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Monthly Archives: May 2013

“The Big Music” by the Waterboys

I rediscovered this on an old cassette and want to share it with you. I’d forgotten so much of the music I used to know. Absolutely love this song. Listening link is below the lyrics. Enjoy!

I have heard the big music
And I’ll never be the same
Something so pure
Hey!
Just called my name
I have drowned in the big sea
Now I find I’m still alive
And I’m comin’ up for ever
Hey!
Shadows all behind me
Ecstasy to come
I have
Climbed the big tree
Touched the big sky
I just stuck my hand up in the air
And everything came into colour
Like Jazz Manna
From sweet sweet chariots
I have seen the big mountain
And I swear I’m half way there
(You’ll never get there, you’ll never get there,
You’ll never get there)
But I will
I will always climb the mountain

Because
I have heard the big music
And I’ll never be the same
Something so pure
Hey!
Has called
My
Name!

Listen on YouTube

 

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Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I was substitute teaching in a seventh grade health class, about half way through the period, when a boy came to the open door and stood there. Serious, open, intelligent face, black rimmed glasses, paper mustache, vest and necktie, holding an empty ceramic coffee cup. Looking like a principal dropping by to observe for a few moments–a nice, supportive principal. I waited for him to reveal his purpose, eyebrows asking. He stood there. “May I help you?” I asked, after a bit.

“I’m looking for a person. And I’m here to learn.”

“Excellent. we’re working on AIDS and HIV information–come on in.”

And he was bright–listening, lightening up behind the eyes occasionally, nodding, participating. A bright light.

I’m so thankful that school hasn’t quenched that light, that parents and teachers have done their good work, and hopeful that I can feed the fire, as well as kindle, re-kindle, more fires of learning and growth. Lovely, just lovely.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Education

 

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“F— all parents! F— them all, except for mine.”

I really heard this today in a teacher staff room, said by a teacher. Refreshing it its forthrightness as it was, free of insincere eduspeak, I was still startled.

Another teacher had just finished describing a disciplinary action toward (against?) a student who had exhibited disrespectful body language to him, and the related conversation with the parent. The parent had defended the kid, of all people, and the teacher was furious, frustrated about the generational patterns, I suppose, that could not be broken. Disrespect for authority. He was full of righteous indignation, of the kind that made me wonder, afterward, if he really was convinced that eye-rolling was such a terrible thing. The kind of indignation that’s meant, by its very force, to cause unanimous agreement.

I had just read, on a sign above the doorway leading to the teacher’s lounge, a sign saying “Dissent is patriotic.” I ate my curry quietly, listening and observing the teacher lounge culture and keeping my thoughts as a good (job hunting) sub should. Then the “F—…” outburst. The fellow came to himself, and looked at me with a wry smile and a “Welcome to our staff room.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I saw that as my opening.

“Well, at least you’re all talking, though I have to admit, I rolled my eyes last week at a Memorial Day event. And I mentioned the dissent sign I’d just seen, and said that I guessed that was dissent. Then I softened it, by suggesting the kid could be helped to express it in a better way.

I wonder who posted the sign. Some subversive, bless them.

Instead of trying to shove unruly students back into a cage, or cutting them out of the educational process, find the key, dude–the rolling eyes, the sneers, the resistance–it’s your opening. Get it out there–help him or her express it, let them know you value, smart people value, resistance. It’s not about you. Teach them the difference between dumb resistance based on selfish motives (I don’t want to exert myself; I never trust white teachers; freedom = never submitting, etc.) and resistance based on a refusal to violate one’s conscience, one’s highest principles.

In social studies we discussed unions–what are they for, and how do they determine what’s worth fighting for, and how to fight. If you show yourself to be the most reasonable, the most mature, and having the highest principles, your power for change is strong. Applies to students too, and, of course, teachers.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Education

 

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I really don’t know how this came out, but I guess it had to. Is it safe with you?

