Archives For Review

Frederick: A Story of Boundless Hope
By Frederick Ndabaramiye, with Amy Parker
“My God won’t let me do that.”

These seven words of boundless hope would irreversibly change the life of the teenage boy who spoke them.

On April 7, 1994 the life of Frederick Ndabaramiye and his family changed forever as the Rwandan genocide erupted in their homeland. This is his story of Hope and faith in a God that can make all things possible. Frederick writes about how his family had to flee the tyranny and how eventually he was captured and tied to a board as vigilantes cut his hands off. His journey of learning after that is what most of the story is about. We see him learn how to deal with the pain, anger and feeling of uselessness as God intervenes ands orchestrates his future.

Eventually Frederick learns that he has the gift of painting. As he paints God begins to heal him from the inside out. I don’t want to share too much of the story because the book is very short and is an important read. Most of us in America never have to experience persecution beyond somebody making fun of us. To watch this man experience the things he did and then to see the joy that exudes form his is mind-blowing. You will learn and appreciate forgiveness, but even more importantly you will walk away knowing that God takes what is broken and He makes all things new.

I think this is a well written book. It is more than a feel good story. It is a story that challenges you to have Joy in your life and evaluate your own priorities.

5 out of 5 Stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this BOOK free from booklookbloggers for books to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by: Marie Kondo

I would normally consider myself a professional organizer who’s lack of consistency with it gives the perception that I am not. I love the idea of a clean home and we clean our house every week. There does seem to be a difference between the IDEA of a clean home and an ACTUAL clean home.

We have four kids who all have different levels of a hoarders mentality. If they say that was inherited from myself or my wife, we will deny that to the grave! The reality is that every sat my wife try to wrangle our kids and work them into a cleaning frenzy to tackle the daunting hurricane of legos, books, dirt, garbage, and clothing.

My wife believes in cleaning a little bit each day, but for 8 years I have worked from home and learned that I am quite possibly the worst housewife on this planet. When I got this book to review I was intrigued and excited to learn something that might transform our dysfunctional and disturbing system.

Jumping right into reading I learned that this woman was going to get right into it. She is a bold, simple and very clear writer. Many of the insights give you a picture of a small Japanese home in Tokyo, but eventually you begin to realize that what she is saying makes perfect sense.

She instructs that the concept of tidying up a little daily is foolish and will never result in cleanliness or sanity. Instead she recommends to take everything in categories like, clothes or books and then put them on the floor of one room. Afterwards you are to pick up each item to determine if you will keep it or discard it. So what is the criteria? How long since it has been used? Is it broken or dirty?

No… She says to simple hold it and ask “Does this SPARK JOY”

I am greatly intrigued by her approach to each item, how she organizes and how she folds clothes. My wife is currently reading the book and we plan to attempt this. The clothes should be easy, but I think the books may be hard for me. Kondo says that the less books in your home the greater the impact of the content.

I am going to rate this book a PRE- 5 out of 5 stars because while I loved the book, the rating may change when I attempt to actually do this in my home. Stay tuned…

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this BOOK free from Blogging for books to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

movie1

In the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to sit in a theater to watch 3 different films…
Here are my reviews of each:

KINGSMAN: SECRET SERVICE:
I was invited to see this flick by a buddy of mine and I went in blind because I had not even seen a trailer of it before walking into the theater. It was rated R and I expected some violence and language, but what I didn’t expect was the preview trailer before the film. On the screen came the preview of the movie “unfinished business” and I was subject to non stop cursing from the start and it ended with a full nudity sex scene that was meant to be funny. Sorry Hollywood, it wasn’t funny at all. As a matter of fact it almost spoiled my movie. When you go to a film with an expectation of the content that is in it and then met with a trailer that is more inappropriate than the movie itself, you feel cheated and ticked off.
So enough of that rant. Lets get to the movie review. It started off amazing with a smart james bond type of script. It was slick, creative and heady. As soon as I got comfortable with that Samuel Jackson came on the screen as the bad guy that can be best described as the cross between Russell Simmons, Snakes on a plane, and a Dr. Evil with a lisp. I was so entranced with this film and when Sam Jackson showed up I could no longer take the movie seriously. I decided to sit back and attempt to calm my spy alter ego down. I found myself entertained, but no longer impressed. The violence was over the top and almost cartoony which ruined the smarty spy aspect. At the end of the movie we find out a mechanism in a persons neck could make their head explode. Ok.. That actually does make sense… and then we actually see 200 peoples heads explode. Do they explode like you would anticipate with blood and brains all over and us wanting to throw up from disgust? Nope… they explode with colored chalk dust in a cloud of purple and blue rainbows followed by a mushroom cloud of disappointment. To cap it all off, because I can only assume they wanted to compete with the “coming soon trailer” before it they decided to throw in a butt shot in the last 2 min for absolutely no reason at all.
Conclusion – I tried… I really tried… Sam Jackson and the color chalk exploding heads made a really cool spy thriller into a fantastical dumb mess. – 2 of 5 stars

