Friday, June 4, 2010

Books Galore

Here are some interesting tags about books that I filled out in my spare time. They appealed immensely to the bookworm in me, and I'm sure that, as most of you like to read, you'll like them as well. Feel free to grab any or all that interest you.



Number One

Instructions - Grab the nearest book and flip to page 123 and type up the first four lines (sentences). It has to be the nearest book; you can't pick one randomly. The only exception is textbooks. They don't count as options in this case.
Riona, Linda Windsor -
"Could I borrow your sling and a few stones?"
Surprise widened the lad's eyes. "My sling? What will you do with my sling?"
Ignoring the slap of the child's incredulity, Riona replied, "I should like some semblance of protection out in the wood alone. Your sling will do nicely."
"An' pity the luckless soul that crosses it," Kieran murmured.



Number Two

Top 3 authors:
1. J. R. R. Tolkien
2. N. D. Wilson
3. C. S. Lewis and Jane Austen tie for third

Top 3 male characters:
That's impossible! I have more than ten favorite male characters in The Lord of the Rings alone!
Okay, I narrowed it from impossible to twenty-nine, then from twenty-nine to ten, and from ten to what you see here.
1. Faramir (The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien)
2. Walter Foley (Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire - Bryan Davis)
3. Monmouth (100 Cupboards trilogy - N. D. Wilson) and Mr. Charlie, aka Merrick, (The Berinfell Prophecies - Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper) tie for third

Top 3 female characters:
Just three?! I narrowed it down as much as possible. You'll have to take four.
1. Éowyn (The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien)
2. Ashley Stalworth (Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire - Bryan Davis)
3. Millicent Fairweather Clark (Whirlwind - Cathy Marie Hake) and Elizabeth Bennet Darcy (Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen) tie for third

Top 30 fiction books in no particular order:
1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien)
2. 100 Cupboards trilogy (N. D. Wilson)
3. The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
4. Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson)
5. Whirlwind (Cathy Marie Hake)
6. The Silmarillion (J. R. R. Tolkien)
7. Jackaroo (Cynthia Voigt)
8. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
9. Airman (Eoin Colfer)
10. The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff)
11. The Silver Branch (Rosemary Sutcliff)
12. Blood Feud (Rosemary Sutcliff)
13. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
14. Mark of the Lion trilogy (Francine Rivers)
15. The Bachelor's Bargain (Catherine Palmer)
16. Dragon's in Our Midst series (Bryan Davis)
17. Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise Jarvis McGraw)
18. The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
19. Tahn (L. A. Kelly)
20. The Viking Quest series (Lois Walfrid Johnson)
21. Castaways of the Flying Dutchman trilogy (Brian Jacques)
22. The White Lion Chronicles (Christopher Hopper)
23. In Freedom's Cause: a story of Wallace and Bruce (G. A. Henty)
24. The Door Within trilogy (Wayne Thomas Batson)
25. The Curse of the Spider King (Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper)
26. Isle of Swords & Isle of Fire duo (Wayne Thomas Batson)
27. The Lost Baron (Allen French)
28. The Red Keep (Allen French)
29. Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer)
30. Enoch's Ghost (Bryan Davis)

Top 3 books most recently read:
1. Nick of Time (Ted Bell)
2. Whirlwind (Cathy Marie Hake)
3. The Supernaturalist (Eoin Colfer)

Worst 3 books ever read:
I read so many books that I really don't remember which books were bad. If I read a book that I dislike, I try to forget about it, because it's not worth expending the energy to remember.

Top 5 scenes from any book:
Any book, or any one book? I’ll pick Dandelion Fire, by N. D. Wilson.
1. In the prison in the faerie mound, when Monmouth and Henry talk in their dreams, and then Henry goes exploring in his dream and leaves the mark of dandelions on the wall.
2. The ending, with the party in Zeke’s backyard and then baseball in Hylfing.
3. When Henry meets his family, they have the christening, his naming ceremony, and Mordecai comes home.
4. On the boat when Monmouth frees Henry and Franklin Fat Faerie and they kick the three bad wizards into the sea.
5. When Henry meets Ron and Nella in their house above Byzanthamum.

