Suzanne!)

Time for a night of fellowship
with my girl Alecia!
• My post-college roommate Alecia: though we met in the extreme prep-dom of the expensive dorm, we found pretty quickly that we preferred similar music... As roommates we slathered on plenty of eyeliner for club nights together... and we are friends to this day. (Hey Alecia!)  

• Alecia and I met Eric, while standing in line to see Quadrophenia at a late show. He was wearing an army jacket like a real Mod. Yep - I’m still friends with Eric... (Hi Eric!)

• And then there’s Todd – a beautiful, sweet guy I met in a record store, like, a zillion years ago, and have been so pleased to find on Facebook recently. I LOVE that he is back on my radar! My son can hardly believe I have an actual friend with dreadlocks. (Hi Todd!)

Sweet, beautiful Todd
• And I loooooove all my brothers and sisters with an immeasurable kind of love, but there’s a reason my brother Andy and I are so close... (Hey, Fudd!) It all comes down to the music. Click HERE to hear a song he wrote that explains it all. (This is the best way I could figure out to add a song – if anyone knows a better way, please share!)

• Last, but most, my husband, Tom, and I were able to step over the invisible line between news and advertising staffs in the little newspaper office we worked in because of our shared love for music and movies. It’s still something that adds great dimension to our relationship.

It’s a little like the friends you make at church in a way – broken people sharing their lives... Inasmuch as rock and roll is an expression of great angst and alienation... And when you get together and share this among yourselves, well – that’s fellowship. 

Robert Smith
of the Cure
Sure, you may have dark circles under your eyes from staying up all night discussing song meanings... or you may have a headache from bobbing your head up and down during “fellowship”... you may be deaf the next day in the ear that was next to the amp tower... you may never get the smell of cigarette smoke out of that black shirt that you think makes you look like Robert Smith... (I’m dating myself, aren’t I? People don’t smoke in clubs anymore!)...

But the feeling you share with your fellow headbangers... It's a beautiful thing... if you allow music to invoke the Divine... to pull truth out of those late night discussions. Maybe our relationship to music, to each other around the music is sort of a picture of our relationship to the Divine and His people. I guess it would be sad, though, to  mistake one for the other... If we're lucky, though, one will lead to the other.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Extremely High Fidelity

Here’s what I’m wondering... Does anyone ever click on the song links I put in this blog? I hope so. If you clicked on the link yesterday, you’d have found out (if you didn’t already know) that Bob Dylan is a fantastic poet, and kinda funny:

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”

Donny Osmond,
my first love...
If you don’t click my links, you've missed Wanda Jackson – both young and old - completely shakin’ it, David Johansen of the New York Dolls singing a hymn and Weird Al getting jiggy with Donny Osmond. I guess I just throw in the music because – well, I think it’s entertaining... I use it to add dimension to what I am trying to say – because I’m nothing, if not multimedia... and to share parts of myself with you, because for most of my life, the music I love has been a big part of my self – or at least my self-image.

I remember being 8 years old and following my older sister’s lead in falling in love with the Osmonds – particularly Donny. I moved on, but this affection did allow me to get the extremely obscure joke in a Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson sketch in which Craig and his robot Geoff, on a trip to Vegas, seek help from a bartender guru played by Donny Osmond. I wonder how many people knew that the song was playing when they arrived in town was by a particularly raucous Osmonds song, “Crazy Horses. 

Two of my faves: Elton John 
and John Lennon
Later, I was a die hard Elton John fan. Ask anyone. Ask my eighth grade teacher, who told me that I was not, under any circumstances, to write any more papers about Elton John. I just loved him – he played the piano – like I did, he dressed in wild and beautiful clothing, and he was hard evidence that a chubby person with glasses could go far in life. 

In college, I became obsessed with the Beatles – right before John Lennon died. Weird, right? They were, of course, great... but I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you that. I also loved Bob Dylan because I read a book about him that I checked out of our small-town library. Then I discovered that I didn’t have to go far to hear good music. There were local bands that we could follow - like Arrogance, and later, Let’s Active, the Pressure Boys, the Bad Checks, the Flat Duo Jets, Snatches of Pink.... I could make a much longer list of the local bands and musicians I followed ... and the non-local bands we followed. It was an exciting time in Chapel Hill, the early eighties. 

