Monday, October 29, 2007

Thanks for the Memories, Porter...

Grand Ole Opry institution and country music legend Porter Wagoner passed away Sunday evening, succombing to lung cancer. Porter will be missed, as his music and heart have touched millions, but all we know is that heaven's choir just got a little bit sweeter. Thanks for the memories, Porter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Now I Can Rest Easy

Now we can all take a load off. Chuck Norris, yes, the Texas Ranger himself, has finally weighed in with his pick for the presidential race. Whew! That's a load off...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Am I Getting Sappy?

Okay, so I might be getting sappy but this is just a powerful video. To me, it speaks to the pain of the human experience and especially much of that pain that we bring on ourselves as we struggle to navigate the waters of life. I don't know, it's just, well, powerful. Decide for yourself.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Coming Advent

Ah, fall is in the air. Sure, it's not making those of us in southwest Florida scurry for our hoodies just yet but there's that subtle change in the air, that slight change in the way the light hits the leaves in the late afternoon. It's a wonderful time of year and a time of year that is slowly becoming more and more important for me. Our friends Ryan and Holly are huge fans of the fall season as well. Their lives have come to be measured by it, allowing for fall to serve as a time for a sort of inner reckoning and reevaluation as to the past and the future. I'm starting to see things in this light as well.

And this fall just seems, well, significant. Can I explain it? Not really. But I just feel as though something is in the air. It's sort of like that admiral guy in Mary Poppins warning Mr. Banks that the wind is shifting, I feel as though my life is finally beginnig to shift as well. Where that may lead, who knows? I may end up having a tea party on the ceiling. Either way, I feel confident that the anticipation is for something good, for something positive.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hopefully Back

I apologize, not that you've been concerned, for the lack of posting lately. My new gig as music editor at Infuze has taken a wee bit of time to get adjusted to, most notably finding an email client that actually works all the way around. Thus, I've found myself near the situation you see in the picture to the right. But, I think I've finally conquered things with a bit of All-American know-how and desperate prayer. Things seem, just tonight, to be running smoothly. So, hopefully, I'm back.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Review: Under the Influence of Buck - The Derailers

The Derailers were a new name to me but the name of Buck Owens wasn't. The country legend had taken this group under his wing, appreciating their appreciation of his music and their heart for performing. It's this relationship that pours through this album, offering up covers of the late Owens' music that speak of love and care. This is good stuff. Here's the Infuze review:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Interview: Soular

I had the opportunity a month or so ago to sit down with Marsh from Alberquerque-based Brit rock outfit, Soular, and talk about music and art. You'll find the Stereo Subversion interview here:
Interview - Soular


Most of you know that I've been writing reviews for some time now for Infuze Magazine and have been garnering some good experience their along with watching my CD and movie collection grow as well. Well, now the experience is about to amp up that much more with a little promotion I've received. My good buddy Matt Conner is stepping down from his responsibilities as music editor there to pursue his own site, Stereo Subversion, which I'm fortunate enough to be involved in as well, and has handed the reins over to me. It's going to be tons of work, lots more free stuff, and great experience. If you haven't yet checked us out, go ahead. You know you want to! Do it for me...

I've Missed This Guy

Just last week one of my oldest friends called me up to let me know that he and his family would be in Orlando for the week. So, this past Wednesday evening Erin and I bailed on work a hair early to make the trek across the state and visit my good buddy Walter, his lovely wife Paula, and their darling little girl Natalie. It was so good to catch up. We all reflected on how great it is to just have things pick up where we left off. Those are the best of friends. Now we're gonna have to make the trip to Massachusetts one day to visit them! Here's some pics:

This last pic was on the trip home...Good stuff..Kept it on his head sleeping for a while, too!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Review: Tension - Dizmas

I've become a wee bit hardened the past couple of years against much of what the contemporary Christian music community has put out. So much of it is derivative, unimaginative, and just ends up sounding like the band before them. So, here's what I can say about the new album from Dizmas: Its a good listen in that it does sound good, with solid production and able performances, but, well, it sounds like everybody else. Check out the Infuze review here:

Review: The Kid EP - Identity Relief

I tend to shy away from Christian indie artists because, at least in the experiences I've had, they tend to be less than listenable. Weak production and even lesser lyricism and musicianship tend to be the norm. It's not a good thing for the Christian community. Yet, as of late, I've found myself pleasantly surprised at the good to come out of that very same niche. One such artist is Identity Relief, based out of Birmingham and bringing an eclectic and encouraging voice to the musical community. Check out the Infuze review here:

Review: Determined - CO3

Country music has always had a decent standing within the Christian community until there is an attempt to make a "Christian country" album. At that point, things tend to get a little weird and the community as a whole has not really embraced many new artists to the genre. CO3 isn't going to break that mold. Talented fellas but just not enough wow factor to break through in my opinion. Here's the Infuze review:

Review: Goin' Home - A Tribute to Fats Domino

Most folks from my generation only know Fats Domino from the occasional snippet of his that gets played in a few films or from watching re-runs of Happy Days. Yet, Fats was one of the early innovators of rock 'n roll and lent a great voice to the town of New Orleans as well. This collection is a mixed bag but brings a nice sense of reminiscence along with monies that go to a good cause. Check out the Stereo Subversion review here:

A Conversation With Tyler

At the house:

Me: Tyler! Want to go to the store with me to buy some ice cream?
Tyler: Sure! Let me put my shoes on!

In the car on the way:

Me: So Tyler...We're going to go someplace special tomorrow.
Tyler: You mean today?
Me: No, tomorrow. We're gonna go someplace special tomorrow.
Tyler: Tomorrow is today.
Me: No. Listen. What's the sun doing right now? Going down?
Tyler: Yeah.
Me: Well, when the sun comes back up again it's tomorrow.
Tyler: And then we're going to the special place?
Me: Yes! After school.
Tyler: I want my Mommy...
Me: Mommy's going to go too, Tyler!
Tyler: What special place?
Me: It's a place called Orlando. We're going to visit one of Daddy's good friends.
Tyler: Tonight?
Me: No! Tomorrow...
Tyler: So we're going to Orlando now?
Me: No! We're going to get ice cream!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dreams, Goals, and Reality

The past several weeks and I might even say, months, have found me pondering the ideas of dreams and goals and, yes, reality. It's funny how many dreams we have when we're growing up. I remember wanting to be a fireman (who didn't!), an astronaut, and more. There were so many dreams then and they all seem so far away now. What is it about time that steals away our propensity to dream? Is it that we find ourselves suddenly adults, with responsibilities and jobs and the like that causes us to lay our dreams aside to simply pay the piper? Or is it something more, perhaps even something more sinister that sneaks in to steal our hearts and drive us to monotony?

I'm not really sure of the answer but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's a hybrid of both. It's true that some of our dreams fall prey to others and that the golden age of adulthood often finds us more disillusioned than inspired. Yet, I also believe that we do wrestle against things that are unseen, and that this particular enemy is not thrilled with us pursuing our dreams. He'd rather us lie listless, unimaginative, and virtually dead. I also think that many times we're our own worse enemy, allowing negative thoughts and those ideas of "I'm too old" or "I'm past that stage of my life" to derail us from some things that we truly crave.

As I've pondered this, I've sat back and tried to recapture some of those dreams of my youth and to really ask myself what dreams I have now, if any. In places that I haven't found any, I'm trying to reignite my imagination, bringing dreams to bear. Yet, there are a few older dreams that still linger from the past and those I'm silently working to plot a course to fulfill. We are not our age. And, for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers, we are not necessarily held to the confines of this world either. The sky is the limit where God is concerned. I'm just excited to see what the sky really looks like.

