One of my (Lauren) favourite creative outlets is interior decorating. I have a lot of dreams for my future little home. I have a pink moleskin notebook full of my ideas. One afternoon Mom and I were out at a consignment shop downtown Guelph when we happened upon an old hand embroidered table runner. I am blessed with a Mother who happens to be a fantastic/pro-star seamstress. We make a good team - I come up with the design, she makes the design a reality (my prom dress is an example of this). The picture of the above pillow is the converted table runner with a royal blue pom-pom edge. I am thrilled with the result.
I also am looking forward to displaying my 1960’s salt and pepper shakers in my kitchen. What a sweet find! I love finding old things and making them into something new (maybe there’s a deeper meaning to this love:)
Here is a list of helpful books I have been perusing lately:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
It’s a rainy day here in Guelph, and I have spent the afternoon sitting in the back sun room with a fire burning in the wood stove reading the new Donald Miller book and listening to a Rob Bell sermon. Throw in a cup of tea, and it’s been pretty great.
Rob Bell spoke about how the verse quoted above is not meant to promote a view of the gospel that encourages moral uprightness, nor is it mean to deliver a message that everything will be OK once once has it all figured out.
He told a story of a couple who was wrestling with a very real tension that Christians face in terms of how to live in this world. He described them as having come to him and talking about buying a new couch, wondering how they could justify doing so when the money required for such a purchase could be used elsewhere to meet tangible needs ie: to provide water for those who cannot access it.
The point of this word from Jesus is not that God will bless those who make the right decisions, who unequivocally always do that which is righteous and good. Rather, Jesus promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled; in other words, Jesus promises that God is present in the midst of the tension.
The gospel message of Jesus is for those who don’t have it all figured out, who sense that a different way of living in this world is possible but can’t yet put their finger on what it should look like. God does not meet us at the end point after we have done that which has earned us a blessing from Him; rather, He is with us every step of the way, in the midst of the daily realities of life.
A few weeks ago, Rob Bell started a new sermon series @ Mars Hill that will move verse by verse through the Sermon on the Mount.
Here’s an excerpt from the description of the series.
[Click on the post title to go directly to the SotM page.]
Nowhere does Jesus talk more clearly about what it looks like to follow him than in the Sermon on the Mount … It’s about what happens when God shows up: The poor, the meek, and those who mourn—even these groups are called blessed. And enemies are loved, the poor are cared for, people mean what they say. This is the seemingly impossible, made to happen on earth.
I have listened to the first couple of sermons via the iTunes podcast and, much as I did during the recent Philippians series, have found myself greatly encouraged and challenged to continue to think about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in today’s world.
Great stuff so far. Check it out.
The subject of the adult beverage has often been quite contentious in Christian circles. In his ‘biography of the beer that changed the world’, Stephen Mansfield addresses the topic within the context of a world wherein beer has played a prominent role and has often been embraced - in moderation - as a gift from God by prominent Christian leaders throughout the centuries.
Mansfield presents the story of Arthur Guinness and the world-famous beer that bears his name as one that offers a challenge not only to modern corporations built on the endless pursuit of profit at any cost, but also to those who question whether or not their day to day work falls under the umbrella of divine vocation. In short, Guinness provides us with an example of a company that gives back to its workers and the citizens of its home city (Dublin) through various social programs, medical services and even architectural improvements. At the same time, this story provides the reader with an inspiring example of the reality that we are called to enjoy God’s creation and make use of the gifts that he has given us, for his glory, no matter what we do for a living.
While it’s possible to accuse Mansfield of romanticizing Guinness while ignoring the potential harm that over-consumption can cause, this book provides a refreshing alternative to common misconceptions and opens the door for a responsible raising of the glass to a great tasting beer that, through its impressive history, has been a vehicle for social and cultural good in an often troubled world.
This book is informative, entertaining and educational, and a solid read for anyone interested in the history of this fine beer and the fascinating Guinness family that was committed to serving God and making a difference in the world around them.
Reading this book. Got a free copy in the mail as part of Thomas Nelson’s book review bloggers program. Minimum 200 word review coming soon. So far, so good.
1. inharmonius or harsh sound; discord; cacophony. 2. a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.
Over the past couple of days, I had the opportunity to head into Toronto and spend some time with my good friends Chris Lewis and Jason Locke in and around Tyndale, our alma mater. The basis for the invitation to go into the city was a series of faith talks being given by Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making. I was not familiar with Andy at all, but as it turned out, his lectures were an amazing encouragement to me and a huge bonus on top of what was already an awesome time hanging out with the guys.
Andy is a gifted piano player and singer, and the theme of his talks was a slogan seen at Starbucks, “Live More Musically.” Andy would speak from the piano, incorporating music and song into his lecture. The third lecture was entitled ‘Dissonance’, and he spoke about the reality that, in life and certainly within the Christian experience, things can seem quite off, not quite what they are supposed to be. Essentially, we live in a dissonant world, where all falls short, where failure exists and is inevitable. There is discord, unrest, a crying out for resolution. And it is in the promise of resolution that we can put our hope. We are not to be held back by a fear of failure, of not meeting expectations. Rather, we are to acknowledge it and remember that God is glorified in weakness.
The ultimate form of dissonance and failure is death, and it is this fate that Jesus himself met on the cross. Those around him were expecting one thing, and were now facing an almost impossible scenario - the great failure of the Jesus movement, which had, at one time, promised so much. Certainly they would have been crushed when Jesus to cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
What Andy explained (in a way that I had never thought of before) is that in Jesus’ day, the Psalms were not numbered; therefore, if you invoked the first line in a Psalm, it would bring to mind the text in its entirety. In uttering these words, Jesus was reminding his followers of these words in Psalm 22:
24 For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.
In the midst of the most dissonant note ever played in the course of human history, Jesus reminds us that him, all will be made right. There is a sense that no matter how bad things seem, there hope in the midst of dissonance and harmony in times of unrest.
I was so encouraged by this word from Andy, and it was important for me to hear this as Lauren and I continue to figure out what the future has in store for us. I trust, as Andy sang, that God believes in us, and that He is present in the midst of all dissonance.
I began reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years last week. Lauren and I recently had the opportunity to go hear him speak at the University of Waterloo, so I already had a bit of an idea of what to expect. I am enjoying it, and wanted to share a few key bits that have stood out to me so far.
The basic premise of the book is that Miller was approached by some filmmakers to create a movie out of his popular memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Upon discovering that the story of his life was slightly less than silver screen worthy, the filmmakers decide to begin to take some liberties with his life story in order to make it more compelling. Somewhat put off by the reality that his life may not be an inspiring tale, Miller begins to examine the elements of what makes a good story and attempts to apply them to his life in order to create a better story out of it.
Miller writes about how stories that revolves around attaining something is really quite boring and meaningless. Instead, at the heart of any good story - and therefore life in general - is character transformation. Perhaps, he writes, “we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.” For so long, Miller strove to be a popular author, yet felt unfulfilled when he was able to achieve that goal. In the same way we are unmoved by the story of someone who wants to buy a car, saves up their money and one day purchases said car, any story that does not involve some sort of positive and meaningful character progression will always be less than what it is intended to be.
What was really challenging to me was the idea that a character is what he does. While it is possible to think and feel certain things, the essence of our true character is revealed by what we do. For example, there are many elements of following Jesus that I know to be good and right, and I may feel as though I am the kind of person that can and should do these things. But, if I do not actually live in a way that reflects the teachings and mission of Jesus, then I am not really his disciple.
If I believe that the essence of a good story is drawn out from the wider narrative of God’s redemptive love in, to and for the world, and if God is calling us to reflect the essence of that story by how we live in the world around us, then it is through tangible actions that it can be determined whether or not I am a contributing character within that story.
I look forward to digging into the rest of this book, and will post some more thoughts alone the way.
Last night, we finally made our way to the cinema to see Where The Wild Things Are. I have been wanting to see this movie for months, ever since I first caught a glimpse of the trailer and began reading about the bold stance by director Spike Jonze had taken in terms of the edginess of the content and his strong desire to use larger than life puppet costumes for the wild things as opposed to computer graphics. And I was intrigued as to how a book consisting of ten sentences could be turned into a feature film.
Let me say right off the top that I loved this movie, and the more I think about it, making connections between the characters and exploring the themes, the more I am convinced that this is a truly great movie. It’s the story of young Max, adventurous and full of creativity, yet also sad, lonely and misunderstood. He is coping with the loss of a father, a sister growing older and more removed by the day, and a mother trying to keep it all together while trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life. After an episode with his mother, Max runs away and sails off to an island inhabited by the wild things, each of whom represents a little piece of Max’s emotional state and his life back home. Through his interactions with them, Max gains some perspective in regards to what his sister and mother are going through and how his actions affect others. And as he travels home to them, he understands more of what it means to be a part of a family that loves each other in the midst of the realities of life.
While the themes presented in the movie and the interactions between the characters are actually quite complex, at a fundamental level it reveals the simple truth that we all long to be loved, to know that at the end of the day, everything is going to be OK. It’s a simple message revealed in a children’s story that resonates at the core of all of us, no matter what age.
It should be a reminder to all who take the call to follow Jesus seriously that we are to demonstrate to the world the reality of his kind of love, to invite all to come to the table and enjoy a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk.
Fantastic movie, and I can’t wait to read the accompanying novel The Wild Things by Dave Eggers.
While perusing a used bookstore here in Guelph last week, my good friend Chris Lewis showed me a book by Dave Eggers, explaining to me that this particular author was tremendous and that I would find myself seeing his name everywhere. Right he was. I browsed a few titles at Indigo on Saturday, and then proceeded to watch the fantastic film ‘Away We Go’ (which he co-wrote) that evening. And, of course, he also co-penned the screenplay for the #1 movie currently in cinemas, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.
Sp, while at the library yesterday, I jumped at the chance to take out his debut novel You Shall Know Our Velocity, the story of two friends who set out on an epic week long trip around the world with a view to handing out $32,000. 57 pages, I am hooked. Great read so far, and I look forward to digging into some more of his work in the near future.
At the same time, I am making my way through Tom Wright’s Luke For Everyone. I have wanted to begin reading this commentary series for a while now, and Lauren picked this one up for before we left Aberdeen.
If you are not familiar with the For Everyone series, Wright has taken upon himself to provide a guide to each book of the New Testament, complete with a fresh translation of the text. He combines his academic abilities with his pastoral heart to present some top quality insights into the biblical story. Easy to read yet challenging at the same time, I am enjoying time spent every day in this book, and I recommend any of these books to those looking for a fresh approach to Holy Scripture.
When we left Manitoba a year and a half ago, I posted a list of the albums that defined that chapter of life. Along those same lines, I thought it was only appropriate to offer up some of the tunes that were on heavy rotation over the past year.
Sufjan Stevens - Come On, Feel the Illinoise
I had heard so much about Sufjan in the past, but had never had the chance to really listen to his music. I got my hands on this album, and it became an instant favorite. I remember falling in love with this album while on my way to our young adults Bible study group early last fall; this is some great music to walk around to at night. This is also what I listened to on our overnight train rides during our Euro trip.
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
In a quest for new, good music, a few friends highly recommended this album to me. They were all bang on, because this album is amazing. The perfect tunes to listen to while hibernating in a cold flat on a cloudy day in Aberdeen.
The Killers - Day and Age
Lauren bought me a new Nano for my birthday, and it came with an iTunes gift card. I immediately downloaded this latest Killers album and it was heavily played in the month of December. Lauren was also approached by a young boy at school who asked her if she was human or dancer, and that is a funny memory from her job as a teacher.
Downhere - Ending Is Beginning
I have been a fan of this band for years, ever since my college roommate introduced me to them. In my mind, this is their best album since their amazing debut, and I would listen to this in the mornings while reading my Bible or going out for a run by the sea.
The Fray (self-titled)
Purchased for me as a Valentine’s Day present from Lauren, I listened to this non-stop for about two months, beginning with a fun bus trip to Glasgow that weekend. This album also reminds me of LOST (as ‘You Found Me’ was featured on a promo for the show) which in turn reminds me of good times shared with friends as we gathered to watch / chat about the best TV show ever.
Chris Tomlin - Hello Love
Thanks to Spotify, this was the album most played on Sunday mornings while we got ready to make the 45 minute walk into town to Crown Terrace Methodist Church. Speaking of that walk, I will always remember hearing the bells of St. Nicholas as we walked down Belmont St.
Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome
We bought this album just before we went to Holland during the summer, and listened to it non-stop while we were there, and it’s still on heavy play. Brilliant. Check my full review of this album here.
There you have it. This is the music that forever will remind me of our time in Aberdeen.
Honorable mention: MuteMath - Armistice, Flight of the Conchords (listened to many an evening while doing the dishes), Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns, Sufjan Stevens - Michigan, U2 - No Line On the Horizon
Currently seeking some fresh tunes for the soundtrack of ‘the new adventures.’ Any suggestions?