Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ask and Ye Shall Receive!

Author, Carolyn fan, and all-around nice fellow, Brendt Waters, has posted on his blog the lengthy interview he did with Carolyn Arends in 1995.

Read and enjoy and leave him nice comments!

P.S. Ya gotta love a guy who gets his blog up and running before his bread-and-butter website.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor: A Story from Barnabas

I had originally written this for the website 43 People, but, as it is one of my favorite Carolyn stories and I now have this wee blog, I decided to "reprint" it here. Enjoy!

One of my favorite stories about Carolyn Arends is one that she related in 2005 at Barnabas Family Ministries on Keats Island, BC. The theme of that week’s retreat was “What Love Looks Like.” That also happens to be the title of one of her best songs.

Anyway, Carolyn was talking about the neighborhood where she lived (at the time). She and her husband had carefully picked this particular cul-de-sac because it was filled with young families and offered the chance for their children to grow up with the same group of playmates in a safe environment. They bought this house, and, one-by-one, the other families started to sell their houses and move away (presumably this was not because of the Arendses). In the place of the young families, people started moving in with, shall we say, less desirable occupations and household structures. To wit, what Carolyn fancifully and ruefully described as “horticulturalists” moved in next door, and the potted plants they were growing sure weren’t begonias.

Well, as these things happen, there was a police raid and their neighbor was taken to jail. Carolyn and her husband were furious with this particular man, since he was contributing to making their carefully chosen neighborhood unsafe and horrible for their children.

Then, when the neighbor was released, Carolyn saw him outside the next day, weeding (no pun meant here) the common mailbox block in the middle of their cul-de-sac. Every time one of the residents would approach to get his mail, the neighbor would apologize for his misdeeds while crying. Carolyn, though still angry, suddenly saw the hopelessness and despondency of this man—his humanness and frailty—and realized with a sigh that “this is my neighbor.”

This story really has stayed with me. Sometimes it’s easier to be a Good Samaritan and love the helpless, bleeding man on the side of the road than it is to want to reach out to someone who is actively and perceptively making your life a harder, more scary and uncertain place. But, to whom are you a neighbor? Surely, while being a neighbor to the stranger in distress is important, being a neighbor to those who have been placed in your life on a more consistent basis is even more important (and much more difficult). Anyway, it was a great illustration of a tough precept and one of the first that comes to mind when asked to share a story about my favorite singer/songwriter, Carolyn Arends.

Friday, May 18, 2007

How's the Sound Out There?

Well, this guy, Brendt, whose unusually-spelled name makes it seem vaguely familiar to my eyes, has posted an interesting little essay about the first interview he ever did -- for a now-defunct on-line Christian music magazine. Guess who his first interviewee was?

Since I'm posting this information here, you've probably guessed by now.

Okay, enough of the suspense -- it was Carolyn! Right before the release of her first album (all together now: I Can Hear You) and her first tour (with -- let's proclaim in unison -- Rich Mullins and Ashley Cleveland) he got to interview her for three hours.

I'd like to find that interview someday. Of course, I'd also like to know what the missing six verses of "Seize the Day" sounded like, too.

Ah well, go to the link and give it a read. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Chance to Play Fetch

This is an involved, but I think very funny, story that requires two pieces of background information. Because the first of those is knowledge of Carolyn Arends's B-Side, "A Chance to Dance," which is a lot more difficult to explain than the second, I'll write this story for Carolyn's fans.

"A Chance to Dance" was written by Carolyn Arends for a "The West Wing" episode. Apparently, there was a character on this show that was in the very early stages of a new relationship with someone who then died unexpectedly. I never have watched that program, but the scenario is evident by Carolyn's lyrics: Now you're gone/What am I supposed to do?/I was just getting good at loving you/So how do I let go/Of what I never got to hold?/We never even had a chance to dance.

Sadie, my daughter who has a very definite morbid streak in her, absolutely loves this song. She's always asking me to play the song "about the woman whose husband* died before they got to dance." Then, she sits back with an euphoric expression and drinks in the sad, wistful words and the emotional music.

One day, while we were listening to this song again in the car, Sadie sighed and said, "I love this song. It makes me think of Jingles." My jaw dropped. "What?" I exclaimed.

Jingles was Rylee's dog. More exactly, Jingles was Rylee's mom and dad's dog. Rylee is the little baby girl we nanny part-time. When we first started to watch her, we'd go over to her house and see Jingles there -- eighteen years old, senile, and incontinent. Now, Sadie loves dogs. She dreams of them, seeks them out, and longs for one of her own. She was so excited that Rylee had a dog -- a dog we could visit with anytime.

But, you see, Jingles was so very old and rather sick. She had to wear a diaper in the house and spend most of her day locked in the family's downstairs bathroom. She was getting grumpy and nippy, in the way that dogs do when their losses of smell and hearing are leaving them feeling vulnerable and scared. With tears and sorrow, two months after we started watching Rylee, her mom and dad made the decision to put Jingles to sleep.

Eventually, I had to tell Sadie that the next time we went to Rylee's house Jingles would not be there. Sadie cried and cried, but she became reconciled to it by the next morning. I'll admit that I did not spend any more time or thought on that aged canine. Not so Sadie.

Apparently, when Sadie had first been introduced to Jingles, she began to make plans about their future fun together. The thwarting of those plans by cruel mortality affected her deeply. In the anguished reflections of what-had-never-been that Carolyn wrote for a television character, Sadie found an outlet for her grief. And so, when Sadie mentioned that the song reminded her of Jingles, upon my questioning her, she added this:

"I think of Jingles, because we never had a chance to play fetch together; and I never got to pet her and brush her; and I never got to feed her treats or take her for a walk."

