24 April 2017

Friday Happened - A Rant

Friday happened -- but Sunday's coming.

This was a common sentiment on my Facebook page over Easter weekend this year. Right from the first it seemed odd to me. I'd never heard it before -- and I grew up German Baptist in the Bible belt and am currently attending one of the oldest, most recognisable Bible colleges in the country. Believe me, I know all the cheesy phrases.

But the main thing that bothered me was how much this little statement trivialises the pain and grief of Good Friday. It brushes all of it aside with a wave of the hand and a 'yeah, yeah, that's not important.' But it is important.

Maybe I'm more sensitive to these things because I have gone through hell the past two years and have had all of it waved aside by nearly everyone I know (I do say, 'nearly' -- there are about two or three people who 'get' it or at least valiantly try. I treasure them greatly).

The sermon at the Easter Sunday service I attended focused on Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning. It was a phenomenal sermon, but one of the things that he emphasised that I really appreciated was just how despondent Mary was that day. Any other time in the Scriptures when an angel appears, the human they visit falls down in fear and trembling and takes them seriously. Not Mary -- the angels of God are telling her that Jesus is alive, and her grief and despair is so thick that the freaking angels of God can't penetrate it. (This wasn't one of his points, but it's something I thought of: most times in Scripture there is only one angel at these kinds of things. But here there was more than one. That's a very unusual occurrence, yet their message still failed to get through to her.)

Furthermore (back to his sermon) -- the thickness and heaviness of her despair (depression) is so great that Jesus Himself shows up and she almost misses him too.

People -- grief can be intolerable. Even in three short days it clouded Mary's vision to the point she could not see that the best thing that could have happened in the wildest childhood story had actually happened in real life.

You cannot brush the grief and despair of Good Friday aside with a mere 'yeah, yeah, it happened.' If you're going to remember and commemorate an event, you have to at least try to feel what our spiritual ancestors felt that day. That's the only way you can do justice to it. Sit with the grief a bit. Feel the heaviness of it. The good news of the resurrection will mean nothing without the emotional backdrop of grief to give it context. No, it's not a pleasant feeling. Suck it up. Get out of your comfort zone for half an hour and realise just how dark the darkest day was. You cannot see the light of Easter morning properly without realising just how bleak things really were. And then you will take the light of Easter morning for granted because you have no emotional reference point for it. Don't just share a Facebook meme and think you've done your duty. Think -- really think -- about this weekend. It's not about duty. It's about love -- actual, real love, with action, not lip service. And pain -- actual, real pain, that changes things permanently. And how they intermingle.

Yes, Sunday's coming... but Friday happened.

Don't trivialise the pain. Don't trivialise the grief. Don't trivialise the weight of the despair. Don't just assume anybody 'gets over it' in five minutes. You don't. And some of us are so blinded by it that we are unable to see Jesus Himself standing in front of us, calling our name. Don't mock us or get upset at us for having a worse life than you -- often through no fault of our own. We ask your patience, your listening ear, your gentle restoration, and your constant prayer, not your rolled eyes, your self-help tips, and your holier-than-thou attitude.


You're too afraid of hurting
Been playing cover-up
Expose yourself to dying
And in this real world
It is your calling...

You've been a wide-eyed innocent
Come to the garden
Come to the hill
Come to the tree
Come to the kill
Won't break your bones but it can break your will...

~ Daniel Amos, 1983 (Angels Tuck You In)

23 April 2017

Music Day Part II - Easter Song

A week late for Easter Sunday... but He is still risen, even now.

This is probably one of the most well-known Easter songs -- ever. On Good Friday I featured Silverwind -- this group was their predecessor. The prototype, if you will, the original.

This is the song that launched the career of an orphaned group of siblings with no musical training to speak of but an ear for harmony. This piece remains a classic among Christian music historians. It's delightfully simple in its message and the piano is so light and bouncy that it induces almost immediate dancing of some kind -- whether the subtle, head-nodding type or a more Pentecostal full-body style.

Title: Easter Song
Artist: Second Chapter Of Acts
Album: With Footnotes
Year: 1974
iTunes here; YouTube here.

The angel up on the tombstone said 'He is risen, just as He said
'Quickly now
'Go tell His disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead'
Joy to the world -- He is risen
Hallelujah!

15 April 2017

The Easter Shoes

This past week, my tap shoes -- which have been steadily falling apart for some time -- finally gave up the ghost. I had hoped I could limp them along until I graduated college and managed to make enough money to replace them. Alas, this was not the case. This, of course, presented a few problems...

Problem 1: This was the only pair of tap shoes I owned/had access to.

Problem 2: I have a few commission projects in the next couple of weeks that I NEED tap shoes for in order to complete.

Problem 3: An entry-level (read: lower-quality) pair of tap shoes can cost $70-$100. A quality pair can run up to $400-$500 Canadian dollars once you factor in shipping from the States (and not all dancewear companies even ship to Canada). (You see why all dancers are broke.)

Problem 4: Kijiji, eBay, and Facebook queries in the area had yielded nothing (nothing I could use, anyway). I hadn't heard promising things about the selection in the (few) local(ish) dancewear shops, although I had planned on checking them out for myself over the weekend.

Problem 5: I have to pay the school $1600 on Tuesday for (required) voice lessons and my (required) theatre internship course this summer. I didn't (still don't) know if I'll even be able to make that payment in full. Plus I have to save every single penny I can for college next year (especially if I'm apparently not going to get a job ever... I've been trying for four months now and still nothing). I certainly didn't have enough leeway in my bank account to buy tap shoes (of any kind).

Conclusion: As cheesy as it sounds -- I really did need a miracle.

