Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best of '06 - Movies

It was a rough year for good movies...




Little Miss Sunshine

I love Toni Collette and adore every movie I've seen her in. Then you add Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Greg Kinnear? This tiny little independant movie was the most enjoyable thing I saw from the silver screen all year.When all the critics starting raving I was skeptical - because I always am. But this time I agree with them. This movie was an absolute delight from beginning to end, and if I don't see it showered with awards I will be bitter. It has the one of the more unique story lines in independant film that actually reflects real life without being dull or pretentious. You know how hard that is to come across? It is for this reason, I call Little Miss Sunshine the stand-out movie of the year.



Others worth mentioning (or not):


Comedy: Talladega Nights

Best Title: Kinky Boots

Best Animated: Cars

Biggest Surprise: Click

Who the Hell Thought That Would Ever Make a Good Movie?: Snakes on a Plane

Wondering What All the Hype Was About: Mission Impossible III (This is probably a direct result of my hatred of Tom Cruise)

Best Story with the Worst Production Value: End of the Spear

Dying to See but I have to Wait Because I Live in the Sticks:

Sherrybaby
Aurora Borealis
The Departed
Little Children
Notes from a Scandel

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Once Again...

...I'm so proud of my state.

Flatulence Allegedly Sparks Jail Fight


It doesn't get much worse than this.

Dang, it's good to be a Nebraskan.

Best of '06 - on the Pop Culture Realm

Television

Best Ad Campaign: Apple Computers. (Like I would say anything else.)

Best New TV Show: Heroes, without a doubt. I also really love The Nine.

Best Season Finale: Grey's Anatomy. The Office runs a fairly close second, but only because I discovered the show late.

TV Series I'm Glad to See Go: Charmed

TV Series I'm Most Sorry to See Go: Alias, but only in the Season 1 & 2 state, not present state at the time of the finale.

Annoying "News" Item of the Year: Tom and Katie

Best Reality Show Personality that Keeps Getting Better: Tim Gunn



Miscellaneous

Funniest Idea that Emerged: Recutting classic movie trailers into creepy horror movies and vice versa on YouTube. (The Shining is my favorite so far.)

Guiltiest Pleasure: So You Think You Can Dance

Funniest Political Moment that Shouldn't Have Been Funny: Cheney shooting his hunting "buddy".

Most Shocking Death: Coretta Scott King

Really Going to Miss Them: Robert Altman and Paul Gleason


Music

Best Worship Album:
Paul Baloche's A Greater Song

Best Worship Song: Desperation Band's Treasure (From Live-At the Rooftops)

Best Christian Album of the Year: This is tough, but I have to say Derek Webb's Mockingbird. But Mute Math and Jar of Clay's Good Monsters are right behind them

Best Mainstream Song: Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

Best Mainstream Album: Amos Lee's Supply and Demand

Best Rearrangement of a Hymn: Kristen Standfill's Jesus Paid it All. (But I must mention Chris Tomlin's Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone. It's also very good.)

Most Fun Christian Song: MercyMe's One Trick Pony

Best Crossover: Mat Kearney, followed very closely by The Fray

Best Use of Strings: Skillet's Rebirthing

Best Return to the Scene: Plumb

Song that Captured the Year Best for Me: Stained Glass Masquerade by Casting Crowns.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What a Difference a Rain Makes











These branches are littering my backyard.



















Poor little tree.










Still no snow. It's December 21st and still no snow. This irritates me. A lot.

Better rain...




















....is the kind at a husker game in September. Only the die hard fans stay... especially when your friend Angie (pictured here) has never been and loves the Huskers as much as you.


















Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Domesticated steph

The week of Christmas fell swiftly upon us and without much fanfare. I have several family celebrations to attend this weekend, which means I am in the kitchen this week. A lot.

My dad's side of the family doesn't have any cooks, which is a little scary. I actually have one aunt and uncle who do not own an oven. (Luckily this is not the aunt hosting our Saturday get-together) My mother has two celebrations at her house so I am baking and cooking what I can to help her out. Tonight I found myself elbow deep in powered sugar.

