Tag Archives: Music

O Come O Come Emmanuel

I generally don’t like Christmas music for various reasons, but I found this a minute ago, and it’s super good. I do have to say that I am partial to this particular song.

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Not Just Waiting

I miss something I’ve never actually had. It’s kind of a confusing feeling, but I’m used to it by now. I attend Mass primarily with people around my grandmother’s age, and I’m one of about seven people who attend weekly Adoration. When we sing, I’m one of the only people who sings loudly, and I don’t sing nearly as loudly as I want to. At the Easter Mass, when the priest says, “He is risen,” and we’re supposed to repeat it triumphantly, he just repeats himself because no one says anything. We’re so used to the fact that Christ is risen that it sounds like old news. It’s not old news.

I miss the joy and triumph I know people once had. I think to a lot of people, church feels like an annoying obligation. If that weren’t the case, and if people really believed what we say we believe, we’d be louder, and Reading would be a much more Christian town. Yesterday I was teaching the kids about Advent. I had watched a video done by Bishop Robert Barron about the kingship of Jesus, and about how Advent should be about preparing for the King. I asked the kids how we might prepare for a king. They didn’t really have a concrete answer, and I realized, neither did I. I call Jesus my King, but I’m realizing that I might not exactly know what that means.

I’ve fairly recently started praying the Rosary daily. I learned how to do it a while ago, but I’ve only started to get serious about doing it within the past couple of weeks. That was when I learned that demons don’t like it one bit, and that it was just a very powerful prayer in general. At first, I have to admit, it did feel a bit mechanical. Now, I can do it really without even thinking so much about what I’m actually saying, and just focus on each of the mysteries. Just within the past few days, the Lord has given me some good stuff to think about. I’ve just been doing them in circular order, so last night I did the Sorrowful Mysteries. I hate it, but last night I realized that Jesus hurts with us when we hurt and I have no way of repaying him. As I write this, though, I’m realizing that maybe praying through his Passion is my way of hurting with him.

Yesterday I read a post entitled “Love Hurts.” It makes you vulnerable, and if you’re willing to be vulnerable, you have to be willing to let your heart be broken. I wrote in one of my stories that a broken heart has to be given away to be fixed. Two or three weeks ago, the Gospel reading at church was about when the king separates the “goats” from the “sheep,” in other words, the unrighteous from the righteous. He says to the righteous that they took care of him when he was alone, or sick, or lonely, or in need, and they say they have no idea what he’s talking about, and he says that if they did it for any of the “little guys,” they did it for him. Likewise, he says that if the unrighteous didn’t do these things, they didn’t do it for him. I hate this parable because there’s not a whole lot of practical stuff I can do to help the “little guys.”

I sulked for a day, thinking I was going to Hell for sure, and then I don’t remember what brought me to this conclusion, but I read something, or saw a video, or something, that basically led me to realize that Jesus expects us to give him what we can, not what we can’t. To tie all of this back to Advent, we have to understand that Christ is the risen King. That should be freaking us out because it’s kind of awesome. Advent isn’t just about his first coming. It’s about preparing for his second coming, too, and about recognizing his Kingship in our lives now. Jesus is a fair and loving King. He also happens to be the God of the Universe, who came into our world as a baby. As a man, and through his witnesses, he says to every single person, “I want you to do and/or believe ‘X,’ but I love you too much to make you.” We should be seriously freaking out about this. All I have to give him is my writing talents, my prayers, and my time.

Yesterday, on my break between my CCD classes, I went into the church and just hung out for half an hour or so. Since no one else was in there, I sang a song for Jesus, and then felt sort of awkward about it. I’m not very good at being quiet. Maybe that’s something I need to work on to prepare for the King this Advent. Maybe I need to turn some of the music and movies, and everything else I love off just a bit, so I can hear his voice a bit more clearly. Maybe all he needs is a little more room.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

So Will I

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. I read this tiny little thing last night, and for some reason, I just started balling my eyes out. There’s just something infinitely beautiful about it in its simplicity.

I recently discovered this song, and now I’m completely obsessed with it. I think maybe it gets at what I mean.

