Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Mixtape: a Memorial Day party in a post

Each week, usually on Monday, I compile a metaphorical mixtape, a few "tracks" of art I discovered and just can't keep to myself.  You should know that tracks are loosely related by theme and very much influenced by whim.  This week I'm throwing you a Memorial Day party -- so grab the closest Mason jar, squeeze some lemonade and click play on the Alabama Shakes EP below.  


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Sunday, May 27, 2012

I wonder what marked the moment as the acceptable time for tongues of fire to fall down?

Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

circling the Presence
by Tamara Hill Murphy

I wonder what marked the moment as the acceptable time for tongues of fire to fall down? 
A certain magic word?

What ancient riddle opened the door?  Moved the mountain into the sea?
What familiar Spirit fluttered the dead eyelid?  Called deep up from deep?  
I do not have the word, have not discovered the incantation.
                                                                                       But I've met the Spirit
and I think I know the answer.

I do not know the answer in the way one memorizes a flashcard formula, babbles 
incessant technical jargon, wishful thinking, vain repetitions of one-hit wonders.

Not in short-term memory exercises.  Not in altar-call professions
sudden inspiration,  prickly goose-bumpy revelation.
I do not know the trick to conjure down the flames.
                                                                                        But I studied the dusty photographs
read unfeeling the prayers, practiced the old language on inert tongue.
                                                                                        I slept under the canopy of intercession,                squatted in the hallway with the Son,
rocked sweaty in the lap of the Father,
eavesdropped under the door crack the Spirit-guide

and we knew it when we saw it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

7 Quick Takes: crazy life rants! my catapult* magazine article! Bestseller Society!

--- 1 ---
This is the big weekend.  We're moving from a suburban neighborhood southwest Austin to a neighborhood just north of downtown Austin.  We're packing and --  my least favorite of all tasks -- cleaning the house behind us.  I always feel so disappointed to clean a house that I'm not going to live in anymore!  Of course, it's a kind gesture to the people moving into this place after us so I guess it's some form of hospitality or something, but still....

--- 2 ---
We're in a funny stage of life all the way around.  I feel like I've said that about 9,052 times in the past ten months.  It's just true -- what else can I say?  I'm living in a house full of people turning into adults like over night and it's weird to know how to parent them.  For example, our oldest son (age 20) is headed out for a week of training at the camp he'll be working at this summer.  He's got his own car, his own money.  He just took care of every detail to leave and so I wasn't sure what my role was to help him get ready.  I decided we could at least pray with him and wave good-bye.  Also, I did double-check his directions with him since he's driving deep into the hill country of Texas and his route takes him through small towns, major highways, canyons and straight into  the infamous Frio River/Road. 

It might be my imagination but I'm pretty sure I heard the tires squeal when he backed out of the driveway.  

--- 3 ---
Have I mentioned that we're also planning a graduation party for next weekend, a missions trip to a summer camp for at-risk kids for our 14-year-old daughter beginning next weekend, a missions trip to Guatemala for our 16-year-old daughter two weeks after that.  Also, that this week we're trying to complete work for Natalie's 8th grade year and Kendra's 10th grade year. My teaching skills look something like this right now:

Natalie yelling from the loft:  "I just finished all my 8th grade history!!"

Me yelling from my bedroom, empty packing boxes in hand "Woo Hoo!" and then hollering through the house "TELL ME 3 THINGS YOU LEARNED ABOUT MODERN CHINA, THE VIET NAM WAR AND THE WAR ON TERROR!!"  

And I mentioned that we're moving, right?

Now it's your turn to ask me what the &**# I'm doing typing on my blog.

--- 4 ---
Actually, I have an answer for that.  (other than plain old procrastination) I've begun the very early steps to move from hobby-writer to writer-writer.  This blog has been my writing incubator for six years and I'm hoping it will serve well as a launch pad for the other sorts of work I need to do to hone my authorly as well as published-authorly skills.  

