Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Big Sur

Big SurBig Sur by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Big Sur is at times a beautiful, at times a tragedy. Kerouac's time @ the Big Sur cabin, alone, with nature, with the sounds of the sea, with his troubling thoughts were mindlessly beautiful to me. i found myself clinging to his every descriptive word.

and then he'd heed the call back to San Francisco and with that his unkown sense of his true self would creep in and his disruptive, binge drinking life would spin out of control.

at times a train wreck, at times brutally honest, at times hard to follow, Big Sur ends like a whirlwind as the reader is taken inside the mind of an insomniac alcoholic and the tragic visions that rip away at Jack's soul.

Big Sur is a cry for the way things used to be... before fame... before money... before being known.

in the end, Jack Kerouac longed for hope. but i doubt he ever found it. there in lies the tragedy that plays out in Big Sur.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

find your voice.

[with respect + thanks to troy @defy the gray for inspiring this post]

what do i believe about myself? about you? about the world? about what you + i may be capable of doing... i don't think about that enough.

am i waiting for someone else to believe it first?

Believe, that you can change the world
Your dreams, have been living in a code of silence
So let them out

Find your voice, find your voice
Make a noise

i don't believe that message enough. i don't live it enough. i don't proclaim it enough.
i have many dreams and sometimes my many dreams collide and intersect and knot together into one giant ball... and i get frustrated and i sulk and i remain silent.

perhaps what i am missing is that all of my many dreams are connected and intertwined and knotted for a reason because my many individual dreams are actually part of one giant dream... one giant plan that has been laid out before me. but my eyes are closed and i don't see that.

am i waiting for validation?

You try, to find the words you want to say
You might, be looking much too far away
To recognize, we’re all disguised

Find your voice, find your voice
Make a noise

and these dreams of mine, my many dreams, tend to silence me in the sense that they don't go public. they remain within my soul or at least within my home (where my wife gets to put up with my repetitive bantering about this dream or that).

but maybe all i'm missing is a megaphone and some courage.

am i waiting for permission?

You can’t have the peace you’re looking for without a fight

who said anything about a fight? but apparently things don't just happen, dreams don't happen, don't come true, can't be lived out... without... a... fight.
but why would i want to go and do a thing like that? why would i want to fight?

maybe because i'm 37 years old and i'm most fearful that my time to do something meaningful and productive and beyond what i am now capable of doing may be fading.

i don't want to have lived my life and have thought - how many years did i waste doing this or doing that, attending this or attending that, unfulfilled, not near the point of my full potential.

what am i waiting for?

Find your voice, find your voice
Make a noise

can i muster enough courage to make some noise? have i found my voice? have i discovered how my intersected dreams can work together, united as one? i don't believe i have. but i think i am inspired to put more time, more energy into figuring that out.

because i think i know deep down that God has something on the horizon for me that just... might... blow... me... away. i think that about you, too.

find your voice. grab a megaphone. you can be in my dream if i can be in yours.

make a noise by katie herzig.
[lyrics] [song] [youtube]

Book Review: Mission-Shaped Church

Mission-Shaped ChurchMission-Shaped Church by Archbishop's Council on Mission and Public Affairs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

i think any church planter or developer of new worship should read this book. obviously this is written for the Church of England and it's Fresh Expressions of Church project - but this book, i believe, is very applicable for church planters in America.

what is most intriguing about this book is the path the Church of England took in order to grow the church. they were willing to implement new ideas - empowering new forms of church and worship to develop.

Mission-Shaped Church explores each of the different models of new church growth - and gives case studies to back up each one. this book hits the nail on the head. it should be required reading for any new church start training program.

i would love to see the church in America try more and more new, fresh ideas. the mainline church is dying - but what if we were given the freedom to explore our own 'fresh expressions' project? what if? what might come? how might we grow?

i can only imagine.

this book was written for me... i hope others discover its usefulness.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Review: Mother Night

Mother NightMother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mother Night is the second Vonnegut book that i've read (the other being Slaughterhouse-Five). i think that i enjoyed Mother Night better... perhaps because it took reading SH5 to get used to Kurt Vonnegut's style. i think i hated that style at first... now i am thrilled by it. craving more.

Mother Night is the story of an American in Germany who serves as an accidental spy on the Nazi regime. but the confessions of Howard W. Campbell Jr. are of a man who has lost all emotion and all knowledge of who he really is or was... or will ever be. he is a man who has trained himself to act. to perform. with the war in the world's rear view mirror, Campbell because a quasi-celebrity of Marxist and Nazi's who desire to bring change to the nation.

Elements of his past come back to him which leads to him being placed on trial in Israel - for war crimes against humanity.

What is the truth of who Campbell is? does he even really desire to know? or is he/was he just a pawn in the game of world wide war?

the most poignant commentary on life and civility comes close to the end when Vonnegut's Campbell speaks of evil with nemesis Bernard O'Hare.

'evil is when one finds good reasons to hate without reservation, to imagine God Almighty hates with you, too.'

hate without limit. hate with God on its side. where man finds ugliness so attractive.

perhaps more poignant is mankind with no hope. with no recollection of who he is. war is hell. it seems to strip away any man's true soul.

Mother Night is Vonnegut's commentary of such life.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

it's the end of the world as we know it (but i feel fine)

in 1999, alternative rock and grunge music lost its decade long reign on American radio. with that came the demise of WENZ 107.9 'The End', a Cleveland based alt-rock station. on their final day of broadcast WENZ played R.E.M.'s cult classic "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) on a continuous loop for 24 hours. some thought and hoped it was a joke and never would have predicted its end but it wasn't a joke. the times had changed and so had musical taste. the next day, the day "The End" became an urban R&B/Hip Hop station and by and large - across the nation alternative music died.

all good things must come to an end... so they say. when there's too much of a good thing - things are bound to crash and burn... to burn out rather than fade away.

but with that has been man's attempt to understand the in's and out's of this God-given planet. with that comes man's attempt to predict the future. listeners couldn't predict the end of 'The End' but the money makers in radio saw the writing on the wall and knew when to make a change.

Remember Y2K? the entire planet was in an uproar over the potential and predicted world wide shutdown of all things electronic. banks would certainly fail. Power grids would shut off. Chaos would no doubt ensue. but this time, retro R.E.M. music was not needed because the Y2K hypothetical didn't happen and the joke was on us.

and now we turn our attention to the here and now... the present tense... a religious group out of Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania is claiming that on May 21, 2011 The end is near. eBible Fellowship claims to know the end is coming at the end of this week. That's the end of the world. so enjoy your last few days on the late great planet earth. get your bucket list out. do what you got to do.

but i hear it's supposed to be nice this weekend. Sunny and in the 70's. Saturday, May 21st sounds like a good day to mow the lawn but now i'm wondering if that's even going to be necessary. of course, whether those end of the world predictions come true or not might not matter. the forecast could change to rain and ye ole weather man's predictions could be wrong, too.

predict, predict, predict. we spend so much time trying to figure things out... trying to come to our own conclusions before the rest of the story plays out. but what if we gave up predicting and just lived life, day in and day out... to the fullest. this life we were all given, after all, is a gift, isn't it? (John 10:10 says so). choose life. the movie Trainspotting taught me that.*

Also, Mark 13:32 tells us that we can't know when the end will actually end. but we can waste our time predicting and we can waste our time on scare tactics... we can waste our money on billboards and the like. we can even blow it all listening to lame political pundnets or watching old reruns of I Love Lucy on television while eating popcorn and ice cream on the couches of our lives.

or we can live. and come what may, even when things don't go our way - we can carry on. there is a plan for our lives that we may need to tap in to. Psalm 20:4-5 reminds us of that:
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests.

if you take the time to read Psalm 20 in its entirety, you'll see that all it takes is trust.

don't predict. trust. in God.

i am reminded of that great scene near the end of The Shawshank Redemption where Andy says to Red "Get busy living or get busy dying."

life is short. too short to predict. too short to let opportunity pass you by. to short to not poke the box. to short to not ask questions and seek answers. too short to not play soccer or take that extra long bike ride through the countryside.

drink good coffee, have meaningful conversations, say 'I love you', cherish quality music, etc. because you never know when it might be taken from you. but why waste time trying to figure that out? embrace the life given to you. and trust God's plan for your life, too.

let's not spend time waiting for the end - only to realize that this gift of life given to us had never been fully opened and appreciated.

Choose life.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Book Review: At Eternitiy's Gate: the Spiritual vision of Vincent van Gogh

At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van GoghAt Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van Gogh by Kathleen Powers Erickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vincent van Gogh was a complicated, yet simple individual of deep faith and great ability whose life was interrupted by uncontrollable mental instability as a result of epilepsy.

At Eternity's Gate digs deep into his religious upbringing and his inner-spirituality - made evident through his letters to his brother Theo and through his paintings. in his young life, van Gogh wanted to follow in his father and uncle's footsteps. both were pastors. but Vincent had a different outlook on ministry and service and was ultimately rejected by both the local and institutional church. this defeat lead him down a path of self discovery that never sadly fully came to fruition.

van Gogh did, however, before heading down an artistic path, spend some time serving the poor and needy, as he strived to follow and imitate Christ. as a matter of fact, The Imitation of Christ and Pilgrim's Progress were his two favorite books.

van Gogh witnessed to and served coal miners of the Belgian Borinage - particularly after a mining disaster. He also gave away his possessions and clothes to those whom he felt needed it more. Despite being rejected by the church and despite feelings that the pastors and people within the church were hypocrites, van Gogh lived his faith through acts of service similar to St. Francis of Assisi.

the splendor of his capability as a painter may not have been realized until the latter years of his life and beyond. As mental instability crept in, he spent time in and out of asylums. it was during this time, particularly the last 5 years of his life (he took his own life in a wheat field at the age of 37) when his artistic talents took shape.

throughout his paintings and drawings, you can see examples of his spiritual devotion to Christ. you can also see his disdain and brokenness that came about after his dismissal from the church.

this is noted in his famous painting Starry Night, where the buildings and homes are well lit - yet the church and spire in the center are dark and ominous. this is also prevalent in my favorite van Gogh painting The church at Auvers.

Kathleen Powers Erickson does a fabulous job retracing a more accurate history of Vincent van Gogh including his most intriguing story. there are so many layers to van Gogh and his art. i'd highly recommend this book. it really fascinated me. Sadly, only one of van Gogh's paintings ever sold before his untimely death. had it not been for his brother's wife - who collected his works and brought them to the public's attention, the world may never have noticed the majesty found within van Gogh's work.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

going. going. gong.

going. going. gong.
ring the bell, to there and back.

the road trips of life... on foot... bike... or minivan. adventures, none the less.

where are you going?
take care. take care.

leave home. poke the box. venture on.

Monday, May 02, 2011