3.30.2006

Rocks and Water

Sunshine ruled the sky on the east side of the mountains last weekend, much to my delight. A healthy dose of vitamin D definitely adds to the whitewater rafting and rock climbing experience.

I think it's easier to face one's fears when the sun is high.

Nobody likes their archnemesis, I suppose. This past year and a half really wearied me of dealing with mine. "There is nothing worse to fear than fear itself": that particular demon attacked me in all of my weakest places last year.

Amazing things can happen when one is armed with sunshine, a desperately determined smile, a few Dumbledore quotes, and faith like a mustard seed.

That is--all those, and a small army of faithful companions.

A group of us gathered at the base of a high, sheer cliff on Sunday evening, and Aaron asked us what we'd learned about the community we formed. After six years of involvement with YD Adventures, this isn't new to me: There is grace. Grace to be the weakest link in the chain, to try and fail and try again, to be the one who cannot when others can.

I wouldn't be who I am without it.

3.29.2006

AI5 Top 10

All right, the head honchos at American Idol must know that asking young hopefuls to sing hits from the last six years is setting them up for failure. Of course the results sound like karaoke. You can't take songs that have been played every hour on every top 40 station for months at a time within the past few years and not expect to be compared negatively with the original (recorded, I might add) performance.

In other words: not a great week. Annoyed by the lousy music, my family--with whom I spent the evening--turned on the tape of last week's for me. After watching that, all I can say is that now I want to work with Barry Manilow.

Chris Daughtry's rendition of Walk the Line gave me chillbumps. I would buy that record, and I rarely buy CDs. Last time I heard a performance like that on Idol, Clay Aiken sang Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Everyone sounded improved under Barry Manilow's coaching. Paris Bennett, whom I've always liked, performed with a mind-blowing class and maturity. It's a shame she tried a Beyonce song this week.

Beth wouldn't let me watch Kevin Covais. "We voted him off," she said stubbornly, "and by we, I mean they." She never votes, but apparently America carried at least a portion of her sentiments. We also ran out of time, so I brought the tape home with me. I haven't seen Kellie do Walking After Midnight yet.

3.23.2006

King James English

Maybe this is my own perception, or maybe it comes from being involved in youth ministry, but all those thees and thous just don’t do much for me. They seem far off, distant, surreal, solemn. I wonder if the church gave me that idea, or if it’s just the revelations of Jennifer.

It interests me, though, that the English “thou” does not correlate to reverence. Thou is obsolete, and English no longer has such a concept. Most languages, however, do. Thou was originally just the familiar form of “you.”

The French, for instance, use vous in most situations: it’s formal, respectful, basic. The familiar “you,” tu, is used only for children, family, close relationships, and deity.

Why deity? The address used everywhere else to denote the greatest intimacy is used on God? The God? The one that parted oceans and shut lions’ mouths and decimated armies and let his own son die just so we could live? This is someone I can speak to with the same affectionate ease I have towards my own sisters?

Pardon me if this isn’t new to anyone. I know I’m a bit of a word nerd, but this is cool.

3.22.2006

Comments

Due to an oversight on my part, it seems that only certified blogspot users have been able to post comments on my blog. I have fixed that. Now any old average joe can comment. You don't even have to be old, or average, or named Joe.

AI5 Top 11

Friends being more important than television, I missed American Idol last night.

On account of missing it, I don’t have a lot of comments; however, I did read an MSN article on the subject. The result of reading that article is that I’ll probably track down my friend Donna for her tape of the program, simply to hear Chris Daughtry sing “Walk The Line” and Kellie Pickler sing “Walking After Midnight.” That’s just too good, even in my imagination.

All right, all right, I admit it. I like country music! Some of it, anyways. Pretty soon I’m not going to have any dark secrets left.

3.21.2006

If You've Read Harry Potter, This'll Make More Sense

If a boggart popped out of my closet... supposing it didn't do like Mrs. Weasley's... it would turn into the low-head dam on the Wenatchee River.

It might be amusing enough just watching it try to fit into my room. But I think I'd try to turn it into one of those rotating yard sprinklers... maybe with a little circus music :P

If any of you want to talk about your biggest fears on a public forum, along with ways to make something funny out of them, feel free to use the comments.

3.16.2006

Dunkings

Growing up Southern Baptist, I remember hearing it said that Presbyterians and Catholics may use the "sprinkle" method of baptism, but we Baptists "hold 'em under till they bubble." It always made me laugh.