THE IMITATION GAME:
My wife and I had a date night last week that started off with a nasty, moldy piece of toast at IHOP. It was essential that this movie changed the trajectory of my evening. THANK GOD IT DID! I am a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, having first become a fan with the BBC show “Sherlock”. I don’t have a ton to say about this movie because there is literally nothing about it I could complain about. The story was based on a true one and while I had heard pieces of this, it was amazing to watch what happened. The acting was extraordinary! The script was well written, believable, inspiring and obviously a labour of love. I didn’t want this movie to end. It is not a traditional war movie because it is centered around a bunch of code breakers. This movie is a masterpiece.
Conclusion – If you don’t see this film I will come to your house and smack you. 5 of 5 stars

JUPITER ASCENDING:
Do you see the picture I chose for this post with the girl, Jupiter, falling from a building and screaming that somebody would save her from the pending doom? That is exactly how I felt watching this movie. I really wanted to see this movie. I really wanted to like this movie and I really wish I had bought a coffee to bring into the theater because my friends to the left and right of my both fell asleep. The PG in the PG-13 rating for this movie I’m sure stood for PIECE OF GARBAGE! Visually it was mind-blowing and memorizing even if the laser guns never seemed to hit anything or anybody. As I was being entranced by the visual effects, the space ships and the intergalactic steam punk world I was bombarded by quite possibly the worst script ever written in movie history. It was like that scene in the wizard of OZ where Dorothy was told to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. The Visual effects were designed to attempt to distract us from a script that was obviously written by a panel of 4 year olds. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, as we were all woken up from our slumber in the utter boredom, it became apparent we were watching a Space twilight movie. Every time there was a cool fight scene I would sit up excited to finally get into the movie, only then to find myself scratching my head wondering why something so beautiful was so boring and contrived. There are three major bad guys who individually have a climactic scene. Oddly enough though the scenes end with nothing climatic ad all and cut to another place in space. As a movie watcher you are tossed around, jumbled up and forced to ingest this story on account you don’t want to waste your $9 by walking out.

Caine is falling in love with Jupiter, but Doesn’t believe they have much in common. Jupiter disagrees…

Caine Wise: Your Majesty, I have more in common with a dog than I have with you.
Jupiter Jones: I love dogs

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! “I LOVE DOGS” as she leans in and tries to kiss him? all this script convinces me is to write a PSA to all the kids out there. Ahem… KIDS… DON’T DO DRUGS and STAY IN SCHOOL or else you will write dumb crap like this!

There is even one scene where she asks CAine “do you want to bite me now?” He doesn’t bite her, thankfully, but this MOVIE sure BITES!

Conclusion – I could literally talk about every every moment of this ‘dog dung wrapped in a beautiful package’, but It’s best I put it simply. DO NOT see this movie! Let me give you some recommendations of other crappy movies instead so you can grasp how bad this was. Battlefield earth, Leonard part 6, BioDome, Catwoman, Rabid Grannies. Are you tracking with me here? 2 hours & 5 min you will NEVER EVER get back.  0 of 5 stars

shaken_bethel

It seems that every time Bethel music announces a new project I find myself giddy with anticipation. (In the most manly bearded way of course) They have been churning out new music at a rate that rivals the machine we call Hillsong, but it has been refreshingly different as well as being worship that pierces the spirit.

When I heard about “We will not be shaken” and started seeing the promo images of a large crowd on a mountain I was expecting a melding of a “Loft sessions part Duex” with “Tides Live and uncensored”.  I sat on this album for a few weeks now trying to think of the best way to review it because I have, for the most part, walked away from each listen pretty unsatisfied. I am going to try to explain why.

I have said it many times on my blog before but the thing that I am always looking for in a worship album is that feeling of the groan of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that is based on tempo and it is not based on the perfect worship pattern/swell to manipulate the emotions. It is intangible, but you know it when you listen and are wrecked by God and every hair stands up on your body.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26

I know much of music is personal and so is this review because what I feel, you might not so please dig in for yourself. I remember when I put in the Jeremy riddle album “furious” and I was hit with songs that seemed to go into my ears and directly into my spirit. The same the first time I heard Steffany-Frizzel Gretzinger sing “closer”. I heard it before it came out because they led it at a service at Bethel and it was put on youtube. I had that video on repeat for what seemed to be 3 days. There was such a desperation, amazing awe, and praise that sprung from the deep.