 

The Third Option

On Thursday night I went to confession. At the beginning of this week I gave in to the temptation I had mentioned in my post about the Bleak, but I also had a few other things to confess. The fact that I failed sucked, the fact that I had to wait to go to confession for several days sucked, and having to confess several things sucked. The priest I usually confess to is really great, though. He’s really encouraging, and when I got through my confession (which involved tears), I felt so much better. I was in an annoyingly good mood by the time I got home to harass my dad into playing with me.

I also finished writing the Bleak yesterday, and thank God for that because that was the most depressing piece of fiction I’ve ever had to write. I’ve written not-fun things before, but they’ve either been for school, or they’ve simply been tedious. The thing about my mythology is that sometimes I can write things in whatever order I want, and sometimes it simply makes sense to write things in a specific order. I’m at a point, once again, where I can finally pick whichever story I want to write next. I’m going to write the story of one of my human characters next because I’ve spent a lot of time in the other Realms of the Abyss, and it’s getting to be a bit of a head trip. A little normalcy, or familiarity at least, will do me good.

I’m working on a new song as well. I started it a while ago, but it takes me a lot longer to write songs than it does to write stories. Songs have to say more in fewer words. It’s called “Autumn Hero.” The idea for it just sort of popped into my head a few weeks ago when my mom opened the door to our deck to check on something outside and I could hear the crickets that seem to only come out, or come out more in late summer.

The first verse goes like this:

I can hear the late summer sounds
Late at night with the lights turned low
The Ghost of Beauty sings in my bones
And I can breathe I am free

This whole week, until today at least, I’ve been kind of a lunatic because I’ve felt so badly about the stuff I had to confess. After my confession I felt so free, though, and on Friday I found that I couldn’t find the words to pray. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, and in fact, I think I was sort of praying, but this whole week I realized I’ve been doing all the talking. I finally found I could just sit because everything was okay again. I know I don’t have to earn God’s forgiveness, but at the same time, I can’t help myself. His love isn’t fair, so when I mess up, I feel really bad about it. I really want to make up for it even though I can’t.

Early this morning I had a dream that involved a pretty horrible choice. First I need to mention that I was born and raised Catholic, but I didn’t really care about being Christian, nor did I realize that I needed God until about six years ago. It wasn’t until a few months later that I embraced Catholicism for real, and it was until fairly recently that I began to understand devotion to Mary.

All that being said, the choice in the dream was a very difficult one. Jesus and his mother were about to fall to their death. I could save one, but the other would not live. I had time to think about it in the dream, but I had to choose. I finally decided to save Mary because that’s what I thought Jesus would have had me do. When I woke up, I remembered this decision, and it didn’t quite sit right with me. I’m realizing there might have been a third option that simply wasn’t obvious to me in the dream. I might have been able to take the fall myself and save them both. Whether or not I’d have the courage to do something like that in “real life,” I don’t know, but it makes me wonder.

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Winter

In looking through the titles of my last several blog posts I’ve realized that winter puts me in a bad mood. I’ve known that for years, but I’m not sure it’s been so strikingly obvious. I guess it’s just kind of funny. Anyway, at least for now there isn’t really a point to this post. I had meant to work on my mythology when I got home from teaching my CCD kids, but my cousin came to visit and then I answered an email from another cousin, and now I definitely have writer’s block. In other words, I am definitely procrastinating.

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books. I’m a little way into the Chamber of Secrets now. I know I mentioned before that I gave up TV and movies for Lent, and I have to say; Lent has never felt so long. It’s also been cool, though. I’m praying more, and even though the waiting is a giant pain sometimes, by now I know that I didn’t bite off more than I can chew, and that’s kind of awesome because I LOVE a good show or a good movie. I also love a good challenge, and as long as it’s not going to actually hurt anyone, I kind of like picking fights, so I figured I’d pick a good fight with myself. So far, it looks like I’m winning.

This past weekend I bought a present for my brother. This past Christmas he got me a present and I didn’t get him anything because we don’t usually exchange gifts, so I figured I’d get him something for Easter. I got him a loop machine. He plays guitar and bass, and after an annoyingly short period of time, he’s a much better musician than I am, even though I’ve been playing much longer. He’s more technically skilled, but only plays covers. I’m not super skilled, but I write songs, so I guess it depends who you ask. I just thought the loop machine would be fun for him to play with.

