Top 10 Albums (and Movies) of 2010

It’s that time again.  That special time of year where I ramble on about my favorite albums of the year.  If you’re reading this, you must really care about me – and that means a lot.  So without further ado, here are my top 10 albums of 2010.

 

10. She & Him – Volume 2

Zooey Deschanel makes me smile.  It’s not often that someone from the acting world makes a great music, but with “Volume 2,” Zooey has two great albums under her belt.  With this newest release, the duo of Deschanel and M. Ward essential trim the fat from their first offering and craft a tighter, more cohesive body of work.  I’ll admit, it takes a lot for me to get into a folk band, but there’s no question in my mind that these two do it as well as anyone.

9. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

While being one of my most anticipated albums of the year, “Danger Days” was also simultaneously one of the most confusing.  At times it appears that the band can’t decide whether it wants to be pop or rock, taking the listener on a sonic rollercoaster – lots of jerks, drop-offs, and a few moments that take your breath away.  My conclusion is that this is what MCR was going for, and if so, they may have crafted the most clever album this year.   If you still feel like you don’t know who My Chemical Romance really are as a band, that’s okay.  I think that’s the point. “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” is a major highlight and maybe the best rock song of the year.

8. Surprises – All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Die

After the band Sullivan dissolved three years ago, many where left to wonder whether we would ever get to hear the voice of front man Brooks Paschal again.  After a short break from the sound booth, Paschal returned this year, quite triumphantly, with his self released, self produced, solo album under the name Surprises.  Many of the tracks on this album consist of laid back acoustic numbers, but he also delves into some electronic sounds.  Most impressive are his vocals – especially the standout track “Accident,” where Paschal’s voice soars further than ever before.  Already back in the studio working on more music, it’s safe to say that we’ll be hearing much more from Brooks in the near future.  This is very good news.

7. It’s Alive – Human Resources

Hailing from Lake Mary, Florida, this post-grunge quintet burst onto the rock scene this year with their debut, “Human Resources.”  Lead singer Zach Webb’s voice is just plain infections, as heard on the lead single and stand-out track “Pieces.”  While it’s true that you won’t hear anything truly groundbreaking on this album, you will hear a band that is on the brink of stardom – you can’t make alt rock this good and not have people take notice.  It also should be said that every so often there comes an album that lyrically meets you exactly where you’re at – this is that album for me this year.  When I listen to it, I truly feel like I was there with Webb as he penned the songs.  Be on the lookout for It’s Alive in the years to come.

http://www.vimeo.com/12447400

6. The Damned Things- Ironiclast

What happens when two members of pop punk idols Fall Out Boy, two members of old-school punk legends Anthrax, and the lead vocalist of metalcore heavyweights Every Time I Die form a band?  The Damned Things.  And it rocks.  This modern take on classic rock is heavy, melodic, aggressive, and just plain fun.  If you don’t want to turn up your stereo when listening to “Friday Night (Going Down in Flames),” you might want to check your pulse.  Keith Buckley’s vocals are spot on – who knew this guy could sing like this?  Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy) and Scott Ian (Anthrax) masterminded this project and absolutely shred the heck out of every track on this album, adding just enough flare without getting too cheesy, to make for one of the best rock records of the year.

http://www.vimeo.com/17456554

5. Deepspace 5 – The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

After a five year wait, indie hip hop heads were finally treated to another round from the super-group, Deepspace 5 in early 2010.  All of the usual suspects are back and in prime form on one of the best collaborative hip hop releases of the past few years.  With this much talent, it’s literally a can’t miss, but as usual, each member steps up their game to a level that makes each track a banger, and the production is top-notch.  There really isn’t another hip hop group around right now that can come close to rivaling these guys, so let’s hope that the sorry state of underground hip hop doesn’t keep us from getting another batch of DS5 in the very near future.

4. Pigeon John – Dragon Slayer

It’s not a well-kept secret that I love Pigeon John.  I mean, really – if you know me, if we’ve ever had a conversation, you know how much I love this man.  John went a new direction with “Dragon Slayer,” choosing to produce the album completely in analog and not inviting a single guest appearance.  “So wait, this is a rap record with real instruments and a real artistic vision?”  Yes.  Crazy, right?  It shouldn’t be, this is the way hip hop should sound.  Couple the musical honesty with PJ’s notable transparency and you’ve got one of the most honest hip hop albums in recent memory.  When John says “With all the girls and all the drugs, well I’m a rap cliché/was convinced I’d never be one, would have sworn on my grave,” he’s not lying.  What you see with Pigeon John is what you get – a broken man with a knack for combining humor, honesty, darkness, and hope into a well-crafted hip hop album that shines brightly amongst its peers.  Let’s hope the rest of the hip hop world takes notice.

