1 Chronicles 16:34-36
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, “Save us, O God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
that we may glory in your praise.”
36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

Geneva Study Bible

16:35 And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, [and] q glory in thy praise.

(q) He esteems this to be the chiefest happiness of man.

16:36 Blessed [be] the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, r Amen, and praised the LORD.

(r) He wills all the people both in heart and mouth to consent to those praises.

 

I consider myself a Christian writer, singer, and in general, a creative artist. But what is a Christian artist? Is he or she a person who only makes Christian art? Or a person who follows Christ and is an artist? I have the latter view.

What does it mean to follow Christ? Aside from the obvious, I quote James 1: 27.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (NIV)

What kind of character is required to have such a pure and faultless religion that looks after the weakest members of society? (BTW, I include the sick, disabled, poor, etc., that Jesus said to invite to your parties in Luke 14:12-14.) A character of compassion, sensitivity, gentleness, selflessness, humility, and genuine concern for others.

Therefore, I think the work of a Christian artist should reflect some of the above. It may be subtle, but the Christian’s art should have some element of transcendence above the world’s values and everything that is in direct opposition to Jesus’ teachings.

The problem, however, is that Christians are also people, and people have failings. It is very difficult to keep ourselves pure and unspotted by the world. And the “spots” can creep into our life, thus affecting our art and/or how we interact with others when we are trying to promote our creative works. It’s an easy trap –  to fall into pride and arrogance when we are successful, and despair and jealousy when we are rejected.

The only way to combat this is to focus our mind, energy, and creativity on the art we do for Christ, and to work at it no matter what circumstances or other people may do to us. Leave behind a piece of inspiration for future generations.

Normally Saturday mornings with my son consist of going shopping, a cartoon, or computer time. But today I decided to do something different. I have been studying the grace of God, and have been very moved by the case of David and Sean Goldman. These things have made me more grateful for my wonderful husband and my son. So today we spent time together reading and singing. I have been sporadically teaching him to read, and he’s done very well, and read several easy sentences today. Then I put on “Wall-E” for him while I listened to last night’s voice lesson.

I had had my best lesson last night to date. It’s strange that in order to sing more freely and beautifully, you have to let go of your voice and not be afraid to use your breath. I used to fret about singing too “breathy”. But now I am able to use that air to make my voice sound beautiful instead. And there’s a freedom from tension in the throat and jaw that’s very comfortable.

Then after a period watching a movie, I decided to take him to a new park that is closer to where we live. I took a chance, not knowing what the park was like, and only going on my neighbor’s recommendation. It turned out to be a delightful little park set in a nice, well-hidden neighborhood. There were kids there, and I met a Taiwanese grandmother who was here on a 3 month vacation to see her daughter, who married a Chinese-American doctor. We talked and she just assumed that I was like her daughter, a recent immigrant, until I explained that I was born here. She was with her granddaughter, the cutest two year-old. She had hoped for her daughter to marry someone from Taiwan, since her son and other daughter were there. But this daughter was a Japanese and English competition champion and wanted to study abroad, so she did and ended up marrying this doctor. I was able to tell her about my miscarriage when she asked if I only one. She told me that many people in Taiwan nowadays only want to have one child. But her daughter thinks it’s better to have another one for a sibling.

My son also played with a Latino boy on the playground, and even asked him, “will you be my friend?” The boy seemed a bit reluctant at first, but spurred on by his mother, and just through the process of playing and chasing each other around, they became playground buddies. My son is so friendly. We had a popsicle and he spilled half of the water I gave him on the ground, but we survived. When we left, I made sure he said goodbye to the little boy he had befriended, and the boy said “bye”. It was hard to tear him away from the playground. He didn’t want to go, but I told him we had to get daddy to bring him back to the park.

After we got to the college, when we were getting out of the car, my son said, “mommy, look, a bee!” I looked down and saw a hornet on my black pant leg. Yikes! I panicked and stomped and shook off the bug, send it to the ground, where it lay motionless. My son said, “I’ll step on it!” But I told him not to. Then when he stepped out of the car, the bug flew away. Brilliant. What a wonderful day together.

