Watched/Read/Listened – End of June 2017

From mid-June to mid-July, my commute goes from 25+ minutes each way to about 7 minutes each way because of a lovely blessing I like to call The Magic House, where I housesit every summer. It’s a good thing for me for many reasons, including the wonderful little deck where I can spend hours reading & watching clouds go by. In fact, I’m sitting on the deck right now as I write, watching the sun drift down and enjoying the cool of the evening, surrounded by lovely potted flowers.

The only downside from this is that I spend a lot less time in the car, and therefore a lot less time listening to podcasts. Thus, my “listening” section of W/R/L is really condensed (if not gone completely). Still, there’s a bit to report in the Watched and Read sections, so I’ll share a bit of that from the final two weeks of June.

WATCHED

Riverdale.  This show was on my “maybe check out” from this past TV season, but I never managed to put the premiere on the DVR. What made me check it out finally? It was on Netflix on a night I needed some brain candy, and the next thing I knew I had watched three episodes, and very nearly went for the fourth until I realized how late it was AND that I really wanted my wife to try it. That was Tuesday night. We’d finished the whole thing by the following Monday. (It helped that the weather wasn’t super great that weekend.)

Why do I like it? My friend asked me the other day, and it’s hard to articulate exactly what it is – as my friend Richard says, it’s not like the acting is spectacular or the plots are mind-blowing (some of the plotlines very disappointingly dropped the ball.) Honestly, I think it’s simply that it’s excellent brain candy that tantalizes with a few intriguing plot twists, some slow character development and Cole Sprouse.

House of Cards. 5 seasons of House of Cards, lots of buzz about it, and I had never checked it out. But my brother-in-law loves it, so we thought we’d give it a try. We’ve finished nine episodes of Season 1. I’m enjoying it, but it’s so dark & twisty that it’s hard to bingewatch it without getting down (which was my fear and why I never watched it.) Still, I think the acting is phenomenal and the plotlines are fantastic, so I know I’ll go back to it.

Harry Potter Weekend. Because it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen the films or that I own most of them, I will still watch them on Freeform, even though they are just a vehicle for commercials for various Freeform premieres.

The Great British Baking Show, Season 4. As I’m writing this, I realize that you, dear reader, have no idea of my obsession with this show. When I am sad, I watch Baking. When I am happy, I watch Baking. I own all of the seasons and binge-rewatch them regularly. And so, with the new series that debuted in June, I am all about the Baking. If you’ve not seen it, do give it a try. Go back and watch old seasons. Watch the magic of a competition show where people are exceedingly nice to one another, where they even HELP each other, where the judges do not rant, rave or insult, where you grow to love the participants, and the hosts are full of wonderful jokes and sheer kindness. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s my happy place.

Beauty and the Beast (2017). FINALLY. I really should have seen this in the theater, but I’m no good at going to the movies. It was fantastic. Really enjoyed Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Heck, I enjoyed everything, which surprised me a bit, because I get twitchy about hearing songs that I know really well sung differently. I think I might like this version even better than the original.

READ

My fiction reading was The Invisible Library, billed as Doctor Who meets Librarian Spies. Totally my thing! Unfortunately, while the premise is pretty great, it appears to suffer from what I like to call George RR Martin syndrome, aka “Here’s an awesome idea! Here’s another! And another! Wouldn’t it be cool if?” until the story is a tangled web. Sigh.

I read a couple of great non-fiction blogs and magazine articles, too. Two are columns in the latest O (Oprah) Magazine.

Martha Beck, Food of the Gods (6 Things You Need to Do to Feed Your Soul).  When it comes to diets, you’ll get lots of advice. Some people swear by Whole30. Some swear by Paleo. Some say staying gluten-free changed their lives. Your mileage may vary, but one thing that’s absolutely true: you need to find what works for your body to help it be the healthiest it can be. The same is true of spiritual practices. Ask ten people what helps them be the best person they can be, and you’re likely to get ten different answers, from prayer to yoga to singing. Some find Buddhist principles nourishing, others prefer traditional Christian prayer like the Daily Office. Beck offers six ideas for finding practices that nourish you – and you might be surprised by what she suggests. (If you find her article intriguing, I encourage you to check out my friend Meredith Gould‘s outstanding book Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice.)

 

 

 

A prayer tonight For Those Who Feel Helpless

 

A pray tonight for those who Feel Helpless. Who think they are never going to be able to do enough, so they don’t try. Who are petrified of speaking on the phone, so they don’t call. Who hear about a friend going through a terrifying experience and can’t begin to figure out how to help, because if you only have $25 is it better to give it to him or give it toward a cause that could alleviate what caused the situation. Who can’t articulate the dream, so they don’t make the goals, so they don’t make the plan. Who have done All The Things Right, made the calls, made the plans, and still just feel like they didn’t help at all.

In all we encounter, may Grace ever be our guide. May we seek Grace. May we offer it abundantly to one another. May we be Grace-filled. May Grace ease our Spirits and rejuvenate us. May Grace inspire us and carry us.

May we rest in God’s peace this night.

A prayer for the Sundays.

A prayer for the Sundays. Maybe the weekend was superbusy & you need a weekend to recover. Maybe there was sunburn. Maybe Harry Potter Weekend was just what you needed. Maybe you’re already counting down to the holiday weekend. Maybe you’re missing a dear friend. Maybe the music Saturday night wowed you. Maybe the stuff still isn’t unpacked. Maybe it’s a week of nervewracking firsts. Maybe you have one wish: to be the best person you can be, but that feels pretty hard right now.
 
In all we encounter, may Grace ever be our guide. May we seek Grace. May we offer it abundantly to one another. May we be Grace-filled. May Grace ease our Spirits and rejuvenate us. May Grace inspire us and carry us.
May we rest in God’s peace this night.

Night Prayer | A Prayer for the Hurting

A prayer tonight for the Hurting. Who have lost all material possessions. Who are searching for a loved one. Who are in a hospital bed recovering. Who are wondering how, wondering why. Who witnessed violence. Who cannot sleep tonight because they are terrified. Who are mourning.

We cling to grace. We hold tight to it. We trust it to bind us together and inspire us to a better way. We trust it to comfort and guide us in our pain.

May we rest in God’s peace this night.

W/R/L | 28 May – 3 June 2017

Dear readers – this was perhaps a much more exciting week. At least from my perspective. (It really is remarkable what one can experience when not dulled by Migraine.)

WATCHED

Red Nose Day Special on NBC. Listen, we all know that the best Red Nose Day skit is this one with David Tennant and Catherine Tate (close second: the “original carpool karaoke” with James Corden & George Michael.) NBC is still working up the hype with the US version (and as James Corden mentioned on a recent Talking with Chris Hardwick, the issues of networks and contracts make it difficult to draw specific star power, even when someone like Corden would like to be a part of it) so there was something missing. It would be really great of Red Nose Day to grow to a cooperative event like Stand Up to Cancer concerts have been.

I should be honest, though. I really only watched for two things: Stephen Amell’s run on Ninja Warrior and Red Nose Actually.

Witness Stephen Amell in all his Salmon Laddering glory:

And Red Nose Actually. Which was fun and lovely.

And then, of course, I watched lots and lots and lots of softball at the Women’s College World Series started up. There were surprises and heartbreaks, but by the end of the weekend, the bracket was shaped up into pretty much exactly what I thought it might be.

READ

Still working on Assassin’s Fate, and loving it so much I might need to do a re-read this summer of the original FarSeer books.

And then their was this article about a robot priest called BlessU-2, which offers  “blessings in a choice of German, English, French, Spanish or Polish. Worshippers can choose between a male or female voice. The robot raises its arms, flashes lights, recites a biblical verse and says: “God bless and protect you.” If requested, it will provide a printout of its words.” It’s not intended to replace priests; it’s meant to provoke a debate about whether one needs a human to receive a blessing. I’m on the side of “yes, you need a human”, because a blessing is so much more than the words. A blessing comes from the connection humans have with the Divine through one another. An offered blessing comes from one human’s desire to share their experience of the Divine with another; without the conviction of experience, the blessing is hollow. It is only words. It must be infused with something Other, something a robot cannot offer, for the robot has not known the love of the Divine.

LISTENED

Speaking of blessings, I had a great one Memorial Day weekend when I ventured to Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Joy, PA for worship. I came to know Trinity when my wife’s grandfather died. He was a long-time, devoted member of Trinity. When we went to the funeral, I found myself wandering a bit, church nerd that I am, and exploring – where I encountered Pastor Mike Martine, who later introduced me to Associate Pastor Matt Pensinger. We had a lovely chat, friended each other on Facebook, and stayed in touch. One of the very cool things Trinity does is offer “contemporary” worship with a band, so that was the service we attended, and wow-oh-wow was it Awesome with a Capital A.

The hallmark of the service is the music, which provoked an unexpected reaction in me. Like many progressive Christians, I have an awkward relationship with “worship” music.  The theology can be… questionable.  Sometimes it’s over simplified, sometimes it just sets forth something that perpetuates harmful tropes. It’s probably been 4 or 5 years since I’ve listened to any new Christian music because I’ve just avoided it. In March, when I presented at a United Methodist evangelization event, I was surprised by how much I responded to the truly great music, even though the lyrics of one song made me slightly uncomfortable. Since then, I’ve been pondering how our theological foundation is crucial to what we understand when we sing this music.  What I hear in a song (or prayer or sermon) depends upon what my context is as a human being. What have I experienced of the Divine? What do I know to be true? Do these lyrics confirm this or are they contradictory?

When I worshipped at Trinity, I realized just how true this is. At Trinity, a progressive, liberating, integrated theology is preached and taught at all ages. Service born out of love for God (leading to love of neighbor) is their truth. There is hope when you sing “You are good You are good/When there’s nothing good in me” because what you have been taught within the community is that God is good, God is loving, and grace pervades all.  Not all communities provide this in their preaching and teaching. Not all children learn this in faith formation. Far too often the words “When there’s nothing good in me” lead to shame that is exploited within the community. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Driving home from Pennsylvania, I thought about whether there was space in my life to explore worship music again, and decided to give it a try. I spent some time with Spotify and found some music I really liked. I found lyrics I really liked. I found at least one song that I was super-singable but the lyrics made me cringe.

I’m still pondering all of this, (and not just the theology. Do I have a responsibility not to financially support a band that comes from a church that is notoriously anti-LGBTQ, for example.) I suspect there will be a longer blogpost about this coming. In the meantime, it’s not lost on me that I spent a week not really listening to any podcasts, just listening to (and singing loudly!) Jesus music, and I had a really, really good week.

Here are a couple of the songs that I especially liked listening to last week.

Until next week, dear ones. <3