ordinary… mostly

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



Men with long hair

Today, Ordinary Spouse overheard a conversation among our girls. They were debating whether men could have long hair…

Youngest Daughter: Doesn’t YouTube have long hair?

Her sisters (puzzled): What do you mean?

YD (with emphasis): I mean the guy who goes…


Ah, yes. That guy does have long hair…


Five for Friday… Secular songs that relate to faith

So here’s the deal… I used to listen to CCM music* all the time. Between my first and second years in college, I had a pretty profound, faith-changing experience. As a result, I became more passionate about Jesus, and also more conservative. I got rid of much of my “worldly” music, and listened almost exclusively to CCM: Petra, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rich Mullins**, Susan Ashton… you get the idea. Over time, I’ve remained passionate about Jesus, but I began to find much of the “acceptable” Christian music to be theologically shallow and musically thin. I stopped listening to Christian radio, because of the hit and miss quality of the songs. And I started noticing when the so-called “secular” music world produced songs that related to my faith.

* “CCM”, if you don’t know the acronym, is Contemporary Christian Music. So technically, I should say “CCM” and not “CCM music”. Glad we got that out of the way.

** I still like Rich Mullins, but he’s the exception rather than the rule. And unfortunately, the world lost a good person a few years ago when he died.

And that brings us to today’s “Five for Friday”. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to something that Bono wrote and said to Ordinary Spouse, “Why can’t the ‘Christian musicians’ write songs like this?” So today, I’ve chosen five secular songs that reflect or challenge my faith.

There’s a catch. I could choose music by U2 or Carrie Newcomer – musicians that clearly don’t draw distinctions between faith and life – but that would be too easy. So these five come from others. Enjoy!

1) The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I’d figured out
I have to learn again

I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But everything changes and my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about… forgiveness…

Yep – forgiveness. Reconciliation. That’s basically what Jesus came to teach us: how to be reconciled to God and to each other.

2) Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

Song lyrics don’t get any more powerful or challenging than this:

Love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night…

3) Jubilee by Mary Chapin Carpenter

A song about receiving grace (in the language of the Old Testament).

4) Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins

Every time I hear this, I think Matthew 25.

5) One of Us by Joan Osborne

The scandal of the incarnation:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home.

Poems in memory of Bettina

Two poems today, in memory of Bettina.

The first is one that she especially liked and shared frequently with others during the last few months of her life.  It is by the Persian poet, Hafez:


Through the streets
Throwing rocks through windows,
Using my own head to ring
Great bells,
Pulling out my hair,
Tearing off my clothes,
Tying everything I own
To a stick,
And setting it on
What else can Hafiz do tonight
To celebrate the madness,
The joy,
Of seeing God

(from The Gift, Poems by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master.  Translations by Daniel Ladinsky)


I’m reminded of the second poem (if it’s not too corny to call it that) by the first. From the Irish poet, Bono:

Where the Streets Have No Name

I want to run; I wan to hide;
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name.

I want to feel sunshine on my face.
I see the dust cloud disappear
Without a trace.
I want to take shelter
From the poison rain
Where the streets have no name.

(from The Joshua Tree by U2)

Over the river and through the woods…

Well, here we are at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We traveled early this morning, instead of trying to fight Thanksgiving Eve traffic last night.  And just what does a three hour trip from the Chicago ‘burbs to north-central Indiana look like?  Here’s my view from the driver’s seat…

“Who wants to see my proboscis?”  (Oldest Daughter, just out of the driveway)

“I’m sure glad we’re travelling this morning instead of last night.”  (Me to Ordinary Spouse, as we made two effortless left turns  where I’d normally encounter great volumes of traffic during my morning commute)

Six minutes into the trip, we get on the “fast road” (the general nickname for limited access road, which in this case is I-55).  This is the signal for the girls to request a DVD.  In goes Fraggle Rock.

About fifteen minutes later, we’re onto I-355 and crossing the “blue light bridge” over the Des Plaines River.  McMansions overlook the valley on the south side.  I spout opinions… “If I had half a million dollars to buy a house, I’d get something with more character than these boxes.”

Shortly thereafter, I remember my blog… “If I could live blog this trip, I would.” Instead, I ask ordinary spouse if she has paper and pencil.  She anticipates my next request and writes, “My ordinary assistant will hand write the whole thing.”  I comment that “ordinary assistant” will probably get replaced by “smart-alecky assistant” when the notes make it into print.

“Could you give me blana?”  (Youngest Daughter woke up five minutes before we left and didn’t have breakfast.  Now she wants a banana.)

All along, I’m sipping coffee.  I’ve got a great thermos.  Too great.  The coffee is scalding hot nearly all the way.

Ordinary Spouse is cleaning out her purse.  She finds a diaper.

From I-355 to I-80.  The opening bars of U2’s “Zoo Station” (from the album, “Achtung Baby”) are playing as we’re exiting from one to the other.  Makes for a nice transition.

We see a white flag with a red border and a blue star.  Ordinary Spouse speculates that it’s a Czech flag.  Turns out that it’s a flag displayed by the family of a member of the armed services serving in a dangerous location.  We learned something new.

Shortly after getting on I-80, an alert Ordinary Spouse kept me from rear-ending another car.  The road was nearly empty and there was no one in my lane, so I reached for my coffee.  At the same moment, a car in the left lane braked and pulled into my lane.  Then they proceeded to the right lane and accelerated again.  Not sure what that was about.

We cruise through the IPASS lane when I-294 merges with I-80.  It occurs to us that we have no idea how much toll we’re actually paying.

The billboards along the interstate near the Illinois-Indiana border are really classy.  (“Gamble 30 minutes and get a free buffet” or “All of the liquor; none of the clothes”.)  Ordinary Spouse comments on the first one. “Sounds like  a gamble to me.”

We’ve removed Fraggle Rock, which didn’t seem to be a big hit.  It’s been replaced by the Laurie Birkner Band. “This is like a rock star for kids,” says Middle Daughter.

Rain, rain, rain.

Onto the Indiana Turnpike (I-80/I-90).  We immediately stop at a rest area.  Coffee’s coming through.

We debate the spelling of “niece”.  I comment on the weird spelling of “weird”.

We see a flock sheep walking in formation.  Then we see a sheep dog calmly standing and calling to them.  No running involved.  Impressive.

We reached the end of “Achtung Baby”.  I spout more opinions: what makes an album more than the sum of the parts, and why “Achtung Baby” is one of those albums.

We pass the pond with the big musical instruments.  Time to exit the Turnpike.  On to the bypass around South Bend.  Ordinary Spouse phones her parents and tries to make them believe we still have two hours to go.  Actually, we only have about 45 minutes – we’ll be just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Michael Card’s “Starkindler”  is now playing.

Ordinary Spouse and I discuss Richard Rohr and right brain/left brain duality.

Off of the bypass and on to US-33 toward Goshen.

In Goshen, we spot a couple running from their house to their car, carrying a turkey.  They didn’t cover the bird.  It’s raining.

And then, 150 miles and two and a half hours later, we’ve made it.

Thanks to God for every blessing in our lives.  May the thanks we give today continue throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Five for Friday… musicians

I decided that “Five for Friday” sounds cooler than just “Five”, so I’ve renamed my little series and decided to list my favorite musicians for today’s blog.   I’ll go in chronological order, since I tend to rotate through my favorites (at least my favorite four).

1) U2 – Early in my high school years, when I was young and impressionable, I was very impressed by my oldest cousin who was in college and introduced me to music by the boys from Dublin.  The Joshua Tree had just been released, and I received that album as a Christmas present.  My cousin copied two other albums for me, and soon I was my school’s most devoted U2 fan.

2) Indigo Girls– One of my close high school friends made a mix of IG songs for me during our senior year.  During that same year, they released their third album, and I became hooked.  During my conservative college years, I distanced myself from both U2 and the Indigo Girls, but I’ve grown to like both of them again.

3) Rich Mullins– During an undergraduate research experience after the summer of my first year at Goshen College, some new friends from another midwest school shared Rich’s music with me.  It has been said that Rich was the “uneasy conscience of Christian music”, a man who was never comfortable with his popularity.  I appreciated the authenticity of his faith.

4) Andy Peterson or Caedmon’s Call – It’s a tough choice, so I get to put down two.  I started listening to both during grad school.  Andy is another singer/songwriter with some of the same honest and insightful lyrics that Rich Mullins had.  Ditto on Caedmon’s Call, but they’re a group (that I happened to have playing on the stereo today during my commute).  These two don’t quite make the top tier with the other four listed here (I haven’t heard their newer music, and I don’t know what they’ve been doing lately), but I needed something to fill this spot.  (And I don’t care that five is now six.)

5) Carrie Newcomer– Carrie actually attended Goshen College, too.  I discovered her music at the end of my time in grad school.  She has a knack for seeing the holy in the ordinary.  Perhaps the musical equivalent of Anne Lamott.

Now playing… 31 July 2009

Middle CycloneNeko Case – Middle Cyclone

Ok – this time I’m not even making any pretense at reviewing the album.  Just go listen to Sound Opinions* or watch the video below.  And if you’d like, here are the wikipedia articles for Neko Case and Middle Cyclone.

* As a bonus, if you listen to Sound Opinions show, you can hear Greg and Jim review U2’s latest album, No Line on the Horizon.  And if you support NPR, you can get warm and fuzzy feelings inside.


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