Points for Coolness

I’ve been listening quite a bit to the Hamilton soundtrack over the weekend, and this evening before supper, I was, apparently, walking around the house singing, “I’m not throwing away my shot…”

My 15 year-old looked at me with puzzlement and a hint of renewed respect. His dad was apparently sounding like the music he listens to.
Hamilton
Yup. This guy deserves to stay on the $10 bill.

Theological Soundtrack

Monday morning is my day to pull up to the fuel pump and top off a depleted tank. Sunday takes a lot out of me.

I ordinarily make no appointments other than to spend the morning reading. And I read devotionally, theologically, historically, and practically, normally running four or so books at a time.

You will find me more often than not doing this reading at a local Starbucks. I will run into a few friends, and perhaps make a new one or two, but generally I’m left alone and the ambient noise while sufficient to keep me focused is not so overwhelming that it distracts.

Now and then, however, a conversation arises at a nearby table which is either loud enough or interesting enough that I can’t help but listen and hence be hopelessly distracted. This is particularly difficult when the work I’m reading demands a high level of concentration.

When that happens, I pull a set of earbuds (of which I’m not fond) from my case and queue up a classical playlist in iTunes. The classical music can be turned up to a sufficient volume to obscure the conversation around me while being itself generally non-intrusive. And choosing shuffle keeps it interesting.

So it was that I found myself reading this morning Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything with earbuds uncomfortably in place.

Slowly, I became aware of a serendipitous overlap between the words I was reading and the music I was hearing. A soundtrack to my theological reading was forming.

As Sanders made much of the dramatic centrality of the Holy Trinity of God in our salvation, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was building to a noisy climax. Theological and musical drama fed each other.

And then, as Sander’s content drifted into a consideration of the meaning of grace in trinitarian terms, J. S. Bach took the stage with the appropriately chosen Sheep May Safely Graze.

I’m not so mystical as to say that the Holy Spirit would have chosen that moment to serve as something of a divine DJ (or ‘iTunes Genius), but it would not take much to push me to that conclusion.

Special Gifts

New music with ancient themes. Love these special gifts. Lyrics from each are so typical of each artist.

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“Every silver lining
Always seems to have a cloud…”

— “Paper Airplane”, Paper Airplane, Alison Krauss and Union Station

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“I’ve done a thousand things wrong
(Far too many for me to name)
But I’m not too far gone
To fall
Headlong
Into the arms that love me”

— “Undamned”, The Long Surrender, Over the Rhine

(And thanks to the special woman who gave them to me!)

Steps to Home Audio Excellence

1. Cajole 26 year-old son into giving you an unused powered sub-woofer.

2. Set sub-woofer next to audio system for seven months.

3. Move to different city.

4. NOT connecting sub-woofer to receiver saved having to disconnect for move. Make note of brilliant foresight.

5. Set sub-woofer next to audio system for another seven months.

6. NOT connecting sub-woofer to receiver sets baseline audio quality so that women-folk are prepared to be impressed upon connection. Make note of brilliant strategy.

7. Plug sub-woofer in to power source.

8. Connect sub-woofer to receiver using suitable RCA cable.

9. Crank up Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in DVD player.

10. Eat some potato chips while pondering still silent sub-woofer.

11. Move cables around on back of receiver. Push random buttons on front of receiver.

12. Eat more chips. Pound top of sub-woofer.

13. Ask wife where receiver manual might be found. She knows, of course. Add crow to chips. Get manual. Womenfolk have yet to be impressed.

14. Follow instructions to screen that says: “Sub-woofer: Off”

15. Change to “Sub-woofer: On”. Feel pulse rising.

16. Discover “Double-bass” setting. Turn it to “ON” of course.

17. Excitedly resume movie. Sadly note silent sub-woofer. Note cable plugged into wrong spot. Move cable.

18. Hear sub-woofer rumble. Look at ten year-old son with that “isn’t that cool” look.

19. Watch “I-Am-No-Man” Eowyn slay the Nazgul at top volume, no longer caring if womenfolk are impressed.

20. Cheer wildly. For multiple reasons.

Irritated with Worship Songs

Occasionally there comes an article that I wish I had written. Such is this rant about worship music. The author pinpoints so many faults in current worship music that one is moved to return to exclusive psalmody.

Two examples which have bothered me for some time are these:

2. It’s so repetitive. I mean, come on, how many times can you repeat “His steadfast love endures forever” before you start thinking the song is going to go on forever? Examples: here and here.

4. There might be too much emphasis on too intimate a relationship with God, using first-person singular pronouns like “me” and “I” or second-person pronouns like “you” instead of words like “we” and “God”. This fosters a spirit of individualism, and it generates an atmosphere of religious euphoria rather than actual worship of God. Worship should be about God, not about us. Or what about the ones that use physical language to describe God and our relationship with him? Can you really stomach the idea of tasting God?

Read the whole here. My link to this was here.

[Note: in glancing at the comments on the initial post, I realize, again, that some of us are ‘irony-challenged’. Read the whole and you will (should?) get it!]

