Entertaining v. Hospitality

Because of my work and my interests/hobbies, I am always looking for different definitions of these two words and how people live them out. The more I see, the more I am convinced of their separate distinction. Some thoughts...

Entertaining. I have been a faithful subscriber to Martha Stewart Living for eight years. While I disagree with her politics, etc., her work has been highly influential in my life, especially in my earlier stages of finding my feminine identity. More recently though, I've been disgusted with her magazine. I still don't know if she's changed or I've changed, but nevertheless, I'm certainly less enchanted. To me MSL is the epitome of self-seeking, self-glorification. Yes, even over fashion culture. Why? Because it raises the humble meal, le repas (the French version which always reminds me of "respite" - now that's a thought...), to a level of snobbery and self-gratification. Entertaining with an emphasis on ME! Look what I can do, look how fabulous I am!

Martha replaces an everyday joy with an extravaganza, and most likely you'll only be invited to attend if you're good enough. (I also have recently been getting Food and Wine but there too, have been disappointed by its extreme snobbery.) I feel like the present food culture will soon resemble a pre-French Revolution "Let them eat cake!" dichotomy, only without rolling heads, please. In an effort to outdo even themselves, these leaders of dining entertainment forget that simplicity can be just as tasty. Meals are a common necessity; kings and queens shouldn't be the only ones to get a delicious one.

Hospitality. My working definition goes something like: Going to any effort to make anyone feel special and show them you care, whether that's in food preparation, overnight guests or giving gifts. Who said fine china was just for Sunday dinner? Or that even the piano tuner wouldn't appreciate a yummy scone? (That's a shout-out to my mom, btw.)

Similarities: Both hospitality and entertaining deal with hosting, guests, and food. Both describe an eagerness to share something whether your money, meal, or home. Both are a form of art. Differences: Entertaining starts with a desire to serve man. Hospitality starts with a desire to serve God. Entertaining cheapens beauty by emphasizing the moment. Hospitality enriches the moment by allowing for an opportunity to share the love of Christ.

Do I mean all food should be bland and nasty and do I have complete disregard for the gourmet? Absolutely not! Au contraire, mon ami! No, while there's no need for excess, I do think every meal should be tasty. And I emphasize every because I think there's a severe need to beautify the daily details of life. As Hebrews 13:2 says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Would you want to serve an unknown angel food from a paper plate?

The joy is in the daily serving. The joy is in making someone feel loved.


New Music

Half the Perfect World
By Madeleine Peyroux

With a voice that doesn't match her face, Madeleine Peyroux scores with her third album. She's one of those cool artists who can blend genre distinctions with ease. Typically, she's a jazz singer but this album interacts with folk and country, and also different is the "middle age" of the songs and their emphasis on poetry (Joni Mitchell, Serge Gainsbourg, etc.). Her voice sounds a lot like Billie Holiday, which some people criticize, but if you listen closely, the individuality of her voice is evident. One of her most outstanding qualities is her ability to bend a melody line into the shape she sees fit. Altering a rhythm as dramatically as she can is very difficult to do and not get lost in accompaniment - this I know from failed attempts. Also interesting is the way in which she draws out consonants which really can't be sung, yet she does; L's in particular. Peyroux uses a very unique blend of instruments as well. Some songs are backed a traditional jazz combo while others expand to the ukulele, organ, and string quartet.

The album highlights are the original compositions by Peyroux, something new to her recordings. My personal favorite is "Once in a While," because it is extremely lyrical and I love the rough-sounding string quartet accompaniment. Other winners are "River" featuring a duet with k.d.lang and "La Javanaise," the only French track. Overall, this album aches with a despondancy that is both distant and transparent at the same time. The accompaniment is thoughtful and personal with a strong sense of ensemble unity.

Check it out. It's a good listen.



Self-Plagiarism. Don't worry. It's legal. Somewhere.

1) I've been fighting a bout of discouragement in the last couple of weeks. I know God has called me to complete my master's degree, but getting there has had its significant low points. Keeping up with keeping on has been all things short of joyful. God is faithful. I must be faithful.
2) I haven't blogged much because of the lack of time. And because I've lacked the emotional energy to face fears or reflections with typing fingers.
3) Last night, I re-read an multi-question essay I wrote a couple of years ago for a summer internship (which I didn't get btw). One part answered the personal question of "how has God called me?" It was a good reminder that God does work a path in your life and though there are bumps, that which is your heart's desire will remain because He has put it there. All things will work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose. So in lieu of an original post, here is an excerpt from the essay.