3. Anberlin – Dark is the Way, Light is a Place

Like many others, I was a bit underwhelmed with Anberlin’s 2008 offering, “New Surrender,” but luckily for all of us, the guys came out blazing in 2010 with a stirring, challenging, and dark new album.  Drawing influence from 80’s pop rock, “Dark is the Way” finds Anberlin treading new territory while still maintaining the accessible rock sound that has made them staples on alternative radio.  Producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine) may be just what the band needed to reinvent themselves.  The lead single “Impossible” is one of the best songs of 2010 and sets the tone for an album that looks into the dark world of broken relationships and the struggle to find hope that ensues.  “The Art of War” is a stellar track, featuring a haunting intro and some of Stephen Christian’s best vocal work to date.  While “Dark is the Way,” may not have surpassed their magnum opus “Cities,” it certainly stands alone as a fantastic album and adds to the stellar back catalogue of one of the best (and most underrated?) rock bands of the decade.

2. Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise

This is that moment.  The moment when the band filled with potential and on the brink of greatness finally hits on all cylinders and releases the album everyone knew they had in them.  “Blue Sky Noise” is what Circa Survive was meant to sound like.  Sure, both “Juturna” and “On Letting Go” were both memorable in their own right and showed flashes of greatness, but Circa Survive has now become more than just “Anthony Green’s band.”  Every member of Circa shines at different moments on this release, with the vocals and instrumentation complementing each other perfectly – it never feels as though Green is stealing the show.  That’s not to say that his vocals aren’t incredible – they are.  The man is an absolute freak of nature, but this time his band mates appear more in sync, more focused, than their previous work showed.   Stand out tracks include “Get Out,” “Imaginary Enemy,” “I Felt Free,” and “Spirit of the Stairwell,” but each track on the album feels well placed as it winds and curves, painting a sonic landscape trickled with drops from inside of Green’s head.  If you haven’t gotten into this band, now is a very good time to do so.

1. Underoath – Ø (Disambiguation)

With the loss of founding member Aaron Gillespie early in the year, many were left to wonder if Underoath could still formulate another groundbreaking record.  The band appeared convinced that they could and with the release of “Disambiguation,” they were right.  Adding Daniel Davison (ex-Norma Jean) behind the drum kit and letting Spencer Chamberlain man both the clean and screaming vocals, Underoath sounds as tight and focused as they ever have.  Davison’s drumming, while different than Gillespie’s, fits perfectly into the new Underoath sound.  Most impressive on this record is Chamberlain’s vocals – he absolutely owns this album.  I can honestly say that while listening, I never once thought “this would be better if Aaron was still around.”  No, this is who Underoath is now.  Heavier, more melodic, and a little looser.  With more room to breath within the tracks, the Tim McTague and James Smith’s guitars wander while Chamberlain’s croons draw a resemblance of a Layne Staley/Anthony Green hybrid.  Add in the best synth work to date from Chris Dudley and the always amazing bass playing of Grant Brandell and Underoath have crafted a record that today’s screamo bands will be attempting to copy two years from now.  But by then, the men in Underoath will be already be breaking new ground . . . again.

 

Guilty Pleasures of 2010

Travie McCoy – Lazarus

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Before Their Eyes – Untouchable

 

Band on the brink

The Afterlife Kids

 

Most Anticipated of 2011

Yellowcard

Saosin

Further Seems Forever

Paramore

blessthefall

D.R.U.G.S.

 

 

Top 10 Movies of 2010

1. Inception

2. The American

3. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

4. The Town

5. 127 Hours

6. The Social Network

7. Toy Story 3

8. The Runaways

9. Animal Kingdom

10. Shutter Island

Honorable Mention – The Crazies 

While Broken Hearts Prevail – A Look at Today’s Hip Hop Culture Part I

I don’t feel as though I’m kidding myself when I say that hip hop and I had more than the equivalent of a fleeting summer romance.  We were in love.  And though I know my contributions to it will never equate to everything it gave me, I’d like to imagine that our feelings were mutual.  Unfortunately, as is not uncommon in society today, we have grown apart in recent years and now rarely find ourselves on speaking terms.

