ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Now playing…15 August 2013

It has been over a year since the last ‘now playing’ blog post. And since I’m fairly predictable, you can guess most of the playlist. Here are some links to songs on YouTube, in case you need your fix, too:

* This concert was at Wild Goose last week. I wish I had been there!

But the music I’m playing most right now?

Yes – just like I arrived late to the Bon Iver party last year, I’m a little late to this one, as well.

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Now playing… 19 May 2012

Bon Iver

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Sometime in the last couple years, some of my cool Facebook friends* started talking about this new artist – Bon Iver. And I (wishing to be cool, as well) went over to YouTube to listen hear the group’s music**. I wasn’t impressed. End of story for the next year or so…

* I use ‘cool’ in a sort of “liberal, college town” sense – which therefore might mean exactly the opposite of how one would generally define ‘cool’. There is an entire era of my life that I could unpack… How have my six years in Ann Arbor shaped who I am today? We’ll leave that for another time.

** As far as I can tell, it turns out that although Bon Iver is officially a band, it gets creative and artistic direction from one person – Justin Vernon.

It wasn’t until earlier this year, just before the Grammys in February, that I listened again. Occasionally, I like to see which musicians (current or past) have received positive reviews from critics. (This is why I have Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone“.) I noticed that Bon Iver, who was nominated for Best New Artist, was receiving a lot of praise.

So one night when I was working late at the synchrotron, I returned to YouTube and found that you could listen to the entire self-titled album online. That night, I was completely pulled into the music. I think I must have heard the album six or seven times.

IMHO, this is a great album, but it’s also complex. There are a couple of songs that might stand on their own, but it’s really an album that should be enjoyed as a whole.

And it turns out that ‘enjoy’ may not be the proper word to use. The music creates an emotional atmosphere that’s hard to describe. It is certainly not upbeat, but it’s not exactly sad, either. It’s mellow; introspective, perhaps; and perfect for a late night at the synchrotron. To me, the music is an honest evaluation of our place in this world: humble and grand at the same time.

I find the lyrics to be a bit of a conundrum. For a long time, I couldn’t understand anything that Justin was singing. Eventually, I read the lyrics, and I still can’t understand them. Now I just allow them to interact with the rest of music to create the complete sound.

The music video below is for the song “Holocene” – one of the songs that could stand on its own. And it contains one of those lines that I do understand:

At once I knew I was not magnificent…

This is an example of the “honest evaluation” I mentioned above. And yet when I listen to the music and watch the video, I get the sense that even though I’m not “magnificent”, I’m part of something that is very magnificent.

Five for Friday… The back-to-school special

Whew! We’ve made it through our first week of school. To highlight the week, “Five for Friday” is brought to you by the rest of the family…

1) We have a name for our home school:

Rainbow House of Learning

2) You don’t have to be a student here in order to get an award. Each of the girls won Rainbow Awards this week:

Oldest Daughter for demonstrating exceptional enthusiasm and effort in her first week of home school;

Middle Daughter for making her own lunch and for trying her best during her first week at Eagle Pointe;

Youngest Daughter for a great job of reading her ABCs in the bathtub.

3) MD’s favorite part of school was receiving a red ticket for good behavior. At the end of the month, the teacher randomly selects three red tickets to win prizes. Her favorite bit of learning was math. It sounds like they are reviewing numbers.

4) At the Rainbow House of Learning,  OD’s favorite subject this week was a unit on rocks, gems, and minerals. This unit will continue next week, as well. One highlight was examining kitchen crystals under a microscope. (Thanks, Dad.)

5) Music lessons are the extracurriculars right now. MD started piano lessons during the summer. This past week, she was excited to let her teacher know that she had already played “Ode to Joy” on her mom’s psaltery. With raised eyebrow, the teacher asked Ordinary Spouse what a psaltery was. It will go along to next week’s lesson.

OD begins violin lessons on Monday. This past week, she picked up her rental instrument. As she was leaving the store, Youngest Daughter said quietly and with quivering lip, “I wish I could have a pet violin.”

