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The Perfect Sunday

24 Jan

Church service was beautiful yesterday, as usual. I don’t normally video anything during church, only when we have special events, but I thought y’all might enjoy seeing what a normal service is like at Liberty Universalist.

It’s a very small rural church where the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet come to fellowship and support each other on their spiritual journey. Music is always a big part of that.

Because we’re so small, we have a lay minister that only comes once every other month, on the 4th Sunday. On the 4th Sundays of the other months, when she doesn’t come, a member of the congregation conducts the service. Barbara conducted the service yesterday, and it was so lovely. I hope to do half as good of a job when it is my turn (which will be this March – eek!! I’m terribly nervous). We also meet every 2nd Sunday for planning, but next month our 2nd Sundays will turn into an Adult Forum, where we learn about a different topic each month, starting with the history and merger of the Unitarian and Universalist churches.

I will take you through the service blow-by-blow. I taped some of the conversation so I could transcribe it for you, but wouldn’t upload it to youtube because everyone should be able to share in church without worrying that a video of them will be plastered all over the internet. I did, however, upload the music. I hope this gives you a feel for what service is like at my church. I will be working on our church website this week and will update you when I need feedback.

Church opened with song:

We said the Affirmation of Covenant in unison, which is: “Love is the doctrine of this church; the quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace; to seek knowledge in freedom; to serve humankind, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the Divine – thus do we covenant with each other and with God.”

We share joys and concerns by lighting candles. Then Barbara read the Story for All Ages, which was a Mark Twain excerpt, a story of a little girl who was asking her mother why God allows, or causes, suffering. Then she talked some about love, agape love, Divine love. It was a beautiful sermon. Some things Barbara said that hit home with me were:

We’re born to love. We need to love. This human need never ends. … Our purpose in live is to embody love, to live love… But don’t be upset with someone who can’t seem to love; we’re born to love, but taught not to. … “Love your neighbor as yourself” – this means you first have to love yourself. Sometimes this can be as hard as staring at the back of your own head.

She spoke of standing on the side of love, which has become a UU movement (see the Standing on the Side of Love site for more information), a movement to harness love’s power to stop oppression.

And Jeannie played an audio clip of one of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s last sermons for us, followed by a Lucinda Williams song. I began crying early in MLK’s sermon and cried throughout the entire thing. I tried not to as that instinctual “Oh God, Brandi, please don’t cry” feeling hit me, but as I was trying to hide my tears I noticed that Jeannie was crying too. I looked out the window the entire time and allowed myself to be emotional. I felt so cleansed afterward. Here’s the clip:

I love that our church is informal enough that if one feels moved to speak or has something to offer, he or she can just speak up and start the discussion. At the end of the sermon a member of the congregation mentioned a transportation commissioner’s political ad in which he stated we need to “take back America”, and then several people expressed sadness and disgust with Alabama Governor Bentley’s statement that only Christians are his brothers and sisters. We talked about how divisive and dangerous that is, and how that is the same rhetoric our country is sharing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We discussed the language of this country, about how we have been steadily moving toward a war rhetoric, and we use conflict-based language with ease now. We talked about how some of our children (my son Nate, for instance) or grandchildren have lived in a world where their country has been at war their entire lives. And how our national discourse has morphed into an incessant war rhetoric – as one person said, “It’s not an initiative to end drug use, it’s a war on drugs. It’s not a campaign to help people out of  poverty, it’s a war on poverty; there’s a war on illiteracy… it’s all conflict-based,” and we briefly mentioned the war, and how contradictory it is to the teachings of Christ, though the main perpetrators of the war talk about ours being a “Christian Nation”.

Then we discussed what to do about it… Danny said that he thought there were more people in this part of the world that feel the way we do about that, but it’s not culturally appropriate to say so. We all expressed our frustration with the fact that it is completely okay for people to insult our beliefs, but not okay to say anything contradictory to theirs because we are the minority. Basically the discussion made each of us feel less alone in our frustration, and that’s one thing our church is always good for – making me feel less alone in this world.

We ended with this song:

I had already written most of this blog when my Plinky prompt for the day came through my email. The prompt was, “Describe your perfect Sunday.” So here it is – every Sunday that I spend with people who love and respect each other, who support each other and each other’s individual spirituality, who try to teach one another and learn from one another – that’s a perfect Sunday. And the amazing music doesn’t hurt!


