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That waiting and preparation is essential to the Christian life. Mark Bozzuti-Jones is a former Jesuit who is now an Episcopal priest. He is associate rector of St. Imagine the hushed excitement and the vivid anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve. How much more intense that anticipation must have been for those who waited for the wonder of the very first Christmas. From the ancient prophets to the three kings, from the angel Gabriel to the stalwart Joseph, Katarina Katsarka Whitley imagines their astonishment and joy at the events unfolding around them. In her inimitable style, Whitley places herself in the hearts and minds of the biblical characters—both real and imagined—who played a part in the Christmas narrative.

She weaves stories, solidly based in Scripture, at once compelling and thought-provoking. The voices of her characters lead us closer to the Christ child and deepen the meaning of the season of Advent for twenty-first-century readers. Light to the Darkness is a fresh interpretation of the well-loved Advent tradition of Lessons and Carols. Replacing the usual scriptural readings from the Old and New Testaments are first-person monologues based on these and other passages of scripture.

Special emphasis is given to the role of the prophets, pointing the way to the messiah and offering guidance to the Hebrew people, while providing very contemporary guidance for the twenty-first century. With a reading for each day of Advent, churches can choose pieces for their services of lessons and carols, while individuals can use the book for private devotions.

The Advent season is filled with rich themes that have fascinated poets. Readers will find classic poets they know and love, including George Herbert , John Donne, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as well as contemporary poets, known and unknown. Logos 8. Courses What is Logos Mobile Ed? Shop New Products Browse All.

Shop Courses Browse All Topics. Format: Digital. Publisher: Morehouse Publishing. Today she is chief creative officer for i am OTHER, a multimedia company founded by Pharrell Williams, the superstar rapper-singer-producer. But a commercial breakthrough is far-fetched, and a prospect for which Ka seems constitutionally ill equipped. He has performed just a few live shows and professes little interest in playing more. Those records are, in the best sense, strange.

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His songs are unnervingly quiet and still; they hold a listener in thrall because they hold so much back. Often the songs discard drums altogether, opening vast spaces that are filled by samples in brooding minor keys. It is an unshakable voice of experience, delivering hard-boiled tales and hard-won wisdom. Ka excels at this kind of writing, brisk storytelling that unfolds in a pileup of rhymes and puns. So I speak about the things that I did, the things I pray I never have to do again.

How do I finish my life in grace? She has performed it many times, and at least once, 10 years ago, someone filmed her in a church. About midway through the nine-and-a-half-minute video, the band and the organ, which riff all the way through, fall quiet. The band kicks in again, and a slew of sonic histrionics, pyrotechnics and acrobatics follows. This was the moment that stood out to a musician called DJ Suede the Remix God, who just before Thanksgiving took that snippet — just eight seconds in all — and laid it over a trap-style hip-hop beat of his own making. Suede then offered the beat to the internet, calling it the U Name It Challenge and inviting others to put their own spins on it.

The singer Chris Brown recorded a video dancing to it. Countless other dancers and rappers followed him. The challenge went megaviral. The trick was that the snippet Suede chose had Caesar talking about food — and about giving thanks for that food — convincingly, joyously and at the exact right time of year. Her ecstatic cry made it universal. Grey is a vegan, unlike Shouting John, but a quick jaunt through his social media identifies him as every bit the evangelist of his philosophy that Caesar is for Christ.

But I grew up going to church, dancing and singing to raucous gospel bands and choirs nearly every Sunday. Once, after a particularly rousing concert, I walked from my seat to the front of the auditorium to be baptized and join the church, only to come to my senses once I got to the altar. For more than a year now, I have listened to little else in my car other than the albums of Rufus Wainwright.

This obsession began when my husband and I bought a car for weekend trips: a AWD Subaru hatchback with what in retrospect seems like an ancient playback machine, a 5-disc CD player. We pulled all our old CD wallets out to the car, loaded the changer and set off for our first drive. And what had been my self-imposed exile from music came to an end that day.

