Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who are you worshiping?

"Little children, keep yourself from idols."

This last verse of the book of 1 John was the subject of this morning's sermon. Perhaps it may seem like a strange text for advent, but the conclusion to my pastor's series on 1 John was tied in beautifully to the message of "Angels from the Realms of Glory" -- "Come and worship Christ, the newborn King."

I found myself incredibly convicted this morning, especially by the definition given for idolatry. To paraphrase what was said this morning, idolatry happens when the absence of anything makes me doubt God's goodness. In other words -- if I am sick, and that makes me doubt God's goodness, my health has become an idol. If I require anything beyond salvation to believe God, I have become guilty of idolatry.

Another, perhaps more subtle example of idolatry was pointed out in my philosophy class just last week. Can't philosophical systems become idols as well? My philosophy professor raised this question, reminding us students that philosophers, by nature, claim to have the answer to the way the world works. Whether it be Descartes or Kierkegaard, empiricism or rationalism, a philosophical system explains everything... even God's actions. It's very easy for that philosophical system to start not just describing how God acts, but defining it. In essence, we can easily elevate a system as an authority over God, creating an idol of our own intellect.

So -- the question I've been pondering all afternoon: Who am I worshiping?

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

P.S. -- Listen to Pastor Worley's sermon, entitled "Idols," here:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

incarnation in song :)

Take a moment and stop, in the busyness of December, to reflect on the reason we celebrate. Isn't it the simple, beautiful truth that God became man? When you think about it, the story of Christmas gives us reason to contemplate and celebrate one of the most integral parts of our faith. Focusing on Jesus at Christmas shouldn't just mean getting warm fuzzies and singing lullabies. It should mean remembering that the God of the universe chose to wrap Himself in the form of  a tiny baby -- then, now, and forever fully God and fully man.

I've been reflecting on the incarnation lately. With preparing to lead worship back in the country on December 26, and getting ready for our Christmas concert in the city this weekend, I've been filling my mind with the lyrics of solid hymns -- O Come All Ye Faithful, What Child Is This, Angels from the Realms of Glory, to name a few.

A contemporary song has been added to the mix. While I first heard this song on the radio a few years ago, I've grown incredibly attached to it this semester. Joy Williams's "Here With Us" is one of the most beautiful portraits of Christ's incarnation in song. It's not full of big theological terminology, but rather focuses on the simplicity of the mystery: God, now man, "here with us."

Listen to it here. You'll be glad you did.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Mommy, she has ice skates!"

Every little girl in the city must have pointed them out as I walked back from the park, skates slung over my shoulder. The innocence of the children was priceless. Ice skates mean romantic twists and turns on the ice, and pretty outfits. They mean beautiful music and a graceful bow at the end.

I didn't try any of the twists and turns when I skated yesterday, but we watched an experienced skater in the center of the rink. She might have been in jeans and a hoodie, but her beautiful motion showed practice and skill. I commented on how much fun she was to watch, and how I'd surely fall if I tried. (I might have cotton to soften the blow, but I wouldn't want the blade to slice my fabric open.)

"You have to fall," my friend responded. It's not just a matter of being willing to risk the failure -- it's a matter of falling and learning how to pick yourself up again. When we see a pretty outfit and perfect landings, we forget the falls that led them there.

To be honest, the past few weeks have forced me to begin dealing with some falls. In my musical imperfections, sin issues, and other pain, I've been looking for the shortcut. I've wanted to take the bow without taking the bruise. 

My friend and I didn't fall while we skated yesterday, but as we sat in a café and drank tea together, we talked about the bruises and broken bones that are part of this life. We listened and shared our pain. As we talked, I was reminded of the beautiful acceptance we find in the body of Christ.

We all fall. None of us has the twists and turns mastered yet. My bruise may be in a different place than yours, but it's there just the same. By the grace of Jesus, we can look forward together to the healing we'll find in heaven -- beautiful music, white robes and all.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Evidently, we hug...

We all have those awkward moments. You know... the kind when someone waves at you, and you are trying to figure out who they are. You don't remember, but you play along, because they obviously know, and you wouldn't want to hurt their feelings.

Walking back onto campus a couple weeks ago, after our break, I was greeted by an excited redhead. She was waving, running toward me with arms outstretched, exclaiming that she hadn't seen me in FOREVER. I love getting greetings like this from my friends. (And, being the doll that I am, I get lots of hugs...) There was only one problem...

I didn't have a clue who she was.

Wracking my cotton-filled brain for any recollection of this young lady, I opened my arms in return. This went beyond waving and playing along. This went beyond saying hi and pretending I knew her life story -- obviously our relationship went deeper. Evidently, we hug...

She gave me an enthusiastic embrace. Then, she said the words that made this situation all the more awkward. "Do I know you?"

"Ummm... no. No. You don't." I stood there stunned, realizing to my embarrassment that she had been intending to hug the person behind me.