I have bought the rights to this table and the generic cheer of the barista, for this hour. Weathered and sanded, golden wood table in round, metal-framed windows twice my height face an intersection, drive-thru between. Can’t concentrate on a topic–achievement testing for homeschoolers? Freud’s reality principle? Maybe just a photo gallery post or recipe? Then I am pulled into the music: “Hold me still; bury my heart” I see colors, cars moving, words: “UNITED Furniture Warehouse. BevMo! Big 5 Sporting Goods. Weight Watchers.” Cars on the four-lane in front–vans and mini-SUVs and sedans, earth tones and blue. The boat being pulled toward the launch. The maples and boxwoods lining the drive-thru and along the Wal-Mart parking lot burst with life and still free of wind-blown garbage. Guitar strumming minor chords, “Ohhh…” This one is bow on strings, and I my heart responds at the same time to caffeine, and the entrance into the resounding percussion, full riff of three cords and base line that follows the quiet entry into universal human themes. One of those sure-fire musical formulas for emotional engagement …Can’t…get…taken …in. Sounds like REM, so irresistible. Mental note to look for more music, try to learn some and call up my always-ready-to-jam neighbor friend.

I am two people, if not more. One, she steps back and observes people, society, ideas, and herself–identifying principles, drawing what conclusions she may. The student of life, the note-taker, philosopher, organizer. Filing away notebooks and journals, tagging photos, balancing bottom lines. Out in public, she hopes to drift around anonymously, not see anyone she knows. If she does, perhaps she’ll just make a quiet clicking noise to herself, and pretend not to notice them. As long as she has something to write or read, she’s happy to be alone at her table. Wanting to record, understand, get to the bottom of things and explain. Ideas and truth are the beautiful things. Not tidy conclusions and clear doctrines–wasn’t brought up that way. Deep and insightful things, articulate, intelligent, occasionally witty. At home she gets buried in to do lists and attempts to be a better housekeeper and homeschool organizer, translate ideas into practice. She is easy for me to identify–it’s done by objective observation.

The other one, she’s not so easy to describe–her aura flows along under it all, occasionally comes up dancing, laughing so much she cries, other times keening, or throwing things. Feels for people, falls for people, tired of living behind a veil, ready to brave honesty from others. Lately it seems like she needs more air to breathe, more music for sure. She’s drawn toward morning light, feels fulfilled after working the mixing bowl, has her hands in the soil, stops for bird song, poetry. All the beauty and pain she has ever experienced is still there, resonates in poetry and music, but how is it that so far, no one in her present world really knows her? Fact is, I don’t like her to be known–too embarrassing. But something about her is me, and maybe before I’m much nearer fifty, all the ugly beauty will have to show.

One evening in my twenties I waded into the alfalfa field beside my parents house. Almost dark, clouds boiled up from the earth and now rolling along with the wind currents from the bay. Playing the alfalfa like a piano keyboard on a tilt-a-whirl. Maybe I went there hurt or distraught–I don’t remember, but there was this sense of it not being fair that I couldn’t share the sensations with anyone, as if it was a concert, a great movie or a cheesecake. I could try, like my dad, painter, writer, sharing across a void, but sometimes distant from those nearby. Or I could, like Mom, call, “Come see!” and hope someone really would–come run around, arms up in the wind, and share, really share it all. The hard part was, and is, would anyone see, be able to overlap that sphere of understanding?

Once I started laughing at some funny human incident–I was so tickled I started to gasp, then without warning I burst into tears. Another time I was feeling pain, not even at the bottom of it yet, and I decided, just like that, all done, and swallowed my tears back down. There’s that shift, back and forth, and the gears grind too much, really. That’s all I know for now. So, bring on more music.

 

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The “Old Rugged Cross” is not the hero of the story

In honor of my Mom, I stood close-mouthed, if not tight-lipped, during the singing of “The Old Rugged Cross.” It was a favorite of the old folks in our church, but she couldn’t, I’m sure still can’t, stand it. Why? Sentimentality disguised as devotion? Air of martyr complex?

I try to be careful with my words, if I am serious and intend to mean them. So I don’t sing all the hymns and songs in church, and I don’t always sing every word of the songs I sing. Sometimes I even change the words to reflect better what I want to say to my creator. I don’t often have to resort to any of these things, as I’m normally pretty happy with the worship team’s selections. But, like Mom, I draw the line at “The Old Rugged Cross,” which I find confusing at best, sentimental for sure, and idolatrous at worst.

I agree that the cross was “the emblem of suffering and shame.” But I don’t therefore “love that old cross, which was used to slay “the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners.” I do not “cherish, and do not wish to “cling to,” feel “a wondrous attraction for… the old rugged cross.” I see it as a sad reminder of an unjust and cruel punishment. The fact that on it, “the dear Lamb of God left his glory above to bear it to dark Calvary,” and “stained it with blood so divine,…suffered and died” does not make the cross something beautiful to cuddle up to. It is not “to that old rugged cross I will ever be true.” I shudder to “bear…its shame and reproach,” though I hope to be worthy of a share in Christ’s sufferings, as he makes me ready.

And, finally, I don’t believe heaven will be a “home far away,” since he promises there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” and that all will be restored, as described so beautifully in the Psalms and other passages. I hope to be restored to my proper self as well, sharing God’s glory as a true reflection unveiled, with all the saints, on this gorgeous, amazing earth under heaven, which will then be truly home.

Next up, comments on another non-hymn, “The Church in the Wildwood.”

 

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Sunshinolatry

Sunshinolatry

I’m tired of the constant and unvaried bias toward sunny weather in the media. It’s become a kind of brainwashing, and I would like to hear something like this, for once, on a weather forecast:

“This weekend, we can look forward to clouds and rain, constant and drenching, enough to fill the aquifers, knock the dust down, water the fields and gardens, and wash the dog pee off all the fire hydrants. Enjoy catching up on your indoor projects, but make sure you spend some time outside getting wet if you’re able, and if not, poke your head out into an alley and hear what singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn describes as “trashcan bells” ringing.

My father taught me that all weather should be appreciated, and I think we will all be happier if we I take it as it comes.

Dad’s weather book, a good read even if you don’t live there.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Is it the element within, something under the skin?

In the aftermath of media coverage of heinous crimes, there is always some exploration into the nature of the perpetrator’s character. Acquaintances sometimes report having known there was “something wrong” with such-and-such a person, which gives us all pause as we consider how we can reach out and help those with similar mental health issues. Other times, the search for signs of mental instability, radicalization,  psychopathology, differentness, seems fruitless. How could we have known? Were we all out of touch? Could we have discerned something wrong?

Are the elements of character that can result in choices to commit premeditated violent crimes discernible, at least in hindsight? Can we enter all the information gathered about previous crimes in a database, create the appropriate algorithms, and design an app that uses its powers of deduction to predict the development of criminal character?

In G.K. Chesterton’s murder mysteries, the amateur detective Father Brown takes the view that identifying the character flaws, motives, and even opportunities to commit crime can be best seen from behind our own eyes. It’s not merely about criminal psychology and powers of deduction. For Father Brown, understanding comes through imagining, remembering, mentally following the trail as it would unfold for him personally, were he in similar circumstances. This is why he is so drained by the process of detection–he has to come to terms with how closely he may resemble a murderer, how fine is the line between someone who only imagines committing violence, and one who plans and executes it. Father Brown also carries within him an understanding of human nature as revealed in the confession box, and knows that the “monster” that commits murder in present in some form in all of us.

Why some and not others cross the line, it seems to me, is not so much about an imbalanced distribution of God’s grace from some (“There, but for the grace of God, go I”), but is much more complex. The more we learn about what criminals have done, the more we sense that we all share some responsibility. It takes God’s grace, yes, but I think that grace plays out largely through human beings who live with their eyes and hearts open to others, and who treat encounters with other human beings as all part of God’s call to be a blessing.

 

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