Sometime between and , without ever noticing it was happening, I stopped listening to music regularly. Around the same time, my doctor told me I had mild depression, which would respond to exercise and a change in habits. But this mild depression did not feel mild. I felt trapped at the bottom of a swimming pool, immobilized. Everything I had to do, everything I needed to take care of, was up at the surface, and the soundtrack to this situation was silence. In my year of carbound listening, I played through his songbook over and over.

I gained a new appreciation for his extraordinary voice, and the way its nasal timbre humanizes him, as if someone ordinary had been given extraordinary powers, midnote. I never care. Wainwright is a storyteller, and his albums work on my imagination the same way short-story collections do — poetically, dramatically. Singing along with his secrets became like telling mine to myself, and somehow, this helped me up from the bottom of that pool.

For me, looking for new music from favorite musicians is also a sign of life. This fall, I finally thought to look for a new Wainwright album. He is on the cover in full Queen Elizabeth I drag, flowers in his hair. His misogyny too. Wainwright knows this territory well. Now, for the duration of this song, he is the reluctant lover. As a storyteller, Wainwright has always been more of a memoirist than a novelist.

He made his reputation singing wise songs of impossible loves and rejection, turning personal pain into public art. His next project is an opera about the Roman emperor Hadrian, who, out of grief at the death of his lover Antinous, created a religion around him. I intend to be there when it opens, wearing a tuxedo in an opera box — no Subaru this time.

F ifteen minutes after finishing an acoustic concert one evening in January, the Texas singer-songwriter James McMurtry was backstage talking about his great-grandfather. The man had lost his own father and grandfather to post-Civil War skirmishes in Missouri, McMurtry said, so he and his wife fled the state. They settled in Denton County, Tex. McMurtry, who has released 12 albums over a year career, has a reputation in some quarters as a political songwriter, in part because one of his most popular songs is an angry-lefty anthem.

Released shortly before the election, the song swept through an America hollowed out by departed manufacturing jobs and the middle-class stability that went with them. A few years after its release, the critic Robert Christgau named it the best song of the decade. He has been on tour almost constantly since the late s, and he just takes note of what he sees through the windshield, he said, like banners welcoming home soldiers in small towns. At an upscale barbecue restaurant near his hotel in Dallas, where we met before his concert, our talk turned to tribalism and anti-intellectualism.

Light to the Darkness: Lessons and Carols, Public and Private

McMurtry had ordered black coffee and a plate of fried oysters. In a few hours, he would take the stage alone with his guitar, and in a few weeks, he and his band would leave for a European tour that would carry them from Ireland to Italy, playing 33 nights in a row.

Other singers have smoother voices. He has written about Cheyenne, Wyo. His songs tap into resentments about things like coastal attitudes of superiority and political correctness.


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His narrators are often white men who know the Bible, own guns and give their kids a nip of vodka in their Cherry Coke to get through long road trips. A Texan friend of mine likes to say that McMurtry writes as though he has spent time eavesdropping on conversations in every Dairy Queen in America.

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McMurtry has seen things change in rural America over the last few decades, he said, the curdling of patriotism and self-reliance into something uglier. Gun ownership, for example, has become an identity, or even like a cult. The narrator is a hunter, a fisherman and a small-business owner. Still rarer is a song that identifies its audience in explicit, demographic terms. Once this metaphorical point of entry is closed, an important conversation ensues.

Not every black person can hear it in a song and feel the exultation that Knowles intends. For many of us who were young and black, or young and black and Southern, like Knowles, during the years when he dominated the rap charts, his story has always been inspirational. Art finds who it finds, and the white gaze lands where it lands.

The more you try to ignore it, the more it seems keen on dissecting you. Knowles is aware of this. The deliberate rejection of white scrutiny is part of a long tradition of black art-making. If white people are pleased, we are glad.

Light to the Darkness: Lessons and Carols: Public and Private by Katerina Katsarka Whitley

This is the sonic equivalent of shaking out your hair after long hours of wearing it pulled back and tied down for work, putting on your sweatpants and calling your girlfriend to tell her about the day you had. The warbled notes of the piano and organ sounded muffled, as if underwater. The featured artists are a nod to R. The backing vocals by Tweet are a special treat for those of us who sometimes shake our fists at the sky, wondering what ever happened to that singer and her hypnotizing voice. Its measured cadence and dragging bass are perfect for a spontaneous, low-key house party.

