Thursday, January 20, 2011

dream on, jenny from the block

I love American Idol.

I said it.

I was so excited that it was on last night, and I couldn't wait to go over my parent's house to watch the DVR-ed version this morning. I'll say something else that might be unpopular. I'm glad that Simon Cowell is gone. I'm glad the whole judging panel is starting afresh (except for Randy) with people who have not developed personas like "the mean one" or "the nice one" or "the drunk one."

Simon Cowell was mean, and mean people make me tired. This new judging panel (Randy, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez, for those who aren't following along breathlessly) said no to people, but didn't tell them that they sounded like dying cats or singers on a cruise ship that's sinking. They also didn't seem like they were all seething with rage under the surface. The only trace of the former meanness was when Randy would laugh at the people who were bad.

I know some people like the meanness. I know some people only watch the auditions because they like seeing people who can't sing get made fun of. I'm sorry for those people (not really), but I am much happier now.

Of course, it was just the first episode. The rage may still come. There may be annoying quirks. Steven Tyler was displaying a few signs of creepiness as they showed a montage of PYTs talking about how much they loved him. But as someone who stopped watching Idol last year midway through (something I had NEVER done before) because I just didn't care, I'm excited because this time around has a good feel. I think the show might have pulled back from the edge. I'm looking forward to it, not in an ironic, detached, watching it to mock it because I'm above it sort of way, but in an ACTUAL, legitimate, fangirl-squealing sort of way.

Singers I liked:
This guy, even though he flubbed it a little in the middle and he kind of sounded Bobcat Goldthwaite (am I alone in thinking that?). Loved that S. Ty got excited about the song and joined in.

This girl because she's interesting (although "God Bless the Child" is a song Idol should not let people sing anymore, along with "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and "Hallelujah" -- PLEASE DON'T ANYONE EVER SING "HALLELUJAH" EVER AGAIN...ahem), but she did some fun things with it:

And this girl, because she's young but didn't seem over-rehearsed, but can sing like a beast:

Friday, January 14, 2011

xooting along

The way my budget works I have a little money every month to store up for a big purchase or to spend frivolously on a lot of little stuff. There are two purchases that I'd like to make sooner rather than later: getting my hair cut, and a car radio.

Let me tell you about my car radio. 3 years ago, when I bought the car, one of my only stipulations was that it needed a CD player. So much so that when I test drove the car, I noticed the CD player and not the fact that the car didn't have automatic windows or locks*

*Haters, you can laugh all you want, but I locked myself out of my previous car more often than I could count. Doesn't happen anymore. Also, if I get submerged in a lake, it's easier to get out with rolly windows. ALSO, the universal sign for lowering your car window is still a pantomine of rolling. So, I win at life.

About two weeks ago, I was listening to NPR, and all of a sudden my radio started making alien noises. Like, weird high pitched screeching. I tried different channels, and all that did was leave the radio finally stuck on KISS 108, the local pop station. So if it's not playing alien noises, it's playing Katy Perry. Which is not the worst thing in the world, but I miss NPR and my daily dose of how the economy is still terrible. The CD that I had been listening to (a bunch of stories from t
he Moth Podcast) will still play, but I can't switch tracks or eject it. The stories are good, but not that good. POINT: I am usually in the car in silence now.

And I need a haircut because I hate it when my hair gets long and I have to keep pulling it out of my collar.

BUT, once those two things are paid for, I think I am going to save up and get this:

So cool, right!? My friend Dubie has one and uses it all over NYC. It's bigger and more stable than a Razor, and you can fold it up and carry it with you. Awesome.

I have a bike, but the bike makes me nervous in a way that this doesn't really. Maybe because I can always just jump off it, and I can ride it on the sidewalk, and not on the street where crazy Boston drivers will run me over.

I figure it'll be too cold to get this before March, so I have a little time to save. But aren't you so excited to see me scooting (or xooting) along?? Of course you are.

a story of violent faith

1 down, 24 more to go

I started Under the Banner of Heaven a while ago, but I just finished it.

