tale of three trees

This is a story from a children’s book I read as a bedtime story to some kids my sister babysits. It rocked my world:

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!” The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

Years passed and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!” The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

and the oscar goes to…

Ahhh, the Oscars. Such a glorious time. I guessed 11 correctly which is pretty good for me.

Things I’m pumped about:
The Departed winning 4 awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and a much deserved Best Director for Martin Scorsese (finally!)
-Alan Arkin blowing everyone away and upsetting Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor
Pan’s Labyrinth winning a bunch, except for the all-important Best Foreign Film
Little Miss Sunshine winning a few

Things I’m a tad bummed about:
United 93 not winning anything
Monster House not winning Best Animated Feature (Happy Feet sucked!)
Children of Men getting royally snubbed

Things I’ll look forward to:
-Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Gosling, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kate Winslet all winning much deserved Oscars in the future
-Martin Scorsese’s next movie

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the results this year. Ellen DeGeneres was okay…Jon Stewart needs to come back. The Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly number was the highlight of the show, and Martin Scorsese kicks ass.
Here are the must-sees of 2006:
United 93, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The Queen, Half Nelson, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Prestige, Thank You for Smoking, Babel, Borat, Monster House, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Blood Diamond…just to name a few. Do yourself a favor and see these films in an medium. Then call me up so we can talk about them.

lifestyles of the rich and the famous

To fans of music: Rock stars/musicians/bands are in no way better than you. There seems to be a universal acceptance of a rock star’s disrespectful and arrogant attitudes and actions, but I find this unacceptable. My guess is a lot of kids start bands because they want to be famous and have people love them. This is a natural human desire and that’s probably why we keep on idolizing bands and artists, even if they have little or no talent.

As a musician in an aspiring rock band, I meet a lot of fans (who are awesome by the way). They like to express their feelings towards our music and I really appreciate it when they do that. But when liking our music goes as far as basically worshiping us, I don’t want any part of that. At the risk of sounding pretentious (Joel), I don’t want to be worshiped. That goes against everything a “rock star” should think, but I’d rather chill with fans after shows and really try to get to know them. We’ve met so many awesome people all over the place as a band and I don’t think any of us would want to trade that for pseudo-praise or a hedonistic lifestyle.

So in conclusion, I want to make it known that I am not against voicing your thoughts to your favorite or least favorite bands. I have many favorite bands that I would love to meet and talk with. But just watch how much effort you put into over-complimenting and worshiping your favorite band. They might deserve that praise for their talents, but on the human level, they are the same as you.

you never give me your money

I love antique shops. There are 3 here in Naperville but only one of them is that good. I just love walking through aisles and aisles of history and nostalgia. Recently I’ve been finding piles upon piles of old records. Because of my love of history and good music, I naturally appreciate a good record. I only own two so far; The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Billy Joel’s The Stranger, but I plan on getting a lot more in the future.

I realized that back when records were the only form of music, you couldn’t just throw your entire music library on shuffle like you can nowadays with iPods and CD changers. They required listening to the whole record straight through, so music back then was made to make this possible. Consequentially, albums made sense. They weren’t just random songs put together to make some money–they were fluid and coherent. So recently I’ve been making myself pick an album to listen to and listen to it straight through. It makes the experience so much more fruitful and enjoyable. You can get the overall feeling of the record and then decide if you like it or not. Just try it a few times. I will suggest starting with Abbey Road because it is the greatest album ever made.

P.S. Don’t forget to send me your guesses for the Academy Award nominations which are immediately under this post.

Soundtrack of the moment, part I

No, this isn’t that stupid random listing of songs that supposedly follows your life. These are some songs that have changed me, made me think, made me cry, and want me to become a better person. Enjoy.

“Candy Shop” – Andrew Bird – Oh! the Grandeur
So nostalgic. The groove makes you want to do the Charleston.

“Martha My Dear” – The Beatles – The White Album
There are so many Beatles song I could have chosen but this one is so catchy and my current favorite. Do yourself a favor and listen to this whole double album.

“Vienna” – Billy Joel – The Stranger
I recommend this entire album. I wish I could make music like Billy Joel.

“Love Affair” – Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Ridiculously good song off of a ridiculously good album. Their musicianship and composition skills inspire me so much.

“Changes” – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
One of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear.

“Time Bomb” – The Format – Dog Problems
This band is going to be huge. Such a great blend of acoustic pop, rock, and brilliance.

“Backyard” – Guster – Keep It Together
I just love the grooves they create. The chord progressions are so emotionally charged.

“The Mixed Tape” – Jack’s Mannequin – Everything In Transit
I didn’t know anything about this band before listening to this disc. So glad I did. The first time I heard this track it felt like music was completely new and uninhibited.

“At the Mercy” – Paul McCartney – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
I never listened to any Wings stuff, so that’s probably why I love this. Paul’s still got it.

“Bicycle Race” – Queen – Greatest Hits I
At a weird yet awesome song. You will not be able to forget it.

“Short People” – Randy Newman – Little Criminals
Most people probably know Randy Newman from the Toy Story soundtrack but his other stuff is piano pop at its best.

“Samson” – Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Brass + strings + inspiration = musical bliss. Such a heart throbbing song.

“I So Hate Consequences” – Relient K – mmHmm
Lyrically, this band is the greatest I’ve ever seen. Everyone can relate to these songs, and this is just a taste of the spiritual and emotional maturity that Matthew Thiessen brings.

“The Only Song” – Sherwood – Summer EP
Pop rock glory.

“The World” – The Starting Line – Based on a True Story
An solid, anthemic pop punk rock song.

“Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” – Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel the Illinoise!
This man is truly gifted. Where he gets his inspiration/ideas is beyond me.