One of the bands I loved in 
1980s Chapel Hill
I don’t know what it is that attracted me to pop/rock and roll music. I was just taken by it, and the people who made it... Maybe I saw them as something I would never be: popular and COOL. Pre-college, being so into certain music didn’t really help my popularity – it just made me seem weird – like in that scene from Almost Famous, where young rock enthusiast William Miller is shunned by his classmates for being who he is, and even in college, it sort of set me a bit a part... but this is where it also turns good. While it made me an outcast among the Carolina girls who lived in Granville Towers, it cast me right IN to an circle of people that actually existed in Chapel Hill – where I lived!

A good read
For the first time, I at least appeared cool! I actually dated a guy who quizzed me on what music I liked before he asked me out. I guess I passed the test... but I sort of wish I hadn’t, in retrospect. It did not end well. In Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, the protagonist uses this same strategy to vet girls. Sometimes, I’m still tempted to judge people this way. I try to nip it in the bud, though. Some extremely awesome people have much different taste in music than I do – or even, shockingly, no interest at all!

And I am still tempted to see myself as a person who knows a lot about music and loves a certain kind of music. Which is stupid. I mean, I’m not even the one making the music! I’m just sitting at home or in my car listening to it! And in the end, it’s not what you know and love, it’s WHO you know and love. And WHO I love has given me a new perspective. Now music is something I love, but I’m listening to it through a filter of the Divine. People have been praising God with music since... forever... i’m just using the music I already love to express who God is and who I have become. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Genesis 22 Revisited

Today I read Genesis 22 - and I have to say... “What the....???” Not that I haven’t read it before - it’s a pretty famous passage. You know, the one where God tells Abraham to kill Isaac? His only son? The one who is going to give Abraham more descendants than stars in the sky or sand on the beach?

How Rembrandt envisioned it
I’ve got to say, the Old Testament is full of wild stories like this... Talking animals, sadistic townspeople, crazy kings... If you look at it as a story, a legend, a piece of literature... you could distance yourself from it and just think, “What is the plot? What is the author’s purpose? What is it supposed to teach me?” That’s easy enough to figure out and write down in your little notebook... and it’ll make you feel smart!

But if you climb down into the story and think about what actually happened... God tells Abraham, “Go kill the only kid you have” and then Abraham actually does it! Well, he sets out to, anyway. Good thing God stops him. “I just wanted to see if you would do it.” What? I mean, I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the essence, isn’t it? 

All I know is that Abraham had a giant amount of faith... because I’m thinking I would have been, like, “My kid? I don’t think so! Besides, didn’t you say this son was the ticket to that long line of descendants you promised me?”

I guess, though, that Abraham had more faith that I do – plus the added advantage of God actually speaking to Him directly. I mean, I’ve had times when I thought God was telling me something, but I was nowhere near as sure as Abraham was that I was hearing from the Lord Himself.  

Bob Dylan sang about Abraham and
Isaac in Highway 61 Revisited
The author of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice... Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” 

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had that kind of reasoning power. Or faith. Now, I do know that sometimes the things that God asks of us seem a little crazy according to conventional wisdom... Asking for a person to kill his child seems a bit over the top even for God. I don’t even want to think about what might have been going through Isaac’s head! Maybe he trusted his dad as much as his dad trusted God? 

Nonetheless, if you can get over the overall horror of the story, you might realize a couple of things: In ancient cultures, child and/or human sacrifice was not unheard of... but this God did not expect it. Actually, in this case, God Himself provided the sacrifice. “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

So... that’s our God. Even though I don’t understand why he put Abraham through all this... He doesn’t ask us to kill each other – or even animals anymore – in His Name. No, God Himself is the one who provides the sacrifice. So here I am, AGAIN, scratching my head, and saying “Thanks,” at the same time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Which My Sister Recommends Gorilla Glue – A Guest Blog

by Lea Holt
So here I am. Guest blogging on the big mouth... A blog that I love that my sister Julie has which speaks so eloquently about life and Christ and His influence in her life.  She’s funny and real and she relates His love to her simple doings.  Work, raising Bill, being married, going to Target, cooking, dressing, rocking out to music and movies and basically figuring out how to live a Christian life amongst all the influences and media and texting and emails and all the things that take us away from the quiet. Quiet thoughts, quiet prayer, time when we just sit with ourselves and God and the universe and feel... peaceful. Serene. Connected to something bigger than we are. It is something that I’m working on.