It wasn’t always this way.  I remember summer afternoons sitting by the stereo ready to hit record on the cassette player the second a rap song was introduced.  Likewise, I would watch MTV for hours at a time with VCR remote in hand, hoping to be lucky enough to capture a music video from A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, Outkast, or any other of my favorite groups that the station would mercifully play.

I remember my first hip hop concert experience – an autumn evening standing in the gravel parking lot of Ground Zero in Wichita, KS, watching in awe as a circle of guys in backpacks and shell toed Adidas freestyled.  I remember feeling like I was a part of something for the first time in my life.  Hip hop was more than music to me, it was my voice, it was an attitude, it was a look, and to be honest, it was all that mattered to me.

With that in mind, I don’t suppose it’s any surprise that it was through hip hop that I heard God speak to me for the first time in my life.  Although these types of conversions tend to be cliche, I can comfortably say that God used this music to show me his glory and that I needed him.  Next, he gave me a passion to make music myself, which I happily followed for years, being blessed to work alongside people with ten times the talent of myself.

Hip hop and I were involved in what seemed like a never-ending honeymoon – the perfect marriage.  We laughed, cried, shared every car ride, every secret, every question.  When I was alone, confused, overjoyed, angry, or apathetic, hip hop was there.

So what happened?

It all seemed so subtle at first.  But minor disagreements, quiet, sharp words, and nights spent apart soon turned into irreconcilable differences, shouting matches, and extended separations.  We still spoke the same language, but yet . . . we didn’t.  Ties were broken, promises faded away, and sometimes, though I never mention it out loud, our old love songs ring hollow.  Sometimes I see her on the street with her new interests and she looks happy.  Though part of me thinks I should be happy for her, I’m not and I know she isn’t.

Which brings me to the point of this post and the ones to follow.  Something is wrong with hip hop and despite numerous message board interventions and the threat of leaving home for good, things aren’t getting any better.  I have a deep fear that hip hop is dying, but I desperately don’t want it to.  I don’t want to watch as my love fades away like a boy band fad, but angry words and bad attitudes aren’t solving anything.

To make things worse, I’ve changed as well, making my perspective skewed and maybe even making me incapable of providing relevant answers.  I don’t want to come across as a jaded elitist, although  my tendencies tend to regretfully lean in that direction.  Instead, I want to provide balanced and fair criticism as well as pointing out the places where hip hop is currently succeeding.  Will it work?  Will it matter at all?  I honestly have no idea, but I hope that pleasant and frank discussion will at least be a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned.

The Frightening Truth About Spotlights

I hate rain. It always shows up on the days you need the sun the most. Waking up to rain is like answering the door expecting your lover only to find that it’s your annoying neighbor who needs you to watch his dog for the day, and it needs a bath. And it has rabies. That’s how the rain makes me feel.

As I trudge down the sidewalk to my as-of-yet unknown destination, I nod politely to the other pedestrians who have also somehow found the courage to get out of bed and wander out into this grey abyss. Some wear smiles, but for the most part, they all sport the same solemn face that a child has when he’s grown impatient for Christmas day to come. In this case, Christmas is whatever day spring decides to live up to its name. I shove my hands into the pockets of my jacket, lower my head, and press onward.

For better or for worse, I’ve always had the habit of assuming the best of people until they’ve proven me wrong. However, fate would not allow for such an action today. As I continued to walk, I glanced up and met the eyes of a young man beside me. For reasons unknown to me, I felt my stomach turn upside down.

Although the glance lead me to believe I knew this man, I simultaneously felt as though I’d never seen him in my life. My habit of seeing the good in people appeared to shatter before my eyes as I realized that this was “him.” This was the man your mother warned you about. The guy you wouldn’t dare let your sister date. The guy by himself at the bar that made everyone feel a little nervous.

But there was something different about him. I could somehow tell that he didn’t wear all of this on his sleeve. No, his appearance was fine, that of a pleasant man, but something behind his eyes held the truth. This was probably the guy that said “hi” to everyone, gave firm handshakes, and made cool conversation, but slandered, gossiped, and spoke hatefully when he was in private.

Yes, I could see it now. It was as though in the instant our eyes met, he allowed me deep inside – like he was begging me to know the truth. I couldn’t tell if the anger I felt in this moment was because I didn’t have the time to deal with this encounter or if it was because this man’s hidden truths made me sick to my core. He was a man with a proclaimed purpose, but he lusted after other things. His mind was filled with desires to do evil and his heart led him into these very things.

