Random header image... Refresh for more!

Lewis on Joy


All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be.’

- From Surprised by Joy


All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.”

- From Letters of C.S. Lewis

April 29, 2013   2 Comments

Teaching to See

My boyfriend and I were recently discussing information design and data visualization (because we’re a little nerdy like that). He referred me to the site of data visualization pioneer Edward Tufte, where I happened upon the short documentary Teaching to See. This simple, thoughtful film is like having a coffee with Inge Druckrey, a longtime graphic arts professor at Yale (and Tufte’s wife). It’s about learning to observe, practice, create, and teach. As a musician, I enjoyed seeing some of her work directly related to classical music (such as the inspiration for her Beethoven poster, at left).

inge-beethovenBut also fascinating was how some of her visual design concepts paralleled ones I heard during my musical education. In one segment, she explains how what is mathematically equally spaced on a page is not necessarily optically spaced on a page. In other words, the human eye perceives differently from a ruler, and the graphic artist has to make adjustments for this. I remember one of my teachers constantly saying the same thing about the space between notes. Often what is metronomically perfectly in time sounds “off” to the human ear. That was part of her teaching me to listen in the same way Inge Druckrey was teaching her students to see.

April 22, 2013   No Comments

Fast(ish) No-Knead Bread


The other week at the library, I stumbled upon Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. I’ve occasionally thought of getting into bread baking, but it always seemed too finicky and time consuming. We also have a couple of bread failure stories in the family, so I wasn’t in a rush to add to the heritage.

But after flipping through the pages and pictures, I decided to give it a whirl. The first attempt, Pizza Napoletana, was pretty easy and turned out a delicious focaccia. It gave me hope that maybe bread baking wasn’t quite as intimidating as I imagined.

However, that bread took a loooooong time (as do most of the recipes in the book). Like a whole day of planning ahead. It was delicious and a great weekend project, but I wanted to find something faster. And still easy.

A quick internet search turned up this NY Times article from Mark Bittman on a fast no-knead bread, based on a now-famous method by NY baker Jim Lahey. I didn’t have all the exact ingredients (namely, a dutch oven and instant yeast), so I made a few tweaks with help from the internet. One day I’ll try the original recipe. But for the time being, I’m happy with this modified version! Seriously easy, and quite delicious.

Fast(ish) No-Knead Bread

(Adapted from Speedy No-Knead Bread)

2 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 c. very warm water
Cooking spray / olive oil
Baking stone
Large oven safe bowl
Wheat bran / cornmeal / extra flour


  1. Combine water, vinegar, and yeast.
  2. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a medium bowl (lightly oil it for easier removal later).
  3. Add water mixture to flour mixture. Gently stir to combine, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Dough will be shaggy.
  4. bread1

  5. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 3-4 hours in a warm place. (I put mine in the oven, preheated to 150°F and then turned off.)
  6. bread2

  7. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and fold once or twice. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.
  8. bread3

  9. Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the stone in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, transfer it to the stone. Make a couple cuts in the top with kitchen shears or a serrated knife.
  10. Decrease oven temperature to 425-450°F. Cover loaf with a large inverted oven-safe bowl and bake 30 minutes. Then remove the bowl and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned. Cool on a rack.


February 14, 2013   2 Comments

Come All Ye Pining

Lord, we adore thy boundless grace,
The heights and depths unknown,
Of pardon, life, and joy, and peace,
In thy beloved Son.

Come, all ye pining, hungry poor,
The Saviour’s bounty taste;
Behold a never-failing store
For every willing guest.

O wondrous gifts of love divine,
Dear Source of every good;
Jesus, in thee what glories shine!
How rich thy flowing blood!

Here shall your numerous wants receive
A free, a full supply;
He has unmeasured bliss to give,
And joys that never die.