Our church held a baptism service on Sunday, the first I'd seen in a couple of years (they've traditionally held special services for it.) Then, Wednesday night, my small group talked about getting baptized. The repetition of the topic struck me, and it brought back memories.

I was eleven. My entire family--Mom, Dad, Beth, and Melanie--crammed into our tiny downstairs bathroom for the event. I wore a turtleneck, I think, and jeans, which (for those who've never tried this) are incredibly difficult to get off when wet. We filled the bathtub as full as it would go, and I had to sit like kids do, with my knees bent and feet pointing in opposite directions.

In spite of the comical elements, I felt both excited and serious. At that age, there was nothing I wanted more than to be God's and know for sure I was His.

Dad did the honors. He asked me, as Baptists generally do as part of the ceremony, if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I said yes, almost desperately; like a girl might to the love of her life before he has a chance to change his mind. Then "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" and the ritual was complete.

It's such a little thing. One quick symbol. But for some reason, it matters. I remember it because it mattered. My life didn't change right there, but that which we Baptists call an "act of obedience" stands for a thousand changes, great and small, throughout my life. Maybe because so little in life is sacred, especially nowadays, this one short memory means so much to me.

3.15.2006

AI5 Top 12

All right, I admit it. I watch American Idol. I will even admit that I generally agree with Simon Cowell. You've got me.

Now that it's all out in the open, here's my opinion--unsolicited, as usual--about last night.

As we have reached the top 12, thankfully without retaining anyone quite as frightening as Scott Savol, I have come to the conclusion that Katharine McPhee and Chris Daughtry are by far my favorites. They are, as Simon might say, superb.

That said, I have to add this: "Yeah, Taylor!"

Also very good: Paris Bennett.

Judges' bad call of the night: Kellie Pickler. C'mon, guys, she pulled off a sweet and likeable performance. Not great, but not horrible.

Notice to all American Idol affiliates: Will everybody please stop likening people to Clay Aiken? There's only one of him, and nobody else compares.

Jon Hagedorn, I miss debating every Wednesday at work about which singers ought to stay and go. Nobody does that with me here.

I also miss Anthony Fedorov.

Keep singing, everyone.

3.14.2006

A Day Of Rejoicing That Will Be

Certain bits of news just have a way of taking one's breath temporarily. That quick adrenaline rush, followed by odd twinges of sorrow, hope, and other haunting feelings, hanging less in your mind than in your heart... This hit me Sunday, when among the announcements was listed the death of Argie Blackburn.

I never met Mr. Blackburn, never spoke to him. But I did hear him sing.

The last time he sang in church, at least that I heard, he'd chosen an old hymn. I don't remember which hymn, and I don't remember if he used piano accompaniment or a tape. I do remember that it was one of those foot-stomping gospel songs, like the Gaithers sing at their Homecoming concerts, arrangement and all.

I remember a tall, lightly-built elderly man, wrinkled and grayed, feeble enough to tremble slightly, but with a voice strong enough to touch the highest dynamics of the song and a smile that had heaven written all over it. Southern gospel music surely isn't the favorite of everyone in our church, but it didn't have to be. We're not a demonstrative congregation, but the applause that broke out after he finished came straight out of a couple hundred dancing hearts.

Argie Blackburn sang his faith, his hope, his heart and soul that Sunday, and caught us all up in his joyful spirit in the process. It was more than just the perfect matching of musician and song. It was the passion of a man who knew he was about to reach everlasting joy.

That five-minute song was the best sermon on heaven I've ever heard.

"When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be..."

I look forward to hearing Argie Blackburn sing again, in the day of rejoicing.

3.10.2006

Sorry 'Bout That, Casting Crowns

Perhaps some of you have heard me say that I don't listen to Christian music very often. You may have also heard the reason: that a lot of Christian artists don't take the time to write well thought through, creative lyrics.

The first time I heard Casting Crowns's song "Who Am I", I started laughing and shut off my radio. Hearing a man sing "I am a flower quickly fading" was just too much for me. Call me insensitive, but I've heard lots of passionate voices sing lots of stupid lyrics. I won't name names here.

Thursday night at worship practice, though, I got a taste of humble pie in the form of special music. Our former interim worship pastor is filling in for the week, and Keith and I are used to "jamming" after lots of post-practice renditions of "Hotel California" and other edifying material... not to mention two years of worship practices and Sunday mornings. He asked me to sing with him on "Who Am I" for Sunday service.