He was surely proud of his accomplishments, and why not? He used his own self-pity as a crutch so that those around him would puff him up with words of pride and satisfaction. Sure, he loved his family and friends, but he couldn’t help but take advantage of their love in order to gain false confidence. It’s not that he didn’t have reason to be confident, but how much easier it was for him to use their pity as fuel for his stove of self-righteousness. My teeth grinded as I tried to look away from his closet of skeletons.

Although he appeared content on the outside, his heart burned with greed. Why would a person with so much be so enraged with desire for the things of this world? Were the blessings that had been so graciously given to his man not enough to satiate his desire for more? No, they were not. Even though I had no right, I wanted to approach this man and demand an explanation for his behavior.

Although I had no desire to feel pity, something inside me told me I should pray for him. “No!” I thought as I turned my head away from his direction in an attempt to make his story disappear. It was no use, the life that had unfolded before my eyes in such a flash would not disappear in the same manner. Did this unknown man even care that his hollow glance had ambushed my already pitiful day? how could I, in good conscience, pray for a man that encompassed everything I despised?

I couldn’t take it. Tears swallowed my vision as I stumbled forward to get away from the man that had ruined the peace in my head. A lump rose in my throat and I felt as if I might fall to my knees if I had to feel this pain much longer. After a deep breath, I swallowed hard and clamped my eyes shut with steel trap force as I let down my guard and prayed for the rotten man beside me.

“God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I lifted my hood over my wet hair as I walked forward, leaving my reflection in the window behind me.

An Impasse

As many of you know, over the past year and a half, I’ve read many books by Emergent authors in an attempt to better understand where they’re coming from and what they have to say. One such author that I’ve particularly enjoyed reading the works of is Brian McLaren, so when I saw that Brian was speaking at Highland Baptist Church here in Louisville this Sunday, I jumped at the chance to attend. Earlier tonight, Teresa and I joined a mass of other people who were interested to here what McLaren had to say.

Tonight, Brian was speaking about the topic of one of his recent books, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, a book I read last year and, more or less, enjoyed. In the book, and in his message tonight, Brian takes a look at the major crises facing our world at the current time, what causes them, the outlooks people have on them, why they continue, and what Jesus has to say about them. I found his talk tonight to be much more entertaining and engaging than the book itself, and was deeply convicted as he spoke of poverty, violence, and other such issues that the church collectively shrugs their shoulders at as we continue to argue over tertiary theological issues.

After leading a song inspired by the Lord’s prayer, Brian took questions regarding his message. Knowing that there were other seminarians in the crowd, I was hopeful that since Brian hadn’t said anything blatantly heretical that everyone would refrain from opening up other topics that most of conservative Christianity have issues with regarding McLaren. However, after the pastor said that Brian could take one more question before ending the evening . . . it came. Brian was asked point blank on his views of hell.

After an awkward and silly exchange between the question asker and Brian, laughter from the crowd at the question being presented, and an expected evasion of the question itself by McLaren, I was left feeling less than enthused.

I’m not here to defend McLaren’s theology on hell. I’m also certainly not here to tell you that we need to keep up the firepower until guys like Brian McLaren give us an answer that helps us sleep better at night. What I am here to say is that it is of vital importance that we find a way to work together and use our God given strengths to our advantage for the glory of God and for the good of the hurting people of this world.

What Brian McLaren had to say tonight is something a large portion of safe, conservative, right wing, Christianity needs to hear. The message of Christ’s atonement on the cross is something that the other side needs to incorporate into their message of social justice and healing. The fact of the matter is, Jesus had much to say about ALL of these things, because He apparently saw all of these issues as being of extreme importance. The problem is that the church is apparently at an impasse on these issues with neither side willing to budge or listen to the other side without mockery, anger, or at best, a ridiculous question and answer session where one side decides to take the spotlight and try and get their point across by force, no matter how ridiculous it looks.

On the ride home, Teresa and I were fuming about the question that had no place, given the subject matter, the crowd’s reaction to the whole situation, and what a frustrating ending it was to a good evening. After posing the question, “How are we ever going to be able to work together,” Teresa reminded me of our church at Sojourn, who is not only Gospel-centered, but reaching into the hurt, poor, and downtrodden in the community surrounding us and seeking to bring healing. In a couple of weeks, the church will be open for an entire weekend with doctors, nurses, and church members who will be taking in anyone who needs medical assistance, at no cost, in hopes of providing care for those who can’t afford it.

