Monday, February 27, 2006

a special bulletin from Jo's publicity manager

In support of my little sister's blog, and because she's put so much time into building it, and because she's actually a pretty darn good writer, I'm giving her a nice little plug:

Everyone! everyone! go look at jo's blog! She is cool (and with me as an older sister, who wouldn't be?)! :P

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"If I had more time, I wouldn't have written" and sloppy music

I always wonder why I become so much less productive when I have more time on my hands. If I can get two loads of laundry done each Monday night (the time I normally do laundry), how come I don't do any laundry over a 3 1/2 day weekend? That's right, no laundry. I also didn't vacuum, clean or write or read anything. (Wait...what did I do?) It's like the old saying goes: "If I had more time, I wouldn't have written" because I'd have been busy not being busy, or because we are forced to be productive when we have little time in which to produce. When we have more time, we slack off.

Anyways, I guess I did "find time" this weekend to reorganize my guitar songbook and print off some "new" songs to play at small group on Wednesdays. Which brings me to my next point. When I was first choosing songs to put in my book (my "repertiore"?) I only picked ones that were good in my opinion...meaning theologically accurate, lyrically and musically well-written, and God-focused as opposed to self-focused. You may have no idea how difficult it is to find songs like that from the trough of sloppy "worship music" today. You also might not realize how difficult it is to find older, better songs that a) aren't next to impossible to play well on a guitar and b) most people know well enough to sing. It's pathetic how we all (excepting those good ol' Baptists, can I get an Amen?) been weaned off the solid stuff and become complacent with, and ignorant of, iffy theology, a distorted view of ourselves and God, and downright sloppy lyrics in our church music. Most "worship" songs are made up of short, pithy lines which, save for the all-encompassing universe of Christianity and Christian living, bear no relation to the other lyrics. In addition, they generally don't focus only on God, instead choosing to spotlight MY reaction to God. Not that there isn't a time and place for considering that, but I think "worship" (the time we get together and sing) is about considering God and his attributes. Which of course partly includes what God has done for us...and that's fine. I'm just sick of the same "You satisfy me" junk, time and time again. I have all the time I need to think about myself, and corporate worship should not primarily be that time. I'm not saying all new music is bad, because it's not. Obviously. But as a whole, the genre "Praise And Worship Music" has a miserable track record in the areas of sound theology and proficiently-written score and lyrics.

With that being said, I direct my gripe at the songwriters and the worship directors at the churches, and not usually the singers. Generally, I think when people sing these songs, they truly are worshiping. Maybe it's just that, in the habitual or accidental corporate exclusion of other songs, most simply don't know what they're missing. It's the fault of the people who write the songs, and of the people who choose to promote them to their congregation. (And obviously, in most cases people respond to the "style" of music they're used to...which isn't necessarily bad, it's just lame. But I don't want to hear any of this crap about "I can't understand that old stuff" or "I can't understand that new stuff." Unless you're like five, you can too understand it...if you want to.)

Therefore, I have decided to start gradually importing the kind of music that I think "my girls" want to hear into my songbook. When I play, it's next to impossible for me to worship anyways. So why was I enforcing my (okay, pretty stringent) standards on people who don't care? I guess I didn't realize that I might have been distracting the others with songs they don't necessarily "enjoy." It's a little sad because I feel in one sense that I have compromised myself and my position on this issue. I guess I will keep introducing that "new old" music...a little at a time...and keep trying to encourage clear thinking in how we view music.

more to come later. I might write about this on the other blog so stay tuned if you really desperately want to hear even more of my opinions. :)

Monday, February 13, 2006


I have the great and exceeding pleasure of announcing that, according to my personal web manager, the number of hits on this blog has reached 1,000 over the weekend!

Let there be the sounding of many instruments: lyre, flute, saxophone, djembe, and bagpipes!

Friday, February 10, 2006

V-day (In Defense of Romance)

I am sick to my gut of reading fluffy Christian articles written by singles around this time of year. These are close-to-real lines taken from some of them (to be read in high falsetto voice):

I used to be sad on Valentine's day every time I see couples holding hands, white teddy bears, and those cutesey pink cards. But then I realized that Jesus is the only husband I need."

"Maybe someday God will give me a husband, but until then I'm perfectly content to be single."

"Valentine's day is overrated and stupid and so are boyfriends. God's love is all that matters."

"Boy, I sure am glad I'm not dating anyone this year. What a hassle! Good to be stress-free for once."