At sixteen, I went through a questioning period where I was seeking God’s purpose for my life. I knew my chief end was to glorify God, but I did not how God was asking me specifically to glorify Him. At that time, God showed me Romans 9:17, which says, “For this very purpose have I raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” I claimed that verse as a promise that God did have a plan for me and that regardless of what vocation I chose, God would use me to declare His name where ever He placed me.

I have been told that God calls us by way of the talents He gives us. I knew God had given me a talent and an ear for music, specifically the piano, but answering the call to music has been one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. Music was never exciting enough to me and I could not fathom how God could use me to declare His name in the music world. I struggled with why God had not called me to law, public policy, or some kind of political and social leadership role. I could not stop asking, “Why music?”

It has been an amazing experience to see how God works and how His calling will stay sure despite our hesitations. Even in my doubtful obedience to pursue music, God has increasingly shown me where I reside in His kingdom. Studying music at a secular university opened doors for me to see that music is not any less noble than law, but rather a unique kingdom realm that desperately needs truth and truthful examples of Christianity.

Through painful experiences, especially concerning the piano, God has given me further direction. The first three years of my undergraduate studies were spent tormented by external pressure to pursue performance and by the inner pressure of knowing that the performance lifestyle did not fit me, nor did it fulfill Romans 9:17 in my life. Deep in my heart, I knew that God wanted me to work with people and to be involved in changing minds and hearts. My desire was to see truth prevail, even in the musical world.

As I look ahead to my future, I still do not know what God is going to do with me or how He will use me. I do know that for now teaching piano is a rewarding way to fulfill one aspect of His calling. Through my teaching experiences so far, I have seen the kind of ministry I have available to reach piano students. I believe that music is inseparable from heart issues and often teaching can be better defined as mentoring or counseling, rather than mere instructing. It is my prayer that God will continue to use me and teaching piano to help turn hearts toward Him, until He shows me a different side of my calling.


Insert Great Title Here

I just walked in the door since leaving at 5:30 am. I have many thoughts going through my head right now, but I lack both time and energy to process them into some coherent, articulate formation. And since I have piano lessons looming in my near future, the keys will haunt my dreams if I don't hit them in some manner (a sledge hammer would be my first choice...). But just in case you wanted to read something, here are a few randoms:

Wouldn't ya know! The circus is just like the picture books. There's three rings. Elephants. Tigers and tamers with whips. Clowns. Acrobats. Snow cones. No jugglers, though. The overload of stimulation was incredible. I had a great time! Felt just like a little kid.

My name is Shi-Shi. As in when I leave the table, there's a little girl who raises her chubby arms and says, "Shi-Shi. Go?" Dad is "Pa-paw," Mom is "ma-ma," Colin, still "Ah-tah." When pointing at me, "Who's that, Meredith?" Chuckle. "Heh, heh, Shi-Shi!"

Shi-Shi introduced Meredith to Half Price Books on Friday. Meredith went CRAZY. "Boo-k, boo-k, BOO-K!" I made the mistake of letting her down in the children's book section. She tore into every book in sight with absolute delight. Yes! A girl after my own heart!

Our family has been expanded. My dearest and only girl cousin had her first baby yesterday. She is so incredibly beautiful! Welcome to this wonderful world, Avery Isabelle!



It has been a pretty rotten week and I've been telling myself, "just make it to Friday!" Even though it's rainy and dreary, I'm remaining optimistic about how great this day will be. Here's why:

Morning: I'm undertaking an enormous risk. I'm letting one of my students cut my hair. No, not a 10 year old. One of my adult student is a hair stylist in Broad Ripple. I haven't had a hair cut since April, so I figure it's about time. The potential problem is though -- what if I hate it? I'll still have to give her lessons every week. Could be interesting...

Afternoon: I'm stealing Meredith so Amy can get some work done. YES! I get to play with the baby all by myself. :) I thought maybe we'd go to the park, but unless it clears up, I'm going to have to come up with a plan B.

Evening: Amy, Meredith and I are going to the circus at Conseco. It's going to be fabulous! I've never ever been to the circus before so it should be exciting!

Yes, TGIF! Enjoy yours too!


Life often resembles chaos.

ARRRGH! Why do I torture myself? Please, tell me. Am I insane?

I'm fighting a cold. My body is exhausted already (yes only week 5!). My arms can hardly move. I'm turning in a horribly written assignment - it looks sloppy but I have no time to improve it. I'm not prepared for my lesson. I'm in neutral heading downhill. Quickly losing control. All I can think is "bed, bed, bed." Good intentions never meet reality.


28 more weeks of school. In my lifetime!


