Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Bigger Issues

ETA 6/30/2010 @ 7:20pm: The following is a piece of satire.

So I found out a few days ago that Jerry Falwell Jr. and I totally share a deep, dark secret. Lean in close and I'll tell you.

We both apparently doubt that eternal consequences are as important as temporal ones.

Last week in an interview with Glenn Beck, Falwell quipped, "There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country."

Exactly Jerry.

I've taken hits before because I think that it's wrong to deny rights to gay and lesbian Americans. And unbelievably wrong to strip rights away that have already been granted. These are things that I believe are a grave injustices that tear at our country's principles of freedom and justice for all. Plus, when the charge is being led by Christians, I think these things make us all look like Fred Phelps. And I'm sure that it makes my gay Christian friends feel like garbage.

I think that it's important to see that Americans not go bankrupt because of a medical crisis. I'm a fan, not just health care reform, but of a full on socialist single-payer system.

I don't like nativities or the ten commandments at courthouses. I don't think organized prayer in public schools is okay. I don't think "under God" should be in the pledge.

I've been told that these aren't important things. What's really important is correct theology. Because that's eternal and has far more important consequences. And in the past, I've never really had a good comeback for that. Because really, how do you disagree with that?

Now, thanks to my new best buddy, the chancellor and president of "the world's largest Christian university," I'm all set.

Don't like my views on health care? "There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country." Think that I'm a heathen for supporting gay rights? "There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country." Question my patriotism for not supporting the war in Iraq? "There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country."

So go ahead. Share the gospel. Show people that God loves them. Feed the hungry, house the homeless, befriend the lonely. Be Jesus to the world.

Jerry and I are going to focus on the bigger issues.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wrong Side of Thirty

So yesterday was my 36th birthday. I'm normally not one who gets real worked up about birthdays. Growing up, we didn't do a whole lot of celebration for birthdays. I mean, we didn't ignore them, but we never really made a big fuss about them. I'm pretty much the same way now. We certainly try to make the day a little bit special for whoever, but for the most part, it's not a huge deal.

Additionally, I don't get too worked up about my age as a general principle. Aging happens. It's all good. I didn't love my 25th birthday because the whole "quarter of a century" thing got me. But since then, things have been pretty quiet. Until this year.

For whatever reason, hitting the back half of my thirties just struck me as a little frightening. I know, it's not old (Though in the morning, Deborah was quick to remind me that I am now three times older than her. Thanks.). But it's getting on toward older. When I think about Psalm 90:10 and the "threescore and ten," I realize that I've moved to the back half of that number. Yikes.

So I had my mini-freak out. Nothing major. I try not to be too big a drama queen (we've got a tween and an 8 year old who THINKS she's a tween, so we've got plenty of drama around here as it is), but I probably got a little dramatic about this one. A bit of heavy sighing. Some strategic welling-up. Some laments. Subtle stuff.

Then the weekend came and I got to play the piano in church and enjoy some really beautiful worship time. And then I got to spend some time with my husband and my kids seeing a really lovely movie (Toy Story 3 about growing up, but still -- beautiful!). And then yesterday I got to spend time with two of my closest friends (and the world didn't end -- which really made the day so much better). And my Facebook page was flooded with well wishes. And I got calls and texts through the day from friends and family who love me.

I got to thinking about Philippians 4:8:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)
Somewhere along the line, I got it in my brain that the verse was a negative one. Don't go to that movie. Don't read that book. Don't watch that television show. Don't listen to that music. Look at the list, but use it as a guide for what not to do.

Yesterday reminded me that it's a positive list. There are some don'ts in the previous verses. Don't worry. Don't fight.  I'm not so much trying to defend stuff like fart jokes and curse words, but the things that really seem to have a negative impact on the core of me tend to be those pity-party things. I let fear or loneliness or anger fester away. But as I found out over the last few days, thinking on (and even better, actively participating in!) things like worship and friendship and love and laughter can be a huge blessing to me.

You know, maybe I don't mind being older so much.

(And I can't think of the three-score and ten verse without thinking of MST3K's short, "The Days of Our Years." Click the teal words and enjoy some of that laughter!)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Musical Monday

If you've read my blog for very long, you'll know that one of my all-time favorite bands is They Might Be Giants. Since I first discovered them in high school, I have had nothing but love for the Johns.

So given that today is my birthday (shameless plea for EVERY SINGLE READER to wish me a Happy Birthday in the comments!), there's no question that Flans & Linnell are required on the ol' blog.

I was torn between a song for you (It's Not My Birthday), but ultimately I'm just too much of an ego-maniac to dedicate my page to you, the reader.

So instead, I'll go with quite possibly the most macabre song I could pick on my birthday. But it has puppets, so you might not notice so much.

Have a great day (provided the world doesn't end)!

Older by They Might Be Giants

You're older than you've ever been.
And now you're even older.
And now you're even older.
And now you're even older.