Playing along is always a gamble. You never know if the other person actually knows you or not, or if they're just pretending, too. You realize how awkward it is, then move on with your life. Unfortunately, that's not the end of my story.

The next night, I met up with a friend. (Just to clarify... I actually knew this person.) He turned and introduced me to a tall girl with red hair. Normally, you say, "Nice to meet you." Never in my life have I heard a greeting like this one.

"Did I hug you yesterday?"

With love... and hugs... from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, October 18, 2010

Destination: ISRAEL!

I've been busy lately getting ready for the tour to Israel with the Women's Concert Choir at school. We're planning to give concerts and serve the people in Israel for two weeks in May, and all of us are getting excited. Rehearsals are happening, support letters are being written and stuffed, and we're talking about t-shirt designs. We recently had pictures taken, and we all had to have our dresses hemmed. Mine was just a bit long, but we fixed it. I had a friend run the sewing machine. (It's dangerous for dolls to sew -- we might get sewn to the clothes ourselves, and then where would we be?)

I've been so blessed by the music in rehearsal. Words about looking to heaven, God's amazing grace, and pressing on in suffering soothe my soul every time we practice, and I can't imagine what a ministry the program will be, even to us girls in choir. Our director puts so much time into choosing the music, and carefully selects Scripture to go with it. I'm looking forward to worshiping God through this music nearly every day for two weeks -- what a blessing!

The next step involves passports. Next thing I know we'll be planning what to pack... and in a few short months I'll be in the Holy Land. In the meantime, I need to polish some accompaniments, learn the second alto part, and pray fervently that God provides the grace to accomplish it all. Or... rather, that He accomplishes it all, and maybe uses me as a tool. I'd appreciate your prayers during this time of preparation. 

So... without further ado -- the prayer request list! As I blog about Israel tour preparations, I'll give two or three specific prayer requests, and would appreciate your intercession for us.
  1. Pray that the work I do on accompaniments would be excellent, and that God would multiply my efforts during my practice hours.
  2. Pray that I would be able to prioritize my time well, get enough sleep and continue to take care of my health. Every individual member's energy affects our effectiveness as a choir. (My health has been doing so much better, by the way!)
  3. Pray that our support raising would be a bonding time for the choir, and that the mutual dependence on God for the finances of the trip would cause us to grow closer to Him and each other.
One more thing... if you're praying, would you comment and let me know? It would be such an encouragement to me during our preparation process that God has raised up some prayer warriors on our behalf.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friendship, Fountains, and Fall

The city has enjoyed a beautiful October heat wave. Combining the gorgeous reds, browns and golds of autumn with the warmth of summer doesn't always happen, and I've been loving it. The flowers are still blooming in the parks, the fountains are still running, and the city is a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

It's important to take a break every now and then. In the midst of the stress of mid-term exams and projects, a friend and I chose to take a much needed break and walk around the city. We stopped in at some cute little shops, and looked in the window at others. We walked through a park and enjoyed the fountain. (My friend lifted me up so I could see it. She got my fabric a bit wet, but I splashed her back.) We went to an African worship concert that evening, and then had dinner at an Italian restaurant with sidewalk seating. I've always wanted to eat on a city sidewalk. :) I finished the evening refreshed, and much more prepared to study for exams.

There's something so charming about the city on a Sunday afternoon. Very few have a huge agenda. A lot of people are ambling, sitting on a park bench and reading, or stopping for a leisurely dinner at a restaurant. The bustling you see on a Saturday at Macy's was gone in the quaint little shops in this part of the city. Oh, there were still some in a hurry. There was a rowdy bunch at a sports bar watching the big game as we passed by. There were people standing in line, hoping to get their spot at a restaurant, and there were cars driving constantly.

But still, most seemed to have stopped for a moment to enjoy life. Maybe that's what heat waves in October do. Maybe everyone was just grabbing the last bit of warm weather they could. Or maybe I saw the city through rose colored glasses that afternoon. Perhaps my determination to set aside my worries caused me to see the world as carefree. Whatever the case, I found the city delightful on Sunday, and it's left me in something of a nostalgic mood.

I was also reminded that afternoon of the beauty of friendship. A very close friend and I enjoyed the afternoon together, forgetting about homework for a while and sharing the stresses and joys of life. Our choir director joined us for dinner, and we enjoyed fellowship and laughter as the evening waned.

Honestly, I don't know how I would have made it through midterms if it hadn't been for some intentional rest. When you use your brain all the time, the stuffing gets squished from so much hard thinking, and you get tense all over. Sometimes, you need to be a little floppy and flexible. I reaped the benefits of that rest this weekend.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I ended up with whatever "gunk" has been going around campus this week. Normally, I'd push through, maybe take a nap or two, and be fine. This time around, pushing ahead wasn't an option. Frankly, a bad cold, left alone, could give me a relapse. So I've taken care of it... and fought it within an inch of my life.