I will be honest – I’m new to this whole Jesus business.  I grew up Christian, but then went off to Meredith College and took a lot of religion classes and because of studying the Bible as a book, and not THE book,  and other religions as well, I began to question things. Was the Bible a history book?  How would a God so grand and forgiving and great condemn so so many people in the world just because they didn’t know Christ? Surely He had a bigger plan than this and I questioned and fought and wrestled and fought and languished in the “out there” that is “questioning and floundering.”  I remember asking Julie about all this, and she told me so simply that she didn’t have the answers- that it wasn’t up to her to know these things-- And that she simply knew that Christ was her way into peace and forgiveness and a best way to live.  So the years went on and I fought and resisted and raised kids and had jobs and made friends and went on trips and was fairly happy.

And then it happened.  Jesus came to me in the quietest of moments, when I was upset and stressed and He spoke so loudly, but so gently and powerfully, to me by my bed.  I remember looking around to see if someone was actually there... But it was just Jesus, in my head and my heart and my vision, telling me to rest and that He had me, if only I believed and accepted all that my heart already knew.  It was magic.  It was stunning and powerful and the remembering makes me cry and feel awed and humble and strong and that I can do anything that I set my mind to. 

It amazes me that such a reluctant Christian can be so awed by Christ’s power. I was always all in for God, but I never believed that Jesus was the way for me... I thought that my studies and my beliefs in the powers of other great religions and doing good and being a good, generous spirit was enough.  But Jesus sat by my bed one night and laughed so kindly and so wisely at my humanness and told me in a breathless instant, that there is so much more. 

I am still a fledgling Christian, all new wings and wobbly legs.  But the power and grace and forgiveness I feel when I think of Christ now gives me more hope than I ever could have imagined.  Suddenly, there is nothing I can’t do – There is no dream too big. I am awed by the fact that HE came down and spoke to me – such an insignificant person in this world, and yet He spoke to me so personally. He saved me from myself, just so quietly and powerfully.  He laughed with me, and He knew me. And He got me.  And somehow there’s no going back. 

It’s like when I look at a design project I’m doing... Today is a perfect example of an on-going thing...  I bought these awesome Italian-made urn/vase things  at TJ Maxx and drilled the holes in the back with my proud ceramic bit and bought the lamp kits and was determined to make these suckers into lamps.  I got the fixture kits and ALL BY MYSELF hooked these things up and connected the wires and plugged in a bulb.  AND there was light!! I ran around my office/craft room and said, in a salute to Tom Hanks in Castaway, “I HAVE MADE FIRE!!”  I called in my husband, my 17 year old son... “LOOK!!!! I HAVE MADE FIRE!!!”  And they chuckled at me and were not nearly as impressed with my accomplishments as I was.  So there I was, basking in the making of fire. So satisfied was I until I realized that this particular victory would not be complete until I actually found the right lamp shades to go onto these lamps I had created.  These pots are squaty and beautiful and the way I had to glue-gun the lamp kit onto the necks of them... This would not be easy. But undeterred, I set out to Kmart and TJ Maxx and Target... I looked online... For the perfect lampshades, the odd size I needed to fit these “perfect” lamps I had so smuggly created. I was so much more creative than most people – I could envision these urns as lamps. If only everyone had my talent.

Long story short, there are no lamp shades that look right with these damn urn lamps.  I found some small ones I thought would work, and I thought that if used linen-colored burlap and mod podge to cover them, that I could, again, create the vision I had in my head. Mod Podge and burlap – not a great mix. I resorted to the glue gun. Again, a design disaster of cursing and burnt fingers that lead me to ball up the whole mess, spent lamp shade and all and throw it all in the trash.  But one of the most frustrating elements of the whole experience was that my lamp kit, so smuggly glued to my urn, sagged and wobbled and no matter how I rigged and glued, it would not stand straight and secure.  My “I have made fire” dance went limp...  My lamp still made fire, but the light kit hung pitifully over the side of the pretty white Italian urn, the cord still plugged in, still casting light, but sideways and sad.