- Anne Steele, Gadsby #1039

(Retuned hymn is a track off the highly recommended album All Things New by Red Mountain Music)

January 13, 2013   1 Comment

Both profound and accessible


“Hymnologist Erik Routley once defined hymns as “songs for unmusical people to sing together . . . [and] such poetry as unliterary people can utter together.” At first, this might seem to exult in the lack of artistry. But Routley was actually writing to appreciate the remarkable skill of poets and musicians who accept the challenge to be both profound and accessible at the same time, which is a lot more difficult than simply being one or the other. While there is a kind of beauty in a carefully-honed studio recording, there is another kind of beauty -– an often remarkable and haunting beauty -– in the sound of a congregation of mostly unmusical people singing together.”

- John Witvliet, from For the Beauty of the Church

January 7, 2013   No Comments

Heyr, himna smiður (An Icelandic Hymn)

Just came across this beautiful performance by the ensemble Arstidir of an old Icelandic hymn. I don’t know how accurate this English translation is, but FWIW:

Heyr, himna smiður (Hear, Heavenly Creator)

Listen, smith of the heavens,
what the poet asks.
May softly come unto me
your mercy.
So I call on thee,
for you have created me.
I am thy slave,
you are my Lord.

God, I call on thee to heal me.
Remember me, mild one, (or mild king. This is a pun on the word mildingur).
Most we need thee.
Drive out, O king of suns,
generous and great,
every human sorrow
from the city of the heart.

Watch over me, mild one,
Most we need thee,
truly every moment
in the world of men.
send us, son of the virgin,
good causes,
all aid is from thee,
in my heart.

- Kolbeinn Tumason (1173–1208)


Update – Here is Astidir performing the hymn in a train station:

December 26, 2012   No Comments

Merry Christmas.


Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

(Aurelius C. Prudentius, c. 413)

(Image: Adoration of the Magi, Rembrandt)

December 25, 2012   No Comments

The world can shine

“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance —- for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave -– that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

November 22, 2012   No Comments

Working with

Just came off an unusually rich week of collaborations. I got to participate in a couple of world premieres: a new orchestral piece and a trio of songs written for harp and voice by my friend Cole Bratcher (set to poetry by another friend, Jana Gering). (Jana wrote a lovely post articulating her thoughts on the experience.)

The songs were a particularly delightful project, the result of worlds colliding. I met Jana something like 15 years ago at Worldview Academy. We kept in touch through random run-ins and Facebook, and years later she introduced me to the Bratchers, Luz (a designer) and Cole (a composer). The Bratchers have been wonderful Parnassus supporters and friends, so getting to work together on Cole’s composition recital was great fun. At the reception afterwards, I felt strangely pleased to see acquaintances from many walks of life in the same room: two photographers I knew, my musician friends, Jana, the Bratchers, a couple other people I’d met through other work.

Probably the high point of the week, though, was my church’s annual Thanksgiving service. Each year we have a time when members of the congregation, kids and adults, praise God publicly for His working in their lives. Often these praises rise out of difficult experiences.

Such was the case this year. We heard courageous testimonies from a woman who had recently miscarried and a family with a teenaged daughter battling a perplexing and life-threatening illness. What an encouragement to hear, amidst the still-fresh grief, about those particular graces — an unexpected conversation, a well-timed song, a sudden turn of events — granted in times of need. What a testament to God’s grace that these painful situations were being transformed from heart-breaking to hope-bringing.

I was freshly reminded of the beautiful collaboration that is the church. As members of one body, we are co-workers in Christ. We rejoice with those who rejoice; we mourn with those who mourn. We share in the Lord’s sufferings; we bear one another’s burdens. We love because He first loved us. We strive together, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring God glory and to build His kingdom.

I do believe that salvation is all God’s doing, but find it remarkable that He often accomplishes His purposes through ordinary people. God allows us to work with Him (2 Cor. 5:20-6:10), and I think that imparts to us a special measure of joy. A privilege, and a beautiful collaboration indeed.

(Photo: Luz took this at a recent Parnassus concert.)

November 19, 2012   No Comments

Significant in the factual

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depths of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


October 21, 2012   No Comments