And that's just a sample. Here's a confession: I've even written some stuff containing a steady stream of lines like these, the kind of essay Josh Harris and the local convent would applaud. Well, I take it back. Here comes a renaissance. I'm sick of it all. To call that kind of writing cliched would be a watery compliment.

There's quite a spectrum of ignorance, bitterness, bliss, and even rationale, explicit and implicit, in those quotes. But while they all contain some kind of truth, but there is at least one thing dreadfully wrong with each of them.

In addition to being laughably predictable, sickeningly touchy-feely, and uselessly optimistic, these perspectives often overlook an important aspect of Christian living. This Boundless article says what I mean better than I could: Except for a gifted few, we are all called to marry. Supposed to a picture of Christ's relationship to believers. Marriage isn't just this nice bonus God hands out to those who are extra-holy.

In a nearly opposite stance from most years before, I kind of wish I had a guy to care about this V-day. If any of you have known me for very long, you'll remember my refusal to read nice Christian romance novels, watch chick-flicks (OK, so I still don't watch many of those), and become even slightly ponderous at a wedding. I'm still vaguely embarrassed that I own a compilation CD called "Love Songs" (hey, someone just gave it to me, OK?) Each of the past couple of years, though, I've imagined myself in a year's time, that perhaps someone special might manifest himself in my life's path between now and next February. This about-face isn't because I read a good article and it changed my mind. In fact, it has very little to do with my mind, except for maybe a sluggish mental acquiescence to the inevitability of being female, and all the gifts and curses it brings. Something happened to me in the last two years or so, and somehow it's made me more -- how else can I say it -- girly. Which isn't all bad -- sensitivity, caring, and maternal instincts weren't exactly the downfall of Rome -- but a dangerous side effect is wanting someone to take me out to dinner this Tuesday, to talk to me at least four times a week, and give the occasional gift...not expensive, but thoughtful. Do these desires make me a sellout, an emotional wreck, or perhaps a sadly sheltered fundamentalist with chains around my mind?

I don't mean to echo the age-old cry of ardent feminists, chaste nuns and everyone in between, but we girls have a pretty darn good excuse -- not for being flighty or fickle, but for wanting romance: it is natural, instinctive and God-given. This brings me back to my first point: we are created for marriage (excepting the few who are given the gift of celibacy). God told Eve in Genesis that "her desire would be for her husband." You don't have to look farther than the shiny magazine covers to see this. Of the few glamour/womens' magazines that I have read, they all contain lengthy, detailed journalism with titles like "Is He Thinking About You? 3 Easy Steps to Know For Sure" and "Get Him, Keep Him" and "How to Tell His Personality From His Shoes" (not kidding) and so on. (The saturation of magazines with these titles also illustrates the demise of classic feminism.) But who cares. Contrary to popular opinion, magazines generally don't dictate or impose, because that would not generate profits; rather, they simply cater to and affirm what they already know people want to hear. Women want to be loved and cherished -- the Lord himself cursed us with that desire (but at least some of us get some diamonds out of the deal!). And it is a curse! It plagues us our entire lives. It will never go away, not even owing to the efforts of the first feminists.

(I guess I could make this into a rant against classical feminism. After all, some Christian-single articles I've read could very well have been written by a solid-line feminist posing as a Christian. If you're interested in this angle, a good book to read is "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us" by Danielle Crittenden. (There's another Crittenden wacko out there, do not get them mixed up or you will be very confused.) Even if you're not that interested, it's a great book that I recommend wholeheartedly.)

I'm not going to end this with some line about celebrating V-day with the love between me and my family, or me and my God (not to trivialize either). V-day is about romance, but our God is terribly romantic. Who else could come up with the inexplicable attraction between male and female, and all the spiritual implications tangled up with it? But...I still know that I won't be at dinner at a dusky restaurant with a handsome boy. And this year, I understand why I, sort of, wish I was, and I simply accept that it's not wrong. But even granting that I had completely pure and unselfish motives (which I don't) it's still not necessary to pine and drool over the brilliant bouquets on the other desks at work. that's where i'ma leave that.

Next time I promise to write something which is not corny, cheesy or embarrassing. :)

Edit, as of March 9th: It has come to my attention that the verse I quoted from Genesis may not actually mean the thing I took it to mean. Had I known this earlier, this post would have been different in several regards. I don't intend to correct everything at this point but wanted to make this clear, whatever implications it may hold for the premise/conclusion of this post.

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