Our church isn’t perfect. It gets messy at times. However, I believe that Scripture makes it clear that for all of this to work, it’s going to get a little messy. It’s going to be hard and people are going to disagree on things and have to lay down their pride and work together. Somehow, I hope that the church as a whole can embrace this idea and find a way to do this, if at all possible. After the question and answer session as people filed downstairs to have refreshments, I was surprised to see that Brian McLaren had come in a side door to the room we were in and was sitting at a table alone. I took the chance to go introduce myself and tell him that I appreciated his message tonight. I also told him that we had differences, but that I hoped that we could all find a way to accomplish the things that God has put before us nonetheless. After asking some questions to Teresa and myself, I think he had a good feeling of where we were coming from and he seemed to express mutual feelings about finding a way to cooperate.

I’ve only been able to see glimpses of how all this works. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that while we continue to point fingers and argue about our disagreements, thousands of lives are being lost to preventable diseases, millions go hungry, millions more are oppressed and hopeless, and the name of Jesus has not entered enough of these places. I hope this post hasn’t been offensive, I’m certainly not going for that. I just want to start discussion that will hopefully lead to action.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Due to my insane life, this post has been running a bit behind. I’m sure you’ve all been sweating it out, just sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what my top ten albums of 2008 are. Fear not, they are finally here (and yes, I’m joking about the “edge of your seat” stuff). To be honest, this was a bit of a down year as far as I’m concerned. There were only a couple truly stand-out albums this year, in my opinion, so take that into account when reading through this year’s list. Without further adu, here we go . . .

10. Family Force 5 – Dance or Die
If you know me at all, you probably know that I hated FF5′s first album. However, they caught me off guard this year with their infectious dance rock album. Cheesy? Yes. Over the top? Most of the time. Gets stuck in your head for days at a time? Absolutely. My guilty pleasure of the year.

9. Jonezetta – Cruel to be Young
Jonezetta took quite a turn with this album, leaving behind their up-tempo dance rock for a sometimes-coldplay-esque rock sound that is significantly less in-your-face than Popularity was. The result may be tough to swallow upon first listen, but after a few spins, this disc grows on you and leaves you wondering where Robert Chisholm and the gang will head next.

8. Deepspace 5 – Bake Sale
This was supposed to be just an appetizer for the full length album that was to drop in late 2008. It didn’t, but Bake Sale serves to tide us over until more music leaks from the DS5 camp next year. A bit scatter brained at times, Bake Sale still features many of the dopest emcees in hip hop and, of course, fresh beats from Dust and the gang. 2009 Should be a huge year for Deepspace 5.

7. The Academy is – Fast Times at Barrington High
What happens when 5 guys in their twenties attempt to write an album about high school for their third album in order to maybe break into the mainstream? This album. It’s not as bad as it sounds though, and although Fast Times did nothing to vault the band into stardom, it does provide some catchy and satisfying songs to chew on for the next year and a half.

6. Braille – The IV Edition
It’s not often these days that a hip hop album lives up to its unruly hype. This album did though, much to the excitement of the Christian hip hop community. Braille may be one of the most talented emcees in hip hop today, and you can’t escape the creativity and heart that goes into his music. With any luck, perhaps Braille can continue to make waves, even beyond the Christian realm, and help bring hip hop back from the dead.

5. Relient K – The Bird and the B-Sides
Since when does 13 brand new songs count as only an EP? The Nashville EP, one half of The Bird and the B-sides, is an incredible collection of new music from Theissen and the gang. Each member of the band took a shot at song writing on this one, and although each song differs, it still seems to work as a whole. One can only expect greatness from the full-length to come next year.

4. Anberlin- New Surrender
Anberlin broke into the mainstream this year with their first album on Universal-Republic. Unfortunately for long-time Anberlin fans, it’s a step down from their last album, Cities. The good news is that it’s still Anberlin, so it’s still pretty awesome. The remake of The Feel Good Drag anchors the album with other catchy tracks like Breaking and Disappear serving as soon-to-be radio hits.

3. Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.
This album did not fair so well for the Panic guys. Unfortunately for them, the 16-or-so-year-olds who went crazy over their first album weren’t ready for the change that came with Pretty. Odd. A sound that is at times reminiscent of the Beatles, is a bit intriguing and perhaps subconsciously catchy. In a day in age when everyone is releasing the same album again and again, perhaps a band that’s willing to turn back the clocks and pay homage to the sounds that defined today’s and yesterday’s music is more cutting edge than we realize.

2. Copeland – You Are My Sunshine
Copeland came out of nowhere this year to release a new album on a new label with a tad different sound. The first track on the album, Should You Return, grabs your attention as Aaron Marsh’s vocals are spot on and haunting. Throughout the album, Marsh’s songwriting and singing is nothing short of incredible, and although they take a bit slower pace than their recent material, You Are My Sunshine is easy to fall in love with and enjoy whether the sun shines or not.

1. Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation
As many of you know, I’ve anticipated this album since June 20, 2006, when Define the Great Line changed my view of music. Lost in the Sound of Separation does not disappoint. If you can’t at least appreciate Underoath’s mind-boggling genre stretch that continues album after album, you must at least be able to hear that this band is musically better than just about everyone making music today. It’s ear shattering from the first note of Breathing in a New Mentality and spine tinglingly delicate with Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear. Aaron Gillespie’s vocals take a back seat on this album, but his drumming is spectacular. Spencer roars over the hurt and pain that comes with addiction and sings of the redemption that comes through Christ. I’m not sure if I can say that this album is better than Define or not, but I can say that this is AT LEAST the best album in music since Define the Great Line and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Most Anticipated of 2009
1. Saosin
2. Paramore
3. The Almost
4. Pigeon John
5. He is Legend

Oh, and Arrested Development the Movie :o)

Have a great 2009!

Red, White, and . . . Boo Hoo?

I would like to take time this morning to congratulate Barack Obama on becoming the 44th president of the United States of America.  Many of you know that I did not vote in this election for numerous reasons and I was prepared to accept whoever the country chose for the position of commander in chief.  I am happy to tell you that I am pleased with the results and will continue to pray for Obama during his time in office.  I know many people this morning are hurt, angry, even fearful, and I would like to remind you of God’s sovereignty over positions of authority.  Instead of living in anger this morning, find time to pray for Obama, his family, and the four years that lay ahead of him.

If that’s not enough, remember that in Romans 12, Paul calls us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  I know so many of you who are so thankful and overwhelmed this morning that Obama is the new president and this country will soon, perhaps, be heading in a new direction.  For those of you who are angry and hurt this morning, remember that many of your dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ are overjoyed.  We are called to share in their joy and praise God for what he has done (whether you like it or not).

I don’t mean for this post to be rude or anything of the sort.  I hope it doesn’t come across that way.  I just know that we are called to seek joy in all situations and that God is faithful, true, and sovereign in all that he does.  Therefore, how could we be angry over a decision that he has made and called good?  I encourage you to find joy in God’s sovereignty this day.  I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Anyone Can Dig A Hole But It Takes A Real Man To Call It Home

If you missed Saturday Night Live this weekend, you missed Tina Fey do another amazing impression of Sarah Palin.  Check it out and laugh heartily.

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/couric-palin-open/704042/

it’s not a fashion statement, it’s a freaking deathwish

Last month, my wife and I made a week-long trip to Washington D.C. to visit her brother and his family.  He’s in the army and is stationed at the capitol as an honor guard.  It was the first trip to D.C. for both of us and we had a great time.  The day that stands out most to me is the day that we took a trip to Ocean City, a beach town in Virginia.  It was a fantastic day at the ocean and there’s an enormous boardwalk that stretches across the sand several hundred yards from the Atlantic.  Along this boardwalk, there’s t-shirt shops, restaurants, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not interactive museum, and much more.

As I walked with Teresa and her brother John along the boardwalk that evening as the sun was setting, we came across some sand art that was sculptured just a few feet away from wooden walkway.  There were three giant sand sculptures showcasing the Gospel in sand-art form, it was beautiful and truly amazing.  My wife pointed out to me a man (who turned out to be the guy who made the sand art) sitting on the boardwalk with a young woman reading the Bible and sharing Christ with her.  As we walked back by a few minutes later, he was standing in front of the sculptures, leaning on a shovel, and talking about Christ.  There were quite a few people crowded around listening to him as he talked about Christ’s love for people and His passion to see them know Him and find their satisfaction in Him.  John summed it up well as we passed, saying “that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

As we approached the middle entrance of the boardwalk, we could hear a loud voice speaking through a bullhorn.  There were three men, all wearing white t-shirts with the word “Repent” written in firey letters.  One held a large sign, I’m unsure what it said, but another of the men held a large microphone connected to a big speaker that the other man held.  As we passed, he shouted things like “If you smoke marijuana, you’re going to hell!  If you have pre-marital sex, you’re going to hell!, etc.”  Needless to  say, there were no large crowds gathering to hear this man speak.  Instead, as they passed by, they yelled at the men and told them to shut up (only not quite as nicely).

