Sunday, March 31, 2013

A: Alive!

Although Easter was yesterday, all that talk about resurrection gets me thinking about what it means to be alive. Lots of people have lots of different opinions on this – hence all the debates on abortion, life support, euthanasia, etc. Perhaps one of the things “being alive” means is that you get to have an opinion. And you get to learn how to live side-by-side on this great big planet with other people’s opinions, too.

Love, in my opinion, is one of the more important aspects of being alive. Sure, a person can for one reason or another cut off all his or her relationships and still breathe, and walk around, and “exist”…but that reminds me more of someone on a ventilator than someone who has a strong pulse and a reason to build his or her strength again to a point of thriving. Relationships…compassion…we thrive on love both as an experience and as an activity.

Inventiveness…creativity…is another special aspect of being alive. I think each person brings his or her own nuance to the definition of humanness. Isn’t it cool how no two stories are the same? Isn’t it cool how, despite tragedy and injustice and heartache, there is also laughter and intimacy and aspiration, to some degree, in each person’s life? Isn’t it cool how all these things, “good” and “bad” work together to make, in the end, something beautiful and precious?

Voting. Exploring. Working. Breathing. Playing. Humming. Listening. Sometimes I think it is easy to take for granted the pleasure of all the simple gifts that come as part of the package of being alive.

Enjoyment is an important part of being alive. I think maybe no matter where a person finds him-/herself, he/she can find enjoyment in something. Granted, there may be seasons and situations where this is harder than others…but that’s the interesting thing about seasons: they change. I have found enjoyment in things like warm sunshine after walking outside of a cold building…or candlelight and soothing music after a busy and stressful day at work…or seeing someone I care about genuinely smile.

What a gift we have been given! What do you love about being alive? ... know…besides the Bee Gees?

P.S. - Speaking of things that start with "A," special thanks to Arlee Bird for creating the A to Z Challenge and making it what it is!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jesus on Self-Punishment

Most of us have seen many variations of this picture through the years (me included)...but this year, this one caught my attention. I guess it's because you can see the individual lash marks on His body. You can see where the bruising would be if He had afterwards lived long enough for it to occur.

Isaiah said,
"He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
And by His stripes we are healed" (53:5, NKJV).

Self-harm has become an epidemic in our culture - people inflicting pain and wounds upon themselves in order to "feel" or in order to punish themselves for perceived "wrongness". People feel they deserve to be chastised. Masochists seek someone who will "love" them enough to beat the unworthiness out of them and bring them a reward of pleasure. When damaged people pour out their own insecurities on us, we believe the lie that this is what we somehow deserve.

When Jesus took the lashes, He visibly showed us that our debt was paid.

When I was a kid, a youth camp speaker told us the story of a schoolboy back in the day who had come to school hungry and his family couldn't afford lunch. So he stole some food from another child's lunch box...and inevitably, his theft was found out. The punishment was a spanking. However, the child from whom he had stolen the food began to feel compassion for the other boy; he himself had never had to go hungry. He wished he would have had the wisdom to have shared his lunch with the boy before he had been driven to steal it. So the boy whose lunch had been stolen walked to the front of the room and asked the teacher to allow him to take the punishment for the boy who had wronged him. The boy who escaped punishment was never the same.

Jesus likewise took our whipping. He suffered greatly. And He had never committed any act to warrant such punishment. The Bible says He was condemned for OUR sins, so the punishment He took was rightly yours and mine. Jesus already had the life beat right out of Him in reward for all the unworthy things you and I would ever do.

We don't have to hate ourselves anymore. We don't have to walk around feeling like everyone else should hate us, either. Our punishment has already been's just that Jesus walked to the front of the classroom and asked if He could take the beating instead.

We're off the hook. God LOVES us, so He let us off the hook. How are we to respond to such love?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Easter and spring fever

--- 1 ---
Easter weekend. Wow. I moved to Springfield last year on April 1st - the weekend right before Easter. I can't believe it has been a year already! Last year a friend came up from Joplin and stayed with me Easter weekend. We spent pretty much an entire day shopping...then came back to my apartment that didn't have furniture yet and sat in the floor and watched YouTube videos...and went to church Sunday morning at North Point. I remember they did an amazing skit. My friend's first impression was that it was kind-of scandalous because of the outfits they wore (basically brightly colored, form-fitting body suits), but when she realized I had been deeply touched by it she said, "Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge. If it ministered to you, then maybe it ministered to other people, too." Yep - I have some awesome friends! It is also an awesome video (though it was better live). Check it out! (You only get a glimpse of the aforementioned outfits in this video.) Hmmm...maybe I'll go there again for Easter this year. I was thinking about visiting a Catholic church for the occasion.... We'll see. 