Well that is how I was, I think, before my “finding” Jesus or whatever you call it. I cast a light, because I’ve always believed in God.  But I think my light was sad and sideways and unsure.  Much like the weak glue I used from a crappy Micheal’s glue gun, instead of Gorilla Glue, my faith was based on the cheap stuff...  I liked the easy parts. I liked God being all loving and I liked His forgiveness and His goodness, but going all in – using the best of my heart, the whole of my heart, seemed too much. Too permanent, too... committed.  But now, as I think about my little Italian would-be lamp, I realize that accepting Jesus, going all in for permanent bonding, the Gorilla Glue, has made my spirit brighter and that I no longer sag along the side of something beautiful.  I shine tall – the perfectly installed lamp kit with the perfectly-sized, textured, homemade silk and burlap shade.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Atomic Bomb in Lipstick

Wanda Jackson
First Lady of 
As I write this, I am experiencing what I can only describe as a hangover... I only had one single beer, but the feeling is unmistakable. It’s something I haven’t been through in a while, but ... the headache, the nausea, the light and sound sensitivity... It was just like back in college, when I’d be taking notes in class and I’d have to put my pen down ... and I’d realize that I was still drunk! That’s a bit of how I felt at church this morning while I was trying to keep up with the pastor’s sermon... Nice.

I guess I just had too big a night last night. The whole fam went to Greater Clayton, NC, to see a knock-out show by rock and roll legend Wanda Jackson. First, I’ll say that this is a great venue for seeing a show. It’s a converted high school auditorium and there isn’t a bad seat in the house – plus they sell these scrumptious homemade whoopie pies! And Wanda ... well, she was a pioneer in the rock genre back in the fifties – an Oklahoma country singer who was convinced to try “this new music” by Elvis himself. And she still rocks... at 74, she’s my new role model of aging. 

Wanda with Jack White
Accompanied by a brilliant Nashville band – Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars, she belted out rockers like Riot in Cell Block #9, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (and believe me, there was), Heartbreak Hotel, Roadrunner, Rip It Up, and Nervous Breakdown... She gave her Christian testimony and sang Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light... She even did a VERY sassy version of Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good. Her voice is growly and fantastic, even now. She told stories, she wiggled her body all the right ways, she made jokes... She really gave us all a good time. She really is, as Bob Dylan said, “an atomic bomb in lipstick.”

Robert Plant – just
being himself.
The audience was full of folks who may have heard her records the first time around, as well as a smattering of hipsters, thanks to her recent work with hipster icon Jack White. Check out this video of Wanda and Jack on Letterman. We took Bill to the show and he loved it – which is saying a LOT. (If an activity doesn’t involve playing and/or toys, it’s REALLY hard for Bill to get on board with it.) But he danced and laughed and watched with wide eyes. Rockabilly is actually perfect music for energetic kids... unless your goal is to calm them down!

As for growing older, I guess there are multiple ways it can be done... A while back when I saw Robert Plant – singing and moving sultrily up on the stage in his black shirt and greying golden locks, I thought, “He’s just being himself... that’s how to do it... just be who you are.” This truth really hit home when I saw Wanda, though – maybe because we’re both women. Sure her hair was either dyed black or a sassy black wig, and her body was thick through the middle, but she totally rocked out!! Decked out in her signature fringe – hot pink, with rhinestone trim, she shimmied, shook and most of all, was HERSELF... wife, mother, Jesus-lover... and the Queen of Rock.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Because I Felt Like It, Okay?

I never know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write a new post... I might or might not have an overall topic in mind. It might just be half a topic. I may start something I think will be a really good one to chew over, then it turns out being so “bleh” that I scrap it.

For instance, I'm always thinking about doing one about how much I love hymns... but then when I get into it, it sounds as drab as some people think hymns sound. But I say to those people: What if those same songs were played on a guitar, with an awesome singer singing them? Like this old hymn recorded by David Johansen in honor of his friend Arthur Kane... Or this one recorded by Van Morrison...  

Gillian Welch loves her some hymns...
but this post isn't about hymns.
But I’m not here to push hymns on anyone – even though they are GREAT... and even though they might have been the text of Gillian Welch's salvation... Anyway, I don’t really know why I’m writing on this particular day. Just to say hi and thanks for reading? Or, as the Presbyterians say, to glorify God and enjoy him forever? 

I don’t know. Just... it’s Friday and I felt like connecting with y'all while I sit here waiting for all my peeps to come home... my hilarious, brilliant, giant husband (6’2”, which to me, is giant), my amazing, surprising, miracle of a son, and my great, gracious friend Grace, who is bringing me a mini-bottle of Scotch to glug before dinner, thank you very much.

Friday = Pizza Night
At our house Friday is pizza night. Grace always shares our Costco pizza, I have a beer or a hard cider and Bill gets to eat chocolate. Needless to say, things can get a little wild! Mostly, it’s just Bill, though, jumping around like a cricket and singing songs he makes up – nearly always containing words that amuse little boys like, “butt,” “stinky,” “fart,” and/or “doodoo.” And the old people – well, we’re just sitting around watching him like a fascinating interactive movie. 