“Amateur Lovers” – Switchfoot – Oh! Gravity.
This album is so much better than Nothing Is Sound. Had to pick one song but listen to the whole album.

“View From Heaven” – Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
Such an emotional song from an unlikely source. A great summer record.

So there are just a few of the songs that fill my day. What are yours?

I fought you for so long…

Imagine: Darkness, accompanied by golden light from surrounding “Narnia” lamp posts. The snow slowly permeates everything in sight, including your face. The path you’re on shines like diamonds and swivels oh so gracefully alongside a sparkling river. Soft piano music dances into your ear, choreographed perfectly with the falling flakes. Now, tell me that God is not with you at that very moment.

Snow is commonly thought of as a metaphor for a sense of renewal or rebirth, but I see it as being able to see our worth. God drops this stuff down on us to show us that we can sparkle like diamonds and are so clean and new if we choose to be. Go outside the next time it is snowing at night and see what happens.

P.S. If you want to experience a living and breathing God, listen to Relient K’s album mmHmm. He is all over those lyrics.

Brightest

Walking back to my dorm from chapel last night, I saw the coolest image I’ve seen in a long time. A full moon against a dark sky with the slightest shade of the darkest blue you could imagine. Clouds shaped like cotton ball clusters slid by the moon so gracefully. Coincidentally, a Copeland song called “Brightest” was playing on my iPod as I looked up at the sky. The clean, crisp night air refreshed my senses and the whole experience broke through to my soul. The moon shone so brightly that all the beautiful buildings I passed were ever so tinted with a faint light, making the moment seem all the more surreal.

It’s moments like these that prove God’s existence. He is in the colors and the sounds and the smells that invigorate us everyday. These images are always out there waiting for someone to take the time to sit back and look at them. You don’t have to go to Hawaii or the Rocky Mountains to see something spectacular. Just open your eyes a little wider than they’ve been recently and wait to see what happens.

you’re coming alive to me (part 2)

Nobody likes 8-hour shifts. Especially me. Especially Peter Gibbons. But since I have to work to get earn some money, I had no choice. But today’s 8-hour shift wasn’t that bad. In fact, I sort of enjoyed it. Not because of the work I have to do or the people I have to do it with, but because of what I thought about during the shift to make it go by faster. I thought about my awesome experience this summer as a camp counselor, I thought about the awesome times I had on tour with the band, I thought about how cool a girl I like is (no I’m not telling and no I’m not dating anyone). When I thought about stuff like that, I kept smiling and having a positive attitude throughout the day. That sounds so saccharine but it totally worked. The fact that my legs were killing me and the work I was doing truly sucked didn’t phase me because I was thinking about sliding through a tunnel lined with oatmeal, mud, and old milk surrounded by dozens of screaming elementary school kids.

The point is that if you try to find something positive in every thing you do, every thing you do will become positive. Whenever I think of it, I ask God to teach me something I need to learn whether it be small and subtle or huge and obvious. A lot of times I don’t figure out exactly what I’ve learned until way after the incident. It just smacks me in the back of the head saying “Listen up you oblivious buffoon!” The things I’ve learned from these very experiences have completely rocked my world and everything I know about it. I’d highly recommend it.

Souvenirs

It’s fall outside, of orange and red
there’s a chill on the air
winter’s biting at my front door
and I’ve plunged into despair

The sun is setting, the wind’s suspending
on the golden horizon
the leaves crunch to my ears
the colors are souvenirs
and they’re saying ‘come home son’

This is the life
this is the listening
of words we miss
of songs we’re singing

Tonight’s the night
winter’s finally here
accompanied by the flakes of white
it’s a new beginning, a new song we’re singing
that’s better than before

you’re coming alive to me

I love it when music and movies come alive. Recently I listened to Copeland’s new album, Eat, Sleep, Repeat. That album, as well as Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit, somehow opened up a new gateway into music and life for me. When I listened to them, everything else I had ever heard before that seemed stale. They completely revolutionized music for me, however hyperbolic that may sound. I was in just the right mood for the music to reach right into my soul and shake things up. I’m sure that if you are more than a casual listener to decent music you’ll know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve had a bad day, or bad month, and listening to a certain album just smashes a window open you didn’t know existed in your soul. I love it.

With Jack’s Mannequin, I remember my heart just throbbing and getting goosebumps while walking home from the public library. At that moment, God just came alive to me. It doesn’t even matter what kind of music you’re listening to. Each strum of the guitar was like a shock to my heart. Another time, I was listening to Sanctus Real’s The Face of Love. During that season of my life, I had been thinking a lot about love and what it really meant. Three different arenas of my life–classes, church, and music–all happened to focus specifically on this subject, which I know now wasn’t a coincidence. Listening to The Face of Love and thinking about the lyrics and how they applied to my life, it was like another jump start to my heart. My windshield had just been wiped clean and I could finally make sense of the stuff that was ahead of me.

This happens with movies as well. My sister could attest to this. In the months before our grandpa and grandma died, she was away at college and couldn’t be with them as much as she wanted. She had always been really close to them, so whenever she was getting down about it, she watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I cannot vouch for the quality of the movie, but that doesn’t matter. She is emotionally bound to that film and to this day she watches it whenever she is having a bad day. We all can be moved by certain movies, whether it be because of its sadness or uplifting message. I recently watched Casablanca. I’ve only met one person who does not like/love this movie, and for good reason. I love the romance, I love the stubbornness of Rick (which I can relate to), and I love how there are so many things I can learn from it. That movie, along with a few others, lifts itself off the screen and into my heart. And sometimes, with all the crap we carry with us, that is exactly what we need.