Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite of 2009 - Music

Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome

Derek's never been afraid of controversy and his latest is no exception. But of crazy and catchy electronic sounds and lyrics, Derek album covers a huge gamut of hot button issues, such as consumerism, date rape, the war and the way Christian treat homosexuals. Not only is it musically creative, but it stirs the mind and the heart. That's exactly why it's on list.

Steven Curtis Chapman - Beauty Will Rise

Let's be honest, SCC is old for the music industry, even the Christian music industry. Dude's been around for years. But there is a reason. He's just writes great music.

In the wake of his daughter's tragic death, I think we all wondered what his next album would be like. And it was amazing. The only way to first listen to this album is in one sitting, uninterrupted, where you can hear every lyric and every crack in his voice. (And don't forget the tissues.) Every song is about Maria, his family's wrestling with God's sovereignty in the midst of pain, and it is absolutely heart-breaking.

Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane.

The reason this album is on my list, even though I've failed to give it a really good and hard listen? Is this song: Always. Here are a taste of the lyrics:

I’m caving in
I’m in love again
I’m a wretched man
Every breath is a second chance

Oh, and it's produced by Charlie Peacock, so that alone gives it a spot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Answer Man

This semester I read a great book, A Matrix of Meanings, that significantly altered the way I view pop culture. And today I had had the experience of watching a movie through the matrix of meanings the authors write about.

In celebration of finishing up my finals for the semester I spent the afternoon watching The Answer Man, a tale of a reclusive famous author who wrote a book 20 years ago that people still remember and adore. According to his literary agent, he owns 10% of the "God" market, all because he wrote about the questions he asked God, and answers he claimed God gave him. Jeff Bridges and Lauren Graham are adorable in their roles, and much a the script is predictable. But every once and awhile, a small gem would appear.

Bridges plays the author, Arlen Faber, who's become a recluse in the 20 years since his success, hiding from the fact he made the whole bit about talking to God up. The character also lost his father to Alzheimer's five years ago, and it's obvious he shut down after this event in his life. He and Graham have a typical "meet cute" and on their first date, he show her a cabinet full of figurines - of monsters - he and his dad collected together. Graham urges him to take them out of the cabinet to enjoy them, and places one on his piano.

Later in the scene, she tries to kiss him. He jerks away, grabbing the monster figurine and tries to rush it back to the cabinet. He stops, "I'm blowing it again, aren't I?" he asks.

"No. I love it when I'm about to kiss someone and they leave me to protect a plastic toy." she replies.

"But I kiss so much better knowing they're safe."

Before I read A Matrix of Meanings, I think I would have seen this simply as a cute comeback to her witty remark. But as the book taught me, I looked closer. I saw a man who's a mess, with his own private "monsters" chasing him. Those monsters keep him from really knowing anyone, and from anyone really knowing him. And it's easy to keep them locked up, where no one can see them, least of all you.

Arlen was brave enough to show his monsters, and as we all have similar monsters plaguing us, we often feel safer when they are locked up, don't we?

Pop culture is a reflection of our world, and inside each creation of music, art, movies, is an expression of something.

And that something is to be paid attention to.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Seminary and Money

I hate that those two words even have to go together. But it's a very real issue I face every single day.

When I first left my full-time job and moved to St. Louis, the first thing that scared me to death was the lose of a paycheck. It's hard when your bank account first empties all the way, and you still have groceries to buy for the month, or gas to put in your car (the very car that you have to own in order to get to work (Don't get me wrong, St. Louis actually has a great public transportation - I love the Metro. But the closest station is actually just up the street from where I work, which is 11 miles away from where I live. Not having a car just wasn't an option for me.)

And it's not as if I made that much money before, anyway. Graphic Design sounds really cool, but it pay very little. But it was a regular pay check I could count on. I went from working 50 hours a week @ one full-time and one part-time job to working 10-15 hours a week as an intern to fulfill my field education requirement. Yikes.

God has been good to me. I've never doubted that. But I will leave this place will a big loan to pay off. And as a female in a male-dominated vocation (paid ministry) scholarships just don't come around that often. I applied at lots of places, and while only a couple worked out, the rest just put me on a bunch of mailing lists. I am really hoping that this seminary scholarship works out for me next semester. Money is just one aspect of what's been hard about seminary... but as you know, if you read any of my posts here, there are many more hard things I've gone through.

I am a perfectionist. And I'm really, really hard on myself. I live in a house with 5 girls, all very different and very much the same as me. I am working at a 2000+ church where the women I serve have very different lives than me. All I can think sometimes is, what can I possible offer them?

I came from a life where I was expected to performed on a regular basis, and perform flawlessly. The color on the cover of the catalog must be the right shade of grey, the photo of that kitchen must be altered to work just right for the application, the worship set must be so tight that everyone is engaged completely. And all the while I must do it with a freakin' big smile on my face like nothing is wrong.

I was so busy performing, and rarely receiving grace from anyone that I never gave grace to anyone. My heart was so wrapped up in getting it right that when others didn't I had no patience. "If I can do it, why can't they?"

I HATE what I turned into.

And now, in this season of seminary life, God had turn that upside-down for me. Because to live your life in grace is to live a life free from expectations. And that is what so often traps and imprisons us from not only enjoying life and being happy, but to being the person God created you to be in the first place. I was created to be a child of God, no longer enslaved to sin but set free in Christ, who loves me no matter now many times I don't perform.

It's taken me a long time to be okay with this, a long time to admit that seminary has done this for me. But it has.

And while the serving God in the church and this loving and serving his people thing that I pray comes out of these two years is good, I think that my lessons learned are also good. And worth every penny. (though i wish it cost much fewer pennies...)