The Whole: Hope and The Arts

The arts bring people together in a way that I don’t see in many other areas. It’s rare that a group of people from very different backgrounds and ideologies join forces to accomplish something really good together; we tend to gravitate towards those who think and act like we do when we want to enact change.

The arts are different.

The arts are universal.

Most people speak that language, and it is a language that moves forces together towards the greater good.

Art Conspiracy is a perfect example of this.  A group of very different people (a few of whom we are very privileged to knowIMG_9885) volunteer their time to create something out of a board.  Others then bid on these pieces in
a huge auction and proceeds from tickets and sales go to a deserving organization.  It is a night that celebrates creativity, community, and charity, full of laughter, friends, good food, and a sense of belonging.

The whole is betterThis gives me hope that we, as humans, can do good in spite of our penchant towards destruction.  Seeing others give of their time and money to something good as a collective piece of humanity, working together to accomplish something far beyond what any one of them could do alone, that is beauty.

Sometimes when I feel like I’m drifting, trying to figure out who I am, I am grounded by the realization that there are real problems out there that are bigger than me and my existential crises, and there are constructive things that I can do within an area that I love to make a difference.

As you move through the next few days, I encourage you to do so mindfully.  We have a chance both to mourn deeply and to find ways that we can individually and collectively be the hands and feet of God in whatever areas and whatever ways we choose.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love….

To those who were a part of our church service this morning and contributed to our discussion on hope, thank you.  Your desire for true change driven by love is apparent and encourages me to be both a change maker and a peacemaker.

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The Lifestyle Business: On doing things my way

Recently, I have been asking myself the age-old question that we start asking our kids almost as soon as they can put together a sentence:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

From the earliest moment possible, we are inundated with this idea that we have one path to go on and we had best figure out where it’s going so that we can stay ahead of (or, at least, not get too far behind) everyone else (who we are given the impression have figured out their paths by 1st grade). So how do I even begin to answer this question? Well, there’s always the really awesome answer from this kid

“I want to be happy.”

I love that.

Of course, I am not under the illusion that life is full of rainbows and unicorns, and I think that tough times produce growth that happiness never can, but that doesn’t mean a girl can’t dream a little.

So back to the question, what do I want to be? I’m going to reframe it a bit.

What do you want to do?

I still find myself stuck. I have general ideas.
Music
Working with people
Social justice
These are the kinds of things I want involved, but what that actually looks like, I have no idea.
Recently, I’ve been intrigued by the concept “Lifestyle Business.” I first heard the term when reading some (really cool) stuff by Idahosa Ness, a guy who chose what type of lifestyle he wanted (traveling and language learning), then built his career around it. I did more digging and found this to be a growing trend. There are even people who have lifestyle businesses built around helping others create their own lifestyle businesses.

We tend to view our careers as things that we build up to, that make us “grown-up,” that we spend the first parts of our lives preparing for and the rest of our lives doing. We give them so much importance, even when we end up doing things that we don’t necessarily love.
Because of this, I think many people who haven’t yet found their “career” feel like they can’t really start living.

When did it become not okay to just rest in not knowing, in uncertainty?destiny

There are people who have found a career that they really love, and that then becomes a really positive part of their lives.
Then there are those (like me) who are doing a job and, in our spare time, building up lives that feel like shells of what we really want to be doing. I spend so much time at my job and that scares me a little, because there are other really important things that I want to do that take a lot of time, too (not that teaching isn’t important. I am extremely grateful for those who are passionate about teaching and want make a career out of it. I am not one of those people.)

This idea of creating some type of lifestyle business is still a brand new hatchling idea, so I am still trying to think about things that I could actually do or have to offer. But I love that my lifestyle could be controlling my career, and not vice versa.

All of that to say, if you still aren’t sure what you want to “do” when you grow up, be encouraged. You’re not the only one. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.

OneRepublic- Love Runs Out (Cover by The Last City)

So we recently made a new video and, while I know I’ve said this before, this is one of my favorites so far.  It was fun to make and put together.  It does a good job of showing who we are. Without further ado, here’s our cover of Love Runs Out by OneRepublic!

I hope you enjoy it!

We just finished up Golden Week which meant I had a couple of extra days with no classes. It was refreshing to practice a little more consistently and get back to a place of feeling comfortable with my instruments. I miss that.  I love teaching and I love my students, but sometimes I wonder about the cost.

One day, if we can make music videos and create music for a living with teaching being on the side, we will be better people.  I’ve been reading a book by Sir Ken Robinson called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.  It’s full of anecdotes of different people who are living out their passions and, while it’s not an easy or quick thing, it’s incredibly fulfilling.  I want everyone to be able to find their Element and do it full time. It’s idealistic, I know, but who says dreaming is a bad thing?

daydreams

He points out several things that I love.  My favorites: Intelligence and creativity cannot be put in boxes.  Intelligence is not only in reasoning and math, creativity is not only in the fine arts or creative writing.  They work together in different combinations in every person and, when allowed, make beautiful things.

I’ve been challenged to find ways to be creative and intelligent in the things that I enjoy doing instead of trying to do things that I think are creative and intelligent just so that I can say I’m being creative and intelligent (Yes, word games, I’m looking at you).