All in good time, YD.

Five for Friday… Blog posts that I should be writing

1) Blogs that I’ve started and haven’t completed, or blogs that others have requested

I have quite a few of these. It’s sort of like my life. I start things and don’t always complete them in a timely fashion. As of right now, this list (for my blog; not my life) includes (but is not limited to):

  • A ‘Now Playing’ update – It’s been a while since I’ve talked about music.  On the other hand, how often do you want to hear that I’m listening to U2 and the Indigo Girls?
  • An ‘On the Nightstand’ update – I haven’t discussed books, either. This would include Winter World (which is my family’s book club pick right now*), as well as my discussion of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. Oh, and I still haven’t finished most of these books, either.
  • Mr. Guest Complacent’s suggestions for other “Five for Friday” blogs. I think I’ve done two out of five.

* In my defense, I have a hunch that I’m doing better at reading Winter World than most of the rest of my family. Ordinary Spouse has finished it, however.

2) A more intimate and/or artistic look at the sacredness of the ordinary

After all, ‘ordinary’ is in the title of my blog. Take a look at these blogs:

Two thoughts:

  1. I like these blogs. I like the imagery, and I like the thoughts and reflections. I would like to blog like that.
  2. These blogs are written by women. You may ask, “What difference does that make?” Well, our society has a whole bunch of gender baggage.  Richard Rohr explores some of it in a Sojourners article that I read this week – “Boys Don’t Cry (And Other Lies We Tell Men)“.** I wonder to what extent I’m also carrying this baggage. I wonder if I’m able to see and feel and experience in the same way that the writers of these blogs do.***

** Sojourners may ask you to register. It’s free, and I think that you can get them to promise not to bug you to buy their magazine.

***  Tricky me – I’ve just slipped in a whole other topic for blogging. But it’s a hard one. After all, boys don’t acknowledge a sensitive side.

3) Privilege and what I’m doing about it

Actually, this is partly inspired by #2. You see – even though I love those blogs above, I also wonder whether these explorations of ordinary sacredness are made possible by the affluence of middle-class North America. You generally don’t find those in third-world poverty writing blogs. I’m not pointing fingers, since it’s also the context from which I experience life. But I am challenging myself to recognize my advantages (white, middle-class, educated, United States citizen, male, heterosexual, etc.) and to work to level the playing field.

4) More stories about my family

Let’s be honest – I write the deep reflections for myself. Who else (besides, perhaps, my brother-in-law) wants to read my theological ramblings or the aforementioned thoughts on privilege? My mom wants to know what cute things her grand-daughters had to say today.

5) What it means to be Lay Minister of Worship

On July 1st, I began a term as our congregation’s Lay Minister of Worship. On one hand, I think I should reflect on that. Then I wonder, “do I really want my congregation to know how unqualified I am for this job?”

Now Playing… February 18, 2010

(Also known as “Getting Caught Up, Part II”)

No matter how busy my work schedule is, I at least have an hour to myself in the car every day.  Usually, I fill it with music, and in the last two weeks, that music has been by the Indigo Girls.

“Become You” by The Indigo Girls

“Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” by The Indigo Girls

Both albums contain a lot of stuff about the complexity of human relationships.  Of course, they have been singing about that since the beginning.  Here are some lines from two of the songs that I really like…

They’re sending soldiers to distant places
X’s and O’s on someone’s drawing board
Like green and plastic but with human faces
And they want to tell you it’s a merciful sword

But with all the blood newly dried in the desert
Can we not fertilize the land with something else
There is no nation by God exempted
Lay down your weapons and love your neighbor as yourself

“Our Deliverance” (from Become You)

Instead, let’s fight for something else…

All around us, things come apart
Broken pieces, broken hearts
Fix me, oil me, match me with the next best thing

Person to person, nation to nation
Heels dug in, no communication
Wily time sneaks her weathering

We’ve been wanting to be held by binding ties
We’ve been fighting for the love of our lives

“Love of Our Lives” (from Poseidon and the Bitter Bug)

On the road again…

Well – I’ll be on the road again if today’s big snow doesn’t thwart my plans.  As my grandfather used to say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise…”

I’ve only been home from our Christmas travels for five days, but I’m leaving again for the east this evening.  I’m going to Laurelville* for their annual Music and Worship Leaders Retreat.  I’m really looking forward to an intense, jam-packed weekend.  The resource people (Marilyn Houser Hamm, Marlene Kropf, Ken Nafziger, and Ted Swartz) will be outstanding.  And Brian McLaren will be present as a participant.  I’m hoping to come home invigorated with lots of ideas for Lenten worship.

* Did I mention that Laurelville may be my favorite place on earth?  Oh, yeah – maybe half a dozen times.

In the meantime, I was looking over my blog reader recently at the things that others have written and I have found to be insightful.  I wanted to share a few of them.

“War as Theft” by Michael Danner

Michael begins with this quote:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

You might be surprised who said it.

“Hunger, food, obesity, starvation” by Brian McLaren

Check out the fat map.

“Evangelism will change the world” by Peter Rollins

Maybe not what you think of, when you think of evangelism.

“What’s in a joke?” by Michael Danner

One more by Michael.  This one about poverty.

Five for Friday… hobbies I’d like to try

Sometime in the last year, I realized that I had squeezed about all I could out of the time in my life.  You know how it is – we’re all a little inefficient sometimes, and if we get rid of those inefficiencies, then we could take on something else.   (Hopefully something that we enjoy!)  Well, I finally decided that I was about as efficient as I was going to be*, and that if I wanted to do something new, I was going to have to give up something old.

* Let me be clear here – I am not saying that I am fully efficient.  Not by a long shot.  I’m quite inefficient, really.  I’m just saying that my efficiency isn’t going to improve any time soon.  To restate what I said above, I’m as efficient as I’m going to be.  Don’t hold your breath, if you’re hoping for more.

Anyway, you know how, from time to time, you might say, “I’d like to try (fill in the blank) sometime?”  Well – here are the things that I’d enjoy doing, if I had more time.

1) Genealogy – Actually, I already have a good start on this one.  If I ever find some more spare time, this is the first thing that I’ll pick up again.

2) Music – If I had more time, I’d learn a new instrument or practice the ones I already have.  If I were learning something new, I would probably start with violin, but I’d consider bass guitar, dobro, or mountain dulcimer, as well.

3) Woodworking – This would require time, space, and money.  I’d like to have a little shop of my own where I could make furniture or cabinets or maybe turn things on a lathe.  In reality, I don’t expect this to happen any time soon, but I keep the idea tucked away in the back of my mind.  When the girls are older…

4) Photography – I already am able to do a little of this from time to time.  I would upgrade my equipment and focus on nature photography.

5) A mish-mash of things around the house – This is how I jam more than five things into Five for Friday.  There are lots of things that Ordinary Spouse does that I also enjoy, but that I’ve mostly given over to her, since she’s at home.  These include gardening (I’d really enjoy doing the flower beds), sewing,  and cooking.  I’d also do more reading, since my book queue is always about ten books deep.

Strawberries, dazzlely rhythms, and compound eyes

Three blurbs from home…


My wife was in the middle of a phone call when our youngest woke up from her nap the other day.  Since our daughter was quiet, my wife didn’t pay attention to what she was doing.  When she hung up the phone, this is what our counter top looked like.  When she went to find the little one, she had gone back to her bed and was asleep again.


Dazzlely Rhythms

My oldest (7-years old) likes to play with my magnetic words.  Here is what she came up with the other day:


(I demand only dazzlely music and rhythms.)

Compound Eyes

Playing dress-up is always a source of much fun.  Here is a quote from my oldest the other day:

I am in a butterfly costume.  This is my proboscis, and these are my compound eyes.

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