The book(s) that made me cry the most:
Well, I rarely cry, especially over books or movies. I can't recall a book that I cried over. I did get sad a lot in the Lord of the Rings, but I don’t think I shed any tears.

The book(s) that made me laugh the most:
1. Louly (Carol Ryrie Brink)
2. Just Patty (Jean Webster)
3. Dragons in Our Midst series (Bryan Davis)
4. The Melendy series: The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, Spiderweb for Two (Elizabeth Enright)
5. Isle of Swords (Wayne Thomas Batson)
6. Curse of the Spider King (Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper)
7. Owls in the Family (Farley Mowat)

The book(s) that made me feel the best at the end:
1. The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)
2. 100 Cupboards trilogy (N. D. Wilson)
3. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
4. Leepike Ridge (N. D. Wilson)
5. Whirlwind (Cathy Marie Hake)
6. The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff)
7. Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise Jarvis McGraw)
8. The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)

Contemporary or historical?
Historical, generally.

Science fiction, fantasy, or horror?
Fantasy, though sci-fi fantasy is awesome, too.

Hardback, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback?
Trade paperback. Hardbacks are hard to hold for extended periods, and mass-markets are too thick to read comfortably.

Barnes & Noble or Amazon?
Most of the books I have are gifts. If I'm buying a book, then I normally will buy it from Lifeway or Family Christian Stores, because they have the type of books I like. If B&N has the book I want, and I get a coupon, I'll buy it from B&N. I've only bought one thing from Amazon, to be honest.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Dog-ear?! 0.0 That's sacrilege! If I want to save my place, bookmark. However, I only use a bookmark half the time...

Alphabetize by author, alphabetize by title, or organize not at all?
I organize by genre. Fantasy, sci-fi, historical fic, classics, nonfic etc. Then I sub-organize by series, or by how much I like the book.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep. If I get duplicates (like as a gift), I exchange it for a different book or I give it away. I NEVER throw away a book.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I take it off and stow it somewhere.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
Remove it. I can't stand dust jackets. >.<

Little Women or Anne of Green Gables?
Um... how about Jo's Boys? To answer the question, I don't like either of those that much, but Little Women trumps Anne. I like Alcott's other books better than Little Women, believe it or not.

Short story or novel?
Novel. Short stories are too... short. By the time you get to know the character, the story is over.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
I don't have much time to read. When I do have time, half the time I have to stop when I'm right in the middle of something. Other than that, I generally stop at chapter breaks, or I'll fall asleep reading...

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Well, I don't like clichés, but I guess 'stormy night'. It's more gripping. Not that it really is gripping; it's just more gripping than 'once upon a time'.

Tearjerker or belly laugh?
Belly laugh. Tearjerkers are sad. =P And since I don't end up crying, I just feel depressed.

Buy or borrow?
I normally try to check it out of the library first, and if I like the book, then I ask for it for my birthday or Christmas.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation, or browse?
Well, if a friend likes a book, I'll investigate it and see if I want to read it. I also like to browse home school catalogues and Christian book catalogues. If something piques my interest, I find out more about it before I buy it.

Collection (short stories by the same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?
I'm not sure. Collection, I think.

Standalone or series?
Series, generally.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy ending. Cliffhangers are fun to write, but torture to read.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
I read whenever I can find the time. Most of the time that’s when I'm supposed to be sleeping...

Favorite genre series?
My favorite series in my favorite genre? Either Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, or N. D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards series. Probably LotR, though.

New or used?
New!

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Heehee. Many of the books I read, no one has ever heard. Hmm. I think I'll pick Jackaroo, by Cynthia Voigt. It's like Robin Hood, Zorro, and the Scarlet Pimpernel whirled into one. ^.^



Number Three
(From Noah over at Noah's Reads)

Which eight books would you love to live in?

1. Dandelion Fire (N. D. Wilson)
2. Persuasion (Jane Austen)
3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
4. The Silver Branch (Rosemary Sutcliff)
5. Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise Jarvis McGraw)
6. The Red Keep (Allen French)
7. The Eagle of the Ninth (Rosemary Sutcliff)
8. The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)



Number Four

Name 12 characters and then answer the questions:

1. Peregrin 'Pippin' Took (Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien)
2. Ashley Stalworth (Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire - Bryan Davis)
3. Kyo Sohma (Fruits Basket - Natsuki Takaya)
4. Éomer (Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien)
5. Captain Frederick Wentworth, R. N. (Persuasion - Jane Austen)
6. Louisa 'Louly' Tucker (Louly - Carol Ryrie Brink)
7. Anne Ross (Isle of Swords, Isle of Fire - Wayne Thomas Batson)
8. Conor Broekhart (Airman - Eoin Colfer)
9. Anastasia Willis (100 Cupboards series - N. D. Wilson)
10. Oliver Melendy (The Melendy series - Elizabeth Enright)
11. Jimmy Gresham (The Berinfell Prophecies - Wayne Thomas Batson)
12. Catherine Moreland Tilney (Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen)

1) Who would make a better collage professor, 6 or 11?
Ooh, hard. They'd both make good professors. Louly likes to boss people around, but Jimmy is smart.

2) Do you think 2 is nice?
Yes, and Ashley’s also sweet and funny.

3) 12 sends 8 out on a mission. What is it? Does it succeed?
Catherine sends Conor to find some novels similar to the ones she likes (from the early 1800s). Conor flies his aeroplane to the nearest bookstore and picks up a set of the Complete Works of Jane Austen. He takes them back to Catherine, who devours them. When she reaches Northanger Abbey, she is shocked to find that she actually is a heroine in a novel!

4) What is or what would be 9's favorite book?
If such a book exists, I'm sure it would be Anastasia’s favorite: 1,001 Ways to Annoy Your Siblings

5) Would it make more sense for 2 to swear fealty to 6, or the other way around?
Ashley to swear fealty to Louly, or Louly to swear fealty to Ashley. Hmm! I think I'd have to go with Louly (6) swearing fealty to Ashley (2).

6) For some reason, 5 is looking for a roommate. Should (s)he room with 9 or 10?
Captain Frederick Wentworth, R. N., is looking for a roommate and his choices are Anastasia or Oliver? Oliver, indubitably! Not only is he a boy, but he also talks a smidgen less than Anastasia.

7) 3, 7 and 12 are going out to dinner. Where do they go and what do they discuss?
Kyo Sohma, Anne Ross, and Catherine Moreland are going out to dinner? Hmm. Anne would take charge and ask where the others would like to go. Kyo would shrug and mumble something about 'anywhere, as long as I don't have to eat leeks'. Catherine would ponder the question and then defer to Anne's superior knowledge. Anne would decide to take them to O'Lordan's near London's waterfront. Anne would order meat pies, Kyo would stare out the window, and Catherine would start chattering about the novel she's reading. She'd mention something about the ship that carried off the abducted princess, and Anne would quiz her about what kind of ship it was. Kyo would ignore the whole thing, fingering his bracelet.

8) 3 challenges 10 to a duel, who wins?
Kyo challenges Oliver to a duel, and Kyo wins. Not only is Kyo about eight years older, but he's extremely more athletic. Oliver's a bit on the chubby side.

9) If 1 stole 8's most precious possession, how would (s)he get it back?
If Pippin stole Conor's most precious possession? Hmm. That would be either Conor's aeroplane, Conor's brother, or Conor's fiancée, Queen Isabella. It would probably be Isabella. Although I don't know how a hobbit could abduct a twenty-something female human who is a wonderful fencer, we are speaking hypothetically, are we not? Conor would fly to Pippin's lair, or wherever he was keeping Isabella, and rescue her.

10) Suggest a story title in which 7 and 12 both attain what they desire.
Anne and Catherine? Hmm. Anne wants to marry Cat, and Catherine wants to marry Henry. Therefore, the title might be A Double Wedding. Cheesy, I know.

11) What kind of plot device would you have to use if you wanted 1 and 4 to work together?
If I wanted Pippin and Éomer to work together? Heehee. They already do! They save Helm's Deep! Pippin gets Treebeard to go to Isengard, and so indirectly sends the trees to Helm's Deep to devour the orcs. Éomer rides back to Rohan with his éored and chases the orcs into the trees. Teamwork!