Your first response might be that the Gospel brings resistance out of the human heart and that by nature, people don’t want to hear and are opposed to the Gospel.  I would agree.  However, what I saw that evening was not people speaking Christ in love to their fellow humans.

The man by the sand art it appeared, had successfully brought the Gospel to the people of this beach town through a form that spoke to their culture.  Instead of just blaring his message through a bullhorn in anger towards the people, he had built something that spoke to their hearts and he did it in love.  The other men appeared angry and unable to make any connection with the passers-by.  Not only had they not reached into the world of the people in this beach town, they failed to show the love and compassion that Christ displayed for us and instead gave even more reasons for the people to be driven away from Christ.

I’m not calling for some watered down, wishy-washy Gospel that tickles the ears and makes everyone feel good.  All I’m asking is that we take a good, hard look at the way we are engaging the culture around us and what kind of message we want to send.  Learn the world around you, see the needs of the people that surround you, and find a way to bring Christ’s love into their lives.  God wants us to be captivated by Him, and when we are captivated by Him, we find the kind of satisfaction that only God can provide, and in the process, we bring glory to Him.  What tools has God given you to help others be captivated by Him?  They’re there, you just have to look for them – and it might take a little more effort than putting on a t-shirt and yelling through a bullhorn, but as you who are already captivated know, it’s worth it.

no hardcore dancing in the living room

So I’ve got several new posts worked up, and they’ll be coming very, very soon. In the meantime, I’d like to update you on some exciting news for Teresa and I. Since I already sent out an email to several people and don’t feel like re-typing the story, I’m going to post the email here for you to read. Also, there’s a new Music Video of the Week posted, so go watch it, and for the love of pete, comment (if you want to).

Earlier this summer, Teresa and I came into a weird situation. I only need one more class to meet the minimum requirement for us to get appointed by the International Mission Board. However, we realized that with the higher cost of living and the decrease in our income, we couldn’t afford to live here another year while waiting for our appointment. After talking with several people, we decided that it would be wise of us to move back to Enid and for me to take my last class online. After basically making our decision, I decided to look at an employment bulletin and saw that there was an opening for two Americorps position with a group called YouthBuild here in Louisville. We’ve worked with Americorps before while we were with Project Transformation in 2005 and 2006. This group works with inner city youth (aprox. ages 16-22) that have felony charges or other criminal records and helps them through the court process and also helps them learn job skills so they will be prepared to get back on their feet.

We called, got interviews along with many other people, and to make an incredibly long story incredibly short, we got hired and start on Monday. It was amazing that even one of us got hired, let alone both of us. Our monthly income will increase by around 1000 dollars and we can afford to stay (not to mention we’ll have insurance for the first time in a year)! We’re super excited, and although it pushes our appointment date back since we have to commit to this for at least a year, we’re still stoked to have an awesome ministry opportunity here and we feel God has placed this in front of us for a reason. We’ve been praying for ministry here since we moved, and although we’ve had some, we haven’t had a big breakthrough until now.

Because the office of this place is located on the campus of a community college downtown, we get time off whenever the school is out. Therefore, if the Lord wills, we’ll be home for around two weeks come December and hope to see most of you then. If you want more info on the program, go to this website:

http://www.youthbuildlouisville.org

Thanks so much for your prayers and your encouragement. Feel free to keep us up to date on your lives as well, since we don’t always get to hear from everybody. Have a great day!

music video of the week

So one of the reasons I moved my blog over to WordPress (aside from the fact that I was the only one left who hadn’t, so I jumped on the bandwagon) is that there’s an option for multiple pages.  Not like I exactly need multiple pages since my blog is rather small, but I’ve always wanted a Music Video of the Week page and now I have one!  If you haven’t checked it out, click the link on the side and go give it a shot.  I’ll update it once a week (as you might have guessed) and it will be a grand ‘ol time.  Feel free to comment!

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