Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hello, My Name is Andrew...

...and I like American Idol. I tried not to watch this season. I really did. But, like some stinkin' tractor beam it pulled me right in. Part of it has to do with the fact that, come bedtime for my little girl, there's really no place to seek solace outside of our living room till she's fully asleep and snoring soundly. Yet, I could try to resist and yet, it's like a drug. The music just calls to me.

Well, now that I've got that off of my chest I just wanted to applaud American Idol for their show last evening, Idol Gives Back. I didn't watch all of it partially because I just wasn't in the mood and, well, it just creeps me out a bit to watch Celene Dion perform and because my wife had control of the remote and was doing her best ADD impression of switching between two or three channels as I sought to return to the world of Hogwart's in the sixth installment of Harry Potter. But, I did see enough to consider the show a well-intended and appropriate one. Sure, charity is big time in Hollywood right now with celebs like Madonna and Angelina Jolie adopting kids like they're new handbags but, the bottom line is that these are truly issues that need to be addressed. I'm with Bono in thinking and hoping that our generation may be the one that eradicates poverty and suffering like that being seen in modern day Africa. And American Idol took a nice step in bringing aid and visibility to that cause last night.

It's daunting to see such issues before us as we sit in our comfy chairs and couches, drinking from our cool beverages, enjoying aid conditioned luxury with our full bellies while a mere distance away, literally millions of people are struggling with AIDS/HIV, malaria, impure water, and starvation, many of these attributable to poverty. Many times I wonder how to make a tangible difference when the problem seems so large. But, that old adage holds true here: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. We're going to help out in any way we can. I encourage you to do the same.

Check out the ONE campaign site for more details:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Recent Reading and Viewing

For whatever reason, I've been in a very good place to devour fiction. As I've already mentioned, I've been pouring over the Harry Potter books and this time is no different. The fifth in the series was the best yet, drawing out more interesting characters and plot devices. I'll admit, in some ways, having the movies around only helps to enhance these books as people like Professor Snape seem fully realized in the person of Alan Rickman. Either way, it was an excellent read. I picked up #6 just the other day and am going to start any day now.

Chuck Palahniuk writes with such a wry cynicism and biting sense of humor. He continues to amaze me with his unique look at life and his first-person style of writing leaves little to be desired. Survivor is a great look at celebrity and life and proves to be a great read.

Stranger Than Fiction is one of the better movies that I've seen in a long time. Will Ferrell plays the straight man well in this one, making you genuinely care for him and Emma Thompson is wonderful. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also terrific as Ferrell's love interest and continues to earn some solid credibility with her acting choices. I really enjoyed this film for it's portrayal of the writing life, of showcasing the writer's almost visual imagination as they view a scene in what comes across as an entirely different vision than most. I also appreciated the struggle with the character and the author. It sounds a bit crazy but, when writing, those characters seem far more real than they really are at times. Either way, this is a keeper!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sexual Healing

Recently, for whatever reason, the word "sexual therapist" has caught my eye whenever I see it. Most often, it's on a book I'm receiving into our store's inventory or on the back cover as I'm doing my best to strip the label off so I can send it back. But, the title has grabbed me as of late and left me with a question: How does one become a sexual therapist?

Well, let's consider the connotation here first. The initial understanding, at least in my sleep-deprived head, is that one who fits this description is one who, now stay with me, provides sexual therapy. This is a person who majored in sex, so to speak. How do you do that? How do you become the guy or girl who is the sex major? Was there a class for this? What university do you go to to get this degree? Do you see my frustration here? My confusion?

Now, I'm all for the institution of sexual therapy. Clearly, there are numbers of folks in this world who find themselves struggling with various disorders and situations that call for the instruction of someone who's a little more knowledgeable. But again, more knowledgeable? Okay, one image for you and I'll close this little crazy diatribe: Dr. Ruth. Dr. Ruth is one of our foremost sexual therapists. I just don't get it....

Interview: The Almost

Here's another interview that I was able to do recently for INFUZE, this time with Aaron Gillespie of The Almost. We talked about the genesis of the project, Gillespie's relationship with his UnderOath bandmates, and more...

Check it out:

Interview: The Almost

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Living in the Tension

My newfound pursuit of writing and trying to, I don't know, actually make money doing this sort of stuff has led me already to rubbing elbows with some really interesting people. My little gig at INFUZE has not only allowed me a forum to develop what I hope are my talents, it's also given me the opportunity to dream, to create, and to simply be challenged by what those around me are doing. Some of the people I share webspace with there are published fiction writers, pastors, comic book creators and illustrators, music producers, and more. Being in this sort of company simply makes me stand in awe because, clearly, my work is not quite there.

