Sunday, August 30, 2015

Something for Sunday: Micah 6:8

Micah 6:8 
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly,
and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Music for your Midweek: Department of Eagles - "No One Does It Like You"

New job with Headphones while working benefits. My favorite kind! That means more Spotify time and rediscovering some of my forgotten favorites. New/Old guys on my radar, Department of Eagles. They're gonna sound familiar because Daniel Rossen went on to form Grizzly Bear. Check it and love it.

Bonus: Their excellent cover of JoJo's "Too Little Too Late" from a few years ago: 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saturday Verse: "I Am Cherry Alive" - Delmore Schwartz


"I am cherry alive," the little girl sang,
"Each morning I am something new:
I am apple, I am plum, I am just as excited
As the boys who made the Hallowe'en bang:
I am tree, I am cat, I am blossom too:
When I like, if I like, I can be someone new,
Someone very old, a witch in a zoo:
I can be someone else whenever I think who,
And I want to be everything sometimes too:
And the peach has a pit and I know that too,
And I put it in along with everything
To make the grown-ups laugh whenever I sing:
And I sing: It is true; It is untrue;I know, I know, the true is untrue,
The peach has a pit,
The pit has a peach:
And both may be wrong
When I sing my song,
But I don't tell the grownups; because it is sad,
And I want them to laugh just like I do
Because they grew up
And forgot what they knew
And they are sure
I will forget it some day too.
They are wrong. They are wrong.
When I sang my song, I knew, I knew!
I am red, I am gold,
I am green, I am blue,
I will always be me,
I will always be new!"

                                        - Delmore Schwartz 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Christ and Spiritual Liberty

Hey guys. I gave a talk in church last week, and thought I'd share it with y'all. NOTE: The topic was NOT my idea, and I was seriously stumped by it. Hope I did the thing justice.

Friday morning from my apartment

Titles of Liberty—Fortifying ourselves in today’s world
Gretchen Devine, 8/9/2015
          My high school reunion is coming up at the end of this month. The growing pains of adolescence have stretched far into my adulthood, and checking in with old friends has forced me to revisit where I’ve been and where I’m going. I went to a small school, and got to know many of my classmates fairly well, though I didn’t keep in touch with most of them. Among all these conversations about families and careers is a question that often remains unsaid but is ever-present: “Are you still doing that church stuff?” Some of my dearest friends have stepped away the church. It seems like more and more of the new friends I make are in the “former Mormon” camp. Many of them are sometimes surprised at my continued participation in church. I don’t bring this up to contrast or judge my friend’s choices with my own. To be honest, I could easily see myself making some of the same choices. I only bring it up to help frame this talk and address some questions that I’ve been pondering on: How committed am I to the church? Why do I remain in church? What can I do to strengthen my faith while truthfully examining my doubts? And how can each of us support one another as we strive to live the gospel? 
          When I was asked to speak this Sunday, I admit I was a bit surprised by the topic
(Titles of Liberty: Fortifying ourselves in today's world), but I am grateful for the
opportunity it gave me to study and learn about how the gospel can be shield and
protector, as well as how I can grow in the strength of my own convictions. Preparing for
this talk has helped me sort through some of the questions I mentioned earlier, and I pray
that it may be a benefit to you as well.    
          In Alma 46, we read of Amlikiah and his quest to cause dissension in the church and gain power. In face of this opposition, the leader of the Nephite army, Captain Moroni created what we know of as the Title of Liberty. It stood “In memory of [] God, [] religion, and freedom, and [] peace, [in memory of their] wives, and [their] children”. This title of liberty not only served as a battle cry, but as a reminder to the Nephites themselves. Moroni taught that those who upheld the title would have the strength of the Lord. They would be able to enter into sacred covenants, and receive blessings. It served as a symbol of God’s love for us, and the standards he has set to lead us to happiness and eternal salvation. Like the Nephites, we have chosen to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. In keeping the commandments, we can become living titles, and our actions can be reflections of him and his love. 
          Moroni’s army prayed as they prepared for battle saying, “Surely God shall not
suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be
trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions” They
understood that while the physical enemies they faced were dangerous, a more tragic
downfall would come as a consequence of their own choices. There are many influences in the world, some good, and some bad. But those influences do not force our hand, or cause us to do evil. Those decisions come from us alone. 
         All of us exercised our agency and chose to come earth to learn and grow. Our
ability to choose is one of the greatest blessings we have received. By choosing to follow
Christ, we free can free ourselves from spiritual captivity. In 2 Corinthians we read that
“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Our nature transforms as we choose to maintain the influence of the spirit freeing, us from sin.       
          The church serves as a gathering place to serve, teach, and support one another. But like any tribe or family, we are not immune from weakness or division in each others
company. While studying for this talk I stumbled upon a speech by Abraham Lincoln that he delivered when he was my age. During this time period, there was concern the nation would crumble as states divided against each other. Lincoln contrasted the attitude of the time to the atmosphere during the revolutionary war. He states, “…the jealousy, envy, and avarice, incident to our nature, and so common to a state of peace, prosperity, and conscious strength, were, for the time, in a great measure smothered and rendered
inactive. …the basest principles of our nature, were either made to lie dormant, or to
become the active agents in the advancement of [a] noble cause.”  
          Over time, those feelings and unity faded white the country was divided by competing interests and values. Today we live in diverse and unique communities surrounded by many faiths, ideologies, and beliefs. If we personally resolve to live by the principles of the gospel, our influence will be felt through our communities and congregations, despite our differences. We will become more united in through our love of God and our fellow-man. As we live the gospel and keep the commandments, we will inadvertently be doing missionary work. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our actions will speak louder than any statement we may make. By our fruits, we shall be known.
          We have different opportunities and challenges compared to the time of Moroni. One of the most difficult parts of navigating our live is the abundance of choices we have. We have limitless information at our fingertips. Hundreds of sources to help us make decisions. It can be easy to relegate the gospel into one spiritual corner of our lives where it won’t get in the way or be an inconvenience. But I believe that the surest way to make good decisions while being true to ourselves is to strive to be directed by the spirit. We are guided by the spirit when we are quiet and listening and open. It can penetrate a clouded mind, and stays with us as we make good choices. We may have merciful manifestations of the spirit even when we believe we don’t deserve it. When we seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we are able to use our agency righteously. 
          In Moroni’s time, Amlikiah and his people were an immediate physical threat. In
contrast, some of the biggest challenges to my faith are my own doubts and insecurities. At times, I may be overly permissive and wishy-washy. Other times, I may be too exacting and harsh. It is difficult to uphold any standard if we are on shaky ground, but I believe that through following the example of Christ, our faith can be strengthened. Christ frees us from the bonds of sin. He was sent to “heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captive, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18)  
          In Alma we read a prophesy about Christ and the power of his infinite atonement:
“And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind: and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the
sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people" (Alma 7:11-12).
          With Christ as mediator, we can have confidence and be fortified in our place in the world. The church will serve as a safe house while we navigate the challenges of life. In a recent conference talk by Elder Anderson, he shares “It is within the sanctuary of the
Church that we protect our faith. Meeting together with others who believe, we pray and
find answers to our prayers; we worship through music, share testimony of the Savior,
serve one another, and feel the Spirit of the Lord… There is always a place for you here."


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Verse: "Ballad of the Morning Streets" - Amiri Baraka

The magic of the day is the morning
I want to say the day is morning high
and sweet, good
The ballad of the morning streets, sweet
voices turns
of cool warm weather
high around the early windows grey to blue
and down again amongst the kids and
broken signs, is pure love magic, sweet day
come into me, let me live with you
and dig your blazing.

                                                            - Amiri Baraka 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Let's Illustrate

Fell down a rabbit hole a few days ago when I found the Flickr profile for the British Library. (Thanks random Facbook post!) Proceed with caution. Once you're in, you might spend hours browsing through the galleries like I did. How can you resist beautiful painted papers that were found on the inside of some of the books? :

Also, things get a little weird you guys. Especially in the kids section. Here are some of the favorite images I found:

Some browsing music for you:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Music for your Midweek: Son Lux - "Change is Everything"

This video
is incredible.

Prepare to by hypnotized:

"...see the bones glow as they break free"

Monday, August 10, 2015

"Welcome to the real world"

Guess whose 10 year high school reunion is coming up? Everyday I think about, I get more and more convinced that I shouldn't go. Not all of us ended up like John Mayer, alright? (Note: He actually did go to his reunion like he said he would)

As for me, I've got no career, no husband, no car, no kids. Nothing much that I need to report. I've still got 18 days to decide if I'm going, but as for now, I'm leaning towards NO. Someone else want to fill this google survey they sent out to us for me? Any and all suggestions appreciated. Exaggeration encouraged.


    Where are you currently living?

    If you went to college after graduating, where did you go? If you finished, what was your degree in? If you did graduate school, where did you go, what did you study, when did you graduate (or will you graduate) and why did you do that to yourself?

    What is your martial status?

    Do you have any children? List their names and ages (and genders if you're into that sort of thing).
    List on those that you know of... skip those from that shady weekend in Malibu.

    If you are working, where are you currently working?
    And feel free to share any cool jobs you've had since walking down the aisle at graduation.

    Share something cool you've done that you want to brag about to people you've not seen in 10 years.
    Go on, you know you want to.

This is all so exhausting.
Anyone wanna stay home and watch Romy and Michelle with me? I'll only force you to reenact this dance scene a couple times.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Verse: "In The Beginning" - Dylan Thomas


In the beginning was the three-pointed star,
One smile of light across the empty face;
One bough of bone across the rooting air,
The substance forked that marrowed the first sun;
And, burning ciphers on the round of space,
Heaven and hell mixed as they spun.

In the beginning was the pale signature,
Three-syllabled and starry as the smile;
And after came the imprints on the water,
Stamp of the minted face upon the moon;
The blood that touched the crosstree and the grail
Touched the first cloud and left a sign.

In the beginning was the mounting fire
That set alight the weathers from a spark,
A three-eyed, red-eyed spark, blunt as a flower;
Life rose and spouted from the rolling seas,
Burst in the roots, pumped from the earth and rock
The secret oils that drive the grass.

In the beginning was the word, the word
That from the solid bases of the light
Abstracted all the letters of the void;
And from the cloudy bases of the breath
The word flowed up, translating to the heart
First characters of birth and death.

In the beginning was the secret brain.
The brain was celled and soldered in the thought
Before the pitch was forking to a sun;
Before the veins were shaking in their sieve,
Blood shot and scattered to the winds of light
The ribbed original of love.

- Dylan Thomas                                                                     

Friday, August 7, 2015

August Mix: Punching Bag

Beached somewhere in southern Utah

Last mix of a moody summer. Time for fightin' words:

1. She's Losing It - Belle & Sebastian 

2. Make Me Wanna Die - White Reaper

3. Gangsta - tUnE-yArDs

4. Montauk - Rufus Wainwright

5. For You (acoustic) - Fyfe* 
*You're going to have to click here to give this track a listen. Otherwise, check out the original version below.

6. Mr. Grieves (Pixies cover) - TV On The Radio

7. Future People - Alabama Shakes

8. Inside And Out - Feist

9. Mon Pays - Yelle

10. Women's Business - Canary

11. Future Past - David Bazan

12. Hallelujah - Thao & Mirah

Thao & Mirah - Hallelujah from jorankoster on Vimeo.

13. Elvis Presley Blues - Gillian Welch

14. On A Good Day - Joanna Newsom

Click here for the Spotify version of this playlist.
(David Bazan and Joanna Newsom tracks missing)


1. This song is almost 20 years old and I'm feeling a million years old

3. Merrill Garbus is always timely. This was one of my favorite tracks when they played Twilight several weeks ago

4.The collapse of civilization seems so pedestrian.

6. The original

7. Cannot get over the Alabama Shakes. Ever from the far-off hill outside of the Red Butte garden amphitheater, you knew they were killing it. Get it, Brittany.

8. From least favorite song to most favorite songs

9. Thanks to the French for my favorite freaky harmonies.

11. My valentine's day date makes and appearance

14. This one's a 4-month time machine. How can it seem so long ago?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Music for your Midweek: Alexander - "Truth"

Became recently re-obsessed with this song. I listened to on the regular when I lived in DC for the summer. Back then I wrote that I was in such a different place then I was 6 months. What would past me think of myself now 4 years later? Horrified, I'm sure.

"I've always had a major issue with death, from a pretty young age. From about 5 years old on I was very contemplative and started to become constantly filled with nostalgia for the present moment and the feeling that it's always fleeting. And until I handled that I really didn't have a healthy mind and it took a long, long time... I think the human potential is so much farther beyond what we expose ourselves, you know? And I feel like I was just coming up short constantly because of social anxiety... So I wrote... to myself, to convince myself to really act and try to be free" 
                                                                - Alexander Ebert in an interview with The Talks

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

You only live a day

          My family visited my grandmother at a care center on Sunday, where she was recovering from an emergency hospital visit. I never want to be in a care center. Even an hour long visit is too much. The sterility and fluorescent light, and cafeteria food makes my stomach turn. We talked about babies and moving and school and power of attorney. Every stage of life wrapped up in one conversation. It reminded me about how much thought is given to how we are brought into this world (water birth? epidural? c-section?) and so little thought about how we leave. A sobering thought in a sad conveyor belt of a building.

From my walking loop a couple weeks ago

          Maybe it's because people feel so helpless in the presence of death. There is so little you can control. You don't start considering it until it's right in front of you. For most of my life, my past experiences with death had been fleeting. They either left me half-sad and confused, or they didn't seem to affect me at all. I quickly brushed off any concerns or uncomfortable feelings I had. It was inconvenient for me to ponder on those things. Plus, I was young, so why should I think about them anyway?

From here

          It wasn't until I read Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" that I started to think about death in any sort of real way. I realized death was the most cruel and fair thing. After my dad passed away, I was forced to look at death head on and what it meant to for me. I had to dive into those thoughts and swim around in them and I don't think I will ever get out. It's fine. Necessary even. I've mourned the loss of family and friends, as well as myself. I began to search death out, reading article after article after article. The dread you feel when you begin to contemplate everything ending, or everything never ending. It's the same feeling.

We don't talk about death, to our detriment. I recently found this excerpt from a talk given by Alan Watts that offers some insight on the subject.

         Gillian Welch our dealings with death and how it relates to the tradition of tragedy in Southern Folk music in an interview with Salon. Talking, writing, or singing about death helps make us more human, "They let us know that these things happen to people—and if they haven't happened to you, they could. And they tell you, you need to have compassion."

So, come on night

          In my death searchings, I found a syllabus for a course on "Death and the Christian Hope". My dream college course. I'm considering following through the reading list and creating my own little book club, though I think I would most likely end up the only participant. Despite all that, we need these conversations. I hope to have more of them. I believe that talking about death helps us to build a better life. After all, each one of us is a hopeless case. And isn't it beautiful?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday Verse: "Scroppo" - May Swenson

In the early morning, past the shut houses,
past the harbor shut in fog, I walk free and
single. It is summer — that's lucky. The whole
day is mine. At the end of our village I stop
to greet Scroppo's dog, whose chain is wrapped
around a large dusty boulder. His black coat
is gray, from crouching every day in the gravel
of Scroppo's yard — a yard by a scrap-filled pond,
where Scroppo deals in wrecked cars and car parts.
I guess he gets them from crashes on the expressway,
or from abandoned junks he loots by the roadside. 
I don't know the name of Scroppo's dog. I remember
him, years ago, as a big fierce-looking pup.
It may have been his first day chained there,
or shortly after, that he first greeted me:
his eyes big nuggets shooting orange sparks, his
red tongue rippling out between clean fangs —
fangs as white as lilies of the valley that bloom
in a leafy border by Scroppo's weathered porch.
It was late May, as now, when with sudden joyful
bark, black fur erect and gleaming, the dog
rushed toward me — but was stopped by his chain,
a chain then bright and new. I would have met
and stroked him, but didn't dare get near him,
in his strangled frenzy — in his unbelief —
that somehting at his throat cut short
his coming, going, leaping, circling, running —
something he couldn't bite through, tripped him:
he could go only so far: to the trash in the weeds
at the end of the driveway, to the edge
of the oily, broken cement in back, where Scroppo's
muddy flatbed truck stands at night. 
Now, as I walk toward him, the dog growls,
then cowers back. He is old and fat and dirty,
and his eyes spit equal hate and fear.
He knows exactly how far he can strain
from the rock and the wrapped chain. There's
a trench in a circle in the oily dirt his paws
have dug. Day and weeks and months and years
of summer heat and winter cold have been survived
within the radius of that chain.
Scroppo's dog knows me, and wants to come and
touch. At the same time, his duty to expel
the intruder makes him bare his teeth and
bristle. He pounds his matted tail, he snarls
while cringing, alternately stretched toward me
and springs back. His bark, husky and cracked,
crossing the boundary of the cove. 
I've never touched Scroppo's dog, and his
yearning tongue as never licked me. Yet, we
know each other well. Subject to the seasons'
extremems, confined to the limits of our yard,
early fettered by an obscure master in whose
power we bask, bones grow frail while steel
thickens; while rock fattens, passions and
senses pale. Scroppo's dog sniffs dust.
He sleeps a lot. My nose grown blunt, I need
to remember the salty damp of the air's taste
on summer mornings, first snowfall's freshness,
the smoke of burning leaves. Each midday,
when the firehouse whistle blows, a duet
of keen, weird howls is heard, as, at the steep
edge of hopelessness, with muzzle pointed,
earls flat, eyes shut, Scroppo's dog forlornly
yodels in time to the village siren sounding noon.

- May Swenson