Look Out World... wife's blogging now! After watching me keep up this incessant task, Erin has finally decided to try out the dynamic world of online journaling. Check her out here:

Erin Greenhalgh

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Shuffle Resurfaces...

Okay, for those regular readers...Alright, so I'm probably the most regular reader of this thing but, just in case there is one more of you out there, I know you're probably getting sick of this somewhat pointless exercise of tracking my itunes shuffle. Yet, this is my blog and not yours. So suck it up. I'm still in the process of uploading music and just recently surpassed 9118 songs. Holy crap! That's spooky! But, I digress. So, without further ado, here's the new shuffle:

1.) "Battling Kings" - VeggieTales, from the album, The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree

2.) "Something's Got a Hold on Me" - Etta James, from the album, Etta James: Her Best

3.) "O Holy Night" - Celene Dion, from the album, Now That's What I Call Christmas Vol. 2

4.) "There is Healing in His Hands" - Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, from the album, Live...With Friends

5.) "You Thought Wrong" - Kelly Clarkson, from the album, Thankful

6.) "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" - Andrew Peterson, from the album, Behold the Lamb of God

7.) "The Christmas Spirit" - Johnny Cash, from the album, Christmas With Johnny Cash

8.) "Boy Tell the World" - Apologetix, from the album, Adam Up

9.) "Wonderful Christmastime" - Jars of Clay, from the album, Christmas Songs

10.) "Maranatha" - Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, from the album, Immortal Memory

11.) "Will You Marry Me?" - Lauren Talley, from the album, Lauren Talley

12.) "Love Moves in Mysterious Ways" - Michael English, from the album, Hope

13.) "My Christmas" - Brett Williams and In Reach, from the album, Christmas on the Rock

14.) "If God Didn't Care" - Jake Hess, from the album, Jus' Jake

15.) "Summertime is Past and Gone" - Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, from the album, The Complete Million Dollar Quartet Recordings

Weird how the Christmas stuff keeps popping up even though it's clearly the minority in there...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This is Great Stuff...

I really enjoy Dan Kimball's stuff. He's probably the guy that I most identify with within the emergent conversation, largely because he sees things from a fairly moderate perspective. His latest blogpost speaks of the new series that they're starting. This is gonna be good stuff. I'd just really like to be a fly on the wall. Check it out:

Don't Be a "Christian": Exchanging Religion for the Mission of God

Out of Darkness...Hope?

Just thought I'd toss in a bit of personal commentary here, albeit mysterious and noncommittal as well. Things in my life have been, well, somewhat of a toss-up as of late, particularly along the lines of the spiritual and whatnot. Let's just suffice it to say that there are early indications of a break in the clouds. Keep your fingers crossed...

Review: The Needles The Space - Straylight Run

Excellent. Solid. Great. Just a few simple words to describe this release by indie darlings Straylight Run. This one is well worth a few spins on your ipod. Here's the Stereo Subversion review:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This picture from PostSecret really resonated with me today. Check out the PostSecret site for some amazing art and confessions. It's a very powerful and very interesting experiment!

Sports Passions Gone Awry

Even as a fan, I'll never understand this kind of mentality...

Football Rivalry Sparks Bloody Skirmish

Monday, September 10, 2007

Vision and Initiative

Just last week, on a proposed "date night", my wife and I found ourselves having an emotionally draining and difficult discussion. Much of our conversation centered upon aspects of our current life. Neither of us really feels that this is where our "five-year-plan" really initially aimed for, especially as relates to my current situation. The honest truth is that I'm working a dead-end job that has no real potential nor significant financial contribution even. The result is that we're a bit on the poor side and find ourselves stressed not only by the monetary strain but also by the emotional, physical, spiritual, and whatever else side weaves it's way within.

On the other side of that coin is my struggle with the Church. Some may question how this plays a part in the discussion but it's truly integrated, especially given that at one time my desire was to work from within the Church, serving in that capacity. Now, I'm not so sure that I fit there anymore and that leaves things in a bit of a lurch. The thing that I honestly had to unpack to Erin was simply the uncertainty I have regarding the future right now and that "I really don't know what to do."

So, with this dialogue as fuel last week, I've been doing a lot of thinking, praying, and contemplating on our past, present, and future. And the conclusion that I've come to as of late is that I need to honestly ask myself what my dreams are, what my goals are, where my desires lie. This sounds like a simple thing, and for many it is, but for me, it's a dangerous question. I desperately want to be in the will of God and also want to be fulfilled in the career path I choose. And while I understand that the two will go hand in hand, the road down the path is a slippery and scary one for me. I'm afraid that I'll find myself trudging down a predictable path of financial security, which is not necessarily a bad thing, yet laying aside my heart and life. I am petrified of working for work's sake, of slaving over something that I don't believe in. That's part of my current frustration, particularly as over the years I've come to resent much of the Christian retail market.

And through all of that, I'm asking myself questions. What are my dreams now? What are my goals? What are my talents? And, perhaps most importantly, how can I utilize them to truly achieve those things I dream about? I don't know the answers to these questions yet but, somewhere deep down inside, I feel like I'm starting out on the right path for the first time in a long time.

Review: Manifesto - Pocket Full of Rocks

A couple years ago I found my ears tuned into the worship from this new group Pocket Full of Rocks. There main claim to fame was having penned a song that CCM hero Michael W. Smith had covered but their debut had some soaring vocals and compelling tunes. So, I was interested to see what would happen the second time around. Unfortunately, PFOR hit the sophomore slump this time around and created an album that is a little too CCM friendly for this boy. Here's the INFUZE review:

Guilty Pleasure Delight

Okay, so I've been sort of lax with this whole desert island gem/guilty pleasure posting thing that I'm sure all four of you were anxiously waiting to read each day. I apologize. It's entirely my fault and there's really nothing I can say. But, suffice it to say, I'm going to try and do better. Consider this post a step toward redemption.

Anyway, I'm going to shift things a little bit here, just because I can, and share a bit of a guilty pleasure that I've partaken of ever since I was a wee little lad. For the unaware, although I'm pretty sure that those who may stumble upon this are already aware, I grew up in the South. On top of that, I grew up in a family that was really proud it was from the South. My folks were and are die-hard civil war buffs who can expound upon just about every battle, every general, and every nook and cranny that holds the remotest possible interest from that hallowed time. We were southern cooking folk, indulging in bacon, fried chicken, and the like as a holy ritual. We were Hee Haw and Dukes of Hazzard folk, and to tell the truth, I still long to take a ride in the General Lee. And to top it all off, we fell, really as a family, for the charms of one bumbling yet lovable Ernest P. Worrell.

If the name doesn't strike an immediate chord in your mind, you've apparently grown up somewhere else. For us, Ernest was the best of slapstick low-brow comedy, with hilarity ensuing in films like Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Goes to Jail, and the holiday favorite, Ernest Saves Christmas. Jim Varney's "Aw shucks" hilarity and pratfalls made this ole' southern boy laugh many a time and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Now, having grown and matured and developed a taste for cinematic features that are perhaps a bit more avant garde, perhaps a bit more respected, I realize that I really shouldn't like Ernest. But I can't help it. I'm only broken hearted that there'll be no more from Ernest since the untimely passing of Jim Varney in 2000.