Its boisterous horns call to mind the New Orleans second line, those musical parades marched both for celebration and for mourning. Her mother, Tina Lawson, has said that her family was essentially run out of town following a salt-mine collapse involving her father. In the contentious aftermath, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of their home.

Hasty separation leaves a generational longing all the same. What makes these moments so cringeworthy is their self-seriousness, their declaration that to be adult is to be sexy — and to be sexy is to be straight-faced, preferably with a well-oiled body, writhing and pining for male approval. Her songs are brassy, retro numbers that deal with gushy PG love, and she has a tendency to oversell them with the zeal of a collegiate a cappella singer, her impressive vocal range pushing against the edges of her bubble-gum hits as if trying to pop them entirely.

Grande, still straddling the line between child star and adult hitmaker, is in the prime risk group for hypersexed transition songs. The song, in which Nicki Minaj coolly raps about riding a bicycle as if it were a male member or vice versa , as if she were starring in some psychosexual Cronenberg horror film, has more than million plays on Spotify. Does this song sound ridiculous? But it was a half-minute in, at that first unmistakable rip of bass, that I lost my mind. That track, along with a handful of others, marks a seminal moment in the history of deep house — a rich and criminally neglected chapter in the book of black music.

New York won the contest handily, and now hip-hop has so thoroughly subsumed mainstream black culture that it often feels as if earlier artistic forms have either been eradicated or retrofitted to its preferences see: funk, R. House music — much like West himself — is unabashedly black and Chicago-bred, but somewhere along the line, it grew cozy in Europe and came to be seen as catering to white people. And though it has only ever managed to find significant audiences overseas, this transfixing style of minimal electronic dance music was pioneered by Midwestern D.

While trailblazers like Mr. Fingers — a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist — are worshiped in London, Paris and Berlin, they are barely remembered back at home. West has always displayed a rare encyclopedic and intuitive grasp of both mainstream and regional black sounds, from traditional gospel and R. He knows that, glimpsed from the proper vantage, these are but facets of the same, constantly shifting whole. It also serves as a bittersweet thought experiment: Things could have been otherwise.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which Mr. Fingers got his due.


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H ow can you tell the singer from the song? I like how she listens. I like how she tests herself and learns as she performs. Salvant has a supple, well-trained voice with spot-on pitch. No vibrato-teases; no meandering warbles passing as melisma. Her low notes go from husky to full-bodied; her high notes float purely and cleanly. The risk? Sounding decorous and derivative. Like some other young jazz singers, she does the black vaudeville hits of Bert Williams and Bessie Smith, even some of the exotica that female musicians once tossed out to keep their fans tantalized. Here the risk is archness: the knowing postmodern wink.

But mainstream success has other traps. And while it has been a long time since jazz was at the center of pop commerce, the star- or cult- making machinery still labors to produce familiar types. Especially for women, and even more especially for black women. For black women in pop music, the dominant and preferred model remains the Diva. Racially and socially, this figure is considered lower and lesser.

In the old days, that meant she was literally bigger, louder, bossier. My favorites are Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner because of their contradictions. Their social, financial and cultural riches are vast; they command global kingdoms. But they share a mandate: The Black Diva must flaunt, court and rule. Jazz divas have tended to have alter egos. Dinah The Queen Washington was also a salty good-time gal. Our heroine is thinking and feeling her way, note by note, word by word, into exuberant infatuation, fashioning a romantic-comedy monologue in which the woman surprises herself with each turn of phrase and tempo.

Salvant, like all counter-divas, constructs her look with care. Hers is gamine glam: Her face is round, her hair close-cropped. The black counter-diva is now making her way into the culture at large. Freed from period dramas that stretch from slavery to the Empire galaxy, she will bring her talents to a here-and-now comedy of morals and manners. And it means that the performer must know what age she is performing in, and why.

Along with a merry band of counter-divas, Salvant is thinking hard about what conventions, habits and desires need revising — in her art, and in her audience. Fireworks shows and rip-roaring acrobatics and dancing in front of a group of second-rate backup dancers in capes are the kind of broadly appealing theatrics that generate awe without shock, intrigue without the threat of controversy. Y oung M.