Occasionally we have a guest star – a visiting relative or friend, but mostly we’re a tight little group at our Friday gatherings. It feels almost like a holiday to me... One of the things I love about my husband is that he really loves holidays. He totally knows how to celebrate... Christmas in his world is a full blown extravaganza. Our house is full of decorations and gifts and eggnog from Thanksgiving to Three Kings day. In our home growing up, birthdays were sometimes recognized, sometimes not. But in OUR home now, birthdays are elaborate affairs with multiple cakes, a cascade of presents, and fancy dinners out. 

Canadian band Loverboy – these guys are working
for the weekend... but isn't everybody?
So, of course, in our little family, Fridays have taken on sort of a holiday-like quality... with our own traditions and rituals. Well, I guess we don’t have any rituals unless you count the blessing before dinner... Maybe it’s sort of a mellow ceremony to usher in the weekend — a glorious land where we sleep late and eat out and enjoy each other’s company. Anyway, that’s what I’m waiting for right now... my people... and our rite of passage into the bliss of the weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The REAL Big Love

Roman and his girls.
So after the previous post, you’re probably picturing me in one of those outfits like Roman Grant’s girls on Big Love... but I assure you, that is not the case. I guess what I was trying to share was that while there are some things that some Christians believe and teach, that, even though they don’t jibe with your views, I think it’s worth it to wrestle with such questions. What exactly does the Bible say? What is the historical context and current thought at the time it was written? What are the motives of the teacher? And how does it fit in with the other things the teacher has taught you?

For instance, if a church has a pattern of abuse (see Roman Grant, above) – then I would be loathe to listen to them tell me to be submissive to my husband. I would definitely have to question that! On the other hand, the teaching I had received in my church had positively overflowed with grace and love. So, what does submissiveness mean to people like that? Nothing that would put the woman down... Plus, as in the example I gave, ceding the leadership to the men was not because women needed to submit to them, but because the women wanted then to get off their asses and shoulder some of the load!

And while the Bible does say that wives should submit to their husbands – that was pretty much the way of the day. It also says husbands should love their wives and lay down their lives for them... as a friend pointed out, this was a miraculous directive for that day and age – when men had all the rights, and women were ... pretty much... property.

BUT The Bible also says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3) And while it was clearly much better to be a free man in that world than a slave or a woman, each person has equal beauty and worth in Christ... which was also a miraculous thing to say at that time. 

So, the submitting and laying down of lives – well, this is all carried out in THIS context... Paul also tells Christians in general to submit to each other... And as the previously mentioned friend said, it’s all about respect. Paul was all about the church being a well-functioning body... which could never happen if the members don’t respect one another. Same for a marriage, I think.

Anyway, with the previous post, I just wanted to give a picture of what it looked like for one person to wrestle with an issue like this, and attempt to work out what it means in her own life. And to say that a person can still be confused and question things ... even in the midst of leaning on Jesus – the REAL Big Love. So... I won’t be wearing that calico dress and bonnet anytime soon...

Do I Have To?

My husband and I have been married for nearly 10 years, and it’s really been a blast... nonetheless, I still ponder the sermon the minister gave at our wedding with a dissatisfied mind. Because the church where i did all my growing, where we were married, and where the pastor who married us works, can only be described as Evangelical. The name of the church has “Bible Church” in it, so I’m guessing it won’t be hard for you to figure out that they put quite a bit of weight on the words printed in the Bible.

The Bible has a lot to say about marriage.
And the Bible says a lot of things about marriage: that it is an actual joining of two people, that it’s sexy, that you should get married if you can’t keep your hands off each other, that it’s a picture of how much God loves His people, that husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies, and ... yes... that wives should submit to their husbands. There are a lot of mysteries in Christianity, and this one, to me, is the most... mysterious. As in “Do I have to?”

I'm sure that if you're not familiar with this kind of teaching, this sounds awfully archaic and extremely unhip... I bet you thought only churches that oppressed women and bashed gays taught such things... not the case. Our church is full of all kinds of Christians... from right to left... In fact, when our church was founded, the women TOLD the men they would be in charge – because they knew if they weren't forced to be out front, the women would end up doing all the work! But, aside from this, the teaching is based on actual words in the Bible, so I have always been willing to consider them. I do find other parts of the Bible pertinent to modern life, after all.