I don't often turn down an opportunity to sing, so I agreed. As I went through the second verse, it struck me that I might have missed something when I turned off the radio that day.

"Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me..."

Not bad, guys! I can sing that and mean it.

3.06.2006

Great Minds, Great Words

“It is the unknown we fear when we look on death and darkness, nothing more.”

Those are the wise words of one Albus Dumbledore; or, more accurately, of one J.K. Rowling in her sixth Harry Potter book. I have discovered, after spending last month reading all six books for the first time, that Professor Dumbledore has more great quotable lines than almost any other fictional character I can think of.

The Harry Potter series is a good-versus-evil, life-and-death battle story, not unlike ultimate reality. We all have our archenemies. I know what mine is. The unknown scares the heck out of me. It scares me even without my looking on death or darkness.

Right now on my MSN Messenger I have another Dumbledore quote, this one from the end of book five. Dumbledore is explaining to Harry that he has “power that the Dark Lord knows not,” a force that is “at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature.” He says that the Dark Lord—who had made an attempt to take over Harry’s mind—could not bear to possess someone so filled by that power.

If you haven’t caught on yet, that power is love—which the Bible, in 1st John 4:18, defines as the antidote to fear.

Dumbledore finally tells Harry “In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”

This is good stuff!

Most likely coming soon: Thoughts from "Ender's Game."

3.03.2006

Definitions

My vocabulary has always been pretty good; reading for hours every day will do that for you, as will having smart parents :)

The course of this past year, however, has taught me something I "didn't know that I didn't know"--the actual meanings of some of those words. Reality. Perseverance. Temptation. Difficulty. Even the simple, four-letter word hard.

None of those words particularly thrills me. There's a gladness in knowing that I've come through something "hard," like it's an initiation into humanity. There's not a whole lot of excitement about going through any further difficulty, at least not anytime soon. I've often thought about words like these over the past months, though, and what they really mean to me now as opposed to what they meant in the past.

For the first time, I wondered today if there are some other words I have yet to understand more fully; words like joy, peace, rest; concepts like the replacing of belief with knowledge and faith with experience.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the promise of things unseen." --Hebrews 11:1

There, my friends, is a reason for hope.

3.01.2006

No Such Thing As The Real World

I got nostalgic walking through the halls of a nearby high school last night. This would seem a lot more normal if I'd actually attended that high school; or any high school for that matter.

My sister is a high school debate coach. This provided me with the opportunity to go judge an event, as she needed extra judges in order to get all of her kids there. I tried to look reasonably professional as I flipped pages and read numbers and scored students on their speaking skills, but in actuality, I was more nervous than the students.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not uneducated. I was homeschooled. The last time I took an actual class was in sixth grade; I was eleven. Walking through the big empty halls with their gray floors and yellow walls, and sitting in the study-room-turned-judges'-lounge with football flags and notebooks and posters and signs of school spirit everywhere... I just wondered what it was like to be a part of that every day.

Of course, the reality isn't Hilary Duff's world. I remember myself at fifteen, sixteen, seventeen: shy, backwards, country, good with grades, obedient of rules, Christian--everything that prevents a young teen from "fitting in." No. High school would not have been what you might call fun.

Homeschooling has its down sides. I sometimes miss the "school spirit" experience, and I don't feel particularly confident relating to my peers at times (though I doubt that high school would have changed that.) I have also seen terrible things done in the name of homeschooling.

At that age, though, I didn't miss the public school a bit. Montana had a strong homeschooling community. We had a volleyball team, which I still miss. We formed a Toastmasters' Club. My best friend since I turned eleven is still one of my closest friends today. I didn't come out of the homeschool experience thinking that any school option--public, private, or home--formed the only "right" way, but I did come out competitive academically and physically, and social awareness came with maturity. I was also taught to think, which is not taught much anywhere nowadays. As they say in the South, I was "raised right."

Walking through the high school last night, with John Mayer's song running through my head, I couldn't help but smile and wonder what I might have been. Today, I wonder who they'll be in a few years: the good-natured young guy who showed me where to go, the beautiful girl who gave a heartfelt and well-prepared oratory, the kids traipsing through the halls and lounging around outside. Beginnings matter intensely in some ways; yet they are no guarantee of a final outcome, either positive or negative.

"I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world" --John Mayer

Life being one of those things that there's little way to prepare for--in the ways that really count--I can only wonder, pray, and hope.