It's become a tradition for me to bake a classic French dessert, the Bûche de Noël each year. It started with my brother taking French in high school... and I followed in his footsteps. I don't remember the specifics, but most likely our French teacher brought the dessert during a Christmas party. My brother ohhhed and ahhhed over it so much, that I made a point to get the recipe while I was taking classes from the same teacher. Tonight I remembered why I only make this thing once a year. It's not hard, it's just messy. I have powered sugar in parts of my kitchen I didn't know I had. Which is incredibly handy, because my kitchen is huge. I'm planning to find said sugar until Easter.

I also baked my "famous" praline chex mix tonight- and now I have a few smashed pieces of cereal on my floor.

Also on my list... pumpkin cheesecake, chicken tortilla soup, a relish tray, a fruit and chocolate fondue dip... and to top it all off, my grandmother's sweet potatoes.

Somehow I ended up with all the messy food. Hmm. I wonder if my mother planned it that way.


What I'm listening to: Relient K's Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand
What I'm reading: Mike Yaconelli's Messy Spirituality

Change: What is it Good For?

Ever have one of those days where you promise yourself it will be different than the last, only to fall back into your normal routine and fail at that fail miserably (and let's face it, somewhat deliberately)?

Case in point: I've had a book on my shelf for...well, I'm actually a little afraid to admit how many years, entitled I Really Want to Change - So Help Me God by James MacDonald. I remember being so excited about the book when I first purchased it, but here it is years later and I haven't so much as attempted the first chapter.

The biggest change I've been part of the last few years is the change in worship style at my church. Which, admittedly, is a big deal, but it seemed to take forever and once it happened, it didn't really feel like much had changed. Probably due to my gradual introduction of new songs and other instruments accompanying those songs. But is change best when it's gradual? Or is it best to go the whole way, to the fullest extent, immediately?

This is not a fully-processed thought, but perhaps posting something about it will remind me to revisit this later. (Perhaps slowly, at a gradual pace.)

*Slinks away from the keyboard...tongue in cheek*

What I'm listening to: Happy Christmas Vol. 4

Sunday, December 17, 2006

You've Got to be Kidding Me

Open your iTunes and listen to Relevant Magazine's podcast from 12/15/06. You won't regret it. Besides having a great live mini-show from Andrew Peterson, Jill Phillips, Sandra McCraken and Derek Webb, there is a great story in Slices about the Orlando Magic's mascot boxing a live kanagaroo for the half-time show last week.

You've got to be kidding me.

Discovering a Little Christmas Spirit



It's rare for me to have a Sunday off. I actually looked back to count and I only missed leading worship three Sundays this last year - and one was due to illness. But today was the Sunday School Christmas program and the children's music program is not something I've had time to be involved with at the church for 4 years now. So I took the oppourtunity to not drive the 30 miles to church and instead finish up my Christmas shopping, do laundry ... and watch two Christmas movies. I feel do decadent.

The reason I find Will Ferrell so funny is because of this movie. Maybe Bob Newhart makes him funny (because Bob Newhart rocks), maybe it the way he claps at the excitement of seeing Santa, maybe it's because he's gets the crap kicked out of him by a little person...I don't know. But it's freakin' funny. Even Roger Ebert liked it. He said, and I quote, "This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece."




Not as good of a movie, but still a Christmas standard for me in the last few years is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I enjoy the movie because of Cindy LooHoo and one moment in the movie. Cindy: "You're the-the-the..." Grinch "The-The-The. THE GRINCH." Kills me everytime.

I'd never paid attention to the lyrics of the main song in the show, but here's a taste:


Where are you Christmas?
Why can't I find you?
Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me?
Why can't I hear music play?

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Where are you Christmas?
Do you remember
The one you used to know?
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done
Is that why you have let me go?


That's fairly profound for a cheesy pop song and interesting in light of what I've been through this year.

Now all I have to do it find time to watch
It's a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon Christmas Vacation (just to take the edge off all the cheese. I'ts just not Christmas until I see a cat get electrocuted by some Christmas lights) and I'm all set.

Audrey: Do you sleep with your brother? Do you know how sick and twisted that is?
Ellen: Well, I'm sleeping with your father. Don't be so dramatic.