I must admit I'm quite a bit skeptical about this whole business of platform-building that I'm told is required for today's author.  Every time I read an article or watch a training video about marketing my writing I feel like I can actually see Flannery O'Connor looked up at me from her writing desk long enough to roll her eyes in disgust.  And Wendell Berry is stabbing hay with his pitchfork in punctuated sighs of disappointment.  I'm told times have changed and this is how all this writing and publication stuff works now so I tell Flannery and Wendell to back off a minute so I can hear the other voices teaching me.  

For starters, I've signed up for the trial month for this new online writer's training forum/workshop:  Bestseller Society.  I began reading Mary DeMuth's non-fiction a couple of months ago so that when she advertised the debut of the website as a "writer's conference in a box" (and the free trial month) I figured this was the open door in front of me to take my first wobbly steps into critique and accountability.  

So far I'd recommend this site to any of you considering non-fiction or fiction writing for publication.  After you check out the site, let me know what you think!

--- 5 ---
I also started writing articles for the bi-weekly online catapult* magazine.  The newest issue, "Theme Song", released today.  You can find the issue here and my article "Lucky Song" here.  

You probably know how I feel about mixtapes so you can imagine how eager I am to read the issue!  

--- 6 ---
One of the homeschooling accomplishments I'm most happy about this year is the girls memorizing Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount).  I thought it'd be fun to repost the audio stream of my favorite song written from that passage here for you today:

--- 7 ---
I'll leave you with my favorite photo from this week.  I know I already used it in yesterday's post but it makes me happy to look at it so I'm posting it again.

Did I mention that the most expensive item in this photo was the grocery-store geraniums?  I found the yellow planter at Good Will for about $3.  The apple-green rocking chair was sitting on the curb a few streets away back in February.  My parents were here at the time and I sort of batted my eyelashes at my dad (and Brian) and they drove down and plucked it right off the curb for me.  I don't think it's probably safe to sit in, but it's a happy-looking chair, don't you think?

Enjoy a fun and beauty-filled weekend!


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You don't have to be a worship leader to worship God in the mall parking lot

"Jesus, please find me a parking space.  Please, Jesus."

"Jesus, thank you for finding us this parking spot!"

Many years ago while riding with my dear aunt through a mall parking lot, I noticed her habit of praying without ceasing for Jesus to show her a parking space.  I especially noticed this habit because she prayed the same way for the same kinds of things as her sister, my mother, prayed.  I wish at the time I'd had the maturity to appreciate this act of prayerful dependence.  Instead I remember a smug sense of superiority that prayer was intended for more important things than parking spaces which, as I think about it now, was really quite hypocritical since my own journals at the time were probably overflowing with prayers for help with such lofty world needs as boy trouble and fashion emergencies.

Listening to my aunt's prayers with less teen-induced smugness, I'd have remembered the story she shared with my mother and their other three sisters.  The story of watching their father sit down in his favorite living room chair on a normal childhood everyday sort of day and a moment later watching him die from a cerebral hemorrhage long before their need for a daddy had passed.  And when their mother had to leave home to go to school in order to be able to provide for her five daughters all by herself, they were left in a big country house to take care of each other with the eyes of their little well-wishing town watching over them the best they could.  Five girls learned young the gift of living every day with their God-with-them who, as it turns out, cares deeply about providing the smallest of gifts for his children.  

I remembered the story these past weeks meditating the practice of everyday worship.  Thankfully, I'm old enough and wise enough now to appreciate my aunt's dependence on Jesus.  Also, I live in Austin now and have learned that sometimes dependent prayer is the only tool I have left to find decent parking.

Good News Bears team huddle

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23)
Aunt Madolin's parking lot prayer beautifully exemplifies the practice of living the with-God life.  The day in and day out knowing of God's with-ness.  The God who sent Himself to us in Jesus, who did not leave us alone but gave us His Spirit to connect us to Him and to each other throughout all ages and times.  This God travels with us through the rutted-out strips of our daily existence.  

We meet Him corporately, yes.  Each week, if we are faithful to show up, we get the opportunity to remember we are one small part of a whole Body.  We listen together, confess together, remember together, learn together and are led together in worshipful response.  If we're lucky we are led by skilled worship leaders, teachers and preachers.  Those men and women who have been trained to lead us as a whole, rather than as private worshipers, play a key role in the spiritual formation of God's people, yes.  