12) If 7 visited you for the weekend, how would it go?
We would have ever so much fun! Anne Ross is awesome. Not to mention she's a hero. Among other things, I'd have her teach me how to sail. ^.^

13) If you could command 3 to perform any service or task for you, what would it be?
o.0 That's hard. I don't know, quite honestly. I doubt I'd be able to command Kyo, anyhow.

14) Does 11 like to write or draw?
I can imagine Jimmy dabbling in writing, or doodling in the margins.

15) If 2 had to choose sides between 4 and 5, what side would (s)he choose?
If Ashley had to choose sides between Éomer and Captain Wentworth, I think she'd go with Éomer.

16) What might 10 shout out while charging into battle?
Haha! That's a funny one! Oliver Melendy, charging into battle! *rolls on floor laughing* He'd probably cobble together a bunch of phrases, like "The British are coming, the British are coming! Dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

17) If you had to choose a song to best describe 8, what would it be?
A song that best describes Conor – that would be either Switchfoot’s ‘Meant to Live’ or Skillet’s ‘Hero’.

18) What would be a good pickup line for 2 to say to 10?
For Ashley to say to Oliver? "Too much information can make your brain choke." It's Ashley's pickup line anyway, and it works with Oliver, who loves asking questions.

19) What would 5 most likely be arrested for?
Captain Frederick Wentworth, arrested?! He's a most honorable gentleman!

20) If 11 and 9 were racing to a destination, who would get there first?
If Jimmy Gresham raced Anastasia Willis, I think they'd tie. Jimmy's fast, but Anastasia's relentless.

21) What is the lowest point of 1's story?
The lowest point in Pippin's story? He has a bunch of low points (not as many as Frodo, but still a lot). Perhaps when he was eaten by a willow in the Old Forest, or captured by a Barrow-wight, or when he threw the stone down the well in Moria, or captured by orcs of the White Hand, or when he looked in the palantír, or crushed by a hill-troll. I'm not sure which is the lowest, so take your pick.

22) 1 and 9 reluctantly team up to save the world from the threat posed by 4's sinister secret organization. 11 volunteers to help them, but it is later discovered that s/he is actually a spy for 4. Meanwhile, 4 has kidnapped 12 in an attempt to force their surrender. Following the wise advice of 5, they seek out 3, who gives them what they need to complete their quest. What title would you give this fic?
Let me get this straight - Peregrin Took and Anastasia Willis reluctantly teamed up to save the world from Éomer's secret sinister organization. Jimmy Gresham volunteered to help Pippin and Anastasia, but then they discovered that he was actually a spy for Éomer. Meanwhile, Éomer kidnapped Catherine Moreland in an attempt to force Pippin and Anastasia to surrender. Following the wise advice of Captain Wentworth, Pippin and Anastasia sought out Kyo Sohma, who gave them what they needed to save the world, rescue Catherine, and defeat Éomer.
I need to name this? Perhaps The Revenge of the Horse Lord. Or Rohan's Revenge. Maybe Took and Willis, World Savers. What about Operation: Golden Hall? Or perhaps Fall of the Golden Hall – it rhymes. Or maybe A Kaleidoscope of Characters. Of course, you could go with the obvious Éomer's Attempt at World Domination. Perhaps A Jaunt through the Mind of a Fantasy Addict with Too Much Time on Their Hands.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Intent of a Character

Lately, I've been going through a lot of stuff. It’s been chaotic, to say the least. I’ve been trying to help a friend with something that I, too, struggle with. I’ve been frustrated with my circumstances and mad at my life. This has led to melancholy feelings and more frustration – a vicious circle. But I’ve noticed – when I get down, when I’m struggling, I will be reminded of God's sovereignty.

It keeps happening – I hear it on Sunday, or I’ll read it in a book. A friend will mention it on their blog or in a conversation. I’ll be outside, brooding over my feelings or my situation, when I’ll look up at the sky and I’ll remember.

God created the entire world and planned everything out before time. He numbered every breath I would take before I was born; He fashioned every part of my being, gave me my personality, my feelings, for a special purpose that He designed specifically for me. He knew that I’d feel like this, and He has a reason for it.

He plotted my days with intention. I am a character in the greatest story – His story. I stumble in my role – but the stumbles are written into the script. I falter with my lines, but the Author knew I would. He wrote my slips and hesitations into the story for a purpose, a reason. All I can see is the word right in front of me, while He can see the entire script – not just my lines, but the whole story from start to finish.

He crafted my character with a goal in mind, a goal that He wrote for me to accomplish. I don’t know what that particular objective is; I don’t know His aim for my character. I don’t know how my character’s story ends. But I do have the Director’s notes – the Bible. And from reading His words to me, learning from His coaching and His example, I know that my general reason for life is to bring praise to the Author.

In a story, the intent of the character is to teach a lesson to the other characters or the reader. In doing so, the character fulfills the purpose of the author. In fulfilling the author’s purpose, the character brings glory to the author.

There are main characters – the ones everyone knows; there are supporting characters – the ones who support the main characters, but aren’t focused on; and then there are those characters that you only see a glimpse of before the camera moves on. But each of those characters, even the ones only seen for a few seconds, is important to the story. If one of them was missing, there would be a problem. You can’t film a movie without extras. You can’t write a book without having crowds of people to make a busy street.

All of the characters are known to the Author, who places them there for a reason. Each has a specific position to fill.

So if I’m a character in the Story, my end purpose as a character is to glorify my Author. As I progress through my script, taking each word as it comes, the Director will reveal His purpose for me, how my character functions in the story. Though I might not play a large role, my character is crucial to the story. I’m breathing for a reason.

You see, God only gives breath to those He wants to live, those whom He has a purpose for, those who are still in the story. If my part in the story was over, if my character’s purpose is filled or no longer needed, then why would the Author still give me breath? For He wouldn’t create a character with no purpose. So if I’m breathing, I have something yet to do, lines yet to be said. Because I can draw my next breath, I have a use in this world. I have an objective to fulfill. Part of my character’s story is to figure out what that objective is.

How can I do that? Well, I study the notes from the Director. He’ll show me what I need to do when the time comes.

There is a reason for everything, because God, the Author and Creator of all things, is a God who delights in details, in reasons, in order, and in truth. He is sovereign – He governs all things.

“For by Him all things were created, whether things in heaven or on earth, visible or invisible, whether thrones, or powers, or rulers, or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” - Colossians 1:16-17

Friday, February 19, 2010

Are You Ready to Die Tonight for what You Believe?

I recently came across some songs that really make you think.

They aren't 'new', in the technical sense of the word - they came out a couple years ago - and neither are the ideas which they express 'new'. Such ideas have been around for over two thousand years.

Most songs in the 'Christian' music industry stick to the happy, fuzzy lyrics that encourage you, that make you feel good. A lot of their lyrics are kind of shallow.

Now, I'm not saying that Christian music is shallow. Sometimes, someone comes along who has a heart for God and a way with words. But a lot of the time, the songs are just smiley choruses to sing in the car - they don't challenge you. That's one reason why I like the old hymns - they have deep truths and they challenge you. The hands-in-the air choruses nowadays might make you feel good, but they rarely challenge you.

Which is why I like these two particular songs. They really do challenge you. Now, they're rock songs. Not church songs. So maybe my little rant about warm and fuzzy church songs is a little out of place. But when rock songs challenge you to live for God and 'church' songs don't really do that... I think we might a have problem.

Anyway....

The songs ask you if you're willing to die for what you believe, willing to stand out and be ridiculed. Are you willing to cross the line and take the chance that you're going to be shot down?

I know that here, in America, we have freedom of religion. For now, at least.

There are plenty of people who cry for 'tolerance', when all they want to do is shut up the truth. Because the truth is light, and the darkness hates the light. They call the truth 'hate-speech'. We're the 'bad guys', because we believe that life is sacred instead of believing that ending life is a 'right'. That people should have the choice to kill if life inconveniences them. They hate us, because we tell the truth. They are doing everything they can to silence us. To silence the truth. However, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."

But just because we have the freedom to worship as we please doesn't mean that we aren't going to have to 'cross the line'. At school, at work, at home - how you live, what you say, what you do: what are you doing? Are you following everyone else? Are you normal, do you blend in? Because as Christians, we aren't called to blend in. We're called to stand out. Even, and especially, if we get ridiculed for it.

To the world, we look like fools. Idiots. Weak people who need the crutch of a Superior Being to live. We look like people who can't think for ourselves - we eat what we're given. But... is that true? And if it isn't true, why does the world think that?

Are we trying to blend in? To be safe? Are we 'protecting' ourselves by following the crowd? Numerous times, I've heard the excuse, "Well, I don't know if they'd want to be my friend any more if I talked about God and stuff." I can't count how many times I've heard it. Or how many times I've said it.

Cowards. That's what we are. We're letting people, people we call our friends, die. Without throwing them a lifeline. It's in our hands. We have the choice to stand up and stand out and hold out life. But we're scared that they won't like us.

If they don't want to be your friend because you believe differently than they do and you're outspoken about your beliefs, that's their problem. If they reject Jesus Christ, that's between them and God. They are responsible for their own actions. But you are responsible for yours. What are you going say if they die without you ever speaking a word about the truth to them? What's your excuse?


Scream - Jonah33

Scream at the top of ya lungs
If you're ready to die tonight, to die tonight
For what you believe

What's going on?
Where have all our voices gone and why are we afraid of words like war?
Need I remind you that we are an army and armies engage
Yes, armies engage when the threat is too much to ignore
Sounds like we should sound the alarm

Scream at the top of ya lungs if you're ready to die tonight
To die tonight for what you believe
Time isn't on our side- and we're on our side, it never has been a friend of mine
So just scream with me if you're ready to die tonight for what it is you believe

Don't look now but somehow our worst enemies have found a way inside these walls we made
These are the moments the define us as cowards or men full of valor
So shut up and fight and don't let them know you're afraid
I'm not one to lay down and die

Scream at the top of ya lungs if you're ready to die tonight
To die tonight for what you believe
Time isn't on our side - and we're on our side, it never has been a friend of mine
So scream with me if you're ready to die tonight for what it is you believe


Cross the Line - Superchick

Follow the leader, stay in the lines
What will people think of what you've done this time?
Go with the crowd, surely somebody knows
Why we're all wearing the emperor's clothes

Play it safe, play by the rules
Or don't play at all, what if you lose?
That's not the secret, but I know what is
Everybody dies but not everyone lives

I'm gonna ride like I've got the cops on my tail
I'm gonna live my life like I'm out on bail
I'm gonna be out front, gonna blaze a trail
I'm gonna cross that line

Everybody freeze, don't step over the line
Don't stand up, they'll shoot down the first one who tries
Try to change the world, they'll think you're out of your mind
Revolutions start when someone crosses the line

They want us to lie down, give into the lie
"Nothing has to change, and no one has to die"
That's not the secret, but I know what is:
Everybody dies, but not everyone lives


If you want to, you can listen to Scream and Cross the Line on Youtube.
If you like that sort of music, you might want to check out my playlist, which contains those and similar songs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spring and Summer - a review

This past Thursday, my mom, siblings, and I were out running errands. At LifeWay, I got Jon Foreman's album 'Spring and Summer'.

Jon Foreman, the lead singer of the band Switchfoot, has three solo albums, 'Fall and Winter', 'Spring and Summer', and 'Leaves and Branches', which is a collection of songs from the other two albums as well as a few new ones.

I really like Mr. Foreman's work, and this double-disc album is no exception. His lyrics are thought-provoking and flowing, as usual, and his melodies are beautiful.

In 'Spring and Summer', he includes several songs based off different passages from the Bible, mostly Psalms. 'Your Love Is Strong', his radio single, echoes the Lord's Prayer, and then recites it at the end of the track.

Some of my favorite lyrics from 'Your Love is Strong'.
So why should I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need
You know what I need!
...
The kingdom of the Heavens
Is buried treasure
Would you sell yourself
To buy the one you've found
...
Two things You told me
That You are strong
And You love me
Yes, You love me

'Summer' gets even deeper into theology.

'Resurrect Me' talks about wanting to die to self. "I've become the empty shell/ Of a man I don't like so well/ I am a living, breathing hell/ Come on and resurrect me!" and then a later chorus, "I've become the shell of a man/ I can't begin to understand/ Have I forgotten who I am?/ Come on and resurrect me!"

Then in 'Instead of a Show', Mr. Foreman expresses his dislike of the hypocrisy and show that so many Christians put on display on Sunday mornings.
"I hate all your show and pretense/ The hypocrisy of your praise/ The hypocrisy of your festivals/ ... Your eyes are closed when you're praying/ You sing along with the band/ You shine up your shoes for services/ But there's blood on your hands."
What should we be doing, then?
"Instead let there be a flood of justice/ An endless procession of righteous living/ ... Instead of a show/ ... Give love to the ones who can't love at all/ Give hope to the ones who got no hope at all/ Stand up for the ones who can't stand at all/ Instead of a show."

'The House of God Forever' is a beautiful rendition of the Twenty-Third Psalm. 'Again' is a exquisite prayer to God, echoing many of the Psalms.

Oh Lord, God of our fathers
This day, let it be known
That You, Lord,
Are God of the present tense

Oh Lord, Father of history
This day, let it be known
That You, Lord,
Are present in our human events

Answer me, Oh Lord
Let Your people know
That You're turning our hearts
Back to You... Again

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter

Winter - the frosty clouds of breath in the air, the wind reddening cheeks and noses, the pinch of cold in one's lungs. Dark skeletons of trees against the sky, mouldering piles of dead-brown, fallen leaves, and the low grey clouds that hint of snow.

While not my favorite month of the year, I still enjoy the poetry of winter. I appreciate the fact that things must die before they can live again, and winter is that part of the cycle - death. Plants 'die', going into the dormant stage, where nothing grows. The grass fades from a lush, verdant green to a dull, greying brown. The cold is bitter, the wind is harsh, the elements unforgiving. One should dress warmly, or the cold shall seep into your bones, holding you tight in its chilling grasp.

But always after winter and death, there is the promise of spring and new life again. Flowers, daring and brazen, push their colorful heads from beneath layers of frozen earth and snow, urging the blanket of white to melt and disappear. The early spring flowers are conquorers, daring to face the bitter winter and demand that it give way to pleasant spring. Dying on the battle lines, frost etching their cold petals, they make way for the rest of the flowers. Most of the first flowers are hardy enough that the outlast any artillary with which Winter can blast them, while others must fight the instinctive urge to bow and succumb to the wind and rage of winter's ice.

Winter's cold is bitter, and most animals burrow away, sleeping until spring returns. Others thrive on winter's chill, like the chickadees, bright and cheerful, black and gray against a white backdrop of snow. The green growing things have winter-lovers, too. The bright nandinas and the holly plants glow with a red and green fervor that rivals the Christmas lights. While other trees drop their leaves, shivering naked in the cold, evergreens keep their needles, dark sprucey green against the grays and whites of winter.

Many people hate the cold, the death, the cheerless grey of sky and earth. But when it snows, a white blanket covers the earth, giving the world a sense of peace, of unity. It as though the universe bows to a greater cause, bending its knee to the Creator who fashioned each lilting crystal flake by hand.

Snow always reminds me of the One who created it. Unsullied, it hides the grey and brokeness of the frozen ground, blanketing all things in a uniform white. It softens the edges of the world and muffles the hurried sounds of life. As it sparkles in the light, each flake unique, and yet all together one, in awe I whisper, "Emmanuel." God with us. Here to dwell. White and spotless, innocent. The Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world.

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Wash me, and I will be made whole.

Clean, pure snow is a sparkling white. And yet with the crimson blood of Emmanuel, Messiah, your soul can be whiter than snow. To think that the Lord of heaven and earth, who holds the universe in His very hand, who created all things with words, and holds all things together... to think that He died so that my soul can be whiter than snow.

It is an amazing thought.