But, Ernest will forever live on in my thoughts and memories as a great character. So, I present to you yet another one of my guilty pleasures, Mr. Ernest P. Worrell:

Friday, September 07, 2007

Review: The Storm - Travis Tritt

I've been a Travis Tritt fan for a long time. I don't have a big collection of his records but I've always been a fan of that blues-infused country twang that the country star always put to good use. His last album, while holding a few gems, left a little to be desired, especially with topical yet bad call tracks like "The Girl's Gone Wild". Apparently, his record company felt the same way and Tritt found himself now an indie artist. The result is The Storm, a mixed bag of results, some solidly good, others not so. Here's the INFUZE review:

Wednesday's Prayer

This past Wednesday, we went to our church's monthly mid-week service, appropriately called "First Wednesday". This was my one-sided dialogue with God.

"I've lost the sense of experience that should accompany worship. As I write, I listen to one gentleman behind me praising spontaneously; beside me one of the pastors falls to his knees, arms raised in abject worship, tears flowing freely. I don't have that. I know what You've done, I know that You've shown us the Way, The Way of peace and love. But, I don't know. I guess maybe I'm bitter...But I don't really think it's that. I truly think that maybe it's just...Well, I was going to say afraid, and that's part of it, afraid of being hurt, of being so deeply wounded by that which I truly love so dearly. But it's even more than that. Some days I even question You! Your grace once fit into a system; it made sense. But as I grow, as I get older and reflect more, I'm confused. I mean, and You know I've been thinking about this lately, but my greatest sins have come after my so-called "salvation". My iniquity has been in full view of You and, truthfully, I've known better. And, here's the kicker, I know I'm forgiven. I even, to some degree, know You love me. But God, as fucking childlike as it sounds, I want to feel it! And as I sit here now, with my wife I know wanting peace for me, I long for You! But, I'm just not sure this is even me anymore."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Review: It's Not Big It's Large - Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

I've been a fan of Lyle Lovett's "Aw shucks" brand of country for some time now and was excited to see a new release come. Fairly gospel in nature, this release continues the artist's great flow of minimalist songwriting and compelling instrumentation, coupled with a keen sense of humor that is always aided by Lovett's simple humility. Good stuff. Here's the INFUZE review:

The Spirituality of BBQ

From my earliest memories, I can recall eating barbecue. Growing up, such things as barbecued ribs, barbecued chicken, smoked mullet, and more were fair game on our dinner table. Even burgers and hot dogs were given the charcoal treatment quite a bit. And all in all, it's made a lasting impression on me. While some call a pot roast and veggies or a big Thanksgiving turkey comfort food, barbecue is my sweet comfort. And while I worked toward preparing some for dinner the other night, I found myself considering the spiritual allegory of good barbecue.

Now, when I speak of good barbecue in this sense, I'm talking about the school of "low and slow". We're speaking the language of smoked ribs, chicken, brisket, and butts. And incidentally my choice this fine day was a nice Boston butt roast. I spent the evening before slathering it in a dry rub, massaging the meat with the spicy rub until it took on the maroon color. Then it was into the fridge for the night. In the meantime, I prepped my grill and had things ready so I could get an early start.

Early came, well, early and I lit the charcoal at 5 that morning. By 5:30 AM the butt was on the grill, over indirect heat and beginning to absorb a unique combination of mesquite and hickory smoke. This continued all day, maintaining a base temperature of about 220-240 degrees and ensuring that there were always fresh wood chips on top in order to generate that much coveted smoke. I watched throughout the day as the meat took on a dark, almost black hue yet was still tender and nice to the touch. Carefully I'd baste it about once an hour with a simple blend that ensured a moist end result. This continued until about 6 PM when I finally relented and pulled the meat from the grill.

The payoff was instant. After allowing the roast a few minutes to rest and to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, I took a couple of forks and began pulling the meat apart in order to make pulled pork. It fell off in juicy, tender ribbons of flesh, filling the room with a, dare I say, heavenly aroma. Every nose in the house perked up at the sweet smell coming from the kitchen as I pulled, pulled, pulled that beautiful barbecue into shreds. Finally, we sat down to eat and to partake of a hard day's work. Let it suffice to say, it was well worth my time.

But as I went through these motions last week, I truly did see spiritual parallels between barbecue and life. It may be that I've too much time on my hands but, well, that's my perogative, isn't it? But consider this: Barbecue begins with preparation, with an intentional move toward preparing the food and allowing it to develop, to season and take on the flavors of the rub. This is in many ways like our spiritual infancy, as we build ourselves up in study of the Bible, through prayer, and acts of service. Once the meat is on the grill, things require steadfastness and care, as one takes care to ensure a proper temperature and must tend to the meat as needed as well. Plus, a keen sense of patience must be held onto as the process of cooking takes place over hours and hours. A lesser person might just want to throw it in a Crock Pot for a couple of hours! And like our spiritual lives, we too find ourselves needing to simply tend carefully to the simple things, working out our salvation in the day to day as we wait for that moment when things will make more sense. In that time, we must be patient and considerate of those things which take place around us. Finally, we're allowed to remove the meat, to carve it for service, and to partake of it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to find the spiritual parallel there, now does it?

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting as I cooked that day. It is a beautiful process and one that I look forward to doing again soon!

Review: DoorWay - Ron Block

I've been a longtime fan of Alison Krauss and Union Station and was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when member Ron Block released a faith-infused solo effort. Block turned out to be more than a stellar instrumentalist and showcased some solid songwriting in addition to offering his musical skills. DoorWay is his latest effort and it is no less compelling, with a very intelligent and yet accessible set of themes. It's good stuff. Here's the INFUZE review:

Monday, September 03, 2007

Violence in Film

Here's an intriguing post from Rick Bennett regarding the use of violence in film. He articulates some of the things that I've slowly been coming to grips with as of late. It's a good read. Here's the link:

So Can a Pacifist Like The Departed?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Answered Prayer?

For the better part of my life, I've lived and been part of an institution that I've always felt was in need of improvement. While generally being a "glass is half-full" kind of guy with the other elements of life, my time in churches has always been stressed by my desire to think through and analyze things, seeking to grow and to change. Plus, it didn't hurt that I grew up in a really conservative "KJV-only" kind of church and then moved on to a Southern Baptist congregation as a youth pastor. These are not the sort of people generally given, and I realize I'm painting with a wide brush, to innovation and change. During those days, I remember having sundry conversations with friends in which I wrestled with and lamented the state of "The Church" and longed for change. Like many young people in similar circumstances, my initial prayers and frustrations stemmed from externals, worship styles, perceived dress codes, and such. But, while these still remained concerns, as I grew older and in knowledge, more and more, deeper elements of thought came into play and I realized that what was needed was not a facelift but, pardon the cheesy phrase, a heartlift.

Fast forward to the present. Recently, my family and I joined a church after about three years or so of floating. Our floating came at the difficult end of four years of youth ministry, a story that I believe I've documented at an earlier time. In those years, I continued to pray, to think, and to deconstruct and I can honestly say that my thoughts and views have changed quite a bit from the past. Which makes our current situation a bit unique.

Our new home at Bayside Community Church is one that, five years ago, would have been a dream come true. It's a growing, thriving, young church with passionate leaders and rousing worship times. The pastor is a dynamic personality, speaking generally on topics that are readily applicable. My son loves his church time and is just jazzed every time he sees the hyperactive children's pastor. They pray for other churches in the area, which to me is a beautiful thing. Relationships are touted and encouraged left and right and the small group ministry is pitched as the hub of the church. A legitimate evening of prayer even frames the week for the church, allowing members and church leaders to come together in intercession for personal requests and the local community. These are all great things.

