Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Messed Up by a Wild Goose Chase

Today, Mark Batterson‘s new book Wild Goose Chase is officially available for sale. I was fortunate enough to get 2 advanced copies. I read one last night and I’ll be giving away the second here on my blog. (stay tuned for details. You can subscribe to my RSS feed to have updates come to you.)

Here is My Review

This book messed me up! I am seriously dreaming some big, hairy, audacious dreams right now. Wild Goose Chase is an easy conversational read that leaves you both torn and inspired. Reading it gave me wild affirmation that I am on the right track along with enormous conviction that there are some key things I need to change.

Wild Goose Chase doesn’t say anything new and doesn’t house some type of unconventional wisdom that’s yet to be uncovered. Instead it illustrates the simple and compelling message that following God is the greatest adventure ever. The best reason I can tell you to read this book is that it has impacted me personally. After finishing the book I didn’t think, “That’s some great wisdom” or “Mark is a smart guy.” I walked away thinking, “Wow, I am crazy fortunate because God has some massive plans for my life.”

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We Are Alive – First Impressions

Yesterday I received my copy of Elevation Worship’s We Are Alive from Wade Joy. I first got hooked on Wade’s blog praying for his daughters, and thought it was quite gentlemanly of him to shoot out a free CD to 100 worship leaders. I’ve only listened a few times but here’s a review based on my first impressions:

Continue reading my review on The Worship Community…

Book Review: The Golden Compass

So here’s my take on The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It’s a little rambly. (If you want to read a great article about this book check out Christianity Today’s take on The Golden Compass.)

Honestly Guys, I really liked the book. It was tremendously well written. The characters were engaging and unique. The plot like was intriguing and packed with action. His use of simile and metaphor throughout the book is beautiful.

I probably think the book only had one problem with it: the slams on religion.

I‘m not just saying that because I’m a Christian. When I went to college I actually earned a BA in English and I’m speaking as a guy with a literary background.

Hear me out.

Essentially you have this excellent book, it’s multilayered in it’s meaning and subtle in it’s approach – at least throughout most of the book. I found this so refreshing for a fantasy novel. A lot of fantasy will straight up take a break from the story to go on and on about the history of the characters or to spell out very blatantly and in a boring manner the unique rules of that fantasy world. (*cough* Fellowship of the Rings *cough*) Pullman doesn’t bore you with this drivel. Instead he uses the characters and plot to reveal fantasy elements.

For example, he doesn’t take you on some ridiculous tangent to explain the fantasy rule: a Daemon must maintain a close physical proximity to their human. Rather he reveals this quite cleverly through the story. At one point Pan (Lyra’s Daemon) starts to “pull”(move outside of the normal physical closeness) and Lyra describes how retched she feels. It’s more engaging because you are told about an experience rather than a simple sharing of facts.

Enter the theology bashing. Honestly, a lot of it is clever and subtle like the rest of the book. For example, Pullman doesn’t come right out and say, “The Church is Bad,” at least not early in the book. Instead he does things like introducing a character who is a clergyman and that character has some really negative traits. It’s like an underhanded and slight way of bashing on the Church.

Then, in the closing chapters of the book, that all of a sudden changes and out of nowhere you get a face full of dissertation.

Lyra asks her father a few questions and he launches into a several page monologue on theology and original sin. It was completely out of place in this story. Most of the book is fast-paced, emotional and very real. This was the boring junk you expect out of fantasy. It’s not even that huge of a bash on the Church because he gets so specific about what original sin is and what it isn’t he’s really only bashing a subsection of the church who holds to that theology. (Keep in mind this is just a review of The Golden Compass. I haven’t read The Subtle Knife or the Amber Spyglass, which I heard are more deliberate in the selling of atheism.) I almost laughed out loud when in the monologue this character quotes the Bible and Pullman’s re-written it to include daemons. This was so dorky and cheesy. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book which is pretty hip for a fantasy novel.

The Golden Compass, from a literary point of view, would have simply been better with the final monologue omitted.

Unfortunately you couldn’t do that without sacrificing the entire story. Throughout the book Pullman is a genius about setting up very subtle foreshadowing that pays off big time later one. He does it over and over again very masterfully – except for the main point of the book!

