Saturday, July 24, 2010

Music Review: The Far Country

Ok. I'll go ahead and admit that I'm a bit of a "johnny-come-lately" in the music department. I don't usually "discover" an artist until way after everyone else has listened, loved, and moved on. So I know most of you are going to read this post and think "What?! She's just now listening to this?". But it is the truth.

I've known the name of Andrew Peterson for awhile. I knew that he was a singer/songwriter/author who moved in the whole Caedmon's Call/Derek Webb circle and was a part of the Rabbit Room group. But I had never actually listened to any of his music until a little over a week ago. I was browsing the YLCF blog when I read Lanier's post on Peterson's 2005 album The Far Country. I listened to a couple of the songs and was interested enough to purchase the entire album.

I have not stopped listening to it since. Peterson's work falls just where I want my Christian music to be: not so cryptic that I have to use every brain cell to figure out what in the heck the writer is talking about, but not the empty calories of modern CCM fare either. This album focuses on heaven and the role it plays, not just in our future, but in our everyday lives.

It opens with the upbeat title track "The Far Country". Here, Peterson compares our journey on earth to Abraham's journey to the Promised land. We wander in a land that is foreign to us on a journey to the place that, though unseen, is where we belong. This trend continues in "Lay Me Down", which gives a brief outline of Peterson's life yet reminds us that this is simply the beginning of the story and it does not end with our death.

The slow, rhythmic "Queen of Iowa" is a lovely tribute to one of Peterson's fans who was dying of cancer and HIV. This particular song has been stuck in my head and in my heart since the first time I heard it, especially this part:

There was peace like a river in a valley of bones

It fills the valley up and it carries them home
To come alive again
In the river of Grace
Like the Queen of Iowa

My favorite song by far is the joyous "Little Boy Heart Alive". Lewis and Tolkien references abound, describing not just the trust, but the pure joy that is found in a child-like faith in Christ. It is a song that reminds you of your childhood, and yet does not give you a sense of loss, but of hope.

Take a ride on the mighty lion
Take a hold of the golden mane
This is the love of Jesus
So good but it is not tame

The Tolkien references continue in "The Haven's Grey" which speaks of leaving everything behind, both the good and the bad, to obtain everlasting life. Though it is not a "weak" song, it is one of my lesser favorites on the album, along with the reflective "Mountains on the Ocean Floor" and "More" which strikes me as a song for those who are left behind after the passing of a loved one.

"Mystery of Mercy" is such a stirring song, reminding us of our own worthlessness and of God's grace with the line "My God, my God, why hast Thou accepted me?". Plus, the hammered dulcimer alone makes this song worth listening to. And, the slow and graceful "All Shall Be Well" speaks of pressing on towards the goal, even in the darkest of times.

Finally, there is "For the Love of God". Written on the occasion of a friend's marriage, this song beautifully speaks of what true love and marriage are all about. It is absolutely beautiful and has found a place on my "Songs I want to play at my wedding" list.

You can listen to the entire album here and you can purchase it at either iTunes or The Rabbit Room store. It has been a long time since I have found an album that has moved me so much. I am now eagerly awaiting the release of Andrew's new album, Counting Stars. Also, you must see Andrew's first ever music video for a song from this new album, "Dancing in the Minefields". Another great ode to love and marriage.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Marriage: Commitment Optional

I'm not exactly into all the "celebrity watching" that goes on in our world. I have kind of a vague idea of what is going on in the world of $1000 purses, 10 inch heels, and relationships that melt faster than Italian ice in the Sahara, but I'll take an article about rapidly-changing European immigration laws than one on Paris Hilton's favorite shade of lipstick any day. But today was a somewhat slow day in the office and I did some article surfing. I stumbled upon an interview with the Angelina half of "Brangelina". Most of it centered on those useless bits of info like whether or not she is expecting again or what she really thinks of Brad's beard. But one quote caught my eye and got me thinking. When asked whether or not she planned on ever actually marrying Brad, she replied "[We're not] against getting married [but] it's just like we already are. Children are clearly a commitment, a bigger commitment [than marriage]. It's for life."

In and of itself, Angelina's comment is true. Children are a HUGE commitment and cannot be dumped when we tire of them. But isn't this also true about marriage? Unfortunately, our culture doesn't think so. In today's society, we go into marriage thinking "I sure do love this person, but if it ever gets to where I can't handle it, I can always get out". But marriage is just as big a commitment as anything else in this life. Our very vows proclaim that we will forsake all others until death parts us.

I also have to wonder if as a parent, you can truly commit your very life to your children if you can't even do that to their mother/father. As Christians, we must realize that our commitment to another person in marriage is something that only death can release us from. We should never be like the world and see marriage as an airplane, with emergency exits in the front, side, and rear. Instead, it is another part of Christian walk, a portion of the race that we must run in faithfulness, humbleness, and selflessness.

It is so important that children see true commitment reflected in the lives of their parents, both to each other and to Christ. And, perhaps more importantly, true commitment in marriage is a beautiful symbol of Christ and his church to a lost and dying world.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No Fear in Death

Tonight, my family is still recovering from the shock of the loss of a brother in Christ. Tears have fallen, prayers have been said, and questions asked. Questions that I know will never be answered here on this earth. Why would God take such a mighty Christian man in the prime of his life? Why would God leave a lovely woman without a husband and two beautiful little boys without a daddy? Why would God see him safely through the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan only to allow him to die on a road outside of Tuscon? I don't know.

What I do know, is that though his time with us was very brief, he left a mark on our lives that can never be erased. His passion for God and love for His word were evident from the moment we met him. His devotion to his wife and children were inspiring and beautiful. His love of his country was humbling to say the least. Not to mention, he was a heck of an ultimate frisbee player. He was truly someone that every young man in our fellowship could look up to an proudly emulate.

Though his death is a huge loss for us, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his crown has been attained. As I sat at the kitchen table tonight, the song "In Christ Alone" came to my mind. Especially the last verse.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life's first cry, till final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Yes, the body of Christ has lost a strong and wonderful brother. But there is no fear for us nor for him. The solid Rock is as strong a foundation as it has ever been. May He continue to be a source of comfort and strength to our sister, her children, and to us as well.

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Sunday, April 25, 2010

O, My God, I Am Heartily Sorry...

When I first heard about the escalating problem of the abuse (and subsequent cover-up) by Catholic Priests, I did what many people did. First, I was somewhat angry and wondered at how the Vatican could knowingly put so many children in danger. I then proceeded to write it off as simply a Catholic problem, not something that I, a Protestant, had to be concerned about. It wasn't long after that I became convicted of how off this kind of thinking was. Though I certainly don't agree with most of the Catholic doctrine, they are, nonetheless, my brothers and sisters in Christ and a member of His body. When one part of the body of Christ is suffering, then the whole body suffers as well.

So, as fellow members of the body of Christ, what should our response to this situation be?

First off, I think that the first thing that we must do is offer our forgiveness both to those who actually committed these crimes and to those who actively worked to cover them up. To be angry and indignant is not the part that a Christian should play, especially with our brothers and sisters. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." Mark 11:25

Secondly, we must be ready to offer our love and support to our fellow believers. There is no doubt that this incident has shaken many Catholics. More than ever they need to know that the rest of the global church is behind them and is praying for them continuously. "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak." Acts 20:35

Finally, now is the time to take the log out of our own eyes. Though the attention of the world may not be pointed at us, we are not without sin. There is no doubt that the Church is struggling in many areas. It is so easy to sit back and say "At least we're not doing what the Catholics are doing". But this complacency will only allow our already numerous sins to grow and compound. We MUST face these sins and actively seek to turn away from them. It is only when we repent that we can ever hope to see the world turn to Christ. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent..." Acts 17:30

Forgive me my sins, O Lord, forgive me my sins;
the sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul,
the sins of my body; my idle sins, my serious voluntary sins;
the sins I know, the sins I do not know; the sins I have concealed
for so long, and which are now hidden from my memory.

I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial,
for all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour.

I know my sins have wounded Thy Tender Heart,
O My Savior, let me be freed from the bonds of evil through
the most bitter Passion of My Redeemer. Amen.

O My Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been. Amen.

-Act of Contrition

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Memorium

Fess Parker

His land is biggest and his land is best
From grassy plains to the mountains' crest
He's ahead of us all and meeting the test
Following his legend into the West
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

All Times Soon

One of the most memorable scenes for me in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia is found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy has just seen Aslan in the attic of the magician's house. As Aslan begins to leave, he tells Lucy that they will meet again soon. Lucy asks "Please, Aslan, what do you call soon?" Aslan replies "I call all times soon." It seems to be one of the most devestating lines in the series.

There is so much that we want from God, and we want it, like, yesterday. There are so many times that I think that I'm ready for the next step in life and...nothing happens. I'm still stuck in the same postion. And God doesn't seem in any too big a hurry to get me out. He also calls all times soon. I used to find this idea very frustrating. Like God wasn't really paying attention to my needs and would get around to me whenever He felt like it.

My perception of this line changed somewhat last Sunday. We were studying 2 Peter Chapter 3 and two verses leaped out at me and reminded me of this scene:

"But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2nd Peter 3:8-9 NKJV)

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. In fact, He is patient with us. He is waiting on us to grow and mature in order that He make take us to the next level. He's the one saying "Will this poor human ever be ready to move on?". If there is anything worse than being stuck in one place, it's being pushed on before we are ready. Just another way that God is so good to us.

So now when I reflect on the term "all times soon", I try not to let impatience rule me, but thankfulness. Thankfulness that an Almighty God is willing to wait for me with patience and love to follow Him to where He wants me to be. No pushing, no rushing, just a gentle leading. For my God, all times are soon, and that is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Song of Mary

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever."

-Luke 1:47-55

Wishing You and Yours a Blessed and Merry Christmas