When I was single and these things were discussed, it was all just theory to me, so I really had no problem with it... because of course, in my silly mind, should I ever get married, it would be to a perfect man who would make perfect decisions and be really nice about everything all the time. Then when I actually got engaged, and were having the premarital counseling... we went over those scriptures, and I nodded in assent because, while I knew my husband-to-be was not perfect, he IS brilliant and has a good heart... and he also had some rules to follow on MY behalf. So in my mind, working with him as a team on major issues and decisions would not be a problem. Actually, I don’t know what was in my mind at the time... not much... just love and eagerness. 

BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! If you’re married, you’re laughing at least this hard, right? It does not take long to figure out that the person you married is not perfect – and, worst of all, neither are you. In fact, I’d have to say that it became painfully obvious to me, at the very beginning that I lacked so much of what it took to be a good wife that the only hope I had was to let God make up the difference. This, I would have to say, is a bizarre sort of benefit of marriage – you find out quick how much you need God!

My husband and I have one mind on a lot of topics; we have similar interests and great fun together... but there are some issues we butt heads on whenever they come up. I’ve got to say that submission is not my first – or even second – reaction in these situations. And, fortunately, even though my husband is an oldest child with a tendency to be bossy, he doesn’t often “command” me to do things. We tend to decide things together, more often than not – to give and take... submit to one another's desires. On the very rare occasions where he has TOLD me to do something, I, of course, thought, “NO! NO! A THOUSAND TIMES NO!” What often happens next, though, is that I realize that he’s actually helping me make up my mind in situation where I have no idea what to do.
Jesus, partying at a wedding.

Like once in the beginning of my freelance life, a designer I was working for owed me some money and it didn’t look like she was ever going to pay me. I knew she had a bunch of deadlines coming up and didn’t want her to lose the business because then I would NEVER get paid... I sort of agonized about it because, short of suing, I really had no recourse. Finally, my husband just said, "Just don’t work for her anymore unless she pays you." And he didn’t say it in a helpful suggestion kind of way... It was more like an authoritative head of household (aka alpha male) decision. I hated him telling me what to do... But it was actually very helpful. Who knows how long I would have been that woman's sucker had he not given much such firm direction? 

Because as personalities go, my husband is a fixer. He hones right in on what went wrong in a situation and what can be done to fix it and prevent it happening again... It can be extremely irritating, but over time, I have come to lean on this strong part of my husband’s temperament. Less hard decisions for me! Yay!

That said, I do still scratch my head over the command to wives to submit to their husbands... I mean, we’re supposed to submit to him as the church submits to Christ... but no one gets to be married to a guy as awesome as Jesus, right? Not even close. And what if your husband is a humongous jerk? or abusive? or just not bright? I can’t know. See? It’s a mystery... one that I am not much closer to solving than I was 10 years ago...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To the Divine!

You know how in the Song of Solomon, where the poet writes intense, erotic love poetry, but is really talking about God...? That’s how I tend to hear most songs. No matter what style of music or how secular the song, I inevitably find my mind bringing it back around to the Divine. In the Golden Age, Spaniards called this way of looking at art “a lo divino.” (Here’s the definition Wikkipedia gives: A lo divino is a Spanish phrase meaning “to the divine” or “in a sacred manner.” The phrase is frequently used to describe a secular work, rewritten with a religious overtone, or a secular topic recast in religious terms using metaphors and symbolism.)

Golden Age Spanish
poet St. John of the
Cross – I think this is
a painting of him
listening to The Who.
It’s just a slightly mad way of looking at things that, I think, makes my life just a bit richer. So, here's a playlist of some of my favorite praise and worship songs. You might notice some repetition of Soul Asylum and Pete Townshend/the Who. I guess some secular artists just have a knack for bringing in something that touches on the Divine for me. You may also notice that I have included secular songs by artists who have written Christian songs (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison)... so maybe they had the right idea all along? Lastly, I have left out songs by U2 because, while I find them to be excellent for worship, they are, I think, intended to be heard that way. 