If it had to be, I was willing to settle for a (slightly) lower-quality (but less expensive) pair to get me through the rest of my time in academia, although it would mean I would have to replace them sooner (I'm VERY hard on my dance shoes). Ideally I would have liked my next pair of tap shoes to be very high quality (read: more expensive) so that I wouldn't have to replace them again in two years, but the timing, financially, was apparently not going to work out that way.

I had been half-heartedly praying, but I wasn't expecting much. There have been many unanswered prayers over the past two years, and I expected this would just be another one in a long line.

B Plot: So one of my hallmates' sister was coming to visit and my hallmate had asked me a few days ago if she could borrow my spare mattress for her sister to sleep on. I had said she could. Thursday night her sister arrived and said hallmate came to get the mattress. I helped her carry it across the hall to her room and ended up meeting her sister. One of them asked me what I had been up to that day and I told them about my broken tap shoe and how I'd spent all day researching tap shoes, trying to find quality on a college student budget. My hallmate asked how much tap shoes cost and I said entry-level is roughly $100 but a good pair can get up around $400 once you convert it to Canadian dollars and ship it here. We talked a bit more about other stuff and then I went back to my room.

Less than five minutes later, my hallmate came in.

"This isn't from me," she said, "but here." She stuck out her hand. "You can buy your tap shoes."

In her hand was a wad of cash. It felt thick when I took it.

"My sister said she felt she needed to pay for your tap shoes. But she was too shy to give you the money herself. So this is from her."

Four hundred dollars cash. From a stranger.



This morning, I set out on a mission to find decent tap shoes that I could live with for the next few years for $400 or less. There was one dancewear store in the nearest town, the next dancewear places were in the city an hour and a half away. I intended to hit all of them if necessary.

I went to the one in town first and tried on a few pairs, including Bloch's Jason Samuels Smith shoe (A.K.A. J-Sams or JSS). I liked it immediately -- no stupid rubber pad to muffle the sound, good thick sole, comfy fit -- but I was reluctant to pull the trigger on a $200 pair of shoes at the first store I came to. I told the girl helping me that I might return for them, but I wanted to shop around first.

I headed to the city.

The first place I actually found (I made a wrong turn in my attempt to get to a different store -- classic Kate) carried both new and used shoes. I asked to see the used shoes (for budget reasons) and the lady took me to a wall of shoes and let me examine and try on and try out tap shoes for a good half hour. I found two pairs I liked -- one black Capezio oxford-style pair for $65, and one tan Bloch Cuban-heel-style pair (called the Tap-On), listed at $80. At this point I was considering picking one of the used ones to hold me over for the next few weeks and then putting the rest of the money into Miller and Bens (which are some of THE best tap shoes available -- and the price reflects that). The used pair should, I reasoned, at least get me through the time for the M&Bs to ship and then through their break-in period. Then the Miller and Bens would almost certainly carry me for at least a few years.

I called my mother for advice (not that she knows the first thing about tap shoes, but she does know how to stretch a dollar and ask questions that I should think of but never do). I presented her with the aforementioned scenario involving the Miller and Bens, then on the fly I came up with an alternative scenario in which I could buy both used pairs and then go back and get the J-Sams. She advised me to pick just one of the used pairs and go back for the J-Sams. After some discussion and comparison, I decided the Capezios had a few tiny things that I didn't like (the heels felt mushy in a heel stand -- which may have been a size issue more than an issue with the shoe itself -- and I didn't like where the stress point was in a toe stand, as it was the same place my last pair blew out), so I bought the Tap-Ons and headed back to the first place for the J-Sams.

As if the providential money from my hallmate's sister wasn't enough, the lady at the store I got the Tap-Ons from looked at the $80 sticker on the shoes and said, "That's too much for a used pair of shoes." She rang them through at $40.

So basically -- I was gifted $400, and I ended up with two pairs of tap shoes (including one brand-new, fairly high-quality pair) for $250. I now have two very different styles and colours for different kinds of pieces, plus if one craps out, I still have another.

An Easter miracle for a nearly-forgotten artist.

Here they are:

Bloch's Jason Samuels Smith shoes (J-Sams).


Bloch's Tap-On shoes (used -- sorry, pre-owned).

14 April 2017

Music Day Part I - Forgiven

It really doesn't feel like Good Friday to me today. Usually on Good Friday there is a turkey dinner and family (whether mine or someone else's generous one). But I spent today researching tap shoes (mine are officially shot) alone in my flat.

It's getting harder to find suitable songs for Easter weekend every year. Songs on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus were fairly common in the 1970s and 1980s, but since then even the mention of Jesus in Christian music is hard to come by (unless you're a worship band, but even then they mostly talk about how He makes them feel, not anything He's actually done). As a result, I'm featuring the songs that do exist, but there aren't really any new ones coming out. The year will come when I have to either stop the two-for-one Easter weekend special or start re-using songs.

Fortunately for all of us, this is not that year.

Title: Forgiven
Artist: Silverwind
Album: A Song In The Night
Year: 1982
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

How have I not featured this song before? This album was my jam back in 2003-2006. Yeah, okay, the production is dated, but the vocal blend is lovely and there's a really sweet simplicity in all of Silverwind's songs -- especially the songs on this album. Betsy Hernandez has perhaps the prettiest unrecognised voice in CCM history and was actually my inspiration to even consider learning to sing myself. It just floats. It's like a fairy's voice. Unfortunately this is the one song on the album that doesn't feature her voice prominently, but you still hear her airy soprano in the harmonies in the chorus and in the backing vocals. (Check out the title track from this album and some of the Music Day archives -- here and here -- if you want to hear more of her.)

This song is based on a true story, by the way -- check out Luke 23:32-43.