Ah, yes, I did pick a voice teacher, and it was #3, which I had early on guessed I would like best. And indeed, she surpassed my expectations, by not only being knowledgeable about music (her Ph.D. in music shows), but also easy to work with (she did not force me to learn from the 24 Italian Songs book), and who is also well connected to the classical singing community in my city! She is going to send me listings of opportunities to sing and perform!

So I am very happy, and looking forward to a satisfactory learning relationship with her. This will not be a traditional teacher-student relationship, as I will explain in my next post, but one where two minds meet and we teach and learn together. Bon voyage.

I visited two voice teachers today, and I will be visiting a third one on Friday. But for now I wanted to jot down my impressions of each teacher really quickly and do a comparison between the two.

Teacher 1
Teaching location: House
Age: 30s?
Performance experience: Sings opera and Broadway, currently auditions for parts in local theaters and opera houses.
Teaching experience: Nearly 20 years
Technique: Conscious vocal power – focuses on inner calm
Teaching rate: Very high, but has sliding scale for amateurs
My impression of our first lesson: I liked her confidence and warmth. She spoke to me as if she expected me to become a performer like she was. She said I had a beautiful voice (at the end of our lesson), and was very excited when I told her about Susan Boyle. She does not believe in age limits for people pursuing their dreams. I found myself a tiny bit cynical sometimes when she spoke like this, wondering if she was just trying to flatter me. I did like the exercises and techniques that she had me do, because they helped me to focus the sound of my voice and my breath in a calm way. We focused a lot on keeping the tongue flat and focusing the sound on the edge of the upper lip in order to get the best tone. At the end of one exercise she told me that I would be able to sing a lot higher than I think. She told me to get one of Cecelia Bartoli’s CD of art songs. I don’t know if I would be able to afford her on a weekly basis. Also, she only teaches during business hours. But she did say that much depended on the amount of commitment and hard work I was willing to put in to pursue my dreams. She reacted very well when I told me that I was trying out other teachers, and encouraged me to do so, because she thought it was a great idea (! another nearly unbelieving moment). Overall, a strong performer who is a very supportive teacher.

Teacher 2
Teaching location: House
Age: 60s?
Performance experience: Used to sing opera and in church, but not so much anymore.
Teaching experience: 30+ years
Technique: Bel Canto, very analytical and precise
Teaching rate: Low-reasonable
My impression of our first lesson: She was very easy to talk to, and we spent a lot of time going over suitable music for me to sing. She was pleasantly surprised by my singing and thought that it was beautiful, and that I “could do anything I wanted” with it. Unlike teacher 1, she told me that I did not need to open my mouth wide to sing, and I could let my stomach out. She also taught me to balance my weight forward and keep my chin level to the ground when singing. She gave me a very helpful exercise to flatten my back in order to keep my head and posture correct. She kept correcting me on my facial expression, and told me to smile when singing, in order to use my facial resonators correctly. She said I was probably only using about 1/4 of the power of my resonating power. She was very knowledgeable about human anatomy and taught me about using the intercostal muscles to breathe, and letting the air sink low to my hips. She pointed out that my jaw did most of the work, and I needed to move my upper lip a lot more (just like my mom used to say, ha). She diagnosed very quickly the break in my voice, which indicated that I was probably a mezzo soprano. We also went through all of the syllables in my song that would give me trouble. Unfortunately she went over the hourly time and I had to stop her in order to get back to work. Also, I grew tired and annoyed with the analyzing of the song and didn’t like the way my voice sounded while incorporating her exercises. My voice seemed a lot more thin and girlish, instead of round and full, like I wanted. Maybe with more work it would sound better. Overall, very knowledgeable and analytical teacher.

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Both teachers preferred that I tape record the whole lesson, so I need to get a better tape recorder. And oy, why is it that every teacher uses the same book of classical art songs that I used to have? They are fine songs, but I regard them as exercise songs instead of performance songs. I noticed the focus on my upper lip. I have to work on that, and also use my facial resonators. I hope that Teacher 3 will be a happy medium of the two. She just got her doctorate in music last year, and I like her rate and schedule.

But I did love the experience of driving through parts of the city that I had never seen before. It was like going on a mini adventure, and I even accidentally ended up on the highway once, because my map was wrong! Life is an adventure, and even finding a teacher is the same.