One of the guys there who's been super friendly, helpful, accomdating, and I could go on forever, is my friend, Matt Conner. Matt is a church planter and freelancer who is a much more gifted writer than I am. Just the other day Matt tapped into some of my heart through a blogpost that he wrote regarding our need for certainty and the reality of mystery in our lives. I thought this was really good. Check it out:

The Role of Certainty

Review: Southern Weather - The Almost

To be honest, I'd never heard of The Almost before this came across my desk. I'd heard of Aaron Gillespie, the young man who essentially makes up The Almost's day job with metalcore band UnderOath but had never caught wind of this offering. I'm glad I did. Far more accessible that UnderOath's work, the album is a great listen. Here's the INFUZE review:

Review: Trailercana - Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadors

This is an album that I happened upon due to one of the media contacts I've developed. I had a feeling when I stuck this in the CD player that I'd probably enjoy this but it ended up being a great album. It's quirky, homey, funny, and yes, poignant. For something a little different, this is worth your time! Here's the INFUZE review I did:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Infuze 3.0

This is something that I'm pretty excited about and am asking that you take the time to go ahead and visit. I've been writing for the better part of nine months for a website called Infuze. If you're one of the three frequent readers here (thanks Mom!) then you know this because this is where all of those silly reviews that I post link to. Anyway, Infuze has provided me with not only a forum to write but with an eclectic class of people to rub virtual elbows with and to learn from. And now it's got even better!

Infuze 3.0 is our new launch which is going to enable for more content, more features, and more opportunities. From increasing reviews and interviews and news, to offering up new staff blogs as well, it's a whole new experience. Our new tagline, courtesy of my pal Mr. Matt Conner is: Criticize by Creating. This is the heart of Infuze and I hope you'll take the time to stop on by.

Oh, did I mention I'm now a staff writer and blogger for them? Check it out at:

The Original Gap

Tyler lost his first tooth not too long ago playing on the playground! Here's the gap! He's actually lost the one beside it since but, well, being the attentive parents that we are, we don't seem to have a picture of that yet!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Truth War

It's been a little while since I've posted anything really related to the Church or to things emergent but this recently crossed my path and I just felt like commenting a bit. I knew that this book was coming, due to a few bloggers here and there that spoke of it, yet I guess I just wasn't ready. Now, to be fair, the answer to begin with is, no, I haven't read the book. I have taken a few moments to page through, have read the cover copy, and looked through the list of references and footnotes cited in the back. And, even though I haven't read it, I think I'm saddened by John MacArthur's newest, The Truth War.

Let me say this before I continue. I respect Dr. John MacArthur even while I disagree with him. He has spent a good portion of his life studying and defending the Bible and his work in that area cannot be denied. Yet, while I respect his study, tenacity, and passion for this I do clearly disagree with some of his conclusions. This is certainly one such case.

Two things, again, having not read the book yet, stand out at me at the outset. One such issue is Dr. MacArthur's clear misunderstanding of what comprises the emerging church. A quick flip through the footnotes indicates that MacArthur's knowledge of the emerging church is limited to the statements and works created by Brian McLaren. Now certainly, Brian has in some ways shouldered much of the initial public burden of bringing some discussion to light but I think I'm confident in saying that McLaren himself would argue that he does not speak for the whole. One of the beauties and, for some, frustrations of the emerging movement is the focus on discussion and conversation. We bring all the ideas to the table and attempt to work them out in a collaborative context. While McLaren has done a whole lot of legwork for the emerging church, he is not the sole spokesperson. I'm just left wondering if Dr. MacArthur truly studied the movement enough? Just a concern.

My second concern and frustration begins with the cover image and extends to the wording contained. The mainstream world sees enough of Christians bickering and fighting and, Lord knows, history itself is rife with this kind of strife. Yet, here we are in 2007 calling each other out to war. The language of war itself presupposes a number of things and I think Dr. MacArthur is rash in his assessment of the movement. The emerging movement is by no means perfect. I daresay that those considering themselves within would argue the same. Yet to call out a war on fellow believers seems to be in poor taste and simply poor judgement. A diversity of opinions resides in the pool known as emerging and perhaps one is better left reading a book like Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives and decide for oneself.
For a few more thoughts on the issue, pastor Bob Hyatt has posted some good stuff here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Review: 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads - Kenny Wayne Shepherd

I grew up a huge fan of the blues due to the openness of my parents with an appreciative nod toward Mr. John Belushi and Mr. Dan Ackroyd. Running across the music of John Lee Hooker changed my life and introduced me to a whole new world of music. Kenny Wayne Shepherd is one of the new breed and this recording finds him trying to prove himself to the old guard. Very, very good. Here's my review:

Review: Time Without Consequence - Alexi Murdoch

For fans of Joshua Radin or even Jack Johnson, Alexi Murdoch is a good guy to give a listen. Strongly acoustic with some unique fluorishes, this is a great step for the indie artist. Here's my INFUZE review:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Review: Self-Titled - 33Miles

Some kids like their pop a little country flavored and that's what fledlging CCM group 33Miles tries on their self-titled release. It falls a little flat for my taste. Here's the review:

Review: Good and Reckless and True - The Alternate Routes

Sometimes a band comes across your way and they're just that good. Welcome to the land of The Alternate Routes. Here's the review I did of their new album for INFUZE.