You're older than you've ever been.
And now you're even older.
And now you're older still.

TIME! Is marching on.
And time.. is still marching on.
This day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner.
And now it's even sooner.
And now it's even sooner.
This day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner.
And now it's even sooner.
And now it's sooner still.

You're older than you've ever been.
And now you're even older.
And now you're even older.
And now you're even older.

You're older than you've ever been.
And now you're even older.
And now you're older still. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

Recap of some of what I've been reading this week. Show 'em some love!
  • Becky Ramsey wrote a lovely essay about baptizing her dishes. Okay, so it's really about prayer, but that first line really grabs you, doesn't it? Plus, it's got one of the best frog videos I've seen in a long time.
  • Sarah of From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell wrote an interesting piece about finding true community in the Church and about developing her own faith.
  • My friend Bob Slatt wrote a powerful post about letting go. His journey is one that continually amazes and inspires me.
  • Brett Barner at Godly Sheep wrote a really challenging post about white noise. Doubly impressive that he was able to do this because of a severe migraine. And DO NOT MISS his post from yesterday. The vuvuzela concert (and his translation of the video) was one of the best laughs I had all week!
  • NakedPastor knocks it out of the park with his cartoon "Love Pool." Seriously, I was tearing up with this one.
  • And K.C. Proctor mistakes me for a real writer with a delightful write-up about my blog! (I'll let you folks go over there and tell him that it's Alise with an A. ;-D)
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you this week? Self-promotion welcome!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sappy Saturday

Today's Sappy Saturday is actually about two people. Two of my favorite people. Two people who have helped me through many a rough time. They have been there during most of the highs and almost certainly all of the lows over the past twenty years. Their names are Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and they are two of the most creative and stalwart friends that I have.

In the summer of 1990, my family took a vacation to lovely New England. But this year, our lives were changed by a trip to the small town of Waterbury, Vermont, when we went to the Ben & Jerry's factory. We had a tour, we had a sample (I believe it was Cherry Garcia that day). I have a ridiculously beat up t-shirt from that trip and memories aplenty. The young cow-loving, future liberal was completely won over by these purveyors of creamy deliciousness.

And the boys always continue to spice it up. Sure, I'll always have Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, but in addition to the standards, they entice me with new, exotic flavors. Imagine Whirled Peace, Americone Dream and most recently, Boston Cream Pie. I never need fear that I will become bored by these guys -- they are always seeking new ways to please me.

From family vacations to personal disappointments. From late nights studying in college to late nights with a newborn baby. From plain old Chocolate to New York Super Fudge Chunk, these men deserve nothing but my highest praise.

Thanks boys! Looking forward to 20 more years!

What's your favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor? (And if you don't have one, seriously, go try the Boston Cream Pie flavor right away. Heaven!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Worlds Colliding

In the interest of full disclosure, the world might end on Monday.

A few months ago Rich was having a crappy day and I asked Tina to shoot him a little razzle dazzle. She took it one step further and sent him a note on Facebook and the two of them became Facebook friends. Which was awesome because these are two of the funniest people I know (rule #1 of being a full-featured friend). Watching their online interactions is one of my favorite things.

So anyway, last night I was texting with Rich about some music that we're playing in church this weekend and he directed me to a discussion that he and Tina were having on Facebook. We've somehow got into this whole thing where, as my two best friends, one of them is surely an evil bff (you don't have to understand it -- just know that it's so). Rich texts me that Tina is hilarious (true) and I said that we so needed to get together and meet in real life.

Then all of a sudden, things started happening. And the next thing I know, we're making plans to get together on Monday morning for coffee!

My mind has absolutely been racing. On one hand, this could be one of the top 5 moments in bff history, or bfftory, if you will. Three friends finally having the opportunity to sit down in one caffeine-infused moment, sharing laughs and lattes. I mean, that's practically a 90's sitcom right there. And that was a golden time for sitcoms, let me tell you.

But on the other hand, if one of these two is, in fact, an evil bff, then clearly getting them together in real life is a very dangerous proposal. We could have this matter/anti-matter thing happen and it destroys everything. And speaking of 90's sitcoms, the best one ever already gave us some idea about what might happen if world's collide.

Mostly I think this is just going to be flippin' awesome.

But just in case the world does end, I'll take full responsibility.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Putting my money where my mouth is

A few days ago I saw a piece over on Hemant Mehta's blog that really caught my interest. It was an Ask Richard, which is when people write in to Richard Wade to ask his advice on various interpersonal relationships (how to come out as an atheist to their family, interacting with a Christian best friend, etc.). I rarely skip those posts because I find Richard's advice to generally be really good and beneficial.

