Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Christian Singing for Queen?

Marc Martel has finally made the news!  The lead singer of Canadian Christian band Downhere has loads of talent, and I've enjoyed a lot of Downhere's music for several years. (I say a lot because there's next to no artists of whom I can say I like all their music.) The band started at a Bible school in Saskatchewan, brings a unique style to Christian music, and has been active for the past 10 years.

Many fans have thought Marc Martel sounded a lot like Freddie Mercury of Queen, and so now Marc decided to audition for a Queen cover band recently.  His "Somebody to Love" audition went up on Youtube last Tuesday and in one week, it has gotten nearly 3 million views.  I don't listen to Queen, but I must say he sings it very well.  I don't have to hear an original to know that.

Now, as I said, Marc's talent isn't news to me.  He has sung several different styles of music and I was long ago introduced to his cover of the Bohemian Rhapsody on Youtube, which I admit I enjoyed for his talent, not because I care for the style.  He's also done excellent covers of a couple of Keith Green's songs and performed the opera piece "Nessun Dorma".

So, he sings Christian stuff, opera, and songs by Queen.  That's an interesting combination and he's doing it well, in my opinion.  But I'm sure there's a crowd of Christians expressing their disappointment or horror.  How can a Christian sing songs by Queen?  How could that possibly glorify God?  I mean, have you heard some of Freddie's lyrics?  Some may say that listening to it is bad enough, and now he wants to be part of a cover band?

It could be very controversial.  Would I do it or recommend it?  No, I wouldn't and I won't expect you to listen to it. But I appreciate talent when I see it, and through a lot of hard work, Marc has done some amazing stuff with his voice.  I've enjoyed a lot of Downhere's music, and I will continue to do so.  You should check it out.  Some of my favourite songs by them are "Calmer of the Storm", "So Blue", "Great Are You", "Not About Wings", and "Unbelievable".  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

They Don't Believe It Anymore

I've been writing about books a lot lately, so now I'm going to focus a little on music.  I've been noticing a trend in music lately.  Not in Christian music, but rather in "secular music", if you want to use that term.  I don't usually hear a lot, so maybe I'm not a proper judge in the matter, but it seems that there's a lot more songs out there these days about broken relationships than beautiful love songs.  Probably the closest thing to love songs I hear when I go to the mall are sexual. 

Basically, the world doesn't seem to believe anymore that love can last, that marriages can stay together, and it's largely reflected in the world's music.  Yes, I could easily mention a number of songs that do still believe in a sweet, lasting love, but I think heartache may be fast taking over.  Music seems to be stripping away the fairy tale dreams many girls have and forcing a reality check.  Prince Charming doesn't exist and neither does Cinderella.

Taylor Swift's song "Love Story" was followed up by songs like "White Horse" and "Mine".  In "White Horse" she sings:

"I'm not a princess, this ain't a fairytale
I'm not the one you'll sweep off her feet
Lead her up the stairwell
This ain't Hollywood, this is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now it's too late for you and your white horse to come around."

"Mine" ends much more positively, but near the beginning she says "I was a flight risk with a fear of falling, wondering why we ever bother with love if it never lasts."

Mat Kearney's song "Ships in the Night" echos a similar message:

"Like ships in the night
You keep passing me by
Just wasting time
Trying to prove who's right
And if it all goes crashing into the sea
If it's just you and me
Trying to find the light"

"How many of our parents seem to make it anyway?
We're just fumbling through the gray
Trying to find a heart that's not walking away."

Josh Groban sings a touching song called "War at Home" centred around families.  Yes, there's pain, but in the midst, there's still a willingness to fight.

Yes, these are only very few examples, and the lyrics I provided are only snippets, but a recurring idea in many songs is the fact that the artists haven't seen it work out.  Children grow up seeing their parents' marriages fall apart, their friends marry and the same thing happens.  Girls grow up to believe that guys are only after one thing.  Guys think they have to "conquer" the girls in order to be a man.  So they settle for casual dating or one night stands.  Society really hasn't offered us much hope.

What about the church?  Are Christians offering us hope?  Divorces among Christians are increasing all the time.  Do our young people have reason to believe that a lasting love is possible? 

I'm speaking from a single young woman's perspective.  I'm a dreamer, just like countless other girls who long for a happily ever after ending, but many have tried to crush that dream.  No, I'm not deserving of the man I hope to marry, but I want to be.  No, he won't be perfect, but I admit I do often have that idea.  Yes, I know it takes work and although sometimes I wonder how it's possible, I understand there will be rough spots in the road.  But I know it is possible.  I know we can prepare now for a beautiful future and God-honouring marriage.

No, the world may not believe it's possible anymore.  They may give up on love songs and happily ever after.  But I'm not giving up hope yet.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Jane Eyre: What I Learned

For the past six months, I spent a lot of time reading and studying Jane Eyre.  With being busy and reading other books at the same time, this study got drawn out a lot longer than I would have liked it to, but it was a rewarding six months.  I have shared some of my thoughts on the book on this blog previously, and by clicking the Jane Eyre tag at the bottom of the article, you can see all the other ones. 

While reading, I worked through some of my own thoughts on whether a child's behaviour is justified by her authority's actions, the effectiveness of discipline, love being blind and pondering through some of my favourite conversations and quotes.  I think some of my ideas have changed somewhat by now.  At the end, I worked through two sets of discussion questions related to the plot, characters, issues of feminism, self-respect, social status, Christian morality, salvation, love and marriage. 

One of the biggest challenges at the end was determining Jane's philosophy of God.  Then I had to determine the philosophy of love and marriage for several main characters as well as develop my own.  If any of my readers express a curiosity in it, I might share it in a later post.  I also discussed the importance of marriage, the rules that govern it, and how it impacts society among many other issues.

Literature has so much to offer us.  Having studied one book on my own with a little help, I have determined that the study of the classics is worth it.  Yes, I had to think hard, and there's times I just wanted to skip over things.  But I think we learn best when we are inspired to learn, when we choose to think and answer those tough questions, rather than when we are forced to.

So pick up a classic and be inspired to learn and I'll enjoy Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Service = Greatness

"This is a great key to life: lose your life in service and you will become great.  Do what is right, even when it is difficult, especially when it is difficult.  Do not make the mistake of being a social climber.  Of course you will want to use your knowledge and skills and talents to do great things, but do them because they are right, because they are good, not because they make you look good." --Oliver DeMille, A Thomas Jefferson Education

Luke 22:24-27 (ESV)
"A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.  And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you.  Rather, let the greatest among you become the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  For who is greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves?  Is it not the one who reclines at table?  But I am among you as the one who serves." 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

You Tell On Yourself

You tell on yourself by the friends you seek,
By the very manner in which you speak,
By the way you employ your leisure time,
By the use you make of dollar and dime.

You tell what you are by the things you wear,
By the spirit in which your burdens you bear,
By the kind of things at which you laugh,
By the records you play on your phonograph.

You tell what you are by the way you walk,
By the things of which you delight to talk,
By the manner in which you bear defeat,
By so simple a thing as how you eat.

By the books you choose from a well-filled shelf
In these ways and more, you tell on yourself.
So there's really no particle of sense
In an effort to keep up false pretense.
--Author Unknown

Friday, 2 September 2011

Randy Alcorn on Speculative Faith

Randy Alcorn just wrote a two part article for Speculative Faith.  In Part 1, he explains his love for sci-fi and fantasy, how great fiction points to Biblical truth, and why Christians often avoid the genre.  In Part 2, he explains his novelization of the movie Courageous, and how anticipating the New Earth changes our lives.

I haven't read any full-length books by Randy Alcorn, but I greatly appreciated some of the ideas he spoke about in these articles.  I personally enjoy the speculative genre, although I haven't read that much of it yet.  The more I read Speculative Faith, the more I understand why Christians love it.  This is what Alcorn says:

"Is God’s imagination less than that of his image-bearers? Or is the height of human imagination at its best a reflection of the infinite creativity of the divine mind?

When we get excited reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s not our sinfulness that arouses that excitement. It’s our God-given hunger for adventure, for new realms and new beings, for new beauties and new knowledge. God has given us a longing for new worlds."

This kind of made me go "Whoa!! God has an imagination!!"  He thought up the whole universe and spoke it into being.  Out of nothing, He created the stars, planets, and everything we can see and can't see in this world.  He placed us in this crazy drama called Life to be a part of His story.

We, being created in His image, also have an imagination.  Many of the things we enjoy on a daily basis are the product of man's imagination.  We have a desire to create and tell stories because He did it first and put that desire within us! Human beings have created some amazing things, but it's only a small reflection of what God has done.  And the crazy things is, God's not even done yet! He's going to create a new world which will be better than this one.  How awesome isn't that?

I love what Alcorn says in Part 2:

"Are you living with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? In Heaven you’ll find their fulfillment! Did poverty, poor health, war, or lack of time prevent you from pursuing an adventure or dream? Did you never get to finish building that boat or painting that picture or writing that book—or reading that pile of books? Good news. On the New Earth you will have a second chance to do what you dreamed of doing—and far more besides."

I really hope that part about the books is true.  This is going to sound extremely vain, but I've wondered about that a lot lately.  I like reading, but I'm no speed reader. I can't finish a full-length book in a few hours like some people can.  I like details and I usually want every single one.

So when I discover a new book, it goes on a list, and I add to that list often.  At this point, I have about 200-300 books I decided at some point I wanted to read, plus tons more if-I-get-to-it books.  And with new stuff always coming out and my slow progress, I'm so afraid I'll never finish in my lifetime and I'll miss out on something great.  And I honestly wonder if maybe I can read them in the next life, where time will no longer be a problem.  Yes, that just sounded really pathetic, but this seriously has been on my mind. (I can almost hear my readers laughing at me right now.)

I have read about 20 books so far this year, but I have spent the last 6 months reading and studying Jane Eyre. I still have the hardest thinking ahead of me and I will have to decide what I believe on some very important issues. I've definitely wondered how fast universities cover this material. At times I'm afraid my brain might break, but I've learned so much, it's been worth it.

At my rate, it looks impossible, but Alcorn has given me a sliver of hope.  I may not be able to cover everything, but with the time I have, I will appreciate the imagination God has given mankind, think, learn, seek great things and pursue the dreams He has put within me.  I don't know what the New Earth will all hold, but I don't think we have reason to wonder if we'll be disappointed.  I think God's imagination has yet to blow us away.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Weird Christians

I finally read a book this week over the course of a few days that I've had my eye on for a couple years.  The cover and title had enough appeal for me to buy it.  It's not a new book, but the message will never grow outdated.

Weird Christians I Have Met by Philip Baker is a book about ten types of weird Christians and a plea for balance in the Christian life.  I like to say that everybody's weird in their own way.  It makes me feel better.  I can't say I would have used the word "weird" in the title of this book.  Most of the people Baker talks about just overemphasize one area of the Christian life and disregard another.

The author gives each of his characters a self-explanatory name and face.  There's End-Time Ed, Pentecostal Pamela, Theological Theo, Demonic Dave, Frank Faith, Backslidden Bob, Gullible Garfield, Judgmental Jill, Prosperity Patricia, and Plastic Pete.  For the not so straight-forward ones, Demonic Dave always thinks the devil made him do it, Frank Faith thinks we just need to have more faith, Gullible Garfield believes every new teaching he hears, and Plastic Pete has to put on a show so everyone thinks his life is good.

Now, most of these characters have some positive qualities, but the negative definitely outweigh them.  Of course, picking up a book like this made me go "Who am I?"  I was feeling pretty good when I got close to the end and hadn't seen much of myself in any of them.  I do have some Judgmental Jill in me, although I'm really working on that.  I thought maybe I'd be the perfectly balanced Christian.  I wish.

I got slapped when it came to Plastic Pete.  I don't like to think of myself as inauthentic, but I can be pretty good at making it look like my life is all good when it's not.  I really appreciated a lot of what the author had to say about Pete, but some of it kind of hurt. A lot of it was true of my life.  You see, Plastic Pete has a really hard time letting people know he has problems in his life and confessing sin.  He can probably identify with the Let's Not Talk About That post I wrote awhile ago.  And part of it, as Philip Baker points out, is the church's fault.

"One of the compounding problems that Pete faces is that many churches encourage his behavior.  Peer pressure or theological persuasion create an atmosphere that is hostile to honesty.  Judgment and disapproval fall quickly on those who admit to struggle, and rather than risk social or religious excommunication, Pete stays quiet."

"Plastic Petes pretend everything is okay when it's not.  They perceive that to admit fault, confess sin, and share problems will only bring intense shame, both from God and from other Christians."

Yep, that's pretty much the way I think.  That's why if you ask me how I'm doing, and I say I'm okay, I'm usually really not.  I just don't want to talk to you about it.  It's hard to believe that the truth sets people free.  It's a tough kind of person to be, not just for others, but for yourself as well.

Lately, I've started getting tired of playing the game, and I'll slowly begin to open up to people and be real.  As much as Christians hate fakers, I think sometimes they fear authenticity.  Sometimes, when Christians start being "real", I get scared and annoyed.  But now I'm starting to sympathize more with them because I have major problems too.

Overall, I really appreciated this book.  It was a light, easy read and made the point quickly.  It identified areas where Christians need more balance, and I think we'd all be a happier bunch if we found it quickly.