Categories
God Life Religion

where were we?

The shooting at Virginia Tech is definitely shocking and saddening, but it’s not new. Every couple of years there seems to be another school shooting and the perpetrators all seem alike. They are loners, malcontents, and victims of an ever-depreciating society. Cho Seung-Hiu, the Virginia Tech killer, was probably deeply disturbed and psychotic, but what caused him to be that way? Certainly his negative family environment, self-prescribed isolation, and increasing anger had something to do with it. But where were the friends to help him out? Where were his parents to provide a positive example and nourishing environment?

The political pundits were quick to cite violent video games and even terrorism as the motive behind the massacre. It’s an easy answer. The Columbine killers played violent video games and fantasized about terrorizing other students. I hate to quote the Black Eyed Peas on such a serious issue, but “where is the love?” The boys that commit these atrocities had no love. It seems like such a hippie, new age thing to say, but Jesus said it all the time. We are too busy with our own lives to give a damn when someone cries for help in every way. Our iPods have to be listened to, that TV show has to be watched, we have to instant message all night, but we can’t simply open our eyes to something that’s staring us right in the face.

I’m just as guilty as anyone on this. I like listening to my iPod a lot and watching my favorite TV shows religiously. But how can I justify getting my entertainment fix while a fellow brother or sister in Christ is so depressed, so overcome that they consider murdering dozens of their peers and then themselves? Blame cannot rest on one source alone but on all of us. We failed Cho just as much as we failed the students that were killed. I hope we can all have the strength and courage to turn off our iPods once in a while and look around at our brothers and sisters in Christ, hoping and waiting for the chance to step in and love unconditionally.

Categories
God Religion

apologies all around…

I’ve been going through a season of doubt and general questioning of all that I’m supposed to believe. I’ve been told over and over again in Sunday school and at home that “Jesus died for my sins” and “God created you and loves you very much,” but what does that really mean? How is it even possible that a perfect being like “God” created such imperfect and broken things as us humans? How does God have a son and why is he our savior? I’ve grown up in the church my entire life so I technically know the answer, but in reality I have no idea how that relates to me.

I’ve realized that no matter how much I can learn about evolution vs. creation, the possibility of a God, if Jesus really rose from the dead, etc., it won’t mean a thing if I don’t feel something real in my heart. We can cram so much into our heads with hope of finally understanding the world, but in the end we’ll find ourselves weak and hopeless creatures. That’s what I’m feeling now. Like Paul the Apostle said: Of all the sinners in the world, I am the worst. I’m pretty sure everyone feels like that at one point in their life.

The word “faith” has taken on great significance in my life. I see religious leaders debate with atheists and people wonder why God can let things like the Holocaust and starvation happen to his so-called “beloved” people. I wonder that myself sometimes. But to have faith means to realize that you don’t know all of the answers the world asks. I want to be able to let go of the need to know what I don’t need to know. Knowing everything about the Bible doesn’t guarantee entrance into Heaven. It’s about what’s in your heart, not in your head.

On behalf of those who claim to be Christians representing Jesus’ teachings, I want to apologize for all of the bad things we’ve done in the name of Christianity. It makes me sick the way “religious leaders” go on TV and condemn homosexuals and pro-choice supporters just because they think they aren’t following the Bible. I apologize for not being more loving and considerate to the needs of the world. Many think that Christians are supposed to be perfect. I can tell you with authority that this is not the case. We are all broken, hopeless, desperate people living in a screwed up world. I’m sorry for the cutting remarks, the misplaced judgments, the gossip, the back-stabbing, the rejection, and the pride.

We are not being good representatives of Jesus. I can assure you that Jesus and his teachings are far better than how they look on us. I just ask that you give him a chance. Contrary to how it may seem, Jesus is a stand-up guy with some advice that really helps in the attempt to heal this messed up world. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part II

These are some songs I’m listening to. I think you should too.

“Lost in Space” – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space
Such a hauntingly beautiful song. Imagine driving through the desert at night with this whole album on repeat and you have an awesome musical experience.

“Seize the Day” – Alan Menken – Newsies soundtrack
Man, I love this movie. If you haven’t seen it and loved it, I will fight you.

“Hoodwink” – Anathallo – Floating World
What a mind-blowing album. These dudes mold music into forms never seen before.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Their later stuff is way better than the surf rock stuff they started out with. Check out the entire album.

“Come Together” – The Beatles – Abbey Road
One of the coolest and most memorable openers I’ve ever heard.

“Jesusland” – Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman
What can I say? The dude knows how to make good music.

“Trolley Song” – Dave Brubeck – Greatest Hits
Sounds exactly as the title suggests. This guy is a piano player if I’ve ever heard one.

“Break on Through” – The Doors – The Doors
This song always reminds me of Forrest Gump.

“Tiny Dancer” – Elton John – Madman Across the Water
Of Almost Famous fame. A really catchy song from a gifted musician, however odd he may be.

“Belle” – Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams
This just puts you in a street cafe in Paris. It’s almost too good a song.

“Mother” – John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
You can tell that it’s a cathartic song for John. I highly recommend all of his solo work, especially Imagine and Mind Games.

“Waiting on the World to Change” – John Mayer – Continuum
Am I a sell out if I like John Mayer and his ridiculously catchy tunes? Oh well, it’s a good song with an honest message.

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways
The man’s a straight-up badass. This is his last album and a damn good one at that. You can hear the pain in his voice and feel the ache in his fingers.

“Money” – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
In an album that’s basically half instrumental, this song shines through as one of the best.

“When She Loved Me” – Sarah McLachlan – Toy Story 2 soundtrack
Man, this song just killed me. An incredible addition to a near-perfect film. If you aren’t in tears by the end, you have no soul.

“Deathbed” – Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago
I’m in the minority that think that this album is not their best, in fact, a far weaker effort than mmHmm. But this epic masterpiece stands out amongst the other forgettable songs.

“Cecilia” – Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
One of the many infectious folk-rock tunes they created. Get all the albums.

“Zoo Station” – U2 – Achtung Baby
I’ve never been a gigantic U2 fan, but I really liked this album.

“Roundabout” – Yes – Fragile
A great mix of classical, 70s rock, and psychedelia.

Categories
God Story

tale of three trees

This is a story from a children’s book I read as a bedtime story to some kids my sister babysits. It rocked my world:

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!” The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

Years passed and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said. The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!” The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river. Instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Categories
Film

and the oscar goes to…

Ahhh, the Oscars. Such a glorious time. I guessed 11 correctly which is pretty good for me.

Things I’m pumped about:
The Departed winning 4 awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and a much deserved Best Director for Martin Scorsese (finally!)
-Alan Arkin blowing everyone away and upsetting Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor
Pan’s Labyrinth winning a bunch, except for the all-important Best Foreign Film
Little Miss Sunshine winning a few

Things I’m a tad bummed about:
United 93 not winning anything
Monster House not winning Best Animated Feature (Happy Feet sucked!)
Children of Men getting royally snubbed

Things I’ll look forward to:
-Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Gosling, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kate Winslet all winning much deserved Oscars in the future
-Martin Scorsese’s next movie

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the results this year. Ellen DeGeneres was okay…Jon Stewart needs to come back. The Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly number was the highlight of the show, and Martin Scorsese kicks ass.
Here are the must-sees of 2006:
United 93, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The Queen, Half Nelson, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Prestige, Thank You for Smoking, Babel, Borat, Monster House, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Blood Diamond…just to name a few. Do yourself a favor and see these films in an medium. Then call me up so we can talk about them.

Categories
Life Music

lifestyles of the rich and the famous

To fans of music: Rock stars/musicians/bands are in no way better than you. There seems to be a universal acceptance of a rock star’s disrespectful and arrogant attitudes and actions, but I find this unacceptable. My guess is a lot of kids start bands because they want to be famous and have people love them. This is a natural human desire and that’s probably why we keep on idolizing bands and artists, even if they have little or no talent.

As a musician in an aspiring rock band, I meet a lot of fans (who are awesome by the way). They like to express their feelings towards our music and I really appreciate it when they do that. But when liking our music goes as far as basically worshiping us, I don’t want any part of that. At the risk of sounding pretentious (Joel), I don’t want to be worshiped. That goes against everything a “rock star” should think, but I’d rather chill with fans after shows and really try to get to know them. We’ve met so many awesome people all over the place as a band and I don’t think any of us would want to trade that for pseudo-praise or a hedonistic lifestyle.

So in conclusion, I want to make it known that I am not against voicing your thoughts to your favorite or least favorite bands. I have many favorite bands that I would love to meet and talk with. But just watch how much effort you put into over-complimenting and worshiping your favorite band. They might deserve that praise for their talents, but on the human level, they are the same as you.

Categories
Music

you never give me your money

I love antique shops. There are 3 here in Naperville but only one of them is that good. I just love walking through aisles and aisles of history and nostalgia. Recently I’ve been finding piles upon piles of old records. Because of my love of history and good music, I naturally appreciate a good record. I only own two so far; The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Billy Joel’s The Stranger, but I plan on getting a lot more in the future.

I realized that back when records were the only form of music, you couldn’t just throw your entire music library on shuffle like you can nowadays with iPods and CD changers. They required listening to the whole record straight through, so music back then was made to make this possible. Consequentially, albums made sense. They weren’t just random songs put together to make some money–they were fluid and coherent. So recently I’ve been making myself pick an album to listen to and listen to it straight through. It makes the experience so much more fruitful and enjoyable. You can get the overall feeling of the record and then decide if you like it or not. Just try it a few times. I will suggest starting with Abbey Road because it is the greatest album ever made.

P.S. Don’t forget to send me your guesses for the Academy Award nominations which are immediately under this post.

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part I

No, this isn’t that stupid random listing of songs that supposedly follows your life. These are some songs that have changed me, made me think, made me cry, and want me to become a better person. Enjoy.

“Candy Shop” – Andrew Bird – Oh! the Grandeur
So nostalgic. The groove makes you want to do the Charleston.

“Martha My Dear” – The Beatles – The White Album
There are so many Beatles song I could have chosen but this one is so catchy and my current favorite. Do yourself a favor and listen to this whole double album.

“Vienna” – Billy Joel – The Stranger
I recommend this entire album. I wish I could make music like Billy Joel.

“Love Affair” – Copeland – Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Ridiculously good song off of a ridiculously good album. Their musicianship and composition skills inspire me so much.

“Changes” – David Bowie – Hunky Dory
One of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear.

“Time Bomb” – The Format – Dog Problems
This band is going to be huge. Such a great blend of acoustic pop, rock, and brilliance.

“Backyard” – Guster – Keep It Together
I just love the grooves they create. The chord progressions are so emotionally charged.

“The Mixed Tape” – Jack’s Mannequin – Everything In Transit
I didn’t know anything about this band before listening to this disc. So glad I did. The first time I heard this track it felt like music was completely new and uninhibited.

“At the Mercy” – Paul McCartney – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
I never listened to any Wings stuff, so that’s probably why I love this. Paul’s still got it.

“Bicycle Race” – Queen – Greatest Hits I
At a weird yet awesome song. You will not be able to forget it.

“Short People” – Randy Newman – Little Criminals
Most people probably know Randy Newman from the Toy Story soundtrack but his other stuff is piano pop at its best.

“Samson” – Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Brass + strings + inspiration = musical bliss. Such a heart throbbing song.

“I So Hate Consequences” – Relient K – mmHmm
Lyrically, this band is the greatest I’ve ever seen. Everyone can relate to these songs, and this is just a taste of the spiritual and emotional maturity that Matthew Thiessen brings.

“The Only Song” – Sherwood – Summer EP
Pop rock glory.

“The World” – The Starting Line – Based on a True Story
An solid, anthemic pop punk rock song.

“Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” – Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel the Illinoise!
This man is truly gifted. Where he gets his inspiration/ideas is beyond me.

“Amateur Lovers” – Switchfoot – Oh! Gravity.
This album is so much better than Nothing Is Sound. Had to pick one song but listen to the whole album.

“View From Heaven” – Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
Such an emotional song from an unlikely source. A great summer record.

So there are just a few of the songs that fill my day. What are yours?

Categories
God Music Poetry

I fought you for so long…

Imagine: Darkness, accompanied by golden light from surrounding “Narnia” lamp posts. The snow slowly permeates everything in sight, including your face. The path you’re on shines like diamonds and swivels oh so gracefully alongside a sparkling river. Soft piano music dances into your ear, choreographed perfectly with the falling flakes. Now, tell me that God is not with you at that very moment.

Snow is commonly thought of as a metaphor for a sense of renewal or rebirth, but I see it as being able to see our worth. God drops this stuff down on us to show us that we can sparkle like diamonds and are so clean and new if we choose to be. Go outside the next time it is snowing at night and see what happens.

P.S. If you want to experience a living and breathing God, listen to Relient K’s album mmHmm. He is all over those lyrics.

Categories
God Life Poetry

Brightest

Walking back to my dorm from chapel last night, I saw the coolest image I’ve seen in a long time. A full moon against a dark sky with the slightest shade of the darkest blue you could imagine. Clouds shaped like cotton ball clusters slid by the moon so gracefully. Coincidentally, a Copeland song called “Brightest” was playing on my iPod as I looked up at the sky. The clean, crisp night air refreshed my senses and the whole experience broke through to my soul. The moon shone so brightly that all the beautiful buildings I passed were ever so tinted with a faint light, making the moment seem all the more surreal.

It’s moments like these that prove God’s existence. He is in the colors and the sounds and the smells that invigorate us everyday. These images are always out there waiting for someone to take the time to sit back and look at them. You don’t have to go to Hawaii or the Rocky Mountains to see something spectacular. Just open your eyes a little wider than they’ve been recently and wait to see what happens.