Batteries not included

Mother of Student: Hey, Shannon. I talked to my neighbor the other day.
Me: (thinking)...oh great here it comes.
Her: I told him that my son's piano teacher was adorable.
Me: Ohhh... Did you now?
Her: I told him you weren't into being set up but I asked him what church he went to, just in case. He goes to St. Monica's. [Pause] Would you go out with a Catholic?
Me: Uhh... I'm as staunchly Protestant as they come, I'm really sorry. But thanks for thinking of me anyways... [???]
Her: Don't worry. My mom always told me not to date a Catholic boy and I married one. It makes reconcilation difficult.
Me: [at a loss at what to say next. thinking... and this spells a-w-k-w-a-r-d]
New Student: I've been kicked out of lesson before.
Me, eyebrows raised: Oh really, have you?
New Student: Yes for not wanting to practice. But I'm really excited about it now.
Me, less confident: Well, I'm not going to kick you out. Don't worry.
New Student: Oh that makes me SO relieved.


The articulation of my mood...

It's coming on christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on...
-Joni Mitchell, "River"


Happy Birthday!

It's Grace Flows Down's birthday today! Here's to three years of a free outlet for ramblings, musings, complaints, moments of insanity, and a rare occasion of introspection. Yeah for blogs.

Zitty's BACK!

Finally! The long-awaited and long-delayed return of my car! She's looking good too, not a dent in sight. Of course, now she sports a new roof, new engine hood, and lots of detail work. Waiting five weeks was a pain, but at least she's back in my life. The advantages of having your car in the shop for over a month:

Gas prices have dropped!
Monthly gas mileage now averages out quite nicely. 10,400 mi in 13 months.
Character growth from having to juggle two hectic schedules and one car.

Now, I'm crossing my fingers that Spring '07 won't bring another horrible hailstorm!


Shameless Plug

If you read your Indianapolis Star today, check out the front page of the Star North section. Attending Veritas tonight is the best thing to do in the city today.
More concerning Veritas:

I've been discouraged about the way things are going and the lack of attendance last year, etc. I've been questioning the affect and influence we're having on campus and wondering if we should even continue our efforts. Last night in my musings, I found some Dawgnet archive articles that covered past speakers. I was encouraged to think that at least the writer came and had to listen close enough to take notes for an article. If anything, at least they heard something.
Veritas's first meeting ever.
The meeting last year with President Fong.
If you can, come tonight. It will be interesting for sure. And there will be good coffee, I promise. If you can't, be in prayer for those who do.


Movie - A Reluctant Recommendation?

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

You all have probably already seen this film or read multiple reviews, but I sound my two bits worth anyways. I was not interested in watching it when it was released a year ago because I'm not one who enjoys horror or demon-related stories (seeing The Ring cured me of that!). But I happened to see it tonight, spent an hour researching it, and my mind is still trying to work around it.

Emily raises a host of questions that are pertinent to today's culture and the running conflict between scientific fact and religious faith in the public sphere. What I liked most in the film is how it shows that oftentimes, the two are not so distant. In the film, the prosecutor represents logical reason and the surety of fact, and the defense counsel brings into question the role of faith and its influence over lives and decisions. The logical side demands facts and scientific proof, specifically that insanity, etc. is the cause of death which could have absolutely been prevented with medical care. The faith side doubts the scientific facts and relies on experience. It asks if experience can be proven as a factual reality. So often today religious views are presented as ignorant dogmatism. This film reverses the situation, suggesting that scientific reasoning is really ignorant and dogmatic. The prosecutor makes a case based entirely on the hope that medicine would have helped the girl, while the defense questions the role of medicine and opens the door for the possibility of a new fact: that the girl could have actually been demon possessed.

It asks other realistic questions like, why do bad things happen to good people? Does the presence of evil prove that the contrary (good) must exist? Or, can a demon possessed person prove that God is there? The film never really questions the existence of God, but it does ask about it in relation to the existence of evil demons. And it questions His sovereignty.

Favorite scenes: 1) When the priest and Erin are in his jail cell and he senses that she is under attack by the demons too. I thought it was interesting because it demonstrated how Satan not only desires to destroy believers' faith, but also wants to prevent non-believers from coming to truth. 2) The final courtroom scene where faith and reason come to head. Classic apologetics. The defense of a man plus the defense of faith itself.

What about the demon world? Are people really possessed by demons today? We know Jesus cast demons out of people, and that the apostles did the same in Jesus's name. James doesn't deny their existence, "You believe in one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble." James 2: 19. What about the creepy parts and horror images? "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false propet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Revelation 16:13-14.

This film doesn't (and shouldn't) answer questions about spiritual warfare, but it does do a good job of asking them. I don't understand spiritual warfare or how it works, but I believe it happens in some form. Does it happen like with Emily Rose? I don't know, but I don't think that her "treatment" sought truth. I do know that God says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12. And I'm grateful that God places his hedge of protection around his beloved. We're called to resist the devil but I think that the smallest temptation is no less important in our spiritual walk than a dramatic physical interaction with a demon. When the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and is working in our lives, God gives us strength for our battles, whatever form they may take.


Interesting links:

Brian Godowa's review of the film is here. You have to scroll down until you reach "9/19/05." I appreciated his view of the theological mistakes in the film. I disagree with him in his view of Erin, the defense. He says she remains agnostic, but I think that's an intentional gap in the film. The film ends with us not knowing for sure if Emily was possessed, so it seems fitting that we shouldn't know how the heroine responded spiritually. We do know that she questioned - and that's what we're supposed to do.

The story behind the film. Reading it makes you realize how much philosophical freedom the director took.

Exorcism. Scary stuff!

Two reviews. One from the Catholic perspective and one from Christianity Today. Both were very interesting to read.


The horror element:

Here's an excerpt from an interview with director Scott Dickerson about Christianity and horror. If you're want to read the whole article, you have to sign up for a free membership.

As a Christian, the genre has particular interest to me. I think my real fascination with the genre began when I started film school and I re-read C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. I re-read it because a friend of mine, who is not a religious person at all, had just read it and thought it was one of the best books he'd ever read. That piqued my interest. I had already read it a few years before, but I re-read it. And it just dawned on me that in that book, C.S. Lewis had written an incredibly provocative, somewhat frightening story, that was able to carry tremendous moral passion. Even to a non-Christian reader. There was something about that device, using gothic and demonic story devices as a way of getting at very good and noble ideas. I thought that that was such a fascinating thing that he'd done, so I started looking at cinema as a way to do something similar. Horror is a genre that is often disrespected, because it is sometimes very exploited. And yet, historically, Christians have been making scary paintings and writing scary stories, like Dante's Inferno, for centuries. There's a lot of moral and spiritual passion behind thousands of years of church art that deals with this kind of dark subject matter.



Of things

I was glad to see this morning that newspapers were taking note of Facebook's latest outrage.
The thought of starting a piano studio is beyond overwhelming. Remind me not to do that. Remind me to question my degree plan.
Don't forget to check out Veritas's line-up. Good things are coming your way!


An Untitled Summary of Musings

On True Beauty
"For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation." Psalm 149:4
A recent reading of this verse left me pondering how salvation can make one beautiful. Have you ever known that person who was outward appearance you hardly noticed but it was the spirit they possessed that attracted you? Ever seen the person who was beautifully shaped but carried and conducted themselves in such an ugly manner that they were completely unattractive? The more I interact in the world the more I realize that it truly is salvation which makes us beautiful. It's through salvation the Holy Spirit works his fruit of joy, love, patience, kindness, etc. These are the only beauty products we need to dress for our day.

On Working
To the person who says religion is private and personal I say hogwash! No matter what you believe, beliefs shape your world and direct every action, interaction, and communication you have within it. My belief of work ethic shapes the way I conduct myself in the work place. My inward santification affects the outward displays of kindness or patience I [may or may not] demonstrate. To illustrate: I was working last night with this woman who told me while she was attempting productivity, "I'm just not cut out for working class work!" Her belief that she was better than the work she was getting paid to do led her to be lazy and negligent. Trying not to get frustrated with her and focusing rather on the application of my belief of excellent work, I ignored the comment and walked past.

On Excellent Work
I've really enjoyed what Michael has preached about in his recent sermons. Tonight he preached on the wedding at Cana. It impressed me how Christ, not needing to perform a miracle, demonstrated not only kindness in doing it, but did it well. He did excellent work. Convicting when often getting a job accomplished seems good enough by itself, let alone make it excellent.

On Labor Day
I'm sensing a timely theme in these musings... A day of rest to celebrate work before returning to a new week, inspired to work beautifully and excellently before the world.


It's Saturday! And it's September! And it's Sunny!

Popcorn. Cute Kids. Baseball hats. Good Friends. Indians who win. Lots o' Laughs. Mascots. Wonderful Westside people.

...The makings of a great evening!
I woke up this morning and thought, "You know, I'm going to make some bread." I know... who does that? When I lived in Switzerland, Andree would make la tresse every Saturday morning for Sunday breakfast. And after five years, I decided today that I was going to try it too. La Tresse is basically [Protestant] challah bread and apparently a tradition everywhere. The braid is rising, so we'll see how it turns out. My first time to work with yeast.