Friday, December 31, 2010

new year's eve 5

today Singing Owl hosts new years 5. She tells us,
I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow. For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and—maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.
5 blessings:

1. (almost) weekly participation in Word and Sacrament truly have helped sustain me.

2. continued realization that my insight and perception have cost me some, yet as always they've helped me survive, too. I've also been thankful for ways my knowledge of scripture and theology has helped me get through.

3. the easy availability of a multicultural banquet of culinary delights here in southern California! long ago someone advised me to appreciate the little things like freshly falling snow; since I consider myself a Food Groupie, taste and smell are majorly in that category of "little things" I truly appreciate. As an aside, I keep telling myself as long as I don't gain any weight, but losing a few would be a good all-around idea for the coming year.

4. would you believe internet friendships? And I've truly delighted in keeping my Facebook design page active and up to date and loved the guests artist and their art as well as the wonderfully positive reactions to my own art.

5. Roxy, my new kitteh who arrived at SAN on 16 October via DFW and PHX!

I love the light that shines through and reflects from this Carnival Necklace! It's from TamaraLyn Young's Etsy shop, bi-eyed beading named after one of her Husky Dogs. How well it represents the many-coloured facets of life's often chimeric shifts, transitions and surprises—I'm expecting quite a few more of those during 2011!

5 hopeful dreams:

1. to find a place of belonging and embrace where I can participate reasonably to the extent of my gifts, abilities and desires. It may be unreal to expect people immediately to know who I am, but I so want to find a few people who are interested in finding out who I am, rather than feeling threatened or being indifferent. West Side Story is coming to town soon, and I keep recalling "Somewhere": There's a place for us / Somewhere a place for us / There's a time for us / Some day a time for us / We'll find a new way of living / We'll find a way of forgiving / Somewhere...

2. same as #1—yet again I've been wise enough to realize that grief and loss are messy events and in general we humans need something that sort of replaces whatever we've lost in order fully to acknowledge the loss. Part of my longing hope for that elusive community is that God will allow me to be a wounded healer for others in addition to finding a few for myself.

3. this is a replay, repeat or rerun from at least one previous year, but how about learning the rest of the Beethoven piano Sonata cycle? Only 5 more to go.... yet what's the point if I have nowhere to play. For me it's so much about The Performance, but that can't be all that bad!

4. to be more grateful for everything, which means going far beyond the usual acknowledgment of how much worse it could have been, realizing other people are in far worse circumstance, being grateful for what has gone right and not awry—moving closer to a fully Eucharistic lifestyle.

5. a super concrete one for last: more design, more exposure for my design, entering more shows and competitions—possibly the State Fair next summer?!

Thanks, SingingOwl!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Keeper!

Christmas on the BorderChristmas on the Border on amazon dot com

...A Spicy Holiday Recipe of Texas Blues, Hot Country, and Mexican Salsa as well as a project and production from the town of Nashville, Tennessee, a place doesn't exactly border Mexico (or Canada, for that matter). "O Holy Night" and "What Child is This" are rocked-up essential classics; I could listen endlessly to a memorably haunting "The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy" or "I Wonder as I Wander." The style of "Joy to the World" and "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman," both just enough different from what you're used to that you listen more carefully all make for a CD to play over and over and recommend, too. Except for the definitely secular "Up On the Rooftop" the songs are classic North American (USA and Canada) Christmas worship, church pageant and radio top-40 favorites.

Since I included playlists from my other two Christmas CD reviews, here are the songs on this one:
1. Children Go Where I Send Thee
2. Joy to the World
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4. Go Tell It on the Mountain
5. The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
6. O Holy Night
7. I Wonder as I Wander
8. What Child Is This?

How apt and how fun this is as an example of contextualizing the Gospel Christmas on the Borderand incarnating Christianity with cross-cultural musical styles, a little of this and a little of that, each still in its original idiom yet woven into the other idiom. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis Dawn Treader quote on my Facebook page: "...said the Lamb, "For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world." ... "There is a way into my country from all the worlds," said the Lamb...and he was Aslan himself..."

I have the impression the CD title is supposed to reference Tex-Mex style and culture, but cross-culture border styles of Southern California/ Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona/ Northern Mexico I'm familiar with aren't exactly like this CD. "Christmas on the Border" and chili pepper art both suggest songs sung in Spanish or at least partly so—in these here parts we've been known to have macaronic English/Spanish liturgies and many of us speak passable Spanglish. That's simply a passing comment, though, and I predict you'll enjoy the energy, twang, and harmonic color of Christmas on the Border (the CD).

my amazon review: A Christmas Keeper!

Cool Jazz Christmas: CD

Cool Jazz ChristmasEric Darken and company bring an enjoyable Christmas music collection with another project from Nashville, Tennessee in
Cool Jazz Christmas, Refreshing Holiday Instrumentals."

For the most part the music conveys a sort of New-Agey, cool, casual and offhand sensibility that passes time pleasantly with an occasional sequence or riff that makes you want to listen again because it was unusual, unique and... repeatable. The sound is excellent and over all Cool Jazz Christmas is well-produced, but it's more the kind of performance you have playing in the background instead of sitting down with to savor every sound. However, "O Come, All ye Faithful" with Mark Baldwin on keyboards and sax by Mark Douthit is worth the price of the CD—I wanted to say there was a best out of all of tracks, and happily there is. The playlist is church, mall and radio standards, but even with quite a few newer songs and carols, what would the season be without these? Cool Jazz Christmas

1. Winter Wonderland
2. Joy to the World
3. Deck the Halls
4. We Three Kings
5. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
6. Here We Come a Caroling
7. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
9. O Come, All Ye Faithful
10. Pat-a-Pan

Front and back cover designs are beautiful enough (almost) to make me want them in LP-album cover size—remember when we used leave our currently best and favorite ones out for show? The credits conclude with, "Above all, thanks to the Creator of such wonderful and meaningful music. Merry Christmas!" Amen!

For a Cool Jazz Christmas: my amazon review

christmasses past 5

For Friday 5 today, Jan hosts Christmases past:

Tell us about five Christmas memories you have.
winter candles

1. Playing organ for Julotta super early on Christmas morning while the sky still was dark (after playing for very late Christmas Eve liturgy) when I was musician for a congregation whose original heritage was Swedish Lutheran.

2. The relatively simple 10 a.m. macaronic English-Spanish Eucharistic liturgy at the Roman Catholic church in the desert.

3. Celebrating Christmas Eve liturgy with the congregation in whose life of worship, witness and service I participated in the first few years I was back in this geographic area. Worship was timed so we'd receive the sacrament after midnight. They turned the communion table 90 degrees, a.k.a. "Surfboard" and we gathered around in a close circle. One of their traditions was a rose on the communion table whenever a baby was born or adopted in the parish, and for Christmas Eve a rose celebrated Baby Jesus' birth in our midst.

4. In trinitarian terms, the Nativity of Our Lord is the major Creation Festival, and how better to enjoy some fruits of the earth than with southwestern fajita burritos accompanied with all the southwestern USA/northern Mexico fixings and condiments? I also love traditional turkey, etc. and have enjoyed quite a few of both so won't cite particular occasions of either. William Blake Winter quote

5. This isn't a specific event, but I love winter solstice festivities and remembrances and the way the calendaring of Christmas is an example of Christianity as an incarnational way that relates to (at its best embodies itself in) local culture, draws upon and re-interprets what's already there and at the same time brings something surprisingly new, transforming conventional symbols and behaviors into something redemptive for both giver and given-to.

bonus: this far by faith, my testimony blog isn't currently active, but I need to risk sharing this Christmassy Friday 5 from 3 years ago.

just wondering... how wonderful would it be to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere near the time of the summer solstice?

Thanks, Jan!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

sounds like...

Community Christmas at the Cathedral!
Red Hot Christmas Blues front
Released in August 2007 and featuring producer Mark Baldwin's guitar that often sears, sometimes sings and at times laments, Red Hot Christmas Blues reminds us of the frequent messiness of life, the apocalyptic hope of Advent and the surprise of God's Nativitytide appearance in the Bethlehem manger. Except for the introductory "Christmas Blues" vocal bewailing wintry conditions of broken life and broken bank account, playlist titles are Christmas carols you get to sing in church and listen to on radio and MP3 throughout the season. However, in liturgically logical order:

1. Christmas Blues
2. What Child Is This?
3. Silent Night
4. Go Tell It On The Mountain
5. I Wonder As I Wander
6. O Holy Night
7. Angel Shuffle
8. The First Noel
...these jazz illuminations carry a revelatory twist and provocative style you don't often get on the radio or at church. I cannot help but imagine Christmas Eve at the downtown cathedral or tall steeple, or just as easily these offerings could be from a smaller nearby parish with wide-open doors that invite and include all comers.

In 4 minutes and 47 seconds "Angel Shuffle," a wildly improvised version of "Angels we Have Heard on High" probably is my favorite among favorites on this CD. I won't try describing it but can assure you it's worth the price and the storage space—from someone (me!) Red Hot Christmas Blues backwho doesn't buy many CDs these days and gave away quite a few quite a while ago. Walter Brueggemann says only grief enables newness (something about getting out of denial, maybe?) and "Angel Shuffles" brings together sorrow, regret, loss and anger with the surprise of God's renewing presence in our very midst.
And would you believe, bible specialists Thomas Nelson published this music CD?! Not surprisingly, I love the artwork and package design by Christie Knubel. Finally, you easily can find Red Hot Christmas Blues on eBay and Amazon, so go for it!

my amazon review: sounds like... Community Christmas at the Cathedral!

Friday, December 03, 2010

december survival 5

kathrynzj hosts today's December survival 5: "please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you. and the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you."

advent 2 year A1. The advent of the new liturgical year with the season of Advent is a tremendous part of my winter sustenance. By early October I begin looking forward to the touch of apocalyptic along with the incessant undercurrent of hope the texts, music, colours and symbols convey. Apocalyptic points toward the hiddenness of God's appearing and of God's persistent presence just as its unconventional imagery reminds us to look for visible, audible and tangible signs of the Divine in our midst. As Martin Luther and scripture remind us, in order to find God's power, look to the manger; look to the cross! The Bethlehem manger reminds us, this incarnation of the Divine in fragile flesh could only be God's idea, because no ordinary human would think of power in such subversive terms.

2. Snow... Where I currently live you need to trek a few miles north to find snow during this season, but I've lived in Snowlands in the northeast and in the Intermountain West and there is nothing like the silent sound and lovely vision of falling snow.

3. Eggnog! The December-January holiday season is the only time of the year you can buy eggnog in retail supermarkets. It's true that I always could make my own, but I've never really loved homemade eggnog as much as I've savored the store-bought kind.

4. Fajita burritos, a Southwestern Christmas favourite and they're another culinary specialty in my list cuz after all, I am a Food Groupie.

5. This is about December Survival, and it long has been beyond my comprehension why so many people wear dark clothes almost exclusively during cooler, shorter months. Almost all year round I wear mostly lighter and brighter colours, so it's not only a wintry ploy, it's one that always feels right to me wherever and whenever.

bonus. This definitely is not unique to me, but although I believe I do well in my attempts to understand Christmas music streaming in the stores and on the radio when it still is early Advent, I cannot abide stores playing it right after Labor Day to match the holiday gift items that started arriving in the store during the middle of August.