Anyway, on Monday he received a message from a musician who spent time writing for various Christian artists and who is apparently well-known for that work who is secretly an atheist. I would recommend reading through the whole letter and Richard's response. Basically the artist is concerned that if he is honest about who he is, even though he no longer performs Christian music, he will lose his fan base and his income. But by remaining closeted, he is living a lie and that is frustrating to him. Richard pretty much tells him to chill out and know that the people who are complimenting him are just using the language that they have available to them. He also talks about how for a number of people all through the ages, art has been a job for many, not necessarily an outpouring of religious conviction.

The post got me thinking about other Christian artists that have been thrown under the bus because they weren't good enough to make Christian music any more. They had an affair or they got divorced or they announced they were gay and all of a sudden, their whole life's work has no value. I find that disappointing. I've had deeply spiritual moments from things that have no illusions of Christianity -- why should something Christian that was written or performed by a "sinner" no longer move me?

Why do we do that? We talk about forgiveness and grace and love, but those are harder to practice than to talk about. It's easy for me to talk about forgiveness, but when someone has really hurt me, I have a tendency to hold onto that hurt for a long time. I can talk about grace, but if someone does something wrong, I find myself wanting them to experience some kind of justice (even if it doesn't really have anything to do with actual justice and is more like revenge). I can talk about love, but sometimes I'll just couch my hatred in terms of "tough love" and pretend that I'm being loving while indulging my dark side.

I do understand not wanting to financially support something that you don't support morally or ethically. I really do! But I do find it a little more difficult to understand no longer being moved by something that has moved us in the past because the person isn't quite what we thought. And while I want to be careful with my money, I want to be even more careful that I live out things like forgiveness, grace & love in my daily life.

Do you think you could enjoy a Christian song if you found out that it was written by an atheist? Have you ever pretended that you were taking the moral high ground when you were really just giving in to something less righteous (tell me I'm not alone, please!)?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Collateral Pleasure

With Jason working nights and being a full-time student and (!) needing to find time to sleep occasionally, opportunities for intimacy are pretty limited. We frequently have to decide if we want to spend the twenty minutes that we have between one activity and the next talking or "something else." Which means that sometimes our coming together (sorry -- trying to be delicate here, but yeah, I'm talking about sex) is a bit frantic and, quite frankly, a bit selfish. We don't mean for it to be and it's not our favorite, but for this season, it's what's for dinner.

A few weeks ago, I was apologizing to Jason for the whole selfish thing and he responded that it was okay, he still enjoyed the "collateral pleasure" of our time together. And being the sexy vixen that I am, I promptly responded by saying that I was totally going to use that phrase for a blog. (Yes, my pillow talk leaves a little something to be desired.)

So here it is.

Now that we've got all of our giggling out of the way (you're done giggling, right?), I seriously love that phrase. It's easy to think in terms of collateral damage. To see how something negative affects us negatively. But I don't think that we think very often about how our positive actions can have a good impact not only on others, but on us as well.

I know that a lot of the time when I'm doing something (particularly a menial task) for someone else, I can get pretty resentful. I love to be served, but not so much a fan of the serving. I have to be very intentional about doing something for someone else, because at my heart, I'm a pretty selfish person. I'll try to listen to a friend and end up talking more than listening. I'll try to talk to my husband about what he's doing at school and end up talking about my band or the blog (see my post-sex conversation for an example). I'll try to help the kids with a project and then get frustrated that they don't do it exactly the way I tell them to do it. The collateral damage is that my friend feels unheard, my husband feels unimportant and my kids feel inferior.


Sometimes I don't do that.
Sometimes I can actually let my friend say their piece and keep my mouth shut.
Sometimes I get really excited about what my husband is doing and let my news wait until another time.
Sometimes I'll just go with the flow and let my kids set the pace for how we're doing something.

And in those moments, when people feel appreciated, loved, treasured, important, and all kinds of other good stuff, I get a little kick too. A little collateral pleasure, if you will.

Which is a pretty good motivation to live that way instead.

Where are areas where you find collateral pleasure? What places where there might be more collateral damage can you turn into collateral pleasure?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

A year ago, Tina sent me a link to Rachel Held Evans's blog. I read the post and was amazed at how Rachel's thoughts mirrored my own. I read other posts and found the same. When Jason told me that he was an atheist, I found Rachel's blog to be a safe place for me to sort through some of my own doubts about Christianity and religion. The community that she has established there is really something special. At the risk of getting too gushy, Rachel's blog probably helped save my faith more than anything else at that time. So she holds a very dear place in my heart.

As such, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review her new book. Being a fan of her blog, I was very excited to have an opportunity to read a few hundred pages in a row by this talented writer. And I will say, the book did not disappoint! (And the lovely hand-written note that she sent certainly didn't hurt!)

Evolving in Monkey Town is divided into three sections: Habitat, Challenge, and Change.

Habitat basically went through her church upbringing and religious schooling at Bryan College, as well as life in Dayton, TN, home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Rachel was a "good girl" and grew up learning answers to all of life's difficult questions about faith and Christianity. I have no doubt that she would understand the squirrel joke as well as anyone in my own family would. As Habitat closes out, the author says, "I'd gotten so good at critiquing all of the fallacies of opposing worldviews, at searching for truth through subjective analysis, that it was only a matter of time before I turned the same skeptical eye upon my own faith." (pg. 79) I personally found this section of the book a little bit disjointed (not the writing so much as the chapter placement), but all of the elements certainly help to give the reader insight into what would eventually lead Rachel to a place of questioning key elements of her faith.

Challenge opens up with a conversation between Rachel and her friend Nathan, a soldier who was serving in Iraq. In this dialog, Nathan is able to put a face on some of the "sinners" in the world. And in the next chapter, Rachel puts a face on these same people through Zarmina, a Muslim woman executed on the charge of murdering her husband.

Chapter 8 was one of my favorites in the book. It opens:
So this is the point in the story where I turn to Jesus.
Don't worry. There's no alter call or soft light or repetitious droning of "Just as I Am," no sudden realization that all of my questions are answered in a single verse, every doubt cast away by a moment of illuminations, just me in my sweats with a glass of wine and the familiar stories of Jesus spread before me on the kitchen table like an old family photo album that suddenly carries new meaning after a death or a divorce or a long overdue reconciliation. (pg. 101)
From there, she goes on to discuss lily-pad moments, where she navigates her way through her doubts, finding little moments of clarity to help her find her way back to faith. She talks about how we are now more connected than ever with the world and how, "People like Zarmina seemed a lot less like 'them' and a lot more like 'us.'" (pg. 110)

Throughout this section, she examines issues like hell, difficult biblical passages, poverty, "God things" (like how good things we have are "God things" when they might just be because we were born at a certain time in a certain country to certain parents), evangelism, homosexuality and politics. I love that she doesn't give answers, but simply presents her questions here. It is one of the things that I have always appreciated about her blog and it was so wonderful to see that carried over into the book.

The last few chapters in Change show how her questions led her to starting her blog and opening up the conversation to a wider audience and how that conversation has been shaping her own views. I particularly loved the following quote, "I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals. False fundamentals make it impossible for faith to adapt to change....When the gospel gets all entangled with extras, dangerous ultimatums threaten to take it down with them. The yoke gets too heavy and we stumble beneath it." (pg. 207)

As someone who has struggled with some things that might be considered false fundamentals over the years, I found this book to be yet another breath of fresh air. I continue to be blessed by those who are willing to ask honest questions. Rachel does that through Evolving in Monkey Town in an honest and humorous manner. She shares her story in a manner that one can relate to easily and even if her journey is not your own, I believe you can learn from it. Really great read, one I would highly recommend!


As a part of the blog tour, I was sent a copy of this book by Zondervan. However, I had already pre-ordered the book on my own so I have an extra to give away! This is a really awesome book, so be sure to register for your chance to win!

There are several ways to enter, but you need to make a separate post for each entry. And  you must do #1 in order to qualify at all. Thanks! I'll be leaving the contest open until July 2 (until around noon or so Eastern) and I'll post the lucky winner then!

  1. Leave a comment here about any of the quotes you see here or in the interview with Rachel that I posted. What about her experience resonates with you? What seems completely foreign? What about her comments made you think, "You know, she's like a female Donald Miller!"?
  2. Follow this blog publicly by clicking on one of the buttons on the right. If you already follow, that's fine, just be sure to leave a comment!
  3. Retweet the following (and be sure to let me know here that you did): Review and giveaway of #monkeytown by @rachelheldevans Thanks for reading!
  4. Post a link to this on your blog or Facebook.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan as part of the Evolving in Monkey Town blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Interview: Rachel Held Evans

I consider myself really lucky to be alive in the future. Back in the day, I never would have thought that I'd have the opportunity to interact with authors and musician I admire, but now thanks to social media like Twitter and Facebook and blogs, there are lots of opportunities to have interactions with these folks. I still get a little giggly about being able to "know" them, but I do love that I can now go right to the source to ask questions.

When I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the blog tour for Rachel Held Evans's new book, Evolving in Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions, I was thrilled. Just getting to review my favorite blogger's book was exciting. Amazingly, I was also able to have a chance to ask Rachel a couple of questions. She very graciously took time out of her (no doubt!) busy schedule to jot down a few answers for me. Thanks so much for your time, Rachel!

BigMama: The book title indicates that you're still a questioner. How do you avoid falling back into being the "girl who knew all the answers" with a blog and a book which invite questions from others?

Rachel Held Evans: It's tempting when I feel like I have a good response to questions being asked...but that doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to! My faith has changed so much over the past few years that I'm reluctant to speak too definitively about big theological issues or philosophical questions. I want to leave myself plenty of room to change and grow in the future. I'm still really opinionated, just a bit much more tempered in how I express those opinions (especially in print).

BM: You touch on politics in your book. Do you feel as though your questions led to a change in your politics or were your political leanings a precursor to your questioning?

RHE: It was a little of both, really. I grew up in a culture in which conservative politics were considered part of a "Christian worldview," so when I started questioning that version of Christianity, my political persuasions began to shift a bit. I resonated with some of the issues typically tackled by the Democratic Party (poverty, healthcare, human rights) and preferred Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy to John McCain's in the 2008 presidential election. At first I jumped headlong onto the liberal bandwagon. But since then I've tried to remind myself that my first allegiance is to the kingdom of God, which is not achieved through power or politics, but through service and love. If I place my hope in a political party of president, I will always be disappointed. Keeping this in mind has helped me maintain unity with my friends and neighbors here in Tennessee, a VERY red state.

BM: When you were in the midst of your deepest question period, in what community did you find the most help? Was it primarily from fellow doubters or did those who had greater certainty offer you more support?

RHE: Fortunately, my family was really supportive -- my husband, especially. I also found a lot of friendship and encouragement online through the blog. Of course, not everyone was thrilled with the fact that I was struggling with the beliefs they held dear. I've resolved that there are some friends with which I cannot talk about my faith journey without it turning into an argument. So I let it be.

BM: How do you find that you interact now with people who have a very "certain" faith? Do you find it easy to relate because you have a similar history? Or difficult because your path has led you away from that mindset?

RHE: The truth is, I'm often frustrated with people who seem to find faith so easy, who never have second thoughts about what they believe or doubts about Christianity. It's taken me a while to accept the fact that not everyone is going to struggle with doubt and not everyone wants to be dragged along on my journey! But I suspect I will always relate the most to people whose faith doesn't come easy.


For some of my favorite quotes from Evolving in Monkey Town (as well as favorites from others), you can check the hashtag #monkeytown at Twitter. Lots of awesome there!

Also, check out the book trailer below!

Monday, June 21, 2010


The hubs sent me this one. Flippin' brilliant.

Musical Monday

I love that I have musical friends. And I especially love that I have the opportunity to share their talent with you on occasion.

Bryan Russo is a friend from long, long ago. When I was growing up, his mom played the piano for my mom in a number of the musical productions she and my dad directed at our church. And Bryan was always one of the best singers in the group. He was a talented musician in many ways, playing piano and violin as well. We lost touch over the years and I was thrilled to meet up with him again on Facebook about a year ago, only to discover that he has been pursuing a career as a full-time musician.

A few weeks ago, he premiered his first music video. I think it looks absolutely amazing and I love the song, so I sent him a message asking if I could feature it for a Musical Monday post. Fortunate for all of us, he happily agreed!

I asked Bryan about the back-story for the lyric and video for Smokey Cafe and he sent me the following:

when i lived in philly and was just starting out, i used to frequent these little dive bars (kind of cbgb-esque, or sin-e) that just happened to have the heart of the music scene...or at least the prime time players in it.

it was a little slice of bohemia and vaudville all in one....basically, amazing artists...some signed, some recently dropped, some huge in belgium, some later went on to be signed and become huge (ie, amos lee) and then the rowdy music fans that loved them...all in this one little family of excess and repeption....and i just remember having this moment while in the midst of it....where i thought.....everyone is just trying so hard to keep their cool....(in both ways you can take that phrase)....and wanted to pay homage to the artist's plight in trying to make it.....and in believing in your art so sometimes don't care too much that you can only afford a $2 draft beer.....but coming to terms with the fact that the window of opportunity to actually "make it" as they say, is closing quickly.

plus, i realize that so many people drink away their 20's in bars, cafes, clubs, trying desperately to be a part of some scene.....and find love, affluence, attention, etc.

so, i wanted to kind of do an artsy video that touched on all those things, by showing the vanity and the underlying sadness or lack of satisfaction of people in the video.

plus i wanted to kind of take a piss at why people do it too...

so, if you really watch the video...i'm like the narrator, and everyone is so caught up in what they are doing, they don't realize there's a live person playing a hundred year old baby grand in the middle of the room.

basically taking off the line "this could be the greatest thing that no one ever hears"------which kind of ties the two together.

the ending where i walk away with my wife is basically leaving everything, (including the tip bucket) in the cafe....and finding someone to walk hand and hand with into the uncertainty of the great unknown.

or something like that.

I do want to mention that Bryan is working on funding an EP. If you have any desire to support independent musicians, here's someone who I know has a lot of talent and drive. Plus, even a relatively small donation gets you some free stuff! You can get all of the deets here. Thanks!

And without further ado, here is Smokey Cafe by Bryan Russo.

Smokey Cafe

Written by: Bryan Russo

On the west end of town, wrong side of the tracks.
Two blocks past the point of no turning back
A place filled with drifters, that don't drift from this street
And bar room poets that don't ever speak

And they try to keep their cool (2x)
And they try not to be the fools
That don't ever find their way back home

And I heard someone say, that even love has become cliche
And it's just a game, that lonely people play
And we sit and argue that there's nothing new left to say
We're losing years, in this smokey cafe

There's nothing to eat, it's an excess buffet
But there's much to consume here between the curtain and the stage
So pollute the air until it's your turn to play
Is this passion, or just things that we say

And all they want from you is your ears
Maybe turn their dreams into careers
Listen closely the words the quiver with fear
Cause this could be the greatest thing
That no one will ever hear


And we try to keep our cool

I hear the good life passing us by
And we sit and wonder, if we'll go out of style
The lights will go up and someone will say
Everyone raise your glass, here's to the good ol' days

And maybe we can change the world
With minor chords and spoken words
Maybe we could change the world
If we could remember a god damn thing that we heard


Copyright 2006 Playroom Studios Publishing

Words and Music by Bryan Russo

Bryan Russo "Smokey Cafe" from Cameron Uhlig on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

First off, Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there (particularly my own dad and my hubby who is an amazing dad)! Have a fantastic day!

Recap of some posts that have caught my attention this week. Show 'em some love!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you this week?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sappy Saturday

So I've written about Tina a real whole lot on my blog. But really, outside of my family, there are few people who have had so profound an impact on my life as her.

I met Tina when I was going into high school. I was new to the school district, having gone to a private school in a different district through eighth grade. I was nervous about going there (moving from a class of about 8 people into anything even remotely bigger than that seemed terrifying), but was in band and figured I'd meet some people that way.

I'm sure I met Tina during band camp, but didn't really talk to her much/at all. I stuck mostly with my section of saxophone players and didn't really venture beyond that into the brass section. But once school proper started, I found that she was in most of my classes. Our schedules were almost identical and we ended up being in lunch together (unlike most of the other people who ended up in our core group of friends). I'm pretty sure that's where our friendship really cemented. By the end of the first month of school (probably sooner, but that was a very, very long time ago), we were pretty tight.

The number of amazing memories I have with Tina are far too many to count. I truly don't think that there is a single memory from high school that doesn't include her in some fashion. From our freshman biology class to our senior english class, we spent most of our time together. We always had very similar schedules, usually only having one or two periods apart a year. And that doesn't count the time spent in band.

Some quick memories (these are more for me than for anyone else -- sorry!): snowball fight in the parking lot of the school after a basketball game waiting for a parent to pick us up; fake birthdays; sneaking in to see Pet Sematary on prom night (what did we tell our parents we were seeing?); hunting down someone with a video camera at Epcot to record us playing in the water; busting up our old-timey headphones to share a listen to Cosmic Thing in the auditorium; throwing kittens across the family room in her house; sled riding on our "fake" senior skip day.

I also remember sitting on her parents' deck on a July afternoon 13 years ago when she became the bravest person I know. She was recovering from a climbing accident that left her body broken and bruised and that resulted in the death of the person closest to her. In the midst of that, she took a chance on an old friend and came out to me. I knew gay people, even had some gay friends, but Tina was my best friend. And she shattered everything I knew about what it is to be a gay Christian. She didn't have to go out on that limb. She didn't have to be vulnerable. She didn't have to risk rejection in the midst of her pain. But she showed unbelievable courage and trusted me.

And she has shown that in the years following. While we share a finely tuned sense of humor (which you can read all about in this post), but our lives are very different. I sometimes marvel that we have remained friends over the years. But honestly, I think our differences are what have bound us together. She has shown me so much about how narrow my world view can be. She has taught me how to talk to people with whom I disagree in a more positive way. She has encouraged me to step outside of myself and hopefully be a bit braver as well. As I said at the beginning, she has absolutely shaped me into the woman that I am today in more profound ways than I can express.

I'm pretty stingy with who gets my "I love you's." I think it's a powerful phrase and shouldn't be tossed out to just anyone. My family hears it liberally, but outside of them, I don't say it to many people.

Tina, I love you. I love your honesty. I love your independence. I love your smile. I love your storytelling. I love your imagination. I love your humor.

You're one of my greatest treasures. I love you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Update again?

I know that I just recently updated the style of my blog, but I've been toying with the idea of maybe giving it a little something extra, see if I can't draw a few more people.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lessons from the lobby

I'm weird and I have weird friends. They might disagree with me, but trust me, they'd be wrong (okay, maybe not weird compared to me, but I'm pretty sure to tolerate me, you have to have a certain level of weirdness built into your innermost being). Never was this more apparent than when a group of us in high school invented Flee Ball.

I'm not 100% sure how it started. If my memory is correct (and someone, please correct me if it isn't!), our high school "wind ensemble" (and I use that label very, very loosely because I'm pretty sure it couldn't really be called a wind ensemble by any legitimate group) was doing a program at one of the local elementary schools. Because things weren't terribly efficient, I believe we got there early, set up and then had time to kill before the actual performance. A group of us were sitting in a circle on the gym floor and started rolling passing a rubber ball around. That was it. Just passing this ball back and forth around the circle. 

I wish there were more to tell, but that was it. However within our little group of friends, it took off. We would (seriously) hang around after school (seriously) so we could sit in the lobby and roll a ball around keep a ball in the air (yeah, seriously). It became known as Flee Ball because there was a plaque in the lobby of the school honoring F. Lee Meyers and our friend Beth said that Flee would be looking down on us and smiling. Our game was dubbed Flee Ball after that.

There were rules though. And I've got to tell you, those rules/lessons have served me well in life.

Rule #1: Everyone can play. There were no special skills needed to play Flee Ball (you saw that it was rolling a ball around, keeping a ball in the air, right?). If you showed up, you could join the circle and play. We didn't have special seats and because it was a circle, it could expand to fit as many as wanted to join in. 

Rule #2: You need a ball and a floor. Okay, so that rule in and of itself isn't really helpful, but its heart has been. Flee Ball was uncomplicated and inexpensive. We honestly found that the plastic $2 swirly blown up balls you could get from the grocery store were usually the best. We didn't need any fancy equipment or facility. Just a ball and a floor.

Rule #3: You have to invest some time. While it was uncomplicated, a game of Flee Ball was something we'd have to prepare to do. Not all of us drove or had cars, so we'd have to make plans on how to get home after we would stay after school (!!!!) to play. And if we were playing somewhere other than school, we'd have to be sure that someone had a ball and a floor (see rule 2). 

Rule #4: You had to be ready to laugh. So we're high school boys and girls with a rubber ball. Yeah, we went for the cheap jokes. But we laughed every day. I'd say that if I mentioned Flee Ball to any of the former participants, they would giggle right then and there. I would say that laughter, even more than all of the ball rolling was what kept us coming back.

Note: Tina's sister Liz reminded us that the object of the game was to keep the ball in the air, rather than to roll it around. Thanks Liz!

What are some of your favorite childhood games? What lessons from them can you still use today?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

O Me of Little Faith Winner!

Thanks to, I was able to select a winner for the copy of O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett and it was lucky #1! Which means that Jennifer has lucked into a copy of this amazing book!

So shoot me a message with your address and I'll have this out to you right away.

Thanks to all for participating. I'll be having another give-away really soon, so keep your eyes open!

Still Beautiful

"Think of all of the beauty still left around you and be happy." ~Anne Frank

Photo by jonsview

With the summer here, I've got reading lists for the kids to make sure that brains don't rot while they're not in school. Christopher has been reading various picture books and a couple of Flat Stanley books. Faith is finishing up The Fledgling by Jane Langton, as well as whole lot of Rainbow Magic books (they make me crazy, but she just loves them). James is reading through George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy & Stephen Hawking (so my 9 year old has officially read more Hawking than I have) as well as his regular diet of reference books (this child's idea of vacation reading is to carry along his dictionary).

Deborah brought home her summer reading list from school and we found that she had read almost everything on it already. I've picked up some Michael Crichton books, as he's always been one of my favorite sci-fi authors and that's a genre she likes. But I felt like Jurassic Park and State of Fear probably weren't enough "real" reading for her, so I grabbed a copy of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl for her to read as well. I read it when I was just about her age and it's always stuck with me as a really powerful reminder of the dichotomy of man -- our incredible cruelty, but also our incredibly kindness.

I love the quote above. How does one in the midst of hiding and fear find beauty? How does someone so young grasp such a profound truth?

I look around right now and see a lot of not-so-beautiful things. The oil spill in the Gulf. The devastation in the country of Haiti. The city of Nashville still recovering from flooding while Oklahoma City is encountering its own floods. The war in Afghanistan that has now become the longest war that America has been embroiled in, with no end in sight. One doesn't need to look very hard to see death, chaos and ugliness.

And yet...

In the midst of all of this, we have the opportunity to experience beauty. Children laughing as they enjoy playing in a sprinkler. Soldiers with an opportunity to hold a loved one. Sunsets that dazzle the eye. Families reaching out to one another and caring for one another, even in the midst of tragedy.

I'm not suggesting that we forget the ugliness. I don't think we need to live in a Pollyanna world where we ignore bad things. But I do think that we (well, *I*, anyway) need to have a more balanced perspective. Anne's quote doesn't dismiss that there are things around her that aren't beautiful. But it acknowledges that no matter the circumstances, there are things that are still beautiful.

I think that in and of itself is beautiful.

Where do you go to find beauty? What makes it difficult to see beauty in your life?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The company we keep

I love to read over at Matthew Paul Turner's blog. He's got some of the most entertaining clips of Christian sub-culture ever. Most days, I laugh and laugh. Every now and again, though, Christian sub-culture is downright terrifying. On Saturday, he posted some videos (not really, they're hosted at YouTube, but are just audio clips) of a Minnesota talk show host discussing homosexuality. The "discussion" is absolutely appalling.

In one clip, Bradlee Dean says, "Muslims are calling for the execution of homosexuals in America they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo-Christian God, they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do."

So apparently the "moral" thing to do is to call for the execution of the gay community. Certainly we saw that quite vividly in the country of Uganda with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was backed by primarily evangelical ministers.

And this kind of leads me to my larger point/question. How are we tied to the actions of those who wear the same label that we wear? Should we be linked to them at all? 

I'm not sure about the answer, but I think the whole "they don't represent me" thing is wearing a little bit thin. Because if someone is a part of a movement or a group, they DO represent the group. I may not WANT them to represent the group, but they do. I remember chatting with someone on a message board who has no religious upbringing and who have no involvement in the Church now. We were having a discussion about Fred Phelps and his merry band of haters. I asked if he felt that Phelps and the rest of Westboro congregation represented Christianity and to my amazement, he said yes. I was absolutely stunned, because it just never occurred to me that someone might mistake that freak show as being even remotely related to the Christianity that I have known my entire life.

I remember years ago seeing Guy Doud speak at a youth conference. He talked about winning the national Teacher of the Year award and about losing a lot of weight and general inspirational things. But what has stuck with me years later was his phrase about being "Jesus with skin on." Certainly he was applying it in a positive light. When we love and serve and generally behave in a Christ-like manner, we are representing our faith to those around us in a tangible way. St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with the quote, "Preach the gospel at all times -- if necessary, use words." Again, I think this is a great thought, particularly when people are behaving in a way that I think actually shows the gospel.

But I think that we need to understand that comments like the one quoted at the beginning of this post carry just as much, if not more weight than the blessings we speak. When our actions are harmful and hurtful, that can matter more than the good that we do. We can't just say, "Oh, they don't represent 'real' Christianity," and expect that to cover our bases. If that's not followed up with some serious leg-work to our faith, we are missing out.

Hopefully you won't hear me say that X person doesn't represent me when they do something that I don't agree with. Instead, I hope you'll see me act in a way that shows what I do believe.

Do you think it's fair to judge a group by the words/actions of a few? How do you think you should disassociate with those who are damaging to your views? Does this apply only to religion, or can it apply more broadly?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Musical Monday

Today is one of my guilty pleasure Musical Mondays. I don't listen to Top 40 radio very often, but every now and again I feel the need to catch up on the pop world, so I'll turn on WVAQ and listen for a little while. And I must admit, if Ke$ha comes on, I'm cranking up the volume and waving my arms and generally acting like a total dork. It is fantastic. (I do that when Lady Gaga comes on too, but it's not her turn yet.)

I'm not sure what it is about her that appeals to me so much. I generally don't go for the pop-rap style of music, and there's almost nothing about her music that I can relate to. But something about her voice and melodies just cranks up my happiness factor and makes me want to seat boogie.

I admit, I like pretty much everything I've heard by Ke$ha, but Your Love is My Drug is my personal favorite. I'll apologize to Tina now for including the music video, as it includes animated characters interacting in the real world and I know that creeps you out. I still think it's awesome.

Maybe I need some rehab
Or maybe just need some sleep
I got a sick obsession
I'm seein it in my dreams
I'm lookin down every alley
I'm makin those desperate calls
I'm stayin up all night hopin hitin my head against the wall

What you got boy, is hard to find
I think about it all the time
Im all strung out my heart is fried
I just cant get you off my mind!

Because your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love
Your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love

Wont listen to any advice
Mommas tellin me I should think twice
But look into my own devices, im addicted its a crisis
My friends think ive gone crazy
My judgments gettin kinda hazy
My steeze is gonna be affected if I keep it up like a love sick crack head

What you got boy, is hard to find
I think about it all the time
Im all strung out my heart is fried
I just cant get you off my mind!

Because your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love
Your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love

I dont care what people say
The rush is worth the price I pay
I get so high when your with me
But crash and crave you when you leave

Hey, so I got a question
Do you wanna have a slumber party in my basement?
Do I make your heart beat like an 808 drum
Is my love your drug? your drug?
Huh, your drug?
Huh, your drug?
Is my love your drug?

Because your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love
Your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love

Because your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love
Your love your love your love is my drug
Your love your love your love

Hey, heyy, sooo
You love, your love your love, is my drug
(She says) I like your beard 

Do you have any guilty pleasure music? Something that might surprise people if they knew you liked it? (C'mon Justin Bieber fans -- now is your chance to come clean! Confession is good for the soul!)
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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