The Nederlander Theatre in New York City housing the musical RENT
525, 600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?
“Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT by Jonathon Larson
I first saw RENT in New York City in 2005. I honestly didn’t know anything more about the plot than it was about artists squatting in an empty New York warehouse, and that it was a modern version of the opera, La Boheme, set in Paris. Hello. You had me at Paris. I wasn’t prepared for it to pierce my heart and affect my soul.
I bought the CD and played it nonstop for months. The following year the movie came out. Watched it. Even learned how to play “Seasons of Love” on the piano.
Scary Spice as Mimi in RENT
I saw RENT again over the weekend. This time instead of at the Nederlander Theatre seating 1200 people on Broadway, I was on Miami University’s campus at a theatre seating less than 100. Instead of Drew Lachey and Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) in the leads, college students performed the roles of Mark, Mimi, Roger, Maureen, Joanne, Tom Collins and Angel.
And these students with their raw talent and intense passion pierced my heart and affected my soul all over again, probably even more so than when I saw it on Broadway. (If you count crying four times during the performance “affecting”.)
For those of you who haven’t seen RENT. Go do so. Now, preferably. But if that’s not an option, know it is the story of one year in the lives of a group of friends. They face poverty, rejection, love, glory, success, denial, death, joy, fear, comfort and loss. But mainly, they learn how to appreciate the moments.
It’s impossible for me to see RENT and not reflect on the past year of my life. This is something I usually reserve for New Year’s or birthdays, but today it is fresh on my mind, tugging at my heart. In my last 525,600 minutes I lost a father in law, visited the beach, had my oldest child start high school, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, joined a Bible study, published a new series with a new publisher, looked at the sun through a giant telescope, rode a tiny rollercoaster. But my favorite parts of my year haven’t been the big events, they’ve been the moments, the snapshots in time where I’ve discovered something new, felt loved, was inspired. When listing highlights of my year I wouldn’t write ‘going to Paris’, but instead I’d say, my husband recorded the bells ringing from the infamous bell tower of Notre Dame on a sunny afternoon on his phone for me, so I could listen to them over and over. I don’t measure my year in the 500 soccer games I’ve attended. I might be exaggerating. A little. But the magnificent save my son made as goalie on a Penalty Kick against his team is a moment of pure joy I’ll cherish as I reflect on the year.
And in each moment, I know God was with me. Is with me. Is with you. As the song “Seasons of Love,” says “in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee.” He is there. Every hour of every day. Every step of the way. Every conversation. Every breeze, every flavor (I think especially the salty caramel mocha flavors) and handshake and hug.
What are the highlights of your last 525,600 minutes?
Focus - Holly Starr's newest CD releases Tuesday, October 2. Click on the picture to order.
I don't know everything
and I don't have all the answers.
But God knows just what I need,
and He keeps on showing me.
“Don’t Have Love” by Holly Starr
Holly Starr is an up and coming star in the Christian music industry with a God-given voice, soulful songs and a passion for music and Christ that are contagious. To hear her sing is a chance to focus on the Lord’s love. To watch her perform is an opportunity to escape the busyness of daily life and take time to focus on Christ. While on her current tour, I had the blessing to meet and interview Holly.
Laura: You write most of your own songs, what inspires you?
Holly: God is always the reason I write and the purpose I do what I’m doing. But my focus changes all the time. My first CD was based on my relationships. My second CD was more about my relationship with God. My new CD, Focus, has been about my desire to focus on Christ in the midst of every day life. How do I balance family, friendship, ministry, studying and praying and still find focus in Christ?
Laura: So have you found a way to find focus?
Holly: Life on the road is crazy. But, I need to trust God and beat down negative thoughts with the truth, remembering God created me. And since He created me, He knows everything about me. Focusing on that allows me to rest, knowing He’s in control.
Laura: What part of the process is your favorite; the writing, rehearsing, recording, performing?
Holly: As far as the music goes, my favorite part is when the initial idea for a song comes. That moment of, “Oh my gosh I think I’ve found something! I can’t wait to see what it turns into!” But even more than music, I love telling people about Jesus. I’m fulfilled because my concerts are my vehicle to direct people towards God. I love the fact that I get to write these songs, so when I’m on stage, I worship Him to show others how awesome He is.