You see, I want to be better. And I was getting better!! I was right on my way back to "SuperDoll" mode -- I could stay up late, I could do my homework, I could practice my full amount, I could do it all... and I didn't want to admit that having a cold could take me down.

My roommate had to tell me that I should skip church to sleep. My piano teacher had to tell me that I should skip class to sleep. My mother had to tell me that I should miss my volunteer tutoring in the projects to go to bed early. And when I wasn't being told by people who care about me that I should take care of myself, everyone I saw was asking me if I felt okay. "You look white," a friend observed just today.

I hate this... SuperDoll is an undefeated power, with lungs of steel.

But in the midst of hating this, God communicated a beautiful truth to me.

I will do anything I can to get better. I willingly schedule time for my breathing treatments, getting up early, sneaking out a few minutes in the middle of my day, and leaving time before I go to bed. I know that if I don't, I'll pay for it. I won't be SuperDoll without my treatments.

But at the same time, I make excuses about not finding time for God's Word. You know that superhuman strength I need to live each moment in the Spirit? I can't get that on my own... but I've observed that I more willingly carve out time to be a physical SuperDoll than to be a spiritual one. That is a huge disconnect.

So, to give this dense, cotton-filled head a bit of a connector, I have decided to spend time in the Word while I do my treatments. It may be a small start, but I'll be associating the spiritual sustenance with the physical. When I'm fully recovered physically, I'm hoping the lesson will stick...

I'm also hoping I'll remember that my lungs are made of cotton, not steel. :)

With love from an absolute (but not so super) doll,

Erin Joy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When life is beautiful

It was a simple day. We were in jeans and tennis shoes, with sweaters and sweatshirts for the fall weather. We met in the plaza and headed to the train station.We stopped for a brief moment at a coffee shop, saw people we knew, and chatted for a bit.

We got on the train and found ourselves laughing and talking, just like normal. Unsure which stop to choose for our destination, we struck up conversation with a middle-aged man on the train. He had a disability, so when we arrived at the stop, Chris helped him off.

We walked to the park and were immediately surrounded by masses of people. It took a while, but we finally found an empty spot to set our blankets and enjoy the evening. (You have no idea how hard it is to push through a crowd when you can't see over anyone's knees.)

Sprawled on blankets in the park, we waited for the rest of the group. It was one of those picturesque fall Sundays, meant for outings like this one. While we waited, I braided Linnea's hair, and Chris took pictures. Our other friends arrived, and we brought out the food -- popcorn, bananas, and granola bars. (I crawled inside the popcorn bag to get the last few kernels.)

Then the music began. The city's symphony orchestra played, celebrating its new conductor. Selections by Verdi, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Respighi came soaring from the stage. As the beautiful melodies floated through the air, I couldn't help but feel blessed.

Blessed to have such beautiful friendships. Blessed to hear music of that grandeur. Blessed to be in a part of the world where the seasons change, where September has its chilly moments. Blessed to be redeemed. Blessed to be alive.

Sometimes, life is beautiful. When God grants you a beautiful moment, take it, take pleasure in it, and praise Him...  for every good and perfect gift comes from above.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Glory of God or the Magnifying of Me?

Well, duh. Of course we're going to choose the glory of God. It's kind of a no brainer, right??

While it should be, I'm sure all of us have areas in our lives where we let God's glory take second place to our wishes and desires. Recently, I've been convicted of this egotism in a very touchy area: church music.

What purposes does music in the church serve? That's not a rhetorical question; I'd welcome your comments. The two that come most readily to my mind are the praise of God (Psalm 33:2-3) and the edification of others (Ephesians 5:19).

I cannot think of a single passage in Scripture where it instructs us to sing praise to God to please ourselves. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying music cannot or should not be enjoyed. I'm a music major, so of course I love music! Corporate worship is not the only context for music given in Scripture by any means.

I'm just suggesting that, at least in the corporate worship setting, music always has an audience. The audience is God, other people, or, I think legitimately, both. We are instructed to "make melody to the Lord with all your heart" and to address "one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Ephesians 5:19)

Here comes the convicting part. When we quarrel, whine, or refuse to worship because of the style of a song, we are neither edifying our fellow believers nor praising God. If that is the case, then music in the church is pointless.

It must break God's heart to see the "worship wars" in our churches today. Honestly, whether we sing all hymns or all praise choruses or a mix, whether we use drums or an organ, we have missed the point if we are not edifying the rest of the body and praising God.

I think a lot of us honestly think we are getting the praising God point. I have heard people say, "Well, I can't praise God with that song because I hate it." I have been guilty of that same sentiment myself. When we express it, we think we're getting the worship thing -- we want to be able to praise God more effectively, right?

Wrong. I don't think putting praising God in a box like that is possibly glorifying to Him. While I'm all for praising God in a style we connect to (hey -- I'm surrounded by budding ethnomusicologists!), I think leaving out the other ingredient to music in corporate worship is dangerous.

