Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday's Lyric: All My Favorite People, Over The Rhine

Over the Rhine has been a sleeper favorite band for me for a long time. I had known about them peripherally for a while, but I first connected with their music when I was in charge of ordering books and music for a church bookstore and coffeeshop. In search of more than spit-shined Nashville CCM (no offense) I ordered in their two albums, Ohio and Drunkard's Prayer. We played those two albums often until a ladies' book club was enjoying a moment of silence one day and noticed an F-bomb in one of the songs, after which we were commanded not to play them in the store. But I still had plenty of time for the rich, honest lyrics to sink into my mind. 

Three years ago, I went to the Calvin Festival of Faith and Music with my sister and our good friends Naomi and Justin. Over the Rhine (Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist) were the headliners for the Saturday night wrap up concert, but they also taught a small breakout session on songwriting. It was scheduled at 8:00 am on Friday morning, and we got there early to get good seats for the sold-out class, clutching cups of coffee. Linford and Karin arrived about 5 minutes before class, wrapped in sweatshirts and scarves, clutching cups of coffee and grinning a little ruefully about early mornings.

Casually, they simply answered questions and extemporized about songwriting, Linford often from behind the piano playing bits and pieces of songs to illustrate points. 

To the question, "What are some elements that make up a great song for you?" Linford answered "The first eight to ten words are a critical element. They should draw you in, like a great opening line in a story or poem." 

On Saturday night, I went with friends to the Triple Door in Seattle for a dinner-concert. Over the Rhine has played here at the end of November for the past few years, and it's the perfect time of year to listen to them. Introducing this song, Linford said that it had been in the works for about 5 years. "I'm glad it's finally arrived in time for this album," he said, "because I think it's something I have to remember every day."

All my favorite people are broken 
Believe me 
My heart should know 
Some prayers are better left unspoken 
I just wanna hold you 
And let the rest go 

 All my friends are part saint and part sinner 
We lean on each other 
Try to rise above 
We’re not afraid to admit we’re all still beginners 
We’re all late bloomers 
When it comes to love 

All my favorite people are broken 
Believe me 
My heart should know 

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers 
Step forward 
You can stay right here 
You don’t have to go 

 Is each wound you’ve received 
Just a burdensome gift? 
It gets so hard to lift 
Yourself up off the ground 

 But the poet says, 
We must praise the mutilated world 
We’re all workin’ the graveyard shift 
You might as well sing along 

All my favorite people are broken 
Believe me 
My heart should know 

 (As for) your tender heart— 
This world’s gonna rip it wide open 
It ain’t gonna be pretty 
But you’re not alone 

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken 
Believe me 
My heart should know 

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers 
You’re welcome 
Yeah, you’re safe right here 
You don’t have to go 

‘Cause all my favorite people are broken 
Believe me I should know 
Some prayers are better left unspoken 
I just wanna hold you 
And let the rest go

*the video is not an official music video, but was put 
together for a church service in Knoxville, TN. 
What a great song for the church to hear.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Everybody has a dream that they will never own.
--The Laugh of Recognition, Over the Rhine

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sara and I were roommates for over 3 years. We have worked on many a project, hosted many a party, cooked up many a feast together. 

This week I get to visit, meet her brand-new daughter and enjoy a few days of assorted fun with her family.

A few years ago, I went to visit her on my birthday, right after she was engaged, and we held an art night in the garage, just like we used to. This photo makes me smile.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mutual Influence

“I’m about to tell you something that will BLOW YOUR MIND.” I typed to my sister the other day.
“Proceed with mind-blowing.” She typed back.
Mindy Kaling is following me on twitter.” I typed.
“DUDE.  How did you get so famous?”
“I feel my existence on this planet is justified because Mindy Kaling follows me on twitter.”
There’s a slight pause as I look at the tiny “Friend” accompanied by a tiny, positive green check mark in Mindy Kaling’s feed in my TweetDeck screen. A particle of doubt enters my mind. I click on @rarariot, and the “Friend” along with the green check mark appears. I click on a sure-fire one who wouldn’t follow me, @MichaelHyatt (he wrote a blog post to this effect), and I see the little “Friend” with that blasted little green check mark.
I am considerably deflated.
“oh. Wait.” I type. At the same time, she types:
“I do not think that means what you think it means?”
“huh. I thought it meant a mutual follow. Dang it.”
“So” she types. “How is your existence.”
“Lame, Twitter, lame. ‘friend’ and ‘follower’ are way not the same thing. Mutual followers are friends.”

That got me thinking. Of course, asking “How is Twitter following like real relationships?” is something like asking “How is a raven like a writing desk?”

Still though, among various christian Leadership activities, it's a common theme to discuss how every person should seek to have the influence of a Paul (a mentor), a Timothy(a disciple), and a Barnabas (an encourager) in their lives. I suppose you don’t need just one of each, but basically Twitter works the same way. Among many others, I follow @MindyKaling. I think she’s funny, and I respect her interests and work as one of the head writers and actors in NBC’s The Office. I think she’s a woman of influence in culture, and I want to keep up with things she’s recommending and thinking. I also follow cultural influencers @cornelwest, @makotofujimura, and @funnyordie.

Thanks to a talk from @jasonboyett at a writer’s conference, I usually follow back the people who follow me, with the necessary exception of an oddball or annoying person, bots, or someone who uses hacky social networking “solutions” to hack through to my feed and my followers. (side note: if you need a solution to fix your social networking #youredoingitwrong). However, it’s curious to follow how we end up getting connected. Sometimes it's a sort of growing into a mutual-interest based acquaintanceship. This happened with many of the artists from last year’s Sketchbook Project. I joined fan pages, added blogs to my Google Reader roll, favorited Etsy items, and followed many an artist on twitter. I won a facebook drawing for a T-shirt designed by @RobJelinski, and discussed a potential jewelry comission with @Carijanehakes (I've got to get back to that...). I got hooked on Pinterest and gained followers from curating some fun, pretty “pinboards.” I can't be sure, but I think maybe artists thrive on encouragement.

I follow more people than follow me at the moment, but if I can narrow it down, people follow me because:
1.       They know me in real life.
2.       They’re interested in something I talk about often (or they are interested in the smart things I RT from the people I follow!); Art, pop-culture, food, travel, gospel, (weddings, according to and others.
3.     They found me through a common interest. We may have commented on the same blog, or connected on Pinterest or Etsy, or listened to the same podcast. Sometimes a small comment or connection will inspire a follow, just to see what happens; sometimes a life-giving conversation grows out of it, but sometimes nothing happens to foster the initial connection.

     At least, that's why I follow people.

    but it's not the followers or the follow-ees that really get the full benefit of conversation, relationship. It's the mutual followers. According to, my "top followers" are my sister @JessiGering, my friend @petiteartichoke, (which friendship has been conducted almost entirely online), and friends-of-a-feather @luzbonita, @janisecookston, and @sknep (all three artist/designer and in-real-life friends), @teenbug, an old friend first from college and rather secondarily but possibly more significantly,the post-college blogosphere, and @akimoku, my lovely writer/co-worker friend. These are the people I talk to most, these are the ones who foster mutual influence.

   It takes a mutual followership to create a true conversation. 

    For those of you who don't have Twitter accounts for the reason that it's simply another stream of cluttery data clogging up your already-too-absorbing online life...well, you're probably missing out on a lot of clutter and a few great conversations.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday's Lyric: On Your Side, Susan Enan

I've enjoyed being a part of a group of friends who have co-erced our friend James, who has a large house, to host a few house shows over the past year. So far, we've helped him host David Bazan and most recently, British-born singer-songwriter Susan Enan. 

I first heard of Susan through a Paste Magazine music sampler, where her song 'Bird' became a staple song on my favorite mix ever, the Run Away Album.

When her album 'Plainsong' came out, I bought it the day it released. It's an album of quiet, sweet, intimately honest and hopeful lyrics paired with a uniquely passionate voice.

Susan arrived early for the show, (incidentally, almost as early as David Bazan was late) and stood around in James' kitchen, casually chatting with us about the area, the drive, and her current tour, in which she had covered 18 countries, almost exclusively doing house shows. She was headed to Folsom Prison in a few weeks. Be sure to view her blog about the experience there. 

She set up a few t-shirts, cds, and a baby onesie with a lyric from one of her songs, 'Bring On the Wonder,' on James' kitchen table. When I bought a t-shirt, she pulled the size I needed out of a backpack. 

What I love about live music in general, is that it's nearly impossible to multi-task. I know people do it, and I usually snap a picture or two myself. But to truly enjoy is to really enter in to a several-hour 'moment' where all you have to do is be present, enter in, and enjoy (because, opposed to a book or a movie experience, a response is required). I know this is what conversation with God should be like, and really, live music sometimes is the closest you get in our busy lives. Perhaps a reason why worship music is such a phenomenon in recent...centuries, I suppose.

With the house concert in particular, I was sitting about a dozen feet directly in front of Susan until she pulled the chair a few feet forward, like a pre-school teacher during 'circle time.'

In her soft speaking voice, she said that even though she was expecting a friend from Vancouver to show up at any time, she supposed we should begin, and simply started with the song below. I knew the song from her album, but her soulful voice as well as the points of tension affecting my soul at the time brought my attention to the beauty of, and the innate need we all feel, a friend who sticks 'closer than a brother.' That friend who believes you're all right in spite of failures, who is truly there, who is alibi, light, and refuge. Who knows the worst and yet believes the best.

"On Your Side" 
from the album Plainsong by Susan Enan

If your lights are ever broken
And your vision’s less than calm
In the midst of the unspoken
I’m on your side.

If your guns are ever smokin’
I will be your alibi
I’ll be the drink to stop your chokin’
I’m on your side.

‘round the corner may be hills to climb
But you’re doin’ all right

If your morning brings a black sun
I will be your neon light
Drop your nets into the ocean
I’m on your side.

‘round the corner may be hills to climb
But you’re doin’ all right

If you’re feeling tired and weary
Let me carry you away
If you only do this, hear me
Singing, I’m on your side.

If you struggle for the finish
Across the great divide
If we’re all made in the image
Be on my side.

‘round the corner may be hills to climb
But we’re doin’ all right.
I’m on your side, yeah, I’m on your side
I’m on your side
I’m on your side

And just like that, first song, listening to every clear word expressing hope and belief in relationship, I was in tears. Because how often do we stop and listen to needs like this? We roar endlessly and almost thoughtlessly about feeling empty, alone, busy, tired, marginalized, constantly put-upon. But to stop and listen to the need and also the hope it means for ourselves, our communities...that is a rare kindness.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It's a good thing I've never had my heart shattered like crystal
Never carried its precious burden out to share with a guest
and had it beaten from my hands
and handed back to me in pieces.

No, I am built of different stuff, of clay, not crystal. Lucky
to be so unfragile, so dependable, something to use
Every day.