Anyways, another post to come soon on that whole balance thing that I was obsessed with at the beginning of the year. It’s related to this in a lot of ways but I have to go back to the administrative tasks that seem to consume my non-teaching times (Challenge time, how can I make recording attendance creative?)

Until the next time!

Finding the Joy

As I sit here at 12:30, wishing I was asleep, I think through my New Years resolutions and all the things I still want to do tonight.  But, as I have been learning lately, there can still be joy and gratitude.  I’ve been reading blogs and and books and the theme this past week seems to keep coming back to these things. Everything can somehow tie into that. I’m reading through a book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper (hey, guess what? It’s a free download!)  In chapter 4, he talks about the joy of Jesus and how that joy can be mine if I would only allow myself to experience it, to let go of my minuscule notions of what I think joy should be.  Then, I read this post on John 1 and this post on gratitude by Ann Voskamp.  They reminded me that if I remember what things are important, if I put Jesus first and remember the things that I’m grateful for instead of living through each day without paying attention to the beauty around me, the joy will follow.  And I’m not talking here about the temporary happiness that is so very fleeting, I mean the joy that pushes you through the tough weeks, the deep knowledge that I am a child of God and that not matter how crazy work is, or how much I want to just disappear for a few months, it will be ok because He won’t change. Not ever.  So that has been on my mind, and then I saw this awesome video of John Green talking about creativity and boom! Motivation, priority, it all ties in! If you do something just to make money, you’ll never make enough.  If you do something because you love it, well, there will be really hard days. But my gracious the good ones make it all so worth it.

So tonight I had the opportunity to skype with my roommate from college and my friend who has truly seen me for me and still loves me, and it was so good to talk about where our hearts and priorities are.  It is so good to know that there are wonderful people who I get to walk on this path with, even when I don’t really deserve it.  One of the projects that Anna Voskamp does every year is keep a Gratitude journal and I am thinking about starting one. But tonight, I am grateful for my friendships, my relationships with people who love me even after they’ve seen the ugliness inside, and I am grateful for a good God who gives me love and joy for when mine runs out.

Consuming Creativity

As a musician, I often think about creativity.  I  used to think of it as something that had to be generated from the inside, this magical ability that one has to be born with.  Something given to the elect. Lately, though, my thoughts on it have changed.  I see it as a skill that has to be developed and, if not wielded well, lost.  I am a consumer of creativity. I love reading books and listening to good music, but the creativity only comes back out in very specific forms.  I want it to branch out.  I want to be more creative in other areas.  If we aren’t careful, all we end up doing is sucking on the creativity of others. We gorge ourselves and never produce anything, slowly becoming more and more obese in it.  We are satisfied with sharing our latest favorite thing on Facebook, the video or music or piece of art that took countless amounts and energy to produce.  Am I really that person?  My encouragement to you and myself: feast on the creativity of others but don’t just stop there. Find ways to engage your creativity in new and interesting ways. Otherwise, you may find that in consuming the creativity of others, you’ve lost your ability to create.

Thailand and other things

I apologize for not updating sooner, we have been staying really busy with music and, I am excited to say, are almost ready to release our new EP along with some other cool things!
As you know, I recently went with a group from my school to Thailand. It was a wonderful experience and I’m hoping to get some of the pictures up on Facebook soon! I was with a group of 7 students and one other leader.  We travelled first to Bangkok where we got to see first hand some of the issues that go along with poverty and other social problems.  We visited a center called the Mercy House, a community center and orphanage that specifically reaches out to families that are effected by AIDs. They also have after school programs and supplementary education programs that help keep children off the street and get them back in school.

One of the other really significant organizations that we visited was the Zero Baht shop.  This was a place built in a community that had been living under a bridge but then was displaced by the government to a patch of land outside the city.  One man in the community saw the need for better food, education, etc.  He also saw the huge amount of garbage that was building up in the community. So he created a system that basically allowed people to bring their garbage to this store and exchange it for credit.  It was then built up more to include a community garden where community members could bring organic waste and exchange it for produce and eggs.  This system has grown and ended up working out really well.  The people who run the store have the garbage collection down to a fine art.  They separate the garbage so that they can resell it to the recycling centers.  Because they separate it first, they are able to get more money for their labor. They have also found ways to make handicrafts out of garbage that can’t be recycled or isn’t worth as much. For example, to make a profit off of magazines, they have to collect a whole bunch of them.  Instead, they found a way to make paper beads out of those magazines and now are able to sell jewelry for a much higher price.  The money they make goes towards buying goods to stock the shop and also towards the community.  They place a huge emphasis on education.  It was so encouraging to see that this organization was completely run by the community. They had no government help or involvement and they want to keep it that way.  This is a very sustainable, effective model that can be taken and used in other poverty-stricken communities.

