Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Steven Curtis Chapman family, one year later

A year ago, I blogged about a tragedy that had befallen the family of one of the most beloved Christian singers, Steven Curtis Chapman.

The Chapman's 5-year-old adopted daughter, Maria, had been killed after being accidentally hit by a vehicle driven by her older brother.

Chapman's wife Mary Beth writes movingly on the 1st anniversary of Maria's death. It's the anguished heart cry of a mother living without her baby and hurting for her son, but it's also a message infused with a quiet faith:

I told someone yesterday that I feel as though I'm not just walking through a desert right now....I'm actually wondering through it with no clear path in front of me....It is a very desperate place to be, and on lots of days, I'm strong on the outside but a mess on the inside....but I must hold on to the very real fact that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me....that where He is I will also be! That is very, very good news...because my Maria is there....

Read the entire message here.

Congratulations... 23-year-old church worship leader from Conway, Arkansas, who won American Idol last night...Kris Allen!

In this article, Richard Rushfield of the Los Angeles Times ponders that Allen's upset win "gives America back its heart."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Way-Back Wednesday

Today I'm reprising a feature called "Way-Back Wednesday," in which I dig into the archives of Notes in the Key of Life to bring you a golden-oldie post, originally posted in February 2007. Enjoy!

The book pictured here was one of the favorite volumes of my childhood. I believe The Golden Treasury of Poetry , edited by poet and anthologist Louis Untermeyer, had actually been a Christmas gift from my parents to my sister Lisa. But I remember spending hours poring over it; reading and re-reading my favorite poems.

I even enjoyed and appreciated Untermeyer's notes accompanying many of the poems, and I loved the illustrations by the wonderful Joan Walsh Anglund. (If you're not familiar with Anglund's work, do check it out. The children in her illustrations are so winsomely charming and appealing.)

Why am I reminiscing about the poetry of my childhood? Because Rebecca of Rebecca Writes has declared February to be Children's Poetry Month. She's urging people to blog their favorite children's poems and report back to her.

Granted, the Golden Treasury didn't consist only of poems specifically for children. Not by a long shot (although it was, of course, child-appropriate and family-friendly.) It was a child's introduction to great poetry, and there's a difference.

So, what were my favorite poems? It's hard to choose just one. I loved the whimsical humor of Ogden Nash. I loved limericks and seasonal poems. I loved the ballads--my already romantic mind thrilled to Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman:

"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door."

I enjoyed little gems like William Blake's Infant Joy:

"I have no name;
I am but two days old."
What shall I call thee?
"I happy am,
Joy is my name."
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

And this one from Robert Browning:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

I was introduced to poets like Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, e. e. cummings, Christina Rosetti, William Shakespeare, Vachel Lindsay, Walter de la Mare, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, and a host of others.

The quirky humor of Lewis Carroll's The White Knight's Song, from Alice in Wonderland, appealed to me:

I'll tell thee everything I can;
There's little to relate,
I saw an aged, aged man,
A-sitting on a gate.
"Who are you, aged man?" I said.
"And how is it you live?"
And his answer trickled through my head
Like water through a sieve.

He said, "I look for butterflies
That sleep among the wheat;
I make them into mutton-pies,
And sell them in the street.
I sell them unto men," he said,
"Who sail on stormy seas;
And that's the way I get my bread--
A trifle, if you please."

But I was thinking of a plan
To dye one's whiskers green,
And always use so large a fan
That they could not be seen.
So, having no reply to give
To what the old man said,
I cried, "Come, tell me how you live!"
And thumped him on the head.

(You can read the whole thing here.)

I don't know where that book is. The last time I saw it, the cover had broken apart and whole sections were missing. But the more I think about that book, the more I want to own it again--and maybe even a copy for my new grandson. (There are some copies available online.) What better way to give him a love and appreciation for poetry?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Very Close Planet

Is the planet Mars about to make a once-in-our-lifetimes, remarkably close approach to earth this coming August (2009)?

That’s the subject of an e-mail that’s currently making the rounds on the internet. The answer? NO. Mars is not about to make a close approach to earth this August--but it already did just that in August of 2003.

Here’s what the e-mail says:


The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The e-mail goes on to say that Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye…but even that is inaccurate. That should have read that it would look as large as the full moon to people viewing it through a powerful telescope.

Both and tell us that this story was actually true in 2003…but it has circulated every summer since then. Mars has made a couple of close approaches to earth since 2003, but not nearly as close as that one.

And despite the fact that this e-mail comes out every summer, Mars will not be as close to earth as it was in 2003 until 2287.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that send button!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stuff to tell you...

"This don't look like LAX."--Sawyer

A mind-blowing "Lost" finale, and other fascinating tidbits

--Well, I guess the question of Rose and Bernard's whereabouts has been answered! AMAZING finale for "Lost" last night...I have no idea what's going to happen next season.

--Sad to see Danny Gokey leave the American Idol competition, but I'm sure it will be for the best. As the winner or runner-up, he might have had to practically sell his soul to the AI machine. That young man has a bright future in music and ministry.

--Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot has joined the Darfur Fast for Life.

--Names have always fascinated me! Word now that "Emma" and "Jacob" are the top 2, for girls and boys respectively.

--Last, but not least, a couple of major things are happening in my life.

The radio station where I have worked for the past 28 years has been sold to a company that syndicates Christian radio across the nation. I have a little time to figure out what I'm going to do next, but everything is pretty vague at this point. Any prayers would be greatly appreciated!

And now the happy news...I'm going to be a Nanna again! My daughter-in-law Daylyn is expected Baby Number 2 somewhere around Thanksgiving.

Life is such a strange mixture of highs and lows, isn't it? :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reality check: online American Idol coverage has shown a mean streak

America has a mean streak, and it's surfaced in an unlikely venue: the online coverage of "American Idol."

As we head into a finale that will no doubt include Adam Lambert, and may or may not include Danny Gokey, I have to express what I've been feeling for a while.

The reporting on the competition by online entertainment reporters and high-profile American Idol-related bloggers and their commenters has been nothing short of incredible in its vitriolic, sneering, scornful, and yes, downright hateful bias against Danny Gokey.

Criticisms repeated to death

They've resurrected the same tired criticisms ad nauseum, to the point of being ludicrous.

The weakest criticism is that Danny's singing is just "safe" or "mediocre" or "boring." But it goes much farther than that. It gets personal, and in a really vicious way.

It all began very early on in the competition with their assumption that Danny was trying to gain "sympathy votes" due to the tragic death of his young wife. Never mind the fact that this is not something a person who had just lost his wife would be able to NOT talk about. AND the fact that the show itself was responsible for stressing that backstory at the beginning.

A couple of weeks into the competition, the show stopped talking about Danny's wife completely. But that didn't silence the trying-to-gain-sympathy-votes continues to this day.


Inexplicably, talk on the blogs and message boards began to the effect that Danny is cocky, arrogant, overly-confident, a jerk. Bear in mind that this is from people who don't know him at all--they're basing these blanket criticisms on seeing him for a few minutes a week on a TV show.

And never mind the fact that his many fans don't get this impression from his behavior whatsoever. (In fact, people that saw him in action during "Danny Gokey Day" in Milwaukee commented on the fact that he was nice to everyone.)

And so, during this entire American Idol season, Danny Gokey has not been able to do one thing right for these people. If he smiles fondly while Allison Iraheta sings her farewell, he's "smirking smugly" or sporting a "s#$%-eating grin."

If he seems sad or teary, he's trying to get sympathy for being a widower. If he smiles or laughs, he got over his loss too quickly. There is NOTHING he can do, and no way he can do it, to please these people.

An admission

Even some of the online writers have admitted they can't stand Danny. MTV's James Montgomery fully cops to it in this article:

"... I have written plenty of nasty stuff about Gokey... without ever meeting him and have been congratulated by my friends and co-workers for doing so. And this probably says more about me — and people like me — than any of us would care to admit.

"Do we dislike Gokey for any tangible reason? Is he a bad tipper? Mean to the elderly? No, we hate him because he sometimes appears to be a jerk on a televised singing competition. And that apparently gives us license to say all sorts of nasty things about him, to accuse him of wearing his wedding ring or using the death of his wife to curry the favor of 'Idol' voters. And that's crazy. And pretty mean.

"Perhaps Danny Gokey is proof that we hate without reason. That we are given to jealousy. That we dislike those who are naturally gifted (and dare to acknowledge that fact). That we are all, on some level, elitists, and within us all lies a superiority complex, a bias against those in the so-called 'red states' who somehow find Gokey's story, struggle, faith — and even his voice — inspiring and uplifting.

What does it say about our society?

Whatever is behind the unreasonable assumptions and blatant criticism, it all goes beyond mere dislike or just not being a fan. It's active, aggressive, toxic cruelty, and I don't like the troubling things it says about our society.

We live in an America that places no value on life, where young people are taught that nothing has meaning, there's no right or wrong. So go ahead--be as hateful as you want to be. Hurt people as much as you want to. There are no consequences to it anyway.

You reap what you sow

I guess I'm pretty naive, but I've always subscribed to a philosophy similar to the one uttered by the Steve Martin con-man character in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels": "My grandmother always told me, it is better to be good and kind than to not."

You can dislike a person, a singer, a celebrity or whatever, without being hateful and cruel. Some of the comments about Danny's loss have been cruel in the extreme.

I also believe in an undeniable law of the universe: You reap what you sow. I don't believe in spreading hatred, for that very reason. I believe in spreading kindness, because I know it's all going to come back to me.

And that's true whether you happen to believe it or not.

The one heartening thing is that this seems to be almost an exclusively online phenomenon. Talk to the average person on the street, and they're surprised to find that there are people who don't like Danny! Sure, there are those who prefer Adam or Kris, but not to the point of hating Danny.

It's just a reality show, I know. Not important in the grand scheme of things. But I hope the unreasonable mean streak toward one person for no good reason gives us all a reality check.
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