Laura: Thanks for the tour of your RV. Describe life on the tour bus?
Holly: Smelly at times (laughing). Although challenging, living on the bus with the rest of the band is the best part of my life right now. It’s very small and simple. You can’t take a lot with you. There isn’t room for it. You can’t buy a lot. It makes us live on just enough all the time. The small space is hard sometimes, but it helps the band communicate and work through issues – it’s hard and rewarding. Everything comes from His hand.
Laura: What keeps you energized and sane on the road?
Holly: I need to recognize that I need down time, alone time, and that’s okay. I need personal space to regroup and stay in The Word – to focus. That keeps me sane.
Laura: Your new CD releases October 2. Explain how it came about.
Holly: As soon as Tapestry released in October 2010, I started writing for this new CD. My heart is to write whatever’s going on in my life, then look over the songs and find a theme. All of the forty or so songs I wrote in this time period were about me needing to stop and Focus, the theme rises out of the songs. We picked the ten that worked best together to record.
Laura: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever recorded?
Holly: There are two. Psalm 23 – Obviously I didn’t have anything to do with the lyrics, but my senior year of high school, God was showing me how real the book of God is - that He is literally in those words, that reading the Bible is spending time with The Creator of the Universe. So I knew I wanted to write a song to just scripture, and I opened the Bible to Psalm 23. I started recording different melodies on the computer. Days later, the Hallelujah chorus just popped in my head. God just gave me this song.
You can download Holly's song, “Psalm 23” FREE here: https://www.facebook.com/hollystarrmusiconline/app_190322544333196
I Love You Anyway is the third song I ever wrote. It’s not correctly written according to song writing guidelines. I was just a fourteen year-old farmer’s daughter when I wrote it, but that song has had more ministry than any song I’ve ever written.
Laura: What’s on your iPod?
Holly: I love Shawn McDonald. He’s super real. I love it when people are transparent. I also love Bethany Dillon, Matt Hammitt (lead singer of Sanctus Real), One Republic, Brooke Fraser (part of Hillsong), Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot), and Chris Tomlin inspires me.
Laura: Do you have any advice for a young musician?
Holly: Serve the best you can and invest yourself where you are. Take the opportunities you have, don’t wish for more. God will open the doors to what He wants you to do. You don’t have to worry about it. He’ll open them. Stay focused on Him.
Two boys playing violin outside San Luca in Bologna, Italy
I’m a planner, an organizer, and a calendar maker extraordinaire. I have four kids, which means a fun-filled crazy, busy life. If I don’t stay on top of all the practices, assignments, to-dos and errands they crawl on top of me, and smother me.
However, despite all of my color-coding and lists, I have to remember that I am not the one in control.
On a family trip to Italy we needed to check out of our apartment in Florence prior to the proprietor’s arrival to make our train to Venice on time. We dutifully took out our trash, stripped our sheets and dropped our keys in the drop box.
We rolled our suitcases thumpety-thump down the cobblestone streets to the metro, took the metro to the train station and boarded our train, surprised to see an entire class of Italian school children filling our car and our seats. I spoke with a lovely teacher whose English was even worse than my Italian. We exchanged tickets, but couldn’t figure out how we all had the same seat assignments. Together we searched for a conductor, who just as the train began its departure told us to sit tight. We’d sort it all out en route.
We situated ourselves in corners and nooks, plugged in our ear buds and flipped through books until about an hour into the ride when the conductor came to punch the tickets I’d ordered months ago on the Eurorail website.
“Ecco.” Here you go. I presented ours to him, proud of my Italian expression.
He shook his head with a sneer. “These are for tomorrow.”
“Today is Wednesday. These are for Thursday.” He said briskly, not feeling my panic, my pain, and my well-executed plans in a tangle.
“How- how could that be?” The words tumbled from my mouth. My brain churned. He pointed to the date on the tickets, which were indeed for the next day. I grabbed my travel file and frantically flipped through the itineraries. I turned to my hubby and gasped in a stressed whisper, “How did this happen? I don’t understand? Where will we stay in Venice tonight? We’ll be a day early.”
“You cannot continue to Venice.” The conductor’s voice was freakishly flat for an Italian.
Silently he pulled out his calculator and typed in seemingly hundreds of numbers. Eventually he turned the display to me. “This is your fine for riding the train without a proper ticket. You must depart at the next stop - Bologna. You may use your ticket tomorrow to get you from Bologna to Venice.”
A lengthy list of questions from me to the train worker didn’t clear up any of my concerns. The fine was enormous. We knew no one in Bologna and had no hotel booked for our four children, my mom and ourselves. We’d forfeited a prepaid night in Florence. Not to mention the blow to my ego that I’d majorly botched our travel plans and let my family down!
My stomach was like a pulverized pizza. My face hotter than the Tuscan sun. My hands shook like our train car on rickety tracks.
We paid our fine, gathered our group and got off the train in Bologna, the beautiful city of Bologna, home of robust spaghetti alla Bolognese, one of the oldest Universities in Europe, an active political community and ancient basilicas.
In Bologna we stayed in the nicest hotel of our trip, complete with luxury air conditioning and an all you could eat breakfast buffet piled high with Italian pastries and made to order cappuccino. We witnessed a heated protest by impassioned university students, noshed on zesty pizza margarita (for a fraction of a price of what we paid for it in Florence) strolled through the historic university and visited the crowning jewel, San Luca.
San Luca, named for Saint Luke, as in the gospel writer, sits at the top of approximately 300 steps covered by romantic porticoes supported by 666 arches and overlooks the lush city of Bologna from its hilltop perch.
On a 70 degree, sunny day breathing in the architecture, gazing at the sapphire blue sky, marveling at history dating back to the gospels, intoxicated by a strong spiritual presence and surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier. Then, two young boys pulled out their violins and played an impromptu hauntingly beautiful concert in the grassy area outside the church, providing the soundtrack for my moment.
My planner said I should be in Florence that day. I thought I was supposed to be in Venice that day. But God knew, there was no place on earth better for me on that day than in Bologna.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Tell me below - where are you planning to go this week? Where will you let God take you if only you let Him?
Aerial view of Oxford, Ohio and Miami University
The population of my town just split in half. One U-Haul at a time, residents abandoned Oxford, like the Onceler’s family after the last Truffula tree fell to the ground. But there hasn’t been a shortage of trees or a tragedy to drive out the inhabitants. This exodus isn’t alarming. Here, in Oxford it is expected.
Each May 12,000 students roll out of town leaving 12,000 residents to hold down the fort until their return. Each August the co-eds come charging back, doubling our population with energy, excitement and youth.
Without the 18-22 year olds Oxford, Ohio would have little reason to exist. Our commerce revolves around the University. And with no students, the University is obsolete. The restaurants and shops wouldn’t have enough customers, and the landlords have no one to rent their apartments and houses to. The students provide us with opportunities to hear speakers like the Dali Lama, jam to bands ranging from Wynton Marsalis to The Fray and cheer in a state of the art hockey arena for a championship team. What other town of 24,000 people offers Lily Pulitzer, Vera Bradley, an Aveda salon, an indoor track, an Olympic size pool and a climbing wall?
So, is the town half empty when the students leave?
Of course not.
Summers in Oxford mean free concerts at the Uptown parks every Thursday night, a deliciously fresh farmer’s market every Saturday morning, fountains to splash in, a 4th of July celebration that rivals Mayberry’s and long, lazy, hazy days to relax and recharge.
In the summer I can always find a parking spot, there is never a line at Starbucks and my drive time to anywhere in town is less than five minutes.
But in August, I’ll be thrilled to see the return of the students. They add vibrancy and excitement to my town. From them I learn about the latest fashions, the newest music and how to live with expectancy and a sense of adventure.
In Oxford, the town may become half full in the summertime, but it is never half empty. What joys does your town offer this summer? How do you plan on making the most of your summer days?