The majority of our time in Thailand was spent in the northern part of the country in an area called “Phayao.”  We stayed at the Phayao Center, a YMCA shelter for children who are at risk of being trafficked. The gravity of what these children have gone through hit us almost immediately.  Not only were we asked to not take pictures of individual children or of one of us and only one child, we were asked not to post any of the children’s pictures on Facebook or other social media sites (hence the lack of children for a lot of my soon to be on Facebook Thailand album).  The time that we spent there was incredibly insightful and educational.  We learned a lot about human trafficking as well as the individual stories of some of the children.  To keep it short, most of the children were girls who came from families in poverty. Many had family members who were in the sex industry and were at risk of being kidnapped by neighbors, friends or even parents and sold.  While we learned a lot that made us incredibly sad, we had many joyful times as well.  We were able to experience cultural nights completely planned by the children. We also created one for them which they absolutely loved. My students worked hard and played hard and I couldn’t be more proud of them. I think that they really grew a lot.  We built the concrete floor of a pig house and let me tell you, it was really hard work! We carried gravel and sand back and forth in bucket lines, mixed concrete by hand and then moved that in the buckets to the pig house area.  Despite the two days of working in the hot sun with really sore muscles, there was not a single complaint.  On the last night, the children planned a going away ceremony and from what we were told, it was better planned and the children practiced harder for it than any other past group.  We were incredibly honored and by the end, almost everyone was in tears. The boys were the only ones who hardly showed any emotion.  For them it was more a “Really… is this really happening now?”  They were good sports.

Of course while we were there we were able to experience a lot of the culture.  We visited a really strange temple on the last day which there are lots of pictures of.  It was built pretty recently and is not very conventional. On the inside of the temple (where we weren’t allowed to take pictures) various cultural symbols from around the world were painted on the walls. My guess is that they were meant to illustrate the worldly pleasures that tie us down.  I haven’t ever seen Spiderman or Batman put in that context before.  It was quite interesting.  We also experienced a lot of food.  By the end, I was finally used to it. The spiciness was often more than I could handle, and I think my body was pretty annoyed with me because of the lack of sleep and stress I had put it through the couple of months beforehand.  We were also able to visit a Thai museum and see a lot of interesting cultural things and hear the history of the country.

Overall, the experience was wonderful, the people were lovely, sweet and kind.  I was glad to get back to Japan and the cleanliness, safety and order that comes with it.  However, I was deeply impacted by my trip to Thailand and am hoping to go back again in the future!

Thanks for reading all of that, for something a little more fun, watch our first installment of the EP promotion! It’s a video for our song “Erasing the Ending.” I hope you enjoy it!

Getting Serious

We’re getting really into music, and we’ve been putting a lot of work into trying to produce good audio and video! Of course we are learning as we go, so we’ve definitely got a long ways before we’re pros at it, but that goal is definitely not out of reach. Here’s our latest video! Enjoy!

Justin Bieber – Bad Day (From Heartbreaker – Guitar and Violin Cover by The Last City)

Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy ( Acoustic Guitar, Violin, Piano ) Cover by The Last City

 

Who doesn’t love karma?

Ok I don’t believe in karma, but sometimes it’s fun to pretend.  We have a couple of updates! First, our new website, http://www.thelastcityformiles.com, is updated and awesome!

Second, check out the OneRepublic – Counting Stars, Violin and Guitar Cover by The Last City!!

Third, I can finally post some video footage from our trip to Namibia. There will be more! This is from a really nice little charter cruise we did one morning with Catamaran Charters.

Fun Facts:
There are more seals in Namibia than people. About 2.5 million compared to 2.2 million.
Oysters in this part of the ocean grow over twice as fast as normal oysters because of the plankton rich Benguela current that runs through this area.
The dolphins are Benguela dolphins, the second smallest dolphins in the world.

Enjoy!

Praise and Worship (Guest post by Adam Palmer)

Wow, it has been a while since we posted.  And this will be short and sweet.  Recently our church started recording and posting praise and worship, and once or twice a month, Lizbet and I lead.  Unfortunately she didn’t bring her violin last Sunday, so this is just myself and a few of the regulars at church.

Long story short, back in November one of our pastors, Pastor Kris, gave a sermon on the Israelites through one of the minor prophets (neither he nor I could remember the exact one…) and ended it with a brief challenge that not using our gifts for God’s glory is a sin.  So, through the conviction of the sermon and the challenge at the end, I went home and wrote a song, essentially from the perspective on the Israelites, who obviously strayed from God in major ways and felt His wrath as well as His grace.  Hope you enjoy…it begins at 8:00

Lord I have been surging deep into your fire
Pushing through the smoke and ash of everything I once desired
Cause there’s forgiveness in the very hand that struck me
Even for the lost, forgotten, you promised an end is coming

I’ve felt your mercy
But I’ve watched you destroy
I sowed in tears but, I’ll reap with joy

When I see your glory

Every shadow proves somewhere a light is shining
You were there til roads untraveled were nothing but a thought behind me
Lord, when I remember how eagerly you bore my sickness
I am crippled by the shame of how I could be so indifferent

When I’ve felt your goodness
And relentless grace
But my disillusion, will be replaced

When I see your glory

And when I’ve forgotten everything you did to tell me
I can never be more lost then when I try to prove you’ve failed me
And when I have questioned every single word about you
I still know there’s nothing for me, if I try to live without you

So I will scream your glory