Born to Run/Bruce Springsteen
Wonderful Tonight/Eric Clapton 
Something/The Beatles
Bargain/The Who
Silver and Gold/Neil Young
Runaway Train/Soul Asylum
My Love Explodes/Dukes of Stratosphere (aka XTC)
I Feel Beautiful/Robyn Hitchcock
Divine Intervention/Matthew Sweet
Swimming in Your Ocean/The Crash Test Dummies
Sweet Release/New Grass Revival
Crazy Love/Van Morrison (or nearly anything off the Moondance album)
Close/Soul Asylum
This Side/Nickel Creek
What Is Life/George Harrison
Not Fade Away/Buddy Holly
Great Balls of Fire/Jerry Lee Lewis
You Wreck Me/Tom Petty
Cradle Chain/Soul Asylum
Maggie’s Farm/Bob Dylan
Somebody Saved Me/Pete Townshend
The Ugly Truth/Matthew Sweet
Message of Love/The Pretenders
Wildflowers/Tom Petty

I could really go on forever, but I won’t  – I’m guessing you get my point! So next time you hear one of these songs – heck, almost ANY song – expand your mind... take it to the next level and see what happens!

(Pictured above: some of my favorite "praise and worship" song songwriters/singers... top to bottom: Bruce Springsteen, Soul Asylum, Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Matthew Sweet, The Pretenders, Jerry Lee Lewis.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

You Might Want to Look Away...

Did you catch The Office on Thursday? Painful. Just... painful. Poor Andy, right? If you didn’t see the episode, it featured a garden party, tableaux vivantes and Josh Groban. 

Not me.
I guess one reason people love The Office, besides the great writing and the constant laughs, is that the characters, while a bit exaggerated, are a lot like the people we work with. Or, in my case, like ourselves. And before I reveal which person is me, I’ll say who it’s not... It’s not Jim – Ha! I WISH I were that easygoing and graceful! It’s not his sweet, lovable wife Pam either. And it’s not Meredith, who has her problems – alcohol, promiscuity – but is quite comfortable with her body and herself. Lastly, hopefully I’m not prim and judgmental Angela, as I’ve said before (although maybe some of my co-workers would beg to differ.) No... who I am is Andy, and that’s why it really pains me to watch him. Andy Bernard is now the regional manager of “the office” under charismatic CEO Robert California – played by James Spader, who talks kind of weird, by the way, doesn’t he? Kind of oily and quiet, yet over-enunciated...

Anyway, it would appear Andy’s got a lot going on — an Ivy League education, a wealthy family, top position in the office, Josh Groban for a brother... but somehow, Andy is always pushing way too hard to prove himself. It runs through every episode that he plays a big part in – especially back when he was vying for the love of Angela... And in this latest show, his yearning for approval and praise is way out front, as he plays out a garden party charade for his parents and his new boss. He may as well have been shouting “LOVE ME!! PLEASE!!” 

That's me on the left... and on the right...
In all actuality, Andy is just fine. While his preppy upbringing and fondness for a capella singing make him a little offbeat for the regular-joe group at Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., he generally has good rapport with the others and his enthusiasm makes him quite likable. It’s only when he tries too hard – which is almost always – that watching him becomes hard to bear. I just want to yell out sometimes, “Just relax, dude! You’re fine!” So, if Andy is me, maybe I should be yelling that at myself? And, if Andy is me, I’ll apologise upfront for making the people who know me watch it all!

I hope that as I’ve aged, I’ve gotten better about this – I mean at this point it’s just too tiring to try that hard, right? You like me or you don’t. I say this, but if you don’t it probably would bother me some! And even though I am way too tired to work for your approval, I still understand exactly where the Nard Dog, aka Andy, is coming from... 

Bob Dylan and the object of his fascination:
Woody Guthrie.
In conclusion, I will say, that in a mild way, I also identify with the highly eccentric Mennonite beet farmer Dwight. Yes, that’s right.... Because with all his eccentric interests and intense focus, he’s just so darn mockable. And that really is like me. I have been mocked for my intensity about far-ranging subjects — from Elton John... to J.R.R. Tolkien... to Jesus. Yes, I’m weird like Dwight... but I’m not alone. I read an anecdote in a biography of Bob Dylan... when he was young he was so fascinated in (as in wouldn’t shut up about) Woody Guthrie that at parties people would tell him, “Hey Bob, Woody’s outside – he wants to talk to you.” Then young Bob, who would have been drinking a bit, would run out into the below-zero Minnesota winter yelling, “Woody! I’m here! Where are you?” 

Because when people are super into stuff, it makes them really mockable. And that’s how Dwight and me are the same. Oh well, I guess we can’t all be a Jim or a Pam.