When we refuse to praise God because we hate the music, we are refusing to put others' interests ahead of our own. Remember the other audience Ephesians gives? The church. We are to address each other with songs. Maybe the style that I hate is presenting a song someone else in the body needs to hear that morning. Maybe by choosing to put their interests first and praise God along with them, I can in turn be made more Christ-like.

I can guarantee you that He will not be glorified by our bickering, by our arrogance in promoting our style first, or by our childish attitudes. He commands us to be unified, to show love to each other. I think those commands include music.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, August 23, 2010

Well, I'm back in the city...

... and back to school. My first class was this morning, and I'm looking forward to taking courses in musical form and analysis, piano literature, Baroque counterpoint, philosophy, and how the Bible came to be. I'm working close to 15 hours a week this semester.

I have two new roommates, since the previous two left me to get married. (Seriously, why would you give up rooming with a doll like me???) They are both very sweet, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.

Last night was such a blessing. One of my former roommates invited several of us over to her apartment. At the end of the evening, four of us were left, and we spent some quality time in prayer for various situations we were facing. I left feeling prepared to start the semester. Spending time in the presence of the Almighty will do that... :)

One of my goals this fall is to blog more often. I'm going to start by aiming for at least one post a week. I'm hoping to do a series on church music philosophies soon... so watch for that.

Another goal of mine is to make my time in God's Word even more of a priority. I'm thinking about doino shg an inductive Bible study on 1 Peter, and I definitely plan to share posts on what God is teaching me.

I also need to keep seeing and doing in the city. While, yes, my studies, work and time with God need to be prioritized, I do want to take advantage of the exciting opportunities available to students in the city setting.

But, for now... I'm going to run to class. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Dolly Daily... except it's really a weekly :)

This summer, I've been working full-time at my local newspaper. I realized today that I hadn't given you the promised post chronicling my adventures, and the summer is almost over!

So, where to start? My job has involved a whole host of different things, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. (That and the fact that I get to be a techie... but you already read about that!!)

This summer, I got to start a new feature column that we've been running every other week. Rather than filling it with my deep dolly insights, I've been interviewing various people in our coverage area about cooking. The column includes a picture of the featured chef, a profile of them, and three of their favorite recipes. Often, I've gotten to meet someone at their home, eat their incredible food, and get paid to ask them questions about it. No... I haven't put on any extra stuffing... don't worry. :)

Another of my little "projects" has been visiting the area library and looking at microfilm. I've been reading about what happened in my small town 10, 25, and 50 years ago. It's been pretty interesting... from the winners of a beard growing contest to the price of a subscription 50 years ago. And did you know that my hometown theatre showed the movie "Portrait in Black" in color when it first came out?

In addition to my normal responsibilities as a feature writer, I've gotten to explore photography a little more as well. Actually, I've probably done as much photography as I have writing this summer... which isn't normal for me! I've found that a good camera makes it much easier to take good pictures, and I actually enjoy photography now.

I've loved the newspaper this summer -- the teamwork in the office, the chance to meet new people, the rush to complete a project before the deadline (okay, so our deadlines aren't THAT intense, but still!), the challenge of finding the perfect angle for a story, and the constant reality that the product I'm producing is so much bigger than I am... :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thoughts on "Riven"

As a college student, I seldom have time read much besides textbooks. This summer has been no different; I've been reading my New Testament Survey textbook and the press releases that come into the newspaper where I work.

Being sick changed some of that. I didn't quite have the energy to study a scholarly analysis of the background of Paul's letters, and so, on a Saturday afternoon when I was doped up on Benedryl, I raided the church library.

My curiosity had been piqued by Jerry Jenkins's book Riven. He describes it as a work of a lifetime, as "the novel I have always wanted to write." I had enjoyed reading one of his books on writing at the beginning this summer while recovering from my concussion, and wanted to read some of his fiction as well.

Riven was no disappointment. Jenkins wove a story with true-to-life characters and conflicts. I believed Thomas Carey's plight, the pastor who had been walked on by countless congregations, never seeing fruit in his ministry. Brady Wayne Darby's constant battles to escape the trailer park were all to no avail, and my heart broke for him.

Sometimes I was angry with the characters for not responding the way I thought they should, but always their motives made sense to me. It takes skillful writing to present characters who are believable even when their actions are illogical. Sometimes human behavior defies logic.

All this was accomplished with a beautiful writing style. Jenkins writes in a way that doesn't interfere with the story. I find it difficult to enjoy a poorly written story because I am constantly distracted by my annoyances with the style. It can be equally difficult to read writing that constantly draws attention to itself as phenomenal and complex. Jenkins has neither fault -- his writing tells a story, and it was only after reading a while that I noticed how beautifully he was doing it.

One final thought before I close: This book resonated with me deeply. A theme woven throughout the story is the long wait for the fruit of Kingdom labor. The story spans seventeen years, and when it opens, Thomas Carey is already worn with waiting. How willing am I to wait for God's redemption of a sinner? The beautiful ending would never have been possible without the painful wait, but it's never easy to see that in the meantime.

Well... I'm still not feeling the best, so I should probably sign off for the night and head for bed. (Or maybe I should stay sick... I seem to get a lot of worthwhile reading done that way...)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, August 2, 2010

the list gets shorter...

I now have bronchitis. :( After having more complications with my asthma over the weekend, we went to the doctor this morning, and I got put on prescription drug number four. I'm starting to feel the Prednisone kicking in at long last, and hopefully I should be myself in a few days. I'm drinking lots of water, and I had chicken and rice soup for lunch.

Still, I can't shake a comment a doctor made during my first visit ten days ago. "Stick with music... I wouldn't go out for sports."

You see, dear readers, I have realized that the options for my hobbies and careers are narrowing. As young Anne Shirley once put it, "My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes."

I can never go out for sports. (Exercise is an asthma trigger.)

I will never be a professional house painter. (Paint fumes caused problems Wednesday morning.)

I will never be able to climb Mount Everest. (While my Prednisone has me wired enough that I want to, I have to realize that the altitude might not be beneficial for my breathing.)

I will never be the jazz pianist in the cocktail bar. (Too much smoke...)

I can never be the manager of a grain co-op. (Burnt, moldy corn from a grain fire at the elevator in my hometown was probably what sent me over the edge.)

I can never pursue a career in veterinary medicine. (I can handle animals in limited quantity for a short period of time... but maybe I spent too much time at the county fair?)

I can never be a firefighter. (This one doesn't quite need any explanation...)

Well... as sad as the narrowing career options are, I have to admit, I'm glad to be on the road to recovery. I'm also glad to know what my triggers are... now I can behave myself and avoid them.

Even if it means I'll never be able to be a professional carpet cleaner. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Friday, July 30, 2010

"the breath of all mankind"

My asthma is back in full force, and as I've sat at home doped up on Benedryl, and hyped up by albuterol and steroids, I've been thinking.

Job 12:10 says, "In His hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."

God is in control. Every breath I take is enabled by Him... whether my lungs are swollen or not. You see, it's easy to remember that God is the one enabling my breath when I'm coughing and wheezing. When every breath feels like a victory, I know God is in control.

But what about when the asthma's over? In a few weeks, when my lungs are back to normal and I'm only puffing occasionally, what then? Is God still enabling each breath? Or is it just going on as normal, under His control only when there's a problem?

If I ever allow myself to forget that my life is in God's hands, shame on me. Asthmatic or not, breathing is a gift from God. He can give it, and He can take it away... and blessed be His name regardless.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Experiencing God" and His many names

This summer, I have joined a ladies' Bible study at my home church. It meets at 6 a.m. on a weekday morning, so I've been faithfully drinking my coffee that morning. :) (When a brain is made out of stuffing like mine is, it needs a lot of caffeine to wake it up in the morning.)

We've been using the study Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King. From the very first day, God has been using this study to convict and challenge me. I've realized I need to place the focus back on God and His work, not on me and how I want to focus on Him.

Focusing on oneself can be a very subtle thing. You can be convinced you're focused solely on God and what He wants you to do for Him... and then come to a realization that you're really focusing on what you can do for God, not on God Himself.

I was unsure how to fix this problem (funny how a little doll like me is convinced that I can fix everything in my life), and then one day, the lesson was on worshiping God. We were given a list of God's names and instructed to meditate on them. This was a long list -- 2 pages, 3 columns each, in about 7 point font. Trust me; when the page is bigger than you are, that's a lot of names of God. I got stuck on the first one (a faithful God), and didn't get any farther that day.

Ever since, I've been meditating on these names, moving down the list one by one. I've read the Scripture that introduces the name or the attribute, and have seen God as faithful, ready to forgive, a saving refuge, a glorious crown, a jealous and avenging God, and today, as my refuge and stronghold. I meditate on these names throughout the day, and I've already been noticing a shift in focus. Suddenly, it's about WHO God is, not what He wants me to do. I'm seeing ways He is faithful to me, ways He has and is forgiving me, ways he has been my refuge. Today, I read in Joel a description of His wrath juxtaposed against His tenderness and protection for Israel. I'm excited to continue to encounter this mighty and wonderful God anew.

What are names of God that have had great significance for you? How have you encountered Him lately?

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In which Erin Joy becomes a "techie"

Last summer, when I came back to the country, I had no idea what I'd be doing. I ended up working at the newspaper where I worked in high school, and waiting tables. This summer, the newspaper was able to give me full-time work, so that's my only job. It has definitely had its interesting moments.

Upon arriving, it soon became apparent that, while my job requires a computer, the computer available to me was broken. Since I was the only one with disposable time, I was asked to diagnose the problem.

You have to understand, dear readers, that I do not fix computers as a general rule. No. The most I ever do is call my brother, and he tells me over the phone exactly what to do. While I do run Ubuntu as my personal operating system, that is more do to the tech savvy of my computer engineering brothers than my own knowledge of it. The idea of me being appointed techie seemed somewhat laughable.

I used Google. And help menus. And the Apple software assistance page. And somehow, I managed to fix that computer. I was relatively terrified going into the situation, but I guess some of the tech savvy wore off... maybe by listening to it for so long from my brothers, it managed to work its way into my stuffing. I still feel completely incapable of doing anything beyond installing an operating system, though... there is a definite limit to how much computer savvy can be learned by osmosis (or diffusion... or whatever it is... I'm not a scientist, either!).

We still have to wait and see if the problem was actually the operating system, but that question is for someone with more tech savvy than a little doll like me to answer. There's a reason I'm not another computer engineer in the family.

Well, I'm afraid my other adventures at the newspaper will have to be put off for another day... so until then, dear readers!

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Saturday, June 5, 2010

a doggy and a dolly

I took my Bible and coffee out to the back porch this morning, intending to have a quiet time in God's Word while enjoying the beautiful summer day. I didn't expect to enjoy Pepper, the old farm dog whose presence has often annoyed me.

When I was in high school, reading on the back porch meant dealing with a jumpy dog who wouldn't sit still, got my fabric wet with her drool, and got her doggy breath all over my face. (Yes, I can smell without a nose. Don't ask me how that works...)

I would go out to the porch with great intentions, but before too long usually headed back inside. I was willing to pet the dog, but only in moderation. In the words of one of my mentors, "Dogs just gross me out."

Please don't hate me, dog lovers. I love dogs in theory. I love the idea that a pet can become your best friend. I think it's sweet when people love their dogs and dote on them. I have just never mourned the fact that I'm allergic and have an impending asthma attack as a legitimate reason never to have them in my house. :) (Yes... I have asthma without a nose, too... and we wouldn't want my stuffing to tighten up so I couldn't breathe, now would we?)

This morning this reaction was different. I was sitting on the swing, contentedly reading my Bible, and the dog came up. This time, she just looked at me a little mournfully. She quietly sat down. I reached out and petted her, then returned to my Bible. Pepper stood up slowly and opened her mouth, drooling on the concrete as she panted for more.

The dog isn't jumpy anymore. She's entering her old age, and the end doesn't seem to be too far away. She moves slowly and sadly, and when I petted her again before I went inside, she seemed grateful that anyone would pay attention to her at all. She doesn't want to play like she used to. She just wants a friend.

I started to realize that the dog has been faithfully there. She's barked to let me know when strangers drive on the farm. She's played with me when I wanted her to, and whined when I didn't. She's put up with being loved by some of us and ignored by others, but she still loves us all the same.

Now, as she's getting older, I'm realizing that the farm won't quite be the same without her. It's already tangibly different. She doesn't run up to meet me anymore when I get home from work. She just comes and finds me and looks mournfully at me on the porch swing. She drools on the concrete instead of my fabric, and lies down behind the swing as I read instead of jumping on me.

And, yes, dog lovers, I think I'm going to miss her.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thoughts on "Mr. Holland's Opus"

I watched Mr. Holland's Opus for the first time last night. I'd seen clips from it before, but never the whole movie.

For those of you readers who have not seen this movie, put it next on your movie-watching queue. I was blown away by this realistic portrait of a teacher, musician, husband, and father. Mr. Holland, full of his weaknesses, proved to be a hero in the end, and made all of us watching the movie get a bit teary-eyed.

I think it was Mr. Holland's weaknesses that made him such a believable character. I, for one, identified with his passion for music, and also how that came with its own set of temptations.

As a musician, it is easy to let a love for music take precedence over everything else, even the people to whom you are teaching it. Watching Mr. Holland deal with the pressures of teaching people who didn't seem destined for success was inspiring for me. It wasn't easy, but he learned how to offer both criticism and encouragement, and how to teach in a way that inspired enjoyment in the kids.

He also had to learn that his personal musical goals could sometimes play second fiddle (Pardon the pun; I know it's terrible!) to his family life. This was another hard lesson for Mr. Holland, and it is something with which I easily identify. When is the time to focus and prioritize time as a musician, and when is the time to set aside the metronome and listen to a friend? It is difficult to recognize that there may be seasons in my life when classical music will have to be lower on the priority list.

Still, the movie also captured the rewards of prioritizing correctly. Things fell into place when Mr. Holland learned to place family and students first. Will this always happen? Not perfectly like it did for Mr. Holland, perhaps, but we are promised that "all these things will be added to you" when we seek the Kingdom first.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, May 23, 2010

a concussion, finals week, and finally a blogpost...

Life advice: Do NOT get a concussion during finals week of spring semester.

I did not follow this life advice.

The Sunday night before finals, my roommate was opening the door for me. It was one of those big, heavy metal fire doors, which probably weighs about three times as much as a little doll like me. As she opened it and I started to walk through, it caught on my foot, ricocheted back, and slammed my head between the door and the doorframe.

Two days later, I went to health service, was diagnosed with a concussion, and decided to complete my final exams. My stuffing was a bit rattled and squished, so the doctor wrote me a note to give to my professors. I spread my finals over the rest of the week, and I still have to finish one paper. I spend most of my week napping, taking Tylenol, and trying to pack (with the help of another friend who ought to be nominated for sainthood!).

I learned a few things through this concussion (besides the life advice already mentioned). First, always start projects early. If I hadn't started some of my assignments ahead of time, I never would have survived finals week in one piece, because the workload I would have tried to accomplish would have been double or triple.

I also learned to be very grateful for good friends! There were lots of wonderful people who helped, whether it were packing my suitcases, cleaning the apartment, taking my shifts at work, or telling me to go to bed. (Hey... I'm tough! I don't want to admit that a concussion can get me down...)

And, finally, I learned that, in general, slamming your head in a door is something to be avoided.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

and the semester winds down...

Wow!! It's hard to believe that there are just a few more weeks left in the semester! Just thinking about everything I have to get done is a bit overwhelming... in the next three weeks I have to put together a notebook of conducting resources, finish writing a piano arrangement, write a ten page paper on music of a specific ethnic group, practice ten plus hours a week, and do a few other little "odds and ends."

I'm also taking a trip out the suburbs for a bridal shower, hosting my mom for a weekend, and then going out to the country for a graduation party... all before finals week. It's going to be busy, but a good kind of busy. A doll like me can't sit around and twiddle her thumbs, you know. (Of course, since I don't have thumbs, that makes it all the more difficult.)

And then... what does the summer hold, you ask? Well, after all of these projects are finshed and I've packed and stored my belongings, I'm going back home to the country! :) I'm going to work at the newspaper where I've worked since high school. I'll format articles, write articles, do the layout, and all the other odds and ends they need. I'm really looking forward to it. I like that job, and it'll be nice to spend the summer with my family.

I hope to do a lot of practicing this summer, take a correspondence course, and hopefully catch up on my scrapbooking. I also plan to blog... :)

Also, this summer, both my roommates are getting married. One of their weddings is before I head home, but the other wedding will bring me back to the city for a weekend.

Well... that's pretty much it for now. I'll post again soon, but in the meantime, I should get out of my backpack and get some sleep. :)

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thoughts on the Twilight Saga

At this point, I have chosen not to read the Twilight saga. Honestly, I have struggled with making this post about it, because it's uncomfortable to make a controversial statement. It wasn't until I had a conversation with a good friend the other day that I realized that perhaps a post like this could be useful.

It frustrates me when Christians make uninformed arguments against popular literature and movies. I'll be the first person to say that people should carefully think through their arguments for and against Harry Potter, and should look at the facts before throwing away the Lord of the Rings movies. (As a matter of fact, I've read one of the Harry Potter books, and am an avid LOTR fan.)

But it also disturbs me when we Christians refuse to think about the literature we devour. Literature, and all other forms of art, have the power to impact the way we think, the way we view our world, and the way we view sin.

Uninformed arguments for or against something, as I mentioned before, are frustrating to all parties concerned. Therefore, I would like to be perfectly upfront. Since I have not read the Twilight saga, I cannot speak to every good or bad theme it may have. However, there are a couple central issues I would like to address.

Vampires are real people. In fact, after the Twilight books and movies came out, both ABC and the Washington Post published articles on these real-life vampires. If this were a fictional lifestyle that no one lived, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it. But honestly, this is a real practice of the occult that is happening in our country today. These people are, according to the Washington Post article, using the Twilight books to get a good reputation. That alone makes me nervous about thoughtlessly reading the books just for the good story.

Also, when looking on the official website for the Twilight series, I read that the books were inspired by a dream. If you look at the whole counsel of Scripture, it is very apparent that dreams may have spiritual significance. This is addressed specifically in Deuteronomy 13:1-3: "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams..."

Do we intend to take Scripture literally? Or is being up on the latest fad more important?

I can't claim to have made the perfect decisions. As I said earlier, I have chosen to read some literature which others find problematic. I have endeavored to read with a critical mind, but maybe there are some areas where even a critical mind is not enough.

Ephesians 5:11 commands us to "take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." Are our choices of literature and movies reflecting a Christ-like attitude in this area? Are the ways we are discussing them with our friends, saved and unsaved, exposing the works of darkness, or blindly taking part in them? There is no middle ground.

I'm not telling you you cannot read Twilight. I'm just asking you to think about it.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spending the weekend with cows :)

Hello!! I am writing to you from a little farm a few hours away from my city. It's Easter weekend, and since my own farm is too far away, one of my dear friends invited me home with her! Being out in the country for the weekend has been incredibly refreshing so far.

I've enjoyed spending time in a small town, and having lunch at a cute little cafe, where my friend knows the owner. We studied at the library today, too... it's a gorgeous stone building with lace curtains. It felt so homey and friendly. I got a lot of homework done, but still have more to do tomorrow. A doll is never quite finished, now, is she?

I met the pastor of my friend's church today. As soon as he met me, he asked me to play for church on Sunday. I love that about small churches! He's never met me, and I'm playing for Easter Sunday... :)

My friend also gave me a tour of her farm. I got to see the greenhouses, the horses, the cows, the dogs. She raised dairy cows growing up, so I got to see her pet cows. While loving cows like pets is something I never did, it reminded me a lot of home. (And, just for the record, I did raise a bucket calf one summer. ONE summer...)

Just wandering around outside was so beautiful and peaceful. While I do still love the city, I think it's good to get away sometimes and enjoy the beauty of God's creation. Being away from the city has brought out the small-town heart in me.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts on "The Blind Side"

I saw The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock (Academy Award winner for best actress in this film), for the first time tonight. Before you tell me that I'm a little behind the times... let me remind you that a doll like me gets pretty busy. (Also... whenever I go to the movie theater, I always sit behind someone taller than me. You try being 0' 10 3/4" and then you'll understand...)

In the movie, a white family adopts an African American young man who grew up in the projects in Memphis, Tennessee. They help Michael improve his grades and learn to play football, eventually getting him a football scholarship to a college (with some plot twists along the way).

I was very impressed with the movie. I could talk about how it painted Christians in a relatively good light, or about what a good actress Sandra Bullock is, but honestly, the thing I'm left with as an audience member was what a beautiful movie it was. My only concern is that movie-goers across America watched the movie, maybe even cried or felt moved, but did nothing about it.

I tutor African-American high school students in the projects in my city. I've seen firsthand that the life that Michael Oher led was not an exception, except for one thing. He was adopted and had a chance to make it in the world. These kids I tutor are working on their college applications... but that's because an organization from my church is offering tutoring, help with physical needs, and people who care about the children enough to believe in them.

For every Michael Oher, there are countless children who won't get that chance. They'll drop out of high school and do drugs just like their parents. They'll be bounced from foster home to foster home. They'll get pregnant at 16 (some already are), and, as one of my friends put it, they'll see more before they turn six than I'll see in my lifetime. At the same time, they may never leave their neighborhood.

In the meantime, we sit in our cushy American homes and help by tutoring once a week, if that. We worry more about our own safety, our own comfort, and our own schedule than we do about the lives of these children... we spend money on a movie ticket to see one of their success stories that could have gone to buy one of them a meal. It seems kind of inconsistent, don't you think?

Perhaps God isn't calling you to work with kids in the inner city projects. Obviously, that's not where He has placed everyone. But I can tell you one thing: God didn't call you to be comfortable. He called you to be a comforter of the brokenhearted... and I think there's a big difference.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mountains, Much-Afraid, and M&M's

Hello, everyone... it's me, Erin Joy.

I know I've been absent for a while... but I've been told occasionally that a doll like me is very much missed, so I thought I'd start posting again. :)

I just got back from a wonderful tour with the Women's Concert Choir. We spent most of it in the Virginias and Carolinas, enjoying fellowship, music, sight seeing... and LOTS of chocolate! Our "signature" candy is the M&M... you'd be surprised at how many of those a doll like me can eat. (Maybe that's where I got that extra cotton...)

One of the things I've appreciated most about WCC is the spiritual focus the group has. In addition to prayer time each week with a small group, we have weekly devotions. This semester, we've been going through the book Hinds' Feet on High Places. On tour, parts of Hinds' Feet were able to come to life as we looked out over the mountains of North Carolina from the famous Chimney Rock.

God used Hinds' Feet, Chimney Rock, and a host of other experiences over the past few weeks to cause me to realize a very important lesson. Once again, He asked me to surrender. I've had a list of "worst case scenarios" that could happen, and had subconsciously decided that if God asked me to do one of these things I would be very unwilling. God started showing me this lack of surrender before we left on tour, and then it all began to culminate at Chimney Rock.

As I looked out over the gorgeous mountains, I realized anew how majestic and huge my God is. When you compare God to a tiny doll like me... I'm pretty small. I know He is loving and good... but He deserves to be followed because He is God, not just because He has my best interests at heart.

The chapter from Hinds' Feet we had just read echoed this same lesson. In the chapter, the Shepherd asked Much-Afraid what she would do if everything appeared that He had deceived her. "My Lord," she said, "if you can deceive me, you may. It can make no difference. I must love you as long as I continue to exist. I cannot live without loving you."

God's majesty and character drove me that day to a new kind of surrender: a surrender not based on what God might call me to do, but a surrender based on who God is. Because, like Much-Afraid, I had to realize that no matter what He asks, it makes no difference. I must love Him and follow Him, because that's what He deserves.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy