Monthly Archives: December 2009

December Playlist: 2009 in Review

December Playlist = 2009 in Review

As 2009 winds up I am drawn to the following songs, both new and old, because each tells a bit about a moment/season of the last year.

  1. Miracle Fortress, “Have You Seen in Your Dreams”
  2. Mumford & Sons, “White Blank Page”
  3. The Weepies, “Not Your Year”
  4. mewithoutYou, “C-Minor”
  5. Thrice, “Silver Wings”
  6. Rosie Thomas, “Kite Song”
  7. Kings of Convenience, “Homesick”
  8. A.A. Bondy, “I Can See the Pines are Dancing”
  9. Junior Boys, “Parallel Lines”
  10. Yeasayer, “Ambling Alps” — “Now, the world can be an unfair place at times, but your lows will have their complement of highs…raise your head and wear your wounds with pride” = sooo good.

Tears

My dear friend Karen (1/3 of Three Clever Sisters), recently sent me the following quote by Washington Irving:

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.

Over the years (including three years of law school, which caused much grief and many tears) Karen and I have discussed crying and its emotional, physical, mental and relational importance.  I grew up believing tears were a sign of weakness and hyper-vulnerability.  I am not sure exactly why I believed this.  Perhaps it is the emotional-rational bifurcation evident in my parents’ approaches to life.  My mom is an emotional thinker while my dad is a rational, head-driven, thinker.  Perhaps it was the fact that tears showed up at the least opportune times, when I was upset and/or hurt, aka the times I most desired to retain my control and composure.  But my power eroded with each waver in my voice and hot tear.  So I encased my heart in a steely, “don’t fuck with me” exterior so that I could (at least attempt to) control what was let in and how much was let out.

This bifurcation between emotion and head-driven rationality ruled me for most of my life.  It was not until college when I befriended individuals who cried when their hearts were stirred or broken by beauty, by injustice, by pleasure, by pain that I reflected on the sensitivity of my heart (as the seat of my will and being).  See, D. Willard’s Renovation of the Heart.  I then dated someone whose sensitivity to the currents of his heart enabled him to live and cry with strength, vulnerability and dignity.  I would kiss away his tears in hope that as they touched my parched lips my heart’s unrelenting thirst would be quenched.

During the summer before law school, the rusty hinges of my exterior were drowned in tear-based WD-40.  For ten weeks I pulled the weight and pain off the backs of high school campers and their college-aged counselors, and heaved them onto my already sagging shoulders.  I battled emotionally, legally and spiritually on their behalves so that they might have the space to be wretch from their lives and to experience peace in abundance, even if but for one moment.  I attempted to do this on my own.  But one week absolutely wrecked me, and I found myself crying into the lap of my good friend Nick.  With each tear the questions, pain, and strain were released and the hinges loosened.

Life as a law student in Seattle knocked off the hinges.  A break-up, three moves, counseling, and copious amounts of time spent alone and in prayer removed the exterior.

At times I still pretend the steely exterior is there.  When this happens I have to pray for sensitivity and the willingness to look down and see my heart beating, which forces me to reckon with my vulnerability.  Whatever I may think of myself, I am little more than “bones starved of flesh surround[ing] an aching heart full of love.”  See, “Blogtrack” below.  A miscalculated move, a glance, a certain remark, a breathtaking sunset, an unreturned call/email can puncture my heart.

I love that Karen sent me the above quote to me today because it encapsulates my experience last night, which, in turn, summed up the last year (couple of years?) of my life.  Late last week I realized that Christmas was rapidly approaching and I had neglected to give much, if any, thought to preparing my self, my heart for Christmas.  This may be, in part, a response to Thanksgiving.  So I decided to attend an Advent service last night at a local Lutheran church.  During the first Scripture reading of Isaiah 9:2, 6-7, Micah 5:2-4, two large tears seeped through the cracks of my closed eyes and spilled down my cheeks.

Maybe my tears were triggered by the fact that I have attended church three times since September — I have taken to attending “church of the ipod”, aka listening to sermon podcasts while taking long walks.  Maybe it was the poignant reminder that it is only by God’s grace and love in and through Emmanuel (“God with us”) that we are not consumed.  Lamentations 3:21-26, 32.  Maybe it is both and so much more.

Tears, whether cried in agony or joy, are powerful.  They physically connect us to the reality of our minds, emotions and souls, uniting us with our overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.

***************
Blogtrack:
Editors, “Bones”

The Best(ish) of 2009

I have a thing for music.  It has been the entryway to several key relationships.  It encapsulates moments and memories.  It brings me joy.

As the year comes to an end I peruse the myriad of “best of” lists.  Artists I have not heard of are placed on a “to do/listen” list, which I slowly but surely work through in hopes I will discover a musical gem I managed to overlook all year.

With that here are my lists…

Best-ish Albums of 2009:

  • Beirut, March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland
  • Junior Boys, Begone Dull Care
  • Metric, Fantasies
  • Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk
  • Paper Route, Absence
  • Passion Pit, Manners
  • Thrice, Beggars
  • Various Artists, Dark was the Night
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz!

Good Albums that Did Not Deserve/Live Up to All the Hype:

  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus
  • St. Vincent, Actor

Despite Enjoying Their Previous Album(s), I Could Not Get Into:

  • Bon Iver, Blood Bank EP
  • Brand New, Daisy
  • mewithoutYou, It’s All Crazy!  It’s All False!  It’s All a Dream!  It’s Alright
  • M. Ward, Hold Time
  • Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

Much Farther to Go to Let it all Go

In light of my last post

I have much farther to go
Everything is new and so unpredictable
I should just kick my heels together and go home
But I’m not sure where that is anymore….

I have much farther to go
I’m so confused I know
I should just kick my heels together and go home
But I lost my way when I lost you

Sometimes I cry when it’s late at night
And you’re not there to lay next to me
Morning breaks and the sun warms my face
How I wish it was you warming me

(Rosie Thomas, “Much Farther To Go”)

I am constantly reminded of moments once held and words once accepted.  Moments that stir my heart.  I give thanks for what once was, place them in a velvet envelope, and let them go.  One day I may (re)discover this envelope tucked inside a drawer.  And once opened a luxurious perfume will escape from the dried and crumbling petal-like memories inside.  This fragrance will linger in the air waiting to be breathed in, only to dissipate upon exhalation.  For now each remembrance is heavy with dewy heartache, and I must constantly pull these memories out by the roots lest they choke the truth.

Learning to let go will either be my undoing or my saving grace.  And quite possibly both.  With so much farther to go I am willing to trust You.  I let it all go in faith that You are who You declare Yourself to be and that You are where You say You are; that You are “present in this.”

Grace and peace.

My Body is a Cage…. Set My Spirit Free

With regularity a piece of art speaks what my heart, soul, and/or body attempts but it unable to communicate.  There is something simple, yet so profound in the commonality of experiences; in the way another person, by way of sound, paint, page or some other medium, poignantly articulates that which haunted me for a moment or for years.

This morning I put my ipod on shuffle and Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage” (from Neon Bible) was the fifth song in the queue.  And there is was, all the longing, fear, desire, loneliness, confusion, and hope:

My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

I’m standing on a stage of fear and self-doubt
It’s a hollow play but they’ll clap anyway

My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

I’m living in an age that calls darkness light
Though my language is dead still the shapes fill my head

I’m living in an age whose name I don’t know
Though the fear keeps me moving still my heart beats so slow

My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key
My body is a

My body is a cage
We take what we’re given
Just because you’ve forgotten that don’t mean you’re forgiven

I’m living in an age that screams my name at night
But when I get to the doorway there’s no one in sight

My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

Set my spirit free
Set my spirit free
Set my body free

Wavering words and a simple heartbeat-like drum morphs into a organ-driven marching song, only to end with pleading and wishing to be released from this world of loneliness, isolation, and imprisonment.

“Set me free” we plead in our suffering.  “Set me free” we sob into the darkness as we lie awake alone.  “Set me free” we wail while raging against fear and temptation.  “Set me free” we sing as we dance in delight on the heights of joy.  Set me free.

“Set my spirit free.  Set my spirit free.  Set my body free.”  Perhaps this is part of the prayers which accompany the working out of one’s salvation.