--- 2 ---
Ever wondered, "Why Does Easter's Date Change?" Well, so have I. The subtitle of this article is "If it's Christian and controversial, it always comes back to Constantine." The emperor decided Easter was more important than the Jewish celebration of Passover, so they should no longer be celebrated on the same day. The Council of Nicea convened in AD 325.
The council decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Vernal Equinox, according to the Julian calendar. If the full moon were to fall on a Sunday, Easter would be celebrated on the following Sunday in order to avoid coincidence with Passover. But issues arose with this arrangement due to the difference between the lunar and the solar calendar, and the fact that Eastern Churches refused to bend to the council’s way. 
It was not until the reform of the Julian calendar in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII that a more universal system was developed. The Gregorian calendar clearly defined the ecclesiastical year, and set Easter on the first Sunday following the Vernal Equinox, which is fixed on March 21st. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar by Great Britain and Ireland in 1752 solidified the universality of the system. 
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the actual Vernal Equinox is “determined by the motion of the Sun as seen from the Earth” and so cannot be fixed to a specific date. Because of the difference in determination of the Vernal Equinox between the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar, Easter is usually celebrated on a different Sunday by Western Churches than by Eastern Churches. The last year these dates coincided was 2004. Although some attempts to fix a specific date for Easter have gained a lot of support, to this day all have failed.
--- 3 ---
Today was gorgeous - sunny and in the upper 60s - so I enjoyed it by driving around town with the windows down and radio up, one of my favorite ways to enjoy a beautiful day! A couple of interesting things I saw around town: a guy riding his horse down the sidewalk, and a teenage girl swinging on a tree-swing in her front yard :). Cool. And I accidentally stumbled upon another unexpected scene today - I went to hear a speaker for a Holy Week chapel at my school, and got to hear a guest collegiate classical choir too! I love happy accidents, and they are even better when they involve the Fine Arts! 
--- 4 ---
A to Z starts Monday!! I'm excited. I've pre-written several of my posts...but not A, of course. Hopefully some inspiration that happens to start with the letter A will strike me over the weekend. My theme is theological, so maybe I should read some Augustine...or maybe I'll research a little about the history of Art in the Church...
or ponder whether it really was an Apple that Adam and Eve Ate.... Anyway, I'm sure I'll stumble across something. Unless I become too apathetic to achieve acuity in any attempt at academic which case I'll just have to act adversely to any advance arrangement and abruptly assemble an appropriate article at the advent of A to Z. That would be simply atrocious.   
--- 5 ---
Hey - you guys know the other holiday that's right around the corner, right? Yep. April 15th. Just sayin'. 
--- 6 ---
Part of an Easter liturgy: 

We serve a risen Saviour yet live as if in chains. Forgive us, Lord that we are so hesitant to live the resurrection life. Forgive us that we fail to show through word and action the truth that you loved us into your kingdom through the glorious mystery of the Cross. Forgive us that there is still fear in our lives that prevents us from achieving our full potential. Draw us close. Open our eyes to the glory of the risen Christ, our hearts to the wonder of the Cross and our hands to the service of your kingdom where you have placed us. That your name might be glorified through our lives.

God of resurrection
of life and death
All: Renew our hearts and minds
God of promise
of all beginnings
and all endings
All: Renew our hearts and minds
God of hope
of new growth
and harvest
All: Renew our hearts and minds

Read more at:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution.
--- 7 ---
Finally, to liven up your weekend, an old-school Southern Gospel Easter song (Enjoy the 80s hair!):  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary! (Note: Conversion Diary will not do Quick Takes today in honor of Good Friday.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - fine arts week 1

--- 1 ---

I've been exploring the fine arts scene of Springfield (Missouri) this past week, and it has led me to make some uncharacteristic purchases. I'm really glad I've made them! Turns out, for one thing, I really like Opera! (Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are.) Here are the purchases I made: 

--- 2 ---

I also bought some oil pastels and experimented with some
art of my own! I have only ever drawn with graphite and charcoal, so this was
my first attempt at color or anything like paint. I really enjoyed it!



"Deep Calls Out to Deep"
--- 3 ---

My plan was to visit a different local art gallery (or other fine art exhibition) each day this
week, but I only got to three. This is not because I didn’t try to get to others!
Some don’t open until later in the day…and the weather was crazy…and yeah, I
know, excuses, excuses. I already blogged about the opera and first gallery visit. The
following day I went to the Springfield Art Museum. I thought it had decent repertoire, and was especially impressed that there was a wing devoted to Asian (Chinese and Japanese) art. I was not extremely impressed with the Director's Choice exhibit. There was one piece - something about "darkness" - that consisted of some kind of greyish-brown solid painted canvas. Really? I hope the place didn't go broke buying that. These were my favorite three pieces: 

"Cartoon Study for Painting"
20th c. Drawing and Watercolor
Louis Freund
"Elusive Reality"
1984 Oil on Canvas
Barbara Dixon Drewa
(The artist recreated Rogier van der Weyden's "Portrait of a Lady"
as if it were a page ripped out of a catlogue or textbook.)
2000 Watercolor on Paper
Jerry Bowman
Also on my favorites list was a sculpture of the one and only John Wayne. :)
--- 4 ---

Later the same day I had lunch with a friend, but before
lunch we stopped by the “Kiss My Gas” Scooter store. Not only did they have a
gorgeous 1960-something Vespa; the walls were lined with paintings! The
moral seems to be that art creeps up on us from corners where we least expect
(hyuck hyuck - this was their company's shirt from
a 5k benefitting breast cancer research.)
--- 5 ---

Yeah…so…I’m a slightly obsessed sucker for trees. I just love them;
always have. Here are a couple interesting snapshots of trees I got this week: 

This moss-covered beaut' stands outside my apartment
building - I often park in front of it.

And THIS?! We-he-hell...let's just say...when you visit your local
art museum and behold all the majestic paintings that line the
proud corridors...I'm that girl at the end of the hallway taking pictures of
TREES through the glass of the back exit. Yeah. That's me.

--- 6 ---

In other news, I've been gearing up for the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, and so far I have prewritten three and a half posts (in accordance with my theological theme). Also, I’ve gained 8 new followers since signing up and beginning mutual visiting of others’ blogs that are on the list. This has been a good thing for me so far. It has got me writing on a regular basis. Also, participating in 7QT has got me doing more things to inspire weekly thematic posts (such as exploring the fine arts available in my city). This is good – things that get me out of my head and into the real world have been sporadic at times….
--- 7 ---
And finally, for your viewing pleasure, here is my "song of the week" - the song I've played on repeat for the last several days, because that is the annoying-to-others way in which I listen to music:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Springfield Fine Arts Exploration - Day 1

This morning I went downtown to explore some local art galleries. When I got there, I discovered most galleries are closed on Mondays! However, I found a couple that were open, and was able to go to one. It was called
and features works by local artists and students. It is either part of Missouri State's "Idea Commons" or closely related - it is just around the corner from the MSU gallery, Brick City (which was open, but not until later, so I didn't get to go there today). Squidfoo is a smaller, storefront gallery, but also a studio where its in-house artists have their own workstations. I bought a small digital print by one of the in-house artists, a student named Debbie Madden (not sure if that's how she spells her first name). This is it:
I picked up a couple business cards there. The first is the most creative one I saw:


And the other was the one that made me most interested to look up its website:
Also part of the Idea Commons was a little place called the Idea Factory. And in front of it I found these crocheted decorations:

This was painted on the front of a coffee shop, which I found humorous (her tattoo says "water"):
And last but not least, I came across a "Military Collectables" shop. What does a military collectibles shop have to do with fine art? Well...nothing. Except the step in front of the door was made of this:

(more close-up)
It was a rainy, cold Monday, so my first day was not "amazing," but it was not entirely unsuccessful, either. I enjoy finding new and interesting things.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top 10 Movie Countdown Blogfest

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting the Top 10 Movie Countdown Blogfest today.

I am trying to get in gear and start posting regularly before the April blog challenge, so I'm participating in some fun little blog hops between now and then! This is one of them. Some of my favorites, not necessarily in this order:

1. The Lord of the Rings

2. Braveheart

3. The Sandlot

4. Les Miserables

5. Harry Potter

6. Sister Act (1 & 2)

7. The Apostle

8. The Devil Wears Prada

9. Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea

10. The Holiday

There are, of course, others - but these came to mind, and I'm pretty sure they are my favorites! I am eager to see Jack the Giant Slayer, and also Oz. And I still haven't seen Lincoln! So my list could change here soon....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All Things Irish Blog Hop: Metropolitan Opera

Yesterday I attended my very first opera, Francesca da Rimini, with Irish-born Eva-Maria Westbroek performing the title role. (She was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.) The best part? I got to wear jeans. Not only this, but an older couple to my right snuck in their own caramel popcorn – imagine sneaking your own caramel popcorn into the Metropolitan Opera! But it's not what you think. No, folks...this is Met Meets the Midwest, where enjoyment and comfort outrank class.

Screen shot: Live at the Met before the start of the show.

The best part of seeing my first opera at the movies is that it had subtitles! I knew what was going on the whole time. However, I did pay attention to see if the acting was such that I would have a general idea of the plot even if there had not been subtitles. My conclusion is that the acting was superb, but the dialogue moved so slowly with the music sometimes that I would have missed A LOT if there had been no translation. I might have picked up a little. When I say the acting was superb, I mean Westbroek and her male counterparts tore it up! To be able to belt out operatic notes almost nonstop for 4 hours, and still be able to convey proper expressions at their appropriate times must be very difficult. But these guys did! Westbroek, in fact, so expressive and completely into her character, created the dramatic mood beautifully and powerfully throughout the production.

Overall, I thought it was nice to have a first-rate production, even live (though it was on a screen – but hey, so are the Oscars and the Presidential Election), conveniently available in my own small Midwestern city.

Eva-Maria Westbroek

My complaint: the intermissions were too many (three regular and one brief only to rearrange the setting near the end) and too long (15 minutes plus commentary, 12 minutes plus commentary, and 20 minutes plus commentary, respectively). I understand it takes a while for so many people (both audience and cast) to take a break and regain their seats, and the actual opera-going experience includes the facet of socialization, and also, it definitely takes some doing to get the set changed between acts, and that takes time. But one idea that might make it so there wouldn’t be a need for so many intermissions is a rotating stage. That way, all the scenes could be assembled before the performance, and when they needed switched, the curtain could drop, the stage could rotate, and a few minutes would be all that was needed. I think it’s quite genius, really (thank you). (And yes, I do realize others have probably thought of this and even implemented it long before I ever did, and there are probably very good reasons the Met does not do so!)

It must be noted, though the breaks were (in my opinion) excessive, the set was ornate, detailed, and lovely. The outfits were described as carrying the silhouette of the fashion prevalent at the time of the play's setting (13th century), but their actual detail/designs were from the era of the writer, Riccardo Zandonai (1914) to accentuate how he was influenced in the writing. Not only this, but the costumes' colors were chosen to emphasize the mood of the scene in which each was worn (light, sheer materials for the happy, opening scene, darkening to a deep, somber purple as the story progressed).

I enjoyed my first (four-hour!) opera. I would go again. But probably not on a day when I worked both nights preceding and following the production. And I would probably sneak in my own caramel popcorn.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My 2013 Life List

Last night I was inspired to write a "Life List" for 2013 - things I want to accomplish THIS YEAR. I guess you could say:
It is likely I'll add things as I go, but here is what I have so far:
1.      Get a tattoo     Done – February 27
It's a tree that was in the Joplin tornado, after it had begun to regrow.
To me, it represents resiliency and hope.
2.      Graduate from AGTS
3.      Enroll for next degree program

4.      Finish my apartment

a.       Office

b.      Bedroom

5.      See the ocean  Done – May

6.      Visit Atlanta  

7.      Go to a rodeo     Possibly in September

8.      Participate in 7 Quick Takes   Done – March 14

9.      Run the 2-mile trail at the Nature Center
10.  Private                                                                      Done - March 16

11.  Start a for-real savings account

12.  Private

13.  Volunteer at The Kitchen

14.  Go to the St. Louis Zoo

15.  Spend a day on the lake

16.  Visit the art galleries of Springfield                          Visited several - End of March

17.  Participate in the April A to Z Blog Challenge          Scheduled – April

18.  Get my CCW

19.  Go hunting

20.  Visit the Springfield history museum

21.  Attend a Springfield Cardinals baseball game           

22.  Attend an Evangel University football game

23.  Attend a Missouri State University football game

24.  Private