Hee. I love that quote.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Perfect Christian

When a high-profile evangelical Christain leader has a high-profile failure, we all respond differently.

I've been reading about Jay Bakker, son of the Jim and Tammy Faye, who's the pastor of a church called Revolution. It's a small church that holds a casual service in a Brooklyn bar. He started filming a reality show called One Punk Under God airing on the Sundance Channel. His show and his views are another post... but as I read a little about his father's problems back in the 80s, I was reminded of other famous scandels in the evangelical community. Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts... and more recently Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes, these are leaders of large organizations and churches who in one way or another, were exposed for fraud, cheating, etc. And don't even get me started on Falwell or Robertson.

The list goes on... leaders in the evangelical community fall. So do I. So do you.

But this post isn't about those leaders. It's not really even about me. Here's the question I've been bothered by today: Why does the world hold Christians up to a perfect moral standard? (I know both the self-righteous and biblical answer most would say, but I want to go a little deeper.)

Why aren't we allowed to screw up in the face of society?

For years the so-called "leaders" that represent us have threatened hell-fire and brimstone to those that do not obey. The actions of presidents, actors, authors, radio hosts and the like are judged, condemned by these mouth-pieces. So in turn we are being condemned by a society that remembers that condemnation. And they happily throw our failure back in our faces. Then we throw it right back.

It's not working.

Whatever happened to grace? Whatever happened to dropping our rock?

There've been precious few times in my life when I came to a friend with a confession or an apology, and as I've cowered in the corner, arms up over my heard, eyes slammed shut, preparing myself for the collision, all I felt was the dull thud of the rocks dropping from their hands.

I felt grace.

God extends grace to all of us. We simply must reach out and take it. But grasping that grace in no way makes me superior to those who haven't reached out to take it yet, because God extends this grace to all. The violent death Christ faced wasn't just for a couple of smart, good people who live in the Bible Belt. It was for every sad-sack full of sin. And that's all of us.

It has to start somewhere. It should start with us. We will continue to fall in big and small ways. And when someone else does, I don't even want a rock to be in sight, much less in my hand. It starts with us. If we extends grace to the world perhaps we'll get it back.


Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. -Matthew 7: 4-5, The Message Remix

What I'm listening to: Happy Christmas Vol. 2

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

PostSecret

Many, many people wax philosophical about the anonymity of the internet. Is it bad or good? Helpful or hurtful? Does it make us more bold than we ought to be? Does it force us inside our home offices, destined to spend our lives in front of a computer, instead of going out and experiencing the world?

That's a debate I'm not at all interested in starting here. But this blogsite is one that makes me ask these questions.

Submit a postcard size image - with a secret. A regret, a sadness, fear, desire... anything, as long as you've never told anyone before.

This is a way the "anonymity" of the internet doesn't draw us further into that anonymity. No. For me it's a reminder that each of us have real and honest emotions we are afraid to share with those around us. We may be strangers, but we are all still connected simply by being human.

PostSecret is really a beautiful thing.

A Late Discovery



Love it. I want to take Hiro home and keep him as my pet.

Monday, December 11, 2006

True Christmas Spirit




Want a true worship experience this Christmas? Sufjan Stevens' 42-song collection of chrimstas songs old and new, mixed with some classic hymns like Amazing Grace and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing had me in tears and truly worshipping.

And, come on, how could I not like a artist who's record label is called Asthmatic Kitty?

Friday, December 08, 2006

One of the posts I've been avoiding






My brother had the distinct pleasure of attending the Big 12 championship game at the lovely Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. And he was kind enough to email me pictures of his experience.

He sucks.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Guess the Song Title

Some say the face is unforgettable
I'm sure I've seen it many times
Ah, but you know me, I forget so easily

I thought I saw you in a Sunday crowd
But then I lost you, in blur of color, watercolor clouds
Like deja vu
Was that you?

They say someday I won't need to seek you out
But for now won't you come and wrap me up inside your presence?
We can celebrate if you stay

I know you make your home in many given lots
Your vision is so clear you don't see what is not
When I find you will I catch the cure you've got?