At the same time, Jesus appoints each one of us as His own worship leaders for our friends, our families (co-workers? neighbors? classmates?) and our very own selves in daily acts of worship.  We are ministers of the gospel of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and we've got a lot of daily reasons to express in words, music, rituals and silent adoration the greatness, beauty and goodness of God.  Because of Christ's finished work -- his sinless life, sacrificial death and burial, glorious resurrection and ascension -- we are invited in His merit to enter without fear into the supernatural reality of God's throne room.  We are welcomed by our friend Jesus to behold the shekinah glory of our Father God.  

just an ordinary Monday night sunset 
"To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God." 
                  -- William Temple, from A Year With God
We live in our Father's world, and if the earth is his footstool then certainly the earth's parks, softball fields, riverbanks, bedroom floors and, yes, mall parking lots are worthy places for our worship sanctuaries.

During the past couple of weeks I tried to notice these moments and spaces for worship:
  • Sprawling across the red-quilted bedspread with my daughters and husband each night for compline prayers.
  • Laying in the shade of an Austin live-oak, next to a natural-fed spring water, and knowing quietly the goodness of an outrageously generous God.
  • For some reason, standing at my refrigerator door serves as some sort of sacrament of worship, it's where I most often found myself singing out loud some hymn of praise.
  • Criss-crossing the highways and streets of Austin, collecting donations for the food pantry of Mission:Possible! Austin
  • Driving those startling neighborhoods of East Austin with my freshly-scrubbed and unharmed daughters, knowing the presence of our wounded and risen again Christ among our city neighbors
  • Coffee shop poem-writing, blended iced coffee and giant snickerdoodle my Mother's Day eucharist.
  • Early morning rehearsing with my husband the too-many-to-count ways God has rescued us through His people during our 21+ years of marriage;
  • then writing out-of-the-blue thank-you notes to some of the people we remembered.
our resident personal chef
"To worship God means to serve God. Basically there are two ways to do it. One way is to do things for God that God needs to have done -- run errands for God, carry messages for God, fight on God's side, feed God's lambs, and so on. The other way is to do things for God that you need to do -- sing songs for God, create beautiful things for God, give things up for God, tell God what's on your mind and in your heart, in general rejoice and make a fool of yourself for God the way lovers have always made fools of themselves for the one they love." 
 -- Frederick Buechner , Beyond Words quoted in A Year With God
  • Listening to my son strum (guitar) and pluck (banjo) tune after tune from his bedroom and pondering these fast-ending days of being together under one roof
  • Family dinners, especially the ones we all pitched in to prepare.  This month included grass-fed beef burgers Andrew grilled for us.  And, always, the blessing before the meal that may or may not be interrupted with giggles for the silly things we tell Jesus at dinner time.
  • Praying in living rooms and kitchen tables, softball fields and parking lots with people -- new friends -- we did not even know less than a year ago.
  • Rainy-after-dark walk up the street to the mailbox, pausing to listen to the tirade of frogs and crickets in the neighborhood water habitat, tripping over toads all the way home
  • A congregation of family and friends standing on the patio late at night, applauding God for his supermoon.
  • Repeating morning after morning the ritual of reading, reflecting and reciting prayers.
the gift of a Mother's Day meal with my family
 Our hope in worship is to, "as much as possible, see God in full glory and worthiness."  Study precedes worship as a tool to help us understand who God is and remember all that He has done.
         -- A Year With God, "Everyday Worship"
  •  Noticing my resurrected geraniums sitting in their buttery yellow planter on the rock next to the apple-green old rocking chair.
  • Ripping open the long-awaited arrival of my daughter's passport.  Her very own passport ready to be stamped with God-travels.
  • Knowing we are held up in the intercessory hospitality of our tribe, knowing the daily joy of holding them up in the same way.  
  • Hearing confession; giving and receiving forgiveness -- from family, friends, and for my own sin-blemished heart.
  • Knowing forgiveness and freedom.  Sitting with peace and good humor in a situation that would have -- only months ago -- turned me into an anxiety-ridden, self-protective tossing-and-turning woman.  Being able to think beyond my own fear for a change. 
 Glory hallelujah!

"God is a God of symbols, who impregnates common objects with divine significance. The precision with which God creates the Passover meal will be a precision he brings to the law and to the construction of the tabernacle. Why is important and what, but also how; how we speak, how we pray, how we act,  how we worship. This matters to God, and it ought to matter to us. It plays a role in what we retain and what kind of persons we become."  
                                                                                      -- A Year With God, Day 90

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

what Anne Lamott & Sara Zarr said about reading

Anne Lamott

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."


"As for A House Like a Lotus, I'd forgotten many details of the story but still keenly remembered the emotional impact of it, how it left me in a daze, and I mean the good kind of daze only a story that has spoken to you deeply can. When you're finished reading, you stumble through life like someone who has had her eyes dilated. You're seeing the world in glorious, unforgiving brightness, painful new detail, expansive periphery."  
hiding with a good book in my friend Andy's tree house a couple of summers ago

Before I go, I'd love to hear the last book you read that (in Sara Zarr's words) "left you in a daze...the good kind of daze only a story that has spoken to you deeply can"?

  Drop a comment and share with the rest of us!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Mixtape: [bookish-again]

Each week, usually on Monday, I compile a metaphorical mixtape, five "tracks" of art I discovered and just can't keep to myself.You should know that tracks are loosely related by theme and very much influenced by whim.  This week I'm getting bookish (again).

Here's my contribution to your week,  a small taste of Goethe's daily prescription of little songs, good poems, fine pictures and reasonable words.  Enjoy!

track 1:  visual art

Guy Laramee (his website gallery is breathtaking; don't miss it.)

track 2: an on-the-nose bookish playlist

bookish by Tamara Murphy on Grooveshark

track 3:  bookish links

Bookish Rebellion:  In which I confess my history as a library criminal.

from the book pile, 2011:  Quick notes for all 29 books I read last year.  (to see the all-too-short 2012 list, click here!)

My One Parenting Strategy That Actually Worked:  I totally stole this post from my son's college application essay.  (Might I humbly add that since Alex wrote this essay for his application, we've been celebrating his admission into Rice University and all the ways reading good books has changed his life.  Also, someday soon, I'm hoping to make this reading challenge and booklist available to you to use for your own kids.)

The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores In the World at Flavorwire:  A lovely post celebrating the book and mortar booksellers of the world.  Brian, if you're reading, please, please, please take me to see #10. (or #13 or #16 -- really any of them will do)

track 4:  animated short film

Source: via Tamara on Pinterest

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, 2011
Author/ Illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg

from IMDb:"Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story."

from me:  "100% Delightful!"

track 5:  author & illustrator interview

Source: via Tamara on Pinterest

Tateshots interview with the late Maurice Sendak, December 2011

I do not believe that I have ever written a children’s book.  I do not know how to write a children’s book.  How do you write about…?  How do you set out to write a children’s book?"

bonus track:  installation art in Scotland libraries

a note from the mystery artist: “Hopefully next time I’ll be able to linger longer – I’ve left a
little something for you near Women’s Anthologies X. In support of Libraries, Books, Words and Ideas….”

Raising a glass to the library-lurking mystery-sculptor!


Before I go, I should tell you that I love to hear what poems, pictures, songs and reasonable words you are enjoying.  Please do stop by the comment box and share a bit with me.  

Hoping that  you find your common days aflame with good books, pictures, poems, songs, words and ideas!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father

Celebrating the ascended Christ, the reigning Christ, the interceding Christ, the returning Christ this Ascension Sunday.

Ascension of Christ
Salvador Dali

by Luci Shaw (The Secret Trees)
for the time
being / the dark earth
was enough
to substantiate you
in our vision

but the universal circle
claimed you / rid
of a finite foothold
you lifted / scattered
your feathers in light
faceted the
of thin air / time & space
after the light-ning
malted in one

blinded / our eyes
turn inward
as we find
your closer paraclete
our truer view

a sonnet for Ascension Day by Malcolm Guite:
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