And, while I was impressed with her transference of a lover's loss into her own dog lover's loss, her revelation completely changed the way I now listen to the song. I keep bursting out with spasms of laughter at the most inappropriate places, because, of course, I'm thinking of Sadie and Jingles and not a woman who lost a love.

The verse that most cracks me up now is this: Guess we never really had a prayer/There for just a moment it was heaven/And it's a kind of hell to stand here missing/Every kiss we never had/We should have had it all/And now you're gone . . .

And, as I'm snorting with ill-suppressed mirth in the front seat, Sadie's indignant voice rises from the back. "Hey Mom! Why are you laughing? This is a sad song. Stop your laughing!"

And I really ought to. Sadie's mourning -- while hilarious to me -- is so very real to her. And I love her sensitive little soul and her ability to feel such things so deeply. I can only hope that another dog will someday come into her life with whom she will finally have a chance to play fetch (and linger over dog biscuits).

*Sadie only views male/female relationships in terms of "husbands and wives" at this point.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oops! I Did It Again! Carolyn Quiz the Third (And Possibly Last)

Okay, this is the third and (maybe) last time I'll post a quiz about Carolyn. That is, unless I find out a lot more trivia to tease the brains of other fans in the future. Anyway, relax and enjoy this latest (and goofiest) offering:

Carolyn Quiz the Third

Good luck and have fun!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Persistent Widow and I

For the third time in as many years, I have asked the pastor at my church to host a Carolyn Arends/Spencer Capier concert.

I am awaiting his response.

I would lose heart except for the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Though I have nothing to avenge and nothing to seek that can be called "justice," I have no doubt that eventually the time will be right for my church to experience the blessing of a CA/SC concert. My job is just to be faithful -- but never annoying or belligerent -- in pursuing the event. God will arrange the date.

Here's praying that that date is in 2007!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jeffrey Overstreet: Being a Non-Carolyn Post About a Carolyn Colleague and One That Was Originally Written for Carolyn's Boards, But Ran Too Long

I was so fortunate as to attend a Seattle Chesterton Society meeting recently at Seattle Pacific University, at which the featured speaker was Carolyn's Christianity Today Movies colleague, Jeffrey Overstreet.

His new book is Through a Screen Darkly, and, though I haven't read it all yet (being knee-deep in my beloved and highly prolific Gilbert Keith Chesterton), I am appreciating his ability to take seriously and explore this idea of Madeleine L'Engle's: "Basically there can be no categories such as 'religious' art and 'secular' art because all true art is incarnational, and therefore 'religious.'" (Walking on Water, p. 19)

Here are some interesting thoughts (at least to me): Why have almost all of the movies made to serve Christians as a niche audience failed at the box office? Why, with Hollywood suddenly desperate to gain the entertainment dollar of believers and throwing money into such production companies as Fox Faith, has very little come out so far that will not burn up as stubble in the fire? And why, in 2004, was Mel Gibson's The Passion not on the CT Movie reviewers' top ten lists?*

I think one answer to these questions can be found in the reality of living within a holy mystery. When I begin to accept the subtlety of God's hand -- His poetic reticence that booms out in the stillness of creation -- I can no longer be satisfied by the sort of artifice that tries to force a religiously relevant experience under the cover of entertainment. Jeffrey Overstreet's main point seems to be that, for the faithful, spiritual themes in any great movie can not help but be recognized, because all art is, at its fountainhead, an expression from that same creative force that spoke the universe into existence.

Mr. Overstreet spoke passionately and entertainingly about this recently discovered "Christian niche market" and his belief that there is so much more to be gained spiritually from great art produced by non-believers than from bad art produced by Christians. Christians are not idiots -- flocking en masse to a pandering parade of sentimentality and banality. We have held claim to brotherhood with the greatest artists the world has ever seen; and these created from the wellspring of revealed truth within and not with an eye on converting the lost and getting their theological ducks in a row.

This was a fascinating presentation, and I am so grateful I was able to attend. It is always surprising to me to find out how many wonderful writers whom I admire live up here in the Seattle area or greater Pacific Northwest region. What a blessing to get to meet so many of them in person!

*This is a great story that Mr. Overstreet related in his presentation. I do not know if he included it in his book, but I hope it's there. All I can say is that Mark Moring is a brave man with loads of integrity. Of course, we rather knew that -- he is a Carolyn fan, after all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jacob and 2 Women

I first heard this song on the Rich Mullins tribute album in 1998. It was the first time I ever heard Carolyn sing.

I just got the first verse in this song a few weeks ago. Now, I feel totally lame.

Jacob he loved Rachel/And Rachel she loved him/And Leah was just there for dramatic effect/
Well, it's right there in the Bible/So it must not be a sin/But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick/
And her sky is just a petal/Pressed in the book of memories/Of the time he thought he loved her/And they kissed
And her friends say, "He's a devil."/She says, "No, he is a dream."/And this is the world as best as I can remember it

I do not know why, but I always assumed the first verse was about Rachel. Of course, the song is "Jacob and 2 Women," but I always took the assertion that Leah was just there for dramatic effect as rather leaving her out of the song. Then, all of a sudden -- epiphany! The first verse is Leah's take on the famous Biblical triangle. Surely, in the tent after their wedding, before Jacob was disabused of his notion that he had married his true love, Rachel, he must have kissed Leah ("the time he thought he loved her and they kissed"). Of course Leah, always the despised (though very fruitful) wife would have treasured up this brief moment when she had received passion from her husband (though it was meant for her sister) in her internal book of memories.

The song makes much more sense now.