Insights from the Country

Most Christian bloggers I see quote hymns and songs which inspire and uplift.

I’ve decided to post the lyrics from a country song. I think that may disqualify me from the fraternity.

I fetched these lyrics off the internet in anticipation of using them in Sunday’s sermon, which already was too long, and so they got snipped.

The point of the sermon (which will be posted here later this week) was that the discontent we feel with the status quo is often an indicator of our longing for God. So, we switch our affections to something else, and find the substitute equally unsatisfactory. The cycle continues until our restless hearts find their rest in Jesus. And even then, even then, we forget his fulness, and are just not satisfied, which is why Christians must repeatedly return for long draughts from the well of God’s grace.

Anyway, the song is “I Keep Looking” and was recorded by Sara Evans a number of years ago. (I’ve pasted it as I found it on the internet. No corrections made.)

Back when I was young,
Couldn’t wait to grow up,
get away and get out on my own;
looking back now ain’t it funny how
I’ve been trying to get back home.

When my low self esteem
needs a man loving me
and I find me a perfect catch
then I see my friends having wild weekends
and I don’t wanna get quite so attached

Just as soon as I get what I want
I get unsatisfied,
Good is good but could be better

I keep looking, I keep looking for,
I keep looking for something more
I always wondered what’s on the other side
of the number two door
I keep looking, looking for something more.

Well the straight haired girls they all want curls
and the brunettes wanna be blonde
it’s your typical thing
you got yin you want yang
It just goes on and on

They say hey its only human to never be satisfied
well i guess I’m as human as the next one

I keep looking, I keep looking for,
I keep looking for something more
I always wondered what’s on the other side
of the number two door
I keep looking, looking for something more.

Note: Pay special attention to the lines “it’s your typical thing / you got yin you want yang”. Only in country music could you rhyme ‘thing’ and ‘yang’!

Special note to Matthew: I hear you laughing.

Dalmation Intellect

To say that my knowledge is spotty is to speak the obvious. I have spots of knowledge in a sea of ignorance. A map of my brain would look like a Dalmation’s coat.

That is why, the other day I heard a wonderful symphonic piece on the radio and found it vaguely familiar. I could not place where I’d heard it, but it was lovely. I quickly ran inside when I got home and turned on the radio there to keep listening and to hopefully catch the name of the piece. Turns out it was a selection from Swan Lake performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and I soon thereafter bought and downloaded the piece from Amazon or iTunes, I can’t remember which.

That was operating in one patch in my brain which was completely disconnected from the patch that knew that we owned on cd the entire ballet performed by the St. Louis Symphony, a cd I discovered while doing some cleaning. This now resides on my computer and iPod.

Had those spots been earlier connected, I would have saved 99 cents. However, if you want a stirring portion of the ballet, I do recommend the above linked portion!

Not a Fluke

I stopped by Lov a Da Coffee to meet someone the other day and sat in a comfy chair near a speaker. As I worked and waited, my attention was captured by the music that was being played. The arrangements were classy and the singer’s voice was captivatingly pure and beautiful. She sang fascinating arrangements of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and of the Monkeys’ “Daydream Believer”.

When she began to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” my curiosity began to form a hypothesis, later proved correct. This was Susan Boyle. The frumpy, homely, Susan Boyle from “Britain’s Got Talent” and YouTube fame. The Susan Boyle whose singing silenced an auditorium full of mockers. If you are one of the three people in the world who have NOT seen her performance on YouTube, you must.

Her dream was to be a singer, and as unlikely as that dream might have appeared at one time, it is no longer. Her album I Dreamed A Dream is now available for download or purchase.

I know that much of the quality of this music is attributable to quality arrangements. But she handles those arrangements so well. How could she have remained in such obscurity for so long?

Later that night, I stopped by a friend’s house to take care of some things, and he had some music playing in the background. It reminded me so much of what I had heard earlier in the day that I plopped down at his computer to bring up the Amazon link to play some Susan Boyle samples for him.

“That’s good, Randy,” he said. “Sounds a lot like this” and he held up her CD. His wife had bought the CD for him and that is what was playing. No wonder it reminded me of her!

She’s good. In the end, I decided she was not $10.99 good. But she’s good nonetheless.

I watched the video again just to watch the judges’ jaws drop.

Priceless.

Shakespeare Bio?

I need your help. I need someone to recommend to me the best biography of Shakespeare for me to read.

My degree from Michigan State University is in English Education, a degree which, sadly, required me to read absolutely NO Shakespeare.

Currently I’m reading a bio of Billy Strayhorn. Raise your hand if you have ANY idea who Billy Strayhorn was. Anyone? That’s what I thought. That’s why God invented Wikipedia and Google!

Strayhorn did not have the benefit of a college education, but did not need that to come to knew enough Shakespeare to quote him and to write a jazz suite around Shakespeare’s works, performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra at an early Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Admittedly, Strayhorn was a genius. But this non-genius former English teacher turned pastor would like to patch some holes in his education.

So, I repeat, anyone have any recommendations of a really good bio of Shakespeare?