continuum

continuum

it’s hard to beat the system when you’re standing at a distance …

My brother-in-law Brett bought us the new John Mayer CD for Christmas, and after multiple listens, I am here to offer up a brief review of this tremendous album.

I have been a fan ever since I saw John Mayer on the Grammy’s a few years ago. I quickly went out and picked up Room For Squares, and I did not hesitate to pick up his sophmore album, Heavier Things. While both of those albums were met with critical and commercial success [for good reason], Continuum is, to me, by far his best work to date.

I just can’t get enough of this CD. From top to bottom, Continuum is the best CD I acquired in 2006, and possibly one of the best I own. Period. [That reminds me of a guy from American Idol last night who said he writes stories, and when Simon asked him how his latest story ended, he said ‘with a period’. I don’t think he was trying to make a joke, though.] John Mayer busted out with that Wonderland song which gave him the label of a lovey, pop, kind of artist, and there are some elements of that on this disc. Surely John Mayer sings about love and relationships often. However, this disc also features some more socially aware songs, addressing issues of politics, war and social change. There is also a sweet blend of rock, pop and soul on this album as Mayer displays both his vocal and musical range. Yes, he can sing with the best of them, but his guitar stylings are well worth a listen as well.

To me, it doesn’t eve matter what the ‘radio’ friendly hits are on this one, because I could randomly pick any one song and decide that it’s my favorite track. If I had to pick a top 3, they would be The Heart of Life, Gravity and In Repair.

Without a doubt, I am giving this CD ☆☆☆☆☆ [out of 5] with a strong pick it up recommendation.

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the elder son

Nouwen characterizes the elder son in the prodigal son story as one who externally did all the things a good son is supposed to do. However, internally, he too had wandered away from his father. He worked hard, did his duty and fulfilled his obligations, but became increasingly unhappy and unfree in the process. Wow. To me, that doesn’t sound too much different from the state of many in the Church today, right?

Remember that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees while sharing this parable; perhaps his intention is that they would see themselves in the form of the elder son. Just as the elder son was angry, resenful, proud and unkind towards his younger brother [read: ‘sinner’] who had received unconditional love and acceptance from the Father, so too the Pharisees were cold and unmerciful towards the ‘sinners’ with whom Jesus spent his time. The elder son had been working so hard to gain the acceptance of his father and had become so self-righteous that he could not engage in the rejoicing of his brother’s return.

The father in the story makes it pefectly clear that both sons are welcomed equally into the fold; he knows them both intimately and loves them unconditionally, just as God loves each of us. The choice for us is whether or not we can make the call to receive that love. Through this story, Jesus is speaking to sinner and Pharisee, to the younger sons and the elder sons out there, to those who have messed up and to those who have been trying so hard to ‘be good’ and are missing the point. And here, according to Nouwen, is the message to be heard.

God is urging me to come home, to enter into his light, and to discover there that, in God, all people are uniquely and completely loved. In the light of God, I can finally see my neighbour as my brother, as one who belongs as much to God as I do.

Not much else to be said there.

the return of the prodigal son

I started reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen tonight. It is a book of his reflections on the famous parable/Rembrandt painting divided into three parts as he considers the story from the perspective of the younger son, the elder son and the father.

I read the part about the younger son this evening, and it touched my life. He was saying how in the act of asking for his inheritance and leaving his father, the son was essentially rejecting his home, his heritage, his identity as his father’s son. As we read this story, we are to think about how we are like the younger son, as those who turn away from who we have been created to be: children of God.

Thus, to ‘leave home’ in a spiritual sense is “a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palms of God’s hands and hidden in their shadows

Nouwen describes this ‘leaving home’ as a giving in to the voices that tell us that we need to go out and prove that we are worth something. They are the voices us that cause us to look around and compare our lives to others; that tell us that we are only worth something if we are succesful, powerful or popular; that suggest that we cannot be loved without having earned it; that cause us to lose faith in the voice that calls us the ‘Beloved’. Nouwen says that we become the prodigal son every time we search for unconditional love and acceptance where it cannot be found.

The dark voices of my surrounding world try to persuade me that I am no good and that I can only become good by earning my goodness through ‘making it’ up the ladder of success. These voices lead me quickly to forget the voice that calls me ‘my son, the Beloved’, reminding me of my being loved independently of any acclaim or accomplishment.

Rather than listen to those voices, we are to hear the words of Christ who offers a different perspective on things through his delivery of the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness.

These words present a portrait of the child of God. It is a self-portrait of Jesus, the Beloved Son. It is also a portrait of me as I must be. The Beatitudes offer me the simplest route for the journey home, back into the house of my Father. And along this route I will discover the joys of the second childhood: comfort, mercy, and an ever clearer vision of God. And as I reach home and feel the embrace of my Father, I will realize that not only will heaven be mine to claim but that earth as well will become my inheritance, a place where I can live in freedom without obsession and compulsions [without those voices that haunt us].

There is a huge message for me in there right now. When tempted to look around and compare, I must remember that God has created me to be me; that I am uniquely His. He has called me to live freely, not burdened by those voices that try to tell me that I am something other than God’s beloved child.

Fantastic book. More to come …

get your swing on

I’m going to go ahead and file last night under Things I Never Would Have Done Before I Was Married. Lauren came to me the other day and told me that a few people from Prov were going to be celebrating someone’s birthday by going [gulp] swing dancing. To put this story in context, I had previously told Lauren that I was willing to take dance lessons one day, as this is something she has wanted to do for a while now. Secretly, I was hoping she would forget about it or that I could dodge that particular draft. However, this weekend, I guess that promise finally caught up with me.

Understand that the concept of dancing is so unbelievably outside of my comfort zone. I’m talking Jose into the 5th deck out of my comfort zone. I’ll be honest, at first I protested and made it known that I was not at all down with this, but then it occured to me that this is what marriage is all about in some ways. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do something that you would not normally be inclined to do for the simple fact that your spouse does. Lauren has come with me to hockey/baseball/basketball games and is not adverse to watching ‘guy’ movies, and sometimes I take that for granted. So here was an opportunity for me to show that I love her by doing something that she really wanted to do.

I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. I pretty much do not remember one thing that was said at church last night; the butterfly cha-cha had already started in my stomach. We got there about 1 hour before our friends, and we ended up getting some private lessons from some dance students who taught us some basic steps, and they actually said we did quite well for beginners. After that, we kind of just tried to get the hang of it, and once we did it was kind of fun.

The evening was a good reminder that love is selfless, and that it’s good to try new things. I mean, pre-Lauren I never would have touched sushi, and now I can’t get enough. So, you never know. Not that I am dying to get back on the dance floor, but in the end, it wasn’t so bad, and I’m sure we’ll go back at some point because the bonus is that is was free. The point of this story is that even when you don’t really want to do something, it’s worth it knowing that it’s bringing joy into the life of someone else.

we are marshall / NFL Playoffs

Last night we went and saw the movie We Are Marshall. [Contrary to what you might think, this is not a movie about Mike’s in-laws.] It’s the story of the rebuilding of the Marshall University football program after a devastating plane crash. This was a pretty good movie, reminding the viewer that no matter how tough life gets, it’s important to play the game [of football, yes, but also the game of life … deep] until the final whistle blows. Warning: bring the kleenex because it’s a bit of a tear jerker. Inspiring, heart warming, and it made me laugh out loud a few times, too.

I give this movie ☆☆☆.5 [out of 5]

Speaking of football, here are my predictions for the two big games going down tomorrow.

AFC Championship
No brainer. New England has owned Indy in the playoffs in the past. Tom Brady is the man [12-1 playoff record] and Peyton Manning is a playoff choker. Yes, Indy is playing at home, but they lost there last year to the Steelers, so that doesn’t mean anything. The Patriots have always found a way to get it done, and tomorrow will be no different.
Prediction: Pats 27-21

NFC Championship
I don’t know how or why anyone who is not a die hard Bears fan would not be behind the Saints in this game. After all New Orleans has been through, and after how bad the Saints have been over the years, a win for the Saints would be beyond huge. There’s no question that I want them to make it to the Superbowl, and I think they have a legitimate shot. The Illinois weather may be a factor, but the Saints are on a mission and I believe they will win.
Prediction: Saints 17-10

Have a great weekend, friends. I am doing something tonight that I have never done before, and never thought I would do, and at this point I’m not super excited to be doing it. What is it, you ask? Stay tuned.

the return of Buckets

Back in the summer of 2001, the male staff of Camp Sebago would get up early on opening day and play some pre-breakfast basketball in preparation for the Wonderland games. It was on that court that I was given the nickname ‘Buckets’.

And today, I am pleased to announce that Buckets is making a comeback.

I have been signed up to play intramural basketball for the Seminary team at Prov this semester, and today was our first game. I’m talking full court, 5 on 5 basketball. [The opposing team had a coach in a tie with a clipboard, and for intramurals, I would have to say that that was a bit … much.] It was a bit of a rust fest all round, an ugly basketball by anyone’s standards, but the Sem pulled it out by 1 big point by going on a 6-0 run to end the game.

Buckets had 1 big basket in the final two minutes to pull us to within 2, maybe 3 assists, and a few too many turnovers. [The floor was super slippery, and I slid out of bounds a couple times … oops.] It was good times, and I am psyched to be playing. It’ll be good to get some exercise and also to get into the Prov community a bit more.

Stay tuned for more tales of hoops glory. Two big games next week.

a fresh start

Yes, this is third time I have made a new home for my blog, and hopefully this one will stick. I liked the way the old one was looking, but the wordpress blogs offer more versatility, more theme options, are easier to use and update without delay [unlike my previous blog], so I’ve made the switch. I’m possibly not 100% sold on this theme and I still need to tinker with it a little bit, but this is it. Welcome.

SO … bookmark this bad boy up!

later.

ps. big sports news coming down tomorrow.