Friday, June 26, 2009

We could be the best of friends

For the better part of the last few months, I've stuck myself in a musical box. Listening to the same stuff, good stuff, just the same stuff. There's nothing wrong with getting some good mileage out of your music, and in fact it's a great thing. But I sort of acquired a very narrow minded view of music during this time. So i was in the funnel, or vortex, if you will, where i was mainly listening to the same stuff, shunning friends' attempts to turn me on to new stuff.

But thankfully in the past few weeks I've slowly come around. Kind of like the aging slugger who takes a few months in the season before he's cranking out home runs. Or maybe more like I was just hit upside the head with a kettle pot, and I am just now realizing what kind of box i had been living in.

Whatever the case, here's some new stuff that I've been listening to a lot, mainly through myspace and and such. The music industry is just so different now with Itunes and amazon offering digital copies, and it's great for us consumers. We get to listen to way more music for free, and after we've sifted out the wheat from the chaff, we can make better purchasing decisions. I love it.


Priscilla Ahn - A Good Day (listen to the whole album here)
she is the perfect summer singer/songwriter, easy on the ears. the post title is also a snippet of one of her lyrics

Wild Sweet Orange - We Have Cause to be Uneasy (listen to selected clips here)
they're from birmingham, and their music is like eating a snickers bar...its satisfying

Meiko - Meiko (listen to selected clips here)
another nice summer album. it's not for everybody, but there are some good tunes on this album. kind of like a bag of skittles.

mewithoutYou - It's All Crazy!... (listen to the album here)
like any other mewithoutyou album, you've just got to listen to it for yourself. it is absolutely impossible to try to explain. make sure and check out the lyrics, or contact andy farmer or james fenwick if you want to try to figure out the deep meanings of these songs. i've still got to listen to this album a lot more before formulating a good opinion

Honorable Mentions:
Ingrid Michaelson
U2's new album
Manchester Orchestra's "Mean Everything to Nothing"
Fiction Family

so i want to hear from you. what's some music i should check out? are my selections terrible?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Formalities or Extraordinalities?

Throughout this past weekend, anticipating, getting ready for, and ultimately celebrating Andy and Emily's wedding, a lot of things were going through my mind. Seeing one of your closest friends get married is an incredible experience, especially when you know the other half (in this case emily) is just as amazing as the friend you've known for a long time.

As I stood up on stage in my chocolate colored tuxedo (handpicked by andy, no less), I had the opportunity to just drink in the wedding. And I ultimately kept coming back to the same thing.

You see, Andy and Emily had been dating for quite a while, and so in a lot of respects it began to feel like the wedding was just the final step in a already well-underway project. It almost seemed as if the wedding was just a mere formality. They already know each other so well, we all thought. They are so good together. They bring out the best in each other. On and on. Even Mr. Edmonson, who conducted the wedding, talked about how well prepared Andy and Emily were coming into the day of the wedding.

But all of that was laid to rest for the 40 minutes or so of the ceremony. Because in those moments, the wedding, the ceremony of marriage, would not be relegated to mere formality. To all those present, and especially to me, it was evident that this ceremony was extraordinary.

Seeing the union of two committed Believers who have each strived for the Lord on their own, now coming together under the Lordship of Christ, was no formality. No, it was an extraordinality. From the way they looked at each other during the vows, to the way the pouring of the two colors of sand into the one new jar symbolized the union taking place, to the way that Jamie (Andy's mentor during high school) couldn't look at Andy during communion because everyone in the building would have lost it, I felt the power present in the room through the Holy Spirit.

If marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Christ, it took on new meaning for me over the weekend. No, this wedding was no formality. It was an extraordinality.

Congratulations Andy and Emily!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Secret Believers

The past ten days saw me in Alaska, where the mountains are tall and the wilderness vast. The weather turned out to be amazing, with only an hour of rain the whole trip. This in the rain capital of the US. I biked in Ketchican, kayaked in a glacial inlet, and hiked through a spruce forest. When I wasn't out in nature, I was reading, and I spent the the first half of my trip on the book Secret Believers by Brother Andrew.

Brother Andrew, if you're not familiar with the name, is a man who has dedicated his life to serving the Lord through strengthening the Church where it is most persecuted. During the era of communist Europe in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Brother Andrew smuggled carfulls of Bibles, commentaries, and other resources to the underground Church, providing the living water of the Word to the Believers in those countries where it was illegal to own the Bible. The story is incredible, and worth reading on its own. (you can find that part of his journey chronicled through the book "God's Smugglers". I highly recommend it).

Well to make a long story short, Brother Andrew felt the Lord calling him the shift his area of ministry to the Islamic world, strengthening the Church in Islamic countries. That's where this book comes in. Secret Believers paints a picture of what life is like for Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) in Islamic states. It chronicles the faith, persecution, and hope of a handful of fictional characters (based on real people, they just can't write the actual names or else these Believers would be found out).

So as the Alaskan scenery passed by, I sat and read this book. It was more of an experience, if I am to be honest. With each page, I felt my heart being softened, and I felt the Holy Spirit sweeping afresh through my soul. At the end of the book, I felt that I had not finished the book, but that the book had finished me.

The call of Brother Andrew throughout the book is that the West must wake up and be serious about taking the Gospel to Muslims. We must get on our knees and pray for the strength to love where force and weapons seem like a better option, and we must continually practice forgiveness.

There's a lot of hoopla about Islam, the West, and terrorism these days. It's one of the bigger fears for many Americans. But Brother Andrew here is calling for a Gospel offensive, characterized by love, compassion, and forgiveness, not a hunkering, defensive posture that too many of our Churches have taken. Truly the power of Christ is at work all across the world even in this moment, and many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering for their choice to follow Jesus.

This book won't make the bestseller list, and won't win literary awards, but it is a story that absolutely must be told for our generation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Father Brown

Do you read before you go to bed? Many nights, especially when it's been a full day, I'm too tired to do anything else so I just plop right into bed and fall asleep almost instantly. But on the nights that I'm not too tired, I love to do a bit of reading, to clear the mind of all the nagging things that are circulating in there restlessly, and to let my mind drift away into a fictional world.

I've had the pleasure the last week or so of reading a cracker of a mystery series, the Father Brown mysteries by G.K. Chesterton. If you know anything about Chesterton (and I hope you do) you'll already have an idea of what I'm about to describe. If you're knew to Chesterton, you're in for a treat. He was, perhaps, one of the 20th centuries' most prolific, wide-ranging author. Among other things he wrote plays, poetry, biography, literary criticism, works of theology, fiction, and mystery. He was a frequent contributer to several London newspapers, and participated in debates and lectures throughout the city. He's remembered best for Orthodoxy (a nonfiction work on theology), The Man Who Was Thursday (a suspense novel), and the Father Brown mystery collection (of which there are 5 collections).

Being new to the Father Brown series, I decided to go with a particular edition that included some of the most popular of the stories. If an author's writing style is like a set of fingerprints, then Chesterton's fingerprints look different than the regular set. He writes with a command of the English language, using strong verbs and descriptive adjectives to set a scene and develop the story. In these particular stories, Father Brown serves as sort of master sleuth, solving particular mysteries with a keen intellect and a humorous wit. Imagine a quiet, unassuming priest, content with frumpiness and the clerical life, and you've got Father Brown.

One of my favorite things about the stories is the way Chesterton probes the human heart through Father Brown. These are not long, drawn out, complicated stories, and Chesterton doesn't try to make them into a type of sermon, but along the way you actually feel as if you're LEARNING while you are enjoyably soaking up the book. There are varying types of criminals that we meet along the way, and Father Brown has a way of getting to the bottom of a situation.

I've read Chesterton's novel "the Ball and the Cross", and now that I've read this collection of Father Brown mysteries, I am ready to say that he is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. He writes on a lot of topics, and chances are, he wrote a book about a topic that you like. So the next time you see a Chesterton book in the bookstore, or lying around your friend's room, pick it up!