Surely you're not in some distant land?
Maybe down the block
Even 'cross the street
Have you always been near to me?



An obscure artist... and even more obscure song. The lyrics really only make sense once you know the title of the song. Hint: It is related to Advent, in a roundabout way.

Any guesses?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Are You Waiting For?

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1: 22-23)

It’s Christmas time… a season we equate with so many “things”. Lights, trees, the colors of red and green, family gatherings, Santa, gifts, just to name a few. I love Christmas. The air turns brisk and cold, I wait in anticipation for snow to blanket the earth, and hope fills my heart like it does no other time of year. Why do our hearts hope at Christmas? Because we know what is to come.

The season of Advent is about that hope for what is to come. In a way, we celebrate the art of waiting for Christ’s return. O Come O Come Emmanuel is a classic 9th century Latin hymn that beautifully illustrates this season of anticipation. The song is a plea to release Israel from the longing they feel for the Messiah to arrive.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear


These are words from the first verse - but it was originally intended to be the last verse - the climax of the song - where the culmination of all the other verses ended. This climax poetically offers the feeling of hope that enters our hearts more fully during the season of Advent.

What are you waiting for this Christmas? It’s a profound question, one not easy to answer. We spend our lives waiting for things… some good, some bad. Some are just things. But the waiting needs to have a reverence to it, for it’s more than just the waiting - it’s recognizing that God is in the moment. We are to live in this moment for him, while eagerly looking forward to His return.

Waiting equals hope. If there wasn’t the hope of fulfillment at the end of the wait, we wouldn’t wait. We would simply sit back and watch it all unfold. But Christ’s return deserves more than just watching. It deserves the excitement of our hearts, the longing for His peace, the anticipation for His return; for we are not whole without him. That is why we eagerly wait for Him to come.

O Come O Come Emmanuel… Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to us O Israel.

He will come, and we will rejoice.


Friday, December 01, 2006

The Joy of Celebration

It's quite cold here in the central part of the state. The wind is biting and chilling us to the bones. I've finally dug out my winter coat and searched in vain for my hat this morning. It's just as well... my hair looked too good to cover up anyway. Hee. It's now the first day of December and we still haven't had snow.

This time of the year usually offers a different kind of reflection for me. Part of it's the season of Christmas, and another is the wintery weather. But the biggest part of it, I think, is the busyness. We equate this time of year with rushing... through stores, to work, back home, at rehearsals, to church, to get-togethers and parties, to bible study... It is a busy time of year - but why is it busy? The most obvious answer is because we make it that way. Our choice lead to busyness. But for me, it's more than that. My reason for busyness is a little bit of a paradox.

The most hectic part of my life this Christmas season is my work at the church. Aside from my regular responsibilities, I'm directing a musical with a cast of 40 - small potatoes compared to what most directors are dealing with this time of year. But what is my reason for this extra "busyness" during an already busy time of year?

The celebration.

I don't direct a musical each Christmas because I'm expected to, or because I like to boss people around, or even because I enjoy the process. I do it because I want to celebrate Christmas.

The show we are doing this year is centered around the theme of hope. It's takes place in 1941, the year of Pearl Harbor, and we watch a woman who's husband is in the Air Force, watch, wonder and wait for him to come home for the holidays. By the end of the show she's realized that dreams don't always work out the way we want them to - sometimes so God can make a bigger dream. Maybe even so God can suprise us. It's hard to accept sometimes, but it's joyful to know that God has something for us, even if it's not what we want.

It's reminders like these why I choose busyness. I need them. As always, God teaches me something through the process. (That's another celebration for me, by the way.) But I must be careful to never allow the busyness to overcome the occasion, as I refuse to become like my grandmother, who always let the preparations of family gathering overtake the joy that came from seeing everyone. The celebration of Christ's birth? Is why I love Christmas. It's why I celebrate.

May your hectic Christmas season be one of celebration, joy and peace.

Now I'm going to have a cup of coffee.

What I'm listening to: City on a Hill's It's Christmas Time
What I'm reading: Robert Whitlow's The Sacrifice