Yet, as I've said, a lot has occurred in the last couple of years. Truthfully, I've lost a lot of faith in the current state of church and particularly in churches as large as Bayside. It's an unfair assessment as people seem to generally be getting a lot out of things but I can't help feeling frustrated. My training from college as well as reading and thinking I've done about the state of both Christianity and the Church has me wrestling with so many elements within. I've even found myself questioning the use of disposable plastic cups for the Saturday evening pizza they serve after service as a reflection of how we view environmental concerns. Sometimes I think I've just flipped my lid and others I generally wonder if I've lost my faith. I don't possess the same fervor as I once did but I'm not sure that I want to feel that way again. I want genuine, authentic, passionate community that oozes depth and the glory of the goodness of God.

So, I continue to struggle, both with myself, with the church, and even with my wife. Yet, I can't seem to turn off my mind when it comes to these topics. I'm not intentionally trying to do this. I just can't get away from my thoughts of how things could be and wondering if perhaps they should be. I don't know if I'm missing God's blessing of answered prayer or am in a place where I'm called to be a catalyst for change...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Review: Under the Blacklight - Rilo Kiley

I first became aware, and this shows how naive I was, of Rilo Kiley via Jenny Lewis' solo album with the Watson Twins. That lead me to checking out RK and I was hooked. Yet, this newest release is a little too pop, a little too mainstream feeling for me. Lewis and Co. are far too talented to bow to the sentiments of mainstream radio in this young man's opinion. Here's the Stereo Subversion review:

Quote of the Day

A friend of mine sent me a rare forward with a bunch of quirky quotes in it. This was my favorite:

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."--Drew Carey

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Desert Island Diamond

Not long ago, I questioned what others might have as their desert island discs, essentially those albums that one would desire to have if you were stranded. At the time, I found it difficult to share my own thoughts on what album or albums I would want to have with me but, inspired by my "guilty pleasures" segment of my blogging fun, I thought I might share some desert island diamonds from my collection as well. So, if my faithful four readers will indulge me, here's today's desert island diamond:

Yes, none other than U2's magnum opus, The Joshua Tree. Featuring a set of songs that range from the deeply spiritual to the compellingly political, Bono and Co. crafted an album that has musically and lyrically stood the test of time. Who could ask for more?

I Heart Fishing

When I was growing up, fishing was a pasttime that my father and I attempted to share. I was always one who enjoyed rod and reel fishing, particularly freshwater fishing. I loved the peace and quiet and having the opportunity to experience nature, watching the waves lap against the shore or the edge of the boat. I liked keeping my eyes open for all varieties of wildlife that might make themselves seen and really just dug the time with my Dad. My Dad was more of a castnet kind of guy, particularly given his passion for mullet fishing. Sadly, this was something that I never really latched onto. I tried, and to this day if you asked me I could throw a net for you. My problem was seeing the fish. This was not an easy task and, well, to my father's great sadness, I just never quite caught on.

Well, as a short glance down the page will show, my son and I have taken up fishing. I'd forgotten how much I really enjoyed the experience of being outside, of watching my bobber (yes, we're fishing old-school!) float across the surface of that water, and especially of having my son beside me learning. Now Tyler's not necessarily clued in all that well, and he tends to have more fun casting, then handing the pole to me to do the actual fishing so he can down a popsicle or rummage through the tackle box. Either way, I love the time I get to spend with him.

And, tonight, my son caught his first legitimate fish. While we're referring to the pic below as Tyler's actual catch, tonight was the real deal. Granted, it happened sort of by accident, as Tyler was holding the pole for a rare second while I baited our other pole's hook but when the bobber dove under the surface of the water and I hollered for him to reel, Tyler drew in our whopper of the evening. I'm going to say it. I'm a proud papa. I love my son. He's an amazing kid who continues to teach me each and every day. This morning he reminded me that he loves me. I hope he remembers that when he's sixteen...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Guilty Pleasure: Aug. 27th

Okay, for today's nearly daily installment of Andrew's guilty pleasures from the music collection, we have for you:

I really don't know why. I don't. I guess that I just fell for the gimmick. Plus, I'm not gonna lie, in spite of myself I kind of liked Troy's guest spots on Big & Rich's first album. Sue me. Either way, you've gotta admit that this is catchy, even if you don't know what the heck it means.

An Energy Crisis Averted

With the very real threat of global warming and the depletion of our natural resources looming over our heads, a frantic search has begun for environmentally friendly and sustainable energy sources. Some have long touted the value of harnessing the wind for power. Others still have supported the technology behind solar panels that capture the power of the sun. Others still have come forward as of late to speak highly of the value of fuels like ethanol and other such naturally-derived sources. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an announcement to make. Our search is over! Let the world rejoice! I have discovered a power that few can rival. Let me share it with you.

Just this past weekend, to celebrate my son Tyler's fifth birthday, we headed off to that local bastion of birthday bonanzas, none other than Chuck E. Cheese. While there, I sat and watched a hyperactive buzz of activity, as children, and mine among them, flitted here, there, and everywhere fueled simply by copious amounts of watered-down Sprite, cotton candy, and sub-par pizza. A small birthday cake also factored into the mix but the engine was at full speed long before it made it's arrival. And, as I sat there, cringing from the noise and anxiously awaiting the end of the coveted tokens, it came to me. Chuck E. Cheese, for all it's kitsch, is sitting on top of the cure for our energy woes. Consider the simple elements listed above to fuel the kids. Those are readily available and simple enough to provide. No problem there. And kids? Kids will always flock to establishments like the Chuck E. Cheese simply because it's really the place where a kid can be a kid. All that's left to do is to figure out a way to harness that mad crazy energy. Perhaps the innovators behind the film Monsters, Inc. have some input here?

Fishing in the Back Yard

Friday, August 24, 2007

Review: Unglamorous - Lori McKenna

Some artists just deserve to be heard and Lori McKenna is one of them. Having had songs covered by some serious A-list country stars like Sara Evans and Faith Hill, the thirtysomething mother of five is finally getting her shot at the big time and it's near a bullseye. Honest, soulful, and unpretentious, this is a good one. Here's the review I did for Stereo Subversion:

Should've Taken the Blue Pill

This week Erin and I have been re-watching the Wachowski brothers great Matrix movies. Now, I'm with most of you and agree that the series did nothing but go downhill after the first film but, well, the special effects are really cool and even if the plots tended to be a little too sketchy, there were some intriguing points of philosophy to ponder while watching Keanu pound some bad guys. So, we've been watching them and I'm struck by some of the parallels to my current situation.

Now, I realize this is not a new thing. The whole core of the Matrix reasoning is that we're living in a world that is not ours, that is lacking our control and is one that we desire to get out of, or at least should. Many and far more intelligent people have discussed these ideas and pondered the ins and outs of the whole philosophy. Yet, I'm taking it from a personal point and am attempting to see myself within the framework. As I've done so, I realize that at one point, I was all about the path of Neo. I wanted to emerge from the goopy goo with things blasting out of my arms and back, rise in knowledge of the Matrix, and take down the Source. Doing so would bring freedom, enlightenment, and, hopefully, peace in Zion.

The spiritual allusions here are tough to miss. And most would align the battle as being against the Devil and his minions as we've fought to overcome our sin and whatnot. There is something to this thinking but, more and more, some of us have found our battles to be waged against more than that old adversary. For some of us, the thinking of the modern world, the machine-like empirical processes and utilitarian ways of old, and particularly within our frameworks of faith known as churches, have been the source of war and conflict. Our battles have been waged over theology and complacency, seeking to align what we know of this world with the world that Jesus promised us it could be.

This thinking and pondering and internal battling has led me to a new thought regarding the Matrix characters. I now feel some sense of compassion for the one known as Cypher. Cypher, as you'll recall, was the one who played the Judas role in the film, betraying the prophetic Morpheus into the hands of the Agents and attempting to kill everyone else in the process. Cypher had tired of the battle. He longed for peace, for rest, and for the taste of a marvelous steak, even if he knew it wasn't real. Now, it's easy for us to point fingers, to mock and scorn this evil character but we must be careful. Because I'm damn weary. Some days I long for the innocence of my fundamentalist upbringing, for the black and white world where no gray areas existed. I long for rest of mind, body, and soul.

Yet, then I'm reminded that this way of thinking, that all is black and white and oh-so-easily identifiable, is the reason the world is in the shape that it is in. And then I'm reminded of the challenges of Christ, who calls us to a Kingdom of love, of peace, and of justice. This kingdom imagery fills my mind with wonder and delight and I realize that I cannot return nor do I wish to. I'm in this for the long haul. If only I could do kung fu too....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Simply Amazing...

I caught this article on AOL News this afternoon. He's fifty-nine, for God's sake! I can only hope to have as much energy and moxie as this guy if I make it that far!

Here's the link: 59-year-old Makes College Cut

Guilty Pleasures

While this is not a particularly original idea, I thought that I might run with it. While uploading my music collection into my computer and itunes, I've found that I've got a lot of music. Now, I'm not going to lie and say that I am never a music snob. Ask my wife and she'll tell you the truth about that. But, alas, I'm not perfect. Like everyone, my musical tastes have grown and matured over the years but, throughout that time, I've amassed a few, shall we say, guilty pleasures. These guilty pleasures need to be seen in a proper context and understanding, i.e. I was in fifth grade and this was the coolest song out then!, but they're in the collection nonetheless. And yes, I'll take the lumps for liking them, no matter how bad they are. So, for my faithful four readers, I thought I'd share, maybe day by day, maybe week by week, most likely by how much time I have and how much I remember it, a guilty pleasure disc from my collection. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to make fun.

Today's guilty pleasure is: Michael Bolton's My Secret Passion! Please be gentle...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Review: Mentor Tormentor - Earlimart

These guys just might be one of the best bands that you haven't heard of, yet. Earlimart brings some very unique sounds to this album and ends up with a great record. Stay tuned in a few weeks for an interview with Earlimart as well! Here's the INFUZE review:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Yup, you read that right. In just about twenty or so minutes, I'll cross that irreversible moment in time where I move from the ill-fated thirty to thirty one. For so many, moving from their twenties into the land of thirtysomethings is the tough transition. I'm different for some reason. Thirty, while a bit weighty, was pretty much a breeze. But shifting into thirty-one? Now that's a different story.

I'm not entirely sure why that is but I think a lot of it has to deal with the fact that I'm in a place that I didn't see on my coveted ten-to-fifteen year plan out of high school. Oh, sure, I've checked off a few things that were on the list, things like getting married and having a few munchkins but, well, I guess I just didn't see things panning out this way so far. I mean, I suppose I had these thoughts of, say, home ownership or, well, maybe a fulfilling career. Thus far, nada. Plus, I've had to go back and erase points that I thought I'd achieved, points of certainty and of having things figured out. It turns out, the older I get, the less I'm really certain of.

One thing I am certain of is that I do love my family, my friends, and my God. That God looks a little different in my mind than perhaps He once did but I still cherish that relationship. And my kids and my wife make the world for me. As I watch them grow, in ways both physical and otherwise, it challenges, frightens, and encourages me to be a part of their lives. I don't know, maybe thirty-one will bring a much needed breath of fresh air. Maybe it'll bring more crap that I didn't plan on. Either way, I'm sure it can only be more interesting...

Just an FYI...Here's some folks that share/have shared my Aug. 21st b'day:

Count Basie
Gene Roddenberry
Joe Strummer
Kim Cattrall
Jim McMahon
Carrie-Anne Moss

Take that August 19th!


72%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Ht: Marko

Review: Theology - Sinead O'Connor

I remember hearing Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" over and over and over as a young adolescent. Images of her shaved dome were everywhere and, outside of mimicking her unique vocal inflection, not much was to be really taken seriously. Yet, a lot has occurred for the artist and for me in the years since then and we've both grown. O'Connor's newest album has caused buzz in both mainstream and Christian circles and is very worthy of a long listen. Here's the review I did for Stereo Subversion:

Theology - Sinead O'Connor

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Slow Lane

If you're anything like we are, you tend to live your life at breakneck speed, wired and wishing for some peace and quiet. I was pondering this a few months back and wrote up a small piece on it and sent it along to the folks at Relevant Magazine. They liked it and decided to run it on the site. Check it out:

Life in the Slow Lane

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Never Knew...


Take the Transformers Quiz

Desert Island Discs

I was reading this book review on Paste Magazine's site the other day and I got me to thinking, "What is my desert island disc?" Of course, I knew that one would not be sufficient so I'm going to allow myself five, just because in the event of a plane crash, tidal wave, or sinking ship, I'm pretty damn confident that I'd be able to grab at least that many before falling into utter hysteria. And, well, I'm not that sure of what they are just yet. But, just for kicks, I thought I'd ask my faithful four readers (maybe we've lost one, added another, hmm?) what their seminal albums were? What are the albums that just make you quiver even today? What five would you take on a desert island?

The article itself goes on to discuss something else, namely the push of technology and the endangerment of albums as a whole. With the digital age and the ability to pick and choose songs, we're in serious danger of loosing classic art pieces like The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. So, I ask you another question: What is that life changing album or two that you've had? What was that album that you heard and you knew that the world was going to be all right because this music existed within it? I really am curious to hear some responses. Wonder if anyone will?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

He Just Won't Wipe

Okay, don't let the headline scare you away. This will actually make sense. Last night I wandered into the bedroom to brush my teeth and prepare for bed when I happened a glance into the toilet. I was greeted with an image that I'll simply leave to your imagination but suffice it to say that it aligns itself with a number slightly more than "one". I recalled, at this pivotal moment, Tyler running into the living room after he'd been put to bed in order to inform us of his need to "go potty". (By the way, that's one of the key elements to knowing you're a parent: using the word "potty") I had thought little of it, and was actually a little proud when he did that as we're still battling with Pull-Ups. His acknowledgement of needing to go while in bed was a good thing. But the picture greeting me in the bowl was not.

Most conspicuous was the lack of any toilet paper floating in the water. I sighed. This, sadly, is not particularly unusual. Tyler has an unfortunate penchant for speeding in and out of the bathroom without stopping for that critical moment of clean-up. It's a difficult thing for us to deal with as parents but, we're dealing. I shook my head, flushed the toilet, and headed to bed.

Later, though, as I lay there, I began to think a bit about that situation. Why does Tyler have a problem with doing that? Is it just, well, gross, to him? I could see that. Truthfully, are any of us particularly jazzed about that act? Sure, it's necessary but it's really not all that, exciting. It's a dirty, nasty job, but as the old adage goes, somebody's got to do it. Hmmm.

Sometimes I think my life is like this. I am not one to shy away from a tough job, but sometimes I don't want to get down in the muck and mire. Even more so, as I wrestle with reimagining issues of theology and apply them to life, I see myself compelled to dip down into the muck of society, to associate with those that I don't see eye to eye with, and whose lives are, at least seemingly, different than mine. Truthfully, one of the toughest areas for me to deal with this as of late has been in my interactions with fellow Christians, especially at church. It's ironic, really, that having grown up in church I now feel more an outsider than before. I'm not really sure how to deal with it but, the one thing I feel certain of, is that I'm going to have to dig in and grin and bear it. I love the Church, but sometimes the people that are part of it drive me crazy. Either way, I'm taking along a lot of Charmin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

You Be Hating..?

I'll never stop being amazed at the perception and intuition of our little ones. As my son was preparing to head out the door with his grandmother to go to preschool, here's the conversation that transpired:

Tyler: "Daddy, are you going to go to work today?"
Me: "Yeah, Daddy's going to go get ready in just a minute."
Tyler: "Are you be hating it?"
Me (a little taken aback but honest): "Yeah, some days Daddy does."
Tyler, walking out the door w/Mee-Maw: "Daddy be hating his work..."

It's a dark thing, a painful thing, and a weird thing to acknowledge that this is true. I've hit the place in my "professional career" where I really hate my job. Now, I don't hate the people and I don't even hate the work all the time but I hate the fact that it's just not, well, me. I don't feel complete in what I'm doing. As I spoke with a distant friend recently about this, he put it succinctly: "You're not buying what you're selling." Yup, kids, thats about the size of it.

While acknowledging a place for Christian retail, I realize that I personally am fed up with it. I'm tired of Jesus fish, Jesus shirts, Jesus lamps, and all other assorted and sundry Jesus junk. I believe that we are feeding into the already materialistic and consumer-crazed monolith that is already wreaking havoc on our society and I am tired of being a part of it. At least thats the big ideaological side of it. The other side of the picture is that I don't feel, and I hate to use this word but, called, or perhaps a better word is fulfilled, in what I'm doing there. I feel as though I'm sitting on both knowledge and talent without the forum to use them there and it's driving me crazy. So, yes, I guess, at least some days, I "be hating it."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thinking About Systems

Recently, as the headline says, I've been pondering the power of systems. I'm going to try and explain what I'm talking about but I fear that I'll fall far short of what I'm really trying to get at unlike. Undoubtedly, I've some friends who could put this into words a bit better as they're a hair farther down the road than I but I'm going to give it the old college try.

What I've been working at, I suppose, is a bit of good 'ole deconstruction. It hasn't been a conscious decision, at least initially, but now I've sort of acknowledged it and have run with it. Let me give an example of what I'm talking about. Many, if not most of us, deal with things in the short term. We get up, shower, do whatever else it takes to get ready, head to work, slave in the office, fight our way home to play with our kids and eat dinner and rest up so we can do it all again. The trick comes when we begin to fine tune the lens a bit, to magnify things to point out certain details. One such detail that's really stood out to me as of late surrounds the concepts of ecology and sustainability.

For the better part of my life, I've used plastic, styrofoam, and whatever other materials I've needed because they served my needs. They eliminated the need for doing dishes, saved me time, and just simplified my life. Good stuff, right? However, as I've pondered systems, I've come to think of things a bit differently. Yes, these conveniences might aid me in the short term, but what am I becoming complicit in? Is my use of such materials having any sort of negative effect on the world? And, to take it a step further, is my engagement of such things honoring or neglecting the faith I claim to hold?

Now, this seems a simple issue. Life is busy, hectic, and maddening at times. These products are cheap and provide a handy service. But, I have to deconstruct things and say that while, sure, they provide a service, they also promote many negatives. What negatives? Well, let's begin with the ecological expense, from the simple decomposition rates as well as the environmental footprint left to simply dispose of it. Then back up even further and consider the fact that if we keep on this way, we're gonna need more which is going to necessitate the production of more and more which will release how many more harmful toxins into our air and ecosystem, leaving a less-than-wonderful world for my children to inherit. Again, taking it that step further, what does it say about me that I'm more apt to be a consumer than one who is taking God's creation seriously, honoring it and seeking to beautify and add to it as opposed to poison it?

This is just one system that I've been mentally deconstructing, "in my free time." There are clearly more that my mind has touched on, political, religious, theological, and more. But this is a healthy process, I believe, one that will open me up to more possibilities as to what the world may hold.

Stereo Subversion Goes Live!

My latest adventure has been being a part of Stereo Subversion, a new website devoted to "meaningful music", that just went live today. We're all about finding music that, well, is meaningful, regardless of race, color, creed, and genre. I'm sure you get the picture. I'm pretty excited to be a part of this new thing and so are the rest of us. So, check us out. Tell your friends. Add us to your MySpace friends. Do all that sort of good stuff and stay tuned for more and more. As a matter of fact, why don't you check it out right now? Here's the link:

Stereo Subversion

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sick to My Stomach

I ran across this story on AOL News this morning and it just made my heart sick. This is the sort of thing that just makes me want to run away and to separate myself from this crowd. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Church Decision Outrages Family

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lyrics Mirroring Life

Ever have one of those moments when either a new song or an old song pop into your head, perfectly capturing the moment of life you're in? Here's mine today:

We Gotta Get Out of This Place - The Animals
In this dirty old part of the city
Where the sun refused to shine
People tell me there ain't no use in tryin'
Now my girl you're so young and pretty
And one thing I know is true
You'll be dead before your time is due, I know
Watch my daddy in bed a-dyin'
Watched his hair been turnin' grey
He's been workin' and slavin' his life away
Oh yes I know it (Yeah!)
He's been workin' so hard (Yeah!)
I've been workin' too, baby (Yeah!)
Every night and day (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!)
We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
'cause girl, there's a better life for me and you
Now my girl you're so young and pretty
And one thing I know is true, yeah
You'll be dead before your time is due, I know it
Watch my daddy in bed a-dyin'
Watched his hair been turnin' grey, yeah
He's been workin' and slavin' his life away
I know he's been workin' so hard (Yeah!)
I've been workin' too, baby (Yeah!)
Every day baby (Yeah!)
Whoa! (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!)
We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there's a better life for me and you
Somewhere baby, somehow I know it
We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there's a better life for me and you
Believe me baby I know it baby
You know it too
'Nuff said? It's been one of those days.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Review: The Wagonmaster - Porter Wagoner

Several months ago when I interviewed Marty Stuart, he mentioned working on this project with Porter Wagoner. So, when it released, I had to hunt it down and give it a listen. Simply amazing. Wagoner is clearly one of the statesmen of the genre and Stuart's production coaxes the best out of the near octogenarian. Haunting, powerful, and stirring, Wagoner's Wagonmaster is a classic listen. Here's the Infuze review:

Review: Up Front and Down Low - Teddy Thompson

I've tended to have a bit of an unreasonable predisposition against those from other countries or backgrounds who have tried to take on country music. Guys like Keith Urban just sort of annoy me. If you speak with an accent like that, country ain't your thing. But I've had to rethink my position after hearing this album from Teddy Thompson which blows me away. A collection of covers and one original, Thompson's taste and delivery are impecible and leave you wanting for more. Here's the Infuze review:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Review: Remedy - The David Crowder Band

It's no secret to those who know my musical passions that the DC*B is by far one of my favorite bands out there. On top of that, Crowder himself is just one of the coolest personalities that you'll find in music. Humorous, self-deprecating, insightful, and just downright quirky, the guy makes good music. That's why I was a little disappointed at this new release. It just didn't quite measure up to the lofty expectations I held for it. But, it's still worth a listen. Here's the Infuze review:

Review: Chronology V.2 - Third Day

Back with their second greatest hits compilation in less than a year, this volume documents the latter portion of Third Day's career, which is for me by far the less inspiring end of things. Again packaged as a two-disc set, with one being an audio and the other DVD, the set is good for fans of radio-friendly Christian rock or die-hard Third Day fans. Here's the Infuze review:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Interview: Sherwood

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Joe Greenetz, drummer for the MySpace Records flagship band, Sherwood. The band has worked hard to hone their California-friendly sound and has taken it strong to the masses. A little bit pop, a little bit rock 'n roll, with a generous helping of Beach Boys harmony, and you've got a recipe for success. Read the Infuze interview here:

Interview: Sherwood

Monday, August 06, 2007

itunes shuffle, part 2

I took a Marko idea not long ago and registered the first fifteen songs that played when putting itunes on shuffle mode. Well, I've spent the past week uploading some of my music collection into my computer, which, to be honest, still hardly scratches the surface, but I'm curious to see how things turn out this time. So, for my enjoyment alone probably, here goes nothing:

1.) "Love is the Last Thing to Go" - Kris Kristofferson, from The Pilgrim

2.) "Perfectly Fitted" - Lori Chaffer, from Songs from the Voice, Vol. 2

3.) "Born in Bethlehem" - Blind Boys of Alabama, from Go Tell it On the Mountain

4.) "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends - Joan Osborne, from Pretty Little Stranger

5.) "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again" - Elvis Presley, from Tiger Man

6.) "The Rock Song" - Sigor Ros

7.) "Old Dollar Mamie" - from the album, Negro Prison Blues and Songs

8.) "This is Now" - 33Miles, from 33Miles

9.) "Not Ready to Make Nice" - Dixie Chicks, from Taking the Long Way

10.) "The Difference (In the Garden of Saint-Anne's-On-the-Hill)" - Kings X, from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

11.) "It's Beginning to Get to Me" - Snow Patrol, from Eyes Open

12.) "When Tomorrow Comes" - Pillar, from The Reckoning

13.) "Pretty Polly" - Ralph Stanley and Patty Loveless, from All-Star Bluegrass Celebration

14.) "Promised Land" - Elvis Presley, from 2nd to None

15.) "Mary Goes to Jesus" - John Debney, from The Passion of the Christ Soundtrack

Okay, the eclecticism continues. I'd love to see some of yours! Send them along!

Stranger in a Strange Land

Lately I've been wandering through a strange place, a place that feels as though I have no home. There is nowhere to lay my head, to sit and rest, to call my own. Instead, I feel trapped, insecure, and afraid. The circle of my life swirls around me, dizzying, and I feel overwhelmed. Home holds no rest, no security for it is not mine. Church provides more pain than peace and I find the tears of the past well up within me. Even the most simple of pursuits, work, has become a place where I feel more like a temp than a longtime fixture. It's disconcerting.

One friend has encouraged me to learn my place as a permanent exile/stranger in this land. Still another has exhorted me to rejoice within my pilgrim journey. I've found these to be fitting analogies to where I feel myself going. I do feel exiled from that past I once knew. Parts of me, at times, long for the simplicity of a dogmatic youth, an existence that found peace and contentment within the colors of a black and white world. Yet, the rainbows of the prism have been unleashed within my mind and this is simply not something to be forgotten or cast aside. Yet the longing persists and I hang my head wondering.

It's ironic, really. I haven't, as some may surmise, lost my faith in Christ. Rather, I've lost my faith in Christianity and in many of those who would consider themselves to be it's adherents. The faith I once held dear, that faith of my youth, has been found wanting. The problem comes with the fact that we've stolen the name of Jesus and replaced it with rules, laws, and dogma. We've painted Jesus into a picture of Republican politics, consumer-minded materialism, and bumper sticker religion. I long for a faith that once again plumbs the depths, that touches the hem of the garment of the Divine, and again allows me that sense of peace and fulfillment.

That same friend who referred to me as an exile also exhorted me to stay close to the Sermon on the Mount. Let me leave you with the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:1-11(NIV) Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Bona Fide

There's a great moment within the movie, O Brother Where Art Thou, wherein George Clooney's character has a quick discussion with one of his estranged daughters. It goes something like this:

Ulysses Everett McGill: I am the only daddy you got! I'm the damn paterfamilias!
Wharvey Gal: But you ain't bona fide!

Well, unlike Mr. McGill, I've become bona fide. Genuine-like. I am now, officially, a professional freelance writer. Sure, sure, I've made a few dollars via my work on Associated Content but the majority of my work has been done with the sole purpose of getting my name out there, getting some free stuff, and garnering some good practice. But now, ladies and gentlemen, I've actually received a check! Woo hoo!

"From who?" you ask. Well let me tell you. My good friend and Mr. Miyagi-styled editor and writing mentor Matt is taking on a new venture with Stereo Subversion. We're launching the site on August 13th and I can't be more excited. The site is geared around the pursuit and exposure of what we're simply calling meaningful music. Check us out at Stereo Subversion on the 13th! Tell your friends!

Recent Reads

Ted Dekker is one of the few Christian fictions writers I'll still give a read. Saint is an intriguing read and rivals the pace of Dan Brown or Robert Ludlum. In fact, fans of the Bourne series will find much to enjoy here as I did. Plus, it's quick reading.

Alas, this was a bittersweet read for me. Ever since my dear friend Celena turned me on to reading about Harry and his pals at Hogwarts, I've made short work of the books, devouring my secondhand copies like they were peanut butter sandwiches. I splurged for this latest and last release, largely because I didn't want to have the ending spoiled for me. I wasn't disappointed. Rowling saves some of the best for last and continues the magic. The only bad part is that this is the end.

I finally got back into the groove and started reading something a little more heady than my previous selections. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope is a solid collection of essays from a number of practitioners and thinkers from the collective fellowship and conversation that is Emergent Village. Ultimately a challenging and thought-provoking read, this book not only highlights the unifying points of Emergent, but also it's vast diversity. While there are a few chapters that make for slow reading, the majority of the text is well worth your time.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Review: Libertad - Velvet Revolver

I remember being in middle school, walking along the street with my best friend at the time, and listening to Guns 'N Roses Appetite for Destruction on our mini boom box in route to the comic book store. Obviously, the band possessed about as much maturity as we did and we were faced with the end of one of the best, and perhaps most volatile, rock bands ever. And while Axl continues to work his comeback, Slash and the boys have moved on with Scott Weiland. With their debut album as Velvet Revolver garnering a Grammy, expectations were high this time around, particularly with the Top 40 dreck on the radio right now. The results are mixed. Here's the Infuze review:

Libertad - Velvet Revolver

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Emergent Hope

I'm in the midst of reading a relatively new book from the folks at Emergent Village called An Emergent Manifesto of Hope an am just about one third of the way through. It's been an interesting read thus far and I've found some solid statements of hope and challenge within. Thought I'd share a few with you.

Mark Scandrette, from his chapter, "Growing Pains":

"You should not think that the "real" emergence is happening elsewhere. You are invited to embrace your own celebrity - recognizing the importance of your own journey over simply being a fan of others' - and cultivate a local culture of faith-seeking. To address spectator tendencies, I give this unsolicited advice: no one can emerge for you. Make your own life. Host your own emergence. Stop reading so many books and blogs. Start your own conversations, and be a caring friend. The most important conversations happen between people who have the potential to live out their story together."

Carla Barnhill, from her chapter, "The Postmodern Parent":

"Indeed, parenting is about more than raising children. It is about investing in our hopes for the world. It is about joining in with our Creator in the ultimate act of re-creation. It is about pointing our children toward the work God has for them and giving them the resources to do it. It is about celebrating the goodness of life with God, a life that looks more like the kingdom with every generation."

Thomas Malcolm Olson, from his chapter, "Jailhouse Faith":

"I want them to imagine how their life will look when it's fully connected to God and connected to others, but they're not able to see it yet. But I can. It's the lens I look through when I teach them about recovery. I don't judge them based on the worst thing they've ever done. My reading of the prodigal son story convinces me there are many more verses in their life to be lived out."

Ryan Bolger, from his chapter, "Following Jesus into Culture":

"Jesus did not reject culture; it is where he started with people. He engaged them and spoke their language. Jesus was not countercultural as much as he was nonconformed within culture. As a cultural insider, he embodied a message of life in those places where the culture advocated death. Jesus lived in two realms simultaneously - both within human culture and submitted to the reign of God."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: Better Questions - Todd Agnew

I became a fan of Todd Agnew's after seeing him in concert several years ago. His band rocked and his gravelly voice, accompanied by a blues-flavored sound, hooked me. Yet, his record releases have been less than stellar. Agnew seems confused as to what direction to take his sound and, as such, leaves listeners with a mixed bag of goods. Yet, there is good to be found for those willing to search it out. Here's the review I did for INFUZE:

Landmarks and Remembrances

Y'know, if you read through the Bible, people were always erecting some sort of landmark as a memento of sorts of some sort of thing that God had brought them through. Whether or not it was some sort of big battle that had been won or was simply being able to ford a river or whatever, the people of God were always intent on gathering some stones and building some sort of structure to be able to look back to as evidence of God's working in their lives. Even the Bible in itself calls us to read it and remember, to engage these things of God as history and realize that He is in fact out and about.

Well, I've been going through some stuff, more or less internally, and am finding myself in one of those spiritually dry spots. St. John of the Cross refers to it as a "dark night of the soul"; others as just a funk. Either way, I'm fighting those thoughts that, instead of making their way to the Pearly Gates, my prayers and instead being ping-ponged back to me courtesy of our ceiling. Bible reading proves dry and even some spiritual reading that I like to do has seemed just, well, dry. As such, I've tried to follow that biblical mandate of "remembering", of looking back to the signposts and landmarks left along the path of my journey. The problem is, I don't think I'm seeing what I'm supposed to be seeing.

Instead of looking and seeing the small structures erected that declare, "God did this", or "Remember when He stepped in and did this", I'm instead seeing a littered pile of stones along the way back that instead call out, "Remember when you screwed this up?!" Sure, I have those few landmarks that all good Christ-followers are supposed to have, marks of conversion and such, and I do realize that there are more that I'm simply blind to in these moments, but I'm finding that those good things are shadowed over so heavily by my failures. Now, a good thinking Christian will take the tact that, well, I'm saved and am therefore forgiven of all wrongdoing. The righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me and that when God the Father looks down upon me, He does not see my faults but rather the glory and beauty that His Son has placed upon me. And I agree with this theology.

The problem is that, well, existentialist that I am, I don't feel very forgiven right now. I feel more like a failure than a success. This place is not where I'm supposed to be. Of course, it can again be argued that I'm right where I'm supposed to be; that God has placed me in this place for reasons that only He knows. And again, I acknowledge and agree with the theological truth inherent. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. I just need some piece of grace to fall my way, to remind me that it all really does make sense in the end.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Cobalt Season Interview and Review

I had a chance to sit down with my friend Ryan Sharp, via phone, a week or so ago and speak with him regarding the process of making his latest album, In Search of a Unified Theory. For those who aren't familiar with Ryan's work, it's amazing. This album captures a unique ethos of hope and longing and faith and frustration, all over a cool indie-folk soundscape. Good stuff. Anyway, here's the link to the interview and the review:

Cobalt Season Interview

Review: In Search of a Unified Theory - The Cobalt Season

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm in Springfield!

Okay, not really, but you've gotta go do this. You just upload a photo, make a few adjustments, and find yourself "Simpsonized"! Very cool!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Review: My December - Kelly Clarkson

I wasn't a closet American Idol at the time that Kelly Clarkson took the crown but my desire to stay up on pop culture has kept her in my eyes. Plus, if you listen to the radio at all, you just can't miss hearing her songs! But, My December is actually an album that's worth listening to. Just keep in mind, you're gonna need some cheering up after! Here's the INFUZE review:

Despite What My Critics Say

Online Dating

I'm apparently approved for all audiences! Booyah!

(HT: Marko)

Recent Reading

I've continued to live with a desire for fiction as of late, despite a small stack of non-fiction "to-reads" piling up next to my bed. I think it's got a lot to do with our pace of life and stress level as of late but, either way, I've run into some good stuff to read.

Coyote Blue was probably my least favorite of Christopher Moore's works but it was still an entertaining read. Again Moore brings the surreal into the everyday and makes us think, laugh, and shake our heads.

I read Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas some time ago and remembered it being quite an interesting read. So, when I happened upon this sequel at my local secondhand store, I picked it up. Koontz's key character, Odd, is intriguing and will worm his way into your heart. Give him a shot.

I started listening to Garrison Keillor's tales from Lake Wobegon a long time ago before I even realized how truly great they were. Keillor is a masterful storyteller with a sensitive finger on the pulse of midtown life and here he weaves tales of love, loss, and a touch of midlife crisis into a fun and heartwarming read.

This book made me sad. Not because of it's dark thematic elements (it deals with death, as in the big "D") but more so because this concludes the Christopher Moore books that I haven't read. Yet, as one of his latest, Moore continues to improve and excel, continuing to mine the town of San Francisco for material and integrating characters familiar in some of his other works. Strangely poignant and laugh out loud funny, this is good stuff.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relevant Wisdom

Some time ago, I ran across this very cool magazine for twentysomethings called RELEVANT. It was trendy, cool, and had some very thoughtful and challenging pieces as well. I was hooked. So I've been reading ever since. For a long time I just picked it up at the local bookstore but eventually relented, particularly since I realized it was tons cheaper, and subscribed. Well, my subscription ended with the last issue, May/June, and with our move and everything we forgot/were too poor/lost the paperwork/had enough trouble remembering where we'd put all our stuff to renew it. So, the other night, a bit overwhelmed with children, I left them home with my wife on a mission to buy some much needed Pull-Ups but detoured along the way and picked up a copy of the new issue.

I'm so glad I did. It's a great issue but two things in particular just kind of caught me right this time and I thought I'd share them here. The first was ironically the editor's letter, called the "First Word", from founder Cameron Strang. Cameron writes:

"How many of us have felt that optimistic determination that we're going to change the world? And how many - be honest - have had difficulty sustaining it? Inevitably, things don't turn out the way we hope, and "real world" things - school loans, marriage, kids, mortgages - pull us away from huge passions that once steered our lives. So what do we do? Do we succumb to the reality of settling? Or do we find ways to stay true to the passions God instilled deep within us?"

Okay, read my blogpost before this and I think we have that answer. But Cameron continues with some good advice:

"Distractions and responsibilities are inevitable. Things will not happen the way we think they will. But if we still believe in the things we once did, it's up to us to still go out and fight for our convictions.

And we need to start now. We don't have to wait until things are perfect. You may be working some sucky 9-to-5 to pay the bills, but that doesn't need to define your future...Don't let your circumstances dictate your future. Don't lose sight of what God has put inside of you...The future will be determined by people who will chase their dreams and stand up for what they believe in, come what may. If we're unwavering in our convictions, keep our focus on God and do whatever it takes, well, that's how revolutions are started. And sustained."

Good words, Cam. Good words. And I need to hear them so, thank you.

In the same issue, RELEVANT featured an interview with one of my favorite authors of all time, Anne Lamott. Lamott's writing has left quite an impression upon my life and has enabled me to see through an entirely new lens so this was very cool to read. I just want to share one quick quote that she offers up in the interview:

"You don't deepen your relationship with Christ with books; you do it by showing up with other people who are taking care of the poorest, hungriest and most marginalized. If you want to find where Jesus is, you'll find Him close to the poorest of the poor, the suffering, the terrorized people."

Just good stuff. Thanks, RELEVANT.

And as a side note, if you're not a reader/subscriber, you should be. Head over to their site and check it out. And for bonus fun, log onto itunes and subscribe to their podcast too. Features some good interviews, music, and well, all around hilarity.