And the Oscar goes to…

I love to watch award shows and imagine what I’ll wear and what I’ll say when I win them- or didn’t you know that I’m working on my EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony)? The Academy Awards has always been my favorite show, and I try to see as many of the Best Picture nominees as I can before the telecast. So far I’ve only seen three out of this year’s batch: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, and Boyhood.
So many mainstream movies these days are about action, twists, violence, explosions, and special effects. I’m drawn to these movies as much as the next person. My favorite movie is Aliens, for crying out loud! I love me some epic battles between good and evil, so it definitely requires a flip of the mind switch to settle into a movie that’s about characters, great acting, and small intimate moments. As I watch more of these types of movies I’m learning to focus on the actors and the choices they make. It’s the difference between watching Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fault in Our Stars. Both good movies, but when you go from the one to the other, you have that transition period where your inner monologue goes something like this: What’s going on? Why is nothing happening? Why is it quiet? Oh wait- it’s just two people- talking! Oh! Ok… let’s go with it… Although the three Best Picture nominees I’ve seen are extremely different in terms of plot and execution, they all share those intimate qualities that I’m learning to appreciate.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a difficult movie to describe. Set between the World Wars in a fictional country, a hotel concierge and his new bellhop experience romance, murder, prison escape, and the intimidation of a Nazi-like group. The heart of the movie, amidst all the frenetic moments, is the relationship between these two characters played by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori. Their interactions are both funny and touching. There are significant looks, tirades, and understated sentences that give the film a sweet buddy picture vibe. Wes Anderson’s directorial style is not for everyone, so if you don’t like his movies you can check it out for free at your local library and see if you like it. I say give it a chance for the fine comedic acting, tons of crazy cameos, and moments of pathos.
Selma‘s recreation of Dr. King’s speeches and the marches over the Edmund Pettus Bridge had me breaking out into chills, leaning forward in my seat, and saying “Woah” under my breath. You read about these events in school, but seeing them dramatized is like getting punched in the gut. The film also gives you a glimpse into the inner workings of non-violent protest, and I watched each intimate exchange- between Dr. King and the President, between Malcolm X and Mrs. King, between Civil Rights leaders and student activists- with fascination. It shows those behind-the-scenes moments of disagreement, doubt, and silence as they worked to change the nation. It goes without saying that the acting is uniformly excellent and immersive.
Boyhood is the simple story of a boy and his family made unique because the director filmed the same actors over a 12 year period. Watching Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane (who never seems like an actor), grow from a boy into a man before my eyes was a one-of-a kind viewing experience. I saw the same sweet-faced kid get acne and become gangly. I heard his voice deepen. He felt like my child; I was part of the family and invested in his life. But he was also me, and as I watched I relived the awkward moments of my childhood, puberty, and adolescence. Not much happens in the movie, but what does happens is stuff that happens to almost everyone.

I’m just a girl who loves movies, so for what it’s worth I recommend these films. For a collection of professional reviews by actual film critics, go to Rotten Tomatoes. I always check there before I spend $11.75 on a movie ticket. The Academy Awards airs this coming Sunday, February 22nd… just in case you want to start watching!

Meditation

Are you good at meditating?

According to Webster’s dictionary to meditate is
1 to engage in contemplation or reflection
2 to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
3 to focus one’s thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over
4 to plan or project in the mind

My mind tends to run quickly through so many places; sometimes I just want to get off the train, but it feels like I can’t. I get wound up thinking about what I should have done, what I’m going to do, what might happen… Then suddenly my heart is pounding, my stomach is tied in knots, and I have nervous armpit sweat. Not fun at all! I know meditation would help me with this issue.

I love to read, and I tend to read the Bible in great big gulps like I’m devouring a novel. I will do some of that contemplation and reflection mentioned in the first definition as I take in the sweep of multiple chapters and think about how the ideas are developing. I so enjoy doing that.

On the other hand, my husband is always telling me to sometimes just take one verse and read it and say it and think about it so much that it becomes a part of me (see definition # 2 above). I think this aspect of meditation taps into the transformative power of God’s Word. The funny thing is that I’ve done this before when I was at a real low point in my life. I wrote out and read aloud scriptures day after day until my emotions and thoughts changed. It really worked then, and I’m determined to develop the habit again now.

The third definition speaks of focusing one’s thoughts on something. I like that idea-. When I read that I think of gathering my scattered thoughts from the four corners of my mind, sending them through the narrow tunnel of the Word, and letting the unnecessary and the wrong get squeezed out. It takes great effort but once through to the other side- phew. Peace. Worth it.

That fourth definition was unexpected at first. To plan or project in the mind… I thought about that and decided that it sounds something like using the imagination. My imagination has always been highly developed (only child, avid reader, movie lover). I’ve seen a lot of worst case scenarios unfold in my head, so now I’d like to show myself some good movies instead. I want to see myself sheltering under God’s wings (Psalm 17:8); I want to envision my children sitting around my table (Psalm 128); I want to imagine the return of the King (Revelation 22:12).

Focused, peaceful, positive- my mind isn’t going to get that way on its own. I must always be “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This sounds to me like a very aggressive form of meditation. It suggests that changing the way I think is an active process requiring vigilance and diligence.

I’ll leave you with a song that ends with a powerful bridge which refers to 2 Cor. 10:5:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2nBOGA6X2g

O Holy Night

Wow, it seems like Christmas really came quickly this year! Maybe that’s because radio stations around here started playing holiday music 24/7 about a week and a half before Thanksgiving. It got me thinking a lot about Christmas music, and I’ve been asking people what their favorites are.

I have three: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “O Holy Night”, and “Little Drummer Boy”.

“O Come O Come Emmanuel” is a haunting song that captures my longing for deliverance. When I sing this song I remember that I need God’s help. I cry out for Him today just as the children of Israel cried out for the Messiah thousands of years ago. Mourning is a part of life, but this carol calls me to rejoice because at last Emmanuel (God with us) has come. He has not forsaken me nor left me alone; instead, He came to save.

Listen to this beautiful version by BarlowGirl:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzW_PmW-LzE

“O Holy Night” gives a wonderful revelation in the first verse:

Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth

          The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

We were worth the King of Glory coming down to earth. This song reminds me that I am loved beyond measure and that I now have a thrilling hope: hope that I will be transformed by the Savior, hope of a world one day remade, hope of eternal fellowship with God. As it soars into that chorus I get chills every time. Fall on your knees… in a moment of pure worship.

Enjoy Mariah Carey’s iconic version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEJmP8T07JU

“Little Drummer Boy” is all about our response to the coming Lord. It really gets me in the 2nd and 3rd verse (pa rum pum pum pums removed for time’s sake):

Little baby… I am a poor boy too… I have no gift to bring… that’s fit to give a king… shall I play for you… on my drum

          I played my drum for Him… I played my best for him… then he smiled at me…

I love these words because they tell me I can come to the Lord just as I am. It comforts me to know that I don’t have to pull myself together or come up with something amazing to be with God. I can simply give Him the best of what I have. He honors that with a smile.

Pentatonix has a sweet version you must check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc

My need for God to be with me, my worshipful acknowledgement of what His coming means, my offering to the King: that’s what these songs represent for me.

I’d love to know what your favorite Christmas songs are and why, so leave a comment!

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6-7

My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has the good food and quality family time of Christmas without the stress. I know that for some, the month of December is all candy canes and laughter, but I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself at Christmas. How much money should I spend? What’s the right gift to buy? When do I decorate? When do I take down the decorations? How can I make what’s become a commercial holiday meaningful for me and my loved ones? I create these unrealistic expectations,and inevitably I get let down at some point.

Oh, but Thanksgiving… I have nothing negative to say. When I think of Thanksgiving, I remember…

…that year I wasn’t able to eat much of the actual Thanksgiving meal because I snuck and ate three rolls before dinner was served.

…learning how to make cornbread dressing from my cousin Kenny. This is my favorite Thanksgiving food, and I feel sorry for those who only eat that breadcrumb stuff. A resounding boo to Stovetop Stuffing! Boo, I say!

…gravy. Watching my mom make giblet gravy, slowly stirring in flour. Me, later, pouring gravy over everything. Gravy is my second favorite Thanksgiving food.

…waiting in agonizing anticipation for my uncle to finish the longest Thanksgiving prayer ever. It was really a sermon. Uncle Bill, just say amen so I can eat already!

…playing bridge with my grandmother and others. What a game. It makes the other card games look a little pitiful.

…lots of family, extended family, and friends catching up, talking loud, and eating until short of breath, all while football games play on a big screen TV.

I haven’t gotten to attend a big family thanksgiving in a while. My husband’s in retail and works on Black Friday, and it’s getting more and more expensive to travel. In the meantime, I have my memories, and I try to remember to be grateful: for my family, that we talk and are still close though so many miles lay between us; for my friends; for my husband; for a job I love. Most of all, I feel overwhelming gratitude towards God, from whom all these good gifts flow.

Although the corporate machine continues to encroach on my beloved Thanksgiving day (Kmart opens at 6am- on Thursday), I’m going to relax, eat some great food with my hubby, and remember all I have to be thankful for. No shopping. Just gravy.

Psalm 106:1

I’m not a Cartoon

It was 4th period in the library, and I had just finished showing the school’s daily news video to the study hall students. A young man at a table nearby said something like, “Have you ever had one of those moments where you realize you’re a real person?” He might have said the word soul. I wish I could remember his exact wording; it was such a strange, random thing to hear a high school boy say. But the guy sitting next to him seemed to get it and said, “Yeah.” I just had to butt in with “Yes, I’ve had that too!” I told them that it was a great thing to have that realization.

Mine came when I was a little girl- on a Saturday morning as I was watching cartoons. I’ve thought about it often as the years have passed, and I know I will never forget. Here’s the poem I wrote about it:

Little girl watching a TV screen
On a blissful Saturday morning.
Just the same old same old, then
A sudden freezing,
A sinking of (her very) self
Toward an abyss of meaning
A looking over the edge to discover, to see:
I’m not a cartoon.
              What I do matters.
               I’m real! I’m me.
For this moment, Who is to blame?
She doesn’t know yet-
Only something lost, something gained.

What do we call it? Reaching the age of accountability. Becoming self-aware. Being an agent of free will. Having a metaphysical moment. Whatever it is, it represents one of the things that makes us human.

If you’ve had a moment like this, when and where did it happen? I’d love to know. Share in the comments!

The Grocery Shopping Blues

Dear Walmart,

I love your prices on paper towels and cleaning products, but I can’t find things like Brita filters or matches in your store, and neither can your employees. I know they are there- we just… can’t… find… them. To be fair, if I worked in a store that size I probably couldn’t find things either. I do have one question, though: Why is it that no matter how empty the store is, it always takes me at least 20 minutes to check out? Anyway, I guess I’ll keep coming back for the Great Value sandwich bags.

Sincerely,

Bargain Hunter

Dear Kroger,

Nice low price on the organic chicken; I hope to God it really is free range, and not “free range”. I’ve had many moments of despair walking up to that refrigerated case and seeing only empty space where the Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread should be; however, I can perk myself up by visiting your Natural Market and walking that big, beautiful aisle of reasonably priced natural cereals. Oh, the cereal! 

All the best,

The cereal lover

Dear Trader Joe’s,

There’s only one of you in the city, so there is never any parking and the store is always packed. I gladly suffer through it all just to buy your frozen, wild fish. Thanks for introducing me to Mahi Mahi; I’m forever grateful. As for the selection of raw nuts- I have no words. I also must have your organic popcorn kernels, almond butter and coconut oil- when they are in stock, which, unfortunately, is only about every 4th time I come. I’ll never give up on you, though. We’re gonna ride out this whole “almond butter recalled for salmonella contamination” thing.