It’s like he set up all the clues a hints and they’re all pointing at something and when it came time to write the final chapters he just ran out creativity and was like, “Oh well, I’ll just be lazy and have this one character tie up all my loose ends in one chapter through the use of a long boring monologue.”

I call this the Star Trek syndrome. Ya know – they’d invent some type of complicated situation and you never thought they’d get out of it and your totally intrigued with what’s going to happen. In the end all the problems get solved simply and easily because some science guy invents a weird device and launches in a monologue to explain some made-up science fiction reason why it works. It’s unimaginative at best.

So for all my ranting I really enjoyed the book.

Go check out the Christianity Today Golden Compass Article.

Leave a comment. I’ll talk more about this with you.

Evansville College Music Fridays

This afternoon Sarah and I stopped into the Briar & Bean. After buying a small Decaf French Vanilla and a medium Daily Dark Roast we parked ourselves on the couch. We were pretty engrossed in conversation when two girls walked in carrying a Telecaster and some sound gear. We asked them, “Are you doing some live music tonight?”

Ellen, the one with the guitar, informed us that she was playing at 6pm with her friend Kara.

We drove back later in the evening to find a small crowd of college kids enjoying Ellen signing a simple, heartfelt rendition of Ani Difranco’s “32 Flavors.” We manned the couch again and listened to the girls go on to play some of their own original music. They fumbled through the songs a bit and didn’t have a predetermined set list, but I always think coffeehouse shows are a little more laid back. Both girls had beautiful voices that made the trip back to the Briar & Bean worth it.

Recently Sarah has been hinting that she’d like to play some shows with me. I’ve kinda put this on the back burner, but watching this duo ignited something that made me want to play live again.

During intermission we introduced ourselves to the girls. I told them that we enjoyed the show and that I’d be writing this blog post about them. Ellen jotted down Kara’s myspace address on some notebook paper so I could check out more of her music. She also told me they play every Friday night at the Briar & Bean.

If you live in town and find yourself in the mood for some bluesy folk rock, go check these girls out.

The show was free so on the way out Sarah dropped a couple dollars in an over-sized coffee cup marked “tips.” When we got home we started to figure out the harmonies for So Long Sweet Summer.

Thanks for the inspiration, girls.

Maybe you’ll find us playing a gig soon as well.

Review: Shane and Shane in Concert

Last night Sarah and I caught Shane & Shane, Bebo Norman and Monk & Neagle on the Pages Tour at Camp Kramers in Evansville. Here’s a rundown of the night:

Shane and Shane – one and one-half stars

Prior to last night I’d only heard two songs by these guys: “The Answer” and “It is well.” I love both of these tunes, but unfortunately they didn’t play either of them, opting instead to pull the majority of their set from the new album. I was not a fan of the new stuff. It was all really cliche and lyrically simplistic. There was also something strangely androgynous about a guy singing lyrics like:

“I beg for you to move.”
“All my cute little words about how I am saved.”
“I want to yearn for You”
“deep blue china”
“oh, I miss You so”

What kinda guy sings about china? They just seemed really girly to me. I probably could’ve appreciated the words more if they were coming from a woman speaking about how much she loves her husband. I can usually take one or two “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs, but when every song in the set is like this it’s a bit much for me.

On the positive side, Shane & Shane’s drummer is a groove master and adept at capturing loops with his Abelton-type software. If rated on drumming alone I’d give Shane & Shane 10 stars.

Monk and Neagle – four stars

Check out my Interview with Monk and Neagle.

These guys rocked it out! Sarah and I have been fans for a while and it was very awesome to see that they’d joined the tour in place of Shawn McDonald. This is the type of group you see live and say, “The CD doesn’t do them justice.”

I am greatly impressed by these guys becuase they are “Christian” musicians but they don’t cave into the pressure to make every song about Jesus. “Stars Would Fall (I’m Crazy)” is a song they wrote to their wives. It was one of my favorites of the night and now I have to learn to play it for Sarah.

Bebo Norman – five stars

Bebo Norman was phenomenal; definitely the highlight of night. Bebo brings an authenticity and lyrical depth that doesn’t disappoint. I was having such a bad day yesterday that we almost didn’t go to the show. I needed to hear and sing along with some words like,

“I will life my eyes to maker of the mountains I can’t climb”
“Let the ocean rise to meet me, I need you to bring me to life.”
“I’m half a man here, so come make me whole”
“Take these hands and lift them up, for I have not the strength to praise you near enough.”

Bebo calls himself a “Clumsy Christian,” who stubbles often. I can relate.

At the end of his set he put his lyrics up on the screen and invited everyone to worship with him. The song “Nothing Without You” is stellar and you need to be doing this one in your church.

Final Rundown

Overall it was great night. I’m a huge fan of bass thumping in my chest and the fact that the show was outdoors at a camp gave the entire night a familiar down-homey vibe. We were even able to meet up with several friends including Lee, Kara and Nicole. If the Pages Tours comes to your town I highly recommend checking it out.

Review: Jesus Painter One Way DVD

This week Mike Lewis the Jesus Painter released the official curriculum to accompany his recent DVD entitled The One Way Project. As part of the release Mike sent me a copy of the DVD to review. Here are my thoughts:

This DVD is exactly what I’m talking about when I say “The Church needs to be creating culture.” This wasn’t some lame Christian attempt to be relevant by copying someone else’s trend, but rather this offering breaks new ground and holds an indie cool factor all its own.

The One Way Project is a series of short movie clips that incorporate excellent music, spoken word poetry and the captivating art of Mike Lewis. Bonus features include interviews with Mike where he discusses the inspiration behind his painting in his trademark candid honesty.

The production level varies a bit on the DVD with some sections coming in as sub-par (my copy wasn’t properly mastered and at times the sound distorted my speakers), but the New York City segments are top-notch shot in 16mm film and very skillfully edited. You can check out a low resolution version of these clips on YouTube.

There was way too much cool stuff on this DVD to talk about it all, but I’ll list some of the highlights:

  • Wendy Huckins‘ amazing voice. Especially on Fairest Lord Jesus during Christ Eyes.
  • The intensity on Mike’s face as he paints shown in the close ups. This was something I didn’t get to enjoy when I saw him live.
  • Slow-motion paint flicking on Intimate Portrait. Awesome.
  • The DVD edit of Intimate Portrait. It’s different from the YouTube version. At the end there is a shot where Mike is standing next to the painting and the saturation drops to almost black and white. It then kicks up suddenly enhancing the reds of the painting. This beautiful moment of videography was my favorite element in the whole series.
  • Mike’s commentary on the paint splatters on his clothes. He makes note to say that each paint fleck was from a time he was sharing Jesus with a crowd. He then laments in a profound moment the fact that his true skin isn’t that covered with Jesus.

Some potential applications for how I could see this DVD being used:

  • In a corporate worship setting as an expression of worship.
  • As a sermon illustration.
  • In youth small groups. You can use this great youth group curriculum that’s tailor made to fit with the DVD. (Other groups could also use this small group curriculum with some adjustments.)
  • Show it to your neighbor. Even if they won’t talk to you about Jesus and turn you down when you invite them to church, they’ll probably be willing to watch a short video segment. Especially one with this much compelling imagery.
  • Just enjoy it with your family. (My daughter wanted to watch it again as soon as it ended.)

Of course you can get several of the best video segments for free on YouTube. However, if you enjoy the YouTube videos and use them in your ministry, you should buy the DVD to support Mike’s ministry so he can continue to put out more great stuff.

Teen Magazine Review: Breakaway & Brio

Today I was at church working on a video with our tech director. (Will be posted soon, I promise it’ll be sweet!) While it was rendering, I spent some time in our coffee shop and along with having some great conversation with CFC’s resident barista, I perused several copies of Breakaway and Brio that happen to be to reside at Solid Ground.

Breakaway is for the guys and Brio is for the gals. Because I had more than a year’s worth of issues for each, I started to ask myself these questions:

What assumptions do these magazines make about gender?

How are they marketing masculinity and femininity in a Christian context?

Continue reading ‘Teen Magazine Review: Breakaway & Brio’


 

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