I LOVE Jon Krakauer. I couldn't put down either Into Thin Air, or Into the Wild (although I always wondered why the titles were so similar -- as a word-person, that kind of annoyed me. Is that weird?). I read those books and part of me wanted to chuck my worldly belongings and hike into nature. Luckily I can appease that part of me by going for a nice walk through my neighborhood instead.

For some reason, I couldn't quite get into Under the Banner of Heaven. The main story, which looks at the murder of a young woman, Brenda Lafferty, and her infant daughter at the hands of her two brothers-in-law, Mormon fundamentalists, is interesting enough, but the history of the Mormon faith gets a little long and convoluted (kind of like this sentence).

One note of interest. It's clear throughout the book that Krakauer doesn't think a lot of organized religion, but he says something really beautiful at the end, in reference to his own agnosticism To quote,

And if I remain in the dark about our purpose here, and the meaning of eternity, I have nevertheless arrived at an understanding of a few more modest truths: Most of us fear death. Most of us yearn to comprehend how we got here, and why -- which is to say most of us ache to know the love of our creator. And we will no doubt feel that ache, most of us, for as long as we happen to be alive.

I'm not an agnostic, I'm a Christian pastor, but I agree with him here. Where we might differ is whether or not that ache will ever be satisfied in a meaningful way. I long to feel the love of my creator. Do I feel it all day, every day? No. Have I felt it before, powerfully? Most definitely. See the post below on the Sunday after Besher's death. My heart felt like it was torn but I also have never felt so strongly like I was being held, not just by the people around me, but by the love of my creator.

At the end of the book, I wondered what inspired Krakauer to write it. Was it these modest truths? What it the ache to know the love of the creator? Was it curiosity? Krakauer says he grew up with Saints and was simultaneously envious and baffled by their certainty of faith -- the book feels like a response to that envy and bafflement.

Bottom line: The history got dull, but I enjoyed the rare moments when Krakauer's heart came through. C.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Obligatory New Year's Post, Pt. 3 (Looking Forward)

What do you want more of in the year ahead and what do you want less of?
More productivity and less lazy internet dawdling. I'm not counting blog posting as lazy internet dawdling. I'm counting that as writing.

What resolution for the new year do you think someone else would write for you?
Most people would tell me to rest more, that I work too hard, but they don't know about all my lazy internet dawdling.

What resolution for the new year would you want to write for yourself?
Write more. I have not written a poem in a year. That makes me pretty sad and grumpy with myself.
Read more. I don't know if I'm up to a 50 book challenge, but I'm up for a 25 book challenge. For January:Under the Banner of Heaven, and After You Believe.
Learn enough of the guitar to play songs at Brighter City Summer Program this year.

That's what I'm going to start with. There are lots more resolutions I could make but the more I make the less I will keep. So we'll start with that, and maybe in 3 months I can tell you if I'm ready for more. Thanks for listening. One more try, blog world.

Obligatory New Year's Post, Pt. 2 (Dig a Little Deeper)

All but one of these questions deal with something profound that happened in August -- for the second time, I lost a young person in my youth ministry. This time, it was a young man who had been very faithful to our group, a quiet, laid back guy who didn't go looking for trouble. I was profoundly affected by his death.

What relationships meant a lot to you this year?
Since B's death, the conversations I've had with a lot of my young people have had a gravity to them that didn't exist before. I have appreciated the deepening of our relationships, even if it came from a terrible situation.

What was your happiest memory?
This is recent too -- a few weeks ago my dad had a medical emergency and was in critical care. When my sister and I left him on Friday night he was intubated, ventilated, and sedated. My happiest memory is coming back on Saturday and seeing him sitting up, talking up a storm (if you know my dad, you know that talking up a storm is one of his specialties), and getting ready to down a dinner of clear broth and Jello.