What I’m Listening To

23 Jan

MUSIC: it’s what keeps me going. I love music and I love sharing it with my friends. I’ve decided that every now and then I’ll post a few songs that have been in heavy rotation on my ipod. Feedback is welcome.

Also, please tell me if you’re unable to play these. I can always post youtube videos or links, but I’m gonna be pissed if I got a space upgrade so that I can upload mp3s and it doesn’t work. I’ve tested them and they play for me, but let me know if you have problems.

Here’s what I can’t stop listening to lately:

Gold Motel: I am in love with this aptly-titled album, Summer House, which feels like summer. What a great escape from this frigid weather. Every song is amazing, but Sunshine All Night is probably my favorite. It reminds me of my time in L.A.:
Arcade Fire: Suburban War, off of their 2010 album The Suburbs, is unequivocally the best song of 2010. We can’t “agree to disagree” on this one, you just listen to it repeatedly until you concur:
The New Pornographers: Amanda turned me onto this band last summer, and I’ve been dragging them back out lately. Again, this whole album is amazing, so it was hard to choose one song for you to sample. Here’s We End Up Together from their 2010 album Together:
Girl Talk: From the 2010 album All Day, here’s my favorite, Every Day:
Kanye West: I know he can be quite the arrogant asshole, but he’s also a genius. He and I both love many of the same bands (he’s a big fan of Daft Punk, TV on the Radio, etc), and I love hearing the indie rock influences in his work. Here’s one I’ve had on repeat, it’s from his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this is Lost in the World, featuring Bon Iver:
And lest you think I’ve been doing nothing but reliving 2010, I give you a couple of much older songs that are in my Top Played List of late:

Chris has turned me into a Talking Heads fan, and these are the two songs I play the most lately. This is Road to Nowhere, from their 1985 album, Little Creatures:
And this is Sugar On My Tongue, from their 1977 album,  77:
Now what have you been listening to?

The Best Love Songs of the 21st Century (so far)

5 Sep

Click on a song name to watch a video (chosen for the sound quality and not visuals); click the artist name to go to their website.  You’re welcome to add your own favorites in the comments, but here are the very best love songs from the year 2000 to the present, according to me:

25.  I See You: The Duhks – Canada; World/Country/Folk; “I see you, for everything you are; in this sea of people, you’re the shining star; they fade away…”
24.  Sleeps With Butterflies: Tori Amos – LA by way of Maryland, born in North Carolina; Alt-Rock/Baroque/Piano Rock; “You say the word, you know I will find you, or if you need some time I don’t mind; I don’t hold on to the tail of your kite; I’m not like the girls that you’ve known, but I believe I’m worth coming home to; kiss away night, this girl only sleeps with butterflies…”
23.  Northern Lights: Bowerbirds – North Carolina; Indie-Folk; “I don’t need you to catch my wandering mind; And I don’t expect a southern girl to know the northern lights; And all I want is your eyes, in the morning as we wake for a short while…”
22.  The Only Exception: Paramore – Franklin, Tennessee (lead singer from Meridian, MS); Alt-Rock/Emo/Pop-Punk; “Up until now I had sworn to myself that I’m content with loneliness; Because none of it was ever worth the risk; Well, You, are, the only exception… You, are, the only exception…”
21.  Naked As We Came: Iron and Wine – aka Samuel Bean; Austin, TX by way of Florida by way of South Carolina; Folk Rock; “She says “If I leave before you, darling / Don’t you waste me in the ground” / I lay smiling like our sleeping children / One of us will die inside these arms / Eyes wide open, naked as we came…”
20.  Stillness Is The Move: Dirty Projectors – Brooklyn; Experimental Indie Rock; “after all that we’ve been through / I know we’ll make it after the wait / the question is a truth / there is nothing we can’t do / I’ll see you along the way baby / the stillness is the move”
19.  You Picked Me: A Fine Frenzy – Los Angeles; Indie Rock/Alt-Rock; “And all I can say, is you blow me away, Like an apple on a tree, hiding out behind the leaves, I was difficult to reach, but you picked me, Like a shell upon a beach, Just another pretty piece, I was difficult to see, but you picked me…”
18.  Big Red Heart: Tracy Bonham – Eugene, Oregon; Alt-Rock/Post-Grunge; “Suddenly oooo-oooh, suddenly oooo-ooohh, this big red heart, beats for you, beats me black and blue, and then it’s such a lonely view…” (close second: You’re My Is-ness – no video available)
17.  Reasons to Love You: Meiko – Los Angeles by way of Roberta, Georgia; Adult Alt./Indie-Pop/Folk; “I wanna fall asleep with you tonight, I wanna know that I am safe when you hold me tight, I wanna feel like I wanna feel forever…”
16.  Anyone Else But You: Moldy Peaches – New York; Anti-Folk/Garage Rock/Indie-Rock/Lo-Fi/Comedy; “You’re a part time lover and a full time friend, the monkey on you’re back is the latest trend, I don’t see what anyone can see, in anyone else… but you…”
15.  You’ve Got the Love: Florence and the Machine – London; Alternative/Indie-Rock/Soul/Baroque Pop/Art Rock; “Time after time I think “Oh Lord what’s the use?”, time after time I think it’s just no good; Sooner or later in life, the things you love you lose, but you got the love I need to see me through…”
14.  Light You Up: Shawn Mullins – Atlanta; Alt-Rock/Country Rock; “Everybody wants a real deal, everybody wants to cop a good feel, everybody want more money, everybody wanna taste o’ yo honey… I just want to light you up, light you up, like a fire, I just want to turn you on, turn you on, and take you higher…”
13.  The Girl: City and Colour – aka Dallas Green; Ontario, Canada; Acoustic/Folk/Alt-Country; “When you cry a piece of my heart dies, knowing that I may have been the cause; if you were to leave, fulfill someone else’s dreams, I think I might totally be lost; You don’t ask for no diamond rings, no delicate string of pearls, that’s why I wrote this song to sing, my beautiful girl…”
12.  No One’s Gonna Love You: Band of Horses – Seattle; Indie Rock/Alt-Country/Southern Rock; “We are the ever-living ghost of what once was, but no one is ever gonna love you more than I do, no one’s gonna love you more than I do…” (close second: For Annabelle)
11.  Might Tell You Tonight: Scissor Sisters – New York; Glam Rock/Disco/Pop/Alternative/Electroclash; “Life seems so much slower with your toothbrush by the mirror, can I make it any clearer?  And I just might say it tonight, I just might say it tonight, I just might tell you tonight that I love you, and you should stay all my life…”
10.  Hot Summer Night: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Fayston, Vermont; Indie-Alt/Blues/Rock; “It won’t stop raining, and there ain’t no explaining why I feel, feel, feel a warm summer breeze; Oh babe you make me feel like it’s a hot summer night, even though it’s the middle of the winter and it’s really bad weather, it’s a hot summer night, when I’m next to you, baby”
9.  Need You More and More: Donna the Buffalo – New York; Zydeco/Folk Rock/Country Rock/Bluegrass; “Romantics set aside, with my cheap suit and a comb, one smell of your armpit, is proof enough that I’m home; Need you, more and more; Need your love, more and more…”
8.  Die Alone: Ingrid Michaelson – New York; Indie Pop/Indie Folk; “I never thought I could love anyone but myself, now I know I can’t love anyone, but you; You make me think that maybe I won’t die alone… Maybe I won’t die alone…” (close second: The Way I Am)
7.  Birthday: the Bird and the Bee – Los Angeles; Indie Pop/Indie Rock/Synthpop; “Hold on, hold on, keep holding on to me, I will love you from the bottom, no one holds you better than me; Hold on, hold on, doin’ the best we can, I will love you on your birthday, I will love you better than them…” (close second: My Love)
6.  Us: Regina Spektor – New York by way of Moscow, USSR; Anti-Folk/Baroque Pop/ Indie Rock; “They’ll name a city after us, and later say it’s all our fault, then they’ll give us a talking to, then they’ll give us a talking to, because they’ve got years of experience…” (close second: Samson)
5.  January Wedding: The Avett Brothers – Concord, North Carolina; Indie Rock/Folk/Folk Punk/Roots Rock; “She’s talkin’ to me with her voice down so low I barely hear her, but I know what she’s sayin’, I understand because my heart and hers are the same; And in January we’re gettin’ married…”
4.  Drunk With The Thought of You: Sheryl Crow – Kennett, Missouri; Pop/Alt-Rock/Roots Rock/Folk Rock/Country Rock; “I could wait my whole life for this moment to come, with a long list of beautiful chances I’ve blown; Well if love is a cocktail of all that you do, I get drunk with the thought of you…”
3.  To Be Loved: Joan As Police Woman – Norwalk, Connecticut; Singer-songwriter; I will never know but forever I ask, how I got so lucky; All this time proceeding, silent in processional; The words, they escape me through my singing cage, of how I love you too…”
2.  Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble: Lucero – Memphis; Alt. Country/Southern Rock/Cowpunk; “Now, I believe you should run with me until this Texas sun falls into the sea; If I shed this skin of iron and this breath of kerosene, darling, would you take a chance on me?” (close second: Smoke)
1.  All The Time: Mike and Ruthy – New York; Folk/Singer-Songwriter; “I wanna fall in love, I wanna call it love, I wanna haul up all this love with you all the time; I wanna be in love, I wanna see you in love; I wanna be knee deep in love with you all the time…” (close seconds: Slow Train; Something’s Got a Hold of Me)

The 20 Honorable Mentions that almost made the cut (no particular order):

I listened to hundreds of songs over and over when making my final list.  No, I’m serious – countless hours of listening, relistening, comparing, shuffling… I’ve been working on this for over five weeks!  I did not want to repeat artists, hence the “close seconds” contained in the Top 25.  Some artists just master the art of the love song more than others – I probably could have come up with a whole list of amazing Mike and Ruthy love songs.  I also wanted each song to be a love song, not just a song about love.  Does that make sense?  I’m very satisfied with the final product, and can honestly say that I sincerely love every single song on the list.  My hope is that each of you find a couple that you like as well.

And finally, I would like to share one of my favorite love songs ever, from one of my favorite bands ever.  The band isn’t together at the moment, but I truly hope they work something out soon.  I want a recording of this song!  But alas, I’ll have to give you a video I made myself.  Had I any idea that it would be the only way I would be able to listen to this song, I would have stopped swaying around so much when recording it, and I definitely would have stopped singing.  Please forgive my terrible voice and video skills and enjoy the clip of this sweet little tune by my dear friends in Two Way Radio:

Another dawn, another day

8 Aug

I had a lovely night and didn’t want it to end.  I couldn’t sleep and had no desire to.  I wanted to write – I think only writers can understand that pull.  Being so out of practice, I didn’t want to let the moment pass me by.

While he was sleeping soundly I slipped out of the house.  I went home briefly but realized I’d be up for sunrise and wanted to catch it over Bluff Lake, so I grabbed the camera and headed for the Refuge.  What a perfect word for that place.  In addition to providing a safe haven for alligators, owls, deer, eagles, and other creatures native to Mississippi, it has always been a refuge for my spirit.  Sometimes it is the only thing that keeps me from going insane with longing for Memphis.

I was so let down to discover roadwork had closed my route to Bluff Lake, and I started to cry.  Once I started it was hard to stop crying.  I cried about nothing.  I cried about everything.  And then I cranked the radio and took pictures as I drove.

I have several “new” (new to me) bands downloaded on my ipod, and obviously needed some mellow music, so I chose Mike and Ruthy without thinking a lot about my choice.  I clicked “shuffle” and a most appropriate song came on.  My soul started to smile – a thin, weary smile, but a smile all the same.  As soon as Ruthy crooned, “…under the six am sky” I looked at the clock in my car.  It was exactly – I mean exactly – 6:00 am.  I got chills and my eyes misted over.  I knew in that instant that the Divine induced my restlessness, guided my car to the Refuge, and closed that road just so that I would be listening to that song in that moment, so that I would really feel it, really hear what Ruthy was singing.

And I knew in my bones that the answer to every question I have right now is to focus on me, to focus on making my life as amazing and meaningful as it can be without relying on any other person to help me assign meaning to each day.  To expect nothing, to live frugally on surprise; to let my senses find me and leave hard times behind me.

I share it with you now.  and if you’re ever up at dawn, I suggest you turn this up:

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