Monday, January 17, 2011

Choose: just or unjust?

Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
is the man who gains riches
by unjust means.
When his life is half gone, they will desert him,
and in the end he will prove
to be a fool.
(Jeremiah 17:11)

Documentaries, in general, are a good thing. Sure, we can watch too many of them and overwhelm ourselves; "take their word for it" without seeking further information; allow this to suck our time away from being with humans, face-to-face. But many documentaries bring to light important issues, ones that we find ourselves right in the middle of.

Yesterday, the Geigers and I watched Black Gold, which is about the unjust purchase, trade, etc. of coffee, particularly from Ethiopian farmers (highlighted in this film). We already knew, without a doubt, that coffee and its farmers are one of the top most highly abused crop/producers in the world.

Today, I will choose. I will pay more money for coffee fairly traded (which is not always guaranteed just by a label declaring "Fair Trade"). Today, I will choose to use the resources entrusted to me in just and whole ways.

How will you choose?

Monday, January 10, 2011

washing dishes: a practice in the presence

Tonight we went "off the grid" (not using electricity, at least, partly) for the evening, using only candlelight for our Family dinner (the Pates + Jason). Admittedly, I was inspired by my reading of GOOD magazine: the energy issue, just before dinner, and as soon as the fellas returned from the grocery, I announced my "suggestion" (which I had pretty much decided already. I still need lessons in submission to my community, eh?)

We cooked with light, but as soon as the food hit the table (grilled cheese + tomato soup, of which Dane F. would hopefully give scratch factors of 5 and 8, respectively [we canned our own tomatoes]) it was candlelight and conversation.

We even washed the dishes by candlelight, taking candles from room to room. I washed the first half; Jason, the second. When I handed over my shift, I challenged him to find one or two things he noticed, liked, etc. about washing the dishes by candlelight.

And he said this: "The candlelight turns this into a reflective time. I can practice the presence of God, surrounded by candlelight which automatically triggers prayer for me, the nearness of God."

We both agreed that candles are a very real reminder that the Light - Jesus the Christ - is with us, around us. During my dish-washing shift, I took note of the icicles outside the window, illuminated by the candle on the sill.

Icicles, reflection, peace, the very real Light, the presence of Jesus.

Sometimes it "pays" to go "off the grid"...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Songwriter's Retreat: endings and beginnings (+ quotes!)

Well, we did it. We took off from the normal, everydayness and took the plunge into the intensity of songwriting in community. In the end, we wrote and recorded 13 songs, some which came to us as one word or phrase; others with a better skeleton; still others which were mostly finished but needed the ear and voice of another living soul. All were our seed-songs, given to each other to help them grow up.

Stay tuned to hear what happens with this collection of souls and songs. Some of us are getting married; others are going to Ghana for many months. And the songs will eventually make their way into the final stages of songmaking (mixing, re-mixing, and still more mixing!) Hopefully your ear will lend a listen!

As for the rest of this writing, below are some of our favorite qoutes (and pictures!) from the weekend, of which I gave context where needed to understand why something was said the way it was said (though mostly, when you're tired and silly, you don't know why you say what you say!)

from The Quote Page
Songwriter's Retreat 2010

(before recording a live clap-track for one of our songs)
"Should we clap off-beat on purpose?" Katie
"No; that'll happen naturally." Matthew

"They were so few in number but they had so many brains!"
Eric & Matthew

"I'm sorry I screwed it up (meaning the vocals in the song)." Matt
"You didn't screw it up, that's just the way you sing." Abbye

"Abbye, your voice is angelic!" Katie
"Well, it's debatable..." Abbye

"Don't touch my butt, Katie!"Matthew
"But your butt is just so touchable." Abbye (chiming in)
(Uncomfortable laughter from Matthew)
"Hey, you opened it... the can of worms, I mean, not your butt." Abbye
*Disclaimer: No one touched anyone else's butt. Ever.

(While looking at a picture being drawn)
"Is that Abbye?" Katie
"Um, well, this girl's black..." Eric

"Urethra Franklin!" Matthew
(in a conversation that somehow led to bladder infections)

"God, your company is so dreary." Matthew
(sometimes it's difficult to get those lyrics right)

"Tongue, what?!" Katie
(you really shouldn't eat from street vendors in Ghana...)

"Be astonished! We are common men with a mighty message." Eric
(Inspired by the reading of Acts 4:13)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Songwriter's Retreat, Day 4: freedom in confession (or "What you learn from being cooped up in a cabin for 4 days")

Confession happened in the Bear Cub Cabin this morning. By day 4 of sleeping, eating, collaborating, and singing in a two-story, 4-bedroom cabin, (with 5 people) we are bound to be short with one another, inconsiderate, and selfish at times. We have proven that even 5 artists, excited to be together, aren't immune from the sin of selfish ambition and the world's voice that says, "Your wants and needs matter most."

But even though we've not always been considerate, we've filled the air with confession and gentleness. A few of us took some time to speak of the envy we've felt about friendships, lack of confidence in our ability to find the right harmony, the strain of time-constraint when recording music that includes multiple musicians and vocalists.

And in speaking some of these things, we've been met with forgiveness and relief... which is, indeed, a relief! And with this confession, forgiveness, relief, we've grown in greater intimacy wth these friends, whether or not we knew each other's middle names or how we take our coffee before we came together this week.

I don't think we expected confession when we came here. But depth in relationships doesn't happen without honesty; I'm so thankful for these friends who helped us live into this.

What else have we learned from being cooped up in a cabin for 4 days? That meals are better by candlelight, unhurried, d r a w n out. That butter is better than margarine. That damp wood will not successfully build a fire! That togetherness is good. That pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins are best when microwaved for 20 seconds, then eaten with a glass of milk (this lesson we really learned!)

Oh, we've learned a lot; we've gained a lot. We've gained a truer picture of how we can submit to one another; we've gained new, deeper friendships; we've gained a real togetherness.