What was your saddest memory?
B's death. See above. A couple months later at a pastor's retreat, I had a dream that I was at an unknown kid's basketball game waiting for him to come out of the locker room, and B came out instead. He gave me a big hug and had a big smile on his face. In the dream, I hugged him and cried.

What moment did you feel close to God?
Here's a piece of a sermon that answers this question. I was preaching from Mark 1:9-15, about Jesus being baptized and hearing God's affirmations, and then immediately being driven into the desert to be tempted. This is what I wrote:

This summer has been for me a profound example of this text. I had a wonderful experience at our summer program, Brighter City. It was at times frustrating, as my assistant director can tell you, but there were so many opportunities to glimpse the goodness and pleasure of God that I was almost overwhelmed. The young people who had been campers themselves now serving as counselors, and doing a really good job. The morning prayer time where children and adults shared moments where they saw God at work. One boy said that his counselor, was the smartest man in the whole world. Another said that the cross necklace he made in art helped him to feel safer. I was on such a high after Brighter City.

But not two weeks later a young man from our youth ministry violently lost his life. There was so much I didn't understand about B's death. There were no words I could think of to say to his friends or his family that would comfort them, there were no words I could think to tell myself to comfort me. Even though I knew that it was useless, I thought over and over again about what I could have or should have done that would have prevented this. I regretted not calling him or texting him or talking to him since I had last seen him at our young adult group. But in all the anger and confusion, in all the tears, in all the hours on porches reminiscing, and all the moments where I felt for a second that he would just appear, at my office door or when I saw his friends gathered, I never felt alone. I had, and still have, a lot of questions about why something like this happened, and why it happened to someone like B, who was so laid back and calm, and kind, and God has not given me any easy answers. I was, and still am frustrated by the violence that is continuing to escalating in the city, and how overwhelmed I know many, including myself, feel trying to face it down, and God has not given me an easily packaged plan or program. But neither has God left my side. Neither has God left me empty. God has stayed, with me in the anger, in the questioning, in the confusion, in the frustration, in the pain.

I first found out about B's death at 4:30 in the morning, the morning of our wonderful baptismal service at Houghton's pond. I hadn't been able to go back to sleep, or eat very much at all, and so when I arrived at Houghton's pond, I was exhausted, and hungry, the shock barely wearing off, only beginning to be able to cry. I was in a wilderness place. But I did not feel alone. I felt tended to by angels. In the service we sang, “Hallelujah what a savior, hallelujah what a friend, saving, helping, keeping, loving, he is with me to the end.” Even in the middle of all that fresh, raw, grief, I believed those words. I felt loved, helped, kept, the presence of my friend and Savior with me.

Not everyone knows what to do in the midst of sorrow and pain. Some people get nervous around it. Some people hide from it. Some want to distract from it. Some want to pat us on the back a few times and then say, “All right, that's enough now.” I'm sure we have all had occasions of sadness and had friends or family who avoided the situation until it seemed to be better. Jesus is not that kind of friend. Our God wades into the water with us, sinful and dirty as we are, our God sits with us and tends to us in the wilderness, even when we are utterly abandoned by everyone else, and our God gives us glimpses of the glory of the world that will be without sin or dirt or wilderness to carry us through.

And now time to look forward...

Obligatory New Year's Post Pt. 1

My young adult group did some reflecting on the new year, thought I'd share some questions we looked at. This is spread out over three posts to make it seem like you have less to read.

What was one of the best movies you saw this year?
Oh boy -- Harry Potter 7 was pretty great.
Where the Wild Things Are, an honest picture of how hard it can be to be a child and not in control
Precious, which was heartbreaking and hopeful all at once...loved the colorful scenes of Precious' inner world.
ALSO (I'm not good at whittling my answers down to one) Camp Out is an absolutely essential movie for any youth pastor to see -- an honest, respectful picture of young people of faith from the GLBT community.

What was one of the best books you read this year?
Loved Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
Also Home, Marilynne Robinson. If you've never read Marilynne Robinson, step away from the computer now and read Gilead. Then come back and finish this post. I'm serious.

What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
I did a baptism. A few actually. Loved being a part of that moment of grace -- someone entering into a commitment with God and God responding.

Preached for 30 minutes. Usually, I am a 15-18 minute girl. Get started, get to the point, get out. But then I preached at a church that wasn't the norm -- and I had to push myself. Was a good thing, in the end.

Ate a fish eyeball. Gross.

Celebrated St. Mel's day -- a day for single people :) St. Mel is known for producing a fish out of the ground to prove that his relationship with his aunt was not scandalous. Once a magician in my grandmother's apt complex made a fish appear on my head. That doesn't have anything to do with anything but I think it's a funny story.

Reread the Harry Potter series. Thoroughly enjoyed them the first time, and am now reading them out loud to my dad and re-enjoying them. Noticing new things, like what jerks Harry and Ron were to Hermione in book 3 and how immature Sirius is.

Got stuck in Paris because of a cloud of volcanic ash. Or, got stuck in Paris, period. In this one is a lot of firsts: saw the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. Ate an authentic croissant. Ate an authentic crepe. Was almost tempted to stay in Paris to eat more.

Went to the Northernmost point in Scotland, Port Ness of the Isle of Lewis. Beautiful in it's desolation. In the same vein...

Visited the oldest structure I've ever seen. The Callanish standing stones, 5000 years old.

Other Scottish firsts: Ate haggis. 3 times. Tried that coffee that is made from beans that cats poop out. Drank coffee in the shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Stayed in international hostels (2 in Scotland and 1 in Paris). Had a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry

Had someone throw a dinner plate through my rear windshield.

Was a puppet captain at First Night in Boston

Coached a basketball game. That was an experience. I don't remember a lot about basketball.

Painted my face and neck blue. Smurfette for Halloween. AWWWWEEEESSSOOOMMMME.

Watched the LOST season finale. Oh, LOST. We were so close in the beginning. Then we almost parted ways because you were focussed on silly things like Nikki and Paulo and Jack's tattoos. Then you wooed me back with Sawyer and Juliet and time travelling and Hurley becoming a hero. Then it ended, and even though others were mad at you, I appreciated how you ended things. But I liked the epilouge to Deathly Hallows, too, so what do I know.

Hugged and took a picture of a famous person. Well, famous to me, anyway. Russell Ferguson from So You Think You can Dance! Here's the story (from my facebook acct): So this is the story. I was out to breakfast with two young adults I know and their baby, M. This dude comes in and I think he looks familiar. "Do you think he came to youth group before?" K asks. But then I say, "No, he looks like Russell from SYTYCD." I didn't think it was him. But then these other guys ask him and he says he IS. Holy cow, now I'm excited. At this point, he's packing up to leave, I'm holding M, the baby seat's next to me. "Take the baby," I say, shoving poor M back to her mom. "Are you Russell from SYTYCD?" I ask, and he says yes. Then I start blabbing like an IDIOT about ever since he krumped at his first audition I loved him, he's so great, Afro Jazz, contemporary, blah blah blah. I ask for a picture and throw the baby seat on the floor so I can get out and take one. The whole restaurant is staring at me. We take a picture, and the women behind me are like, "Who are you?" Russell says, "No one special." The woman says, "You must be someone with her over here gushing." So I say "Did you ever watch SYTYCD? He WON." So then they gush. And then he left. But not before giving me a big hug :)

That's it for new things I think.
Stay tuned for part 2!

one more try

So my friend posted on her blog an EZ New Years Resolution creater. Even though I said if I was lazy again I was going to give this blogging stuff up, when I went to that site the first resolution that popped up for me was "update your blog." I decided it was a sign, so here I am.

Imagine I am singing this song to my blog, except I don't kiss my blog: