Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kid's first music

I really resonated with this report on NPR the other day about people making the choice of the first music to expose their children to after they are born.  I'm a music lover, so this is something on which I too spent quite a bit of attention.  The guy in the interview said he chose John Coltrane's A Love Supreme.  I must commend this choice, for the same reasons that the Church of St. John Coltrane use his music as a prophetic gift to the world.  
For Wesley's birth at the UCLA Medical Center, I chose another prophet, and brought the whole Songs of Freedom box set to the hospital to listen to while waiting for Wesley to be born.   I remember a tall pretty nurse with
 braids smiling and commending our choice.  The doc asked to turn it down at a particularly intense moment (Wesley had to have a vacuum assisted delivery), and after Wesley finally came into the world and I got around to turning it back up, Bob was singing "Everything's Gonna be alright, Everything's gonna be alright."  That was serendipitous.  Both of my kids had a healthy dose of reggae in utero and afterwards.  I found the old headphones my dad had for our record player, and I'd put them on
 Lara's belly for a bit of music time.  After Wesley was born, we had 10 songs we'd sing him at night, including Beach Boy's Barbara Ann (which we changed to "Wea, Wea, Wea, Wea, Wesley G.  He's all right by me e e.") and Summertime from Porgy and Bess.   He also heard Bob Marley's Thank You Lord.  That's kind of his evening prayer song.  He ended up singing that one and Deep and Wide, and Into my Heart (like I did as a kid) as prayer songs.  Almost every night, he also listens to a CD of lullabies that Katherine gave us when he was born .
For a while, we were going to name Julianna Susanna, and I enjoyed playing for her Dandy Livingstone's Susanne Beware of the Devil in utero.  But we went with Julianna instead, and I have yet to think of a song called Julianna.  Sometimes I sing to her Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon 
substituting Julianna for Rhiannon.  I knew what I wanted to play for her as soon as we first knew we were having a girl though: Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely?  That one's made to sing to a baby girl after all.  
We didn't bring music into the hospital for her, so she only heard silence for her first day or so, then listened to that in the car on the way home from Tulsa.  Since then, she also really seems to like the 40's on 4 on Sirius radio.  That's what we listen to most of the time as we prepare dinner and eat.  It seems to make things taste better.  

Perhaps the appreciation of music will be something my kids can pick up from me.  I used to love sitting by the record player and listening to my mom and dad's Stevie Wonder and John Denver and Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Aretha Franklin.  Every time we go to Eureka Springs, I hear Ann Murray.  My first records were Thrller, John Denver and the Muppets, and the soundtrack to the Fox and the Hound.  I also had the Hands Across America benefit album.  Hahaha.  I went to "Hands across America" by the way.  Was I in line with any of my readers?  
  I look forward to finding out what sounds have imprinted themselves on the minds of my children.  Perhaps this kind of environment building is important to me because I hope those imprints are something beautiful.  
Do you have first songs for your kids?  Any first songs you recall?  Comment away!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ring Lake Ranch

I mentioned Ring Lake Ranch in my last post in association with Earth Day because it was at Ring Lake Ranch that I met Belden Lane, who is one of the best writers and storytellers I know. His topic of research and writing for the past decade or so has been the geographic context of spirituality. This same topic has caught my imagination ever since I was a teenager, when I first remember thinking, "I wonder if our scriptures would be the same if they had originated in a temperate/forest kind of climate (like mine in Arkansas) rather than a desert/Mediteranean kind of climate?" How much of Judeo-Christian religion is due to the landscape that birthed it? Belden Lane helped delve into these kinds of questions and much more at a seminar hosted by Ring Lake Ranch, and the setting (picutred above) and the experience were emblazoned on the "desktop" of my soul from then on.
While I was there, I did quite a bit of hiking and horseback riding and thinking and writing. The context really spurs on the creative spirit. One day when I was hiking around some hills that had been pushed up by a glacier moving down the valley millions of years ago, I felt a kind of "tap" on my shoulder, and when I turned around, the barren tree had sprung to life with the foliage of a bright white cloud. The story of St. Francis standing in front of a tree in the wintertime and inviting it to "Tell me of God!" came to mind. In the story, the tree springs to life with foliage and fruit. In my own experience, the harmonization of the tree and the sky combined to bring about another miracle of revelation, and I had the camera around my neck, so I captured the moment on film. To me, the revelation is that the world works in concert in ways that we infrequently recognize or pay attention to, but sometimes the moment just slaps us in the face like a Zen master. That's why I chose that photo to use as the header for my blog. I am most interested in the moments in which I/we sometimes catch a glimpse of the harmony that I believe is Divine. This happens for me when I am attentive to the outdoors, but it also happens when I am attentive to the relationships that fill my life and the creativity of the human spirit.
Perhaps God does mold our minds and cultures with context and environment to receive particular glimpses of the Truth. Or, perhaps our location in life bleeds into our creation of characteristics that we ascribe to God. Either way, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning said

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Oh, by the way, I noticed Belden Lane is coming back to Ring Lake Ranch this Aug. 2-8. That's right over my birthday. Well, how about that! You should really consider going. Oh yeah, and if you ever read the journal Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology , keep an eye out for the book review I wrote for the paperback edition of Belden Lane's book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. I just got a request to send in a consent to publish, so I suppose it's coming out soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Faith and Earth Day

Over the years, the intersection of environmentalism and religious faith has been a major source of inspiration to me.  When I received an Fund for Theological Education grant before starting seminary, I designed an immersion in eco-stewardship.  That took place in 2002, and so in many ways I feel like I was able to witness the rise of the evangelical voice in that area.  I remember meeting Richard Cizik, now deposed VP of the National Association of Evangelicals, and thinking--"wow--he's cool, I hope he has an impact!"  He did, and his success caused him to become a divisive focal point in evangelicalism's renegotiation of the essential concerns for that group in the 2000's.  When I first started observing and participating in "eco-stewardship," I recall hoping that the evangelicals would begin articulating environmental justice rooted in the scriptural witness.  It seemed like such a powerful potential movement.  At several of events and conferences I attended, I met Lyndsay Moseley,  who was an evangelical with a keen interest and commitment to creation stewardship.  I noticed recently that she edited a book published by Sierra Club.  So, if you need some good sources for voices of faith on environmentalism, give it a look.  
Earth Day always reminds me of my time at Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming as well (where I took the photo of the cloud-tree right up there).  I'll post on that next time--I have a girl crying.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thank you God, for stealing my precious gold ring from the pirates and giving it to me.

That was my prayer, five minutes ago, at the behest of Wesley.  
We were washing his hands, and I explained that you always had to wash your hands after going to the bathroom.  It is one of the rules.  
"And Dod made the rules?"
"Yes, God made the rules about cleanliness so that we wouldn't get sick."  
That seemed to be an acceptable reason to wash hands.
"Why can your ring get wet?"  
"Becasue it's made of gold, and gold doesn't rust." 
"Oh, that's why pirates like gold."  
"They sure do, don't they? It's a precious metel that everyone wants."
"Dod must have stoled your ring from the pirates and given it to you.  That's nice.  You should pray to Dod and tell Dod thank you."  

Friday, April 03, 2009

all hell

sitting here, blogging 1-handed
listening to the 40s on 4 (sirius radio) through the baby monitor while Julianna gnaws on my thumb.   
Somehow, the all hell I thought was about to break loose is staying in the can.  Perhaps God is tapping my soul like I tap the top of a Coke can after it has been shook up.   
Garrison Keillor had some good insights on Writer's Almanac.
I love the "Lies My Mother Told Me" poem by Elizabeth Thomas, especially the part about God "ratting you out" and "exaggerating."  That's good.  I sometimes wonder if life after death is completely and utterly open.  Whatever we hide or bear is common knowledge not only to God, but among the new fellowship.  We are open books.   Maybe that's how we find ourselves in heaven or hell.  If so, no doubt there's grace to see things in perspective.  

I also liked the quotes from the late birthday boy Herb Caen.  
 "Isn't it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?"
As an Angeleno who loved San Francisco too, I can see the humor there--NoCal people just love looking down their noses at SoCal.  I think it's equivalent to Arkansans hating Texans--it is something that gives us Arkies a bit of passion, but the Texans don't really care.  It isn't reciprocated.   They love themselves too much to be distracted by any cultural vehemence.  My good friend and girlfriend from my first year in college was a Dallasite who was genuinely surprised that I hadn't taken "Texas history" in high school (in SW Arkansas).  It is that kind of oblivious state pride that makes Texans humorous and charming.  

All hell breaking loose had to do with dealing with this wreck and the purchase of a new car,lots of travel, helping a family experiencing grief and strife over the loss of a loved one and funeral planning, getting the Vundo computer virus, annoying changes to a book title I've contributed a chapter to, preparing for Holy Week and other commitments...It just seems like things kept piling up.  

Last night Wesley knelt by his bed and prayed.  He thanked God for "mommie and daddy and sister and grandmama and grandaddy and gammy and papi and all my toys."  He told Lara she needed to pray to, then he told me I should pray as well.  I prayed that God would help us be good to each other because some of us were stressed out.  

Later that night, the vundo virus was just gone from the computer.  Perhaps it's a virtual miracle.