I am not sure why, but I feel like this album is lacking in this area.

“We will not be Shaken” is sung beautifully, but the lyrics call for a sound that is a war cry. We WILL NOT!!!! I do like this song and It reminds me so much of brian and Jenn’s “we believe” album, but I feel the lyrical content doesn’t match the sound.

“Ever Be” Is a nice track that feels like two distinct songs somehow mashed together, but the chorus unites it nicely. This one I can see many churches doing and the hook gets stuck in your head.

The McClures have a nice track with “Jesus, We Love You”.

“Nearness” with Jenn Johnson has a nice feel and gets really awesome musically in the chorus. I love the unique driving section to it. The lyrics are great even though “Comforter You are to me” would sound really funny saying it to somebody.

There is, what can be best described as a modern hymn, in “Seas of Crimson” by Johnson and Bashta. At first it was hard to like this one even though I am a huge fan of hymns, but this one is growing on me quickly.

The HUGE standout is “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan Helser. As a matter of fact I started leading this one in my church a week ago. I think the Helsers are a brilliant addition to the Bethel family and this song oozes of authenticity and passion. This is what I wish the rest of the album felt like. Again I am not talking tempo. Steffany Gretzinger’s “undoing” was crazy slow, but still felt like this because it was raw and drew you in.

So here is the deal: Should you buy this album? Because I am a fanboy and also because I don’t buy singles I would have bought this one for sure, but there are only a few tracks on here I like and the rest I’m lukewarm to. When I look at the videos and see the photos of the large crowd on the mountain it makes me wonder why that wasn’t more prevalent in the audio. There are a few moments when you can hear the mass of people, but in most cases this feels like a studio album. What I think is interesting is the visuals seem to represent a declaration over their city and a breathing life into dry bones. The music however seems so much more introspective and personal. There is a disconnect for me there and it’s possibly because of my artistic side.

I think you need to listen to this with no preconceived notions. Walking into this with expectations that it would be a Loft Sessions meets Tides concoction of amazingness was most likely not the best plan.

My personal requests for the next two albums:
1. Record an album with Jenn Johnson, Jonathan Helser, and amanda cook. I think this mix would bring power, brilliant lyrical content, and a prophetic edge
2. Record a double CD of Jeremy Riddle and Steffany Gretzinger together. Maybe some new tracks and some old and the rest no plan other than letting those two take us to church!

BRO_home

I was exited when my friend Chris, from Brothers McClurg, told me they were working on some new material. When the album came to me I realized that him using the word “new” may have been a bit of false advertising.

If you have heard these guys speak or read anything about them you would have heard that…The band name pays homage to Anthony and Chris’ greatest influence: their maternal grandfather Pastor Bill McClurg, who led the southern gospel group The McClurg Family Singers.

Interestingly enough with the many ministry phases these guys have been on in the world of worship, it is THIS album that first pays homage to that family tradition in it’s sound and not just the name.

Folk rock, or should I say indie folk, is in these days with bands like civil wars, lumineers, mumford and sons and many others. In the worship world we have people like “All sons & Daughters” paving the way for a return to a more folk roots. However it seems that not too many have taken that a little deeper into a mix between southern family band and Simon and Garfunkel like Brothers McClurg does on “Home”. These guys are attempting to bring a few generations together sonically in a sandwich of acoustic nuance.

This album is a great tribute to their heritage, but it’s also not an attempt at trying to recreate that sound. Instead they chose to honor it and create something fresh.

I’m not sure if it is corporate worship friendly and quite honestly I’m not sure if I even care. It is worshipful art. Some art is meant to be hung on a wall to be admired, taken in and enjoyed. From a listeners perspective, that participation is enough for me.

If there is anything I would add or change it would be tracks like “move us on” and “i don’t want to worry” having an even more swampy feel to it. While I know it wasn’t the sound they were going for, I couldn’t help but hear old dirty blues played through pedals with dying batteries on a few tracks in my brain.

This album has a less is more feel instead of relying heavily on a “singer songwriter” vibe. I think Good music like good art has you hearing, feeling and seeing things that aren’t always there. This album captures that.

I believe this is a MUST BUY if you want to hear something different, fresh, fantastic and yet very familiar. – This for sure pushes my comfort zone for country music which is why I am glad it leans more towards simon and garfunkel meets the gaithers rather than Billy ray Cyrus “achy breaky heart”.

“HOME” releases digitally through Sprig Music on Tuesday March 31 st

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD free from Brothers McClurg to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”