I did go to Universal with my family last month. There are some perks to Muscular Dystrophy. I get to skip lines to get on the rides. I’m kind of an idiot. I went on all the scariest rides as much as I could. It’s quite possible that my version of heaven is just an absurd never-ending roller coaster madness. Of course while we were there–at the park I mean–I was a huge Potter nerd, too, but let’s face it, if there’s magic or aliens or weirdness involved, I’m all over it, whatever it is.

Lately I’ve been wanting to sing. I just want to sing. I’ve been wanting to be in a band or a duo or whatever for an insanely long time, but I can’t seem to find anyone to team up with. I think part of the problem is that I’ve really wanted to stick to the same or a similar genre that my original album is, but at this point, I just want want to sing. I’ll sing for pretty much anyone. I’ve had serious musical writer’s block for a long time partly because I’ve just found playing by myself boring at this point.

In my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Bring It On

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about when Jesus talked about building a house on a rock versus building a house on the sand. Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of cynicism and a lot of pessimism, and I wonder what this has to do with where one chooses to build their house. I remember at the beginning of Advent, going into my church and being surprised to see the purple on the altar and the Advent wreath by the entrance, but I was also excited.

A week or two later I was asked to explain the meaning of the Advent wreath to my fourth grade class, and honestly, I had to google it. The wreath itself represents eternity. The three purple candles represent love, peace, and hope, The pink candle represents joy, and the white candle which is lit on Christmas Eve represents purity. My godmother came to visit during the first week of Advent, and she drew an advent wreath on our chalkboard. Even though it’s just a drawing, it’s been exciting each week to draw a yellow light on each of the candles.

In scripture, God is referred to as our rock, our fortress, and our refuge. He has been that for me over and over. This weekend is Christmas. All the candles will be lit. There won’t be any more darkness. Still, scrolling through Facebook, I see darkness, sadness, and bad news. I heard once from someone who went to a therapist that they were told every ship needs a sail and an anchor. Some people are sails, and some people are anchors. Some people lead to new adventures, risks to take, and experiences to delight in or learn from. Others lead home. Using that analogy, it seems to me that so many people are sailing ships with no anchors.

Last week I finished a song about the aftermath of the election. Don’t worry, this’ll be quick; I know we’re all sick of talking about it. Both Clinton supporters and Trump supporters have been unfair and unkind, and in some cases, violent. I supported neither candidate. I didn’t vote. There’s a line in my song that says “I have one king.” The chorus of the song says:

I dare you to lose
Stare down your own defeat
And defiantly believe
That it’s true you can live on hope alone

I think a lot of people have lost hope. I think Trump won because people lost faith in the government, and I think the people who didn’t support him lost hope because they still had faith in the government. Either way, everybody lost. Everybody lost if we’re only talking about the present, the immediate future, and the reality we know apart from God’s part in it. Everybody lost if we forget to hope.

Jesus is king no matter what, and he will always be king no matter what. There is no reason to lose hope at Christmas time. It’s not about whether or not one has amazing decorations, or can hold extravagant parties, or can afford the newest, greatest gifts. What matters is the reason for celebrating. Last week I spent an hour with my fourth grade class as usual. I brought my ukulele and a bag of cookies my mom made. We sang a few songs, and my assistant teacher read a couple stories to the kids. It was one of the most worshipful hours I’ve spent during Advent, and I spent it with eleven little kids.

For some, Christmas is one of the only times to get together with family. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food. One of our favorite traditions is to get my parents, brother, aunt, cousin and me into the car, get some hot chocolate or coffee and drive around and look at everyone’s lights. It’s fun to make our neighborhoods look pretty, and Christmas is a good excuse. For some, however, the weeks before Christmas are not fun. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, some are simply stretching themselves too thin. Some are reminded of bad experiences connected to this time. Some go hungry. Some are cold. Some spend the holiday alone.

The first Christmas wasn’t a party. The first Christmas was dark and dangerous. Jesus’ life was in danger from the moment he was born. I don’t think he would want the world to forget that for the sake of having a good time. I think he might find it easier to identify with the people who aren’t having a good time. For those of us who are, it’s important to remember why, and to invite the Lord to have a good time with us. It can be as simple as remembering to pray before Christmas dinner, and making sure we get to church.

I’ve seen so many posts about how 2016 has been a really crappy year. Okay, in many ways I can’t disagree. Maybe it’s just been another year for me, but we’ve had political unrest in our country, and the Middle East is still in turmoil. There have been terrorist attacks in various countries all over the world, and sometimes it looks like the world is going to end. As we fight for a better life for ourselves and others, we are dished out more problems. Yes, 2016 has looked bleak in many ways. We’ve had to stare darkness in the face.

We have two options this Christmas and in the weeks to come. We can look at that darkness, often disguised in songs about snowmen and sleigh rides: candy and chaos: we can look into that darkness and see only war and death; or we can look into that darkness and defiantly say, “bring it on. I have the Light of the World inside of me. Jesus is with me, and that’s all I need.” We can live on hope alone.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Random Banter

Humans, as I write this, you should see my hair. My bird is sitting on my head, my hair is all over the place, including in my eyes, and he has made a nest. Every time I go to move it out of my face he growls at me. I am harboring a demon bird.

Anyway, spoiled animals aside, I have good news. I started a new medication a few weeks ago to better deal with my epilepsy, and it really seems to be working. I’ve had two or three little problems within about a month, which is nothing compared to what it had been. The beautiful thing about it is that I can do things I couldn’t before. Before I literally could not be hungry without having problems. Now I have to be pretty famished to have any trouble at all. I can also turn the water on as hot as I want in the shower. I don’t know why the hot water messed me up, but now I don’t have to worry about it.

The other good news is that I’m going to start working with another songwriter and producer in the near future. She and her boyfriend are working on a project centered on love and, in her words, “positive energy.” The nice thing is that, I asked, and worship music is totally on the table. I’ll do a little bit of everything. I like to be subtle when I write worship stuff anyway. I haven’t done a whole lot of songwriting lately because I’ve been reading and writing everything else. It’ll be fun to get back into it. I don’t expect this to be a super serious project, but the style of music is one I usually don’t delve into, so I think it will be good in general to get outside my comfort zone. Plus, you have to write to defeat writer’s block. Go figure.

I don’t really have much else to report. I’m kind of in that weird position where I have too much and not enough time to kill. My dad should be home soon, and my godmother is coming to stay for a few days, so that should be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Thursday Night

On Monday I got an email from a guy who is friends with the youth minister at our church. He’s a seminarian, and has spent most of the summer at a church one town over. Brad had told him that I play guitar and like worship music, so he contacted me regarding a service he was putting together on Thursday. I said I’d be delighted to play, but I’d need a few details. He didn’t get back to me until Wednesday, but he wanted to meet in person. I invited him to my house, and we talked about what music we would do. We decided on four songs, only one of which I knew, so I had just over twenty four hours to prepare. A rookie mistake when it comes to music is to sign up for something like this on ludicrously short notice. I’ve done it before, and it hasn’t turned out well.

Luckily the songs were very simple, one of them we decided to do acapela, and I learned them very quickly. I also had an epiphany when I went to bed Wednesday night. My epilepsy started acting up a bit, and when it does this I try hard to pray. The problem is that epilepsy inhibits me from using words, so I had to figure out a way to pray without them. Interestingly, I can still process visual ideas, if you will, and that includes the shape of words, so I traced Jesus’ name on my arm over and over. All I need is to know that he’s with me when I’m having problems, and that did the trick. My epilepsy is the one thing that really scares me these days, but I think I figured out how to fix that. It was a darn simple fix.

Last night I arrived at the church a few minutes early so Aaron could set me up. The purpose of this event was to call on the Holy Spirit to give us new energy and new excitement for the Gospel, and also to give us whatever gifts we need to share our faith. This was his first time organizing something like this, and it was my first time actually leading worship. Before people started arriving we prayed, and our prayer was: “Jesus, we don’t know what we’re doing, but you do, so you lead us.” As expected, we made a couple mistakes, but overall, I think the whole thing went well. I think Aaron will be a phenomenal priest. His prayers were genuine and faithful, and I could tell that something amazing was happening in that chapel.

I read a thing the other day about how God doesn’t expect us to be “good enough.” He wants us to rely on him to be good enough; strong enough; smart enough; eloquent enough; brave enough. He is enough. There’s a line in one of the songs I played last night that goes: “You are hope, you are hope, you have covered all my sin.” I don’t even know how to explain how much that means. Once again I’m realizing just how much God loves me, and how beautifully unfair that is. It used to vaguely bother me that his love is unfair; that I can’t equal it, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t want a God whose love is fair. I love him more because I can never equal him. The fact that his love is infinite means that I can always grow in love; I can always change; I can always do better because he is always leading me. It also means that now matter how bad I mess up, he will still love me, and that especially makes me want to do better.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Have An Ending!

Yesterday I figured out how to finish my book. I’m rather excited about that. I’m not actually very close to the end, but I’ve felt like I have no idea where I’m going, and if I have a “destination,” I’ll be more productive because I’m writing more with a purpose. I’ve had several ideas for an ending vaguely bouncing around in my head for a while, but I didn’t really love any of them. Part of my problem was that I needed an ending that would allow my story to be a stand-alone thimg, while still allowing for potential sequels, and yesterday I figured it out. It’s hard for me to write about this because I can’t give the ending away before I’m even done writing it.

I actually didn’t get to write a lot yesterday, but I got a lot of scheming done, and I’ve realized that I’m a rather violent author. I keep doing mean things to the nicest characters. It’s not necessarily because I want to. They just happen to be the most vulnerable. I find them to be the most interesting, too, though. One of them also happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in the story, but she’s a little messed up in the head. The guy I’m presently being mean to is going to have his share of vengeance, but it probably won’t come about until the next book. I’m really hoping I get a chance to write at least one or two sequels. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this story. It’s hard to write, but I love the characters.

I also still don’t have a title. Titles for songs are easy, but nothing seems to fit for this book. It’s still saved in my computer as “Fantasy Story,” and it ended up being science fiction. I feel like a title is the one last conclusive thing I have to figure out for this book. Now that I know how to finish it, I feel like I know, at least a little better, how to fill in the details. The title doesn’t really mater until it’s done, but I just want to be able to call it something other than “my story.” This whole process feels surreal to me. My dad and I were eating lunch two days ago, and I was talking about my most recent additions, and he started talking about making this into a movie. I haven’t even finished it yet. My dad says I’m too cautious with my art. He says I just have to run with it and assume I’m going to be the next great sci-fi writer. Yesterday, while I was eating lunch with my mom, she said “When this gets published you’ll be at book signings in Tennessee and all over the place.” Evidently, my parents have more confidence in my book than I do.

I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve written so far in just over two hundred pages. There are a few specific scenes that I think probably need work, but I mostly feel like I know what I’m doing at this point. I’ve given up on trying to predict how long it will be. I’m just really excited because I feel like I have real direction now. One thing I seem to have the most trouble with is timing, particularly when I’m trying to write intense, fast-paced scenes. It’s almost like my mind can’t keep up with the story. It’s hard for me to visualize large scale battles, in particular. I’ve only had to write one so far, and I think it turned out okay, but it’s definitely one of the things that need work. It had to happen the way it did in order to further the plot. I’m just not sure I love the style.

I think I’m going to have to get my friend to read this and tell me what needs fixin’ before I send it to any publisher. I’ve talked about my story to basically everyone, but I want to get a reader’s perspective. Something I learned in various classes, both about music and any other form of writing is that you have to figure out who your audience is and write for that audience. I found out by accident that most of the people who like my music are old… or at least my parents’ age… so old. From the beginning I decided that I wanted the audience for my story to be people like me. I wanted to write a story that I would read. This is partly because I took every creative writing class my school offered, and the closest I got to sci-fi was a (realistic) fiction class. I’ve come to understand that science fiction and fantasy are seen as illegitimate or unartful genres in the hoity-toity literary world, and I intend to change that. I will write a darn good, interesting, thought provoking story, and everyone will have to read it (evil laugh ensues).