Review: Rocky Balboa DVD

Here's a review I did of the new DVD for Rocky Balboa, the final in the series, for INFUZE. I grew up a die-hard Stallone fan and Rocky was at the top of the list when it came to movies so, while I'm a bit biased, I think this was a good one!

Some Recent Reading

Despite my slight bummed out spirit over not knowing which way to go with this life I've been given, and in between trying to jam out some writing here and there during the few, very few, quiet moments I have in life, I've been able to catch up on some reading lately. I think that the situations of life have lead me to wanting something of a fantasy adventure to lose myself in so my choices definately reflect that.

Christopher Moore is simply one of my favorite writers that I've come across and this one doesn't disappoint. It's a very unique look at vampires, relationships, and love. In only a way that Christopher Moore can!At the behest of my good friend Celena, I once again eschewed my fundamental, evangelical moorings and dove headfirst into the world of young Mr. Harry Potter. She suggested that I wouldn't be able to put them down and, well, I'm still reading and am now debating whether or not I might need to pre-order number seven!

Just a thought I had while overhearing some discussion while in the midst of reading through some of these books...The concepts of magic and wizardry and the like are among some of the dangers upheld against the Harry Potter series in much of the conservative Christian crowd. And while I agree that the Bible does teach against placing your trust in divination and dealing with certain things, I'm not so sure that this series is intended to really charm you into picking up a crystal ball, a broom, and a new wand from your local magic shop. Either way, I was just struck with the idea that some of our traditions and ideas might be seen just as unusual. Consider some sects of believers who greatly emphasize holy water or anointing oil. What of those who pray over rooms and windows and doors, seeking solace from the Enemy? I don't know. All I'm saying is that sometimes we need to stop and consider what we're doing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Loss of Passion

Just recently I had some friends of mine nail me to the wall. Not literally, mind you, but two separate friends on two separate occasions pointed out some things going on in my life that just really made me sit up and listen.

The first came via an email from a guy that I've never even met in person. Matt is someone I met through my involvement in writing for Infuze and has been just a tremendous encourager and friend along the process of my trying to break into some sort of paid writing life. He's tossed me opportunity after opportunity and has continued to invest time into me. I'm incredibly thankful for his friendship and help. It was in his response to an email of mine though, that he really got me.

I'd emailed him asking, once again, for any ideas for writing venues and if he'd be willing to sort of share his journey of writing with me so that I could share it with my wife who was struggling to understand some of what I was doing. Essentially, she didn't get how my writing stuff for free would one day lead to me writing for money. And she especially wasn't real happy about my taking on more work to boot. Anyway, Matt made this sage declaration in that email before going on to tell me what I'd asked. He wrote:

"We seem to have much of the same heart and you seem frustrated in a job you don't want and without writing, I would wonder if you were moving toward any personal passion at all..."

Ouch. But right on.

The second friend to call me out, although this one was not so much a call-out as it was a clarification and understanding, was one of my dearest, Celena. Celena and I have known each other forever, having been friends since elementary school. Our paths have weaved in and out and our friendship has weaved with it but interestingly enough, we always end up back at the same spot. She is one of my most valued friends in this world and I was thrilled as she was in town and we had a chance to catch up at the local Perkin's one night not too long ago. I say catch up but that's sort of misleading. We arrived at the restaurant around seven in the evening and ended up leaving around one in the morning. For my money, that's a little more than catching up!

Anyway, a similar discussion came up in our talk and I shared with her my frustrations in doing what I do now and she pointed out part of the problem.

"You don't want to work for The Man," she said, smiling. I laughed but, truth was, she was right. I've never been much for the nine-to-fiver or anything closely resembling a traditional structure. And to top it off, the work that I do is rather unfulfilling. Totally not my passion.

I'm thankful for friends that tell you like it is and help to clarify things that you yourself just think nobody sees or understands. They were right. I have lost that sense of passion and, well, I don't want to work for The Man anymore. The quandary I find myself in now is in trying to discover where to go. Mid-life crises are supposed to happen later in life, not at the ripe old age of thirty!