Smooches,

The Health Nut

Dear Whole Foods,

There’s a reason why people call you Whole Paycheck. On the other hand, thank you for providing me with local, grass fed, free range meats and eggs. You’re the go-to for protein in my house. Can’t live without the reverse osmosis water dispenser either. The deli pizza and juice bar smoothies are sinfully delicious. Now I’ve discovered the bakery, so It’s getting hard for me to leave the store without one of your donuts…. but I digress… Love the local body products as well!

Thanks,

The Lady who loves Local

Dear Costco,

I hear you are amazing! I hear you have tons of organic offerings and great prices. But the thought of you, and your size, and your bulk items, and your membership fee overwhelms me. I promise, I AM going to come visit you sometime soon. Really. I promise. I’m gonna get around to that. It’s just that, well, I need to know- are you gonna let me down, or will you come through for me? Can you replace Walmart, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and/or Whole Foods in my life? 

Eagerly awaiting your response,

Hopeful Shopper

Creativity and Consumption

My thoughts today extend from my post on Netflix.

Creativity and consumption: I’m aware of a constant balancing act between the two as I juggle work, marriage, friendships, family, church responsibilities, my dreams and the needs (or desires) of my own body.

My heart says, “Write a poem.” My body says, “Watch Netflix for a few hours.”

My soul says, “Try a new recipe.” My flesh says, “Get a Quarter Pounder.”

One part of me says, “Start a conversation with that person.” The other part says,”Just keep reading your book.”

Consumption. There is so much out there for us to consume- various forms of entertainment, Internet content, social media, fast food, sweets, and so on. These things are an important part of how we unwind and connect with others, but consuming too much can lead to anxiety and depression. When I spend a lot of time surfing the internet or watching TV, I become discontent with my own life as I compare my circumstances with those of celebrities and people who don’t exist, or I start to want things I don’t have and don’t need.

Creativity. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about the many manifestations of creativity. I could write a poem, decorate my living room, cook a meal, start a conversation, build a relationship. I often long to be creative but shirk away from the effort and concentration that is required. When I get home from work I just want to flop in front of the television, but oh! if only I would push past that inertia and choose to spend even a little time making something new. The results are worth it: peace, a feeling of accomplishment, renewed energy.

I know a family in which the children don’t watch TV… and these children are some of the coolest I’ve ever met. Their creative skills are highly developed- they sing, draw, play the piano, create videos, cook meals. They can have great conversations, from the three year old on up. I contrast them with some of the students I see in the high school where I work- faces in their phones, earbuds forever in their ears, unable or unwilling to respond to a simple greeting.

Both consumption and creativity are part of a balanced life, and social media, the Internet, a trip to the movies- these do connect us. However, when we share something that we’ve created with others, and vice versa, our souls are fed in a deeper way. And we are meant to create, aren’t we? We are made in the image of the Creator.

Ahhhh… Netflix

About seven months ago we decided to get rid of cable. We got the little Roku box, hooked it up to the TV, and prepared to receive all that wonderful, streaming entertainment from Netflix. We love the $7.99/month price, and the selection is great; however, I’ve now become a little disillusioned with the whole thing.

Initially I thought we would watch less TV, but the shorter running time, lack of commercials, and complete seasons have caused us to gorge ourselves. Recently I’ve been binging on The Office. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows so I am enjoying it…. but. After 4 or 5 episodes in one afternoon I feel like I do when I eat one too many cookies, or when I get two scoops of ice cream instead of one. Bloated. Discontented. Slightly nauseous. Too much of a good thing.

Something I never would have expected is the difficulty we face in choosing something to watch. Yes, cable has lots of stations too, but there are limits based on day of the week and time. When you turn on Netflix, the choices are truly overwhelming. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have sat down to watch something and we end up scrolling, reading, scrolling again, discussing, trying to agree on something, and scrolling some more until in utter frustration we just give up and go to bed. I won’t even mention the other channels you can subscribe to- Hulu, Vudu, MGo, OMG! Way too much of a good thing.

There are definitely things that I miss about network and cable TV. When my husband and I go on vacation, one of the main things that we look forward to is laying in bed and watching… wait for it… HGTV! And Food Network. And crazy reality television in all its sordid glory. Oh yes, I’ll admit that I love America’s Got Talent, and I’m sad I’m missing it. I also hate to miss awards shows. I watch clips the next day on You Tube, but it’s NOT the same. I miss the pleasant feeling of anticipation and excitement I had when I waited a whole week for the next episode of Once Upon a Time. I think maybe what I miss most of all are the commercials. They make you laugh and cry, they make you outraged, they make you hungry. They have jingles you can sing to. They are a signpost of where our culture is and where it is going.

Overall, I feel a little disconnected from mainstream America without live television in my life, but despite the drawbacks we have no plans to go back to cable- for now. We are considering getting a pair a rabbit ears so we can enjoy the Big Three stations again. Viva la television!

Imaginations of a Day

I’m late again, I know! I wanted to share the poem I wrote years ago that inspired the title of this blog. It has undergone some revisions and will undergo more in the future, I’m sure. I won’t say much about it, only that it brings together things I’ve seen, dreams I’ve had, and some thoughts that came with them. Enjoy

Imaginations of a Day

1
I saw an old woman today
and she had that look.
Regret, resignation, or nothing…
I don’t know.
When I am she,
What will my thoughts be?

2
That night I saw a city on a hill
Golden light flung out everywhere like a net
Over water and mountains
And I thought, This is God’s, too.

3
Night thoughts are the hard thoughts.
I twist and can’t breathe under the weight of the images-
All those things I can’t quite reach-
But then he throws his arm across me to make me still.

4
In my dreams I saw a door that shut little by little,
A bright plain room on one side, and a dark city on the other.
When the door shuts, the world will end.
I came back from the city streets to the right side of the door,
I came back,
But I woke up and did not see the Lord’s coming or His reward.

5
Now I’m riding on a swing in a cool quiet park
With tall pine trees that have tops like starfish.
All around me the sun is glancing, hiding
As I go back and forth slowly flapping my arms
And it really does feel like flying.

I’m not the Star… and it’s Okay!

So I’ve finally missed a week on this blog… It was bound to happen, but I feel bad. You probably didn’t even notice, right?

I’ve been super busy rehearsing for a production of Singin’ in the Rain that opens on September 12. I’ve been doing musical theatre since I was 11 or 12, when I was cast in Once Upon a Mattress in the 6th grade. I’ve been hooked ever since. Over the years I’ve had lead roles, supporting roles, and featured roles, and I’ve been in many ensembles.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being a star, but depending on the role I may not get that sense of community that can make a show so much fun. Many times with larger roles you work only with a few cast members, or you come on for one or two scenes only. That’s why I was kind of lonely when when I played the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella last summer (although I did have a wand that lit up- so that was awesome). I’m not complaining, I’m just saying there were times when I looked longingly at the ensemble doing their stuff and wished I could be a part. In this production I’m back in the ensemble- and having a great time. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment and camaradie when, after hours of learning music and running dances over, and over, and over again, the harmonies are finally perfect and the steps are finally in sync. I just need to relax, quit worrying so much about everyone else doing everything right, and embrace the process- and my part in it.

When I don’t, that’s when the group thing gets a little rough. I’m a perfectionist, and I think I’m always right. I’m in a constant battle to make sure I don’t annoyingly butt in to correct people. It’s a battle I lose about half the time, unfortunately. For example, in the finale song there’s a moment when only the leads sing a line. Some of the ensemble are still accidentally singing it, so when it happens I’ve been going “Shhhhhh!!!!!” as loud as I can. Terrible, I know- I can’t believe I’m admitting this. I do want to be helpful, but I tend to get uptight and go too far with it. And it’s no fun being the Song Police.

The good thing is that the last two times we have run the number I have contained myself. It’s good for me to subvert that craving to assert my position, try being humble, and find the joy in supporting the whole by simply doing my own part well, no matter how small.

I Corinthians 12:12-27

 

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries