The Fires That Rage

As most Americans have probably heard by now, Southern California seems to be virtually engulfed in flames. If one is fortunate enough to live in an area not directly endangered by the seeming firestorm, one is constantly reminded of it by the billows of brown smoke hovering over one’s head, rendering the sun and its rays a strange orange hue and increasing the temperature by not a small amount.

I feel like I’m living in Arizona.

One of the lesser publicized fires has been wreaking its destruction on my home county of Ventura. The small towns of Santa Paula and Fillmore have been most directly affected. Last night, my parents and I rushed out to help a long-time family friend from church get some stuff out of his house, which happens to be in the hills of Santa Paula.

When I had gotten home, I smelled like I had been sitting in front of a campfire all day. Luckily, our friend’s house has not been burned, but many others’ have. There was also a hospital in the fire’s projected path, but I don’t think that was hit either, thank God.

My parents snapped some pictures of the Santa Paula fire, which had been driven by an easterly wind. That wind was mildly discomforting to Venturans, by the way, because Santa Paula lies east up a valley toward Fillmore. Please pray for us Southern Californians, that not too many lose their lives or possessions. This is also an opportunity that can definitely be used by God for the good, so please also pray that his love and comfort will be felt by all affected by these fires.

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I came across this passage yesterday in church. Interesting and very visual.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD, my God, You are very great;

You are clothed in glory and majesty,

wrapped in a robe of light;

You spread the heavens like a tent cloth.

He sets the rafters of His lofts in the waters,

makes the clouds His chariot,

moves on the wings of the wind.

He makes the winds His messengers,

fiery flames his servants.

-Ps. 104.1-4 (JPS)

A Sad Return

smith.jpgI have been drawn back in to my blogging after a protracted period of uninspiredness and overwhelming life circumstances by the recent tragic suicide of Elliott Smith, who was, I believe, probably the greatest singer songwriter on the scene until a couple days ago.

Smith’s music, mostly low-quality recordings of acoustic guitar and sometimes some drums, was both dark and powerful, even (perhaps especially) when it was at its softest and most beautiful, both musically and lyrically.

I think I first encountered Elliott Smith’s music when I saw the movie Good Will Hunting, but didn’t check into it more until I met my friend Isaac in college. He was a fan and had the album Either/Or, which I heard and immediately liked. However, I did not buy any Elliott Smith albums until I encountered another of his songs, “Needle in the Hay”, in another movie, The Royal Tenenbaums. One of the most captivating aspects of both the album Either/Or and also the song “Needle in the Hay” (on the album Elliott Smith) was the paradox of a voice so seemingly light and almost otherworldly communicating messages of very real and every-day situations, struggles, and pleasures, all of which seemed to lay atop some complex musical work.

I’m not an expert musically, but even I could detect many different influences and musical strains Elliott Smith seemed to effortlessly weave into complex musical patterns. I certainly get a Beetles feeling from a lot of his songs, and would venture to guess he was a fan.

There are some artists and some songs that haunt you for a significant portion of your life, if not your whole life, and Elliott Smith is definitely one of those artists for me. I’ve listed some songs of his below that have a significance for me.

Note: All the song links will take you to the iTunes music store. If you don’t have the iTunes application, I think it’s great and you can get it by clicking on the iTunes badge I’ve put on the main page.

“Alameda”

“Angeles”

“Ballad of Big Nothing”

“Needle in the Hay”

“No Name #1″

“Pitseleh”

“Roman Candle”

“Rose Parade”

“The Biggest Lie”

Of course, there are so many great songs. If you liked Elliott Smith and have a favorite, let us all know by posting a message. We all, whether we are familiar with his work or not, have lost a real treasure.