Recommendation Time

I’m going to do something a little different on my blog today. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted very much in a while. Believe me, I’ve noticed too. (You can see how hard I tried last time and couldn’t really produce a complete post.) So today, instead of producing something of my own, I wanted to take some time to share what I’ve been listening to, reading, and watching lately. It’s recommendation time!

Listening to: This Bell will Ring by The Weatherfolk.
IMG_6450I feel so cool right now. I’ve actually sat down and had dinner in the flat where this album was recorded, with the people who recoreded it. The Weatherfolk are some American worship-leader-missionary friends I met in Scotland, and they just released their first full-length album for FREE on Noisetrade. Please go check it out and support them. The song “City of Stone” was written about Edinburgh because they fell in love with the city just as much as I did, and they want to see the Kingdom come alive there. I only ever heard it when they sang it live in coffee shops, and I cried every time. I’m so glad it’s now available for constant listening!

Also listening to: “Arms of my Father” by Hope Dialect
Hope Dialect isn’t around anymore, but they had a reunion concert last summer, hence the video. I only recently became friends with the awesome lead singer guitarist dude, the dude killin’ it on the violin, and the dude rocking out on the drums, so all their stuff is new to me. I’m still discovering new favourites, and I love it. Right now, I especially love this song “Arms of My Father,” which has been on repeat during my commutes the past few days. “You said nothing can tear me away from the arms of my Father…”

Reading: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
I just stared this the other day after finishing a couple books in the Orson Scott Card Ender series. It’s a highly entertaining series, but the plots and the stories consumed me, and I needed to take a break and check out some more nonfiction. Here’s one of my favourite quotes from The Problem of Pain so far: “We were not made primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.'”

Also reading: Small Still Voices! That’s right, we’re back from hiatus, and we’ve already got some great posts up this week. Keep a look out for my contribution coming on Friday.

Watching: Blue Like Jazz based on the nonfiction book by Donald Miller
I own this movie, but I recently discovered that it’s now available on Netflix. I saw the movie before I read the book (sorry, Donald Miller) because I was fascinated by the film’s story. The film-makers ran out of money, and the fans rallied behind them to fund the project through Kickstarter. And it worked. (In other news, The Weatherfolk funded their album and Hope Dialect funded their reunion show through Kickstarter too.) If that’s not enough reason for you to check out this movie, I’ll go on: The nerd in me thinks it’s a fascinating exercise in adaptation. In many ways, the movie is not at all like the book, but in other ways it is a perfect adaptation of the heart of the book. It’s also fascinating to see how elements of the book had to be changed to fit the movie-mode. There are cartoons in the book, guys, like sketches and stuff. And yes, they do make their way into the movie. It’s also interesting in that it’s art made by Christians about faith and the search for faith, but it doesn’t restrict it’s audience to only Christians, and in fact it doesn’t fit neatly into the category of “Christian film” either. All-in-all, it’s worth checking out.

Here’s the thing about Blue Like Jazz: it’s going to get a reaction out of you, and it’s going to surprise you. It made me uncomfortable. It made me angry. It made me laugh, and then it made me feel uncomfortable for laughing, and then it made me laugh again. I confess I was getting pretty heated in my seat in the movie theater watching the protagonist be a complete jerk and worrying about how poorly this movie seemed to be representing Christians to the non-Christians who may be watching. And then came the ending scenes. If this movie doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, please stick it out until the very end. The ending solidified the story for me and it made me go, “Yes, yes. People need to see this.”

Doing: I’ve been trying to take more pictures now that spring is here and the flowers are in bloom. This isn’t a recommendation (unless you like photography) so much as it is a chance for me to post a picture. So here you go! IMG_9357

What have you been listening to, reading, watching, and doing this week?

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Blue Valentine: Some thoughts on tragic trends

This post contains spoilers to each movie/musical I mention in it, fair warning.
So, the other day, I watched the movie Blue Valentine, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. I don’t know if I’ve just grown so disenchanted by movies that it’s become harder and harder for me to enjoy them, or if it was just this particular movie, but I came away from the end credits feeling very frustrated.

I enjoyed some of the movie, and I grew invested in the characters and their relationship, but the ending gave me no pay off whatsoever. I watched them fall in love, and I watched them fall out of it, but I missed what happened in the middle.

Acutally, I missed how they fell out of love at all. The movie did a great job of showing us how they fell in love. It takes place in two different time periods, past and present, and it spends a lot of time in the past showing us the characters’ backstory: how they met, started dating, decided to get married, etc. That part of the story takes place over days, weeks, months, who knows how long.

But the part where they fall out of love happens in like twenty-four hours. That’s all we see of their future life. We see that they have a kid, and they both love their kid, and that staying in a relationship is hard but if they can work on it it might be okay… but by the end of the day they are getting a divorce, and I don’t understand why. I knew going into the movie that the divorce was coming, because I had read reviews, but it still seemed like it came out of nowhere. Maybe everything was subtle and supposed to be implied, and I must have missed it. I just couldn’t accept the ending.

This movie seems to say, “love is great but it doesn’t last.” Even the most in-love couples fall out of love eventually. And that bothered me. I get it though. I mean, I get that we are a broken and finite people and that we can’t keep love whole on our own. I understand that.

I can even appreciate movies and stories that utilize that theme, like the musical The LastFive Years. (Seriously, you should check it out). In it, Jamie and Cathy divorce, but at least we are given more time with them, in both the build up of the relationship and the build up of the break-up, so that the story becomes truly tragic. We spend enough time in both Jamie and Cathy’s heads that we can understand their brokenness and baggage.
In Blue Valentine, I feel like we get a lot of time in Gosling’s head in the present, but not enough in Williams’ to make her final decision make sense, since she is the one calling for a divorce and Gosling is the one begging her to keep her vows and work through it.

Anyway, the point of the movie, even if it didn’t say it very well, is that love doesn’t last, and that’s the point of a lot of stories we tell ourselves, and it makes me sad.

I’m thinking about this in contrast to other movies and stories like Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Maybe I should just analyze all Ryan Gosling movies. That could be some fun research, eh?) I love Crazy, Stupid, Love, and one of the things I love about it is that the characters don’t get divorced at the end. The movie’s premise is that they separate for a while, and they each sleep with other people, but it’s not portrayed as a good thing, it’s something that both appalls Steve Carrell’s character and his significant other. They talk about fighting for your soulmate and working hard to keep a marriage alive, and I think a film like that is so rare in today’s culture.

We are a fallen people, and so often we make films about our brokenness, but every once in a while, our films end in hope: an echo of the perfect, holy and whole Love that is our source. That grace is definitely crazy, and it can seem so foolish to us sometimes.

Anyway, I’m not saying Crazy, Stupid, Love is perfect, there are some ideas I don’t necessarily agree with in it too. And I’m not saying Blue Valentine is completely terrible either, I just didn’t like that to fully understand the movie you had to already have an established worldview that accepts love and goodness as things that never last. I’m not against tragedy, sometimes I don’t enjoy movies because they aren’t tragic enough. (I guess that’s my main issue with this one.) I just wanted to point out some of the thematic trends we gravitate towards in our narratives as a fallen people searching for wholeness.

The Rhythm of the World

Hi friends! As you may or may not know, I am currently studying in Edinburgh. My friend and I have been exploring the United Kingdom for the past couple of weeks — Don’t worry, I’ll blog about that soon! However, while I’m still in the process of getting settled, I thought I’d share a piece I wrote a few months ago for my literary essay class. In the spirit of globe-trotting, it encompasses some of the moments I’ve been blessed to experience around the world. I’m excited to add Edinburgh moments to this story when the time comes.  I hope you enjoy.

I feel it on a rain-stained rooftop in Central West Africa. The sound of clapping and dancing rising from the schoolroom below as I stare out at the endless purple sky. Drumbeats. Stomping. Cries of joy. The air is thick and lightning flashes in the distance. I clasp hands with friends beside me and we begin to sing, harmonizing our own tune that echoes into the night. — No, the song is not our own. We are just joining in the music below, offering our voices to the one great song.

I feel it in an abandoned building just outside of the Brussels Red Light District. A caramel-colored Moroccan woman grabs my arm and pulls me into a dance circle. The music from her home country blares from the stereo, echoing in the barren white room and seeping out the open window into the streets below. Joyful and carefree, we kick out our feet, shake our hips, we loose our tongues to the music. I am not myself anymore, I am part of them. A refugee. We may not have much, but we have celebration, we have the dance, we have our part in the song.

I feel it in the voice of a tired Sudanese woman in the Judean Desert as her long dark fingers cradle a sleeping child. Rocking back and forth on the dusty floor, she sings in a language I don’t understand, her voice laid bare, vulnerable in the quiet room. She rocks, she lifts her arms, she sways, and she mesmerizes. Far from home, in an unfamiliar land, this victim of genocide heaves her soul into her voice and takes her place in the song. Tired, weary, and far from home myself, I listen, eyes half-closed, and let the music flow through me, bringing fire to my bones.

I feel it in me, I feel it in them, I feel it in the rain, the wind, the lightning that illuminates the darkness. I feel it in us as we come together, hearts beating to the rhythm of the song.

If Grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

“For many, romantic love is the closest experience of pure grace. Someone at last feels that I – I! – am the most desirable, attractive, companionable creature on the planet. Someone lies awake at night thinking of me. Someone forgives me before I ask, thinks of me when he gets dressed, orders his life around mine. Someone loves me just the way I am.” – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

My friends, we have this someone already!

Yes, I, a single twenty-something college student, have already met the One who loves me just the way I am. The One who thinks of me constantly. The One who forgives me before I ask – who has already forgiven me for all eternity.photo taken by my friend along Galilee

So why do I live as though I haven’t?

Why do I go about my days feeling like I’m not good enough, like I’ll never find love, like I’ll never do anything right?

Psalm 139:17-18 says “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

God’s thoughts for you, for me, outnumber the grains of sand. …What?

Trust me, I just spent a month in a desert. That’s a LOT of thoughts.

He is thinking about you and me constantly, all the time, even when we aren’t thinking about Him. Even when we aren’t thinking about anything. While we’re sleeping, God is thinking about us, and He can’t wait for us to wake up in the morning to greet the new day He has for us.

I forgot about this. Two months ago, I had it written in a journal and read it every day, and now I’ve forgotten.

The God of the Universe thinks about me, constantly. And you. And the whole world. We are always on His mind. He never forgets about us, though so many times I forget the things I’ve learned about Him.

A friend the other day asked me a seemly simple question, “How are you enjoying life? Making use of the endless grace made available?

What if we talked like this all the time? What if we reminded each other daily of that pure grace, of that perfect love of God – the greatest love there is?

I don’t ever want to forget.

Back in February, I wrote a similar post on this topic that you can read here: My Beautiful Rescue

My Beautiful Rescue.

I have so much going through my head right now and I haven’t written a thing… I’m going to try and pick it apart one by one, so… here’s one.

Love.

Happily ever after, finding the person you want spend the rest of your life with, the person you would give anything for, and the person who would do the same for you; it’s finding that someone, and then suddenly all the love songs in the world make sense and apply directly to you. You’re in love and you’re happy. Most of us think that’s as good as it gets.

We’re wrong.

We’re close, but we’re wrong.

We have been trained in this thought process from a very young age. (Though, I guess, I can really only speak for girls here.) I mean, think about it: what are all the Disney classics about? Romance, finding your Prince Charming, can you feel the love tonight?

Ever since we were little kids, we knew we were not meant to be alone. We craved that special someone, our prince, the one who would love us, always and forever, no matter what.

But it wasn’t just Disney, the whole world was after this idea. Soon we heard song after song professing undying love for a man or a woman… There were poems, literature, even stories in history.

Love. It’s the best thing around. It’s the only reason to live. Your lover makes life bearable, keeps you going, breathes life into you.

Like I said, we’re close. So close.

But that’s not the best love there is.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately after a friend of mine spoke about it at church one day. His words totally hit me right where I sat.

I’m writing about this now because everywhere I turn, I am reminded of how much I want someone, someone to love and someone to love me back. I want to be like that girl in all those songs… or like that couple on TV who suddenly realize they’re madly in love with each other… I want that.

But I am given so much more.

There is a God who loves me more than I can even begin to understand.

He knows everything about me, all my flaws, all my insecurities, and yet He still loves me, and will love me even when I turn away from Him, which I will do constantly, because I am human and will try to fill my need for Him with other things. Yet, He is always there, waiting with open arms.

He created me to love me. And then He died for me, to show me just how far He was willing to go to bring me back to Him.

That, my friends, is the greatest love story ever told.

And it’s real, and it’s true, and it’s completely ALIVE in our lives today.

Sometimes, I just need to be reminded of that.

No greater love have I ever known

Why do You wanna be all listening to me?

Why do You spread your arms and tell me I’m free?

Why do You wanna be in my life?

Grace_printJPEG

Cuz I’m addicted, I’m needy, I’m lost

Without You.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

chris_retouchedprintop

Spread wide, in the arms of Christ

Is the love that covers sin

No great love have I ever known,

You considered me Your friend,

Capture my heart again.