I saw the wonderfully inspiring debut of 47 year-old singer Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent, and I was so happy for her. It isn’t often that a late bloomer such as myself gets a chance to prove ourselves. Watch it here, if you haven’t already. She has a beautiful, sweet voice that sounds years younger than her age. And I admit that I did cringe because of her appearance. I think almost everyone did. But I’m so glad that she blew us all away.

Susan’s triumph couldn’t have come at a better time. I was recently inspired to take up singing again, and I have already lined up three voice teachers this week to check out. I hadn’t sang seriously for five years, but now this thirty-something is going to start it up again, and this time I have the confidence to know my goals and articulate them clearly to these teachers.

I always thought it was unfair for people and the music industry to favor only young talent, because I’m sure that Susan Boyle and I aren’t the only adults out there that have a dream that we have kept alive inside us, but were unable to fully pursue due to life, commitments, etc. And with each passing year our despair grows because the chance to fulfill that dream is fast slipping away.

I am so happy for Susan. She deserved the standing ovations and jaw-dropping audience that she got from her performance. I hope that she doesn’t get a big head, but instead uses her new opportunity to expand opportunities for others like her. Bravo, Susan.

I just had a very stressful week, one where I had to work on two very time-consuming projects with hard deadlines. The first one had a very dedicated team to help me, and it met the deadline only two minutes before it was due. The second one, which I worked on yesterday, did not have a team that was able to dedicate their resources until the last minute, and we missed the deadline by less than 10 minutes. I managed to persuade the people receiving the project to take it anyway, but they later told us that they couldn’t open it.

I remained calm throughout, even though at one point, 10 minutes before the deadline, I realized that we had to change tactics. The whole debacle was really a matter of quality vs. time. I and my colleagues were trying to put together a quality document, but in the end we couldn’t meet the deadline by a few measly minutes. Thinking back, there were many factors that contributed to our failure. The first one being that this was too much work vs. reward. Even if we had turned in our project on time, our relative reward would have been small/low. It was a project that we probably shouldn’t have taken in the first place. Now, many hours of labor (mostly squeezed into less than a week) and hundreds of dollars in cost later, it’s pretty clear.

I do feel for my client’s disappointment, but I do not think I did anything wrong, other than underestimate the amount of time it took to compile and put the finishing touches on a 300 page document. I did my very best and worked my heart out, and I also decided to take responsibility of the project, when I could have allowed someone else to do it.

But I was the first one to arrive at work that morning, so I volunteered. In the end, I got the heat from both ends. The manager on the project yelled at me (she later apologized), and the graphic designer I was working with grumbled that I should have given him the files earlier (which I could not do).

It’s not a comfortable position, and I took a risk which mostly failed. But it shows that I am personally growing to be willing to take the risk of leadership, and live with the consequences. I would have taken all the responsibility, but I have very supportive supervisors and colleagues, who all said that I had done my best and it wasn’t my fault. They told me not to worry about it.

For my trouble I did not get to eat my lunch, and instead, I had to go with the manager to deliver the document. The people I met were sympathetic but said that they had to follow their time guidelines.

It may be a mixed blessing that we didn’t get to submit our project on time. The entity we were dealing with that set the hard deadline demanded so many requirements (some of which contradicted each other) that we were having to be part-lawyers just to figure out what they wanted, and how we could best respond to what they wanted. No wonder many companies and firms do not like dealing with governmental agencies.

So after an unusually warm spell of weather, it rained again today, and the next few days should be chillier. I think it’s important to take time to decompress, and to work through any feelings I might have (I’m usually not very good about being in touch with my feelings) as quickly as possible.

Anyway, a failure now and again is good, for it makes us take a look at our processes and how we can improve them. All I can say is that me and my fellow writers could have/should have been more forceful about setting internal deadlines. Then again, it’s hard to enforce those deadlines when someone above you is pulling the strings. So we all do the best we can in as little time as we can.

I’ve been on a creative kick ever since the middle of last month. I made the wise decision to take my Christmas vacation in the middle of December, instead of during the usual holiday weeks, and I wish it had been longer. During that week, it happened to rain a lot where I live, to I got to enjoy a lot of difference movies indoors.

One movie that I had always wanted to see, but had put off forever was “A Little Princess.” I finally got it on sale a few months back, but even then I put it off. The book was one of my favorites as a girl, and also one that stimulated my writing. I remember being so embarrassed when I wrote a part of a story that was just like it, and my story ended up getting read in my 6th grade English class!

Anyway, I thought that the movie was superb, and naturally I fell in love with Liam Cunningham. Too bad I waited 13 years to watch the movie, for now he is older and gray, but nevertheless, the movie inspired me to write a fan fiction and another short story that just popped out of me over the next weekend, which I completed in three(!) days! It was truly a case of something that just couldn’t wait and had to come out of me. It was very cathartic to release my emotions by writing it.

Also, having good actors to work with in my imagination also stimulated me. After watching some of Liam’s other work, I was inspired to write yet another mini-story and several other stories.

I have been trying as much as possible to incorporate God and my faith into all of this, because artists and creative people like me can become so busy and engrossed with what we’re doing that we hardly have any time for meditation or quiet times. So I have to force myself to take time out just to listen to scripture or pray.

I have also rediscovered my love for music during this time. For me, music and writing go hand in hand. Sometimes it frustrates me when I cannot find the right kind of music to go with my story. But this is where my love of movie soundtracks comes in. While writing my fanfic, I listened to the Little Princess soundtrack over and over. I always liked Patrick Doyle’s work, and this is no exception. I also love the Iron Man soundtrack, and almost anything written by Hans Zimmer and John Williams. New stories spur the discovery of new music.

Writing these stories not only gives me an emotional release, but they also helped me be more confident. I would strut around during lunch time, listening to soundtracks on my mp3 player, imagining what my characters would do. It’s almost as if I act out their parts in my mind sometimes. But my dialogue is better when I can imagine an actor speaking it in their own way.

Anyway, once again, writing all this down has meant that I had to push everything else aside, or at least not do things as often, in order to get writing done. This time I told myself to strike while the iron while still hot—to write as much as I could before I lost interest in something. So far it’s proved to be a good strategy, and less stressful, too. There are still parts of the stories to be completed, but I am on track, if I would just persevere. Now I just need to know what to do with my finished work.

No, it’s nothing compared to what people have experienced in the Midwest or up north, but hubby and I ventured to drive on 5 highway despite the pouring rain. We were thinking about getting off the highway as soon as we got on, because of the snail-like pace of traffic, but soon traffic cleared, and so did the clouds! As we drove towards the mall, we saw blue skies and sunshine appear.

Alas, it did not last. As I was getting some ice cream at Haagen-Daaz, the ice cream girl and I suddenly heard a loud clatter against the mall roof.

“What is that?” she exclaimed. I told her that it was the rain. A sudden downpour was making all that noise.

“I want to see it,” she said, but she couldn’t, because the glass panes in the roof were opaque.

It was night by the time we drove home, and we noticed that quite a few highway lights were out, making the roads wet and dark, a dangerous combination. I was afraid we were going to miss our exit, because we had to turn off in a heavily wooded area. But oh, the heavenly smell of pine trees managed to penetrate our closed glass windows, anyway. I wished I could have lingered there to enjoy the scent a little longer.

I told hubby I bet that the evening news would be full of car crash stories, and he agreed. Locals here don’t know how to drive in bad weather.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to work with a co-worker, T., who was from India. As we chatted, she mentioned that her son was 18 and was applying to college. When I asked about his major, before the word flew out of her mouth, I somehow knew that her answer would be “engineering.”

“How did I know that you were going to say that?”

She laughed and said that everyone in India wanted to go to engineering school. I told her that I was sponsoring a girl in India, and she also wanted to be an engineer. T. told me the reason for this obsession with engineering was due to the fact that in India, if you obtained a technical degree, you could do anything; it opened up more doors for you.

“For example, I got an architecture degree, and my husband is a physicist.” She is now an accountant.

It made sense to me. I asked her if her son went to private school, and she quickly shook her head. “He goes to ____ Public,” she said. He had applied to all of the local state schools, but was now working on his applications to the Ivy Leagues.

“I hope he goes to the state schools, because I don’t want to pay for the other ones. With the economy, his college fund has been going down the drain.”

I sympathized. No doubt her 529 funds took some heavy losses. But if he got accepted to an Ivy League school, I have no doubt that she would be as proud as a peacock.