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  • It finds the confident East New York-born newcomer relaxed, but not sedate. A rides the beat with an energy that is at once frenetic and hazy. A slew of clever punch lines invite you to rap alongside her — to feel yourself too. When you hear it in the club, muscle memory takes over.

    Like some of the best New York rap that preceded it, the track emboldens. The original song is full of references to M. A raps what she knows. Queer women in particular must grapple with intersecting axes of misogyny and homophobia. Still, M. A seems refreshing, and quintessentially New York, in her frankness. She is who she is. A may be a commanding, bite-her-lip-when-she-looks-in-your-direction queer woman, but her music neither starts nor ends there.

    If you know, you know. When the woozy accompaniment hits, his deep-creased face wrenches; he shakes his head, places his palms together and gazes Godward. After three albums spent forging heavy metal in the unglamorous English Midlands, Sabbath was afforded a Bel Air mansion to record its fourth. She left her 8-month-old son to move from Gainesville, Fla. He left at 14, saying she was abusive.

    Decades later, she begged him to come home to Brooklyn and take care of her. By , when Bradley released the first of three top-shelf albums for the Brooklyn label Daptone, he was 62 and badly scarred by his own misfortunes. Even his ensuing, 11th-hour success has come at a cost: He has been pressured to support family and friends, and because his artistic method demands a deep emotional connection with his material, he has found himself revisiting buried memories of homelessness and violence.

    Late last year, he underwent a debilitating operation for stomach cancer. When I spoke with him in February, he was making plans to sing again, but his voice was practically a whisper. I used to think my mom was evil, but we were able to find forgiveness at the end of her life. Now I can go out into the world without animosity or anger and show people the love in my soul. Whether you have the emotional bandwidth to admit it or not, all of us, at some point in our volatile existence on Earth, want to be acknowledged by another human being — seen, touched, heard and paid attention to, and not just platonically.

    Maybe those two lines jolted me because I live in an ebb-and-flow of denial about my own romantic relationships. The other is the logical, dead-on explanation for this — I am a coward. I refuse to take my guard down and open up. Cowardice is also something you innately recognize in another. Has self-confliction ever sounded this divine? Feelings run up against one another: vulnerability and intimacy, the possibility of love. I am yours, but only when the lights are low and no one is looking. But Ocean has always seemed so unafraid to me, both in his personal life and in the way his music emerges from the inside out.

    Maybe he has become more of the man he has always wanted to be in the years since the summer of Harness it. Hold it close. G rowing up in America, I experienced two puberties. The first opened me up to the possibilities of adulthood. The second reinforced that for someone like me — an immigrant, a minority, an Asian-American — there were limits. In this second coming-of-age, I had to contend with the pain of wanting a beautiful white body, not out of some misguided vanity, but because I saw over and over how whiteness conferred an instant legitimacy.

    Coming from someone like Mitski, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and an American father, the title alone was powerful enough to reopen a wound that had been rotting inside me ever since I came of age as an Asian girl in America: an old hatred for myself, my culture, the way I looked and the way I was raised.

    Mitski murmurs and sighs and sings about a lover. My mother had two unshakable beliefs that she tried to drill into me. The first was that I had to study and work twice as hard as my white peers if I wanted to survive in America, and the second was that it was delusional and dangerous to believe I possessed the same freedom white people had to pursue my dreams.

    But it was clear which Americans we were referring to. For over a decade, she and my father worked two and sometimes three jobs, on top of night classes, until they saved enough to move us into an upper-middle-class, mostly white neighborhood. When I told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she reacted as if I had said I wanted to kill myself.

    In this fresh new interpretation of lessons and carols, Katerina Whitley retells the stories in the form of dramatic monologue and dialogue, helping listeners to hear them as if for the very first time. With music suggestions that range from the traditional to the unexpected, Light to the Darkness is a resource for churches planning meaningful Advent services — and for individuals seeking a new way to mark the days of this holy season.

    Katerina Katsarka was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. Jesus expects us to be the light of the world and I try to remember this always. Writing, for me, is a response to the Light.